10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom.) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Fenton), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), on the ground of urgent business.
– Has the Prime Minister seen cabled statements that the British migration authorities would cordially welcome.. . a reduction in the passage money .payable by migrants to Australia to £3j-the balance of £30 to be paid iu equal shares by the Commonwealth anil British Governments?
– I saw a cable message, I think, in this morning’s newspapers, indicating something of the kind, but it was, obviously, in no sense official, and only au expression, of opinion by a newspaper correspondent. 1 have no doubt that the British Government would be prepared to consider an increased payment by the British and Commonwealth Governments and a corresponding reduction in the payment to be made by the migrant. The whole question is at present under the consideration of the Government.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs noticed items recently appearing in the press to the effect that certain municipal councils propose to prohibit the erection of imported petrol pumps within the areas over which they exercise authority 1 Has the Minister any statement to make in amplification of his previous statements regarding the importation of petrol .pumps, and the preservation of the Australian industry for their manufacture?
– I have noticed in the public press the information to which the honorable member draws my attention, but the matter is, of course, outside the ambit of my department. As I promised the House, I have had inquiries made, and I find that the position in connexion with petrol pumps is not bo acute as we once feared. Thanks are due to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) for bringing the matter before the House and to remarks made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and other honorable members who interested themselves in the matter. I have reason to believe that negotiations are being carried on by the buyers and sellers of these pumps, which will at least conserve the Australian industry.
Vote on Third Reading: Personal Explanation.
– In the division on the third reading of the Crimes Bill yesterday, as honorable members know, I voted with the Government in support of tha bill. It is recorded in one of the Melbourne daily newspapers, which has a very wide circulation in this State and outside of it, that I recorded my vote with, the Opposition against ‘ the passing of the measure.I have no desire that my action should be in any way misrepresented, and I, therefore, make this explanation publicly.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What rental is paid by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the Railway Department for the use of the Railway Department’s building at Barmundu, Boyne Valley line, Queensland, for public telephone purposes?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Payments to State Railways Departments
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the total amount paid by the Postmaster-General’s Department to the Railway Deparment in each of the Australian States for -
What is the fixed rate paid by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the Railway Department in Queensland for the postal duties performed by -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
This payment was made direct to the Railway Departments, and no information is available to show the proportion of the payment in respect of works performed by male and female officials.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
I move - “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; and that discretionary power be vested in the Repatriation Commissioners to grant pensions and other benefits where sufficient incapacity exists which did not appear at the time of enlistment - such discretionary power to be executed in the light of the character of the service rendered by the soldier.
It is possible that some honorable members may regard this motion, if not as an annual, then as a perennial motion; but so long as I continue to be a member of the House, feeling as I do the injustice done to returned soldiers and their dependants, I shall submit such a motion for consideration if no other honorable member makes a move in the matter. Some honorable members may be under an impression that. I should like to remove from their minds once and for all. The matter with which my motion deals is not a party matter in any sense. The motion is one which every Australian should support, because all should be equally desirous of removing the abuses in connexion with the treatment of returned soldiers and their dependants which, in my opinion, are far too common. I wish to say that I have never had anything but the most heartfelt sympathy from any officer of the Repatriation Department to whom I have submitted a case, so far as that sympathy could be extended within the limits of the act and the regulations under it. I can assure the House that if the officers werp free to act as they desire justice would be done to the returned soldiers. It will be seen that my motion is framed as a series of arguments, and any honorable member who desires to compare it with the motion which I moved last year will find the latter set out at page 2381 of Hansard for the 10th September, 1925. It is as follows : -
That in view of the facts -
That, when the Australian men offered their lives to fight for their country, the Defence Department had the choice of the greatest surgeons and physicians to examine such men;
that they had the advantage of the Health Department and the Health Scientific Department to assist them in deciding whether the men volunteering were in a state of health or not;
that hardships of war make more acute and observable latent and obscure weaknesses ;
that, in view of the many and generous promises continually reiterated from the multitude of enlistment platforms - it is the opinion of this House that no soldier who was accepted after passing such examinations should be refused any rights under the War Pensions Act for himself or his dependants through certain present medical experts giving as their opinion the causes arose from pre-war causes. lt is also the opinion of this House that all mcn who offered their lives, and passed the above scientific examination, should be considered perfectly healthy men from that date.
Honorable members will see that the motion I have moved to-day differs in certain respects from my previous motion. The Minister for Defence and Health (Sir Neville Howse) will no doubt contend that the Defence Department had not the services of the greatest surgeons and physicians to examine the troops; but to my knowledge the services of the greatest surgeons and physicians in Melbourne were offered, and if they were not accepted it was solely the fault of the defence authorities of the day. In September last the Minister raised no objection to paragraphs 3 and 4 of my motion, which correspond with paragraphs 3 and 5 of my motion to-day, but he objected to the statement contained in paragraph 2. If the assistance of the Health Department, Federal or State, was sought and refused that is not known to me. I took a very active part on the State recruiting committee. In fact, I was the only member of that committee who acted on it from its inauguration until it ceased to exist. Other committeemen acted for a while and then retired, their places being filled by others. Captain Dyett. who was in charge of the committee for the greatest period of its existence, was a very able man. But I did not hear of one case of a State Health Department or the Federal Health Department, or even the university authorities, refusing to attend to a request sent forward by a medical examiner. Of course, I recognize that men were passed by the medical examiners who should not have been passed. There was the case of the old hero, 72 years of age, who succeeded in passing. His son had gone to the war, and he wanted to go too. The Minister will agree with me that the medical man who passed that old man as being of warlike age could not have examined him, or, if he did examine him, must have shut his eyes and closed his ears. I have been informed that three men from the Hospital for Incurables at Heidelberg vern passed. I recognize the difficulties that confronted the examiners. No one knows better than a medical man how the individual in certain stages of great excitement may appear to be far stronger than he is in ordinary circumstances. In order to meet an objection raised last vear by the honor- able member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), I have altered my motion by inserting in the declaration the words “ and who actually went to the Front and satisfactorily performed his .allotted duties.” And at the end of it I have added the words -
And that discretionary power be vested in the Repatriation Commissioners to grant pensions and other benefits where sufficient incapacity exists which did not appear at the time of enlistment - such discretionary power to be executed in the light of the character of the service rendered by the soldier.
I have also added the following new paragraph :-
No defendant, criminal or otherwise, in our courts is denied the right either personally or through his counsel to examine the whole of the charge made against him, or, if a decision has been given against him, to see the whole of the evidence supporting it. Surely no honorable member will say that a soldier who has offered his life should not also be given the right to see the whole of the evidence upon which a decision has been given against him. Yesterday, when I asked the Minister for Defence to supply me with the names of the medical men who had been asked to watch the tests of the efficacy of Dr. Smalpage’s serum, he replied that if he divulged the names of those medical men they would be inundated with letters. I had formulated my question without giving that possibility proper consideration, and immediately the Minister gave his reply I recognized that he was perfectly justified in the position he had taken up, which was, practically, that all applications should be forwarded to him. But honorable members have not forgotten that Dr. Smalpage had to secure the support of the Melbourne newspapers to assist him in his efforts to have prompt action taken by the Commonwealth Government.
– Dr. Smalpage tells me that he did not put that in the press.
– I am pleased to hear that statement from the Minister, and I accept his correction. The Minister naturally would no!’ care to reveal the names of doctors or surgeons who declared that an applicant’s disability was traceable to pre-war causes; but in every human body there are germs which may turn to disease. Has not the Minister stated that a very large and ever increasing percentage of people who reach a certain age is likely to die pf cancer? The fact is well recognized that men and women who have passed the meridian of life are carrying in their bodies the germs which will ultimately destroy them. I know that the Minister agrees with the statement in my motion that the hardships of war make more acute and observable latent and obscure weaknesses. Fear is a contributory cause of disease, and we all have read of the classic instance of Napoleon handling plague patients in Egypt in order to give confidence to his soldiers, and prove that fear of a disease made a person more susceptible to it. No previous war had one scintilla of the horrors of the last great war that drenched Europe in blood for four years. One can imagine the nerve-destroying effects of heavy ordnance and high explosives. The celebrated Dr. Page, at one time chief medical and surgical adviser to the Great Western .Railway, addressing a class of students, advised them that if a doctor were at a loss to discover the origin of a spinal injury, but could establish that the patient had ever been in a railway accident, even twenty years before, he could safely conclude that the trouble had its genesis then. So, too, diseases that develop many years after the war may be traced back to shell shock, or some other war cause. The Minister for Health will admit that many of the mental cases in our community are due solely to the horrors of war. If any recruit was inadequately examined, the fault was not his, but that of the medical officer who passed him. When this motion was before the House last year, the Minister stated that a number of men who were receiving the invalid pension in consequence of tubercular disease had been passed into the army by medical practitioners, and had travelled as far as London before their disability was discovered. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) interjected, “ I would pension the medical practitioners who examined them.” I wonder what the department would say if honorable members de- manded the name of the surgeon or physician who declared that a returned soldier was ineligible for a position because his disability was of pre-war origin, or if an honorable member in such a case were to ask the name of the surgeon or physician who passed him for war service. In a court of law a litigant has a right to hear the evidence upon which his case is determined, and surely our sympathy with the returned soldier should be strong enough to give him rights even greater than those of an ordinary citizen. I am not afraid to confess that, in the course of a long life, I have made mistakes. One occurred in connexion with the League of Child Helpers, who helped school children by supplying them with soup in winter and orange juice and milk in summer. I had not a very high opinion of some reputed hard-hearted business men, but I am proud to acknowledge that I wronged them. My experience was that when they were approached on behalf of suffering children or a young woman just budding into maturity, their hearts were as soft and sweet as the petals of a rose. I gratefully and gladly make this amende to them. In business they may be hard and exacting, but when their sympathies are appealed to, they are all that a human being should be. Honorable members will recognize that lack of proper food insanitary conditions, and vermincreated diseases, such as trench fever - which I understand is carried by a louse - tend to undermine the human system or develop latent weaknesses. Any plant deprived of water, air, or sunshine will weaken and wither. Similarly the human body, when deprived of the necessaries of life, cannot attain to full vigour, and sooner or later breaks down. That has been the experience of many returned soldiers. The House is often warned of the terrible expansion of the war pension list of the United States of America, and we have been told that some pensions date back to the War of Independence. Yet nobody will deny that, in the main, the American pension system has been beneficial. Let us be more generous in our treatment of the returned soldiers. I have previously referred to the infamous case of Gunner Perry. He, his wife and child were entitled to pensions, but, when he disappeared, the- department would not accept the responsi- bility of finding him, and because the unfortunate wife cannot ascertain his whereabouts, or prove that he is not dead, she and her child have been deprived of pensions. I do not think any honorable member would maintain that that is right. If an amendment of the act is necessary, I ask the Minister for Defence, for whom I have the greatest respect, to recommend to the Government that the iniquity be removed. Honorable members will, doubtless, recall the case of the Rev. J. B. Ronald, in which nine out of ten or eleven witnesses were sent to prison for perjury and conspiracy. Two supreme court judges said that the law should be amended so that Mr. Ronald could get justice. In consequence of a dream, I wrote to Mr. Harper, who settled £1,000 upon Mrs. Ronald, who. was the mother of four or five soldier sons, one of whom paid the supreme penalty. Mrs. Ronald was receiving a pension of £1 per week for the son who was killed, and because £50 was allowed her from the Harper gift, the son’s pension of £1 per week which was being paid to the mother was actually reduced by one-half. In God’s name, how could such a thing be done in the interests of economy? Numerous cases of injustice have been brought under my notice. There is, for instance, the case of Gunner Perry, who was accused of malingering, but the charge was absolutely disproved. A Minister of the day was good enough to see him. He was so affected by the man’s position that he handed a small sum to Perry’s unfortunate wife. While the nurse in attendance was otherwise engaged, Gunner Perry was carried from the police hospital by a fellow soldier. The Minister of the day sent after him in a motor car a German, who had had to leave a position which he had previously occupied. At 11 o’clock at night the unfortunate man was hidden. A magistrate, to hishonour, carried him on his shoulder to the second story of a dwelling so that he could not be caught. When a commission inquired into the case evidence was brought before it that Dr. Mead, a medical officer of the department, had applied electricity to the tip of his ear, the ala of the nose, and the red lip in order to test whether the man was a malingerer. He was broughtbefore a court martial and dismissed, but
Mr. Maurice Blackburn, who appeared on his behalf, asked me if I could take up his case, which I did. After he had suffered eleven days’ purgatory, if not hell, this unfortunate man was then sent to the observation ward of a lunatic asylum, where he remained for over six months. When I asked Dr. Godfrey, one of God’s good men, if he thought the man was a malingerer, he said, “Do you think if he had been he would have stayed here for three days ?” I said that I did not think he would. He was eventually given his freedom, and went to Brisbane. Subsequently he figured as a captain of the army who was seeking recruits, and when suspicion arose concerning him I was communicated with, and I referred those who were inquiring to the Defence Department. Perry, who was a married man, persuaded some poor girl to go through the form of marriage with him, although he was physically incapable of performing the married rites, and mentally unable to look after himself. Later, when she discovered that he was already married, she made trouble, whereupon he gave her a thrashing and both disappeared, and have not since been traced. His pension has not been drawn from that day to this, and nothing has been paid to his unfortunate wife and an adopted child. The Minister for Defence has correctly stated that those suffering from asthma may be examined by a medical man and be passed as healthy. I do not doubt that; but I trust the Minister will see his way to recommend an amendment of the law in the direction I have suggested in paragraph 5 of the motion. Surely, if there is a doubt, the benefit of it. should be given to the ex-soldier claimant. The Minister, who has had extensive experience, must have come in contact with persons who, when they left England for Australia, were said to have only about six months to live. I, too, have met such men, and recall the case of one who has now reached his ninetieth year, and who can ascend stairs, and even dance, with the agility of men much younger in years. I have a good deal of information in. my possession concerning this matter which I shall be pleased to place at the disposal of honorable members if they desire. Whilst the pensions paid by the Government may compare favorably with those granted by the Government of the
United States of America, I know that the Government’s insurance on soldiers’ lives was absolutely puerile in comparison. During the Avar I paid the premiums on the life policy of a soldier who was once a member of this House On his return I handed the policy to him, when he refunded every penny I had paid in the way of premiums, and also offered to pay me interest on the expenditure I had incurred on his behalf, which, of course, I refused. The policies of ?250 on the lives of Australian soldiers do not compare favorably with those for ?1,000 issued on the lives of American soldiers who went to the Front which, in Australia, cost less than ?250. I endeavoured during the last session of Parliament, I think, to get full information concerning the war pensions paid in America, believing that if they were based on the same liberal scale as the life insurance policies they would be more generous than those in force in Australia. I submit the motion to the House, and trust that the Minister will recommend to Cabinet, if the alterations I have mentioned cannot be made by regulations, that the act shall be amended in the direction I suggest.
.- I wish to compliment the honorable member for Melbourne on the drafting of this motion, the terms of which show clearly that he has come into contact with cases that the repatriation regulations do not cover, but which the country intended should be dealt with beneficently. I waste no sympathy on malingerers. I have not previously specifically brought a case of hardship under the notice of the House, but I wish to do so now. Private Frederick William Wood, discharge number 1459, is a man whom the motion seeks to benefit. He is a good, cleanliving mau, who served his country well. He was born in South Australia, and left Australia with the 11th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. He was discharged “ medically unfit for further active service on account of fracture of the right ankle.” His period of service was 350 days, and his service abroad one year and 76 days. His conduct, as stated on his certificate of discharge, was very good, and he received the silver medal and the usual military badge. The Minister for Repatriation, Sir Neville
Howse, has treated me most courteously in this matter, and has made the departmental file available to me. His extreme courtesy, indeed, has somewhat “winged” me, and prevents me from pressing the case more ardently. Leading medical men in Western Australia have examined Mr. Wood. Mr. Frederick A. Hadley,’ F.R.C.S., reported on him as follows: -
I have to-day, in consultation with Dr. Gillespie, examined Mr. F. W. Wood. In my opinion the trouble in the bones of the foot has arisen from undue strain put upon them owing to the disability to the ankle, caused by a previous fracture. I consider, therefore, that it is a sequel of war service.
As the. motion of the honorable member for Melbourne points out, the best medical men in the country were employed to say whether men like Mr. Wood were fit for active service, and when he was passed the doctors were aware of the former injury to his ankle. Dr. Gillespie reported as follows : -
In accordance with your request I have, in conjunction with Dr. Hadley of this city, examined Mr. Wood, from Collie. Report of his condition I now write you :
Mr. Wood is suffering from a septic or suppurative osteitis, affecting the metatarsal bones of his foot. This condition was correctly operated on by Mr. McCall, of Collie.
He has now an almost complete contaglosi ( ?) of his ankle and fore part of his foot, which renders him and his foot practically useless for any hard work entailing standing or walking.
In my opinion this suppurative osteitis is a direct result of his previously fractured ankle, and as such is, I consider, definitely due to war service.
Dr. McCall reported ;
This is to certify that Mr. F. W. Wood is suffering from a very long-standing osteitis of the metatarsal bones of the foot, including the first, fourth, and fifth. The first has healed up, the fifth has been removed, and the fourth has been scraped - but, I regret to say, will have to be removed. There is no question that Wood’s condition has existed for a very long period, and his present disability was aggravated by war service.
The Minister’s reply to me was -
With further reference to your letter of 19th November, 1925, relative to representations made to you by the Collie branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (Mr. H. May, honorary secretary) in connexion with the case of Mr. F. W. Wood (ex-No. 1459, 11th Battalion), I desire to inform you that this case has been most exhaustively investigated, and for your information I shall briefly outline the facts of the case.
Mr. Wood enlisted in the A.I.F. in October, 1914, and served until 19.5.16, when he was discharged as medically unfit, and during this period of service he received hospital treatment as under - 2.6.1915-12.6.1915, German measles. 11.7.1915- 31.7.1915, influenza and ear trouble. 29.1.1916- 10.4.1916, deformed ankle (old injury).
When Mr. Wood was medical boarded at Cairo, on 11.2.1916, the board made the following record : -
States that four years ago he met with an accident, and fractured his right tibia. He now complains that he is unable to walk or do any marching. On examination, there are signs of old fracture, and the foot is everted outwards, consequently he has very little power for prolonged exertion. He was at Gallipoli from 6.5.1915 to 4.11.1915.
This board (and also the board which examined him on 10.5.1916, after his return to Australia) stated his disability as “ old injury to right ankle,” and expresed the opinion that his capacity for earning a full livelihood in the general labour market was not less than before enlistment.
In 1923 Mr. Wood applied for treatment of fracture of the metatarsal bone of the right big toe, which had been the subject of operation a few weeks previously by Dr. McCall, of the Government Hospital, Collie, but after giving the application careful consideration it was decided that there was nothing to connect the condition with war service.
As a result of further appeals, full inquiries were made with a view to ascertaining the origin of the trouble which necessitated the. operation to the ex-soldier’s foot on 30.4.1923 (seven years after discharge), and all the reports were submitted to the Medical Advisory Committee, consisting of four absolutely independent eminent specialists, of very wide experience, both in civil practice and on active service, and this committee, after going thoroughly into the case, made the following recommendation : -
In view of the length of time subsequent to discharge, and that applicant carried on his work, and in the absence of anything to connect the condition of osteitis with his pre-war injury to the ankle, the committee expressed the opinion that there was no evidence to justify the Repatriation Commission undertaking the responsibility for the present condition of the disabled foot, and resolved to recommend rejection of the claim.
As you are aware, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provides for medical treatment of ex-soldiers, and for payment of pensions only in respect of disabilities due to or aggravated by war service, and in view of the definite medical evidence in the case of Mr. Wood, his present condition cannot be regarded as having been so caused. He is, therefore, not eligible for the benefits for which application was made.
I may add that I have carefully examined the file in connexion with Mr. Wood’s case, and fully concur with the decision arrived at.
I submitted that reply to the Collie subbranch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and received certificates from medical men in Western Australia under the following covering letter: -
Re F. W. Wood, exNo. 1459, Collie.
Dear Mr. Prowse,
Your letter dated 14th January, together with enclosure from the Minister in charge, Repatriation Department, relative to the above-named, was duly considered by a full meeting of the Collie Branch, Returned Soldiers’ League. Every point brought forward against this case by the Minister was thoroughly examined and discussed, and finally I was instructed to write to you as follows in view of your further representations to the Minister, as per your letter dated 14th January. The extract quotedby the Minister regarding the medical board, held at Cairo, 11th January, 1916, states: - “On examination, there are signs of old fracture, and the foot is everted outwards, consequently he has very little power for prolonged exertion. He was at Gallipoli from 6th May, 1915, to 4th November, 1915..” Now, sir, it is only right to assume that when Wood was attested, this trouble would have been just as apparent to the attesting medical officer, and more so, in view of the rigorous examination the first contingent were subjected to. Therefore, in view of the severe training this man had before arrival at Gallipoli, and the subsequent six months’ service on Gallipoli, is it not justifiable to conclude that all this strain had had an injurious effect on the foot and eventually so affected it as to cause the above quoted report by the medicalboard, held at Cairo, 11th January, 1916. Further, if the foot had very little power for prolonged exertion on 11th January, 1916, can it possibly bc supposed that this man could have survived his training, and the subsequent period of six months’ heavy labouring work on Gallipoli. I am enclosing Mr. Wood’s military discharge, which shows clearly that he was discharged through becoming permanently unfit for further service on account of fracture of right ankle. Mr. Wood was also granted the King’s certificate and silver medal, which only those men who were returned from the war honorably disabled were eligible. These facts might also be brought under the notice of the Minister with advantage. We are of opinion that Mr. Wood has shown his sincerity in this matter by reason ofthe fact that he did not approach the Repatriation Department for assistance until his foot finally broke down altogether. But, nevertheless, it should not be supposed that he did not suffer from the foot during the seven years that elapsed subsequent to discharge. This man was quite satisfied to battle along so long as he could earn his living,but when this became impossible, he did the only thing left for him for the sake of his family, and that was to apply for help from the department created to care for the disabled men who did their bit honourably in the Great War. In view of the fact that the Minister states in his letter that Mr. Wood applied for treatment of fracture of the metatarsal bone of the right big toe, I again enclose copies of the opinions of those medical officers who have personally examined this man, and who are just as independent of the case as those gentlemen comprising the medical advisory committee to the Repatriation Coinmission in Melbourne, in order to prove that the whole trouble to the foot and toes commenced from the ankle downwards. Will you please be good enough to return to me Mr. Wood’s military discharge certificate at your convenience.
I emphasize the statement that I made at the commencement of my speech, that I believe every person in Australia would be prepared to approve of assistance being rendered to this man. When he enlisted he was medically examined, and, despite the fact that the old fracture from which he was suffering was noted, he was accepted for active service. He fought for his country until his ankle could not hold out against the strain that was imposed upon it, and broke down. He was then discharged. Dr. Hadley is considered to possess the highest qualifications for giving advice upon such complaints. This soldier did not “ sponge “ upon his country when he obtained his discharge from the army; he went away and endeavoured to earn a living.
– That is where he made a mistake.
– I honour him for having done so, and that is the reason why I am fighting his battle. It was the excessive pressure on the foot, due to war service, that was the cause of its breaking down. Now that he and his family are in want he is compelled to seek assistance from the Commonwealth. If the regulations do not allow of the granting of that assistance this House should alter them so that this and similar cases can be brought within their scope. I admire the spirit that underlies the final paragraph of the motion, which reads -
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; and that discretionary power be vested in the Repatriation Commissioners to grant pensions and other benefits where sufficient incapacity exists which did not appear at the time of enlistment - such discretionary power to be executed in the light of the character of the service rendered by the soldier.
The soldier whose case I am advocating gave service of a high character. He showed himself to be in no sense a “ sponger “ on the Government. The
Repatriation Commissioners, therefore, should have some discretionary power to deal with genuine cases in which men have suffered through having fought for their country. The examination of this man, even at Cairo, showed that his trouble was an old one, and the doctors admitted that he was rendered incapable of service because of the old fracture. If he had continued in private life, instead of volunteering for active service, probably he would not be suffering as he is to-day. No’ man should be placed under a serious disadvantage merely because of the fact that he served his country. 3 agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that this is not a party matter. The Government and the Parliament should deal with it in a reasonable spirit, and do justice to these men, even if it necessitated an increase in the already heavy taxation imposed on the people. Malingerers, of course, should receive no assistance. I pay the soldiers’ organizations this compliment, that they have advanced claims only in worthy cases, and have thus saved the Government a lot of trouble and expense. They would certainly support the claim of the ex-soldier on whose behalf I am now appealing. I submit that Parliament could reasonably extend the discretionary power as suggested by the motion.
– I compliment the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) on having submitted this motion. It will test the opinion of honorable members regarding the responsibility of the nation to maimed soldiers, although it might more appropriately have been tabled by a returned soldier. Australia has been more generous to its ex-soldiers than any other country. History shows that, after other wars, soldiers were unfairly treated but instead of allowing history to repeat itself, the nation has acted up to its high ideals of citizenship. The Minister in charge of repatriation (Sir Neville Howse), so far as lies in his power, has given the most considerate treatment to the cases brought under his notice. My complaint is not against the Minister, but against such regulations as prevent him from showing returned men the sympathy promised them when they were urged to join the colours. As one who served in the ranks, and probably saw more of the everyday life of the soldiers than the officers did, I could name a number of men who went overseas, although unfitted, either physically or mentally, to leave Australia for service abroad. If they were sent to the front as medically fit, and if a medical examination was calculated to reveal their true condition of health, then the fault lies with the defence authorities. When I was subjected to a medical examination prior to joining the Australian Imperial Force, I was told to hop on one leg, bend, and do other exercises to show that 1 was physically fit. The medical authorities were even more careful than that in their examination of me when I was made a criminal. They left no stone unturned to make certain that I was physically fit to be kept under detention. I had done nothing to deserve arrest. I still have a grievance against the nation, because I merely endeavoured to prevent an outbreak of influenza among the troops on the ship on which I returned to Australia. Not on my own behalf, but at the behest of the men as a body, I paraded a number of soldiers before the officer commanding the ship, and made each state his case independently. I was dismissed by . the officer commanding in. a perfectly proper way; but the powers in Melbourne decreed that I was to be arrested. Soon afterwards I was paraded before the lieutenant in charge. I complained against my arrest, and expressed the desire to get into touch with head-quarters. Unfortunately, the telegram that I requested to have sent on any behalf failed to reach its destination. I was informed that I could not be kept under detention until I was proved to be medically fit for it. On reaching Adelaide I saw one of the city doctors, who asked me how I felt. I replied that I was ill, and concocted a statement about a number of ailments from which I wa3 not suffering. The doctor took no notice of my complaints, but sounded my chest and made me say “ Ninety-nine.” Then down I “went to the cell. Next morning I was paraded before the same doctor, who inquired as to my condition. When I told him that I was well, he desired to know how that could be, seeing that I had been ill on the previous clay. I told him that my imagined ailments were to meet the situation, that I could not be kept in detention unless I’ was medically fit. On the following day
I was taken to Melbourne to be tried. On arrival I was “ ninety-nined “ again, aud the process was repeated when I reached the military barracks. If I went through one medical examination I probably experienced 50. If the authorities were as careful as that in examining men for the arduous duties of the war, it is fair to ask the Government to treat every soldier who went overseas as having been fit when he left. If it. were proved at the front that a soldier had an injured ankle, it surely would not detract from the value of the service that he gave to the country if he had made the supreme sacrifice, which would have been quite possible. Practically unlimited promises were made to the men who enlisted ; and to others to encourage them to enlist, some of which were honoured, but many of which it was never intended to honour. I do not desire to get anything for myself ; I went to the war for a specific object, and of my own volition; but I know what was said to other men to get them to go. One promise that was made and honoured only in the breach that was we should see Europe. In my own case I know that it was purely on account of my having got away without leave that I saw much even of Colombo. The contingent on the boat were simply put into barges there, taken to the wharf, paraded to the barracks, given dinner, and paraded back to the boat. I was not satisfied with that, so I jumped overboard into a sampan, got into town, spent the night there, and next morning, with a few others, hired a motor car, and had a look at Mount Lavinia and a few other places, and then came back again. It cost me 20s., and 72 hours’ detention, but it was worth it. £ was asked whether I desired a courtmartial to deal with my case, but I said I was quite satisfied. We had six days at Alexandria, and the same kind of thing happened. If I had not taken my own way I should not have seen the catacombs, the gardens, and a number of other places. My point is that the promise to the soldiers that they would have the opportunity to see the famous places in the countries that they visited was not honoured. Oil this occasion I have nothing to say about the men who came back to Australia uninjured, and who have enjoyed good health ever since. They, on their return,, asked
Mr. Hughes for a gratuity, and they got it j and so they have been paid for their service; but the men who returned home injured, or with their health undermined, or whose health seemed all right then but has since failed, deserve every consideration. When I returned to South Australia after my war experiences, I advised the South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League to make a demand upon the Commonwealth Government that all ailments which ex-soldiers developed after their absorption into civil life should be considered as having been caused by their war service. Senator Elliott, in his foreword to The Duckboard, which was published in Melbourne at Christmas time in 1924, said that it would be many years before Australia really knew what the war had cost, because of the reason that the constitution of many of her soldiers had been undermined. He added that many of our young soldiers might reach middle age before weaknesses revealed themselves. In such circumstances, I should be disposed, if I were dictator in this country, to rule that all chronic illhealth suffered by ex-soldiers should be set down as having been caused by their strenuous war service. No one can deny that the war service was strenuous. It was the hardest work that many of the soldiers ever did. Men were obliged to sleep in holes, to suffer hunger, and to sustain life on hard, unpalatable biscuits. These conditions must have undermined many a constitution. 1 well remember that once, while I was bathing in the Somme, a man near by struck up a conversation with me. I was astonished to find that he was covered from head to foot with scabies. T said to him, “ Why do you not get away to the hospital for treatment?” He replied, “ I have asked to be sent away, but the officers will not send me.” I said, “ If I were in your condition I should flatly refuse to do a tap of work.” The next time I went back to the base he was missing, so I suppose that he plucked up sufficient courage to demand that he be sent back for treatment. Nobody can say what disability a man like that might suffer in after life. At the front our men did the hardest work imaginable, in the course of which they suffered minor injuries which were never recorded. I did myself. On one occasion we were obliged to shift out guns from level ground on to a rise, and were not. allowed to use the donkeys, for it was said, that if we did Fritz would see us shifting. We worked hard, and manhandled the guns into their new position. In the course of the operations I ricked my wrist. I did not think it was anything very serious, but I was paraded before the doctor, and given some liniment to use. I rubbed it in, and the pain and swelling disappeared. I find now, however, that the muscle of my thumb is wasting. There is no official record of the incident that I have described, and I wonder what would be said if I claimed some consideration because of it.
– I should accept the honorable member’s word immediately, and see that he was given relief.
– I should like to think that every Minister for Defence would act in that way, but I doubt it. Had that injury occurred to my leg, and resulted, three years afterwards, in my becoming a cripple, I should be in a sorry plight, and I am afraid that if the papers contained no record of the beginning of the trouble, I should not be able to get any consideration. Many soldiers are actually in that position, and are unable to get redress. When I think of the wonderful nonchalance with which our soldiers went into the front line, and risked their lives, I cannot find words to voice my appreciation of them. It frequently happened in the experience of some of the men that they lost a comrade, or even two or three, in a day’s operations: but all they said was, “ Poor old Jack.” and carried on with their job. Yet they must have suffered incalculable nervous strain, which must have ‘ a serious effect at some time in their subsequent life. I know of a case whom a school teacher brought under my notice where the soldier had suffered ever since his return home, and eventually blew his brains out. When his widow, the mother of four children, applied for a widow’s pension, she was informed that she was ineligible, as her husband had not been killed in action. Only three or four weeks ago a case was submitted to me of an ex-soldier who had committed suicide. As soon as T learned of the circumstances, I told the widow to apply for a pension for herself and her children. It may be that in some such cases men have taken to drink since their return to Australia, but such a fact would not concern me. That man undoubtedly paid the price of hig war-time experiences. His mind had become unhinged. I do not know what action has been taken by the Repatriation Department in that case, but I should not have the slightest hesitation in providing a pension for that widow and her children I know of another case in which the exsoldier is tubercular. He has informed me that when in England he was treated for asthma at the Codford Hospital. When I brought this case before the Minister he said that this man could not have been treated for asthma at Codford, because for the treatment of that ailment the hospital was at Tidworth or somewhere else. However, at the time this man went- overseas he was not tubercular. He returned from the war, and is now dependent on the returned soldiers fund in South Australia. I am told that every individual who applies for assistance from that fund is subjected to the third degree. I do not say that this is not necessary in some instances, but an ex-soldier or his dependants should not be subjected to such humiliation. The object of the motion is fair and just. We know that war service disabilities are’ a reducing liability, which will come to an end within the lifetime of most of us, especially in the case of tubercular men, who have really been sentenced to death. The life of the man who has this disease is greatly shortened, and we cannot be over-generous to the ex-soldier if the assumption is that his disease arose from the privations of war service. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) intends to support the motion, and I hope that all honorable members opposite will also support it in the interests of those who fought for us at the war. We should be just as generous to the exsoldiers as we are to those individuals who subscribed to war loans. I do not wish to draw an invidious distinction between them, but there is an anomaly in the treatment of ex-soldiers and war loan subscribers. During the- war Sir Joseph Cook, to expedite the flotation of war loans, said - “ Money is a good soldier.” It was an excellent investment, because money so subscribed is still bearing a high rate of interest, although the war has long since ceased. The men who subscribed to war loans did not suffer the privations experienced by the men who fought overseas, and we should do every thing in our power to assist those who returned disabled. When asked to enlist they were told that nothing was too good for them. Now that the war is over we are responsible for the maimed and injured, and if the regulations framed under the War Pensions Act are restrictive, the law should be amended to ensure an adequate pension for all ex-soldiers suffering from war service disabilities. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) at one time asked me how I would value what we owe to disabled soldiers. I replied by asking him, “ What amount of compensation would you require if I shot off your arm or leg, or gouged out your eyes?” He replied that he would not lose a limb for any sum of money. We should at least give ex-soldiers something in return for their disabilities. If they had not gone to the war they would now, in all probability, be earning at least the basic wage. Therefore any pension that they receive should not be lower than that standard. A man who loses an arm or a leg suffers a great handicap. I myself would sooner lose my life than an arm or a leg. I greatly pity the man who hobbles about on crutches, or is confined to an invalid chair, and, in my opinion, we cannot adequately recompense exsoldiers who are maimed for life. They went to the war, either for the love of their country or in a spirit of adventure, and are now suffering great privations. In return we should treat them generously. I hope that all honorable members will support the motion, and, if it is carried, we shall at least have the satisfaction of knowing that we are doing something to help those suffering from the effects of the war.
– On the 10th September last the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) moved a motion concerning war pensions, and the motion which is being discussed to-day is almost identical with it.
– It has been greatly improved.
– There is one great difference between them from my point of view. Last year the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) seconded the motion, and he supported all that the honorable member for Melbourne had said. He asked first of all that there should be a. more sympathetic administration of the War Pensions Act, and this, after all, is the crux of the repatriation question to-day. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) supported the motion. On that occasion I said that I had held for a long time the opinion that the disabilities of any man who had actually served with his unit in the field should be accepted, and that the question of pre-war disabilities should not be considered. The motion under discussion, after stating certain facts, reads-
It is the opinion of this House that no soldier who was accepted after passing such examinations, and who actually went to the front and satisfactorily performed his allotted duties should be refused any rights under the War Pensions Act for himself or his dependants through certain present medical experts giving as their opinion the causes arose from pre-war causes.
If the honorable member for Melbourne in his reference to soldiers who went to the front means, as I did when speaking to the motion last year, soldiers who actually served with their units in the field, it is obvious that I have no other course open to me than to support the motion now before honorable members. The following is an extract from my speech on war pensions made in this House on the 26th August, 1924: -
There appears to me to be now only one serious criticism of our war pension scheme, andit concerns the pension payable to an exsoldier who suffers an aggravation by war service of a pre-enlistment disability. Certain pensions have been reduced orrefused on the grounds of non-material aggravation by service. The Repatriation Act” was amended in 1921 to provide for such cases, but apparently the text of the amendment was not quite definite enough to cover every case of aggravation by service of a pro-enlistment disability Section 23 was amended by the addition of subsection 2, paragrapha of which reads -
The conditions of his war service contributed to any material degree to the death or incapacity of the member.
That paragraph should, in my opinion, be amended by deleting the word “ material.” or, as an alternative, an amendment should be introduced to provide for adequate pensions for ex -soldiers who served in an actual theatre of war, provided aggravation of a pre-enlist ment disability occurred. I have been interested in this phase of war pensions for a considerable time, and have made inquiries as to the Canadian Government’s practice. The chairman of the Canadian Board of Pension Commissioners has advised me very fully on the subject, and I quote the following passage from his letter dated Ottawa, the 26th June, 1923.-
Canada grants a pension in respect to any aggravation on service of a pre-enlist ment disability. The Pension Act recognizes two classes for this purpose, namely, those who reached a theatre of actual war, and those who merely served in Canada or England.
With regard to the first class, if an ex-service man reached a theatre of actual war, provided aggravation has occurred, he is pensioned for the total disability at discharge, without deduction for the total disability pre-enlistment, unless the condition was at that time obvious, wilfully concealed, or a congenital defect. The reason is that the men were subjected to such close examination before proceeding to France that it is taken for granted that any pre-enlistment disability existing in them must have been of a very minor nature. It is thought reasonable that such men should be given the benefit of the doubt, and pensioned for the disability in full, provided always that there was an aggravation during service. If, however, aggravation did not occur entitlement does not exist.
I might say that with regard to diseases. unless the disability on discharge is practically negligible, the Board, in its practice, always admits that there must have been some aggravation or progression of such disease on service, provided the man reached a theatre of actual war.
With regard to the second class, namely, those members of the forces who did not reach a theatre of actual war, but served in Canada and England only, the Board only pensions for aggravationof a pre-existing disability. For example, a man has a 20 per cent. disability in respect of his heart when he enlisted; he does not reach a theatre of actual war, and on discharge he is 25 per cent. disabled, he is pensioned at 5 per cent., and in the event of his disability increasing, the pension is (except in special cases where circumstances indicate contrary action) increased in the ratio that twenty bears to five, namely, in the proportion that the original disability bears to the aggravation on service.
I shall not take up further time by quoting from the letter sent by the Canadian Commissioner of Pensions, but on the occasion to which I refer I went on to say -
In June last, I wrote to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), enclosing a copy of that letter, and the Minister sent it on for the comments of the Repatriation Commission. The chairman of the commission, writing on the 2nd July last, expressed the opinion that, in view of the provisions of the 1921 Act re material aggravation, a further amendment would be necessary to provide exactly what I am advocating. He then added -
Seeing, however, that the Australian provisions are really more liberal than the Canadian, and also seeing that so far as the commission can say with reasonable certainty, every Australian soldier who served in an actual theatre of war, and had a prior to enlistment disability which became aggravated, is accepted as a case of material aggravation, the commission considers that an amendment of the act is not required.
I should like to make quite clear my position with regard to this particular phase of repatriation. The crux of the whole question to-day is sympathetic administration. We have in Australia the most generous repatriation legislation in the world. Our Repatriation Act has ‘been several times amended, sometimes because the Government considered some amendment essential, and sometimes at the request of honorable members, or at the request of organizations representing ex-service men and their dependants, I think I may say, also, that in most cases we have really sympathetic administration of the act. I give the Minister at present in charge every credit for hig administration. Numbers of cases which were left for months, or even years, indefinite and undecided, the Minister has taken in hand with, in most, instances, a resuit satisfactory to the applicant for a pension. I do not for a moment deny that the Repatriation Commission makes every effort to secure that pre-war disabilities shall not be taken into considera-tion in respect of any aggravation due to war service in any theatre of the war. I do not ask that the act should be further amended, because I think that our present legislation on the subject is all that is required , but I think the Minister might give the House further assurance that in all cases the benefit of the doubt will always be given to the applicant. I emphatically maintain that the health of every man who served in any theatre of the war. whether at Gallipoli, in France, or anywhere else, must have been affected bv his war service. It can be safely said that the health of 99 out of 100 of the men who served in the war was affected in some way by their war service. I hope that an assurance will be given that pre-war disabilities shall not be considered in the case of a man who actually served with his unit in the field. I should like to see definite legislation introduced to provide that from eight to ten years from the date of the cessation of hostilities every application made shall be considered without reference to pre-war disabilities.
I shall, of course, support the motion, in view of the definite statements I. made when speaking on a similar motion submitted by the honorable member lastyear, and also before he submitted that motion .
– I support this motion heartily. It covers so many points that it is unnecessary to traverse arguments alreadyadvanced by other honorable members. It is within the experience of probably every member of this House that cases are continually cropping up of soldiers complaining of the treatment they have received in having their claims turned down by the board that has had to deal with them. A great many claims were turned down because, in the opinion of the local authorities to whom they were referred, the disabilities from which the returned soldiers were suffering were not due to or aggravated by war service, but had been caused by physical conditions existing before they enlisted. Arrangements were made some time ago for the appointment of a special board of eminent medical men in the different States in order that the fullest examination of all applications previouslyturned down might be made when the claims were re-submitted. To what extent the appointment of that board has alleviated the position of bona fide cases I am. unable to say.
– It has afforded considerable relief in many instances.
– I believe that in a large number of cases relief has been afforded as the result of the further investigation by this medical board, but there are still many cases in connexion with which it is held that the disabilities from which returned soldiers claim to be suffering to-day are not traceable to war service, noi- have they been aggravated by war service. It is held, I think, in the majority of these cases that the causes of the disability complained of were dormant in their systems before the men enlisted. Whilst that may be so, in many cases, it is reasonable to believe that war service played no inconsiderable part in developing or aggravating complaints from which re- . turned soldiers suffer, although the connexion with war service may not be directly indicated by a medical examination. Seeing that every applicant for enlistment was medically examined and passed as fit for active service before he enlisted, we have a right to assume that at the time of his enlistment he was physically and mentally sound. If, after serving in the war, the returned soldier suffers from physical disabilities which, either wholly or materially, incapacitate him, and it is clear that his case is genuine, and that he is in no sense a malingerer, the most sympathetic view of his case should, I think, be taken. It should be assumed that his disability is associated directly or indirectly with his war service, and, if not actually due to war service, has been aggravated by it. Who can positively declare that it is not so? I realize that each case must be considered on its merits, and great difficulty must often arise in arriving at a correct decision. A certain amount of attempted imposition by unscrupulous persons is, of course, inevitable, and must be guarded against. I would not suggest for a moment that those who have to deal with these applications are unsympathetic, but it is possible that familiarity with such cases may have a tendency, I will not say to callousness, but to a lessening of the sympathy which was evoked by earlier cases of the kind. Every one will admit that we could have no more capable or sympathetic man in charge of repatriation than the present Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse). I feel sure that if he errs at all it is in paying too great a regard to the humanitarian point of view, and in the direction of giving every returned soldier applicant the benefit of any reasonable doubt.
– We must not forget that decisions in these matters are in the hands of the Repatriation Commission.
– I was about to say, however, that decision in these cases does not rest entirely with the Minister, but is a responsibility of the Repatriation Commission, and it is well that the members of the board -should know that the Parliament does not desire anything but fair treatment for those concerned. More care, perhaps, might be taken to expedite the settlement of claims by returned soldiers. I know of several cases which have been hanging on for months without reaching finality. Some of these cases, I must admit, were previously turned down, but, when resubmitted for consideration, it seems to me that an undue length of time has been allowed to lapse before they have been dealt with. If, in order to overcome this difficulty, it is necessary to relax the regulations or make them more elastic, or to give wider discretionary powers to the board, no time should be lost in doing so. Speaking generally, the terms of the motion cover all that seems to me to be necessary. I heartily support it, and I feel sure it will commend itself to honorable members generally.
Mr. BRENNAN (Batman) J4.15]:.- I desire £o be associated with the motion moved in substance for the second time by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). As I had the honour of being closely associated with his effort in this regard on a former occasion, I was on this occasion nominated as the seconder of the motion, but through no fault of mine I was not present when the honorable member concluded his speech. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) has spoken feelingly in support of the claim for more sympathetic administration by the Repatriation Department, and I really think that that is the urgent requirement in connexion with repatriation to-day. I speak without feeling against the present Repatriation Commission, although 1 have good reason to entertain intense feeling in regard to them and some of the work they have done; but when the distinguished chairman of that commission is pleased to make it a boast that he takes no notice of what members of Parliament say to him, it is quite natural that members of Parliament should be inclined to challenge an attitude of that kind, and point out in reply that they are, perhaps, in closer touch with the returned soldiers than he is. At all events, I make no apology for publicly saying that I speak here for a large number of returned men, and for a group of very strong soldier organizations, who know the requirements of the returned men, and are determined to see that that measure of justice is done to them which, as the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has pointed out, was more than once promised to them before they enlisted for service overseas. To me it is quite easily understandable that it may be a matter of argument whether a disability arising in a returned soldier since the war has any ap- preciable connexion with the hardships of his service. But, on the other hand, it appears to be the acme of absurdity at this late hour in the day to suggest that a returned soldier in whom a disability has developed is merely suffering from a disease or physical condition latent in him when, he was accepted for service. I agree with those who say that a soldier having been submitted to a close and searching examination, and accepted as fit for service, it is repugnant to our sense of justice that it should now be alleged that he is not suffering from a war disability, but from something which was latent in him at the time he was accepted for service and performed services. We know what a large proportion of men were rejected as unfit, although to the average man many of those who were rejected appeared to be well fitted for service. I hope, not only that this motion will be accepted, but that its scope will be extended on more generous lines so far as the expression “ actually served at the Front “ is concerned. I have in mind the notorious case which I ventilated in- this chamber some years ago - the case of Private Holland, of Fairfield. Private Holland was proceeding overseas on a vessel which was torpedoed. As the result of his immersion in the sea, and because of other hardships, he developed tuberculosis, and he has ever since been suffering from that dread disease.
– Would not his case be covered by this motion ?
– It all depends on the interpretation placed on the words of the motion. I take it as being beyond doubt that any man who not only enlisted, but also embarked for service,’ and suffered hardships should have the full benefit of the more liberal administration of the Repatriation Act if he should subsequently develop disability. It was in connexion with the Holland case that the members of the Repatriation .Commission deliberately - I proved that it was deliberate - suppressed material facts. I brought the case again before the present Minister (Sir Neville Howse). I join with those honorable members who appreciate the great measure of sympathy with which the Minister deals with’ these cases, but, unfortunately, he is, both by acts of Parliament and through the necessities arising out of his position, in the grip of I he Repatriation Commission and his department. Therefore, although he re viewed Private Holland’s case sympathetically, he re-adopted the view of the commission, carefully submitting to me, however, facts which the commission had just as carefully suppressed. I have nothing more to say about that case except that a grave injustice was done to Private Holland by a commission which was partly pigheaded and partly malevolent. It deceived honorable members, including the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). It wrote a letter to him when he was Prime Minister which was absolutely foreign to the facts, and the right honorable gentleman submitted it .to the persons concerned, in the honest belief, no doubt, that what he was told by the commission was true, whereas it was absolutely false, as I proved in this House. I leave the matter there. I hope that the motion will be accepted. I hope that the Repatriation Commission will be led to understand that whatever position of privilege and power it has been allowed to enjoy, it has obtained it from this Parliament, and from members of Parliament whom it affects to despise. I hope that members of Parliament who are brought into human contact with these sufferers will not allow themselves to be overridden too much by officialdom. I trust that in questions of doubt the policy will not be pursued of always giving the department, instead of the returned soldier, the benefit of it. I hope that the commission will realize that it is better to err on the side of giving to- an undeserving man repatriation benefits than that a deserving man should be discredited and turned down.
– I support the motion which has been moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (t)r. Maloney), and I regret that the Standing Orders prevent its ample discussion. We all re-echo the sentiments to which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has just given expression. Hardly a day passes in which an honorable member is not confronted with some case of hardship affecting a returned soldier. On my shoulders has been placed much of the responsibility for inducing Australians to take part in the war ; but that responsibility must be shared by every citizen who urged men to go to the Front, and indeed by all who wished and prayed for victory in the struggle for our national existence. But
I do not agree with the principle upon which the Repatriation Department acts in dealing with some of the requests made to it. In this connexion we have to ask ourselves, What is a war disability?” I endorse the eulogies that have been paid this afternoon to the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse). We have had his assurance that he will give to every case brought under his notice his personal attention and sympathetic consideration, and will not merely be guided by the reports of his officials. But what man would venture to limit war disability, or to declare positively that that disability was caused by war, and that was not? Let us consider the circumstances under which our soldiers enlisted. Recruits were medically examined, and were not accepted for service until expert and competent medical officers had pronounced them to be free from disease and physically fit for active service. But it frequently happens that troubles that may have been latent and undetected by the examining doctors bring upon our returned men a serious illness or disability. [Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.~
Debate resumed from 4th February (vide page 685), on motion by Mr. Duncan-Hughes -
That, in the opinion of this House, a British woman should not lose or be deemed to lose, her nationality by the mere’ act of marriage with an alien, but that it should be open to her to make a declaration of alienage.
[4.301. - I commend the honorable member for Boothby for the admirable clarity and restraint with which he presented this motion to the House. The right of women who marry to retain their nationality is of the very ‘ greatest importance, and we all must sympathize with a great number of women in this and other countries who, through marriage, have forfeited their original nationality. The matter is one that certainly requires the earnest consideration of all the parliaments of the Empire, and, indeed, of all civilized countries. It is, however, so hedged round with difficulties that, in 1923, a select committee of the House of Commons was appointed to report upon it. The report of the committee sets out fully the arguments for and against the change suggested in this motion, and is most informative. The existing law in Australia and Great Britain embodies the almost universally accepted principle that the nationality of a married woman is . determined by that of her husband; but there is a widespread opinion that nationality is an inherent and individual right that should not be affected by marriage. Defenders of the present law argue that nationality is not of very great importance to a woman, because she suffers no serious disability in being obliged to accept the nationality of her husband. We have to recognize, however, that a woman naturally attaches the same importance to nationality as does a man, and has at least as much patriotic feeling for her native country. For that reason women are entitled to demand that there shall be no avoidable differentiation in nationality rights between citizens of different sexes. Unquestionably, the woman married to an alien and continuing to reside in her own country is subjected to certain disabilities under the present system. For instance, in Great Britain she loses her franchise rights, although that loss is not as serious as in Australia, where women have the same political status as men. She also forfeits teachers’ superannuation rights, and certain other advantages. Therefore, the argument that the present nationality law has no serious consequences to a woman married to an alien while she continues to reside in her own country is not founded upon fact. I do not propose to debate the controversial subject of the equality of the sexes; but we cannot ignore the improvement in the status of women during the last 50 years. Not very long ago wives were regarded, in law, as little more than chattels of their husbands, but by the Married Woman’s Property Act of 1882 the Imperial Parliament gave to wives independent right3 over property. An act passed in 1918 extended the franchise to women, although in comparison with Australia’s enlightened treatment of the sex that reform may be considered somewhat belated and inadequate. There is also the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919, which made women eligible for practically any position in the United
Kingdom. We must recognize these developments and the position women have won for themselves when we are considering their nationality rights. Those who are opposed to any alteration of the law say that the principle now in operation by which the woman takes the nationality of her husband, is the sounder. It cannot logically be considered to be the better principle except insofar as there may be practical obstacles to a change. We must also give serious thought to the possibility of domestic unhappiness in a household of dual nationality. Those who stress that disability emphasize that nothing should be done to introduce dissension into the familv and the home, which is universally regarded as the unit of the nation. But however desirable it may be that husband and wife should have the same nationality, that is not always possible, even under the present law. In any case that consideration does not determine the question. There is another obstacle to change, and it is founded upon practicability rather than upon principle, namely, that our present law, by which the nationality of the wife follows that of the husband, obtains in most civilized countries. It is true that America has taken a step forward ; Belgium has made a change; and a pronounced movement towards reform has occurred in Scandinavian countries; nevertheless, for the time being the principle in operation in the British Empire is almost universal. That argument is not in itself conclusive, and should not deter us from adopting another principle if we are convinced that it is better and more just. The very fact that, an innovation would be an improvement, and do justice to women, should prompt us to go forward, and give a lead to the world. Another objection urged very strongly against an alteration is that it would lead to dual nationality in some cases and to no nationality in others. That is true, but those conditions occur now. There are some women who have dual nationality and others who have no nationality at all because of divergencies in the laws of different countries. Examples of both conditions are to be found in the report of the select committee to which I have previously referred. None of the arguments advanced against the proposed reform are strong enough to justify a refusal to admit a principle which the women of Australia and many other countries declare to be fundamental. Many people oppose an amendment of the law because of its possible effect upon the nationality of children of mixed marriages. At first sight, that objection seemed to me a valid one, but, having given the matter further consideration, i have come to the conclusion that the two questions - what is the proper basis upon which to determine the nationality of a woman who is married to an alien, and what shall be the nationality of the children of a mixed marriage - are independent. Under the present law, the children take the nationality of the father. If the advocates of the alteration suggested in the motion propose as a solution of this problem that the female children shall take the nationality of the mother and the male children the nationality of the father, I wish them to understand plainly that the Government will not agree to that proposal. However, that question does not arise when we are considering merely the nationality of married women.
– As the mover of the motion, I assure the right honorable gentleman that I am in complete agreement with him on that point.
– I am very pleased to receive the honorable member’s assurance. In 1914 the nationality laws throughout the British Empire were made uniform. The Government regards such uniformity as essential, and, if this motion be agreed to, will not be prepared to bring down a bill for the amendment of the Nationalization Act until the change is approved by other portions of the Empire, so that uniformity may continue.
– The Old Country should advance.
– The United Kingdom can claim to be ahead of Australia in this matter, because the House of Commons has already passed a resolution in favour of this alteration, and Canada has actually amended the law as suggested; but, owing to the agreement in regard to Empire uniformity, the new law ha3 not been put into operation. The Government will not endeavour in any way to prevent the motion from being carried. If it is agreed to, the British Government will be informed of our resolution, and at the next Imperial Conference Australia’s representative will certainly be prepared to move in the matter, in the hope that all the parts of the British Empire may agree to an alteration of the law in. the direction suggested. If that happens, I trust that it may be a step towards the general acceptation of the principle by other nations, and that action may subsequently be taken to that end through the League of Nations.
.- I compliment the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), who, in submitting the motion, delivered one of the most thoughtful speeches I haveheard in this House. The honorable member must have given a great deal of time and study to the question to enable him to bring forward such strong arguments in support of the motion. I do not agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that Great Britain is in advance of Australia, particularly when we remember that there are approximately 2,000,000 more women than men in the United Kingdom, and that before a woman there is permitted to exercise the franchise she must be 30 years of age, and both men and women must have a local vote. In the matter of the franchise, we are, therefore, considerably in advance of Great Britain, and if we believe, as I think we do, that women should possess the same rights as men, we should give a lead to Great Britain in this instance. If a woman marries a foreigner, why should not the husband acquire the nationality of the wife? That would be giving the country where the marriage. took place the power of granting equality of the sexes. I suppose I am one of very few people at present resident in Australia who has taken the trouble to read the records published in the days of the French Revolution, which I did when visiting the British Museum in my student days. If a citizeness married an aristocrat during the French Revolution, his life was saved, and, if a Frenchwoman married an alien, by that act the alien became a Frenchman. Even in Australia we do not give women absolute equality with men. The action proposed in the motion is a Step forward, but it does not go as far as 1 wish. “Women, who were once the chattels of men, now receive greater recognition, and this is another instance in which the privileges to which they are entitled can be extended. I have pleasure in supporting the motion.
.- I desire to express my approval of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes). I have a vivid recollection of the introduction of the Nationality Bill in 1920, which was really a measure disqualifying an Australian woman who married an alien from the full rights of citizenship. On that occasion a very spirited debate took place, but, as a new member, I was somewhat diffident about expressing my views before honorable members whose experience was more extensive than my own. I recognized, however, the injustice of the proposal, and expressed my- strong disapproval of it. I heartiy agree with the motion submitted by the honorable member for Boothby, and with the opinions of those who have supported it. It is not in accordance with British principles and traditions to place our womenfolk in a less favorable position than that of men. It is possible for an Australian to marry an alien woman and still retain his citizenship, but if an Australian woman marries a foreigner, even in the country of her birth, she is deprived of the rights of citizenship. Such an anomaly should be removed. As Australia prides itself upon the equitable treatment meted out to all classes and sexes in the matter of citizenship, the motion, which is in accordance with the principles of an enlightened democracy, will, I trust, have a speedy passage.
.- In supporting the motion, I wish to cite the case of a woman living in my electorate, who is personally known to me. £he was born in South Australia, where she continued to live, within a few miles of her birthplace, until she was a young woman. She then visited the United States of America, where she met a man whom she eventually married, and later returned to South Australia. A few years afterwards this gentleman came to South Australia, and they were married in the church she had attended all her life ; but, because she had married an alien, she has been deprived of her citizen rights. The idea of women being, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said they were once, the chattels of their husbands, is repugnant to the women of to-day. When a woman marries an alien she should have the right to say whether she will retain her own nationality or adopt that of her husband. The nationality of women who marry aliens is a very live question in South Australia, which State had the honour to lead the world in granting the suffrage to women. I have pleasure in supporting the motion.
Mr. DUNCAN-HUGHES (Boothby) [4.55J. - I should like to express my gratification at the manner in which the motion which I have had the honour of moving has been received by the Government and by honorable members on both sides of the House. In submitting the motion, I said that I did not claim to be its originator, and that I had reason to believe that what I advocated had been urged for some considerable time by honorable members opposite, as well as by honorable members on this side of the chamber; it was simply my good fortune to move it. It is pleasing to me, as I am sure it will be to a very large number of persons throughout Australia, that in the discussion of the proposal contained in the motion there has not been a dissentient voice. In that respect this House has followed the example set by the House of Commons a year ago. The motion has, I know, been generally approved, not merely because a similar proposition has been agreed to by the House of Commons, but because honorable members consider that the proposal it contains is sound and just. It is particularly gratifying to note the spirit in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) dealt with the matter. If this motion is carried, as no doubt it will be, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, which are, I submit, without any invidious distinctions, the three most important portions of the Empire, will have approved of the principle involved, although in somewhat different ways; and I do not think it is too much to hope that other parts of the Empire will come into line, and that something of a similar nature may be done by them before the Imperial Conference this year. I trust that the House will show that it is no less democratic than the House of Commons by agreeing to the motion on the voices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4th February (vide page 688), on motion by Mr. Manning -
That it is essential for the proper development of Northern Australia that a railway “be constructed from Bourke, New South Wales, through Central Queensland towards Cloncurry and thence across the Barkly Tablelands to a point on the North-South railway in the Northern Territory - the carrying of this resolution to be taken as an instruction from this House to the Government to approach the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland with a. view of apportioning the expense of constructing this line between the Commonwealth and the States mentioned.
.- Since I submitted this motion, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has given notice of an amendment, the effect of which, if carried, would be that a railway would be constructed from one of the ports in the north-west of Western Australia across to Camooweal. That would have the effect of defeating the proposal to carry the line south to connect with the New South Wales railway system. Any one who has gone into this subject will admit that if the amendment is agreed to it will have the effect of stultifying to a great extent the benefits to be derived from a. railway such as I suggest. My reason for submitting the motion was that if effect were given to it, and this railway were constructed , it could be continued, as it will have to be for the ]>roper development of Australia, to one of the ports in the north-west of Western Australia. lt could also be connected with Camooweal, and, possibly, eventually with Marree, in South Australia. This country must progress. The line should be built so that subsequent lines can be added effectively. The Minister, in moving the second reading of the Kailways (South Australia) Agreement Bill, said that the line provided for in that bill would meet the requirements of that part of Australia for the next 50 years. I took exception to his statement, and I apply the remarks I then made to the motion now before the House. No one can say how much this country will develop during the next 50 years. Fifty years ago there was no more unpromising proposition in Australia than the Mallee district of Victoria; the soil was regarded as inferior, and the rainfall is only 9 inches a year. But by the foresight of the State Government in building railways and providing water, that district has been transformed from a liability to the State into an asset that is already carrying a large population. I have had almost a life-time’s experience in wheat-growing, and did I not know that the experimental stage had been passed, and that wheat-growing in the Mallee was a proved success, I should not credit the progress that has been made. I do not say that the Northern Territory can be developed into a wheat-growing district; I cite the Mallee as an illustration of how little we know of the developmental possibilities of this country. Probably the most outstanding feature of development during the past century has been the rapidity with which the future has become the present. We can hardly realize that it is now almost ten years since the end of the war. This railway is essential to the development of Northern Australia. It will have a great influence in the development of the Northern Territory, and will be a valuable asset to people in the south. I have previously spoken of the advantage the railway would be to settlers by placing them in touch with the southern markets, and of the advantage it would be to people in the south by ensuring continuity of supplies. Australia has an exportable surplus of beef, but if our population increases at the present rate, and our herds do not increase, there will be no surplus beef to export in 1940. If that condition of affairs is reached, beef will be at famine prices in dry years, and the surplus in good years will be without a market. What would be the position to-day if the southern markets required the meat that is being exported? To provide a home market for all the beef now being produced, it is necessary to increase the population only by 2,000,000; and it is estimated that the population of this country in 60 years will be 20,000,000. Those facts show how soon we are likely to need every available facility for increasing our production of beef. In conclusion, I should like to summarize the reasons why I think the building of this line is essential, and why the Commonwealth should share the expense. Every man who takes a proper view the duties of the Commonwealth Parliament must realize that the development of every part of Australia falls within its purview. We have a special duty to the Northern Territory, and if we are going to develop that part of Australia it is as essential to build this railway as to build the direct north-south line. It would develop portions of New South Wales, Queensland, and the Northern Territory, and provide a drought insurance for stock in lean years. There has never been a drought over the whole country that would be served by this line, but there have been times when the capital cost of the line would have been saved in one year. The position for many stockowners to-day is acute. I have been through parts of New South Wales, and, although I am not a pessimist or an alarmist, I say that if we do not get the autumn rains, there will be heavy losses of stock. The Longreach and Central districts of Queensland are very dry, and a few miles farther south the country is in a very bad state. Leases are expiring in Queensland, and large areas of land will soon b.e subdivided. There will then bc a big increase in settlement in those districts, and it is in the interests of Australia, as well as of Queensland, that the settlers should become successful. I hope that the representatives of southern constituencies will bear in mind that all honorable members collaborated in passing the bill to build the north-south railway from South Australia. The two lines will not be competitive, but will serve different parts of the country. I hope that when the vote is taken honorable members will show that they have the best interests of Australia at heart.
.- I regard this proposal from a number of stand-points. From the stand-point of defence, and the White Australia policy, which is wrapped up with defence, it is in every way commendable. From the commercial and economic standpoints, and as a means of developing the Northern Territory, there is everything to be said in favour of it, and nothing that I know of that can be said against it. I should like to remove any misconception that may exist that the direct north-south line and this line are in conflict. In most places their routes are many hundreds of miles apart, and pass through different classes of country. If this line is constructed it will directly couple the Northern
Territory with the big centres of population along the eastern and southern seaboards, and as fully threefourths of the population of Australia is settled in those parts, it necessarily follows that this great line, should it ever become necessary to transport troops, munitions, and stores to the northern part of Australia for the purpose of defence, will connect the Territory in the most useful way with the large centres of population. If the line were constructed from Bourke through Camooweal to Daly Waters, there would be, by merely linking up with the extensions of the western Queensland lines, through communication to the coast at Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, and Rockhampton. It would be possible, by depots, to reinforce the line from Eromanga, from the terminus of the Blackall line, from Springvale - an extension from the terminus of the Winton line - and from Dajarra, the terminus of the Cloncurry line. In addition to increasing the carrying capacity of the line such connexions would enable rollingstock from the Queensland lines to be employed to carry men, munitions, and stores, and to transport such people as would have to be taken from the cities to the north country, if we unfortunately had to defend northern Australia. The distance from Darwin to Sydney is 2,241 miles, and from Darwin to Melbourne it is 2,451 miles. The line, if constructed, would be open to attack by Australian forces a,t each junction, and could not therefore be held by an enemy. If an enemy landed in the Northern Territory, and took possession of any portion of the direct north-south line, it could hold it, because the adjoining country is not capable of supporting troops, and we could not therefore make any flank attack.
– Is the honorable member arguing in opposition to the northsouth line?
– The two lines are in no sense in conflict. They are both essential for the development of the Northern Territory and the defence of the Commonwealth. No enemy could land troops in sufficient numbers to hold the whole length of this eastern line, or “any considerable portion of it, against flank attacks or attacks at the rail head. If we had such a line, Australia could hold it at each of the depots, because the surrounding country in Queensland, being already settled, could carry troops, which could launch flank attacks when and where necessary. There would be no possibility of attack by an enemy, because it could not land a sufficient number of troops to withstand attacks along its length by our forces. The depots that could be established along this line would relieve it of strain. If a breakdown occurred, repairs could be effected simultaneously from both ends, and there would be little likelihood of any delay occurring along any portion of the route. Traffic could be carried on uninterruptedly both above and below the break, and there would be practically noi diminution in the rapid transport of troops and supplies. The traffic in war-time could be diverted to any one of the big centres. There would be fairly close contact with the numerous hospitals that are already established along the eastern seaboard, and the sick and wounded could be transported without interfering with the forward passage of troops and supplies along the northsouth line and this line.
– What is the distance?
– From Sydney to Bourke, via Wellington, is 513 miles, and from that place to the vicinity of Cunnamulla is an additional 160 miles.
– From Bourke to Daly Waters is a distance of 1,230 miles.
– From Sydney to Bourke is 513 miles.
– According to the information that I have it is 530 miles.
– It depends upon the route. Via Wellington- it is 513, but via Molong it is 530. A line running in from Townsville to Dajarra would add approximately 500 miles.
– From Townsville to Dajarra, according to the figures that I have, is 602 miles.
– The distance from Townsville to Cloncurry is 482 miles. That to the Dajarra extension would depend upon the route which was taken. The same principle applies to the extension from Eromanga. There are 483 miles between Brisbane and Charleville. That line would probably total 600 miles if it were carried on to Eromanga. The lines that
I have mentioned are comparatively short, but they would prove very useful as reinforcing lines, which would enable the establishment of depots for the relief of both troop transport, and ordinary traffic. Our White Australia policy is inseparably wrapped up with that of defence. Unless we can .maintain, the integrity of our shores, we cannot ensure the continuance of our White Australia policy, or the safety of our citizens. We must, therefore, place ourselves in a position to defend the Northern Territory.
– Unless we do so it may be a source of danger.
– That is exactly the position. It cannot be questioned that the easiest point of entry to Australia for an enemy is in the Northern Territory, if only because it is more directly accessible than any other portion of Australia. If we are called upon to defend it, we must be in a position to rush troops to it along the most direct route from the large centres of population, because the majority of our soldiers would be drawn from those centres. On the commercial side I stress the point that the land along practically the whole of the route from Daly Waters to Bourke is good pastoral country. Some of it cannot be excelled anywhere. A great deal of it is at present carrying cattle, but it is also eminently suited for the carrying of sheep. Even the admittedly dry portions, such as the Urandangie, Boulia, Windorah, and Quilpie districts are at present successfully carrying sheep in fairly considerable numbers. Financial considerations have chiefly to be weighed in deciding at what distance from a railway sheep can be profitably raised. It may safely be said that from 100 to 150 miles from a railway is the limit under ordinary conditions. If this line were constructed, it would provide scope for a very large extension of our unrivalled principal primary industry, the growing of merino wool, with the usual concomitants, the more extensive use of labour and capital. The wealth of Australia would be increased, because of the larger flocks of sheep that could be carried, and the greater value that would attach to both sheep and cattle. A prosperous Northern Territory would lead to the establishment of new townships, and add to the prosperity of those that are already established in Queens land, with the inevitable result that the living conditions of the people would be vastly improved. The closer settlement of the Territory is vitally necessary. The establishment of new townships, and the more profitable use of the land, would lead to the permanent absorption of a large number of working people, who are at present unemployed, or only casually employed. Immediate employment could also be found for British migrants. Such settlement would, undoubtedly, make the defence of Australia more easy of attainment than is the case at the present time. The construction of the line would also bring material relief to the cattle industry. It is generally recognized that the principal reason for the stagnation that exists in that industry to-day in the Northern Territory, and the north-west and far central west of Queensland, is the difficulty of getting stock to’ market in prime condition. Between 129 and 130 degrees of longitude, a rough belt of country runs south to a little below Dajarra, cutting off the Barkly Tablelands and the Northern Territory from the railheads and trucking yards at Dajarra, Duchess, Malbon, Cloncurry, Quamby, Oona, Mr Cuthbert, and Dobbyn. The fat cattle that are overlanded to those yards are made footsore by the rocky nature of that rough intervening country. Water is scarce, the gras? is bad. The vegetation consists mostly of porcupine spinifex, and caustic bust poisoning is not infrequent. If cattle cross that rough belt, they all do a perish from thirst, lose a great deal of “their condition, and come off it footsore and tender. They have then the long eastern run to Townsville, a distance of 482 miles from Cloncurry. The result is that very few reach the coast in prime condition, and many are graded as second quality, even though they were prime in quality when they left the stations on which they were fattened. If they are not railed to the east coast, but driven on the hoof, being footsore from the rough belt, they fret and fall away, and when they arrive at Townsville they are not prime fats but only forward stores at the best. To avoid the rough belt to which I have referred, they must travel across James’ Creek, down the Georgina River, past Headingly, Urandangie, and Roxburgh, across to Boulia, thence to either Longreach or Charleville, to the eastern or the southern markets. That journey takes a very long time, and frequently the cattle fall away to such an extent that they have to be spelled and re-fattened on very rich pasture. It is not uncommon for two years to elapse between the departure from the station and the placing of the cattle on the market. The spelling and fattening involve waste that benefits nobody, but adds greatly to the cost of marketing, and raises the price to the consumer. The opinion that I have formed is strongly supported by men who are distinguished in the pastoral world, having been successfully engaged in the industry for the greater part of their lives, during which time they have gained a very wide knowledge of the Northern Territory, northwest and southern Queensland, and the north-west portion of New South Wales. lt is that if this line were built cattle could be railed either east or south, and arrive at their destination in good condition. When they were realized they would return to the grower a profit more than twice as great as that which he now receives, whilst the consumer would be supplied with better beef at a lower price. The growers would thus be enabled to improve their holdings to a much greater extent than is at present possible, with the result that their carrying capacity would be enlarged, and the quality of their cattle improved. Heavier stocking renders necessary more extensive improvements, which in turn lead to the provision of a greater amount of employment. I am sure that we all desire to see every person in our community working under happy conditions. That additional employment would lead to greater settlement, which would be a big stride in the development of the Northern Territory. The number of stock that leaves the Northern Territory even under existing conditions is considerable, but it could be very greatly augmented if transport facilities were improved. Even if large areas of the country that is at present carrying cattle were used for sheep-raising, it would be possible, by improving the remainder of the cattle country, to send to market as large a number of cattle as is being sent to-day. The advantage would be that the Territory would be carrying probably 2,000,000 merino sheep. Some people argue that the Northern Territory is not suitable for the breeding of sheep. I am not able to share in that view. It is admitted that during the period when sheep were being bred on the Barkly Tablelands their number increased by from 40 to 60 per cent, per year. I know of many districts classed as first class sheep country, in Queensland and New South Wales, at any rate, where no better average than that is obtained today. For example, the country lying immediately east of Julia Creek, and running almost into Hughenden, is admittedly first class sheep land, and has an average increase of from 45 to 50 per cent. If the Barkly Tablelands, with the scanty improvements existing there when sheep were depastured in that country, gave an average increase of from 40 to 60 per cent., the results from those semi-desert animals were decidedly good. Another and very important reason why I suggest that this work should not be long delayed is that we cannot afford to allow the tragic economic waste to continue. Much may be said in condemnation of those responsible for the development of the Northern Territory and of Australia, because this waste has been permitted. The principal reason for the heavy losses of stock during drought periods is the impossibility of moving them to favoured districts. As the last speaker pointed out, Australia has never been visited by a drought during which every part of the country has been stricken. For instance, the northern portion of Queensland is now experiencing drought conditions; but the southern portion of that State is like a wheat field, and could carry many more stock than are now depastured there. If the line I am advocating were built, it would be possible for owners in the north to move their stock southwards. Within the past two years it would have been possible to reverse that process, because when the’ north was having bouteous times the south was having a lean period. Such a railway would enable owners to truck from south to north, and from north to south, as the vagaries of the season render necessary, and also along the main lines running from the interior to the Queensland and New South Wales middle and eastern coastal districts. It is said - and statistics support the statement - that about every four years Australia loses, mainly through drought, merino sheep to the value of £20,000.000. That means a loss, practically through drought alone, of 20,000,000 sheep and their wool, in addition to which large numbers of cattle and horses die from the same cause. I have received a letter from an old and experienced pastoralist - Mr. J. R. Chisholm - who has had a long experience of railway construction work, and may be said to have had a life-long experience in the pastoral industry, lie writes as follows regarding the country that would be traversed by this line: -
The Bourke line would be a great factor in the meat supply of Australia. The southern States - New South Wales and Victoria - would be well served indeed by the Bourke line coming up through West Queensland. It goes through good pastoral land the whole way right on through Boulia to Camooweal, without a break of mountains or poor land - not an acre the whole way. I know it all. The construction would be a surface line all the way. From Boulia south-east to Thargomindah, there would be level land, and in the river areas some miles of it is inundated in heavy wet seasons; but these seasons- are by no means annual.
As a matter of fact, some miles of that country are subject to inundation in very wet seasons; but that would cause no maintenance difficulties, since the movement of the water is very slow. There is practically no current, and only the main channels would need to be bridged. The letter continues -
A word more on railway construction in back country with iron rails, and iron sleepers. The railway could be made at the rate of 300 miles yearly. I write with knowledge. I was a railway builder with a Queensland firm from the Comet to Pine Hill, up to 1880. Then we made the line from Nyngan to Bourke, New South Wales, and the permanent way was put down 126 miles in 100 days. I got all the sleepers, 400,000, in Dubbo, and ran them and the first 30 miles of ballast, 100 miles, on the Government line to get to our own work where we commenced. We finished into Bourke in 1884.
Along the approximate route of the proposed line there are, in Queensland alone, about 60 stations, which, at the present time, each carry over 5,000 head of cattle or over 10,000 head of sheep. According to the latest stock returns available - those for January, 1925 - there are 492,600 great cattle and 3,588,659 sheep depastured on 600 holdings that would be served by this line in Queensland. The presence of that enormous number of stock indicates the saving that could be effected during drought periods by such a rail-
Mr. G. Francis. way; but the number, both of sheep and cattle, could be doubled. The whole of the country, as far as Paly Waters, is suitable for pastoral purposes, and would carry an infinitely larger number of stock than it holds to-day. Such a line would result in a marked increase in settlement in the Northern Territory. Its construction is vitally necessary, not only for the development of that territory, but also for the welfare of Australia generally. Queensland and New South Wales could develop by means of their existing railways; but in order to provide for the quick transit of cattle from the Northern Territory to the southern markets, and to prevent the great economic loss sustained in times of drought, this line is urgently required.
– Why not wait until the north-south line is built?
– That line could not be constructed as quickly as the railway to which I am referring, because the work on the latter could be carried out from four existing railheads. It could be undertaken from the railhead at Bourke and from the termini of the Quilpie, Blackall, Winton, and Dajarra lines.
– Does the honorable member suggest that this line should be built before the north-south railway ?
– No, but the necessity for it is pressing. The interjection seems to me to show a parochial spirit. The Commonwealth has agreed to build the north-south line, and it is in honour bound to proceed with the work; but the proposal that I am supporting has no bearing whatever upon that railway. Such a line would help to uphold the White Australia policy, prevent a greateconomic waste, and serve for ordinary commercial purposes.
– It would side-track the north-south line for ever.
– I give that assertion a direct denial. The Commonwealth is committed to the construction of that railway. The building of that line will not, however, prevent economic loss in times of drought, because pastoralists will still be unable to raise sheep on the Barkly Tablelands in the numbers in which they should be produced there, nor to remove stock to more favoured localities in times of drought. Nor will Australia be able to defend the Northern Territory by means of the north-south line alone. If an enemy landed at Port Darwin, the railhead would be the only portion of the line that it would be necessary for it to defend. Tor that reason I contend that both lines are essential. The proposed line would eliminate the present extravagance of allowing millions of pounds’ worth of sheep to die, merely because we provide no means of transferring them to suitable pasturage.
.- I move the following amendment: -
That all the words after “ constructed from “ up to and inclusive of the words “ Northern Territory “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following : - “ Broome or Derby starting in an easterly direction up to its junction with the North-South railway at or about Newcastle Waters, thence south of east to Camooweal “.
I have nothing to say in opposition to the proposal of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), other than that I believe the first duty that rests upon us is to try to populate the northern parts of Australia. The honorable member for Macquarie keenly desires to do something to assist the pastoralists in the northern parts of New South Wales and in the north-western parts of Queensland, and so do I; but I desire, more earnestly, to stimulate the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory itself. It is necessary to build a developmental railway to get settlers into the country before there is . need for a railway to bring stock down to the markets. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) discussed at length the defence aspect of the motion. I advise him to read the report made to the Commonwealth Government by Field Marshal Lord Kitchener on the defence of Australia. Lord Kitchener very strongly recommended the construction of a railway right through Australia. It seems to me that the best defence we can possibly have is population. There is no doubt about the value of much of the land in the Northern Territory, but good land is of no use unless facilities are provided for marketing the produce it grows. The proposal outlined in the amendment was made, in the first place, by what is known as the Northern Development League. Senator Lynch and
I submitted it to Sir George Fuller when he was Premier of New South Wales, and he strongly supported it. Mr. Theodore was also consulted on it. But although at that time he was not inclined to favour it, he has since given it his solid support. The route of the line would be from Broome or Derby, through to Hall’s Creek, and then on to Newcastle Waters and Camooweal. If the Queensland Government extended its line from Cloncurry to Camooweal, all the settlers in the northern part of Australia would have means of communication with Broome or Derby, and with Darwin and Townsville. Sooner or later the construction of spur lines will become essential, and Wyndham will need to be connected with the system, which might also, with advantage, be extended to a port near Pellew Island. Investigation! have already been made of the possibility of obtaining satisfactory harbour facilities in the gulf near the Pellew Islands. I have a map of Australia in my hand which shows every country in Europe, with the exception of Russia, set within our borders. That explains better than many words could describe the enormous extent of the territory we hold. We must settle this country to make good our right to hold it; unless we do so we shall surely lose it. There can be no doubt whatever that a railway following the route that I am proposing would traverse much excellent sheep country. In 1920, Mr. George A. Hobler, of the Commonwealth Railway Department, made a thorough investigation of north-western Australia. He concluded his report upon it with some strong recommendations. He stated that a large number of sheep was already carried in the East Kimberley country. I had the opportunity some time ago of meeting a Mr. Paterson, who has spent very many years in the far north and north-west of Australia. He told me that there are millions of acres in the southern parts of the Kimberleys that would carry almost a sheep to the acre. Honorable members may think that that is an optimistic estimate, but Mr. Paterson was a careful man, and, as I have said, with a great many years of experience in the pastoral industry in that country. I have no doubt whatever that much of the Victoria River country would carry sheep. All that is necessary to develop these areas is reasonable railway facilities. In his report upon the Kimberley district Mr. Hobler stated -
UP the valley of the Fitzroy River, for a distance of about 200 miles from its mouth, also up the valley of the Ord River for a distance of about 200 miles from its mouth, there are large areas of country with rich alluvial soil on the flooded portions, also rich soil of various classes in the country above flood mark. A very large portion of this country is suitable for the production of numerous tropical and sub-tropical agricultural products, such as cotton, castor oil and other oils, coffee, rice, tobacco, bananas, citrus fruits, &c, also for the cultivation of large quantities of fodder for stock, such as lucerne, &c.
If the country is suitable for lucerne, it must be good. Mr. Hobler adds -
The country is also very suitable for dairying and pig raising.
My information from other sources confirms the view that, given railway facilities, pig-raising would become a very profitable industry there. I have evidence that pigs that have run wild there have grown to an enormous size. Some of them have been known to reach a weight of 400 lb. The report continues -
The two rivers mentioned, with their large drainage basins, would supply immense quantities of water for irrigation at a reasonable cost. The Fitzroy River drains an area of r>0,600 square miles (32.384,000 acres), and lias an average rainfall over this area of about 20 inches. The total amount of water which falls on this watershed per annum is approximately 14,573 billion gallons.
The Ord River drains an area of approximately 20,000 square miles (12,800,000 acres), with a rainfall over this area ranging from a.bout IS inches per annum at its source to 30 inches at its mouth.
With proper systems of water conservation on the Fitzroy and Ord Rivers, sufficient water could bc made available to irrigate large areas of first-class agricultural laud on both livers, and institute industries, giving a yearly turnover of several millions of money, besides providing the means of closer settlement, which, as also in regard to the pastoral industry, would mean thu tremendous enhancement of the value of the country, and consequently its great utility in making railway and other means of development pay.
In this division it was noticed during the tour of inspection that almost all station homesteads right throughout the country between Derby and Wyndham had excellent vegetable gardens, in which were growing luxuriantly cauliflowers, cabbages, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, carrots, onions, &c, also numerous patches of lucerne.
I am doubtful whether irrigation would be successful, but on Mr. Hobler’s report itf?-. Oregon/. it is a possibility. Later on, speaking in general terms, he remarks -
The Kimberley and North-West Division and that portion of the Eastern Division dealt with in this report undoubtedly contain a very great amount of land with good soil and feed for stock, good soil for tropical and subtropical agriculture, and large supplies of water available for conservation for irrigation, stock, and domestic purposes, besides considerable natural supplies. The country also contains, so far as can reasonably be estimated and assumed, considerable latent mineral and metal resources. . . . With proper development the country could carry a great population, and support numbers of wealth-producing industries, adding immensely to the wealth and revenue of the State of Western Australia and the Commonwealth as a whole.
In the light of those statements it can hardly be denied that the Kimberley country is valuable. Seeing that’ the Victoria River country is good also, there is a strong case for the construction of this line. I know nothing personally of the Barkly Tablelands, .though I believe that there is some magnificent ‘’ sheep country there. But in all these new areas it would be necessary to establish the cattle industry first. Sheep would follow later. It is quite possible that subsequently metalliferous discoveries would be made. All this would help to settle the population that we so much desire to see there. A report that was submitted to the Western Australian Government recently stated that a very large area of magnificent country out from Wyndham was suitable for closer settlement and the growing of tropical crops. A railway along the route that I have proposed should be constructed before that proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie. It is of little use to talk of growing produce 1,000 miles or 1.500 miles from the seaport or the railhead. People must be assured of reasonable facilities for marketing produce before they will attempt to grow it. The number of sheep in the whole of the Northern Territory to-day, according to the report that I have just referred to, is only 43,000. and there will be no increase until better facilities are provided. The Government has already introduced a bill relating to the Northern Territory, but I have heard nothing at all concerning the administrative work, and the facilities that are proposed to enable the settlers in that country to make good. The Darwin meatworks have been closed down, for a reason unknown to me. It is a great pity that this should have happened, and I regret that at present there is little hope of them being reopened. Meat works have been established at Wyndham. The balance-sheet of those works waa sent to me some time ago, and from it I find that in 1922 30,000 head of cattle were slaughtered, the gross proceeds being £270,000. Over £70,000 was expended in freights and charges in realization, and £66,000 in labour. The settlers, who had been fighting for years to get a market for their cattle, received only £3 4s. a head in that year, and in the next year £3 9s. No person could make good on a cattle station under those conditions. The Government’s policy should be associated with a railway system such as I have suggested. We should be prepared to make generous sacrifices on behalf of those, who are prepared to settle in the Northern Territory. The Government would be justified in asking Parliament for permission to allow all goods to enter the northern parts of Australia free of duty. I am speaking, not of luxuries, which should be taxed, but of requirements for production. This would encourage trade, and give the settlers an opportunity of buying their goods in the cheapest markets of the world, free of duty, for a period, say, of ten or fifteen years. To encourage people to settle in the Northern Territory, we must give them facilities, not only to obtain their requirements, but also to market their products. Any immediate loss would be made good later. We are not improving the conditions in the Territory in the slightest degree. Although we are losing hundreds of thousands of pounds yearly in its administration, no additional settlement is taking place. I do not know whether the Constitution would permit it, but, if possible, we should give the people in the Territory an opportunity to buy their goods from the cheapest markets, and more than that, allow shipping to enter the northern ports free of lighting and harbour charges, which are expensive items. Recently a vessel which went to Darwin to ship 250 head of cattle, was charged £97 for harbour dues. Some time ago, in Sydney, the Public Works Committee took evidence from the managing director of the Java and East India Shipping Company. He said that the company was carrying sugar from Java to Sydney for transhipment to
New Zealand for 25s. a ton. He also said that the company would be pleased, if possible, to help in the development of the Northern Territory by extending its shipping service to Darwin, and thus give the people there the advantage of cheap freights-; but at present if Darwin were made a port of call, he would be compelled to pay duty on everything that was eaten or drunk on board the vessel between the time that it left Darwin and its return from Sydney. The freight on goods from Sydney to Darwin was £3 ]5s. a ton. We should assist the settlers in the Northern Territory by allowing them to obtain their station requirements, such as fencing wire, machinery, and foodstuffs, free of duty and harbour- charges.
– It used to cost the merchant nearly £3 a ton to get goods from the ship’s hold to his shop.
– Let us consider the position of the man who lives near the Gulf of Carpentaria. His goods are carried by coastal steamers subsidized by the Government, and he has to pay on them not only excessive freights but also the high cost of cartage on shore. Mr. Hobler, in his report, gives the local stores’ prices at Hall’s Creek. Flour is 31s. a bag of 50 lb. ; sugar, £2 15s. a bag of 70 lb. ; tea, 3s. 3d. and 3s. 6d. a lb. ; rice, ls. 6d. a lb.; household soap, 2s. 9d. a bar; salt, 8d. a lb.; kerosene, 12s. a gallon; tobacco, tins, 15s. a lb. ; a 3^-lb. axe, 18s. 6d.; a 4-lb. axe, 20s. The following are the rates of carriage from the port of Wyndham inland to principal centres: - Turkey Creek, 140 miles, £18 10s. a ton; Hall’s Creek, 240 miles, £26 10s. a ton ; Margaret River, 315 miles, £31 10s. a ton; Argyle, 100 miles, £16 a ton; and Lissadell, 128 miles, £18 a ton. Those are some of the difficulties with which the settlers have to contend. The Northern Territory must be populated and developed as early as possible, and the settlers given a chance to make good. The Government intends to erect oil tanks at Darwin for supplies of petrol and fuel oil. This will be of great advantage to the people in the south. The Government should also erect tanks on the north-west coast of Western Australia. If fuel oil for pumping stations and works generally, and petrol supplies for motor cars and tractors were made more accessible, the development of the interior would be considerably helped. I have no axe to grind in speaking for the Northern Territory, but I have the greatest regard for those who settle there. A man who has the courage to go 200 or 300 miles from the coast to develop a holding in the “’ Never Never,” should receive every assistance at the hands of the Government. Up to the present he has had little help. I commend the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) for erecting wireless stations at Camooweal, and in the Victoria River country, thus giving the people there an opportunity to obtain news, not only of the world, but also of the current market prices. I also commend the Government for establishing aerial services to and from the northern parts of Australia. The people there deserve every facility. They have battled for years and years, and deserve to make good. Cannot we do something to help them make good ? With all due respect to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), in place of his proposal, I favour a railway from Broome through Newcastle Waters to Camooweal, because it would give a greater opportunity to develop the Northern Territory, and give communication with the ports of Townsville, Darwin, and either Broome or Derby.
– It would not give railway connexion with the southern markets.
– No, but it would give opportunity to get fat stock to the export market. At present there are few sheep in the Barkly Tablelands, or even in the Northern Territory. My records show only 43,000 sheep there. In East Kimberly there are 187,000 sheep. I believe that the country to the south from Fitzroy River, through Hall’s Creek and Victoria River, could easily carry millions of sheep. Mr. Hobler’s report, and the report of the officer recently sent by the State Government to examine the area near Wyndham, show that there is a large tract of country there suitable for closer settlement. I believe that my suggestion, if carried out, would be infinitely better for the defence of Australia than any other proposal, and it would help a great deal in populating that country, which is the desire of all the people of Australia.
– I formally second the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gibson) adjourned
Postponement of Order of the Day.
Order of the day for the resumption of the debate on the motion, in the name of Dr. Maloney, for the adoption of the referendum and initiative, postponed to 1Sth March.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I wish to bring a matter under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that general business, has precedence until 9 p.m. As the orders of the day, general business, have been exhausted, should the House not resume the consideration of notices of motion, general business, which was interrupted at 4.30 p.m., and should not notice of motion No. 2 be called on at this stage ?
– The honorable member’s point of order must be sustained, and if he is prepared to go on with notice of motion No. 2, standing in his name, he is entitled to do so. Standing order No. 119 provides that -
If all motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and, unless the House otherwise order, the orders of the day shall be taken in rotation; but if there should be no order of the day, the discussion on motions may be continued. The consideration of motions may be resumed after the orders of the day are disposed of.
The time allowed for the consideration of notices of motion expired at half-past 4 o’clock. Orders of the day, general business, might then have been proceeded with, until 9 p.m. The orders of the day, general business, having been exhausted, a balance of time is left during which the consideration of notices of motion, general business, may be resumed. I think it is advisable that honorable members who have notices of motion in their names on the notice-paper should be informed that some time is still available for the consideration of those motions.
.- I move -
My purpose in rising to order when the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) proposed to speak, was that I might be enabled to submit this motion to the House, and have the debate upon it adjourned until the 18th March. My reason for taking this course is that the honorable member who wishes to second the motion is at present absent in New South Wales. In order that honorable members interested in other motions on the notice-paper may be informed of the opportunity to deal with them, I propose to speak briefly to my motion, and then to ask leave to continue my remarks. The importance of the nationalization of health must arrest the attention ofevery individual who takes the slightest interest in the physical welfare of his fellow men. This has been a subjeot of study with me for the last 40 years. Even as a medical student I approved of the nationalization of matters affecting public health, and I have ever since been a steadfast supporter of the idea. Friendly societies have been formed chiefly to enable their members to obtain, medical attendance and medicine at a reasonable cost, and as a protection against the charging of too high fees by medical men. Whilst medical men in a position to do so may charge high fees, I know of no profession the members of which give so much free advice as do the members of the medical profession. On’ one occasion in the Victorian Parliament I was referring to legal gentlemen, and the late Mr. Gillies, who was then Leader of the Assembly, said that doctors charged very high fees. I retorted that he seemed to forget that hospitals were established in which people in ill health might obtain free or cheap medical advice and every attention, whereas no institution existed for the assistance of those who desired to carry their grievances into courts, which are more often courts of law than courts of justice. I have said that one reason for the establishment of friendly societies is to protect their members against high fees charged by members of the medical profession. During the war the members of that profession pledged themselves as fully as any individual could pledge himself, that they would not ask increased fees from the various’ friendly societies if the societies kept all their members who went to the Front financial on their books. The friendly societies did that in an honorable and straightforward way, but, unfortunately, the doctors went on strike. They held the key to the position, and broke the honorable agreement into which they had entered. As a result the societies were called upon to pay much more than they should have been, because the doctors’ prices should not have been raised in time of war. I ask leave to continue my remarks on the resumption of the debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I ask leave to withdraw the motion standing in my name in order to substitute another for it. The motion of which I have given notice reads -
That in the opinion of this House a select committee should be formed to inquire into the working of the Commonwealth Electoral Act with a view to ascertaining whether amendments are necessary for greater efficiency at general or by-elections, and particularly whether the provisions relating to signed articles and the expenditure of candidates should be revised; and that such committee have power to secure witnesses from any part of the Commonwealth and call for the production of official records or documents.
I desire to substitute for that motion the following : -
That a Joint Committee be appointed to inquire into the law and procedure in relation to
-hughes. - On a point of order, may I ask whether it is competent for the honorable member to move an amended motion forthwith without having given notice to the House of its terms in advance. I do not wish in any way to delay the honorable member’s motion, but it would, I think, be only fair to honorable members that they should be given some notice in advance of the terms of the motion it is intended to move.
– Standing Order 101 provides that -
After a notice of motion has been given, the terms thereof may be altered by the member delivering at the table an amended notice, either on the same day or any day prior to that for proceeding with such motion, or he may withdraw the same when called on.
Though the honorable member for New England has not formally brought his amended motion up to the table, he has stated its terni3 from bis place, and is quite in order in moving his motion in the more detailed form in which he desires to submit it. It does not exceed the scope of the original motion, of which notice Avas given.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
– My principal reason for moving this motion at this early stage in the life of this Parliament is that, in my opinion, very little time should be lost in overhauling the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. An inquiry such as I propose may be a prolonged one, even more prolonged than we anticipate at this moment, and it is very advisable that with the recent election, and the defects in the act it brought to light, fresh in our minds, Ave should lose no time in effecting those amendments, which. in the opinion of this House, W111 be deemed necessary as a result of the investigation of the select committee which I hope will be appointed . The passing of the Compulsory Voting Act has completely revolutionized the electoral system of the Commonwealth. Those who had the good fortune to survive the ordeal of the last election, at which compulsory voting was first ap plied, must realize that it has brought about an entirely new set of conditions, which are not adequately met by the existing electoral machinery. The fact that it brought to the polling booths 33 per cent, of additional voters must have greatly increased the strain on that machinery. At the last election in 1925 the percentage of votes polled throughout Australia was 91,33, whereas at the 1922 election it Avas only 57.95. The increase between the two elections was 33.38 per cent. At the 1919 election the percentage was 71.33, and in 1917 it was 77.69. The increase between 1922 and 1925 Avas entirely due to the enforcement of compulsory voting, and it is quite probable that the high percentage of electors who exercise their franchise under compulsory voting will be maintained, if not increased, with greater efficiency in the electoral machinery. The Commonwealth electoral system is in many respects different from the systems adopted by most of the States. The Commonwealth has made a definite attempt to organize electoral affairs. Each electorate is controlled by a divisional returning officer, who for the whole of the period between elections maintains a separate ‘ office and staff engaged solely in the task of enrolling electors and preparing for elections. Therefore, it is quite an easy matter for the Commonwealth to perfect its electoral machinery without a great deal of expense. The election of 1925 cost £105,430. The election of 1922, at which 57.95 per cent, of the voters exercised the franchise, cost £85,985. The increase in cost brought about by compulsory voting Avas thus comparatively small, and, likewise, it should be possible to secure greater efficiency in the conduct of elections without any considerable increase in cost. The annual cost of administering the Commonwealth Electoral Act is £123,636. including £20,000 for printing rolls. I am informed that the charge for painting rolls can fairly be distributed over two years.
– Do not some of the States, which have joint rolls with the Common.wealth, contribute towards the cost of printing the rolls?
– I do not know, but one of th.3 greatest reforms we could bring about in our electoral system, from the stand-point of cost and efficiency, would be the abolition of dual rolls. To give an idea of the anomaly brought about by maintaining two sets of rolls,
Federal and State, I need only mention the cases of Queensland and New South Wales, which States prefer to maintain their separate rolls. With its superior organization and its unceasing search for persons qualified to be enrolled, the Commonwealth ought to be a higher authority on the subject of duplication than States which do not possess anything like the same efficient organization. In Queensland it was discovered by the Commonwealth electoral authorities that the rolls contained the names of 60,000 people who could not be traced. That record might be surprising, but it was easily beaten by New South Wales. I am informed by the Commonwealth electoral authorities that prior to the last State election there were on the New South Wales rolls over 100,000 names of people who had no right to be enrolled, and the fault was due to duplication. If 100,000 fictitious voters can take part in an election, it is a simple matter to influence the political situation.
– What was the percentage of votes polled in New South Wales 1
– I think it was about 70 per cent.
– Seeing that the average vote throughout the Commonwealth was 91 per cent., the low percentage polled in New South Wales would bear out the honorable member’s statement that there is on the roll a large number of names that should not appear.
– I think the real explanation is that in New South Wales the State authorities adopt a very loose system of giving police constables a free hand to place names on the rolls. When a policeman calls at a residence, and finds that the head of the household is not there, he will look him up at his work, or wherever he is to be found, and probably unwittingly his name is put down two or three times. I have it on the unimpeachable testimony of the Commonwealth electoral authorities that in Queensland and New South Wales there are 160,000 names on the rolls that have no right to be there, proving that it would be well for the people of those States, if they want a more efficientelectoral system, to link up with the Commonwealth, and have joint Commonwealth and State rolls. At any rate, that is one matter into which the committee I propose could inquire. One of the great problems of the Common wealth electoral authorities is to get people on the rolls. When a person becomes 21 years of age, the onus is thrown on him or her to seek out the electoral authorities, and become enrolled. The great majority of those who come of age do this, but there is a large number which does not worry to enrol. Most honorable members are well acquainted with what happens at election time. Candidates are beseiged by people of all political shades who have awakened to the fact that they are not on the electoral roll, and are deadly anxious to become enrolled. Of course, there is a percentage of people who do not care whether they are on a roll or not, but when there is any big issue before the country the majority of people are desperately anxious to vote. In order to meet the circumstances of those people whose names do not appear on the rolls, the Commonwealth authorities have invented the very cumbersome and totally inefficient method of voting called declaration voting, which was tried at the last election. It proved a delusion and a snare. In my opinion, it was an utter failure. In the New England electorate there were 700 declaration votes from people whose names were not on the roll, but had reason to believe that they should have been enrolled. Some said that they thought they were on the roll. Others imagined that because they were on the State roll they were entitled to be on the Commonwealth roll. Of these 700 votes only 130 were allowed, the others being disallowed on the ground that the applicants had made no bona fide attempt to’ get on the roll, and that it was entirely their own fault they were not enrolled. I regard it as an anomaly to maintain a system which practically encourages people to remain off the roll. Not only does it put people to the trouble of trying to vote when they have no chance of being given a vote; but it also delays the announcement of the result of elections. In New England the fact that 700 apparently bogus votes had been cast delayed the announcement of the result of the election for two days.
– When people are compelled to vote they will make every effort to vote in order to avoid prosecution.
– There is no doubt that that is the reason, but I claim that we should abolish a method that is essentially cumbersome, and is not altogether fair to the voters. I do not think that honorable members would begrudge any increase in the cost of administering the Electoral Act if an improved system could be brought into operation. If it were necessary to spend a few extra thousands to secure a clearer and, I may add, a cleaner vote of the people by the provision of all the necessary safeguards to avoid duplication, of which, by the way, there does not appear to have been a great deal in Commonwealth elections. I do not think honorable members would complain. Compulsory voting is likely to stay. I think it will lead to a great improvement in the political condition of Australia. The electors will have to take a great deal more interest in their politics, and at election time they will have to take the trouble to record votes, although they may not feel very much inclined to do so. But with the adoption of compulsory voting it is essential to have the best and most efficient electoral machinery for the registration of public opinion. I have already said that one of the great problems of the electoral authorities is to get people enrolled. Most honorable members are familiar with the difficulties that confront the Electoral Department. Many people are engrossed with their own affairs, and take practically no interest in politics until an election is upon them. One method adopted by the department to keep the rolls clean is to give postmen 15s. a hundred for notifications of removals, &c. If a postman notifies the department that a hundred people have died or have removed from their former places of abode without notifying their, changes of address, he is entitled to receive 15s. from the Commonwealth treasury. I do’ not think many postmen would grow rich on that remuneration, but one of the results of that system is to encourage postmen to “ dig up “ the names of a lot of people and notify head-quarters that they are not entitled to be on the roll. I have received many complaints from people that their names had been wrongfully removed from the roll through this rather loose system of leaving the checking to postal officials.
– If the postman were a strong political partisan the system would work rather disadvantageously to. one party.
– The same objection would apply to any official. When we offer a bonus to any government employee for removing names from the roll there is a danger that he may be influenced by considerations of advantage to his party rather than to the country. It is understood that when changes are notified to the district returning officers an acknowledgment card is sent and the fullest inquiry made as to the change of address or decease of the person affected. In this way the electoral officers take all further responsibility from the postal officials. However patient and persevering the electoral officers may be, I know, from my own experience, that many mistakes are made, and in every electorate hundreds of people complain at election time that they were never informed of the removal of their names. Some time has elapsed since any definite attempt was made to improve electoral methods, and I believe that one of the best aids to reform would be for a select committee to invite chosen divisional returning officers from the capital cities and country districts to confer and give to the Commonwealth” the benefit of their experience of electoral problems. I have discussed this proposal with many prominent electoral officials, and they are very favorable to it. If a select committee be appointed and it is guided by common sense, its first act will be to arrange a preliminary conference of experienced officers. Whatever safeguards against disenrolment are provided, we should lay down as a cardinal principle that no person whose name is not on the roll can claim a vote unless he or she produces documentary evidence that a bona fide attempt to become enrolled had been made. If the electoral machinery were improved in such a way as to make it almost impossible for any person who really attempted to enroll to be without an acknowledgment card from the Commonwealth authorities, we should get a 95 or 96 per cent, poll throughout the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable member subject people to dual penalties for non-enrolment and failure to vote?
– Non-enrolment and failure to vote are practically one offence, because a person whose name is not on the roll cannot vote. Every elector should have an acknowledgment from the Commonwealth electoral authorities that he or she has attempted to enroll. People who make no such attempt should be fined if they can be caught. The last election demonstrated how anxious people are to avoid a penalty for breach of the electoral law, and if people know that they are likely to be prosecuted, the great majority will make an effort to enroll. Therefore, the Commonwealth authorities should co-operate with the public by giving an acknowledgment card, which can be produced by the person claiming to vote. Even a person whose name was not on the roll should be entitled to vote on the production of that card.
– It could be taken as the basis of the applicant’s declaration.
– Yes. Postal voting presents difficulties to both electoral officers and candidates. I have not the figures for all States of the Commonwealth, but at the last election 13,288 postal votes were recorded in New South Wales, and 14,305 in Victoria. Those numbers are not great, having regard to the fact that over 3,000,000 votes were recorded throughout the Commonwealth. Most of these postal votes were registered by people who were incapacitated or were so far from a polling booth that they had no other means of voting. Honorable members will agree that postal voting cannot be abolished without injustice to many people, but we should devise improved facilities for recording such votes. One of the obstacles at present is that the votes must be witnessed by a justice of the peace or a doctor - why they ave selected I do not know - or some other accredited person. The system of selecting certain classes in the community, and declaring them to he the only reliable witnesses, is fundamentally wrong. There must be an immense number of thoroughly honest people who are quite competent to witness postal votes, and a considerable disability would be removed if these votes could be witnessed by any other elector, who is, in the opinion of the electoral officer, respectable and otherwise eligible. Absentee votes also constitute a difficult problem that is causing much concern to the authorities. In the recent election there were 91,547 absentee votes in New South Wales, and 49,795 in Victoria. The electoral officers are unable to explain the great divergency between the figures for the two States. Althoughabsentee votes cause a great deal of trouble, and delay the results of elections in nearly all divisions, the system is abso lutely necessary. A large proportion of Australia’s population is floating, and often nt election time - especially towards the end of the year -many people are on holidays in the capital cities.
– Nearly the whole of those absentee votes were recorded in border divisions.
– That is not so. In my own electorate, 4,450 absentee votes were recorded, and 50 per cent. of them were cast within the electorate, mainly due to the fact that shearing was in progress. The absentee voting system is cumbersome. The checking of the votes delays unduly the declaration of the poll. The fate of some honorable members hung in the balance for a couple of weeks. That is too great a strain to impose upon candidates. I was spared that ordeal, but I nearly wept for some of my honorable friends, who, for a fortnight, did not know whether they would be returned to this chamber or be cast into oblivion. This delay could be obviated by the adoption of a more common-sense method of absentee voting. There is too much circumlocution about the recording of votes. If in every polling booth there were a complete certified roll, electors for the division could vote there for any subdivision in the ordinary way. The electoral officer could keep a tally of the votes recorded for each subdivision, and send it to the divisional returning officer. Of course, persons on the rolls for other divisions would vote as absentees. Another disability is that under the Electoral Act it has not been found practicable to provide polling booths outside an electorate. For instance, the electorates of Gwydir and New England adjoin. On the border of New England is the large town of Inverell. The electors of Gwydir go to Inverell in thousands on Saturday, and they can vote only as absentees. Similarly, the town of Quirindi, in the electorate of Gwydir, is visited by large numbers of New England electors, and as the nearest polling booth for their own division is situated some miles up country, they have to vote at Quirindi as absentees. The State authorities have overcome the difficulty by establishing a common polling booth at which the electors of each division can register as ordinary electors. Surely the Commonwealth authorities could devise similar means of conveniencing electors living near divisional boundaries.
The electoral machinery should be simplified, and made to work more efficiently than at present.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the proposed select committee should consider also the question of the redistribution of seats?
– A select committee could not possibly deal with that subject, or with others, such as the method of voting for the Senate, which involves a question of policy which Parliament should discuss. The proposal is that the select committee should collaborate with the electoral officers in order to see if, under compulsory voting, our electoral machinery cannot be made superior to any in the world. Before leaving the question of voting facilities, I should like to refer to the great injustice inflicted, under the compulsory voting system, upon persons resident in out-back districts, who are threatened with a fine if they do not record their votes. A number have to travel from 6 to 16 miles in my electorate.
– And some, in the Northern Territory, 300 miles. 1
– Yes; and until these electors are provided with proper facilities the department should not have the right to inflict a fine. The difficulty could be overcome by providing polling booths in every centre where there are a dozen or fifteen voters who have to travel from 2 or 3 miles upwards to the nearest polling booth. There are not many electors in the principal cities who are anxious to walk more than 200 yards to record their vote, but unfortunate persons in the bush are expected to drive, or even walk, many miles in order to do so. That is a very important matter, and one which the proposed select committee should investigate. From my experience and observation, I consider that we are proceeding on wrong lines, as we do not trust the people sufficiently, particularly those in out-back districts. We seem to think that if the slightest risk is taken there will be conspiracy, and a good deal of duplication or impersonation. I believe that we can safely say that the duplication and impersonation in the outback centres would not represent more than 1 per cent, of the votes polled. One of the best methods of overcoming the difficulty would be to authorize some responsible local person to collect the votes in small centres, attach his personal certificate, and then despatch them to the district returning officer.
– Would a travelling booth be an advantage ?
– It has been seriously suggested to me by an experienced electoral officer that it would be an advantage to allow a travelling electoral officer to visit the out-back centres, and collect the votes. I wish now to briefly refer to the subject of signed newspaper articles, which is rather an important one. I understand that the representatives of the leading newspapers in Australia waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) some time ago, and asked that this provision in the Electoral Act be modified to the extent of freeing the newspapers from the necessity of having all articles on political subjects signed by the authors. At a country press conference held in New South Wales last year, a resolution was carried to the effect that this section of the act be amended. As a pressman of considerable experience, and one who has written a number of leading articles which I have had to sign, I consider that this provision in the act is useless, and merely serves the purpose of glorifying individuals to the detriment of the paper they represent. I do not think for a moment that the provision which relates to letters or contributions on political subjects by outside persons should be removed as that is a safeguard to the newspapers themselves, and also prevents a certain type of person from making innuendoes at election time through the medium of newspapers. Contributions from outside sources relating to elections or issues of the election should be signed, but the provision relating to the signing of leading articles should be repealed. The latter has never been effective, as practically every leading newspaper has evaded it by stating at the end of a leading article on political topics at election time that it has been written, after consultation, to express the views of the journal in which it appears. It does not necessarily mean that the writer whose name appears at the end of the article is the actual author. Other papers state at the end of a column of topical paragraphs that all contributions relating to political matters have been contributed by, say,
Smith, Brown, or Robinson. That is an evasion of the act, as the statement does not indicate the particular items contributed by Smith, Brown, or Eobinson. If this practice is to be continued, the name of the actual author of each article or paragraph should be given. Failing that, the newspapers should be given the privileges which they once enjoyed of taking full responsibility for what they publish. Under the State Defamation Acts every newspaper is responsible for the opinions it expresses, irrespective of the authors. The result of the present system is that at election time the power which the press wields in expressing opinions in its own way is considerably weakened by the loss of anonymity. I do not think any advantage has been gained under the present system, but great disadvantage has been caused to a large number of newspaper writers who have been pilloried and persecuted by political interests for having the audacity to freely express their opinions. A large number of pressmen in Australia question very much the glory they are supposed to reap from putting their names to expressions of political opinion, and they would be only too pleased to see that section of the act repealed. A select committee would be able to collect evidence from the newspaper proprietors concerning signed articles, and I trust that if a committee is appointed attention will be devoted to that question. In conclusion, I should like to briefly refer to the paragraph in the motion which relates to donations and gifts. This is a very important matter and one which affects all members of this Parliament. I have no particular proposition to submit, but I think it is time that the matter was fully investigated in the interests of all members. Some honorable members are able to contribute liberal gifts or donations to various activities in their electorates, butsuch contributions are a considerable drain upon the pockets of many others. I cannot see why a member of Parliament should be asked to contribute to practically every fund raised in his electorate. The disadvantage of the present system is that an inducement is offered to wealthy members to bribe their constituents. That is a brutal way of putting it; but a member who values his seat more than his money can keep on the best of terms with his constituents by handing out liberal donations during his parliamentary career. I do not happen to be one of those who contribute freely to such funds, but I “ give my bit” when the occasion warrants it. It would be much better if honorable members were prevented from bribing their constituents. The practice should be declared illegal, and this form of bribery and corruption, which is of advantage to wealthy members, would then be avoided. Owing to the present practice certain honorable members are allowed to maintain their position which they could not do if it were made illegal. I submit the motion and trust it will receive the unanimous support of honorable members.
– I second the motion, the subject of which, I am sure, appeals to< all honorable members. I do not intend to take up the time of the House in debating it, as I think the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) has put his case very clearly before us; but I wish to stress the point that if a select committee is appointed careful consideration should be given to the necessity of establishing more polling booths in country centres. As the representative of a rather large constituency, a great portion of which consists of black soil, I can assure honorable members that it is very often a great hardship for electors to record their votes. The same difficulties are not experienced at State elections, as the State authorities have provided more polling booths than have been provided by the Commonwealth. If a select committee is appointed consideration should be given to this matter.
As the time in which this motion can be discussed to-night is limited to another fifteen minutes, it is not my intention to speak at length. I have listened with interest to the informative speech delivered by the honorable member for New England. (Mr. Thompson), and whilst I do not agree with everything he has said, I recognize that he has made a very close study of the subject, and that many of his statements are accurate. It is very evident, when one studies the voting at the last election, that our electoral system is too complicated, and should be made much simpler.
There should be more polling booths, and facilities should be provided for those who are not within easy reach of a booth. The honorable member has pointed out all these things in a very clear and logical manner, and it is not my intention to deal with them further. I wish to deal chiefly with an anomaly created by section 107 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-11, which reads -
If after the nominations have been declared and before polling day any candidate dies and the candidates remaining are not greater in number than the candidates to be elected they shall forthwith be declared to be elected and the writ returned.
One of the candidates in Queensland died between the date of nomination and polling day, and the honorable’ member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) was declared elected without going to the poll. I do not mention that as derogatory to the honorable member, because he is a very estimable gentleman ; I merely direct attention to it as an anomaly under the act. After the elections I asked the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) the following question: -
Will the Prime Minister give early consideration to the desirability of amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act in order to make it mandatory that in constituencies where only two candidates are nominated and one dies between the date of nomination and polling day, fresh nominations shall be invited?
To this the Prime Minister replied -
The efficient working of the Electoral Act is always receiving the consideration of the Government, and no matter affecting in any way its efficiency is overlooked. I do not think, however, that the suggestion of the honorable member requires immediate consideration.
That answer did not meet my wishes, but now that it is proposed to appoint a select committee to inquire into the working of the electoral machinery, I suggest that that committee should give consideration to this section of the act, with a view to recommending that it be amended so that, in the event of a candidate dying between the date of nomination and polling day, the election shall be declared null and void and a further election held. That would be fair and reasonable. At the present time a Nationalist member represents the Labour stronghold of Kennedy. That is not democratic. In dealing with the matter, the right honorable member for
North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), after the election, made the following statement, which was published in the Brisbane Courier on the 17th November last: -
Mr. W. M. Hughes said there was one thing about the elections which he would alter if he had the power. He did not like the Kennedy seat in Queensland reverting as a walk-over to Mr. Francis, through the unexpected death of Mr. Chas. McDonald. “ Of course, it is law,” he said, “ but it ought not to be. It strikes at the root of democracy by depriving people of the right of choice. It happens’ just now to the advantage of the Nationalists, but another time it might operate the other way, with vital consequences. I think the Kennedy election should be declared null and another election held.”
That is the view- of a right honorable member who, for six years, was the Nationalist Prime Minister of Australia. I think that his views on that subject are sound. A large number of people in the Kennedy electorate resent a member whom they have not chosen being thrust upon them. The honorable member for Kennedy, on the 17th November last, commented as follows on his election : -
No one could more regret the death of Mr. McDonald than myself. He was my personal friend, notwithstanding our difference in politics. The Labour party knew the condition of his health. Nevertheless it nominated him, and speakers travelled the division during the campaign stating that he was in absolutely sound health, and owing to the size of the electorate, could not visit every portion himself. As a matter of fact, he had never left Melbourne.
They knew the law and the risk when nominating him, but were counting on Mr. McDonald’s personal popularity to carry him over and bridge their own appalling record. I do not consider I am justified in putting my party and the country to the expense of a further election. In any event, I am not likely to convey my intentions or desires elsewhere than to my own committee and leader in the first instance.
He said the “Labour party knew of the late Mr. C. McDonald’s state of health’ when it nominated him. The Labour party adopts the democratic practice of inviting nominations from candidates eligible and willing to contest seats in the Labour interest. In the ordinary course, the Labour executive of the Kennedy electorate in Charters Towers advertised for candidates eligible and willing to contest the electorate. That was done a considerable time before the election, and the names of Mr. McDonald and another candidate were submitted for nomination. A plebiscite was held, and
Mr. McDonald, although he was absent from Australia in England on a health trip, won by a large majority. He thus became the chosen Labour candidate for the constituency. Neither the Labour party executive in Brisbane nor the Federal Labour party interfered in any way; they had, in fact, no power to interfere, because full control is given to Labour supporters in the electorate to select their own candidate. Honorable members of all shades of political opinion in this Parliament, as well as members of the Labour movement, recognize that there was never in this Parliament a more faithful, more conscientious, or more painstaking representative of the workers than Mr. McDonald, who gave the very best of his life to fight for a cause in which he believed. It would not have been a very humane act for the Labour Executive in Queensland, or the Federal Parliamentary Labour party, to have withdrawn Mr. McDonald’s nomination on the eve of the election on the ground that he was in ill health, especially when we consider that the late Mr. McDonald had ruined his health in the discharge of his duties. If the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy meant anything, they meant that the Labour party should have nulled Mr. McDonald out of the contest. He stated that Mr. McDonald was run as the Labour candidate because it was believed that he would poll a large personal vote. I believe that he would have polled a larger personal vote than the Senate Labour candidates in the electorate of Kennedy, and it, is almost certain that he would have won the seat by approximately 4,000 votes. In the Capricornia electorate the Nationalist senators polled a majority of 1,131 over the Labour Senate candidates, and I won by 1,678 votes. In the Kennedy electorate the Labour senators secured a majority of 2,311 over the Nationalist senators, and if Mr. McDonald had lived I believe he would - on personal grounds - have gained comparatively as many votes as I did, because Mr. Riordan, Mr. Jensen, and Mr. Turley, although estimable persons, could not be expected to poll as many votes in Kennedy as Mr. McDonald, who had represented that constituency from the inception of federation. The Labour candidates for the Senate polled a majority of votes in 19 out of 23 subdivisions in Kennedy. It is a foregone conclusion that if Mr. McDonald had lived he would have done even better, as I did in Capricornia, and, therefore, would have won the seat by an overwhelming majority. In Charters Towers, where the present member, Mr. G. Francis, has lived for many years, Labour polled 1,946 and the Nationalists 1,638 for the Senate, a majority of 306 for Labour, and in Hughenden Labour polled 655, and the Nationalists 423, a majority of 232 for Labour. In Longreach, Labour polled 1,252, and the Nationalists 780.
– The proposed terms of reference to this committee would not cover that.
– The committee could take evidence on all these questions. This motion would not bind the Government to anything. The scope of the inquiry could be widened. I am merely pointing out the anomaly in the act, which is resented by many people in Queensland. Mr. McDonald was returned in 1913 by a majority of 11,633 votes, in 1914 unopposed, in 1917 by a majority of 6,270 votes, in 1919 by a majority of 5,080 votes, and in 1922 by a majority of 5,567 votes. I hope that a select committee or a royal commission will be appointed with very wide scope. There is need for an amendment of the law, and I hope one will be made.
– The Government is prepared to accept the motion moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and will agree to the appointment of a select committee. It admits that the question is very important, not only to honorable members but also to the public. No effort should be spared to make our electoral system as efficient as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Aerodrome at Rockhampton - Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Arsenic on Apples.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I desire to urge the Government, through the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville
Howse) to sanction the establishment of an aerodrome at Rockhampton. I made representations in this direction some time ago, and on the 8th February, 1926, I received from the Secretary to the Department for Defence the following letter : -
Further to my AS.438 of 29th January, 1925, relative to the proposal to establish an aerodrome at Rockhampton, I have now to advise you that an inspection has been made by a departmental officer, who reports that the only suitable area within a reasonable distance of the city would cost approximately £3,500 to acquire and prepare. As such considerable expenditure is involved, I regret that the funds available for civil aviation purposes will not permit any further action at present.
Because of that reply, I, on the 11th February, 1926, submitted to the Minister a number of questions. A reply that I received to-day sets out that 74 acres of land, costing £3,170, would be required; and that the cost of preparing the land would be £330, making the total cost £3,500. I understand that it would not be necessary to incur an expenditure greater than £50 per annum for the maintenance of the aerodrome if established. The Government ought not to baulk at an expenditure of £3,500 for an aerodrome for such an important centre as Rockhampton, which is regarded as the capital of central Queensland.
– It is a very important city.
– It has a population of 26,000 persons, and is the outlet for a rich back country that extends as far west as Longreach. Persons who have businesses or properties within a considerable radius of Longreach make Rockhampton their head-quarters. The whole of Queensland is eminently suited to aviation. The department is acting under a mistaken idea when it expresses the belief that money for this work cannot be found. In his reply on the 11th February last, the Minister said that the Government was prepared to consider the provision of an aerodrome at Rockhampton when the volume of aerial traffic in the district was sufficient to justify the expenditure which it would be necessary to incur upon it. The Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce has. I believe, correctly pointed out that the size and importance of the central division of Queensland warrant the provision of aerial facilities, in the absence of which the development of aviation there cannot be expected. That is a very important point. I believe the Minister will see that until the Government gives the necessary encouragement to civil aviation in that district, the volume of aerial traffic will not expand to the point that he desires it to reach before consenting to the establishment of an aerodrome at Rockhampton. When railway propositions are being considered, definite proof that they will pay from the outset is not sought; we look ahead -for a number of years. So it must be with aviation. I believe that many people in the Blackall, Longreach, Springsure, Rolleston, Clermont, and Nebo districts would avail themselves of aeroplane transport to Rockhampton if they were satisfied that an aeroplane could safely land there. If any aviator dared to land in the vicinity of Rockhampton at the present time he would jeopardize his life. The only area upon which the attempt could be made is the racecourse, which is not sufficiently large and has not. been cleared of obstacles that would overturn an aeroplane. The Minister must be convinced, from what. I have said, that central Queensland ‘has a just claim for the establishment of an aerodrome. The expenditure of £3,500, which evidently has so far frightened the department, should not cause him any concern. It is a mere bagatelle compared with the huge expenditure that the Government incurs upon services that do not confer upon the community as great a benefit as is conferred by civil aviation. It is apparent, from the answers that the honorable gentleman gave me on the 11th February last, that the Civil Aviation Department is being financially starved. He then said that the total amount which had been set aside for the use of the department in the current year’s Estimates was £131,130. That is much too small for the whole of Australia. This is a country of wide spaces, and it is impossible for development to take place to the utmost advantage if aeroplane facilities are not provided. Central Queensland wishes to be up to date in that regard. The establishment of this aerodrome would give encouragement to aviation, and it would become a very important means of transport in that portion ofAustralia
.- During the currency of the last Parliament many anomalies that had disclosed themselves in the administration of the’ Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act were removed, and more equitable treatment was meted out. But the act still possesses anomalies that I desire to see wiped out. The chief of these applies to the deduction of the rental value of property that has been occupied by aged people, but has been vacated because declining health and advancing years have caused them to seek the physical aid of a married son or daughter. Many of those persons have acquired homes only after considerable sacrifice over a number of years. By constant thrift they have contrived to obtain what in many cases is only a very humble home. Immediately they vacate that home, to take up their residence with a married son or daughter, the department deducts from the pension the rental value of the property, whether it is let or remains vacant. Those aged people should at least be allowed to retain the advantage of whatever rental their former home may bring to them. There is another class of person who does not exercise thrift, is not prepared to make any sacrifices in his younger years, and consequently is not able to acquire a home of his own. Yet such a person, upon taking up his residence with a married son or daughter, enjoys to the fullest extent the benefits of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions. A.ct ! Under the present system of administration adequate consideration is not given to those aged people who have made sacrifices and practised thrift in their earlier years. When they are advancing in years they should have the full advantage of any savings that they have placed in a home. In addition to being some compensation for the sacrifices they had made, that would be a, proof that Australia was not unmindful of the fact that they had proved themselves to be valuable assets to the country. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page; must recognize the merit of the claim that I make on behalf of these aged people. I hope that during this session he will extend the benefits of the act so that they may have the advantage of the rental they receive from the home they formerly occupied. There is another phase of the act to which I now desire to refer. Some young immigrants from the United Kingdom, subsequent to their arrival in Australia, wish to be joined by their parents. I have in mind a young man who is on the water to-night on his way to these shores from the United Kingrom. His idea is to bring out, not only his wife and family, but also his father and mother, so that they may enjoy the advantages that are conferred upon citizens of Australia. If that father and mother leave the United Kingdom, they forfeit the benefits of the national insurance scheme which they would become qualified to receive if they remained there. On the other hand, their residence in Australia will not be sufficiently long to entitle them to come under the operations of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Similarly, if a person leaves Australia, and goes to the United Kingdom, he loses the benefits that are conferred by our act, yet does not enjoy the pension rights that are held by citizens of the United Kingdom. I ask this Government to make overtures to the Government of the United Kingdom with a view to some arrangement being come to for the reciprocal treatment of old-age pensioners. I do not know whether an invalid pension is payable in the United Kingdom.
– A contributory sick pension is provided.
– Yes; but no doubt the Minister will recognize that a reciprocal arrangement might reasonably be made to overcome the hardship now experienced by elderly persons born in Great Britain, who may decide to make their abode in Australia, and by Australians who may take up their residence in the Old Country. Possibly the matter could be rais’ed at an Imperial Conference, and some satisfactory arrangement arrived at for an adjustment of accounts between the British and Australian Governments to meet such cases.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) a matter that I mentioned several times in the last Parliament. I refer to the action of the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Collins. in depriving of their pensions the blind street sellers of tobacco, cigarettes, and matches. I previously pointed out that, in reply to strong and persistent representations, Mr. Collins had issued a ukase to the effect that it was not the policy of the department to grant the pension to mendicants, and that the blind sellers of tobacco, &c, were considered, presumably by himself, to be mendicants. I do not think that it was the wish of the House to class those persons as mendicants, or to deprive them of the pensions to which they, in common with other blind folk, are entitled. Those who formed a deputation to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Sydney some time last year have again written to me asking what is to be done in the matter. A number of blind street sellers of tobacco and cigarettes are young and able-bodied men who refuse to enter the institutions for the blind. It is anomalous to grant the pension to blind sellers of newspapers in our streets while it is withheld from the persons whose case I am advocating. When I inquired the reason for the differentiation, I was told that it was a simple matter to ascertain from the newspaper proprietors the profits made by the- sellers of newspapers, but that it was practically impossible to find out what profits were made by the sellers of tobacco and cigarettes. I ask honorable members whether it matters what their profits are. They cannot be making fortunes. Apart from being sorely afflicted physically they have to sit out in all weathers, offering their wares to passers by. To deprive them of the pension of a paltry £1 a week is a gross cruelty which does not reflect credit upon either the administration or the Parliament that stands behind it. With all due respect to Mr. Collins, whom we all respect as a great financier and an able and distinguished public servant, why should he have the right to decide this matter? I feel sure that if a vote were taken in this House at any time as to whether or not these unfortunate men should be granted the pension, and allowed to supplement it by the sale of cigarettes and tobacco, there would be a 99 per cent, majority of honorable members voting in the affirmative. Therefore, the Treasurer should not allow the decision by Mr. Collins to stand. The Blind Association, in New South Wales has had several deputations to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in that State, who favours the granting of the pension. But Mr. Collins, as the Chief Commissioner, takes the responsibility of saying that, because the administration he represents regards these persons as mendicants, the pension cannot be granted . I submit that the matter is not one that Mr. Collins should be permitted to settle. It is hardly a question for the Treasurer himself to determine. Parliament should deal with it, as a matter of policy, and I hope that the Treasurer will take an early opportunity of ascertaining the opinion of Parliament. I appeal to the Treasurer not to be indifferent concerning these sorely afflicted persons. I hope that, as a result of my remarks, he will confer with Mr. Collins on the subject. If it is considered that an injustice has been done, and that restitution should be made to them, the matter should be brought before the House at the earliest opportunity.
– I draw the attention of the Treasurer to the position of pensioners resident in homes under the control of the State Governments. The Magill Home in my district, for instance - and I believe that: the practice obtains in regard to similar homes in the other States - receives on behalf of pensioners, not the full amount of the pension, but only 16s. The pensioners are paid the pocket money to which they are entitled, and the institution retains the balance of 12s. a week. It seems to me that the homes should receive the full amount of £1 a week. In support of the present arrangement it is- contended, on behalf of the Commonwealth, that the State should look after its own poor ; but that argument is hardly sound, since this Parliament has distinctly declared, by the granting of pensions, that it is the duty of the Commonwealth to care for the indigent. If a pensioner lives in a private home he receives the full amount of £1 : but if the State provides a home and a staff to look after the inmates, the. Commonwealth contributes only 16s. for each pensioner. If the full pension were paid, the institutions could, no doubt, provide more comforts than the inmates now receive. 1 hope that the Treasurer will look into this matter, and see whether the apparent injustice can be removed.
I again bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration (Senator Wilson), the matter of arsenic on apples. We cannot be too persistent in endeavouring to convince the public of Great Britain that there is no danger in eating Australian apples that have been sprayed with arsenic. The following article appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser a few days ago: -
At a meeting of the Adelaide Board of Health on Monday, the Lord Mayor (Mr. Wallace Bruce) said a letter was recently received from Dr. Willoughby, medical officer of health for the Port of London. … A copy of the letter was forwarded to the horticultural expert, Department of Agriculture, with a request that he should take the matter up with Dr. Willoughby. The horticultural expert replied that it was not contended that minute, surface contaminations were not present for some time after the spraying was done - without this the spray compound could not effect its purpose of destroying the newly-hatched larvae of codlin moth - but he maintained that when present on the skins of harvested fruit, in quantities so minute as to be scarcely determinable by quantitative analyses, no serious injury was likely to be done to the consumer of the fruit.
That opinion was supported by the fact that the present method had been employed throughout Australia and New Zealand for nearly a quarter of a century, and had received official sanction and acceptance without protest from medical men and public analysts of food products. The expert further pointed out that notwithstanding the spraying of the fruit with this mixture and the unrestricted marketing and consumption - both direct from the orchards aa well as after being wrapped and packed for retention for some time in stores - not one single authenticated instance of sickness or debility had been recorded in this State or in any part of the Commonwealth as far as could be ascertained.
Dr. Angas Johnson, the medical officer for the Board of Health, in a “minute endorsing the foregoing statement, strongly supported the report of the horticultural expert. He said arsenic in small quantities was one of the most valuable medicines, and even if there were a little on an apple it would not hurt the person who consumed it. but, on the contrary, would do good.
Dr. Angas Johnson is an expert on poisons, so his opinion on this matter should carry more than usual weight. It seems to me that on the strength of evidence like that we should declare with authority that, so far from a small quantity of arsenic on apples being injurious, it is actually beneficial to health.
Question resolved in the negative.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 24th February, vide page 1121):
Clause 2 (Definitions).
.- We have reached a most extraordinary position in connexion with this bill. Last night, at the conclusion of my speech on the second reading, the Treasurer rose rapidly, was called by the Chair, and closed the debate.
– I waited for any other honorable member to speak if he wished to do so, but nobody rose.
– I have it on good authority that some honorable members on both sides of the chamber wished last night, and still wish, to discuss the bill, so I hope that the Treasurer will not insist on it being pushed through rapidly this evening. I thank honorable members . for their indulgence in allowing me to discuss this matter at great length last evening. It must have been difficult for them to follow me at such short notice. I expressed the view that honorable members on this side of the chamber would not take the responsibility of opposing the bill, for they appreciated the difficulty that the administration was in, but I stressed the point that the onus rests upon the Government to show that it is absolutely necessary and unavoidable. The Treasurer informed us last night that he was obliged to accept the advice of learned counsel on the matter. But that same learned counsel - I refer to the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) - last session spoke very definitely against the passage of retrospective legislation of this description. Apparently the Government is prepared to accept his advice in one case, but to reject it in another. I have not yet been convinced that even the Government was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that its interpretation of the judgment of the High Court in the Webb case was sound. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) said, when the matter was under discussion four years ago, that, in his opinion, the Treasurer of the da’y (Mr. Bruce) did not believe that that case finally disposed of the point. In those circumstances the Government should not have taken the extraordinary step of refunding taxation paid as far back as 1915, until it had ascertained beyond question whether it was bound, by law, to do so. I have not had a great deal of time to prepare myself to debate this point, but I am able to direct the attention of honorable members to statements made in this chamber last year by the honorable member for Kooyong in discussing the Income Tax Assessment Bill in connexion with the appeal board that was declared by the High Court to be invalid. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) will be familiar with the views - expressed in that debate. The facts were that a big company asked the High Court to declare that the appeal board was invalid, and it did so. The object of the bill before honorable members” last year was to overcome that decision. On that occasion the Treasurer said there were some thousands - I am not sure that be did not say millions - of pounds involved. I supported the Government then. I am prepared to do so whenever it satisfies me (hat there are reasonable grounds for the legislation it introduces; and I am not prepared at any time to oppose it merely for the sake of opposing it. I am opposing its proposals on this occasion simply for the reason that I have not yet been convinced, and I can hardly think any other honorable member can be convinced, bv the two speeches of the Treasurer, that this bill is necessary. I refer honorable members to the views expressed by the honorable member for Kooyong last year on retrospective legislation of this description. He said, as reported in Hansard, page 2524 -
It is a radically unsound practice for the Taxation Department to give retrospective benefits to taxpayers because of decisions given in the courts.
The following appears on the same page: -
– Does the honorable member say that refunds of money paid in mistake should not bc made by the department?
– Yes, unless those mistakes are mistakes of fact. The common law is that money paid under mistake of fact is recoverable, but money paid under mistake of law is not recoverable. Both principles are absolutely fair. Were it otherwise we should never reach finality. If a person-, knowing all the facts, pays money, he should stand by his payment. If a person thinks he is not liable, there is a most admirable profession to assist him to find out. Every individual is presumed to know the law. If it were the practice to allow mistakes of law to affect payments very great uncertainty would be introduced into our business affairs.
Last year the honorable member said that money paid under mistake of law was not recoverable, yet this year we are asked, on his authority, to validate refunds of taxation paid six years ago under mistake of law. In the course of the same debate last year, the honorable member for Kooyong observed -
It appears to me that this House is embarking upon a very dangerous course when it proposes to intervene to prevent a successful party from obtaining the benefit of a victory tn which the court has declared he is entitled. I did not agree with the honorable member on that occasion. I believe that Parliament should do the right thing, and have regard to the merits of every case submitted to it. But although the Government would not accept the advice of the honorable member last year in regard to a measure that took into account proceedings of only a few months previously, it proposes now to accept his advice, and allow these big companies, which have been actually defeated in the court, to escape taxation which they have already paid. I am not objecting to Mr. James receiving the same treatment as others, but I wish to know where does the Attorney-General now stand ? He has given contrary views on two measures presented to this Parliament. Despite the fact that men appeal to the court, and lose their cases, and are held by the court to be subject to taxation under the law, this bill is introduced to validate the non-collection of such taxation. The Treasurer should have satisfied this Parliament right up to the hilt that the introduction of this validating measure was unavoidable. That is the only question at issue. The case on its merits is against the Government. I endeavoured to show last night that the Government had no case. There is not an argument that is logical to justify the exemption from taxation of bonus shares distributed from accumulated profits, when, at the same time, a tax may be levied upon bonus shares distributed from current profits. Prom the point of view of law and equity the Government has no case. The only ground that the Government has is the expediency of this legislation, and the impossibility of carrying out the law, and of restoring to the revenue the moneys that have been refunded. We should have a stronger case than that presented to us by the Treasurer. This matter should have been discussed on its merits, apart altogether from party considerations, by honorable members who have studied it. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) and the honorable member for Maranoa. (Mr. Hunter) have studied the question of taxation, and they should have given Parliament the benefit of their views; but for some reason unknown to us they have remained silent. This Parliament should have been advised of the amount involved under this bill. We were told by the Treasurer that these refunds were included in the Estimates, and passed. Will the Treasurer say which Estimates included these moneys ?
– There are refunds of revenue appearing in all Estimates.
– Did the Treasurer place refunds of revenue from income tax upon the Estimates?
– These refunds, of course, were made before my time, but they do appear on the Estimates of 1922-3.
– I have looked through those Estimates, and can find no sum that would cover these refunds. The Treasurer would not presume to tell honorable members that they amount to only £9,000.
– The whole of the refunds are accounted for in the Estimates of that year. The amount paid out is shown in the statement.
– I have endeavoured to trace the refunds in the Estimates. The act was passed in 1922, and the announcement was made in that year that these moneys were to be refunded. They should appear in the Estimates of 1922-3. which would be the first to be issued after the passing of the act. The amount of refunds shown is about £9,000, and the Treasurer will agree with me that they involved considerably more than that. I may, of course, have missed an item in the Estimates. Why the secrecy on this question? Why is it that honorable members must delve through estimates and piles of figures to obtain information that the officers of the department could at once place their fingers upon ? It is not an idle request that I have made; it is a reasonable one, and should be granted. I marvel that honorable members opposite are prepared - I do not say regardless of public duties, because it would be a misstatement and a personal affront to honorable members for whom I have great respect - to allow this measure to go through without commenting upon it. This legislation is to validate an action which, I venture to say, is one of the most extra ordinary that has been committed in the administration of the Taxation Department, and it certainly needs explanation. The Government actually proposes to refund moneys which a previous parliament had ordered to be collected, and which the law clearly stated should be collected, and this is to be done without sufficient warrant, and without an explanation. Clause 2 reads -
In this act, unless thecontrary intention appears - “Income Tax Assessment Act” menus the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915 and includes that act as subsequently amended by any act or acts passed prior to the year One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two; “ shares distributed out of taxed profits “ means shares distributed by a company to its members or shareholders prior to the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one, out of the profits of the company upon which ithas paid income tax, as upon undistributed income, under the Income Tax Assessment Act.
That, of course, is a definition which shows that the purpose of the bill is to validate the non-collection of taxation imposed under the Income Tax Assessment Act from the year 1915 to 1922, in respect of taxes upon bonus shares distributed from the reserves of a company. Honorable members opposite sit silent and offer no word of justification for this extraordinary measure. The reply from the Treasurer last night explained nothing. He merely said that this matter was before the House in 1922, and that these questions should have been raised then, after we had examined the decision in the Webb case. I am not certain that that decision was then in print in the parliamentary library. It certainly was not the duty of honorable members to examine the decisions of the High Court on matters of importance. It was the duty of the Government to place upon the table of the House the decision in the Webb case, and also the opinions of counsel, and the Crown Law Department, so that honorable members might examine them. The matter would then have been placed beyond doubt. When I suggested to the Treasurer that we could have had a test case to ascertain the real meaning of the decision of the High Court, he said that it would be highly immoral to collect moneys which the Government believed would be illegally collected. I did not suggest that we should make a wholesale collection of moneys that had not been collected, but that we should, by arrangement, bring one taxpayer into the court after the department had issued an assessment including his bonus shares, not special bonus shares issued by a reconstructed company, but general bonus shares distributed from accumulated profits by a going company to its shareholders. By such an arrangement the opinion of the High Court would have been made clear and unmistakable, and this should have been done before the Government attempted to refund money retrospectively for six years. Some honorable members may say that it would be a strange attitude for the Government to enter into an arrangement with a taxpayer to test a case before the court, but it was done in the James case, in regard to the same class of bonus shares. It was done on the advice of the Government counsel, and with the permission of the appellant. The case was submitted to the High Court for its opinion respecting shares, both from current profits and from accumulated profits. I submit that what was don’e in 1924 and 1925 by arrangement with Mr. James could have been done in 1922 by arrangement with somebody else, and we would then have had the clear and definite decision of the High Court. In introducing this legislation consequent upon the decision of the court respecting bonus shares issued from reserves in the case of a special reconstruction, the Government has acted with less justification than on any previous occasion. I am not challenging the Treasurer respecting what was done in 1922, but he has to bear the responsibility for validating the action then taken. He should have given better and fuller reasons to justify the introduction of this bill. We, as the Opposition, cannot take the responsibility for this bill. Surely it is the responsibility of the Government to put before honorable members proof piled upon proof that this is the proper course to pursue, and the only way to get behind the law which was passed by a previous Parliament. How lightly this bill is taken - just as lightly as the Government took the Webb decision and the opinion of one counsel upon a matter which involved large sums of money. It seems to be nothing to honorable members opposite that the public revenue of this country suffers in consequence. We have enjoyed surplus after surplus, and the Government has no hesitation in refunding moneys to a handful of individuals. Rather than refund moneys to a few individuals drawing big incomes, we should distribute that remission of taxation over the taxpayers in proper proportion and with justice to all. If we can afford to reduce taxation, let us do so, but it should not apply only to a chosen few. I venture to say that not one person receiving less than an income of £3,000 or £4,000 a year has received a penny of these refunds. I suggest again that it is the duty of the Government to put the full position clearly before honorable members in justification of this validating legislation.
.- The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) will show himself sadly lacking in his duty to the committee if he persists in an endeavour to pass this bill through, its remaining stages to-night. It must be acknowledged that the debate on the second reading of the measure was not laboured. It was introduced by the Treasurer in a very short speech, which, without being unfriendly, I venture to say was inadequate to the circumstances of the case. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) last evening dealt with the bill from all points of view in what I think is acknowledged on both sides of the House to have been a very able and’ thorough manner.. To my own knowledge, a number of honorable members who were in the Chamber whilst the honorable member for Yarra was speaking, including, notably, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who took an active part in the discussion when the subject was last before the House, expressed themselves as desirous of speaking upon the subject. Some honorable members on my own side and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) on the other side desired that the measure should be given further consideration. The resumption ‘‘of the proceedings in committee has been taken up now by the merest accident, because this is one of our grievance days, and it was anticipated that the attention of honorable members would be devoted to other subjects. “We have had a long and trying day owing to the heat, and members who wish to discuss this question and are now absent will not have an opportunity of expressing their opinions if the measure is now proceeded with. They permitted the second reading to be carried yesterday under the express belief that they would have an opportunity of saying what they desired to say when it was under consideration in committee. I do not know whether any honorable member imagines that I have risen for the purpose of making what is generally known as a “ stone-walling “ speech on the measure. I have not. I am making a very deliberate appeal to the Treasurer to postpone the further consideration of the bill in order that honorable members may be assembled in sufficient numbers and in a proper frame of mind to deal with it. In the circumstances I move -
That tin: Chairman do report progress and nsk leave to sit again.
– I submit that honorable members should address themselves to the bill. It was presented to the House three or four weeks ago, and honorable members have had ample opportunity to study it, as was proved by the very full
And interesting speech delivered by the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Scullin) last night. The Chamber was full during a great part of the honorable member’s speech. Although I think I waited some three minutes after the honorable member resumed his seat before rising to reply on the motion for the second reading, there was no sign whatever that any other honorable member desired to speak to the motion.
– We were more entitled to an adjournment after the speech of the honorable member for Yarra than after the Treasurer’s speech, because it was so much fuller.
– No doubt, the speech made by the honorable member for Yarra was very much fuller than mine, and dealt with the question whether bonus shares should be liable to taxation at all. That is not the issue in this bill, as I stated last night. The proper time and place to discuss that question is not on this bill, but when the general policy in regard to taxation is being determined.
Order! I did not know that the Treasurer rose to discuss the motion. I was waiting to discover whether the honorable gentleman wished to assent to, or to refuse to accept it. The motion that progress be reported must be put without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
last night a longer time has not been allowed to elapse before we are called upon to consider the details of this measure. I think it is the opinion of honorable members on both sides that the honorable member for Yarra made a very able and very carefully considered speech, to which he evidently devoted a great deal of time and trouble. I doubt whether any honorable member is in a position to deal adequately with that speech when we have had only a newspaper report of it to refer to, and have not had the detailed Hansard report before us. It is doubtful, indeed, whether a careful consideration of the honorable member’s speech would enable many of us to make a very convincing reply to it. This, I think, is due to the fact that our income tax legislation is exceedingly involved and intricate. The very fact that there was so little discussion on the second reading of this bill is a proof that our taxation legislation requires to be radically changed, so that not only may the man in the street have some idea of what it means, but that members of Parliament themselves may not find the intricacy of it too great. This is a very complicated subject, and can be understood by no one who has not made a special and very keen study of it. So long as we have acts on the statute-book which even a relatively well-educated man finds difficulty in understanding, so long shall we have inadequate discussion when such questions are being dealt with here, and complete confusion in the minds of taxpayers. I do not like to institute invidious comparisons between Federal and State legislation, but I do say, without hesitation, that State legislation, in. the matter of taxation in particular, is very much more easily to he understood by the general public, and is, in fact, very much better understood than is Federal taxation legislation. Not only the man in the street, but also the man on the farm can make out his State return, see what is his taxable balance, and work out the exact sum he has to pay. It is perfectly impossible to do this when one is dealing with a Federal income tax return. I am not alone in this view. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has occasionally urged that our taxation legislation should be drafted in a form which is at least possible for a well educated man to understand. I repeat that that is not so in the case of the Federal income tax law. I do not propose to make a second-reading speech, and I shall not deal with the main issues raised by the honorable member for Yarra, but there are one or two aspects of his speech to which I should like to refer. It appears to me that taking the basis laid down by the honorable member himself - that equity should be done, a point which he stressed several times during the last Parliament - the Treasurer, iu his second-reading speech, made out a good case for the refund of these moneys. The Treasurer has pointed out that Parliament, in passing this bil], is simply carrying out a promise which was made six years ago by the then Treasurer, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), but which, owing to a flaw in the act, was not given legal effect to. The Minister has urged the House to complete the Government’s undertaking, and stand by its word. Therefore, looking at the matter from the point of equity, the honorable member for Yarra can have very little to complain about. The equity of the hill is manifest. Another point referred to by the honorable member for Yarra was the retrospective effect of this legislation. The honorable member said that, as a private member, the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) fought several gallant fights last session against retrospective legislation. I must admit that. I was equally to blame with the honorable member for Kooyong. I should like to point out that practically all the retrospective legislation passed during the last Parliament was beneficial to the Commonwealth and against the taxpayer. Yet in practically every instance honorable members of the Opposition supported the Government in passing it and gave very little support to those who spoke and sometimes voted against it. I spoke against it a good many times, and on several occasions the matter was carried to a division, but towards the end of the last session the number of those who opposed it steadily dwindled from about fifteen to something like four. I cannot help noting the fact that honorable members of the Opposition are now criticizing this retrospective legislation more strenuously than they did that sub- mitted to the last Parliament. But today this legislation happens to be to the benefit of the taxpayer and not to the benefit of the Commonwealth, whereas during last Parliament it was generally to the benefit of the Commonwealth and against the taxpayer. The amount involved does not seem to be relevant, and the fact that the big taxpayers will benefit does not matter a scrap. The principle is the same whether the person who benefits happens to be a man of wealth or a poor man. It is bringing prejudice into a matter which ought to be considered on its merits to suggest, as the honorable member for’ Yarra has done, that it is only the big man who will benefit.
– Does not the honorable member think that the arguments of the honorable member for Yarra last night were very temperate?
– I have already said that I think that the honorable member’s arguments were very ably and carefully prepared. His speech was an admirable one and a credit to this House. Therefore, I had all the more regret when I heard the honorable member bringing in the question of big taxpayers which has no relation to the merits of the matter.
– I was entitled to state the facts.
– Can the honorable member prove that what he says in this respect is a fact ?
– Yes; because no rebate can go to any one whose rate of tax is Jess than the company rate. The only people taxable in respect of bonus shares are those whose incomes are taxed at a rate which is greater than the company rate.
– Even if that is so, it does not alter the merits of the case. It seems to me that the hon- orable member sought to bring prejudice into the consideration of this bill. The opposition, as represented by the honorable member for Yarra, appears to seek to invoke the support of those who dislike and oppose retrospective legislation. I have said time and again that I do not like such legislation as a general rule, and 1 think it quite likely before very long the House will come to the same way of thinking. Rut if honorable members take their- usual stand that that principle should be laid aside, and that the matter should be governed by what they regard as general equity, it should cut both ways. The only honorable member of the Opposition who - I am glad to admit it - has been consistent throughout in the matter of retrospective legislation is the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). He has always opposed anything of the kind ; but one can only remind the, committee that one swallow does not make a summer.
Clause agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 February 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260225_reps_10_112/>.