7th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 11 a.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
The Clerk read the proclamation.
The Deputy appointed by His Excellency the Governor-General for the opening of Parliament, the Honorable Isaac Alfred Isaacs, a Justice of the High Court of Australia, having been announced by the Usher of the BlackRod, entered the chamber and took a seat on the dais.
The DEPUTY said-
Gentlemen of the Senate :
His Excellency the Governor-General, not thinking fit to he present in person at this time, has been pleased to cause Letters Patent to issue under the Great Seal of the Commonwealth constituting me his Deputy to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to honorable senators, as will more fully appear from the Letters Patent which will now be read.
Letters Patent read by the Clerk.
The Clerk produced the returns to the writs issued for the election of members to the Senate.
The DEPUTY.- I request honorable senators, as their names are called, to come to the table and make the oath, or affirmation of allegiance, as by the Constitution provided.
The following honorable senators made and subscribed the oath of allegiance: -
Hugh de Largie,
The following honorable senator made the affirmation of allegiance: -
The Deputy then retired.
– I desire to remind the Senate that the time has now arrived to proceed to the election of a President.
.- I move-
That Senator Given s do take the chair of this Senate as President.
I have much pleasure in submitting this motion. I need hardly remind honorable senators that Senator Givens has had a long and honorable parliamentary experience. Except for a short period, this Senate has known him from its inception. It has learned to recognise his ability and firmness in debate, and his virtues as a private citizen. The Senate has carried out its work under his presidency, and so we have had the advantage of the opportunity to judge the ability and impartiality with which he has filled the high office of President. It is but fair to him to say that while he has filled this high and important office he has dealt out even-handed justice to every interest represented in this Chamber. Having had experience of his work, and being satisfied as to his qualifications for the position, we shall, I think, do well to honour him, and at the same time honour ourselves, by placing him again in the office of President of the Senate.
. -I have very much pleasure in seconding the motion that has been moved by Senator Lynch. I think that Senator Givens is an exceedingly fit person to fill the presidential chair. I had occasion, about three years ago, when he belonged to a political party between which and myself there was a great division of opinion, to bear testimony in the capital city of my own State to the fine sense of parliamentary justice with which he presided over our deliberations. I must say that no action of his from, that time onward has caused me to alter in the slightest the opinion which I then expressed of him. That being so, very little remains for me but to briefly second the motion submitted by Senator Lynch. I do hope, if Senator Givens’ candidature commends itself to honorable senators, that during his term of office our deliberations will savour little of recrimination, but will constitute parti of a vast and beneficent, process, such as the labours of the representatives of all democratic peoples should do.
. I very much appreciate the high honour which it is proposed to confer upon me, and I have pleasure in submitting myself to the will of the Senate.
Members of the Senate calling Senator Givens, he was taken out of his place by Senator Lynch and Senator Bakhap and conducted to the chair.
The PRESIDENT, standing upon the upper step, said : - I desire to thank honorable senators for the very high honour that has been conferred upon me for- the third time. The office to which I have been called is a high and honorable one, and I approach the task of -presiding over the deliberations, of this Senatewith a great deal more confidence on account of my past experience in the Chairthan I otherwise would, because I have always received the utmost kindness, courtesy and assistance in carrying out my duties from senators upon both sides of the Chamber. I look forward with! confidence to receiving similar consideration: in the future. I have always honestly endeavoured to protect the interests of every individual senator. . I have attempted to know, and to show, no favour to either side of the Chamber, and it has. ever been my aim to protect the interests, of minorities in the Senate, and to deal out even-handed justice to all. I shall do my level best to deserve the confidence and high honour that has been bestowed upon me, and at the end of my term I hope that I shall deserve the kindly commendations that have been showered upon, me by Senators Lynch and Bakhap, and which have also been expressed in the unanimous good will of the Senate. I thank honorable senators for the high honour they have done me.
– In view of the unanimity of the procedings I feel, sir, that I can offer you the hearty congratulations of the whole of this Senate. As you have said, the position to which you have been recalled, does, in a sense, confer an honourupon you, but I submit that it is also one in. which this Chamber confers an honour upon itself. In electing you to that position, the Senate has been largely guided by its experience of your conduct in the Chair during the years that you have occupied it. It is the commendation of your services there,, which has been responsible for your unanimous re-election. Of course, it is inconceivable that in the heat of parliamentary debate we should always see eye to eye with the Chair at the time a decision is given. I, myself, am conscious of having been suppressed by you on more than one occasion, but I venture to say that other honorable senators who have had a similar experience have felt), on reflection,, that the action taken by the Chair was in conformity with our Standing Orders and parliamentary procedure and that above all it proceeded from a stern desire to be just. I feel that those attributes that have marked your occupancy of the Chair hitherto, will continue to be exhibited while you act as our President. I am equally certain that honorable senators will extend to you the utmost assistance in the difficult position in which you will sometimes find yourself. I may be pardoned, perhaps, for adding my personal congratulations as one of your oldest associates here. In saying that, I need not remind you that although we have been invariably at variance on political issues, there has . been no interruption of the personal friendship that has existed between us. In these circumstances I do feel that I can add to the congratulations of the Senate my own personal congratulations on account of that friendship.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I desire to extend to you, sir, the congratulations of the party which I represent. I am sure that the unanimity of your re-election will be regarded by you as a mark of appreciation by the Senate of your past services. That being so, and the Leader of the Government having -spoken on behalf of the whole Senate,, I merely wish to associate myself with all that he has said on this occasion.
– The Governor-General has been good enough to intimate that he will be pleased toreceive you, sir, and as many “honorable senators as desire to accompany you,, at 10 minutes to 3 o’clock this afternoon, in the Parliamentary Library.
– I desire to intimate to honorable senators that the
Governor-General has personally expressed to me a desire that as many honorable senators as possible should accompany me when I present! myself to him as the choice of the Senate this afternoon, in order that, he may have the pleasure of renewing old associations and of making the acquaintance of as many of the new senators as possible. I shall bein the Senate at 11 minutes to 3 o’clock this afternoon, to meet honorable senators and to accompany them to the GovernorGeneral, and I hope that as many as can make it convenient to be present will do so. In accordance with the usual practice on the opening day of a new Parliament, and as no business can be transacted until the Governor-General has formally opened Parliament, I now suspend the sitting of the Senate until 3 o’clock this afternoon.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
– I have to report that, accompanied by members of the Senate, I this day presented myself to His Excellency the Governor-General as the choice of the Senate, and that His Excellency was pleased to congratulate me on my accession to the position of President, and to approve of my appointment.
VERNOR-GENERAL entered the chamber and took the chair. A message was forwarded to the House of Representatives intimatingthat His Excellency desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber forthwith, who, being come with their Speaker,
HIS EXCELLENCY was pleased to deliver the following speech: -
Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemenofthehouseofrepresentatives :
War is welcomed by my Advisers as a splendid vindication of the great cause for which the Allies are fighting, and as a certain augury for the ultimate success of our arms, and the liberation of the world from the barbarous aggression of the Central European Powers.
Meanwhile, iti is proposed to proceed immediately, on lines which have been laid down, with investigations into the cattle-tick pest, the sheep blow-fly, worm nodules in beef, and] the prickly-pear, with a view to the control and eradication of these pests. The production of cotton, industrial alcohol, and tannin, and improved processes in our secondary industries are also now receiving careful attention.
His Excellency the GovernorGeneral having retired, _ .
The President took the chair ab 3.20 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills of last session reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 6) 1916-17 and (No. 1) 1917-18. »
Supply Bill (Works and Buildings) (No. 5) 1916-17.
– I desire to know if it is the intention of the Government, as requested by a majority of the last Senate, to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the charges of bribery, or attempted bribery and corruption, by the Prime Minister; and also the peculiar circumstances surrounding the resignation of Senator Ready and the appointment of Senator Earle to the Senate.
The following papers were presented: -
Advisory Council of Science and Industry - Report of Executive Committee for period 14th April, 1916, to 30th June, 1917.
Agricultural Policy Sub-Committee Report - Part I. (Paper presented to, the British Parliament.)
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911-
Awards (2). dated 26th June, 1917, made by Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on plaints submitted by Commonwealth General Division Telephone Officers Association and Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association, respectively; together with Statements re Laws ‘and Regulations: Opinions of the Attorney-General, Reasons for Judgment of Deputy President, and Memorandum by Acting Public Service Commissioner.
Copy of Order dated 4th April, 1917, further varying Award made by Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on plaint submitted by Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union; together with Statement re Laws and Regulations, Copy of Reasons for Judgment, Memorandum by Acting Public Service Commissioner, and Opinion of Attorney-General.
Copy of Award dated 1st May, 1914, as amended by Orders of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration dated 29th September, 1916, 22nd November, 1916, and 4th April, 1917, on plaint submitted by Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union.
Audit Act 1901-1912. - Regulations amended. &c- Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 130, 137.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911- 1915. - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 122.
Defence Act 1903-1915. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 129, 131, 133, 139, 144.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired at-
Chatswood, New South Wales - For Defence, purposes.
Cockburn Sound, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act 1910-1912.- Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 135.
Papua - Ordinances of 1917 -
No. 1 - Supplementary Appropriation (No.. 1), 1916-17.
No. 2- Land,1916.
No. 3 - Arms, Liquor, and Opium Prohibition, 1916.
Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1916.- Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1917. Nos. 126, 134, 140.
Public Service Act 1902-1916-
Appointments, Promotions, &e. -
Prime Minister’s Department-
Department of the Treasury-
J. P. Hannan.
H. J. Sheelian.
H. H. Trebilco.
A. W. White.
Postmaster-General ‘s Department -
G. H. Boundy.
F. S. Dooner.
N. W. Strange.
Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 141, 142, 143.
The War. - Correspondence with the Swedish Government respecting the raining of the Kogrund Passage. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
War Precautions Act 1914-1916.- Regulations amended, &c- Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 77, 123, 124, 125, 127, 138.
Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1915.- Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules, 1917, No. 136.
– I have to announce to the Senate that I have received a copy of the Speech with which His Excellency was pleased to open Parliament. I do not propose to read the Speech; and honorable senators having already heard the Speech read once, and having, I understand, all been supplied with a printed copy of it, I am, therefore, doing all that is necessary in complying with the Standing Orders by reporting it to the Senate.
– As it isthe desire of the Government and of honorable senators to meet their lady friends and entertain them at tea for a little while, in accordance with what, I understand, is the general wish of the Senate, I suspend the sitting until 5 o’clock, at which hour I will resume the chair.
– I beg to move -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General,
May it pleaseYour Excellency :
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, “desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
May I be permitted, sir, to take this opportunity of congratulating you upon the esteem in which you are held by honorable senators on both sides ? It must have been very gratifying to you to hear the tributes from honorable senators to the justice which has been meted out to them by yourself, and the manner in which you have filled the position. I trust that you will long retain that confidence, and be spared to rule over the deliberations of this Chamber.
A year ago, when the members of the Senate were discussing problems similar to those which we are likely to discuss to-day, it was thought that by this time the awful war which has thrown the nations of the world into turmoil would have ended. We thought that long ere this time peace would reign in this beautiful land once more, but we have been disappointed. We grieve much to think that our noble sons are still fighting the battles of the Empire in a land far removed from our shores. Despite all our struggles, and all the hardship which has been heaped upon the British people, we feel proud that the soldiers belonging to the British Empire, and the lads from Australia, are still maintaining the glorious traditions handed down to us by our forefathers from their struggles in the past. We feel that, no matter what may be the duration of the war, so long as our lads are reinforced, so long as this country is loyal to them, so long will the Old Land stand by them and fight for justice for the future.
A great responsibility rests upon every member of the Senate. Our duties are many and complex; they are grave, indeed; and whatever our political opinions may be, there is only one way in which we can fulfil the demands ofthe people, and that is by being loyal to the Empire and our country. If we do that regardless of our political views we shall have done at least all we can do to satisfy thedesire of the people when they returned us to this Chamber. I admit that at this time politics must vary, and we must differ one with the other. I realize that before the present session is over we must have strenuous political struggles. I recognise that the Leader of the Opposition is a man to fight for his opinions.
– And he is a big man, too.
– Yes, he is a man who holds his convictions dearly. We can expectto hear criticism which will be a benefit to legislators on this side as well as to Ministers.
– You may have criticism on your own side, too.
– I hope that we will have some criticism on this side. It is the duty of honorable senators at all times to try to criticise measures. The only way in which we can perfect the Bills which are so important to the prosecution of the war is by criticism freely given from both sides of the Senate. We take it that the policy submitted by the Government is in the best interests of . the Commonwealth. I am prepared to stand by the Government on all measures which I think are essential to the best interests ‘ of the Commonwealth and its people. I shall certainly criticise measures when I think it is right to do so. It is proper that every honorable senator should be given that privilege, and I recognise that every one here is quite capable of claiming it.
One of the first questions submitted to us in the Governor-General’s Speech is the repatriation policy of the Government. We merely have a heading to the scheme. What the provisions of the scheme are, we shall look forward with interest to find out. We must admit, however, that it is one of the greatest questions which can tax the minds of honorable senators. It is intricate to a degree, and certainly it bristles with difficulties. I have every sympathy with the Minister for Defence, who is to have charge of the Bill. He looks rather worried to-day, and probably by the time he gets the measure on to the statutebook more wrinkles will have been added to hisforehead. I believe . that the Minister is desirous of doing the best he can in the interests of returned soldiers, and I have confidence that honorable senators, including Colonel Bolton, who are interested in the repatriation policy, will do their utmost to help the Minister to frame the Bill in a manner satisfactory to the requirements. I trust that it will receive the utmost consideration of the Minister, and that few errors will be made when the measure .is brought into operation. Take the land question in particular. ‘ It is proposed to spend something like £10,000,000. Every care must be taken to see that the best quality of land is acquired in the most suitable districts. If you exceed the productive value of any land you will only add to the misery of these men during the remainder of their lives. It is not, I am sure, the wish of any honorable senator to do injury to those who have suffered so much, and who, if necessary, are prepared to suffer more, in the interests of all here. Care must be taken. It is easy to make a mistake in settling men on the land, and it is easy, too, to break the prospects of these men. I was engaged for two years in investigating the closer settlement areas of Victoria, including the dry and wet areas. I was never so disappointed in my life as I was at the discovery of the terrible state of affairs existing there. The legislation was putt on the statute-book not only to meet the requirements of individuals, but to add to the wealth of this great State. I believe that the Ministers in charge of the measures and ‘the administration desired to do their best. Whether they had the necessary qualifications ito administer the Department I do not know, but serious mistakes were made whereby hundreds of families have been robbed, hundreds of farmers have been ruined, and a great amount has been added to the debt of this State. Our soldiers must not! be exposed to the ( privations which many of our settlers in the past have had to put up with. If they are, the effect will be to retard to a great extent the production of the country, upon which in the future everything will depend. Unless we produce sufficient to meet our liabilities, we must expect to go under as a nation. Every care must be taken to enable our people to apply their energies effectively to the occupation of the soil, and the production of wealth, and their efforts in this direction must Senator £]am. receive the consideration of the various Parliaments of the Commonwealth.
I find that in paragraph 12 of the Speech it is stated that it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill for the taxation of war-time profits. This is very necessary, and I only regret that the imposition of this form of taxation has been so long delayed. Money is so urgently required for the development of the repatriation policy, and % for the prosecution of the war, that in my opinion this source of revenue should have been touched many months ago. However, it is not too late to begin the imposition of this taxation now. I feel that those who enjoy the opportunity to make wartime profits will be found ready to pay the proposed tax. We do not blame any man for making war profits while the laws of the country permit him to do so. He adds to the wealth of the country by the energy he devotes to the industry in which he is engaged. If the Government! of the country say to such men, “We propose to take from you a certain amount of the profits you have derived in order to successfully prosecute the war, and thus safeguard your interests in the country to which you belong,” I am sure that no one liable to the tax will be found unwilling to respond to that demand by Parliament, I trust that the Government will bring forward legislation for the imposition of this taxation at the earliest possible date.
In paragraph 15 the statement is made that it is the intention of the Government to take steps to insure the continuity of industrial operations and the prevention of strikes or lockouts. A great expansion of our industries is essential, and in order that it may be brought about we must have legislation to prevent the occurrence of industrial disputes” When we have an Arbitration Court to deal with disputes pertaining to all industries, there should be no occasion for strikes or lockouts. If that Court deals out justice to workers and employers, both must be made to comply with its decisions. If at present the law is so defective that individuals may override it. and declare a strike or a lockout . independent of what the Arbitration Court may say, it is necessary that something should be done to tighten up our arbitration legislation. We cannot hope to push the development of the industries of the country in the way we desire if we are threatened with continual industrial unrest. Under such conditions men will not invest money in the country in the establishment of industries, when by going to other parts of the world they can enjoy greater freedom and obtain security for their investments. It is necessary that those possessed of capital should be induced tlo invest in this country, by increasing its industries, and so add to the wealth of the nation. I hope that the Government will in the near future be able to so tighten up the provisions of the arbitration law that we shall have peace on both sides, and that employer and workman will, be able to work hand in hand in a manner in which they have never been able to do before. There is no reason why they should not do so if they are satisfied that justice will be dealt out by our Arbitration Court.
We must realize that the only thing we can do in the future for the benefit of our people is to push on in every way with the industries of the country. Great opportunities are - afforded for the expansion of industries in the Commonwealth in connexion with our wool, our wheat, and our mineral resources. Vast deposits of mineral ores are lying untouched, and we are sending our wool to all parts of the world to be dressed, and returned to us in the finished article. There is no reason why that should be so. We ought to be a self-supporting nation at this time, but we are a long way from any such position. The present great war has opened the eyes of the people, and enlarged the vision of our politicians, and I hope that when peace has been attained every man in this community will be prepared to assist with all his might the expansion of the industries and production of this country.
In paragraph 16 of the Speech we are informed that it is the intention of the Government to appoint an Advisory Council of scientific experts so as to make available the best and latest results of investigation and research for the benefit of our producers, and of those concerned in the industrial activities of the Commonwealth. Such a council is badly required at the present time. I agree that our producers have been given great consideration by the various Legislatures of the Australian States, but much more consideration might well be extended to them. I find that last year alone iti is estimated that sheep to the value of no’ less than £2,000,000 were lost in Queensland from the effects of the blow-fly. That would be a serious loss for the Commonwealth, let alone one State. . Unless this matter is investigated, and the pest successfully combated, we may expect that our losses in this way in future may be trebled. There are many other directions in which an Advisory Council such as is proposed would be able to suggest relief. I hope that the Government will secure the best men obtainable for appointment to the council, and that they, will apply themselves effectively to the consideration of matters for the advancement of all engaged in production and industry.
I come now to the ship-building proposal of the Government, and I am glad to find that they intend to launch upon a project of the kind. If ever there was a time when this country was’ in need of ships it is the present time. We have. , reason to fear that before the war is over . the number of ships now available will be still further greatly reduced. The one supreme effort- which Germany will make to bring about a peace satisfactory to herself will be to sink, if possible, every ship that sails our seas. We must not lose sight of the opportunities she has to give effect to such a policy. She has no fleet’ to maintain at the present time. She is not troubling about the building of warships. v She has no merchant ships to sail the seas. She is consequently in a position to devote the whole of her energies to this one destructive submarine policy. If it is possible for her, by the increase of these destructive weapons of war, to so reduce our shipping, and bring about a peace satisfactory to herself, she may be expected to do so. Before she can accomplish anything of the kind, we must expect to suffer severely from her submarine attacks. If we ask the producers of the country to extend their operations, we must be prepared to promise them, at least, that the produce which they secure from the land will be disposed of in suich a way as to compensate them for their . labours. We must not, because of the scarcity of shipping, allow the productions of the country to be lost. We must safeguard the interests of our fruitgrowers, amongst others, by extending the refrigerated space available for the export of their produce.
I recently travelled throughout Victoria, and noticed many fine orchards that are now coming into full hearing. These must add enormously to the wealth of the State in the future. Men have nursed their orchards for three or four years, during which they have had little or no return from them, but this year or next year they may expect them to be in full bearing, and so far as a market for their fruit is concerned the prospect at the present time is anything but promising.
– It will have to be fed to pigs.
– The position would not be so bad if we had pigs, and could dispose of the fruit in that way. The question is one with which we must grapple, and the only way at present open to us to deal with the production of fruit is by the expansion of refrigerating space for export, and the development of the canning process. We have no.t sufficient canning factories at present to meet) our requirements. The Government propose to cope with this matter, and I feel sure they will give the States financial assistance in this direction.
Whilst looking to the building of ships, we have to take another of our wheat problems, into consideration. The present is certainly a most opportune time for the Commonwealth Government to assist the i State Governments in bringing into effect the system of handling wheat’ in bulk. Four years ago I was a member of a Royal Commission that investigated this particular problem. We recommended the Victorian Government to go ahead with the proposal to handle wheat in bulk. I wish they had at once done so, as it would have meant great relief to our producers and the saving of millions of pounds to the country at the present time. Our producers have now great anxiety in regard to the preservation of their produce.
– What abouti the want of shipping?
– I have said that the Government propose to undertake the building of ships, and that in consequence there could be no more opportune time to bring about the bulk handling of wheat. By adopting a proper standardized system of ship building they will know exactly what is necessary to carry wheat cargoes in bulk in the future, and the first cost will be the only cost. Whilst serving on the Commission to which I have referred, the agents for the ship-owners stressed the alterations that would be required to enable their ships to transport wheat in bulk. They pointed out that the expense involved would be considerable, and the difficulties great. But in the pre: sent instance the Government themselves propose to build ships, and they are in a position to know precisely how those vessels ought! to be built, with a view to catering for that particular class of trade.
– But those vessels will not bring wheat back to Australia.
– That is so, but the class of ship that is required to carry wheat in bulk will also be suitable for the carrying of other cargoes. The appliances necessary to effect the desired change will cost very little indeed.
– They would cost more than would wheat bags.
– The honorable senator is quite entitled to have his opinion on the subject. But! all the evidence taken before the Commission on which I served went to prove the contrary.
I have no desire to delay the Senate unduly. I know that honorable senators wish to get to business. I have merely dealt with the programme outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, a copy of which was placed in my hands only about an hour ago. What little assistance I can render the Ministry in regard to the measures enumerated in the Vice-Regal utterance I shall be glad to extend to them. But upon any occasion that I may feel justified in criticising their action in respect of those measures I shall not hesitate to exercise my right. I trust that by the time the present session closes the disastrous war now in progress will have terminated, and the flag of peace will be waving triumphantly. I’ feel sure that with the great financial assistance that will be rendered to the Allies by America, the German people must begin to realize that the end is at last in sight, and that Prussian militarism is doomed. Before many months have passed, I believe that Germany will recognise that it is better to have peace than to face another winter in the trenches, with the exceedingly heavy casualties that must inevitably accompany it. I. trust, therefore, that before the present session closes we shall have waving above us the flag of peace.
.- I rise to second the motion for the ad op- tion of the Address-in-Reply. I feel very greatly the honour that has been conferred on me, and upon the State which I represent, in being asked to second that motion. When the oath of allegiance was being administered to honorable senators this morning, it struck me how very necessary it is, at a time like this, that all sections of the community shall be loyal to their Sovereign. Were it not that loyalty existed throughout the entire. Empire upon the outbreak of the war, and that the call of duty found a responsive echo in the hearts of all Britishers, .1 venture to say that we should not be -privileged to sit here today as the representatives of a free people and the servants of a great ruler. Now the Government have been returned for the purpose of winning the war, and I sincerely trust they will leave no stone unturned in that endeavour to place all our resources at the disposal of the Mother Country.
The result of the recent elections is an intimation that the people ofAustralia are determined that at all costs we shall continue to play our part in this great struggle against a military despotism. I trust that all sections of the community, and all honorable senators, will do everything that is possible to encourage the voluntary . recruiting system, and to secure the 7,000 reinforcements that are required monthly at the front. It would be deplorable indeed if it became necessary for Australia to break up any of our divisions now in, the firing line. Apart from the fact that we have made certain promises to the Motherland, we have to consider the position of ‘the men who are fighting in these divisions. Every man fighting in France to-day is proud of his division, proud of its achievements, and is imbued with a desire that its performances shall outshine those of all other divisions. These men would bitterly feel the breaking up of any one of our Australian divisions.
Then I am very pleased to note that the Government intend to make ample provision for the dependants of soldiers. Any Ministry which failed to do that would be neglecting their duty. Widows and orphans must not be allowed to suffer as the result of the sacrifices made by their breadwinners. I am very pleased to know that the Government intend to embark on a scheme of repatriation. When that scheme is announced, I believe the effect upon recruiting will be a good one. At the present time there are a great number of men who have not enlisted because they were not certain of what their position would be upon their return from the war. When the details of. the Government scheme are disclosed, I believe that the provision which it is proposed to make for returned soldiers will prove a great’ stimulus to recruiting. Another reason why I am glad this scheme is to be launched immediately is because I believe the time has arrived when the question of repatriation should no longer be left in the hands of private- individuals or of voluntary subscribers. So long as it is thus left, there will be a certain number of persons who will contribute liberally according to their means, and a certain number who will evade their obligation to do so. I wish, here to pay my tribute to the splendid services which have been rendered by many of our men and women in connexion with repatriation. They have done good work, but on account of their limitations they have not been able to do as much as they would have liked. For this reason, I repeat that when the people see clearly what the Government propose in connexion with this matter, and when #hey recognise that returned soldiers are to be fairly treated, a great fillip will be given to recruiting.
I am also glad to observe that the Government intend not only to preach economy, but to practise it. I believe that practice is’ better than precept. We know that there are certain economies which cannot be effected without sacrificing efficiency, but I think that a good ‘deal of economy could be effected in our Government Departments nevertheless.
I also note with pleasure that the Government intend to give returned soldiers a preference in the matter of employment in all Departments of the Commonwealth service. I consider that a man who has exhibited his willingness to sacrifice everything to fight for his country, ought, on his return to Australia, to be granted such a preference. In this connexion I recollect that in Queensland, only a little while ago, an award was made under which returned soldiers employed in a particular place were compelled either to join a certain industrial union or to forfeit their positions. I have nothing to say against legitimate trade unionism, because I recognise that when conducted upon sane lines it is a distinct benefit to the country as well as to industry. But “at the time the award of which I speak was made, it was publicly announced that these returned soldiers must join a particular union, otherwise it was not considered right that they should enjoy privileges which had been won for them by the other members of that organization. I contend that the men who have been fighting at the front have won for themselves greater rights than have been won by any industrial organization in Australia. For this reason, no returned soldier should be bludgeoned into any such organization; and I am pleased, indeed, that the Government intend to grant a preference to those who have fought for their country.
I also welcome the announcement that the Ministry propose to take steps to deal immediately with the blow-fly, prickly pear, and worm nodules in beef. The State from which I hail has suffered more from the ravages of prickly pear, cattle tick, and the blow-fly than has any other partof Australia. Its people will hail with delight the declaration of the Government that they intend to take immediate steps towards coping with these pests.
– Cannot the Queensland Parliament deal with them effectively?
– It might be so, but up to the present time it has not exhibited much inclination in that direction.
I am pleased, also, that the Government intend to deal with the question of cold storage. At present, owing to the shortage, of refrigerating space in the oversea steamers and butter being declared a luxury in Great Britain, there is practically no market there for Australian butter, and the cold stores in Queensland are full of butter which they are unable to get away. Unless some action is taken to deal with the matter in that State there is a big chance that the whole industry will go tq the wall. A great many small farmers there are entirely dependent on their cream cheques to keep the wolf from the door, and if the industry is allowed to go down many dairy farmers will be in sore straits. The industry in Queensland has a turnover of over £1,000,000 a year, and it will be a very serious matter if it is allowed to collapse. I trust the Government will take immediate steps to see that relief is given to the dairymen, or that increased storage accommodation is provided* for them in order that they may store their butter until it can be shipped away.
I am pleased, also, to notice that a Com’ mission has been- appointed to inquire into the working of the Departments of Defence and the Navy. The fact that s> many complaints have been made against the Defence Department - I do not say that they are all just, but some of them are- is very prejudicial to recruiting. I believe that when the Board gets to wore, and eliminates those complaints or reduces them to a minimum, the effect on recruiting will be good. I trust tha Board will commence its operations without delay, so that many of the complaints now outstanding may be quickly settled. I am not going to condemn the Minister for Defence or any officer of the Department for what has taken place, for, when it is remembered that the Department is now controlling an Army as large as that of Great Britain in times of peace, we must admit that it has done remarkably well. With the addition of a few experienced men, it has carried on work that has increased 1,000 per cent, during the last three years, and it is only natural that complaints such as are being made should arise. I believe that when the Board gets to work it will be able to remove speedily the causes for complaint.
I am confident that when the policy outlined in the Speech is made known to the electors to-morrow it will be received with acclamation throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. The people will see that they have at last returned to power a Government prepared to place Empire before party, a Government representative of all classes, and determined to carry out the pledges it made to the electors.
I thank honorable senators for the attention they have given my fewremarks as a new member, and I cordially indorse Senator Plain’s hope that the time is not far distant when peace and normal conditions will be restored. I sincerely trust that it will not be very long bef ore Great Britain is again in her proud position at the head of the nations of a world at peace, after we have secured a victorious peace guaranteeing the freedom of the smaller nations, and rendering it impossible for such a war as this ever to take place again. >
– As one who opposed conscription, I welcome this Speech. The fact that the Government stands to-day where the “no” voters of New South Wales stood last October is a justification of their votes. If conscription is not wanted to-day, it certainly was not wanted nine months ago, and that it is not wanted to-day is proved by the fact that a Government elected as a “ winthewar” Government, with a very large following of earnest conscriptionists, has presented us with a legislative programme that foreshadows no intention on their part to introduce it.
– Does the honorable senator believe that conscription is necessary to win the war?
– I say that it is not necessary, and congratulate the Government on the fact that after winning the elections they also say it is hot, because no other interpretation can be placed upon the Speech than that the Government, at any rate for the time being, are satisfied that it is not necessary. As an anti-conscriptionist I welcome that statement, and on behalf of the State that prevented conscription being placed upon the people of Australia nine months ago I am pleased that the Government to-day stand where the people of New South Wales stood on 28th October.
– When you lost all your chums.
– I recognise with a good deal of sadness, not only the great loss that I personally have sustained in the men who are absent from this Chamber at this opening, but the loss that the country has sustained.
If this Speech is a measure of the combined intelligence of the National party, if this is all the Government have to offer, not to the party that follows me, but ito the people who”1 earnestly and enthusiastically worked for them, I venture to say that there will be a feeling of grave disappointment, not among us, but among their following. The fact that the mover and seconder of the Address are satisfied that this Speech is a fulfilment of the Government and party pledges leaves me jio occasion to complain.
– Your trouble is that we have not broken our pledges.
– I am delighted, and congratulate the- Government on the fact that they have given up con scription. I am aware that they pledged themselves, through their Prime Minister, not to introduce it, but I disbelieved that pledge when it was given. I stated from the public platform that I did not believe it, and am glad to admit that I was wrong. When the Prime Minister said that he did not intend to introduce conscription I did not believe him, because I did not think he had a following sufficiently strong to carry with him the number of conscriptionists within his ranks. I thought they would overbear him, and that conscription would be introduced. To those enthusiastic members of the Government party who said .that conscription was necessary if Australia was to do her part, I would point out that Australia has done- her part better than any other v Dominion of the Empire, and will continue to do her part while her resources of men, munitions, and supplies are handled by the Government in the way they should be handled. I take it that this is the last that will be heard of conscription in the Commonwealth. Now that this Speech has been put before the people as the Government policy, I trust that we shall have no honorable senators trying to make people believe that conscription may yet come here. What are the reasons that have brought about this change?
– The people may ask why we have not conscription here when they have it in all the other white Dominions of the Empire.
– We have it not here because we can get enough men by the voluntary system. So far, we have obtained enough by the voluntary system, and why try to force men if they are willing to go without being forced 1
What are the reasons for this change of attitude on the part of the Government on the question of coercing men to fight? What are the reasons for this change of attitude on the part of the National party, who before the 5th May made the air ring with the cry that they were the “ Win-the-war “ party? They are going to win the war now by, dealing with the blow-fly pest and the prickly pear.
– And by restoring the mace and the wig and gown in the House of Representatives.
– They have already done that, and I feel sure that it has gone a considerable ‘way towards winning the war. That party from every platform professed that the one intention of thecombination of parties was to do something effective to win the war. I appeal to members on the other side to tell me what there is in the Speech to justify all the statements they made then. Is there one line, one sentence, one clause, to justify their claim as a party, not only that they were out to do more than any one else couldto win the war, but that those who would not agree with them in their methods and in all the details of their policy were traitors to Australia and the Empire?
The Minister forDefence put his signature to a manifesto issued to the soldiers across the sea slandering and libelling every honorable senator that sits on this side of the Senate.
– Bring an action against him for libel.
– Actions for libel are not very profitable when brought by Labour men, as Senator Pearce himself knows from his experience when he faced the Courts with an action for a statement in which he was cruelly libelled. All the members of that party, before the 5th of May, led the rest of Australia to believe that, if returned to power, they would’ do something exceptional to win the war. Will they deny this, and will they say there is anything exceptional, in this policy speech calculated to give effect to that pledge?
– The honorable senator has not analyzed the policy speech sufficiently.
– I recognise that, but there is nothing in the Speech to require analysis.
– Will the honorable senator say what manifesto he referred to just now?
– I referred to the manifesto signed by the Minister and other members who left our party. That manifesto, which was sent to the soldiers, was published the Anzac Journal and in the London Daily Mail, and which referred to men like Senators Grant, O’Keefe, Guy, Needham, and myself as men who were under the thumb of the extremists of the Labour movement.
– Is there anything wrong with that.
– It referred to us as men who were traitors to Labour, and were endeavouring to wreck . the Labour movement.
– Is that wrong?
– Well, if Senator Pearce and those who put their names to that. libel will stand by it, I admire their pluck, but despise their dishonesty.
– There is no doubt as to the facts.
– Senator Pearce and the rest of the “ rats and the renegades “ of the Labour movement who were responsible for that manifesto declared that we were voting with the German part of our population.
– You are putting it the wrong way. The manifesto said that the Germans were voting for your party.
– Well, it said that we were working together, and, put it anyhow you like, the slander still stands that we were working in that way. You won a passing victory by it, but you. deluded the soldiers, and when they return they will get the facts.
What has happened to meand my colleagues as a party concerns me very little, but I want to know if this policy speech represents the best the National party can do to win the war. What is there in the Speech which could not have been put there by any Government returning from an appeal to the people? The prickly pear and blowfly problems have been receiving investigation by State Governments for years, and as a member of the Government which appointed the Advisory Council of Science, I know it was shown that the State Governments were quite up to date in their method of handling those problems.
– Is it not a fact that the blow-fly pest has become a very acute problem of late?
– It is just as well that the honorable senator should be made aware of the fact that when the position was placed before the Advisory Council it was found that the State Governments were carrying out experiments in such an effective manner that it was unnecessary for the Advisory Council to interfere in the matter.
– If State Governments were doing effective work, how is it that the pest is increasing ?
– Last year was the worst year on record.
– There might be a number of reasons for an increase of the pest, but members of the Advisory Council were perfectly satisfied with the investigations and scientific experiments then being conducted by the State Governments, and they decided not to interfere in any way, but to encourage the State Governments to continue the work.
– It will interest you, then, to know that the Council itself is recommending this course.
– Very likely; but what has this to do with winning the war?
– Would you allow the country to go to the dogs in the meantime ?
– The honorable senator knows that I christened him the “ grey wolf,” so the country is in the hands of the wolves at the present time.
– And ‘ I christened you “ the great bull.”
– Order ! I must ask honorable senators to refrain from interjections which are likely to lead to disorder.
– Must I submit to interjections without replying to them ?
– All I am asking’ the honorable senator to do is to refrain from replying to personal epithets which are likely to lead to disorder.
– It is quite impossible for me to promise not to reply to impertinent and impudent interjections.
The Government, as I have said, were elected to win the war, and the people of the country now expect them to do something in that direction. When I asked Senator Millen, during a sitting of the last Senate, why nothing had been done, he said then it was because they had not their majority. Well, the Go’vernment now have a majority in both Houses, and yet what is it they propose to do ? Do they intend to fool with the position, and wait for something to turn up, and in the meantime indulge in playedout platitudes, while dawdling over questions like shipbuilding?
– That is not dawdling.
– This matter should be taken in hand at once. There is no time to’ waste.
– Would you have done it more quickly had you been in office?
– What we would have done had we won the election must always be a matter of guesswork. The Government won the election on definite promises to a community which believes, and will insist, that promises be kept. They won the election on a definite promise to do something to win the war, and my complaint is that the programme as submitted to this Parliament and to the country contains not a ray of hope for their supporters, who were led to believe that if they returned this ,party they would do something exceptional to win the war.
– They did not believe your promises.
– Whether the honorable senator believes me or not troubles me very little. I have been in the public life of this country for a quarter of a century, and no one has accused me of trickery.
– Nor has any one accused me.
– I have never been afraid to speak the truth as I saw it.
– Nor have I.
– The Government and their supporters gained their victory on the promise that they would win the war, but now they come down with a programme of barren platitudes, with not one word about how they intend to give effect to their promises.
– -They made you lose victory.
– I know the honorable senator would like me to refer to matters less unpleasant.
– This matter is not unpleasant.
– If the policy Speech is not unpleasant: reading to supporters of the Government, all I can say is, I should like ito have a following as large and as easily satisfied. If this document satisfies Government supporters, I only hope to remain in public life long enough to have a following that will be satisfied with so little.
The whole Commonwealth, so far as the Senate is concerned, is now represented by the new members returned upon this one question of winning the war, and in this document there is not one sentence which even by a great stretch of the imagination can be said to give effect to that pledge. It is true that recruiting committees, representative of all sections of the Parliament, have been appointed, and I am of opinion, now that the Bugbear of conscription has been removed - and no one can honestly pretend that it is likely to reappear - that recruiting will give better results than in the past. Hitherto many men have hung back in the belief that, as the Government had secured a majority, they would adopt a system of universal service.
– And you helped to lead them in that belief.
– I did, because I honestly believed that, properly handled, the people of Australia would respond under the voluntary system in sufficient numbers to maintain our men at the Front, and I claim that from the commencement of the war Australia has never failed the men she sent away.
During his Bendigo campaign the Prime Minister said that the reason the casualties of the Australian troops were so light was because they had been withdrawn for three months, and their places taken by British troops. Towards the close of the last session I tried to get direct information ‘from the Minister for Defence as to the truth or otherwise of that statement, bub up to the present I have not been successful, and in the absence of such information I have not the slightest hesitation in declaring that the Prime Minister’s statement was untrue. The casualty lists issued monthly give the lie direct to any suggestion of that kind, no matter by whom made. There is the unfortunate record of the men who die each week fighting in the trenches and in France. That record is a sufficient answer to the slander that Australia was not keeping her word with the men at the front. When the history of this .war is being written, and when the historian of the future, searching for the necessary information, reads the Prime Minister’s statement that Australian troops had to be withdrawn for the reason stated by him, the position occupied by the Prime Minister will, unfortunately, allow that slander to go sailing down through the ages. It was a lie that should never have been uttered, and it should be withdrawn now that it has been uttered. To my mind it is most discreditable that Australia, which has done more than any other Do minion, and which has .prosecuted this war with vigour and energy, should be placed in that position by the Prime Minister of .this country.
– Will the honorable senator explain why the press is full of letters from the troops in the trenches asking for assistance and declaiming against the Australian people for not sending more men?
– I have not the slightest doubt that the splendid fellows who have gone to the Front will naturally write asking for assistance, and if all the men who are fit to go were to volunteer to-morrow, and they were in the trenches, there would still be the same demand for assistance because the magnitude of the fight is so very great.
The point I wish to make is that the estimated efficiency of the population is about 7 per cent., and that Australia has already enlisted more than 7 per cent, of her population under the voluntary system. My point is not that sufficient men have gone, but that Australia has sent more than sufficient in proportion to her strength, and that as regards finance we have strained, and willingly strained, our resources under the great effort we are making.
– What standard are you adopting when you speak of Australia in that way?
– I am adopting this simple standard, that nations estimate that 7 per cent, of the population are fit for war, and that Australia has already enlisted more than 7 per cent, of her population. I am adopting the further standard that a population of less than 5,000,000 persons lias already created a public debt which will remain a burden upon generations yet unborn. The thanks which Australia gets for that work is to be held up to ridicule and contempt by men who are continually libelling her. They continue to utter their libels in the vain effort, as they think, of doing something more. “ Win the war “ was their great cry before the elections were held. The elections were won; honorable senators are safe in their seats, and imagine that the war is won. It was the seats which they wanted to win, and now that the elections are over they are prepared to sit comfortably back on their benches, believing, as the Government say in this document, that nothing further is necessary.
– What particular paragraph iu the Speech contains that statement ?
– I refer to the absence of a paragraph telling us that any new effort to win the war is necessary. Why is there no paragraph, setting out what the Government intend to do? Surely they have their promises to the people to keep.
A period of more than two months has gone by since the elections were held. The public have been waiting, not only patiently, but anxiously for the result of their efforts on the 5th May. But this list of barren, platitudes is all that the Government and their party are capable of producing. Printed across this document is inefficiency, incompetence, ineptitude, impotency. The Government are absolutely incapable of grappling with the situation.
– That is your opinion.
– That is my deliberate opinion. I have not pretended, and never will I pretend, to be anything hut an opponent of the Government. The electors dealt with the Government handsomely and generously, but having won the elections do the Government bring forward any proposals for more effectively dealing with the situation , than they did in the past? An opponent of the Government, as I am, I would have welcomed such proposals, because then there would have been a gleam of hope for Australia. But the Government bring down a programme which is “ neither fish, flesh, nor good red-herring” - a programme containing really nothing, and their supporters accept it with perfect satisfaction. There would be a gleam of hope if there were sufficient manliness, intelligence, and independence on the other side to complain of the breach of faith with the electors; but there is none.
– There is more independence on this side than on your side.
– The discipline of party is so strong already that the new representatives of the electors are satisfied with this document. They have not a word of complaint to make. It is quite up tO’ what they expected.
– Then what are you complaining about?
– I am not complaining, but rejoicing. I rejoice in the fact that the Government and the National party stand to-day where the anti-conscriptionists stood last October. That fact gives me all the satisfaction I need. The justification by the Government of the “No” voters on the 28th October last gives me, I venture to say, as much satisfaction as I have ever experienced in this Parliament. To an anti-conscriptionist, it is quite a pleasure to have this statement from the Government that conscription in Australia is not necessary, because, if it is necessary, it is urgent. The fact that the Government have not made it a matter of urgency conveys to me their opinion that it is not necessary.
– Do you think that the Government ought to have put forward a proposal for conscription ?
– I am delighted that they have not.
– Do you think the Government ought to have done so?
– I am quite delighted that the Government have not. I think that if the statement of the Prime Minister was true - that from the lack of reinforcements the Australians were withdrawn from the fighting line for three months - they ought to do so.
– In spite of the referendum ?
– In spite of anything.
– I do not know where your Democracy is.
– And you would not have supported the proposal.
– I would not. No conditions could be imposed upon this country which would justify me in voting to send away free-born Australians to fight against their will.
– Do. you believe in the pledge of Mr. Hughes?
– I am delighted that he is keeping it. It has given us hope.
I remember very well that, when I was speaking here on the question of the number of men necessary to maintain the Australian Forces at the Front, the Minister for Defence became quite angry when I complained that the demand of 16,500 men per month was an impossibility. I have a vivid recollection of the Minister snapping back at me with this remark, “ Then you dispute the figures of the Imperial War Council?” I have no doubt that he will remember the occasion.
– I remember you “ snapping “ very frequently.
– Tes. The Minister remembers the defiant and triumphant way in which he asked me whether I disputed the Imperial War Council’s figures. I ventured to dispute them last December. The honorable senator was so impatient when I was giving my reasons that he, by a series of questions, insisted on me saying how many men per month I thought were necessary, and I gave my reply. He was very persistent in asking for definite figures.
– Were you not in the Government when that message came out to Australia?
– He was a silent member of the Government at that time.
– I did. not see the message while I was a member of the Government. Indeed, I will go further, and say that I never believed that the message came. I simply looked upon it as a make-believe for a Government who wanted conscription to fool the people. When I was speaking of these figures in December last, Senator Pearce said, “ Give me the number which you think necessary.” He would not allow me to give the information by my own method, hut he persisted with questions until I said that 5 per cent, would be a great deal nearer the number than would 16,500 men per month. His statement that I was disputing the Imperial War Council’s figures was used against me at the elections from one end of my State to an- . other, but he now knows that the Imperial War Council was wrong.
– But did the Council ask for those men?
– The Minister knows now that 16,500 per month was more than twice the number required.
– -For all that, you know that they were the War Council’s figured.
– We do not know that; we have ho proof of it.
– Do you assume that the figures were concocted?
– I can understand the figures being the Imperial War Council’s figures, and I can understand Senator Bakhap still saying, “ The only point in this reference is that if the Council told us that 16,500 men, per month were necessary, then, blindfolded, without using either eyes or intelligence, we must go forward.”
– I say that it would have been better to send 16,500 men per month when we could send them, than to get 3,000 per month into camp, when, perhaps, we cannot send them away.
– Exactly ; and I happen to know what the honorable senator knows, and that is that, for many months before the conscription issue was put to the people, every man whom the ships could carry was sent.
– That was the time when the submarine was not a menace at all.
– Even at that time every ship that left these shores had as many men as it could carry, and we were short of shipping for three or four months. ?**
– It was only true up to May. After that month there were vacancies in every ship going away.
– In June, 1916, there were not ships to take the men away.
– That is not a fact.
– During the month of June, 1916, the men who should have gone away in May had not gone, because of the lack of ships. During the month of July, 1916, the men who should have gone away in June .had not gone, for the same reason.
– They should have been sent at the beginning of the war, when there were plenty of ships available. That is the whole point of the conscription business.
– The Government, and the party of which Senator Bakhap is such a distinguished member, by their silence agree in allowing the people of Australia to understand that, nine months after their attempt to coerce Australians into believing that coercion was necessary, it is unnecessary. These are not my words, but the plain inference to be drawn from the actions of the Government.
– Becausethe Government keep faith with the people, the honorable senator judges that conscription is not necessary.
– Senator Senior will never hear me complain of a Government that keeps faith with the people. The chief pledge which the present Government gave to the people in many words, by many publications and speeches, directly and indirectly, was that if they were returned to power something most effective would be done in order to win the war. That is the pledge which they have to redeem.
– Hear, hear !
– Honorable senators who applaud that as a fair statement of the Government policy, and who are satisfied with what) the Government have put before us to-day in order to redeem their pledge, can have no conception of the high hopes raised in the minds of the people outside by the pre-election pledges on behalf of the Government. The parents of the boys who have been fighting, the mothers who are anxious about the return of their sons, the wives who are looking forward to the return of their husbands, have been waiting for the meeting of Parliament to learn that the Government are doing something to bring about the winning of the war and the return of those in whom they are interested. Prior tothe 5th May, and from that date until to-day, thousands of men and women inthe Commonwealth have been waiting for some pronouncement from the Government of their intention to do something more than has hitherto been done to bring the war to an early termination. I am pointing out the high hopes which were raised in the minds of the electors by the platform speeches of Ministerial candidates, the manifesto of the Prime Minister, and various nationalist publications. The electors were invited to believe that if they voted for the present Government combination they would win the war. Yet now the Government bring forward a programme which contains no proposal to do other than has already been done for the purpose of winning the war.
I have to give the Government credit for having called into existence new recruiting committees. The old recruiting committees had done well, and were doing well, but the Government have called new recruiting committees into existence, and they are satisfied that the number of men required can be obtained under the voluntary system. We were satisfied of that when we voted “ No “ at the referendum.
– The recruiting committees are not now satisfied with the number of men who are being obtained under the voluntary system.
– The Government’ are satisfied that the men can be obtained under the voluntary system, and I say that we were satisfied on that point when we voted “ No “ at the referendum. I said that 5,000 per month would be sufficient, and, taking into account all casualties, killed, wounded, and sick, the fighting during the last twelve months has proved that statement up to the hilt.
– Then the honorable senator does not receive many letters from the Front.
– If Senator Senior desires to deal with these questions on the basis of what is contained in letters from theFront rather than upon the facts available tothe Defence Department and the lists of casualties published by that Department, he may do so.
– Order ! There being no Sessional Orders in existence,, if the sitting is to be suspended in order to enable honorable senators to have dinner it is necessary that I should take action, and, therefore,, in accordance with the practice previously provided for under Sessional Orders agreed to by the Senate, I suspend the sitting until 8 o’clock, at which hour I shall resume the chair. ,
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I was referring to the position last December in the matter of recruiting. I take the opportunity to quote some statements made by Senator Pearce and myself on the subject of the claim made by the Government at the time that 16,500 men per month were re quired. Referring to the matter, Senator Pearce interjected in the course of my speech on the 1st, December, 1916 -
It is the statement of the Imperial ArmyCouncil.
A little later on the honorable senator said, referring to myself -
The honorable senator refuses to accept the statement of the Imperial Army Council.
I said in reply -
With all respect I do. If the Imperial Army Council had the combined wisdom of all military men in the world I would stillclaim the right to show that, judged by two years of war, there are no figures which will warrant the assumption that our army will be wiped out in six months.
I was still explaining my view’ that the number of 16,500 asked for to meet the wastage of war was altogether too great, and Senator Pearce in another interjection said -
How many a month do you say are wanted now?
The following debate then occurred, and is reported at page 9336 of Hansard-
– I am trying to give the answer.
– Why cannot you answer?
– I suppose I have the right to answer in my own way.
– Now that we have five divisions, how many a month do we want?
– If in this period of eighteen months there was one month of such grave disaster as is represented by the loss of 19,000 men, I venture to say that we could estimate our reinforcements on the basis of 5 per cent., and not 16½ per cent. That would mean the provision of 5,000 men a month.
In order that I may complete what I have to say on this point I ask Senator Pearce whether the experience of the war has not shown that the 5 per cent. stated by myself in December last to be sufficient would not during the last twelve months have covered all our casualties?
– No, it would not.
– The honorable senator says that it would not.
– Not during the last twelve months.
– I have made it my business to keep a very careful tally of our casualties, and also of the figures of the Defence Department. The military estimate of the sick and wounded returning to the fighting line is 64 or 65 per cent. I take a lower figure, and basing my argument upon an estimate of 60 per cent., I can prove that the number required to cover the casualties during the last twelve months would not average 4,000 per month.
– Sixty per cent. of what?
– Sixty per cent, of sick and wounded returned to the fighting line.
– That is altogether fallacious.
– The military estimate is 64 per cent.
– It is not, nor has it been our experience either.
– It is 64 per cent., but allowing that only 60 per cent. of sick and wounded return to the fighting line our casualties during the last twelve months would be metby an average of 4,000 per month.
– What about sickness?
– I have counted sick and wounded together as they are counted in the published casualty lists. From the beginning of the war till the 18th June the aggregate casualties number 95,000, including killed, sick, wounded, and prisoners of war.
Our troops have been for more than two years engaged in active warfare. The point I am making is that the voluntary system is; sound, and that, properly worked, it has done all that was required of it, and would continue to. do so. It is desirable that all sections of the community should have that fact wellgrounded in their minds.
– Is voluntarism fair to all sections of the community ?
– It may not be exactly as fair as Senator Guthrie would desire, but, to my mind, it is a perfectly legitimate and fair thing to say that if a man wants to fight we should let him fight, and if he does not want to fight we should let him keep away from it.
SenatorFoll. - The man who stays at home is willing to take all the plums resulting from the fighting of the other man.
– I am not at all surprised that, in a Christian community like ours, there should be many thousands of men who object to fighting. All their teaching from childhood to manhood has been against the doctrine of returning blow for blow.
– Are all anticonscriptionists conscientious objectors?
– I do not think that all are, any more than I think that all members of the Government are conscientiousconscriptionists. It is not a matter ofsurprise that, amongst a Christian people, there should be many thousands of men to whom fighting is repugnant. Apart from that I can quite understand the type of mind that brands as cold footers those who do not agree with them on this question, and who will not shirk the responsibilities upon them for the maintenance of mother, sisters, or brothers who are not sufficiently matured to earn their living for themselves. The extraordinary results which have followed from the appeal made to the manhood of Australia must surprise every one who has the time to consider them.
The Government in their programme have promised that war-time profits are to be taxed. When men, not in hundreds or thousands, but in hundreds of thousands, have given up better wages, better positions, and risked, and, in many cases, sacrificed life and limb for their country, no member of the Senate will say that other men in business are entitled to one shilling of profits earned during that time. While men are voluntarily giving up all, including even their lives, no one in this community should be so selfish as to claim the right to make profits during the period of the war. The Government will do well if they insist, not upon a share of war-time profits, but upon the whole of them to defray the expenses of the war.
– This knocks the honorable senator’s policy of voluntarism right on the head.
– I make no comparison between wealth and manhood, between money and the lives of men. We may take one and restore it, but the other, if taken, cannot be restored. I have no time for the mau who places life and manhood on the same plane as property and wealth, nor have I- any time for his arguments. We know that during the ,period of the war, and out of the war itself, many well-conducted business firms have made huge profits.- I say that war-time profits, as a whole, should go to pay the cost of the war. We have sent over 300,000 men from Australia to fight for us, and they have done so in such a way as to earn the highest prestige for the Australian people. At the same time we have had at home many thousands of people who have been making big profits out of the war. How are we going to treat the men who are fighting for us at the Front ? In order to clothe them, feed them, and pay their wages we are now borrowing money. Up to the present we have piled up a war indebtedness approaching £150,000,000, and the process is likely to continue. When our soldiers have been to the Front, when they have accepted all sorts of risks on our behalf, we hold out to them the prospect of returning to Australia and paying the interest upon the money which we have borrowed for the prosecution of the war. That is how it is proposed to treat them. These men may fight for us, platitudes in their praise may be spoken from every platform, but the fact remains that while they are absent fighting our battles we are borrowing the wherewithal to sustain them, and when they return to us we intend to give them the privilege of paying interest upon it. Is that a fair deal to extend to the soldiers?
– I do not think it is a fair deal to leave our soldiers without reinforcements.
– Neither do I. But I have an open mind upon the number of recruits that are required for that purpose, and if the Vice-President of the Executive Council can convince me that I am wrong, I am quite ready to be convinced. I have followed the figures relating to our casualties very closely, and I have proved that my own estimate has not been inaccurate to any appreciable extent. Indeed, the figures which I submitted in regard to the number of recruits that are required monthly to replace our casualties proved to be much nearer the mark than did the estimate submitted by the Imperial War Council. But I ask once more whether it is a fair thing to say to our troops, “We will borrow money to feed you, to clothe you, and to enable you to fight for us, and when you return to us we will give you the privilege of paying the interest upon it “ ?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we could get sufficient money to wage the war without borrowing?
– I do not say that, but I do say that before we have exhausted every avenue of taxation, including that of war-time profits, we have no right to charge any Australian soldier a shilling on account of this war. So far, the avenues of taxation open to us have not been touched. Why? Because the profits of those who make profits must be left to the last moment. But now we are assured that there is to he a tax on war-time profits. If the Government will promptly introduce the Bill dealing with this matter they will find no opposition to it.
– Provided that it goes far enough.
– I shall be thankful for small mercies. So far as taxation to pay for this war is concerned,
I say that it is most unfair to build up a hug© debt, the interest upon which will most largely be paid by those who are now fighting for us.
– Since when did the honorable senator make this discovery?
– I made it a very considerable time ago.
– Only since the honorable senator left these benches. The first “War Loan Bill was brought in by a Government of which he was a member.
– I say that every avenue of taxation should be exploited at the present juncture, and the Government should set to work in a very determined manner to secure particularly the taxation that is obtainable from war-time profits. The very statement of Mr. Higgs in the other Chamber in regard to the “War-time Profits Bill brought about the combination which we now see on the benches opposite. It was cheaper for those chiefly interested to purchase party leaders than it was for them to pay taxation.
– Rot !
– Of course. Nevertheless, from the very day that Mr. Higgs put forward his proposals for the taxation of war-time profits, a coalition of political parties, which had been impossible before, became possible.
– Who put pressure on the honorable senator 1
– Nobody ; and if Senator Guthrie says anything ito the contrary, he is lying.
– I will tell the honorable senator by-and-by.
– I wish now to quote, for the benefit of Senator Pearce and other pure merino Labour senators, what was stated in a manifesto issued by a political party which was addressed to our soldiers abroad. These individuals spoke as if they constituted the Labour party, and we were the mere puppets of the extremists. The extract which I intend to quote is from the Daily Mail, of 19th April last. It reads -
Soldiers, the members of the Labour party who are opposed to us have become the puppets of those who cry for peace at any price, who treat the war as a side issue, who, as the proceedings in the Labour Congress held in Perth last week show clearly, are disloyal to the Empire. The fact is that the machinery of’ the Labour movement has been captured by extremists, narrow sectionalists, men who joined the Labour party not to fight for it, but to live on it, or to use it for their own selfish purposes.
Integral Part of Empire. - We stand for Australia as an integral part of the Empire. We have sunk party during the war as the Labour parties in Britain, France, and Belgium have done; as you yourselves have done; and, like you, too, we ask of our comrade now only whether he loves Australia and has the courage of a man. We ask you to vote for the Ministerial candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives, and pledge ourselves to carryout the policy set out by the Prime Minister, doing all things necessary in this war to safeguard the rights “of Labour, to encourage the producer and the industries of Australia, and to deal with your dependants and you when and as you return, in a spirit and a manner worthy of the men of Gallipoli, Pozieres, and Bapaume.
Signed by - W. M. Hughes, G. F. Pearce, W. G.’ Spence. R. S. Guthrie, W. Webster, Watson, Lamond, T. Givens, P. J. Lynch, F. W. Bamford, W. Senior, Story, J. Newland, A. Poynton, W. O. Archibald, E. J. Russell, J. Earle, W. H. Laird Smith, J. A. Jensen. E. S. Carr, J. Thomas, G. Henderson, R. Buzacott, R. J. Burchell, J. M. Chanter.
Is there any man on the opposite side of the chamber who can truthfully say that we are puppets of any section of the Labour party ? If there is, I throw the lie back in his teeth. That the Labour party is an extreme party, I am aware, and I have always been aware of it. I am the result of that extreme party, and I am one of the extremists of that extreme party. Everything that is avowed in the quotation which I have read was said about our party twenty-five years ago. Yet, for twenty-five years, the steady, pressure of Labour organization and Labour - legislation has bettered the conditions of the workers of this country. Who constitute that section in our politics, which sits cheek by jowl with Sir John Forrest and Sir William Irvine, and has the impudence to say that it, and it alone, is the Labour party? Imagine Senator de Largie and Sir John Forrest arm in arm. Just picture Senator Russell and Sir William Irvine arm in arm. I believe that Senator de Largie is’ aB good a Labour man as he ever was, and as good a Labour man as is Sir John Forrest.
– Senator de Largie is as good a Labour man as he ever was, and a better Labour man than Senator Gardiner ever was.
– The honorable senator has a very exalted opinion of himself. His fine conceit is characteristic of him.
– What about the 40,000 foolish persons who gave Senator de Largie a majority?
– I do not say that they were foolish. I accept their vetdict. I have never cavilled at the verdict of the public when it has been against me, as it has been frequently; but I do complain of Senator Lynch sitting in the same party as Mr. Gregory or Sir John Forrest, and telling the soldiers who did not know any better that they were still the Labour party.
– I would sooner be in Gregory’s company than in some of the company which, the honorable senator is obliged to keep.
– I believe that Senator Lynch is as good a Labour man as is Mr. Gregory ; but I would rather be out of Parliament with the most extreme section of the Labour party than in it sitting cheek by jowl with Sir John Forrest and Sir William Irvine.
– What did David Story say at the last Labour Conference in Sydney?
– I do not happen to know. If I did, and if it had any bearing on the question I am discussing, I would not have the least hesitation in bringing it forward. But my point is that a party signing itself as the Labour party, endeavoured. to build up a reputation at the expense of men who have given the best of their lives to the Labour movement. Does anybody mean to tell me that Senator . McDougall, a trade unionist who has been fighting in the cause for over forty years; Senator Grant, Senator Barker, Senator Maughan, and’ others whom I see around me, because they differed from honorable senators opposite, suddenly became the puppets of the extreme section of the Labour party ?
– Oh, we were proGermans, and persons in receipt of German gold.
– Exactly. The abridged manifesto from which I have quoted is very mild-
– Very mild as compared with Mr. McGrath’s manifesto which was issued on your behalf.
– I have no doubt that when these facts came before him in England, Mr. McGrath’s blood boiled with indignation at these ‘mean slanders by men who, to justify their own acts of treachery to the Labour movement, signed slanderous and vilifying statements of those with whom they hadworked for years.
– I remember the time when the honorable senator said that he would not go into the same hotel with members of the Labour party, because he was afraid that if he left his boots outside his bedroom door the laces would be stolen from them.
– I am very glad that my honorable friend has such a lively recollection of the incident, which took place just about the time that he himself was struck off the roll of justices of the peace for his outrageous statements.
– What were those’ outrageous statements?
– Sufficiently outrageous for the Government of the day to say that the honorable senator , was no longer fit to be a justice of the peace.
– I did not say I would not go into the same hotel with a Labour man, because I was afraid he would steal the laces off my boots.
– Now that my honorable friend is so sure of his statement I am prepared to put this challenge to him : If he can produce that statement by me I will resign from the Senate, conditionally that if he cannot he will resign.
– Do you mean to say you did not say it?
– I unhesitatingly affirm that I did not say it, and back my denial with an offer to resign my seat if it can be proved that I did. I did not mind the honorable senator saying it as an interjection, but when he repeated it, having had time to think it over, I thought it was time not to allow a lie to get a start of me. Is the honorable senator prepared to accept my challenge ?
– He ought to withdraw his statement if he is not game.
– I do not want to hurry him. If, before the session ends, he does not produce some proof of his statement it will be up to him to withdraw it.
– If you say you did not make the statement I will withdraw it now.
– I do say so.
– Then I accept the honorable senator’s denial, and withdraw the statement.
– I have been referring to the men who sent 16,000 miles across the water to our soldiers fighting in the trenches a document claiming that they are the Labour party, and will watch the interests of Labour. Sir John Forrest, Mr. Joseph Cook, and Sir William Irvine will watch the interests of labour! So will Senator Millen, for he is now just as good a Labour man as any of them, and so will Senator Thomas, although all of them are surrounded now by the classes that have been the enemies of Labour since the beginning of the fight. They will watch the interests of Labour, not only surrounded, but controlled by the classes that hold the power, and that have fought us with all the weapons of vilification and slander since ever we entered into this fight. In the manifesto they issued’ to our soldiers they are still Labour members. I have no doubt that when the soldiers .read of Senator de Largie sitting in the same party with Sir John Forrest and Mr. Gregory, they will say “ That is good company for a Labour member! “
– They appreciated that fact and gave me a majority.
– They gave the honorable senator a majority because he promised to win the war if they did. From every platform, and in every newspaper, he promised to do something to win the war and two months after they gave him his majority we find him quite happy when the Government he is supporting brings down a proposal containing not one word of additional effort to win the war. “We are in the same position that we were in two months ago, and even six months ago, only infinitely worse. We have Senator Pearce’s statement that from the time a soldier leaves Australia it is six months before he can get to the trenches. If that is so, can those who say they want to maintain the fighting line at the strength they say is necessary, go slow in such an important matter ? Can they afford to let days run into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, and then probably when some disaster or other happens a few months hence make frantic efforts to pick up the time wasted? If they believe in all they said before, they were elected they will have th’e courage to say to the Government, “ The proposal you are putting before us is not good enough; it is not a business proposal; it is certainly not a soldier’s proposal.” Whether they are aware of it or not, the enthusiasm created in the minds of the people, among the parents and other relatives of those fighting at the Front, by that splendid election cry of “Win the war,” gave them their majority - that, and nothing else.
– There was something else.
– What ?
– I will tell the honorable senator later.
– I am quite honest in saying that, in my opinion, the enthusiasm created by the cry of “ Win the war,” the hopes created in the minds of those who had friends fighting at the Front, was solely and entirely responsible for the majority the Government obtained. But if ever there was a wet blanket put on a flame it is this document brought forward by the Government two. months after the election. In it they tell us quite seriously that in order to win the war they will deal with the prickly pear, devise means to obtain alcohol for commercial purposes, and find a remedy for the blow-fly pest.
But the Government are going to do something else to win the war, and this is the real essence of their proposals. They are going to curtail sport. What sport will they curtail without injuring the whole community? If the records of the sportsmen of this country could be obtained it would be found th t the men from the race-course, the football field, the tennis court, the bowling green, and wherever else sport is played, have played their part manfully in this war.
– Don’t include “the racecourse.
– If the honorable senator visited the race-course as frequently as I do he would find that it has been depleted of most of its former crowds. The young and fit men do not go there as people imagine they do. The race-courses have done their share, and done it well, but no doubt it will please a section of the community if, by curtailing sport, the Government can make people think more seriously of the war. Sport is a good recreation and active relief for thousands of us from the anxieties of the war.
– Do you think the stadium crowd have done their whack, too?
– Stopping sport to win the war is the only definite winthewar proposal in this programme. What sport are the Government going to stop? Is it golf? I suppose they will stop golf because the man whose mind is absorbed by it is certainly not thinking seriously of the war. The man who plays bowls will have to have his pleasure stopped.
– I do not suppose they will stop the sport of elderly gentlemen.
– The honorable senator will wait a long time before he finds me building my speeches on selfish reasons. The Government will do well to consider very seriously where the stopping of any sport begins or ends. I can quite understand in Great Britain, where there is a scarcity, or the possibility of a scarcity, of food for human beings, that they will curtail horse-racing, but no such scarcity obtains in Australia. We have ample food supplies, and if means of transport were available we should be only too willing to send food to the Home Land to replenish the supplies there, but because Great Britain curtails horseracing are we going to slavishly follow suit, and stop it here? Are the Government going to interfere with the sport of horse-racing that gives legitimate employment to thousands of our people who are unable to go to the war, and gives the prospect of a market for the produce of thousands of our farmers ? Stop horseracing, and that market is immediately gone. Behind all these questions of stopping sport there is the serious trade aspect to be considered, and the man who rushes in hurriedly to win the war by stopping sport because he thinks some of the people looking on should be at the war may be making a big mistake.- This Government and its followers have to take the responsibility for lookers-on who should be at the war not being there. The people of this country have given them their, majority to deal with them in a legitimate and straightforward way, not in a mean, contemptible, and underhand way. Stopping sport to assist recruiting is worthy of this so-called National” party. It is worthy of a combination of Sir John Forrest and Senator de Largie, of Mr.
Gregory and Senator Lynch, or Senator Russell and Sir William Irvine. These are the proposals that one would expect from mixed minds of that kind.
– Don’t you think that yarn was worn threadbare at the elec-, tions ?
– I hope it was, because, now the elections are over, and the public, whose votes a number of Government supporters secured only by saying that they were still Labour men,-are aware that they have ceased to be Labour men, that they have joined the so-called National party, that the ground for a coalition has been wiped away, and a complete fusion has taken place, with a Leader elected under an agreement between the whole lot of them sitting together, they should remember that there is still another election to face. It may be a long way off, or it may be near, but we shall have to face it.
– Where will you and your followers be then?
– Fighting for the principles we came into this Parliament to fight for, and, win or lose, I would rather be outside with the most extreme section of the Labour movement, fighting for those principles, than sitting cheek by jowl with the friends the honorable _ senator is with now.
– Is not the honorable senator making a mistake in continually stressing the extreme nature of the principles of the party to which he belongs?
– No. We are the party of extremists. We came into the public life of this country because we were the extremists, and the party to-day, extreme as they may be, are no more extreme than the first Labour party that entered the parliamentary life of Australia. There is a kind of highly respectable, well-to-do, conservative atmosphere surrounding some men, making them look with horror on the extreme proposals of the Labour movement.
Senator Foll applauded the Government for giving preference to soldiers, and I say “ hear hear “ to that too, but I venture to say there is not a soldier who wants preference under such conditions that he must “scab.” The soldiers who went to the war expect preference, and it should be given to them, but I venture to say that when the bulk of the soldiers return they will not be prepared to take their employment by “ scabbing “ on the unionists.
– There are such things as award rates.
– I do not care whether there are or not. I remember an article appearing in a journal in Sydney some months ago referring to the hardships of soldiers at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory who did not join the union. It fell to my lot to investigate this matter, and I found that every soldier given employment there willingly joined the union. There were no “ scabs “ among them.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that every man who does not join a union is a “scab”?
– No man sufficiently manly to fight for his country is coming back here to fight his fellow unionists. No man wants a mean, miserable, contemptible concession of that kind. These men will come back bigger men,’ not smaller men, than they went away. They will be broader men, and having been’ abroad fighting the enemies ‘of Australia, they are not coming back to fight for other enemies.
– Not many of them will come back if we do not win the war.
– There is no doubt, as Senator Bakhap suggests,, that if the war continues a little longer, there will be all the greater reason for urgency in our war policy.
– And the greater reason for sending all the men we can to the Front.
– But the honorable senator does not propose to do that. He is content to sit behind a Government that purposes doing nothing except establishing a recruiting committee of both parties, stopping sport, and dealing with blow-flies, prickly pear, and the production of alcohol for commercial purposes. The Government are not pretending that tilley are going to do anything to help win the war by some methods that .are to be kept secret.
– I may tell the Honorable senator that I raised the question of producing alcohol for commercial purposes in the Tasmanian Parliament, and they conducted experiments along those lines.
– I am glad to hear that. The honorable senator also led. the people of Tasmania to believe that there were two parties to this fight - one, the National party which would do something to win the war, and the other, the Labour party, which merely side-tracked that great issue. It mattered not to him that we had published our manifesto, saying that the war was still the most pressing problem, and that we had determined to continue to do our best, as we had during the past two years. All that has been done by Australia in this great struggle stands to the credit of the Labour movement. ‘
– That manifesto of yours said that you would repeal the Daylight Saving Act.
– That interjection is quite in keeping with the truthfulness of .the honorable senator. His party made fun of our proposal, and now that the Government ask them to repeal it they are going to eat out of their hands.
– Well, I was never behind you.
– No, because the honorable senator was never to be depended upon.
– That is contrary to the fact.
– The honorable senator was never to be depended upon, when the whip cracked.
I have touched very briefly upon the subjects contained in the policy speech. My reason for speaking immediately, without moving for the adjournment of the debate - in which course, no doubt, I would have had the approval of the Government - was to conserve the time of the Senate, and to enable the Government to get on with their “ win-the-war “ policy. The cards are now upon the table. The programme of legislation for this session is now before us. The Government have told the people of Australia what they are intending to do. They are going to curtail sport in some directions, and they are going to allow scientific authorities to pursue investigations with regard to prickly pear, alcohol for commercial purposes, and the blow-fly pest. That is the sum total of all the promises made during all those weeks of the vigorous election campaign. If one had read the leadin? articles in the National press, and had read all the pledges of the National leaders,’ one would have thought that it was men like myself and my colleagues who were preventing anything being done for months ; that we were the obstacles in the way; that we were viciously using our majority to prevent the Government from doing anything. Now the Government have a majority in Both Houses, so there is nothing to prevent them from doing something to win this war. It appears, however, that their policy was to win the elections, and in that respect it was effective. There is* no question about that. As far as I am concerned, and deploring as I do the serious loss to Australia of some men for a Brief period, I do not regret ‘that the Government have unrestricted power to do anything they may have in mind to win this war.
– Winning the elections may suggest likelihood of success in other directions.
– There is no doubt about the winning of the elections, but I think it was a surprise to honorable senators opposite and their leaders that the people of Australia took them at their word, because up to the present they have not risen to the occasion.
– We are just preening our wings. We will rise to the occasion presently.
– Yes, and meanwhile other people are being killed.
– While honorable senators opposite may be trying their wings, I remind them that time is flying, though some honorable senators are secure in their positions for six years.
– There might be a double dissolution.
– This suggestion of a double dissolution is somewhat unnerving’, but now that reference has been made” to it, I may remind honorable senators that though they won the 1913 elections by 60,000 votes, in 1914- a little more than twelve months afterwards - we won the Senate election.
– Are we downhearted 1 No !
– This declaration of the combined intelligence of the National party appears now to satisfy every honorable senator opposite. Valiant as their protests were before the 5th May, they now accept this departure from the position they then took up - this bolt to cover, now that they are faced with the responsibility. The destinies of this country are in their hands, but as I said in the beginning of my remarks, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech promises nothing more towards winning the war than what we were doing before last October. Moreover, it is a justification of the ‘ No “ vote given by the people of Australia last October. Honorable senators opposite agree with that, because they do not condemn the Government. They have not the courage to do so here, where condemnation would be’ effective.
– Propose a vote of no-confidence then.
– I would if the honorable senator would show me there was any prospect of a majority by promising his, support, but he is a member of the party which practically elected Senator Givens as President and Senator Shannon as Chairman of Committees, so I take it that a vote of censure would be quite useless in the face of caucus-pledged members opposite. However, as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we of the Labour movement are pleased that senators supporting the Government have followed the good example we set them.
I shall not speak at any greater length now, but. will reserve any further remarks I may have to make for the Supply Bill, which, I understand, will shortly be before the Senate. The Government, in their policy speech, have buried the conscription issue ; they have told the people of Australia that there is no need for it, and that it is not. wanted. This is the position we took up last October. Nine months have passed since then, and it is still not wanted, as the Government do not propose to take any extraordinary steps to get more men. These facts are given to us by the Government in the policy speech. I am pleased to think that they have accepted the view taken by a majority of the people last October when they turned down the conscription issue.
– I should like, in a few words, to offer my congratulations to the two honorable senators who proposed and seconded the motion which we have now under consideration. Senator Plain is not quite a. novice in parliamentary life, and I am sure, therefore, he will pardon me if I pay a special compliment to the younger senator who, I understand, made his maiden parliamentary speech this afternoon. I only wish to say that, judging by his remarks, the Senate has received an addition to its strength, and that with experience the seconder of the motion will prove a very useful member of this Chamber.
I want now to remind honorable senators that many things have changed since the 5th May, but neither Senator Gardiner nor his speech can be included in that category. Senator Gardiner is still the same as before the 5th May. He cannot discriminate between noise and sound argument, and does not realize that the mere throwing about of wild statements is not. the presentation of sober facts. Those of us who have been privileged to be here before have been wearied with the honorable senator’s tedious repetition, and I venture to say, without for one moment resorting to the language of exaggeration, that if these walls have rung to his speech once they have listened to it a dozen times. The very stones of this building could finish almost, any sentence commenced by the honorable senator. I do not wish it to be understood that I suggest that any limitation should be placed upon Senator Gardiner’s speeches, but I do feel it a personal grievance that I should be expected to furnish, a fresh reply to the same speech on every occasion. It is becoming wearying for me to do so. Unless he can find some fresh matter, he will have to pardon me if, in the future, my replies to his speeches are shorter than perhaps he may think courteous. What was his complaint in dealing with that portion of the matter which had an appearance of freshness because it dealt with the Governor-General’s Speech ? He complained that the Government are not proposing to bring in conscription. He does not seem to understand that a political party can be loyal to the pledges which it gave to the country. If he did, he would not have expressed surprise that the present Government were not bringing forward conscription. Every honorable senator on this side went and pledged himself definitely to the electors, and for the honorable senator to say there is no reference to conscription in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is merely to state what everybody here knew, and what everybody in the country recognised, and that is that a pledge given by this party would be honoured. We won the elections on that pledge. I can quite understand the surprise which was in the mind of Senator Gardiner when he found that any body of politicians or public men are capable of keeping a pledge. It may be, per- haps, a useful lesson to the honorable senator to note that the National party, having given a pledge, will act upon it. He admitted that in one particular he was wrong. He said that throughout the country he told the electors that the pledges given by the members of the National party would be broken, and urged them, therefore, to vote against that party, because they were not to be trusted. He stood here to-night and said that we are to be trusted. I want to remind Senator Gardiner, and the electors outside, that, having been faithful in .that matter, as we are, upon his own admission, we will be equally faithful in other matters.
The honorable senator, who admitted that his warnings and his prophecies have been falsified by the actions of this party in the past, was not . in any way restrained from indulging in a further series of warnings and prophecies. One of them was that those who sent the National party into power are going to be woefully disappointed when they read in the morning’s newspapers of the presentation of measures by means of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Before the honorable senator is twenty-four hours older, I venture the prediction that he will again find that he is in error; and in whatever other walks of life he may be successful, it is not going to be as a political prophet. I utter the prediction that when the people read the statement presented by the Government through the mouth of the GovernorGeneral they will accept it as a practical working proposition for the redemption of their pledges to the country. Senator Gardiner said, “What was there in the Speech which would not have appeared in a speech presented by any other Government?” It is possible that there may be a measure of truth in his remark ; but I remind him that there are only two ways in which recruits can bc obtained, and that is by either the voluntary or compulsory method. I think that, almost without exception, the members of the National party believe in the compulsory principle. It is an accepted article of faith with them that it is the only sound, economic, and democratic principle, and we submitted that view to the country. I venture to say that, but for the restraint placed upon us by the country, the National party would still be de- sirous of putting that policy into effect. But, the people of the country having intimated that they were not able to indorse our view, we then told them that we would endeavour to obtain men by the only policy which was left. My honorable friends opposite off ered the same promise. They said that they, too, would seek to obtain men by the voluntary system. They said that they would do as much as we would do. Seeing that we declared that the question of conscription was not an issue at the elections, and that both parties professed a willingness to support the voluntary method, the obvious thing is that the country believed this side, and did not believe the other side. The electors knew that, whilst’ it was one thing for candidates seeking their suffrages to stand on a platform and profess adherence to a particular faith, something more was wanted. They knew that merely to say that a party was in favour of encouraging recruiting and helping to win the war was not sufficient. They knew - and their fears on that occasion have been amply justified since - that whilst both parties professed a willingness and a desire to obtain recruits, there was one party which meant what it said, and that there was another party which they were not prepared to trust.
Senator Gardiner mentioned something about the National party having been elected because of the hopes which it had excited in the minds of the electors. That is largely true; but it is equally true that a large measure of support came to the National party because of the fears which the Labour party had excited. To show how sound was the public judgment on this matter, let me remind Senator Gardiner of what transpired at a Conference which he attended. The National party did go to the country saying that it was out to win the war. The Labour party used the same words, but made it quite clear to the electors that, while they did not mind the war being won, they were not going to disturb themselves to secure the winning of it. They have shown since then that they were much more anxious to secure peace at any price than to ask their supporters to submit to some inconvenience and some sacrifice, in order to secure that honorable peace which alone will assure future safety to this country. At the Conference to which I referred just now a resolution was passed. What was it? I have not the exact words here, but it was, in effect, that steps should be taken to secure peace without annexations and without indemnities. There were other resolutions passed on that occasion - resolutions which were repeatedat a Conference recently held in Melbourne. Can any one dispute for a moment that these resolutions, and the unanimity with which they have been adopted in one State after another by the members of Senator Gardiner’s party, indicate that it is prepared to abandon everything and anything if it can only get peace?
– What did Mr. Lloyd George say ? He said that we would treat with the people of Germany if they got rid of Prussian militarism.
– What do these resolutions say ?
– It is just the same thing.
– I want to know from my honorable friends on the other side whether they indorse these resolutions carried by their party Conference? So far as the press records disclose, Senator Gardiner, though he was there, made no protest against the resolutions. Our opponents are asking the people of Australia to accept, as an evidence of their desire to help to win the war, that we should abandon territories in the wresting of which from. Germany Australians laid down their lives ; that we should hand the territories back in order that the little coterie which sent the honorable senator here should be relieved from the inconvenience and the sacrifice involved by the war.
– A little coterie of 334,000 men - more votes than you got on the same occasion.
– It was not a little coterie of 300,000 men which sent the honorable senator here. It was the little coterie that pulled the strings of his machine, and secured his nomination, which brought behind him that big body of votes.
– In Tasmania, only thirty men selected the lot on the other side.
– My honorable friend seems to know a good deal of what goes on on the other side.
– That information was public property.
– I was affirming just now that the result of the last elections was to prove that the country would not accept the assurances and the protestations of my honorable friends opposite. I ask, How could my State do so when those protestations and professions of faith were largely voiced by Senator Gardiner? I ask, How could the people of that State be expected to accept at the full face value the declarations he made?
This evening the honorable senator gave an indication of the utter recklessness with whichhe will make statements. He denounced here tonight a cablegram which the Minister for Defence stated had been received from the War authorities at Home, declaring that . 16,500 recruits per month were needed to maintain our divisions at their full strength. Senator Gardiner said tonight that he did not believe that such a cablegram was in existence. He was a member of the Government at the time when the cablegram was received, or if it was not received, he was a member of the Government after the Prime Minister - his chief - had publicly given the contents of that document to the world. I ask honorable senators to picture the position of Mr. Hughes going throughout the country and declaring that he had received from the Imperial authorities a cablegram stating that 16o500 men per month were necessary in order to maintain our divisions at the Front. If Senator Gardiner believed then, as he believes now, that statement to be a deliberate and wicked lie for the purpose of deceiving the people of this country, he never opened his mouth. He was content to remain under the leadership of a man who he declares was trying to deceive the country by a fictitious cablegram.
– More than onehalf of your supporters know that I did open my mouth.
– What the honorable senator may have done in the secrecy of the party room I do not know, but he has to account to the country for the fact that, for six months, he knew that the Prime Minister, and those who stood with him, were fooling the people of the country by telling them a wicked and deliberate lie. How can the people of New South Wales, or of this country, be expected to give any credence, or . attach any importance, to the remarks of a public man who is so utterly reckless in his use of words, or so utterly indifferent to the obligations which ought to rest upon him ? Here is another instance of Senator Gardiner’s unreliability.
– What number of reinforcements do the British authorities reckon now they require from Australia ?
– I am dealing just now, not with the requirements of the British authorities, but with a statement of Senator Gardiner. I am pointing out that, if he believed that cablegram to be non-existent, he owed a simple duty to the people of this country, and that was to tell them the truth, and resign his position in the Government. That he did not do so is proof that he knew of the existence of that cablegram, and believed in it; or, alternatively, he merely made the statement to-night for party reasons.
– There was a certain amount of honour due to his chief, you know.
– Yes; and represented, I am afraid, by his attachment to the office he held. Any honorable man, any member of a party or a Government, or an organization of any kind, who saw that one of his associates was seeking to work a wicked wrong upon the people of the country, owed it, by his pledges to the electors, to expose that scandal, no matter what the consequences might be to himself.
– If he knew it was a lie, he condoned that lie.
– Either Senator Gardiner did that, or he uttered to-night what he does not believe.
Here is another instance of Senator Gardiner’s recklessness. He came here this evening, and, with that appearance of dauntless courage which he always assumes, said what a monstrous wrong it was that we should attempt to defray the cost of the war out of loans until we had exhausted all the avenues of taxation. Then, becoming almost pathetic, he pictured the position of our soldiers coming back to the country - as we hope they will do- and being asked by taxation to provide the interest and sinking fund for the loans raised in their absence. The statement sounded very well, but, without turning to Hansard, I ask my honorable friends to draw upon their memories. We all know that it was Senator Gardiner’s Government which brought in the first War Loan Bill ever seen in Australia. They had not exhausted the avenues of taxation - nothing like it.
– Oh, but they would have done it!
– There would never be a. man hanged on the gallows if every one was allowed off on a promise of what he would do in the future. Senator Gardinerhas declared to-night, in very clear and emphatic language, that we ought to exhaust the possibilities of taxation before we, by resorting to war loans, throw a burden upon the soldiers when they return. I ask the honorable senator why he did not do that when he was a Minister? What he did was to bring in a law to produce additional taxation, but alongside of it he brought in a big fat Loan Bill.
– He increased the revenue from taxation by £8,000,000, and proposed to continue to increase it each year.
– He did not increase it by £8, 000,000; but even if the previous Government did increase revenue from taxation by £8,000,000, it is obvious that the possibilities of taxation were not exhausted, because, according to the Speech, with which Senator Gardiner has presumably been dealing, the present much-maligned Government have intimated that there are sources of revenue still to be tapped by taxation from which additional revenue will be received. It is all very well for Senator Gardiner, when he mounts a platform outside, away from the press and the restraining influence of those who are in a position to answer him, to indulge in statements of this kind, but in this Chamber honorable senators know the facts, and they will conclude that his statement on this point affords only another example of the reason why the electors did not accept at their full face value the assurances which he ventured to give them.
– They had not the chance to do so.
– It is very lucky for the twelve honorable senators opposite that the electors had not the chance to deal with them.
– It was a lucky thing for the honorable senator’s party that they robbed us of our name in looking for the soldiers’ votes.
– I thought Senator Grant could not resist the temptation to make an interjection of that kind. Let us deal with that statement. We heard very frequently before the elections that the poor, innocent, ill-informed Australian soldiers did not know what was going on here. Do my honorable friends opposite know them at all ? Do they know these Australian lads of ours?
– Why should you rob us of our name on the ballot-papers?
– If we could rob honorable senators opposite of the name attached to the party now we should be rendering them a service which they do not deserve. We were informed that these soldier lads of ours did not know what was going on in Australia, but honorable senators opposite took very great care that the soldiers should know what was going onfrom their point of view. They appointed one of their number - Sergeant, or is it Field Marshal, McGrath - to act as their representative and scrutineer. Although many of them here showed very great facility in the misrepresentation of facts, Sergeant McGrath has nothing to learn from any one of them. He, at any rate, put the case for the consideration of the soldiers in a way that was not excelled by any honorable senators opposite. He told them what no doubt will appear to my honorable friends opposite as facts. We have heard a great deal said about the scandalous wickedness of Senator Pearce, Mr. Hughes, Senator Thomas, and others. We have heard something about the wickedness of members of the Labour party, headed by Mr. Hughes, because of the terms they applied to the section of the party that left them. I am not saying that the terms used were Chesterfieldian in style, but those who indorsed the work of’ Sergeant McGrath can find no fault with them. I quote from Sergeant McGrath’s circular addressed from London to the soldiers at the Front. As a matter of fact, the circular was reproduced in the Argus. but in common with others I hold a copy of the actual circular itself.
– The honorable senator is quoting from the Argus now.
– I am. Sergeant McGrath writes of - “ Messrs. Hughes.. Pearce, and their renegade followers.”
Nothing that Senator Gardiner read tonight above the signatures of Messrs. Hughes, Pearce, and others was any more offensive than that, and I venture to say that if my honorable friends opposite complain of members of the present Government on that score they should, at least, repudiate their spokesman, Sergeant McGrath. I am quoting this to show that the soldiers were well informed as to what was taking place . in politics here, and also informed as to the significance of the designations on the ballotpapers of the candidates seeking their suffrages.
– Did they get that circular.
– I venture to say that when honorable senators opposite appointed Sergeant McGrath to do this work for them they had confidence in his loyalty to themselves, and his business capacity to perform the work which they appointed him to carry out. If they mean to suggest that Sergeant McGrath was, to use the vernacular, “ in . the bag,” it is not* for me to dispute it, but he was their accredited agent, and it is reasonable to assume he did his work thoroughly. I know this is painful matter for my’ honorable friends opposite to listen to, but I ask them to bear with me for a while. Sergeant McGrath, addressing the fighting sons of Australia, said - “ The ballot-paper upon which soldiers will vote is a fraud.”
– So it was.
-Well, the soldiers were informed of it, anyhow, and they voted with a knowledge of all the party opposite had to tell them.
– I have seen an affidavit by a soldier that they did not.
– Sergeant McGrath informed the electors - “The ballot-paper upon which soldiers will vote is a fraud, for it conceals the fact that the Labour party is the Opposition and that Ministerialists consist of the Liberal party and a handful of Labour renegades led by Messrs. Hughes and Pearce.”
Senator Gardiner said here to night that the soldiers did not know that there had been an association between his old colleagues and members of the old Liberal party, but Sergeant McGrath informed them of that fact.
– That was not published in the Anzac Journal.
– It is- in the circular issued by Sergeant McGrath. I am sure that Senator McDougall has seen a copy of the circular, and I can show him in the Anzac J ournal the manifesto issued by Mr. Tudor.
– No; only a portion of it.
– It is ridiculous to assume that the soldiers at the front did not know what had happened here and what was going on. I venture to say that they showed by their votes that they had a very much clearer perception of the true state of affairs than did my honorable friends opposite.
– Is the honorable senator aware that sworn declarations have been made by returning soldiers that they. did not know what had taken place and whom they were voting for?
– The portion of the circular which I have quoted contains two or three other references which I should like to quote. Referring to Messrs. Hughes and Pearce, Sergeant McGrath said - “ These men have been disowned by all official Labour organizations.”
Whether they had or not is a question of fact capable of proof or disproof, and I ask honorable senators opposite to say whether it is a fact that they were disowned by all Labour organizations?
– Certainly not.
– We have heard a good deal about misrepresentation, but here is astatement open to a simple test as to its accuracy, and there is not a member of this Chamber, even Senator Gardiner, who will deny that that statement is inaccurate. Messrs. Hughes and Pearce we know werenot disowned by all Labour organizations. Sergeant McGrath went on to say - “But they still try to capture the votes of the soldiers by hiding the true position.”
Senator Gardiner has to night read an announcement which was made by Messrs.
Hughes, Pearce, and Co. telling the soldiers what had happened. Is that evidence of an attempt to hide it? The leaders of the party prepared a manifesto which they sent to the soldiers. It is a strange way in which to hide a matter to send it out to the people in the form of a manifesto. Honorable senators opposite may say that the manifesto was a partisan document. It was, as all such documents necessarily are, but for Senator Gardiner to say that those who subscribed to that manifesto were attempting to hide what had happened is proof either that the honorable senator does not know (he meaning of the words he uses or thathe is himself trying to convey an impression that does not . square with the facts.
The honorable senator took some exception to being called the nominee of an extreme section.
– The puppet of an extreme section.
– Now that we are engaged on this matter, honorable senators will pardon me if I quote for them a very complete description of that, section to which reference has been made byan authority who is not unknown in this Chamber, and an authority who is not to be disputed. Let us see what is this little section which pulls the strings of the machine to which Senator Gardiner belongs. I quote the following - “Now as to the methods of the industrial section for securing Labour solidarity.”
– What is the honorable senator quoting from?
– I quote from The Worker - “They have a code of rules of their own; issue a badge of membership; charge- affiliation fees to leagues and unions; elect an executive of their own; issue an annual report; have a printed form of pledge, which all delegates roust sign; draw up an election list or ticket of their own members only* to fill the position of president, vice-presidents, or secretary of the whole Labour movement of the State; also the New South Wales members of the Federal executive, and the six delegates to the Inter-State Labour Conference, and even the returning officer and the two scrutineers to conduct the elections. Furthermore, they discussed the Conference business-paper, and whatever they decided to support or oppose every delegate on the ‘ section. was pledged to vote solidly upon in
Conference, no matter what new facts or arguments might be adduced. The ‘ section ‘ also has a rule that its members must vote in threes, that is, each member must show . his ballot-paper after voting to two others; and every candidate of the ‘ section ‘ for any office in the movement must sign an undated resignation and leave it in the hands of the section ‘ to hand in when dissatisfied with his conduct.”
That is signed by “ Arthur Rae.”
– If the honorable senator wishes to be fair, will he say whether I have any connexion with, or in any way am under the thumb of that section, or that I have agreed with them in any of their doings in. connexion with the Labour movement?
– What I say is that that “ section “ which Arthur Rae has so admirably described is the section which has captured the machine to which my honorable friend belongs. The proof of it is that Arthur Rae points out that that “ section “ ran a ticket for all offices, and he was the only person who escaped. I can quite understand Senator McDou- gall’s feelings when he thinks of the next two years, after which he has to go up for re-election. Prom a long association with the honorable senator I can extend to him my heart-felt! sympathy. But putting on one side any tendency to levity on these matters, it appears tome that neither this Senate nor the country is interested in these echoes of past elections, these wails of disappointment, these moans of despair. To-day they belong to something in which the country is not interested. What, does interest it, is the practical work to deal with which this Parliament has been summoned.
– It is also interested in some of the things which are not included in the Governor-General’s Speech.
– And which it should have been the duty of the Leader of the Opposition to have indicated when he spoke this afternoon. If there are sins of omission to be laid at the door of the Government, surely it was his duty to have pointed them out. Nobody can say that Senator Gardiner has indicated anything which ought to have been included in the Vice-Regal utterance, but which, is not there. It may be that he was unable to find anything, but if he did know of something and declined to offer a suggestion for public consideration, hewas remiss in the duty which he owes to the country. But the honorable senator is like the character in Dickens, Mrs. Gummidge, “ never happy unless he is miserable,” an’d I venture tlo say that he is going to be both happy and miserable for some years to come.
The Government have submitted their policy, and the only fault which Senator Gardiner has found with it is that it does not contain a proposal the inclusion .of which would have tamped this party with ignominy and dishonour. But this policy does represent a practical, sane, and effective means of redeeming the pledges of the Government, when we bear in mind the limitation which the electors themselves imposed upon us. Iti is quite possible that Senator Gardiner himself does not recognise the significance of some of our proposals. He may not see, for instance, how intimately industrial and shipping matters are interwoven with the war. If he does not, there are many honorable senators who will be only too pleased to , enlighten him when these matters engage our attention. Th<s Government present a policy which, whilst giving first consideration to the obligation cast upon us to do all that we can to prosecute the war to a successful issue, exhibits a very sound regard for the necessity of closely watching our industrial affairs, and above all, a just appreciation . of the great need for expanding our production in order that we may with less distress carry the burden which is the result of the war. I say that when honorable senators look at our proposals which are designed to meet these public needs, they will say that this policy represents a fair, honest, and practical, attempt to redeem the. pledges upon which we were returned to this Parliament. .
Debase (on motton by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 8 p.m. i to-morrow.
The following paper was presented : -
Finance : Further summary of Commonwealth Finances, 30th June, 1917.
Senate adjourned at 9.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 July 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170711_SENATE_7_82/>.