7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is true that a raid was made on the Commonwealth Offices this morning, and, if so, was it made by the Military authorities, and for what purpose?
– When the honorable member speaks in his magnificent rich doric, it is difficult to know whether he is joking or serious. I presume that his question is an allusion to a robbery that has taken place near the Commonwealth
Offices, which, so far as I can learn, does not affect the Commonwealth. I understand that some officers of the Victorian Government have been robbed of a considerable sum of money.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he does not think it possible for the newspapers, and particularly the Argus, to publish decent and fair criticism of what is said in this House. Yesterday the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald-) asked him a question respecting the exportation of leather. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and myself had previously asked similar questions. The Argus, however, makes it appear that I am the only person who desires to obtain shipping space for the exportation of leather to the Old Country.
– I am afraid that we shall have to tighten up the censorship..
– That is not what I desire. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is the member who has asked for permission for the export of eucalyptus oil, but his name is not mentioned.
– The honorable member is not asking a question ; he is making a statement. This can be done only as a personal explanation.
– This is a personal explanation. The tactics of this newspaper are unfair to those to whom it is opposed. It speaks of Tasmanian members desiring a bounty on apples, but does not mention them by name, because they all sit on the Ministerial side.
– The Argus is not friendly to all Ministerial supporters.
– My honorable friend has my sympathy.In to-day’s issue it is stated that I am pressing for the exportation of leather because it is produced in my electorate, but had the writer of the paragraph any knowledge of our leather production, he would know that the sort of leather that is exported is not made in the Yarra electorate, though more of it is used there than in any other electorate in the Commonwealth, because 50 per cent. of our boots are made there. For party purposes, the newspaper makes it appear that I wish to do something to benefit my electorate at the expense of the Mother
Country. The newspaper should give a fair report, without indulging in party criticism.
– I understand that a question is embodied in the deliverance of my honorable friend.
– No. I finished with a personal explanation.
– The honorable member for Yarra rose to ask a question, and when I drew his attention to the fact that what he was saying was in the nature of a personal explanation, he said that it was a personal explanation. An honorable member cannot make a personal explanation and ask a question at the same time.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House why the Government has declined to adopt the InterState Commission’s recommendation that the price of meat be fixed ?
– The reason was given by my honorable colleague yesterday. He said that the Government considers the recommendation impossible of operation, and that we are going to endeavour to find another and a better way to do what may be necessary.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House when the Government’s scheme of meat prices will bo announced and brought into operation, and will he obtain from the Queensland Government a statement of its operations both on its station properties and in its butchers’ shops?
– We know a good deal about the operations of the Queensland Government’s meat supply scheme. In due course we shall announce our policy regarding the fixing of the price of meat.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read that the Sydney Labour Council has adopted a “ stopthewar “ resolution, calling for an immediate armistice and negotiations for, peace? Will the honorable gentleman use his influence with the Government of New South Wales to require that all unions seeking re-registration shall repudiatethis motion?
– I saw the newspaper report of the resolution, but I do not think that, at this stage, we should be justified in intervening as the honorable member suggests.
– Is the Minister in charge of price fixing aware that merchants in Sydney, who hold large stocks of matches, refuse to sell them at the prices fixed, and will the Government take steps to force them to do so ?
– I shall give the matter consideration.
– Yesterday the honor able member for East Sydney asked the following questions : -
The answer to the first three is “ Yes,” and, to the last, that consideration will be given to the advisableness of proclaiming honey a necessary foodstuff.
Mr. WATT (Balaclava- Acting Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [11.11]. - I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
The object of the motion is to enable us to sit four days instead of three days next week. Itappears to be the general desire of honorable members that we should finish our work with promptitude, because an adjournment will allow those who wish to participate in the new recruiting movement to do so,
– No notice was necessary. Standing order 41 says -
A like motion made for the purpose of fixing the next day of meeting of the House may be moved at any time without notice by a Minuter of the Crown.
.- I am sorry that notice has not been given of the motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition knew that we were going to submit it.
– I heard privately, about
Wednesday, that it was proposed to sit on Tuesday of next week.
– There is really no occasion for the House to adjourn for any long period, unless Ministers wish to avoid very wholesome and necessary criticism. Let me illustrate the necessity for this criticism. The Government has no mind of its own, and often makes up what it calls its mind in a wrong way, proposing most extraordinary things. The other day it issued a regulation allowing the enlistment of boys of eighteen without their parents’ consent. Parliament was in session, and honorable members criticised the regulation, and the Government backed down. If we go into recess, the Government, which represents, may I say the stupid party-
– Order !
– Then I withdraw the expression. If we go into recess, the Government is bound to make deplorable mistakes. This week it has made a deplorable mistake in refusing to give effect to the twice-repeated recommendation of the Inter-State Commission to fix the price of meat. If the supporters of the Government bring their influence to bear, as no doubt some of them will, Ministers will retreat from this position, as they have retreated from their position regarding the enlistment of boys of 18. Apparently the Government will back down from anything in order to keep office. If we can only keep Parliament sitting, the country will be well governed, but if the Government are allowed to go into recess they will make blunders every week.
– I do not mind their blunders. It is their wilful misgovern - ment that I object to.
– I do not know that the word “wilful “ is justified. Ministers generally are a very amiable lot of men, and I am sure that nobody could be more anxious to carry out the duties of Acting Prime Minister in a manner honorable to himself and beneficial to the country than the honorable member for Balaclava. But for some reason or other he is unable to do so, and he is adopting a course which is calculated to make him a bigger failure as the Leader of the Government than his most bitter enemy hopes that he may be.
– I am perhaps trying to conciliate the Opposition a little too much. If that is what the honorable member means let him say so.
– My encomium seems to have been taken by the Acting Prime Minister as an invitation to fight. I do not wish the honorable gentleman to forsake his presentrole for one which the honorable member for . Batman seems to regard as more natural to him - that of a fighter who does best in Opposition. The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy never have been able to forget that they have been in Opposition, and they carry the tactics of Oppositionists on to the Treasury bench.
– Order ! The question before the House is that the House shall meet on Tuesday.
– I see no reason whatever why the Government should hurry into recess. We were given the other day a long list of Boards, Committees, and Commissions, comprising some of the ablest men in this country, which apparently are to act as buffers between the Government and Parliament.
– I again ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– I was led astray by interjections.
– Interjections are disorderly, and it is equally disorderly to reply to them.
– I was about to urge as a reason why Parliament should not go into recess that there is a great deal of business to be done by Parliament. The Government cannot advance as an argument in support of the motion that they have not time in which to carry out the duties which devolve upon them, because the Boards to which I have referred do a considerable portion of the governmental and Ministerial work. It would be better in the interests of the country if Parliament were to continue sitting. Although it might be disconcerting to Ministers to bo subject to criticism, we should remain here and deal with the important matters which the Government stated in their Ministerial programme would be submit ted to Parliament. We are promised some very necessary amending industrial legislation. Apparently we are not to get that. We were led to believe that the Government are anxious to protect the industries of Australia and develop both the primary and the secondary industries. Could we not well employ our time in discussing the Tariff ?
– The Government of which the honorable member was a Minister did nothing with the Tariff.
– In our party were too many Free Traders like the honorable member. They prevented us from dealing with the Tariff. Happily, many of them have left our party, and no doubt will be more protectionist in their views than before.
– The honorable member did not resign as a protest against their attitude.
– The Minister who interjects has been in almost every Government. He is like the Vicar of Bray - “ Whatsoever king may reign still I’ll be Vicar of Bray.” The problem of dealing with the returned soldiers must be dealt with. ‘We hear that 1.200 returned soldiers assembledin this city this week, but all that could be done for them was to put on the notice-board a statement that there were half-a-dozen positions available.
– The honorable member is again exceeding the question before the Chair.
– I am urging that the matters to which I am referring constitute another reason why we should continue in session.
– That is not a reason applicable to the motion before the Chair.
– I have no doubt that other honorable members on this side, and some Ministerialists, on. the cross benches, at any rate, will be able to advance other reasons why we should not scamper into recess.
– I take it that the motion before us is couched in such terms as to enable us to consider whether or not the House should adjourn next week for a long period.
– The motion is that the House at its rising to-day shall adjourn, till next Tuesday, and so far as I can see that motion means the provision of an extra day for work.
– I am opposed to the motion. I do not think that the House should meet on Tuesday with the object of rising at the end of a week for several months. The House meeting in the ordinary course on Wednesday, and continuing to meet for a considerable time in future, has a great deal of very important business to attend to, and I record my opposition to the Government taking Parliament into recess so that they may, behind the backs of thepeople, pursue their mischievous activities free of parliamentary control. The only other observation I wish to make is that it is very unseemly for the Government to seek to hasten business? by meeting on Tuesday and rushing through our deliberations, in view of the fact that only the day before yesterday a Minister rose in his place to prevent, by the application of the “ gag,” the discussion of very important matters in this chamber. I do not wish to lend my countenance to the proposed strike on the part of the Government.
.- I can well understand that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who is a resident of Melbourne, is anxious to keep the House sitting, but we who represent far distant electorates in other States are tied to Melbourne when Parliament is sitting continuously, and we are anxious to visit our electorates sometimes. We have very important work to do in the country in connexion with recruiting. The House has been fitting for six weeks, and, on the whole,our sittings during the regime of the present Government compare very favorably with the records of Parliament when led by a Labour Government, of which the honorable member was a supporter.
– We have no right to adjourn at all in view of the conditionof affairs on the Western Front.
– The time of the House has been occupied by the Opposition with four or five motions of censure, and with lengthy discussions on the adjournment motion. In consequence the serious business of the country has not been attended to. I compliment the Acting Prime Minister on the motion he has moved; but, instead of resuming work onTuesday, we ought to sit on Mondays, and continue sitting right through the week. Honorable members opposite characterize the
Government as not being serious, because theypropose that the House shall meet a day earlier next week. I characterize the party in Opposition as a band of political humbugs!
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask honorable members to discontinue their interjections. I call upon the honorable member for Calare to withdraw the reflection he cast upon members of the Opposition.
– I withdraw it.
– I know . that the Government will conduct the business in their own way. They have decided in the party room upstairs when Parliament shall meet again, and what business shall be done.
– Do not say that.
– Order! A moment ago I appealed to honorable members not to interject, but to allow speakers to be heard in silence. But the honorable member for Yarra had no sooner risen to address the House than he was immediately interrupted. Whilst the Speaker does not take notice of occasional interjections, the trouble is that one interjection often leads to a running fire of interruptions. I must, therefore, insist that honorable members who. are, addressing the Chair shall be heard in silence.
– I do not think that any honorable member on this side of the House agrees that Parliament should adjourn at all, and this proposal will probably mean an adjournment for three, four, or five months. The Acting Prime Minister informed me that it was his intention to move that the House should meet on Tuesday next with a view to a lengthly adjournment at the end of the week, and that the Government would introduce a Bill to grant Supply for three months. Of course, every honorable member on the Government side will swallow: that proposal. If the Government asked for Supply for six months honorable members would swallow it in the same way and without criticising it.
– That is not fair.
– He could not be fair if he tried.
– I know that Ministerialists have to agree to what the Government propose, or, alternatively, put the Government out of office.Honorable members opposite would no more think of putting the present Government out of office than they would of flying.
– I ask the honorable member to remember the terms of the motion.
– I do not object to the House meeting on Tuesday. The honorable member for Calare suggested that we should meet on Monday. If any honorable member on this side had proposed that we should meet on the King’s Birthday there would have been a howl from honorable members opposite, and the Argus would have pilloried us for being desirous of not observing the King’s Birthday, though, if necessary, we would “have asked the House to adjourn on Eight Hours Day.
– I proposed that we should meet on Mondays.
– I object to Parliament meeting on the King’s Birthday.
– On a point of order, I desire to say that I did not mention the King’s Birthday.
– That is not a point of order. If the honorable member considers that he has been misrepresented, he can make a personal explanation as soon as the honorable member addressing the House resumes his seat.
– I had no desire to misrepresent any one; I was merely pointing out that I objected to the House meeting on Monday next, since that is the King’s Birthday. With that exception, I am willing that the House should meet every Monday. I do not think we should have long adjournments ; and if it will suit the convenience of honorable members from distant States to meet on Mondays there is no reason why we should not do so. I wish to make it absolutely clear to the House, and the people generally, that it is not the desire of the Labour party that Parliament should go into recess. We are here to do the business of the country. There is still plenty of business on the notice-paper, and I fail to see why we should not proceed with it. I think we ought to meet next Tuesday, but I object to the reasons which have been given for the Government proposal, and if it is to be assumed that in supporting the motion I am in favour of Parliament going almost immediately into recess I certainly shall not do so.
– By way of personal explanation I desire to state that I did not mention the King’s Birthday. The only point I wished to make was that in view of the desire of honorable members to go into their electorates and to take an active part in the recruiting campaign the House should meet on Monday ofeach week and sit, if necessary, until Saturday, so that we might complete our business and be free to take part in the recruiting movement.
– I have great pleasure in supporting the motion, since I have always been opposed to the abolition of Tuesday sittings. Honorable members who come from distant States and cannot return to their homes during the week-ends have to remain here from Friday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon for the resumption of the business of Parliament. Thus more than half their time is wasted in waiting for the House to meet. I hope that we shall sit at least four days a week instead of two and a half days, as at present. If the records of the two Houses be examined it will be found that our sittings are shorter than those of any other Parliament in the British Dominions.
– Naturally that ought to be so.
-I know it is said to be necessary that Ministers should be able to devote Saturdays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, as well as every Wednesday morning, to their Departmental business. During the greater portion of our sittings, however, it is the invariable practice for Ministers to retire from the chamber and to attend to departmental business.
– To receive deputations from members.
– I have always found Ministers most willing to receive deputations introduced by members.
– The honorable member will admit that the best time to attend to the administration of the Departments is not while the House is sitting.
– Quite so, but even on the sitting days Ministers are free to devote every morning to Departmental business. The abolition of the Tuesday sittings took place only three years ago. The prime mover in the agitation for its abolition was the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald), who advocated that we should meet only three days a week That agitation was successfully fought for many years, but finally it was deeded that, as a temporary expedient, we should do away with the Tuesday sitting, and that practice has continued ever since. I believe the great majority of honorable members would strongly favour our meeting four days a week, and I hope that the Government will move at once in that direction.
– If I thought that by meeting on Tuesday next we would expedite business, I should certainly vote for the motion. I intend, however, to vote against it, because I recognise that the Government’s only object in submitting it is to get into recess almost immediately, and to that I am opposed.
.- Honorable members of the Labour party should extend a little more consideration to those of us who come from distant States. It is absolutely essential that such members should remain in Melbourne while Parliament is sitting, and, although we meet only three days a week, more than half of the time of the House is wasted in useless discussion.
– I object to that statement.
-The honorable member is not in order in saying that the time of Parliament is wasted by the honorable member.
– At all events, the greater part of our time is occupied by discussions of no value to the people. If honorable members opposite would only recognise that those who represent distant States are greatly inconvenienced by the unnecessary prolongation of our sittings, we should get through far more work of benefit to the community than we do at present. I need only remind the House of what took place on Wednesday. Will any one say that any practical good resulted from the debate on that day, and from a prolongation of the sitting until 12.45 a.m. yesterday?
I have asked honorable members of the Labour party why so many of them practically repeat what others have said in the same debates. The answer they gave ire is to this effect: “We represent different constituencies, and in each of those constituencies there are re presentatives of Labour in the shearing sheds or mining camps, whose duty it is during “ smoko “ or dinner hour to read from Hansard the reports of our speeches only.” The consequence of this is that arguments are repeated in Parliament over and over again by honorable members opposite merely that their constituents may be able to read what they say. If Hansard were abolished, such speeches would not be made, nor would we have such long sittings. We would settle down to solid business, just as the directors of a public or private company do. Such men do not attempt, at their meetings, to speak to the outside public. They have no desire to get some public kudos for having said a smart thing about a fellow director as the Labour party do about the Prime Minister or any men: ber of the Government; they devote their attention to the business put before them. They deal with that business in a businesslike way, and in the shortest possible time. Time is money, and, while honorable members are wasting it, the officers and every one connected with the Parliament have to be paid, and the lighting bill is increased.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the expression that honorable members are wasting time.
– In deference to your ruling, sir, I shall certainly do so; but I fail to recognise that even one-half of what is said by honorable members opposite during the course of our debates is of any material consequence to the people. I appeal to them to endeavour to arrive at an arrangement by which we shall be able to have longer sittings weekly, and deal with our business promptly, so that, when we do adjourn, we may have an opportunity to visit our constituencies and to attend personally to their interests. As it is, we have to deal by correspondence with most matters relating to our constituents. If such an arrangement were made, it would also give Ministers a better opportunity to attend to the work of their Departments. If that work is to be properly done, it is absolutely essential that they should be able to spend some time in their Departments. They cannot properly deal with departmental matters in the Ministerial room next door while
Parliament is sitting. It is true that they can meet deputations there, hut to deal with departmental work they must be in their Departments, where the official files and records are available to them. I hope that honorable members, and especially those who have made their homes in Melbourne, will have consideration for those who cannot do that, but who still wish to honestly represent their constituents. I do not think any one will say that I have neglected my duty in any way, since I have been in Parliament, and, as a matter of fact, I have stayed here very often at serious loss to myself, when very little had been accomplished by Parliament.
Mr. fenton (Maribyrnong) [11.44]. - When we met a few weeks ago a very important policy statement was submitted to us by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The right honorable gentleman put before us a programme for the session which was full of measures of first class importance, but, so far, very little of the business outlined by him has been dealt with. We are now told that we should meet on Tuesday next so as to expedite business. The Government are anxious to rush important measures through the House next week, so that Parliament may go into recess for two or three months. I am not opposed to sitting on an extra day. I would sit every day in the >week except .Sundays in order that the business of the country might be done, for which we were elected. The great influence at work in reducing the days of sitting was exercised by those honorable members who return each week to their particular State.
– No honorable member representing a Queensland constituency could return to his State in the time.
– The honorable member in that respect is no worse off than, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who is most anxious that the House should devote itself to the business of the country, for which honorable members were elected.
– The honorable member for Capricornia makes his home in Melbourne.
– One reason given for having a recess is that honorable members should have the opportunity of taking their places on recruiting platforms The great complaint that I have heard from the mothers, wives, and dependants of soldiers, and one that must militate against recruiting, is the present high cost of living. Why cannot the House devote attention to that matter? Reports have been presented which should be considered. It is work which should engage our attention in the near future. I shall vote against the motion as a protest against the closing of the people’s Parliament when the representatives of the people should be here defending their rights, and seeing that the Ministry, which is hourly making mistakes, does not make greater blunders in the future.
Mr. fowler (Perth) [11.47].- It appears to me that under existing circumstances it does not matter much whether the House sits on Tuesdays or not. If the Government were fully seized of their responsibilities in the present grave situation of the Empire they would ask us to sit, not only on Tuesdays, but also on Saturdays and Sundays, in order to evolve some scheme by which Australia could take its share in the awful war which is facing us in a way that ought to make us serious beyond all measure. Even as I speak the greatest battle that has ever happened upon this earth is raging. One of the fairest portions of Europe is being devastated and made a hell of by war, and along the whole of that dreadful and long-drawn battle line brave men, who have thrown themselves across the path of the enemy to save us and the world from the ravages of savagery, are falling maimed and bleeding. Our soldiers are dying there or are lying dead in tens of thousands, in order that Australia may be preserved from the ravages of Belgium and the massacres of Servia. Yet we are here day after day twiddling about immaterial matters as if these dreadful things were happening on another planet. In God’s name, what are we here for? Have we no duty before us? Are we blind as bats that we should remain indifferent before such appalling circumstances? Do not the very stones of this building cry out to us, and demand that we should do something to restore the good name of Australia and reinforce that splendid remnant of our brave men at the Front, who, as things are going on, will only return a mere handful to Australia ? And then God help us, who shall have to look them in the face, and acknowledge our betrayal of them. I pray to the Almighty that before the House rises this Government and this Parliament will awaken to their duties and responsibilities, and that we shall not be shamed in the eyes of the whole world, or in the eyes of the children of Australia, who, in future generations, must curse us, while they bear the brunt of our ineptitude and our cowardice.
.- I would be prepared to vote for the motion if its purpose was that the House should continue to sit for an extra day for the whole of the time, but we find that behind the motion is the proposal that Parliament shall be closed up at the conclusion of next week.
– No one has said so.
– The impressionI gathered from the remarks of the Acting Prime Minister was that the purpose of sitting for an extra day was to complete the business and close Parliament at the conclusion of next week. If that is the purpose of the motion I am opposed to it. If the Acting Prime Minister will say that it is not the purpose of the motion, but that the object is to have an extra sitting day, and go right ahead with business, and not close Parliament at the end of next week, I am prepared to vote for it. It is most important that we should continue the sittings of the House. There are great problems confronting the country. Are we to close the House and allow those problems to solve themselves % Are we to allow the cost of living to solve itself - a matter which is agitating the public mind to-day and causing discontent from one end of the community to the other ? We should keep the House together, and seriously tackle these questions which are troubling the people. There are important notices of motion on the business-paper submitted by private members. If the Government have no policy of their own to submit to the House in order to deal with those allabsorbing problems which confront us today, let them afford private members an opportunity to discuss their motions, and attempt to solve those problems. I believe that every honorable member would be prepared to do his best towards solving them. We are handling great business deals; we are entering into commercial undertakings under powers that are given to us by the war legislation which we are exercising, but the moment the war is over those powers will go from us automatically. Has the Acting Prime Minister considered the chaotic position which will arise when we are suddenly deprived of those powers ? Have the Government no policy to put forward in order to deal with those post-war problems which will confront us? Their attempt to close Parliament is a clear admission on their part that they are not capable of administering the affairs of the country. They have no policy.
– Their policy compares very favorably with that of any Labour Government which has preceded them.
– Merely to say, “ Thank God, I am not as bad as the other cove, “ is not to say that one is sane. I do not know that the honorable member’s assertion is very much to the credit of the Government. It came into office with a great flourish of trumpets about winning the war. It claimed that it was the only Government which could solve the problems arising out of the war, and yet we find that it is devoid of all practical suggestions, and rushes headlong to shut up Parliament so that no criticism may be levelled at it on account of its lack of policy. It is a scandalous state of affairs that in the midst of the great crisis through which we are passing to-day, when all these vast problems confront us, and when there are greater problems to be faced after the war, the Government has nothing but a policy of hush, a policy of shutting the mouths of the representatives of the people by closing Parliament, so that Ministers may sit down comfortably in their offices, and be free from criticism. It is about time that honorable members realized their duty, and put this Government out of office, replacing it by one which will have a policy and which willbe capable of conducting the affairs of the country.
– I intend to support the Government in this matter, because I am of opinion that Ministers are the best judges of what is required for carrying on the affairs of the country. It is obvious to every one that our Standing Orders need considerable revision.
Mr.Considine. - Does the honorable member wish to tighten them up again ?
– Undoubtedly. “When we take into consideration yesterday’s proceedings on Grievance Day, and the waste of public time and funds.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I do so, but I consider that the Standing Orders Committee should be got together at an early date for the purpose of enabling more time to be given for carrying on the business of the country, and leaving matters of grievance out of question for the time being. If ever there was a time when not an hour should be lost in dealing with matters of a practical character, it is the present. In regard to the suggestion of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), I am quite in accord with him, and with those who reside in Queeusland or Western Australia, that the present system is irksome to them, but those who have had experience of State Parliaments know that the more sitting days that are made available for honorable members to talk, the more they will talk. If we sat on every day in the week we would not make any further progress. I will give an illustration of the absurdity of some honorable members’ proposals. In 1910, when I had the good fortune to be returned to this House, the Labour party were very enthusiastic, and they conceived the idea that parliamentary proceedings should be conducted on the eight-hours’ principle. They, therefore, decided that the House should meet at 10.30 o’clock in the morning and rise punctually at 10 o’clock at night. But the Opposition did not agree with that view. Any one who knew anything about parliamentary proceedings would realize that the proposal was an utterly insane one.
– The honorable member supported it.
– Of course I did. I have supported a good many things in my time, because there is only one way by which parliamentary parties, as well as individuals, can learn things, and that is by experience. The idea was abandoned that very session. Ministers found that they could not carry out their Ministerial duties, and our Liberal friends, who were in Opposition, took good care to see that Parliament continued to sit after the hour fixed for the adjournment. They said that we could sit eight hours if we liked to do so, but that they intended to sit as long as they chose, and they did. Extending the hours of Parliament is an absolute absurdity. It inflicts big hardship on honorable members from New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania; and I include the latter because it is just as easy to travel between the island and the mainland, as between either of the capital cities of the two other States.
– It is not so comfortable travelling to Tasmania.
– To an experienced navigator like the honorable gentleman a voyage like that does not mean much discomfort. The present arrangement gives an opportunity to honorable members to spend another day in their own States with advantage to themselves. Regarding the matter from a non-party point of view we ought to sit here just as long as it is necessary, and the Standing Orders ought to be framed so as to give every facility for carrying on business, and not for wasting time. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) made a very pathetic speech, with which we all must sympathize, and which I hope will be read by the people outside, who have something to say in the matter. While this dreadful war continues it is nothing short of a crime that we should be under party Government; but honorable members on the other side are embittered by the most bitter’ and malignant opposition that can be found in any other country in the world’.
– If I were in order I should be glad to* move that the apologies of the supporters of the Government for the motion be accepted. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), are quite proud to find excuses for the Government, and the former put the matter in a nutshell when he said that the Government must be expected toknow what the business of the country is. When we are confronted with a businesspaper containing six items, and are told that it is necessary to sit an extra day in order to deal with it, we have an admission by the Government that the business of the country is comprised within those items. But if that is the idea of the Government in regard to the country’s needs, and the policy that should be before Parliament for consideration, I offer strong dissent, for there are most important items waiting to be dealt with. The most appealing speech made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) cannot remain unheeded ; but the Acting Prime Minister did not suggest that the recess is necessary in order to enable the Government to find a policy, or for Ministers to carry on the business of the country; it is, we are told, to enable honorable members to carry out a policy that Ministers either fail to appreciate or to tackle. If Ministers were to face the position in that regard, probably more would be done than is being done at present. In my opinion it is not necessary to adjourn to allow honorable members to go recruiting, because at the present time they are devoting every available opportunity to that work. We are not here as a recruiting agency, but to perform higher and more important duties. The bill of fare put forward by the Government, as disclosing their policy at this great and momentous epoch, contains only two items of any great importance. One is the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill and the other the Appropriation Bill for repatriation ; and these, I am sure will secure the consideration of Parliament without any reference to party politics. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) suggests that the House is divided by party feeling, I can assure him that, so far as these two measures are concerned, there is no party in the House beyond a united party to look after the interests of the returned soldiers. Therefore the Government need not be worried as to the reception and sympathetic consideration of these two measures. The Defence Bill is a formal matter, and, so far as I can see, will not occupy much time. It takes cognisance of no great principles, and will not seriously affect our different points of view. The Apple Bounty Bill is also a small matter which may be decided by members, not so much on its merits, as with one eye on their constituencies.
– What about bananas?
– The honorable member doesnot know my attitude in regard to the Apple Bounty Bill, and he makes the unkind suggestion that if ba nanas were in question I should support the measure. What I have said as to the consideration of the Apple Bounty Bill applies, of course, equally to both sides of the House. The only remaining businessis the formal matter of Supply. I again emphasize the fact that if the Government find themselves bankrupt of business, there are some twenty-seven notices of motion by private members, which, I am sure, are regarded by those members as worthy our attention. These motions embrace such questions as German trade names, German colonies, and the official representation of Australia in the United States, all of moment at this particular juncture. There is a feeling, I am sure, in the mind of every member that at present we ought to be doing big things; and I say feelingly and thoughtfully that it is fortunate for us that the public of Australia do not at the present time realize how impotent this Parliament is. how foolish our debates are in most cases, and how much time and money is wasted here. If the people did know,’ as we know, what is going on in Parliament today, our time would very properly be a very short one. This Parliament is not doing the work it was sent to do, and is not even making an attempt to do it. There are awaiting solution great questions that will call forth the best ability we can supply - will challenge the highest in us - and yet the Government refuse to even discuss them.
– Your side wasted the whole of yesterday.
– The Government complain if we raise a question under the one method open to honorable members. I remind the House that only one day a month is allowed for a discussion of grievances; and I submit that yesterday questions, not only of national, but international importance, were submitted from both sides of the House. I give honorable members opposite all the credit they deserve, and all the credit I claim for my friends on this side, for the anxiety to do big things for the country. We do not wish to waste our time in the “ shallows,” and if ever Shakespeare’s quotation was applicable it is now -
There is a tide in the affairs of men,.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune ;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
If we have missed the tide, the opportunity may now have come again - let us seize it. . If the Government say that the notice-paper represents all the business they desire to do - all the business they consider of importance - so let it be; on them be the responsibility. But I refuse to admit that there is no important work for Parliament; and I cannot agree to the suggestion that it is necessary to adjourn on that ground. I wonder if the Acting Prime Minister would disclose a Cabinet secret if he were honest enough to tell us that this motion is part of an arrangement made when the two Ministers left for London. There was a rumour to the effect that Parliament would soon adjourn after they had gone away, and that only formal business would be attended to, the larger matters being postponed until their return when probably fuller information would be at our disposal. If there is such an arrangement, we would be glad to know the fact. Then, if the Government desire a recess in order to consider those big questions I have referred to, let them say so.
– I think the Acting Prime Minister made a statement to that effect.
– If so, I did not hear it.
– The honorable gentleman told us that a recess is desired in order to consider the financial proposals he intended to bring before the House.
– And to undertake recruiting.
Mr.FINLAYSON. - I listened carefully to the statement of the Acting Prime Minister, and did not hear him say that that was the idea.
– I did not say that to-day. What I said to-day was inaudible, because honorable members opposite were cackling all the time; and, as I could not hear myself, I had to sit down.
– I heard the Acting Prime Minister say that the recess would give honorable members an opportunity to take part in the new recruiting movement.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) was referring to an earlier statement of mine.
– If that is so, 1 am glad to have the assurance that the recess is necessary to enable the Government to consider great questions, particularly questions relating to finance; and I only hope that when we reassemble we may have the advantage of the knowledge and experience of our representatives at the Imperial Conference, and at last give our attention to business of moment instead of fooling about with paltry matters as at present. The Government, it seems to me, are taking a leaf out of the book of the Industrial Workers of the World, and adopting a “ go slow “ policy.
– Stealing your policy !
– It never was our policy; we want to work, and are always willing to assist the Government in keeping a quorum so long as they are prepared to proceed with business. When the Government admit their poverty of business, or desire to go slow, let them do so, and they will stand condemned on their own admission.
.- I rise torefute the charge of the Opposition that the Government is endeavouring to shirk its responsibility by hurrying into recess. In view of the real facts of the situation, I have no hesitation in saying that this is one of the most unfounded, amazing, and preposterous charges ever made in any Parliament. I refer the House to the Hansard report of the debates of 15th December, 1916. At that time the Ministry of which my honorable friend the memberfor Yarra (Mr. Tudor) and my friend the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) were distinguished members-
– I had left the Ministry three months earlier.
– True. At that time the Ministry of which those gentlemen had been distinguished members had been out of office for three months, and it was to the whole period of twelve months that the honorable member, the last member for Lilley (Mr. Stumm), was referring when he said -
We have heard a great deal, and we hear a great deal, every day. in condemnation of striking and the going-slow movement. Why,sir, we are the greatest offenders of the lot. How many sittings of Parliament have we held during the last twelve months?
– That was during the middle period of the war.
– Yes. Mr. Stumm went on to say that in the 320 working days between 12th November, 1915, and 29th November, 1916, Parliament had had only twenty sittings, and had been on strike for 300 days. Nine months of that period was under the Government of the honorable members of the Opposition I have mentioned.
.- Had the motion been to fix every Tuesday as a siting day, I should have supported it ; but its object is to speed up work next week so that a Supply Bill for three months may be passed, and Parliament may shut up shop. I object to the Government being allowed to get into recess. Even when Parliament is sitting, our criticism has but little influence on its actions, and honorable members find it difficult to ventilate the grievances of their constituents, but when Parliament is not sitting honorable members are muzzled, and there are the War Precautions Regulations to suppress all criticism of. the Government. This prevents the people from knowing what is taking place in various parts of Australia by the orders of the Ministry. We have men being seized now, and the facts are suppressed. All reference to the subjectmatter of the telegrams, about the . removal of which I complained the other afternoon, was carefully kept out of the press by the censor. If any action is taken by Senator Pearce”-
– I remind the honorable member that the motion is for fixing the next meeting of the House for Tuesday next.
– I am giving reasons for my opposition to the motion.
-The reasons which are being given, are not germane to it.
– The Government wishes to hurry us through our business next week, get Supply for three months, and then to evade criticism, and prevent the ventilating of grievances, by going into recess.
– Grievances were ventilated for nine hours yesterday.
– I have substantial cause for stating grievances, and could go on for ninety hours.
– The honorable member takes pleasure in grieving.
– Nothing would please me better than to have my grievances removed.
– The removal of grievances is not the question before the Chair.
– The Government has under its hand the Prussian and every other method of suppressing criticism outside Parliament, and wishes, in addition, to evade parliamentary criticism. Probably when we have adjourned we shall not meet again until the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) have returned from England. The Government will be able to /carry on under the War Precautions Act, applying its regulations to prevent criticism of Ministerial action. If the proposal were that we should meet every Tuesday, or on every day of the week, except Saturday and Sunday, itwould have my’ support; but I cannot see why we should alter our procedure merely to hurry through business and get into recess at the end of next week. What could be the Government’s object for proposing this, except to close the mouths of its parliamentary critics, and the actions of the Ministry justify the maximum amount of suspicion ?
.- I should not intervene in the debate were it not for the direction in which it has developed. It is now being questioned whether the object for which, we are to adjourn next week is a legitimate one. When the debate opened, I understood that that was not in question, but as it apparently is, I feel bound to say a word or two. In my view, the main reason for the proposed adjournment - Ministers may have additional reasons - is that an opportunity may be afforded to honorable members to do something to bring home to the people the importance of the one vital ‘question they are faced with to-day . I was in entire sympathy with the speech of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler). I agree with him that, if necessary, we should sit day and night to fulfil our duty to Australia.
But such sittings would not now help the country in the least. What has to he done now must be done, not by Parliament, but by the people, and the immediate duty of honorable members is to go to our constituents and try to help them to realize their obligations, to educate them, so that they may do what at this hour they must do if Australia is to be vindicated. There is one other matter which I wish to refer to. As a new member, coming, perhaps, from an atmosphere different from that in which one moves here, I say that the impression outside is that members of Parliament believe too much in legislation. We cannot do everything by legislation and the passing of rules and regulations, and it is for us now to let the people know what the position of the world is to-day, what their duty is, and what it will mean to them if they fail in that duty.
.- The reference of the last speaker to the duty of this House to the nation affords a text for every honorable member to meditate upon. The motion is for an adjournment until Tuesday next, but the ulterior reason is the closing of Parliament at the end of next week. I hold the opinion that Parliament is never more needed than when the people are in trouble.
– That is the view of the British Parliament, too.
– I was going to refer to that. Since the war broke out we have passed many War Precautions regulations. Those regulations are prepared by the military authorities, and submitted to the Attorney-General’s Department; but the civil authority should be supreme, and Parliament should have the opportunity to criticise all the regulations made under its Acts, and to prevent the military from doing what it ought not to do. Another matter that troubles my mind and makes me so restless that at times I cannot sleep is the state of our finances.
The Acting Prime Minister has said that an adjournment is necessary in order that the Government may consider the financial situation. I wonder what they have been doing in the past! Of course, we know that Estimates have to be prepared, but Ministers do not do that work. The departmental heads draw up a list of their requirements, and submit them to Ministers. , .
– The question before the Chair is that the House, at its rising, adjourn till next Tuesday.
– The Minister has said that it is necessary to have some reprieve from parliamentary criticism, in order that the Government may deal with the finances. I am pointing out that the Estimates do not require much attention from any Minister except the Treasurer. They follow a regular routine, and it is not necessary for Parliament to go into recess in order that Ministers may deal with them., Recently a Board, composed of very able and much-respected men, was appointed to help the Government in dealing with the finances, and I cannot help remembering that those men are conducting large private concerns, for which they are paid high salaries. Can they serve two masters?
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I hope to have another opportunity of dealing with that matter. As one coming from another State, I have no objection to the House sitting four days a week; in fact, I should prefer that course, because I should remain in Melbourne, and my health would not be jeopardized by constant travelling to and from Sydney. During the three years when we sat four days a week, I think we did more work in a week than we now do in two weeks sitting three days weekly, and I believe that Parliament did greater things than in the other fifteen years of its existence. Every measure passed was of a national character, and raised the Commonwealth in the esteem of the world. Experience shows that sitting four days a week is more beneficial to the nation than sitting three days per week, because members settle down better to the business. I do not object to meeting on Tuesday in order to push on with work, but when I know that the ulterior motive of this motion is to prevent honorable members from criticising the actions of the Government, particularly in regard to such matters as the regulation which deprives parents of the control of their boys, I feel that I am justified in voting against it in order to prevent Parliament being closed, and the people’s representatives being deprived of the opportunity to do their work.
.- I hope that the Acting Prime Minister, in arranging the dates for the re-assembling of this Parliament, will give more consideration to the circumstances of members who come from distant States. The manner in which we are treated is decidedly unfair; we are given no concession by those honorable members who reside in Melbourne. I make this claim on two grounds : Firstly, in the interests of honorable members who come from far-distant electorates; and, secondly, because I wish to have good administration. I know that when Parliament is sitting from day to day and week to week members of the Ministry have not the opportunity to give that consideration to public affairs which is essential to good administration. At this time we need good administration more than we have needed it at any time in our history. If I said that this House wasted time, and that its conduct is a discredit to the nation, I should be ruled out of order. If I were to congratulate honorable members on the glorious work they are doing, I should be in order, but I should not be telling the truth. I suggest to the Government that either we should limit the space given to each honorable member in Hansard, or that honorable members should be charged out of their salaries so much per inch of space occupied by their speeches.
– That is a sound business scheme.
– All the Government have to do is to tell the military censor to fix the rates. They have done the rest.
– The honorable member for Barrier, as a recent recruit to this House, ought to be congratulated on the amount of space he occupies in Hansard already. If he continues at the rate he is going, there will be no space for any other honorable member, or else we shall have to considerably enlarge the publication.
– The question before the House is not the publication of Hansard, but what day the House shall next meet.
– I hope that the Government will give consideration to honorable members who live in distant States, and will insist on having more opportu nity for administration. If that is done, I feel satisfied that we shall get better work from Ministers.
Question - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
CASE OF “ GORDON McDONALD.”
.- I ask leave to make a statement about the case of Gordon McDonald, to which I referred last night.
-No The honorable member has made one statement, and the Defence Department has had no opportunity to reply yet.
– Let the statement be made.
– Leave granted reluctantly.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I do.
– There seemed to be reluctance last night in the attitude of the Assistant Minister for Defence. It seems to have arisen out of a misunderstanding as to a conversation that took place between us in the party room yesterday. It is true that the Honorary Minister (Mr. Wise) asked me whether I was going to move the adjournment of the House that afternoon, and that I replied that I did not intend to do so, since I had not completed my reading of the file of papers His reply was, “ Very well ; that will enable mp. to cancel something that I was having done” : and he then went out of. the room. I did not pay much attention to the words actually used, but I understood that what the Minister, really wanted to know was whether I intended to move the adjournment of the House. In his statement last night he said that he asked me whether I was going to deal with the subject that day. I admit that he might have used such words; I am not prepared to say that he did not; but if he did, what I understood him to want to know was whether I intended to move the adjournment of the House. I had previously told him that I intended to do so, and my reply to his inquiry in the party room yesterday was designed to let him know that I did not propose to take that action. In that way, the misunderstanding seems to have originated. During the morning, I had spent three hours in examining the file at the Defence Department. In that time I got through only half of it. When I returned to the House, the remaining half was sent to me by the Minister, and I spent the afternoon in going through it and in preparing a consecutive statement to put before honorable members. The Minister asked me for the file as soon as I had finished with it.
– About 5 p.m.
– Quite so. At that time. I had not finished with the file, but I told him that as soon as I had I would hand it to him.
– Did the honorable member have the complete file?
– Not then; I had been through one-half of it at the Department of Defence during the morning, and the remaining half was sent to me here.
– Does the honorable member think that all the papers were on the file ?
– Yes; I have no reason to believe that they were not. On completing my investigation of the file, I handed it over to the Department. I am prepared to admit that the Honorary Minister probably had some justification for his annoyance last night, since he had not had the file long enough to permit of a complete examination of it; but I regret exceedingly the heat displayed by him when replying to my statement. I am sure that, if he had had time for reflection, he would not have used such, language, especially if he had had an opportunity to fully consider the whole of the facts.
I desire now to say to him, in the best possible spirit, that I had not the slightest intention of misrepresenting the facts, nor do I believe that I did misrepresent them. I emphasized the treatment meted out to this man, not by Defence Ministers, but by two officers whom I specifically mentioned - Major Hogan and Detective Jones. I practically charged those men -not the Defence Ministers - with having pursued this man on a criminal charge instead of treating him as a returned soldier. I specially stated, at the outset of my remarks, that the man was returned to Australia as a mental case.
The Honorary Minister now charges me with having failed to mention certain other facts. He read to the House a statutory declaration which was just as confusing and upsetting as the statutory declaration which I read. I would remind him that I did not vouch for the truth of the statements contained in the statutory declaration which I read, nor for the truth of the statement made by the nian to me. I said clearly and emphatically that this man, being a mental case, was irresponsible for the statements he made, and had, in fact, made many statements that were obviously false.
– How did the doctor describe him?
– He described him to me personally as a pathological liar.
– What does that mean?
– I understood the doctor to mean that this man believed “at the time he made the statements that they were true.
– That is to say, his lying arose from a disease.
– Yes, if the honorable gentleman chooses to so describe it. The fact that this was a mental case surely excuses all the contradictory statements made by the man. The Honorary Minister will remember that, in the course of my speech, I alluded to another Gordon McDonald, who was said to have enlisted in Sydney. I said that there were a lot of complications in connexion with that case, but that they did not seem to bear upon the case I was dealing with, and for that reason I would not go into them.
– After this man becomes mentally right, I do not think he will thank the honorable member for his action.
– When the Minister read the second statutory declaration - which was equally confusing - the honorable member cheered. The noise he made was like that of a kettledrum, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.
– The honorable member has earned a reputation for that.
– I am prepared to stand up in defence of my own attitude, and do not want any assistance from the honorable member. Indeed, I do not think he is capable of giving any.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed of his action.
– If I had to submit my views to the honorable member I should be slow to get any help from him. I feel aggrieved by the attitude taken up last night by the Honorary Minister (Mr. Wise). He was labouring under the impression that I had treated him unfairly, because he had not had an opportunity to thoroughly examine the file before I made my statement. He declared my statement of the case to be grossly unfair and absolutely unreliable.
– That statement he withdrew.
– At my request, he said he would withdraw anything that was unparliamentary.
– That being, so, the honorable member cannot labour the matter, seeing that the remark was withdrawn.
– Very well; I shall not do so. The Honorary Minister then said that he was not in a position to deal with the matter fully, but honorable members could arrive at their own decision upon the fact’s he had stated. The only facts that he put before the House were those contained in another confused and unreliable declaration which did not seem to help the case I was putting.
– It went to show-
– I do not wish to listen to the loud voice that proclaims the empty mind.
– Did not the facts presented by the Honorary Minister prove that the statement was unreliable?
– No one could hope to prove anything to the honorable member. He is one of those bigoted partisans who, having taken a certain view, refuses to be shifted from it.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) asked leave to make a personal explanation.
– No ; the honorable member asked leave to make a statement.
– Is this statement to be debated ?
– A debate would be irregular. The honorable member obtained leave to make a statement, and the Honorary Minister may only by leave of the House make a statement in reply.
– We are drifting into a debate.
-If so, it is the result of disorderly interjections. I am merely stating certain facts. I feel aggrieved, also, at the statement made by the Honorary Minister that I could not have been desirous of helping this soldier by bringing his case forward in the way I had done. My whole object, as a matter of fact, was to induce the Defence authorities to take some action, because from last September nothing had been done by them. I was not influenced, as. he suggested, by any antipathy to the Department; my sole desire was to help this man. I had no antipathy to the Department, nor have I any now. I ask him, when he has had time to study the file, to give consideration to my request in the spirit in which I made it. I assure him that I brought the matter forward, not in any hostile spirit to the Department, but because of a keen desire to help our soldiers.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) charged me with having quoted from a document that was given to me as confidential. He asked, “ Where did you get the words that you have just used ? ‘ This man is one of the ‘war’s wrecks’.” -I assured him that I had not been quoting, and I find now that the statement I actually made was “ May I ask the Minister to . remember < those words ? I shall not say where they came from.”
– The honorable member quoted them from the document in question - from Mr. Walker’s summary of the case.
– I did not say they came from that document. The honorable’ member charged we, on that one statement, with having quoted from the document throughout. That, however, was the only statement I took from it.
– If the honorable member is satisfied with that kind of explanation his conscience has altered a good deal lately.
– The Acting Prime Minister feels aggrieved because, when he was anxious to read something, I said, “ I know you of old.” That remark seemed to hurt him. Does he know what I meant by it?
– I do not.
– I meant that the honorable gentleman wanted to interrupt my speech, and to draw me off the track.
– I did not desire to do anything of the kind.
– Then I am sorry I said what I did, but that is what I meant to convey.
– That is not what the cheering Tuscans thought the honorable member meant to suggest.
– I do not know what they thought; I can be held responsible only for what I say.
– But the honorable member is not very often responsible for that lately.
– I think I am. I wish only to say, in conclusion, that I have devoted my time and attention to this case with a sincere desire to help a man who is mentally afflicted, and not because of any desire to criticise the Defence Depart ment or the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). Now that we have had time to sleep on the statements made last night, I again ask the Honorary Minister (Mr. Wise) to give to this case the consideration I have asked. When he has studied the papers, will he try to establish this man’s identity, and to see that justice is done?
– I do not intend to repeat what took place last night; but, dealing first of all with the honorable member’s closing remark, I may say at once that it was not necessary for me to sleep on what had been said in order to give him the assurance for which he asked. As a matter of fact, I gave it to him last night. I told him then that the case would be fully investigated, after which the whole of the facts would be presented to the public. The honorable member has complained of my remark that he was actuated more by feelings of antipathy to the Department than by any desire to forward the interests of this soldier. What I said was -
If he had had at heart only the interests of the soldier, I think he would have brought the matter before the people in a different way. He would have appealed to the Defence Department.
Then the honorable member interjected -
After the treatment the Defence Department meted out to this man, it wants shooting.
He spoke there, not of the two constables, but of the Department as a whole. My reply was -
That interjection shows the feeling that actuated the honorable member in bringing this matter forward as he has done to-night. His statement was influenced by a feeling of antipathy towards the Department, and was not made in the interests of the soldier himself.
I would not have made that observation but for the bitterness which the honorable member, by his interjection, displayed against the Department for the treatment which he alleged had been meted out to this man. I complained early in the evening that he had read only one part of the story, and I said he had not been fair; that while he had put before the House one statement made by this man, he had not told honorable members that the man had made another statement in which he set himself up as being quite a different person. When I read the second statement made by the soldier, it created in the minds of honorable members a totally different impression of the case. If an honorable member is actuated only by a desire to secure the redress of any grievance, he will not seek to make public capital out of it, but will go - and this has always been my practice - to the head of the Department concerned, and, should he fail to obtain satisfaction from him, will request the Minister to go into the whole case. If the Minister for Defence’ had been shown the facts in this case, and had declined to make a full investigation, the honorable member would have been quite justified in bringing the case before the House; but those who have held office know that it is ridiculous to suggest that a Minister is aware of every act of his officers.
The file 6f papers in this case is a very bulky one, as shown by the time which it took the honorable member to go through it. As I said last night, I felt sore at the matter having been brought forward on such short notice to myself. I had taken the trouble to try to get the necessary information from the Department, but when the honorable member told me that he was not going on with the case that afternoon I said, “ I will cancel what I have clone,” and I directed that the information for which I had asked need not be sent over to me. About 5 p.m. I asked the honorable member if he had done with the file, as the Department was asking for it. He replied that he was still using it. I then asked, “Will you be finished with it by to-morrow ? “ I thought of taking it away with me to-day, and of devoting, the weekend to a complete examination of it.
– The honorable member did say that.
– The honorable member’s answer to my inquiry was, “Yes, I shall be done with the file by to-morrow.” It was only by accident that I learnt of his intention to refer to the case last night. Having occasion to visit the legal recess in the Library, I found the honorable member working there, and jocularly asked, “ What ! are you going into the law?” The honorable member answered, “ No ; but I may have an opportunity to go into the soldier’s case on the Supply motion to-night.” That was the first intimation I had of his intention of bringing the matter up in the House last night, and I did not have anything like a reasonable chance to go through the file so as to make myself conversant with the facts before I was called upon to reply. It was for these reasons that I complained of the way in which the honorable member had treated me, and I think I was justified in coming to the conclusion that he was actuated by some ill-feeling., against the Defence Department or the responsible Minister.
– Who was responsible for the detention of this man in gaol for a fortnight ?
– I cannot say, because I have only had time to look at .the latter part of the file. I can only say that the whole case will be investigated, and that the full facts will then be put before the public.
Sitting suspended from 1.6 to 2.20 p.m.
– Yesterday I was asked a question by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) with reference to the treatment of some of the original Anzacs recently returned, to Sydney, and I said that inquiries were being made into the matter. I have now an answer which has been furnished by the Minister for Defence. It is as follows: -
The men referred to were shown on the ship’s Nominal Roll as on duty. No documents showing in what way they were to be disposed of were received from the General Officer Commanding Australian Imperial Force until some time after, having been apparently delayed in transit.
The correspondence showed that General Birdwood had decided to utilize on transport duty, with the object of giving them two months’ leave in Australia; officers and men who left Australia in 1914 and had not re- turned there since their original embarkation, preference being given to those married men whose family circumstances are in any way distressful.
Instructions were immediately issued to District Commandants explaining the circumstances of their return, and ordering that their leave should commence from the date of disembarkation and be on full pay.
It will thus be seen that embarrassment was caused by the men arriving before their papers. As all future batches of men will be under the same conditions as this one, District Commandants will be in a position to make suitable arrangements for dealing with them as soon as they arrive.
In connexion with this policy of returning men on transport duty for leave it should be clearly understood that in the selection of the men to be so treated no pressure can be exercised from Australia, as the matter is entirely in the hands of the authorities abroad, who are fully seized with the desirability of giving preference to married men and cases of family hardship and long service.
Enemy Subjects Employed
– In April last the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) asked a question in regard to the number of persons of enemy birth and enemy descent employed in the Defence Department. He was told that the information was being obtained. I have it now, and. lay it on the table.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Regulations (Cinematograph Films) - StatutoryRules 1918, No. 128.
The War. - Return showing persons of enemy birth and enemy descent employed in the Department of Defence.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he explain to the House the principle upon which the following racing fixtures for the coming reason have been allotted to the various States, namely: - South Australia, 82; Victoria, 284; Queensland; 477; New South Wales, 716?
– The main factors considered in the allotment of racing for the season 1918-1919 were the racing in actual existence in previous years, the nature of the same, the relative areas and population of States, and the various local conditions, including State regulation.
asked the Assistant Minister-for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will represent to the Board controlling the limitation of horse racing the advisability of permitting trotting at annual sports held in country districts at which betting is not allowed?
– It is not considered advisable to make any variation from the Cabinet’s decision, which makes due provision for trotting racing.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions are as follow : -
Sales to United States of America
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant
Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– It will take some time to obtain this information, which will be laid on the table in the form of a return.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to effect certain amendments in the existing law which have been found desirable as the result of the short experience we have had of the working of the principal Act.
Clause 3 provides that -
The Minister shall be a corporationsole by the name of the Minister of State for Repatriation, with perpetual succession and a common seal, and may hold real and personal property and may sue and be sued in his corporate name.
In the original Act the Commission was constituted a corporation sole, but in the event of a possible conflict of powers between the Minister and the Commission, it was thought desirable to have property vested in the Minister instead of the Commission.
– I am glad to hear that Ministers are getting a little closer to responsible government.
– Clause 4 will facilitate decentralization by enabling the Minister to delegate his powers to State Boards which will be dealing with matters of repatriation .
Clause 6 provides an important amendment, the object of which is to extend the area of assistance that can be granted.
A comparatively minor, but nevertheless important, amendment from an administrative point of view is contained in clause 9. The Act provides that Committees are to be appointed by the Governor in Council and gazetted. As there will be a large number of these Committees it is proposed to allow the Minister to appoint them and to avoid the gazetting of thousands of names.
In. clause 10 provision is made with a view to protecting the rights of officers of the Commonwealth Public Service whose services have been lent to the Department. It is only right that their status should be preserved. With a view to further co-operation with the States clause 11 provides that the GovernorGeneral may arrange with the Governor in Council of any State for the performance by a State officer of any work or services required to be performed under this measure.
Section 20 of the principal Act says -
No person shall, without the consent in writing of a State Board, sell or otherwise dispose of or pledge or mortgage in any way, or deposit by way of security, or where the goods were or are advanced for a specific purpose, use for any other purpose any goods which have been granted to him under this Act.
That provision has been found to be too limited, and it is proposed by clause 15 to alter the section to read as follows : -
No person to whom a gift or loan of money or goods has been made or granted under this Act for any purpose shall without first obtaining the consent of a State Board -
use the money or goods for any other purpose, or
sell or otherwise dispose of, or in any way pledge, mortgage or deposit, by way of security, any goods so granted or any goods purchased with any money so given or lent.
– Would it not be pos sible to Lave a vesting provision in the Bill?
– This provision deals with another matter; but I promise the honorable member to look into the point which he has raised.
Clause 16 deals with section 21 of the principal Act. The object of the amendment is to prevent the raising of repatria-. tion or patriotic funds or any fund in relation to the war by any means whatsoever without the consent of the Commission or a State Board.
Those, briefly, are the general purposes of the amendments effected by the Bill. When. Ave were considering the original measure, it was stated that opportunity would arise which would enable honorable members to review the whole scheme of repatriation. This Bill furnishes that opportunity. The scheme was launched, and came into operation on the 8th April, 1918. Prior to that, the Minister, and those concerned with him, had spent a great deal of time in formulating the existing regulations and in, organizing the Repatriation Department. There is no need to apologize for any delay that may have occurred, because honorable members know that there was no beaten track to follow, and that the whole scheme had to be organized and set up without any precedent to guide the Minister except the general experience that had been obtained in Australia by the State War Councils, and the various voluntary organizations in existence. Regulations were carefully thought out and discussed by the Minister and members of the Commission which was gazetted when the Act was proclaimed. They were closely examined, in the light of what experience has been gained, with a view to drawing up a scheme adapted to the requirements of Australia. Four Conferences were held in relation to the arrangements to be made for the administration of the Act, so as to give assistance to returned soldiers in the way Parliament desired. The four conferences were ; a conference of representatives of State institutions on the subject of the treatment of the blind; a conference in respect to the vocational training of those soldiers whose injuries are of such a nature that they cannot follow their usual avocations ; a conference of members of industrial organizations, representatives of the Trades Hall, and of representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures, with a view to making provision for the employment in industries of soldiers who are injured or maimed in any way; and a conference on the subject of forestry which the- Minister desires to have as a reserve employment.
The scheme as now formed is certainly not going to be the last word on repatriation; it could not possibly be. I venture to suggest that the Minister may be complimented on the efforts he has made, and on the liberal way he has attempted to meet the necessities of the case. He is quite right in inviting criticism - and may I suggest constructive criticism ? - in his endeavour to perfect an Act which obviously cannot savour of anything of a party political character. Let us take a brief glance at what Parliament originated last session, and the way in which.the scheme is worked. Honorable members know that it was desired to introduce, and that Parliament did pass, on lines which the experience of other countries advised was the best course, an Act more in the natura of a machinery measure. It was felt that at that stage no complete scheme could be formed, and, therefore, it was deemed advisable, as I say, to pass something in the nature of a machinery measure, outlining the form of organization, and allowing regulations to be framed by the Governor in Council. The main feature of the Act was first, the appointment of a Minister responsible to Parliament for the administration of the Act. It was felt that the voluntary scheme, or the quasi-voluntary scheme, was not satisfactory. Then it was provided that there should be a Department, and that there should be combination of officials with the voluntary effort. That was secured in a Department with a central Commission, State Boards, and a series of Local Committees constituted of persons who were willing to voluntarily assist. A great deal of credit is due to Mr. Lockyer, of the Inter-State Commission, for undertaking the organization of the Department. Ho is a man of great and wide experience in departmental work, andhehas well laid the foundations of the departmental organization. I have here the general orders under which the scheme of organization will be carried out. The scheme is only just coming into operation, and as honorable members may not be familiar with it, Ishall give some idea of its objects and purposes. There is a comptroller over the Department, which, for administrative purposes, is divided into sections. There are, a general administrative section, an accounts section, an employment section, the functions of which are to find, assemble, and assign positions of employment, arrange for the transportation of men to places of employment, and to refer men, difficult to place without training, to the Disablement and Training section for consideration of their cases.
The next section is known as the Disablement and Vocational Training section, and the classes of soldiers with whom this section will deal, may be divided into the following: -
The main activities of this section will include or be associated with, first, vocational training in curative workshops attached to the military hospitals, technical schools, and private business establishments and national workshops; and, secondly, with medical treatment after discharge of the soldiers suffering from the effects of illness or injury due to or aggravated by war service.
There is another section known as the Assistance Section, to deal with applications falling , within the following categories : -
– The section is limited to. these functions? It does not help in any other way?
– I am now indicating the assignment of operations to the different sections for the purpose of order, efficiency, and expedition. There is a special officer to deal with the formation of Local Committees throughout Australia. I have shown that there is to be a Comptroller, and that there is a Central Commission which will consist of six members. I have the names of the members of that Commission, and also the names of the members of each State Board, and, perhaps, it would be as well to have them placed on record. The Act provides that at least two of the members of the Central Commission must be returned soldiers, and that provision has been complied with. The following are the names of the members of the Commission and of the State Boards : -
The Honorable Sir J. Langdon Bonython, KB., C.M.G., newspaper proprietor.
Robert Gibson, Esq., manufacturer.
Edward Grayndler, Esq., union secretary.
Lt.-Colonel R. H. Owen, C.M.G., military officer.
John Sanderson, Esq., merchant.
Name and Occupation.
Hon. Theodore Fink, solicitor.
Ivor Birtwistle, Esq., journalist (returned soldier).
Ben. Chaffey, Esq., pastoralist.
James Graham, Esq., (deceased).
New South Wales -
Major J. M. Maughan, solicitor.
South Australia -
Major L. A. Lewis, pastoral company’s inspector.
Western Australia -
Captain L. A. Jones, public accountant and auditor.
Geo. Marchant, Esq., manufacturer.
Wm. Mclntyre, Esq., bank manager.
Wm. N. Robertson, Esq., M.D., medical practitioner.
Lt. -Colonel R. E. Snowden, investor.
The Central Commission is associated with the Minister to recommend the nature and scope of the benefits as expressed in the regulations. It also acts as a Board of Appeal from the decisions of the State Boards, and will generally advise in the matter of reference. The regulations issued are those which have been formulated after careful deliberation by the central body.
The State Boards, like the Central Commission, must each have two returned soldiers as members. The function of these Boards is to determine in each State the applications for assistance made in pursuance of the regulations.
Another function of importance is that of Local Committees. Their organization ought to bring the members in close personal touch with the returned soldiers - supply that personal sympathy and feeling which can never be obtained by purely official administration. The Committees are just mentioned in the Act, but their functions are more clearly defined in the regulations. In Western Australia all the Local Committees have been formed, and in New South Wales and Queensland work is well advanced. In Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania matters are not so forward, but efforts are being made to expedite the work.
– Who recommends these committees?
– The Committees are formed locally, and there is an executive consisting of seven persons, five of whom are elected by the Committee, and two of whom are Government nominees. The reason for this latter provision is that these bodies will deal with public funds.
– Are these nominees State or Commonwealth ? - Mr. GROOM. - These members are nominated by the Commonwealth.It is estimated that there will be about 1,000 of these Local Committees throughout Australia; and on account of their number and the importance of their operations, a special officer is assigned to deal with their formation through the district offices. The intention is that each State shall be divided into local areas, and the scheme will be made as elastic as possible. If a city is too large to form one area it may be subdivided, the idea being to make the scheme adaptable to local circumstances, for any attempt at rigidity would be unfortunate. The powers of a committee are defined in number 26 of the regulations, of which honorable members have copies, and they are as follow: -
To act generally as local agent for the Department in regard to -
The duties imposed are these -
In the whole organization there is blended the official arrangements necessary for uniformity and continuity of action, and an opportunity for voluntary effort, and the utilization, of the sympathetic desire to help which prevails throughout the length and breadth of the country.
– These Committees have many duties, but little power.
– They have considerable powers, and the. honorable member will have an opportunity to point out in what way he would like to see their powers enlarged.
Having outlined the scheme which has been brought into operation, I propose to deal briefly with the purposes and methods of the Department. The scheme as set out in the regulations is the outcome of the recommendations of the Commission, and embodies the experience so far gathered of the working of repatriation in Australia, together with the advice of the conferences to which I have just referred. The object of the Department is to deal with discharged soldiers, its obligations beginning at the moment of the soldier’s discharge. The Department aims at securing, so far as possible, the re-establishment of the returned soldier in civil life. That carries with it also the obligation that where men return maimed or wounded, in order to secure their satisfactory re-establishment in civil life, everything possible should be done to secure their return to health and make good the physical defects which they have suffered. The minimum obligation of the Department towards the returned soldier is the responsibility of providing him with the opportunity to earn at least a living wage, and. the granting of sustenance until that opportunity is forthcoming. This is arranged for in Part V. of the regulations. To put -the position briefly, there is upon the Department, when men have returned to Australia and have been discharged, the obligation of finding an opportunity of employment for them at a living wage, and until such opportunity has been found, or, if they are unfit for work, until they have been restored to health, or trained or equipped for work, to provide them with sustenance. The Department, upon written application made within a certain time, will provide each soldier with the opportunity of earning at least a living wage, and until such opportunity is forthcoming will pay to him a sustenance allowance in accordance with a fixed scale. Soldiers without de- pendants are entitled, while waiting for employment, to sustenance at the rate of 42s. a week; soldiers with a wife only are entitled to sustenance, inclusive of the combined pensions of a man and his wife, to 52s. a week; the rate of sustenance increasing with the domestic liabilities of the soldier, so that a soldier with a wife and four or more children dependent on him may draw, inclusive of all pensions, 66s. a week. The sustenance varies according to the circumstances of the case.
– How long does the sustenance continue?
– No definite time is fixed. Sustenance is given to a healthy man until an opportunity of employment has been found for him ; but if a man refused reasonable employment, he could not expect the Department to maintain him indefinitely.
– I think that employment is found for a man three times.
– I do not know what rule has been laid down. The Department must act generously, and the great body of our returned soldiers will not impose on its generosity; but it must have the right to say to the men, “ We cannot maintain you beyond a certain length of time if you will not accept work when it is offered to you.” Let me give a few illustrations to show the lines on which the Department is working. While a man is waiting for land on which to settle, sustenance may be granted to him until land is available.
– Has provision been made by the Queensland Government for the granting of land?
– Queensland has not yet come into the arrangement. Sustenance is granted to men undergoing training in technical schools, blind persons receiving training in special institutions, and applicants entered as students for training in commercial or professional occupations. Sustenance is granted to apprentices whose training was interrupted by their war service. During the time that a man is serving his apprenticeship, sustenance may be granted at a rate which will, bring his income to the rate of a journeyman in the industry to which he is completing his apprenticeship. The Deputy Comptroller may grant sustenance in the case of applicants of not less than 40 per cent, efficiency entered for training in private workshops, so that trainees may receive at least a living wage. The Department may provide training facilities in useful occupations for soldiers’ widows, and may pay them sustenance while under training at such a rate as will bring their income, inclusive of pensions, to 35s. a week. Men totally and permanently incapacitated; with or without dependants, may remain in their own homes or with friends, with the approval of the Deputy Comptroller, and they or their dependants may be granted sustenance at rates which will bring their incomes up to the rate provided by regulation 34. Where soldiers with dependants are under treatment in special institutions after discharge, they or their dependants, as the Deputy Comptroller decides, may be granted sustenance at a rate which will bring their incomes up to the rate provided by regulation 34.
– How many are obtaining sustenance to-day ?
– I hope to give that information to the House when speaking in reply. The returns which I have here do not show the number of cases in which sustenance has been granted. But honorable members will have the information before they come to deal with the Bill in Committee. The desire of the Department is to secure at the earliest moment the registration of those who will come under the scheme, and, if possible, to get information concerning them before they arrive in Australia. An arrangement has been made whereby an officer on board each transport will secure for the Department such information as it may be possible to get.
– Some men change their minds ten times a week after they arrive in Australia.
– Even so, the information collected will give the Department some idea of the persons with whom they will have to deal. The classes with which the Department has to deal are the healthy - we trust that a large proportion of the returning men will be in that category - who are ready to work, and the incapacitated. Incapacity varies from slight injury to absolute disablement, and all its grades and degrees have to be met and dealt with, and assistance given according to the peculiar circumstances of each case. As regards those who may return healthy and strong, our hope is that many of them will be able to resume the calling at which they were engaged before they left
Australia. Nevertheless, there is thrown upon the Department the obligation of providing an opportunity of employment for them in such callings, and in order to meet that responsibility, the Department has what is known as the employment section. Officers are employed who will canvass and secure the registration of employment, ascertain what employers have vacancies, co-operate with the State employment agencies, where possible utilize the labour bureaux, and do everything possible to place these men in employment as soon as possible. Between the date of a man’s application and the providing him with an opportunity for employment in a position, sustenance will be allowed.
An important matter is that of broken indentures. Many young men who had advanced to a certain stage with their indentures have gone to the Front. Thenindentures have been broken. The Department proposes to try to find private employers who are ready to continue such indentures; and, failing that, there will be an obligation on the Commonwealth to place such men in technical schools, and pay them the wages earned by the journeymen in the trade to which they are apprenticed.
– Technical schools do not teach some trades..
– That is so; but we shall pursue that policy as far as possible. There may be difficulties sometimes in finding employment for men. Therefore, the Minister has in view the creation of what is known as reserve employments. He has already taken taction to provide such employment in connexion with forestry. He has made agreements with the State of New South “Wales, for example, whereby the Commonwealth will lend to the State money for the purpose of carrying on forestry operations. The State will expend that money in the employment of returned soldiers in organized forestry camps at standard wages. A portion of the money will not be returned to the Commonwealth, because it is realized that many men when first employed will not be fully efficient, and any deficiency caused thereby will be borne by the Commonwealth. In New South Wales, 200 men are already so employed; and it is estimated that in Victoria 300 men will be engaged.
– Is that employment to be constant or seasonal ?
– That will depend on the scheme of operations adopted by each State. The desire is that the employment should be continuous, even though the same men do not continue at it. Men who commence at forestry work may desire to get into employment of another kind. I merely mentioned forestry as one of the reserve employments which the Minister has in view.
Turning now to another class of men, those who are wholly incapacitated, I am sure that the soldiers who return in full health and strength will not misunderstand us when we say that our sympathies naturally go out to those who have been maimed and rendered physically unfit through having made sacrifices for their country. There is an obligation cast upon all of us to do all that is possible for such men, to restore as far as possible their faculties, to make life a little less burdensome, and to add every touch of kindness and sympathy which the human heart and mind can devise. It is hoped that those who are partially incapacitated will be restored, ultimately, to normal efficiency; but for the time being their usefulness will be impaired, and they may find a difficulty in working at the employment to which they were previously accustomed. They may find that their earning capacity has been reduced. This brings me to an explanation of the industrial committees, to which I made reference earlier. The Minister convened a conference- of representatives of the industrial organizations and the Chambers of Manufactures to deal with the question of employment in the ordinary industries of men whose fitness has been in any way impaired, and who are incapable of earning the full rates of pay. Part 4 of the regulations deals with the committees. Two kinds of committees are to be constituted in each State. There will be a Soldiers’ State Industrial Committee, and also a Soldiers’ District Industrial Committee. The latter will consist of a chairman, to be appointed by the Minister, two representatives of the employers in the trade of the trainee, and two representatives ‘of the union covering that trade.
– Are the positions on those committees to be honorary?
– Yes. The functions of the committee will be to consider the opportunities for the employment of soldiers and their dependants; decide, after trial, as to the suitability of the applicants for particular callings; assess the efficiency of the trainee at the commencement of his training, and re-assess his efficiency every three months; periodically review the facilities for training in * workshops and technical schools; and to deal, with disputes between persons entered for training in private workshops under regulation 42 and employers as to the ruling rate of wage in any industry, and in that regard they will have power to take evidence when necessary. Any aggrieved party to these proceedings will have the right of appeal to the State industrial committee to be formed in the metropolis of each State, and to consist of a chairman to be appointed by the Minister, three nominees of the Chamber of Manufactures, and three nominees of the Trades and Labour Council. This committee will have power to assess the value of work, and the Commonwealth will be responsible for the difference in value between the actual earnings of the men and the living wage to which they would be entitled at their particular calling if they were in normal health and fitness.
In that way, the Commo nwealth will fulfil its obligations. The scheme is now before the various organizations for consideration. T. think it has been adopted in Victoria, and almost adopted in New South Wales. So far, South Australia is the only State that has rejected the scheme, but I hope that decision is not final. We trust that in all States the proposal will receive hearty co-operation from all parties, and prove to be an effective means of dealing with a very important problem. Regulation 44 provides that the number of trainees engaged in any one shop shall not be more than in the ratio of one to every six fullypaid journeymen continuously employed in that workshop for a period of six months preceding the trainee’s engagement.
– What does the Minister mean bv the words “ continuously employed ?”
– I am nob prepared to give, off-hand, a full interpretation of the words ; but the obvious intention is that in a going concern, carrying on its operations under normal conditions, not more than one trainee shall be employed to every six regular journeymen.
– The Government will never get these industrial committees to work.
– I think we shall. I have faith in the appreciation by all Australians of the sacrifices which our soldiers have made. Let us trust that the sufferings the men have endured- will inspire a spirit of sweet reasonableness on both sides.
Let me deal, now, with those men who have returned seriously incapacitated. Some men will come back unfit to be employed in their pre-war calling. Obviously, those men will require a longer period of training if they are to take up a new calling. The Minister has made an agreement with the States by which the Commonwealth shall undertake to pay for the erection of any additional buildings which the States may require in order to provide facilities and accommodation for the training of these men in the technical schools. The Commonwealth will also provide the money to pay for any extra instructors required, and for the installation of additional plant.
– Will those conditions apply to country districts?
– They will apply to all places selected as suitable for the operation of the system. We cannot expect to multiply such establishments indefinitely throughout the country ; we must have regard to the number of men to be catered for, and the accessibility of the place.
– Will farming be included ?
– I should think it would. I shall read to the House later a list of some of the vocational training already being done, and perhaps that will help honorable members to understand what we have in view. The States have the staff, the machinery, and committees of management in connexion with their technical training institutions. They will create the classes, and they “will give the Commonwealth the benefit of their advice as to the plant and buildings requisite for these classes, and will also provide instructors and generally carry out the educational processes. It is quite realized, that many of the injured men may not be able to undergo the complete normal- technical and scientific course provided in some of these institutions, but they may be trained in such a way as to become skilful enough to render useful service. To that end, special classes and courses will be designed. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) yesterday mentioned the Ballarat School of Mines, in connexion with which he said there were men who were anxious to go through a proper course of training. He complained that those men were only attending casual classes, and that this method was unsystematic, and not likely to be of benefit to the men. I agree with him that if the training is to be of any use, it must be systematic, and directed to the purpose which it is to serve, namely, the restoration of these men to civil life in as efficient a condition as possible. The matter raised by tlie honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) is being brought before the Minister. It will be for the Minister to arrange with the States for the formation of such classes, and to take advantage of the State technical institutions for the training of the men. In order to illustrate the class of work which returned men are asking the Department to undertake for them with the object of securing their effective training, I would put before honorable members the following statistics as to training in Victoria up to 18th inst. -
Total number of trainees passed through classes and gone to permanent employment - 181.
Percentage of national workshops cases met with to date - 8 per cent.
– Is there any supervision over the training undertaken in these establishments, so that the Minister may be satisfied that good work is being done?
– Under the State system, inspectors, I presume,’ visit the technical schools from time to time.
– But is there any inspection of the work of these trainees by officers representing the Repatriation Department ?
– Where we make an agreement with a State to train our nien for us, we must trust to the State system of inspection. The State inspectors will make reports from time to time, and it is possible that a system of inspection will, of course, develop with the growth of our scheme.
– Would a young trainee on a farm be regarded as receiving technical or vocational training under the law? That is to say, would the District Board be permitted to assess the worth of the trainee’s labour with a view io a sustenance allowance being granted to him?
– A man who came back maimed, and desired to go on the land, would be entitled to sustenance as a trainee if he were apprenticed to a farmer.
– Would that apply to a trainee in any branch of farming? For instance, a man might wish to be trained in fruit-growing.
– I think it is the desire of the Minister that in all such cases sustenance should be allowed. If, in consequence of an injury, the earning power of a returned soldier is reduced, or if he has to take up a new calling, during his apprenticeship to that new calling he ought to be, and I think will be, allowed sustenance.
– That will apply to all industries ?
– Yes ; that is my own personal view of the matter. There is no reason why there should be any discrimination as to the trades or callings in which these men are being trained.
I come now to the question pf national workshops, which is one of the utmost importance. Men may come back so maimed as to have no hope of ever becoming efficient workmen again. They may, however, have some earning capacity, and the problem we have to determine is whether we should pay them sustenance, and allow them to remain idle, or fit them to some extent for some calling and encourage them to earn some part of their own livelihood. My own view is that if a man is given something, to interest him - something to occupy his mind - he is much happier than when be is doing nothing. The Minister for Repatriation has yet to decide whether men so circumstanced should be provided for in workshops and allowed to return to their homes each night, or whether national workshops, with cottages for the housing of the men, should be established in suitable positions. A final decision has not. yet been arrived at, and the Minister will be glad to receive any suggestion* that honorable members may have to offer.
– Is it the intention to provide with an artificial limb any man who has lost a limb?
– Yes; I shall deal presently with that phase of our work. The question of the treatment of our blind soldiers is also involved. Those of our men who have lost their sight, and are in England, are to be trained as far as possible at St. Dunstan - an institution with a worldwide reputation for the splendid work it has done for the blind. Where that cannot be done, it is proposed that special training shall be given them in our Own State institutions for the blind, but in separate buildings. Then there are those who are totally incapacitated, who will have no earning capacity, who are paralyzed and helplessly injured, for whom it is desirable to make life as comfortable and as easy as possible. Hostels and homes are to be provided for them, and already the Department of
Works and Railways has been working in conjunction with the Defence Department in this direction, inspecting different properties and picking out suitable places for such homes, also for convalescent homes. The Department of Defence has already made considerable progress in the matter of sanatoria for consumptives. They have consumptive sanatoria at Stanthorpe, in Queensland, Randwick, in New South Wales, and Macleod, in Victoria, while accommodation is being arranged at Bedford Park, in South Australia, and homes are being provided at Woorooloo. iu Western Australia, and at New Town, in Tasmania. After the war these sanatoria will pass to the Repatriation Department. Provision has also to be made in each State for treating mental cases in institutions.
I now pass to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Wide Bay, in which I know he takes considerable interest,, the provision of artificial limbs. An agreement was made by the Defence Department with an American expert, who has been appointed manager of the Artificial Limb Factory which has been established at the Caulfield Hospital, and is already in operation. I hope that honorable members will take the opportunity of paying a visit to it. They will ‘ see men there making these artificial limbs who are using them. Exceedingly efficient and skilful work is being done. Limbs have already been supplied to those who require them, and they have been found to be very serviceable and of a splendid quality. They are produced to represent as nearly as possible the movements of the natural limb. A similar factory is to be opened next week in New South Wales, and branch establishments are to be established in South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland. The South Australian factory is almost completed. Our obligation is to supply to the men limbs of the very best type we can give them. In connexion, with the hospitals, curative workshops generally have been established. For the time being, the Artificial Limb Factories will be under the management of the Defence Department, but at the termination of the war they will automatically pass over to the control of the Repatriation Department.
– Have the Government to pay anything for the right of using any patent in connexion with those artificial limbs?
– I understand that the man who designed these limbs is our factory manager, and that he is paid a salary. Section 55 of the regulations provides -
In tlie case of an application for surgical or medical treatment, a Deputy Comptroller may at any time, upon being satisfied that the injury in respect of which an application is made is the direct result of military service, supply, renew, and repair, at the expense of the Department, artificial limbs and other necessary surgical appliances.
– Will the artificial limb supplied to a private be equal” to that which is supplied to an officer?
– I trust it will.
– In England privates are supplied with limbs which cost £11 less than those which are provided for officers.
– Here I hope they will be of the same quality. I can only speak of the limbs which I saw being made for privates in our own factory, and they appeared to be the best that it could provide. When men return to Australia the obligation will be cast upon the Department to supply them, and keep them going, with proper artificial limbs. That is an obligation which should rest upon the Department.
In all the States inspections are being made of a large number of properties, with a view to securing sites for hostelsfor unfit men, convalescent homes, and national workshops. Investigations are also being proceeded with in order to provide employment for permanently maimed men. ‘ Arrangements are also being made with country hospitals to supply free medical attention where injuries are of a recurring nature.
Part VII. of the regulations mentions a number of cases in which assistance is given of a wide nature. Regulation 57 extends assistance to a widow in necessitous circumstances with children, and to a totally incapacitated soldier by making a grant of £25 for the purpose of purchasing furniture. A new regulation is being framed to extend the benefit of the grant of furniture by way of loan in cases where it is shown to be necessary for the satisfactory re-establishment of the man. Regulation 58 enables a grant to be made by way of gift of an amount not exceeding .£10 for the purchase of tools of trade and professional instruments. Furniture, tools of trade, or other articles of property purchased for a soldier or dependant will remain the absolute property of the Department for twelve months. The State Board may make advances by way of loans for the purchase of approved businesses, plant, stock, and live stock, not exceeding £150 in each case, to widows with one or more children, married soldiers incapacitated to the extent of being unable to engage in their usual employment, and soldiers who, prior to enlistment, were dependent for their living upon businesses they owned and conducted.
– Supposing a single soldier wishes to go into business?
– No provision is made to give him assistance so long as he is a healthy man and is not incapacitated, except he had been in business before. The regulations also provide allowances for rent, and give relief from mortgages in certain circumstances. They provide for the care of orphan children. Regulation 49 says -
In the case of an orphan of a deceased soldier, or ‘ child of an incapacitated soldier, the Minister, on the recommendation of a State Board, may make such arrangements and pay such amounts as he deems necessary for the care and education of the child.
There are other kinds of assistance given, but time will preclude me from referring to them.
The position in regard to land settlement is very much what it was when I introduced the last Bill dealing with this matter. An arrangement has been made whereby the States provide the land and the Commonwealth advances money in order to enable the States to lend it in sums not exceeding £500 for the purchase of plant, stock, &c. The Minister has that matter under consideration now. He is also considering ‘the advisability of providing homes. In the meantime, a rental allowance is granted in cases where it is considered necessary by a State Board. Regulation 51 says -
In cases where it appears to a State Board that an allowance for rent is necessary for the re-establishment in civillife of a totally incapacitated soldier or the widow of a soldier, the Board may grant to the soldier or widow an allowance for rent of such amount and subject to such conditions as the Minister approves.
I have given honorable members a general outline of the scheme. I think they will admit that the Minister and the Government have approached the subject in a generous spirit. We have endeavoured as far as possible to deal with the general cases that have arisen, and although the scheme is by no means final or complete it undoubtedly shows on the part of the Minister and the Department anxiety and thought on behalf of our returned soldiers, and translates into action the desire of the Australian people to show their appreciation of, and gratitude towards, those who have made such sacrifices for them.
.- We have listened to a very important speech from the Minister. I think it would help the discussion of the Bill if it were possible for honorable members to have the opportunity of reading it in print and of studying the regulations which were issued about a month ago. Of course this is not a party matter, and honorable members will admit that I have done my best to keep all discussions on it free from party aspect.
– Criticism will not make it aparty question.
– Of course not; criticism with the object of effecting improvement is not party criticism.
– It all depends on the kind of criticism.
– I hope that some arrangement will be made to have the Minister’s speech, together with the statistics and tables, printed for circulation, and, further, I think wo ought to know the result of the various Conferences to which hereferred.
– The results of the Conferences are,I think, embodied in the regulations.
– Of course, in this case the regulations are really of more importance than the Bill itself.
– I understand that it will be impossible to have my speech included in Hansard of this week, but I can pro mise to let the Leader of the Opposition have a proof by Tuesday morning.
– That will suit me very well. I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 3.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180531_reps_7_85/>.