6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Works in a position to answer the questions that I put to him last evening in regard to the men who have been imprisoned for non-compliance with the Military Service Proclamation, and in regard to the regulations which were disallowed by the Senate!
– There has not been sufficient time for procuring the information, but I shall endeavour to obtain it for tha next day of sitting.
-(By leave).- I wish, by way of personal explanation, to draw attention to the following passage in the Argus, report of the Senate’s proceedings yesterday: -
Tho debate on a motion by Senator McDougall (N.S.W.) in favour of the establishment by the Government of works for the manufacture of all the electric cables it required was continued by Senator Gardiner. A motion by the Minister for Works (Senator Lynch) to adjourn the debate was negatived by 18 votes to 15; but almost directly afterwards, when a Caucus member, Senator Beady, moved “a similar motion, it was agreed to without discussion. That report is absolutely incorrect. Senator Millen rose - after the Minister, and asked me to accept an Adjournment of the debate, as he wished to bear the arguments. To that I agreed, and allowed the debate to be adjourned. The Argus report makes it appear that my intention was to harass the Government, but it waa nothing of the sort. . I moved the motion some time, ago, so that Ministers had ample time for preparing information in refutation of what I said as to the advisability of establishing the factory. My wish was to get a vote on the question, not to embarrass the Government; but, at Senator Millen’s request, I was willing to have the matter adjourned.
– In view of the fact that certain persons who were imprisoned under the military service pro clamation, which has been withdrawn, on whose behalf representations were made to the Defence Department, have been, released from gaol, will the Minister take into consideration the advisability of releasing other persons imprisoned for the same offence on whose behalf’ no representations or influence has been used 1
– 1 draw your attention, Mr. President, to the fact that the honorable senator, in asking the question, has commented on its subject-matter, which is contrary to your rulings. He says that influence has been exercised on behalf of certain persons.
– I understood Senator Blakey to be’ desirous of getting an intimation from the Minister that influence would not be allowed.
– I did not mean to reflect on the Department in any way, and did not use the word “influence”’ in a bad.sense. I ask the Minister will he - take steps to secure the release of all persons now in prison under the proclamation.
– Will the honorable senator kindly repeat the question at a later datel
– Yesterday I asked whether the representatives of the Government will ascertain whether the Attorney-General’s Department has decided to take action against Mr. Gilchrist because of the representations made in the report of Judge Eagleson ?
– The AttorneyGeneral’s Department is stall giving attention to the matter; but it has not yet come to a decision.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Coes the prohibiting of the use of the word “Anzac” apply- to private residences?
– The answers are -
The price now paid to producers of such minerals is -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy -
Is it a fact that the following employees of the Navy Department have been victimized after doing thirty days’ training under the recent proclamation : -
George Harris, hairdresser, employed on H.M.S. Tingira for two years;
G. Barnes, clerk, employed at the Naval Dockyard, Cockatoo Island, for three years; (3)R. Dore, clerk, employed at the Naval Dockyard, Cockatoo Island, for fifteen months ?
– Inquiries are being made, and the information will be furnished as soon as available.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the. Assistant Minister (Senator Russell) upon notice -
Will he obtain from the prices Commissioner of Tasmania (Mr. G. F. Martin) a return showing the number of commodities of which prices have been fixed, the former and fixed prices, and the estimated saving to the people of Tasmania, and lay same ‘on the table of the Library?
Motion (by Senator Barker) agreed to -
That the report of the Printing Committee, presented to the Senate on 14th December, be adopted.
Motion (by Senator Lynch) agreed to-
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the Senate’s last sitting in the year 1916 to the date of its first sitting iu the year 1917.
Debate resumed from 6th December (vide page 9618), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the paper be printed.
– I understand that the Government do not desire to continue the debate : to-day, and, therefore, I ask leave to resume my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– By leave, I should like to make a personal explanation. I have no objection to Senator Ready proceeding with his speech on the motion. He has apparently abandoned his right to discuss it.
– No ; I have postponed my right.
– We are prepared to listen to Senator Ready or any other honorable senator discussing the motion.
– I made the arrangement with the Government whip.
– I have no desire, as a member of the Government, to be placed in a false position. The Government have no objection to the discussion upon the Ministerial statement being proceeded with now.
– Senator Ready is not entitled to continue his speech now, because he obtained the leave of the Senate to continue it on the next day of sitting.
– Should I be in order in moving that the debate be adjourned to the next day of sitting.
– The proper course is for the Minister leading the Senate to place the Government business,. He could move that the debate be an order of the day for the next day of sitting, or for some other day.
That the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
In Committee. (Consideration resumed from 1st September, 1915, vide page 6506.)
Clause 71 (Policy after three years only forfeitable for fraud or want of insurable interest).
– I should like to know whether there is any serious intention of going on with this business. I do not believe that there is. If we have no business to do, the best course to take is to make a report from the Committee, and leave it to the Government to say whether, in the circumstances, they ought not to move the adjournment of the Senate. We all know whathas happened elsewhere, and the only thing for us to do now is for the Committee to report to the Senate, and then for the Senate to adjourn till there is business to occupy its attention.
Motion (by Senator Lynch) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Monday next.
.- I would ask the Minister for Works whether there is any advantage in adjourning until Monday, if when we meet on Monday we shall be in the same position we are in to-day. In fixing the date for the resumption of sittings after the adjournment, I would suggest that as we are nearing the Christmas holidays the Government should take up those measures which have some prospect of being quickly dealt with, and should leave debatable measures until later.
– I do not know what is happening in connexion with another place, or whether it is the desire of the Government to go on with’ some of the measures which have been sent to the Senate. I suppose that most of us would like to spend Christmas at our own homes, but unless I can get away from Melbourne on Tuesday I need not go at all, as I should otherwise be unable to reach the place where I live before Christmas. I would like to know from Senator Lynch if it is possible for the Senate to rise on Tuesday.
– The reason why we are asked, within a few minutes of our attending to-day, to adjourn till Monday, is that no business has been received from another place. By 3 o’clock on Monday will circumstances have so developed that we shall have received some business . from another place?
– Another place meets at half-past 10 o’clock.
– That may be, but my experience of another place and of the Senate this session impresses me with the fact that meeting does not necessarily mean doing anything. As a matter of fact, Parliament has been sitting for several weeks, and visitors have probably noticed the placards “ Galleries full.” We might just as well have placed under those notices “Nothing doing.”
– There was something doing yesterday.
– Yes, but that something took thirty-one hours to do, and might well have been done in onetenth of that time.
– And might have been left undone very satisfactorily.
– On a point of order. Is Senator Keating in order in lecturing the Senate as to its method of conducting business ?
- Senator Keating was quite in order in urging as a reason why the Senate should not meet on Monday next, the alleged dilatory way in which the Senate has conducted its business. Any honorable senator is entitled to criticise the conduct of business at any time, so long as he does it in an inoffensive manner.
– I received my training in a House in which we were not allowed to reflect on the conduct of business.
– Senator Gardiner is entirely wrong in suggesting that I have ruled that an honorable senator may reflect on the Senate, but reflecting on the Senate is quite different from criticising the conduct of business.
– When I raised the point of order I took excerption to Senator Keating discussing the business transacted yesterday, and the manner in which it was transacted. His criticism was unsatisfactory to the Senate.
– I rule that Senator Keating is in order.
– If Senator Gardiner regards my remarks as a reflection on him I am perfectly willing to withdraw them. . I did not reflect on the Senate.
– The honorable senator will be connecting us with the Industrial Workers of the World if he says that we are doing nothing.
– I have sat here patiently, and I am anxious that we should proceed with business, but I do not think it is desirable to call the Senate together again for the purpose of dealing with the practical business of the session if we are not sure there will be some of that practical business to do. Yesterday, by way of interjection, I suggested that we should sit to-day in the belief and hope that another place would- have sat late last night and today, and that we might nearly complete the business this evening. I have no objection to the Senate sitting on Monday, but I hope the Minister will give us some assurance that we shall not meet here purposelessly, as we have practically done to-day, but that there will be business to which we may apply ourselves.
– Do you not think that in the present circumstances, and having regard to the desire of honorable members of another place to go to their homes, we are justified in the assumption that at least some of the Bills will be her© by Monday afternoon ?
– I hope the business will be here by Monday; but, if we cannot be assured of that, I do not see why the Senate should meet next week at all. Why should we not have an opportunity to go to our homes? Another place holds up work, and asks us at the point of the bayonet of time to push it through. Let us adjourn till early in the new year, and if honorable members of another place are inconvenienced by that arrangement, let them understand that honorable members of the Senate will be inconvenienced by the ^arrangement at present contemplated, and that we have frequently been inconvenienced in a similar way.
– Yesterday much was said about a short adjournment interfering with the recruiting campaign. Would not your proposal interfere with recruiting ‘(
– I do not think that recruiting can be interfered with much more than it has been already. I am thoroughly in sympathy with Senator Stewart’s position, and other honorable senators have similar claims to consideration. I again ask the Minister for an assurance that he has some grounds for believing that there will be some practical business for the attention of the Senate at the hour at which he proposes we shall meet again.
– Ministers in this Chamber are entitled to a measure of sympathy. They stand between the devil and the deep sea - I might say many devils. It is well known that honorable senators are anxious to return to their homes, and we met her© to-day with the desire, if possible, to enable them to realize their wish. I assume that when we agreed to do that there was some hope that another place would have made such progress with the business that we should have something to do to-day. Senator Keating asked for some guarantee that there would be work for our attention on Monday. Any guarantee that Senator Lynch might give must be subject to the frame of mind of another place. On the other hand, if the Minister is not able to give that guarantee, and we adjourn till Tuesday, and another place, in quite a phenomenal fit of energy, did pass some business for our consideration by Monday afternoon,- and as a result of our belated start we had to continue sitting on Wednesday and Thursday, another set of honorable senators would be inconvenienced. In this matter I can hardly hold the Government responsible for the motion, which, no doubt, was moved for the purpose of meeting the convenience of a majority of honorable senators, but as the Minister is asking the Senate to meet again at 3 o’clock on Monday, it should be possible for the Government to submit to another place as the first business on Monday such measures as are likely to be passed most expeditiously. Last night, Senator Lynch intimated that there are one or two measures which the Government are desirous of placing on the statute-book before Parliament adjourns. Those measures are not likely to arouse controversy. If the other branch of the Legislature dealt with them first, so that they could be forwarded to the Senate, we could be considering them while the remaining business of the session was being transacted elsewhere.
– What can be done ?
– Instead of the Government in the other House hanging on to a measure which has provoked considerable debate, they should, on Monday morning, proceed at once with those Bills which are not likely to excite controversy, and have them transmitted to the Senate in time for our meeting at 3 o’clock on the afternoon of that day; otherwise, we shall run the risk of reassembling and finding that we have no business to transact.
TI 1.43]. - I do not think there is anything unusual about the difficulty in which we find ourselves to-day, because it is one which has existed at the end of every session of Parliament.
– But honorable senators are becoming more irritated by it now.
– At the close of every session, the Government are not masters of the situation, and the very best that previous Administrations have been able to do is to assume that certain things will happen in another place.- I can remember, when Senator Keating filled Ministerial office, that he was similarly circumstanced. I think that Senator Millen has made a suggestion which can be readily accepted by myself and my colleagues. I understand that there are about four Bills which the Government desire to place upon the statutebook this session. At least two* of them are non-controversial, and we can request our leader in the other branch of the Legislature to proceed with those mea– sures first. They could be at once forwarded to the Senate, and their consideration would occupy us until the remaining; measures had been disposed of elsewhere.. I can assure Senator Millen that we shall, do all that we can to expedite the transaction of business in this regard.
– It is quite plain that we assembled here this morning for the despatch of business, and it is equally plain that an opportunity has not been afforded another place to despatch that business to us. I do not suggest that the other branch of the Legislature is endeavouring to exploit the patience of this Chamber in any way. But, as has been already remarked, it is very difficult for me to give a guarantee that the consideration of business elsewhere will be completed so that it will be available to this Chamber when it reassembles. Whatever happens is theresult of circumstances over which we have no control. So long as we are confronted with that position it is obviously impossible for me to enter into any guarantee. What I propose is that we shall meet at 3 o’clock on Monday afternoon, in the confident hope that some business will then be available for our consideration. I am led to believe that in the other branch of the Parliament there are certain measures the consideration of which is approaching finality. But we cannot be sure that at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute something will not happen to prevent that finality being reached. We have, therefore, to choose between the possibility of wasting time by not meeting here till Tuesday and re-assembling here on Monday afternoon on the assumption that business will then be available. This is no new experience in parliamentary life. , The Parliaments of which I have been a member have had a similar experience. In other Legislatures, one Chamber usually blames the other for these delays. Here we think that the Senate is spotless. There is, however, another side to that question. To be brutally frank, the delay on the part of another place in forwarding business for our consideration has been materially contributed to by events which happened in this Chamber quite recently. The present position has been created by a host of circumstances, for some of which we are responsible. We are, therefore, swinging between two alternatives.
– There is no alternative before the Senate. There cannot be, because the Minister is replying to the debate on the motion.
– I never knew till now thatthe last word had been uttered upon any matter which was the subject of a motion that had been carried.
– Nobody can speak after the Minister has replied.
– My proposition is based on the assumption-, that work will probably be awaiting us on Monday afternoon. At the same time, I can give no guarantee in that connexion, and honorable senators will therefore vote on this motion with the full knowledge that business may or may not’ be ready for us when we re-assemble.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
free Railway Passes - Transfer of Imperial Officers to Commonwealth Divisions - “ Hansard “ Reports : Censorship - Withholding of Soldiers’ Pay - Tasmanian Mail Service : Increase offares - Price of Tasmanian Flannel - Employment of Returned Soldiers - Dismissal of Mechanics from Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
Motion (by Senator Lynch) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Works whether the Government have given further consideration to the question of granting free railway passes to gentlemen who have served twelve months as Commonwealth Ministers of the Crown? Last night the Minister informed me that the matter was under consideration. I wish to be clearly understood in regard to this matter. I consider that it was a wrong step to take when the ex-Minister for Home Affairs issued an order granting free trips to New Zealand to members of the Federal Parliament. I am also opposed to his order granting free railway passes for life to ex-Ministers of the Crown, exPresidents of the Senate and ex-Speakers of the House of Representatives. When the question was raised by Senator Story I asked the Minister for Defence what had been done, and he said that the Government had cancelled that portion of the order relating to ex-Presidents and ex-Speakers, but had decided to grant free railway passes for life to ex-Ministers of the Crown who had served twelve months in office. I am against the whole proposal, lock, stock, and barrel. No exMinister of the Crown, ex-President or exSpeaker should have a privilege in this regard above and beyond that of any private member, and as I would not agree to any order of a Minister of the Crown giving free railway passes for life to ex-members of this Parliament,. I cannot agree to the granting of the privilege to ex-Ministers. A private member is elected to -this Parliament to do his work, and he is allowed certain remuneration for doing it. A member who is appointed to a Ministerial position is quite properly allowed extra remuneration. Presidents and Speakers come under the same category. They are properly allowed extra remuneration while they hold their positions. But once they no longer remain in their positions the Government should not grant to them something which no other private citizen enjoys. The present Government have retained the ‘ privilege for Ministers who have served twelve months in -office - most of the present Ministers have been in office for that period. They will be entitled to a free railway pass for life over the railways of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator means “ the railways belonging to the Commonwealth . ‘ ‘
-The word “belonging “ does not appear, but even in the case of the railways belonging to the Commonwealth I object to the principle.
– The railways belonging to the Commonwealth may be pretty extensive yet.
– I hope that very shortly a railway will be completed from the east to the west of this continent.
– There should soon be a railway from north to south.
– There will soon be a railway from north to south.
– I wish we could say “ soon.”
– Any assistance that I can render to bring about the early completion of the railway junctioning from the north to the south with east to west line will be given, because South Australian senators have assisted Western Australian senators in their desire to build the main link from east to west. , I have always reciprocated in that regard, and I will assist in bringing about the early completion of the north to south line.
– That is usually termed .” log rolling.”
– My desire is to see the east connected with the west and the north connected with the south by railway communication, and if Senator Turley chooses to interpret my attitude as “ log rolling “ he is at liberty to do so, but there is nothing in my mind in that direction. If these free passes are confined to the railways owned by the Commonwealth I shall still object to them. I wish to know why the present Government have cancelled one portion of the order issued by the ex-Minister for Home Affairs and re-arranged the matter so .as to give free passes for life to ex-Ministers of the Crown who have served twelve months in office. If it is their determination to do this they can continue the practice until Parliamentotherwise -decides, but I shall take every opportunity in my humble way to see that the arrangement is cancelled.
– Does not the honorable senator think it would be a good incentive to probable Ministers of the Crown to strive for office?
– Neither immediate Ministers, ‘ nor ex-Ministers, nor prospective Ministers, nor ambitious private members have any more right to the. concession than private citizens who are responsible for .placing them in the positions they occupy. I hope that the Minister for Works will indicate the intention of the Government in this regard.
– As one who was a member of the Government when the issue of these passes was agreed to I dissent altogether from the speech of Senator Needham. My thoughts have been saddest when I have thought of men who have served their State or their country in the highest positions and have met with an adverse vote from their constituencies. It has always appeared to me that there was not the slightest spark of gratitude in the hearts of the people to whom they had given their services. You have only to mention any distinguished politician in this country for the last fifty years, and you mention a man who has lost his opportunity for making private wealth. The saddest sight I have seen is that of the splendid men who have given all their lives to the service of their country left almost friendless the moment they lose their popularity. If a man loses the opportunity of creating private wealth by private business through serving his country, there should be no.t grudging recognition by the country of his services. The gratitude of Kings and Courts is proverbial; but when Democracy takes over the Government, I hope that some spark of gratitude will be shown for services rendered. I resent the cheeseparing system that refuses to extend to public men who have served their country faithfully and well considerations that nearly all reputable private firms extend to those who have served ‘them well in their businesses. There are plenty of firms in this country who grant si life annuity to men who have given their lives to the business, and I protest against a man who falls on evil days after giving the best years of his life to the services of his country, being dragged down to the same dull, dead level, and made to travel simply on an equal footing with men who have never thought of anything but their own private interests all the days of their lives.
– A number of complaints have been reaching the Commonwealth that men who have been officers in the Commonwealth Imperial Forces since the outbreak of the war have been superseded by men interposed from the Imperial Forces without any prior claims to tate precedence over our men. I have learned from more than one source that some little soreness exists in this regard.
– A good deal of soreness.
– To show that it is not mere rumour, I have the following letter from a mainland officer, dated 5th October - practically from the battlefield - a very clever soldier, who has won the Military Cross, and been mentioned in despatches: -
There is a good deal of uneasiness creeping slowly in amongst our boys simply because there are too many Imperial officers being slowly “ grafted “ into our Divisions. This is wrong, absolutely wrong. We can run our own show without them; and, besides, most of this stops promotions amongst the Australians. The excuse is that we are not competent for- these positions. This is absurd when none of us have been tried, or very few of us..
– And very few have failed when they were tried.
– That is so. While I shall not reveal the officer’s name, I can state that he has recently been promoted from Lieutenant to Captain, so that he has no personal axe to grind.. Nothing is more calculated to shake our discipline and enthusiasm, and damage the general morale of the Australian troops at the front, than such occurrences.
I have been advised by cable from Tasmania that the speech made in this Chamber by Senator Grant the other night on the Ministerial .statement, and reported in Hansard, has been debarred from publication in one section of the press in Tasmania. The Daily Post desired to republish Senator Grant’s speech and comment on it; but I am told there has been a complete closedown by the Censor at Hobart on the reproduction of the Hansard report of that speech, and of another made in another place, and also on any comments. When men responsible to the people in the Senate make speeches they are prepared to take the responsibility of them, and if the censorship is to be used to prevent the republication of their speeches in the press, we shall have complete justification for reopening the whole question of the censorship in this Chamber. What has happened is unfair, and calculated to create discord and suspicion of the worst possible kind.
– I notice that a few things that I said the other night do not seem to appear in Hansard.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the Hansard report of his speech has been censored ?
– That is not correct.
– I will make an explanation at the right time.
– I am not aware that any honorable senator has had anything censored from Hansard.
– I do not say it has been censored, but it has been left out.
– Such a suggestion should not be made. No such thing has happened.
– On a point of order, I suggest that Senator O’Keefe’s statement should be withdrawn at once,’ whatever explanation he may make afterwards.
– When I made the interjection I certainly believed that there has been a certain censoring of Hansard for some time past. It is common talk, and quite a number of honorable members have said so in’ both Houses.. I made one or two statements of a very strong character the other night which do not appear in the Hansard report of my speech. I had intended to ask you, sir, about them.
– I have not asked for the withdrawal of the statement made by Senator O’Keefe, or of the suggestion that Hansard is censored, because it is not contrary to the Standing Orders to make that statement. Any harm that may be done by it -has already been done by the making of the suggestion, and no withdrawal can alter it. It was, however, a most improper suggestion, because there has never been any censoring of Hansard If’ anything has been kept out of Hansard it has been only with the consent of the member who made the speech. That has been known to honorable members of both Chambers for over twelve months.
– It is not only injudicious, but absurd, for the censor to interfere with the re-publication of Hansard reports in the press, seeing that thousands of copies of Hansard go throughout the country, and can be obtained by anybody at almost any time. Copies of Hansard are supplied to every Public Library and debating society throughout the Commonwealth. I have been advised by cable that the Hobart Daily Post wished to publish extracts from certain speeches appearing in Mansard, but was refused: permission to do so by the censor of Tasmania.
– There does not seem to be much difference between the honorable senator’s statement and my own.
– There is a difference between censoring Hansard and censoring the publication of matter taken from Hansard.
– There is a difference. But what purpose is to be served by prohibiting the press from publishing matter taken from Hansard when Hansard itself is circulated broadcast? If the authorities desire in this way to prevent information going into enemy countries they will . not achieve their object. It could still reach them through Hansard.
– Supposing a statement were made here that would be helpful to the enemy. Should’ it be allowed to appear in Hansard?
– I know of no statement made in the Senate that would be helpful to the enemy. Newspapers are entitled, in my opinion, to publish reports of what is said in this Parliament. They should certainly have the right to publish extracts from Hansard.
– The honorable senator claims that public men are entitled to have publicity given to statements that might be injurious?
– No. The senator making the statements ought to be the judge of what is injurious.
– He cannot be. No individual member can be the judge of that.
– Then we had better bring the censor right in here ! Once a statement is reported and published in Hansard it is absurd to prevent a newspaper making an extract from that report. I protest against these methods, which are calculated to bring our censorship into disrepute, and to engender amongst the people a dangerous feeling of suspicion. I hope that the Minister will look into this question. In order that he may thoroughly understand the position, let me say that I understand from the cablegram I have received that Senator Grant’s speech referred to what is known as the Goulburn cases - cases affecting a number of soldiers. The speech in the other House, which is referred to in the message received by me,,probably had to do with the -same subject. Senator Lynch will be able to call for a report from the censor, and give us next week, I hope, the reasons why this drastic course was adopted. I shall certainly want more reasons for this action than have so far been given to the editor of the Daily Post.
There is another matter that I should like to bring before Senator Lynch. I have had a good many letters from the front complaining that men there are not being paid’ the full amount of pay which they should receive after providing for their allotments here. I have always discounted statements of this kind, because I am aware that misapprehensions often occur. I have never had a sufficiently specific case of this kind to bring before the Minister, but I have here a letter from the front addressed to Senator Long - who is on the State “War Council, and who, unfortunately, is laid aside with severe illness - which is very definite. I do not know whether or not the statements are correct, but the letter sets out clearly and fully what has previously been put before me. That being so, I shall read this letter and ask the Minister to cable at once for a report -
In the Field in France, 16th October, 1916.
I suppose you will be surprised to hear fromthe undersigned. It is not a “ lawyer’s letter,” but a request for you to do something for the boys who have come away. I want to acquaint you with something in connexion with, the rates of pay paid to the Australian Infantry Forces on active service, which is a breach of faith with the men, and should, I venture to think, be rectified. If you agree with me I am sure that you will do what you oan to put the matter right. Shortly, it is this : The Commonwealth contracted to pay those enlisting a stipulated sum per diem. The men trusted its word and made their arrangements accordingly. When the men get away from Australia the military authorities throw them over and pay them what they like. I have tried to get the matter rectified by discussion with officers, but they cannot, or will not, see that any wrong is being done.
I hope I won’t weary you, but I would like to set the matter out a little more fully. The Commonwealth called for volunteers and offered to pay those who answered the call a certain amount of pay. The sum varied according to the branch of the Army one was drafted to. The minimum rate was 6s. per diem. For some ranks it was 7s., and for others 8s. per diem. These were the rates offered to men below the rank of noncommissioned officers. Non-commissioned officers were to get a higher rate. It will be sufficient for the present purpose to take the case of a private. The Commonwealth contracted to pay him 6s. per diem. The whole 6s. was not to be immediately available - ls., per diem, it was stipulated, should be held by the Commonwealth for a period, and be paid some time in the future. That sum is what is known to us as our deferred pay. Again, the balance 5s. per diem might be subject to an allotment. Before leaving Australia, or while on active service, a soldier may have directed that either the whole or a portion of the 5s. per diemshould be paid to a third party. The balance, after deducting the deferred pay and the allotment, was to be paid to the soldier in the Field.
That was the contract on which the men enlisted. It is the contract set out in their pay books. The amount immediately payable(that is, from time to time) to the soldier is there referred to as the “ net daily rate for- issue.” Take the case of a man who hasallotted 2s. per diem. His “ net daily rate for issue “ -will be 3s. per diem, but the Commonwealth won’t pay it to him. An order or regulation has been issued by the military autho-
Titles fixing a scale of payment for the various ranks without regard to the Commonwealth’s contract with the men. According to that scale the maximum amount to be paid to a private is 40 francs per fortnight, which, at the present rate of exchange, works out at £1 8s. 8d. per fortnight, or 2s. 4-7d. per diem. That is to say, a man to whom the Commonwealth Government has agreed to pay 3s. per diem is underpaid 13s. 4d. per fortnight-
– Withheld for the time being - that is clear. The writer continues -
A man who should receive 4s. a day is underpaid £1 7s. 4d. per fortnight. We heard a great deal about the perfidy of one of our enemies in treating its contracts as “ a scrap of paper.” But what is Australia doing about that ?
The matter is a good deal talked about in the Army, and it is not going to be without some unfortunate consequences. Will you do what you can to get Australia to keep her word to those who have offered even themselves to keep her name?
The matter is not a very serious one to me personally; but, unfortunately, for many of the chaps it is. I should not omit to tell you that the officers get every penny of the pay contracted to be paid to them.
For obvious reasons I have suppressed the writer’s name, but he is a member of the Pay Corps.
- t What unit?
– I shall not indicate it. I have cut off from the letter the name of the writer.
– The name and unit are immaterial. It has been the practice for months.
– I understand that when the men get their leave, they get their money.
– I have seen men given leave, but refused a shilling.
– Since we” are about to embark on a recruiting campaign, mat- ters of this kind which are calculated to prejudice the movement ought to be adjusted.
There is another grievance with which I desire to deal. Between Tasmania and the mainland, we have a contract mail service, under which the freights and fares have been fixed at certain rates. As the result of a good deal of agitation in this Chamber, the last mail contract to be signed had inserted in it a provision by which these freights and fares cannot be increased without the consent of the Commonwealth Government. Clause (i) of section I. reads as follows : -
That the contractors will not without the approval of the Postmaster-General increasethe rates freight and/or passage money existing at the date of the execution thereof.
In other words, it is provided under that contract that there shall be no increasein freights or fares without the consentof the Postmaster-General. Senator O’Keefe, Senator Long, and I fought bitterly to get that clause included in. the contract, and we had the impression that the people would then be protected, but what has been done by the company ? When the coal strike started they refused to issue return tickets, and issued singletickets, which resulted in an increase of 10s. 6d. for the return journey. Underthe old scale a return journey cost £2 12s. 6d. The single fare is £1 lis. 6d., so if you double the single fare you get £3 3s., or 10s. 6d. above the ordinary return fare. A deck cabin return farecosts £3 2s. 6d., and now a deck cabin single fare is £1 16s. 6d. Double that and” you get’ £3 13s. It would seem, therefore, that by issuing two single tickets, where formerly the company issued one return fare, they mulcted the people of an extra half -guinea.
– What power have theGovernment to intervene ?
-The Government have power .to take action under the clause in their contract that I have referred to, and which provides that thereshall be no increase of fares without the. consent of the Postmaster-General. I am, therefore, asking the Minister to insist, at once upon a return of this extra half-guinea to those people who havebeen obliged to pay it. The fare is toohigh now, arid the line is one of the most profitable in the service of the Union Steam-ship Company. Their dividends have increased, and now, by an indirect back-door method, they are penalizing the people who travel on the Tasmanian route. Their action cannot betoo strongly condemned.
– I do not think the. matter can be remedied.
– The remedy can be. found in the clause of the contract I have read. I have ascertained that the Postmaster-General was not. approached by the company. Membersof the Commonwealth Parliament are- in the same position, because they have to pay an extra 10s. 6d. for the return trip, and even if we do get a refund thousands of people throughout) Australia who have travelled by boat during the last few weeks will not be recompensed. I urge that strong steps shall be taken against this company for their underhand method of mulcting the people at the time when everything was dislocated by the coal, strike, and if the Government take no action, I can promise that a good deal more will be heard of it in this Chamber. The company could have continued issuing the return tickets even during the coal strike, because such tickets are available for six months, and even if passengers could not have returned as promptly as in other circumstances, many of those who made the trip to Tasmania would not have felt inconvenienced.
There is another subject to which I wish to refer. In Tasmania we have in existence a Prices Commissioner, and the Commissioner, Mr. G.F . Martin, has been doing excellent work. I have with me some samples of Tasmanian flannel, the best in the Commonwealth, because the three woollen mills in that State have not the machinery for mixing cotton, and so they turn out the best flannel in the Commonwealth. I sold’ thousands of . yards of it myself when in business. It used to cost me ls. 1½d. wholesale and I retailed it at1s 3d. a yard. When war broke out, this flannel was required for military contracts, and the Government commandeered the output at ls. 5d. per yard, from the Waverley Woollen Mills, in. launceston; Johnstone Brothers, of Hobart; and Aiten and Sons, also of Hobart. It was a very fair price to pay; but, subsequently, as there was a great scarcity of flannel in Tasmania, Senator Long’ approached the Government to release some of the flannel for the use- of miners in the cold west coast country. Later on, the military demands eased off, and a quantity of this flannel was released for the general public. But what have the people of Tasmania to pay for it? For flannel of the sample which I have- with me,, and which I retailed at ls. 3d. a yard, they have now to pay 2s. 6d. a yard. This is an infamous attempt, by men who call themselves patriots, to’ exploit the general public.
– That appears to bo one of the cases in which the Government have made a good bargain.
– In my opinion, the price paid by the Government was high, and evidently it paid the firms well or we would have heard a lot about it. But I am sure the Minister will agree that firms should not be allowed to charge the public 2s. 6d. - an increase of ls.1d. per yard - for the same quality of flannel that the Government bought for military purposes at ls. 5d. The Minister should cable to Mr. Martin, the Prices Commissioner, and ask’ him to have an immediate inquiry into the price of flannel in Tasmania.
– Anybody can communicate with the Prices Commissioner of a State, and make a demand for an inquiry.
– But I am representing the public here, and I am asking the Minister to take the necessary steps to have an inquiry made, because this matter ought to be- looked into in view of the profits which these people must be making, especially as they have not been paying the best wages in the world - some of them - although there is a Wages Board in Tasmania. If the Minister ordered an inquiry to be made, I feel sure that the people in Tasmania would get some relief.
– Have you drawn Mr. Martin’s attention to the matter?
– No. I have not been, in Tasmania lately, and have therefore been unable to do that. I have brought this matter forward here because I hope that the Minister will deal with it promptly, and that thus it will be rectified as quickly as if I had brought it under the attention of Mr. Martin myself.
– Is the Commonwealth still releasing flannel for the miners of Tasmania, or are they procuring it from the mills privately ?
– The Commonwealth has released some flannel which is available to the public, and for it the storekeepers are asking 2s. 6d. per yard. It is to that I abject.
– It is strange that the miners of Victoria cannot get flannel.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Government the fact that, in New South Wales, there are many returned soldiers without employment. Each Sunday there is in the newspapers of the metropolis a long list of the men wanting employment. Last Sunday there were 269 names in this list, and more than half of them were names of married men, and 25 per cent, of them were names of men with three or more children. They are appealing for employment to the patriots of Australia, but they should not be forced to do this. It is the duty of the Government to see that men who have served the country at the risk of their lives, and in some cases have been maimed, are given work. I draw attention to the claims of a section with many of whom I am personally acquainted, the motor-drivers. The Government has in its employment men who have never volunteered for active service, and who tell me that they have been asked not to volunteer. On the other hand, there are returned men who are competent motor-drivers, who have driven motors on active service, and are pleading to the patriots of Australia to employ them. While there are so many unemployed returned soldiers, the recruiting scheme of the Government cannot prove successful. I wishthe recruiting to be successful, and it is in the interest of the campaign and of the nation, as well as of the men themselves, that I call attention to this matter. Work should’ be found for our returned soldiers by some of our loud-voiced patriots who were calling us nasty names during the referendum campaign. Another matter to which I draw attention is the dismissal of mechanics and others at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I understand that this has been necessitated by the want of material ; but work could be found for the men in the manufacture of munitions of war. This would employ quite a number. We have the ‘ necessary steel, and the Government should find employment for the whole of these- men, if possible, and for the machinery. While workmen have been dismissed, however, none of the staff has been sent away, and there are now nine managers on Cockatoo Island with no men to manage. Their services might also be utilized in the manufacture of munitions of war.
– Some of these foremen are to be shifted on Monday.
– I do not ask for the dismissal of those connected with the staff, but I desire that work should be found for them and for the men. Senator Ready has drawn attention to the fact that Imperial officers are replacing Australian officers in the Australian divisions, and that this is causing great discontent. As one who has been as near to the front as it is possible to get, and has mixed with many Australian officers, I say that there is great discontent from the cause named. I find fault with the military authorities in Australia for not exercising greater control over the Australian divisions. I know of four ablebodied colonels who have been returned to Australia, though quite fit to command. One colonel returned to Western Australia served through the Gallipoli campaign and at Poziéres. He was ordered to return to Australia, and pleaded with the authorities to tell him why, and to give him a chance. He asked for a court martial, but he could get no information as to why he was being sent back.
– Was he invalided back ?
– No. I brought the case under the notice of the Minister for Defence, but he said he was powerless to interfere. I object to that sort of thing. The authorities in Australia should have power to remedy cases of this kind. This colonel was an able-bodied man, who was beloved of his soldiers, who call him the.. grand old man, or the good old man. He seems to have been too good to them, because he was shifted. I understand that he is going back on a transport at reduced rank, and is to be given an opportunity to plead his case before the British military authorities, and to ask for fair play. We should have given him that here. Our authorities should be able to deal with such a case. But their powers have been usurped by those on the field. This may be proper in many instances, but when our men are subjected to treatment like that meted out to this officer, they have a right to be tried -for any offences with which they may be charged. Charges should not be trumped up against them, and they should not be sent back here in disgrace on such charges. Another matter among many that require rectifying is the delay in paying the men, although the officers are paid promptly. There should be a civil commission appointed to inquire into all these things. To make a speech ‘ about them here does little good. I have pleaded with the Department. On my return 1 sent a letter to the Department, appealing to be heard on behalf of these men. I. said that I had a number of cases to put forward. But -I have not received a reply to that letter yet. I shall have to say these things before the public, but I should prefer to say them here, because I wish to have matters rectified in the proper way. When I was on my way out here, the men on the steamer pleaded with me to intercede for them, so that they might have a run ashore at Capetown. They ‘were allowed ashore, but without a shilling in their pockets, although some of them had as much as £100 owing to them by the Department. The officials were willing to assist these men, but they could no nothing under the regulations. While the officers got their pay before they went ashore, the privates had to go without a shilling. This, of course, may have been a good thing for some of the men; but there were others quite capable of taking care of themselves, amongst them, for instance, a commercial traveller from New South Wales, who earned, I suppose, in private life a salary of over £500 a year. However, this man, amongst others, had to go ashore without a “bean”, to bless himself with ; and, as a matter of fact, the men have had to plead for money with which to buy even cigarettes. I had not intended to mention all these matters, but really it is almost a duty that we owe to these boys to make the facts public. I urge upon the Government to do their utmost to afford employment, especially for those for whom places can be found in the Public Service.
– In view of the information that the honorable senator has, and which should be known to the Government, at least, and to members of this House, does he not think that he ought to move for a Committee of Inquiry?
– I am_ afraid that I should not be able to obtain such a Committee, but if the Government will afford the opportunity, I should be very glad to move in that direction.
– I wish to make my position clear, in view of a little misunderstanding which arose over a question I asked earlier in the day. The Minister for Works rather took exception to my remarks when I said that some persons in prison under the proclamation had been released owing to “ influence.” I wish to repeat that I did not use that word in any offensive sense. I merely meant that some men had been released because of the fact that their cases had been brought prominently before the Defence authorities by members of Parliament and others.
– Once’ a man is sentenced by the Court, the only person who may release him is the Governor-General.
– That I quite understand.
– The Governorgeneral can be advised.
– Yes, by the Minister for Defence or any other member of the Government on the authority of the Cabinet.
– The GovernorGeneral can be advised only by the Prime Minister.
– He may be advised by the Executive.
– I am not arguing that point, but merely replying to the interjection of Senator Needham. Men have been released from .custody, and rightly I think, because the proclamation lias been withdrawn. For instance, men prominent in the public eye, like John Curtin and the Brothers Grant - in whom I interested myself - have, I understand, been released. At the same time, there are other men still in gaol for the same crime, if it be a crime, that those whose names I have mentioned committed. ,
– As one who interested himself in the release of Mr. Curtin, I may say that there are others who have been released more rapidly.
– I have no doubt but the Minister only did what most of us would have done under the circumstances in endeavouring to get such men released from custody. But my point is that plain John Jones, an unknown man, who has no friends amongst members of Parliament, may still be undergoing imprisonment in Western Australia or Queensland.
– If there was- any delay in the Curtin case I was not responsible, because I rang up the officers of the Attorney-General’s branch at halfpast eleven at night in order to get him l’c 1 leased
– I wish the Minister would get rid of the idea that I am making the slightest suggestion that the Government or himself did anything wrong in Curtin’s case, or in any other case. I am putting the hypothetical case of some unknown individual who has no one to put his case before the authorities, and who may be still undergoing imprisonment for the same offence as that committed by men who have been released.
– The men are released automatically, whether anybody tries to use” influence or not.
– I am very glad to hear that statement. My only desire is that every man, however humble, shall receive the same measure of justice as that served out to others whose names may have been more prominently brought forward.
– The releases are automatic and uniform.
– If that be so, I am quite satisfied.
– I only desire to say that I shall take an opportunity next week to make a personal explanation in regard to some remarks by the President, which, I think, have put me in rather a false light, if the President took my interjection as a reflection on any action of his, I absolutely and unreservedly withdraw what I said, because I had not the slightest idea of such a thing. I spoke because j. thought there was some kind of censorship exercised over Hansard, under the War Precautions Act, by the Government.
– The Government have no power to interfere with Hansard.
– No man is infallible. I have been told that there is some connexion between the Defence Department and the speeches made by honorable members of this Parliament. I understand that if a member says something which the Defence Department fears may be injurious in some way, the Department may write to that member, and, if he consents, may excise from the Hansard report the words in question. It may be that, owing to the existence of some such arrangement, the idea has got abroad that there is a sort of censorship. I shall again go carefully through the speech I made, and, as I say, take an opportunity next week of referring to certain statements, which, by some means or other have not got into Hansard. It is, of course, possible that I was speaking too rapidly for the reporter to take the words down. In making that suggestion I do not wish in any way to suggest that the reporter is to blame.
– Was it said during the all-night sitting?
– No, on the previous evening.
– Did you bring the matter under the notice of the Hansard staff V
– Senator Ready’s references to Mr. Martin, the Prices Commissioner for Tasmania, have afforded me the opportunity of saying that the object in the appointment of these Commissioners is to protect the public against exploitation. I am glad that the matter has been mentioned, because I wish to say that, whenever honorable senators are informed of a specific case of exploitation by overcharges, they will greatly assist the Department if they bring the case immediately under the notice of the local Prices Commissioner, and the Government will greatly appreciate their action. After inquiry, the Commissioner reports to the Minister, who will take whatever action may be necessary. I shall not refer at length to the matter of the censorship which has been raised, but I may mention that recently, when Senator Grant was giving the Senate a statement concerning a number of soldiers who have been sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, I happened to be in the gallery with a returned .Victorian soldier, who is favorably known to all the Victorian senators, and whose word will bt taken by them. He had come back a; one of the officers in charge of the men to whom Senator Grant was referring, anc while the honorable senator was reading their letters he said to me, in a humorous way, “ My God, Ted, I came back in charge of some of those men. If you only knew them !”
– That is not to say that their sentences were not excessive.
– Fancy Clinton getting five years’ hard labour for refusing to shave 1
– I could give honorable senators the name of the officer to whom I referred as coming back in charge of these men. I refer to the incident only to remind honorable senators that when a man under sentence writes a letter complaining of his treatment, it must be regarded as a purely ex parte statement, lit may be perfectly true, but no honorable member of the Senate will be prepared to decide a matter upon an ex parte statement. The publication of these complaints without investigation is calculated to injure the effort to obtain recruits. I do not know the merits of the different cases which have been referred to, but I hope that every case will be investigated, not by a military, but by a civil, tribunal, and that full justice will be done.
.- Senator Needham has referred to the free railway passes issued by my predecessor in the Home Affairs Department. Information was given to the honorable senator at a time when the matter had been partially considered by the Government. For perfectly obvious reasons, we have not had the time to give attention to such trivial affairs. The Government are called upon to solve problems with which no other Government has been confronted. We are in the position to-day of chief salesman for nearly every primary product of the country. I thoroughly indorse the statement made by Senator Gardiner with reference to the privileges granted to public .men. I firmly hold the opinion that the public men of this country are given too few rather than too many privileges. I have never let an opportunity pass, whether in the Western Australian or in the Federal Parliament, of voting for a proper recognition of public men, either in the way of salary or privilege. I believe that the people of Australia are given exceptionally honest service by her public men. On the other hand, the people are somewhat prone to neglect public men when, as the result of untoward circumstances, they are thrown on the scrap heap, and are turned down at an election. Much has been said about the issue of free passes, but it is only a twopenny-halfpenny affair.
I consider that the ex-Minister for Home Affairs did what he was entitled to do, and he did not go as far as I should have gone in one direction had I been a member of the Government. No doubt, he did exceed his duty later; and, while I cannot indorse his acting without the sanction of Cabinet, I do indorse part of what he did when he exceeded his duty. Senator Ready has referred to several matters, and, amongst them, the appointment of English officers to command Australian soldiers. There i3 ground for complaint if qualified Australian officers have been overlooked; but honorable senators will agree that the best men with the best brains are required, and without a knowledge of the difficulties of the situation we can scarcely interfere.
– I met a good many Australians at the front who wished to God that they could have English or French officers ov<=.r them.
– I believe that honorable members of this Parliament should be very slow in bringing forward complaints from members of our Army at the front, or our Army in the making here. There is some reason to believe that they have been hasty in voicing complaints in Parliament, or through the press, and this has militated against successful recruiting in Australia. I presume to advise honorable senators, if I may, that they should be very chary of championing any case unless they have absolutely good grounds for believing that it is a just one. They should not forget that even an ordinary sheet of paper has two sides. We have an officer in command of the Australian section in whom the utmost confidence is reposed.
– No one questions that.
– That is a matter which should be kept in mind before honorable senators associate themselves with complaints that are made. After all, there may be a good explanation of what is complained of. Though I say this, I shall, of course, refer the complaints that have been made to the proper authorities for inquiry, out of respect to the representations of ‘honorable senators. In reference to the increase in rates and fares on the steamers trading to Tasmania, if, on inquiry, it is found that the company has violated the terms of the contract, it will be made to toe the scratch and account for its actions. I see no reason why there should be any differentiation .between the treatment of a company, which -is a collection of individuals, and the treatment, of the humblest individual in the land.
Sitting suspended from 1. to 8.80 p.m.
– Senator Ready referred to the British authorities withholding some of the pay due to Australian soldiers. That matter will receive the attention of the Defence Department as soon as possible. I hope the honorable senator will realize that there must be some reason for the differentiation, but whether that reason furnishes a sufficient justification I am not prepared to say. The honorable senator is quite aware mat the rates of pay fixed for the members of the Expeditionary Forces will be adhered to, no matter what happens. There is no suspicion that the pay has been actually reduced, because that has not been even thought of.
– No; but portion of the pay has been withheld.
– Then the complaint is merely that portion of our soldiers’ pay, in excess of what is paid to the British soldier, is being deferred. The matter will be brought under the notice of the Defence authorities, and an attempt made to rectify the grievance, if possible. The statements in regard to the fixation of prices have been replied to by Senator Russell, who appointed the gentleman in Tasmania, whose business is the revision of prices in (hat State. There is no need for further reply by me. I was pleased to hear the testimony of Senator Ready that the work done by that gentleman is giving satisfaction. Senator McDougall dealt with the grievances of returned soldiers in New South Wales who had not received the consideration which they were led to expect. I am not aware of the actual position in New South Wales, but it is the duty of the Government to see that any promises given to our soldiers are honoured to the last letter.
– What about the promises given by private employers? ‘
– I should think that they, too, should be respected fully.
– Are you in favour of the Commonwealth, if possible, com- pelling private employers to respect their promises?
– If Senator Mullan can give the Government any advice on that subject we will be pleased to receive it.
– If, as Senator McDougall states, the returned soldiers are not receiving from private employers the treatment they were led to expect, will the Government see if it is possible to compel the employers to honour their obligations?.
– The question arises whether it is within the proper domain of governmental action to compel private employers to give employment to returned soldiers who, prior to enlisting, had been in their employ. My own opinion is that the Government have no authority to do that. We can only exercise moral suasion; but if specific cases can be mentioned of returned soldiers having been refused employment by those firms with whom they were formerly employed, the duty will rest upon the Government to make a special appeal to those firms.
– Will the Government make a special appeal to themselves ?
– The Government will endeavour to honour their promises in full. I know of returned soldiers who were not previously employed by the Commonwealth receiving preference of employment.
– I mentioned specific cases to you.
– If the honorable senator will furnish the Government with a statement of concrete cases, we shall endeavour to. induce the employers concerned to honour their promises. The honorable senator .mentioned, also, tha case of a gentleman from Western Australia who served with distinction. The same case has been brought under my notice, and I have done what little was possible to obtain a redress of the officer’s grievances. Senator McDougall gave the impression that this officer had been badly treated, but, as a matter of fact, he has returned to the front quite satisfied with what the Minister for Defence has done for him.
– No; he has not.
– I know that he has, because he told me so. Senator Blakey referred to persons imprisoned under the*
War Precautions Act who, in his opinion, are entitled to be released. His case relies entirely upon supposition; but if the honorable senator will bring forward specific cases of persons improperly .imprisoned under the War Precautions Act, I will lay the matter before the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, with a view to having an inquiry made.
– An urgent wire from you to the Attorney-General in each State would give you immediate intimation as to whether there are any such cases.
– In reference to insuring a supply of flannel for the miners, as the concession to which Senator Beady has referred does not obtain in Victoria, will the Minister investigate the matter, with a view to insuring that the miners are able to get all woollen goods instead of cotton goods?
– As one who has had a- little experience of working occupations in which it is very necessary to wear an all-wool garment, and knowing the effect that such garments have on the miners’ health, I will promise to inquire into the complaint, and see if anything can be done to insure woollen goods being specially reserved for miners and other workers who require that class of material more than any other section of the community..
– The Defence Department, gave special concessions to the Tasmanian miners in regard to the supply of woollen goods.
– The miners is Victoria cannot get those concessions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 2.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 December 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1916/19161216_senate_6_80/>.