7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Situation at Darwin - Salary of Judge Bevan.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories inform the House whether it is true, as I am informed, that the armoured cruiser Melbourne has been directed to proceed to Darwin, and that the collier Five Islands has been ordered to proceed from Sydney for coaling purposes to support the Melbourne?
– It is not correct that the Melbourne has been ordered to proceed to Darwin, but the honorable member’s information may apply to another vessel. A warship is proceeding to Darwin, and its assistance was naturally asked for by me. It is going also on another mission, relating tothe question of aviation, under somearrangement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and will arrive at Darwin some time this week. The matter of the collier is incidental to the despatch of that vessel.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories state whether the armoured ship Brisbane is proceeding to Darwin?
– That is the vessel to which I referred. The honorable member asked whether the Melbourne had been despatched. I could have answered his question in the negative, but I did not.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories say if it is the intention of the Government to compel the insurrectionists of the Northern Territory to accept the Government representatives? Has the Minister considered whether, in view of the statements which have appeared as to maladministration, he may not by such action be provoking a conflict that might be avoided by means of some judicious, and, at the same time, strong action on the part ofthe Government?
– I do not know what the honorable member means by talking of maladministration or provocation. Not the slightest provocation has been given from this end, at any rate, to the people at Darwin.Rather we have given them every possible opportunity of venting their grievances in the ordinary way. For that purpose, I established an Advisory Council, of which some honorable members may doubt the efficacy, and ask them to submit for nomination representatives upon it. That is the position so far as the Administration here is concerned. Any charge against officials will be a matter for inquiry. All I know at present is that a letter has been cited by a senator in another place as containing certain charges against three officers. I have asked what those “revelations “ were, and have had a telegram from Mr. Carey, the Director of. the Territory, stating that he had posted to me a copy of the letter which was referred to in the Advisory Council. When that comes to hand, I shall know the real character of the charges. In the meantime, I have taken the necessary stops to obtain a Commissioner, such, for instance, as a Judge, to look into the charges if they should turn out to be such as call for proper investigation.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether such representations have been made to him by the Director of the Northern Territory as are designed to secure increased emoluments for Judge Bevan, representations which might be described in popular language as “ ramming Glynn for more money.”
– I do not really know what the description applied may mean; but the facts are these: About eighteen months ago I was asked to increase the salary of Judge Bevan owing to the increased cost of living, but I did not consider the reason given justified the request, and I turned it down. The Administrator recommended the increase, but I did not grant it, for reasons expressed in my memorandum. The Director had nothing to do with the matter, except that I told him there was a possibility of economizing by getting a Judge to act, not only as Judge, but as Special Magistrate. The question was raised whether the present Judge could fill the two offices, and I thought ha could not. That is how the matter stands.
– I desire to supplement the reply I gave to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The cost of living was one of the grounds upon which the second application for an increase of salary was made, but Judge Bevan considered that the terms of his original appointment in 1912 did not provide that he should act as Master of Supreme Courtand Registrar ofProbate, and in other capacities, as well as that of Judge. He had been discharging those duties, and he considered that that entitled him to additional remuneration; but on going further into the matter I did not think that I would be justified in granting the increase.
Methods of Voting - Provisions for Absent Sailors - Alien Voters
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories state whether it is the intention of the Electoral Branch of his Department to issue, in connexion with the next general election, literature explaining the new method of voting for the Senate, and showing what will be its effect?
– That will be done. As a matter of fact, I have, with the assistance of the Chief Electoral Officer, prepared an explanation of the method of applying preferential voting to the House of Representatives, and will add to that something to explain the working of the system applied to elections for the Senate.
– Will that be done early?
– The honorable member may rest assured that it will.
– In order to facilitate voting by seamen away from their homes, will the Minister for Home and Territories see that all the necessary ballot-papers are distributed in the different States, because since preferential voting is to operate, it will not be possible, as under the old system, to write out the name of each candidate?
– Ballot-papers will be sent to all the States. In some cases the names will be printed, but in others that will not be possible. In electorates where there are likely to be only a few votes of the kind recorded, we cannot have printed postal and absent ballot-papers supplied as will be done in the case of large centres. The ballot-papers are already being sent out, and will be despatched to all parts of Australia to facilitate voting in cases such as have been mentioned by the honorable member.
-In regard to alien subjects who are restricted from voting openly, under section 3 of the Electoral (War-time) Act, will the Minister for Home and Territories, in connexion with the forthcoming election, enable such persons to obtain in their own districts the necessary military acknowledgments that they are qualified to vote there ?
– I will see what can be done by the Defence Department. Under the Act as it stands application has to be made to the Commandant. I shall be only too pleased to do anything which will save people from having to come down long distances; but I think applications can be made, and certificates are sent by post.
– The honorable gentleman knows how awkward it is.
– Yes, in cases, possibly; andI would like to treat these people fairly.
Use of Imported Tiles - Mining Leaseholds
– Will the Act ing Minister for Repatriation state why terra-cotta tiles are being imported into South Australia for use in the construction of war service homes, although there are in that State three firms engaged in the manufacture of such tiles ?
– I cannot give the honorable member the reason, because the work is being carried out by the South Australian Government. If any arrangement of the kind has been made, I presume that it has been entered into by the South Australian authorities.
– In regard to the supply of roofing tiles used in the construction of war service homes in South Australia, will the Acting Minister for Repatriation see that local manufacturers are afforded full opportunity to supply what is necessary instead of such tiles being obtained from other States?
– I shall be glad to bring the matter under the notice of the South Australian authorities, under whose jurisdiction the contracts are called.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation any objection to telling the House why the Government did not insert in the War Service Homes Bill a provision to permit of mining leaseholds, or buildings erected on mining leaseholds, being ac- cepted by the Department for purchase on behalf of soldiers?
– I understand that it is impossible to get a good title to a mining leasehold that the bank can handle as a security. The Government propose to approach the various State Governments, and ask them to make such amendments of their laws in certain cases as will enable properties held under miners’ rights, and so on, to be made freehold.
– Last week I asked the Assistant Minister for Defence to place on the table of the House a record of the war services of permanent officers employed in connexion with the Military Forces of Australia. To that inquiry I received an evasive reply, and subse quently the honorable gentleman promised that he would refer to the Acting Minister for Defence my request for a more definite answer. Has he yet received a definite reply?
– Yes. The necessary return is being prepared.
Flight from England to Australia.
– Following on previous questions I have asked with regard to the aviation flight from Europe to Australia, I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy whether he will favour the House, before we rise to-morrow, with a statement giving the latest arrangements in connexion with the flight which has now begun, showing what provision has been made for the landing in Australia, and what assistanceis to be extended to the aviators to enable them to complete their flight. . The matter naturally occupies the mind of the public to a considerable extent, and if a statement could be made before the House rises, I think it would be welcomed.
– I shall be glad to try to make such a statement tomorrow.
– In view of the fact that this Parliament will not deal with the Tariff, and that the new Parliament will shortly be elected, I desireto ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government will, until the whole matter has been determined by the Parliament, release sheep dip and confectionery now held up in bond, instead of exercising their powers under the War Precautions Act to prohibit their entry into general use?
– I am unable at present to give the honorable member that assurance.
– Is the Minister for
Trade and Customs aware that the wholesale suppliers of cigarettes and other materials for smoking will not release a sufficient quantity to the retailers? If Parliament rises without any announcement having been made regarding the Tariff, will the Minister see that the wholesale merchants supply these commodities to the retailers, and do not sneak up the prices for the purpose of profiteering?
– I cannot say that it Will be possible to do what the honorable member asks. I am not aware of any power that we can exercise in that direction in the existing state of the Constitution.
Breaches of Discipline: Remission of Sentences
– Has any decision been arrived at with reference to the men serving sentences for the disturbance on H.M.A.S. Australia?
– I very much regret that I am not in a position at present to give a definite answer. We are still in communication with the Admiralty authorities, and the moment we receive a definite reply from them we shall take action upon it.
– Is the Minister for Home and Territories aware that it is stated that certain agents of a political association are going to the electoral officers, reporting certain people as absent, and objecting to their names being on the roll, although those people have not removed from their places of residence for years ? Will the Minister instruct his officers to be very careful before accepting objections from any persons, and not to remove any name from the roll until they are assured that the person objected to has left the district ?
– I do not think that what the honorable member suggests is occurring. I am sure I would have had a report if agents of political associations were asking that something which is not consistent with the administration of the Act should be done. No man’s name is removed from the roll until after notice has been given. I will inquire as to the accuracy of the information supplied to the honorable member, and if anything is going on that requires correction I shall see the necessary steps are taken.
Settlement in Papua.
– Is any provision being made for the settlement of soldiers in New Guinea under the repatriation scheme ? Numbers of men would like to start there in the cultivation of copra, and any provision of that sort would be to the advantage of the Commonwealth.
– I understand that provision has been made already in the Repatriation Act to extend its benefits to soldiers settling in Papua.
– As regards the proposal of the Government to grant gratuities to the members of the Australian Imperial Force, will the Treasurer take into consideration the making of an arrangement with the Repatriation Department, by means of which, in the event of a soldier desiring to utilize his gratuity along with an advance from the Repatriation Department in order to make a start, or in some way to help himself along in life, the gratuity may be made available on the most favorable terms ?
– By the wish of the Government, I propose to deal with the question of war gratuities in outline on the first Order of the Day. I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion then. So far, it has not been dealt with.
– A deputation waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs some months ago in reference to theremoval of the Quarantine Station from North Head, Sydney, and the honorable gentleman promised that his officers would investigate and consider the suitability or otherwise of selecting Port Stephens as the future site. Has the Minister received the report from his officers; and, if so, what is the intention of the Department?
– Exhaustive investigations are being made, and the report is being prepared. I shall be in a position to announce the intention of the Government when the report has been received and considered.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question which is of some importance to quite a number of people who are engaged in opening up small mining “ shows.” I understand that the Treasury still places an embargo on the raising of small capital for such ventures, and I should like to know when the embargo will be lifted.
– During the last few months, particularly, the Treasury has been steadily relaxing the regulation in relation to the flotationof companies, including mining and industrial companies.
It is the object of the Government, of course, to encourage increased production, and industries generally, as far as possible; and now that the Peace Loan is closed, and we do not anticipate an early appeal to the market, we naturally feel greater freedom in the matter: The Government will consider how far the embargo may be further modified, if not removed altogether, in certain cases.
Extension of Benefits
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether, in view of the now-acknowledged limitation of section 60, known as the financial section, to three classes only, namely, widows with children, married men incapacitated to the extent of being unable to engage in their old avocations, and men who previously had businesses of their own, and seeing that paid Commissioners cannot be appointed for some months, he will consider the necessity of extending the application of the section so that reasonable benefactions may, in the meantime, accrue to soldiers who are now returning, and will have to be dealt with within the next few months ?
– The matter is at present the subject of investigation with a. view to modifying the regulations under section 60. The matter is one of some complexity and difficulty, but the Government are making every effort to meet present conditions.
– Has the Minister for the Navy received any further report, other than the first, from the Economy Commission ?
Conservation of Fodder
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy, as representing the Prime Minister, whether, in view of the widespread drought conditions in Australia, and the absolute need for making every effort, special and otherwise, to conserve fodder, he will see that every assistance, by way of advance, or even guarantees, shall be given to the farmers, so that they may not fall victims to speculators who come in early ? Unless something is done, many may be deprived of the advantages which are conferred on the community by the conservation of fodder.
– The honorable member raises a question of great difficulty, and one which I should imagine excites the sympathy of every man in the community, having regard to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The Government are keenly alive to the facts, and are doing everything in their power to assist the men on. the land.
Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner has supplied the following figures as at 30th September, 1919: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration(Public Service) Act Variation of Award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and other documents, in connexion with plaint submitted by the -
Australian Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association (Minister for the Navy, respondent) - Dated 3rd October, 1919.
Public Service Act - Appointment of J.R. Watson, Department of Trade and Customs.
Railways Act - By-law No. 11.
Seamen’s Compensation Act-Regulations Amended - StatutoryRules 1919, No.244.
Provision for Soldiers’ Pensions and War Gratuity.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I move -
That after the word “ That “ the following words be inserted : - “ this House directs the Government to pass legislation before the House rises to honour the promise of the Prime Minister at Brisbane on the 21st inst. in regard to increased soldier pensions, and the payment of a war gratuity to returned soldiers and widows of deceased soldiers.”
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was reported in the daily press of yesterday as follows: -
The Government proposed to pay a gratuity to soldiers on the basis of1s.6d. a day in interest-bearing bonds, non-negotiable, carrying 5¼ per cent. interest. . . . The indemnity to be paid on or before May, 1921, would be used for the purpose of redeeming from 20 to 40 per cent. of these bonds. . . . The gratuity involved the Commonwealth in a liability of somewhere between £23,000,000 and £25,000,000 of money.
On the eve of the last general election the Prime Minster made a statement in his policy speech at Bendigo - 27th March, 1917 -that he proposed to immediately raise £32,000,000 for the assistance of returned soldiers. Of that amount £22,000,000 was to be raised by loan at once and handed over to the Repatriation Commissioner, and £10,000,000 was to be raised by a special income tax.
From that day to this the Prime Minister has not sought to carry out his pledge, and.it is just abouttime, when these promises are being made to returned soldiers, which the Government do not intend to carry out, that the people of the country and the soldiers had their attention called to the innumerable pledges given by the present Government, particularly in the policy speech delivered at Bendigo by the PrimeMinister in March, 1917, not one of which has been honoured.
Not one stone in the temple of Labour shall be disturbed.
Yet within a few months the right honorable gentleman, himself as AttorneyGeneral, Was taking action for the cancellation of the registration of his former union, the wharf labourers.
Our policy will increase the area under cultivation in Australia.
In New South Wales alone there has been a decrease of 3,000,000 acres in the area under cultivation.
The Government will regulate prices in any industry where such action is necessary to protect the producer from loss and the consumer from exploitation.
Yet the Prime Minister is to-day telling the electors that he requires power to deal with that which three years ago he said he would deal with, hut which he has not dealt with from that day to this.
The Government policy will be directed to the problems of peace.
The Government have not done that, and to-day are admittedly absolutely unprepared for the problems which peace has brought.
It is the intention of the Government to develop Australian production and industry, and to proceed with such amendments of the present Tariff as may be necessary to attain this end.
That was on 27th March, 1917. Yet in three years nothing has been done to honour the promise to protect Australian industries.
The Government will provide for direct representation of the soldiers themselves on the Board of Repatriation, so that the returned men will have a voice in the working of the scheme, and the Government the benefit of their advice and co-operation.
They have not carried out that promise, which, to-day, on the eve of an election, is being repeated by the Prime Minister.
The financial obligations of land settlement and the general repatriation proposals to which the Government are committed involve a considerable amount of money which has been estimated at £32,000,000, of which £22,000,000 is required for land settlement and £10,000,000 for other forms of repatriation. The Government intend to raise £22,000,000 by loan, and the remaining £10,000,000 by a tax on incomes spread over a series of years.
The Government have not sought to carry out that promise. Furthermore, they issued a manifesto calling upon the soldiers in the trenches to vote for them, and promising that they would immediately place £22,000,000 in the hands of the Repatriation Commissioner for the purposes of repatriation. That has not been done. Indeed, the Budget speech shows that last year the total expenditure from all sources upon repatriation was £1,300,000.
– From all sources? Read the Budget again.
– On page 2 of the Budget statement I find, under the heading “ Actual and estimated expenditure for 1918-19,” that the expenditure on repatriation was £1,300,000. I have not been able to discover any other item of expenditure for that year.
– That is from revenue.
– And is for one year only.
– The total expenditure on repatriation from all sources was only £200,000 for 1917-18, and £1,300,000 for 1918-19. Honorable members cannot sidetrack this issue.
On the eve of the last general election the Prime Minister said, “Soldiers of Australia, vote for us and £22,000,000 will be handed over to the repatriation trustees.” That money has never been handed over, and now on the eve of another generalelection he says, “ Soldiers of Australia, vote for me. Between £23,000,000 and £25,000,000 will be made available to you in the dim and distant future if the Germans pay the indemnity.” The Prime Minister stated in the House, on 10th September, page 12177 of Hansard, that by April, 1921, £5,000,000 or £8,000,000 may be, only may be, obtained from Germany. From this the IOU’s of the Government are to be redeemed.
This Parliament is in session, and can carry out legislation to order the payment of this gratuity. The Government can put this undertaktaking beyond peradventure. Yet they propose to dissolve Parliament and go to the country without giving the returned soldiers that statutory guarantee, which, in the face of the broken promises in the past, the soldiers and the country have a right to expect.
– Is it not the proper thing to seek the approval of the people on important matters of policy? Would the honorable member settle it first without consulting the people?
– The Government have the authority from last election to spend £32,000,000 on repatriation, and £29,000,000 of that is unexpended. This is more than sufficient to pay the gratuity at once. Not one of the promises made in the Bendigo policy speech has been carried out.
– Has the Repatriation Commission ever been held up for lack of funds?
– Yes. They could only proceed as fast as money provided would allow. In New South Wales in September last, 374 soldier applicants balloted for three blocks of land which had been thrown open for settlement, and that the Victorian State Ministry has reported to Parliament that, although 2,505 returned soldiers have qualification certificates showing that they are competent farmers, land cannot be provided for them. In fact, there has been such a rumpus about the matter in the State House of Victoria that the Minister for Lands has been removed from his office, and the Premier has taken the portfolio, by which means it is hoped that an altered state of affairs may be brought about on the eve of this election.
– What has all this to do with our Prime Minister?
– Our Prime Minister said, “We guarantee to place these soldiers on the land”; he has not done so. Let us proceed to deal with the broken pledges of this Government. The last I referred to was number seven.
The people did not give them these powers, but ever since then the Government have continued to administer the affaire of the country.
The Government will not attempt to carry on the government of the country if “‘No” is voted.
Yet they have carried on- the government ever since.
Wo want to warn you in time. We have asked you to take heed and counsel with us. If you do not, you must get some other men to govern yon. We cannot.
Yet he has been in office ever since. No notice has been taken of these pledges.”
AH these pledges have no significance; and, following on the policy-speech pledges, none of which have been carried out, we have to-day a further reason why this Government cannot be trusted, when we find that a promise, and a promise only, ‘ of £25,000,000 is being made to the soldiers in order to secure their votes.
As long as I am in Parliament I shall insist upon the capitalists of this country keeping their promises to the soldiers, made through the mouthpieces of capitalism in Parliament, and take every opportunity of calling attention to the fact that in most cases these promises have not been fulfilled. When we get further away from the war our soldiers will find that their treatment will be just that which is usually accorded to soldiers after all wars.
I take this opportunity to call upon the Government to verify their sincerity by passing a Bill here and now which will place their last promise to the soldiers beyond the possibility of miscarriage.
We will pillory these men throughout the length and breadth of this country who are increasing rents on the returned soldiers.
There has not been one man pilloried. Not one landlord’s name has been mentioned. The matter has gone into oblivion. Nothing has been done in regard to it.
House, said -
These men will be pilloried throughout the length and breadth of this country.
He has not pilloried one of them. He has never mentioned the matter from that date to this, although the same thing has been going on to the present moment. The Government have taken no’ action to compel employers to adhere to the promises they made to these men to induce them to enlist. Indeed, when called upon’ to vote for an amendment in the Repatriation Bill to compel these employers to carry out their promises, every Government supporter voted it down.
In addition to these promises, there is the promise of to-day which may not be carried out. It certainly looks as if the Government were in extremities in order to get over the election, and were willing to promise anything in order to get back into power.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - We can see where the cold sweat is.
– I notice that the honorable member does not propose to go to the electors of New England to ask them to return him again to support this Government.
– I will be there when the whips are cracking and the winning post is near.
– There never was a politician who did not have a cold sweat when it came to an election.
– I have no desire to labour this question. I have pointed out the numerous pledges which the Government have given without making any effort to carry them out. In view of the fact that their word has been broken so often, there is only one way in which there can be any guarantee to the soldiers that their last promise will be carried out, and that is by passing legislation before Parliament adjourns, and making the payment of this gratuity an absolute certainty. All the arts and fences that parliamentary experience can suggest will be resorted to in order to explain away this fact. There will be much eloquence and many explanations. But it will remain obvious to the returned soldiers and their friends that every honorable member had an opportunity to-day to indorse the Prime Minister’s promise, and to see that legislation was passed to give effect to it. If honorable members go to the electors without giving such a direction to the Government, the returned soldiers and those connected with them throughout the country will be able to judge their sincerity for what it is worth.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– I desire to say-
– Order! The question cannot be debated.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Catts’ amendment) be so inserted - put. The House divided.
Majority … 26
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
State of Finances- Recommendations of Economy Commission: Navy and Defence Departments: Post and Telegraph Department : Public Service Board of Management: Amalgamation of Federal and State Services : Northern Territory - Press Criticism - Naval Construction: The United States and Japan: Australia and the Pacific - Repatriation Expenditure: Extension of Benefits: Constitution of Commission: Employment: Land Settlement: Anzac Tweed Industry - War Gratuity - Immigration - War Service Homes: Cost of Building: Administrative Expenses - Commonwealth Savings Bank- General Election - Profiteering - War-time Profits Tax - Government Control of Trade and Commerce - Federal and State Powers - War Loans - The Prime Minister: Circular to Next of Kin of Soldiers: Charges against Labour Party - Land Tenure in Queensland:Sugar Industry - Pay of Temporary Employees, Western Australia - Labour Party and the War - The Tariff - Mr. Ryan : Queensland Finance: State Butch- eries - Butter Exportation - Cottongrowing.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration of Governor-General’s Message) :
– I will report the names of honorable members to Mr. Speaker, and ascertain whether they can in some way be recorded. Mr. Speaker will see that the division bells are at once put in order.
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1919-20 a sum not exceeding £5,091,170.
Upon this resolution will be based a Supply Bill which will cover, approximately, payments for three and a half months. Under this resolution, provision is made for the payment of Public Service salaries which will fall due on the 5th March, 1920. The amount provided by this and previous Supply . Bills, added together, will meet the requirements of eight and a half months of the financial year. This is made up as follows: -
The amounts are based on the Estimates for the current financial year recently submitted to the House in the financial statement by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton), and all services includedare covered by provision in the Estimates.
Omitting war services, refunds of revenue, and special appropriations, the sums included in the ordinary estimates of expenditure for 1919-1920 amount to £10,930,981. The proportion of this amount for 8½ months is £7,742,777.
The amount of the Bill now submitted, together with previous Supply Bills, totals £7,465,417. which is £277,360 less than the 8½ months’ proportion referred to.
The war services for which parliamentary appropriation is necessary, total £10,255,980.
Provision has not been made in this Bill for interest due to the British Government on the outstanding indebtedness for the maintenance of our troops, because it is not anticipated that any payment in connexion with that matter will be made before the period in March referred to. I therefore deduct from the ordinary War Service Appropriation the sum of £1,816,000.
The total War Service Appropriation for the full year, less that amount to the British Government, is, therefore, £8,439,980.
If honorable members compare the figures of the Budget with those I have just used they will see that the proportion of 8½ months for war services - £5,978,318 - is approximately the same as the total provided in the present and previous Supply Bills, which is £6,221,630. The slight excess is accounted for by war pensions falling due on 11th March, 1920, and by the increased demands made for repatriation sustenance allowance during the recent shipping strike, with the consequent general unemployment.
With regard to ordinary departmental expenditure, provision is made for increases in salary, which are automatic under the Public Service regulations and Arbitration ‘ Court awards, but no increases are included for salaries of officers in the higher divisions.
An amount of £S0,000 is included for elections, but with this exception, no provision has been made for unusual or extraordinary expenditure.
The Government, in November, 1918, appointed a Royal Commission to examine the expenditure of the Commonwealth, and consider and report on what savings could be effected. The whole area of Commonwealth expenditure was placed within the purview of this Economy Commission. No restrictions were placed upon it. The personnel of the Commission was as admirably selected as was possible under the circumstances, and its constitution seems to have earned the approbation of public men and studious electors. They were empowered to enter every Department, to examine all the records of the Government and all receipts and expenditure, and to use or coopt any officer of any Department who might be of service to them. The freest possible charter to roam the Departments and report upon them was given to the Commission. Shortly before the return of the Prime Minister the first progress report of the Commission was presented to the Government. I do not know whether honorable members had a chance of examining it in detail, or whether they have contented themselves with reading the summary of recommendations and findings.
– The report has only just been circulated.
– I think honorable members got the final print two or three days ago.
– Only yesterday.
– Then I recommend it to honorable members as suitable Sabbath reading for those who have time to spare from religious exercises to devote to ordinary secular literature.
The recommendations of the Commission may be grouped under six heads, but I take leave to simplify some of the matter contained in the report, and thus make it somewhat easier for honorable members who have not been in the Departments recently to gather the trend of their findings. These heads are : Military and Naval, Post Office, proposals for new systems of management of the Public Service, considerations on the question of overlapping between Commonwealth and States, chiefly in relation tq taxation matters, the Northern Territory, and lastly, a miscellaneous’ group of subjects dealing with several Departments.
With regard to the Military and Naval Departments, the Commission points out that Australia will possess a large num.ber of soldiers who have become efficient through active service, and will have also much military material returned from the war. It remarks also that the creation of the League of Nations, when established, will operate towards minimizing the. risk of war. The Commission therefore recommends that, until conditions are such as will enable a definite policy to be laid down, all expenditure on military activities be suspended, except for demobilization, the protection of material, and the preservation of the necessary expert staffs for defence. The report adds that the question of continuing the woollen mills, clothing factory, harness factory, acetate of lime factory, &c., has not received sufficient consideration t by the Commission to justify an expression of opinion in relation to those activities. It is clear that the Commission’s recommendations concerning- the Military Department were based upon the knowledge that schemes were afoot which might greatly increase the expenditure. The Commission said that, if action were not taken to suspend universal training and the projects’ of arsenal’ ““and air craft development, these items would necessitate an increased expenditure of about £5,250,000 in three years.
The more important of the recommendations in relation to the Navy Department are as .follows : -
First, that consideration should be given to the question of whether the expenditure on the construction of warships in Australia should’ be stopped ; and, second, that the expenditure on all naval works, such as Naval Bases, except in the direction of protecting existing property, should be discontinued until the future policy is laid down.
In framing the Budget for the current year, the recommendations of the Commission were followed so far as these two Departments of Defence were concerned,
And action has already been taken to effect practically all the economies suggested.
In its comparisons, the Commission referred to the year 1913-14, in which the military expenditure amounted to £2,765, 199.
The expenditure provided for in the Estimates for the year 1919-20 for that purpose is £1,931,020, a reduction, following the lines of the Commission’s report, of £834,179.
– Where is the difference accounted fort ‘
– At this stage I desire to give rather broad outlines than details, because, going, to the country as we are bound to do very shortly it is essential to tabloid these facts for the consideration of the people and of candidates, in view of certain considerations to which I am shortly to allude, namely, the gross and apparently deliberate misrepresentation of public facts by certain press organs in this country.
The naval expenditure for 1913-14, the last pre-war year as selected by the Commission for purposes of comparison, was £1,987,101. .
The estimate for 1919-20 is £2,214,627, which represents an increase of £227,526.
– We say the total for this year is less than £2,100,000.
– The Department of the Navy and the Treasury are at present engaged in an illuminating and improving intellectual discussion as to what the exact figures are, viewed from two different hypotheses.
-That may be interesting, but the people have- to pay.
– The people have to pay according to the Treasury figures, and those are the ones I am giving. My honorable friend will, if occasion requires, explain the difference. We have not agreed upon that matter yet. A misconception is current as to the actual work which the Navy does, or the actual charges which should be debited, against it. There are really three classes of expenditure for which the Navy has been responsible during, the war period, and which it is still more or less responsible for. They are - ordinary naval expenditure, .either from revenue or from loan, for the preservation or maintenance of an Australian water force, whether there is war or peace, such as establishments, depots, craft, bases, equipment, and plant incidental to the creation and running of a navy. Whether you have war or not, if you have a naval establishment, and any naval outfit, there must be revenue debits for it. We take these and classify them under one head in the Navy Department and in the Treasury. Then there was, and is up to the present in this financial year, a debit for the actual war service of the Navy, that is, for the fighting charges. They are debited under another distinct category. Then there are expenditures which the Navy undertakes responsibility for, but which are not purely naval. They deal largely with transport, and things of that- kind, and in this particular year one item of these amounts to £5,500,000.
If honorable members wish to understand precisely what we are spending in this financial year upon the Navy, as distinct from war and from transport and demobilization charges and debits, they will find it clearly set out in the Estimates, where they will see that the total, including construction of Fleet, is £2,214,627.
It will be seen, looking at the figures for the Naval and Military Departments, that not only has the Government avoided the additional expenditure which the Economy Commission seemed to fear - and, I take leave to say, somewhat properly feared - but a very substantial reduction of about 30 per cent, has been made on the military expenditure of this year, as compared with the military expenditure of the last- pre-war year. Notwithstanding a large increase in the number of naval vessels, and necessary additions to pay - increases which have taken place during the war period with the full sanction of this Parliament and of the people - the increase registered in the Naval Department for this year, as compared with the last pre-war year, is less than 12 per cent.
Honorable members, according to their views of what dangers may assail this nation, will have varying conceptions of what we should spend. on our defence. I have asked the Minister for the Navy (.Sir Joseph Cook), after consultation with his expert officers, to give us some idea of how expenditure has been cut down in his Department, from the internal point of view. I am, consequently, able to give honorable members facts like these - From the date of the armistice, when our Navy was not in home waters, when heart and mind turned to the home country, and when the men looked forward to release from service as soon as the safety of the Allied cause would justify, that is to say, from 11th November, 1918, until this date 2,032 of the personnel employed by the Navy Department, solely in connexion with the war, have , been demobilized and discharged, involving a saving in annual expenditure, for wages only, of £383,485. Further personnel, numbering 240, will be discharged between the present date and the 31st December next, involving an additional annual saving in wages only of £54,020. These men were engaged in such services as examination, port war signal stations, look-out stations, patrol services, mine sweeping, harbor patrols, dock defences, naval guards, detention of enemy vessels, guarding of wireless stations, and gun crews and signalmen for merchant vessels. In addition to those savings, two transports and certain patrol vessels have been delivered to the owners, .effecting a further annual saving in expenditure on wages, coal, victualling, &e., of approximately. £350,000. Thus the war expenditure since the Armitice has already been reduced by the sum of over £733,000 per annum, and by the 31st December that total will have grown to £787,000 per annum. Expenditure in connexion with the transport of troops must of necessity continue until the whole of the overseas fighting forces of Australia have been returned to their homes. As that is being accomplished, so the machinery and paraphernalia that were developed in the Navy and Defence Departments during the war are gradually being dismantled and scrapped. I ask honorable members to bear these facts carefully in mind when considering the Supply for which His Majesty asks this Committee.
The Government were not prepared to reduce the defence expenditure further than they have done at this stage, because that would have involved the dismissal of permanent staffs of highlytrained men, who, later on, early or late, might have been found indispensable and irreplaceable. - This expression of policy is not to be taken by the House or the’ country as an indication that the existing establishments will be continued in their present form, but it would be clearly unwise to destroy any part of the permanent organization of professional fighting men and other experts until our future policy has been laid down, and it can be seen what further alterations are possible. If honorable members will scan carefully the report of the Economy ‘Commission they will seethat that decision also is in line with the conclusions and recommendations of that, body. Here I may say. that it would be folly under any circumstances to abolish the Defence Department of Australia until we have seen whether- the League of Nation’s is to be actually established, and until it is further seen whether that body develops a policy which will render war in this or any other country less imminent or probable.. Therefore, the policy of the Government, which I am merely outlining in rugged form, and which will be amplified at the proper time by the Prim© Minister (Mr. Hughes), is not “ wait and see,” but “watch and- see,” keeping together the material which Australia has developed, splendid and experienced service as it is now, and maintaining the permanent staff at the lowest standard as a nucleus of what Australia may find it necessary to do to develop defensive and offensive personnel on land and sea. I leave for the time being the Navy and Defence Departments. They came first both in order of importance and in respect of the amounts involved.
A great deal of the Commission’s work, as honorable members will see, was devoted to the Postal Department I am quite unqualified to traverse at this stage the individual recommendations of the Commission in regard to the services presided over by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster). He has dealt with somephases of the Commission’s report in a paper which has been made a parliamentary document, and which, also, I would like honorable members to peruse on the Sabbath day; they will find it. particularly edifying reading.
– That is the irony of the whole thing.
– The Postmaster-General is a man of blood and iron, and is qualified to show it in defence of his Department.
– He did.
– I am reminded of a story that was told of the famous American evangelist, De Witte Talmage. He had been reading a lecture by Ingersoll on “the mistakes of Moses,” and he rose from his reading wishing that he could hear Moses on the mistakes of Ingersoll. That is the position to-day in connexion with the Postal Department.
– Who is who?
– The honorable member must not ask me to lead him out of the wilderness. The main recommendation of the Commissior from one point of view in relation to the Postal Department is that it should be placed under a Commission of three men. This is a subject that has been under consideration for many years, and one upon which the present PostmasterGeneral has in former years expressed his opinion clearly and emphatically, and upon which a large number’ of honorable members have a cultured judgment. Speaking personally, as far as I am able to observe it is a suggestion’ that demands earnest and early consideration.
The Commission further recommended that a Board of Management of the Public Services, consisting of three persons, some of whom should have business experience, should be appointed to continuously perform duties similar to those which the Economy Commissioners were appointed to temporarily discharge, and generally to see that the Department obtains satisfactory values for the money they expend after the authorizations have- been given by this House. The Commission points out that there is as great, if not greater, need for an auditor of economical efficiency as for (an’ auditor of accuracy and honesty after the events have happened. With the concurrence, and at the suggestion of the Prime Minuter (Mr. Hughes), who is absent, and may not be able to return to the House before we adjourn, I say that the principle of this recommendation is accepted by the Government. Its adoption will involve legislation of a new constructive and corrective character to insure in many ways that I could enumerate that the proposed body fits precisely into its proper place in the public economy of the Commonwealth.
– The Government will extend the auditors’ powers beyond those ordinarily assigned to them?
– I am not talking of auditors. The Commission, viewing the operations of the whole of the Commonwealth Service, points out that although Parliament and the Government have been at elaborate pains to check the expenditure of public money after it has occurred, and to insure that the authorizations and vouchers are correct, a similar amount of care has not been taken by either Parliament or the Government to see that the money was wisely spent. The Commission suggests that quite as important, if not more important, than the checking in a post-mortem way of the accountancy of Government, is the checking of expenditure beforehand to see that the Department gets 20s. of value for every £1 spent. As a principle I agree with that recommendation, and hardly any honorable member who has had experience of Departments, either as a critic or as Administrator, will say otherwise.
– Why cannot Parliament do that checking?
– Both the Parliament and Ministers are incapable of discharging the particular functions I have in mind.
– I do not say that Ministers should do it. The Government do too much, and do not make as much use of the brains of Parliament as they ought to do. ,
– The brains o* Parliament are not always apparent and willing. Neither the- Government nor Parliament can. do precisely the class of work that is indicated, and - whilst it may be perfectly true that private members should get a closer insight into the affairs of government, such investigation on their part will not cure the evil that has been pointed out. Neither can it be dealt with by more detailed attention on the part of Ministers don trolling the Departments. . Speaking from experience, I say that it is impossible for Ministers, with the growing demands, legitimate and illegitimate, made upon their time, to give more detailed attention to the affairs of Departments than they have been given during the past three or four years.
– Does not the criticism of the Economy Commission apply to other Departments as well as to the Postal Department?
– I feel that I ought to apologize for the honorable member. I left that Department several minutes ago. I am now dealing with the whole of the Public Services of the Commonwealth. What is suggested is a general management body, which the Government are prepared to create at the first opportunity. The institution of such a reform will require the passage of legislation. The Commission’s plan for a board of management will be modified somewhat in order to make quite sure that Ministerial control will be preserved in all matters of policy. That, I take it, is absolutely essential to the safety of that form of responsible government which we have developed in Australia with more or less success, and so that the existing Public Service law will be dovetailed into it, and not provide another point of collision by two bodies within the Service.
The Commission recommends, further, that it would assist in bringing about co-operation if the Federal Government would undertake to bear the whole cost of assessing and collecting State income and land taxes. I think the Committee is aware that the Government were strongly desirous of amalgamating the work of the Federal and State Taxation Departments.
– The Government have done good work in that respect.
– The prayers of one righteous man have not availed on this occasion - the exception proving the rule, no doubt.
– The honorable member’s conversion to Unification is too recent.
– It is impossible to discuss basic principles with some honorable members without causing confusion in their minds. I am not discussing Unification. I am speaking of an amalgamation of certain Federal and State Services. Unification would blot out those distinctions which the Commonwealth and States alike desire to preserve.
– I doubt whether the people wish to see them preserved.
– That may be. We are desirous of simplifying the work of the taxpayers by reducing the operation and cost of administering the taxation system. Some months ago, with the approval of the Government, I, as Treasurer, made an offer to the States to collect their in come taxes at a cost not exceedingonethird of that now borne by them, thus saving two-thirds of their present expenditure.
– They made other proposals.
– Yes; proposals which involved the surrender of the taxation machinery of the Commonwealth - machinery which the States would have found it impossible to work.
– I mean as to the cost of collection.
– It was hot a question of cost; the States could not do the work. It is obvious that, even if the six States undertook to do the work within the six States, the Commonwealth would still have to superimpose an Australian organization to do the collection in the case of businesses carried on in more than one State. However, I am not dis- cussing the merits of the question, but reciting history. As the States refused this offer, I really do not feel that any hope canbe entertained that they would accept an offer if we increased it to cover the whole of their costs.
I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion, after much experience of both points of view at State Conferences, that this matter must be further negotiated with the States on a somewhat different basis, and may have to wait for finality until the recommendations or decisions of the Convention, to which reference has been made in this House, are before us.
– Have a referendum and compel the States.
– That is something which the honorable member, if he sat with the Solicitor-General, would find it hard to do.
– The people would vote for it.
– Of course, if it were competent for theCommonwealth to amendthe Constitution in that way ; but the honorable member will, on reflection, see the difficulty. It is easy to express a desire, but hard to give that desire the form of constructive legislation.
Another branch of the Committee’s inquiries covers the Northern Territory. They recommend that, pending the settlement by Parliament of a definite policy, large expenditure shall not be continued. Here, again, the Government are in sympathy with the views of the Commission.
In preparing the Budget for this year, the policywas adopted of cutting out all expenditure that can be avoided without doing injury to the works and property of the Territory. I take again the pre-war expenditure as compared with this year’s expenditure. In 1913-14, the expenditure, omitting interest on loans, was £401,701, and the estimated expenditure for this year is £194,736.
– That is the measure of our failure there.
– The honorable member talks like a Jeremiah. When one claims credit for having opposed with relentless resolution the ambitions and desires of certain sections of our Departments -and I take leave to say that the financial position of Australia to-day, whether it be desirable to embark on other enterprises or not, is such that we shall have to cut, and cut to very bedrock - some honorable members point to that as an evidence of failure. Speaking as Treasurer, however, I say that it is an evidence of the spirit that Parliaments, both Federal and State, should display, and if I remain in office I intend to pursue such a policy.
– Where did you save that £300,000?
-I am not going into details now, but I recommend the honorable member to compare the Budget of 1913-14 and the Budget of this year, when he will note two wonderful differences - he will note the crystalline clarity and the economy of the latter as compared with the former. As the honorable member is now looking for election phrases, he will in that direction find also ample mental pabulum in the last Budget.
Most of the recommendations other than those I have traversed deal with that Department;and the Commission estimates that savings are possible to the extent of £400,000 per annum, though it does not indicate definitely just where the economies can be made. But the Government propose to follow the lines suggested by the Commission, and toreduce expenditure wherever that is possible consistently with efficiency. Many of the recommendations relate to the adjustment of charges made to the public for services rendered. These will be considered and adopted if the Government are satisfied as to the policy involved in the alteration of those charges.
Regarding the report as a whole, the Government welcome the suggestions made by the Commission, and look forward to further reports. The Government are determined to reduce the expenditure of the Commonwealth wherever it is possible, without injury to the interests of the people of Australia. As the Government which appointed the Commission, we mean business, and we desire to utilize it, as I am sure the people wish, in preserving efficiency, while enforcing economy.
I have spoken a few words about the attitude of the press. I have gone to somewhat greater length on this occasion, on this temporary, but final, Supply for this Parliament, because of the extraordinary attitude adopted by certain papers, not in commenting on the policy embodied in items of Government expenditure, but in withholding information from the people or misrepresenting it. The attitude of some of the organs of the Melbourne press, particularly, deserves emphasizing at this time, and Irefer first to what appeared in the Age of the 18th October.
– An old friend of yours!
– Not with a capital “F”,- “not recently,” as Sir Henry Parkes used to say. The Age of 18th October, just after this report had been laid on the table of the House, contained headlines in relation to it as follows: -
” WASTEFUL ADMINISTRATION.
An Amazing Indictment.
How £5,000,000 a Year may be Saved.”
I ask honorable members to bear in mind that last line about the saving of £5,000,000 a year. That language was not only extravagant and misleading, but flagrantly incorrect, according to the Commission’s report. The impression given to the public undoubtedly was that the Government were scandalously wasteful, and that the Commission had pointed out how £5,000,000 a year could be saved. Such tactics arise from ignorance, or from mendacity, according to the journal that uses them; but, whichever it is, the public should know that the newspapers guilty of it are not faithful mentors and public guides.
I have shown that the large sum referred to in the report, and to which the headlines refer, relates to prospective and not to actual expenditure. The £5,250,000 which the Commission said could be saved relates to expenditure which had not been incurred, but which, might have been incurred, if the Government had not been duly regardful of its duties. To -refer to th© Commission’s report in such a way as to lead the people, to believe that the Government had squandered and were squandering millions, is reprehensible in the ‘highest degree, and destructive of many vital interests in Australia.
I believe that the constantly-repeated propaganda of misrepresentation to which some organs of public opinion, as they call themselves in Australia, have devoted themselves in recent years, is doing a great deal of damage to the credit of this country - just as much, I take leave to say, as the eccentric utterances of irresponsible demagogues about public credit. Speaking as Treasurer, with . some ‘ knowledge of the influences about our Peace Loan - because the Treasurer, in these times, has to keep his finger on the pulse of public finance so far as the financial institutions enable him to do - I believe that the difficulty of completing that loan operation was largely due to the “ stinking-fish “ policy of the press in some parts of Australia. It is time that the management of these organs took counsel with prudence and wisdom, and recognised in a higher degree, not merely their opportunities to hurt or to help, but their responsibility to do the right thing.
– A picture may be painted in too roseate colours.
– Quite so. I am not now objecting to criticism, of which I believe the honorable member had some yesterday. I have been subjected to criticism for years, and criticism is a useful public function performed either by an Opposition, by “the man in the street,”, or by the press. But the misrepresentation of actual facts is a different matter. If a paper or a person goes so far as to subordinate the truth to their own aggrandisement, they are forsaking the path of duty and pursuing a reckless course that, if continued, must re-act upon our institutions.
The most casual reading of the report shows that this £5,250,000 was to be saved by suspending activities in connexion with universal training, the Arsenal, and the aircraft service. That the Government had done. The Agc should have known that the Government had already discontinued universal training, and had reduced the- Arsenal and aircraft expenditure to the comparatively low sum which is absolutely necessary for the protection of the Departments interested until the future policy is settled.
Apart altogether from these considerations, I ask honorable members to mark the statement that £5,000,000 clear could be saved ,per annum. That statement is either a glaring blunder or am unpardonable misrepresentation. ‘ The Commission estimated that by not doing certain things £5,000,000 odd could be saved in three years, but the Age led the public to believe that it was the actual expenditure in one year, and not prospective expenditure, that had to be prevented.
I now desire to say something that requires to be- said at this stage, though it is not my duty to say it so much as it is the duty of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook). I desire to point out that we could save a great deal more in the public expenditure if we took grave-, risks. If we destroyed the defence system of Australia now - the Army and’ Navy system - we could save a large sum of money. But this - Government would’ not, arid I think no other Government’ would take the responsibility, now orin the near future, until the conditions of” the world define themselves more clearly,, of leaving this country, one of the remotest outposts of the. world and one of” the most desirable, absolutely defenceless. This Government will not do that. We take the responsibility of saying to-* the people what we shall say on the hustings, that we must preserve, at least, the nuclei of offence and defence until thefuture reveals itself to us more definitely. . The newspapers that have asked us to cut out all naval and military expenditure are, apparently, deaf to the warnings or dangers of the times.
– They are afraid of thetaxation that will result from it.
– No one likes taxation, but we all have to submit to it. It is aquestion of sacrifice and safety. That was the question during the waT, and if there is any possibility of a recurrence of “ the war, it still holds good. But if I can- judge aright the feelings of this community, which has. sprung from the older community in the Northern Hemisphere, and which has bred the boys who fought so magnificently everywhere they went, we will not forsake the path of sacrifice or regard the matter of our own or our children’s safety as of. no importance. The latest warning comes to us from a naval statesman whose voice is acknowledged in the Senates of the world, the man who came to Australia to advise us on our naval outlook and problems. I refer to Admiral Viscount Jellicoe, whose word is the word of authority. In the report which he has given us, he says plainly that, if we want to ‘be safe, we must not only have our own Navy, but must also link up in a Dominion partnership in the southeastern waters of the world. Ministers have given no pronouncement as yet upon that report, ‘because, as the public has justly discerned, it is a matter for consultation between the suggested partners of the Empire as to how far it may be necessary, wise, or possible to put the report into operation but, as a scheme, it amounts .to a warning as to the future, and an admonition to us to be prepared. And this, I think, ought to be the doctrine presented to the people of Australia at the present time.
I have asked the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) to supply something from the information he has in his control in regard to what the other nations are doing in the matter of naval expenditure; for, in spite of the League of Nations project, great naval activities are being promoted in almost every part of the world. I do not suppose that the statesmen and people of the world are all fools. They want to be sure, and not sorry, until the League itself becomes a potent entity in .the world’s affairs. America has sent a .great fleet through the Panama Canal, and proposes to base it in the Pacific. It is practically half of the naval strength of America, and comprises seven Dreadnoughts between 26,000 and 30,000 tons, seven preDreadnoughts between 12,000 and 16,000 tons, and numerous accompanying smaller craft. Naval students have described the passage of this fleet through the Panama Canal as a triumph of organization and a demonstration of the power of the United States of America to manoeuvre, mobilize, and strike. Japan is holding great naval manoeuvres this year to the south-east of the islands, under the personal supervision of the Emperor. According to the Japanese press, Japan is about to proceed ‘upon an active policy of naval construction, and the information at the disposal of the British and Australian naval authorities justifies a belief in these reports, which indicate that these activities include the building of two battle cruisers of 40,000 tons each, in addition to the vessels already under construction, and that the Japanese fleet in 1923 will include eight modern super - Dreadnoughts of the very largest type built, and six battle cruisers. ‘ I understand that these super-Dreadnoughts will be about 40,000 tons each. We have also read in the press that the Japanese will appropriate £25,000,000 for a four years’ aviation programme, that they are’ building three 10,000-ton oil-tankers for the use of the fleet, and that a huge installation of oil fuel . is being prepared at a definite and convenient point in the islands of Japan, not far from Yokohama.
It is not wise to say much more on this subject, except that if the two main Powers of the Pacific, the great Republic of America and the Empire of Japan, deem it advisable to survey the horizon with care, if not anxiety, it is wise for us to imitate them, and, in our’ consideration of what the future of Australia may mean, realizing, as we must do, our trusteeship to the generations still ahead of us, see that we do everything possible within our means to keep this country, if ever the test of keeping it should be made.
I leave that set of reflections, although I think they are important and worthy of the consideration of the Parliament and the country, and come to another paper which has dealt improperly .with information at its disposal. On the 20th October, two days after the occasion I have referred to, the Argus said that “The Economy Commission had confirmed everything that had been said in condemnation of Federal extravagance since the Fisher riot commenced in 1910.” The Commission confirmed nothing of the sort. It did not refer to the expenditure in 1910, and, even if it had done so, the Argus, which is a much fairer paper than the other, although that is not saying much for it, should have been fair enough to point out to its readers that steps have already been taken to carry out the recommendations of the Economy Commission, and that the present Government were reducing the expenditure on which the Commission had put its hand. Probably the paper did not know all that was being done; but it must have been aware that the Government had discontinued universal training for the year, and that the expenditure upon the arsenal, &c, had been reduced to a minimum. I could refer to other instances of the failure of certain newspapers to give a fair statement of the Government’s actions, but I shall not do so.
I want to refer to one other relative matter. The press has given prominence to the fact that it is estimated that over £4,434,327 will be spent this year in excess of the expenditure last year. That is perfectly true, but it has given no emphasis whatever to the important fact that the increase was unavoidable. Yet this is the very kind of organ which urged the Government to support the soldiers, which meant war loans; to demobilize quickly, which meant vast expenditure of loan money, and to repatriate liberally; in other words, to keep the head of Australia to the storm centre of duty. We did this with the fullthroated approval of this Parliament, and, of course, the result has been an extra interest bill, extra war pensions, and heavy repatriation charges. A press that wishes to educate the public of Australia should not blame any Parliament or Government for performing those things which they themselves strongly advocated. In other words, they should inform the people of the cause of this increase of £4,434,327, which is entirely due to ‘ the additional demands for interest on war loans, repatriation expenditure, war pensions, and other important items of war expenditure, and also includes the one matter we ‘have decided for ourselves, and not with their assistance - an increase in the rate of invalid and old-age pensions. Furthermore, owing to the return of our boys, there is an increase in the payment to the States, which has to be met as an inevitable and proper recognition of our duty.
– The honorable member makes no reference to the Sydney press.
– No; but recently one of the Sydney morning papers, in one of the best-informed articles I have perused for a long time,, described the Budget produced by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) as the best Federal Budget ever presented; and the other paper, which is sometimes more critical, remarked that there were some very admirable features about the Budget, and that its watchword was economy. The very reverse seems to be the opinion of some organs, which appear to think with thehonorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), that reiteration may sometimes be mistaken for argument. No matter what the press may say, I hope that hon- orable members will go tq their electors and show them what the Government have’ done, not for the purpose of seeking re-election, but simply in order to give an account of their stewardship.
– I would like to direct the Treasurer’s attention to one article which recently appeared in a Sydney morning newspaper.
– When the honorable, member this morning attempted to stifle’ the House by anticipating discussion on the real Supply by taking it on the old! “grievance day” motion,, I was very much struck with some of his statements, and, had the occasion been appropriate, I should have taken steps to contradict them; but the present is a better opportunity of doing so, because it gives honorable members more freedom to express their views. I hope that I am not unduly occupying the time of the Committee.
Honorable Members. - Hear, heart
– I feel that I ought to dealt fully with this matter, and I have to make a statement as to the proposed war gratuity in accordance with the promise made last week by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath).
The honorable member for Cook (Mr.. Catts) desired to convince the Housetoday, and he may again attempt-, to do so, that the Government’s. promise in regard to the gratuity - to soldiers was unworthy of accept- .ance, and that all our promises - particularly those made to soldiers - had i been dishonoured. He stated that we had ‘ promised £22,000,000 for repatriation,, and had given the soldiers only a fraction of that amount. He said, in effect, that they asked for bread, were promised bread, but that we gave them a., stone..-..
That was the tenor of his remarks. He stated that he had searched the Estimates, and that this year we had provided only £1,300,000 for repatriation proposals.
– No, I said that was the amount provided in respect of last year.
– What are. we providing for repatriation this year ?
– gome £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 - on the eve of an election.
– Very often Ministers and honorable members, generally, on this side of the House have to listen to extraordinary misrepresentations of fact on the part of some honorable members of the Labour party. It is impossible to please them. I do not very often cross swords with honorable members opposite, and attempt to put them right. I feel it is not our duty to educate the Opposition.
– Not at all.
– Some need it, but the honorable member does not. He has been abroad, and has been educated there.
– Misrepresentations always come from the opposite side.
– Always from the Opposition. The honorable member has returned from abroad with . a species of Baconian generalizations which will doubtless animate public life. He told us to-day that there was never a politician who did not break into a cold sweat when he heard of an impending election. I ask the honorable member not to cast his pearls before swine, but to preserve them for the electors of Bourke.
The honorable member for Cook says that even on this year’s Estimates we have made provision for an expenditure of only about £6,000,000 in respect of repatriation. I will point out to him where some of the items of repatriation expenditure for which we are, asking approval are to be found in the Estimates.
– How much of the £22,000,000 has the Government spent? Will the honorable gentleman tell us that?
– I am doing so. If the honorable member will turn to page 310 of the Estimates he will find in sub’division 2 of division 149, “Repatriation of Soldiers,” a proposed vote of £2,500,000, which is to be provided for out of revenue. That is one item. I need not weary honorable members bv supplying details. T give them these references so that they may look them up for themselves.
– Is that the estimated expenditure for the current year under the heading referred to?
– Yes. Last year we estimated the expenditure under that heading at £1,000,000, but we actually spent £f,300,000, so that our expenditure was £300,000 in excess of the estimates. I think our expenditure in this direction this year will again be in excess of the estimates.
– In the previous year the expenditure under that heading was £800,000 below the estimate.
– The honorable member will not lure me into the desert of hisimagination. I am dealing with the facts one at a time. Under this heading, I say it is estimated to expend £2,500,000 out of revenue. The honorable member’s implication is that that amount will not be spent. My answer is that we spent last year, when we were not facing a general election, more than the estimated amount. The estimate on that occasion was exceeded by nearly 33 per cent. At the top of page 329 of the Estimates there will be found items of £6,085,000, £70,000, and £1,500,000 for repatriation purposes.
– Estimated !
– The whole amount will be required. We have already been asked by some of the States to enlarge the item of £6,085,000, which provides for advances for settling soldiers on the land, and we have given the necessary authority. We desire that land settlement shall proceed as fast as the States can handle the machinery. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) had better withdraw his insinuation. He has been away, and knows nothing of the matter. On page 334 of the Estimates, relating to repatriation, will be found three items of £455,000, £4,000,000, and £250,000. These sums total in respect . of the estimated expenditure on repatriation for this year alone £14,860,000.
– In addition to pensions ?
– Yes, I am dealing now with the estimated expenditure on straight-out repatriation work. The honorable member for Cook would have the Committee believe that the total expenditure under this heading last year was only £1,300,000. I ask him to beware that he does not delude himself or his constituents with statements that are -not in accordance with facts. These facts have been available to honorable members ever since ‘ my honorable colleague -(Mr. Poynton) delivered the Budget -statement.
– Since the policy speech, in which £32,000,000 was pro.mised, how much has been spent?
– If the honorable member desires additional information, and asks for it, I will endeavour to obtain it for him to-morrow.
– The Government have not spent £3,000,000 since then.
– If the honorable member has the information, he might tell us of it.
– The honorable gentleman has been dealing with estimated expenditure.
– If the honorable member wants facts, and not mere assertions as to the facts, he can have them. There is no constituency in the Commonwealth other than- his own - and I doubt whether it would do so - that would take his word on a statement of facts. I do not like to make that state - ment, but the more he prefers assertions te facts the less will the people believe him.
– I want to know how much has been spent on repatriation?
– There is a legitimate t parliamentary channel through which the honorable member can obtain that information. If he will make use of it, the Government will supply him with ali the information he requires.
– The items are so scattered over the Estimates that it is difficult to ascertain what is the total proposed expenditure.
– That is not our fault; the fault rests with the honorable member himself.
– The whole of the figures are summarized on page 15 of the Budget speech.
– Yes, and as I have already said, one has something more to do than educate one’s opponents.
I shall conclude with a reference to the war gratuity, not because I think this is necessarily the right time or place to discuss or deal with the matter, but because I observe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who is absent, in a discussion of the question with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr.. McGrath) promised that as soon as the Government had made up its mind, and to the extent that it had made it up, the House would be informed, so that honorable members, before going to their constituencies, would, if they wished, have an opportunity to express their views on the subject. I re-affirm the statement made by the Prime Minister at Brisbane, with the concurrence of his colleagues,’ that the Government, after mature deliberation, have determined to ask from the people the power to grant a war gratuity to the soldiers. I make no apology at all for not demanding from this Parliament the power to grant the gratuity. I think it will be improper for a dying Parliament to vote, without consultation with the people, so large an amount as the gratuity will involve. The more democratic course, and that which the Government proposes to take, is to ask the people for authority for this action. The payment of a gratuity is included in our policy, and if we are returned it will be made on the lines indicated by the utterances of the Government.
– ‘The matter was dealt with by the. Dominion Parliament .of New Zealand.
– I submit that we are taking the right course. We have announced our intention of going to a general election, and my impression is that in the Departments, as in Parliament, Ministers should fulfil their mandates, but not take new courses until the people have authorized them to do so.
– And the New Zealand Parliament, unlike this, was not in its dying hours when it dealt with the question.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has just suggested that had we followed the New Zealand Parliament in ‘‘every particular we would have passed a ConscriptionBill. My honorable friends opposite would not have agreed to that.
– We might also have had big surpluses.
– And all sorts of things which the differing circumstances of different countries do not render possible.
We have, therefore, decided that, if the people approve, legislation shall be passed at the opening of the new Parliament, to provide for a grant of ls. 6d. per day. during the years of service with the Australian Imperial Force and the fighting forces. The difficulty of providing cash for such a payment is plain to the soldiers, to Parliament, and to the community as a whole. I say frankly, as Finance Minister, that if I were asked to provide the cash I would acknowledge the impossibility of doing so at this stage, at any rate, without recourse to compulsion, and without suffering the indirect effects of the withdrawal of money from enterprises, which would be injurious to the interests of the soldiers themselves, as well as those of the people generally.
In these circumstances we had, therefore, to consider how far it was possible to say to the men who have done this great service to Australia : “ This is the offering of the nation’s thanks and goodwill.” We had to consider how it would be possible to make this grant in a way that would not embarrass the public creditor or the genuine interests of employment and trade in this country. A scheme is approaching completion under which we believe we can provide for the creation of a special gratuity bond which .will be paid to the men for service abroad. It will be a non-marketable and non-transferable bond in the ordinary sense of the terms. The right of redemption, however, will be given in necessitous cases under certain regulations, and the bonds will be a first charge on any enemy indemnity received by Australia. While the honorable member for Cook was speaking, I heard the honorable member for Bourke make the suggestive interjection, “ If we get an indemnity.” I am not here to prophesy or predicate with any degree of certainty how much we shall get and when we shall receive any part of the indemnity. But the arrangement made between the representatives of the Allies and the different parts of this Empire make. -it clear that if Germany has to do what the Peace Treaty with Germany undertakes she shall do,, or anything in the neighbourhood of it, there will be something coming . to Australia. I do not believe that the Allies or the senior partners of the Empire will break the understanding that has been arrived at. I believe that Germany will pay a substantial, sum. Whether the indemnity of £1,000,000,000 will be paid in 1920 or 1921, no man can say here and now. No one can say what proportion of the indemnity will be paid in cash, because from the £1,000,000,000 certain charges, such as those in respect of the army of occupation and feeding in certain territories will have to be deducted. But if the amount paid in the near future be in the neighbourhood of £600,000,000 or £700,000,000, then the amount which. Australia is likely to get as its allocated share will have a substantial effect on a’ transaction of this kind. Speaking more; plainly, what I am expecting as our cash* payment in the early stages of the Treatyindemnity is from at least £7,000,000 tar £10,000,000. It is conceivable, therefore, that a fair proportion of the war gratuity, which we are asking the people to authorize, can be liquidated at a reasonably early date from the proceeds of such indemnity. I admit that it is. arguable whether Parliament should ear-mark the indemnity in this way; but I can conceive of no men in this country who have so much claim to it as have the men who have fought for it and have risked everything. I do not say that to flatter our soldiers - it would be an insult to try to flatter the Australian soldier - I state it as a fact. If £5,000,000, or £10,000,000, fell into my hands, as Treasurer, and I were obliged to recommend to Parliament the disposal of it, my natural impulse - if Australia could afford it - would be to say, “ This money belongs first of all, and more than to any other group of men, to the men who have fought in this war.” I believe that if the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) were again Treasurer in such circumstances, his impulse would be the same.
– Hear, hear!
– A proposal to ear-mark a portion of the indemnity in ‘that way needs no apology, and I ask no pardon for making it. It would lead to the redemption of a substantialpor . tion of the war gratuity bonds. The interest on the loan will be 5J per cent., payable annually. Many details are not yet settled. I am Quite frank with the Committee, as the Prime Minister promised that the Government would be. There is also the very important question of the period of service to which this ls. 6d. per day is to apply. It requires a good deal of research in the records of the Department, and this is now being undertaken, to ascertain what the average service is. It is estimated, broadly, by the Defence Department to be about two and a half years. We want to check that figure, and to see also, that, whether a commencement is made from the date of embarkation or from any other date determined upon, the arrangement is a fair bargain with the rank and file of the men - because this is to be a flat gratuity - and not unfair as between different sections of the service.
Mr.Finlayson. - Is it to date from embarkation rather than from enlistment?
– That has not yet been decided. Various starting periods are possible, and so are various closing periods.
– I hope you will make it as favorable to the fighting men as you can.
– That is the natural desire of every honorable member. The period to be covered by the payment is still the subject of investigation, as is also the question of the currency of the bonds. We have to take counsel with the financial interests that have assisted us so materially in carrying on the finances of Australia. I have not had an opportunity of discussing with them the questionof the currency or of the co-terminacy of these bonds with any other bonds that have been issued in Australia.
Another important question relates to the minimum period to be fixed to meet the cases of men who died on service or were seriously wounded. It is unthinkable that when a man enlisted in August, 1914, and was killed in that awful charge in 1915, his relatives should get payment for a bare six or seven months’ service. There must be a minimum period fixed to meet the cases of men who laid down their lives in any of the great fights, and also those of the men who owingto severe wounds did not serve very long on the fighting fronts, but were returned injured, and in some cases incapacitated for life.
– Will these bonds be accepted in payment for homes ?
– We are making arrangements to accept the bonds in payment of obligations to the Commonwealth in connexion with land or homes. That, I think, will be a very material advantage attaching to them.
– Cannot the Treasurer allow credit for the bonds against advances under the general repatriation scheme ?
– We cannot undertake to provide cash, nor can we allow the bonds to go on the market. Every one knows what the effect of that would be. We have no cash funds to provide for these bonds, any more than we have the gold to redeem all the notes in Australia if they were presented together. The natural impulse of every man is to be free and openhanded, but business considerations must be seriously regarded. A careful calculation has been made by the Government on the data at its disposal, but it is not possible to give at this stage more than the rough estimate of the total cost which the Prime Minister gave in Brisbane. I have estimated all along that it would run into anything between £20,000,000 and £25,000,000, working on the data that we have. As soon as we are able to provide a check, and secure more exact data than we have at present, we shall be able to submit more definite figures.
I am extremely indebted to honorable members for their undivided attention. I thought that, as we were closing very shortly, and as this was the last application for Supply in this Parliament, the Government ought to allow honorable members as much time as possible to discuss it. It is clear that if we are to rise to-morrow, the Senate ought to have this Bill by to-night. We have work to carry us on to-morrow if we dispose of Supply to-night. Subject to that limitation of time, the Government invite discussion, and will supply information on any item to honorable members, irrespective of party, if it is available. We feel that, in asking for Supply only until the 5th of March, or in the case of war pensions until the 11th March, we are givingan assurance to the people of Australia, before whose tribunal we are to appear, that, as soon as Parliament can meet after the return of the writs, it will be obliged to meet. It would have been possible for us to ask for the passage of the Estimates and theAppropriation Bill. We would then have been in a position, if confirmed in power, to say that Parliament need not meet, except, perhaps to swear members in, until July next. We want the community to understand that the problems that are awaiting treatment by any Government chosen by them need early treatment, and should receive it. It will take anything from fifty-six to sixty days after election day for the writs to be ready for return to the Presiding
Officers. That brings us into February. This Bill carries us only to the first week in March, which means that we must have an autumn session to deal with the outstanding soldier and community problems which will doubtless figure in the programmes of both parties.
.- When I entered the chamber to-day, 1 was surprised to find that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) had moved a motion to the effect that the promises which the Government were making should be put into the form- .of a legislative enactment before the Government went to the country. There was a simmer of excitement, which was most remarkable at this period of a session. I became personally interested in the debate, and then found that the Government applied the “ gag.” I have no objection to their using the “ gag,” because I have sweet dreams of the time that is coming when we shall be able to return the compliment. The honorable member’s motion was then put and defeated, so that the House, by an overwhelming majority, decided that -it would not enact legislation to carry out the promises that had been made by the Government.
The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) then rose, not to reply to criticisms by honorable members, but, apparently, to reply to the press of the country; to answer the statements made by the Age and Argus regarding the Government policy. He has accused those papers pf distortion and misrepresentation; but the most remarkable thing is that the Government do not take against those two great papers the action to suppress their mendacity and ignorance which they took against other and less powerful newspapers. Apparently, the Government would sooner explain to those great organizations than take proceedings against them.
We are told that there is a great need for economy, which exhibits itself, first of all, in the Defence Department to the extent of a saving of £300,000. The Treasurer, in his endeavour to reply to the press, begins by explaining away the Estimates of the Defence and Navy Departments, and immediately finds himself in conflict with his colleague, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook).
– ‘That is not so.
– If I am misrepresenting the facts, that is quite in accord ance with the best traditions of all Oppositions. The Minister for the Navy tried to explain ‘.something to the Treasurer, and finally the Treasurer said that the other Minister could afterwards explain things away if he saw fit. The Treasurer explained the matter from the point of view of his Department by say- i ing that certain expenditure was not Defence expenditure, but transport expenditure. Then he tried to explain things away in connexion with the Department of his colleague the Postmaster-General. ‘ Why should he do so? Why should he defend the Economy Commission against the Postmaster-General, who is the most masterly and expert commercial and financial agent that ever handled the postal facilities of Australia? The PostmasterGeneral ought to be present to hear what I have to say in his defence. The Treasurer called on us to read the report of the Economy Commission, and also the report of the PostmasterGeneral, as good Sunday reading. I make bold to affirm that the PostmasterGeneral’s report is good reading, not only for Sunday, but for every dull hour in the week. It is the most beautiful poesy that could be put before the public. It is Napoleonic, Byronic, and masterly. It needs no defence, and no Royal Commission which reflects on the abilities of such a Postmaster-General can be justified, or even tolerated.
The Treasurer told us of the dark days ahead. He pictured what was going to happen with us and ‘ Japan. It would be a proper thing if Ministers came to some agreement among themselves as to what their definite policy is on this matter. Only the other day, the Prime Minister told the people of Kalgoorlie, and the people of Adelaide, when passing through their cities, that we had entered the green pastures of peace out of the pit of war, that the period of grace would endure, that there would be no more war, and that the war to end war had been brought to a successful conclusion by the valour of the Australian soldiery. Yet to-day another member of the Government portrays to us another picture, in order to explain to the gentlemen of the press why the Government cannot cut down the enormous expenditure on military and naval defence. The Prime Min- .ister’s song is a song of yesterday. It is no longer permissible to sing it. We have to sing a new song. We learn now that, as the result of this war which was to end all wars, we must develop a system of militarism upon the lines of the Germanic terror, and that the whole of the resources of this country are to go into the pit.
– This is a good speech, but was it not preparedbefore you heard mine?
– It was not, and it is intended for the benefit of the public. For the rest, the Treasurer has not been able to answer the press. He has not placated them. He has made them his enemies. He has the Argus and the Age against him, the Farmers Union against him, the Labour party against him, and with his own party divided against itself, he and his Government are in a horribly precarious position.
– Then why are you so frightened ?
– I agree with the man who said that all elections give men in public positions a cold sweat, because God alone knows what will come out of an election once you go into it. Despite all our exhibitions of bravado, we are not at all easy, and when we say that we are not afraid to face the electors, every man of experience knows that we are liars.
At this juncture, when we are about to go before the people, at the very hour in which its Treasurer is talking of the enormous expenditure with which the Commonwealth is faced, and drawing a vivid picture of the work that is ahead, the Government offers to the soldiery of the country a large sum in the shape of a war gratuity. The Federal and State public debt was estimated at £708,000,000 at the end of last June, with another £55,000,000 of unredeemed notes, and another £25,000,000 just borrowed to be added now. By the time we pile upon the top of that all our municipal indebtedness, we shall wind up the current year with a total debt of about £900,000,000, involving an annual outgo of £40,000,000 in interest to foreign bond-holders, or lenders in our own country. At this very moment, while the Government are speaking about economy, and an election is imminent, they promise a payment of £25,000,000 to the soldiery. Somebody has said that they do not mean it. In any case, the proposition must be investigated and examined. Do they propose to give it to the soldiers in hard cash, since they want to buy the soldiers’ support? No. They say, “We have not got the money.” If the war was still on, and these men were needed to shed their blood on the fields of Europe, does any sensible man in this country believe that the Government would say, “We cannot find you the cash; we must give younon-negotiable bonds ? “ If the war was still on, the Government and those behind them would readily find the money wherewith to pay the soldiers to defend their land, their property, andtheir immense wealth. If ever there wasa sham, a delusion, and a mockery imposed on a people it is this promise to the soldiers, on the eve of a general election, “ We shall give you. something, but only in the form of an IO U.” How is that stock to be redeemed? Is it to continue for ever bearing interest at 5¼ per cent. ? The Government say, “ No. We will (pay in 1921. We will make the first instalment of the payment after the elections, and when the Germans have paid the indemnity.” The soldiers cannot get anything for this non-negotiable piece of paper until the Government first get the money from the Germans. I am not speaking to-day as a member of an. Opposition, about to go before the electors. I. am talking to the Treasurer as one man to another. If ever there was afraud and a delusion imposed upon the public, it is this promise of a war gratuity. Have we or have we not owed these obligations to the soldiery of Australia?Is this money due. or is it not due ? If it is, well and good ; if not, well and good also. I ask honorable members whether it is an equitable principle that the redemption of these bonds should be dependent on whether or not the Germans pay the indemnity. I ask what possibility there is of redemption, and the Treasurer replies that there is a possibility of getting the indemnity from the Germans, and the amount may be from £7,000,000 to £10,000,000. I again contrast his statement with that of the Prime Minister, who said that the first instalment of the indemnity would be about £5,000,000, which may or may not be received. If the money is not received, what will be given to the soldiers, to whom this gratuity is offered on the eve of an election as a mere bribe? I mean no offence when I say that it is the most odious piece of corruption that has been perpetrated in any country.
– I cannot allow that statement to pass, Mr. Speaker.
– Having made the statement, I withdraw it. I mean no offence to anybody. Nobody can say what this promised gratuity really means. If the soldiery can be paid, pay them. This promise that is made on the eve of an election speaks for itself. Since the issue is to be not how to solve great public questions, not how and by what means we shall bring our country back to the arts of peace, but a conflict of politician against politician and party against party, I, if I were Leader of the Opposition, would say to the soldiery of Australia, “ In order to be returned I will outbid my opponents. Support my party and my policy. Make us the Government of the country, and these I O U’s which the Nationalists are issuing in order to get your votes, I, for the same odious and rotten purpose, promise to redeem if I am returned to power.” That is the position in which we find ourselves to-day. After all, there should not be any division of classes and factions. If ever there was a serious economic period in the history of this country, it is now. We ought to concern ourselves with something more than triumph at an election. Let us not be misled by men who desire a little triumph to-day in order that, having enjoyed their victory, they may depart from the country to-morrow, leaving behind the obligations into which they have entered for others to meet.
I ask myself seriously what guarantee there is that these promises, made on the eve of an election, will be honestly and legitimately kept. The Treasurer says the promise of the gratuity will be kept; I say. that it will not. He asks me what ground I have for my statement; I reply, “ The experience of the past.” This promise to the soldiery, this bribery, is only a repetition of what took place at the last general election. We can judge the future of men and parties by their past. Before the last generalelection the Prime Minister went to Bendigo and made promises to the soldiers. Not only did he voice them on the platform, but he put them in black and white in a little publication called All for Australia, that was issued amongst the soldiers in the trenches, where the agents of the Govern ment were asking the men to vote to save the country and to defeat those members of the Labour party who were said to be the enemies of Australia. The Prime Minister in that circular said, “I promise to find £32,000,000 for the soldiers. Vote for me and get the money. Vote for the Labour party and lose it,” Of that sum £22,000,000 was to be raised by loan, for the purchase of land exclusively ear-marked for the settlement of returned soldiers. That was made before the election. The soldiers, and many others, voted for the Government. Was the promise kept? Was land purchased and ear-marked for the soldiers? Not at all.
-That promise is being observed.
– Ah ! I understand what the Treasurer means - “ I owe you £10. I do not pay it, but I admit that I owe it. I do not repudiate the obligation. Some day when you are dead you will get the money.”
– It is payment either way.
– It is not payment unless you get the money. If I owe the honorable member £10 and hand him an I 0U, is he paid? A few weeks ago, as soon as I knew that a general election was coming, being anxious to preserve my political life, I made some inquiries at the Treasury in regard to this matter. Three years ago, £22,000,000 was promised by the Prime Minister for the purpose of settling soldiers on the land. The Government have spent a little over £1,000,000. Promise No. 1 not kept! The second promise was to raise a further £10,000,000 by an extra tax on the opulent citizens of Australia. Not kept! The third promise was that that £10,000,000 should be paid into a Trust. Not kept!
– Where is that promise registered? This is the first I have heard of it.
– In All for Australia, issued to the soldiery in France on the 12th April, 1917. That £10,000,000 was to be levied on the wealth of Australia, not to be expended by the Government in the ordinary way, but to be paid into a definite Trust Fund, and be under the care of a Trustee. Promise not kept ! The fourth promise was that the soldiers would be allowed to nominate representatives on a
Repatriation Commission. That undertaking was given to the men who were bleeding on the battle-fields ofFrance. Promise not kept! Let us refer to the official papers in order to see what amount has been spent upon the settlement of soldiers. I am not referring to the Estimates. I do not care what the Government have promised. I wish to know what they have done during the last three years. They estimated to spend put of revenue last year £1,000,000.
– And they spent
– Not one quarter of that amount.
– Where does the honorable member get his figures?
– This is a statement of the expenditure for the year 1917-18.
– Read the Budget statement which is in the hands of honorable members, in order to see what amount was spent last year.
– What amount was estimated for last year?
– £1,000,000, and we spent £1,300,000.
– In 1917-18, the Government spent nothing on the settlement of soldiers on the land; the only item I can see is, “ Under control of Department of Repatriation, £230,000.” The Government talk lightly about spending £15,000,000, but no reliance can be placed on their promises. The test is, “What amount was spent last year?” The amount spent on repatriation of soldiers and advances to States was £1,047,000. That is the Government’s actual performance. But, on the eve of an election, they pledge themselves to anything; they will mortgagethe entire future of the country, admittedly without any knowledge of how and by what means they can redeem their promises. Their position is absolutely without justification. Be it admitted that every penny which is promised should be given, that money can be given now. The answer of the Treasurer is that the Government have noright to mortgage the future of the country, or to enter into obligations without getting what he calls a mandate from the people.
– When this Parliament is so near its death.
– If the Treasurer had the choice of dying now or six months hence,I undertake to say that he would choose the later date.
– We are so near the death of Parliament that we are entitled to do what we have done.
– Under normal conditions, Parliament would have another six or seven months to live, and in that six months it should be capable of doing much. I readily admit that, as to the new promises which the Government are making, they have a right to ask a mandate from the country; but there are the other promises made in regard to land settlement and repatriation generally, and the promise made by the Prime Minister at Bendigo, on the occasion of the last election, when he did not say the Government had no power to deal with profiteering, but urged that they had the power, and promised to deal with it. There is not one single promise that was. made by this Government at the last election that they have made the slightest attempt to fulfil.
– If this is an indication of the kind of argument that we have to meet in the constituencies, it will be an easy matter.
– No doubt, it will be an easy matter for the honorable gentleman to answer this kind of argument in the constituency of Balaclava - just as easy as it would be for me to answer his arguments when I am addressing my constituency at Brunswick. As I was saying, there is another six months in which the Government could deal with the matters that are imperative; and I do not mean the new promises they have made, but the old ones. But the Government will not take that other six months, and insist on going to the country. Why do they go to the country now? It is not because the members of the Government or their supporters like to go to the country, any more than honorable members on this side do; but they know that if they do not go to the country now their insincerity will be exposed within the next few months. The Government see the tide of popular favour running away from under their feet ; and they aref orcing the offensive. And in doing so they make new promises to the soldiers, promises which depend on whether we get. any money from the Germans. We are going to the country with wholesale offerings ; and if anybody can offer any more than I can, then he is regarded as a good man. The Government are going to the country because they are breaking up. They claim to have all the brains of the country on their side; but, although they have been in power for three years, they have made a hell of a mess of things. As I say, the Government are breaking up, and the latest indication is the appearance of a new faction as representative in the person of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr.Hill). The Government are going to the country with their £40,000 from Sydney, and the £30,000 from the gentlemen who assemble in the National Trustees’ rooms, and there is also the support represented by Gordon and Gotch. But the Government have no system, no method, no policy of reconstruction. I ask the members of the Government to explain to the farmers how much has been done for them, but I do not advise the Government to explain the subterranean reasons why the Wheat Pool came into existence without any request from them. Secondly, I advise them to abuse the Labour party; and, thirdly, to utilize their party newspapers and get into power if they can.
– What is your method - tear everything down, or set fire to it?
– Make no mistake, there are some things that will be torn down. This Government may pass away, but the problems they have failed to solve will remain. They cannot solve those problems, because immediately they try to do so they come into conflict with the interests they really represent is a peculiar position for the Government, who profess to assail profiteering and monopoly in all its forms, to be, at the same time, going to the country supported by the funds of the very faction they profess to oppose.
The Treasurer told us that the £25,000,000 required for the soldiers cannot be drawn out of the country, because it would mean the transfer of capital from industries. But the Government have withdrawn capital from industries to the extent of £200,000,000. Employers who previously had, perhaps, from £20,000 to £50,000 invested industrially, and employed labour, have transformed their capital into rigid bonds. That money no longer circulates through the community and fructifies, but hangs like a millstone around the neck of the indus tries. How can that capital be returned to industrial purposes to once more stimulate the employment of labour? The Government have no answer to that problem.
There is no doubt that, by reason of the elections, some of us will disappear. Possibly new farmers’ representatives will take the place of the old Nationalists, but it will still be the old party, and the old problems will remain. What the Government do to meet those problems will not be the outcome of mature deliberation and consideration, but of the sheer force of economic circumstances. I congratulate the Government on its bid of £25,000,000 in I.O.U.’s for the soldiers’ vote, payable if Australia can get any money out of the Germans.
– We are told that this country is “up against it”- that the financial position is acute and complex. It has; taken all the brains of this Parliament, the Government officials, business. Boards, and financial magnates of Australia to evolvesome ideaof what we ought to do to meet the situation. The whole talk in thepress, in the streets, and in Parliamentis economy, and I can appreciate thefact that economy is necessary. Butisit proposed to economize in the samewayasthe Patterson Governmentdidin Victoria in the nineties? Who can forget the devastation that was created in Victoria at that time by what was called economy? In New South Wales, the financial crisis was not so great as in Victoria; but the States are so inter-related that one cannot suffer without the other being affected; land New South Wales was affected. There was, however, a great difference in the manner in which the two Governments met the situation. The New South Wales Government entered on a bold policy of spending money reproductively, and thus averted chaos. This policy was pursued right up to the time of the Holman Labour Ministry, when there were not lacking people to say that New South Wales was criminal in spending money lavishly in the provision of railways and other utilities. But New South Wales has not become bankrupt, no more than have other States the Governments of which adopted the policy of economy. If it had not been for the discoveryof gold in Western Australia, in 1893, the people of Victoria would have starved, in spite of the fact that they had a record harvest and wheat was sold at ls. 8d. per bushel.
What are we going to do on the present occasion? Are we going to adopt a policy of so-called economy, which can only result in detriment to Australia? Or are we going to exercise common sense, and ‘boldly expend money in directions that would prove ‘beneficial to the community? My desire is to see the repatriation funds devoted to placing men, not only on the land, but in industrial establishments and every avenue of employment. This, of course, will require Government action, and any such action must bring <us into conflict with vested interests.
If the war had gone on for another three or four years, we should have, gone on borrowing money, but it would have been the money that’ the profiteers had made out of money previously spent. Does anybody think that we have really expended the £300,000,000 that we have borrowed? Do we not know that, in the ramifications of our peculiar system of economics, Australia is not really £300,000,000 better off than she was before the war? It is now proposed to atop expenditure, although it is known that such a stoppage must bring about similar results, to those experienced in Victoria in 1893. The country, of course, would eventually recover, but in the meantime hundreds’ of thousands of women and children would starve. One thing that’ can save us is our being a food-producing people; . but those who produce the food insist on the same prices as are obtained in other countries. I suppose the farming section of the community is no more selfish than, hut just as selfish as, any other section, and we cannot blame them. It is not essential, however, to our prosperity that we should produce plenty of food, for years ago, when wheat was sold as low as ls. 6½d. the people were starving. The supply of food does not actually govern the situation, but it is an important factor. On the question of economy, seeing that we have close upon 200,000 trained fighting men who have just returned from a war, and who are capable of defending this country for the next ten years, and seeing that there is every possibility that the League of Nations project will come to fruition, why do not the Government take the bit in their teeth, and declare that the enormous expenditure on compulsory training, both naval and military, should be almost completely wiped out?
– That has been done for this year.
– But let us have some comprehensive proposal as to what we are to do in the future. Although the Government say that they are suspending compulsory training for this year, they are still maintaining all those officials who are essential to keep together the nucleus of a force, naval or military, capable of expansion in the future if ever an emergency should arise.
– Would the honorable member turn all those officers adrift, and thus add to the existing unemployment?
– Militarism is unproductive. There is no need to maintain an establishment that is unnecessary.
– Would the honorable member apply his policy to the Navy?
– A Navy which is unnecessary may have .to go, as well as every other form of militarism. We might just as well keep those men who have come back from the war still employed as soldiers as maintain naval forces which are more than essential to meet our present requirements or those of peace times.
– This year the Government are spending less on defence, naval and military, than we spent in 1913.
– Yes; I was glad to hear that stated to-day.
– But in 1913 we were spending money out of revenue upon the building of a fleet.
– It seems to me peculiar that the Economy Commission should attack the Post and Telegraph Office for spending more money when we are constantly condemning that Department for not spending enough. The Commission also recommends that the Government should take into serious consideration the question of discontinuing shipbuilding at Williamstown. During the war we have gained some experience in the matter of shipbuilding. Previously, those who advocated the imposition of a Customs duty upon imported vessels were met with the reply that the request could not be entertained, because in Australia we could not build ships economically. However, we made a start on building the cruiser Brisbane. As a matter of fact, it was not built here, it was built in the Old Country; the parts were merely brought out to Australia and assembled at Cockatoo Island. The work on that cruiser took a long time, and the cost was heavy; there was a constant howl against “the waste of money;” the men engaged in the yard were said to be a lazy set of loafers who followed the go-slow policy, and the supervisors were described as being inexperienced men. But all the time we were gaining experience. The cruiser Adelaide, which followed the. Brisbane, was built by the same workmen in a quarter of the time, and at half the cost of her predecessor. And now we are able to build mercantile vessels. Taking into consideration all the disadvantages we suffer here, the steamer Dromana, which was built at Williamstown, was an exceedingly cheap vessel in comparison with the cost of similar steamers turned out at the present time in the yards of the Old Country. I hope that the recommendation of the Economy Commission will not be accepted by the Government, and that we shall continue building these vessels. The cost of shipbuilding will not come down to anything like the prices which prevailed in the prewar days.
– But it will come down a great deal.
– I have heard a lot of people say that the cost of commodities would come down after the war, but I have noticed very little evidence of it. I have been told that the cost of building houses would come down, but I do not think it will.
-no shipbuilding firm in Great Britain will give a price for building a vessel. The firms will only build at cost price plus a certain percentage for supervision.
– All these things indicate that we ought to be prepared to accept the responsibility of launching out upon this industry. It will help to build us up as a nation. There are other industries in which we have made no attempt to do anything, but in which we could spend the money that is available for repatriation to much better advantage than by using it for the purpose of paying sustenance money to men and keeping them walking about the streets unemployed. The only way in which our returned sol diers can be employed in producing pottery is for the Government to employ them directly and market the articles they turn out for them. In our endeavour to employ these men in this class of work we now find ourselves up against vested interests; but if my suggestion were carried out the men employed would at least be doing something for the money they get, and at the same time would be engaged in helping to develop an industry. There is nothing to prevent the Government from training men in the work of building motor cars, and it would pay them to spend £10,000,000 upon industries connected with the manufacture of wool into cloth, and the utilization of, those byproducts which can be exported to the markets of the world. Why should we fear the competition of Japanese cheap labour? Other countries have to compete with it. There are hundreds of industries in which, if common sense had been exercised, our returned soldiers could have been employed. Instead of the father having to be thrown out of his; job in order to find work for the son, we ought to find employment in new avenues for the son. Will the “ digger “ be satisfied to find on his return that his father has. been thrown out of work owing to the policy of the Government and of private employers to secure work for returned soldiers ? I hold that the returned soldier should be given employment, and not too hard work, and that he should get the fullest payment for it, but not by putting someone else out of employment.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the Government extending preference to returned soldiers?
-No; but I say that no father of a soldier should be put out of work in order to give effect to it.
– But what about the young man who took the soldier’s job during his absence?
– The honorable member cannot get me to penalize any person who would not go away to fight. It is the duty of the Government to see that every man in this country is kept in employment.
– And would the honorable member allow the man who remained behind to take the soldier’s job?
– I do not say that. I know that the honorable member would like to trip me up. I say that it is our duty to find employment for every man. A Government that cannot keep every person in employment in this country is, mentally speaking, poverty stricken. I know where the trouble lies. Hundreds of soldiers could have been employed in the Anzac tweed industry turning out cloth at 8s. 6d. per yard, but the supply of cloth at that price would have been utterly opposed to vested interests. If our timber industry could have been developed by the expenditure of the money which is available for repatriation purposes, it would have prevented profiteering in timber, and would also have avoided the necessity for importations.It is the duty of the Government to open up new avenues of employment for our men, whether they went to the war or did not. It is a question we ought to be tackling now instead of holding an election. The Government’s excuse for going to the country is altogether too thin. The Prime Minister thinks that he will he returned again to power on the wave of the soldiers’ votes.
– That seems to hurt the honorable member.
– I guarantee that I will get three to one of the soldiers’ votes in my electorate, and that I shall come back with a bigger majority than I had last time, when the soldiers’ votes taken at the other end of the world were manipulated.
Every honorable member has dozens of soldiers coming to him with grievances. One young fellow has approached me, and I can give his history. He returned twelve months ago; he was put to vocational training in the pottery trade, but, as he had lost one eye and the other was affected, he was transferred to the wool- classing school. Afterwards he was put on a sheep station for five weeks and on another for four weeks and two days. Then, as there was no further work available for him in this line, he had to return to Melbourne and live on his pension of 15s. per week. His mother gets a pension of 7s. 6d. per week. He must get some sort of employment, because the Repatriation Department has finished with him. It is the duty of the Government to find him work at which he can earn a living. He should not be compelled to live on the pension which is doled out to him. I could mention hundreds of such cases.
It is useless for honorable members to taunt me upon this subject. No one can say that I am not anxious to get the soldiers placed in positions. I urge the Government, however, not to find a returned soldier a job by putting his father or some one else out of one. There are many ways in which employment can be found for all our returned men. Do honorable members wonder why the Anzac tweed industry is not going on as it shoulddo? Its slow progress is due to the opposition of the great manufacturers of woollens. The Anzac tweed industry was able to sell hand-woven woollens at 8s. 6d. per yard wholesale, whereas the same class of material produced by machinery was selling at 10s. 6d. per yard. Why did the warehouses prevent the Repatriation Department from retailing Anzac tweed at 15s. a yard? One big warehouse offered to take the Whole of it at £1 per yard, the reason being that the warehousemen do not want cheap goods to get on the market.
– It is not correct that a warehouse offered to take the whole of the output of the Anzac tweed industry.
– Messrs. Buckley and Nunn offered to take the lot.
– That is not correct.
– They wanted to take the lot, and they retailed at 19s.11d. per yard that which they obtained. Vested interests were opposed to the tweed being retailed at 15s. per yard, and tailors were not allowed to get hold of it. And yet we are told that Australia can be saved only by economy, and yet more economy.
The road to salvation really lies through increased production. Last Friday, I went out from Leongatha to one of the most prosperous districts in Victoria, where land is not obtainable under £40 per acre. Some of it has been sold for £60 per acre; but land at that price would be no good for the repatriation of our soldiers, and no country could afford to pay such a price for it.
– In New South Wales, land equally as good can be purchased for £4 per acre.
– I have my doubts as to that. If there is such land, why does not the Repatriation Department secure it?
– Splendid virgin soil is available in Queensland at £1 per acre.
– We have splendid virgin soil in Victoria which needs only to be opened up by the construction of new railways. The timber on it alone would be sufficient to provide for a man’s maintenance while he was bringing his farm to a reasonable degree of productivity; but there is no attempt to make this land available to our returned soldiers. In certain quarters we hear nothing but the cry of “Economize! Economize !” The desire is to put people out of work, because with destitution in the community wages would come down. In the Leongatha district, to which I have just referred, an onion-grower told me that he had to pay 12s. per day to the men on his onion farm, whereas for years he had only to pay such men 25s. per week and their keep. In reply to my inquiry, he told me that in those days he got about £2 10s. per ton for his onions, whereas they were now selling at about £19 10s. per ton. Many people, he said, thought that the price would go up to £27 per ton, and they held for a rise; but as a result of the strike, the price fell.
– How often do the farmers get £19 10s. per ton for their onions ?
– Not very often, I admit.
We are told that we should increase our population from overseas, and so have more shoulders to bear the burden of our war debt. Where are we to obtain immigrants?. Can we get them from France or Italy? Are they not wanted there to make good the devastation that has taken place? Are we going to ask the British people to come out here to bear some of our burdens of the war. What about the burdens already on the shoulders of the British ? Do we want to take people from Great Britain, and so make Britain’s burdens still heavier.
– If we do not, America will.
– Britishers, of course, would be welcome here; but if we take away a lot of Britain’s population, who is to bear the burden of her debt? We ought to improve our own country.
– Britain wants many of her people to come here.
– I know that, but, as Lord Tweeddale said, at the close of an interesting lecture delivered in London some years ago by the late Sir George Reid, when he held office as High Commissioner, the very class of people that we want are the class that Britain desires to retain. Are we to take from Britain the halt, the blind, and the maimed ?
– No; we are going to get a lot of good people from Britain.
– I hope so; but at the same time we shall be depleting Britain’s population.
– There is in England to-day a society which is directing emigration to this part of the Empire.
– I do not want to get on dangerous ground; but it seems to me that Great Britain can do with her best just as well as Australia could do with them.
– She is quite prepared to spare some for Australia.
– No man is prepared bo put into our pockets money that he can put into his own.
I hope we shall not preach a form of economy that can only lead to destitution and chaos. I hope that, whatever party is returned to power, we shall have a display of common sense. It is to be regretted that the work of repatriation was not entered upon sooner than it was. A good deal has been said in condemnation of the delay in carrying out the War Service Homes scheme. I am informed, however, by a retired contractor, thatthe moment the Department got to work, it found that it was up against the profiteers. Had the War Service Homes Commissioner agreed to pay for material the prices demanded of him by the profiteers, the cost of the scheme would have been increased to the extent of at least 20 per cent. A relation of mine who is a returned soldier, and who, before the war, was a builder, prepared a plan of a house which he said would cost £700 to build. The Commonwealth Bank, however, asks £1,041 for its construction. He could not pay that price for a cottage.
– Who is responsible for the great increase?
– The profiteers.
– Order! The honorable member’s timehas expired.
– I regret that it should be necessary for me at this late hour of the session to have to occupy the time of the Committee, but I desire to bring under the notice of the Government a matter of importance. I wish to protest against what I regard as a flagrant waste of public money. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) this afternoon said that during the current financial year something like £4,000,000 was to be expendedin the building of some 8,000 homes for soldiers, and I observe that it is contemplated that the administrative expenses attaching to this expenditure will amount to something like 3½ per cent., or about £140,000. When the War Service Homes Bill was before this House, a provision was very properly inserted, and most favorably commented upon, enabling the Commissioner, with the consent of the GovernorGeneral in Council, to arrange with a State Savings Bank or any other prescribed institution ‘ ‘ to providehomes for or to make advances to eligible person’s upon the same terms and conditions as are provided by this Act.” Immediately after the passing of that Bill, negotiations were opened up with the representatives of the Victorian and New South Wales Savings Banks, with the object of enabling the Repatriation Departmentto avail itself of the organized branches of those institutions which deal with the building of homes for soldiers. The building of homes for citizens is part and parcel of the Crédit Foncier Branch of the Victorian and New South Wales State Savings Banks, and it was felt that those organizations could be utilized with advantage in the carrying out of the War Service Homes scheme. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), in dealing with this proposal in the Senate, pointed out that the Commonwealth Bank was not equipped for this class of work; that it did not have agencies throughout the States, whereas the State Savings Banks had. He pointed out that it had no experience in the building of homes, and no organization for dealing with such work, whereas the State Savings Banks had special branches for that very purpose. The Crédit Fon cier Branch of the Victorian State Savings Bank has become so expert and efficient, that it is able to carry out its work at an administrative cost of less than 10s. per cent. The Minister for Repatriation indicated most clearly that it was definitely not his intention to utilize the Commonwealth Bank in connexion with the scheme. No business man, he said, would do so, but advantage would be taken of the organization which the State Savings Banks had perfected. Immediately after the passing of the Bill, it became necessary to appoint a Commissioner, and thereafter negotiations with the several State Governments were entered upon, and some of them passed the legislation required to enable the State Savings Banks to undertake the building of homes for soldiers. Mr. McPherson, the Treasurer of Victoria, in introducing the necessary legislation in the House of Assembly, said -
No doubt honorable members have seen by the press that it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government, through its Repatriation Department, to build homes for returned soldiers. The expense involved is very great, but no matter how great it is, I think every member of the community will feel that the Commonwealth Government are, in this respect, doing the correct and proper thing. In order to put the scheme into effect, the Commonwealth Government have approached the various Savings Banks throughout the States witha view of their acting as agents. In my opinion, that is a very sensible and businesslike arrangement. Instead of settingup separate machinery in order to do a work for which the machinery is already established, as they have done on previous occasions, they now, very sensibly,come along to theStates and enter into proper arrangements with them to carry out the work.
Every one would agree that that was a wise and sensiblething to do. The agreements between the Commonwealth and the State were actually drawn up and engrossed ready for signature and seal, after the necessary measures had been passed by the States, and the terms of the agreement finally settled. But all of a sudden, on the 19th June last, the Minister for Repatriation sent along a note saying that he regretted his inability to complete the arrangements that had already been made. This was a breach of an honorable arrangement, in regard to which the States had passed their legislation and the State Savings Bank had set to work to make the necessary preparation for doing the work. Nevertheless, the Minister for Repatriation terminated the agreement. That has been a source of great irritation between the Commonwealth and the States, and it happened, too, at a time when we were concentrating’ our efforts on the co-ordination of the Taxation Departments of the States and Commonwealth and the abolition of overlapping. The Government has indicated its desire in every way to amalgamate departments with a view to avoiding overlapping, and to securing economy. Yet in this case, for some extraordinary reason, the intention of the War Service Homes Act is departed from, negotiations already entered into with the States are broken off, and a movement is set on foot to bring about not merely a duplication, but almost a triplication of departments, as I shall show.
The Economy Commission has dealt very clearly with the question of taxation, and the necessity for the appointment of one single controlling body. It .indicates that this would mean a saving of about £75,000. That question, however, is surrounded with the greatest difficulties, which will be found very awkward to overcome; but this case was in quite a different category. With the demand for economy upon us, and in our anxiety to avoid the overlapping of work, we deliberately passed the War Service Homes Act, yet the Government have permitted the Commonwealth Bank to enter upon an arrangement which means a wasteful expenditure and the handing over of the War Service Homes work to an institution which was not equipped for the purpose, but which will have to engage and organize the necessary staff while, side by side with it, in the different States, the State machinery was ready and available for the purpose. I appeal to the Government to look further into this matter, and even at this belated hour to put an end to this wanton extravagance. I have not attempted to state on the floor of the House all the facts which have been related to me, but I shall be very glad to impart them to the Minister. The matter requires immediate investigation. Let us have this thing nipped in the bud before vested in,terests increase and become too advanced, and let us have the work done at the very lowest possible cost in the way of administration by proved institutions which have successfully carried out this class of work for so many years past.
In consequence of something that took place between ‘ the Government and the Commonwealth Bank, the States received notice that the arrangement was not to be consummated. A little before this, Colonel Walker was appointed as War Service Homes Commissioner under the terms of the Act. He has established a department to control and carry out the erection of homes. He has under him, as architect, Mr. Morell, who was in the employ of the Victorian Government and visited America and Europe to study town planning. There is also, I am informed, a large staff of architects, draughtsmen, and .assistants in his new Department. The Department has issued a book of designs to soldiers, purchased large quantities of material, and already erected a number of soldiers’ homes in the different States. Colonel Walker, therefore, has his De,partment created and staffed for the work. Then, notwithstanding all this expensive preparation to get ready for this work, in steps the Commonwealth Bank. It has also created a department entitled the “War Service Homes Department,” the Melbourne offices of which are situated in the Old Exchange Building, Collins-street. Mr. Kilpatrick, of Sydney, has been appointed the architect of the branch. I’ am told that the arrangement is that the architect appointed by the Commonwealth Bank is to be paid a commission of 3£ per cent, on the total cost of soldiers’ homes. This Commonwealth Bank department has also issued a book .of designs entitled, “War Service Homes and How to Get Them.” The designs contained in that book were severely criticised by the Council of the Australian Institute of Architects at their annual meeting in’ Sydney recently. -I have heard men cast the strongest reflections on the efficiency of that branch. A leading architect of Melbourne assures me that the plans and designs issued by it are very defective, and by no means suitable. I am told that the members of the Australian Institute of Architects interviewed Colonel Walker to obtain an explanation of the fact that there were two departments at variance with each other, and each carrying on the same work. They say:
We were informed by Colonel Walker that he had been appointed by the Government and provided with a staff and all the necessary machinery to carry out the erection of soldiers’ homes throughout the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth Bank had no business to interfere, as it was not their work.
Friction, therefore, has been created between Colonel Walker’s department and the War Service Homes Department of the Bank. Complaints have been made to me from time to time by the soldiers about the delays which have resulted. I know nothing further than what I have been told about this matter; but the facts given to me are vouched for by men of good standing, who have no personal object to serve. I complain that the Government departed from the intention of the War Service Homes Act when they failed to complete the agreement with the State Savings Banks, which were specially equipped for carrying out this work. I complain also about the duplication of departments. In the Budget statement appears the following statement ‘by the Treasurer regarding repatriation :
It is expected that 8,000 applicants will be provided with homes under the housing schemes, at a cost of £4,000,000. The administrative expenses therewith are estimated, on a basis of 3£ per cent., to total £140,000.
It is well known that, owing to the efficient and economic working of the State Savings Banks, their administrative expenses, are less than 10s. per cent. No doubt, if a State Savings Bank had the responsibility of initiating this scheme, their administrative expenses for the first’ two or three years or more would necessarily be larger than 10s. per cent.
– Is that the only, charge they make? Is there no charge for plans or supervision? Our Z per cent, covers’ all these charges.
– The 10s. per cent, covers administration. That is a well known fact, although I admit that, in starting a new department like this, the charge would be more until considerable sums of money had been got out. Possibly it might for the first year or two reach a maximum of £2 per cent., and thereafter rapidly recede to the administrative cost of 10s. per cent., if the Government utilize the machinery and expert advice that are immediately available for the carrying out of that scheme. That is the experience of Victoria and New South Wales and, to the best of my knowledge, of the other States, and it shows the efficiency and economy with which the State Savings Banks do their work.
I very strongly protested against the establishment of a Savings Bank Branch in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank at the time it was proposed. That was a mistake which even at this hour should be rectified. The States Savings Banks still retain the full confidence of the people, and it is unreasonable that separate institutions conducted by the States and the Commonwealth respectively should be competing one against the other, and causing additional expense and an extravagant waste of public money. In order to show the complete confidence of the people in the Savings Banks of the States, I draw the attention of honorable members to the following figures: -
Those figures indicate that notwithstanding the competition of the Commonwealth institutions, the States Savings Banks have more than maintained their position.
Even though an agreement has been entered between the Commonwealth Bank and the Repatriation Department, there is still time for the Government to draw back and arrange that only one authority shall be permitted to undertake the work in connexion with the war service homes. The agencies which, in my judgment, should have charge of this work are the States Savings Banks, because they have special knowledge and experience.
– And a much wider organization.
– I have already emphasized that point. Even if the Government will not arrange to have this work done by the States Savings Banks, it is not creditable that we. should have two departments engaged in this scheme - the branch of the Repatriation Department, presided over by Colonel
Walker, and the War Service Homes branch of the Commonwealth Bank. Between those two departments a considerable amount of friction already exists. That state of affairs will not lead to efficiency, but will be detrimental to the objective of providing the soldiers with homes. Therefore I appeal to the Government to. look into this matter, and, even at this late stage, correct a mistake which I believe will involve a flagrant waste of public money.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.45 p.m.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) gave what was supposed to be a reply as bo the attitude of the Government towards repatriation. But, glozing over the period of office of the present Government, which is notorious for what it has not done for repatriation, he thought to camouflage the issue. When I asked the honorable gentleman for his figures, he knew that it would not be to the advantage of the Government to have them mentioned, and he referred me to the documents, although he, as the occupant of his present office, knew where he could place his finger on them in a moment. From those documents I have prepared four statements.
On the 27th March, 1917, in his policy speech at Bendigo, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) promised to find £32,000,000 for the repatriation of the Australian soldiers. What the Government have done each year towards redeeming that promise is shown in the records. The following are the statements I have prepared: -
Note. - These figures appear in the records accompanying the 1919 Estimates, pages 283 and 315.
It will be seen that only £200,000 was expended; £800,000 voted for repatriation for that year not being expended.
This promise is before Parliament today, 23rd October, 1919, the day before the House closes to go to an election.
– You are aware that this loan money is to buy land and implements, through the States.
– I understand that is what it is intended for. But it is only a promise of expenditure on the eve of an election.
-If there is any blame attached, it is to the States.
– I shall remember what the honorable gentleman says - that he passes the responsibility on to the States. The fourth statement is -
The sum of £32,000,000 was promised to the soldiers on the eve of last election as an inducement for their vote, and £29,000,000 of it has not been paid. Now on the eve of an election it is promised that £13,000,000 out of the £29,000,000 will be made available for 1919-20.
– Is the honorable member in order in reflecting on the action of this Parliament in voting money, and describing it as bribery?
– The honorable member will not be in order in reflecting on any. Act passed by this Parliament.
-I am not referring to any Act passed by this Parliament, but to a promise made by a person outside Parliament, who, at the time, was not a member, but who, in order to become a member, and also Prime Minister, offered this inducement, £29,000,000 of which has not been paid.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw them if they are against the Standing Orders.
– What about the £250,000 provided by the Labour party?
– Will the honorable member cease his interjections?
– As a point of order, I submit that I am quite within my rights. The honorable member has said that we on this side promised the soldiers £29,000,000 as a bribe, and I submit I am in order in pointing out that the Labour party voted only £250,000 for repatriation in two years.
– I called attention to the statement made by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), and called upon him to withdraw it, which he did.
– This Government represents the vested interests of Australia - the money power of Australia - and through its mouth-piece, the Prime Minister, offered, the day before yesterday, £25,000,000 to the Australian soldiers some time in the future. The soldiers may never get it; but the Prime Minister has promised it. The Prime Minister does not know where the money is to come from, and he offers it in I.O.U.’s, which may be redeemed or may not. The soldiers are to get bonds bearing 5¼ per cent. , equal to £5 5s. in a year on £100.
I wish to say, as a Labour man, to the capitalists and their jackals opposite who laugh at me - the jackals who can only “ Haw-haw.”
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I again appeal to honorable members to cease interjections, which only lead to disorder; and I call upon the honorable member for Cook to withdraw his last expression.
– I withdraw the last expression. The capitalists in this country will be compelled in the next Parliament, if Labour gets into power, to pay that £25,000,000 next year, and not some time in the future.
The representatives of capitalism have promised this money, and it will be the business of the Labour party to catch the capitalists by the scruff of the neck, and make them hand it out in actual cash next year.
A motion was moved this afternoon which put the representatives of capitalism “ into the collar.” They had an opportunity to bring the electioneering promise of the Prime Minister straight down to the table of Parliament, and have it incorporated in an Act, as a statutory guarantee to the soldiers; but every one of the representatives of capitalism in the chamber voted it down. The soldiers and their dependants throughout the country can judge as to the earnestness and sincerity of those gentlemen in regard to this promise of £25,000,000. It goes on to the public records of the country that the representatives of capitalism, whose mouth-piece made this offer, voted against it when they had the opportunity.
– There are many things on the public records of the coun- try that the soldiers know about.
-Will the honor- able member please cease interjecting?
– All I can say is that it is very contemptible of the honorable member to make remarks of that kind.
– I am not alluding to private matters, but to the Labour party’s attitude to the soldiers.
– The honorable member for Illawarra is out of order.
– I regret that the honorable member for Cook misunderstands my reference, which is not to private matters, but to his public attitude towards the soldiers - an attitude which is on the records of the country.
– My attitude towards the soldiers of the country will compare favorably with that of the honorable member.
– No doubt the attitudes will be compared.
– The honorable member did nothing, except, at the last election, ride on the backs of the soldiers into Parliament. He could never get into Parliament before that, although he tried times out of number.
– The honorable member is again indulging in personalities.
– At any rate, it was admitted by the present Minister for Defence that I got more recruits than any other man in the country.
– Then why did you not continue getting them?
– I saw the Japanese menace, which the Prime Minister admits, and I refused to be aparty to continue sending the manhood of Australia out of the country in the face of it. I went throughout Australia, and told the people the facts as I knew them, and, although the Prime Minister houndedme into the Police Court in order to close my mouth, he went to the Peace Conference and used the very facts that I had used, and which he said were untrue, though they were admitted on the floor of this House to-day.
I have challenged the Treasurer to tell us how much has been expended by the Government out of the £32,000,000 which was promised the soldiers on the eve of the last election, but he has carefully side-stepped and evaded the issue. I challenge him to say that the figures I have prepared are in any sense incorrect. There is still £29,000,000 of the £32,000,000 not yet provided, although £13,000,000 of the £29,000,000 is promised on the Estimates for 1919-20, and on the eve of a new election another £25,000,000 is promised to the soldiers, yet when honorable members opposite, on whose behalf the Prime Minister speaks, had the opportunity of voting on the issue of whether an Act of Parliament should be passed before this Parliament rises, to provide for that money, they all voted against my proposal, which really was a test of their sincerity in regard to the matter.
.- I do not propose to. pursue the remarks of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) other than to say in regard to the promise of money for settling soldiers on the land, that of the £22,000,000, which was a mere estimate by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on behalf of his Government as to what would ultimately be required as the Commonwealth’s contribution to a pre-arrangedland-settlement policy, made as the result of a conference between the Commonwealth and the State Governments, the Commonwealth up to date has found all the money necessary for the home, stock, implements, and equipment of any soldier settler who has been placed on the land by the States whose business it is to place them there. There is not one soldier settler for whom full provision has not been made up to the requirements of the Act. The honorable member for Cook knows as well as any other honorable member that he has attempted to play with figures by saying that the Commonwealth Government have failedto make provision for soldier settlers. The money is available.. There has not been one shilling in default in the matter of providing money for the home, stock, implements, or equipment of any soldier settler. Each one who obtains from the proper organization a certificate as to his qualifications for going on the land may acquire land from the States to the total value of £2,500, with an additional advance up to £625 for each holding, to give him a start in life. Furthermore, the Commonwealth, by arrangement with the States, has provided that if a man takes up an improved property he may have one year clear in which to find his footing, and if he takes up unimproved land he has three years absolutely free without any payment of interest or sinking fund. In this respect the Commonwealth and the State Governments have honoured their bond to the soldier settler. It is false to pretend that there has Been failure on their part to do so.
At no time have I disguised the fact that I am not enamoured of the present repatriation scheme. When the Bill was under consideration in this House, I was quite frank in condemning some of its provisions.
– The honorable member has been quite frank in condemning the Government.
– I ask the honorable member to allow me to make my own statement. He has been haranguing the House all day and all night.
In the general scheme of repatriation this country, of all the nations engaged in the war, has taken the finest conceptions of its obligations to its soldiers. Provision is made by which every qualified man may get a block in the country, or a home up to the value of £700, in any city or town. In the case of a home in the metropolitan area or country town, the period of repayments extends over thirty-seven years. In the case of a . holding, in the country, the period of repayments extends over thirty-two or thirty-three years. The rate of interest in each case is reasonable. In regard to the advance of £625 for stock and implements, the interest commences at 3£ per cent., and rises after a certain period to 4 per cent., and later to 4% per cent. Those, also, are reasonable rates.
The general conception of repatriation is magnanimous. But I have already raised the objection that Parliament shirked its duty by intrusting to’ an outside Commission a problem that belonged to this legislative body alone. With every breath I had I fought the proposal to hand over to Commissioners - six of whom we did not know - the task of framing a repatriation scheme. Let us line up, say, sixteen demobilized soldiers and ascertain from them what their share pf repatriation is. This outside Commission has provided for very few of .them, except in regard to the housing scheme. There are only three types of beneficiaries under regulation 60, under which financial assistance is given. A married man incapacitated from following his old occupation, a widow with children, and a man who had a business before he went to the war and gave it up to go to the war, are the only persons who can receive financial assistance under that section. There is no provision for giving assistance to the thousands of other young men who want to make a start out in life. Hundreds of cases have come under my notice in which applications have been made for such assistance,, and which have been supported by credentials from Local Committees, but in all these cases the stereotyped reply has been furnished, “Not eligible under regulation 60.” It is useless blaming the Government. Honorable members allowed this Commission to be appointed, and it has produced a scheme which has not been analytically examined in this House. There are few honorable members here who know for whom it makes provision, or for whom it fails to make provision.
– Have the Government no responsibility in that regard?
– Of course they have, through the Chairman of the Commission (Senator Millen), but that is the result of the form of government which controls business by outside Commissions. I have always been opposed to the modern craze for passing on a parliamentary task to an outside body, and during the elections I mean to point out that the time has arrived for a return to responsible parliamentary government in this country. I am aware that the crushing burdens of the war have made it necessary to give large powers to the Executive. We have passed beyond the period when we should be spending millions lavishly. Ministers may feel that they are all-powerful, and that everything should be done by Executive act; but I do not feel that way. I believe that everything should be done in the light of day.
– Ministers still. have to deal with the aftermath of the war.
– I am aware of that fact, but our staggering load of debt makes it absolutely imperative that the matter of the finances of this country should be, above all other questions, beyond temporary political cries. Elections are nearly always run on catch cries and party propaganda. I venture to say that the outstanding feature of Federal politics to-day is the alarmingly serious condition of our finances. For the last five years we have flooded the country with Government money. Of course, the bulk of the expenditure could not be avoided, but the danger lies in the inflation of prices to absorb all this money, in the increase in the standard of living we have reached, and in the recklessness of private individuals and public bodies, and even Governments, in regard to their expenditure generally. The time has arrived when the country should call a halt and seriously face the altered financial position. With very nearly £1,000,000,000 of public debt- Commonwealth, States, and municipal - and the huge obligation in the shape of pensions and interest on war loans, with a devastating drought over almost the whole of the Commonwealth, and no disposition for economy on the part of individuals or ‘Governments - T have no wish to reflect on the present Government - the feature of the coming elections will not be profiteering or Bolshevism, but will be the need for the careful consideration of the financial position of the country.
With regard to the gratuity proposed by the Government, I hope the Committee will recognise that I am one of those who endeavoured some years ago to create in this country a “public conscience” in favour of our soldiers, and that I would be the last to deprive those men of anything that a generous country felt they were entitled to receive in that way. I really cannot say, however, that I .am enamoured of the proposal to offer these non-negotiable bonds as an endowment for their services. I would very much prefer to see a strengthening of the repatriation proposals to the extent of the amount proposed to be allotted, so as to put them on a sound business footing. All the money that is to go to the soldiers by way of bonds might then be diverted into industry. In other words, the money would go out to earn fresh money, and not into those ‘ channels of expenditure which soldiers who have not yet got back to the ways of civilian life might be apt to employ if it were handed over to them by way of cheques or bonds. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), in a characteristic ‘ speech, suggested that if it was a question of bidding for votes, why should the men not be allowed to cash the bonds. I do not think that any question of bidding for votes is involved. This is, in my opinion, an honest attempt to offer an additional award to the men who faithfully and loyally served their country. The honorable member suggested the cashing of the bonds, but he did not say how that could be done. In cashing the bonds arid handing out money to the extent of £25,000,000 we would have no assurance that that money would be put to its best use. The Government’s proposal is not yet in specific form, and there is plenty of time-J- ,
– The Government are already backing down through the honorable member.
– I am not backing down. I am merely pointing out that there is ample time for the Government to put their proposals in a form that will be more acceptable to me. I- do not cavil at the granting of an additional endowment to the men who have fought their country’s battles. But having regard to : the present, state of Australia, I do not care to see another £25,000,000 going to inflate the currency. The currency will become depressed. Unless we attach to the granting of these bonds a provision thatevery person other than a soldier who is found in possession of th m shall be adjudged guilty of a criminal offence, the bonds will be negotiated. The requirements of the soldier are immediate. He will seek some channel through which he can convert the bonds into cash or credits, and unless we impose such a condition as I have just suggested, we shall find the bonds passing into the hands of other people.
-Would such a provision put a stop to their changing hands ?
– It might not wholly stop the practice, but it would be a punitive means of preventing the bonds passing out of the hands of the soldiers.
The Treasurer this afternoon said that the bonds would be accepted as part payment of, for instance, an obligation under the land settlement or housing schemes. Having adopted that principle, the Government might so extend it that the bonds would be accepted in payment of an advance made under one of the many provisions of the repatriation scheme. Every soldier ought to be entitled to come within the provisions of the repatriation scheme, and such an arrangement would enable money to be found immediately for the soldier to liquidate his obligation to the country. I am not enamoured of the proposal in its present form. I believe it would result in thousands of soldiers being placed in possession of bonds of which they knew very little. Many of them have never held a bond; they are not business men, and the bonds would pass from them for less than their face value. They would thus go to increase the currency. It is not easy at this stage to put before the Government a proposal as to the form that the gratuity should take. If the country should approve of the payment of a gratuity to our men, I am certain that it will return to the Parliament the party best able to say what form that gratuity should take. And I trust that the experience gained between this and that time will result in a much better proposal being evolved than that for the issue of bonds.
I can anticipate from the speeches that have been made to-day some of the placards that will be used in connexion with the forthcoming election. One of them, of course, will relate to that elusive gentleman - the Australian profiteerwhom everybody chases and no one catches.
– Although he catches every one.
– Here we have the guilty conscience.
– In reply to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) I may say that I have no interests in this country, save land, and my prospects of return to this Parliament, whatever they may be. Those are the only profiteering interests that I have. There was a time, during the war, when there was a good public conscience in trading; but from one end of Australia to the other there arose a clamant demand for a war-time profits tax. It came, first of all, from the Labour party.
– It was our remedy for war-time profits.
– Mr. Lloyd George had to pay fabulous prices for munition making and for ships to carry the munitions of war. He paid the required prices with one hand, and attempted with the other, by means of a war-time profits tax, to get back a portion of the money so paid away. Political parties in this country at once shouted for a like tax.Whereever I went I opposed a war-time profits tax, and I say now that it has been the greatest incentive to profiteering and the high cost of commodities that we have ever had. As soon as a war-time profits tax was imposed there was what I might describe as a fresh stocktaking in Australia. Trade and commerce re-adjusted their prices and their stocks in hand. They said, in effect, “ If the Government are to have 75 percent. of our profits we will see that the other 25 per cent. is worth while.” The result was that prices went up. I would ask the many advocates of war-time profits taxation among the Labour party, if there is a profiteer in this country taking 25 per cent. of excess profits, what is to be said of theCommonwealth Government, which collects 75 per cent. of the spoil?
– It should have taken the lot.
– Seventy-five per cent. of these excess profits have gone into the Commonwealth Treasury. If the Parliament had been content to leave traders as they were at the time prices would have remained much as they were. But, having tinkered with trade and commerce, honorable members have “ got the kick back,” and are now crying “ wolf . “
– We are told that the high prices are due to the inflation of the currency.
– That was a later development. This country has made a mistake in listening to political “piffle” and catch cries. Had trade, commerce, and industry been left alone, we should have had a far better result.
I hope that the period of Government interference with the trade, commerce, and industry of Australia will soon cease, t hope that shortly after the coming elections a great Conference of the people and their Governments, both State andFede ral, will be held, and that at that Conference there will be an honest and nonparty attempt to try to reconstruct the relationships between the Commonwealth and the. States. My hope is that there will be an attempt to apportion, the functions of government, on a basis that will allow of Federal and State functions being clearly defined and well known. I hope that there will be no grant of concurrent powers to come into conflict, but that there will be, for both’ the State and the Federal authority, a zone within which each can solely operate. It is my desire that in the coming election campaign the cry in regard to constitutional conflict will cease. “While we have this political cry in regard to constitutional changes, on a party basis, we shall never obtain a Constitution which will properly serve the Australian people. If there be good faith on the part of the political parties of this country; if the business of make-believe be given up, and an honest attempt be made, Australia will quickly respond, and we shall have Constitutions providing for the proper government of the people from both a Federal and a State stand-point.
.- I offer my congratulations to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) on the splendid oration which he delivered this afternoon, and his lucid description of the Bill now before us. It was certainly a treat to listen to him, and to learn that, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, the Government had acted upon recommendations made by a Royal Commission. As a rule, Commissions are appointed to inquire into matters somewhat outside the ken of Parliament; but nothing is done with their recommendations. Their bulky reports merely go to crowd the parliamentary archives. During the war the Senate appointed a Select Committee, which “ galli- vanted “ all over the country, with the object of inquiring whether alcohol had a detrimental .effect on the “ digger.” The digger “ does not want any suggestions from that quarter as to the effect pf alcohol upon. him. He knows whether he can stand it, and, if he cannot, he pays for his indiscretion in the shape of petty fines imposed by the military authorities. The abolition of that Committee might well have been a war-time economy.
– How did the honorable member f aTe on the Bread Commission %
– That is the. only Commission of which I have been a member, and I may say at once that as soon as we discovered that we could not do what we thought to be in the best interests of the country, we had the courage to resign in a body. That would not be very palatable to Lord Avebury and his ant-hills. According to him, I have only to stamp my feet and up come the ants of Conservatism to tickle my toes. It is rather amusing to discover that a native-born Australian has to go to England to learn the habits of the ants.
The election tactics of the present Government have been most vigorously debated this afternoon. The speech made by the Treasurer, while temperate and lucid, was designed to have an effect on the coming election ; but I certainly do not wish to detract from its merits, for it was a fine effort. The need for a war gratuity has been’ recognised in other countries. Apparently the gratuity has been paid elsewhere in a much better manner than is suggested here. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in his inimitable fashion, kept the thing to himself until he thought the proper time had arrived to make an announcement. I suppose he thought the best place to make the revelation was Queensland, where the Bolsheviks are, because he chose Brisbane to announce, from under a “ digger’s “ hat, what he was going to do for the “ digger.” For him to parade as a “ digger “ is “ over the fence”; in fact, there are too many’ chocolate “ diggers “ about. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) coined a phrase which will stick to a lot more than the Prime Minister, and I have no doubt that they will, deserve it.
The question of repatriation had been considered by two Conferences of Premiers, at which the Commonwealth Government was represented, arid a scheme had been drawn up in which the provision was made that the States should secure land, for the settlement of soldiers, and the Commonwealth should provide £22,000,000 for the improvement of the land. It was also intended to raise, by income tax, over a period of live or six years, £10,000,000. Out of this fund, loans without interest , would be made to returned soldiers for the purpose of establishing them in some trade, profession,- or business.
What was the object of that electioneering promise? It was not a statement to the soldiers that £22,000,000 would be provided for them, which they would receive perhaps twenty-two years hence. The evident meaning was that the £22,000,000 was to ‘be available at once, and that efforts would be made to spend it, with an additional £10,000,000, in tie interests of the soldiers within the life of the Parliament that was then, in the year 1917, about to be elected. That Parliament will go out of existence at the end of this month, yet out of the £32,000,000 then promised, £29,000,000. still remains unexpended. I do not doubt that the Commonwealth has honoured its obligation in the case of every soldier’s home that has been provided, and all the land that has been bought, but how many soldiers have been put on the land? How many are being paid sustenance to wander about the streets, and return nothing to the Commonwealth for the money? The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who speaks so dismally about the Commonwealth finances, forgets those little things. I believe that over £1,000,000 has been paid in sustenance money; that is, money for which the men do no work beyond the efforts they put up at the war, and from which the country gets no return; yet the honorable member for Wannon has the audacity to say that we are to blame for whatever has gone wrong in regard to the repatriation proposals and enactments of the Government. During the’ last few weeks we have divided the House at least a dozen times to give honorable members opposite an opportunity to show their bona fides’. The numbers are up on that side”, and the Government can do what they like, how they like, when they like. It is use less for the honorable member to accuse this side of being responsible for the maladministration of the repatriation business. He would lead people to believe that the Commonwealth has done enough in regard to the land side of repatriation, and would throw the onus on the States. Repatriation is a Commonwealth, and not a State, concern. The soldiers fought for the whole Commonwealth, and not for any particular State, and if the States are not honouring their obligations, it is time that the Commonwealth stepped in and saw that they did so. Within the last few weeks a Bill has been passed through the South Australian Legislature to enable the State Government, if they cannot purchase the land they require for soldier settlement, to take it compulsorily. Let that fact sink into the minds of. honorable members opposite, who stand behind all the flag-wagging patriots in the country. The real “stingo,” the capital of the country”, is on their’ side. The South Australian Government is a Liberal Government, and yet it cannot get from its own supporters the land required to repatriate our heroes. I cannot get over the audacity of people who tell the “ digger “ that nothing is too good for him, but, when he asks for a block of land, do . nothing to help him. In South Australia, when the “digger” wants a block of land the squatter will not let him have it. I am a whole-hogger Socialist, and if I could get the country to go with me there would be no negotiations for the compulsory purchase of land. It would be a case of compulsory taking for the benefit of the men who had won the land, the men who stemmed the German onrush. ‘ The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett)., who is one of the biggest pastoralists in Australia, referred a night or two ago in this chamber to the deeds of the Australian soldiers when “ Fritz “ came over on the 21st March. I know how “ Fritz “ came over, and where he got to, and what happened when the Australians saved this country from him. How much of Australia are they to get? I suppose the honorable member for Grampians has an interest in more of Australia than a battalion of “ diggers “ has. How much is he going to give for the “ diggers “ to help to honour the promises which were made to them when they went away to fight? The “ diggers “ produced the goods. They left over 50,000 of their comrades to bleach in France, and all those lives were laid down for the sake of the men who own Australia. Men like the “diggers,” who work for a wage, have to give a quid pro quo, and a little over, for everything they get.
While I was in camp I read “of the biggest land scandals that had ever occurred in South Australia. These were in connexion with the purchase of estates for soldiers, and the Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton) knows what happened. The biggest amount ever involved in the purchase of land for soldiers was spent in this instance. The land was down near Henley Beach, and it was said that they were selling the soldiers a duck pond. Mr. Addison, as independent valuer, was called in to value this Pinery Estate. He reported that nobody could make a success of it, even if the land was given to him, yet £19 10s. an acre was paid for it, ostensibly for the purpose of soldier settlement. Never was such a big “swag” made out of trafficking in land for soldiers as was made at that time in South Australia. Why have not the Government used their war precautions powers, and told the gentlemen who hold landed estates which ‘they cannot use that they must part with some of them for the benefit of the soldiers? The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) says there is land available in Queensland at £1 per acre. Why did not the Government acquire it, and place soldiers on it, long before this, instead of paying them sustenance? The Prime Minister says that we must produce; but how can the men produce anything unless they are given an opportunity to go on the land?
– Does not .the soldier stipulate that he shall be settled in his own State?
– The soldier is being most effectively settled in such a manner that he will never be any good as a citizen unless the Government get to work very speedily to save him. The honorable member knows that there is ,ample land in South Australia to settle’ the ‘soldiers on if the Government would only get busy and do the job. Estates are being cut up along the Murray, but the work is not being done expeditiously enough, and there are more applicants than there are blocks available.. Are there not surveyors and Government servants enough to carry out the job properly? The Government cannot look back with any pride on their repatriation efforts. I admit ‘ that repatriation was a big and a new undertaking, but the statement of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), that the promises made in regard to repatriation have never been honoured, cannot be controverted. - I challenge any honorable member on the other side to say how much money he has put into the war loans free of interest.
– The honorable member has told us how much he has put into the war loan.
– I admit that I stand on velvet, but I have said on all occasions that if the money is needed it should be taken without interest. The Government ought not to pay blood money for the war loan- I am not playing up to the soldiers. I am merely reiterating what I said on other occasions, before I had put myself in the position referred to by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), from which I could a6k others what they had done to win the war ‘(
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) spoke of the method by which the Government propose to pay the war gratuity, and made a most contradictory statement. He first referred to the profiteer as that elusive gentleman whom nobody could catch, and then . he demonstrated that nearly every business man in the Commonwealth was a profiteer. My attitude in regard to the War-time profits tax is well known. Looking through Hansard a few days ago, I made the discovery that the first suggestion that exploitation was taking place came from the honorable member for Henty, by way of an interjection on an Income Tax Bill that a great many persons were making fabulous profits out of war contracts. My idea was that if a man was exploiting the war by taking greater profits than he earned in times of peace, the Commonwealth should seize all in excess of the pre-war standard. That contradicts the statement of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that we on this side are prepared to be partners in the profiteering by taking through the Taxation Office a percentage of the war-time profits. The honorable member forHindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) also has advocated that the Commonwealth should take all excess war-time profits.
– All or none.
– Had the Government resolved to take all the war-time profits, there would not have been the profiteering that is taking place to-day. The honorable member for Wannon explained that as soon as we imposed a war-time profits tax, by which 75 per cent. of the excess profits was paid to the . Government and 25 per cent. was retained by the person who made them, a general stock-taking took place throughout the Commonwealth, the value of goods was inflated, and business men increased their rate of profit beyond what it otherwise would have been.
– Will the honorable member inform the Committee what he did when he stood behind the Fisher Government and had an opportunity of giving effect to his ideas?
– If the honorable member was in the Caucus room on the day when the first war loan was discussed, he does not require his memory sharpened in regard to what happened. But when the fate of the Government was at stake, I voted with them in support of the Loan Bill. We never had an opportunity while the Labour party was in power of voting on the war-time profits tax. But I, like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), would advocate the taking of the whole of the excess profits. If any honorable member wishes to know where I stand in regard to that question, he may read my earlier speeches in Hansard, and quote them to the Committee. The honorable member for Wannon, after asking “ where is the profiteer, and who is he?” demonstrated by his reference to the war-time profits tax that profiteers were to be found throughout the business community.
– By the law which you supported you allow a man to make those profits.
– That does not disprove the fact that the profiteer is here. I admit that a warrant is given to him to profiteer so long as he is allowed to retain 25 per cent. of the profit earned in excess of the pre-war standard. I believe that during the year 1916 wool alone yielded £2,500,000 more than the value of the best clip in peace time, but the Budget-papers show that only £600,000 was received from the war-time profits tax from all sources. The honorable member for Wannon asked a question about the profiteer, and answered it by his own statement of the effects of the wartime profits tax. There was no legitimate reason for business men taking stock in order to inflate values and increase their profits above the normal percentage.
– Why yell about a man making a profit when by law you have said that he is entitled to do so?
– If I had had my way the Government would not have taken merely 75 per cent. of the excess profits ; they would have taken the lot, and then there would have been no incentive to a man to make a profit in excess of the prewar standard.
– The honorable member is not so childish as not to realize that if we take the whole of a man’s profits he will not be likely to wear out the wheels of industry.
– And the honorable member is not so childish as not to realize that. I propose only taking the profits in excess of the pre-war standard with which men were apparently content a few years ago. I would, however, seize every penny of excess profits made out of the soldiers. There is only one way to be honest, and that is to do the right thing. Do not tell the soldiers that they are entitled to the best that can be given, and then allow the business men to exploit their dependants.
The honorable member said that, although the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) had criticised the Government’s methods of financing the war, he had not indicated any alternative. When the Fisher Government first proposed to pledgethe country to the Jews, the honorable member for Bourke put before this House the only sound and reasonable suggestion that has been made. Instead of borrowing £20,000,000 from one source - an in-again-and-out-again transaction, leaving a profit in the hands of the man who handled the money - the hon- orable member proposed to establish a £20,000,000 credit and operate upon it, as Britain did at the beginning of the war. That amendment was supported by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and the then honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hampson). I, too, would have supported the amendment but that I was loyal to the vote recorded at the party meeting upstairs. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) may laugh, but I shall never be afraid to admit that I am doing in this House what the electors of Adelaide, by accepting the policy of the Labour party, sent me here to do. I have no apology to make for the fact that I followed the Caucus rule when I voted for Mr. Fisher’s’ Loan Bill. Had the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke been adopted this country would not have been paying from 4½ per cent; free of income tax to per cent. in interest to the moneyed interests of Australia. No honorable member can controvert the statements made by thehonorable member for Bourke this afternoon that if war broke out again to-morrow, and it became necessary to send the same number of men overseas to defend the shores of Australia, as was alleged in connexion with the last war, there would be no suggestion to pay them with bonds that they could not negotiate - paper that their wives or mothers could not give to the landlord or take to the butcher’s shop as payment for an equivalent value in goods. The Government would raise the money; it is here,and can be raised.
– Where would the honorable member get it?
– From the same source aswe raised the war loan.
Mr.Boyd. - The Peace loan was not fully subscribed.
– And what did the Government do in regard to it? The Adelaide Register, in a leading article published while the seamen’s strike was in progress, said there would be no doubt about the Peace loan being subscribed. But it was not subscribed voluntarily, and the Government did not put the acid test of compulsion on the money-holders. The money was found by the banks. By the system of advances toclients, the banks had already subscribed £10,000,000 to the loan,and they agreed tomake good the amount by which the subscriptions were short of the sum required. The whole of the money can be raised in that way if the people would decide that they shall be the only bankers. Scripture tells us that Christ overturned the tables of the money-changers in the Temple. He had no concern as to where the money would be obtained to carry on in Judea. Neither need we haveany fear in this country. Ifthere was anotherwar to-morrow, in order to save theirown skins, the moneyed classes would “shell out.”
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am afraid that honorable members and the officers employed by the Government fail to take into consideration the fact that the repatriation of our soldiers is a Commonwealth, and not a State, matter. Instead of searching through the length and breadth of the continent for the best land that can be obtained at the lowest price, in order to settle our soldiers in accordancewith the promiseswe made to them before they left these shores, there is too much of an attempt by State interests to settle the men. in the States from which they enlisted. Yet it is awell-known fact that a large number of young Victorian and South Australian men have selected land in Queensland because they knew that they could get there better and cheaper land thanwas available in their own States. Why should not we ignore State boundaries in the case of our returned soldiers? Out of an immense area of 409,000,000 unalienated acres in Queensland, land, equal in quality to that sold in the southern States at £40 and £50 an acre, can be obtained on the liberal terms of £1 an acre, with twenty-one years in which to pay. Why, then, should’ we burden the returned soldier with interest on £40 or £50 an acre, and also with taxation ? Many returned soldiers come to me in Melbourne and inquire about land in Queensland, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has sent others to me on this errand. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), however, talks about what he would do as a Socialist; and I should like to inform the Houseas to what the Socialist party in Queensland are doing for thereturned men. Although there is an enormous territory at the disposal of the State, the returned soldier is denied the fee simple, and given only perpetual leasehold, subject to periodical revision of rent. This has retarded settlement in Queensland very much, and hence the expenditure on repatriation in that State has not been so great as it otherwise would be.
– More has been done in Queensland in settling the returned soldier than in any other State.
– That statement is quite incorrect.
– The total number of soldiers settled in Queensland is only 1,386; and the little State of Victoria has done considerably more than that.
– That is so ; although in Victoria good land is not easily obtained except at a very high price. A large number of South Australian and Victorian farmers settled in my district, and there is plenty of room for more, seeing that the unalienated land there amounts to 7,700,000 acres. This district possesses to-day 714,582 head of cattle and 85,000 head of horses. It must be remembered that herds of less than fifteen head are not included in the figure relating to cattle; if they were, the figure would be nearer 1,000,000 head. If those cattle and horses can be produced profitably on that land, surely areas could be utilized for the returned soldiers on the terms of £1 an acre with twenty-one years’ purchase, such as were offered by the State Government before the present Socialistic Government came into power.
If the Socialists here believe that money should be taken forcibly from people who have earned it they ought to have sufficient influence amongst their brethren to insist upon their making this land available on the freehold system. But for our soldiers’ heroic defence of Australia and the Empire, it is highly probable that none of the States would have owned any land at the present moment.
– We do not believe in the freehold system.
– The honorable mem. ber believes in taking possession and holding permanently money which other men may have worked for, but he will not grant a freehold in case of unalienated lands, thus leaving it open for any unprincipled Socialistic Government to run amok, and tax the leaseholders out of existence.
– What is the difference between holding land in perpetuity and the fee simple? The only thing is that the leaseholder cannot traffick in the land.
– Is there not a vast difference between the man who owns the land, and has no rent to pay, and the man whose rent is subject to periodical revision ? In addition, a Socialist Government might tax the leaseholders, not only on their land, but on their improvements,which latter would not be possible if the land were held in fee simple.
– The Government could impose taxation.
– On the land, but not on the improvements. It is suggested in some quarters that our returned men should be settled in the Northern Territory; but it would’ be a scandal and a disgrace to send them to that part of Australia, when land is available in Queensland, with a good climate and rainfall, 20 inches; also shipping facilities. In Queensland, from north to south, almost anything can be produced that can be produced anywhere else on God’s earth.
There is a difficulty at the present time in obtaining timber and bricks for the purpose of building soldiers’ homes. In Queensland, however, there are large sawmills, and plenty of timber, with unlimited deposits of clay, that have hardly been touched. All these materials could be secured at very low rates, thus making the cost of the soldiers’ homes in Queensland less than in any other State of the Commonwealth.
When returned soldiers desire to settle on the sugar lands of Queensland, the present State Government refuses to advance one penny, because the land is freehold, offering the excuse that there might be a danger of the Federal Government removing the duty on sugar; which they say will not be done. I do not make these statements without authority, for I have a letter from Mr. Hunter, the late Acting Chief Secretary in Queensland, giving that information to a man in my electorate who wished to settle soldiers on the sugar lands. The present State Government, and its supporters, claim to have the interests of the returned soldiers at heart, but, as a matter of fact, they invariably “ turn down “ the returned men. In my electorate, there is an area of 4,000,000 acres of Crown lands, most of it held on occupation licence, which could easily settle 20,000 returned men. There is a railway line right up to the land, and another line into it has been surveyed, and could be completed at small cost.
There is a great deal more that I should like to say which would, perhaps, open the eyes of honorable members; but, after an all-night sitting, I shall not detain the Committee longer.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Watt), in his statement this afternoon on the financial position of the Government, referred to the gratuity which it, is proposed to hand over to the soldiers. That gratuity has been described by certain honorable members as neither more nor less than an election bribe.
– You know better than that.
– I know that there was some trouble to get the invalid and oldage pensions increased. I am delighted to know that the position of the aged and unfortunate has at length been improved ; but when, on the 4th December last, Senator Gardiner, in the Senate, suggested it, Senator Millen, the representative of the Government, said that the position of the finances was such that no increase could be granted.
– The war is now over.
– On the 4th December last, the armistice had been signed for about three weeks. At any rate, we are £50,000,000 worse off this year than we were last; and I was about to say that within tendays of the suggestion by Senator Gardiner, a Bill was introduced by the Government to grant a pension of £5 a day to the ex-Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, and every member of the Ministerial party voted for it.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) did not vote for it.
– I have no desire to do an injustice to that honorable member. At any rate, practically every member opposite voted for the measure.
We have had the Budget -statement and the Estimates of expenditure submitted. As I pointed out a week ago, our war expenditure out of loan money and revenue for the year ending 30th June, 1920, amounts to £77,233.000, or £1,500,000 a week. It had been thought that our gross expenditure on the war was never much more than £1,000,000 a week, though one year it rose to £80,000,000. In the last financial year, the expenditure on theExpeditionary Forces was £48,000,000; but this year it is only £24,500,000, a reduction by £23,500,000; whereas, the expenditure of the Department on the military this year is only £6,000,000 less than that. This year, we are spending about £10,000,000 on repatriation and war service homes; and I should like to know where the other £14,000,000 has gone.
The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), when he was Leader of the Opposition, some years ago, wrote a series of articles for a Sydney newspaper, under the title of “A Financial Carnival,” condemning the expenditure of the Fisher Government; but we may describe the expenditure of to-day as a “financial orgy.” The report of the Economy Commission has come to hand not a bit too soon. We had to peg away before we could get it presented to the House.
– Is it worth anything now, seeing how the heads of Departments are tackling it?
– I notice that the PostmasterGeneral was able to write his reply to it early in September, and we did not see the report until the middle of October. There is room for economy in the three spending Departments - the Navy, the Defence, and the Works and Railways Departments - which can only justify their existence by the money they spend. I believe that there is more care exercised in the Customs Department and the Treasury, which are collecting Departments. There is more need for care in regard to expenditure in the spending Departments than there is in a Department such as the Department of the Postmaster-General, which is also a revenue-producing one; but the time will come when all this departmental expenditure must be severely curtailed.
– The Treasurer told us this afternoon that the military expenditure was the subject of close inquiry by the Economy Commission, and that these Estimates were framed upon thatCommission’s report.
– Yes; and he told us that the naval expenditure this year was very little higher. The people look to us to make a close and careful examination of these figures. Any honorable member who says that we have had the opportunity of doing so is saying something which is not correct.
-The Government ofwhich the honorable member was a member was not too careful in the matter of expenditure.
– I believe that it. exercised care in regard to every penny spent; but I do not remember any speech in which the honorable member, who. was a supporter of that Government, pointed out where economy was necessary and could be effected.
When we were discussing the Electoral (War-time) Bill, several honorable members and I pointed out that, in 1917, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had issued a circular to the next of kin of soldiers, and appealedto them directly for their vote. But some honorable members on the Ministerial side expressed a doubt as to whether such a letter existed. A lady who was sitting in the gallery, and heard the debate, has forwarded to me a copy of that circular, and I shall read it for the information of honorable members. It bears at the head the Commonwealth coat of arms and the telephone number of the Prime Minister’s Department, and reads as follows: -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Prime Minister, 25th April, 1917.
Dear Miss Barrett,
I am writing to you personally, because I know you have a direct interest in this war. To you this mighty struggle is not something remote, which does not concern you, but a matter of life and death. You know what sacrifices it entails; you know what horrors it involves. To you Australia’s attitude in this war is no mere side issue, but something which overshadows all other things, since it concerns the safety and the welfare of your relations at the Front.
Yet there are many people in this country who care nothing for the war, for Australia, or for the Empire. They have made no sacrifices.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr.Finlayson) has made a sacrifice. Was not his boy at the Front? Did not the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) go to the Front? Was no sacrifice made by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) ? And the same can be said ofearly every member on this side of the House.
– That letter does not accuse them.
– Allow the honorable member to finish reading the letter.
– The honorable member growls about my not concluding thelet- ter when I was interrupted by an interjection. In fact, it would seem that honorable members interjected in order to prevent me from continuing the letter, and growl and snarl because I get home one or two truths. The letter proceeds -
They have in many cases taken the war as an opportunity to further their own selfish sectional ends. To them duty, honour, patriotism, are’ empty words. To them the sacrifices at Gallipoli, Pozieres, and Bapaume mean nothing. And now, when the opposing armies are girding up their loinsfor a final struggle, when every effort is needed, when the Australians at the Front can emerge successfully only if the nation is behind them, this band of disloyalists has forced the country into an election. The Official Labour party refused my offer to form a National Government, in order that the full strength ofthe nation should stand behind the men in the trenches. They chose rather to serve the narrow, sectional purpose of the secret junta that controls them.
And so in this election you are called upon to choose by whom you will be governed - by the National party, which puts the war first, which is against the premature peace, or that section which, . at least, is indifferent to the war.
You are directly interested in this election because you are directly interested in this war. Strike a blow for those who represent you at the Front by voting againstthat disloyal element who would desert them in their hour of need. The National Government is for them, and will not desert them nor their dependants now or after the war. The Returned Soldiers Association are with us, the men at the Front are with us, only those who have no interest in this war are against us.
To you,then, I appeal to support the National candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives. By this means you can best support your sons, your brothers, your husbands, and your friends in the trenches; by this means only can you help to hasten the day when the “boys at the Front” will come backhome crowned with the laurels of decisive victory, and bring into theworld a lasting peace.
– Hear, hear!
– Yesterday the honorable member doubted whether this letter had been sent out.
– I did not. I simply wanted to learn the contents of it.
– Well, I have read the letter.
– But the honorable member has put a different meaning on it. I propose to look up my papers to see what was the honorable member’s attitude towards the war at that time.
– I am glad to say. that in the district where this lady resides I have a four to one majority. Very few electorates in Australia sent a larger proportion to the Front than was sent from this district, which, I suppose, would be called disloyal.
– I mean that it is disloyal through being represented by me.
– Who has accused the honorable member of being disloyal?
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that there was no prominent man opposed to the Nationalist’ party who was not a disloyalist and had not handled German gold. I was the Leader of the party opposed to the National party. I was a prominent member’ of it.
– The Prime Minister was not referring to the honorable member.
– I am prepared to take my share of the blame or praise attaching to the party to which I belong. Every member of it was branded by members of the other party as disloyalists.
– I do not think so.
– Yes. It is useless trying to “ crawfish “ or pretend that it was not meant. .
– It will be done again at the next election.
– Of course. They are getting in early. I have not the slightest doubt as to what the soldiers in the Yarra electorate think. There are not many cities in’ the Commonwealth which can show a greater proportion of casualties than, unfortunately, the City of Richmond can show. The Government could not fool the soldiers at the Front into thinking that I was a disloyalist, as was printed on practically every page of the paper issued to the soldiers. I have one, which was dated the 12th April, 1917, and stated that the Labour party were pro-Germans and disloyalists, and that no one should vote for them. It was impossible for the soldiers to get in touch with their representatives, and we were prevented from publishing advertisements in the British newspapers, which would have told them the truth; and when the honorable member for Ballarat and others took an active part in the political campaign, they were threatened by the officials overseas, and ordered to desist. I admit that the returned soldiers, like every other section of the community, belong to different political parties. It is possible that the majority of those who live in Toorak differ politically from those who live in the East Sydney or Yarra electorates.
– The soldiers who live in the capital cities have been displaying themselves recently. To what party do they belong?
– Of course, as I said the other day, you can get anything you want if you pay for it. You can arrange for all sorts of demonstrations, and pay for publicity. You. can arrange anything ahead.
– You cannot buy the soldiers.
– I could have triumphal arches if I liked to pay for them.
– Yes. When the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) was thrown out of this Parliament for speaking against profiteering, and declining to withdraw a remark he had made, he was met by a brass band on his arrival in Sydney, and a complimentary social was tendered to him
– He was suspended, not for the reason stated by the honorable member, but because he disobeyed the Chair. The honorable member knows that.
– I’ have no intention of being put out, so that the honorable gentleman need not worry about me.
There are one or two other matters to which I desire to refer. An award made by Mr. Justice Powers relating to clerical assistants in the Commonwealth Service has been laid on the table, and unless it be disallowed by resolution of the House, it will become law within the next month. No objection has been taken to any of these awards, and I do not propose, at this stage, to submit a motion in respect to the one under notice. It would he impossible to do so while the Supply Bill is under consideration, although it would be competent for me to move for the reduction of an item by £1, in order to call attention to it. I wish to point out that the wages of temporary Commonwealth assistants in Western Australia have for years been 12s. 6d. per day, but that, by this recent award made by Mr. Justice Powers, all payments on and after 1st January, 1920, are to be at the rate of 11s. 6d. per day, notwithstanding that in the State Public Service such men receive 12s. 6d. per day. As soon as the term of employment of one set of temporary employees expires, a fresh batch is taken on, so that this means that in future temporary employees of the Commonwealth in Western Australia will receive1s. per day less than paid in the State Public Service. I bring this matter forward in the hope that the Treasurer, to whose Department it relates, will inquire into it, and see whether it is not possible to at least pay temporary employees in the Commonwealth Service a wage equal to that paid by the States.
There are several other matters to which I should like to refer; but as there is a desire, after the all-night sitting through which we have just passed, to adjourn not later than 11 p.m., and as I understand that several honorable members have yet to speak, I will not further occupy the attention of the Committee.
– I should not have risen to speak but for the statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in regard to a letter issued by the Prime Minister at a time when the Empire was fighting for its very existence. The honorable member referred to it last night in a way that suggested that it contained statements that ought never to have been made. His production of it to-night, however, puts the matter in an entirely different light. We had a byelection for Flinders-
– The letter to which I referred was written at the time of a general election.
– It was necessary to write such a letter after what had happened. We had a by-election for Flinders in May, 1918-
– But this letter was written in 1917.
-That is immaterial. It was sent out at a time when the Empire was fighting for its very existence. At the time of the by-election for Flinders the honorable member for Yarra(Mr. Tudor) had as much influence with the Labour movement as he has to-day. He was then, as now, the Leader of the party in this House, and authorized the issue of the following manifesto in connexion with the candidature of Mr. Gordon J. Holmes, who stood as a representative of Labour.
The Labour party stands for peace by negotiation. To peace by negotiation the world must come. Those who will not recognise this are putting off peace for years. Peace with a German victory is impossible. The Central Powers cannot beat the Allies. Peace with a British victory is impossible. The Allies cannot beat the Central Powers. The Labour party believes that the humiliation of a nation creates in its people a spirit of revenge, which breeds future wars. The German rulers must be left to the German people. They alone can destroy German militarism and autocracy. And we believe that the prolongation of the war only postpones the hour of triumph of German Democracy.
The Labour party stands for the immediate cessation of fighting, and for the calling of an international conference to settle peace terms. Such terms must include -
General Haig had said about that time, “We must stand together. We must fight, because everything depends on what happens during the next month.” And yet a manifesto of this description was issued with the authority of the present Leader of the Opposition, who takes exception to a letter sent out by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Is it any wonder that the head of the Commonwealth Government, with a tremendous responsibility resting upon him -with a desire to help to win the war and to back up our men at the Front, who badly needed assistance - should have written such a letter at that particular time? What would have happened to us had the Allies been defeated?
The Perth Labour Conference met on 21st June, 1918,andit issued the following statement regarding the attitude of Labour towards recruiting and the war : -
The party’s attitude to recruiting is thus stated: -
Furtherparticipation in recruiting shall be subject to the following conditions: -
An immediate inquiry, upon which the Australian Labour party shall be adequately and officially represented, to be held, and its de- cisions to be immediately given effect to, provided that this determination shall be immediately submitted by each State executive, under the direction of the Federal executive, with a recommendation from this Conference for its adoption, to a referendum of members of all branches and affiliated organizations, and shall become operative upon a majority of the votes of those voting being cast in the affirmative, the ballot to close not later than 1st November next. In the event of the Commonwealth Government interfering with the conduct of the ballot, the foregoing decision as to recruiting shall thereupon be immediately operative.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) was the secretary of the Conference, and the Leader of the Federal Labour party and Mr. Ryan, who is to displace him, attended it. I have the greatest respect for the honorable member for Yarra. I sat behind him for years, and admired his ability and the honesty of his convictions. One of the most cruel things of whichI have ever heard in connexion with our political history is the displacing of the honorable member as Leader of the Labour party. He is to be displaced by Mr. Ryan; who did not submit himself for selection as every other Labour man has to do. This man sheltered himself, in time of storm, behind the popular member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace), and the sitting member, having beenselected to again contest the seat, gave way in favour of Mr. Ryan. Mr. Ryan is to displace the honorable member for Yarra as Leader of the Opposition. In West Sydney he has a sure seat and is bound to enter the Federal Parliament.
I should not have referred to this matter but for the attempt of the Leader of the Opposition to make political capital out of the letter written by the Prime Minister. It is unfair to try to deceive the people. They have not forgotten the attitude of the Labour party, and those of ourmen who were at the Front, and had no time to learn of what was going on in their absence, willbe told of it. We will quote from manifestoes such as that issued by the Labour party in connexion with the by-election for Flinders, and they will know the truth. They will learn from these manifestoes what was the attitude of the Labour party at a time when the nation was fighting for its very existence and when, but for the bravery of the Australians in standing as they did at the time of the great drive, we should have been in deadly peril.But for their action we should have seen, not such a reception as that which was recently tendered to the Prime Minister by all sections of the community when it took him an hour to travel from Spencerstreet to the Melbourne TownHall, but the entry of a German military governor into the Commonwealth.
In 1911 it was my privilege to see the draping of the statue of Alsace-Lorraine in Paris. I saw thousands of French citizens gathered round it. , Speeches were made by eminent orators, and the whole bearing of the assemblage suggested that the people of France were waiting for the day when Alsace-Lorraine would be restored to them. It has been returned to them as the result of their own valour and that of the Allied troops. Australia sent its best men to their assistance, and sent them largely at the instigation of the Prime Minister, who has been subjected to so much unfair criticism. What would have happened to Australia, with a Government led by one of those weakkneed gentlemen who said, “ We must have a referendum “ ? It is men of that class who suggest that we are making use of the war for electioneering purposes. There is no need for us to do anything of the kind. We have only to tell the people the facts as we know them. During the war the Labour party was tried and found wanting. What statesmanship is disclosed in the preparation of a manifesto such as that which I have read this evening. Will the people trust those responsible for it to govern them? I think not.
I wish now to refer briefly to some features of the debate this afternoon. I appreciate the straight-out speech made by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), and I promise him that copies of it shall be circulated throughout my electorate. I shall quote it ‘ from end to end. I snail say, , “ This is the speech of a member of the Labour party, who admits that he has to obey the will of the majority as expressed upstairs. He may think what he likes, but if it is carried against him by a majority of one vote, he will come downstairs and stultify himself. He is not allowed to express his own opinions on the floor of the House.” The- honorable member has sheltered himself to-day behind something that happened upstairs. He is the strong nian who charges us with not having the courage of our opinions; yet when Mr. Andrew Fisher introduced a Bill to raise a war loan at 4-J per cent., with a provision that the interest should be free of income tax, the honorable member and every other honorable member- on the other side agreed to it. There was not a murmur upstairs or downstairs.
– You are telling a lie.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw and apologize.
– Certainly. I knew I would have to withdraw; but it was the only way to stop the honorable member from making these statements.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw unconditionally.
– I withdraw unconditionally; but I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Order! The honorable member cannot do so now.
– Strong “languagewill not deter me from stating what actually happened. In this ease I can again appeal to Hansard. Honorable members cannot find any record of the honorable member for Adelaide making a strong protest against the Bill which made the interest .on the war loan free of income tax.
We have heard a great deal to-night from the Leader of the Opposition about economy. How does he regard the speech of the honorable member for Cook (Mr.
Catts), who complains because the Government did not spend £30,000,000 in one year? Every business man knows that the Government could not spend £30,000,000 in one year on the building of houses and the acquiring of land. It was never intended to spend that amount in one year. I have here facts and figures supplied by the Repatriation Department to show that a great deal has been done. It is well known that the Commonwealth cannot settle one man on the land. The Commonwealth Government has no land to settle the men on. The land has to be made available by the various States. The States are doing, and have done, good work, and will do still better work. New Departments had to be created in each State. The new machinery had to be adjusted, and it took some time to get it to run smoothly and quickly. The following are the details of the settlement of soldiers on the land up to 18th October, 1919, exclusive qf men who came back on to their own farms, or who already had the training to enable them to settle on land that they had acquired before they went to the Front: - New South Wales, 2,034 men settled, at a cost of £352,850 ;’ Victoria, 2,200, at a cost of £432,000; Queensland, 1,386, at a cost of £110,000; South Australia, 547, at a cost of £135,000; Western Australia, 1,025, at a’, cost of £259,000 ; Tasmania, 595, at a cost of £72,128. Total, 7,787 men settled, at a cost of £1,360,978. Yet honorable members opposite would have us believe that the Repatriation Department has done nothing ! There is another little score to be used against them when - they go to the country. The honorable member for Cook made a ‘bitter speech, , directed, as he thought, against the. Government, but against whom was it really aimed ? I see in this return the following information regarding local Repatriation Committees :
Local Committees. - An important part of the organization of the Department is the Local .Committee agency. Local Committees of repatriation throughout .the Commonwealth now number approximately 850, and the members of these Committees, in some instances, total over 200. It is safe to say that the army of voluntary workers under the Local Committee organization are to be numbered by thousands.
In effect, the honorable member says that those Committees have failed, because his speech: implies that they have done nothing. One has only to go into the suburbs of Melbourne to see what they are doing for our men, without money and without price. The Leader of the Opposition was fair enough the other night to say that the Minister for Repatriation had to perform a herculean task. So had his Department. Fancy a Department, which was not in existence two years ago; carrying out the great work that it has done! Mistakes have been made, and. will still be made, but no big business, and no Government, Labour or otherwise, has ever been run without a mistake. The unfair speeches we have heard from the other side to-night have been made purely for electioneering purposes. We are told about the great cost of the Repatriation Department, but here again we know the facts, as we know them in the case of all the other Departments, and they are certainly not as they are represented to be. It is most regrettable that the press and certain people in Australia should resort to the tactics that they adopt to criticise so bitterly men whose loyalty and capacity are beyond question. . I refer to men like theUnderTreasurer of the Commonwealth, and the manager of the Commonwealth Bank. Think of the responsibility they and their officers have to carry. Year after year, millions upon millions of pounds pass through their hands, and are accurately accounted for to the Auditor-General.
The following are the facts regarding the cost of the Repatriation Department : -
Administrative Cost.- A satisfactory feature of the conduct of repatriation affairs discloses, by an examination of the first eighteen months’ operations, that the total administrative cost of the Department was not 10 per cent. The administrative salaries accounted for 6 per cent. of the total administrative cost. In view of the factthat every application to the Departmenthas to be treated as a special case, involving incidental examination, the cost may be considered extremely moderate.
The affairs of every man who applies to the Department for assistance have to be carefully examined. The following shows the splendid results achieved : -
Since the inception of the Department, on 8th April, 1918, no fewer than 270,195 applications have been lodged with the Department. These were divided as follows: -
The total number of “first” applications, which represents total number of individual applicants, was 135,735.
How can any one say that a great deal has not been done? Honorable members should visit the vocational training establishments, and see what has been accomplished. They should go to McKay’s and see what has been done there for tike men in six months. I saw first-class men there on the lathes who had had only four months’ training. Mr. McKay is not, I understand, availing himself of the money to which: the Repatriation Department says he is entitled. He may draw up to 60 per cent. for inefficiency, but these men have proved themselves efficient. They showed themselves capable as fighters, and they have shown themselves capable since they came back. The speeches from the Opposition benches to-night are nothing but a slur upon those men. It is a shame to think that men’s names should be dragged into the debates of this Parliament purely for political purposes.
One honorable member opposite said that nothing had been done in regard to disbursements, that no funds had been found, and no attempt made to spend money. These are the official figures: -
Disbursements.-To 30th September the total disbursements on account of repatriation of returned soldiers was £2,139,186, divided as follows: -
Employment Section. - Of a total of 78,144 applications for employment, 62,194 men have been placed in employment.
In the face of those facts, is it fair, just, or right, on the eve of an election, for honorable members to make the misstatements that we ‘have heard to-night purely for political purposes? The following also are facts: -
Vocational Training Section. - In vocational training section, 15,879 courses have been approved out of 24,006 applications.
General Assistance. - In general assistance section, 144,416 applications have been granted out of 168,045 applications.
In vocational training, out of 1,061 applications received; 702 courses of training were approved, 118 refused, and 129 withdrawn, while 112 were awaiting decision at the end of September, 150 had completed their training, and 354 were continuing their courses.I have had the opportunity to look into the work of the Committee which is dealing with the timber question. The men from the
Trades Hall and the men from the employers’ side are to be highly commended for the splendid work theyare doing. They are working harmoniously together and forgetting their political differences in their efforts to benefit the soldiers. The return shows also what the Commonwealth has done to finance the States: -
Soldier Settlement. - The Commonwealth has also arranged to advance to the States from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000, to enable them to make land available for soldier settlement, and for the construction of necessary public works, such as railways, bridges, &c., for their successful occupation, returned soldiers to be given preference of employment.
That is the matter about which so much noise has been made to-night. No one ever expected or suggested that the States could absorband use that enormous amount of capital in one year. In face of those facts, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) would have the people outside believe that promises were made at the last election which the Prime Minister had no intention of carrying out.
The extraordinary statement was made in the Argus to-day that the Economy Commission had reported on the Cockatoo Dock, although the officer in charge of the dock was never examined or asked by them to give evidence. Surely that must shake confidence in the Commission. If a Commission did its duty it would allow the head of a Department to be present all the time his officials were being examined, and then would ask him to bring evidence in rebuttal. A Commission is supposed to be judicial and impartial. I have served on several, and I have always tried to shed my politics and be an impartial investigator. If it is true that the Commission reported on Cockatoo Island without examining the manager (Mr. King Salter) I shall take no notice of the Commission’s report, because it is evidence that somebody must be biased. Why was Mr. King Salter ignored? I hardly know the gentleman, but I say that it is not fair that the Commission should frame charges against a great Department without examining its head.
– That was most unfair.
– Who will take notice of a report framed under those conditions? I would not dare to quote it from the public platform lest somebody should ask, “ Have you good ground for saying that? Was the head of the Department ever examined ? “
– Mr. King Salter was a most experienced officer.
– That is so. I have been frequently at Cockatoo Island, and I believe that there is no other workshop in Australia that is under closer supervision. I have a little interest in an electrical workshop, and I know that it is not subject to the same degree of scrutiny as is Cockatoo Island.
– What about my cottages?
– I have never denied that I have private interests. It is necessary that I should have, because if I were to be put out of politics to-morrow Ishould be boycotted all over Australia, not by the trade unions, but by those gentlemen Who, at a conference, recently decided that some of us on this side should not be re-admitted to the Labour movement. An order has gone forth that we shall not be allowed the opportunity to earn our daily bread. Did they do that in the interests of the trade unions or of the rank and file? No; they did that in the interests of themselves, because they are afraid of competition. I must have some occupation to which I can turn when my parliamentary career ends. I am not afraid of being defeated at the election; because I have done my duty, hence I think the electors will still support me. From a monetary point of view, it is a matter of indifference to me whether I remain in this House or am put out of it, because I have a trade at which I can get work in any part of Australia, notwithstanding the action of certain gentlemen regarding some of us who sit on this . side of the House.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has in his day paid a little attention to electricity. He has introduced a little of that element into this chamber to-night. I do not know that there was any occasion for such agitation as he displayed. He has said a lot about honorable members on this side speaking through this House to the electors, but I have never listened to a speech that was more of an election appeal than that delivered by the honorable member to-night. In fact, there has been a good deal of electioneering in the House during the past week, and the honorable member has no right to criticise others for a fault of which he himself is equally guilty. He also criticised honorable members on this side for having had the temerity to point out some of the defects of the repatriation scheme. In doing that he made, by inference, a very serious attack upon the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), and. more particularly, upon the Treasurer (Mr. Watt). He would not, he said, quote one word on the public platform from the report of the Economy Commission, because he might be confronted by some departmental officer who would ask, “ Had I the opportunity to give evidence before the Commission?” Never did any honorable member obey the crack of the party whip more servilely than does the honorable member for Denison. There have been occasions when members of the Ministerial party have voted with the Labour Opposition, but never has this honorable member had the pluck to come over to this side and vote according to his convictions.
– I did not walk out of the Caucus room with Hughes and then walk back again.
-Whenever the party whip cracked the honorable member came to heel behind the most extreme Tories. . We know that the honorable member suffers from brain storms, and we sympathize with him. He had one of those attacks to-night.
– The honorable member is confusing brain storms with windy spasms.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) stated this afternoon that as far as practicable the Government intend to follow every recommendation made by the Economy Commission; yet the honorable member for Denison says he would not dare to quote on the public platform a report on which he places no reliance.
– And you say that the honorable member is a servile follower of the Government.
– The honorable member for Gippsland is the same. I re member when there was only one Independent in this House, but to-day there-‘ is no Independent; the honorable member responds readily to the crack of the party whip. He has succumbed to the influence of the Conservative party.
A good deal has been said regarding a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in relation to the indemnity to be received from Germany: I find that the right honorable gentleman said in the course of his speech on the Peace Treaty -
Probably, or possibly we may receive between now and the end of April, 1921, anything from £5,000,000 to £8,000,000. I say we may. How much we may get afterwards I do. not know. The rest of the payments is spread over a period of thirty years.
It is apparent that the Prime Minister was very doubtful as to what money is likely to be paid by the Germans. We may, or we may not, get some indemnity from them. The Treasurer seems to regard the indemnity as a sheet anchor for the soldiers’ gratuity, but I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) that if we wish to deal fairly by the soldiers, we should not hand over to them a piece of paper that is not negotiable. We should not give them a promissory note, with the warning that unless they are in dire distress the Government will not cash it. If we are to pay them a gratuity, let us have the manliness and courage to say that we shall pay it in cash, even though the. amount involved is £25,000,000
I, like other honorable members, am very much concerned about the present financial position.
– And yet the honorable member would pay the gratuity in cash.
– The issue of these gratuity bonds is a mere subterfuge on the part of the Government., They are afraid that some of their Conservative friends would think, if the Government promised the payment in cash, that the money would be extracted from their pockets, and as the Nationalists are looking for the support of the moneyed classes in the forthcoming election, they are very careful in what they do. But a courageous Government, who thought that the soldiers were deserving of a gratuity, would pay it to them in cash, after getting the consent of Parliament, asthe New Zealand Government have done. The Dominion, with a population of only 1,100,000 persons, is paying its soldiers a gratuity amounting to over £6,000,000. The payment is being made in an open and proper manner.
At the end of June, 1920, we shall have paid out in five years £473,936,000, and our total public debt - including Federal, State, and municipal debts, and loans raised by corporate bodies and private persons, which must be included; because, after all, the poorer people have bo meet the interest on private as well as on public borrowing - amounts to £1,000,000,000. That means that many millions of pounds per annum must be paid out in interest. Consideration of that fact should cause us to pause, and endeavour to put the finances of the country in a more satisfactory position.
Much has been said about the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. I would be glad to know that a bigger percentage of the soldiers were settling on the land, provided they were qualified for that life, but it has been estimated that only about 10 per cent., and certainly not more than 15 per cent., of the soldiers will go upon the land.
– Those figures refer to selectors over and above those who enlisted from the land.
– I am speaking of new settlement, because most of the men who were engaged on the land prior to enlistment will revert back to their former occupations. But if only15 per cent. of our soldiers will adopt a rural career - and that is a liberal estimate - what have the Government and Parliament done to find employment for the others? This House, at the dictation of the Prime Minister, is to terminate its life from six to eight months earlier than is necessary. It would have been possible in that space of time to place on the statute-book a Protective Tariff that would maintain the industries already established, and those commenced during the war, and give encouragement for the establishment of new ones, thus affording one of the best possible means of finding employment for our people. I am afraid that the members who will bereturned to the new Parliamentwill not be so pronouncedly Protectionist as the present Parliament, and it may not be able to do all that is necessary in the direction I have indicated.
– You have to remember that about 30 per cent. of the men originally came from the land, and have gone back to it. This; with the 15 per cent. of new settlers, accounts for 45 per cent. of the whole number.
– Even so; but we all know that there are many men in every capital city who have not been provided with employment. Investors in the commercial world hesitate to invest their money in industrial enterprises in the absence of any definite indication of what is intended in the way of Tariff revision. In the case of many industries established during the war, in which thousands of pounds were invested, the works are now closed owing to foreign competition and any certainty as to what may be done by the Government.
I have always been favorable to giving the man on the land a fair deal. Every true Labour man is an advocate of good wages and conditions, whether it be in the workshop or on the farm, and the greater the variety of employment the more likelihood is there of a prosperous and contented people. This country is brimful of raw material, but it is taken away in shiploads to other countries, there to be manufactured, and then returned to be sold to us. If the conditions in this regard were otherwise, employment would be found for thousands of people who are now idle. I hope that many honorable members in the present Parliament who at one time had a strong leaning towards Free Trade, but who have turned from their former fiscal theories, will be returned to help in the highly necessary work of Tariff reform. If we are to establish the nation on a proper basis, there must, as I say, be a variety of industries, and we cannot have that unless we are prepared to erect a fair Tariff wall. We are within a stone’s throw of one-half the population of the world, and a coloured population at that, who work under conditions impossible for white men. A considerable part of the competition to which we are now subjected is on the part of those coloured people, who are sending millions of pounds’ worth of goods here to the detriment of our own industries. It is clear that some action should be taken bythe Government and we have a promise from Ministers in this regard. As a matter of fact, they could do something by regulation to-day to save- industries that were established during war time; and if they do not do it, at their door will lie the charge of having practically murdered some of those enterprises. To-morrow will be the last meeting of this Parliament, and I can only hope that thoroughgoing’ Protectionists will be returned to the new Parliament to provide a proper scientific Tariff which will have the effect of developing industry and affording employment to our own people.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) on his very lucid statement this afternoon. The honorable gentleman put the case in a way that’ enabled all to grasp the position, and, indeed, it was just such a statement as we were looking for. One of my complaints against the present Government is that they have not defended themselves as they might by what is described as “ blowing their own horn “ : they might on many occasions have thoroughly justified their actions had they cared to do so.
I am pleased to note that the Government have taken some notice of the report of the Economy Commission. I saw the newspaper paragraph in which Mr. King .Salter, the head of the Cockatoo Dockyard, said he had not been consulted in connexion with the inquiries by the Commission ; a’nd this, I think, is a matter to which the Government should pay some attention. The Economy Commission’s work should be judged after inquiry as to how it arrived at its conclusions. I regret that the Commission has not inquired into the Government’s activities, about which I am rather suspicious. I hope no time will be lost by the Commission in making proper inquiries, and informing the House and the country what is the actual position in regard to these activities.. I understand that Mr. Smailes has resigned his position at the Woollen Mills. This may be pure coincidence, but the sooner we know how these numerous Government activities stand the better.
I have no sympathy for the profiteer, and hold no brief for him ; but it is -just as well for us to face the facts as we find them. This cry of profiteering may fool the people for a while. I believe that profiteering has gone on to a large extent, but I have already suggested in this House that if Flinders-lane were cut out, at least 30 per cent, of the profiteering would be cut out. The Age newspaper, which is anti-profiteering, does not fail to accuse the farmers of indulging in the practice if they meet together to suggest that they should store their, produce. Any attempt that is made in Australia to cut down the cost of living is made at the expense of the primary producers, whose products are always those that jure, subjected to price fixing, and are not allowed the world’s price for the export surplus. But we might as well charge the proprietors of the Age itself with being huge profiteers. They charge 2d. for their Saturday issue, and this mean? that something like £700 per week is taken by them out of the pockets of the public, while, at the same time, those pro,prietors ask the Postal Department to convey their newspapers all over Australia at postal rates. The Age gives their readers about four pages of reading matter, and twenty pages - sometimes twenty-two - of advertisements, for which they are highly paid. The extra penny which is taken from the public in the case of the Saturday issue means about £36,000 a year; and yet, because the producers of Australia attempt to store their stock, they are described as profiteers.
– What do the proprietors of the Age give for the £36,000 ? “
– They give the Postal Department much more work to do; but I do not know that the general public, outside those interested in advertisements, get very much. I am not complaining of the news, or want of news; but, in regard to the advertisements, I think much wartime profit which should have gone into the coffers of the Government has gone into the coffers of, not only the Age, but the Argus, and other newspapers. Then, again, many persons, on finding they were making profits during war time which were likely to be taxed, spent them in advertising their business, to the great benefit of the newspapers.
– We would not get on very w.ell without the newspapers.
– We would not; but I like to see consistency, even in a newspaper. As I have said before,, one of the big’ factors in the high cost of living is the fact that we are under-producing. The war took away from the work of production about 200,000 men. and what these men produced must have been worth at least £26,000,000 a year. That loss has been going on for five years, and we now find ourselves faced with a demand that the existing producers are unable to supply. The result is that prices are high, and are going to continue high, and the only thing that will save us from bankruptcy is the encouragement of the producers, who ought to be paid the world’s market value. It is possible that before long this great Commonwealth will be called upon to study economy, not only in its own financial arrangements, but in the financial arrangements of the States. There is an obligation on us to see that none of the States become bankrupt.
I notice that Mr. T. J. Ryan, the Director-Generalof the Labour campaign, has been designated as a man who will do big things. He has certainly succeeded in doing big things by way of wasting the assets of Australia, more particularly those of Queensland. The AuditorGeneral of Queensland, in one of his reports, says -
It is obvious that if the financial stability of the State is to be maintained, the gravity of the present situation, and the risk in regard to the future, call for thoughtful reflections.
If our Auditor-General wrote in the same way, I am sure this Parliament would take notice of it, and begin to wonder what was wrong with the affairs of the Commonwealth. On looking over the reports of the State Auditor-General, I note that in 1914-15 there was a profit of £48,651 on the Queensland railways, the year in which Mr. Ryan took office. Since then, the record of the Queensland railways has been -
No provision has been made to liquidate that deficit. It stands as a liability against the Queensland Government. During those four years freights and passenger rates were increased by over 10 per cent.
Again, the Director-General, of the Labour campaign, following upon the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that he was in favour of the primary producers getting the world’s parity for their products, which, as I claim, isabsolutelynecessary if Australia is to meet its liabilities. In order to judge the aspiring Leader of the great party now in opposition by his past actions, I propose to show what he has done in this direction. In 1916, he placed an embargo on the export of beef from Queensland, so that the pastoralists of that State could not sell their meat to feed the people in the southern States.I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) succeeded in getting hi? photograph in a newspaper for having purchased some 40 tons of shin beef from Queensland. The farmers who own properties on both sides of the boundary between that State and New South Wales had to deposit 10s. per head before they could shift their stock from one holding to the other. Of course, the amount was returned if they took their cattle back again; but, in any case, it was a penalty upon the export of cattle from Queensland, and preventedbeef from being sent away. By these means, Mr. Ryan forced the pastoralists of Queensland to enter into a contract to supply his State butcher’s shops with 12,000 tons of beef per annum at the rate of 3½d. per lb.
– I believe that it was 3d. per lb. for chilled meat and3¼d. for frozen.
– It was just as well for the public to know that the meat supplied to the State butcheries in Queensland is the frozen meat to which the people of Victoria so much object. Before they could send away their surplus meat, they had to enter into this contract. If the producers of Queensland obtained 4d. per lb., which is the price at which the meat is sold under the contract between the Queensland Government and the Imperial Government, they would have received nearly £250,000 more for the 12,000 tons of beef which was commandeered for the purpose of feeding the multitudes in Brisbane. The price of the Imperial contract was very much lower than the world’s parity which Mr. Ryan says the farmers ought to get. I want the people to know how the producers in
Queensland have got the world’s parity for anything in which he has had a hand.
The same remarks apply in regard to dairy produce. When the honorable member for Yarra(Mr. Tudor) was Minister for Trade and Customs, he placed an embargo on the export of first grade butter from Australia. He said that until the price of butter sold locally was brought down to what he considered was a fair figure, he would insist on the retention of the embargo. I argued the point with him; but he told me, in that bluff and understandable way of his, that he had come to a decision on the matter, and did not intend to depart from it. Evidently he and his party thought that the butter in Queensland was needed for Australia; but Mr.Ryan bested him by. refusing to allow it to be sent out of the State. However, in the end Mr. Ryan found that Queensland did not require all the butter it produced. What did he do in order to overcome the embargo which had been placed on the export of first grade butter from Australia? I do not know whether he actually ordered it, but, at any rate, the grading officers of the State Agricultural Department were ordered to go over the butter in cool store, not to regrade it, but to mark it second grade. In this way, despite the objection of the honorable member for Yarra, this butter was despatched overseas and sold. At that time the London parity for first grade butter was 170s. per cwt. ; but this butter had been commandeered by Mr. Ryan at 130s. 8d. per cwt. I think I am right in presuming that the dairymen did not get the 40s. per cwt. difference, but that it went into the Consolidated Revenue of the State of Queensland.
– The country that finances itself at the expense of the producers is bound to go down.
– Does not every one finance himself at the expense of the produce of the worker?
Mr.SINCLAIR.- I believe that the worker is entitled to a living wage; but if we are to have a stable country, which can meet its engagements and pay its workers that living wage, it must encourage the primary producers. I look with favour on factories that have sprung up ; but if we took the primary producer out of the country, our secondary industries could not exist. To-day we have the unhappy spectacle of seeing about66 per cent. of the community living on the 33 per cent. who are the real primary producers of Australia. Among the primary producers, of course, I include men who produce from the soil, whether it be coal, gold, or anything else. The man who takes a sovereign out of one pocket and puts it into another doesnot make himself any richer ; but he who produces from the soil is bringing wealth into the country. The secondary industries certainly help the producers and the country; but, take away the primary producers from any country, and it will very soon go bankrupt. I warn the people, and Mr. Ryan, if he becomes leader of the greatparty opposite, that a policy of feeding the cities at the expense of the country will very soon end, because there would be no food in the country for the city.
– This afternoon the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) gave us a very informative speech in regard to the position of the finances. No honorable member can view the financial position without very serious misgivings as to the future. The accumulated debt on the 30th June, 1919, was £707,000,000. As the Treasurer informs us, it will be necessary to add about £30,500,000 this year, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said, in Brisbane, that it will be necessary to provide something like £25,000,000 for a war gratuity. These figures give us a grand total of £762,500,000, which will demand an annual interest payment of about £32,000,000.
– There is £10,000,000 of revenue to set off against that amount.
– The estimated expenditure for this year from revenue is £49,500,000, and from loan about £53,750,000, or a total of £103,365,000, equal to about £2,000,000 per week. I am one of those who believe that the time has come when we should not only consider our financial position so far as its taxation incidence is concerned, but that we should seriously bend our minds to the question of how we are to meet our obligations. It is because I desire to submit, very briefly, a proposal in regard toa primary industry that I venture to intrude into thedebate. I am quite satisfied as to the truth of some of the statements made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), although his illustrations are, unfortunately, very wide of the truth. He is quite right in saying that neither this nor any other country can meet its engagements and develop its resources while at the same time making any progress as a nation, unless it can establish on a satisfactory and sound basis its primary industries. There is one industry that it seems to me Australia has too long neglected. The time has come when we should seriously consider, not only how we can assist and develop the existing industries of the Commonwealth, but how we may conveniently and profitably open up new industries. I propose, in a few words, to suggest that we should devote special attention at this juncture to’ the establishment of the cotton industry, the cotton-seed industry, and castor-oil bean, production in Australia.
It may be remem’bered that last week I intervened in the debate on the Appropriation (Additions, New Works and Buildings) Bill, to make some reference to the cotton industry. I do not desire to-night to retraverse the ground I then covered, but, unfortunately, I was unable, under the Standing Orders, to develop and establish my argument. When honorable members realize that of the 1,500,000,000 inhabitants of the earth 500,000,000 regularly wear clothes; that about 750,000,000 are partially clothed, that 250,000,000 habitually go naked or nearly so, and that these people are all in a position to increasingly require clothing, which is largely dependent upon the cotton industry, they will see that at least there exists, ready, and immediately available, a wide constituency for the products of the cotton industry. The cotton industry has assumed very large proportions. In the “United States, it is said to be the crop that feeds and clothes the people. The United States of America produces from 12.000.000 to 14,000,000 bales of cotton of 500 lb. each every year. About 12,000,000 persons are engaged in the production and handling of this immense crop, and the value of the American cotton crop, and of the by-products, such as cotton-seed linters, oil, and oil-cake, ranges from £300,000,000 to £350.000,000. England imports from £70,000,000 to £100,000,000 worth of fibre every year, not to speak of other commodities, such as cotton-seed 9nd cotton-seed oil. It is estimated that over 3,000,000 persons in Lancashire are directly interested in the cotton trade, and that over 10,000,000 other inhabitants of Great Britain are directly or indirectly connected with the industry.
It is well known that the cotton production of the world has decreased very seriously of late, and that, although it averages about 20,000,000 bales per annum, even that is not sufficient to meet the world’s requirements. The fact that there has been such a serious shortage of late, and that the market for cotton is likely to remain for some years in a very favorable position, seems to me to offer to us, particularly at this juncture, an inducement to consider how we may establish the industry. In a lecture delivered in Melbourne, so far back as 1904, it was pointed out that. America, at that time, had 4,500 textile factories costing about £220,000,000; that, in 1880, it had forty cotton-seed oil-mills in the south; and that, in 1904, there were over 700. In respect of raw cotton alone, the total exceeded the figures of the previous year by £10,000,000. The exports of oil and meal by-products alone amounted to more than £5,000,000 annually. In 1879, its oil by-products realized £2,850,000; and the lecturer- stated that in the past decade they had realized £21,000,000. In 1903, the returns from meal by-products realized £2,450,000.
In Australia there is a tremendous shortage of cotton goods. Prices have increased to an enormous extent, and the workers of this community are paying for cotton goods to-day prices that are simply fabulous, having regard to the ease with which this useful article can be produced in Australia, and the remarkable suitability of Australia to its production. I have authorities to support me in my suggestion that we ought to, and can, produce this’ crop to considerable advantage. In a report presented to the British Cotton Growing Association, it is stated that -
In Australia there arc enormous areas of good cotton land, and the quality of the cotton which can he grown there is ‘ excellent, but the cost of labour will probably be a serious obstacle to the development of the industry.
I propose later on to deal with the cost of labour. There is an unfortunate misconception on the part of most people when one speaks of cotton culture, that it is a cheap-labour industry. That is very wide of the truth. A Mr. W. A.
Campbell, speaking before the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, in 1903, said of the Northern Territory -
I had everyopportunity of inspecting the watersheds area of the most important rivers of that almost unknown land, mainly that of the King, the Ord, the Negri, the East Baines, the West Baines, the Great Victoria, and many other rivers, and I have come to the conclusion that probably in no part of the world can better land be found for cotton culture. The proximity to the sea of a considerable area of this land, which is favoured with a cool saline air so needful to the cultivation of Sea Island and other species of cotton plant, gives it an exceptional value.
In regard to Western Australia, it was reported, in 1905, in a statement appearing in the Perth Morning Herald, that in that State “ We have the finest climate on the earth for growing cotton, a regular wet and dry season, with a sandy loam soil largely charged with potash,” and, in Dalgety’s Review, of October, 1914, it is pointed but that “We have the best soil and the best climate “ for the production of cotton’. With regard to tropical Australia, Doctor Thomatis, a recognised authority on this question, read before the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, in 1904, a paper, in which he stated -
In northern Australia, where I am -
He lives in Cairns, and has established a cotton farm there - itwould be foolish to cultivate southern crops, because they would not grow here successfully, so as to be payable. What else, then, can we tropical settlers grow? The answer isvery easy, “ cotton.” Cotton thrives marvellously in the northern regions of Australia. Nature herself points it out to us, because we have native or indigenous wild cotton in the Gulf of Carpentaria and about Port Darwin.
Later on, he said -
This territory is capable of at once producing enough cotton, and of the best quality, to supply, not only England, but the whole world; also sugar, coffee, arrowroot, rice, ginger, pepper, spices, &c.
Dr. Thomatis has clearly established the fact that in the hinterland of Cairns the cotton industry can be established on a successful basis with absolute security. A Mr. Woods, ah American cottongrower, who visited Australia in 1914, was interviewed by a representative of the Brisbane Daily Mail, and from the report of that interview I make the following quotation - “ I have here the finest samples of cotton you can see in. any country in the world,” remarked Mr. E. E. Wood, an ‘American cotton-grower, as he displayed a number ‘of pods loaded with the fleecy white material before a Daily Mail reporter yesterday. “No; they are not American samples,” he continued, “ I gathered some of them from the State school yard at Capella, in your own State of Queensland, and others from Mr. Simpson’s place, south of Dulacca.”
With what object?
I am taking them back with me to, America in a few days, and, say, won’t the people in the States open their eyes when they see them ? “
This is but a summarized statement of the exceptionally fortunate position occupied by Australia in regard to the production of cotton, which is assuming such tremendous importance at the present time. The question naturally arises, “ What are the prospects in regard to the cultivation of cotton “I have here authorities, which I am not going to unload on the Committee at this late hour, but they show that the average return obtained by those who have experimented in cotton-growing in Queensland is from £25 to £30 per acre. That is the direct result. I have that statement on the authority of, not only Dr. Thomatis, but of others’ who have actually grown the plant and have had the returns submitted to them. For instance, Mr. Latzow, in the Loowood district, states that up to £20 worth of cotton has been gathered by him from 1 acre. He showed Mr. Jones the Queensland cotton expert in 1918, a plot of ground less than 1 acre in extent from which he had gathered £50 worth of fibre. In other districts the average was £20 worth of cotton per acre, and in one district the same average was obtained from a block of 3 acres. Evidence accumulates in the most substantial form as to the remarkably satisfactory returns that can be obtained.
It is well known that Queensland has experimented in the growth of cotton, and that the degree of success obtained has been particularly encouraging. According to the Queensland Agricultural Journal for September last, the total exported from Queensland has been 13,046,393 lbs., with an export value of £482,783 gained from 96,117 acres. The quantity of ginned cotton produced in Queensland rose from 9,445 lbs. of seed cotton in 1914 to 106,458 in 1918. The Queensland cotton industry has suffered an unfortunate experience in the matter of Customs duty. A duty was placed upon cotton towels and such like goods, and the firm of
Messrs. Joyce Brothers made very determined efforts to carry on the manufacture of towels and other articles.
It was discovered that under one of the technical provisions of the Customs Act if towelling and sheeting came in one piece they could be introduced duty free as cotton piece goods. So the importers brought out the towels in long rolls, and then all they had to do was to cut the selvedge, and so secure the importation of towels duty free. . This led to the absolute closing down of the Ipswich Cotton Mills. In recent years, because of the war, there has been a tremendous demand for cotton, and we have had some slight indication that attention will again be given in Australia to this particular commodity. The revival in the cotton industry in Queensland encourages us to believe that something may be done of a permanent and substantial character to establish the industry here.
– Does the Commonwealth give any bonus for the production of cotton ?
– There is a slight bonus payable upon the production of ginned cotton. My difficulty in dealing with this matter is to select from the wealth of material at my disposal what will be the most convincing arguments to induce the Government to give attention to the promotion of this industry. In the year 1912, I suggested in this House to the Labour Government in power that something might be done to encourage a move then being made by the British Cotton Growers Association to find new fields of production, as the available cotton supplies were quite insufficient for the demand. Mr. Fisher made an offer of £500 towards the expenses of a visitor authorized by the British Cotton Growers Association to come to Australia and make investigations as to the suitability of this country for the growth of cotton. There was no doubt on the matter, nor did the British Cotton Growers Association have any doubt as to the suitability of Australia for the cultivation of cotton, but they had decided at that time to launch out on a big scheme to develop the supplies of raw cotton for their mills in Lancashire. Mr. Fisher’s offer was submitted to them, but for some reason or another it was not acted upon. In 1914 I repeated my question to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) in this form -
To those questions the honorable member for Yarra replied -
Since that time, owing to the position brought about by the war, no further action was taken. It is because I believe that something should be done that I venture to intrude this question at this juncture.
One point more, and that is in reference to the labour problem, and I shall leave the question. As I have previously remarked, there is some misconception in the minds of many people that cotton is a product requiring cheap labour for its cultivation. I wish to submit some quotations against that idea. Mr. W. A. Campbell, C.E., speaking before the Royal Geographical Societyof Australasia, in 1903, said -
The cotton plant is about the most inexpensive plant to cultivate of any of the fibre family, and will flourish and produce a crop in from six to eight months equal to 400 to 800 lbs. of’ ginned cotton per acre, and from 800 to 1,700 lbs. of cottonseed.
He referred to experiments by the Americans and Egyptians, and went on to say -
But, even allowing them all the cheap labour, and taking into consideration our more suitable climate, our less expenses in horse labour, our being in aposition to grow cotton of the best quality as a perennial and cultivate it on the Guiana or West Indian principle, which is solely tropical, we could hold our own successfully, and at the same time create an industry which would give employment to thousands of settlers in the cottonfarming area of the Northern Territory in a manner which is, at . present, quite unknown in Australia.
Dr. Thomatis, the gentleman to whom I have referred as having established a cotton farm near ‘Cairns, in Queensland, says-
It is a very simple inexpensive culture, that can be carried on very comfortably by white labour, and by farmers with their growing families of children; and, of course, the more of these, the better for the old father.
I quote now from the Queensland Agricultural Journal for February, 1919, in which Mr. Daniel Jones, the instructor in cotton-growing, writes : -
It becomes feasible to accept the idea that, in the Commonwealth it is practicable to make of this industry one that will become a profitable avenue of rural enterprise to any who may elect to engage therein. There are various reasons for the contention that this vocation can be carried on entirely by white labour, earning a fair remuneration from all its branches, whether it be the rural or textile ‘ features of the industry.
In the same journal for November, 1915, the following statement is made : -
There ib a very erroneous impression among some Queensland farmers that cotton is still grown in the United States of America by coloured labour. This is not the case. Cotton is grown there, as here in Queensland, by white labour, and farm hands in the States of America are quite as alive to the “ living wage” as are those of this State.
Them I quote from the Brisbane Daily Mail the following with respect to the opinion of Mr. “Wood, who visited Australia in 1914:-
Mr. Wood sees no reason why cotton growing and picking cannot be carried on exclusively fay white labour. The community in which he lived was entirely white. No coloured people lived either there or in the adjoining country. All their cotton-growing, picking, and incidental labour was done by white men. Cottonpickers in America earn from 6s. to 16s. per day, which -he considered would compare very favorably with the wages paid here in other industries. An American who has come to Queensland, picked 600 lbs. of cotton at Capella in ono day, which at Jd. per lb., earned him a little over ?1 for his day’s labour.
The Melbourne Age said quite recently that-
The British Consul-General at San Francisco reports that cotton-growing has been introduced in the Imperial Valley, California, where, with the aid of irrigation, a fine long staple cotton is being obtained. White labour is employed to the extent of 70 per cent., as against 20 per cent, of Mexican and 6 per cent, of East Indian. In the Arizona Salt River Valley, Egyptian cotton is raised by white labour. The possibility of growing cotton in good Boil and a good climate with only white labour has, in Texas, been fully demonstrated, u’ 1 I I il
Let these quotations suffice to show that the successful carrying on of this industry does not require any special economic conditions in regard to wages.
My final word in regard to this question is this: “We have evidence of the importance of the cotton industry. There is a demand for cotton. There is an unlimited market for all that Australia can expect to produce for years to come. The Australian quality is equal to the best in the world. We can grow cotton as a perennial, whereas in other countries it is grown as an annual. Experiments are proceeding, and it is expected that in a short time a machine will be available for picking cotton which will entirely do away with the necessity for picking it by hand. Great tracts lying idle in Australia could be utilized for this purpose. I know of no industry that could be more effectively operated by returned soldiers or other settlers than this. The danger in establishing new industries of this character is that the settlers are put down at such distances from each other that there is no community of interest or social intercourse. We must group them into villages or townships, with their plantations or farms surrounding them. If the Northern Territory is ever to be satisfactorily settled, we must provide there some sort of social community. I suggested years ago to the Minister in charge of the Territory that an area of land suitable for cotton culture should be selected there, and a number of settlers chosen to occupy it, and settled in groups, instead of in detached units miles apart. I shall be glad if the Government will take this matter into their consideration, because if production is so absolutely necessary to meet our tremendous commitments, we must not only develop the industries we have, but establish new ones.’ This is One that can be most easily established, and offers an immediate and satisfactory return. There are a number of useful by-products from the industry, and altogether it offers a most inviting field for prosperous settlement.
.- Out of pity for Ministers, I shall leave until the next Parliament the advocacy of the establishment .of those big industries which would be just as helpful and necessary to the future development of Australia as the great cotton industry of
Queensland. A good deal of this debate has had reference to the seriousness of the finances of the Commonwealth. They are serious, but not hopeless, and certainly not as serious aa some people would make out. It is a big load for the people of. Australia to carry, but it is not so extra big for Australia to carry. The resources and possibilities of Australia are quite equal to the strain, if we only have the people to develop them and produce the . wealth that the country contains in abundance. One way to make the burden light is to encourage people to come here and help us to develop the great territory which has been given to us. I do not think- our public debt is such a serious problem as it would have been before’ the war, because, after all, we pay the interest on it by means of our primary products, which bring much higher prices than before the war. So long as they maintain those prices, they will pay the interest, and eventually the principal of our big loans. Sp long as we can continue our production and even increase it, we shall not be in anything like a hopeless position so far as the public debt is concerned. Three-quarters of the State debts are covered bv big public works, including railways, which, for the most part, are earning interest, so that the position is not so very serious, although we must take notice of it, and be careful as regards the future. If we develop the country as’ we ought, and do not sit down and wait for wealth to come to us, I have no fear for the future of Australia, while that future is in the hands of the men and the relatives of’ the men who have proved their worth on other soils.
Another part of the debate has bean devoted to the subject of repatriation. I am getting rather sick of the attitude of many people, who seem to infer that the Government and Parliament and people of Australia, do not want to do what is fair by the returned soldier. My experience has been -that the people who call out loudest about the returned soldier not getting a fair deal are those who not only did not go to the Front, but discouraged others from going by every means in their power. They are sedulously trying to create in the mind of the returned soldier the impression that the little injustices - for there are little grievances and injustices, and there always will be- -are deliberately inflicted by the Government and Parliament. The people of Australia have only one idea in . their minds, and that is to give the soldiers a fair deal. This Parliament fairly represents and reflects that idea, and, so far as the finances of Australia will permit, I am sure we all intend that, those who have done honour to Australia. shall not in any way suffer, because, when called upon, they did their duty as men.
Question’ resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Sir Joseph Cook do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
Loan Bill (No. 3).
Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill. Matrimonial Causes (Expeditionary Forces) Bill.
Sugar Industry Commission Bill’. Navigation Bill. Customs Tariff Validation Bill. Excise Tariff Validation Bill. Tasmanian Loan Redemption Bill.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191023_reps_7_90/>.