9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the large number of unemployed in the Newcastle district, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has yet finalized matters with the New SouthWales Government in connexion with the building of a floating dock there?
– Finality has not yet been reached. I had a letter from the New South Wales Government two or three weeks ago, to which I replied. I have heard nothing from that Govern- ment since.
– Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to expedite the settlement of the matter?
– The matter is really in the hands of the New South Wales Government. We laid down quite definitely - the particulars have already been published - what the Commonwealth Government is prepared to do in the way of subsidizing the construction of a dock at Newcastle. We are willing to complete the arrangement upon the basis agreed to by the Fuller Government if the present State Government is prepared to go on with the work.
– I wish to withdraw the notice of motion relating to grants for roads standing in my name for Thursday, the 17th September.
– The notice of motion will be withdrawn from the noticepaper,as the honorable member desires.
– I ask the Prime Minister if it is a fact that last night he delivered a speech at Dandenong, and that a report, extending to over 2,000 words, was wired to the Commonwealth Public Service Inspectors of Tasmania, Queensland, and Western Australia, with instructions to arrange for its publication by the press of those States, and with further instructions that the cost of transmission of the message was to be defrayed by the taxpaying public?
– I do not know what arrangements were made. All Government publicity is conducted through the Publicity Department, and speeches are from time to time sent to the different States whenthey are of general national in- terest
– Will the Prime Minister make available to the Leader of the Opposition the same facilities for the transmission of his speeches on ques tions of national importance at the public expense for the benefit of the people of Australia.
– The honorable member is aware of the procedure followed. A branch of the Prime Minister’s Department is charged with giving publicity to matters of genuine public interest to the people of Australia. The usual procedure has been followed in this case. 1 gather from the tenor of the honorable member’s questions that he is trying to suggest that something improper has been done.
– I do not merely suggest it; I say it.
– The most scrupulous care has always been taken by this Government that the publicity givenshall be proper and legitimate. I wish I could feel the same certainty with regard to the methods of some other governments.
– Some two weeks ago, during a recent debate on the dried fruits industry, the promise was made that the Government would get into touch with the various State Governments, with the view to the appointment of a tribunal to make certain inquiries into the industry. Has the Prime Minister communicated with the State Governmentson the subject; and, if so, will he make a statement as to the result?
– Almost immediately after the discussion in this chamber, I communicated with the States concerned, and suggested the appointment of a commission, setting out the matters with which it should deal. I have not yet received any reply to my communication.
– Some four weeks ago, in answer to a question asked by me, the Prime Minister said that the Government would take into consideration the desirability of holding a sitting of this Parliament at Canberra before its dissolution. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the matter has been considered-; and, if so, what decision has been arrived at?
– The matter is still under consideration.
– Immediately after the visit of the Minister forWorks and Railways to Adelaide, the South Australian newspapers reported the honorable gentleman to have said that within a fortnight a bill would be introduced for the ratification of the Bruce-Gunn agreement providing for the construction of the North-South Railway. Can the honorable gentleman inform the House when we may expect that the bill will be brought forward?
-We are not yet quite ready to introduce thebill; but hope to be able to do so at an early date.
– Seeing that honorable members on both sides of the House seen to be very much concerned
– Order! Is this a question.?
-I am asking the Treasurer, in view of the fact that honorable members on both sides seem so concerned about an announcement from the Government as to when the proposed increase in the invalid and old-age pension is to be paid, whether he can inform the House definitely when he proposes to make the increased pension payable?
– On Thursday last, I dealt with this matter at some length. The Government will introduce a measure for this purpose as early as possible.
– In view of the fact that a very excellent tobacco, of purely Australian make, and called the “ Waratah,” has. now been placed on the market, will the Minister for Trade and Customs take into consideration the advisability of reducing the excise duty of 2s. 4d. per lb., in order to give the local industry every possible assistance?
– The matter will be very carefully considered in, connexion with the inquiry which I have promised will be made by the Tariff Board into the whole tobacco industry.
Reporton Maternity Allowance
– Will the Treasurer inform me when the Government will give effect to the recommendation of the commission on National Insurance, that the maternity allowance be increased and be made a direct charge on, the Consolidated Revenue?
– The complete report of the National Insurance Commission is receiving the consideration of the Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr.WATSON asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will make available the report ofthe Commonwealth Board of Trade concerning the suggested goldbonus?
– It is expected that the report will be made available shortly.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will have a report made on the possibilities of establishing a daily aerial mail service between Melbourne, Burnie, Launceston, and Hobart, by seaplanes, which would carry small valuable parcels and up to six passengers in addition to mails?
– The matter is at present under consideration.
Dairy Produce Control Board - Price of Butter - “Wages op Dairy Farmers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Salaries of Treasury Assessing Officers
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth is responsible for payment of any difference of salary between what the State allotted and what the officer so transferred was receiving at date of transfer, including allowances to permanent occupants of the positions covered by determination No. 6 of 1923. In all States except New South Wales, the Commonwealth also recognizes annual increments due under such award to permanent occupants of assessing positions, provided they have completed twelve months’ service in each subdivision. So far as New South Wales is concerned, the Commonwealth Solicitor-General has advised that under the provisions of the amalgamation agreement, New South Wales officers are not entitled to incremental advancement under the determination No. 6 of 1923. If the State authorities promote to a higher position in the assessing section an ex-Commonwealth officer who was, at the date of transfer to the State Service, receiving an allowance as the permanent occupant of a lower position in the assessing section, the Commonwealth does not consider itself responsible for payment of the allowance under the assessors’ determination applicable to the position to which the officer has been promoted, but if the State salary allotted to the higher position is lower than the salary and allowance provided under Commonwealth determination No. 6 for the lower position previously occupied, the Commonwealth would be responsible for any difference. All officers - those transferred to State and those retained in the Commonwealth on assessing work - cease to draw the assessors’ allowance one month after permanent transfer from their permanent position in the assessing section.
Government Assistancefor Queensland Growers - English Cotton Imports
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice - 1. (a) What has the Common wealth Government spent in assisting the cotton industry in Queensland each year since 1920? (b) What was the State Government’s expenditure?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and S. These particulars are being obtained, and will be made available as soon as practicable.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of mining for osmiridium at Adams River, Tasmania, where 600 men are working, will the Minister have the mails taken from Tyenna to the field at least twice weekly?
– Consideration is being given to this subject at the present time.
– On the 19 th August, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration the following questions on 3rd September: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following information: -
The rates to other countries, including South Africa and the West Coast of North and South America, but excluding certain ports in the East, are6d. per cent. less than the above rates. The insurance covers loss from defective condition of the butter and/or cheese from any cause which shall arise, in- cluding the risks of war, strikes, malicious damage, or shortage of fuel.
Wool, Cotton, Skins, and Hides
– On the 4th September the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
It must be stated that the goods classed as woollen in the foregoing reply may, and in some cases do, contain a proportion of cotton.
– I present 32 reports of the Tariff Board in the following order: - 1, gin; 2, whisky; 3, eggs, egg pulp, and egg albumen; 4, gelatine; 5, matches, wooden safety; 6, yarns, silk and silk mixtures; 7, yarns, woollen; 8, sewing threads and cottons; 9, woollen piece-goods; 10, apparel, men’s, boys’, and youths’; 11, apparel, women’s outer garments; 12, apparel, knitted; 13, socks and. stockings; 14, cotton piece-goods, knitted, in tubular form; 15, caps and sewn hats; 10, engineering industry; 17, electrical engineering industry;18, galvanized iron; 19, screws for wood, screw hooks, eyes, and rings; 20. iron and steel scrap; 21, anchors; 22, zinc shavings; 23, oils, mineral lubricating; 24, oil, linseed; 25, oil, olive; 26, bromide salts, cyanide of potassium, and cyanide of sodium, hydrosulphites; 27, derrisine (a spray for fruit trees); 28, parchment, vegetable; 29, pianos and player-pianos; 30, lampware, including lamp-glasses and glassware, n.e.i.; 31, vacuum cleaners; 32, flint stones.
That the following papers be printed: - 5, matches, wooden safety; 7, yarns, woollen; 9, woollen piece-goods; 10, apparel, men’s, boys’, and youths’; 11, apparel, women’s outer garments; 12, apparel, knitted; 13, socks and stockings; 16, engineering industry; 17, electrical engineering industry; 18, galvanized iron; 29, pianos and, player-pianos.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented: -
Distillation Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, No. 145.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Statement by the Minister for Markets and Migration regarding the operation of the Act, together with the Reportof the Dried Fruits Control Board, dated 27th July, 1925.
Memorandum from Mr. J. R. Collins, Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, together with copy of the Treasury Records relating to Negotiations with the Associated Banks, immediately after the outbreak of War.
Navigation Act Royal Commission - Memorandum supplementary to the Reports, by Mr. F. Anstey, M.P.
.- I move -
That in view of the facts -
It is also the opinion of this House that all men who offered their lives, and passed the above scientific examination, should be considered perfectly healthy men from that date.
I ask honorable members not to look upon this motion from a party point of view, because it is really an effort to secure justice for ex-soldiers and their dependants. If the Government could see its way clear to adopt this motion, it would remove many injustices, prevent unkind treatment, and -be a boon to the officials who are administering the Repatriation Department. Within the limits of the act and the regulations applying to it, I have found the officials of the department very sympathetic. During the last few weeks I have had a very pleasant experience withthe League of Child Helpers. Connected with that movement are reputed hard, business men who, when it came to assisting thechildren, I found, have hearts as soft and as sweet as the petals of a rose. There was not one single refusal to help those little ones who are at school, and ‘who will ultimately be the citizens of Australia. Why should not the Government act in the same way? No honorable member supporting the Government, if . he speaks the truth, will deny that highly capable surgeons and physicians offered their services during the war. Truly, some did object, and I was one of them, to the Town Hall being used as a place’ for testing the lungs. Many of our prominent surgeons and physicians, notably the late Dr. O’Hara, Dr. Stirling, and others, offered to the medical officers who were appointed for this work the use of their own private studies for the examination of recruits The Minister will agree that if there had been any doubt about the’ matter, the medical officers examining the recruits who were offering their lives for the sake of their country, could have made use of, say, the Health Department to obtain blood tests, and to call together immediately a conclave of surgeons and physicians to formulate an opinion on certain cases. I do not think that I am stepping beyond the line of justice when I say that every man who has passed under those stringent conditions should be taken as healthy at the date of examination, and that no medical officer should now be made, as it were, a private detective to try to ascertain pre-war latent causes of disease. I know many men who, perhaps, would have fallen victims to tuberculosis had they not been well cared for. At least, five or six of my personal friends, who seemed to have been sentenced to death by that complaint in England, came out to Australia” and have now lived the allottedspan of life. It is true that the hardships of war make more acute and observable latent and obscure weaknesses.. Absence of proper food and proper sanitary conditions, diseases that are carried by vermin and parasites - trench fever, is carried, I believe, by the louse - all tend to discover latent weaknesses in the human system. An anaemic person will catch a disease from which a healthy person would be immune. We all know the classic example of the great Napoleon, who handled plague patients in Egypt to give his soldiers confidence, and to show that fear was a great cause of disease. Any one who cares to . go to the Christian Science Temple on Wednesday nights will sec there how the mind controlling physical weaknesses builds up that fighting power without which persons will, perhaps, succumb to illnesses from which they would otherwise recover. In regard to the promises, that were made to the soldiers, no man can speak with greater authority than I can, because I am the only person who was continuously a member of the Victorian Recruiting Committee from its inception until its disbandment. The undertakings that were given from thousands of platforms throughout. Australia, and endorsed by the men and women in the audiences, should be religiously kept. Certainly the soldiers in the recent war have been treated much better than were those who took part in the Boer war. I was opposed to the Boer war, but I never received much credit for my attitude until I visited South Africa recently. The promises made to the men who enlisted for that campaign were vilely broken, and the late Sir John Madden, Chief Justice of Victoria, was man enough to say that publicly. Thinking that it would be well to have his statement on record, I wrote to him a few years before his death, and I have the honour of possessing a letter from him in which he reiterates the declaration I have attributed to him. The soldiers in the great war fared better, but it is a degradation of an honorable profession to ask a surgeon or physician to probe for a pre-war origin of soldiers’ disabilities. Those doctors are being asked to indict their fellow practitioners of incompetence for having passed men who were not physically fit. My motion asks that this matter shall be settled once and finally, and that all men who offered their services, were accepted after examination, and have suffered disabilities, shall be entitled to repatriation benefits. Many of these soldiers are limbless, and the ‘ Bulletin of 30th March, 1922, published an appealing cartoon under the heading ‘ ‘ In the Name of Anzac.” The words beneath the cartoon were -
The khaki that once brought glory to Australia is now used chiefly to bring small coins to the hands of musicians, who pervade the streets of Australian cities, and those of Sydney in particular. Most of the collectors are limbless men, and the Tattle of their boxes is not more an appeal to the charity of the passer-by than a reproach to Australia. If the pensions paid to them are insufficient, they must be increased.
Surely every honorable member will agree with that sentiment. I am reminded of that glorious episode of the Crimean war which Tennyson immortalized’ in those stirring verses, “ The Charge of the Light. Brigade.” How were the Crimean veterans treated ? Many died in the workhouse, and it was only when Sir George Newnes, the famous newspaper proprietor, raised a subscription that the few survivors were enabled to live in comfort for their remaining days. When I was a medical student in England I collected sixpences from fellow students for the purchase . of a wheeled chair for a soldier who was without feet. The man underwent eighteen operations, the last of which was fatal. Somebody said of him, “ Well, he does drink,” and I shall never forget the sympathetic reply of Professor Owen: “ This poor man has a pension of 6d. per clay, and if somebody offers him. a drink, can you blame him for accepting it?” I have a list of the number of Crimean veterans who died in the workhouse during my student years, and up to the time I left London. The treatment of those soldiers was a stain on the British nation, and I am. sure that if the opinion of the British people had been sought they would never have permitted such a thing to happen. Every organization, of sailors or soldiers throughout Australia approves of my motion, and agrees that it is unjust to probe into a man’s past history in order to ascertain if he had latent prewar disease, with a view to enabling the Commonwealth to escape the payment of a paltry pension. After all, how insignificant is the total pensions bill in comparison with the millions of pounds that the Commonwealth spends in other ways? In any case, the number of the pensioners is being reduced almost daily. Iquote this letter from the Beechworth sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia - I have been instructed to inform you that the members of my branch unanimously support you in your protest against the medical board of review in refusing pensions to men on grounds of pre-war disability after being passed as medically fit at the time of enlistment.
That is typical of many letters I have received, but the time at my disposal does not permit of my reading all of them.
At times the medical profession is very hard to move. A notable instance is its refusal to recognize the celebrated joint manipulator, Sir Herbert Barker. The Archbishop of Canterbury arranged a large deputation of members of the House of Lords in order to get recognition of that great man’s valuable services from the British Medical Association, but without avail, so the King conferred upon him the honour of knighthood. A few weeks ago I quoted one of the most glaring instances in medical history of the fallibility of doctors. Queen Victoria would not have ascended the throne of England but for the blundering of the men who, in 1821, stood highest in the medical profession in England. When Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV., was giving birth to a child that, had it lived, would have been King of England, and was experiencing the pains incidental to the expulsion of the child from the womb, tne doctors took from her a pint of blood, and, because the pain continued, another pint of blood. The mother was actually bled to death, and, of course, the child also died. In his memoirs Baron Stockmar, a medical man who had been sent by the Court of Prussia to control the Court of England, and did, in fact, exercise a great influence over Queen Victoria for many years, said he could not understand why a healthy young woman, when her body was performing a natural function, should be bled and bled. If the highest lady in the land lost her life through the ignorance of the most eminent accoucheurs, of that day, we can readily understand what might happen to. Professional etiquette sealed Baron Stockmar’s lips when he could possibly have saved the lives of both mother and child. Let me refer to the case of Gunner Perry. Unfortunately, that poor man, on the second or third day of the trial, was sent to the observation ward of a lunatic asylum, where he was detained for six months, under the charge of Dr. Godfrey, one of God’s best men. When I asked Dr. Godfrey if Gunner Perry was a malingerer, he replied, “ Do you think that if he had been I would have kept him there one day after I had made the discovery?” Perry afterwards went to Queensland, where he was again ac cepted by the Defence Department as a recruiting agent. Later, when the authorities ascertained that he was the man who had been involved in the law case, he was dismissed. Subsequently, he persuaded some foolish girl to go through the form of marriage with him; but when she found in his possession a letter from his real wife, and mentioned the matter, he gave her a thrashing. Both then disappeared, probably to commit suicide; and because the Department cannot find him, and his wife cannot prove that he is not dead, her pension has been taken away. I cannot understand an action of that character.
– Were there any children ?
– There was one adopted child, who also has been deprived of her pension. I desire to mention another case, where a high explosive shell exploded in a sector, killing twelve, and wounding eight men. The writer says -
I was one of the eight, being blown up by concussion. Owing to heavy casualties suffered by company, although suffering great pain, refused to go to Casualty Clearing Station, but was compelled to do so on 8th November, and was sent to Field Hospital. Rouen, later transferred to Southall Military Hospital, London. Operative interference, December, 1916, declared permanently incapacitated for further service. Returned hospital transport Themistocles to Adelaide, June, 1917. Abdominal operation, October, 1917. Discharged A.I.F. and Military Hospital, Keswick (S.A.), 1918. Readmitted December, 1919, for another abdominal operation. Discharged hospital, July, 1920. Admitted Caulfield Military Hospital, October, 1920, further operative interference (abdominal), December, 1920. Finally discharged, December, 1921.
Several records found missing from file, this compelled one surgeon to make laparatonomy operation and to find gall bladder and portion ofliver had been removed, for which there was no record. Previous to this met prolonged opposition by Repatriation to grant full pension, its contention being, “ Injuries not due to war service,” and pension was consistently reduced until (thanks to Victorian Repatriation Committee in general and the Deputy Commissioner in particular) a thorough investigation of my case was made, with the result the pension was restored to £2 2s. per week, subject to periodical survey and medical examination.
I have the greatest, admiration and respect for Deputy Commissioner Major M. Ryan, who, while keeping strictly within powers vetoed him, has at all times extended to me the utmost courtesy and consideration.
In connexion with another case, that of Mr. Francis Paul Martin, I shall read a certificate from well-k,tow .medical gentleman of Melbourne -
This fs to- certify that I was- consulted by Mr. Francis Paul Martin (the late) who was suffering from a malignant growth which had its origin in injuries sustained at the war. I recommended him. to an hospital for surgical treatment. He died as the result of this trouble. To my personal knowledge he was the main support of his mother.
Tlie mother received the following, letter from the- Repatriation Commission : -
With reference to your recent- application for tlie payment of a war pension in respect to the death of. your son. above described, I have to inform you that your case lias now received careful consideration, and as from the medical evidence your son’s death, bears not connexion to* his war service, the State Repatriation Board Has accordingly directed that your application be disallowed.
Honorable members will remember that, on one- occasion, I announced in this House that, as the result of a dream, I was ‘ able- to obtain from the late Mr. Robert Harper the gift of an amountequal to - the1 interest on £1,000 for the benefit, pf tha mother of five sous who had gone to- the war, one of whom had paid the supreme penalty. .Because of that gift,, tate ^Repatriation Department reduced!’ th’e mother’s pension which she received on account of the death of her son. The Departments letter to her included1 the- following paragraph: -
Review of your present circumstances discloses that you are still iii receipt of 20s. weekly from the Harper, estate, and as your husband is now in England’, the State Repabriation Board has directed, that pension be reduced to 20s. per fortnight as from 21st August, 1924.
In consequence of that reduction, she had to give up her home* I could multiply these cases- many times,. This is. not a party question. I appeal to the Government to regard the decisions of the medical officers who passed’ men as fit for active service as the decisions of honorable uren who did’ their dirty to the best of their ability,, to act on the assumption that every soldier who enlisted was. a healthy man at the time, and not to allow itself to be diverted from the right path by the shrewd detective tactics of present-day surgeons and. physicians what say that the- disabilities of these soldiers were due to pre-war causes.
Mr. BRENNAN (Batman) f 3.20] . - In seconding the motion, T desire (a say a few words of commendation: of its terms mtd of the wealth of argument and. illustration which the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney)- has submitted in its support. I represent a> very considerable body of returned soldiers, many of whom occupy Wai’ Service homes, and too many of whom,, unfortunately, are in receipt of pensions, under the laws of this country. I am not particular,, and I presume that the honorable’ member for Melbourne is not either,, whether the motion is adopted precisely in its present form, so long as effect is given to its spirit. The honorable member will agree with me that this is not. the first time we have found it necessary to- agitate and advocate for some reform in the administration of the matter with which the motion deals. I build some hopes upon the fact that we now have a Minister in charge of the Department who:. in addition, possesses a good, deal of shrewd common sense, much human, sympathy,- and understanding.
– And practical experience.
– And also– practical experience, as- the honorable- member suggests. I hope that the Minister will see that effect is- given to- the intention of this motion. It is true that, in accordance with the policy of the time, it was? considered that there was urgent need for men, but I remember that, notwithstanding that, intending recruits for active service had to- submit to’ very searching examinations, and many were rejected! £<w apparently trifling causes-; I mention this because it is an argument in favour of the view that when men, were passed-, and accepted for active service it was upon no merely cursory examination, but as the result of deliberate audi careful examination by competent doctors, and those who were accepted must b* taken to have been at the time in a. good physical condition and fit for active service. If is* now seven years since the termination of the war, and to suggest at this time of day that an applicant for a pension is suffering from a medical or surgical condition due to circumstances prevailing prior to the war is to put- forward! a claim which honorable members must agree is1, or ought to be; untenable. I can quite understand that men applying; for pensions to-day must have their applications very closely scrutinized-‘ where there is evidence that the condition from which they are suffering arose subsequently to the war. But where their claims are rejected, or likely to be rejected on the ground of pre-war disability,. I hold that, as has often been said in this House, the soldier applicants should begiven, at least, the benefit of the doubt. The Department should not adopt the. attitude of a Crown prosecutor, and endeavour to make out a case against the returned soldier applying for a pension.
– It should bes topped fromusingthatargument.
-It should be a sympathetic investigator into the real facts of eachcase. Many caseshave come under my notice, andto some I have alluded in the past as amounting to a scandal. The most scandalous case is one which I intend to revive again with the Minister, and that is Holland’s case. I hope that the cases which have come under my notice will receive sympathetic consideration. Something of the kind suggested in the motion ought to be done. The Department should bestopped from raising the contention that the returned soldier was suffering from a disability at tne timehe enlisted. It is stretching the argument much too far against tne soldier applicant f or a pension to go back ten or eleven years and; suggest that he was then suffering from some disability,, or a disposition to contract the illness from which he is now suffering. This is a practice which should notbe persisted in. I look to the present Minister with someconfidencethathe will see that the act is administeredinamuch more sympathetic manner in the future, and more consistently with the promise made to the men at the time of their enlistment, and also more consistently with common sense.
.-The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has with much sympathy submitted this motion, which calls attention to certain facts, and asks the. House; as the result of their consideration, to form an opinion on two distinct subjects. But it is clear to me that the honorable member has notreally grasped the actual factsin regardto the medical examinations that took place prior to the war.
In the first place, the statements from which he asks the House to make certain deductions are not correct. I should be the last to suggest that he has intentionally included in his motion statements that are incorrect ; but certainly we had not, in the early stages of the war, as he says in the first paragraph ofhis motion, the services of” the greatest surgeons and physicians,” for the examination of recruits, nor had we the services of the Health Department.I admit that the statements in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the motion are correct. But a War Passions Act must give effect to definite principles. The grant ofa pension must be based upon; a specific claim, such as disability arising fromor aggravated by service. However sympathetically one mav desire to approach theconsideration of this matter, so much mustbe admitted.. It is impossible to agree with the honorable member for Melbourne in the statement that all the men who were examined for service prior to the war, and have since becomeill, are entitled to a war pension, on the ground that all who were passed as fit for service mustbe considered as having been perfectly healthy men when examined. The total number of enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force was 416,809, of whom 40,000 were found when in camp to be unfit for service, and did not embark for overseas. Of the latter, a great number suffered from disabilities which existed, at the time when they went into camp. Of those who left Australia,. 20,000 were found unfit for service after they had gone overseas, and. were returned without having seen any service whatever in the line. That is. to say, 60,000 men who were passed and accepted were suffering from disabilities existing prior to their medical examination. These menwould be entitledto a pension if we accepted any other principle than that to which I have referred, namely, that the pension must be based on disability arising from or aggravated by service; I cannot conceive the basing of the pension upon any other ground. It would he grossly unfair to say that these 60,000 menare entitled to a pension, seeing that they clearly suffer now from disabilities which couldnot have been caused by the war. There were3,752 who saw servicealthough they were over age, and1,396 who went abroad, and yet saw no service, because they were obviously so old that it was not a fair thing to allow them to go in to- the line.
– What was the age of the oldest?
– The oldest man who actually found his way into the line was 72 years of age. During the worst time of the “strafing,” and when the weather was very bad, in carrying out an inspection in France, I noticed a man who was obviously older than the maximum age fixed for those in the firing line. I called him aside and said, “ You are looking ill. What is your age”? He replied, “ Do you mean my official or my real age?” I said that for his own
Bake I should like to know his real age. He then said, “I am 72 years of age.” I asked him why he had enlisted, and he said that he had done so because his son had enlisted. When I asked him whether he would like to return to Australia he said “ Yes.” I considered that there was fair ground for an appeal in his be-‘ half to General Birdwood, and the man was dispatched to England, and put on board a vessel bound for Australia a few days later.
– Was the man’s statement true?
– It did not require proof. One -had only to look at him to see that he was totally unfit for service in the line, although when I met him he had done ten months’ service. Whatever credit members of the profession may take for ability to discover disease, no’ one knows better than does the honorable member for Melbourne, whose experience is life-long, that asthma is a disease which no examination will reveal. An applicant for examination before enlistment might have suffered innumerable attacks, and be totally unfitted for service. During an attack he would be unfitted for service in civil life. It was found that 589 men were discharged on account of this disease, and 241 had had repeated attacks of asthma, and were returned and discharged without any service in a war zone. I will deal now with mental cases. I suppose every honorable member in this House, and particularly the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), has said at some time or other concerning some one, “ He ought not to be at liberty.” “We frequently hear it said in civil life about some one with whom the speaker is not on very friendly terms, “ It would be better if he were placed under control.” The honorable member for Melbourne, in his long and varied experience, must have met many cases which needed to be so dealt with. Mental disabilities will not always be revealed by the most carefully conducted examination. How could we think of going back, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) suggested, seven years, to the beginning of the war, to ascertain the condition then of certain men who volunteered ? Of the mentally defective men who volunteered and were passed as fit, 591 saw service - when I say “ saw service,” I mean that they went somewhere in the vicinity of the line, to the base at Havre or Boulogne - and 26.1 did not see service. A large number of those men had previously been under control in asylums. However much honorable members may believe in the skill of medical practitioners, I say that it is impossible, without the help of the person examined, for a medical man to say with certainty, “ You are perfectly healthy.” All that any medical practitioner can say after the most carefully conducted examination is, “ I do not find any evidence of disease.” It would not follow that the person examined was healthy. This is particularly true of persons suffering from asthma, mental diseases, and particularly rheumatism. No clinician could possibly diagnose rheumatism which was not manifested by some joint deformity, unless the patient gave him some assistance. No insurance company could last for more than a decade if it insured persons merely on the results of a medical examination. Every person who desires to take out an insurance policy must not only be examined, but must also give written answers to definite questions, which he signs in the presence of a medical practitioner. As I have said, a medical examination would not reveal chronic rheumatism or arthritis the presence of which was not indicated by joint deformity. Of the men who enlisted while suffering from these troubles, 4,461 saw service, but 1,257 were not in the line for a single day. They did not approach anywhere near the field of battle. It is grossly unfair to suggest that these men should be granted a pension. I am quite willing to adopt the standard proposed by the honorable member for Batman
He asked that applicants for a pension should be dealt with justly and sympathetically wheu they appeared before the Commissioner. That is what is done. Ourrepatriation provisions are extraordinarily liberal - more liberal, in fact, than those of any other country that was engaged in the war.
– Has the department any data of the insurance arrangements of other countries?
– Jt has. The insurance provisions of some other countries may be better than ours, but the pension provisions are far more important, for they determine the weekly or fortnightly pay with which the disabled ex-soldier maintains his home. It would be totally unjust to oblige the country to provide a pension for the 60,000 returned soldiers whose disabilities clearly existed before the war.
– In many cases the mau must have known that the disabilities existed.
SirNEVILLE HOWSE. - A great many of them had not the slightest ides that they were suffering from any disability until they presented themselves for examination.
– In cases like asthma and rheumatism?
– I refer to certain types of disease. I have deliberately refrained from speaking of cases of heart and kidney trouble. These are most debatable. Of the men who enlisted suffering from heart and kidney trouble, 7,000 saw service, but broke down because of their disabilities. Nearly 8,000 went overseas suffering from either kidney or heart disabilities. It is quite probable that the majority of them had no idea that theywere so afflicted until war service discovered it.
– Well, surely those men are entitled to a pension?
– Their war service revealed their trouble.
– But it existed before they went to the war.
– Probably it was aggravated by war service.
– Every man whose pre-war complaint was aggravated by war service is granted a pension in accordance with the degree of aggravation.
– Then it is really a question of administration?
– It should not he left with the medical practitioners to say whether or not there was aggravation.
– I ask the honorable member for Werriwa who could say so except a medical practitioner ? All honorable members should recognize that the examination of a recruit for war service was easy if the recruit rendered reasonable assistance to the examining doctor. Mcn who were not anxious to go to the war found it quite simple to magnify any disabilities or ailments they had. They were extraordinarily frank. The difficulties occurredin the case of men who were anxious to go to the Front. Such men concealed their disabilities in a masterly way, and defects which could not be seen with the eye or found withthe stethoscope remained undetected.
– One man with a glass eye went to the war.
– I can give more surprising instances than that.I have the facts in the case of a man who lost three fingers in childhood, but was passed for service. He afterwards claimed that he was entitled to a pension because his disability was not discovered by the doctor who examined him prior to his embarkation.
– I know of sufferers from tubercular trouble who were accepted for service.
– I have before me details of cases of that description. A number of men who were receiving the invalid pension in consequence of tubercular disease, and had been inoiates of sanatoria for periods of from three to six months were passed by medical practitioners. They got as far as London before their disability was discovered.
– I would pension the medical practitioners who examined them.
– That remark is unfair to the medical profession. I saw many cases during my twenty years’ residence in a health resort of men who had suffered from tubercular disease whose disability could not be detected by the most carefully conducted clinical examination. As I pointed out a few days ago, this is evidence that tubercular trouble is curable, and that it, is decreasing every year.
– Then I withdraw my remark.
– Probably the mostdeliberately dishonest men, fromthe health standpoint, who enlisted were the epileptic cases. I consider that many of the sufferers from this trouble deliberately defrauded the country. A considerable majority of them must have known of their trouble. Possibly their attacks occurred during their childhood and at night time, but they must have been medically treated at that time, and their parents must have informed them of their condition.In most of these cases themen were deliberately dishonest in that they did not vender the medical officer whoexamined them the least assistance. We found651 cases of epilepsy among men who enlisted and embarked, In every case in which even a minor war injury might havebeen said to have contributed to the epilepsy the sufferers were sympathetically dealt with and were granted a pension, but no matter how sympathetically the act might be administered, it would be grossly unfair to thecountry to grant pensions to 277 of those cases who saw no active service. Seeing that the medical practitioners who examined these men could not possibly have detected their condition without their help, and that the men deliberately withheld this, it would be unfair to the public to grant them a pension. They wilfully deceived the examiners in not disclosing the details of their health, and they are not entitled to any pension except the ordinary invalid pension. It has to be remembered that there are two parties to be considered in the granting of pensions. On the one hand there is the ex-soldier or his dependants, and on the other there is the great body of men and women who remained at home, but who, in many cases, carried out duties equally as arduous as those performed by some of those who went abroad. The honorable member for Melbourne knows very well what was promised from the public platform. The first promise was that so far as possible medical attention equal to that which would have been available had the mau remained at home would be pro vided for him abroad. I can honestly say that I have heard very little reflection upon the medical service rendered overseas. The second promise was that every one who went to the war would be treated sympathetically in regard to every conceivable disability that could be considered to be the result of war service, and that consideration would also be given to any aggravation of pre-war disabilities.
– Will the Minister tell us what steps have been taken to ascertain the extent of aggravation of pre-war disabilities?
SirNEVILLE HOWSE. - In every case in which a pre-war disability has been materially aggravated, a pension is granted. When I say “materially aggravated,” I think I am touching another point referred to by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). He said that the whole question of aggravation was governedby the spirit in which the act was administered.If the act isadministered with sympathy and justice, those men will get, the benefit of any doubt that exists. Lately, in respect of numerous casesthat have come up for medical opinion, the medical men have said, “ We cannot find any reasonable cause, but as there is some shadow of doubt, the patient should get the benefit of it.” The benefitof the doubt was in this way recently given in the case of a returned soldier who died in an asylum.
Mr.F. McDonald.- Is the future policy to be to give the benefit of thp doubt to the claimants? .
– I have assured the House that during the time that I have the honour to control the Repatriation Department the benefit of the doubt will be given in every case submitted to me. Tubercular cases are probably the most difficult to deal with. 1 gave as an illustration that of a man who had been for three or six months in a sanatorium. He was able to pass a medical examination, and to go away on service. This man actually got to the front, and his application for a pension was accepted, despite the fact that he must have intentionally deceived the examining medical officer. Tubercular cases have been accepted as suffering from diseases aggravated by the war. But honorable members, in presenting cases to me, say, “ If you will look at this case from a sympathetic point of view, this man will get a pension.” I cannot possibly do so. As the Minister controlling the Repatriation Department, I have to administer the act, and I obey the instruction of the Government to administer it liberally. I assure honorable members that it is impossible to go beyond that. If honorable members wish these 60,000 men to receive a pension, it is for them to amend the act, but there is no justification whatever for its amendment. It is the most liberal measure of its kind in force in -any country in the world. The men are treated with sympathy. Every care and attention is given to those who are ill in hospital, and .every effort is made to administer the act so as to carry out the promises which every Government has given since the commencement of the war. Governments of both political parties Are concerned in these promises. It will .be remembered that the greatest number of the men who went away enlisted when a Labour Government was in power, and the promises of that Government, the preceding Government, and the Governments that have followed, have been carried out to the letter. Before proposing to amend the act, I should like honorable members to review the matter with great care. The honorable member for Melbourne suffers from only one disability. He has in his chest an organ called the’ heart, which should weigh about 11 ounces, but, judging from my experience of him, must weigh 11 lbs.
Mr. McGrath (Ballarat) [3.54].- I only wish that those examining the returned soldiers had the kind heart that the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) possesses, because the men would then get sympathetic treatment. The Minister referred to the 20,000 men who travelled only as far as England. Those men, when they reached England, had to live under army conditions. I am not complaining of those conditions, because they were as good as could possibly be obtained at that time. But the great majority of the men were not used to them. The climate was entirely different from that of Australia, and I can quite imagine, without being a doctor, that a man when in England might display symptoms of tuberculosis that would never have appeared, had he remained in
Australia. Many of those men contracted meningitis in England and on the troopships. Many of the 40,000 men that remained in Australia were also victims of meningitis. As one honorable member stated, some of the things affecting bae aggravation of diseases may not be known to medical men. I agree with what the Minister said about the excellent service rendered by the medical officers abroad. I do not think that the soldiers could have received better treatment than they did at their hands, and it would not be possible to find a better body of men than those who devoted their lives to the medical treatment of the members of the Australian Imperial Force. All soldiers were inoculated, and vaccinated.
– Inoculation could not affect the honorable member’s constitution.
– We are not teo sure about the after effects of inoculation. It is quite possible that many of the men are to-day suffering from the effects of inoculation. The morning when I left for France I could not get my arm in my coat sleeve. I thought that the swelling would never go down. Inoculation affects people differently. All that we are pleading for is more sympathetic treatment. We are not asking for pensions for men. who were in asylums prior to enlistment, and became mental after their return, although they must have been sane when they offered their lives for their country. Quite j, number of returned soldiers axe not treated sympathetically by the doctors. Again and again it is stated that certain persons are suffering from pre-war disabilities. Tuberculosis or asthma may be in the family, but it is possible that the disease would not have developed had the sufferer not enlisted. It may have been aggravated by climatic conditions, by living in trenches and dug-outs, “by long and arduous marches, by the food consumed, and a thousand and one other things. Many of these men had they stayed at home would probably now be enjoying the best of health. They aTe receiving the most unsympathetic treatment, and the pledges made on the recruiting platforms are not being carried out. Now that seven years “have elapsed since the war, I ask the Minister not to accept the statement that a man is suffering from a pre-war disability. The act should be amended in two or three directions. It was promised that it would be amended to conform with the recommendations of the royal commission on war service disabilities.
– All those recommendations are now being given effect by regulation.
– The act should be amended to give greater benefit to oneeyed and partially blinded soldiers.
– That can be done without amending the act.
– It should be done quickly. These men are not getting a fair deal, and an increased pension for them is long overdue. The cost will not be very great, because we are not asking for an increased pension for those who wilfully deceived the examining officers. I am speaking on behalf of those who went away in the best of health, but through some unknown cause are now suffering from infirmity, and are consequently unable to earn their living. It is for these men that the honorable member for Melbourne has moved the motion this afternoon, and I have much pleasure in supporting it.
.- The motion submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne introduces for discussion the most complicated question troubling the Repatriation Department to-day, namely, whether the disability from which a soldier is suffering is due to war service or to some pre-war disease. Undoubtedly the health of every one who served in the field during the war was affected in some way or other, and in consequence his life has been shortened. I make that statement, even as a layman, without fear of contradiction. I have held for some time the view that the application of any man who served in any theatre of war with his unit should be accepted for consideration without the slightest hesitation or further inquiry. The Minister has pointed out that if the motion were agreed to 60,000 extra people would be entitled to pensions. I do not doubt that. I have previously said that those who did serve in any actual theatre of war, whether it was Gallipoli,France. Flanders, Egypt, or Palestine, should be granted a pension regardless of any trace of pre-war disability. Honorable members will agree that the provisions of the Repatriation Act are generous. The act has been amended repeatedly at the request of the organizations of the returned soldiers themselves and of honorable members on both sides of the House. It has been amended also to conform with various decisions of the Government to make its provisions more generous. I agree with the honorable members for Ballarat and Batman that the real crux of the question is the sympathetic administration of the act, and I am sure that no honorable member asks for more than that. I should like to refer to one case in particular, which makes me hop’eful that there will be sympathetic administration of the act so long as the present Minister remains in office. I have endeavoured for years to get an increased pension for an unfortunate widow whose husband died in an asylum. I believe that the Minister referred to this case. It was maintained that his death was dut to a pre-war disability. He served for years in the Australian Imperial Force, and for a period in the trenches in France, and even if he had this pre-war disability I cannot see how it could be maintained that it was not aggravated by war service. His widowwas certainly entitled to an adequate pension, and, to my great pleasure, she has nowreceived one retrospective to the date of the death of her husband. Everything depends on the sympathetic administration of the Repatriation Department, and I am satisfied that the present Minister will do his best for the men whose disabilities have arisen from, or have been aggravated by, war service.
– I was pleased to hear that the Minister proposes to amend the act to enable certain men, whose applications were previously rejected, to receive a pension. I have fresh in my mind the case of a returned soldier named James Millen, and I want an assurance from the Minister that he will receive better treatment. Before enlistment he was a strong, healthy man, who, although a native of Scotland, had lived in Australia for many years. He was doing very hard work when he was medically examined. I understand that before the soldiers embarked from Australia they were subjected to several medical examinations. If a man were examined in Ballarat, another examination took place before he embarked.
Therefore, each soldier must have passed several severe examinations before he embarked from Australia. This man travelled only as far as Egypt. I have interviewed several of his colleagues who were with him on the night during which he contracted a cold while sleeping on the sands of Egypt. He was returned to Australia as unfit for further service, and has been receiving a pension that has been reduced to about £1 a week. Recently he became ill, and started for Melbourne in order to seek admission to the sanatorium, but when he reached Ballarat his condition was such that he had to enter the local hospital. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and I interviewed the Deputy Repatriation Commissioner (Major Ryan), who, although very sympathetic, said that the act was so rigid that there was no possibility of that man being admitted to the sanatorium. That young fellow’s days are numbered. He did his best - he offered his life - and, having been accepted by the military authorities for active service, he is entitled to expect the country to look after him for the remainder of his days. He is incapacitated for work, and if he desires to become an inmate of the sanatorium, he surely should be eligible for admission I ask the Minister for an assurance that this and similar cases will receive his sympathetic consideration. I agree with the honorable member for Brisbane that every man who went to the front, and who was returned to Australia in impaired health, is entitled to assistance in accordance with the promise made to the soldiers when they enlisted, that their country would never allow them to want. It is our bounden duty to see that these men receive the sympathy and assistance they need, and 1. hope the Minister will introduce an amendment of the act to enable that to be done.
.- When I first saw this notice of motion on the business-paper, it recalled to my mind several discussions that have taken place regarding this subject. I interpret it to mean that any man who was accepted for active service must be presumed to have been in good health at the time of enlistment. The Minister has shown that that is not so, and those who served in the Australian Imperial Force know that many men were passed as fit who knew that they were not in sound health. I, for instance, would never have passed the medical examination had I not resorted to a subterfuge. Honorable members will recollect that in the early days of the war it was not expected to last long, and those who desired to go to the front were anxious to be accepted for military service as soon as possible. Although the great majority of the men who enlisted actually desired to see active service, we unfortunately cannot shut our eyes to certain facts, and I know of many men who joined the Expeditionary Force without any intention of participating in the fighting. That statement cannot be gainsaid, although I, as a member of the Australian Imperial Force, am reluctant to make it. Some who went as far as England “ swung the lead,” or “ worked their nut,” so that they were not sent to France, or, at any rate, became merely “base wallahs” a long way behind the line. Amongst those who enlisted were men who came originally from the United Kingdom, and desired to revisit their relatives there after a long absence; they would not be likely to disclose to the medical officer their ailments. If the medical officer passed them, they were very pleased, because they were able to get a trip to their native land. There they disclosed their complaints to the camp medical officer in the hope that they would not be sent to France, but would either be left in. the United Kingdom or returned to Australia. Unfortunately, such instances came under my notice as a camp adjutant in England. In that camp we had a couple -of thousand men newly arrived from Australia, and immediately on arrival they obtained the usual disembarkation leave. As soon as they returned from leave some of them went on sick parade. Their object in going overseas had been attained. The enlistments in Australia totalled 416,S09, of which 331,946 embarked for service overseas. It will be seen that’ 84,863 men who joined the Australian Imperial Force did not leave Australia. Does the honorable member for Melbourne desire that those men shall be able to claim a pension in respect of any disability from which they now suffer? A pension is intended to be a recompense for disability caused through war service, in order to make the income of the recipient approximate the earning capacity of a man in normal health. Ita man did not go overseas and did not suffer any grievous bodily hurt through joining the Australian ImperialForce, what claim has he to a pension? If the whole of the 416,809 men who enlisted had been demobilized immediately after attestation and medical examination, a fair proportion of them would by now be suffering from tuberculosis, asthma, rheumatism, and the various other ills that afflictthe civil community. Does the honorable member for Melbourne desire that any man who merely went through the formality of medical examination and attestation shall he entitled to become a charge upon the community? That is what I understand his motion to mean.
– Why not endeavour to improve the wording? I shall accept a suitable amendment.
– I have not an amendment prepared, but if the motion were worded more reasonably I would support it.In its present form it is too far-reaching, and opens up too many pitfalls.
– Limit the proposal to mem who went overseas.
– No. One case that wast brought under the notice of the Parliamentary Committee appointed to investigate repatriation claims was that of areturned soldier, 25 years of age, who developed locomotor ataxia, which the doctors declared could not have resulted from war servicev Various medical men expressed the opinions that, as the man was only 25 years of age, his affliction could not have been due to his war service. Nevertheless, he claimed that, because he had served in the war, his disability should be regarded as having been causedby his war service. For any amendment to be acceptable, it should covercases of thatkind. I do not mind if a few undeserving cases slip through..
– If the war did not cause his disability; what did cause it?’
– The honorable member, as a medical man, should be better able to answer that question than I am. While I am not prepared to accept the motion in its present form, I believe that the discussion in. this House will result in more sympathetic consideration being given to these men by the
Repatriation Department. Personally, I have found that the officers of the department have treated sympathetically the cases which I have brought before them; where there was a possibilityof a pension being granted, they have strained a point to grant if. That has been my experience, arid, no doubt, the experience of other honorable members also.
– It has not been my experience.
Mr.R. GREEN. - The motion, as at present worded, would,, I believe, lead to further malingering, and therefore I cannot support it.
.- The proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), that fromthe time that they were accepted By the Commonwealth medical officers as fit for active service the Federal Government should be responsible for the men who enlisted, seems to have been entirely forgotten in this discussion. The Minister referred to one soldier who was found to be 72 years of age. I consider that if a man of that age was prepared to fight for his country, he should be entitled to any pension which in other circumstances would be payable to him. From the remarks of honorablemembers, if would appear that they hard, generally, been successful in their dealings with the officers of the Repatriation Department in connexion with cases in which they have interested themselves. My experience has been different. Recently, when in the country, I met a returned soldier who was wounded so badly, and had undergone so many operations, that he still had two suppurating wounds in his body. When I saw him he was still wearing bandages. With difficulty, he can drive a motor car, and because some employer, in a desire to help him, gave him employment as a motor driver, the department reduced hispension very considerably. That is dealing with soldiers on a commercial basis. The man referred tois not likelyto recover, and he should be entitled to his full pension. I could mention numbers of other cases, but, as the time available for the discussion of this motion has almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Remaining notices of motion(by leave) postponed until 1st October.
Debate resumed from 20th August (vide page 1598), on motionby Mr. Thompson
That, inthe opinionof this House,a royal commissionshould be appointed without unduedelay to visit Norfolk Island and inquire into the position of the island and its inhabitants inrelation to Commonwealthcontrol:
[4.291.- In his speech of the 13th August, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) gave an interesting résumé of his visit to Norfolk Island, and brought under the notice of the House some of the complaints of the islanders. I should like to reply briefly to some of his statements on that occasion. He said, first, that he was the only member of this Parliament whohad visited Norfolk Island since it was taken over by the Commonwealth.
– I said that I had been so informed by the islanders.
– The transfer of the island to the Commonwealth was effected on the 1st July, 1914, in conformity with the act passed previously.. In December of that year ten members of the Commonwealth Parliament visited the island, and spent a considerable time among* the islanders. A public meeting was held, at which the islanders discussed with the members matters affecting the island. A shorthand report of the speeches was taken, and copies of the transcribed notes were supplied to the members, and also to the Minister responsible for the administration of the island, aswell as to the Administrator. All matters referred to at that meeting were exhaustively dealt with by the department then controlling the island, and where grievances were found to be well founded, matters were rectified immediately. Some of the matters brought forward bythe islandershad referenceto grievances whian had existed during the time that theNewSouth Wales Governmenthad control ofthe island.
– Between the visitof December, 1914,referred to bytheMinister, and my visit, did any members of this Parliament visit the island?
– I have no knowledge of any such visit. One of the alleged (grievances was that of thePitcairn Islanders, who have consistentlycontended that they have an indefeasible right and titleto the whole of the land in the island. Neither the New South Wales nor the Commonwealth Government hasever admitted that claim.The investigations made into this matter have disclosed the fact that, so far back as 1884, Lord Loftus, the then Governor Of New South Wales, when on a visit to Norfolk Island, endeavoured to disabuse the minds of the islanders regardingthat claim. He readtothem the order by which the Governor for the time beingwasempowered to grant or sell land to whomsoever he pleased. Since tfe transferof the island to the Commonwealth, successive governments havedone everything possible for the betterment of the conditions of the people there. The petition, for a royal commission which some time ago wasaddressed to the Minister for Home and Territories, stated that, in the opinion of the petitioners, the expenses in connexion with the administrationof the island were quite unwarranted, and that the island received practically no benefit from the expenditure. Tha cost to the Commonwealth of officers appointed to deal with educational, postal, medical,savings bank, police, and other matters is approximately £3,500 per annum, yet nothing is received from the islanders in return. The fullest consideration has been given to every suggestion for the improvement of conditions at Norfolk Island.
– Has the Minister or any of the senior officers of the department ever visited the island to obtain first-hand knowledge of the conditions there ?
– There is an officer of the department on the island at the present time. Officers are seconded from the department to obtain experience ofthe work. They are sent to the island for two years for the purpose. Tha officer who is there now, while not being one of the heads of the .department, is by no means a junior officer. It is hoped, by the practice that has been adopted, to enable officers of the department to have a better knowledge of the conditions in the island, and of any disabilities from which the islanders may be suffering.
– Is there an advisory council on the island?
– Prior to the receipt of the petition to which I have referred, the Government had decided that the powers of the Executive Council of the island should be enlarged to enable it to submit proposals for new ordinances or the amendment of existing ordinances. At one time the Executive Council had very little power. Its members met for a conference, but they had no power. The Executive Council of the island has today, and has had for some time past, the power to make suggestions for new ordinances or the alteration of existing ordinances.
– It can make its suggestions only to the Administrator.
– But the Administrator is bound to forward them to the Government, and I am satisfied that the Government, no matter to which party it might belong, would give the best consideration to any suggestions made. ‘
– Has any request been made to stop the aggregation of land?
– Not that I am aware of. For many years past the descendants of the Pitcairn Islanders have claimed, as they do now, that the island was given to them, and they have a right to do as they like with it. Neither the Government of New South Wales nor the Commonwealth Government has ever conceded that claim.
– Quite right, too.
– The granting of extended powers to the Executive Council is merely an experiment to gauge the ability of the residents of Norfolk Island to manage their own affairs. The granting to them of full powers . of local government will be decided in the light of the experience gained. The honorable member for New England stated that the local clerk of petty sessions informed him that he is dissatisfied with the treatment he has received as a servant of the
Commonwealth Government. This officer was in the office of the administration when the territory was transferred to the Commonwealth. At that time he was in receipt of a salary of £104 per annum, and since the territory has been under the control of the Commonwealth his salary has been increased to £370 per annum, so that it cannot be said that he has been altogether forgotten.
– Was he a cadet when he received only £104?
– I take it that he was a junior officer when he received that salary, but he is now in receipt of a salary of £370 from the Commonwealth Government. It will not be contended that that is a very large salary, but honorable members must be aware that the cost of living, is very much lower in Norfolk Island than it is in Australia. The honorable member for New England referred to a communication he received from a member of the progress association of the island to the effect that it was rumoured that Mr. Wilson, the new clerk being sent there, is there for the purpose of “gathering information,” and asking whether it would be safe to confide in him the business of the association. Mr. Wilson is the man to whom I have just referred as the officer who has been seconded from the Home and Territories Department. He will remain on the island for two years. He has been sent there, not to “ gather information,” but to fill a position rendered vacant by the retirement of an officer. When his two years are up another will be appointed from the department to take his place. The honorable member asked why oldage pensions could not be paid on the island. According to the act, these pensions can only be paid in the Commonwealth. If an old-age pensioner leaves the Commonwealth his pension automatically ceases. The Government and the pension authorities are taking into consideration a proposal that if old-age pensioners care to take up their residence on Norfolk Island their pensions will be continued to them.
– Are the islanders not entitled to a pension under the act?
– They ought to be, as residents of a territory of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for New England has stated as one of the chief grievances of the islanders the absence of a news service. The Pacific Gable Board at one time supplied the islanders with a news service, but owing toa different routeing of messages the staff at Norfolk Island was decreased, and the Pacific Cable Board said that it could not supply the news service any longer unless the islanders contributed a certain amount towards the cost. The islanders would not consider any payment towards the cost, and the Government took the matter into consideration and supplies the islanderswith a weekly news service through the publicity branch of the Prime Minister’s Department.
– Has that been supplied lately?
– Yes, quite recently. The Government has also purchased a wireless receiving set which it is proposed to install on the island, and the islanders will then be able to obtain news daily from broadcasting stations in Sydney. Honorable members generally will admit that the various Governments have had a delicate task in the administration of Norfolk Island, and I can only repeat that the Commonwealth Government as at present constituted, will see that the islanders get everything to which they are entitled. There ure some things which we cannot see our way to grant. If a royal commission were appointed . as the honorable member for New England suggests, it could obtain no more information than we have at the present time.I remember that on one occasiona deputation waited upon one of the Commonwealth Ministers, and after he had listened to the speakers of the deputation he said, “Is there anything further that you wish to discuss with me before I go away?” The reply was, “No, but if you give us until 9 o’clock to-morrowwe shall try to think something out.” If we send a royal commission to ‘the island it will only disturb the residents, and they will be bringing forward all manner of disabilities. They are very peaceful at the present time, nothwithstanding the allegations which the honorable member has made.
– Would it not be the work of a royal commission to find out what the islanderswant.
– I will say that, if it is at all possible, it is the duty of members of this Parliament to visit the island, as the honorable member for New England has done, in order to obtain first-hand information concerning the conditions there. I might suggest to honorable members opposite that a good time for them to visit the island would be during the next elections. The honorable member for New England, having brought under our notice some alleged disabilities of the Norfolk Islanders, has done his duty to them and to the House. He has given us the benefit of the experience he gained on his trip, and honorable members listened to his remarks with interest. I am sorry that the Government cannot see its way to grant the commission for which he asks, and I hope that, having ventilated the grievances of the islanders, he will be satisfied with the reply of the Home and Territories Department.
– I desire to say a few words in reply to the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr). I reiterate the statement that my object in bringing this matter forward was to comply with a. definite request made to me, at a public meeting, by the people of Norfolk Island. I do not take any credit for going down there, as my visit was purely in the nature of a holiday. When I said I was the only member of this Parliament who had visited the island since the Commonwealth took it over I spoke from information given to me by the islanders. It appears, from what the Minister has said, that the island was taken over by the Commonwealth on the 1st July, 1914, and, almost immediately afterwards, a part of Federal membersvisited the place. The two eventswere almost simultaneous, and it is safe to say that during a period of eleven years no Federal member visited that isolated spot. I very much regret that the Minister has submitted no legitimate reasons for turning down the request for an inquiry by a royal commission. It is merely another instance of the red tapeism which afflicts the Home and Territories Department. I have no desire to cast aspersions upon the present head of that department. He is a very capable Minister, but he has been so long in office that he is, utterly steeped in the traditions of red tapeism. The very fact that the Government turned down the request of the Administrator for a -wireless receiving sei!, with which to supply items of news te the- islanders, and said that the matter must stand over until next year’s Estimates, when the expense would be a mere bagatelle, proves that the Minister does not take a great deal of interest in the island., It should have been a very simple matter to accede to so reasonable a request by the Administrator. When the Government, without any valid reason, turns down the request of the people of Norfolk Island,, as conveyed through me, there is very little inducement for Federal, members to travel far afield to> gather information for the sympathetic consideration of this House. To accede to my request would not involve the Commonwealth in any great expenditure. I am satisfied that there are members on both, aides of this House who would be glad to visit the island for health reasons, as well as from a desire to obtain information about its conditions. The reply of the Government to the request that has been made: is to say to the’ islanders, “ We cannot be bothered with you. There is nothing wrong in the island.” The islanders believe that many things- are wrong there; and the refusal of the Government to accede to their request for a commission of inquiry is an affront, not only to: the people of the island, but also to the intelligence of members of this House. Persons who have never been to the island, and know nothing about it, tell those who have been there that they do not know what they are talking about. They say, “ These people have asked you to secure the appointment of a commission to inquire into their grievances but we know that the best we can do for them is to leave them alone.” The Minister said that if the commission is appointed the people will probably find a lot of grievances. The doctrine of “Let things’ slide1,” surely will not appeal to honorable members. The petition that was presented to Parliament may not contain such serious complaints as w© are> accustomed to have submitted by petition, but there can be no doubt that the people regard their circumstances with grave disfavour. Their complaint about the liquor traffic would, alone, justify the appointment of a commission. The 760 people on this island are of mixed racial origin. They are cooped Up in 13 square miles of country, and are practically isolated. As the liquor traffic there is under government control, their complaints should certainly be investigated. If such allegations were made from any other territory of the Commonwealth no time would be lost in looking into them. Liquor is imported to Norfolk Island and held in bond by the Government, but apparently there is not a sufficient measure of control and abuses are occurring. The ravages of whisky, gin and other liquor in such a community might seriously hinder the physical and moral development of the people. The Minister referred to the Executive Council. The circumstances in that connexion are quite unsatisfactory. The council is a kind of plaything, given to the people to keep them quiet. The administrator is practically a dictator. Included in his duties are those of magistrate and judge. Although he has had no judicial training, he has to interpret the law, and the islanders are very dissatisfied with some of his decisions. That is inevitable in all cases, in which a layman without the requisite training, is obliged to determine complicated points of law.
– Have the people any appeal from his decisions ?
– They have the. right, under their ordinances, to appeal to the Governor-General, but the conditions governing the appeal are not satisfactory. When I was on the island a man who had been mulcted in £80 damages by the Administrator asked me what course he should take to appeal against the decision. I understand that the casewas determined on affidavits furnished from Australia. I told the man that ho had the right to appeal to the GovernorGeneral. He immediately lodged his appeal in the proper way, but did not receive even an acknowledgment of its receipt. For nine months he was engaged in the ridiculous and time-wasting business of writing or cabling to the Minister about the matter. I believe that just recently he was notified that as the verdict against him was for an amount less, than XI 00 he has no right of appeal. The council consists of six persons nominated by the Administrator and six elected by the people. Naturally the Administrator takes care to nominate only those persons who will support his views. I do not blame him for doing so. The Minister stated that the council has all the powers of a shire council, but, on the information that I have, I must disagree with him.
– It has the same powers as the advisory boards in the mandated territories.
– So far as I can see its only power is to placard the island with notifications to the male population of the labour conditions. The only money on the island is brought to it by tourists, or spent by the administration. Every man between the ages of 21 and 56 is liable to give fifteen days to the administration every year for road work. It is quite apparent, however, that the labour conditions are not taken seriously. Such conscription of labour is always hateful to a spirited community. The condition of the roads indicates quite clearly that very little work is done. If the Minister considers that the council has any real power, he must have a queer understanding of what power is. Quite recently, in consequence of the dissatisfaction expressed by the people, an ordinance has been issued which confers upon the council the right to make suggestions. But all such suggestions must first be submitted to the administrator in order that he may make his comments upon them before forwarding them to the Government. It can be easily understood in those circumstances that the Government is. not likely to be influenced very greatly by any suggestion which is not favorably considered by the administrator. There are quite a number of matters that a royal commission could give attention to. Among them is the population problem. The majority of the 760 people on the island are descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty. They represent about twelve families which are continually intermarrying. There is no outlet for the energy of the young people on the island. The land question should also be investigated. The islanders are under the impression that the island was given to them by Queen Victoria, and that it is theirs in perpetuity. The Minister has said that this is a delusion. In that case the sooner a royal commission investigates the position the better. The trade of the island also merits attention. We havebeen told that the Government is doing everything possible for these people, but the available figures do not support the state ment. Figures in the last annual report of the administrator show that whereas in 1919-20 the imports were valued at £16,932, and the exports at £13,727, the imports for 1923-4 were valued at £22,000, and the exports at only £3,170. A reduction of nearly £10,000 in three years in the exports from the island is serious, and does not bear out the Minister’s statement. I was glad to hear that the Government is taking steps, to provide the islanders with a news service. At present they take no interest in any affairs but their own. It is high time that the position and powers of the administrator were more clearly defined. His work would be much easier if he had a proper charter of power. Under existing circumstances he may be a benefactor or a tyrant. I wish it to be understood that I am not making any accusations against hint. I am merely pointing out the defects of the position. The people have grievances which should be remedied. I consider that the tourist traffic will become very important to Norfolk Island in the future- if a reasonable steamship service is provided. The prevailing service is shocking. The Burns-Philp Line sends one boat there in every five weeks. I understand that hundreds of people inquire every year whether they cantake a holiday trip to Norfolk Island, but they are unable to do so because steamers are not available. The Burns-Philp Company is prepared to provide an adequate shipping service if it is granted some encouragement by the Commonwealth Government. The Government has said that it is opposed to the appointment of a royal commission, but I ask honorable members not to allow that to dissuade them from voting for the morion. 1 realize that it is impracticable for a commission to visit the island immediately, but I have no doubt that if the motion is carried a commission could visit it after the electrons, and make an investigation along the lines I have suggested. If the existing problems there are neglected for another ten years they will become practically insoluble. I trust, therefore, that the motion will be carried.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 1
– If it is the wish of the House, those honorable members who, through indisposition, desire to remain in their seats on my left, may do so, and be regarded by the tellers as voting for the “ ayes.”
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Claim by H. Dean and Sons.
Order of the day for resumption of the debate upon motion by Mr. Watkins -
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the claim of H. Dean and Sons, of Newcastle, New South Wales, against the War Service Homes Commission.
That such committee consist of Sir Elliot
Johnson, Mr. E. C. Riley, Mr. Seabrook, Mr. Josiah Francis, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Gardner, and the mover, five to form a quorum; with power to send for persons and papers and records and examine judgment in connexion therewith, to adjourn from place to place; and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken; and that such committee do report this day three months. - having been called on,
– On behalf of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), I ask that the consideration of this motion be postponed until the 1st October.
Motion adjourned accordingly.
Charge against Mr. J. R. Collins : Financial Abeangements during the War - Unification of Railway Gauges - Postmaster-General’s Department: Payment of Federal Awards to Linemen : Sale of Stamps : Commission - Railway Construction : Port Augusta to Broken Hill and Hay : Orbost to Bombala : Electrical Power - Canberra: Leaseholds - Entertainments Tax - Children’s Christmas Publications - The Tariff : Article in “Smith’s Weekly” - Deportation Board : Publicity Branch, Prime Minister’s Department - Industrial Unrest - Soldiers’ Pensions : Payments by Post : Review of - Old-age Pensions: Reciprocity with New Zealand: Blind Street Vendors - Interstate Telegrams : Delay in Delivery - Tasmanian Timber Industry.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
.- I wish to refer to the various statements chat have been made by the Treasurer and the documents which he, to-day, laid upon the table respecting an agreement that was made between the Treasury and the associated banks. It will be remembered that earlier in the year th’e Treasurer stated that a certain arrangement had been entered into by the Labour party in 1915. The files on the table show that on the 15th August, 1914, an announcement was made by Mr. Selby Paxton, the chairman of the associated banks, that the Treasury had agreed to advance three £1 notes for every £1 in gold that the banks paid into the Treasury. The memorandum of agreement was signed and submitted by the Treasurer to the associated banks on the 18th August, 1914. On the 25th August, 1914, a resolution was agreed to at a conference between the Commonwealth Minister and the Premiers of the States. On the 12th September, 1914, the chairman of the associated banks communicated with the Treasurer, stating that the banks were not agreeable to the arrangements respecting the non-delivery of gold. They wanted the right to draw three notes for every sovereign, and at the same time have the right to draw gold for exchange. The Cook Government then went out of office. On the 17th. September, Mr. Andrew Fisher became Treasurer and Prime Minister. On the next day Mr. Allen suggested that Mr. Fisher should tell the banks that an advance in Australian notes had already been made to one of the banks in pursuance of the arrangement made between the Commonwealth Government and the banks. Emphasis was laid on the fact that the arrangement had already been made between the Commonwealth Government and the banks. The files show exactly the position in 1914, when a dispute took place between myself and the Labour party generally on the subject of the agreement. Mr. Fisher asserted, and I had to accept, his statement, that there was nothing in the files to indicate that he or the Labour party had anything to do with that arrangement before he took office. On the 21st September Mr. Fisher accepted the suggestion made by Mr. Allen that a new arrangement should be entered into, and the banks were prevented by law from drawing gold from the Treasury. Up to that point there was nothing in the files to show that Mr. Fisher had any knowledge of the previous arrangement., I quite agree with the Treasurer that there are in Hansard statements by Mr. Fisher in cross-table talk between himself and Sir Joseph Cook, indicating, apparently, that some arrangement had been made. Mr. Fisher at that period denied that any such construction could be placed upon his remarks. He denied any knowledge of the arrangement whatsoever. I was under the impression, from the statements made by the Treasurer when speaking on the Bank Bill, that certain documents must have been inserted in the files since the dispute that took place in 1914 between myself and Mr. Fisher. I see nothing of that kind on the files, and, therefore, the statement that I made concerning Mr. Collins was unjustified. I can only assume that the Treasurer made his statement on the basis of outside information. I can see in the files nothing to justify in any way the statement of the Treasurer that the Labour party or Mr. Fisher was a party to the original arrangement. According to my interpretation, the arrangement was made between the Commonwealth Government and the associated banks on the 14th August, 1914. According to the facts as they were presented to me, and on which I took up my position at that time, there was nothing to implicate Mr. Fisher as far as that transaction was concerned. I assumed, if the file did contain anything to justify the statement of the Treasurer, that the Government was holding back something from me, and that T was justified in my accusation against Mr. Collins. I now find that the documents do not justify my statement concerning Mr. Collins, who is vindicated in the position which he took up, that Mr. Fisher was not in any way implicated in the transaction. I accept the documents as being reliable, and I withdraw the statements that I made concerning the Under-Treasurer.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation following on the statements made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). Honorable members will recall that when this matter was being discussed in the House I stated that I believed both Mr. Anstey and Mr. Collins. Last night I said that my words would be few in regard to the matter that had been raised by Mr. Anstey, and added that I was satisfied from the statement made by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), that what he had stated was correct. This morning’s Argus reports me as follows: -
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said that Dr. Page’s statement confirmed what Mr. Anstey had said about Mr. Collins.
I did not mention Mr. Collins’s name.I would be the very last person to reflect upon that gentleman. I think I made that abundantly clear. Personally to be misreported and misrepresented is not a. matter of concern, because I am accustomed to such treatment. But when a reflection is made upon a gentleman holding an important public position, I feel it incumbent on me to endeavour to right the injustice.
– I am gratified by the explanationof thehonorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who has withdrawn a reflection which he cast upon a responsible and valued officer who has renderedgreatservice to the Commonwealth. I felt sure that, when he last spoke on thissubject, the honorable member was ignorant of the facts. For that reason I was pleased to he able to place the fileson the table so that he could ascertain the true position. In regard tomy own statement, honorable members will recall that, when I spoke on the Bank Bill last year, I made no reflection upon previous administrations. Mr. Anstey, by interjection, asked me when the agreementwith the associatedbanks was made, and I said I thought it was in 1915. Subsequently, having had an opportunity to consult the files, I amended that statement, and said that it was madeon the 8th November, 1914, and was signed by Mr. Fisher. I think that the honorable member forBourke will bear me out in this. TheHansard report of that year also showsconclusively that on the three occasions when the isubject was brought up in the House both Mr. (now Sir Joseph) Cook and Mr. Fisher indicated that it had been discussed at the conference between representatives of the Government and all parties concerned. The final amended arrangement was made subsequently by Mr. Fisher as stated. The recital of the history of the inflation of the note issue in my speech on the Commonwealth Bank Bill last year shows clearly that I made no specific reference to earlier administrations. Isimply mentioned in its order this three to one arrangement, which I said was the most questionable of all the financial negotiations arising out of war conditions. The point I made last Thursday was that the agreement was in a different category, from the point of view ofthe public interest, from that made by the bank with the MutualLife and Citizens Assurance Company Limited. I am very glad indeed that the honorable member for Bourke has so graciously exculpated the Secretary to the Treasury from suspicion of double dealing in connexion with the information supplied.
– I should also like to make it clear that my examinationofthe files has exculpated Mr. Fisher as well as Mr. Collins.
.-The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is of course pleased that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has withdrawn any implication regarding Mr. Collins, but he cannotescape the charge that his own speech on this subject left a wrong impression on the minds of honorable members. He referredto the 1914 agreement withthe banks as one of the most doubtful financial arrangements made during the whole course of the war, and when asked when it was made, he said it was in 1915, clearly leading honorable members ito believe that it was the act of a Labour administration. Subsequently, when challenged, he withdrew the statement.
– I was not challenged by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) at thetime. I corrected mystatement after I had examined the file.
Mr.SCULLIN.- The honorable member for Bourke distinctly challenged the accuracy of the Treasurer’s allegation that the arrangement had been made by a Labour Government. We thought the matter rested there, but when the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) subsequently directed attention to the arrangement made between the Commonwealth Bank andthe Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited, instead of attempting to defend that agreement the Treasurer avoided the issue by referring to the 1914 agreement, which, he led honorable members to infer, had been made by a Labour Government.
– I said it was confirmed by a Labour Government.
– Exactly. The Treasurer displayed a good deal of cleverness. Instead of answering the charges made by the honorable member for Reid, he spoke of the arrangement made, or confirmed, by the Fisher Government in 1914. When the honorable member for Bourke challenged the Treasurer’s statement, he naturally assumed that the documents supporting the Treasurer’s viewpoint were on the file, and that he had not been told the truth by Mr. Collins about the 1914 arrangement. The one thing that stands out clearly from an examination of the file is that the Fisher Government was in no way responsible for that doubtful financial transaction. Mr. Fisher was obliged to confirm an arrangement made by the preceding Government, lt is as well that the subject has been ventilated. Suspicion has been removed from Mr. Collins, but unquestionably the Treasurer is implicated. He endeavoured to put up a smoko screen to obscure the charge made by the honorable member for Reid by suggesting that Mr. Fisher had been responsible for an arrangement which, as we learn from the file, was merely confirmed by him.
– I desire to make a personal explanation concerning the statement made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). If honorable members care to peruse the Ilansard report of my speech last night, they will acquit me of any intention to create a false impression concerning the financial transactions of 1914. My statement was absolutely fair and true. At no time have I suggested that the Fisher Government was responsible for that arrangement.
.- Wo all realize that, owing to the heavy burden of war taxation which the people of Australia have to bear, it is essential that we should make the best use of our opportunities and encourage production as much as possible. Important railway proposals have occupied the attention of this Parliament from time to time. One of the most important is a scheme for a 4-ft. 84-in.-gauge railway connecting Port Augusta with the New South Wales system. Unfortunately, the Governments of South Australia and Victoria have stood in the way of any unification proposals. I understand that negotiations are now in progress between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Governments to carry out certain railway undertakings in that State. It is not my wish to say anything that may prejudice that arrangement, but it is essential, if we are going to develop the Commonwealth as we should, to have a trans-Australian railway on the 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge. The New South Wales Government has a line connecting Broken Hill and Menindie, and it is expected that, in the near future, this section will be linked up with the extension from Condobolin to Ivanhoe. I was informed by a responsible officer of the Railway Department in my State last week that the bridge across the Darling would be completed by the time that this additional section had been constructed; then Broken Hill would be able to obtain coal from Lithgow at 6s. per ton less than the present boat and rail charges via Adelaide. Inquiries were made some years ago in regard to a proposal to connect Port Augusta and Hay. A favorable report was received, but nothing was done. Since then a great deal of developmental work has been carried out along the Murray, and an arrangement has been entered into by the New South Wales and Victorian Governments to. build three lines of railways and several bridges across the Murray. These lines are to be built to the Victorian gauge, and because of the foresight of the last government in New South Wales the whole of that portion of the Riverina will send its produce to Melbourne, which is its natural market and port. It is a pity that previous governments in New South Wales did not sanction the building of these railways, because the development of that country so that its trade would go to Sydney would be a physical impossibility. Unfortunately, through interstate jealousy, the progress of that part of Australia was retarded for years. The late government of New South Wales was strong enough to do what no previous government had the courage to do, and as a result of the very satisfactory arrangement made with Victoria, that portion of the Riverina will be given access to its natural market. If that arrangement had not been made the railway from Hay to Port Augusta would have served portion of that area, but the whole of it will be better served by lines connecting it with its natural market. For a considerable distance the proposed line from Hay to Port Augusta would run parallel with the Murray River. Owing to the extensive system of locking which is being carried out the river will be made navigable for a considerable distance. I say without hesitation that the requirements of development and decentralization would be better met by a railway from. Broken Hill to Port Augusta. The late Nationalist Government in New South Wales was prepared at any time to build a 4-ft. 8-in. line from Broken Hill to the border, and 1 have no .doubt that the present government in New South Wales will be equally ready to do so. The distance from the border to Port Augusta is about 200 miles, and if that line were constructed there would be a railway on the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge from Kalgoorlie to Sydney. A 4-ft. 8^-in. line from Grafton to Brisbane is now in course of construction, and if the project I am advocating be carried out, we shall have a uniform gauge from Kalgoorlie to Brisbane. Such a line would bring the eastern and western States into closer contact, and its value could be further increased by connecting it with two New South Wales lines. A line of about 20 miles could be built either from Hillston or Cargellico towards Mount Hope, and another link of about 40 miles could be constructed from Ungarie to Condobolin. Although we have recently enjoyed a succession of good seasons, my mind goes back to 1919-20, when New South Wales was in the throes of a very severe drought, and fodder from South Australia had to be conveyed over congested lines. The difficulties of transport were increased by the break of gauge, and every siding between Melbourne and Albury was blocked with trucks of chaff. The Glaziers’ stock and the farmers’ horses in New South Wales were dying because they could not get South Australian chaff quickly enough, notwithstanding that an extra siding was built at Albury, and the traffic was worked day and night. If the Broken Hill to Port Augusta connexion were made, South Australian fodder could be brought to New South Wales more conveniently, and by means of the two’ short connecting lines distributed throughout the southern portion of the Mother State. The line from Condobolin to Broken Hill is being built with heavy rails to carry fast traffic and big loads, in accordance with the recommendations of the New South Wales Railways Commissioners and the Public Works Committee that any but a heavy and permanent line would be practically useless. The Broken Hill to Port Augusta connection would promote decentralization, bring a lot of traffic across the continent, and extend our people’s knowledge of their country. Another line that is essential to the development of Australia is one northwards from Bourke, either to connect with the western termini of existing Queensland railways, or to follow a more westerly route to Camooweal, proceeding thence to the Barkly Tablelands. Some advocates of that line have, inadvisedly, I think, suggested that it should be built in lieu of the north-south line, from Adelaide to the Northern Territory. The two proposals should not be regarded as alternative or competitive. One line cannot serve the whole of that interior country, and a railway built from South Australia into western Queensland, and thence into the Northern Territory wo aid have only a limited usefulness. The mere suggestion that such a route is an alternative to the direct north-south line arouses antagonism to both proposals. These lines should be regarded as independent, rather than . alternative propositions. The southern States have frequently experienced a shortage of beef. But never has the whole of the country between the Murray River and the Barkly Tablelands suffered from drought at the same time. On many occasions’ New South Wales graziers would have been able to save large numbers of stock by shifting them into the pastures further north. In 1914, when southern Australia was experiencing probably the worst drought in its history, a great deal of the country that would be traversed by a line from Bourke to Camooweal was waving with rich pastures. About eighteen months later the conditions were reversed, and Queensland graziers were losing stock, whilst in the south feed was abundant. I remember Sir George Fuller admitting to a deputation regarding the railway extension from Condobolin to Broken Hill that many times in the history of New South Wales the absence of a few miles of connecting railway had been responsible for losses of stock greatly exceeding in value the cost of such connexions. In- the northern area that would be served by a line running from Bourke to Camooweal cattle can be bred much more cheaply than in southern Australia, but at the present time, owing to the lack of railway communication, they must be fairly matured before they can be started on the eight-months’ journey into New South Wales. At the end of the journey they are absolutely hard, and fully another eight or nine months is required to restore them to killing condition. Instead of the people being able to get young beef, which, incidentally, is more profitable to the grower, these cattle are marketed in southern markets nearly two years later than they would be if railway transport were available. Only about two years ago, cattle were imported into Victoria from New Zealand, whilst simultaneously cattle in the north of Australia were practically valueless. Had the Bourke to Camooweal railway been in existence, such an anomaly would not have been possible. I urge the Commonwealth Government to adopt a far-sighted policy, and to enter into negotiations with the States concerned for the construction of a railway northwards from Bourke towards the Barkly Tablelands. The late Government of New South Wales, was prepared to build the line from Bourke to the Queensland border. I am sure that the present Government will adopt the same attitude. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect the Government of Queensland to bear the whole of the cost of a line through central Queensland. An honorable member interjected regarding the objections of Sydney people to the extension of Victorian lines into New South Wales. No doubt, similar objections will be urged by Brisbane to a line that will connect the New South Wales markets with the cattle areas of the north. Those who cannot see beyond their noses will declare that such a line would mean a loss of trade to Brisbane. Probably Brisbane would lose trade, but the whole State, including the capital city, would be advantaged by the greater prosperity that would arise from the development of the hinterland. Id the past, parochial considerations have influenced too much the railway construction policy of the Australian -States, and I hope that the suggestions I have made will receive early consideration from the Commonwealth Cabinet, and that a policy will be adopted which will make for the more complete and systematic development of the country, and by increasing the prosperity of our people, make them more fit to carry their heavy burden of debt.
– I desire to protest against the attitude of certain Commonwealth departments to wards Federal awards. Those departments should set an example to other employers of labour, but, instead of doing so, they are evading their obligations to certain of their employees. Recently I have interested myself in the case of certain employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department in the pole yard at Keswick, South Australia. Men are employed there as labourers, and were until recently receiving a, wage even less than that which the Federal court has decided shall be the basic wage. They are deprived of the opportunity to benefit by the Commonwealth child endowment scheme.
– Do not these men work under a State award ?
– Yes. My complaint is that the department is withholding from the men the superior conditions that are provided by the Federal award.
– Are they permanent men ?
– They have been employed in the service for at least twelve months. Technically, they are not recognized as permanent employees. The Acting Deputy Postmaster-General in Adelaide some time since informed me that the men were working under a State award, and receiving the State basic wage. That led me to conclude that they must be receiving a higher rate than was provided for under the Federal basic wage decision. But when I inquired as to the relative values of the two awards I learned that the State award was lower than the Federal ! These men. therefore, were not only being deprived of recreation leave and child endowment, but ako were receiving a lower rate of wage than the Federal basic rate. A Commonwealth department should not evade the decisions of Federal courts. Recently the State basic rate has been revised and increased. I personally interviewed Mr. Mason, the Deputy Postmaster-General in Adelaide, in whom we have every confidence, and of whom we have the kindliest thoughts. I believe that he is a most efficient officer. He, no doubt, recognized that an undesirable and difficult precedent had been established, and he endeavoured to overcome it on the best terms. He sent me the following letter : -
With - reference to the personal representations made by you on the 18th August, 1920, respecting the wages paid to labourers employed at the departmental pole yard, I have to advise that the labourers are paid in accordance with the State basic wage, which, on the 13th August, 1025, was increased to 14s. 3d. per duy. The rate of pay approved by the Public Service Board for labourers is £204 per annum, puis a child endowment allowance of £13 per annum for each child under fourteen years. “A lie State basic wage is, therefore, at present a more favorable rate, except in the case of an employee who lias more than one child under the age of fourteen.
It is well known that the largest families are to be found in working-class homes. The conclusion of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, that to a man with one child the State basic wage is more favorable than the Federal basic wage, plus the child endowment allowance for one child does not give satisfaction to these employees. They desire that the Federal Government should recognize its own basic wage, and, in addition, give them the benefit of the child endowment, scheme and the recreation leave provided for bv the Commonwealth Public Service Act. It is a mean and paltry evasion for an administrator to say that he is not bound by the provisions of Federal awards, because these men are not regarded as permanent employees, and technically are not members of the Commonwealth Public Service. If the Commonwealth sets an example of evasion of awards of Federal courts, its action will have a very far-reaching effect. These men feel that they are entitled to the Federal basic rate, and that, as they have been employed in the department for a period of at least twelve months, they should be brought under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. One of the men is named Montgomery. He has been employed by the department for some years. Earlier he was classed as a lineman or lineman’s assistant. At that time he was paid the lineman’s rate of wage and given recreation leave. An officer of the department, however, thought that it was desirable to reclassify all those who were engaged in this class of work, and, although some of these men had to perform duties that rightly belong only to linemen or lineman’s assistant, they were classified as labourers. Montgomery was one of those. He has lost his recreation leave and the other benefits of the Federal award which apply, but he is still performing the duties that he formerely undertook. For the last four years he has had a lower status, with less pay and with worse conditions than those which should be rightly applied to him. I have exhausted every avenue in an endeavour to secure redress. I went to the Acting Deputy Postmaster-General some months ago, but he was not clothed with sufficient power to right the wrong. I then went to head-quarters, and presented the case to the Postmaster-General. From him I received the’ intimation that these men were not employed under the provisions of the Public Service Act, and therefore they were paid according to the Stale basic rate. That gave no satisfaction to me or to those whom I was representing. I was already aware of that circumstance. What I desired was that the Postmaster-General should prove to me that these men were not losing anything. Evasion of decisions of Federal courts by a Commonwealth department is unjustified, and places it in an anomalous position. Even though a man is classified as a temporary employee, if he is giving the same service, he is entitled to the same conditions as those which are enjoyed by permanent employees. After a person has occupied a position for twelve months continuously he should be regarded as a permanent employee.
– Surely the honorable member does not seriously contend that 1 We have about 7,000 temporary men employed in telephone construction work.
– I do not care whether there are 10,000 or 20,000 men so employed. The Government should do the right thing by them. That is the rule of the South Australian Government.
– It is not so in Victoria.
– If a State Government can place its employees on a permanent basis after twelve months’ service, surely the Commonwealth Government can take similar action. Does the PostmasterGeneral contend that there is to be any lessening of the activities of his department in relation to the extension of telephone services ? The programme that the department now has in hand will extend over many years.
– No; it is for this year only.
– The PostmasterGenera] knows very well that he cannot complete in this or next year the telephone services that are required in the Commonwealth.
– We know that we can spend £6,000,000 this year.
– Before the Government makes any further remission of taxation, either directly or indirectly, the PostmasterGeneral should see that the Commonwealth employees engaged in this work are justly treated. I challenge the Minister to justify the action of his department in not paying the rates set out in the awards of the Federal Court.
– The awards are observed in the case of the permanent officers.
– If the Government recognizes the principle in the case of the permanent officers, why does it depart from that principle when the men concerned are temporary employees? Payment should be made for the services rendered, no matter by whom the work is performed. It is not right that these invidious distinctions between permanent and temporary employees should be made. I can assure the Minister that I shall not rest content until these men are paid the Federal basic wage, and receive just treatment in other respects. If the Minister is not prepared to put matters right now, he will hear more from me on future occasions. I am not prepared to allow, without protest, these men to be unjustly treated. So long as I remain in this Parliament, or until their wrongs are righted, I shall continue to urge their claims. I hope, however, that the Minister will realize that they should be paid according to the work which they perform, and that they will soon receive the same treatment as that accorded to the permanent employees. To labour this question further at this stage would be unwise. I have already presented the case to the Minister personally, and I hope that he will not longer delay in doing the right thing by men who may rightly be regarded as permanent officers. 1 submit their claim, and trust that honorable members generally will support it.
– I desire to refer to the treatment meted out by the Postmaster-General’s Department to those persons who for many years have been selling postage stamps on commission. It appears that, in accordance with a recent decision, one person in a street or locality is now allowed to sell stamps, while others in the same locality are denied that right. Why are such dis tinctions made ? Is this a new rule which has been introduced by the Director of Postal Services?
– It is the shabbiest action ever taken by the department.
– Probably the reason is that some persons are prepared to sell rhe stamps without charging commission. I understand that since the new arrangement came into operation all applicants for licences to sell stamps are informed that if they are prepared to forego the commission they will be granted the privilege of selling the stamps. I know of one or two cases in which that reply has been received by applicants. One case to which I desire to refer is that of a news vendor who has been refused a licence to sell postage stamps while a competitor has been granted a licence. He objects, not to payment of commission being refused, but to a distinction being made between individuals.
– At what time does his shop close?
– What difference does that make?
– If the other shop closes at 9 o’clock and his closes at 6 o’clock, he would not be able to meet the requirements of the public to the same extent as his competitor.
– That is an argument for increasing the hours of work. If all places of business closed at 6 o’clock, there would be no reduction in the number of postage stamps sold: Can the Minister inform me whether postage stamps are still sold at railway stations?
– I do not think so.
– The obtaining of stamps at a railway station after the ordinary business premises were closed was a great convenience. I have always been under the impression that the Commonwealth Constitution provides that there shall be no distinction between States or the people within States, but the Postal Department in granting stamp licences makes distinctions between individuals.
– The honorable member could with as much reason say that the department should not have the right to choose its employees; the vendors of stamps are practically employees of the department.
– I do not agree with the Minister’s statement, as the selling of postage stamps is really only a sideline with these people. In no sense can they be regarded as employees of the department. Their position is entirely different from that of applicants for employment in the department, for which the person best fitted is chosen. I do not think that the new arrangement will result in a very great saving to the department, or that the public will regard the innovation as an improvement. I should like the Minister to explain the reason for the new arrangement.
I now wish to refer to the controversy which took place in the expiring days of the Cook-Irvine Government, and the early days of the Fisher Government, regarding financial matters. I remember well the speeches that were then made in this chamber. Soon after the commencement of the war an estimate of the amount which could be obtained in Australia for war purposes was made. I believe that the maximum amount was then considered to be £20,000,000. At that time it was not possible to obtain money from outside sources as readily as previously. Australia could not expect the Old Country to finance her in the same liberal manner as in the past. Even if Mr. Fisher did acquiesce in an arrangement with the banks at that time, I could understand his action, although I should regard it as a serious error of judgment on his part. A careful study of Ilansard for the early days of the war can lead to one conclusion only, namely, that Australia was. then m serious financial difficulties. The financial capacity of the Australian people was under estimated. At that time the attention of all the States was concentrated on the Federal Government. In consequence of an interruption in the States’ borrowing arrangements, the Commonwealth, notwithstanding its huge financial responsibilities, had to come to their rescue. A conference consisting of Commonwealth and State representatives was convened, and if a mistake was made by the Treasurer of that day, the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is not justified in criticizing the actions of the Leader of the Labour party at that time, because if he had been in his position he would have realized that in a time of unexampled crisis some such action was necessary. The arrangement, however, was made by the Cook-Irvine Government, and was ratified by the Fisher Government when it came into power. It is only reasonable to expect, in the exceptional circumstances which prevailed at the time, that some mistakes would be made. I think it is generally admitted by financial authorities that the Government had practically no option in the matter. There is no analogy between thf two cases, because at the period to which I refer we were faced with a crisis, and at present, apart from our war debt, our finances were never in a more satisfactory position. The Government had no right to appoint the managing director of a company with an overdraft of £350,000 at the Commonwealth Bank as the chairman of the board of that institution, and a person controlling a company so heavily indebted to the bank should not have accepted the position. It is surprising to me to find that full inquiries were not made into all the circumstances, but the Government will have to answer to the people for its actions.
I trust the Government will not be influenced by the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) concerning the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Broken Hill. The Commonwealth authorities submitted a proposal for the construction of the line from Hay to Port Augusta, but in view of certain negotiations Detween the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government regarding the construction of other lines the Hay to Port Augusta line is, I understand, not now being seriously considered. A railway a little to the north of Mildura would pass across a great artesian basin extending over portions of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, and the further development and settlement of the Murray lands in the three States mentioned will lead to increased production in that area and add to the general prosperity of the Commonwealth. Conditions have changed during recent years, and if some of the ardent State-righters of a few years ago were alive to-day they would be astounded to find that, the Victorian railway system had been extended into the
Riverina and was now carrying traffic to the Victorian ports. It is pleasing to find that interstate jealousy no longer exists in any marked degree, and that portions of New South Wales are now served -by the Victorian railway system.
Sitting suspended from 6. SO to S p.m.
– I have said that, in my opinion, the railway from Hay to Port Augusta proposed by the Commissioner and his officers is a better proposition from a revenue point of view than is the line suggested by the honorable member for Macquarie. I understand that attention is now being given to a more modest proposal, with a view to making the railway journey from Adelaide to Port Augusta more easy than it is at present. The Commonwealth is concerned in railway construction between Kyogle and South Brisbane, and if we are to embark upon still further railway construction 1 wish to direct particular attention to a proposed line in which I take a very great interest. In the earlier stages of my political career, I very bitterly opposed the transference of the Federal Capital to Canberra. Circumstances and the voting of majorities have settled that matter, and we are now going ahead with the construction of the Federal Capital at Canberra. I always said that there was one thing connected with the establishment of the Capital at Canberra which appealed to me, and that was that we should have about 1,01)0 square miles of country which could be retained for all time as the property of the Commonwealth, and in which the leasehold system of land tenure would prevail. I suppose that with one or two exceptions the members of this Parliament are favorable to the continuance of the leasehold system in the Federal Capital Territory. That territory being a part of the people’s property, I am prepared to view very favorably any proposed railway construction which may enhance its value. I was one of the first to suggest in this House the construction, of a railway from Orbost to Bombala. I believe that such a line would materially assist in the development of the Federal Capital territory. I have travelled over the Victorian railways as far as Orbost, but 1 have not had the pleasure of travelling over the country between Orbost and Bombala. I am informed by those who have been over that country that a motor trip from Sydney through Bombala and the south-eastern portion of New South Wales, and thence through Gippsland to Melbourne, is one of the most delightful trips that could be made. If the Federal Government is to launch out into new proposals for railway construction such a line as I have suggested should be the next considered. Victorians know that a line extending from Orbost through the north-eastern parts of the State would be very desirable, both from a developmental and a tourist point of view. Those who know anything about the south-eastern portion of New South Wales, which such a line as I have suggested would traverse, are aware that it is a very fruitful land and that a good port could be established at no great distance from the railway. I was very pleased to see in the newspapers recently a report of the deputation, of which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) was one, that waited upon the Victorian Minister for Railways and pointed out the advantages of this particular line. 1 understand that a favorable reply was given to the deputation, lt was mentioned that if the New South Wales, Victorian and Commonwealth Governments united to build the line there is no reason why it should not be under construction at an early date. Its construction would complete a link in what would be practically a coast line which should be of great advantage from a defence point of view. I believe it is not included in what military experts regard as a strategical railway system for Australia, but I do not know that we should accept their verdict absolutely. I think that this line would be found of great advantage from a defence point of view should trouble come to Australia. From the developmental point of view the line has strong claims upon the Federal Government and the State Governments concerned. If the three Governments united each contributing a quota to the cost of construction, the completion of the line would link up the railway system from Fremantle to Adelaide and Melbourne through Gippsland, past the Federal Capital Territory, on to Sydney; thence to Brisbane, and from Brisbane northwards” to beyond Cairns. I believe that the line I have suggested would pay handsomely at no distant, date, and I am prepared to use all the influence I can to have it constructed.
Sir AUSTIN CHAPMAN (Eden-
Monaro) [8.10]. - I was very pleased to listen to the statement of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) as to the advantages likely to accrue from the construction of the railway to which he has referred. The honorable member, however, did not mention one important factor in support of the proposal, and that is the importance of the district which would be traversed by the line as a source of power for the generation of electricity. The power which might be derived from the Snowy River would be sufficient for the generation of a supply of electricity which could be carried south through Gippsland to Melbourne and north to Sydney. The ice fields of the district through which it passes renders the water supply of the Snowy River inexhaustible, and it is difficult even to imagine the volume of electric power which might be derived from the district through which the proposed line would be taken. It is not unexplored country. Its resources are known to scientists and capitalists. The opening up of the avenues of wealth presented by the district would provide means for the employment of many people. It might be suggested that as the proposed line would go through my electorate its construction naturally appeals to me, but there must be a means of communication provided between Canberra and Melbourne, and, as I have said, the proposed line would give access to a reservoir of power which might be utilized to convert what are now practically empty spaces into hives of industry. I trust that the picture drawn by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) will be actually realized, and that big industries will develop at Canberra. The question will undoubtedly arise as to whether we should not make a good port on the seaboard, which is some 50 miles from the Federal Capital. Many of our most sagacious people have already purchased home sites at Canberra, and I have no doubt that some t;me in the future we shall” also have to give serious consideration to whether or not the present leasehold titles to the land there shall not be converted into freehold titles. There are murmurings even now against the leasehold system. Personally, I favour it, but it is well known that the Englishman, by reason of the fact that he holds his land under a freehold title, regards his home as his castle. Such great progress is being made at Canberra that those honorable members who have not been -there for some time will be astonished the next time they visit it. If a big electrical power scheme can be developed for Canberra, it will make a tremendous difference to the city. I hope that we shall overcome the tendency to look at Canberra nerely from the point of view of Melbourne and Sydney and the sea coast. We should consider it as an Australian project. I trust . that in time it will become the great city that it ought to be.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Government to two or three matters. The first concerns the Taxation Department. There is a lack of uniformity in applying the provisions of the Entertainments Tax Act to trade union social gatherings. As a rule, every trade union holds a social gathering once a year, not for the purpose of making profits, but to gather the members together for social intercourse. Frequently these functions result in a financial loss. Generally speaking, they are exempt from the entertainments tax, but the department recently made a notable exception in the case of the Theatrical and Amusement Employees Association. I do not know why the annual outing of that union should be taxed ; perhaps the Treasurer will be able to tell me. Prior to my illness I had taken up this matter with the department with a view to securing a refund of the amount paid by the association. While I was indisposed, Senator J. Grant kindly continued the negotiations.* So far, however, we have obtained no satisfaction. I feel sure that when the Entertainments Tax Act was passed by Parliament there was no intention to tax this class of gathering. It. is not an entertainment in the ordinary sense of the word, and certainly it is not organized to make a profit. I trust that the Treasurer will inquire into the matter, ascertain the reasons for the imposition of the tax on this union when other unions are exempt, and instruct the department to refund the amount charged.
A couple of months ago I introduced to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) a deputation from the Writers and Artists Association. I am only doing justice to those who follow these professions in Australia when I say that they compare favorably with the writers and artists of any other part of the world. Some of our black and white artists have been responsible for work that has not been excelled anywhere. They have been right in the forefront of their profession. The same may be said of our prose writers and poets, borh men and women. The deputationthat I introduced requested the Minister to impose a duty on imported children’s toy picturebooks, such as are sold in large numbers at Christmas time. They contended that only the imposition of a substantial duty would make it possible forAustralian writers and artists to compete successfully with the continental producers of this class of book. At present there is no duty whatever. In passing, may 1 say that I think it is high time that we dispensed with the English and German idea of a Father Christmas muffled up in furs and driving reindeers amid falling snow. Such a representation ot Christmas time is absolutely foreign to Australian conditions. We have bright sunshine, and we should provide suitable Christmas books that will convey Australian sentiments to our children. Why should we not use the wattle, the waratan, and flannel flower to decorate our Christmas books instead of the holly and Old World flowers?
-hughes. - Is the wattle out at Christmas time?
– That interjection seems pertinent, but it is really impertinent. I was not suggesting that we should use bunches of wattle for decoration purposes at Christmas time, but that drawings and paintings of wattle and other Australian flowers should appear in the children’s picture books which are sold in large numbers at Christmas time; When the deputation waited upon the Minister, he said “ Tell me how many of these books are imported into Australia each year.” It is impossible for us to obtain that information, for the Customs Department makes no distinction between various classes of literature. Inquiries were made, however, and it was ascertained that books to the value of £1,000,000 are imported annually. If we assume that 5 per cent. of the importations are children’s toy picture books, the importations are valued at about £50,000 a year. The writers and artists are not asking that a prohibitive duty shall be placed upon all literature, for they consider that the very best of literature and art should be available to our people duty free. Their request is confined to children’s toy books, and I hope the Minister will give it favorable consideration.
I wish now to refer to another matter. I am surprised that attention ‘has not already been drawn to it by honorable members who support the Government. An article appeared in the last issue of Smith’s Weekly newspaper that calls for some explanation. I wish it to be understood that I am not fathering the article by any means. Smith’s Weekly, as is well known, circulates throughout Australia. It certainly casts very serious reflections upon certain people in our community, some of them holding important public positions and others in business in a substantial way. This article should not be allowed to pass without some explanation. To show its seriousness I shall read a few extracts from it.
– What are the headlines ?
– The heading to this article is “Smith’s Weekly Exposes a Sensational Plot in which the bribery of Federal members is suggested.”
-Is the honorable member guilty ?
– Honorable members may, if they choose, treat this matter lightly, but I shall not. If that article mentioned my name the proprietors of the paper would have been served before now with a writ for libel. Public life is open to too much mud slinging, and we should try to keep it clean.
– The article is a slander on the whole Parliament.
– The next heading is, “ Financial pressure to sway votes against tariff ; town and country union a tool for free trade propaganda.”
– I presume the honorable member is bringing this matter up as a breach of privilege ?
– No. I am bringing this matter up under the ordinary procedure of Parliament. I have already said that I did not father the article, but I want to put it on record, becauseit calls for a reply. The people concerned should reply to it.
– On a point of order, I understand that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is really speaking on a matter of privilege. I think that the procedure to be observed in respect of any question arising out of a newspaper article, and debated as a matter of privilege, is specially dealt with under the Standing Orders. I ask you, sir, whether the honorable member for Dalley is presenting this matter in conformity with the Standing Orders.
– I am scarcely able at this stage to determine the attitude of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). Standing Order 285 provides that if an honorable member complains of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege he must be prepared to produce a copy of the newspaper itself, to name its printer and publisher, and to conclude with a motion. If this question is raised as a matter of privilege, a point which I shall determine as the honorable member proceeds, that procedure must be adopted. At this stage, however, the honorable member’s remarks are not sufficiently developed to permit me to determine what course should bc taken. I ought to say, further, that while the Chair decides the considerations that ought to be dealt with by the House as a matter of privilege, the House itself determines whether or not a breach of privilege has been committed. I shall await further developments from the honorable member for Dalley.
– I certainly did not raise this question as a matter of privilege. I raised it as a matter of public interest under cover of this grievance motion. The article points out that certain large importing interests in Melbourne and Sydney engaged in the importation of pianos and player-pianos from Germany especially are endeavouring to use pressure to prevent any increase of the duty upon those instruments. A letter appearing in this journal points out that the best way to prevent an increased duty being placed upon imported pianos is to fight for a reduction of the existing duty. It is remarkable that in the new tariff schedule there is no increase in the duties on pianos or player-pianos, even though the Australian industry is being seriously affected by the competition of German cheap-labour products.
– The honorable member will, of course, avoid discussing the tariff.
– I shall not further pursue that subject. The following letter appears in the article : -
Melbourne, 14th August, 1925.
Dear Mr. Preston,
In connexion with the opposition to the increase in duties on pianos and player-pianos, it is suggested that a letter be sent to each member of the Country party in the House, and also to all Nationalists, except those who are known to be rabid Protectionists. .
Mr. Hagelthorn suggests that such a letter, if sent, should go out under the auspices of his union (the Town and Country Union). This, of course, would be for the interested parties to decide, but, so far as Melbourne is concerned, Allan, Reed (Aeolian), Brash, and ourselves all agree that it would be best for this letter to go through the Town and Country Union.
Hagelthorn and Mann, M.H.R., go to Sydney on Sunday, and are stopping at Usher’s.
I am enclosing to you a letter of introduction to Hagelthorn, as being better than a letter of introduction from Hagelthorn to yourself.
The object of their visit to Sydney is to address the Sydney Branch of the Town and Country Union, or whatever name it goes under. They have been invited over specially for the purpose.
Now the best suggestion that Hagelthorn has made is that, instead of simply trying to stop the increase of duty, we should go baldheaded for a reduction. Hagelthorn as an old campaigner maintains that by going for something more than you are prepared to accept you are more likely to achieve the main object of this present agitation. I feel certain that in this you will agree with him.
If there is to be any tight put up on the floor of the House, or beforehand at any meeting of the Country party or Nationalist party, there is far more prospect of stopping the increase.
We are posting herewith the suggested letter which Mr. McDougall and I have compiled From the various notes at our command, including your letter to the Tariff Board,George Allan’s remarks, Mr. Reed’s comments, and also Brash’s. All these, with the exception of your remarks to the Tariif Board, we attach herewith, so you will have before you in ext en so what they have said.
Mr. Hagelthorn is anxious to have from you copy of the letter which we propose to issue, and also the main points, not only for no increase of duty, but also for a reduction in same, so that he may make use of these in his opening address to the Sydney union.
The next point is that it is important that we should receive back in Melbourne from you, on Monday, the draft of the letter which you yourself think should go out from the Town and Country Union’s office. For this reason we intend telegraphing you to be sure and get our mail before leaving the city on Saturday. To do this you must post on Sunday night.
We have indicated to Mr. Hagelthorn that, in proportion to the results obtained, the trade will make a contribution to the funds of the Town and Country Union.
This will only be a few pounds - possibly £50 or £100.
In the event of any Nationalist’s support requiring financial pressure, what is the attitude - in Sydney towards same?
Mae has done, and is doing, most of the work here - interviewing people and talking with Seed, Allan, Brash, &c. If anything satisfactory result!), you will have to give Mac the credit so far as all efforts in Melbourne are concerned. The others are leaving everything to him. lt is now up to you anc! Sydney to do a bit of pushing as well.
This journal, in addition to publishing a facsimile of certain of the paragraphs of typewritten communications, has given a description of the gentlemen concerned. The article continues -
Now who is “Dear Mr. Preston”? Let Smith’s Weekly tell you.
Maximilian Peter Pollak, since known as Preston-Pollak, or as Preston, was bora in Prague from 4.5 to 50 .years ago. Prague is now in the Czecho-Slovak Republic, but during the war Pollak, or Preston, ranked as an Austrian subject.
At present he is in the importing firm of Norman U Burnell and Company Limited, 350 Kent-street, Sydney.
This is the class of person that the Prime Minister was condemning the other night at Dandenong. The paragraph further says -
Before coming to Australia, Pollak (or Preston) was a trader in Hamburg, London, Paris, and Brussels; he came to Australia in 11)04, and first managed J. L. Lennard’s business in Brisbane. He wag subsequently in Sydney and Adelaide.
When the war began, Preston-Pollak was in Adelaide as manager of the business of John Beckman (senior partner in the firm of Weber and Company, Hamburg, Germany).
Immediately before the outbreak of war, Preston-Pollak assigned the business to Samuel Fiddian, his clerk, and left himself without legal assets; and, in September. 1914, the business appeared ils a company entitled Preston Limited, Indentors and Importers.
Now we know all about this “ dear Mr. Preston,” who was to do the pushing at the Sydney end of the business.
– He should be brought before the Deportation Board.
– Of course. Here is more -
In 1915, Preston was interned as a prisoneof war along with tlie Germans in Holdsworthy Camp, New South Wales.
Evidently he is still doing a bit of pushing for Germany -
After his release from internment, Preston stayed awhile in Adelaide, then came to Sydney; and, in 1921, was registered the business of Preston and Company, at Kent-street, Syd ney.
That explains all about the gentleman. Samuel Fiddian, who sent the communication to “ Mr. Preston,” was Preston, Pollak’s clerk in Adelaide. His name appears throughout the extract which I have just read. These things should not be. passed over lightly. Either they are true or untrue. If true, we should know all about them,. If persons of this class are in Australia, I agree with the Prime Minister that they should be dealt with. The party to which I belong will give the Prime Minister every assistance to deal with these enemies of Australia and of Great Britain. There will be no doubt about our stand towards people who showed their enmity to Australia and Great Britain during the war and who are still displaying enmity in a more insidious way. Where is the money coming from ? More German gold ? Did we not hear during the war something about the clink of German gold in the palm of the hand, and of the whispering of German tongues in the ear] What about the clink of German gold now? Will the Prime Minister apply the deportation law to these gentlemen ? Surely there is ample warrant to bring these people before the board.
– But they are not trades union leaders.
– No; but they are the leaders of German importers, who are doing all they can to smash the piano and piano-player industry in Australia. By their actions they are throwing hundreds of Australian workmen out of employment. We ought to have an explanation from the Minister for Trade and Customs as to why this languishing industry is not receiving adequate protection. The article” which I have just quoted is very illuminating in view of the fact that the Tariff schedule, which was laid upon the table of the House last week, offers no protection for this important Australian industry. The statements certainly call for explanation. I hope that certain gentlemen who are interested may be able to clear up statements about their attitude. “Hope,” we are told, “springs eternal in the human breast.” I hope that the Prime Minister will take advantage of his position and put the deportation law into force against those enemies of Australia who are leading the German industrial onslaught against Australian industries.
.- Were I to follow my personal inclination, I should treat the speech of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) witu the contempt it deserves. It might be urged that since my name has not been mentioned I have no occasion to speak on this matter. That, I suggest, is rather characteristic of an attack of this kind. Of course, every honorable member knows quite well that my name has been associated with it. The newspaper - if it may be called such - from which the honorable member quoted, not only published the article, but also took the trouble to send a circular letter to most, if not all, honorable members.
– I have not received one.
– I have seen a number of copies. One has been handed to me by a fellow-member. I very much question the motive which led the honorable member for Dalley to bring this matter before the House. He has said, or rather has hinted, that his object was to ask for an inquiry, and although he was skilful enough not to say so, he suggested that the article was a reflection upon certain members of this House. Apparently, then, it was the honour of this House that he was concerned about. If not, he was not concerned about anything. I submit, however, that if the honorable member so earnestly desired to protect the honour of this House, his method of procedure was altogether wrong, and that the manner in which he handled it was an abuse of the privileges of this House.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– I rose to a point of order, and directed attention to the fact that cases of this kind are specially provided for in our Standing Orders. Had the honorable member been really anxious to defend the honour of members of this House, his course was clear. He was not prepared to take that course. He knows as well as I do, that if he wished to defend the honour of members, it was his duty to make the complaint in a regular manner, and, according to our Standing Orders, to move a motion of contempt. Has hp done so? Not at all. It is clear, then, that after all he was not concerned about the honour of members of this House or the protection of its privileges.
He simply set out to cast ridicule and obloquy upon a political movement with which he is not in agreement. The mere fact that he associated my name with it is beside the question. He is afraid of this political movement.
– Do not be foolish!
– The whole trouble is that the honorable member senses a growing feeling amongst the people of Australia against certain provisions of our laws in their relation to our industrial and economic life. Citizens who objectto them are openly, legitimately, and honorably protesting against those conditions, and have every right, if they care to exercise it, to combine in a perfectly constitutional manner to effect a change. In doing this, they are not acting dishonorably. On the contrary, their action is more honorable than are some movements to change the conditions of political life in this country to which the honorable member for Dalley has given his support. If members of the public, and if public men, may not openly combine to criticize Commonwealth laws, with the object of effecting alterations in a constitutional manner, where is our liberty, and where are our constitutional privileges? My purpose is to acquaint those who are sufficiently interested to read the honorable member’s remarks, with the real motive behind his attack this evening. Clearly he believes that the citadel of high protection, in which stand entrenched those who for so many years have taken an unholy toll from the people of this country, is being attacked.
– The honorable member must not proceed on those lines. He must not discuss the fiscal issue.
– May not I speak of the fiscal issue as the motive underlying the speech delivered by the honorable member for Dalley?
– That is permissible within certain limits.
– I shall endeavour to keep within those limits as strictly as did the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). It will be difficult, and if I transgress I shall immediately bow to any restriction which you, Mr. Speaker, may place upon me. So far as I am personally concerned, not only has the honorable member for Dalley no right whatever to demand an explanation from me, but, more than that, I say there is nothing for me to explain, and if 1 endeavoured to do so, possibly my action would be interpreted as lending colour to the thought that I held that any explanation was necessary. The honorable member has endeavoured to show that it is wrong for an organization which so attacks existing Customs duties to collect funds from those who wish to have the tariff reduced. Of course, the honorable member was speaking with his tongue in his cheek. He knows that he would never seriously entertain the slightest idea that there was anything improper in such action, but he is quite willing to throw out insinuations or innuendoes in this House that such is the case. He does not question the right of any political party to carry on propaganda work, because propaganda - which is carried on by every political party - is merely an attempt by a few people to achieve something which they believe to be in the interests of the community generally. For my part, I am glad to be associated with it ; I feel that I have more to beproud of in that regard than I would have if, as others are doing, I were casting a slur upon the characters of men who are trying to serve, their country. If the. honorable member for Dalley says that there is anything improper in propaganda he is condemning his own party. Will anybody pretend for a moment that the Labour party, the National party, the Country party, or any other political party or public organization, does not collect funds for the furtherance of its objects ? In trying to collect funds for propaganda, what a terrible crime the Town and Country Union has committed. Honorable members, I suppose, expect letters to be carried without postage, and all sorts of work to be done without spending money. Such a notion is so childish and ridiculous that no sensible man would attach the slightest importance to it. If what the Town and Country Union has done be wrong, what right has any organization, which is agitating, not for a reduction of Customs duties, but for an increase of them, to collect and spend funds for the promotion of its objects? That policy, when adopted by protectionists, is, I suppose, laudable in the opinion of honorable members opposite. But my view is that it is more creditable to collect money for propaganda to reduce the burdens of the community than to collect funds for an organization to increase them. I think I have sufficiently explained my connexion with this business. I know nothing about the lett er _ that has been quoted. Until I read it in the press I did not know that such a communication had been sent. As for negotiations of the slimy character indicated by the honorable’ member for Dalley, I know nothing of them, and I utterly repudiate any association with them. I do not pretend to know what is ment by the phrase “ financial pressure.” To my mind it is a very clumsy phrase; it may mean any of two or three things; but, of course, the honorable member has been pleased to place upon it that construction which is most agreeable to his own mind. Those who are associated with me in this charge, and whose characters have been maligned, are not here, and cannot speak for themselves, but I do say of Mr. Hagelthorn, that any man who equals him in public spirit, selfsacrifice, and hard labour for what he considers a public cause, has reason to be proud. So far from his having received any so-called “ German gold.” I know that he is working at the sacrifice of his private business. I can assert positively that no improper negotiations or suggestions have been made by either the Town and Country Unionto Mr. Fiddian, or Mr. Fiddian to the Town and Country Union. What significance is there in the statement that if the union succeeded in getting a reduction of certain duties the piano trade would contribute to its funds? Honorable members will at least notice that no contribution was to be made until the work was done. The Town and Country Union was undertaking this work unselfishly, and in the public, interest, and without knowledge that it would receive any financial contribution, but if it. succeeded, and were offered a financial acknowledgment of its services, it would be entitled to accept it. What happens in connexion with protectionist propaganda? I was told recently of a manufacturer being approached, and definitely informed by a representative of an organization that if he cared to pay £1,000 to that body it would get a certain duty increased. If that incident indicates the practices of the protectionists let them not cast a stone,
– I think the honorable member should disclose the identity of that person.
– I scorn to descend to such’ depths. The attack made to-night was unprovoked, unreasonable, unjust and unmanly. Both the newspaper that published the article and the honorable member who trespassed on the time of the House in order to ventilate his very unreal anxiety for the honour of Parliament, seemed to be in the same predicament as the suffragettes were in England a few years ago, when because they could not stand being ignored, they smashed windows and resorted to arson and other extreme actions to bring themselves under public notice. Like the bandar-log mentioned in Kiplings Jungle Book, the one thing some persons cannot suffer is not to be treated seriously, or thought worthy of notice.
.- We all must sympathize more or less with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). He spoke feelingly, and showed that the honorable member’ for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) had, at least, succeeded in arousing his interest in this public matter. I scarcely know what is the gravamen of the charge against the honorable member for Dalley. He merely quoted certain newspaper’ passages regarding the public activities of public men and asked for an expression of opinion - an explanation, if you like - regarding them. The honorable member for Perth has been good enough to state his opinion - a little heatedly, perhaps, so far as his remarks related to my honorable colleague, still it is gratifying to know that the matter has aroused a certain amount of public interest. I agree with the honorable member for Perth that no political party can succeed without funds. Both parties and individuals have an acquired or inherited craving for those good things which can be had only by the judicious use of money. But the portion of the honorable member’s speech that most impressed me was his disclosure that, although for a long time we were under the impression that all the roubles from Moscow and the marks from Germany were flowing into the coffers of the Labour party, the great bulk of that money is now being misdirected into the coffers of the National and Country parties! That is a most disquieting discovery. We find that at the very moment when the Prime Minister was busying himself in the peaceful hamlet of Dandenong, about twenty miles from Melbourne, in explaining to the people of that sylvan and rural locality the evils of the foreign influence in the Labour party, that influence was operating in the interests of the freetrade Country party and the colleagues of the right honorable gentleman. I repeat my agreement with the honorable member for Perth, that no political party can succeed without funds. Certainly the Nationalist party could not live an ho’ur without the money bags it possesses. On its merits as a political party it would have been condemned to death in its infancy, but having those undoubted resources to which the honorable member so feelingly referred, it lives on, in a halting and not very convincing way, but still to a- certain extent animate and articulate. My mention of the Prime Minister recalls to my mind the real object for which I rose. Most honorable members will have observed that while the House was sitting, and when the Prime Minister’s duty was to be in his place in this chamber, he was making frantic efforts to defend his reputation in the heart of his electorate. I do not blame him; on the contrary, I quite realize the necessities of his situation. He has much to apologize for, and no one will blame him for going to the people to whom he is responsible to offer his apologies. But that, is not all. At the present time a board which was created by this Government to determine whether certain Australian citizens should be deported from this country is sitting in Sydney. 1 have the satisfaction of knowing by a decision of the High Court that that board is not a judicial body, and, therefore, in the strictly technical sense, the cases of those men who are appearing before the board are not mb judice. Still, the Prime Minister has said that the board is an independent, non-political body discharging judicial functions in a judicial way. He has endeavoured to persuade this Chamber, and the public generally, that these Australian citizens who are on trial before this board are really to have a fair trial, free from political influence of any kind. It is an amazing fact that, although he has made that public declaration here and elsewhere, he is perambulating the country endeavouring to poison the minds of the public, and incidentally the board, against these men. That, politically speaking, is about the most indecent thing that I have known a Prime Minister of this country to do, and I am not at all surprised that his action has evoked a most spirited condemnation from the learned King’s Counsel whose duty it is to defend these men before that tribunal. May I be permitted to quote the words of that learned gentleman, as reported in the Argus of the 7th September, 1925, under the heading “ Deportation Board,” “Attack on Mr. Bruce.”? Like the honorable member for Dalley I do not father statements that I find in the Argus, the Age, or the Melbourne press generally. My experience has taught me that on matters of opinion they are almost, always entirely wrong rather than slightly right. But on a question of fact I think that they can sometimes be relied upon; and this is a question of undisputed fact. The report reads as follows : -
Mr. Watt, K.C., said that no reason had been given to him for the resumption. “ I noticed by the press this morning,” he said, “thata certain gentleman who is Prime Minister of this Commonwealth has taken upon himself to make public utterances which ?re absolutely slanderous, false, and improper. He docs that even in face of bis creation of this board.”
– Order! I think that the honorable member is aware of the ancient parliamentary rule that no member may read from a newspaper an extract containing unparliamentary terms. Had the honorable member himself endeavoured in this House to give expression to the terms alleged to have been used by the King’s Counsel, he would not have been permitted to do so.
– I accept your ruling, sir, that the words that I have read are not parliamentary. I quite appreciate the propriety of the standing order and practice in that regard, and I merely awaited your decision as to whether the words were or were not parliamentary. The report continues - “ As this is not a court, we cannot ask you to deal with Mr. Bruce for slander.” Mr. Canning. - Is this necessary?
– Yes. I have never seen Mr. Bruce to speak to him. Although we are unable to have him dealt with, we hope that he will have the public decency to refrain from committing contempt of court.
Those words are, at all events, restrained, and I think that they are absolutely justified by the facto. If we cannot induce this Chamber and the public to restrain the right honorable gentleman from continuing these grave and gross contempts, apparently we have no other means of redress; but upon individual members of this House there lies the duty of calling attention to what I regard as a gravely indecent political practice on the part of the Prime Minister. So far from being dissuaded from continuing on this course, we find him repeating the offence. In this evening’s Herald there is the following report : - “ One of the matters which might have compelled us to take one definite step,” said Mr. Watt, “ is the way in which the Prime Minister is disregarding his duty to this board, to the public, and to us who are charged with the defence of these men. I have always been taught to believe that when a light was on the ring was to be kept clear.”
Mr. Watt was interrupted at that stage. Later he said - “ Mr. Bruce has instructed that this man shouldbe hauled before the board, and he is now interfering with the board’s functions. He does not say it in so many words,” Mr. Watt went on, “hut while he has appointed this board and instructed his responsible Minister to act on its recommendation, he is determined that this man Shall leave the country.”
I remember that during the war - and that fact should be noted - the ex-Prime Minister (Mr.W. M. Hughes), who subsequently “ dropped his bundle,” which was avidly seized by the right honorable gentleman who is now carrying it, had a playful way of launching criminal prosecutions against his political opponents in the morning, and addressing public meetings in the evening, as though in the meantime he had convicted them of the offences with which he had charged them. So little regard had he for the best traditions of the high office that he held, and for the duty that rests upon every man, but especially a Minister of the Crown, to respect the rights and privileges of a person who is charged with a criminal offence that he resorted to such tactics. He, at least, had the excuse that he was acting in a time of war, and under what the militarists are pleased to call “military necessity.” The exigencies of a military situation very often necessitate a modification of the moral code. Therefore, Mr. Hughes frequently suspended the principles of justice in order that he might air his political prejudices and preoccupations. The present Prime Minister, the right honorable member for the sylvan retreat of Dandenong and the district ofWonthaggi - in which place, I was pleased to notice, he had a rather warm reception-
– They cheered him at the end.
– Because they had him chastened and better informed, and altogether a greatly improved man.
– They carried a vote of no confidence in him.
– Yes. The Prime Minister has not the excuse which was open to the ex-Prime Minister. In a time of peace - not exactly political peace, but peace so far as the clash of arms is concerned - he is guilty of those very abuses which were so strongly condemned in those days. I suggest that he ought ‘to desist; that he ought to act up to the pretence that this board is really a non-political board. Honorable members on this side know that it is not. but that, on the contrary, it has been appointed to deport and not to try men. I suggest to the Prime Minister that if he continues in the course of actipn that he is now following, and endeavours to secure his political position at the expense of his reputation as a Minister of the Crown, he will eventually drive the board into acquitting the men, and thus defeat the object for which it was appointed. Such a result, from the point of view of the Government, would be a catastrophe of no mean order, and should be avoided at all costs. In reply to the honorable member for Dalley tn-dnv. the Prime Minister said that be had used his publicity department to disseminate throughout the Commonwealth the speech that he delivered at Dandenong. He claimed 1hat in that action he had observed the best traditions of Nationalist governments, and I am quite prepared to believe that he did What I want to know is, why he “ stole the thunder” of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). Why did he go to Dandenong, and repeat seriously the excellent jests that the honorable member for Fawkner had already made in this House, and which were appropriately received by honorable members sitting on this side of the House? When the right honorable gentleman disseminates his policy speech, it ought to be an original one, and, from the point of view of accuracy as to facts, if possible, it should be better than that which he delivered at Dandenong last night. He displayed keen anxiety about the “ pernicious foreign influences.” I observe that he traced the malign influence of the Labour party in the disturbances that are occurring not only in Egypt, China, and Afghanistan, but also in India, Moscow, and even amongst the Riffis in Morocco. All those disturbances he attributes to the influence of the Labour party, through its agents the communists, backed up by whatever foreign funds were left over after the Free Trade party in the corner had helped itself to them. I have been reminded by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) of a very interesting fact in connexion with the seamen’s strike. The authorities thoughtfit to arrest a number of seamen, among whom were Albert Dean and Alfred Spencer. Those appear to be perfectly innocuous English names, one of them - Albert - being closely associated with the Royal Family, and, therefore, above suspicion. But the person who laid the information against these men, the master of the Port Kembla, from which vessel they are alleged to have deserted, was Mr. Chris van der Berg ! One wonders if some foreign influence, and perhaps foreign money, is not being disseminated amongst the masters of vessels who are prosecuting these men, rather than amongst men who bear these highly respectable English names. The Prime Minister has assumed a new role. He now appears as one appointed to safeguard the sacred principles of trade unionism ; it is rumoured that he has accepted a position as organizer of a militant trade union in this country at a satisfactory salary. It is curious to note the anxiety of the Prime Minister, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and other honorable members opposite, who are at the present time in a state of extreme perturbation, not on the country’s behalf, or even on their own behalf, but entirely on behalf of the Labour party and the great unionist movement. I suggest to these honorable gentlemen that they should cease to worry about the great trade union movement; it is well able to look after itself without their aid. The Labour party will, as it did in New South Wales, continue to stand firmly against the malign or beneficent influences of the communists and the pernicious influence of foreigners and foreign money. As there are in the parties forming the coalition two apparently eminent medical men, I suggest to those honorable members who are so perturbed that they should apply to those medical men for a prescription containing some useful solvent and sedative to enable them to sleep soundly in their beds at night, and awaken in the morning with their minds clarified, so that they may have a saner view of the relative importance of communism and the Labour movement in this country. My final words to the Government are that, whatever their anxiety regarding the sacred principles of the trade union movement, they should at least endeavour to observe ordinary political decency and fair play in regard to men on trial. That was my principal object in rising. It may be that the Prime Minister is not familiar with the practice in regard to these matters, that he has to make concessions to those who drive him forward, keep his ear to the ground, and have his newspaper read to him every morning” in order to obtain directions regarding his political activities for the day. But, being a Britisher above all things - much more a Britisher than an Australian - and being much more concerned with the strikes of Englishmen than the strikes of Australians, I suggest that whether or not he is familiar with the practice in these matters, he Should make himself familiar with the best traditions of the judiciary in the administration of the criminal and other laws of this country, and abstain from making these aspersions on others for political purposes. I know that a great deal has to be conceded to him because of political necessity, and the fact that he endeavoured to fire a shot which proved to be a “ squib.” He threatened the people with an election, but the people discovered that he was merely trying to create political turmoil in order to have an election at a time which he thought would be favorable to the Nationalists. By no other means can they hope to succeed at the polls. I desire to bring him back to first principles.
Mr. R. GREEN (Richmond) [9.351.- Every year a sum is placed on the Estimates for the better, ventilation of this chamber. I sincerely hope that the work has now reached a stage at which it will be possible quickly to rid the chamber of the enormous quantity of poison gas that has just been disseminated. I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General and the Minister for Defence certain matters which I think they could, by collaboration, easily rectify. I refer to the arrangements for soldiers to obtain their pensions in country districts. When a soldier is granted a pension the money has to be paid to him at a post office, which is also a money order office. Not all postoffices come within that category; many do not issue money orders. In such cases, although a soldier may live in close proximity to a post office, he may be forced to travel a considerable distance to reach a money order office to obtain his pension. In many instances the journey is a long one. In my own case 1. had to travel 13 miles each way, which meant a journey of 26 miles on each occasion. Moreover, .1. had to provide my cwn conveyance, as there were no trams or trains available. It must be remembered also that those who are drawing pensions draw them because of physical disabilities. To such men travelling is a greater burden than to others. I suggest that the Minister concerned should endeavour to devise some better system ( lj a ti that now in operation. Should it be found after consultation that no better system can be devised for the payment of the pensions in cash, I suggest that nayments be made by cheques, or, where the amounts are small, by postal notes. Any storekeeper would willingly cash such cheques or postal notes. I make no excuse for bringing this matter forward. It has been discussed by various branches of the Returned ‘Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League throughout Australia. It must be apparent to every honorable member that it is wrong to force an incapacitated soldier to travel long distances to receive his pension. I know of one man who has to travel 31 miles each way to obtain his pension. I point out also that no allowance for fares is made in such cases.
– The present arrangement penalizes those living in remote country districts.
– That is so. Men living in the cities suffer no great inconvenience, as nearly every post office is also a money order office. The penalties for daring to live in the back-blocks are already too great without this burden being added.
There is another matter to which I desire to refer. Periodically, those who draw pensions are called upon to attend before a board to have their cases reviewed. Amputees and eye cases alone draw their pension under the act without review. The majority of pensioners are required to attend periodically before a board for examination, and in such cases their fares are allowed. In the city a man can attend before a board with the loss of a fewhours only, but in many instances in the country it means probably two days’travelling - sometimes more - with hotel expenses for one night. I suggest that when a man in a country district is called upon to attend before a board for his case to be reviewed, and his attendance entails travelling, he should receive some compensation for the loss of time. Where a man is absent from his work for a few hours only, as is the case generally in the cities, he experiences little difficulty in obtaining time off once in six or twelve months, but where a man has to take two or three days from his work, and spend one or more nights in a country town, the position is different. In some instances, although the distance to be travelledmay not be any greater than in others, thetransport facilities are few, and services infrequent, thereby causing additional loss. Provision should be made for theex-soldier to attend before the board without financial loss.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the unfortunate position of blind men and women who are selling tobacco, matches, and cigarettes in the streets of cities in different parts of the Commonwealth. Quite recently I was requested by (he Blind Association of New South Wales to introduce a deputation to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in New South Wales, and to request that a decision or ukase of the Commissioner of Pensions in Melbourne, which prohibits blind sellers of tobacco, matches, and cigarettes receiving a pension, should be rescinded and their pension rights restored. Not receiving any reply from the Commissioner of Pensions in Melbourne, I personally approached that gentleman, and asked him why these people were deprived of the invalid pension. The reply of Mr. Collins was to the effect that it was not the policy of the department to encourage mendicancy. I informed him that I did not consider that the selling of tobacco, matches, and cigarettes by blind people could be considered mendicancy, and, in any case, blind people throughout the ages have been tolerated as mendicants. The action of Mr. Collins cannot be regarded as other than autocratic. Mr. Collins is a gentleman of the highest financial ability and occupies, I think, four highly responsible positions in the Commonwealth, but, after all, he is only human, and is liable to make mistakes. I do not think that it is the intention of this Parliament that even such a highlyqualified gentleman should have the right to dictate the pensions policy, and, if a vote were taken in this chamber on the question, I do not think that half a dozen people would oppose the granting of a pension to the persons I have indicated.
– I do not think there would be one.
– I informed Mr. Collins that if I had an opportunity I would test the feeling of the House. He said that Parliament was supreme, as of course it is, but it is impossible for me to take a. test vote to-night. While not wishing to censure the Commissioner of Pensions, I think he has made a mistake in laying down a rule under which the blind sellers of tobacco., matches, and cigarettes cannot receive the pension which Parliament intended them to receive.
– They should receive every encouragement.
– Yes; there are a large number of blind men and women of all ages who, although able-bodied, are not fit subjects for charity. A number of them have a strong objection to entering blind institutions and submitting to the regulations imposed by the authorities in such institutions. There are very few people in our midst who are so callous as to object to such persons earning an honest living in the streets. If Mr. Collins thinks that their presence in the streets is objectionable to the public he has totally misconstrued the feelings of the populace towards these people. I do not wish to draw invidious distinctions, but, after hearing the excellent case made out by th, Blind Association in New South Wales, Mr. Theggie, the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in that State, was in sympathy with the proposal. In Mr. Theggie I think we have one of the finest officers in the service of the Commonwealth, and one in every way suited for the position which he occupies. I do not know why Mr. Collins has acted in such an arbitrary way under the discretionary powers which he is allowed to exercise. Many of these people are young, and are quite able to augment their income by selling the articles I have mentioned. The blind sellers of newspapers are not prohibited from receiving the pension. The reason given for the distinction is that it is a simple matter for the Pensions Department to trace from the newspaper offices the incomes derived by sellers of newspapers, and that it is not so simple to determine the incomes of those selling tobacco and matches. In consequence of this, it is said that they would probably be able to submit a return that could not be relied upon by the department. I do not think it matters in the slightest whether the department can trace the actual income of either section to which I have referred, because the amount would be so small that it would not affect, to any great extent, the total amount of pensions now paid. I do not think it fair for the Commissioner of Pensions to impose such conditions, and the matter is one which should be brought before the House by a member of the Government. If a vote were taken I believe a unanimous decision would be reached in favour of those persons for whom I am speaking.
.- I desire to take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) the excessive delay which takes place in connexion with the delivery of interstate commercial tele grams. These delays are causing serious inconvenience to business people and others. Press telegrams have also been delayed as long as fourteen hours. The consequence has been that important news items dispatched from this House and from other offices have not reached Sydney in time for publication in the morning newspapers, which reflects very materially upon the efficiency of the Postal Department. I was informed unofficially to-night by a representative of the press that a telegram dispatched from this House at 8.30 p.m. was not delivered at a newspaper office in Sydney until 10.30 next morning. That is a scandalous state of affairs. One day last year I was informed that a friend of mine had died, and a telegram that I sent at once to Sydney was not delivered until ‘ 10 o’clock tlie next morning. It took longer for a telegram to reach that city than it would have taken a letter in the ordinary course of the post. I understand that an improvement is to be made, but action should have been taken long ago. I wish, also, to direct the attention of the Treasurer «to the necessity of the Commonwealth Government coming to some reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand in the matter of invalid and old-age pensions. I raised this matter last year, and the year before, and shall continue to do so until some agreement has been reached between Australia and New Zealand. As I have emphasized on previous occasions, the New Zealand Government is already prepared to enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth under which pensions will be payable in both countries. If that is done, Com, monwealth residents temporarily in New Zealand, and New Zealand residents who are residing for the time being in- the Commonwealth will benefit. In perusing the file, I find that the New Zealand Government has for the last fourteen years been requesting the Commonwealth Government to act in this matter. There are hundreds of shearers and others who visit New Zealand periodically, and who when they are reaching the age at which they are entitled to the pension, cannot, owing to their temporary residence, take advantage of the Pensions Act. I trust the Government will give this matter immediate attention.
. -I desire very briefly to support the statements made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) in regard to the position of blind persons who are endeavouring to earn a living by sellingtobacco and matches in the streets. I am astonished at the action of the departmental officers in refusing to pay the pension to men and women so afflicted if they engage in such work. My view is that these people should be encouraged to assist themselves as far as possible. I go further, and say that this principle should be applied, not only to blind pensioners, but to all pensioners. The practice we have of treating the pension as a charitable dole given, if not for the purpose, certainly with the effect, of pauperizing the pensioners, is entirely wrong. At best the pensioners can add but very little to their pensions by their earnings. In their declining years and condition of physical incapacity they should be encouraged to augment the assistance given them by the State by such earnings as they can gain in lawful occupations. Before the session closes I hope that the Treasurer will look into the matter, will liberalize the regulations for the payment of pensions, and, should it be necessary, will introduce an amendment of the act to meet the objection which has been raised. I am entirely in sympathy with the remarks of the honorable member for New England. I hope that the Treasurer will take serious notice of them with a view to doing something in the direction indicated.
.- I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs a matter of vital importance to Tasmania. Owing to extensive importations of timber from abroad at the present time, the timber industry in Tasmania is absolutely languishing.
– It is languishing in the Commonwealth generally.
– I am referring particularly to Tasmania, because I am well acquainted with the position there. The mill owners cannot compete with the importations under existing conditions. Mills are being closed down and numbers of people are being thrown out of employment. The reasons for the present condition of the timber industry in Tasmania are that freights on timber from abroad are lower than interstate freights. Tasmania is injuriously affected by the Navigation Act; the industry has to pay wages in accordance with Arbitration
Court awards, and the duty on imported timber is insufficient. If we enact laws for the fixing of wages and legislation governing shipping, we must increase the duty on importations if those engaged in the timber industry in Tasmania are to live. I want to know what the intentions of the Government are in this matter. The position of the timber industry is imperilled, although the Tasmanian timbers are second to none. There are splendid blackwoods and hardwoods in that State. I trust that consideration will be given to the very serious grievance to which I have directed attention.
Question resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 9th September, 1925 (vide page 2359), on motion by Sir Littleton Groom -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 12 of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1923 is amended by inserting in paragraph (a) of sub-section 1 thereof, after the word “ employment,” the following words : - “ (not being employment in the Public Service of the Common wealth).”
Section proposed to be amended -
– (1) The Commissioner or the Acting Commissioner (if any) shall be deemed to have vacated his office if-
he engages, during his term of office, in any employment outside the duties aif his office ;
.- I do not object to the amendment ofthe War Service Homes Act provided for in this clause. It may be necessary. But I do want to say that I doubt very much whether an officer in charge of a very important department like the War Service Homes Department can do justice to the work unless he devotes to it the whole of his time. I believe that Colonel Semmens, who did excellent work as War Service Homes Commissioner, occupied more than one position while he held that office,but that is no reason why we should perpetuate that sort of thing. If we pay an adequate salary to secure the services of a good man to look after a public department,his work should be confined to that department. There is a very large sum of money involved in the War Service Homes, and we arestill expending money upon them at agreat rate. lt is as necessarynow as it was at the inception of the department to have in charge of it a capable mau who will devote the whole of his time to the work. Otherwise, we may have a recurrence of the failures of the past, which were largely due to defects of administration. They should teach us the lesson that the officer in charge of this department should devote the whole of his attention to it. I could say much regarding what is happening under this department in New South Wales, but I wish, if possible, to avoid raising questions of the kind to-night. Iam not satisfied with the present administration. In my view, the officials of the department are much more severe in their treatment of returned soldiers than private owners of property would be. I could submit many cases in support of that view. We must have some one at the head of the department who will devote the whole ofhis energies to the work, and will, see that those employed under him in sub-departments, while keeping in view the interests of the Commonwealth, shall temper their administration with humanity. They should endeavour as far as possible to meet the circumstances of every case. Of the large number of returned men who have secured homes under the War Service Homes Act, it is but reasonable to expect that some will have difficulty in making their repayments. A man can never say when illness will overtake him, or when, through unemployment, he may find himself unable to keep up his payments, and the department in such cases should be as liberal as possible. A man came to me last Sunday who had been in arrears with his repayments. Isay nothing about the merits of his case, because I do not know the whole of the facts, but he assured me that he was served with a notice of ejectment and prosecuted, and a barrister was sent up from Sydney to Newcastle in connexion with the case. The case was settled out of court, butthe barrister charged the returned soldier twenty guineas for appearing, and said he had let him down lightly. Honorable members will agree that there was no occasion to send a highly-briefed man. up from Sydney to appear for the department in such a case. It is abouttimethat the head of this department ceased doing that kind of thing. I sympathize with this’ man. The case was settled by him agreeing to pay £4 1s. 9d. a month to the department. He paid it for sometime. At the end of July he paid an instalment of £1, and four days afterwards paid £31s. 9d., and so fulfilled his monthly obligation, but two weeks afterwards he received a letter from the department calling upon him topay his arrears. On no grounds whatever can we justify that kind of treatment of the men who fought for us overseas. Having already loaded the man with twenty guineas of unnecessary legal expenses, the department ought not to have harassed him when he had. done all that he undertook to do.
– I shall be glad to have the details of that case.
– I understand that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), who now has them, intends tomake them available to the Minister. I could give quite a number of instances, of the same kind. This department ought to be administered in a more sympathetic way. We cannot treat the soldiers who are purchasing war service homes in exactly the same manner as we treat old-age and invalid pensioners, for in the one case the money is loan, and has to be repaid, whereas in the other case no repayments are required; but I say unhesitatingly we ought to’ be sympathetic. If I owned some of the tenements that the soldiers occupy, I should treat them much more liberally than the war service homes authorities are doing. . The War Service Homes Commissioner should not be responsible for any other duties, but should devote the whole of his time to war service homes work. He- should be in close touch with the deputy commissioners in the respective States. His policy ought to be clearly denned, and he ought to be devoting the whole of his attention to the task of making it effective. There are instances in which the men who occupy war service homes are not making any attempt to fulfil their obligations, but there are many more cases in which the men have improved their properties, by laying . out gardens, putting down paths, and so on. These should be given every consideration.
– I assure the honorable member that they are sympathetically treated.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say that, but I am afraid that it is not so in every case.
– Some of the complaints that are made will not bear investigation.
– In the last three or four months I have submitted a number of cases to the department which have justified investigation, for they have been remedied.
– The troubles arise sometimes because of the neglect of the men to answer letters written to them by the department.
– That may be so in a few instances. In every case the utmost clemency should be extended to men who are in arrears through no fault of their own. Hardship will overtake some of those who have the very best of intentions. A worker cannot always maintain his health and secure permanent employment. Whenever, through ill health or other misfortune, a man’s regular income ceases, he is immediately in difficulties in respect of such payments as 15s. or £1 for rent to either the War Service HomesCommission or a private landlord. There is sufficient work in the War Service Homes Depart-‘ ment to occupy the full time of the Commissioner, and I consider that whoever is appointed should be liberated from all other responsibility.
– I gathered from the second-reading speech of the Minister that the Government intended toappoint the Secretary of the Works and Railways Department te the position of War Service Homes Commissioner. He will fill the two offices.
– That is so.
– In that case, the present unsatisfactory conditions will continue.
– Nothing is more certain.
– The Works and Railways Department is increasing in importance every year, and it cannot bo expected that its secretary will be able to devote rauch of his time to War Service Homes work. The previous War Service Homes Commissioner was also the Commissioner of Repatriation. The Government decided to relieve him of his War Service Homes work, so that be could devote the whole of his attention to the Repatriation Department. It is surprising, therefore, that it should seek to create conditions for, the new Commissioner similar to those which proved unsatisfactory to the previous occupant of the office. I understand that we have spent more than £30,000,000 on War Service Homes. In Victoria, the State Savings Sank Commissioners are building homes for the War Service Homes Department, and in South Australia the work is being done by the State Bank.
– In Queensland and New South Wales the Department is doing its own work, and doing it well.
– That is all the more reason why the War Service Homes Commissioner should be absolutely free from any other duties. The War Service Homes Act places heavy responsibility upon the Commissioner, and he ought not to be overloaded. I do not make any reflection upon the former War Service Homes Commissioner, butI am sure that we shall not improve the department byappointing the Secretary of the Works: and Railways Department as the new Commissioner. Colonel Semmens, who was also chairman of the Repatriation Commission, was War Service Homes Commissioner in name only, and that will be the position of the Secretary for Works and Railways. He will be Commissioner nominally.
– Who is really doing the work?
- Mr. Peterson. He has been doing it all along, and there is no doubt that he will continue to do it under this new arrangement.
– He ought to have been out of the department long ago.
– I am glad that the Commonwealth undertook the responsibility of providing homes for our soldiers, but 1 regret that it does not seem to recognize that the department is now a big business concern. Although the
Minister for Works and Railways is responsible for its administration, his parliamentary and other duties prevent him from giving adequate time to the work. He is dependent upon the secretary of the department for all his information. While present conditions prevail the administration of the War Service Homes Department cannot be successful. I was surprised to hear that a returned soldier was required to pay a fee of twenty guineas to a barrister who travelled from Sydney to Newcastle to represent the department, only to find on his arrival that the case had been settled out of court. I trust that this fee will be refunded, as otherwise it will impose a severe hardship upon the returned soldier. I have said for years that we should have more Commonwealth supervision of soldier settlements. We hand over the money to the States, with the result that the Commonwealth Government has already had to write off £5 , 000,000, and it is quite likely that another £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 will have to be written off. With such lessons staring us in the face, the Government still intends to perpetuate a system that may lead to considerable loss to the taxpayers of this country, and at the same time inflict a terrible hardship upon the soldiers who are purchasing homes. I shall allow the bill to go through under protest. I hope that my doleful prophecy will not eventuate, although I am sure that tha continuance of the present system of administration in the War Service Homes Department will lead to further complaints being made in this House.
. -If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) makes a careful investigation, he will find that all cases submitted to the department have been, and are being, treated sympathetically, and with the desire to give justice to everybody. As there are over 26,000 homes either built, purchased, or otherwise dealt with, we cannot but expect some difficultiesto arise. Men get out of work, or there is sickness in their homes, and they get into arrears. The Minister has many troubles to deal with, but in all cases he treats the men sympathetically and with a desire to do them justice.
– That is not the general experience.
– The Minister, it must not be forgotten, is also trustee for the many millions invested in war service hon.es, and he must exercise ordinary business-like precautions to protect the interests, not only of the Commonwealth, but of the soldiers themselves. If the Leader of the Opposition will supply me wilh particulars of the case that he mentioned, 1 shall see that it is investigated. The recent Commissioner for War Service Homes, Colonel Semmens, is now to give the whole of his time to repatriation work. The Minister for Defence is giving his personal attention to all repatriation cases brought under his notice by honorable members or by direct application, and as a result a tremendously heavy burden has beenplaced upon him. This has also increased the burden of the Commissioners, so much so that it has been found necessary to leave the chairman free for repatriation work. The War Service Homes Department has been transferred from the Repatriation Department, and placed under the administration of the Minisrer for Works and Railways. It is proposed to appoint Mr. Bingie to the commissionership, and instead of difficulties arising, as anticipated by the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister will now be in a much better position because the expert officers of the Works and Railways Department will be at his disposal. The Minister’s own secretary - the Secretary of the Department of Works and Railways - will be the Commissioner.
– I understand that Mr. Peterson, who was responsible for all the previous trouble, is still to be connected with the department.
– He does his own work. The services of the professional and other members of the Works and Railways staff will also be at the disposal of the Minister as the result of the change, and this arrangement will lead to effective results. The object of the bill is to enable the Minister to make his work effective.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250910_reps_9_111/>.