8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair’ at 11.0 a.m., and read prayers
– I shall bring the honorable member’s remarks under the notice of Senator Russell, who is in charge of shipping at the present time, and shall give him an answer later.
Prices, Freights, and Costs
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
3 and 4. Inquiry will be made, and I shall endeavour to furnish the honorable member with a reply as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the Government’s announced decision to appoint aRoyal Commission to inquire into the incidence of taxation, has the Government yet considered the personnel of such a Commission; and, if not, will the Government favorably consider a personnel as follows: -(a) As Chairman, a High Court or Supreme Court Judge; a nominee (b) of the Commonwealth Government; (c) of the State Governments of Australia; (d) of the primary producers of Australia; (e) of the manufacturers of Australia; (f) of the commercial and trading community of Australia?
– The intention of the Government is to make the personnel of the proposed Royal Commission as representative as possible of all interests, including some of those mentioned by the honorable member.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
How many informal votes were there in the recent. Commonwealth elections held on the 13th December last -
In New South Wales - (a) in the Senate election; (6) in the election for the House of Representatives?
In Victoria - (a) in the Senate election; (b) in the election for the House of Representatives ?
In Queensland - (a) in the Senate election; (b) in the election for the House of Representatives?
In South Australia - (a) in the Senate election; (6) in the election for the House of Representatives?
In Western Australia - (a) in the Senate election; (b) in the election for the House of Representatives?
In Tasmania - (a) in the Senate election; (b) in the election for the House of Representatives ?
– The number of informal ballot-papers in the recent elections -was as follows : -
New South Wales - Senate, 67,227: House of Representatives, 26,520
Victoria - Senate, 49,605; House of Representatives, 14,347
Queensland - Senate, 26,468; House of Representatives, 10,840
South Australia - Senate, 16,135; House of Representatives, 9,634
Western Australia - Senate, 9,315; House of Representatives, 3,890
Tasmania - Senate, 6,364; House of Representatives, 3,304
Total for Commonwealth - Senate, 175,114; House of Representatives, 68,535
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Figures showing the revenue received for the use of the trunk lines referred to are not available. Separate accounts are kept only for the Inter-State trunk lines, Sydney-Melbourne and AdelaideMelbourne respectively, all other trunk lines are grouped under one heading in the departmental accounts.
Proclamation of Peace
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - ].. Whether it is a fact that the war with Germany and Austria-Hungary has ceased?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Commonwealth War Loans
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether lie intends taking any action with reference to the recent amendment of the Queensland Income Tax Act, whereby the interest on the various issues of the Commonwealth war loans - which are free from taxation - is to be taken into consideration in assessing the tax due in the State referred to?
– The Treasurer has given consideration to this matter, and is awaiting advice from the Commonwealth law officers.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether the Repatriation Department has been asked to repay the cost of the factory recently erected at Bulimba by the Queensland Government for the purpose of canning pineapples from the returned soldier settlements ?
Telegraph Officers and Linesmen
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When will the arbitration awards of Post and Telegraph officers and line inspectors be paid?
– The law provides _ that such arbitration awards must be laid on the table of the House for thirty days before they can come into operation. This has been done in. regard to the awards referred to, and, provided Parliament, does not disapprove, the payments thereunder’ will be made on and after 29th March and 3rd April, 1920, respectively.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– I shall have the matter inquired into, and advise the honorable member as early as possible.
CASE OF Mr. MORLEY.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. An official note made in the Presiding Officer’s memorandum book discloses that Mr. Morley marked his ballot-papers at the Presiding Officer’s table instead of proceeding, as he should have done, to a voting compartment.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether in view of the prevailing high price of cornsacks, it is proposed to take steps to insure a supply at reasonable rates for the coming season?
– As it is the policy of the Government to permit trade to flow back into non-governmental channels, the Government do not propose to take any steps in the direction indicated by the honorable member.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that the position of private secretary to the Treasurer has been filled by a gentleman who has not complied with the conditions laid down by the Commonwealth Public Service Act?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. No. The gentleman who has been appointed to the position of private secretary to the Treasurer has complied with the conditions laid down by the Commonwealth Public Service Act. The appointment is a temporary one only, and has been approved by the Public Service Commissioner.
Native Born and Naturalized
– On the 3rd March, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) asked me the following questions : -
I then furnished a reply to question No. 6, and inti mated that the information asked for in Nos. 1 to 5 would require some time to prepare, but that I would make it available as soon as possible. I am now in a position to supply the honorable member with the following replies to Nos. 1 to 5 : -
Motion (by Mr. Hughes), by leave, agreed to -
That leave lie given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Judiciary Act 1913-1915, and for other purposes.
The following papers were presented : -
Postmaster-General’s Department - Ninth Annual Report, 1918-19.
Austria - Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Austria, together with the Protocol and Declarations Annexed thereto, signed at Saint-Ger- main-en-Laye, 14th September, 1919.
Treaty of Peace between Allied and Associated Powers andAustria - Protocol of signature signed at Saint GermainenLaye, 10th September, 1919.
Austro-Hungary - Agreement between the Allied and Associated Powers with regard to the contributions to the cost of liberation of the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, signed at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 10th September, 1919.
Italian Reparation Payments - Agreement between the Allied and Associated Powers with regard to, signed at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 10th September, 1919.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 36.
In Committee: Consideration resumed from 11th March (vide page 352.)
Clause 2 (Issue and application of £5,727,180).
. -When the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) was explaining the Supply Bill to the Committee, he stated that the amount provided for in this Bill would carry the Government on till the end of May. That means that we are asked to practically pass Supply for nearly the whole of the remainder of the financial year without having an opportunity of discussing the expenditure. I remember the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), when he was sitting on this side of the House, writing for the Sydney Mail a series of articles called “ The Financial Carnival.” If the country was engaged in a financial carnival then, the present rate of expenditure might be described by a much stronger phrase. At that time Supply was usually obtained for a month at a time; only on exceedingly rare occasions was the House asked to vote Supply for three or four months. Wehave departed from that practice. The Treasurer stated also that but for the election having intervened, the Estimates would have been disposed of in December of last year. He went on to say that the reason they were not dealt with was that after the Prime Minister returned from England, Parliament was busy in dealing with thevarious Pool’s and other matters. He was evidently referring to the Commercial Activities Bill. I find that the Prime Minister returned to Australia in August, whilst the Commercial Activities Bill passed through this House on the 3 1st July. I believe that it was assented to before the Prime Minister’s arrival, so that the explanation given by the Treasurerwas absolutely incorrect.
– What is the good of bothering with what happened in the last Parliament? Why not get on with the job?
– I shall get on with the job. In order to obviate an all-night sitting, which I am alwaysready to avoid if possible, I promised the Prime Minister last night that the Supply Bill would be passed through the House by 4 o’clock this afternoon. That undertaking will be honoured by every honorable member on this side of the House.
One matter has apparently been lost sight of. The Treasurer forecasts an amendment of the Public Service Act to place the Service under a Board of Management. That will mean probably the appointment of three Commissioners instead of one. We were told subsequently that the Post Office would be placed under a Board of business men. As a representative of a metropolitan constituency, I do not think that that arrangement will be bad for the vested city interests, but if I were a country representative, I should not like to see the control of the Post Office handed over to men who will see that the city interests are looked after. We shall have exactly the same trouble as is experienced in the State Parliament in connexion with the railways. There the Minister shelters himself behind the excuse that the Railway Department is being managed by the Commissioners, and he has no power at all.
I did not speak to the amendment put forward by the Country party, because I felt that honorable members who had not spoken on the censure motion moved by me had a prior claim. There are many items in the Bill which should be discussed. Some honorable members will desire to know why one State receives different treatment from the others in regard to the export of base metals. So that other honorable members may have an opportunity of bringing before the Committee the items in which they are interested, I shall content myself with having placed on record the inaccuracy of the Treasurer’s statement regarding the reason for not proceeding with the Estimates last year.
– This clause covers the whole total of the Supply Bill. If it is agreed to, will honorable members be precluded from movingamendments to the Schedule or will it be contended that, haying agreed to clause 2, the Committee has assented to the full total of the Bill?
.- There has been a good deal of discussion regarding economy and the reduction of expenditure. Although I took no part in the debate on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), I have listened with considerable interest to it. The striking feature of the debate was that when honorable members had an opportunity, a few days previously, of casting a vote in support of the principle for which they alleged they were standing, they refused to vote against the Government, presumably, because the motion was moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members in the Ministerial corner were found voting with the representatives of the middlemen. I think the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) was justified in his suggestion that honorable members in the Ministerial corner had really passed & vote of confidence in the Government, but that they then turned round and moved what amounted to a vote of want of confidence.
– We had tabled our amendment before any other was indicated.
– But the honorable member specifically stated that his amendment was not intended to be a vote of want of confidence.
– The honorable member said that the amendment was moved in a spirit of sympathy with the Government. And it was remarkable that when the division took place the Country party did not vote solidly.
– The honorable member is not in order in dealing with something upon which the Committee has already decided.
– I am just leading up to a point. The Country party acted inconsistently. Honorable members on this side who represent country constituencies voted consistently on both occasions; they supported the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition and that which emanated from the Country party, because they realized that the interests of the primary producer and the consumer are identical. That was illustrated by the votes cast by the honorable members for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham). Angas (Mr. Gabb), Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) and Calare (Mr. Lavelle), and those gentlemen were supported by representatives of industrial centres, whether they were sent here by waterside workers, miners or shearers. A practical demonstration was given to the people of Australia that this party stands on a platform which comprises the interests of the producers and consumers alike, and eliminates the middleman. This matter must eventually be fought out in the constituencies. I have not much faith in our friends in the corner, I have never had, and I have not much faith in any alteration that would take place if they were given the opportunity of assuming the reins of government. I am influenced by no personal feeling towards any one in casting my vote. I vote, not against the Prime Minister, but against the Nationalist party he is leading, which stands for and is supported and put in by the profiteers. I draw attention to this in order to make my position clear to the constituencies, where eventually the fight must be fought out. The only good that I can see that would obviously be derived by removing the present Government from office, is that we may have an opportunity of looking . through the pigeon-holes, because there will be no proper investigation or disclosure until we have another set of Ministers in charge of the Treasury bench. That is one of the main reasons why ‘ I supported the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), and why I think a change of Government ought to be brought about or a new election held. No one’ on this side is frightened of an election. Until there is a different set of Ministers in office, the people of Australia will not have a proper disclosure of the situation; we shall have no explanation in regard to the shipbuilding contracts- or the amount of monev lost on each, and there will be no proper explanation with regard to the wool transaction. Is there any honorable member in this House -
I do not think there is - who knows what the situation is with regard to the sales of wool that have already been effected ? The other day the Prime Minister, when telling the House that Cabinet had asked the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) to go to London, said - ,
The Treasurer has further been commissioned to go. thoroughly into the question of the profit on wool, out of which Australian growers have every right to expect a large bonus .above the flat rate provided in the wool contract.
I shall not allow this Bill to pass without making my protest and insisting, as far as I can, on a full and proper disclosure being made in regard to that contract. Where are the cablegrams that are alleged to constitute it? Will some Minister make a definite statement as to what the wool-growers of Australia are to get ? We are told they are to get half the profits to be made by the Imperial Government, but I doubt whether it is the Imperial Government and not some huge private profiteers in Great Britain that has made profits. I have great confidence in the manner in which the British Government, as a Government, will deal with the overseas Dominions of the Empire, but I have a shrewd idea th 6.t the profits on the wool sales have gone to private individuals in Great Britain.
– Does the honorable member not think it possible that they may have been shared by some individuals in Australia also?
– I have a shrewd” idea that some persons in Australia were permitted to sell to their own representatives on the other side of the world, and thus, perhaps, shared in the profits. The people are looking for a full explanation of the whole transaction. They want to get down to definite facts. It is claimed that the information has already been given to them. If that is .so, why is the Treasurer to be sent Home on a begging expedition to get a bonus, as it is called, for the wool-growers? There should be some definite way of explaining to the people what they may expect to get in return for their wool clip, but no such definite statement has been made. I want it now, because the wool-growers of Australia do not know what they are to expect. In my. opinion, they may expect very little, if anything at all.
I wish now to refer to the expenditure that took place during the recent elections.
There is no doubt in the mind of any honorable member that the party now occupying the Treasury bench was- returned to office as a result of a campaign of misrepresentation, largely assisted by the money provided by profiteers. In Australia we are reaching a stage where the power of money exceeds the power it has displayed in any previous period of our history. A statement made by Sir Charles “Wade, a well-known Liberal of New South Wales, on his return from Great Britain, is largely applicable to Australia. He informed the Sydney Morning Herald -
That during the time he had been in England he had become greatly impressed by the power of monetary influence. Merit alone in the Old Country was practically useless unless supported by money, and so evident was this that many whose only asset was merit were leaving the country. Immense fortunes had been made during the war.
An identical state of affairs is fast making its appearance in Australia, and a good deal of the direct action that is complained of, and of the industrial unrest prevailing arises from the fact that the workers of Australia are having it driven home to them that, although we are supposed to enjoy free democratic institutions, the reins of government can be secured by the use of large sums of money and by the practice of doubtful methods. Unless our friends opposite and those who support them realize that they must discontinue ‘this practice, then exactly to that extent will our parliamentary institutions become discredited, and the number of people outside who stand for direct” action, and claim that Parliament is of no use, increase. One of the most objectionable methods employed during the electoral campaign was the use of a secret service known as the Commonwealth Police Force. I have no hesitation in saying that some members of that Force were used for political purposes as canvassers. The Prime Minister smiles when I say this. He evidently thinks it a great achievement; but I would like to know why this Force, born of the Warwick egg, was transferred to the control of the Attorney-General on the eve of the elections, how many persons constitute it, when and to what extent their numbers were increased, exactly what their duties are, where they are located, and whether there is any other secret service ? I want to know exactly the amount of money spent on the Commonwealth Police Force, and, generally, what necessity there is for its existence. These are matters in which the people of Australia are very much interested, and I am satisfied that honorable members of this House know that the circumstances do not justify any expenditure in this direction.
– Where does the honorable member find in the Bill any reference to the Commonwealth Police Force?
– It is wrapped up in the schedule. The right honorable gentleman thinks that because he has the expenditure so wrapped up I will be unable to pick it out.
– I shall try to find out all about it while the honorable member continues.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot deny that a very large amount of money is being spent on that secret service which no honorable member considers justified. At all events, it is not justified by public exigencies, no matter what the private exigencies of Ministers may be. I do not hesitate to say that some public money is being spent on a secret service which is mainly used for political purposes. I would like to know whether Ministers contend that the Bill does not cover some expenditure for the Commonwealth Police Force. Seeing that no Minister replies by interjection, I feel it is necessary for mc to add certain words to the clause. This Supply Bill, I take it, covers all the Supply asked for by the Government.
– Is it based on the appropriation in respect of last year, cr on the proposed appropriation in respect of the current financial year?
– The honorable member heard the Prime Minister ask me, in reply to my inquiry, to show him where provision was made in the schedule for the payment of the Commonwealth Police. My complaint is that the expenditure is so wrapped up that it is difficult to identify it. It is spread over different departments so that honorable members may not be able to discover it.
– There is nothing in this Supply Bill relating to the Commonwealth police.
– There must be. They must be paid.
– The Opposition ask for informaton, and when it is supplied they immediately refuse to accept it.
– How are the Commonwealth police paid ?
– I will give no information unless my word is taken.
– I do not wish to doubt the right honorable gentleman’s word-
– I was referring to the interjection of another honorable member of the Opposition.
– If provision is not made in this Bill for the payment of the Commonwealth police, then there will be no harm in my amendment, which relates to that service. If there is nothing in the schedule to cover payments to the Commonwealth police, I should like to know under what authority they are paid. Is it not requisite to have parliamentary authority, or does the right honorable member suggest that some authority given on a previous occasion authorizes the payment of the Commonwealth police for an indefinite period?
– Or do the profiteers pay them direct?
– The honorable member makes a very pertinent suggestion. I move -
That the following words be added to the clause - “Provided that no moneys shall be issued or applied after the 31st day of March, 1920, for maintaining the secret service which is commonly known as” The Commonwealth Police Force.”
The amendment, if carried, will give the Government a fair opportunity - up to the 31st March next - to deal with the Commonwealth police force, and will have the effect of expressing the opinion of honorable members, that no further public expenditure in connexion with that secret service should be made.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.’
Clause 3 (Sum available for the purposes set forth in schedule).
.- Before this clause is carried, I desire to repeat my question as to the Commonwealth Police Force. It was definitely stated by the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) that no authority was sought under this Bill for moneys for the payment of that force. The statement was not very relevant to the discussion, because the amendment that I moved, if carried, would have had the effect of preventing the payment of the Commonwealth Police from any source, whether under this Bill or otherwise. I should like to know under what authority the Commonwealth Police are paid and what are their numbers.
– When the honorable member first raised this question I told him that I would obtain the information sought by him, and while I was doing so he moved his amendment and divided the Committee on it. I shall tell the Committee all I know in regard to the Commonwealth Police Force. So far as I have been able to gather, there are eight or ten - I would not say that there are more than nine - persons employed in investigation work, who, for want of another term, may be described as members of the Commonwealth Police Force. It is against this formidable and numerous body that the honorable member has been fulminating for some time. Apparently the Commonwealth is tottering on its firm base because of the machinations of this body, and the Treasury is depleted because of their emoluments. I have been out of the country for some time, and do not know very much about the force, but I was endeavouring to obtain the information sought by the honorable member when he rudely interrupted my laudable effort by proceeding to divide the Committee. But I may tell the honorable member that these men are engaged in connexion with investigation- work, and they do for* .my Department and the Attorney-General’s Department exactly the same kind of work that the Customs officials do for the Customs Department - neither more nor less. To call them police is to misuse language, for they are not police-
– I quite agree with that.
– The honorable member asked for information. Their duties are to investigate matters with which they are entrusted from time to time. For example, they deal with cases of fraud in the Departments, and they have been used to investigate cases of disloyalty.
Several Opposition members interject- ing,
– I am glad to see where the interjections come from - there the thing is written plainly, and we can see it. No one can say that during the past five years there have not been hotbeds of sedition and disloyalty in the country.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) tries to introduce many extraneous matters into the debate; and by way of rejoinder, I should like to say one word. The honorable member, asked me what these eight or nine men are engaged in doing, and I have told him that, amongst other duties, they investigate cases of fraud or embezzlement in the’ Departments, and, in national matters, they investigate all cases of disloyalty, conspiracy against the State, movements by the Sinn Fein body, and so on. Will the honorable member, or any honorable member, say that Sinn Fein is an institution which is to be permitted to run its course in this country without any attempt on the part of the State to see that it does not aim a blow at the foundations of Empire, on which our security depends? I have said, or, if I have not, my colleagues, or some of them, have said, that for all practical purposes this so-called. Commonwealth Police Force ceased to exist long ago. It was brought into existence to enforce Federal law, which was in danger of being wholly disregarded. In certain parts of Queensland iri which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) resided for a long while, the Federallaw was disregarded to such an extent that the warrant of the Commonwealth did not run, and the State police force would not attempt to enforce it. If I require any proof of that, I can turn to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), who lived in the district where, for all practical purposes, law did not exist.
– Hear, hear!
– If the information I am now giving is not correct, I shall, as soon as I get the correction, give it to the Committee. I am given to understand that there is no provision at all in the Bill in relation to these men, but if there is I shall find out in a few moments and state how much. In the Estimates there are items connected with this body; and on the1 Estimates the whole question can be discussed fairly and without prejudice on its merits. If there be an item in this Supply Bill for the payment of these men, I shall declare it to the House, and honorable members may then do as they please in regard to it. I have given all the information at my disposal, and if it is supplemented by statements from the officials, honorable members shall be informed.
.- One has to be very cautious in dealing with finance matters, in view of the danger there is of creating panic.’ The other day the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) told us that he is going to England on Com- monwealth business, and that one of his objects is to float a loan, or make some arrangement, for the repayment of some £8,000,000 odd to the British Government. It is our duty to preserve the financial stability and credit of Australia, and to show our ability to meet any ordinary call made upon us. We were told by the Treasurer that the Commonwealth is requested to pay this sum of £8,750,000 as soon as possible; and I think that the position can very easily be met. In my opinion there is no necessity for the Treasurer to go on the London money market in its present condition. Any one who is studious enough to watch the financial journals and the telegrams which appear daily in our own press must realize the anxiety and trouble which the financial genius of Great Britain is experiencing in the efforts to meet the war debts, without the Dominions making any heavy calls on the resources of the Old Country. I cannot understand why the Government did not immediately ask the advice of this House, or get authority while the late Parliament was sitting, to repay this money.
- (Hon. J. M. Chanter). - How does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the clause before the Committee?
– I am speaking of the finances of the Commonwealth, and I urge that this money ought to be paid on the credit of Australia, by warrant, under the hand of the Governor-General, instead of sending the Treasurer Home on this mission.
– The reference in; the clause to the warrant applies to the specific sum before us, but has nothing to do with what the honorable member is dealing with now.
– I wished to deal with the matter before, but when I rose you, Mr. Chairman, failed to see me. I was thus, debarred from the privilege of speaking, and I feel very much offended.
– The honorable member is not debarred from the privilege of speaking, because he will have another opportunity, though not on this clause.
– It seems remarkable that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who originated the Commonwealth police as a sort of secret organization, is not in a position to give the Committee any information regarding it. I find that, instead of the few men referred to by the honorable gentleman, there are at least thirty-two officers of different grades in this body, who are paid a total sum of about £7,000 per annum. This Department has grown in the usual way - a few men were appointed for certain duties, and they soon gathered Others around them. Thus new Departments multiply, and the expenses of the Government increase. In the central administration there is a- director in ‘ connexion with this Investigation Branch at a salary of £750, and he has several clerks, an inspector, and two subinspectors. In New South Wales there is a. sub-inspector at £372, a clerk at £198, an inspector at £180, and two detectivesergeants at £584.
– I rise to a point of order. No provision is made in this Bill tor these police, and, therefore, their organization cannot be discussed now. We have been told by the Prime Minister (Mr.. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) that there is no provision for this body in the Bill, and I should like to know whether that is so or not.
– I do not know what details are in the schedules, and until we reach them I am not in a position to say whether the honorable memtor for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) is in order or not.
– In Victoria there is an inspector in charge at £408 per annum, a clerk at £198, a detective-sergeant of the first class at £292, and one detectivesergeant of the third class at £256. /’n Queensland, in which State, it was <aid, the Commonwealth police originated, there is an inspector at £426, two clerks at £204, and £186 respectively, two detectivesergeants of the first class at £584, and two detective-sergeants of the third .lass at £511. In South’ Australia - a very peaceable State indeed - there is an inspector in charge at £408, with a clerk at £186, and two detective-sergeants of the third class at £512. In Western Australia there is an inspector in charge at £40S, a’ clerk at £186, and two detectivesergeants of the third class at £512. In Tasmania there is an inspector in charge at £300, and, under his control, one detective of the first class at £257. The total expenditure under this head, as I have said, is set down at £7,102 per annum. If we can exercise economy anywhere it is in connexion with this absolutely useless and extraneous body created by the Prime Minister simply to satisfy a whim. To expend between £6,000 and £7,000 per annum on the upkeep of an absolutely useless body of men is to scatter broadcast the taxpayers’ money, which can be ill-spared at the present time. If these men are paid, not by the Commonwealth Government, but by private persons, that should be stated. They are under the control of the Commonwealth, and’ act according to the instructions of Commonwealth authorities. This country is infested with detectives and others who are engaged in seeking information solely for the purpose of damaging the parties opposed to the Nationalist party. This is a lasting disgrace to those who are responsible for it, and I do not know how Ministers and their supporters can ruthlessly, recklessly, and extravagantly vote this money and justify their action to their constituents.
– You know that they are not voting it.
– Of course, they are. What is, the good of trying to hoodwink the members of the Committee? Every public servant and every man in public office is paid out of the amount covered by this Supply Bill. We have to go to the Estimates for special information regarding the allotment of the grant. I have shown the class of men employed. They are paid handsome salaries for doing nothing but work of a political nature. Those responsible for this state of things should be ignominiously “ booted out “ of their position, and a set of men placed there who will, in the expenditure of public money, perform their duties honestly. This is not the only item to which exception can be taken ; there are many others which show that Ministers and their supporters, while mouthing economy, are spending money recklessly.
– And keeping the truth from the Committee.
– Some members may be silenced by a jocular remark of the Prime Minister, intended to hide deficiencies in administration, but the country will not be satisfied with a smile and a joke instead of explanations. There is a kind of economy which, no doubt, will be practised by the Government, which will not meet with my approval, because it will be levelled at the producers and at those who are doing the work of the Commonwealth. I believe that Ministers will seek to economize by discharging workmen, who are the best customers of the producers, and will keep in office men of high salaries who are doing political work. I protest stoutly against the .cavalier fashion in which the Prime Minister has treated the Committee. Finance was the great issue of the election, and the chief matter that we have to deal with. Yet the Estimates are full of items which should be wiped out. I ask honorable members not to be influenced in their votes by the fact that an objection comes from this or that part of the chamber. If a proposal is right and just it should receive the support of honorable members- generally. This party did not, because the Country party refused to support it3 censure amendment, refuse to support the amendment of the Country party. I know what it is for people to have to live on small incomes, and I am determined that we should, so far as we can, cut down our expenditure. I commend the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) for having brought this matter before the Committee. The establishment of the Commonwealth Police has been a sore point with many of us. The Commonwealth has at its command the services of the State police, including the detectives, and hitherto they have sufficed to prevent fraud. The services of the State police are still available to the Commonwealth, and there is no need for a special Commonwealth Force. On behalf of the many thousands of men and women who find it hard to make ends meet, and who are paying the bulk of tho taxation for the rich people in the community, I protest against this. I appeal to members to act justly towards the taxpayers, even should it mean the displacing of the present Ministers.
– Can the Prime Minister make a statement of the intentions of the Government in regard to the control of metals? In my constituency there is a silver and lead mine, the manager of which has written, wishing me to ask the right honorable gentleman to extend to him the same conditions as have been extended to those controlling similar mines in Tasmania.
– Does he wish to have the export of his metals prohibited ?
– No. I understand that the exporting of metals from Tasmania is allowed, and I wish the Government to extend the same concession to the Silver Spur mine, in Queensland, as it has given to similar mines in Tasmania.
– I am glad that the honorable member has asked the question. Recently a very strong deputation, representative of those interested in the silver and lead ores of Tasmania, waited on me, stating that they were under great disabilities because the Sulphide Corporation, the local treatment company, could not pay them the world’s price for their ores, but could only make an advance against the sum that the ores might hereafter realize. They, therefore, asked for permission to export the ores. The Government considered the request carefully, as it raised a question of great importance to the country. The war showed the absolute necessity of control in respect of such .products as lead, zinc, copper, and! tin, because those metals are essential to national safety in times of crisis. Silver, of course, is specially valuable at the ‘present time. It was necessary, therefore, to take steps to prevent the recurrence of the unfortunate state of things which existed prior to the war, when Germany had control of our metals. But unless we can assure the metal producers of this country a fair price for their products, they cannot continue their operations, no matter how they may wish to do so. If a handicap must be placed on the industry, it should be shared by the community at large. I, therefore, told the members of the deputation that, without prejudice to the future permanent policy of the Commonwealth, which in due season honorable members will have an ample opportunity to discuss, they could’, for a period of six months at least, export their ores to all but enemy countries. The honorable member for Maranoa asks for the same consideration for other States as has been given to Tasmania. I assume he does not speak merely for Queensland.
– Western Australia needs consideration.
– I have no hesitation in saying that it was not my intention to restrict the concession to Tasmania. In considering the matter, the Cabinet determined that any concession given to one State must be given to all. Whatever privileges are accorded to the producers of silver and lead ores in Tasmania will be given to all producers of such ores throughout Australia. It is not advisable to stress publicly the limitations imposed upon exportation to certain quarters, but, except for those limitations, which apply, of course, to exportation from Tasmania as well as from the other States, there is no embargo on exportation. I shall be glad if the honorable member for Maranoa will convey to the manager of the Silver Spur mine the effect of my statement, to which the press, I have no doubt, will give the widest publicity. If any honorable member desires information that I have not given, and that I am able to supply, I shall be glad to supplement my statement.
– Have instructions been issued to the officials in the different States to permit the exportation of the ore?
– That will be done. Since Friday last it has been the policy of the Government to treat silver and lead ores throughout Australia in the same way as such ores are treated in Tasmania, and I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, because of the doubt just expressed by the honorable member, to instruct his officials at the various ports to allow the exportation of these ores.
.- Does the statement made by the Prime Minister relate to base metals generally? Difficulties have been experienced, and heavy expenses incurred, in connexion with the shipment of tin and copper, and there is equally as good a claim for consideration in respect of them as in respect of silver and lead. Will the freedom that is to be permitted to the silver-lead producers apply to the producers of base metals generally?
– I have not given that point any consideration, but I hardly see how it can affect Western Australia, because, as the honorable member for Dampier knows, permission has been given the producers of base metals in that State to- export their products. That was done on account of the remoteness of Western Australia from convenient treatment plants in Australia. No representations have been made to me in regard to copper, tin, and other base metals. So far as I know, there is no hardship throughout the rest of the continent on account of the existing restrictions. But if there is a hardship it is open to honorable members to make out a case, as the Tasmanian representatives did. I dealt with a specific case on its merits, and I am prepared to deal with any other case on its merits. The honorable member for Dampier must realize that we have spent much time and money in attempting to establish great industries in this country, and we shall have failed if we permit the metal trade to drift back into the channels in which it flowed before the war. We must have some regard for the interests of the Commonwealth. If any honorable member can point to any hardship imposed upon any group of producers of any base metal, other than galena or silver-lead ores of any kind, I shall be glad to hear their representations, and, if a case is made out, to grant the necessary relief.
– May I assume that the producers of tin and copper in Western Australia are free to ship their products away?
– On the spur of the moment I cannot recall what arrangements were made in regard to Western Australia. Whatever they were, they resulted from the representations by Western Australian members, and I assume they were satisfactory, because they were whatever were asked for at that time. So far as I know, there were no reservation a.
– There was the registration of contracts.
– There must be that. We must know to what countries the ores are being sent. The producers are at liberty to get the best bargain they can in the markets of the world, but the policy of the Government and the Parliament in regard to trading with the late enemy has been declared quite publicly. If this Parliament’ wishes to alter that policy it must do so formally after a discussion of the whole matter. Until then the policy of the Government remains unchanged, and registration of contracts must continue. The producers may get the best price they can and export their products to any country except to enemy countries and one other place.
.- During the Prime Minister’s absence in England I repeatedly asked the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to lay on the table the ten years’ contract between the lead and tin mining companies and the Imperial Government, and the reply I received was that it was against Imperial policy to make the contract public while the war was still in progress. Now that peace has been signed by the Imperial Government, I ask the Prime Minister if he is prepared to lay the contract on the table?
– I understand that the honorable member is referring to the contract made as a result of the arrangements which were entered into by me ‘in 1916. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, there is no objection to the tabling of that paper. But it is not a contract made with us; it is made between the Imperial Government and certain companies. I know of no reason why it should be kept secret, and the Government will endeavour to get a copy and lay it on the table. If the contract were between the Commonwealth and some one else, the position would be different. But it is not, and I must obtain a copy of it from either the British authorities or the Zinc Producers Association. I shall endeavour to do that.
– The Prime Minister will understand that the miners of Broken Hill are very much concerned in that contract.
– It is a matter of very great importance, and the House and the country are entitled to the information. I shall endeavour to make a copy of the contract available.
.- I shall endeavour to arrange, at a later date, a conference of many of the leading producers of base metals with the Prime Minister, so that their case may be put clearly before him. I do not care what the policy of the Government may be in regard to these matters - for I am sure I can secure sufficient parliamentary pressure to alter that - but if the Government wish to look at the question from the right stand-point, the persons whose interests must be first conserved are the producers, and not the owners of the treatment plants. I know that the Prime Minister was absent from Australia when this question arose, and it was difficult to bring to his knowledge the evils that had arisen. But I feel convinced that, if the honorable gentleman had realized the disaster and ruin that has fallen upon many owing to the drastic regulations made by the Government, he r would have made much fuller inquiries in regard to the claims of the small producers than were made during his absence. These matters were dealt with in an autocratic method, that did not tend to assist either the Government or the country. The producers have never yet asked to be allowed to send their metals to enemy countries. They are prepared to fall in with any views held by the Government in that regard, but I believe I shall have the support of the whole Committee when I say that the first interest to be considered is that of the men who go into the back country and win wealth from the soil rather than that of those who own the treatment plants. Every honorable member of the House has received, I believe, a copy of the lengthy report made by Mr. Garland, Chairman of the Sydney Metal Exchange. That gentleman holds a big position in the mining world, and has had a great deal of experience. Therefore, his views are entitled to respect. I know that the tintreatment plants in Sydney did not ask for the restrictions which the Government have imposed. I have with me the particulars of one small parcel of tin. At the time it was dealt with, tin- was worth £280 per ton, and had the producer been able to send the tin oxide to America for treatment he would have received, including exchange, and after paying treatment charges, £87 per ton more than he received through being obliged to send the ore to Sydney. The Sydney smelting companies will not treat the metal and then allow the producer to sell it abroad. They buy the oxide on the basis of its Australian value, and then export it to ‘America,, and get the benefit of the exchange which should go to the producer. I know that the Prime Minister has been sympathetic towards the producers lately, and I feel sure that when their case has been put fully before him it will be dealt with sympathetically. I am prepared to leave the matter at this stage, in the hope of arranging a deputation to the Prime Minister in the near future.
– This is a matter of very great importance, especially to the producer. I shall not support a policy which, to use a colloquialism, will amount to “greasing the fat pig.”
If honorable members lay before me the facts in regard to base metals, and show that the producer is under a grievous disability, I shall listen with a very sympathetic ear and grant such .relief as I think will be satisfactory to him.
I have now the information that was desired in regard to the Commonwealth Police, and I regret to say that they have suffered terrible casualties since I last spoke. They are now reduced to three. This document was placed in my hands a few moments ago. I do not know what has happened to them since. I was asked where the Commonwealth Police are stationed. Two of them are surrounding Brisbane, which is menaced, and the other is in Sydney. They have been engaged in inquiries in Commonwealth De-‘ partments into defalcations, &c, and passports of enemy aliens. Later I shall advise the Committee of any more recent communication from the front, and I trust that by the time I speak’ again we shall be able to write R.I.P. in respect of all of them.
– When information in regard to the Commonwealth Police Force was first sought by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that the schedule to the Supply Bill now before honorable members contained no provision for .that’ force, and subsequently* when an amendment was threatened by the honorable member for West Sydney, in order to obviate it, the Minister for the Navy (Sir- Joseph Cook) indorsed what the Prime Minister had said. After the division on the amendment had been taken, the Prime Minister returned to the chamber, and said that if the schedule did contain any provision for this force he would supply the necessary information. And now we find that there are three members of the Commonwealth Police Force. But the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has discovered that the ordinary Estimates make provision for thirty-two members of the secret service, and as the schedule to this Supply Bill is based upon the ordinary Estimates, it must contain some reference to the Commonwealth Police Force, if only under the heading of Contingencies. I suppose the Prime Minister is treating this matter in this cavalier fashion because he is buoyed up by the result of the division taken last night. He knows he has the numbers with him and that he can spend what he likes and go on hiding all these things, because no notice will be taken of them. It was very interesting to hear his camouflaged statement as to the necessity for a Commonwealth secret service, on the ground that there have been disloyalists in the community, and that attempts have been made to undermine the Empire. During the last four years, any one who spoke against the Prime Minister or against the manner in which the affairs of the country were being administered by the Government, was accused of disloyalty.
We are asked to believe that the only reason for the existence of the Country party is to stop the wasteful extravagance we are experiencing in the country today; but last night, after threatening great things, they ran away from their amendment and their declared convictions. And now .the Prime Minister naturally feels he ha3 a further lease of life, realizing that when it comes to a crisis, such as was threatened last night, at least one member of the Country party will conveniently cross over and vote with the Ministry, and that even if the situation should become desperate, another honorable member will follow this ex- ample. That is my interpretation of what took place last night.
– It is an unfair interpretation.
– I would not accuse the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.
Mcwilliams), or one or two other honorable members of the Country party, with whom I am well acquainted, of any desire but to stand up to their declared convictions; but what is the use of a party claiming to be a new party, and advertising itself, as it has done, if, when the crisis comes, and when it is possible something can be achieved in the direction of preventing a recurrence of those very things about which they complain, several of them cross the floor and vote with the Government, as happened last night, when the Ministry were faced with a critical situation?
– The honorable * member is not in order in reflecting on a vote already given by the Committee.
– I under- stand that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is to leave for London very soon, and, according to the statement made by the Prime Minister in the chamber last week, he is to see the authorities on the other side of the world with regard to the wool contract. I want to have a word- or two to say about this contract, because I understand that there is really no contract, and that the .arrangement for the sale of the Australian wool clip was based on cable messages passing between the Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government. I claim that, for the information of the House and the country generally, the contents of those messages should be published before the Treasurer leaves. Why is everything covered up? Why should’ not the country know the substance of the arrangement entered into by which Australia was to give up half of the profit realized by the re-sales of our wool overseas ?
– The clause makes no reference to the matter which the honorable member is discussing.
– Other honorable members were allowed to touch on almost anything in speaking to this clause.
– The honorable member is incorrect. I called the honor- . able member for East Sydney (Mr. West) to order for the same reason.
– No objection was taken to the discussion of a matter affecting lead. I am dealing with a matter affecting wool, and I see no difference between the discussion of lead and ‘ the discussion of wool. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I wish to point out that, notwithstanding the statements made by some members of the Country party and others, that our primary producers are perfectly satisfied with the arrangements made regarding the sale of wool to the Imperial Government, I claim there is much dissatisfaction among the wool-growers. It is true that the pastoralists were to get an appraised price,, guaranteed to be ls. 3$d. per lb., a better price than they had ever got in their lives previously, and it is said that they ought to be perfectly satisfied because their wool brought much more than that, and they are to get half of the profit secured from re-sales; but I represent quite as many wool-growers as any other honorable member does, and on their behalf I challenge the declaration of satisfaction that has been made as purporting to come from them. As a matter of fact, the Imperial authorities kept back 10 per cent, out of the appraised price of ls. 3Ad. in anticipation that the wool might not realize that amount, and that 10 .per cent, was not paid over to the pastoralists until the full amount of the appraised price was realized.
– The honorable member is not stating the position correctly.
– I think my interpretation of the position is sufficiently accurate, but the fact that the wool realized a great deal more than the appraised price does not, in my opinion, justify the Imperial authorities in taking half of the profits secured on re-sales.
– That was contained in the agreement of 1915.
– Does the honorable member know what the agreement was ? The pastoralists were guaranteed an appraised price of ls. 3 JJ. per lb.
– I must again ask the honorable member to defer his remarks upon this subject until the Committee is dealing with the schedule.
– Before the Treasurer leaves for London, I would like to ask the Prime Minister to make available to honorable members the contents of the cablegrams which formed the basis of the arrangement for the sale of the Australian wool clip.
– The Treasurer does not propose to take the cablegrams with him. In any case, I made the agreement, and I am not going away.
– The Prime Minister informed the House that the Treasurer would see the Imperial authorities with reference to the re-sales of wool, and I want to know whether the Leader of the Government will take honorable members into his confidence. On what matter is the Treasurer to see the Imperial authorities?
– Ah I
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I seek this information in the interests of many of my own constituents, and it also concerns people in all parts of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister, how-, ever, treats my question as he treated every other put to him this morning. He refuses to give us any information on the subject. He stated, on Friday last, that the Treasurer was going overseas-
– I must again point out that the honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter “on the clause now before the Committee. He will be able to deal with it when we reach, the division of the schedule relating to the Department of the Treasury.
– I am afraid that we shall not then be able to secure the information I desire, since the Treasurer will not be present this afternoon.
– The honorable member may also deal with it when the division of the schedule relating to the Prime Minister’s Department is before the Committee.
– I bow to your ruling.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) proceeded, yesterday, to explain why he did not vote for the censure motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, by means of which we hoped to ascertain the facts relating to many wrongs done the primary producer. The honorable member, however, did not complete his statement.
-The honorable member is now proceeding to deal with a matter that has already been decided.
– The honorable member said that the reason why he did not vote for the censure motion moved by the Leader of the Labour party, was that in the course of the election campaign I had declared that the Country party was but a wing of the National party.
– That is not a fair statement of what I said.
– I refer the honorable member to Hansard. He must surely have had some greater reason for voting against that motion.
– In view of your ruling, sir. I shall not at this stage make further reference to the matter. Before we proceeded to divide on the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), that no further provision be made for the payment of the Commonwealth Police Force, the Prime Minister informed the Committee that the schedule to the Bill contained no reference to the force. On his return to the chamber, after the divi son hari taken place, he said that there was at one time a great number of men in the force, but that they had suffered severe casualties, and that their numbers were now reduced to three. I suppose it was after the last general election that their ranks were depleted. This goes to show that the members of this secret service were used for political purposes at the last elections.
– They were political agents. “ Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.- Yes. Proof of that fact is contained in tho statement made by the- Prime Minister that their numbers are now reduced to three.
– There did not appear to be any of them in my electorate during the campaign.
– I supo pose it was considered that the honorable gentleman could look after himself. The Prime Minister’s statement, that since the last general election their numbers have been reduced to three shows clearly–
– He did not say that; that is the honorable member’s own. statement.
– So far as my memory serves me, the statement made by the Prime Minister was that he found that the Commonwealth Police Force had suffered great casualties, and that it now comprised only three.
– But he did not say that they had suffered great casualties since the last general election.
– No, and I would not expect him to make any such admission. It is, however, a reasonable deduction to draw from his statement. Now that the general election is over and they have done their underhand work, there is not so much need for these men, and their numbers have been reduced to three.
– They are now called by a different name.
– No doubt they are still in the service of the Commonwealth. I am satisfied they are provided for in the schedule to this Bill under the heading of “ Contingencies.” Several members of the Country party who stand for economy say that they voted against the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney because they accepted the Prime Minister’s word that the schedule contained no reference to Commonwealth Police. Now that the right honorable gentleman has intimated that three members of that force have still to be provided for, there can be no misunderstanding, and as every man who stands for this country wants to get rid of this secret service, I shall test the feeling’ of the Committee by moving a further amendment.-
– They were employed to put down “ rebels “ !
– And every, man who does not support the Nationalist cause will be adjudged guilty of participating in a rebellion. Now that there can be no misunderstanding, I move as an amendment -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “Provided that no sum shall- be available to satisfy payments towards .the upkeep of what is known as the Commonwealth -Police Force after 30th April, 1920.” . .
– I have to nile the amendment out of order, since the. question involved has already been decided on the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan).
– I would point out, sir, that the specific date men’tioned in the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney was the 31st March, whereas in my amendment I have proposed that no payments shall be made after the 30th April.
– I have to rule that the amendment is practically the same as that already dealt with by the Committee. If the honorable member desires to dissent from my ruling he will please hand in his dissent in writing.
– It is with regret that I shall take that course. I feel bound to do so, because I do not think I am getting fair play. My amendment, I submit, is entirely different from that proposed on another clause by the honorable member for West Sydney.
Motion of dissent submitted in writing.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has moved that my ruling be dissented from, in the following terms: -
I move that the ruling of the Chairman be dissented’ from, on the ground that the amendment moved by me on clause 3 of the Bill differs from the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan).
The amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) was -
Provided that no moneys shall be used or applied after the 31st day of March, 1920, for maintaining the ‘secret service, which is commonly known as the “Commonwealth Police Force.”
The amendment moved by the honorable member for Hume (Mr/ Parker Moloney) reads -
Provided that no sum shall be available to satisfy payments towards the upkeep of what is known as the Commonwealth Police Force after 30th April, 1920”.
The Committee will see that the only difference between the two proposals is in the actual ‘ dates, and that the principle and’ essence of each is that no money shall be made available. I have given a ruling that the amendment proposed’ by the honorable member for - Hume (Mr. Parker
Moloney) is essentially the same as the one proposed by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), on which the Committee has deliberated and decided. I rule, therefore, that the amendment of the honorable member for Hume is not in order. It is now for the Committee to determine whether I am in error or otherwise. The question is that my ruling be dissented from.
– Under ordinary circumstances I am reluctant to support any motion that the ruling of the Chair b6 disagreed with. I am bound, however, to support the motion on this occasion, because I think that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is obviously right in submitting it.
– Will the honorable member permit me for one moment? lt is within the province of the Committee to say whether there shall or shall not be a debate on this motion. Standing order 228 is as follows: -
If any objection is taken to a ruling or decision of the Chairman of Committees, such objection shall be stated at once in writing, and may forthwith be decided by the Committee; and the proceedings shall then be resumed where they were interrupted.
It is for the Committee to say now whether this motion is to be debated, or forthwith decided.
– The standing order does not say that the Committee has to decide the point. The standing order is clear.
– It says, “ may forthwith be decided.”
– Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that you do not allow me to address myself to the question ?
– Not without the special permission of the Committee.
– I desire to move that leave be granted to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) to discuss the question.
– The difficulty can be got over only by suspending the Standing Orders.
– I understand from the .Chairman that it is in the discretion of the Committee whether the motion be debated, and, in accordance with that ruling, I desire to move that leave be granted to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) to discuss it.
– The Chairman says that the matter has to be decided by the Committee, and I think he is right.
– I submit that no such motion as that mentioned by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) can be entertained. The provision in the standing order is clear; the question has to be submitted “ forthwith,” and there can be no debate at this stage. I submit that it does not lie in the discretion of the Chairman to permit any debate now. There is nothing in the standing order to provide that anybody may do anything at this stage to prevent the Chairman putting the motion forthwith as to agreement or disagreement with his ruling.
– The standing order is absolutely clear. It does not say that the vote shall be taken forthwith; what it says is that the objection “ shall be stated at once in writing, and may forthwith be decided by the Committee.” What is the alternative? It is that the question shall be debated whether the Chairman is right or wrong in his ruling. Personally, I am in favour of the vote being taken forthwith, but it is within the province of any honorable member to discuss the motion.
– In, order that the Committee may determine the matter, I rule that the question must be put forthwith.
– May I draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to page 71 of the Standing Orders, where we find set out the motions that are not open to debate?
– That does not apply to the present circumstances?
– The alternative to “ forthwith,” is an appeal to Mr. Speaker.
Question - That the Chairman’s’ ruling be dissented from - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- We were informed by the speech of the Governor-General that it is intended to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the incidence of taxation. I understand that the Commission is to be appointed almost immediately. Apparently, its expenses will be met out of the Treasurer’s Advance, which is provided for in this clause, and I wish, therefore, to take the opportunity to mention a- few facts which indicate the existence of some kind of conspiracy to alter the basis of our taxation by placing on the masses of the people taxes which now are borne by the wealthy.
– The honorable member may not refer to that matter now : he must wait until the schedule is under discussion.
– That really deprives me of my opportunity as our time is limited to 4 o’clock, and there will be no time for discussion of the items of the schedule. The clause provides that the Supply which we are granting shall be available to satisfy the warrants under the hand of the GovernorGeneral in respect of any purposes and services set forth in the schedule.
– The honorable member will have his opportunity to discuss the matter to which he refers when we get to the schedule.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Proposed vote (The Parliament), £7,690.
.- It is not my intention to speak at great length, because of the arrangement to finish with the Bill by 4 o’clock; but I desire to refer again to the wages and salaries paid to some of those employed in and about this institution. Honorable members have accepted the assurance of the Speaker that there is no sweating of the employees engaged in serving the Senate or the House of Representatives, and I accept his assurance that no one directly under his control receives less than £3 per week. There are, however, employees in the building getting under £2 10s. per week; and I have been informed, though I do not vouch for the accuracy of the statement, that recently a married man employed in connexion with this institution was getting only £2 4s. per week, and that when he died, leaving a wife and children, a “ tarpaulin muster” had to be made by his mates to bury him. It has only been when thu Speaker or the Joint House Committee has been forced by the awards of the Courts that increases have been given in the parliamentary service, and I maintain again that this is a sweating institution, and that there are men employed in it who are receiving under £2 15s. per week, although the living wage is £3 17s. per week. As a protest against this I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by the sum of £1.
– I was not present when the honorable member for Darling began his speech, and, therefore, did not hear all he said in regard to the wages paid to the employees of the House and the conditions under which they carried on their work. But I would draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that it has only been when I- have been in occupancy of the chair that increases have been made in the salaries of the attendants, messengers, door-keepers, and cleaners of this House. During the long period that my predecessors occupied the Speaker’s chair, there was no raising of the salaries of these men, and no complaint of their underpayment was then heard from any of the honorable members who are now interesting themselves regarding the wages and conditions of employment of those in the service of the House.
– Simply because we were not aware of the conditions, which we would not have tolerated.
– It is a strange thing that during all the years that my predecessors occupied the Speaker’s chair these honorable gentler men ‘ did not trouble themselves in the slightest degree about the wage3 and conditions’ of those in the service of the House. Those wages and conditions are better now than they were under any of my predecessors. Honorable members appear to be under a misapprehension regarding the facts. So far as the departments under the Speaker’s control are concerned, the statements made are not correct. They may have in mind the cases of attendants in some portion of the building over which the Speaker has no jurisdiction.
– I spoke of persons connected with this institution; I do not know whether you control them or not.
– I am referring more particularly to the remarks made by the honorable member on a previous occasion.
– Why not confine your remarks to the charges made to-day 1
– They arise out of the same set of circumstances. No messenger in that part of the building over which the Speaker has control receives less than £168 per annum, which, when the bonus is added, makes it £183. The statement that there are messengers in attendance on this Chamber who are getting less than £3 per week is not correct. There are male cleaners getting £158, without the £15 bonus. ‘
– No man can live on less than £3 per week.
– There were men here who lived on less before I was elected to the Speaker’s chair. I have here a list of the salaries and of the names of the men under my control. In 1913, when I was first elected to the Speaker’s chair, an increase of salaries of attendants- was made, and the rates now paid range from £158 per annum, which is the lowest, to £265, which _ is paid to the housekeeper. Together with the President I- have been instrumental in getting the Treasurer to pay a bonus in lieu of an increase of salary to the attendants of the House to meet the conditions which have been brought about by the increase in the cost of living. Last year the bonus given was £10, and this year it was £15.
– Not 3s. a week!
– It is twice that, and is more than was ever done for the men before. Yet during the terms of my predecessors in office the question of salaries was never raised in this House. Honorable members who are now seemingly anxious for the welfare of the employees, when conditions are greatly better than they were under my predecessors, did not display any interest in the matter before I was elected to the chair. I draw attention to this aspect of the matter more particularly because during the recent election campaign untrue statements on the subject were circulated by - certain persons in my electorate with a view to damaging my chance of election. That is the reason why, when I heard it stated in the House that messengers employed about the building were paid less than was received by emplovees of the same class in the Commonwealth Departments and in State Parliaments, I went to the trouble of obtaining information from both the Departments and the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of Victoria. I have here a comparative statement which I have not time to read, but which shows clearly that the attendants in this House, so far from being paid lower wages, are being paid a higher wage than is received by those rendering similar service in Government Departments and the Victorian Parliament. In the latter, no cleaners are employed; all the cleaning work is done by the messengers or door-keepers, in addition to their other work, for a less rate than the employees of this House are receiving. I do not say that the remuneration paid to the employees in this building is sufficient if the cost of living is going to remain at an abnormal level. I do not believe it is, but I do say that attempts to make political capital out of the matter will not help me to improve the conditions. On the contrary, it makes my task more difficult than it otherwise would be.
– That does not do you credit. .
– - It does not do credit to those who would try to make political capital out of a matter of this kind. Before this question was taken up by honorable members in this House, and quite independently of anything done by them, it was. receiving the close consideration of the President and myself. This attempt to interfere with the Speaker in the discharge of the functions which properly belong to him, is not, in my judgment, in the best interest of the men concerned. The whole question of salaries is at present the subject of conference between the President and myself, and honorable members would be well advised to allow the matter to remain in abeyance for the time being.
– And allow the employees to starve while you meditate.
– There -is another instance of gross misrepresentation. There is no question of starvation. As a matter of fact, I have done my best to supplement the earnings of the employees of the House by means of a bonus, which is another way of adding to the salaries they receive. For some time the whole question has been under review, and my own sympathies are with the men in their desire for a more liberal rate of remuneration, which the increasingly high cost of living fully justifies. The President and I have tried, as I have said, to meet the case to some extent by the payment of the bonus, and also by insisting that in connexion with any functions that take place in the House the messengers and other servants in the building should be given the first offer of employment and receive extra payment for their services. This has been done.
In regard to the allegation of sweating, no instance of the kind has been brought to my notice. The only sweating of which I have knowledge is that for which honorable members themselves are responsible by prolonging the sittings of the House, which means that members, as well as the employees, are sweated through actions of the House over which I have no control.
– When the honorable member for Lang was on this side of the House he took part in more all-night sittings than any one else, and, was mainly responsible for them.
-I readily plead guilty, but I also urge that there were extenuating circumstances.’ I have many times regretted since that I did not then realize the hardship it entailed on others. There is something in the contention that when the messengers are required to remain in attendance on honorable members all night they should receive extra payment. I am in sympathy with the idea that the remuneration should be increased, in view of the abnormal conditions existing, and I am doing my best to bring about that result. I hope that when the next Estimates are prepared they will disclose a more satisfactory scale of remuneration for the lower paid employees of the House. I repudiate the suggestion that I am in any degree responsible for sweating. On the contrary, my instructions to the officers have been that the staff should be compensated for extra duties by additional time off. In fact, I have directed that they be allowed as much time off as possible, consistently with carrying on the ordinary duties of the House, so that members will not be inconvenienced. In this way a considerable addition has been made to the ordinary holidays of the staff. Honorable members can assist me materially in removing any cause for a charge of sweating by combining in a firm resolve to conserve their own health, as well as that of the attendants, by concluding the business of the House within reasonable hours. If honorable members will leave this matter in the hands of the President and myself, they may rely upon it being sympathetically considered.
– “What minimum wage will the honorable member promise?
– I do not desire to go into details in regard to that matter. Both Houses of Parliament must be co-ordinated to some extent, and I can say nothing definite at present.
.- In view of the remarks of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. “W. Elliot Johnson), some of which were certainly in very questionable taste, I feel obliged to say a few words on this matter. The honorable member suggested that the under-payment of employees of the House was used against him in his electorate. I challenge him to name one member of the House who referred to this matter in the Lang electorate.
– I did not say that members of the House had done so.
– I am glad to have that assurance, because I know that no member of the House did deal with this matter in the honorable member’s electorate. Possibly some person who had read Hansard made reference to it; but there is no foundation for the suggestion that political capital was made out of it by honorable members on this side.
The honorable gentleman said also that the action of honorable members in bringing this question before the House would prejudice the chances of the employees getting fair treatment. That is a most unfair remark. It is_ beyond question that men are being employed about the House at less than the standard living wage ; and it is a reproach to every honorable member that we should have men in personal attendance on us under those conditions. That fact constitutes a grave reflection on every one of us; it is not the particular responsibility of Mr. Speaker. He, in his administrative capacity, is merely an officer of the House, and his duty is to carry out the wishes of the House. I cannot believe that the Treasurer or anybody associated with the Administration would hesitate to make provisions for the adequate payment of men who are in personal attendance on honorable members. The honorable gentleman exceeded the limits of both duty and good taste in assuming the right to tell us whether we should sit early or late. The question of when we shall transact the public business is a matter for the House to decide ; whether we sit early or late, or the round of the clock, proper attendance must be provided; and whatever financial responsibility results therefrom must be arranged by the Government.
I take the strongest exception to the imputation that, because honorable members object to men who are engaged in rendering personal service to them being paid a sweating rate - and anything less than the recognised standard wage of £3 17s. 6d. per week for a married man is a sweating rate - their chances of receiving justice will be prejudiced.
– It does not prejudice their chances so far as I am concerned-
– I am glad to hear that, and I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable member, but we should know where the prejudice arises.
.- If this matter were before the Committee for the first time we might, perhaps, have cheerfully accepted the undertaking by the Speaker that the evil would be redressed. But I have a very vivid recollection that the same matter came up for discussion in the House, over which the present Speaker presided, during the last session of last Parliament, and that he, on that occasion, as he did to-day, promised that he would take the question in hand, and remove the scandalous condition of affairs about which complaints were being made. I do not think that we should now accept a mere promise on the part of the Speaker that he will look into this matter, or the assurance that he is engaged in conference about it. If to-day he had told us that the conditions now prevailing would terminate to-day or to-morrow, I would be prepared to accept his assurance. But when he comes here, and tells us that he is negotiating about the matter and considering it, and says that it might well be left in his hands, it is very little less than an insult to the intelligence of honorable members. I venture to say that we should set an example rather than slavishly seek to find out what is a minimum wage that we may decently pay our attendants. I. hope that the amendment will be persisted in, and that those honorable members who are committed to a policy of economy will not find it inconsistent with their principles to see that men, adults and responsible for families, engaged as workers in this House receive at least a fair remuneration. Everywhere outside wages are advancing in some sort of relation to the increased cost of living. Here only do they appear to be standing at a minimum which does us no credit. It is said that the matter is under consideration, and that we ought to leave it with Mr. Speaker. He complains that political capital was made out of it at the last election. That is very likely. If I had had it brought specifically under my notice in the electorate of Lang, and it was proved to my satisfaction that men employed in the service of Parliament were being underpaid, I would have thought it a very legitimate kind of political warfare in which, to indulge, and a very right and proper matter to bring before the attention of the constituents of the honorable the Speaker. It would be a much more legitimate kind of warfare than that which was indulged in by some members of the Nationalist party during the recent election. However, I intend to support the amendment, sincerely hoping that it will receive such a measure of sympathy from all honorable members that here and now this disgraceful condition of affairs will be brought to an end.
– I sympathize with the proposal to make a little more liberal the salaries paid to officers of this House. My own impression is that they are not too well paid. A few years ago when I was Prime Minister I interested myself in the matter, and brought under the notice of Mr. Speaker at .that time the condition of the officers engaged in the service of this House, but I did not raise the question in the Chamber or attempt what honorable members are now proposing, to bring about a reduction of the Estimates for the purpose of securing an increase in them. Honorable members arc not proceeding in the right way. Last night they voted en bloc with the gentlemen in the Chamber who were concerned with effecting economy, and their very first action after getting clear of that vote is to raise the question as to whether more money should not be spent by the House. After all, these matters are the joint concern of both Houses-
– They are not joint. Each House controls its own business.
– There is some sort of co-ordination between the two controls. I think we ought to treat our own officers fairly liberally, and I very earnestly suggest to Mr. Speaker that the matter should be reviewed. I heard today that the head messenger, Mr. Mitchell, who has upon his shoulders the sole responsibility for this building, and the control of its upkeep, is paid a bare daily wage. It does not seem quite the thing. However much we may discuss economy, it is up to us to see that at least in this Parliament we do not sweat our own servants. I know there are difficulties surrounding the question-
– There is no difficulty at all. The Treasurer could deal with the matter within twenty-four hours.
– Of course, I bow to the knowledge of the financial authority in the Chamber. I suggest to the honorable member who moved the amendment that in the circumstances he should withdraw it, leaving it ito Mr. Speaker to review the whole question when considering the next Estimates.
– Mr. Speaker has given us no promise that he will do anything definite.
– The honorable member should not put the Presiding Officer of this House in the position of. bargaining on the floor of the House. The course I have .suggested will, in the long run, be found to be more in keeping with our dignity, and will best effect the object we all in common have in view. I join with honorable members in asking Mr. Speaker respectfully to review the salaries paid to officers of the House, with a view to having them placed on the footing of persons outside in relation to such increases as have been given generally since last we discussed this matter. I am sure that such an appeal coming from both sides of the House will have the desired effect.
– I do not know whether I would be in order in doing so, but I would like to ask the honorable member for Lang (the Hon.. W. Elliot Johnson) whether I understood him to say that the whole matter was being reviewed at the present time, with a view to placing a certain sum on the Estimates for next year.
The Hon. W. Elliot Johnson. - Yes ; the matter has been under review for some time.
– I would be quite satisfied to see the amendment withdrawn if our ends can be gained without a division, but the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who moved the amendment, is unavoidably absent from the chamber, and before leaving he asked honorable members to be sure to call for a division.
– Do not worry; I propose to call for a division.
.- I would like to give the Minister for the Navy (.Sir Joseph Cook) some instruction upon the duties he will carry out as Acting Treasurer, and point out how he will be able to overcome the present difficulty. He has advised us to wait until, the next Estimates are before us, and if he will give the assurance that those Estimates . will provide sufficient for the payment of extra salaries to the officers of the House for the present moment, I am quite willing to let this matter go without a division. He can provide the necessary money out of his Treasurer’s Advance. Among the Parliamentary attendants is a returned soldier, who is paid £2 17s. 6d. a week, out of which he has to maintain his wife and five children, and rent a house close to the scene of his work. He has also to pay 2s. insurance to the Government. This man cannot make one collar serve for a couple of days. He must be presentably attired, and must wear a clean collar nearly every day. He must always wear a white shirt. In 1913, the time referred to by the right honorable mem ber for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook), my wife, or the wife of any ordinary workman, could wash the whole of the household washing for Sd. a week, but to-day the material necessary for the same amount of household washing costs: 3s. 6d. I could give further illustrations to show that this man is being penalized. To-day it costs him 6d. a. week to keep his boots clean, whereas in 1913 it cost him 3d. to do so. To-day his tram fares, going to and from his work, cost ls. 9d. per week as against ls. per week in 1913. It costs him 7s. today to have his boots half-soled and heeled, whereas in 1913 the cost did not exceed 3s. 6d. . Yet the Speaker makes a comparison between the wages paid today and those paid in 1913, when no complaint was raised. There is no comparison between the salaries paid in 1913 and those paid to-day. Perhaps the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) does not remember when he was working at Lithgow, and I endeavoured to have his wages raised by 2d. a ton on coal. In those days he was about as thick as a slate for the want of proper nourishment. If his memory would go back to those days be would accept my advice in regard to what to do at the present time. If I were Acting Treasurer, I would take the money from the Treasurer’s Advance Account for the payment of the increases to the officers of this House, and I am sure that when the Estimates came forward no honorable member would object when the circumstances of how it came to be done were related to them. It is of no use to try to mislead honorable members like myself, because I have a knowledge at least equal to that of any other person in the House of the wants and necessities of the class from which I sprang. I would urge Mr. Speaker to let us have no more of these vague statements, but to come boldly to the front and say either “ I am in favour of an increase “ or “ I am not in favour of it.” I am satisfied that these people are not being paid a living wage. Let honorable members think of the case of the individual who has to suffer. The next Estimates are not likely to be laid on the table of the House until August or September next at the earliest. What are these employees to do in the meantime? All of them are married men, and the cost of the necessities of themselves and their childrenis increasing as the cost of living rises, but they will have to stay at their present wage until the next Estimates are passed. Only the other day one of my married daughters told me that she had to pay 17s.11d. for a pair of boots for a son eleven years of age, and they were the cheapest she could get. Another daughter found that the only decent pair of boots that she could buy for a child not more than three years old cost her 8s.11d. Even then they were not of first-class workmanship. I presume that these servants of ours, like other married members of the community, have increases in their families. Each one of these makes a differenceto theboot bill, and the longer justice is delayed to them in the way of salary the more possibilities there are of their little ones coming on and wanting boots. I speak strongly on this matter, because there is a principle underlying it. We, as legislators, have been told by commissions the minimum on which married men and their wives and children can live, as Australians. If we feel that wrongs of this kind are being done, let every individual member of the
House have the courage to bring the facts before the authorities, if he cannot have them redressed by any other means. I have spoken to members of the Ministry privately about this matter for eighteen months, and nothing seems tobe done. I do. not want to secure limelight out of a question of this kind; but when the necessity arises I shall not hesitate to draw public attention to what is going on. I believe that when honorable members ventilate these matters in Parliament those in authority pay more attention to them, because they do not like the facts to be brought before the general public. I think, that Mr. Speaker would be consulting his own interests if he could expunge from the records all that he said to-day, because he certainly did not reach that high ideal of humanity that a representative man ought to aim at in any statement he makes about his fellow creatures. The illustrations which he gave from the past have nothing to do with the present needs of the Australian people. What was good when I was a boy is of no use now. I used to preach things when I was a young man of twenty standing on a tub in Hyde Park, London, that I would not say to-day. In those days myself and my fellow workmen used to sing-
Work, boys, work and be contented,
So long as you have enough to live.
The man who sings that to-day ought to be pushed into the river and never seen again. As members of Parliament we pass a law to compel private individuals to pay a minimum rate of wages, and yet we do not do it ourselves. When we bring that fact forward, those in authority say, “ Oh, don’t say that, because it does not sound very nice.” That sort of appeal has no effect on me. I am glad this matter has come up, because the discussion should help to put a stop to what has been going on, so that those employed in this building may get what the people of Australia intended that the servants of Parliament should get. ‘Does any honorable member believe that the public would tolerate for a moment a returned soldier with a wife and four children being paid only £2 17s. a week, and having to pay 2s. insurance out of it? If honorable members opposite think the people would not tolerate that state of things, let them impress upon the Treasurer that if he does not do something to improve things they will vote against him at the next opportunity and push him out of his job. Unfortunately, honorable members on the other side cannot do that because the Prime Minister rules them and decides who shall be Ministers. If he sat on this side of the House, the first Caucus that met would want to know what the devil he was up to if there was anything wrong.
– I wish to say a few words to clarify the position, and again to resent the statement that there is any male employee of this House, under the control of the Speaker, receiving a salary of less than £3 a week. I cannot understand the object of members in continuing to make misleading ‘ assertions when I have stated that no male employee of this House is receiving less than £158 a year.
– That is- too little.
– That is not the point. The statement has been made that some are getting less, and I say that that statement is not true, so far as this House is concerned. Some honorable members may have other things in their minds, and, therefore, do not make the position clear; but they certainly have conveyed to the minds of honorable members the impression that some of the attendants of this Chamber are in the position to which they have referred. I again say that that is not so. To avoid mistakes, I shall give a list, without mentioning names, of the salaries paid. The smallest salary is paid to temporary cleaners, and, amounts to £158; when the bonus of £15 is added it brings the total salary to £173. That is the lowest. It is not £2 17s. a week, as honorable members have stated. It is considerably more than that - about £3 6s. 6d. Whether it is sufficient or otherwise is another question. One hundred and fifty-eight pounds is the lowest male wage on this side of the building.
– Catts. - That is less than the living wage.
– It is the minimum at which the temporary cleaners are started. The next rate is £168, plus the bonus, which brings it up to £183, roughly £3 10s. per week. The next is £200, the next £216, and the next and highest £265, which is the salary paid to the housekeeper, in addition to which he gets free quarters, fuel, light, and water. Apart altogether, from the question of whether the payment is sufficient, I thought it well to put these figures before the Committee in order to refute the statement that attendants in this Chamber are receiving only £2 17s. 6d. per week. The whole question is now being, reviewed by the President and myself. We had it under consideration prior to the dissolution, but did not arrive at finality because it was felt that the matter was one that should be left for the determination of the Presiding Officers of the new Parliament. As soon as it is convenient for the President and myself to renew the conference which was broken by the elections, we shall meet again and further discuss this matter.
I should like to point out one very serious omission from the present discussion. I am surprised that during the consideration of the question of underpayment some reference has not been made to the position of honorable members themselves. While giving attention to the grievances of every one else, they appear to be the last to consider their own disabilities. I have no hesitation in saying that the allowance received by honorable members, having regard to existing conditions, is wholly inadequate to meet the extra burdens of existing conditions. Something should be done, and that very soon, to remedy the situation, so that honorable members, in common with the people generally, may obtain further remuneration to meet the increasing calls upon them. By comparison many of the officers of the , House are better paid. Some honorable members, at the end of the month, find themselves hard-pressed to make ends meet; yet they are the last to look after their own interests in this respect. I hope that if they are so diffident as to their own position, the Government themselves will consider the question, and realize that honorable members themselves have a real grievance. Even the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth with his enormous responsibilities gets paid a salary less than that of an efficient departmental manager of many a private concern.
– There does not seem to be now, nor has there been on any occasion, any wide difference of opinion amongst honorable members as to the inadequacy of the payments made to the parliamentary attendants. A point that has not yet been explained relates to the nature of the control of the staff of this House. It is practically the unanimous desire of the House that better treatment should be meted out to those in attendance upon honorable members’; yet no one has indicated who is the authority to give effect to that desire. We were asked a few days ago to appoint to the Joint House Committee members of this House, presumably, to represent us upon it. An honorable member who had served on that Committee stated, however, that the Committee had no control over the conduct of the House - that it was controlled by some one who was not a member of the House of Representatives, and over whom the Committee had no authority. We are entitled to know who really does control this House, and why it is that the wishes of honorable members in respect of these and other matters do not receive the attention to which they are entitled. If the government of the House is such that effect cannot be given to the will of honorable members in respect of these matters, an alteration ought to be made. There should be some one to whom we can attach the blame for any failure to give effect .bo the expressed wishes of the House on these and kindred subjects. I should like to know whether it is true that Mr. Speaker has control of the staff of the House of Representatives, or whether the whole business relating to that control is under the direction of the Joint House Committee? If it is under the control of the Committee, we should see that those elected to it by this House do justice to the men Whom we employ. To me, it is a disgrace that we should be setting an example different from that which we expect private employers to follow. It is not the wish of the House, and we should see that the officers responsible for the control of the House are made to understand that we expect them to control it, and not to allow the authority to do so to drift into the hands of any person beyond our control.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– As the hour is late, is it the pleasure of the Committee that the remaining divisions be taken as a whole?
– I object.
Proposed vote (Prime Minister’s Department), £20,090, agreed to.
Proposed vote (Department of the Treasury), £74,170.
.- I had intended earlier in the day to draw attention to the financial position of Australia, and to the indifference shown by the Government and their supporters to any attempt to solve the problems associated with it. As that would involve my speaking at length, I shall not do so to-day, but shall avail myself of another opportunity to deal with the whole question. I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer a couple of grievances relating to the Old-age Pensions Act. The first has to do with the treatment of a German under the Old-age Pensions Act. His case has been considered by a union in Sydney, of which he is a member, and has also been brought under the notice of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association. Both bodies have urged me to bring it before Parliament, since, under the Act as it stands, it would seem that the Department itself is powerless to grant the desired relief. The following letter, which was addressed to the Department, puts the position as briefly as possible: - 18 Raglan-street, Darlington, Sydney, 19th July, 1918.
Dear Sir, - I apologize for thus taking up your valuable time in a matter that is of great importance to me. I have been’ in receipt of the old-age pension from January, 1915, until June, 1918, when it was discontinued. The reason given to me at the Pensions Office in Sydney for the discontinuance was that, as I was naturalized after the outbreak of war, I could not receive it under regulation’s. I therefore desire to place the following facts before you, and crave your reasonable consideration of the matter. I, Moritz Carl Georg Hirsch arrived in Brisbane on the 5th day of November, 1809, by the sailing ship Humbold under Captain Meyer, my passage being paid by the Queensland Government. I was granted 40 acres of land. I remained in’ Queensland for three years, and then came to New South Wales, in which State I have continuously resided for forty-six years. I was honestly under the belief that, as I was brought, out by the Queensland Government, I automatically became naturalized, and was not aware of the contrary until I made application for the pension in 1915. I swear thatI have always been, and still am, a loyal subject of the British Empire. I have always taken a keen interest in the affairs of my adopted country. I am well known to Superintendent Kelly, of the Metropolitan police, from whom any further information required as to my character could be got. As Iam now in my eightieth year, and have on several occasions been unsuccessfully treated for hernia, I am quite unable to earn my own living. I have no relations whatsoever in the Commonwealth, and sincerely trust you will take a favorable view of my case, as the pension is my only means of livelihood.
P.S. -I received my naturalization certificate in January of 1915.
The union of which this man is a member allows him a certain sum per week, and I believe he also gets same assistance from the State. We cannot turn a man on to the streets to starve simply because he was born in a foreign country. This man has been forty-six years a resident of Australia, and, so far as I know, there is nothing against his character.
– Why did he not take out naturalization papers during those forty-six years !
– Because, he came out under engagement to the Queensland . Government and thought he was thus naturalized. It is easy to be wise after the event. He knows now that he should have become naturalized before. I am sure there is no desire to deprive him of his pension because of his remissness.
– We will look into the matter.
– I have another case of an old-age pensioner, Mr. W. J.’ Anderson, late of Avondale, Cooranbong, New South Wales. His case also requires consideration. He bought an annuity of £30, to become effective when he reached the age of seventy, but when he applied for the old-age pension, the Pensions authorities deducted the amount of his annuity from his pension rights. There might have been no objection to this course, but the authorities capitalized the annuity and deducted £5 18s. 2d., the amount by which his income exceeded £26. A further deduction was made in respect of the value of his accumulated property, so that his pension was payable at the rate of £2011s. l0d. per annum. I do not think that the Parliament intended that individuals should be penalized in this way. The departmental officers, I understand, acted on the advice of the Crown Law Department, and, no doubt, faulty draftsmanship of the measure is responsible for this anomaly. I trust there will be some redress-perhaps, by an amendment of the Act - so as to remove this disability from old-age pensioners, who, in their earlier years, may have purchased an annuity. Unless this is done, all those who purchased annuities will be penalized., Here is a chance for members of the Country party to effect economy. ‘ If they can persuade 100 people to buy annuities, expenditure on account of oldage pensions will be correspondingly reduced. I know there is a general desire to finalize the Supply Bill, but I felt it my duty to bring these cases before the Committee and I hope that something will be done.
– I promise the honorable member that I shall look into the matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Remaining divisions agreed to; schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Order of Business.
[3. 59). - In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I should like to say that I hope honorable members will be able to conclude their remarks on the Address-in-Reply on: Wednesday evening next, as nearly everything that could be said in the debate has been said. There are many measures of first-class importance awaiting attention, including one which, I think, it is; the desire of all sections of the House to see finalized, namely, the War Gratuity Bill. The Bill is ready, and the Government desire to go on with it; and, therefore, I hope that honorable members will conclude their remarks on the Address-in-Reply on Wednesday evening.
– Why not advance the War Gratuity Bill a stage, so that honorable members may be able to see its provisions.
– Honorable members will see the Bill on Wednesday.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has asked honorable members to conclude their remarks on the Address-in-Reply next Wednesday evening. I can remember, in the last Parliament, how the Prime Minister received the shock of his life when I did not debate the Address-in-Reply, and the motion was carried on the voices. Indeed, there, was no man in the Commonwealth more annoyed at what I did than was the Prime Minister. I am not sure, however, whether I shall follow that example on this occasion, because, on other questions, no opportunity has been presented to me of saying a few words that I desire to say. I agree with the Prime Minister that the War Gratuity Bill is of first-class importance, and I know that many people throughout the Commonwealth are anxious to see it. There are many who are to receive advantages under it, while there are others who think that they ought to receive advantages. Some persons were prevented by the military authorities from going away from the Commonwealth, and they think they ought to be put in precisely the same position as returned soldiers. I agree with what was said by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) the other day, to the effect that this is a Bill which, to use his own phrase, ought to be discussed in a “leisurely” way; there should be no attempt to rush it through until persons affected have an opportunity to thoroughly grasp its provisions.
– That is a reason for dealing with it early.
– That is so, and it is certainly no reason why it should be rushed through before those persons have an opportunity to state their cases to honorable members. I have in my mind representations which have been made to me by persons who were prevented from leaving Australia. I am not going to discuss the question now, but I think other honorable members may know of similar instances. When the second reading of the Bill has been moved, it is only right there should be an adjournment of the debate to afford honorable members an opportunity to study the details of the measure.
The, honorable member for Darling (Mr.Blakeley) has asked me to ascertain from the Government whether they intend to adjourn over the Easter holidays, and if so, on what day they propose to adjourn, so that honorable members may be able to make their arrangements. Good Friday is three weeks to-day.
-In that week we could meet on the Tuesday instead of the Wednesday, and adjourn on the Thursday until the following Wednesday. If it is the desire of honorable members, the Government will make that arrangement.
– As to the debate on the Address-in-Reply I will not say that it will finish on Wednesday night, but it may finish early in the week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200312_reps_8_91/>.