9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Right Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– There is a widespreadapprehension that forged notes have been put into circulation. When I inform honorable members that some of my constituents at the Victoria Markets have been losing money to the extent of 4s. in the £1 as a result, they will understandthe urgency of the questions I wish to address to the Treasurer. On notes previously issued the name of Mr. T. S. Harrison has appeared at the bottom, and as it is absent from the new notes in circulation, this has led to the rumour. I ask the Treasurer - (1) Why has the imprint of the name of Mr. T. S. Harrison, Commonwealth Notes Printer, been removed from new One pound notes? (2) Is it a fact that the removal of his name has occasioned great public inconvenience, in that it has given rise to rumours of the circulation of forged notes? Will the Treasurer take immediate steps to allay public anxiety?
– I must thank the honorable member for bringing this matter under my notice. I shall have immediate inquiries made, and a public statement on the subject will be made at the earliest possible moment.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman could make an announcement to-day to the effect thatthe new notes issued,samples of which I have supplied to him, are good ?
– I will try to do so.
Price to Fruit Processers
– I ask the Prime Minister if it is correct, as announced by Mr. Theodore, that, under the now sugar control, the Colonial Sugar RefiningCompany will be required to supply sugar to the retail trade at a price which is a variation upon what was expected, and whether there will be any variation which would affect the price which those engaged in the processing of fruit will have to pay for the sugar they require?
– The Commonwealth Government undertook to continue the embargo onthe importation of sugar for a period of two years upon the condition that sugar was made available to the refineries at £27 per ton. That is the broad condition which the Government imposed in exchange for the embargo upon imports of sugar to which it was prepared to agree. Sugar being made available to the refineries at £27 per ton should be available to the public at 4½d. per lb. as a maximum price. The Government has no control over the negotiations now being conducted between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Sugar Pool, but when they are finalized any agreement entered into will be subject to its approval. With regard to the position of the fruitgrowers, the arrangement entered into provides that sugar shall bemade available for the processing of fruit and other manufactured articles containing sugar at the export parity price.
– I ask the Treasurer a delicate question. Oan he indicate when taxpayers will be required to send in their income tax returns? I hasten to assure the honorable gentleman that I am not in a hurry to send in my return, but I should like to know just when it will be necessary for the schedules to be sent in.
– I can assure the honorable member that ample notice will be given to taxpayers of the time within which income tax returns must be sent in. I hope, in the course of a very few days, to make a statement defining the exact position.
– I may be permitted by way of introduction ito a question which I wish to ask the Prime Minister, to refer to the motion carried by this House on Thursday night to the effect that the Governor-General should be requested to summon the Tenth Parliament of the Commonwealth to meet at Canberra. I wish to ask whether, in the event of Canberra notbeing ready for occupation when the present Parliament expires by effluxion of time, it is the intention of the Government to extend the life of this Ninth Parliament until Canberra is ready for occupation by the Tenth Parliament?
Question not answered.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question arising out of an incident which occurred during my visit to New South Wales during the week-end. I saw a number of old-age and invalid pensioners reading the GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech, and the reference therein contained to an increase in the pension to be paid. I wish to know from the right honorable gentleman whether he will make provision to enable the pensioners to obtain the promised increase of pension before ‘he leaves on his trip round the world?
– As the honorable member’s question is obviously very urgent, I shall answer it at once. I am surprised that, with his knowledge of finance and the general principles adopted by Governments in connexion with their financial proposals, he did not at once relieve the anxiety of the old-age and invalid pensioners to whom he has referred by tellingthem that the matter would be dealt with in the Budget statement, to be submitted, in all probability, next week.
– Following up the suggestion made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) on Friday that one of the Commonwealth ships, now lying idle at Melbourne, might be made available for the shelter of destitute persons, I have been asked by Dr. Arthur, ofthe New South Wales Legislature, whether, in considering the request of the honorable member for Melbourne, he will also consider an application from New South Wales for the use of a ship in Sydney Harbor for a like purpose.
– The honorable member for Melbourne, on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday, raised this question, and I said I would look into the matter.
-I raised, it. art the sage gestion of Dr. Arthur.
– I have since had an opporfenity of considering the proposaly, and I find, that the position is that all the vessels which the Commonwealth Government - has lying idle in. Sydney Harbor, as well as ait Melbourne, are cargo- vessels,, which would be quite unsuitable for the: purpose suggested, even if moored to a wharf.. It would be necessary to make quite extensive alterationa to the vessels unless the unfortunate people who require shelter were to be asked to lie in the bare holds. I have inquired into the whole position, and I am afraid that the Commonwealth Government can do- nothing. Unemployment, is not primarily a matter with which the Commonwealth is concerned;, it- is a matter for the States-. The sole purpose we had in this regard was to ascertain whether it was possible for us to do anything to assist the States in carrying the responsibility which rests- on their shoulders.
– If the Commonwealth boaits are not suitable, will the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence- make available some of the Defence buildings and huts, of which there are hundreds in the different States, so that in- this time of great distress people who are- mm employed- or homeless may be afforded some sort of accommodation?
– If the State Governments assure the Commonwealth Government thai action, taken in the direction indicated by the honorable member will help towards alleviating, the present situation, the matter will receive the Governments fullest and most earnest consideration.
Formal Motion of Adjournment
-I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) that be desires- to move the adjournment of the House for the* purpose of discussing at definite matter of urgent public- importance;, naanely, “ The failure of the War Service HomesCommission to provide homes for returned soldiers atnot more than the maximum amount prescribed by the” War Service Howes Act,, namely, £800,. and the administration generally ofthe War Service Homes: Act.” Is the honora-Me; member supported?
Fivehonorable members having risen in their places,
.- My object in moving the adjournment of theHouse is- to- draw attention to the failure of the War Service -Homes Commission) to provide- homes for- soldiers at not. more than- the maximum amount prescribed by the War Services Homes Act, namely, £800^, and to discuss generally the- administration of. the War Service Homes Act. No doubt the Government will complain: of lack of notice of my motion, and will- ask. that the matter be deferred pendingconsideratioa on. their paart, but let me say at- once that the excessive valuesplaced on War Service Homes have been under the notice of the present Government and of their predecessors1 for a considerable time. Since March last I have made frequent endeavours to secure from the Govetfnmenl! a proutouncement of their policy upon thisvery important national, question. I raised the matter on the Address-in-Reply debate last Session-. I spoke- about it on the Address-inr-Reply debate this, session. I havte also put questions- to Ministers upont the subject. My efforts- halveall proved unsuccessful. It is surely time the Government declared their intention, in- this regard without that hesitation and equivocation, which has characterized their other, statements of policy. I direct the attention- of the Minister for Works and- Railways (Mr. Stewart) to the fact that complaints from soldiers who resent the excessive valuations which have been placed- upon their homes fill the newspapers of New South Wales. Yet nothing of moment has- been done to allay their” dissatisfaction. There1 is a considerable n-Umber of soldiers’ homes in theReid elecJoratej aJid the feeling of injustice cau’sed by the excessive valuations placedi upon- these hotfses by the Adjustments; Board is such that their’ occupants have organized themselves into a War Service Homes’ Welfare Association to resist the exorbitant claims made upon them. So incensed are -they at the unsympathetic treatment .they receive tinder the present administration of the War Service Homes Act that they contemplate refusing to pay the instalments due upon their homes. ‘The Act originally provided for the ‘-building of soldiers’ homes at a cost not exceeding £700 each. Subsequently, because, it was alleged, of the “high cost of -material, but mo doubt largely because of the bungling and maladministration .that characterized the initial operations of the War Service Homes Commission, the Act was amended to -fix the maximum .cost of a home at £80.0. Those limitations, which were fixed after a thorough investigation of possible costs, are -being exceeded, and the soldiers who -complain ca-n -get no satisfaction from the . Government. A successful applicant for a home -is required to -sign the following agreement-. -
I undertake and agree ito pay the War Service Homes Commissioner, on demand, all fees, charges, and costs charged by ‘the said Commissioner. lit may fee argued that, having signed that form, the soldier is legally responsible for any valuation which may be -fixed by the Adjustments Board. Bub such reasoning is specious and (dishonest. The Government .origin-ally undertook ,to construct homes for returned soldiers ;at a maximum cost of £70.0, which later was increased ito £800, -.and they ,-aa’e morally bound ito carry out that ‘contract. The .soldiers signed the application form in the belief that it was a mere legal formality, and that the homes would be ‘constructed within the statutory maxim/nan. To require -men. to pay more than *the ‘Statutory .maximum is unjust. They are revolting against this treatment, and I am afraid that unless the Government make -a satisfactory declaration of policy in this, regard they will experience trouble with many of their soldier tenants in New South Wales, particularly in my .electorate. The Adjustments Board has been engaged for -some time in fixing valuations, and during its deliberations -many of the -soldiers haw been treated as tenants of the houses which they have -undertaken to buy. They have been kept in a state of suspense ‘, not knowing what value would be fixed on -the properties, they have not felt inclined to take possession -of them as purchasers and effect improvements, ;as .they would .do if they knew that the houses would become their own at a -reasonable valuation. The delay that .has taken place in these assessments is quite unair to -the re.turned soldier occupants, and unjustifiable in view of all &e facts. In .respect .of completed valuations -the position .of -the soldiers is not more satisfactory. They b&y.e contracted to pay “ all fees, charges and costs charged by the said .Commissioner,” and -when they are -told that the ;cost of their homes -exceeds £800, they -have no means of .appeal or other form pf remedy; they must .either accept the homes at an excessive price or surrender them with’ as little trouble as possible. The shadowy and mysterious Adjustments Board is completely out of touch with the soldier .occupants. The soldier occupants have no voice in respect .of the .valuations of the properties for which they are to pay. That is unwarranted and unjust. If the -Government will not deliver .the houses at ,a price within the statutory limit, they should appoint an Appeal Board or other tribunal to consider the representations of soldiers who complain that they are the victims of excessive valuations and to deal with other grievances. Another .complaint that ‘ has ‘been made to me is that the valuations exceed not only the statutory maximum ‘but ako the fair market value, and vary considerably in the one street. One house in a street may be valued at £790, and -a neighbouring house, almost identically -the -same in construction -and conveniences, at 8’50. ‘There is no apparent reason for the variation. These grievances nave been ventilated in the House on many previous occasions, -and the ‘Government ha<ve no excuse for further delaying a definite pronouncement upon this matter. - Some .of the properties -which I have personally inspected were valued at £900, and even more, -and when the men were notified of .the valuations they -were told that the prices were not .final, but -were subject to further adjustment. That is unsatisfactory, for even if .lahey were (prepared to accept .the valuation .of £90.0, they had no assurance that that figure would be final. I shall not weary .the House with a number of specific instances, but I may quote as typical the case «of Mr. Sutton, of Lakemba, in regard to which I have ;been in correspondence with- the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart). This soldier .entered into possession of a property and understood when he signed the agreement that he would not be required to pay more than £800. He is now called upon to pay £876, which is claimed by the Department to be the market value of the property, including land and ‘all improvements. The Valuer-General of New South Wales, however, assesses the property at £740, and the Department has insured it for £799. The Department argues that the difference between its valuation and the insurance represents the cost of land, drainage, &c. . This method of valuation is most arbitrary and uninformative. The soldier, ‘ however, considers that he is being charged an excessive price, which includes the value of improvements that he has effected at his own expense. But he has no right of appeal. I quote this case to illustrate my contention that valuations in excess of the statutory limit are being fixed. I have heard of a number of soldier occupants who are not prepared to effect repairs and improvements to their- property because they fear that the value of such work will be added to the valuation. The men’s indignation at the breach of faith committed by the Government will be easily understood by honorable members when they have heard of the experience of a soldier named Lewis, who also resides at Lakemba. Mr. Lewis complained, to me about the faulty construction of his house. He informed me that he. had written to the Department advising them that the wall was tumbling- down, the roof was falling in, and his family were in imminent danger of injury from the general collapse of the property. This . is an extract from the reply sent by the Department -
Survey of this home was made by the Commission on receipt of the complaint, and it was found that, owing to the shrinkage of the clay subsoil, the foundations of the home had failed, causing fractures to the walls. It will he necessary that .certain, portions of the wall be taken down and re:built, and the home restored, and- made secure by underpinning the foundations at certain points. In eases of this nature it is frequently desired that homos should be kept under observation before the actual work of restoration is put in hand, and it was desired, in the particular, case under , discussion, to observe the home, and have further information before a design was prepared for the restoration of the home. From reports received at this date, the extent of work necessary to repair has been definitely .ascertained, and the designs for the work prepared. The actual work of reconstruction will be put in hand within the next few days.
The idea of placing a house in this condition under lengthy observation is rather humorous. This is the type of home for which men are being called upon to pay amounts in excess of the statutory limit of £800. It is little to be wondered at that they are up in arms, and protest at being charged excessive prices for construction work that has been scamped in such a way. I have also had a complaint from Mr. Nugent, of Belmore. He. advised me that half of his roof blew off during a gale, and his family were exposed to all the rigours of the weather. This damage was due to the fact that the contractor had omitted to pin the tiles together, with the result that they blew off in the first gale of wind. Damage of this nature, being due entirely to faulty construction, should be repaired at the expense of the Department . without delay. I think there are more war service homes in my electoral division than in any other metropolitan division in New South Wales, and so general is the dissatisfaction that I have been absolutely inundated with correspondence on the subject. I have visited the various soldier settlements to make myself acquainted with the condition of the soldiers’ homes, and I am far from satisfied that a fair market valuation is being fixed by the Adjustments Board in cases where the statutory amount has been exceeded. At Belmore I found only one satisfied soldier tenant, and he was about to leave. There were over 100 dissatisfied with the condition of their homes. Upon inspection, I found numerous instances of cracked walls, and of timber being badly infested with borer, which had also attacked valuable furniture. Here again the trouble was due to faulty construction, and the use of timber infested with the pest. No one will suggest that borers were brought there by the occupants in a handbag. The Department, dealing with this complaint, stated -
As .to the eradication of the borer, where it may reasonably be assumed that the .borer was in a dwelling-house at the time it was constructed by the Commission then the cost of removing the borer will be borne by the Commission.
– Does the honorable member assert that the borer would never get into those houses?
– No; but it is reasonable to assume, on the evidence I ha vo received, that, in 99 cases out of 100, the presence of borer is due to the use of faulty material. The Belmore returned soldiers have gone to some trouble to ascertain what is the fair construction value of their homes, with a view to resisting the departmental claims by ©very means in their power. If the figures supplied to me by the men are correct, there is every reason to justify their request for a revision of the departmental valuation. One of the men actively identified with the construction of the homes estimated that the average Cost of erecting a cottage was: - Land, £100; labour, £238 10s.; material, ‘ £350 ; total, £688 10s. They reckon that this is more than a fair valuation, taking into consideration the manner in which the homes have been erected, but, instead of being charged’ £688 10s., some of them have, to pay amounts in excess of £800. At Bankstown, where there is another soldier settlement, the men are also indignantly protesting against” the Government valuation. For one house in Restwell-street the valuation is £792, and for another in the same street, and built, I am informed, on the same plan, it is £900. There is also a difference in the values fixed by the Adjustments Board for drainage costs. For one house in Restwellstreet the drainage cost is placed at £10 lis., and for another house in the same street, £52 has been charged for drainage, although, I understand, drainago for the latter house was much more easily provided than for the former. Even though some of these allegations may not be substantiated in every detail, it is the duty of the Government to carry out their obligations to our returned soldiers by giving them homes at the amount contemplated by the Act. It is also their duty to give them an opportunity of voicing their grievances, and having the whole of these matters thoroughly and sympathetically investigated. The men complain that they cannot ascertain how the valuation is arrived at. The method of accounting confuses them. They do not know how far payments are advanced, and they cannot receive satisfactory information concerning the method adopted by the Department in cheeking the payments. The confusion which exists in the minds of the men is shown by the following questions which have been submitted to the Deputy Commissioner of War Service Homes in New South Wales. He has been asked -
Confusion exists in the minds of tenants as a result of the lack of sympathy shown them in the administration of the Department.
– Have those questions been submitted to the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales?
– Yes, land the returned soldiers have forwarded them to me, together with a letter.
– Do they say that they have not received any reply from the Deputy Commissioner?
– They may have received a reply during the last few days. The questions were contained in a letter received by me from the War Service Homes Welfare Association of New South Wales.
– On what date did they send the letter?
– On the 27th of June, 1923. It is quite possible that the questions have been answered; but I am quoting them now to show that up to the 27th June, the men did not know where they stood, and to illustrate their mental confusion and discontent. According to a paragraph in yesterday’s newspapers the- Victorian State Savings Bank is’ constructing soldiers’ homes for £800, and I cannot understand why the Government do not write off the losses incurred:, owing to maladministration, and allow those requiring homes to purchase at the amount provided! in the Act. I am now convinced that this, is not a matter which should be inquired into- by a Royal Commission;, it is merely a. question of Government policy. I blame, not so much the War Service Homes Commission’ as the previous and present Governments, for not taking the tenants into their confidence, and explaining their policy. When this matter was discussed in the House last August,, the present Minister for Works and. Railways (Mr.. Stewart) was- one of the foremost critics of the Hughes Government, and demanded a revaluation of the War Service”- homes-. The then Leader of the- Country party (Dr. Earle Page), in his policy speech in October last,, said, that if he were returned to power and held office, be- would demand a1 re^-appraisement of soldiers’ homes, as the tenants should not be victimized as they had been up te that time. Other honorable members: of the Countryparty were lond in their condemnation of the policy of the Hughes Government, and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), in debating a. censuremotion moved by- the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), said,. “There should be a general re-valuation and. writing down.’’ Since the advent of the present Government, of which Mr: Stewart is a- member; there has net been a revaluation or writing down:. The present’ Minister for Works and Railways- said last year-
Any ‘ honorable member who upholds the- . acCion- of the present Government in connexion with the War Service Homes” Commission condones their action, and should1 shore the’ responsibility with them for tha hopeless tangle in which the scheme is involved.
I have been waiting for the Minister for Works and Railways to do something, in this matter. The soldiers are not satisfied’ with their homes; nor with the conditions’ upon which they contracted to accept them. The members of the Labour party have- consistently advocated (that returned soldiers- should get their homes for prices within the statutory amount. We cannot be- accused’ of political “ kite- flying “ in this matter: because inour policy speeeh submitted to- the electors last October1 we told the people that if we were returned to power we would support a proposal in favour of tie soldiers receiving their homes at the amount prescribed in the- Act. In September, 1922, during the Hughes Administration, the present” Minister for Works and Railways- and other honorable members of the Country party supported the Labour party when ife opposed an, amending War Serviee Homes Bill giving the G-overnanent power to charge an amount in excess- of the statutory limit, and owing to- that opposition shown the Government were compelled to- withdraw the Bill. Notwithstanding the present Minister’s strong opposition to the policy of the Hughes Government he has- apparently refused to remedy the* grievances. In view of the many complaints, I am at a- loss to- understand why the Government have not declared their policy ins this matter. [Extension of time- granted.] The JointCommittee of Public Accounts has drawn attention to the irregularities to which- I have referred to-d’ay, and. honorable members from New South Wales know that there has> been a good deal of dissatisfaction in that State.
– And in; Queensland.
– Yes,and in other States.
– In- Victoria, in st modified form.
– Tes. The- members of the Government who -favoured: a’ readjustment should be prepared to state definitely and clearly that their election piomises would’ be honoured, and that homes would be sold to the purchasers at the amount’ prescribed in the Act. This affords the Ministers an opportunity of showing their practical patriotism. It was said, that the country was under a debt of gratitude to these men for responding’ to the call during the years of war, and that they would be well treated, even if it meant a revaluation and writing down of the houses built for them to bring them within the statutory limit of £700 or £800, according’ tothe period’ in which they contracted to purchase. The amount involved in so doing would belittle when compared with the hundreds of thousands of pounds squandered by the past and present Governments’, and particularly by the War
Service Homes Commission, which1 wantonly entered into contracts regardless of expense. If a revaluation means’ a loss of £100,000’, as stated by the ex-Assistant Minister’ for Repatriation (Mr. Hector Lamond)’, in September, 1922, that ia, as nothing’ compared with the loss of national honour and decency if the Government refuses to carry out what they have contracted to do.
.- I have a case which I desire to bring under, the notice of the Minister in charge (Mr,. Stewart). A young man, then engaged in a, Queensland saw-mill, volunteered’ for service, and was at the Front four years. On his return he was reinstated in his old position in the saw-mill, and I may here say that he is a practical man with a thorough knowledge of the industry. Early in 1922 he applied for a loan of £400 in. order to purchase for about. £527 a house within ten. minutes’ bicycle ride of- his work. That application was, not, granted,- andlie got no- ‘satisfaction from the Department,, beyond the statement that there were other houses- in course of erection from which he might choose a home. The case was brought under the notice of the Department, and’ also of the Commissioner, who were informed that the young man had paid a deposit of £127 on the house in respect of which he had made the application. Subsequently the departmental inspector led him. to believe that there was no’ objection to the house itself, and the young man assures me that the timber used in its- construction is better than that in the departmental houses. The Department, however, wishes this man to purchase from the Department, at a price of £688 19s. 6d., a house that is certainly no better than the one he himself purchased,, and is not so suitable for his requirements. Since inspection the man has entered into occupation of the house he purchased, has furnished it, and made a number of improvements in the shape of fencing, outbuildings, and so forth. Under the circumstances, he ought not to be asked to -lose his deposit, and remove his furniture to another house. No explanation is given by the Department, other thap that there is available a departmental house, which is Just as near to the man’s work as that in which he is now living.. He offered ample security for- the loan of £400>, a fact which would be verified by any independent valuer.The Department, however, offer. Mm « house at a cost of practically £700, and if he is compelled to accept it he will loses his deposit of £127,. and also- the value of the improvements he has made in his. present home. He is now being pressed for the balance of the purchase money,which he is unable- to pay* and as, the* case is urgent. I hope the Minister, willi give it his serious and f avorable consideration.
.The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) is- 1& be commended for bringiing’ this, matter befbite the House. Et was; discussed in August of last year,, when I submitted a. proposal to permit soldiers to purchase- their homes at the maximum amount fixed, by the Act.- That proposal was. not adopted!,, audi the Minister then in charge’ maxfe– the- astouasding statement thai,- if it were accepted, it woul’di mean that- something like£100,000 would! have- to» be- paid to returned soldiers. Thetime bass arrived! when this mattes: should’ be settled- once and for all. Few people would approve cris the returned: men being mulcted in’ extra costs because’ of thebungling in-. tke> adminisuiati’on of the War Service Homes Department.
– “ Bungling “ is hardly a. strong, enough ternm to use!
– It is not. In- the first iimstance’i £700 was’ fixed as the maximum price of a War Service- Home- but’ subsequently,, owing to the increased’ cost of building material, the amount was increased to- £800. It is also truethat the men. signed- an agreement fo pay the cost of the homes erected1,- but in doing so they were, no doubt,, guided by the fact that the Act fixed a maximum of £800. They were dealing wifih the Commonwealth Government, and thought there would1 be no- difficulty iw obtaining’ homes at a price- within the limit. As pointed’ out, however, many men have been asked to- pay considerably more than £800. If, through- the maladministration of the Department, the cost of the homes’ has been increased, it is only fair that- the Commonwealth”, and not the men themselves, should’ carry the burden. We often declare that every consideration1 should be given to> the returned men, and1 yet we- ask them to pay more for their homes- than they ever expected to have to pay. Probably the Minister- (Mr. Stewart) will tell us that there has been an adjustment or valuation board appointed, and that the men are being asked to pay the amounts fixed by that Board.
Mr. Reid. ; That Board was in operation when complaint was made last year.
– The Board was appointed just about that time, and it has the power to fix valuations over ?800. The Board may say that the present value of a property is ?900. But it must be remembered that, during recent years, values have risen considerably in every part of Australia. No returned soldier should be debited with a cost over and above that fixed by the Act; and if justice is done no man will be asked to pay more. The increased costs were the result of the departmental bungling. I do not contend for a moment that, where a soldier requires additional work done, he should not pay for it; that is quite another proposition. But where a man does not ask for anything beyond what is shown in the plans and specifications submitted for his approval, he should not be asked to pay over ?800, even though the house may have cost ?1,000. The Government should shoulder the burden of any increased costs that were not incurred by the soldier himself. In” some cases, even with the limitation of ?800, it is well nigh impossible for some to redeem their homes, and we ought not to make the position more difficult. A working man, especially one just married, with a small family growing up about him, is not in a position to meet any extra calls of the kind, especially if he has to contend with sickness or unemployment. I have previously drawn attention to this circumstance; and what I then suggested has come to pass. A number of returned men in New South Wales, some of them in my own district, have written to me pointing out that, in consequence of illness or unemployment, they have been unable to meet their payments. One of these men has been in his home for two or three years, and had, up to a short time ago, .met every payment as it became due, besides devoting any spare money to improvements. Now, however, he is ill, and unable to work. He omitted to make two monthly payments, and thereupon received a letter from the Department to the effect that, unless he could arrange to pay the instalments, he would have to give up the home.
It was practically a notice of ejectment. If a private property owner treated a tenant in that way his conduct would be regarded as grossly unfair, and there can be no excuse for a Government Department acting in such a peremptory manner, seeing that the man had not shirked his responsibility, but had been paying regularly until misfortune overtook him. I am sure that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) is not in sympathy with such highhanded action. The departmental officers should have it made perfectly clear to them that this is not the proper way of dealing with the returned men. On one or two occasions I have been approached by the wives of soldiers, who, with tears in their eyes, have expressed the fear that they would be ejected from their homes if they did not make certain payments, although they knew they had no hope of obtaining the money. These people should not be placed in such a humiliating position. They have quite sufficient worry in endeavouring to keep up their payments, without being threatened with ejectment. Other cases of a similar nature have been brought - under my notice, the threat being embodied in a letter of stereotyped form. When a returned man is able to show that, in consequence of illness or unemployment) he is unable to make up his arrears, every consideration should be extended to him by allowing him to spread the payments over a given period. The Department’s first duty is to deal with him in a liberal manner, so that he may be able to complete the purchase of his home. In many instances, I am afraid, the soldiers will never be able to carry out their undertakings.
There is another aspect of the matter. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), pointed out that many of the houses are “ jerry “ built. During an absence of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr; Watkins), I was asked to inspect some of the soldiers’ homes in his district. I was unable, at the time, to make an investigation, and subsequently the honorable member did so. It was found that the end had fallen out of one of the homes - a brick dwelling - and others were badly cracked. Similar defects were brought under notice in other localities. I believe the Department made good the damage, but it is not satis- factory to the Government to know that the work was scamped. There are quite a number of matters of this description that need to be investigated. I have no doubt that the Minister is in sympathy with the soldiers, because I recall the speech delivered by him on the motion I submitted in August last. Finality should be reached so that the soldiers may know exactly what they have to pay, and in no case should the total charge exceed the statutory limitation, even if the cost to the country is £500,000. The public, and not the soldier, should bear the loss due to faulty administration for which the returned men are in no way responsible. Those who have purchased homes, erected by private people are in a much better position, because, in many cases, their houses have not cost them more than £400 or £500, and some of the owners have almost completely discharged their debt.
I suggest that, in future, a returned soldier should be permitted to have his house erected in any locality he desires, because the block system has not proved satisfactory. Take, for example, the King’s-road block, in the Newcastle district. There are considerably over forty dwellings in that block, and there has been trouble, more or less, in regard to all of them, on- account of the unsuitability of the site. Why should a man be” compelled to live in a locality that is unattractive to him? The Railway Department - has established its cleaning sheds in the immediate neighbourhood of the block, and when the works are completed the occupants of the homes will be smoked black. Such bungling is inexcusable. I hope that the Minister will take note of my suggestion, and allow applicants to choose their own sites. I trust that this will be the last time it will be necessary to discuss the subject of soldiers’ homes. I expect to hear a statement from the Minister as to the policy, to be adopted by the Department to meet the objections that have been raised.
.- I feel sure that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. ‘Stewart) is sympathetic with the views expressed by honorable members. He is faced with the. results of highly incompetent administration, as were also several other members of the Ministry in taking over their Depart ments in the new Government. The most important complaint, perhaps, relates to the prices charged for soldiers’ homes. It appears to be perfectly plain that when’ a soldier signed an application for a house, he was entitled, in the first instance, to suppose that the building; would not cost more than £700, and subsequently, not more than £800. The Department had no authority under the Act to spend more than £800 on one. house, unless the money were provided from some private source. If, owing tofaulty administration, a larger expenditure has been incurred, ib is expenditurefor which the Commonwealth cannot in. honour hold the soldier liable. The Department had no authority to go beyond the statutory limit, and the soldier was entitled to suppose that the Department would conform to it. Of course,, where a man has undertaken to pay an amount in excess of the limit, it is an entirely different matter. In such a casethe soldier should be held to his undertaking. It is inconceivable, under proper administration, that houses would be contracted for verbally, and, in the absence of an agreement in writing, the general rule should be that the statutory limit should apply. The introduction of that principle will require very careful consideration in particular instances, because some men have already paid more than the statutory limit, while others refuse to sign agreements. I hope the Minister will make a definite statement- on this matter, which is causing perhaps a larger amount of justifiable dissatisfaction than any other administrative act by any Government of the Commonwealth has caused. It is pitiable and shameful to see the state of some of the houses. In a house in my electorate I have seen evidence of damp to a height of 2 ft. 6 in. on the walls of every room. A returned soldier lived there until his family became ill, when he transferred to a vacant house alongside. He desired to become the permanent occupant of that house, but after six months he was informed that he could not do so, because it would be against the rules of the Department. In circumstances like that, is it any wonder that the most profound dissatisfaction exists.? Another grievance, which is causing -very grave dissatisfaction, relates to the impossibility of obtaining definite and consistent statements regarding the prices to be- paid for the houses. Honorable members have alluded to the attempts that have been made by the Department to compel soldiers, many of whom are not well .educated, to sign agreements, in terms required by the Department, by threatening them with expulsion from their homes. That action is unworthy of the Commonwealth of Australia. I am sure that the Minister will give earnest consideration to what has been said, and will do his utmost to remove the cause of these very serious complaints.
– I desire to associate myself with the motion submitted by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I fail to see where the Government can start upon the business of reform, or where it will end. The abuses to which reference has been made have been occurring ever since the war, and the position has changed only from bad to worse. No Government seems to bo willing to apply a remedy. An appeal has been made this afternoon on a motion for the adjournment of the House, and the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has mad© a very nice speech, which will no doubt read well in Hansard. It did not, however, perturb the mind of any one who listened to his rhetoric. War Service Homes were built in South Australia at a place called Gelland, and it has been proved that the man who delivers the morning . newspapers can push them through the cracks in the doors
– Who built them 1
– Whoever built them, the digger was pinched in the process. I have not forgotten the promises that were made to him. The man who fought was “ a hero,” and he was told that when he came home he would be treated .as a heroThere is not a sphere of activity affecting the digger where some one has not put a talon into him.
– Who built the houses to which the honorable .gentleman refers ?
– I do not know. I want the Minister to find out, and I ask that something drastic should be done- something more than .a circumlocutory investigation which will bring us round to the spot from which we start.
– We want redress for the digger.
– That is so, but up to the present the redress has not been made. The digger fought, and now he is being made to pay. He is being charged ,5 per cent., plus extras, for what he did in France. Honorable members who support the motion should insist upon a tangible result which will benefit lie man who is now penalized. I have soldiers’ homes in my district from Collinswood and Broadview down to Islington workshops, where War Service Homes have been built on land that cannot be sewered, and the occupants have to use septic tanks. Let any .honorable member go to Glenelg, a watering place on the outskirts of Adelaide, and to Galway Gardens and Novar Gardens, which are suburbs of Adelaide, and they will see no more mean-looking houses than those in which our heroes live. The verandah posts ,are comparable with broomsticks
– The War Service Homes in other parts of Australia are woree than those in South Australia.
– If ‘that statement is true it reflects the more shame upon this Parliament, which should have taken steps to insure that the promisee made to the diggers were honoured.
– The honorable -member is misrepresenting the position in his own State.
– I am stating the true position, and if there is any doubt in . the mind of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), I shall be prepared next Saturday morning to get out of the express and proceed with him to Glenelg, where I can demonstrate to him the truth of what I say. The houses may be better internally than externally, but they are a disgrace and a scandal in view of the prices charged for them.
– Those houses average about £150 better value than War Service Homes in any other State.
– The honorable gentleman cannot judge his virtues by the vices of another man. If the houses in another State are worse than those in South Australia, that fact does not excuse South Australia. I do not wish to belittle my own State. The nouses built there may be superior to those provided in other States. The honorable member for Wakefield knows that, about four weeks ago, the contractors waited as a deputation upon a State Department and objected to the restrictions that Mr. McNamara, of the State Bank, had placed upon them. Mr. Mcnamara said that he had to compel them to provide lintels of brick, because, when the reinforced concrete lintels were examined, they were found to contain gas piping which could be broken across the knee.
– A Victorian contractor who saw some, of the houses told me that he did not know how they could have beer built for the money.
– If that is so, then God help the soldier victims of the profiteers in Victoria !
– The honorable member is talking “ through his neck.”
– Even when I talk “ through my neck “ I get nearer to the truth than does the honorable member for Wakefield when he talks through his mouth. I have no desire to be at crosspurposes with any one. My sole object in rising was, if possible, to impress upon the Government the need to honour the promises made to returned soldiers. We all agree that, not only in small South Australia, but also in the other larger States, the profiteer has been using for his own purposes the good money of the Commonwealth, which should have been expended in giving extra value to the home of the returned soldier. I maintain that the returned man has not had that “ spin “ to which he is entitled, and has not obtained a home of the value of the money expended. I am prepared to prove that proper provision has. not been made to protect the returned soldier from the profiteer. Generally speaking, the motion of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) is well timed and very necessary. Nothing has caused this Parliament greater concern than the dishonouring of the promises made to returned soldiers, and the maladministration of the War Service Homes Department. The facts are recognised by. the Government because, according to the Governor-General’s Speech, a Commission is to be appointed to investigate certain contracts.
– One contract only !
– It would have been much better if the inquiry had been antedated three years, and then the big frauds, which have since taken place, would have been prevented. The returned soldier is being and has been robbed, and the practice should be stopped. When the Kidman-Mayoh contract was inquired into, the Minister concerned stated that some one should be put into gaol. But what is the use of making such a statement when no one is put into gaol ? That was a contract necessitated by the war, and for which the Government paid excessively. The object of the motion is of much more importance, because individuals are being crucified in the administration of the War Service Homes Department, which is not at all fair to the returned soldiers. I add my voice, vote, and vehemence to the efforts of other honorable members to bring about some beneficial result to the “ Digger,” who has been penalized, rather than privileged. If I have maligned any one ia my endeavour to support this motion, it is because I am very anxious to give effect to the promises made to returned soldiers, and, in the process, to see that the taxpayer is protected.
– I do not question the sincerity of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) in bringing the matter of the housing of returned soldiers before the House, as he is quite justified in so doing. But it would have been more satisfactory to himself, and to, perhaps, all sides of the House, had he given more notice of his contemplated action.
– The Minister may not know that, the other day, we gave ample notice to the Prime Minister, and he entered the Chamber and used up the allotted time. That was the result of giving notice.
– Whatever the reasons that actuated the honorable member for . Reid in springing this matter on the Government - - -
– I notified the Minister’s secretary at 2 o’clock to-day, but the Minister was then absent from his office.
– The honorable member did not notify me at 2 o’clock. He may have attempted to notify me at 2.30. Unfortunately, I was away on business, and knew nothing whatever of this matter until I arrived at the House, when the bells were ringing. I thought, before the Leader of the Opposition’s interjection, that the omission of proper notice was unintentional, but it is quite clear, from his remarks, that the short notice was intentional.
– I do nob- say that. But I gave the Minister an instance of what occurred the other day, when we gave ample notice to the Prime Minister.
– One might be led to believe, by the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, that, in view of his experience the other day, future notices of adjournment motions will be delayed until the last minute.
– Surely an hour is sufficient notice.
– I do not wish to wrangle over this matter. Numerous new cases have been quoted by honorable members, but as they have arisen in different States, it is impossible for me to reply at the moment to the statements made. The honorable member for Reid said that the- Labour party could not be accused of political kite flying on this matter.
– We brought the matter before the House in August and September last, and the Minister then supported us.
– I would be the last to assert that there is political kite-flying on this subject. The main portion of the honorable member’s address dealt with complaints made by the War Service Homes Welfare Association. Perhaps it is only right that I should mention one or two facts, so that honorable members on all sides of the House will understand the position. I have been informed, rightly or wrongly - if wrongly, I know that the honorable member for Reid will correct me - that the meeting place of this Association is the Trades Hall, Sydney.
– The Trades Hall is quite capable of instituting reform.
– What is wrong with the Trades Hall ?
– The meeting place of the Welfare Association is the Trades Hall, Sydney, and its official publication is the Daily Mail, of Sydney.
– The Minister is evading the main complaint of excess valuations.
– I am informing honorable members of the position. I do not intend to evade any matter that has been mentioned this afternoon. The chief complaint has been about the valuations placed upon the homes, and particularly those that exceed the statutory limit under the Act. The honorable member for Reid stated that the soldiers had no faith in the decisions of the Adjustments Board or in the values placed upon the homes by that Board. The facts are that the Adjustments Board in New South Wales, and also in the other States, has included in its ‘personnel a representative of the returned soldiers, and the representative of the returned soldiers on the New South Wales Adjustments Board is an architect.
– What is his name, and by whom was he nominated ?
– I will reply to the interjection presently. The honorable member for Reid stated that, after a personal inspection of the houses, he was not satisfied with the values placed upon them, but the facts are that these valuations were very carefully arrived at after detailed investigation and consideration of sworn valuations and check valuations of similar types of houses in other parts of Sydney.
– The point I stressed was that the valuations exceeded the statutory limits.
– I had the courtesy and good manners to allow honorable members to criticise the Department without interruption. I listened in silence. That courtesy apparently is not to be extended to the Minister.
– I do not want to be misrepresented .
– I will explain the policy adopted by the Department respecting the excess cost of houses. The question may be viewed from many angles. . This is a knotty problem, and only when honorable members know all the facts, for and against, and not a portion of them, can they realize the difficulties which have faced the Department. If the Government say that soldiers shall be charged the statutory limit at the time at which they agree to purchase the house, you will find anomalies arise. A man may secure a check valuation, independent of the Department, of, say, £900. Another man in the same district may want a house which is valued by the Adjustments Board at £800. If we adopt the policy of charging both soldiers the same price, one man will get a £900 house for £800, and the other man will be paying £800 for an £800 house. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) mentioned that some soldiers had agreed with the Department to purchase houses which cost more than £800. If we adhered to the statutory limit in such cases, the soldiers would have been obliged to pay in cash whatever the house cost in excess of £800. Under our policy, however, soldiers have been satisfied to sign contracts to pay up to £900, and even almost £1,000 for houses much superior to those they could have obtained, had they been compelled to abide by the statutory limit. Something has been said about bungling administration being responsible for excess costs. I wish members to understand clearly that no soldier has been asked to pay, or has been charged for, any bungling in administration. The object of appointing the Adjustments Board was to ascertain by as fair a tribunal as it was possible to obtain, what the actual value of a house was at the time it was to be purchased, not what the house cost to build.
– That was recommended by the Public Accounts Committee before the Board was appointed.
– The Adjustments Board is composed of men high in their profession, and its membership includes a representative of the returned soldiers.
– Does the Board take into consideration enhanced values?
– No. If the Adjustments Board decides that a house cost £900 to build, but that its value is £850, the soldier is expected to pay only £850. On the other hand, where a house cost £800 to build, and the Adjustments Board values it at £850, the soldier has to pay only £800.
– Is the Government following the Adjustments Board’s recommendations in every case?
– In every case where the Adjustments Board’s recommendation is that the house has been excessively priced. I will put it this way. The price charged is the actual value of the house, or the cost of the house, whichever is the less. The problem of excess costs is very difficult. It has been receiving the serious consideration of the Government for some time. Before long I hope to introduce to the House a measure to mi,ke certain amendments in the War Service Homes Act. [Extension of time granted.] Some of the amendments will deal with excess costs. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said that this matter should be settled once and for all. I agree with him. That is what the Government wish. When this measure is before honorable members they will have a better opportunity to discuss the question than they have this afternoon.
– Will you bring that Bill down this session?
– Yes, and therefore the Leader of the Opposition will not expect me to lay down the whole policy of the Government now. A fitting occasion to do that will be when I bring in the amending Bill. Honorable members will also have more time then to deal with the question.
– If you give us time. .
– We shall give honorable members reasonable time in which to discuss it. In view of the importance of the question to tue returned soldiers, and the agitation it is causing the general public, we shall not unduly curtail the debate.
– Will the returned soldiers be given an opportunity of suggesting amendments?
– Yes. Representatives of returned soldiers in this Chamber will have the privilege and the opportunity, when the Bill is before the House, of submitting amendments. I shall be glad to receive any suggestion which will enable me to incorporate in the measure provisions, that will insure that the returned soldier shall be treated equitably, consistently with the necessity to act fairly towards the general taxpayer. I shall be glad of the assistance of honorable members, or of any association representing the returned men, to enable the Government to achieve that object. The Government are anxious to do the fair thing. I have been reminded of the criticism which I passed upon this Department when I was a private member. I do not take back one word of what I said regarding past administration. I am not here to defend - and I do not intend to defend - the administrative acts of previous Ministers or Governments. My endeavour is to clean up what has been a bad mess. Honorable members should accord me a certain amount of consideration for having undertaken this task. Considering the nature and extent of the administrative blunders that have been committed over a series of years, no man - I care not who he may be - could clean up the mess in a week, a month, or even in six months.
– A change of Ministry is required.
– I should have excepted the honorable member from my statement. I do not doubt that he could clean up the mess in five minutes. We realize that the honorable member could “ place a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.” I shall have investigations made into the various cases that have been brought forward, and action will be taken to secure justice and fair dooling for the returned soldiers who are affected.
– It is rather a pity that the Minister has not had the time to devote to the study of this question which would have enabled him to do justice to it. Even so, the Minister has done justice to the question from the Government’s point of view, inasmuch as, in the short time which hi– had at his disposal, he has made quite clear to the House the policy of the Government regarding War Service Homes. We are all glad to know from the Minister that he has every sympathy with the men who are in these homes,’ and that he will do all that lies in his power to clean up the mess that exists. The occupants of these homes, in common with honorable members, would have been more pleased had the Minister told us that he was prepared to go a little further than he has indicated. The Minister’s insinuation that this was a political move on the .part of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) is regrettable. It is regrettable, also, that the Minister should have drawn a political significance from the fact that the association referred to by the honor- si bie member for Reid occupies a room in the Trades Hall in Sydney. It is very difficult to get rooms in Sydney, and it so happened that this association found a convenient meeting room in a building which had rooms to let. The Minister ought not, on that ‘account, to have accused the members of that association, or the honorable member for Reid, of having made a political move in bringing forward this question. What reason the Minister had for connecting with the matter a newspaper in Sydney called the Daily Mail, only he knows. I do not know what are the politics of the Daily
Mail, or whether it has any. The Minister, perhaps, has not had sufficient, time to outline the policy - of the Department. We did not expect to have that policy outlined, but we did expect some clear indication of the general lines on which it was proposed to work. The Minister is not prepared ‘to go nearly as far as is sought by the motion, or, as has been advocated by honorable members sitting on this side of the House. Many reasons were advanced by the Minister for that decision. We on this side contend that, as the occupants of these houses entered into contracts on the understanding that they were not to cost more than a certain sum - £700 in the first place, and £800 subsequently - not more than that amount should be charged except where the extra cost was incurred in meeting the wishes of men who desired an alteration in the construction of their houses. If the Minister and the Government, in introducing the amending Bill, will be strong enough to make provision that not more than £800 shall be charged, the people of Australia will acclaim them. They will be perfectly entitled to any political kudos they can ‘ get - and I believe they will get a good deal - as the result of their honouring the implied promise made by a previous Government. In taking that action they would be honouring the name of Australia. One reason advanced by the Minister against the desirability of taking such a step is that for £800 one soldier might get a ‘house worth £900, while another might get a house worth only £850. . That would not be a fearful happening. The people of Australia do not desire that this matter shall be dealt with upon a basis of £ s. d. They remember that when the soldiers left Australia they did not value their services according to considerations of £ s. d. When the soldier got to the Front, he did not say to his captain, “I am not going into that dangerous place while, my mate stays behind peeling potatoes,” or anything of that kind. I do not think, therefore, that the Governmentare justified in adopting such an attitude. If the Government will be not only fair, but a little generous, to the occupants of soldiers’ - homes, they will lose nothing by so doing. One of the greatest troubles arises from the unsympathetic treatment of the returned soldiers by the Depart- ment. The Government should make a straightforward declaration that the Department shall assist the men in every possible way. Honorable members opposite know probably more than I do about roofs that do not keep out the rain, damp-courses that do not keep out the damp, and windows that do not close; but I know as well as other honorable members that when these defects have been pointed out to the Department the soldier, instead of receiving a straightforward answer, has been put off from time to time by the Department until he does not know where he stands. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) mentioned some cases where the borer has been found in the houses. We know that borers were bred in millions in the wood that has been handled by the War Service Homes Department. It is extremely probable where the borer has been found in War Service Homes that its presence is due to the wood used in their’ construction. There is not one chance in millions that it has been introduced in the furniture. In the circumstances, the Government might very well lay it down as a principle that in all cases where the borer is found in War Service Homes the Department shall accept responsibility for the eradication of the pest.
– Where there is reasonable proof that the borer was in the house when it was erected the Commission accepts responsibility.
– The Minister says that the Department accepts responsibility where there is a reasonable proof that the borer was in a house when it was erected ; but we know that that may be very difficult to prove, when there is a possibility that it gained entrance by some other means than that of the timber used by the Department in construction.
– Where there is any doubt the Commission accepts responsibility.
– I am glad to know that the Minister now in charge of the Department will not haggle over these matters; because the soldiers did not haggle over the service they were called upon to perform. A case was referred to by the honorable member for Reid of a house tumbling down owing to subsidence of the land on which it was constructed. That is a case in which summary action should have been taken by the Depart ment, but there again its action was circumlocutory, and the returned soldier was informed that his place would be “put under observation.” All this means waste of time, leaves the returned soldier in suspense, and conveys the impression that the Department may be awaiting some new geological period when, perhaps, instead of the land subsiding, a volcanic uplift will take place, and the War Service home be restored to a level position. We hope that the Government will take such action as may disabuse the minds of the occupants of these homes of any such ideas. Let them take the straightforward course of saying, “ Since you believed that your home would cost you no more than £800, we will give it to you for £800.” If the Government would do that it would be acclaimed by the people of Australia. By generous treatment the Government might restore to the returned soldiers that confidence in it which has been lost to a great extent as the result of unsympathetic treatment by the War Service Homes Department.
.- As one who has probably had occasion to find as much fault with the administration of the War Service Homes Department as has any other member of this House, I think it right to say that, . although the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and other honorable members have said that that administration has gone from bad to worse, my experience has been to the contrary. In my opinion, the administration has very materially improved within the last twelve months.
– ‘No one denies that.
– The honorable member for Adelaide said that it had gone from bad to worse, and was still on the .downward path. The greatest fault I have to find with the Department is that, whether their homes have exceeded £800, or have cost less milan that amount, the returned soldiers have not known when they took possession of their homes what they were to be charged for them.
– An agreement to the effect that they should know should have been signed-
– That is so. There are cases in my electorate of men who, having been in their homes for nearly three years, have only within the last few weeks learned what they are to be charged for them. That sort of thing only gives rise to contempt for the Department and its administration; it is certainly not business. The returned soldiers have on this account serious cause for complaint. I think that too much stress has been laid on the fact that there have been a number of badly constructed homes. In the discussions on this subject which we have had in this Chamber in the past, and also during this debate, it has been admitted that there has been serious cause for complaint because of badly constructed homes, but it should be remembered that the percentage of badly constructed homes is very small. That will be seen from the report of the joint Committee of Parliament that inquired into the operations of the “War Service Homes Department. The members of that Committee viewed thousands of homes, and their report is evidence of the exhaustive manner in which they carried out their inquiry. Honorable members have much to say by way of criticism of what has been done in the past. It is easy to criticise adversely the action of Ministers, Commissions, and administrative Boards, but what is wanted in this House is constructive and not destructive criticism. I have so far heard in this Chamber very little constructive criticism, particularly in regard to repatriation and War Service Homes problems. I have been amongst the returned soldiers in my electorate, and I know that many of them have good grounds for complaint. I am pleased to be able to say that the present Minister and the branch of the War Service Homes Department in Sydney have gone out of their way to try to remedy complaints.
– Does the honorable member not think that a War Service Home should be supplied within the statutory limit of cost ?
– That is a very debatable point. If the War Service Homes Commission told a returned soldier, when making his application for a home, that it could not supply the class of house for which he applied for £S00, and that it could only advance £800, he would know where he stood. But when a soldier puts in his application, he is not told what the cost of his house will be, and, as I have said, some men have waited for three years to learn what they will be charged for their homes.
– What authority has the War Service Homes Commission for exceeding the statutory limit of advance, other than the authority of the returned soldier ?
– The Government have in no case exceeded the advance allowed by the Act.
– Where the cost of War Service Homes has exceeded the statutory advance, this has been largely due to the fact that they were erected under the day-labour system, and owing to faulty accountancy the Commission was not. informed of the actual cost until a considerable time after they were erected.
– I have always been, and still am, opposed to the group settlement of returned soldiers. I believe it is not in the best interests of the community that any particular class should be grouped together in one settlement.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Debate resumed from 13th July (vide page 1110), on motion by Mr. Austin
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This Bill may be more conveniently considered in Committee. It proposes, amongst other things, the tightening up of certain sections of the principal Act to cover the importation or exportation of goods by aerial service. It is evident that the Government anticipate that in the near future aircraft will be used for the importation and exportation of goods, and are making provision to meet that contingency. There is one clause of the Bill to which honorable members should give some consideration. I refer to clause 39, which proposes the repeal of section 271 of the principal Act. That section provides that regulations framed under the Act from time to time are to be laid on the table of this House.
– Clause 39 will not alter that provision, because what the honorable member refers to is already provided for under the Acts Interpretation Act.
– Dealing with clause 39 as it stands, it would appear that on the repeal of section 271 of the principal Act Customs regulations might be brought into force without being laid on the table of this House.
– The repeal is proposed because the provision is no longer required, since it is contained in section 10 ofthe Acts Interpretation Act.
– If, when we reach the Committee stage, the Minister can make that clear, it will remove an objection which I have considered it my duty to point out at this stage. I have nothing further to say on the motion for the second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 19 agreed to.
Section119 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : - “119. (1) Before any certificate of clearance is granted to a ship or aircraft -
the master, owner, or pilot shall deliver to the collector an outward manifest in duplicate;
the master and owner of the ship or the pilot and owner of the aircraft shall severally answer questions relating to the ship or aircraft and her cargo, crew, passengers, stores and voyage; and
the master and owner or the pilot and owner shall severally produce documents relating to the ship or aircraft and her cargo. “ (2) If, within a period of twenty-four hows after the provisions of sub-section (1) of this sectionhave been complied with, the master or pilothas not received from the collector an outward manifest and certificate of clearance, lie may, at any time within fourteen days after the expiration of that period, apply to the Minister for a certificate of clearance, and the decision of the Minister upon the application shall be final and conclusive. “(3) No action or other proceeding shall lie against the Commonwealth, or any officer of the Commonwealth,by reason of the nongranting of any certificate of clearance, or of any delay in the granting of a certificate of clearance.”
.- The effect of the proposed new section is to render it, optional on the part of the Customs officials to issue a ship’s clearance, and in the event of a clearance being wrongfully refused, to deprive the ship-owner of all remedy. Seeing that a heavy penalty is provided in the case of a ship proceeding to sea without a clearance, it seems to me that what is sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander, that is to say, there should be some remedy for a ship-owner who is unjustifiably refused a clearance for his vessel. It is an established principle in English law that the subject has the right of redress throughthe Courts for any wrong done to him by the Crown.
.- Ship-owners feel that their interests have not been safeguarded in the proposed new section. They may be mulcted in heavy costs through having a vessel unjustifiably detained. Provision is made in section 211 of the Navigation Act for the protection of a ship-owner in the case of the detention of his ship, because if there is no reasonable or probable cause for the detention, the Minister is liable to pay to the owner of the ship his costs of and incidental to the detention, and also compensation for any loss or damage sustained by him by reason of the detention. This matter was brought before the Select Committee on the Sea Carriage of Goods; and it was admitted on all hands that provision should be made to protect ship-owners in this respect. The ship-owner is not the only sufferer if we unduly burden him through the detention of his ship because of negligence on the part of public officials. However, ship-owners willbe perfectly satisfied if they are afforded in the Customs Act the protection given to them by the provision in the Navigation Act to which I have drawn attention. It is a well-established principle in English law that for any wrong done by the Crown the subject has the right of redress through the Courts. This right, which is expressed in the words “ there shall be no wrong without a remedy,” it is now proposed to take away from ship-owners.
– The necessity for this clause has arisen from the fact that the High Court held in a certain case that the Commonwealth was liable for damages for not issuing a certificate of clearance. Nevertheless, in the public interest, it may be absolutely essential to hold up a ship. It is sometimes absolutely essential in the administration of the Customs Act that vessels should be held up, but the Act gives no authority to detain them. This step, honorable members will realize, will not be taken unnecessarily.
– But it may be.
– The provision is quite reasonable. If within twenty-four hours after the master, owner, or pilot of a vessel has delivered to the Collector of Customs his outward manifest in duplicate, and fulfilled the other requirements of sub-section (1) of the proposed new section, he has not received from the Collector an outward manifest and certificate of clearance - he may, at any time within fourteen days after the expiration of that period, apply to the Minister for a certificate of clearance, and the decision of the Minister upon the application shall be final and conclusive.
Therefore, the ship-owner is afforded a means of getting his vessel away immediately. Of course, the proposed new section further provides that-
No action or other proceeding shall lie against the Commonwealth or any officer of the Commonwealth by reason of the nongranting of any certificate of clearance or of any delay in the granting of a certificate of clearance.
– That is the provision which will create all the trouble.
– A remedy can be secured straight away by means of an appeal to the Minister, whose decision is final.
– But protection is required even against the Minister. He may refuse, without a just reason, to give a clearance. Why should this protection be given in the Navigation Act, and not in the Customs Act ?
– The provision in the Navigation Act to which the honorable member has referred relates to the payment of compensation for unnecessary detention over the survey of a ship, and reads as follows: -
If it appears that there was no reasonable and probable cause for the provisional detention of the ship, the Minister shall be liable to pay to the owner of the ship his costs of and incidental to thedetention and survey of the ship, and also compensation for any loss or damage sustained by him by reason of the detention or survey.
That provision deals with an entirely different matter.
– But the principle is the same in this case.
– No. The provision in the Navigation Act relates entirely to the examination and survey of ships - operations which may take a considerable time - whereas the provision in the Bill we are now considering relates to the administration of the Customs law. There is no reason why a prompt appeal to the Minister should not satisfy the persons concerned.
– The shipowners want an assurance that a quick response will come from the Minister.
– The honorable member can rest assured that it is always given in connexion with the administration of Customs matters.
– Not always.
– At any rate, it is absolutely necessary that the Department should have the protection afforded by this clause, because the High Court has held that the. Commonwealth is liable to pay damages for refusing to grant a clearance, although there may be perfect justification for the action taken by the Customs Department.
.- This provision raises an important question. It is the duty of the Committee to protect the rights of the subject against the Crown. It has long been establshed in English law that a ship is entitled to a clearance if it has complied with the conditions set out in the Statutes. If it be possible at the arbitrary will of a departmental official or a Minister to withhold a clearance from a vessel, it is obvious that veiy great loss may be sustained by the shipowner. As the law stands at present, if a clearance be arbitrarily or unjustifiably withheld, the shipowner has recourse against the Commonwealth, and may recover damages, but he may not do soif the clearance is justifiably, and not arbitrarily, withheld. I ask the Committee to hesitate before inserting in the Act a provision the effect of which is to give protection, as against the citizen, to an official of the Commonwealth, or to a Minister, who acts arbitrarily and unjustifiably. For such is the effect of this provision. It will protect an arbitrary and unjustifiable action on the part of the Customs Department. Protection is already afforded for the justifiable refusal of a clearance. The law in this matter was settled in the case of Zachariassen and another versus The Commonwealth and another reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports, vol. 24, page 166. The High Court held-
That underthe Customs Act 1901-1910 a master of a ship, onperformance ofthe conditionsprescribed by the Act,is as against the
Commonwealth entitled to a certificate of clearance, and thatwhere such a certificate is either arbitrarily or on unjustifiable grounds refused by “ the collector,” the ship-owner may maintain an action for damages against the Commonwealth, but not against “ the collector.”
The present law is that the master of a ship has a remedy when a clearance is arbitrarily or unjustifiably withheld. That law should continue, and sub-sections 2 and 3 of proposed new section 110 should not be agreed to. The Commonwealth has already gone a long way in protecting its officers and itself against the public, and I desire to read to the Committee what the High Court, consisting of Mr. Justice Barton, Mr. Justice Isaacs, and Mr. JusticeRich said, in this case of the international aspect of the existing law -
Now, to test the matter as between “the Commonwealth and the plaintiff: Is there a statutory right to receive a clearance supposing all the statutory conditions are fulfilled ? The Act nowhere says in affirmative words that if all the requirements of the law are satisfied, the collector “ shall “ grant a clearance. It does not even say he “ may “ grant it. If it did, theprinciple of Julius v. Bishop, of Oxford (1 ) would, on the circumstances apply, and give such a provision compulsory force. The affirmative duty is found, we think, in other considerations. Magna Charta (9 Hen. III.), c. 30, relating to foreign merchants, said: “Allmerchants, unless they were openly prohibited before, shall have safe and sure conduct to depart out of England, andto come into England, and to tarry in and go through England,, as well by land as by water to buy or sell …. except in time of war.” This provision, as is observed in Chitty, on the Prerogative (p. 163),’ “strongly proves that the English had this liberty before.” International commercial intercourse by sea (subject to any specially indicated municipal requirement) is always understood to imply a right to depart with the vessel. Foreign commerce and intercourse would otherwise be impossible, and one main object of the Customs Acts, including Tariff Acts, would be frustrated. The Customs Act must bc read with reference to maritime practice, applicable to all oversea commerce, inwards and outwards. It is trite law that Statutes should be construed, so far as their language permits, so as not to clash with international comity….. So reading it, there is a dutyon the Commonwealth (by the hand of the collector)to grant the clearance if satisfied . that the law has been complied with. An arbitrary refusal, or one based on unjustifiable grounds, is the denial of a right implicitly recognised, incorporated into and limited by the Act. By unjustifiable grounds, we must not be understood as excluding in all cases an honest and not unreasonable belief onthe part of the collector acting lor the Commonwealth, that the law has not been complied with. In times of peace, the refusal alleged in this case,, if the possibility then be assumed, would be a clear prima facie breach of the Statutes.
– Some amendment of the existing law is necessary in order to give the Department reasonable power, but if there be the slightest fear that the power contained in the proposed new section may be abused, I suggest that the clause be postponed in order that an amendment may be drafted which will provide the necessary safeguard without creating any danger.
Clauses 21 to 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 -
Section 163 of the -principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section ( 1 ) the words “ pillaged lost”; and
by adding at the end of the section the words “ on application being made to the collector within twelve months from the date of payment of the duty”.
Section proposed to be amended - “ ( 1 ) Whenever goods -
have received damage or have been pillaged during the voyage; or
have whilst under Customs control been damaged, pillaged, lost, or destroyed; or
Whenever duty has been paid through manifest error of fact or patent misconception of the law - a refund, rebate, or remission of the duty as the case may require shall be made in manner prescribed.”
.- What is the reason for this amendment? Surely an importer should be allowed a refund in respect of goods lost or pillaged while under the control of the Customs Department. It would appear that the Department is endeavouring to evade its responsibilities.
.- This is another instance of the Department seeking additional privileges as against the citizen. Why should a time limit be imposed in respect of actions
Against the Commonwealth? The ordinary citizen has not the benefit of such a limitation, and the standard of obligation of the Commonwealth should be higher, rather than lower, than that of the individual.
.- I suggest that this clause be postponed in order that the Minister may give it further consideration. I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong in regard to the proposed time limit.
– There is some necessity for this amendment, but as it is not very urgent I suggest that the Committee should negative the clause.
Clauses 26 to 34 agreed to.
Clause 35 (Maximum penalty in case of intent to defraud).
– When this clause was originally drafted, a judgment of the Supreme Court of Western Australia had cast some doubt upon the existing law, but a recent decision of the High Court has removed that doubt. I therefore ask the Committee to negative the clause.
Clause 36 agreed to.
Section 255 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 255. ( 1 ) In any Customs prosecution the averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff contained in the information, complaint, declaration, or claim shall be prima facie evidence of the matter or matters averred. “ (2) This section shall apply to any matter so averred although -
evidence in support or rebuttal of the matter averred or of any other matter is given by witnesses; or (b) the matter averred is a mixed question of law and fact; but in that case the averment shall be primd facie evidence of the fact only. “ (3) Any evidence given by witnesses in support or rebuttal of a matter so averred shall be considered on its merits, and the credibility and probative value of such evidence shall be neither increased nor diminished by reason of this section. “(4). Sub-section (1) of this section shall not apply to -
an averment of the intent of the defendant ; or
proceedings for an indictable offence or an offence directly punishable by imprisonment. “ (5) This section shall not lessen or affect any onus of proof otherwise falling on the defendant.”
Section proposed to be repealed - 255. In every Customs prosecution the averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff contained in the information, declaration, or claim shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary, but so that -
When an intent to defraud the revenue is charged the averment shall not be deemed sufficient to prove the intent and -
In all proceedings for an indictable offence directly punishable by imprisonment the guilt of the defendant must be established by evidence.
.- The proposed new section appears to go much further than that which the Committee is asked to repeal, and I should like the Attorney-General to explain the reason for the amendment. The minds of honorable members would be eased if the Minister would state why a more drastic provision is to be substituted for the existing law.
.- Legislation of this nature is always departmentally applauded, because it provides that where the prosecutor makes an averment, if no evidence is given, the defendant shall be deemed to be guilty. This is always convenient for the prosecutor, and it is a species of legislation much favoured by the Commonwealth. It has been held by the High Court, in cases under the section now sought to be repealed, that if the Commonwealth relies merely upon the section as it stands, then weight is to be given to it, according to its terms; but if, on the other hand, the prosecution goes into evidence the whole matter is opened up, and the effect of the section is lost. This system of allowing the averment of the prosecutor to convict a defendant, units:. he proves himself innocent, is a very serious matter. Speaking generally, it is a principle of English law that an accused person shall be deemed to be innocent until proved guilty. The original section, as well as thi? clause, enacts in effect just the contrary - the defendant is deemed to be guilty unless he can show that he is innocent. The averment of the prosecution is to be primâ facie evidence of the matter averred. It must be recognised, of course, that in Customs prosecutions the revenue must be protected, and that drastic provisions should exist for that purpose; but I suggest that it is possible to devise some means of protecting the revenue other than legislation which provides that the mere allegation of the prosecutor shall be primâ facie evidence of its truth. The effect of all such legislation is that, in almost every case, the Commonwealth is in a position to force the defendant into the witness box. That again is inconsistent with our general law, but, as I have already said, legislation under the Customs Act has always been more drastic than under other Statutes. . This clause, however, seeks to go further than the existing section, and the Committee might consider whether it is necessary to add this power to the existing power. With regard to proposed new sub-section 2 b, I desire to say that where the matter averred is a mixed question of law and fact, it will be difficult to give effect to the enactment that the averment shall beprimâ facie evidence of the fact only.
.- This provision was inserted in the Excise Act in 1918. Section 255 of the principal Act, which this clause proposes to repeal, states -
In every Customsprosecution the averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff contained in the information, declaration or claim, shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary . . .
That language is stronger than is contained in the clause now under discussion. In proposed new sub-section 1 we are providing -
In any Customs prosecution the averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff contained in the information, complaint, declaration, or claim, shall be primâ facie evidence of the matter or matters averred. . . .
Then the clause goes on to state that the section shall apply to any matter so averred, although evidence in support or rebuttal of the matter averred is given by witnesses, or that the matter averred is a mixed question of law and fact; but in the last case the averment shall be primd facie evidence of the fact only. In proposed new sub-section 3 there is provision that evidence given by witnesses in support or rebuttal of a matter averred shall be considered on its merits, and the credibility or probative value of such evidence shall be neither increased nor diminished by the provisions of the Bill. Proposed new sub-section 4 enacts that the proposed new section shall not apply to (a) an averment of the intent of the defendant, or (b) proceedings for an indictable offence or an offence directly punishable by imprisonment.
In proposed new sub-section 5 there is provison that the section shall not lessen or affect any onus of proof otherwise falling on the defendant. I remind honorable members that under the Customs Act we are not called upon to deal with ordinary general cases of the criminal law, but with persons who may be importing goods, and who are in possession of the knowledge of the facts. It is, therefore, necessary that we should protect the revenue by legislative provisions of this nature. The officials who are handling these cases know the difficulties they have in getting proof.
– And they merely take action when the importer refuses to disclose facts within his knowledge, which if disclosed, would very often satisfy the Department.
– In many cases an explanation is a good answer.
– Why will not these importers get into the witness box?
– For many reasons. It is possible that sometimes counsel advise them to rely upon the weakness of the plaintiff’s case, and perhaps that they would not make good witnesses.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 38 agreed to.
Section 271 of the principal Actis repealed.
.- The section which this clause repeals provides for regulations to be laid upon the table of the House, and reserves to honorable members the right of objection within a certain time. Unless the Minister can show good reason why the section should be repealed, I shall oppose the clause.
– The clause will not in any way interfere with the principle contained in section 271. It is intended simply to bring the Customs Act into line with other legislation which confers the power to make regulations. I direct the attention of the honorable member to section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-1916. It reads-
Where an Act confers powerto makeregulations, all regulations made accordingly shall, unless the contrary intention appears -
be notified in the Gazette;
take effect from the date of notification, or from a later date specified in the regulations; (c)be laid before both Houses of the
Parliament within thirty days of the making thereof, or if the Parliament is not then sitting, within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament.
But if either House of the Parliament passes a resolution of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after such regulations have been laid before such House, disallowing any regulation, such regulation shall thereupon cease to have effect.
It is not necessary now to retain the provision in the Customs Act,this power being fully provided for in the Acts Interpretation Act.
– That explanation is satisfactory. .
Clause agreed to.
Clause 40 agreed to.
Clause 41 (Repeal of Schedule II.).
.- This clause repeals schedule II., which provides the scale of fees to be paid by licensees for warehouses. Will the Minisler (Mr. Groom) explain why it is unnecessary to issue licences?
– Provision is made in clan se 15 for prescribing the fees to be paid by licensees.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 42 and 43 agreed to.
Postponed clause 20 -
Section 119 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: - “119. (1) Before any certificate of clearance is granted to ship or aircraft -
the master, owner, or pilot shall deliver to the Collector an outward manifest in duplicate;
the master and owner of the ship or the pilot and owner of the aircraft shall severally answer questions relating to the ship or aircraft, and her cargo, crew, passengers, stores and voyage; and
the master and owner or the pilot and owner shall severally produce documents relating to the ship or aircraft and her cargo. “ (2) If, within a period of twenty-four hours after the provisions of sub-section (1) of this section have been complied with, the master or pilot has not received from the Collector an outward manifest and certificate of clearance, he may, at any time within fourteen days after the expiration of that period, apply to the Minister for a certificate of clearance, and the decision of the Minister upon the application shall be final and conclusive. “ (3) No action or other proceeding shall lie against the Commonwealth, or any officer of the Commonwealth, by reason of the nongranting of any certificate of clearance, or of any delay in the granting of a certificate of clearance.”.
Section proposed to be repealed - 119. Before any certificate of clearance shall be granted the master of the ship shall -
Deliver to the Collector an outward manifest in duplicate.
Answer questions relating to the ship and her cargo, crew, passengers, stores, and voyage.
Produce documents relating to the ship and her cargo.
– I move -
That after sub-clause (2) the following new sub-clause be inserted : - “ (2a) Where in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section the Minister has decided not to grant a certificate of clearance the owner of the ship or aircraft shall be entitled in a Court of competent jurisdiction to recover damages against the Commonwealth in respect of the non-granting or delay in granting of the certificate if the Court is satisfied that the non-granting or delay was without reasonable and probable cause.”
Also that before the word “ No “ in subclause (3) the words, “ Except as provided in the last preceding sub-section “ be inserted.
This clause deals with the withholding of certificates of clearance, and the amendment I have moved will, I believe, meet with the wishes of the Committee.
– What does it mean?
– If there has been delay without reasonable and probable cause in granting a certificate or clearance, the Commonwealth will be responsible.
.- The amendment, moved by the Minister (Mr. Groom), meets- the substance of the objections raised by some honorable members, as it provides that if there is not a reasonable and probable cause for delay in tho granting of clearances or for the non-granting of clearances damages may be recovered . I do not know what is meant by the concluding words of sub-section 2, which read, “ and the decision of the Minister upon the application shall be final and conclusive.”
– This sub-section will be closely perused to see how it affects the rest of the clause, and if it is not perfectly clear, or does not provide what is actually intended, it can be amended when the Bill is before the Senate.
– Do I understand that the sub-section has been deleted?
– No, but a new subsection has been inserted.
– In dealing with shipowners or importers of goods, the Customs officials come in contact with some of the smartest people in the world, and I trust that a mere threat by a ship-master or importer to a Minister or his officers will not prevent the Government from doing their duty on behalf of the taxpayers.
– This provision will not encourage dishonesty.
– I do not want a shipowner or importer to be in a position to say to a Minister or his officers,” You are wrong. I shall go to the Court and obtain damages.” Those importing goods have to be very closely watched, and our Customs law should be tightened up, and the net made sufficiently small to catch those endeavouring to avoid paying their just dues. Many honorable members will recall an instance, in connexion with invoices and other documents which are not dealt with here, in which, by fraudulent practices, importers brought into the Commonwealth millions of pounds’ worth of goods on which no duty was paid. It was not until expert Customs officers were sent to the other side of the world to investigate the documentsthat it was found that the Commonwealth was losing from £750,000 to £1,000,000 per annum in duty. Seeing that we have had experience in that direction, I urge the Minister to tighten up the legislation in every possible way to prevent the revenue being defrauded. The amendment is framed in legal phraseology, but I trust that it carries out what is intended, and that I, for one, am not being deceived in agreeing to it.
Amendment agreed to.
Postponed clause, as amended, agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence - Australian Military Forces - Report of the Inspector-General (Lieut.General Sir H. G. Chauvel, G.C.M.G., K.C.B.), Part I., 31st May, 1923.
New Hebrides - Protocol respecting, signed at London,6th August, 1914, by representatives of the British and’ French Governments, and Papers relating to it.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Balaclava, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Geraldton, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
South Fremantle, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act -
Appointments of G. B.V. Keogh, F. V. Stonham, and R. J. Cowan, Department of Health.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 78.
Regulations of the Public Service Board Commissioners - Statutory Rules 1923, No. 93.
Debate resumed from 13th July (vide page 1132), on motion by Mr. Bowden -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- After a few years’ experience as a member of this Parliament, I have come to the conclusion that what an honorable member says on any Bill has very little effect upon the destinies of Australia or any other nation. There may be exceptions. Suggestions made by you, Mr. Speaker, when a private member, or by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) may have been considered, but the remarks of laymen like myself have little weight. I should like first of all to congratulate the Government upon bringing down this measure in a short session when so many matters of great importance have to be dealt with. Certainly a notch has been cut in the staff of progress by placing defence and civil aviation in Australia on a proper basis. I also desire to extend my congratulations to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who admitted that aerial defence was necessary for the safety of Australia. It must, however, have been somewhat difficult for the honorable member to maintain such an attitude, when some of his supporters contend that we should not, in any circumstances, provide for the defence of Australia.
Opposition Members. - That is not so.
– I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition speak as he did, because aeronautics must play a great part, not only in the defence of Australia, but also in the defence of other countries, as I shall show as I proceed.
I do not agree with the contention of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) and of the Leader of the Opposition that our first line of defence is in the air. It is not, and I think honorable members will agree with me when they reflect that our trade is the life-blood of the Empire.Cargo-carrying vessels will have to be protected by surface ships for many years to come. They will not be protected from the air. In support of that statement, I should like to read to the House a portion of a memorandum prepared in December, 1913, by Mr. Winston Churchill, when First Lord of the Admiralty. At the time the memorandum was written, war with Germany was anticipated by him, and Mr. Churchill was putting up the fight of his life against all the members of his Cabinet as well as against the representatives of certain branches of governmental activity in order to carry through the naval programme which he advocated. Mr. Churchill said -
We must begin by recognising how different the part played by our Navy is from that of the navies of every other country. Alone among the greatmodern States, we can neither defend the soil upon which we live nor subsist upon its produce. Our whole regular army , is liableto be ordered abroad for the defence of India. The food of our people, the raw materialof their industries - the commerce which constitutes our wealth has ito be protectedas at traverses thousands of miles of sea and oceanfrom every quarter of the globe. Our necessary insistence upon the right of capture of private property at sea exposes British merchant ships to the danger of attack, not only by enemy’s war ships, but by converted armed merchantmen. The burden of responsibility laid upon the British Navy is heavy, and its weight increases year by year.
How true those words seem, when we remember that, at the latter end of 1917, and in 1918, 1,000,000 tons of British shipping were sunk per month by enemy submarines. Now I come to a quotation from a letter received by me no later than three days ago from one of the greatest Admirals of the British Navy at present in England. I cannot mention his name, but he wrote me as follows: -
You cannot bank on the air. The air is a very good adjunct to the fleet, but there is no chance of its replacing the value of a fleet for 100 years or more. What actually decides a war is the throttling of the trade. You cannot carry the trade of the world in aeroplanes, airships, &c, nor can you carry guns, ammunition, tanks, waggons, and all the paraphernalia of an army; consequently the trade and the army must, at any rate, for many yearsto come be carried in surface ships. These surface ships, when clear of the coasts, must be protected by surface ships, otherwise they will be sunk. Further, the merchant, in peace times, knowing that the trade is protected all over the world, is given confidence.
Without going further, I think honorable members will agree that the base of a nation’s success is its trade, and until the time comes when the trade of the Motherland can be carried in the air, we must have surface ships to carry, and surface ships to protect them. At the same time, air is going to play a great part. What is being done by other countries in regard to the air? Let us quietly and calmly look at the position to-day. I have gone to considerable trouble to get the exact figures, in order that, so far as I am concerned, a complete tale may be set down in Hansard. In the British Isles, when the war finished in November, 1918, there were 30,132 officers and 263,410 men, and 3,300 service planes. In 1923, up to a few weeks ago, these figures had been reduced to 3,071 officers, 27,499 men, and 371 planes. There are eight squadrons, which, taking twelve to the squadron, mean ninety-six planes, working with the Navy, and figures and statistics show that the naval air work performed in the British air service is far ahead of the service of any other Power. In the air industry in Great Britain there are 2,500 men employed.
Now let us take the figures relating to France. In November, 1918, France had 3,600 service planes, as compared with 1,260 this year up to a few weeks ago. These were comprised in thirty-two fighting squadrons and thirty-two bombing squadrons, and themen employed in the industry in France number 9,250, or 6,250 more than in England. Under the new programme recently announced by England and France, the number of planes in each country will be as follows : - France 2,180 service fighting machines, and the Motherland 575, the latter figure including the new squadrons recently promised by the Minister for the Air. My former statement, and also that of the British Admiral I quoted, about guns, ammunition, and so forth not being possible of carriage by aeroplanes, applies to armiesas a whole, though, as shown by a remarkable achievement at Iraq during a native disturbance a small Force may be transported by air. Reinforcements were absolutely necessary, and as the roads were impassable the only way of getting troops to the spot was by the air. Some 300 men, with Lewis guns and 30,000 rounds of ammunition, were carried in the air 65 miles in twentyfour hours, and quelled the disturbance. Unless this had been possible there would have been grave results.
Let us now turn to Japan, a country which, as honorable members’ know, I have recently visited. Before dealing with any figures, I wish, from my place in the House, to thank the Japanese Government and the heads of all Departments and Embassies for the reception given to me there. This reception, of course, was not given to me personally, but, I am quite sure, was tendered to me as a member of this Parliament. Opportunity was afforded me to see as much as possible; in other words, my eyes were not blinded. I am quite sure, however, that the Japanese Government and people “ were out “ to impress me; and they did impress me. During my visit as their guest to the Fleet, I saw the Air Force at work. I shall have another opportunity to deal with the naval side. At Yokosuka I saw the Hosho, the great Japanese air-plane carrier, and one of five that Japan will possess. The whole world is watching and wondering what this Hosho is like. Japan has also nearly finished the battle-cruiser Amagi, of 40,000 tons. The Renown is, I think, 26,500 tons. The Amagi is over SOO feet long, and has 100-ft. beam. She carries S-in. guns, and. travels at from 33 to 35 knots. Inside she can carry fifty fighting and bombing planes, which are hoisted to the deck by means of electric lifts. If Japan should be considered the potential enemy of Australia, as certain sections of our press would have us believe, then there is nothing to prevent her, at any moment from sending the Amagi or the Hosho or both, accompanied by her battle flagship Nagato to Australia, and if she does, who is going to stop her from hauling down our flag? These air planes could fly over Sydney Heads from 100 miles away, and Australia would be taken. I am putting the air position of Japan before honorable members because, in the press of Australia,’ that country is held up as the enemy we have to fear. If she is that enemy, then we ought to know tha facts and figures concerning her warlike preparations. Japan proposes to spend, between 1923 and 1927, £5,000,000 on her naval air services, and how is she going to spend that money? She is to do so in three ways - first, in the arming of new and old ships with aircraft ; second, in increasing the number of her aviators ; and third, in study and research in aeronautics and aeroplane making. I may say that in the Government circles of Japan the large amount of £5,000,000 is not considered enough in view of the huge strides made in aviation by other Powers. The naval air force of Japan has been organized by the Master of Sempil, the great British airman, and a number of aviators who distinguished themselves during the war; and I find that there is no foundation whatever for the opinion expressed from time to time that the Japanese have no “ air or engine sense.” The Japanese are not inferior to Australians or the British - they can fly all right. Their one fault, up to the present, is that they take too many risks. There are many instances of Japanese flying men looping the loop 300 or 400 feet from the ground, and, of course, a frequent result is the smashing of the machine, and the killing of the aviator. Apart from this, the Japanese will become equal to the British or ourselves in the air. I did not inquire into the matter of army aviation so fully as I did into that of naval aviation, but the Japanese are building up a great naval force. There are being established in several places naval air-stations, and a great aeroplane factory has been started, for turning out complete aeroplanes. This factory, up to the present, has not fully functioned, but I understand that several fine planes have been constructed, and the work is going on. The difficulty in regard to the construction of aeroplane engines is to discover the right alloys and to find out how to mix them. The Public Accounts Committee recently made careful inquiry with a view to ascertaining if aeroplane engines could be manufactured in Australia. The Committee was assured that the necessary alloys could be procured here, and that the only difficulty would be to know how to mix them. That problem could best be overcome by securing the services of the best men available in the Old Country. Japan surmounted it by engaging a Scotchman, a very able man, who was a constituent of mine at Wentworth, and who, while carrying on his work in that country, selected Australia as the best country in the world in which to live.
In addition to the Amagi, which will be launched shortly, Japan has the aeroplane carrier the Hosho, and also the Wakamiya, a very fine ship. Another vessel, the Shokaku, is now building, while the Akagi, under the terms of the treaty arising from the Washington Disarmament Conference, can be converted into an aeroplane carrier. In all, Japan will have five great ships suitable for carrying aeroplanes, and a couple of hundred planes could be conveyed to any desired place to operate in conjunction with her naval forces. I have been unable to obtain exact ‘figures relating to aircraft in the United States of America, but so far as the Navy is concerned, there are eighty-six fighting planes of the first line, and also 250 others of a miscellaneous nature. The United States of America navy has a unique invention in the shape of a great catapult, into which an aeroplane with an aviator and two observers is placed, and, no matter what the conditions of wind or weather may be, the plane, complete with three passengers, can be shot into the air as the warship proceeds on its course. The invention works perfectly. In addition to its ordinary activities, the United States of America has quite recently sanctioned the expenditure of $1,000,000 for experiments in night flying. As honorable members know, there is a constant service of civil machines carrying mails across America,, which is, perhaps, the most difficult flying ground in the world, because two series of great mountain ranges have to be negotiated. Night flying is a matter that should engage attention in Australia, and money will Shortly be required to be spent on experiments along these lines. The only other country I need mention is, perhaps, Russia, which has several very effective squadrons. From what we can gather from hearsay, we should be some-‘ what apprehensive as to the air strength of that country. I have been informed in letters from Great Britain, that the number of planes “planted” in Russia, either for herself, or for the use of countries adjoining her boundaries, is simply astonishing. I was unable to obtain other than hearsay particulars concerning Germany’s air strength. Italy is also maintaining small squadrons. It is most important to . remember Edison’s warning regarding the discovery of a secret acid, which is ‘rumoured to be manufactured in Germany, and one drop of which can destroy human life. If that is so, honorable members can readily appreciate the perilous position of the Motherland, situated but 18 miles distant from the coast of a continent peopled by nations ready to enter into death-grips with one another. One can easily imagine the terrific damage that a squadron of airmen could inflict upon London if they carried a supply of that deadly acid. Mr. Asquith recently said, quite truly, in the debate in the House of Commons on the subject of a naval base at Singapore, “ It may be all right but what will be the good of Singapore if the heart of the Empire is destroyed ? “ Lord Birkenhead followed in almost the same words. He said that the provision of eighteen more squadrons would bring the British Air Force only up to 575 machines as compared with 2,180 in France. Notwithstanding the millions that have already been spent on defence, much greater provision will have to be made. England does not look upon France as her enemy, but it cannot allow even a friend to outnumber it either in planes or warships. That is the position Australia occupies to-day as regards our nearest and greatest neighbour, Japan. We are friendly with Japan, and we wish to remain so, but we should not let Japan outpoint us in any branch of defence.
I hope honorable members, and the people of this country, will read the report that has just been laid on the table by the honorable member for. Oxley (Mr. Bayley), as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, on the air service. I do not know of any report of greater importance to Australia ever having been laid before Parliament. Each member of the Committee, which is representative of all parties, ably devoted his energy to grappling with the problem, and exhaustive inquiry was made as to how the service could be improved, and how the Committee could best advise the Government.
Honorable members seldom read reports of Committees, but I earnestly urge them to look at this document because it contains a wealth of information.
Sitting- suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
– The approved establishment for the permanent Air Force it? Australia is fifty-three officers and 300 airmen. That number has nearly been reached, the present strength being forty-nine officers and 296 airmen. They are a very keen, earnest body of men, and all of them have had considerable war-flying experience. Although the flying forces of Australia are necessarily very small at present, they form a nucleus which is capable of very rapid and considerable increase, and could handle a very large force if necessary. It is -estimated that in Australia to-day there are 500 pilots with war- experience who, under the provisions of this Bill, will come under the Citizen Forces, and be a very valuable reserve in time of trouble.
A curious position arises in regard to our machines and equipment. We have actually twenty-seven aeroplanes in commission. Twenty-four more could be got ready in one month, and another 128 in a further four months, provided sufficient personnel was supplied for the purpose. This would make a total of 179 planes. Where have those planes come from? Few people in Australia to-day realize the extent of the generosity of the British Government in presenting Australia with £1,000,000 worth of machines and equipment. I refer honorable members to page 8 of the report tabled by the Public Accounts Committee, where the nature of the gift is explained. It say si -
On the termination of the war, the Imperial Government generously presented to the Commonwealth aerial equipment comprising 128 aeroplanes of various types, their appropriate engines, mechanical transport of various kinds, and a very large assortment of spares, stores, tools, workshop machinery, and accessories of all descriptions, to the value of £1,000,000. The number of aeroplanes so presented was for the proposed equipment of four service squadrons and one training squadron - 100 machines - .together with the replacement of twenty-eight machines which had been donated during the war by various citizens and patriotic bodies in Australia. This vast quantity of material, comprising approximately 19,000 cases - many weighing 2 or 3 tons each - although it arrived over a period of twelve months, presented a problem in storage! At present all equipment, excepting ammunition and bombs, is housed either in the wheat sheds at Spotswood or in hangars and buildings at Point Cook, but in neither case is the accommodation satisfactory. The wheat sheds at Spotswood, which involve an expenditure of £S00 per annum, are merely temporary structures of timber and iron with malthoid roofing. The sum of £160 is now being” spent on each shed to make the roofs rainproof. These sheds are stated to have been “the only suitable storage space around Melbourne available for the purpose.
– And very poor they were.
– The roofs are in such a bad state that all the cases are gradually being soaked, and we do not know the state of their contents. The report proceeds: -
There are no1 mechanical facilities, all cases having to be man-handled into position.
It is expected that the equipment will remain in store until .the - proposed aircraft depot at Laverton is ready to receive it. Whilst remaining in the cases the machines are not only deteriorating, but both engines and machines are becoming obsolescent, although similar machines are still being used in England. This matter is one of serious concern to the Air Force authorities. Technical modifications of aircraft and engines designed to insure greater safety and efficiency are issued from time to time. Many of these modifications would have to be incorporated in the machines in store before they could be used. But neither the personnel nor tale hangars are available for this work, and the necessary general overhaul to be effectively and economically carried out.
If the machines were capable of being reconditioned to make them serviceable, and we were to put them into commission, we should have 179 aeroplanes. That would be a very fine force which, in the event of Australia being attacked from- the air, would, be able to give a good account of itself. We also have six Farey seaplanes, but they cannot be used because the Australian Government has been advised by the British authorities that certain alterations should be made in them before they are put into commission. Before those planes were obtained, I directed question after question to the Right Honorable Sir Joseph Cook, who was then, I think, Minister for the Navy. I know a lot about them. They are not bad machines, but the British Government did quite right in advising, us not to use them until the alterations had been made. Why should we not make the modifications, and hand the machines over to the Navy for use’! Rear-Admiral Sir Alan Everett, the head of our Naval Force, has very decided opinions about the use of seaplane’s for the Navy. At present he has no seaplanes to use with the Australian Navy, and it is about time he had.
What part has the Commonwealth Government taken ‘ in providing for air defence? If honorable members will look again at the report of the Public Accounts Committee, they will see three or four tables setting out the amounts advanced by the Government to encourage aviation in Australia. All must admit that the Government has been very liberal. I do not wish to quote the whole 1 of the figures, but I have summarized them so that honorable members may see more readily what’ has been done. The following table sets out the position : -
The total money not spent has amounted to £726,851. It can never be said of the Government that it did not make the money available. There are reasons why the money was not spent, and they are stated in the report.
The present Air Force would be useless against a hostile attack. If we regard Japan as a potential enemy we should consider her equipment. One of her ships, either the Hosho or Amagi, could bring fifty planes to Australia, and we would bo helpless to defend ourselves. These ships could carry 8-inch guns, whereas, excluding the equipment of the Australia, we have no 8-inch guns in the Australian Navy. That is the position, and it requires some consideration. If we had our full complement of 179 machines, with full supplies of ammunition, bombs, aerial torpedoes, Sec., the proposition would be different. That raises the very’ important point made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), as to whether, if we increase the nucleus to meet our needs in personnel and machines, we should not use the pilots for civil or commercial aviation.- The arguments both ways are of equal weight.
It is bad to take pilots from the intensive training that is necessary to fit them for the purpose of defence, but, on the other hand, it seems a pity to keep a large body of officers and men for defence, and not use them for civil purposes. Naturally the Air Force authorities do not want the men to be used for anything but defence; but I think that in the case of a large force we might lend a few of the men to fly over the routes around the coast. It would extend their knowledge of the country, and if the Force was up to its full complement, would not do any harm to it.
Another question raised by the Naval Department is that of mobile antiaircraft guns. It was stated in the House of Commons by Colonel Moore-Brabazon that these guns were useful only for making a loud noise. He was -to a certain extent right, and to a certain extent wrong. When I was at Dover, and on the Belgian coast, I saw anti-aircraft guns doing effective work. They were putting shrapnel above, below, ahead, and astern of the machines. Some of the machines flew right through the barrage, but others did not get through it. These mobile batteries are mounted on big platforms, and can be moved quickly from place to place. The Naval authorities think it is necessary to have such batteries at Sydney Heads and Queenscliff. That is a matter for consideration. It is’ essential that we should provide the Navy with modern seaplanes, so that the ships can become accustomed to working . with the planes and the planes with the ships. One objection is that our light cruisers are not built to carry planes. We have not the American catapult, and to put the’ planes on the foredeck of light cruisers would not give sufficient room * and would necessitate the removal of the fore armaments.
Civil aviation is a most important branch of the service. ‘ It is to the Air Force what the mercantile marine is to the Navy. Without it the Air Force cannot exist. Civil aviation in Australia, with the liberal subsidies provided by the Government, is progressing well. The venture that seems to stand out conspicuously is the service between Geraldton and Derby, in Western Australia. In the surcharge for mail matter, the Government, in one period of six months, received £258 from the public, and in the last nine months, .£1,197.
On each letter carried by this air service there is 3d. surcharge. The aviators of the air service in Western Australia, up to about a week ago, had flown nearly 180,000 miles - 2,400 miles per round trip - with almost clock-like regularity. The service carried over 200,000 letters, numerous passengers, and, what might be called, urgent freight up to a great weight. Last, but not least, it saved a number of. human lives. In one case a surgeon was carried from Perth to a point 1,000 miles distant to perform an operation, and he was back in his chambers at Perth the next night. These planes in the last eighteen months have made only one deviation from the time-table,’ and that was during a cyclone. It is very amusing to read the log of the aviator concerned. There is no doubt that these aviators, to use a war term, are “ dead tricks.” The list of cargoes carried by these aeroplanes makes very amusing reading. It includes the carriage of a surgeon, a brood of clucky fowls, a. set of false teeth for return to the owner, an axle of a Buick cai- for an exploring party, and last, but not least, a bride’s trousseau. What impresses me more than anything else are the testimonials that have been handed in by the mayors of municipalities, clerks of district councils, and others throughout the whole of the aviation route, in which they thank the Government for maintaining the air service, stating that it is of the greatest value to Western Australia, and that they have every- reliance in the aviators. The log I referred to just now reads as follows: -
Wallal-Hedland trip - Bumpiest ever experienced; Broome agent advises adverse conditions; subsequently unable to get in touch even by wireless. Postmaster-General advises telegraph lino down north of Wallal. Very black ahead. Eighty miles of rain. Duststorm over area 40 square miles at about 8,000 feet.
Cannot honorable members see this man flying through these conditions? Continuing -
At Geraldton head-wind 40 miles per hour; necessary to place chooks behind wheels (instead of in front) for running up -engine. Flew to 16,000 feet to avoid violent head-wind.
In eighteen months those men have made only one deviation from their time-table. They are approaching the Minister for
Defence to ask the Government to consider the extension of the air service to Perth. In view of the success of the service from Geraldton to Broome, why not allow them to try this extension? I have testimonials, supplied throughout the whole of. the route, showing that the flying service is very much appreciated. In one case it is stated that, before the service started, it took less time to write a letter to London, and get a reply, than to send a letter from Perth to Geraldton or Broome. In another case a business man of the north of. Western Australia received an urgent wire from London requesting at once his attendance there on account of ‘very important business. By utilizing the air service, he was able to step on to the gangway of a mail steamer at Fremantle just prior to its departure, and to arrive in London on time. Other passengers have supplied similar testimonials. I understand that the company are paying an 8 per cent, dividend. Concerning the suggested extension to Perth, it might be interesting to honorable members to hear that the distance from Geraldton to Perth by rail is 330 miles, the travelling time being from seventeen to twenty-five hours. By air, from Geraldton to Perth the distance is 270 miles and is covered in three and a half hours, so that the saving of time is very substantial.
I admire the small company at Longroach, Queensland. It is composed, without question, of enthusiasts. One never hears of them, ‘but they are carrying on a great work. The other day an accident to a machine greatly handicapped them, but they are still carrying on. They are quite satisfied that the undertaking will be a great success. Again, in that case, the testimonials received are most encouraging. As to the service from Adelaide to Brisbane, the Larkin-Sopwith Company have not yet started, although they have made three attempts to do so. The main trouble has been to get the necessary machinery and to obtain the requisite capital from the public. Thoughout the whole of Australia, commercial aviation activities are up against the first-mentioned difficulty.
France, England, and America are increasing the number of their machines, in some cases by hundreds, and in others by thousands. The factories are turning out vast quantities of war machines. and Australia will certainly be the last on the list for supplies. The companies out. here are up against -the machine shortage, but they are still carrying on, hanging on, so to speak, by “ the skin of their teeth” for supplies of machines. The practice has . been to grant subsidies for commercial services. In this connexion, I refer honorable members to pages 15 and 16 of the Public Accounts Committee’s report on Air Services. The Committee inquired very closely into this matter, and majority and minority reports were supplied. Iti a few words, the difference between the two sections of the Committee is this: The minority say, “ Away with the contractor;” the majority say, “ No; give a longer term.” A Committee appointed in London supplied a report which has been adopted by the British Government. It confirms the majority report of the Public Accounts Committee, which reads -
The present system of inviting tenders for proposed services over approved routes, and requiring the tenderers to indicate the amount of subsidy expected, is regarded by the Committee as the best means of affording assistance at this stage. Current contracts are for a period of twelve months. A longer period would, it is considered, be .more encouraging to contractors and would offer greater inducements to them to extend their activities. The Committee recognises that the effective spending of Government subsidies cannot be secured in any undertaking unless the recipients themselves are prepared to risk their own resources, and make every endeavour to become self-supporting. The evidence throughout was emphatically in favour of the conduct of subsidized aerial services by private enterprise.
When I read the report of the British Committee, honorable members will agree that its contents might have been included in our own Committee’s majority report, since the recommendations are practically the same. The minority report of the Public Accounts Committee reads -
We are of opinion that, as the Commonwealth Government maintains at considerable expense a Civil Aviation Department, surveys all mail routes, purchases or leases landing grounds, and pays large subsidies to contractors, aerial services should be carried out by the Government and the contractor eliminated.
I shall now quote the British report. Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State for Air, has lost no time in grappling with the complex problem of civil aviation. The Committee he appointed to inquire into
Government financial assistance to . civil air transport companies has now made its report. Briefly, it urges the scrapping of subsidized civil aviation as we know it, and its re-establishment on a wholly new basis. Sir Samuel Hoare wanted a business view of the matter, and he went to business men to get it. His Committee consisted of Sir Herbert Rambling (chairman), the deputy-chairman of Barclays Bank, Sir Joseph Broodbank, lately an official of the Port of London authority, and Mr. Oliver J. G. Hoare, manager of Cox’s Bank. The report reads -
The Committee recommends the creation of a new commercial organization run entirely on business lines, with a privileged position with regard to air transport subsidies, on terms and conditions to be denned later. “We consider that it would be impossible to bring such an organization into existence on the security of subsidies granted only for the short period of three or five years, and that a bolder policy of guaranteeing a total subsidy of a stated amount, spread over a period of ten years, should be faced, and in our deliberate opinion that is the only sound policy that is likely to meet with success. An essential condition, however, to such a proposal is that the company should have large resources of its own, so that in the expenditure of capital on operational experiment . and on the development of new and extended routes the company is primarily risking its own resources.”
The proposals of the Committee include the following: -
The company should ‘ have a capital of £1,000,000 (of which at first £500,000 should be subscribed), with the right to the Government of nominating one or two directors, and the whole of the subscribed capital should have been guaranteed before the Government commenced to subsidize the company. -
The Government should guarantee a subsidy (spread over the period of ten years, but not in equal annual instalments) of such an amount as will enable a financial group to raise the share capital, and in our opinion such subsidy will not be less than £1,000,000; conditions must be attached to the payment of the subsidy requiring the company to perform services in connexion with the operation and development of commercial air transport.
The Government should not exercise any direct control over the activities of the company, other than by the appointment of directors, except for the purpose of such checking as may be necessary to determine the amount of subsidy payable and except for such control as may from time to time be exercised by the Government through the Civil Aviation Department over all civil flying in the country.
There should be an agreement between the Government and the company that in the event of war, or of the imminence of hostilities, the Government would have the right to take over all aircraft engines and plant on conditions to be laid down.
The Committee recognises that a large sum of money must be expended on operational research during the next few years.
These words are almost identical with the majority report of the Public Accounts Committee to this Parliament. That Committee recommended practically intensive research in aeronautics by the establishment of a parent Government factory and Government assistance to private firms in the supply of necessary tools, advice, &c, so that in the event of hostilities the great machine could be ready for use at a moment’s notice. It is an encouragement to the members of our Committee thatsuch a report should have been made, and that the Home Government has adopted it. My main point is, that instead of having three companies as at present, we should have one. Let all the companies get together. If that is done, the people of Australia, having seen the success of the company in Western Australia, will take the matter up, especially if there is a substantial subsidy from the Government for ten years. That will not mean much. To do that will not’ involve more expense than the Government already incurs. Our subsidies today amount to between £64,000 and £67,000. The proposal adopted by. the British Government is that there shall be an annual subsidy of’ £100,000. Our Government should give the companies a longer subsidized period. That is all they are asking. The opportunities for aviation are greater in Australia than in the British Isles, because we have fewer railway facilities and an enormous area of country. Knowing that there is a wider field, and that success has been achieved in Western Australia, the companies will readily take advantage of these opportunities. This Bill marks a notch in the progress of aviation in Australia. I congratulate the Government on its introduction. It will cause contentment in the Air Force, because the men will feel that they are on a permanent basis. At present only Duntroon -graduates and men loaned from the Naval and Military departments can secure a permanent place in the force. It is high time that a sense of permanence was imparted to the service. Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State for Air, recently extended a welcome to England to Australian aviators who desired to join the British Air Force, and he referred to the great expansion in British aviation activities.
We shall lose our good men unless we improve their status. The prospects are much better on the other side. This Bill will not only remove discontent, but will remedy a number of defects in the conditions of service. Clause 95 provides that annuities or gratuities shall be paid to men who are permanently incapacitated, and also to men who retire through age or infirmity. Clause 94 provides that provision shall be made for the widow and family of a man who is killed on active service or whilst on duty’ Provision is also made for the payment of pensions if a man’s death or incapacity occurs through wounds or disease contracted on war service or on duty. This service is dangerous. The men continually take risks, and it will be a satisfaction to them to realize that, whatever happens while they are on duty, their wives and families, or other dependants, will not be left in want. Much comment has been caused by clause 45. I do not care a jot whether it remains in or goes out of the Bill, because provision is made in the Constitution for the circumstances which the clause seeks to meet. Section 119 of ,the Constitution Act reads -
The Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion, and, on the application of the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence.
Those are practically the words that we have in the Bill before us. There is, however, an addendum to the constitutional provision, which may make the clause in the Bill ultra vires. That is a point to which the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) might direct his attention. It is inconceivable that any Government would wilfully send bombing ‘planes over towns where women and children are living. [Extension of time granted.] At Broome there are between 2,000 and 3,000 Asiatics. If a cry for help came from the town our only means of sending succour would be by air. It does not really matter whether clause 45 in the Bill is retained or removed, since the Government would still have power to send the machines out to quell a disturbance.
The Leader of the Opposition discussed the general question of war. No honorable member wants any more war. We have had more than enough. Personally, when referring to the Great War of 1914, I never used the phrase “ This war is being fought to end war.” I did not think it was being fought for that purpose. It was fought in observance of a rigid contract to protect Belgium. War is an awful thing, but we must take steps to defend our country. One has only to look around the world and notice what is going on to reach that conclusion. Australia must do her share to assist the Motherland. I shall not now touch on naval affairs, because there will be another opportunity to do so. From an aviation viewpoint, however, we should have a seaplane base in the Northern Territory for defence purposes. Planes at that base could be of great service to Singapore if assistance were needed. There is not a great, stretch of water to be crossed. Our civil aviation must be extended, because’ that would help in the defence of the country. While I was at Tokio I learned of a suggestion made by our Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that a meeting of the Pan-Pacific Powers should be convened to consider whether further steps could be taken to limit the mad rush in armaments. I suggest that the Prime Minister should repeat his proposal. Another Washington Conference is needed. The ‘ mad race in respect of aviation is not about to start; it has already started. A country has only to centre its attention on its first line of defence, whether that line be battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, or aircraft, and other countries will join in the race. The Washing-, ton Conference did not deal with aviation. All it did was to say that light cruisers should not exceed 10,000 tons,, and that the guns should not be larger than 8 inch. Any country is free to build hundreds of cruisers so long as they are not above the stated tonnage, and do not carry guns larger than those specified. J apan, France, and other Powers are” going to the limit in aviation. I ask where all this will end. It is urgently necessary that some person in authority, such as the Prime Minister, should move to organize another Conference on the lines of that held at Washington, so that the whole question could be considered with a view to limitation of expenditure and activity. I also suggest that it is no use having a £1,000,000 gift, such as that of the Imperial aircraft, lying idle. Let something be done with it. I advise also that the Prime Minister, and those who will go to London with him, should be prepared to discuss the question of airships. Pro-“ vision has been made on the agenda-paper for such a debate at the instance of the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Samuel Hoare. We should realize the importance of airships as a means of maintaining communication with various parts of the Empire. They may be used for protection and for patrolling, and may become a valuable factor in maintaining a closer association of Australia -with the Motherland. This is important. It has been discussed in this House by the right honorable member for. North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and we are all more or less in agreement upon the subject. Finance is the stumbling block. I congratulate the Government on bringing down this Bill. It means a great advance in aviation in Australia.
.- The very alarming speech just delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth’ (Mr. Marks) causes one to wonder whether - we derived any benefit from the late war,
House of Parliament, advocating that Australia should use every means in its power to bring into existence an armed force to fight Japan.”
– The honorable member is very unfair. That is not what the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said.
– It undoubtedly is a fact that the honorable member for Wentworth has been to Japan recently. He has admitted that he was treated well by the Japanese people. He was shown over their .warships. He now comes to this House and makes an alarmist speech dealing largely with Japan. I cannot draw from his speech ‘ any other conclusion.
It sounded strange to me to hear the honorable member, in the early part of his speech, say that he was pleased to hear the statement of the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the Labour party was in favour of defence. Apparently that statement caused surprise to the honorable member. I would remind him, however, that we, on this side, are just as good Australians as are those who sit opposite. The honorable member’s remark hurt me; it was an insinuation that the Labour party does not stand for the defence of its country. Distrust such as that exhibited by the honorable member is very largely responsible for the dissatisfaction that is felt by a large section of the people whom we represent. There are authorities on this subject other than the honorable member.
– I do not pose as an authority on these matters. The honorable member does. I shall quote authorities to show that the great battleships which the honorable member recommends that Australia should waste its substance in purchasing-
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member’s statement amounted to that. He pointed out that the Japanese were building three enormous battleships. What did he mean by that reference? Did he not wish honorable members to infer that that arm of the service was a danger to Australia, and that, consequently, Australia should take action to counteract what Japan was doing? It is well known that half the revenue of Japan is being spent in this wild race - I think the honorable member used that expression - for naval supremacy.
– Was being spent.
– The honorable member told us a few minutes ago that Japan was building at an enormous rate. The impression was not leftin the minds of honorable members that any slackening had taken place. There are several authorities in the world to-day who claim that the air force is the force of the future. That is the force to which the Government are paying so much attention in this Bill. I agree with that contention, and I see in it a means by which this country will be able to spend the biggest part of its revenue upon development, instead of making itself bankrupt by indulging in naval architecture.
I am in favour of the greatest attention being devoted to the buildingup of an air force, and am firmly im pressed with its absolute necessity, but there are certain objectionable features in this measure to which we are in duty bound to call attention. . We, in Australia, are a democratic people. We hope, ultimately, to see war abolished. It is our bounden duty to make militarism as democratic as possible. If the workers throughout Australia are satisfied that our defence measures will hot be used against them when they are fighting to uphold their industrial rights, they and the members of this party will wholeheartedly support those measures to make possible the defence of our homeland. The objectionable features of this measure have been outlined by the Leader of the Opposition, who cited particularly the clause which gives power to call on the forces to deal with an industrial trouble. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) was a witness of a regrettable incident that occurred some time ago on the Fremantle Wharf when the wharf lumpers were out onstrike. The Acting Premier of the State went by boat down the river to check a little trouble that had’ occurred on the wharf. Troubles of that nature have not our sympathy. We regret their occurrence, because we recognise that they have a boomerang effecton our movement. We know that, in heated moments, men do things which, in their quieter moments they regret. After the Riot Act had been read, some of the men commenced to throw missiles at the police. The police had fixed bayonets, and in the mix-up one man received wounds, from which he died. I shall never forget the feeling that was created when it was learned that that man had died.. In order to prevent further trouble the Acting Premier hoisted a white handkerchief. For that action he was blamed by several of the captains of industry in Fremantle; but there . is no doubt that it prevented a great deal of bloodshed. He and his followers left the wharf, and proceeded up the river in their boat. Had they not retired there would have been bloodshed, and the feeling which would have been engendered would never have died down. Whatever else we do, let it never be said that we go out to shed one another’s blood. Nothing that could happen in Australia would justify that. During the seventy or eighty years of our industrial progress in Australia we have not had any trouble - with the exception of that at Eureka - which it has not been possible to settle by the presence of a policeman or two. When they reach a calm frame of mind the men on both sides ‘are invariably prepared to adopt a reasonable attitude. I trust that the Ministry will alter those portions of the Bill which are deemed to be objectionable.
We come now to the great question of naval expenditure. If the Great War has not taught us a better lesson than to indulge in large expenditure for further war, God help us as a nation. There are authorities ‘ who adopt a view differing from that of the honorable member for Wentworth. Last month an article appeared in McClure’s Magazine, from . the pen of Rear- Admiral W. F. Fullam, who was in charge of the American Fleet in the Pacific during the war, and should be able to speak on this question with some authority. His article is entitled “ The Passing of Sea Power. ‘ In order to substantiate his views he cites the opinions of Rear-Admiral Bradley A. Fiske (United States Navy), Admiral Sims (United States Navy), Admiral Sir Percy Scott (Royal Navy), Admiral Sir John Fisher ‘ (Royal Navy)., Rear- Admiral S. S. Hall ‘(Royal Navy), ViceAdmiral Mark Kerr (Royal Navy), Admiral Lord Wester Wemyss, who was First Lord of the Admiralty after the war, Lord Sydenham; and, last but not least. Admiral von Scheer, who commanded the German Fleet at the battle of Jutland, and put up a good “ scrap ‘’ against the British Navy. Rear- Admiral Fullam sets out to* prove that sea power, as a power in itself, is passing.; that the arm of the future is an air force. Without more ado I shall read one or two extracts from the article, because no words of mine could drive home the truth better than the manner in which he presents it. He says -
The wings of “ Sea Power “ have been clipped. New naval weapons have vastly strengthened the defence and greatly weakened the offense in overseas warfare. Great armadas and armies cannot again cross the seas. Force cannot, as in the past, be carried over the oceans.
With the sea as a buffer, weak nations can defy the strong. A puny power, without a navy, can challenge the strongest battle fleet. It can, with intelligent energy, make its coast impregnable against a hundred Dreadnoughts. With an impenetrable barrage of mines, air forces, torpedoes, and submarines, it can easily hold a maritime enemy one hundred miles from its shores.
The freedom of the seas is in many respects near realization. Aggression, expressed in ships, is chained to the beach.
He says further -
Inter-Continental war will be well-nigh impossible in future. The weak will not bow to the strong from overseas.. No one nation can rule the waves ‘hereafter. The greatest fighting navy may inspire no fear. A hostile coast can scorn its power. Its guns cannot reach the target. They are like ancient weapons in a modern agc. A dreadnought fleet on an enemy’s coast is .like Don Quixote fighting windmills with a .lance.
He quotes from Rear-Admiral Bradley A. Fiske, who declared, in 1911, that -
A strong force of air-planes supported by mines and submarines would alone suffice to defend the Philippines from invasion. Fortifications were not needed. A defending fleet of battleships was quite unnecessary.
He says that Admiral Fiske was right twelve years’ ago in making that statement, and he is right to-day. He further says that, in 1914, Admiral Sir Percy Scott, of the British Navy, in a letter to the London Times, declared -
First, that modern weapons have entirely revolutionized naval warfare. Second, that if we were at war with a country within striking distance of submarines, battleships on the high seas would be in ‘great danger. Third, that if we went to war, we should probably lock up our ships in a safe harbor, and the enemy would do the same. Fourth, that no fleet could be hidden from the airman’s eyes. Fifth, that submarines could deliver a. deadly attack in broad daylight. Sixth, that battleships could not bombard an enemy’s port if it is protected toy submarines. Seventh, that the enemy submarines would come to our coast and destroy everything they could. Eighth, that the submarine had driven the battleship from the ocean.
Roar- Admiral Fullam points out that these opinions of Admiral Scott were advanced nine years ago before air forces were fully developed, and before heavy bombs and torpedo planes had been tried against ships of war, and the advent of these weapons greatly strengthens his argument. He further writes -
Admiral Sir John Fisher supported Admiral Scott. He declared that the dreadnought was doomed. “ Scrap the lot; the future fighting is in the air,” he claimed. And these two admirals, Fisher and Scott, had done more tuan any men in the world ‘to develop the dreadnought.
He says that, summing up his impeachment of the battleship, Sir Percy Scott says -
You must admit that, in the war, we were nearly forced to submission toy starvation. Sou must admit that the German battleships played no part in reducing us to a state of starvation. You must admit that if our battleship superiority had been double what it was, it could not have protected us from starvation. You must admit that the dominant arm of the war was the submarine. You must admit that pur belief before the war that the submarine. :was only a toy resulted in our coming to the brink of losing the war.
He quotes another authority, RearAdmiral S. S. Hall, of the British Navy, who states -
We had a grand fleet, with a preponderance of nearly two to one over Germany alone, and an auxiliary navy of about five thousand vessels. We had the assistance ,of the American, French, Italian, and Japanese navies. We held the most favorable geographical position, for a naval war, that the atlas can. furnish. And yet our main naval purpose - the protection of our trade - could not be carried out. These are the plain sod facts of our naval experience in the last war. In view of the failure of the Navy - under the most favorable conditions, with many Allies^- to protect our. trade in the last war, has it any hope of doing, so on its existing basis under less favorable conditions? Can it even protect the lines of communication of our battle fleet, if the latter is required to fight out of home waters ? Will the advent of aircraft make the position easier?
He goes on to quote what Admiral Sims of the American Navy had to say when he went to London in 1917, and reported that the English Navy did not control the sea, and that the Germans were winning the war despite the grand fleet. “ We can’t go on like this much longer,” Admiral Jellicoe told Sims, and after two years’ experience and observation in the world’s war, and after the bombing of the German ships by our Air Forces, Admiral Sims made the following statement: -
There will never again be in naval history one of the Simon-pure naval expeditions carried across the sea to an enemy’s port, the defeat of an enemy’s fleet, the establishment of an advanced base on his coast, and the pouring in of soldiers and supplies. This has been for ever rendered impossible, against any country that lias adequate air and submarine forces.
He quotes Vice-Admiral Mark Kerr, of the British Navy, saying : -
No nation would dare send a capital fleet three thousand miles across open water to fight an ‘enemy, lt is ten chances to one that it would be wiped out to the last bottom. Without a base it would be whittled away by the air and submarine forces of the enemy, without ever meeting the enemy’s grand fleet.
These are striking statements coming, as they do, from no less than seven or eight of the leading naval authorities of the leading powers, of the world. RearAdmiral Fullam quotes Admiral Kerr further, as saying: -
As blockading by big ships has been shown to be impossible in the face of modern flotillas, it would appear that there is no use for the battleship where the bases are far apart. Battle-fleets are only of use in certain geographic divisions, where the bases are not far apart. They are of no use for wars in which the combatant countries, are separated by thousands of miles of ocean.
He then mentions the fact that Lord Sydenham, a distinguished British statesman, agrees Avith Admiral Sims and Admiral Kerr, in the following letter to an Admiral of the American Navy : -
You can’t now employ a large battlefleet in an enemy’s near waters if he possesses. a smaller fleet in good order and effective. Japan is a case in point. You, the United States,’ and we, Great Britain, can do nothing against Japan separately, and not much more if we were allied. ,1 am sure you will come to this conclusion.
The next passage in this letter has some interest for us in Australia -
Per contra Japan, and obviously no other Power can do anything in American home waters, even if your fleet were only as the High Seas Fleet compared to the Grand Fleet. Submarines, minefields, and the air have conferred new powers on a fleet in its own waters, and with the resources of a great nation behind it. That is what so many pundits have missed. It carries far.
Rear-Admiral Fullam further says-
A well-known English writer declares, “ No great army can be carried across the .ocean against a fleet of submarines. Australia and New Zealand are absolutely secure against attack. Given enough submarines, the United States is now a distinct and impregnable military unit, and so7 is the Old World. tie. then quotes from Admiral von Scheer, whose opinion should have special interest for us because he gives the German point of view. Admiral von Scheer, prior to the Great War, stood, for the battleship, as the honorable member for Wentworth does to-day, but Rear-Admiral Fullam says that the recent perfection of bombing and torpedo planes in the attack “on surface vessels has brought Admiral von Scheer to recognise a new era. Admiral von Scheer is quoted as saying -
Only recently experiments made in America have made it clear that a battleship may be sunk by air planes. Even though the chance of such successes would be lessened in the case of ships under way, and though the factor’ of defence did not enter into these experiments, it cannot be. denied that the prospects are favorable to the air plane - since an attacking fleet cannot remain in motion permanently. It requires rest for the engines, time for the taking on board of munitions, fuel, and supplies. It must dock for repairs, lie at anchor, and it is then that the opportunity for air attack presents itself. The danger involved in being struck by a 2,000-pound bomb from the sky also exists in the mines and torpedoes which threaten the battleship. It is thus exposed to dangers beneath the waters, and from the air, and it has no absolute security against these. Swift cruisers, the eyes of the fleet, are threatened in a still greater degree, since, in view of their high speed, they must be content with weaker armaments. The air plane is swifter, its eyes see farther, it cannot be so easily pushed aside or into a corner. And thus it may be said to furnish better service than a large and expensive battleship.
Rear-Admiral Fullam has much more to say in his article, but I will content myseif now with his summing-up, which is as follows : -
Reviewing the subject briefly, we may say : - First, a battle fleet cannot carry an attack across the ocean; second, a great army cannot be sent oversea; third, a base 5,000. miles from home, surrounded by enemy bases, is no base at all.
I remind honorable members that we are over 5,000 miles from any enemy likely to attack us.
Fourth, submarines, air forces, mines, and torpedoes suffice to defend a coast. Fifth, seacoast forts are useless. Sixth, it is only by transporting overseas an overwhelming air force to seize and control the air that one continent can attack another. Seventh, each continent will control its own destiny if it arms itself with modern weapons.
That is what we look for in Australia, and I think that I can see daylight in providing such modern weapons. The future for Australia must look black if we are to expend the greater part of our revenue in the purchase of battleships, when a modern battleship costs no less than £7,000,000. A modern battleplane is estimated to cost £2,500, so that for the cost of one. battleship Australia might have 2,800 modern battleplanes. Judging by what I have read, and from the opinions of the authorities I have quoted, it is clear that for the expenditure of a comparatively small amount of money Australia might be made immune from attack by even the most powerful naval force in the world. I was recently in conversation with an authority upon air forces in Singapore. To quote this gentleman’s own words, he said -
Britain is scared stiff, not of Germany, but of France, her present Ally. It is because of that fact that France is not paying the interest on her debts to Britain, but is spending the money on battleplanes.
The honorable member for Wentworth quoted interesting figures which I also have found in a publication called Flight. This publication pointed out that in May , 1922, Britain had 371 battleplanes, whilst France had 1,260. Great Britain could provide only thirty-one air squadrons, whilst France could provide 105. In its defence scheme to make provision up to 1925, Great Britain has proposed an increase in the number of battleplanes to. 575, which is an increase of 204. On the other hand, France proposes to increase her fleet to 2,180 planes, or 182 squadrons, as against forty-nine squadrons proposed by Great Britain. The authority whom I met at Singapore said that all the aircraft guns, all the aircraft in England to-day, and all the great warships of Great Britain would not prevail for one moment against the battleplanes of France should that country decide to employ them against Britain, and that by using the bombs which it is well known the nations of the world can make use of to-day, and the acid to which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks)’ has referred, France could crush her present ally in twenty-four hours. I do not wish to be regarded as an alarmist, but, according to some authorities whose opinions must be regarded as carrying weight, Great Britain’s object should be to come to an agreement with her gallant ally for the restriction of air forces.
Let me point out the position of Germany. At the conclusion of peacea Commission of British and French Air Force officers proceeded to Germany for the purpose of dismantling all German warpianes and insuring that Germany no longer manufactured anything that could be regarded as battleplanes. The manufacture of German aeroplanes is now restricted to planes for commercial purposes, with the result that Germany has made wonderful progress in producing commercial* aeroplanes, while her late enemies have been interested in other directions. The machines commonly used for commercial aviation in Australia are presumably of the type employedon the Geraldton-Derby air service in Western Australia. These are fitted with 240- horse-powerSiddeley-Pumaengines, and they each carry over the journey of 1,000 miles two passengers, besides the pilot, or 395 lbs. of mail matter without passengers. They are built of wood and fabric. The Germans have now constructed an all-metal aeroplane. They are the only people, I am told, who have yet succeeded in making an all-metal aeroplane. . It is made of a mixture of aluminium and steel, which is called duralumin. I am exceedingly interested in this development, because, when I recently applied to the Department of the Postmaster-General for ah extension of the Geraldton-Derby air mail service to Wyndham, an additional 400 miles as the crow flies, I was told that the Government were meeting with considerable difficulty in using aeroplanes in the tropical portions of Australia. When they have been used in Papua, the glue has become so moistened, and the wood has become so affected, that the planes have fallen to pieces. I do not suppose we could buy aeroplanes from Germany at the present time, but, later, we may be in a position to become possessed of allmetal aeroplanes. It is pleasing to note that Great Britain is now engaged in experimenting in the manufacture of all-metal planes, and I trust that, as soon as they are produced in British factories, our Government! will import machines of. that type to do the work we require of them. The German aeroplanes are restricted to the use of engines of 185 h.p., which is 55 h.p.. below those fitted in the planes used on the GeraldtonDerby air service, but, whereas the latter can carry only two passengers and a pilot, the German planes carry six passengers. Thus they have two an’d a quarter times the carrying capacity of our planes, with a little more than three-quarters of the horse-power required to propel our machines.
We are told that the air service should be given an opportunity to develop. I trust that the Government will remove the objectionable features of this Bill, so that honorable members on this side of the House can help them to develop it, and so that it can never be said of us, if ever industrial trouble occurs, that we voted for a measure that provided that bombs could be used from aeroplanes against the workers participating in any such trouble. Men in the air are not under that control, which is exercised when a force of policemen is engaged in preserving the peace. In passing, let me pay a tribute to the police. When an industrial dispute occurs, they generally act with a great deal of discretion and tact, and because of this there has been no blood shed among ourselves in Australia. For this I thank God. If aeroplanes were used to suppress a disturbance during an industrial dispute, and a man in a plane, thinking the situation serious, was tempted to drop a bomb, the result might be so disastrous that the feeling engendered between different portions of the community would never vanish. That is what I fear, and therefore T appeal to the Government to enable us to make’ this an acceptable measure. Let us democratize it, and make it more in accordance with the Australian spirit. If that is done, ‘ and if the three objections raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) are met, honorable members of the Opposition and their supporters will see that’ a system of air defence is set up in Australia that will make this country secure against possible invasion.
.- At the outset I take exception . to the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), who, after congratulating the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) on his speech, said that many of the people outside who supported the Labour party were opposed to the defence of Australia. The honorable member has misrepresented the attitude of those who support honorable members of the Opposition. We believe in making a sane provision for the defence of Australia, but we object to the methods adopted by the honorable member for “Wentworth, and others. We object to the flag-wagging and the Imperialisticmilitarism in which they indulge. We have always opposed it, and shall continue to do . so. The honorable member has very tactfully raised the Japanese bogy. While telling us that he did not think Japan was a potential enemy of Australia, he proceeded to predict that fearful things would happen to this country if Japan were an enemy. I have never heard such calamity-howling in this House, as we heard from the honorable member to-night, when, for instance, he told us how one Japanese vessel could come here and compel us to haul down our flag. Such talk is in the greatest degree injurious, not only to the safety, but also’ to the fair name of Australia. The honorable member also told us that airships were not a good means of defence, and he quoted authorities to prove his assertion. To some extent I agree that from a purely defensive point of view, aerial warfare is not aseffective as other means may prove to be. As the war has proved, airships are essentially an aggressive weapon of warfare, and we must be careful, in providing for aerial defence, to see that the word “defence,” which is so often used to cover up aggressive action, is not so used on this occasion. We must not, as a young country, create the impression among the nations that we are in any way prepared to set up a large and effective air force, which may be used in a war of aggression in any part of the world as an adjunct to an Imperial aerial force. It is useless to say that such is not our intention in creating an air force. Every nation has, to its discredit, at some time, carried on an aggressive war, andit is not for us to say that Australia will never engage in one. If we follow a policy of feverish preparation for aerial warfare we shall be adopting a dangerous course”, which will help to disrupt the peace of the world and certainly will not promote the ideal of world-wide disarmament.
The proposed incorporation in this Bill of the British Army Act is a serious matter.
– The Bill merely says that the Imperial Air Force Act shall apply to the Australian Air Force when serving outside the Commonwealth.
– The Imperial Air Force Act incorporates the British Army. Act. All the pains and penalties imposed by the Army Act apply to the Imperial Air Force, and, therefore, in time of war will apply to the Australian Air Force serving outside the Commonwealth, if the proposal in this- Bill is agreed to. Thus Australia will become merely a cog in the Imperial machine. In that our danger lies. To-day there is the keenest competition between. Britain and France, in aerial defence, and military authorities in Britain are warning the public that in the air France is superior to Britain. I do not know why the Government have again brought forward this provision for incorporating the
Imperial Act. A similar provision was defeated in another place when the Bill was introduced on a former occasion, and one would naturally expect that the Government would not revive it. It may be assumed that even if this House were agreeable to this provision it would be again rejected in another place.
– It was agreed to in another place when presented a second time.
– If that is so, the party machine’ must have been brought into operation to prevent those who opposed this provision on the first occasion negativing it a second time. However, there are eleven new senators, who, I undertake to say, will vote against this clause.Some of the provisions of the British Army Act date back 300 years, to what might almost be called a barbarous and brutal age. Additions to it have been made from timeto time, but itis now so cumbersome thatI undertake to say the Minister in charge of this Billknows very little of its provisions. Certainly very few members have seen a copy of the Imperial Army Act, and in those circumstances its incorporation in an Australian Statute would be preposterous. I hope that when the Bill is in Committee the Government will agree to delete the clause which makes the Imperial Statute applicable in certain circumstances to the Australian Force.
The consensus of opinion of authoritative writers is that very few of the weapons used in the last war will be used in future warfare. One reads in the press of military authorities and scientists clamouring for a more efficient air force in preparation for future international conflicts, and it seems clear that those nations which adopt a vigorous aerial policy will be committing the same faults and errors that were committed by the nations that built up huge military and naval armaments prior to 1914. Therefore, Australia should be very careful in the steps it takes towards the creation of aerial armaments. I repeat that aeroplanes and airships are essentially, weapons of aggression, and cannot be regarded as defensive in the same sense as were armies and navies prior to the last great war. The main weapons of an aerial navy will be the deadly poison gases on which professors are to-day working at high pressure, prostituting their intelligence in order to conceive some hell-brew that will wipe out whole nations. The dissemination pf poison gases will be almost wholly confined to aggressive fighting, because, except in regard to ships, this medium cannot be employed very well for defensive purposes. I shall quote a few newspaper extracts to show how the world is preparing for future warfare, and in order to indicate to the House the danger into which we are drifting -
Brigadier-General Amos J. Fries, chief of the United States Chemical Warfare Service, says that in the next war men and women, children and babies, will be scientifically exterminated. Not only armies, but the inhabitants of the cities will be slaughtered. He says that gunpowder wall play but a small part pin the next war. Death-dealing gases will take its place. Airplanes will carry the gas, and they Will he able, in three hours, to discharge a sufficient quantity upon a city, the size of London, to destroy’ all life, human and animal, existing there.
America is understood to have exclusive possession of a formula for a gas known as the “ fog of death,” of which one writer says -
In .the war in the future the scientist sitting quietly in his laboratory will let loose what is known as the “ fog of death” - a poison gas more murderous than its predecessors. It will settle over huge areas, .poisoning the’ people like rats in their holes. Being heavier than air, it will sink through any opening in .the ground, however small. To breathe it will be like breathing flames. A breath or two will put a person out of action, and no known medium will be able to resist its power of penetration. Scientists estimate that once this gas is let loose a whole country can be made untenable within forty-eight hours. Animals and human beings alike .will cease to live. Life will vanish without a shot being fired.
Captain Bradner, Chief of Research of the United States of America Chemical Warfare Service, says -
One plane, carrying two tons of the liquid, could cover ;an area 100 feet wide by 7 miles long, and could deposit enough material to kill every man in that area, merely by action of the skin.
This is the view of a British expert, Colonel I. F. C. Fuller, Chief General Staff Officer of the British Tank Corps, and author of “ The Warfare of the Future “- “Many gases may be discovered which will penetrate all known gas armour. As there is no reason why one man should not be able to release 100 cylinders simultaneously, there is no reason why he should not release several millions. In fact, these might be released in England to-day electrically, by a one-armed cripple sitting in Kamschatka, directly his indicator denotes a favorable wind.” Could -anything more Satanic be conceived by the mind of man? “ Wars will no longer be declared, but, like a tropical tornado there will be a darkening of the sky and .then - .the flood . . . Attacks will be made against the civil population, in order to compel it to accept the will of the attacker. In the future there will be no protected non-combatants, and no civilians will be in safety.”
Another method of wholesale slaughter will be by what is called the “ killing ray “ - a species of radio-activity analogous to the X- ray, by which a single operator can spread .death over wide sweeps of territory in the fashion foretold by Bulwer Lytton in “The Coming’ Race.” Another method will be by the dissemination of .some new malignant disease germs, similar to the germ of influenza, which killed more people in 1918 than were war victims that year. These germs will be dropped from balloons or aircraft, or spread by such humble warriors .as the rat, the flea, and the “cootie.” “Elimination” is the slogan for the next war. No mess, no bother of patching up the poor broken bodies. .Just a literal “clean sweep “ and no trace left.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) referred to a gas which he understood to be a German invention, two or three drops of which on the skin would cause death. .As a matter of fact, it is an American discovery called “ Lewisite “-
More terrible still is the gas called “ Lewisite,” named after Professor Lee Lewis, and made from acetylene with a solution of arsenic trichloride. While it is not so persistent as mustard gas, the burns from it are more fatal, three drops on the skin being sufficient .to cause death. This gas is now .being made by hundreds, and even thousands, of tons .per month.”
The honorable member for Wentworth’ stated that this weapon would be useless on the sea, but the authority I am quoting says - t Nor will it be any safer on the seas than on the land. General Fries says: “At sea gases will be used, made by some sort of candle that will float. These will give off clouds of noxious vapour. Every human being in a ship must breathe every minute, and such as once having got into a. vessel’s ventilating system would speedily destroy all life aboard.”
Another extract which shows the tendency of modern science, as applied to war, is headed “ Frightfulness from the Skies,” and reads -
The aeroplane will add a fresh horror to warfare in the future, since it will be used to set fire to property over unlimited areas. “ Incendiaries,” or drop bombs composed of yellow phosphorus, carbon bisulphide, benzine, heavy oils, and T.N.T., which will take fire of their own accord on exposure to the air, will be used. The fire will spread alike over land or water. Thermit and ammonium nitrate, adding heat and extending the flames, will make the effect more devastating. These incendiary bombs will weigh 6i ounces, and, packed in containers holding about 300, one bombing plane will be capable of carrying about 15,000 of these destructive bombs which, when dropped, will fly in all directions.
We are also informed -
We now have the so-called mustard gases, which are one-third as heavier again as water, and volatilize far more slowly. They can be sprayed from an airplane by opening a tank and letting out only a few drops at a time. The speed of the flying machine will spray it, and in this way whole areas can be rendered deadly to marching troops or sailing fleets.
This- authority, when asked after the war if ifc would have been possible to wipe out the whole American army of 1,400,000 men in twenty-four hours with any of these gases, but more particularly with mustard gas or Lewisite, said that it could have been done in four hours. J
This measure will link the Australian Air Force up with the Imperialistic scheme, and it is useless to pretend that it will be used for defence only. All other countries in the world are engaged in the sumo business. We are preparing something for the future that is too horrible to contemplate.
– We are not preparing it.
– We are providing for aeroplanes and an Air Force. The accessories of aerial warfare will be obtained elsewhere. It is well known that scientists in the laboratories of all nations are feverishly engaged in research work in connexion with the manufacture of gases for aerial warfare.
Another principle in the Bill to which I object is the proposal to draft trainees under the compulsory system into the Air’ Force, which is admitted to be much more dangerous than any other arm of the service.
– They will not be called upon to fly. They will probably be engaged in the workshops.
– That being so, - 1 accept the principle. I am not going to delay the House much longer, but, with other honorable members on this side, I protest strongly against the proposal iri clause 45 to permit the use of the Air Force for the quelling of a domestic disturbance in any part . of the Commonwealth. When political feeling runs high, it will be possible for any Government to describe industrial trouble as a domestic disturbance, and authorize the use of bombing aeroplanes to restore order. One result of the war is the dislocation of industry in Australia, and considerable industrial unrest as the result of unemployment. Is clause 45 a threat against industrial organizations?
– Not at all.
– What is it then ?
– It is really a restriction, of a power for which the Constitution itself provides.
– The Bill ought to contain a clause specifically forbidding the use of the Air Force for such a purpose in. Australia, in any circumstances.
– Suppose we had a disturbance similar to that in South Africa recently.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) may hold a certain opinion about the South African trouble. I believe that the South African Government deliberately provoked that disturbance. Any domestic trouble in Australia could be controlled by the police forces of the different States. It appears to me that clause 45 is intended .as a threat to members of industrial organizations who are prepared to fight for their principles that, if they persist in their agitation, the Air Force may be used against them, and bombs dropped indiscriminately upon their people.
Greater attention should be given to the development of aviation on the civil side. On that side men may be trained iv. the air just as effectively, and there will be some satisfaction in the knowledge that they will be performing a useful service to the country. I believe that the honorable member for Wentworth is not opposed to this suggestion. Instead of all the money being expended on an Air Force on the military side, much of it could be utilized for the assistance of people engaged in useful occupations in our outback country, and at the same time the members of our Air Force employed in giving th’at assistance would secure efficient training.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time- -put. The House divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed, pro formâ.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to draw the attention of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to the position of officers in the Department of Repatriation, who arebeing dismissed in consequence of the curtailment of the activities of that Department. In conjunction with other honorable members,I have received a request from the Staff Committees of the Repatriation Department asking the Government to compensate the officers who have been retrenched by granting them one month’s pay for each year of service provided, of course, that they have completed four years’ continuous service. I understand that the Treasurer has already received some correspondence embodying this request, and as the menhave carried out their duties in an efficient manner over a period of years, it seems to me to be a very modest one. Compensation has alreadybeen paid to the officers retrenched from the Defence Department, and the Treasurer has proraised to set aside £200,000 to compensate those officers who will be retrenched from the Taxation Department, if the Government taxation proposals are agreed to. A good deal of hardship exists amongst the men, and some have been practically thrown on to the streets, as no provision has been made by the Repatriation Department or the Government for their reemployment. A large number of them are returned soldiers.
– They all are.
– Yes. The regulations regarding recreation leave have also been interpreted somewhat unsympathetically. I have had brought under my notice the case of a man who was dismissed and deprived’ of his recreation leave on a mere technicality after completing twelve months’ service. I feel sure the Treasurer does not approve of such action, and I trust that he will give the House an assurance that the requests of the Repatriation Staff Committee will be favorably considered without delay.
– When any dismissals have been contemplated owing to the curtailment of the activities of the Repatriation Department, it has always been the aim of the Commission to give as long a notification as possible in order to enable those whose services were being dispensed with to secure other employment. That has been the practice right up to the present. I understand, however, that, owing to some little misapprehension, a number of men were dismissed in one batch - ten, I think, was the largest number. As a rule, only one officer is dispensed with at a time, and usually many weeks’ notice is given. Every effort is made by the Department to assist retrenched men to secure some other occupation.When the time arrives to seriously curtail the work of the Department, the Government will give the question raised . by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) every consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230717_reps_9_103/>.