7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took thechair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Acting
Prime Minister obtained the opinion of the Crown Law authorities as to the legality of keeping in operation the War Precautions Act after thewar has ended?
– No doubt my honorable: friend heard the statement made last, night that the Crown Law authorities are obtaining the assistance of eminent legal gentlemen, to whom the question has been referred, and that the Government is proceeding, up to this stage, on their advice.
– When hostilities were at their height, it was stated by Senator Pearce that every soldier returning to Australia would bring back a rifle. Has. that arrangement been carried out? Are. the men likely to do so ?
– I shall have the matter looked into.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Home and Territories whether, the press gets its weather news from the Meteorological Department, and, if so, whether the honorable gentleman will ask that Department to supply news that is up-to-date. Sometimes the weather news, is a week old., and one can learn what the weather in Queensland has been only through private information ?
– Some time ago we had to cut down the circulation of the departmental weather reports because of the reduction, of the vote. Subsequently, I saw some of the press representatives, and modified the arrangement, but the circulation of these reports is , not as extensive as it used to be. nor so extensive as one would desire. I may have an opportunity to submit the matter to the Treasurer.
– My complaint is that the news is not up-to-date.
– It is quite up to date, but we cannot send it direct now to so many persons, and, consequently, there are some who do not see it at the time of its publication.
– In the Argus, of yesterday there are weather reports from two stations, perhaps two thousand miles apart, announcing the fall of a few points of rain, and underneath, them are private advices from various stations in western
Queensland, recording rainfalls of some inches. The Department should either give us no information at all, or should give us up-to-date information .
– I am only too pleased “to have attention called to these matters, because it enables wrong impressions to be corrected. The weather reports are published as quickly as the news reaches -the Department, Not long ago I inquired into the efficiency of the Department, and found that a great number of unsolicited letters were being sent to Mr. Hunt, thanking him for the reports communicated to persons interested in ship/ping and production. I shall try to ascertain whether there has been any remissness lately.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. - Under section 13 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-18, provision is made for the exemption from taxation of the personal incomes of men on active service. Now. in Australia, there are many registered companies which are family affairs. In one case that I know of such a company consists of several sons, who have been On service abroad for three years, and in one case, four years, and are still «.way. Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether the provision to which I have referred applies to soldiers absent on active service, who are the members or directors of a registered family company? Is it intended that such persons shall pay income tax ? If they are taxable will the honorable gentleman see that the Act ,-s amended so as to relieve them of taxation ^
– The Government of the day, with the concurrence of the legislature, determined to exempt from income taxation the earnings, by personal exertion, of soldiers abroad. I am not able to say whether a company such as the honorable member refers to pays on property rates or on personal exertion rates. If he will give me an illustration privately of the case which he has in mind, I shall ascertain whether an alteration of the law is necessary.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence noticed that serious complaints have been made by members of the Citizens’ Forces who were sent from Footscray and Yarraville to go into camp at Bendigo. They complain of the bad quality and shortage of the food, of the shortage of water, and other discomforts. Why are the citizen soldiers who live in the suburban area sent as far as Bendigo for camp training ?
– I will have inquiries made.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am about to make a statement setting out the business ito be placed before the House before it rises this month.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and I hope to be able to let the honorable member know next week.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government approves of the action of the Minister for Defence in asking the electors of Corangamite to give their first preference vote to Lieut.-Colonel Knox?
– The honorable member will probably have seen by to-day’s newspapers that the Government has indorsed the candidature of Lieutenant-Colonel Knox.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– No information can be given as to the scrutiny of any correspondence or the reasons therefor.
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will he cause tobe laid on the Library table the recommendations with reference to Hann’s Inlet, Westernport, being selected as the particular site of the base under construction there ?
– It is not considered desirable to lay the papers on the table of the Library, but I shall be pleased to furnish the honorable member with any information on the matter that he desires.
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether the s.s. Wyreema, which has now returned to Australia, will be placed on her former running on the Australian coast, and’ to some extent relieve the serious conditions now prevailing in North Queensland?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The s.s. Wyreema is still under the control of the Imperial Government, and is required for Imperial purposes. Although she has returned to Australia, she still has on board her original cargo for England, which she will require to deliver.
The s.s. Levuka has been made available to make a special trip from Sydney to North Queensland and back an order to assist in the carriage of cargo and passengers. The Levuka sailed from Sydney on the 7th instant.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the reason that some senior cadets have been kept waiting for over a year for uniforms?
– In accordance with the decision of the Cabinet, the provision of funds for the supply of Senior Cadet uniforms was deleted, on the grounds of economy from, the current year’s Estimates, except in so far as contracts had already been, entered into for such supplies. Issues to Senior Cadets are, therefore, limited to some articles which were available from stock, or being delivered in connexion with the afore-mentioned contracts.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to’ the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the cessation of hostilities and the promise of the Acting Prime Minister that the regulations under the War Precautions Act would only be used in certain specified directions, he will favorably consider the withdrawal of all proceedings against E. B. . Judd and others charged with making speeches prejudicial to recruiting?
– The Government does not consider that there is any justification for the withdrawal of proceedings against persons charged with making speeches prejudicial to recruiting at a time when recruiting was being carried on.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the continued increase in the cost of the commodities of life, he will take into consideration the question of granting an increase of os. per week to all persons receiving the old-age and invalid pension, such .increase to take effect from 1st January, 1919?
– An increase of 2s. 6d. per week was made in October, 1916, to meet the extra cost to which the honorable member refers. In view of the state of the finances, it is considered that another increase is not justifiable at the present time.
– On the 29th ultimo the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) asked whether any members of the Board of Trade were interested in the manufacture of margarine.
I have had inquiries made with regard to this matter, and I am now able to inform the honorable member that no member of the Board of Trade is interested in the margarine industry.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Yesterday, when - the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) was making an important announcement with regard .to the War Precautions Act, I ventured to make an interjection, which, Mr. Speaker, partly owing to your vigilance and to my own natural reticence, is by no means usual with me. I find that I am represented, and perhaps rightly represented, if my statement be taken literally, as having said that I would not accept an assurance given by the honorable gentleman. I wish now to say that, so far as any statement of fact within the knowledge of the Acting Prime Minister is concerned, I regard his words as being nothing less than limpid dicta from the pure well of truth. All I wished to convey in the disorderly interjection which escaped you, sir, was that, because of our experience of the administration of the War Precautions Act, I did not feel justified in accepting any governmental assurance as to its administration.
– May I be permitted to say that I, fortunately, have drunk deep of the limpid waters to which the honorable member refers, and that I am glad that he has acknowledged it even thus late in the day.
Encasement and Gas Experiment
– On the 20th November, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked the following question : -
Whether he is in a position to tell the House whether the methods adopted for dealing with weevil in wheat stacks have been efficacious, as, if he is able to answer affirmatively, the information may tend to prevent the jerky nature of the market? Is the honorable gentleman aware of the effect which such information would possibly have on the sale of our wheat abroad, in view of the fact that people abroad have been unable to secure wheaten bread for four years?
I have obtained a copy of a report which the Australian Wheat Board has received from the South Australian wheat scheme, which is conducting the encasement and gassing experiments for treatment of weevil. It reads as follows : -
We are pleased to be able to advise you that we have completed the mill treatment and baking tests on the wheat from the first stacks gassed at Birkenhead.
The mill test was made on a parcel of 200 bags, and the miller’s report was in every way satisfactory.
The flour was then submitted to four independent bakers, and all reported that the flour was quite satisfactory, and made an excellent loaf.
Dr. Hargreaves carried out analytical tests on the gluten and starch, and these were also satisfactory.
Mr. W. J. Spafford carried out germination tests, which were quite satisfactory.
On Friday last, at a meeting of the Wheat Weevil Committee, a resolution was passed to the effect that the gas treatment of wheat, as carried out at Birkenhead, is not harmful to the wheat, and it was strongly recommended that it be applied on a large scale.
– On the 27th November, the . honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) asked the following question : -
Can the Acting Prime Minister tell us whether the Imperial Government’ has ceased to exercise control over lead and zinc products; and, if not, can the honorable gentleman give any information as to the sudden increase in the price of lead, as recently reported?
I then said that I was not able to furnish him with information as to the reason for the increase. I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The London Metal Exchange has advised the Australian Metal Exchange that the reason for the advance in the price of lead is to restore the price in England to the parity of other countries.
– On the 3rd December, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
It is reported that the instructions contained in Circular No. 17, of 23rd January, 1918, are being carried out in South Australia. It appears, however, on further inquiry, that in live (5) cases the first preference accorded to mothers, sisters, daughters, or widows of soldiers has been extended under a misapprehension to other female relatives of soldiers, and these girls are not members of an industrial union. They are employed on work which will be completed at an early date, but instructions have been given that they are not to be retained beyond 31st December, when they are to be replaced if temporary assistance is still required by persons entitled to first preference, as above.
In regard to employees engaged prior to Circular No. 17, of 23rd January, 1918, it is not intended to dispense with the services of those not entitled to first preference until reduction in staff becomes necessary, when these persons will be the first to be discharged.
Discharges from Hospitals.
– On the 27th November, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following question : -
Is it the policy of the Defence Department to discharge, while still in hospital, members of the Australian Imperial Force whose papers are marked “ six months free from duty, and three months sedentary duties “ ?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The present policy of the Defence Department is to discharge invalids on the completion of six (6) months from date of disembarkation.
If suffering from a disability due to war service, the discharged man receives apension, irrespective of whether further treatment is required.
If the invalid remains for treatment in a military hospital, he receives a full pension, and, in addition, if he has dependants, sustenance from the Repatriation Department.
Certain classes of invalids, for whom control is necessary for treatment, are retained in the Australian Imperial Force for longer periods.
The answer to the question of the honorable member is, in general, Yes, at present; but regulations are in course of preparation to retain all invalids in the Australian Imperial Force until active hospital treatment is concluded, and the men are fit for re-education and vocational training by the Repatriation Department.
– On the 29th November, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr.
Charlton) made the following request: -
We have been informed that, during the de mobilization of our troops, married men shall have preference, to which no one takes exception. I understand, however, that applications for preference are coming from others, and I ask that, in giving further preference, those who have had the longest service may be allowed to return first.
I am now able, to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The demobilization scheme, as it now stands, provides that, subject to the troops being returned by units or half units, priority will be given in the following order: - .
All married soldiers according to the number of children, length of service, and guarantees of employmentin Australia.
Single soldiers of long service with guarantees of employment in Australia.
Other single men, according to length of service.
– On the 29th November, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) asked, in regard, to the return of our troops from the other side of the world, whether the Assistant Minister for Defence would see that priority is given to men whose wives have earnestly urged the return of their husbands, and sons, whose parents have strongly urged their return for domestic reasons, these requests having beer refused on account of scarcity of reinforcements.
On the same date, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) asked whether any consideration has been given by the Defence Department, or any arrangements made, by which men whose claims to be returned to Australia on account of hardship were not strong enough to be successful prior to the signing of the armistice, shall receive preferential treatment in connexion with the ordinary repatriation of soldiers.
I desire to state that a large percentage of the applications received prior to the cessation of hostilities have lost most of their distressful features, owing to the elimination of the possibilities of the person applied for becoming a casualty
It is regretted that it is considered quite impracticable to review the requests for return, of soldiers which had not been approved. They number a great many thousands, and the conditions which gave rise to the request have, no doubt, altered in many cases, and fresh investigations of the circumstances would be necessary. Every application made for special consideration owing to specially distressful family reasons, will be considered on its merits.
– On the 21st ultimo the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked for the following information: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the information, which has been furnished by the Deputy Post masters-General in the several States, as per summary as follows: -
– On the 29th November, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley)” asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– At the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and at the desire of many honorable members, I wish to make a statement relating to the business of the session. I wish to state, first of all, the measures that the Government desire to pass before we rise. They are the War Precautions Bill ; the War-time Profits Bill; the ‘Soldiers’ Housing Bill; the Chief Justice Pension Bill ; the Naval Defence Bill; the Defence Bill, which we have “nearly completed; a small Public Service Bill, dealing with certain uniform holidays throughout the States and certain clear distinctions relating to preference to Australian Imperial Force, men; a small Arbitration Bill, which will provide for certain matters arising out. of recent judgments, but will contain no structural alterations and* involve no new policy. Then there is the request for amendment of another place in the Income Tax Bill, which is now before us. There is a Bill dealing with trading with the enemy,’ which contains a minor amendment of law and relates to procedure. In addition to these, we hope to pass two Bills, namely, the Shipbuilding Bill and the Customs Bill, of which notice has been given. We should also pass the General Estimates, and consider two motions of reference to the Public Works Committee.
– You have outlined a session’s work.
– The honorable member will, I hope, assist to get the work through. If all were like himself, the Government would have made the programme much more extensive.
– The honorable member is doubting whether that is a compliment or not!
– He has no doubt about it, and neither have I, and I add that the honorable member richly deserves it. Wo propose to postpone three Bills. One of these is the War Loan Compulsion Bill, and it is postponed for the reason that, after a careful survey of the financial prospects and of the money in hand as a result of the last two big loans, we feel that we shall not need another loan until about the middle of next year. This will give us ample time to pass a Bill for the next loan operations. We intend to persist with the policy as laid down in the Bill. Another Bill to be postponed because of certain difficulties that have arisen is the Commonwealth Government . Shipping Line Bill, which will bo introduced next session. We are also postponing the Institute of Science and Industry Bill. As honorable members remember, this Bill has already been passed by the Senate, and will be introduced at that stage, as far as possible, next session. We do not intend to in any way recede from the position with regard to the creation of the Institute, but, in the meantime, the Advisory Council, with the Director, who has been appointed, will continue the work until statutory enactments are effected.
We hope to rise on Thursday, 19th December; and, in order to do this, it will be necessary to sit more days. I am not going to ask honorable members, as they have received no notice, to sit next Monday, because many from other States have, doubtless, made arrangements to return, and will not be here until the Tuesday. I ask honorable members, however, to be prepared to sit on the following Monday, and to assist the Government by sitting in the mornings so far as may be necessary.
I can say that the Government are not at all insensible of the consideration that has been shown by the House generally to the measures introduced this session. We have passed a large number of important Acts, but, of course, this fact may be forgotten, because when one job is over We turn our attention to another. However, the record of the session, from that point of. view, shows that we have debated carefully and passed important measures without undue consumption of public time, and that, with few exceptions, the Government have been assisted in the prosecution of their policy. We ask for a continuance of that spirit and co-operation, which will enable us to discharge our public responsibilities in time for honorable members from other States to join their families by Christmas.
.- (By leave.) - The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has given us a list of twelve Bills which it is intended to pass.
– One a day!
– Yes, one a day, if we sit every day in the week except Sunday. I remember sitting until ten minutes to 1 on a . Sunday morning after a Saturday sitting.
– That was when we were opposing the “ gag.”
– It was. As I was about to say, we have before us twelve Bills, the Estimates, and two Public Works Committee motions as the work to be done before we adjourn two weeks from to-day. Honorable members know that it will mean, so far as most . of us are concerned., sitting on after the trains have gone in the afternoon. Honorable membersrepresenting constituencies in distant States will be anxious to get away from their labours in time to reach their homes before Christmas, and it will take some of them all their time to do so if they remain in Melbourne until the 19th December.
Some of the Bills which the Government propose to deal with are of the utmost importance. I presume that the War Precautions Bill will be the first, and that the others will come up for consideration in the order announced by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) today. Consideration of the Estimates should occupy a fortnight. A Minister smiles. It is all very well for one whose Department may be criticised to smile, but any honorable member who has been in the House for more than one session knows what generally happens when the Estimates are being considered. The programme announced by the Acting Prime Minister contains enough work for a session. If Ministers are anxious that the legislation which is placed upon the statute-hook should1 be carefully considered, they should not propose to rush their measures through in the way suggested. We have only ten sitting days ahead of us, and this is grievance day. If ever there was a matter which could be made the subject of a grievance it is the programme which has just been submitted to the House.
– Let usabolish grievance day.
– When the honorable member is in Opposition he may appreciate grievance days, and may not be as dumb as he is now. We hear very little in the shape of criticism of the Government from honorable members sitting behind Ministers. Of course, I do not know what they may say “ upstairs,’ but even there they do not have much time to say all they may wish to say in criticism of the Administration. I have not the slightest doubt that if honorable members now supporting the Government found themselves in Opposition they would not remaindumb very long. The Acting Prime Minister has made no reference to the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Appropriation Bill, which is on the businesspaper.
– I have previously explained that that measure is to be dropped.
– Yes ; I remember that the honorable gentleman mentioned that this was the measure dealing with the bachelor tax, which was to be buried as deeply and as decently as possible. When the tax was passed the cry was, “Will not honorable members vote for this tax which is to be devoted to the repatriation of soldiers “ ; but now the Government propose to bury it without . giving us the opportunity of pointing out a few of the arguments used by those who were so anxious that the Bill should be passed.
Some honorable members may be acquainted with the principles upon which the measure dealing with the housing of returned soldiers is based. It is an important question which should be dealt, with as early as possible.
– Will the Bill also deal with the Lithgow housing scheme ?
– No. The honorable member may have an opportunity of grieving on that matter to-day. We are told that the Arbitration Bill does not involve any new principle. I presume that it will restore to the Arbitration Court the powers which we thought it held until a recent decision was given by the High Court, but until we see the measure we shall not be told what is intended. The Bill dealing with shipbuilding probably proposes to enable the Government to contract the whole of their employees out of the range of the Arbitration Act.
– The object of the measure is to validate the agreement drawn up between the Government and the men engaged in ship-building.
– That will be a contentious measure. A decision of the High Court gives the members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers the right to apply for work in connexion with shipbuilding, whereas the ship-building agreement itself says that they will have no right to do so. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers is one of the finest trade unions in the world.
– It was one of the finest trade unions in the world.
– It is one of the finest trade unions in the world. My knowledge of trade unionism is not confined to Australia. I have been a member of a TradeUnion, and also an official in three continents, and can speak with a certain amount of authority.
– The honorable member’s remark is a reflection on other trade unions.
– The honorable member has never been a trade unionist. One has only to mention the words “trade union.” to certain honorable members to anger them. It shows how contentious this Bill will be.
Another measure that will cause considerable discussion will be the Chief Justice Pension Bill. Discussion upon it cannot be avoided. The Government must accept the responsibility for introducing a new principle quite contrary to what was laid down in the Federal Judiciary Act, which creates justices of the High Court.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be permitted to discuss the principles of Bills at this stage.
– All I wish to say is that there will be a discussion upon it, and it will be for the Government to show that the principle they intend to initiate is a proper one. In my opinion, the Government would be wise to propose a Christmas vacation, and to ask Parliament to return to work early in the new year. Much of the proposed legislation is, urgent, and we ought to have time to fairly discuss it and the Estimates. It is not right that the business-paper should be cleared by a series of all-night ‘sittings - for that is what will happen - so that when honorable members are tired out, and little more than a quorum is present in the House, the Estimates may be disposed of in,a couple of days. That is not fair discussion. Instead of the Ministry returning to responsible government, as they said they desired to do, they are adopting in a more extensive form the worst features of business conduct in this Parliament by leaving important measures till the end of the session, and then rushing them through. It would be infinitely better for the Government to decide upon two or three measures that must be dealt with before Christmas, get Supply for three months, and meet Parliament again early in February with the. legislation which they regard as important. The programme which the Acting Prime Minister has put before the House is too large to be fairly considered in time to allow of Parliament adjourning on the 19th December.
Tin Mining Industry - Restricted Sale of Copper - Papuan Oil Fields - Supervision of Correspondence - Press Censorship - Workmen’s Houses at Lithgow - Small Arms Factory - Tariff - Military Police - Australian Imperial Force : Return of Soldiers in Cases of Hardship - Liverpool Trainees’ Camp - Enemy Subjects.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [3.12]. - I wish to draw the attention of the Acting Prime Minister and the House generally to a matter of considerable interest, namely, the tin industry, particularly tin sluicing, which at the present time is in a most unsatisfactory condition. In answer to questions I have asked from time to time, I have been informed that the Tin Producers Association had been formed, with the concurrence of the Government, primarily for the purpose of safeguarding the tin-producing industry, placing the metal market on a satisfactory footing, seeing that tin miners, working miners particular^, receive a fair and reasonable price for their .product, and also, I suppose, eliminating the middleman. The Tin Producers Association was first brought under the notice of the public some few months ago, and immediately its formation was notified in the press the tin market became sensitive, and prices fell. Even since there has been more or less uncertainty, and to-day the market is very much lower than it was prior to the association coming before the public eye. We were informed that the association was formed of representatives of the tin producers, the exporters, and the smelters, and my complaint was that the primary tin producers - the small man who does the hard work of winning the oxide, and the dredge-owners - were not represented on .the association, as they should have been. In recent weeks the prices have fallen to the extent of £20 or £30. The market is still declining, and to-day, with the war at an end, there is no market in Australia for tin. I do not know whether the Acting Prime Minister is aware of the fact that there are no buyers for export. In different parts of the Commonwealth there are thousands of people whose livelihood is dependent upon tin mining. I need only refer to the populations of Tingha and Emmaville, in New South Wales, Stanthorpe, in Queensland, the Tasmanian tinmining centres, and .portions of the Dampier electorate, in Western Australia; thousands of people are dependent upon the earnings of the men- engaged in the tin-producing industry. To-day their livelihood has gone, and it appears that there will be considerable trouble and unemployment if action is not taken quickly.
– The trouble has started.
– On the 10th of October last, the price of smelted tin, f.o.b. Sydney, was £314; on 6th November, £306 10s.; and on the 9th November,. £301 10s.; but Elder, Smith, and Company, who are the buyers for the Inter- Allied Tin Executive, were limited on that date to the purchase of 150 tons. On the 15th November the price had fallen to £291 10s., and Elder, Smith, and Company were limited to a purchase of S5 tons. On the 16th November the price was still £291 10s., but a cable was received from England by the company limiting the purchases to 100 tons. Then, on the 29th November, the company received a cable from the Inter-Allied Tin Executive, London, to the effect that the Executive was not buying at present. Consequently, Elder, Smith, and Company discontinued buying, and to-day there is no purchaser of tin, because of the uncertainty of finding a market. The
Tin Producers Association is not now in operation, and is not a buyer.
The Inter-Allied Tin Executive was constituted in London some few months ago to control the price of tin and its distribution amongst the Allies, and was composed of the following representatives : - Great Britain - Sir Leonard Llewellyn, of the Ministry of Munitions, and Mr. W. A. Tennant, Tin Controller; United States of America - Mr. George Armsby, Chief Tin Secretary, and Mr. John Hughes, Chairman of the American Steel Institute; France - Lieutenant Sauvage; and Italy - Colonel Riggi; and the secretary is H. A. Buck, secretary of the London Metal Exchange - a member of the British Tin Committee. All. the buyers in the different States who operated prior to the formation of the Tin Producers Association and the InterAllied Tin Executive, now find their hands tied. Before that Executive was formed, a considerable quantity of tin was exported to America. Australia’s annual output is about 5,000 tons, and there is one big steel corporation in America that uses annually five times as much as Australia’s total production of tin. The export to America has been stopped. I admit that the price of tin in the United States has fallen almost to London parity. The tin industry in Australia has reached considerable dimensions, and it.. means everything to the people engaged in it that there should be a clear outlook. Directly the Commonwealth Government interested themselves in the control of the industry the market became shaky. In a district I visited about a fortnight ago, I found that the small men who brought in a bag or half a bag of tin oxide for sale to the local buyers, who used, formerly, to forward the metal to Sydney, were being offered only half the price that was paid for their tin about a couple of months ago. On investigation I found that the Sydney and Melbourne intermediate buyers are not operating because there is no prospect of selling to Elder, Smith, and Company, the only authorized purchasers for the Inter-Allied Tin Executive, and they themselves have informed me that they have not any authority to purchase.
As we have a War Precautions Act, and as these different operations are largely governed by it, the Government having given its imprimatur to, or having encouraged in some way, an association whose ostensible object is to build up and help this industry by putting it on a proper footing, Ministers will fall short of their duty if they leave matters in the parlous position in which they are to-day. It seems to me that it is the duty of the Government to inquire whether a market cannot be found.
– We are doing it every day.
– The last authority to purchase received by Messrs. Elder,- Smith, and Company was dated 16th November, and the limit was IGO tons.
– Why cannot the Government advance against the production?
– How much?
– The Government is financing wheat to the tune of many million pounds, and that wheat is still here in Australia, a perishable com.modity. Thousands of miners depend on the tin industry for their livelihood, and is it asking too much of the Government to say, “ We know, the tiri has a certain face value, and even if trouble were to eventuate, and the market were to drop, it must be worth from £150 to £200. To prevent the miners selling their tin for half its value, are you prepared to advance so much against the tin until there is some stability in the market, or until you can find a market for us, or if it is a question of shipping space, until space can be obtained for sending the tin oversea”?
– I made an announcement to that effect last week. I said that I was going to make an arrangement which, by a financial advance, would stabilize the industry until the period of uncertainty had passed over.
.- Ever since the Tin Producers Association was brought before the public–
– This has nothing to do with the Tin Producers Association.
– The Tin Producers Association has not started yet.
– It is not in existence.
.- I understand that it is not operating. It is a most remarkable thing, and may be a coincidence, that directly the Tin Producers Association was held out to the miners, the tin market started to fall.
– It is not a coincidence.
– Perhaps the Acting Prime Minister may be able to explain the position. I hope that he will do so, because a large number of persons are concerned, and I want to know something more about the subject than I have been able to ascertain. There has been a falling market ever since the Tin Producers Association was mentioned, and to-day . tin is not a marketable commodity. We are not going to let the industry fail. Those connected with it are entitled to more information than they have received as to what is the prospective value of their tin, and what is to become of their industry in the future. I do not think it is asking too much of the Acting Prime Minister to ask him to take the House into his confidence, and say actually what is likely to happen in regard to the market, and if he thinks that we shall be enabled to obtain a price something approaching what was being got a little while ago. The people connected with the industry should have information on these points. I understand that, although Messrs. Elder, Smith, and Com,pany are the buyers for the Inter-Allied Tin Executive, there is nothing whatever to prevent other persons from buying tin in Australia. They have not a purchasing monopoly. I understand that the British market is thrown open now. But if persons other than Elder, Smith and Company come into the market to-day, and purchase, they find, if they send the tin to America, that only those who have permits from the Steel Corporation of the United States of America may import tin into that country, so that the American market is practically shut against them, and if they try to send tin to Great Britain, they do not know what price they will get for it, because the distribution of tin there is controlled by the Inter -Allied Tin Executive.
– I do not object to the bringing of this matter before the House, but it seems to me that the harder the Government work at a problem the greater the complaint that is made. “For some considerable time past, I have been endeavouring to solve the tin problem, so far as Government activity could do so. Yet from the criticism which comes from certain tin centres, it might be thought that nothing was being done. The position is- not an easy one, as I endeavoured to explain in connexion with the copper industry. I want to remove, if I can, from the minds of honorable members some misapprehensions that exist by reason of the creation of the Inter-Allied Tin Executive at the other end of the world. This Government has been since 1915 endeavouring to promote the establishment of a Tin Producers Association in Australia. It was thought that if the smelters of metallic tin were in an organization, they could give greater assistance to the primary producer, and have more influence in the disposal of their products at the other end of the world. When that was proposed in 1915, it was objected to by the smelting interests of Australia, and the proposal was allowed to die down. That is the position in which I found the matter when called on to assume certain responsibilities in connexion with metals on the departure of the Prime Minister for London. I thought it advisable to ask the gentlemen who represented the metallic tin industry to confer with the Government about, it, and at the Conference I explained to them that, in my opinion, it was eminently advisable that for the remainder of the war, at least the primary and secondary sections’ of the industry should be organized. There was a slight reluctance on the part of some of those concerned to agree to this, but they promised to consider the idea of promoting an organization. Just at that time the Inter-Allied Tin Executive was formed, and started business. This Government was not consulted about the formation of that body, and had no information about it beyond that gathered from the ordinary cables. The whole effect of the Inter-Allied Tin Executive’s action has been, so far as I have been able to judge, blamed on the
Government, because we endeavoured almost simultaneously with the appointment of that body to promote the Tin Producers Association of Aus’tralia. Although there are gentlemen who know much more about the intricacies of this industry than I do, I make bold to say that had the Tin Producers Association been founded, Australia would have been represented on the Inter-Allied Tin Executive, and would have had a voice in overcoming the difficulties which have been created by the operation of the buying powers of the Allied nations. What the .organization was promoted for I can only guess. My view is that because the price of tin rose abnormally after the war started, the American, British, French, and Italian peoples who were using so much tin felt that they were competing against each other, and determined to put themselves on an organized basis as buying nations in alliance for the war, to bring tin down to a reasonable price. That, I think, was the main reason for the creation of the InterAllied Tin Executive. When the Executive started to operate the market felt the effect.
– Their effort to depress the value of Australian tin receives, unfortunately, the indorsement of the authorities here by virtue of the fact that the sole buyer is protected from competition by Government action.
– I do not recollect any action by which the Government in its attempt to organize the local tin industry has given to the purchasing operator any monopoly. We received the first intimation of the appointment of the Executive from the press, and were not consulted regarding its formation.
– The agent here is the sole agent.
– The sole agent for Australia. Evidently the Inter-Allied Tin Executive has appointed a buyer for each of the tin -producing countries to operate on order for special quantities, with limits as to shipping.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - There is nothing to prevent any person from buying tin in Australia to-day. The difficulty is to find a market for the tin.
– My effort has been to see whether we could find another market or an open market. Another idea was that, pending the arrangement, we might see how far we could provide for financing the industry, so that primary tin winning might be kept going in Australia. Many cablegrams have been ex. changed on the subject with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The last sent from him was dated 29th November, and was received on the 1st December. It reads as follows: -
Your -telegram November 2S re tin. Had interview with Downer, and placed position fully before him, and asked him to protect our interests. As result of his action, following is position. Inter-Allied tin executive had arranged that all Australian tin should be sent to America. Under this arrangement about 550 tons have been bought. This includes parcel eighty-five tons at £291 10s. per ton f.o.b. Sydney, purchased end last week. For some domestic reason America now refuses to buy our tin. In these circumstances Ministry Munitions was asked provide a free market on London Metal Exchange; this they agreed to do. Everything now in order for free buying on British market, subject to freight. Every effort is being made secure - inclusion Australian tin in list of priorities as from January next.
Downer is apparently the representative for the Inter-Allied Tin Executive in Britain. The Executive, of course, has the right to dispose of and prescribe the destination of the tin that it purchases. When we were up’ against the difficulty of the Inter-Allied Tin Executive as the main, if not the sole, buyer, where we usually found a market, we endeavoured to get a free market for any purpose in London, and that we have eventually secured.
– It is not a question, of freight. There are only 100 tons, and there is space available for another 400 tons.
– That is nominally true, but this, like all export questions, is a matter of freight. My honorable friend knows that we are not masters of the allocation system ‘. We are on the priority list, and have to operate it, by arrangement between the two Governments, for all cargoes.
– Do they still continue the priority system?
– Yes, and will continue it upon some definite or altering principleaccording to the needs of shipment and the provision of extra tonnage. Al] these things have a tendency to cure themselves by the release of tonnage or by the provision of extra tonnage. That is the position to-day. We hope to cure the tonnage question in January, and we have already cured the market question as far as we have been able to get it cured.
– This is a very important matter to us.
– I appreciate the anxiety of the honorable member and others whohave tin-producing interests in their constituencies. If my honorable friend wishes me to elaborate some of the phases of the Tin ‘Producers Association, I can do so, but I do not wish to stir up any trouble in. regard. to it. I feel that the objects of the Government in endeavouring to found that organization have been misunderstood, and, in some cases, purposely misrepresented. Further than that I do not intend at present to go. It is unfortunate that the interests that are involved in this industry did not appreciate the wisdom of forming themselves into an organization. Had that been done on any of the principles which they themselves could have proposed, I am sure that much, if not the whole, of the difficulty we have met with could have been averted.
– If the A.ustralian Government, representing the needs of the Australian people in this regard, could not’ secure justice, why does the honorable gentleman think that an organization of tin producers here could have secured that justice?
– I think I have already explained the position. Had such an organization been formed, I have no doubt that, as a big producing interest, its representation on the Inter-Allied Tin Executive would have been obtained, and, being on. the governing authority of this vast producing power, with other civilized nations, we would have had better terms, and our interests would have been better understood.
– I think that Executive has been deliberately trying to depress the price of tin.
– No doubt. I do not know whether they are satisfied now that the price is within the region of £290 per ton ; but I think that we would have been better off if we had had a voice on that Inter- Allied Tin Executive instead of being left in the cold and forced to knock at the counting-house door as sellers of tin.
I know that horses cannot live without grass, and I have been endeavouring to work out a scheme under which the Government could safely make advances over a month or two. I called the Government Metallurgical Adviser, Sir John Higgins, specially into consultation in connexion with this matter towards the end of last month, as soon as I heard of the position, and requested him to prepare a scheme, in conjunction with some of the larger men in the trade, to finance the rest of the trade as we did in connexion with copper in the earlier part of this vear. I said that we would be responsible for £100,000 or £150,000 on some system of advance, approved by those best able to judge, if such a scheme could be devised. I have received under yesterday’s date the following memorandum from Sir John Higgins: -
Adverting to the instructions which I received on the 30th ultimo, regarding the policy of the Commonwealth Government rendering financial assistance to the tin industry until the 31st December, I regret to advise you that I have been unable to induce two leading metal merchants to undertake the work, although supported by the condition that the Commonwealth Government would guarantee against loss up to the proposed limit.
The reasons given were that of late so much destructive criticism and base insinuations have been cast upon persons who have given their services and offices for Government purposes, that they are compelled to refuse the work.
I take it that that includes Elder, Smith, and Company amongst others, although I have not inquired.
Hie questions of finance, office facilities, and warehouse accommodation are- not factors, nor the monetary return, because they would, but for the reasons stated, undertake the duties free of charge.
It is anticipated that the Inter-Allied Tin Association will resume purchases almost at once; meanwhile, I beg to suggest that the Commonwealth Bank, on account of the Commonwealth Government, make advances on storage warrants for metallic tin of approved brands at the rate of £225 per ton. It is impossible to forecast the price of tin, and whilst the advance of £225 may seem very low, I cannot recommend an increase.
It is most unfortunate that an Australian Tin Producers Association, comprising the producers of tin concentrates and smelters of tin has not been established. With such an organization in existence it would be possible for a representative of Australian tin interests to have a seat .on the Board of the Inter-Allied Tin Association, London, for the protection and development of Australian tin mining. Individual tin mining or smelting companies or agents cannot act for the whole industry, hence the necessity of a properly constituted Association.
With every word of that latter opinion I entirely concur. So far as my information and judgment go, I believe it would be wise even now for the different sections of the tin interests to become associated in some voluntary way so that the Government might help them, as they have been able to help other organized sections of the metal trade since, the war began. Although £225 per ton may seem to afford an unnecessarily wide margin on the present price of about £290 per ton, the Government must, of course, be guided largely by its expert advisers.
– What is the three, months’ quotation for tin in London ?
– I do not know. I do not think there has been any reliable open market quotation. Any quotation talked of is merely nominal. If we get an open market, as we are promised, then I believe public quotations will be, perhaps, on a parity with the Inter-Allied Tin Executive purchases, or bear some relation to them.
– The quotation is from £270 to £275, while in America it is from £270 to £280.
– It is perfectly clear that the Inter-Allied Tin Executive has been endeavouring to bring down tin to a low price. We are powerless to avert that as an unorganized tin producing country. And what is more, we are not the prime factor in the tin production of the world.
– We are, so to speak, very small potatoes in that regard.
– That is, unfortunately, e0.
– But there is no reason why we should not stand up for our rights.
– We would be in a better position to stand up for them if we were backed up by the associated interests. Instead of that, for some reason or other, the interests involved have not felt themselves obliged or in any way called upon to respond to the wishes of the Government that they should organize; they stand to-day in the same state of disorganization that they stood in when the war broke out.
– From the point of view of the primary tin producer, does not the Acting Prime Minister think it was the fact that they could not have any light thrown on these complicated undertakings that caused them to be somewhat scared?
– I do not know. The steps taken by the Government this year - and I understand that those taken iri 1915 were practically the same - to organize the trade were these: We called up the individuals and companies who were interested in the production of metallic tin. Although they represented the secondary stage of production we felt that if they would form an association which would unite with the Government in dealing with this problem, the organization of the primary men - the producers of concentrates, or any of the other forms of tin - would be the next step, so that we should thus have the two sections organized for a common purpose, and each operating on certain definite and fair relationships. When we met the representatives of the metallic tin producing interests, however, we found them to be unsympathetic generally, and, as a result of that, the opinion, spread throughout the smaller primary producers that the Government had some particular axe to grind, which was hurtful to their interests. No information on .the subject was asked of me until it became apparent that there was a widespread view that the Government was antagonistic to these people, and would not help them. The truth was that every movement we had made was with the object of helping the primary men through the secondary men.
– We could not get that information.
– No one applied to me for it. I can only say that this opinion was widespread throughout the tinproducing districts of New South Wales, which were hostile to the scheme, and I have my own view as to how that opinion was promulgated.
– Did it not come about as the result of the threat to destroy competition ?
– We did not in any way threaten to destroy it.
– Would not the association buy as such instead of as individuals ?
– Yes, but under conditions laid down that would be fair to the industry. In the case of copper the primary producers were, for the time being, afraid that their interests would be lost sight of, but the whole operation of the copper scheme has been - and I can say this without presenting bouquets to any one - one of properly apportioned responsibility and reasonable treatment to all sections of the industry. The situation, so far as the copper industry is concerned, would be as joyful as a Sabbath morning if we could still sell our copper. We could have placed the tin industry in the same position but for the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion which surrounded the first stages of the negotiations. If the tin interests desire such financial assistance as we are recommended to give we shall have pleasure in affording it even to the extent of £150,000 for one month, and if the freight difficulty is not lifted by January, I shall be prepared to go further, so that those engaged in this widespread industry may be kept going.
– I regret that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) did not deal so thoroughly with the copper industry as he has with the tin industry. The amount of money involved in copper production is probably more than twice that involved in the tin industry. I do not wish to say anything detrimental to the position of the tin miners; but I think the Government should do something in the direction of affording assistance to the copper industry of Australia. So far the Government have merely been acting as the agents between those who have copper to sell and those who desire to buy. They have not given any assistance in the shape of advances to the copper’ companies. The companies themselves have co-operatively helped each other. For a considerable period the larger copper companies have advanced to the smaller companies something like £80’ per ton on electrolytic copper at grass; but the time arrived a couple of months ago when those larger companies could no longer advance money, because something over £2,000,000 worth of copper was lying at grass at Kembla. As a result, a couple of mines had to close down in New South Wales. The Government were approached and asked to relieve the situation, and they, again acting in the capacity of agent, got a further extension of the contracts that will expire at the end of this month. Up to date, absolutely nothing has been done either to arrange a further extension, or to allow the copper companies themselves to manage their own businesses. We have been informed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), per medium of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), that no further contracts can be arranged; and that seems to be definite. That information was available something like three weeks or more ago; and notwithstanding the fact ‘ that the Government have practically no hope in the world of arranging a contract, the companies, who are vitally interested, are not allowed to make arrangements to keep their enterprises alive. On the 14th of this month the Tottenham mines will have to close clown, and many hundreds of working men, with their dependants, to the number of something like 300, will be directly inconvenienced, and many will have to seek work elsewhere. . The company must cease operations until such time as the Government allows it to manage its own business and get rid of it3 copper.
Then, inevitably the Cobar, one of the largest producing companies in Australia, together with the C.S.A., also at Cobar, will have to cease operations. Not only will New South Wales be affected, but the whole of the copper mines in Queensland and Tasmania - the whole of the copper companies in Australia - will have to cease operations in January unless something is done. During the past month I have asked. the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) on many occasions for some relief - either, for some extension of the contracts, or for permission for the companies to make their own arrangements. Every possible ounce of copper is necessary to, and will be used by other countries in the world, and under the circumstances not a mine should be closed down for one day. The production of an essential commodity so largely used and so urgently needed throughout the world ought not to be allowed to cease, because it will mean a distinct and direct loss to Australia.
What the companies say is, that if the Government cannot sell their copper, they should be allowed to attempt to do so themselves, and that they could make arrangements immediately and directly if permission were given. We are informed by cable that there is a free market for copper and tin on the London Metal Exchange; and why should these large companies, employing many thousands of men, be. debarred from conducting their own sales ? The position is a most serious one, but it does not seem to have sufficiently impressed itself upon the Government. I have been informed by some of the copper men that if this permission is given, they’ can make contracts in America and England, and it is high time all the hundreds of thousands of people interested in the industry should be given some guarantee, either that arrangements will be made by the Government, or that the companies shall be allowed to manage their own business, or that the Government will make the same concessions to copper producers as they have to pastoralists, agriculturists, and, as we were informed to-day, are prepared to make to tin producers.
– Let them give the same guarantee for copper as for tin.
– That would clear up the situation, and allow these mines to continue operations.
The next matter I deal with is one that requires language which I am afraid, would prove contrary to the standing order; and I shall therefore deal with it as moderately as possible. I refer to the proposal of the Government to barter away - shall I call it the heritage? - that we have in the great oil-fields of Papua. It would be very interesting to trace the history of the attempts of the Commonwealth to find oil in that Possession ; and it Would be doubly interesting to recall the many “red herrings” that have been drawn across the trail and” the great bungling, ineptitude, and incapacity displayed by the persons responsible for the fiascos in Papua. The Commonwealth Government have spent £80,000 or more, and for that expenditure there is not a gallon of oil to show. The incapacity, blundering, and, I believe, worse-
– Do you not think that incapacity and blundering are characteristic of most Government undertakings of the kind?
– The Government of the day appointed as manager a gentleman named Wade, who, I am credibly informed, knows the geological dimensions or England and Scotland, and probably Ireland and Wales, but of oil production knows absolutely nothing. I am not concerned with who appointed this gentleman, but what I have stated appears to be the fact regarding him. He has no knowledge of drilling, as is shown by what occurred in Papua. A large and expensive rotary drilling plant was purchased in America, and when it arrived, with two oil-drillers at 50 dollars a week each, it was found that a portion of the machinery had been left behind. The manager decided that one of the oil-drillers should return to America to fetch out the forgotten parts; and after many months, “the parts ultimately arrived, but not the driller.
– Did the driller No. 1 go back for driller No. 2 ?
– He did not; but it was not long before interference by Mr. Wade in the work of drilling caused this man to absolutely refuse to any longer work under him. The driller, in so many words, told the manager that he could do the drilling for himself, for he preferred to work under men who understood their job, and knew something about’ drilling. This same driller is now at work under Mr. A. E. Jenkins, engineer for boring operations for water by the New South Wales Government, and -is doing very well.
– Are the Boring operations in New South Wales doing very well ?
– They are; the New South Wales Government, with Mr. Jenkins, are putting down bores 50 per cent. cheaper than any contractor in Australia could. Right through the sub-artesian area drills are constantly being put down, and in Darling alone there are three sets in operation. Every two weeks or so a flow of water has been procured ; and we must bear in mind that no contractor in Australia can come within 50 per cent, of the cost of these bores. Of course, the farmers, agriculturists, and pastoralists are paying for this , and I am sure that if it were not for the capacity and knowledge possessed by Mr. Jenkins, the cost of this sub-artesian boring would be considerably greater.
The Commonwealth Government, instead of obtaining the services of a man with a knowledge not only of drilling, but also of geology r decided to send for a Londoner, who, though he might know something of the chalk pits and the coalbearing centres of England, knew nothing of drilling. He was put in charge of the job, and he effectively got rid of £80,000, for which, so far as I am aware, there are only a few gallons of oil to show. After many months of boring - at least, of sitting down, for there’ is very little evidence of boring - we find that the Government have “ thrown up the sponge,” and, if they have not applied to private enterprise to help them, they have applied to the British Government.
– The Government “will not let private enterprise in.
– If private enterprise gets in, it will not be by the consent of this side of the House.
– The American Oil Trust is behind all this.
– I do not know whether the American Oil Trust is behind the failure of exploration of the oil fields of Papua; but I do know, as some honorable members have seen, that crude oil is there oozing out of the ground. We know what occurred with a private company in Queensland. This company put bores down, and, by some mysterious agency, a drill or a crowbar was dropped into the bore, putting an end to the work. This meant the ruin of the company, which went out of existence. I can also inform honorable members that recently, when one of the men in charge of the operations was dismissed in Queensland, the bore, before he received notice of dismissal, was surrounded and guarded so that it should not be tampered with. I was wondering whether the same agency that operated in Queensland has not been operating in Papua.
– You are altogether mistaken in your supposition.
– I am wondering. If the American Oil Trust had spent half-a-million of money in endeavouring to prevent the Australian Government from finding oil in Papua, they could not have brought about a better result than what we have seen. I wish to say to honorable members opposite that if this National Win-the-war Government gives a lease to any private company in Papua, or enters into any arrangement with any other companies in the world in regard to this oil-field, the Labour party, immediately it gets into power, will repudiate, without compensation, any agreement of the kind.
– There is no justification for this attack.
– The honorable gentleman has admitted that the British Imperial Oil Company and the AngloPersian Company have been in negotiation
– They have been for three years.
– For what reason? To get oil which is in Papua? Is that not the case?
– Of course it is, as is the case with all exploiters.
– They pay no regard to blanks. They know perfectly well what they are looking for. Australia wants to know what these negotiations are. Is the object the sale of the Papuan oil fields to some private company for the purpose of profiteering at the expense of Australian citizens ? We are told by the Minister (Mr. Glynn) that he is now conferring with the Imperial authorities in regard to oil boring in Papua. Why is it necessary to go to England or any other country for assistance in order to carry out boring, an operation which is carried out every day in Australia ? There are plenty of men available who can undertake the boring for the Government, and probably would get results far more quickly than can the persons who are. now in control of the operations.
– The American oil companies have crippled the progress of the shale oil companies in Australia.
– That may be so, but what has that to do with Papua ?
– The Minister is very innocent ! I would like to know how the influence of these American oil companies has been used in regard to Papua. The results achieved so far either display grave incapacity on the part of those in charge of the boring operations or point to the fact that the American oil companies have been exercising some sinister influence which is preventing ‘is from making substantial progress. Th» Minister admits that negotiations have been going on for the past three years, and that he has had offers from (he British Imperial Company and the AngloPersian Company. But why should the Government entertain offers from private companies? In justice to himself the Minister ought to explain the nature of the negotiations with the Imperial Government. Why should it be necessary te go to London? Is it-to eel financial assistance ? If not, perhaps ft means that we are to give the British Government some rights over the Papuan oil fields which I,” for one, am not prepared to give. I would not give Great Britain or any country rights over those fields. Australia wants the oil if it is there, and should retain full control over it. If the Government give away any concession, either to the British Government or to an oil company, we shall take it away without compensation if at any time we succeed in capturing the Government benches. If honorable members opposite sell the people of Australia we .shall- make them pay for it. We will not stand for any immoral action or dishonest sale of the rights of the people of Australia, and will repudiate it when we get across to the benches opposite. I urge the Minister (Mr. Glynn) to give honorable members something more than vague answers in regard to the oil fields of Papua. I have asked several questions in regard to the matter, but have received no definite information from him. If lie would .place before honorable members the Government’s ideas and proposals in regard to the potentially rich oil fields of Papua, he would allay a good deal of suspicion which is now rampant in the minds of the people in regard to those fields.
In the Worker of the 15th August, 1918, there appeared an article dealing with an alleged utterance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), that if sufficient men were not available under the voluntary system, conscription would again be introduced. The article pointed out the sinister possibilities contained in those words; but, as it was purely a political article written with political intent, Mr. Boote, the editor, did not submit it to the censor. Two months afterwards, the censor decided that Mr. Boote should be indicted under the War Precautions Act for not having submitted matter to the censor. It will be noted that the charge was a definite one - “ For not submitting matter to the censor.” Magistrate McKenzie dealt with the case, and fined Mr. Boote £50, or in default four months’ imprisonment, and ordered him to find bonds for £300, failing which he would be imprisoned for a further three months. Altogether, £350 ‘was involved, with an alternative of seven months’ imprisonment, in the punishment inflicted for not having submitted to the censor a political article commenting on something which it was alleged the Prime Minister had said. When Magistrate McKenzie got to business, and sentenced Mr. Boote to this hard and vindictive punishment, he said that the article might have had a serious effect on recruiting, taking that particular phase into consideration, notwithstanding the fact that the charge was a very definite one brought under the War Precautions regulation dealing with the submission of printed matter to the censor. Not long afterwards, Mr. Boote decided that a description of the vindictiveness and class bias of Magistrate McKenzie,. and the utter ridiculousness of the position we have arrived at under the War Precautions Act, would make a very good article for the Worker.
– Why does the honorable member say “ McKenzie “ and afterwards “Mr. Booie”?
– Because I have respect for Mr. Boote. ‘ I have no respect for the tools of the National Government in the guise of magistrates who vindictively vent their spleen on every occasion on the Labour men and unionists who come before them. I ha,ve no time for them, no sympathy for them, and no respect for them. Mr. Boote is worth a hundred of them.
As 1 wa3 saying, Mr. Boote decided to write an article on the treatment which had been meted out to him by “ fellowworker “ McKenzie. Accordingly, he wrote one, and sent it on to the wise censor of New South Wales, Major Nicholson. This is just another’ illustration out of many thousands showing how ridiculously our censorship is conducted. Honorable members can see from the article, as it returned from the censor bow both blue and red pencils were freely used in dealing with it, probably in order that editors and sub-editors might not mistake the censor’s markings. The article contained the following words : - to the effect that if a sufficient number of men did not enlist in Australia conscription would have to-be resorted to.
The article pointed out the sinister possibility that lurked behind these words, and urged the organizations of Labour to be on their guard.
That was cut out. Here is another specimen of the discrimination exercised by the censor in order to prevent the publication of anything of a seditious character likely to imperil the safety, of the Empire or prejudice recruiting or our relations with the Allies, and so -forth, and so on. The article also said -
The article referred to was confined to warning Labour bodies that an attempt to impose conscription might be made, and the people of Australia having twice decided by referendum that there shall be no military compulsion, a piece of writing in strict conformity with the ascertained will of the people could not be prejudicial to recruiting. lt was these popular decisions that rendered recruiting necessary; and to say that the cause might prejudice the effect is to expose a mental equipment absolutely unfitted for the discharge of judicial functions.
That “was cut out.
Mi-. McWilliams. - It was not worth preserving. Not much was lost by the deletion.
– But was it worth cutting out ?
– I hardly think so.
– N.o one, no matter how biased or embittered he might be; or how blinded by his party feelings he might be, would be likely to say in his sane moments that these words would be likely to prejudice anything. They are merely a statement of opinion in regard to ‘the attitude of Magistrate McKenzie. It is to be hoped the time is not far off when the Government will reconsider the whole question of the censorship of the press of Australia. No good can be served by retaining it; a great deal of harm may be brought about by continuing it. We have men coming back to Australia who have been under military discipline, and have been obliged to keep very close so far as their utterances were concerned. They are anxious to come back to a free country - a.t least to a country as free as that which they left. Many of those who have already returned have protested against the restrictions which have been placed upon them; because they find that for some inscrutable reason are not allowed to give their opinions in regard to political and international questions. Every day hundreds of these men are returning.’ It will not be long before we have 50,000 or 100,000 of them back in Australia, and they will not tolerate the censorship as it exists at present. They will swell the large body of people in Australia who resent that sort of thing, and I believe that the force of public opinion will bring about a removal of these restrictions whether the Government like it or not.
.- In the reply of the Acting Prime Minister bo the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Lt. -Colonel Abbott), to which I listened with great interest, I noticed some statements which require considerable amplification and one or two doubts in the mind of the honorable gentleman that require some clearing up. In the first place, he seemed to think that had the association which was projected’ amongst tin producers been formed, the position in ‘which Australia now finds herself in regard to tin would not have arisen. I do not know whether the Acting Prime Minister is aware that the man who, under Sir John Higgins’ direction, was attempting to form a Tin Producers Association is the man who now, in the office of Elder, Smith, and Company, is acting for the Inter- Allied Tin Executive to the detriment of Australian tin producers and the industry generally.
– That fs rather a strong statement.
– It is true. I do not know whether the Acting Prime Minister realizes that a great deal of the. doubt and suspicion in the public mind in regard to these metal transactions is due to the unhealthy secrecy with which the Government advisers hedge their methods and proposals. Honorable members know that several times in this House I have asked for facts and figures for the information of the Australian people “with regard to these metal problems. For some time persons interested in copper particularly, and also in molybdenite and wolfram, came to me, pointing out that Australia was not receiving half the world’s market prices, and that there was a grave suspicion in their minds that the benefit of these low prices was not going to the British or Allied Governments, but to middlemen and men behind the scenes in other countries. Several times I have asked for facts and figures in regard to these things, and the Acting Prime Minister promised me a reply from Sir John Higgins. The honorable gentleman produced a statement which he said was too lengthy to reprint in Hansard, and had cost considerable time and money to produce. Therefore, he merely supplied typewritten copies of the document to those honorable members who were interested in it. I received a copy, and 1 was able to read it in five or six minutes. In it was not one item of the information I had asked for, and had the document been published in Hansard the fact would have been clear that this adviser of the Commonwealth had not answered a question that an honorable member from his place in the House had asked. If things are done in this way, we cannot wonder at suspicion becoming rife outside. I am not saying that there is ground for the suspicion, but I am pointing out how conduct of this kind breeds suspicion.
A little time ago there came a “bolt from the blue” in the form of an announcement that Elder, Smith, and Company, a favoured firm that has enjoyed great benefits at . the hands of the Administration which Sir John Higgins serves, had been appointed sole buyers of tin in the Commonwealth. Honorable members may be surprised to know that, so far as I can ascertain, Elder, Smith, and Company never previously bought one ton of tin. Now we are told - and I have .no doubt the Acting Prime Minister believes every word he said - that Elder, Smith, and Company were appointed sole buyers by the Inter-Allied Tin Executive, without reference to Australia. How did the Inter-Allied Tin Executive, 12,000 miles away, discover the ability in this business of a company that had never engaged in it before? Is it not likely that Mr. Raws, in the office of Elder, Smith, and Company, the secretary of the Tin Association that did not mature, informed the Inter-Allied Tin Executive that Elder, Smith, and Company would be thoroughly competent to take charge of these operations ?
I come now to the next part of this mystery To any man who has a mere smattering of this business, the appointment of Elder, Smith, and Company as sole buyer was quite unnecessary in view of the fact that there was only one market, one quality, and one price. If a person has for sale an article of standard quality, and there is only one buyer on the other side of the world, and only one price, that buyer, if he intends to treat the seller honestly, will tell him a long time in advance the price he intends to pay, and the seller can . get payment on bills drawn against the shipping documents. The Inter-Allied Tin Executive having discovered this company that had never engaged in the tin-buying business before, wanted to create another middleman in Australia. Elder, Smith, and Company deserve to be paid for anything they do for the Inter-Allied Tin Executive, but their profits came out of the tin ore producers’ pockets, for they stand between the tin producers and their only market. Why should not the tin producers have direct access to the only market by drawing a bill on it in the ordinary way?
The fact that this simple business procedure has not been followed tends to make people suspicious, however little cause for it there may be. The Acting Prime Minister was very wisely advised by the people whom he has just asked to undertake the financial control of the. tin industry for the Commonwealth. There had been so much suspicion in connexion with all this business that it was not worth anybody’s while to have his reputation besmirched for all time by acting as the Government’s intermediary’ after the industry had been got into such a quandary.
The Acting Prime Minister would, apparently, have one believe that tin is produced from mines, financed by rich companies with boards of directors, and all the other paraphernalia.
– Who would believe that?
– Men who do not come from tin-producing districts might well believe it. But honorable members who are familiar with the industry know that, although some tin is obtained from lodes, most of the tin produced in Australia is got from small pockets by individual prospectors. And to those men it is like the salt of life to have proof of competition in the purchase of their product. If a copper company is being wrongly handled by a Copper Producers Association, that company has on its board men quite qualified to deal in a business way with the authority that is defrauding them. But what chance has the individual tin prospector of dealing with a Tin Producers Association ? Let him once get the idea into his head that the association is not giving him a fair deal, and he is completely discouraged. He has no standard of value. He cannot go to other competitors; he has to accept the price that is offered. He is told that the price has fallen. He does not know that the price has fallen in a market 12,000 miles away, and that the Australian market has declined in sympathy. He becomes suspicious and loath to agree to anything in the way of a monopoly. . That is exactly what has happened in connexion with the tin industry. The tin-producers said, “ In the past we dealt first with one buyer and then with another. Between the lot of them we received a fair deal. To-day there is only one buyer, and down goes the price.”
The Government should realize that Australia is not at the end of this war in the position of a beaten nation. We find these Inter-Allied business executives very often considering that the producers of the nation should be treated according to the hard and fast rules of the American market, in which the man who is weak has very little chance, and the man who is strong gets more than he is entitled to. While the war was on, Australia gladly sold its products at prices below the world’s markets. But I do not see any reason why Australia should be made to pay tribute to the world simply because the Commonwealth has been nobly engaged in a great task during the last four and a half years. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said that if Australia had had its representatives on the Inter-Allied Executive this sort of thing would not have happened. Oan honorable members imagine any statement more foolish? If a country which, has supplied over 300,000 of the best fighting men that Europe has ever known cannot speak through its Government, and say that its producers are not getting a fair deal, what chance will a few obscure business men have of dealing with the American multi-millionaires in this business? I am satisfied that, however men on the other side of the world may desire to act, the people of Great Britain, the United States of America, and France, will not tolerate the spoliation of a young and weak country that has done its best to gain the victory which the common cause has just achieved.
I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will realize that in closing down on the general powers under the War Precautions Act, the first essential is to 1st daylight in upon all the operations that have taken place under it. In regard to these business deals the Government should take the people into their confidence as soon as they possibly can. They should let the producers know how their affairs have been managed, even though in some cases mistakes have been made. We cannot continue governing Australia with a set of unofficial dictators. We have a Government in whom the House has confidence, and a Parliament elected by the people. But the real powers under the War Precautions Act are being operated outside this House, and outside the power or intimate control of this Parliament. While the war was in progress that may have been an excellent arrangement. No doubt the members of these various Boards gave patriotic service in an honorary capacity while the war continued. But that spur of patriotism is now removed, and we cannot too soon apply the ordinary safeguards of common sense. I should like to suggest to the Government that they might, in the case of tin, make representations in the only way in which representations can have force, and that is through their own Government agency. Do not let this House be humbugged by any talk by Sir John Higgins as to the international importance of any tin executive or any other Association presided over by himself.
I have heard from a member of this Parliament who has given some attention to this matter, that one of the objects behind the attempt to form ‘a Tin Producers Association was to provide cheap tin for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which was about to commence the manufacture of tin plates at Newcastle. I do not know what justification there is for the statement, but if it is true, that is just the sort of policy that ought to originate in this House, and not outside. If the Australian people want things of this sort done, this, and not the office of Sir John Higgins, is the place in which to “originate such projects. An injustice may have been done to the Honorary Adviser of the Commonwealth, and the metals administration generally, by the suggestion that I have just voiced, but it is on all-fours with the statement to which we have, listened to-day. It has been said that the Prime Minister’s policy was to have all metals smelted in Australia. Following that idea to its logical conclusion, Australia would export nothing but finished products. I believe in that policy, but it must have limitations. The smelting .of all tin in Australia would impose a very heavy handicap on Western Australia, and the ore-producers of that State, and for that reason alone I regard the proposition with considerable caution. But the idea of establishing tin-plate works at Newcastle, however excellent in itself, is fraught with great risk to Australia, if it is to be carried into effect at the cost of our tin ore producers. The quantity of tin in a tin-plate is so infinitesimal that I understand the tin-plate industry of England consumes only about 8,000 tons of tin a year.
– Where did the suggestion come from?
– A member of this’ Parliament informed me that it was behind » the policy of the formation of the Tin Producers Association. If that was the idea behind the association, I can imagine reasons for its formation ; otherwise, I can see none.
– I should say that the suggestion was ludicrous, on the face of it.
– The honorable gentleman should not talk in that way. The matter was regarded quite seriously in tin-producing circles, where the reputation of the Minister in charge of price fixing, as elsewhere throughout Australia, is on a post-war falling market.
Mr. Greene__ From” what I know, I should say that the suggestion has nothing n it.
– I am glad to hear that. All I ask is that light should be let into these transactions. We have been humbugged concerning them. I asked for prices, from the producer of the ore to the final consumer, of the metal, and was humbugged. No doubt, information could be obtained showing what has happened at all these meetings of the Tin Producers Association, the Copper Producers Association, and so on; and this information should be given to the House. Why should a veil of secrecy be thrown over the subject? You cannot avoid the suspicion which the Acting Prime Minister deprecated if things are not done in the open light of day. What you do in the name of the people you should do in the full gaze of the people.
Now that the war is at an end, the Government might suggest that the appointment of a sole buyer for Australian tin on behalf of the Inter-Allied Tin Executive could well be terminated. If the Inter-Allied Tin Executive is prepared to pay only one price, it should be prepared to take all our tin ‘ at that price without the intervention of a middleman, bills being drawn against documents for the tin supplied. That would, to a small extent, help the tin producers. You will not help them by advancing £225 when the market price is over £290.
– What has been the average price of tin of recent years? £100 was considered a good price for it a few years ago.
– In 1897, tin was £61 8s. ; in 1905, it was £143; in 1906, £180; in 1907, £172; in 1908, £133; in 1909, £134; in 1910, £155; in 1911, £192; in 1912, £209; and in 1913, £206.
– On those figures, is not £225 a good advance to offer ?
– According to the last quotations, tin is now worth £295.
– A buyer may not be able to sell it at once.
– The man who buys ore has to pay spot cash for it, and the longer he is selling the worse off he is. Although my brother is associated with this business, I know nothing about the management of it, and cannot say whether the offer is or is not a fair one. Speaking simply as a member of Parliament, I say that the offer of £225 for tin which is now worth nearly £300 will not keep the wheels of industry moving.
– Then what hope is there of doing so when the price gets back to the old rate?
– I am not concerned with the prices of the future; I want the wheels of industry to be kept moving. I would not care if you said that smelting must cease and let the ore be exported. The right thing to do is to cut out this unnecessary middleman, Messrs. Elder, Smith, and Company, and to arrange with the InterAllied Tin Executive to state a reasonable price for the tin, and then provide freight for it at once to America or England, wherever the market may be. Tin is of small bulk, and could easily be sent away. That is the only practicable method of keeping the industry alive. It is useless to complain about the suspicion in the public mind. This suspicion is inevitable in view of what has happened in the creation of all these organizations. It is, probably, entirely without justificaton, but, nevertheless, inevitable. The only way to make the small man fully satisfied is to cause him to realize that his industry can go on, and you can do that only by giving competition and freight for his products.
.- On various occasions I have asked whether the Government intended to carry out a housing scheme at Lithgow, and I have been repeatedly informed that it was intended to do bo, and that a proposal would be submitted to the House this session. To-day I have ascertained that the Minister has no intention of submitting a proposal to the House. He led honorable members to believe that a proposal would be submitted, and he caused the people of Lithgow to believe that decent housing was to be provided. Now -there is a grave possibility of the Lithgow housing scheme being deferred for some considerable time. No doubt the Government have important matters to deal with, but this housing scheme is as important as any of them. In my opinion, it might have been discussed in place of the proposal to extend the operation of the War Precautions Act. The Public Works Committee reported on the scheme some time ago, and strongly recommended the construction of houses at Lithgow. The Committee spent two or three days “in Lithgow, and examined a number of witnesses there, whose evidence was to the effect that in some cases there were three families living in four-roomed and fiveroomed cottages; that there were from fifty to seventy boarders in one boardinghouse, and that two, three, four, and five men were sleeping in one room. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) was of the opinion that it was necessary to relieve the shortage of houses, and recommended strongly the building of workmen’s cottages; but, despite these recommendations, the Government do nothing in the matter. I do not know whether we can take the word of the Minister in the future, if *he does not make some definite proposal for the carrying out of this scheme. To-day iron, which was £90 a ton, has fallen in price to the extent of £30. That is a reason for going on with the work. While the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was speaking I inquired whether the Lithgow housing scheme would be submitted to the House in connexion with the proposal for the building of soldiers’ homes. He replied in the negative.
– The Lithgow housing scheme is quite independent of the other. I have been negotiating for some time with the Lithgow Council, and am now awaiting their final reply. As soon as it is received the scheme will be submitted to the House. I shall ask the council, in view of the approaching adjournment, to expedite their reply.
– The honorable gentleman assured me that the scheme would be submitted this session.
– That was subject to the -prompt receipt of a reply by the Lithgow Council to the communication that T addressed to them. Last week I forwarded the plans to the council, and they should have, been able to deal with them at their meeting last Monday. I “am still awaiting their reply. There has been no delay on the part of the Department.
– The Government are trying to impose upon the Lithgow Council conditions that would not be tolerated by any council.
– Not at all. We are simply, asking them to put in a definite form the assurance given by a deputation to the Minister.
– The mayor of Lithgow, when giving evidence before the Public Works Committee, said that any promise that he made -would be subject to the approval of his council.
– He said that if we went on with the scheme the council would provide the necessary lighting. We are now asking for the assurance of the. council that the lighting will be provided. There is also the question of road formation in respect of which we have asked the council for a definite assurance.
– There seems to be a likelihood of this work being delayed for some time.
– Not because of any fault on the part of the Department. I went up to see the mayor of Lithgow, and also sent an officer to interview him.
– I am particularly anxious that the housing scheme should be speedily carried out.
– And so am I.
– The workmen em- ployed at the Small Arms Factory have to submit to the most unreasonable housing conditions.
– Our desire is to remedy them as soon as possible.
– Having regard to the way . in which many of the workmen and their families” are grouped together, the bacl sanitation, and the generally unhealthy environment, the spread of Spanish influenza. to Lithgow would mean disaster. It may be asked why these men do not seek employment where better housing accommodation is available. A man, however, in these times has to accept employment wherever he can obtain it. The housing conditions under which the employees of the Lithgow Small Arms
Factory are labouring are such as are not imposed upon workmen in any other part of the world. The population of Lithgow has grown so rapidly that building operations have not been able to keep pace with it. What is more, the promise made by the Government, that they would build workmen’s homes, has caused private enterprise to be withdrawn from the building trade there.
– It was because private enterprise would do nothing that the Government were asked to step in
– When the Public Works Committee took evidence in Lithgow, building material was so expensive that it was .practically impossible for private enterprise to engage in the industry.
– Although negotiations with the Lithgow Council are still pending, ive are going on with the preparation of plans and specifications, so that we may push ou with the building of these houses. I hope to be able to submit the question to the House this session.
– Since the Minister has given me a definite promise that, as soon as the Lithgow Council replies to his representations, he will submit this question to the House, I shall say no more on the subject. Those specially interested in it, however, have urged me to secure its submission to the House before we go into recess.
The rifles produced at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory have frequently been criticised adversely in this House. It is now almost a daily occurrence for the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) to complain of them. I should like to know where he and others who criticise the effectiveness of these rifles obtain their information. I have carefully watched the operations of the industry during the last four or five years, and, while I confess that at its inception the rifles produced were not adapted for the purposes for which they were intended, it cannot bo denied that, since 1916, a complete change has come over the Factory. I have- it on expert authority that the rifles produced there are now entirely satisfactory. The honorable member for Dampier said, a day or two ago, that a soldier might as well be sent into the, trenches with his hands tied behind his back as to be armed with a Lithgow rifle. In reply to that statement, I would point out, in the first place,- that every rifle that has left the Factory since August, 1916, has been previously tested, in its component and assembled parts, as to its strength, safety, durability, and accuracy, by military experts.
– We have heard of that, but the statement is not correct in respect of the rifles that we saw in Western Australia when Colonel Bruche was the State Commandant.
– The- expert who tests on the Factory range all the rifles produced at Lithgow is a military officer who has had years of experience in a similar capacity in both British and Indian arsenals. Commandant D’ Andre, of the French Mission, who is recognised throughout the world as an authority on small arms, recently commended this officer on his skill, and was astounded to see him pick up rifle after rifle and shoot “ bulls eyes “ with regularity. His outbursts of’ speech were punctuated with such exclamations as “ Bravo, Enfield ; the rifle of victory.” The test officer’s records state that the rejects for inaccurate shooting at the time of testing at the Factory range are- 1.4 per cent, to date; but these, with slight adjustments, leave the Factory perfect rifles. The other day this expert casually picked up ten finished rifles, and fired fifty shots at a target chart with them. The whole of the shots confined themselves to an area on the chart measuring 3 x 14 inches. This was the test as authorized by the Imperial authorities. He personally states that the Lithgow rifles are the best group of rifles in every respect that he has handled. Hundreds of Australian soldiers at the Front are armed with Lithgow rifles to-day, and they speak in the most eulogistic terms of their effectiveness and durability.
As to the cost of production, which has also been adversely commented upon by certain honorable members, the experts state that, although in the early days of the industry, it was greater than the cost of production at Enfield, the rate has now been brought down to the Enfield level. This result has been secured despite the fact that practically the whole of the men engaged at the Lithgow works had to be specially trained in this class of work, whereas at Enfield men can be secured who have worked at the same industry for many years. The faults, if any, associated with the Factory should be dealt with leniently ; extravagant and misleading statements certainly ought not to be made. Some honorable members would appear to object to the continuance of the industry at Lithgow. If the production of small arms in . Australia is to be continued, there is no reason why the industry should not remain at Lithgow, where we have a huge plant. The rumour so often heard that the Government contemplated removing the Factory to Canberra has greatly influenced private enterprise, so far as house building is concerned. I ask the Minister to give me the assurance that the Factory will not be removed from Lithgow. If it were shifted, the result would be most serious to the town, and would also mean that some hundreds of returned soldiers would be thrown out of employment. The bulk of those employed in the industry are returned soldiers. Each and every returned soldier who applies at the Small Arms Factory is given employment, although I presume that if there are not sufficient returned men to fill the positions, men who have enlisted are calledin. It happens that scores of the returned men are not in a condition to stand constant work, and may come in for only two or three days; indeed, there may be found any number up to fifteen or sixteen leaving the employment on a given date; so that there is a constant coming to and fro. I should like to repeat that under no circumstances has a bond fide returned man been refused employment, and statements made by some honorable members1 on this point are very often misleading.
– I understood the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to suggest that some sinister influence has been at work in relation to the development of the oil fields of Papua, and to refer to Dr. Wade, the expert who is in charge of the fields. It is for those who suggest sinister influence to give some evidence of its existence. I may say that Dr. Wade was appointed in 1913; and, as a matter of fact, I may, on reports, have recommended or accepted him. Some work had been done before he arrived, and owing to blunders such as occur in almost every oil field, he recommended the shutting down of four of the bores and the continuing of others. As to the influence of oil companies, one cannot, of course, have the omniscience of those who criticise; but Iremember that cables were sent to the Imperial Institute asking for the suggestion as to who would be a first class expert to attempt the development of what might turn out to be payable fields. At the time the German Government were testing over about 100 square miles of country in their part of the Possession, and were having this done by companies, through whose agency blunders were committed; but I think that when we took back what Germany should never have got in 1883, the German Government was intending to conduct the operations themselves. I only say this to show that there is evidence of more oil fields in Papua than those discovered under the supervision of the Commonwealth Government.
When we cabled Home, the Imperial Institute mentioned, I think, two names, one of which was Sir Boverton Redwood, a great expert, who had been advising the Home Government. His services, however, were not available, and I communicated with the Imperial Institute, and, I think, the Admiralty, who strongly recommended Dr. Wade. They sent out his qualifications, which showed that he had been on some oil fields in Egypt and elsewhere, and combined practical experience with his scientific training. Undoubtedly, in the beginning, it was found that some of the machinery ordered was rather light for the work. The first was hand machinery, and when I went into the matter, about three years ago, I found that it, and later machinery, was capable of going to, at best, perhaps 1,000 feet, though it was possible that the depth at which commercial quantities of oil would be found would be 3,000 or 4,000 feet, which will probably turn out to be correct. However, Dr. Wade did the best he could with the machinery, and with some readjustment and repairs, he was able to go down between 1,800 and 1,900 feet. At No. 5 bore some 2,000 gallons of oil were discovered, and that was the actual production up to about ten months ago.
The oil on this field is not the crude Calif ornian oil which is used on ships and for motive power, but an oil of higher quality. Whether we shall get oil like the crude oil used for propulsion in the Navy will depend on what we find at greater depths. I may say that at No. 5 bore, where the greatest quantity was taken from, very good oil was found at 240 feet, and at No. 7 bore oil of similar quality was discovered at 190 feet. It was not in commercial quantities, but it was regarded as a justification for going on with the boring. Then it became apparent that until the standard rotary or percussion machinery was obtained we could not have effective boring up to 3,000 or 4,000 feet. Machinery of that class was ordered about April, 1916, and some mistakes undoubtedly occurred,though not very substantial ones, in the adjustment of local parts manufactured here with parts imported. I should like, of course, more care to be exercised in the drawing up of specifications. People in the outer world, who aresubjected to the crux of competition, perhaps, do these things a little more efficiently than those who have less responsibility.
– Was this machinery not ordered at large expense, and brought out by two American drillers ?
– I take it that the honorable member desires to have the facts, and these I am endeavouring to give him. This machinery was ordered by the previous Government, and not by this Government, and it is the best in the world for the greater fields. I spent four days in Sydney looking into the question, and even had evidence taken in shorthand, as a lawyer and a Minister should, in order to find out what the position was.
This machinery was ordered from one of the biggest manufacturing companies for this class of plant in America, and part was made here. I may say that during the war it has been exceedingly difficult to get plant, and in Canada, for this reason, some fields have had .to be shut down. Some honorable members who have been talking about the action of companies may be interested to know that in parts of Canada they have proved failures, either because they had not sufficient capital or plant, or because they paid too much attention to “exploitation.”
As to the prospects of the fields, I may say that there are about 2,000 square miles of promising “country, but only about 400 square miles has been geologically tested for the purpose of justifying the boring. The idea is not that we are sure to strike oil, but the seepages of petroleum, and we are having them all mapped Out. This work, undertaken in order to justify boring, is a very . expensive one in any field. At present we are working on about .30 square miles, and I am having maps prepared with a view to the testing or development of the whole of the field. “We have spent something like £85,000, an’d have made the most exhaustive inquiries as to what occurs in other fields of the world. There have been blunders as elsewhere, and the Inter-State Commission, I think, verifies the suggestion that these under the difficulties have not been unduly great. There has been some waste undoubtedly, as in all oil-fields, and I should like to give some idea of the conditions from some American reports on the conditions of oil-boring. I examined some American reports in a special edition of the New York Evening Post, on the 27th August, 1917. These reports are practically from all the oil experts of the United States, and one paragraph 1 noticed was as follows: -
The bil industry, as all oil men will iterate, is a great gamble. When one goes into the game one stands the chance of making a fortune or losing all. A company may be formed with the greatest hopes of the future, and drilling will be started in proven ground, still the destinies of that company cannot be truly forecast until oil is actually struck. The prospect may be good, but end in failure.
Then, again, if oil is brought to the surface, there is a chance of becoming rich over night.
It is really a great gamble, into which, out an extensive scale, we are not justified in going, and there must first be a geological survey of the country, for which the services of Dr. Wade were secured. . He has the reputation of being a thoroughly competent geologist in regard to oil.
It has been suggested, as I say, that’ the position in Papua is the result of some sinister influence of the Standard Oil or other companies. Some of the best re-‘ commended borers from America were at work on this field, but they did not quite satisfy me, and they were not quit© satisfied with the conditions; and I allowed them to return to Amenca afv once. I do not say that there was anything wrong about these men, thought they had been for a time with the Stan-dard Oil Company, and the reason for their going is what I have given. Theonly company in Australia which, I think, represents the Standard Oil Company is the Vacuum Oil Company, which, like many other companies, has been trying to get on to the Papuan fields. X think I have seen the representatives of almost every great company, but not a company is in Papua. There are two, companies which I may mention, the Anglo-Persian and the Shell Group. The Anglo-Persian is a British-controlled company. To be sure of th(* position of these companies I had cables sent about twelve months ago to the Imperial Government for information, and I think inquiries are still going on as to- the relationship of the British Government to the Anglo-Persian and the’ Shell Group. I have pretty good information that in the case of the Anglo-Persian the majority of the voting shares are held by the British Government, so that it is a British company. There are about 7,000,000 odd voting shares, and of these the British Government hold 4,100,000, or a controlling interest. The Anglo-Persian and the Shell Group are, perhaps, the biggest combinations, with, in the case of the Shell Group, interests in Java and Sumatra and Egypt. The British Government have bought a great number of shares in the Shell Group ; indeed,
I think they have recently bought up all the available shares in the market. There is a great number of subordinate companies. The British Imperial Shell Oil Company is only one of them. ‘ The Dutch own or control about 60 per cent, of them, and the British about 40 per cent. But the British control is increasing.
– Do the British Government control that 40 per cent., or is the Minister referring to private British capitalists ?
– Since the war the British Government have taken over all the shares held in the United Kingdom. I will be only too pleased to show honorable members the offers that have been made. I have analyzed the constitutions of the companies that made them, and have asked the Imperial Government to check my analysis. If it were possible, we would prefer to develop these oil fields ourselves.
– Will the shares taken over by the British Government in the Anglo-Persian and British Imperial Oil Companies be handed back to the private holders after the war ?
– I think the honorable member may rest assured that, if purchased, the British Government will continue to hold them. I am not speaking with full authority, but I think it will be found that the Imperial Government are desirous of developing the oil fields of the Empire as well as the great Persian fields in which they are interested. I read the debate which took place in the House of Commons some years ago, and I know what the policy of the British Government is in regard to this matter.
– The purchase of the shares in the Anglo-Persian Company was a policy purchase by the British Government.
– Yes; it is, up to now, the policy of the British Government not to take any matter in hand as a Government undertaking, but to get a company formed for the purpose of carrying out the enterprise, and hold control of the shares in it. That was done in connexion with the Anglo-Persian Company.
I do not believe that, at the present time, the Commonwealth Government could afford the great expenditure which would be involved in testing 2,000 square miles of oil fields in Papua, without imposing a big strain on the revenue. Part of the policy of the Government at the very beginning was to consider the worth of private offers, and whether we could work’ in conjunction with the British Government. It is not an after thought. It was one of the first recommendations submitted’ to Cabinet in regard to the development of the Papuan oil fields. We are now making an arrangement by which the Imperial Government may supply part of the capital required for their development.
– Could not an arrangement be made on the lines of the. agreement with Vestey Brothers ?
– That was an arrangement with a private company which was given certain advantages in the Northern Territory, in return for the expenditure of its capital in developing that portion of the Commonwealth. I believe that the British Government will find portion of the capital necessary for the development of our oil fields in Papua. The lines upon which it may be provided have been drawn up and cabled to London, where they are now being considered. At present, that is all I can tell honorable members. Nothing final has been done in regard to offers from companies. .With all due respect to the recommendations that seem to be made week after week in the press in favour of the acceptance of offers by various companies, they are not quite as tempting as many people seem to imagine they are. The conditions drawn up are full and exhaustive.
– Before any arrangement is entered into with the companies, will the Minister give the House the opportunity of discussing it.
– I cannot give that promise. Surely the honorable member can trust ‘.”he administration. I have not the slightest objection to showing honorable members every single thing submitted by the companies, but they naturally claim that it is not quite fair to let any offer be made known to the public until it has been disposed of. All these offers are in the office on record, but I cannot make the promise which the honorable member asks me to give. I have told the House what the position is. We are anxious to develop these fields as a Government undertaking, but as the future expenditure will be much greater than it has been in the past, we have sought the aid of the British Government in pursuance of the policy laid down at the Imperial Conference held last year.
.- I shall not give my vote to permit the oil-fields of Papua getting into the hands of any private company, whether it be one under the control of British shareholders or whether it be controlled by the Standard Oil Trust. If a company does a lot of work on the fields, and proves the existence of oil, the Commonwealth Government should be empowered to take possession at once and allow the company fair compensation for money actually spent by it. No Parliament has the right to make a law that cannot be amended by a succeeding Parliament. No generation should make laws which future generations must obey absolutely. No King, no Parliament, no Minister should have the right to make a law which is unalterable as the laws of the Medes and Persians.
All the needs of the community should be provided by the Commonwealth. Looking ahead into the vista of future years, and with the knowledge that the value of oil products is steadily growing, I maintain that we should not allow our oilfields to slip through our fingers and get under the control of such companies as the Standard Oil Trust or the British Imperial Oil Company. What is the history of the Standard Oil Trust? Years ago I was taken to task by one of its envoys, who came to Australia to buy honorable members of this House, if he could do so. He succeeded in getting two votes that were quite unexpected, but the gentlemen who cast those votes are not in politics to-day. This man said to me, “ We pay better wages to our men.” I granted it. He said, “We give a better article to the buyer.” I granted it. He said, “At a less price.” I said, “ Yes, but look at the 4,000 companies in the United States of America who have been wrecked, and whose shareholders have been ruined because they did not come into the combine and accept your price for their mines. You may be powerful enough to influence a Parliament, or obtain a majority in it, but you are not rich enough, or strong enough, to buy the Australian people, who have the broadest franchise in the world.” Any company that proposes to commence operations on the oil-fields of Papua must be prepared to know that any future Commonwealth Parliament, on equitable terms, will have the right to resume its property.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) has spoken in regard to minerals. ‘He recalled to my mind the f act that I had the honour of being permitted to convey to Mr. Fisher a proposal submitted by Mr. Baillieu on behalf of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited. That offer was that if the Commonwealth would purchase all the output of the company, they would accept 30 per cent, less than the price prevailing in London before the war. It is my regret that the offer was not accepted. We could have bought silver at ls. 4$d: per ounce when it was selling before the’ war at 2s. per ounce. To-day it is selling at 4s. Id. and 4s. 4d. per ounce,’ fine. For £1,000,000 worth of bank notes, we could have purchased enough silver to make a currency of £3,928,000. Mintage in England costs 3 per cent., but here I would make an allowance of 5 per cent, in order to give a wide margin. It is not so much a question of the wages paid as it is a question of the higher cost of the delicate machinery required.Deducting 5 per cent, for mintage, on the present value of silver, we can see that at an expense of £196,400, we should secure a profit of £2,732,600 on coining £1,000,000 worth of silver costing ls. 4£d. per ounce. At present prices, as compared with pre-war prices, the loss would be £2,581,000. Unfortunately, Mr. Fisher could not see far enough into the future to accept the offer, but I thank Mr. Baillieu and the Broken Hill
Company for ifc. I am only using this as an illustration of what we have lost through allowing the control of minerals to pass to outsiders.
It would be unwise on my part, as well as unjust, if I were to accuse the various firms which have been appointed in connexion with the metal trade of anything approaching nepotism. I do not wish one word of mine to be construed as having that meaning. Nevertheless, T must say that there are many and loud complaints coming from men interested in the various minerals - whether they are situated in that wonderful belt known as the New England country of New South Wales, where almost every rare metal is being mined, or whether they are tinminers operating in all portions of the Commonwealth. They are not content with the present control of metals. There is no ‘ doubt the large firms which have been appointed will receive their commissions, and I do not blame them for seeking them ; but if the payments” are above fair value for the services they are rendering, they will be held answerable in the future. I, for one, will see that they are called upon to return everything they have charged unfairly.
I am never without a grievance. My grievance to-day is that through all these weary years the Government have not brought in a Tariff. It is all very well to say quietly, and in whispers, “ We may offend an Ally.” That statement is quite unworthy of a Government controlling a continent. I have often shown a way out of the difficulty to which no tangible objection can be offered. By a simple Bill, with one clause, we should adopt the J apanese Tariff, lock, stock, and barrel. It would be necessary for us to only amend small points to meet the different conditions of the two countries, , and we should then have one of the most up-to-date Tariffs in the world. Japan is the only country that has been able to beat the large combines of America, including the great Tobacco Combine. Any reader of Oriental literature will know that the one word to conjure with iu the East is reciprocity; and I tam sure that we should give no offence to an Ally by imitating her example: That Ally helped to protect our cities, for it is absurd to say that H.M.A.S. Australia, good battle-ship though she is, could protect a coast-line extending from Brisbane, in the north, to Perth, in the west. Our other ships could not have held their own against the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst, whose mettle was proved when .they met, and sank, an English Fleet off the coast of America ; but luckily they found their own doom in turn, when they met British ships of higher calibre off the Falkland Islands. Our Japanese Ally protected Australia, and, by the chivalry of Japanese war-ships that were escorting Australian transports, the Sydney was given the opportunity to destroy the Emden. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; and I am sure that we could not offend one of our Allies by adopting her own Tariff. I hold in my hand the Shipping World Y ear-Book, and I challenge any honorable member to find a more up-to-date Tariff in the world than that of Japan. The American Tariff, also, is magnificently up to date. Why not, by a simple Bill, adopt both Tariffs, and thus give Australia the benefit of the two most up-to-date fiscal systems in the world ? The adoption of one of them would remove all chance of friction. I am sure honorable members must be tired, as I am, of all the whispering that has been taking place.
I agree with the honorable member, for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) that if the devastating disease of Spanish influenza reaches Australia in epidemic form, it will be a sorry time for the people who are living under crowded conditions.
As the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) said, I was present with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) when he waited upon Colonel Bruche - a man with a German name, who wishes to- make it rhyme with that of the great Scottish hero, Robert Bruce. The man who first drew my attention to this officer was a . brave soldier, whom Bruche injured, and tried to damage, but who died at the Front. Colonel Bruche treated very airily what the honorable member for Dampier said, and, as a challenge to the latter’ s statements, sent for two rifles from the Ordnance Stores. The honorable member for Dampier picked up one of them, and said, “ This is just as bad as another I saw. See how loose the bolt is.” To the astonishment of Colonel Bruche, the weapon was of no use as a rifle, and, in the hands of a soldier, could have been used only as a club.
– Is not that libel on Australian brains old enough to be allowed to die?
– I have been asked to verify a statement made by the honorable member for Dampier, and it is my duty, as an honorable man, to do so.
– Cannot the honorable member give credit to Australian brains for the rifles that have been made at Lithgow since the time to which he refers?
– Good rifles have been made at Lithgow since that time, and I wish their output to continue.
– Then why do we have so much of this “stinking fish” business ?
– Perhaps the honorable member’s breath is as bad. Has he not sufficient sense of honour to know that when an honorable member asks me to verify a statement he has made in the House, it is my duty and pleasure to do so ? “When a wrong is to be remedied, the evidence of it can never be- too old.
Some time ago I asked some questions in the House in reference to the treatment of the military police, whose hours were from 8 a.m. till 11 p.m., and whose meat rations had been cut out of the evening meal at 4.30 p.m. I received from the Minister a reply. I do not blame him for any inaccuracies in it, but in some respects it was absurd. A returned soldier, with 505 days’ active service to his credit, and a good’ discharge, was treated so cavalierly by Captain Graham that, if he had not appealed to a higher officer, he would have been prevented from presenting himself for an examination that will give him work in the Railway Department. I sent the Minister’s reply to exPrivate Fisher. and this is his comment -
The reply by the Minister for Defence is very amusing. He says that no complaints are made by other members of the police. Only about a fortnight ago a letter appeared in theHerald upholding all complaints that I havemade as being correct. In the first place, 1 note that where military police forego an afternoon owing to disembarkation of troops, arn endeavour is made to make it up. I will challenge any officer in saying that no man in the service has ever had his afternoon madeup since the formation of the military police. 1 also note that it is said that night patrolsfinish up at 10.30 or 11 p.m. at night. Thereis no 10.30 p.m. finish. It is 11 and 11.30 p.m..
I can personally vouch for the accuracy of that statement, because I have seen the men on duty at 11.30 p.m. -
It is also said that no alteration has been? made in regard to the meals. I said before in? my complaints, and I say again, that the meat ration was stopped for the evening meal at Moore-street Barracks, and also tea for breakfast; so those who did” not drink coffee could: go without. As regards the evening meat being supplemented with either cheese, cake, soup, or pudding, such food has never been? heard of since the formation of the military police. As regards Captain Graham doing his best in my interest, and that I seemed satisfied, I “might state that, while I was pointing out to him that the job was no good to me he ordered me out of- his office. I do not see any report regarding the non-commissioned officers, which was one of my main complaints.
All 1 have to say is that, if Captain Graham stated that no complaints had been made by other members of the military police, and that the evening meal is supplemented with either cheese, cake, soup, or pudding, he should prove his statement or acknowledge that he has made a mistake. I do not wish to press the complaint any further; except to say that to keep men on duty until 11.30 p.m. after only a light evening meal is wrong. What right had Captain Graham to tell this soldier, who had a good discharge, that he was a disgrace to the service? Luckily for that man, he has voting power equal to that of the officer; and, if hetakes my advice, he will bring this matter before the Returned Soldiers Association. There are several such bodies, and I think that they intend to get fair play for the returned soldiers.
I do hope that the Government will face the Tariff question. I am almost tired of asking for a proper Tariff to be introduced ; but, so long as I have the opportunity to speak on the subject, I shall do so. I am afraid that many industries that have started with a fair amount of success under the artificial protection of high freights from overseas will crash when that abnormal aid is removed. I have had an experience of unemployment troubles ever since 18S9. I know the hard-ships that occurred in connexion with the crisis that followed the land boom. I have seen the effect on the community of a disturbance of credit, and I do not wish to see the like again. It 13 because I am anxious to avoid the chance >of such a thing recurring, and because I desire to open up avenues of employment for returned soldiers, that I take every ^opportunity to demand -an efficient Tariff. Those honorable members who took advantage of the opportunity given by the Department to see the returned soldiers at work at the Working Men’s College must have been astonished and gratified 1>y what came under their notice. One man, whose paralysis would not yield to massage and medical treatment, has improved wonderfully as a result of employment and mental exercise. In .fact, his recovery i3 almost a miracle. Wie should do all we can to help that Working Men’s College, which, under the able direction of a man who had the honour to be born in the United States of America, is doing excellent work. He told me that, with a small advance of money, about £60,000, he could keep 1,000 men in training there, gradually drafting them out into regular employment. I was shown a. boot which had been soled by a man who had been there only three weeks, and on the fourth week had been taken to one of the factories. Honorable members may have seen a letter in which, in a very kindly way, doubt was thrown on this statement, the writer saying that men could not learn in such a short time. He subsequently saw the place.
I have shown one way in which no offence can be given to an Ally that has done splendid work, and performed its duty manfully. I say to the Government, “ For goodness’ sake, let us have a Tariff which will give our Australian producers and manufacturers a decent show.” I ask honorable members to support me in this attitude.
– I take . this opportunity to refer to the case of soldiers who have been serving overseas, the circumstances of whose domestic circle have been so hard as to justify the bringing of them back”, though that was thought impossible to arrange during the actual fighting. Two or three days ago, I asked if the Government intended to take steps to meet these cases.
– A reply was given to the question this afternoon.
– Every honorable member must be aware of innumerable cases of great hardship. Applications made in regard to them were turned down during the period of actual fighting, but, personally, I got very near to the point at which”! could no longer have restrained myself, and- had the wax continued through the present European winter, I should have had to raise my voice in emphatic protest against these men being kept away longer, and to try to secure a reversal of the policy which allowed men to return only when their combined financial and domestic circumstances involved severe hardship. Luckily the fighting is now finished, and there is no reason why the original policy of the Department in these cases should continue: If the circumstances of a man’s dependants in- Australia are such as to make it an intolerable hardship for him to stay away longer, steps should be taken to bring him home at once. I did not hear the Minister’s answer to my question to-day, but even if it were a promise to the effect that the men will be brought home, I have something further to say. The cases that have already been brought under the notice of the Department have taken a long time to investigate; as much as two months on the average. If they are to be reconsidered, it should not be necessary to make the inquiries over . again. To illustrate how great the delay caused by the official inquiries is, let me mention a case which was sent to me, I think, by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). If the facts are verified by the police the soldier concerned should unquestionably be brought back at once, whether the war continues or- not. In this case, a” woman who is an invalid, was induced to put what littler money she had into a boardinghouse at Healesville. She must be a gallant mother, and she had four gallant sons, all of whom went to the war. Three have been killed, and one is still away. The mother now finds it impossible to run the place at Healesville without assistance. The first application for the sending back of the son went into the Department on the 3rd October. The case came before, me on the 7th or 8th October, when I rang up the barracks, and got into touch with the officer .who was making the inquiries concerning it. He assured me that they would be- expedited to the greatest extent possible. Yet that case is not settled yet. I should not be so calm about it were it not that the soldier concerned, luckily for himself, got into hospital about six weeks ago, having been wounded, and is sure to be sent home soon. The facts in that case are simple enough, and yet, after two months, they are not regarded as officially determined. If every case that has been brought hefore the Department has to be re-opened, and long inquiries made concerning the facts alleged, the men concerned may be back again in the ordinary course before any decision is come to. I ask that these cases shall not be re-opened. These applications have been turned down; but I suggest that they should be reconsidered, and dealt with much more leniently than was possible when we were faced with the necessity of keeping up the strength of our Forces for the honour of Australia. Very definite instructions have been laid down as to the cases in which men may be brought home; and, to show how they may be modified, I shall give a summary of a few of the cases that have come before me. In one of these cases, a wife, who was in good health when her hus- band .went away, is now a very sick woman. .She has children, and is in straitened circumstances. Her case is construed as one in which there is not both domestic and financial hardship - a pretty severe application of the instructions. Another case is that of a man whose mother is dying. I have seen the woman. She is suffering from cancer, and, having undergone two operations, can last only a few months. It would he merely an act of decency to bring her boy back.
– Has there been any trouble about getting a boy brought back under such circumstances?
– The Department has absolutely refused to allow soldiers to be brought back under such circumstances.
– A difficulty arises from the fact that it is impossible to say how long, the relatives will live.
– The other day I cabled to two sons to be sent home because their father was dying, and the father died the day after the cable was sent.
– In any case, the reasons which have operated hitherto should not be permitted to apply any longer. We can now afford to risk bringing men home tinder these circumstances. Although this boy’s mother may die before he can get here, his presence at the Front is not so imperative as to prevent us from giving him the chance of seeing her again. In a third case, the soldier’s father has died since he .went away. . There is a small business, and the mother is not able to keep it going. In a fourth case, there has been a son killed at the war; the father is seventy-eight, and unable to carry on his farm, which is heavily mortgaged. Probably even more cases have been brought before other honorable members than have come under my notice. I am strongly of opinion that there should be some relaxation of the rules, so that bard cases may be relieved, even where there is not both domestic and financial hardship.
– These cases should receive preferential treatment.
– That is so.
Another matter to which consideration should be given is the fact that the Board which deals with these cases is purely a military Board. That may have been well enough while we were engaged in actual, warfare, but now it would be better to dilute the military element by adding civilian members to the Board. Moreover, during the period of demobilization, the Defence authorities will have a very strenuous time, and.it must be ascertained whether the present Board will be able under the circumstances to- give reasonable attention to these cases. If it will not have the time, another Board should be appointed to go into the merits of the applications, and adjudicate upon them.
I would suggest, too, that to continue the Minister for Defence as the Court of Appeal from the Board’s decisions will cast an intolerable burden on the occupant of that office. While we were actively engaged in fighting, the Minister represented the Cabinet, which had to determine how our Forces at the Front were to be kept up. Now the keeping up of our strength is not of moment, and it would be a good thing to relieve the Minister of a difficult and unpleasant task, and to give an opportunity to some one with more time to spare to deal with these cases.
– And some one with more sympathy.
– I do not suggest that Senator Pearce is unsympathetic, but I think that he has not the time to deal with all these matters. Men such as those to whose cases I have referred have made such extraordinary sacrifices that they are entitled to the fullest consideration. Those soldiers who have had no domestic worries have performed invaluable service, and are entitled to all that we can do for them; but the men who for twelve months, or even longer, have been playing their part stoutly in the firing line, although carrying a load of personal or domestic troubles and unhappiness, have been bearing a double burden, and now that we have an opportunity to give them some relief we should see that they are relieved.
– I am pleased that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has ventilated the subject about which he has spoken. I have not risen to deal with that subject, but his remarks lead me to mention that some few months ago I wrote to the Defence Department respecting a soldier named Private Hyman, whose brother had previously applied to the Department to have him sent back, and had been informed that the request could not be complied with. The brother outlined the circumstances of the case to me. It appears that Hyman, when he enlisted, had a wife and two children, and after his departure his wife became mentally affected, and had to be placed in an institution. The two children were then taken care of by his mother. After a time, she, being a very old lady, died, and they were handed over to his sister, who, however, has children of her own, and quite enough to do in looking after them. A very good case has been made out for the return of this soldier. On 5th October last I wrote to the Department giving an outline of the case, and suggesting that it should receive favorable con’sideration. To that communication I have received no reply. It was probably thought that since the matter had already been considered no further action was necessary. These are matters, however, that should be carefully investigated. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has referred .to cases where, during the currency of the war, it was said that it was not possible to relieve men who were urgently required at home; but now that the war is over such applications should be reconsidered, and the men concerned should be the first to be returned.
I rose principally to deal with a reply made this afternoon by the PostmasterGeneral to a question which I put to him as to whether an order had been issued to the officer in charge of the General Post Office, ‘Sydney, to censor the correspondence of a certain individual. The honorable gentleman’s answer was that such an. order had been issued, but that the reason for such action could not be divulged. The man concerned is an intimate friend of mine. I have known him and his family for eighteen or twenty years. He was born in Australia. His mother and father are Australians, and their parents were British subjects. I do not know that he has done anything to warrant this departmental supervision of his correspondence. He is secretary of a local Labour League, and is a member of the New South Wales executive of the Australian Labour party. It is not suggested that he has done or said anything detrimental to the interests of his country. No complaint has been made of his public utterances, and I have not heard of the institution of any proceedings against him. The only reason I pan give for the exercise of supervision over his correspondence is that he is connected with the Labour movement. We are supposed to be living in a free country, and I want to know whether the G:vern.ment are scrutinizing the correspondence of all persons associated with the Labour movement. There is nothing associated with this man’s character that should cause the Department to censor his correspondence; and it seems to me that this censorship, possibly, is being applied to all letters addressed to members of Labour Leagues and Labour executives. Maybe, letters to members of the Labour party in this Parliament are also being scrutinized in this way. Surely it is no part of the functions of a Government to -.take such an advantage of its political opponents. Have we reached, in Australia, the situation which was said to obtain in San Francisco a few years ago, when the local Administration was reported to be so corrupt that it wis not safe for reputable citizens to have business interests? We were told that those in authority there were merely the hirelings of a certain section of the people, and were bribed to give information to those who were endeavouring to make money out of the governmental affairs of the country. Have we reached such a pass in Australia ? I certainly hope not. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) said, the other day, that it was necessary to take steps to reduce the length of speeches in another place, since Parliament was being brought into public odium by reason of the long-drawn-out utterances of certain members.
– A twelve-hours’ speech is rather “over the odds.”
– A speech of that duration might, or might not, be justifiable. I take no exception to the proposal to curtail debate in another place. I refer to the matter only by way of illustration. I wish to point out that nothing is calculated more speedily to bring governmental institutions into disrepute than the exercise of this sort of supervision over letters going through the post. I can understand the examination of postal matter where it is thought that the addressee is an agent for a lottery or a “ quack “ doctor, or is using the service for purposes that do not exactly conform to the law. But now that the war situation is relieved and enemy correspondence is not likely to be passing through the post, I’ fail to see Why this system of censorship should be continued. During the last conscription campaign, the relatives of soldiers for whose early return I had asked, because of urgent family reasons, received letters from the Department stating that in the event of their voting in favour of conscription their request would be complied with. An attempt was made in this way to influence votes. It would now seem that the Government are using the Postal Department to further their own political ends. It is time that the people realized how the affairs of the country are being administered by the so-called National Government. Boards have been “created in the interests of big financial institutions, and capital and industry have been centralized under their control. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) told us this afternoon what had happened in connexion with such Boards and the metal industry. Various members of the Ministerial party have criticised other Boards controlling industries, and it seems to me that, with the Ministry controlling these Boards and the Postal Department censoring postal matter relating to various industries and individuals, the Government will thus obtain information enabling them to have complete control of the country and its interests. I hope that this censorship of letters will cease.
Finally, I express the hope that the Defence Department will npt deal so stringently with enemy subjects at this juncture as they have been doing’ under the powers conferred upon them by the War Precautions Act. A woman who lives not far from my own home, but in the electorate of Nepean, has written to me stating that her husband, who is a native of Alsace-Lorraine, and is a naturalized British subject, was not interfered with in any way until 22nd ultimo, when a local constable called upon him, and said that his attendance at the police station was desired. Oh going there he was subjected to a severe crossexamination, and certain restrictions were placed upon his liberty. I asked the police what allegations were made against this man,and was informed that neighbours had complained that Germans had been meeting in his house, and that on armistice night he flew the German nag and sang German songs. I know exactly what happened in this little village on the evening in question, and I do not think that many local residents were in a fit state to determine what kind of songs were sung. I do not think any Germans visited this man’s house, and I know that the allegation as to the flying of the German flag is false. I hope the Minister for Defence will have this case investigated, and will remove the restrictions that have been imposed on this man’s liberty. When a man is treated in this way in a small village it is immediately rumoured that he is a German spy, and there is talk of lynching, him. In fairness to this man and his family, I hope that the Minister will make inquiries and remove the disabilities that have been imposed upon him.
– A few days ago I addressed an inquiry to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) with reference to certain allegations that had been made concerning the management of the trainees’ camp at Liverpool during September last. The honorable gentleman was good enough to promise an inquiry, and subsequently there was laid upon the table of the Library an interesting report by Major Goacher, who had been intrusted with the investigation. Tt would appear from it that it was decided in July last that this . camp of the 10th Infantry Brigade and the 28th Light Horse should be held on 2nd September. When the men went into camp on 2nd September the camp equipment was not complete in all details, nor was it complete until 1.4th September. The Major reports further that-
Dust is only natural in dry weather at the camp, owing to the nature of the soil and the unformed road running behind the kitchens.
The dusty road is at present being made, and should be complete in a week or two. Mess huts are in course of construction, which will prevent s. recurrence of the complaint.
According to his report, one member of the 27th Infantry - now the 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry - Henry Pike, aged’ 18 J years, died’ at Kiama, of meningitis,, on 12th October. This date is incorrect. The man died on 5th October. He. left camp on 25th September, so that hisdeath took place only ten days after hisdischarge. The Commanding Officer of ‘ the Brigade states that straw was completely issued on the 4th September, that floor boards for some reason did . not reach Liverpool complete until the 9th September, but that waterproof sheets were .available for issue. As regards influenza and ophthalmic trouble at the camp, the HealthDepartment states that influenza was very prevalent in a mild form in Sydney and’ suburbs during a period of the camp, the ophthalmic trouble being probably caused by the dust in conjunction with colds. From this it will be seen that the main essentials, such as tents, blankets, food, both for horse and man, were available on the troops marching in, and that, though tents were not erected, the horse fodder supplied was of good medium quality throughout. Any honorable member who reads this report would come to the conclusion that things at the camp were not really so bad as has been represented; and I wish to draw attention to some of the facts on which this report is based. Captain Ryan, Commanding Officer of the 37th Infantry, states that tents were deficient in number and gear, some being without; flies and others without poles. This, however,, he says was remedied about 6 p.m., and there was no necessity for any man to sleep without covering. We are told that blankets were not issued until a very late hour - 6.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. - because they had not previously been received; but the captain believes^ that sufficient were issued to provide three per man, and later a further issue of one peT man was made. On that I may say that the lateness of the hour would doubtless lead to a very uneven distribution, possibly one man getting six blankets and another only one. Cooking and kitchen utensils, Captain Ryan says, were not available, and the non-issue caused considerable inconvenience, the cooks being ‘ obliged to manufacture pointed sticks to lift the joints out of the oven. This shortage continued, we are told, for the greater part of the camp. No issue of straw, says Captain Ryan, was made on arrival at camp, but a partial issue was made on the third day and a further issue about the fifth day. The issue of floor-boards was deficient, ai_d on 6th September, thirty tents were still without flooring; but this was remedied prior to the concluson of the camp. The food was good; complaints arose from faulty distribution, not on account of amount or quality. As to the site of the camp, the 37th Infantry were placedadjoining the 28th Light Horse, only a parade-ground of 60 yards separating the two units. The horse-line occasioned some dust; but Captain Ryan is of opinion that, in any case, the existence of a dusty, unformed road running alongside the camp, and also the nature of the soil and country, would have generated dust, apart altogether from the Light Horse. Captain Ryan goes on to say that there was an unusually large amount of sickness, principally heavy colds, bad coughs, and affections of the eye. This he attributes to sudden and extreme changes in the weather, with heavy fog, and points out that more than half of the battalion were miners, who had worked underground, this rendering them more susceptible to illness caused by changes in the weather. On the 16th July, Captain Ryan advised District Headquarters that nine officers and 700 men might be expected in camp, and the number of those who did attend was eight officers and 698 men, their arrival being at the hours of 11.50 a.m., 12.15 p.m., and 3 p.m.
Sergeant-cook Saunders states that food was not available at 1 o’clock,- but at a later hour, say, about 3 o’clock. There was, he says, no wood all day as an issue, and what the men did manage with they had to steal. This is the sort of moral training, according to this evidence, that the young men of Australia got. Saunders goes on to say that no utensils were provided to cook with, other than six dixies, a wheelbarrow, and a shovel. Additional dixies, he says, arrived very late, although there were 700 men to cook for. We are further told by this officer that, for nearly a week, the men had an insufficiency of salt, and for days many meals were cooked without it. Sergeantcook Saunders says he was very sick of making complaints, and adds that vegetables were not seen until the evening following their arrival. The meat for the 27th battalion was delivered at the meat house of the 28th battalion, the explanation of this being that the meat house of the 27th battalion was not corn.pleted
Lieutenant B. Boles, attached to the Camp Supply Department, says that there were 63,000 lbs. of straw in the depot on the 1st September, or sufficient for 6,300 men, and there “was no shortage of supply any day in that month. I would point out that, notwithstanding this statement, the men had to sleep with one or two blankets between them and the bare earth in the early days of the camp.
The P.M.O., Colonel Eric Sinclair, says that he made a personal inspection at the close of the camp, with a view to ascertaining what steps should be taken as regarded the incoming lot of men, and he found that the camp was well situated, was not in an infected area, and there was no reason to believe that the incoming trainees would suffer in health from being in the area. This opinion, he says, was justified by results, as during October the health of the camp was in every way satisfactory, and there was an absence of epidemic disease. With regard to Pike’s case, no cases of meningitis in the previous camp were treated on the spot, nor could infection remain active in tho soil. The horse lines, we are told, were in proximity both to the camp itself and to the field hospital, but not so close as to be a danger to health.
Colonel Kirkland, commanding the 10th Infantry Brigade, reports that no tents were erected except corner tents, and that he personally saw that every man was under cover; but in many cases men had to sleep on the ground, tent floors and straw not being available. He goes on to say that he communicated with the Assistant Quartermaster-General, but that it was not until the 14th that the whole equipment was complete, this being due to the fact that it had not arrived at Liverpool owing to the want of transport. Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 7.h5 p.m.
– At the conclusion of the camp of the 10th Infantry Brigade, Colonel Gerald Campbell, officer commanding the 8 th Infantry Brigade, strongly urged that his brigade should go into camp at Menangle, owing to the influenza and ophthalmia among the 10th Infantry Brigade, which had just vacated the Liverpool Camp. The Principal Medical Officer reported that there was no need to shift the camp of the 8 th Infantry Brigade if the following instructions were carried out before the mobilization of the brigade: -
AH tents to be struck and thoroughly aired. Floor boards to be taken up and cleaned, and the ground beneath aired. Tents to be repitched. on a slightly different site, i.e., on the spaces between the present ‘ tent sites. The washing accommodation to bc doubled. The road running through the Australian Imperial Force camp to bo properly made through the militia camp to lay the dust.
He found that during the whole of the thirty-four days’ training the tents had not been struck or the ground aired, and he recommended that in all future camps tents be struck once a week, and the floor boards taken up, in order to give the ground beneath a thorough airing. There is an unsigned extract from a report on the camp of continuous training of the 10th Infantry Brigade for the year 1918-19, which reads as follows: -
There is no doubt that a great deal of sickness was caused by the want of proper bedding, flooring, and blankets.
Those are the facts as set out in the documents tabled. They are of such a serious character as to call for a much fuller investigation than has been given to them by the military authorities! The future soldiers and defenders of this country are called to these camps at regular intervals. For the most part they come from comfortable homes, and if they are subjected to the conditions that are admitted to have existed at Liverpool, their parents can only view these camps with the greatest apprehension. I am not qualified to say whether the death of Private Pike could be directly traced to contagion in the Liverpool Camp, but the officer reporting on the camp has admitted that in the early stages the conditions were such as would produce colds and other sicknesses that undoubtedly predisposed the trainees to any contagion that might be going about. Whether this young man lost his life as the result of contagion in the camp, or whether he contracted the disease on his way to or from the camp, the fact remains that the condi-tion which rendered him an easy victim to the disease was produced through the neglect of some officer or officers unnamed. The report to which I have referred and the. documents attached to it emphasize the contention I made yesterday, that although inquiries may be held into complaints affecting the welfare of soldiers or trainees, punishment is very seldom awarded. The striking feature of the report is, that although the military authorities had two months’ notice of the formation of the camp at Liverpool for the training of the Citizen Forces, and although they had been notified of the exact number of men who would be in training, when the men arrived in camp there was no accommodation in the shape of tents to cover them, flooring for them to sleep on, bed clothing for them to sleep in, or food for their consumption. It was somebody’s duty to see that tents were there, that the bed clothing was there, and that sufficient food was there, and above all, to see that sufficient implements for the cooking of the food were provided; yet fourteen days after the camp had been formed there were still insufficient implements for the cooking, and there was still insufficient provision for the comfort of the men.
But here is a still more astonishing thing : According to the report of the offi- cer in charge of straw, there was sufficient straw in. the camp for 6,300 men, yet no straw was made available for the men who wanted it to sleep on. This was a case of scandalous and inexcusable neglect, yet the. report says nothing about this neglect, nor is there any attempt to trace any dereliction of duty home to the officer responsible. This young man died, perhaps, as the result of neglect at that camp, yet 00 one was held responsible. We are paying officers to look after the medical side of these camps, and we are paying officers all along the line to attend to the comfort of the men, yet these results are produced. The Principal Medical Officer, when called upon to pronounce judgment as to whether the next body of trainees might go into the same camp, said that they might do so if certain things were done that were not done when the other men were there. li this were a new problem facing the authorities, we might find some excuse for them ; but it was’ not a new. problem. These camps have been held year in and year out, and the making of arrangements for them ought to have been a matter of every-day routine, so that when men go into camp all the facilities for camping should be available. But evidently no one is to be blamed; no attempt is made to place the blame on any particular person. The Principal Medical Officer directed that the next camp should be looked after in a different way. If it was his duty to say that the next camp should be looked after in that way, it was equally his duty to have said that the previous camp should be looked after in that way. According to his opinion, the tents should have been taken down and the floors cleaned and examined at least once a week. This was not done once during the whole of the twenty-four days the men were in camp.
– If that could happen here, one can understand the conditions on the troop-ships.
– Yes ; if this could happen in the case of a number of men - not an estimated number, but a known number - camped within a few miles of one of the principal cities of the Commonwealth, with ample supplies within easy distance, and with the central authority a few miles away, it is no wonder one hears of troubles on troopships. What I desire in connexion with this matter is that a civilian inquiry should be held into the whole of the administration of trainees’ camps. The Liverpool Camp does not stand by itself. After I obtained some of these facts, I read in a Melbourne newspaper a statement by the father of a trainee that trainees were taken into the Broadmeadows Camp on one forenoon, and no food was provided for them until 8 o’clock on the following morning. I asked a question in the House on that subject, and the Minister informed me that an inquiry had been made, and that the allegations contained in the letter had not been substantiated. But, in connexion with these inquiries, noopportunity is provided for any one topresent the facts except the officers responsible. The facts which I present to the House to-night come from the officers concerned. The camp cook complained that he had no implements with which todo his work. Some other officer complained of something affecting his work. Who is responsible for the general efficiency of the administration of these camps, and for the fact that, with a full knowledge of the time at which a camp was to be held, and of the number of men to be trained, proper provision was not made, by reason of which neglect hundreds of young men were subjected to the complaints of ophthalmia, influenza, colds, and the rest of them, all predisposing them to the catching of other and more serious diseases when they left the camp ? Who was responsible for this neglect, and what punishment should follow? It is an exceedingly serious matter to the future welfare of the young men in training in camps, and a serious matter to the future defence of Australia. There is only too much evidence accumulating that the young men who go into camps leave them with a hatred of everything connected with them. We should manage them in such a way that the trainees leaving them, instead of being dissatisfied, will be willing to come back to them, and cheerfully take their share in the defence of the country should the time ever, unfortunately, come when they may be called upon to do so.
– Do you not think that we could give the training of our Citizen Force in central camps a spell how when money is so scarce?
– I do not think that any one is able to say what ought to be done in connexion with naval or military matters. We are a little too prone to think that the war is over, and that the way to peace is clear. There are more signs than one that the way is not yet clear, and it would be folly on our part to lay down any of the work we are doing until we are quite sure as to what the result of the Peace Conference may be.
I desire to refer to one other matter - the subject referred to by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). I do not know whether I correctly apprehended the reply given by the Assistant Minister for Defence this afternoon, but I understood him to say that fresh applications have to be made where it is desired that a soldier should be returned earlier than would be the case if the ordinary routine is followed. I suggest, for the serious consideration of the Defence Department, that they should accept the applications that have already been submitted, and classify them, and that a competent authority should go through all the applications in hand, and accept them as applications for the return of men under the altered conditions. We must not, however, forget that if we allow one man to return to this country before his time, his return must prevent some other man with longer service from returning in his proper order. There is only a certain number of berths available on each vessel, and if we say to one man who went away last year, “You can return,” we have also to say to another who went away two or three years ago, “ You must wait until a more convenient time.” Therefore, the problem is not so easy as it would appear to be on the mere statement of the pathetic circumstances of certain cases. I hope that we shall be able to secure sufficient shipping to enable out men to get back a good deal more rapidly than we anticipated a few months ago. And when they do come back, I trust that we shall provide them with such employ ment as will enable them to very soon resume the ordinary peaceful occupations of life.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Th© following paper was presented:- -
Lands Acquisition Bill - Land Acquired under, at Melbourne, Victoria, for Defence purposes.
“WAR PRECAUTIONS BILL.
Debate resumed from 4th December (vide page 8770), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- “When the Government decided to ask Parliament to prolong the operation of the War Precautions Act, a great many people took fright, and many of the speeches delivered during this debate revealed a certain amount of alarm on the part of some honorable members. When I first heard of the introduction of this Bill, I was rather fearful of what the results might be, and was anxious to hear the Government reasons for desiring to keep the War Precautions Act in force beyond the period fixed in the Statute itself. We have had the benefit of hearing the explanatory speech by the Acting Attorney-General (Mr.
Groom) in moving the second reading, and a.statement by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) last night. After hearing the assurances given by the Acting Prime Minister, I cannot see that the House need have any fear about giving the Government the powers they ask for. We are all anxious -to return to normal conditions, and the Acting Prime Minister told us that the Government’s desire in that regard is just as strong as that of anybody else. Some honorable members have said that the Government, should state specifically the objects for which they wish to retain the powers they; now possess. It is quite impossible at this stage for any man to be able to nominate every item for which he might require the War Precautions Act in the immediate future. A few months hence, when we have progressed further towards a settlement of the war problems, and the atmosphere is clearer, the Government may be able to place a definite limit on the purposes for which the powers conferred by the Act will be required. But until that time arrives we must trust the Government. If, as some honorable members desire, this Act were suddenly removed from the statute-book, chaos would result. During the time the Act has been in force, the Government have engaged in many activities, in which they had no direct concern before the war. Some of those activities must continue for a considerable time, but without the powers conferred by the “War Precautions Act the Government would have no authority to engage in them, or to wind up the transactions to which they are a party in the interests of the people. If the Act were repealed to-morrow, and the moratorium regulations ceased, many people throughout the Commonwealth would be faced with the serious problem of raising money to meet their mortgage obligations. The moratorium problem is not an easy one for anybody to handle, but I presume that in a short time the Government will be in a position to lay down the limits to which the people may expect the present regulations to continue, and they will then be given a certain time in which to prepare themselves to meet their maturing obligations. These regulations must be removed gradually, or else there will be wholesale trouble in the community. If people who have mortgages and other debts to meet are not given , a reasonable warning of the removal of the present protection, many will be ruined, and considerable unemployment will result. Again, unless the Act is continued, I cannot see how the Government will be able to handle the Wheat Pool, the Metal Board, the Shipping Board, and other commercial establishments which have come into being during the war. The Government are anxious to be relieved of these obligations at as early a date as is possible consistent with public safety. And, even though the Act be continued, there will be nothing to prevent the Government surrendering their control of many of their present powers under it as soon as they are in a position to do so. By agreeing to this Bill we shall not be putting the Government into a position to do something undemocratic, and to infringe the liberties of the people. The mere fact that they have in reserve the powers conferred by the War Precautions Act does not mean that those powers will be used wrongly, or even at all.
One matter that has been very much discussed during the debate is the censorship. We have heard many complaints from time to time by members who felt aggrieved by the actions of the Censor, and on occasions many of us have felt that blunders had certainly been committed. But I understand that, in some directions, . the Government have already removed the censorship. That shows that, even if their present power be continued, the Government will make no unfair use of it. In fact, we have been given an assurance by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to that effect. The opinion has been expressed by members of the Opposition that two or three years may elapse before peace is actually signed. If that is so, honorable members need have no fear about agreeing to an extension of the Act for six months, because the problems for which the Government may need its powers may be settled before peace is declared. But if peace should come suddenly at the beginning of the new year, and the Act ended automatically, there would be a dislocation of finance and commerce that would not be good for the community. After the assurance given by the Acting Prime Minister, I have ho hesitation in giving the Government the power they seek. If, after what the Acting Prime Minister has said, the Government makes an unfair use of the powers for which it asks, I shall protest as emphatically as a member can protest. Under such .circumstances, it should not be allowed to continue in office a day longer. I am satisfied, however, that it will not use these powers unfairly. It has shown, indeed, that it is anxious to get rid of the responsibilities which the war has imposed on it as soon as it can honorably fulfil them.- A number of Boards have been brought into existence whose operations can be continued only under the provisions of the Act. I hope that these Boar’ds will be got rid of as soon as their usefulness has ceased. Of course, it is not easy to get rid of any constituted authority. All sorts of reasons seem to support the continuance of an authority that, perhaps, ought never to have been created.
I have heard a good many statements in this chamber about the metal position, and yet I am not quite clear how those who have mining interests really stand. The Acting Prime Minister gave the assurance in my hearing that when the War Precautions Act ceased to operate the metals authority would terminate its existence, and things would be as they were . before the war. I am somewhat sceptical about that. Those who have had metals to sell have been somewhat harassed instead of helped by this authority, which has been prepared to enter into all sorts of arrangements with them, even to disposing of metals on a high commission for a period of fifty years. I urge the Government to let the House know when it will be possible to put the mining industry on its old footing. Persons will not be given much encouragement to seek for the hidden riches of the Commonwealth if those who discover mineral deposits have to make strict agreements with some Government authority, and give it a cut out of their profits.
The action of the Government in regard to price fixing and the censorship shows that it is not desirous of exercising its powers under the War Precautions Act unnecessarily. I was opposed to the fixing of the price of meat, because I felt that it would satisfy no one. Now, want of rain, and perhaps an extra good lambing season, has caused fat stock to be sent to market in quantities which have overtaken the demand, and reduced prices, and there is no need for price fixing. The Government has, consequently, abandoned its scale of prices, though it reserves to itself the right to again fix prices should that be necessary.
– The prices fixed by the Government were so exorbitant that the consumers would not pay them, and, therefore, they had to be reduced.
– The prices fixed were not as high as meat was being sold for in some towns in Tasmania. During one week only one butcher’s shop kept open’ in Hobart.
– Because there was a strike among the cattle kings.
– On the contrary, had the raisers of cattle and sheep thought that the prices paid in the yards, immediately after the fixation, would have ruled, they would have been glad to take advantage of them. In Hobart, £4 per 100 lbs. was paid for beef. Some of the pastoralists may have held off to see what, was going to happen, but there was no genera] holding back of stock out of pique, or to embarrass -the public. The producers, unfortunately for themselves, cannot pass on any taxes that are levied on them. They are always the underdog. As for the censorship, I have it on Government, authority that it has been abolished in certain directions.
– That is so.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I have several times drawn attention to the impropriety of interjecting when the House has just been called to order, and I am tired of cautioning honorable members who offend; I give this final warning, that, if the practice be persisted in, I shall forthwith name the honorable member who transgresses.
– Inasmuch as the Government has not, on the whole, abused the powers given to it by the Act, and as the continuance of these powers is necessary for the winding up of big commercial transactions in which the country is involved, I shall vote for the Bill. Were such powers as these to be asked for in times of peace, 1 would not be a party to the giving of them; but during the. past four years they have beenused with sagacity and moderation, and the country has not suffered because of their exercise. The Government has earned the trust of Parliament, and it is necessary to extend the operation of the Act as proposed.
.- The faint criticism of the Government, in which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) has just indulged, reminds me of James Russell Lowell’s description of a certain individual : -
He stood a spell on one foot fust,
Then stood a spell on t’other,
An’ on which one he felt the wust
He couldn’t ha’ told ye nuther.
The honorable member said that if we were living in a time of peace he would not support the Government in their proposal to continue the War Precautions Act.
– I did not say that. I said that in such circumstances I would not be a party to the granting of any such power.
– We all heard what this honorable member said. The Acting Prims Minister (Mr. Watt), in his statement to the House last evening, devoted three-fourths of his time to an explanation of the powers exercised under the War Precautions Act in relation to the commercial and mercantile activities of the Commonwealth. He also dealt at large with the question of the moratorium, but he airily, brushed aside, in a very few words, the operation of the regulations under the War Precautions Act dealing with the right of free speech, the liberty of thepress, and the right of public assembly. Ministerial supporters had complained eloquently of the effect of the Act on the interests of the commercial classes of the community, and, recognising that the commercial and exploiting classes are running the country, the honorable gentleman devoted most of his time to an explanation of the regulations affecting them. He pointed to the chaos which he anticipated would arise from the withdrawal of the moratorium regulation and the effect of that withdrawal upon the banking and commercial life of Australia. Upon that aspect of the subject he dilated in eloquent terms. I contend that if those powersare required to maintain the commercial stability of Australia, the Government should ask for them in the usual way. But no shadow of excuse can be raised for interference with the right of free speech, public assembly, and the freedom of the press.
– And larrikinism generally.
-I have heard of legislative larrikins before, but have not previously met any.
– We have a few in the House.
– I think that statement should be withdrawn.
– I ask the., honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I call upon honorable members to cease these interjections, and especially to refrain from interjections that are of a personal or offensive character.
– We are told by the Acting Prime Minister that the censorship is to be allowed to fall into disuse, except in regard to utterances calculated to injure Great Britain and other members of the Alliance or Associated Powers, and statements made either orally or in writing affecting the financial stability of the nation. At a deputation at which I was present yesterday, however, the statement was made that the newspapers had been notified that the censorship of the press would be discontinued except in regard to -
With these exceptions, it was said, the application of the censorship to the press would be dropped. We now have the Acting Prime Minister amplifying these instructions “ as issued by the censor, by placing an embargo on utterances or writings that may by the Executive authority be construed into utterances against Great Britain or other members of the Alliance or Associated Powers.
While the honorable gentleman was making his statement, I asked whether, under the new or altered conditions of the censorship, an individual would be at libertyto discuss or write upon the economic or political situation in foreign countries. His only reply was that questions could be asked later on.
– What did that inquiry really mean - the right to discuss Bolshevism ?
Mr.CONSIDINE.- If a person desires to speak on that subject, why should he not be allowed to do so ? It is for the honorable member to prove that the discussion of such a subject would be inimical to the interests of the Empire or the Associated Powers. My object in addressing the question to the Acting Prime Minister was to ascertain what benefit the altered conditions of the censorship would confer upon the people so far as their right to express themselves, either orally or in writing, was concerned. ‘I received no reply to my inquiry. Within the limits announced by the honorable gentleman the Government contend they must retain all the powers they have hitherto exercised in connexion with the censorship. We have, for instance, the regulation to which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) drew attention last evening, which prohibits the holding of any public meeting that, in the opinion of the Minister for Defence,, is prejudicial to the public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth. Our experience of the administration of the censorship is such as to lead one to believe that a political opponent of the Government could say little that would not be construed as being prejudicial to the interests of the Commonwealth. Under the altered conditions of the censorship, as before, we are not to be allowed to discuss happenings in Great Britain or in the United States of America, nor are we to be permitetd to comment upon the conditions in Russia. According to the honorable gentleman, the censorship is to be so operated as to safeguard the commercial and mercantile interests of Australia. The only meaning I can give to his statement is that those who are in control of the governmental institutions of this country are afraid to allow the people to ascertain the true facts regarding the agitation among, and the ferment in the minds of, the working classes of Europe at the present time. Despite the censorship and the attempts of the Government to prevent the people learning what has happened in the older countries,’ there are coming into Australia British newspapers which show that the working classes are alive to the changed economic conditions that have been brought about by the terrible catastrophe of the war, now happily at an end. The altered conditions in the Old Country are acting as a ferment in the minds of the working classes. The great mass of the people there-
– Want to be as Democratic as we are in Australia.
– The honorable gentleman should not talk about the Democracy of Australia when he supports a Government which proposes to perpetuate the. atrocity known as the War Precautions Act. He talked glibly about Democracy, but he is in harmony with those to whom the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) referred last evening as “ the flag-wavers.” These people prate about Democracy, and say they are out to make the world safe for Democracy. But now that the people of Russia and Germany have overthrown their military systems, and are seeking to get a little bit of Democracy, honorable members opposite discover that there is too much of Democracy, and declare that we must continue the War Precautions Act together with the censorship and the attempt, by means of it, to dam back the tide of mental progress which is agitating the whole world. Honorable members opposite prate about democratic “institutions in Australia; but there is no such thing as Democracy in this country. Honorable members opposite laugh; but although they sit behind the. Government, they have about as much say in the administration of the country as have honorable members of the Opposition. A handful of individuals govern this country, and their supporters, like the tame followers they are, despite individual attempts to assert themselves, always come to heel at the crack of the whip.
The censorship is to be perpetuated, not because the Government - require the powers to maintain the commercial stability of the country, but to prevent the spread of ideas from other countries to this - to prevent . a knowledge of the fact that the working classes of the world are attempting to organize themselves in opposition to international exploiters.
– Was it not the. Labour party who passed this War Precautions Act!
– The Labour party put the Act on the statute-book; but I do not care who put it there - no vote of mine did or would. At any rate; the War Precautions Act was not passed by the unanimous vote of the Labour party.
– Not one member of the party objected to it.
– There were five members of the party who voted against it.
– Who were they?
– The honorable member may look up the records if he desires to know. Even if the Labour party did put the Act on the statutebook, there is a good deal in the administration, of it, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has said. Some honorable members opposite, who are the staunchest supporters of the Government, were amongst the strongest . opponents of the measure when they thought it might be applied to them by a Labour Administration. Circumstances alter cases, as I hope will occur again when the Labour party get back into power. The proposal to perpetuate this Act is due to the anxiety of the Government to defend the interests of the people and institutions which provide their election funds, and keep them in power. Not a word has been said about the deportation of people from this country under alien restriction orders by the Minister for Defence by the authority of the War Precautions Act. Men have been seized and deported without trial, and men are now interned for deportation, also without trial.
– Was not the honorable member satisfied with the evidence in those cases?
– The honorable member knows nothing about the matter, for the men I am talking about have not been tried.
– They have been examined
– The honorable member has Dr. Mannix on the brain, and thought I was referring to Irish internees. These regulations have been used to prohibit public meetings disapproved of by the Minister for Defence. In Queensland, a meeting of the. Russian colony to celebrate the revolution was prohibited, but a meeting of sympathizers on the other side was allowed in the very same hall. That is how the Government use. the powers under the Act, although the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has assured us that they will not be used in any political sense to the detriment of the Labour party and their supporters. Yesterday, the Acting Prime Minister informed the deputation that waited on him in reference to this Act, that the meeting held in the Princess Theatre to protest against the extension of the powers, was illegal. Then, again, we are told that the country is endangered because certain people desire to fly a flag.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Why do they not fly the Union Jack? Is it not a good enough flag?
– A special regulation was issued to prevent the people to whom I refer from flying the SinnFein flag, of the green, white, and yellow.
– Fly the Bolshevik flag. .
– I am glad to see the honorable member has altered his sentiments, and now thinks that the Sinn Fein flag is better than the Bolshevik flag.
– I did not say that. The Union Jack is better than the Bolshevik flag.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) dealt very trenchantly with those who were responsible for the initiation of the regulation to prevent the flying of the flag adopted by the political party known asthe Sinn Feiners and their sympathizers, and amongst those responsible was the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). Those people who were prepared to start civil war in Ireland, to break away from the Empire, and do anything to prevent the Irish people having their own way, now say that we should suppress those Irish people when they desire to bring about harmony between the Protestant north and the Catholic south, and give the united people the right to govern the country in accordance with Irish views.
There is another regulation to prohibit the flying of the red flag. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) stated to the deputation that waited on him yesterday that, as a student of the working-class movemen t, he recognised that the red flag was respected by the working classes, and that for many years it had been flying in’ Australia without any opposition; but he said it had become necessary to prohibit it, though that necessity was not seen until after four years of war - until it was flown by the Trades Halls. When the organized workers of this country desire to fall into line with the workingclass movement in every other country, and adopt this as their official flag, and fly it on the Trades Halls, it becomes necessary, according to the Government, to introduce this prohibition. Will the Empire totter, or the Grand Alliance be smashed, because the red flag flies on the Trades Hall in Lygon-street or in Brisbane? Honorable members who support the perpetuation of these regulations tried, under the cover of patriotism, and with much flag waving, to smash the Labour movement in this country by means of their own Labour organizations. But they failed in the little scheme that was engineered by the exploiters of this country when the strike occurred a few months back, and they thought they had the Labour movement by the throat. Now their desire is, by means of these’ regulations, to prevent the working classes of Australia from joining hands with those in Great Britain and throughout the world. To-day the Allied countries are engaged in attempting to crush the only existing Democracy in the world.
– What is that? The Bolshevik?
– Certainly, it is.
– That is pretty rough stuff!
– No; it is the truth. The censorship, the press of this country, and the Northcliffe inspired press here and elsewhere, are all joined in a campaign of abuse and misrepresentation. Cables have been published to the effect that the official Bureau of Information of the United States of America has absolute proof that the” Bolshevik leaders were in the pay of Germany.
– Is it not true?
– It is not true.
– You are the only authority in Australia for that.
– The documents were absolutely forged, and were known to be forged by the man who supplied them to the Bureau of Information.
– Then the Commission was all a fraud?
– Colonel Robins, the United States of America Red Cross Commissioner, who .was the official intermediary between the American Government and the Bolshevik Administration, vouches for the fact that these documents were forged, and states that he so informed the person) whose name he gives, and by whom they were subsequently handed to the Bureau for publication. Why? In answer, I should like to read an extract from the American journal, The Public, of 24th August, 1918-
The lines are clearly forming in this country for a struggle between the liberals and the privileged interests for control of pur foreign policy. The Investment Bankers Association nas formed a committee to act in the interests of American holders of foreign securities, and it is announced that their first task will be to intercede with the State Department for the protection of the banking syndicates that floated something like 5100,000,000 worth of bonds of the Czar’s Government in Russia. Careful observers have wondered for a long time if there was not something more definite than their mere hatred of social justice behind the unscrupulous campaign of the metropolitan press against the Russian revolution, from Kerensky to the present.
Perhaps that will explain why the forgeries were published with a view to influencing public opinion in . America against the Bolshevik Administration. There was $100,000,000 involved; and the honorable member for the Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who looks incredulous, will realize what it would mean if a question arose of $100,000,000 being invested in securities - in a country where suddenly a Socialist Republic had been established - and there was wailing and gnashing of teeth at the property of the country being restored to the people.
– The Bolsheviks do not even let them gnash their teeth; they cut the throats of all property-owners.
– No; they set them to work, which if not so much to their liking. Here is another statement which may explain the attitude of certain people. It is an article which appeared in Common Sense, a British publication controlled by Lord Lansdowne -
This panic-stricken leader is representative of the attitude of the majority of the French bourgeoise, Nowhere is there such hatred of the Russian revolution, and such fear of its possible consequences, as in the country of the revolution, and in the class that owes all its power and’ influence to the revolution. The Russian revolution has hit the bourgeoise in his tenderest spot - his pocket. That is the reason why he wants Japan to restore the Tsar. For that is precisely what the majority of the French bourgeoise hopes, and what its favorite papers demand. It is plain that that hatred nf Socialism is with many people a stronger motive than zeal for the interests of France and her Allies, for they are- deliberately, sacrificing those interests to it. M. Gustave Hervé with all the zeal of a convert, is one of the loudest advocates of the restoration of Tsarism He recognises that such action on the part of the Allies would be a little unpleasant, but the Russians are not more fit for liberty than “ the blacks in Central Africa.” None of these gentlemen seem to have reflected that the policy that they propose would justify the Maximalist view that there is nothing to choose between the Governments of the Allies and those of the Central Empires. As to the war for justice, liberty, democracy, &c, it has become, for M. Herve and his fellow reactionaries, a war for the Russian bondholders.
This did not appear in a Socialist or Labour paper, but in a leading paper expressing the views of one of the most Conservative politicians in Great Britain. There is £700,000,000 of Trench capital, and £200,000,000 of American capital re-, presented in Russian securities. I do not know how much British capital, or how much capital of other Allied countries is involved; but I can understand why the people of Russia are to be crushed. If ever there is a sectional strike in Australia, why do our unscrupulous profiteers vilify the unionists, and appeal to the religious or patriotic prejudices of the people in order to excite them? Because their profits are likely to be interfered with. Similarly, when it is a question of the likelihood of about £1,000,000,000 invested in Russian securities all going up in smoke because the Russian people had socialized the country and given it real liberty-
Honorable members interjecting ,
– I can quite understand the restiveness of honorable members opposite, especially those who have large property interests. My remarks are not at all palatable to them, [f the censorship were withdrawn, the people would learn that the Allied Forces are to be used’ to crush the Russian workers, who have been the most atrociously used race on the face of the earth, because there never was a more barbaric system-
– Than Bolshevism.
– I ask the honorable member for Grampians not to interject.
– There was nevera more barbaric system of slavery and tyranny than that which was in force in Russia prior to the Revolution. Yet Allied armies are now engaged in various portions of that country endeavouring to crush the people there,’ and take from them the liberty which they are now enjoying; and we have Lord Milner saying that, above all things, Bolshevism must not be allowed to spread in Germany. The Kaiser and his militarism were .bad enough, but they could not compare with Bolshevism; they had never menaced the interests of the moneyed classes, and the Kaiser was a shareholder in many international concerns! - Krupp’s works and others - amd he and his military caste had intermarried with the ruling class throughout the world - that class which is so vitally interested ‘in keeping down the proletariat.
The War Precautions Act is evidently not needed to buttress the financial security of Australia, because, if the Government have the power under the Constitution to extend the Act after the war has ceased, they must also have the power to pass a Bill giving the necessary authority to achieve that- particular purpose, while omitting those provisions which have been abused ever since the measure has been in operation. But I recognise that this is not their purpose. Instead, they propose to sit on the safety valve of the country.” Like conditions breed like results. If the people of this country are to be tyrannized over, if the Government are going to employ the pimps and spies of the late Czar if the members of the Commonwealth police are to take information from ex-members of the Russian secret police in regard to the Russian colony in Australia, if the rights of free assembly are to be denied, and if the rights of the press are still to be curtailed, the people must deal with the altered conditions as they find them. If they are not to be permitted to express themselves in public, if the rights which they have enjoyed in the past, and about which we have boasted, are to be denied to them, if .those who went away to fight in order to make the world free return and find that the liberty for which they fought is gone from them, and that the enemy, who lost the war, has earned greater liberty than they possess in their own country, they can only express their dissatisfaction with the action of the Government in the way that lies open to them at the ballot-box.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) went to great trouble to point out that those who were engaged in what he termed the extreme Labour movement; of Australia were all young men. The honorable member, as he finds years creeping on him, resents the fact that the youth of this country are becoming: awake to their conditions, and are taking an active part in political and industrial matters, instead of occupying so much of their time in sport. He spoke about the necessity for watching the One Big Union movement closely.
He knows very well that when the industrialists of Australia, through their industrial and political organizations, have the chance of doing so, they will wipe him off the political map. Therefore he seeks the aid of the War Precautions Act to postpone the day. He wants a perpetuation of the censorship, and a continuation of the restrictions on the right of people to meet and discuss matters; he wants the people to have no opportunity of contrasting the social, political, and; industrial institutions of Australia with those of other countries, so that they may know what to accept or what to reject. Honorable members opposite would perpetuate this Act for the same reason that actuates the American banking interests and the French bondholders in seeking to force the armies of the Allies into Russia in order to wipe out the Russian system of government.
– “ System of government?” To what system does the honorable member refer ?
– The Soviet system of administration. Honorable members opposite, who say to us, “ Where is your community with the Labour parties of other lands “ should look at what is happening in Great Britain to-day. There the Labour party stands for nonintervention in Russia. It is standing for the same objects that the International working class organizations stand for - the abolition of profitmongering, the abolition of a system which sets the nations of the world at one another’s throats, perpetuates armaments, and creates huge armies - with the inevitable necessity for conscription, and all that it involves; the abolition of secret diplomacy, and all negotiations and intrigue for the ownership of certain lands, such as New Guinea and other places, because of the richness of deposits in those countries, or because of the necessity to use them for the control of other lands. The people in Australia must not be permitted to know the truth, therefore we must still keep them under control of the oligarchy that is running the Commonwealth to-day. The people must be kept in leading strings, and must not be permitted to find out the truth of these matters; but, as has happened in other countries, these repres sive acts of the Government, these attempts to put back the clock of progress, are only stirring up amongst the people a feeling of resentment, enmity, and distrust of the Government, which, at the next election will reflect itself in an unmistakable fashion. The people of the country ought to thank the Government for waking them up. They have been accustomed to take things for granted, and to believe in the platitude, that, in Australia, they have more liberty than the people in other countries have. Now they are getting a sample of that liberty, and as the Government party find their position further menaced, and the reins of government slipping from them, they will, in their wisdom, try to tighten the control of public opinion. I hope they will continue those tactics. They will be doing more effective work than all the agitators and industrial unions in organizing the Labour party for success at the next election. I wish them well of their job. But history has shown that the tide of progress cannot be dammed. The repressive powers and coercive acts of Governments towards the people who were struggling for political, religious, and economic liberty are only succeeding in making stronger the determination of the masses to rid themselves of this injustice, and the result to date has been very different from what was expected by the persons who operate the restrictions. I honestly believe that the result of the Government’s repressive legislation will not, in the long run, be detrimental to the people, because it will awaken them to a realization of their position ; it will show that their patriotic prejudices have been exploited, and their national spirit misdirected and prostituted for the purpose of insuring profits for the economic pirates who control this country. When they are fully awake to that fact, they will make a clean sweep of the men who are engaged in ruling, fooling, and robbing, them.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [9.18]. - I listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) with some consternation, but, thank goodness, the sample of absolute Bolshevism we have heard to- night is not the class of oratory that one usually hears in the National Parliament of Australia. The people of Australia expect a different standard of oratory, and that this National Parliament shall not descend to the depths just plumbed by the honorable member for Barrier. His remarks show that if he had his way this country would soon be in a state of revolution and anarchy. We are at the end of four and a, half years of the greatest war the world has ever known. Some men have taken a share in it; others have not. Now our lads who went abroad to dp their bit, and did it, are coming back, and their hope during the time they have been away has been that they will return to a better Australia than that which they left. Their outlook upon the world has been broadened. They have been brought face to face with other civilizations; they have been able to rub shoulders with the citizens of other countries; their minds hive been enlightened; and they will return better citizens than they were when they left. Last night, following a remark I made, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) interjected, “ What is wrong with Bolshevism?” We have read of the doings of the Bolsheviks in Russia, and is there one of us who is ready to applaud their actions, and say that such things are good enough for Australia? The Australian community is the freest in the world, and I quite agree with Sir John Monash when he said that the performances of our boys on active service were largely the result of the liberal education they have received, and the enlightenment they have gained^ from the free State school system. There is no doubt that the success of the Germans in the first two or three years of the war was due in a large measure to the fact that they were more scientific and had greater opportunities of technical education than had been enjoyed by the soldiers of Great Britain and France. To-night the honorable member for Barrier has told us that the freest government that God ever gave to any country is not good enough, that we ought to have the red flag flying on every building, that law and order should be cast to the winds, that might - the embodiment of which in the Kaiser and his militarists caused the whole world to take up arms in its own defence - should override right, and that everything which we call civilization, the accrued results of thousands of years, should be thrown down like a pack of cards, and that the community should revert to a state of barbarism.
The War Precautions Act is on allfours with the Defence of the Realm Act in England. The measure here was brought into existence by the Labour party’. Why? Because they thought that in a time of war it was necessary that the Government should have power to deal by regulation with the multifarious matters that could not be dealt with by separate enactments. Although there are in existence to-day many regulations which perhaps are not absolutely necessary now that the war is at an end, yet, if we repeal the Act, as some honorable members wish us to do, how is it physically possible for any legislature to pass the many Acts that are necessary to deal with all the matters arising out of the conditions of the last four and a half years? We cannot pass from a state of war into a state of peace in a moment. We cannot have an armistice signed one day and the community returned to normal peace conditions on the next day. There must be a gradual transition from one state to the other., The Acting Prime Minister gave an assurance that the powers and the regulations conferred and made under this Act will be used only when absolutely necessary. He also said that he would not be a party to using any of those powers for political purposes, and he gave the House a good idea of what his course of action would be if any member of the Ministry should act in contravention of that undertaking. I am prepared to accept that assurance, and I know some other honorable members on the Opposition side who are ready to do the same. We all recognise that certain measures which were necessary during the war may no longer be of any utility.
Much objection is taken to the continuance of the censorship. At a time when our boys are returning and we wish to do our best to repatriate them, we hear disloyal utterances, and we see the cloven hoof in all directions. These murmurings and whisperings, when summed up, mean disloyalty to the Empire and to the flag which has protected us for four and a half years, and if encouragement is given to the tenets that are preached in some quarters, dismemberment of the British Empire, and possibly anarchy, may result. Our men have been fighting for the maintenance of the British Empire, and thank God they have been able to win through.
– I thought they were fighting for the rights of the small nations.
Lt-Colonel ABBOTT . - The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) moved the adjournment of the House a week ago to draw attention to the state of affairs at Broken Hill. He told us that- at a meeting of citizens Sergeant lnwood, V.C., one of the best fighting men who ever left Australia, related that when he left Broken Hill in khaki Borne four years ago he was stoned and hooted at the railway station. He returned, and went amongst his own friends and acquaintances, and spoke in favour of recruiting and other things which were near and dear to the chaps at the Front. A civilian made certain remarks at the meeting, and Sergeant lnwood said that he would like to have the “ skunks,” who had stoned him, in a street, and himself at one end of it with a machine gun. As a; result of ‘his -remarks, there was discord, the police had to intervene,, and- several members of the public were arrested. The “War Precautions Act is in force to deal with the very kind of disturbance that occurred at Broken Hill, and the honorable member for Barrier and others wish to deprive the Government of that power. Five men were prosecuted, and bound over to keep the peace, and the sixth was dealt with in some other way. The honorable member for Barrier, acting on his conception of his duty to his constituency, moved the adjournment of the House on account of the treatment meted out to the workers of Broken Hill by Sergeant lnwood; V.C., who had done his bit at the Front, and- returned! Broken Hill had sown the seed, but it did not like the harvest. Of course, there are many good, law-abiding citizens at that centre, as there are in every other mining community.
– How patronizing ! What bosh !
– One would think that there were no loyal people except those represented by the honorable member.
– I wish the honorable member would come to my electorate, and talk that rubbish. ,
– Order !
.- I ask the Leader of the Opposition to be generous enough to admit that, whatever my shortcomings may be, I am fair,
– The honorable member is not fair in his utterances to-night.
– He is trying-
-I ask the Leader of the Opposition to assist the Chair in keeping order. I have several times called for order, and I shall name the next honorable member who interjects immediately after the call for order has been made. It is not right that I should have- to exert my lungs to the utmost extent to try to obtain a hearing for any honorable member. The House knows that it is an offence against the .Standing Orders to interject, and honorable members should uphold the authority of the Chair, when it insists on an equal hearing for every member.
– Evidently what I am saying is not palatable to some honorable members opposite; it leaves in their mouths a nasty, darkbrown taste, and gives them a creepy feeling. But when honorable members in this chamber preach such stuff as is being preached elsewhere by rebels and Bolsheviks, those who differ from them are entitled to express an opinion of their utterances. I do not think that the Government will use the powers given to it under the War Precautions Act unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
In regard to the power to censor the publication of speeches and writings, do honorable members say that it should be entirely withdrawn? Do they say that utterances like those of the honorable member for Barrier should be allowed to go broadcast throughout the world as evidence of the standard of thought and intellect in this chamber? Surely in times like these, when the people of the Old Country have borne a burden such as the honorable member has no imagination of, and are now faced with the difficulty of getting back their soldiers into the ordinary walks of life, literature that borders on anarchical doctrine should not be distributed. And do honorable members say that we should open our gates to the literature that is being circulated by the Bolsheviks in different parts of the world, counselling the hauling down of the Union Jack, the establishment of a Republic, and setting class against class? Speeches like that of the honorable member for Barrier incite the people to think on these lines. The rightthinking people of Australia do not want that class of literature disseminated among them.
– Right-thinking !
.- I can follow the ideas of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), because last night, when I made an interjection about Bolshevism, he asked, “What is wrong with Bolshevism?” It is well that the people should know the legislators with whom they have to deal - who believe in hauling down the British flag, and would set up a Republic to-morrow, if they had a chance. ‘ This country is worth fighting for, as 400,000 soldiers have testified, and have made an imperishable name in doing so.
The powers conferred by the War Precautions Act are needed for the control of our shipping. If that were relaxed now, we should not be able to get our primary products exported. Irritation is felt in certain quarters because of the tying up of our shipping. But we know that freights from the Argentine to the Old Country, for a voyage only half as long as that from Australia,- are nearly twice as much as the freights from Australia. If shipping were released from Government control now, it would be impossible for us to export our produce, because all the shipping would be sent to the northern hemisphere, where it could get more lucrative employment.
Power to prevent unlawful assemblies is given by the War Precautions Act. That seems to hurt some honorable members. But while there are members and other irresponsibles who are prepared to preach Bolshevism- from the platform or from the lorry in the street to our young people’, our growing boys and girls, it is only sane and proper to give the Ministry the power to prevent unlawful assemblies. There is no intention to prevent the holding of lawful assemblies. Orderly meetings, where free discussion is indulged in, will not be interfered with. But the Government should have the power to interfere where people will not act reasonably. If our citizens follow the ordinary rules, there will be no need to use this power.
I have spoken of what happened at Broken Hill in the treatment of soldiers. The feeling is growing among returned soldiers that men in. khaki or wearing a badge showing that they have been on active service are the objects of derision with some. This feeling is entertained, not only in Victoria, but in other parts of the Commonwealth. The returned soldiers and sailors associations resent it very much. They feel that the soldiers are not getting a fair deal, especially from some of the younger male members of the community who did not see fit to play a part in the world’s war. All the soldiers ask is that when they return to the homes of their fathers they should be given a fair deal by their compatriots, and especially by the young men of the community.
– A fair deal!
.- I was not referring to the honorable member as a returned soldier.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I have in vain appealed for order on several occasions, and if my appeals are not regarded I shall do what Mr. Speaker has threatened to do - name the next honorable member who disobeys.
– I do not assume that any honorable member has adopted an attitude towards returning soldiers such as is complained of. Far from it. The friction that exists should, however, be discountenanced by those in authority, and we should pass laws which will give our soldiers more protection than they have got. I think that the powers under the War Precautions Act are needed for the protection of returned soldiers. They are not to be spat upon - I speak metaphorically - or to be made to suffer indignities. We should not have the recurrence of scenes such as the honorable member for Barrier complained of in high dudgeon, on the score that the workers of Broken Hill are not being fairly treated.
I have never been an advocate of pricefixing, believing that the law of supply and demand should be allowed to take its course. I represent a district in the northern part of New South Wales, where the people depend on the primary industries’, such as mining for tin and for * gold, raising cattle, and growing wheat. To interfere with the primary industries is to sap the fountain head from which all goodness flows. I am glad, therefore, that during the past few days the pricefixing of meat has been withdrawn. In this House a good deal of complaint has been heard about the high price of meat. Early thi3 year, Queensland thought fit to take a certain attitude towards the meat industry. The Government of that State was appointed the agent of the Im’perial Government to buy meat. The meat companies offeror! to supply meat at 4½d. per lb. The Queensland Government wanted 10 per cent, of that meat for their State shops, but wanted it at 3d. and 34d. per lb. To that the meat companies would not agree. The Government then offered 4£d. on behalf of the Imperial Government, on condition that they should get 10 per cent. for their own shops. The meat companies pointed out that if they agreed to that proposal prac tically all the meat that Queensland required would be taken from the Brisbane meat works and not from northern works, and that they would have to reduce their buying limits, whereas most of the fat stock in the south would go to New South Wales, unless this were prevented by the closing of the border. The meat companies finally agreed to the Government’s proposal, on the understanding that the border should be closed. Store stock were allowed to cross on payment of 10s. and the undertaking to return within six months. The Imperial Government has had to pay $d. more for beef, or, roughly, about £300,000 a year, in order to secure the success of the State butcher shops, and preventing fat stock going to southern States. The profit of which Mr. Ryan boasts has been due really to the levying of a toll on stockowners, and the Queensland Government have been able to reduce the price, of meat to the consumers of its State at the expense of the Imperial Government. The exportation of stock from Queensland being prohibited, there was a shortage of meat supply in New South Wales and Victoria, as these States draw most of their cattle from Queensland. Consequently, the Commonwealth Government fixed the -price of meat. That was not, and never’ will be, a success, and no one was found to applaud what was done. Price-fixing will always cause and accentuate the scarcity of beef in winter and dry periods, because with fixed prices every owner will market his stock at their maximum weight while the seasons are good, and not hold, as some would, for the higher prices usual at the end of winter.
A great deal has been said about the restriction imposed under the War Precautions Act on the free sale of wool in small lots. The Central Wool Committee permits of the free sale of lots up to £10 in value. As those representing country districts are aware, there is a general desire that permission shall be given to sell wool up to the limit of £25 other than through the Central Wool Committee. Under the present arrangement, all the wool-growers, with the before-named exception, have to send their wool to the big cities. The small men cannot have their wool scoured, and have to pay considerably for freight. The worst feature of the present arrangement is that industries like tanning and wool scouring, which were largely carried on in the country, are getting to be centralized in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. If that restriction were removed we would have a better state of affairs, and country people would be . more content.
Since the debate has been dragging for some time, I shall not touch upon certain other matters’ with which I had intended to deal. I am prepared to support the Government with regard to this measure. I have faith in the assurance of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that the Act and the regulations framed under it will not be put into force except in cases of necessity. I hope it will not be necessary to put them into operation, but when we hear the opinions expressed by certain honorable members - opinions which are possibly but a re-echo of the sentiments of a certain class outside - we must realize that it is perhaps just as well that a measure of this kind should be kept in force, not as a threat or as a menace, but so that should any trouble arise while Parliament is not in session, it will be unnecessary to call us together to deal with it. I am sure that the Government will not use this measure for political purposes. I have sufficient faith and confidence in the Prime Minister and his colleagues to believe that it will be used only in cases of necessity, and I hope the necessity will never arise.
.- I do not propose to traverse the arguments indulged in by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, since I am convinced that if he had had a little more experience of the operation of the War Precautions Act he would not have spoken as he did. I propose to quote certain statements made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) during the debate on the third reading of the War Precautions ActNo. 3 in this House in September, 1915. As reported in Hansurd, Vol. LXXVIII., page 6867, the honorable gentleman, in referring to the protection that we ordinarily enjoy in time of peace, said -
I should be prepared to yield up that to the moment the Government declared it to be necessary in the interests of the nation.
The honorable member forRiverina (Mr. Chanter) interjected - “It would mean the suspension of all civil law,” and the Acting Prime Minister replied -
Yes, every human being - all life and property - would be at the disposal of the men holding the power of Government - civil, military, or naval. That is surely the widest request that could be made, and if things do not run better for our nation it may be necessary to acquire that power in the Home land.
The war is over; it cannot now go against us, and the honorable gentleman’s argument at that time can no longer hold sway. While he was speaking on this occasion the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) interjected, “ The power of internment now rests without restriction of any kind.” The report continues -
– Internment without control.
– I am profoundly influenced by the information which the Government possess, although it may not be thought prudent to fully disclose it.
The honorable gentleman, was referring to information given at a meeting of members respecting which we were enjoined to observe the strictest silence. We were to speak of a certain nation with bated breath. I was free from that restriction, however, since some years previously I had published a book dealing with the country in question, and could quote the opinions which I had expressed in it. During the same debate the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) said -
This Bill deals not only with Austrians and Germans,but with any person who does’ anything to injure the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) interjected -
No; with any person whom the Minister suspects of doing anything to injure theCommon- wealth.
It was on that ground that the honorable member objected to the Bill.
One could not but admire the way in which the Acting Prime Minister spoke last night. His diction was perfect, and no one could complain of the way in which he put his arguments. But for my experience of the operation of the War Precautions Act, I might have been influenced by his .utterances’; but I feel that it is impossible to point to five good objects that have been accomplished by means of it, or the numerous regulations passed under it. Over 300 regulations have been issued under it during the present year, and these with all the others passed since the Act came into operation, are to be continued. It may be said that a regulation is not a law, but anything under which it is possible to imprison, to intern, or to punish in any other way, a man or a woman is really a law, call it by whatever name you will. I object to this system of government by regulation, under which regulations, having all the force of law, are turned out like sausages from a sausage machine. “There is not a lawyer in Australia who understands all the regulations passed under the Act.
– I think we ought to have a better attendance. [Quorumformed.]
– Sometimes as many as from ten to twenty regulations under the War . Precautions Act are presented to us at a time. We are paid nearly £12 a week to do the legislative work of the Commonwealth; but we are constantly adjourning over lengthy periods. The Imperial Parliament, on the other hand, meets day after day, although if it were really necessary to leave the control of a country in the hands of a few men one might expect such a system to operate in Great Britain, which is so close to the scene of the recent hostilities. Here we would not know that the Empire has been engaged for over four years in war, but for meeting every now and again some poor fellow who has returned from the Front.
During the war, profits have been increasing in Australia. War-mongering has been going on, and is still increasing. The Government have not passed a regulation, as I have urged it to do, forbidding the raising of rents, nor have they passed an Act to prevent money-lenders charging” exorbitant rates of interest. A man who lives in the Acting Prime Minister’s electorate has boasted that he received 60 per cent, interest on a loan to the dependants of an unfortunate soldier, and he has said that other moneylenders have received as much as 200 per cent, on their loans. This Government, despite its chameleon-like changes - we have had three or four Ministries with the same Ministerial head - has done nothing to protect the unfortunate man who is forced to borrow money. The history of the wars of the past does not disclose an instance where profits such as are now being made were secured, or where bank deposits have increased, as they have since the outbreak of war. The War Precautions Act has not been used to prevent the. making of unjust profits. A farcical attempt has been made to fix prices. The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) said that he had never believed in price fixing. The truth is that -he wants the crowd to which he belongs to be allowed to make larger, profits. When the regulation fixing the prices of meat was issued, I compared the prices so fixed with those previously operating in the suburb of Elsternwick, which is not a working man’s quarter, and found that in five different cases the prices had been increased. My inquiries led me to believe that the position was the same all over Melbourne and suburbs. The honorable member for New England spoke of “a man named Ryan.” He is but dross compared with the gold of “ the man Ryan,” who gave the people of Queensland meat at a cheap price, and offered to supply it to the people of Victoria and South Australia. If this Government had desired to supply the people of this State with meat at a reasonable price, it would have purchased the supply offered by the Queensland Government, kept it on ice, opened shops here, and sold direct to the consumers.
Those who examine the Bulletin’s “ Wild Cat ‘”’ columns will discover that only one-half per cent, of all the companies whose operations are set out there are failing to make huge profits. On 14th November of this year, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, after capitalizing £250,000 - that is to say, putting it away quietly so that the people should not realize what profits they were making
– How do they do it?
– A representative of the company was examined on oath as to that, but no satisfaction could be obtained from him. In March, 1913, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had reserves amounting to £52,000. In September of this year, its reserve fund stood at £463,070, showing a 900 per cent, increase of profits in war time. In addition, assets written up and bonus shares issued in the New Zealand and Fiji company represent £3,250,000. Is there a company in the United Kingdom that is making such profits, and escaping war-time profits taxation ? The dividends paid by the company since 1908 amount to £3,681,000, and the profits capitalized - that is another way of hiding profits - total £750,000. To what extent has this company been called upon to pay wartime profits taxation? I should like to read this quotation -
In -fact, the Ryan Government is looking at the company with such a cold eye that the chairman wept a few words at the recent meeting of shareholders: - “Despite the hostile official attitude in Queensland, the company’s interests have not been prejudiced in that State since I last addressed you, because the agreement made between the Federal and Queensland Governments for acquiring the sugar of the 1918 and 1019 seasons provided that there should be no change in the existing position until these crops had been dealt with. Meantime, things may alter for the better in politics there; and this seems very desirable. So far as we are concerned, we would be glad if the million and a half we have laid out in that State had been invested elsewhere.”
There is no doubt that these people would like to have the coloured labour at a minimum cost that is procurable in Fiji. The infamy of the employment of this class of labour has been exposed. The exploitation of these quasi or semiBritish subjects - for the Indians are not citizens, in the sense that they have votes - results in immense profits, and is now only a superior type of slavedom
The Bulletin of the 21st November points out that while the Commonwealth Bank had a deficit of £45,000 in 1913, it had in June last a reserve of £1,076,026.
– It is a good bank.
– Certainly it is, and perhaps the honorable member will acknowledge that it was a Labour Government which instituted it?
– That is so.
– And I hope the honorable member will give due credit to “Mr. King O’Malley, who is the father of the Commonwealth banking system. However., to resume, E. Rich and Company Limited, whose head office is in Brisbane, had a reserve fund in 1913 of £4,000, while in 1918 it was £26,000. The Farmers Fertilizing Corporation is the only company I have been able to find that, did not make a profit. The United Insurance Company in 1913 had a reserve fund of £188,000, but this year it is £277,000, and besides there’ have been transferred to capital- the same old dodge - two lots of £20,000’ and one of £40,000. The Mount Lyell Mining Company in 1913 had a reserve of £7.29,000, and this year it is £787,000, but in the meantime, as another form of camouflaging profits, they have written off property £168,000.
No honorable member can deny the figures I have quoted, and they show clearly how, for the first time in history, such profits have been possible in time of war. I quite agree with what the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said as to the danger of destroying credit, for such destruction can only result in misery and wretchedness; as soon as credit is destroyed there is unemployment, unrest, and trouble. There is no man in this chamber who can approve of the slime and horror of these regulations. Not one can say that he approves of every regulation issued. Why do not the Government introduce a Bill, and, with the power they have to control debate, pass it through at one sitting? If the Government are afraid to use that power I am prepared, without hesitation, to use it for them. Why should we not give ourselves the necessary authority by means of a Preservation of Credit Bill? The War Precautions Regulations stink in the nostrils of the people outside, “in view of the increased cost of all the necessaries of life. If such a measure as I have suggested will not meet the case, then why not have a Standardization of Credit Bill, in the passing of which I am sure not a member on either side would object to help, for we are all seized with the necessity to keep up the credit of the country ?
I resented the intimation by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that repudiation might be thought of. I hope that never, in or out of this House, any sane man or woman will advocate repudiation. At the same time, I would not brand with the curse of interest our children, and children’s children, on account of the loans we have been compelled to raise. If we are innocent of responsibility for this war, how much more innocent are our unborn children? The Honorable W. L. Baillieu, who was a Minister in the State Government of Victoria, and a reputed millionaire, has been manly enough to acknowledge that the War Precautions Act and Regulations do not touch men like him. Then we have had Sir John Grice, the chairman of directors of the National Bank, warning the country that, under our system of loans, a wealthy man who invests in them at 4-J per cent, free of taxation can make quite as much profit as he would outside at the rate of 7i per cent. I am sorry to hear that the banks are drawing their strings at the present time, for I have a keen memory of the boom and the crash, which was brought about by a similar attitude on the part of the financial institutions. However, greater than the private banks is the Commonwealth Bank, on which I establish my hope and belief that credit will be maintained.
As to the shipping control, I quite agree with the suggestion that it would be very bad for the sheep if a committee of wolves were appointed to look after them, though it might be all right for the wolves. I certainly think that the management of the shipping should not be in the hands of those who are personally the most interested. Of course, I recognise that the wealthy man can be a great patriot, for have we not the example of Mr. Ford. the multi-millionaire, of America, who gave to his country his time for one dollar a year, and the whole work of his factory without profit. Contrast Mr. Ford with Mr. McKay, the harvester maker, who broke his pledge to Sir William Lyne that he would follow certain rules if we gave him the Protection he asked for. He got that Protection, and then, assisted by the clever brains of legal men, went to the High Court and had it declared that what had been done was unconstitutional. Mr. McKay, with his “ patriotism,” is drawing £30 a week, and his brother-in-law, so I am informed, a similar sum, as members of the Business Board which is at present inquiring into the Defence Department administration; and it will be remembered that, after one visit to this Department of muddledom, they dismissed two returned soldiers, one of whom was a married man with two children, and the other a man with one arm and forty wounds. These men were in receipt of £3 a week each ; and I am glad to know that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) is endeavouring to get them employment.
As to the shipping companies, it is interesting to remember that years ago, when there was talk of war with Germany - although . it was then thought to be impossible - Lord Tollemache asked Mr. Gladstone, “ Do you think the shipping companies would carry the enemy if they were paid sufficiently?” To this Mr. Gladstone replied, “ I believe the shipping companies would take enemies into the port of Heaven for the sake of filthy lucre.” Had England wisely assumed control of the whole of the shipping of the United Kingdom at the commencement of the war, it would have been better for herself, for us and the world.
The War Precautions Act has been used to do many objectionable things, but , it has not been used for any so useful as the introduction of a Tariff. Has it been brought in to establish industries?
– Yes - Boards.
– At what cost? If I get the return I have asked for in this connexion, I think it will prove astonishing. Has the War Precautions Act done anything for the destitute and the hungry? We see too many men and women about really in need; and I hope to see it possible for any such person to go to a clergyman, a magistrate, or medical man, and by taking an oath as to his condition, be given immediate relief. Of course, I know that admirable work is done by the angel women of the benevolent societies; but something more is required. Has there been a War Precautions regulation to control landlords ? Not long ago, I cited the case of an old woman who let rooms so that she might have her own room rent free, and her old-age pension to live on. She had paid rent regularly for fourteen years, yet the landlord raised the rent by 10s., and then raised it by another 10s. He broke the law. I am placing the case before the State Government, and I think that they will take action against him.
Has the War Precautions Act been used for the benefit of our children, the most helpless part of our community? Old-age pensioners can scratch about and do a little for their living, but children can do nothing for themselves. Every child is a potential unit of the future State, and has the right to receive a fair amount of food to enable it to grow up a healthy adult. Has the War Precautions Act helped a single little one? On the contrary, Senator Millen brought in a proposal to pay the widowed mother for not more than four children.
Is there anything more terrible than being out of work ; but has any step been taken to utilize the War Precautions Act to deal with unemployment? The Working Men’s College in Melbourne teaches dependants of soldiers various trades, and for £60,000 its operations could be ex: tended four-fold, but the Act has not been used to help them. The soldiers do not talk of the Department of Repatriation. They call it the Department of Repudiation. The landlord’s knock does not worry 900 soldiers’ widows in New South Wales, but I cannot ascertain that the State Government in Victoria have taken any step to provide soldiers’ widows with homes, nor has the War Precautions Act been used to allow them to be free of landlords’ visits.
Last session I showed honorable members a splendid lot of tweeds made by returned soldiers, but what sort of a dog’s chance have the men who are wearing the cloth ? If one of them has been badly wounded he is robbed of his pension. A returned soldier with a pension of 15s. per week is not allowed to earn more than £1 7s. per week if he is a single man, or £1 17s. per week if he is married. Looms have been made here, and can be made here, and if the man in charge of hand-weaving had had fair play he could have kept 500 men employed. He was asking 2s. per yard; but what did the Department do? They snipped off a little, and paid ls. 9d. per yard by saying that they would pay at the rate of ls. 9d. per yard for the cloth when shrunk and prepared for the tailor. Fully one-‘ third of a yard is lost in the operation of shrinking. I contend that the cloth should be measured as it leaves the loom. The returned -soldiers engaged in handweaving in New South Wales work under the Red Cross, and get a better deal. The men in Victoria were supplied with a short wool staple that would come away if it were twisted in the fingers, and a man who bought a roll of cloth made from that vile stuff,- and had a suit of clothes made out of it, would never buy the cloth again.
The man in charge of the weaving has never had a dog’s show. He is compelled to sell the whole of his output to Buckley and Nunn at Ids. per yard; but I guarantee that the firm, if they will sell the cloth at all, will not dispose of it at less than £1 per yard. Why should not outside tailors be allowed to buy it at the rate of 15s.. per yard, and why should not the public be able to buy it at a couple of shillings per yard more 1 The wool costs 3s. 6d., the men are paid ls. 9d. per yard, and if 6d. per yard is allowed for dressing, and another 6d. per yard for overhead expenses, we can see that a profit could be made even at 6s. 6d. per yard, and any person ought to be able to get a suit made from that cloth for £2 10s. ‘ Yet Buckley and Nunn are charging £6 6s.
Worsted, which -is inferior to shoddy, has been sent from the Government mill to these returned soldiers. I asked a question in the House, and the answer tried to confuse the matter by contending that I had said that shoddy had been supplied. An article is not shoddy unless it contains cotton. The yarn supplied was not as good as shoddy, because the wool was of such a short staple that if it were twisted in the fingers it would come apart. There should be a regulation under the War . Precautions Act prohibiting them from sending out such stuff.
I am informed that there are men still in gaol, although their sentences have expired, and that there are men in gaol still awaiting trial. That fact alone is sufficient to justify me in voting against the Bill. I approve of’ the provision preventing the banks from paying more than 4^ per cent, as interest, because it tends to prevent . the rate of interest from rising.
– That is a matter which 1 should be dealt with in a separate Bill. We either have the power under, the Constitution to do it or we have not the power. We should not do it by false pretences.
– This Bill is all camouflage. I have spoken to officers and men, and they have told me that what the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has said about the conditions prevailing on troopships is absolutely accurate. At one time, in the French mercantile’ marine, the deck was always free to the passengers, as are the streets of a city to the citizens, but owing to the insular prejudices of the AngloIndian they, first of all, divided each deck down the centre, allowing the first class passengers one section and the second class and steerage passengers another portion, and then, later, when the Anglo-Indian prejudices again prevailed, the system in force on British vessels had to be adopted. I could understand gilt-spurred “roosters,” with feathers flying, having separate accommodation provided for them when the troops were going away at the healthiest times of their lives, but when the men are coming hack, wounded and injured, it is an infamy to send them down to the lower deck. The officers who do this are not worthy of the rank they hold. I understood the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) to say that on British troop ships officers and men receive the same food. My idea is to put down militarism in our midst by making officers and men wear the same uniform, receive the same pay, and eat the same food in camp. Possibly the same conditions might be applied to troopships. We never see bullocks’ livers supplied to the officers. Yet they are supplied to the men. I have been told by the men that they have been in the galley, and seen the bubbles of the hydatids bursting on the bullocks’ livers there. I have detailed to the House my experience of immigrant ships. I shall do so again. I was not permitted to refuse any immigrants, not even if they were dying of disease, so long as they had the vaccination marks on - their arms. Three times I brought immigrants to Australia, and that was the only discrimination I was permitted to exercise by the wonderful Board of Trade. The sanitary arrangements were always better than the Board of Trade required, because even the money-making English companies thought that decency required more than the authorities prescribed. The instruments supplied for the doctor were antiquated. I had to borrow instruments from a museum to show to the officer representing the Board of Trade. .Some of them had not been used for fifty years. In regard to the homeward transport of our soldiers, surely no officer will say that a wounded man should not have as good food as the officer himself receives. Let the highest and best deck be for the wounded, no matter what their rank.
No member would be so rash as to say that the people would approve of this Bill if it were submitted to a popular vote. But the Government intend to bludgeon it through with their majority. They will live to be ashamed of their actions, and some honorable members on both sides who had serious misgivings when the original Act was before the House, will remember with regret that they allowed it to pass. But the tocsin has been sounded in Victoria. That great daily newspaper, the Age, published a leading article this morning that will make every Victorian member on the Government side consider his position. The
Age may still have more sway than honorable members have. We on this side, who have fought it at all times, with rare exceptions, know that it is a great force in the community, and I hope it will continue to speak in the language it used this morning. I view the War Precautions Act as an abomination of the -past, and as a measure that has sullied the escutcheon of Victoria more than any Act I can remember during the last quarter of a century.
If I thought that the continuation of the, War Precautions powers was the only means of keeping the country’s credit good, I would vote for the Bill, even though I hate it. But I know there are many ways of preserving our credit. We faced the war with the assistance of the Commonwealth Bank, and we could, by an Act such as I suggested earlier, do all that is necessary to stabilize credit. That could be passed in a few minutes, and then we should be free to face this backwash of notices on the businesspaper. There is one in my own name urging that an indemnity should be claimed from Germany. Had that been -dealt with two years ago, the Prime Minister would not be in his present unfortunate position. The party to which I belong desires no penal indemnities, no monetary exactions for the purpose of punishment, but we do claim just indemnities, and we should have them. My notice of motion has been on the noticepaper for over two years. Since the war commenced, only one private motion has been carried in this House, and that was a small motion brought forward by me, and relating to Home Rule for Poland. That country will shortly have Home Rule, and I hope under the aegis of a Republic. ‘ ‘
As to the prospects of a resumption of the war, will anybody say that Kaiserism as we knew it in all its horror can resume, hostilities? Even if there are 2,000,000 troops in Prussia, will they take back that blood-stained beast and place upon his head the Imperial Crown of Germany? With the strong fortresses of Metz and Strasburg held by the Allies, with the knowledge that any further fighting must be on German soil, and with the conviction in the minds of our soldiers that they are the best men, it is absurd to imagine that the war can be resumed. I glory in the knowledge that a final peace is at hand. But I believe that the nation which caused the war should pay a just indemnity. If there is one thing I rejoice in, it is the fact that the Labour party has enunciated almost the policy of President Wilson, except that we used the words “ no penal indemnities.”
– The Prime Minister is putting up a fight for indemnities.
– If my motion had been dealt with, he would have been backed by the decision of this House. Instead of that, his voice is like that of a swan on a marsh. I honour him for the claim he is making. I protected him against General Anderson - the general who never smelt powder.
– He is a good man.
– If he sent out the false telegram in reference to Ozanne, he ought to be punished. General Monash said that he did not send the cablegram, and the suspicion rests upon General Anderson. ‘ I cannot see in all these motions on the notice-paper a single subject that has been benefited by the War Precautions Act. It is foolish to call this institution a Parliament while that Act continues. I do not care how members’ speeches are limited, but let us have an opportunity to deal with these “motions. What was the. real reason for placing the original Act and its amendments ‘ on the statute-book ? The war was in progress. But there is no war now. Enlistment has been stopped; recruiting committees have been disbanded.
– We have the aftermath of the war to deal with yet.
– Parliament can deal with it by pasing Bills conferring the specific powers that are required. Have the Government utilized the War Precautions Act to introduce the initiative, the referendum, and the .recall? If they would promise to introduce that reform, I would, for the sake of having it on the statute-book, vote for the Government. That would be the first “ cronk “ vote I ever gave. If the people had power, we should have a genuine fixation of prices, and not the fraud that has been in operation during the last few years. People are paying for bread more than they can afford, and if a baker wishes to sell bread over the counter below the fixed price, he cannot get supplies of flour. At the beginning, 1 suggested that to every statement of prices there should be attached the name of an officer to whom any person who was overcharged could complain by merely sending a post-card. The average workman’s wife does not wish to go into Court, and, consequently, there are very few prosecutions. A citizen should not be compelled to go to a lot of trouble, and waste a lot of time, to get justice.
The Minister has handed to me the most recent scale of pensions. I find that the living allowance for widows is as follows : -
Widow with one child (inclusive of pension), 51s. per week.
Widow with two children (inclusive of pension), 54s. 6d. per week.
Widow with three children (inclusive of pension), 58s. per week.
Widow with four children (inclusive of pension), 61s. 6d. per week.
Widow with five or more children (inclusive of pension), 64s. 6d. per week.
It will be noticed that provision is not made for any children over five. A widow left with seven children would get nothing on which to keep two of them. These are the allowances for a soldier and his wif e -
Soldier and wife (inclusive of pension), 60s. per week.
Soldier and wife and one child (inclusive of pension), 63s. 6d. per week.
Soldier and wife and two children (inclusive of pension), 67s. per week.
Soldier and wife and three children (inclusive of pension), 70s. 6d. per week.
Soldier and wife andfour children (inclusive of pension), 73s. per week.
Soldier and wife and five or more children (inclusive of pension), 77s. per week.
Here, again, there is no allowance for any children over and above five. I ask any honorable member how he would like a child of his to be brought up on 2s. 6d. a week. When a man is not man enough to provide for his children, and is brought before the State Courts, he is made to contribute 7s. 6d. a week to their support. I am glad that in our Federal Acts we have used the word “ ex-nuptial “ to de note children who have hitherto been stigmatized by an abominable word for a tiling that is no fault of theirs. The allowances that I have read do not provide for ex-nuptial children. In Latin countries they are kinder to such children than we are. The Defence Department makes a difference between children born in wedlock and ex-nuptial children, but those who have the knowledge that conies with my years, and from my pro- fession, know that if there is any woman who is to be admired, it is she who brings up children whose father has been cowardly enough to evade responsibility for them. . But no allowance is made for ex-nuptial children. In my opinion, we should provide for every child left by a dead soldier. To give 2s. 6d. a week for the upkeep of children is absurd. There is a loss of £1,500 a year on our parliamentary refreshment rooms-. That is equivalent to 12,000 half-crown meals. This legislation is an abomination. The people outside would not allow it to be passed if they had the power; and some day, when they have the opportunity, they will make the men who voted for it remember, it.
Mr. RILEY (South Sydney [10.51].- I wish to enter my protest against the extension of the powers possessed by the Government under the War . Precautions Act. When the Act was first introduced, we were told that it was only for the protection of this country from enemy subjects in our midst. My experience of the working of the Act for the last four years leads me to say that I would again vote for such a measure provided that it was safeguarded with some restrictions. When the Labour Government introduced the original Act, it was with the full knowledge of the party, and with the intention of protecting the interests of the Empire and our Allies; but of later years the whole of the administration of the Act has been concentrated, not upon our enemies, but upon our own people. Our political opponents have used the powers conferred by the Act to suppress full criticism of their actions, and to . prevent free speech; and have taken every advantage of us, so far as a party can take advantage of their political opponents. We boast in this country about having a
Parliament elected by the people, but during the last three years this Parliament has not governed the country. The country has been governed by an Executive Council, and the Executive Council has been still further reduced to a Committee, consisting of the Prime Minister for the time being and. the Minister for Defence. Every morning we get in our boxes War Precautions regulations dealing with every conceivable subject. Quite a staff of men are drawing those regulations up, and have reduced their preparation to a fine art. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said that the Government required an extension of the Act to regulate certain great industries. He admitted that he did not like Government control of big industries, but he said the Act was here to stay, and that the Government must have these powers. He added that it would be disastrous to the country if the Act went suddenly out of existence. “We all know that that statement is mere moonshine. We know that the war is not over in the sense that the peace documents have been drawn up and signed, but every one knows that hostilities have ceased. The Act will remain in force until peace is signed, which may be three or six months hence, so that the Government have ample time to make preparations between now and then to deal with any emergency that may arise. No disaster will happen to-morrow if this extension of power is not granted to the Government by Parliament. The Act will remain in force until peace is signed, and so there will be no sudden termination of its provisions. All the nice phrases used by the Acting Prime Minister on that question, therefore, go by the board. He pointed out the great disaster that might happen if the moratorium was brought to an end to-morrow. . It would be disastrous if “the moratorium was terminated suddenly, but there is no idea of doing anything of the sort. The Conference to draw up the conditions of peace will not meet until next year Their deliberations may take months, and’ then they may fix a date six months thereafter for the signing of peace. All this talk, therefore, about requiring these powers to prevent dislocation is so much moonshine to try to blind the followers of the Government. The Government will have these powers for months yet, and it is their duty, as a Government, to make preparations so that there will be no dislocation when peace is signed.
The Acting Prime Minister said we must enter into negotiations to prevent a deadlock in regard to shipping. He tried to convince the House and the country that it would be disastrous to the producers if the Government no longer had control, of shipping. “What sort of men does he think the House is composed of? We have no control now, even under the War Precautions Act, over deep-sea shipping. We cannot frame regulations to deal with it, and it is only the deep-sea shipping that takes away our produce. We control the shipping on the coast already. We can always continue to do so, or the States can do it, but the coastal ships do not carry our produce to the world’s markets. The principal argument, therefore, that the Acting Prime Minister put forward, carries no weight. Neither the producers nor the manufacturers of Australia will be affected, because the deep-sea shipping is outside the War Precautions Act. Yet the Acting Prime Minister, with the audacity of a man trying to do the confidence trick upon the people, says the Government need these powers in order to get rid of the great amount of produce which we have on our hands. He pointed out, also, that we had advanced so many million pounds to the farmers, and that their wheat was lying here, and must be shipped in. the interests of the producers and of the Allies. For that purpose he said the Government wanted power to control shipping. All the time he knew full well that he had not the power under the existing Act to deal with the only Shipping that can- take away our produce.’ Are honorable members on the other side going to swallow that bait?
– But he did not say that.
– He said it, and the report of his speech will show that that was one of the points he made.
– Coastal shipping.
– He referred to the shipment of our produce. Accepting the statement of the Acting Minister for the Navy, how is the control of coastal shipping going to relieve the producers? We have a Shipping Board now in control, and the Minister takes their advice. The Shipping Board says, “ We want our powers extended for so many more months.” What is their reason? I have read in the press that another twenty-five ships are to leave the Old Country before Christmas for Australia. When they get here they will be in competition for the Inter-State trade. The Shipping Board, whose advice the Government take, are the ship-owners who control the Inter-State trade. They are recommending to the Government an extension of the War Precautions Act, so as to give them a longer lease- of power, by means of which they can regulate the price of shipping on our coast. The Acting Prime Minister also said that the shipping companies would be very glad to get rid of the War Precautions Act, as they were not doing very well under it. I have here a return showing the profits made by some of the shipping companies. The Adelaide Shipping Company in 1916 had a reserve of £i73,273, which in twelve months increased to £395,000. This increase took place despite the big dividends that the company was paying, and increased expenditure which it had to incur. Huddart Parker and Company Limited in 1916 had a reserve of .£75,000. In 1917 that reserve increased to £405,000. This is another shipping company that wishes to get rid of the War Precautions Act because it is not doing too well under it ! The Union Steam-ship Company in 1916 had a reserve of £553,000; twelve months later its reserve fund had gone up to £722,000. This is yet another poor struggling shipping company which the Acting Prime Minister is trying to keep on its feet. Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company in 1916 had a reserve of £294,817 ; and in the following year its reserve fund increased to £498,550. These are some of the Inter state shipping companies which, according to the Acting Prime Minister, are anxious to get rid of the War Precautions Act. Under that Act the public of Australia have been called upon to pay higherfreights, and, consequently, a higher cost of living has prevailed. We were, told that the Government were prepared,, under the Act, to regulate the cost of living. I do not know what is the opinion of honorable’ members opposite on the subject, but I do know that the general public feel that they have been fleeced. Clothing, boots - everything that we wear and eat - have increased in price by at least 25 per cent, since the war began. That estimate is well within the mark.
– The price of clothing hasincreased to the extent of over 100 per cent.
– Quite so. High prices have prevailed, but the Government have made no attempt to deal with them. The reason for their want of action is that the people who brought them into power - the people who spent their money in placing them in power - are to-day making huge profits, and the Ministry are not going to interfere with their supporters. The result is that the country is. tired of the Government and the War Precautions Act. The Act has only been used to ,protect those who are already well off, and who are making money hand over fist. I am delighted to have the opportunity to vote against the continuance ofthe Act, because it is not in the interestsof the people. Who are clamouring for its continuation ? The workers are not doing so, and many business people are also opposed to it. I have been interviewed by several people who wish to startnew industries, but who cannot do so because they must first obtain the permission of the Treasurer. Fancy the development of this country being at themercy of a Treasurer whose only ambition is to divert money into our war loans. T do not blame him for that - it is. after all, his business. But under the War Precautions Act he has power to say that no capital shall be invested in a. new industry, since in that way it would be diverted from war-loan avenues.. This in itself is a hardship for the country. We cannot expect the creation of new industries which will absorb our returning soldiers unless the people are free to develop them.
The Government deserve some credit for the way that they have handled the wheat problem. But, while they have been very generous to the wheat-growers, they have not looked after the interests of the wheat consumers of .Australia. The people to-day are paying at least Jd . , and in some cases Id., ,per loaf more than they should be called’ upon to pay.
– That is due, not so much to the price of wheat as to the action of the millers.
– The Government have fixed the price of wheat, and it is very satisfactory from the point of view of the farmers that millers should be called upon to pay 4s. 9d. per bushel for it. The Government have shown that they are better fitted than is private enterprise to deal with big concerns. Honorable members opposite were always opposed to Government interference, but, having had an example of what Government interference in some directions means, they are afraid that it is not to be continued*. They say now that the Government are best able to deal with shipping”-
– We do not.
– The Acting Prime Minister last night pictured the disaster that would befall this country if the Government did not continue to control shipping. In time of war, the control of shipping is absolutely necessary, and in time of great financial stress an appeal is made to the Government for assistance in carrying on the commerce of the country. I hope that the lessons of the war will not be lost upon the people, and that we shall keep a grip upon Australian shipping. The Commonwealth should control all our coastal and deep-sea shipping. ‘ 1
– If that is the honorable member’s view, he should vote for this Bill.
– No; this is only a temporary measure. If we have power to extend the War Precautions Act, we have power to pass a Bill enabling the Government to take complete control over out shipping. The Government have proved to the farmers that they can sell their produce to advantage and prevent a lot of harpies and middlemen from living upon them. The middlemen will naturally fight against Government control of wheat supplies, and I regret very much that some representatives of farming districts were not satisfied with a fair deal at the hands of the Government. They were not satisfied with what the farmers were getting for their wheat, they wanted representation on the Wheat Board, cheaper bags, and lots of other things, with the result that the Government became tired of the whole business and said to the farmers, “ Deal with the whole matter yourself.” Some people have become too greedy, and have not been prepared to give the Government a free hand in dealing with the wheat production of Australia. The Government were trying to get 4s. 9d. a bushel for our wheat, but at one Conference a resolution was carried demanding 5s. 9d. a bushel for it.
– The farmers have been receiving only one-half of what farmers elsewhere have been obtaining for their wheat?
– That is so. We have millions of bushels of wheat stored in this country, and we cannot expect that its price will be on a parity with the price in London, which is almost in the position of a besieged city. Some say that our farmers should get the same price for their wheat as is obtained for wheat sent from the Argentine to London, though the Argentine is much nearer to London than is Australia.
– The honorable member is not speaking at Corangamite to-night.
– That is so, but I may say that the Government are doing nicely at Corangamite in giving the butter producers there a bribe of 2d. per lb. on butter.
Another matter which the Government have been trying to regulate is the metal industry. Honorable members on both sides have said that thousands of men are likely to be put out of employment in the copper and tin industries unless the Government continue their control of metals. How is it that the Government have suddenly come to the conclusion that, so far as the metal industry is concerned, the war is over, and there is likely to be a free market for metals? If that applies to the metal industry, and the War Precautions Act need not be extended to cover that industry, it should apply with equal force to other industries. If now that the war is over private enterprise may be trusted to carry on the trade in metals, it may be trusted to deal with every other business. There are several other matters to which I should like to direct attention, and I ask leave to continue my speech.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Admission of Ministers of Religion to Quarantine Grounds - Pat of Returned Soldiers in Postal Department.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I do not intend to keep the House’ very long at this hour, but I wish to bring under notice a matter of some importance. Considerable dissatisfaction has been aroused owing to the fact that the Department concerned refuses to permit ministers of religion to enter the Quarantine Grounds at Sydney for the purpose of giving spiritual consolation to persons afflicted with Spanish influenza. A wire was addressed to Mr. Watkins in these terms from the Hon. Dr. Nash, M.L.A. -
No priest entered quarantine yet. Can nothing be done? No sick person should be allowed to die without spiritual consolation.
I understand thatFather O’Gorman, the Administrator of St. Mary’s, Sydney, spent a couple of hours at the telephone endeavouring to induce the Department to permit a priest, and many were offering their services, to enter the Quarantine Grounds in order to give spiritual consolation to Nurse Egan, who died a day or so ago. The only satisfaction that could be got from the officer in charge was the statement that if he permitted a representative of the Catholic Church to enter the Quarantine Grounds he would also have to permit those of other denominations to do so, and it was no place for them. I wish to ask whether it is not possible to . permit ministers of religion to enter the Quarantine Grounds for the purpose of giving spiritual assistance, especially to those who are passing away. I hope that the Minister in charge of quarantine will give this matter consideration, and, if possible, will comply with the request of the religious denominations.
Mr.TUDOR (Yarra) [11.15].- Before the Minister replies, I should like to say that I have received a telegram similar to that which has been read by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). It reads - .
Complaints made that at Sydney quarantine officers refused allow clergymen to attend influenza patient, Nurse Egan, and administer last rite of church. Nurse has since died. Please have this investigated.
I know the difficulties in connexion with quarantine. Once a man enters a quarantine ground he should not be permitted to leave it until the quarantine is lifted. Of course, clergymen attending patients who are in extremis are all the more liable to be infected with the disease. We know that Father Damien made a martyr of himself by going to the island of Molokai to look after the lepers, and if priests are prepared to go into the quarantine ground to administer the last rites of their church to patients of their faith, some consideration should be given to their request to be allowed to do so. I can speak more freely on the matter because I do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church, and persons not of that denomination do not, perhaps, attach so much importance to spiritual ministrations to dying persons. I ask the Government to consider this matter very carefully before they refuse to permit Catholic priests to enter the Quarantine Ground to administer what they regard as the last sacrament to patients. I hope that the utmost consideration will be given to the matter before a case similar to that to which reference is made in the telegram I have quoted occurs again.
– I recognise with honorable members who have spoken the importance of the request which, has been made, and the Government recognise also the devotion of the men who are prepared, in these circumstances, to enter the quarantine area and submit, as they would have to do, to be interned there during the whole period of quarantine. It was only with the greatest reluctance that the Government felt obliged, in the interests of the wholepublic of Australia, to take the step they have taken of refusing to allow anybody to go into the Quarantine Ground in the circumstances. It is needless to say that if any minister of religion wore allowed to enter the quarantine area, the same right could not be refused to any other minister of religion who desired to do so.
– Why should the right be withheld 1
– I shall give the reasons for the step taken as shortly as I can at this fate hour. I may say that the decision which has been come to is in conformity with the decision given during a number of years past in the administration of quarantine. This is no new point; it has been raised before, and the decision which has been given this time is in conformity with decisions given in similar circumstances before.
– I do not think there has been a death in quarantine for eight or ten years prior tothis time.
– The reason for the action of the Government . is that if we allow ministers of religion togo into quarantine theywill have to be interned in hospital. Apart from that, there are no facilities for accommodating them, or looking after them; and the chances are that they will go down with the disease. There is no means for insuring immunity, from disease, for even inoculation does not do so. The whole object of quarantine is to stamp out disease at the first possible moment, and to reducer the area over which it can travel to an absolute minimum. If we admitted ministers of religion, possibly half-a-dozen will put in claims. They have to administer the last rites of the church, and to attend to the spiritual consolation of the people; and in all probability they will be called upon when the patient is absolutely passing away, and the disease is most infectious. It is highly improbable that clergymen would get out of quarantine without. being infected, and if they were, an immediate demand would come for other clergymen to attend them and other patients still in the hospital. This would probably result in the . disease being carried on and on, until it would be absolutely impossible to finalize it. The danger to the Australian public is so great as to make it absolutely necessary for the Government to take every step to stamp it out at the first possible moment. I would like to say that in a medical pamphlet, published in Australia, which I read two or three days ago, the statement was made that if we succeed in Australia in limiting, the disease to the quarantine area we should be the only country in the world that has ever done so.
– As I have said, the Department is doing magnificent work.
– The Department is, I think, doing great work at the present moment. The Government feel that, no matter what it involves, it is their bounden duty to the living to see that no risk is taken of extending the disease, or, by one single day, the time that the disease may remain on the shores of Australia. Notwithstanding all ‘ the precautions we are taking, the disease may break away, and the Government, therefore, feel it their duty to the Australian public - though very reluctantly, I confessto refuse the request that has been made.
.- There are allegations made in the Herald to-night, in ‘a telegraph message from - Sydney,, to which I think the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) ought to have the earliest opportunity of replying. The allegations are as follow : -
Allegations are made against the Postal Department by a returned soldier in regard to the rates of pay. The position of affaire he describes is most curious.
He says that postal men who were given two weeks’ leave on pay by the military authorities were instructed to basin work immediately. Most of them did so, but on presenting themselves for pay, they were astonished to find that their military rate of pay had been deducted from their postal pay. “ Imagine,” he says, “ the state of mind of a telephonist, 18 years of age, living away from home, on receiving6d. a day for a week’s work. The money he had received from the military was expended in purchasing necessary articles of clothing. ‘ And he was, as the result of this latest economy action, left with 3s. 6d. to pay hoard and lodgings. His is only one of the many similar cases of hardship which this stoppage caused.”
It is said that60 officers are concerned, the amount involved being £75. This amount can now be shown as £75 saved by the Postal Department, so that Mr. Webster has saved £75, and Senator Pearce’s Department becomes responsible for this amount.
The soldier critic remarked that he would be very pleased to hear from the PostmasterGeneral - the answer might be given either in prose or verse - by what Act or regulation he considered himself empowered to make the deduction in question.
It is not a matter personal to myself, but the returned soldiers who have suffered are entitled to a reply from some one in an official capacity.
– I saw this newspaper paragraph only a moment or two ago, and I must say I do not appreciate the method or manner of these men in bringing this matter before the public or the Department. Men of this kind use the public press either to belittle a Minister or disparage the Department, although they can put their case in writing to the Minister direct. If they use the press in this way they do not deserve attention or replies from the Minister. I am not going toreply to criticisms that appear in the pressbefore the matter has been submitted to the Department, and certainly not where they are dealt with in a manner that does not become those who desire their grievances redressed.
– You are getting very autocratic.
– That is my position. These men have access to me by correspondence, and I shall not allow them to use the press as a means to secure information when there is a proper channel open.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181205_reps_7_87/>.