8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HIGGS.-Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement regarding the negotiations for a guarantee in connexion with the cotton industry in Australia?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson). - Althoughwe have hardly commenced our proceedings this morning, there are so many interruptions and so much noise that it is quite impossible for me to hear the honorable member addressingthe Chair, and it must be equally impossible for Ministers to hear questions addressed to them. This is disorderly. Questions should be heard without interruption, and the answers received without comment.
Mr.HUGHES. - I am not in a position to make any statement except that we are negotiating with the Empire Cotton-growers Association. I have had numerous interviews with Mr. Crawford
Vaughan, and the Government is considering its attitude with regard to the matter; hut I am not in a position to make a definite statement.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Some statements have been made in another place which reflect upon me, and, incidentally, upon all members of this House. Because I had occasion to complain of inaccuracies in a statement made by an honorable senator, be has thought fit to state, amongst other things, that he regrets that there are a large number of political “ guinea pigs “ in this Chamber. He has included me amongst the number. In a dictionary towhich I have referred, I find that a guinea pig is described as “ a small, tailless animal of the rodent type.” Uncharitable people have said that there are rodents in this chamber, but I have never been included amongst them. As to being tailless, I am no more tailless than is the honorable senator himself. It is said that our ancestors had tails, but lost them through late sittings. Although. I feel aggrieved with the honorable senator, I do not wish to -reply in kind. If his reference to guinea pigs was in an allegorical or picturesque sense, I have only to say that if he has received any “ bunce “ out of the Parliamentary Committee in question, he ought to share it with me, because I have had none up to. date. The honorable senator made sis statements of fact, reflecting upon me, of which two were true in some small particular. That, for him, was a very good score.
Amalgamated Wireless Agreement : Appointment of Seventh Director - High Power-stations in Great Britain.
– Will the Prime Minister supply the House with the names of the gentlemen which, with that of Sir Thomas Hughes, were submitted to Mr. Consett Stephen for consideration in connexion with the selection of a seventh director of the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited?
– They were not nominated by me. What do I know about them? Ask the other gentlemen. I know nothing at all about the matter. You have been going on for two or three days about this damned thing.
– Has the Prime Minister read a press cablegram to the effect that the British Government are about to erect a high power-station in Great Britain? If so, will he ascertain whether the work is to be carried out by the Government, or by a wireless company? Ifhe is advised that the work is to be done by the British Government, will he endeavour to make some arrangement with them in regard to the high powerstations proposed to be erected under the Amalgamated Wireless agreement?
– I certainly shall find out what is the actual position. No doubt I look exceptionally foolish this morning, but the honorable member must not think that I accept as gospel every statement in the newspapers. This cable message may not be correct. Let us find out first of all what is actually being done.
Award ofShipbuilding Tribunal.
– Has the Prime Minister yet made inquiries as to why the award of the Government Shipbuilding Tribunal in reference to employees at Cockatoo Island Dockyard is not being carried out?
– I have not; but will do so and let the honorable member know next week the result of my inquiries.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories whether his attention has been directed to a statement published in the Sun newspaper that Mr. Alfred Gibson, signalmaster at South Head, in the course of an interview, said -
Coastal shipping and the lives of those aboard are going to be gravely endangered. Unless we can get daily reports from coastal centres it will be impossible for us to warn shipping of approaching disturbances. We must have it - that’s all.
Similar statements have been made by others well qualified to express an opinion on the subject. Together with a number of honorable members, I have endeavoured to induce the Government to restore the circulation of daily weather telegrams. The Treasurer told me the other day that the cutting off of the service meant no saving to the country. Why should it not be restored? I made an effort to move the adjournment of the House this morning in order to call attention to the importance of this matter, but I understand that an effort is to be made to put the interests of the black man before those of the white, and that I am to be blocked.
– Order!Will the honorable member ask his question and refrain from making comments?
– I desire to know if the Minister has seen the statements to which I have referred, and also other statements to the effect that the property of many pastoralists and agriculturists is threatened by the withdrawal of the service. We have been told that inquiries will be made, and surely, it is only reasonable that in the meantime the service should be continued.
– In reply to the honorable member, I have to say that I have not seen in the press the paragraph to which he has alluded. The Government will in the next day or two see what can be done to remedy what is complained of.
– They should restore the service.
– I will not undertake to say that the whole service will be restored, but the Government will so regulate the matter as to see that no hardships will be inflicted, and that there will be no risk of endangering lives in the way that is suggested by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman).
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories whether the economic spell in the Meteorological Department is likely to have any effect on the establishment of theradiostation on Willis Island?
– See reply to previous question.
Mr.RILEY.- In view of the fact that this matter was brought to the attention of Ministers some time ago, I should like to ask whether any action has been taken to remedy what is complained of?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ Yes.”
– I wish, sir, to address a question to you to obtain information for my guidance in the future. I should like to know whether I shall be in order if, in referring to business of the House which does not in any way deal with reservoirs, I apeak of it as “ damned “ business?
– No, the honorable member would not be in order in making any such reference.
– The Prime Minister did so.
– Order ! I hope that the good sense of the House will convince honorable members of the necessity of conducting our business in an orderly manner.
Medical Services in Mandated Territories.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The inadequate and unsatisfactory medical services of the Mandated Territory.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– On a point of order, I should like, sir, to ask your ruling as to the procedure adopted in connexion with formal motions for the adjournment of the House. Last night I intimated to you that I wished to move the adjournment to-day on a definite matter of public importance, and asked your advice. I knew the course which has been adopted in this House for the last twenty years, but I wanted to refresh my memory. You informed me that the proper course to adopt was to place a notice of my intention in your hand before the House met. I waited at your room this morning at half-past 10 o’clock in order to give you notice of my intention to discuss a matter of very great importance. I have since been informed that another notice of an intention to move the adjournment of the House was contemplated a week ago.
– Two weeks ago.
– I understand that the matter to which that notice refers is to be discussed in the interests of the black man, but I think the interests of the white man should come first. If priority in the consideration of such motions is to depend on physical capacity, it will be somewhat awkward for honorable members who do not possess the agility of some of the younger members of this House. It would appear that if there is competition for priority in the consideration of motions of this kind, it will be necessary for an honorable member to give his intimation to the Speaker at 6 o’clock in the morning; or something like that. I should like to ask you, sir, what steps’ I am to take to safeguard my rights as a member of this House desiring to have a matter of great importance discussed?
– Unless the Speaker has the support of the House in maintaining its rules, the proper conduct of our debates and the business of the House will become impossible. If some honorable members will not observe the rules, I must ask the majority to support the Speaker in endeavouring to secure fair play for everybody, and to insure for every honorable member a hearing free from interruption. A practice has grown up which is to be deprecated in the strongest possible way. I have mentioned the matter on several occasions, and yet no honorable member can rise to address the House or to ask a question without being met by a storm of interjections and loud conversations which make it impossible for the Speaker to hear what is being said, or for the honorable member who desires to address the House to make himself heard. I. appeal once more to honorable members to cease from interruptions, and to allow the business of the House to be conducted in a decent, orderly, and seemly manner. “With regard to the point of order raised by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), there is very often a desire on the part of more than one honorable member to move the adjournment of the House on a particular day in order to discuss different matters. In view of the fact that no notice of an intention to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to an urgent public matter can be given in the ordinary way, the only rule for the guidance of the Speaker is to take intimations of a desire to submit such a motion in the order in which they are received by him. I received an intimation from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that he desired to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a particular matter, and some time later, at about 10.30 a.m., as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has stated, I received an intimation from him that he also desired to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to a matter of urgent public importance. As only one motion of the kind can be discussed at the same Fitting. I must naturally give priority to the intimation that first reached me. I do not see how I could proceed in any other manner, and that is in accordance with the practice which has hitherto been adopted.
– I should like to ask you, sir, whether you will take my notice of my intention to move the adjournment on a matter of urgent public importance now, as being prior to any similar notice that might, for instance, reach you early on Wednesday next?
– Honorable ‘members must bear in mind that provision is made for formal motions for the adjournment of the House on the supposition that something of an urgent public nature has suddenly arisen which prevents notice of ti motion for its consideration being given in the ordinary way. The only reason for moving the formal adjournment of the House to discuss a particular matter is that it is assumed to be a matter of public importance which requires immediate consideration. If opportunity is afforded to give timely notice of a matter, no urgency in connexion with it can be said to exist. It is only for the consideration of matters suddenly arising which cannot be discussed in the ordinary way that provision is made for the formal motion for the adjournment of the House; and there must be a sufficient number of honorable members of opinion that the matter proposed to be discussed is of sufficient pub- lie importance and urgency as to justify the suspension of public business to deal with it. Honorable members holding that opinion are required to rise in their places, and they take the responsibility of affirming that the- matter proposed to be discussed is one of urgent public importance.
– May I ask you, sir, whether the matter which the honorable member for Hindmarsh proposes to discuss comes under that heading, in view of the fact that, if my memory serves me right, there was a controversy on the question between the honorable member and the Under-Secretary for External Affairs (Mr. Marks) during which I believe the honorable member threatened to deal with the Prime Minister outside, or something of the kind.
– Are we to be held up by the honorable member for EdenMonaro ?
– I point out-
– I will take them on, but prefer one at a time.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has asked me a question, and he should be prepared to hear me in silence.
– It is pretty hard on mc when honorable members interject in this manner.
– All interjections are disorderly, and I again appeal to honorable members to refrain from them. I hope that they will have some regard for the need for decorum in the conduct of our proceedings. I point out again to the honorable member for EdenMonaro that the responsibility of saying whether a matter proposed to be discussed is one of urgency or not does not rest with the Speaker. It is determined by a certain number of honorable members, provided for in the Standing Orders, rising in their places, and in that way indicating that, in their opinion, the matter proposed to be discussed is. of sufficient importance to justify the suspension of the ordinary business of the House to consider it. The responsibility in the matter rests with the House, and not on the Speaker.
.- After the sensational disclosures of recent weeks, it will, perhaps, not come as a great surprise to the public mind of this continent to learn- that the definite charges I have made against the Government’s administration of the Mandated Territories can be absolutely verified and confirmed in every detail. I have already given instances and places in regard to each charge, and now I come to the House to place them before the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), so that he may have the opportunity of proving whether they have any foundation or not. As a Commonwealth, we accepted from the League of Nations a Mandate for the promotion to the uttermost of the material and moral well-being, as well as the social progress, of the inhabitants of that portion of New Guinea which lies to the north of Papua and to the east of Dutch New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the German Solomon Islands, a Territory of approximately 92,000 square miles, with a population of 659 British people,’ 1,240 Asiatics, 87 Japanese, 179 Malay,”, 102 half-castes, and between 350,000 and 400,000 natives. I have no desire to secure any personal advertisement or aggrandisement from the disclosures which I make. My only wish is to serve the best interests of the people of these Territories, and preserve the good reputation of the Commonwealth. I do- not profess to be an authority on all questions relating to the Mandated Territories; but, while I was there - it was six weeks from the time I left Australia until I returned - I endeavoured to concentrate upon matters affecting the health and welfare of the people there. It was not my desire to secure political material which might be used by my party against the Government; but when I saw circumstances which were not a credit to our administration, I felt justified in informing the public mind of Australia upon them. My charges fall under three headings - first, the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government for the inadequate and insufficient medical services I found in the Territories; secondly, the inadequate staff; and thirdly, the insufficiency of drugs, surgical appliances, and accommodation. The administration of the Mandated Territories is very different from that of Papua. The latter Territory has local autonomy to some extent. It has its own Legislative Council and its own Executive Council. The Mandated Territories Administration is, however, subject to the Prime Minister’s Department, and the responsibility for the condition of affairs atRabaul and elsewhere must rest upon the Commonwealth Government. In his reply to my remarks, the Prime Minister may say that he was not acquainted with the circumstances in the Mandated Territories; but such a statement cannot be accepted as an excuse rendering the Government immune from blame for the neglect to which I shall call attention. The Prime Minister has authority over the administration of the Mandated Territories. He is responsible for the administration. When I arrived at Rabaul, accompanied by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), the Administrator very kindly introduced us to the heads of various Departments, and took us through the Departments, including the drug store and the building from which the medical services are supplied. He asserted that they had nothing to hide, and said that he courted the widest investigation and inquiry. Having heard from certain sources that the medical services were unsatisfactory, I spoke to Dr. Honman, the Principal Medical Officer, and inquired as to the work under his control. He said that he would be pleased to hear what I desired to inquire into, and would do what was possible to assist me in making any inspections I desired to carry out. In the period after the honorable member for Gippsland had left Rabaul, and before the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) arrived there, I made an inspection of the medical stores and the order book. It was not very difficult to ascertain that the supply of medical stores at Rabaul was far below requirements. I found that orders from distant stations could not be filled in accordance with the requisitions; in fact, complete orders were very seldom forwarded to those stations.
– Who makes the requisitions ?
– The medical officers for those districts. In some places there is a duly qualified medical practitioner; in other places the requisitions would come from a medical orderly, or, perhaps, from a native orderly.
– Who is responsible for the principal drug store?
– It would be under the Principal Medical Officer (Dr. Honman). I think he would be responsible to this Government for the conduct of that particular Department
Mr.Foley. - Through what channel?
– Through the Administrator. My first charge is in respect to the inadequate nature of the staffing. I invite honorable members to turn to the report, which has just been distributed among them, and which is to be submitted to the League of Nations. On page 23 there is an admission as to the shortage of staff. The Principal Medical Officer, reporting to the Administrator, states -
The outstanding feature of the different reports from all sources shows the necessity of special investigation of many diseases amongst the natives. The following are the different lines of investigation being followed. Some of these could not have been followed had it not been for the presence in the Territory of Dr. S. H. Lambert, of the International Health Board and the Rockefeller Foundation, who has not only carried on his own work, hut has whole-heartedly assisted me when, because of shortage of staff,the work would have been much delayed.
– Will you not say one good word in favour of the greatest monopolist in the whole world? He is dead now, poor fellow.
– There is very little to be said in the right honorable gentleman’s favour. The Prime Minister endeavours, by some irrelevant remark, to discount what I am saying, but before I sit down I shall prove, up to the hilt, what I have charged this Administration with, and for which the Prime Minister says there is no foundation. With respect to the inadequate nature of the staff, we have not only the evidence to be found in the official document that is to be submitted to the League of Nations, but I have a report signed by the Principal Medical Officer in the Territory, Dr. Honman, who, I understand, is a personal friend of the Prime Minister. I think he is doing wonderful work under great difficulties, and it is a perfect disgrace that he is not given a greater measure of financial assistance to enable him more efficiently to cater for the medical services. In his report to the Administrator, dated 3rd June, 1922, he states -
Narrow means and the need for economy unfortunately prevent the Administration from having an increased staff. The need for same is obvious. New Britain has only one medical station; two more, at least, are necessary. The New Guinea mainland, with 72,000 square miles and many natives, has only one medical officer, stationed at Madang, to deal with all the native problems. No better means of extending the civilizing of natives, and gaining their confidence, than by medical help, can be instituted.
This report actually states that, in a territory comprising 72,000 square miles, there is only one medical officer, who is stationed at Madang.
– What wouldbe the population?
– It is impossible to estimate that. The population of the whole of the Mandated Territories is, approximately, between 350,000 and 400,000 natives. Many parts have not yet been explored by white men, so an accurate estimate cannot be formed. Here is another extract from Dr. Honman’s report; -
There is in some places only one medical assistant to attend to the native hospital and patrol the district … At present it is often reported that the station is left without any medical help for weeks while the medical assistant is away on patrol.
While we were at Madang I had the pleasure of the company of the honorable member for Wentworth, who, with myself, made an inspection of the European hospital, and also of the native hospital. The European institution was formerly a German hotel. The ravages of white ants are very plainly seen. It is a most uninviting building, and the date for its renovation is long overdue. Its furniture is falling to pieces. Its beds are dirty in appearance, but, what is more serious, the institution has but an incomplete surgical chest. Although there are two Army Medical Corps surgical baggages placed on the verandah outside, there is not a single instrument in them. The medical officer at Madang has to attend to the requirements of an area of over 72,000 square miles with an incomplete and inadequate surgical chest. There is no sterilizing plant in the European hospital; therefore, those who have to undergo operations take very serious risks. The remark was made to me by a resident of Madang, “ God help the person who goes there for an operation!” I challenge the honorable member for Wentworth to deny any of the statements that I am making regarding what he and I saw. Together we visited the native hospital, where we found, in an intensified form, the conditions we had seen in the European hospital. It was dirty in appearance, and long overdue for painting. In one corner was an old German sterilizer that could not be utilized, and there was no adequate provision for the storage of fresh water for the medical services. The circumstances existing there are very serious. The Prime Minister cannot say that there is no foundation for these charges, because his Under-Secretary saw the conditions which I have described. For this most incomplete and unsatisfactory service the unfortunate inmates of the European hospital at Madang are required to pay 35s. per day.
– What becomes of that money ?
– I suppose it is credited to the Administration, but I did not inquire in regard to that. I should be pleased, however, if the honorable member will assist me to investigate further these matters. We went also to Kaewieng, the main station on New Ireland, which has an area of 4,600 square miles. We found Dr. J ackson doing his best in difficult circumstances. The native ward was in such a condition that it should have been condemned long ago; it was a most uninviting and unsuitable building for the accommodation of any person in ill-health. Some attempt is being made to overcome this defect by the erection of small huts. This is an extract from the report of Dr. Jackson, which is countersigned by the Principal Medical Officer, Dr. Honman -
Some parts of the Islands arc seriously affected by gonorrhoea, and it.needs very careful examination. I have no doubt that this disease is one of the causes of sterility in this group. We are often handicapped very greatly by the lack of dressings and other surgical materials. At present we have only twelve new bandages on hand, and no likelihood of getting any more until the Mataram arrives. We have requisitioned for an adequate supply, but have not received it, no doubt because it is not in stock. The bandages are rinsed, of course, and are washed, but such treatment wears them out very quickly. The unfortunate part of it is that we are often unable to attend to surgical conditions. . . .
For one week my patients have not had anything but green bananas and tinned meat, because we had no taro or rice.
There is a bountiful supply of fish in the bay which the hospital overlooks, but Dr. Jackson is unable to avail himself of this supply until he has received permission from the Administration in Rabaul. In his report he seeks permission from the Administration to engage” a native to dynamite fish so that he can vary the diet of the patients in the hospital. Another system that has been employed there is the training of native orderlies. This is a very commendable service; but what is the use of training these men unless they are supplied with the necessary drugs and equipment with which to put their knowledge into practice? Dr. Honman says -
Altogether this system of training natives is a great success, and has obvious possibilities. “ But it means a great increase in our drugs and dressings expenses, and the system will have to be greatly limited unless we can have more money to provide the necessary want…..
The Administrator never refuses help if money is available, but it is not so, and progress is checked for want of it. . . . All the native hospitals want re-equipping, fresh instruments and laboratories being required in all. This is being gradually done.
It is very gradually! The statements I have made this morning constitute a grave charge against the Government of neglecting and impoverishing the medical services of the Mandated Territories in such a way as to bring discredit upon the Commonwealth and its Administration. At another page Dr. Honman says -
As with native hospitals, so with European hospitals at out stations - they barely exist, all are ill-equipped, all furniture requires renewing, and accommodation provided for the staff. But it is a hopeless task without means to do this work so necessary for the welfare of the Europeans and staff during illness.
Let me give honorable members some idea of the health conditions of these people. The climatic conditions in New Guinea are most unhealthy. I find this statement in the report that is to be submitted to the League of Nations -
As a preliminary to an organized campaign against malaria and filaria, 833 mcn and 34 women were examined to ascertain to what degree the natives living in Rabaul were infected with malaria, and to do this an examination was made to And out how many spleens were enlarged, and the figures show that there were 56.5 per cent, with spleens easily palpable.
The examination of the women showed that they were more severely infected, as 81 per cent, showed much enlarged spleens.
– You can scarcely blame the Government for that.
– I do blame the Government for not providing the neces sary facilities for the staff to minimize infection. This question affects no:* only the natives of the Mandated Territories, but also the European population. Dr. Honman informed me that 29 per cent, of the public servants in the Mandated Territory were away from duty on account of malaria. But malaria is not the only illness from which the native population suffer. There is an affliction known as yaws, or ulcerated sores. This makes its appearance first in infancy, and if not eliminated from the system, reappears in later life, accompanied by certain physical disabilities, such as irregularity in the limbs.
Extension of time granted.
Yaws is very prevalent among the natives, and for its treatment a certain supply of bandages and dressings are urgently required, and yet Dr. Jackson, of Kaewieng, which is the only station in 4,600 square miles of territory, states, in his report, that he had only twelve new bandages available.
– But the honorable member knows that the success of the treatment made such a demand upon the supplies that they had run out.
– That justifies my contention that shortages in such medical supplies cannot be excused, and proof of success demands the absolute necessity for adequate supplies being constantly held in stock.
– No doubt, but the honorable member is putting it in quite another way.
– I do not know in what way the honorable member for Wentworth desires me to put the case. I am merely stating what is a fact. I hope he will rise in his place to-day to give the House the .benefit of the information he possesses, and express himself in the same terms as he employed when in the Mandated Territory, irrespective of whether the miserable political skin of his parliamentary chief is to be saved or not. I did not visit the Admiralty Island, but I gained some first-hand knowledge of the conditions existing there from a responsible medical officer, whose name I shall not give publicly, because I have some regard for his professional reputation and the reputation df his assistant. If, however, the Prime Minister or any other’ honorable member desires his name, I shall be pleased to furnish it privately. I was informed that at Manus, in the Admiralty Island, in April of this year, a person, whether native or white I cannot say, while dynamiting for fish, had his hand blown off by the explosion. The injurybecame septic, and the man was brought to the hospital. The doctor, after examining the patient, stated that amputation of the arm was necessary, but, as he was not equipped with the necessary surgical appliances, he made a request to the operatives at the wireless station for the use of a hack-saw for the operation.
Mr.fleming. - Similar circumstances arise to-day in some of the more remote country districts in Australia.
– That does not excuse the Government for not having furnished these medical officers with the necessary surgical equipment and other scientific appliances for the proper carrying out of their duties.
– Is the honorable member referring to a medical officer whose name hesaid he wouldnot give?
– Yes, publicly; because I have some regard for his professional reputation.
– But if the man failed because he did not have the necessary appliances, how can his professional reputation be injured?
– Knowing the Prime Minister as I do, I am satisfied that he would be prepared to place the responsibility on anybody else but himself. I do not want this man to be made the victim of the Prime Minister’s cunning.
– But, if you tell me, I may be able todo what you say you pledged yourself to do.
– I am prepared to supply the names privately. Unfortunately, this man died two hours afterthe operation.
– How long was his hand off before the doctor saw him?
– I do not know.
– Then I will tell you.
– Very well, we shall welcome the honorable member’s information; let him no longer keep silence in such matters. There is evidence of neglect on the part of the Government in not providing these duly-qualified medical officers with the proper surgical equipment to meet such an emergency.
– As a matter of fact, the man’s hand was off fourteen hours before the doctor knew of it.
– Will the honorable member suggest that that excuses the Administration for not having surgical instruments there? Even if that man had come immediately after the explosion the surgeon could not have given him any better service than he secured at the end offourteen hours.
– The man’s life could have been saved.
– That is questionable. I have definitely repeated the charges which I made immediately upon my return to Sydney from the Mandated Territories. The Prime Minister, referring to them, said that, apparently, I had gone to New Guinea to secure materiel for political purposes. I repudiate that absolutely. The right honorable gentleman said, further, that my statements with respect to the medical services were quite without foundation. I leavethat to the House to judge. The Prime Minister may say that the Government have provided medical ordinances of a most uptodate character. I am advised that the road which leads to the residence of his most Satanic Majesty is paved with good intentions. Even if the Prime Minister has his office placarded with all these well-meaning ordinances, unless his administration is prepared to “ deliver the goods,” the ordinances will not be worth a snap of the fingers.
-How does our medical service compare with the old German service?
– I had not intended to give any prominence to the German form and system of medical service, because I perceive the imputation which the Prime Minister would immediately place upon my words. I declare emphatically that my sole interest is in Australia. I have no desire to speak ill of my country, or, by comparison, to praise a late enemy country. In his report supplied to the Government, however, Dr. Campbell Brown, who was engaged upon the Commonwealth New Guinea Expedition, states, (vide page 23) -
Care of the whiteman was adequately provided for by the exclusive employment of practitioners who were graduates in tropical medicine, and attended the medical congresses in Java, and had their own research laboratory and were conversant with the last word in tropical - research. Care of the native was carried out on a similar scale, and with the same efficiency. Both are absolutely essential in the early stages of development of a new country, and the Germans simply followed the successful lead of the Dutch in .these matters.
It is my desire to not only pay the highest tribute to the medical staff for their faithful devotion to duty, but also to all Christian missions that have supplied their own medical services, even setting apart missionary sisters for such work. These institutions should receive a free supply of drugs. I trust ‘the Prime Minister will now be fully seized of the importance of the matters upon which I have dwelt this morning; and I hope he will realize that it is of no use to wave his arms like a magician and say there is nothing in all I have brought to light. In the reports of the officers themselves there is sufficient upon which to frame a serious indictment against the Government - sufficient, indeed, to charge them with criminal neglect. For the good name of Australia, I appeal to the Government that these services shall be placed upon an unquestioned footing, and that our administration of the Mandated Territories shall, for the future, be such as will add prestige to the good name of the Commonwealth and cast a lustre on the reputation of the Empire. I invite the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for External. Affairs to speak of the things which he saw, and about which. ‘-he knows. I ask him to do full justice to the .people in the Mandated Territories, who have had to contend with such great difficulties.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) did not intimate to me last night that he intended to move the adjournment of the House on this matter, because I could then have had ‘an opportunity to familiarize myself with the details. The honorable member has made some charges against the Administration; and, as is quite natural, he has levelled them in such a way as to place on my shoulders the sole responsibility for anything and everything that,, in his opinion, falls short of perfection. I hope that I have always shown my self to be one who realizes how far I fall short of perfection. I have never sought to arrest the stars in their courses, nor to bid the sun to stand still. I have not essayed to walk around the walls of another Jericho, blowing a trumpet. But, as far as my imperfections permitted, I have always striven to do my best. I shall endeavour to answer the honorable member as well as I can hope to do without access to the full official files.
The honorable member said something at the conclusion of his speech to the effect that he did not wish to assist Germany in any way, in connexion with the subject-matter of his motion. I believe him; but I think what he has said will help them. ‘ The Germans have not given up hope of getting these Territories back ; and the honorable member, although he has acted, no doubt, with the best intentions, has supplied them with very useful pabulum. Let me now deal with the honorable member’s statement. He has not, so far as I know, said anything new . When he returned from New Guinea he made a statement to the press. My attention being drawn to his remarks, the substance was forwarded by myself to the Administrator. The radio message which I sent was as follows: -
Makin; M.P., makes serious charges against Health Department Territory. States Europeans at outlying stations exposed great dangers by reason unsuitable hospital accommodation and inadequate medical supplies. Resident doctor, at Kaewieng, had complained being in possession only twelve bandages, and that patients, during one week, had lived on green bananas and tinned meat At Marius, owing absence surgical instruments, man’s arm amputated with engineer’s hack-saw; patient died two hours afterwards. Hospital at Madang absolute disgrace, impoverished uninviting surroundings and inadequate surgical appliances. Chief Medical Department, Rabaul, always working on unduly limited supplies and orders from distant places seldom completely fulfilled. (Criticism ends.)
Desire urgent report from Honman including advice whether facts are as above stated; if so, whether such were reported to Administrator. Advise also whether any requisitions for supplies, appliances, other medical services not fulfilled when asked for. If so, give particulars. Advise also any other facts which may be helpful.
This, then, summarizes the position: The honorable member went to Rabaul, and on his return made certain charges, which appeared in the press. The substance of them - I think it will be ad- mitted that the telegram I have read was a fairly accurate summary - waa sent in a radio message to the Administrator, who <was asked to report on the matter. Although the honorable gentleman has sought to make me personally responsible, every sensible man knows that I am dependent upon my officers in the Territory, and cannot be personally aware of everything that is taking place 4,000 or 5,000 miles away. I did what was possible, however, and obtained information which I propose to lay /before the House. The Administrator, having had the case put fairly before him, replied as follows: -
Presume four principal out-stations those referred to. At none is there a properlyorganized hospital, nor has there ever been. At Kaewieng, hospital old building, somewhat dilapidated, but quite serviceable as a’ temporary measure; effort made to secure better building unsuccessful. Madang, old hospital condemned and transferred to the hotel buildings, owned by Board, reported on as suitable, and with as good surroundings as obtainable as temporary hospital. Kieta, two beds in very comfortable building; stated men treated in own bungalows; this temporary measure until sale of Board properties, when hope buy suitable buildings.
Now I come to the point that I want to emphasize and impress upon my honorable friend and my fellow citizens. The honorable gentleman has sought to make it appear that things are in a very bad way, but he need not have gone so far to find opportunity to point a moral and adorn a tale. He might have found conditions analogous to those which he has alleged exist in New Guinea perhaps in his own or in some other State, for it ill becomes us in Parliament to particularize in such matters. He could, for example, have quoted a case referred to in the press the other day, where a medical man - one speaking with authority, a medical superintendent of a hospital - stated that a serious operation in one of the most populous States was performed by the light of a hurricane lamp. I do not know whether an engineer’s hack saw was used, hut things were very far short of being satisfactory. The hospital accommodation not very far away from where the honorable gentleman lives is very bad. But the honorable gentleman was silent on these things, which occurred within a stone’s throw of where he stands - in the very centre of one of our most populous cities - preferring to condemn the imperfections of hospital equipment in far distant and isolated regions in the Mandated Territories. He has sought to show that, owing to a paucity of bandages, to the dilapidation of the buildings, and to other things, matters are in a very bad state in New Guinea. The facts do not support his charges. Let me state them. In Kaewieng the attendance of patients in four months was: January, one; February, none; March, none; April, none. In Madang it was, January, none; February, none; March, two; April, four. In Kieta it was, January, none; February, none; March, none; April, none. Those facts speak for themselves. The honorable gentleman has drawn a harrowing picture, seeking to convey an impression that, through our gross neglect, people were dying like flies, crawling on the verandahs with their dying features transfixed in a pathetic but unavailing appeal. As a matter of fact, in four months, in the three districts, which cover some S0,000 square miles, there were only seven people who came for assistance, and, so far as I know, not one of them died. This surely puts a somewhat different complexion on the matter. .The honorable gentleman, who poses as such a good Australian, has never been in Australia .before. I mean that he has lived in great cities all his life, and has lately gone into the hush for the first time. Naturally, he was a little bit appalled at what he saw; but I can tell him that I have been in parts of Australia itself where I was 1,0.00 miles from a doctor, and where I should have looked upon a hack saw, if I had broken my arm and had found it necessary to have it amputated, as a veritable gift from the gods. I now return to the report of the Administrator, who says -
Reference shortage bandages, Medical Officer radioed, 22nd May, ample supply. Further supply sent 8th June.
Considering ample stores at Kaewieng, cannot see how patients should live on bananas and tinned meat. Am inquiring.
Human beings have very curious and complex natures. In the midst of luxury they sometimes choose to live an ascetic life. God forbid that I should attempt to set myself up as a censor of morals, ot diet. If a man likes to eat green bananas and tinned meat, well, it is a free country - let him do it. But they do so of their own free will, for the Administrator tells us there were ample supplies of good food. In reference to ‘the case of amputation,the facts, in the words of the Administrator, are as follow: -
Reference case amputation; this occurred in March, 1921, before arrival of Honman or self. German at Tabat Island had leg crushed, fall tree. Took five days land on coast 70 miles from Kaewieng. Medical Officer went from Kaewieng and personally brought him in ; case hopeless, compound fracture, leg gangrened, but at patient’s request the Medical Officer amputated, using engineer’s saw, which is quite suitable instrument in an emergency. According to certificate death due to acute infection, gangrene, and tetanus - nothing to do with saw. ,
That appears to be a complete alibi. I do not profess to understand the mysteries of medical science, and although I know tetanus to be very serious, it is not altogether without its good points. If I were assured that a hack-saw would produce lock-jaw, I should be tempted to use it with freedom in this assembly.
Extension of time granted.
The report continues -
General equipment not complete except in Rabaul, but is serviceable. Much requires to he done, which doing as funds permit. Honman states positively statement that request for bandages, dressings, or other essentials unduly cut down or delayed is untrue. Excessive demands of non-essentials, shortage of medical stores in the past make close scrutiny necessary, and more supervision and great economy urged on medical officers and others. Apparently expected attain at once standard Melbourne hospitals. Can only do this if largely subsidized.
Honorable members must not forget that we are dealing with a barbaric country. The civil Administration is not eighteen months old, and it is only fair to give the responsible officers a chance. Many honorable members who have travelled through the back-blocks of this great continent know how difficult it is to convert a wilderness into a blooming garden within a few months. Many deem themselves fortunate if they can compass it in a life-time. The Administration is doing all that is possible, and I venture to say that, as far as the three stations to which the honorable member has referred are concerned, the evidence shows quite clearly that the accommodation provided was sufficient for the number of patients who presented themselves. It is most emphatically untrue that the Government has limited the expenditure on medical supplies or hospital equipment. I saw Dr. Honman and the Administrator this year, and I told them that, whatever else they did, they must protect the health of the white and native population.I informed them that whatever money was necessary in that direction would be provided. I repeat that I agree entirely not only with the honorable member for Hindmarsh, but with other honorable members who say that in whatever direction we economize we should not economize in these things. Although the honorable member has treated me rather unfairly by endeavouring to fasten the responsibility for any shortcomings upon me, I may say that so soon as I read the statement of the honorable member I lost no time in ascertaining the facts. If the position was as stated, I would not allow the responsible officers to hold their positions for twenty-four hours; but surely the honorable member does not expect me to accept his unsupported statement and condemn the responsible officers without hearing them. I come now to some further facts which bear directly on the charges made by the honorable member. When Dr. Honman took office, he had to cope with an epidemic of small-pox. He and his staff vaccinated ho less than 30,000 persons. This surely does not look like neglecting the health of the natives. An epidemic of measles followed; Dr. Honman had to cope with this, which he did most successfully. He has also been attacking malaria, and he told me in February or March - I am not quite sure of the month - that he had not lost one white man through malaria since he had assumed office. The honorable member waxed very eloquent about enlarged spleens. I am not a medical man, but there are some in this chamber who will tell you that the attempt to cope with malaria in an indigenous population suffering from enlarged spleens presents a very difficult problem. Malaria can be prevented; but if the staff were enlarged twenty-fold it could not reduce to normal the enlarged spleens of persons who have had malaria. The medical staff in the Mandated Territories is highly competent and sufficient in number. Under the Administrator there are six doctors and twenty-two orderlies, and in spite of what Dr. Campbell Brown has said, there is much better provision for the preservation of the health of natives and white population than existed under the German regime. Dr. Honman says that he has got on remarkably well with the hookworm representative, Dr. Lambert. Honorable members know that, in dealing with hookworm within the Commonwealth, we have a chain of laboratories and stations, and are co-operating with the Rockefeller Institute. Dr. Lambert, who is mentioned in the report, is leaving the Territory, but Dr.. Honman has secured two of his ablest assistants. He reports that he has a laboratory which he says he believes is equal to any, and that within a few weeks’ time he hopes to have the equipment necessary to make it up-to-date and capable of manufacturing their own vaccines and calf lymph. No one can say, in face of the Principal Medical Officer’s report, that the staff is incompetent or insufficient in numbers or that the Principal Medical Officer has been denied what he has asked for. Dr. Honman states that the medical men appointed to his staff possess the highest credentials. I gave Dr. Honman full authority to get what he needed, and to pay what was necessary. Surely one could not do more. It is not easy to find highly qualified medical officers who will serve in such parts, and we are very fortunate in securing the services of men possessing high credentials. The Principal Medical Officer goes on to say-
The medical mon appointed have the highest credentials, some possessing the diploma of Public Health, some graduates in the School of Tropical Medicine in London, some with public health experience not only in Australia, but also in England. Some have quarantine experience in Australia, and all of them honours men; and it is looked forward with confidence that these men will raise the prestige of the medical services of the Territory of New Guinea to such a degree that the fact that they have been there will be evidence of their expert knowledge, not only in tropical diseases, but in the administration of public health matters. _ In connexion with this matter, it must be pointed out that Australia, with its crowded cities and its congested ports, has entirely different problems to face than New Guinea, with its three or four vessels a month, and its small European population - 1,265- distributed all over the Territory, or 349 in Rabaul. It is con- sidered that its greatest want is continuity of service, and that this is insured by the present appointments, and it would be disastrous at the present time to interfere with this continuity.
He points out that all these men must have long and frequent leave. I hope that the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and other medical men in the House, will speak to this que& tion. We have done and are doing all that is possible to preserve the health of the population, white and native, in the Mandated Territory. I submit, as a layman, that we cannot deal with natives suffering from the chronic effects of malaria, such as enlarged spleen, to the extent that the honorable member for Hindmarsh seems to imagine. We are endeavouring to stamp out malaria and other tropical diseases, and I hope that we shall make New Guinea as clean as Panama, or cleaner. In a radiogram from the Administrator, dated Rabaul, 21st June, 1922, we have the statement -
Do not recommend provision, elaborate European hospitals, out-stations, in view of almost negligible average attendance. This would cost another £20,000 non-recurring, and £5,000 annually.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh has done me an injustice. I am much concerned about the health of those in New Guinea, and have done everything to insure it. My desire is that this Territory, which the League of Nations has given us to govern, shall be governed so well that it shall be a pattern to other nations. Under the Mandate we are made the guardians of these primitive people. We are expected to show them the better way. It is expected of u3 that we shall look after their welfare. We are trying to do so; but Ave are not workers of miracles. We have done all that is possible in the circumstances. We have the best staff that could be obtained. It is with the utmost difficulty that we oan induce men to stay there, and it is a feather in Dr. Honman’s cap that he has secured such an up-to-date staff as that in New Guinea to-day, and has got the members of it to remain there. The evidence is abundantly clear that there is no lack of medical officers, and that Dr. Honman has said quite ‘ plainly to the Administrator that there are adequate supplies. If people have been living on improper diet it is not because of any failure on the part of the Government. There were ample stores at Kaewieng, and people there need not have . lived on the diet of green bananas and tinned meat to which, reference has been made.
Lastly, let me say that the Government have considered the whole matter, and that in view of the Administrator’s report, we have made available £10,000 to put the health administration of New Guinea on the highest possible level. We have promptly met every request. We have given carte blanche to the Principal Medical Officer and the Administrator to do whatever is necessary. Whatever they have asked for they have had, and on top of all that we have now made available a sum of £ 10,000. I hope that the honorable member will acquit me of being particeps criminis, even if there has been laxity, which I most emphatically deny . I am most anxious that the world at large shall not have reason to point the finger of scorn at our administration of the Territory, and since taking charge of the civil administration there I have given instructions’ to the medical officer, who was, and is my friend, as well as to General Wisdom, that in whatever direction they skimp and spare they are not to be sparing in regard to the health administration. I was very much concerned when the honorable member made his statement as to the situation in New Guinea., and I immediately sent a, radiogram to the Administrator. In reply I received the message I have read. Not being satisfied with what has been said, even by my own officials, I am making assurance doubly sure by placing funds at their disposal to put everything right. That being so no blame can rest on the Government.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is to be commended for bringing this matter before the House. I am pleased that he had the privilege of visiting New Guinea and obtaining firsthand information of the conditions prevailing there. Such visits by members of Parliament are in the interests, not only of the Europeans settled in the Territory, but of the natives, who have no voice in its government, and who, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has pointed out, are, under the mandate conferred upon us, in the hands of the Commonwealth. The duty thus imposed upon the Commonwealth is all-important, and I am at a loss to understand why the Prime Minister should have said that in bringing this matter before the House the honorable member for Hindmarsh was not taking the best course possible to assist the natives. There was absolutely no ground for such a statement. The sole desire of the honorable member is that the treatment of the natives in the Mandated Territories shall be of the most humane character. We have heard all too often of the unfortunate condition of the natives of islands under the control of other nations where the people have no voice in their government. If there was ever a question that should be very carefully looked into, it is that of the conditions existing in the islands handed over to us by the League of Nations in order that we may safeguard the interests of the people there. The League of Nations, in giving the Commonwealth a mandate over New Guinea, had the fullest confidence that it would do its best for both the white and coloured population, and I believe that it will. Now that we have taken over control, every honorable member of this Parliament will endeavour to do the best for the people, and that is one reason why as many of us as possible should visit the Mandated Territories and so obtain first-hand information. I regret that so far I have been unable to do so.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh has given the House the benefit of the information secured by him while in New Guinea. Already his representations have been attended with good results. The Prime Minister has admitted that owing to the allegations made recently by the honorable member he at once got into touch with the authorities in New Guinea, and that action had been taken to improve the conditions of which complaint had been made. The right honorable gentleman says that the information he has received is that the statements made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh are not in accordance with the facts. I would point out, however, that while the honorable member referred to the white population, he pointed out that it comprised only something . like 600 souls, and that his chief concern was for the natives, who, * have no voice in the government of the Territory. In the circumstances, he felt it his duty to give special attention to their interests. The Prime Minister, in his reply, has endeavoured to camouflage the facts. The right honorable gentleman said that in certain hospitals there had been only seven inmates over a period of four months. He forgot, however, to tell the House that those hospitals were for the treatment of the white, and not the coloured, population. Why do not the white people go to these hospitals? We have to remember that the white population is very small, and, perhaps, fortunately, some of the white peoplecan secure better treatment in their own homes if they are ill. They will probably be sure of better facilities for nursing them in their own homes. The fact that £10,000 has been provided for additional appliances for medical purposes proves that the Prime Minister is himself convinced that to-day the appliances for carrying out medical treatment in this Mandated Territory are inadequate. The fact that only seven patients were treated in four hospitals during a period of four months does not prove that there is nothing in the statement made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. We have to remember that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 natives in the Territory. These people must depend on the Government for protection and assistance in their hour of need, and it is to their interests that the honorable member for Hindmarsh specially directs our attention. In proof of the necessity for better facilities, let me quote from a report by Dr. J. H. S. Jackson, medical officer at Kaeweing.
– To whom did he report?
– This is a report to the Principal Medical Officer, Dr. Honman, and, referring to dressings, this officer says -
We have been handicapped very greatly by lack of dressings and other surgical materials. At present we have only twelve new bandages, and no likelihood of getting any more until the Mataram arrives. Wehave requisitioned for an adequate supply, but have not received it, no doubt because it is not in stock. The bandages are rinsed, of course, and washed out, but such treatment wears them out very quickly. The unfortunate part of it is that we are often unable to attend to surgical conditions.
That is very different from the information which the Prime Minister has placed before us. It is a report by a medical officer on conditions as he found them, and they were very far from satisfactory. Every one admits that Dr. Honman is a very competent man, but I find that he has made a report in terms which, are very different from that quoted by the Prime Minister.
Mr.Bowden. - What is the date of the report to which the honorable gentleman now refers?
– It is dated June of this year, and I quote the following from it : -
All the native hospitals want re-equipping, fresh instruments and laboratories being required’ in all. Thisis being gradually done. One has been established at Manus, where a medical officerhas just been sent to look after a big district with numerous islands right up to the equator.
We may be referred to a few cases and the treatment they received, but the fact remains that the reports I have quoted substantiate what has been said by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Here is a still further report -
As with native hospitals, so with European hospitals at out-stations, they barely exist, are all ill-equipped, all furniture requires renewing, and accommodation provided for the stall’. But it is a hopeless task without means to do this so necessary work, so necessary for the welfare of the European and staff during illness.
We have had a report from the Principal Medical Officer quoted by the Prime Minister, and yet that officer admits the truth of every word the honorable member for Hindmarsh has uttered in describing the condition of things existing in the Mandated Territory. The reports speak for themselves, and in the action which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has taken he is doing a good turn, not only to Europeans and natives in the islands, but to the Commonwealth and to the civilized world. He is trying to bring about a condition of affairs which will justify the League of Nations in having confidence in our administration. The League will not have that confidence if we do not remedy the matters complained of.
– The reports the honorable gentleman has quoted show that they are being remedied.
– Since the honorable member for Hindmarsh first complained he has succeeded in getting some satisfaction. I have been very pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that the Government are prepared to do everything they possibly can to remedy the unsatisfactory conditions of affairs at present existing. It was to bring that about, and not merely to make an attack upon the Government, that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has raised the question.
– The Government have never refused any request from the islands.
– The inference to be drawn from that is that those who should advise the Government regarding conditions there have been lax in the discharge of their duty.
– The honorable gentleman has been referring to reports of a year ago.
– I have quoted from one report dated in June of this year.
– How did the honorable gentleman obtain that report so early?
– I brought it back with me from New Guinea.
– We could not expect to get any report much later than June of this year. We are considering a very important matter. We are responsible for the proper administration of these islands. The Prime Minister has realized that it is necessary that we should do the best we can in the interests of the people of these Mandated Territories, and I take it that honorable members are prepared to do all that is possible for them. Apparently, if some members of this House do not take the trouble to inquire into these things, officers on the spot may send in reports without obtaining much satisfaction.
– The curious thing is that these reports do not seem to. have been brought under the notice of the Government.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh informs me that these reports were sent to the Principal Medical Officer of the Territory. If there has been delay in forwarding these reports to the Government the Administrator should be asked why the Govern ment do not receive them earlier. The Government and Parliament should be kept fully posted with regard to everything that is going on up there. We should see that we carry out the trust reposed in us by the League of Nations in a satisfactory way. It is unfair to the honorable member for Hindmarsh to say that he is assisting the Germans. He is assisting British people and the League of Nations by performing what is merely the obvious duty of any member ofthis Parliament visiting the islands and finding a condition of things that is not satisfactory. The honorable member should be congratulated rather than condemned for eliciting this information and placing it before the House, because it would appear that although these medical officers’ reports are furnished to the Administrator they are not in the possession of the Government. The time taken up this morning has been well spent in ventilating this matter. No doubt it will be the means of insuring the provision of proper facilities for safeguarding the health of the people of the Mandated Territories. The cost may be a little heavy in these times of economy, but the care of the health of the people in these parts should be our first duty irrespective of cost.
– In the few minutes at my disposal I hope to fill in some of the gaps left by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in his reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). I can say from my own observations in the Mandated Territories and from the information I have at command in the Department of External Affairs that in no instance has a demand made by the medical authorities at Rabaul not been complied with. In fact, when the Principal Medical Officer, who was in Melbourne last year, asked for certain doctors and orderlies, these were secured and sent away by the next steamer. It is admitted that there is a shortage of supplies, but that is because injections of 606 in the treatment of hookworm and framboesia, or yaws, have proved so successful. The natives like the treatment so much that the news has spread out among the tribes, with the result that many natives walk in 150 miles, dragging their kiddies with them, to get a “ stick in the back with a needle.” This has caused such a demand that it has been found almost impossible to maintain supplies with a six-weekly steamer service. However, the Government are forwarding all the supplies necessary to overcome the shortage. The lack of instruments is also being met. The incident of the sawing off of an arm, about which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said so much, would appear at first sight to be somewhat serious, but when this native, who had been using dynamite for the purpose of bringing up fish, blew off his hand at the wrist it was fourteen hours before Dr. Watch and Mr. Weir, his assistant, learned of the incident. The medical men got to the spot as quickly as possible, but the native had already been bleeding to death for fourteen hours. They applied a ligature, and before using the saw obtained from the wireless station, which, by the way, was thoroughly disinfected, they tried everything possible by means of hot fomentations, and so on, to save the man’s life. Septicaemia, however, had set in right to the shoulder, and the arm had to be sawn off. The man died, not because of the operation, but through exhaustion after bleeding for fourteen hours. The Prime Minister has spoken about the man who fell off a tree, and asked for the use of a saw, but when our medical men go out from their stations they do not usually take all their operating instruments with them. They merely take what they may consider necessary. T have recommended to Cabinet, and the matter has been fully considered, the necessity for supplying all the deficiencies reported to me at Rabaul. I take this opportunity of drawing attention to what our medical services have done in the Mandated Territories. They have done wonderful work.
– Hear, hear!
– The criticism to which the Administration is being subjected would appear to me to be based on the misapprehension that we have had the mandate for twenty years instead of fourteen months. During the seven years of the military regime much work necessarily accumulated, which was a legacy to the civil authorities. Few can appreciate the extent of this legacy. The first difficulty we had was to get doctors with sufficientqualifications to go there. However, we overcame that difficulty by paying pretty fair salaries. Upon their arrival in the Territories the medical men at once began a close study of the various native diseases - bookworm, malaria, yaws, &c. A close examination was at once made of over 1,800 native men and women, which enabled them to arrive at certain statistics of help to them later on. A survey was also made of the question of malariacarrying mosquitoes, the investigation yielding identification of the mosquito in. question. Mr. Weir, the Bacteriologist, is now breeding an anti-malarial mosquito, from which he hopes to achieve great results. An intensive campaign into the prevalent disease of hookworm has led to over 90,000 doses having been administered. On a recent patrol 1,100 natives received treatment. In August, 1921, a serious outbreak of small-pox occurred in the isolated north-west portion of the Territory, placing a great strain on our resources. An expedition was organized, costing £5,000, the lymph supply alone costing £858. Over 30,000 natives were vaccinated. I ask honorable members who have been vaccinated in the cleanly surroundings of one’s own home or in an Australian hospital to realize the position up there in vaccinating 30,000 natives, practically all wild savages from the bush, with their inherent dislike to the white man’s medicine. Framboesia, or yaws, which is very prevalent, and the cause of great mortality, especially among children, is being systematically dealt with, 5,000 injections having been given, with, in the majority of cases, good results. In the outstation of Manus. during the last twelve months, one of our medical men and his assistant treated 4,000 cases of various diseases and slight operations, 779 vaccinations, 879 hookworm ‘cases, and 1,180 spleen enlargement cases. At Madang, 5,000 various cases were treated in six weeks, in many instances necessitating a walk of over 70 miles along the coast. I ask honorable members to realize the climatic conditions under which our medical staff works in the Mandated Territories. When I was there, even in winter, the perspiration was running off my face in a stream. Our medical men have also to face what
I have already referred to - the inherent dislike of the natives to white men’s medicine - and to break down, in many cases, customs established ages ago, and which it is often exceedingly dangerous to touch. I have given the other side of the picture, which I think the people should know. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I would not care to be sick in the hospital at Madang; it is a dirty place. But ‘all the buildings there are eaten with the worm, and no other place is available until we can put up a new hospital. Before I left Rabaul, certain arrangements were made for alterations to the European and (native hospitals at Rabaul, Kaewieng, Madang, and Manus. Arrangements were also made to supply the deficiency in regard to surgical instruments. Many of the provisions I made before I returned will, when carried out, give practically everything required.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I desire to move -
That Orders of the Day and all intervening business be postponed to enable notice of motion No. 12 - relating to water supply extension in the Federal Teritory - standing in the name of the Minister for Works andRailways (Mr. Richard Foster), to be dealt with.
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing that. He cannot take charge of the arranging of Government business.
– On a point of order, I draw attention to the fact that this matter has been raised before, and it has already been decided that such a course is permissible. In the last Parliament I took exactly the same action. A motion was accepted by you, Mr. Speaker, and was spoken to by myself. Upon that the Prime Minister moved, “That the question be now put.” The Prime Minister’s motion was taken, and the then member for West Sydney (the late Mr. Ryan)-
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is disputing your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– There is a point of order already before the Chair.
– Then the late Mr. Ryan took thepoint that the motion of the Prime Minister was out of order on the ground that the question had not been stated from the Chair. That point was subsequently upheld by the House. Therefore, I consider that it is competent for me to submit my motion, and it would then be for the House to decide the question.
– I do not recall the incident referred to by the honorable member, but I am quitesure that it is not in accordance with the procedure adopted by the House of Commons. I am relying upon the authorities to which I have to look in these matters, and I now rule that such a motion as that proposed by the honorable member cannot be moved by a private member. The arrangement of business is a matter for the Government, and any proposal for a rearrangement must be proposed by a responsible Minister or with his consent. It is laid down in May, as pointed out on a previous occasion when the question arose, (vide Hansard, Vol. LXXIII, p. 1057) that -
When an Order of the Day has been read, it must thereupon be proceeded with, appointed for a future day, or discharged. The Speaker, therefore, calls upon the member in charge thereof, no other member being allowed to interpose unless with his consent.
– A message has been sent to us from the Senate in pursuance of the Standing Orders, which provide for the restoration of lapsed Bills. The Government are now taking action to restore the measure to the notice-paper. Last session it reached the stage for the second reading in this Chamber, but the second reading was not moved. I now move -
That the request of the Senate, contained in its message No. 1, for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Public Service Bill (1921) be complied with, and that a message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith, and that the second reading of the Bill (the stage which the Bill had reached last session) be made an Order of the Day for the next sitting.
– I move -
That the motion be amended to provide that the resumption of the debate be postponed until after the consideration of notice of motion No. 12 standing in the name of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster) .
I submit this amendment so that the House may have an opportunity to decide that the works at Canberra shall be proceeded with.
– On a point of order, I submit that the amendment is not in order.
– The amendment is not before the Chair until it has been moved and seconded.
– I am taking this action so that it may be decided immediately whether the works at Canberra are to be proceeded with or not. There is £75,000 of unexpended money that Parliament has voted for the works. The Public Works Committee has exhaustively inquired into, and reported favorably upon, them. Five hundred men are now at Canberra doing practically nothing, because the authority of Parliament for the work to be continued is required. The manner in which affairs at Canberra are being conducted at present is a scandal and a disgrace, and unless a more sensible attitude is adopted we had better scrap the whole project. To continue as at present means a wilful waste of public money.
– You are quite right; it is a waste of public money.
– The 500 men there are making no attempt to do work of a useful character, but are merely wasting their time. There should be a clearcut decision on the question. If we are to proceed with the construction of the Federal Capital let us do so in a sane manner and not waste public money. If the Capital is not to be proceeded with let us discontinue the whole project. It is significant that the Minister in charge of this work to-day (Mr. Richard Foster) was Chairman of the Anti-Canberra Committee of this House, and headed a deputation to the Prime Minister to urge that the work there should be held up. What can we expect from him but what he is doing to-day - pursuing a deliberate policy of blocking the construction of the Federal Capital. Since this AntiCanberra Minister has been in charge of the work not one brick has been laid at Canberra.
– For which he deserves our commendation.
– Possibly,but why make a fool of Parliament and the country.
– That is the voice of Victoria.
– And the present inaction represents the subtle influence of the Anti-Canberraites.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the request of the Senate contained in its message No. 2 for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Defence Bill 1021, be complied with, and that a message be transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith, and that the second reading of the Bill, the stage which the Bill had reached last session, be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Motion (by Mr. GREENE) agreed to -
That the request of the Senate contained in its message No. 3 for the resumption by the House of the consideration of the Air Defence Bill be complied with, and that a message bc transmitted to the Senate acquainting it therewith, and that the second reading of the Bill, the stage which the Bill had reached last session, be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
– -Two or three honorable members have asked me if questions may be asked at this stage, and I remind the House that our Standing Orders provide that when a motion for the special adjournment of the House has been moved, as was the case to-day, Orders of the Day must be called upon at the expiration of two hours from the time of the meeting, of the House.
Sugar Agreement - Balance-sheet.
-I desire leave to make a statement in connexion with the Government control of sugar, and at the close propose to move that the papers be printed.
– We object.- They moved a gag on us with regard to Canberra.
– There being an objection, the Minister may not make the statement indicated.
– I withdraw my objection, Mr. Speaker.
– I regret that circumstances over which I had no control whatsoever prevented the statement being presented to honorable members at an earlier date. I desire now to place before the House the balance-sheet and statement of Ihe Commonwealth Government sugar control for the period of its inception on the 19th July, 1915, to the 30th June last. Before traversing the items mentioned in the balance-sheet, I may remind honorable members of the circumstances under which the Government initiated control of this commodity. During the period of the war the Government were faced with the obligation of providing for the sugar needs of the Commonwealth, and it became a question whether they could rely upon the private trading organizations that in the main controlled sugar, or whether in view of all the circumstances and of the necessity to preserve full supplies for the nations during the -period of the war, the Government itself should not assume control. Like the Government of the United Kingdom, the Government of the Commonwealth decided to undertake control of sugar supplies during the period of the war, and has maintained that control up to the present. Government control commenced upon the 19th July, 1915. The first contract for the purchase of the Australian crop was for a period of two years, 1915-16 and 1916-17. For the first year the retail price of sugar was fixed at 3d. per lb., and for the second year Sid., while the wholesale price per ton during the first financial year was £25 10s., increased in January, 1916, to £29 5s. It stood at that figure during the second year. The second contract covered a period of three years, in the first of which, 1917-18, the retail price was 3½d., and the wholesale price £29 5s. per ton. In the second year of that period the retail and wholesale prices remained at the same level, but in the third year the retail price was increased, on the 25th March, 1920, to 6d. per lb., and the wholesale price to £49 per ton, a.t which it now stands. The Government not only undertook the acquisition of the Australian sugar supply, but also to provide for the whole of the requirements of the people. Therefore, the Government were obliged to make purchases overseas in order to make up the difference between the total of the Australian production and the total of Australian needs. On behalf of the Government I claim that the full object was achieved with a minimum of disturbance to the industry, or any commercial undertakings associated with it. I claim that the Government exercised prudence and judgment in all its purchases, that it has given every branch of industry in anyway associated with the sugar production a fair deal, and also saved the nation a great deal of money.
I propose to place before the House comparative figures of the control period in the United Kingdom and in the Commonwealth, and I ask honorable members to bear with me while I make that comparison. It has been asserted that, there has been some-measure of disturbance due’ to the Commonwealth control of our sugar supplies, but I contend that there has been no vital disturbance of any industry, and certainly no attempt to put square pegs in round, holes, those who were intrusted with the administration of the scheme being thoroughly conversant with the sugar industry in all its phases. The whole of the operations have been conducted at a minimum expenditure to the public, and I take the responsibility of asserting that at the end of the control period the taxpayers pf the Commonwealth will not be called upon to make up any ^deficiency, notwithstanding that the Commonwealth Government will have handled in round figures a turnover of £60,000,000.
– The taxpayers have already had to pay.
– If the honorable member for Franklin will permit me to proceed, I think I shall be able to persuade him that he is wrong, and that he might very well reverse some of his public statements on . this question. As the control period covers seven years’ operations, and the figures are colossal, I ask the indulgence of the House while I make the statement. I shall present no figures in connexion with the balance-sheet which have not been vouched for and audited. If I have to make any statements or furnish any figures other than those contained in the balance-sheet I will inform honorable members, but I shall be prepared to vouch for their accuracy. I repeat that they have been minutely examined by the Auditor-General, and by one of the leading private auditors in Melbourne, who has also placed his services at the disposal of the Commonwealth. I refer to Colonel Evans, who has carefully investigated the whole of the details covering the complete period. I ask honorable members to compare the sugar control period in Britain with that in Australia. The prices in the Mother Country during the term of control with which I shall be dealing in Australia, ranged, retail, from 3d. to 14d. per lb. They covered, wholesale, a range between £26 10s. and £160 per ton charged to manufacturers. In- Australia the retail price ranged from 3d. to 6d. per lb., and the wholesale price from £25 10s. to £49 per ton. The Imperial Government, after charging those prices, declared & loss in their period of control amounting in round figures, to £24,500,000; that was on top of those prices which varied as I have just indicated. I would refer honorable members to the report of the Royal Commission which dealt with sugar in Great Britain, in which document will be found all the facts and figures. I repeat that the sugar control period in this country should be judged upon the basis of final results; and I ask honorable members to take into account, further, the fact that the Commonwealth Government had the definite obligation placed on their shoulders to provide the nation with sugar. Our prices ranged from 3d. to 6d. per lb. ; but the maximum was not imposed until March, 1920. In all the circumstances, Australia has been well served by the sugar industry. The growers have remained undisturbed. The .organizations for manufacturing and refining have carried on as previously. There has been no interference with their business. Refining has been done at cost price, and with no profit, in Australia. As for the prices paid to the growers, compared with the prices charged all over the world, they are moderate and reasonable.
There has been an attempt to set two classes of growers in conflict, namely, the sugar-growers and the fruit-growers. I would ask producers to remember that the sugar-growers were reasonably entitled to an improvement in their conditions, just as were the wool-growers, the wheatgrowers, butter producers, fruit-growers, and all other producers. It should not be forgotten that the cost of production rose considerably. This conflict of interests should be no longer continued, for the reason that the fruit-growers have been well served by the sugar industry during the period of control. With respect to the sugar used in fruit for jams, sauces, pickles, and preserves for home consumption, the local manufacturers and fruitgrowers have had tile benefit of a very substantially protected inside market. With regard to export, the fruit-growers have had concessions equivalent to £20 per ton on all manufactured goods exported.
– Only since September last.
– My statements are general; but I shall furnish details to support them. I desire my information to be accepted as an absolutely full and fair statement of the position. In justice to the sugar industry, honorable members should examine the definite facts and indisputable figures.
It has been said that the sugar industry of Australia has been spoon-fed. There has been paid to the sugar-growers, in the way of bounty, a sum amounting to £3,899,541 since sugar was first grown in this country. There has been levied upon sugar, by way of Excise duty, £6,591,S70. The contribution to revenue paid back in Excise over and above the sum of the bounty amounts to £2,692,329.
– The consumers have paid that.
– It should go without saying that sugar is consumed by the people. How else would it be consumed? But no one will say that, during the period of levy for Excise, the growers got too much for their cane, or that the retail prices were too high. Judged as a whole, the sugar industry has served Australia well. The nation has been fully supplied at a time when the rest of the world was being rationed. There is not the slightest doubt that the grower has not received an undue price for his cane. The refiner has received nothing for refining, except the cost. The manufacturers of raw sugar have not .been charged an undue amount ; and, when one judges the whole of the facts calmly, in the light of officially-audited figures, one must concede that the sugar industry served Australia well during the war period.” That it was the definite obligation of the Government to control the industry during the war period is not challenged. It entered into the last contract in 1920, at a time when the world’s markets were unsettled, and when it could not be said that the conditions of industry anywhere in the world were normal. As a matter of fact, conditions are not normal to-day. Will anybody say that that was a period when we ought to have relinquished control? I say it was not. Speaking for myself, personally, I can say that I am not a believer in Government control of business, but can any one challenge the statement that in June, 1920, when the current -contract was entered into, the world’s markets were abnormal? The relative price of sugar in the world’s markets was substantially higher than the price agreed to be paid to the Australian grower. I have carefully examined the figures,, and I have examined the criticisms. I am unable to find anywhere definite proof that any section associated with the sugar industry has had an undue reward. There has been a period of calm, of industrial contentment, during which the industry has progressed undisturbed. The area under cultivation has been increased ; production has been increased ; the machinery- and organization of manufacture have been improved; and, broadly speaking, the conditions of the industry generally have been improved. Australia, as a whole, will not be a sufferer from the prosperity of this industry, which is helping in the development of Northern Australia in a way that no other industry could. If we were setting out to develop, hold, and people Australia, we would never get a better band of men for the purpose than the sugar-growers of the north, judged by whatever facts or circumstances one cares to apply. Those who have had most to do with sugar have said . the least in the way of criticism. It is significant that the Federal body which handles sugar daily - the Federal Retailers’ Organization, which is meeting in the northern State at the present time - has passed a resolution stating that while they do not like Government control of the industry, they are satisfied that the Commonwealth Government is doing the right thing in the circumstances in controlling sugar at the present time. After all, the men whose daily life and business it is to handle sugar, who parcel it out in small quantities to members of the community who have been stirred up on this question, are not likely to ask for a continuance of conditions that aTe a daily pinprick to them. They say that in all the circumstances Government control of sugar during the period that it has been exercised was justified. Will anybody say that during the times we have just passed through the Commonwealth Government should have left the control of sugar in Australia entirely to the great organization that usually handles it. I have nothing to say against men who conduct their business on a high scientific standard like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. That company hae rendered a great service to the sugar-growers of Australia. It has set up a great organization, and men have put their brains, intelligence, and money into it; I say nothing in derogation of that great organization, but I say that the Government would have been recreant to its duty during the war period and since had it exposed the nation to the danger that would have arisen if private organizations had been unable to finance, control, and acquire sugar. The conditions were such that they demanded, for the well-being of. the nation and the common weal, that the Government should assume full responsibility for the control of sugar.
I do not propose to go through the balance-sheet in detail to-day. I shall give honorable members an opportunity to digest it. I think it is unreasonable for me to expect them even to follow me through a balance-sheet covering a period of seven years, and relating to operations involving an aggregate turnover of £59,602,574. The figures are colossal. The transactions are many, and the accounts are difficult and complicated. I ask members to accept this balance-sheet to-day as an interim aggregate balancesheet, and I promise the House and the country that all details in connexion with the sugar accounts for the whole period of control will later be placed at the disposal of honorable members and the public. It is not the practice of any private organization, whether bank, financial institution, or otherwise, to load a balancesheet with detail. I invite honorable gentlemen to look at the balance-sheets of any of the big organizations of this country; but I promise the House and the country, and I prefer that it should be so, since so much has been said about the industry, that the full details shall be provided. Honorable members have the balance-sheet in front of them, and I invite their attention to the memorandum and certificate given by the AuditorGeneral.
– Do the Minister’s remarks in regard to control apply to the future as well as to the past?
– I have not touched the future at all. I have been speaking of the period of control for which I am presenting the balance-sheet. I am referring to and accounting for a period of control covering seven years. The figures relate to that period, and to that period only. We are now in the middle of a sugar season. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which knows all there is to know in Australia about sugar, fixes its balancing period, wisely I think, in March and September. By the end of September the bulk of the season’s sugar will have been sold. It is unfortunate for the sugar account that the financial periods of the Commonwealth year are 30th June and 31st December; and it will not require any great strain of intellect on the part of honorable members to see how difficult and conflicting is the task of reconciling the facts, figures, balance-sheets, stocks and details. This difference in the financial period of the company and the Commonwealth makes the audit very difficult, and the work of preparing accounts and adjustments very complicated. The Auditor-General, according to his certificate, has examined the figures of the Millaquin Company and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the latter up to only the 31st December, 1921. The Commonwealth Government’s figures are up to 30th June, 1922. Honorable members will note the reservations made by the Auditor-General regarding the accuracy of figures supplied on the certificate of the company’s manager, which he has yet to verify, and in respect to which he gives a conditional certificate. Therefore, at the present time, it will be impossible for me to give the details that honorable members have asked me for, but I undertake that the details covering the whole of the sugar period shall be supplied. The Government has nothing to hide in connexion with the sugar business. ‘ There is no weak point on which we, as a Government, object to give information, or in regard to which we are afraid of attack.
We can claim that during the period under review the Australian people had the cheapest sugar in the world, and that the local manufacturer was protected in the home and oversea markets. Illustrative of this fact, I desire to give some interesting figures in connexion with the export to the markets of the world of Australian jams, fruits, sauces and other such products. For purposes of comparison, I will give the figures for the year prior to the war and the peak figures, as far as exports are concerned, during the war period, when Great Britain could not be served by other than her Dominions. In 1913 we exported 951,654 lbs. of condensed milk, and in the peak year of 1918-19 the quantity was increased to 25,604,000 lbs. In 1913 we exported 441,917 lbs. of confectionery, in 1918-19 1,692,058 lbs., in the following year 2,119,000 lbs., and last year 2,129,000 lbs., as against the pre-war quantity of 441,917 lbs. In 1913 we exported 1,858,231 lbs. of jams and jellies, and in 1918-19 79,277,560 Ibs. That was when the world was at war, and practically every country was rationing supplies.
– At what price did the manufacturer obtain the sugar?
– At the cheapest price in the world, and if they had not got it at a low rate the fruit would have remained in Australia. In 1913 we exported canned fruits valued at £1S,153, and in 1918-19 exports were valued at £474,767. These figures cannot be disputed, neither can our records be challenged, and I ask the primary producers of this country not to be led into conflict against one another, but to examine very carefully statements placed before them by certain interested sections of the community.
I do not wish to go too much into detail at this juncture, as J intend to supply additional information in connexion with the industry from time to time. I do not hold the view that the Government can control the sugar industry in times of peace better than it can be controlled by those engaged in it. The total turnover for the period men tioned amounted to £59,602,574, and the entire cost to the Australian taxpayer, as represented by the- expenses incurred by the Sugar Control Board, is represented by the meagre sum of £5,727 13s. Id.
– Does the Minister suggest that only about £70 per annum was spent on cables and telegrams? They spent that in Melbourne.
– During the first period the work was handled by the Controller, under the Prime Minister, and later by a Board under the Minister for Trade and Customs. The entire cost of control, as far as departmental charges are concerned, during the period mentioned was £5,727 13s. Id.
– Oh, no!
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was Treasurer part of the time.
– That is why I am disputing it.
– The only addition that has to be made is for the cost of services rendered by officers, which cost” cannot be directly charged to sugar control.
– Does the Minister maintain that only £70 per year was spent on telegrams and cables?
– The position is exactly as I have stated, and the figures are certified as being correct by the Auditor-General. The cost of the services of officers, which cannot be directly charged to sugar control, would not amount to more than £3,000. The details are as follows: - Salaries and expenses, £2,642 17s. ; audit charges, £2,130 15s. Id. ; Sugar Council expenses, £458 5s. lid.; cables and telegrams, £490 5s. Id.; and legal fees, £5 10s. I repeat, in answer to the interjection by the honorable member for Balaclava, that the only additional charges to be debited are for services rendered by such officers as those I have mentioned. These figures are not approximate, but are accurate, and the only estimate is the amount of £3,000, which might be added, if the control were debited with the services of officers who are not wholly engaged in the work. The head of the Trade and Customs Department, the Acting ControllerGeneral, is Chairman of the Sugar Board. Another Commonwealth officer,
Mr. Maguire, who is in the Defence Department, is also a member of the Sugar Board. Had we gone to the trouble of trying to ascertain exactly what time those officers gave to their duties as members of the Sugar Board, and what proportion of their time was devoted to the ordinary business of their Departments, we might have been able to give minute details of the cost of their services.
– Are the audit charges to which the Minister has referred debited by the Auditor-General or by outside people?
– By the AuditorGeneral. I have no personal knowledge of any outside auditors having dealt with these accounts. I may say, however, that as there devolved upon me personally the responsibility of presenting these figures to the House on behalfof the Government, I took the additional precaution of having them examined, apart altogether from the Auditor-General’s report, by one of the keenest and most intelligent auditors in Melbourne, and he agrees with the statement I am now presenting.
– Does he certify?
– The right honorable member knows that it is not customary; in presenting a Commonwealth financial statement, to super-impose upon the certificate of the Auditor-General that of outside auditors. To have asked an outside auditor for such a certificate would have been by no means complimentary to the Auditor-General.
I do not think I should at this juncture traverse in detail the figures appearing in the balance-sheet. I propose to move that the paper be printed so that the whole matter may be debated; and as the discussion proceeds I shall be glad to deal with any details in respect of which information is required.
– There will be no debate until we get all the details.
– The honorable member cannot find a record of any balancesheet relating to Commonwealth accounts or activities which comprises fuller details than are given in that which I am now setting before the House. The certificate of the Auditor-General shows that it is impossible in mid-season to give full details in respect of a contract that is already begun. Such details cannot be supplied until the end of the sugar season. I am very anxious to furnish the House and the country with the most complete information; but it would not be practicable in mid-season to bring down a balance-sheet giving the most minute details of all these transactions. I have given definite instructions that details shall be prepared in full, and I undertake that the House shall be supplied with them. To examine every financial detail at this stage would render it impossible to discuss, as we should do, the broad principles involved.
I invite honorable members to remember that there are two phases of the sugar control period. We must first of all have regard to the question of public policy during the period covered by the statement. I challenge any honorable member to say that he would have reversed the public policy adopted during the period to which these accounts relate, or to say that he would have substituted some other form of control for that adopted by us. We employed the scientists,the great business managers of the industry, and the existing organizations of distribution, so that neither the producer, the manufacturer, nor the business man was disturbed. The system adopted by us retained the old-time organization for distribution, and in my judgment it served the nation well. We have also to consider the question of public policy from the point of view of the commonweal during the period concerned, and the business aspect must likewise be taken into account. We submit this statement and balancesheet plus a promise to furnish the most minute details in regard to every transaction.If desired by the House, we shall be glad to lay on the table every contract for the purchase of sugar, as well as for the manufacture and refining of sugar and the acquisition of supplies from abroad.
The whole of the sugar obtained from abroad was acquired by the Commonwealth, through its advisers, without the Government incurring any expense in the way of commission on purchase, other than exchange or bank or finance commissions. The Commonwealth, with the assistance of its advisers, carried out its own transactions.
I may say, in passing, that the Government were well advised. When the Australian sugar crop failed badly, and it became necessary for us to make purchases abroad - even in those years in respect of which it has been said that there was bungling and some scandal - I submit that the figures show that the purchases made by Australia compare more than favorably with those made by Britain. We made purchases abroad below the prices paid on behalf of the United Kingdom, the Government of which was also acting under the best advice that it could obtain. The Commonwealth has been well served by its advisers, and its purchases, taken on the whole, have been satisfactory.
During the period covered by this statement of accounts, we purchased 1,530,391 tons of Australian-grown sugar at a cost of £36,325,332, or an average of £23 14s. 9d. per ton. Will it be said that that was an undue price to pay the sugargrowers of Australia, who satisfied our own household and industrial requirements, and, in addition, enabled us during the same period to supply commodities to the battlefields of the world? We also purchased 466,787 tons of foreign sugar at a cost of £18,750,034, or an average of £40 3s. 4d. per ton. The total quantity purchased both locally and abroad was 1,997,178 tons, and the total cost £55,075,366, or an average price of £2711s. 6d. per ton, raw landed cost at Australian refineries. That is the average cost throughout the whole control period.
Now as to the purchases of foreign sugar. During the whole period these purchases totalled 466,787 tons, at a cost of £18,750,034, or an average cost of £40 3s. 4d. per ton. The figures for the two years 1919 and 1920 are available and are significant. They show how British purchases compare with Australian purchases in those years. The average cost of foreign sugar purchased by Australia in the year 1920 was £59 19s. 5d., whilst the British purchases for the same period were made at an average cost of £67 8s. 6d., giving an advantage to the Australian consumer of £7 9s.1d. per ton.
– Will the honorable gentleman say whether the landed cost of foreign sugars which he has quoted includes the duty of £6 per ton ?
– During most of the period the Australian Government has given the Australian people the benefit of the duty. In the earlier stages the duty was charged, but subsequently the duty was rebated, and the Australian consumer received the benefit.
– Since March, 1920?
– Since 30th June, 1919.
– What proportion of the sugar used in the first two years was imported ?
– I have said that I will supply details later. It is impossible for me at this stage to answer a question of that kind. Taking the whole period, I may inform honorable members that as compared with the wholesale prices of United Kingdom, there was an advantage to the Australian consumer from the lower prices of our sugar of approximately £27,000,000.
Now with regard to the future price of sugar. Honorable members will observe from the balance-sheet I have supplied that £255,186 0s. 7d. is the debit of the profit and loss account as on 30th June. Allowing for interest and the cost of control up to 31st October next, and, on the other hand, following the customary practice and taking unsold stocks as set out in the balance-sheet at cost price, and allowing for their sale at prices current to-day, the Government are satisfied that by the end of October they will have completely wiped off the deficit. They will have so handled the sugar business that, taking home contract prices and oversea purchases, they will be in a position at the end of October next to say that it will be possible, by making necessary adjustments, to reduce the price of sugar to 5d. per lb. as from 1st November next.
There is only one way in which the sugar control period can be fairly judged, and that is by covering the whole of the operations during that period. That is the practice adopted by every business man. He must average his purchases. No business man can continuously buy at prices that will always show a profit. That is not done, and cannot be done, in business for the reason that costs can never be estimated too far ahead. The Government say in effect that the net result is that they have made their purchases in Australia where possible, to help the Australian industry. Their purchases within theCommonwealth and abroad have provided, in view of the average cost, the cheapest sugar in the world during the control period. They have maintained the primary industry, and have encouraged, assisted, and developed the secondary industries dependent upon it to an extent never dreamed of. They have helped the Mother Country with surplus productions, and they are in a position now to say that they will be able to reduce the price of sugar as from 1st November next to 5d. per lb. It may finally be said that on the whole, covering the period of sugar control, the Australian nation has been well served.
– Will the honorable gentleman give us the detailed statement in the shape of a return so that we may have it before us to enable us to discuss the whole matter?
– I have explained to the honorable gentleman, and to the House, the difficulty of doing that whilst the sugar year is current. I have invited the attention of honorable members to the certificate of the Auditor-General that he is himself unable to certify accounts until the end of the sugar year. The discussion of my motion will be based on the balance-sheet I have submitted, and I have undertaken, so far as possible, to supply information on points raised during the discussion. It would have been wearisomeand inconvenienttohonorable members to have added details to those already included in the balancesheet I have presented.
– I again ask the Minister whether we shall get the detailed information promised in the form of a return, as otherwise it will be very difficult for honorable members to debate the question?
– I am anxious to supply the House with the fullest information possible. Were complete information now available from the AuditorGeneral I would present it, but I shall not, in connexion with the sugar account, present any figures that are merely ap proximate, and for which I cannot vouch. I lay on the table the following paper -
Commonwealth. Government Sugar Control - Balance-sheet as at 30th June, 1922; profit and loss account for the period from 19th July, 1915, to 30th June, 1922; trading and profit and loss account for the period from 19th July, 1915, to 30th June, 1922- operating and trading accounts.
And I move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Factories - Commonwealth Government - Reports on - Clothing, Cordite (including Acetate of Lime), Harness, Saddlery, and Leather Accoutrements, Small Arms, Woollen Cloth - Reports for year ended 30th June, 1921.
Ordered to be printed.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Second Annual Report by the Trustees, 1st June, 1921, to 30th June, 1922.
High Court Procedure Act - Rule of Court - Rule re Sitting- Dated 5th July, 1922.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1922-23 - No. 1- Supply (No. 1).
.- I move -
Th at the House do now adjourn.
I desire to communicate to the House two letters relating to the wireless agreement, about which honorable members have no doubt heard something within the last few days. The following letter is from myself to Sir Thomas Hughes: -
My dear Sir Thomas, -
During the debate in the House of Representatives last week on Mr. Brennan’s amendment on the Address-in-Reply, exception was taken to your appointment as the seventh director. Mr. Brennan, who was a member of the Committee appointed by the Parliament to consider and report upon the proposed agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Amalgamated Wireless, contended that the intention of the Committee was that the seventh member should not be a nominee of the company, nor one who had close connexion with it. With this view the House was in full accord. The Government had previously decided that it could not accept the nomination.
I was not present during the debate myself, but when my opinion was sought, I said that I had clearly understood this to be the intention of the revised agreement, and that the appointment of an ex-director was a violation of the spirit of the agreement.
I greatly regret that I was unable to get over to Sydney during the week-end in order to discuss the -matter with you, but the state of my health precluded it.
You have no doubt read the press reports of the debate, and understand just how matters stand. I want you to (realize that there is in our objection to your appointment as seventh director nothing reflecting upon you personally. I know I speak for all my colleagues, when I say that we should have been delighted to sec you on the board, had you been included as one of tho three original directors of the company. And if one of these should now or hereafter resign, we shall bc very pleased indeed to have the benefit of your long experience and wise counsels.
As I have said, the objection to your appointment -is not in any sense a reflection upon yourself personally. We believe that you did not take the same view of the intention of the agreement as to the seventh director as wc do, and that you were actuated in this, as in all other business transactions throughout your career, by the highest motives. But we think you will sec that in all the circumstances the Government has a right to decline to accept a nomination which gives the company a preponderance on the board.
I shall be glad if you can let me know your views on the matter at your very earliest convenience.
To-day I received the following reply: -
My dear Prime Minister, -
I thank you for your letter of 19th July. According to press reports of the debate in the Federal Parliament, the suggestion has been made that the directors of the Amalgamated Wireless Company have violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement between the Government and the company, by nominating me as a candidate for the seventh place on the new board. This we ‘absolutely deny. Throughout all the negotiations leading up to the agreement we have contended stoutly for a majority on the board, subject to a right of veto by the Commonwealth on all the questions reserved in the agreement itself. Our reason for this was that representatives of the private shareholders, who are shareholders themselves, are in our opinion better entitled to control details of business management than Government nominees, who have no personal stake or interest in the company’s affairs. At the same time wo felt that by conceding to the Government a majority in shares it could by the ordinary methods of company law review, and, if necessary, reverse any decision of the board which it believed to be prejudicial to the public interest.
When the draft agreement was under consideration by the Parliamentary Committee wc objected to a suggestion, in ihe form first proposed by the Committee, for the appointment of a neutral or independent chairman, and after considerable discussion the clause .was finally settled by each side agreeing, by way of compromise, to an amendment’ that the selection of the seventh director bc left to arbitration, and that the board should then proceed to elect its own chairman. We, therefore, individually and collectively, repudiate the suggestion that there was any understanding, express or implied, that such seventh director should not be connected in any way with the former management. The <pla.ee was to be filled by the man who, in the opinion of the arbitrator, was best qualified to serve the company, and that choice fell upon mc. At the first meeting of the newly constituted board the Government directors were offered the chairmanship, but they, for reasons elaborated in writing, and recorded in the company’s minutes, declined to accept nomination, and I was then nominated and elected unopposed. Now, after publication of the award, objection is taken to it both by Government and Parliament. I may be pardoned if I merely suggest that the propriety of such a course is open to comment. There is, however, one course only open to me in the interests of the company as a whole, and that is to avoid as far as possible any cause of friction between it and the Government which may be prejudicial to the success of an enterprise wo all desire to bring to a successful issue.
Under these circumstances, while I feel assured that I am lawfully and properly selected both as director and chairman, and that I cannot be removed from either position without the unanimous consent of my codirectors, I am prepared to retire from the board, and I have forwarded ray resignation to the secretary. The suggestion that I should now or hereafter accept a seat vacated by any other director for the purpose is, of course, absolutely outside serious consideration.
I hope that these letters, will be printed and made available to honorable members. They speak for themselves. The position is now what it was before the appointment of Sir Thomas Hughes was made, and the debate upon the wireless agreement took place in the House. I have one other observation to make. Last- night the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) said that I had expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth Government were not legally bound by the wireless agreement. I have said nothing of the sort. The honorable member has unintentionally done me an injustice. If he refreshes his memory from Hansard he will see that on being asked to express an opinion on our legal position I declined to do so, which was the proper course for me to take, because had this matter terminated in another way the Commonwealth might have been liable. I would indeed be a very poor custodian of the interests of the country if I prejudiced them by a statement on a matter which was to be decided in Court. I certainly did ‘ not say that we were not bound. That is a point I left to be decided, if necessary, by the Court. I said that the SolicitorGeneral, Sir Robert Garran, might express an opinion, but that I was not called upon to do so. There appears to be no doubt now that we shall be able to make such an appointment in collaboration with the company as will be satisfactory by appointing a man who> has had no previous connexion with the company. At this stage honorable members will not expect me to enter upon a laboured defence of the wireless agreement. I did not attempt to do so when the matter was before the House. Tho agreement has been made; the erection of the stations will be proceeded with. Observations on the merits of the scheme and the practical difficulties to be dealt with offered by any honorable member are very much by the way. Time alone will show whether they are right, or whether the Government and the Committee were right.
.- Sir Thomas Hughes has done exactly what I expected; but what surprises me is that he did not do it earlier. He retired because he is a good Nationalist. Even in his letter he showed that, while he admitted that the Commonwealth was putting most of the money into the venture, his company claimed the right to dominate the new directorate. The Wireless Committee purposely withdrew the word “ independent “ so as to make it possible for any other man to be appointed, and, consequently, Sir Thomas Hughes was chosen. Had it not been for the discussion brought on here by members on this side, we would still have had Sir Thomas Hughes as chairman, spending Commonwealth money, with a majority on the directorate.
– No, you would not.
– Unless the Prime Minister took some action to change the position on the Board, we would, because lie said he had never stated that the agreement was a legal one. I think it was; and if we had broken it, we would have been liable for damages. I am still dissatisfied with the Board of Directors, because the Commonwealth Government should have direct representation either from Ohe Government themselves or from the Government (Service. The present directors are all in the same business; and it is in their interests to see that they are first all the time. No matter what arrangements are made, the interests of those who were in the Amalgamated Company will be paramount. The position has not been made satisfactory, even by the withdrawal of Sir Thomas Hughes.
.- I cannot allow to pass without challenge the statement in the letter of Sir Thomas Hughes to the effect that his company never conceded the point that the Commonwealth should have a controlling voice on the directorate. Mr. Fisk, who appeared before the Wireless Committee as the representative of the company, did concede that point, definitely and distinctly, in deference to the unanimous expression of the Committee, that there should be an independent chairman. That was the very point first settled by the Committee; and it was understood from beginning to end that the seventh director should be absolutely unconnected either with the company or the Government.
.- If the question is to be gone into again, I protest against Mr. Consett Stephen being appointed as arbitrator. Our representatives on the Committee should take care that the man who appointed Sir Thomas Hughes does not get an opportunity to make another appointment.
I should like to know if the Defence Department has come to any decision to ge~t rid of the Randwick Rifle Range.
– It depends entirely on whether we can obtain a title for the land.
– I hope this House will have an opportunity to discuss the matter before anything is finalized.
.- The last few words of tie letter of Sir Thomas Hughes are that he will hand in his resignation. It is very much like a vaudeville act. He is going to resign, and he will then be re-appointed. Honorable members on this side have entered their protest not only against Sir Thomas Hughes, but against the whole of the directors. We contend that the Board should ‘be representative of the Commonwealth Public Service. Sir Thomas Hughes stands for a host of influences in this country. I would direct the attention of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), as well as yourself, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that it is not merely a question of preserving the wireless scheme from papal supremacy. What strikes me is the remarkable friendship that has sprung up between Sir Thomas Hughes, the Knight of St. Gregory, and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who is president of the Protestant Preservation Society. Last night we saw this member of the Orange Lodge ready to place the entire wireless system under Roman domination. Consider for a moment, also, how the honorable member representing a big business, and the honorable member representing defence, rushed over to see Sir Thomas Hughes, and exclaimed, “0, Sir Thomas! You represent beer and banks. You represent everything on God’s earth; but for God’s sake get out of this in some way, and give us a chance to escape decently from our present predicament.” Now the Government have Allard. He is their man. They also have Stinson and Vicars. If they had desired to deliberately place the entire domination of the wireless scheme in the hands of Mr. Fisk, who is now in London, they could not have done it more effectively than they have by their actions up to the present. And now this proposed retirement is merely a bur.lesque kind of business. He will retire and then the directors will re-assemble and re-appoint him to the position. But, I repeat, that does not matter much. The Commonwealth is to subscribe the majority of .the capital invested in this undertaking; and in ordinary circumstances, and in an ordinary business, whether it be a bank, a brewery, or a druggist shop, the partner who puts the greater part of the capital into the business has every financial and moral right to the majority of the representation on the directorate.
– But he does not always exercise it.
– Does he not? Ask the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) if he would put £10,000 into a business with a total capital of £19,000, and be content with a minority of the representation.
– Order! The honorable member may not revive a previous debate of this session.
– That is the last thing I would do. Upon the motion for the adjournment, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has introduced a letter written by “Bill” to “Tom,” and “Tom’s” reply to “Bill,” in which “ Tom “ says he will resign and will send his resignation to his secretary. What I am protesting against is a dummy kind of re-shuffling, by which Sir Thomas Hughes will be reinstated in the directorate in another way and will be reelected chairman. The whole procedure is a sham and a fraud, and I guarantee that the Prime Minister does not believe in it. He believes that the Commonwealth should have supreme control of wireless in this country; but that control is being given, not to tie nation which has put the majority of the capital into the business, but to a little gang in Australia and the German Jews in London. We should not allow the resignation of Sir Thomas Hughes to be a cover for his reinstatement on the directorate. The Government should say that, in no circumstances, even with the united approval of the Commonwealth’s own representatives on the Board, should Sir Thomas Hughes be replaced upon that Board under the pretence that he is an independent chairman. The Government can lay down clearly and definitely the policy that no man. who is connected with the wireless’ company, and linked up with the Marconi interests, can be allowed to take a seat as the seventh member of the directorate and chairman of this project. That should be the policy of the Government.
– Of course it is the policy of the Government. The honorable member did not listen to what I said.
– Will the Prime Minister say definitely now that this letter of resignation is not to be taken as a cover for the re-election of Sir Thomas Hughes to a seat on the directorate.
– No. He says that he will not accept the position again in any circumstances.
– That is good. After the last explanation of the Prime Minister, which is more definite than any other we have had, I shall say no more.
.- I fear that this matter will resolve itself into a burlesque. The affairs in connexion with this agreement are just as serious today as ever they were. The letter of Sir Thomas Hughes to the Prime Minister is a mandate to the Government. The word “we” is used throughout the document, and what does it meant Before he was appointed to the seventh seat on the Board Sir Thomas Hughes consulted with his codirectors of the Wireless Company. His letter is in the form of a demand upon the Government. I think I express the opinion of the majority of right-thinking people when Isay that we shouldnot allow any man who is associated with the commercial life of Sydney, or any other capital, to be chairman of that directorate. The Commonwealth should also withdraw Mr. Allard as one of its representatives on the Board. He has no right to be there. He was appointed, not by the arbitrator, but by the Government; but his presence on the Board is as much a danger to the community as is that of Sir Thomas Hughes. He, too, is closely associated with the Wireless Company, because he is a member of a firm that holds 11,000 shares in Amalgamated Wireless Limited. I am very sorry that this matter has been brought forward on the motion for the adjournment, because the discussion . is necessarily curtailed. The letter of Sir Thomas Hughes reveals that the Amalgamated Wireless Company, by hook or crook, will control this project. The company is defying the Government. If another man is appointed as arbitrator to decide who shall be the seventh director, he will do just as Mr. Consett Stephen did. If he does not nominate Sir Thomas Hughes he will nominate an equally good barracker - a man, who though he may not appear on the shareholders’ list, will do exactly as the company wishes. The public life of this country is being degraded by assent to this agreement, and I protest strongly against it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220721_reps_8_99/>.