8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Navy been drawn to a leading article which recently appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and in which it was intimated that the Australian Navy might be scrapped, and all the Naval matters of the Empire handled from the Admiralty in London? If there is anything in the rumour, will the Minister give the House an opportunity to debate the proposal?
– My attention has been drawn to the article mentioned, and my reply is that the honorable member will find in the Estimates full provision for the maintenance of the Australian Navy.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read a cablegram from America denying that that country has “slammed the door” on Australian representation at the forthcoming Conference atWashington, and stating that it is intended to invite this country, through the Imperial Government, to be represented? If so, will the right honorable gentleman, to engender the goodfeeling which is needed to make the Conference a success, have conveyed to President Harding Australia’s appreciation of the invitation?
– It is usual, before expressing appreciation of an invitation, to await its arrival. If the invitation of which the honorable member has spoken is sent to us, it will be most welcome, and will be duly acknowledged.
– Can the Treasurer tell us when the full report of the Taxation Commission will be available, and whether the evidence taken by the Commission will be printed with it?
– At the moment, the intention is not to print the evidence; but the matter will be one for the House to consider. I regret that the report has not yet been received. As soon as it comes to hand, I shall be glad to make it available to honorable members.
Western Australian Inquiry
– I understand that a Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia is taking action to compel the attendance of an official of the Commonwealth Treasury to give evidence at an inquiry into the traffic in soldiers’ war bonds. Can the Treasurer say why his Department opposes the giving of evidence by this official ? Is the objection based on procedure or on principle?
– A Select Committee has been appointed by the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia to conduct an inquiry which will undoubtedly involve a review of the exercise of Federal functions. The State Legislature is, of course, perfectly entitled to do what it thinks fit in investigating the conduct of land agents and other operators within the State ; but, before it inquires into the operations of the Federal Government, there is a proper course to be taken, and that course has not been taken. What should have been done is this : The Premier of Western Australia should have communicated with the Prime Minister of. the Commonwealth asking that the attendance of Commonwealth officers at the inquiry might be permitted, and the production ofnecessary papers sanctioned. That course was not taken. The only communication we have had from the Premier of Western Australia is a telegram intimating that the Legislative Assembly of the State had ordered our officer to produce certain papers. Honorable members will see that that is not the way to proceed. But I say, firmly and decisively, that it is the desire of this Government to render every assistance in its power for the elucidation of matters such as that into which the Committee is inquiring; and I have, therefore, intimated to the chairman of the Committee, and to the Premier ofWestern Australia, through the Prime Minister, that I propose to despatch an officer from Melbourne on Friday next to assist our officer in Perth in making a full presentation of the case. We have no desire to refuse useful information; but we cannot be ordered by a State Government to produce information.
– I ask the Treasurer if it is true that the Government intend to follow the example of the Government of Queensland by floating a loan on the American money market?
– Unless I am careful in answering the question, I may get another avalanche of Fihelly on my head. He already resents what he terms my impertinence in this matter.
– You have no right to interfere.
– Quite so; and I have not interfered. I have merely expressed regret that it has been found necessary for a State to go outside the Empire for financial accommodation.
– Who brought it about? Who was the cause?
– I have not touched on the cause, and I have not criticised what has been done. I have merely expressed regret that Queensland has gone outside the Empire for financial accommodation, and that she has had to pay such an extraordinarily high price for it.
– You must be careful about that.
– I am being careful. I am sorry that Queensland has had to submit to the most extraordinary conditions that have ever surrounded the floating of an Australian loan. I do not intend to go beyond that remark. As to the intentions of this Government, we propose to go to the London market when we borrow. My reply to the question, “Shall we go on the American market?” is “ No.”
– Is the Treasurer aware that a considerable number of oldage pensioners have had their pensions suspended by the Pensions Department on the ground that they are in receipt of relief from the Government of New South Wales, and that that Government is refusing relief to them because they are Commonwealth pensioners? Will the honorable gentleman see that their pension rights are restored to them forthwith?
– I know nothing of the matter ; but if the honorable member will furnish particulars, I shall be glad to have an inquiry into them.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether he will submit a statement showing (a) the number of passengers carried on the East-West Railway for the six months ending 30th September, 1921, showing eastbound and westbound separately; (b) the total revenue earned during the same period?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Eastbound - 5,736.
Westbound - 5,545.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice- ls it a fact that Mr. Henry Lawson has done much by his writing to cultivate an Australian sentiment,- if so, will the Prime Minister increase the present allowance of£1 per week to at least some sum which will allow of Mr. Lawson living in comfort for the rest of his life?
– The merit of Mr. Henry Lawson’s literary work is fully recognised, but, as the maximum amount of assistance authorized to be. granted under the rules for the administration of the Literary Fund is £1 per week, and the amount of the vote, which is small, is almost fully allocated, it is regretted that the increase suggested by the honorable member cannot be granted.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– So far as is known, all taxesdue by importing firms under the various Taxation Acts have been recovered. If the honorable member has specific cases I shall be glad if he will let us have them.
Sanatorium and Clinic at Bendigo.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the Minister promised to establish a clinic at Bendigo for the purpose of investigating phthisis and tuberculosis, and also a sanatorium for the sufferers from these diseases; if so, when does the Prime Minister intend to honour those promises?
– The Prime Minister is at present in Bendigo, and while there is going into the matter of the establishment of a clinic in that city in connexion with phthisis and tuberculosis. Provision has already been made in the Estimates for the establishment of this clinic.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PrimeMinister, upon notice -
Whether he will afford the House an opportunity of discussing the question of the alteration of our system of representation in England before making any appointment to the vacant office of High Commissioner?
SirJOSEPH COOK. - I should beglad if the honorable member would postpone this question until the return of the Prime Minister to his place in the House - probably to-morrow.
The following papers werepresented: -
Public Service Act - Sixteenth Report on the Public Service, by the Acting Commissioner.
Railways - Uniform Railway Gauge - Report of the Royal Commission on the matter of.
Commonwealth Bank Act. - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 193.
Norfolk Island - Ordinance of 1921 - No. 2 - Executive Council (No. 2).
Ordered to beprinted.
– I wish to take a point of order in regard to procedure. My point is that there has disappeared from the notice-paper an Order of the Day, which should still properly be before the-
House, in regard to the Imperial Conference and other matters discussed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I may Bay at the outset that my point of order is not at all captious, but that I understand that many honorable members, in addition to myself, have been surprised at the sudden cessation of the debate on the Imperial Conference, and the way in which it petered out on Friday last. Having looked into the matter, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that there is at least one motion still before the House having reference to the speeches made by the right honorable gentleman regarding the Imperial. Conference and kindred subjects. The Prime Minister made three separate speeches, and concluded each with a motion. “ That the paper be printed.” The third pf these motions has undoubtedly been disposed of, but I contend that the other two have nqt been disposed of in accordance with the Standing Orders. The motion as put on Friday was as follows : -
Thatthe Ministerial statement re Imperial Conference (made on the 30th September) and certain resolutions (submitted on the oth October) bo printed.
By resolution of the House it was agreed that the debate on the three statements made by the Prime Minister should be taken together, but there was nothing in that resolution to indicate that the motions were to be dealt with in the form in which they were put to the House on Friday afternoon. I respectfully suggest, therefore, that the matter of the Imperial Conference is still before the House.
– The only motions relating to Ministerial statements which appeared on the business-paper as Orders of the Day to be dealt with on Friday last were, “No. 1, Ministerial statement as to Washington Conference re disarmament,” &c, which, together with certain amendments, was put and disposed of, and Order of the Day No. 2, which was a motion for the printing of a paper and certain resolutions. When I called upon the honorable member who on the previous date had secured the adjournmentof the debate on that motion he rose in his place and said that it was not his intention to continue No other honorable member. Having risen to get the call from the Speaker, as in duty bound, I put the motion to the House, and it was passed. So far as the question of procedure is concerned, I think it well to explain that the only matters that I have before me are those set out on the business-paper, and that it is for the Government to arrange its business as it thinks fit. Speaking, however, from recollection and subject to correction, my impression is that, although the Prime Minister made two separate statements, he desired that they should be covered by the one motion. That is how I and the officers of the House understood the position, and that is ‘how the business was set down on the noticepaper as printed. In any case, it would be too late now to raise a point of order in regard to this matter. The time to raise it was when the matter was before the House.
War Pensions - Coal Trade ExportEmbargo - Company Taxation - Reportof Taxation Commission - Balance-sheets of Government Industrial Enterprises - “ Contingencies “ Expenditure - Operation ofNavigation Act - Importation and Local Manufacture of Confectionery Machinery - Dismissal of Post OfficeEmployee - Maintenance of Soldiers in Military Hospitals - Cockatoo Island : Leasing of “ Biloela “ : Case of Sheiles : Victimization- War Gratuity Bonps - Naval and Military Offences - Trade Restrictions - War Service Homes - Telephone Administration - Vocational Training Schools in Country Towns - Cashing of War Gratuity Bonds - Australian State Borrowing in America - Men of Letters Fund: Henry Lawson - Northern Territory : Administration of Justice : Representation.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1921- 22 a sum not exceeding £1,997,262.
Honorable members are aware that this is a Supply Bill for one month only. I know of nothing in it that is of a contentious character, but if there be any votes that need explanation I shall be glad to give it. The total sum asked for is £1,997,262. The amount now asked for, together with the amounts granted in the two Supply Bills already passed provides for the expenditure to the end of October. Provision is made for salaries payable on the 14th and 28th October. The position in regard to supply is as follows: - The total of the three Bills aggregates £9,618,065. There are special payments which should be deducted from that sum before one arrives at the ordinary normal expenditure forecast and recognised in the Supply Bill. For instance, there is an. item of £1,319,881 for interest and sinking fund payable to the British Government, and included in the last Supply Bill. Then there is the Treasurer’s Advance of £1,500,000, and arrears of overseas mails payments amounting to £200,000. These amount to £3,019,881, and if we deduct that from the £9,618,065, we have, net, £6,598,184 for the four months of the year. One-third of the annual votes for 1920-21,’ other than the special votes for Treasurer’s Advance, and interest and sinking fund due to the British Government, is £8,024,185. “ Therefore, so far as the ordinary services are concerned, this Supply Bill gives a total which is less by £1,426,101 than for the similar period in last year’s votes. The interest and sinking fund payments referred to were included in the Supply Bill No. 2, and were payable on the 30th September under the funding arrangement, which has already been presented to Parliament. The £200,000 for overseas mails was included in the first Supply Bill, and represents arrears due to the British Government in respect of mail services during the year. The present Supply Bill includes provision for four months’ expenditure on a number of relatively small items. The expenditure to date under these heads has been temporarily charged to the Treasurer’s Advance, but is now included, in Supply in order that the Treasurer’s Advance may be recouped. Apart from these items, the Supply covers the usual month’s requirements, except in a few cases where the expenditure under the vote is not payable in regular amounts each month. Sometimes we have amounts that cannot be divided into twelve monthly parts, and then the rule is to take, sa)’, & quarter or a half year as the payment has to be made. That is the case, for instance, with the pay- ment of £53,115 which is included in this Bill as payment to the South Australian Government to make good the loss on working the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta Railway. This amount is payable on the 15th October, and if it is not paid then interest will be charged until ‘the. date of payment. This arrangement is in accordance with the agreement with South Australia, which provides for the payment of the loss within one month from the date of the presentation of the balance-sheet. That is why this item is included in this Bill, under the arrangement we have with the South Australian Government. Whether the arrangement is satisfactory or not does not very much matter now; we have to pay our debt in this respect.
The Supply Bill includes several amounts under the heading of war services for the settlement of old war accounts. When we reach the Estimates honorable members will find that we are still paying war obligations. The other day I saw that a. gentleman had been writing to the newspapers and asking whether the Treasurer had forgotten that the war is over. There is no danger of the Treasurer forgetting any such salient fact. The war is over, but payments on account of the war are not, and will not be for some time to come.
– Is the expenditure, under the old war accounts recurring ?
– No, I am glad to say. This Supply Bill has been kept down to purely ‘ ‘ carry -on “ votes, and I commend it “to the Committee in the hope that it will be passed as early as possible.
.- In view of the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that this is a Supply Bill covering only the requirements of administration in regard to the payment of the public servants, old-age and invalid pensions, soldiers’ pensions, and so forth, and that it must be passed before the end of the week, I do not intend to deal with it at any great length, but to reserve my remarks for Wednesday next, when the Budget will be before us. It is very- evident that the Treasurer is endeavouring to keep within the proportion of the annual estimated expenditure, inasmuch as he states that for the four months that have expired the expenditure is £1,400,000 less than the proportion esti- mated. I am glad in one way to know that that is so. I hope that the right honorable gentleman is keeping a careful eye on the Defence expenditure, in which I include the expenditure on the Navy, and even on the Air Service, and that he will see that there is no additional expenditure until the House has had an opportunity to express its views.
I desire to take this opportunity to deal with one or two matters. I have, as honorable members know, on very many occasions brought under their notice the treatment extended to returned soldiers in connexion with their war pensions. I am sorry to say, however, that my efforts in this direction1 have met with little or no success. It would appear possible to show here that these men are having their pensions cancelled or considerably reduced, and to get a promise that the cases will be investigated j but that seems to be* as far as one can get. Not that the promise has not been carried out; it has been carried out in every specific case in respect of which the Minister has asked for particulars. But it appears that the doctor to whom the matter is referred is the same as he who originally advised the cancellation or reduction of the pensions. There is no re-investigation by an independent person. Up till October of last year we had very little trouble in regard to soldiers’ pensions. On men returning from the Front they were examined by departmental officers, who decided whether they were wholly or partially incapacitated by war service, ‘and pensions were granted or refused accordingly. Last October another medical officer was appointed in New South Wales - I speak particularly of that State - who reviewed all the pensions then in existence, and reported that many of the pensioners were not suffering disability on account of warlike operations. I again urge a point, which I have often stressed previously, viz., that if ‘a man was accepted by the Government as fit for active service, was sent abroad,’ and returned partially or wholly incapacitated, surely we are in duty bound to see that he gets a pension.
– That is my contention.
– The Department should be prevented from, denying that liability.
– Yes. I have mentioned individual cases, often only to find that they have been referred back to the same officer who originally recommended the stoppage of their pensions, and whilst he does not deny that the men are incapacitated, he says that the incapacity is not due to warlike operations. I know men who are earning only half what they earned before they went to the war, and others who are earning nothing at ‘all; but their pensions have been interfered with. Parliament never intended that. It is all very well to practise economy; but it should not be practised ait the expense of men who sacrificed everything for us during the war. I contend that an independent medical officer should be appointed to re-examine these cases which are the subject of complaint. What is required is a local Medical Board before which these dissatisfied soldiers could appear, so that an independent decision, might be given as to whether or not their incapacity has resulted from warlike operations. I thought something like that had been done, but in reply to a question the Minister informed me recently that no additional medical officers had been appointed. Yet letters which I have received in reference to two cases refer to the applicants having been examined by a travelling Medical Board. If no additional medical officers have been appointed since October last, what is the’ travelling Medical Board ? It is time that the House was informed exactly in regard to this very serious matter, which is causing heart burnings in some quarters. There are men who, because of their treatment since their return, are sorry they went to the war. Any man who has a family, and who is even partially incapacitated should be provided for by the Government. I could quote instances of men who are eager to work, and who have endeavoured to follow employment, only to find that in consequence of the disabilities they suffer through having gone to the war they are unable to do so, and they are without any income at all. I ask that the matter be given more consideration, and shall not be satisfied with a promise that the Minister will refer ft back to the Repatriation Department, because the Department will only pass it on to the medical officer who first reported, and who naturally will adhere to1 his earlier decision. These pensioners should have the right to appeal to an independent Tribunal. I hope this is the last time I shall have to make this, appeal.
– All we desire to do is to make it clear that the Department must accept responsibility for the men it sent away.
– Exactly. Any man whose services were accepted must have been hale and hearty at the time he enlisted.
– That does not follow.
– Surely if the Government appoint medical men to examine persons who offer for military service, they must accept the responsibility for what those officers do.
– In that sense, yes.
– I am glad that the Treasurer agrees with that. If we appoint men to responsible positions the Government and the Parliament are answerable for their acts.
– Unless it can be proved that there was a grievous suppression of facts by the soldier when he enlisted.
– Quite so; but if a man was accepted as medically fit to go to the Front and he returned from abroad, incapacitated, no matter in what way, surely his incapacity is due to warlike operations. But it appears that, in the opinion of some medical officers, a man was not incapacitated by warlike operations unless he was hit by a bullet or a shell. There are men incapacitated through warlike operations who perhaps never saw the firing line.
– If the 300,000 men who were passed as fit had remained in Australia and had never gone to the war, there would still be some thousands of men who would be incapacitated by now.
– I am referring to men who went overseas.
– Even if they went overseas on a holiday, when no war waa in progress, thousands of them would become incapacitated. I ask the honorable member to recognise’ that, although I am not opposed to these applicants.
– Of course, if it could be shown that a man deliberately shirked his duty, his claim would be vitiated.
– I am. not suggesting that; but there are thousands whose incapacity is- not due to- warlike operations, aud only the doctors can decide that.
– Suppose a man returned with rheumatism?
– I hope the Assistant Minister does not infer that if a man was crippled by rheumatism during active service his incapacity was not due to warlike operations. There are hundreds of such cases, and they should be provided for. Every man who was accepted for active service overseas, and subsequently came back genuinely incapacitated, should receive a pension according to the extent of his incapacity. If he is totally incapacitated he should get the full pension provided by the Act. The present method of administering the War Pensions Act is unsatisfactory. Hundreds of returned soldiers have been denied pensions, or have had them cancelled or reduced from the amounts they were entitled to receive. I do not say that a man who is .not entitled to a pension should be given one, but I claim that we ought to do justice to those who should legitimately receive pensions or sustenance from the Repatriation Department.
Speaking at Bendigo yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) reiterated the advice he gave prior to his departure for England. He said that the only way in which Australia could improve its position financially and provide more employment for its people was for every one to produce more. It is advantageous to any country to produce in plenty. For one thing, it means providing- a great deal of employment; but the Government are open to the charge that they have assisted in reducing avenues of employment. Some months ago I pointed out to the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), both inside and outside the chamber, that there would be trouble in connexion with the. coal mining industry. Since the war, new collieries have been opened and old collieries have been increasing their output. The men have been working as hard as human beings can work. Production has increased to such an- extent that last year ‘s output was a record, and this year, notwithstanding the fact that there are large numbers of coal- miners unemployed, the export of coal for the past nine months has exceeded the export for the same period last year by 700,000 tons! While the war was- in progress, the Commonwealth Government had control of coal.
– As we have now accumulated stocks in the southern ports, we have not the leeway to make up which we had last year.
– That only accentuates what I am about to say. When the Commonwealth Government were exercising control over coal, steps were taken to strengthen the embargo upon its export by prohibiting the proprietors of Bore Hole mines from shipping any of their output to overseas markets on the ground that the fuel was required in Australia.
– It was on the ground of giving greater equity and justice as between the Bore Hole proprietors and the Maitland proprietors.
– At that time practically the whole of the output from the Maitland seam was commandeered for Australian purposes.
– Yes ; and the Maitland proprietors objected. They said, “ Why should our coal be commandeered and sold at a rate which is cheaper than the price which the Bore Hole proprietors can get for export?”
– When the embargo was thus extended, stocks of coal were being built up in the other States, and there was every likelihood of the demand being lessened. I do not think that the officer on whose advice the embargo was extended knew much about the coal mining business before he received his appointment, otherwise I am sure he would not have made such a recommendation. The immediate effect of it was to prevent the Bore Hole proprietors from chartering vessels. They found that there was no profit in chartering a boat with no guarantee that it would not be laid up at Newcastle for weeks or months, subjecting them to very heavy demurrage charges. The consequence of the cessation of chartering was that the markets for our coal in the East were lost. Owing to the scarcity of coal throughout the world at that time, it was essential for those Eastern countries to get our coal, but when the Newcastle proprietors were unable to export, they had to lose their contracts with other countries. In one case, a contract to supply 100,000 tons of coal to the Philippines for naval purposes was lost, and went to Japan. At any rate, the general effect of the exten sion of the embargo was to considerably interfere with our foreign coal trade, and ever since the Bore Hole mines have been working only intermittently. One mine worked one day for one fortnight, five days in the next fortnight, and four days in the next, and during this last fortnight has not turned a wheel. How can the men employed in these mines live in such circumstances ? Meantime the Maitland proprietors, who were so solicitous to get the embargo extended, have been working regularly, because they have command of the Inter-State trade.
– How do your statements coincide with your figures, when you say that this year the export of coal has exceeded last year’s export by 700,000 tons?
– I am endeavouring to show that, because of the increased output brought about by the men employed in the mines and by the colliery owners themselves, no steps should have been taken to curtail Australia’s overseas markets. I have no desire to appeal to the Government, as I did on a previous occasion, to do something to relieve distress in the Newcastle district occasioned by the stagnation in the industry owing to the Government’s action, but it will be a considerable time before we can pick up our overseas trade again. Some of it we will never recover. We can ill afford to lose it, and ought to take every step possible to increase it. I told the Treasurer, before the House adjourned a month ago, that Australia would have a surplus of 1,500,000 tons of coal above local requirements, but there is no one to buy it from us.
– How can the honorable member say that, when he has already shown that the export this year has exceeded last year’s export by 700,000 tons? His statements are contradictory.
– No. The fact that our export has so increased only serves to prove that we have lived up to the Government’s request, and produced as much coal as we could; but the Government are to blame for having cut away our opportunity for getting rid of our surplus.
– How does the production this year compare with the best of previous years?
– So far as I can say at the moment, there will .be an increase. Last year was a record year, and this year, so far, is beating it. I do not know what may happen in the next three months, because we are not putting away as much coal as we were, and there may be a falling off.
– Is not the real trouble due to the fact that you are not sending away as much coal now because the price of coal all over the world has come down, while the price of your coal has not done so ?
– The Treasurer asks mo if the present position is not due to the high price of coal.
– No ; I said that the price of coal has fallen elsewhere.
– I believe that, so far as’ Great Britain is concerned, the price of coal has fallen.
– By more than half.
– Great Britain never sent much coal to the ports to which Australia sent it, though she may be sending some there to-day. Japan, which has always been a competitor with Australia in the Eastern coal markets, has during the last two or three months got a better foothold, because of the Commonwealth Government restrictions at Newcastle.
– Do you not think that the rates of freight may have had something to do with it, too ?
– Possibly. A number of things may have had to do with the creation of the present position. The embargo, however, interfered with chartering.
– It was taken off almost immediately.
– The embargo was on only a few weeks, hut during that time chartering ceased, and the Japanese rushed in and took orders. I do not wholly blame the embargo for the present position, but it considerably interfered with, chartering, and prevented us from keeping up our connexion with certain ports.
– I agree that Government control of industry is a bad thing.
– It may be a good tiling if properly worked. I do not wish to reflect on the officer at Newcastle, but men who have spent a life-time there say that he probably had not sufficient experience of the coal trade, and that no one could properly advise the Government unless well acquainted with the trade before the war. This officer, I am told, was in business in Townsville before joining the Navy, and after a short time in the Navy was appointed to the Newcastle post. It is a pity that an embargo was placed on the Newcastle coal trade, because it has interfered with the prosperity of the district.
These are real grievances. I wish to see everything done to give justice to the returned soldiers. I pledged my word that they would be properly treated, and I wish to do my part in securing proper treatment for them.
.- I do not intend to discuss the Budget, but there are one or ,two matters to which I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer. For many years now we have been distinctly and definitely promised by the Government that balance-sheets drawn on commercial lines would be presented to Parliament in each financial year, to show the working of the business’ activities of the Commonwealth”; but so far no such balance-sheets have been submitted to us. Information of the kind to which I refer is specially needed now that the Government has embarked in the shipping business, and is expending such large sums of money in it. Parliament is justified in demanding the fullest information regarding all the business activities of the Government. Personally, I do not wish for Government interference with private industry. Governments can foster and maintain industries by giving subsidies when necessary, but the interference about which I am speaking is not beneficial. I have just returned from a visit to the north-west of “Western Australia. Every member of this Parliament desires that this continent shall be populated. Unless we develop and fill our empty spaces it will be impossible for us to retain our Territory. We cannot hold idle millions of square miles of country. But when population goes into remote districts, both the ‘Commonwealth and the State Governments should endeavour to bring it into direct touch with the markets of the world. Yet some time ago the
Government pf Western Australia embarked in the shipping business, with the result that, whereas before the war it cost from 35s. to 37s. per head to send cattle from Derby to Fremantle, it now costs £6 10s. per head on the State steamers, and £5 10s. per head on the private steamers which trade between Singapore and Western Australia. Recently, I was informed by a large pastoralist that two and a half months ago he was £200 out of pocket by sending 500 head of cattle from Derby to Fremantle, the charges he had to meet, including freight, amounting to £S 12s. per head. He lost over 500 head of cattle, and was £200 out of pocket as well. Others have assured me that it has cost them as much as £8 15s. per head to send cattle over this route. That is one instance of the. result of Government interference with private industry. This Government has been asked what it intends to do in regard to Vestey Brothers, and the question prompts me to draw attention to the Western Australian Government Meat Works at Wyndham. The Government of Western Australia has spent something like £1,200,000, including accumulated interest, on meat works at Wyndham, and further expenditure will be needed before there is sufficient storage capacity to provide a full load for any steamer that may go to Wyndham. The working losses there during last year were no less than £63.000.
– Without interest ?
– Yes. A case like that should make us thoughtful. Then we have the report on the operations at the Cockatoo Island Dock. The loss suffered by the public through the want of. proper supervision there was very large: but things must be much worse when Government money is being expended in remote districts. I hope that the Treasurer will tell us that the most complete information will be available as to the working of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and other Commonwealth Government enterprises.
Questions have been asked concerning the taxation of certain companies. In 1915 it became apparent to the Government that a special examination should be made of the transactions of certain companies, and an amendment of the law was made. The Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Oil Company do most of the oil business of Australia. I understand that the former have about one-third of that business, and has paid a large sum in income taxation, whereas the latter, which has two-thirds of the business, has shown a loss on its Australian transactions. We know that it is a pup of a big combination, that it is a member of a huge Combine, of the ramifications of which I have a statement. The Income Tax Assessment Act of 1914 empowered the Commissioner, if he were not satisfied with the returns submitted to him on behalf of a company, to charge 5 per cent, on the company’s business. That provision was repealed; I do not know why. These matters have been brought before the Department of the AttorneyGeneral, and especially before Sir Robert Garran some years ago. His attention has been directed to a method of doing business which seems intended to evade income taxation. .1 hope that die Treasurer will be able to tell us later what attitude the Government intend to adopt on this matter.
I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in what, hesaid about repatriation and pensions. I have had brought before me recently one of the worst pension cases that has comeunder my notice. I? knew the man concerned years ago, on the gold-fields of.’ Western Australia, when he was a prospector. In the early days he applied, for a reward for the discovery of a goldfield. When war broke out he enlisted,, although a married man with five children. I do not think he got into the fighting line, but he was sent away from: Australia, and returned practically demented. When I saw him he was almost, in convulsions, and a pitiable case. He was granted a pension, and, later, application was made for a permanent pension at the highest rate. The doctors were sure that they could cure him, and it was advised that he should enter a hospital for medical treatment. But, being almost insane, he was fearful of the doctors, and’ declined to go into a hospital. When I was in Perth a medical man told me that the Department were considering the advisability of stopping his pension to compel him to do so, though the Department says to-day that that is not correct. Thecorrespondence that I have seen proves. that it waa the intention of the Government to force the man into a hospital. I have here a letter from the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), in which, writing under date 1st November, 1920, in regard to the claim for a special rate of pension for this man, he said -
I have to advise that the Chairman of the Commission, whilst in Western Australia, arranged for a special medical examination of this applicant. Though to a layman it would appear that Mr.- is severely incapacitated, the medical officers state that he is not totally and permanently incapacitated, but are certain that he can be cured. The medical officers recommend that he be admitted to the Fremantle Hospital to undergo the necessary treatment to this end.
This man was obsessed with the idea that the doctors would only do him injury, and he declined at the time to undergo the desired treatment. On 10th November last the Assistant Minister for Repatriation wrote a further letter, in which he said -
The examination to which I referred in my previous letter was carried out by an expert physician on such cases, and I may add the Chairman of the Commission, Colonel Semmens, was present- at the examination. The medical officer in question is most emphatic in his. statement that Mr.- can be cured, and will undertake his treatment.
It is clear that up to that point the medical officers of the Department were satisfied that this was a war risk. The man had been receiving a pension for two years. The evidence shows that he- was accepted for service and sent to the Front, and that from the date of his return up to this time the departmental authorities were perfectly satisfied, as the result of medical examinations, that he was entitled to a pension. When I was in Western Australia last year, I was told that the Department was considering the advisableness of stopping the pension, so as to compel the man to submit himself to treatment in hospital. That action was taken contrary to the advice of the local branch of the Repatriation Department, and contrary to the opinion of the State Board. I am advised that they were opposed to the stoppage of the pension. Dr. Kenny recommended in his report that the patient should be left quietly at homo foi: the next twelve months, and said that he did not recommend further efforts- to induce him to submit him- self for treatment, which he now thinks “would be useless.” He was of opinion that the pension should be continued. Dr. McWhae concurred in the departmental . officers’ report, “except that ^stoppage of pension might in the course of months induce him to accept treatment. I therefore recommend stoppage of pension.” Dr. Stawell, the expert physician referred to in the Minister’s letter, stated that, in his opinion, the anti-typhoid inoculation, could not be regarded as having in any way induced or aggravated the man’s symptoms, “ for the disease must be regarded as having shown itself five years previously, and then remained latent.” This man’s wife assures me that throughout their married life he had not a day’s sickness, save that on one occasion he had an attack of influenza, and that at no time before he went away did he display any symptoms of paralysis. But because Dr. Stawell says that the disease must have been latent and that in any circumstances it would have developed in the course of a few years, this unfortunate man’s pension has been stopped.
– We could’ not have a higher authority than Dr. Stawell.
– But I object to any medical man theorizing on such a subject. What proof -is- there that the disease was latent in the man?
– That is not the point. The point is that this man was accepted as fit for active service, and, that being so, the Department must accept responsibility for his maintenance to-day.
– Quite so. The Ugly Men’s Association has been helping this man and his wife, who are now living, on charity. The man is in a pitiable condition. His nervous system seems to have absolutely gone, and one could not see him without being greatly moved. Where men who were accepted as fit for service develop a disease before their final discharge, . the responsibility for providing for them, must rest with the Department. There can be no escape from that position, provided that the applicant for assistance in such circumstances has not been guilty of any SUP.pression of material facts-. I had intended to move the adjournment of the House in order to endeavour to obtain from the
Government a definite announcement of policy in regard to such cases. I believe there have been similar cases, and they certainly demand immediate attention. I know of a doctor who, when he was accepted for service, was suffering slightly from catarrh of the ear. He was sent to England, and there, owing to the climatic conditions, his disease was so aggravated that it is now impossible for him to practise his profession. Many instances of the kind must bavo occurred, and Parliament should express its opinion as to whether or not the Government should take the full responsibility for such cases. I am satisfied that it was the intention cf Parliament that that should be done.
– What does the honorable member mean when he speaks about the Government accepting the responsibility for every one who was accepted for service and sent to the Front? Does he suggest that, if a man after his discharge has developed some serious ailment, the Department is to provide for him?
– Not if the disease did not develop until after his discharge. In. the early days of the war, a miner from the gold-fields returned suffering so badly from rheumatism that he could not walk, and the Department declined full responsibility.
-The rheumatism might have developed even had he remained here.
– Ithink not; but in such a case the Government should accept the responsibility.
– In all cases where the disease develops before the man’s discharge, the Government should accept responsibility.
– That is so. The Government, of course, could not accept responsibility for anything that happened after a man had been discharged. Everything would depend on the report of the medical officers.
– Yet many a man developed a disease after his discharge from the Australian Imperial Force.
– It should not be compulsory for the Government to provide for all such men where the disease has developed after their discharge. The responsibility of the Government in such cases should be determined by the medical reports. My desire is that those who went away to fight for us shall.be fairly treated.
– I would go further than the honorable member. I think every man who was accepted as fit for service, and who after his return became unfit to work, should be maintained by the Government.
– I would not go as far as that. Many men were responsible for their own failures,and the Government is not to be called upon to provide for all such failures.
– The honorable member would only make the Government responsible where an applicant for a pension had developed some infirmity prior to his discharge ?
– It should be compulsory for the Government to accept the responsibility in all such cases ; but its responsibility for the maintenance of men who developed disease after their discharge should depend on the report of the medical authorities as to whether or not that disease was the result of active service.
– Nine-tenths of these cases relate to men. whose troubles have arisen after their discharge.
– I do not think that is so. Where a man applies for a pension, because he has been incapacitated as the result of a disease which developed after his discharge from the Australian Imperial Force, the onus of proving that the disease was the result of his going on active service should be thrown upon the applicant.
– If the honorable member would go alittle further he would realize what difficulties surround these cases.
– There is no difficulty surrounding the particular case with which I have been dealing.
– I have, unfortunately similar cases in my electorate.
– This man does not reside in my electorate. I hope that his case will receive immediate consideration.
I do not wish to further occupy the time of the Committee; but I would urge upon the Treasurer to make a special effort to obtain as speedily as possible the report of the Taxation Commission. We are very anxious to deal with the question of taxation, but cannot do so until that report is forthcoming.
– The chairman of the Commission told me to-day that they hoped to. present the report within the next few days, but that some little trouble was constantly cropping up.
– I am afraid the Commission was a little too big, and that it has been too expensive. A Commission of three experts would have done the work in much less” time, and would probably have presented a clearer ‘and better report.
– If the honorable member had heard, as I have, some of the wealthy men of Australia complaining regarding the Commission’s proposals, he would think the money was well spent.
– That may be. Until we receive its report, and know what the Government intend to do with regard to the amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act, it will be very difficult for us to estimate the coming year’s revenue. In conclusion, I- hope that the Treasurer will issue instructions to the various Departments that the balance-sheets so often promised shall be forthcoming without further delay
.- I should not have risen but for the statement made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that the Government should not be responsible for themaintenance of returned soldiers who have been incapacitated as the result of diseases developing after their discharge. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) and his officers, and also the military officers, know that some of the men, when they returned from the war, could not get out of khaki quickly enough. That was not because they were ashamed of the khaki, but they had got into khaki quickly enough in order to do their duty, and, having done their duty, they wished just as quickly to return to civil life. Many of the men did enter civil life suffering from war ailments, and submitted themselves to examination by the branches and at the various base hospitals. In the case of the medical examination at the hospitals, they were in many cases asked by the medical officers if they had anything wrong with them, and some of them were able to say that they had not, and the medical men granted and graded the pension on the word of the men themselves. These are the men <to whom an injustice has been done, and there ought to be a review -of their cases. I feel sure that money spent in this direction would be well spent. These cases cannot be dealt with, in bulk, but each case must be dealt with on its merits ;.no two cases can be exactly similar, and there ought to be a Board of independent civil medical men in each district of each State, sitting as a Board of Review, to decide what pension shall be granted, according to the circumstances. In nine-tenths of the cases, such as that cited by the hon.orable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), the ailments have developed after the granting of the men’s discharge.
– And yet the ailments may be a result of the war.
– Quite so. If a man on enlistment was given a certificate showing that he was fit to goi to the Front, the certificate given him on his discharge should show him to be in the same perfect health before he is deprivedof a pension. Every metalliferous miner suffers from rheumatics or has it in his system, and no doubt the war would develop this weakness to a greater extent than would have been the case in civil life, although, of course, -the doctors say that such men would have developed rheumatism in any circumstances. As I say, the best way is to judge each case on its merits, and to create Boards such as I have suggested. I feel sure that if this means of review were provided ninetynine men out of every hundred who had had to appeal to them, would decide that they had had a “ fair go,” no matter what the result might be.
.- I am sorry that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is at. present out of the chamber, because I desire to deal with the coal position. As I understood the right honorable gentleman, he, by way of interjection, said that ‘ the fact that some of the mines are not working today is not due to the export embargo, ‘but to other causes. The reason given for placing the embargo on the Bore Hole coal was that it was not fair to have it only on the Maitland coal, for which an overseas market was desired.. If the Treasurer refers to his own speeches, he will find that he solemnly stated that Australia requires the whole of the output of Bore Hole and Maitland coal at the present time; that was one reason the honorable gentleman gave for the imposition of the further embargo on the Bore Hole coal.
– I put it that the Treasurer said that Australia ought to have the first right.
– That is what the Treasurer did say.
– I remember the circumstances quite well. The Treasurer was waited on by a deputation which pointed out to him the trouble the embargo would create, and he said that Australia required the output of both fields.
– If you remember, the Select Committee put it to the Government that Australia and New Zealand ought to have a first call.
– I shall come to that point. The officers who advised the Treasurer at that time evidently did not know the coal trade in any particular. I have always maintained that the embargo on the Maitland seam alone is injurious, not only to the Newcastle and Maitland people, but to the whole of the people of Australia. There is not one person in the coal trade, whether owner or miner, who does not say, not only . that there should be price fixing for the Australian coal on the Australian market, but that Australian trade should have the first call on. the coal. To show how wide of common sense the steps taken by the Government are, I may point out that, first, at the request of some people, possibly interested people, an embargo was placed on the Maitland coal only, much as it was wanted for gas-making purposes in the East and elsewhere. There was a big export trade in this coal, but it was decided that it must be retained for Australia. It should be remembered, however, that Australia requires other coals besides that from Maitland, but those requiring it had to use the latter whether theyliked it or not. That went on until the whole of the Maitland trade overseas was lost. Then an embargo was put on the Bore Hole seam, thus shutting the door altogether to export. It was not many weeks before the mines began to lie idle; and now we are told by the Treasurer that the mines are idle because the Australian market is full.
– Tou must admit there never was a prohibition of export, but only a conditional restriction.
– That amounts to the same thing. . I have known ships, during the last six or eighteen months, compelled to wait in port for five months before they could get coal to go away with.
– Quite so, and there ought to have been two shifts worked in order to serve them.
– The coal was there.
– And it ought to have been got out. I am talking of what you agreed to with the Select Committee.
– Why is it that with one shift the mines are lying idle?
– Because the men have destroyed the export trade, and you know it!
– Here is the apologist for the Government! This coal was not permitted to be sent overseas, and, no matter who is responsible, it appears that the men must be blamed for any harm that is done. The whole circumstances would justify a thorough inquiry.
– They would - a thorough inquiry!
– The men are not to blame - it is the Government this time.
– Quite so. The Government should have from the very first appointed an officer to control the industry, and the mine-owners and shippers shouldhave been told that Australia must be supplied first with the various classes of coal required for local use. The Government did not choose to adopt that method; it was too simple to suit some people. A bigger price was offering for coal overseas than could be obtained on the home market, and the Government thought it would be a good thing to prevent the coal-owners from getting that extra price by placing an embargo on exportation. Certainly, coal should be available to our own people at a reasonable price, but surely it would have been sufficient to assure that without preventing the producers of coal from getting the world’s price for their goods on the overseas market. It would have been a simple proposition to have said “ Australia must be supplied first, and, having done that, get the best price obtainable overseas for the balance.”
– That is exactly what was done.
– Nonsense! An embargo was placed on the whole of the output of the Newcastle district. When the second embargo was imposed no coal could be sent overseas; but it is a remarkable fact that no embargo was placed on coal from the southern district or the western district, although I admit that the latter does not export.
– How could the Government discriminate between two sets of people ?
– They did, and the result is that steamers are bunkering in the south to-day that formerly bunkered at Newcastle. Not only was the outside trade thus affected, but inside Australia trade was diverted from one part of the Commonwealth to another. We were told that after Australian requirements were supplied, New Zealand should have first call on our coal export. The Minister for Shipping (Mr. Poynton) told us to-day that the embargo was only provisional. Does he know that only recently New Zealand imported 12,000 tons of Welsh coal, because, on account of the embargo, it could not get coal from New South Wales?
– New Zealand has entered into a twelve months’ arrangement with Welsh collieries.
– And this market almost at our doors has been taken from us by the ruinous action of the Government.
– Will the honorable member tell the Committee that the whole trouble was due to strikes and the locking up of the coal ?
– Certainly not.
– That was not the explanation in this instance.
– The honorable member for Wakefield is probably referring to certain dislocations of trade caused by the stewards strike and the shipping strike. But the second embargo was imposed after those troubles.
– To meet the aftermath of the strikes.
– And it has been met so effectively that half our collieries have been closed. That, is the result of direct action on the part of the Government, and it is their duty to try to repair the damage they have done. . If overseas trade in coal, wheat, or anything else is interfered with, ship owners cannot be expected to send their ships 13,000 miles at a minute’s notice in order to pick up our produce whenever it suits the Government to lift the embargo.
– Are the restrictions still in force?
– When the Government discovered the harm they had done by imposing the second embargo they immediately lifted it, but the damage had been already done. Ships could not be called in five minutes from, the other side of the world to take coal from Australia.
– Is there a free export of coal now?
– Only in respect of one class of coal. There is still an embargo on the export of Maitland coal.
– On what grounds ?
– God knows! Maitland coal is wanted overseas for certain purposes just as much as is the other coal.
– Did not the Treasurer say that all the embargoes have been lifted ?
– I was under the impression that only the embargo on the Bore Hole seam coal has been lifted, and that the restriction on the Maitland seam continues. Whether or not that be so, the fact remains that ships have to wait in Newcastle for four or five months to get a load.
– One or two ships had to wait for weeks.
– I know of a ship that was waiting for six months. Ships could at one period get a permit from the Government officer to take limited quantities of coal overseas.
– He was appointed to give a fair and square deal to the various ships.
– I am not blaming the officer for carrying out hi9 instructions, but the people who imposed these restrictions. Ships had to wait three, four, and five months for permits, and many went away in ballast. The Government seem to think that they have only to remove the embargo and in a moment ships will be at Newcastle to lift the coal. But once a trade connexion ifr broken it takes a long time to reestablish it. This business has been so badly handled by the Government that it is their duty to try to do something to rectify the harm they have done.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I suggest a return to common sense by lifting all restrictions except the condition that Australian re- quirements must be supplied first. The Government should help to recover the trade that has been lost through their interference.
– They have done this injury under the scheme the honorable member is suggesting, namely, that Australian requirements should be supplied first, but they have carried that condition to an extreme.
– But, in addition, the Government imposed an embargo on one class of coal, and that interfered with the overseas trade at once. Later they imposed an embargo on the export of any coal, and so much harm has been done that the Government should seek to right it at the earliest possible moment.
In regard to the cancellation or reduction of war “pensions, I support those honorable members who have contended that the Government should accept responsibility for those men whom the military doctors certified to be medically fit when they enlisted. I make no claim -for those men who shirked their duty, but in respect of others the Government should be liable for any ailments contracted by them on account of their war services. The cases of many dissatisfied pensioners have come under my notice. I know of one man who was in perfect health and weighed 13 or 14 stone when he was accepted as fit for military service, but who returned to Australia physically affected to such an extent that he can walk only with the aid of a stick. He has three children and is living in a War Service Home. He cannot get a pension, although five independent doctors, including the one who passed him originally as fit for military -service, have certified that he is incapacitated. Of course, the reply of the Department in this case was that the man in question was not suffering from incapacity as the result of warlike operations. Another phase of the question is that of the man who, possibly through arduous training or heavy marching during the war, finds that an old injury long healed up prior to his enlistment, and not affecting him in the slightest in his pre-war occupation, has begun to cause him trouble. He was passed by the medical men as fit for service ; but in all cases where any semblance of a prior injury can be found claims for pensions have been turned down.
– There are cases in which hardship has been inflicted, but not deliberately. The honorable member’s charge is a sweeping indictment against medical men, administrators, and every one eke. The Government do not look for a way out of paying pensions, but are guided by the medical testimony in each case.
– We can only speak of the cases that come before us. I do not say that the Government turn down these claims deliberately ; but all men are not as scrupulous as we would like th«m to be, and it is quite possible that even medical men who examined volunteers for enlistment, and passed them as fit for service abroad, would not say the right thing in the interests of these men, who, now that the war is over, are seeking their just dues from the Repatriation Department. Many cases of hardship and unjust treatment have come under my notice through the operation of the provision dealing with incapacity as the result of warlike operations. It is time that some new system was adopted by which justice could be done to claimants for pensions.
– I do not propose to discuss the Supply Bill at any length. It does not give sufficient information to enable any honorable member to do so, but the feature about it which strikes me at a casual glance is the enormous amount provided for contingencies. I estimate that 25 per cent, of the amount authorized to be expended by the Bill is represented by contingency items, and in view of the clamour throughout the Commonwealth for economy, it occurs to me that here is a very fruitful cornucopia, or means by which departmental officers can exercise extravagance. It would be interesting to know if Ministers have gone closely into these items. For instance, although we are asked to vote not more than £700 for salaries in the office of the High Commissioner, the estimated expenditure on contingencies is £3,000. Again, in the Taxation Department, although the salaries do not amount to more than £30,000, we are asked to vote the same amount for contingencies. In quite a number of cases the vote for contingencies exceeds the amount estimated to be spent on salaries. For instance, in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office, the expenditure upon salaries is £2,630, while the amount set down for “contingencies is £3,370. Honorable members who have been longer in the House may have a better knowledge than I have of the meaning of the word “ contingencies,” but in ordinary business life I have been accustomed to look very closely -into contingency expenditure. It is manifest that under this heading very great extravagance could occur without any person not in the particular Department spending the money being any the wiser.
This occasion affords me the opportunity of calling attention to the disability imposed by the Navigation Act upon certain portions of Australia. I had intended to move the adjournment of the House in order to bring this matter under the attention of honorable members. I wish to call special attention to the effect of the Act upon Albany and the important district of which it is the port. Albany was first settled ninety-five years ago by Captain Lockyer. It was the first portion of Western Australia occupied by white people. King George’s Sound, its harbor, is one of the finest in Australia, and for many years was the chief port of call for the mail boats running from the United Kingdom to Australia. It has always been a regular port of call for the boats of the White Star Line. Albany has no direct communication with the eastern States except by water or by a roundabout railway journey by way of Perth, but the White Star steamers made the port one of its ports of call and gave great convenience in passenger service and cargo trade with the eastern States and the United Kingdom. I could tell honorable members of the quantity of fruit, wheat, wool, and timber exported in this way, but I refrain from doing so, although I should imagine that the Committee would be interested in the progress and development of the large district which Albany serves, one nearly as extensive as the State of Victoria. I am not here to discuss the pros and cons, virtues, or otherwise, of the Navigation Act, but I want to point, out the disabilities it imposes upon Albany by taking away from it the facilities it has hitherto enjoyed. If, in order to give to our own shipping a trade which previously went to overseas vessels, this House passes legislation which deprives any part of Australia of certain facilities, it ought to see that the locality in question does not suffer. But Albany is suffering the loss of advantages it enjoyed in the past, and I am taking this opportunity of appealing to the Government to see that the port is fairly treated. It is the task of this Parliament to give every portion of Australia a chance of making progress in the industries it is endeavouring to develop. It’ is certainly not to the interest of Australia that the development of any district should suffer by reason of the operation of the Navigation Act. In the same connexion I want to allude to the centralization tendency existing in Australia to-day. Although during the last ten years the population «of Western Australia has increased by 48,000, the population of the city of Perth, the capital of the State, has increased by 51,000 in the same period. Thus Perth has not only taken the whole of the increase, but has also robbed the country districts of 3,000 persons. Can any one regard these figures with equanimity? It is a retrograde movement. Facilities should be given to other portions- of Western Australia than the central port of Fremantle. It is true that the effects of the Navigation Act on the north-western ports of Western Australia have been temporarily suspended, but for six months only. It is altogether too short a period. On such a tenure no shipping company would undertake to maintain a service to any port. ‘
– The Navigation Act cannot be brought into operation in regard to that portion of Australia unless six months’ notice is given. That is the position.
– I am glad to be corrected on the point, but if is rather a slender thread >f encouragement. I hope the Government will not regard my remarks as merely hot air. The town clerk of Albany writes to me as follows: -
I have been instructed by my Council to bring under your notice the unsatisfactory steam-ship service which Albany is receiving from the Inter-State shipping companies. A boat is supposed to call at Albany once every month, inwards and outwards; but, as a matter of fact, most of . the boats anchor in King George’s Sound, and passengers have to board and bc put off by means of tender.
Why should such an old settled and industrious people be subjected to such cavalier treatment when there is a beautiful wharf at Albany at which passengers could be landed -
This state of affairs is most unsatisfactory and inconvenient to passengers, and emphasizes once more the disability which Albany is suffering through the regulations under the Navigation Act.
The member for Albany (Mr. A. Thomson) in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly has also written to- me as follows : -
I consider that, unless the Inter-Colonial steam-ship companies are prepared to give the port of Albany and this district better attention than they are doing at the present time, the Customs Department should give overseas boats the opportunity of carrying passengers and cargoes to and from that port. Aa a case in point, we are having a special stud sale, which is held every year, and which we. consider of sufficient importance justifying South Australian breeders to specially send over stud ewes and rams for that sale. Mr. Collins, a sheep breeder of South Australia, sent on the Katoomba 140 breeding ewes and rams for this stud stock sale. The Katoomba called in at Albany to drop passengers, but would not unload the stock, and the owner of these had the mortification of seeing his valuable stock carried past to Fremantle, and it meant that they were three more days and nights travelling by sea and by the train. If this is the way that the Commonwealth propose to open up and develop this State of Australia, then it is time that they considered the effect that the Navigation Act would have upon the development “of this State.
That statement seemed to me so preposterous that I telegraphed to the member for Katanning, asking if the carrying on of these stud stock was not due to some quarantine legislation of Western Australia; but I have not received a reply from him. The letter continues -
I urge you to use your influence to see that this port of Albany has better treatment than it has obtained from the steam-ship companies. I am sure that I could get a petition signed by hundreds of people in this district protesting against the effect of the Navigation Act, if the inter-colonial boats will not give us better facilities than they have done up to the present.
Mr. Cockram, of “ Fairfield,” who has imported from the eastern States valuable cattle, horses, and sheep, has been in the same unfortunate position of having to travel his stock to Fremantle and to turn back again to Broom Hill.
This is centralization with a vengeance. It occurred to me that matters might be. improved if the new Bay steamers of the
Commonwealth Line would make Albany a port of call, and I wrote to the Government on the subject, getting the following reply :-
With reference to’ the copy of letter addressed to the Minister for Trade and Customs, which you forwarded to me, with a request that arrangements be made for vessels of the Commonwealth Line to call at Albany on their voyages to and from the United Kingdom, I regret to inform you that it will not be possible for the new Bay steamers, which will shortly inaugurate a regular monthly service- between the United Kingdom and Australia, to call at this port, as these vessels will be running to a strict time-table.
To me that is not a satisfactory answer. The White Star steamers called regularly at Albany, and they were running to a strict time-table. There is a fair amount of trade to be done at that port, and the Government would reduce the national debt more quickly than by conjuring with figures and transferring money from one pocket to another if they give more consideration to matters of this kind.
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has spoken of the delay in the bringing up of the report of the Taxation Commission. The Commission’s inquiry resembles Nero’s fiddling while Rome was burning. I know of primary producers who pay in income taxation ?3 to every ?1 paid by otherindividuals whose average income is the same, and I am glad to think that retrospective legislation is . contemplated to remedy the grievance of those who suffer under the present arrangement. I am satisfied that the combined intelligence of Australia is capable of evolving a fairer and more British adjustment of citizen responsibilities in the matter of taxation than has hitherto prevailed.
– Honorable members know that I would hot dream of putting; my knowledge of coal matters in comparison with those of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who for a lifetime has been connected with the coal business, ‘and knows it from A to Z; but some of his statements this afternoon seem to me not quite fair. I do not speak now as an apologist for the Government ; but I refer to this matter because what was said was to some extent a reflection on a Committee on which, in company with the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) I acted for about nine months.
That Committee spent many days in the taking of the evidence of ‘ experts in the coal trade, concerning both the operation of the mines and the shipping of’ coal. There has never been a total prohibition of exportation. While serving on the Committee, I was as active as any one in trying to provide that the export trade in coal should be considered, as far as that could be done, consistently with the supplying of Australia’s demand for coal. A restriction on exportation was imposed originally at the instance of the Committee, and the restrictions developed as the Committee’s inquiry proceeded. Honorable members will recollect that at the, time every part of Australia was demanding that the Commonwealth Government should do something to increase the supply of coal for local consumption. Some of the State railways had not sufficient coal for more than three weeks’ working, and all of them, except the New South Wales system, were exceedingly short, and in mortal dread of trouble.
– Important industries in Melbourne were within a week of stopping.
– I was going to add that industries, particularly in Victoria - because the shortage of coal was felt industrially more heavily in this State than in any other - were being crippled, and that ordinary domestic consumers of electric light, gas, and coal fuel were having to submit to irritating and hurtful restrictions. This condition of things obtained everywhere except in New South Wales, and it. was the business of the Committee to make recommendations for the improvement of the situation. So far as my knowledge goes, the Government did what was asked of it, and no more. I admit that the exportation of coal from a part of the Newcastle coalfield was absolutely prohibited. That was because the coal from that area was needed for the railways. A good deal is to be said for the forbearance of the coalowners, while the export trade was being limited, because orders were crowding in on them from abroad at prices double what they were getting in Australia, and the New Zealand price was not much higher than the Australian price.
– Some of the coalowners in the Maitland field had their coal commandeered by the Government at 21s. per ton, and were buying Bore Hole coal at 30s. per ton to maintain their connexions oversea.
– There is no justification for the killing of the trade.
– The trade was not killed.
– The Go.vernment did no more than was demanded of it by the condition of the State railways, of private industries, and of domestic users of coal. ‘I do not know of any unjustifiable restriction that was imposed.
– I have entirely removed the restrictions; but it has been attempted to make it appear that a restriction on export which lasted about three weeks did all the damage about which there has been complaint. That is pure nonsense.
– I regret exceedingly any damage to the export trade by the loss of customers, but I do not think that the Government is to blame for it.
– Export trade is being lost to Newcastle because coal can be obtained much more cheaply elsewhere.
– That is so. If we go back a few years, we can find another reason for its loss. At that time, the export business was a gigantic one. We should do everything we can to foster our export trade in coal, because our coal resources are far beyond the requirements of Australia.
I indorse what has been said by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) about the desire of honorable members for commercial balance-sheets showing the result of the Government’s commercial activities. A balance-sheet was produced last year, but I do not think we received it before the Estimates were dealt with.
– A limited balance-sheet appears in the Budget-papers.
– The statements referred to do not supply enough information.
– I am sorry to say that I think you will not get much more, though you are welcome to any I have.
– Probably I want something the Treasurer is not in a position to supply. I do not criticise the Government’s shipping activities in an unfriendly and carping spirit; but I have been for a long time alarmed at the magnitude of the expenditure, and hon- orable members should be supplied for their guidance with proper balance-sheets, statements of revenue and expenditure, stock sheets of values, and profit and loss accounts. We ought to know what are the values of our commercial assets today, and should not pass the Estimates until we get this information. I am prepared to make allowances for the abnormal conditions under which the shipping business was entered upon, but we are now again in normal times, and require a clear and definite statement of the accounts. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated the other day that he would be prepared within a few days to make a statement on the whole question of the shipping operations carried on by the Government, and that it would then be the business of the Parliament to determine whether or not those operations should be continued. Parliament is not in a position to determine that question unless it has the fullest information, and I hope that it will be forthcoming in regard to not only the shipping operations of the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth Woollen Factory, the Commonwealth Harness Factory, the Commonwealth Clothing Factory, and all other business enterprises upon which the Government have embarked. Like the honorable member for Dampier, I was never a believer in the Government undertaking business enterprises that might well be left to private citizens.
– That is a good old Conservative argument.
– It is a sound business argument. I have taken up this attitude for the last twentyfive years. Over twenty years ago, when State Governments first began to compete with outside enterprises, I insisted that all such Government undertakings should be submitted to the test of public tenders. In that way alone oan we have a safe and effective test. If the Government, in competition with outside firms, can do certain things for the people better than they can be done for them by. private enterprise, well and good.
– The honorable member is getting worse.
-.The honorable member has heard me speak in this strain, not once, but on a dozen different occasions. I can only say that I am benefiting by the awful examples of Government enterprises, particularly in-
– In the case of the North-South railway.
– No; but particularly in the case of State enterprises carried- on in New South Wales and Queensland. If there was ever anything in Australia that would condemn Government business enterprises, it is to be found to-day in .the records of the State enterprises of Queensland.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) “5.25]. - Before bringing under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) a matter of importance relating to his Department, I wish to support the claim made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) in regard to the case or a returned soldier in Western Australia, whose pension has been stopped. Even if the disease from which that man is now suffering was latent at the time of his enlistment, I think it the duty of the Government to care for him, and, indeed, for all whose incapacity has arisen from similar circumstances. Even if the man had gone so far when volunteering as to induce some one else to submit to medical examination on his behalf, I would say that the Government having accepted him as fit for active service, must take the responsibility for his maintenance, just as it should be responsible .for the maintenance of every man in the community who is unable to work.
I have had brought before me by three different Labour organizations a somewhat peculiar action, on the part of the Department of Trade and Customs. Under the Customs Act the Minister, very properly, is allowed by regulation to remove a Customs duty relating to any commodity the free admission of which is essential to an industry. In other words, if a new industry is to be established here, and the machinery required by it is not, and cannot be, manufactured in Australia, the Department would be quite justified in allowing that machinery to’ come in duty free. Where a commodity is not, and cannot be, manufactured here, the imposition of a duty is not sound Protection, but mere revenue Tariffism. I agree, therefore, that it is essential in the interests of industry that such a regulation should exist under the Customs Act: It was never intended, however, that it should be’ used to give preference to one manufacturer as against another. While I have at times to take up a stand in the interests of large manufacturers who employ a great deal of labour, it is not that I have any keen desire to look after the interests of such people, but because I am convinced that unless their business enterprise can be run on financial lines it will be impossible for them to employ the people who send me here. I have been told more than once that I have been f looking after the interests of big manufacturing firms, but this explanation on my part should be a sufficient answer to all such statements. When I am told by the men working in a large manufactory that something has been done by the Department of Trade and Customs which is inimical to their interests, I must consider it. We have been endeavouring for some time to build up the confectionery industry in Australia. We began in the face of a good deal of opposition-. I can well’ remember the taunts that were hurled at us when we commenced, some years ago, to endeavour to encourage the manufacture of sweets in Australia. I am glad to say that our efforts have proved successful, and that confectionery of first-class quality is being made here to-day. We have two firms which claim that their chocolates are not only as good as- the imported article, but superior to it. They have established a record business, which they claim will hold its own with that in any other part of the world, as long eis they have not to compete with the cheap labour of other countries. It matters little to me whether the cheap labour which unfairly handicaps a local manufacturer is that of Great Britain or Japan. I want the local manufacturers to be as -well protected against the products of the cheap labour of Great Britain as from the output of the cheap labour of Japan. The manufacturers of chocolates in Australia started in a small way, and in many cases have built up large establishments. Their trade has increased to such an extent that manufacturers from overseas, no doubt as the result of the Tariff, have been induced to set up operations here. Nestles have spent a good deal of money in establishing their industry in Australia, and other overseas firms have also commenced the manufacture of chocolates and sweets here. Quite latterly, as the result of the duties we have imposed, an amalgamation of the firms of Cadbury, Fry, and Pascall has entered upon the manufacture of confectionery in the Commonwealth. Mr. Pascall is in Australia to-day. The firm came along with a great flourish of trumpets, and brought with them a good deal of British capital. We have opened our arms to receive that capital, but I hope we are not prepared to do anything to the detriment of Australian capital and Australian workers. This firm has commenced manufacturing in Tasmania, where it has been able to secure cheap land and cheap power, and where, I may say in passing, it hopes also to get cheap labour. The Tasmanian Government, thinking, no doubt, that the establishment of such a factory would be a good thing for Hobart, gave the firm free of cost a branch railway line to its works. This line cost the State Government about £3,500. Then the firm approached the Department of Trade and Customs, saying, “ We want to import for the manufacture of confectionery here machinery that is not made in Australia and cannot be made here. We therefore ask that it be admitted free of duty.”
– The honorable member knows that that was being done before we dealt with the Tariff.
– I have already said that there is a regulation under which, in certain circumstances, dutiable goods may be admitted free. I am condemning, not the regulation, but its improper application.
– I never heard that it has been applied in that spirit.
– I am laying the charge that- it has been so applied, and it is for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to refute it. A secretary of one of the trade unions which are interested in the matter came to me yesterday with a letter from another secretary, and an appointment was made with a third, who told me that the Customs Department had admitted this machinery duty free, and that the effect would be to deprive Australian men of work. It is for the Minister for Trade and Customs to show that this machinery is not made in Australia but even if it is not being made here, those who are using similar machinery already have paid duty on it, and, moreover, are paying Australian wages. If manufacturers who, in the face of great difficulty, have established this confectionery industry here, and have paid duty on the machines they use, it is only just .that duty should be paid by any new firm- entering into the field ; if not, it is indisputable that the new men are given’ an unfair advantage. I must say that when I heard of the circumstances I was quite surprised, and I await the departmental explanation. When these men came to me I said that I supposed this machinery could not.be made here; but my informant said, “ What nonsense; the machinery associated with the confectionery trade has been made in Australia, and is being made here now, not by one firm, but by, many.” There was some newspaper controversy over the matter. For instance, the secretary of the shop assistants’ organization complained in the Herald of the undue advantage given to the new firm, and expressed a fear that those belonging to his union would suffer in consequence. That, of course, may be a selfish view to take, and I suppose I shall be told that the existent manufacturers of confectionery are selfish because they do not like competition. They cannot complain, however, so long as the newcomers are not given an undue advantage. In connexion with this matter the following appeared in the Herald onthe 10th instant : - “It is easy to say these things, buthard to prove them,” said Mr. Oakley, Acting Deputy Comptroller of Customs, to-day, criticising a letter written by the secretary of the Shop Assistants’ Union, and published in the Herald on Saturday. In his letter, the secretary said that machinery had been admitted free of duty to facilitate the commencement of operations in confectionery manufacture in Australia by overseas firms. Mr. Oakley added that he had no time to consult the files, but the policy of the Department was consistent, and he was sure that the Customs concession was not allowed in respect of any items of machinery that couldbe manufactured in Australia. It would be found, if the files were consulted, that Thompson’s, of Castlemaine, were consulted on the matter, and that duty had been charged in respect of all such articles as that firm were capable of manufacturing. “Cadbury’s have paid thousands of pounds in duty,” he added.
Iam told by one of the officials of the engineers’ organization that Thompsons, of Castlemaine, deny the statement that they were approached on the question in any way. Thompsons’ firm made a chilled roller refiner’ for MacRobertson’s in 1920, and they have delivered one since, while a third is being built for the same firm. This, I understand, is a machine of the kind that it is proposed toallow in free in the case of the new firm.. Along with two other honorable members of the House I was invited to visit MacRobertson’s confectionery establishment in Fitzroy, and there, to my surprise, I found the firm making machinery for its own use on its own pre- mises. The firm has gone to the trouble and expense of erecting and equipping a machine shop, and paying Australian wages, for the construction of the machinery required, and now it is asked to compete with cheap imported machinery introduced by Cadbury, Fry, and Pascall, and, as I suggest, with the cheaper labour in Tasmania. If the Government can refute the statements I have made, well and good; if not, it must be admitted that a mistake has been made somewhere. Men employed in engineering establishments are just about as conversant with, and as critical of, the work carried on in them as are their employers, and I am assured by such men that the machines required in the confectionery business are being made here, and made well. At MacRobertson’s I said to one of the representatives of the firm, “ Would you make these machines for other confectionery manufacturers if you were asked?” and “he replied, “ Of course, I have this machine construction establishment, and I wish to keep it going.”
I should now like to show how extensive the manufacture of these machines is in Australia. The MacRobertson firm has made, and has under construction, machinery to the value of about £40,000, and there are other manufacturers in Australia who have turned out similar machinery to the value of £17,000 for MacRobertson’s. The value of the various machines made by outside Victorian engineering firms, and used by MacRobertson’s, is shown in the following: -
Besides that list I have another of all the machinery- made by the firm of MacRobertson itself for its own use.
We ought to give to the ironworkers in Australia all the work’ we can; and the Customs Department is remiss if it allows commodities to come in duty free when they can be manufactured here. No doubt, Cadbury, Fry, and Pascall, when they came “ spying out the land,” selected their present site with the idea of producing more cheaply and underselling other firms. That is all right if it be legitimately, done, but, as I have said, I am rather inclined to think that they contemplate cheaper labour in Tasmania, seeing that the Factory Act there is not on the same level as the Factory Acts of the other States. If the Government assist this new firm under the circumstances they are not acting fairly towards either the employers or the workers already established in the same business in Victoria and elsewhere in Australia.
– Is it fair to the “ kiddies,” who have to pay so much for their lollies?
– I am more concerned about children being better housed, clothed, and fed than I am in the price of the lollies they eat; and if the honorable member will assist me in seeing that children are better housed, clothed, and fed I shall be pleased. With one exception, the confectionery firms at present in Australia have been established with Australian money, and the profits are distributed here; whereas this new company is a foreign company, whose profits will be distributed elsewhere, and this I regard as detrimental to the interests of the Australian working classes. Even at this stage I think the Minister for Trade and Customs ought to see what can be done to rectify the mistake, if a mistake hasbeen made. If Cadbury, Fry, and Pascall are allowed to have these machines admitted duty free, then those firms which in the past have paid duty on the machines they are now using, ought to have that duty refunded. I do not know whether such a course would require a special Act of Parliament, hut it would be only just. No section of the community, through any Act of this Parliament or any Department associated with it, should be given an advantage over another section. I may be told that the attitude I am taking is parochial - that my objection is to the establishment of this new factory in Tasmania and not in Victoria. I know that the confectionery manufacturers of Australia have not reached the demand for high-class confectionery here, and that there is room for others; all I say is that if concessions are given to one firm, it will come here with cheaper machinery and cheaper labour, and enter into unfair competition with those who have built up their businesses under great disadvantages in the past. I ask the Minister for Trade’ and Customs to make full inquiry into all the circumstances.
– When I heard that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) intended to refer to the admission of machinery under item 174 I made some hurried inquiries in order to ascertain the facts. I am not in possession of the whole of the particulars, but I find that up to the time of which the honorable member was speaking, approximately £90,000 worth of machinery had been used by the firm to whom he referred in the establishment of their works. Of that total, about onefourth had been made in Australia. I think a little over half of the remainder was admitted in the ordinary way and paid duty, whilst in regard to the remaining one-fourth, the firm made application for the admission of the machinery under item 174 on the ground that it was not manufactured in Australia. It was highly specialized machinery, and I assumed that the Department was satisfied after the full investigation which is always made in respect of applications of this sort, that this particular plant was not made in Australia. It was on that ground alone that admission was granted under item 174.
– Do not the officials make inquiries as to whether the machinery can be made here?
– Certainly, and very exhaustive inquiries.
– I saw in course of manufacture yesterday a machine similar to that which was exempted from duty.
– All I can say is that in view of what has been said I shall have the case further inquired into, but in respect of every application for entry under item 174 the most exhaustive inquiries that are possible to the Department are made before the duty is waived. I expect it will be found that the particular machine of which the honorable member for East Sydney spoke differs in material respects from the machines that have been admitted under item 174, although the two may be used for somewhat similar work.
– If the imported machines do, the same work they come in competition with those manufactured locally.
– That may or may not be so; it depends on the circumstances. I cannot say offhand whether or not the two machines do compete with each other. In regard to the operation of item 174, the Department works with the object, firstly, of protecting the revenue to the utmost possible extent, and, secondly s of encouraging as far as possible manufacture in Australia, whilst at the same time safeguarding the makers of those articles for which free admission is sought. There are quite a number of considerations to influence our judgment in these matters.
– Can the Minister say where MacRobertson obtains the machinery which is installed in his factory at Fitzroy ? ‘
– I cannot say whether that machinery was imported or made by MacRobertson, but when we are satisfied that a machine can be made in this country we never allow any remission of duty. If, on the contrary, we are satisfied that the machinery cannot be made locally, and a definite request is made to us for its admission free of duty, we make full inquiry, and then put item 174 in operation as Parliament intended and empowered us to do. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) represented that in some circumstances the operation of item 174 might appear to give a preference to one person over another. To some extent that is inevitable in the operation of the Tariff. One manufacturer might have established his works in 1914 when there was no duty on the- machinery he imported. Today another manufacturer, establishing the same class of factory, and importing the same machinery, may have to pay a heavy duty. Either by the imposition of duties or removal’ of them . it must frequently happen in the course of years that one party has to pay duty whilst a competitor has not. v
– Where the Customs officials have to decide upon an application they should certainly take into account the fact that the applicant’s competitors have paid the duty.
– That depends. If it is shown definitely that this particular class of machinery is not made in Australia, and the Minister decides that under those circumstances it should be admitted free of duty, I do not think he should take into consideration the fact that in days gone by some other person may have paid duty. If he were to enter into considerations of that kind the duty could never be lifted from a particular article. The operation of item 174 is very complex, and I have asked Parliament to relieve me from the responsibility of its administration by the creation of an Advisory Board; but we have tried to do what is right, and ~I am satisfied that it will be found on a full investigation of the whole of the circumstances, that in this instance the Department has not erred.
.- When I was speaking this afternoon, I referred . to the disability suffered by Albany owing to the operation of the Navigation Act. I read correspondence to show that, whilst the Katoomba landed passengers at Albany, stud stock that was being imported for the adjacent district was not landed, but was carried on to Fremantle, and thence railed over 200 miles to its destination. I further said that this action was too preposterous to be allowed by any Government to continue ; so I wired to the honorable member for Katanning in the State Parliament, who had reported the circumstances to me, and asked him if it was not through some State quarantine legislation that the stock were not allowed to land ‘before examination. I have received this reply ‘
Understand Katoomba only accepts passengers for Albany. Quarantine nothing to do with position. Writing.
That means that the shipping firm will only undertake to land passengers by tender, and will not go alongside the jetty to land stock, but prefers to carry them on to Fremantle, and delay their arrival at their destination by three or four days. That is the way our rural industries are developed. I bring this matter under the notice of the Government in the hope that if they are giving any preference to local shipping firms under the Navigation Act they will see that those firms provide the facilities which are necessary for the development of Australia.
.- The Victorian confectionery manufacturer to whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) referred was unable during the war to obtain machinery models from abroad, and started his own workshop at considerable expense. He made his own models, and purchased lathes and other machinery at high prices in order to supply Australia’s requirements of confectionery. It has been stated that the other firm which is now importing machinery made inquiries in Australia, and discovered that the class of machinery required was not manufactured in the” Commonwealth. Machinery makers, who were able to make these machines have denied that any such inquiry was made of them. It might not be thought that confectionery business requires a large engineering establishment, and honorable members may be surprised to learn that the pattern makers, turners, fitters, and others employed in the production of machinery by the Fitzroy firm number fifty-two. It is a serious thing for the Department to give one firm advantages over its competitors. MacRobertson is not the only confectioner who is affected by the concession that has been given to Cadbury. It seems that an error has occurred through mismanagement. If a person required a, sewing machine he should not be entitled to import one under item 174 simply because the machine made in Australia was not the brand which he preferred. It is the height of stupidity to say that there is anything so complicated that it cannot be made’ in Australia. Such a statement is an insult to the industrial and professional sections of the community. Of course, departmental officers, like all other human beings, are likely to err, but I hope that in the future nothing of the kind will happen and that thorough inquiry will be made by officials as to whether the machinery required can be made in Australia before they permit it to be imported free of duty.
I desire to refer to a matter in regard to which I have been able to obtain no satisfaction. About eighteen months ago a man was appointed to the postal service as a temporary employee, and after serving, apparently to the satisfaction of the Department, he was . dismissed without rhyme or reason. It was discovered that he was the father of six children and that under the basic wage award he was entitled to an increased payment on that account. The Government sacked him on the day following that discovery, and a returned soldier was appointed to the vacancy. I know, a good deal of the spirit that animates returned soldiers, “and I do not Relieve that any of them desire to put out of work a man who has six children to support. I hope that the Postmaster-General will see that no other cases of a similar character occur in his Department. I tin der stand that any person who wishes to export metalliferous ores or concentrates must do so through the Metal Producers Association, and make a sworn declaration as to the consignees overseas.. This information is supposed to be secret, but, nevertheless, the purchasers abroad frequently .find that certain people in London are fully informed of the fact that they have bought this material, and they are told that if they attempt to make any f further purchases from Australia they will be prevented from doing so. I want to know how this information, which is supposed to be kept a close secret here, can get abroad in this way, where it can be made use of to the disadvantage of purchasers of pur ores? The Broken Hill Proprietary are the principal members of the association here, in fact, they practically control it. Evidently their monopoly of the metal products of Australia is not sufficient to satisfy their gluttonous wants, and they are seeking to extend their control to the other side of the world. At any rate, if the Government compel these sworn declarations to be made, they ought at least to see that the information supplied is kept a close secret. I shall not occupy any time now in commenting upon the stupid blundering of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in his conduct of the issue of the recent Diggers’ loan. The cost of the flotation was tremendous. However, I shall deal with that matter upon the Budget.
– I want to emphasize some remarks I made on the adjournment of the House the other day in reference to the cases of soldiers who have been refused the maintenance given to soldiers in military hospitals, because military medical men have sent them to military wards in civilian hospitals. For a long time I have tried to get a hearing for these men’s claims, but the responsible Ministers tell me that the matter has been made one for Cabinet decision, and that the decision is adverse to the men. I fail utterly to understand how Cabinet could have arrived at such a decision. No. 4 Military Hospital at Randwick having become filled, provision had to be made elsewhere for patients. Accordingly an arrangement was made with the Prince Alfred Hospital, a public institution’ in Sydney, so that a ward could be set aside for military patients. The men selected to be sent to that hospital were the very worst cases at Randwick at the time. They were the men who had come back from the war unfitted to fight the battle of life. It was quite natural that these men who had suffered most by their devotion to the cause of their country should expect to bs treated in exactly the same way as they would have been treated had they remained at Randwick, but they found themselves deprived of privileges enjoyed by patients in military hospitals who went later to the war, and came back with less injuries. I cannot understand how patriotic men, looking at a case of this kind, could take up the attitude Cabinet has taken in regard to it. These men have every claim to the treatment meted out to those in military hospitals. There is nothing to differentiate- between them and the patients in the Randwick Military Hospital, except the fact that they were sent to a military ward in a hospital a few thousand yards away. It is pathetic to have these men approaching one in the condition of these sufferers. They are deprived of the opportunity of earning the livelihood they had before they enlisted. They have suffered the highest degree of penalty in the service of their country. Their claims upon us are greater than are many we have recognised since the war, and I appeal again to Cabinet to reconsider their position, and at least do justice to those who, by direction of the military doctors, have been compelled to leave military hospitals and go to military wards in civilian hospitals.
.- I am sorry I cannot agree with the statement of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) that the Government are out to do justice to returned soldiers. My experience has been that very often the Government have done everything but , justice to many soldiers whose cases have come under my notice. I could give many specific instances which have led me to come to that conclusion, but to-day I shall refer only to one with which I have been dealing for the last twelve months. It is the case of Private McDougall, of Hilltop, near Mittagong. I am not sure whether he was married before or after his period of service, but he has now a wife and a baby twelve months old. Immediately he came back from France he was granted a pension, and it was paid to him for a while. However, he was taken ill, in fact, his life was despaired of, and just at that time, when the wife was agitated and disturbed about whether the life of the husband would be saved, an edict went forth from the Repatriation Department to the effect that the pension had been cancelled. The Department knew the circumstances of the case, and surely common humanity would have dictated a better time for letting the axe fall. The man eventually recovered a little, but he is to-day a helpless invalid. The only means of sustenance he and his family have are the possible earnings of the wife, who has also to nurse a sick husband back to health and look after her baby. If this is the way in which the Government propose to treat returned soldiers, they are not only false to the promises they made to the men prior to enlistment, but are also failing to act according to the dictates of common humanity. I went to the Department in connexion with this case. I wrote numerous letters. I was told that Private McDougall had received every consideration. I then wrote to the Minister, and finally I was told that it was of no use my proceeding any further in the matter, because the medical testimony was that the man had not contracted his illness from war-like operations, but had the germs of the complaint from which he is suffering in his. system prior to enlistment. I ascribe the action of the Department to the attempt on the part of some one to cheese-pare. Some one is endeavouring to economize in repatriation expenditure so that the money thus saved may be spent in another direction. While the Government is cheese-paring and depriving men of their rights, it proposes to spend immense sums on armaments and military preparations. It proposes to spend nearly £1,000,000 more on the preparation for the killing and maiming of men, and yet allows other men who fought in defence of their country to remain helpless in sickness, and will not put forth a hand to help them. I have brought before the Department the case of a hopeless invalid whose wife has to nurse him while trying to earn a living for him and for their child. This man received a pension for a time, when he could do a little work, but it was stopped when he was stricken with illness and almost at death’s door. His is a case which carries absolute condemnation of the Government’s treatment of returned soldiers. Obviously the direction has gone to the Repatriation Department to cut down useless expenditure wherever it can.
.- The first matter about which I shall speak is the need for doing something for Mr. Henry Lawson, the greatest writer whom Australia has yet produced. I think that we might well stretch a point to help this man now that he is sick and in trouble. I need not speak of Henry Lawson’s work. His writings are familiar in every household throughout Australia, and well known to the world at large, but he himself lies in poverty and sickness in a public hospital near Sydney. Mr. Lawson draws £1 a week from the Australian Men of Latters Fund, but the Minister in charge of that fund, in answer to a question asked to-day by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), said that the allowance could not be increased because the fund was practically all allotted. I do not question the truth of the reply, but in view of the services that Henry Lawson has rendered to Australia in literature and art, the least we can do is to provide him with the necessaries of life now that he is practically down and out. I think that the Commonwealth should see that he is given an income sufficient to maintain him in decency.
– Has he no income from his books?
– No ; he, has nothing but the allowance that I have just mentioned. Lawson has given of his best to Australia, and has done much to place Australian sentiment on a high level. His writings have advertised this country throughout the world. I am not mentioning this matter by way of finding fault with Ministers; but I urge the Government to do something for this unhappy genius.
– Does he get anything’ from the New. South Wales Government?
– No. We should not dispute as to the obligation of this or some other Government towards him. What we have to remember is that a brilliant Australian litterateur is in trouble, and the Commonwealth should stretch out its hand to help him.
– Do you suggest any amount ?
– No. It is not a case for bargaining. I feel sure that my suggestion will be received sympathetically by the honorable gentleman and by the Treasurer. I hope that Australia, at least, will see that her literary men when sick and in trouble are not left uncared for, as the geniuses of many countries have been in the past. Not a few of those whose works and names the world now holds in the highest honour were allowed by their fellow countrymen almost to die in the gutter.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to S p.m.
– I shall now refer to a matter -that calls for a rather full explanation from the Minister in charge of shipbuilding, and that is the action of his Department in either hiring or leasing the ferry boat Biloela to a firm known as the Island Transport Company. ‘There surrounds this transaction something which needs clearing up. It will be remembered that the management of Cockatoo Island has been materially altered. The Government have placed the Island under a Board of Control, which, has seen fit to alter many of the conditions existing before it took charge. Acting under instructions from the Minister, the Board on taking over its duties ceased to convey the workmen from the mainland to the Island free of charge, and informed them that they would have to make their own arrangements. The only course open to them was to make some scratch arrangements with motor launch proprietors, and the resuit was that *he launches were dangerously overcrowded.
– The honorable member saw the men seated on the roof of the forecabin while there was practically no one in the body of the boat.
– I can produce photographs of boats that were crowded, not only on top, but throughout. The fact that the water police have taken steps to prevent that sort of thing proves the accuracy of my statement.
– We arranged for a ferry boat to run between the mainland and the Island, but the men would have nothing to do with it.
– I was just coming to that point. The representatives of the men waited on the Board of Control and said that, as they were no longer to be carried to and from their work free of charge, they were prepared to lease or hire the ferry boat Biloela at whatever the Board might consider to be a fair charge, and that failing, that if the Board would undertake to run the boat they would pay whatever fare it considered to be reasonable. That was a very fair offer, but the Board under instructions from the Minister contemptuously rejected it. The chairman of the Board of Control, in a contemptuous manner, laughed at the men when they made the offer, and said, “ You cannot lease the boat.” The agitation still went on. I continued to draw public attention to the way in which the motor launches running between the mainland and the Island were being dangerously overcrowded and then secretly - behind the backs of the workmen at Cockatoo, and behind the backs of the people of Australia - an arrangement was entered into with a private firm to charter the Biloela to convey the men to and from (heir work. The workmen said, “ This is not fair to us. Who are the people to whom this ‘boat has been leased?” They discovered that the arrangement had been made with Mr. J. W. Scott Fell, one of the staunch political friends and supporters of the Nationalist Government. In a secret way - behind closed doors - an arrangement was entered into with the Island Transport Company to charter this huge ferry boat, which is quite as large as the ferry boats which ply between Circular Quay and the north side of Sydney Harbor, for a payment of £15 per week. The men, however, refused to travel by the boat. I want to know first of all why this arrangement was secretly made, and, secondly, why when the Island Transport Company found that the running of the boat was not a paying proposition the Government relieved them of their liabilities under the lease. The Minister must give some reply to these inquiries. If it were desired to lease the boat, why were not public tenders invited? Why was it not open to any one to tender? Why was this arrangement made behind the backs of “the workmen? After all, the . Island Transport Company is only a “ cuckoo “ concern formed for the particular purpose of running this ferry boat. On proceeding to the RegistrarGeneral’s Office to discover who were the shareholders in the company, I found that its registered office was given as “16 Loftus-street,’ Sydney.” I discovered, further, that the company was registered with a capital of 1,000 shares of £1 each. That at least is the statement set out in the prospectus. A list of shareholders has not been filed in the Registrar-General’s office. I found that there had been filed there the names of only seven shareholders, the minimum requirement under the Companies Act. The list ia as follows: - P. J. Everett, clerk, Union Bank Chambers, Sydney, one share; J. W. Scott Fell, one share; L. C. Saunders, one share; T. A. Ferguson, one share; G. Orr,.one share; J. Simpson, one share; G. W. Waddell, one share; and A. Lundie, one share. With the exception of Mr. Scott Fell, all these individuals are in the same office. This is a mushroom company, which was created suddenly for the purpose of taking over the running of the ferry boat
Biloela. When it was found to be a nonpaying proposition the Government came to the relief of their political friend - one of the men who engineers political moves for the Ministry - and freed him of his liability. The ferry boat to-day is tied up at the Island.
– Can the honorable member tell me how long the company had a lease of the boat?
– The point is that the Minister made arrangements with the company to lease the boat for £15 per week, and that when at the end of the very first week it was found that the running of it was a non -paying proposition, he immediately relieved the company of its liability. The fact that the company had the boat for such a short time makes the position, so far. as the Government is concerned, still worse. It goes to show that collusion existed between the Minister at the head of the Department and the Island Transport Company, which is really Mr. Scott Fell, of Sydney. The Minister refused to give the men an opportunity to tender for the leasing of the boat. He refused to allow them or any one else, with the exception of Mr. Scott Fell, to lease the Biloela.. Will he now give the men or any private firm an opportunity to obtain the boat on the same terms? It is for the Minister to explain this matter. Will he also explain why representatives of the . citizens of North Sydney, who waited upon the Board of Control, and asked that the boat be leased to them, so that they might compete with the monopolistic Sydney Ferries Company, were refused an opportunity to lease it? The Parliament should demand an explanation of the whole matter.
While dealing with Cockatoo Island, I desire briefly to refer to another incident relating to it. A young man named Sheiles, who takes a prominent part in trade union matters, and was secretary of the Vigilance Committee at Cockatoo Island a short time ago, obtained the Labour indorsement of his candidature for the Federal constituency of Illawarra at the next Federal elections. Almost immediately following the public announcement of that fact he was barred from obtaining work at Cockatoo Island. The door was slammed on him. This is a clear case of victimization. First of all, because he is a prominent unionist; and secondly, because he is to- oppose one of the Nationalist members at the next general elec tions, he is debarred from obtaining employment at Cockatoo1 Island. He is victimized and prevented from obtaining his livelihood in Sydney. I hope the Minister will also look into that matter.
I wish now to address myself to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers). I have here three or four cases of almost vital importance. I shall not mention the names of the individuals concerned, because I do not think it right to make public the private affairs of individuals. I shall hand the Minister the papers in reference to all these cases. The first is that of a man to whom I shall allude as Mr. A, who enlisted and did three and a half years’ service abroad. He and a number of other men, however, committed some military offence, for which they were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. The complaint I have to make is that when Mr. A applied for his war gratuity he was told that under section 6 of the Act he could not obtain it, inasmuch as he had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment exceeding twelve months, whereas other men, who committed the same offence, and some of whom were sentenced to a longer term of imprisonment than that which Mr. A was required to undergo, obtained their gratuity bonds. Will the Minister explain why this man’s application was refused ?
– The honorable member is tackling the wrong Department.
– Is the honorable gentleman not acting on behalf of the Minister who is responsible?
– Who is responsible?
– The Treasurer, and I undertake to place the matter before him.
– Was the conviction in A’s case given as the reason for the refusal ?
– Yes; the man was deprived of his gratuity bond under section 6 of the War Gratuity Act, which provides that a man who has served twelve months’ imprisonment is not eligible.
– There was no other reason assigned?
– No; I have handed all the papers to the Minister at the table, and he will see that what I say is correct.
– Does the honorable membei wish the Government to recall the bonis from the other men?
– No; but I wish to see this man receive his bond. However, I have another similar case of a man who was absent without leave during service, and received ninety days’ field punishment. After he had served his ninety days he was deprived of all his pay at ls. per, day, amounting to £46 4s., and of his deferred pay, amounting to £73 3s. Remember that this money had been earned before the offence was committed.
– That could not be done.
– But it was done. Further, his father was deprived of his allotment, amounting to £184 6s., and then it was claimed that the soldier was in debt to the Department to the extent of £14. His gratuity, amounting to £82 9s. 6d. was stopped also, and he owed the Department £35 for furniture, making the total of which he was deprived £435 2s. 6d. In addition, his wife and children were deprived of their sustenance allowance.
– Has the honorable member put this case before the Department ?
– Yes; the Department replied that nothing could be done in the matter, and that is the reason I bring it up here.
– Did this man serve in the Forces after completing his sentence?
– Yes. He did not return until the termination of hostilities, and yet this ishow he is treated. A Methodist clergyman at Leichhardt, who is a friend of my own, has written to me on the subject, and he winds up his letter by saying, “Can you cause inquiries to be made? This man’s wife and children are well nigh destitute.” [Extension of time granted.]
Here is another case that affects the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith). The man affected was one of the leading stokers on board H.M.S. Nusa, under Commander Jackson. Eight men, who committed an offence on board, all at the same time, were all given the same punishment of twenty-eight days’ detention. Of the eight men three have received their gratuity bonds, while the others did not, and amongst , the latter is the man to whom I am referring. Why was this man’s gratuity stopped ? This is the sort of thing that is bringing the administration into ridicule ; and I hope steps will be taken to remove the stigma of favoritism which the cases seem to imply.
– For the information of the honorable member (Mr. Mahony), and of honorable members who have heard him, I propose to read section 6 of the War Gratuities Act, which sets forth that a war gratuity shall not be payable in respect of the services of any of the following persons: -
A war gratuity shall not be payable in respect of the service of any of the following persons: -
The mere recitalof cases without giving the facts is not quite fair. The same section of the Act goes on to vest a discretion in the prescribed authority, which is the
Board, to grant pay to relatives and dependants, and in some cases to the soldier himself’, if the services of the soldier have been meritorious, notwithstanding any of the disqualifications set forth. The mere recital of cases without giving the fact9 is not quite fair. Every case must be decided on its merits.
– How does the honorable gentleman explain why, out of, say, six men who have been engaged in a military offence, five are granted bonds while one is not, although some of those five received heavier sentences than he?
– It is difficult to determine any case without investigating the facts; and I undertake to bring the matter under the notice of the responsible Minister.
– I do not intend to speak to-night on. .the general proposition, but merely to bring forward a couple of definite cases on behalf of returned men. However,” since the, matter of the coal position has been raised by the honorable member for New - castle (Mr. Watkins), I wish to say a word or two regarding it. The coal position is a very serious one for Newcastle, and, indirectly, for the whole of Australia. Unfortunately, here, as everywhere else, when such a question is raised a great deal of class feeling is shown. We had the honorable member for Newcastle claiming that the fault is all on the side of the Government, and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) claiming that the fault is all on the side of the men. That seems £o be the chief trouble in our coal business. There can be no question that on many occasions the miners themselves have been to blame for stoppages of work; but on this occasion - and I happen to know something of the matter - the chief fault lies in Government interference. When the Government imposed the restriction on the Maitland coal they went a long way to stopping the development of the coal propositions in the north, where there are scores of possible propositions awaiting to be worked. The coal wealth of Newcastle and the northern districts is practically unlimited. There are many places where some of the old seams are still awaiting opening up, while new seams are calling every day for capital investment: but when the Government imposed this re striction they immediately put a damper on all attempts at further development. And the Government were not satisfied with this; finding they had disturbed the position, they went further and put a restriction on Bore Hole coal, which resulted in confusion worse confounded. It is now extremely difficult to get any one to invest money in the development of the tremendous coal, wealth of Sew South Wales.
– There is no control now, you know!
– Since when has it been removed ?
– Some time.
– “ Some time” is very indefinite.
– After the damage was done !
– The restrictions can only have been removed within the last few weeks, so recently, and after so much damage has been done, that it will take a long time for matters to right themselves. We used to be afraid of the restrictions that were threatened by the Labour party. Many a time I have stood on the public platform and warned the people that if the Labour party attained to power they would impose restrictions that would interfere with primary production. But no restrictions the Labour party have ever placed upon primary production have been worse than the way in which the present Government have treated the coal industry in New South Wales, and I hope that as the Treasurer has removed the restrictions on coal, the Government ‘ will extend that policy by removing the restrictions from all articles of production, and giving the producers fair play.
– The producers of wheat ?
– If the producers of wheat desire a voluntary Pool that is another matter; but I am opposed to the Government themselves imposing restrictions upon primary production.
– What about Bawra?
– I opposed Bawra, and the only reason why it has achieved any success is that the restriction imposed upon the price is so low that it is practically no reserve at all. To-day it is only merino wool which is selling, because the
Bawra restriction is a long way below the market price; but crossbreds and the coarser wools are still suffering. Certainly the position is improving, because the world is beginning to recover; but the Bawra restrictions have failed to ruin the industry only because owing to the fight we put up in this House the prices were fixed so low as to be practically no reserve at all. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) may take a different view, but I have been connected with the wool industry all my life, and I know a great many leading men in the production and disposal of wool. Whilst some people may hold the opinion that these restrictions have helped them, those engaged in production have infallible proof that ‘they are doing more harm than good. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has told us that the export trade in coal has been lost because other countries are producing more cheaply. I would like the right honorable gentleman to tell us where production is cheaper than in Australia. “
– In America, where coal is lis. per ton at the pit’s mouth.
– I think that the cost at the pit’s mouth in America is less than lis. ; but in nearly every instance the coal supplies are a long way from the seaboard, and the cost of transport to the seaboard brings the export price up to more than the Australian price.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– My remarks are based on information I gained as the result of inquiries I made when passing through America, where coal and iron have to be railed considerable distances before they can be made available for export.
– The railways in America are able to get back freights from the coast.
– Yes; that is because the railways are better managed in America than in Australia. The fact is, however, that despite the Government’s interference, Australia can put coal on the boat for export as cheaply ‘as can any country in the world t quality for quality, and if the Government will leave the industry alone we can defy competition. The only reason why I speak on this subject to-day is that I wish to remove the idea that there are only two points of view in regard to Coal, and those two points of view must depend on the class to which the speaker belongs. The coal question is a wide and broad one, and our minds should no more represent the men than the owners. The two interests are, in their broad issue, one. The influences that tend to the increased production of coal make for the benefit of both -owners and miners. ‘I deprecate the cross firing which took place this afternoon, one member speaking only for the men - a position into which he was driven - and another member speaking only on behalf of the owners, thus antagonizing the two interests, which, if they work together, will make Australia one of the greatest coal producing countries in the world. But while the Government interfere and antagonisms between miners and owners are fostered in this House and throughout the country, we shall have little chance of exploiting the enormous wealth of coal which, is awaiting development.
In this Chamber I have often mentioned various complaints concerning returned soldiers, and when I have spoken on general principles I have been told that there are so many individuals to deal with that there must be individual complaints, and that merely general complaints lead nowhere. I shall to-night deal with individual complaints by quoting two letters that are fair samples of those I receive every mail. These cases are not isolated; there are scores, hundreds, and almost thousands of them. The first letter relates to an application for a War Service Home, and is as follows : -
Dear Sir, - I would like to know if you could give a little assistance in the matter of my application for a War Service home. I will just state my case, and if you think it a genuine grievance I would esteem it a favour if you could give me a help along with my application. Last October, I sent in an application for a War Service home. I filled in my application under the mortgage system. Under that system one has to guarantee 10 per cent, of the* £800 made available under the Act. - I explained in my application that I would give to the War Service Homes Commissioner my £50 15s. gratuity bond and a £50 war bond as my 10 per cent, deposit. I also sent in a memorandum of transfer, plan, and a certificate granted, by the Scone Shire of the block of land I have bought. I was in Sydney a month after I sent in my application, and called at the War Service Homes Office. I was taken to a gentleman there, and we both went over the application. He told me that my gratuity bond and the price of the land, which is £50, would stand for my de- posit, and that my f 50 war bond was not required. He also informed me that my application was marked urgent, and that I was to go back home and everything would be along in due course. Later on, a gentleman came along to see my block of land, for which I had to pay£1 ls. I did not hear any more for a long time, and I wrote the Department again, but was told that my application would not come forward again until after 27th July. My father was in Sydney, so I told him to call and see what they were doing in the matter. They informed him that I was first on the list after 27th July. About two months ago, the Department sent me along the memorandum of mortgage forms to get signed, and I was to send on my gratuity bond, which I did. I also paid another bill for £4 63. Altogether, the War Service Homes Commissioner has received from me £5 7s., plus my bond for £51 15s., and up till the present I have received nothing. I have paid rates amounting to 3s.9d. to the Scone Shire. At present, I am living in Aberdeen, paying 10s. a week for a house, and as I am working with my father on Blairmore Limited it is not very handy to my work. By the month of DecemberI will have paid in rent £26, and am no nearer to getting my application dealt with.
That letter is typical. I receive similar letters in dozens, and sometimes scores. The second letter refers to a war pension, and it reads : -
Dear Sir. - I have been instructed to write you concerning the case of a returned soldier, J. E. Gleeson. Considerable correspondence through the Eeturned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia has taken place. He has been examined again, and the net result - his pension raised 6d., and his wife’s reduced the same amount. Local people who know this man well, and the local Eeturned Soldiers’ League, are of opinion that this man should be in receipt of half-pension rates. In conversation with the local Government doctor, he informed me that the trouble with this man is a form of sciatica and rheumatism caused through the action of malaria on the sciatic nerve. He is a bushman by trade, sleeper cutter, anything in the timber line, and a genuine worker when able, as his fellow workers have told me. He is able to work at intervals at present, but a little while’ back done nothing but lie on his back three months out of six, and I understand he is classed as entitled to one-tenth pension. I guess the man who was entitled to a full pension in comparison would be dead about three times over. This man has bought a piece of land at Warnervale, about 3 miles further on. Tradespeople and other local people held a couple of socials to raise funds to keep his payments going. He has had no assistance from the Repatriation Department. He has a wife and child.
That letter is also typical of cases which so excite the sympathy of the local people that they go to the trouble of raising funds by concerts and other means. Yet these men, who undoubtedly suffer war disabilities, are being refused a reasonable rate of pension. I ask the Minister to make a note of these cases, but I draw attention to the fact that these things are happening every day and all over Australia. The cause of the trouble is beyond our ability to determine. One is constantly battling for these cases and, in respect of the majority, is ultimately successful. But it takes a long time to get justice, and meanwhile the soldiers, and often their wives and children, are in dire distress.
– We should not have to take action.
– We should not. The whole process should be automatic These men should be receiving at least something of what they were promised before they went to the front. What hurts me most is that not only are the men suffering, but their unfortunate wives and children are in distressing circumstances. In the different cities of the Commonwealth women have come to me with tears running down their faces to tell me of the trouble they have been experiencing. Some of them are women who have been well reared and desire to rear their children well and give them a proper start in life, in recognition of the circumstances in which they were born and the traditions of their fathers. Some of these women, with their children, are living on money that was left them by deceased soldier relatives and parents. Others are almost starving, and their circumstances are such as to make a man feel ashamed of his country. I have put before the Treasurer a suggestion which has found favour with the Soldiers’ Leagues throughout the Commonwealth, that something should be done to help women who are unable to earn a living. Nobody wants the total spent in pensions te be increased, but we desire it to be allocated in a proper manner. There are some people drawing a pension who, though they have a right to it, have no need for it. The pensions voted by Parliament are sufficient, but the allocation of them is all wrong. The only way to meet the situation - and this suggestion has the approval of soldiers generally - is that the widow should be given a pension, in much the same way as disabled soldiers are, according to their disability to earn a living. It does not matter -whether the woman be the widow of an officer or a private, if her upbringing has been such that she is unable to earn a living, or if she is prevented by the care of small children from doing so, that fact should be considered a disability. Many of these women are working themselves to death in trying to earn a living for themselves and their children. They are going through commercial schools in an endeavour to equip themselves to fight the battle of life, in many cases having to neglect their children to do so. In other cases they have widowed mothers, sick brothers and sisters to care for. All these things come. under our notice every day. The only way in which the Government can adequately meet the situation is by recognising inability to earn a living. I admit that it is difficult to draft a perfect scheme, but surely it is easy enough to formulate one which would be an improvement upon the present system.
– By giving larger discretionary powers?
– The discretionary powers of the Deputy Commissioners are already fairly adequate, but the trouble is that there is a screw loose somewhere, and an overseeing eye is required to see that matters are put right. It is a difficult task, no doubt, to exercise proper care over a, matter which has so many ramifications, but we are sent to this Parliament to ‘do big work. If there is a job to be done, there ought to be some one to do it. This trouble can be overcome; but, unless Ministers and honorable members generally rise to the occasion and remove this disability from these women and children, and meet their crying wants, Australia will be everlastingly disgraced through failing to honour the obligations cast upon her by the war.
.- This afternoon the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was absolutely correct when he said that when appeals were lodged by returned soldiers against the. decisions of medical men, it was simply a question of appealing from Caesar to Caesar. I have had many cases in proof of his contention ‘brought, under my notice, and one I propose to place before honorable members. A tram driver returned from the war suffering from neurasthenia. On his discharge he returned to his pre-war occupation ; but the officials of the Tramways Department in Sydney, considering that it was not in the best interests of the safety of the public that a man suffering from his ailment should act as the driver of a. tram, found him a minor position of cleaner. However, later on his health broke down, and he was sent to a nerve hospital at Five Dock. ‘ I have had this man’s case ‘ before the Department for a long while, without getting any satisfaction, and I propose to read portions of one communication I received from it.
– The question is whether he was discharged as fit. If a man is discharged as fit, it is very hard to say that any subsequent sickness is due to war disabilities. There are many such cases.
– Dr. Noble, in charge of the nerve hospital, a recognised nerve specialist, says that he considers that the hysteria from which this man is suffering resulted from war service. The Department says that the papers show that he was only under- conditions of stress for four days. To be under conditions of stress for four hours was very severe in some parts of the war front, and if this man stayed under them for four days in some sections, it is not to be wondered at that he came out a nervous wreck. Dr. Noble reported later that his general condition was brighter, and the Department contended that, as he was only suffering a 10 per cent, disability, he was not entitled to a pension. This man, by the way, has a wife and five children. The people of Australia have a right to see that a man who cannot follow his prewar occupation, on account of his war service, does not suffer thereby. Once the departmental doctors say that a man is not suffering from war service they will not stultify their previous decision by altering it, no matter how much one may appeal. The two medical officers who examined this man said,’” We are of opinion that his neurotic condition is a pre-existing one and not the result of his service.” But they had nothing on which to base that decision. Possibly they had had no previous experience in nervous complaints. At any rate, their view was diametrically opposed to that of Dr. Noble,, whose opinion I prefer to accept. There ought to be an Appeal
Board appointed to which these men can appeal to get better justice than that which is now accorded to them. I ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) to look through the papers in regard to this man’s case.
The War Service Homes Department has come in for very serious comment, and even ridicule in some respects, from the public, and particularly from soldiers. If it cannot build a home for a man the officers ought to tell him so. I have had a case brought under my notice in Sydney, in which considerable injury was done to a ‘young soldier through the Department’s neglect to let him know that it was impossible for them to build him a home. In June, 1920, he applied to the Sydney office for a home. He was told that they could not build him one because they had already 13,000 applications to deal with, but they advised him to buy a block of land and get a contractor, and they would make arrangements with the latter to build him a home and finance the transaction.
– They had no justification for making that statement.
– At any rate, this young fellow picked a block of land. He paid no money on it, but he went to the Department and told them of it. Subsequently an inspector viewed the block, and reported to the Department that the site was a good one, and that the price was reasonable. The applicant went to the Department again, and was informed that the site had been approved of, and that if he was prepared to hand in his war gratuity bond the land would be bought for him. Accordingly, he handed in his war gratuity bond, amounting to £100, and the Department purchased the land for cash and took possession of the deeds, which they have held ever since. They told the applicant that if he would bring along a contractor they would make arrangements with him. The contractor, who happened to be a personal friend of the soldier’s, called at the Department, where he was shown a set of plans for a house which would cost £700. Subsequently, when the allowance was increased to £800, the Department advised the applicant to have1 his plans altered, in order to take advantage of the increased advance. The contractor made the alterations, and the altered plans were ultimately approved. The Department then informed the contractor that the matter would be finalized within a fortnight, and the latter accordingly cancelled another -contract in order to build his friend’s home, which he was prepared to do at a very reasonable price. But the case has not yet ‘been finalized, and a month or two ago, when I made inquiries at the Department, I was told that it was the 350th on the list. When the lad himself called the other day he was told that they did not know where his case stood. If they had told him at once that he stood no chance of getting his home built for years he could have spent his war bond in purchasing a home on his own account, and by this time would have had it partly paid off. I know that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) is trying to do his best to rectify matters of this kind, and I have had every satisfaction from, him in respect to the cases I have brought under his notice. He is doing a great deal to pull the nuts out of the fire.
In reference to the remarks made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) concerning matters at Cockatoo Island, I leave the question of. the hire of boats to the Minister concerned, but I hardly think the honorable member was doing himself justice when he stated that the services of Mr. Sheiles had been dispensed with because he was a union official, and had been selected to oppose a member of this House at the next election. We ought to go further back into the history of this case, and remember that this was the same gentleman who opposed a. certain honorable member at a previous election, and was defeated. Every one has the right to stand for election, but Mr. Sheiles had already resigned from the service of the Department at Cockatoo Island, and was reinstated by instructions from the then Minister, a member of the Labour party, which was in power at the time. Would honorable members, in a private business, employ the president of the Clerks Union and the secretary of a Vigilance Committee on a job to record the men’s time? The two positions cannot go hand in hand. A man cannot serve two masters. Mr. Sheiles could not faithfully serve the Commonwealth and the unions at the same time.
– He could not serve the Commonwealth and be a prominent unionist. It is handy to have that admission of policy from the honorable member.
– It is not a question of. policy . A man who is the secretary of one union and president of another cannot fill the position of keeping a faithful record of the times of other officials of his union to the satisfaction of the Department or that of the unionists.
– Why not?
– Because it is opposed to human nature that such a thing should be done. In any case, the position of time recorder is no longer required at Cockatoo Island, because the Board of Management has introduced the card system, under which the men record their own times.
When last year’s Estimates were under consideration the Postmaster-General promised that an amount of money would be placed onthe Supplementary Estimates for the purchase of land and the building of a telephone exchange on the Belmore line, at Lakemba, in New South Wales. But no money was so provided on Supplementary Estimates, nor can I find any such provision on this year’s Estimates. The Post and Telegraph Department for a long time past has had, and for a very long time tocome will have, very serious problems to overcome in connexion with overtaking the backward condition of our: telephone system. That cannot be done in a day. Two years ago the Postmaster-General’s Department was short of cables and of wire. The wire difficulty has been overcome to a great extent, the cable difficulty is being overcome, and the shortage of instruments is being made up. I do not know why there should now be any shortage of instruments, because plenty are available. In my district, although some applicants have been kept waiting eighteen months and two years for telephones, on the ground that wire or cable was not available, . I have seen connexions being made to the dwellings of other persons. No doubt the Postmaster-General is doing his utmost to meet public requirements, and I hope that the Treasurer will give him all the money that he needs fox this purpose. One gets tired of hearing the complaintsof Sydney residents about the telephone system. Along the Belmore line to which I have referred, there is one of the largest suburban populations connected with the metropolis, and yet those residing at Hurlstone Park, Canterbury, and the other stations along the line have to be connected with the exchanges at Ashfield or Burwood, which are, on the average, three miles away. A thousand connexions with those exchanges from places on the Belmore line would mean, with the metallic circuit, 6,000 miles of wire and innumerable poles. Experience teaches that the best practice is to have subscribers close to an exchange, because of the saving in wire and in poles. J. hope that the Postmaster-General will favorably consider the request for an exchange on this line, and that he will satisfy our constituents in regard to postal and telephone requirements, so that they may cease to harass us.
.- I do not propose to use the motion as a weapon for killing the Government by depriving them of the means whereby they live; but I join with members on both sides of the Chamber in the complaint against . the administration of pensions. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) mentioned cases in which returned men who had manifested symptoms of sickness which they had contracted on active service were met, when they claimed pensions, by the departmental reply that their disability did not result from active service, and therefore their claims could not be allowed. In my opinion - and I hope that the Committee shares it - when there is a doubt in a case of this kind, the returned man who is an applicant for a pension should get the benefit of it. The law should be interpreted liberally, especially as the evidence of the facts is in the nature of the case not easy either to corroborate or to disprove. The Pensions Department should nob constitute itself both prosecutor and judge, first making out a case against the applicant for a pension, and then deciding it against him. I feel so strongly about a case to which I invite the Minister’s attention that I propose not to speak on any other this evening. To use the words of the. honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) it . is typical of a number of others. I shall designate the soldier to’ whom I am about to refer Mr. X, to distinguish him from the Mr. A, with whose case the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) so ably dealt. The correspondence now before me does not make itclear whether a letter bearing date 6th September, 1921, addressed to the applicant himself, and in which I am ignored altogether, is te be taken as the end of the matter, or whether I may anticipate a reply to a long and detailed statement which I troubled to make out in support of the claim.
– To whom did the honorable member direct his communication %
– In co-operation with the late member for West Sydney (the Honorable T. J. Ryan), the communications were directed in the first place to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), and so far as the preliminaries of the case were concerned we received courteous treatment from him. Apparently it is held that I have not made out a sufficiently strong case in support of the claim, because the applicant has received this letter, dated 6th September, 1921 -
Your claim for war .pension has been finally considered by the Repatriation Commission. It. is considered that your ‘ present condition . is not the result of war service, but, as a fact, arose subsequent to discharge, .and was in no way aggravated by your employment in connexion with warlike operations. For these reasons the Repatriation Commission’ has directed the rejection pf your claim.
B. Ryan, Deputy Commissioner.
Under the signature are the initials of the junior officer who, apparently, wrote the letter. I have always found Mr. Ryan a courteous and efficient officer, but I protest, if I am to understand that this junior officer who wrote to the applicant over my head, is to be taken to have finalized a matter about which I was in communication with the Commissioner.
– What was the date of your communication?
– I cannot say now, but it was- two or three days before this letter was sent.
– –I think you can take it that the indiscretion of writing to the pensioner over your head is one for which neither the Commissioner nor the Deputy is responsible.
– I am inclined to hope that when this letter was written my detailed representations had not come before the Deputy Commissioner. I should like to have that matter cleared up. I have waited for a long time for a reply to my communication. This is a statement of the claimant’s case: -
In February, 1915, I was on active service at Rabaul. I was sent, with others,’ to the Island of Matupi, and was engaged on sentry work. No shelter available. Frequently we were soaked with torrential rains under the steaming conditions of the island. I developed a cold which I .have never got rid of.
The man is suffering from tuberculosis. He brought to his war service a most robust constitution. There has been no other case of tuberculosis ih his family; the family history being a good one. When he became a soldier, he was a strong young man in the prime of life. The statement continues -
In the latter part’ of 1915 I was transferred to Rabaul, and was regularly treated for cough. This continued until well into 1916, when definite symptomatic chest pains manifested^ themselves. I saw Major, or Captain, Mahaffey, medical officer, who examined me, stating that I was in a very low state of health, suffering from influenza and malaria. He prescribed for me. I was a bed patient for about ten days. In November, 1916, I was sent to Australia on furlough. A few days out from Sydney I took bad again. Had a recurrence ‘of malaria. Wired BrigadierGeneral Pethebridge that my health was no better, and he wired back my discharge on 5th January, 1917.
During 1917 I hod several- attacks of malaria, and the cough never left me. I was engaged with Messrs. Goldsbrough, Mort, & Co. Ltd., Bourke-street,’ and was many times absent from duty through illness. The head of my deportment (Mr. .Quinlan) asked me why I ‘did not get a pension. I said to him, as to many others, that while I was able to work I could not conscientiously take a pension. I thought T would leave that tq the blind and -maimed.
I have no doubt that he could then have established his claim to a pension with much greater ease than he could subsequently, but merely because of- a spirit of sportsmanship and generosity he withheld his claim at the time -
About February, J918, I was examined by Dr. Brown, of Windsor, whose certificate is said to be on the file with my papers; and I. now furnish another certificate by the same doctor.
Early in 1919 I was seriously ill with cold and chest trouble, which continued- more or less till Juno, 1919, when I was laid aside definitely with pneumonic influenza, attended by Dr. Brown.
In June of the present year I was taken to the Caulfield Hospital suffering from the old trouble.
While getting convalescent I applied for sustenance allowance, and, as I told Dr. (Major) Irving, I was refused on the ground that my state of health was not due to war service. Major Irving expressed surprise, and said, in the presence of Sister- , “ That is all nonsense,” or words to that effect, and - ‘he added, “ I will see Colonel Fetherston.- -.Put - ‘s name. down,” which Sister.-!- . - did.
A month later Major Irving expressed the opinion to me that no medical authority could say that my lungs were not affected while I was away on active service. I am informed that my fileshows, and it is a fact, that Dr. Derham, of Preston, gave a certificate to the Repatriation Department to the effect that my complaint was due to, or aggravated by, war service.
While being examined early this year by (I believe) theChairman of the Gratuity Board, this gentleman remarked to me, “ The truth is that your medical history has been lost or mislaid.”
With regard to the letter which Senator Millen wrote to Mr. Brennan, M.P., dated 28th July, 1921, it is true that Dr. Brown’s certificate referred particularly to the illness in’ 1919, but, as will be seen from his later certificate, he does not suggest that the condition had not an earlier origin. There is no doubt that it had an earlier origin, having regard to the fact that there is no history of tuberculosis in our family on cither side, and that I brought into war operations a strong constitution, and that of -my own knowledge I contracted severe colds,- with consequential pains, under conditions of extraordinary hardship in Rabaul
– And he was passedby the medical officers who admitted him into the Australian ImperialForce.
– As to that, I have already pointed out that he was not only so passed, hut that when he entered… the Army he was unquestionably a strong, robust man.
– There was no suggestion of tuberculosis at that time?
– None whatever.
– Has it been definitely decided that he is suffering from tuberculosis ?
– There is no doubt about that. He is at the present time a well-defined tubercular subject. The statement continues -
In the circumstances, I contend that I should not be regarded as a civilian patient, but that, on the contrary, I should have my pension and the treatment of a patient who lost his health on active service.
I do not wish to make party capital out of a matter of this kind. I feel too deeply about it, and am happy to know that honorable members on the other side join with us in criticisms of. the kind I. am addressing to the Department. I kn6w that the Minister is a trustee of public funds, and I am not so innocent as to be unaware that sometimes service abroad, or alleged service, is used as a plea by very undeserving persons. Here, however, is a case which I have investigated, and which apparently hasbeen investigated to only some’ extent by theDepartment - a case that will stand the closest searchlight so far as the good faith and character of the man are concerned. He is a married man with two young children, and he finds himself today dependent on the generosity of his employer, who has continued to pay him his salary. I do not know whether he is still paying it, but he should not be expected to go on doing so indefinitely. It should be the task, not of a private employer, but of the general public, to bear such a hurden in proper ratio. But for the generosity of his employer, this man would find himself to-day a proper subject fiar any charitable home that might see fit to give him shelter.This is not the way in which menof this type should be treated. Where there is a doubt, the man. should get the benefit of that doubt, even though it should happen that in some cases the undeserving are thus helped. It is far better that in certain oases the undeserving should receive relief than that ‘ deserving cases should be treated with apparent callousness. I have also in mind . the case of a young man named Howard, which is somewhat similar, and also -pathetic. If a more generous interpretation is given to the Act, I shall bring his case up later; but in the meantime I wish to force attention on the case before me. I know the whole history of it. I. know the family, and I know the man. He was the type of man that the military authorities were most anxious to secure during the course of the war, and he left a comfortable home and position when he enlisted. He went away in the full strength of his manhood without taint of any kind of disease, and he finds himself today laid aside by disease which he feels strongly, as I do, is clearly attributable to his war service. If the Commission is still further considering his case, I ask that it be expedited, and I hope to receive soon the. pleasing news that this man is at least given the pension which I think he has. undoubtedly earned.
.- I have to bringbefore the Committee a very serious matter. I refer to the action of the Department . of Repatriation in helping to aggravate the disaster of centralization by closing two vocational training schools in country towns. The result of this step on the part of the Department is that some of those engaged in these schools are to be dragged to the metropolis. While I sympathize very deeply with the grievances of various persons, and perhaps large classes of individuals, which have been brought before the Committee this afternoon, I would point out that this is not a mere grievance, but it is a question of grave national importance. Every one, in theory at all events, deplores the depopulation of the country towns and districts which is going on in all the States of Australia and the aggregation of population in the great metropolitan centres, But this question is to be fought not by means of generalities, but in detail. For every case in which people abandon the land or leave country towns in order to live in one of our cities there is a cause. Those causes ought to be sought out and pointed out so that remedies could be applied. ‘ It is the one great misfortune associated with Commonwealth activities that they are almost entirely confined to the great metropolitan centres. On visiting a country constituency one finds that practically from one end of it to the other there is not a Commonwealth employee, with the exception of officers of thePost and TelegraphDepartment and a handful of people engaged in military duties. The colossal expenditures of the Federal Government are made inour great cities. It is true that, in connexion with vocational training schoolsfor returned soldiers there was, three years ago, some attempt made to distribute a little of the expenditure of the Commonwealth in country towns, and to afford a means of employment and training in those towns, so that every one concerned would not be dragged into our cities. But this was top good to last. I have two cases that have been brought under my notice within thelast fortnight where a departure is to be made from this practice. The one is from Daylesford, and the other from Maryborough, Victoria.
-The principal Maryborough.
– The Maryborough of Australia. I thank my honorable friend for his courteous interjection. I am always glad to receive suggestions from soinspiring a quarter. The whole of the people of Maryborough and Daylesford are seething with indignation because of the partial closing ofthe vocational training schools in those towns. Their cases are practically identical, and I shall read a letter I have received from the registrar of the Daylesford Technical School.
– Where is Dayles-. ford?
– The right honorable gentleman, of all men in Australia, ought to know where Daylesford is, since, in proportion to its population, I have no doulbt ‘that it contributes as largely to the revenue of the Commonwealth as any town in Australia. The registrar writes to me as follows : -
Dear Sir, - You are probably aware that this school has for the past three years been training returned soldiers–
I may say that both these schools are under the Victorian Education Department, but that the Repatriation Department makes provision for them to be carried on as vocational training schools for returned soldiers -
At the present time there are ten soldiers attending the woodwork class, four of whom are married men, and they have all received notification of transfer to the training school at Wirth’s Park.
I may say that tho Maryborough men have received orders to be transferred to some school at Collingwood, which, I have no doubt, is an exceedingly good ono. The letter continues -
The men approached the council of this school yesterday, and complained that this would entail great hardship, for the following reasons: -
The single men state that on £2 2s. per week they would find it impossible to live in Melbourne, and tbo married men, although they receive 25s. extra, find themselves in the mme predicament.
Four of these men are married -
The council of the school has gone into this matter to see whether the country would be running into any more expense by continuing to train the men here till work is found for them.
One of the most frivolous excuses put forward by the Department is that the transfer will lead to a saving of expenditure.
I am reminded of the celebrated phrase, of Madam Boland, who exclaimed, “ Oh, Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name I” When a justification for a proposal is claimed on the ground of economy, one is tempted to exclaim, “Oh, Economy, what nonsense is talked in thy name!” The councils of the schools at Daylesford and Maryborough are prepared to prove to the satisfaction of the Department, if they get a chance, that no economy will be effected by the transfer.
– Is the vocational training given as a branch .of the Technical Schools work?
– That is so.
– The transfer does not mean the closing of the Technical Schools.
– It. does not mean the entire closing of the schools, bub the’ cessation of one of their most important functions. ‘
– And, incidentally, a little economy I
– No economy at all, as J shall show the right honorable gentleman, but, on the contrary,’ the spending of more money.
– “ We must have economy I”
– Then the Treasurer should not close vocational schools in the country, and drag the students into the city. However, the letter goes on to say -
The expense of running the class is made up as follows: - Instructor’s salary, £6 a week, and cost of raw material. To offset against this, the Department would incur an extra expenditure of £5 a week to reimburse the married’ men,’ and they would have the same outlay approximately for raw material. As a matter of fact, the material costs the Department very little here, as we do so many outside jobs that sometimes no expense iB incurred for the month. We have on hand sufficient outside work to keep the men employed, with, no expenses to the Department, for another month.
That is. the position at Daylesford and at Maryborough. These men received notice about two days before tho end’ of September that they were to abandon their homes - and report themselves at Wirth’s Park and in Collingwood on 10th October. With great difficulty I succeeded in persuading the Department .to - postpone the removal until Monday next. I have just been in the constituency, and - 1 am .sorry to say that, in consequence of the action of the Department, taken without consulting either myself, as the local member, of. . anybody thoroughly familiar with the local conditions, these vocational schools have been closed. I should like to read an extract from, a letter, dated the 10th inst., which I received today from Mr.. La Gerche, the Principal of the Maryborough Technical School, in which he says -
Since I saw you :in St. Arnaud matters have become more complicated. The Education Department, having received notice from the Repatriation officials that the wood-work classes were about to be closed, terminated the period: of employment of the instructor as from the 15th inst. That gentleman has accepted this notice as final, and refuses to change his mind on the subject.
That is from Maryborough. When I arrived at the House this afternoon, I received the following telegram from Daylesford -
Instructor leaving school this month. Deputation abandoned.
The evil is done. I make no charge against the good intentions of the Repatriation Department, but I do charge it with extreme carelessness..
– What justification is offered?
– That the matter has been gone into, and it is considered that the transfer will prove economical. The matter is clinched, and the system broken up without any opportunity being afforded to those who know the circumstances to present the facts. These men have homes at Maryborough and Daylesford, and, no doubt,- most of them would in due course have found employment and settled there. We all know the difficulty there is in inducing people to build houses in country towns, and also the difficulty in getting men to go into the country, although, at the same time, there is unemployment in the cities. Here we have two cases of men who are anxious to remain in the country being dragged into the city against their will. I would say, however, that the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) is entirely free of. blame. The mischief was done after be had relinquished control.
.- I wish to refer to the position with respect to the cashing of gratuity bonds.
– It requires opening up 1
– It certainly does. I am glad to have tho assurance of. the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to-day that it is his intention to send an officer of his Department to Western Australia, where a Select Committee of the State Parliament is holding an inquiry into this question. When I was a member of the Western Australian Parliament last year, I discussed the matter with the honorable member for Collie, who is the Chairman of the Select Committee, and I knew that it was his intention to have such an inquiry. We all know that there have been some little happenings between the Committee, the Premier of the State, and the Commonwealth Treasurer regarding the giving of evidence by the sub-Treasurer in Western Australia before the Committee; and, therefore, I’ am glad, that the Treasurer is sending over an officer, who will be able to advise the Commonwealth representative there, and help the Committee to elucidate a business that all concerned earnestly desire shall be elucidated. The subject-matter of the inquiry might at first sight lead people to believe that there have been wholesale scandals in connexion with the cashing of bonds; and I take it to be the duty of the public men of Australia to show that there has been no such wholesale scandal, and to disabuse the minds of the people of any such idea-. It is an easy matter for persons here or elsewhere to make charges of people gaining money in this or that direction, but the question is to prove them.
– It is pretty true if that is said.
– I shall not speak in generalities of that kind, but get right down to details. The question for the Select Committee is what a soldier will say now regarding his own action when he was getting his bond cashed. There are four modes of payment by means of thesebonds - there is the cash payment to widows, the cash payment to married men who got married after the cessation of hostilities, the cash payment in necessitous cases-
– Some cases!
– The payments made have been in cash. Then there are the caveat cases, in which the payment is divided between the soldier and his dependants. I believe I have as large an experience of this work as any civilian in Australia, because I was Complaints Officer in the western State, and every appeal came before me ; and, in my opinion, the majority of the soldiers, and the majority of their dependants, “ play the game.” There are, however, cases in which dependants do not play the game, and also cases in which soldiers have not played the game to those they left behind. The Government or the Department concerned did not say that the money should not be paid simply because of this fact; they held that it was the duty of the country to pay the money to somebody, and various Boards had to decide to whom it should be paid, and - to what amount. As Complaints Officer I have dealt -with 98 per cent, of the caveat cases that the Board had to deal with. _ There were complaints with reference to separation allowances, the overpayment of separation allowances, and so forth. If a soldier’s wife proved unfaithful while he was away fighting and he had dependants other than his wife, a trustee o,r guardian of those other dependants might lodge a caveat with the Gratuity Board, which would consider the circumstances and arrange’ an equitable distribution amongst, the parties. In the majority of these cases payment has been made in .cash. There are thus left only two classes of cases. The majority of those soldiers who could establish necessitous circumstances have been paid in cash, but whether they were or were not paid, the Gratuity Board, which consisted only of returned fighting soldiers - not Horseferryroad heroes - gave them a fair deal.
– Are not most of the members of the Boards officers ?
– No; but’ even if they were I am a good enough Australian to declare that there .’are officers who played the game equally as well as did the privates. When I speak of a soldier I make no distinction of rank. -
– But there are not as many privates as officers on the Boards.
Mr.FOLEY.- Many of the officers who were members of the Gratuity Boards joined the army as privates, and even though there may have been favoritism in some instances, the majority of privates who gained promotion during the war deserved it. These Gratuity Boards considered all applications for cash on account of necessitous circumstances, and the soldiers have had a fair deal. When the gratuity bonds were issued provision was made for their cashing by two classes of persons. Firstly, there Were those people who, for patriotic reasons, cashed bonds in order to help soldiers to pay deposits on houses or land, or purchase goods.
– Very few did that.
– If the honorable member will continue to carp and descend to everything that is lowest I cannot help it.
– I am trying to correct the honorable member’s misstatements.
– If the honorable member’s interjections indicate the character of the people of Melbourne, I would not care to represent them in this Chamber. Many men and women came forward from the purest of motives with offers to cash the bonds of soldiers. The second class of persons who did this comprised traders, land agents, and insurance companies. It was originally provided that the private individual could only cash one bond, but that the trader, the land agent, and the insurance company might cash more than one bond. In order to prove the bona fides of the persons providing the cash, an officer representing the sub-Treasury had to take into consideration the calibre of these persons.
– A big task was set for them.
– That is true. Some traders cashed their employees’ bonds in a spirit of true patriotism, not lippatriotism, and for that they are to be applauded. Again, there were traders who cashed more than one bond for soldier customers and thereby did a good turn to men who were in need of the money. Of the insurance companies I shall say little, except that from equally pure motives they, too, cashed bonds. The insurance companies of Australia will bear comparison with those of any other part of the world.
– That is not saying much for them.
– If there was anything wrong or ulterior in their actions the Committee in Western Australia will have an opportunity of finding it out. Some of the land agents did not play the game. A soldier who had a bond worth, say, £100, and was desirous of getting it cashed, would approach a land agent who would sell him a block of land for £40, and give him £60 in cash. It has been proved, to my satisfaction at all events, that some of the blocks of land thus sold did not represent value for the money paid for them. I have brought specific cases before the Government, and in every instance where it could be proved that the value placed upon the land was too high, the Government have re-assessed it, with the result that many a soldier has been recoupedsome of the money that was paid to the agent. It is to cases of this kind that the inquiry will be reduced. And I am glad to know that when the whole matter is sifted it will be found to be not as bad as it appears to be on the surface. The chairman of the Select Committee in Western Australia (Mr. A. A. Wilson, honorable member for Collie), is a returned soldier, and no man will be more pleased than he if the inquiry should prove that there has been no corruption at all. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government has been in the direction of helping to elucidate these cases, and I am sorry that a little friction has occurred recently. In March, 1920, the Prime Minister saidthat the Commonwealth Government desired to help the soldier ; so do the Select Committee, and I am glad that the Government are sending before that body an officer who will state the facts as they affect both the Commonwealth and the soldier whose interests it is sought to protect. No bond was cashed unless a statutory declaration was made by the holder, and another by the person providing the cash. In those circumstances how hard it would be for a Select Committee to prove fraud. The soldier who had his bond cashed made a statutory declaration before the subTreasurer that he was receiving the full face value of the bond plus accrued interest. The person cashing the bond also madea statutory declaration that he was paying full value plus accrued interest. Are the Committee likely to set soldiers to come before them and say that they committed perjury when they made that statutory declaration but that they will tell the truth now ? If the person who cashed the bond adheres to his original declaration, then no Court can commit him for perjury, and the Committee will have to weigh against his evidence that of a soldier who admits that he committed perjury when he signed the statutory declaration. For these reasons, I do not think the Select Committee will discover a great deal, but if cases of fraud are sheeted home I trust that an effort will be made to bring to book any person who evaded the regulations governing the cashing of war bonds. I again stress the point, however, that before any substantial result can come from this inquiry soldiers must go before the Committee and make statements different from their statutory declarations. Either they must commit perjury now or admit that they committedperjury earlier.
– But in regard to purchases of land, the Committee will be able to find out whether or not the block sold actually existed.
– I have already said that adjustments have been made in connexion with land purchases. I have gone very deeply into this question, and I am satisfied that on account of the action which the Commonwealth Government have taken, no soldier need be a sufferer by any land transaction in connexion with the cashing of his bond. Trouble is bound to occur when soldiers endeavour to get cash for their bonds. I could mention many cases in which discount has been charged, but I have nothing but praise for the Commonwealth officers in the various States, who have done all they can for the soldiers; for the soldiers themselves, who have piayed the game, as also for their dependants, who, likewise played the game when bread-winners were away fighting at the Front. For the other class I care nothing. Although very little may be ascertained by this inquiry, there is always a possibility of a certain amount of dirt being flung at the officers. However, when the time comes, I hope honorable members will have the opportunity of dealing with it to the fullest extent.
.- I have told the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) on many occasions that I wish the people of Melbourne had an organization on the lines of the Ugly Men’s Association, of Western Aus tralia. In regard to my experience of getting cash for war gratuity bonds I have nothing but grateful thanks to the Treasury officials for the manner in which they have assisted me in many cases of destitution I have brought under their notice. Mr. Mulvaney has been unceasing in his efforts to render that assistance.
I cannot understand the Treasurer’s objection to one of the Australian States going to America to borrow money. I well remember that financial genius, Mr. King O’Malley, the father of the Commonwealth Bank, drawing my attention to the fact thirteen years ago, that money was being borrowed by the City of New York at 2 per cent. when the Bank of England rate was3½ per cent. Why should objection be raised to Australia borrowing in New York when the Motherland itself and France resorted there for money in their hour of need ? It is a matter for regret that Sir Robert Philp, Sir Alfred Cowley, and Mr. Walsh should have gone to England to form a cabal there with the purpose of preventing their State, which has perhaps morepotentialities than has any other State of the Commonwealth, from raising money in the Old Country. However, New York offered it, and it is but another instance of the bond of affection between the two great English-speaking nations of the world. There are more English-speaking people living under the Stars and Stripes than live under the Union Jack.However, I want to know why the citizens of Australia, who put their savings in the State Savings Banks or in the Commonwealth Bank, cannot draw interest equal to that which we pay the foreign moneylenders. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) will never forget an interesting interview I had with Sir Denison Miller some years ago. If the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank carries out what he has indicated he has in his mind, his name will be handed down to posterity as that of one of the greatest men the world has produced. The Daily Echo contains a very interesting account of an interview with Mr. Scott, the publisher of the Circulating Sovereign, showing that Sir Denison Miller informed a deputation that he was prepared to finance the settlement of Australia to the extent of £350,000,000. This is the interview-
Our representative called on Mr. Scott and asked him was he willing to give particulars of his interview with Sir Denison Miller, and any other details which should be made public.
Mr. Scott said “He was only too willing, and he had been wondering which newspapers would be enterprising and truly patriotic enough to want to give publicity to that upon which certain papers had apparently decided to bc silent. We seem to live in an age when deliberate misleading of the people, or deliberate suppression of the truth, is the practice of our powerful newspapers,” said Mr. Scott, “but the truth will out, and I often wonder what would happen if the people realized only half of what goes on. However, to get back to the object of your interview. I suppose the matter really dates back to 1903, the year the little book The Circulating Sovereign was published, and it all seems wonderful, when one looks back and thinks of one occurrence after another in connexion with that book and its history. But to come to ‘things now.’ Let us start in March of this year. Two of us, both members of the Australian Labour- Party, and both good citizens,” he said, “in spite of that fact, arranged with the Lord .Mayor to call a public meeting in the Sydney Town Hall, and invited the heads of banks and industries to give advice on the unemployed problem, A committee was formed at that meeting, which included Sir Joseph Carruthers, the late T. J. Ryan, M.H.K., J. H. Catts, M.H.B., myself, and others. At” the first committee meeting I spoke on the advisability of calling on Sir Denison Miller, as he, having full control of the money power of Australia, had the power to solve the unemployed problem if the people really wished it.”
I am sure that the honorable member for Capricornia will agree that Sir Denison Miller has almost unlimited powers - “ Sir Joseph Carruthers suggested that a call on our own bank would be a slight on members of Parliament, so out of deference to Sir Joseph’s high rank the matter was dropped at that meeting.” “ Why did Sir Joseph not want the call made, and why should members of Parliament be considered’!1” interjected our representative. “ I don’t know why,” said Mr. Scott, “ but I am inclined to be of the opinion that if the public (never mind about Sir Joseph and others) were really in earnest over the unemployed question, that no barrier would be placed against anything being done that should be done. The whole question lies in the honesty and earnestness of public thought, and now to produce that public thought is a question.” . . “ An important suggestion like the call on our Commonwealth Bank could not be allowed to be dropped even if Sir Joseph , Carruthers and others holding high positions in the land were afraid of the idea. Several were spoken to, but the answers they gave ran: * Sir’ Denison would not see us,’ or ‘What’s the use?’ or ‘He would only turn us down,’ or ‘He hasn’t any power, he has to do what Sir Joseph Cook says he must,’ or some other equally useless reply.”
Honorable members may recall the reply given to me in this House when the Trea surer stated that Sir Denison Miller had full control of the Commonwealth Bank -
In July, a public meeting was held in Martin-place, and on Thursday, 7th July, at 3.30 p.m., myself and Messrs. J. K. Powell, Geo. Waite, H. S. Cohen, H. Pritchard, W. C. Atkinson, S. J. Humphries, and A. G. Huie waited on Sir Denison Miller at our Commonwealth Bank. How many of the deputation were Australian Labour Party members ? “ our representative asked. Mr. Scott said, ‘ “Five; and I hope all good Australian citizens. I am one, and the others are G. Waite H. S. Cohen, H. Prichard, and S. J. Humphries, but what has that to do with it? . . . Sir Denison Miller received us just as a good Australian might be expected to receive a deputation of citizens. Two lady shorthand writers from the Bank staff were present, and recorded what happened. Each deputationist spoke to Sir Denison the thoughts that each had. I was not interested in academic problems. We had certain machinery in existence, and I wanted an acknowledgment from Sir Denison of the power of that financial machinery, and an expression also from him of his willingness or otherwise to use the power already existing. I asked, ‘ What is the power of the Commonwealth Bank to finance Australia? ‘ He said, ‘ This Bank is just as powerful as the Australian Commonwealth is.’ I said, ‘Sir Denison, you did finance Australia for £350,000,000 for war purposes, and had the war continued you could have financed it to another £350,000,000 for war. Is that not so?’ Sir Denison replied, That was the case.’ ‘Then Sir Denison,’ I said, ‘are you prepared to finance Australia for £350,000.000 for productive purposes’ He replied, ‘Yes, I will do my best.’ I said, Thank you, Sir Denison, that is the point.’ I wrote down what had occurred, and read it back to Sir Denison, stating at the time that I only wanted what- he would indorse, as the matter would be made public, and he replied, I will indorse that.’” “A pretty big deal that,” risked our representative. “Yes,” Mr. Scott remarked, ‘this is the biggest deal ever made by Australians in money. No American millionaire even ever did a single deal for an amount like that; but something of more importance than the amount is the new principle created. I remarked at the time that the interview was the most important that had ever occurred in Australia. We had opened the door into a now realm of thought that has no ending. A number of citizens had gone straight into the Governor of their own Bank, setting aside members of Parliament, and arranged for what might be looked upon as the impossible. It is really opening up the possibility of a new form of government.” “What does it all mean?” asked our representative. The reply came, “ It simply means this - that the Commonwealth Bank is powerful enough to take Australia right through the unemployed problem and every other money problem, and Sir Denison Miller is willing to use all his ability and his power to the very utmost if the people who own the Bank, that is ourselves, can only grasp- in some degree its significance, and will . give their earnest and loyal support.”
– The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank could not lend £350,000,000 without security.
– I am aware of that, hut what better security could be provided than by the people of Australia through the Government?
– But the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank did not lend £350,000,000 for war purposes.
– “Who said he did? The Minister had better confine himself to the Northern Territory affairs, and I should advise him not to rob any more Australians of their votes.
– What security have the Commonwealth Government given the bond-holders for over £400,000,000?
– The honorable member’s interjection is very pertinent to the debate.
I come now to another deputation to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, at which Sir Joseph Cook admitted that Sir Denison Miller had absolute power to finance Australia just as the citizens desired -
Our representative said ho certainly would like an explanation of the remark that our Bank is just as strong as the Australian Commonwealth. “ See,” said Mr. Scott, “ this Australia of ours has been financing a third of the civilization of the world since 1851. The gold-fields have done that. The treachery to our Australia: should bo made public. If this subject is of interest caJ] again, and if the North Shore public are curious perhaps addresses might be arranged.” “Have you seen Sir Denison Miller since the deputation, Mr. Scott?” our representative asked. “Yes,”’ was the reply, “I was with Sir Denison Miller in the Bank just lately, on Thursday, 1st of this month. We discussed matters for some considerable time, and the fix I am in mentally is how to tell the people that which they should know.”
That is the most important statement that has been made: Even greater than the statement made by the French financier, Necker. who, if he had been given full authority, might have been able to avert some of the terrors of the Revolution. I protest against any criticism of the United States of America in regard to this matter. In financial transactions no country has shown greater generosity. Even in the Age of yesterday there appeared this statement, which I thoroughly indorse -
President Roosevelt returned to China America’s share of the Boxer indemnities, to be used for the education, of Chinese youth in the colleges of the United States. These and other acts of friendship have helped to give America the same status as Britain as a generous friend and protector of China.
Are honorable members aware of the action taken by the United States Government with reference to the death of a man named Richardson in Japan ? The British Consul summoned the Consuls for Holland, France, and the United States of America to consider the position, and they demanded an indemnity from the Japanese Government. Unfortunately, one Japanese noble fired upon one of the European vessels, and by way of reprisal the gunboats shelled two Japanese villages. Japan paid the indemnity, but an investigation made subsequently showed that Richardson richly deserved his fate, and so incensed were the United States Government at the injustice meted out to Japan that they returned the whole of the indemnity, just as they had returned to - China the indemnity received in connexion with the Boxer rising. A monument erected in Yokohama records this act of generosity on the part of the United States of America. In that little brochure which I published a few. years ago there appears a statement by the Japanese Commander-in-Chief of the army in the war against China to the effect that in the middle of this century Japan would probably be fighting in Europe for the domination of the world, and he hoped that she would be able to play her part with honour to herself and credit to the other nations. I am grateful to Japan for the help she rendered us in making it possible for our men to cross the seas in safety during the recent great conflict. She played the game then. No one can censure Japan for any act of hers during the war. Our White Australia policy offers no offence to Japan. We are merely following her own example, based upon Herbert Spencer’s advice to J apan.
I strongly resent the attitude of those pseudo Australians, Sir Robert Philp, Sir Alfred Cowley, and Mr. Walsh, in regard to recent attempts by Queensland to obtain money in London. I am glad to know that the United States is prepared to help us monetarily, just as she helped the Motherland and France in their recent great difficulties.
I desire now to speak upon another matter. We have among us one who has made the name of Australia known wherever the British tongue is spoken. He is ailing in a hospital, and has only£1 a week to live on ; I allude to Henry Lawson, the great Australian writer. His present position resembles that of Robert Burns, who ended his days in Scotland in need and misery. Surely we do not wish this man, whose poemsand stories have given pleasure to thousands of Australians, to end in that wav. Could not the Men of LettersFund be increased a little? The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), when leading the Government, introduced a Bill to provide for Sir Samuel Griffith an old-age pension of £5 a day, although that gentleman had received from Queensland and from the Commonwealth some £86,000 for his services. Having given him so much, could we not give Henry Lawson a little more than a paltry 20s. a week? I offered to contribute to Sir Samuel Griffith’s support, had he lost his money by injudicious experiments in finance, what I was then paying in income tax. Sir Samuel Griffith translated into the English vernacular part of the works of that great Italian poet Dante Alighieri. That book is in the Library, but I know of no member who has read it. Certainly for every person in the community who has read it there are thousands who have read Lawson’s works. Lawson has written words that live and burn, and will be read in years to come. If a collection was started among members, I think that each would be glad to give something to assist the man whose greatness is shown in his splendid poetry, which pictures so well the beauties of the Australian bush. How many Scotchmen have I heard regretting the last days of Robert Burns? Do not let us have similar regrets regarding Lawson. To Lady Bridges Parliament voted £4,500 because she had lost her man at the front, who perished with 60,000 other Australians. No doubt he was a good fellow, but he had had more chance to save money than the ordinary private had had.
I am tired of the travesties of justice that occur in the Northern Territory. There a lawyer, a keen Englishman, who does not like my politics, although he may like me personally, a gentleman whom, I think, the Minister (Mr. Poynton) has met, applied for leave to appeal to the High Court; but the Judge to whom the application was made said that he could not hear it, because he had tried the case, and it was from his decision that it was desired to appeal. One newspaper has spoken of the procedure as an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. A person desirous of appealing is denied the opportunity of going to the High Court. No one would have complained more bitterly about the present state of affairs in the Northern Territory than would Mr. Poynton were the Territory still in the constituency of Grey.
– Will you tell me why the Labour party, of which you have been a member for years, has not given representation to the Northern Territory?
– Because men like you have been in control of it. As a Minister, you can move in the matter now.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As no one else has risen to speak, I have the right, under the Standing Orders, to make a second speech. Does not the Minister agree with me that the case to which I have alluded is an absurdity ? A magistrate goes out at one door and comes in at another as a Judge.
– No. There is both a magistrate and a Judge at Darwin.
– At any rate, leave to appeal has been refused, on the ground that the Judge cannot hear an appeal against his own judgment. Thus a person is prevented from appealing to the High Court of Australia, to whom all citizens should be allowed to appeal who desire to do so. We do not wish to cause more irritation by red-tape measures than can be avoided.
– In Victoria there is no appeal to the High Court after conviction on a criminal charge.
– Was this a criminal case?
– I take it that it was.
– Solomon was a fool to the honorable member. I do not know if the Minister is aware of the position in South Africa, and for his information I shall quote an extract from the Age of the 19th August last, which reads-
Natives Object to Pay it.
Johannesburg, 18th August.
The native-coloured population is strongly protesting against the new Transvaal poll tax, which was passed by the Provincial Council. A meeting of coloured people passed a resolution pledging themselves not to pay poll tax till the legality of taxation without representation is tested. It was decided to ask: the Government to prosecute one of their number as a test case.
Cannot the Government see their way to cease irritating men who, at all events, are standing upon the principle accepted in every British community, that taxation without representation is an infamy and a fraud? It is quite a small matter, and concerns only a few hundred men and women who were allowed to vote on the conscription issue, and when attached to South Australia to vote also for the Legislative Council and House of Assembly, as well as for the Senate and House, of Representatives. I would willingly attach them to my constituency if that could be done, and I am sure the Minister for Home and Territories would not object if they were included among his constituents. The Minister is not one who believes in robbing electors of the franchise, and if such action were taken in his electorate he would strongly oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
That the message be taken into consideration in Committee forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
This is really a formal matter. In connexion with all these large obligatory payments we create in the Department a
TrustFund into which we sweep moneys from time to time as a convenient way of getting funds together for meeting these payments. As our funds are nearly exhausted, I am asking the Committee to replenish the fund to the extent of £10,000,000. It really does not mean an appropriation of any money whatever, and I only require the authority of the Committee to continue what we have been doing in regard to war pensions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Order of Business - Sir Denison miller and the commonwealth Bank.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish only to say that to-morrow I understand is grievance day, and that in view of the fact that honorable members have had a full opportunity to-day to discuss grievances, I hope they will consent to my moving the adjournment of the debate on the formal motion, which permits of the ventilation of grievances, so that we may get on with the Tariff.
.- During the temporary absence of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) I made an allusion to him which I desire to repeat in his presence, so that he may correct me if my statement is wrong. I spoke of a deputation consisting of Sir Joseph Carruthers, Mr. Scott, and others which waited on him and asked whether Sir Denison Miller was supreme so far as the finances of the Commonwealth Bank were concerned. I mentioned that the right honorable gentleman was reported to have said that Sir Denison Miller had full control. I think that is right.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 October 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211012_reps_8_97/>.