8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m.., and read prayers.
– On Wednesday last the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) read a letter from Mr. W. Waugh, in which the writer states that he was not communicated with about the proposed sale of wooden ships in a manner spoken of by me the week before, and that he had not said that he would not tender for those ships. I have since communicated on the subject with the acting manager of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers in Australia, and he has written to me as follows: -
Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. 447-481 Collins-street, Melbourne, 18th September, 1922.
TheRt. Hon. W. M. Hughes, K.C., P.O.,
With reference to conversation with you on
Friday, in regard to the point raised by Mr. Mahony, I telegraphed immediately to our Sydney office, and on Friday received a telephone message as follows: -
Waugh, Marine Dealer, Darling Wharf, Balmain.
Mr. Jones definitely states that he made an appointment to see Mr. Waugh at his office at 2.30 p.m. on 14th July last. Mr. Baker, a director, was also present, and Mr. Jones informed them both that he was making inquiryas to possible buyers for the wooden steamers. Both Mr. Waugh and Mr. Baker stated in reply that they were not buyers, and would not offer even £1,000 apiece for the vessels. They referred to their previous offer, and pointed out that since then prices ofships’ gear had fallen considerably, quoting chain cables as having dropped from £60 to £30 per ton, and that they could not hope to make anything out of the ships. They also stated that, most of the gear having been taken from the vessels since their last offer was made, the ships were no good to them.
I attach hereto letter received from our Sydney office, which, as you will observe, is signed by Mr. Jones for the acting branch manager, and in addition Mr. Jones’ signature also appears.
I trust this letter will be sufficient to nail down the allegations of Mr. Mahony.
Acting Manager for Australia. (Enclosure.) 15 O’Connell-street, Sydney, 15th September, 1922.
Acting Manager for Australia,
Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, Melbourne.
I thank you for your telegram of the 14th inst., reading as follows : - “ Wooden steamers reference yours 18th July Waugh absolutely denies being asked requote it is necessary full and detailed statement be forwarded by Jones immediately in any case telegraph Jones detailed report negotiations Waugh and director,”
And our Mr. Jones telephoned your Mr. Oliver this morning, and he now confirms his statements as follows: -
In response to your instructions to ascertain whether Mr. Waugh was likely to renew his offer of £15,000 for the five wooden vessels, I called on Mr. Waugh at his office at Balmain on or about the 14th July last, and explained to Mr. Waugh that I had been instructed to report to you fully on the wooden steamers from all aspects, including the possibility of sale, and knowing he had tendered previously, I asked him definitely for his opinion on the wooden vessels.
Mr. Waugh replied, in the presence’ of one of his directors (Mr. Baker), he would not tender even £1,000 each for the wooden steamers as they then lay, because -
These steamers had been stripped of most of their valuable gear.
That anchor and anchorchains had been removed, and, in addition, his quotations for anchor chains had dropped almost by one-half since his original tender. Mr. Waugh then produced his quotations for anchors and chains from his London house, and I read the documents and noted that the previous quotation of some time back was in the vicinity of £60 per ton, whereas the quotation at the time of my call was within the vicinity of £30 per ton.
Mr. Waugh had just then completed negotiations for the purchase of a derelict war ship, which he stated he had secured for £1,000, and that the vessel in question was of steel, with gear and fittings much superior to any of the wooden steamers.
Mr. Waugh produced his file of correspondence covering telegrams which had passed between your good selves and him when his tender was under review, and I perused the whole of this file in the general course of discussion, as Mr. Waugh dealt with the subject condemning our alleged dilatory methods in dealing with his offer.
I spent some considerable time in Mr. Waugh’s presence, approximately half on hour, discussing this position from all aspects, and later, although Mr, Baker was present when Mr. Waugh made the above statement, the former reiterated preparatory to my departure what Mr. Waugh had already saidas stated above. Adding further that his stocks of anchor chains and ships’ fittings were now so high and bought at such a high price in wartime that they were overstocked, and there was not very much business doing in this class of gear.
As you are no doubt aware, Mr. Waugh is a marine dealer in this city, and if his statements are in contradiction to the above I can only say that such statements are a complete fabrication.
My interview took place about 2.30 p.m. in the afternoon, and I was unaccompanied during my interview with Mr. Waugh and his director, Baker. Further, I did not confirm what had transpired with Mr. Waugh after he and Mr. Baker both openly declared they were not in the market, even at £1.000 each for the purchase of the wooden steamers in question.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) K. D. MacKenzie,
– As a personal explanation, I wish to say that the letter which I read was typedby Mr. Baker on Mr.Waugh’s official letter-paper, and signed by Mr. Waugh in the presence of Mr. Baker and myself. In that letter Mr. Waugh states clearly and definitely that he was not given an opportunity of repeating his tender for the wooden ships, and that had he been given an opportunity to tender he would most certainly - those are the words he used - have submitted an offer. This is the eighth or ninth attempt made by the Prime Minister to cover up the fact which I made patent in my charge against the Government, that these vessels were sold secretly for £5,000 less than could have been got for them by public tender.
Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the vessels of the Commonwealth Line of Steam-ships are not to call at Hobart in future, and whether all cargo for Hobart shipped by those vessels is to be sent from Beauty Point to Launceston by lighter, a distance of 40 miles, and then on to Hobart by rail?
– My reply to the first question is that it is not a fact that our vessels are not to call at Hobart in future. As to the second question, if cargo from the United Kingdom to Hobart is not sufficient to warrant vessels in proceeding from Launceston to Hobart, it is customary to forward it by rail in order to avoid expense. This is done, of course, by the Commonwealth Line, which bears the cost of the transport. All the lines adopt the same practice. However, I shall look into the matter further.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will provide in the amending Electoral Bill that any member of the Commonwealth Parliament who incites employers or employees to disobey an order of the Arbitration Court shall not be permitted to hold a seat in this House?
– No. I am afraid I could not do that. Honorable members are so much in the habit of defying so many of the high and mighty powers of this country that if we were to deal out even-handed justice to them in this regard we should probably have empty benches in this House.
Issue of Regulations
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is in a position to state when the regulations governing the control of wireless in Australia, will be issued ?
– I will make inquiries and will let the honorable member know to-morrow.
Rebate of Duty on Sugar Contents of Jam.
– I asked the Minister for Trade and ‘Customs some weeks ago a question, to which he promised to give an early reply, concerning the request made by Queensland jam manufacturers that rebate should be allowed on the sugar contents of strawberry and Cape gooseberry jams of Queensland manufacture, from the 1st November. Is the Minister in a position now to reply to the question ?
– I take ifc that the honorable member refers to jams manufactured from the present season’s fruit. I have conferred with the Sugar Board on the matter, and as it is recognised, that unless the concession asked for is made the whole of the strawberry and Cape gooseberry crops for the season would not go into manufacture, the Sugar Board recommends, and I concur, that the rebate asked for should be allowed, so that the fruit may go into consumption.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether bis promise made to Mr. Sastri that the Government are willing to extend the old-age pension and the right to vote to Indians resident in Australia is the forerunner of a. policy of freely admitting these people tq Australia ?
– If the honorable member will say exactly what his friend De Valera is doing in Ireland, and whether he himself murdered Collins, I will answer his question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Nations Assembly) urging the immediate adoption of the imports and exports certificate system as the most practical means of exercising control over the traffic in opium, cocaine and other dangerous drugs?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as ‘follow: -
Pension to Widow and Children
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will sympathetically consider the granting of a Federal pension to the widow and children of the late Henry Lawson?
– This matter has been listed for consideration by the Commonwealth Literary Fund Committee at its next meeting. Upon receipt of the committee’s recommendation ‘ the Government will give immediate and sympathetic consideration to it.
– On 15th September the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) asked the following questions : -
I promised that the information would be obtained, and am now in receipt of the following replies : -
f3.16”. - (By leave.) - On Sunday last, at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, I received a message from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, notifying me that the British Cabinet had decided to resist Turkish aggression upon Europe, and make exertions to prevent the Allies being driven out of Constantinople by Mustapha Kemal, and, particularly, to maintain the freedom of the Straits by securing firmly the Gallipoli Peninsula. The message went on to Bay that the French Government had notified the British Government that they were in agreement with them as to informing Mustapha Kemal that he must not violate the neutral zone by which the Straits and Constantinople were protected, and that the Italian Government were acting in general accord with both Powers.
Mr. Lloyd George also intimated that the British Government were addressing themselves to Roumania. Servia and Greece with a view to securing their military participation in defence of the deepwater line between Europe and Asia-. He then proceeded to state that the British Government were notifying all the Powers before mentioned of their intention to make exertions; that it was placing a British division under orders to reinforce Sir Charles Harrington, the Allied CommanderinChief at Constantinople, and that the British Navy would co-operate to the fullest extent necessary. Mr. Lloyd George then went on to say that the arrangements to which reference has been made were intended to cover the period that must elapse before a stable peace with Turkey can be secured, and that for this purpose a Conference was being proposed, probably at Venice, but possibly at Paris, and that it waa essential that we should be strong enough to maintain our position at Constantinople and around the Straits until peace had been achieved. He then expressed the opinion that it was improbable that the forces of Mustapha Kemal would attack if a firm front were shown by a large number of Powers acting together. He pointed out the gravity of a position arising out of a defeat or humiliating exodus of the Allies from Constantinople, which, in the opinion of the British Government, would produce very grave consequences in India and amongst the other Mohammedan populations for which the Empire is responsible. Mr. Lloyd George said he would be glad to know whether the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia wished to associate itself with the action that the British Government was taking, and whether Australia desired to be represented by a contingent. He then, emphasizing once more the vital importance and world-wide interests involved in the freedom of the Straits, and those intimate and hallowed associations with Gallipoli which would appeal to us, expressed the opinion that the announcement that all or any of the Dominions were prepared to send contingents, even of moderate size, would undoubtedly, of itself, exercise a most favorable influence on the situation, and might conceivably be a potent factor in preventing actual hostilities. The telegram intimated that a similar message had been sent to the Dominion of New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, and the Dominion of Canada.
Upon the receipt of that message, as already published in the press, I made a statement which reads as follows: -
I have received a ca’ble message from Mr. Lloyd George informing me that the British Cabinet has decided that the situation in Turkey demands prompt action, and asking whether the Commonwealth Government desired to be associated with the steps Britain is taking, and whether we desire to be represented by a contingent.
Mr. Lloyd George, in his telegram, emphasized the gravity of the position, pointing out that, altogether apart from the freedom of the .Straits, for which such immense sacrifices were made in the war, Britain could not forget that the Gallipoli Peninsula contained more than 20,000 British and. Anzac graves. That these should fall into the ruthless hands of the Kemalists would be an abiding source of grief to the Empire.
The announcement that all or any of the Dominions were prepared to send contingents, even of moderate size, would, he said, in itself undoubtedly exercise a most favorable influence on the situation, and might conceivably be a potent factor in preventing -actual hostilities.
Immediately on receipt of the message I consulted all of my colleagues whom I could reach, and the Government has decided to notify Mr. Lloyd George that it desires to associate itself with the British Government in whatever action is deemed necessary to insure the freedom of the Straits and the sanctity of the Gallipoli Peninsula, and would be prepared, if circumstances required, to send a contingent of Australian troops.
I have informed Mr. Lloyd George that the matter will be brought before the Parliament of the Common wealth on Tuesday (to-morrow), in order that it might express “its opinion on the whole matter.
I ha,ve mentioned the time at which the telegram from Mr. Lloyd George reached me in order that I may lay emphasis on one point which I think deserves special notice. That is, that before the telegram reached me the press had received a message containing substantially the contents of Mr. Lloyd George’s telegram to me. As I have said, immediately I received it I got into touch with those of my colleagues who were in Victoria, and made the statement which I have read.
I think I ought to say that there is a grave danger of a complete misapprehension of the position being created in the minds of the people of this country. There is much talk of war, and we are told that many are volunteering for service. All this shows that the position is not understood. At the pre- sent moment, while the -position may develop and become infinitely grave, both parties are abstaining from hostilities. Mustapha Kemal has announced that it is not his intention to enter the neutral zone; and of course, the intention of Britain and her Allies is merely to defend that zone if it is invaded. The object of Britain and her Allies in the matter- is the settlement of the dispute, before hostilities are commenced, by a Conference, which, as Mr. Lloyd George points out, will probably he held in Venice, but may be held in Paris. The present position, therefore, is that, while the situation is one full of the gravest possibilities, it has not developed to a point where we are called on to do more than to say that we associate ourselves with the British Government in the step that it is taking to maintain the freedom of the Straits, and the neutrality of the zone which guards the Straits. Honorable members do not need to be told of the direct and intimate relation between the freedom of the Straits and the maintenance of the British Empire. That is obvious on the face of it; the interests of the Empire in Mesopotamia, Arabia, and India, are all intimately bound up, in the possession of the Straits by a friendly Power. By the Treaty of Sevres provisions were made for the retention of the Straits by the Allied Powers ; and the experience of the Australian Forces in Gallipoli showed that the Dardanelles became, literally, the “ Straits Impregnable “ when held by a resolute foe. Those who hold the Dardanelles do, in fact, to a very large extent, guard the gateway to the East, and if they be hostile to the Empire menace by their very presence that other canal the possession of which to us is a matter of life and death as the gateway to our house - I mean the Suez Canal. So, the Government being asked to associate itself with the maintenance of the status quo, as set out in the Sevres Treaty, pending a Conference between the parties, there appeared to us no alternative but to declare that in this matter, as in all others in which the vital interests of the Empire are concerned, we would act in association with Britain and other portions of the Empire. But it appears to us that it would be little short of a calamity if the world were plunged into another war. We are beginning to climb out of the pit. The great bulk of .the world is still in its depths. All civilized men must deplore the possibilities of another conflict. Therefore, whilst associating ourselves to the fullest extent with Great Britain, and whilst recognising how vitally the freedom of the Dardanelles affects the interests of the Empire, and, indeed, of the civilized world generally, we think it proper to say that the Commonwealth will not be dragged behind the chariot of any nation’s ambition. We are not to be held as in any way sympathizing with,’ or intending to support, the ambitions of Constantino. I think I may say that ninety-nine out of every hundred Australian returned soldiers take the view that they would draw the sword with the utmost reluctance to support Grecian ambitions. Greece has her rights. To those she is entitled. Where those rights are compatible with the welfare of the world, Australia is willing to support them; hut whilst we are prepared at all times to stand side by side with Great Britain, we cannot view, without despair, the possibilities of a great conflict arising out of the clashing ambitions of Turkey and Greece. And so we have thought it proper to ask that the fullest information shall be supplied to us by the British Government. We wish to be informed of the precise position. We want to know what objective the Allies have in view. We declare that ours is limited to the preservation of the Empire. We are ready to associate ourselves with Britain in maintaining the status quo at Constantinople, and the inviolability of the Peninsula, which is necessary for the freedom of the Dardanelles, in the Homeric struggle to secure which so many of our soldiers made the (supreme sacrifice. Beyond that we have thought it proper to say we ought not to go. That is the present position. It is perfectly clear that once a war upon such issues begins, no man can put a period to it: - none can say where it may end. So far, as I have pointed out, the position has not developed. The Kemalists, on the one hand, and the armies of the Allies on the other, are maintaining their respective positions: the neutral zone is as yet uninvaded. If, however, the Kemalists move to attack Constantinople, and thus threaten the freedom of the Straits, there will be no alternative for Great Britain and her Allies but to oppose force with force. We have asked for the fullest possible information, and we have a right to expect that it shall be supplied to us. In hundreds of ways we have shown our loyalty to Britain, and we are ready to show it again in defence of this Commonwealth and the Empire; but we do not want to take part in any filibustering expedition. Anything that may have to be done for the safety of the Empire, and the maintenance of the peace of the world, that we shall do as becomes ia law-abiding and civilized people. In pursuance of this policy, which, we believe, reflects the sentiments of the great people of Australia, we have asked that every effort shall be made to preserve peace. Aggression begets counter aggression; violence ‘begets violence. Whilst yet the armies opposed to each other are at arms’ length, now is the time when that which should be done ought to be done. Therefore, we have asked the representatives of Australia at Geneva, acting in concert with other representatives of the British Empire, to bring this matter before the League of Nations. We believe that the League,’ which was created to bring peace where there was war, and to give mankind hope which hitherto had been denied it, now, if ever, ought to function. We have appealed to the League. Who shall condemn us for that? Being asked to stand by Britain, not to take part in any aggressive war, . but to maintain the status quo under the Sevres Treaty, we say we are willing to do so if the necessity should’ arise ; but hope and believe that the dispute can be settled by peaceful means. We realize, as Mr. Lloyd George has already pointed out, that’ this demonstration of our intention is the surest way to prevent war. There are some who say - and I do not sweep their assertion aside - that the war. with Germany would have been prevented had Germany known from the beginning what forces would be arrayed against her. This young Commonwealth desires peace. The dispute between the Kemalists and the Greeks interests us not at all, save as it may affect our fortunes and those of the Empire. Accordingly, we approach this question without any bias against the national aspirations of the Turks. Nor do we condemn the Greeks. All we say is that in this matter we shall defend those interests which we believe to be necessary to our very existence, and, as far as in our power lies, -we shall uphold the provisions of the Sevres Treaty against the Kemalist attacks. The integrity of the hinterland of Gallipoli is essential for the preservation of the freedom of the Straits. We desire the Kemalists to take note of the fact that we have no bias against them and no quarrel, at present, and that we trust they will refer their dispute with Greece to the arbitrament of a Conference at Vienna or to the League of Nations at Geneva. If they do that we shall abide by the decision of that Conference or of the League, if Britain remits the question to the Council. But if, despite everything, they should seek a short cut to greatness by the sword, and should invade the neutral zone and take Constantinople - or threaten to do so - then, much as we abhor war, much as we hope that there will be found some peaceful method of settling the whole trouble, we shall be compelled to range ourselves with all the forces at our command beside Great Britain. And there the position stands.
I desire only to add this, and to speak, not merely to members of this House, but to all my fellow citizens throughout the Commonwealth: there are already signs that the nation is being swept off its feet. At present, there is no need for one man to offer his services. When such a necessity arises a notification will bc made that cannot be misunderstood.
Honorable MEMBERS.-Hear, hear!
– We are not to spring to arms as if we were a nation of swashbucklers. In defence of the vital interests of the Empire we should be ready to fight, not merely with a contingent, but with all the resources at our disposal. We would fight to defend that which, if we should lose it, would mean the loss of everything we have. But there are, in the present issue, potentialities that appal one to contemplate; and, so, I am for peace. We must know all the facts; we have asked that they should be given to us. At the present time we know very little, and it is proper that, confronted with such problems, we should know all.
The Government have announced, in the plainest possible language, that we will stand with Britain. Thus, all the Powers may know that the Empire is again - I speak now so far, at least, as New Zealand and ourselves are concerned - a united Empire. This time, I trust that it will prove sufficient that we should demonstrate our strength without exerting it; that is, by making the plain notification to the world that we shall not stand idly by and allow our interests to be impaired. And that, perhaps, will be the most effective means of securing peace.
The situation, for the present, is well in hand. We have appealed to the League of Nations. We have set out our views to the British Government. We have announced plainly where we stand ; about that, there can be no doubt in the minds either of the British Government or pf the world. I took what the Government deemed to be the proper course; it was one which had to be taken at once. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) will tell us, no doubt, about the necessity for’ consulting the people by way of a referendum. I do not propose to traverse that proposition now, except to remark that it is not in such a direction , as the honorable member will indicate that the world san be governed. Those who. urge the taking of a referendum know that well, because it is their daily practice to trample under foot the very principle to which -they now appeal. There has not been one strike within my knowledge - which extends as far back as that of most other honorable members - in regard to which a referendum has been taken before the parties took the field. We are standing now, as it were, on the threshold of an appeal to the people. We are about to appeal to Caesar. Those who do Caesar wrong can be, and shall be, punished. It is idle to speak” of a referendum. It is not the practice of Democracies to take referenda on such matters as these. I am satisfied to take the responsibility, with my colleagues; but we share it with this House, which cannot divest itself of the responsibility, and, in regard to which, here and now, I invite it to declare where it stands.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– With that I am satisfied, and I feel certain that the bulk of my fellow citizens share the same opinion..
I have only to add that the Government have done all that needs to be done fct present. We have declared our intention to associate ourselves with Great
Britain and her Allies. We have asked the representatives of Australia at the Assembly of the League of Nations to bring our urgent views before the League, that it may intervene. I emphasize that there is no need whatever to talk at this stage of a contingent of Australian troops. But if, unhappily, that need should arise, I have no doubt concerning what the response will be.
In conclusion, I wish to mention that J have received fromthe Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia an intimation on behalf of the whole of its branches that - deploring, as its members do, the position and the possibilities of another war - should the call to arms come, the Government may bo assured of the unswerving fealty of that organization. In order that honorable members may discuss the position, I move -
That the statement of the Prime Minister appearing in the Argus of 18th September, 1922, be printed.
– And the cables also?
– No! They are secret cablegrams. They are here, however, for the honorable member to read, if he cares to do so.
.- To a certain extent the public mind will be a little easier than it was prior to the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Evidently at the Cabinet meeting to-day it was decided that for the present at least the position abroad does not warrant the sending of a contingent from Australia; but it is also stated that, in the event of certain circumstances arising that, in the opinion of the Government, necessitate despatching a contingent, they certainly will not hesitate to do so. I think that practically seta out the position as the Prime Minister has placed it before us to-day. I wish to say that this is a very serious matter, and it is not a party one. It is, undoubtedly, a national question. When I was communicated with on Sunday night I was amazed at the intelligence thathad came from overseas to the effect that we were asked to participate in a further war against the Turks in the East, at the instigation of the British Government. When a man like Mr. Lloyd George, or his Government, sends to the Dominions and asks for- their co-operation and assistance in a venture of this description, we ought to have the fullest possible information in regard to it. What amazes me is that the Prime Minister, in stating his case, gave only the purport of the cablegrams he had received. The day has arrived when the citizens of Australia, in common with the people of the rest of the world, should know everything that lhappens in connexion with matters of this importance. There (has been too much secret diplomacy throughout the world, and it has had. much to do with the creation of war. Why a deliberative assembly such as this House should not be placed in possession of all the facts is beyond my comprehension, especially if, by any means, Parliament is to be prorogued within the next few weeks. According to the Prime Minister’s statement, if the Government deem it necessary to send troops abroad they will be despatched. Surely the people of Australia, in view of the happenings in the recent war, should know something in regard to the future, and should be placed in a position that would enable them to decide whether such steps are warranted. It is, indeed, a grave matter. We were told that the last struggle was a fight to end war. The great masses of the people proved their worth, as far as the interests of civilization were concerned. They were told that a new and better era would dawn. What has happened ? Let us face the position as responsible men. Since the last war same years have passed. Millions of. the best of mankind were killed, and millions more were maimed. With sympathetic eyes we observe many of our maimed heroes walking about our streets and towns. Australia, together with the rest of the world, has been impoverished. There are debts running into many millions hanging over the heads of the people. Although we were informed that wealth would have to pay for the recent war, to-day we have the spectacle of the cost of it being heaped upon the backs of the masses.
Despite what has been said aboutthe value of the League of Nations, we appear to be onthe verge of another war. It is well to trace briefly the happenings since the formation of the League, so that the public may know that all is not well at head-quarters. At every opportunity since the League has been brought into existence I have urged that the breath of life should be put into that instrument. Yet to-day, in spite of all the misery entailed by the late war, we have our leading public men practically throwing cold water upon the League. We are told that the League is a myth, that it counts for nothing. It counts for nothing because of the attitude of leading men throughout the world. They keep up the agitations with regard to reparations and other matters, but they constantly ignore the League, and make its functions of secondary consideration. At the present hour, when the situation is fraught with dire peril, did Mr. Lloyd George appeal to the League of Nations to step in and settle this dispute ? No ! He sent cablegrams to the Dominions asking them to participate in a further war. The League is now sitting, but no appeal was made to it at all. It rested with our own Prime Minister, according to the press, to ask the High Commissioner for Australia (Sir Joseph Cook) to bring the matter before the League of Nations, and see if anything could be done to prevent a further catastrophe.
– A vote of censure on Lloyd George!
– Yes. I am glad public attention has been drawn to this phase. Before we countenance a repetition of what the world went through in the late war, I would remind the people of Australia that, while there may be some in the community who think that the threatened war would be confined to the Kemalists, it has all the possibilities of a greater conflagration even than the last. Once it was made a religious war - and from information received from abroad it appears that it would be - millions of Mohammedans would be brought into it. Mr. Sastri, who was the guest of the Commonwealth recently, said that if Great Britain declared war on Turkey it would mean that millions of her subjects in India would take sides against her. Apart from Turkey itself, Mesopotamia and the country beyond it would be affected, and can any one say at this crucial moment that even Russia, with its millions, might not be drawn into the maelstrom? With feelings of hatred burning in the breasts of our late enemies - Germany and Austria - who can say that they would not be roused to take advantage of a further war, and strike at us again? In such an event what would happen to civilization?
We often hear it said that there is a danger in Australia of anarchy and revolution. If we are to follow the path of war, loading the people with unnecessary financial burdens, and bringing misery to mankind, I view with alarm the possibilities. There are millions of men unemployed throughout the world today, and many of them are starving. There are thousands of unemployed in our own country, although Australia is supposed to be the best land in the world, and the indications are that the position will be worse. I wish to utter a warning in this chamber, and I say to my honorable friends opposite, “ Do not treat the matter lightly-.”
– Who does treat it lightly ?
– We should have the fullest possible information, and we should not permit the Government to send troops abroad without first consulting the people of Australia. The Labour party stands againstconscription, and we say, further, that if men are to be sent overseas at the expense of the Commonwealthand it may mean another £400,000,000 or more of debt- the people should be consulted before action is taken Have things been carried out as satisfactorily as we would like them to have been abroad ? After the recent war the Allies decided to take certain territory from Turkey. General Townshend, who no one could say had any leaning towards the Turks, advised the British Government, in 1918, that the Allies would commit a huge blunder if they endeavoured to deprive Turkey of Constantinople.
– That was never proposed.
– General Townshend’s advice was not accepted. The Allies chose to follow that of others. Nevertheless, two years later they decided that Constantinople should be returned to Turkey. It is now 1922, but nothing has been done in this direction. The Prime Minister has told us that the fact of letting it be known that a country is prepared to send troops to the seat of trouble is very often the means of preventing war. But it is in many cases the cause of war. Take the case of a country which is incensed at some injury it considers should be righted: If the people of that country realize that certain things which were promised have not been fulfilled, and that the other parties are not prepared to mediate or make use of a body such as the League of Nations, but are ready to resort to force, they are naturally filled with resentment. Therefore, the proposal to send troops may cut both ways.
There is a strange set of circumstances upon which I should like some explanation from Mr. Lloyd George and others. When the late war had ended, and we were all hoping for a permanent peace, we found Greece, a country which we could not get to shoulder a rifle during the war, made inroads upon Turkish territory, and we are informed that the Greeks’ munitions were supplied by Great Britain.
– And finances also.
– It is a startling state of affairs to find that it was Great Britain which supplied munitions of war and money to the Greeks. We ought to know Great Britain’s reason for helping people who did not stand by the Allies during the recent war. The only Greek statesman who wanted to do so was Venezelos, and he was turned out of the country. On the other side, and opposed to the Greeks, are the Kemalists, for whom, we are told, France, one of our Allies, has found the munitions of war.
– More than that; France has signed a Treaty with them.
– Yes ; France has also signed a Treaty with them. Either side has been financed and munitioned by countries which were Allies. At any rate, the Kemalists have proved to be too strong for the Greeks.
– With the aid of French guns.
– And the cry comes for assistance to the Greeks on the score that the Dardanelles and Constantinople must be safeguarded. I venture to say that if we send a contingent it will not be utilized solely for the purpose of safeguarding the Dardanelles. It and other contingents, which will probably follow, taking away hundreds of thousands of our best manhood, will be sent wherever they are required. And while we are likely to be confronted with that state of affairs no information is to be given to the Australian people as to why they should embark upon another war.
– Secret treaties again.
– Yes, secret diplomacy, despite the statement of the Allies that they proposed to abolish that sort of thing for all time and conduct all their future negotiations in the open light of day. Yet we hear of disputes between the Allies themselves almost to the point of rupture over some little affairs arising out of the recent war, and we do not know the day when a fresh conflict will break out, even among theAllies themselves.
The people of Australia are solemnly > asked to send away a contingent of soldiers which, if necessary, as the Prime Minister declares, will be followed by other contingents. In fact the right honorable gentleman says that the whole of our resources will be placed at the ser-‘ vice of the Empire. That being the case; and if we are to fight in this way for the Empire, surely it is only fair that those at the head of the Empire should take us into their confidence and tell us what we are fighting for. Are we to ask noi questions? Are we simply to send., soldiers, spend thousands and thousands of pounds, and sacrifice thebest of our manhood, leaving widows and fatherless children here, or returning maimed and unable to_ work, so that many of them will be obliged to beg sustenance in the streets, and to do all this, asking no questions ? Is ours but to do or die, and not know the reason., why ?
When I put the question as I have, I” do not want any one to say that I ant. disloyal. I shall probably be met with’ that charge, but at least I have the courage of my convictions. It is time public men representing the people of Australia had sufficient pluck not to be carried away by statements that appear in the press, which are generally inserted for the purpose of inflaming the public mind, and creating an atmosphere of hysteria so that the people may as it were be carried off their feet, only to realize too laterafter the damage has been done - that a mistake has been made. We ‘ shall not be helping the Democracy of the world, or civilization, by stepping into a conflict of this kind without having full justification for doing so. We shall not be acting in a democratic. way if we do not consult the people before any decisive step is taken. It cannot be said that there will be no time for this. The Prime Minister has told us that there is nothing urgent at the moment. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent this question being submitted, with all the information available, to a referendum of the people. Let the people of Australia be asked if they approve of sending Australian soldiers abroad at the present time. I may be charged with being a little disloyal, but although I am a native of Australia, my parents hail from England and I have the deepest affection for the Old Land . Nevertheless I realize that the best that I or any other public man of Australia can do is to endeavour to safeguard the world against further war.
– The best thing to do isto be true to Australia.
– Not only true to Australia, but also true to the masses of the people throughout the world.
– True to the working classes.
– The working classes embrace practically every one. Most people are obliged to work, and the masses have to dothe fighting. There is only a formal motion before the Chair, so that itis not necessary for me to submit any amendment, but ii the Government contemplate sending contingents abroad,I trust that they willfirst refer the question to the people. A patriotic cry would doubtless arise, as was the case in the recent great conflict, merely for the purpose of [justifying the action of the Government. The peoplewho had to suffer and bear all the consequencesknow what war means, and shouldbe consulted before any further step is taken, if we are to preserve our present civilization. Honorable members on this side have often been twitted with being revolutionaries, but wo are not, and we do not wish to be instrumental in [bringing about revolution in this country or elsewhere. But theGovernmenthave only to proceed along the lines they are ; at present following - carrying on secret diplomacy and coming to various kinds of understanding without the knowledgeof the people - in order to cause serious dissension. When Governments say, “We are going to do this, whether you like it or not,” and bring force to support their contention, apposing Governments, in re taliation, as is only natural, will also bring force to support their view, with the result that a conflagration is started which may spread with tremendous rapidity until many nations are involved. If Great Britain engaged in war in this instance, three parts of the world would probably be involved, and I question very much whether the outcome would be satisfactory from our point of view. From the statements which have been made, it would appear that Great Britain, France, and Italy are at present involved, and while Italy is standing by the Allies, she has said that at present, at any rate, she does not intend to participate in warfare. There is danger ahead, and’ even if we think we have sufficient strength to enforce our desires, we had better hesitate and take all the factors into consideration. What was the position which confronted us when Britain declared war on Germany? Germany was a conscript nation, and it was expected that it was her intention . to dominate the world. On that occasion, Great Britain was supported bythe civilized world; hut it is quite adifferent matter on this occasion, when Australia is asked to assist In a conflict between (Greece and Turkey. The circumstances justify the public being taken into the confidence of the Government. The first thins; the Government of Britain should have done was toappeal to the League of Nations.
– What is the League for?
Mr.CHARLTON. - Yes. Is it a mere plaything?Do honorable members realize that we are voting thousands of pounds a year as our share towards the cost of maintaining the League, and that we have representatives there who are not really in touch with the ‘desires ‘and aspirations of the Australian people ?The time has arrived for us to realize the position, and for all the cards to be placed upon the table.In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has not actually committed Australia to anythingat the moment, I trust the Government will seriously consider the matter,and that no further action willbe taken withoutfirst consulting this House, with a viewto subsequently placing the question before the people of the ‘Commonwealth for their decision.
.- In accepting the invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to explain the attitude of the Country party on this issue, I shall endeavour to state our position quite clearly. Before doing so, however, I would like to welcome back to this House a member of this party, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who has been absent for some time, owing to a serious illness,- and to congratulate him, as I am sure all honorable members ‘do, on his recovery.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– There can be no doubt as to the attitude of the Country party on the important question now before the House. We do not believe in war , but in peace with honour. If Great Britain thinks it necessary to go to war we believe that Australia, as a part of the great British Empire, should always be ready to come to her assistance. It has been the deliberate policy of the Commonwealth to allow the foreign policy of the whole Empire to be practically determined by the Imperial Government, but while that is the settled policy of the British commonwealth of nations–
– Who is responsible for it being the settled policy?
– It is the settled policy of the British commonwealth of nations for the Imperial Government to determine and carry out foreign policy, and while that is the position it is Australia’s duty to assist the Imperial Government. I am very pleased that on this occasion the Dominions have been consulted by the Imperial Government. The cablegram, the substance of which the Prime Minister read, asked for a deliberate opinion from the various Dominions as to their attitude in connexion with this important issue, and I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) should to some extent have weakened the position of the Imperial Government and the whole of the Empire in their proposed efforts by suggesting that Australia would not be unanimously behind the Imperial Government in an endeavour to secure world peace. If Great Britain, buttressed by her Dominions, is in a strong position, there is less likelihood of the trouble extending, and there being renewed the ancient rivalry between- the
Crescent and the Cross. At the same time, however, we are entitled to the fullest information regarding the position of affairs, and we should not merely be made conversant with the views of the Imperial Government, but with the opinions of the Governments of the various Dominions. There should be laid on the table of the House or circulated amongst honorable members a definite statement as to’ the exact position, particularly as regards the extent to which India may be involved. In the past we have had occasion to complain of the lack of information available concerning Imperial proceedings, and it is necessary, if we are to maintain a solid Imperial sentiment, that we should have the fullest possible information, not merely as to the British attitude, but as to the position of every part of the Empire.
– It would be wasted effort.
– Not at all. We may be able to influence opinion and assist in determining Imperial policy if we are supplied with sufficient particulars. The position at present is very serious and complicated, not merely because a conflict such as might be precipitated might dismember the Empire by a religious or holy war, but because in the conflict between Greece and Turkey, Britain and Prance have been on opposite sides, which may seriously endanger the alliance between those countries- which stood so well during the great wai’. The present is a time for the exercise of the greatest tact and deliberation, and it is an occasion on which we should be in possession of the fullest information. It seems to me that the less we say on the subject at- the present time the greater will be the chance of averting war. I may be permitted, however, to say this: that the Peace Treaty was in certain respects modified by the fact that some members, of the Peace- Conference held out for the uttermost limit in the way of reparations and territorial alterations. The London Observer wrote of “ A field sown with dragons’ teeth, from which armed men would spring up,” and since then they have sprung up all over Europe. Unfortunately, the conditions in the Near East were not settled at the earliest- possible, moment. There is no doubt that if, during the first few months of 1919, or at any time within 1919, a pact had been made with regard to the Near East, the Treaty of Sevres, as we now know it, would not have been made. lt is due in its present form to the fact that at the time it was made Greece was able to demand much more than she would have been content to receive in 1919. I think we should suggest to the Imperial Government that public opinion in Australia is in favour of a revision of the Treaty of Sevres in such a way as will meet with the approbation of the Governments and populations of India and Egypt. At any rate, we think that it would be no national humiliation, or any retrogression from our position, to request that the points at issue should be considered by the Conference that is being- held. The Imperial Government last year, with the approbation of Moslem opinion in India and Egypt, tried to bring Kemal and Greece to consider such a revision. If the Empire, after trying all means to secure peace with honour, is unable to do so, then we associate ourselves with the Imperial Government, and will lend our assistance to the fullest extent of our capacity to secure the safety, not merely of Europe, but of the whole world. We shall support Great Britain in demanding the freedom of the Straits, and will fight shoulder to shoulder with her until we have secured a successful issue of the conflict.
Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) T4.231. - We are indebted to the right “honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for a calm and unimpassioned -statement of the case. I think he has made it clear that we are not at all interested in the rival ambitions of’ the Turks or Greeks. I do not know that we have a very high regard for either of those nationalities, but we are deeply concerned, as the Prime Minister has well pointed out, in the preservation <of the neutral zone established by the Peace of Sevres. The issue is so complicated that it is desirable that we should endeavour to simplify it as much as we oan. We should make our objective as clear and narrow as possible. The Prime Minister of England, the right honorable Lloyd George, has placed the issue before Australia in the simplest terms. He does not desire that we should necessarily be associated with any European complication, but he has pointed out those matters of interest which affect
Australia directly. Those matters of interest are the preservation of the freedom of the Dardanelles; and, incidentally, the protection of British subjects in Constantinople. It was resolved some little time ago that Constantinople should be given to the Turks. The Turks were well aware of that, and all that Mr. Lloyd George does in his cablegram to us is to point out that our interests are directly affected, and to remind us that we have an altered’1 status which we must realize. That altered status, which met with the general assent of all the Dominions of the Empire, gave us the right to be consulted as to, and to discuss, foreign policy. We have been invited to snare in the diplomatic and other secrets of the British Government, with the object of enabling us to realize our responsibilities in connexion with foreign policy. At the earliest possible moment the Prime Minister of England has told us that this is a matter which seriously affects the British Empire, and he has pointed out that, in view of possible contingencies, it is vital that he should know exactly what the Empire’s views are, and how far Australia is prepared to associate itself with the Mother Country. The only issue placed before us is the defence of the freedom of the Dardanelles, and the preservation of the neutral zone which is essential for that purpose. The Prime Minister of Australia has, therefore, beenable to state the object in that regard, and I personally regret very much that there should have been even a word of dissent in this House as to what is the attitude of Australia. Knowing how vitally we are affected, I think we should, without any hesitation, reply to the British Prime Minister, as our own Prime Minister has already done, that Australia desires to associate itself with whatever the British Government deems to be essential for the protection of the Dardanelles. That is what we are asked to commit ourselves to; but in this regard we have to go one step further. Mr. Lloyd George has asked for a demonstration of the unity of the Empire, and he desire’s it because of the moral influence resulting therefrom. There was never a finer picture in history than when the various Dominions were seen flocking to the aid of the Mother Country in her hour of trial at the inception of the last war, and so, in the present instance, a demonstration is to bo made to the enemy and to the world. The Prime Minister of Australia would have been wanting “in his duty, and would have failed to realize the strength, of the loyalty which exists in this country, and the depth of our desire to make the unity of the Empire far more real, if he had failed to send immediately the reply which he has already sent. It is idle for members of the Opposition to say that supporters of Uie Government on this side of the House desire anything but peace. We are prepared to go any length towards that objective, and we realize that every effort is being .made by the British Prime Minister, and by others in responsible positions, by way of conferences and other means, to bring about peace; and it is only in the contingency of their efforts failing, and peace not being secured, that the Imperial Government desire to know exactly where they are. The Conference is a very important one, and the feeling of the British Government and the people of the Mother Country is such that they demand that no effort be spared to bring about peace. We are all of us bitterly opposed to war, and the sad experience of the past would make us resent any action likely to bring it about. Besides the Conference, there has been the suggestion about the League of Nations. I have on many occasions spoken my admiration for that body, and remarked upon its moral influence. I know that that influence will be exerted- now for the preservation of peace. But we dare not overlook the fact that the League of Nations is maimed by the abstention of the American people from association with it. America is not a member of the League, nor are Germany, Russia, Austria, or Turkey. America’s mighty influence would be of great service at the present juncture; but, unfortunately, she is not a member of the League, and the League, not being composed of all the nations of the world, cannot exert the authority that we should like it to possess. Only , the other day a complicated issue arising out of our further differences with Germany under the Peace Treaty was referred to the League for settlement, and that body served a high public purpose by its comprehensive investigation and ultimate decision which settled a complicated issue and a vexed question, and, in this case, what ever the League can do towards securing”” peace will, I am sure, be done.”
It has been complained that we have not full and complete information about the present- situation, and that before Parliament accepts any responsibility it should have such information. Honorable members, however, must realize the confidential character of the communications which ha ve been made to our. Prime - Minister. Having been a member of a* State Government, I know that, even iw those distant times prior to Federation, the British Government used to acquaint the Australian State Governments fully about any delicate issue that might involve the Empire in trouble, although the full responsibility for foreign policy and the declaration of war, should that step be taken, lay on the British Government. I am certain, therefore, that in this .case the British Government will keep the Commonwealth Government fully posted as to every feature of the complicated and delicate situation that has arisen. It may be that circumstances may arise in which the Prime Minister will consider it advisable to call us together in conference, to discuss the whole situation .with us under the bond of secrecy. That, however, is essentially within his discretion. At this juncturewe must be prepared to trust Ministersto exercise their discretion, properly and* wisely. The proposal of the Leader of theOpposition (Mr. Charlton)- to take a referendum is so utterly futile and impracticable that I cannot understand a man of his earnest and loyal character suggesting such a step. Suppose that si foreign country, which shall be nameless, was to threaten aggression against. Australia, and a vital crisis was suddenly precipitated, and we thereupon communicated the facts to the British Government and asked for help and support, should we be satisfied with their reply if they said, “ We will refer the matter to our electors, and within three or four months may be able to give you an answer “ 1 The honorable member’s suggestion is totally inapplicable to the conditions that now exist, and is not worthy of consideration. The Prime Minister has taken- the only reasonable and proper course, and should be strongly supported by the House. I congratulate the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) on his definite pronouncement. In this matter we are either for the Empire or against it. I, personally, go so far as to say, “ My country,right or wrong,” and I think that that feeling,, should largely govern us in this matter. The Mother Country is in a position of difficulty, and the Dominions are therefore called to rally to her aid There should be no uncertainty as to our attitude, I have no hesitation in saying that the overwhelming majority of honorable members will approve of what the Government has done and give to the British people the assurance that we are desirous of associating ourselves with her and with the other parts of the Empire in this time of trouble.
.- The circumstances in which the message of the British Government has been communicated to the House by the Prime Minister are such that the people of Australia, who will be called on to bear the cost in lives and in treasure of any war that may result from the work of the diplomats in Europe, will do well to carefully and critically examine it. It is noticeable that the Prime Minister did not give us the text of the cablegram which he is said to have received from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, that he gave us a paraphrase of the alleged message. Therefore, in trying to understand the conditions in which the message has been sent, we should remember that the Lloyd George Government, like the Hughes Government, is in a parlous condition, and that a khaki election is needed in Great Britain, as in Australia, to save the existing Ministry.
– I do not think that that is worthy of the honorable member.
– My reading of the situation, and my knowledge of the tactics of Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Hughes, warrant me in dealing with the message at its face value. The situation in Great Britain, as here, is obvious. In both places there is a tottering coalition, and a decaying Nationalist party, which is under the urgent necessity of finding some slogan that may save it. The desire, of our Prime Minister to get electioneering matter from the Opposition for use in the forthcoming electoral campaign is transparent.
-Does the honorable member suggest that the European situahas been created to assist the Nationalists of Australia at the coming elections?
– The honorable member cannot free himself from bis professional habits, but I refuse to reply to his leading question. He attempts to place me in a ludicrous position by suggesting that I hold an absurd view regarding the European situation. What I say is that if we have merely Turkey to fear it is ridiculous to summon every part of the Dominions to help Great Britain. But those who have attempted to keep themselves conversant with the international situation as it has existed since the war know full well that behind Turkey and Greece in their quarrel stand Great Britain and France, and that we are now either on the brink of another world war, or the people of Great Britain and Australia are being imposed on. Those who know Mr. Lloyd George’s electioneering tactics and the tricks of the Prime Ministerare naturally suspicious. Have we forgotten what happened at the Recruiting Conference here when, at critical periods, the Prime Minister produced messages from his friend Mr. Lloyd George? We know that both of them now need some slogan, that what they desire is a khaki election.
– The honorable member should not look so cross at me.
– The honorable gentleman is the only person on that side whohas spoken sensibly on the present situation. The position, as I see it, is this: It may be that the British Government is aware that the world is on the brink of another great war with a change of Allies. We know the feud that has arisen over the division of the booty. We know what has occurred’ in accordance with the good old British motto, “ What we have we will hold, and what we have notwe are after.” In order that the facts may be nicely covered with the usual coating to make them palatable to the unthinking public, we must have such nice phrases as were used by the Leader of the Country party and the Leader of the Ministerial party about the “freedom of the Straits.” What about the freedom of the Straits of Gibraltar, or of the Straits of Dover?
– They are free enough.
– Of course they are, for the biggest, Navy in the world. The Prime Minister nearly made a mistake when talking about the “ freedom of the Straits.”’ We must have possession of the Straits. That is what is meant by the freedom of the Straits, and that is how free they are.
– As they are in Russia.
– There is no freedom there.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) would be able to exercise very little freedom there. “Freedom,” like other expressions, is a comparative term. The honorable member for Kooyong is a stickler for upholding the Constitution and the law of the land in this country, but he would very quickly find himself a rebel against constitutional authority in Russia, and he would be dealt with as he would deal with me in this country.
– We treat the honorable member as quite harmless.
– ‘Honorable members opposite do so only privately. When they are on public platforms they follow their usual occupation of misrepresenting their opponents.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has ever said one word against the honorable member.
– I am fully aware that the honorable member for Parkes has the most profound respect for me privately, but as a public individual I am, in the opinion of honorable members opposite, an opponent of the British Empire, a disloyalist, and anything else that honorable members think will enable them to secure votes.
– I have not said so.
– Of course the honorable member has not said so. I am saying only what he and his party-
– No. If they said what they thought they would be lost. They say only sufficient to induce the unthinking public to return them to this House. If they told the people what they thought there would be a number of vacancies on the opposite side.
We are told that now we must be ready, and that without consultation, although we are thirsting for information. The Leader of the Country party and the Leader of the Ministerial party have both said that we must nave the fullest information. Yes, after they have pledged Australia to participate in this probable war. The country, through the Prime Minister, has already been pledged to participation, in it. Then we talk about fuller information. The matter is to be brought before the representatives of the people, and we are going to solemnly discuss whether we shall participate in the threatened waT, and whether we shall stand by the Empire. What does standing by the Empire mean?
– The honorable member’s party will do the same as they did last time.
– That is so. My party will certainly do as they did last time - not a man, not a gun, and not a shilling, so far as I am concerned. That is the position which should be taken up by every intelligent working man and woman in this and every other country. The working classes have nothing to gain by war. They supply the casualties, and they pay for war. Honorable members opposite, and the people who support them, will shortly be turning the St. Kilda-road booths, which are used for soup kitchens for the men who fought in the last war, into recruiting booths for the next war.
– There will be none of your chaps there.
– The men who took part in the last war have been given work to make an Ocean road. That has been their reward. They are asked now to pay for the war which saddled Australia with a debt of £400,000,000. The country has been almost ruined, and the Prime Minister talks of the terrible things that happened during the war, but while the last war was in progress the references were only to the glorious regenerating effect of war. This is the man who sneered at the League of Nations, and ridiculed the very idea of it; the man who said in this chamber, “What! refer the White Australia policy to the League of Nations? Certainly not.” The same man says now, “ We are going to have our hands and our consciences clean. Is it not I, William Morris Hughes, who has instructed Sir Joseph Cook to bring the matter before the League of Nations?” What matter? The honorable member for Kooyong has talked about the Peace Treaty. There is no Peace Treaty between Turkey and Great Britain. The Turks refused to sign any Peace Treaty. The Allies, by force, took certain territory from the Turks. They allotted certain territory to the Greeks.
– Turkey signed the Treaty all right.
– Turkey never ratified the Treaty, and Turkey never signed the Treaty. The Sultan signed the Treaty, and Mustapha Kemal Pasha took the field against it, and Nationalist troops sided with him. Kemal Pasha’s movement to-day is a Turkish national movement against the Treaty. We know that Constantine was driven off the throne of Greece. at the instigation of Britain and the Allies during the war period, and he is now being used as the tool of British diplomats against the Turkish tool in the hands of the French. If we are honest we will admit that the Allies handed over certain territory in Asia Minor to the Greeks, and that the Greeks crossed the border-line of that territory and invaded territory that had been left in the hands of the Turks by the Allies. Did the Allies intervene and refer that invasion by Greece to the League of Nations? Certainly not. British money and British guns went to help the Greeks take territory from the Turks, which the Allies had left to them. But when the Greeks got a hiding, when the Turks, with the aid of French guns, French money, aeroplanes, and all the paraphernalia of war proved stronger, and drove the Greeks back, we must have. intervention, because we are told, “ The freedom of the Straits must be. preserved. Because there are 20,000 graves on the Gallipoli Peninsula.” One would think that we were infant children who were being talked to. It is proposed to dig another 20,000 graves on Gallipoli, and what for?
– I do not know.
– Yes, the honorable member does know, but he will not say.
– The honorable member’s grave will not be there.
– No. I will not be there, and I hope that the graves of no other Australians willbe there either. Let those who want war go and fight. If only those who make war had to fight, there would be no war. We have the same old thing again that we had on the last occasion. We will have the “ soolers-on “ going down to the wharfs to see the men off, and then we shall have protests in the newspapers again when this war is finished such as appeared in the Sydney Truth from business . men of Sydney protesting against returned soldiers’ bands playing in the streets of that city. The honorable member for Parkes should know about that. The susceptibilities of these business men were offended by the music of the returned soldiers’ bands. They said nothing like that when they were inducing the men to go to the Front. What they said then was, “ You are brave boys ! We will look after you when you comehome “; and they gave them a pick and a shovel to make an Ocean road.
– The honorable member’s party would have seen them starve.
– No; we would have seen that they did not leave Australia, because there was no necessity for them to go. If we had had our way there would have been no necessity for returned soldiers to be holding meetings and calling the clergy, the Trades Hall, and other institutions to meet in conference to find work for them after their return from the war.
– Did not some of the honorable member’s party call them murderers ?
– No. They never said anything of the sort, and the honorable member knows it. He knows that the lying electioneering agents of his party said so. I know that when the honorable member refers to my party he means the Labour party; and the only fault I had to find with the Labour party during the war period was that they protested too much tlhat they wanted to win the war. The fault I find with members of that party to-day is that at this critical moment when we are perhaps an the verge of another war, and working men and women want to know the truth and where they stand, the members of the Labour party arenot through their Trades Halls’ unions and leagues calling mass meetings and organizing demonstrations to protest against Australia participating in any further war.
– They will have another conference at Perth !
– I hope it will be as successful as the last one, and more so.
– It ended the war.
– No; it did not end the war.
– It ended the Labour party.
– The honorable member takes too much credit to himself. He has been reading same of those silly statements circulated duringlhe war period, and imagines because he was expelled from the Labour party that that ended the Labour party.
– It ended the party’s control of a majority in Australia.
– No ; it did not.
– The party had to purge itself of some if its objectionable elements.
– It is very disconcerting to the Honorary Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond), and those associated with him, to find that this little arrangement of theirs has fallen rather flat, and that they are not to be supplied with the electioneering stuff that they imagined they were going to obtain.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that another war is good electioneering stuff.
– I think that the honorable gentleman is quite capable of using it as electioneering stuff.
– Why does the honorable member help him?
-I am not helping him.
– The honorable member is certainly helping him.
– The Leader of the Opposition(Mr. Charlton.) has stated that if the Government and their Imperial colleagues pursue the policy they seem determined upon the result will be upheaval in the various countries of the world. To my way of thinking, that is exactly what this is leading to. The world at the present time is in such a chaotic state that there is only one hope for it, and that is that the working men and working women of this and every other country will refuse to be used any longer by these people who play at Democracy and pretend that parliamentary assemblies such as this have anything to do with the government of the country.
– Do the honorable member’s aspirations apply to the workers of Russia?
– The workers of Russia are in possession of Russia.
– By the exercise of a military tyranny.
– No. In the words of the honorable gentleman’s leader, they have “met force by force,” and they have won.
– And they maintain their control by force.
– The working classes of Russia have proved themselves the most intelligent working classes in the world up to date. They have seen the futility of fighting the battles of their masters - they have seen the futility of being used as cannon fodder in fighting the battles of their exploiters. They have decided that, if they are to do any fighting, that that fighting shall be done for themselves. They are determined that the workers of Russia shall no longer be used as pawns in the game by Czars and Grand Dukes, by Leslie Urquharts, and other foreign exploiters. So much has the Red Army put common sense into the heads of their former exploiters that the Leslie Urquharts, the Winston Churcnills, and other exploiters are quite willing to make terms with the “blood-stained” Soviet, and to such an extent that property formerly owned by those people is now let on a ninety-nine years’ lease. So much for the “ sacred rights of property “ in the hands of British exploiters when there are intelligent working classes who know how to use the army on their own behalf.
– They complain of having no employment.
– The honorable member may use whatever terms-
– It is hard to be a pacifist and a Bolshevist at the same time.
– That cannot apply to the honorable member, for he does not appear to be either. I can quite understand that the views I express will cause me to suffer from a great number of interjections; but I would be all that some of those gentlemen opposite say from the public platform that I am if I concealed my opinions just because they are unpopular. I was sent here to voice the views of the people during another. war period. T was seat, here as a protest against men being slaughtered by the millions, and against all that the system which makes for those wars stands for. So long as I stay here I shall voice that protest; and I now again protest, before the coming war is on us. Whether I return here to this House, or go elsewhere, my voice, and any power or influence I possibly can exert for the working men and women of this country, will be against participation by the Australian working classes in any Imperialistic war. The interests of the men and women of Australia, or of any country, do not lie in being chained to the chariot wheels of Imperialistic adventure.
– The Prime Minster said something about that just now.
– The only difference between my speech and that of the Prime Minister is that the honorable member listened with slavish acquiescence to every word that fell from the mouth of the oracle. That was because the honorable member recognised that the Prime Minister was doing the honorable member’s work. If the working men anc1 women of this country share my views and my determination not to be the instrument of Imperialistic adventure, the honorable member’s “house of cards” will come tumbling down. He recognises that there can .be no war and no war profits if there are not men to fight wars for him. The only useful purpose that this assemblage serves, from my point of view, is that it gives me the opportunity to speak for the men and women of the country, and urge on them, before they are ‘ ‘ railroaded “ into the coming war, to make their protest through their industrial and political organizations - to show unmistakably to the Prime Minister and the political marionettes who pretend to rule this country, that the people have had enough of slaughter, enough of cripples, enough of unemployment and misery. If the exploiters of this country, wish to participate in war, let them take the advice of Tom Barker during the last war- “ Politicians, statesmen, employers, your country needs you; workers follow your masters!”
.- The insinuation of the last speaker (Mr. Considine) that the British Prime Minister is forcing this collision with Turkey to save his party from defeat at the coming election, and that the Prime Minister of this country is adopting a. similar attitude, is unworthy of this House, repulsive to every right-thinking Australian, and can emanate only from a diseased mind. I listened attentively to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in the plea he put up, but that plea did not seem to carry this House very much further as regards the problem we have in front of us. The honorable gentleman said that if Germany had known the attitude of the British Empire and of the other nations there would have been no great war. Yet, when it is sought to let Turkey know, without any misunderstanding, what is the attitude of the British Empire, the honorable gentleman objects, and objects strongly. What was good in the case of the late war should be good now, and it may avert active hostilities if those opposed to us know the attitude we take up and the firmness with which we stand. None of us wish to wage the battle for the “ Unspeakable Turk,” nor for the unprincipled Greek. No man in» Australia would fight, and no Australian woman, I think, would give her man to fight, for either of those nations. The tragedy of Eastern Europe for many years has been the Turkish Empire and all that it has stood for in bloodshed and massacre. Another of the tragedies of the present time is the attitude which the United States adopts towards all these matters. For the last fifty years” America has been trying in a feeble way to champion Armenia; she has beer lavish in her expenditure and sincere in her missionary enterprises; but on every occasion when there is anything really vital to be done in a national stand, taken for the principles she advocates, she shrinks back again into her shell and says that, so far as she is concerned, she will never interfere in the” problems of Europe. If America had taken the stand that she, from her own actions and words over and over again in the last twenty years ought to have taken, those problems of the Near East “would have been solved, and we should have had a very different state of affairs to-day. There is no one that is not appalled by the very thought that we may be in for another war, be it small or great. The Democracy of every nation hates war.
– There is a very small House, and I think there ought to be a quorum to hear this important debate. [Quorum
– I was expressing my regret that the attitude of America does no* tend to the peace of the world. It is appalling to me that a country of such standing should adopt an attitude that does not in any way square with the teachings that she holds up to the rest of the world to follow. “We cannot get much further by traversing the position which the Prime Minister has laid before us. At present it is only a problem which may be, and which we hope will be, peacefully solved. I believe that the action taken by the British Government and by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will tend, not to war, but to peace. In my opinion, a sign that the British Empire will hold together at this time will help the world to realize that peace is much better than war. There will be more chance of what we all devotedly hope for - a peaceful settlement of the great problems that confront us. We hope that an agreement may be arrived at which will make war impossible in the Near East for many years to come.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act. - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1922. Nos. 122. 123, 124, 125.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Foreign Marriage Ordinance - Regulations.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure has been promised for some time past, and was included in the programme submitted by the Government at the last general election, held on the 13th December, 1919. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in the course of the speech he delivered at Bendigo on the 30th October, 1919, said-
We desire also to give hope and encouragement to the employees of the Commonwealth, and we, therefore, propose to establish a system of contributory superannuation for the Public Service, supported by a reasonable and maximum payment from the Treasury.
This measure is the fulfilment of that promise. At some period in their history, all the States, have had superannuation schemes in force, but later abandoned them, and in more recent years considered their introduction from a different standpoint. The principle has, for a very long time, been recognised in connexion with the Public Service of the United Kingdom. There it is regulated by the Superannuation Acts 1834-1909. In respect of persons who entered the Service after the 19th April, 1859, and before 20th September, 1909, the provision is as follows: - If the person has served for ten years and upwards, he receives a pension of one-sixtieth of his salary for each year of service, with a maximum of forty-sixtieths. In respect of persons appointed on or after 20th September, 1909, eightieths is to be substituted for sixtieths, but, in addition, the officer receives, on retirement, a lump sum equal to one-thirtieth of his annual salary for each completed year of service, but not exceeding one and a-half times his annual salary. No provision is made for any contribution by employees, the whole cost being borne by the Government. That principle was recognised in the earlier Australian legislation on the subject, but to some extent it has now disappeared. In Tasmania, South Australia, and Queensland, superannuation payments are made entirely by the employees, but in New South Wales the contributions are borne equally by members of the State Public Service and the State Government. Inthe New Zealand superannuation scheme, payments by the employees are on the contributory basis to a fund, and an annual payment of £86,000 is made from the Consolidated Revenue to the fund . In addition the Government pays such further sum, if any, as is actuarially required to meet charges on the fund during the ensuing year. There the contributions begin at 5 per cent. if the age does not exceed 30 when the first contribution becomes payable, and rise to 10 per cent. if the age exceeds 50. The New South Wales scheme, as I have indicated, is based upon equality of contributions, and it also provides for advance payments by the Government. This proposal differs from the schemes in force in many of the other States in that the Government contributes as well as the public servants. The Bill adopts the New South Wales principle of pound for pound contribution, but instead of making an advance contribution of sums into the fund, it provides for payment . based on the actual payment of the benefits provided by the Bill.
The principle of superannuation funds contributed to by employers and employees is recognised by some of the largest public institutions in Australia, such as banks and insurance, finance, and trading companies.
– Only where there was a possibility of any person spending the whole of his life in the employ of a bank or other trading institution.
– Yes. These private schemes naturally vary in their character. The following are typical cases of some of the private superannuation schemes in operation in Australia: -
The object of the scheme now submitted is to provide payments for those who have given a life-long service to the State, so that when they reach the age limit for retirement they will not find themselves in a position of pecuniary embarrassment. Moreover, should they, during their term of service, become permanently incapacitated, they will not be altogether without m«ans of support, neither will their widows or dependants, should death overtake the bread-winners, be penniless. The Commonwealth should hame an efficient, capable, and contented Public Service, and should be able to retain in its ranks the best men obtainable. Although officers, when they reach the retiring age, may feel capable of rendering still further service to the Government, experience has shown it to be in the interests of the country that the average man should retire at a certain age, and make way for a younger man. After a lifetime of service to the State it is difficult for a mau to take up any other calling, and it is to relieve such a state of affairs that this superannuation scheme is being introduced. Experience has shown that the Commonwealth Public Service is not sufficiently attractive always to retain the best men. Therefore, it must be. our object to provide our officers with a reasonable remuneration and a certain income upon retirement. To illustrate the pre- sent position, I may point out that in 1918- i9 the number of voluntary retirements from the Service was 936, in 1919- 20 it was 1,367, and in 1920-21 it was 1,062. When officers reach a certain stage of efficiency the attractions outside the Service induce some of them to leave.
– Does the Minister think that this scheme will be the means of retaining such men in the Service?
– I think it will. Officers of the Public Service have certain demands made upon them. In many instances the education of their children makes heavy inroads upon their income, and some of them look with a good deal of anxiety to the future, not knowing what may happen to them in case of illness or invalidity. No doubt all honorable members have some personal knowledge of cases of hardship due to these causes, but which in the circumstances it is impossible to remedy. This superannuation scheme will appeal to- a man’s self-respect, because he will be asked to contribute a portion of the amount.
Coming to the details of the Bill, I would point out that payments into a fund to be known as the Superannuation Fund will be made periodically from the Public Service and also from the Consolidated Revenue, but in the case of the Government these payments will not be, as in New South Wales, advance payments. This Bill is therefore not open to the recent criticisms against the New South Wales scheme. There were two or three ways in which we could have dealt with this fund. We could have paid large sums into the fund in advance, so as to place the fund on an actuarial basis, but that would have meant a heavy drain upon the Commonwealth resources. Assuming there were in the Service about 23,400 persons, if each officer of the age of thirty years and over took two superannuation units, it was estimated that this .would have required an advance payment by the Commonwealth into the fund of about £406,000, and if each member of the Service had exercised his full privileges in regard to superannuation units the payment by the Commonwealth into the fund would have amounted to £771,000. On the basis of a Service of 23,400 this would represent an initial charge- of £700,000, which would gradually diminish. This large initial sum would be due to the fact that up to the present no superannuation scheme has been provided. We did not think that wise. The alternative was a scheme under which, instead of advance payments, as in the case of New South Wales, payments from revenue would be made as pension rights, accrued. This scheme has been submitted to actuaries, and has been reported upon favorably by them.
– The Minister means that the Government will not require to provide the money until it is wanted 1
– Nothing will be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue until the money i9 wanted. We have been advised that this scheme is actuarially sound. This is proved by the experience of New Zealand, where the Government pay annually into the fund £86,000, together with such other amounts as may be necessary to meet actuarial requirements.
I shall now proceed to an explanation of the scheme provided for in the Bill. A fund is to be constituted, to be known as the Superannuation Fund. It will be built up from three sources, consisting of contributions from public servants, payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and the interest earned from the investment of the fund. This income will be free from. Federal and State taxation, and the contributions put into the fund by employees of .the Commonwealth are also to be allowed as deductions in their income tax assessments, both Federal and State. The Bill provides that all benefits are to be paid out of this fund. The only other expenditure will be for administration. It is not anticipated that this will form a very heavy charge; but, in any case, it will be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue. Ample provision is made for the investment of the fund in recognised trustee investments.
The Bill provides, further, for a quinquennial investigation concerning the state and sufficiency of the fund. The first of these will be undertaken at the expiration of five years after the commencement of the Act, the commencement being the date notified in a proclamation by the Governor-General. This quinquennial investigation must be made by an actuary. It will be his duty to present a report to the Board, and he will be bound to state whether a reduction or increase in the rates of contributions payable to the fund, or in the proportion payable by the Commonwealth, will be necessary. But no alteration in the rate of contributions oan be made without the approval of Parliament.
The next point has to do with the management of the fund. “ This will be undertaken by a Board of three persons to be appointedby the Governor -General. One of the members must be a qualified actuary. Another must be appointed from among persons nominated by the public servants in a manner to be prescribed. Having a financial interest in the fund, it is a fair principle that the contributing employees should be permitted a voice in its management.
– Will the Public Service nominate and the Government appoint?
– Yes, as I have just indicated; but, subject to regulations issued by the Governor-General. The members of the Board will be appointed for seven years, and will be paid such remuneration as the Governor-General may determine. One of the members will be president.
– Will the chairman, or president, be a full-time man ?
– Yes. It should not be necessary, however, for other members of the Board to give the whole of their time to its affairs.
I desire to deal now with the persons to whom this measure will apply. I invite honorable members to examine the definition clause 4. Those who will be covered by this measure are there defined. “ Employee” means -
A person employed in a permanent capacity by the Commonwealth, who is by the terms of his employment, required to give his whole time to the duties of his employment, but does not include a Justice of the High Court or a Judge of any other Court created by the Parliament. “Service” means, “Service under, or . employment by, the Commonwealth.” The Act, when it comes into force, will cover the general body of permanent public servants of the Commonwealth, including those employed permanently by the Railways, the Defence and Navy Departments, the officers of Parliament, and a small number of Commonwealth bank officers whose rights are expressly reserved. The essential feature of the employment in the Commonwealth. Service is that it must be of a permanent character.
The next matter has to do’ with the pension units to be provided under the superannuation scheme. The Bill fixes pension units, in clause 28, as follows: -
That clause contains the working principle of the Bill. The contributions by an employee must be in respect of units of pension, and the number of units in respect of which an employee must contribute must have relation to the salary of the employee, in accordance with a scale of what will be known as salary groups, set out in clause 13, as follows : -
– Will an employee be permitted to contribute more units than are required of his salary group?
– Contributing employees may not go beyond their salary group. For instance, where the maximum of a group does not exceed £130 per annum, the employee will be called on to provide two units of pension; that will be equivalent to a pension of £52 per annum. Honorable members will see at a glance that the scale shows the exact number of units, together with the sums to which they are equivalent as pensions, side by side with each salary group. The highest salary group applies to persons drawing £832 per annum and over, in respect of which the units will number sixteen; and these will be equivalent to a pension of £416 per annum. That will be the highest pension payable. It is a higher maximum, by the way, than that existing in New South Wales, which, I believe, is about £312.
The scale of contributions has to ba considered from two points of view : first, that of all employees who enter the Service after the commencement of the Act ; and, secondly, of. those who are already in the Service when this measure became Jaw. As regards the first class, to an employee who enters the Service after the commencement of the Act, the scale of units as specified above will apply. He must contribute for the number of units according to his annual salary. As his salary increases, and he steps out of one salary group into another, the pension units to which he must contribute increase accordingly, until he reaches the age of forty. After that age he is not compelled to contribute in the event of any further increase in salary. His subsequent contributions over and above that fixed for the salary group in which he finds himself, upon reaching the age of forty, will be optional.
With respect to persons who are in the Service at the commencement of the Act, all those under the age of thirty must contribute in respect of units of pension as specified in the scale which I have given above, and the same provisions regarding an advance from one salary group to another apply to them as to those who join the Service after the commencement of the Act. An employee who, at the commencement of the Act, is not less than thirty, will not be compelled to contribute for more than two units. He may, within three months of the date notified for the commencement of the payment of contributions -
He cannot, however, contribute a number in excess of that provided for the salary group to which he belongs. If the employee was at the commencement of this Act not less than thirty years of age. and his salary is increased to bring .him into a higher salary group, he is entitled to increase, the amount of his contribution to an amount not exceeding the sum which will provide units of pension to the number specified for the higher salary group. In every case where an employee satisfies the Board that adequate provision has been made for himself and family, the Board may exempt him from contributing for more than two units of pension. If a contributor’s salary is reduced from one group to another, the number of units for which he is compelled, to contribute will be reduced to the: number appropriate to the salary group to which he has been reduced. Any contributions previously paid by him in respect of units in excess of the reduced number will be credited as payments for paid-up pensions to be actuarially calculated. In all -cases where the age of forty is reached there is no compulsion upon a contributor to increase his contribution, notwithstanding any increase of salary. He has the option so to do.
– Why is it not compulsory after the age of forty years?
– Because the rates of payment increase fairly rapidly, and -an increase of units might be too much of a drain upon the contributor.
Now I come to the scale of contributions by employees. The amount of contribution which has to be paid by an employee is based on - (a) the number of units or half-unit in respect of which the employee contributes; (6) sex; and (c) the age at which the employee commences to contribute for each, unit or half-unit. During tha five years next following the commencement of the Act, and until other tables are prescribed, the following schedules provide the rates of contribution to be paid fortnightly by male and female members, which are based on the retiring age of sixty-five, the age of sixtyfive being the retiring age fixed by the Public Service Act: -
Honorable members will see by the first schedule that if the age of- a male contributor on his next birthday will be sixteen years, the fortnightly contribution, based on the retiring age of sixty-five years, would be 2s. 3d. That contribution would provide for a pension of £52 to the contributor, £26 .to his widow, and £13 to each child up to the age of sixteen years. In the next column, the amount of 2s. is given, and honorable members will notice that it is less than the amount of 2s. 3d. The reason for the reduction is that the payment of 2s. is for subsequent increments, and goes towards the provision of another £52 to the contributor, and £26 to the widow; but it has nothing to do with pensions to children. It will be, observed, from the schedule, that if the age of entry is forty years next birthday, the fortnightly contribution is 7s. Id.; at the age of sixty years it is £1 19s. 7d.; and at sixty-five years it amounts to £10 5s. 7d. The payments in the last few years increase very rapidly, because the contributors will have nearly reached the age of retirement. The second schedule shows the provision for female members.
I desire to direct honorable members’ attention to the actuarial report that has been circulated among them. The whole scheme was referred to an Actuarial Committee, comprising Messrs. H. M. Jackson, Actuary to the Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society, C. H. Wickens, Commonwealth Statistician, and F. W. Barford, of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. The Committee’s report stales, inter alia: -
Comparisons were also made with corresponding rates for other superannuation schemes of a similar character.
As a result of their investigations, and in view of the provision in the Bill for quinquennial revision of rates, the Committee is Satisfied as to the sufficiency of the fortnightly contributions set out in the schedules to the draft Bill herewith.
The proposal to amend the original scheme so as to provide for the Government payments to the fund to be made in arrear instead of being made in advance was carefully considered, and Mie Committee :is of opinion that such a proposal is actuarially sound. The scheme so amended may be said to provide in general for a contributory scheme supplemented by a pound for pound subsidy by the Government, to be made as the allowances accrue; special concessions to be made by the Government in respect of all officers aged thirty and upwards at the initiation of the scheme.
– Is the draft Bill referred to in that report the Bill now submitted t
– Yes, in substance it is. Certain amendments have been incorporated in the Bill. The Committee’s report is dated the 23rd September, 1921, but some further amendments were made, and on the 15th September, 1922, the Committee reported -
We have examined the amended copy of the Bill and have compared the amendments with the provisions that we had before us when preparing our report of 23rd September, 1921. We are of opinion that the amendments which have been made will not have any effect whatever on the sufficiency of the fortnightly contribution, to which we have already certified, as set out in the schedules of the BiU.
The amended copy of the Bill referred to is the Bill before the House. It may be noticed, on looking at the New South Wales rates, that they vary from those proposed in this Bill, and it may be wondered why there are varying rates in two schemes based on somewhat similar principles. I have a report by the Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. .C. H. Wickens) upon this particular aspect, and he furnishes a table showing the contributions for males for two units of pension under the two schemes. For example, in New South Wales, commencing at the age of 20 years, the rate is 3s. 2d. with orphans’ benefits, and 2s. lOd. without such benefits, whereas under the Commonwealth scheme the rates are 2s. 9d. and 2s. 5d. respectively. The table is as follows: -
The Statistician states -
The differences between these two rates are more apparent than real, since (1) the New South Wales rate is for pensions to commence at the age of sixty years, whereas the Commonwealth rate is for pensions to commence at the age of sixty-five years; and (2) the New South Wales contributions are payable twenty-four times a year, whilst the Commonwealth contributions are payable twenty-six times a year.
On roughly commuting the New South Wales rates so as to’ ascertain the equivalent rates for .pension to commence at age of sixtyfive, instead of sixty, and contributions to be payable twenty-six times a year, instead of twenty-four, 1 found that over the greatest part of the table of rates there was remarkable similarity to the Commonwealth rates, although the rates in the two cases bad been computed on mortality and interest bases which differed somewhat from each other. The result was such’ that it may be said that each table of rates furnished a satisfactory confirmation of the general reliability of the other.
– Did the actuaries explain how they based their conclusion as to the sufficiency of fortnightly payments?
– The data are rather nebulous as to widows and children.
– We gave the actuaries all the information we had, and their investigation . was made upon the be3t material that we could give.
The schedules as above set out will continue in operation until other tables are prescribed by regulation. As soon as practicable after the expiration of each period of five years, the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Board, prescribe tables of contributions which shall, subject to the approval of both Houses pf the Parliament, take effect from a date to be fixed by proclamation. I have already mentioned the provision in the Act for the quinquennial actuarial investigation of the fund, the report upon which will form, the basis of any recommendation for any revision of the schedule.
Now I come to the contributions by the Commonwealth. The provision for payments by the Commonwealth into the Superannuation Fund is made upon a different basis from that which is .provided for in the New South Wales Act. The recent criticism directed against the New South Wales Act in connexion with Government contributions does not, therefore, apply to the clauses of this Bill. These clauses provide that the Commonwealth shall supplement the pension which the employee’s own contributions would furnish. The provision reads that in respect of each unit or portion o’f a unit of pension paid from the fund on the basis of a contribution corresponding to the rate prescribed for the age of the employee at the date upon which he commenced to pay the contribution, a sum equal to one-half of the payment so made shall be paid by the Commonwealth to the fund. The Bill applies to a number of persons who come under the Act at the time of its commencement whose ages are somewhat advanced, and allowances have been made on the introduction of this measure for lower rates of contribution by them than those specified for such ages. Such an experience is always undergone in the initiation of any public or private scheme, and it would not be equitable to call upon the contributors at an advanced age to pay for all their benefits upon the actuarial basis of their age and corresponding contribution. The Bill, therefore, in some cases makes provision for employees to come under the scheme and obtain some of the benefits at reduced rates. The difference between the contribution at such a reduced rate and that required under the normal rate has to be met, and the obligation is to be undertaken by the Commonwealth by increased payments when the benefits are payable. Provision for this is contained in clause 19.
– What is the principle of lightening the load to the men at present in the Service ?
– I have not the details with me; but the New South Wales scheme has been followed, and the report I have is that upon that basis the provision made is actuarially sound. I shall come to the benefits later.
The Act is made retrospective, and applies to certain persons over the age of sixty-five who have made no contributions. In their case the whole of the burden of the payment of benefits has to be borne by the Commonwealth. If a contributor is away on leave of absence, with or without pay, he still must make his contributions without any reduction. All contributions are deducted from the salaries at the timeo of payment, and are forthwith sent on to the fund.
I shall now deal with the benefits on retirement. An employee becomes entitled to a pension upon his retirement on attaining the age of sixty-five years. That is the age fixed by the Public Service Act unless the employee’s services are continued with his consent for an additional period, in which eventhis pension accrues on his retirement. A contributor who has been in the Service for not less than ten years, and who is retired on the ground of invalidity or physical or mental incapacity to perform his duties, is entitled to a pension, irrespective of when that contingency may happen. The determination as to invalidity or physical or mental incapacity for performance of duties, and as to whether the invalidity or incapacity is due to the employee’s own fault, is a matter to be decided by the Board; but before the latter can act it must get a report from a medical officer specially appointed for. the purpose under the Act.
Honorable members know that at present there are many heartrending cases owing to the absence of any provision for an income for persons retired from the Public Service on the ground of invalidity. Although under the Public Service Act there are liberal allowances for sick leave, theydo not meet all circumstances.
In addition to retirement from the Service on the ground of having reached the prescribed age or of invalidity, an employee’s service may be terminated in several ways - retrenchment, discharge, dismissal, or voluntary resignation. I shall deal later on with the rights of the employee arising from these various causes.
Summarized, the benefits under the Act will be a pension to the contributor, a pension, to the contributor’s widow, and pensions for a deceased contributor’s children up to the age of sixteen. In normal cases, where the contributor retires at the age of sixty -five, he is entitled to a full pension, according to the number of units for which he was contributing. If his services are continued after he reaches sixty-five years of age, his pension is postponed until his retirement.
– But he will not be asked to contribute any more?
– No. If an officer retires between the ages of sixty and sixtyfive, as he has the right to do under the Public Service Act, or if he is called upon to retire between those years, he is entitled to a pension which is the actuarial equivalent of his contributions, and of the Commonwealth payments in respect thereof. Of course, it must be less than the full pension, because his contributions end earlier, and his pension commences earlier.
– Although he may be compulsorily retired ?
– Yes. He will have the option of contributing in a lump sum or by instalments the actuarial equivalent of contributions to a later, age not exceeding the age of sixty -five years. If an officer is retired on the ground of invalidity after ten years’ service, he is entitled to the full pension if the invalidity is not due to his own fault. If it be due to his own fault, he gets a pension which is the actuarial equivalent of his contributions up to the date of his retirement. If an officer is retrenched after ten years’ service he is entitled to the repayment of all his contributions, and also to the actuarial equivalent, either in a lump sum or as a pension, of the Commonwealth’s share of payments in connexion with his case. If an officer resigns, or is dismissed, or is discharged, he is entitled to a refund of his contributions, without interest. Interest is not payable in such a case because the officer’s risk in respect of invalidity and death benefits has been covered during the whole of the period of service.
When a contributor dies before his retirement, his widow is entitled for her life to one-half of the pension to which the husband was contributing. If a pensioner dies his widow is entitled for her life to one-half of the pension payable to the deceased husband, or to £26 per annum, whichever is the greater amount. If a widow remarries her pension ceases.
If a contributor or pensioner dies, an amount of £13 per annum is payable to the widow in respect of each child until it reaches the age of sixteen years. This does not apply to children of a pensioner’s marriage after retirement.
I come now to deal with officers who have been retired before the commencement of the Act. The measure has been made retrospective to the 31st December, 1920.
– Because its introduction has been delayed, and the Bill was definitely promised. It is now proposed to make it retrospective to officers who retired at the age of 65, the usual age, or on account of invalidity, after the 31st December, 1920. There are about 116 officers who are to date affected. An officer with ten years’ service who was 65 years of age before the commencement of the Act, and retires at any time after the commencement of the Act, will be entitled, without contribution, to a pension, in accordance with his salary, but not exceeding four units; that is to say, £104, which the actuaries declare is about the average pension.
– They assume that?
– Yes, they estimate that on the average the uniform amount of pension payable is £104 per annum. The pension payable insuoh circumstances will carry widow’s and children’s benefits. An officer of 65 years of age, with ten years’ service, who retires after the 31st December, 1920, and before the passing of the Act, is entitled, as from the passing of the Act, without contribution, to a pension in accordance with his salary, but not exceeding four units. This also will carry widow’s and children’s benefits. An officer of ten years’ service retiring on account of invalidity, after the 31st December, 1920, and before the commencement of the Act, is entitled, without contribution, to a pension in accordance with his salary, but not exceeding four units. His pension will also carry widow’s and children’s benefits. The Treasury officials have worked out the following typical cases, which show how the Act will work : -
An employee of fifteen who enters the Ser vice at a salary not exceeding £130 per annum will contribute for two units, , which will entitle him to a pension of £52 per annum. The fortnightly payments will be 2s. 3d., representing a yearly payment of £2 18s. 6d. A youth of nineteen enters the Service with a commencing salary of £174 per annum, and receives an average increase of £40 per annum every five years. His contributions to the fund up to the time that he reaches the age of sixty years would be as follows : -
Employee, aged twenty-four, at date of commencement of the Act, who receives increases which would advance him to a higher salary group, as shown in the table hereunder, would be called upon to make the increased payments set out therein : -
The following are examples or contributions by employees who, at the date of commencement of the Act, are of the age of thirty years or over : -
There are persons in the Public Service of the Commonwealth who are already in possession of vested or contingent rights to a pension or retiring allowance under the provisions of other Acts or State Acts, and many of the men who came over have their rights preserved to them under the Constitution and the Public Service Act. The scheme contains a number of provisions to meet the cases of these men, and enables them to receive benefits under the scheme. The general rule is that the Act shall not apply to employees who have a vested or contingent right to a pension or retiring allowance under any other Act or State Act. Nevertheless provision is made to enable those who have pensions or other rights under State Acts to get some benefit under the scheme. In the first place any employee who has an existing pension right may, within twelve months of the commencement of the Act, apply to the Board to transfer his right to the Board and may receive in return a grant by the Board of such new rights pf pension for himself, his widow, and children as are agreed upon between himself and the Board, subject to the actuary of the Board certifying that the new rights are the actuarial equivalent of his transferred right. Any employee who is under sixty-five years at the commencement of the Act, and has a pension right commutable for new rights in respect of a less number of units than would be applicable under the Act, may elect to come under the Act for the purpose of the difference between the benefits by way of pension or allowance to which he is entitled by virtue of his existing right under some other Act or State Act, and the benefits which would, were he not entitled to those rights, be applicable under this Act. Any employee who has such an existing right, who is under sixty-five years of age and does not elect, or has no right of election, under section 51, may elect to come under the Act for a limited purpose. The limited purpose would be -
a pension for his widow;
a pension after his death for his chil dren under the age of sixteen years, until attainment of that age, or death, whichever first happens; or
pension rights for both widow and children.
His rights are subject to certain specified conditions. Any employee with existing pension rights who, at or after the passage and before the commencement of the Act is not less than sixty-five years of age, or who, owing to ill-health is unable to perform his duties, has been in the Service for ten years, and has rights commutable under section 56 for new rights in respect of a less number of units than four, may come under the Act for the purpose of the difference between the less number of units and four’ without contribution. In no case, however, shall the pension exceed half the annual rate of salary paid at date of retirement. The employee, in this case, is not entitled to a pensionunder this scheme of more than the difference. It carries also the widow’s and children’s benefits in accordance with the Act. A provisionsomewhat similar to the above is made in the case of an employee with an existing right who, on or after the 31st day of December, 1920, and before the passing of the Act, had ‘been retired or permitted to retire, and who, atthe time of retirement, was not less than sixty-five years of age or, owing to ill-health, was unable to continue to perform his duties, had been in the Service for ten years, and hada right commutable for new rights under section 56. Any employee who, under any other Act or State Act, has a vested or contingent right to a refund of contributions or a gratuity, may,. at any time within twelve months after the commencement of the Act, transfer his right to the Board and receive in return a grant by the Board of such rights or pension under the Act for himself, his widow, and children as is agreed between him and the Board, subject to the Board certifying that the new rights axe the actuarial equivalent of the transferred right.
Notwithstanding anything contained in any Act., it shall not be compulsory for any employee to assure his life or continue in force any policy of assurance, and any policy held by the Commonwealth for the purposes of any Act relating to the Public Service shall be placed at the disposal of the employee. Any employee whose life is assured at the commencement of the Act may transfer the policy to the Board, and request the Board to continue the payment of premiums under the policy. Where this is done the Board will duly pay the premiums, and, on the maturity of the policy, will pay to tha employee or his personal representative the sums received on the policy, less the amount of the premiums paid by the Board, with compound interest at 4 per cent, per annum.
The whole of the scheme, as contained in the Bill submitted to Parliament, was placed before an actuarial committee. Copies of this report are in the hands of honorable members. The estimated cost to the Government in successive years of the superannuation scheme applicable to the Public Service is as set out in their report. The first schedule deals with the Public Service as at 30th June, 1920, the total of permanent officers under the Public Service Act being 23,032. In their report, the first schedule was furnished as follows: -
They also presented in their’ report a table showing increased cost, based on a total of 4,191 public servants from other Departments. The cost of the whole of this Service, as at the 30th June, .1920, based upon 23,032 persons under the Public Service Act, and 4.191 for possible other public servants, as set out in the report of the Actuarial Committee, is as follows: -
The foregoing was presented on 21st September, 1921. A later table, dated 18th September, 1922, is as follows: -
This estimate has been based on a Public Service of 24,759, instead of 23,032, as in the actuaries’ report. This table was prepared, by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– It does not affect the actuarial basis; it only affects the total. As stated by the actuaries, their estimates as to cost to the Government are based upon the assumption that the Service retains its present strength and constitution. Increase of members naturally will mean increase of cost.
It is not possible, however, to state definitely the exact number, of persons who will be included other than those under the Public Service Act, but the present estimate shows there are -
These last-named officers were expressly taken over when the Bank took over the control of the Note Issue, and are not under the Bank pension scheme. Then, in addition, there are estimated to be in the Defence and Navy Department 1,693. It is not possible at this stage to give that number definitely. The total will possibly be less than previously estimated in 1921.
A superannuation scheme has been asked for by public servants, and that submitted is similar to those adopted by large business firms in the interests of their employees and themselves. This proposal has been carefully worked out by the actuaries, who certify that the scales scheduled are actuarially sound, and I confidently submit the Bill for the favorable consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 15th September, vide page 2342) :
Clause 3 (Grouping of candidates).
.- I do not intend to support the principle contained in this clause. It is essentially the insertion of the thin edge of the wedge, and it introduces a very dangerous principle. I cannot help wondering what the attitude of the old Liberals would have been if they had been in Opposition and such a proposal had been introduced by a Labour Government. The clause shows where the old Liberal principles have gone; they have been absolutely annihilated. It shows that the Coalition was a coalition of the young lady and the tiger. I admit that it is a personal triumph for the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to have got behind him those who, although originally professing Liberal principles, now support such a clause as this. I shall vote against it.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section 76 of the principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) , and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “ (a) in the case of a Senate election -
if the total number of votes polled in his favour as first preferences is more than one-tenth of the average number of first preference votes polled by the successful candidates in the election; or
where the name of the candidate is included in a group in pursuance ofsection 72a of this Act, if the average number of votes polled in favour of the candidates included in the group as first preferences is more than one-tenth of the average number of first preference votes polled by the successful candidates in the election; or “
Section proposed to be amended -
The deposit made by or on behalf of a candidate at a Senate election, or at aHouse of Representatives’ election, shall be retained pending the election, and after the election shall be returned to the candidate, or to some person authorized by him in writing to receive it, if he is elected; or -
In the case of a Senate election, if the total number of votes polled in his favour as first preferences is more than one-tenth of the average number of first preference votes polled by the successful candidates in the election; or . . .
.- This clause of the Bill provides for an improvement in regard to the forfeiture of deposits. Personally, I have always been opposed to deposits being required, but this clause does not deal with that question. It is an amendment of that section in the principal Act which worked so unsatisfactorily at the last election, when men who were returned to the Senate forfeited their deposits because they did not poll the requisite number of first preference votes. That experience showed how careless we were when this question was before Parliament on the last occasion.
– It showed the strength of the party machine.
– I do not think the party machine had much to do with that aspect of the question, but it may have had something to do with the present proposal. If the honorable member is claiming that, I would perhaps agree that there was something in his contention. He may wish the Committee to infer that it showed the strength of the party machine in regard to the conduct of the last election, for the whole of the first preference votes were given almost entirely to one candidate, so that those who secured the second and third preferences were a long way behind in the first count, and in some cases lost their deposits. The clause under discussion, while it does not remove the evil, provides that if the group to which a candidate belongs polls one-tenth of the votes polled by the successful group, the candidate will not forfeit his deposit. That is a step in the right direction, because if we have a system of preferential voting it is obvious that it is almost impossible for a candidate who is running on a ticket to get the requisite number of first preference votes to prevent him forfeiting his deposit, although he may, on the second or third preferences, be returned to the Senate.
– I move -
That sub-paragraphs 1 and 2 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ if the total number of votes polled in his favour at the time of his exclusion from the poll is more than a one-fifth part of the quota as ascertained and defined by section 135 of the principal Act.”
I move this amendment because I intend subsequently to move a series of amendments with the object of providing for elections to the Senate to be on the principle of proportional representation.
– Does the honorable member intend to raise that issue at this stage ?
– I raise the issue at this stage because if I leave it till subsequently the clause will have been passed.
– It is always possible to recommit a clause.
– I think that would be a little too dangerous.
– Does the amendment refer to the principal Act as it is now, or as proposed to be amended?
– As it is now. I cordially indorse the attitude taken up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) with regard to the forfeiture of deposits by Senate candidates. I think the present law operates very inequitably, and even the clause as proposed by the Government will not protect a candidate sufficiently. At the last Senate election the leading Nationalist candidate had 230,000 first preference votes, and the other two, one of whom was returned, polled respectively 6,500 and about 5,000. Under the clause the position would still be as bad for a successful candidate as it is at present, and, therefore, it is necessary to have a very much lower fraction than is provided for. The adoption of my proposal would only bring down the number of votes required to about 15,000 for a Statelike New South Wales, which is still very high; but the provision in the Bill would leave it about 23,000. The questionI really rose to speak on is whether the elections to the Senate shall, in the future, take place on the block system, as was at first the case, or on the preferential system, which was adopted last time, or by a new method altogether. Any one who has studied the results of our Senate elections must regard the present system as unsatisfactory. The Senate was intended by the framers of the Constitution to be a States House, its specific function being to protect the rights of the States, yet it has become a party House, pure and simple; not merely a House in which political parties are represented as such, but a House whose members are nearly all of one political party. Indeed, it is conceivable that, with a sweeping vote, following a double dissolution, all its members might become of one party.
– In 1910 Labour won all the eighteen Senate seats.
– Yes ; and on the last occasion the Nationalists had a great win - seventeen out of eighteen. For a time the Senate consisted of thirtyone members of one party and five of another, and the disproportion of party representation has been greater since. Representative institutions do not operate satisfactorily unless there is something approaching the proportional representation in Parliament of each section of the community. Even the “ first past the post “ system provides for that in single electorates in some degree Over a series of year its results do not vary very much from those that would be obtained from the proportional system. But the block system of voting brings about the flooding of a House by the representatives of one party or another, and that must cause dissatisfaction. One function of a parliamentary representative is to act something in the manner of a geyser, by being the outlet for the subterranean steam and rumbling in the community. Without such an outlet, with the lid always on the kettle, there is a tendency to social disquiet.For that, if for no other reason, we should try to devise a better system of representation. On Friday I gave a list of the countries that have adopted proportional representation as a means of securing equity and justice, and the course which I have suggested would be more likely than that provided for in the Bill to make the Senate what every one wishes to see it, a truly representative House, which will attract more than it does at present men of eminence. Now, unless a Senate candidate belongs to a dominant political party, he has no chance of being elected, and the group-voting system, which has been agreed to, has opened a way to the flooding of that Chamber with mediocrities or nonentities, owing their election merely to the fact that they a’re rigid party supporters, and stick close to the machine. The adoption of the proportional system would alter that state of affairs, to a great extent, because a candidate to be elected would merely have to get onefourth of the total number of votes polled, plus one; at present he has to poll more than half of the total number of votes polled.
– Will not what you propose make the candidate’s position more difficult than it is? Section 135 provides for a majority.
– I propose to amend section 135.
– In answering the question which I put to him, the honorable member spoke of the existing Act.
– I meant the Act as it will read should my proposal be carried in its entirety. The total mim b 01 of votes to be polled by a candidate would be one-fifth of the quota, that is one-twentieth of* the total number of votes polled, and there would not be the plumping that occurred under the preferential system at the last election, when the second and third preferences were practically of the same value as the first. Under the proportional system the primary votes are of most value, and unless a candidate gets a sufficient number of first preferences he is discarded early in the count. The amendment will test the feeling of the Committee on this subject.
– I understand that the amendment has been moved to test the feeling of the Committee regarding proportional representation for the Senate. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) practically invites us to determine the method by which senators shall be elected, but those who have acquainted themselves with what has occurred in the other House know that the Senate has already discussed and re jected the method of representation which he proposes. Of course, that does not prevent us from coming to any conclusion on the subject that we may think fit; but it is an indication that our attempt to do what he proposes might prove futile. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the amendment. In any case it could not be, passed in its present form because, as worded, it is an amendment of the existing Act, which the honorable member wishes to amend later. It would not carry out his intention.
.- To niv mind the amendment is technically correct. If the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) lost his chance at this stage to insert words amending the clause proposed by the Minister (Mr. Groom) we should have to go back on the Bill if he subsequently carried his proposal for the amendment of section 135. Therefore, we might as well take a test vote here and now on the proposal he has submitted. It has never been held as a parliamentary principle that one House of the Legislature has the right to determine its mode of election without respect to the opinions of the other House. An Act is an Act of the Parliament. Just as the Senate has perfect freedom and the constitutional right to express its view as to the method of our election, so we have a right to express our view regarding the method of electing senators, and to endeavour to embody that view in our legislation. The fact that the Senate has discussed and rejected certain proposals for proportional representation should not prevent the Committee from making known its opinions on the subject. Therefore we should argue this proposal on its merits. The system hitherto followed in the election of senators has been a failure, inflicting injustice at different times on different sections of the community. In 1910 the representatives of Official Labour swept the Senate poll, securing the eighteen vacant seats. The senators who were then elected represented about 52 per cent, of the electors, the remaining 48 per cent, being left without representation. The position was reversed later, the Liberals, or Nationalists - I think the latter - returning the compliment with a vengeance.
– It is hard to follow all the aliases of the party opposite.
– The name of the party is not an alias. The old party married, and like an individual, changed its name on marrying. Any system which permits a bare majority to monopolize for three or for six years the representation in one House of the Legislature is unfair to the minority, and the proposal of the honorable member for Cowper will cure this obvious and acknowledged defect. There are other drawbacks in the present system, and the honorable member referred to these in passing. One is the power of organizations outside Parliament to dictate the character’ and personnel of representation, which becomes objectionable should that power be allowed to grow until it menaces the freedom of representation, which is the basic principle of representative Government. The present system -of block voting gives an enormous and unhallowed power to the press, whether Conservative, Liberal, or Labour. In the populous parts of Australia we have seen innumerable instances in which newspapers enjoying great influence have dictated the character and personnel of representation. That strikes a blow at the basic principle of representative government. The principle, I take it, is the freedom of the candidate to stand and the freedom of the elector to choose, uncoerced by influence, organization, or combination tactics. I am quite sure that the more people consider this question of proportional representation on its merits, as applied to elections to the second Chamber of the Federation, the more likely it is to win their acceptance.
– Does the honorable gentleman contend that we shall have a test of our opinion of the system on the amendment ?
– The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) submits his amendment as a preliminary and skirmishing test, because this is the first opportunity presented by the Bill to enable bini with propriety to propose the insertion of words that will test the question. I propose to vote for the amendment. I am quite sure that ‘he Senate needs rehabilitation. It needs, if we can bring that about, a different place in the Constitution, perhaps not exactly the place intended by the founders of the Constitution, but certainly one that will gain for it more support as a vehicle for the expression of public opinion than it has at the present time. With great respect, individually and collectively, to the members of another place, I say it is true that that Chamber is largely an echo of this House. Senatorial responsibilities rise higher than that, when understood as we ought to understand them. In the United States of America, as the mover of the amendment said last week, the Senate has won enormous authority, chiefly over matters of international relationships and foreign affairs generally, and also many other concerns. The American Senate has won its place largely by the influence commanded by its individual members and not so much by the influence of party. If one desires to study the statesmen of the United States of America, outside the President and his Ministers, he must go largely to the Senate to find the names of those whose reputation is world-wide. That has been so for the last forty or fifty years.
– Because in the United States of America, as I read its literature, the prestige of the Senate is due to the increasing number of its members who are men of intellect and command political influence.
– Because of its powers also.
– I agree that its powers are different from the’ powers of our Senate in that it deals with treaties ann foreign relationships. If we can by length of tenure of membership of the Senate, and by the fact that it does not influence the life or death of ‘Executives as the lower House of our Federation does, attract to the service of the nation independent thinkers who will give six years’ service before they are again required to appeal to the tribunal of the “people, I am sure that we shall add considerably to the weight of the influence of this Parliament. c
– After all, are not senators iu America selected on a party ticket ?
– To a very great extent they are. If we had proportional representation in this country, I venture to think that party influence would wane in Senatorial elections and that men of individual prominence, character, and training would be found to be the choice of the electors.
– Does not the honorable member for Cowper desire that every party should be represented?
– He does not say so. He says that every view should be represented, and he considers that, under his proposal, the representation of party views will not lead to the domination of party that we have at present, and representation would be given to some minority sections that, in times of great passion and feeling, are swept from public recognition in this country. I do not think it adds to the influence of the parliamentary institution when people find that their views are not expressed by the party views represented in Parliament. I think’ that no harm could come from giving a trial of at least a decade to the system of representation for the Senate proposed by the amendment, and I hope that the Committee will accept it.
.- I have, for quite a considerable time, endeavoured to understand the principle underlying what has been put forward as proportional representation. I have utterly failed to discover that there is any principle underlying it. The system of government we have adopted in Australia is the party system, and whether or not a party commands a majority in Parliament decides the question “whether it shall be the governing party.
– That applies only in this House. The Senate is the States’ House.
– It applies, I think, in every House, whether upper or lower, and Federal or State. Under our system, the party possessing a majority has governed, and whether the majority has been one or twenty-one has not mattered. The question whether some people are represented or not does not enter into the matter. The great question is : Has a party a majority’ in Parliament? If it has, it has the right to govern. ~
– It has not the right to all the power of government.
– It has, under the system on which we have been conducting public affairs in Australia. We say that the majority shall govern, and whether the majority is one or twenty-one is immaterial. 0For instance, we. have a Government in- charge of the affairs of this country to-day, and if on a particular issue the Government win by one or by twenty-one is immaterial, so long as they win. The main question is: Have the Government a majority of members voting with them in this House? If they have, they must continue to conduct the affairs of the Commonwealth. If a majority of the people of the country can be induced to f avour a particular party, that party has the right to govern the country, and no party that cannot secure a majority to support it has any right to govern. I will leave the matter at that.
.- I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). If what he proposes were followed in practice, we might adopt the system of proportional representation. Theoretically, it is a splendid system. But from practical experience of the system in Tasmania, I am convinced that it is just as likely to bring about a deadlock in Parliament as any other system. We have two parties in Tasmania, and the proportional representation system has resulted in- the return of those parties in so nearly equal strength that the Parliament has become scarcely workable. The State Government, as honorable members well know, have not had a working majority on many occasions. As a result, the government of the State has been in the hands of one individual calling himself an independent.
– Proportional representation is quite a wrong system for the Lower House.
– I should like to know what system the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) would have us adopt, whether it is the old proportional system, the Hare-Spence system, the Hare-Spence-Clarke system, or the Hare-Spence-Johnson system, of proportional representation. In country electorates in Tasmania the proportional system of representation has worked fairly well. The Country party, the Labour party, and the National party have each secured representation, but the system does not work at all in city constituencies. In the recent election for Denison for the State Parliament, the Labour party secured three scats and the National party three seats. The reason for this was that Nationalist electors did not vote the whole ticket. They did not vote for the full number of candidates. There were six members to be elected, and there must have been over twenty candidates for the State constituency of Denison. If all the electors had followed the Hare-Clarke system and voted for the whole ticket, another Nationalist would have been elected.
– The honorable member’s objection appears to be that the electors returned the men they wanted to return.
– No, but that electors did. not completely carry out the system. I think that the proposal is not .practicable, and would not have the results which the honorable member expects. It would probably have the effect of making the representation of parties so nearly equal in strength that the Government of the country would be left in the hands of, perhaps, one man who could make himself exceedingly unpleasant. I have noted the power exercised by one man in the Tasmania!) Parliament under this system, and it was not satisfactory.
– The amendment deals only with the Senate.
– I recognise that. I suggest to the honorable member for Cowper that he should not press his amendment at this stage. He might adopt some means to secure u thorough inquiry into the system of proportional representation in order that honorable members might have the information that is absolutely essential to enable them to express an intelligent opinion on a proposal of this kind. As the result of such an inquiry the honorable member might be in a position to put forward an unanswerable case. With the limited information on the subject which honorable members now have it is very difficult for them to come to a decision on the matter. When over twenty candidates stand for a small constituency like Denison, how many are likely to run for election for Victoria or New South Wales? Every little section in the community would desire to be represented.
– Why not?
– I should have no objection if it were practicable. A long list of candidates would be most confusing to the electors. Whilst I desire an improvement of the existing system, because we cannot have a House composed of the members of only one party, aud should adopt some means of securing a more even representation of parties, I cannot see that the proportional system will secure what is desired. We have not sufficient information on’ the subject at the present time to enable the Committee to record an intelligent vote on the amendment. I am not trying to block the amendment, but simply giving the results of practical experience. As a member of the Electoral Commission, I gave a great deal of thought to the subject from a practical point of view, and now I am expressing an opinion based on what I have heard from men who have given earnest study to this question. I am extremely doubtful whether the result would be what the honorable member for Cowper expects, hence I do not feel inclined to support the amendment.
.- The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has, in my opinion, put forward the strongest argument in favour of a system of effective voting that could be placed before the Committee. He has shown that in the country all parties with any strength at all gain representation, and that in the city constituencies Labour won three seats and the Nationalist party three seats, thus demonstrating the justice of the system proposed by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). The question we are discussing has nothing to do with the House of Representatives, but affects only the Senate. After all, if the electors in Tasmania, or any cither State, desire to have different parties represented in that Chamber, have they not the right to have their desire fulfilled? If some candidates are placed in an unfortunate position, that is not .the fault of the system. In South Australia, on one occasion, under the “ firstpastthepost “ system, a single member was keeping the Government in power; and that position is liable to arise under any system. The principle of proportional representation is to give the elector the opportunity of voting for the man he desires to vote for, and to give independent candidates an opportunity of contesting an election with a chance of success, whether they have a party indorsement or not.
– How long do you think it would take to count the votes in a State like Victoria or New *South Wales?
– I know that it now takes a considerable length of time to count the votes for the Senate; but what does that matter so leng as the result is what the people desire? Can any body say that the result in the case of the Senate at the last general election was a fair reflex of the opinion of the people of Australia? On that occasion, every seat in another place, with one exception, was gained by the Nationalist party, although, speaking subject to correction, I believe that the Labour party obtained something like 46 per cent, or 47 per cent, of the total votes cast. That is not fair representation for an organization such as the Labour party in Australia. Whether it be the Nationalists, the Liberals, or the Labour party who sweep the polls, it is unfair to the general community, because, particularly in the Senate, there ought to be representation of the views of all. I shall vote for the amendment, in order that we may test a new system for the election of our senators. No one can deny that the block system has worked unsatisfactorily; and it is the swing over of only comparatively few votes, one way or the other, that may, and does, give the whole of the representation to one political organization. I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that the Senate ought to be a Chamber in which the States have representation, and for which men outside of parties can become candidates with a reasonable chance of success. As an illustration of how the present system works, I may cite the case of Sir Josiah Symon, in South Australia, when he was last a candidate for the ‘Senate. I do not agree with the political views of that gentleman, but no one will deny that he i& a man of outstanding ability. When his term in the Senate had expired, his party demanded that he should submit to a plebiscite, and sign a pledge. Sir Josiah, believing that in a democratic country like Australia he had the right to offer himself without consulting any party, became an independent candidate, but, under the solid block system, with three candidates on each side, he might just as well have stayed at home. Any man of ability ought to have the right of becoming a candidate, and the electoral system ought to afford him a reasonable chance of being returned if the electors so desire.
– Did he not have a chance ?
– Because of the block system; and under this Bill the parties are to be divided into “ pens.” A system that allows the Labour party to be practically wiped out in the Senate for a whole three years cannot be described as democratic.
– That is what you asked the electors to do at the last election.
– The honorable member does not know what I did. What I desire is an electoral system that will make for justice, freedom, and liberty, and give equality of representation. The present principle is wrong, because the Nationalists in the Senate cannot, and do not, represent the great body of outside thought. I hope the amendment will be carried, and that we shall have an opportunity to try a system which cannot be worse than the present one, and which, at any rate, is founded on democratic principles.. We here are all partisans, and anxious that our respective parties shall be returned; but in considering an electoral system for a Chamber like the Senate we ought to try to realize that it is a. place where all opinions should berep resented.
.- I shall support the amendment, not for the reasons given by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), but because I do not believe that any system’ could be worse than the present one. So far as my reading and knowledge of thesubject goes, proportional representation is generally supported by the most Conservative class in the community; but I support it because I do not believe that,, if given effect to, it will be exactly agreeable to the honorable member who is championing it. It. has been the experience of Governments, not only in this country, but in other countries, that when a party’s power is waning, and itsinfluence becoming less amongst the people, it resorts to new devices in order to multiply “ red herrings “ to distract the attention of the people outside.
– Do you believe in Ministries being elected .by Hie House ?
– If the result is tobe no better than that shown in the pre sent Ministry, I am certainly against it. A notable illustration of the working of proportional representation has been given in recent times in connection with the election of the Irish Parliament. The system was introduced in anticipation that the power of the Sinn Fein would be destroyed by its use. That was one of the instances I had in my mind of the system not working out as its sponsors had thought it would, and the honorable member for Cowper might take the lesson to heart.
– Are you satisfied with the Irish Parliament?
– I am satisfied with the Bail Eireann. However, we are not at the present moment discussing Irish affairs, but the proportional system of representation which was introduced in Ireland under the pretext that previous elections had not given a correct reflex of the views of the Irish people. I merely wish to show that the result in Ireland proved no different from that obtained under the old system so far as Sinn Fein was concerned. And so with the Country party, the members of which are naturally interested in securing representation both in the Senate and elsewhere, and hope to secure it by the means now proposed. From my point of view, it is immaterial what the electoral system is while the present party system is in existence. It passes my comprehension why people, when they see its results, should be so much concerned about any particular method of election. The only benefit I can see in proportional representation is the opportunity it gives to minority parties in the country to obtain some foothold in the Legislature, and thus to ventilate their views.
– And that is an advantage, is it not?
– The only advantage, and for that reason I support it. Some of my opponents have said to me that the fate of minorities has an irresistible fascination for me, and, therefore, on the principle that “ a fellow-feeling makes, us wondrous kind,” I favour any system that will enable minority parties to make their voice heard in the land. I do not anticipate that the great advantages which the exponents of proportional representation claim for it are going to accrue, because it has certainly not made for stable government in other lands.
– Does the Senate, as at present constituted, make for stable government ?
– The Senate, as we know it to-day, offers the best argument for its total abolition, as an unnecessary Chamber.
– Like Gladstone said about the House of Lords, “ End it or mend it.” We want to mend it.
-I prefer the Cromwellian view of landlordism and the aristocracy of Great Britain - that they were unnecessary, dangerous, and by rights ought to be abolished. Proportional representation in other countries has not improved on the bloc system of government. National blocs are in process of formation in several Continental countries, such as France, Italy, and Germany. It certainly does not make for stable government there, and I fail to see that it is going to have any other result in Australia. All this tinkering with the electoral system by one party and another is merely for the purpose of securing party advantages. Boiled down that is what it amounts to. If nominally there were twenty different parties in the constituencies there would still be only two parties in the country. Call them what you will, and label them as you like, there will still be only two groups in this or any other country, namely, the people who work, and those who work them.
– How does the honorable member account for his presence in this Chamber then?
– I am here because I speak for the workers of the particular electoral division which I happen to represent.
– And you work them, do you ?
– I do not. I am endeavouring to prevent the honorable member’s friends from working them unduly. If we get down to fundamentals, and if we understand the workings of the economic system, and the political superstructure reared upon it, we must realize that there are only two divisions or parties in this country. When it comes to a “ show-down,” whatever their labels may be, those representing one side will line up against the workers ; and the workingclass parties, whatever their labels, will line up in opposition to the exploiters. In these circumstances, what is the use of splitting straws about any particular method of representation? The Conservative sections in this country are now seeking for new methods of representation, just as they seek, from election to election, to make alterations in our electoral machinery for the purpose of confusing the great mass of the people, who, of course, belong to the working class; and thus they endeavour to multiply -the chances of the exploiting interest to retain the reins of government. Because of the facilities which the proportional system of representation gives to people, such as myself, to indulge in propaganda work, I support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cowper.
.- I do not think that we ought to consider how this matter will affect the Senate. We should do what we regard as right and proper in devising an electoral system for the Commonwealth. If it does not suit the gentlemen who occupy seats in the other branch ;of the Legislature, that cannot be helped. It should not affect our decision one way or the other. I have always supported proportional representation. In single-member constituencies, the preferential system of voting, which has been adopted for this House and for some of the State Parliaments, is, in my opinion, the best; but when we have to elect more than one candidate, or a group of candidates, as is the case for the Lower House in the Tasmanian Parliament and for the Senate, proportional representation will give a truer reflex of public opinion. The only advantage which the preferential system, as now used for Senate elections, has over the old block system of voting is that parties may run as many candidates as they like without the risk of losing a seat by splitting the votes. The proportional system would give a very much better result for the Senate than the preferential system^ as now used. It may be argued that the majority in each State, no matter how small it may be, should have the right to elect all the representatives for that State. The Senate has become, not what it was intended to be, namely, a States’ House, but as much a party House as is this Chamber. Therefore, it should be as much a reflex of public opinion as is this. The only way in which to secure that is to introduce the proportional system.. In 1910 there was a complete swing over in Federal politics. The difference between the block votes in practically all of the States amounted to only a few thousand individual votes; but, in each instance, there was a small majority for Labour, and. the wholes of the eighteen Senate vacancies were filled by Labour candidates. At the last general elections the pendulum swung back, and to-day thirtyfour out of the thirty-six senators are anti-Labour. Seeing that the Senate has become a party House, the parties should be more equally represented. Had the proportional system been in vogue” in 1910, the eighteen Senate vacancies would have been filled, approximately, by ten Labour and eight anti-Labour candidates; and>, as an outcome of the last elections, probably ten anti-Labour and eight Labour candidates would have been sent into the Senate. Generally speaking, the Senate has become a mere echo of this Chamber. The only reason that I can see for its existence is that the interests of a smaller State, which are apt to be overwhelmed by those of the more populous Slates, are preserved by the fact of the presence of its six direct representatives. I do not intend to be inconsistent, and, therefore, I shall support the amendment.
.- I oppose the amendment. It is absurd to have one system of voting for the Senate and another for the House of Representatives. If the proportional system is so good, why should it not be applied to the election of candidates of both Houses? I am against all so-called schemes of proportional representation. I admit that a fairly good theory oan be built up about it. In practice, however, it is anything but what its champions say of it. Much has been heard during- this debate as to the Senate being a party House; for which reason, in the opinion of some honorable members, proportional representation is desirable. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) remarked, on the overwhelming return of Labour senators in 1910, and suggested that, had proportional representation been the system in use, the eighteen new senators would have comprised ten Labour and eight anti -Labour members; while, at the elections of 1919, ten Nationalists and eight Labour candidates would have been returned. But would the Senate have been any the less a party House to-day? Even had there been a few more Labour senators there would have been no difference in the character of the legislation enacted during the life of the present Parliament. Under proportional representation there might come about a stage in the history of the Senate in which one or two senators would hold the balance of power ; that Chamber would then become a “ log-rolling “ House. We have heard the cry, “ Give us preferential voting and it will kill machine politics.” Has that proved the case? There are, to-day, State Governments which have been elected under various voting systems. In New South Wales three or four parties are to be found in the lower House. But there are only two parties when a vote is taken; all the parties opposed to Labour are ranged on the one side, and Labour stands alone on the other. The same occurs in Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania; and precisely the same is witnessed week after week in this Chamber. However many parties may be represented under proportional representation, the result will be identical.. I agree with the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) that, in the final analysis, there axe only two parties in politics - Labour and anti-Labour. I can quite understand the motives behind the amendment of the Country party. The people will be urged to vote for Country party candidates against Nationalists and Labour candidates. But when the new Parliament meets, Country members will still stand behind the Nationalist Government whenever the division bells are rung. Proportional representation is just so much camouflage by the aid of which cranks and humbugs would avail themselves of the opportunity to fool the people. Under proportional representation appeals may be made to this interest and that, to one group of cranks and another. There may be direct appeals to sectarianism and other evils; and for the reason that there may be a sufficiently large number of cranks and fools in any one State to form a quota-, cranks and humbugs may be returned to this Parliament to advocate their cranky schemes. I shall refuse to give my vote in the interests of the Corner party’ in order that the real issue may be camouflaged at the next elections.
.- I do not like the method by which the test on the principle of proportional representation is being put before the Committee; but I intend to vote for the amendment. The system is one which has been discussed very widely in Australia, and, in my judgment, it is the only fair elective system. It is true that under proportional representation the party system will still exist, and that parties will still rule the Senate and this House and the various State Houses. But there will be more equitable representation of the strength of parties throughout the country. Originally the Senate was intended to be a States House. It was to represent the considered thought of the people of each State. I am not a great believer in what is called “ State rights “; I believe in people’s rights. But in the case of a vast area such as an individual State I agree that the representation of that area should be as nearly as possible a reflex of the views of its people. This Chamber is representative of three parties, but in the Senate there is really only one party. The old elective system has done rank injustice to both parties at one time or another. It did a serious injustice in 1910 to those who opposed Labour, and it gravely flouted Labour in 1919. Under the proportional system of representation the party with the majority in the country would still get the majority in the Senate, but it would not secure the absolute domination of the Senate. There would be representation of all those views which had a right to be represented there. The Senate to-day represents but one party, and it will continue to represent only one party so long as the present system obtains. Under the existing system Labour, which suffered so severely three years ago, will have a chance of sweeping the polls throughout Australia and of again securing a majority in the Senate.
– Which we should have if the majority of the people want us.
– Yes, and for the time being that would suit us well. But we should look ahead. We should be prepared to give effect to the principles of justice. If the Country party can command sufficient support in the constituencies to secure representation in the Senate they are as much entitled to be represented there as in this Chamber.
Under the proportional system majorities will Still rule, but they will not dominate the Senate as they do at present.
.- I rise with a certain feeling of delicacy to support the amendment, because it proposes to apply proportional representation not to both Houses, as I think it ought to be applied, but only to the Senate. It so happens that for the moment the question of proportional representation for the House of Representatives is beyond the reach of practical politics.
– It would be necessary to carve up the States into electorates each with five or six members.
– Quite so. I advocate the application of this system to the House of Representatives, because it i3 the fairest and most efficient system of representation known. I take it that we are well within our rights, and within the bounds of all proper precedent, in now discussing the question in this Chamber, although the present proposal would be confined to the Senate. We have to consider not only what is the best theoretical system for election to the Senate, but the actual facts with which we are faced. Until the last general election the Senate was elected by probably . one of the worst systems that could have been stumbled upon. That system could never0 have been seriously considered, or such a dreadfully foolish arrangement could not possibly have been instituted. It was found, practically on all sides, that it would have to be superseded. The members of the dominant party set their wits to work to find a system that the people could be induced, for the time being at all events, to endure - a system that would enable the dominant party to fill the whole of the Senate with their own supporters. I cannot even give them credit for originality in this matter. They brought forward, and had put into effect, the present system of electing the Senate, which may fairly be described as the next worst that could be devised. It has every feature of unfairness that characterized the previous system, but it is slightly more efficient - that is, for evil - than the other.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– We now have to decide whether we are to continue a method of election that is hopelessly bad, or whether we are to improve it by the best system that has so far been put before the world, namely, that of proportional representation. It is to avert what I consider would be a grave disaster to the people of Australia that members of the Corner party are supporting the amendment. It would certainly be a calamity to have a repetition of what took place in connexion with the Senate at the last general election. The figures show roughly that the members of the dominant party were able to secure 54 per cent, of the total votes cast. The members of the Labour party obtained about 46 per cent, of the votes, and by all the canons of equity and reason they were entitled to as fair an approach to that proportion of representation in the Senate as could reasonably be attained. But owing to the system that has been very unfairly adopted, they were left with almost no representation whatever. The representation they now have - two members out of thirty-six - is purely accidental. I do nob urge this reform because I think it would help one party as against another. I do not consider parties at all in the matter. I am looking at it in the light of reason and justice, and from the point of view of what is best in the interests of government in Australia. The proposal of the Country party is that the Senate should be elected in future under the system of proportional representation, which, as far as possible, will insure that ^ the members elected will bear about the same proportion in their numbers in the Senate as they show themselves to bear at the polling booths. The chief recommendation for this system is not only that it will avert a repetition of a grave disaster, but that it is the most efficient system known.
I was very much impressed, as I have no doubt every one who has visited the Old Country in recent years has been, by the enormous improvement manifested there, as in Australia, in scientific methods, and the use of the most uptodate machinery for the purposes of carrying on manufacturing and other industries. In Great Britain numbers of manufacturers have made fortunes, and . prosperity has been enjoyed by all classes, owing to the adoption of improved scientific methods. But it is not so very long ago that certain people in the Old Country had such a violent ob- jection to improved machinery, and the adoption of the most modern scientific processes, that they formed themselves into mobs, pulled down buildings, and destroyed machinery. Ib wah believed that these improvements, that have added to the prosperity and happiness of the people, represented an evil, and the same attitude was adopted towards them as some members of this House now show in objecting to the application of the principle of proportional representation to the electorates. The real reason why this system has made such tremendous strides throughout the world, and has been favoured by almost every unprejudiced thinker on the question of electoral reform, is that it would immensely improve the electoral machinery, and result in a vastly better system of government. It has been suggested that members of the Corner party are advocating it because in some way or other it might improve their chances at the next election. As a matter of fact this party is perfectly well satisfied with its prospects at the next election, and it has no need to ask for proportional representation to improve its chance of obtaining a larger share than it now enjoys in the representation in this Chamber.
– ‘We are not sectional. We want a fair deal for all.
– As the honorable member so appositely says, we are not sectional, but ask that all classes should be fairly represented in this House, and also in the Senate, as fat as practicable, in proportion to the numbers they bear in the country at the present time. It is said that the adoption of the system we advocate will increase the number of parties in this House, as it ils alleged to have increased the number of parties in every House wherever it has been adopted. And it is very interesting indeed to hear the views of the advocates of the present bad system as against the adoption of proportional representation. They all profess themselves to be in favour of the twoparty parliamentary system, and they are horrified at the thought of having a third party - the very idea is anathema to them. In reality, however, they are not in favour of the two-party system. What they are really anxious for is to secure the representation qf one party only, that is the particular party to which they are themselves attached. After the last election, which resulted in giving the Nationalist party thirtyfive members in the Senate, arid the Labour party, by accident, one member, I had a conversation somewhere in the precincts of this magnificent pile with a member of the Senate. When I expressed my deep regret at the condition of affairs that existed in his Chamber, the senator, who belonged to the dominant party, expressed sympathy, as I thought, with my view, and said, “ Just think what a splendid thing it would be if we had not that one Labour man in the Senate.” The remark simply illustrates the real view held by those who declare themselves in favour of the two-party system. They want representation for their own party only. When I was in Great Britain a number of people expressed to me their regret that we had a third party in the Commonwealth House of Representatives, but, in the course of my attendance at the House of Commons for the purpose of listening’ to the debates, I discovered that, although they have not proportional representation in that House, and still have in force the old-fashioned method of “ first past the post “ which is said to be the surest way of maintaining the two-party system, there are no less than sixteen parties there. According to Bod’s Parliamentary Companion the following parties stood for representation in the British House of Commons : -
Conservative, Unionist, Liberal, Coalition Unionist, Coalition Liberal, Nationalist, Labour, Independent, Sinn Fein, National Federation of Discharged Soldiers and Sailors, National party, National Democratic party, Socialist, Co-operative, Communist, and AntiWaste.
– God help any Parliament, containing sixteen parties.
– I can assure the honorable member that they get on very well indeed. The House of Commons is exceedingly well constituted, and is filled with most amiable people, possessed of excellent manners. We know, of course, that this debate in this House is a foregone conclusion, because the numbers are against us.
– There is always some hope that in a wearied deliberative Chamber the lost souls will listen to the voice of reason. I am certain that if honorable members would only investigate for themselves the merits and demerits of proportional representation, they would sooner or later become converts to it. The real trouble here to-night is the same as that which occurred when that most deplorable blunder was committed by which Victoria most unfairly had taken away from it a member of this House of Representatives. We could not get Ministers or honorable members to look into the question for themselves and study it out with pencil and paper.
– That statement is not correct.
– It may not apply to the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), but I have no hesitation in re-affirming the correctness of the statement in its application to honorable members generally. We could not get them to look into the matter. When the system of preferential voting was first adopted in the State of Victoria, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) had the utmost difficulty in persuading the members of the Victorian Legislative Assembly of the reasonableness of the system, and I believe that they spent many happy and profitable hours in a room where the honorable member, by means of a blackboard and a piece of chalk, explained exactly how it would operate. I cannot help feeling that if we could get half-a-dozen members of this House at a time to sit in a room and hear the proportional system of voting explained by means of a blackboard and chalk, four out of five would be converted at each seance. However, by this time every honorable member has made up his mind as to how he is going to vote, and I have only risen for the sake of protesting against the existing exceedingly unjust and inefficient method of electing the Senate. I would also warn those people who are so desperately attached to the present method that if they do happen to obtain victory by reason of the continuance of this unfair system, it will probably be a short-lived victory, and that sooner or later they will bitterly repent having opposed this proposal for proportional representation in the Senate.
.- I am opposed to any system of proportional representation for any elective body. I do not see the need for it. What proportions are there to be represented in any Parliament? There are only twoclasses in the community - those behind the Labour party and those against the Labour party. The latter may have many names, such, for instance, as the Country party, but there is no difference between the Country party, and the Nationalist, or Liberal, party. If any confirmation of that assertion is necessary, the pages of Hansard will show how the Country party have steadfastly stuck to the Government. And they have done so because they are closely allied to them, so closely, in fact, that they have nothing in common with the policy, ideals, and aspirations of the Labour party. But, being more Conservative than the Nationalists, they have found it necessary to have a different name.
– Yet the supporters of the Labour party give their preference votes to representatives of the Country party .
– The Government have had reason to go on their bended knees to thank the Country party for permitting them to remain in office. Proportional representation has been in force in the State of New South Wales, but the people there are far from being pleased with it. It has led to confusion, and there has been an alarming increase in the number of informal votes. The last three elections held in Tasmania under the proportional representation system in operation there have also proved unsatisfactory. Of course, the Country party favour the present system because, unless it is adopted, there will never be any likelihood of their securing representation in the Senate. I can jwell understand any small minority in this community endeavouring to secure representation in a Chamber to which its numbers does not entitle it.
– The Labour party has not many representatives in the Senate.
– Exactly, and the swing of the pendulum, in all probability, will be the other way about next time, and we shall have eighteen members of our party in the Senate.
– Two injustices do not make a justice.
Mr.BLAKELEY. - It is not a question of justice or injustice. I believe that the. majority should rule, and that the method of voting should not be so cumbersome as to have a tendency to confuse electors and prevent them from exercising their franchise.
– Is not the present system cumbersome?
– Any system that deviates from the “ first-past-the-post ‘’ method is cumbersome and not in. the interests of the people. Many electors have had the experience that, when they have gone to exercise their votes under the present cumbersome system,’ they have found themselves disfranchised. If we had proportional representation for the Senate, what would be the result? In the event of a close vote there might be equal representation of the Labour, Liberal, and Conservative” or Country parties. Can any one claim, even the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), that the Country party in this State would be entitled to six representatives in the Senate ?
-That would depend on the support its candidates received from the public.
– Probably the honorable member considers that the members of his party should hold all the seats.
– Certainly not.
– The honorable member would probably be satisfied with six, which would be five more than his party is entitled to.
– Is the honorable member satisfied when his party has only one representative in the Senate?
– We are satisfied with what the people give us. We criticise the electors for their foolishness, and show the people that they have made a mistake. We believe in respecting majority rule, and are prepared to abide by it.
– Then why condemn the Government?
– Under proportional representation it would have been possible for the honorable member’s party to hold one-third of the seats in the Senate.
– The honorable member for Grampians is a recent convert.
– Not a very recent one, as I have advocated the system for forty years.
– I believed in proportional representation when I first took an interest in electoral systems, but after having made an investigation on behalf of the Labour party into the different electoral systems I came to the conclusion that proportional representation was an idealistic system which cannot be applied to present-day politics or present-day society. So enthusiastic have the advocates of proportional representation became that almost every prominent supporter of the system has devised a variation, and to-day there are probably three hundred, which, with that suggested by the honorable member for Grampians, makes three hundred and one. The greatest friends of the proportional system usually devise some means of improving it, but really only make confusion worse: confounded. I favour the system of “ first past the post.” If the people of Australia return us with a majority to this Parliament we shall rule, and the minority will play a very small part in the modelling of the legislation of this country. In such an event the supporters of the Government would be in exactly the same position that the members of the Labour party are in to-day. We have a strong minority of twenty-two, but it would not make the slightest difference if we had thirty-two, as we play only a minor part in shaping the legislation which passes this Chamber, simply because our platform and policy is such that no Liberal Government would give effect to it. Neither could we, as a Labour Government, consider the opinions of a minority on the Opposition benches. The legislation which the Government have submitted is based on the policy of their party, and is diametrically opposed to ours. The Government with a majority should rule, and the minority are not entitled to have- a voice in the affairs of the country. There is no way in which we can bring the different parties together. Only one party can govern a country, and we cannot have a “ hotchpotch “ combination. The National party became such an absurdity that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), left it, and are now members of the Country party, which supports the policy of ‘the National party.
– A very effective party.
– It is a party that has been responsible for blundering and mismanagement, and for the scandals associated with the sale of ships, which I am not allowed to discuss on this Bill. It is the duty of Parliament to provide the people with the easiest possible means of recording their votes, so that the views of the majority may find expression in this or the other branch of. the Legislature.
– Where the minority has hardly any representation.
– I have already said that, although the Labour party has twenty-two members in this Chamber, we do not, and should not, have any voice whatever in the enactments which go forth from this Chamber. We should see that every “ i “ is dotted and every “ t “ is crossed ; but, as for altering the policy, we have not the slightest power, neither should we. If, after December next, we return with a majority, we shall be just as brutal in our strength as the Government are to-day. It will then be the policy of the Labour party, and no other party, which will be given effect to in this Chamber. If a majority of the electors want Labour members returned, they will be elected; and that being so, it is only a question of makingthe position quite clear. There is no justification whatever for having the members of the House of Representatives elected under the preferential system, and the senators elected under the proportional system. I oppose the amendment.
– I am distinctly in favour of proportional representation for the Senate, despite what the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has said. If there is any logic in his argument at all, it means that no member should be in the House, and certainly should not submit any amendment unless he is supporting the majority in this Chamber. If his arguments mean anything, we are to believe that the party with a majority must carry out its programme without interruption, and there would be no advantage in representatives of other parties even attending.
Mr.Considine.- That is about what it amounts to.
– Not at all. One of ourgreatest safeguards is that the views of the people’s representatives are submitted in this Chamber. I quite agree with honorable members who have said that the Senate, as at present constituted, is a farce, and that the system under which senators are elected is nothing short of a fraud on honest electoral representation. Let us consider what has happened in some of the States where candidates polled only 2,000 or 3,000 first preferences, and lost their deposits. However, the ballot-papers, after electing one of a group, were returned and used in electing two or three other candidates, including those who had lost their deposits. If we had proportional representation, every party of any material strength in Australia would have the exact representation in the Senate to which its numbers entitled it. They should have that.
– We would have Pussyfoots “ with bung eyes.
-That was said when the system was first suggested in Tasmania. It was freely stated that under the proportional system the prohibitionists, publicans, Roman Catholics and Protestants would all have representatives, but that has not happened. I have here a record showing the returns in the 1909 election, when the proportion of the Liberal votes for the district of Bass was 3.83 when four candidates were returned, whereas the proportion of Labour votes was 2.17 when two candidates were returned. The same applied to the last two elections, and in Darwin 2.49 returned two candidates, 2.83 returned three candidates, and 3.51 returned four candidates. That is conclusive proof of the representation the system gives. Where there was one over fifty they had four members, and where there was one under fifty they had only two. If we take the whole of the electorates of Tasmania, it will be found that 1.831 gave eighteen members, and 1.169 twelve members. In 1921, 1.635 gave sixteen, and 1.365 gave fourteen. In 1913, 1.578 gave sixteen, and 1.318 gave fourteen’.From those figures it will be seen that the Liberal and Labour . parties in the House of Assembly received to a fraction the proportion to which their numbers entitled them. Will any one say that the electors are adequately represented in the Senate to-day? Will any one dare to suggest that a party with a bare majority should practically hold all the representation in the Senate? Such a. system is not fair, and is not calculated to insure the good government of the country.
– How can the honorable member represent the workers in his electorate ?
– Any member elected to this House should represent all classes in his electorate during the time he holds office, whether the people in his electorate voted for or against him.
– I do not.
– i know that, and I trust the honorable member will not compare himself with intelligent members of ‘this Chamber who do recognise what true representation means. We could not have a worse system than that at present in force in connexion with the election of senators. It was introduced with the object - I recall the circumstances under which the Bill was introduced - of giving to the machine absolute and complete power; and has succeeded even better than those responsible for such an infamous scheme ever predicted. After the last general election, thirty-five representatives of the dominant party held seats in that Chamber although they represented only a bare majority of the people.
– Can the honorable member tell us when we will have the next general election 1
– During the first or second week in December. I do not intend to labour the question, but I believe that this measure, if entitled “ a Bill to make powerful the political machines of Australia,” would give a better index to its contents. I am one of the members of this House who have always regretted the power which has been obtained by the political machines, and especially by the political machines in the cities. The time is rotten ripe when this House will have to take the matter in hand, and say that no little clique of money, or political organizers and legpullers in a city, because they have vested and party interests behind them, shall be allowed to dictate to the people of Australia who shall be selected for the Senate, and v/ho shall not. It is well known that the selections for the Senate are made in the capital cities.
– I admit that proportional representation would beat the machines, but I do not want it to do so.
– The honorable member advances the strongest possible argument- that could be used in favour of proportional representation. He says that it would beat the machines. I know that he does not want it to do that, but I hope that Parliament, and I believe that the people, do not want to see the machines more powerful than they are today. We can see at the present time what the machines are doing in one electorate in the State of Victoria. Every member of this Committee knows the power which belongs to the machines, which dictate to honorable members what they shall do and not do. It is because I believe that proportional representation would defeat the machines, which I want to see put out of gear, and because I do not want the electors of Australia to be ‘ dictated to by cliques or coteries, no matter, to which party they belong, that I am in favour of proportional representation. Suppose that for this House the whole State was one electorate, and that the dominant party was returned on a block vote, and suppose the votes were counted over and over again, to secure that the man who polled 2,000 or 3,000 votes in the whole State of New South Wales, Victoria, or Queensland, would be returned - would that be right? I cannot understand what objection there can be to a system which will give to the electors exactly the representation to which their numbers entitle them. 1 know the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is erring in good company. Disraeli once said that a minority only had one right - the right to convert itself into a majority. That is a statement which I am not prepared to indorse. Itis not fair or right, and it is not in the best interests of Australia, that any large section of the community should be permitted, by a system of political thimblerigging such as is proposed in this Bill, where the votes are counted over and over, again, to determine who. shall represent the electors in this Parliament.
– What about the Northern Territory representation ?
– The honorable member for Swan has given me an argument which I intended to use, but which had escaped my memory. We had the spectacle the other evening of honorable members pleading that a representative of the Northern Territory should be in this House, not to vote, but to speak and endeavour to influence .the opinions of honorable . members here; but they now say that unless he were in a majority he would be quite useless. One week they plead that the Northern Territory should have power to put its views before the
House, and the next week the honorable member for Darling says it would be quite useless to send -members here unless they were in a majority. I wanted to see the Northern Territory have a representative with a vote in this House, so that he could, to that extent, give effect to his views. I appeal to the Committee to declare that the Electoral Bill as it stands, by which candidates who can poll only 2,000 or 3,000 votes out of half a million can get into Parliament, by a system which manipulates their votes and grinds them out like a sausage machine grinds out sausages, is not right, fair, reasonable, or just. If any party, whether the Nationalist party, the Labour party, or the Country party, has not sufficient numbers to command a majority, they ought, at least, to have the representation to which their numbers entitle them. If they have the support of one-third of the electors of a State, they should have one-third, of the representation of that State in the Senate. Until we do something to give them that representation, and to break down the baremajority brutal rule, which says that if a party has a majority of one in any Stats it should secure the whole of the representation of that State in the Senate, and that the other party, which embraces 49 per cent. of the electors, shall have no representation, we shall not be giving to the people of Australia, who have a claim to have their voices heard in this deliberative assembly, the privileges which they have a right to expect and demand. I hope the Committee will accept the principle of proportional representation for the Senate.
.- There is one blot upon our civilization.
– Only one?
– There are more than one, but there is one in particular, and that is that we are obliged to carry on government by majorities. There is no philosophic reason why a majority should impose its will upon a minority. It has been found by experience that, as an expedient in government, it is necessary to abrogate the rights of - individuals merely on the basis of numbers, and for that reason we have adopted the very inequitable, but only practicable, scheme of government, namely, government by majority. Of course, theoretically, the only just system is a system of proportional representation, whereby every in dividual is represented, in Parliament. That would mean that Parliament would consist of all the electors of the various electorates, and I can quite see that a Parliament of that kind, while it would admit adults, would find it equally inequitable to exclude women and children, because they, too, would be entitled to a voice according to their judgment. It will be seen from this that the ideal system of government is what is known as philosophic anarchy. I am not going to occupy the time of the Committee tonight by elaborating a system of government by philosophic anarchy. It is obvious that there is a great deal in it, but failing the perfection of philosophic anarchy, I suggest that proportional representation would, at least, bring us nearer to justice than the present crude system of representation of majorities only. Because it would bring us a little nearer, and because it would secure some representation for minorities - not, however, upon any just basis, for it would still include smaller minorities which would be fewer than under the present system - I propose to give my support and my vote to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page).
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 verbally amended, and agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Printing of Senate ballotpapers) .
.- Several honorable members have objected to the principle embodied in this clause, the grouping by means of quotients based on the initial letters of the surnames of the candidates. I think that it would be better to draw lots for the position of names on the ballot-papers, and I suggest, to test the feeling of the Committee on the matter, that we should vote against the clause, leaving it to the Government to propose later the insertion of another clause providing for a better method.
Mr.Scullin.- What the honorable member proposes would not give any fairer result.
– As I explained on a former occasion, candidates whose surnames have initials which come low down in the alphabet are at a disadvantage under the system now proposed.
– Some candidates would be under the same disadvantage if the balloting system were substituted.
– In one case the disadvantage would be the accident of birth, in the other the accident of luck.
– William Watt is a name that must have a bad place under the present system.
– It has always had a bad place for its opponent. I would still make the proposal that I have put before the Committee were my name Blakeley.
.- I ask the Committee to stand by the clause. We are proposing a perfectly logical arrangement. The ballot-papers for the election of members of this House, and other elections, are usually arranged on the alphabetical system, and we simply apply that system mathematically to the groups. A balloting system would not put all the candidates in the same position. Some would still be at a disadvantage. It is best to adhere to a consistent practice.
.- It has been suggested that the Government should withdraw the clause to provide for a better system of arranging the ballot-papers. The proposal that candidates should be grouped on the ballotpapers is really dreadful, and was passed without full consideration being given to it.
– The matter was fully argued on another clause.
– A Government supporter has interjected that the Bill should be withdrawn, and, much as I might regret the withdrawal of a measure which has given so much trouble, I think that that would be a batter course to follow than to proceed with this dreadful proposal. I do not think the Government have given proper consideration to the appalling results which the method now proposed will bring about if put into practice. I trust that it is not too late to revoke our decision in regard to the grouping of candidates’ names. The grouping of names will place the selection, and to some extent the election, of candidates more completely in the hands of those controlling the political machines than it is now. The names of the candidates to be grouped will be selected by the ma-, chines of the various political parties. These machines are run by very capable men.
– Sometimes they are very unprincipled men.
– I will not support that suggestion, because, although the results of their actions may lead people to think them unprincipled, I do not hold the view that they are. They may be men. who are absolutely misguided in their sense of public duty.
– To what machines does the honorable member refer ?
– The party political machines which will run the grouped candidates. The groups are to be placed on the ballot-paper alphabetically, and, therefore, a group marked “ A,” which will head the list, will have a considerable advantage in regard to that class of elector for whom honorable members seem agreed to cater - the elector who does not think. What will be the result ? The decision as to what group shall be marked “ A “ will depend entirely on the alphabetical arrangement of the surnames of the candidate composing it. Thus, men whose initials come early in the alphabet will have a great advantage, and those whose names come late will be at a great disadvantage. I tremble to think of the fate which awaits the honorable member for East Sydney, whose name is West, should he desire to become a candidate for the Senate, and apply for pre-selection by his own party machine. Also, I shudder to think of the f ate of the honorable member for Balaclava, whose name is Watt. His will, I believe, be ‘ amongst the names of the immortals. But what would become of them were he to become a candidate for the Senate? They would both be ruthlessly passed out by the machines as quite unsuitable, because it would be impossible for. them to be included in group A on the ballot-paper. Honorable members have omitted to consider the preference which would naturally be given by the party machine in the circumstances to candidates with such names as Aarons and Abrahams. There would be a multitude of Aarons and Abrahams chosen as party candidates in order that the party might secure the benefit of having its candidates included in group A on the ballot-paper. I had thought of appealing to the sweet reasonableness of the Minister in charge of the Bill. I thought that my words might reach his mighty intellect, but as the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) is engaging his whole attention, it is useless for me to attempt to do so.
– The honorable member will please continue his remarks.
– I should like to do so in the hope of securing the attention of the Attorney-General. The Committee is drifting into astrange condition when the Minister supposed to be in charge of the measure under consideration takes no notice of the remarks of honorable members. Five years ago, when I entered this Parliament, I had some hope that I would be able to take some part in the government of the country in this representative Chamber. I found that I was the victim of a wild delusion, and were it not for the fact that “hope springs eternal in the human breast,” I could scarcely contemplate offering my services to the electors again. I make a last appeal to honorable members, for the sake of their own reputations, to save themselves from the reproach that will be cast upon them by every elector of Australia if this clause is allowed to pass, and such an enormous advantage is given in the selection of candidates for the Senate to individuals whose names begin with the letter A.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Numbering of ballot papers, &c).
– I ask the Committee to negative this clause. A series of consequential amendments will become necessary if it is deleted.
– I do not think that the Minister hae given us sufficient reason for negativing a proposal -which waa made by the Government and passed in another place.
– This clause hae to be further considered on account of certain difficulties in connexion with the printing of the ballot-papers; I do not wish to press an amendment in the Act which may lead to practical difficulty in the carrying of it out. We are not pressing this amendment at this stage.
– “Would it not have been better to have thought of that at first ?
– It was thought practicable at the time.
House adjourned at 10.62 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220919_reps_8_100/>.