House of Representatives
20 October 1920

8th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 5788




.- I desire, by leave of the House, to make a statement concerning my resignation as a Minister, and my withdrawal from the mission to Great Britain.

Members of the Opposition. - Object!


– There being an objection, the honorable member may not proceed.

Mr Blakeley:

– By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that I was reluctant to take the extreme step of objecting to a member of this House making a statement–


– That cannot be the subject of a personal explanation.

Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would preclude the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mc Williams) from making statements to the House.

Mr Blakeley:

– Get on with the censure motion.

The House divided.

AYES: 45

NOES: 11

Majority . . . . 34



Question so resolved in the affirmative.


– I de sire to thank the Leader of the Government for the opportunity which his motion has afforded me of addressing the House. I do not presume to offer any opinion upon the objections raised by two honorable members. They probably had good and sufficient reasons for so doing.

Honorable members will .probably remember that in March last I left Australia on what was regarded as a mission of considerable public importance. They will doubtless also recollect that early in June I resigned from the Government in consequence of differences between the Cabinet and myself, and that on 2nd J uly the Prime Minister read in this House some cable correspondence which had passed between us, and explained %he situation from the point of view of the Government. The House is entitled and - I am led to believe - desires to hear the other side of the story, and my purpose to-day is to deliver it. I hope I shall be forgiven if the personal pronoun obtrudes itself somewhat in my remarks, but, in the peculiar circumstances, I fear that is unavoidable. I shall endeavour to unfold a plain, unvarnished tale, so that Parliament and the country may, if they wish, pronounce a considered judgment. At the outset, I will ask honorable members to cast from their minds one erroneous expectation which may have been implanted by unauthorized newspaper comments and predictions. I do not return to Australia to ventilate any personal or official grievance. Neither am I intent on pursuing a vendetta against the gentlemen with whom I have worked for three and a half years in more or less harmonious concert. Humanity, the world over, is moving, amid conditions of the utmost gravity, to the> stupendous difficulties that follow in the war. Australia has her.shave of those difficulties, as I thankfully believe she also has her share of new and wonderful opportunities. There is little enough time, however, for her. big tasks and none at all for quarrels between, individuals. In this mood I would willingly have accepted any disapprobation or even obloquy which some hasty or prejudiced persons may have attached to me; but it is my duty to explain the facts in justice alike to the public mind and to any political reputation that may linger around my past work. I am not here to appeal for sympathy or to lick my wounds. Neither am I here to indulge in intemperate language. But I shall speak very plainly, and I shall have occasion, if permitted by the indulgence of the House, to ain.plify not only matters in connexion with my recent mission to England, but those connected with the former Peace embassy, from which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) emerged with merited distinction. I shall find it necessary to read some portions of the cable correspondence which were omitted from the published file, as well as to introduce new matter. I have carefully read the speech which the Prime Minister made in this House in July last. In a brief interview which I gave the press in London after my resignation, I said that if Mr. Hughes considered my remarks unfair or inaccurate I invited him to lay upon the table of this House the cables which had passed between us. I imagined that he would have done this, and would have allowed the correspondence to interpret itself. Instead, he employed all the strategy of a past master in his ex parte deliverance. Before reading the cablegrams he assumed an air of solicitude and fairmindedness which created an atmosphere of hostility to myself. With a running fire of comments during the recital of the more important documents, he intensified that feeling; and. in closing, he vigorously, if regretfully subjected me to a condemnation which was strangely at variance with his opening declaration. His words were, “ I have never said, and do not propose to say, one word against him.” The performance proved a victory for the Prime Minister - even if a pyrrhic one. I feel disposed to add at this stage only one thing. Give me the opportunity of uttering a chorus of criticism when reading my absent opponent’s letters, and I will easily prejudice him in the minds of my hearers.

I think I ought, at this stage, to read to the House an extract from a newspaper published in Melbourne dealing with the circumstances of which I propose to treat to-day. It is published in placard form, and is headed “ Which Hand?” The extract is as follows.- -

In the course of a few days William Alexander Watt, the quondam Treasurer of the Commonwealth, will reach these shores. Naturally, there is a certain section of the community hoping for political fireworks when he arrives. But they who look for fireworks will probably look in vain. If there is even a stick from a dead rocket, it will be more than surprising.

The whole situation with regard to Mr. Watt and his return is really that all the facts of the case have been placed before the country, and there is nothing more to say. Those who think there is something more to. reveal merely suggest that the Prime Minister is such a fool as to try to hide something when, obviously, “ the other fellow,” from the very nature of the mission with which he was entrusted, would know just as much as. he, and be in a position to let the cat out of the bag - if there were any cat dr any bag. And even the worst enemies of the Prime Minister would not suggest that he is a fool,, or lacking in shrewdness.

Mr. Watt is the one who has to face the music. He undertook an important mission on behalf of his country. That mission meant much to the. finances of Australia. It meant much to the future status of Australia among the nations of the world. Mr. Watt left his job at the crucial moment. That charge he has yet to answer. Mr. Watt has yet to explain why lie behaved in such a fashion.

Doubtless, when Mr. Watt returns, he will be given an opportunity of making his explanation, not only to. bis own party, but to the House and to his country as’ well. It is only fair to Mr. Watt that he should bc allowed to do this,, for his actions certainly seem to call for some explanation, and he alone can clear away the prejudice they have created. And, having given what must be, and only can be, ranked .as a personal explanation or a privileged statement, it will .be for Mr. Watt himself to decide whether he shall quietly take his seat in. the House or drop out of politics altogether.

When Mr. Watt returns, it will .be- a case of “Which hand will you have?” One hand may clasp the olive branch, but it would be just as well for him to ascertain .whether the other hand does, or docs not, grasp a bludgeon.

That is taken from the Melbourne Punch of 7th October. I am informed on good authority, that that paper was recently purchased by Mr. P. W. Hughes, a close personal friend of the Prime Minister. I shall not at this stage traverse the arguments contained in that placard, except to say that I am not to be deterred by any threats of bludgeons from following the track I have marked out for myself. I shall say what I have to say in this free Parliament - and I hope it is still free - disdaining the intimidation of press des- peradoes hired by the friends of the Prime Minister.

I think I am entitled to say that I did not seek this trip, but strongly recommended that another Minister should be despatched abroad. Eventually, after three discussions, extending over almost as many weeks, I yielded to the pressure of a unanimous- Cabinet that I should- undertake the task. “Unanimity is not usual in a Government, according to my experience, and. it is to me an interesting, and, shall I say, a cynical reflection that this Ministry have achieved it on at, least two occasions. First when they decided with many rich compliments that I should go away; and, second, when they confirmed the view of their Leader that -I was unworthy of trust in the duties which they had so- recently declared I was so well qualified to perform .

The problems assigned me for attention at the other end of the world were many and various. With the exception of those dealing with the affairs of Australia House they all involved important negotiations with the Imperial authorities. A few days after my arrival in London I was surprised to learn that the British Government had not been advised of my mission. This Parliament had been told by the Prime Minister in March that I was to sit as the representative of the. Commonwealth m the Imperial Cabinet; but no intimation to that effect had been sent to the British Government. I felt the awkwardness of the’ position, and cabled to the Prime Minister asking him to wire me full authority to sit. He afterwards informed me that he had sent a cablegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, giving the necessary authority. Meanwhile I was an emissary, charged with pressing and far-reaching, matters, and the Government with which I was to discuss them had not been made officially aware of my existence. When the matter was apparently attended to I dismissed it from my mind, and the uncomfortable remembrance only revived when other developments which -I shall describe began to link with it. I have no doubt that such a procedure for the time being, at least, materially prejudiced my status and impaired my usefulness. Although, afterwards, I was sent confidential Cabinet papers I was never, as a matter of fact, invited to a Cabinet meeting in London. It may just have been that the subjects discussed while 1 was there were not of a strictly Imperial character. I was, however treated wit. characteristic personal courtesy by Ministers, and have no complaint to make on that score.

Those who know London, and parlarly the White Hall and Westminster end, recognise the importance of status as an asset to a Dominion visitor. There are, I imagine, many who would describe this occurrence as an unfortunate blunder, and ,1 was so inclined .to consider it; but coming almost simultaneously with other events of a more serious nature, I could not, and cannot even now, adopt that view.

But I pass on. The most urgent and important subject I was sent home to handle was finance. The problems were big and. pressing, and they demanded and received first attention. While I was in London money was scarcer and dearer there and in other world markets than in- the blackest days of the war. It was impossible for any over -sea borrower to go on to the open market and .gather any. I had been given a triple financial puzzle to solve. First, I was to get new loan money for repatriation-; second, I had to arrange for the discharge of our heavy indebtedness to the British Government ; and, third, I had to square up wool accounts and moneys, and gather some of the cash owing to our growers. The more I studied the whole subject before and after leaving Australia, the more it became plain that wool money was the only key that would open the other two doors. With a proper settlement of that matter, I could devise propositions which would satisfy the Imperial Exchequer and help our own Treasury over its immediate difficulties. Everything depended, therefore, on the delicate and tactful handling of the wool problem. Skill and prudence would lead us to probable success, clumsiness to certain failure. Let us see what happened.

While I waa on the water, the Prime Minister was approached by what he called in his cable of 20th May “ a section of the wool trade ‘ ‘ to propound a new wool scheme embracing past and present clips. I have a shrewd idea who that section was, but I will let that pass for the present. According to the same cable, he “ worked up the whole thing,” to use his own phrase, and subsequently placed “ a complete scheme “ - again using his own words - (before a private meeting in Sydney on 27th April. I ask honorable members particularly to note that date. All the time he was being approached and was working up and propounding this scheme to outsiders, he was in frequent telegraphic touch with me, as his published cables of 15th April, 16th April, 21st April, 30th April, and 4th May show. Yet he did not mention one word of -this to une. Before I left Melbourne, he and I agreed that wool was the pivot of finance in Britain. Yet here was a new set of important proposals, concerning the most important part of the mission, being dealt with in secret, and I was kept in entire ignorance of the intrigue.

I landed at Naples on 1st May, and received the Prime Minister’s cable of the 30th April, suggesting that I should not hasten to London, but should see the Continent. I thought this strange, since my arrangement with him was that I should go with all possible despatch to London; but I put it down to fraternal solicitude for my health and welfare, and did not appreciate the inwardness of things till later. I arrived in London on 10th May, and two days later received the Prime Minister’s cablegram asking me not to see Ministers about finance or wool until further advised by him I was still unaware of any new proposals, although, as the Prime Minister said in one of his later cables, the matter admitted of no delay. I replied to his cable the day I received it, 12th May, that I could wait two or three days, but any further postponement would be awkward. The next day, 13th May, the London Times published the Prime Minister’s wool scheme, which, for the first time, I saw in the press. Later on the same day I received from the Prime Minister a long cable, dated 11th May, containing his scheme, and also containing much that was unnecessary, because it was well known to me, and much that was laughably erroneous so far as finance and trade were concerned. Honorable members may recall the fact that the Prime Minister, in that cable, indulged in quite a lot of arithmetic. He went so far as to express his belief that by June, 1921 - that is next June - there would be lying in London, to the credit of various Australian public and private accounts, £135,000,000. Five months have elapsed since he uttered that opinion, and the conditions have changed so rapidly that a substantial premium is now asked for the purchase of sterling in London. However, this is. an excursion. I noted in the Prime Minister’s cable of 11th May that wool men, bankers, and other financial authorities, politicians, and journalists, had been consulted about his new scheme, but not one word of information had been furnished to, or consultation sought from me. In fact, I appeared then to be about the only man interested who knew nothing at all about the matter. I afterwards learned, however, that the Central Wool Committee had also been kept in the dark. The more I thought of the ready-made scheme sent to me, the more I feared its effect on wool interests- here and in Great Britain; and Australia’s unhappy experience since the wool sales opened, has, I believe, now convinced many others of its weakness. I was shocked by the Prime Minister’s methods revealed in this message, and I made my first protest in the cable of 13th May. Even then the idea that this was done deliberately to thwart my mission did not occur to me. I merely thought that this section of the wool trade had, to use a vulgarism, simply “ pulled “ the Prime Minister’s “leg,” and that his worst crimes, apart from this, were his failure to see the situation clearly, and his more than usual lack of frankness. I believed that the Prime Minister had committed his final mistake, and would then leave the matter to me to straighten out. If he had done so. any difficulty would have been between himself and myself, and the subsequent outside complications would have been avoided. So I swallowed hard, and went to work. I saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and provisionally discussed the payments due by the Commonwealth. I told him that before presenting a scheme of settlement of our debts I should have to investigate the wool accounts, and see how much money was due to and procurable for Australia . Mr. Chamberlain cheerfully assented to that procedure, and intimated his willingness to sympathetically consider my proposals, and help as far as he could. I then entered into consultation with the Minister for Munitions, Lord Inverforth, and the Director-General of Raw Materials, Sir Arthur Goldfinch. It was quite clear from the first touch with’ these gentlemen that the criticism which had fallen upon the British end of the Wool Pool from certain Australian pens and lips had not rendered a settlement any easier. I explained this in a cable to the Prime Minister. However, ere long that feeling was happily brushed aside, and we got down to business. At my request, the Ministry gave Mr. Collins, the Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, free access to all accounts and documents, and placed him in intimate daily touch with the accountants and auditors; in fact, they gave him the “ free run of the office.” This presented me with the opportunity of checking the vital figures of profits and the surplus cash in hand. After several days’ investigation, the Minister of Munitions and I arrived at important conclusions. These were embodied in mv cable of 21st May, which the Prime Minister, _ I think with propriety, treated as confidential.

In order to illustrate how far the negotiations had gone, I now propose to accept the responsibility of giving those conclusions to honorable members. I shall read the words of the cable, and honorable members can themselves connect them with the cables already laid before them. Here is the part that has not yet been published -

Australia’s share of profits year ending 31st March, 1918, £1,900,000. This you already know -

I ask honorable members to remember that we are working up to the end through four yearly rests. The 31st March being the end of the financial year of the British Administration, we take 1918 as the first, then 1919, then 1920, and a date at the end of the scheme whenever it is cleared up -

Our share year ending 31st March, 1919, £4,’500,000. Draft balance-sheet for this period now in my hands will be finalized in, say, three weeks. Rough estimate of our share profits year ending 31st March, 1920, £20,000,000-

That had expired by the time I was speaking about, in May, 1920 -

Expect many months elapse before this balancesheet available. Meantime take it at conjectural value. Still more rough guess at our share profits when all stocks cleaned up another £13,500,000. Total of above approximately £40,000,000 as Australia’s share profits. I should mention that all these figures of profits are based upon valuation of stocks at cost. Now as to surplus cash -

As I explained to the Prime Minister in one of the cables, there is a vital difference between profits and surplus cash -

You, of course, understand that, so far, practically all profits have been absorbed in paying for stocks. After much argument I secured statement from Minister and Director that by 30th June, 1920, cash in hand would total about £19,000,000. I said that we must have our share then, and they eventually agreed to hand me £8,750,000. That is about our proportion of £19,000,000, and is sum we have contracted pay British Government. Need not stress this point further now. I then pressed for another substantial payment before I leave Britain, say, in September. They agreed, hut we could not decide amount at the moment. I am, however, hopeful that I can get between ten and twenty millions as second dividend before returning. Directors estimate of carryover next September between three-quarters and one million bales, mostly cross-bred medium to low grades. .Generally I am well satisfied with result of negotiations. Are you?

I may say that, so far as I remember, the Prime Minister never answered that inquiry

Mr Hughes:

– Yes, I did.


– All this was the result of about a week’s work, and I was naturally gratified at it. Honorable members will remember that the Prime Minister said that he and the Central Wool Committee had been trying for two years to get as far. On the spot I had been able to get there in seven days. I was satisfied that by the 30th: June I would lift £8,750,000, and by 30th September at least another £15,000,000, and very possibly £20,000,000. The figures are, of course, gravely lower than that, but that I shall discuss at another stage. In accordance with my arrangement with! Mr. Chamberlain, I then set about shaping my scheme for .the

Exchequer, when a sudden change came o’er the scene. When next I met the Minister for Munitions I was shown a cable which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had sent direct to the British Government, containing three things in this order: First, a demand for a definite statement without delay of the amount due to the wool-growers of the Commonwealth ; second, a demand for payment forthwith for all wool sold to date; and, third, proposals for the new clip. The cable concluded by asking for an immediate reply. This had been sent straight to the British Government, as if I were not in London, and no mention was made of the fact thai I had been sent to Great Britain to discuss and settle the first two matters. I, of course, never contended that I had been asked to deal with the new clip. I said so in my cable to the Prime Minister. The new clip was intimately connected with my mission, but it was not part of it. I had certainly been nonplussed when I heard from the press that the Prime Minister had been developing problems so intimately connected with my mission without my knowledge. I was deeply concerned when I found “rom his telegram how far his proposals reached into my scheme, but never for a moment did I imagine that he would communicate those proposals direct to the British Government, and ignore the presence in London of the man who had been sent there to deal with them. ITo Minister can have any o’bjection to receiving the views of his Leader if they are sent direct to him, whether they agree with his own or not, but the position is quite different when his back is broken by that leader’s views being communicated direct to the people” with whom the Minister is in negotiation. The Minister for Munitions told me that he felt gravely embarrassed by the situation. He had arrived at certain important understandings with me, in the belief that I was fully accredited, but on the top of them he had received straight from the head of my Government demands of a totally different character. It was impossible, he said, to do business with me while the Prime Minister was trying to do it direct by cable. I was politely bowed out of the office, and the door which I had so successfully opened was closed behind me. On 27th May I tabled to the Prime Minister setting out tie position, and saying that I could proceed no further until my position was defined. In his answering cablegram of 2nd June the Prime Minister raised a smoke-screen of verbal irrelevancies. He was studiously courteous, but he rejected by evasion the only conditions on which 1 said and knew, and still know, I could do good work in London, and on the 7th June I resigned. The Prime Minister, in hi3 speech in this House on the 2nd July, expressed wonder that the very politeness of his telegram had not pacified me. I recognised and marvelled at this unusual exhibition of suavity on his part. In point of tone the cable was a jewel, but principle is more than tone, and instead of accepting the principle for which I was rightly contending, he indulged in long recriminatory recollections of my treatment of him when he was abroad, all of which I shall to-day duly answer. Right through this urbane cablegram there runs the assertion that he was right in submitting proposals direct to the British Government which cancelled the ones I had been authorized to make aud conclude. He was apparently careless or oblivious of the fact that his intervention had superseded me. Whatever else honorable members may forget that is important in this conflict, I hope they will remember that the crucial step in the- destruction of my mission was taken by the Prime Minister when he went over my head to the Imperial Government and inflicted damage that was beyond repair. The king pin of the mission was wrenched from my hands, and I was absolutely powerless to proceed. My authority had been withdrawn by the hand that gave it. My tentative and highly advantageous settlement had been rudely torn up, and I was removed from the arena of negotiation. Surely no more staggering blow was ever dealt a trusting colleague, but I shall not dwell upon that phrase; others may if they are sufficiently interested. There are some people who, not understanding the position, have said that I should have put my self-respect in my pocket, gone on with my work, and fought the issue with the Prime Minister when I returned. Difficult as that would have been, I would have done it if I could have rendered useful service to Australia. But my principal had intervened, and I was no longer a factor in the discussion. British Ministers are not fools, whatever the Prime Minister may think or suggest, and the ones concerned with the wool problem properly felt that it was unwise, unsafe, and impossible to negotiate and make arrangements with a subordinate Minister when his leader did not recognise him, and, with his conflicting demands, repudiated the line of settlement already agreed upon. Their courtesy was unfailing, but their meaning unmistakable. I observe that in his, July speech in this House the Prime Minister suggested that I had abandoned my position wantonly, and left the Commonwealth stranded and helpless, apparently heedless of, or subtly hiding, the fact that the situation was the direct and inevitable result of his own deliberate acts. Even when animated by fraternal motives, the Prime Minister’s mischievous ubiquity surrounds his ‘colleagues with difficulty. He is evidently obsessed with the idea that no man con do “good work but himself, and he cannot keep his finger out of any pie. I could have completed this business in a short time if given fair play and a reasonable chance, but it is impossible to do business in London under the conditions he created. Throw doubt on the credentials of an envoy in Britain and he might as well leave. Failure to notify my mission to the British Government cast doubt on. my authority. Direct and contradictory negotiations while I was there, and after I had arrived at agreements confirmed that doubt. In the circumstances, I could do no good for the Commonwealth, and so I decided to withdraw. And I say plainly, after four months of further reflection, that I would do precisely the same again if confronted with similar circumstances. The Prime Minister contended that he was trying to support me. The support he gave me was the support which the rope gives to the condemned man. My understanding with him in regard to finance and related matters was that I should be untrammelled. In the pressure he brought to bear upon me to undertake this work he flattered me with the suggestion that I understood these subjects better than any one else. He admitted that he knew nothing about finance, and he de- clared that Parliament and the people trusted ray knowledge and judgment. He knew then, as he knows now, that I would never have left Australia if I had imagined that in this delicate and special financial work, I would have been so grossly tampered with.

Now I come to another phase of the subject. The Prime Minister dwelt impressively upon the wrong my resignation had inflicted upon Australia in leaving it unrepresented at the Brussels and .Spa Conferences. He described those gatherings as being vitally important to our people. The first notification about the Brussels Conference reached Melbourne before I sailed from Australia. It was sent by the Prime Minister’s Department to the Treasury Department, and I wrote a minuteon it to the effect that if the Conferencewere held while I was in England, I would attend it on- receipt of a cablegram from the Prime Minister. I received a cablegram from Mr. Hughes, dated 21st April, when I reached Suez, intimating that I was to represent Australia at the Conference, and I replied that I would do so. The meeting was summoned by the Secretary to- the League of Nations to study - honorable members will be good enough to mark this - the international financial crisis. I understand that the matter originated in requisitions signed by a number of business, men in various Allied countries, and presented to their respective Prime Ministers. The British Prime Minister, in consenting to the Convention, laiddown the condition that nothing done at it was to increase the obligation of Great Britain to help any other nation. The. idea, behind the Conference was to see if some solution could be found of the puzzle of international exchange-. The French and Belgian franc, the Italian lira, and’ theGerman and Austrian mark had suffered a tragic though varying decline and it was consequently difficult, if not impossible, for countries -trading on a nondepreciated sterling basis to- do business with the countries whose currency had fallen. The British Government nominated three bankers to represent them, and did not send a Minister, although the revival of their great Continental commerce might have seemed to warrant the appointment of a Minister. They, however, thought lightly of the matter.

The more I studied the subject and discussed with financiers in London the prospect of a solution being discovered, the more I became convinced that there was nothing in the matter for Australia. Our microscopic contribution to the problem of international exchange could only be given by increasing the already heavy load on our Treasury and our private financial institutions, and I felt that it would be extremely indiscreet to undertake anything of the kind. The only way in which Australia could help the stricken nations wa3 to grant credits for goods sold to them; in other Words, to take their bonds in exchange for our commodities. Had we consented to do this, to the extent that we relieved their misfortunes we should have increased our own a hundred-fold. This, in the then state of our finance, would have been dangerous, for it would’ have meant either raising a special loan for the purpose, or still further inflating our already big paper issue. The Brussels Conference, instead of bringing grist to the mill of the Commonwealth.,, would, if ‘ we had been committed to anything by it, have drawn upon our substance. Mr. Collins, the Secretary to the Treasury, who eventually attended! as the representative of Australia, evidently discovered this, as his cabled interview published in last week’s newspapers plainly indicates. The clouds of the Brussels Conference were not big with blessings for Australia, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) professed, aud honorable members will see that Australia lost nothing by my non-attendance at the Conference.

Now we come to the Spa Conference. One would conclude from Mr. Hughes’ references that I had been appointed representative of Australia at the Spa Conference, which was summoned to meetearly in June. That was not the case. On the 12th May, the British Prime Minister cabled to the Australian Prime Minister, through the old channel of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Governor-General, directing attention to this matter. Although I have a copy of the cablegram, which I obtained by direction from Lord Milner, I doubt whether I am at liberty to read it. It is not marked secret or confidential, but there are portions of it which, in British interests, it, might not be advisable to disclose to the German Government. I think, however, that I am at liberty, now that the Con’ference is over, to refer to some portions of the cablegram without violating propriety, in order to show generally what was the contemplated purpose and scope of the Conference, and what was the invitation given to Australia. At Spa the representatives of the Allied Governments were, for the first time since the signing of the Peace Treaty, to meet the representatives of the ‘ German Government. The primary purpose of the meeting was to ask the Germans to explain past infractions of the Treaty, and to make arrangements for its future execution. A serious attempt was also to be made to fix the liability of Germany for reparation. It was thought that Germany wished to know her exact liabilities. It was considered that certain other matters might be raised, but - and the cablegram is perfectly plain about this - there was no idea of a revision of the Versailles Treaty. The British Government, feeling that the Dominions were interested, invited each of them to send an accredited plenipotentiary to attend meetings of a British Empire delegation in London, to discuss with British Ministers before they went to Spa the questions involved. That was the substance of the whole matter. The meeting was an Inter-Empire gathering in London preliminary to the Conference at Spa.

An Honorable Member. - Was there any possibility of the White Australia policy being interfered with at that Conference ?


– I think not; but I do not wish to make excursions into other matters now, and thus, possibly, confuse honorable members regarding the main issue. Canada nominated its High Commissioner, New Zealand nominated its new High Commissioner, South Africa sent no one, and I was deputed to attend for Australia.

Mr Considine:

– Not to attend the Spa Conference ?


– No; to attend the meeting in London.

Mr Mahony:

– You were to meet the British Ministers ?


– That was the invitation. I believe there was a short meeting of the Dominion representatives in London, but it was not treated as of much consequence. Mr. Lloyd George’s cable gram to Mr. Hughes declared that what was required in Europe was prompt decision, if hundreds of people were not to perish from disorder and famine; that delay at arriving at conclusions now must precipitate Europe into chaos. That was why he asked for plenipotentiaries. I find that, by the dictionary, a “ plenipotentiary “ is defined as “an ambassador or other high official invested with full power.” I Was nominated as the Australian plenipotentiary, but I was gravely told in the same cablegram that I was not to agree to certain things without consulting Mr. Hughes. The arrangement was so Gilbertian that I was divided between amusement and annoyance. The idea of being asked to masquerade as a man with plenary power knowing I had none, was ludicrous, and I told the Prime Minister so in unmistakable language. I do not believe in hypocrisy of that kind, and I did not see why I should be made a party to it. That ended the matter; but the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in his cablegram of the 2nd June, 6ent me an unctuous homily upon the evil of my way. I had not the slightest desire to assume the powers of a plenipotentiary, but I objected to making a farce of a very serious drama. If the Prime Minister had, in his reply to Mr. Lloyd George, objected to the status to be conferred upon Dominion representatives, as he was perfectly entitled to do, and had nominated me as the representative of Australia, I would not have been serving under false colours, and I would have been only too glad, in fact eager, to consult by cablegram with Cabinet, and especially with the two Ministers who knew the provisions and issues, of the Versailles Treaty better than I. But the Prime Minister did not appreciate the incongruity he had created, and chided me with wishing to usurp the functions of the Government. The Spa Conference came and went and accomplished nothing. When I arrived in England, as the press extracts will show, I put Australia’s view about reparation and indemnity in an uncompromising manner ; but 1 was long enough in England to have lost faith in any German” indemnity for British people worth talking about, and any man who builds on it is, I am afraid, building on air. In saying this, I do not reflect on the genius and strength of purpose of Mr. Lloyd George. No man can visit

Britain and watch him at his work on world problems, noting the great influence which his rare and magnetic personality exercises over Continental statesmen and nations, as well as on the great bulk of the British people, and feel anything but sympathy and admiration for him in his giant tasks. I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but with the unparalleled decline in Continental currency, the disorders that reign in Europe, the resolute intent - and I beg honorable members not to think that the words are hastily used - with which Prance is pushing for a larger share of any indemnity, and priority in its ‘ payment, even straining the Franco-British Alliance in the attempt, I feel that in the end the British Empire must submit to receiving much less reparation than the Treaty provides. It is a lamentable thought, but I believe a true one. Mr. Hughes may place any value he likes upon a gathering of Ministers and High Commissioners in London, but I object to him misleading the people of the Commonwealth by saying that I was appointed to attend the Spa Conference, and by magnifying the loss Australia suffered by my absence.

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– - You are not fair to France.


– I am giving my frank opinion.

Bunning through the Prime Minister’s speech, and in one of his principal cables to me, are two assertions. First, that he and I were in exactly the same position whilst abroad, he at the Peace Conference and I in London; and, second, that I had imposed on him the -same control as he was placing on me. I will deal with these assertions in their order, and hope to prove the first a fallacy and the second untrue. Dealing with them in their order, let me say that there was a vital difference between his task and mine. He and Sir Joseph Cook left this country six months before the war closed, to attend a Conference of Empire statesmen convened by the British Government. We had had no advice as to the matters to be considered. They left without knowledge of -them, with no instructions, and no discussion with their colleagues. We were hopeful that peace would come while they were in Britain; but we did not know. We could only hope.

Then came the Armistice and the Peace Conference, which threw upon them tremendous responsibilities. With the exception of one matter, with which I can deal more fully at a later stage, if necessary - and which arose before the Conference assembled - our peace delegates were left entirely free from interference or control. If the cables were laid upon the table it would be seen that our messages to them are classifiable under three heads : first, those appealing for information regarding the progress of the deliberations; second, many voluntary messages giving helpful data or suggestions; and, third, strong cablegrams of approval and support sent in response to their requests. Once or twice, it is true, I explained to the Prime Minister how awkward it was for his colleagues here to read his views in the press before we had received them direct. But, with the one exception referred to, the Prime Minister received at our hands, as Peace Ambassador, no word of criticism and no instructions or directions. . No other delegates to that Conference were as free. These are generalizations, and provable, if the Prime Minister desires, before any judicial body. However, let me give two specific illustrations to which he has drawn attention. He complained- that his Government turned him down regarding the island of Nauru. I will read the cablegrams upon that question, and allow honorable members to decide for themselves. My first cablegram to the Prime Minister dated 31st January, 1919, is labelled “Very urgent and most secret.”

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– I suggest that the honorable member give up a lot of this secrecy. Let us have the whole business to-day.


– I am doing so. Honorable members will please remember that this was just shortly after the Conference had assembled. The cablegram reads -

Very urgent. Most secret. Pacific Islands. Your telegrams 29th, 30th January arrived simultaneously, and were considered at length by specially called meeting Cabinet. Your colleagues, appreciate and share your bitter disappointment at turn of events. It is clear to us that the situation and prospects outlined by you are fraught with the gravest possibilities to the people of this country. The

Government’s unanimous view is that Australian representatives and other Dominion statesmen are now being forced to proceed to a policy of complete isolation, or, alternatively, to accept conditions surrounding our future safety and welfare Which are ;not warranted by moral ‘or national considerations.

Your former cables conveyed comforting assurances that the representatives of Britain and France would accept Australia’s point df view and support her in this vital matter, and we view with greatest apprehension the changed attitude leading to acquiescence in Wilson’s .procedure and objective. However the project of League of Nations may shape itself, ‘the people of ‘this country fully ‘expected that *he Peace ‘Conference would determine such territorial ‘questions ‘before it rose. If -this is to bc left to some other gathering to be convened later, Australia will feel that its future has been left in a condition of grave doubt, and the Government begs of you to stress this phase to other Dominion statesmen, and particularly to the controlling minds of Britain, Prance, and America.

On “the question of mandate, the people of this continent strongly feel that British or Commonwealth Government, preferably the latter, should be given full control of former German Possessions now in occupation of our Forces. Our beneficent rule of native races in Papua should ‘be sufficient guarantee to our great Allies that, if intrusted with this responsibility, we shall exercise our powers wholly in the interests of the .health, education, and prosperity of the natives. If this full trusteeship is impossible, then any mandate should specify publicly and definitely that the control of immigration, Tariff, and trade matters should be given to the administering authority. The most important of these is immigration. If this is not specified, Australia’s racial policy will be challenged and injured, if not destroyed. This can only mean eventual predominance of- mixed and inferior races in ‘the islands. Surely America must sympathize with a people isolated and adjacent to unnumbered coloured millions, but resolutely facing its duty to keep this fertile continent and its intimately associated islands for the selected white races.

Australia’s bona fides have been demonstrated in such matters ever since her people have undertaken national ‘tasks on this continent and the associated islands. Definite mandatory control, if inevitable, as it may prove, should, we contend, be vested in the Government of the country whose security is especially ‘affected, and whose troops are in occupation of territories in question.

Paragraph (0), your telegram, 30th January, indicates -that Botha, Massey, and yourself, after discussion, agreed to accept inevitable if their Government approved. You are best judge as to whether it is inevitable, but we hope, reinforced by the ‘foregoing ‘views you will strongly press ‘for reconsideration and settlement more acceptable to our people.

We appreciate ‘as much as ever ‘the advantage to Australia of Empire association, ‘and of ‘ protection, past and future, ‘by British

Navy, and think that, while Australian people would probably accept- that is, if you yourself accepted- whatever the statesmen of the United Kingdom and other Dominions determined, a settlement, supported neither by necessity nor highest moral interests, would seriously damage splendid feeling of cordiality’ towards British connexion, which ‘hitherto has dominated .our .political ‘and ^national existence.

We feel sure you realize, notwithstanding all these arguments, that Australia could not endanger relationship with Motherland andantagonize America without placing its whole future in jeopardy, and your colleagues, in full recognition of the splendid fight you are putting up to preserve Australia’s future, and. requesting you to continue such representations as far as you may consider it prudent to do, leave this most important of all considerations entirely in your keeping, contenting themselves with an expression .of ‘the hope that, should developments appear to render imminent a decision seriously affecting our continued relationships with the British Government, you will, if possible, take the opportunity of conferring with. us. (Signed) Watt.

That was the cablegram which we sent to the Prime Minister and his colleague on 31st January, 1919.

Mr Considine:

– That explains Nauru.


– I have a lot more besides. This message was full of the strongest possible data and considerations, with which - in the busy hours he was then living in London or Paris - he could reinforce his representations to the British, French, and ‘ American Governments. It presented in a more tabloid form than ever . before the whole question of a mandate over these islands, and its influence upon our future racial and industrial development. It told the Prime Minister what was the feeling in Australia, and it then said, in effect, “ We leave all these things in your hands, and are content .to let you exercise your judgment. But, if there .should be a great crisis, and, -on the One hand, America should frown on your representations, and Britain should do as was suggested that she threatened -at one time to do - that is to say, not .support ns in our :suit - then we ask you., it possible, to confer with us.” -Up ‘to that point no man could have been given a greater charter of generosity or liberty ‘to work upon; and ‘that went right through, to the point when the Prime. Minister ‘said we had- ‘turned Wm down.

I shall now read the other cablegrams. The Conference went on, andi these questions had not been settled. We were con.stantly wiring for information asking how the Prime- Minister and his colleague were getting on. We were not blaming our delegates for not advising us. We knew the ramifications and the details inseparable from such a gathering of the world’s statesmen. But we sent to the Prime Minister- this cable,, on 1st May, 1919:-

Cabinet lias been waiting patiently- for. some information concerning destination of, German West Pacific Islands, Surely matter dias been determined, and we are anxious to learn our fate. I need not restate general arguments for control, for Australia’s safety’s sake, of all islands now in military occupation of Australian Forces. Whatever happens to League of Nations, that insurance is vital.

I feel, however, I must again emphasize view of Government respecting Nauru: British authorities are apparently treating it as. if it were to pass to British Commissioner for Pacified Your colleagues hope you will vigorously resist such proposal. Our troops took it, and have garrisoned it for over., four years. If we are to get mandate for other German Islands, and not that one, it will be impossible to understand basis of settlement or explain away so ugly a differentiation. Its transfer to Commonwealth with other- adjacent and similar lands will simplify and cheapen administration, and obviate complications arising out of, overlap, of authority by Britain and Australia in these seas. Our orbit of authority would be plainly charted, and our responsibility clearly discernible. These considerations appear, to Government- to be elementary and irrefutable. Add this one with all the force of which you are capable.

If cost of war is not to be included. in reparation bill, Australia’s hope of getting anything substantial in relief of its crushing war debt is slender. Nauru is the one island whose receipts exceed its expenditure. Its phosphate deposit marks it. .of considerable value, not only as a purely commercial proposition, but because the future productivity of our continent absolutely depends on such a fertilizer.

Without a sure and reasonably cheap supply of phosphate, our agriculture must languish, and instead of peopling our vast unoccupied interior, population will continue to hug the seaboard, where they will be a comparatively easy prey to any predatory Power.

Unless we rapidly increase in numbers and in production, the national treasury will be unable to stand the strain now resting upon it. Australia’s total public debt to-day is greater by scores of millions than Britain’s was five years ago. Think of 5,000,000 people carrying in unproductive war debt of £300.000.000. ‘

League or. no league, we must, always remember that more than half- the people of the world look, with hungry eyes across narrow seas. at. our great empty land. We must guard this British outpost, and we can only succeed by liberal encouragement from our elder kinsfolk. We leave matter in your hands, relying on the wisdom and. generosity of British statesmen. (Signed)- Watt:

Pour months had passed since the first telegram. The second telegram, supporting; and becoming more specific in data was sent to him on the 1st of May, and finished by leaving the matter entirely in his hands. He replied on 7th May. I am not at liberty to read his telegram - he can do so if he likes - but in it he told us, and. I must, boil down the. substance of the- message, that great difficulties had occurred in regard to Nauru ; that he could- not get a. mandate for- Australia ; and’ that appparently, there was to be a British partnership. He concluded by saying,, “ I will not sign the Treaty, and will not- accept mandate- for other islands. Do you agree? Very urgent.” That was the attitude which the Prime Minister took up on the 7th May, and my answering telegram to him on 9th May was as follows:-

Secret. Your telegram May 7th, Mandates: Nauru. - I thoroughly sympathize with your frame of mind and disappointment re this island. I propose in review of peace terms in press to-morrow morning to deal with the matter as firmly as I consider it prudent to do so; but I think it would be improper not to sign Treaty because our reasonable aspirations regarding Nauru have been frustrated. If Australia says she will not accept mandate for islands because Nauru not included, the natural reply will be we are grabbing at valuable asset. I suggest that you put up best fight you can, and, if defeated, sign, relying on subsequent, negotiations and representations to compel Britain to accede to our view or make suitable equivalent arrangements of financial kind. This is also Cabinet opinion.

Mr Watkins:

– Then, were we sold?


– I am dealing with another matter. The honorable member may deal with that phase of. the subject for himself- The point I wish to make is that, in reply to the right honorable gentleman’s , inquiry as to whether I agreed that he should not sign the Peace Treaty^ and should not accept the other mandates- if- he could, not- get his way in regard to Nauru-, I said that I though t it would be improper not to sign. the. Treaty, and “suggested” that he put up the. best fight he could, and rely .on subsequent representations to unravel any tangle that might occur. I did not give any instructions. I was not entitled to do so, nor were my brother Ministers; but we made suggestions, and gave helpful ideas all the time. The Prime Minister’3 reply on 4th June, nearly a month later, was this -

In face of your telegram, I could, of course, not follow the only course that would have given us full control of Nauru and its phosphates. I am quite sure I should have succeeded had Cabinet supported me. As it did not, I have been perforce compelled to make best of a bad job.

The Prime Minister suggests that we controlled him, and that he was subjected to unfair treatment. I will ask any unbiased jury if Cabinet would have been justified in telling the Prime Minister not to sign the Peace Treaty, and not to accept a mandate over the other islands, simply because the mandate- over Nauru was eventually to be a” partnership between certain parts of the British Empire, and not a purely Australian mandate. Any jury can answer that question to suit itself; but I cannot conceive that any rational body of Australians would have thought the Government wrong in assuming that attitude. As a matter of fact, I believe the arrangement ultimately arrived at in regard to Nauru is a better one than that which the Prime Minister sought, and that it is less likely to load us with heavy capital charges in the purchase of the whole of the company’s rights. I propose, at a later stage, to give the facts regarding the new agreement for the purchase of those rights. I am quite sure that historians will .have no difficulty in deciding who played the statesman on that particular occasion.

I will take another case. The Prime Minister said, in his cable to me dated 2nd June -

You complain that I communicated with the British authorities. Let me remind y’ou. of your own practice while I acted as representative of Australia in London. I could mention many cases in which you did this on matters relating to my mission, but one will suffice. In November, 1918, you advised Secretary of State of Government’s approval of principles of clearing scheme for settlement of prewar1 debts, merely notifying -me of the action taken. That was clearly a matter on which I might have been consulted, at all events.

That is a quotation from the Prime Minister’s cable of 2nd June. I have not the means of proving what I am about to say, but the Prime Minister has. My recollection of this matter is that the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) carefully examined this scheme when submitted by the Imperial Government and brought it to Cabinet for approval. I said that before accepting the recommendation, the Prime Minister should be consulted, and I authorized the despatch of a cable asking his views or wishes. After some delay the Prime Minister said he agreed, and Cabinet approved and for.mally notified the British Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs may recall the procedure adopted; but, in any case, the official files are open for inspection, and I have the temerity, after the lapse of two years, to rely upon my memory of the matter. If I am in error I will gladly make amends to the right honorable gentleman. So much for that.

Honorable members, if they wish to judge such questions fairly, must, I submit, distinguish between the Prime Minister as Peace Envoy and the same man as Dominion Minister doing business for his people in Britain. The right honorable gentleman would fail before any fair tribunal to demonstrate that he was placed in harness as a Peace Envoy.: but he complained in this cable of 2nd June that I had repeatedly checked and blocked him in his other capacity as a visiting Minister. He gave several instances in addition to those I have cited. I propose to take a few of them. He, said that I had extended the wool contract without his consent. That statement, so far as it goes, is quite true. The question of wool was never mentioned as one to which he would attend, and, at his own request, I was specially placed in charge of it during his absence. I shall deal with this more fully when I come to refer to my earlier resignation from the Government, to which the Prime Minister, in his speech last July, gave much prominence. Before dismissing the subject, however, let rae say that, on several occasions while he was in England, he urged me to prevent any further extension of the wool contract. But .for that, I hav.e .no doubt, the recent catastrophic drop in prices would not have fallen on Aus- tralia’s shoulders, and our great pastoral industries would have been standing today erect and prosperous instead of shivering in a night of uncertainty which bids fair to dislocate public and private finance in this country.

Knowing the Prime Minister’s incessancy, and his notorious desire to meddle in everything, I laid down the principle in my cables while he was abroad that general Government functions where it lives - a principle which he indorsed and quoted - but that in regard to the special subjects intrusted to an absent Delegation the position is different. That is why I was studiously careful not to interfere with him in relation to matters specially placed in his hands. Wool was not so placed. It came within the province of general Government.

Here is another complaint of the Prime Minister in his cablegram of the 2nd June. He said -

For months you have communicated on many matters with the Secretary of State direct without notifying me at all.

And in his speech on 2nd July, he said -

For six months I never saw a cablegram, except those from this end to the British authorities, which were shown me by the Secretary of State.

Here again the Prime Minister is in a position, with all the official files in his possession, to prove or disprove the statement. I remember that shortly after his arrival in London in 1918, he asked me to telegraph him copies of all cables exchanged both ways with the Secretary of State. I pointed out the enormous expense of such a duplication, for our correspondence then was very heavy. Honorable members may recollect the congested state of the cables at that period - a congestion which the press and the public said was due to the huge volume of Government messages going through. After alluding to the expense of duplicating such messages, I further advised the right honorable gentleman to get the Secretary of State to promptly hand him in London copies of all cables despatched or received. That was the quickest, cheapest, and most business-like -procedure. If he did not do this for six=- months it was ^ his own fault. That is my answer.

Take another complaint. In his cable- gram of 2nd June, the Prime Minister said to me -

Then, in May, 1918, re finance, you said I . must do nothing involving finance on large scale without consulting you.

That is not strictly correct, but it serves to recall an interesting episode. Everybody thought the Prime Minister1 was going in -an Orient ship, viti Suez, to London. The people who said good-bye to him in the Melbourne express on the, Sydney station certainly thought so Many learned with surprise that he had doubled back from Homebush, and had joined the Niagara for the Pacific route.. It was all very mysterious to me, his locum tenens, and I - and I think other Ministers as well - had to submit to much badinage about it. A week or two after he had sailed, I heard -for the first time that the Governor or the Commonwealth Bank, Sir Denison Miller, was a fellow passenger on the Niagara. Knowing the enterprise of my late leader, and remembering his daring transaction . in the purchase of ships when he was in Britain on a previous occasion, I adopted a wise precautionary measure. I had just’ gone to the Treasury, was deeply ecncerned about the condition of the loan moneys, and, wishing to be sure rather than sorry, I sent him, according to my memory of the occasion, a request, not an instruction, as Treasurer, that he would not embark upon anything involving large moneys without first consuiting me. He at once acquiesced, showing, I presume, his complete approval. Is there any man here, remembering the war and finance outlook at that hour, who will pronounce such an action as unfair or unjustified ? I here, again, speak withoutaccess to official documents, but the Prime Minister is at liberty to table the cables, which, I venture to say, will bear out my recollection. I shall now traverse another statement in the Prime Minister’s cable of the 2nd June. In that cable the Prime Minister said that in connexion with the sale of the Australian ships in March, April, and May, 1919, I. had said the proper procedure was to. obtain definite authority from the Cabinet, and that he should carefully observe that rule. The facts of the matter are these: About March,r1919, the Prime Minister started selling the ships of the.

Commonwealth as. if they were his own private property. The Minister for Shipping (Mr. Poynton) was as much disturbed as I was. The Cabinet had never been consulted as to the method of disposing of our tonnage, and the first we knew of the matter was when the PrimeMinister coolly told me- of the sales he had made, and asked me to arrange the transfer to the British register.

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– Why did you not let us know at the time?


– When, my honorable friend gets into a Cabinet: he. will know that a Minister’ cannot do such things-.

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– He can, if he wishes - if he is honest.


– I hope the honorable, member is not casting any imputations on. me.

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– No.


– I remonstrated with the. Prime Minister, and reminded him of the requirements of the Audit Act. The real; point, however, in this discussion is whether I impeded him in his legitimate duties as an absent Minister. The answer to that question is that not one of his. then colleagues thought it was part of his job to undertake such business without previous consultation with the Cabinet,, and they authorized me to say so.. No rational man charged with the responsibility of running the Government atr that or any other time could have taken any other course. The mere fact that the Prime Minister does not see the differencebetween the definite: commission on finance with which I departed from Australia and bis own unauthorized activity- is an evidence of obtuseness - which he has hitherto successfully concealed.

Now, as to wheat, which is the remaining question. The Prime Minister complains that he was hampered by contradictory instructions and compelled to back down concerning some arrangements he had made with the British Wheat Commission. There is a man at present in the Cabinet (Senator Russell) who could answer this if he-would. All I know is that the Prime Minister, himself, constituted a Wheat Board, of which Senator Russell’ Was chairman. He gave to. that Board’ large powers regarding wheat, and everything that was- said by Senator Russell in the cables. I despatched for him to the Prime Minister’ was after consultation with the men whom- the Prime Minister had appointed as trustees for the owners of the wheat. There- are a great number of men, intimate with- the wheat trade, who regret that the handling of the commodity was not in commercial hands at. that particular time ; and these men were in some cases associated with the Board..

To sum these matters up I say that, as . peace envoy, Mr. Hughes was, in the fullest sense of the word, a plenipotentiary. He was subject to no interference or control in that capacity. I never con.municated directly with the British Government on one subject arising out of his. peace negotiations without his previous approval. All my suggestions and help went directly to himself. In all business - as distinct from peace matters - which the Cabinet placed in his hands, he was just as free, with, perhaps, the doubtful exception of wheat; and any influence that was brought to bear on him was of his own creation - it did not emanate from his Ministers. With regard to the things he did outside his specific commission, the telegrams will show that I sought nothing but Cabinet consultation, by cable,, which was. a perfectly legitimate attempt. This Mr. Hughes resented. There is something strangely painful in the fact that a man with such an adroit and able mind should harp raucously on matters that, after all, are small, and’ do not matter. I have paid extended attention to these matters, not because they are strictly germane to the issue between us, but because the Prime Minister raised them, and’ I was anxious to give honorable members the answering facts. If the Prime Minister’s view were right, that my position was identical with his own at Paris, at best he was, according to. his own showing, only trying to get a “ little bit of his own back ;” in other words, he was trying to flog me with the whip he said I had’ used on him. I have shown that our missions were widely different - that I never used the whip as he suggested, and, above all, and this is the crux - that I never communicated directly with the British Government on matters concerning his work without his previous knowledge or approval.

I now come to some other- matters. I think it is generally true that the management of wool affairs by the Central Wool Committee has been wise and successful. I know there .has been criticism directed against its administration; but, considering ‘the magnitude and diversity of its business, I have always thought that the organization established to handle the Pool worked with smoothness and satisfaction. The Government and the growers have been fortunate in securing the services of so many able men to perform this work; but while that is true of the Central and State Committees, I am not sure it is true of the Prime Minister whenever he interfered with wool. Some of his decisions are like the peace of God ; and when I was looking at wool matters in London a few of them came under my notice. There was a question of tho supply of .50,000 bales to France, which the British. Administration felt bound to deliver. They regarded the transaction as good business, and they asked me to get the, matter fixed up when I was in London. I, therefore, wired the Prime Minister on the 21st May, and told him I thought he should give a decision, and that in view of the history of the negotia-tions I did not see how we could refuse. That, I may say, was for some reason omitted by the Prime Minister when he read the cables to the House. He replied on the 29th May, and told me not to “worry about it.” That was his gentle way of telling me it was none of my business; but I did “worry about it,” first, because the British Administration, with whom I was working amicably, desired a decision, and, secondly, because I knew we were offered good busi-ness. The price at which the wool was to be sold was at the rates of February, 1919, which were higher by 85 per cent, than the appraised rates. Apart from our obligation to- give France the wool - if there was such an obligation - I felt that, on a doubtful market, we were foolish to risk a loss of clearly £10 a bale. I do not know what has been done in lie matter, but if the sale has not been made - and .as to this the Prime Minister can inform us - I venture to say that the loss is in the neighbourhood of halfamillion sterling.

There was another matter of which’ I incidentally heard, .namely, a. sale to the

Austrian Government pf 25,000 to 30,000* bales. The Brit:sh Government were anxious to supply this wool; they wished to stop the spread of disorder, and to help the Central European countries, and this was their method of giving employment. A difference of opinion arose between theBritish Government and the Australian Government, not as to the question of supply, I understand, but as to the question of price. The British Government wished the price to be on the basis of the month of issue, which, ,as I remember, was July of this year. The Prime Minister of Australia, however, wished the price to be fixed on the average of the last six months. To me that was an unheardof. suggestion, with a fluctuating commodity like wool. I’. do not know whether that sale went through or not ; but, if it did not, and the July prices were not taken, there, is another loss of about £250,000. These items total about £750,000, half of which would belong to the Australian grower. It would be interesting to have all the papers concerning these matters laid on the table.

While the Prime Minister was away two years ago, a question arose of the cancellation of a big sale to the United States of America after the war had closed. So far as I remember - and I was then dealing with wool in the absence of the .Prime Minister - the Government at Washington asked the British Government to agree to an abandonment of the contract, and the British Government recommended the Australian Government to agree. The Prime Minister objected, and resisted the cancellation. Eventually the .British Government did cancel the contract, with the. consequence that the undelivered portion was sold’ at a much better price than the contract price. If that transaction were analyzed, I would not be surprised to learn that the extra profit accruing through the sale, which the Prime Minister tried to prevent, was a couple of millions sterling, half of which, in duo course, is coming to Australia.

I must now deal with two .other wool matters of grave concern to this -country. Before the armistice, but late in 1918, While the Prime Minister was in London, the Central Wool Committee was giving thought to the question of a post-war

Pool. The chairman of the Committee told me that many of the members thought it would take two or three years after the termination of hostilities to organize and stabilize the wool manufacturing industries of the world. With a large prospective carry-over of Australian wool at the close of the contract, the Committee thought it would be advisable, with the consent of the growers, to keep going an organization to bridge the gulf of uncertainty, and to maintain Australian and British supremacy in the wool trade. They were, therefore, considering whether we should attempt to have a still further extension of the wool contract. All those interested in the trade were not unanimous, and representations were made to me on the subject; but, to use a popular phrase, the Prime Minister” squashed “ the idea by cabling that there was to be no extension. I so informed Sir John Higgins, and there, so far as I know, the matter ended. Of course, we can all be wise after the event; but I venture to say that if the question had received the attention it deserved, the Australian wool position to-day would have been sound and free from anxiety, instead of being in such a critical position.

In my earlier remarks I referred to a meeting which the Prime Minister held in Sydney on the 27 th April. I think I ought to say that when the tenor of his speech on that occasion was published in the British press, administrators, wool traders and manufacturers, and bankers commented very unfavorably upon it. It created profound agitation in the trade, and much press criticism followed. The proposals were almost everywhere spoken of as impracticable, and illconsidered, and they were rejected by British wool opinion. That was the atmosphere I encountered in commencing the practical part of my mission in London. Whether the Prime Minister or his critics were right or wrong, I do not even now consider myself competent to judge; but this I do know: that from that day confidence in the Wool Committee appea rs to have been shattered. The market has been tumbling ever since, and the outlook for both old stock and new clip is, to put it mildly, very black. That may be a coincidence, or it may be the inevitable operation of cause and effect; but the net result is a loss to Australia of tens of millions of pounds. It is no wonder that the Wool Committee, in its annual report, disclaims all responsibilities for the proposals. I deeply regret that the Prime Minister has so often gone out of his way to flout on technical questions expert opinion which through the war, and since the war, has given such aid to Government. That is his responsibility, however, and I submit these facts and reflections for the information of the House, bearing, as they do, intimately upon a matter concerning which I was sent abroad.

The Prime Minister implied in his cables and speech that I was a highhanded man, who would not consult Cabinet or accept any directions. In laying the file of correspondence before the House, he omitted several things which prove the exact opposite; and I may say to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), after noting in Hansard their certificates as censors of the correspondence, that I do not blame them. I have no doubt that they were called upon to do their work hastily, and perhaps could not see from my point of view the bearing which such cables had upon my relationships with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) ; but I propose to read some of those omitted cables, in order to show’ how anxious I was at every point to consult Cabinet, except in regard to those things concerning which I had been left free and specially commissioned. Let me take first this statement from the file in reference to the Nauru agreement. It is in my cable dated 18th May to the Prime Minister -

Secret. Re Nauru. - You are now in possession of Secretary of State’s despatch, dated 25th February, referring to purchase price, compensation, &c, to Pacific Phosphate Company. Draft agreement has now been sent to High Commissioner, and it has been perused by him and our lawyer, and by Collins. As you will note, in paragraph seven of Amery’s despatch above-mentioned, two important reservations are made by the company (a) in relation to their contract with the Empire Transport Company, and (b) in relation to the right to take, after certain interests are safeguarded, up to a maximum of 100,000 tons phosphate per annum. I think both of these are wrong, particularly the latter; but, before asking the High Commissioner to sign draft, I think it advisable that Cabinet should consider these new conditions. Three other matters hav.e arisen, but you need not worry about them. The first is that the original Act does not cover Ocean Island - statutory provision could subsequently be made. The second is compensation to company’s staff - in all circumstances I think we ought to agree to proposals up to £30,000. The third is mutual agreement, referred to in article 8 of agreement between Governments, dated 2nd July, 1919, which has never been reached. Failing such agreement, contributions of capital will be decided under article 14. As proportion provided for in article 14 appears quite equitable, I think we may consider position on this point satisfactory. Please give early attention to question raised relating to tonnage contract and rights of Pacific Company to take phosphates after transfer of property, and advise me Cabinet’s views.

That was consultation of a very useful kind, to prevent , an unhappy blunder being made between the two Governments; and on the 21st May the Prime Minister cabled this reply -

Nauru. - Your telegram 18th May, re draft agreement and reservations A and B in paragraph No. 7 of Secretary of Colonies’ despatch, 25th February; quite agree they are undesirable. I do not understand why they were put in. Try and get them excised. If you fail, it is hardly worth wrecking agreement if we get full market rates for up to 100,000 tons. As to other points, they are not important.

We did fail to get them excised, and finding that we were to get at least the full market rate on the 100,000 tons upon which the company was theoretically entitled to lay its hands, the agreement was accepted. That cablegram shows that I was in an amicable spirit of concord with the Prime Minister in regard to all matters in respect to which consultation was the proper method of procedure. As another instance, let me quote the cablegram I sent regarding the Commonwealth shipping line, which the right honorable gentleman also excised from the file for some reason or other.

Mr Hughes:

– The excision was done by the Committee. I excised nothing.


– I do not -wish to impose on the right honorable gentleman any responsibility that he should not properly bear; but from the point of view I am now submitting to the House these communications should have been included in the file to show how far I was in consultation with Cabinet at the time with regard to these special matters. I wrote in my cable of 21st May -

Re Commonwealth Shipping , Line. - Have discussed management with Larkin. He is very upset at inability obtain decisions important matters. At my request, he has furnished memorandum setting forth difficulties of present system. He says, inter alia, “ That, unless management of line is given full power without further delay, disaster will result a.t no distant date. If it is not possible to legislate as suggested, I .would advocate selling out whole venture while there is yet time.” Am convinced that problem calls for your urgent attention.

And the right honorable gentleman replied in his cablegram of 29th May-

Re Larkin. - I do not understand his attitude, and I suggest you inform him that, if he has anything to complain of, he should communicate direct with me. We have just raised his salary to £3,000.

As instructed, I told Mr. Larkin that his business was to communicate direct with-“ the Prime Minister. He replied, “ I have been doing that all along, but I’ thought that now you have come to England I was entitled to speak to you as if you were a visiting Minister with some power.” I do not know whether T declined very much in Mr. Larkin’s estimation after that conversation. British Ministers frequently consulted me about matters that were not on the list of my mission - they always do when Commonwealth Ministers go to London - and I always cabled to the Prime Minister about them. One instance’ was the appointment of a successor to- Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson as GovernorGeneral, but in regard to these matters I was warned off the grass. As I told the Prime Minister in one of my cablegrams to him, I was not permitted to touch subjects which were not included in my list, and in respect of those with which I was sent Home specially to deal I was told that I must await instructions before acting. I said plainly that that was the status given to an inferior official and not to a Minister of State, and I could not accept it.

Let me clear up two other matters which excited comment by the Prime Minister. He complained that he read of my resignation in the press before he received it from me by cable. Of course, I did not know that the right honorable gentleman was on holiday in New South Wales at the time, but I despatched my cablegram to him a full twenty-four hours before I spoke to the press. At that time Government messages were easily racing press messages -to Australia. My late private secretary, who is now private secretary to the present- Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) can testify to the truth of that. Here is the other matter: In my cablegram of 27th May I told the Prime Minister that his fatal cable to the Secretary of State in regard to wool ‘ ‘ was not the same in- form or manner of presentation “ as he had advised me. Deliberately, or unwittingly, he distorted my statement, and said in the House that I had complained, that the two were different in substance. He professed amazement at my assertions, and said that he had shown the two cables to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), who could see noi difference between the two.

Mr Hughes:

– They were shown the right honorable’ member’s statement.


– But in order to judge whether the statement was true they should have seen the other two cablegrams.


– They saw them.


– Then I do not understand how they could regard the- two cables as being the same. The Prime Minister’s cable to me indicated that he placed first the scheme relating to the new clip, and that he had put his views concerning old wool accounts as a .kind of postscript or’ afterthought, whereas his cablegram to Lord Milner started with a straight demand about the old wool accounts and moneys. There was no bond fide reason why the. Prime Minister should not have sent me an exact copy c-t the cable he sent to Lord Milner.

The. fact that he did not indicates that lie thought he had better camouflage his message. He knew he was doing me an injustice, and he tried to hide it as much as he could. This was an occurrence, not -important in. itself, but ugly and significant when surrounded by its context. It is another example of the Prime Minister’s unpardonable, lack of frankness, even with a. colleague.. There are some kindly members of the Government, and, I understand, also- private members of the party, -who cannot, understand a man resigning office. Such a step is so foreign to their habits or. natures that they are baffled when another takes it. In their bewilderment they are driven to search for all sorts of mysterious explanations. Sometimes such an action is ascribed to mental aberration. In my case,. I believe it has; been charitably attributed to shattered’ health. The rumour has been sedulously whispered abroad, “ Poor fellow; he is not himself; he. has broken down.” To these gentlemen, I would say that I am conscious, of their fraternal consideration,, but they are the victims of an unfortunate delusion. I had not been very well before I left for England, and I deemed it prudent to get medical consent before undertaking the trip. . During the voyage - which was a long one, because I travelled on’ a captured German vessel - my health rapidly improved, and I arrived in Europe full of mental vigour. Some of those who were brought into official contact with me would be inclined to confirm that de scrip ti on. I say these things be-, cause I wish members to dismiss from their minds the suggestion that Mr. Hughes exchanged cables with a petulant and impulsive invalid.. Whether they approve of my conduct or not, I ask them to accept my assurance that I was in possession of whatever faculties the Almighty had lent me, and that I determined on my course after the fullest consideration of all the consequences, national and personal. As I reflected on the Prime Minister’s tactics in his. handling of me, my memory recalled an incident of some interest. ‘ When Mr. Hughes returned home from the Peace Conference, .we stage-managed, you will remember, a series of welcomes to him, from Fremantle eastward.

Mr Tudor:

– We. said on every platform that those welcomes were stagemanaged.


– The gatherings culminated with a meeting in Melbourne, and on that day I was seated with him on the dais at the Lord Mayor’s reception. Towards the close of his speech th’e right honorable gentleman recounted my services to Australia during his absence, and dwelt eloquently on my fidelity and loyalty to him and to the National party. He concluded by turning round with what the audience and I mistook for spontaneity and sincerity, and warmly wringing my hand, said, “ For what he has done, he has earned my undying friendship.” In less than a year that friendship was dead, and he had vilified me in this House in my absence as a man who had deserted his country and left it stricken and helpless. If that be a tribute of friendship, to loyalty and sustained assistance, may God save me from any further exhibition of such friendship ! I have reflected mournfully upon the motives that impelled the Prime Minister along the path he trod. Although I believed from the first in the conjunction of the parties led by Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Hughes, I did not desire, as the right honorable gentleman knows, to join the National Administration when it was formed. I again resisted inclusion in the new Government after the resignation of the old one at the close of the second conscription campaign. As I have explained, and as I shall have occasion to do again in a moment, I wished to withdraw from office when my health declined. During the time that I was a member of the Government, I gave of the best that was in me, and my consciousness of loyalty and of work tolerably well done is perfectly clear. In some of the Polynesian islands, a man suffers death for stepping on the king’s shadow, andI supposethat, in some thoughtless moment, ‘I must have committed that crime.such speculation, although interesting, is fruitless, and I shall not explore further the dark question of the Prime Minister’s motives. I leave them to his own conscience, and to the., more discerning brains of others to unravel.

For some reason, which to me is inscrutable, but which, I assume, was designed to discredit me, Mr. Hughes told the House that I had resigned three times fromthe Ministry since his return from England. Let me give the facts. While he was away, I was strongly urged by medical authority to retire from office. That advice was supported by the requests of many relatives and friends. It was conveyed to him by cablegram, and he urgedme to hold on until his return. I had fully intended to keep going until he came back, and I told him so. In our conversation, as we came east from Fremantle, I asked him to give me early relief from office. T didnot resign. He urged me to remain with him until after the election which was then looming. Wishing to help him, I consented, and we worked on together. In

September he made a speech in Sydney which re-opened a rankling sore in our relations. He had never forgiven the Government or myself for extending the wool contract while he was away, and, in that speech he reflected so seriously on his colleagues in regard to that action, that I sent to him the following letter of resignation - 22nd September, 1019.

My dear Prime Minister,

I take the earliest opportunity on my return from the country of addressing you upon a matter which has caused me much surprise and concern. The Argus of the 17th instant reports you as having said to the Farmers and Settlers Association in Sydney - “He could have sold more wheat and at a better price if it had not been that the Australian wool clip had been sold while he was on the water. That took away the strongest weapon in his armoury. In wheat they had competitors, but, in regard! to wool, Australia was ‘ it.’ If the wool had not been sold when it was, Australia would have been in a better position.”

If that is a correct report, and I assume it is, as it has not been contradicted, but rather confirmed by your reply to a question in the House later in theweek, to my mind it involves a grave breach of Cabinet etiquette and principle.

It will be within your recollection that on several occasions while you were representing Australia in London and Paris after the cessation of hostilities, I expressed by cable disapproval of some of your published utterances: but, in my anxiety to preserve the unity of the Cabinet, I studiously refrained from announcing such differences. On the contrary, when questioned in Parliament and elsewhere as to whether the Government was bound by certain of your speeches on critical questions, I unhesitatingly said that the Government accepted full responsibility for. the views of the Prime Minister.

You, apparently, consider it permissible, without consultation, to take the other course. In my opinion, your action in so doing constitutes the most dangerous infraction of Cabinet solidarity.

I have always believed this principle to be absolutely essential to the maintenance of responsible Government when the Cabinet represented a homogeneous party; and I consider that its jealous observance is even more necessary in the present case when Ministers speak for a composite party.

Your statement disclaims responsibility for, and virtually repudiates, one of the most important acts of administration performed by your colleagues during your absence from Australia, and your open condemnation of it places them in a very invidious position. I do not know how they view the situation, but, as the one who bears, and cheerfully accepts, the prime responsibility for the transaction under review, I feel that my position is quite untenable.

As to the merits of the wool contract question, inquiry will elicit the fact that the vast bulk of enlightened judgment cordially approved the sale It was hailed on all sides as a highly advantageous business deal, and I can recall no act of Government during the war period which received such unanimous sanction. It stimulated rural production and stabilized public and private finance at the most perilous point in our history, as competent judges will testify. In view of the widespread satisfaction expressed at the extension of the contract and t he acknowledged benefits it conferred, there appears to be something sinister in your having gone out of your way to pronounce so strongly against it.

Your remarks suggest that, had the further sale not been made while you were on the water, you could have made better sales of other Australian products. I am, of course, not qualified to say whether that is, or is not, probable; but, if that opinion implies that, by accepting worse conditions for wool, you could have obtained better conditions for wheat or metals, then I say frankly I could not stand for such, procedure. If every producer of our staple commodities was, or is, entitled to relative world parity for his goods, there was, and is, surely no justification for asking the one man to take less for his wool in order that another should got more for his wheat, &c.

Considerations surrounding the merits of the wool question, however, while thoroughly relerant, are not the most material things at issue between us. The main and vital point is that of Cabinet solidarity. This has been destroyed by your unexpected remarks on the occasion referred to, and while anxious, as I have ever been, to avoid embarrassment to the National party, or yourself as its leader, I feel that the only course open to me is to retire from the Government.

It would, perhaps, be scarcely fair to you, or to my colleagues, who may consider that they share responsibility for the situation I have endeavoured to describe, to summarily resign without discussion of it in Cabinet.

If an opportunity for such discussion is afforded before the House meets, I am prepared to withhold my resignation, but, if not, I shall bo reluctantly compelled to ask you to relieve me from office without further delay.

I shall, in the circumstances, not attend Cabinet to-day.

With unaltered personal regard,

Believe me to remain,

Yours sincerely, (Sgd.) W. A. Watt.

A special Cabinet meeting was called, and we discussed the matter, the Prime Minister saying that he would put things right that day at the Melbourne Show He made another speech there, but his speech did not put things right, and, on the 24th September, I wrote this letter -

Melbourne. 24th September, 1910.

My Dear Prime Minister.

I am glad that you have put the Central Wool Committee and its chairman in the right light before the public in your speech at the Show yesterday.

I am sorry, however, that you did not act similarly with regard to your colleagues, as you expressed your intention of doing at Cabinet on Monday. I cannot fathom the reason, although I suppose you have one satisfactory to yourself.

Since I wrote you on Monday, I have read the report of your Sydney speech in the Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph, and they are much more objectionable than the Melbourne extract I quoted. Both these papers report you as saying that the last wool sale was conducted behind your back.

An apology to, and eulogium of, the Wool Committee cannot undo the evil effects of such a statement. The Government, and not the Committee, sold the wool; and, as the Minister who made the recommendation to Cabinet, I cannot submit in silence to such an unwarranted attack.

I have informed you on several occasions that my medical adviser has for some months insisted on my early withdrawal from Ministerial work; but, in response to your earnest appeal, I have continued in office, and was prepared to go on so long as my health permitted.

Your latest utterances, however, renderit impossible for me to longer remain a member of the Government, and I now desire to resign my position as Treasurer of the Commonwealth.

Will you be Rood enough to tender my resignation to His Excellency the Governor- General? Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) W. A. Watt. The Prime Minister had another Cabinet meeting, and, subsequent thereto, made certain statements to the press. He said that he was greatly surprised that the newspapers had taken his comments in the way in which they had done, and, indeed, that anybody had misconstrued his remarks. He added that he had never meant to imply anything against his colleagues; and, generally, he apologized. That occurred on 25th September, and the resignation was withdrawn. The Prime Minister, by reference to such matters, sought to create the impression that I was an impossible colleague, always tossing down my job. The facts prove that I was not anxious to remain in office, but that I yielded every time to his strong personal appeals, and, probably against my best interests, cheerfully co-operated with him in his tasks. In the correspondence I have read my stand was based on high public principle. He evidently recognised that, because he amended his attitude and withdrew. This is another example of a wicked attempt to damn me in By absence, which, in a community of decent people, ought to react against its author. The incident would have passed into the limbo of things forgotten. Indeed, it had passed, and would have reposed there but for my right honorable friend's somewhat tasty resurrection. After the general elections in December of last year I reminded **Mr. Hughes** of our understanding, when he again urged me to continue in the Government at least until the session had got fairly going; and I consented. Shortly after, this trip was invented for me, and I was sent abroad, there to be discredited, which, doubtless, suited the Prime Minister's ambitious schemes better than my quiet withdrawal from office. The Prime Minister stated that I had resigned twice in writing in one year. I have no recollection of any resignation other than that which I have read. But the extraordinary and welcome popularity of my former private secretaries with present Ministers makes it difficult for me to refresh my memory. One of these officers left Australia for Geneva, in company with **Senator E.** D. Millen, only a few days before I landed in Australia; and my last secretary - I am very pleased to note - has been adopted by my successor at the Treasury. If, however, the Prime Minister has any other resignation among his papers he is at liberty to table it. I have detained the House unduly and I wish very briefly to close. I desire first to thank the" Leader of the Labour Opposition, the honorable member for Yarra **(Mr. Tudor),** for the honorable way in which he observed the pair which I had arranged with him before leaving Australia; and also to thank my old friend of thirty years' standing, who is not here today - I refer to the honorable member for Bourke **(Mr. Anstey)** - for the cheerful manner in which he co-operated in the operation of that pair. I thank my friend, the honorable member for Kooyong (SirRobert Best) in that, although a heavily laden man himself, he so well attended to the work of my constituency. And, having said these tilings, I have said all that I wish, at this stage, to say. If it should be necessary to speak again I shall do so. Honorable members may have been asking themselves whether I am going to declare my attitude towards the Government. I do not think that, under cover of a motion for the suspension, of certain of our Standing Orders, the occasion should be regarded as appropriate for me to do so. . But, at an early stage, when opportunity offers, I shall make my attitude in that respect perfectly plain. I tender to honorable members my thanks for the excellent hearing which they have accorded me. I haveoutlined the facts concerning my resignation as a Minister, frankly, and as I see them ; and I leave the whole matter to the judgment of the people, whose servant I have been for twenty-three years. {: #subdebate-0-0-s4 .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES:
Prime Minister and Attorney-General · Bendigo · NAT -- The honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat has made a very long speech. He has had the fullest opportunity to set out all those circumstances that he can urge by way of extenuation or explanation why he abandoned his post as the representative of the Commonwealth, leaving problems which, as he said, related to matters of "life and death" unsettled. We have heard him, patiently, and I put this question to my fellow citizens: What man who had a good case would have made such a speech? The situation is quite simple. The honorable gentleman is no novice in politics. He has had very long experience. He went from this country charged with matters of grave import. He abandoned his position. He resigned his office. He has introduced a hundred new reasons for his action ; but the reasons which he gave in the cablegram announcing his resignation are the reasons by which he must stand. I am not going to follow the honorable member along that path which he has elected to tread in his personal attack upon me. I am as well able as any one both to make and to receive personal attacks; but I am content to appeal to the facts. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- That will be something new. {: #subdebate-0-0-s5 .speaker-JWY} ##### Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon J M Chanter:
RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES -- Order! The honorable member will please withdraw that remark. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- I withdraw. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES: -- Let me remind honorable members what those facts are. The honorable gentleman was a colleague of mine, and he was selected by the Government to undertake a mission which he himself had declared to he fraught with matters of " life and death to Australia. Se went from this country under favorable auspices. He reached England. He entered upon his task, and then, almost at the very outset, abandoned it. He has sought to ma'ke it appear that sinister influences were at work, that a conspiracy was on foot, to prevent his mission becoming a success. But the facts speak for themselves. The honorable gentleman went to England to deal primarily with finance. He went to grapple with the question of wool profits, with mandates, with the war indemnity, trade representation, and immigration. All these things were intrusted to the honorable gentleman. They were matters of very great importance. How has he dealt with them? He has left all of them undone ! This is not the first time he has been to England, nor is this the first time he has returned in circumstances which have called for a good deal of explanation. He was ill-natured enough to make some references to my own return. He will at least admit that when I returned to Australia there was no need for me to make any explanation as to why I had returned, nor upon the manner in which I had done the work I was sent to do. The circumstances spoke for themselves. I was sent to represent the Commonwealth, and I remained until my mission was completed. The honorable gentleman has endeavoured to camouflage the circumstances surrounding his resignation, but they are abundantly clear. He was intrusted with, perhaps, the most important mission - outside of that which my right honorable colleague, the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph Cook),** and I had undertaken during the war - which has ever been given to any man as an emissary from the Commonwealth. He has been away from the Commonwealth for seven months, and, of that time, to the consideration of these "matters of life and death" he has devoted three weeks ! How does he explain all this ? He says that some act of mine prevented him, when he was on the very threshold of success, from bringing his mission to a satisfactory conclusion. What did I do? I sent a telegram to the Secretary of State. The :message to which he refers was despatched on 20th May. ' It deals with two things - first, with the payment of the half-profits on the wool sold to Britain; and, secondly, with the sale of the 1920-21 clip. The right honorable gentleman says I ought not to have sent this telegram. But why? It was a very proper telegram to send. He says the copy I sent to him is different from that sent to the .Secretary of State. That is not true. The circumstances 'under, which the telegram was sent may be' stated. The Australian wool-growers - the men who, after all, were the most deeply concerned, both with the sale of that clip and with the distribution of profits on the old clips - had a conference, and then waited on me and asked me to send' this cablegram. The joint council of the woolgrowers drafted the 'message, and it was sent at 'their request. I make no apology for sending it ; it was my duty to do so. The suggestion of the honorable gentleman that I ought ;to have stayed my hand, that the full weight of the Australian Government was not to be behind him, and behind the growers, in support of their demand for payment of .their money, is monstrous, and not "for one -moment to be seriously considered. Had I failed to ask the 'British Government for the ..payment of -the halfprofits, would I not have laid myself open to the charge "that J had left !my colleague without support while on a mission of "life and death"? The right honorable member has said many things. Ho has endeavoured to make it appear that his resignation was due to the sending of the cablegram to which he referred ; that it was because of something inherently evil in myself ; that I am a different man from what I was when he left here; that his colleagues are different; that the need for the Commonwealth being effectively represented in these matters of life and death is less now than when he went away. These excuses will not bear a moment's examination. We are the same men; this is_ the same Commonwealth, and its financial needs are now as great as, or even greater than, when my right honorable friend went away. He does not seem to understand why it is that people censure him for resigning when and as he did. Despite his opening remarks, he seems to think that, in some way, this is a personal dispute- between himself and me. ,But an infinitely more serious matter is involved* As I said when J. had the honour of addressing the House in regard to this matter on a previous occasion, the circumstances which would justify a Minister resigning his portfolio in Australia would *be* quite insufficient to justify his resignation when, 12,000 miles away, he stood as the representative of this Commonwealth, and stood where he could not be replaced. The position is analogous to that of a soldier in peace and war. What is permissible in time of peace is not permissible in time of war. The right honorable member has shown in the clearest way that I did everything I could do, both while he was- here and when he was away, to retain him as a colleague^. He has shown that I made both public and private apologies to him. He has shown that I used every means at my disposal to induce him to remain as a. colleague when he resigned here on a former occasion, and if honorable members will look at the cable correspondence, they will see that I was not less assiduous in my efforts to retain him as a colleague, despite his determination to resign, on this occasion. If he resigned, upon- him rests the whole responsibility, and his colleagues do not share it, for, as the cables show clearly, everything was done to induce him to remain a member of the Government. But the right honorable member does not seem to recognise that,, even if he had right on his side - even if I interfered, and, as he said, meddled with his business - he still ought not to have resigned. His business was to remain in London to do the work he was sent to do, and then, on coming back, his position, if he should then have assailed me, would have been very different from what it is this afternoon. What are we to think of the right honorable member who, going away from this country seven months ago, returns in the most leisurely way, after devoting of those seven months only three weeks to the service of his country, and assumes that his fellow-citizens will accept abuse of myself as sufficient explanation for his failure to do that which he, him- self declared was a: matter- of " life and death?" He contemptuously brushes aside every, effort made by me- on behalf of his colleagues to induce him to remain. Coming back now, at the end of seven months, he says, "I was on the threshhold of success. Had I been allowed to continue a little longer, my efforts would have been crowned with success. Yet I resigned because the Prime Minister sent Home a certain cablegram." That is his own version of this unhappy business. Does he seriously expect any one to accept such an explanation? I put it to any man whether it is a satisfactory explana-tion for his resignation. I. invite honorable, members to recollect that, when the right honorable member' complained, I dealt with and remedied all the matters about which he complained in the fullest possible way. He has spoken of my failure to notify his appointment to the Imperial Cabinet. Almost in the same breath, he has said that there were no. meetings of the Imperial Cabinet whilst he was in London. Surely, then, this, was not a sufficient, reason for his resignation. I did not notify the British Government that .he was to attend meetings of the Imperial Cabinet before he arrived in London, because I did not know there were to be any; but directly he called my attention to it, although, a.s he has said, there were no Cabinet meetings, I rectified my omission, and he was duly accredited. But I had notified the Imperial Government long before that the right honorable member was going Home to discuss matters of finance. That was the important duty he went Home to discharge, and of" that the, British Government was notified.. Arid, as I have said, as soon as the. righthonorable member complained that the British Government had not been advised, that he was to attend meetings of the Imperial Cabinet I rectified the omission. . I was sorry, and, I say again, I 'am sorry, that I did not send word sooner. But surely this wag not sufficient to justify his resignation, for it had nothing whatever to do with his mission. As I said in my message to 'him - . This. I regret, but could, not foresee the circumstances. I regret if you have been embarrassed, but I think I' have put this matter in order, and you will have no further complaints. He complained that I had not sent him copies of cables to the Secretary of State. I immediately cabled him as follows: - As requested, I am asking Secretary of State to supply you with copies of all cables both ways. I was under the impression that this had already been done, but find it was limited, through an office misconception, to cables relating to Brussels Conference. At the end of my long telegram, which covered all points raised by the honorable gentleman, and to which I refer honorable members, I said - Now for a final word. I have endeavoured to cover the points raised in your cable and put matter quite clearly. I understand, I think, just how you feel, and I want to assure you that you have no reason whatever for the belief that anything is being done, or will be done, at this end to impede your mission. On the other hand, everything will be done, whether by silence or action, at your request, to further it. We want you to succeed. We both have the same object in view, viz., the welfare of Australia. I want to do everything I can to help or support you. If it appears to you otherwise, I ask you to accept my assurance that you are absolutely mistaken. I ask honorable members what more could I have said ? Who could have taken exception to being addressed in such terms? As I said before, had any man addressed me so, I would have put all illfeeling aside and gone on with my work. The honorable member standing in his place to-day was quite unable to take exception to the tone of these cable messages. But he has stated quite positively that behind this camouflage of tone there was a deliberate purpose on the part of myself and the Government to impede his mission and to damage Australia. I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman could not have dealt with this matter on its merits. He has said that we have endeavoured to explain his resignation on the ground of illhealth. The right honorable member resents that explanation. He says, " I was never better." In my cable message of 2nd June I said, " I understand just how a highly -strung man feels in the most difficult environment in the world - London. " He cabled back that I was quite wrong in thinking he was ill. " I am quite well," he said. Why, then, did he resign? Is it suggested for one moment that a difference of opinion of such a nature as is disclosed by the cables is sufficient to justify his resignation ? Does the right honorable member say that the functions of the Go vernment in Australia are to be entirely suspended when he leaves this country? He has sought to draw a subtle distinction between his absence from this country and that of any one else. He has said in effect, " When the Prime Minister and **Sir Joseph** Cook went away they were not charged with any specific mission. They were dealing with matters at large." He has said in effect to me, " Although you are the man who originated the Wool Pool, although you had complete control of these wool matters as the Minister in charge before you went away, the moment you left you were not even entitled to be consulted in relation to these matters which you originated, and which concern your Department. And so, although I took this extraordinary step of selling the wool clip of the country while you were on the water, I did not notify you, let alone consult you." All that, he says, is quite proper. But it was most improper, he says, for me not to have consulted him in regard to the sale of the 1920-1921 clip, with which he had nothing whatever to do. It was not a part of his mission, and he had nothing to do with it. He was asked only to expedite the payment of the half profits on the old clips. The right honorable member has covered such a wide field that it is impossible for me to follow him. Nor is it necessary, since, apart from his personal references to myself, he has said nothing that throws fresh light on his resignation. He has been back in Australia for the last week or ten days, and although this Parliament and the country was denied an explanation from him for months, he has kept the Parliament waiting while he has prepared this oration. He comes here seeking by a cloud of words to hide that which cannot be hidden, to explain away that which cannot be explained. How does the right honorable member attempt to explain why he resigned his position as a representative of the Commonwealth ? He begins by endeavouring to make me responsible for an article which appeared in a paper called *Punch.* There would be something humorous in this if it were not so serious. He says that this paper was lately bought by **Mr. F.** W. Hughes. Why did he make that statement? He made it, I believe because he thinks that by so doing he will be able to. cast enough dirt at me to lead people to no longer ask themselves, " Why did Watt resign his position in London?" but to inquire, " What is there between F. W. Hughes and the Prime Minister? What is their relationship?" That is not a very manly thing to do. I wish to remind him that, before he went away, he was mainly responsible for the drawing up of the new wool-tops agreement made between the Government and F. W. Hughes and Company. I say nothing at all about *Punch,* for it has nothing whatever to do with **Mr. Watt's** resignation; but I could retort very easily. If there is a paper in this State that is not for the honorable gentleman, but is for me, I should like to hear of it. It is perfectly true that **Mr. F.** W. Hughes is a friend of mine. I pick my friends where I please; I have always done so, and I always shall. But the honorable member has a very great friend in **Mr. Baillieu,** and he has a great friend in **Mr. Fink,** and **Mr. Fink** and **Mr Baillieu** own the *Herald.* Why did the honorable gentleman not mention this fact also? It would have been quite as relevant.. That sort of thing is unworthy of the honorable gentleman, and shows the poverty of his case. He set out, as I say, to explain away what cannot be explained; and I should like to put the matter quite clearly. Why did the honorable member resign ? Here in my hand are the conditions on which he said he would consent to carry out that mission relating to " matters of life and death." Here is the ultimatum he delivered to the Government. I ask every man in the House to place himself where we were. Would any honorable member have meekly accepted this ultimatum, which demanded the complete surrender to the honorable gentleman of all the powers of the Government over these most important matters? If any honorable member answers "Yes," he must be for the honorable gentleman ; if not, he must be against him. This is what the honorable gentleman demanded that we should do - >If you want me to do good work here, you must leave matters confided to my care entirely in my hands, and trust my judgment as to whether I should consult you or decide them here. > >You must also request Secretary of State to send me copies of all cable correspondence both ways about other matters. If you are not prepared to do this, kindly say so at once, and I will take the course I think necessary and proper. Watt. These were the terms of the honorable member's ultimatum. I need not ask honorable members opposite whether they would give to any single man such power as the honorable gentleman asked, for I know what their answer would be. I am content to put that question to any man in any section of this House, or to any of my fellowcitizens throughout Australia. What is it that my honorable friend desired ? He desired that the Government, while taking the responsibility - for he does not deny that we should be responsible for every act of his - should hand over to him all power. He demanded that we should not even have the right to be consulted - that we should leave it to him to decide whether or not we should be consulted. The principle to which the right honorable gentleman wished to commit us is a principle that abrogates the very basis of responsible Cabinet government. The honorable gentleman has set out reasons for his resignation, and he has amplified those reasons, and, as I have said, they speak for themselves and condemn him. In reference to the Spa Conference he demanded that he should not, as he said, have the mind of a plenipotentiary with the "status of a telegraph messenger." Then he goes out of his way to explain that he was not a delegate to the Spa Conference. The honorable gentleman was a delegate or plenipotentiary - let him call it what he will - to the extent that **Mr. Lloyd** George had requested one. I shall read **Mr. Lloyd** George's cablegram - >In opinion of British .Government, therefore, only practical method is to reconstitute in some form British Empire delegation and that Dominions should accredit plenipotentiary in London to represent their views and watch over their interests during discussions. He refers to the discussions at the isP a Conference. I cabled to **Mr. Watt** - >Lloyd George asks whether T agreed to this course, and adds that this should present no difficulty in view of your presence in England. I am informing him that I agree, and that you will be Australia's plenipotentiary. I said - >Do not agree to any amendment of Treaty affecting Australia, either indemnity, islands, economic or financial, without consulting me. i < Well, I do not apologize for laying down this condition. Before I, in my responsible position, could give to any nian, I do not care who he may- be, the right to commit this country in regard to matters of life and death, surely it was proper to insist that the Government had, at least, a right to be consulted before action was taken !' The honorable gentleman takes exception to that view. But he says that if we had not called him a " plenipotentiary" it would not have mattered. What is the use of beating the air about words? The honorable gentleman went home clothed with the. fullest authority that is given to Ministers. But that did not satisfy him. He insisted upon greater authority than it is possible, under responsible government, to give a Minister who represents his Government abroad. What would have been the honorable gentleman's position if he. had been here? How are decisions arrived at in Cabinet ? By a majority. Does, the honorable gentleman suggest that on all occasions he had his way? Not at all; I am sure he had not. None of us do. Cabinet Government is a matter of give and take. The same principle applies in party meetings, and, indeed, in society generally. But the- honorable gentleman says; " When I leave Australia, you must leave everything to me." Matters of finance, which go to the very root of the structure of government, are to be left to him, and he is to decide whether or not he consults his Government. That, in plain terms, is what he .insisted upon. And because we could not agree to surrender all' our authority to him and become mere automata, he resigned. If the honorable gentleman had been 'given the free hand he claimed, and I had been asked in this House what he had done in regard to any loan which the honorable gentleman was raising abroad, I should have been compelled to say that I did not know - that he had not consulted the Government. What would be said of a Government which confessed that it knew nothing at all of financial commitments amounting to millions, or loans involving the credit of the community? It only requires to put the position in plain language to show that the honorable gentleman has taken up a position which is incompatible with responsible government. **Mr. Hughes.** * '* ] "* j" The honorable gentleman sought to. make it appear- that while as a general principle> to quote his own words, " the Government functions- where it lives," it is different . when certain, definite matters are intrusted to Ministers; in such case, the Government must leave- the matters to its representatives. With certain reservations, every one can agree with that position. For instance, if I said to the honorable gentleman, "Go Home and borrow £20,000,000 on the best terms you can, and let us know, before you finally complete negotiations, what the terms are," I should say that then the negotiations were within the honorable gentleman's own hands, subject to the reservation I have made. But the position was quite different in this particular case. The honorable gentleman was charged with many things.. In regard to finance his mission was at. large to a very great extent; and. he was asked to disentangle a most complex financial position. The honorable gentleman takes exception to my communication with the Secretary of State on a matter which was connected with his mission. He says it prevented' his mission being a success; that it justified his, resignation. Does he expect the House and the country to believe this? How many times, did the. honorable gentleman communicate with the British Government in regard to matters within the scope of the mission with which I was intrusted ? But the honorable gentleman said that the mission pf the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph Cook)** and myself was at large. That is not so. When I left this country I was asked to sell, its products; to look after the interests of our soldiers.; to see that the interests of this country were safeguarded - to do all things possible to assure the welfare of the Commonwealth. If any one tells me that when I left . Australia I had surrendered my right as a Minister to be consulted in regard to the sale of the wool clip of Australia, I shall utterly deny it: The honorable gentleman ought to have consulted me. The matter was one of first magnitude. It bore directly on my mission. It was a matter in which 1 had taken the keenest, interest, and on which. I had very definite views. He had ample opportunity to- consult me. He did not do so. Not only didhe not consult me, buthe did not even notify me, and I learnt the facts through the press of England, and in a casual way from a remark of the Secretary of State. Yet, not only did I not resign, I did not even complain, although I felt it very keenly. The honorable gentleman has said that no restrictions were placed upon the Treasurer and myself in regard to Peace matters, while every restriction was placed on him. The cables tell a very differentstory. He refers to the cable sent to the Secretary of State by me. He says it ought not to have been sent. I do not agree with him. "What was this cable? It dealt, as I have said, with the sale of the new clip and with payment of our share of profits of the wool sold to Britain. Let me remindthe honorable gentleman that he took no exception whatever to the proposal inthat telegram for the sale of the new clip. While he thought it might be difficult to get a suspension of salesfor the length of time then suggested, he did not think it impossible to arrive at a working compromise with theBritish Government. That was the essence of the scheme for the sale of the new wool clip. The honorable gentleman speaks of his negotiations for the payment of half-profits. "How did my cablegram affect these? Does he say that because I supportedhis argument for payment, his mission was rendered futile? As to his mission, he does not deny that the sale of the new wool clip had nothing to do with it. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- I have said that. Mr.HUGHES.- As to the wool half- profits, the honorable gentleman has led the 'House and the countryto believe that he was baulked on the very threshold of triumphant success. He is not the man we know him to be if he would draw back when success was so near, for in what more effective way could he have silenced me, and all those who he Says attempted to belittle him, than by returning to Australia as a successful envoy? He cannot deny that I did everything possible to induce him to remain in the Government. Nor, on the other hand can he deny that he did everything in his power to make that impossible. Was this the action of a man who was on the verge of success? Was it that of a man honestly desirous of remaining in the Government? Was my attitude that of a man who desired to remove the honorable gentleman from the Government? I ask honorable members and my fellow citizens to remember that the right honorable gentleman took a step without precedent, as far as I am aware, in the history of responsible government, and certainly in the history of the Commonwealth. On the heels of his resignation - he says twenty-four hours elapsed - he communicated his intention to the press, in which I first read of it. Not satisfied with that, when I requested that he should give me an opportunity to meet my colleagues, who were scattered all over Australia, he contemptuously referred to the Cabinet, 'of which he was still technically a member, saying, " What does it matter to me 'when the Cabinet meets ; I am no longer a member." Had the honorable member been so near success as he would have us believe, does any man think that in the face of 'the cable I *sent* to him, in whichI implored him to remain in the Government, and statedthe matter in such a way thatno man who did not want a 'row could have resisted the invitation, he would have resigned? The honorable member said that he was within a hand's touch of success. Well, I offered him, on behalf of the Government, an opportunity to achieve success. He told us that he delivered an ultimatum to his colleagues, setting out in detail the complaints against us. Let me remind the House of how far we were prepared to go to meet him. I quote from my cablegram of 2nd June, to which I refer honorable members - >You say I have interfered with you and embarrassed you. Cabinet has looked most carefully through all the cables which have passed between you and me, and into those between British authorities and Commonwealth since your departure, and has considered my actions here in alltheir bearings, and, as I have said, they do not think your complaints justified. What more could I have done than this? What man who was on the threshold of success who wished to serve his country would have resigned in the face of such a cablegram? Referring to his complaint that I had communicated with the Secretary of State *re* half-profits, I said - >I am sorry if you think . I ought to have left you without any support..... However, > >I quite see your point, and shall not send any further wires in reference to half-profits except to you..... Believe me I shall not embarrass you, but will do everything to help you and keep you informed. I shall not communicate direct with the Secretary of State *re* wool half-profits or finance except at your request, *lie* failure to notify your appointment as representative on Imperial Cabinet: As it was not contemplated when you departed that formal meetings of Imperial Cabinet would take place, sufficient notification of your authority to sit did not precede your arrival. This I regret, but I could not foresee the circumstances. I regret if you have been embarrassed, but I think I have put this matter in order and you w.ill have no further complaints. As requested, I am asking Secretary of State to supply you with copies of cables both ways. I was under the impression this had been already done, but find it was limited, through office misconception, to cables relating to Brussels Conference. Now for a final word. I have endeavoured to cover the points raised in your cable, and put matter quite clearly. 1 understand, I think, just how you feel, and I want to assure you that you have no reason whatever for the belief that anything is being done, or will be done, at this end to impede your mission. On the other hand, everything will be done, whether by silence or action at your request, to further it. We want you to succeed. We both have the same object in view, viz., the welfare of Australia. I want to do everything I can to help or support you; if it appears to you otherwise, I ask* you to accept 1113' assurance that YOU are absolutely mistaken. In regard to the half-profits on wool sales, the right honorable gentleman said that he was within an ace of securing those things which would have made such a tremendous difference to this country, but he drew back because of the cable I sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Because of that cable, he would not remain a member of the Government, and, by so doing, enable his country to reap untold advantages. He would not reach his hand out to get for the pastoralists those millions of pounds which were within reach. We know the honorable gentleman too well, and we know human nature too well, to believe that statement for a moment. The honorable member asks us to believe that he resigned from the Government because we prevented him from doing that which he had been sent to England to do. The cable messages speak for themselves; I invite my fellow citizens to look carefully through them, and then say in what way it would have been possible to do more than the Government did to retain the services of the honorable member. In my cable of 2nd June, I said - "... However, I quite see your point and shall not send any further wires in reference to payment of half-profits except to you. . . What more could we have done ? Are we to be censured because we stood fast on the principle that we must be consulted before we were committed on great questions of policy ? I do not think that one honorable member will take that view, because this House is most jealous of its rights, and is continually urging the Government to consult it. How much more have the Government the right to insist that no one of its members shall act without affording Cabinet an opportunity to express its opinion? The right honorable member said that we must leave it to him to decide whether or not we were to be consulted. He has made it perfectly clear that, for some reason, he had determined to resign. He has alluded to a previous occasion on which he and I differed in regard to the sale of wool. He sent me a letter which honorable members have heard read; it was not a letter which I would have sent to any man; and he said that I should apologize for the remarks to which he took exception. 1 did apologize, but it never seems to have occurred to him that the tone of his writings, as well as his utterances, is usually such as to demand an apology, not from others, but from himself. Apparently, the honorable member goes through life quite satisfied that he is a model on which we should pattern ourselves. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- This is very funny," com- ing from you. {: #subdebate-0-0-s6 .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES:
NAT -- The honorable member does not deny that I have apologized to him several times. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- And I think I have done the same to the Prime Minister. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES: -- The honorable member has never apologized to anybody, so far as I am aware. I was his colleague for some time, and, as he knows, I have had to interfere in his behalf in Cabinet, and always as his protector. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- I have done the same for you. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES: -- Perhaps the honorable member has forgotten these incidents. He suggested that he did not interfere with the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph** 11 Cook) and me when we were in Europe. I am afraid the honorable member could not have remembered some of the cables he sent to me, or he would not have made that statement. I arrived in England in June, 1918, and I cabled to the honorable member as follows: - I have received no cables from you since my departure from America, except one *re* glycerine and tallow. Shall be glad to be kept closely in touch with Government action and policy. Most embarrassing to learn of things done by Government through columns of English press. I suggest, in order that we may be able to represent Australia effectively, all important decisions of Cabinet be communicated to me before action is taken unless subject matter is such as precludes delay ; that copies all cables to and from Colonial Office be sent me, and that no action be taken on matters that gravitate around this end until we have opportunity of advising you. This is the right honorable gentleman's reply- Your cablegram 21st received. I did not cable you while you were on the water, but awaited news of your landing England. . . . I will see that you are kept posted on essential matters that may affect your representation in England. Surely you can got copies of cablegrams to and from Colonial Office in London, thus avoiding enormous expense of repeating both. One ' of my messages to you in America cost over 100. Astonished at your suggestion that important decisions of Cabinet be communicated to you before any action is taken. I think you must trust myself and other colleagues to tell you of matters if it is considered advisable. I ask honorable members to compare that cable to me, when I was in London, with the cable he sent to me when he was in England. What a contrast, and yet what a likeness ! The one is a paraphrase on the other. When he is in Australia we must trust him ! When he is in England we must still trust him. The honorable member said in effect, " You must trust me. I will tell you what you are to do, and, if necessary, I will consult you." Thank you; God bless your Honour ! He continued, " Surely you do not expect copies of telegrams to and from the Colonial Office. Cannot you go and get them? I did not send any letters to you while you were on the water; that is quite natural." Yet he complained bitterly because I did not send him telegrams more frequently when he was on the water ! I sent him many. He sent me none ! Yet he is in the right and I am in the wrong! He had been gone from Australia only nine days when he sent a cablegram on the 9th April - " Why don't you answer my cable? Unless I get this information *re* the Mandates I will not go on." Then he tells us that his nerves were in excellent condition, and he was never in better health, that he is one of the easiest men in the world to get on with, and that the whole trouble in this unfortunate business is that there are eleven other obstinate men in Australia whom he cannot convert to his singularly lucid and admirable ideas, who are wholly to blame for his resignation ! He says, in effect, that when he went to London, with him, of course, went the Government. While I was away he insisted that all matters should be decided in Australia; when he was away he insisted that all matters should be decided by him in London ! The honorable member said that the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph Cook)** and I received no directions from him in regard to Peace Conference matters. I shall quote from one cable which might well have formed the motive of a tragedy. This is the language which the honorable member says did not convey a direction - Points of Agreement and Disagreement. Thus is the cable headed - Claim for representation of Dominions as Dominions, either at Versailles or Peace Conference, is not reasonable, and cannot be supported by the Cabinet. I was emphasizing, with all the power I had, the need for the representation of Australia. The right honorable gentleman was content that Australia should be represented by Great Britain, but I was not. He said - It is not proposed to ask Parliament to carry any resolutions claiming representation of Dominions as Dominions. We feel that it would be impossible to pass such a motion. Is that true? He goes on to say - We feel that we are not justified in letting you go straight ahead on the course you have marked out without saying even more plainly than in my previous cables what our opinions are. I personally earnestly trust that you will give due weight to them, and advise me result. If that was not a direction, what was it ? Was it not a direction to me, the Prime Minister of this country, and the representative of Australia, that I must not ask that Australia should be represented at the Peace Conference engaged in draftingthe terms of Peace after a war in which we had lost 60,000 men, had had 260,000 casualties, and had spent £400,000,000? Yet, in the face of this, he sayswe had a free hand ! The right honorable gentleman said something about Nauru and the Pacific Islands. He says I was not only always backed up by the Government, but was not under any obligation to consult the Government or to be directed by it, Let me read two paragraphs from a long cablegram which I sent to him on the 31st January, 1919, relating to the acceptance of the. mandatory principle, which I opposed consistently throughout. When at last the fight seemed hopeless, I set out the position as it then stood, I said - >The present position, in which Australian interests are in gravest danger of being sacrificed, arises entirely through the most unfortunate and unwise acceptance of Wilson's fourteen points by the Allies in November last. But for that, our claim to 'Pacific Islands would never have been challenged. The position is now before , you, and I must earnestly urge you andmycolleagues notto : agree unless - > >We are forthwith publicly appointed mandatory, or get undertaking, in writing, to that effect: and > >That mandate shall publicly give us complete control over immigration, trade, and Tariff over New Guinea and the principal adjacent islands. I had, as honorable members know, set out my views regardingthe acceptance of President Wilson's fourteen points. I emphasized those views very strongly in Great Britain, and for that was subjected to much criticism here, particularly by a newspaper which is owned by friends of the right honorable gentleman. **Mr. Watt** has sought to make it appear that the Government agreed with what I said about Nauru, but they did nothing of the kind. I asked them to back me up, so that I might say to the British Government, " Our claim to this island is greater than yours. We fought for it, we garrisoned it, we hold it at this moment, and we have a right to it." That seemed to me a sane view, and one which every Australian ought to have held - I do not say that every Englishman should have held it. Had I been backed up, I doubt not that we should have got Nauru. However, we did not, and I made the best of a bad job. I do not say:thatit was a very bad job. The right, honorable gentleman said that the verdict of posterity will be that a statesmanlike course was pursued by him in subordinating Australian to other interests. If so, that will be the verdict of a weak -necked generation. While half a loafmay be better than no bread, the whole of the phosphates of Nauru would have been better than only one-third of them. I come now to another instance of the honorable gentleman's methods of dealing with plenipotentiaries and representatives abroad. I had sold the *Austral- siream,* and he was very much astonished at that, saying that my action violated the basic principles of government. *1* had bought the ship and I sold her, and he says that I treated her exactly as if she were my own property. These vessels have earned quite a lot of money for the Commonwealth, and nothing for me, so that it must be very clear to the public that they are not my property. Cabling to me on the subject, the right honorable gentleman said - 14th March, 1919 - >It may be that this sale is advantageous in view of all circumstances, butI strongly feel that such important actions should not be taken in anticipation of Cabinet approval. To that I replied about a fortnight later - > *Re "* Austral " ships. As you know we have sold one old "Austral" at good profit. This is most excellent deal. There is another, the *Australfield,* twenty years old, which ought to go, but it would be bad policy to sell unless we are also prepared replacewith better ships picked up as opportunity offers. I amon the spot, and I suggest Cabinet authorize me sell old steamers and buy new ones up to funds now in hand, or that will be inhand as result future sales. I do not contemplate selling more than, 'say, two more "Australs" without again consulting you. To that **Mr. Watt** sent this cablegram of the 17th May - >Eva advises you have sold *Australfield.* Have re-read cables both ways between us on sale of ships, and think proper procedure is to get definite authority from Cabinet. Assuming that I was wrong, and should not have done what I did, still the messages prove that I was not allowed to act asI pleased, but that at every turn I was compelled to consult with and receive directions from the Government in Australia. Yet if ever a Minister abroad had a right to act without direction, I had that right. *1* was dealing with matters within my own province. The control of these vessels was the business of my Department. I knew all- about them, and was in close touch with the Manager of the Commonwealth Line of steam-ships. It was essential to the welfare of the business that we should sell these ships* Yet the honorable member said, "You must ' not do anything without consulting the Cabinet." When I said to him, " You must not do anything in regard to- indemnities, or the White Australia policy, or reparations without consulting me," hig reply was that I called him a-. plenipotentiary and treated him like a telegraph messenger. Apparently, what was proper for him to say it was improper for any one else to say to him. Then contrast the tone of his communications to me and mine to him. On the 18th April, he cabled - >It ia essential that I should receive, as you promised, prompt and full particulars concern-ing all communications between Imperial Government and you. Be good enough to inform me whether you intend to do this. And on the 27th May- >You must leave matters confided to my care entirely in my hands, and trust my judgment as to whether I should, consult you or. decide them here. . You must also request Secretary of State to send me copies of all cable, correspondence both ways about other matters. If you are not prepared to do this, kindly say so at once. I must do this, and I must not do that. Yet for him all things must be done as he decides.!' The right honorable gentleman has declared' that he was forced' out of office by the action of his colleagues, but the cables prove conclusively that every effort was made to retain his services ; and ' although circumstances combined with the desire of his colleagues to insure the success of the high and important mission with which he was ' intrusted, yet on the very threshold of it he baulked. Why ? He wants us to believe the sufficient reason was my cablegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies ! A word or two on another- matter. The honorable gentleman complained that I sent a telegram to the Secretary of State direct on a matter relating to his mission. I have dealt with that, but the honorable member- wants the House to believe that he never acted' in this way himself while I was in England. But that is not true.. He ' did" 'ob- many ©<>casions I- will quote one to which he has referred - the clean-slate policy in regard to finance, which was of vital importance, and .clearly within . the scope of the Peace Treaty. I complained that the right honorable gentleman had communicated with the Secretary of State for the Colonies about this matter, and had not notified me, I learning of it for the first time through the press. His reply is that, charging his memory as best he could with what had happened, two years before, he thought that I had been consulted. Speaking, like the honorable member, from memory, I say that I knew nothing of. the- matter. To the. best of my knowledge and belief, I was not consulted ; and I am absolutely certain .that I did not approve of what was done.. But I have been supplied by the officials with the following particulars from, the files, which refute absolutely the statement of the right honorable gentleman: - {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- said that he had. consulted- **Mr. Hughes** -re this matter prior to a. reply to the Secretary of State. The file shows that the matter was submitted to Cabinet on the 18th November, 1918> and the following day a cable was despatched to the Secretary of State containing Government, approval of the principle. **Mr. Hughes** was so advised the same day. So that it is perfectly clear that behind my . back the right honorable member agreed, to a policy relating to international finance arising directly out of the war, and committed the Commonwealth to that policy,, without even notifying me of the. fact that he intended so to do. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- I think the matter has a longer history than that. {: #subdebate-0-0-s7 .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES:
NAT -- It may have, but I am afraid the longer you go into it the worse it gets. However, there is the position quite clearly. The right honorable member said that he had consulted me before replying to the Secretary of State. That is hot so. The point I am making is this: The right honorable member seeks to draw a dear line of distinction between the manner in which he was treated and that in which any other Minister charged with high and important duties abroad has been treated. I venture to say that the principle- of responsible government has demanded the same treatment in every case. Not only did he treat me in the very same manner to which he takes such strong exception, but, as I said: when speaking- here before, when my right honorable ex-colleague, **Mr. Fisher,** went Home, and I acted for him for. nine or ten months while he was in Africa and England, it was repeatedly followed. When speaking on this matter . on the last occasion, I pointed out that an important question like the Treaty of London, to which apparently the British Government was then likely to commit itself, had been brought up before the Cabinet, and **Mr. Fisher** was instructed - not authorized - to vote against it, which he did.The principle of responsible government, and its bearing upon the representatives of the Commonwealth when engaged in missions abroad, is well established. The right honorable gentleman has sought, by introducing extraneous matter, and by abuse of myself, to make it appear that he has been choused out of his position; that he has been treated unfairly; that he has been pushed out of office; and that his mission was deliberately hampered. I say emphatically that there is not one word of truth in such a statement. The documents laid on the table of the House, which contain the correspondence between him and me, speak for themselves. Every honorable member who will look in an impartial way at those cables will see that they show clearly that this Government was most anxious to retain the services of the right honorable gentleman, and to make his mission a success. I say deliberately, as I told him in my cable, that I was most upset at his resignation, and could not understand it. I remembered the occasion on which he had written me before, and I took the same course in this case as in the other. I hoped it would have had the same result. The right honorable gentleman may believe of me what he pleases, but I assure him that it was a bitter blow to the Cabinet when he resigned. It was a bitter blow to me. I ask him, as a sensible man, what I could have done more than Idid to induce him to remain. I ask him what I could gain by frustrating his mission. He does not deny that, on a previous occasion, when we had a difference of opinion arising out of one of the matters that have been mentioned to-day. I did everything that a man could do to induce him to remain. He does not deny that, on my return from England, when he said that he felt that his health was such that he would have to resign, I used all my influence with him to induce him to remain. He cannot deny that I told him that, if he resigned, I would not carry on. Why, then, should he assume these sinister motives in regard to actions done with sincere and honest motives? The fact is that the honorable gentleman for some reason or other decided to break with his colleagues. He took up an impossible position. He demanded that he should be given a free hand, that he should be allowed to do whatever he pleased inside a wide and most important mission. He" demanded that he should decide whether he would consult or notify his colleagues. To that principle we could not accede; but everything else we righted so far as we were able to do it. So I cannot but regret that the right honorable member has, in his explanation to Parliament, introduced matters that are quite irrelevant, and that he did so upon the excuse that I attacked him during his absence. I would remind him that he himself invited me to do the very thing that I did do. He invited me to take' what was, as I said then, and say now, a most unusual course, by tabling the correspondence. He has suggested, although he did not persist in the suggestion, that I had withheld certain portions of the correspondence. When I assure him that the whole file was referred to a Committee, consisting of the Leader of the Opposition **('Mr. Tudor),** and the Leader of the Country party **(Mr. McWilliams),** that there was no difference of opinion between us, and that we decided what should be left out, he will surely accept that assurance from me. It was a matter of indifference to me what was left out. The parts that were left out were not left out because they would favour or prejudice the honorable member, but because they seemed to contain references that might give offence in other quarters. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- Or because they were irrelevant. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES: -- Or because they were entirely irrelevant. The right honorable member has come back to us, and has told us that if we had allowed him tocontinue, he would have been successful. He said, further, that if I had not interfered with the scheme to extend the Wool Pool for a further period of years it would have been very much better for Australia. -All these things are by the way. They have nothing whatever to do with the right honorable member's resignation. He does not pretend that they have anything to do with it. He resigned because he had a difference of opinion with his colleagues. If everything was as he says it was, if I had deliberately withheld information from him, if I had deliberately sent that cable to the Secretary of State with a view to intruding into a sphere that was properly the prerogative of the right honorable member, even these things would not justify his resignation. All that he has said does not excuse it, although it may explain it. The right honorable member resigned from his post. He left his post when it was impossible to send another man to take up his duties for many months. Now he comes back and. says, "I was on -the eve of success when the Prime Minister sent this cable; and the doors of Lord Inverforth and **Mr. Chamberlain** were closed in my face." He says, also, that he would have been able to secure all these millions that he has read about this afternoon, and that I ought not to have asked for those millions myself. He says it was grossly improper for me to do so, although those to whom these millions are due authorized me to do so, and insisted upon my doing it. Does the right honorable member suggest that the woolgrowers of this country have no rights in this matter? Does he seriously say that, because I sent that cable Home supporting his demand for payment, it is a sufficient reason why he should have resigned? He said I asked for all, while he asked for it only in instalments. I did ask for it all. I said what I waa told to say. This is what I said - >Referring my previous telegram asking for (1) information *re* amount of Australia's share of profits on wool bought by British Government and sold for civilian purposes to date, and (2) date on which such, amount will be paid, I have this day been requested by specially summoned joint Conference of Australian Wool-growers' Council and National Council of Wool-selling Brokers of Australia to urge that a definite statement should be made, without delay, as to the amount due to the Commonwealth on behalf of the growers, and that this should be paid forthwith. Will' the right honorable member seriously contend that the despatch of that cable is a sufficient reason for his resignation? No one oan do so. Then the right honorable member says - " So that in this matter I was baulked on the very eve of success. I would have been successful but for you." I say to him, as all his fellow-citizens must do, " Why did you resign ? Where are those millions of which you speak ?" He also says - "The Brussels Conference about which you spoke was unimportant. Great Britain was represented only by bankers." I think he also said that South Africa was not represented at all. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- I did not say so in regard to that Conference. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES: -- He said that **Mr. Collins** represented us there, and that no harm could have come to the Commonwealth. It may have been so. We do not know; but the honorable gentleman has assured us that the Commonwealth has not lost anything from his absence from the Brussels Conference. Then there is the matter of the Spa Conference. The honorable member has assured us again that we have lost nothing through our failure to have a representative upon the Empire's delegation there. It may be so. But, in regard to immigration, to trade .representation, to finance generally, and with respect to the loan position, what had the honorable gentleman to say? What has he done in regard to all these " matters of life and death " ? Nothing ! As I said at the outset, he has dealt with this one matter at great length. He has exhumed the bodies of the dead, and he has dishonoured the graves of those who have fallen - I speak of political graves, of course. He spoke about smokescreens. He has endeavoured to raise a smoke screen behind which he hopes to find some degree of security, or, at any rate, of obscurity. He would have done far better, in my opinion, if he had confined himself to the merits of his case, and told us just why he resigned. How has his abuse of me helped him ? Although the honorable gentleman may not think so, everybody in this House was desirous of giving him the fairest of fair shows. But he can hardly say that his explanation has improved the situation, No doubt he evoked some applause From those who are the deadly opponents of that party to which., before he went to England, he was committed; but from no other. That, perhaps, did not occur to him ; but there I leave it. I am satisfied that the honorable member has not been able to assail the argumentsor the principles laid down in the speech which I delivered in this House on 2nd July. The documents tabled in this House speak for themselves. The honorable member has admitted that nothing has been suppressed which bears on the subject.. He has sought, by an attack on myself, to divert the discussion from the facts of the case to other things. I am sorry he has done so; but I feel confident that theverdict of the people will be one of censure of the right honorable gentleman who has resigned an office of such importance at a juncture so critical for causes which, upon analysis, are found utterly insufficient to afford justification for his action. I am content now to leave the whole matter where it stands. *Sitting suspended from 6.26 to 8 p.m.* {: #subdebate-0-0-s8 .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR:
Yarra *(By leave).* - Had we continued for a few minutes longer before the dinner adjournment, I would have been able to have said allthat I desired. The honorable member for Balaclava **(Mr. Watt)** during his speech referred to the fact that he understood that the *Punch* newspaper had been purchased by a **Mr. F.** W. Hughes, and the Prime Minister **(Mr. Hughes)** said that he knew the persons who owned the *Herald.* I do not know any newspaper proprietors in Australia, and I believe that honorablemembers on this side are in a similar position. We are not here as a result of any support we have received from the press, but in spite of it; and no one knows that better than honorable members opposite, who were at one time members of theparty to which I belong. When the cables which passed between the Prime Minister and the late Treasurer, were submitted to the Leader of the Country party **(Mr. McWilliams)** and me, after the Prime Minister had read them, I made a statement, by leave, in which I said - >The Prime Minister's suggestion was that we should edit this file;but we acted rather as censors,ourworkbeing tocut out what was not material tothe case,or what,in the public interest, should not be disclosed. We were not asked to take sides, and *I* do not intend to do so. By way of illustrating the omissions that we sanctioned, I might say that one of the cablegrams sent by **Mr. Watt** contained certain confidential figures. He said, " I have obtained these figures in confidence." That information was, therefore, kept back from publication. The honorable member for Balaclava referred to these figures this afternoon, and, as the honorable member has said, we did the work hurriedly, I may say we did not have an opportunity to do it as carefully as I believe the honorable member for Franklin and I would have desired to have done it. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWilliams: -- We endeavoured to do it fairly. {: .speaker-KNP} ##### Mr Maxwell: -- It has not been shown thatthose omitted were relevant. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR: -- There were certain news cables, one of which referred to the result of the New South Wales election. I believe the whole file was submitted to the members of the party opposite before they came 'before us, and, had I known that, I am not sure whether I would have assisted in editing the file. Speaking from memory - I have not seen the file since thattime - I believe one cable related to the rate of interest on future loans, and, . in the interests of the Commonwealth, we deliberately excluded it. I believe we did right, because we probably prevented Australia frompaying a heavier interest bill than we have to meet at present. Another cable reflected upon another nation that hasbeen friendly towards Great Britain in the past, and may be friendly in the future. We did not think it necessary to include two cables, one to the shipping manager and another to the Secretaryof State, as they were not considered relevant to the fight between the Prime Minister and the late Treasurer. I have always adopted the well-known practice of refraining from interfering in a family quarrel, and is is not my intention to interfere on this occasion. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Balaclava confirm a statement that has often been denied, that the reception to the Prime Minister from Great Britainwas stage-managed. {: .speaker-KFC} ##### Mr Fleming: -- Who stage-managed it? {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR: -- It was stage-managed. {: .speaker-KFC} ##### Mr Fleming: -- It is an insinuation against thereturned soldiers. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR: -- The late honorable member for Brisbane **(Mr. Finlayson)** asked a question as to the amount the men were to receive for turning out on that occasion, and it is well-known that they were paid. I am glad to have the confirmation of the honorable member for Balaclava that the whole thing was carefully stagemanaged. {: .speaker-JPC} ##### Sir Robert Best: -- Were the people stage-managed ? {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR: -- The whole thing was worked up-- *Honorable members interjecting,* Perhaps, when honorable members have ceased interjecting, I shall be able to proceed. This evening I am to attend a political meeting in a district where I believe the fight is to be fairly strong, and I trust the interjections will not be as numerous as they are here. I am not interfering in this struggle at all, but merely wish to say that the cable to the Secretary of State, and another which was not quoted in exactly the same words, but which meant the same thing, were not considered relevant.' I do not know what will come out of this combat, but I hope to have the opportunity, after the honorable member for Franklin **(Mr. McWilliams)** has spoken, to move a motion-- {: .speaker-JSC} ##### Mr Brennan: -- Which is more important. {: .speaker-JOS} ##### Mr Bell: -- What is that? {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr TUDOR: -- Not as the *Argus* newspaper says, in the interests of the primary producers of Richmond and Collingwood, but on behalf of the primary producers generally. I merely desired to refer to the cables that were deleted from the file, and also to the carefully stage-managed affair that occurred at the instance, I presume, of the Government which the honorable member for Balaclava had the honour to lead at that time. {: #subdebate-0-0-s9 .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWILLIAMS:
Franklin *. (By leave).* - It is not my intention to occupy much time at this juncture. The whole position is very regrettable, and it is deplorable that the resignation of a Minister should have been brought before the House in this way. In regard to the cables, I reecho what the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Tudor)** has said.I believe we honestly tried to play the game between the two contesting parties-, and I do not think any one will accuse me of- being strongly prejudiced, in favour of the Prime Minister against the honorable member for Balaclava. {: .speaker-KV8} ##### Mr Stewart: -- The policy of the Leader of the Opposition in keeping out of family quarrels is a wise one for us to adopt. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWILLIAMS: -- WhenI perused' the cables I made certain shorthand notes. When I came to one particular message I said, " This is- probably the cablegram that has wrecked the financial mission of the late Treasurer." That was the message sent by the Prime Minister **(Mr. Hughes)** direct to the Secretary of State; and I am not surprised to hear, that that message interfered very materially with the financial arrangements the late Treasurer was to have made in Great Britain. I believe the Prime Minister is very much to blame for not having- sent that cablegram direct to **Mr. Watt,** with a request that it be forwarded to the Secretary of' State. So far as the late Treasurer's action is concerned, I think he also made a regrettable error of judgment, as his proper course would have been to inform the Prime Minister that he had made it absolutely impossible for him to carry out his financial mission. In doing so he could have asked if it was the wish of Cabinet that he should represent the Commonwealth at the Brussels and Spa Conferences. I think that would have been a much safer and better attitude for the honorable member for Balaclava to have adopted. The whole position is very regrettable, and. when the late Treasurer Gabled that cables should be laid on the table of the House, it would have been better, if that had been done - omitting only those that were not of any consequence to the issue - because honorable members would then have been' able to pass judgment without any interlude at all. The messages had been submitted at a party meeting, and there was no necessity to bring the matter before the House. The Prime Minister has said that the late Treasurer returned to Australia very leisurely. But I may say that the Government acted with equal leisure in appointing his successor. If this matter was of such vital importance - as I believe it was - the moment the late Treasurer's resignation was accepted another.Minister should have been despatched by the first boat to take up the work that he had surrendered. I take up the position adopted by the Leader of the Opposition in saying that this is really a dispute between two Ministers, and, so far as I am concerned - and I think I am speaking for the members of my party - we can very well leave the dispute to the two Ministers themselves. {: .speaker-JSC} ##### Mr Brennan: -- I rise to order. When the honorable member for Balaclava **(Mr. Watt)** asked leave to make a statement this afternoon some honorable members objected. That objection being fatal, a motion was then moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders. I understand that that can only be done in cases of urgency, and cannot cover a debate extending beyond the speech of the honorable member who has asked leave to make a statement. I would like your ruling, sir, on that, and also on the point that I now ask leave to make a speech which will probably extend over three hours in summing up from all sides of this question. {: #subdebate-0-0-s10 .speaker-K99} ##### Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Elliot Johnson:
LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES -- The honorable member's contention would be valid under ordinary circumstances, so long as the leave was given to an individual member only; but perhaps he was not present or did not quite catch the wording of the motion when it was moved. {: .speaker-JSC} ##### Mr Brennan: -- I was present. {: #subdebate-0-0-s11 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Perhaps the honorable member did not grasp the specific terms of the motion which I read to the House. I asked the Prime Minister **(Mr. Hughes)** to be good enough to hand up the motion, as it involved something more than a suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the honorable member for Balaclava to address the House. It embodied certain other matters . The motion was - >That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would preclude the right honorable member for Balaclava **(Mr. Watt),** the Prime Minister **(Mr. Hughes),** the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Tudor),** and the Leader of the Country party **(Mr, McWilliams)** from making statements to the House. It will thus be seen that the House assented to the suspension of the Standing Orders to allow those four honorable members to make statements. {: .speaker-JSC} ##### Mr Brennan: -- That does not cover my case. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member's name was not included in the motion. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- I also rise to a point of order. The Standing Orders provide that before a motion for their suspension can be put to the House it must be moved and seconded. In this case the motion submitted by the Prime Minister **(Mr. Hughes)** was not seconded, so that I submit that the whole of the discussion this afternoon has been irregular. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- On reference to the Standing Orders, the honorable member will see that where a motion is moved by a Minister it is not necessary that it should be seconded. {: .page-start } page 5824 {:#debate-1} ### ESTIMATES 1920-21 *In Committee of Supply* (Consideration resumed from 19th October, *vide* page 5764) : {:#subdebate-1-0} #### The Treasury {:#subdebate-1-1} #### Divisions 25 to 36, £1,109,899 {: #subdebate-1-1-s0 .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr BLAKELEY:
Darling .- I desire again to enter my emphatic protest against the way in which the motion of censure submitted on behalf of the Opposition has been side-tracked in order to allow of personal recriminations and the passing of compliments between certain honorable members on the Government side of the House. I desire also to make my position clear with regard to my objection to the honorable member for Balaclava **(Mr. Watt)** having leave to make astatement in the House this afternoon. I fully appreciate the position of the right honorable member, who has had a personal quarrel with the Prime Minister. The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter) . - Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to a matter . that was dealt with in the House. I would remind him that we are now in Committee of Supply. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr BLAKELEY: -There seems' to be a determination that I shall not be allowed to speak. I objected to the right honorable member for Balaclava having leave to make a statement because there was more important business awaiting the attention of the House. {: #subdebate-1-1-s1 .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- I have already informed the honorable member that it is not in order to refer to matters that have been dealt with in the House. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr BLAKELEY: -- I have no desire to prevent any honorable member from vindicating his honour, but I object strenuously to petty private quarrels being dragged before the House in order to keep back a motion which is of some consequence to the farmers of the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-KNF} ##### Mr GREENE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP; NAT from 1917 -- I rise to order. The honorable member, notwithstanding your ruling, sir, is proceeding to discuss matters which took place in the House. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- I have already called the honorable member to order on two occasions. The Treasurer's Estimates are now before the Committee. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr BLAKELEY: -- In the Estimates relating to the Treasury there is an item of " Miscellaneous," which covers an expenditure of something like £500,000, and, no doubt, includes every thing from a postage stamp to the purchase of a steamer. I have no doubt that portion of the money to which the item relates has been expended on cable messages. Apparently, for quite a long time the money of the Commonwealth was spent on complimentary cablegrams between the then Acting Prime Minister **(Mr. Watt)** and the Prime Minister **(Mr. Hughes).** When things were a little dull the right honorable member for Balaclava would write a book and cable it to the Prime Minister. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- I have already called the honorable member to order twice, and if he continues to disobey the Chair I shall order him to discontinue {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr BLAKELEY: -- Evidently, I cannot get on with my subject. I, therefore, move - That progress be reported, and leave asked to sit again. Question put. The Committee divided. AYES: 13 NOES: 34 Majority .. . . 21 AYES NOES Question so resolved in the negative. Motion negatived. {: #subdebate-1-1-s2 .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY:
Dampier .- I am sure that the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph Cook)** does not desire that the Estimates referring to his Department should be passed without some explanation in regard to various matters which come within its scope. . Honorable members will observe that the Treasury Department contains many sub-Departments, including Stores, Supply and Tender Board, the Notes Printing Office, Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office, Maternity Allowance Office, Taxation Office, and many other offices, which are of very great importance. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I ask the honorable member to permit me to make a personal explanation. There is a matter in resspect of which I fear some mistake occurred last night in the course of a statement concerning Australia House, and I should like to put it right. I know that I am somewhat out of order, but perhaps I may be allowed to say what I desire to say in this connexion. The facts concerning Australia House are roughly these: From revenue we spent - {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- I rise to a point of order. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- But I am making a personal explanation. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- When an honorable member rises to a point of order, the practice is that the honorable member who is addressing the Chair must resume his seat. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- It is quite unusual for an honorable member to raise a point of order whilst another honorable member is making a personal explanation. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- My point of order is that under cover of a personal explanation the Treasurer cannot make a statement in respect of something that was said last night by another honorable member, and which he now desires to correct. {: #subdebate-1-1-s3 .speaker-JWY} ##### The CHAIRMAN (Hon J M Chanter: -- The honorable member for Darling(Mr. Blakeley) may know what the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph Cook)** intends to say, but I am sure that I do not. However, it is quite in order for any honorable member to make a personal explanation at any time, so long as in so doing he does not interrupt another speaker. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- And I am perfectly in order in correcting a statement which was made last evening in regard to Australia House. The facts are that we expended from revenue upon this building £121,000, and that we spent from loan funds a further sum of £856,000 making the total cost of Australia House £977,000. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- I rise to a point of order. I submit that the Treasurer cannot quote figures correcting the views expressed by an honorable member after the particular matter to which he addressed himself has been disposed of. Yet that is what the right honorable gentleman is now attempting to do. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Then I shall not bother farther about the matter. Let us proceed with the consideration of the Estimates, and let it go into *Hansard* th at the honorable member is bent upon having a mistake continued rather than upon having it corrected. {: #subdebate-1-1-s4 .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY:
Dampier .-I am very sorry that the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph Cook)** has not been afforded an opportunity to make a personal explanation. Surely when a mistake has been made the right honorable gentleman should be allowed to correct it. However, I wish to refer to one or two matters connected with the Estimates of the Treasury Department. The first relates to our Notes Printing Office. I would like to preface my remarks in this connexion by directing attention to a report of the Public Works Committee, which was issued some considerable time ago concerning the way in' which the employees of that Department are housed. Nothing could be worse than the conditions of those who are employed in our Notes Printing Department, and' I marvel at the attitude of the Government in neglecting to take the necessary action to alter those conditions. {: .speaker-KLG} ##### Mr Mahony: -- Why do they not build the Notes Printing Office at Canberra? {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY: -- That is a proposal which should be brought forward' by the Government. Certainly the conditions existing in our Notes Printing Department ought not to be continued- a moment longer than is avoidable. I come now to theBill which was submitted to Parliament a little time ago by the Treasurer in connexion with the note issue. There are certain sections in that Act which demand our most serious consideration, because there is not the slightest doubt that if, the Government persist in increasing our note issue, and in compelling the banks to hold large quantities of- notes in: reserve, the future solvency of, this country will be gravely endangered. We cannot pay our debts by issuing promissory notes. There is too much of a Micawber-like policy in connexion with the action of the Government and. of politicians generally. The sooner we come to a determination in regard to matters of this sort the better it. will be for this- Parliament and for the country. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr Considine: -- Micawber was always waiting for something to turn up, and we were waiting for somebody to turn up the other day. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY: -- We have been waiting very anxiously for the Opposition to persist in its no-confidence motion. Why its members have not gone on with that motion I cannot understand. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- The honorable member knows the reason perfectly well. The Government are afraid of the censure motion. {: #subdebate-1-1-s5 .speaker-JWY} ##### The CHAIRMAN(Hon J M Chanter:
RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES -I have already called upon honorable members individually, and. I now callupon them collectively, tocease these interjections, otherwise they will force the Chairto take action. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY: -- There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer, namely, the Taxation Department. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- This is an attempt to burke . discussion of the no-confidence motion. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The honorable member for Calare is out of order. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY: -- I was hopeful that the Treasurer might have given us some little information in regard to the taxation proposalsof theGovernment. Apparently, there has been somechange recently in reference to theGovernment policy. A little time ago we were assured that there would be no necessity to raise any further loans during the current financial year. Yet I notice in thepress to-day an announcement that it may be necessaryto raise an additional £110,000,000 beforeJune next. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I always excluded that loan from the ordinary loans of the year. If the honorable member will look at the Budget he will see that I expressly referred to the payment of war gratuities. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY: -- The fault may be entirely my own, but I was certainly under the 'impression that the last loan was all that it would be necessary to raise in order to enable theTreasurer to finance Australia during the current financial year. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- The payment of the wargratuities will not constitute a new debt. The loan willrather be in the nature ofa conversion. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY: -- I am very sorry that it will be necessary to float a new loan. Of course, I quite recognise the enormouscommitments of the Treasurer. I would like to know from "the right honorable gentleman when 'the Taxation Commission will be able to issue its report, and whether there is the slightest possibility of amending legislation with a view to an adjustment of the incidence of taxation being introduced this year. At the present time the incidence of taxation is not fair. Some persons pay taxation upon a far heavier basis than do others. Time after time we have asked that 'this taxation shall be based upon an average of three 'or five years. Ifthe Treasurer cangive us any information upon that matter we shall regard it as a very great favour. I have no desire to delay theCommittee further. I merely rosefor the purpose of directing attention to these items before we agree to them as a whole. {: #subdebate-1-1-s6 .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- In regard to the Notes Printing Department, I know that things are very unsatisfactory.But the remedy really depends upon action by this House. Our position at the present moment is that we want new and better housing for the NotesPrinting Department. That Department is 'congested, and, as an honorable member says, it is dangerous. 'Something must : be done soon. There is upon our business-paper a notice of motion which should be submitted as early as possible in order that we may obtain the decision of the House upon it. {: .speaker-KX9} ##### Mr Watkins: -- It is merely an attempt to keep the Department in Melbourne. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Here is another member of theEconomy partyendeavouring to correct an older member of a second Economy party. He wishes to spend something like £40,000upon this project. Not only is our Notes Printing Department badly housed, but our Taxation Department is also badly housed. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- The Commonwealth erects buildingsin this city which would not be tolerated if they were erected by any private person. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- We must allow the honorable member his little say. Last night he did his economystunt, but tonight he is upon theother side. We must let 'him balance matters just a little. I am notcomplaining of his action. I am rather glad to have him upon our side to-night in a demand for additional expenditure which, after all, may turn out to be true economy. {: .speaker-KXO} ##### Mr JAMES PAGE:
MARANOA, QUEENSLAND · FT; ALP from 1903 -- Put up the Notes Printing Office at Canberra. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I had better reply to that interjection by saying that at the 'earliest moment the motion to which I have referred will be submitted to the House for its decision. I paida visit the other day to the Taxation Department in the buildingoff Flinders-street, Melbourne, and I do not hesitate to say that the officers ought not to be asked to work under the prevailingconditions. There is much overcrowding, and, from the point of view of ventilation, and in other ways, the place leaves much to be desired for so many officers. Something must be done, and I have asked my colleague, the Minister for Works and Railways **(Mr. Groom)** to submit a proposal to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee with a view to a new building being provided. {: .speaker-JX7} ##### Mr Austin Chapman: -- What about Canberra ? {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- There will always have to be a Taxation Office in Melbourne, for it could not be removed to Canberra even if we were ready to go there to-morrow. There is something further I should like to say in this connexion. It is not a question of whether we are likely to deal with the matter of taxation averaging this year, because before the next financial year, we must have a new scheme of taxation altogether. This is the last year for collecting the war-time profits tax, and we must collect equivalent revenue by some other means; and this, of course, involves revision of the whole scheme of taxation. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- We ought to get *£6,* 000, 000 more from Customs under the new Tariff. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- As to that, we must wait until the year is up. It looks as if there was going to be a speedy easing up of import duties for other reasons than the operation of the Tariff. I do not anticipate that imports are going to continue to pour into the country at the same rate as at present, and, therefore, our scheme of taxation must be made to meet the situation. Involved is the question of whether taxation should be levied on the average, or some other basis; but I look on that point as settled, the House having emphatically declared that the averaging principle must be applied to the income tax. I hope the Commission of Inquiry which is dealing with the matter, will soon report, so that we may be prepared for the new conditions. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- Will you apply the principle to this year's assessments? {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I hope the revision may be made in time for this year's assessments; at any rate, I am doing my best in that direction. {: #subdebate-1-1-s7 .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON:
Wilmot -- Can the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph Cook)** give the Committee any information regarding the difficult problem of deflating the note issue? I understand that the right honorable gentleman has already been able to cancel about £3,500,000 of notes, but whatever plan may be adopted to this end, it must be gradual in order to avoid the infliction of hardship on the community. Something must be done in this direction; and, although the result may be some unemployment, there will be benefits to counteract the disadvantages. In view of our present financial position, it may be necessary to be cruel in order to be kind. If we continue issuing notes too freely, we shall only make our position worse, deluding the people with an apparentprosperity which can only result in a crash sooner or later. Has the Treasurer any scheme in contemplation for calling in the surplus notes? Before the note-issue was taken over by the Commonwealth, it was a very fine system in Australia, representing, perhaps, the best of the kind in the world. The notes went in and out of the banks just as the trade of the country required - a sort of automatic arrangement which worked admirably. The assets behind the notes were ample, and the notes were a first charge on the banks; but when the Commonwealth took over the note-issue, it had to have a gold backing, which, according to the Act, must be 25 per cent. Fortunately, we have always been able to provide even a better backing than that, but still, at the present time, there are more notes in' circulation than the business needs of the country justify, and we ought to endeavour to get back to normal conditions as soon as possible. An inflation of the currency always means increase in prices, with the consequence that the paper money buys less and less, while the gold retains its standard value. Has the Treasurer any idea what is going to be done in the direction I have suggested ? {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I am sorry to say that I. have not. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- Then the Treasurer does not really know how it is proposed to call in the notes, the circulation of which I feel sure is bigger than the right honorable gentleman likes. Have the Government had under consideration any scheme by which people of working age may contribute to a fund to provide old-age and invalid pensions, and insure against sickness, maternity, and unemployment? The present doling out of money must have a very serious effect in sapping the moral fibre of the people. If we are content to give a man a pension because he has just managed to steer clear of gaol, while doing nothing at all for the community, we are getting into a dangerous position. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to laugh, but they would force pensions even on people who did not desire them. I am glad that there are oldage pensions, and I only wish they were larger; further, I think that the earnings of the old-age pensioners ought not to be limited in the way they are, "especially in the case of the blind. It is time the Government formulated a scheme such as I have indicated. I remember that in the days of the Liberal party such a proposal was on their platform, but nothing has ever come of it. **Mr. Lloyd** George has been able to do something on those lines in the Old Country, and we should follow the example he has set. {: .speaker-JX7} ##### Mr Austin Chapman: -- What taxation do you suggest to raise the money ? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- I suggest that there should be weekly contributions by the people. In Germany and other countries, the employee and the employer both contribute, and the State gives a subsidy, with the result that there is always ample money to meet the claims made. It is a serious matter to dole out money in this way, leading the people into a fools' paradise, because the day may come when we shall not have these sums to dole out. Any one with selfrespect would be only too willing to pay a fair contribution towards a fund which would provide a pension for him on his reaching the age limit. Of course, it ought to be the aim of every man to achieve a position which will put him beyond the need of an old-age pension, but at the same time I would like to see provision made for the payment of pensions to those who are unfortunate enough to require them. However, if this country is to proceed as it is row doing with the load of debt upon it, the day may come when we shall find that we cannot afford to pay old age pensions. *Honorable members interjecting,* {: .speaker-JWY} ##### The CHAIRMAN (Hon J M Chanter: -- If I have again to appeal to the honorable member for Darling **(Mr. Blakeley),** I shall name him. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- My idea is that while an individual is able to work he ought to contribute so much at intervals, and. according to a scale, to a fund which should be subsidized by the State. Such schemes are common enough in other parts of the world, and if we are to be a self-respecting nation it is necessary that we should follow their example, because a race which is lacking in selfrespect cannot put up much of a fight against one which is self-respecting. Our present system saps the self-reliance of the people and is leading the community, especially the aged section of it, into a fools' paradise, because some day they may wake up to the fact that the Government, instead of being in a position to increase pensions, will be obliged to curtail them, a condition of affairs which I do not hope to see. I am sorry that the pension is not larger. Hundreds of people who have worked hard, lived honestly, and served their country well, are not receiving anything like the allowance I should like to see them get. If the Government would adopt some scheme on the lines I have suggested they would not be called upon to provide every year the large sums we are now paying in the shape of pensions, and far better results would be achieved. Pensions certainly would be on a more stable basis. I know that some honorable members go outside and hold up an honorable member who speaks in the way I have done as one who opposes the payment of old-age pensions, whereas he may be endeavouring, as I am, to make them what they ought to be, in the interest of those who are obliged to accept them. If the Government have any scheme in their mind, I hope the Treasurer **(Sir Joseph Cook)** will outline it to us. If they have none in mind at the present time I hope that they will take my suggestion into consideration. {: #subdebate-1-1-s8 .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr LAVELLE:
Calare .- Believing as I do that matters all important to the community, generally, should be immediately brought before this House and discussed, being very indignant at the treatment meted out to honorable members of the Opposition by the Government during the last two days, and believing further that it is never too soon to do the correct thing. I move - >That the further consideration of the Estimatesbe postponed, and that the House do immediately deal with the first notice of motion, "That the Government be censured for their failure to make provision for the payment of 5s. per bushel cash at railway sidings for this season's wheat." {: .speaker-JWY} ##### The CHAIRMAN (Hon J M Chanter: -- I decline to accept the motion which,in my opinion, is not put forward for a legitimate purpose. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr LAVELLE: -- I did not quite catch what you said. Did you say that my motion was not important? {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that I declined to take the motion, not only because it is not relevant to the question before the Chair, but also because, in my opinion, it is not proposed for a legitimate purpose. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr LAVELLE: -- I am not very conversant with the Standing Orders, but I have been endeavouring to make myself as conversant with them as possible; and I know that if an honorable member makes a remark which another considers personally offensive, he is called upon to withdraw it. With all due respect, I considerthat your remark is very offensive to me. You have said that I had an ulterior motive in submitting my motion. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- In the first place, the honorable member must withdraw that statement. It. reflects upon the Chair. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- Your statement, **Mr. Chairman,** was distinctly insulting. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The honorable member for Darling is again out of order. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- Yes, I know that I am; but I am no more out of order than you are. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- I name the honorable member for Darling for deliberately disobeying the Chair. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I am afraid that for the last hour the honorable member for Darling has been asking to be put out of the chamber. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- You cannot put me out, and I am not going out. {: .speaker-KLG} ##### Mr Mahony: -- The right honorable member knows that even if the motion submitted was out of order, the Chairman could have merely ruled it out of order, without making any comments upon it. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- Yes, it is scandalous! {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- The honorable member is now saying that what the Chairman is doing is scandalous. I move - >That the honorable member for Darling be suspended from the service of the Committee. Question put. The Committee divided. *Honorable members of the Opposition declining to act as tellers,* AYES: 0 NOES: 0 AYES NOES *In the House:* The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report that the 'Committee has passed a resolution suspending the honorable member for Darling **(Mr. Blakeley)** for disobedience to the Chair. {: #subdebate-1-1-s9 .speaker-K99} ##### Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Elliot Johnson: -- The question is : " That the honorable member for Darling be suspended from the service of the House." The House divided. AYES: 0 NOES: 0 AYES NOES {: #subdebate-1-1-s10 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- I appoint the honorable member forFremantle **(Mr. Burchell)** and the honorable member for Boothby **(Mr. Story)** tellers for the Ayes," and the honorable member for SouthSydney **(Mr. Riley)** and the honorable member for Werriwa **(Mr. Lazzarini)** tellers for the " Noes." {: .speaker-KYV} ##### Mr Riley: -- I do not feel too well, **Mr. Speaker,** and I must decline to act. {: .speaker-L07} ##### Mr Lazzarini: -- I also decline. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- As I understand honorable members of the "Noes" decline to tell, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative. I also take the opportunity of reminding the House that honorable members who refuse to tell contravene theStanding Orders, and lay themselves open to suspension or other action by the House. The honorable member for Darling **(Mr. Blakeley)** was, therefore, under standing order 59, suspended for the remainder of the sitting. {: .speaker-JSC} ##### Mr Brennan: -- I rise to order. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member may not riseto order at the present time. The honorable member for Darling is suspendedfrom the service of the House. *The honorable member for Darling still remaining in the chamber,* {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- I informed the honorable member for Darling that he had been suspended from the service of the House. That was an intimation to the honorable member that he must leave the chamber. I ask the SerjeantatArms to take the necessary steps to give effect to the order of the House. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- I desire to say that I have- {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to speak. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- I merely desire to say- {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member is suspended, and must leave the chamber. {: .speaker-JPV} ##### Mr Blakeley: -- This is the first time I have been put out. If this Government {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- Order! The honorable member for Darling **(Mr. Blakeley)** withdrew from the chamber accompanied by the SerjeantatArms. *InCommittee:* {: .speaker-JWY} ##### The CHAIRMAN (Hon J M Chanter: -- The honorable member for Calare **(Mr. Lavelle)** stated that he was not conversant with the Standing Orders. He evidently was not. A motion had been made that I leave the chair and report progress. That had been defeated, and, under the Standing Orders, could not be moved again until a quarter of an hour had elapsed, and not even then if, in the opinion of the Chair, the motion was made for obstructive purposes. The honorable member for Calare then rose with another proposition, different in terms, but similar in effect, and I declined to take his motion, and asked him to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair, namely, the vote for the Treasury Department.. I hope that not only the honorable member for Calare, but all other honorable members, will study the dignity of the Chamber and themselves, and allow business to proceed in an orderly way. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- By way of personal explanation, I wish to make my position clear to the Chair and to honorable members. I took objection not so much to your ruling, **Mr. Chairman,** as to your statement that I had submitted my motion for the purpose of obstruction. I assure you and the Committee that that was not my reason. I wished to see justice done to the wheat-growers of Australia by taking steps to have honoured the promise made to them in the Prime Minister's speech at Bendigo. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- Order ! {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- The Prime Minister **(Mr. Hughes)** stated at Bendigo that the farmers would receive 5s. per bushel for their wheat at the railway sidings. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- I ask the honorable member not to proceed on those lines, but to address his remarks to the vote for the Treasury Department. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- I wish to assure you, sir, that I had no desire to delay the passing of the Estimates, but, considering that the wheat guarantee was a matter of more importance, I wished to discuss it in order to insure that the wheatgrowers should receive justice. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- Order ! {: #subdebate-1-1-s11 .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE:
Barrier .- Having listened to the speeches of various members on the itemsin the Treasury Department the thought occurs to me that the proceedings of this Chamber are becoming more farcical than ever. We have heard a motion of censure submitted, which the Government-- {: .speaker-JWY} ##### The CHAIRMAN (Hon J M Chanter: -- Order! The honorable member may not proceed on those lines. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- All right; I will say nothing about the no-confidence motion, but numerous motions have been moved from time to time in the House. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The honorable member may not discuss anything that took place in the House. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- If I may not discuss what took place in the House, I shall discuss what took place in Committee. Numerous motions have been moved in Committee which the Government, according to the state of their health, or the atmospheric pressure, or some less important circumstance, ignored, and, for all practical purposes, wiped off the businesspaper. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- Will the honorable member confine his remarks to the question before the Chair? {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The question before the Committee prevents us from dealing with another important question vitally affecting the Treasury. Instead, the time of the Committee is occupied with speeches such as those of the honorable member for Wilmot **(Mr. Atkinson),** whois very much concerned' about the- maternity allowance. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- I did not say a word about it. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The honorablemember and others like him are very much concerned about matters connected with matrimony and oldrage pensions. I have noticed that most of the- discussion on the Estimates is by honorable members who profess themselves anxious for economy, and to test the feeling of the Committee in regard to the reduction of the Estimates. Yet the fact stares us in the face that honorable members on the Ministerial side have the power to do things which they complain have not been done. That applies especially to the honorable member for Wilmot. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- Order! The honorable member may not discuss the motives of other honorable members. I. again ask himto address himself to the question before the Chair. Mr.CONSIDINE.- I said nothing about the motives of any honorable member. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The honorable member was discussing other honorable members, and not the question before the Chair.. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- I was discussing the arguments which the honorable member for Wilmot has submitted to the Committee. He has criticised certain actions of the party which, he supports. He finds fault with the Government for leaving undone those things which they should do, particularly in connexion with old-age pensions. He advocated a course of action which he claims would have a beneficial effect. It is characteristic of honorable members who sit on the Government side to "beat, the air" with speeches of that description, while they retain in power a party which is responsible for the things of which they complain. {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- The honorable member is again transgressing, and once more I ask him to confine himself to the question before the Chair. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The question before the Chair is the vote for the Treasury, and the honorable member for Wilmot was allowed without being called to order to discuss, the question of old-age pensions. If I may not discuss the items, which the honorable member was permitted to. discuss.- {: .speaker-10000} ##### The CHAIRMAN: -- I have not prevented the honorable member from discussing old-age pensions. I have asked him to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair, which is the vote for the Treasury Department.. The honorable member will' be in order in referring to old-age pensions; {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -That is all right. The honorable member for Wilmot mentioned his desire to increase the old-age pensions, and to introduce a contributory scheme, presumably in connexion with a general- pensions system. But- the honorable member and most of those on the Government side who have voiced these sentiments believe in a contributory scheme for the workers, but make no such suggestion in regard to pensions for high officials like the late Chief Justice, **Sir Samuel** Griffith. It is then a question of rushing, a Bill through for the express purpose, of giving some high-salaried official, who- has had a good time for a considerable period at a high salary, a retiring allowance equivalent to half his salary; 'but when it comes to the working classes, the honorable member suggests that they should, be forced to contribute something, notwithstanding, that they have given the best years of their lives to the building up of the industries and the wealth of this country. I am satisfied that he will get no support from the working men and women of the Commonwealth for any pensions scheme on a contributory basis. The honorable member, in his attempt to criticise the Government on this matter- {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- I was not attempting any criticism.- I. was merely asking if they were going on with the scheme. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The honorable member knows quite well that the present pensions scheme is not based upon a recognition of the right of the men and women, who have given the best years of their lives in the interests of this country, to a subsistence after they are incapable of carrying on as individuals in the community. He knows quite well that,, if a man is in receipt of a pension and his wife endeavours to supplement it by outside work, the pension allowance is reduced to that extent. {: .speaker-JUV} ##### Mr McWilliams: -- That is the rotten part of it. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- Yes; but why go on talking pious platitudes about our pensions scheme and the German scheme ? Honorable members opposite have the remedy in their own hands. They have the numbers, and they could alter the law to-morrow if they wanted to do so. {: .speaker-K0A} ##### Mr Gabb: -- But they are not going to do it. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -Of course they are not. They know that, if they do, they will lose the support of those people who are behind them at the present time. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- The worst of you people over there is that you always have one eye on the constituents. Even the honorable member is in the same position. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The honorable member is not quite correct. I have both eyes on my constituents. If it is any crime to look after their interests, then I plead guilty. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- It is not the interests of your constituents that you are looking after; {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- I can quite understand why the honorable member cannot see this matter from my viewpoint. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- Thank Heaven, I cannot ! {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- Naturally, he is incapable of understanding anyreasonable argument, and, therefore, I cannot blame him. He and other honorable members opposite are simply beating the air and occupying the time of Parliament in criticising the Government. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- Who has been criticising the Government? I merely asked a question. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- It is not the first occasion on which the honorable member has occupied the time of the House over this question of the maternity bonus and the old-age pensions. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- And probably will not be the last time. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The honorable member has not yet explained why he is so much opposed to the payment of a maternity allowance, although on several occasions he has taken up the time of. the Committee in endeavouring to advance reasons why it should be discontinued. He would be much more in touch with the requirements of the people outside, and especially the working classes, if he occupied himself with urging upon his party and the Government the wisdom of materially increasing these allowances. The honorable member, in common with other honorable members on the other side, mildly criticises the Government, but still allows them to go on. He cannot get away from the fact that he looks at these matters from a different social stand-point. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- You are wrong. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- If I am wrong, why does not the honorable member show in what respect I am wrong? He cannot get away from the fact that this scheme is not intended to apply to certain people who have been favoured by chance, or birth, or position, whatever it may be; it is only intended to be applied to the useful section of society. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr Atkinson: -- What scheme are you referring to? {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The old-age pensions scheme. Some time back, the honorable member dealt with the existing law and the social insurance scheme in Germany; but, if he had really studied German industrial insurance, he would have known that it is not on a contributory basis, or, at all events, it was not on that basis before the war. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- Oh, yes, it is. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The honorable member is wrong. The industrial insurance law of Germany compelled the employers to form associations and penalize one another in case of accidents. In other words, they made it unprofitable for accidents to occur in any particular industry. If we are to have any alteration in our existing law, I shall favour the non-contributory pensions scheme, because I hold that the men and women who are building up the industries of the Commonwealth are contributing every day of their lives. Honorable members smile sometimes when I rise to speak about Soviet Russia, but I tell them that Soviet Russia is ahead of Germany in regard to this particular matter, and they can, if they like, obtain full information from the official papers available to them in Melbourne. I have read some extracts from them myself. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -But how do they pay? In paper money? {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The honorable member can look up *Hansard* for his information. I have quoted the figures. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Is it quite a fair thing to discuss a question' like this on the Estimates ? What good will it do ? {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -Why did not the Minister pull his own men down when they were speaking? {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I wish I could. I would like to pull you down. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The Minister has the matter in his own hands. He should discipline his own supporters. They were allowed to discuss these matters. The Treasurer knows quite well that the present pensions scheme is a disgrace to Australia, and should not be maintained. I am sure he agrees that it calls for radical improvement. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I think so. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- I am glad to have this admission from the Minister. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I have said so before, and I have been " banged " all over the country by your side for saying so. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- I know of no adverse criticism by this side in regard to any endeavour to increase the old-age or invalid pensions. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I am strongly in favour of a contributory scheme of national insurance, so that everybody could claim a pension as a right. If any one wants my opinion, there it is in a nutshell. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The Treasurer said just a while ago that he agreed with me, but now he says he favours a contributory scheme for national insurance. I believe in a non-contributory scheme for social insurance. The Treasurer, as one of the most important Ministers in the Cabinet, can at least use his influence to see that injustices which occur in connexion with the existing pensions scheme are remedied. I mentioned one injustice a few minutes ago when I pointed out that, if the wife of an old-age pensioner is obliged, by economic necessity, to sup plement the income, the pension allowance is reduced by the amount she earns. Surely the Treasurer does not contend that he is powerless to remedy this injustice ? {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I am, under the law. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- Then why does not the Treasurer take steps to alter the law? He has the numbers. We are all too painfully aware of this fact from time to time. I am sure the Treasurer is as anxious-- {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- But have you not heard that there is an Economy party in this House? {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- I have not seen much evidence of it at all events, from the Minister's side. Whenever I have complained to the Deputy Commissioner I have been told that the Act prevents what I would like to have done, and, no doubt, the officers are bound by its provisions but the Ministry and their supporters could remedy the present injustice by means of a short measure. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Whenever a short Bill is introduced, members' opposite tack to it a whole series of new proposals. I introduced the Notes Bill the other day, and the honorable member for Werriwa **(Mr. Lazzarini)** tried to tack to it provisions for a huge banking system of an entirely new character. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The Treasurer knows that if he wished to end the injustice of which I complain, he could do so, and that his proposal would not meet with any obstacle on this side of the chamber. His difficulties would be with his own followers. The answer to appeals such as I am making for an alteration of the law is always that there is not sufficient money. But money can be found for other things. Taxation can be increased and loans can be floated to provide means for other expenditure, yet not for the betterment of the social conditions of the people. When it comes to-- {: .speaker-K4M} ##### Mr ROBERT COOK:
INDI, VICTORIA · VFU; CP from 1920 -- Building the Federal Capital. {: .speaker-K4F} ##### Mr CONSIDINE: -- The Federal Capital is of little concern to the working men and women of this country, because few of them will ever go there. The honorable memberbelongs to the Economy party. When it is a question of increasing the old-age pensions and bettering social conditions, the cry is, " We must economize"; but there talk of - economy when it is a question of taking part in materialistic wars, involving the sacrifice of life, and the maiming of hundreds of thousands, with a consequent huge debt. Then the man who talks economy is branded as a traitor and disloyalist. I am glad that, as their intelligence grows, and their grasp of the real state of affairs in society becomes firmer, the people of this country are becoming more and more discontented, and I hope that, eventually, whatever Government may be in power, it will be forced to give the old-age pensioners much more than the paltry pittance which I am now endeavouring to get from the Treasurer. I ask the right honorable gentleman if he will give the assurance that a short measure for the amendment of the law will be introduced? He is silent. He will not promise that the injustices to which I have referred shall be remedied. {: #subdebate-1-1-s12 .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- I have been waiting for the economists, who profess to be able to show what items could be reduced, to take part in this debate; but, apparently, the Leader of the Country party **(Mr. Mcwilliams)** was right when he said that the only way of dealing with the Estimates, with a view to obtaining more economic administration, was to move to reduce them as a whole by a lump sum. {: .speaker-JOS} ##### Mr Bell: -- There is not much chance of doing anything to-night. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- The honorable member for Barrier **(Mr. Considine)** has just referred to the discontent amongst the industrialists; there will also be much discontent amongst the taxpayer') when they realize that some representatives of the people consider, when the Estimates are before them, that the only thing that matters is to get the business done so that they may leave here at halfpast 10 o'clock at night. I represent a district where in only one out of ' four years have the pastoralists, farmers, and cane-growers got anything from their enterprise, but they have been hit up by the war-times profits taxation to such an extent that practically everything they have made has been taken from them. The Treasurer regrets that next year he will not be able to continue that taxation. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I have not made any such monstrous statement, nor have I thought such a thing. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- What proposal has the right honorable gentleman to make regarding the taxation of pastoralists and agriculturists? The experience of our producers should make it patent to the meanest intelligence that, as the honorable member for Robertson **(Mr. Fleming)** has pointed out, the only fair way of levying taxation on them is to average their returns over a number of years; yet excuses are continually being made for delaying the introduction of that system. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- No. A system of averaging is to be adopted, and the honorable member's talking will not further its adoption, because everything is being done that can be done. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- Why is the system being postponed for so long? The primary producer is the only person in the community who is taxed twice. {: .speaker-KFC} ##### Mr Fleming: -- Now that the matter is to be remedied, why complain? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- Because we have received no definite' assurance on the subject. {: .speaker-L0H} ##### Mr Ryan: -- The honorable member is suggesting that Ministers are humbugging. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- So it seems to me. A Commission has been promised, but the matter should have been settled straight off. I should like an assurance from the Treasurer now that before income returns have next to be furnished under the State law, arrangements will be made to prevent the duplication of Federal and State returns. Every country representative and every city member who feels that the residents of the country should not be harassed almost beyond endurance, should take up these matters. Many of the men on the land, who have not had a very great education, tell me that what worries them is not so much the payment of these exorbitant taxes as the extreme care they have to exercise in making their returns, and the fact that, after putting in their returns, they get letter after letter from the Income Tax Commissioner suggesting that they have falsified them. {: .speaker-K0A} ##### Mr Gabb: -- I call attention to the state of the Committee. *[Quorum* {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- What is needed is a common-sense and practical method of dealing with the question of stock. As the honorable member for Robertson **(Mr. Fleming)** said, the question should be one of receipts and expenditure. No one but the dairy farmer, or the sheep man, is taxed both on his capital and the product of his capital. A dairy cow, which is really capital, is put down as income at £6 in New South Wales, and £3 in Queensland, simply because the farmer has to include it as part of his income. The butter which is produced from the cow is charged up as income also. The calves are also charged up as income. A sheep is put down at £1 in New South Wales, and 10s. in Queensland and the wool has to be returned as income for taxation purposes in addition. Capital and income are taxed on every possible occasion. When a drought comes the stock, which has been taxed as income, dies, after costing, probably, hundreds of pounds in an effort to keep it alive. The owner has already paid income tax on it for the previous year, but he is given no rebate. The time has come to stop that state of affairs. It needs no Commission to inform the House, or the Government, or the Income Tax Commissioner, that this thing ought to be stopped. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I am sure you could do it at once, although those who have been devoting all their lives to it find it a most difficult thing to deal with. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- I am in the unfortunate position of holding stock, and I find that in the years when I make losses I have to pay income tax, simply because I happen to have a few calves, where the year before I had a lot of breeding cows, although the value of my stock is hundreds of pounds less. That is not a fair system. It is not applied to men in the city. Those in the city with regular incomes pay infinitely less in income tax than men in the country. On top of that the Government impose a war-time profits tax, which has almost ruined many pastoralists, and has been a scandal and disgrace in its effects on the producing community. {: .speaker-K6S} ##### Mr Corser: -- The city man makes bad debts. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- But he can put them in as an off-set in his income tax return. It is his actual turnover that he has to deal with. In the cases I have been speaking of, there is no turnover at all. The cost of the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board is put down this year at £1,520. Last year it cost £11,950 to run. The total estimate last year was only £150, but the expenditure reached thefigure I have just stated. Cutting down the estimated cost this year to £1,520 is an instance of economy in the wrong place. It is scarcely possible for the work of a Board which is going to be of any value to the Commonwealth Department, in view of the high turnover involved, to be handled for £1,520. It has to co-ordinate all tenders and departmental activities. It must be composed of active and practical men. It would be the best expenditure in the whole Budget to make it a Board of such calibre that it could be trusted to buy largely and thus save millions. The wisest economy would be to increase the expenditure on it so . as to insure quick methods of dealing with big general problems, such as supplies of stationery, galvanized iron, tiles, wire, and so on. If the Board is not efficient, we are better without it. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- The item explains itself quite well. There was an advance last year for a Trust account, so as to put the Board in funds. Because of that big vote last year, a large amount is not required this year. It is not a matter of economy at all. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- I am simply asking for information. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- The information is in the Estimates ; it says " To provide temporary credit in Trust Fund, Commonwealth Stores Suspense Account, to be recovered." That is plain enough. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- I thank the right honorable gentleman for the information. It is notorious that the cost of living has increased, and its effect should be considered on the position of invalid and oldage pensioners. Many old-age pensioners have been eking out their receipts by a little extra work. Owing incidentally to the increase in the cost of living, the amount they have been able to earn has also gone up a little ; but because they are able to earn about £1 a week extra, their pensions automatically go down. That is simply putting a premium on indolence and loafing. I urge the Treasurer to revise the amount they are allowed to earn, and institute a sliding scale in accordance with the value of money and goods. Surely that is a fairly easy matter to arrange. It "has been suggested that it will cost millions. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- The statement has been made that to allow them to earn another 10s. a week would involve £750,000. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · FSU; CP from 1920 -- If people now enjoying pensions at a certain rate are allowed to earn a little more outside,I fail to see how that can affect the Budget in any way. I urge a reconsideration of the question. Another matter to which I desire to draw attention is that of the payment of the maternity allowance. In many instances, where the bonus is availed of, it is of no value; but in many others the monetary assistance proves of almost incalculable benefit. I plead that the bonus should be made available to certain women who, at the period of maternity, often have to undergo a great deal of hardship, and who are not now eligible to benefit by the allowance. I refer to the circumstances of women who happen to have been of alien parentage. There are in my electorate numbers of mothers of Syrian extraction. I am confident that their children will grow up as good Australian citizens as any others in the Commonwealth to-day, even though the parents happen to have come from that part of Syria, outside of Lebanon, which was originally French. The granting of the allowance may often mean all the difference in the matter of preparation, or lack of preparation, for maternity. {: #subdebate-1-1-s13 .speaker-L0H} ##### Mr RYAN:
West Sydney .- Upon this item honorable members might reasonably discuss the possibility of the Treasurer meriting the demand for the payment of a guarantee, in connexion with our wheat harvest, amounting to 5s. per bushel, at railway sidings. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Sit down! I cry *"peccavi."* {: .speaker-L0H} ##### Mr RYAN: -- Does the Treasurer give in? I assure him that this would be a very proper occasion to adopt the course I have suggested. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Sir JOSEPH COOK:
Treasurer · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- We are going to discuss that matter first thing to-morrow. {: .speaker-L0H} ##### Mr RYAN: -- I am glad to hear that, and I take it as an official assurance. , So far as I am aware, such a guarantee regarding the course of action projected for to-morrow had not been, to this moment, given the House. It must be obvious that a good deal of the feeling engendered this evening arose from the fact that honorable members had no assurance that the matter of the wheat guarantee would be discussed on the morrow. {: .speaker-KYD} ##### Mr Poynton: -- I talked with your Leader **(Mr. Tudor),** and he was quite satisfied on the point. {: .speaker-L0H} ##### Mr RYAN: -- At any rate, I did not hear any assurance given. There must have been some misunderstanding, and it is unfortunate that feeling should have been aroused when there was no need. This evening's display could have been avoided by the expression of a proper assurance at the right time. Progress reported. {: .page-start } page 5837 {:#debate-2} ### PAPERS The following papers were presented : - Defence Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 159, 160. Public Service Act - Promotion of J. F. B. Carroll, Postmaster-General's Department. {: .page-start } page 5837 {:#debate-3} ### ADJOURNMENT Motion (by **Sir Joseph** Cook) proposed - That theHouse do now adjourn. {: #debate-3-s0 .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr LAVELLE:
Calare .- The present moment being the first opportunity which I have had for bringing be for the House a matter which I would have liked to introduce at an earlier stage- {: .speaker-JX7} ##### Mr Austin Chapman: -- We ought to have a quorum. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr LAVELLE: -- The honorable member is only here about once in six months, and then only to talk about Canberra. {: .speaker-KZC} ##### Mr Hector Lamond: -- Tell the truth once in a while. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr LAVELLE: -- You never told the truth in your life. {: #debate-3-s1 .speaker-K99} ##### Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Elliot Johnson: -- Order! I ask the honorable member for Illawarra **(Mr. Hector Lamond)** to withdrawhis statement. {: .speaker-KZC} ##### Mr Hector Lamond: -- I withdraw, sir, but the statement of the honorable member for Calare **(Mr. Lavelle)** that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro **(Mr. Austin Chapman)** is, never here more than about once in six months, is not accurate. {: #debate-3-s2 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -Order! I am not concerned with the facts of the matter, but with safeguarding the procedure of this House. The honorable member must withdraw without any qualification. {: .speaker-KZC} ##### Mr Hector Lamond: -- I withdraw, unreservedly. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member for Calare must now withdraw his imputation. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- I withdraw, so far as the honorable member for Illawarra is concerned. As a matter of fact, I am rather sorry, sir, that you made him withdraw, for I am sure no one takes any notice of anything he says. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -Order! I am not concerned with that matter, but with the observance of procedure. {: .speaker-KZC} ##### Mr Hector Lamond: -- I ask that the honorable member for Calare withdraw his offensive remark. {: .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member will please withdraw the imputation which he has made against the honorable member for Illawarra. {: .speaker-KZU} ##### Mr Lavelle: -- If the honorable member considers my statement offensive, I will withdraw it. {: .speaker-JX7} ##### Mr Austin Chapman: -- I again call your attention, **Mr. Speaker,** to the state of the House. *A quorum not being present -* > **Mr. Speaker** adjourned the House at 10.16 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.