10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Health in a position to reply to the question I asked yesterday with reference to the outbreak of small-pox on the Barra
– In the case of the Barrabool the procedure adopted was uniform at all the Australian ports at which the vessel called and was that adopted all over the world. The precautions taken to prevent the spread of infection were those universally recognized to be in accord with modern preventative medicine, and adequate for the purpose.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether there is any foundation in fact for the persistent rumours in service circles, and in press reports, that the Air Board, the Military Board, and the Naval BoardATE to be dispensed with, and that a joint board covering Air, Naval, and Military services is to take their place ?
– I regret that I have no information to give the honorable member on the subject.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the Government has finalized communications with the South Australian Government for the acquisition of the land necessary for a new post office at Port Adelaide?
– I cannot give the honorable member an answer offhand ; but I shall find out what the position is, and let him know later.
Mb. Cobham’s Flight to Australia - Commission’s Reports
– I understand that the celebrated airman, Mr. Cobham, starts on his flight to Australia next Saturday. Will the Prime Minister convey to him the suggestion that his last point of call and first point of departure in Australia should be Canberra, so that the Federal Capital may be placed more prominently on the map than it is at the present time?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table, as promised, the reports of the Canberra Commission ?
– I have communicated with the Minister for Home and Territories to ascertain what reports have been presented concerning Canberra. I have not yet seen his reply; but if any reports are available they will be laid before honorable members.
Spahlinger and Smalpage
– I ask the Minister for Health whether any further progress has been made with the inquiries into the efficiency of the Spahlinger and Smalpage treatments for tuberculosis?
– I regret that I have no further information to give the House in reference to the progress being made in the treatment of tuberculosis.
– Is it a fact that the Government has not given proper consideration to the Smalpage and Spahlinger treatments for tuberculosis?
– I assure the honorable member that both those treatments are undergoing a very extensive research, and that honorable members will know the result of the tests as soon as they are available.
Fire in Sydney.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to supply information in answer to the question I asked some time ago concerning delay in establishing telephonic communication with the Sydney Fire Brigade ?
– Yes. The matter was thoroughly investigated, and it was confirmed that the call to which the honorable member referred was answered with great . promptitude. Both the exchange and the fire brigade replied promptly, and the latter arrived at the scene of the fire within five minutes of the telephone call being originated.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that the training ship Tingira at Sydney is infested with rats and vermin? Will the honorable gentleman expedite the transfer of the vessel to Geelong as soon as possible?
– I am not aware of the extraordinary allegations that the honorable member makes.
– They are absolutely true.
– I do not doubt their truth; but I shall have inquiry made to see whether they can be confirmed.
– I wish to ask a question on a matter for which I think the Commonwealth Government is not responsible. In explanation I may say that I understand that the miserable pittance of 4s. per week which should be given to old-age pensioners in certain institutions is being held by the secretaries of those institutions. In the unavoidable absence of the Treasurer, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth department concerned, with the sanction of the Government has any knowledge of an arrangement with any such institutions to grab the small pittance of 4s.’ per week which should be given to the pensioners ?
– I can assure the honorable member that the Commonwealth Governmeut has issued no instructions which should operate unfairly or unjustly to old-age pensioners.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the desirability of appointing counsel - one skilled in accountancy for preference - to cross-examine all witnesses appearing before the Tariff Board in support of applications for duties?
– The Tariff Board is an investigating body, and in perusing its reports I find that it takes charge of its own cross-examination. I shall give consideration to the quite new suggestion which the honorable member makes.
-Is the Prime Minister aware that certain attacks have been made against the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, a company in which the people of Australia own more than half the shares? Will the Government stand by the company and protect it against unfair tactics, seeing that it has done a great amount of good for Australia by keeping down the price of petrol ?
– I think that the honorable member is referring to a matter which was dealt with in another place yesterday. A communication was received by me from the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) enclosing a letter containing certain statements regarding the quality of the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. That letter was referred to the company, and fully replied to by it. Letters of repudiation were also received from the Commercial Vehicles and the Automobile Associations. As it is desirable that these various letters should be placed on record in this House, I suggest that the honorable member put his question on the notice-paper for tomorrow, so that the full facts may he embodied in the answer.
– Is the Government prepared to stand by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– The Government has shown that it is, by the action which it has taken to have the charges investigated, and prove that they were unfounded.
Canberra Dwellings - Use of Imported Materials
– Is the Minister aware that some of the more recent homes erected at Canberra are being roofed with shingles of a very thin material? Having regard to the proximity of the heavily-timbered hills in the background of Canberra, will he confer with the commissioners with a view to seeing that no more shingles shall, be used for roofs in the vicinity of Red Hill, and less inflammable material selected instead?
– I shall bring that matter under the notice of the Minister for Home and Territories, and ask him to reply to the question as early as possible.
– The Prime Minister stated yesterday that the houses of public servants who intended to build or purchase homes at Canberra would be taken over at a valuation to be agreed upon. I wish to know whether that condition will apply to those public servants who intend to rent houses. Quite a number of public servants object to acquiring houses at Canberra during the transition stage owing to the high cost of building there. They prefer to use their own judgment, and to defer building homes until a later date. I might mention that I was asked to submit this question to the Prime Minister?
– At the present moment the details of the proposal which the Government intends to submit to the Commonwealth public servants who are transferred to Canberra are being drafted, and will be completed in the course of a few days. Honorable members will be able to consider the whole scheme in its entirety. It is not desirable that I should try to deal with this matter piecemeal. I assure the honorable member that in the near future full details will be available.
– Some nine weeks ago I addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories concerning the use of imported goods in the construction of works at Canberra. I should like to know when I may expect a reply, and whether the Minister will take steps to ensure a reply when the commission is asked for information.
– Some time ago the honorable member asked a question respecting this matter, and a wire was sent to the Canberra Commission asking for the information to be expedited. A wire was received in reply stating that the information was being obtained, and was exEected to be posted in the course of 48 ours. I expected that information yesterday, and at the latest to-day. I shall again ask that the information be expedited.
– Can Commonwealth Oil Refineries spirit be purchased at kerbside pumps in South Australia? If so, will the Prime Minister cause a list of these pumps and their localities to be published ?
– A condition of the supply of Commonwealth Oil Refineries petrol is that a proportion of the output of the plant shall be re served for States other than Victoria. I have no information concerning the facilities for obtaining that spirit in South Australia, but if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain a reply to it.
– Recently a deputation at Ballarat waited on the Commissioner for the Victorian Railways, and asked for a reduction of fares. In reply, the Commissioner stated that between the Arbitration Court and the tariff he was placed in a hole so deep that it took a telescope to see to the bottom. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to that report, and, if so, will he take steps to get Mr. Clapp out of that hole?
– My attention has not been drawn to the report referred to, nor do I think it desirable that members of the Government should take notice of irresponsible statements.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Losses by States: Concessions to Returned Soldiers.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member to-morrow.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the intense anxiety of the Australian viticulturist, and also of the distributing agencies in the United Kingdom, and in consideration ‘ of the immense success attending the recently instituted, wine export bounty, will ho hasten a Government announcement in favour of a definite decision to extend the bounty period so that growers and distributors alike may prepare to meet what promises to be an ever-extending national industry ?
– The matter is now receiving careful consideration, and a decision will be given at the earliest possible date.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Having in mind the importance, from a defence aspect, of the establishment of aero clubs in the Commonwealth, .will consideration be given to Government assistance in the formation of such clubs at Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth?
– Yes. This will receive due consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will ho have prepared and laid on the table of the House at an early date a list of the works of art purchased and presented to the Commonwealth, as suggested by questions by the honorable member for Melbourne on the 20th May?
– The compilation of a list as suggested by the honorable member will be undertaken and laid on the cable of the House.
Cost of Country Calls
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he go into the question of having the price per telephone call, from the respective State capitals to each country exchange, inserted opposite the name of each centre in the various State telephone directories, and .thus make this very necessary information at once available to those requiring the same?
– This question has already been considered very carefully, but the appreciable expense involved in printing schedules of charges for telephone calls is not justified. The tariff for a call to any .place is ascertainable readily from the exchange, free of cost to the subscriber. In the great majority of cases, recurrent calls from particular individuals are made to the same destinations, and the fees having once been ascertained, there is little to he gained by reference to printed lists.
Incandescent Gas Mantles
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the answers to questions by the honorable (member for Darling on the 20th instant in connexion with the protection of the incandescent gas mantle industry, will the Minister sympathetically consider the question of the adoption of the Tariff Board’s report and recommendation for the protection of that industry?
– The matter is receiving careful consideration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
– On the 19th May, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked the following question: -
Has the Minister any explanation to oiler respecting the arrest of Private Edward Genner, at Bathurst. He was imprisoned at the Military Camp, Liverpool, in a cold cell, in which he was placed because he had refused duty on the ground that he was ill. Next morning it was discovered that he was suffering from appendicitis; was rushed into hospital; and an operation was performed on him. Has the Minister any explanation to offer for the conduct of the officials of the Defence Department, and has any action been taken regarding this case?
I promised the honorable member that, at the termination of the inquiry, I would advise him of the result. I am now in a position to state that an exhaustive inquiry has been made into this matter, and it has been found that Private Genner was examined by a medical officeron 29th March; but, as appendicitis in its early stages is difficult to detect, he was pronounced as fit for duty, and the medical officer concerned cannot be blamed. The company officer and sergeant of the guard would have been wise to have had him re-examined when he refused duty and was placed in the guard-room two hours afterwards. It is considered this is one of the regrettable incidents that may happen when dealing with thousands of trainees, in spite of the many safeguards and the vigilance displayed by the military and medical authorities. Action is being taken to ensure that the field officer of the day, when visiting the guard-room, takes steps in future to determine whether a trainee should undergo medical re-examination. This will stop other such incidents recurring.
” WIDGEON “ AEROPLANE.
– On the 20thMay, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked when the reports of the trials of the Widgeon seaplane would be made available. I now desire to inform the honorable member that a summary of the trials of this seapane has been prepared and laid on the Library table.
The following papers were presented: -
Tariff Board Report - Request for bounty on cotton yarn.
Ordered to be printed.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance, of 1926 - No. 8 - Workmen’s Compensation.
– I move-
That, in the opinion of this House, a referendum throughout Australia should be taken during the life of the present Parliament, on the question of amending the Federal Constitution so as to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to establish new States, on such terms and conditions as it may think fit, within the boundaries of existing States, with or without the consent of State Parliaments.
In July, 1924, I moved a similar motion, and fully stated the case for the new states movement. Unfortunately, my time expired before I could complete my speech, and the matter has not been debated since. At the opening of this session I gave notice of this motion in order that honorable members might again have an opportunity to consider seriously this big problem, and if possible decide whether the suggested alteration of the Constitution might not be referred to the people by referendum. I do not propose to retrace the ground which I covered in my speech in 1924, when I submitted a wealth of information, including many statistics which had never previously been brought to the notice of this Parliament. I knowthat honorable members do not customarily read the Hansard reports of debates that occurred prior to their entering this House, but I wish that honorable members would give careful consideration to the facts obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician and embodied in my speech two years ago. Let me briefly explain the nature of the new states movement. There is a tendency, which is fostered by a section of the metropolitan press, in New South Wales particularly, to deride the movement. It is essentially a movement against the centralization evil, and as most of the metropolitan newspapers derive very great commercial advantage from the concentration of practically half the population of Australia in the capital cities, it is natural that, from considerations of self interest, they should look askance at any endeavour to deplete the existing populations of those cities. Some of the newspapers say that the new states movement is a joke. It is no more a joke than was the agitation of the original settlers of Victoria some 75 or 80 years ago for separation from New South Wales, or the strenuous nine years’ fight of the Moreton Bay settlers for relief from the same Sydney domination. The only difference between those movements and that of to-day is that the conditions that brought about the separation of Victoria and New South Wales in the middle of last century are now accentuated an hundred fold. Unfortunately the centralization evil has developed in Australia in a manner for which there is no precedent in any other part of the world. It is the practice of people who give casual study to this problem to say that the evil is the result of a world-wide tendency; that in every country the people are flocking into the great cities, and that it is preposterous to say that this evil is peculiar to Australia. Those persons always lose sight of the fact that Australia occupies the unique position of having about 50 per cent, of its population in its six capita] cities. No other country is similarly situated. In GreatBritain only about 12 per cent. of the total population resides in the capital, whilst in the United States of America the figure is only about 4 or 5 per cent. The capital city of each State of the United States of America contains a very small percentage of its total population. On the contrary, almost half the population of this compact little State of Victoria is contained within the boundaries of this great, floundering city of Melbourne. Exactly 50 per cent, of the population of New South Wales is resident within 30 miles of the Sydney General Post Office. The same tendency is noticeable in every State of the Commonwealth, and one must conclude that the same definite cause is responsible in each State. The cause is centralized development. The railway systems are practically monopolized by the capital cities. Although there is a decentralized railway system in Queensland, various devices, such as the granting of differential rates, have been resorted to in order that the traffic might be diverted to the capital city. That State contains the huge area of 670,000 square miles. Twenty-five years ago it was proposed to divide it into three equal parts, each of about 200,000 square miles. A policy of constructing decentralized railways was adopted to defeat that movement, and to-day Queensland has three railway systems that are virtually unconnected with each other. ‘ But the policy of successive governments in Queensland during the whole of that time has been to divert the traffic to the capital city, and to-day there is the spectacle of the southern division - only one-third of the whole State - supporting 77 per cent, of its total population. We should study this question, not from the point of view of what is happening to-day, but of what is likely to happen in the future.In the last ten years the tendency to centralize has become greater, and our problems have been made more acute. The pressure of population is so great in the capital cities that the bulk of our loan expenditure has now to be expended upon services that are designed to improve the transport facilities of those cities. Sydney is to-day being practically rebuilt to meet the needs of its inhabitants, who are crowded into a comparatively small area of 100,000 acres. If that tendency continues, what will be the position in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time? If the problem is to be solved it must be tackled immediately. The Commonwealth Statistician has furnished me with some enlightening figures. His opinion is that if the present tendency continues, the populations of the capital cities and their suburbs in 1931 will be as follow: -
If the process continues, Sydney will have a population of almost 2,000.000 people in 1941. At the present time New South Wales is borrowing at the rate of £10,000,000 a year, for expenditure on works that either directly or indirectly benefit Sydney, yet it is unable to provide adequately for the city’s expansion.
Other populations in 1941, according to the same authority, will be as follow : -
The population of the six capital cities will then be close upon 5,000,000 people. Let us take a big step forward to 1971. The figures in that year will be -
That will make a total of 15,000,000 people in the six capital cities. It would be a healthy position if the city population were proportionate to the remainder of Australia. But that will not be the case. In 1941 the percentages will be: -
Sydney. - 52 per cent, of the population of New South Wales.
Melbourne. - 63 per cent, of the population of Victoria.
Brisbane. - 35 per cent, of the population of Queensland.
Adelaide. - 64 per cent, of the population of South Australia.
Perth. - 48 per cent, of the population of Western Australia.
Hobart. - 24 per cent, of the population of Tasmania.
In 1971 the figures will be: -
It will thus be seen that, in 1971, 65 per cent, of the total population of Australia will be resident within the six capital cities. The figures that I have quoted have been based entirely upon the assumption that the present-day centralization tendency will continue at the rate at which it has proceeded during the last 50 years. What steps have been taken to counteract it ? For upwards of fifteen years not one new port has been opened. We have dozens of good ports that, if utilized, would be a magnificent commercial asset. A nation like the United States of America would derive a great deal of revenue from them; but under our control they show a loss.
– Has any other country as large a proportion of its population in its cities as Australia has?
– No. The statement that is often made that this is a world-wide tendency is nonsense, for it cannot be substantiated. We are unique in the world in the nature and size of our centralization evil. I know that this subject does not appeal very strongly to persons in the capital cities. When a section of a community is deriving benefit from an evil it naturally wants the evil to continue ; and a man who is making money at another’s expense is not very enthusiastic about altering that condition of affairs. We have about half our population in gigantic cities, and we are rushing towards the world’s greatest centralization crisis. I cannot believe that a city like Melbourne, which will, in future, contain 90 out of every 100 people in Victoria, can continue to function as an economic entity.
Mr.Rodgers. - It will function itself out of existence.
– Of course it will. I direct attention to the fact that 25 years ago the same arguments were used as are being used to-day. It was then said that the evil would right itself, but that prophecy has not been fulfilled. It was also said that it would be impossible for any State to function with half its population in its capital city. Since then the evil has doubled, and in another twenty years Sydney will have twice the population it has to-day. As Sydney cannot even now raise enough money to deal with its transport problem, how can it hope to do so when its population has doubled ? The large commercial interests in the capital cities, which are making money out of this monopoly, and the industrial organizations which are behind the Labour party, adopt a selfish attitude on this question. The view of the industrial organizations is that as all the factories are in the cities, that is where the workers should be. Labour leaders look for the bulk of their support in the cities, and they refuse to do anything to antagonize that section of the community. That is why the Labour party has evolved an essentially centralized scheme of unification. There are some good points in that scheme, but it has been devised from the view-point of concentrated industrialism. It would be a far better thing for Australia if some of these massed commercial interests and industrial groups, which are now such a source of trouble in the capital cities, were broken up and scattered over the Continent. It would be far better if the hundreds of thousands of industrialists, who are ready to march in a procession through the streets of Melbourne or Sydney at a moment’s notice, were scattered over the empty spaces of the 3,000,000 square miles that comprise this continent. Those who have been suffering from this evil have been protesting for the last 50 or 60 years; but as those opposed to them in the cities have increased in numbers, their protests have become less audible to the ruling political powers. Every year country people are becoming weaker politically. At every redistribution the metropolitan areas gain seats from the country districts. At the last Federal election there were more metropolitan seats and fewer country seats than at the previous election, and it would seem that the time is coming when the voice of country representatives will be very feeble in this and the other Parliaments of this land. I challenge country members to contradict me when I say that the voice of country interests is not so powerful in the legislative halls of this country to-day as it was 20 or 25 years ago. The balance is swinging against us all the time. When there is 70 per cent, of the population of New South Wales in Sydney and 90 per cent, of the population of Victoria in Melbourne, we must expect a proportionate representation in the political arena. It is political power that counts in this country, and the reason why the country cannot obtain what it wants is that it has not the political power it had years ago. Every country representative, irrespective of party, ought to be fighting this evil. It is not my wish to force upon honorable members any particular scheme for the creation of new States, but I do assert that the time has come when we should seriously tackle this problem. We should endeavour to awaken the people to a sense of the danger, and should take steps to evolve the best possible scheme in the interests of Australia. If there are good points in the Labour party’s unification scheme, let us adopt them ; if there are good points in the New States scheme, let us adopt them also; but it is crass stupidity and lack of patriotism for any party or section of the community to reject a scheme without looking at it because it happens to be new. Many years ago there was a vigorous agitation in Queensland for a new State, and that agitation has been revived in northern New South Wales. So little knowledge have people in the cities of the situation in the country that they imagine that these agitations are small local affairs; but the agitation in northern New South Wales, which has been gaining force for the last 70 years, affects an area as large as Victoria, and is supported by a population greater than that of Western Australia, and nearly as great as that of South Australia. Those people have for many years been bumping their heads against the brick wall of metropolitan indifference. A little while ago they succeeded in having the matter discussed in the New South Wales Parliament, which, on the voices, carried this resolution -
That the large area of the State of New South Wales makes it desirable that the creation of a separate State in northern New South Wales should be taken into early consideration by a Federal Convention summoned for the purpose, and to consider the boundaries of the States and distribution of legislative powers between the States and Commonwealth. That this resolution be conveyed to the Federal Government and Governments of the States with a view to securing their concurrence.
The Parliament of Queensland has on three occasions carried a resolution agreeing to the subdivision of that State into three parts. Two or three years ago a proposal to subdivide Western Australia was lost by one vote only. Honorable members will therefore see that the Parliaments of the three largest States in the Commonwealth have practically agreed to a subdivision of their territory. That, surely, is sufficient to justify this national Parliament in treating this matter seriously. Unfortunately, there has been so much procrastination, as well as deliberate conspiracy to defeat the interests of the country population, that it has been a difficult matter to get those resolutions translated into action. Notwithstanding that the Parliament of New South Wales carried the resolution to which I have referred, nothing was done by the State Government until the supporters of the New States movement became active. Eventually, it decided to test the constitutional aspect of the question. A royal commission was appointed to inquire into the whole matter, and to suggest boundaries, terms and conditions. Under the existing Federal Constitution the “power to sanction a subdivision of their territory is undoubtedly vested in the State Parliaments. This national Parliament can do nothing without the consent of the legislature of the State concerned .
– Does the honorable member not think that the leader of the New States movement, who is also the deputy leader of the Government in this House, has been in office long enough to have accomplished something?
– The matter rests with the State Parliaments ; and they do nothing. The Constitution gives them the power to create. new States; but they will not exercise that power. Instead, they have entered into a deliberate conspiracy with the commercial and industrial interests of the capital cities to defraud the rural communities of their right to greater progress, development and self-government, a right which belongs to every British community, and which in the past has been exercised beneficially in Australia. If the same forces which now exist had existed 70 years ago, where would Australia be to-day ? We should have one State only - New South Wales. Opposition to the creation of any state that meant loss of territory to it was offered by New South Wales. The royal commission appointed by the New South Wales Parliament to inquire into the creation of new States continued for twelve months, and cost £25,000. As a result of its inquiries the commission decided that it was neither practicable nor desirable to create new States within New South Wales. It, however, agreed that the complaints of the country people were well founded, and, for that reason, it recommended an enlarged system of local government. Those in favour of new States did not accept that recommendation, because they felt that the commission, from the very nature of its constitution, and the manner in which it had conducted its inquiry, never intended seriously to consider the issue, but was intent on side-tracking it. The commission’s report was pigeonholed; it was never presented to the New South Wales Parliament. That shows the powerful influences at work in favour of centralization. In such circumstances, is it any wonder that the people get tired of agitating for better conditions? The people of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia have almost despaired of overcoming the selfishness of the vested interests of the capital cities. It was not the intention of the framers of the Federal Constitution to prohibit the creation of new States. There has been no real progress in Australia since the last new State was created. The creation of every new State has resulted in the population within it trebling itself within ten years. It is said that those conditions could not be repeated to-day. But what is happening at Canberra ? What is practically a new State is being formed there, and the eyes of the people of Australia are uponit. Only recently I met a man who had lived in my electorate all his life, but was selling out his grazing interests to engage in business at Canberra. The interest taken in. Canberra shows that when new States are created the people will go to them. And they will go, not from the country, but from the cities. People flock to the cities because of the lack of opportunities in the country. In most of our country towns no progress is being made. The young men and women, unable to find positions -in the local stores or on the roads as maintenance men, leave for the cities to obtain employment.
– The cream of the population flows to the cities.
– These young people go to the cities because they, must do so to find employment. Statistics for New South Wales show that the population of most of the country towns and shires has decreased during the past twenty years. Even the natural increase of 2 per cent, has not been maintained. Some time ago I listened to a man in a country town m my electorate predicting a great future for that town. I showed him that, judging by the past twenty years, during which the town’s population had not grown to any extent, it would take nearly 200 years before that town had a population of 100,000 persons. Under existing conditions the outlook for rural Australia is practically hopeless. Fortunately, the New States’ movement still exists, and its supporters are active. Honorable members who think that there is no public opinion behind this movement are greatly mistaken.” If a referendum were taken in northern New South Wales, 80 per cent, of the population would vote for the creation of a new State there, For 25 years they have stood still. In the interests of Sydney, their natural ports have not been developed; railways from the hinterland to the coast have consistently been refused. For 60 or 70 years there has been an agitation to construct a railway, about 100 miles long, in one portion of the State. Yet only recently the State Public Works Committee entered upon what I believe is the 57th inquiry into the desirability of constructing that railway. Its construction seems still a long way off. There are ports in northern New South Wales, which, if connected with the railway, would provide outlets for the country’s produce; but New South Wales has never attempted to develop those ports. The same remark applies to ports on the south coast. If one city obtains a monopoly of the railway traffic it must continue to develop, while other places remain stagnant. Port Stephens, which is one of the finest natural harbours in the world, and would be an enormous asset in any other country but Australia, is still in the condition in which it was when Captain Cook landed on the continent. It is only 20 miles from Newcastle, where there is an artificial harbour, and in order to buttress the coal and commercial interests of Newcastle this magnificent harbour has been neglected and practically shut up. It is only 14 miles distant from the main railway line, and yet the New South Wales Parliament has not spent the small sum of money necessary to make that connecting link of 14 miles with Port Stephens. I think that the position in Victoria is somewhat similar. I have heard rumors that the Government of Victoria has a decentralization scheme, but I do not know whether it proposes a genuine attempt to solve the centralization problem. There is only one way in which to do so. Where the population in outlying centres is not getting a fair deal it should separate from the parent State. That is the inevitable process of evolution of the progress of countries in every part of the world, but Australia is not following that process. Except in the case of the capital cities Australia is stagnant or going backwards If nothing is done to remedy the existing condition of affairs in the next twenty or thirty years, rural Australia will be down and out. It is almost down and out now. Except for the wool industry there is nothing behind it. Progress in the farming districts is very uncertain, and they are not solid enough to carry a big country like this on their backs.
– I have never heard of such a panacea. I do not say that the creation of new States would be a panacea for all evils, but I do say that if we follow the process of development which has led to success in the United States of America, and even in Australia up to a certain stage, we may look forward to the same successful results. The experience of the United States of America and of Canada is that wherever new States have been created on a proper basis of self-government they immediately commence a career of remarkable progress. In the. United States of America, in Canada, and in Australia the populations of all the new States doubled and trebled within the first ten years of their creation. The reason given is that the moment the apron strings are untied these youthful communities pulsate with life and motion and start to do things for themselves. Honorable members will realize that the New States movement has a very definite existence. It is not a revolutionary movement, and does not involve bloodshed, or anything of the kind, but it is none the less a genuine movement on the part of rural communities in Australia that have not had a fair deal, because their outcries have been persistently ignored. In Western Australia, where, we are told, the people are talking of secession from the federation, there is evidence that rural feeling is in favour not so much of secession as of the subdivision of the State. In evidence given before the commission presided over by Mr. W. G. Higgs, Mr. Barnett, president of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, said that the Albany district favoured not secession, but the creation of smaller States. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) in giving evidence before the Western Australia Commission said that if Australia were divided into twenty States the centralization evil would vanish.
– Does the honorable member propose that all these new States should be given sovereign powers?
– That is a big question which cannot be decided offhand. I favour the Commonwealth retaining sovereign powers. Mr. Higgs, in expressing dissent from certain recom- mendations ofhis colleagues on the commission, suggested -
That the Government of the Commonwealth invite the State Government of Western Australia to surrender to the Commonwealth that portion of the north and north-west of Western Australia above (approximately) the 26th parallel of south latitude, on the following terms: -
That the Commonwealth shall undertake, within a period of twelve months after the’ surrender of the territory, to create a new State of the said territory, granting such representation in either House of the Commonwealth Parliament as the Parliament thinks fit.
That the Commonwealth shall grant to the new State a government partly nominee and partly elected.
That is a very important recommendation which has never been discussed by this House. The north-west of “Western Australia is a territory of 520,000 square miles, and about the same size as the Northern Territory. Its population of 6,000 white people is not sufficient for a State, and, as suggested by Mr. Higgs, the initial government should be partly nominee and partly elective. A further reason why the House should tackle this question is that prominent Western Australians, and amongst them a Premier of the State, have expressed the opinion that they would not care about handing the north-west of Western Australia over to the Commonwealth as a territory, but would he prepared to consider handing it over as a new State. We have people in Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia crying out for the subdivision of their respective States to bring about the more rapid development of rural areas. Their voices are not heard in this Parliament, except through myself, and one or two others, including the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). We should be recreant to our duty if we did not take every opportunity to impress it upon honorable members that the obligation rests upon them to attack the gigantic evil of centralization. I have before me the details of two schemes which show that what is proposed is constitutionally practicable. One is a scheme prepared by the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and the other a scheme prepared by Mr. Windeye’r, K.C., a constitutional authority in Sydney. His scheme provides for giving the Commonwealth power to take referenda on a 20 per cent, demand of electors on the roll in any area. The referendum decision, if in the affirmative, would be an instruction to the Commonwealth Parliament to take the necessary steps to bring about the separation proposed, draft a constitution, and decide the terms and conditions on which the proposed new State should be admitted. It would be quite a simple thing for the Commonwealth Parliament to do. There must be a court of appeal, but, under the present Constitution, appeal to this Parliament is denied. If the people of northern New South Wales could appeal to the Federal Parliament they would have done so long ago. It is for this Parliament to make itself a court of appeal, and that can only be done by amending the Constitution in the direction of giving the Parliament sovereign power to create new States anywhere in Australia on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit. This power was originally invested in the Imperial Parliament, but was handed over by that Parliament at federation. Unfortunately the Federal Convention, instead of retaining the power for the Federal Parliament, handed it over to the States. It has never been used by the States, owing to the influence of the big capital cities in the government of the different States. It will have to be used sooner or later if the evil of centralization is to be stopped, and this Parliament is the proper authority to use it. We propose, therefore, that we should take a referendum throughout Australia to bring about an amendment of the Constitution. If the State Parliaments will not exercise the power left them for the creation of new States we should make this Parliament a court of appeal in the matter so that large communities such as that of northern New South Wales, comprising 400,000 people, may come to this Parliament and say, “ The New South Wales Parliament will not listen to us. We want a new State, and we desire you to take the necessary steps to hold a referendum in the areas concerned, or in the whole State, and decide the terms and conditions on which we shall be admitted to the federation.” Whether the new States should have sovereign powers is for this Parliament to say. It is not necessary that full sovereign powers should be given. to the new .States. They might be admitted to the federation on such terms and conditions as this Parliament thinks fit. I personally think that this Parliament should be supreme.
– We could not have some. States working under one Constitution and others under another.
– That is done in the United States of America. The States there have not uniform constitutions. Their constitutions differ in many vital respects. The idea seems to have been to permit local committees to draft their own constitutions, subject to the powers vested in them by the central Parliament. In some of the American States prohibition is provided for in their constitutions, so that the politicians cannot tinker with the principle. Whatever is included in a constitution can be altered only by the people, whilst what is contained in. an act of Parliament can be altered by the politicians. There is some advantage in giving the community of an area power to draft its own constitution, subject to the sovereignty of the Federal Parliament. There is a great deal more which I could say on this subject, but I should like to hear the views of other honorable members. I am very sorry that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is not present. I am aware that he has an important engagement with the State Premiers. I can assure the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) and other honorable members that the Treasurer is just as enthusiastic about the New States gospel as he ever was. He has adhered religiously to the movement all his life, and, whenever a suitable opportunity arises, I am sure that he will be prepared to state his views frankly and clearly, and will leave no doubt that he is prepared to do his bit to bring about this important reform.
.- It gives me a very great deal of pleasure to second the motion moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). I. point out to the House, and, through the House, to the people of Australia generally, that some further subdivision of Australia is not merely desirable, but absolutely necessary, if the Commonwealth is to progress as we all desire. When the Australian nation was brought into being, it was born in an atmosphere of jealousy and distrust of one State by another. Consequently, our Federal Constitution is a compromise on various matters, and, after 25 years’ experience of its working, we have discovered that it is hampering our development in many ways. Amongst provisions of the Constitution that are hampering our progress are those dealing with the creation of new States. These are contained in chapter VI. of the Constitution, and the machinery section for the creation of a new State is set out in these terms -
A new State may be formed by the separation o,f territory from a State, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new State may be formed by the union of two or more States or parts of States, but only with the consent of the. Parliaments of the States affected.
The important part of the section is the provision requiring the consent of the Parliaments of the States concerned. With 25 years’ experience of the Constitution, it has been found that this machinery is not working. There is sand in the bearings. It would creak and groan if put into operation, and would not effect its purpose. The present machinery should be scrapped, and modern machinery substituted in its stead. It was evidently in the minds of the framers of the Constitution that if Australia was to progress there must be a further subdivision of the States. It -is inconceivable that the mainland of Australia, irrespective of its growth and development, should be arbitrarily divided into five States. At the time of framing the Constitution, it might just as easily have been contended that Australia should be arbitrarily divided into three States - eastern, central, and western Australia. If such had been the case, neither Victoria nor Queensland would have progressed to the extent that they have to-day, because they would have remained portions of New South Wales, with Sydney as the capita] city. The motion before honorable members aims at the formation of other States to enable the people living in them to better aid in the development of those areas. It is well known that no State Parliament will ever agree to parting with a rich area of land to enable it to become a new State. I represent a district in the north of New South Wales, and the people there are keen supporters of the New States movement. This matter has been discussed by various conventions. Recently about 300 delegates travelled to Armidale at their own expense to discuss among themselves the formation of new States. The people in that district are more competent to judge what is necessary for its development than those living in and about the capital city, who do not desire New South “Wales to give up rich areas while that State can derive benefits from them. All that we are asking for is the inherent right of every Britisher to govern himself and his own country. That was the spirit which provoked the American War of Independence. We ask for nothing more than the right of self-government - a right which is en joyed by all the dominions of the Empire. We are citizens of the Commonwealth as well as of the States. The old idea of Australia, as divided into States, went by the board when war broke out. In the early days of the war those who enlisted were known as Victorians, South Australians, Queenslanders, and so on, but it had been in progress only a short time when State boundaries were forgotten, and we were all “ Aussies.” We became possessed of a broad and national spirit. If new States are formed, the people in them will still be Commonwealth citizens. One of the arguments against new States is that there are already sufficient State Parliaments in Australia, and the establishment of further State Parliaments will only increase the cost of government. All persons in Australia are governed by two Parliaments - the Federal Parliament and their own State Parliament. If new States are established the people in them will have no connexion at all with the existing State Parliaments. Surely if they are satisfied to be placed under a new State Parliament, no one should deny them that right. They would still only be under two parliaments. The expense of government would be their own concern. In fact, they claim that by having smaller States the government will be more efficient, and without the disadvantages of the overlaping that exists to-day between the Public Services of the States and the Commonwealth. It is well known that our Public Services are swollen, and require reorganization. A new State would be able to establish an efficient Civil Service, and prevent it from growing unnecessarily large. I have prepared eight reasons why it is desirable that Australia should be subdivided. I do not put them forward as the total argument in favour of new States. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) has dealt with certain aspects of the matter, not only in his speech this afternoon, but also in that which he delivered in the last Parliament, when introducing a similar motion in this House. First of all, I suggest that as there is keen trade rivalry between the various States, the further subdivision of Australia would bring about keener rivalry, because the competition would be greater between the manufacturers and merchants, and lower prices would result. Secondly, I suggest that new developmental works would be established in the new’ States. At present necessary works for irrigation, the supply of power and hydro electricity, and water conservation in the various States, are neglected, in many cases deliberately, because it is considered that although such works are desirable, their construction would benefit States other than the one that would have to incur the necessary expenditure. I shall give an example of this. The main city in my electorate is Lismore, with a population in the municipal area of over 10,000 people. It is a modern city, which has grown up within the last 40 years. Its first settlers still live in the district. It has its own gas, electricity, and water services, and also deep sewerage, which few country towns have. Yet we find that this city is unconnected by rail with any capital city in Australia. It is not even connected by rail with the capital city of its own State. In spite of that city’s disadvantages it has grown, and will continue to grow. Business people have found it necessary, in order to get the trade of the district, to establish branches there instead of agencies. Brisbane is not yet connected with Lismore by rail. The railway runs from Lismore to Murwillumbah, and there is a gap of 19 miles between that town and the Tweed Heads.
– Lismore will be connected with Brisbane by rail when the BrisbaneKyogle railway is- completed.
– That is so, but we have to thank the Commonwealth for that.
– The States are also parties to the construction of that railway.
– The first move came from the Commonwealth Government. It is finding the bulk of the money for the construction of that railway. Had the matter been left to the States of New South Wales and Queensland, I am certain that the railway would never have been built. My third point is that areas adjoining State boundaries are usually neglected, because if they are developed by one State, the adjoining State may reap the benefit. The same thing happens in regard to shires. The worst roads in Australia are those connecting one shire with another.
– With more States we should have more boundaries, and more desolation.
– No; the new boundaries would be in areas that have not been neglected.
– WoulJ a governor be appointed for each State)
– The constitution of parliaments, the appointment of govenors, and other details can be determined later. The principle I am affirming is that the Commonwealth Parliament should be able to create new States without the consent of the existing States. If the further subdivision of Australia is necessary, State parliaments should not be allowed to prevent it. My fourth reason in favour of the creation of new States is that it would bring into existence more and larger towns. I have pointed out how Lismore, because of its geographical position, has grown despite deliberate neglect by the Parliament of New South Wales. A new State would necessarily have a capital city situated as centrally as possible; industries would be established there and other towns would spring up in close proximity to it. These towns would act as magnets to attract people into the country, and in that way practical decentralization would be achieved. The fifth reason is that decentralization would make members of Parliament and administrative officers more conversant with the needs of the area they controlled, and a lot of the expense and loss of time involved in the travelling of parliamentarians and government officers under existing conditions would be obviated. We are all familiar with the disabilities that attend the administration of a Territory far removed from the Seat of Government. One. explanation of the ineffective administration of the Northern Territory is that this Parliament and the
Government officers know very little about the area they control. The mandated territory of New Guinea is under the jurisdiction of four different Ministers - the Prime Minister, the AttorneyGeneral, the Treasurer and the Minister for Home and Territories. Not one of those Ministers or their heads of departments has visited the territory.
– I think that Senator Crawford and the Treasurer have visited New Guinea.
– The PostmasterGeneral is mistaken. Only two Federal Ministers have visited New Guinea ; one was an Assistant Minister who is no longer a member of the Cabinet, and the other is still an Assistant Minister but has no association with the four departments that share in the administration of the territory. The sixth reason is that new States, will decentralize administration and expedite departmental business. They will do away with congestion in departments, and consequent delay. That must mean more efficient government. When the business of departments administering big areas gets into arrears, delays occur, with resultant annoyance to the people. The smaller the areas the less the delay.
– The honorable member believes in home rule as far as possible ?
– Within certain limits. Some of the powers now possessed by the States should be handed over to the Federal Parliament. The Federal Constitution is . like a pyramid standing on its apex instead of on its base. Instead of the powers of the Federal Parliament being defined and limited, the powers of the States should be specified, and all other powers should belong to the Commonwealth legislature. Decentralization by the creation of new States will put Australia on a sound political and economic basis. Reason number seven is that more efficiency in government is possible when people are near the Seat of Government. It is obvious that legislators, who are constantly under the eyes of their constituents are likely to do better work than are those who sit in a parliament far distant from many of the electorates. If the States were smaller, people could watch legislation more closely, and keep in touch with their representatives; if they desired to place certain facts before members of the provincial parliament) their nearness to the Seat of Government would be of distinct advantage. The eighth reason is that decentralization would reduce the cost of living by opening
Up new industries in country districts where the conditions are more favorable than in big cities. Henry Ford stated in his autobiography that he obtains better results by enabling his workmen to live on small holdings some distance away from the factory. In a fresh country environment, they are able to do certain piecework in their homes, and they and their wives may follow some profitable hobby, such as poultry raising or fruitgrowing, and thus supplement the family income. In addition, they are living a healthier life, and the children would be reared in the sunlight and open-air, instead of in the slums of an industrial area.. I believe that, similarly, the .decentralization of industries will lead to more efficiency in production and a reduction in the cost of living. The workers in those industries will be able to grow many of their requirements instead of having to buy them at city prices. To the representatives of Western Australia and Tasmania, which allege that they have a grievance against the Commonwealth, I appeal for support of this motion. At the present time the larger States practically dominate this Parliament. The one State of New South Wales returns 28 of the 76 members in this chamber, and those representatives are inclined to look at all questions from the point of view of their own State. If a country town is dominated by big estates in the neighbourhood, the evil is remedied by the subdivision of those estates. And I say to the representatives of the less populous States that by the creation of smaller States there will be a greater equality of representation in this Parliament. The New States proposals are eminently practicable. This House is asked to decide whether Australia shall be further subdivided, or existing State bounties shall continue regardless of industrial development and increase in population. I believe that this Parliament will declare that further subdivision is necessary if Australia is to realize its destiny. The Federal ideal is not attacked by the motion; indeed, the New States movement tends to “foster the Federal spirit by breaking down the old fetish of State rights. The people of Queensland have on three occasions affirmed through their representatives in the State Parliament that the subdivision of the State into three parts is desirable. The representatives of the people in the New South Wales Parliament have affirmed the desirableness of subdividing New South Wales. The very close vote that was taken in the Western Australian Parliament practically affirmed the same principle. Those expressions of opinion should not be allowed to pass unheeded by this House. The electorate that I represent is a buffer area between the States of New South Wales and Queensland, and my constituents are wholeheartedly in favour of the subdivision of Australia. They desire to have an opportunity to develop the magnificent area that they hold, but that opportunity is at present denied them. Two lines of railway run through my electorate, practically parallel with each other, and are about 100 miles apart. There are no connecting links. If I wished to travel by rail from Casino to Tenterfield, I should have to go down to Maitland and then back to Tenterfield. That journey would occupy three days, although Casino and Tenterfield are only 86 miles apart. The Government of New South Wales profess to favour the construction of cross-country lines, but in reality they are opposed to them. They realize that such lines would take from Newcastle and Sydney a great deal of the trade that now flows into those cities. When a dominant city holds up the progress of a State, it is opposed to the best interests of that State. If our country areas are to receive the justice that they deserve, we must allow their inhabitants to approach the Commonwealth Parliament without the intervention of the Parliaments of the States. We might as well ask for the moon as for the consent of the State Parliaments.
– After having spent from £60,000 to £100,000 upon a referendum we should find that we were no further advanced.
– I disagree with that contention. In the Western Australian Parliament a motion in favour of the subdivision of that State was defeated by only one vote. If the question were again debated, that decision might be reversed. The Commonwealth Parliament has not the power which the Imperial Parliament held in regard to the subdivision of Australia before the inauguration of federation. In spite of the opposition of
New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were severed from that State. This House has not the power to grant a similar request unless the consent of the State Parliament is first obtained. That provision was inserted in the Constitution because the idea of State rights was very prominently before the public at that time. The States distrusted each other, and New South Wales did . not desire that the matter of the further subdivision of that State should be decided by the representatives of other States.
– Why confine the creation of new States to the area within the boundaries of existing States?
– That is not what we are seeking.
– The Commonwealth Parliament has already the power to create new States outside the boundaries of existing States.
– Why not provide that, a new State may be created from portions of more than one State ? That would uot be possible under the terms of the motion .
– In the East Gippsland district of Victoria there is a movement to secede from this State, and to join with the southern portion of New South Wales in the creation of a new State, to’ be called Monaro. Twofold Bay could be made a magnificent harbour. It has wonderful potentialities. Had Captain Cook landed there instead of further up the coast, it would now be the port for a very big State. Sydney has prevented its development. There is a distinct movement in East Gippsland and southern New South Wales to join together in a new State ; we must get away from the old idea of considering the River Murray as a boundary between two States. A river is not a natural boundary; it is something that binds rather than divides. The proper division is a mountain range. The people who live on the two sides of a river have a community of interest. In the Riverina district of New South Wales and the northern portion of Victoria there is a movement to establish a new State using the Rivpr Murray as a connecting link. At the present time the consent of three States and the Commonwealth has to be obtained before the waters of the Murray can be utilized. If that river were within the boundaries of one State, water conservation and irrigation could be carried out by those who understand their requirements. In addition, great advantages would accrue if the Wimmera district of Victoria and the adjoining portions of New South Wales and South Australia were made a new State, as the people there have a community of interest. I ask leave to continue my remarks, on the occasion of the resumption of the debate.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that- the honorable member for Richmond have leave to continue his remarks ?
– I should like to see a division taken upon this motion before the time for its discussion expires at 4.30 p.m. The new staters outside this House want to have the . matter decided in one way or another, and they wish to see where the Government stand.
– The honorable member is out of order.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Notice of motion in the name of Dr. Maloney (Melbourne) postponed to 17th June.
Notice of motion in the name of Mr. Stewart (Wimmera) postponed to 17th June.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made in this bill by the House of Representatives.
Claim of H. Dean and Sons
Debate resumed from 4th February, (vide page 690), on motion by Mr. Watkins -
. -I wish to indicate why I support this motion. I agreed to allow my name to be included as a member of the proposed select committee because, after hearing the previous debate on this motion, I came to the conclusion that a case had been made out for a further inquiry by a select committee. I do not wish to discuss the merits of the question. It has been said that there have been three judicial inquiries into this matter, and that each time, owing to a legal technicality, the firm of Dean and Sons lost. I do not know whether that is so, but I do know that one does not always obtain justice in the courts. I do not say that the courts deliberately weight the scales, but legal quibbles and technicalities arise which, at times, prevent deserving persons from getting justice. I do not favour matters of this kind being brought before the Parliament unless something big is at stake. I know that some honorable members do not believe in encouraging outside interests to appeal to the Parliament against the decisions of the courts; but I hold the opinion that this Parliament should be the final court of appeal for any aggrieved citizen of this country. If there is a feeling among the friends of the firm of Dean and Sons that an injustice has been done by the Government, although the Government may be buttressed by the decisions of the courts, an inquiry by a select committee should be made. If honorable members are satisfied that the Government is sheltering behind a legal technicality, and is refusing to meet the just claim of this firm, there should be sufficient sense of justice among them to carry this motion. A large amount of money is involved. The firm had dealings with the Government during the war period, and for some time after, and it contends that the contract upon which it was engaged involved it in very serious loss.
– There was no contract.
-I mean the agreement that was made.
– There was no . agreement.
– Then there was an arrangement by which the firm was to make bricks.
– There was not any arrangement.
– Then what was there?
– Nothing; and the honorable member knows that there was nothing.
– The contention of the Government, is absurd. It is unthinkable that such large transactions should be carried through without an agreement or arrangement. If there was no agreement or arrangement, that is all the more reason why the proposed select committee should be appointed. It has been suggested that select committees are invariably sympathetic to claimants. I do not think that is so generally, or that it will be so in this case. If the facts adduced before the committee indicate that the firm has no just claim against the Government, the committee will no doubt find in favour of the Government; but if it is disclosed that an injustice, which can be removed by the payment of compensation, has been done, the select committee will recommend accordingly.
.- In my previous speeches on this subject I have not referred to the legal technicality upon which the first verdict was upset, because I felt that, in asking for the appointment of a select committee, I ought to place before the House only such facts as would satisfy honorable members that there was something to inquire into. Although the courts, on a legal point, have decided against this firm, there remains the verdict of the business jury that heard the facts of the case. If this had been a case in which a firm had rushed in to obtain a contract from the War Service Homes Department, I would have had nothing to do with it; but it was a small firm, not connected with a ring or combine, which was sought out by che department. It was mainly engaged in making pipes, although it made a few bricks. Officers of the department interviewed members of the firm, and wrote letters to induce them to discard their pipe-making machinery and install patent kilns and other plant for making bricks. They did not want to do that, and that fact is now being used by the department as an argument against the firm. I cannot understand the departmental reasoning. The firm, reluctantly, agreed to extend the plant and supply bricks. It is alleged that the firm intended to extend the plant in any case. As a matter of fact, it would have increased its plant slightly, but not in the direction required by the department. It was not in a big enough way for that. The correspondence shows that the department pressed the firm to undertake the contract. In effect, the department said, “You think our business is not good enough, but we are going in for a ten years’ programme, and it will pay you to sign up with us for the supply of these bricks.” While the agreement, which had been approved was awaiting signature in the department, the policy of the department was suddenly changed. In the meantime the firm had been told to go ahead at high pressure, because the bricks were urgently required for the programme in view. Owing to the alteration of the policy of the department, the plant installed by the firm became useless, and, in addition, the firm lost its pipemaking connexion. The department was drawing on various brickyards for supplies, and on the 24th July, 1920, wrote the following letter to Dean and Sons: -
The quantity of bricks being supplied by you to this commission is very unsatisfactory. We are of the opinion that is partly due to your being under the impression that our business is only temporary, and therefore do not consider it good business to yourself to give us absolute preference.
We wish to assure you that our constructional programme is permanent, and our requirements will only be met by the receipt of 250,000 bricks per week for at least ten (10) years, and a continuance after that of a slightlyless quantity for an indefinite period.
It is not the policy of the commission to acquire brickworks or commence new works of sufficient capacity to supply the whole of our requirements. This policy will only be adopted as a last resource.
We are in a position to make an agreement with you to accept the maximum quantity of bricks for which you ore in a position to guarantee delivery, say, from 50,000 to 75,000 per week for three (3), five (5), or more years.
An agreement to this effect would enable you to extend your plant, if necessary, and would guarantee your output.
We would ask you to give this matter your full consideration, the decided advantage of such an arrangement being most obvious.
Negotiations proceeded, and eventually an agreement was drawn up. The following letter, written on the 13th September, 1920, shows the reluctance of Messrs
Dean and Sons to undertake the work : -
Messrs. Henry Dean and Sons,
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 11th instant, and note that you are not agreeable to arranging a contract. You actually state you are not in a position to make one.
Prom the interviews we have had,I was under the impression you were prepared to grant this commission your whole output, therefore we cannot understand why you are not in a position to make a contract, as it would hold good whether your output wag nil or 100,000 per week.
As we must, and intend, to assure our brick supply, and if necessary will commence construction of works large enough to supply our whole output, we would be glad to know if we are to rely on you for bricks or not.
As a business man you will, of course, realize that your word is not sufficient for us, and it is necessary that matters be arranged definitely by contract.
We realize it will be necessary for you to use a large proportion of your bricks on your work, until such time as they are completed.
We shall be glad . to hear from you.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) N. H. Cook,
I have here a copy of the agreement which was drawn up after Mr. Dean had been told to proceed with the work. Honorable members should remember that Mr. Dean had been pressed by the commission to make bricks instead of pipes. The terms of the agreement were accepted by the officers of -the department as well as by Messrs. Dean and Sons, and only required to be set out in legal phraseology for the agreement to be signed. What would honorable members think of a private individual who, after having induced another to proceed with certain work pending the preparation of an agreement, repudiated the verbal contract after the other had incurred expense in connexion with it 1 I have here a letter from Messrs. Dean and Sons, which reads -
On page 262, about half way down of the first column, you correctly said that the appeal to the Full Court was upheld on a point of law, “ not upon the facts of the case as submitted in the first instance, but upon a point of law.” The Chief Justice said that the agreement made between the parties “ was insufficient to meet the requirements of the Statute of Frauds.” The agreement was made by two laymen, Mr. Cook acting for the War Service Homes Commissioner, and myself on behalf of my firm, and this agreement as approved by us two was to be sent to Sydney to be put into legal form by the Crown Solicitor.
The Attorney-General in his reply said that we were not at all sure of the exact nature of our claim; the agreement made was that we were to put in extra machinery and build extra kilns to supply the Commissioner with 130,000 bricks per week, or 520,000 per month, and the commission was liable to take that number of bricks. That was understood by both parties.
Mr. Latham then said that “the verdict of the jury was most remarkable in that it was given in favour of the plaintiff without mentioning any amount of damages.”
Mr. Latham must have known that counsel on both sides had agreed, at the preliminary hearing, that the question of the amount of damages should be left to a tribunal other -than that particular court.
– They did nothing of the kind. I do not know why the Minister continues to prevaricate. Some amount had. to be stated; it did not matter whether it was ?5,000 or ?26,000. Mr. Dean, like many other laymen, acted on the advice of his solicitors. In mentioning that amount, Mr. Dean’s solicitor did not advise his client as he should have done.
– Acting on some one’s advice, Dean asked for ?26,000.
- Mr. Dean did not want to go to law, but the department forced him to do so. He was told by the department to go to law if he was not satisfied, and that if he did so he would not win the case. Is that the way for a Government department to deal . with a private citizen?
– He could not win, because he had no case.
– Then how is it that the only verdict given on the facts was in his favour? Mr. Justice Campbell, who is one of the best judges in Australia, heard the facts of the case, and his decision was given in favour of Messrs. Dean and Sons. The later decisions were’ simply decisions on points of law, and had nothing to do with the moral claim. When this. subject was before us in January last, the Attorney-General said that of the nine judges who had considered the claim, eight decided that Messrs. Dean and Sons had no legal claim. To that I interjected, “The judge who heard the facts of the case decided to the contrary.” On page 18 of the evidence the following appeared -
By consent, Mr. Weston postponed crossexamination of witness until he had argued that the evidence discloses no sufficient memorandum of the alleged contract to satisfy the Statute of Frauds, Mr. Innes admitting that he had no other evidence on that point.
His Honour. - Am I to take it that I am to deal with the matter now, as if it were an application for a non-suit.
– On this point, yes.
After argument by counsel, His Honour overruled Mr. Weston’s contention. The commission desired to obtain the bricks made by Messrs. Dean and Sons because of their good red colour, and also because that firm’splant was the only one in the district which could be extended to meet the requirements of the commission. According to the report on page 26 of the printed evidence, the district officer of the commission, Mr. Cook, was asked by Mr. Innes whether it was a fact that he asked Messrs. Dean and Sons to give the commission absolute preference for future orders. To that he replied, “ Yes.” Other questions and their answers also appearing on page 26 of the evidence are as follows :
Mr. Innes. ; You said that after that conversation Mr. Dean did inform you before you left the office, that is before you went away into private practice, that the price for commons would be up to 68s. instead of 63s. as mentioned on the 20th September?
– Yes, I think Mr. Dean mentioned that to me on one occasion.
Mr. Innes. ; And it is a fact that he told you that they would go up to 68s. by reason of the very arrangement that had been arrived at on the 20th September, namely, that the price was to go up or down from the 63s. on a sliding scale in proportion to the increased or decreased price of coal and labour ?
Mr. Hutchings, the Deputy Commissioner for New South Wales, said in his evidence, page 53, that Mr. Dean’s statement that he was offered the business; that he was requested to give absolute preference to the War Service Homes Commission, and that he was encouraged to extend his plant to meet the department’s requirements, was quite correct. He stated also that it was in accordance with the policy of the commission, as contained in the instructions to deputy commissioners, to enter into long term arrangements for the supply of all materials for a set programme of houses each year for a number of years. On page 266 of Hansard for January, 1926, Mr. Latham is reported to have said, “ I have read Mr. Dean’s sworn evidence that he was told that 63s. would not be accepted.”
That that is not correct will he seen from page 16 of the evidence, where, in reply to the request of Mr. Hutchings that the price of bricks should be reduced from 63s. to 60s. per 1,000, Mr. Dean said - “No. From the 1st October, we are paying 4s. per ton more for coal; next month it is forecasted we will pay anything in the neighbourhood of 8s. per man increase in wages.”
When that increase in wages comes round then I will go carefully into what our increased manufacturing costs are for bricks, and that increased cost will have to be added on to the price of 63s. set out in the agreement. That has been arranged for. Later I made an application to the District Officer to adjust the price of the bricks. I want to correct you in one instance. When you interjected, “ That was the current price,” that was taken by Mr. Latham that we were supplying the commission with bricks at the current rates. This was not so. We charged them the price as set out in the agreement, which was some shillings less than the current rates and less than the commission was paying to other yards. ‘
I do not know that I need say anything more to justify my request for a select committee to inquire whether these people did sufficient work, under instructions from the officers of the War Service Homes Department and prior to the agreement entered into, to give them a moral claim for compensation. It has been suggested that it would never do if every man who went to law and had a verdict recorded against him felt at liberty to ventilate his grievance in this House. I want honorable members to bear in mind that a British citizen, though he may have gone through all the courts of the country without securing redress, can appeal to the King of the realm for justice. More than one case of the kind might be quoted.In this case the firm for which I am making this application received the only verdict given on the facts. All the verdicts given against the firm were on points of law, and not as to whether the firm performed the services it claims to have performed or not. I warn honorable members that my fate in connexion with this motion may in the future be theirs, should they find it necessary to ask for an inquiry into some grievance of constituents of their own. They should not refuse by their votes on my motion to permit an Australian citizen to appeal to this Parliament, which is the highest court in the land. It will be a sorry day for this Parliament when it refuses to inquire into such a claim as this. I have offered, if the Minister cannot see his way to the appointment of a select committee to make this inquiry, to have the matter referred to one of the standing committees of the House. I do not care who inquires into it. All I want is an inquiry into the facts to show whether these people have or have not a moral claim for compensation upon the War Service Homes Commission. I am compelled by the action of the Minister for Works and Railways to let the motion go to a vote now, although that is not convenient to me. I ask honorable members to consider what I have said, and especially to realize that Dean and Sons received the only verdict given on the facts. The firm tried to secure a peaceful settlement with the department, and it was only when it was challenged by the department to go to law that it did so. I ask honorable members to give this firm an opportunity to submit its case to an impartial committee of this House. If on inquiry into the facts the committee turns down the claim I shall be satisfied.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 25th February (vide page 1138), on motion by Dr. Maloney -
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 soldiers who are refused pensions are not permitted to see their flies and are thus deprived of the opportunity where injustice is done to disprove the evidence upon which pensions, &c, have been refused; and 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 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.
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 onlistment - such discretionary power to bo executed in the light of the character . of the service rendered by the soldier.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [5.14].- This motion is an amendment of a similar motion submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) during the last Parliament. When he submitted his first motion I pointed out that it contained certain statements which made it quite impossible for me to support it. The honorable member has amended his original motion along some of the lines I suggested. Without repeating my former speech on the subject I think the House should know just what the position is. In his original motion the honorable member set out four statements as statements of fact. Paragraph 4 of the motion reads -
That soldiers who are refused pensions are not permitted to see their files, and are thus deprived of the opportunity, where injustice is done, to disprove the evidence upon which pensions, &c., have been refused.
With the exception of that paragraph, the motion is nearly the same as that submitted by the honorable member to this House during last Parliament. Paragraph 4 of the motion has really nothing whatever to do with pension rights. Under the previous motion, any person who enlisted for active service would have been entitled to a pension, no matter what disability he suffered from, because that disability could be said to have dated from the time of his service to the country, and, even if it were not the result of war service, on a wide interpretation it would be considered as being aggravated thereby. I pointed out last year that 84,863 men who enlisted for service did not go overseas, and were, therefore, not entitled to war pensions. The total number of men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force was 416,809. Of that number, 331,946 went overseas, and they alone, under this motion, are entitled to pensions. I ask honorable members to consider the wording of the motion. We can treat as superfluous that portion of it dealing with the many and generous promises continually reiterated from the multitude of enlistment platforms. This House is in no way bound by irresponsible statements made during the recruiting campaign. We wish to know whether the returned men are getting a fair deal; whether there are any anomalies to be rectified; and whether there is anything wrong with the system under which we assess their pensions. The motion further reads - “ It is the opinion of this House that no soldier who was accepted after passing such examinations “. What were those examinations ? Those of us who underwent examinations prior to going to the war know what they consisted of. It is within the knowledge of practically all of us that men who actually went to the front were able to enlist through concealing certain disabilities from which they were suffering. Their hearts were in the right place, and they wanted to go overseas.
– If a man desired to go overseas, and his disability was not very apparent, it was quite possible for him to deceive the medical officer examining him.
– That was not so.
– I myself deceived the doctors. Had I made known a certain disability from which I was then suffering, I should never have gone to the front.
– We have only “the honorable member’s word for that.
– The honorable member, as a medical man, would, if I explained my disability, .quite understand why I was able to deceive the doctor. It is well known that men with concealed disabilities enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, their sole object being to reach the United Kingdom. I was adjutant at a camp in England, and I know that a large number of men, after they had completed their disembarkation leave, reported back into camp, and disclosed the fact that they were suffering from certain disabilities. To use a military term, they “ paraded sick,” and in many cases were sent back to Australia. Under this motion such men would be entitled to a pension, because it states that all men who offered their lives, and passed the medical examination, should be considered perfectly healthy men from the date of examination. A fair deal should be given to returned men, regardless of expense - I do not care whether it costs the Commonwealth £5,000,000 or £25,000,000, providing that only those who are entitled to pensions receive them. I admit that no enactment could possibly prevent “ malingerers “ from obtaining pensions, but I would have no objection to that, so long as those who are really entitled to pensions receive them. That, I think, is the opinion of the majority of honorable members. Under this motion every man who went overseas, whether he deceived the doctor or not, would be entitled to a pension for the rest of his life, irrespective of when his disability arose. For example, the motion leaves it quite open for a man suffering from tuberculosis, late in life, to claim that his disability was aggravated by war service, as he was a fit man at the time he went overseas. I am sure that that is not the desire of this House. The first portion of the motion 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 depen dants through certain present medical experts giving as their opinion the causes arose from pre-war causes.
That means that any man who actually went to the front will be entitled to any rights under the War Pensions Act. I am sure that such a thing is not in the mind of the mover of the motion. I believe he brought this matter forward with the best of intentions. The final paragraph of the motion reads -
It is also the opinion of this House that all men who offered their lives and passed the above scientific examination-
They did not pass a 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.
I am heartily in accord with the proposal that discretionary power be vested in the commissioners. As a matter of fact, discretion is being exercised at the present time, but it can be based only on the reports of medical men. I think the mover of the motion desires that the administration of the Repatriation Department shall be relaxed so that when there is a difference of opinion between medical men as to whether a man’s disability was caused or aggravated by war service, the claimant shall be given the benefit of the doubt. So long as the doctors are of opinion that a disability was aggravated by war service, the applicant should receive generous consideration. Here let me pay a tribute to the administration of the Repatriation Department by the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) ; no honorable member will deny that the Minister’s administration of the War Pensions Act has been both efficient and sympathetic. Recently I discussed this proposal with men who take an active part in the affairs of the returned soldiers’ leagues in various States. I am a member of the council of the league in New South Wales, and at a recent meeting of the council, at which the motion was discussed, no member was in favour of it.
– Did the honorable member submit the terms of the motion to the council?
– I did. I also discussed it with the Federal executive of the returned soldiers’ leagues, and that body also expressed disapproval.
– Waa it an official debate, or merely a private discussion ?
– I am a member of the State Council, and the motion was discussed at the meeting in the ordinary course of business. When I was in Queensland recently, some members of the Queensland council discussed the proposal with me, and their attitude, too, was hostile.
– What are their objections?
– In its present terms the motion means that if ja returned soldier at any age develops disabilities he may declare that they are due to war service and claim . a pension. Assume that among the 300,000 members of the Australian Imperial Force were some who went sufficiently far from Australia to come within the qualification of having proceeded overseas, but were returned to Australia and discharged without having seen active service. If one of those men, later in life contracted rheumatism, tuberculosis, asthma, or any other of the ills to which human flesh is heir, without war service as a contributory cause, the mere fact that he had enlisted would qualify him for a pension. I do not think that that is the intention of the honorable member for Melbourne, but that is the effect of his motion. The returned soldiers want nothing more than a fair deal. They are again civilians and taxpayers, and they do not wish to constitute themselves a class apart, with a claim to become at any time a charge upon the community. For that reason I shall vote against the motion, although I hope the Minister will sympathetically consider the request that increased discretionary power be vested in the commissioners. The discussion of this motion in the last Parliament had a beneficial influence upon the Repatriation Department, and the accession to office of the present Minister for Defence was of further advantage to returned soldiers. If this debate will lead to the pensions administration becoming still more just it will not have been in vain.
.- I am somewhat puzzled by the speech of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). From his earlier remarks one would imagine that a very big percentage of the Australian Imperial Force were malingerers and crooks.
– I did not say a very big percentage.
– That was the tenor of the honorable member’s remarks.
– I did not make any such suggestion or imputation.
– The honorable member’s statements would lead one to believe that a substantial proportion of the Australian soldiers were malingerers.
– Not even a substantial proportion.
– I accept that qualification; nevertheless, the inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s speech was that a large number of men enlisted with fraudulent intent, and simply with a desire to get a free trip abroad. He must know that thousands of men enlisted with a bona fide intention to serve their country, and on troopships contracted meningitis, influenza, nervous troubles, and other disabilities which are the consequences of the concentration of large bodies of men in confined spaces. Through no fault of their own they were returned to Australia without having had service in the field. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) blew first hot and then cold. He asked that greater discretionary power should be vested in the Repatriation Commission, and then declared his intention to vote against the motion. This proposal, if carried, will be merely an expression of opinion by this House that the Government should liberalize its administration of the War Pensions Act along certain broad lines. To. take an extreme illustration, the mover does not intend that ex-soldiers who at 80 or 90 years of age contract rheumatism shall receive a pension.
– Under the terms of this motion they will be eligible for a pension.
– That is a hairsplitting interpretation of the motion. This motion is not a statute about the terminology of which lawyers may quibble. The Minister is acquainted with the intention of those who have spoken in support of the motion. I remind the House that it has been supported by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). In fact, with the exception of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), every honorable member who has spoken has affirmed his sympathy with the tenor of the motion, because it is merely an expression of opinion. I have no wish to criticize the administration of the Repatriation Department by the present Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse). Unlike his predecessors in that office, he has actually administered repatriation, and has done his utmost to liberalize the treatment accorded to soldiers and their dependants. I speak from experience. I had a case of a man whose eye had been blown out with shrapnel. He contracted tuberculosis, and died. I brought the matter before the predecessor of the present Minister, and the Repatriation Commission. I exploited every avenue that was open to me, but I could not obtain a pension for the widow. The present Minister, after examination of the files, and in the light of his military and medical experience, gave the case the benefit of the doubt. I had another case of a, man who was alleged to be suffering from syphilis. He had a wife and family, and was an eminently respectable citizen. He had lost his voice, and it was claimed that that was due to syphilitic infection. The department would not give him a pension. It was not until I pressed his claim that the department changed its mind. The medical opinion upon the case was divided, some doctors stating that the loss of his voice could not be attributed to the cause assigned, whilst others said that it could. The upshot was that he received a pension. Thanks are due to the honorable gentleman (Sir Neville Howse) who is administering the Repatriation Act for his sympathetic treatment. The fact that he is an emiment member of the medical profession and a soldier, has, no doubt, contributed in a marked degree to the improvements that have been effected. We can see the effects of his administration in the increased pensions vote. But it is intolerable that the welfare of war pensioners should be dependent upon the grace of an administrator. Unless this House directs the Government upon the matter it will be within the power of any successor to the present Minister to adopt the policy of his predecessor, who made no inquiry, but referred all matters to the Repatriation Commission, and accepted their report. We should not tolerate that. I want this House not only to direct the Minister and the Government, but, on behalf of the people of Australia, to affirm the principle that the promises which were made to those who went to the Great War should be honoured. It is absurd to place a technical interpretation upon a resolution of this House, which has no legal force. The Government can either ignore or accept it, or it can accept one portion and discard another. If this motion is defeated because of the technical objection of the honorable member for Richmond, it will practically amount to. the affirmation that the administration of the Repatriation Department ought not- to be liberalized. It was open to the honorable member for Richmond to move an amendment to the motion, but he neglected to do so. For three years I urged that there should be a change in the administration of the Repatriation Department. I advocated the appointment of a Minister to investigate grievances, and suggested that the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) should assume that responsibility. I had faith in him, because of his statements in this House. To allay the suspicion that exists in the minds of many honorable members that there are still injustices, we should dispense with the necessity for the constant bringing up of this matter in Parliament by the appointment of a small select committee to examine the files. When we have informed ourselves we can express our views in the light of the facts. No expense is involved. I admit that the present Minister has stretched many, of the regulations almost to breaking point to give soldiers and their dependants the benefit of any doubt, but I am not content to allow the matter to depend upon the discretion of any successor to the honorable gentleman. If we are to believe the rumours that have been published in the press he is likely to be superseded before very long. I should like to hear the views on this motion of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and other honorable members. Even though the existing administration, is an improvement upon the old, we have not. been able to correct two fundamental faults, the more pronounced of which , is the secrecy of the medical reports, which the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) makes one of the bases of his motion. Until recently the examining doctors furnished their reports to the commission, which declined to allow the soldier concerned to peruse them. A doctor might say that a man was suffering from syphilis, tuberculosis, or a hundred and one other complaints, yet that man would not be informed of the reason for the refusal of a pension. It could be said that his injury was not caused by war service, and he would not have an opportunity to refute that statement by submitting independent expert medical testimony. Why should a man’s future, and even his health, depend upon the caprice of a medical examiner 1 The unfortunate feature of the present position is that only those who nave had their claims pressed by members of Parliament have benefited from the improved administration. Hundreds of men are ignorant of the changed conditions, and they continue to suffer an injustice. Let us briefly analyse the motion. Paragraph 1 reads -
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.
Wo one will deny that the Defence authorities in Australia had the opportunity to exhaustively examine and test the physical fitness of every man who enlisted, not only at the time of his enlistment, but during a rigid course of training in camp before he left Australia, when physical defects, if they existed, ought to have manifested themselves. A man who subsequently turned out to be physically unfit should not be made to suffer because of the inefficiency or carelessness of those who examined him. Paragraph 2 reads -
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.
It is undeniable that the Defence Department had that opportunity. Paragraph 3 reads: -
That hardships of war make more acute and observable latent and obscure weaknesses.
Who will deny that that is a fact? The Minister for Defence has repeatedly stated, in both his private and ministerial capacity, that war service made every man more or less abnormal. Malnutri- tion and exposure to all forms of climatic rigour, as well as the bestiality and brutality associated with war, are bound to have an effect, if not upon a man’s physique, at least upon his nervous system and his constitution generally. Paragraph 4 reads -
That soldiers who are refused pensions are not permitted to see their files and are thus deprived of the opportunity where injustice is done to disprove the evidence upon which pensions, &c, have been refused.
Everyone should agree that it is absolutely wrong to deprive soldiers of the right of access to their files, and that it should not be tolerated for a moment. The motion continues - and, 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 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.
The purport of that is perfectly clear. The promises that were made to the men who went to the war had a moral, if not a legal, force. They were made by responsible Ministers of the Crown, and they should be honoured.
– They have been.
– In the main, they have been observed. We ask that they shall be observed to the fullest possible extent by a liberalization of the Repatriation Act. But let me continue. The honorable member for Melbourne asks that only those soldiers who actually went to the front and satisfactorily performed their allotted duties shall be given the benefit of the doubt. I presume that by “ the front “ the honorable member means service in the field. Furthermore, the soldier must have satisfactorily performed his allotted duties. That denies the benefit of this provision to mcn who have incurred disabilities through their own negligence or dissipation. The motion says that ex-soldiers .should not be refused their rights because of the views of existing medical experts; or, in other words, their physical condition should bo accepted as due to war service, in view of the fact that they were enlisted as fit.
Medical officers who examine them now should not be permitted to theorize as to whether their disability is attributable to pre-war causes. The talk about pre-war causes is absurd. The rigours of war service may cause a multiplicity of complaints. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) spoke of rheumatism. Is not exposure to sleet, snow, mud, filth, and cold likely to induce rheumatism! Will such conditions not sow the seeds of tuberculosis, which may germinate several years later? Is not asthma a complaint that may arise as a result of the strain and exposure of war? I cannot understand why any honorable member should object to this part of the motion. The last part of the motion simply says that the Repatriation Commission shall be granted discretionary power. That discretionary power will be exercised not arbitrarily by the commission, but by the Government. The commission must act under the policy laid down by the Government. The motion is perfectly innocuous; it is merely an expression of opinion, and is not binding. The Government ought to accept it, and every honorable member ought to support it. I hope the discussion will continue to be conducted, as it has been up to the present, in a non-party spirit, and with a recognition that the country’s obligation to returned soldiers during and after the war is even greater to-day. It would be interesting to know how many returned soldiers, have died since the war. Sixty thousand of our soldiers made the supreme sacrifice, and perhaps - I am merely assuming this figure - 20,000 of them have died since. The casualties in the Australian Imperial Force were porportionately greater than in any other army on the side of the Allies. One out of every three members of the Australian Imperial Force was incapacitated at one time or other from wounds, sickness, or other causes. In view of the continuous service that the Australian soldiers had to render, the utmost consideration should be given to them in the administration of the Repatriation Department.
– I have listened with great interest to the remarks about the ex-soldier. We do not call them ex-soldiers in this country, and we do not like a man who “ skites “ about his service. We know what the soldiers went through, and we desire to give them the best treatment possible. We do not like to see the ex-soldier, with a wife and family dependent upon him, drifting for want of support. If I were a returned soldier, before I would stand here and plead the cause of the ex-soldier, I would walk out. We say, “ Treat the soldiers well,” but we do not say, “Loaf on the people.” Never mind the exsoldier ; he was paid for his job, and paid pretty well for it, too. No soldier was better paid than the Australian soldier. People may condemn me for those words, but I am speaking the truth. The Australian soldier received more than I was paid as a navvy. He was an adventurer, and he received 6s. a day. He volunteered for the job, and I was one of the men who prevented him .from being compelled to enlist. The 350,000 Australian soldiers who went away from these shores - some of them were killed on Gallipoli - were paid by this country, and they went of their own free will. One of the proudest things that Australia ever did was the prevention of the forcible enlistment of men. No matter how the heads of some people may droop, our heads may rise, and we can still say that we are a free nation. We ought to give the men their pensions. A rotten injustice is being done to them. The Prime Minister and the other members are doing it. Returned soldiers with their wives and children are starving. Men who contracted tuberculosis have starved and died. If it is said that the disease was not tuberculosis, I reply, “ That is a lie.” A man who works and sleeps in the mud and wet for two or three years must contract tuberculosis. I urge the Minister to take a little care to find out where the fault lies.
– I wish to express my views on this motion, more particularly because it has been my fortune to act in the capacity of medical officer, and. to serve in- the ranks for a considerable period under active service conditions. With the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), I hope that this question will not be discussed in a party spirit, and I am glad that up to the present it has not been so discussed. I am amazed at the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.
Lambert), and particularly at his statements about the soldiers who are resting in Gallipoli having been well paid for their jobs. I do not wish to bandy words with that honorable member; I merely express my amazement at his attitude. 1 agree to a large . extent with the remarks of the honorable member for Reid. I compliment the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) on his desire to have this question brought to finality, and 1 agree with those honorable members who have expressed their appreciation of the administration of the present Minister. No words of eulogy can be unduly flattering in that connexion, but, at the same time, such an important matter should not depend entirely on the sympathetic administration of a Minister. Those who have approached the Minister have indusputably met with courtesy, and almost invariably the benefit of the doubt has been given to the soldier; but the time has arrived when a definite policy for the future should be laid down. The motion, however, is too comprehensive ; it needs to be crystallized. I wish to offer a few criticisms of its provisions. The first portion of it says : -
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 is not a statement of fact. Recruiting was carried on continuously, and for the most part, after the men who can rightly he termed “ the greatest surgeons and physicians,” had offered their services, and were employed in attending to the wounded and carrying out hospital duties in Australia and abroad.
– There were no wounded men when most of the recruits were examined in Melbourne.
– The honorable member for Melbourne will admit that not all the 350,000 men who went to the Front were recruited in one week. Recruiting went on continuously over a long period, and there was an early exodus of most of the leading surgeons and physicians of Australia to the seats of war. Even supposing that the. honorable member is right in his contention, he, as a medical man, knows that the exigencies of the times were such that those physicians and surgeons could not possibly have formed a correct estimate of the physical condition of each recruit. I was recruited, and joined as a private.’ Like hundreds of others, I was passed with only a cursory medical examination. No matter how desirable a thorough examination of the recruits might have been, circumstances made such an examination impossible. I do not know whether the Government had the assistance of the Health Department in determining whether volunteers were healthy or otherwise; but I am- sure that no body of medical men would care to stake their reputation on a prognosis as to the health of 1,000 civilians whom they had examined. The honorable member who has moved this motion would not be prepared to dogmatize regarding an epileptic having further fits, or whether he would reach a state of freedom from further attacks. Asthmatical cases, which have been referred to by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and mental cases are in a similar category. In Scotland, as a member of the Mental Board, I dealt with numerous mental cases; but I met no medical man who was prepared to dogmatize as to the exact cause of any mental affliction. That portion of the motion which provides that discretionary power should be allowed to the Minister should receive the unanimous support of honorable members. There is no doubt that pressure can be brought to bear upon Ministers who may not always be sympathetic towards pensioners. By granting to the Minister a discretionary power we should be doing something to alleviate the distress which the present arbitrary rules have caused. Paragraph 4 of the motion reads -
That soldiers who are refused pensions are not permitted to see their files and are thus deprived of the opportunity where injustice is done to disprove the evidence upon which pensions, &c., have been refused.
Those medical reports are not given hastily; they are the considered views of medical men who value their reputations. Although the reports are given in confidence to the department, I do not think that any honorable member would be refused permission to examine them in confidence.
– Permission is always granted in such instances; but the soldier himself is -not given the opportunity to see the medical report of his own ease.
– I am glad to have the assurance that no obstacle is placed in the way of an honorable member seeing the reports. In my opinion, the department is justified in refusing a soldier permission to see a medical report concerning himself. It would not always be to his advantage to know the reasons for withholding his pension. The case is sufficiently met by some responsible person having access to the files.
– Does the honorable member not think that a returned soldier should be granted at least the justice of a court of law ?
– I think that he is treated justly.
– He is not.
– Surely no one will suggest that this Parliament has not been generous in dealing with Australian soldiers. A comparison of the treatment meted out to returned soldiers by the parliaments of various countries makes one proud of the attitude adopted by Australia towards those of her men who served in the Great War. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond that the Government should not be compelled to adhere strictly to some of the promises made when impassioned appeals were made for recruits. At the same time, something should be done in the direction of confirming existing pensions. There is no need for pensioners to be compelled to attend from time to time before a medical board to give intimate details of their lives in order to obtain a review of their pensions. If, after the expiration of twelve years, a returned soldier is still entitled to a disability pension, it should be fair to assume that the disability from which he is suffering will remain with him always. I should like to see the pension system reviewed in that light, in order to obviate the necessity for individuals being compelled to appear before boards- from time to time for a reassessment of their pensions. Unfortunately, instances have occurred in which, because of a disagreement between medical practitioners, pensions have been refused, and hardship caused to the individuals concerned. I should like to see legislation or regulations introduced which would have the effect of confirming pensions in certain cases for life. I am not, however, prepared to support this motion in its entirety. It is fundamentally wrong in that it assumes that all recruits were scientifically examined by medical officers. In most cases, the medical examination was performed perfunctorily. It certainly was not a scientific examination. Much as I sympathize with returned soldiers, and desire to give effect to the wishes of various soldiers’ organizations with which I am closely in touch, I am unable to support this motion because of the false premises on which it is based.
Sitting suspended from 6.25 to8 p.m.
– Last year the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) moved a motion similar to that which he has submitted to-night, though it was not quite so definite. I spoke very fully to that motion, and supported my remarks with exhaustive data recorded by the Repatriation Department. I do not intend to-night to weary the House with a recapitulation of what I told it then. As the honorable member has said, this is a non-party matter; but as it affects so many of our ex-soldiers, it is essential that honorable members on both sides should know clearly where the Government stands in connexion with the administration of the Repatriation Act. The honorable member for Melbourne has asked the House to come to certain definite conclusions “in view of the facts.” Let me consider for a moment the wording of his motion. The statements in the first two paragraphs of the motion are not correct. The honorable member for Herbert showed quite clearly that the “ greatest surgeons and physicians “ were not available to conduct the examination of recruits.
– May I ask why!
– Because they were performing duties of far greater value. They were giving their services to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded, who even at an early period of the war were returning- from the Front. With regard to the third paragraph of the motion,” it is evident that “ latent and obscure weaknesses “ are rendered patent by hardship. That was demonstrated by the fact that 40,000 of those taken into camp in Australia were found after a certain amount of training to be unfit for service.
– The actual number left behind in Australia after enlistment was nearly 85,000.
– I say that there were 40,000 who, having been tried out, were found unfit to embark for the Front. With reference to the fourth paragraph of the motion, much has been said about the refusal to show to soldiers files relating to their claims. This matter was considered by the Royal Commission on the Assessment of War Service Disabilities, which reported on the 22nd December, 1924, and that body reported definitely that it is inadvisable under any conditions to make files, which contain confidential communications of medical men and also of other officers of the department, available for inspection by the men to whom they refer. But if the honorable gentleman will remember, the definite promise was given by me that the contents of the files would always be explained to the applicant, and to his nominee, and also to any member of this House, and, further, that to assist applicants for pensions, an officer competent to discuss the files would be placed at the service of the member or nominee of the soldier wishing to know the contents. There has never been any attempt whatever to hide the contents of “these files from members of this House.
– Not during the honorable member’s regime.
– I cannot speak now about what took place prior to my regime. There are reasons which should be obvious to every thinking man why these files should not be exposed for public inspection. The honorable member for Melbourne knows perfectly .well that no matter how a medical examination is carried out, and even though it be made by “leading surgeons or physicians,” it is impossible to discover the presence of certain diseases. I ask the honorable member to calmly reflect upon certain data which I gave last year in dealing with his original motion. Take epilepsy.
– How many suffered from that disease?
-It is well known that men who were anxious to go to the war hid in the most masterly way every disability from which they were suffering, and that those who did not want to go to the war took the opposite course and magnified in every possible way the disabilities from which they were suffering. I mention this to illustrate the difficulty of dealing with a large class of cases. The honorable member asks how many suffering from epilepsy went on service. The records show that 374 went on service overseas and 277 were returned without seeing any service at all. Then take those who suffered from mental trouble - I mean those who showed distinct evidence of mental disturbance or mental disability, men -who were not normal in their outlook or in their habits. Five hundred and ninety-one of these went on service and 261 were returned without seeing active service. Of those who suffered from asthma, another disease which cannot be detected by examination, 589 saw service and 241 did not. If we add to these the number who suffered from rheumatism, honorable members will realize how difficult it is to detect disease by examination. It is well known to those connected with insurance companies that it is doubtful whether the medical examination, or the form which the individual who wishes to be assured fills up, furnishes the more valuable guide to his healthiness. Here we have concrete evidence of the great value of the report which the individual signs himself. It is quite clear that, however careful the examination of recruits might have been, the diseases to which I have referred could not have been detected. I say, from my own knowledge, that many of the men who suffered from these diseases went abroad knowing that they were unfit for service. However commendable that might have been in the individuals concerned, these men were the cause of very great trouble after they got to the other side. They had to be housed, and had to be provided with transport accommodation for the return to Australia. There were nearly 20,000 men who went overseas who were found, on examination in Egypt or in England, to be unfit for service at the Front.
– Does the honorable gentleman refer to those who suffered, from rheumatism?
– To the men suffering from all the different kinds of disease to which I have referred. Probably the worst man you could have at the Front is one who is not physically fit for service. Such a man is not only a danger to himself, but a menace to the comrades with whom he is serving. The honorable member for Melbourne, from the “ facts “ which he mentions in his motion, adduces certain definite propositions to which he suggests the Government should give effect, and subsequent speakers suggested that, if we carry out our promise to the soldiers, they would be given definite treatment in the light of their present disabilities. The honorable member suggests that - no soldier should be refused any right 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.
That is to say, a man’s disability prior to the war, no matter what it might be, must be left out of consideration in the assessment of pensions. Well, if that be the wish of the House, the Government could deal with the matter on those lines; but I, for one, whilst in charge of the department, have no intention of recommending it to do so. Since I took over the department, there is no recommendation I have made that the Cabinet has not accepted. I am a member of a Government that is responsible to the people for the proper expenditure of the public funds. Possessing nearly nine years of service with the Australian forces, I think that I have some right to claim to have sympathy with my pals who served with me in the two wars in which Australia has taken part during my life time.
– No one questions that.
– It was extraordinary to hear a logical man like the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman)use the expression, “ This is a matter of no importance whatever.” According to the honorable member the “ facts “ which the honorable member for Melbourne has placed before the House are- so obvious that he cannot believe any honorable member will vote against the motion. I, on the contrary, cannot believe one member of the House will vote for it. It seems to me incredible that any member should vote for the motion as it stands. The motion reads -
That all men who offered their lives, and passed the above scientific examination-
A scientific examination was not made -
– I think it was.
– should be considered perfectly healthy men from that date.
No one knows better than the honorable member that, however much he or I or much abler men might examine men, we could not say positively, “ This is an absolutely healthy individual.”
– Did not the Government accept responsibility for saying that in regard to them ?
– That is a different matter. One is unable to say definitely that a man is healthy or unhealthy, because there is no means of detecting certain diseases such as those to which I have referred, which would be magnified or increased by war service.
– The honorable gentleman refers to a total of 20,000 men returned without service, out of over 300,000 who went to the front.
– The honorable member asks that discretion should be allowed to the Repatriation Commissioner to give a pension to every returned man who suffers from any disease between now and until the hour of his death, if his service was satisfactory. Let me show what this would mean. It would mean that if an ex-soldier became deaf, at 70 or 80 years of age, he would be entitled to a pension, as if he became deaf from war service at 25 years of age. If the good God does not call any of us away by some sudden stroke, such as a motor car accident, we shall all be able, with the assistance of the honorable member for Melbourne, to make claims on the pension fund. I should like to remind honorable members that already there are approximately 72,000 ex-soldiers receiving war pensions. Taking into consideration those who died on service and those who have died from the effects of the war since returning to Australia, there are about 242,000 who would he eligible for pensions under this motion. The proposal is not open to reasonable consideration. If the honorable member for Melbourne will look seriously at the meaning of the words of the motion, he himself will recognize that it is impossible for the Government to accept his suggestion. I should like to call the attention of the House to the principle upon which pensions are granted. It is quite clear that there can he only one definite principle - that pensions shall be paid to men suffering from disabilities due to the service rendered to their country, or to diseases that have been aggravated by such service. It is only on that principle that we can determine the amount of disability from which any man suffers. The difficulty in the administration of pensions is due to some extent to- the amendment of the act in 1921. That amendment was known as the “Aggravation Act.” The 1921 amendment act spoke of “ war service having contributed to any material degree to death or incapacity.” Now, the word “material” is absolutely impossible to construe, and in administering the department, the Commissioners and I myself found it necessary to define what it meant. It is essential that there should be a definite standard applicable, and applied in exactly the same manner in each State. It has, therefore, been decided to define that word by a set of instructions to all State branches. I. admit that this is a-n extraordinary procedure, hut when we recognize that the Repatriation Act has, at the desire of the Government, been stretched practically beyond recognition to meet every class of disability from which the returned men arc suffering, it will be seen that an instruction to define “ material aggravation “ will greatly assist the administration, not only of today, but also of the future. It has now been laid down that where a preenlistwent disablement has been aggravated to the extent of 25 per cent, or over it shall he regarded as having been materially aggravated. What is more, the instruction has been issued that, so far as possible, the examining officers shall give returned men the” benefit of any doubt as to the time of origin of a disability. If it is not reasonably certain that1 a disability existed before . enlistment, it will not be ascribed to pre-war troubles. There is no act in any other part of the world that equals the Australian Repatriation Act in liberality.
– Will the Minister furnish an epitome of the Repatriation Acts of other countries, so that honorable members may investigate his statement.
– I should be delighted to do so.
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) affirms that the Canadian Act is, if anything, better than our own.
– I believe that the acts of other countries do contain specific provisions which are better than some of those in the Australian Repatriation Act, but although other legislation may be better in one or two details, that does not prove that the Australian Repatriation Act is, on the whole, less favorable to returned men. Any honorable member who cares to examine the details and benefits of our act will find that it is immeasurably superior to similar acts of other countries. The action of the Government in defining “material aggravation” will be of great assistance in further liberalizing the administration of the act. I have had charge of repatriation for about eighteen months, and, during that time, have conformed with the wish of the Government by examining every file to which my personal attention has been directed by applicants for pensions, or the dependants of soldiers, or by members of this Parliament. I have come to the conclusion that no amendment of the act that I might suggest to the Government would improve its administration. I have submitted to the Government certain recommendations for the benefit of the returned men, and every one of them have been put into effect, and the greatest step that we have made since dealing with tubercular cases has been the defining of the word “material” in respect of the socalled Aggravation Act of 1921.
– Have the alterations been the result of the Minister’s own executive act, or have the regulations under the act been altered ?
– They have been the result of the hypothesis on which the Commissioners have been working for the past year, and in order to assist medical and other officers connected with repatriation they have, with the consent of the Government, been disseminated through the different States. Honorable members have spoken of what will occur in the event of the death of the present administrator of the department, whom they have been eulogizing since this discussion began. I would inform them that it would not make the slightest difference if I ceased to administer the department to-morrow.
– God forgive the honorable the Minister for saying so!
– I have laid down in conversation and also in writing what I believe to be the desire of the Government.
– That has not a binding force.
– There is really no legal authority for much of the relief that we are giving. The .act has been stretched beyond all recognition. No lawyer or barrister would be able to support on legal grounds much of the action that I have taken under the act. This, has been done in order to carry out the wish of the Government that the act should be administered on the most liberal scale. As I have said previously, the Government has not refused any suggestion that I have made to improve the conditions of the men with whom I served for five years in the late war.
– The Minister served not as a private, but as a medical man.
– Surely the honorable member does not imply by that interjection that I do not know the life of the men who fought in the war ?
– I know that the medical man is kept in the background, and does not go to the front line, except on rare occasions.
– We all know that that is wrong.
– What extraordinary knowledge the honorable member for Melbourne has of the front line !
– The statement of the honorable member for Melbourne is certainly not a fact.
– I landed at Gallipoli at 7.23 a.m. on Sunday, 25th April, 1915, and I left it the night before the evacuation in December of that year. We all lived there under the same conditions, except that the trenches were very often much safer than the background to which the honorable member has referred.
– On the average, it was a safe spot as compared with the front line.
– In a “ hop-over “ the doctor went with the men very often.
– I lived on Gallipoli for nine months, and during that time I made every effort to find safe spots. I should have been quite prepared to put any one else out of a spot if I thought that it was safer than the one that I had myself. It was only natural that we should look for a decent “ possy.” I never found one, and I am afraid that my comrades were as unfortunate as I was in that respect. I had also an opportunity to see the front lines in various parts of France and of Italy.
– Those places were very different from Gallipoli.
– There have been persistent requests from honorable members to liberalize the conditions of the Repatriation Act. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), and indeed, honorable members from both sides of the House, have made representations to me - I was nearly saying that they have pestered me - in and out of season in respect of returned men. I have tried to meet their requests as far as possible. To support my statement that pensions have been liberalized at the request of the Government, I may say that to-day in making up the estimates for next year, I found that there must be an increase on the expenditure of last year of £250,000 for war pensions, notwithstanding that while I have been administering the department a number of returned men have unfortunately died, widows have re-married, and children have reached adolescence. If the act had been administered harshly, as has been suggested in this House, surely there would be a decrease in the expenditure.
– I do not think that any one would suggest that the act has been administered harshly under the Minister’s administration.
– Honorable members have spoken much too kindly of my work. I shall have to inform the Government that I shall expect a further increase next year, and that I do not expect the . peak expenditure until 1929- 1930. I shall be surprised if the pensions do not amount to nearly £8,000,000 at the end of that period.
– What is the amount now ?
– About £7,200;000.
– Why does the Minister, expect 1929-30 .to be the peak year?
– Because the effect of the policy to give the returned men the benefit of the doubtwill not be fully felt until that year.
– The money will go into circulation again.
– I would as soon have it spent by ex-soldiers as by any one else. The honorable member will recognize that this money is being expended in a good cause, and for the benefit of the country. I should like to point out that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) recently introduced to me a deputation relating to returned men, and that the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) has been most persistent in reference to widows.’ The Government has decided that widows who were being paid a pension, of £1 3s. 6d. per week, or, if they had dependants, £2 2s., shall be sure of an income of not less than £2 2s. Thus, under the act, a soldier’s widow receives a minimum of £1 3s. 6d. per week, and the Repatriation Commission has discretionary power to increase the rate up to £2 2s. per week where the widow has dependent children or where her circumstances are such that, in the opinion of the Commission, an increase from £1 3s. 6d. is justified. In all cases where the widow has a dependent child or children, the practice has been, and is, to grant the £2 2s. maximum, inclusive of the pension of the child or children. It is found in some cases that when the child reaches the age of sixteen years, and. therefore, automatically loses his or her pension, some hardship is thrown on the widow. The whole question has been thoroughly considered, and it has been decided that war widows without dependent children shall receive as pensions either the £1 3s. 6d. per week minimum provided under the act, or such larger amount as will, together with the widows’ other income, if any, ensure to her a total income of £2 2s. per week. Consideration has also been given to soldiers’ widows who, by re-marriage, have forfeited their pension, which, under the present regulation, continues for only two years after re-marriage. Some of the widows have married a second, and even a third time, and the Government has decided that a soldier’s widow whose pension has been cancelled because of her remarriage may receive a living allowance if she is without adequate means of support after the death of her second, or subsequent husband. I am afraid that some honorable members get obsessions about certain “cases. One instance is the Woods case, in which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has taken a very great interest. I am very “riad when any honorable member takes a definite and personal interest in a claim which he believes to be just, and I have uo doubt that the honorable member for Forrest, in pressing the claim of Mr. Woods, honestly believes that that man is entitled to a pension. I have already reviewed the case four times, and the Medical Advisory Board, which consists of two of the best surgeons, and two of the leading physicians in Melbourne, has also considered it repeatedly. We can find no connexion whatever between Woods’ pre-war disability and that which he has since developed; therefore, his case, does not come within the category of claims to which the motion refers. In Woods’ case, which has now become almost a classic in the department, I have gone to the extent of asking an independent surgeon of repute in Melbourne to say whether he could find any possible connexion between the pre-war disability and that which Woods now suffers. I” took that action, first, because of the insistence of the honorable member for Forrest, and, secondly, because some medical doubt was expressed in the file. I assure the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) that in every instance in which there is a medical doubt, I call for further reports, in the hope that reasonable grounds will be discovered for the payment of the claim. No one recognizes more fully than I do that certain promises were made to the soldiers before they proceeded to the war, and I can honestly say that every promise made by the Government has been fulfilled in its entirety.
– There must remain a doubt in Woods’ case, because medical men in Western Australia disagree from the views expressed by the physicians and surgeons in Melbourne.
– It is the desire of every honorable member, whatever his party allegiance, that the Government shall fulfil in letter and spirit the promises made to our soldiers, and I conscientiously believe, as a result of my observations during eighteen months’ administration of the department, that every such undertaking is being honoured.
– Not on your life! The department stands condemned by such things as the collection of £4,000 in Adelaide for tubercular soldiers.
– The Government and the Parliament have been generous in excess of their promises. We have the most liberal Repatriation Act in the world, and, in administering it, the Government has stretched its provisions to the utmost. Therefore, I do not believe that one individual, who has applied to me directly or through honorable members, is being penalized for the services he rendered to his country. Other men, I know, hold other views. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), for instance, said, in an interesting speech on this subject a few days ago, that if he were a dictator he would make provision for life for every man who went on active service and afterwards developed a disability which rendered him unable to earn a livelihood for himself and family.
– The Minister was interrupted in his statement of the Woods case.
– I was saying that the Woods case is an illustration of my statement that when there is any medical doubt, an effort is made to’ discover, if possible, a balance of medical evidence in favour of the claim. The policy of the department is that the benefit of any ‘ doubt shall be given to the applicant or his dependants. In that respect Australia is more generous to its soldiers than any other country. The Repatriation Department even becomes counsel for the soldier or his dependants. An instance of that is a case that received attention recently. A man who returned from the war in 1918 died in a mental asylum in 1924. after having been an inmate for only three weeks. The pension of the dependants had been reduced, because there was no evidence that the soldier had experienced any mental dis turbance or undergone strenuous service at the front which would have been likely to render him mentally unstable. But recognizing that the department must act as counsel in the case, I instructed that a search be made for evidence of abnormality in the man between his return in 1918 and his death in 1924. After much search we established the fact that the man had been abnormal in many ways. At one time a genial man, he had after his return from abroad become morose; he showed a moral slackness which had not been in evidence before he went to the war, and had become a heavy drinker. Every man who associated with him declared that he bore no resemblance to the man who went on active service. That evidence, I considered, sufficient to warrant the granting of a pension to his widow and child. I was surprised to hear to-day from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) criticism which indicated that he believes that some men are not yet getting a square deal from the Repatriation Department. I do not believe there is one officer, medical or clerical, who has any desire to administer the act other than in the liberal way it has been operated during the last year, and I assure the House that I do not know of any amendment of the law that is necessary to enable justice to be done to the comrades with whom I served for eight years.
.- The Minister for Defence spoke as if he were a member of the legal profession rather than of the medical profession. His arguments were based mainly on legal technicalities. It is true that some diseases and physical weaknesses are difficult to diagnose, but I remind the House that men’s fitness for military service was not determined by the mere examination at such places as the Melbourne Town Hall. Recruits were drafted, into the camps, where, from day to day, they were under the observation of the medical officers of the department. The Minister for Defence did not mention that fact. He said, unkindly, that the statements contained in paragraph 1 and 2 of the motion are not true. I challenge him to supply the House with a list of medical men who offered to examine the recruits, and if he dares to say that they did not include the best physicians and surgeons in Melbourne, he will not bo telling the truth. Will he deny the eminence in the medical profession of the late Mr. O’Hara and Mr. Stirling. If he does deny those statements he will not be telling the truth.
– Order I The honorable member must not suggest that the Minister would not tell the truth.
– I do not suggest that the Minister would, with a full knowledge of the facts, tell a lie ; no one loves him more than I do, because of all Ministers who have controlled the Departments of Defence and Repatriation, I have found him most ready to keep faith when he promises to inquire into any case that is brought under his notice. One honorable member made an unkind reference to the promises which were held out to those who enlisted. I was a member of the State enlistment committee, in Victoria, and was the only man who remained on that body from the beginning to the end of its operations. Captain Dyett will verify that statement. I can, therefore, speak with authority regarding the promises which were made. Any person who will deny that promises were made from the enlistment platforms must be a disciple of Baron Munchausen. The Minister (Sir Neville Howse) said that no man had been penalized. I interjected, “ Will you say that no woman has been penalized?” Has not the wife of the Rev. Mr. Ronald had her pension reduced because, as a result of my efforts, the executors of the late Robert Harper are paying her £50 a year? Is it not a fact that four sons of that unfortunate woman exposed their breasts to the enemy, and that she had to give up her home? Will the Minister deny that the widow of Gunner Perry has been refused a pension? I am filled with indignation when I think of those medical men who gave evidence that Perry was a malingerer.
– Dog does not eat dog, surely!
– One took money from both sides. I remember the medical students being lined up to listen to the evidence of the great neurologist of Melbourne in that case. Honorable members ought to have seen the expression on the face of Dr. Sewell when he was asked by Mr. Woolf , “ Have I to congratulate you, doctor, upon taking money from both sides?” Gunner Perry was re-employed by the Defence Department in Brisbane on an enlisting campaign. He persuaded some foolish girl, in the excitement of the campaign, to marry him, although he was already married. He posed as a captain in the army. That poor woman discovered a letter from . Perry’s real wife. He gave her a hiding, and she disappeared, and has not since been heard of. Gunner Perry also subsequently disappeared, and his pension has never since been claimed. Honorable members have been told of the glories of the Repatriation Department. Will the Minister deny that that department stopped the pension of Perry’s real wife because she could not produce her husband, dead or alive? Is that an honour to the department? The Minister knows that I am telling the truth. The Defence Department has a branch in every State. Why can it not institute inquiries to ascertain whether Perry is still alive? I have not brought this forward as a party matter, but I accuse the Minister of having attempted to introduce the party aspect.
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– The great United States of America has taken action which supports my contention that no illness of a soldier should be dated prior to the time when he offered his services in defence pf his country. Had the Government not opposed the motion, this beloved Australia of ours would have been in the van in making that provision. The Minister claimed that Australia was ahead of other countries in its repatriation provisions. Has he an epitome of the act of other nations? Does he know that in America a soldier could be insured for £2,000 upon payment of a premium equal to that charged in Melbourne for an insurance of £250? I ask honorable members to accept my assurance that this is not a party question. I would close my lips for ever if any one could prove that party considerations weighed with me when I introduced it. I ask the House to follow the lead of the United States of America by saying that every man who passed the inspection which was carried out by the most eminent surgeons and physicians in Melbourne shall be regarded as having been a healthy man at that date.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 22
– You cheered them when they went away and you cheered them when they came home, but you will not now compensate them for their injuries.
– Order ! The honorable member for Adelaide will be named if he does not remain quiet.
– You cannot name him, Mr. Speaker; his head is not covered.
– This is a disgrace to every man of you opposite. If there had been no war, many of you would not be here ; yet you decline to honour -the promises that you made to the soldiers.
– Order !
– They sacrificed their health, their limbs, even their lives, but you will not do anything for them, although you are willing to pay 5 per cent, and 6 per cent, for the money that the country borrowed to carry on the war.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I call the attention of the House to what occurred during the taking of the division just recorded. The proceedings were distinctly disorderly, and out of keeping with the dignity that should be observed in the conduct of this Parliament. During the actual telling of a division the Speaker is practically powerless; but if there is any repetition of such disorder I shall report the matter to the House when the voting has been announced, and, acting in accordance with the Standing Orders, shall ask the Prime Minister to take action.
– You ought to be blind to the incident.
– I refuse to be blind to anything that lowers the dignity of this Parliament.
– And what about the honorable members who are blind to the interests of the soldiers?
– Honorable members had an opportunity to discuss the merits of the question, and to continue that discussion during the division was distinctly disorderly.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. In saying what I did during the division, I had no desire to take advantage of you, sir. I did not, in fact, know that I was then not amenable to your ruling; but I felt that a protest against the vote cast by some honorable members should be made by some one who felt the responsibility of the nation to the diggers. I was one of the diggers, and I know what they endured and suffered. I know, also, what they were promised. My protest was made against the action of those honorable members who, while praising the valour and sacrifices made by our soldiers, voted as they did in the division just taken. I was not trying to take you at a disadvantage. If I offered any affront to you, I humbly apologize for having mistakenly done so; but I have no regrets, and nothing to retract, in connexion with my protest against the vote just recorded.
– I wish to point out that the strictures which you, sir, thought fit to pass on the conduct of honorable members immediately at the close of the last division were general in character, and nothing will appear in Hansard to indicate that your observations had reference to any particular individual. They will read as a reflection upon the House, and, as I was quite unusually docile at that time, I ask you to state what you took exception to, and what were the objectionable words used.
– The answer to the honorable member is to be found in the fact that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr.Yates) has made a statement in which he has indicated very clearly his view of the proceedings.
Tariff Board Reports - Cotton Production and ‘Manufacture - Telegraph Messengers - Telephone Directory Advertisements - Maribyrnong Monitions Factories.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I wish to draw attention to what I regard as a serious state of affairs in connexion with the presentation of reports by the Tariff Board. I shall deal particularly with the report relating to the application for a bounty on cotton yarn; but I have no doubt that my -remarks will have a general application to other reports of the board. To-day the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) presented a report from the board relating to a bounty on cotton yarn. On examining that report I find that public inquiries into the matter were held by the board in Sydney on the 24th February, 1925, and on the 4th March, 1925. Fourteen months have elapsed since the inquiry was started. The delay was not due to the board not presenting its report, for the report discloses that it was presented to the Government on the 20th July of last year. It has been in the hands of the Minister or the Government for ten months, and only after repeated applications had been made by honorable members was it tabled to-day, and ordered to be printed. I enter a vigorous and emphatic protest against the unreasonable delay. The report shows clearly that 40,000 people could be employed in this industry, and it states that in the opinion of the Tariff Board a bounty of 6d. per. lb. on cotton lint should be paid for the manufacture of cotton yarn in Australia. Yet the Minister, who prides himself in public upon supporting a policy intended to encourage and develop Australian industries, has for ten months declined to make this report available to the Parliament and the people of this country. The report is signed by G. E. Hudson, chairman, Tariff Board; Herbert Brookes, member, Tariff Board ; Walter Leitch, member, Tariff Board; and David Masterton, member, Tariff Board. The withholding of it for ten months by the Government demands an explanation. Honorable members should support my demand for an explanation, whether they endorse the recommendation or not. Many matters which affect honorable members in the Ministerial corner have been considered by the Tariff Board, and what would those honorable members say if the Government withheld a report in which the Tariff Board recommended a decrease of duties? It is the duty of the Minister to present such reports to the Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity. I have been informed by an authority that is fairly reliable that this is not the only report presented to the Government by the Tariff Board on this matter. I leave it to the Minister to say whether that statement is correct. When Iknow that the report tabled to-day has been withheld for ten months, I have an uneasy feeling that the Minister may be withholding other reports because the publication of them would not suit the policy of the Government. The Government should be frank with honorable members on these matters, and whether a report by the Tariff Board is favorable or otherwise, it should be presented to the Parliament immediately. The report was in the hands of the Government prior to the last election, but for political purposes it was deliberately withheld from Parliament. Was that because” the Government was afraid to face the issue which it raised ? During the period which elapsed between the submission of this report to the Government by the Tariff Board and its presentation to Parliament 50 other matters were dealt with by the Tariff Board. Irrespective of its effect, the reportshould have been presented, to Parliament prior to the last election. To withhold it was unfair to Australian industries and to this Parliament. The House is entitled to an explanation from the Minister.
.- I think that I shall be able to set honorable members’ minds at ease in this matter. If the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has followed closely the publications of the Tariff Board, he will remember that the board’s report for the year ended 30th June, 1925 - I speak from memory - contained some reference to the payment of a bounty on cotton. He will also admit that, until yesterday, no request that this report be placed on the table of the House was made, and, further, that immediately the request was made, it was acceded to. The honorable member is correct in saying that this report is dated 20th July, 1925. At that time there was some conjecture as to the possibility of a new tariff schedule being introduced. There was also some agitation in Queensland in connexion with cotton-growing. The Tariff Board made a dual recommendation - first, that there should be a bounty of 6d. per lb. on cotton yarn, and, secondly, that a deferred duty of 20 per cent. British, 30 per cent, intermediate, and 35 per cent, general should be imposed. As one whose interest in, and support of, Australian industries, has never been questioned, I dealt with the whole of the Tariff Board’s reports, and introduced a tariff schedule which was laid upon the table of the House on the 2nd September, 1925. That schedule provided for substantial and adequate duties on many articles made from cotton yarn. The result was that the only firm which at the time was making cotton yarn benefited considerably. When time permitted, I again referred certain aspects of this matter to the Tariff Board. I can assure the honorable member for Dalley that no further report on this matter is in my hands.
– Is it correct that the Tariff Board on three occasions reported in favour of this bounty ?
– So far as I know, no other report on this- question has been completed by the Tariff Board. I agree that Australian industries should be fostered ; but we should ask ourselves whether an Australian industry is in any way prejudiced by the non-acceptance by the Government of the Tariff Board’s report recommending the payment of a bounty on cotton yarn. Recently, this House passed a deferred duty upon cotton yarn, to come into operation on the 1st January next if, after further investigation and report by the Tariff Board, it is found that a substantial advance in the manufacture of cotton yarn has taken place in Australia. As a good protectionist, I prefer Customs duties and permanent protection to bounties and the temporary, assistance that they give. After a close study of . the textile trade and of the incidence of textile duties, I have come to the conclusion that, the sane method of building up our textile industries is the imposition of tariff duties rather than the granting of bounties. I know of several firms which are considering the manufacture in Australia of cotton yarn because of the duty which it is proposed shall operate at an early date. Had time permitted, I think that I could have obtained additional evidence of the same nature. Even honorable members opposite will admit that a good start means a great deal - that if we start on right lines we are likely to delevop aright. The delay in considering this bounty has prejudiced no one. The firm which would have benefited has, since the duties were laid on the table, and particularly since they have been passed by this House, raised a large amount of additional capital; the issue was over-subscribed. Its shares have risen in value, and substantial developments in the way of additional buildings and machinery have been made.
– That is not putting the position fairly.
– I hope so, and that every firm in Australia which has sufficient enterprise to expend its capital in acquiring further buildings and land and installing additional machinery to develop the textile industry will be successful. I believe they will. I put these facts to show that they have not been prejudiced by any action of the Government. On the contrary, the action of the Government, in imposing, with the acquiescence of this House, a deferred duty upon cotton yarn will place the industry in a better position. There was another reason which guided me in the action taken. For some months an investigation has been going on in connexion with the growing of cotton in Queensland. I desire to have, at no distant date, further inquiries made into cotton manufacture in Australia from our own cotton. I have previously said that, great as the development has been, during the last nine months particularly, we are only half way yet towards making our own requirements in clothing of wool and cotton. The Government will not hang up the consideration of this matter. I have said that, so far as I can see, the firm referred to has not been prejudiced by our action. The facts I have mentioned show that development is taking place.
– The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that it is in a different branch of the firm’s business.
– I know perfectly well that this particular firm, by the action of this House in passing certain duties, has been benefited as much as any firm in any other part of Australia. I have no wish to stress that aspect of the matter, but I must put the position as I see it. We must build up the great cotton industry from its base. Irrevocably bound up with it is the growth of cotton in Australia. I believe that if I were to propose a bounty on cotton yarn, only if manufactured from cotton grown in Australia, honorable members opposite would regard such a proposal sympathetically. The proprietors of the mills referred to who made application for a bounty on cotton yarn informed me that, if it were confined to yarn made from cotton grown in” Australia, it would be of no use to them. Honorable members will see the difficulty of the position, and that no one has been prejudiced by the action I have taken.
– The honorable gentleman overlooks the three reports by the Tariff Board.
– Surely my honorable friends opposite do not desire that I should be merely an automaton and should not fairly examine every proposal on its merits. I am sure there is nothing further from their minds than that, as a responsible Minister, I should accept any and every report submitted to me from the department. I have covered the ground traversed by the honorable member for Dalley. So far as I can see I have done the business-like thing, considering the views I hold regarding the development of the cotton industry. I believe that the action taken will lead to the development of the manufacture of cotton in the Commonwealth in a substantial way. I have said that the development of this textile industry should begin at the base. It should proceed from the raw material to the yarn, and from the yarn to the finished article. That is the Government policy in the matter, and I believe it has the support of honorable members.
– The Minister has evaded the question raised by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). He has been, for nearly ten months, in possession of a report by the Tariff Board and has failed to lay it before the House, although, under the act, reports by the board must be tabled within seven days of their presentation.
– That refers to the annual report of the Tariff Board.
– No ; any report by the Tariff Board. The Minister sidesteps the complaint of the honorable member for Dalley by not replying to it. The Tariff Board’s reports should he tabled by the honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member is referring to the annual report of the Tariff Board.
– I am referring to all reports from that board. A former Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Massy Greene) gave an assurance to a certain firm that, if it manufactured cotton goods, it would receive a bounty. That firm had the enterprise and courage to build a large factory, and import the latest machinery for the manufacture of cotton goods. It has, unfortunately, had to carry a loss of £50,000 a year in its effort to conduct this industry. The Minister has said that the firm is doing very well, but that is in connexion with a hosiery branch by which it is making up its loss on the manufacture of cotton goods. The Government has misled this firm. The Tariff Board went into the question fully, and reported to the Minister that any firm manufacturing cotton goods, and using 50 per cent, of Australiangrown cotton, should receive a bounty of 6d. per lb. The Minister says that he does not believe in establishing industries with bounties, but I remind him that the iron and steel industry was established in this country with a bounty, and, during the war, supplied steel rails and steel for other purposes.
– I said that I preferred duties to bounties.
– The wool tops industry was established by a bounty of so much per lb. on all wool turned into wool tops. That industry is now employing a large number of hands, and supplying an article which Australia requires. “We have in this country the cotton-growing industry. Some of the finest cotton in the world is grown in parts of Queensland. A great deal of cotton is being planted, and yet we send our cotton abroad to be manufactured into cotton goods upon which a duty is imposed when they arrive here. I do not wonder that the Minister for Trade and Customs should desire’ to continue that state of affairs, because it brings in revenue to the Government. We should look at this question from a national stand-point. The firm referred to is prepared to establish factories in every State, but no firm would be justified in erecting factories and installing expensive plant without a Government guarantee of a bounty on all cotton goods produced. The value of the cotton goods imported into the Commonwealth runs into millions of pounds, and one of the greatest industries that could be established here would be one for their manufacture. I believe that the Minister is earnest in his often expressed desire that we should manufacture what we require in Australia. If he came down with a proposal for a bounty on all manufactured cotton yarn, this House would carry it, because honorable members know that there is a large market for the article in the Commonwealth. The Government proposes to spend thousands of pounds on bringing immigrants to Australia, but there is no use in doing so unless we can find employmen): for them. So long as we import all the cotton goods Ave require, the cotton manufacturing industry will not provide employment for them. The firm which has been referred to has been loyal to the promise of the former Minister for Trade and Customs, and I understand that the Tariff Board on three different occasions reported in favour of a bounty on cotton yarn manufactured in Australia.
– Only once to my knowledge.
– The Tariff Board has so reported on three occasions. It is not a political body, but one that reports in accordance with the facts submitted to it. What would an . expenditure of £50,000 be if it led to the establishment of an industry that would give employment to thousands, of people for all time? Honorable members know that once the cotton manufacturing industry got upon its feet, it would extend in all directions. I take my hat off to those who have established the industry in Australia. They ‘are pioneers, and should be given every encouragement. They might transfer their works to India, or some other cheap labour country, and make their cotton goods abroad. We know that it is the ambition of the firm to establish the industry here, and yet we find the Minister for Trade and Customs keeping hidden for ten months a report by the Tariff Board recommending a bounty of 6d. per lb. on cotton yarn manufactured in Australia. I do not wish to be hard on the Minister, but he has not treated the House fairly in this matter. The firm referred to has invested a great deal of money in the industry. It has erected a great factory, and imported up-to-date and expensive machinery, but has been given no encouragement by the Government. This is disheartening. I would remind honorable members that “ hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” I am sure that this firm regrets that it has engaged in the industry, since the p.omise of a former Minister for Trade and Customs has not been carried out. I ask the Minister to reconsider the posi- tion and to give some encouragement to this industry, so that it may subsequently provide employment for thousands of our people under fair and reasonable conditions.
.- I desire to draw the attention of the Government to the second report of the Commonwealth Public Service Commission for 1926. One paragraph in that report reads : -
The method of appointing telegraph messengers in capital cities has also been under view by the board. Hitherto, except in the Sydney metropolitan area, these appointments have been made from competitive examinations; but in that city for some years past, owing to the shortage of candidates for the ordinary examinations, appointments have been made by personal selection, subject to the standard of education reached by applicants being at least equal to that required for entrance’ to the service in this position. The experience of the past four years of the system of selective appointment, as opposed to competitive examinations, has resulted in a distinct improvement in the type of lad entering the service us telegraph messenger at Sydney; and the board has subsequently decided to extend the system to other capital cities, thus ensuring a wider field of selection and enabling demands for permanent staff and temporary assistance to be met with greater expedition, while obviating expense and labour in holding examinations in the metropolitan areas.
This is a very important matter, and I have taken the earliest opportunity to bring it under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. It has always been the practice to hold competitive examinations in connexion with appointments to the Public Service. This gives an opportunity to every lad, if his parents so desire, to sit for an examination, and if successful, to enter the Service when a vacancy occurs. An opportunity is thus given, more particularly to boys of poor parents to enter the Service. Under the system of selective appointment as now adopted by the Commissioners, it is possible that only boys with a certain amount of influence will be appointed. I submit that the Commissioners in deviating from the method of appointment which has been in operation for years are acting contrary to the spirit of the Public Service Act, and it will have difficulty in justifying its action. If the selective system is to operate in the capital cities, it will not be long before it will apply to the whole of the Service. A large number of boys who apply for appointments to’ the Postal Department live in country districts, and naturally their parents desire them to obtain appointments close to their homes rather than in the city. I realize that in some cases it is difficult to obtain positions owing to the Government’s policy of giving preference to returned soldiers, to which of course I do not object. Some parents cannot afford to send their children to the University to attain a high standard of education and therefore they desire them to sit for an examination for entrance to the Public Service. If the Commissioners are allowed to select boys for appointment, many of those who are willing to sit for an examination will never have an opportunity of entering the Service. The selective system is a most dangerous practice, because it puts in the hands of the Commissioners a power that will operate against the best interests of the community. It is news to me that there has been a scarcity of applicants for examination even in Sydney. I do not doubt the commission’s statement, although usually there are many boys offering for examination. I believe that there is a longlist of boys awaiting appointment in country districts. I can quite understand that, because the remuneration that the boys receive when they first enter the service is very small, and if appointed to the city, their salary is not sufficient to cover the cost of board. For that reason their parents desire them to obtain positions close to their homes. I very much doubt whether the boys that are selected by the commission are of a better type than those who pass examinations. If there is any difference between them it should be in favour of those who have reached a higher standard of education, and are thus able to pass an examination. I regret that the commissioners have adopted the selective system of appointment, and I trust that the Minister will not approve of it.
– The matter raised by the Leader .of the Opposition is very serious. So far as I can sec the system of selective appointment is a distinct violation of the Public Service Act, which distinctly lays it down that no person shall be admitted to the Commonwealth Service unless he is a natural born or naturalized British subject, and unless he has successfully passed the prescribed entrance examination.
– Surely the commissioners cannot override an act of Parliament !
– Apparently they have not hesitated to do so. We are very proud of the principle of competitive examination in respect of the Public Service, and I do not think that any honorable member or any member of the community will approve of a departure from that principle. I hope that the Minister will nip this innovation in the bud, and- prevent a grave injustice from being perpetrated against many of our lads who. though they may be possessed of more brains than those appointed under the selective system, would, through lack of influence, be debarred from entering the Public Service on their merits,I believe that at least 80 per cent, of the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department have entered the Public Service as telegraph messengers. I should like to know what attitude the PostmasterGeneral is taking on this matter. I have every reason to believe that he does not approve of the selective system as adopted by the Public Service Commissioners, in appointing telegraph messengers in the metropolitan areas. It is a pernicious system, and any attempt to continue it will meet with our vigorous and strenuous opposition. I wish to refer the Postmaster-General to the system under which the new telephone directory is being issued. I am particularly concerned with this matter because of its effect on those living in country districts. I understand that district directories are an innovation. I have no objection to the principle upon which they were inaugurated, but a pernicious system is being introduced which is doing great injustice to traders in country towns.For instance, the Riverina telephone directory is filled with advertisements by city firms. The revenue of the telephone system in that district is contributed by the local traders; but the Postmaster-General is selling the space in the directory to city firms, who are thus enabled to attract business away from district houses. A protest has been made against this policy by -one section of country traders, and the reply of the Postmaster-General was not altogether sympathetic. In one communication which has reached me the Riverina traders express the opinion that not only are these advertisements an injustice to them; but, if they are allowed to continue, the book will before long be filled with Sydney advertisements, thus destroying the simplicity of a publication designed for the convenience of subscribers, and not as a mediumfor advertising. A petition sent to the Government asks that the telephone directories be kept free of all advertisements. The Postmaster-General belongs to a party that professes to believe in decentralization, but this policy of letting the advertising space in district directories to city firms must have the very opposite effect. The Government should encourage the building up of country businesses. The disabilities of rural districts are heavy enough without this further handicap. It is all very well for the Minister to justify this policy on the ground that advertisements produce revenue.
– I do not think I said that.
– I think that was stated in the reply I received from the Minister. If the department calls for tenders” for this advertising space, would it not be fair to give a preference to local business people?
– I am glad to have that assurance.
– If all the space is not occupied by local advertisements, the honorable member will not object to it being sold to city merchants.
– The policy of advertising in telephone directories is wrong. The book is for the convenience of subscribers ; it is not primarily an advertising medium.
– Does the honorable member know of any local business men whose applications for this space have been refused ?
– I do not know that they have ever been offered any preference.
– If they want to use the space, they should have first preference at the same rates as are charged to city people.
– I go further than that, and say that as this is essentially a district directory, the local business people have first claim upon the space.
– The directory should not be an advertising medium at all.
– That is the contention of some Riverina traders who have written to me. I hope that after further consideration, the Minister will give a favorable reply to the representations I have made to him on this subject.
, - I hope that the reply of the Minister for Defence to a question I asked yesterday, regarding the progress of works at Maribyrnong is not final. Winter is a bad time of the year to dispense with the services of workmen, and a Government which controls an overflowing Treasury, cannot justify the dismissal of men by
Baying that there is a shortage of funds in the current financial year for certain public works. I plead with the Minister for Defence to request the Treasurer to provide funds foc the continuance of the works at Maribyrnong. Although they are in my electorate, many of the men employed upon them are not electors of Maribyrnong. ‘ These Commonwealth factories are Australia’s arsenal, and if honorable members have not inspected the works already established, and those now in progress, they will be much enlightened by a visit to them. The establishment of munition works for the defence of Australia is not a party question. The Labour party is strongly favorable to the construction of munition factories so that in time of war Australia may be able to rely upon its own resources.
– These factories will have to be transferred to Canberra.
– If honorable members will inspect the permanent works that have been carried out at Maribyrnong under the supervision of Mr. Leighton, who is one of the ablest scientists in Australia, they will realize that the transfer of these activities to Canberra would be a shameful waste of money. The Public Accounts Committee reported as follows : -
But if this scheme is to function as planned, adherence to the construction programme is essential. Almost two years of the period have now expired, and the progress in this direction has been disappointing. In view of the serious consequences which might arise from delay, the committee considers it imperative that special efforts should be made by the Department of Works and Railways to expedite the munitions supply works. In point of magnitude and’ cost these works represent only a small percentage of the total works requirements of the Commonwealth, yet the importance is immeasurable. If a definite assurance can be given that the constructional work shall be bo accelerated during the current financial year that the programme can Teach the point originally contemplated for 30th June, 1925, the committee recommends that the Works Appropriation for the financial year 1924-5 should be increased to enable the deficiency to be made good, and the new works arranged for that year to be commenced’.
I understand that the money allotted for the erection of buildings for the manu- Facture of munitions on last year’s Estimates has been exhausted. If one thing is necessary in connexion with our public works it is continuity of operations. I am sorry if lack of funds has caused staffs to be disbanded, plants to be dismantled, and a large number of men to be dismissed. I earnestly plead for the provision of additional funds so that the men may be re-employed in the work of constructing these factories, to enable them to turn out the munitions that are essential for purposes of defence.
.- I protest against the action of the Public Service Board of Commissioners in dispensing with the competitive examination for telegraph messengers. That action will have a serious effect upon the Service. The commissioners are adopting the wrong means for coping with the shortage of entrants. The real trouble is that the conditions under which telegraph messengers are employed are not made sufficiently attractive. If that is remedied a sufficient number of» candidates will present themselves for examination. The annual salary at present is £40 per annum. Private firms in the capital cities that are carrying on messenger services offer from £1 to £1 5s. a week to lads who have just left school. It is not likely, therefore, that lads will accept employment from the Commonwealth at a salary of 15s. a week, when more remunerative employment is offering outside. Twenty years ago the salary was fixed at 10s. a week, and ten years later it was increased to 15s. a week. The adoption of the policy of selection is likely to lead to the employment of lads whose educational qualifications will not fit them to pass the subsequent examination for permanent employment, and after three or four years they will be dismissed at an age when neither an apprenticeship nor a profession will be open to them. The Government and the Public Service Board will be guilty of a criminal act if they induce lads to enter the Public Service between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years, and subsequently dismiss them because they cannot pass an examination qualifying them for permanent employment. In the past the telegraph messengers’ examination attracted a very fine type of lad. The majority sprang from working class parents, who could not continue their education after they had reached the age of fourteen years. Being anxious to enter the Public Service, those lads were content to undertake, for a few years, the duties of telegraph messenger. If a lad is capable of passing a competitive examination at the age of fourteen years, there is every likelihood that he will continue his studies and take an interest in the technical branches of the Service. The only way to get over the difficulty is to offer more attractive rates of pay and better conditions of employment. Twenty years ago the lads who passed the competitive examination for employment as telegraph messengers were not given a meal hour. They were expected to snatch a sandwich, or a piece of cake, and carry on their work ; but, as the result of representations and the aggressiveness of many of the boys who afterwards made good in the Service, those times have gone. But there is still much to be done in improving the conditions of telegraph messengers and other juniors in the Commonwealth Service. I remind honorable members that Mr. Massey, the late Prime Minister of New Zealand, was at one time a telegraph messenger. These lads do not enter the Service with the idea of continuing to carry a bag through life ; they take the only opportunity available to them to enter it. Subsequently many of them embark upon a professional career in the electrical engineering department. The Government could very well afford to give these lads every encouragement. If private firms can afford to pay boys engaged in dispatch work 25s. a week, surely it is not too much to expect the Government to do the. same. I heartily endorse the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition, and I trust that we pka.ll have some definite statement from the Minister in connexion with this matter. I protest again against the policy of the Government in dispensing with competitive examinations. We want to encourage the best boys to enter the Public Service. There is only one way iri which we can achieve this object, and that is by giving them reasonable treatment and not paying them miserable wages.
. [10.281. - I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) have misunderstood the position. If they will look at the report of the Public Service Commissioner they will find this statement -
The method of appointing telegraph messengers in capital cities has also been under review by the board. Hitherto, except in the
Sydney metropolitan area, these appointments have “been made from competitive examinations; but in that city for some years pa*i, owing to the shortage of candidates for the ordinary examinations, appointments have been made by personal selection, subject to the standard of education reached by applicants being at least equal to that required for entrance to the Service in this position.
It will be seen that the standard of education of boys entering the Service by selection is equal to that of boys entering, as previously, by competitive examination. In some of the capital cities, we have been unable to get sufficient boys to enter for these examinations, and had it not been for the report of the Public Service Board this matter would not have come under notice. The main avenue of entry to the postal service is as telegraph messenger, and it is very desirable that a good type of boy should be procured. In country districts, the competitive entrance examination still stands, and I fail to see how, under the conditions which now obtain, any injustice is being done to boys desirous of entering the Service. These boys necessarily have to pass an examination before reaching the age of eighteen years to qualify for advancement, and at that stage what honorable members themselves suggest actually takes place., i.e., merit is recognized, and promotion is by merit and not by selection. One of the reasons why we find it difficult to maintain a sufficient staff of boys is that commercial houses choose lads for their offices by selection, and many of our smart telegraph lads, when out on their runs, are picked out as smart boy3 and offered employment by city houses. Lads entering the Service start with a salary of somewhere about £75, and on reaching manhood are receiving in the vicinity of £200 per annum. One of the great advantages enjoyed by the boys is the fact that, in capital cities, there are postal institutes which, for an annual subscription of 5s., afford these boys an opportunity to educate themselves for any of the Postal Department’s activities. The Post Office is desirous of getting the best lads possible, and I see no reason why the class of lad we have been getting should not still be available under the system indicated in the report to which I have referred. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) referred also to the advertising in our telephone directories^ The Postal
Department is a huge commercial con-, cern, and both Parliament and people expect that it shall pay its way. Up till recently, we were practically the only administration in the world that was not using the telephone directory for advertising. The system has now been in operation for eighteen months, and this is thefirst time objection has been raised against it. The advertising has been so arranged that it does not in any way interfere with the usefulness of the publication to telephone users. So far as the country directories are concerned, the advertising is an innovation, and country business people have not been so quick as city firms to recognize its value as an advertising medium. Country business people have the same rights to the advertising space as those in the city, and the business people in the town, to which the honorable member for Hume refers, now have an opportunity to put their motto, “ To boost our own town,” into operation in the telephone directory which circulates in their district. I should like to make it clear that the advertising business is in the hands of a private contractor. At the same time, I do not lose sight of the fact that thisadvertising is a source of revenue to the Department. The telephone directory, published half-yearly in - Sydney, contains 220 tons of paper, and costs a considerable sum of money. The Post Office is expected to be carried on as a commercial concern. Although we have suffered an annual reduction in postal revenue of over £1,000,000, due to lower rates, have to observe arbitration awards, to which we do not object, and, in addition, have to find interest on £17,000,000, we have been able to square the ledger,
. -I am not at all satisfied with the explanation of the Minister. If private business firms can attract lads from the Commonwealth Service the conditions of employment in the Post Office should be improved. Unless the competitive examination is restored we shall have patronage in the Public Service, with all its attendant abuses. The Minister has not answered one objection raised on this side of the House. The Post Office to-day is a big centralizing concern, which is being used in the interestsof the big city firms. It is idle for the Minister to say that country interests, have an equal chance to advertise in the telephone directories. The big city firms get the advertisements. It is evident that the country interests are not being canvassed, or they would have been represented in the advertisements. The function of the Postal Department is to give service to the people; it should not be run on strictly commerciallines.
– Service at any price?
– No; but the department should not be a big centralizing and debt-collecting agency. If large business firms in Melbourne, Sydney, or Adelaide send out parcels of the value of. more than £5, the department collects the money owing on them.
– All commercial houses can avail themselves of the same privilege.
– That, again, is a quibble. The Minister knows that few business houses in the country can take advantage of the system ; they have not theorganization to enable them to do so. All large city concerns have departments organized for the country trade. The Postal Department has constituted itself a debt-collecting agency for the big business man. I have raised my voice in protest on this subject before. If the Post Office is to be managed to make a profit in any circumstances, it may as well go back to private ownership. Those controlling it do not seem to take into consideration the fact that their first duty is to render service to the public; they stretch out their hands to grab’ every activity that will show a profit.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 May 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260527_reps_10_113/>.