8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported that, on Thursday last, the tellers had made an error in recording a division by substituting the name of Mr. Hay for that of Mr. Groom, but that it would be rectified in the Votes and Proceedings.
– On the 18th instant the House ordered that the report of the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry, together with the minutes of evidence, be printed. Both the report and the evidence were presented in print, but when the instruction to print and issue as a Parliamentary Paper was sent to the Government Printing Office it was found that the type of the evidence, which was a document comprising 600 pages, had been broken up, and that the cost of resetting the type and issuing the document as a Parliamentary Paper would amount approximately to £500. A few of the printed copies of the evidence had been obtained for purposes of reference by honorable members, and, with the concurrence of the House, I do not propose to incurthe heavy expense of reprinting it. The report itself has already been issued to honorable members, and copies are available in the usual way.
– The evidence taken by the Commission is of great importance, and the type of much bulkier publications has been kept before. In this case the type may have been broken up inadvertently. What I should like to know is whether a sufficient number of copies of the evidence that has been published will be kept in the Library to permit of any member consulting it who desires to do so? If there will not be enough copies, it would be advisable to incur the expense ofreprinting the evidence, even though that might be heavy.
– I understand that there will be ten copies of the evidence available to honorable members. Of course, if the House desires that the evidence shall be reprinted, it will be reprinted. It is only with the concurrence of honorable members that I propose not to incur the expense of, perhaps unnecessarily, setting up the type again.
– I do not know how long it is usual to keep evidence in type, but I think that, generally, matter is kept standing in type for some time. It cannot be the practice of the Government Printing Office to melt down type directly a few copies of an important document have been struck off, because, if that were done, we might frequently be unable to obtain copies of very important documents.
– Could not the Printing Committee look into the matter?
– I think that the matter might very well be inquired into by the Printing Committee, which could report its conclusions to the House.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Poynton) read a first time.
Retail Price of Sugar.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The retail price of sugar as stated by the Prime Minister.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places.
.- On Friday last I pointed out that the statement which has appeared in some of the newspapers to the effect that this House, by a vote that it has given, has acquiesced in the retail price now fixed for sugar, is incorrect. I am anxious that a vote should be taken.
– On the agreement?
– No; we have finished with the agreement. I approve of the agreement, but when it was under discussion, and the Prime Minister was asked by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) who represented the consumers at the Conference at which it was drawn up, he said that he did. A little later I asked him whether, as he had represented the consumers at the Conference, he could say what the consumers would he called on to pay for their sugar. To that his reply was that he did not know what the price of sugar would he when retailed. In connexion with the vote on the agreement, no mention was made of the retail price of sugar. I object to the fixing of the retail price of sugar at 6d., which gives the growers of cane and the millers Id. per lb., or £9 6s. 8d. per ton - to divide between them, leaving lid. per lb. to be swallowed by some one else. I would have moved the adjournment of the House last Friday to discuss this matter had not the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) prevented me from doing so, by moving it to discuss another matter which he considered of great importance. This is also a matter of vital importance to the consumers of sugar in Australia. The people wish to know why the price of sugar has been fixed at 6d. per lb. It has not been fixed at that sum because of the agreement. My authority for that statement is the Prime Minister, who, on Thursday, said -
It is necessary to emphasize that the increase in the price of sugar to 6d. is mainly due, not to the contract made with the Queensland Government for the purchase at £30 6s. 8d., but to the high price of at least 100,000 tons of foreign sugar which wc have bought, or shall be obliged to buy, to cover the deficiency of local sugar that will exist at the end’ of the coming season.
On the 17th March the Prime Minister said, in the course of a Ministerial statement -
When I tell honorable members that in the last season of 1910-20 we had to import over 100,000 tons of sugar, they will see very * clearly how important a factor the world’s price is to us.
According to that statement, the Government had then, taken the action which, according to the statement made by the right honorable gentleman on Thursday last, they have yet to take. On the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) inquired what quantity of sugar had been imported by the Government, and whether duty would be. paid upon it. The Acting Treasurer (Sir
Joseph Cook) stated that no duty would be paid. In reply to that statement on the part of the Minister I direct attention to the Budget papers for 1919-20, which were presented to the House in October last. On page 12 it is set out that the estimated revenue from sugar, including glucose, for the current year is £390,000. I think that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said, by way of interjection on Friday, that since the sugar would be imported by the Commonwealth,’ no duty would be paid. If that is so, why does the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) in his Budget papers estimate a revenue of £390,000 from this source? These figures must have been prepared by the Customs Department in September last.
– What is the usual practice ?
– Duty is always paid. The Budget papers show that in 1915-16 the duty collected in respect ‘ of sugar and glucose was £587,028; in 1916-17, £453,380; in 1917-18, £51,119; and in 1918-19, £107,309. The Government knew as far back as September last that they would have to import during the current financial year at least 65,000 tons of sugar. On Friday last I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, on notice, the following questions: -
I was informed by the honorable gentleman that the information was being obtained. Statistics in regard to sugar importations are more readily obtainable than in rspect of any other line. There are only four Australian ports at which raw sugar is received. The sugar refining mills are situated at New Farm, Brisbane; Pyrmont, Sydney; Yarraville, Melbourne; and Port Adelaide, South Australia. The figures as to imports are available* at those mills, and a telegram to each of them would have enabled the Minister at once to give me the exact information that I sought.
– Does the honorable member think that information can be ob’tained off-hand on a Friday morning?
– Is the information now available ?
– It will be interesting to ascertain what proportion of this 65,000 tons has been imported.
– The honorable member will ‘be given the information as soon as he sits down.
– Notice of my question was given.
– But the honorable member knows very well that a Minister does not see the questions on notice until the morning of the day on which a reply is to be furnished.
– That is quite possible. I am not blaming the honorable gentleman, but I urge that on an Important question like this,* which, is agitating the public mind to a greater extent than is any other, and which affects every home, the fullest information should be forthcoming.
– When the sugar enters the homes the people are satisfied.
– Quite so; provided they can purchase it at a reason-, able price. I dare say that 30,000 or 40,000 tons of raw sugar has been sold to the public during the last twelve months at the rate ordinarily charged for refined sugar. Hitherto the people have been paying 3 1/2 d. per lb. for sugar, but they are now to be charged 6d. per lb., and people naturally want to know how the additional 2£d. per lb. is to be distributed. It is said that the workers are anxious to get as much as possible for themselves, and to give nothing to the primary producer. That is not so. On Sunday night last I, with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “West), addressed a meeting of the workers at the Bijou Theatre. I have as much right to go there as have other honorable members to address gatherings at “Wesley Church. Both are political platforms at the present time.
– Who is complaining?
– Some people complain because -Labour men do what they themselves do. I put it to the audience at that meeting that no one objects to an increase in the price of any commodity if it is necessary to enable the producers of that commodity to secure fair and reasonable conditions. The audience agreed with me. The workers do not object to the extra Id. per lb., which we are told is to go to the farmer and miller ; nor do they object to the additional 18s. 6d. per ton which is to go to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to meet various items. That 18s. 6d. per ton, however, represents only one-tenth of a penny per lb. The workers want to know where the remaining 1 4-10d. per lb. is to go. If the Government say that it is to meet the extra cost of the sugar that we have to import to-day, the answer is that they knew at least in September last that they would have to import, and should have done so without a moment’s delay. As a matter of fact, they should have been able, between. July and August last, to estimate within 10 per cent, the actual shortage of the sugar crop. A Mr. Gillies in to-day’s press states that milling operations commence in May. Even if they did not commence milling until June, the Government should have been able in July. to tell within 10 per cent, what the crop would be, and should have made the necessary provisions to meet the shortage.
– The Queensland Government experts made a mistake.
– The Minister himself admits that they were 27,000 tons short in their estimate. Are we to pay the extra price in respect of” only the 27,000 tons? Has provision been made against the remaining shortage? It is idle to say that a cyclone destroyed a lot of the cane, and consequently led to a mistake being made in the estimate. No cyclone occurred while the cane was standing. The Government should have made provision for the anticipated shortage, and it is unfair that because of their failure to do so the people should be saddled with this extra impost, which will press more heavily upon the poorer section than upon any other class of the community. It will fall most heavily on the man with a family. “We find big families, not in the well-to-do residential parts of our cities, but’ in the industrial areas. I object to the additional 24(1. per lb. being levied when the producers are only to obtain out of that total an additional Id. peT lb.
– I shall, as far as possible, confine my remarks to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), departing from it only where it is necessary to do so to clearly explain the position for the information of the public. In order that I may make the most use of my time, I shall read my statement as I have set it out this morning -
The increase in the price of sugar has very naturally excited general comment, and the Australian public is anxious to know what are the reasons for the higher price.
In order that the sugar position may be clearly understood, a detailed statement, leading from the past to the present, must be given.
It is necessary to charge £49 per ton wholesale, and 6d. per lb. retail, because the estimated supplies to the 30th June, 1920, cost an average price of £58 per ton refined. The net return from sales at £49 per ton is £45 10s.;’ therefore every ton of sugar at present being sold - even at the enhanced price of 6d. - leaves a net loss of £12 10s. per ton. That is to say, the Commonwealth Government will lose on the 75,000 tons: of sugar sold at 6d. a lb. between the 23rd March and 30th June of this year no less that £943,302. If the Government were to charge such a price for the sugar it has purchased to make up the shortage in the supply of Australian grown sugar as would enable it to come out square, and not involve it in the loss of nearly a million pounds, the retail price would have to be at least l0d.
Some short-sighted people condemn the proposal for the purchase of the Queensland sugar crop for a period of three years at £306s. 8d. per ton for raw sugar. The Leader of the Opposition is not one of them.
– No; I am not.
– Those critics say that the price is too high, that in two years or one year the price of foreign sugar will fall, and that they could import sugar at a much lower price. I will deal with other aspects of the question later, but first let me say that, unless the Queensland crop is purchased by the Commonwealth Government, the price of sugar in Australia, for the next four months at least, will be l0d. per lb. The Commonwealth cannot afford to lose £943,302 by selling sugar at £12 10s. a ton less than it cost, unless it sees its way to recoup itself of a part, if not the whole, of its loss by handling the Queensland crop. Therefore, sugar can only be retailed at 6d. if we purchase the Queensland crop as provided in the draft agreement laid before Parliament. Otherwise, the price must be l0d. per lb.
It is estimated that the new Queensland and New South Wales crop handled by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will amount to about 145,000 tons. But as the crop is late this year, there will be a gap from the 1st July, 1920, of at least a month before the new crop comes in, during which the public must be supplied with foreign sugar. The following figures show the position at a glance: -
With selling price net receipts at £45 10s., this leaves a profit per ton of approximately £3 ; or an estimated net profit during eight months, from 1st July, 1920, to 1st March, 1921, on 165,000 tons of £495,000.
The position, therefore, may be summarized as follows: -
Against this estimated debit balance of £220,802 must be placed the possible receipts from the operations of the Millaquin Refinery. Should the Millaquin Refinery secure sufficient local sugar to make 20,000 tons of refined sugar at an estimated cost of £38 per ton, a profit of £7 10s. per ton would accrue to the Government, or £150,000, which will reduce the debit balance to £70,000.
From the figures given it will be clearly seen - (1) that the price now charged for sugar to the public is very much lower than the price paid by the Commonwealth for the sugar; (2) that this high-priced sugar is the only sugar available for the next four months; (3) that the Commonwealth will make a loss of nearly £1,000,000 by selling sugar at 6d. ; and (4) that it can only afford! to do so if it acquires the Queensland crop at £30 6s. 8d., pools it with the foreign sugar, and sells at a uniform price. As I have said, it is estimated that the next season’s Queensland and “New South Wales sugar crop will not exceed 145,000 tons. As the yearly consumption is over 280,000 tons, it is obvious that further purchases of foreign sugar must be made in order to supply the community until the 1921 crop is available. The amount necessary will be anything from 110,000 to 130,000 tons. The price to be paid for this is quite problematical. If, however, the price paid enables the Commonwealth to sell sugar at less than 6d. a lb. after 1st March next, it will most certainly do so.
As it is obvious from the facts given that there is,, and can be, no alternative to an increased price for retail sugar, and that, whether this price is to be 6d. or lOd. - the price paid’ for the foreign sugar purchased and now in course of consumption - these world’s prices cannot, of course, be affected by any action taken either by the Government or by any or all of its citizens - the question whether the price- proposed to be paid for the locally-grown sugar, viz., £30 6s. 8d., is too high, must be dealt with. First, l’et me point out that this price is far the lowest at present ruling for sugar in any part of the world. And this despite the fact that all cane -sugar grown in other parts of the world is produced by black labour at very low wages, while Australian, sugar is raised by white labour, and the wages paid to’ the workers are the highest in the world. ‘Secondly, the sugar-grower, as a primary producer, is ais much entitled as is the grower of wheat, meat, or wool, to something approaching the world’s parity.
If the sugar-grower got even one-half of the world’s .price to-day, he would receive more than the price he is willing to take. He does this in return for a fixed price for three years. The industry is stabilized, and he is encouraged to increase his output. If the Commonwealth does not give him this guarantee, he will, of course, be entitled to ask that he shall get something approaching the world’s parity for this coming season’s crop. But it is said that the price paid under the proposed agreement is too high. In all the circumstances, I do not think so. It has to be remembered that the cost of producing sugar has increased very considerably. “Wages, which absorb no less than 80 per cent, of the cost of .production, have increased very much, and the workers are, owing to the increased cost of living and other reasons, demanding a further increase. The growers quite recognise that an increase will be granted by the Courts, and that some increase is justified.
The price is not too high. But, quite apart from this, the sugar question cannot be regarded merely from the standpoint of commerce and industry. It is one of very great national importance. The electors of the Commonwealth have long recognised this. The sugar industry and the conditions formerly existing therein are chiefly responsible for the almost unanimous adoption of the policy known as “White Australia.” Australians recognised that it was vital to the safety of Australia that the sugar lands of the great, rich, northern State of Queensland should be cultivated, and by white labour. In the face of much opposition it adopted this policy, knowing that it would probably have to pay more for its sugar, but satisfied that it was essential to the defence and the progress of Australia that white men should* be encouraged to settle upon and cultivate the- sugar lands of Queensland.. Years have passed;, the greatest war in the world involved Australia in a life and death struggle. The White Australia policy, as applied to the sugar industry, has stood the test admirably. lt provided Australia during the war with the cheapest sugar in the world, and at the sarnie1 time it sent thousands of the sons of the white sugar-growers to fight fo* the defence of the Commonwealth and liberty. Australians have no reason, then, to complain that now, as a result of conditions over which neither they nor the Queensland growers have control - the consequences of war, droughts, cyclones - they have to pay more for their sugar than they have done for the last five years. The Australian people will still get sugar cheaper than any other people in the world, and they will do this because the Australian grower gets less than any other grower inthe world at the present time.
The trouble is, not that we pay too much for Australian sugar, but that there is too little of it to supply our needs, and so we have to buy foreign sugar at nearly three times the price. Raw sugar costs £30 6s. 8d. per ton. The retail price is 6d. per lb., or £56 per ton. Where does the £25 13s. 4d. go to ? It may be asked (1) How is the £30 6s. 8d. - the price paid for raw sugar - divided? And (2) Why should the retail price of sugar be 6d., which is £56 per ton? Who gets the difference? As to (1) the cane grower gets £19 14s. 5d.; (2) the miller gets £10 12s. 3d. Out of what they get, they have, of course, to pay all expenses of production, including labour.
The refining and distributing costs are as follows : -
From the foregoing it will be seen how little the cost of refining, and the amount paid to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for managing, financing, selling, and distributing, affect the price. These charges altogether amount to only £2 12s. 6d. per ton - a little more than1/4d. per pound, or less than one third of the amount paid to the retail grocers : so that whoever is responsible for the increased price of sugar, that responsibility can hardly be placed upon the shoulders of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The increase in the price from 31/2d. to 6d. per pound is caused by: -
The only increase paid to the sugar company is 2s.6d. per ton to cover the cost of the extra capital employed to finance the sugar turnover of, say, £14,000,000 per annum. If the sugar company receive 2s. 6d. per ton on the full quantity of 280,000 tons per annum, it will only amount to £35,000, or 5 per cent. on £700,000. In other words, the total profit made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company equals 2 per cent, of cost at £49, or £1 2s. 6d. per ton. (The increased price of £49 as against the old price of £29 per ton - 20 multiplied by 280,000 equals £5,600,000 per annum, and this increased turnover will certainly need more than £700,000 additional capital to handle it.) The extra cost of bags and coal cannot at present be accurately stated, but will amount to a large sum during the year.
Why was not enough cheap foreign sugar bought to prevent increase in price ? Some critics say that the Commonwealth ought to have foreseen the end of the war, the shortage in the local sugar crop due to cyclones and. droughts, and bought enough to make any increased price unnecessary. I will try to answer these gentlemen in a very few words. In February, 1919, nearly fourteen months ago, the price of new crop sugar in Java was £22 per ton, and it is quite easy “ after the event “ to ask why more sugar was not then purchased. The answer is that at that time the quantity purchased was expected to suffice, and that in the event of more sugar being needed it would not be required for fourteen or fifteen months or more, and that the price was not generally expected to increase. However, the unexpected happened, and Java sugar advanced to nearly £100 per ton, including exchange, and as President Wilson declined to indorse the recommendation of the Sugar Equalization Board to again purchase 4,000,000 tons - the output of Cuba at £25 per ton - the price broke, and speculation soon forced it up to £45 or more. The Java sugar-owners in Holland evidently received early news of Germany’s plight and the coming of the armistice, as prices of Java sugar went upwith a bound, helped by the foundation of the Java Sugar Trust to handle and control all sugar, and the release by the Allies of some forty or more Dutch cargo steamers which had been held up. Then shipment of Java sugar to Europe commenced in earnest, and the glut of sugar in Java became dispersed. It has been stated in this Chamber that Java sugar was offered at £7 per ton or thereabouts. The lowest official quotation received was £13 10s. in August, 1918- now some twenty months ago.
These are the facts, and they speak for themselves. The Government could not foresee the end of the war; it could not know that through cyclones and droughts, &c, the local crops would fall short of the estimates, and so it did not buy foreign sugar for years ahead. It has been said that the Australian consumer has had sugar at 31/2d. per lb., because the Government bought foreign sugar at a low price. The Commonwealth Government did buy very large quantities of cheap foreign sugar, and the community has enjoyed the advantages of this for many months. Leaving out of account the foreign sugar purchased in 1918, in February, 1919, the Government purchased a parcel of 60,000 tons of Java sugar at £22 f.o.b. for shipment in October, November, and December. This was landed here at a cost of approximately £25 per ton. It is not true that the duty has been charged. It is a purely book entry, and none of the duty appears in the cost of the sugar.
Extension of time granted.
– These facts show that the Government did purchase foreign sugar heavily, and in the quantity which the then estimated output of Queensland warranted as ample for all our needs.
With regard to whether the price of foreign sugar will fall to pre-war cost, it is said that while the proposed contract with Queensland growers is good business for the consumer this year, it may not be good for the next year, or the year after, owing to the fall in the price of foreign sugar. Of course, no one can say what price foreign sugar will be in one or two years’ time, but there are many good reasons for believing that the price of sugar will not fall to pre-war level during the next three years: -
In Australia it is estimated the maximum output of existing raw sugar-mills, if the season enjoys favorable climatic conditions’, is 350,000 tons. The latest mill - South Johnstone - cost over £500,000, including tramways, and more lines are still being laid. I only wish to add, in conclusion, that the point which the honorable member stressed, namely, that the retail price of sugar was not warranted by the circumstances, has been disposed of by the facts I have given. It is only because we intend - if the agreement is approved - to pool the Queensland sugar, that we shall be able to sell at 6d. a commodity which otherwise could only be retailed at l0d. per lb.
– It is quite impossible for honorable members to have followed the figures contained in a speech such as the Prime Minister has just delivered; and I say again that before important statements of this character are delivered it should be merely an act of common courtesy to have a few copies prepared for distribution among honorable members. But let me deal with such of the figures as we have been able to gather from the Prime Minister with respect to Java sugar. The other night the right honorable gentleman delivered himselfof a little cheap clap-trap by saying that he was not God Almighty, and thus could not have foreseen the end of the war, and that, therefore, the Government hadnot felt disposed to purchase sugar. The Prime Minister has just stated that twenty months ago sugar was purchasable in Java for £13 per ton. A few months afterwards, when the Government bought, it had risen to £22 per ton. It is a fact that merchants approached the Government and asked for permission to purchase sugar when it was obtainable in any quantity in Java at £7 10s. per ton, but the Government refused to allow them to do so.
-When was that?
– That was about eight months before the armistice.
– They could not have got any ships then.
– The honorable member will persist in these silly objections. He now alleges that the Government refused to allow merchants to buy Java sugar because there were no ships available. These merchants were prepared to take the risk of getting shipping; some, indeed, had ships available,’ and were prepared to bring the sugar down here. And there was not so very much foresight required to see what the position would be, for some of those same merchants bought sago, tapioca, and other products of Java at the time when the Government were refusing to allow them to purchase sugar. And they made enormous profits. What is the good of all this clap-trap, and of saying that, because the Government could not have foreseen the end of the war, they could not have bought sugar? These merchants who were unable to carry on owing to the want of sugar applied to the Government for permission to purchase the commodity, but were refused, although at the time there were 800,000 tons of sugar lying in Java which could have been bought at less than £7 10s. per ton.
I have taken the trouble to ascertain what is likely to be the effectof the increase in the price of sugar on fruit growers. Last year Melbourne jam factories bought 976 tons of quinces and 2,050 tons of melons, but this year neither quinces nor melons will be boughtby the factories. The quinces were purchased at £10 per ton. The factories also bought 3,000 bushels of figs and 2,000 bushels of pears; but now, owing first tothe scarcity of sugar, and later to the increase in tike price of the commodity, they refuse to buy either figs or pears. In fact, it is quite safe to say that if sugar retains its present price practically the whole of the less valuable varieties of fruit, such as the cheaper kinds of plums, quinces, apples and oranges, will cease to be converted into jam.
– Will the honorable member tell us how we are to get cheaper sugar ?
– I told the Minister nearly two years ago where he could get it, and he would not get it.
– The honorable member never spoke to me about the matter.
– This is a serious conflict of testimony.
– It is not. Three times I have made the same statement to the Minister’s face, and this is the first time he has had the cheek to contradict me.
– I may tell the honorable member that I have never heard him make the statement until now. I have not been in the Chamber when he previously spoke on the matter.
– The Minister rose and replied to the statement the other afternoon.
– But I was not in the Chamber at any time when the honorable member made the statement.
– I came over from Tasmania, and went to the Minister and also to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt).
– When sugar was £7 10s. a ton?
– That would be about eight months before the Armistice was signed.
– It would be somewhere about then.
– Well, I was not Minister then.
– Let me give the Minister thefacts. I was crossing to Tasmania, and on the boat met Mr. Ashbolt, who was then a partner of Jones and Company, and) has since been appointed Agent-General for Tasmania. He had just come from Java, and told me that his company could buy any quantity of sugar there at £7 10s. per ton, but the Commonwealth Government would not allow any purchases of sugar to be made at that time. There were also on the boat two gentlemen from Java, who told me that if a cash offer were made for sugar at that time it could have been bought for considerably less than £7 10s. per ton.
– They were very foolish not to Buy it.
– But at this time the Commonwealth Government were preventing any one from purchasing sugar abroad and bringing it into Australia.
– They could have purchased the sugar abroad, even if they did not bring it into Australia.
– Would any one imagine that a person would purchase such a perishable commodity as sugar if there was a prohibition against bringing it into Australia ?
– They could have kept it in Java and sold it to America.
– I would not have referred to this aspect of the question if the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had not again indulged in “ a little bit of slinging off “ this afternoon about foresight. There was no foresight on my part. I repeat now that some of the men who were refused permission’ to buy sugar did buy tapioca and sago, and land it in Australia, and make an enormous profit out of it. Good luck to them for having had the requisite foresight!
Several honorable members interjecting,
– It was not profiteering. If persons can buy commodities uncommonly cheaply, and sell them at a fair and reasonable price, it is not profiteering.
Australia is in a very awkward position. Sugar is being bought in Queensland at a price which is less than that at which it can be bought in other parts of the world, but I differ from the Prime Minister when he says that the shortage of sugar throughout the world will continue for three years. Of course, it is all a matter of opinion and research, but it is a fact that the beet fields of Germany and Austria were not injured by the war. They went out of cultivation simply because the beet cultivators were taken into the army, and Germany had no means of exporting beet sugar even if she had manufactured it. We know that that country is to-day in the direst extremities to produce something which she can export for cash with which to retrieve the terrific slaughter which has been made in the rates of exchange between her and the rest of the- world. Great Britain is permitting Germany to deal in certain lines, and if there is one thing Great Britain wants more than another it is sugar. Prior to the war she was importing 76 per cent, of her sugar requirements from Germany and Austria. My advice is that the people of Germany are frantically reviving their beet sugar industry. It must be remembered that beet is an annual crop. It takes only one year to produce a beet crop. Therefore, I make bold to say that before three years are over Germany will be exporting beet sugar to a greater extent than before the war, and the inordinately high price of sugar will be reduced..
I repeat that our position to-day is due to the want of common foresight on the part of those who were controlling the sugar industry during the war. Now we are told that we must accept this agreement, as it is the best that can be done in the circumstances.
-Why did not Great Britain buy Java sugar when it was at such a low price?
– There was an enormous difference, between buying sugar in Java, which is at our back door, to bring it to Australia, and buying it to take it to Great Britain through waters infested by submarines.
At any rate, we are told that we can take this agreement or leave it. I have endeavoured to obtain information on this subject from some of the best sources in Melbourne, and I say that I am not sure now that it would not be wiser if the agreement were withdrawn altogether.
– Order ! The honorable member’stime has expired.
– I desire, as briefly as I may, to answer the objection put forward that owing to a lack of foresight on the part of the Government foreign sugar was not bought. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has made the statement that he approached me some eight months before the armistice-
– I am not sure of the date.
– The honorable gentleman states that about that time he approached me with an offer to put sugar at our disposal for £7 10s. per ton. All I can say is that, while I have a fairly good memory for matters of this sort, I cannot charge it with the recollection of a single occasion on which the honorable member ever spoke to me about sugar. If any one asked me at any time before June of 1918 to buy sugar on behalf of the Commonwealth at a low price, I think I would remember it, for the simple reason that we were then just approaching the end of a sugar season with a carry-over of 60,000 tons of sugar. In the 1917-18 season we had a carry-over of 60,000 tons of sugar, and I ask the honorable member whether he thinks that, with a carry-over of sugar to that amount, the Commonwealth Government should have speculated with public money to buy sugar which they did not know they would ever require. I can remember the honorable member standing in his place only a few days ago and berating the Government because, for something we desperately needed, without the authority of Parliament we pledged ‘the credit of the country.
– What was that for?
– But look what the Government bought.
– I would urge upon the honorable member the value of consistency. He is now telling us that although we had in hand 60,000 tons of sugar at the time to which he refers, we should have speculated and bought sugar in advance, despite the obligation resting upon the Government at the time of taking full delivery of all the sugar grown in Queensland. The Government could not have done that, nor could they allow the people to buy this cheap sugar, even supposing it were available at £7 10s. per ton, in view of the sugar we had on our hands at that period.
– The Government knew in July, 1918, that there would be a shortage during the ensuing year.
– We knew to a certain extent.
– The Government could tell in July to within 10 per cent, what the crop would be.
– I can inform the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that the estimates of the Queensland experts were that the crop of sugar would amount to 250,000 tons, and we realized only 190,000 tons.
– When was the estimate of 250,000 tons made?
– Before the actual harvesting started.
– It must have been a long time before.
– I can tell the honorable gentleman the reason why the estimate was not reached. It was because the cyclone, which was experienced the season before, shook the cane-
– What, at Cairns . and Mackay?
– In those districts in which we expected a very large return.
– In January?
– If the honorable gentleman will listen to what I am saying he will learn that it did not matter whether it happened in January or any other month. The fact was that, instead of getting 1 ton of sugar to 9 tons of cane, it took 13 tons of cane to produce 1 ton of sugar. That was something which it was utterly impossible for us to foresee. In view of that shortage of crop we bought 57,000 tons of cheap sugar at somewhere between £18 and £19 per ton, and the public have had the benefit of that sugar.
I now come to the next season. On the 14th February, 1919, I wrote to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and told them I had some doubts as to the position in the future. Honorable members should bear in mind that we were estimating then for this period of the present year, or about fourteen months ahead, and it is not an easy matter to make estimates fourteen months ahead.
I told the Colonial Sugar Refining Company that I wanted them to give me their candid opinion as to what the position was, and what .provision the Government should make to meet it. I asked them to give us the best advice they could give, and this is the reply they sent me : - .
It is impossible, I venture to think, for anybody to forecast tha future of the sugar market for the next eighteen months with a hope pf arriving at a conclusion which would be of the slightest value. There are so many unknown factors involved in such a speculation that the question of supplies and prices must remain altogether uncertain, and to determine whether to buy raw sugar for forward delivery, or to wait the chance of doing better later on, is purely a matter of hazard.
I endeavoured in my letter of 3rd instant to the Federal Attorney-General’ to throw some light on the position as we saw it, and you will notice that we agree to the opinion of our London agents that it will be prudent to secure a portion of supplies required next season. Since then further advices have been received from London, recommending us to commence buying, and these have, no doubt, been prompted by the strong demand, especially from Japan. As things stand, we would, if acting on our own account, and able to command freight, as well as control the selling price for refined products, buy now 40,000 tons to 50,000 tons, leaving balance of requirements to be secured ‘later.
That is what they thought at that time.
– That was February, 1919.
– Yes. The Government acted upon that advice, and immediately purchased, not 40,000 tons, or 50,000 tons, but 60,000 tons of sugar. Now I propose to give honorable members the advice of the London agents referred to. I do not for the moment recollect the name of the London agents of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but they are the biggest sugar people in the world. They cabled at about the date of the company’s letter, the 3rd February, 1919, in the following terms: -
According expected supplies and increased consumption do not anticipate large surplus end year,
That is to say, a large surplus in the world’s markets - which case f .o.b. values’ unlikely decline materially.
These experts, speaking at that time, never anticipated the rise that we have seen take place in the sugar market. If anything, their cable, which is very carefully worded, shows that they rather anticipated a decline, though they did not anticipate a material decline. The cable continues -
Under these circumstances perhaps advisable now purchase portion requirements OctoberNovember.
At that time the estimate of the Queensland crop for the season– r
– You are still speaking of February, 1919.
– Yes. The estimate supplied to us by the best experts in the industry was, for the 1919-20 season, 205,000 tons. After having purchased for the 1918-19 season 57,000 tons of foreign sugar, we carried over, in round numbers, 17,000 tons, and we had already purchased 60,000 tons additional to meet the anticipated 1919-20 shortage.
– In February of last year?
-. - “Where did you buy it?
– In Java.
– At what price?
– £22 per ton.
– Was that f.o.b.?
– Adding together the carry-over, the estimated crop, and the sugar we had purchased, that gave us, roughly, 283,000 tons.
– Are you including New South Wales hi that?
– To what extent?
– The figures do not affect the calculations to any extent. Honorable members will see that that gave us a stock of 283,000 tons, when the estimated consumption was 280,000 tons. A little later we purchased an additional 21,000 tons, and we believed then, as we had every reason to, that we had sufficient.
– What did you pay for the additional 21,000 tons?
– £25 per ton for one parcel. The quotation for another parcel was in dollars, and I am not quite sure, at the moment, what the exact rate was. We had every reason to believe that we had purchased sufficient to meet our requirements; but, unfortunately, three things occurred which interfered with our calculations. The crop, which had turned out well at the beginning of the 1919-20 season, did not realize anything like what we anticipated, as we received only 167,000 tons, as against our original estimate of 205,000 tons. In addition, the deliveries of sugar during the last three months of last year were extraordinarily heavy, amounting to 30,000 tons more than had been delivered during a similar period in any previous year.
– To jam manufacturers ?
– No; the bulk of it went to the distributors, as our figures will show. In addition to the unforeseen occurrences already mentioned, the season this year, owing to the drought, is likely to be late, and so we have to provide for an additional four weeks’ supply. These three things together have created the shortage, and the circumstances could not have been foreseen by the Government. I believe it would have been entirely wrong for the Government to have used public money, and the public credit of this country, to speculate in sugar, and to have purchased more than was necessary to meet the reasonable requirements of the Commonwealth. I do not consider we had a right to do that; and, taking it by and large, I think all fair-minded men will realize that the Government made every reasonable effort to meet the shortage.
– In regard to the question ofdistribution, is the Minister prepared to recommend the appointment of a Board on which the public will have representation ?
– If the honorable member will submit his suggestion in proper form, I am prepared to bring it before the Government, and ask that it be given careful consideration.
– You were up to February, 1919. As you had a bad crop in that year, why did you not buy in September ?
– I have already explained that long before that the Government purchased 81,810 tons.
– Not for this year.
– The coming crop?
– To meet the shortage.
– For the 1919-1920 season.
– How much was purchased at £81 a ton ?
– As I have already explained, a gap has been caused by circum stances over which we had no control. We have bought 31,000 tons to meet the deficiency, and the average price was approximately £81 a ton.
– When did you buy that?
– Since the beginning of this year.
– What is the world’s parity for sugar ?
– It is very difficult to answer the honorable member’s question, because that depends entirely upon the rate of exchange between the different countries concerned.
– The rate last September was entirely different from what it is today.
– It was better then than it is to-day, but that could not be foreseen.
– It has been worse than it is to-day.
– I have given the facts, and I think they will meet the objections that have been brought forward.
– How much did you include for exchange in the £81 ?
– The exchange paid depends upon whether the sugar was obtained inCuba or elsewhere; the rates between different countries, of course, vary.
– The Minister knows where he purchased it.
– I have not the figures before me. The exchange varies according to the rate ruling when delivery is given. We purchased sugar in Cuba many months ago, and I do not know when delivery will be “taken owing to the difficulties in obtaining shipping. We do not pay for the sugar until we lift it, and the rate of exchange payable depends on the ruling rate in London when delivery is taken.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to support the motion moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor). It must be strikingly apparent to every honorable member of this House that the Government has not fairly faced the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition. A distinct attempt has been made to divert the discussion from the retail price of sugar to the question of whether this House should approve or otherwise of the agreement made with the Queeusland Government and certain, other persons who recently sat in conference in Sydney. The Government have been guilty of a want of frankness in that respect, and have not shown a desire to discuss the issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition. Speaking of the agreement, I am inclined to think that the Prime Minister’s action in asking for the approval of Parliament is evidence of adesire .to transfer from the executive Government to Parliament the responsibility for some particular purpose.
– It is the only agreement that has been brought before the House.
– Quite so, and for some purpose. The matter has been brought before the House, but we have not been supplied with the information that was placed before the delegates who discussed, the matter in Sydney. Speaking for myself, I have no doubt that the Queensland Government would not agree to anything unjust as far as the proposed payment to the growers or the wages paid to those in the industry were concerned. But we are asked as individuals to approve an agreement, and I think that the least we can expect is that all the information placed before the representatives at the conference should be placed before us before we come to a decision on the matter. I am not prepared to support an agreement merely because it has been prepared by some one else in whom I have confidence. When I am asked to give my approval to such an agreement I desire to hear all the arguments, and all the circumstances surrounding it. The Prime Minister placed it before us with very scanty particulars, and obtained the approval of the House on the voices, not because he intended for one moment to’ cancel the agreement if this House did not approve of it, but because he wished to transfer to the members of this House the responsibility that properly rested upon the Government. Now it is an entirely different issue that is raised in the motion which has been moved this afternoon. The question involved in that motion is, “ Do we approve of the retail price which has been fixed for sugar?” The Prime Minister himself has told us that the rise to a minimum of 6d. per lb., and possibly to a higher price in the country centres, is not due to the agreement made with the Queensland Government, but is due “to the importation of foreign sugar. Yet he suggests that we have approved, not only of the agreement entered into with. the Queensland Government, but also of the agreement which he has made with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and which has never been submitted to us. He desires to drag in as incidental to our approval of that agreement an approval of the retail price, which has been fixed by the Government at 6d. per lb. But before we can approve of that price, we wish to know all the circumstances surrounding the importation of this sugar. We wish to know what quantity has been imported, from where it was imported, at what price it was imported, what amount was included in that price for exchange, and what opportunities there were for purchasing sugar at a lower price. The object of this motion is to direct attention to a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the retail price, of sugar. The man in the street is not concerned with all the generalities with which the Prime Minister dealt. There is an old Latin maxim which reads - In gene ralists dolus - in generalities deceit ia concealed. The Prime Minister has dealt out to us a lot of generalities, but the average citizen is concerned’ only with the fact that he is being obliged to pay 6d. per lb. for his sugar, and he naturally wishes to know the reason why. It is up to us, as representatives of the people, to inquire into the circumstances which the Government allege provide them with justification for increasing the retail price of sugar to 6d. per lb. I wish to know why. the opportunity referred to by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) was not seized upon by them. He1 has affirmed that there are prominent merchants who deal in sugar, and who desired to obtain permission from the Government to purchase sugar in Java at £7 10s. per ton. No doubt, they had sufficient foresight to recognise that a shortage would occur here. Why had not the Government that foresight? Surely they had the same opportunities for knowing what future conditions were likely to be. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has said that merchants were not prevented from buying sugar abroad, but that they were prevented from bringing it here. What do I understand him .to mean? Does he mean that they were prevented by tho Government from bringing it here?
– The Government wanted to encourage the local grower.
– There was no need for such encouragement to the local grower, because there was in operation a Protective duty of £6 per ton.
– That in itself was not sufficient.
– The honorable member declares that the Government prevented merchants from bringing sugar into the Commonwealth. On the other hand, the Prime Minister affirmed that there were no ships to bring it here. That is an entirely different statement. If there were no ships available to bring it here, obvously the responsibility for providing those ships would have rested upon the merchants who purchased it. That was a risk which they were quite prepared to incur. We thus have before us these two contradictory statements. The honorable member for Wide Bay has said that the merchants were prevented by the Government from bringing foreign sugar into Australia. On the other hand, the Prime Minister has declared that sugar was not imported because there were no ships available to bring it here. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has provided the answer to the later statement. Manifestly, the view expressed by the honorable member for Wide Bay is the correct one. The merchants were prevented from bringing foreign sugar here although they were quite prepared to accept the risk of being unable to obtain the requisite shipping. They were prevented from doing so for some reason or other. However, it is clear that somebody bought the sugar which was then available in Java at £7 10s. per ton. Was Australia the subsequent purchaser of that sugar at a higher price, and have middlemen appropriated the profits? The merchants, to whom reference was made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), were not allowed to buy thissugar in Java, but somebody bought it. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) say that that sugar was not the sugar which was afterwards purchased by the Commonwealth? He admits that the Commonwealth have purchased some thousands of tons from Java at £23 per ton. May not that be the same sugar as some middleman purchased for £7 10s. per ton?
– The sugar which we bought for £23 per ton belongs to a different season. The honorable member knows that.
– There is no doubt that somebody purchased that sugar at £7 10s. per tonand sold it at a much higher price.
– Now, try again.
– If the Minister for the Navy wishes me to do so, I can supply him with an example of a like character in which the Government participated to the detriment of our primary producers. They purchased abroad a very large number of bags which they could have made available to our farmers, but instead of doing so they allowed them to get into the hands of middlemen, and thus a profit of between £250,000 and £300,000 was made at the expense of the primary producers of this country.
– The honorable member’s facts happen to be all wrong.
– They are not all wrong. I am as satisfied as that I am standing here, that opportunities which were missed by the Government of this country have been seized by private individuals, with the result that our consumers are now paying for these mistakes. The rise which has taken place in the price of sugar has occurred in such a way that it affords a great opportunity for profiteering. I do not care what measures may be taken by the Government, they cannot prevent existing stocks, or the products from existing stocks, of sugar being sold at prices higher than are justified by reference to the old price. The other day when I was speaking here, I referred to the fact that in the case of a temporary increase in price, due to a sudden national emergency, it would be a proper thing that the general taxpayer should bear some of the burden rather than that it should be forced upon the shoulders of the consumers, and especially of those who have to maintain large families. The Minister for the Navy, speaking later, made it appear that I had said that the taxpayers of Australia should pay for improved conditions in the carrying on of the sugar industry in Queensland, and, generally, should bear the difference between the price of sugar for last season, and its price under the present agreement with the Government of that State.
– I referred to the honorable member’s statement that the total loss on the sugar deal should be distributed amongst our population.
– I did not say that. The same misrepresentation Ls being brought forward again. I referred to the sudden rise, due to the necessity of importing foreign sugar at high prices, and I said that it would be better that the general taxpayer should bear the brunt in such cases. I was not referring to any rise in prices as a consequence of the settled policy of the Government for- the encouragement of any particular branch of primary production. I am not quite satisfied with regard to the question as to whether an amount, equivalent to £6 per ton duty, has been added to the price of imported sugar. Did I understand the Minister to say that nothing was added?
– Not for duty.
– Then may I ask if at any time there was an amount of £6 per ton added to the price of imported sugar before it was pooled, with a view to fixing the average price to cover local and imported sugar?
– I think I am right in saying, “ No.” At all events, nothing has been added since I have been at the Customs.
– Not, perhaps, since the Minister has been in charge of the Department, but can he say if anything has been added while the present Government have been in office ?
– To the best of my belief, no.
– I have a different impression, notwithstanding the Minister’s assurance.
– Before any agreement was made with the Queensland Government the duty was added to the imported price of sugar.
– Yes, but I am speaking of the time subsequent to the making of any agreement, because I am under the impression - arid I have good reason for the belief - that the amount of duty was added to the price of imported sugar before it was pooled, and that a very considerable profit was made by the Government in connexion with the retail price.
I think it amounted in one season to as much as £500,000.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am not surprised at the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) suggesting that some of the burden due to the increased price of sugar should be borne by the general taxpayers, because, as a matter of fact, the taxpayers of Australia have been carrying the Queensland sugar industry for very many years and to the extent of many millions of pounds. The time will soon come when the whole policy will have to be reviewed^ To my mind the approval of the agreement - and this House did deliberately approve of it - involves the approval of an increase in price.
– No such thing.
– That may be the honorable member’s opinion. I disagree with him. I say that the question as to what has been done in the past, or whether the Government might have done this or that, cannot very much affect us now. We have now to consider whether the agreement is a good one, and whether the price is fair. Whether the opportunity referred to by the honorable member for . Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) to purchase sugar at a certain price should have been seized or not, does not now concern us, although I think the Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) has shown that, so far as the Government could forecast events, they had reason to believe that they then had more than enough sugar in hand or in sight, so that Government purchase would have been very much in the nature of a speculation, and outside the proper sphere of the Government. The first question for honorable members to consider is, whether in connexion with the agreement, the Government could have done better. Some honorable members have suggested that the agreement might have been made for two. years instead of three, but the Queensland Government have answered that contention by saying that a threeyears’ agreement was necessary to encourage planting and the opening up of new areas. It is a fact that if the agreement had not been made, the - Queensland sugar-growers, instead of getting £32 or £33 per ton, would have been able to command £79 to £81 per ton, and the people of Australia would have to pay about l0d. instead of 6d. per lb. We have to decide whether it will be worth while, temporarily, to pay l0d. per lb. for sugar in anticipation of getting it for less next year or in the following year. The general opinion appears to be that there is no chance in the second year of getting sugar for less than £32 10s. per ton, and the only point, therefore, to consider is whether in the third year of this agreement we could get it for so much less in the open markets of the world, that it would be advantageous to pay a higher price for the first two years. So far as I can judge, the outlook is that sugar prices are unlikely to fall to anywhere near the level of pre-war days. One honorable member said that German sugar-beet fields would shortly become productive again,but although Germany was not invaded during the war, other factors affecting production have to be taken into consideration. All the machinery of German beet factories was, for several years, put to other uses. Her railway lines were torn up for use on the battle front, and there is not. much likelihood, in the future, of the employment of women in the fields again, or the payment of the same rate of wages to men as prior to the war. The same influences are operating in all sugarproducing countries, so prices are not likely to recede materially. We shall not see £7 10s., or even £17 10s., per ton for Java sugar for many years to come. It must be remembered, also, that the retail price is fixed by the Government on the higher rate now being paid for imported sugar. The Prime Minister has told us that it will fluctuate. It will go down in accordance with the price we have to pay for the imported article, and we may very fairly anticipate that, although the price will not go up beyond the present figure, there will be in the near future a decrease as the price of the imported sugar decreases.
– The honorable member is optimistic.
– I am, and I believe I am justified in my optimism. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) spoke of the jam manufacturers and the fruit-growers. He should remember that the jam manufacturers of Australia are to-day getting sugar altogether under the world’s parity. This gives theman advantage over the rest of the world to the extent of £25 or £30 per ton.With that start, and with the rebate which has been promised to them by the Prime Minister, if the world’s parity falls below what they have to pay for sugar in Australia, they are really on velvet, and ought to be able to make very much better terms with the fruit-growers than they could if they had to purchase at the world’s parity. There are enterprising men in the jam-making industry, and if the manufacturers show any enterprise at all they ought to be able to capture the markets of the world at the rate at which they are now getting their sugar.
– Why should we be taxed to give the jam-makers cheap sugar?
– We are getting cheap jams now, and we are getting cheaper sugar than we could get anywhere else in the world without this agreement
– It is much, cheaper in New Zealand.
– No; the price of New Zealand sugar will probably be at least 6d. within the next month, and more likely will be up to 7d. Taking the whole matter in its broadest aspects, so far as we are able to forecast events for the next three years, the agreement is a good one. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) have explained’ that the rise of id. per lb., after allowing1d. each for the growers and the millers, represents the difference which the Common-‘ wealth has to pay between the prices for the imported and local sugars when they pool the two lots. Even then, as the Minister for Trade and Customs’ figures show, the Government will come out of the deal with a deficit of about £250,000 on this day twelve months.
– But the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not coming out with a deficit.
– The company’s1/4d. per lb. does not make very much difference to the 6d. Under the agreement the men are provided for, the industry is established, and all the Government are asking is that, instead of the taxpayers and the revenue having to find £1,000,000 a year to balance the sugar, account, it will be balanced by the people who use the sugar, which appears to be a fair and reasonable proposition.
.- A good deal of consideration has been given to what was done and what was not done in the past. In my opinion, the Commonwealth finds itself in the present position because of the- short-sighted policy of restricting production under the former agreement. I dare say the idea was that if there was over-production the surplus would be sold in the open market against the competition of sugar grown by black labour; but it was a short-sighted policy, however it be looked at. It would have been infinitely better, if we had had a surplus then, to sell it at a loss, because that loss would’ not have been nearly as great as the loss1 we are now sustaining through having to purchase outside at exorbitant prices, due to the restriction of sugar production in Australia. As a direct representative of the producer,, and a producer myself, I hold that that short-sighted policy has been carried out altogether too much in the past. The more Ave can encourage production in Australia, the better for Australia and its consumers. However, that is spilt milk. I hope that at least it will be a salutary lesson for future Administrations. The agreement at the present increased rate to the producer seems to be concurred in by the whole House, and the question now before the House is the price to be fixed to the consumer. I do not agree with the Leader of my party (Mr. Mcwilliams) that the Commonwealth Government should be the supplier to the consumers at a loss. It is only another form of taxation on the : limited number of direct taxpayers in the Commonwealth. It has been explained that a loss of £1,000,000 will have- to be met, and it is the taxpayers who will have to meet it. I object to that just as much as I object to the Government making a profit out of the products of the producers, as in the case of the wool agreement. In that instance the Government took my product, made a deal with some other individual, and appropriated the profits for the Com monwealth Treasury, without my being credited as paying the tax, because it is, after all, a tax upon the grower. I say, “ Let the grower have his property, and tax him afterwards. Let the people pay the cost of what they consume, and afterwards, in the Arbitration Court or elsewhere, levy your cost of living on the basis of actual costs.” Why should this Government become the foster-mother of the community in the manner that has bee® indicated? I was extremely sorry to hear the Prime Minister say that 6d. per lb. would not cover the whole cost. The balance will have to.be met by somebody else afterwards. I must vote for a price of 6d.. per lb., seeing that even that will not cover the ‘ cost,, but I sincerely hope that the importation which is at present, necessary will soon be ended, and that the Queensland growers will produce the full complement,, and more if they can, of sugar required by Australia. We shall then get back to a price of 4$d. per lb. I am not satisfied as to the manner in which the Government are dealing with the stocks already purchased at the lower price, under the old agreement. I feel that the consumer will be called upon to pay for them at the higher price, thus giving the middleman an undue profit on the quantity still unsold.
.- On the information before us, I am opposed to the new Hughes agreement with the various sugar interests, made in a secret conference, and also to the price arrangements of the Commonwealth Government.
A motion for adjournment, which permits of a brief explanation by honorable members, and which expires with the clock two hours after it has commenced, without any opportunity of reaching a vote, is not an adequate means by which the Commonwealth Parliament should deal with, a great question of this kind. It prevents any real action being taken to meet the situation.
We have been informed time after time that the Commonwealth has no power to reduce prices and control the cost of living. Here is an excellent example of the unlimited power of the Commonwealth to control prices and to increase them. If it has the power to increase prices, it has likewise the power to reduce them. By gross maladministration, as has been proved on the floor of the House, the public of Australia have now to face an added sugar bill of £7,000,000 per annum.
After the outbreak of the waT, when the wholesale price of Australian sugar was £18 per ton, the first Hughes agreement brought the price up to £21. The retail price was then 3d. It became 3M. under the first Hughes agreement, and the Commonwealth Government made about £500,000 out of the deal.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company made £1,000,000 per year profit during the war, and has made, under the first Hughes agreement, more than is necessary to pay the whole cost of all its plants in Australia during the currency of the war.
This agreement having expired, the Commonwealth have now made the “Hughes Agreement No. 2,” which covers the period of the next three years, and the retail price of sugar has been advanced from 3$d. to 6d. per lb. On appearances, the probabilities are that 6d. will not be the standard price for long, because the retailers are complaining that the margin allowed to them for distribution is too small. “World Parity. The Prime Minister argues for world parity sugar prices. Australia for many years paid higher than world’s parity prices when prices were low, by first placing a heavy duty against imported sugar, and secondly by absolute prohibition of sugar importation. This has cost the taxpayers of the Commonwealth many millions of money, and the sugar interests have all done well out of the Australian public. There is now no justification whatever for the sugar interests to demand abnormal profits because of the extraordinary conditions which have arisen from the great world war.
The following table will help to an appreciation of the sugar position: -
Increase per head per week, 61d.
Increase per week for family- of five persons, 2s. 7£d.
Increase per year for family of five persons, £6 15s. 3d.
Increase per year, Australian population of 5,000,000, £6,767,500.
The new Hughes agreement, No. 2, raises the wholesale price of Australian-grown sugar from £21 to £30 6s. 8d. per ton, an increase of £9 6s. 8d. for locally-grown sugar. This increase is to be divided as follows : - To the sugar refiners, £4 a ton ; to the growers, £5 6s. 8d. The refiners and growers undertake to pay any increased wages awarded by the Industrial Court of Queensland this year. Should further increases be granted later on the price of sugar is to be raised accordingly.
The present piece-work rate to canecutters is 7s. per ton. According to the Inter-State Commission, whose report was tabled on the 20th February of this year, after an inquiry lasting twelve months, to cut 4 tons of cane is a fair day’s work. For that 28s. would be paid to the cutters. The rate of pay for labourers is from £3 17s. 6d. to £4 a week.
There is a shortage of Australiangrown sugar for the current year of approximately 100,000 tons. This, we are informed, is being met by importations at £81 per ton. That the payment of such a high price might have been avoided has been proved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams), who say3 that when he was a Nationalist and a supporter of the Government he approached several Ministers, and pointed out to them that large quantities of sugar were available at the low price of £7 10s. perton, but that the Government, not wishing to purchase the sugar itself, prohibited private persons from purchasing and importing it.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has shown in the House conclusively that under the War Precautions Powers of the Commonwealth a clause in the No. 1 Hughes agreement prohibited any increase in the milling capacity of Australian refineries, for the specific and intentional purpose of preventing increased sugar production.
Thus there appears very strong evidence that the present sugar shortage has been deliberately brought about by the Commonwealth Government.
And note that the Government knew in ample time that there would be a shortage, for in all the years during which we have been producing sugar in Australia there have been only two years in which the production ‘has been adequate for our local requirements.
There are other Australian contributory causes of the decrease in sugar production, namely -
It may be remarked with emphasis that the Inter-State Commission has for the past twelve months been investigating the sugar production of Australia, and recommended to Parliament on the 20th February of this year that the new price for sugar should be £22 per ton. Although this expert Commission investigated the matter for twelve months, and took evidence in the sugar districts, the Government has ignored its recommendation that the price of sugar should be fixed at £22 per ton, and has fixed it at £30 6s. 8d. per ton.
– Might I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the honorable member is discussing an agreement which has been finalized - to use a modern word - by this House, and therefore cannot be referred to now.
– I am not in a position to say that that agreement has been finalized by the House. The adjournment has been moved to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the retail price of sugar,” as stated by the Prime Minister, and I am not prepared to say that the honorable member’s remarks are out of order since the motion itself refers to the Prime Minister’s statement on the subject of the price of sugar.
– The increase in the price of sugar is due to the arrangements made by the Government. There are many ways in which the present artificiallycreated shortage could be met -
To Parliament itself is given only a few brief moments for discussion, but no opportunity is provided for arriving at some decision. We have had no opportunity of moving a motion to refer the matter to a Committee, or of really doing any practical work in connexion with it.
The temporary crisis being met, there are measures which could, be put into operation which would rapidly increase the Australian production of sugar. That has been shown conclusively by the very able report of the Inter-State Commission to which I have just referred.
There i3 neither space nor time to develop this important phase of the matter. I absolutely repudiate the whole of these arrangements, believing that better could be done, and I suggest now that if the Government wish to give the House an opportunity of making some alternative proposals, a non-party Select Committee, composed of representatives of the different sections of this House, might be appointed to see what proposals they could frame, and bring them before Parliament, so that the matter could be dealt with without party bias or the consideration of party interests. If that were done, I have no doubt that there is sufficient intelligence and resourcefulness iri this House to bring about a better deal for the people of this country than that which has been arranged by the Government.
– The Leader of the Opposition moved the adjournment of the House to call attention to, and to protest against, the retail price that has been fixed for sugar. One might be pardoned for believing that political rather than economic considerations were responsible for this discussion. Will honorable members of the Opposition be definite, and state in direct terms on what their objection is founded ? Statements submitted by the Government, and already in Hansard, give the exact cost of distribution, and it is only just that the .people outside should not be misled. I know of no product that is distributed in respect of which there is a more rigid limitation of profits. When a merchant, under the terms arranged, has distributed his sugar, given discount, and taken the risks attendant upon his business, there is no greater profit than 2 per cent, for him, while at the utmost there is not more than 16 per cent, for the retailer, who, under the old agreement, had scarcely enough profit to pay wages. The vast majority of the distributors of this commodity to-day are not making half as much money per week as honorable members receive by way of their allowance. I ask honorable members opposite to show that they have a conscience by putting the facts fairly and squarely before the distributors of this country, and particularly the small men, for the vast majority of the distributors are only in a small way of business. I know that the Opposition want to take a vote on this question, their desire being to still further bewilder the public. They are actuated by purely political, instead of economic, considerations. Let them show that they are men, and be as honest as possible to these poor people, seeing that they themselves are receiving from the public purse more than double the amount that the distributors of sugar are receiving by way of profit on their enterprise.
.- Honorable members of the Opposition do not desire that a fair statement of the facts relating to the sugar agreement should be put before the public. Their protests are mere camouflage. They know perfectly well that if their proposal, that the retail price of sugar should not be increased, were adopted, the agreement would not be carried into effect, with the result that the public would be called upon to pay, not 6d. but lOd. per lb.
– Not at all.
– Every man who is not an idiot knows that that, would be the result of this proposal on the part of the Opposition. It is wrong for honorable members opposite to endeavour to bring about a state of affairs which would undoubtedly penalize every consumer of sugar in Australia. For purely political reasons they are endeavouring’ to create dissatisfaction as between the National party and the consumers in Australia.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner advises as follows: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that, apart from any recommendation that the proposed Royal Commission on the Federal Capital may make, it will ultimately be necessary to have plans and specifications for Parliament House, administration buildings, &c, at Canberra, the Minister will call the Federal Capital Plans Selection Committee together, with a view to finalizing the plans?
– The answer to the honorable meraber’s questionis as follows : -
The Federal Parliament House architectural competition was postponed on account of the war, and any competitors were informed that it was intended to complete the adopted programme ‘ as soon as the time was opportune. As has been announced, it is intended to ap point a Commission to report in regard to the steps necessary to commence parliamentary and administrative government at Canberra, and the provision of buildings will naturally come within the scope of their report.
Purchase of Motor Cars
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the serious position and uncertainty existing in the minds of mortgagees or mortgagors, if he will announce the determination of the Government in regard to the extension of the provisions of the Moratorium Act?
– I refer the honorable member to my statement made to the House on 25th March. The extension of the moratorium was fully dealt with by Parliament in the Moratorium Act passed in September last, by which the dates for repayment were extended on a sliding scale, beginning with February and ending with June of this year. No further extension is proposed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
All the Java sugar was purchased from Maclaine, Watson, & Coy., of Batavia, through C. Czarnikow Ltd. That from Fiji was purchased from Colonial Sugar Refining Coy. Ltd.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will consent to the immediate appointment of a Select Committee of members of this House to inquire into and report upon the whole of the agreements and arrangements entered into between the Government and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Ltd.; also between the Central Wool Committee and the said company?
– No. The agreements have been placed before the House, and have been fully discussed by the House; and some of them are the subject of pending litigation.
Manufacture of Yarn
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Cost of Visit to Australia
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will cause a return to he prepared showing the cost of General Birdwood’s visit to Australia?
– Upon the termination of General Birdwood’s visit to Australia a return will be furnished showing the total cost to the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Why some definite action is not taken to supply the Queanbeyan municipality with water from Canberra, when the municipality is prepared to pay for water that at present is running to waste?
– The position is that the municipality of Queanbeyan has been in communication as to the terms upon which water could be supplied to the municipality. A communication on the subject will be shortly forwarded to the municipality. I will endeavour to expedite the matter as much as possible.
– On the 25 th March, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) asked me the following question : -
Whether he will supply a list of the bonuses paid to employees in the Public Service of the Commonwealth during the period of the war?
I then intimated that the desired information would be furnished as soon as possible. I now lay on the table a statement, which I trust will contain the in- formation desired by the honorable member. It is as follows: -
Commonwealth Public Service.
Bonuses Granted by Arbitration Court.
A war bonus was granted by the Arbitration Court from November, 1918, on the following basis: -
Adult Male Officers. - Married officers and unmarried officers 25 years of age and over -
Adult Female Officers. - In receipt of not more than £150 per annum (bonus paid from 1.1.19), £0.
Adult Male Officers. - Unmarried and less than 25 years of age, with relatives entirely dependent upon them - provided officers receive less than £102 salary -£l2.
Note. -This war bonus, except as to female officers, was repealed as from 1.8.19, when a cost of living bonus on a higher scale took its place.
A cost of living bonus was granted by the Arbitration Court as from 1st August, 1910, on the following basis: -
Adult Male Officers. - Married officers and unmarried officers 25 years of. age and over, without restriction as to salary, £20; unmarried officers between 21 and 25 years of age, £10; members of Linemen’s Union, Postal Electricians’ Union, and Line Inspectors’ Association, 25 years of age and over, £14; members of these organizations ‘between 21 and 25 years of age, £7; Artisans’ Association members, £8.
Adult Female Officers. - War bonus of £6 granted from 1st January, 1919, to officers receiving not more than £150 per annum, was continued.
Cost of living bonus granted to officers receiving more than £150 per annum, £6.
All adult female officers are therefore entitled to a bonus of £6 per annum.
Professional Division. - Officers of the Professional Division have received’ no war bonus or cost of living bonus.
Note. - The cost of living bonus granted from 1.8.19 has been repealed in the case of the Australian Letter Carriers’ Association, and has been merged in increased permanent salaries.
Applications are awaiting hearing from all associations for a similar repeal of the cost of living bonus, and merging in permanent salaries with substantial increases.
– On 12th inst. the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) asked me a question relative to laying on the table of the House the contract for the sale of the production of zinc concentrates to the Imperial Government. Inquiry has now been made as to the contract between the Zinc Producers’ Association and the British
Board of Trade, and it has been ascertained that only the heads of agreement have been settled. The contract itself has not yet been signed.
– On 10th inst. the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked the following questions : -
He was informed that the information was being obtained. I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following answer: - 1 and 2. The exports of hides, skins, and leather from the Commonwealth during the period from 11.11.18 to 29.2.20 were as follows : -
I desire to add that the exports of hides, skins, and leather during the abovementioned period, extending for fifteen months, which really covered one season and part of another, were not abnormal, as will be seen by a comparison with the exports during the years 1913 and 1914- 15, which were as follow: -
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) be appointed a member of the
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question.
– Order ! The time for asking questions has expired.
– I understand that the Prime Minister stated last week that we should have a vote on the question of the price of sugar.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in asking a question at this stage.
The following papers were presented : -
Ordinances of 1919 -
No. 2. - Konian Catholic Mission Property.
No. 3.- War Precautions (Validating).
No. 4. - Prisons.
No. 6.- Customs Tariff.
Public Service Act - Appointment of G. G. M. Pain, Department of the Treasury.
Debate resumed from 26thMarch (vide page 939), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- In common with other honorable members of my party, I shall support the payment of the gratuity to the soldiers in cash. Personally, I am not concerned with the gratuity as a payment for service rendered during the late war, but I support the gratuity because the Labour party, in common with other parties in the country, urged the Australian manhood to go to the war, and made definite promises to them of certain considerations. I, as a member of that party, intend to see, so far as I am able to do so., that the people who made those promises to that great section of the working classes which went overseas shall be made to honour them, regardless of the rights or wrongs, or the advantages or disadvantages, of the European conflict. In adopting that attitude, I do not for a moment retract a single criticism I uttered during the war. Neither do I wish to apologize for the attitude I adopted in regard to it. That attitude I still maintain. War, in my opinion, is of no use to the working classes; it brings them nothing but misery and starvation. To the other classes it means increased profits, wrung from the sufferings of the workers. But a gratuity having been promised to the soldiers, I am of opinion that they will have a chance of getting something if the payment is made in cash, whereas if the payment is made in nonnegotiable bonds this Bill will be used to enable the employers of Australia to escape from carrying out the specific promise they made during the election, that they would cash the gratuity bonds. If the soldiers are paid in cash they will get something, but under the terms of this Bill they will get only a promise, except that not very numerous class described in clause 13 as -
As was pointed out by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), the promise made by the Prime Minister during the election led the public to understand that the whole gratuity would be paid in cash, because he included it in the £100,000,000 that was to be spent by May, 1921. Further than that, he pointed out that the bonds cashed by the banks and the Repatriation Department would probably amount by that date to £10,000,000, so that the Government would have to find £20,000,000 in that period.
A good deal of capital has been made out of the statement that this country cannot afford to pay a cash gratuity. Yet in the form of war loans the country succeeded in raising £322,000,000, upon which the taxpayers are paying an interest bill of, approximately, £14,500,000 per annum. From 41/2 per cent, free of taxation, to 5 per cent., subject to Federal taxation, is being paid to those people to whom the Government said during the war when asking them to contribute, “You are not asked to give. You are only asked to lend.” What is wrong with those patriotic people like the Broken Hill mining companies and the other great profiteering concerns of the Commonwealth waiting for twelve months or two years for their interest on the war loans in order that the soldiers who, they say, saved the country, and made it possible for them to live in peace and continue to carry on their industry of production free from the menace of the so-called Hun, may get their gratuity in cash? If our 300,000 soldiers have sawed the .country from those awful disasters of which the profiteering flag-waving patriots told us, why should not they wait for their interest on the loans, so that the soldiers may receive cash? Of course, they are not prepared to do that. The Prime Minister definitely stated during .the campaign that he had made arrangements with the banks to cash the gratuity bonds over the counter, that a large number of business firms had agreed to cash the bonds of their employees, and that the Commonwealth and State Governments would do the same for the public servants; and the honorable member for Cook read .a long list of employers who had given that undertaking. But this Bill provides -
Except as prescribed no interest in any war gratuity, or in any Treasury bond issued or to be issued in payment of any war gratuity shall be alienable, whether .by way or in consequence of sale, assignment, charge, execution, insolvency, or otherwise howsoever.
How are the employers ito cash the bonds of their employees if the bond is statutorily inalienable by any means whatsoever? Suppose a soldier who has no dependants dies, what becomes of his bond? He gets a promise. He has a bond; but bonds are ho good in Heaven. According to this Bill, the soldier will be unable to leave his bond to anybody. He cannot will it away. If I read the measure .correctly, the gratuity bonds will be inalienable, non-transferable, non-assignable. They will not be much good, then, to a soldier if he has not lived long enough for his bond to have become redeemable. The Government will benefit by the death .of as many soldiers as possible, and those soldiers who may die before their bonds are redeemed will meanwhile live on promises. The banks and the employers, who during the election were promising cash for bonds, are going to be “ “ let out ‘.’ under the terms of this Bill. The Prime Minister, who went around the country telling soldiers that they were going to get cash over the counter - that is, when he was not screaming, “ Lie down, Bolsheviks !” - has now introduced a Bill to specifically prevent the employers from keeping their promises. In his time the Prime Minister has got away with some fairly impudent things; but this caps the lot. I admit, of course, that he has said, “ What does it matter what we said yesterday?”
– What does the honorable member mean when he says that when a soldier dies his bond dies with him ?
– I did not say anything of the sort. I said that a bond was no good to a dead man. The Government here propose to insure that a bond shall be no good to anybody else after the soldier has died. Will the Minister for the Navy tell me that either clause 15, dealing with the inalienable quality of the gratuity bonds, or any other clause, will empower a soldier to transfer his rights, by will or otherwise?
– The Bill does so provide.
– Not according to my reading of it, and I can find no suggestion to that effect.
– It will be within the power of the prescribed authority to pay over the amount involved to certain persons.
– But it is specifically set forth that a bond, or the interest in a bond’, can be transferred to nobody. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who ‘is a legal expert, here finds himself at issue with the Minister for the Navy, and I will leave the point to be settled between them.
– But the honorable member for Fawkner does not disagree.
– The honorable member says that the soldier will be unable to transfer his rights - that the Bill will prevent him from doing so.
– The honorable member for Fawkner will tell you that this bond becomes part of a deceased soldier’s estate.
– I would suggest that the Minister do not fasten that interpretation upon the honorable member for Fawkner. He should shoulder it himself.
-At any rate, I shall be pleased if the Minister for the Navy will point out, in Committee, how a soldier’s bond may be deeded to some other party, and I shall be pleased, also, if he will tell me if it is proposed to give, or if the Bill provides, power to permit employers and banks to keep their electiontime promises, and cash bonds for their soldier employees.
– The prescribed regulations will provide for all that.
– But there is nothing to that effect in the Bill.
– Of course, the regulations are not in the Bill, but the power to make them is there.
– One thing that is not in the Bill is any reference to provision being made for employers and banks to keep their promise to pay cash. And, if regulations are to be drafted to that end, I want to know why the Bill itself specifically sets out that, while bonds shall be accepted by the Repatriation Department and by other Government activities having to do with soldiers, banking authorities and employers are to be emphatically excluded.
– I do not know of any reason why, except that it would be making the Bill about ten times as big when the same objective can be reached without its expression within the measure.
– Then, it is nothing but another matter of economy, I suppose.
Leaving the question of payment . in cash, or of the gift of non-transferable bonds, and turning from the intended repudiation of employers’ promises, I wish to discuss the matter of the prescribed authority. This authority will obviously have a very important bearing upon the administration of the Statute itself. It is to have powers, for example, in regard to necessitous cases, which may amount to anything or nothing. Yet, nowhere within the Bill is ‘the prescribed authority defined.
– It should certainly be covered by the definition clause.
– Of course, but all we find is recurring reference to “the prescribed authority.” The last clause in the Bill says -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
I take it that the prescribed authority will be appointed under these regulations, but my complaint is that the Bill does not go far enough. The prescribed authority will be the vital feature of the Bill, so far as concerns the parties who are to benefit or otherwise under it. It is my intention, in Committee, to move -
That the prescribed authority hereinbefore mentioned shall include not less than two returned soldiers’ and sailors’ representatives, who shall be elected by members of the returned soldiers’ and sailors’ organizations of the Commonwealth.
The purpose of my proposed amendment is that this Bill shall incorporate a provision such as is in the repatriation legislation. When the Repatriation Bills were before this Chamber I moved that the soldiers’ organizations should be given an opportunity to select men in whom they had confidence to represent them directly upon the authoritative Boards. My idea was that any dissatisfaction or grievance with respect to administration would receive sympathetic consideration by a Board which included the men’s own chosen representatives. The Government should undoubtedly provide in the Bill for defining “ the prescribed authority.” This administering body will be the most important feature of the whole gratuity legislation, when one sets aside the difference of opinion as to whether the gratuity should be paid in cash or in the form of bonds.
It is of no use for the Government, or the members behind the Government, to say that the money cannot be found. It can be found. As I have suggested, one way to find it is to ask people - if it has not been all talk on their part - to show their iona fides by insisting upon cash payment to the soldiers who, they say, saved them. The way in which they could demonstrate their good faith would be by standing down in the matter of two years’ interest upon the Commonwealth loans. The amount involved in two years’ interest upon war-time loans would be £29,000,000, and it is estimated that the gratuity will absorb something like £28,000,000. Thus, the finding of the necessary cash requires only that those who have invested in war loan bonds, and who have risked nothing in so doing, shall “hold off” the collection of their interest for a couple of years.
– But many of the investors in the war loans were poor people.
– That difficulty could be got over by providing an exemption in the case of small investors
– Then the honorable member would not get his £29,000,000.
– Well, will the honorable member explain how his party proposes to get the necessary £28,000,000 or £29,000,000 before the end of May next year?
– That is not my business. I am merely replying to the point which the honorable member raised.
– Numbers of returned soldiers invested in the war loans. Does the honorable member propose to take away their money ?
– My suggestion would not involve taking money away from anybody. It would mean merely suspending payment of interest for a couple of years. Honorable members opposite say that the soldiers have saved them and their capitalistic, profiteering patrons, and all that crowd which is behind them. It is up to that same crowd now to do something for the men who - they say - have saved them. Mr. Kerby. - Did the honorable member do anything, either by way of active service or in any other direction?
– No; the war did not interest me, as a member of the working class. The temporary honorable member for Ballarat, who has just asked whether I gave or did anything at all, will accept my assurance that I did not. I was like his confrere, the honorable member who sits next to him.
– Three returned men sit next to me.
– I am referring to that particular honorable member, the returned man who was engaged in growing cabbages at the war. The honorable member for Ballarat will be interested, perhaps, to know that I was engaged in producing zinc and lead at Broken Hill; but, in saying that, I want him to understand that I do not claim to have been engaged- in anything useful to the Allies or tending towards carrying on the war.
Contrary, however, to the views of some other honorable members on my side of the House, who, apparently, think that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming)’ should have been engaged in a more warlike undertaking than cabbagegrowing, I hold that the honorable member set a good example to the working classes of Australia.. If they had only confined themselves to growing. cabbages there would not have been so many casualties. I ‘ hope that the working classes of Australia, and of every other country in the world, will devote their time in the future to some such useful occupation as cabbage-growing instead of concentrating their efforts upon the provision of munitions of war, in order that they may slaughter, one another in the interests of the international capitalistic class. I have nothing to apologize for or explain away in my attitude during the war. When I was returned to this Parliament in 1917, the war fever was at its height; the patriotic prejudices of the people were being exploited to the greatest possible extent. I was taunted, in this chamber and outside, with being the representative of a minority. Those who taunted me then cannot do so today, however. I have not altered my opinions; but the people whom honorable members opposite, and their kind, fooled during the war have altered their opinions, and they have sent me back here. They have made me the representative of a majority in this chamber. And, just as my minority has been turned to a majority - by the awakening of the people - I warn the Government and those behind them that the benches opposite me before long will be occupied, as the representatives of a great majority, by the “ minority “ members who are now seated on this side of the chamber.
– The honorable member is very hopeful.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Ballarat does not anticipate anything of the sort in the near future; but he must be more dense than I think he is if he cannot read the international signs to-day. I tell the honorable member, who claims to represent, not only Ballarat, but the returned soldiers, in some way or another, that there is a large and growing section of returned soldiers whom the honorable member does not, cannot, and never will be able to represent.
– ‘And does not ever want or expect to represent if they are the kind which the honorable member infers.
– Of course not; because they are intelligent, and recognise that their class interests are common with those of the rest of the working class of Australia. These returned men know where they stand now ; and I assure the honorable member, and the Government as well, that when another war breaks out they will never again be found ready to do as they did in 1914.
– Do not traduce the returned soldiers. They will go again in similar circumstances, if ever the time should come.
– I want the honorable member for Ballarat to keep the promiseswhich he himself made toreturned men. On behalf of himself, and for his mates, why does he not carry out those promises ? I made no promises to the returned soldiers; but the honorable member, and those with him, did. My object is to see that the returned soldier members, and the Government whom they are supporting, and all the crowd who stand behind them - the employing classes, the mining classes, the merchant classes, the factory-owning classes, and the financial magnates - shall be made to keep their promises. But the Government will not keep these promises, and it is because they do not intend to honour them that they have brought down this Bill. It is merely intended to protect the interests of that crowd which sent Australia’s manhood away with specious promises, but will not now “make good.” Happily, however, the returned men in increasing numbers are waking up, and when they have fully awakened, the honorable member for Ballarat and his confreres, at any rate, will not be in this chamber.
.- I am loath to retard the passage of the Bill. I am keenly anxious that it shall swiftly reach the Committee stage; but certain remarks of honorable members opposite have made it absolutely necessary for a man with any self-respect to say a few word’s. I refer particularly to the expressions which have fallen from the lips of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. The honorable member for Barrier has taunted those who sit on this side with the character of “the crowd” that they have behind them and with the nature of the people who sent them here. He has taunted me, among others, with not carrying out my promises in respect to the Bill ‘ now before the House. Nine-tenths of what has been said during the debate so far has been absolutely beside the question, and a waste of time. I shall have something to say in the course of discussion on specific clauses in Committee ; but meantime I desire only to observe that there is surely not an individual in this House who intends to vote against the second reading.
– In Committee, not one word for the purpose of increasing the amount can be added by way of amendment.
– I do not suppose there is a single honorable member who will vote against the principle of this Bill.
– We have been denied an’ opportunity to add to the amount.
– The answer to that, and to the previous interjection, is that there is no amount set forth in the Bill to be increased.
– We are all agreed as to the principle of the Bill, but I regret exceedingly that so much party feeling has been introduced into the discussion of this subject. So far as my constituency was concerned, I made no promise to the soldiers that I would vote for the payment of the gratuity in cash. I do not care what promise or promises were made by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member did not say that before the election.
– I did. I repeat,. I do not care what promises were made by the Prime Minister. It was understood that he had no authority to bind Parliament, and that it was for the House to say how far effect would be given to the promises made. From my point of view, the Bill is a substantial fulfilment of the promises made. On the public platform I was asked, “ Will you vote for the payment of the gratuity in cash?” and my reply was that I would rather walk out of public life than vote for the payment of the gratuity in cash. What was the result? Although my majority was twenty-nine less than it was in 1917, there were 2,000 less votes recorded, so that in reality my position . in the constituency was improved, and it is a constituency that had the honour of sending to the Front the largest number of recruits sent by any constituency in Victoria. It is not necessary to go into the reasons I advanced when I said that I was opposed’ to the payment of the gratuity in cash, but I discussed the question at length, and evidently the reasons I gave were satisfactory to the men who’ voted for me. ‘ I take up the same position now.
– Does the honorable member say that his majority was due to that fact?
– I do not know what my majority was due to. At least, 1 may say that I obtained that majority after a very closely contested fight, in spite of my’ views upon the payment of a cash gratuity.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts)’ has said that this gratuity was offered by the National party as a bribe to the soldiers. I did not hear the whole of the honorable ‘member’s speech, but I heard sufficient of it to indicate that the charge he was making was that on the eve of the last election the National party had thrown out this promise of a cash gratuity as a bribe.
– Hear, hear!
– I said it, and I stand to it.
– Very well; that is the charge. Evidently the men who make that charge think that the offer of a gratuity was the offer of something to which the soldiers were not entitled.
– The Prime Minister says so. He says that it is a free gift to the soldiers.
– Soldiers may be entitled to a gratuity, but may not be entitled to claim it as a right. In my opinion, this was the way in which the gratuity was promised : The soldiers had done such magnificent service for Australia that the .people of the Commonwealth felt they ought to make some recognition of that service over and above what the soldiers had a right to expect. Every honorable member will admit that it was a proper thing to say that the soldiers were entitled to a gratuity, and that it was right for the people of Australia to say to the soldiers, “ Over and above all you have a right to expect, we are going to make you a present.” That being the case, in what sense can it pos sibly be said to be a bribe, seeing that the promise when made was hedged about by all kinds of conditions ? In any event, even if this were a bribe offered to the soldiers of Australia for their support of the National party at the elections, what did the Official Labour party do? They went one better. They went to the soldiers and said, “ The National party are offering you this as a bribe. You know that we, the Official Labour party, are the party that ought to be in power holding the reins of government at this particular time. If you will only give us your support we will go one better than the National party, and pay you your bribe in cash without any qualifications or attached conditions.”
– Yes; bring the trick into reality.
– No. Honorable members opposite object to the National party saying to the soldiers, “ Give us your support at the elections and we shall pay you a certain sum,” and then, having objected, approach the same soldiers and say, ‘ ‘ Give your support to us rather than the other party, and we shall go one better ; we shall give you more.” It is an absolute insult to the true soldier to say, as the honorable member for Cook has said in the House, that the impression left upon the mind, of the soldier turned the election - as much as to say that the soldier disregarded the interests of his country and looked only to his own interests, and for the sake of a miserable gratuity gave his vote to a party that he felt ought not to be intrusted with the government of the country. It ill becomes any member of the Official Labour party who indorses the demand for the payment of the gratuity in cash to say to honorable members on this side who promulgated the promise,. “ You did so as a bribe to obtain the vote of the soldier.”
– The honorable member is misrepresenting the honorable member for Cook.
– The honorable member for Cook said that the idea in the mind of the soldier that he would get a cash payment from the Prime Minister had turned the elections.
– Yes; that was the impression left on the mind of the soldier. In other words, he was given to understand that if he would only vote for the National party he would get cash.
– That is quite different from what the honorable member said-
– No; it is not. To say the least of it, the soldier was left in doubt. I gave absolute proof that he was to get cash.
– Evidently the honorable member for Cook has spent a lot of valuable time in making a microscopical examination of the speeches of the Prime Minister during the campaign and in pasting them into a book, eventually trotting them out here. Now he says, “ The Prime Minister having offered a bribe to the soldiers of Australia, I shall see that he pays it.
– Hear, hear!
– If the honorable member were consistent, he would rather say, “ The soldier having accepted a bribe to do something that he would otherwise not have done, I shall take mighty good care to see that it is not paid, if I can help it.”
– The honorable member secured votes on the promise of the National party.
– I did nothing of the kind, because I took up such a distinct and definite stand on the question that there could be no possible mistake about it.
– The honorable member ought not to repudiate his Prime Minister as he has done.
– I shall use my own judgment on that matter, and if I should seek advice I would not consult the honorable member. Some honorable members seem to think that we on this side of the House are at the beck and call of any one. That is not the case. We exercise our own judgment, and I shall always do so.
I regard the Bill as a substantial fulfilment of the promises made by the Leader of the Government on the eve of the last election. There are various matters I would like to see amended, and I shall have the opportunity of pointing these out and of giving my reasons for my desire for amendments when the Bill reaches the Committee stage.
– I am sure we have all listened with considerable interest to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). He told us that he was voted for by his constituents because of the attitude he took up in regard to the nonpayment of cash to the soldiers, but I have a vivid recollection of reading a report of his speech at the declaration of the Fawkner poll, when he said that he had won the election because he had not been allowed to speak. He said very emphatically that there was not an occasion when he was not denied a hearing on the platform.
– I did not say that at the declaration of the poll, or on any other occasion.
– I know that newspaper reports are not always reliable, but that was the report I read, and it is said that the honorable member stated he was denied a hearing on the public platform. If we are to take his word that he was returned on his attitude towards the payment of the gratuity in cash, it must have been because his constituents did not hear what his attitude was.
– Let the honorable member get on with his defence.
– I hope that I shall have a better opportunity of speaking on this question than I had in regard to the wool tops contract. It is very nice to be in the position of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who comes forward with a little scheme to enable him to put himself right with the farmers in regard to his supporting a Government that does all these outrageous things, and then monopolizes the whole of the time and prevents any other honorable member from speaking.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the Bill.
– One honorable member opposite has said that it is only those who played their part in the war, those who went overseas and fought, who have a right to speak in this House.
– I think that the honorable member must have been misunderstood.
– However, I do not think that that opinion is held generally by honorable members. We all have a duty to the returned soldiers, and we all have a duty to see that effect is given to what we said on the public platform during the elections, as far as lies within our power to do so. I am only concerned with my own statements on the public platform at the last election and the statements put forward by the party to which I belong. Setting aside what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said at the declaration of the poll, he has told us this afternoon that he was elected because he had made it clear that he did not stand for a cash gratuity. I should say that the great majority of the returned soldiers were not guided in this matter by what the honorable member for Fawkner, or any other individual, said, but by the statements of the head of the Nationalist party. There is no one who will view the matter in an unbiased way but will admit that throughout the campaign the Prime Minister, from practically every platform, gave an assurance to returned soldiers that there would be provision made for employers to pay employees cash for the gratuity bonds, and for the private banks of the country to cash their bonds over the counter. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) compiled the. utterances of the Prime Minister on the question in a tabulated form, which made very interesting reading; but without going into detail it is sufficient, in a broad way, to say that the Prime Minister laid it down that if the Nationalist party were returned to power at least a very great number of our returned soldiers would be able to get cash for their gratuity bonds.
We can only be guided in this matter by our own experience, and I can say that many returned soldiers in my electorate, and I can speak only for them, have since my election come to me desiring to know when they are going to get their cash. It has been stated that the returned soldiers voted for the Nationalist party, and the Prime Minister has said that they did so because they did not desire a cash payment at all. Speaking for my own electorate, and the electorates which I visited during the election campaign, I should say, from my own experience, that an overwhelming majority of the returned soldiers were to be found in favour of a cash gratuity. I had a man on my doorstep only this morning, desiring to know when he would receive the gratuity. He has been six months back from the war, and has had no work during that time, though he has made numerous applications for work through the Repatriation Department and in other ways. Will any honorable member tell me that it would not be a godsend to that man to receive his gratuity in cash?
– Is he denied it under the Bill?
– Is he provided for under the Bill?
– Yes; necessitous cases are provided for.
– By the time he could prove that his was a necessitous case he would not be very much better off if paid in cash than if given a non-negotiable bond. His is not an isolated ease. There are hundreds of returned men similarly situated. Many of them have been able to get only a couple of days’ work in the week, and if they are asked to prove that theirs are necessitous cases, we know the task that will be imposed upon them. From my experience I should certainly not be prepared to say that a majority of the returned men are not in favour of a cash payment of the gratuity.
Imagine the Prime Minister saying that the Government were returned to power with a majority - it is a very uncertain majority, to say the most of it-
– And an equally uncertain Opposition, is it not?
– The Opposition will grow, and it is solid, which is more than the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) can say for his side. What an absurd statement it is for the Prime Minister to make, that a majority of the returned soldiers voted to return the Nationalist Government to power. How does the right honorable gentleman know that? Is it not more likely that honorable members opposite find themselves where they are because certain vested interests in this country knew that they would have to contribute to the cash payment of a gratuity if the party on this side were returned, and, therefore, put in money as they never did before to secure the return of the present Government against the wishes of the majority of the returned soldiers. Can honorable members opposite say that that was not the case ?
We are told that the trouble is that we cannot afford to pay the gratuity in cash. I recall to honorable members the time when the conscription issue was before this country. I am not going to raise that issue now, or to refer to the arguments for or against it, except in so far as the matter is applicable to the particular measure now under consideration. The Government said on that occasion that they required 50,000 men immediately and 16,500 every month thereafter. That is what the Prime Minister at first proposed, and our party contended that if that proposal were carried out it would involve this country in an extra expenditure of at least £50,000,000 a year.I remember the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), who is now on his way to Great Britain, replying to that contention. He said, “ What nonsense it is to talk about an extra expenditure of £50,000,000.’ We are the richest country in the world in proportion to our population.” He said that the extra expenditure involved was no argument against what was proposed, and that if it meant an expenditure of twice the amount per annum, what was proposed was what ought to be done. There was not one member of the Government party then who did not say that if the proposal were carried, the money would have had to be found. The Treasurer said that if it meant an extra £100,000,000 ayear, the money would have to be found, and, according to him, it would be a mere bagatelle for what he described as the richest country in the world.
But a change has come over the scene. The country that was the richest country in the world in proportion to population when men were going out risking lives and limbs in order that immense profits might be built up by this country-
– No, they did not. That is a cruel slander on the men who went. That is a vile slander.
– I say, as a result of the sacrifices of those men.
– That is not what the honorable member said.
– The honorable member said that they went out for that purpose.
– This is quite unlike the Postmaster-General, to whom I give credit for being one of the fairest men in the House. I say that apart from any party feeling.
– The honorable member said something which touched my blood.
– I say as a result of the sacrifices those men made. That is my definite statement. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) is very unfair in trying to read a different meaning into my words.
– That is not what brought the interjection.
– If the Postmaster-General was not listeningor misunderstood me, I say that as a result of the sacrifices those men made-
– That is what the honorable member says now.’
– No man in this community respects those men more than I do for the sacrifices they made. I take second place to no man in this country as one who recognises the great sacrifices they did make, but I say that as a result of their sacrifices other men in this country became immensely rich. That is the point I want to make. When I was asked on the public platform where we would get the money to pay the gratuity in cash my answer was that we would find the money in the same way as we would have had to find it had conscription been carried, and had the war gone on for another six months. I said that the men we would call upon to pay this money would be the individuals who had made immense profits out of the sacrifices of those gallant men who went out to fight.
– Is the honorable member one of the men who stopped at home to make the profits?
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has a returned soldier’s badge upon him. He went out, and I greatly respect him for so doing, but I was one of those who did not do so.
– Did the honorable member, stopping at home, do anything to help the men who had gone out to make sacrifices?
– I do not know that I am under any obligation to tell the honorable member what I did.
I think that I did more to stand by those men than did the individuals I have spoken of, who did nothing hut build up immense profits as a result of the sacrifices of the soldiers. We desired, if we were returned to power, to get at those people, and I- say that it was because those individuals put money into the election campaign of honorable members opposite as they had never done before, that they are where they are today, and not because they received the votes of a majority of the returned soldiers. I refuse to believe that the party opposite are in power to-day as . a result of receiving the votes of a majority of the returned soldiers.
I have made a passing reference to the immense fortunes built up by certain people in this country as a result of the sacrifices of those gallant men. I have a list of them here, but they have been too often mentioned to make it necessary to repeat them now. Still, it would be particularly handy in ‘support of my statement, which the Postmaster-General misunderstood
– I did not misunderstand it.
– To refer to the fact that the very company with which we have been dealing to-day, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, each year for the last four years made profits amounting to just about £1,000,000. Then we know that some of the shipping companies made immense profits, and that the profits of the Australian Tobacco Company, during the last year of the war amounted to over £500,000. When at the election I was asked where we were going to find the cash to pay the soldiers’ gratuity, my answer was that if the party to which I belonged were returned we would call upon some of those people to do what was just and right in order to make the gratuity a cash one.
– The honorable member did not say then that the soldier went away to fight for vested interests.
– I have stated my position in regard to that. I have said that those men, for whom I have the- greatest respect, went away to fight for -the country, and that as a result, other individuals made immense fortunes out .of the sacrifices of our soldiers.
I have no desire to prolong the debate. I rose to explain my posi-< tion. in regard to this measure. In common with the party to which I belong, I advocated a cash payment. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), before he sat down, said that the proposal to pay the gratuity was not a bribe. Exception was taken to the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) when he said the gratuity was a bribe, and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) waxed indignant’ and said it was nothing of. the kind. The assumption of the honorable member for Werriwa is a reasonable one, because if the gratuity was not to be regarded as a bribe, why was not a Bill introduced before the elections, instead of delaying the matter and allowing it to be used as a stalking-horse at election time? If the Government were in earnest, why did they not do the right thing before the elections? On the hustings the’ members on this side strongly advocated payment in cash. I know that I did not endeavour to deceive anybody, and the Government should not deceive the soldiers by saying that they cannot pay the gratuity in cash because they have not the money. If the war had continued for another six months the Government would have made money available for that purpose. There . are many people in this country who have, amassed fortunes as the result of the sacrifices of those who went away to fight for an entirely different purpose, and these are the individuals who should be called upon to pay the gratuity in cash. I deny the statement made that returned soldiers are opposed to a cash payment, a3 there are hundreds of men in my own electorate who are expecting to be paid in cash, because they have interpreted the statements made by the Prime Minister prior to the last election to mean that provision would be made in the Bill for a large number to be so paid.
– It is very amusing to hear the discussion on the question of a cash gratuity. There is .not one man inside or outside this chamber, wealthy though he may be, who would not be somewhat disconcerted if his Tents were not sufficiently high or were not paid promptly. There is not one who does not welcome th’e addition of a few hundred pounds to his income, or who does no’t prefer a cash to a deferred payment. It is stretching the truth to a remarkable extent to say that a majority of the soldiers do not desire ‘cash, and i, foi’ one, do not believe it.
– Who said a majority did not desire cash!
– It was said in this House only the other day- Fully 98 per cent, of returned soldiers desire a cash payment, and I am sure the returned soldiers in this House would accept cash if they could get it. Wealthy as I am, I would always prefer cash to any deferred system of payment. I take strong exception to statements made earlier in this debate - fortunately by only two returned soldier members of this Chamber - that would make it appear that only returned soldiers had a right to speak on this question. I hope I misunderstood them, and, if I did, I am prepared to apologize, but if I did not, I hope they will apologize to the House.
Coming down to the broad question of the payment of the gratuity in cash, let us consider to whom it should be paid. But before we do that, I would like to ask, “ Why is the gratuity being paid at all V Is it because men who went to the Front received such small payment for the services they performed? Is it because they accepted certain pay, and while they were away the profiteers robbed their wives and families, and this is to be regarded as a kind of recompense? Honorable members on this side have endeavoured to show that many who have ‘been overlooked in connexion with this Bill should have been included in its provisions. When submitting this phase of the question we have been met with the replies with which I do not agree. When deputations -have been introduced to the Prime Minister suggesting that certain men should come under its provisions he has informed such deputations, iii an elaborate way, which really meant nothing in the end, why they should not do so. I am at a loss to understand why the money is being paid at all. I am not going to agree ‘that it is “ blood” money, as some desire to call it. If it is paid for the risk and danger they incurred, there are a lot more who should be considered. I believe honorable members opposite will agree with me that the men who were serving in the mercantile marine during the war period should be entitled to the gratuity. I am not going to detract One iota from the work performed by the members of our Naval and Military Forces, who were prepared to give their lives if necessary, and who were wounded-, lost limbs, or were maimed in other ways, but I consider the payment ought to be higher, because they were robbed while they were fighting for the profiteering section of the community. I have not received definite information as to who is to receive the gratuity, and as to why it is being paid; but 1 claim consideration for the men in the mercantile marine, and will show that many members of our Naval and Military Forces who did not risk their lives to any great degree, are to receive the gratuity. Many of those who went to Rabaul did not risk anything but malarial, fever, and yet they will come under the provisions of the Bill. There are many such persons who will receive large amounts, whereas some who ‘ ‘ hopped over ‘ ‘ and took risks far greater than those who went to Rabaul, will not be considered-
– Where would the honorable member draw the line in regard to war work?
– That is what I am endeavouring to show. There has to be some line of demarcation, and I would like to know why those entrenched in London should receive payment, whilst others who undertook dangerous work in other directions are not to be considered. Why should a payment be made to those who were working in comfort in Horseferryroad ?
– .What is the “firing line”?
– I have heard men who were in the trenches for days together say that they incurred the greatest danger when they were withdrawn from them and were being marched to the rear. I can quite understand that their statement is an accurate one. I have heard others who were chiefly interested in the work of the aviation corps attempting to belittle the service rendered by the artillery. As a matter of fact, it i3 very difficult indeed to draw the line of demarcation between the quality of the work done by the various branches of the service. To my mind, the Government should have included in this Bill many men who are not even mentioned in it. I intend to especially plead for recognition of the work done by the members’ of our mercantile marine. We all know that the men on board our warships incurred greater risks than did our land forces. When boats were torpedoed in the North Sea their occupants found themselves swimming in icy waters, and, as a result, thousands of them perished. Had those men been fighting on land, at least they would have had a chance of saving their lives. Then, again, thousands of the members of our mercantile . marine incurred as much risk as did the men on board our warships. In this connexion I desire to quote an article written by “Figurehead,” in the Melbourne Herald, of 15th November last year. In it the writer deals very exhaustively with the work done by our mercantile marine. The article reads: -
Though the honour of “ putting Australia on the map “ has been awarded justly to her gallant navy and army, the work of the merchant marine, though less spectacular, deserves warm commendation. Before the war, our merchant seamen were confined, for the most part, to the routine of the Australian coastal trade, broken by an occasional voyage to New Zealand or the South Seas. Though the vessels flying the Australian flagin 1914 were barely sufficient to cope with the pre-war traffic, during hostilities, merchant vessels of an aggregate tonnage of nearly 200,000 gross were withdrawn from the coastal service to meet the demands of the Allies in the various war theatres and the Australian overseas trade. A wider horizon then opened for the crews.
The particulars of these vessels is set out in a table, which shows that they aggregated a gross tonnage of 199,177.
Soon after the outbreak of war a further call was made on the seamen of the Commonwealth, when the Austral fleet of steamers was purchased by the Government, and the German steamers in Australian ports were requisitioned to carry foodstuffs, men, and munitions through the danger zone to different European ports.
The shipping made available by the Austral Line and by alien vessels taken over, aggregated 119,160 tons gross, making in all about 300,000 tons of shipping. These vessels were used for many purposes, but especially for the conveyance of munitions of war, foodstuffs, and troops. They were also utilized as hospital ships, which should have been immune from attack, but were not. Some of them were employed as decoy ships, and every man on . board these vesselsliterally carried his life in his hands. Upon them were naval men who were accustomed to fighting with the class of guns with which the vessels were equipped. It stands to the honour of our mercantile marine that a number of these vessels rammed many German submarines during the course of the war. For the great services which they rendered the Empire they were specially honoured by the Admiralty.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– During the whole course of the war, the men engaged in our mercantile marine service, while in the danger zone, ran a grave risk of being torpedoed. Ships were equipped with guns as a protection against submarine attack, and on many occasions they succeeded in sinking an enemy “ tin fish.” The men down in the stoke-hold were always in extreme danger - as great, indeed, as the men in the trenches about to hop over the top, because once a vessel was submarined, their position was hopeless. No men on a war-ship ran greater risks than did those on board the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company’s ship Mallina, which, as a fleet collier and decoy ship, had numerous adventures when Von Spee’s powerful squadron was at large in the Pacific. We are told that -
Night after night, this vessel went out in advance of the Australian Fleet, with all lights burning brightly, at any moment likely to be sunk by the gun-fire of the enemy, with the loss of all hands.
Could men be in a more dangerous position than those on board the Mallina? And yet they are left out of the gratuity scheme. Several vessels sailing under the Australian flag, including the Commonwealth Government’s steamer Boonah, subsequently accounted for submarines without reward from either private owners or the Commonwealth. Though in comparison with other nations, the loss of Australian shipping was light, vessels aggregating 80,000 tons were sunk, and casualties were heavy. Let me put on record the fate of a large number of Australian vessels -
Southborough. - Torpedoed and sunk in North Sea on 17th July, 1918. Only eight hands saved.
Era. - Sunk by submarine in Mediterranean on 1st May, 1918, with heavy loss of life.
Conargo. - Torpedoed and sunk off Irish coast on 31st March, 1918, with loss of life.
Talawa. - Torpedoed and beached at Alassio, Italy, on 5th May, 1917.Recom- missioned at Leghorn on loth March, 1918.
Burrowa. - Sunk by submarine on 27th April, 1917.
Cooroy. - Sunk by submarine off Ireland on 29th August. 1917.
Boorora. - Torpedoed near Beachy Head on 14th December, 1917. Repaired, and torpedoed in North Sea in March, 1918, with heavy loss of life. Towed into Newcastle, and subsequently recommissioned.
Barunga. - Sunk by submarine south of Ireland, on 16th July, 1918.
Kyarra. - Sunk by submarine in English Channel on 26th May, 1918, with loss of seven lives.
Warilda. - Sunk en route from Havre to Southampton with invalid troops, with heavy loss of life, on 3rd August, 1918.
Australdale. - Sunk by enemy submarine in October, 1917.
Australbush. - Sunk by enemy submarine near Plymouth, in November, 1917.
Wimmera. - Sunk by mine off New Zealand coast in June, 1318.
Matunga. - Destroyed by raider Wolff, in Pacific, in August, 1917.
Echunga. - Torpedoed in English Channel in September, 1917.
Moorna. - Torpedoed in Mediterranean in 1916.
Tasman. - Sunk by enemy submarine, with heavy loss of life, in 1917.
Canowie. - Sunk by enemy (date and time uncertain).
Carrabin. - Sunk by enemy (date and time uncertain).
The men engaged on these ships, as I have already shown, are not in the gratuity scheme. Many of them have received decorations to show that they served on vessels that were torpedoed, and one man, I know, was on two ships that were torpedoed. Onboth occasions he was very fortunate, as he had just come up from the stoke-hold for a bath a few moments before the vessel was struck. These men lost all they had when their ships were sunk, and it appears now that they are not to be recompensed. I also draw attention to the fact that the man in control of a mercantile vessel has just as great a strain upon his nerves as has the commander of a man-of-war, because the safety of all hands and the ship are in his keeping. I do not want to labour the question, as I feel sure that honorable members generally agree with me that any man who has done good war work should be recompensed. In some quarters it is said that these men received much higher wages than were paid to the soldiers. I have been waiting for some honorable members opposite to advance this reason as an argument against the payment of the war gratuity to the men of our mercantile marine, because I know it has been said outside the House. But if the war gratuity is to be regarded as a recompense for services rendered, then the rate should be, not1s. 6d. per day, but 7s. or 8s. per day. The measure is for the special purpose of rewarding men who offered their lives during the war; and I repeat that no men took greater risks than the men of our mercantile marine, because, while in the danger zone, they risked their lives in the service of their country. Common decency demands that all ranks and grades should be included in the scheme.
– If this claim on behalf of the mercantile marine were admitted, how would you estimate the number of days of service?
– I cannot lay down any definite proposal. My contention is that the men engaged in this service should participate in the gratuity scheme, because of the risks to which they were exposed. I shall leave the matter to the good sense of the House, and trust that in Committee honorable members will do justice to the men of our mercantile marine.
.- It is without doubt the obvious duty of all of us, and I think the desire of most, to get over the second-reading stage of the Bill as soon as possible, so that we may have an opportunity of considering its provisions in Committee, and of trying to arrive at a just and equitable basis for the payment of the gratuity to the soldiers. But one point that can be suitably dealt with only at the present stage of the Bill is the question of whether the gratuity should be paid in cash or by means of bonds. Personally, there can be no misunderstanding as to where I stand, because from every platform
I spoke on - and I did not wait until the gentlemen at the back of the hall asked me the question, but got the statement in first - I said quite frankly that I was totally opposed to the payment of the gratuity in cash’. It is more or less significant that this was one of the very few statements I ever managed to achieve which met with the most emphatic approval in such very varying places as the quiet and calm industrial atmosphere of Wonthaggi, and the riotous surroundings of Mornington. My experience everywhere was that the people appeared, if one could take the expressions of a public meeting as in any way. indicating what they thought, to agree with the view that ‘the gratuity was more likely to be of benefit to the soldier if it were paid by bonds, and not ‘by cash. It should, be borne in mind that we have to consider the benefit of the soldier, as well as the actual circumstances of this country, when we are debating how far we can pay the gratuity in cash. I am clear that there should be some restriction upon the soldier on his return here indiscriminately getting in cash the amount coming to him under the gratuity, and that view is, I am sure, shared by every returned soldier who has the welfare of his comrades seriously at heart. On the question of what the effect on the country would be if it were paid in cash, I have no hesitation in -saying that it would be absolutely disastrous. I take that view because we are suffering to-day in Australia from great difficulties, brought about by the high cost of living, which are placing a terrible burden on a great number of people of Australia. Some cheery souls will dismiss the whole thing - and I do not say this is done only for political purposes - by asserting that the present state of things in Australia, particularly the increase in the cost of living, is attributable to profiteering. I am not here, in any way, to plead the cause of the profiteer, but in his worst and most determined moments he could not have brought about the present position unaided. It has been brought about equally - personally, I say much more - by the inflation of credit in Australia, and ‘the hopeless depreciation of our currency. If we issued now another £25,000,000 we should naturally accentuate that position, and place a further heavy burden upon people who, God knows, are little enough able to bear it at the present time. We should also play directly into the’ hands of the profiteer if we did so. The whole possibility of his indulging in his orgy, if he is doing it, is being created by the fact that money is to-day so plentiful in Australia,” and yet is depreciated in its value. If we add £25,000,000 to the sum already issued, we shall give a further and greater opportunity to any misguided and disreputable person in the community who wants to profiteer.
– Why is money so plentiful in Australia to-day?
– There are a great number of reasons, of which I would suggest to the honorable member as the outstanding causes, first, the inflation of our note issue, and, second, the tremendous amount of money that has been raised by the Government for the purposes of the war, and put back into circulation. I wish to emphasize here the opportunities that would be given to the profiteer if we increased the amount of money distributed throughout the community in this way. With the best will in the world, and even with a great deal of wisdom, no steps that we could take would be able to stop those people, so long as we continued, by means of Government distribution, to pour out money which would simply go back into the pockets of the very people from whom we want to keep it.
Apart from those probable results of a cash distribution of the gratuity, several arguments are being urged for cash payments, on the ground that under other circumstances we should have spent even more money. At first sight, those arguments appear reasonably sound, but, when one analyzes them, there is a great difference in the two positions. One suggestion is that, had conscription been carried, it would have involved a very great expenditure in Australia. I agree that it would. Another argument is that, had the war gone on, we should have spent £50,000,000 or £100,000,000, or even more, if that had been necessary in order to carry on the war. Those who argue that way then ask, “ Why should we cavil about a mere £25,000,000?”
– Hear, hear! Pay it in cash, like men.
– My honorable friend emphatically agrees with the views of those who ask, “ Why cavil?” The reason why he should cavil, and cavil very hard, is that circumstances have completely changed. None of us would have hesitated to spend all the millions necessary to preserve our national entity and national safety. Leaving the question of conscription altogether on one side, if the war had continued we should still have been confronted with a great danger. But the spending of those extra millions to preserve our own existence would have placed a terrible burden on the people of Australia. To-day our national safety is not in danger, and the question of paying out the £25,000,00.0 in cash turns purely and simply on a domestic issue. I know the soldier, I presume, as well as do most people in this building, and I am prepared to say that the average decent returned man does not want his money in cash if any of the things that I have said to-night are true, and if the result would be to place a greater burden on the people of this country, who, he knows, have borne, and are bearing already, a very great burden in respect of the services which he rendered to the country.
Another point stated is that the last Parliament in its final sittings could have passed a War Gratuity Bill, and then there would have been no discussion at the elections, and we should have been saved from what, to me at all events, was a very painful display. I do not agree with that view, because the question arose only in the dying hours of the Parliament, and it would have been one of the most improper things any Parliament ever did if that Parliament, not a single member of which had any absolute certainty of sitting again on these benches after the election, had expended from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 of the people’s money at a time when its mandate had passed from it and a. new Parliament was coming into existence. It would have been a grossly improper action had that Bill been put through. On the other side we had the question asked of whether there was an attempt to bribe the soldier. Personally, it looks to me extraordinarily as though there was, and some words which I uttered in this chamber before the dissolution of the last Parliament have come strangely true. I suggested then that if anybody proposed to try to bribe the returned soldiers by pre tending to be their friend, and to offer them great benefits, he was doomed to a very dismal and unfortunate disillusion. I pointed out that the soldier was a pretty knowing person, and that nobody could have served with him without realizing that in the main he was an excellent judge of a man and of his sincerity. We saw that proved time and again in the war by the devoted way in which the soldiers would follow some men and would not follow others on any terms. When we went to the election, the position was that certain people did try to see if they could catch the soldiers’ vote. As I said on the public platform, and say again here, I am not too sure that either party is guiltless in that regard. At the beginning, a bold, clear, straightout statement was made regarding the gratuity, the payment of which was to be in bonds, cash being given only in certain specific cases, such as those of widows, blind soldiers, and others, much on the lines adopted in the Bill. That proposal received the indorsement of the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, which had the courage to tell its members that it was the fair and proper scheme to support. As the electoral campaign proceeded, the original proposal did. not remain quite unaltered, though I am glad that there was a decent air of maintaining it. In my opinion, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is not above the suspicion that, at one time, he was misguided enough to think that he could make suggestions which would appeal to, and attract, the soldier. But if he is not above that suspicion, honorable gentlemen on the benches opposite were Indecent in the way they attempted to catch the vote of the soldier. My words have been extraordinarily verified by the attitude of the soldiers towards the party opposite. The support of the soldiers” was given to those who had not tried indecently to> bribe them; that is shown by the fact that there are a great number of returned men on this side of the House. I do not think that any of us much doubts that the soldier, his dependants, and his sympathizers greatly sway an election in this country at the present time.
Another point I wish to mention before sitting down has to do with the modification of the original proposal. How- far it has Deen modified, I do not know, but it has been stated that certain Governments, and other employers, intend to cash the bonds given to their soldier employees, and so much cash is evidently going to be paid over in connexion with the gratuity that we shall be lucky if we do not have a fresh inflation of our credit and depreciation of our currency. Those of us who are in the position of employers would like a little light from the Government concerning what is to be done in regard to the cashing of bonds. Between 100 and 150 soldiers are employed by the firm to which I belong, who will receive bonds, and may come to me to have them exchanged for cash. I shall make every effort in my power to prevent the cashing of bonds, and the consequent squandering; of money, because I feel that it is a wise thing to build up in our community a large body of persons having substance behind them, and that there is great virtue in thrift. In the early days of the issue of war loan scrip and war saving certificates, we were approached and asked if ‘we could, get our people to take up these securities. My wildest estimate of what might thus be raised was something between £5,000 and £10,000. We encouraged our people to take up war stock to the value of their salaries, repaying 1 1/2 d in the £1 per week, in respect of war saving certificates and of equal payments in respect of war bonds, and paying off the whole sum within three years. We financed the operation, foregoing the- interest, which went to those who took up the scrip, that being the attraction that we offered, and the result was that no less than £47,000 was subscribed. I am certain that it is of incalculable advantage to the persons concerned, from the man at the bottom of the ladder upwards, that now they have the interest from their savings coming to them regularly each halfyear, and have also a substantial capital sum at their disposal. In regard to ‘the , war gratuity bonds, we propose: to make an extraordinarily attractive offer to discourage attempts to get them cashed, and in the hope of preventing the squandering of money. We intend, however, to give money for the bonds to those who require it, and I ask what distinction will be made between those in our position and low-class moneylenders, who obtain possession of bonds by giving for them” one-fourth of their value? I wish to know how the soldier is to be safeguarded. My firm employs perhaps 150 returned men, whose gratuities will average £100 each. If a firm, can hold £15,000 worth of these bonds, how is it proposed to safeguard the soldier from being taken down by those who make it a business to acquire bonds from the necessitous for much below their value?
– I do not think you could do it under the Bill.
– I am inclined to think that I am one of the employers who have pledged myself to pay cash for the bonds; and in view of the various statements that have been made regarding the action that is to be taken by the State Governments and other employers, it will be an extraordinary thing if the Bill does not deal with the matter to which I have drawn attention. If that is so, it will be necessary to amend the Bill in Committee.
I shall not discuss the measure further now, because it is one for Committee consideration, but I did not wish the secondreading stage to pass without showing where I stood; and having pledged myself emphatically to the gratuity not being paid in cash, I wish again to affirm my opinion on the subject.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) worked himself up into a fine show of pious indignation on the assumption that in my speech about the war gratuity I had used the word “ bribe.” Nowhere in my speech have I referred to the gratuity under that term; I spoke of it as an election promise.
.- I shall not delay the House long, because I realize that this is a Bill which we should get into Committee as speedily as possible. The speech of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr! Bruce), to which we have just listened, was one of the most interesting that I have heard since I first entered the Parliament. I believe that there are in Australia many employers of labour who have endeavoured to treat the returned soldiers in the way in which his firm has treated them, and it reflects great credit on those who are so fully keeping their promises to the soldiers. The honorable member’s remarks 1 concerning the danger of an inflation of the currency’ in the event of war bonds being issued to the public to the value of £25,000,000, must command the attention of all thinking men in the Chamber. It surprises me that those who appeared callous as to the interests of the soldier a few years ago claim now to be keenly anxious for his welfare. I cannot allow to pass unnoticed the remark made tonight by the honorable member f or Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), no matter how he may try to alter the tone of his statement. He had the audacity to say that the soldier went away to fight, not for liberty, or humanity, or his country, but to aid the profiteer. That remark was so scandalous that it should make the blood of every honest man boil with indignation.
– You are wilfully and deliberated misrepresenting me.
– I am not. Halfadozen members on this side will indorse my words. The honorable member’s repentance is not a death-bed one: it is rather a post mortem one.
– You are wilfully and deliberately telling lies. You know it is a lie.
– I demand an apology from the honorable member.
– I call upon the honorable member to withdraw and apologize.
– By way of personal explanation-
– The honorable member may not make a personal explanation now. He must obey the direction of the Speaker. I understand that he called the honorable member for Dampier a liar. He must withdraw and apologize for that statement.
– I said that he was saying what he knew to be a lie.
– That amounts to the same thing.
– In deference to the Standing Orders, I withdraw my remark.
– I ask honorable members not to interject. If there are no interjections there will be no need for withdrawals.
– A good deal has been said about the delay in bringing forward this measure. On this matter I disagree with the honorable member for Flinders. In my opinion, the last Parliament had a full mandate from the people. It was elected for a period of three years, and there- was no excuse for the action of the ‘Government in sending it to the country prematurely, at ‘the most unseasonable time of the year, when harvesting was on, and many persons found it impossible to go to the poll. In my opinion, the Government were entirely wrong. The last Parliament should have dealt with this matter. When the elections were pending, I felt that there was something discreditable in candidates having to make statements about a gratuity which, under any circumstances, would be considered by many as in the nature of a bribe, and I should have been much more content had the matter been dealt with by the last Parliament. Had it been so dealt with, it would have been considered in a different spirit from that in which it is now being considered. Many are prone to forget the enormous sacrifices made by our soldiers, and the wonderful proof they gave of their patriotism. The ‘Bill provides for gratuities on a very large scale, but, to my mind, the gratuity should be paid only to those who went overseas. I know that a number of men desired to be sent abroad, and. were detained here by those in command, but I am certain also that a good many others were kept back at their own desire and at their own instance. It was scandalous that men who had obtained commissions should have paraded the streets of Melbourne in uniform for two, and, in. some instances, for three years, and yet did not go to the Prout. Probably these men may be able to claim the gratuity under the Bill. I do not think it right that those who served on ships which did not enter the danger zone should receive the gratuity, especially when those who served on hospital ships in the Mediterranean and in the North Sea are left out of the Bill. It is hard to imagine the anxiety of those in charge of a hospital ship filled with wounded men, knowing that should any misadventure happen hardly a man could be saved. There is no comparison between what they went through and what even those in charge of a convoy went through. Yet those who served on hospital ships are omitted from the Bill and members of the Naval Force, who may never have left Australia, are to get thegratuity. The condition of affairs aboard the Barambah, which caused such a- scandal when that vessel left Fremantle, was the fault of certain members of the Naval Forces in permitting the steamer to leave Melbourne as she was, and yet, probably, they will receive the gratuity. It may not be popular to declare that the gratuity should be paid only to those who left Australia on active service; but that is my view in regard to it, and I hope that in Committee the Bill will be amended accordingly.
– What would you propose in regard to those who served on the mine-sweepers?
– I certainly would include them; there is no question about their claim.
This money will have to be found within the next four, five, or six years, no matter what system we adopt. Remembering the terrible sacrifices that were made by so many, I do not think that any person or company should have made profits out of the war. I know instances in which enlisted men, when asked how their wives and children would get on after they had gone, replied, “ Oh ! my wife was a milliner, or something else, before she was married, and she will go back to her millinery or the like.” These persons were willing, for the sake of their country and the flag, to make sacrifices, but others used the war in every way to make money for themselves. A large proportion of the extra profits made during the war were legitimately secured, but I do not think any big corporation should have profited by the war. They should have been satisfied to secure the same percentage of profits that they previously enjoyedThe Government should bring in a retrospective excess war-time profits tax to raise funds to pay this gratuity. Those who made enormous profits w during the war period should be compelled to contribute a big proportion of the amount which this Bill will involve.
– There are many other liabilities to meet.
– Quite so. If the Government do bring in such a Bill as I have just suggested, I hope that instead of fashioning it on the War-time Profits Bill, which was framed by a few officials without any business capacity, they will refer it to a Board of solid business men, so that we shall not make undue impositions upon one section and allow other sections to go free. I feel very strongly with regard to the working of the war-time profits tax, because under it some who, after working for years at a loss, are able to show a book profit, are having it taken from them, and may be compelled to borrow to pay the tax, while others who have made enormous profits are allowed to go untouched. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) that it would be a grave mistake to pay the war gratuity in cash except in case of necessity, and those who have made undue profits during the war should be specially taxed to raise the money that will be necessary in this connexion.
.- Following the example of others, I shall be as brief as possible. We are all convinced that if we were still at war we would be prepared to pour out our millions in order to bring it to a successful conclusion, whereas now that the war is over and we are asked to grant some recognition to those who have risked their lives for us, the Government are not prepared to give them a cash gratuity. There are many wealthy men in our community who were not willing to lend their money to the country free of interest in its hour of need, and they are among those who now say, “ Give the soldiers bonds, not cash.” If we are to make a gift to our returned soldiers, let it be given freely and from the heart. This Bill does not provide for a gift in the true sense of the word.
I propose to draw attention to the way in which this Parliament differentiates between those belonging to the Government House “ push “ and those in lowly circumstances by showing that in one case it made a handsome grant to the widow of a man who, I am told, received £30 a week and £1 5s. per day for field expenses, whereas it is not prepared to make a cash grant to the widow of a man who was in receipt of only 6s. or 8s. per day. The Officers’ Compensation Act, No. 49, of 1915, which was introduced by a ‘Government of which I was a supporter, provides that -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the War Pensions Act 1914-la, there shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of £4.500 to the widow of Major-General Sir William Throsby Bridges.
Major-General Bridges gave ‘his life 10 the cause, and I say “ God rest him.” But it was the memory of this treatment of his widow that made me say from the first that the war gratuity should be paid in cash. Only to-day a deputation of returned soldiers urged me to strongly press for a cash gratuity. The Victorian State Savings Bank is prepared to cash at par any gratuity bond handed- in by a soldier, but under the Bill as it stands that will not be possible.
– I ‘do not think that is so..
– I may be wrong, but I am not trying to hit the Government, because a measure of this kind should be above all party considerations. The statement that the payment of a gratuity to our soldiers was proposed by way of a “bribe” was quite out of place. Such a word should not be applied to anything designed to benefit our brave men. When the Officers’ Compensation Bill of 1915 was before the House on 11th November, 1915, Mr. McGrath, who then represented the division of Ballarat, moved, as reported in Hansard; page 1526-
That as the widow of Sir William Throsby Bridges is already provided for under the War Pensions Act, and as such Act makes provision for the dependants of soldiers according to rank, this House cannot agree with any appropriation that nullifies .the existing law, and makes unfair discrimination in order to give exceptional grants to favoured individuals.
That amendment was lost by 31 votes to 7. During my thirty years of political life my experience has been that any one occupying an exalted position, especially any one connected with Government House, is freely granted special treatment. I should not have cared if Lady Bridges had received £50,000; it is the principle, and not the individual, that I am attacking.
In our Military Department we have fifteen men who are drawing more than von Moltke received when he led the victorious Prussians that overran France, and there are over 100 men in our Defence and Navy Departments who receive more than the Commander-in-Chief of the Swiss Army of 300,000 men in war time. How different this is from the treatment meted out to the common rankers ! Eighty per cent, of the men of Australia volunteered for active service. Between 700,000 and S00,000 offered to enlist. Many were rejected because of age. or infirmity. Over 400,000 were accepted, and over 300,000 left -Australia for the Front. Have we heard o.f 70 per cent., 50 per cent., or even 25. per cent, of the wealth of the community being offered without interest to the Government of Australia in its hour of need? When the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poyn-ton) was Acting Treasurer, I suggested that the people should be asked to lend money to the Commonwealth free of interest. An appeal was made, and £1,200 out. of a total of some £200,000,000 was placed at the disposal of the Government free of interest. In five cases the offers represented’ - the widow’s mite - they were offers of £10 each on the part of people who wanted to help their country, while two unions, to their credit, made loans of £100 each free of interest to the country. I am told that some good man made a present of £50,000 to the Commonwealth. If that is so, his name ought to bc blazoned in letters of gold.
I have shown clearly the difference between the treatment meted out by Parliament to dependants of some of our big men and that which the Government are prepared to extend to the rank and file. I invite honorable members to call a meeting of returned soldiers to decide whether the gratuity should be paid in cash or in bonds. Honorable members may meet a few returned soldiers in my rooms any morning at 10 o’clock, or I will take them to Anzac House to interview the men.
– The representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ League decided the question as to the mode of payment.
– Does not the honorable . member think it was decided by the executive of the League - some of the golden-spurred roosters - the officers?
– How many officers ar,e on the executive? The honorable member will not answer that question, because there is only one.
– Then he is one too many. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), with that bitter tongue of his, cannot help saying cruel things. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 20th inst., he said, when introducing this measure -
Whatever powers the Government possessed would be used to prevent the soldiers being exploited,
I shall be with him up to the hilt in that endeavour - and offenders would be punished.
I hope the punishment will be more severe than that which he is prepared to mete out to the profiteer. The right honorable gentleman said on one occasion that the profiteers should be shot; but a pop-gun is the only weapon he is likely to use against them. He went on to say-
He had been told that hotelkeepers and money-lenders were preparing to make money out of the soldiers when they got their gratuity, and he did not propose to allow the money to line the pockets of the harpies and sharks.
Why is there no clause in the Bill to send such men to gaol? The sugar exploiters were fined £50. That is a mere bagatelle. They will make far more than that as the result of their hoarding of supplies. They should be sent to gaol.
– And the sugar confiscated.
– Will the honorable member support the introduction of such a clause as I suggest?
– I will.
– I know the honorable member will keep his word. There is no man more cunning than the Prime Minister, and I do not know why he has failed to insert in the Bill a clause dealing with the class of offenders referred to by him. When we go into Committee we shall have power to make such an amendment.
I have here a letter from the United Licensed Victuallers Association, forwarding the quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald which I have read. That letter states -
Mr. Dennison and I were discussing the matter this morning, and it was agreed that I write you, asking you to get some influential member to bring the matter up on the floor of the House at the earliest opportunity. Mr. Hughes ought to be asked to give some facts, not a bare statement, which may probably be idle gossip only. We contend that his remarks are a direct insult to the trade, and an unwarrantable one at that. Hotelkeepers are no more likely to make money out of the soldiers’ gratuity any more than any other section of the commercial community.
I gofurther than that and suggest that a clause should be inserted in the Bill to provide that any man who trys to rob a soldier or a soldier’s dependant should be punished. What is the use of fining men ?
Then there is the profiteering that takes place in Flinders-lane. I wish that all persons in the Lane were of the same high moral calibre as is the. honorable and gallant member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). If a piece of tweed made in Geelong is sent to a warehouse in Flinders-lane and is then sold to a retailer in Geelong the factory price is doubled and trebled. These profiteers ought to be in gaol. I wonder that the honorable member for Flinders dealt so lightly with the profiteer. If honorable members desire to know whether or not profiteering takes place, ask any mother of a family who deals with the butcher, the baker, and the grocer; or any man who buys a suit of clothes from a tailor, or any girl who buys a blouse or a pair of boots. I exhibited in this House two pairs of boots made by the same firm in America, one of which was sold at £3 3s. and the other for11s.11d., and an expert bootmaker assured me that the cheaper pair was the better. Yet we are told that there is no profiteering in Australia ! So long as any man makes that assertion, Ananias is not without a descendant.
Many returned soldiers cannot get employment, and are not helped to get it. They are sometimes offered work for which they are physically unfit. I know of one man who had been shot through the chest, the hip, and the shoulder, and he was asked to do hard labour that was only suitable for a man with a good physique. Men of that class could earn £4 or £5 per week, working eight hours a day, at hand-weaving, but the Government will not provide 500 lbs. of yarn per week with which to start the industry at Bendigo. It was with no desire to irritate the Prime Minister that I asked to-day certain questions regarding the provision of yarn in order to establish a hand-weaving industry at Bendigo. I know that a firm up there is willing to employ eight or ten men at weaving if 500 lbs. of yarn per week can be obtained. I was informed by the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to-day that the average output of woollen and worsted yarns from the Commonwealth Woollen Mill has been 16,300 lbs. per week over the past twelve months.
Why has not the output been increased ? Am I wrong in suggesting that Flinderslane is restraining the Minister for Repatriation] I showed to the Minister a piece of stuff, worse than shoddy, that had been supplied from the mill to men engaged in the weaving of Anzac tweeds. Every one of those men has been wounded, and allows his wages to be deducted from his pension. The Minister denied that this stuff, worse than shoddy, had ever been supplied to the soldiers. It is a disgrace that he is still at the head of the Repatriation Department. If the “Department would only supply 500 lbs. of yarn per week to enable the hand-weaving industry to be started at Bendigo, the profits of the middleman in Flinders-lane would be eliminated to a further small extent. Why should not any man or woman be able to buy direct from the makers a suit length of this Anzac tweed, as the people in the Old Country are able to buy the Blighty tweed that is made in Scotland? I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether two shifts of eight hours each are worked at the Commonwealth Mills, and his answer was “ No, but overtime is being worked.” Why should not two shifts be worked? The output would be increased, and the factory would’ provide more employment. When I asked whether an additional 500 lbs. of yarn per week could be spun in order to start the Anzac hand-weaving tweed industry at Bendigo, the Minister replied, “ Not without serious interference with the output of cloth from the mill.”
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - Order! I am afraid the honorable member is dealing more with repatriation matters than with the war gratuity.
– Quite right, sir, and I thank you for your courtesy in not pulling me “up before.
– The honorable member is quite right in his statement about the Anzac tweed, all the same.
– I thank the honorable member for his good opinion. He has been a good helper in this matter, and I hope that some day, in spite of Senator Millen, we may be able to procure a fair chance for the men engaged in that industry. There could be 2,000 men employed at hand-weaving through out Australia, and earning between £4 and £5 per week. They would be supplying the community with a tweed than. which not even the King of England could desire better.
One pean of joy that emanated from the Prime Minister astonished me. It proved that nobody can impugn his courage; certainly nobody can question his audacity. He talked of the great victory which his party had gained at the polls. What was that victory ? When the division occurred in the Labour party the Prime Minister was left at the head of a party which numbered fourteen. Only six of those fourteen occupy seats in the Chamber now. Some honorable members threw insults at the Labour party by saying that we were divided amongst ourselves. At all events, we returned from the polls stronger than we were before. I have always welcomed the Country party in this House. It came back with the greatest increase in membership; it is the younger party of the two on the Ministerial side, and I believe it is the more honest.
– The honorable member is again wandering from the Bill.
– I think I have shown clearly that, so far from the Prime Minister and his party having been returned by a vast majority, and having had a great victory, the reverse has been the case. When in future he, with hie splendid audacity, makes the same claim, we shall remind him that, if the actual figures are reversed, we shall be nearer the truth.
The question before the House is “ cash or no cash.” I shall vote for the payment of the gratuity in cash. If I am asked whether I propose to make a forced levy on capital or wealth, I answer “No; there is a much more scientific and fairer way of achieving the same purpose.” That great statistician, Mr. Knibbs, tells us that Australia was worth £1,200,000,000 before the outbreak of the accursed war. During the five years of war the wealth of Australia - its houses, land, stock, valuables and securities - increased by £400,000,000. I have already pointed out that between 70 per cent, and 80 per cent, of the available manhood of Australia offered their services in connexion with the war. A forced taking of one-fourth of the wealth of the community would pay the war debt, but the adoption of that course would be wrong, because credit would be disturbed. The value of every bouse, pastoral run, and farm would decrease immediately.
– What about the decrease in the value of the sovereign since the war?
– I have a letter from a colonel who, at the time of writing, was in the Blade Sea, and he told me that, whereas prior to the war a sovereign was worth nine to tenroubles, today it is equivalent to 3,000 roubles.
– That is Bolshevism for you.
– The question of Bolshevism does not arise. Probably those who talk so glibly about Bolshevism have not studied the matter. The honorable member’s friend Kerensky, who was supported by the Allies when the Russian republic was established, lasted in power for only two months. Lenin, who has fought the Allies, has lasted for two and a half years.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is again wandering from the Bill. I ask honorable members not to interject and thus lead the honorable member who is speaking to digress from the subject before the House.
– We can get the cash necessary to pay the gratuity in a scientific way by following the example of Edward the Confessor who established a Doomsday-book.
– Order ! The honorable member is now anticipating his own notice of motion on the business-paper.
– At any rate, there is a way in which the increasing wealth of Australia may provide the cash with which to pay this gratuity. I believe that in the next ten years of peace Australia will progress more rapidly than it did during the war. If that should be so, why should not the unearned increment be used for the elimination of the war debt ? I do not think any honorable member will gainsay the fairness of that proposal. Let us consult the soldiers regarding it - not the officials. I do not say anything against the officials, but the common, ordinary private has not much respect for them. The truth of that is that another organization is in course of formation, and the members of it will not have an officer at their head.
I understand that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) intends to bring before the Committee the injustice that is being done to the Royal Australian Artillery. I have listened carefully to what the honorable member said, and if he convinces me that an act of injustice is being committed, he can count upon my vote in support of any amendment which will do justice to those men. Of all the brave men who sailed the seas none were braver than those engaged in mine-sweeping. Perhaps equal in courage to them were those angel women who served as nurses on the hospital ships. Was there ever anything grander than the action of the nurses who, when a hospital ship had been torpedoed by a vile submersible in the Mediterranean andthe captain ordered the nurses to the boat, said, “ No, save the fighting men.” And they sank beneath the waves. One wonders why God permitted such a thing, but no braver act was ever done. The nurses should be treated in the same way as the soldiers. This Bill should not be made a party question. In Committee let us see what we can do to improve it. As for the foolish statement that we cannot pay the gratuity in cash, I say that Australia is rich enough and generous enough to pay cash, and we who represent the people should see that the soldiers get fair play.
.- The House appears to be practically unanimous in its approval of the principle enunciated in this Bill, namely, that the war gratuity shall be deemed’ to be a free gift by the Commonwealth to her soldiers in recognition of noble services rendered during the war with Germany and her Allies. But there seems to be a wide difference of opinion among honorable members on both sides with respect to those who should become beneficiaries under this measure. Of course, it is always popular to be found helping the greatest number of people, but, having regard first to thequality and value of the services rendered by our soldiers, and, secondly, to the rather exhausted condition of our finances, I hold that the gratuity should be limited to those who fought overseas for Australia, or who risked their lives in any danger zone, whether on the coast line of this country, or on the high seas, or on battle-fields in any part of the world. If we break that line, and consider the merits of all who rendered service, in any capacity, our responsibility becomes limitless, and we can add day by day to ‘the number who may become beneficiaries. But with the general principle of the Bill I am in thorough accord, and I am pleased that the Government have made this one of the early measures of the session.
I regret that Australia does. not appear to have placed on record her citizens’ keen appreciation of the magnificent services rendered during the war by Australia’s most eminent soldier, General Monash. He has come through triumphantly, and with a very great record’. His strategy, his consummate judgment and skill, the employment by him of his own capacity and his superb use of that of those who served with and around him, proved a truly magnificent feature of the operations of the Allies. While Great Britain has set an illustrious example, and while other countries among our Allies have done likewise by their great military leaders, I regret that the services of General Monash have not been appreciatively signalized in and by Australia. Something yet remains to be done. I do not suggest that it be done by way of pounds, shillings, and’ pence; but this country should raise some monument, make some great mark of appreciation of the services of the Australian CommanderinChief, and I hope that no consideration other than regard for his grand services will weigh with the Government and people. General Monash reached foremost position among all the Australians who entered the conflict. I trust that there will be speedy recognition in some marked public form of’ his splendid services.
– There should be a resolution of this House.
– I strongly agree. It is a grave omission, not only by this Parliament, but by Australia as a whole. I only hope that, for our honour and credit, it will be speedily remedied.
– Why should hot General Monash be called to the Bar of this House, and publicly thanked ?
– That is a. suggestion well worthy of consideration, which, I trust, will not escape the attention of the Government.
With regard to the much-debated question whether the’ gratuity should’ be paid in cash or in bonds, I may say that as soon as the proposition was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in its first naked form, I said that I was not much enamoured of the non-negotiable bonds proposal. I was not impressed with ‘the idea that the soldiers who had fought for this country, many of whom might be in necessitous circumstances, should be holding bonds, and should be without adequate means or resources, and yet should be unable to deal with those bonds in any shape or form. That a man could point to his wounds, indicate his financial necessities, and then direct attention to his bonds, would be - it seemed to me - rather in the nature of holding up this country to contempt. I do not plead for a payment in cash straight out. Throughout the election campaign, I made a definite suggestion in my constituency, and in so doing I followed no one else’s ideas. I have not disguised from the Government or this House that another measure, which was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament with the intention of benefiting the Australian soldier, namely, the Repatriation Act, has proved, in my judgment, I will not say a failure, but a source of great disappointment to our soldiers. Very few of our returned men have been able to understand why there should have been provision made for certain of our soldiers, and no provision whatever for others. I hold that there is the closest possible relationship between the measure now before this House and our repatriation legislation. When we were dealing with the Repatriation Bill, I referred to it as merely a blank cheque, and as being tantamount to a failure on the part of the National Parliament to indicate who should or should not be entitled to repatriation. Honorable members speak of omissions and inclusions in the Gratuity Bill. The Repatriation Bill, as this Parliament agreed to it and as it now stands upon our statute-book, made provision for nobody specifically. It presented a blank cheque to an outside body called a Commission, and that Commission consisted of seven gentlemen, one of whom was a Federal
Minister. This Parliament left it to six people outside to frame a repatriation scheme, and to provide for whom they might please. I am bound to say that they have disappointed the overwhelming majority of Australian soldiers. Further, that degree of disappointment which confronted the Prime Minister on his return to Australia hastened in no small measure the project for a gratuity,
This Bill contains a provision that the bonds may be cashed or made use of for all the purposes for which a grant of repatriation may be made. That to-day, however, applies only to a limited few. Section 60 of the regulations governing repatriation provides for only three classes who may be benefited. The time is at hand when we should widen the whole scheme of repatriation so that it shall absorb the gratuity grants, and give a form of control or direction to £28,000,000 of what will otherwise become, I fear, mere spending money. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has indicated his fears with respect to employees who have been brought up in a business atmosphere, where they should have become almost by instinct thrifty. If we multiply the danger when applying it to the “60 per cent., or, perhaps, 80 per cent., of our soldiers who have no business training or capacity, and may be in necessitous circumstances, we are bound to be impressed with the seriousness of the position, I suggest that the Government take counsel with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) and his present Commission - for, in my judgment, ‘the proposal to substitute a new Commission in place of the present body is not going to improve repatriation very much
– But is that a matter for debate in connexion with this Bill ?
– I have indicated the relationship between the two principles, and it is apparent on reference to clause 14. There is time, even now, to so amend our repatriation scheme as to gather in a wider range of beneficiaries. If we limit the provision under clause 14 to the very small number of beneficiaries under the repatriation legislation, I say, frankly, that it will be of little use, indeed. It will be of wider use, I admit, in connexion with the war service homes scheme; but, if we could widen the scope of repatriation itself, we would not only be making a cash gift, but would be allowing the soldiers, by these grants, to secure what they may require in carrying on their various avocations.
Our soldiers do not want money for money itself. They want that which will buy goods and other assets. Very many of them will seek an in terest in some undertaking. As I have indicated, under section 60 of the regulations dealing with repatriation, there are to-day only three classes provided for, namely, widows with children, married men who are incapacitated, and men who previously had had a little business of their own. The tens of thousands of other soldiers eligible for the war gratuity are in a position to secure practically no assistance whatever beyond a training under the repatriation scheme. ‘ If we take this opportunity to recast repatriation in order to bring in the great majority of soldiers, and then make provision that the war bonds shall be available for all the purposes set out in an amended and improved repatriation scheme, the two measures operating together will give businesslike and direct control to millions sterling which, otherwise, will become aci Zib. spending money, and will go towards increasing the spending power of the nation in a somewhat reckless way. What is there to prevent the Government from recommending that the trading, commercial, and financial community, and any who are prepared to do so, should advance to soldiers goods or commodities, or whatever they may require to set themselves up - providing that the transaction is approved either by the Repatriation Commission or by the State Board or by a Local Committee? What is to prevent such a course from being adopted if, in return for those goods, the trading community will take as payment bonds upon their face value plus the interest upon them to date? Why should we prevent such a ,thing, seeing that this Parliament could set up adequate and complete safeguards? If we merely pass a measure such as this, and leave repatriation where it stands, we shall be losing a great opportunity to render practical aid to men who hitherto have been disappointed concerning the lack of breadth of the repatriation scheme. I would treat the bonds as this Bill actually treats them at present in relation to the limited purposes of the Repatriation Act ; that is to say, I would regard them as equivalent to spot cash, plus interest due upon them. Why should we set out to discriminate? There aire a few, entitled to benefit under the Repatriation Act, who will be permitted to secure immediate cash payment for their gratuity bonds; but there are thousands of other soldiers equally deserving and, perhaps, in a more necessitous position, who do not come within the scope of the Repatriation Act, and whose bonds, therefore, cannot be cashed. I assure the Government that no one will be able to face the agitation that will have been aroused in respect to men suffering from wounds, who are out of funds, and yet who are holding this country’s, bonds.
– Is it not possible under clause 13, paragraph f?
– The honorable member suggests that the cases I have mentioned may be met under the paragraph which provides that a person who is found to be in necessitous circumstances shall be paid in cash if so desired by the person entitled to the gratuity; but, judging by the remarks of various honorable members as to the calibre of the Australian soldier, I should not think that he would be found marching up as a mendicant, or as a person in necessitous circumstances, and asking for cash for his bonds. In any case we do not wish to put him in that position.- The only gleam of hope for a big proportion of the soldiers is contained in clause 13, paragraph e, which provides that a member of the Forces who has married since the date of his discharge, shall be paid in cash if so’ desired by him. There may be a rush to the altar to secure a double-barrelled benefit.
I suggest to the. Ministry that a practical business-like scheme is still possible. There is time to amend the Repatriation Act in the direction I have indicated. The Bill to amend that Act is practically through another Chamber, and will soon be here. There is a most intimate relationship between the Repatriation Bill and the War Gratuity Bill. There is a prescribed authority in either measure. The one Department has to certify those who are eligible for consideration under this measure. I suggest that now the Government should take a practical hold over this huge amount of spending money, and help to direct its investment in proper and profitable channels. Do not let it become part of the great flood of spending money that has, in a great measure, contributed to the high cost of living in this country. Various views are put forward by economists of standing as to what is the real cause of the high cost of living. But for a dead certainty, one of the causes may be ascribed to the law of absorption. Just as we make funds or anything else available, they will be absorbed - it is the custom of the world - and until they are absorbed values will rise. When the money is not there to be absorbed, values will recede. If we allow £28,000,000 of unguarded and undirected spending money to be spent at a time when the productive powers of the country are falling, that is to say when the country is in the stranglehold of a drought, it means piling up high costs and increasing the currency, with no corresponding assets building up on the other side. I ask the Minister now in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom) to be good enough to take a note of the suggestion I make. At this stage it is not my intention to dwell on the details. They are essentially a matter for the Committee. But I ask the House and the country to take some direction over the expenditure of this vast amount of money which is to be placed in the hands of young men, many unaccustomed to dealing with such sums.
– It has surprised me to hear some of the remarks from honorable members opposite, particularly those which fell from the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who claims that it would not be just for an expiring Parliament to indulge in the expenditure of large sums of money. For the honorable member’s edification, I may point out that the New Zealand Parliament, just when it was expiring, having run its full term, did the right thing for the Dominion’s returned soldiers, and voted them a cash gratuity amounting to £6,000,000. Is Australia in such a parlous financial position that it cannot with 5,000,000 people - :five times the number in New Zealand- provide £30,000,000 in cash for the men we sent away?
Credit has been given to the drafters of this Bill for having coined certain phrases. They have been eulogized by several speakers on this account, but I find, on examining the document on which the New Zealand gratuity was paid, that its wording has been almost slavishly copied in our Bill. We have followed the example of New Zealand, not only in regard to phraseology, but also in regard to those who are to be excluded or included. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said that our Bill is on a far more liberal scale than that of New Zealand, but I fail to see it. The New Zealand measure voted £6,048,000 in October last year, and I think I am fairly safe in saving that by this time all New ‘ Zealand soldiers have received their cash gratuity of ls. 6d. per day.
– Not more than £1,500,000 has been paid so far.
– The latest information from New Zealand is that nearly all the gratuities have been paid. Th’ere is no difficulty in the way. The Defence Department in New Zealand, just as is the case in our Department here, has all the records of the men. Before our Bill was introduced, our Defence Department had all the requisite information, and if word had been given to pay in cash, it could have done so, at least three weeks ago, on a properly established actuarial basis. We ought to be capable of doing what New Zealand has done.
Complaint has been made that the Prime Minister varied his promises during the election campaign. Every one knows that he did. In almost every capital city, he had a different tale to toil in regard to the soldiers’ gratuity, and I shall quote how he was reported by the Adelaide Register, which we regard as the Argus of South Australia, and as a very conservative paper, which stuck to the Hughes Government right throughout the campaign, and throughout the last Parliament. Its issue of the 11th November, 1919, contained two and a half columns of a report of a meeting addressed by Mr. Hughes, and I quote the following interesting dialogue -
If you don’t agree with wild extravagant statements, made ostensibly in the name of the soldiers, say so, and say in whom you believe. Say something now if you have anything to say.
A Tired Voice. - We want cash. (Laughter and applause.)
– The Government have- made arrangements with the banks whereby the soldiers who want cash for their bonds can go there and get it. (Thunderous applause.)
A, Voice. - Supposing we all go at once. (Laughter and Applause.)
– The banks will hold these bonds exactly as they hold war.loan scrip. . . .
A Voice. - When will these bonds be delivered ?
– When Parliament meets.
The Same Voice. - And when will that be?
– As soon as the elections are over. I have done the best I could do. I am not God. I am not even Ryan. (Laughter and applause. )
This shows exactly how the soldiers took the utterances of the Prime Minister. After they heard him, they fully Believed that he intended that, even if they could not cash their bonds over the counter of the Treasury or the Defence Department, they could be paid cash, if they presented them at any bank. If that is not what the Prime Minister intended, I do not know the ‘ meaning of the English language.
Some honorable -members have said that the payment of £25,000,000 in cash would mean financial dislocation, but I have not heard of any great financial disruption in New Zealand, where, according to their population, a gratuity has been paid equal to the individual financial burden that would be imposed on Australia by the payment of £30,000,000 in cash. When the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) was speaking, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) interjected that these were not the only financial responsibilities of the Government. He Was quite correct. Our first war loan matures in 1925, and we shall be obliged to meet .about £20,000,000, most likely by a fresh issue. If the strong advocates of paying the soldiers in bonds have their way, the bonds must be redemed in 1924; therefore the’ Commonwealth’s responsibilities will be much greater in 1924 and 1925 than they are to-day. I do not see that we are likely to cause financial disruption by putting up this money now. I always like to quote the enemies of Labour. The Adelaide Register, the Melbourne Argus, and the Hobart Mercury are the three outstanding outright Tory newspapers in Australia. In a leading article in its issue of the 22nd March, 1920, the Argus said -
No one will grudge the soldiers the gratuity which Parliament has been asked to authorize. Many people have, directly and indirectly, made fortunes out of the war, ar.d many more are better off than they were -before the war commenced. It has long been the custom to give special reward to victorious soldiers.
In that statement the Argus admits two things, first, that it is right and proper that the gratuity should be paid to the returned soldiers either in bonds or in cash, and, secondly, that many people, directly or indirectly, have made fortunes out of the war, and very many are better off to-day than they were before the war commenced. The Argus here indicates the direction in which we should look to obtain the money required to pay the gratuity. When in Committee, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) submits the amendment, of which notice has been given, to secure the payment of the gratuity in cash, as every member of this party advocated upon the election platform, I shall be found voting for that amendment to carry out my election pledge. What is more, I believe that by so voting I shall be doing something which the great majority of our returned soldiers desire.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) drew for us a graphic and dramatic picture’ of a returned soldier coming to us with his scars and wounds, and to use a colloquialism, “ stony broke,” and holding in his hand a bond for which he wants cash, it may be to purchase food or to discharge some legitimate liability which he has incurred. That will be an exceedingly humiliating position in which to place any returned soldier. If bonds are to be issued, I hope they will not be of high denomination. I hope that bonds of different denominations, £10, £20, £50, and £100 will be issued, because if the returned soldier is to be allowed to make use of his bonds to purchase goods, to buy land, or to secure a home, he will find many business people prepared to take £10 bonds who could not possibly take bonds of £100. I have said that I believe in the payment of the gratuity in cash, and that our returned soldiers should not be called upon to hawk bonds around the country. We may hold the highest possible opinion of ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force, and yet~I say that if the gratuity is paid only in bonds there will, be thousands of men in Australia who during the next two or three years will be exceedingly desirous to turn them into cash. A returned soldier may enter a place of business and say to the proprietor, “ I have no other means, and I desire to obtain certain goods from you ; can you cash these bonds?” Although the owner of the business may be exceedingly desirous of doing something for the returned soldier, he will be debarred under this Bill from cashing the bonds offered him, and so granting the returned soldier the relief he desires.
– All this will be gone over again in Committee.
– I can promise the honorable gentleman that I shall not be long. I have, recently been in the country, and have seen many returned soldiers who are settled on the land, but all whom I have met have said, “ When is this gratuity going to be fixed up ?” I spoke to one young fellow who has a small orchard for which he has not yet paid. He found that the Repatriation -Department moved so slowly that he had to make a move for himself. It is possible that the Department is assisting him in some way now. I know that he has some payments yet to make on his property, and if he were paid the gratuity in cash it would be of material assistance to him. The Repatriation Department has come to the assistance of some returned soldiers to start them in business in a very meagre way, but I know of cases in which fathers of some of these men are making themselves poor to-day, in order to set their sons up in a business in a substantial way, because the Repatriation Department will not give them the assistance they require. One hundred pounds in cash would be of very great assistance to these men, who are anxious to .get off the books of the Repatriation Department, but who, under the practice of the Department at the present time, cannot secure the assistance they require because they do not dot an ” i” and cross a “ t “ in accordance with its regulations.
Even though to do so might lead to a little temporary financial embarrassment, we should alter the provisions of this Bill, and provide for the payment of the gratuity in cash. New Zealand, with her population of l,000j000, has paid £6,000,000 in cash by way of gratuity to her soldiers, and if her people could afford to do that, surely over 5,000,000 of people in Australia, where we have a wealthier community than are the people of New Zealand, can afford to pay £30,000,000 to their returned soldiers.
– I should’ like to remind the honorable member that New Zealand had nearly all the money she required saved by way of surplus.
– In introducing the New Zealand Bill, the Minister for Defence in that Dominion outlined the Canadian scheme, which is not as liberal as ours, or as that of New Zealand. To suggest that the payment of a gratuity to our returned soldiers is something that was evolved from the brain of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is only to talk so much nonsense. When our returned soldiers learned that Canada and New Zealand were paying cash gratuities to their soldiers, it was only proper that the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League should go to the Government, and put it to them that Australia should do what the. other two oversea Dominions were doing in this matter. The Prime Minister replied that the Government were prepared’ to do so, but they do not propose to pay the gratuity in cash, as has been done elsewhere. They propose to hand the returned soldier a piece of paper, and ask him, if possible, to hold it until 1924. I say that before that date in many thousands of cases our returned soldiers will be offering their bonds to secure relief. Business people by the score have promised to cash the bonds, and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) pointed’ out that he felt that, as an employer of labour, he would be responsible, after the promises that had been made, in common with other people in business, to cash bonds for returned’ soldiers in his employment. If only a section of our returned soldiers are called upon to humiliate themselves, by asking cash for their bonds, because they are in necessitous circumstances, we shall be making a very invidious distinction, which will not be relished by those concerned.
In saying that I support the proposal of the Labour party that the gratuity should be paid in cash, I am only repeating what I said before the last Parliament expired. We desired that this matter should be settled before the general election. It should have been dealt with then, and the proposal should not have been hawked before the electors. It should have been settled, as it was settled in New Zealand, on the eve of, a general election. I can only repeat now that I shall vote for the amendment which is to be proposed to secure the payment of the gratuity in cash.
.- At this late hour I do not propose to delay the House more than a few minutes. I think that we have all practically indorsed the principle of the Bill, but I hope some amendments may be made in Committee that will alter the method’ of payment, and will also broaden the scope of the measure by adding to the classes of persons who, under it, will be entitled to receive the gratuity. The subject is one to the discussion of which a speaker might devote considerable time, and my justification for not doing so at this late hour is the fact that already a number of speeches have been delivered upon the matter, and it has been dealt with very fully and’, I think I may say, very effectively from my point of view; by honorable members who have already spoken from my side of the chamber.
History has shown that in all countries grateful peoples have raised monuments to the memory of those who have been prepared to die, or have died, in order that their country might - live. Any one who has travelled cannot but be struck in Paris, London, or Washington with the monuments raised in those centres, and the engravings upon them of glowing tributes to the memory of those who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their country. The circumstances which caused those countries to raise monuments to their soldiers were not comparable to the circumstances in which Australia finds herself to-day. I think it was President Garfield who laid it down that a country is not worthy to be saved if in the hour of its fate it will not gather up its jewels of manhood and life and go down into the conflict, however bloody and doubtful, prepared for measureless ruin or complete success. If that is the test by which we should gauge the right of a country to be saved, then Australia has amply proved that she has that right. For Australia, indeed, did gather up her jewels of manhood and life, and went down into this conflict prepared for measureless ruin or complete success. That is demonstrated by the number of men who enlisted, by the number of men who went overseas, and. by the number of men who will never return, and who are buried in foreign soil. Australian soldiers, too, may be proud of their achievements, which will certainly live in history. The qualities that they have displayed, in my opinion, are characteristic of the Australian people as a whole. It is for that reason I am optimistic and confident that Australia will be able to deal successfully with the great problems that we have in front of us.
Perhaps the brightest spot in the whole achievement, at all events to my mind, is the fact that what Australia did she did voluntarily. When Australia raises a monument, as other countries have done, to the men who have given their lives for their country, I” hope there will be special mention of the fact that they did so without the imposition of conscription. Conscription is the tap root of militarism, and it is from conscription that most wars spring. There is one thing I regretted in the terms of the peace concluded at Versailles, and that was the fact that provision was not made - apparently because those ‘assembled there were not able to agree on the point - that there should be an abolition of conscription in all countries simultaneously. If that had been done, I verily believe that the foundation would have been laid for a universal and lasting peace.
Just as monuments have been raised, gratuities have been paid after great wars. In my opinion, the proposed payment, which is called a “ gratuity “ is in the nature, of a deferred payment merely, and should not be described as a gratuity. It is something to be paid in return for services rendered, and just as any other services are paid for in cash, so should this payment be made in cash.
– The same as the payment to Mr. Speaker.
– Yes, and the same as the payment to every other member of this House. It is idle for the Government to say that it is impossible to raise the cash. That matter has been fully dealt with by previous speakers, who have shown that had conscription been carried it would have been necessary to raise more money, and if the war had continued the cash would have been forthcoming. Is any honorable member on the Government side of the chamber prepared to say that it would have been impossible to do it? Does the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) suggest that it would have been impossible to raise the cash, or that the country would have been ruined had conscription been carried? Does the Minister suggest that had the war continued for even a few months longer we would not have been able to raise sufficient money to meet our obligations ?
– No; but it would have hurt us very severely.
– There is a more deepseated reason for the issue of bonds than has been expressed, or than appears on the surface, when we bear in mind the fact that there are some £700,000,000 or £800,000,000 worth of bonds held as security against Australian assets. It is part of the scheme of those w’ho hold these bond’s to make our soldiers also holders of bonds that cannot be cashed until 1924. Interest-bearing war bonds are not subject to income tax, and if at some future date any suggestion is made in regard to the financial position of the Commonwealth which is likely to interfere with the holders of such bonds, the Government think they will have the additional backing of some tens of thousands of soldiers, and will be able to say that any alteration in the matter of taxing income from’ such bonds will apply also to the soldiers. I believe that is one of the deep-seated reasons why the Government have insisted in paying the war gratuity in bonds.
There is an actual prohibition against cash contained in this measure, as will be seen from clause 15 of the Bill, which reads -
Except as .prescribed, no interest in any war gratuity, or in -any Treasury bond issued or to be issued- in payment of any war gratuity, shall be alienable, whether by way or in eonsequence of sale, assignment, charge, execution, insolvency, or otherwise howsoever.
That is a complete prohibition.
– “ Except as prescribed.”
– The Minister for the Navy interjects “Except as prescribed.” If there is to be any prescription, 1116 proper place . for that to be done is in this House, and not by some outside authority. What objection can there be to making a bond alienable provided it is alienable at its face value? The clause is absolutely prohibitive against alienation of bonds and the conferring of the title upon some one else, even at its face value. That limitation is included because it is the policy of the Government to insist that these bonds shall be held by the soldiers, and that they shall not be negotiable. That is my opinion, and I have not heard anything from honorable members opposite that has caused me to alter my views. What is it to the holders of £700,000,000 worth of bonds ? What is it to advance another £25,000,000 on the same asset? It would pay them to hand over £25,000,000 of the £700,000,000 to have the additional security for themselves.
– I wish the honorable member could persuade them to do it.
– If I were in the position of the Minister for the Navy I might do so. The Minister and his supporters can dictate what they like to them.
– To whom?
– The masters of the Government. Those who supplied the funds to place the Government where they are - the profiteers of this country who gave the Government their support. They did not support honorable members on this side.
– I am sure the honorable member and his colleagues had fully three times more financial assistance than did honorable members on this side.
– It is idle for the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to suggest that we had more financial support than did the supporters of the Government. If he doubts what I am saying, let him move the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to fully investigate the whole matter and ascertain what funds have been used by both parties - for political purposes. I know that tens of thousands of pounds were expended on propaganda work to insure the return of a National Government to the Treasury benches.
– It was said in the Domain, in Sydney, that millions of pounds had been spent.
– Large sums of money were made available as an insurance fund to protect those who placed the Government in power, and that protection is being provided.. T hope the people of this country will become stirred to such an extent that they will not stand it. We are continually being told that the Government have not the power to deal with the profiteer, and that the responsibility rests on the shoulders of others. Are the people going to stand that much longer? Will they believe those who state that Parliament has not the power ? If that attitude is to be continued we can well understand there being an increasing objection to our present system of parliamentary government. When those who are suffering from the action of the profiteers see that the real interests of the ^people are not safeguarded by their representatives in Parliament, who snap their fingers and say they have no power to prevent profiteering, decisive action will be taken.
I wish to refer to one regrettable feature of the debate on this measure. I was not present when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) delivered his secondreading speech, but I have devoted some time to reading his utterances and some of the speeches delivered by other honorable members opposite. It is clear that the Prime Minister went out of his way to jeer at the Opposition and stress the point that there were no returned soldiers sitting on this side of the chamber. I would have expected some of those honorable members who are wearing badges, and who are sitting behind the Government, to have disclaimed the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister in this connexion. I would have thought that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) would have remembered that his opponent was a man who had rendered service to his country, and carries the scars of war as an honorable souvenir of that service, but he listened to the jeers at the honorable members on this side without raising any complaint. It is in keeping with the misrepresentation that occurred in connexion with the conscription issue, for every one knows that the Labour party was shockingly misrepresented in that connexion. There was misrepresentation in regard to the resolutions of the Perth Conference, and there was similar misrepresentation in other directions. Honorable members opposite know that there were candidates who stood as representatives of the Labour party from the ranks of returned soldiers, and would have sat in this chamber if a majority of the electors had returned them.
They and this party as a whole were just as loyal and sincere as many honorable members opposite were in an endeavour to bring the war to a successful conclusion.
– There were some returned soldiers beaten by men who had not made any attempt to fight.
– Exactly, but’ I thought I had said sufficient in giving the example of one man who was prepared to give his life for his country, and was defeated by the honorable member for Wannon. That example is typical of many that I might mention’. Notwithstanding this, the Prime Minister made sneering references to the absence of returned soldiers on the Opposition benches. Some other honorable members on that side of the House - not all - employed similar tactics, but they seem to have forgotten that there were tens of thousands of Labour supporters who left this country, and who are never likely to return because they gave their lives in Palestine or in the bloody shambles of Gallipoli and Flanders, who, had they lived, would to-day have been behind the party on this side of the House. They partook in every peril, but in the glory they are not tq be allowed to participate. I resent very strongly the statements of the’ Prime Minister attacking the party on this side of the chamber. Certainly there were sentiments expressed by some honorable members opposite which differed very much from those of the Prime Minister, and I was pleased to hear them. They spoke of the harmony that should exist in view of the difficulties confronting us. There’ is need for harmony, and what better example could we have than that displayed by the men who went forward to fight? Included in that noble army of Australian soldiers there were descendants of English, Scotch, and Irish - men of every faith and creed, and men of all shades of political thought. In the great conflict they stood shoulder to shoulder, and their blood flowed in the same stream. When the cold grey light of morning broke their bodies lay stiff and stark together, and in the same trenches they were laid. The green grass springs even now from their commingled dust, and the soft dew from Heaven falls upon their union in the grave. I mention this to-night because of the comments that have fallen from the Prime Minister in regard to the party to which I belong. I am prepared to forget some of the sentiments expressed in this House. I have heard able speeches delivered on this Bill, and I could, if so inclined, give reasons to show that this Bill was introduced for political reasons. The time and manner of its introduction indicates that. My own experience on the other side of the world, when I met the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) enabled me to see what tactics were being adopted in connexion with the soldiers. I might have gone into that.
– I invite the honorable member to tell the House of anything I did in London in connexion with returned soldiers.
– I do not want to enter into any recriminations.
– You cannot on that score.
– I could tell the people-
– You cannot.
– The Prime Minister, the Minister for the Navy, and the Minister for Defence-
– I object to these innuendoes, and challenge the honorable member to inform the House.
– The campaign was carried on amongst the soldiers from, the signing of the armistice right down to the elections. Every movement wa3 directed to the same end - that of getting their votes. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), whom I must congratulate upon the speech which he delivered here, produced the strongest evidence that there were political reasons behind the introduction of this Bill by pointing to the different promises which had been made by the Prime Minister during the election campaign, all of which were intended to convey to the soldier the impression that he was to receive a cash gratuity. But whatever differences there may have been between us over this matter, we can afford to forget, and we can. come together in harmony and unity. We can let the example of our soldiers be an inspiration to us in the difficulties which lie ahead. If we do that, I am confident that Australia will be able to work out her destiny of becoming eventually a great Democracy which will’ be the happy home of the many rather than, as one is sometimes inclined to think, the exploiting ground of the few. I do not propose to delay the House any longer. I shall support the second reading of the Bill, and also the amendments which have been forecastby honorable members upon, this side of the chamber.
.- I offer no apology for rising at this late hour to discuss the Bill which is before us, for the simple reason that I have been endeavouring to catch your eye, 6ir, ever since we met to-day. Various feelings rise in. one’s breast in considering the proposed gratuity. Personally I .experience a sense of gratitude to those who went overseas prompted by the belief that it was their duty to fight for the Empire, and who nobly discharged that duty. But when I hear honorable members opposite arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to represent returned soldiers, it hurts me. Why should not Labour members stand up for the rights of returned soldiers? Have no returned soldiers come from the ranks of Labour? Did no returned soldiers vote with the Labour party as anti-conscriptionists? Have we no members of our industrial unions who went to the Front? Only, on Sunday night last, in a hall which I attended in North Melbourne, there were the names of 600 members of one organization who had gone to the Front. In the union to which I belong in South Australia, there are over 400 members who have rendered similar service. We have a bigger right, therefore, to claim that we represent returned soldiers than have honorable members opposite. What has given Ministerial supporters the right to affirm that they alone represent returned soldiers ? The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) has grown cabbages in England. I have grown cabbages in Australia. Does the growing of cabbages give a man the specific right to represent returned soldiers? I do not wish my remarks to be construed as a reflection upon the honorable member for Robertson, because I think that, in discharging the duties which he did, he was rendering good service to this country. But he is one of two honorable members opposite .who have claimed that only those who wear badges, and support the
Nationalist Government, have a right to stand for justice to our returned soldiers.
– The honorable member himself grew cabbages under very different circumstances from those under which the honorable member for Robertson grew them.
– Exactly. I am not finding fault with the honorable member for Robertson for having grown cabbages. I merely say that the growing of cabbages does not give him any more right to claim justice for returned soldiers than I have.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the honorable member for Robertson did nothing else but grow cabbages?
– I do not know.
– Does not the honorable member think that he ought to know before making these contemptible references ?
– The honorable member is quite wrong in his facts.
– I do not say that the honorable member did nothing else but grow cabbages. In reply to the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) I ask,does he not think that he ought to have “known,” before. he made some of the contemptible utterances of the last election campaign ?
I have a feeling of contempt for the Ministry because of ‘ their hypocrisy in regard to this gratuity. Upon threeoccasions, when reference has been made to waste of time by honorable members upon this side of the chamber, I have asked the Government, by way of interjection, why they did not save time by introducing the proposal for the payment of this gratuity during the last session of Parliament, and prior to the general elections. In reply, the Minister for the Navy said, “ Give us something fresh.” T hope that I have assisted to give the Government something fresh by defeating one of their ardent supporters. If the honorable gentleman wishes for something further “ fresh “ he had better wait until he goes to England.
– You are a great man.
– When I look upon the Minister’s kindly face, and think of his political experience, I am bound to regard bis remark a.s a compliment. I nope that before I am as old as lie is, I shall merit the recognition which he has given me. My feelings, sir, upon the present occasion are those of contempt for the Government, because they did not bring down legislation to authorize the payment of this gratuity six months earlier, when it would not have had the appearance of being a bribe to the soldiers and their dependants for the purpose of retaining Ministers in office.
– Did any one of the honorable member’s party suggest the payment of a gratuity six months ago ?
– No. But the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) promised a cash payment, and the party to which I belong has done its duty by endeavouring to make him honour that promise. However, I want to get on to the hypocritical side of .the business.
– That is a subject which the honorable member understands.
– I wish to refer again to the hypocritical aspect of the business.
– They say over here that you are a good judge of it.
– Yes ! such a good judge of hypocrisy am I that, even if the honorable member who just interjected were dressed in “ sheep’s clothing,” I should still know him to be what he is. Honorable members of the Opposition have been repeatedly charged with wasting the time of the House. Yet the Government did not deal with this gratuity six months ago because it wished to use the returned soldiers in order to secure a fresh lease of power. In their action they plumbed the lowest depths of hypocritical mendacity. Not only do I feel contempt for the Government, but I recognise that an injustice has been done in regard to the name of this so-called gratuity. The very fact that it is called a gratuity is evidence of hypocrisy. What is a gratuity? The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) has told us that it is a ..gracious gift. Is this a gracious gift? Have not our returned men to help to pay interest upon it? Have they not also to assist in the repayment of the principal? The hypocrisy of the whole blessed thing! Had it been a cash gift it would have been a gratuity, and there would have been no hypocrisy about it. I shall vote for what I promised to support when I was on the hustings.
The next thought which occurs to me is that there is still more injustice about this proposal. Suppose, for example, that I invested £150 in one of our war loans. I should receive by way of interest upon my investment the sum of £7 annually. I would get that amount, notwithstanding that throughout the war I had remained at home and had not been subjected to the hardships to which our returned soldiers have been subjected. Thus within the next four years, under these bond proposals, I should draw as much in interest as it is proposed to give interest to the men who risked their lives and their all for this country. There are many capitalists in Australia who have invested large sums in our war loans. They draw interest -1113011 their investments all the time. The position, therefore, is that, although we are told that it is impossible to find the cash with which to pay this gratuity to the men who risked their lives in the interests of this country, we can find the money to pay interest upon £3,000, £4,000, or £10,000, which has been invested in our war loans by single individuals, who have, perhaps, been blood-suckers in the sense that they have extorted undue profits from the wives and other dependants of some of our defenders. There certainly seems to be some injustice in the present proposal.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) stated that honorable, members on this side of the House had introduced into the debate certain matters that should have been left out of it, but I point out that the Prime Minister, the first speaker on the second reading of this Bill, had an opportunity to make the occasion an historical one. But what did he do? He turned round, and made sneering statements concerning honorable members on this side of the House. “ I find no returned soldiers on the Opposition side of the House,” he said. And this, too, from a man that took the seat from a genuine “ digger,” who played his- part at the Front. The Prime Minister ought to have been the last man to suggest that he could find’ no returned soldier on this side of the House.
– Is it not a fact that the first “digger” to be beaten in an election was in South Australia, and while he was away fighting, too?
– Does the Minister refer to the Hon. J. H. Vaughan?
– I do.
– Then he is quite correct. But I want to point out that the Prime Minister started this mud-slinging. If I had been the offender it might have been put down to my inexperience, but this cannot be said of the Prime Minister, with his long political record. When handling such a sacred matter as this he should not have stooped so low. The Prime Minister did not mention names, but on behalf of one “digger” who is not present, I want to say that “ Teddy “ Yates was in the firing line. It is only fair that the Prime Minister should say to whom he is referring when he is making these ugly insinuations.
I have said all I wanted to, and as the Bill is going into Committee, I shall follow the advice of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), and reserve any other remarks I have to make for that stage of the Bill.
– I am sorry to take up the time of honorable members at this late hour, but I want briefly to place on record my views with regard to the Gratuity Bill. Any form of gratuity other than cash is not acceptable to the great bulk of the returned soldiers. Some honorable members may run away with the idea that a large number of soldiers will accept bond’s. Only a small section favour accepting that form of gratuity. The Labour party have consistently advocated a cash payment. The question was a burning one during the election, and every member of the party distinctly stated that if returned he would favour paying the gratuity in cash. The Prime Minister himself declared that he would pay cash, and if the men find out in the course of a few days that they are not going to get cash, there is just the possibility of a disturbance, owing to the dissatisfaction among them. Those I have come in contact with during the past few months all want to know whether they will receive cash, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s promise, or nonnegotiable bonds. I admit that the sum required, £25,000,000, is a fairly large amount, but Admirals of the Fleet and
Generals of the Army received substantial sums in cash, and it is only natural that our soldiers should desire the same form of payment. Admiral Beatty received £100,000; Lord Jellicoe, £100,000; Sir Douglas Haig, £100,000; Admiral Bing, £30,000; General Allenby, £50,000, and General Birdwood, £10,000. There appeared to be no very great anxiety about obtaining this money, and steps should be taken to find the necessary cash in order to fulfil the Prime Minister’s promises. I believe that an undertaking should be honoured.
I desire now to refer to. a few of the promises made during the election, although in doing so I may repeat some of the statements made by other honorable members.
– Why repeat them?
– Because it will give me a good deal of satisfaction. During the recent election campaign I told returned soldiers in my electorate that if the Labour party were returned to power we would pay cash, and I want those soldiers to know now that the Government have no intention of honouring the Prime Minister’s promise. We were told repeatedly that the Labour party were holding out a bribe to get the soldiers’ votes. The fact is that the Labour party would have obtained the soldiers’ votes irrespective of any promises made in connexion with the war gratuity. Had the Labour party opposed a cash payment during the election campaign they would have received exactly the same number of votes as they did when they decided, if returned to power, to pay the gratuity in cash. Had we been returned with a majority there would have been no disturbance about finding the money; it would have been found all right. There is ample money in Australia to pay the soldiers. Ample profits have been made out of the war, and some of them could certainly have gone towards financing the scheme. A certain portion of the profits made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for the years 1916 to 1918 could have helped to pay off a part of the amount promised to the soldiers. If my memory serves me right, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in those years built up reserves and undistributed profits to the extent of £1,300,000, and their Fiji branch profits amounted to £650,000.’
If necessity had compelled the Government to take that course, some of that money could have gone towards paying the gratuity.
In his policy speech at Brisbane, the Prime Minister is reported in the Melbourne Age, of 22nd October last, to have said -
As the result of a conference between the executive of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Imperial League and himself, the Government proposed to pay a gratuity to soldiers on the basis of ls. 6d. a day, in interest-bearing bonds, non-negotiable, carrying 5J per cent, interest. These bonds would not be transferable except with the Treasury Department’s consent. Special arrangements would be made for redemption in cases of hardship or urgency, or for” widows on re-marriage. The indemnity to bo paid on or before May, 1921, would be used for the purpose of redeeming from 20 to 40 per cent, of these bonds.
He then went on to describe how this would benefit the soldiers. That was No. 1 promise. No. 2 promise was contained in a statement handed by the Prime Minister to Lieutenant Cortis, and reported as follows: -
Mr. Cortis said he had received a statement from Mr. Hughes to read to the meeting in regard to the gratuity. According to this, Mr. Hughes promised -
Immediate distribution of bonds on the assembling of Parliament.
Bonds will be taken by banks and Repatriation Department as the equivalent of cash in purchase of land and houses.
Cash will be paid in all urgent cases, and where a soldier marries or a soldier’s widow re-marries.
The Government will redeem in cash by May, 1921, not less than f 12,000,000 sterling.
The third promise made by the Prime Minister appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, of 20th November, 1919, as follows : -
The. Treasurer is proceeding with negotiations with the banks, and it is hoped that a still more liberal system of cashing bonds will be arranged in the course of the week.
No. 4 promise, according to a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 21st November, 1919, was made by the Prime Minister in these words - 1
A Labour leaflet says that all the Nationalist papers refuse to support the gratuity. What do I care about that? Do you mean to say that the Nationalist papers were any concern of mine during my absence in England? When I was fighting the battle of a White Australia, for a fair deal for Australia, I had few friends here. These gentlemen would be pleased if they had anybody else to vote for, and they are only voting for ‘me because they cannot get anybody else. If you think they can make a tool of me, vote for another tool.
These are very definite and distinct promises which the honorable gentleman is repudiating now every five minutes in the day. They are in black and white, and he certainly cannot say he did not make them. Here is another, made in a speech on the 20th November, 1919, in the following words: -
I am now negotiating with the banks for further concessions. I expect to hear from Mr. Watt as to the result to-day. As to the rest of the bonds, we shall pay £10,000,000 in cash in May, 1921, when the German indemnity is paid - if the indemnity is more, then you will be repaid as much as it is - if there is no indemnity, you will still get the £10,000,000. That means that you will get £17,000,000 out of the £28,000,000 war gratuity in eighteen months.
I presume he meant in cash. Then on 22nd November, 1919, he made another promise, according to the following report : -
The Prime Minister announced last night that arrangements had been completed with the banks to find the sum of £6,000,000 for the payment of the war gratuity in cash to the following classes…..
Employers have also agreed to accept bonds.
The Commonwealth Government will do likewise with its employees.
The State of Victoria is believed to have fallen into line, and it is hoped that other States will adopt a similar course.
The Prime Minister said at Ballarat that he was making arrangements with the banks to cash the bonds. Immediately he made that statement the banks repudiated it. They said he had made no arrangement with them, and when challenged he ! said he meant that he was about to make arrangements with the banks for them to cash the bonds and enable the whole of the returned soldiers to receive cash. On 28th November he said that all unemployed soldiers would receive cash for their bonds. I have made a careful examination of the Bill, and find no provision in it for the payment of cash to any unemployed soldier. . That is, therefore, another very distinct promise that has been broken. In his speech at Adelaide, published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 11th November, 1919, and headed ‘ Cash Over the Counter,” “The Gratuity Bonds,” “Banks Will Pay,” the Prime Minister said -
Bonds will be issued which will be reserved for repatriation purposes. The hanks will also receive bonds as collateral security.
The Government has made arrangements with the Savings Bank and all the Associated Banks by which the soldier who wants to cash his bond through other than the Repatriation Department will be able to go to the banks and get cash for it.
I quote these statements by the Prime Minister, although they have been quoted before by other honorable members, in order to show the soldiers in my electorate that the Prime Minister has utterly disregarded the promises he made to them before the last election. In the first place, there was no necessity for the Government to make an appeal to the country. They had ample time to make arrangements for the payment of the gratuity. They had practically eight months in which to get over their difficulties and make arrangements to meet their financial obligations. They did not consider the soldiers’ request at that particular time. They thought it an opportune moment to make an appeal to the electors, and forgot about the promises that were made to the soldiers.. The result is that the Prime Minister and his Government, on the strength of promising the soldiers that they would be paid in cash, were able to secure a good number of their votes; but now that they have been returned with a majority - that is, with the assistance of the Country party - the Prime Minister has not the slightest intention of honouring a single promise he made to the soldiers. More than one meeting of protest has been held by the returned soldiers, and. on each and every occasion they have demanded cash.
On going through the Bill, I find no provision for the payment of a gratuity allowance to the discharged naval wireless telegraphists. Those men took the same risks as others, but no- provision for them appears in the Bill. I mentioned the matter the other day to the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), in the hope of getting the promise of some concession for these men, hut I was not very successful.
I trust that the Government will reconsider the matter of giving cash to those who want it. Those who are willing to take bonds should get them, and I believe a number of returned men who have means which enable them to dispense with the cash are willing to take bonds bearing interest at 5£ per cent. ; but there are others who are in distressed circumstances, and desire cash. Quite a number of returned men have borrowed money in anticipation of their cash gratuity; others have contracted to purchase homes on the strength of it. The bulk of them know exactly the amount to which they are entitled, and are waiting for it week after week. My only desire is that the gratuity shall be paid in money, and be paid quickly. The promise of the Prime Minister, made to catch votes, will then be redeemed, and there will be no further trouble. If the soldiers do not receive their money, they will not remain quiet; they will make a demand for it, and they are entitled to do so.
.- I have been, so to speak, almost suffocated with the gas let loose in this chamber during the discussion on the Bill, and although very desirous that’ the measure shall quickly reach the Committee stage, and be finally passed, so that the gratuity may be paid, I feel that I must add a few words to the debate. Like 99 -per cent, of those who have preceded me, I am going to say that I shall not detain the House very long, though, unlike them - because the majority detained the House as long as they could - I hope to keep my word in this matter. As one who last week supported the proposal of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that we should sit here over the week-end to get the Bill passed, I do not wish to detain honorable members very long. I want to see the gratuity paid, and paid in cash. When that has been arranged, we should be able to adjourn over Easter. If it were not that this’ Bill is before the House, I should not be here now, because I have not been well; and my medical adviser has ordered me to keep to my bed; but I feel that everything should be done to amend the Bill in the direction that is desired by those on this side.
No question to-day agitates the minds of returned soldiers, their friends and relations, as does the question of the gratuity. In spite of what has been said by honorable members opposite, about soldiers not wishing for a cash gratuity, I declare that the overwhelming majority of them wish to have the cash as soon as possible. There are one or two statement’s made by honorable members, opposite to which I must reply. I am sorry that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) is not in the chamber, because, although. I do not intend to say anything hurtful to him, when I am speaking about a man I always like him to be present. The other day the honorable member said that only returned soldiers had the right to speak on behalf of soldiers. To that, my reply is that I was sent here by the vote of the electors of Calare, to represent and to help the returned soldiers, the primary producers, and the workers of all classes. The only class which I do not represent is the vested interests that stand behind the National party, and are represented by Nationalist members. I have no desire to represent that class, and I shall never, either here or elsewhere, advocate its claims. I .am satisfied that the majority of the returned soldiers in Calare recorded their votes for me on the 13th December last, and did so because they knew that if the Labour party got into power they would provide for the payment of the gratuity in cash.
– Does the honorable member for Robertson show the scars of battle ?
– I do not know. He is wearing the returned soldiers’ badge, and-I do not wish to say anything hurtful of him. I could say that he was in uniform for. nine months before he went away, and there are other things that could be said, but I do not desire to say them.
The honorable member for Robertson declared that the Government had brought in the Bill at the earliest possible moment, but every one knows that that is not so. As I stated in my first speech here, the Government could have brought in the Bill before the election: Had Ministers been sincere in their desire to give a gratuity to returned soldiers, the necessary legislation would have been passed, and the gratuity would have been paid before the elections, because there was no occasion to dissolve Parliament and appeal to the country so soon. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) reminds me that the Government voted against a motion to the effect that the gratuity should be paid. Although it nas been said that the offer of a gratuity was not a bribe by the Government, the facts contradict that statement, because the Government said in effect, “ If you return us with a majority to Parliament, if you give us the right to govern Australia for the next three years, you will get a gratuity; but if you return the Labour party, you have no chance of getting it.” That was said in effect from every Nationalist platform, and in the columns of the press. The electors were told that we were insincere, and had no intention of paying a gratuity.
– I suppose you said nothing.
– I will repeat what 1 said. I asked why did the Government, if they were sincere - if they were desirous that this money should be paid to the soldiers - make the payment of the gratuity conditional on their return to power ? Why did they run the risk of losing the gratuity if they thought that the Labour party would not pay it ? Despite what the Minister for the Navy may interject, I say that the action of the Government proved conclusively that they used the gratuity as a bribe for getting the votes of the returned soldiers, though I doi no’t think that one soldier’s vote was secured by it. The soldiers’ votes could not be bought. There may be exceptional cases. Such cases are always to be found, but the overwhelming majority of the men who performed heroic deeds upon the rugged battlescarred slopes of Gallipoli, the burning sands of Egypt, and the mud-stained, blood-stained fields of Flanders, could not be bought or bribed, and I am sure that their votes were not obtained by the promise of a gratuity.
In reply to the statement made by the honorable member for Robertson that nine-tenths of the men desire bonds, and not cash, I would point out that at least 80 per cent, of our soldiers were drawn from the ranks of the toiling masses, who under our social and economic system receive only sufficient to enable them to buy food and raiment to keep them healthy so. that they may produce more. The struggle for existence is so keen that the majority are existing and not living in the truest sense of the word, so that we know that these men are in urgent need of the money. The man who says that nine-tenths of our soldiers do not desire that the gratuity shall be paid in cash is as regardless of the welfare of the soldiers as is a “West African negro.
I do not look upon the gratuity as a bonus to be paid to the soldiers. As I said in my opening speech in this House, I regard it as the fulfilment of a promise made to the men when they went away, that they would receive 8s. per day. That promise has not been kept. They certainly received 6s. per day, but the purchasing power of the sovereign has so depreciated that at the end of the war 6s. would not purchase more than 4s. 6d. would procure at the outset of hostilities. While our men were fighting, as we were told, to make the world safe for Democracy, the profiteers who stayed at home used! the war as an excuse to exploit the people. They put up prices to such an extent that the men on their return found that the cost of living had so increased that their 6s. per day had no greater .purchasing power than had 4s. 6d. at the commencement of the war. In support of that contention I propose to quote a few figures showing how the prices of various necessary commodities have increased. Sugar, which in 1914 cost 3d. per lb., to-day costs 6d. per lb. Tea, which cost ls. 3d. and ls. 6d., is now sold at from 2s. 6d. to 2». 10$d. per lb. Flour, which cost lid., now costs 3Jd. per lb. Oatmeal, which cost 3d. per lb., is now 6d. per lb. Sago, which was 2Jd. per lb. in 1914, is now 6J<1. Condensed milk, which was sold at 7d. and 8d. per tin, now costs ls. Kerosene shows an increase of a shade over 100 per cent.; matches an increase of 150 per cent., and candles an increase of 70 per cent. Milk, which was selling in 1914 at 4d. per quart, now costs 8d. per quart. Bacon has risen from ls. 3d. to 2s. per lb.; butter, from ls. 2Jd. to 2s. per lb. ; and eggs from ls. 6d. per doz. to 3s. per doz. The selling price of meat has likewise increased to the extent of almost 100 per cent. All these figures go to prove my contention that the cost of living has increased to such an extent that this gratuity may rightly be regarded not as a bonus, but as a fulfilment of the promise made.:tb the soldiers when they went away that they should receive 6s. a day.
I shall not traverse the ground covered by other speakers as to what would have been the position had the war continued. Had it gone on, we should have been compelled to find money for its successful prosecution. During the war »u men were asked to make sacrifices, and they did. Sixty thousand brave Australian lives have been laid dows in the struggle to free the- world from tyranny. That is what tire manhood of Australia, did. The wealth of Australia made no sacrifice whatever. The wealth of the Commonwealth increased by £400,000,000 while the war was on. That £400,000,000 has been made out of the suffering, poverty, and misery of the people. Under the cloak of patriotism the people during the war were exploited to a greater extent than over before. We know that wealth was protected as it was made, and added to by the sacrifices of our soldiers. We know that the manhood, womanhood, and childhood of the nation, have made sacrifices, and the wealth of Australia should be prepared now also to make some small sacrifice. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) move3 his amendment providing that the payment be made in cash, I shall support it. I hope it will be carried, and that the money will be paid to our men to spend as they please. It has been said by an honorable member opposite, at least in effect, if not in so many words, that our soldiers, who wero quite’ competent to fight f jr Australia and the British Empire, are not competent to spend their own money in their own way. He urged that it would be necessary to safeguard the men, and to prevent the accumulation of spending power. I hold, however, that the gratuity should he paid in cash, and that, as the money will belong to the men, they should be left to please themselves as to the way in which it should be spent. There should he no restriction, placed upon them. We should pay the gratuity in cash to the men, and let them, please themselves how they spend it.
We have been told that the- gratuity is to be paid by a grateful nation in recognition of what the soldiers have done. We find that this grateful country, if the Bill be carried in its present form, is going to give our soldiers bonds, bearing interest at the rate of 51/4 per cent, per annum. A man who receives bonds of the face value of £100 will thus gain. £5 5s. by way of interest every year, or less than half the amount necessary to buy him a suit of clothes.
I shall not detain the House longer. I hope the Committee stage will soon be reached, and that when the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition is moved, we shall find honorable members opposite, who say they are anxious to do justice to the soldiers, voting, in accordance with that sentiment, for the payment of a cash gratuity at the earliest possible moment to our men.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
. -In moving
That the House do now adjourn,
I express the hope that honorable members will come to-morrow prepared to make an attempt to get through the Bill before the adjournment for our Easter holidays. I ask honorable members to sit a little later, if need be, in order to finish the Bill.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether a passport has been asked far and granted to Mr. Georgeson, who was implicated in the wheat deal in New South Wales.
– I shall make inquiries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200330_reps_8_91/>.