6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported : Enemy Contracts Annulment Bill.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1913-14. Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1913-14.
Enlistment: Medical Examination:
Deaths at Broadmeadows Camp : Conduct of Contractors : Alleged Friction in Australian Hospital : Accommodation for Wounded Soldiers : Transfer of Camp to Seymour: Supply of Nurses.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether it is correct, as stated in the press, that, in view of the number of men offering themselves as recruits, instructions have been issued to tighten up the medical examination?
– The statement, as put, is not correct. Owing to a number of soldiers having been returned from Egypt, who obviously should not have been allowed to pass the medical examination, it has been tightened up, so as to prevent men being passed into the Forces who ought not, for medical reasons, to be accepted.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been called to a statement made in another branch of the Legislature last night, to the effect that a large number of men had died at Broadmeadows camp within a very recent period; if so, whether such statement is correct; and if it is not correct, does he intend to take steps to prosecute those responsible for making the statement ?
– The statements only came under my notice this morning, and at once I issued instructions for a comprehensive report to be supplied as to the amount of sickness, and also the number of deaths. That report has notyet been handed to me, but I am informed by theofficers of the Department that there has been gross exaggeration, as they know from personal knowledge. If the statements are inaccurate we shall, because of their exaggerated nature, prosecute those who were responsible for publishing them.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - I ask the Minister of Defence the following questions : -
– Reports have been received in each of these cases, and,as a result, Goode, Durrant, and Company have been struck off the list of contractors eligible to supply the Department. In the case of Sandover and Company, the Chief Examiner has asked that further reference should be had to the inspectors in Western Australia before he makes a recommendation. That has been done, but we have not yet received a further report.
– Has the Minister of Defence noticed in to-day’s Age a statement affirming that a good deal of friction exists in the Australian Hospital at the front; and that, as a consequence, it is said that -
Its efficiency is certainly suffering owing to the very regrettable friction which has existed between those in command and the bulk of the medical officers, by whom the greatest dissatisfaction is felt at the general conduct of the hospital. On one occasion forty of the men sent in separate requests to be transferred to another unit - which requests were, it is alleged, ignored.
Has he seen that report, and, if so, has he any information to affirm or disprove it?
– I have seen the report.I may say that I was informed that such statements hadbeen made, and I suggested to my informants that the officers, if any, who made the complaints should forward them to HeadQuarters, as they are entitled to do, in the ordinary way. No such complaints have reached Head-Quarters through the ordinary channel. It must be remembered that these are not Permanent officers, but medical men who have volunteered their services, and are under no obligation to their superior officers. If they are not being fairly treated they have the right, under the regulations, to forward a protest to Head-Quarters, and to the Minister. If they have any grievance they should avail themselves of that opportunity. In my opinion, it is not right that they should write to persons in Australia making such complaints, and expect the Department here to take up the matter. If any such officers feel that they have a grievance, it is their place to take up the matter in the proper way, and send on their complaints to HeadQuarters here for rectification. No such complaint has been received by us from any medical officer in Egypt.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence if it is a fact that a considerable number of wounded soldiers from the front will shortly be landing in Australia, and, if so, what steps have been taken to provide accommodation and medical and nursing attendance for them on their arrival?
– It is a fact that wounded soldiers are expected to arrive in Australia at some time in the future. No date has yet been fixed. Steps are being taken to obtain suitable premises throughout the Commonwealth, and also to provide the necessary nursing and medical staff to attend to these wounded soldiers, so that they may receive proper treatment. I shall be glad to make a detailed statement later, when certain propositions have been submitted to me. But at present we are merely inquiring into the most suitable places at our disposal, and I am not, therefore, in a position to make such a statement now.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether it is a fact that he has determined to transfer the troops at Broadmeadows to a camp at Seymour, and, if so, when the transfer will take place ?
– The instruction has been issued to temporarily transfer the troops from Broadmeadows to Seymour. I cannot say when the transfer will be carried out, but. it will be at the earliest practical moment. In the meantime, engineering officers are inquiring into the matter, with a view to determining whether Broadmeadows can be made a habitable camp for the winter. When that question has been decided we will settle whether the camp shall be permanently shifted to Seymour or some other suitable place, or whether the men shall be returned to Broadmeadows.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether any difficulty has been experienced in securing a sufficient number of nurses to accompany the troops who have already left Australia for the front, and, if any such difficulty has been encountered, what steps are being taken to overcome it?
– No such difficulty has been experienced. The number of applicants is far in excess of those required.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs inform the Senate as to the length of term for which Dr. Wade has been engaged, the amount of his salary, and the allowance, if any, being paid to him?
– As the honorable senator was good enough to tell me that he intended to ask these questions, I am able to answer them. The salary of Dr. Wade is £1,300 per annum, with a living allowance of £100 per annum, while the term for which he is engaged is two years from the 1st April, 1915, with a right of renewal for twelve months if the Government so desire on terms to he arranged.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether he has any information to communicate in reference to the adoption or otherwise of new and up-to-date steel cars on the transcontinental railway]
– In reply to a question put by the honorable senator upon this matter some time ago, I have received the following information from the Department of Home Affairs : -
With reference to the inquiry of Senator McDougnll in the Senate on the 29th ultimo, as to whether consideration is being given to the question of using steel instead of wood in the construction of railway ears for the Commonwealth railways, I desire to inform you that it is proposed to introduce all-steel carriages for the express trainson the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway.
Report of the Committee of Public Accounts on the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, presented by Senator Bakhap.
Ordered to be printed.
Reports of the Public Works Committee on the proposed increased output of the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, and the proposed sewerage scheme for Flinders Naval Base, presented by Senator Keating.
– I ask the
Minister of Defence whether he has obtained any report in connexion with the case to which I referred a few weeks ago - a case in which different punishment was meted out to an officer from that inflicted upon a sergeant for the same offence ?
– When the honorable senator spoke upon this question he stated that the officer had been exonerated, although the Commandant had expressed the opinion that he ought not to have been. I at once called for the papers relating to the matter, and they are now before me. They set out the finding of the court of inquiry in regard to the three officers concerned. That finding has been forwarded by the Commandant, who expresses no opinion upon it. It was forwarded by him on the 9th March last. On the 13th April of this year he reported -
With reference to D.C.R. 42/1/30, of 9th ultimo, on the above subject, I have to report that the proceedings of court of inquiry have been received, and the result in each case is exoneration from the charges laid. In consequence of the finding of the court, the officers concerned have been released from arrest and suspension, and returned to duty.
It will be seen, therefore, that that communication contains no expression of opinion on the part of the Commandant himself. Senator McDougall, in speaking on this matter, did not mention the names of the officers-
– I did not think it would be fair to do so.
– That is the reason why I have not done so.
– Will the Minister call for another return of the papers connected with this matter? I am in possession of the papers which have been forwarded to me, and there are more of them than are to be found on the Minister’s file. That is, I think, proof of the accuracy of my former statement. The charge was withdrawn.
– I will inquire whether there are any other papers bearing on the question. But I would point out to the honorable senator that the charge was not withdrawn.
– Did not he withdraw it from the court martial?
– No. On the 9th March the Commandant reported -
I have to report for your information that a court of inquiry, under provisions of C.M.R. 414, is at present sitting to inquire into charges made against -
Then follow the names of the officers concerned. The Commandant proceeded that . a certain officer– has been placed in ‘‘open arrest” - and that two other officers– have been suspended from duty pending hearing of charges.
On the 13th April the Commandant forwarded the finding of the court which I have already read, and which sets out that the officers concerned had been released from suspension, and had returned to duty.
– I have other papers which I will bring forward.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - How is it that other people can obtain papers which are supposed to be official and which are not made available to us 1
– I do not know.
The following papers were presented : -
Electoral Act 1902-1911.- Joint Electoral Rolls in Tasmania. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 76.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired under, at -
Booroomba, Federal Territory - For
Federal Capital purposes.
Chatswood, New South Wales - For De fence purposes.
Eucolo Creek, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1912. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1915, No.54.
War, European : Correspondence between His Majesty’s Government and the United States Ambassador respecting the treatment of prisoners of war and interned civilians in the United Kingdom and Germany respectively.
Censorshipof War News.
– I have received an intimationfrom Senator Millen that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senatein order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The exercise of the censorship in connexion with matters arising out of the war.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 10 a.m. to-morrow.
I have taken this step in order to draw attend on to what I can only regard as a serious misuse of those powers of censorship which are, of course, necessary today while this country is in a state of war. I do not want for one moment to decry, or to say anything that would suggest that censorship is not necessary. Any one who gives casual consideration to the matter will recognise that there must be censorship, but censorship is intended toprevent the publication and dissemination of news which might in any way prove of assistance to the enemy. It was never intended that the powers of censorship should be used for the purpose of suppressing criticism of administration, unless it could be shown that such discussion would in some way prejudice our case in the war. Now, having said that, may I point out that it seems to be the duty of every citizen, ifhe has a suggestion to make, or criticism to offer, to do so, if by that act he can increase the efficiency of this country in its conduct of the war. I anticipate that the Government will say that if there has been suppression of discussion the responsibility is not theirs, but that it rests upon the censors. I anticipate that, but nevertheless I think I can show to the Senate that statements submitted to the press, and which were suppressed, could by no stretch of the imagination be regarded as detrimental to the public interests of Australia. Before proceeding further, I would like to direct the attention of honorable senators to the following statement, which appeared in a leading article in a recent issue of the Times -
We do not mean that there should be any party attack on the Government; but there is abundant need of watchful and candid criticism. The duty of helping the Government, laid down at the beginning of the war and loyally discharged, does not mean that their conduct of the war is exempt from a searching criticism. Nor have they claimed any immunity of the kind. Well-directed and wellintentioned criticism is, or should be, a help, not a hindrance, to them in the discharge of their tremendous responsibilities. There is need of it now, for the business of producing war materiel - which is making war at home -has been badly bungled, and we have no assurance that the position is realized even now, or that the necessary steps have been taken to make good the discreditable failure thathas already occurred through lack of foresight and an intelligent grasp of the problem.
That sums up the position, and it is in conformity with the position as therein described that I have decided to direct attention to matters which I consider of the greatest magnitude. I refer to the fact that the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow is not working up to its fullest capacity, and I would remind the Senate that some time ago the Minister, when I put the question to him as to whether the censors were exercising their powers with a view to suppressing criticism of the administration, answered in effect, I think, that if any censor so acted he would discharge him from his position. Now I will take that statement, and show that not only have the censors suppressed criticism, but they have done so as the result of interference by the Minister himself. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not mean to say that they have done so by direction of the Minister, but as the result of action taken by the Minister, leading them to interpret their duties more strictly. On 13th August la. st. I furnished to four newspapers - two Sydney and two Melbourne dailies - a statement concerning the possibility of working a second shift at Lithgow. In that statement I referred to the proposal made by the State Premiers to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in despatching skilled mechanics to England to assist there in the manufacture of munitions of war, and I proceeded to show how paradoxical it was that we should be sending skilled mechanics to England to engage in the manufacture of munitions when we were able to work our own factory only one shift. I suggested that it would be much more in accordance with common sense that we should endeavour to work a second shift here rather than send the men away to be engaged in a similar occupation in the Mother Country. In addition, I drew attention to the statement that the Premiers had decided to place at the disposal of the Commonwealth all the resources of their engineering shops. This, as I showed, would mean that the works at Eveleigh, in New South Wales, and Newport, in Victoria, as well as similar establishments in the other States, would be available for this work. I suggested also that it should be possible for the Administration, after nine months of war, to organize a second shift at the factory at Lithgow. That statement was passed by the censors, and immediately after the Minister took some action to draw their attention, as I think was disclosed by a reply he gave to a question of mine on the subject, to the original instructions issued at the outbreak of the war. Now, that action taken by the Minister had direct reference to matters connected with the Small Arms Factory. It is clear that the censors interpreted the interposition of the Minister as meaning that no reference was to be made to the second shift at the Small Arms Factory. Evidently feeling that they had been re- buked for passing the original statement, the censors then proceeded to interpret their instructions literally, because when the Minister submitted to the press a reply to the statement, it was temporarily held up by them until reference was made to the Minister himself. That difficulty was overcome, and then, when I ventured to submit a rejoinder to the Minister, it was censored. I want to read that statement to the Senate, and before I do so, I venture to say that not a single member of the Senate will agree that there was the slightest necessity for censorship in connexion with it. The statement I prepared was as follows -
I am extremely disappointed with Senator Pearce’s observations regarding my recent statement ;is to the practicability of organizing n second shift for the Small Arms Factory.
Senator .Pearce practically asks the public to take it for granted that everything is being done that is possible, and with a view to discounting criticism, speaks of the undesirability of supplying information to the enemy.
This is not a question of supplying information to the enemy, but of making additional rifles to be used against them. 1 should be only too willing to refrain from further reference to the matter but for its overshadowing importance. Every day’s cables from Great Britain emphasize - and latterly in very pointed language - the need for additional munitions. Senator Pearce admits this need, and yet the fact remains that with all the resources of Australia to draw upon, and after nine months of war, the Lithgow Factory is working with only a single shift.
This fact speaks for itself, and it is not to be concealed by phrases of mysterious import.
I have made ample inquiries justifying my original assertion that a second shift can he organized, and indeed should have been at work long ago. Holding that opinion, I should have failed in an obvious duty if I had not directed attention to the failure of those responsible to utilize the resources of the Small Arms Factory to the fullest extent.
That statement was censored in Sydney when submitted to both papers, which were willing to publish it.
– Is that the whole of it?
– Yes; and the whole of it was censored. The censors did not take out an objectionable phrase or paragraph, but prohibited its publication altogether. Seeing that the censors had allowed to be published a much more detailed and lengthy statement of mine a few days before, it is reasonable to assume that they suppressed the second statement because of the action taken by the Minister in the meanwhile. Perhaps the Minister did not intend them to in- terpret his instructions as they did, but because of his interposition they applied to the second statement a rule and standard which they did not apply to the first. I am willing to leave the Senate to judge whether a public service has been rendered by censoring such a. statement as I have just read. Let me direct attention to what has appeared in the press day after day recently. We have been told with repeated frequency during the last three or four weeks of the shortage of. munitions at Home. These statements came, not from irresponsible press writers, but from the heads themselves. In March last Lord Kitchener arranged a meeting with the representatives of the more important trade unions associated with the manufacture of munitions of war. ‘According to the Times, he said -
I can only say that the supply of war materiel at the present moment, and for the next two or three months, is causing me very serious anxiety. He wished the workmen to realize that it was absolutely essential, not only that the arrears in the deliveries of our munitions should be wiped off, but that the output of every round of ammunition was of the utmost importance.
Commenting on this, the Times said -
Lord Kitchener tells us that, although the manufacturers of munitions of war have been working at “ the highest possible pressure,” the output does not only not equal our necessities, but does not fulfil expectations.
That was a plain statement that all the factories working at Home did not meet the necessities of the situation. I ask honorable senators to contrast that statement with the simple effort I made, making no reference to a shortage, but merely appealing for an increase in the output. The Times went on to say -
In other words, wo are delayed in putting our new armies in the field, and in bringing the war to a successful termination, because we cannot get arms, ammunition, and equipment fast enough.
I have a whole mass of quotations of that type, and honorable senators must have been struck with the continuity of the complaints about the shortage of munitions at Home. The curious thing is that all these complaints have been directed against the workmen. In every case an effort has been made to show that it is the workmen who are at fault, and our censors have made no protest against these criticisms of the action of the workmen in failing to deliver a full supply.
– The Old Country newspapers put a different face on that matter, and show that the employers are just as much to blame.
– Many of the newspapers, including the Times, have insisted that the blame must not be charged to the workmen. Apparently our censors have determined that the enemy may be informed through our press, as often as people like, as to the shortage .of munitions, provided that it is shown that the fault lies with the workmen; but when, any one attempts to show how to increase the output, and that the failure rests with the administration, and not with the workmen, the censor sees a public danger, and prohibits publication. To show the freedom allowed at Home in publishing criticisms as to the supply of munitions, let me remind the Senate of two other statements. Mr. Lloyd George, in his interview with the members of a number of trades, about; the same time as the Kitchener interview, told the men -
The increase of output is so essential to us where we have to turn out munitions of war, not merely for ourselves, but to help our Allies.
There was a clear statement that the Allies were not in a position to supply their own needs, and that Great Britain had therefore to help them. Contrast that statement passed by the British censors and by ours with my expression of regret that the Lithgow Small Arms Factory was not being utilized to its fullest extent. Which of the two statements is more deserving of being censored? Admiral Jellicoe not long since informed the people of Great Britain that owing to the delay in overhauling his patrol boats his patrol service was rendered inefficient. He saw no danger in pointing OUt that the eyes and ears of his Fleet were made useless because of this delay, and our censors passed his statement, seeing no harm in it; but when one criticises the Administration here for not pushing on with the work of producing rifles they suddenly see a big public danger. Sir John French, equally candid, has on more than one occasion told the people of Great Britain that their success depended on an increased supply of munitions. He has made many statements of the kind. He said -
The problem it sets out is a comparatively simple one - munitions, more munitions, always more munitions.
About the same time, the Times declared that the action of the men and officers was up to the best traditions of the Army but that they were robbed of success by being short of ammunition. All that was passed by the censors. In yesterday morning’s paper appeared a statement attributed to the Bishop of Pretoria. It is worth reading, to show what the censors pass as compared with what they censor, and also as the personal observations of a man who has just come back from the front. He said -
The troops think that the nation is not backing them up as it could and should. They feci that the ignorance and apathy at Home arc needlessly increasing their danger of losses.
After fighting desperately day and night for weeks with frightful losses, the nien, dog tired, are yet sent back to the firing line after three days’ rest. They naturally conclude that there are not enough troops available. Battalion after battalion in the Ypres salient had to sit in the trenches and be pounded by the German high explosives with no guns capable of keeping down the German fire.
The men naturally conclude that the nation has failed to provide sufficient guns and ammunition. Similarly they find the Germans ready to answer every British bomb with five or ten bombs. The troops know that it is little short of murder to ask mcn, however full of fight and spirit, to face an enemy amply equipped with big guns and the right ammunition unless they are equipped with equally effective munitions.
There was a detailed statement of a deplorable deficiency, but the censors saw no objection to it. Was there, then, the slightest justification for censoring my statement, which did not suggest that we were unable to do our share in the war by turning out rifles, and made no reference to a shortage, but simply affirmed the desirability, which no one will dispute, that it is our bounden duty to take every action we can to increase our supplies of men and munitions as fast as possible? Before making my last quotation I had intended to refer to a statement made during the course of a lecture by a very distinguished member of the community in Victoria, namely, Sir John Madden. If there was one thing- on which instructions had been given to exercise censorship, unless those instructions have been very much modified during the last few months, it was in reference to particulars as to the size and number of guns. Yet the censors saw no objection to Sir John Madden telling the people, through the press, that -
When he was in England they had managed to turn out a new type of very powerful gun, thirty-eight of which had been sent to the
Continent, against which no forts in the world could stand, and that when the Allies reached the Rhine the German forts would not count for much against the artillery waiting for the use of the Allies.
One of the surprises of the war to our armies fighting in Europe was the extremely powerful artillery that the Germans managed to bring to the front at a very early period. If a country has a surprise packet of that description for the enemy, the mere fact that it is a surprise has a considerable moral effect upon the. enemy; and how the censors could pass a statement of this kind, which is open to grave challenge, I cannot see. They must have been in a hypercritical frame of mind when they ran the blue pencil through the statement that I endeavoured to bring before the public. This is the case I put before honorable senators, and I challenge any one who gives fair consideration to my statement to say that there was any reason for censoring it. Compared with the statements made in Great Britain that I have read, mine was as water is to wine. No one could pretend that there was anything in it that could give information to the enemy, and be likely to injure the public interest. The only matter which stands out in marked distinction in it, as compared with the other statements that I have read, is that, while the others reflect on the action of working men in Great Britain, mine reflected on the administration, and the moment there was a suggestion of the administration being at fault the censorship came into action. I bring this matter forward not so much with the idea of finding fault with what has been done, as to prevent any repetition of it. It seems to me clear that the censors have been unable to understand their duty, or instructions have been given that should be recalled. I do not believe that a Democracy will tolerate anything in the nature of a “ gag “ upon one single phrase or letter beyond what may be necessary in the public interest, or any suggestion that the censorship should be used in order to shelter the administration from public criticism.
– Your colleagues applied the “ gag “ very forcibly in the other Chamber.
– No “gag” could stop my honorable friend ; but even he, in spite of his interjection, must approve of the statement that there should be no attempt made in this Chamber to defend any effort to save any individual, no matter how high his position may be, from that criticism which failure in the discharge of his responsibilities justly calls forth. I can conceive of no greater danger than that there should grow up in Australia the impression that the Government or the Government officials are attempting to conceal something. I believe that I am right in my estimate of the people of Australia, which is that the more they are told, as far as they can be told safely, without conveying: information to the enemy, the more they are made aware of the true facts and ‘the serious circumstances facing them, and the heavy calls upon them, the more they will support the Government in their efforts to carry on this war to a successful conclusion.
– I reply to this criticism of the censorship under a very heavy disadvantage. If I wished to appeal to the gallery, there are many things that I could say, and at once give an effective reply to the honorable senator. But those are things that I should not say, and I do not intend to say them, because there are good reasons for not doing so. There are, however, other things to which the honorable senator has referred which I can traverse, though the case that I put forward must necessarily be but a partial case. I can assure honorable senators that there will be gaps, and I must leave it to their imagination to account for them, because the reasons for these gaps cannot be disclosed. There is no intention on the part of the Government to allow the military censorship to be a “gag” on public opinion or criticism of the administration or of the Government, or of the political party which the Government represent, and in order to show that this has been made clear to the censors, I shall read a paragraph from the general instructions issued under Ministerial authority to censors. It is as follows: -
It is important to remember that the liberty of the press is not to be limited further than is necessary to serve the express necessities of the war. Comment and criticism of a temperate character, and if based on facts should not be interfered with even if critical of the Government or of the Departments. It is no part of the duty of the military censorship to censor morals or political criticism unless for local reasons press comments are harmful as inciting riot, serious unrest, or tend to discourage recruiting, or to hamper the naval and military preparations of the Government. In such cases reference should be made to the naval, military, or civil authorities concerned, through the proper channels.
I shall also read from a memorandum written by the Deputy Chief Censor, who has control of all the censors. He was dealing with a case that recently arose -in reference to the instructions to the censor at Port Darwin. The claim was brought before Parliament that the censor at Port Darwin had been unduly interfering with criticism of the administration there, and the Deputy Chief Censor was communicated with, in order to ascertain whether the same instructions had been issued to this officer as were issued to the other censors. In his reply the Deputy Chief Censor said -
I have been strongly averse to extending press censorship to cover anything like suppression of criticism on the administration or of the Departments. The liberty of the press on these points should be conserved, and it is not the aim of a military censorship to interfere with the press otherwise than to prevent dissemination of intelligence harmful to Great Britain or her Allies, or likely to be of service to the enemy, or to create alarm and unrest in the civil population or hamper the Government in its naval and military preparations.
That is practically a repetition of the general instructions issued to the censors. And may I say to my honorable friend opposite that those instructions were liberalized by myself after I resumed the administration of the Defence Department. He will remember that there was an outcry, and that I was waited upon by a public deputation representing a number of newspapers in this city which had been definitely interfered with by the press censors because of their publishing political criticism of the Defence administration, lt was then that the more definite instructions were sent out to the censors, so as to keep them within the rigid lines of preventing the publication of information of value to the enemy or the publication of news which would be of a disturbing character here, and would hamper the Government in carrying out their operations in connexion with the war. These liberalized conditions were introduced as a result of my own administration at that time.
– And of experience?
– And of experience also. Certain instructions had been issued to the censors in regard to a class of subjects. I cannot tell the Senate what those instructions are, because if I did I Would destroy the very purpose we had in view in directing why that class of news should be censored. Every statement I make here goes into Hansard. It would be futile to censor a statement in the press when it was to be published in Han,sa.rd and circulated throughout the country. Therefore I cannot give the reasons for issuing the instructions, but I can give the Senate this assurance, that they have nothing to do with political criticism or with criticism of the Government or of the Department. But there is a very good reason why the particular instruction was given. It is clearly understood, at any rate by the Deputy Chief Censor, that he and his staff are not to stand as a buffer against the Government receiving all the criticism which anybody in this community likes to administer, provided that it is not of such a character as to evade the other instructions, for which very good reasons exist.
– Now, apply that reason to the statement I have read.
– The censor staff in this country, it must be remembered, was selected from the civilian population. I do not know that it includes a single permanent officer. It is composed of citizens. The members of the censor staff at Sydney are men who in private life are civilians. Most of them are barristers; some of them are university men; in fact, they are as a body well in touch with the ordinary civil life of the community. When you have men as we have on our censor staff in each of the State capitals, and an instruction goes out from the central office, just as we all differ in our reading of law, so it is quite feasible that those men differ as to the meaning to be given to the instruction. Senator Millen has referred to two statements of his own. He made a statement which he gave to the press, and which appeared in the Argus of the” 14th May. He complained that that statement was submitted to the censor. That is not a fact. I make this further statement, that if it had been submitted it contains something which would have been and should have been eliminated. As regards Senator Millen’s second statement, that, I understand from himself, was submitted to a newspaper in Sydney, which did submit it to the censor.
– That is the one I have read.
– Yes, and that statement was censored. I heard the statement read here ; indeed, I have heard it read more than once, and I hold that it ought not to have been censored. I make that admission at once, and say that the censor in question exceeded his duty, because there is no instruction in force from which he can legitimately claim that in doing his duty he should censor such a statement. I see in the statement nothing which transgresses any instruction, or interferes with any desire on the part of the Government to carry out their duty of fully safeguarding the position of this country, and its relative position in the Empire. I can only say that the censor has either been misinformed as to the intention of the instructions which were issued, or has exceeded his duty.
– What has happened to the censor since ?
– It was not until to-day that I heard, for the first time, that the statement had been censored.
– It was not done by your instruction ?
– Certainly not. I had no idea that Senator Millen was submitting this statement, nor was it submitted to me until he himself showed it to me to-day. Up to that time I had not seen the statement; so that nothing could have happened to the censor, because nothing was known.
– What will happen to him now?
– The censor will have to explain why he came to censor the statement. I am not going to pass judgment until I know what he has to say. I am familiar with the instructions which were issued to the Deputy Chief Censor, and I know that there is no instruction which, in my judgment, would warrant the censoring of such a statement as that. That is all that I can say on the subject. Senator Millen referred to the statements which have been made by British statesmen, and British Naval and Military leaders, as we have seen them published in the press here. It must be remembered that in war a good deal of bluff goes on ; and in regard to some of these statements we do not know whether they were not possibly intended for German consumption. The statement as to the lack of patrol boats, for instance., might have been intended for German consumption. The statement made by Admiral Jellicoe on the subject might have been an indirect invitation to the enemy to come out to sea. We must give our Naval and Military chiefs credit for possessing a certain amount of intelligence, and the responsibility of dealing with the situation is theirs. We are not responsible for what they say or do;’ they no doubt have good reasons for what they say and do. We are responsible for what we say and do; we must, take that responsibility ; and it was in accordance with that obligation that every instruction sent out was issued. It was because we were convinced that certain information should not go out to the world that we issued certain instructions I do not know that any good purpose is to be served by my going further into the matter. It is a delicate question to handle. One can very easily say too much - not in the sense that I might implicate myself or the Government: I am not afraid of that. One must realize that the censorship is necessarily irritating. Australia is a community which has always been accustomed to freedom of speech and the liberty of the press. Some persons coming from other parts of the world believe that this goes beyond freedom, and amounts to license. At any rate, it is the system to which we and our people have been accustomed from youth. Suddenly with the war a restraining hand was laid on the community. Let it be remembered that the restraining hand came from a quarter as to which the British race have always been suspicious, and that is the military. Britishers have always resented military interference with .civil rights. Such interference arose naturally both in Australia and in Great Britain, and it caused irritation. It is for the political head of the Defence Department to see that the enjoyment of civil rights and liberty is interfered with as little as possible. That is my desire, and I can assure the Senate that it is a duty which I intend to perform. At the same time I have a responsibility to discharge. If certain knowledge comes to me or to the Government, it is for us to determine whether it is wise, in the interests of the Empire first, and in the interests of the Commonwealth second, that the knowledge should be made public. We have to decide, and then to act, in accordance with the decision. We have to remember that we are for the first time the custodians of the civil rights of the people and the freedom of the press. Do honorable senators believe that the present Government are desirous of shackling the press, or restraining public freedom in that regard? The Government are associated with a party which has suffered more than any other party in the Commonwealth from such shackling. The Labour party has suffered more than any other party from the suppression of views, and it is not likely that we will re-establish a system from which we have suffered in times of peace, and create in time of war a precedent which might be used by our opponents when they get back to power.
– As you have referred to the matter, will you express an opinion about the use, or the morality, of censoring newspaper reports of parliamentary proceedings, which you yourself have said are published in Hansard ?
– I can only say that, so far, I have seen no reason for the censoring of parliamentary speeches. It seems to me that we must rely upon the good judgment and the good taste of members of Parliament. I believe that members of Parliament, generally speaking, are just as anxious to prevent anything being done which is likely to assist the enemy, as is any Minister or any member of the Defence staff, and that therefore they will restrain themselves where they feel that something, if said, might impart information to the enemy.
– The reports of proceedings in another place have been censored.
– I am not here to pass judgment on what has been said m another place. Of course, I recognise that a difficulty might occur at any time
The Government may be perfectly justified in instructing the sensors to censor some news; a member of Parliament can get up in his place, and give out the news ; and then the question arises what steps can you take to prevent the news from going out into the world. I admit straight away that it is a very difficult question, and if honorable senators rejoice in seeing or facing that difficulty they are welcome to their views. I do not know that there has been any difficulty so far, but at any time a member may make an indiscreet utterance. When such a thing occurs, we shall have to deal with it in the best way we can, but I believe that we can rely upon the calmness and the judgment of members to restrain themselves from acting in that way. It is obvious that there are some things which this is not the time to express, and there are some things which this is not the time to publish. I think that Senator Millen is perfectly justified in complaining to the Senate that his statement was censored. I say frankly that I would never have approved of statements of that class being censored. At the same time, I quite recognise that, in the heat of party quarrelling or a desire to extend the right of criticism beyond what is wise in the interests of the country, there might be information given which it would not be right or wise to publish. If that position arises, the Government should not hesitate .to take the responsibility of censoring the statement, and asking Parliament to indorse their action, if necessary. If Parliament says that there is to be no censorship, the Government must obey that mandate, but Parliament will then assume the responsibility. I venture to say that Senator Millen himself recognises that there must be censorship in time of war.
– I admitted that.
– I remind honorable senators that we have innumerable instances where the Censor staff have rendered valuable assistance to this country. Let me tell honorable senators what perhaps they do not know. If it had not been for the Censor staff, I doubt if we would have had a single conviction of persons for trading with the enemy. Let honorable senators read the reports of the cases, and they will find that practically every bit of evidence has been brought forward by the Censor staff. But for the operations of the staff, how many prosecutions under the War Precautions Act would have succeeded ?
– That is the censorship in the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Yes, but the work is done by the Censor staff. Practically every one of these cases has been published. As regards the press censorship, may I tell the honorable senator that if it had not been for the operations of the Censor staff, the Emden would have known where our transports were, and instead of fooling about Cocos Island she would probably have met them a little way from the coast of Australia. It waa necessary, in the interests of our troops going oversea, that the censor should prevent the newspapers from publishing the “ time of their departure, the port of departure, in fact, anything about them. There were newspapers which transgressed that law, and others which attempted to do so. We never know the time when some German ships may slip out of the North Sea, and that position may be again created. Whilst it is very easy to criticise and pull down, in my opinion the Censor staff has rendered valuable aid to Australia. I am not prepared to defend everything that they do. I am not prepared to defend what they did in the honorable senator’s case. I think that they acted wrongly. But I deprecate a general condemnation of the censorship on account of that incident. The censors have endeavoured to do their duty. Probably they have made many mistakes. But we must take their work by a«3 large. I invite any honorable senator to interview the Deputy Chief Censor, and to put to him the question, “ Have you at any time been asked by the Minister of Defence or any member of the Ministry to censor any criticism of the Government as such?” I invite that question to be put to any member of the Censor staff throughout Australia. I have no hesitation in saying that not a single instruction to that effect, verbal or otherwise, has ever been given. What honorable senators will find, if they care to inquire, is a general instruction to the Censor staff that they are not to censor criticism of the Department or of the Government unless it contains information which will be valuable to the enemy. That is all I have to say on this question, and I can -assure - the honorable senator that when I have obtained a report upon it, I will go into the reason why his statement was censored, by whose instruction, and by what officer.
– I have only a word or two to say, in view of the very frank admission by the Minister that, in his judgment, an error was made in censoring the statement which I have read to this Chamber. In the light of that admission, I feel that the purpose of my action to-day has been achieved.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - Does not the honorable senator think that he owes the Minister an apology for having insinuated that it was owing to his influence that the statement was censored 1
– I owe no apology to anybody. I have a very clear recollection of the words which I used this afternoon. I did not say that my statement had been censored by the direction of the Government. I said that the action taken by the censor was in consequence of their interposition. I repeat that statement now. The Minister has affirmed that I was mistaken in saying that my first statement passed the censor. I accept his correction. My allegation was based on our knowledge that a censorship exists. The appearance of that statement in the newspapers was my justification for assuming that the censor had approved of it. It was published in both the Sydney and Melbourne journals, and it was consequently fair for me to assume that it had been submitted to the censor. It was after its publication that the Minister took action, and that the censor interpreted his action in the way that I have indicated. It was certainly because of his action that my second statement was censored.
N- Is the honorable senator still of that opinion ?
– Undoubtedly. The censors may have misinterpreted the Minister’s action. When he rebuked them because of ,the publication of my first statement, they immediately tightened up the regulations and blocked my second statement. The Minister is not responsible for that. Nevertheless, it was the result of his action. I think that the Minister has hammered home the fact that the censorship is necessary. I have already admitted that. But it is one thing to have a censorship -to prevent the publication of news which may be detrimental to the public interest, and another to have a censorship which is exercised in the way that I have outlined. However, I am more than satisfied with the Minister’s statement. A suggestion was made by way of interjection that the officers responsible for the censoring of my - statement should be punished by being removed from their office. I do not wish that. I merely desire an intimation to be conveyed to these gentlemen that they have misinterpreted their instructions, in order that there may be no further action of the character of which I complain. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If it is correct, as stated in the Bouse of Commons, that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for the delay in the publication in Australia of news published in Great Britain f
– We only know of one case in which it is correct. When the Australian troops were being removed from Egypt to the Dardanelles the Government received a message from the Secretary of State for the Colonies which was marked “Secret - For Ministers only.” On receipt of that message we naturally thought it was necessary to take precautions to prevent that news being published in Australia from any other source. It was possible, for instance, that our officers or soldiers abroad might be able to get a telegram despatched in code to their friends at home, and that these friends might make the news known. Accordingly we issued an instruction that a strict censorship of news relating to the transfer of the troops from Egypt to the Dardanelles was to be observed. Some time elapsed, and the press then received through their agencies a cable that the news had been published in England that our troops had been moved from Egypt to the Dardanelles. Until then we had received no communication ‘from the British Government releasing that news which they had made secret, and had communicated to Ministers only. Accordingly we cabled to the Imperial authorities with a view to ascertaining whether we might release the news in Australia. To that cable we received no reply. We again cabled, and again we received no reply, until a congratulatory message reached us upon the landing of our troops at the Dardanelles. We immediately took French leave by releasing the news, and by making an announcement 1.0 Parliament. But until then we had received no permission from the Imperial authorities to release the information which had been communicated to us. That is the only case in which news has been published in England, and in which its publication has been delayed in Australia.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Total number interned, 2,940.
Note. - These figures include a small number of naturalized subjects, some of whom are also enemy subjects, and others of whom have ceased to he enemy subjects. 2 and 3. Payment is made to prisoners of war as follows: -
Prisoners who volunteer for employment in making improvements in the camp of internment, or in other useful work, receive as pocket money the sum of1s. for each day’s work. In a few cases where prisoners are specially skilled, or have been useful in supervising the work of their fellow prisoners, larger payments have been authorized. Prisoners in Tasmania, by special arrangement with the State Government, are employed in improving land of the State Government, and that Government pays them at the rate of 2s. per day.
Prisoners of war who are commissioned officers of the naval or military forces of enemy Governments, and who were at the time of capture in receipt of or entitled to full pay, are paid such a sum as, with the cost of the daily ration supplied, will amount to the following sums: -
For second lieutenants, 4s. per day.
For captains and officers . of higher rank, 4s. 6d. per day. Prisoners of war who do not volunteer for employment, and who are not officers, do not receive any pay.
Daily Cost of Camps of Internment.
Rations. - Prisoners, £167 5s. 5d.; guards, £35 17s. 8d.
Pay and Allowances. - Prisoners - Working pay (paragraph (a) above), £59 3s. 10d.; other pay (paragraphs (b) and (c) above), £3 9s. 9d.; allowances to families, £5 16s. 7d.; guards and other employees, £202 7s. 3d.; other expenses. £24 4s. 2d. Total daily cost, £498 4s. 8d.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What length of active service have the following officers of the next contingent to leave Australia for the seat of war : - Captain Aitken, Lieutenant Mclntyre, Captain Hutchings, Lieutenant Nicholl, Lieutenant Brent?
The explanation of their being honorary lieutenants is that those who had substantive rank in South Africa were afterwards given honorary rank in the Commonwealth Forces, although they had not actually served.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Relative to the following extract from the Footscray Independent of 15th May inst. : “ A deputation from the employees of the Colonial Ammunition Company waited on the management this week with a request that German workmen employed should be discharged. The matter will probably be remitted to the Government to decide “ -
Is the Minister aware of the circumstances therein detailed?
Is the Government therein referred to the Commonwealth Government ?
Has the matter been “ remitted “ to that Government ?
Does the company referred to supply the Commonwealth Government with any of its products?
Will the Government take steps to prevent Germans being employed in the manufacture of such products as those of the company referred to?
– The answers are -
Debate resumed from 20th May (vide page 3275), on motion by Senator Gardiner -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– It is not my intention to occupy the time of the Senate unduly, because it is the desire, I understand, of insurance companies interested in this matter to approach the Minister in charge of the Bill, and the Attorney-General, who is responsible for it, with the object of making representations to make the measure thoroughly satisfactory. It is a technical Bill, largely one requiring work in Committee, and I do not feel I should be justified in occupying the time of the Senate by discussing what may be regarded as its main provisions at any, length. But there are two points which I think require consideration. The Bill departs from the report of the recommendation of the Commission by providing for life and fire insurance. Whilst that is the custom in England, the Commission points out, rightly, that the business in Australia has developed along different lines, and it makes a strong recommendation that’ we should deal with those matters in separate measures. I would, therefore, like to ask the Minister if he cangive any reason for departing from a recommendation of the Commission. We might reasonably ask that, because we are told that the Bill is largely based upon the work of the Commission, and there appears to be good reason to know why, in an important particular, the Government have ignored the recommendation of the two gentlemen who acted as that Commission.
Senatorde Largie. - They have pretty well swallowed the report, with the exception of the matter the honorable senator refers to.
– There are other matters, but that is the major objection to the Bill, though I do not urge it as a vital one. I am only inviting the Minister to give his reasons why the conclusions of the Commission have been overridden. There is another matter. I recognise the fact that this is a Bill for Committee more than anything else, and I am referring to these matters now, so that when we get into Committee, the objections having been stated, honorable senators will have had an opportunity of considering and thinking them over. In the Bill there are certain clauses dealing with fire insurance, and clause 81, and, possibly, clauses 82 and 85, make it a penal offence for a company to charge an unreasonable rate. I submit that you cannot deal with business operations of this kind, involving technical and complicated considerations, and determine by any arbitrary rule what may be an unreasonable rate. These companies base their rates on their experience of averages. In Australia the field of operations is comparatively limited, and there may be only four or five transactions of one. particular class, such as, for instance, factories in this city. Now, that number is so small that it will be almost ridiculous to determine by any arbitrary method whatis a reasonable rate. Of course, you can average five as well as 500, but you cannot get the same reliable basis upon which to determine what may be a fair rate, and, therefore, while a certain rate may be fair and entirely reasonable for one class of business it would not be so for another. For these special reasons, and owing to the small area of their liabilities, it would be unfair to be guided by the larger and more common risks which are carried. I think the Minister will see that there ought to be some machinery under which these companies can be guaranteed that there shall be a reasonable interpretation of the rate. It is a difficult matter to define. We cannot expect that a num ber of people will put their money into a business of this nature if it is liable to be destroyed by any arbitrary interpretation of what a reasonable rate should be. The Minister in his speech said it would be determined after consultation with the Commission and the representatives of the companies, and that a mutual arrangement would be arrived at to settle this matter. But there is nothing of that in the Bill. It sets out that it will be regarded as an offence if an “ unreasonable “ rate is charged, and if it is decided to maintain the clause - I think it ought to go out altogether - we ought to devise some expedient which will be a reasonable guarantee that these companies will have a fair interpretation of the clause.
– A licensed hotelkeeper has to sell reasonably good drink.
– I would point out to the Minister that, if he wishes to make a parallel, the companies are required to insure that a man will get what he pays for. I think I have said enough to convince the Minister that there is a possibility of some danger unless, in the interpretation of what is a “reasonable” rate, there is exercised an amount of human ingenuity which is rare in these matters. I have said all I wish to on the Bill at this stage, and, in view of the fact that representatives of the companies intend to approach the Minister in an entirely friendly spirit, recognising the desirability of legislation of this kind and with a desire to make it a practical measure, I would suggest that we should postpone consideration of the Committee stage. I understand it is impossible for the Attorney-General to receive a deputation until he returns from a neighbouring State. I would put it to the Minister that, in order to make the Bill workable, it would he desirable, after the second reading has been passed, to leave the Committee stages till the Minister has received the deputation, which, I feel sure, will offer some practical suggestions concerning the
– The subject-matter of the Bill is one that has been so well established in most civilized countries that we can reasonably expect, from time to time, a revision of the rules that govern a business of this kind. This is the first attempt by the Commonwealth to legislate in this direction, and, seeing that we have been in existence something like fourteen or fifteen years, we cannot be charged with being in too great a hurry. I would have been better pleased if the Government had gone into the matter a little more comprehensively, and I prefer to regard this as a small instalment of a very big question, because the Bill merely deals with the common private enterprises or proprietary societies doing business in what is recognised as certain lines that require a great deal of supervision. It has been found that a Government insurance scheme is the best supervision of private companies. ‘ Senator Millen has directed attention to the interpretation of the’ word “ reasonable “ as applied to the charges that may be made or allowed by the Commission who will have the administration of this Act. It is difficult to determine what “ rearsonable “ would mean in matters of this kind, because one would require to know the volume of business, the amount of profits, the cost of carrying on and other charges, before one could say that a certain charge was reasonable or unreasonable. Insurance is certainly a good thing. We are all anxious to provide for the inevitable, and we all like to know that when the day of trouble comes along we will have something to fall back on and compensate us for losses, whether by fire or otherwise. Consequently we have to ask ourselves what is the best system of insurance that we can provide for the people. The Minister when introducing the Bill referred more to industrial than ordinary insurance in the Old Country. Whilst the percentage in cost of administration was very high, he could easily find illustrations of the same thing much nearer home. None of our financial institutions have been so extortionate in their demands, or extravagant in the cost of administration, as our insurance societies. Bad as some of our other financial institutions are, none has been so loosely administered as insurance societies in Australia. The Minister will remember criticisms in the press of his own State some years ago with regard to the Citizens Insurance Company. M!ore recently a similar state of affairs was revealed in Victoria, showing that the cost to the people was enormous. The point which we, as the custodians of the people’s wel fare, should always keep before us is : What benefit are the people getting from businesses which we grant private enterprise a licence to conduct.? It is five years now since the report of Mr. Justice Hood and Mr. Knibbs was furnished, so that it is getting somewhat out of date. It does not refer to the state of affairs revealed in Parliament in connexion with societies in this State. There is, therefore, some ground to find fault with it, as it is not so comprehensive and complete as we should like it to be. I am sorry that an inquiry of that kind was handed over to any officials, no matter how high they may be in the service of the State or the Commonwealth. Inquiries of the kind ought to be made by members of Parliament. If they are, Parliament can place more faith in their reports. I do not wish to reflect in the slightest degree on the ability of the gentlemen who formed the Commission. One of them was the greatest authority on statistics in Australia, and I have the most complete admiration for him as a statistician, but I question whether he is at all suitable to report on insurance. It is a mistake to take an officer presiding over a most important branch of the Government service away from his work, to inquire into matters foreign to the difficult task for which he is paid. It cannot be .said that Mr. Knibbs has any special knowledge of insurance, and I, therefore, deplore the fact that the inquiry was submitted to those gentlemen, whose professional qualifications made them no better fitted for the work than are honorable members themselves. Reference has been made to a deputation which is likely to wait on the Minister in regard to the Bill. I hope the Minister will be very careful as to the advice that may be tendered to him by the deputation, because they can scarcely be coming here for any other purposes than to look after their own interests. I question whether they should be received at all. Let them put their case in print, and have it circulated amongst honorable members. It is not proper for any deputation to interrupt the consideration of a Bill by Parliament.
– I understood from what Senator Millen said that they were simply . going to formulate representations, put them in print, and submit them to the Government.
– I did not understand so. If it is so, I do not see much objection. The Minister said that it cost 60 per cent, of the total receipts of insurance societies in the Old Country, particularly those doing business in industrial insurance, to cover the cost of working. I understand that in this country it costs about the same percentage to run our insurance companies. In Victoria, less than two years ago, the case of the Colonial Mutual Life Society, which had got into difficulties, came before the State Parliament. A number of the policy-holders petitioned Parliament to take the administration of the society out of the hands of the board of directors. A Bill was suddenly presented to Parliament to take control of the society. The policy-holders in their petition made serious charges against the board of directors. One was that the method of election was grossly irregular, and that the directors, by means of the proxies they held, could retain their positions on the board, and defy the majority of the policy-holders. Another was that through the maladministration of the society, its funds were practically in a state of insolvency. The case was a peculiar one, because the State Premier, Mr. Watt, brought in a Bill to take the administration of the society out of the hands of the directors. It did not provide that the policy-holders or shareholders should elect the new board. Parliament was to undertake the task of nominating toe board, and the names were mentioned. Amongst them was a member of this Parliament, Mr. Agar Wynne. The Bill was literally rushed forward, and Mr. Watt asked that it should be passed in one sitting. To this the Labour party objected, and the ordinary procedure had to be followed. The Bill, therefore, was not dealt with as quickly as Mr. Watt wanted it to be. Notwithstanding the alleged urgency of the matter, about a fortnight later Mr. Watt withdrew the Bill, and presented another containing very radical alterations. During the discussion many charges were made as to the extravagant manner in which the business of the society was conducted, and figures applying to all societies in Victoria were given. It was said that in a period covering ten years the fire insurance com:panies of Victoria received, on a yearly average, £600,000, and paid out only £200,000. The figures quoted by the
Minister regarding the cost of administration of industrial insurance in England are on about the same extravagant basis. There is, therefore, just as. much need for us to give every consideration to the matter here as for the English people to attend to their side of it. It was found that for every pound charged by the insurance companies, only 6s. 8d. was paid out to insurers. The other two-thirds went in management expenses. If this indicates anything, it indicates gross extravagance in the working of these societies, and the existence of a number of well-paid, fat billets. This Parliament should direct attention to this aspect of the matter, in order to see whether* a more economical method of insurance, fire and life, may not be instituted in Australia. I am sorry to say that the report presented by the two Commissioners who inquired into this subject some years ago does not give us the information which we might reasonably have expected from them, and I think that we shall be doing our duty in this Parliament and looking after the welfare of the whole community if we allow this Bill to stand over for a few months, and submit the whole question to a Select Committee from this Chamber. As we have already waited fourteen years for this measure, we can reasonably wait another few months. Such a Committee could investigate various matters to which publicity has been given since the report of the Commissioners was drawn up, and which apparently were unknown to them. In other words, it could investigate the matter in a more up-to-date way, and its report would be very valuable in the light of information that has come forward from time to time since the previous report was furnished. I do not wish it to be understood that Victoria is the only State in the predicament that I have indicated. Other States may be in just as bad a position, and inquiry may show that they are having forced on them an extravagant system of insurance, whereas we want as economical a system as we can secure. It would not be necessary for any Select Committee that is appointed to go over the whole ground, as many things already contained in the report of the Commissioners need not be touched upon; but there are many things not covered by that report to which attention might be directed. The weak point of the Bill before us seems to be that it has been framed upon a report that is far from being full. I do not blame the gentlemen who framed it, because matters have developed since that report was presented, just as they do develop from time to time in all. countries; but as many years have elapsed, it has become somewhat obsolete, and much new matter might he discovered, and I feel sure could be discovered, by an inquiry at, the present time. Some time ago, as the result of the amalgamation of two well-known insurance societies in Victoria, the Australian Widows’ Fund and the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Society, the substitution of one board of directors and one management for two boards of directors and two management staffs, brought about considerable economy. In this connexion, I was amused this morning by reading in the Age the criticism of a Presbyterian clergyman of Brighton upon the extravagance of the Eight Hours Celebrations Committee. As the extravagance that Labour organizations have the opportunity to indulge in is so very slight, it is amusing to hear people outside speaking of their having offended in this regard.
– Labour Governments come in for the same criticism.
– Labour Governments may practise extravagance in a manner in which it cannot he practised by Labour organizations, because Governments have control of public funds which are big enough to permit of extravagance, but that is not the case with Labour organizations. Imagine the average Labour organization being accused of extravagance !
– That clergyman was angry because the Eight Hours display was a gambling concern. Because he did not believe in gambling, he considered that there should be no Eight Hours art union.
– He directed the whole of his criticism to the maladministration of the funds of the Eight Hours Celebration Committee. Apparently his hostility to anything in the nature of a Labour organization was his uppermost feeling. But I wish to point out that, strangely enough, a, member of one of the boards of directors that was superseded by the amalgamation of these two societies to which I have referred was the minister of one of the largest and most fashionable Presbyterian churches in Melbourne - I refer to the Rev. Dr. Marshall - and when the board of directors on which he had a seat was superseded because there was only room for one under the amalgamation, each member of it was provided with a very handsome pension for life, amounting to £250 per year. So this Presbyterian clergyman came in for this pension along with smart business men.
– He heard the call.
– Yes, and it was a very remunerative call. When the clergy do indulge in this kind of thing they can show sharp business men a few points. This amalgamation also provided very handsomely for the retiring manager, by providing him with a pension of £2,000 per annum for life. And another officer - I believe it was the actuary - was given a similar pension.
– Some of the officers fared very badly.
– Evidently the board of directors and the manager and actuary knew how to look after themselves. I mention this matter in order to show how boards of directors of insurance societies may indulge in extravagance, and I feel sure that if a Select Committee were to inquire into the matter it would be found that a great deal of this extravagance is brought about by the number of well-paid billets for which provision has to be made. The only satisfactory way of overcoming the difficulty is for the Government to undertake the business of insurance. I think that the Commonwealth Government are ina better position to do that than any company, because a great deal of the Government machinery can be applied to it. For instance, we have post-offices distributed all over the Commonwealth. The contention is that the biggest item of expense an insurance company has is the cost of collecting, but by means of our post-offices we could collect the premiums at a much smaller cost than any private company.
– Not unless we made insurance compulsory.
– I am quite agreeable to go to that length, if necessary, but I cannot see that with voluntary assurance the machinery of government would be any more expensive in the matter of collecting premiums.
– The voluntary system has signally failed in Germany, and that country has the most up-to-date system at the present time.
– I cannot speak with any authority on the German system, but I do know that we have machinery now existing which would render the work of collecting the premiums in regard to any insurance the Government might take in hand a very small item indeed. If the Commonwealth undertook this business there would not be the need to rely on private enterprise to the extent we now do. If our public servants have to be insured in fidelity funds, private companies do the work. What need is there for it?
– That also obtains in regard to State Government servants.
– If the State Governments also utilize private companies, it only goes to show that they, as well as ordinary citizens, could take advantage of a Commonwealth scheme. Strange to say, the municipalities in Victoria have a scheme of their own. Formerly they were paying to private companies on almost the same basis as the figures I have quoted in connexion with fire and life assurance, but now they have an organization by which the municipalities provide for their own officers and any responsibilities they take as corporate bodies; and of the £20,000 which they paid in, they have since, even in the short time the scheme has been in existence, got back £17,000, which goes to show that the amount of financial responsibility is very low. In the face of these figures I think that we can say that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth Government should provide the money for a similar organization for doing its own business, and perhaps that of the State offices referred to by Senator Senior, as well as ordinary citizens. Instead of rushing this Bill through now, I would prefer to see a Select Committee appointed from this Chamber to inquire into the whole matter, with a view to bringing in a report, because it mustbe manifest to all that a complete scheme has not been submitted. I must admit that, after waiting fourteen years for a Bill, I am somewhat disappointed that a more comprehensive scheme has not been brought forward. The Government, of course, may have a policy’ which they did not refer to, and this measure may be only an instalment; but before any action is taken in this direction, I think that an inquiry ought to be held and a scheme propounded from the results of the inquiry. The best way in which the inquiry could be carried out would be by means of a Select Committee to investigate the whole question in the light of the newer developments that have occurred from time to time, not only in Victoria, but in New South Wales, where a great deal of extravagance and even maladministration of the working of insurance schemes might very well be sheeted home. If we were in possession of the evidence of persons submitted to the test of examination on oath, we would be in a better position to understand the ground we occupy, and to act, than we are in at the present time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keating) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 2912), on motion by Senator Grant -
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the delay that has taken place in carrying out the establishment of the Federal Capital, as shown on the plan submitted by Mr. W. B. Griffin, which was awarded the premier prize for the best design.
That the Committee consist of Senators Barker, de Largie, Lt.-Colonel” Sir Albert Gould, Guy, Mullan, Lt.-Colonel O’Loghlin, and the mover.
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.
– I ask the Senate to reject the motion, because it is practically an attempt to duplicate a proposal of the Government, which is already well in hand. As honorable senators are well aware, there is in existence a Committee of Public Works consisting of honorable members of the Senate, as well as honorable members of another place. It is not optional, but imperative, that all works likely to cost over £25,000 must, before being constructed under the authority of
Parliament, be submitted to that Committee. There is no doubt that anybody who looks at the matter from an unbiased point of view will say that such a body, comprising representatives of both Houses, selected, in most instances, by the respective parties because of their qualifications and knowledge of .certain lines of public works, must undoubtedly be the best and most representative authority to investigate a proposal of this sort. The speech of Senator Grant seems to be a complaint of fourteen years’ standing, not that there is any particular difficulty today, not that progress is so slow to-day, but that the present Minister of Home Affairs or the present Government are responsible for the whole of the difficulty extending over that period. I might remind the honorable senator that, long before his arrival here, the Parliament was only too familiar with the position, and the Parliament, particularly this Chamber, repudiates any responsibility for a delay extending over fourteen years. Considerable progress has been made in the Federal Territory - not so much in the Federal Capital site itself, but with preliminary works, such as sewerage, water conservation, and .other utilities which must be developed and brought well in hand before the construction of the city itself can be undertaken. In these modern days, no person wishes to go to a capital to live where there is an inadequate supply of water or an imperfect system of sewering; far from it. Though’ the buildings may be temporary, though they may not be on that grand scale on which we would like to see them erected in the Federal Capital, honorable senators are prepared to put up with inconvenience of that description, but they are certainly not prepared to put up with difficulties in regard to water supply and sewerage. During this year, we are spending a good deal of money in the Territory. It is true that there has been a little difficulty, but it has not been a dispute by any means. On the contrary, it is in regard to the exact position which Mr. Griffin occupies in the Home Affairs Department. It is continually referred to as a dispute between Mr. Griffin and the Minister of Home Affairs, but there has never been a dispute with Mr, Griffin since the advent of this Government to power, because we clearly defined the position of that gentleman, and expect him as an officer of the Commonwealth to carry out those instructions, or perform those functions, which we believe to be embodied in the agreement between the late Cook Government and Mr. Griffin.
– I thought it was a question of a refusal to carry out his plan.
– No. The chief complaint of Senator Grant is as to the delay which has occurred. There is no dispute in existence, because surely it is quite clear to honorable senators that if the Cabinet, through the Minister of Home Affairs, clearly lets Mr. Griffin know what his duties are, no one House of Parliament is going to say that he or anybody else should have the right to dictate to the supreme Government of the Commonwealth. Therefore, his option is to accept the decision of the Cabinet, or to test that decision in the Courts, if need be, under the agreement, or if not satisfied, to resign. The Government take the view that Mr. Griffin is an officer of the Commonwealth, being practically a member of the Home Affairs staff, and are determined that his duties shall be defined and carried out under instructions directly received from the responsible Minister of the Department. I do not wish to do Mr. Griffin any injustice, because I believe him to be a very competent and clever man in his own walk in life, but let me give a summary of the position. Competitive designs for the Federal Capital were called for; Mr. Griffin’s design was selected by a Board appointed for that purpose, but no sensible person would claim that any one of the number of designs embodied all the most perfect ideas, and all the latest and most modern schemes for a big city. Although Mr. Griffin was the prize-winner, it is possible that because of 75 per cent, of good points in his design it was selected. But even the best design may have 25, or 15, or 10, or even 5 per cent, of defects, which it is very desirable should be removed. Therefore ‘Mr. King O’Malley appointed a departmental Board, consisting of gentlemen who, at that time, were believed to be the most competent officers in the Commonwealth, to decide the question. They did not set out with the desire to wipe out Mr. Griffin’s design, but from a consideration of the other designs which, though not successful in winning the prizes, they suggested many very bright and fine ideas. In this way, and with the exercise of some originality on their own part, they tried to make the design for the Capital as perfect as possible. It has been said that the officers, although they had not brains enough to win the competition, waited until somebody had suggested an original scheme, and then came in and prepared a design of their own, calling it the departmental design. I desire to say in justice to the officers, whom most honorable members are well acquainted with, that they did not suggest an original design of their own. They -Have never claimed to have prepared a design of their own. All that they did do under the instructions of MrKing O’Malley was to take in bulk Mr. Griffin’s design, and where they saw a good idea, or what they believed to be a more perfect idea in regard to one aspect of the question than was contained in his design, they adopted that, and so brought together the best ideas of the best minds in the competition, plus any little original suggestion they themselves had to make. They do not claim originality for the departmental plan, nor do they claim it as their own. They only claim that, as officers employed because of their special knowledge, they did try to give the Commonwealth the best service they could by carrying out the instructions received from the then Minister of Home Affairs, and, that being the case, I trust that no reflections or charges will be made against the officers in that connexion. Honorable senators know that the design was for a Federal city, but there were many works to be constructed quite outside of the city area, such as, for instance, water supply and sewerage works, which were matters for engineers rather than for an architect to consider. A competent staff of engineers was in the employ of the Department, and they were asked to prepare plans for the works and carry them out. They did so, and I am pleased to say that all those competent authorities who have been able to judge have declared that the works have been carried out faithfully and well, and are a credit to the Department.
– Who are those authorities ?
– Take, for instance, the Public Works Committee as a representative body, who have recently had the opportunity of inspecting the works which have all been carried out under the control of the engineering staff of the Department. I think it is recognised by honorable senators that Mr. Griffin’s special work is that of an architect. I believe that it is very creditable, and that he deserves all credit for his efforts. We do not desire to modify in any way his claim in regard to the magnificent design he submitted; far from it. But the design for the Capital does not embrace that area of country which is situated outside of the city square. Mr. Griffin’s design was subsequently adopted by the Cook Government, for whom Mr. William Kelly was acting practically as Minister of Home Affairs. He put on one side the departmental plan, offered an engagement to Mr. Griffin, and brought him from America. Mr. Kelly, when asked why Mr. Griffin was brought to Australia, said -
The agreement with Mr. Griffin provides that he will advise upon, and, if so requested by the Minister, prepare conditions of competition for public buildings and works for the Federal city, and preliminary feature plans for the guidance of competitors. It is proposed to use his advice to insure harmonious structural development. The Government will be able to have the erection of the buildings supervised by its own officers.
Therefore, the intention of the Cook Government in bringing Mr. Griffin to Australia was that be should be. an officer of the Minister of Home Affairs in the construction of the buildings and the general city design. It was never intended - as Mr. Griffin claims - that he should be charged with the duty of carrying out the whole of the works at the Federal Capita], that Parliament should merely be called upon to vote a lump sum for the purpose, and that he should be at liberty to engage a staff of his own. When competitive designs were invited for the Capital, it was never suggested that the engineers of the Department of Home Affairs were incompetent to undertake engineering work in any part of Australia. Had there been any .such suggestion there might be some justice in Mr. Griffin’s contention. But on no occasion has Mr. Griffin asked for engineering assistance without having it placed at his disposal by the Department. I desire now to say a word or two in connexion with the so-called dispute between this officer and the Minister of Home Affairs. When Mr. Griffin’s plan was adopted, Mr. Coane, one of the leading engineers, who was on the Board of adjudicators, did not place it either first, second, or third. His reason was that, though he regarded Mr. Griffin’s design asa good one, he was of opinion that the engineering difficulties in the way of giving effect to it practically put it out of court. The Minister of Home Affairs, shortly after his advent to office, decided to make inquiries into these engineering difficulties. Accordingly, he asked Mr. Griffin to present him with a plan of certain levels. As a matter of fact, I understand that great difficulty and considerable expense would be involved in giving effect to Mr. Griffin’s scheme. The Minister has, from time to time, requested his officers to report upon certain matters which he proposes remitting to the Public Works Committee for investigation. The Government are anxious to push on with necessary undertakings at the Federal Capital, and there is only one difficulty in the way of their doing so - the difficulty of finance. The Department is willing to work harmoniously with Mr. Griffin under the terms of his agreement, but not outside of it. We all know that every work involving an expenditure of more than £20,000 must be referred to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report. Seeing that this Parliament has constituted that body for the special purpose of investigating projected public works, I hope that we shall not now turn round and say that, we have no confidence in it. Let us suppose that a Committee were appointed by this Chamber in accordance with the terms of Senator Grant’s motion. What would happen? We shouldbe in the farcical position of having two Committees investigating the one subject.
– Suppose that they brought in different reports?
– In that case, which report would carry most weight? Would it he the report of the Committee appointed by this. Chamber - a Committee practically consisting of the representatives of both political parties-or the report of the Public Works Committee? I say that we ought not to do the same work twice over. Such a course is totally unnecessary. I feel certain that the moment the recommendations of the Public Works Committee are forthcoming–
– When docs the Assistant Minister anticipate that its report will be received?
– The Government have no power to anticipate its report. I hope, however, that it will be forthcoming this week. I do not know that we could not even suggest to its members the wisdom of hurrying it up, as the “ Ma “ State is getting anxious. The moment we have the report of this body we will push on with the works at the Federal Capital with all possible speed, subject only to the limitations of finance.
– Whilst listening to the Assistant Minister, I could not help observing that he neglected to devote any attention to the main point involved in Senator Grant’s proposal, namely, the difference between a Committee appointed by this Chamber and the Public Works Committee. The function of the latter body is to inquire whether any projected public work the cost of which exceeds £20,000 is necessary. Senator Grant’s proposal is one to investigate a specific case of delay, and to ascertain who is responsible for that delay. I repeat that the Assistant Minister entirely missed the point of Senator Grant’s proposal.
– I could not miss it, because there is only one plan before the Government and Parliament, namely, the W. B. Griffin plan.
– This is not a question of a plan at all. The motion does not seek to tie us down to any plans. It merely deals with the delay which has occurred in proceeding with necessary works at the Federal Capital, and with the dispute which exists between the Minister of Home Affairs and the winner of the designs competition. That is allI have to say on this matter. Either the Assistant Minister did not observe the point, or he omitted to deal with it.
Senator McDOUGALL (New South Wales [5.30]. - I had not the pleasure of hearing the reasons advanced by Senator Grant in submitting this motion, but the reasons assigned by the Assistant Minister why it should not be adopted have resolved any doubts that were in my mind. I desire to point out that the Public Works Committee has to perform certain well-defined functions, and those functions do not include an investigation into the delay which has occurred in proceeding with certain works at the Federal Capital. Personally, I am of opinion that some inquiry into the cause of that delay is necessary. If we are to be humbugged for years because of the existence of a dispute between the officers of the Department of Home Affairs and Mr. Griffin, the sooner we settle that dispute the better.
– There is only one cause for the delay - Parliament has not voted sufficient money.
– Then why the Assistant Minister’s long speech ? The motion with which we are dealing makes no reference- to finance. It merely seeks to remedy the delay which has occurred in proceeding with works at the Federal Capital. That delay is rather an expensive one to the Commonwealth. At Canberra, we have a staff of officials, who - if necessary works are not to be promptly undertaken - might with advantage be retransferred to the temporary Seat of Government. The question at issue is not one of water supply or of sewerage at all. There has been a disagreement between the present Minister of Home Affairs and Mr. Griffin. The late Government were dissatisfied with the action of Mr. King O’Malley when Minister of Home Affairs in a previous Labour Government, and consequently they brought Mr. Griffin out to this country. The present Government decline to avail themselves of this officer’s special knowledge. It was certainly never intended, when Federation was established, that there should be fourteen years’ delay in setting up the Federal Capital. Those who voted for tha Constitution were led to believe that the permanent Seat of Government would be established in New South Wales without delay. Although the Assistant Minister has referred to the “Ma” State, it is obvious that he cannot’ do without it. This little “cabbage garden “ State cannot do without it. The reasons advanced by the Assistant Minister in opposition to the motion are the weakest that I have ever heard. Evidently he would have us rely upon the Public Works Committee-, which has been appointed for an entirely different purpose. The Committee which Senator Grant desires to inquire into this matter would complete its labours within a few days, and the people would then know what is the reason for the exasperating delay in proceeding with necessary undertakings at the Federal Capital. I believe that Mr. Griffin has a staff of his own. I see him travelling almost every week from one capital to another. The Senate has a right to know what is the position, and if a Committee be appointed as proposed in the motion, its members will go thoroughly into the matter, and give us that knowledge which we require to settle the difficulty.
– I wish at once to clear up a misunderstanding as a result of the statement made by Senator Russell. The Minister appealed to the Senate to reject the motion because the matter has to be referred to the Public Works Committee. Now, as a matter of fact, the Public Works Committee have not this particular question before them at all. In another place the Minister of Home Affairs has on the notice-paper the following motion : -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, viz. : -
City railway, and dams for ornamental waters incident to the schematic plan of Canberra prepared by Mr. Griffin, and dated 20th March, 1915.
Honorable senators will therefore see that it is intended only to refer to the Committee the question of the city railway, and dams for ornamental waters.
– Is not that enough to go on with?
– But I want to know the reason for the delay up to date in carrying out Mr. Griffin’s plans.
– Want of money - that is the reason.
– There was a change of plans by the Honorable King O’Malley. You know all that already.
– We have spent on the Federal Capital Territory over £600,000 to date; but, for reasons best known perhaps to the Government, we have spent only a nominal sum inside the Federal Capital area, apart from expenditure on the power-house and a number of other small items.
– We want the money to purchase gunpowder with at present.
– That may he a reason for appointing the Committee. It might recommend a stoppage of further expenditure for the present.
– The motion does not mean any duplication of work at all. “What is wanted is an inquiry into the cause of the delay in carrying out the work inside the Federal Capital site. I want to know why nothing has been done to carry out the plans which Avon the. first prize. I am not prepared to criticise the qualifications of any members of the departmental Board, but I say again that those gentlemen had an opportunity, if they so desired, to take part in that competition. For reasons best known to themselves they did not do so.
– Reasons of decency - they were in the Department.
– But theywere not then members of the departmental Board, and, so far as I can read the conditions, therewas nothing to prevent them, singly or jointly, from submitting a design.
– They were requested to do so.
– They did not compete; but subsequently they submitted a departmental design. They inspected the plans submitted by the various compete tors, and from them they prepared what is known as the departmental plan. Senator Russell’s statement about referring the matter to the Public Works Committee is of no valuewhatever, and I hope itwill mislead no one in the Senate. I must confess that I am at a loss to understandwhat position Mr. Griffin occupies in the Department.
– Have you inquired of the responsible Minister?
– No, I have not.
– That is the place to go for information.
– I am not interested in knowing what his position is - whether he is under Colonel Owen or Colonel Miller. My concern is to know why the plan submitted by him, and which gained the first prize, is not being proceeded with. To-day Ave have been assured by Senator Russell that the departmental plan has been absolutely withdrawn, and that the work which is being proceeded with - although, as a matter of fact, practically nothing has been done yet - is being carried out under the direction of
Mr. Griffin. That is some satisfaction, but not very much.
– You vote us the money; we will spend it.
– We have voted all the money that was asked for.
– We have voted over £600,000 for this work, but so far nothing at all has been done inside the Federal Capital site. It would be interesting to know at what particular stage Mr. Griffin’s plan is at present, though we have been assured that it is being carried out. The delay has been absolutely unreasonable, and I hope the Senate will agree to the appointment of a Committee, so that the whole matter may be inquired into. If this course is adopted, the Committee will bring in a report, and it will be here long before the Public Works Committee has had an opportunity of dealingwith the matters referred to in the motion by the Minister of Home Affairs in another place.
– Any expenditure beyond £20,000 cannot be undertaken without first being referred to the Public Works Committee.
– Senator Gardiner has again endeavoured, by interjection, to show that this matter must be referred to the Public Works Committee. But I have already pointed out that my motion has been framed with the object of finding out why there has been prolonged and unreasonable delay in giving effect to the first-prize design. The matter is urgent, in my opinion, and I hope the motion will be agreed to unanimously by the Senate.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 14
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– A few weeks ago I asked the Minister a question regarding the position created in Newcastle through the stoppage of the export of coal. The reply was that the Government would push on with public works, in order to absorb as many men as possible. Since then the position has become even more acute, and demands consideration by the Federal and State Governments. There are 3,000 men practically idle in the coal-mining industry in the northern districts of New South Wales, as the following statement shows : -
It will be noticed that some of these collieries have worked half time, and others very intermittently during the last twenty-four weeks, but, having got in touch with the managers, they inform us that the prospects ahead are anything hut bright, and wo can safely anticipate that from now on during this crisis we will have nothing less than 3,000 unemployed within our own federation.
– What is the cause ?
– Chiefly that the export trade has been stopped by the war. The position in regard to explosives can be summed up as follows: -
Burwood Extended Colliery. - This colliery has been idle since 17th May. The manager informs us that they have plenty of trade, but cannot obtain explosives. The number of men affected at this colliery is 245.
Pelaw Main Colliery. - This colliery lost six days during the last fortnight, and the number of men thrown idle was 750.
Abermain No. 1. - This colliery lost one day owing to a change of the explosive. The men contended that the explosive the manager was asking them to use was inferior to the one they had been using, and the mine was thrown idle for one. day. Number of men affected, 450.
Richmond Main. - This colliery lost one and a quarter days during last fortnight. Two hundred men affected.
The explosive matter is a very serious question just now, inasmuch as you will notice that we have about 3,000 men unemployed, and, further upon that, the collieries which have some trade are being thrown idle owing to the shortage of explosives. We have other large collieries that are going to be troubled over the same question, as in the Cessnock district, where the coal is much harder than in the lower district, the explosive now in use is not giving general satisfaction, and a much higher tension explosive is required. The Westonite Company have been approached by several lodges and managers with a view of trying to obtain explosives from them but it appears that they cannot manufacture sufficient to keep the collieries going, and the executive are of opinion that an inquiry should be made, if this explosive is a suitable one, to see why sufficient cannot be manufactured. If the company have not the money to acquire further to their property, we think the Federal Government should step in in order to assist the workers over this trouble.
For some time we have been agitating for the establishment of a testing station, to enable all our explosives to be made within the Commonwealth. At present we have to depend on imported explosives for the production of coal. The matter has been repeatedly brought forward by Mr. Charlton in another place, but nothing has been done, the Government having arrived at the conclusion that it was a State matter, so far as permitted explosives are concerned. It is impossible during the present crisis to depend on importations, and the request I have to make is that the Government should do something to supplement the work of the Westonite Company in the Maitland district, and also establish a testing station. The position is due to no fault of the men. Only last week, when the teacher in one of the public schools asked the children who had had no breakfast that morning to stand up, every child in the class stood up. If, in our generosity, we can send £100,000 to assist the Belgians, we certainly should take into consideration the position of people within our own borders. It is not too much to ask the Government to make inquiries, and if nothing can be done to provide work to afford the men relief, immediate relief should be distributed among them, so that no person in the district shall be allowed to starve.
– We are all deeply touched by the picture which Senator Watson has drawn of the unfortunate position of the nien, women, and children in the coal-mining industry of New South Wales. I know how badly the industry has been hit by the restrictions on the coal trade, which has been interfered with perhaps more than any other. The Defence Department has had to exercise a very close watch over the coal leaving Australia, and we know that on account of suspicion as to its ultimate destination the export of coal to customers who, before the war, got it from Australia freely, was prevented. That state of affairs has been eased by the disappearance of the German cruisers, and much better conditions now obtain, and I believe that, with the removal of the restrictions, the export trade will gradually recover its former position. I see no reason why we should not be sending away as much coal as we previously exported. The Australian coal trade was not the only one interfered with by the war. The trade of other countries has also been interfered with, and, seeing that the demand for coal is still there, it should be possible for our coal merchants to once again get hold of the trade. The Government have not been idle in regard to the Newcastle district. A contract for about 350 miles of steel rails - I suppose about the biggest contract that has ever been let in Australia for steel rails - has been let to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works at Newcastle, which give employment to over 1.000 men, and where probably more men will be employed as they get into full swing.
– The trouble is that the works do not give employment to our men. They do take a little of our coal, but not an appreciable quantity.
– However, there is not much difficulty in getting clearances for coal cargoes if shippers comply with the general instructions which have been laid down.
– I am afraid that that is not the whole difficulty. The demand for a bunkering trade, which took hundreds of thousands of tons, has entirely disappeared.
– I am aware of that. I have made these remarks in order to show that the interference through war precautionary measures has been removed. The question of explosives is a very difficult one. It is by no means a new matter. Prom time to time the advisability of having a testing station for locally-manufactured explosives has been raised, and at one time the matter was referred, among other things, to the Defence Department, probably because it was regarded as- a sort of Explosives Department, and, as such, should know something about it. However, Mr. Bell, the expert, who tests all the cordite for the Defence Department, went very exhaustively into the question of having local tests of explosives, and the general purport of his report was that if the establishment of a local testing station was decided upon, it would not be a sound proposition to associate it with the Cordite Factory. There was an idea that this could be done, but Mr. Bell recommended strongly against it. There was also an idea that the explosives used in mining could be manufactured at the Cordite Factory, but I am informed that it was condemned by the expert as a totally erroneous idea, the machinery at the Cordite Factory not being . suitable for the purpose. The question arises as to upon whom does lie the duty of dealing with this industry in the way of giving it assistance and providing our mines with explosives. By the Constitution, the powers of the Federal Government are extremely limited. There is not the slightest doubt that the control of the industry is a matter for the State Government in practically every direction,, and that the only part the Commonwealth has to control is the importation of explosives. I very much doubt whether the Commonwealth could undertake the manufacture of explosives for private purposes. We could manufacture for defence purposes or for the use of Departments.
– There is nothing to prevent our subsidizing private people to start the industry.
– What I wish to point out is that it is the province of the State Governments to manufacture these explosives. Why should the Commonwealth Government, for the sake of establishing an industry, take up an obligation which is a heavy financial burden, while full power over the industry fs denied to it, and while the States reserve to themselves the part that promises some definite return ? It is not fair to come to the Commonwealth Government when there is everything to pay out and nothing to receive. When there is an industry in need of assistance, is it fair to appeal to the Commonwealth, and then, when it is a question of establishing an industry, to say, “ Hands off, the Constitution does not allow you to have anything to do with it: this is a matter tor the State only “ ? If, when an industry is in danger, the Commonwealth is to be called on to come to its rescue financially, the Commonwealth should be given control of that industry in ordinary times, and, if necessary, should have the DOWel to take over that industry and enter upon the work itself. Very soon after the present Government assumed office it had to decide what attitude it would take up with regard to appeals for financial assistance that were being made, and evidently were to be made in a greater measure, for industries of various kinds in the different States, and it decided that as the Commonwealth did not have control of these industries, industrially or in any other way, it was the duty of the States, which alone had control of them, to come to their rescue. But we recognised that as the States had considerable financial difficulties, it was the Commonwealth’s duty to give them .financial assistance, and assistance was given in order that they might be in a position to assist the industries within their borders. We are told by the Treasurer of New South Wales that the State is in a thoroughly satisfactory financial position, and the coal-mining industry of New South Wales is under the control of the State Government. Similar applications for assistance were made on behalf of a number of mining propositions. We had appeals from the tin mines of Western Australia, and the Broken Hill mines, and I am not sure that .we did not have an appeal from the Tasmanian mines. The appeal was that we should give financial assistance to those industries which had received a severe blow as a result of the war.
– The Labour Government in Tasmania was very prompt in coming to the assistance of the mining industry in that State.
– I know that the State Government came to the assistance of the tin and copper mines in Western Australia. Although at the time there was no possibility of selling the product of the mines in the world’s market, the State Government took over the output, advanced 75 per cent, of its value, and now hold it until it can be disposed of at a later date.
– The Tasmanian Government advanced 50 per cent, in the same way.
– I do not suggest that it does lie within the power of Hie Government of New South Wales to provide a complete solution of the difficulty mentioned by Senator Watson, because if there is no market for the coal, if there is no demand for the article, nothing they can do can create a demand; and if that is the position, and if it is likely to continue, the only solution of the difficulty will’ be to put the men to some other kind of work. I am sure that the men do not ask for charity, soup kitchens, or anything of that kind. They simply ask for the opportunity to earn a living for themselves and their families, and it is the duty of the State Government to step in in that way. The Commonwealth lias intimated to every State Government that it is prepared to assist financially in taking steps to that end.
– Does that mean additional assistance to that already rendered ?
– Yes. The Commonwealth intimated some time ago that it was prepared to give further assistance if it was required. At the same time, tha little that we can do - and I admit that it is very little - we are doing. For instance, as far as possible we are trying to remove the restrictions on the coal trade that were rendered necessary by the war,, and we are trying to expedite Commonwealth works. Obviously, we cannot build forts or post-offices as relief works - no one would advocate that course - but these are the only works which we have any authority to undertake, though we are bringing forward railway projects which should provide considerable employment in the future. But as a matter of Government capacity to give relief, the State Governments have greater prospects of dealing with the question in an effective way, and it is more directly their duty than it is that of the Commonwealth Government. I regret the position referred to by Senator Watson sin- cerely, and I trust that some steps will be taken to relieve it, but I can assure him that anything the Commonwealth can do will be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150527_senate_6_77/>.