7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr; Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Government yet prepared the scheme which is to be an alternative to the recommendation of the Inter-State Commission for fixing the price of meat?When will members obtain copies of the Inter-State Commission’s report?
– The Minister in charge of this matter has prepared a scheme for the consideration of Cabinet, and it will be dealt with as early as possible. I am surprised that members have not received copies of the Commission’s report. I shall see that they are circulated without delay.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the Ministers of Agriculture of the wheat-producing States, and has lie come to a decision regarding the suggested increase of the guarantee in respect of wheat?
– I have not yet met the four representatives of the wheat-growing States, largely because of the illness of one of them, but I understand that a meeting is to be arranged for this week.
– Has the Central Wool Committee asked for the appointment of a scourers’ representative in the place of Mr. P. W. Hughes, resigned?
– My recollection prompts me to answer No, but as a good deal of correspondence relating to the appointment of a successor to Mr. F. W. Hughes has been sent to the Department, I shall obtain an exact answer to the honorable member’s question.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister considered the advisability of appointing to the Central Wool Committee another pastoralist instead of a scourers’ representative, seeing that the wool belongs, not to the scourers, but to the pastoralists ?
– Some of the pastoralists’ associations have suggested that course, and I have forwarded the request to the Central Wool Committee for consideration.
– In order that the consumers generally may have a fairer deal, will the Acting Prime Minister review the constitution of the committees that have been appointed to deal with foodstuffs and articles used in manufacture, so that consumers and users may be fairly represented on them ?
– At the present moment the Minister is giving attention by careful review to the whole process of pricefixing. I shall convey the honorable member’s suggestion to him.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence take steps to prevent the private effects of soldiers killed in action from being rifled between the field of battle, where they are packed up, and Australia?
– The Department will do what it can in the matter.
– Will the Minister re presenting the Minister for Defence take into consideration the possibility of getting the insurance companies to pay, on the notification of death received from the Government by their relatives, the moneys due under insurance policies on the Jives of soldiers; or, failing this, the possibility of getting the companies to pay interest for the interval between the notification of death and the payment of the insurance? In some States a considerable time now elapses between the notice and the payment of the insurance money, this period being sometimes as much as nine months.
– I shall get the Minister to consider the matter, but there are many legal difficulties in the way of action regarding insurance payments. What delays issue of probate once a will is to hand, or administration if it is known that there is no will, is the passing of the statement, in regard to which difficulty arises because the actual amount of deferred pay is not known. In many cases the amount of the deferred pay would not affect the duty, and if a practice which I follow were generally adopted, delays would be shortened. I ascertain what the maximum amount of the deferred pay would be, and I insert in the statement “ Deferred pay not exceeding so much.” In that way I get the statement through, and the probate or administration issued, without having to wait for an exact return respecting the deferred pay.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister tell me whether the honours conferred on residents of Australia by His Majesty the King are conferred on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Government or on that of State Governments, or are they conferred on outside recommendations?
– So far as I know, the honours that’ are bestowed on residents of Australia are conferred on the recommendation of the advisers of the GovernorGeneral or of a State Governor.
– The inquiry has reached me from a country newspaper editor whether there is any foundation for the report that the Government proposes to take drastic action to curtail the size of newspapers and their issues with a view to conserving the stocks of printing paper and other printing requirements?
– Although the state of newspaper supplies is causing grave anxiety to those interested in newspapers in Australia, I am not aware of any such action being contemplated as is suggested.
– Is the Government yet in the position to reply to the letter which I wrote to the Acting Prime Minister regarding the regulations under the War
Precautions Act which the Prime Minister promised to wipe out?
– I expect to be able to reply to my honorable friend in detail this week, after a further consideration of the whole proposition.
– In view of the un satisfactory position of the farmers, and of the f act that the Commonwealth Bank, with deposits amounting to something like £30,000,000, has made advances of only about £6,000,000, cannot the Government utilize some of this money to pay off part of the outstanding balances of the Wheat Pool?
Mr.WATT. - I suppose we could; but it would not be sound finance at the present time. The money in question was raised for war loan purposes, and we are spending -it, both here and in Great Britain, at a certain measured rate per month. Our deposits in the Commonwealth Bank are, of course, to meet actual war expenditure.
Mr.Falkiner. - But they are always some millions in excess of what is being expended.
– I hope, at a later date, to effect a cure in a more equitable way than the honorable member has suggested.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The information as to firms is not in the possession of the Government, but steps are being taken with the view of obtaining these particulars.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have not yet been able to search fully the files relating to civilian internees in Germany. I should be glad, therefore, if the honorable member would repeat his question later in the week.
Mr.WALLACE asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
May I add that, on the occasion of my next visit to Sydney, I shall make further inquiries as to whether the process of wheeling stone in barrows round the yard cannot’ be dispensed with, and a more profitable employment substituted.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Yes. An ordinance has been passed conferring on the local authorities full powers to destroy ell affected plants. Mr. Gerald Hill, formerly entomologist in the Territory, is going to Darwin this week to identify the affected plants and arrange for all measures necessary to stamp out the disease. In the meantime all export of citrus plants and fruits from the Northern Territory to other parts of the Commonwealth has been prohibited by proclamation under the Quarantine Act 1908- 1915.
Statements by Mb. J. H. Catts, M.P. .
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he has seen a statement by the honorable member for Cook, published in a New South Wales newspaper, in which Mr. J. H. Catts states -
Will the Minister say if the above statements are facts?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
I had not previously seen the report. As to (a), the statement is incorrect. On the date to which the honorable member for Cook refers - 10th February, 1917 - May wheat in Chicago was worth 7s. 5 13-16d., and July wheat only 6s.1½d.
See No. 1.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Debate resumed from 31st May(vide page 5413), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill he now read a second time.
.-I do not intend to detain the House at any length in discussing this measure. I realize, as does, I think, every honorable member who takes an interest in this all-important question, that it is one of the most difficult with which any Parliament has been called upon to deal, and that the work of administering the Department must necessarily be surrounded with many difficulties. We all hope that the Repatriation Department will exist as long as our soldiers returning from this great world war need its assistance, and that when they do return their interests will not be neglected. I trust, too, that we shall avoid the mistakes that have been made in other countries. It has been said that in the early nineties the number of pensioners in America in connexion with the American Civil War was in excess of the actual number of men who took part in” that conflict, although that war took place in 1861. It may be said, of course, that the children of men who had fought were then receiving pensions. But, be that as it may, the Repatriation Department will have the human element to deal with; and it must necessarily be a difficult one to administer. It is quite possible that from time to time returned soldiers will havebona fide complaints as to their inability to secure the redress of what they consider to be genuine grievances. The work of repatriation will depend not so much upon the principal Act and this amending Bill as upon the regulations. The original Act consisted of twenty-two sections, and although it was brought into operation only on 8th April last, or less than two months ago, we have now before us a Bill providing for seventeen amendments of it. The regulations are all important, and already under the original Act of twenty-two sections, no less than seventyfive regulations have been framed. One of the most important matters dealt with in the regulations was the granting of sustenance to returned soldiers. Regulation 34 provides that a soldier without dependants shall be granted such sustenance as will insure him a weekly income, inclusive of his pension, of 42s. ; a soldier with a wife, a weekly income, inclusive of their combined pensions, of 5°s. ; a soldier with a wife and one child, a weekly income, inclusive of their combined pensions, of 55s. 6d. ; and so on until a soldier with a wife and four children receives a weekly income of 66s. The regulation does not say for how long that sustenance allowance may be paid.It does not state that the soldier shall be found employment, but it says -
The Department may, upon written application made within the time specified in subregulation (2) of this regulation, provide each soldier applying for employment with an opportunity of earning at least a living wage, and, until such opportunity is forthcoming, and in the case of an applicant who is convalescent, until the Deputy Comptroller is satisfied that he is medically lit for employment, a Deputy Comptroller may grant such sustenance as will insure, &c.
Paragraph 2 provides that the soldier must make application for sustenance within six months of the commencement of these regulations, or within six months of the date of his discharge, whichever last happened. It is quite possible that a man at the time of his discharge may consider himself absolutely fit to engage in employment, and he may be able to work for even longer than six months before any weakness caused by the war manifests itself. The time limit, in my opinion, is a mistake, and I think the Government would do well to abolish it.
– Is there not some provision for relaxation ?
– Not that I have discovered.
– Cases such as the honorable member mentions can be dealt with by administration.
– The regulations can be altered. My complaint is that, instead of dealing with the Bill, we have to deal with the regulations. Only the skeleton of the scheme is provided in the original Act and this Bill ; neither will affect the soldier as much as the regulations.
– We are taking part in the discussion of regulations instead of the complete scheme which we desired to be placed before Parliament.
– That is so; and although nearly every Act provides that the Governor-General may make regulations which may be annulled by Parliament within fourteen days if Parliament is sitting at the time of their issue, or if Parliament is not in session within fourteen days of the first sitting, this House has never yet discussed any regulation. Yet the regulations under the Repatriation Act are the most vital part of the scheme. Honorable members received copies of them about two months ago, but we have been receiving so many regulations during the last two or three years, that some honorable members did not pay as much attention to these particular ones as I think is necessary, as they did not realize that they were dealing with this question of repatriation. I have heard some honorable members express surprise that any sustenance allowance was in existence, and I think attention was drawn to it mainly by a press paragraph to the effect that some returned soldiers said that they would not accept work while they could continue to draw sustenance from the Department. In the interests of the soldiers themselves, this provision for sustenance should be properly safeguarded, because if the scheme is overloaded it will break down. We do not desire that to happen. The scheme should be carried out in its entirety by the Commission and by the Boards and committees. I have read the speech made by the Minister in introducing the Bill, but, on account of the desire of the Government to hurry into recess, we have not had as much opportunity of studying the subject as we should have liked.
– The state of the House does not indicate much interest in the subject.
– I recollect that, when repatriation was before the House on a previous occasion, some returned soldiers were in the gallery, and there were about a dozen members in the chamber. One of the soldiers asked me in a sarcastic tone if repatriation was before the House, and when I replied in the affirmative, he remarked, “ Apparently, members take very little interest in the proceedings.”
We have either to make a success of the scheme which has been adopted, or start again. I understand that Mr. Gilbert has been appointed Comptroller, and that a Deputy-Comptroller is to be appointed in each State. I hope that the utmost care will be exercised in the making of these appointments. The Government have pledged themselves to appoint returned soldiers wherever possible, and I hope they will do that instead of appointing some of the persons whose names I have heard mentioned - not returned soldiers, but defeated politicians.
– That took place in Queensland.
– I am not thinking of Queensland. The appointment of the Deputy Comptrollers rests with the Federal Government.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay was referring to a State appointment which has been made in Queensland.
– It has been said that the man who is to be Deputy Comptroller in a State adjoining Victoria is one who was defeated at the last elections. He may be the best man for the position so long as there is no returned soldier available, but wherever it is possible to appoint returned soldiers they should be given the positions which will be available in connexion with repatriation work. If returned soldiers are not to be appointed, then the positions should be advertised. I notice that there is norepresentative of the workers on the Tasmanian State Board.
– I think that it will be found that a representative of the workers has been appointed on each State Board.
– I have gone through the professions and callings of those who have been appointed to the Tasmanian State Board, and from what I can see there is no labour representative on that body.
– We cannot always be guided by persons’ professions or callings.
– Apparently it is the desire of honorable members opposite to secure the whole of the representation on the various Boards that have been appointed by the Government. In some cases not a single worker has been appointed on a Board, and in every case five-sixths or six-sevenths of the members of the Boards are representatives of the party opposite.
– The Minister for Repatriation has announced that in each State a representative of organized labour has been appointed to each State Board.
– There should be more than one representative of organized labour on each Board. However, the responsibility rests with the Government.
Returning one day from the Conference at Government House, where we were endeavouring to do something to assist recruiting, I noticed an unauthorized procession in Bourke-street, of 600 returned soldiers who were unable to get satisfaction from the State War Council or the Repatriation Committee, and were proceeding to interview the Minister for Repatriation to protest against the inhumane treatment they were receiving. A procession such as that does more harm to voluntary recruiting than the appearance of every member of Parliament in Australia on a recruiting platform can undo. Every returned soldiers’ grievance against the Department of Repatriation is a greater hindrance to recruiting than anything else could be, and the Government should he careful to see that the legitimate wants of the men receive attention. It is quite possible that some soldiers will say they are entitled to more than the Government, or the Minister, or the officials of the Repatriation Department consider they should have, but there are certain directions in which the repatriation scheme can be improved.
Advances are made for the purpose of establishing married men in businesses, but those who are acquainted with the conditions of city life know that many small businesses change hands three or four times a year. However, I have no doubt the Department will be careful in the matter of making advances for this purpose.
Advances are also made to enable a man to purchase a horse and cart, and start a hawker’s round; but if a man who is in employment, and is drawing a small pension, is anxious to purchase a home for himself, and thus avoid paying rent all his life, the Department will not make him an advance to enable him to pay a deposit towards that end, although in doing so they would have better security than they can get in making advances on many of the twopenny-halfpenny concerns on which they are now advancing money.
– In South Australia assistance is given for that purpose.
– It is done under the State Act.
– Workmen’s dwellings are also constructed under the Queensland Act.
– It cannot be done under the Commonwealth Act. Last week a case came under my notice in which a man who was seriously wounded, and is still suffering from internal injuries which do not altogether prevent him from following an occupation, has been anxious to purchase a home for himself. There is a hesitation on the part of landlords to letproperty to soldiers’ dependants or to returned soldiers.
– The working of the moratorium is probably the reason for that.
– I do not know whether that is the reason for it or not, but I believe that in some cases the landlords would charge higher rents than they could otherwise charge - I have been able to get some of them reduced where the rent had been increased - and it is quite possible that on account of the working of the moratorium the dependants of soldiers have not been turned out of the houses which they are occupying. However, in the case to which I was referring, the wife applied to the Department for an advance of £25 to pay a deposit on a house, but they could not let her have the money. In another case a woman whose husband had been earning 15s. a day prior to enlisting, and who had been able to save £150 before his departure to the Front, where he was killed, was anxious to borrow money to complete the purchase of the home she was occupyingwith her child, but she could not get a penny from the Department.
– Regulations 52 and 53 would cover her case.
– That is true, but they are of no use.
– In reference to the first case which I have mentioned. I have received the following letter from the Department : -
I am in receipt of your letter of the 13th inst. relative to an application of Mrs.- for a deposit on a house. I regret to have to inform you that, under the existing regulations, this Department has no power to grant assistance of this kind.
Acting Deputy Comptroller.
– That is one of thousands of notices -which have been sent out.
– I know it, because I have received more than one of these letters. In this case, the husband returned wounded in the stomach, and they have four children. Such a man may, to outward appearance, seem quite fit for work, but no one can tell when injuries of this kind may develop; and in case of misfortune of the kind, it would be infinitely better for these people to be in their own home than to be paying away a portion of the pension to the landlord.
– Under sections 52 and 53, there is provision for an advance, but only up to 25 per cent.
– Unfortunately, that does not meet the case in point; and, as our. experience of invalid pensions shows, a woman whose husband has returned wounded may find herself in no better position than one whose husband has been killed at the Front. I trust that the Government will, as early as possible, take steps to widen this regulation in the direction I have suggested.
The next question is that of the vocational training of men for vocations different from those they followed prior to the war, thus fitting them to take a place in the work-a-day world. Of course, many of the men will , not return to the trades in which they were engaged prior to enlisting; and many who came from the country will remain in the cities. Like other metropolitan members, I suppose, I have had numbers of men coming to me and announcing that they had settled down in the metropolitan area, where there may be better chances of employment. In this connexion, the Government should take prompt steps to get in touch with those employers who offered to keep positions open for men who enlisted.
– The Government are do.ing so, and the employers are responding.
– No doubt, some employers are responding ; but it is quite possible that in some cases the returned men may not be able to take up their previous employment.
– Why should individual employers pay such men, while other employers go scot-free?
– Such cases are to he dealt with.
– No doubt, there are great difficulties to be overcome. The Local Committees are to be allotted to shire areas in Victoria.
– And also in New South Wales.
– The shire area in Victoria is a pretty big area.
– Too big.
– Victoria is the most densely populated of all the States; and if the shire areas are large here, it only shows the necessity for Local Committees in smaller areas.
– Provision is made for that.
– Why should the men not go to the larger States, where land is cheaper and better?
– Probably there will be a natural gravitation in the direction of those States where good land can be obtained on the best possible terms.
– With the natural result of increasing the price of land.
– That, of course, is quite possible. Up to the present, with very few exceptions, no healthy men have returned from the Front, but only those invalided, or incapacitated with wounds. After the war, however, we may expect a different class - those” who have not been wounded or gassed - and they are likely to return to their ordinary employment. In any case, there is an enormous amount of work in front of the Department. Australia is the first country involved in this conflict that has guaranteed to maimed soldiers a supply of artificial limbs, with a promise of constant renewal during their lifetime. The value of this will be appreciated by those of us who have had any experience in buying appliances of the kind.
– And ‘ the limbs supplied will be good ones.
– Nothing but the best should be good enough for our returned men.
– For men and officers.
– I include officers amongst the men - officers are not a superior type. On Friday last the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) stated here, by way of interjection, that the men complain they are not receiving in this connexion the same treatment as that meted out to officers - that the limbs supplied to them are not as good as those supplied to the officers.
– That is a wrong principle.
– There should be only one principle, and that is to treat every one alike. A few weeks ago, when I was on a country railway station with some friends, we observed, about twenty or thirty yards away from us, a soldier, to whom I knew an artificial leg had been supplied, but so well did he walk that none of us could tell which leg was artificial. What the Government have undertaken to do in the way of supplying artificial limbs will, I expect, be held to be binding on future Governments.
The problem we have to face is beset with difficulties at every turn, because it must be borne in mind that the soldiers on their return are not normal. They have passed through some of the most awful experiences that it is possible for human beings to undergo. In many cases their sufferings have been intense, and it is up to us all to see that the very best is done for them on their return. We should do everything to make it possible for them to earn at least a living wage, and, until they are in a position to do so, it is the duty of ‘ the Government, as representing the people, to see that sufficient sustenance is provided for them. I agree that wherever possible they should be taught trades. It should not be overlooked that, though the Government may say that they will give preference to returned soldiers for employment in every Department of the Public Service, if they filled every position in the Federal and State Public Services with returned soldiers, they could not absorb more than one-fourth of the men who have enlisted. Intense feeling would be created amongst those who failed to get into the Public Services, and that cure would be worse than the disease. I have contended previously, and will do so again, that the Government are not justified in dismissing an eligible married man, whose son has been to the Front and returned invalided, for the purpose of em ploying a returned” soldier. I am prepared to do my best to make the Repatriation Department a success. It is tackling a problem which no other country has ever yet attempted, but which every humane country will have to tackle at the close of this war. We are breaking new ground in connexion with this Department, and pioneering is always difficult; but that should not deter us from doing our best to cope with the difficulties that will confront us. It is our duty to do the very best we can for those who have done so much, not only for themselves, but for those of us who failed, for one reason or another, to go to the Front.
.- The introduction of this measure to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act for 1917 affords an opportunity to review the whole subject of repatriation and its administration up to date. I am sorry that in introducing the Bill the Government were not in a position to submit something in the nature of a complete statement of the number of men who have already returned and the classes into which under this legislation they fall. It would have been a useful guide in estimating for the future the percentage of returning soldiers who will be likely to require assistance, and also the degrees of incapacity which have to be provided for. As the Department now has branches throughout Australia, it should be in a position to classify the men as they return. First of all, we have to deal with cases of total incapacity. Next, men have to be supplied with limbs, and must be brought back to a normal condition of health. Then there are men for whom a new avocation in life must be sought. We should have been greatly assisted in forming an opinion upon these matters if we had had such a statement as I have suggested, based upon the experience of those who have already returned.
I have read carefully the regulations which constitute the Government scheme, and I point out to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), and honorable members on his side, that in respect to the industrial side of the returned soldier’s life the Repatriation Commission have submitted a complete and generous scheme. It must be recognised that the Minister and the Commission have laid down a great fundamental principle for restoration to the ordinary life of the community, particularly of returning soldiers belonging to the industrial section. First of all, the Government, through the Repatriation Commission, undertake the complete and entire responsibility of restoring men to health. In the next place, they assume responsibility for securing employment for them in their old avocations in life, or, failing that, undertake to prepare them for some new occupation, and, where that is necessary, to provide them with sustenance in the meantime. There is a distinct line of demarcation between the spheres of the Defence Department and the Repatriation Department. The moment a man is discharged from the Australian Imperial Force he comes within the purview of the Repatriation Department, which undertakes to restore him to health, and to make the most complete provision for that purpose, no matter what the character of his wounds or illness may be. The Department then undertakes to sustain him at what I claim is a very generous rate of £2 2s. per week for a single man, and £3 6s. per week for a married man with four or more children. I thought at first that that was an overgenerous provision in the sense only that it might tend to make returned soldiers hasten slowly about getting back to work. There have been no complaints up to the present that this provision has been abused, and whether it will be abused in the future must depend on its administration. In introducing the Bill in another place the Minister for Repatriation mentioned one case in which this provision was strained, but I understand that it is now intended to limit the number of times which a returned soldier may take advantage of it on losing employment. Perhaps the Minister for Works and , Railways (Mr. Groom) is in a position now to inform honorable members whether three times is the number that has been fixed. I believe that it has been decided that after a returned soldier has been found employment a certain number of times he ceases to be able to take advantage of the sustenance provision. Having restored a man to health, the Repatriation Committee undertake to secure him employment, and most complete provision is made that a returned soldier placed in employment, under vocational training, or in some new avocation, is to receive the living wage in the industry in which heis employed irrespective of the amount he is capable of earning. If industrial tribunals have laid down the living wage to the industry, that will be the wage paid to the returned soldier. If there is no industrial award in connexion with the occupation he is following, provision is made in the regulations for the creation, of industrial committees to fix the wagesto be paid in such cases. I repeat that on the industrial side most generous and complete provision is made for the restoration of returned men to employment. In this regard no member of the House can take exception to what is proposed. Since the Act was brought into operation there have been no more processions of unemployed soldiers in the capital cities. That is put an end to so far as returned soldiersare concerned. I have not heard one complaint of the administration of the. Department on the industrial side.
The devolutioning machinery under the Repatriation Act is, first, the Minister, and then the Central Commission, which consists of seven men, two of whom arereturned soldiers, and one of whom represents the industrialists. Then comethe State Committees, which also consist, of seven men, next, the Comptroller, whoseduty it is to exercise an oversight of repatriation generally throughout Australia^, and the Deputy Comptrollers in the different States. Then there are the 10:al Committees, which act in an advisory capacity, so far as the Government are concerned, and which are vested, with special power to enable them to raise and administer certain funds, altogether apart from the Government funds. Finally, there are the Soldiers’ State Industrial Committees, and the State Districts Industrial Committees. Nothing has been omitted so far as the industrial side of repatriation is concerned. The machinery provided is complete. But, in some respects, I fear that the Government hope for too much from the industrial committees. I am of opinion that the Government will not get from these bodies the good results that they will obtain from the local Committees. An industrial committee in a country district has to set itself up as a judge between the returned soldier and the business people in that district - irrespective of whether the last named be storekeepers or farmers - of* what is a fair remuneration to pay to the- returned soldier. Consequently, the Minister must not be too hopeful of the best results flowing from these country industrial committees. “We were told at the outset that we must regard the repatriation scheme as a great copartnership, in which the senior partner is the Commonwealth Government, the secondary partners are the different States, and the third partner is, in my opinion, the greatest of the lot - namely, the community itself. It has been rightly emphasized, both by the press and by the Minister in introducing this Bill, that legislative measures dealing with this great subject provide merely the dry bones of repatriation. They will not give vital force to the scheme. In my opinion, the weakness disclosed by this legislation is the failure of the scheme to make some provision for the tens of thousands of bright young Australians who are ready to strike out in life for themselves. I have gone most carefully through sections 57 to 60 of the regulations, which have been framed under the Act which we passed last year. These may be said to constitute the commercial and business provisions of the scheme, as distinguishable from its industrialprovisions. Perhaps I might add to them sections 52 and 53. I now wish to emphasise the grave mistake which this Parliament made when it farmed out the settling of the policy of repatriation to an outside body. I am quite aware that a very capable Minister presides over the central Commission. But I fail to see why this Parliament, under the conditions of responsible government, should not itself have drafted a scheme after it had been openly and exhaustively discussed in this Chamber. Instead, we have placed before us a scheme in the form of mere regulations. We cannot alter that scheme one iota. We cannot add to it. We cannot improve it. The responsibility for raising the Australian Army was ours, and I claim that the responsibility for framing a repatriation scheme should also have been ours. It is now idle for honorable members to rise and complain that there is no provision in the Bill for this thing or that. The Leader of the Opposition very properly complained this afternoon that the measure contains no provision under which the young man who desires to establish a home of his own may be assisted to do so.
– The Minister asked us to wait upon him individually, and to make suggestions. I was at the office of the Department for two hours discussing matters with Mr. Lockyer.
– Is the honorable member satisfied to exercise the mere power of suggestion from which possibly something may result, or from which nothing may result? Would he not prefer to help to frame a scheme for repatriation ?
– If the Minister is willing to act on my suggestion, that is the better course to follow.
– If that is the frame of mind in which the honorable member comes here to handle a subject like repatriation, I am sorry for him. I dare say that I have had more interviews with the Minister on this question, and I have certainly had more interviews with the Deputy Comptrollers and with the various administrative branches connected with repatriation, than has the honorable member. But surely this is the place to make suggestions, and to examine any scheme. The Minister does not take up the attitude that we must not discuss a Bill of this character which contains great fundamental principles.
– If he did, we might as well close up Parliament altogether.
– Exactly. So far, the war work of Australia has been carried out by about fifty outside Boards. In other words the work of this Parliament has been farmed out.
– Most of those Boards exercise purely administrative functions which this Parliament could not exercise.
– To-day these outside Boards are practically discharging the functions of various Departments. I am not complaining either of the Minister or of his staff. But I am complaining that this Parliament, instead of framing a repatriation scheme itself, delegated that task to six gentlemen who were unknown at the time, togetherwith a very capable Minister, whose ability, of course, we all recognised. As a result, we have got a scheme with which quite a number of honorable members cannot agree. I submit that we should have been prepared to discuss the fundamentals of repatriation, and to accept responsibility for our work. Only the other day, I saw in a paper which supports my honorable friends opposite, the following black headlines, “ The Win-the-war Party,” “ Section 60 Scandal.” It is pointed out what the Government had omitted to do. That paper was, in effect, railing at the work of two returned soldiers and Mr. Grayndler, president of the Australian Workers Union, and the other members of the Commission. But it thought that by its criticism of the Win-the-war Government it was attacking the work of the Ministry. The Government were not responsible directly for the scheme, but the Commission was. Cabinet could not study the scheme as a whole; it was for the Commission to do so.
– The responsible Minister presides over the Commission and takes part in the discussions.
– I am aware of that; but if that suggestion means that he dominates the policy-
– No ; but he certainly has to play an important part.
– In the discussion on the main Bill it was pointed out that the responsible Minister would not take before Cabinet a proposition of which he did not approve. How often would the Minister place before Cabinet a proposal which had not the approval of the Commission, and the Commission retain its activities in such circumstances? Either the principles adhered to by the majority of the Commission must stand, or the Commission goes out of business. We all know how a Commission is run.
I have dealt with the question of the great co-partnership between the Commonwealth, the States, and the people. All those partners will have to work together most generously and actively to make repatriation what it should be - everybody’s business. There is not an honorable member who cannot say, “ I will repatriate one man at least.” It is of no use pointing to the Act and saying, “ That is where we stand.”
I will briefly deal first with the position of the States and their share in this co-partnership. They have magnanimously undertaken the. whole of the land settlement of the Commonwealth, that is, the broad-acre proposition. The States provide the land, while the Commonwealth undertakes to furnish up to £500 as a maximum for each man for improvements, equipment, and stocking up.
I would like to have heard a statement by the Minister as to how far land settlement has gone to-day, because the Commonwealth must keep in the closest possible touch with the State Governments. Honorable members should be in possession of copies of the whole of the legislation passed by all the States upon this subject. I have endeavoured to follow that legislation, and have noted most of it. Some of the State measures are very generous. For instance, in certain instances they go beyond the broad-acre proposition and provide for a housing scheme. For this House to debate land settlement would be, of course, to spend time in discussing matters over which it has no authority. Neither the Commission nor this House has any legal authority or control over land settlement. Therefore, any views here expressed may be more complementary than anything else, and can be of little more value than to be passed on from this Chamber as suggestions to the States concerned. Closely interested as I am in land settlement, I wish I might have been able to advance certain views in connexion with the subject before State legislation was passed. But, as I have indicated, we have no legislative powers, and anything said in that regard would now scarcely be of direct value.
I wish, however, to deal briefly with the matter of land settlement legislation in Victoria, and one reason why I draw attention to it is that it shows the necessity for all activities bearing upon repatriation to keep closely in almost daily touch. Under the State land settlement scheme a soldier may obtain up to £2,500 worth of land as a maximum and up to £500 for improvements. Participation in that land settlement depends first upon the applicant securing a qualification certificate. Every soldier must pass muster before a Board. Having obtained that certificate he can then choose what character of land is required - whether for wheat-growing, dairying, stock-raising, orchard, pigraising, poultry, &c. There is also provision that where a man is not prepared to take on land settlement by himself, he may secure an advance up to £250 for share-farming. I have had many cases under my personal notice in respect of land settlement; and two anomalies have cropped up, to -which I wish to draw attention, under the State law. There was an instance of a returned soldier who had bought a small block costing £250. It was freehold land. He paid £100 cash, and borrowed the balance through a local grazier, who was only too. willing to let him have the money. He worked hard at improving his block, and paid off another £25. When he owed still one-half, namely, £125, he came to see me, and said ho would like to get assistance through repatriation sources. . However, no provision existed under the State Act for granting assistance in connexion with freehold land of his own. Neither does any provision exist under the Commonwealth Act. It is surely a glaring anomaly.
– Is his position due to being a single man 1
– The anomaly arises from more reasons than that. We do not provide in the Commonwealth scheme for the assistance of a man in securing a home or a block of land; and the State will not assist a man with respect to his own freehold land. Neither will the Victorian State legislation provide assistance in the case of one who is the lessee of private land. It will assist a lessee of Crown land. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) objected just now to an honorable member pointing out things such as these.
– I did not say that at all.
– I withdraw that statement then; but, surely, it is the duty of honorable members to see whether such anomalies cannot be overcome. I say. that if the seventy-five members of this Chamber, representing, as they do, all branches of industry, had had the oversight of this repatriation scheme, not one phase of it would have been overlooked.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister another case, showing that our Commonwealth legislation contains no provision whatever to help a’ soldier or a widow to establish a home. .In other words, our Commonwealth legislation on this subject does’ not include a housing scheme. And I claim that the home is the first institution in life; that it represents the great fundamental principle of social activities. Men who have fought for their country abroad may, upon their return, desire to go back to their former employment. Thousands are getting married - a very wholesome feature of the returned soldiers’ life - but, unfortunately, we have no provision in our legislation to help them found their homes or purchase their furniture. Nor have we any provision to help a young, unmarried returned soldier into any business. I repeat that, on the industrial side, the scheme is almost generous to a fault; but I hope that honorable members will take some interest in this matter, and help men who, like myself, see anomalies in the scheme to include authority to help tens of thousands of our young men to start life in some small undertaking.
– That is the very spirit which we ought to encourage. *
– We want to encourage new wealth producers.
– Does the honorable member suggest the amount of a grant necessary to help returned soldiers who may want to go into business ?
– That was the general practice of- the War Councils in all the States until this new scheme came into operation. Under present methods, I forecast, so far as land ‘settlement is concerned, a danger of abandonment in respect of many broad-acre holdings. Here is the position. The States and Commonwealth combine the functions of a huge borrowing and lending institution. If a returned soldier be given a grant of land valued at £2,500, the whole of it, as well as the advance of £500, must be repaid with interest. Moreover, it must be remembered that the returned soldier goes on to these properties at to-day’s values for land, stock, implements, building material, and fencing for subdivisions; and I point out that hardly a squatter in the country cares to buy a sheet of iron or coil of fencing wire at to-day’s prices. A returned soldier may be prepared to enter quite enthusiastically into a land proposition as set out under such conditions, but, unfortunately, we are in for a period of heavy taxation in Australia, and in view of an enormous war debt I feel confident that to-day’s stan(dard of values cannot be maintained for land, stock, services, wages, or any other commodity, so that, unless _ the returned soldier has some equity in his property, he might be tempted, during a series of bad seasons, to abandon his holding. I plead, therefore, with the Minister that an endeavour should be made to create some equity in any land or business prop sition, or any home provided for a returned soldier. I do not ask the Government to lend a returned soldier £50 to put into hishome; I say they should give it to him, in order that he may have some personal equity in the property.
I regard the average home on the land as a little community, with the father in charge of operations, the mother and daughters in charge on the domestic side, and the sons doing the field work of the farm, the whole family working as one small community. But in the land settlement scheme, inevitably one young man - a returned soldier whose health possibly has been seriously affected - is expected to go on to a block of land and make a success of the business from the start.
– “What is the limit of grant you suggest should be given?
– What is the use of asking me here to put a limit on. the grant ? .
– I thought the honorable member had considered the question in all its details.
– I have considered it so far as concerns land settlement, but what is the use of asking me now, without consultation, to suggest the amount of equity which the Commonwealth should create ? I say - Do not . let the whole, of the advance be by way of loan. Give some of it to the returned soldier, because if the time ever comes when the soldier settler has to consider the question of abandonment, he might say to himself, if he has no equity in the property, “I do not own one shilling of the whole lot, the elements are against me, my health is against me, the value of stock and land have fallen. I will give up the holding.” I ask that this question be reconsidered by a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and States, so as to insure for the soldiers some form of grant by way of creating an equity. It may be that the Commonwealth Government will say that if a man proves himself for one or two years they will forego portion of the purchase money; but if we do not adopt the course I have suggested I feel satisfied that one day we shall have any quantity of land thrown back on our hands even by men who will have honestly tried to make a success of their undertakings. The Minister has asked me what I would suggest as the amount of equity grant, and in reply I say that I think it is up to those for whose protection .our men have taken out a policy of insurance to pay some of the premium. I would go the length of saying that, as a minimum in cases where the Government are satisfied that men would make a success of a little business, they should be given up to £50 as a free gift. We, in Wan. non and Corangamite, have been operating this scheme ourselves with success, and we give a returned soldier up to £50 as a straight-out gift. If, under the Commonwealth repatriation scheme, we are going to have a national ledger in which the affairs of every returned soldier are all entered on the debit side, I am afraid we will have many grave disappointments.
– Does not clause 22 of the regulations deal with the matter the honorable member is referring to?
– No; that clause does not cover it. The only gifts provided for by section 57 are a gift not exceeding £25 for furniture to a widow and children in necessitous circumstances, or a totally incapacitated soldier, and a gift not exceeding £10 for tools for a small artisan. No provision is made for a gift of furniture to a widow without children, but I understood that the Minister was favorably reviewing the suggestion that such a gift should be made, and, also, that means should be provided for men who wish to establish themselves in life.
– The Minister is also considering the matter of homes, which the honorable member has mentioned.
– I hope the House will see that something genuine and real is done to help the young men who have kept their promises to their country and to their girls, by enabling them to establish homes for themselves in Australia. I am a great believer in men owning their own homes. I hope that a new kind of share-farming will be established, as an intermediary stage in land settlement. With share-farming, the young soldier will not have to incur the huge initial indebtedness inseparable from the purchase of freeholds. He will obtain the use of another man’s land, and, should the season prove unfavorable, he will have incurred no liabilities. In practice it will be found that, in addition to getting the use of the land, he will get also the benefit of the life’s experience of its owner, who will be interested in helping him to make the biggest return possible from his operations. Honorable members and the people of the various districts can help young settlers materially by encouraging the “working-bee” system. In Canada, when a young man comes to a district to settle, it is the usual thing for the men round about to go on to his land with their teams, implements, seed, and so forth, and, in a few days, they put a large area of his ground under crop. This is of great assistance to him; because in the first year or two everything is going out of the purse and nothing is coming in, and, without help, failure is likely to occur. Hitherto in this country we have fettered the settler with prohibitive conditions, making him either a licensee or a lessee. Under the Bill, the soldier who settles on the land must give a mortgage over his stock and implements, and must hold his land under lease, so that he will have nothing on which to get credit, and the trading community, which buttresses the ordinary settler, will not be able to help him. In Australia, private land settlement has succeeded largely because of the backing given to it by the banks, insurance companies, wool firms, merchants, auctioneers,, and others, who have carried the settlers over the rocky period of the first few years. If we put men on the land, we should make their condition as good as possible, and enable them to obtain credit such as the ordinary settler can obtain. I do not care whether that is done through the Commonwealth Bank or by some other system of rural credits; but unless it is done you court failure, because men must have credit on which to work for the first year or two. The scheme will be incomplete and unsuccessful unless the giving of credit is provided for. Under the existing system of land settlement, the scheme will bring loss and discontent. By favorable settlement on the land, a man may gain a happy, prosperous, contented life ; or, on the other hand, on unfavorable terms, he and his wife and children may have a life of drudgery and discontent. We do not want that to be the lot of those who have fought our battles.
– What is it exactly that you suggest?
– I suggest a system of credits through the Commonwealth Bank, or otherwise, to carry the settler over the first year or two. The systems of land settlement hitherto on Government lands provided for by all Australian Governments have left the settler for the first few years devoid of credit, although that is the rocky period. I suggest a banking system for providing credit for our soldier settlers. Either the Commonwealth Bank or the Associated Banks might be guaranteed credit given to settlers, subject to careful oversight by inspectors. Without credit, a soldier will be at a tremendous disadvantage compared with an ordinary settler.
– The honorable member strikes the right note.
– The Commonwealth has made generous provision on the industrial side for employment, restoration to health, the making good, as far as possible, of defects caused by injuries, and the care of totally incapacitated; but noprovision at all is made for unmarried men who are able to resume their ordinary avocations, nor is there provision for enabling a widow or a married or unmarried man to make a home in Australia.
– The honorable member spoke of a young man having paid a considerable sum to obtain land, and said that there was no provision under which he could obtain credit. In Victoria he could get money under the CreditFoncier system.
– The honorable member is speaking of another matter altogether. Does he think that a man should get no assistance from the Repatriation Department ?
– I say he could get assistance.
– Let me mention the case of a father and five sons, all of whom have struck their blow for the Empire. The father was an Imperial soldier, and served in past wars; the five sons have served in this war. One of them has been killed; one is still fighting, and the remaining three have been returned to Australia invalided, with clean discharges. The mother is dead, and the father has died since the declaration of war. The three sons have been drawn together, and wish to start a little business. The eldest is a baker, an experienced man who has managed. for. other bakers. One of the others is willing to take charge of the carts, and the third to look after the shop and try to work up a little business. Only one of the three was a Wannon boy, but they came to me, and I put their case before the Repatriation Department. As I thought, we were told that there is no provision for assisting such lads to make a start in life. The three of them are unmarried.
– They could soon get over that difficulty.
– No doubt, marriage may come later. Participation in the repatriation scheme depends upon, first, registration, and, secondly, a medical certificate to the effect that the applicant cannot pursue his former avocation. A man who can pursue his original avocation gets nothing except a sustenance allowance while he is waiting for employment at his old work.
I ask that the whole system may be reviewed, particularly the matter of housing. Australia will benefit if thousands of homes are built for the housing of our soldiers. Nowhere in this country to-day is there a good home unoccupied, and no greater encouragement can be given for the maintenance of a good home than for persons to be living under their own roof. I agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) that there is a disposition on the part of landlords, particularly in the metropolitan areas, to withhold properties from returned soldiers, their widows, and relatives. We do not want our men to be begging for homes. A generous, well-thought-out, housing scheme would add materially to the wealth of the country, and would make of those who have fought our battles a more contented class. I do not complain, in this matter, of the Minister or the Commission only; I complain of Parliament, and of every member of Parliament.
– I think that the Government should take charge of this business.
– My complaint is that when the opportunity first offered, we declined to accept responsibility for what is now known as the repatriation scheme. We said, in effect, that we were unable to frame such a scheme, and we passed on the work to an outside Commission. That Commission the press and members of Parliament are disposed to criticise, instead of attacking Parliament itself for its failure to accept one of the responsibilities of responsible government. Honorable members are daily whittling away their right to represent the people of Australia. I entered this Chamber with some little business knowledge. I have for a good many years engaged in various business, activities, but I Und those business activities daily waning. Honorable members may talk freely on every Bill, but there seems to be no opportunity offered them to exercise their business capacity. We draw from all quarters of the community business men and experts to deal with Government business, until we have today, in controlling Boards and war activities, a Commonwealth Service of gigantic proportions. It seems now to be becoming simply a matter of “ follow the circus.” Commonwealth activities are getting so wide that we are drawing experts from all sections of the community, and building up a huge scheme, under which we pass over to outside men many of the works for which, in my judgment, honorable members alone should be responsible. When . we go before our constituents, in all probability, they will say to us, “ What is wrong with the seventyfive members of the House of Representatives? Why are you not capable of conducting the business affairs of the country? Why have you to draw men from all parts of the globe to do the war work of the Commonwealth ?” The question to-day is whether the commercial, financial and industrial communities outside are better able than we are to carry on the active work of Parliament. Are we here merely to express our views, to have them recorded, and then to resume our seats; or are we to take an active part in the actual work of the Commonwealth ? We had no right, I contend, to pass over to six unknown men the preparation “and carrying out of a repatriation scheme. When we agreed to the appointment of such a Commission, we did not even know of whom it was to be composed. The Commissions to-day are in the gift of the Government; to-morrow they may be in the gift of the Opposition. I f’o not hesitate to say that I should not like to see all the great war activities of Australia handed over to the elect of the Opposition, and I do not suppose they would care to have these activities handed over to our elect.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commission should have been composed of members of Parliament?
– I contend that the responsible Minister, and, indeed, the Government as a whole, should have brought down their own scheme.
– They had to feel their way. Even now we have not a definite scheme.
– This work is being done by six men, drawn from all parts of the Commonwealth. My complaint is not against the Minister, but against members generally.
– I agreed with the Government. I gave them what they asked.
– The honorable member generally does. That is only in accordance with his disposition.
– How is it that the industrial side gets everything?
– We have nothing.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is entitled to saythat the industrial representative on the Commission has done good work. The Minister, of course, is primarily responsible for the industrial side of the repatriation scheme, which has certainly been well thought out. The Government, the Minister, and the Commission deserve all credit for the generous way in which the industrial provision has been framed, but it remains to be proved whether Australia can bear it.
– Is the honorable member referring to the question of sustenance?
– I am referring to the financial provision added in addition to sustenance. It is only fair that I should say that the object which the Government had in view when appointing the Commission was that the scheme should not be under what is called parliamentary control. We know, however, that most of these Boards, in so far as they are controlled by Ministers, are under parliamentary control, and a Commission of this description has in it all the elements of politics. It could not be otherwise.
It is composed of representatives of the commercial and financial interests of the country, of two representatives of the soldiers, and of one representative of the Australian workers. This is one principle in respect of which I differ from the Government - the Commission’s right to frame the policy.
I shall conclude with a reference to the financial aspects of repatriation. So far we have not heard either from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), or the Minister in charge of the Bill in this House (Mr. Groom) any authoritative statement as to the source from which we are to obtain the money to enable the Commonwealth to discharge its obligations in this respect.
– The Minister announced some time ago that sustenance was to come out of revenue, and loans for land settlement out of loan money. Amounts have already been provided for on the Estimates.
– I have not noticed them. The first announcement on the subject was made a few days ago by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt).
– But what about the amounts on the Estimates?
– The fact that we appropriate from time to time moneys for repatriation purposes does not show that the obligations of the Commonwealth in this regard are to be met solely out of revenue. The Acting Prime Minister a few days ago announced for the first time that the funds to provide for the Commonwealth’s share of . repatriation were to be obtained by taxation.
– That was announced in the Prime Minister’s Bendigo speech, and also when the original Bill was before the House. I will give the honorable member the reference in Hansard.
– I shall be glad to have it. I do not remember any such announcement.
– An announcement was also made at the time by the then Treasurer.
– If the money is to be found by taxation, the position will be that such money, loaned to the soldiers, on repayment will fall back into the general revenue. I have brought forward this question for the reason that if the policy of the Government is to provide for repatriation by taxation, then the Government will be helped materially by adopting my suggestion that, in respect of every soldier’s enterprise, an equity should be created. That equity, whatever the amount may be, should be the gift of the Commonwealth. Unless that is done, we shall have simply a borrowing and lending scheme under which the soldier will first of all pay interest on the loan he receives, and then, as one of the general body of taxpayers, will have to pay his share of the interest on the money originally borrowed by the Government for repatriation purposes.
While in the actual amendment of the Act for which this Bill provides, no new principle is involved, some of the provisions of the Act will be -considerably widened. Every half-year there should be submitted to this House a statement of the operations of the repatriation scheme. I propose later on to move an amendment which, if carried, will mean that every half-year we shall have an opportunity to review the subject of repatriation. Repatriation may finally involve an obligation of many millions of pounds, and if we could secure a halfyearly statement, like those issued by the Commonwealth Bank, the Department of the Postmaster-General, and other Departments, we should have what would prove a good guide for, not only the Parliament, but the country.
– I have listened with very considerable pleasure to some of the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), but I do not agree with the remark that he made that, on paper, ample provision has been made for the industrial side of this great scheme. We have had a good many schemes on paper before to-day, but, unfortunately, the Bills or regulations submitted to give effect to such paper schemes have often fallen very far short of the actual promises given by Ministers. We are now engaged upon a work which should long since have passed beyond the experimental stage. I have tried again and again to induce the Government of the day to bestir themselves, and have urged that, side by side with our naval and military operations, we should prepare for the return of our soldiers. To-day, however, we find ourselves with thousands of returned soldiers for the employment of whom very little preparation has been made. Only now are we trying to put our house in order. The Repatriation Department is besieged with returned soldiers, many of whom are unable to obtain, that redress of which they are so urgently in need. Our organization in one of the most important, aspects falls far short of what it ought to be. Might I be” permitted, without being charged with egotism, to quote some remarks that I made on this subject as far back as 21st October, 1914? That wa3 a fairly early start to make in the direction of repatriation. It is true that in those remarks I did not use the word “ repatriation,” but I had in mind at thetime the state in which Australian industry would be at the close of the war if we did not organize and encourage our industries, as well as foster the growth, of new enterprises. I recognised then that, without adequate organization, the industrial position of Australia would bea very serious one. Speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House,, on 21st October, 1914, I referred to a question on the subject, which I had put earlier in the day to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher), and went on to say, as reported in Hansard-
I desire to refer to a matter which, in a. sense, is, perhaps, of too much importance tobring up on the motion for adjournment; but I take the opportunity of asking the Prime Minister whether, in these exceptional times, Hie Government are taking any action to take the lead in organizing industries. We aregoing to have an amendment of the Tariff, which will help us considerably; but a great deal more can be done in many ways to give a fillip to Australian industries. 1 trust the Government will take the lead in the matter, even if they go to the length of calling men who are worth consulting throughout the Commonwealth into conference, in order that a strong campaign may be instituted in favour of promoting Australian industries. We should endeavour, not only to regulate, organize, and consolidate those already in existence, but also to do everything possible to establish new ones. When the war cloud lifts, which we hope will not be long, I trust Australia will- be so organized industrially, commercially, and in a trading sense that we shall be able to take full advantage of the opportunities that must accrue as a consequence of the war. I hope that every phase of commercial and business life, as well as the employees, will be represented in the conference that I suggest, in order that some organization may be formed with this national object in view, so that we may be able, when the war is over, to take our stand among the nations of the world in supplying; those things for the manufacture of which we have millions of pounds’ worth of raw material in this country.
To which Mr. Fisher replied -
I am entirely with the honorable member for Maribyrnong regarding the question of organizing industries. Indeed, I go much further, but I find that there is a constitutional difficulty more or less embarrassing from our point of view. The Government have, however, with a view of attaining the object that the honorable member has put forward, asked the representatives of the States to come to Melbourne in about a fortnight or more, to consider all these matters, together with others, with a view of endeavouring to arrive at an understanding or .agreement which will enable us to proceed with any such enterprises, and so help to prevent unemployment at the present time, whilst at the same time developing national industries, which will place Australia, even in times of peace, in a safer position than she occupies to-day.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said that ample provision has been made on the industrial side. Whilst regulation No. 88 does outline a number of ways in which we may employ returned soldiers and re-establish them in civil life, I contend that unless we have a variety of industries it will be impossible for us to do all that we should do for our men. I intimated the other day that there are declining industries in our midst, and we have taken few and very short steps in the direction of establishing new industries. If we are to provide a variety of employment for returned soldiers, it is absolutely essential that we should, make greater efforts to establish further industries. I believe in making generous allowance for those who may desire to settle on the land, but every honorable member must know that not more than 10 per cent., or at any rate 15 per cent., of the. returned men will attempt to settle on the land.
– Forty thousand have already intimated their desire to go upon the land.
– Not 10 per cent, of our returned soldiers will engage in land settlement.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s corroboration of my view. But even if 15 per cent, were to go upon the land, we should still have to make provision in some other way for the other 85 per cent.
– The Minister has said that he sought an indication from the soldiers themselves as to how many were likely to engage in land pursuits, and about 40,000 intimated their desire to do so.
– The test to be applied is that mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon this afternoon - how many of those- who go upon the land will remain there? No doubt thousands will give land pursuits a trial, but when confronted with the initial difficulties that have to he faced by everybody, many, through discouragement, insufficiency of help, or disinclination for the life, will abandon their holdings. That has happened in connexion with nearly every class of land settlement. A few years ago I could have taken honorable members to a closer settlement area on the Murray River, about 200 miles from Melbourne, and containing some of the choicest lucerne land in this State, and they would have regarded it as a splendidlysettled district. I question whether one of the original settlers is on that area to-day. I know that some of them approached the Victorian Government, and, almost at the pistol’s point, demanded employment, otherwise they would expose the Government for having brought them from the Old Country and placed them on such a wilderness. The honorable member for Wannon is correct in advocating some banking or rural credit system for the assistance of returned soldiers who may go upon the land. Indeed, I think the States would do well, not only in connexion with repatriation, to establish some sort of land bank, operated on a complete understanding of land settlement from A to Z.
If the figures I have given as to the small percentage of men who will go upon the land are correct, we have not made anything like ample provision on the industrial side, because we have not commenced to build the proper groundwork. The first essential of the successful employment of our returned men must be the establishment df a variety of industries. I know that some of the soldiers will be well provided for, independent of any repatriation scheme. I know of one young grazier, as fine an Australian as one could meet in a day’s march, who lost his” arm at the Front, but had his own property to support him when he returned. There will be a number of returned soldiers in similar circumstances.
– That is why I thought that we should have to guide us in this debate some statement or classification of the occupations of our soldiers.
– I agree with the honorable member. The House ought to have been supplied with particulars regarding the number of men who have returned, the percentage of those who have returned to their own properties or business the number of men otherwise provided for, and the total cost of the scheme to date. Those vital particulars are being withheld at a time when honorable members are engaged in the earnest consideration of very important questions.
– The staff would require to be doubled in order to prepare the return.
– Those records must be in the Department; otherwise it is in a sad state of chaos.
There seems to exist at present a gap between the discharge of a soldier and hisproper repatriation.
– The soldiers are generously provided for during that interval .
– But through ignorance or some other cause, there are men who are not participating in those benefits. I am now investigating a case of which particulars were given me to-day. Unfortunately, it is a fact that many returned soldiers who to-day may look healthy and strong may be to-morrow in a state of almost collapse. That is one of the problems we shall have to deal with in connexion with repatriation. I know of a man who started manual labour in the Victorian Railways Department, and worked splendidly for a fortnight. Later, some of his mates asked me to do what J could for the man, because he had completely collapsed, and was unfit for work. I am pleased to say the Victorian Railways Commisioners found lighter employment for him, thereby enabling him to win back his strength and earn a reasonable sum of money until such time as he could return to his normal place in civil life. We shall have to deal with many cases of that kind from time to time. Sooner, by far, should we lose thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds, than that we should inflict hardship on those who have fought so nobly for us at the Front. Therefore, I hope monetary considerations will not deter the Department from doing its duty to our men. The case I am investigating is that of a returned soldier who was discharged because he was considered fit to engage in some occupation. His friends knew that he was not fit to work, and on their making further representations to the Repatriation Department he was again allowed a certain sum per week. A month agohe was again discharged and, so far, nothing has been done for him. It may be that he will yet have to wait some time before employment is found for him. We ought to be very careful in the treatment of these cases, and even though the medical officers may be suspicious of what they regard as malingering, they ought to hesitate before discharging a man and pronouncing him fit to work. Even after he is discharged he ought to have an opportunity of going to the Repatriation Department and asking for further consideration.
Instead of taking a rosy view of the industrial side of repatriation activities,I think we shall have the greatest trouble in consequence of the lack of employment when the war is over. We should long ago have set about the business of organizing industries in order to provide employment. I have in hand a copy of The Soldier, the official journal of the Returned Soldiers Association, of the 24th May last, and an article in which the writer discusses what choice of occupation soldiers will make, and to which States they will go, contains this paragraph -
The living conditions obtaining in the various States will have a profound effect in influencing discharged soldiers in the choice of their future homes. Naturally one of the first questions they will ask themselves is, which State is the best to live in. That may be an arguable point, but recent developments in Queensland considerably advance the claims of that particular State.
Further on the writer says that two considerations will operate with the returned soldier in seeking a State in which to settle down, namely, the seasons, and the class of government, and I quite agree with the concluding words of the paragraph I have just read. Unless I have been wrongly informed, Queenslandis doing better for returned soldiers than s any other State.
– Has the honorable member facts in proof of that statement ?
– Yes; unless my information is wrong. There is no desire to give any party political character to this matter of making provision for returned soldiers. If the Liberal Government in Victoria should make better provision for them than any other State may do, I would be prepared to gIve them every credit for it. Credit ought to be given to any Government, Labour or Liberal, that does its duty to returned men. In Victoria, which is said to be the garden State of Australia, we may not have the large areas of land available which can be found in Queensland ; but, in the matter of providing employment, we ought to be able to do as well as has been done in Queensland.
– The difference in the price of land has to be considered.
– That is so. The cost of living is also a big item. I am not a pessimist; but I cannot help thinking that -there are dark days ahead for the Commonwealth, and that they will be darker and blacker unless something is done to organize industry and provide employment, not only for those who return to us, but also for those who are with us now, and wish to remain here, aud for those whom we hope to be able to induce to come here. What will be the use of training men unless they are able to secure employment easily ? No one wishes to see the returned soldier taking the place of the married man who has a family to maintain. Our desire should be to see our old industries so flourishing, and our new industries so firmly established, that we shall be able to train our returned men and put them into new industries, thus avoiding the necessity for displacing men from the positions which they now hold. I give place to no man in saying that- we should do everything to make provision for our returned soldiers; but the system now in operation, not only in the Federal Departments, but also in some of the State Departments, is to dismiss men wholesale in order to provide positions for returned men. Such a thing- should not be necessary when we have only a limited number of men to deal with, and that it is done merely shows how sadly belated is our scheme of organization. The work of repatriation should have been organized and made ready for the time when our first soldier returned and had to be dealt with. However, that was not done, and the result is that to-day we are scrambling along trying to make the pace as hot as we can in order to catch up the months wherein we have neglected this important question.
New offices have been opened in Melbourne, and they will be crowded, not only by returned soldiers, but also by the dependants of other soldiers who are seeking information. We have waited too long’ before attempting to deal with this problem, and, unfortunately, we must have these people crowding into the Repatriation Offices in their hundreds. Injustices are bound to occur through hurry, and mistakes will be made which will have to be remedied later on; but, in the meantime, there will be a considerable amount of hurt and irritation which could have been avoided. I regret that we did not undertake the scheme long before it was commenced. I blame no particular Government for the delay. In 1914, side by side with our naval and military preparations, we should have set about the organization of the industrial side of repatriation work. It is essential that the two things should proceed side by side. Otherwise there must he chaos in the aftermath of the war. My reading has shown me that in this regard every country is much further advanced than we are. I am speaking of countries with big populations. France has been hit harder than any other country engaged in the fighting; but when the war is over the organization of that country is such, and so far-seeing have its leaders been, that it will be able to demobilize its men and put them into various employments with far less disturbance and dislocation than there are bound to be in Australia, which is 12,000 miles away from the battle front.
– It has had previous experience of war and knows what has to be done.
– That is true; but we ought to live in the light of other days. We have had no experience of fighting, but we know what the experience of other people has been. What has been the experience in Great Britain? Heroes of Waterloo died in the poorhouse. It was a disgrace to the nation. Why have we not profited by the experience of
Great Britain? The slight experience we had in regard to the Boer war, and the manner in which our wounded soldiers were treated, should have been a sufficient lesson to us. Although we have not previously gone through the awful experience of a big war, we cannot put that fact forward as an excuse for neglecting to make provision for our men on their return from the Front. They will come back in a very determined frame of mind. They will have seen life amidst most tragic surroundings.
– They will come back with a love for Australia.
– I believe it. I want them to come back with a love for the people of Australia. We have been left behind, as it were, as trustees and guardians of their rights and privileges, and of everything they hold near and dear. They carry with them a memory of Australia which has buoyed them up in most trying circumstances, and has helped them to fight their battles. But I want them to come back, not to the Australia they left, but to a better Australia. If we cannot have a better Australia for them, I will not blame them if some of them come into the portals of this House and accuseus of having betrayed the confidence which they reposed in us to look after their interests while they were away. What has any Government done in a material sense beyond a very paltry amendment of the Tariff in order to encourage industry and provide employment for these men, or for those who have remained behind? Practically nothing has been done. There has been a lot of talk about a shipbuilding scheme.
– Does the honorable member believe that many new industries will spring up while the war-time profits tax is hanging over them like a sword of Damocles ?
– I cannot remember the exact number of millions that represent the revenue which has been provided in Great Britain by the taxation of the excess profits.
– How many new Industries have been established in Great Britain since the war broke out?
– Many industries have been establishedthere. Does the honorable member say that the people of Great Britain have done nothing to establish the dye industry, in which Germany was so pre-eminent?
– The British Government have done it.
– I am not particular as to who has done it. The fact remains that Great Britain has thrown over her antiquated Free Trade ideas, and to-day is in a better organized state than she has ever been in her history, and she is better prepared to receive her demobilized men into established industries than Australia will be at the termination of the war. I am glad that the British Government are giving a lead to private enterprise.
– A young man who established a foundry in Victoria, finding that he had to pay £600 to the Government as its share of his excess profits, has just decided to close his establishment and commence agency work.
– The ex-member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) spoke of the Bill imposing the war-time profits tax as a paltry measure, by which men who were making big profits and enjoying large incomes would not be touched, while men who were establishing new industries would be penalized.
– The same thing applies in Great Britain.
– To some extent it does. I was pointing out that new industries are being established in Great Britain, where the tax is much heavier, and where there is also a heavier income tax to be paid. There is no doubt they are heavily taxed in Great Britain. It is claimed that new industries will not be started because of the imposition of heavy taxation. As a matter of fact, new industries are starting in Great Britain, and very often taxation is a good promoter of industrial enterprise.
– You must remember the case of the dyes that you quoted.
– I quoted it as only one.
– It is an important one.
– There is, for instance, agriculture, which has been most neglected in Great Britain.
– Goods cannot be placed on the market unless the dyes are made in Great Britain.
– That is since the war.
– It was forced on Great Britain.
– And it ought to have been forced on us. During the first nine months of the present financial year we have paid out about £60,000,000 of money in respect of goods coming into this country, and a large proportion of which could have been manufactured here. If we do not establish suitable industries we shall not be able to make proper provision for the men who will be demobilized in the future. Honorable members opposite tell us that they have thrown overboard many of their old Free Trade ideas; and I should like to see some distinct evidence of the fact in the shape of their urging the Government to take action. If private people will not establish industries, then the Federal and the other Governments of Australia ought to take a hand. That is the course taken in Great Britain in order to supply goods formerly imported from Germany; and because of that action on the part of some of the most conservative in the Old Country there has been a great development of private enterprise. Here, however, we have not made proper provision in this way, not only for our returned soldiers, but for the community generally ; and I see nothing for it but drastic action on the part of the Government, to whom all possible help would be given by this Parliament. When a previous measure was before us, honorable members on this side sought to have some amendments made; and had those amendments been accepted, a great improvement would have resulted in the way of furthering such efforts as I am now urging. I agree with much said by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) about the inadvisability of handing over to outside bodies much work that should be done by Parliament itself, because the further we allow these schemes to be removed, the less control we shall have. At the same time, the responsibility will be ours, and in the future we shall be asked why we, as the custodians of the rights and privileges of the soldiers and the people, did not keep in closer touch with these matters. When questions are asked here relating to these schemes, the information we receive will come from outside bodies, and we shall have to simply sit idly by while the scheme is administered. If it is not too late, I urge the co-operation of honorable members on both sides to do something for that 85 or 90 per cent. of the returned men who, I feel sure, will not go on the land. I speak more in sorrow than in anger - though those to whom I refer ought to be held up to public opprobrium - when I say that many in the community have not honoured the bond into which they entered to re-employ returned men. The more this bond is disregarded ‘the greater becomes the responsibility of Parliament and the Government, because the more men will be, as it were, thrown on our hands.
– If I knew one employer who had broken his bond I should name him. I have made inquiries, and I cannot find any.
– Why, even Public Departments have refused to honour their word in this regard.
Mr.Richard Foster. - They are not private employers.
– But private employers have been the worst offenders. A Public Department has the knowledge that it can always be brought to book in Parliament, and in this connexion we here can exercise more control. I say again that some 85 per cent. of the returned men will desire some other form of repatriation than that of settlement on the land. Personally, I should prefer to see the whole, or the great bulk of them take to country pursuits, because, if we suffer from anything, it is from concentration in our great cities, and, perhaps, no State suffers more in this regard than Victoria.
– All the States are alike, relatively.
– I do not think so, for in Victoria about half the population is in Melbourne.
– It is the same in South Australia and elsewhere.
– I have every sympathy with the desire to settle our returned men on the land, but we have to face the facts as we find them, and I cannot forget the number of failures I have known amongst heal thy, vigorous men who have taken up country life. My own opinion is that not more than 10 per cent. of the returned men would be successfully settled on the land, and the remainder will h ave to be provided for in the way of employment. Heaven deliver us from a position in which men, who have for years carried out certain duties, are discharged in order to make room for returned soldiers! We ought to be able to offer the returned men a variety of congenial occupations, but, as a matter of fact, our. industries are in a more backward state than I believe is the case in any other belligerent country. The iron ore industry, the cement Industry, and the establishment of more woollen mills, would provide considerable employment; and there are many other avenues that might be opened up. The Government ought to set to work at once, for without proper groundwork we cannot expect a lasting superstructure.
.- I quite agree that we should, as early as possible, pass legislation with the object of establishing many industries which I think could be carried on profitably in Australia, and would largely assist in the settlement of our returned men. I listened with great pleasure to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) on the subject of repatriation. No man more than the honorable member has devoted time and trouble to this work; and here I may say that if he had been a representative” of one of the Queensland electorates, a difficulty that seems to be troubling him now would have vanished. The honorable member ‘very properly urges the advisability of making provision for settling soldiers on the land, and expresses his fear that many of the returned men placed on land estimated to be of the value of £2,500 will abandon that land after bad seasons; and, considering -the price and conditions, I do not see that we can look forward to anything else. However, there is a remedy that I think I shall be able to make clear to the House. We have a very capable Minister for Repatriation, who has his heart in the pro-» per place for work of the kind; and he affords an illustration of the desirability of a parliamentary recess at the present juncture. The Minister for Repatriation, as leader of another place, is kept in Parliament while he is anxious to enter undisturbed upon the work of his Department; and the sooner we get into recess the sooner the scheme can be successfully launched.
I have recently had an opportunity of visiting some of the Commonwealth factories, and observing .how, wherever possible, employment is given to returned soldiers. I was particularly interested the other day, on visiting the Caulfield
Hospital, to see that “the whole of those there engaged in turning out artificial limbs had themselves lost limbs in the war. This, of course, insures the utmost sympathy in the work, and it was pleasing to see how these men, themselves fitted with artificial limbs, were able to move about, and quite easily and comfortably do their work.
To-day, we have heard of the number of regulations that have been issued in connexion with repatriation,’ and no doubt we shall hear of many more. We must not forget that, for the first time in the world, a scheme of this kind is being launched in a young country like this. In France, where, unfortunately, there has been long and bitter experience of war, it was only necessary to call into being schemes of the past,. We have never previously had occasion to consider such a scheme in Australia. We must learn by experience how it may best be carried out, and must frame regulations based on that experience.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has stated that a number of the returned men will desire to settle in the metropolitan areas. No doubt that is so, but that difficulty may be avoided if, as the part of our scheme of repatriation, returned soldiers are given the opportunity in rural districts to make homes for themselves and become independent. If they can be induced to occupy the land, its value will increase very rapidly. There is no reason why Australia should not succeed as the United States of America have done. The people of the United States saw fit to adopt a protectionist policy, which encouraged production, not only by .the primary, but also by the secondary, industries. The United States of America do not command the same variety of productions that we might have in Australia, but there are now some 100,000,000 of people there, whilst we have but 5,000,000 in Australia. There is room in this country for great expansion. I have no doubt that our young men who have shown so much pluck and determination in the prosecution of the war will, when they return, exhibit the same qualities, and succeed upon the land.
I do not think it is right to say that, because a certain number of soldiers who have returned maimed or in ill-health do not go upon the land, only 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, of our soldiers will be prepared to do so. The men referred to are physically unfit to go upon the land, and it would be nothing short of criminal to drive them on to a settlement and expect them to make a living there. These men might very well be employed in trades in the metropolitan centres, and provision should be, and is being made by the regulations under the Repatriation Act for their proper treatment. But I look forward to the time when we shall have from 100,000 to 200,000 soldiers returning who will he physically fit to undertake any work that men can do. Many of our soldiei-3 have already intimated that they would like to go upon the land after their return from the war. No fewer than 40,000 of them have already informed the Minister for Repatriation that it is their desire to go on the land when they return. It must be clear to honorable members that men who have had three or four years of life in the open will prefer rural occupations to work in warehouses and shops. I believe i,t will be found to be the desire of a great many of our returning soldiers to go upon the land and carve out an independence for themselves there, as many of the pioneers in the past have done, and they were not of better metal than our brave boys.
It has been stated that no provision is made to enable unmarried men to go upon the land and secure a home. I was a member of the Queensland Parliament when regulations were passed, under a Liberal Government, to enable any man who had not a home, but had a little money, say, £50 or £100, or land to that value, to obtain an advance of three times that value at 4 per cent, for twenty-one years, for the purpose of erecting a dwelling. The total cost of mortgage, releases of mortgage, plans for the dwelling and supervision, is only about £3 in each case through the Government Department. Provision was made also that a man desiring to go upon the land and in a position to pay one-fortieth of the cost of the land might apply to the Agricultural Bank for an advance of £200, which would be paid to him as he required the money during the construction of his home, for clearing his land, fencing it, or providing water. Under this provision any man or two men working together might do their work for themselves and be paid for it, and the advance might be obtained for a period of twenty years at 5 per cent. The land to which these provisions were applied was first class land, in good districts, and the price was fixed at from 10s. up to £2 per acre. A further provision was that the settler was given twenty years in which to pay 50 per cent, of the advance made to him, and there was to be no redemption for the first five years, only interest charges, and the balance to be paid in the twenty-first year. I believe that these provisions are in force in Queensland at the present time. But the State Government may require to obtain financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government by way of loan during the war for this work, and for railway construction through Crown agricultural lands.
On the question as to whether land is available for returned soldiers, I should like honorable members to know that if they desire to assist our returned soldiers by placing them in a position in which they may carve out for themselves an independence and a happy home, there is no State in which better facilities are offered for the purpose than are offered in Queensland. There is no scarcity of land there. Up to date we have only alienated between 5 and 6 per cent, of the public estate. We have in Queensland no less than 409,000,000 acres unalienated. Surely out of that area any amount of land may be obtained for a far greater number of settlers than would be represented by the number of our returning soldiers.
Unfortunately, some honorable members who live in the southern States do not visit’ Queensland to learn what the conditions of life there are. They imagine that the hardships which men on the land have to contend against in Queensland are greater than those which are met with in the other States, principally because of the character of the climate. I have had a great deal of experience in Queensland since I was fourteen years of age, and I say that life on the land is as comfortable in Queensland as it is in Victoria. I have explained some of the conditions under which people may obtain land in Queensland. I have said that they may obtain advances on the value of the land, and are not called upon to pay more than 50 per cent, of the purchase money in the first twenty years. For the convenience of settlers desiring to make their own improvements, a first advance of .-£200 is made, but they may secure another £1,000 at 5 per cent, based upon a valuation of 15s. m the £1. That is infinitely better than having to pay, say, £2,500 for a small area of land valued at from £20 to £40 an acre, and being obliged to pay not only_.interest on that sum but land and other taxation as well upon that valuation, instead of from £1 to £2.
– What interest is charged on the first £200 advanced?
– The interest charged is 5 per cent., but the purchase of the land is spread over a number of years. That system was in existence for some years before I left the Queensland Parliament. At the time I left I made inquiries to discover whether under that system the Agricultural Bank was losing money. I found that so far from losing money under the system, the bank made a slight profit on it. If any settler did fail, there was found no difficulty in getting another prepared to take up his liabilities and property. So far as advances for the construction of workers’ dwellings were concerned, there was not one instance in which there was a loss, though thousands of dwellings were erected under the conditions I have named.
I am sorry that when the Premiers of the States met to consider the matter, the Premier of Queensland was the only one who refused to go into the repatriation scheme. This makes it very much harder for any scheme of repatriation to be carried out by the Commonwealth. I hope some arrangement will be made by which the Minister for Repatriation could visit Queensland to inspect the lands available for settlement, and come to some agreement with the State Government to secure for returned soldiers land at the cheapest possible rate, and facilities for the transport of the produce of the land to market.
I should like honorable members io give attention to a scheme which, I think, would be found to be workable. In Queensland at the present time the Go vernment are faced with a difficulty, common to the Governments of all the States, in financing the construction of railways to lands available for settlement. An advance by the Commonwealth to the Queensland Government for the construction of a railway in the Wide Bay electorate of £1,000,000 would provide sufficient land, in close touch with existing markets, to meet the requirements of at least 15,000 returned soldiers.
– Would that laud be close to the land that is already settled ?
– It would be close to some, and within a reasonable distance of all. The only difference between the land which is not settled .and that which is settled is that the former has the advantage of a railway, whilst the latter has not. The lands of which I am speaking are of excellent quality, and the dairying industry in the locality is an exceedingly prosperous one. Within my own electorate there are no fewer than twelve dairy factories, nearly all of which are of a co-operative character. Consequently, a man does not require a very large capital with which to begin operations there, and has the Agricultural Bank to assist him. His cream is conveyed to the factory for him, and he is paid for his products, whether they be cream, milk, or cheese, every month. Further, it is always possible to combine dairying with pig-growing and maize cultivation. In the district of which I speak, maize-growing is very profitable. Quite a large number of young farmers from Victoria have settled there, and they have made more money than their fathers did in this State, and with a far less expenditure. Anybody who journeys through the country of which I am sneaking will find that the settlers are absolutely satisfied. The climate is an ideal one in winter, and not too bad in summer. The settlers usually work together, they assist in taking-off each other’s crops, and, as a result of their general co-operation, they do not feel the scarcity of labour as acutely as they would otherwise do. I do not know of a single farmer from the southern States who has settled upon these lands and who has regretted his action. That being so, I am sure that our hardy soldiers who will return to us after the war will be equally successful. Years ago we established Government experi- mental farms in the agricultural districts of Queensland for the purpose of teaching agriculturists what could be produced on the different varieties of soil to the greatest advantage. But there is no need for such establishments to-day. If our returned . soldiers are settled in the country to which I am directing attention, I am sure that the residents there will be only too proud to assist them, and to show in that way their appreciation of the magnificent services they have rendered to Australia. We know that in Manitoba, some years ago, a scheme was undertaken by which the Government gave to private enterprise alternate blocks of land conditionally upon private enterprise constructing a railway through them. But, now there is no necessity to encourage private individuals to do this. I feel convinced that if the Government of Queensland were asked by the Commonwealth Government to make so much land available in different districts conditionally upon the Commonwealth advancing to it by way of loan the. money necessary to build railways through those districts, the lines would be constructed without delay, principally for the benefit of returned soldiers. Thus thousands of soldiers would be settled in areas where there would be no risk of the land being thrown back upon the Government. Again, men returning from the war would have the benefit of all the information which the earlier settlers had to acquire at their own expense. In Queensland there is an Agricultural Department which undertakes the analyses of soils, so that every settler can be told exactly what his soil will produce, and thus the risk of planting something which it will not grow is obviated. In Queensland there are available hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful chocolate soil, such as is to be found at Warrnambool and other parts of Victoria where onions and potatoes are largely grown. There are also big tracts of scrub land, which could easily be cleared by returned soldiers. The first step taken in the cultivation of these lands is to fell the scrub. The scrub is allowed to lie until the leaves dry, then, upon a favorable day they are set on fire, and the fire burns off the scrub timber down to the stumps. Maize is then planted,’ and most prolific crops are obtained - crops ranging up to 160 bushels per acre. While the maize is growing, Rhodes grass is planted, and for five years afterwards the settlers keep their dairy cattle upon this grass, which, maintains as many as three cows to 2 acres. After that period, the Rhodes grass is allowed to dry, a fire is put into it, and nearly every stump is burned out of the ground. After that, the stumpjump plough is used. -The cost of preparing this land for intensive cultivation, is, therefore, a very small one, and about 15s. out of every £1 of expenditure is provided by the State Agricultural Bank. Thus a man is soon able to show what he is made of, and, as a rule, he experiences no difficulty in getting whatever assistance he may require from the local storekeeper. He is thus enabled to pay, not merely his annual interest and a proportion of his purchase, money, but also to improve his holding to such an extent that farmers from New South Wales and Victoria are very glad to give him from £8 to £10 per acre for it. Now is the time to arrange for putting some such scheme into operation, with a view to preparing for those soldiers who will return to us “unscathed” after the war. It is only the able-bodied men who will go upon the land, and we ought to let them have it upon the most favorable terms. Prior to their departure, we pledged ourselves that during their absence we would safeguard their interests in every way, and that, upon their return, adequate provision would be made for them. By doing what I have suggested we shall show them that we are determined to see that1 these pledges are respected. I sincerely hope that the Minister ‘will pay an early visit to Queensland, with a view to seeing whether he cannot make some arrangement with the Government of that State under which these lands will be made available for the settlement of our returned soldiers. The whole scheme ought to be so arranged that those who are now fighting for us overseas may be settled on these lands on the same terms as tens of thousands of men from the Old Country have been settled there. In other States - for instance, in Tasmania - although they have very fine industries established, they have not the land, and they have not got it available at the price that we have. Moreover, they cannot clear their country, because the trees are not of the character that will easily burn, as is the case in Queensland. It is a different class of timber altogether. We do not realize what a disadvantage of that kind is. I would dearly like honorable members representing the other States to visit -Queensland, so that they might see exactly what has .been done by young men who have settled there from other parts of Australia. Honorable members would be well satisfied, then, to do all possible to provide for still more men to follow and take up the good land that is awaiting. A visit of inspection would show that the disabilities that exist in other States are unknown there. There are such advantages as the cheapness of the land, and its readiness of clearing; and then there is the fact that nobody has got in ahead and already picked out the best blocks. The areas to which I refer have not been thrown open indiscriminately, but there are huge tracts of good land being utilized for cattleraising, which will remain so right up to the time that the Government throw them open for selection. In this district, namely, Wide Bay, there are 648,000 head of cattle. Those figures alone indicate the magnitude of the electorate. It is nearly the size of Tasmania, and there is room for a very large settlement, seeing that “there are still 7,700,000 acres unalienated which are under lease from the Government to those who are now growing stock upon it. With respect ‘ to a great deal of this territory, notices had been given, before the war. for the termination of the leases. Some of those leases have lapsed, and the Government are now granting only occupation licences. This system- amounts to the giving of three months’ notice, I understand, when the Government can cut it up and make it available for closer settlement.
A great deal of the area has been surveyed. A railway line has also been surveyed, but the trouble is that construction could not be gone on with owing to war conditions, whereas but for that factor the line would have been built and the land made available for closer settlement. There is no such thing as having to buy that land back or being required to give compensation . for depriving a man of his lease. Those areas merely await the construction of the line ; then they can be thrown open for selection for closer settlement. It is all good and fertile land. All that is required is an. arrangement with the Queensland Government by which the territory in question may be made available for our returned boys. They would thus gain an enormous advantage compared with what could be provided for them in any other part of the Commonwealth. I make that statement without fear of contradiction, having traversed that country over and over again. I have spent many years in it, and have followed its development from the time when it contained 2,000 inhabitants to the present period, when there are about 96,000, if you include Gympie.
– Is it not a fact that Queensland is inviting any soldiers who are Australians to go there, where they will be treated the same as though they were Queensland men?
– I am sure that, no matter what Government may be in power, all are imbued with the same idea, namely, that any soldier from any part of Australia will be just as welcome as though he were Queensland born.
– That spirit should be reciprocated right through the land settlement policies of the States.
– And of the Empire,’ too.
– Yes. What I would like to see would be a visit from a party of men competent to judge - chosen agriculturists - so that they might view the acreage available in every State. Those judges would then be in a position to say where the best land .was available, and at the lowest possible price.
– Will returned men settling there be the ultimate owners of their homes, or will their lands be leasehold ?
– Up to the time when the present Labour Government came into power we had given the freehold. Now they give a perpetual lease; but I think the Federal Government could make arrangements, and that the Labour Government in Queensland would be so sympathetic that they would grant land for soldiers on freehold.
– All the other States grant the ownership of these men’s homes.
– And I would be sorry to think that any Queensland Government would refuse to do the same.
– I do not think they would refuse.
– No; it should be easy for the Minister for Repatriation to make arrangements to that end with the Queensland Labour Government.
There should be no such thing as water difficulty in the areas to which I amreferring. The land has the advantage of being a mixture of scrub land and beautiful flats and forest. I travelled in a motor over one strip of ground, from one station to another, for more than 12 miles, where there was scarcely a tree to be removed; and my track took me alongside a fine stream. Not only was the soil rich, but there was plenty of water and very little, if any, clearing to be done. That is the type of country on which to repatriate our soldiers.
Sitting suspendedfrom 6.30 to 7.45p.m.
.- I listened with great interest to the speech made by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and I think it is well that Victorian members should know what Queensland is doing for the repatriation of our soldiers. I hope, therefore, that the newspapers will make reference to the speech, so that the Victorian Government, which, in my opinion, is doing least of all, may have a stimulus to do more in this direction in order to prevent what I believe will take place, namely, the migration of soldiers and their dependants to the northern State. I have advised my fellow-Victorians, upon their return, that if they want a really square deal as returned soldiers, they should go to Queensland, and that is why I interposed while the honorable memberwas speaking to ask if it had been publicly stated that the Queensland Government gave a welcome not only to their own men but to every Australian soldier who had offered himself, and was prepared, if necessary, to make the supreme sacrifice in defence of the liberties which we all enjoy. In my judgment, Queensland stands on a pinnacle of what might be termed Australia’s gratitude to the men who have offered their services in this war.
Next to Queensland, I think, comes Western Australia. I have given some study to the position in that State, having been twice there this year, and I understand that if a returned soldier desires to go upon the land, but is not able to do the hard work himself, he can take a mate with him. The blocks are surveyed in sufficient area to support a family, and there is a full description of the timber, the quality of the soil, and other necessary information. When a settler has made £50 or £100 worth of improvements, he has only to apply to the Government for assistance, and within a week or ten days an officer of the Department prepares a valuation, upon which an advance is made from the Agricultural Bank, so that a returned soldier settling on the land in Western Australia is able to earn wages from the first day he gets his land. I fear, however, that owing to the stringency of the money market caused by the war, the Western Australian Government are experiencing difficulty in financing the scheme. I trust the Commonwealth Government will give all the assistance possible, not only to the Agricultural Bank in that State, but to any other Agricultural Banks that are doing good work in the interests of our soldiers.
There is no doubt that the potentialities of Queensland are greater than those of any other State. I remember, fortyfive years ago, how the Darling Downs country was spoken of. In my recent visit to the district I verified all that I heard then, and I understand there are other areas of country, equally as good, stretching right across that vast State. I was very glad, indeed, to hear from the honorable member for Wide Bay that a hearty welcome will be given by that State to any Australian soldier upon his return.
– I think that all the States have even gone so far as to include Imperial soldiers in their schemes of repatriation.
– I am glad to hear it, but I hope the other States will do better than Victoria has done in the past.
– You do not include Wannon,do you ?
– I am referring to the whole of Victoria.
I look forward to the time when, under an efficient system of land settlement, home farms will be established to bridge that terrible hiatus between the school age and adult years of the rising generation, together with educational institutions in which, according to their mental ability, the girls and boys of Australia will be able to receive efficient instruction in secondary or technical education, or domestic or other callings. I look for the establishment of these “home” farms - described by what I regard as the most beautiful word in the English language - clustering around the agricultural colleges, where all those interested in the various branches of production may receive advice as to cultivation methods and the course to be pursued in the fight against any of those diseases or pests which so often retard success in our primary industries. By this means, I think, it will be possible to deal with that unfortunate army of unemployed which seems to develop, even in the highest form of civilization. How much better would it be if, by some such system as this, we could satisfactorily settle our people upon the land ; and if, in this way, we could insure the future of our returning soldiers ? My reading of the various medical journals have confirmed me in the belief that if a man has merely received what is described as shell shock it may be very difficult indeed, afterwards, for him to earn his living. No one can say what nervous disorders may follow upon shell shock. I remember that once when Mr. Page, the surgical adviser on the Great Western railway, was lecturing to students, he said that if ever they met a case of nervous affection they should endeavour, if possible, to ascertain if the person affected had at any earlier period of his career been in a railway collision and sustained a spinal injury, because, even if twenty years had elapsed, they could then place their finger on the cause of the trouble.
I repeat that I hope the Commonwealth Government will, if possible, render some assistance to the Agricultural Bank in Western Australia.
– It is quite a common practice in commercial life, if a man takes the whole of the security, to carry the person on.
– In one case that came under my notice in the Wangaratta district, a poor soldier who came back from the Front found he had to face a doctor’s bill for £90 for attendance on his wife. In my opinion, that doctor ought to be in Pentridge, because he is worse than a robber who knocks a person down in the street.
– Most men in the medical profession have rendered splendid service.
– And they have gone on strike now, in war-time, with the result that friendly societies, which are paying for soldiers in their absence, are in difficulties.
– They have copied the industrialists.
– If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) will only leave me alone, I will get along much better. I want to speak to-night without any heat; and we cannot agree, at all events in this House. Let me repeat that in New South Wales 790 widows of men who have died at the Front have no fear of the landlord’s knock every Monday morning, because, as a result of what the Government have done, they are required to pay a peppercorn rental of only1s. per year. Can any honorable member say that anything like this has been done in Victoria ?
– We have established dozens of such homes in our electorate
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give me the exact number.
– I can show you letters from some of the people, if you like.
– Were these homesestablished by the State?
– No; by local effort.
– Can the honorable member name one that has been established in Victoria? I believe there is one up at Brunswick; but, as I have said, there are 790 of them in New South Wales.
– Is that the movement initiated by Dr. Arthur?
– A cottage has been given to a widow in the Brunswick district but it was subscribed for, and presented to her, by her neighbours. She has not to thank the State for it. Urgency might be used by the Commonwealth Government as a reason for requesting the State of Victoria to do what the State of New South Wales has done. Thus might be created emulation between the States in helping our returned men, and the widows and children and other dependants of those who have fallen.
Early in the war I strongly urged that the pensions and allowances should be the same to officers and privates, and L am still of the opinion that no difference should be made. I am disgusted that we do not do for the women and children dependent on our soldiers what is done for the women and children dependent on New Zealand soldiers. In New South Wales a widow with one child gets £2 7s. 6d., but a widow and child does not get so much in Victoria. According to the Age. of the 3rd May last, New Zealand allows 10s. 6d. for every soldier’s child. We used to expect a poor little child to be brought up on 4 1/2 d. a day, but now have generously increased the allowance by 25 per cent., making it 6d. a day.
– The higher allowance in New Zealand is the result of conscription.
– Then why are not the allowances higher in Great Britain, France, Germany, and other countries in which there is conscription? It is hard to get a meal in Melbourne for 6d., and, as a medical man, I declare it to be infamy to require a child to be brought up on 6d. a day. We should not allow less for the upbringing of the children of our private soldiers than we would pay for the upbringing of our own children. In New Zealand, a widow and one child gets £2 12s. 6d. a week, or a little more than in New South Wales, and the widow with five children £4 14s. 6d., whereas in Victoria the allowance would be only £2 12s. 6d. We were allowing only £2 4s. 0 1/2 d. for a wife and five children, but the allowance has been increased. It saddens me to compare the expenditure by thousands of millions of pounds for the slaughter of individuals with the expenditure to maintain life. Some say that the defence of our civilization is not worth what it is costing, but I differ from them. Australia is setting an example to the Old World. I wish to God that poor old England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales had the franchise that Australia has. If the same franchise existed there many of the present members of the Imperial Parliament would be swept into oblivion, together with the House of Loi:ds. There, however, only those who own or rent property are given a vote.
Honorable members who visited our Clothing Factory to-day learned a lesson, and must have made mental notes which will bear good fruit. The State Accident Insurance Department of Victoria has made a profit of £22,250. That profit would have been much larger were the in surance of lives undertaken. In the late nineties I had a return laid before the Victorian Assembly which showed that the companies insuring the lives of the Victorian railway employees made a profit of over £250,000 in a few years. The premiums were collected for them without expense, and the companies paid out only about £30,000 for premiums aggregating about £300,000. Although it does not insure lives, the State Accident Insurance Department of Victoria is. able to return 25 per cent, of its premiums. Those who insured last year had ls. out of every 4s. they paid returned to them, which lessened the premiums for this year. Those who have the interests of the rural population a.t heart must agree with me that even if the loss on the manufacture of wire-netting were a little more than £1,000 a year on the average - the loss on the Pentridge factory has been £4,784 for four years - the money would be well spent. Now that the price of wire-netting is so high probably a profit will be made. Wirenetting should be manufactured by the State, and given to the farmers at cost price.
– I took no exception ‘o the establishment of national workshops to be run by_ soldiers.
– I asked the head of the Government if he would bring before Cabinet the need for requesting the State Government to provide for the carriage of wheat at a zone rate. My question was courteously answered, but the reply gave me no satisfaction. Wherever wheat is placed on the railway, it should be carried to the seaboard at the same price. I think it is admitted by those who understand the question that 4s. for wheat delivered at a railway station would give the farmers a fair profit, and with national railways we ought to be able to adopt the zone system, which has proved so beneficial in Hungary, Holland, and other European countries. In Holland you can travel from frontier to frontier for ls. 8d. fourth class, which is the class in which, as a student, I used to travel. My suggestion is that the farmer should receive 4s. per bushel for his wheat, less the zone charge for railway freight.
– Who would bear the cost of haulage ?
– It could be paid out of the common fund, as the Wheat Pool payments are made.
Those who visited the Clothing Factory to-day must have been astonished at the quality of the tweed they saw. The patterns were such that no member would hesitate to wear the tweed. Even the King of England could wear a suit made of this cloth. A coat, vest, pair of pants, and a cap to match, is supplied to our returned soldiers for 30s.
– It is good material, and well made.
– The cloth is made of pure wool, without admixture of cotton. When this cloth is sold to private factories at 4s. 6d., they can supply suits to the Government for 28s. 6d. From these facts, honorable members may judge of the advantage it would be to our soldiers, and to the community at large if the spinning and weaving of cloth were entirely under the control of the Commonwealth. I understand that our Factory submits a tender in competition with outside firms, which cut the price pretty fine, but it can make at a lower rate. When outside work is needed, the mean between the highest and lowest price submitted is taken, and the amount of work to be done is apportioned between the various factories applying for it. I have here samples of handwoven cloth. I regret, however, that the Government countenances what is, in effect, sweating. That is, if the returned soldier who is engaged in weaving is drawing a pension pf 15s. a week, he is not allowed to earn more than 27s., but if he has not a pension he may earn 42s., or 10s. more if a married man, though the pension is deducted even in the case of married men. The excuse for this is that the men are learning their trade. They want to be paid 2s. a yard when they become expert in weaving, that is, for the double-width piece. They could make 6 yards a day, and thus earn 12s. They should not be fined or sweated by the deduction of their pensions. Near the corner of Queen and Latrobe streets - at 246 Queen-street - the men are making their own looms. I understand that any one with a free wrist can earn his living by weaving. I wish the Minister to allow here what the Red Cross allows in Sydney. Let the men be paid 2s. per yard of double width. The cost of the tweed that is made may be calculated in this way. The sum of ls. 6d. per yard is allowed for weaving, the wool costs 3s. 4d., the finishing about 6d., and overhead charges about 7d. That works out at 6s. 4d. per yard double width. These woollens are sold wholesale at 15s. per yard, and retailed at £1 per yard. One of the greatest buyers of wool in Australia, whose operations have been affected by the lack of shipping accommodation, has accepted a position as wool appraiser to the Commonwealth, and he assures me that this cloth in England would bring far more than 20s. per yard, and I appeal to the Minister to see that these men receive 2s. per yard, without any deductions in respect of any pension drawn by them.
I have to thank the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) for a series of questions which he put to-day to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. He asked -
How many returned soldiers are now engaged in hand-loom weaving ?
The reply was -
Seven in Victoria.
His second question was -
How many of such are now qualified workers ?
The reply was -
The honorable member also asked -
What remuneration did they receive as learners, and did this include their pensions t
The Minister’s answer was -
Including pensions, the men receive £2 2s. per week in the case of the single men, and, in the case of the married men, £2 2s. per week, with an additional allowance of 3s. 6d. per week for each child under the age of sixteen years.
In other words’, pensions are deducted, single men not being allowed to receive more than £2 2s. per week each including their pensions. Instead of seven returned soldiers now being engaged in hand-loom weaving in Victoria, there ought to be seventy; but can we blame the men for not going on with this work when, if they are in receipt of a pension of 15s. per week, they are not permitted to earn more than 27s. per week in addition?
– How can they live on such a wage?
– I do not know. I should like the “bosses” to try to live on the same wage. The honorable member for Echuca went on to ask -
What is their remuneration now as qualified workers, and does this include their pensions ?
Tha reply was -
Their payment is now being continued as “trainees.
The fifth question was -
Were they promised remuneration at 2s. per yard “ plain work “ as soon as they became proficient?
The Minister answered -
This hand-weaving school was established by the State War Council, and inquiries from that body have elicited the assurance that no such promise was given.
The sixth question was -
Is the Department awa.ro that 6 yards per day is estimated to be a fair day’s work, or, translated into pay, £3 12s. per week?
The answer was -
Six yards per day is considered by those who have a knowledge of the industry to be a fair average production.
Finally the honorable member asked -
Will the Government, in fulfilment of the policy of preference to returned wounded soldiers, give first preference to this industry *y supplying them with all the yarn they require at cost price?
I call special attention to the reply -
The Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong are making available all the yarn they can spare, having regard to their own requirements for the making of khaki cloth to supply the Army. It is difficult to see how preference can be given except in this way.
The explanation of the shortage is that if these returned soldiers would agree to supply only Flinders-lane warehousemen there would be no trouble. They want, however, the right to supply tailors direct, and so to save the public the extortionate profits made by warehousemen. That is why these restrictions are imposed upon their output. It is said that they are interfering with private enterprise. Each soldier could work his own loom in his own house, and, if proper encouragement were given, we could have in a little while, not seven, but 700 so employed. On the three occasions that I visited the Factory there were more than seven men working. There is a gentleman there who can teach any man in three months how to earn his living in this way ; but since better wages are offering outside we cannot expect the men to remain. I have no complaint to make against those in charge, but I invite honorable members to consider the difference between the pay they receive and the miserable pittances to which these men are restricted.
– The whole woollen industry can be developed here.
– I am going to Sydney to inquire into the industry there, and if I find that the small progress made here is due to the responsible officers I shall give them a warm quarter of an hour. Will any one say that it is reasonable not to let these men earn whatever they can in addition to the pensions they receive because of injuries obtained by them while fighting at the Front?
The menace of the future is finance. The old historical rules of finance must break beneath the shock of the frightful and stupendous debt caused by this war. The interest on such indebtedness . would enslave the workers for ever. It would imperil our industries by the introduction of a revenue Tariff, and thus destroy the Protectionist policy. Every Australian who loves his country should pledge himself to efficient and real1 Protection in order to supply every want the human needs. No country offers to the man willing to work such possibilities as are offering in Australia to-day.
Coming to the question of the insurance of the lives ,of our soldiers, I regret that we are not treating our men as well as the Government of the United States of America are treating their Forces. The National Mutual Life Assurance Society of Australia Limited has done something to help those of its policy-holders who enlist. Any policy-holder who was insured before the war is not required to pay any increased premium if he goes to the Front, but in respect of those who have since insured their lives a penalty of from £7 10s. to £10 per £100 is exacted while they are on active service. The chairman of the association, at its annual meeting, in March, 1917, said-r-
Thousands of our policy-holders- exactly how many it is impossible for me to say - have felt compelled to offer their lives in defence of the Empire and its ideals of liberty and humanityUp to the end of our last financial year 498 had been called upon for the full sacrifice, and our death claims were increased. Notwithstanding these unexpected and, in a sense, unprovided for claims, the total is only 77 per cent, of the expectation.
In other words, the anticipated mortality has not been realized. In the December issue of Munsey’s Magazine there appeared an article, by Arthur Hunter, entitled “ Pensions and Insurance for our Fighting Men,” which explained the United States governmental scheme for making just provision for its sailors, soldiers, and their dependants. In that article it is stated that the life of every officer- and private in the United States’ Army is insured for £800, and, that, in addition, any man may insure up to £1,200 at pre-war rates.
I have something now to say in regard to broken promises. The following is a letter which I received from that friend of the soldiers, the late Sir John Madden, shortly before his death -
My Dear Dr. Maloney. - I am very grateful to you for your most kind letter of friendly goodwill and wise advice. I quite agree with you that the- Nation’s promise is so deeply graven to our noble and self-sacrificing soldiers that none can bc so base as to deny it reverence to the full. With warm thanks and every good wish,
Very sincerely yours,
Let me remind the House what Sir John Madden said to our men who went to the Boer war. I was charged at the time with being a pro-Boer, and I was. I thought the war unjust, and said so publicly. I did’ not think that Britain, as the result of that war, would write one of the most glorious pages in her history as she did when she gave the two crushed Boer Republics their freedom and a franchise which even Englishmen in England have not been permitted to enjoy. No one fought harder than I did to secure justice for those of our men who returned from the Beer war. They were vilely treated by the State Government, promises made by the Government of the day being scandalously broken. As bearing on the point, I propose to read the following letter, dated 5th November, 1915, which I received from the late Sir John Madden in answer to an inquiry I made as to a controversy then proceeding: 5th November, 1915.
Dear Dr. Maloney.- I hope that you will forgive my delay in replying to your note of the 29th ult., but I have been greatly occupied, and I desired to turn up for you the incidents to which your recollection was turning. I did not, as you seem to think, “ promise ns LieutenantGovernor, on behalf of the Victorian Government, that soldiers who went to the South
African war would, upon their return, receive preferential consideration for State employment” in so many words, but, after informing myself as to the late “Mr. Allan McLean’s views and wishes on the matter, for he was then Premier, I did, after expressing to the Contingent which was leaving for the war, in March, 1900, the admiration and grateful feeling of the people of Victoria, say to the effect that their earnest hope was for the safe return of them all, and that the Government desired to make Victoria the most attractive place on earth to them, and would see that every reasonable thing which would draw them home after the war, and keep them there in comfort and with means to prosper, would be, so, far as possible, done. Later, a returned soldier, named Williams, wrote to the Argus a letter, which was published on 13th July, 1901, complaining that that promise had not been kept. X wrote to Mr. Williams on the 14th July, 1901, a letter, which is “reproduced in Hansard, volume 98 (1901), at page 1530. That letter was referred to by the late Sir Thomas Bent, who raised a question of privilege in re- ‘ spect of its publication by the Argus, and a debate ensued, which appears in the same volume at page 1529, et seq. Very truly yours,
I have read that letter in case any honorable member should question my statement that Victoria .did not do its duty to the soldiers who returned from the South African war, and, as I showed earlier, has not, in comparison with New South Wales, done its duty to the widows of the men who died at the Front.
The Argus of the 24th September, 1901, has a report headed: “Returned soldier looking in vain for work: A bitter complaint.” It is there reported that ex -Trooper ‘W. E. Williams, of the Bushmen’s Contingent, went to the Railway Department in search of work, and was willing to accept any employment in order to earn a living. He was received by one official, who demanded of him, “ What the deuce right have you to get work any more than any of the other unemployed in the town?” Then, later, getting a letter from Sir George Turner to Sir Alexander Peacock, he applied at the Metropolitan Board, and Was medically examined at Spencerstreet. According to his statement in the Argus -
There, to my amusement, I was told that I Was disqualified through deafness. That was the first time I had ever heard of that. The medical examination when I enlisted was particularly strict, and none of the doctors in South Africa ever discovered that I was deaf. I went to s=ee Sir John Madden, after receiving a very kind letter from him, which he has given me permission to make public. He was astonished when I told him I had been rejected on the ground of deafness, and said to me, “ Well, I cannot understand it; you hearas well as I do.” His letter to me was as follows : -
St. Kilda, 14th July, 1901.
Dear Mr, Williams,
I have rend your exceedingly interesting and just complaint in the Argus of yesterday. Your recital of my statement to your corps when leaving for South Africa is quite accurate, and it embodied, I am sure, what was then, and, I believe, is now, the genuine feeling of the people of Victoria, as I know it did the feeling of the Government. The service of your corps cannot ever be overestimated, either by Australia or by the Empire. The men of that corps specially answered, with magnificant alacrity, to an anxious call made by the Government of Victoria itself, at a time when most of the glitter was out of the war, and when labour and danger were unmistakably ahead, and Victoria is not the country to forget it. I am sure that the present Government will readily see to it, and Ihave written to the honorable the Premier to assure him that your statements are correct.
Believe me, dear sir,
Very truly yours, (Signed) Johnmadden.
Most of them have gone back to South Africa in despair, incensed at the Victorian Government for the shameful repudiation of their undertaking.
The warnings of the past shouldmakeus careful of the present and the future. That great man, Sir John Madden, is now silent, but as he passes through the shadows. I express towards him the homely good wish, “ May God rest him.” He fought all the time, and I think every honorable member of this House will fight, for justice for the returned soldier. We are told that only seven men are employed at the weaving factory ; there could be seventy men fully occupied. There is an unlimited demand for the cloth that is being produced. The cost of it is only 6s. 4d. per yard. If it were sold at 10s. wholesale to all tailors, and at 12s. to any one who would like to. buy a length to have it made up by a tailor, there would be a good profit. But the Government will not help these men.
I have finished what I rose to say. I hope that the repatriation scheme will be carried out so well that the experience gained will be useful in dealing with the unemployed problems in the different States, and in evolving a system which will provide an opportunity to any man or woman who desires to make a livingon the laud. Through the educating in fluence of the moving pictures, people know how woman’s activities in connexion with the land have been extended in the Old Country. We are able to see them working in the fields, and the monthly periodicals give statistics as to the many and varied callings in which women are now finding employment. One means of insuring a success of the settlement of soldiers on the land will be to make the farms homely, and country life more attractive. Nowadays amusements can be taken to the country to a far greater extent than was possible in the past. There is no little collection of people in a village but can have its picture show. Mechanics’ institutes can be enlarged, circulating libraries can be established, and various other recreations and amusements can be provided to make country life more agreeable than ‘it has been. Country wages will require attention, and the conditions of life generally must be improved. Let the farmer have a fair deal by the fixation of the price of his wheat at the station, and the introduction of the zone system of carriage, and we may then firmly hope that those who go upon the land will prosper. The more the land produces in grain, fruit, and live stock, the more the railways will pay, and if the Commonwealth and the States will cooperate in this land settlement movement, it should be impossible for it to fail. There may be a few individual failures at the first. If so, let the Government profit by every warning, and of advice that is given, no matter from which side of the House. Let them regard it as prompted, not by antagonism to them as a Government, but by a desire to mend where a fault is disclosed. Let the Government also assure the weaving factory the plentiful supply of wool to which it is entitled, and within two months there willbe seventy men working there, and the example will be followed in all the other States. Any man who has fair eye-sight and a supple wrist can learn to weave. But do not deduct these men’s pensions; let them receive the full 2s. per yard, and I shall be proud to take the glad tidings to them.
.- The Repatriation Act and this amending Bill are the mere skeletons of the repatriation scheme, and necessarily so. We are giving enormous power to the Minister who has to administer this legislation; that is unavoidable. The Minister is covering untrodden ground. He has to originate nearly everything connected with the repatriation of returned soldiers, and his difficulties are such that he certainly ought to have the utmost sympathy of every member of the Legislature. I know that the enormous responsibility which we are putting in his hands is essential under existing conditions; he has unlimited power, even beyond the Executive of which he is a member, and Parliament has very little power so far as the extension of the Department is concerned. We have merely to provide for the rudiments of what is to grow into the biggest concern ever controlled by any one in Australia. This trust in the Minister must continue for a considerable period. It is impossible to estimate all that will be required until we know the proportions that this scheme will ultimately assume. I know very well that, from day to day, the Minister is confronted with some new question that arises, and to deal with which no provision has been made. The burden thrown upon the Minister is one that very few men would envy, but it has to be borne for a considerable time, until he, the Government and Parliament realize something of the proportions of this scheme, and the consequent financial liability of the country.
Almost daily, the Minister finds it necessary to issue regulations for the conduct of his Department. A considerable number have already been issued, and they are likely to increase enormously. The Minister should look the matter squarely in the face, and when a fair idea of the proportions of the scheme has been formed by him, he should not overlook the necessity of seeking to make such regulations as he has found necessary from day to day a part of the Statute itself.
– It would then be necessary to pass a Bill to vary them.
– Of course. The effect of that would be to make Parliament responsible.
– The regulations are all complementary to the Act.
– I know that they are; but they give unlimited power to a Minister to deal with an expenditure which may amount to £40,000,000.
– Hear, hear ! I am glad that the honorable member sees it.
– I have seen it for some time. We cannot quote a similar case in the history of Australia.
– Or in the history of the world.
– The point I wish to stress is that, no matter how the power created under this Bill may be extended from day to day, or no matter how the regulations may be enlarged, it is not the work of this Parliament, nor a work for which we have any responsibility, because Parliament has not legislated upon the matter. Therefore, it is the duty of Parliament, as soonas we realize the extent of our responsibilities, and consequent liabilities in connexion with this scheme, to incorporate in a consolidating Bill whatever power the Minister may find it necessary to provide for himself by way of regulations. Whatever can be done by regulation should be provided for within the four corners of an Act of Parliament. It is all very well for honorable members to take up the attitude that the method at present adopted must continue for a time, but I remind them that nothing succeeds lake success. If any one can make a success of this scheme, the present Minister (Senator Millen) is likely to do so; and if he does, his name will be immortalized. If ever a Minister controlling a Department deserved the utmost help and sympathy that can be ‘given to him by Parliament, it is the Minister for Repatriation.
I have no desire to lecture any one. I like to do the right thing myself, and expect others to do the same; but I cannot help expressing my feelings without a desire to tread heavily on the corns of any person. There is prevalent an unfair spirit, probably unintentional, in regard to the treatment of soldiers, not only during their period of service, but also upon their return. The best that we can do for the man who has come back with a clean record is not good enough for him; but there is a disposition, particularly outside the House -I will put it that way - to look for trouble, to Canvass it, to go here and there and say, “ Look here, you have been treated unfairly, don’t you think you should be treated a bit better;” or even to put the position in a more discreditable light. The responsibilities upon the Minister are so great, and the difficulties of his task are so varied, and almost innumerable that the least we ought to do is, first, to give him the opportunity to put things straight if they are wrong, and then to give him all the help and sympathy we can. I have often felt that I would like to say this, and that it was necessary for some one to say : that the person who would use a returned soldier for political purposes is meaner than the devil himself.
The honorable member for Maribrynong (Mr. Fenton) this afternoon, before he concluded his remarks, spoke of the nonfulfilment of pledges given by employers to returned soldiers. I am quite sure that what he said was spoken in a good spirit, but I fear that occasionally complaints, which possibly are intended to be specific, are regarded outside this House as being of a general character. Far from this being the case, some of the finest examples of patriotism are to be found among the big companies in Australia.. They have not only made up the difference between the soldiers’ pay and the very much higher pay which their employees who have enlisted were drawing, but they have also given evidence of the fact that they have not forgotten the men who have left their service to enlist. They have restored them to their old positions, in many cases despite the fact that their health has been so much impaired that they cannot do one-half the work which they could do before they went away to the war. When it is said that employers have broken their pledges, we ought to be told whether those are solitary cases or not. We should not let the impression become general that all employers have been doing this. It is quite possible that some of them have been doing it, but the day will come when it will be known who have done it, and they will receive their reward as long as they live. It will be a wellmerited reward. If there are some delinquents among the employers in this regard there are also some delinquents among Governments in Australia.
– Hear, hear; I said it!
– It is no credit to a Government or to a private firm.
A great deal has been said as to the manner in which returned men are to be re-established in civil life, and the most popular idea of doing so is to put them on the land; but that is the most dan gerous idea of all, and certainly it is one in which it will be a most difficult matter to form anything like a reliable estimate of cost. First of all, we have to remember that in most cases the trench life of those men who have done their bit heroically, and come back to us after twoor three years’ service, has been such as to unfit even the best of them to return to the occupations which they left, but to which I hope many of them will return. The honorable member for _ Flinders (Mr. Bruce) will admit that life in the trenches has worked such a change in the men that it will take them some time before they can get into collar again in their old occupations, and be as effective employees as they were before they went to the war. The life they have led will also produce in some men a complete distaste for the occupations which they filled prior to going. to the war.
– Especially if they were indoor occupations.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) told us this afternoon, in interesting fashion, of the excellent opportunities in Queensland for settling men on the land, and he evidenced his enthusiastic “belief that there will be a great desire for country life on the part of returned men who have not been on the land before. It is estimated, he said, that some 40,000 soldiers have intimated such a desire, through the Repatriation Department, and I can quite believe it, because there are enticing opportunities when we hear that for this purpose some of the best land in Australia has been purchased. It. is quite natural that a number of the men will jump at the chance to get away from the desk or the counter, and a sedentary life.
– They will have seen the effects of intense culture in France.
– That is so, and no doubt regard it as presenting an attractive sort of life.
– Especially if they get land from £1 to 30s. an acre.
– I remind honorable members that, while farming and agriculture, dairying particularly, is all right when a man has a natural bent for it, he starts with a great handicap. There is much to learn about the land nowadays, and it is not rule-of-thumb business, but the mixing of the soil with brains that achieves success.
– Numbers will get the necessary information imparted to them without any trouble.
– And there are numbers who will not.
-Do not say that.
– In business we must have regard to matters of fact, and these men must not be left to depend on the kindness of the bighearted neighbour, like my honorable friend the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). When I entered the South Australian Parliament along with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), about twentyfive years ago, there was a great cry about the wicked squatter eating the people’s grass, and it was proposed to solve all the problems of life and troubles of humanity by taking men out of the wicked gaslight cities and putting them on the land. The honorable member to whom I have just referred went in for this business wholeheartedly and energetically.
– And we opened up the Murray.
– We also opened up the parched plains of the North, and put people in dry country on indifferent soil, where there were no facilities for marketing produce.
– And also, I suppose, on land where they were flooded ?
– It was proposed to settle the south-east of the State, but people would not go there for fear of being flooded. That cry about placing the people on the land has been increasing during the last twenty-five years, and a proper cry it is; but I am distressed beyond measure that the efforts in that direction have not proved a success.
– They have been a success in Queensland.
– The honorable member can see nothing but rising Queensland, morning, noon and night, and I do not mind admitting that the possibilities of that State are sufficient to make it the most populous in Australia, not even excepting the mother State. But if the honorable member had told the whole truth, he would have admitted that Queensland has been cribbing, not raw men, but experienced men from the other States to make her lands blossom as the rose.
– They came on their own initiative.
– And, God bless them, they did well!
– They would not leave Queensland now.
– I should blame them if they did. At the same time, putting ‘trained, experienced men on the land is a very different proposition from settling raw, inexperienced material.
– There are some of the best Victorian farmers in Queensland.
– But Victoria had previously obtained these farmers from South Australia, which is at the base of our national prosperity, so far as agriculture is concerned. I desire honorable members to recall to their mind all the men who have gone from the pick and shovel, from the office or the shop, to the land with very limited means, and also the scores and hundreds of welltodo men who have put their sons on the land with any amount of capital.
– And still those with a little money succeed.
– They very often do better than those with a lot of money. With an intimate knowledge of land settlement for the last twenty-five or thirty years–
– In South Australia.
– In Australia.
– Not in Queensland.
– I am sorry to say that a large percentage of the men who in that time have gone on the land are not there to-day, and have not been for a long period. The root of the matter is that, during the last ten or twelve years particularly, the metropolitan areas have been made too attractive.
– We must make the country attractive.
– I should be glad to have some suggestion from the honorable member to that end. First, it must be remembered that a man on the land cannot run the eight-hours system ; if he tries he will soon be off the land.
– A man would be a lunatic to try it.
Mr.RICHARDFOSTER.- Then there must be a number of lunatics, because they return to the towns to do it. It is no use leading the returned soldier to believe that he will find an earthly paradise on the land.
– He will get a home of his own.
– He would sooner have a home of his own alongside a theatre; and such facts must be faced. This is just where there is a possibility of losses that may run into millions if we are not careful. There are two principal ways in which we can settle soldiers generally on the land. Of course, a considerable portion of them came off the land originally, and I am not now alluding to them. Such men may have no money, but they have agricultural experience, and the repatriation scheme will present to them the opportunity of a lifetime.
– Some of their friends will go with them.
– Somuch the better. But we must not imagine that we shall successfully settle returned soldiers on the land - that is, inexperienced men - if we scatter them here and there all over the country.
– That should not be done.
– It must not be done. They mustnot be left to themselves ordependent on their neighbours for instruction.
– There are experimental farms.
– And poor, miserable specimens some of these farms are. The ideal plan would be to send the men to some of our best wheat-growers, but that, of course, is impossible; and, therefore, they must be grouped under the public officer, with a big philanthropic heart, who is prepared to devote his life and his days to their interests. We shall not find a large percentage of these returned soldiers successful in agriculture or wheat growing, in the ordinary sense of the words. Wheat growing is not all “beer and skittles” to-day; there is not much “ in it “ for anybody. A much better prospect is presented in dairying; and in this branch of country lifethe men could be kept together under proper supervision, with butter factories at hand. Dairying may not be very laborious, but it is miserably trying work every day of the week, Sundays included ; and it is more difficult to obtain labour in big dairying farming than perhaps in any other branch of industry.
– Milking machines are solving a good deal of the difficulty.
– That is not so; because milking machines require to be operated by labour. I believe that a much more attractive life, and possibly the life freest from really arduous toil, may be provided for our returned soldiers by establishing them in big settlements for fruit-growing.
– There are too many pests.
– The pests can be overcome, and along the Murray there are very few pests to contend against. There is in connexion with this suggestion, as in connexion with every other that might be’ made, a difficulty, and here it is : the difficulty of finding a market for the produce. We, have had in our experiments in irrigation splendid evidence of the possibility of the transformation even of salt-bush country into a perfect fruit-growing paradise in the case of Mildura and Renmark.
– Subsidized by a protection of 3d. per lb. on currants.
– I am not talking Protection to-night, but when I do, I shall be prepared to take up the honorable member on that point, because I know all about it.
– There will be competition in fruit-growing.
– The world is big, and there is no reason at all why we should not in Australia develop a very large export trade in fruit as California has done. The Murray may be looked to to provide perhaps the cheapest irrigation in the world, and that should greatly assist us to establish a very big export trade in fruit.
I think that we should buy as little land as possible, and should appropriate as much of Crown lands as possible for the repatriation of our soldiers. So far as land without assistance from irrigation is concerned, we should have to look a long way for rich Crown lands, except those in Queensland, where there is any quantity of rich land not yet alienated.
– What about the Northern Territory ?
– For God’s sake, say nothing about sending returned soldiers to the Northern Territory. That is what I have to say of the Northern Territory so far as they are concerned. We have millions of acres along the valley of the Murray, and water enough to cover them. We should give our first consideration to that country, because it is nearly all Crown land.
– Is it likely to be as successful as the irrigation on the Murrumbidgee area, which is a failure.
– I hope that it will not be a failure. There has been quite enough development along the Murray to avoid failures altogether. I assume that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) knows Mildura. I may tell the Minister for Repatriation that he could not do better than take members of this House who have not seen Mildura or Renmark on a visit of inspection to those settlements. They will find there object lessons which might be applied to almost any extent. I believe that we could establish the bulk of our returned soldiers on the Murray with a prospect of making more money, by an easier and pleasanter life, than they could hope for from any other form of land settlement.
– It costs £3,000 a year for irrigation alone at Renmark.
– No; it does not.
– I have been there.
– I have been there during the last twenty-five or thirty years. The settlement is within my electorate. If the returned soldier could be assured of the same success as has followed the labours of the average settler in Renmark and Mildura, we should have solved more than half the problem of the settlement of our returned soldiers at once.
.- - There are two very satisfactory features in connexion with this measure which heartily commend it to the House. The first is that it is a non-party measure. If there is one question upon which honorable members of this House, whatever their varying political opinions may be, are entirely united, it is to secure a satis factory and efficient system of repatriation for our soldiers. There will be no quarrel with the Government in this connexion, unless it be that the measures they propose will not go far enough. So far as the principle of repatriation is concerned, honorable members are agreed. Another satisfactory feature is the splendidprogress that has been made by the Government during the eight months’ interval between the time when assent was given to the existing Act and the introduction of this amending Bill. The first measure was a very timid, very modest, and very unsatisfactory effort to cope with a big question. Evidently the Government discovered very soon, in their attempt to administer the Act, how necessary it was to have increased powers, and to largely extend the scope of this legislation. A step in advance is made in this Bill, and I echo the statement of the Minister when I express the hope that it is but the precursor of other Bills to deal with this subject, because we have yet a long way to go before we shall have accepted fully our responsibilities to our soldiers.
I should like to point out, from the stand-point of the usual statement made in public, that our soldiers are really in Europe defending Australia, and that we here exist in peace and comfort, enjoying practically all our customary blessings, because of the sacrifices these men have made, and are making, that if that be recognised as fully as it ought to be, then. Australia belongs to the soldiers. They have bought it and paid for it, many of them with their lives. Many have paid for it with sacrifices which few of us in this country can realize, and which, perhaps, only the soldiers themselves can. form any adequate conception of. Australia belongs to them, and they can rightly claim that the whole of the resources of this country should be available for their support and protection.
One thing that is extremely satisfactory to me is that the repatriation scheme is not to be administered by the Defence Department. The experience of this House and the country of the administration of matters affecting our soldiers, either in the enlistment period, in connexion with their subsequent oversea service, or their return to civil life, has been such as not to inspire confidence that that Department would ever satisfactorily handle a repatriation scheme. Its business methods have been proved an absolute failure. In connexion with the administration of business affairs, the Defence Department has lost the confidence of the country. It is, therefore, a satisfactory feature that repatriation is to be the distinctive and exclusive concern of one Department.
In the Bill now before us, there is an attempt to further develop and extend the organization under the control of the Minister for Repatriation. In connexion with the constitution of the various councils, boards, and commissions to be associated with the Minister in future, I have few objections to offer; but there is an omission which might have been supplied. Recently, a number of honorable members have taken exception to the constitution of so many boards and commissions, carrying on quite a number of new Departments created in the Commonwealth, and a request has been made, and, indeed, almost a demand, that honorable members of this House should be associated officially with some of these boards and commissions. The’ honorable member for Wannon (Mr. -Rodgers) very correctly pointed out that private members of this House have recently been reduced practically to the position of cyphers. They have a say, no doubt, and a vote when wanted and as wanted; but, so far as any influence on legislation, or any direct say in the government of the country is concerned, they have become mere nonentities. I am sorry the Minister in charge of the Bill is not present, because I desire to put before him the suggestion that, in the case of local executives; five members of which are elected by the local committees and two nominated by the Government, the honorable member representing the Federal interests in each district should be ex officio a member of the local committee or executive,
– The difficulty in connexion with that matter is there may be thirty local committees in one electorate.
– We have enough correspondence to attend to in connexion with repatriation without that. I am sure that I have plenty of work.
– I am cognisant of the value and force of both objections. Let me take first that mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon.
He says that a Federal member might have thirty local committees in his district, and his objection would have force if the honorable member was to be on every local committee. That could be avoided by making him instead a member of the local executive. There is also provision for district boards.
– A. district board is industrial only.
– I am aware of that. In regard to the objection mentioned by the honorable member for EastSydney (Mr. West), I question whether many honorable members are more aware than I am of the amount of correspondence work which we have to do. I know I get my fair share of it. But this is a question in which we are all keenly interested. I think we are all anxious to have some direct and active share in the operation of the repatriation scheme. There are many less important duties which we might discard in order to take our proper part in the work of repatriation. It is one of the biggest things Parliament has been called upon to deal with for years.
– It is the biggest.
– I suppose that its cost will run into not less than-
– Thirty million pounds or £40,000,000.
– I was going to fix a minimum of £60,000,000. I feel sure that before we finish it will cost us at least that amount.
– Can the land be obtained and everything else done for that?
– In some cases it will not be necessary to buy land. That may be necessary in conservative States like Victoria and South Australia, but not” in other States. 1
– The honorable member forgets that a large number of returned soldiers will not lean on the Commonwealth for any support.
– I have a note of that suggestion, and will refer to it later on. To deal further with the interjection of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), let me say that altogether too much stress is being laid on the question of land settlement for returned soldiers. Some honorable members seem to suggest that land settlement is going to be the main factor in the repatriation of our soldiers. Personally, I am inclined to think that those honorable members will meet with a severe disappointment. I say that regretfully, because I think that perhaps the best thing that could happen to most of the men would be that they should be settled in country districts, and have the experience of a country life. The greater the number of our returned soldiers that we can induce to go on the land the better it will be for them as well as for the country. But the proportion of them who will be finally and permanently settled on the land will, in my opinion, be very small indeed. We must recognise that the majority of our soldiers abroad have gone from our industrial walks of life and that upon their return they will naturally direct their first attention to the trades which they have at their fingers’ ends - to the things they know something about. They are just as capable as are other people of appreciating the fact that the mere going upon the land will not necessarily mean success for them. They know that to settle upon the land one must possess some adaptability, and that there must be a reasonable prospect of obtaining successful results. But I would like to stress the desire, which should be recognised by the Government, that the members of this Parliament, as such, do want to be associated in some active way with this repatriation scheme. To be simply the bearers of complaints from returned soldiers to the Minister for Repatriation and the Repatriation Department will be very little satisfaction to us. On tha other hand, if we are in direct touch with the scheme, we shall all be able to assist both the Minister and the soldiers, and the work of the Department will proceed much more smoothly, if, by reason of possessing a first-hand knowledge of its working, we are able to take such a sympathetic interest in the scheme as will enable the soldiers and the Department to work harmoniously with each other. I know of no method by which honorable members can get into touch with the Department other than through the local committees. There are, it is true, State industrial committees, and district indusrial committees. But I think that local committees offer the wider opportunities for service, and probably will produce better results.
– I think what the honorable member suggests would pave the way for great trouble.
– I do not know why that should be so. I am very willing to take any active part that I can, in this repatriation scheme, and I am certain that I am not the only one who is prepared to help the Government. The fact that we were helpers in the scheme would obviate a- great deal of hostile criticism
– The scheme would, of necessity, become political.
– I do not agree with the honorable member for a moment. I deplore the suggestion of the introduction of politics into a repatriation scheme, As the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has said, the introduction of politics into defence matters is to lie greatly deplored. The very f actthat we were ex officio as members taking an active part in the Government scheme would be an indication that we were prepared to drop our party politics.
– Does not the honorable member think it would be a- good thing if we had the same amount of unity in regard to recruiting?
– If we have not the same amount of unity in regard to recruiting the fault rests with the Government. If they will put a scheme before the House to stimulate recruiting, and will meet the difficulties that confront us in the same way as they have attempted to meet the difficulties in regard to repatriation, they will get similar results. They will get what they sow. But they are expecting to gather grapes from thorns and figs from thistles.
– That is true. We expected to gather grapes from thorns.
– Then the Government should not sow the thorns. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers)’ has _ devoted an immense amount of time to this question, and has displayed a remarkable knowledge, in principle, of the whole scheme of organization. From the very beginning he has taken a keen, active interest in the subject of repatriation, and, he is unquestionably an authority upon ‘ it. But there, is no place for him in the Government scheme, on the Central Commission, on the State Boards or on the local committees. Yet the House, the country, and the returned soldiers are entitled to the services of at least one member of this Parliament who has some ideas - original and practical - of the working out of the scheme. Then there is the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). He must possess a fund of information in this connexion which would be of immense value to the country and to the soldiers. But there is no place for him in the Government’s scheme. There is also the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), a returned soldier, and others who will be returning. There is no place in this scheme for them. Under it, the only duty of members of this Parliament will be to carry complaints from the soldiers to the Minister, and to act as a sort of “go between.” Surely there is something better for us to do than that.
A good deal has been said in regard to which State is doing the best for our returned soldiers. Probably we all think that our own State is doing the best. But it seems to me that, in connexion with a scheme of this character, we ought to try and get away from the idea of State boundaries. This is a Commonwealth scheme; and while’ it is necessary for the Government to enter into some sort of business arrangement with the State Governments - particularly in regard to land, technical education, and industrial operations - we .need to realize that the scheme is not for one State, but ‘for every Australian soldier, no matter from what State or from what part of the Empire he may come.
– I would remind the honorable member that Sir Rider Haggard visited Australia for the express purpose of getting the same privileges extended to Imperial soldiers as are extended to our own soldiers, and that his proposal was agreed to.
– That is so. In Queensland the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act of 1917 provides that-
A “discharged soldier” includes any person who has been a member of the Australian Imperial Forces or of any of the Naval or Military Forces of the Commonwealth raised for service in the present war, or lias joined the Forces of the “United Kingdom during the war and who has received an honorable discharge. The term may be extended so as to include members of His Majesty’s Forces during the present war from any part of the British Empire or members of the Forces of the Powers in alliance with His Majesty in the present war who have received their discharge before their arrival in Queensland. The term also includes the dependants of any such soldier in the event of his death before he, received his discharge, or at any time within’ a period of twelve months after he has received an honorable discharge.
– A similar provision, is contained in the Victorian and Tasmanian Acts.
– Not quite. I think that the Queensland Act is about the widest in its interpretation of any State Act. But if it be wider than the other State Acts, it is, nevertheless, not too wide. It should be as wide as possible, because if we can induce a number of soldiers from distant parts of the Empire to come and settle here, we shall be doing, not only a good thing ‘for them, but a good thing for Australia.
– While that is so in regard to the State land settlement schemes, there is no provision in our Commonwealth scheme for Imperial soldiers.
– That is the unfortunate part of it. I intend, particularly, to apply ‘that deficiency in the Commonwealth scheme to the Northern Territory. I can quite understand that to settle the Territory is a difficult problem under any circumstances. Probably that difficulty will be increased when it is suggested that we should put men there who have not had a previous acquaintance with Australian conditions; but I have a profound conviction, based on actual acquaintance with men who have been in the Northern Territory, that there are areas of country there which are admirably suited for settlement.
May I suggest just one line of production alone? I was reading very carefully last night the private and confidential memorandum which has been addressed to honorable members in regard to the establishment of an arsenal. Now, one of the essential commodities in connexion with the manufacture of munitions is cotton. At present, we are importing by far the great bulk of the cotton that is used in Australia. Yet we have it on undeniable authority that Australia can grow cotton, equal to the best in the world, and that we can grow it easier, because here it is perennial. At the present time, cotton is being grown in Queensland which, for staple and quality, is equal to the best Egyptian.
– The trouble is that we have not the right class of labour.
– The honorable member suggests that the fact that we have not established the cotton industry in Australia is due to labour troubles. But it is an exploded idea that the cultivation of cottonisa cheap labour industry.
– Its cultivation is being tried at Cairns now.
– The labour trouble in connexion with the cultivation of cotton in the Northern Territory is that there we are not within the reach of a population from which that labour can be gathered. It must be remembered that in the cultivation of this commodity labour is required only at a certain period of the year.
– It is like hop-picking.
– Yes. It is impossible to grow cotton if we have not a satisfactory method of getting the requisite labour. In Texas most of the labour employed in the industry is white labour. I repeat that the cultivation of cotton is not a cheap labour industry, as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) will discover if he will take the trouble to inquire into the matter. It is a question of having a population conveniently situated - a population from which we can draw the required labour. But we are getting over that difficulty, because there are now quite a number of cottonpicking machines on the market. These, I anticipate, will be improved to such an extent as to practically reduce the difficulty in regard to labour to very small dimensions indeed. In the Northern Territory there are vast areas which are eminently suited to cotton culture. The work is both easy and congenial. Immediately we settled a population in the Northern Territory, whether we cultivated rice, cotton, or any other agricultural produce, we should establish returned soldiers there - a body of men eminently qualified to provide some security in the way of defence along that northern line. And thus, at the same time, we would be accomplishing the two purposes.
– It would be cruel in the extreme to put returned soldiers up there.
– It is just a matter of finding the proper conditions, and it could be done.
A great deal has been said regarding the urgency of providing that town life should be made less attractive, and with respect to inducing, not only soldiers, but the population generally to settle in the more remote districts. That may be very well in theory, but in a matter of actual practice I do not see how it will work out. I anticipate more difficulty in getting returned soldiers out into country districts than would be met with in the case of the general population. There are hundreds of people in Melbourne who, granted reasonable opportunity to remove themselves and their families into rural areas, would gladly go. But the returned soldiers have been facing remarkable experiences. They have been passing through peculiar relations with men and things. They have faced viewpoints and responsibilities and emergencies that have never previously dawned upon them. They have felt the heed of comradeship in a most peculiar and gripping manner. These men have not returned to isolate themselves. They will want to continue that comradeship which they have enjoyed under conditions of life and death. I know that, from the experience of my own son. He had a good job at head-quarters in England, but his mates went to France. He missed one boat, but wrote and said, “I could not stand it. My mates were away over there, so I slung up my job in England, and went to France.” Our returning boys will either have to be put into settlements together for the sake of the comradeship they desire, or they will drift into the towns.
– The settlement idea can be easily adopted.
– I know that Queensland is trying to do so by the establishment of soldiers’ settlements. There are great possibilities in that.
One other reference I desire to make from among the topics that could be drawn from this almost inexhaustible subject. That is with regard to vocational’ training. What impresses me is that numbers of the returned soldiers will be so constituted, mentally and physically, that it will be difficult to associate them permanently and continuously with any kind of employment. We have all met with or heard of incidents of returned men, and we must have been distressed and puzzled in regard to what could be done
I to help them to settle down. For instance, there was a letter in the Melbourne press the other day suggesting that when committees are organizing entertainments for soldiers they should avoid anything in the nature of explosions or gunfire. We have seen or heard of returned soldiers walking quietly along the streets, and upon the occurrence of any loud or sudden noise, they have instantly ducked their heads, or dropped, or run away. It will take years for them to get over the experiences through which they have passed. It is well known that it is not merely at the time that they feel the effects of their experiences. For years they may be haunted. Incidents may recur to them like nightmares. Those men are not to be easily settled down into the ordinary routine of daily life. There will be days when they may be perfectly capable of carrying out their work, while on other occasions they may be shifty, tremulous, feeble, and incompetent. ‘ This Bill, more than any other operation in governmental affairs, will require a wonderful amount of sympathetic administration. It must be free from red-tape, so that if a man wants to sit down, or feels that he must go home, he should be at liberty to do so, and it should not be necessary for him to fill in a form or require to get a doctor’s certificate. The returned men will want to be so sympathetically treated that, ‘in carrying on industrial operations, hard and fast rules should not be imposed on them.
I notice with some satisfaction that arrangements are to be made with the various hospitals to provide returned men with treatment if they are sick. That is very good, but it does not seem to go far enough unless it is to cover the services of medical men and the concession of medical consultations at any time and all times. It should not be necessary for them to have to go into hospital to receive either nursing or medical attention. Indeed, one wonders if the establishment of national workshops could not be based somehow upon a recognition of the principle that the men should be free to come and go, not just as they wished, but reasonably, according to their physical capacities.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said something to the effect that, after having found a job for a man, the experience had often been that he would work for a day or two, and leave; then another job would be found, and the process would be repeated. Thereupon, after a time, the authorities might well say that they could do no more, and that the returned soldier would not keep a job after it had been given bini. I trust that that view-point will not be insisted upon. How often shall we forgive him ? Seven times? Nay, but seventy times seven. That should dwell with us in the treatment of returned soldiers; and, if at times they are listless, and incapable, and indifferent, then if there are men anywhere to whom we should show sympathy, friendship, and reasonable regard, they are our returned soldiers.
– Would you have any restrictions at all ?
– I am not prepared to set any limit.
– But would you have no restrictions whatever ?
– Yes, one. Honorable members may- think I am a faddist, but there is one restriction, and it would get over a tremendous amount of difficulty if it could be enforced. That is, to make sure that there is no alcohol available for returned soldiers anywhere, at any time.
– Arid outside that, you would allow them to do as they liked ?
– That is going too far. But we should be prepared to concede to returned soldiers a great deal that we would not permit to an ordinary individual. I will cite an extreme case which happened in Victoria. At the time, it hurt me, and it hurts still, whenever I think of it. A returned soldier committed a crime. He murdered a woman. There was no doubt about the fact that he deliberately did so. . He was tried, found guilty, and hanged. It was a crime to hang that man, apart altogether from the fact that capital punishment in itself is wrong. But the fact was that this country had so little respect and consideration for that man, and for the hell through which he had passed in fighting for us, that there was no sympathetic consideration, and nothing said in mitigation of his offence. There is not a returned soldier who commits a crime for which one could not find a dozen excuses that could not be applied to the ordinary individual. A returned soldier does things which we could not condone, but which we should excuse to a great extent ; and this Bill should be so reasonable in its operations, especially in regard to vocational training,’ that we should be assured that returned soldiers shall receive sympathetic treatment, and not be bound by anything in the way of hard-and-fast rules.
It is suggested that national workshops should be established near the cities, so as to permit of companionship among returned soldiers. That is very good; but a number of those men might prefer to live in the country rather than near the city. Why tie them down to the vicinity of city life any more than take them all out into the country? Surely there will be enough operations going on to encourage the Government to give men the option of country or city vocations. There is the Federal Territory at Canberra, for instance, with a most delightful climate. I know of nothing better that the Government could do for returned soldiers primarily, and for the country generally, than to establish numbers of them upon the Federal area. There are opportunities for employment on the landright away, and for the establishment of one or two national workshops. The organization of the Arsenal could be hurried on, and there are a hundred other activities which might be established there, to provide country vocations. Then, if the men so employed desired a change to the vicinity of city life, they might be given their transfer, while those near the city, if they desired a term in the country workshops, might also be changed over. My whole idea is to make it as easy to do right and as hard to do wrong as can be assured by means of governmental machinery. It is very difficult, of course, to know how to get a bit of human nature and common sense into a Government Department. However, we must try.
At a later opportunity I hope to make some reference to the rates of pension and to the amounts proposed to be given to the men, but I shall leave that fordiscussion in Committee.
– Do you refer to the sustenance allowances?
– No, to the £25 given by the Government to assist the men to furnish homes for themselves.
– That is covered by the regulations. You will not be able to discuss them in Committee.
– Well, I must take my opportunity here. I object, for example, to the method proposed for granting loans to returned soldiers. If a man deserves assistance at all, he merits it straight out, as a recognition of the work he has done. We give him £25 for furniture for a home. What a long way that sum would go! That is not given to every soldier, however, but merely to the totally incapacitated.
– Or to widows.
– A regulation of that character is under consideration.
– It is in force now.
– I refer to a further regulation to deal with it.
– The Minister, in his second -reading speech, said that regulation 57 contained provision for assistance to widows in necessitous circumstances and totally incapacitated soldiers to the extent of a grant of £25 for the purchase of furniture, and that if any further assistance were required it would be given by way of loan. Why are the Government so niggardly in this matter ? If the repatriation scheme should err at all, it should err on the side of generosity; but it appears that the Government are too afraid, and too nervous, and altogether too niggardly in regard to this matter. This brings me back to my first argument that, if it is true, . as we believe it is, that our soldiers, by their sacrifices, have secured for us the future of Australia, then the best that Australia has should be theirs. And yet in the face of this we say that an amount of £25 may be advanced to a man who is totally incapacitated. It is altogether too niggardly, it is hot reasonable, and it is not an honest recognition of the services these men have rendered to their country.
– It is not fair to blame only the Government, because two returned soldiers, industrialists, as well as other members, are on the Commission.
– But the Government must accept the responsibility for the administration, and if the regulations are under consideration again, I hope the men will be more generously treated. The more generous we are in this respect the better home a man will be able to secure, and, therefore, the greater will be the inducement for him to marry and settle down. Surely the encouragement of married couples, and the settlement of homes in Australia, is worth ?50 at any time to this country.
– Do you think a soldier is settled when he is married 1
– Well, a wife, at all events, is a great anchor; and I have no doubt that the honorable member is an authority on this subject. At any rate, the returned soldier is entitled to home comforts, and if the Government, by the exhibition of a little excess, if need be, of generosity, can give a soldier an inducement to marry and settle down, “I think it will be well worth the money. I hope that in the administration of this Act the Government will not be afraid to take this view. If they do, I am confident they will find a generous Parliament always willing to provide all the money that may be necessary so that the returned soldiers, whatever else we may do for them, may never lack a friendly hand or a generous recognition of their great sacrifices. ,
.- I rise in response to the cordial invitation given last week by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to honorable members to give this Bill the benefit of whatever constructive criticism they feel competent to advance, and, therefore, anything that I may Lave to say with regard to the measure will be in that direction. I know that sometimes when people ask for constructive criticism, what they really hope for is a cordial indorsement of everything that has been done, even to the dotting of the “ i’s “ and the crossing of. the “Vs,” and that if any real criticism is indulged in, it is oftentimes regarded as destructive criticism. I can assure the Minister, however, that I shaH endeavour to advance only constructive criticism of this measure.
This is the first opportunity I have had of addressing honorable members on the subject of the repatriation of the Australian soldiers. I have Head the Act and this Bill through very carefully, and I must confess that I take the strongest objection to some of the’ omissions from both measures. One or two honorable members who spoke this afternoon and this evening incidentally mentioned, I believe, that despite the reiterated as surances given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at the Conference of Premiers in January of last year, that British and Imperial soldiers of our blood would be included in the repatriation scheme, they have, so far, been absolutely excluded.
– I think that assurance referred to land settlement only.
– I have no desire to weary the House by reading extracts from the report of the Premiers’ Conference, but I have a copy of that document by me, and I have failed to realize from a perusal of it that the reference was to land settlement only. The Conference was held from 5th January to 11th January of last year, and, on page 35 in the summary of proceedings, it is stated that it was agreed that members of the Australian and British Imperial Forces who have served in the present war should be eligible as land settlers. On page 41. the report states -
-(Sir Alexander Peacock). - We now come to the general recommendations of the Repatriation Executive. . . . The Prime Minister will sec that it is not restricted to Australian soldiers.
– That is so.
Later, the President said -
The Prime Minister can send a message to the Imperial Government intimating that British soldiers will have the same treatment as our own nien in the scheme for land settle-^ ment. “
I point out, however, that in the Repatriation Act, sub-section 2 of section 4, which sets out the purposes of the Apt, states that it shall apply to those who shall be deemed to be Australian soldiers within the meaning of the Act. I should like to know whether the omission of any reference to Imperial soldiers has been by accident or design. My own impression is that the omission was accidental.
– The Act is intended to apply to Australians or Australian Regiments who served on behalf of the Empire in any part of the King’s Dominions and who before enlistment resided in Australia. It is not a repatriation scheme for the Empire.
– Do I understand that the Act does not apply to the settlement of soldiers on the land?
– It is not a land settlement scheme. Land settlement is a matter of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, to whom we shall lend money for that purpose.
– Still, this would provide a grand opportunity to set up a reciprocal repatriation scheme within the Empire.
– -Presuming that the other Dominions reciprocated. But I am afraid we would find it difficult to finance a scheme on the scale proposed in Australia.
– The Minister has indicated that, in his opinion, it would he impossible to finance such a scheme. I think it would be a grand thing if we could include all soldiers who would care to come here from other parts of the Empire.
– It would be impossible to finance it because of its magnitude.
– I totally disagree with the honorable member. Nothing has been put forward to indicate that it would be impossible. I would be delighted to think that such a scheme would be in danger of breaking down owing to the large number of British soldiers who might care to come here. It is quite true that the States have included British soldiers in laud settlement schemes. Victoria and Tasmania have expressly done so, and, as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has indicated, Queensland has also, with certain qualifications. All I ask for is that the British soldiers shall be included in all land settlement schemes.
– Now, that is a different point.
– The various States have made this provision, but I cannot see any similar provision from beginning to end of the Bill enabling the Commonwealth Government to do so. That is a very great drawback to the measure.
– Why not French as well as British soldiers ?
– The honorable member can suggest that when he addresses himself to the question. I do not propose to go beyond soldiers of British blood.
– Not in my view. I include only soldiers who are of the same race as the people of Australia.
– The control of the land is vested in the States.
– Largely, but not entirely. There are provisions for enabling the Commonwealth Government to assist the States.
– There would have to be reciprocity.
– I am in close communication in regard to this matter with the Royal Colonial Institute and similar bodies in various parts of the Empire. Canada, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland provide for the reciprocity to which the honorable member refers. In a report on the subject, published in British Columbia in November, 1915, the following recommendation, which has since been carried into effect, was made: -
We have recommended that the advantages of these co-operative farm settlements be available to “ all returned soldiers.”
These settlements are largely subsidized by the Federal Government of Canada, which is in a position similar to that of our Commonwealth Government -
We have made no discrimination, and think they should be open to any man who , has served the Empire, either under our own flag, that of the Motherland, or any of the other overseas Dominions. … It will be seen, therefore, that the problem of providing for these is not in any sense a local matter. It is one in which not only all the Provinces of our Dominion are equally interested, but which is of vital interest to the Empire at large, and we feel that the responsibility and cost of making provision to meet the problem is one which should be shared by all those interested.
I cannot understand why some provision is not made for assisting British and other soldiers of British blood to settle on the lands of Australia, and I ask the serious attention of the Cabinet to the suggestion that they be so assisted. Our repatriation legislation places us in a most invidious position with regard to other parts of His Majesty’s Dominions in making no provision whatever for the settlement of British soldiers, on our land.
– Having admitted that it is right to provide for the settlement of British soldiers on our land, should we not make provision for them in other branches of repatriation, they having foregone repatriation in their own land and come to Australia to settle?
– There is a great deal of force in that, but my object was to draw attention specially to the need of providing for the settlement of British soldiers on our land. Every effort possible should be made to bring that about. In repatriation there are three points of view. We have to consider, first, the interests of our soldiers themselves. All agree that the utmost generosity should be shown to those who have fought, or offered to fight, for their country. . We must also do the best we can for the children of our soldiers, and, lastly, we must do the best we can for Australia and its future. These three considerations are a trinity, one and inseparable. We have an opportunity now to reciprocate with other parts of the Empire, and of doing what is of vital importance to this country. In the documents that I have here it is mentioned that Australian soldiers will be as welcome as those of the country itself or of any other part of the Empire. We have an opportunity now to provide for attracting to our shores after the war a ‘ considerable number of men of the best stamp the British Empire had - those who have fought for their country.
– Great Britain will not be able to spare many men after the war.
– I differ from the honorable member. After the war an immense number of those who have gone from the United Kingdom will want to settle elsewhere.
– Many of them have made pals of Australians.
– Yes, and are anxious to come here. So far back as two years ago there were friends of Canada in the trenches circulating inducements to Australian and Imperial soldiers to settle in Canada after the war. Every Province of Canada is eager to secure our men as settlers, and it will te the same with the United States and the Argentine. Every effort will be made by these countries to attract English, Scotch, Irish, and Welsh soldiers who have any disposition to leave the Old Country. Australia will be the one country which will not be able to offer inducements to them, because by our Repatriation Act and this amending Bill we deliberately exclude the Imperial soldier from the benefits of our scheme.
– Negotiations for reciprocal arrangements could be opened up while the Prime Minister is abroad.
– In this matter the Prime Minister is pledged to the hilt. Had he not been so busy ever since the beginning of 1917, it is more than possible that our legislation would have contained provisions of the nature I suggest, and it is not too late to insert them.
I take the strongest exception to the Act and to the Bill as they stand. The whole tendency of our repatriation so far will be in the direction of attracting persons from the country to the big cities . We do not want the returned soldier to waste his life as a single man. We want every soldier who returns to our shores, if possible, to reproduce his kind. Care should have been taken in this Bill to prevent a returned soldier from being attracted by city life; and, secondly, to place every soldier’s home on a solid foundation. I should like every returned soldier to have a home of his own, and we should so legislate that it could never be taken from him either by way of foreclosure on mortgage or by ordinary sale.
– In other words, the honorable member says that if a soldier is given the freehold of any property, he should not have the right to dispose of it.
– Yes; if we give a soldier a piece of land, or a home, we should make it a birthright which he cannot sell for a n: ess. of pottage. The curse of land settlement in this country has been the failure of the State Parliaments to make such’ a provision. Under our land settlement schemes, men are tempted to select a holding, but are given power to realize upon it, so that, in a few years, and while they still have children dependent upon them, they often find themselves deprived of their homes and of the means of creating others. A vital defect in all our land settlement schemes has been the failure of the Government to give a man a holding which he cannot part with. And so with our repatriation scheme. I do not believe in endeavouring to settle soldiers or any other section of the community, on the land, or to provide them with a house, under a scheme which enables them within, say, five years to sell their property to the highest bidder. In some of the finest provinces of Australia, land that was selected in 320- acre blocks thirty or forty years ago-
– Is now held by the squatters.
– Quite so; and the fault rests with the State Governments, who allowed the selectors to sell their birthright.
– Adversity was the compelling force.
– Not in every case. I have lived among these people for forty years and know that what I am saying is correct. An honorable member says, “You have bought many of them out.” I have never bought out one, but I have seen the buying-out process going on. A man selects 320 acres, and after a time Bells his holding with a view to selecting another.
– The honorable member believes in the homestead lease principle.
– Absolutely. We shall never succeed in settling returned soldiers on the land unless, as the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) suggests, we adopt the homestead lease principle. The land we offer every returned soldier must be his birthright, and he must not be given power to dispose of it for a mess of pottage. 1 do not say that if, for health considerations, a returned soldier finds it impossible to remain on a block which he has been assisted to purchase, he should not be allowed to part with it, but except in such special circumstances, the power to sell should be denied him.
– Why should not a returned soldier be allowed to sell his property if he can do so at a profit, and obtain a better property?
– That is the old, old argument going right back to Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. I have had a great deal of experience in assisting people to settle on the land, or to establish homes for themselves. I listened with great interest to the speech made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) as to men, unsuited to farming pursuits, being induced to go on the land. But let the State give a man a piece of land, or a home, and if he marries a good woman he will probably have a large family, the members of which will make the very best colonists. I know what I am talking about. I am one of a family of twelve; I have a brother who has thirteen children, and his eldest son is married to a young lady who is one of a family of seventeen.
Both the original Act and this amending Bill need to be absolutely reconsidered; they require to be amended root and branch. I am not at all satisfied with this Bill, for I consider it has many defects. I propose to read to the House a letter written by a legislator of great experience. Mr. J. Drysdale Brown, M.L.C., which points out a vital defect in the principal Act, which is not remedied by this Bill. The letter, which is dated 22nd May, reads -
Dear Mr. Jowett, - I called at your office this morning to introduce ex-PrivateRea, of Stawell, a returned maimed soldier. He has lost his left arm. Mr.Rea is married, and the father of four children.
This is a typical case -
He has always resided in Stawell, and is desirous to continue to reside in Stawell. He wishes to purchase a dwelling-house with the assistance of the Credit Foncier Department of the State Savings Bank. Prior to the proclamation of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1917, a returned soldier could, under the regulations made by the trustees appointed under the Australian Soldiers’Repatriation Fund Act 1916, obtain from the State War Council an advance up to £75 to pay a deposit on the purchase of a house, the State Savings Bank Commissioners providing the balance of purchase money up to £300, the whole amount being repaid by agreed quarterly instalments.
That is under the State Act -
There is no provision under the Australian Soldiers’Repatriation Act -
That is the Commonwealth Act - nor in the regulations made under that Act, to enable assistance to be given to a returned soldier to purchase a house. Mr.Rea wished to ask you to use your influence to have a suitable section inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill No. 3, now before the House of Representatives.
Whatis the use of a Bill which does not include such a provision ?
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) distinctly announced in the Senate that a housing scheme was not included in the regulations, but was under consideration by the Commission.
– I am glad to have that assurance, and hope that this and many other necessary additions will be made to the scheme. There is too great a tendency to induce people to forsake rural for city life. There are some aspects of the question of country versus city, especially in connexion with repatriation, that ought to be very carefully considered by this House. I desire that all our brave men who have fought or tried to fight for their country should have every possible opportunity of reestablishing themselves in civil life. Every returned soldier and every other citizen who makes up his mind to live in one of the great cities will be at a very great disadvantage, especially if he has a large family. There is ample evidence that when people wish to secure cottages or small villas in the city or suburbs, the agent’s first question sometimes is, “ Have you any family ?” If they reply that they have, the agent regards the children very dubiously, and a person with a large family sometimes has the utmost difficulty in getting a house.
– The honorable member is speaking of furnished houses.
– And unfurnished houses, too. I am assured by people with families that it is sometimes a matter of the greatest difficulty to get houses in the city or suburbs, and in consequence many people are compelled to live in flats or boarding houses. Their experience in seeking that sort of accommodation is much the same; children are sometimes not welcome in boarding house or cottage.
– They are not welcome on the stations.
– I know of no station where people are unwelcome if they have families. Families are a thousand times more welcome on the stations than they are in some houses in the cities.
– I think the honorable member is doing the landlords an injustice. In working-class suburbs like Richmond, Collingwood, Footscray, and Brunswick most people have large families, and landlords must accept them as tenants.
– I do not apply my remarks to all landlords, but what I have said is true of some of them. And their attitude is not unnatural. A house is the property of the landlord, and much as we love children, we must recognise that they sometimes do damage property. One of the effects of this most unfortunate state of affairs is a tendency, which is much more noticeable in the cities than in the country, for people of all classes to limit the size of their families.
Another danger that is likely to attend the policy of attracting people from the country to the towns is in connexion with vocational training. I hope that a very large sum of money will be found to be necessary for the establishment of technical schools, schools of mines, and other vocational training establishments. But I feel certain that if the present trend of concentrating all vocational schools in the great centres, and, to some extent, ignoring country towns which are in every way suitable, is persisted in, these city establishments will have an enormous effect in attracting people from the country to the cities. Of course the question may be asked, “If a vocational school is established in a country town, and twenty or thirty men are taught a trade, can work be found for them in the district?” Obviously there are trades and professions in which we cannot hope to find employment locally for every person taught in such an institution. The Universities, for instance, are attended by large numbers of students who are taught professions. Suppose the controlling body of the Melbourne University were to say: “Before we establish a class for chemistry, engineering, medicine, or law, we must be satisfied that every student who completes his course will be able to get a living in Melbourne or the suburbs.” What would become of any university or school that adopted such a policy ? I wish to utter a word of warning in this regard. I will not go so far as to say that I would place the whole of the vocational schools in the country towns and none in the great cities; but I do say that there should be no increase in the number of such establishments in the cities. Already there are splendid technical schools in the metropolitan areas, and in many of the other big centres. I would not increase the number of them in any of the great seaport cities; but all new institutions of the kind should be established, as far as possible, in country towns. In this regard the cost of living must be taken into consideration. To-day I had striking evidence of the evil that will be perpetrated upon the community and upon the returned soldiers if we persist in a policy of attracting them to the cities. I introduced to the Minister for Repatriation a deputation of citizens of Maryborough.
Of course, there are climatic and other advantages in living in country towns, and there are evils and temptations attendant upon life in the great cities. This is a most vital question in connexion with repatriation. I do not wish to ‘even hint at the dangers that will attend returned soldiers if, when they return in large numbers, they are concentrated in the big centres of population.
– Maryborough has had more Government money spent in it than has any other town of the size in Victoria.
– No town in Australia so much deserves to have Government money spent in it. The speakers on the “deputation informed the Minister that in Maryborough a cottage suitable for a returned soldier or working man can be rented at 10s. per week, as against nearly 30s. in Melbourne or the suburbs. The price of bread in that town is 3d. per 2-lb. loaf, and 6d. per 4-lb. loaf.
– What is the price of meat there?
– I have not ascertained that, but I shall be happy to do so, and inform the honorable member. At Maryborough firewood delivered at the home costs 8s. per ton, as against 30s. per ton in Melbourne.
I wish to impress upon the Ministry the absolute necessity for reconsidering their whole scheme and the whole of their ideas in connexion with the repatriation of Australian soldiers, in order to attract the soldiers to the country districts and not to concentrate them in the big cities.
– I agree with the honorable member in regard to the matter of housing returned soldiers. He has put the case particularly plainly in that connexion, but his proposal to allow the whole of the members of the Imperial Forces to come into Australia unconditionally, and enjoy the same privileges as will be given to the Australian soldier, seems to be open to objection unless there be reciprocity between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government. Upwards of 600,000 Imperial men might come into Australia, and. as no provision could previously be made for them, the result might be that the Australian soldiers would be deprived of certain privileges that they would otherwise enjoy. No complaint could be offered if a system of reciprocity should be established in the matter between the Commonwealth and Imperial Governments. I do not think the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) would intend that his proposal should have for its object the flooding of the Australian labour market, with a view to a possible reduction of wages, but that might be the view taken by some unscrupulous employers who employ large numbers of men.
The housing question is the most important feature of the Bill, and it should receive more consideration than the Minister has apparently given it. There are scores and scores of soldiers who are practically homeless. There is one man in my electorate who is suffering from shell shock. His nerves are gone, and he is in an altogether pitiable condition. He is attempting to rear a family in a cottage of two rooms and a kitchen. His health still continues to deteriorate, and he may get no relief until he is able to move to some other locality, and that probably he will have to do at his own expense.
– A section of the regulations would allow that man a certain amount for sustenance. He would get 59s. a week. .
– An allowance of 59s. a week would not give a returned soldier the everyday comforts of life and the medical attention of which he is deserving, and at the same time allow him to maintain a family, when he has to pay the greatest proportion of it to the landlord. Each man should be provided with a suitable home, with proper environment. He should not be placed in a desolate, flimsy structure, worth about 3s. a week. If the house has attractive Surroundings, it will make his life a happier one. The sustenance allowance is not sufficient to enable returned soldiers to pit themselves against the system of exploitation’ that landlords are carrying out and at the same time rear a family in comfortable circumstances.
– The position is all right in Maryborough.
– It may be in one locality, but it is not in others.
– It is all right in country towns.
– It is not. There is a scarcity of buildings, and landlords have seized the opportunity to raise their rents by at least 50 per cent. In the Macquarie electorate houses which soldiers could have rented two years ago at 10s. a week are not to behad now under about 25s. a week. Landlords who cried out their loyalty fleeced the soldiers on their return to the extent at least of £1 per week for rent. Part V. of the regulations says -
The Department may, upon written application made within the time specified insubregulation (2) of this regulation, provide each soldier applying for employment with an opportunity of earning, at least, a living wage, and until such opportunity is forthcoming, and, in the case of an applicant who is con-‘ valescent, until the Deputy Comptroller is satisfied that ho is medically fit for employment, a Deputy Comptroller may grant such sustenance as will insure -
to a soldier without dependants, a weekly income, inclusive of pension, of 42s.;
to a soldier with a wife, a weekly income, inclusive of their combined pensions, of 52s. ;
to a soldier with a wife and one child, a weekly income, inclusive of their combined pensions, of 55s.6d. ;
to a soldier with a wife and two children, a weekly income, inclusive of their combined pensions, of 59s. ;
to a soldier with a wife and three children, a weekly income, inclusive of their combined pensions, of 62s.6d.; (/) to a soldier with a wife and four or more children, a weekly income, inclusive of the pensions payable to the soldier, bis wife, and four children, of 66s.
I wish to know whether that represents the whole amount that these people will receive. It it does, it will not be possible for returned soldiers to live on it at the present high cost of living. I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180604_reps_7_85/>.