7th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported: -
Appropriation Bill 1916-17.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1016-17.
Unlawful Associations Bill.
Wheat Storage Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act 1902-1916.-Promotions-
Department of Defence -
Mitchell and J.E. Allen.
Postmaster-General’s Department -
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that last week, at a conference of recruiting delegates, a resolution was passed to the effect that “ this conference urges, in the interests of recruiting, that the Federal and State Governments should take further action in regard to enemy aliens in our midst”; and, if so, will he make a statement on the matter, as I understand that there is a considerable amount of public anxiety?
– I have not seen the resolution, and I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
Form of Questions
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether, in view of the action of our ally, Russia, in prohibiting vodka from the commencement of the war, which action was followed by the general prohibitionof all intoxicants, thereby adding greatly to the productivity of labour and military and naval efficiency, and leading to the encouragement of thrift, and improvement in the condition of the people-
– Order! The honorable senator is going outside the limits of a question, and is making statements. The rule has been laid down here that questions must only be asked for the purpose of obtaining information, and that the replies must be couched so as to give information only. Following that rule, it is not permissible for an honorable senator to make a statement of fact, or alleged facts,’ or anything else, but simply to ask for information.
– May I finish reading the question now?
– If it does not transgress my ruling.
– I will leave that’ bit out. Further, in view of the adoption of prohibition by the people of eight out of the nine Provinces of Canada, either permanently, or for the period of the war and demobilization, will the Government exercise its powers to stop the manufacture, importation, and sale of intoxicating liquors in Australia for the remaining period of the war, and the time of repatriation and demobilization? That is in order, I take it.
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
– With regard to the question by Senator Thomas, I know that the Standing Orders do not permit an honorable senator, in asking a question, to put forward arguable matter; therefore, I ask, sir, that, before this question is allowed to appear on the notice-paper, you will censor it so that there shall be nothing going forward which may not be replied to by somebody else.
– That is always done. No question which does not comply with the Standing Orders is allowed to go on the notice-paper.
– Has the Leader of the Senate any information regarding the question I asked about a week ago concerning a person named Yates, who was discharged from the Public Service!
– If the honorable senator will repeat the question at a later hour, I shall be able to give him the information desired.
– On behalf of Senator Gardiner, I desire to know if the Minister for Defence has answers to certain questions I asked the other day in reference to a gentleman named Garden ?
– On Thursday, 26th July, in replying to Senator Gardiner’s inquiry concerning the case of J. S. Garden, I stated that questions 9, 10, 11, and 12 had been referred to the Auditor-General. The answers are now as follow: -
– Is it the. intention of the Government to introduce legislation to prevent the raising of rente by landlords to soldiers and their relatives during the period of the war?
– The matter is at present! receiving consideration.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer if any action has been taken with regard to the question I raised some little time ago, namely, the exemption of soldiers’ pensions from income tax ?
– The subject referred to by the honorable senator is at present under consideration by Cabinet.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
– Arising out of the Minister’s reply to question No. 3, am I to understand that the. number given refers to the total of escapees from the whole of the camps in Australia?
– The answer given refers specifically to Holdsworthy Camp, which is now practically the only camp in Australia, although there is a small camp In Berrima, and another at Trial Bay. In the early stages of the war there was an internment camp in each State. I take it that the answer refers t’o the number of escapees from Holdsworthy Camp.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
In view of the report of the Commonwealth Meat Inspector that meat in large quantities is held in cool stores by Angliss and Company, will the Minister exercise the powers conferred on him by taking immediate and effective steps to release this food, and place it within reach of Australian consumers at reasonable prices!
– My colleague has already on two occasions informed the honorable senator that inquiries are being made into the matter. I may add that it is practically impossible to fix the price of meat unless the price of live stock is also fixed. The interests of the community in this matter will be most carefully safeguarded by the Government.
asked the Honor ary Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 27th July, vide page 596) :
Clause 12 -
On which Senator Lt. -Colonel Bolton had moved by way of amendment -
That at the end of sub-clause 1 the following words be added: - “Each of such Committees shall consist of eight persons, half of whom shall be returned soldiers within the meaning of this Act.”
That after the word “ Committee,” in subclause 2, the words “ shall have power to raise and control funds for the district,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ shall prepare all cases for repatriation within district area of such Committee, and submit same with recommendation to the State Board.”
Some reference has been made to patriotic work in connexion with Red Cross and War Chest Funds. No man has a higher appreciation than I of the splendid services rendered in this direction by many large-hearted men and women in this country, and no man knows better than the Minister in charge of the Bill that this patriotic work is something apart and distinct from the ameliorative work and the repatriation of returned soldiers. If the Minister carries out his intention, as. outlined in the Bill, it seems to me that patriotic work will become a national industry, and that thousands of pounds will be expended in printing, advertising,, management, and in other directions. As a matter of fact, we shall be establishing another and an unnecessarily expensive system of raising funds which might very well be undertaken by the elaborate machinery of the Taxation Department already at the disposal of the Government. The Minister has expressed the belief that if we discontinue this patriotic effort we shall dry up the wellsprings of public generosity. If the Government were to establish one general fund under Government control, the effect would be to create confidence in the minds of the public and to stimulate rather than restrict public generosity.
I have previously referred to the inequality of sacrifice in connexion with contributions to patriotic funds. I have here a statement of facts proving my contention in this respect. lt has reference to cases in Victoria. I have names and particulars, but I do not propose to give the names.
In our town lives a Mrs.- , the mother of two boys who came with the 4th Reinforcements for the 8th Battalion. They were two good soldiers. They both served right through Gallipoli, and then went to France, where one - tlie elder - was killed. The other boy is still serving in France.
This is what I should like to direct the particular attention of honorable senators to, as proving the inequality of sacrifice to which I have made reference: -
Their father, a labourer, died .when they Vere very young, and left their mother with five children - three boys and two girls - in very poor circumstances. The mother got two or three cows together and sold milk, the< kiddies delivering the milk. She brought the family up well. When the war started, two boys and a daughter were earning money and living at home, and the mother had given up selling milk, and they were quite comfortable. The boys, though young, volunteered early. They allotted their mother all except ls. a day each. The mother has banked every penny of the allotment for the boys, saying, “ They will need it when they return,” and has milked cows and sold milk to provide for her two little ones, who are still at school, and it is a wellknown fact that Mrs.- always has a shilling for any patriotic effort that may be on, and is always a free and willing giver.
In the same district we had two very wealthy men with large grown-up families. One had two eligible sons, who have not volunteered. Ho died recently - two months ago - and after having made over farm lands and town property to his family, his estate was valued for probate at £18,000. Over half was- in cash.
My wife used to collect 6d. a week from the wives in the part where Mrs.- lives, and the last time she called for the 6d. from the wife of the man just referred to, she told my wife that she could not afford it any longer, and would not give her the 6d.
This refers to the wife of a man who died leaving £18,000: -
Another man in the same district owns much land and about half of the town. He has five sons, all eligibles, none of whom have volunteered. The father has made over a farm to each of the boys to save probate, and he is reputed to be worth still much more than the other man was. The family never contribute to anything if they can help it, and I will give £10 to the Repatriation Fund if it is proved that the two families to whom I have referred have given f10 during the war to patriotic funds. I will wager that the poor widow, Mrs.- , who has given both her sons, has given more in cash than the two rich mcn together, whom her sons are fighting for. You can use these notes, and you can use my name with them.
I am satisfied that this is typical of thousands of similar cases in Australia to-day, and, therefore, I say that some means should be adopted in connexion with these funds other than that proposed of placing them in the hands of voluntary committees in different districts for distribution within those districts. The Minister has said that he has a guarantee from a certain man, whose guarantee is worth having, that he will give £10,000 if he is permitted to spend it in a certain district in his own way. Why should this man limit his generosity to those in an area of a few miles in a particular locality ? By the course he proposes to follow he would, I do not say intentionally, but inevitably become a little tin god in his own district That is nob the kind of generosity that u required in dealing with this great national question. What is required is a spirit of generosity as wide as the confines of the Commonwealth itself, and an atmosphere of benevolence as pure and free as the air we breathe. Selfish action such as has been suggested should nob be tolerated in connexion with this great national question of repatriation.
I hope that in the circumstances honorable senators will agree to set aside the idea of giving local committees power to raise funds to be dispersed in the way proposed in the Bill. My amendment, if agreed to, would make suitable provision for carrying out work of a very important character. The local committees, under my proposal, would initiate the work which has really to be done by the State Boards. These committees, by reason of their local knowledge and their knowledge of individuals and their circumstances, would necessarily be in a position to supply the most accurate information with regard to any case of repatriation. This should be the special duty of these local committees. as previously suggested, their areas should represent one or more battalion areas of a military district. In these areas there should be some institution or building which would become the centre of their activities. There should be some building in which a paid official would be located to attend to the requirements of returned soldiers and their dependants. These institutions should form a centre for applications by returned soldiers or their dependants in a particular area. Let me invite the attention of honorable senators tosuch an institution which at present exists in Ballarat. It has leased a building, and has in attendance a paid secretary, who acts as an official medium between the returned soldiers and the citizens of Ballarat and district. As he is a man familiar with the procedure, I venture to say that he attends to hundreds of cases of pay, pension, and amelioration on behalf of returned soldiers and their dependants which require attention and which, but for his services, would not receive the attention they deserve. This institution employs five or six returned soldiers, and is almost self supporting. It has a man in charge of a tobacconist shop, a hairdressing saloon, a billiard saloon, and there is also the caretaker and secretary. All these men are returned soldiers.
SenatorFoll. - To what institution does the honorable senator refer ?
– First of all, I wish to point out that the honorable senator’s proposal is not really an amendment of the words of the clause. It is a proposal to strike out words which would enable a local committee, if it so desired, to raise funds, and to substitute words which have no relation whatever to the question of funds. The honorable senator wishes to insert words which set out what shall be the duties of the local committees.
Let me deal first with the question of funds. I ask honorable senators to recollect that under this scheme the Government propose to take upon their own shoulders the repatriation of our returned soldiers. But even if the Government did that work twice over, there would still be a number of citizens in this country, who, in addition to the contributions which they will make as taxpayers, would be anxious to do something for the returned soldiers in their midst. If the honorable senator really holds the view which he has expressed, he must go to the extent of saying that he will make it a punishable offence for a private citizen to be guilty of anything in the nature of private generosity, in the direction of helping a returned soldier. I do not go so far as that. The Government will take upon their shoulders the financial responsibility of this work, but we will not prevent either an individual or a group of individuals from supplementing that work. I am not prepared to impose a prohibition on any citizen who desires to supplement the efforts ofthe Government on behalf of our returned soldiers.
– It is another matter if they put their money into the central fund.
– If the honorable senator insists upon private contributions being paid into the central fund, he will not be giving a penny to our returned soldiers. He will merely be easing the strain on the Treasury. The Government will find the money for the central fund, and every pound paid into it by private citizens would mean a drain of a pound less upon the Treasury. As soon as the public realized that, what would be the position? They would not contribute at all. There is only one way to open the wellsprings of private generosity towards our returned soldiers, namely, by saying that while the Government will do what is essential in the. matter of repatriation, if private generosity chooses to give an additional helping hand to our soldiers, that helping hand must be given in accordance with regulations. Those regulations are provided for in this subclause which Senator Bolton wishes to amend. The honorable senator has mentioned some of the disabilities which attach to existing patriotic funds. I am quite aware of those disabilities. That is the reason I have provided that no funds of this kind shall be collected, except’ in accordance with regulations. ‘ We wish to lay it down that no fund shall be started in any district, except with the sanction of the local committee to be created there, and under whose jurisdiction for the purpose of repatriation that district will be. We cannot have a dozen bodies in one district establishing separate funds for the same purpose. In addition, the local committees which undertake to raise these funds, must insist that those funds shall not be expended for the benefit of an individual soldier in those districts, bub shall he available for the benefit of all returned soldiers there. Finally, they must’ recognise our audit regulations. With these three safeguards, the disabilities which have hitherto attached to many of our patriotic fund* will disappear. The alternative is to prohibit private effort. Are we prepared to accept that responsibility? I do not think so. It would be repugnant to tlie good sense of the community, as well as a detriment to the soldier. Senator Bolton spoke of a gentleman who undertook to raise £10,000, and expressed the- view t!hat that gentleman would be sufficiently patriotic to make the fund available to all the returned soldiers of Australia. Possibly he is correct. But I am not! dealing with counsels of perfection. What would be the position if we refused permission to these persons to raise this £10,000, to be invested in our war loan, the interest upon which is to be devoted to aiding our returned soldiers in a particular district? The soldiers in that) district would lose a benefit that1 they otherwise would enjoy, but no other soldier would get it. On the other hand if we sanctioned such an application we should give a certain measure of assistance to the returned soldiers in that district, without injuring a single soldier elsewhere. I ask Senator Bolton to get rid of the prejudices which he entertains against the collection of private funds. There is only one or two alternatives before us: either to prohibit private effort or to sanction it under the regulations to which I have referred.
So much for the words which the honorable senator wishes to strike out. Now as to the words which he proposes to insert. It seems to me that he is now harking back to the proposal which he outlined during the early stage of the discussion upon this Bill. He is seeking to have the original applications of our. returned soldiers dealt with by the local committee in each district. His idea was that the whole of these applications should be dealt with by the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ Association. Now there are not many branches of that association in existence yet. But even if they were more numerous than they are, it would not be in the interests of the returned soldiers to have their applications thus dealt with.
– Not dealt with, but prepared by the associations. The Board would deal with them.
– The honorable senator’s idea was that these applications should be addressed to the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ Association on the ground that that Association would) best know their mates, their requirements, and, temperament-
– In conjunction with the citizens’ committee.
– ‘So the honorable senator would have two bodies in each locality whereas I propose to have only one. The honorable senator wishes the Returned Soldiers’ Association to consider these applications in conjunction with the citizens’ committee. I propose that there shall be only one body to consider them, and that upon that body there shall be returned soldiers. Is not that better than that these applications should first receive consideration by the Returned Soldiers’ Association and afterwards be sent on> to a separate body of citizens ?
– That is not. so.
– These two bodies may arrive at diverse opinions.
– Which two bodies ?
– The Returned! Soldiers’ Association and the citizens*’ committee.
– What I’ contemplate is the establishment of one body of returned soldiers and of citizens working together. .
– That is my proposal.
– I do not object to that, but I should like to see it provided for in the Bill. That is all.
– My honorable friend does object to what I am doing because he desires the applications of returned soldiers to go in the first place before one of these local bodies. That body records its opinion on it, and it then goes back to the central body for final determination.
– It furnishes the information for the other body to form its opinion on.
– It does more. It would undoubtedly express an opinion as to what ought to be done. Senator Bolton would require the application of a Ballarat returned soldier, for instance, to be submitted to the local body at Ballarat. That local body deals with the application in some way, supplies certain information, possibly makes a recommendation on it. and then , sends it on to Melbourne to be dealt with. Of course a Ballarat case is not an average case, because Ballarat is so near Melbourne. Senator Bolton’s proposal requires that a soldier shall be discharged and go back to his own district before he gets in touch with the repatriation authorities at all. That returned soldier is probably two or three weeks in Melbourne before he gets his discharge. He then goes to Ballarat, and is two or three , weeks ‘there before he gets in touch with the local committee. The local committee sends his case to Melbourne for consideration,, which means further delay.
Contrast that plan with the alternative I offer. Nine-tenths of the complaints that we hear arise between the time the soldier is discharged and the time we get in touch with him with a view to repatriation. I am confident that we can effect the soldier’s registration for repatriation purposes before discharge, although there will be difficulties in the way. “ Tt can be done on the transport, and I believe it could-be done before he leaves England. At any rate it is worth trying. I believe we could get, before he leaves England, information as to what he wants, and his capabilities and resources.
– Would you allow him to change his mind ?
– Even honorable senators do that occasionally. We should be helped to this extent, that on getting his registration card in advance of -the man we should have a few weeks to prepare for him. He may say he wants to go on the land, and state his preference for a certain form of holding. We can then get to work, as his gratuitous and friendly agents, and see if it is possible to meet his views. The result in the majority of cases would be that, when he landed here, we could approach him the moment he was discharged, and ask him to look at the proposition which we had got ready for him. That system would eliminate that dangerous period of delay and idleness which to-day is doing more harm to th» returned soldier than any other influence at work in Australia. Senator Bolton’s system requires the discharge of the man and his return to his locality before we can do anything with him.
– Who says so? I did not say so.
– I am saying so. That is the effect of it. A returned soldier belonging to a country town may send in an application with his registration intimating that he wishes to start business or acquire land in that town. Under my system there will be ample time for the central body of the State ibo communicate the man’s wishes .to the local committee before his actual return, asking, “ What have you to say about this, with your local knowledge and experience?” My proposal will save weeks of time in the average case, and save the returned soldier the deferred pay which he now spends waiting till some one does something for him, and would keep him, in many cases, from developing the habit of idleness.
The Committee have already agreed to the general scheme, and I submit that this is an essential part of it. I do not pretend that I am putting forward anything like a perfect scheme, or a scheme which has any experience behind it; but it is an experiment well worth trying, and although it may have some drawbacks, honorable senators, on contrasting it impartially with any other suggestion, will, I think, conclude that in this proposal there is a ‘maximum of advantage and a minimum of disadvantage.
-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [3.46]. - My knowledge of the average Australian is that he is fairly independent. The average man ‘who returns to this country mentally and physically fit will not want any assistance from the Government at all. I am looking forward to a great number of these people blazing their own track. The Minister’s proposal to get the men to register -before they leave England or on board ship will be practically inviting them to lean upon the Government for assistance and wait until the Government do something for them. The Minister’s idea of dealing with 300,000 men in this way is extravagant. My idea is that the men should go back to their own districts, and be allowed to feel their feet in their own way. Let them get an idea of what they can do. If they do this, they will probably not want to be tied to the Government’s apron strings.
– I thoroughly approve of the idea that some local body should have power to raise funds if they wish, but I should like the Minister to allow the introduction of the words “a State Board and “ before the words “ Local Committee “ in subclause 2. In many States large sums of money have been raised to assist the soldiers, and it would be a pity to prevent a State Board from having power to organize a movement of that kind, especially as such a Board is located at the main centre of population.
– This clause provides for the detailed working of the scheme, and gives power to the Governor-General to make so many regulations that, even the suggestion of , Senator Bolton could be adopted. I understand that the Minister is not absolutely rigid in his opinions regarding this measure. I believe that the Government are merely feeling their way, bo to speak, and that, if necessary, on a very early date they will be prepared -to so amend the Bill as to make it more acceptable and workable. I do not see very much objection to this amendment. The underlying idea is that the soldier who himself may not feel quite capable of stating his case,, should enlist the sympathy and the active support of the local committee in order to put his application in proper form. To that extent, I have no great objection to <the amendment, although, aa I said before, there is ample power in this clause to enable regulations to be made to even encompass that idea. Senator Bolton was very much concerned at the unequal sacrifice made by different people in a community. He cited the case of a poor woman who was prepared to make a weekly contribution as against] the cases of a number of wealthy farmers and land-owners who were not prepared to give any assistance, either direct or indirect, in the prosecution of the war. If he desires to secure an equitable financial contribution from gentlemen of that description, there is only one way in which it can be done, and that is by imposing a straight-out flat rat© on the land values monopolized by them.
– Do away with the exemption ?
– It is just as well that this truism should be repeated here occasionally, because honorable senators like Senator Thomas, who. was at one time an active and vigorous exponent of that view, has, evidently, seen fit to immerse himself “in a morass where these opinions are effectively stifled year after year.
– The Labour Conference in Sydney would not do away with the exemption after listening to you for five minutes.
– The fact that Senator Thomas, who was for many years an active and vigorous exponent of the principle I have just enunciated, and has seen fit to immerse himself in a morass over the way is not free to express; an opinion on this question-
– I have greater freedom on that question here than you have on the other side, because you cannot vote to do away with the exemption.
– It is to me one of the most humiliating sights which to-day disgrace public life.
– Will the honorable senator address his remarks to the question before the Committee?
– I advise Senator Bolton to read Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, and supplement that by becoming a subscriber to one of the numerous newspapers published in Australia which stand up for the principle of land value taxation, and then he will not be concerned about trifling inequalities of this sort. On .the contrary, he will see a clear way by which .these gentlemen may be forced to do their share by direct taxation in support of the returned soldiers. The proposal of Senator Bolton to remove from the local committees the right to make local collections is, I think, a mistake. As Senator Millen pointed out, it is really not an amendment at all, as it introduces something of an entirely different character. A great number of persons are prepared to supplement the contribution made by the Commonwealth Government for the support of returned soldiers, and why should any obstacle be placed in their way ? I have not heard the full particulars yet, but I understand from the press that the New South Wales Government are prepared to supply cottages for the widows of soldiers free of rent during their lifetime. Apparently, Senator Bolton would prevent’ that kind of thing from being done, bo that the widows would be compelled,- out of the money supplied ‘to them by the Commonwealth Government, to feed and fatten up the local house-owners. So far as I can see, there is no objection to the State Government doing that kind of thing, and I have no objection to people running socials or concerts, or any kind of entertainment-
– By gambles and raffles 1
– I have no objection to local people doing anything they may desire in order to supplement the income which returned soldiers will receive from the Commonwealth Government. I think that if Senator Bolton views the situation calmly he will himself come to that conclusion. I hope that he will see his way to withdraw the amendment, and let us get on with business.
– I listened with considerable interest to Senator Bolton’s statement of what he believes will be the working of this clause, and also to the reply of the Minister. It has probably been gathered from the proceedings of last week that the whole scheme of control did not quite suit my ideas. I was, unfortunately, unable to be present owing to illness, but I attempted to get some vital alterations made in the scheme, and my amendments were kindly taken charge of and moved by Senator Needham. They were all rejected. I think that Senator Millen was correct in saying that the foundation of the Bill, as regards the control or management of the scheme, was practically agreed .to by rejection of a series of amendments last week. That being so, I cannot quite agree with Senator Bolton that his amendment is an improvement on the clause as it stands. I am inclined to think that he might have put up a better fight on his previous amendment, in which he proposed that the local committee should consist of eight persons, one-half of whom should be returned soldiers. It was dealt with rather hurriedly to-day, but had he put up a fight for the proposal he would have found me voting for it. As the Minister seems determined to adhere to the words of his clause, I cannot support this amendment.
– I wish to say a few words about what I consider the most admirable idea of the Vice-President’ of the Executive Council, and that is that some one, who I suppose will be called an agent, shall go to the Old Country and come out with tlie returning soldiers in the transport. There is, however, a good deal in what Senator Bolton said. With an energetic young man on board, there is no doubt that he may hold out such magnificent inducements to the men that he may be able to attract into other walks of life a great many who, otherwise, would re-settle themselves in the ordinary way by returning to their friends or going back to their old jobs. I wish to put in a word of caution as to the personnel of the men. who are to be employed. My idea is that they ought to be men of discretion and tact, particularly tact. They must also be men of common sense, -who will not overstate facts or paint too glowing a picture. My opinion is, and I think it is shared by most persons in Australia, that the main way in which we must expect to have our soldiers restored to civil life is by their return to their old homes and districts, where they can seize any opportunity of settlement that presents itself, or to their former billets. I know that hundreds of billets are being kept open for soldiers on their return. It would be a great pity if, through the energy and enterprise of agents on the ship, soldiers were prevented from taking up these appointments on their return. Therefore, I think that there is something in what Senator Bolton said, and which ought to be guarded against. We desire to do the best thing possible for our returned soldiers, and that I believe will be to get them back to their old positions, because if anything like 50 per cent. of them should require assistance from the Government for repatriation, it will be an undertaking which, in my opinion, is beyond Australia’s power to carry out in the way we would like. I am hopeful that not more than 10 per cent. of the men will require assistance from the Government, and then they can be thoroughly looked after. I hope that the Minister will take the greatest possible care in the selection of, and give the most explicit directions to, the officers who are to travel with the returning soldiers to look after them and register them.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [4.5]. - The Bill refers to patriotic funds, and ib would be interesting to the Senate to learn something of the manner in which they are administered. I have with me a copy of a letter dated 18th August, 1916, addressed t’o the Secretary, Returned Soldiers’ Association,. Melbourne, and containing copy of a letter which appeared in the Melbourne press. It is as follows: -
In answer to “ Soldier’s Wife,” you advise as follows : - “ Apply to Patriotic Fund, Melbourne Town Hall, and state your financial difficulties.”
I read this, and was in doubt whether to laugh at it asa good joke or to weep at its bitter irony. You will not have cause to seek far for the cause of my conflict of feeling if you refer to the published return of the fund’s operations in the press of yesterday. The total receipts were given as £180,664 15s. 3d., and for its primary objects the amelioration of the condition of our fighting men and their dependants. What do we find?
– What fund is this?
.- The patriotic fund.
– Of this State?
.- Yes. The letter proceeds -
In two years there has been advanced to the dependants of soldiers the munificent sum of £104 12s., i.e., £97 6s. per annum, almost enough (with strict economy) to provide for two persons; and against this excess of generosity we catch sight of the item, “ Salaries for inquiries, £364 19s. 4d.” (presumably into the bona fides of the applicants who received the before-mentioned £194 12s.). When we come to the item, “ Returned soldiers’ account, £127 10s.,” our faith is further shaken in the administration of this and other funds which a generous, nlbeit a careless and uncritical, public have supplied to assist (as they supposed) our defenders and their dependants. Apart from the salaries for inquiries referred to, there yet occurs another small item, namely, “ Salaries, staff, £517 10s. 2d.,” making a total of £900 in salaries for the distribution of, approximately, £300 in the direct objects of the fund as understood by the subscribers.
– What was the sum total at the disposal of the fund ?
.- At that time it was £180,664. I know of another case in which those administering a State fund had actually lent £200,000 to the Government. Of course, they were receiving an income in the way of interest, but I would point out that the £200,000 donated to that fund was given for the definite purpose of helping returned soldiers and the dependants of those men who are fighting for us at the Front. The fund was not established to produce interest, and so minimize its value as far as returned soldiers and their dependants were concerned.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided -
Aye’s … … … 3
Noes … … … 21
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
– With regard to the point raised by Senator Senior, I would like to inform him that it will be provided for in an additional clause.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 -
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [4.15]. - I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 1 : - “ such officers to be returned soldiers within the meaning of this Act.”
If my memory serves me aright, the Minister said it was intended to appoint civil servants to carry out a good deal of the work to be done under this scheme and the Act. I would suggest that out of the 20,000 returned men in Australia today, a number of whom are already civil servants, it should be possible t’o find plenty with the necessary ability and energy to discharge the duties satisfactorily. The amendment will only make the Bill conform to the principles enunciated, by the Government, and I shall be glad, therefore, to see it included in the Bill.
T4.17]. - I ask the Committee not to agree to the addition of these words. I have already stated that it is the intention of the Government to start the new organization with returned soldiers, and every effort will be made to give effect to this promise as part of the Government policy. But’ to say that under no circumstances are we to employ officers except from the ranks of returned soldiers might deny to the new organization the particular assistance it needs, and we might be obliged to carry on the work with men who, perhaps, are unfitted for it. I have no doubt that in the ranks of returned soldiers there will be found many qualified men for positions under this scheme, but I do say that it would be a fatal mistake to insist on the employment only of returned soldiers. Senator Bolton might accept .the assurance from the Government that while it is intended as far as possible to apply this principle, it is advisable to leave the Minister in charge of the scheme free to select the best men available. As far as possible, preference will be given to returned soldiers, providing suitable men can be obtained from their ranks.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.19]. - I intend to support the amendment. The excuse given by the Minister will not. bear examination. It appears to me that out of the 20,000 returned soldiers we will be able t’o get the comparatively small number of officials required to carry out the scheme. The amendment is only a guarantee of the principle which the Minister himself admits, and I think it would give general satisfaction tb returned soldiers, in whose interest the Bill has been drafted. If returned soldiers can satisfactorily fill these positions, they should be given the opportunity of employment.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [4.20]. - The assurance of the Minister is all very well so far as it goes. We have had a similar assurance before. It has been stated that returned men would be employed in many positions for the carrying out of amelioration and repatriation work, but I assure honorable senators that during the last year or more there has been a very great deal of discontent amongst returned soldiers, owing to the fact that a great many officials employed in connexion with amelioration and repatriation work have been not returned soldiers but men eligible for active service. In the light of what has happened in the past the returned soldiers are justified in asking that such a provision as I submit should be included in this Bill.
– It seems to me that one or two paid positions will be necessary in connexion with the work of each of the local committees. A greater number will be required to carry out the work of the State Boards, and a still greater number for the work of the central Repatriation Commission. I agree with those0 who contend that amongst the returned soldiers it will be possible for us to find men qualified to attend to the details of repatriation. This should be an occupation right into their hands. We can be satisfied that they will be disposed, so far as their efforts are concerned, to sympathetically administer this measure. I should personally like to leave the matter in the hands of the Minister who, I believe, will in every case, or in nearly every case, secure the services of returned men to fill the positions which will be created under the Bill.
– Is it not the policy of the Government to give preference for employment in the Public Service to returned soldiers ?
– That is the policy of the Government, and I do not believe that any Government will be disposed to reverse that policy. In view of the lenient way in which the Government have been treated in the consideration of this measure I think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council might without any sacrifice of principle agree to the amendment which has been proposed by Senator Bolton.
– I hope that the Minister will stick to his Bill. I believe that it is impossible for Australia to do too much for the returned soldier. I am, therefore, anxious thathe should have the best assistance and advice it is possible to give him in connexion with any occupation he may undertake to follow. I am satisfied that in the operation of this scheme many of the officials associated with it will be to a large extent advisers to the soldiers in connexion with their settlement in various parts of the Commonwealth. It will be necessary that they should know something about the working of whatever enterprise the returned soldier may desire to engage in. As an illustration, I take the case of a village settlement, which would doubtless be under the control of a local committee under this Bill. The committee will require an officer to take charge of the work, and the right person to appoint to such a position would be a man having a knowledge of irrigation and of fruit culture, or whatever other form of agriculture the returned soldiers might decide to go in for. It would be wrong, in my opinion, to debar experts in such matters from employment under this Bill, and it might not be possible to find a sufficient number of returned soldiers qualified to fill such positions.
There is another phase of the question to which I should like to direct attention. There are many men in this country who have sent three; four, five, and in some cases, six sons to the Front. They are themselves well up in years, and they may be well qualified to fill one of the positions which will be created by the operation of this measure, and the returned soldiers would benefit immensely from their services. I am sure that Senator Bolton would not desire to debar such men from employment under this Bill. Men who may have lost half of the sons they have sent to the Front should not be absolutely excluded by an Act of this Parliament from applying for a position under this measure. We want good men and qualified men for all positions in connexion with the repatriation scheme, and the choice of the Minister should not be restricted to returned soldiers. I am satisfied that no Government would be likely to overlook the special claims to employment of returned soldiers. I believe that if any mistakes are made in this connexion it will be in the direction of leniency to returned soldiers. Men may possibly be appointed to positions under this Bill, merely because they are returned soldiers, and not because they possess special qualifications to fill the positions for which they apply.
The Minister has repeatedly told us that this matter is largely experimental. We are all well aware of that. The purpose of the Bill is to bring into line for the first time in the Commonwealth all tihe disjointed efforts which the people have put forward since the war began.
– The Bill does not. provide for the consolidation of the funds.
– No; but it provides for the linking up of all the disjointed efforts, and the control of the work of repatriation by the Government.
– The trouble is that the Bill does nob link up all the funds.
– It does not link up all the funds, but it does link up the various repatriation schemes, and for the first time puts the whole matter under Government control. It may be found after experience of the operation of the measure that some amendment is necessary. I have no doubt that Parliament will be prepared to make whatever alterations in the carrying out of the repatriation scheme as may be found to be desirable. No Act of this Parliament should, in my opinion, restrict employment in connexion with the scheme entirely to returned soldiers and debar from employment in connexion with it men, who have sent sons to the Front, and who are almost as deserving of consideration as are returned soldiers, if they possess the necessary qualifications for the positions which will be created under this measure.
.- I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (3) An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service or of the Public Service of a State who becomes an officer under this Act shall retain all his existing and accruing rights.”
There are to-day in the Public Services of the Commonwealth and of the States men of the A.I.F. and outside of it. If it were desired to take one of these men into the new organization under this Bill, it could only be done at the sacrifice of any rights existing or accruing to them as members of the Public Services of the Commonwealth or of a State. It is, therefore, considered necessary that any officer appointed from the Public Service of the Commonwealth, or of a State, to the new organization shall have his rights conserved, just as at the commencement of Federation the rights of officers taken over from the Public Service3 of the States were continued to them.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 18 agreed to.
– I move-
Thatthe following new clause be inserted: - “ 18a. Any moneys advanced by the trustees of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund or by the Repatriation Commission or a State Repatriation Board or a Local Committee shall, in the event of the bankruptcy of the person to whom the money was advanced, have in bankruptcy the same priority with respect to the payment of debts as if the money had been advanced by the Crown.”
The purpose of this new clause is obvious. Honorable senators are aware that when the Crown advances money to a person who becomes a bankrupt the Crown’s claim takes priority. The effect of this clause will be to give a similar priority to the repatriation authority where money is advanced by it. If a certain sum is advanced to a returned soldier, and he becomes bankrupt, his ordinary creditors will not be able, under this clause, to step in and participate in money made available by a. repatriation authority. The repatriation authority will, as it should, have the first claim upon the estate, to secure the money furnished by ft, and by means of which the assets in the estate were created.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
.- I desire to move the insertion of a new clause, which will, I think, meet the point which has been raised by Senator Senior. It reads - “ 19a. Subject to this Act, no person shall, without the approval in writing of the Commission or a State Board (proof whereof shall He upon the person), invite subscriptions or organize any scheme for raising money for the repatriation of Australian soldiers, or for any purpose connected therewith.
Penalty: One hundred pounds.”
The effect of this provision will be that, with the consent of a State authority or of the central Commission, private efforts can be launched, but not otherwise.
– Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council refer to amelioration as well as repatriation?
– The clause does not cover amelioration. I doubt if we have jurisdiction over that matter. Today these funds are covered by State law. I am not certain that our action is not open to challenge, but I propose in this particular case to take unto ourselves the power I have indicated, and to allow those to challenge it who will.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 20 -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which, by this Act, are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for giving effeot to this Act, and in particular for providing for the granting of assistance and benefits to Australian soldiers upon their discharge from service, and to the children of deceased or incapacitated soldiers.
– I move-
That after the word “ particular,” line 6, the words “ for the prohibition of treating Australian soldiers with alcoholic liquors and be inserted.
I submit the amendment for the reason that when this Bill comes into full operation, war precautions will be a matter of history. My proposal will then empower the Government, without equivocation or argument - if in their judgment it is desirable so to do - to prohibit the treating of Australian soldiers. I have no wish to enter into a general dissertation upon the evils of the drink traffic. Neither is this matter included in any anti-shouting or prohibition question. It is purely a matter of the well-being of our soldiers, and I do earnestly impress upon the Committee the great dangers that will exist when thousands of those soldiers return to the land of their birth, before they have been restored to their duties of citizenship.
SenatorEarle. - Why should we particularize the soldiers?
– There will,I hope, be a jubilant and generous public when our soldiers return after a victorious peace has been achieved. But there will be an interregnum before our soldiers can be restored to citizenship, and in that interregnum lies very great danger indeed to them, owing to the mistaken generosity of their friends.
– If we pass an amendment like that proposed, they will not come back to Australia.
– In London today anti-shouting is in full force. The hotels there are only open five hours and a half daily, and spirits cannot be sold between Friday and Sunday. In New South Wales some restriction has already been placed upon the liquor traffic. There, all hotels must close at 6 p.m. during the continuance of the war. None of the limitations that have been imposed, including that in relation to wet canteens in our soldiers’ camps, has done any harm.’ I ask the Committee not to regard this proposal as an instalment of anti-liquor reform, but to treat it as a protection to the returned soldier against the mistaken generosity of his friends. Already at! wayside ports returned soldiers have disgraced themselves through staking too much liquor - already some scores of them have died as the direct result) of drinking. Honorable senators will earn the gratitude of every mother, every sweetheart, and every sister in Australia if they agree to my amendment, which will empower the Government when peace comes, without equivocation and without argument, to prevent civilians shouting for our returned soldiers if they deem that course to be necessary.
– I propose to ask your ruling, sir, as to whether the amendment is in order - as to whether it is in conformity with the purpose of the Bill. It seems to me that it partakes of the nature of a sumptuary law - a law for the purpose of introducing what may be a needed reform, bub which is altogether outside the scope of the Bill. This measure is designed to make provision for the repatriation of Australian soldiers. Senator Pratten wishes it to make provision for what he regards as their proper moral conduct. ThisBill is not a proper one in which to introduce such an amendment!, and consequently I ask your ruling upon it.
– On the point of order I must support the contention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The amendment has absolutely nothing to do with the scope of the Bill. While a clause empowering the Government to make regulations for the administration of a measure usually has a very wide scope, it would be stretching the imagination to contemplate the granting of such a power as is proposed by the amendment. But apart from the point of order it would be foolish on our part to treat our returned soldiers as so many children. There may be a splendid principle involved in the amendment-
– Order !
– On the point of order, there can be very little doubt that the amendment is quite irrelevant to the object and scope of the Bill.
– I strongly submit that the amendment is strictly relevant to the scope of the Bill. Repatriation means the return of our soldiers to their citizenship, to their allegiance, and their country.
– And to their freedom.
– And their freedom if you like. But I wish to point out to the Vice-President of the Executive Council that he has already gone beyond the scope of my amendment. He has included within the Bill provisions for. the establishment of sanatoria for consumptives, for the manufacture of artificial limbs for maimed soldiers, for the acquisition of farms for those who wish to go upon the land, and for setting up in business those who have a preference in that direction. In short, the Bill embraces everything that is intended to conduce to the wellbeing of our soldiers. Now I submit that the question of supplying liquor is a very relevant one indeed to the welfare of our soldiers. My amendment provides for what may occur in the future, and is, I consider, strictly relevant.
– The statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council would mean that the Governor-General has not power to make regulations under this Bill, for, say, the safe landing of our soldiers, for their deportation to their homes, or for anything of that kind. If he has any such power, surely he must have power to control the conduct of the citizen towards the returned soldier. The clause reads : -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent withthis Act-
Surely it is not inconsistent to say how citizens shall treat our soldiers when they return. To my mind it cannot be argued that the amendment is outside the scope of the measure, seeing that it merely affirms what our citizens shall do in their treatment of returned soldiers. 1 fail to see how the proposal is irrelevant.
– Would it not be better to take such a power under the War Precautions Act ?
– No; because when the war terminates, the War Precautions Act will automatically cease to operate.
– So will this Bill.
– Under the amendment proposed, a man could not buy adrink for a returned soldier in twenty years’ time.
– Is a man to be regarded as a returned soldier after he has been restored to civilian life ?
– Then so long as he is receiving anything from the Government he is not tobe regarded as a citizen ?
– Would the amendment permit of a soldier treating a civilian ?
– I am nob concerned with the civilian, but with the man who is returning to us, and who, as Senator Bolton has observed, has looked into the faceofdeath-
– Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the point of order.
– These are special circumstances, and there must be some reason why those circumstances should affect the granting of this power. The Government seem loath to take power to make provision to protect the soldier in a certain direction where he will be most easily assailed. The clause gives the Government power to do anything “ necessary or convenient,” and this provision is necessary because of the severe trials the soldiers have been through.
– “ Necessary and convenient” for what?
– Necessary and convenient to be prescribed for giving effect to the Act.
– On matters covered by the Act, but temperance reform is not covered by it.
– No more are many other things. I submit that the amendment is quite consistent with the Bill.
– I rule that the amendment is outside the scope of the Bill, and therefore not in order.
– I understand that a proposal has been circulated to insert after “ children “ in clause 20 the words “ wives, widows or other dependants.” I favour that proposal, as it would increase the powers to be conferred on the Government. A tremendous amount of annoyance has been caused throughout the Commonwealth by the action of the Defence Department in trying to collect from widows and mothers moneys overpaid under the separation allowance. It is true that the regulation has been amended since the first of last month.
– I Could not accept the amendment to which the honorable senator refers, because the matter has already been decided by the Committee on clause 8.
Clause agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be added to the Bill:- “ 21. Widows and invalid dependants of deceased soldiers shall be housed free for life by the Government; other dependants shall be housed free until sixteen years of age.”
I want this clause inserted in the Bill to bring the whole of the States into line. The New South Wales Government have undertaken to house widows of soldiers free for the rest of their lives, and are building houses for them. I know of one case in Victoria where a woman was agreeable to pay a certain amount weekly for the erection of a house, she having the land, but the authorities in this State could not see their way clear to assist her. If the system is good in one State it is good all over Australia, and should be in the hands of the National Government. It is a national duty to make the lives of the widows and dependants of deceased soldiers as easy as possible. I quite appreciate the great responsibility my proposal will throw on the Government, especially in relation to the dependants of deceased soldiers, but I have fixed an age limit of sixteen in those cases, so that we may not have here a repetition of what obtains in America today, where dependants of participants in the Civil War are still being kept by the nation. I recommend the Committee to impose the duty on the National Government of making generally a provision that is being made by some States and not by others.
– This is a practical proposal which ought to receive the unanimous sup- port of the Committee. The greatest inconvenience to which workers generally, and widows in particular, are subjected is the enormous amount of rent they have to find for their landlords every Monday morning. -We have ample land in the Commonwealth. Even if it is nob in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, we can easily secure it, and we can organize and equip a body of trained builders in each of the States who would be’ able in a very short time to build standardized houses at a minimum of cost. The erection in all the States of sufficient houses to meet, the requirements of the widows and helpless dependants of deceased soldiers would, I know, interfere considerably with the vested right enjoyed by landlords from time immemorial to extract as much rent, as they possibly can every week from their victims. Honorable senators may consequently feel somewhat timid about agreeing to the proposal, but this is war time, and we should not hesitate to do the right thing by these people. I know from my correspondence that a very large proportion of the separation allowances and allotment moneys paid to the wives and mothers of those at the Front is merely handed over to them to-day, and handed over by them in turn to the’ landlord to-morrow. The Committee would be doing the right thing if it agreed to house the widows of soldiers for life, either by paying rent for existing houses, or, preferably, by the erection of new dwellings. I quite agree with the limitation to sixteen years in the case of other dependants. I understand that in the United States of America the number of dependants drawing pensions on account of the American Civil War is still increasing, and that the payments constitute an enormous incubus even upon that wealthy country. We are in a position in this country to treat the widows and dependants of soldiers in the most handsome manner, and ought not to hesitate to do it at once. This is only one Dart of the good work which the Commonwealth can do on their behalf, and I trust the Committee will agree to it unanimously.
– I hope the Minister will accept the new clause.
– This is not a Bill for that purpose.
– It is a Bill to repatriate Australian soldiers, and should deal with it.
– We do not need to repatriate their wives and mothers, who are already here.
– The Bill should provide for the widows and dependants of those Australian soldiers who cannot be repatriated because their bones are bleaching on the battlefields of Gallipoli and France. There is nothing in the clause inconsistent with the Bill or its purpose. Iti is the duty of the nation to provide for these people, and it should not be left to private effort.
– What about the pension ?
– The pension is very inadequate to provide for the widows.
– Since when has the honorable senator discovered that inadequacy ?
– I discovered it when the- War Pensions Bill was going through the Senate.
– Why did you not get it increased ? You were then in power.
– The honorable senator was sitting alongside me. Why did he not support me? The pages of Hansard will prove that, even then, I did not consider the pension enough. It is the duty of the Government of the Commonwealth to provide for the people mentioned in the proposed new clause. Honorable senators say that this has nothing to do with the question of repatriation, but I contend that it has, because while we attempt to provide for the men who are spared to come back to us, and to restore them to citizen life, surely we are not going to leave stranded altogether the wives and children of the men who will never return ? Those of us who keep our eyes and ears open know that many of the widows and invalid dependants of soldiers who have died at the Front are in very bad circumstances indeed.
– Let us increase the pension. That is the point of your argument.
– I know also that in many places, as the result of private effort, blocks of land have been bought by public subscription, and with the services of different tradesmen given gratis, houses have been erected for widows. This, I contend, is not the work of the private citizen. It should be the work of the nation to get the land from those people who to-day own many million acres, and who have not, perhaps, contributed to this great struggle as they might have done.
– Is a widow without children in any worse position than a single woman?
– She might be.
– Not necessarily.
– At any rate, I am taking the proposal as it stands. I consider that it is the duty of the Government to acquire land for this purpose, where it is not given free, under the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act. Instead of buying the land, let the Government take it under the powers of that Act, offer a certain price to the owners, and, if the offer is not accepted, leave the matter of price to arbitration. The new clause is, I submit, well worthy of the consideration of honorable senators. It is not inconsistent with the object of the Bill, and if it is incorporated it will only mete out tardy justice to the dependants of men who have laid down their lives on the battle-field.
– I do not see my way clear to accept this amendment. I feel almost disposed to resent the suggestion contained in the remarks of one or two honorable senators who have spoken to the amendment as if it were a mere question of sympathy or otherwise for these dependants. I submit that it is nothing of the kind, , because if sympathy alone were considered, honorable senators who share my views on this matter can1 claim to have just as kindly a regard for these dependants as those honorable sena tors who support the amendment. I want to remind the Committee of the position in the United States of America to which reference has been made. The great scandal in America did not arise out of anything which she did for the men who fought for her. It was all done under the head of dependants. It is continuing today, some sixty years after the Civil War occurred.
– It is the easiest thing in the world to reproduce that position here.
– Exactly. I ask the Committee, whatever its feeling may be as to what these people deserve, not to adopt this form of giving expression to that generosity. A good deal has been said, especially by the last speaker, about the widows and children of those soldiers who have fallen. Children are already provided for under the Bill. * There is ample provision made at the discretion of the repatriation authorities to do whatever they regard as necessary on behalf of the children of soldiers who will never return. When we come to the case of a widow without children we find that she is dealt with under the Pensions Act. If it is thought by an honorable senator that the pension allowance to a widow without children is insufficient, the correct thing for him to do is to move to get the allowance increased, and not to call upon a Repatriation Department to supplement work being discharged by another Department.
Let me now direct attention to what would happen if the proposed new clause were adopted. First, we should have to find a house for every dependant. Under the Pensions Act today there might be cases where eight or ten dependants could draw a pension in respect to the one soldier. The amounts are small, it is true - it may be only 2s. or 3s. a week - because there is a limit provided in .the Act, but these persons are all dependants, and Senator McDougall now calls upon us to house the lot.
– - And why should we not?
– That is to say we may have to find six, or seven, or eight houses for one set of dependants.
– Not at all.
– Just now the honorable senator said, “ Why should we not!” There is no limit set down in the proposal. Every one who can demonstrate that he or she was in any way dependent upon a soldier could claim a house.
– Certainly not. The authorities need not provide a house for each one.
– Many of these persons are not living together.. They cannob live together. If Senator McDougall means that one house should be found for dependants it is not so declared in the proposal. It provides that widows and invalid dependants of deceased . soldiers are to be housed free for life by the Government, and other dependants are to be housed until sixteen years of age. The other day I read to honorable senators a list of the persons who may be dependants, and quite a number of these persons have put in a claim to share in the pension benefit’s prescribed by the War Pensions Act. These dependants include wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepmother, stepfather, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, stepson, stepdaughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, adopted child, or motherinlaw. An ex-nuptial child also is a dependant. If if is provided that all dependants are to be housed free, it will not be a question of finding one house in the case of a deceased soldier.
– Did the soldier keep all of them before he went away?
– No. The honorable senator does not say in this proposal that they are to be persons solely obtaining their living from the one man. They were dependants of the man within the meaning of the Act if they obtained only a little from him. There is a limit placed in the Act to the amount they can get, and it is the amount set out in the schedule, plus £52 a year, but in the proposed new clause no limit is provided, f it were adopted it would mean that any one who. could claim to be a dependant of a deceased soldier could come along and demand a house.
– There is a limit provided - sixteen years of age. What sort of a man would he be to have all the invalid dependants whom you are talking about?
– The honorable senator must see that in his proposal there is no limit to the number of houses which may be required. It is a violation of what we are doing, and ought, if adopted, to find expression in the Pensions Act.
If the honorable senator wants the Committee to seriously consider the proposal, he ought to put some limit on the number of houses which we would have to provide. It is not at all likely that the repatriation authorities being reasonable men will discard housing from their consideration. - They are bound to extend ‘ the benefits to the children in the form in which they will be most effective. Therefore, as housing can be provided for them, and the only effect of this proposal would be to guarantee housing to a large number, I ask the Committee not to adopt it.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [5.15]. - This clause does not deal with pensions, but with housing. We know that soldiers’ dependants are provided for under the Pensions Act very inadequately, considering the increase in the cost of living since that provision was made. This is a proposal to go a little farther, and provide that the widow and dependants of a soldier shall, in addition to that pension, have a house over their heads. I think that the Minister strains the purport of the amendment when he wants to read into it that it may mean the provision of a house for every dependant of a soldier. I do not read it in that way. All that the Government would have to do would be .to see that the widow and dependants of a soldier had housing provided for them, but not a separate house for each person.
– They do not, live together, and they are not going to live together.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.If the Government are prepared to accept tlie principle of this proposal, and its wording is not quite clear, they can move the postponement of its consideration so that it may be drafted to provide for any of the difficulties which the Minister appears to foresee in its operation. There is no possibility of any of the evils which have arisen .under the American Pensions Act arising under this proposal, because it is limited to the widow of a soldier, and can only last during her life, and as regards other dependants of a soldier until they are sixteen years of age. By no possibility can it be inferred that the provision could be extended, as the American scheme appears to have been extended, so as to last for 100 years.
Furthermore, as Senator McDougall has pointed out, this provision is already being made in some States. My contention is that housing should be provided under a national scheme, and nob by individual States, otherwise it will be found that some returned soldiers’ dependants are provided for much more liberally than are others. 1 think that the wish of Parliament and of the country generally is that the most liberal and generous provision should be made for the dependants of our soldiers.
– It was not my intention to speak aboutthis measure at all. The Minister has very properly said that it is a machinery measure, and that its result is problematical ; that every provision in the measure, which is no doubt the result of very careful thought, may work well, or may work ill. But I think it is just to the ( Minister to give him an opportunity of carrying the Bill through Committee in connexion with his scheme of repatriation without any frills. We can very easily be so generous in this matter as to be unjust. I am not in the habib of saying anything simply because I believe it is going to be popular or otherwise. That does nob trouble me. at all. This proposal of Senator McDougall would open the door to an abuse of the gravest kind. Why should the single women taxpayers of the Commonwealth, many of whom will, because of the slaughter of our manhood in the war, have to remain single, be called upon to house all her life the young widow, without children, of a deceased soldier? Iri what respect is the young widow of a deceased soldier -worse off Phan a single woman who has to earn her living in the Commonwealth ?
– Only while she is a widow.
– Is nob the young widow of a deceased soldier in as good a position to earn her livelihood as a single woman 1
– She has suffered an irreparable loss.
– I venture to say that it is not an irreparable loss, and any young widow would resent such an imputation. It may be not only generous, but just, that we should provide housing accommodation for children the dependants of deceased soldiers, but it should not be introduced as part and parcel of this scheme. I do not care to anticipate the discussion of other business on the notice-paper, but I observe that my colleague, Senator O’Keefe, has on the business-paper a notice dealing with a matter in which in all probability he will secure my support. But because I believe in the principle embodied in that notice of motion, that is no reason why I should approve of an amendment to attach the principle to this Bill. The scheme will entail a great deal of onerous responsibility on the Minister, and in my judgment it would be unwise to attach to it any unnecessary frills. If it is desired that we deal generously with the dependants of deceased soldiers, let us bring forward other measures, or if necessary enlarge our pensions scheme. I for one will- not vote in the direction of asking the women taxpayers of Australia to assist in providing house rent free for deceased soldiers’ widows who are without children, and who may perhaps be better able to earn a living than many female taxpayers, seeing that amongst the former .there may be a large number of young women in the prime of life.
– I am glad to have Senator Bakhap’s assurance of support of a motion which I have on the business-paper, but I should like to point out to him that the two things are entirely different. The motion to which I refer could only be given effect to by an alteration of the Federal Constitution.
– Order !
Senator O’KEEFE__ With all deference to you, Mr. Chairman, I submit that, as Senator Bakhap made passing reference to the matter, I should be permitted also to do so. I know I am prevented by the Standing Orders from discussing tie motion itself, and I have not the slightest intention of doing that, but I submit that Senator Bakhap’s view of the position is quite wrong, because we may deal with the cases referred to under the Bill now before us, whereas under my notice of motion any cases of hardship could not Be dealt with without an alteration of the Federal Constitution. Senator Millen quite naturally has raised objections to Senator McDougall’s amendment, and like every other Minister in charge of measures, he wants the Bill and nothing but the Bill. I have been here for the greater parti of seventeen years, and I have noticed that Ministers always want their Bills passed without amendment. Senator Millen says that this is not the proper Bill for an amendment of the kind submitted by Senator McDougall, but I submit it is. We are dealing now with the repatriation of our soldiers. This carries with it the moral obligation to deal fairly and justly, and even generously, not only with those who return, but with the dependants of those who will never come back.
– We cannot repatriate soldiers who will not return.
– Senator Bakhap is only playing upon words. We have power under this Bill to do what is sought by the amendment.
– Then you should amend the title of the Bill.
– There will be no necessity to do that, and I notice that the Minister in charge has nob raised any point of order that the amendment is outside the scope of the measure.
– That is a point of order which he might very well raise.
– He has not done so yet, at all events, and as this Bill has been drafted to deal out justice to returned soldiers, we might very well also show some consideration for the dependants of those who have given their lives for their country. Every time there was a march-past of our troops we had bands playing, and our streets resounded to the cheers of our citizens. We told our soldiers in so many words that they were heroes, we wished them good luck, a safe journey and speedy return, and individually and collectively we pledged ourselves to do our duty by them and their dependants. The amendment is not asking for too much. It merely makes provision for the widows and, up to a cer- tain age, for the dependants of deceased soldiers. In the case of the widow, there is to be housing provision for the rest of her life. Immediately she marries, of course, the provision ceases.
– No, it does not.
– Possibly the clause has been somewhat hurriedly and clumsily drafted, but the necessary amendments may be made to remedy any defects.
– It can all be done by regulation.
– If the Minister approves of the principle contained in the clause, he has the opportunity to put it in order. If the Minister considers that sixteen years in the case of dependants is too long a period, I would be willing to support an amendment limiting the age to fourteen years.
– Children are provided for already.
– Not with housing accommodation.
– The children are not provided for in the manner desired by the amendment.
– If the honorable senator will read the Bill, he will see there is special provision for children of deceased or incapacitated soldiers.
– There is provision to grant assistance, but with the increased cost of living we would not be doing too much if we included extra provision for housing accommodation. Senator Millen, when he does not desire an amendment carried, can very cleverly state his objections; but in a matter like this we do not want to split straws over the meaning of words. We want to get down to principles, and the principle of the amendment is that the widow and dependants of deceased soldiers shall not the left without roof covering. I feel sure that the people of Australia will approve of such provision being made, and I intend to support the amendment.’
– The arguments which have been used in opposition to the proposed new clause carry no conviction to my mind. It is proposed by this Bill to make provision for the soldier when he- returns. The Repatriation Commission will have power under this measure to, advance any sum of money it may consider desirable to a returned soldier in order that he may make a home for himself. What is proposed by the new clause is that, in addition, provision should be made for the widows and invalid dependants of deceased soldiers and other dependants under sixteen years of age. It is not suggested that these dependants should receive a grant of £1,000 or £1,500, which might be given to a returned soldier upon the recommendation of the Repatriation Commission, but that the widow of a deceased soldier, or an invalid dependant, may be given a house rent free for life. The reference by Senator Millen toa long string of dependants should carry no weight with the Committee, because they would not be covered by the proposed new clause. I hope that the Committee will agree to the amendment.
– I listened with some amusement to the remarks of Senator Grant, and I came to the conclusion that if I desired the defeat of a proposal I should ask for it the support of the honorable senator who has given utterance to such ridiculous statements.
– That is merely the honorable senator’s opinion, and he is tied hand and foot to every clause of the Bill.
– It is evident that Senator Grant has been paying very little attention to his work, or he would know that already, in clause 8, provision has been made for practically everything asked for by the proposed new clause. The attitude of the Minister in this matter is, in my opinion perfectly right. I do not find fault with the proposed new clause merely because it is indefinite, and that if adopted it might run the country into a tremendous outlay to providefor the dependants referred to. I am in complete sympathy with any proposal in the interests of the widows and families of deceased soldiers. But this is not the proper measure in which to deal with such matters. In some of the States the State Governments have undertaken to provide homes for the widows or other dependants of deceased soldiers, but if the proposed new clause were accepted it would “mean that the repatriation scheme would be responsible for this in all of the States.
– In that case the State Governments making the provision would cease to make it, as they did in connexion with old-age pensions when the Federal Parliament dealt with them.
– When an election comes on, our friends will offer something else, and we shall be asked to take that over, also.
– I am in sympathy with the housing of the widows and families of deceased soldiers, but I hope that the Committee will not load up this measure with such a provision as is now submitted.
– Does the honorable senator not see that if one State makes this provision because the Government of that State thinks that it can afford to do so, there will be a discrimination against the widows of deceased soldiers who reside in a State in which no such provision is made?
– An attempt was made this afternoon to prevent local committees doing certain things to assist local people, though it was not successful, and I think that Senator Grant voted for it.
– The honorable senator is mistaken; I did nothing of the kind.
– This is not the Bill in which this matter should be dealt with. To include such a provision in this measure would but hamper the repatriation scheme. The Minister, in objecting to the proposed new clause, may have gone further than there was any justification for, but there was much force in. the objections he urged. I am opposed to the proposed new clause. Although in favour of the principle of it, I do not think it should be included in this Bill.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [5.42]. - I did not intend to say anything upon the proposed new clause, but it seems to me that the definition of the word “ repatriation “ should be wide enough to cover all activities in connexion with returned soldiers and their dependants, including pensions, amelioration and repatriation. When it is suggested that repatriation can only refer to soldiers returning to this country, I remind the Committee that the Minister has already accepted a provision dealing with their children, so that that cannot be put forward as a logical reason for opposing the proposed new clause. The Minister has said that it is the War Pensions Act thab should deal with the widows of deceased soldiers, and in this connexion I might let honorable senators know how that Act does operate. I have hadthe following letter put into my hands, dated 27th July, and addressed to the secretary of the Returned Soldiers’ Association Committee: -
Sir, - I am writing to you to ask you if you can help me in any way to pay off a debt to the undertaker for burying my son. I should like to say that he was a returned soldier, and a member of the Returned Soldiers’ Association. He was my sole support, and died at the Randwick Hospital after an operation. His body was sent home to me for burial. I am a widow with only£1 per week pension. I should like to know if you can do anything to help me pay this debt, or, failing this, can you recommend me to any of the funds that will deal with this case?
That is an authentic letter addressed to the association with, which I am connected. It is an appeal for assistance from a widow who is receiving the magnificent sum of £1 per week as a pension. Presumably it is the intention’ of the Minister that such pensions shall meet all the requirements of the widows and dependants of deceased soldiers.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– Senator Newland made two incorrect statements. In the first place he charges Senator Grant with nob having read the Bill. He said that if the honorable senator had read the Bill he would find what was asked for by the proposed new clause was already provided for by clause 8. It is evident from this that Senator Newland could not have been paying attention to the business, because when an attempt was made to make this provision in clause 8 the Committee rejected it. Again, Senator Newland said that Senator Grant supported the amendment moved by Senator Bolton in connexion with the work of local committees, but Senator Grant did not support that amendment.
– I referred to clause 8 of the original Bill.
– That is what I am referring to. No provision is made for the widow of a deceased soldier in that clause.
– I did not say that provision was made for the widow in that clause.
– The main objection urged by Senators Millen and Newland to the proposed new clause is that this is not the Bill in which provision should be made for the widows of deceased soldiers. We are told that it is the War Pensions Act that should make provision for widows, and the Minister has said that if the pensions provided for under the War Pensions Act are not considered sufficient a movement should be made to increase those pensions. If any member of the Senate came down to-morrow with a proposal to amend the War Pensions Act so as to increase the pensions provided for under that measure, he could scarcely hope to get the first reading of the amending Bill passed during the rest of the session.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong again, as usual. I would help him to carry such an amendment of the War Pensions Act.
– I should be very glad to have the honorable senator’s assistance. But he knows perfectly well that even if such a Bill came before this Chamber it could not possibly be passed.
– I cannot be blamed for that.
– Certainly not. But whenever an attempt is made in that direction we are told that the change should be brought about in some other way or that the time for it is not ripe. We ought to be quite candid with each other. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council believes that the War Pensions Act does not sufficiently provide for the widows of our fallen soldiers he should bring down an amending Bill. If honorable senators are anxious to do justice to these widows this is the place to give effect to their wishes. This is the only opportunity we shall have of dealing with the matter this session. I do not know whether the Government intend to introduce a Bill to amend the War Pensions Act. This is the place to protect the widows of our fallen heroes. If the children of our deceased soldiers should be provided for, so also should the widows and other dependants.
– There is not an honorable senator who is not in sympathy with ‘ the principle that is embodied in this proposed new clause. In it I have made a bona fide attempt to do justice to the widows and dependants of our fallen soldiers. The clause represents an endeavour on my part to make uniform throughout Australia what is already being done in my own State. In New South Wales to-day I can go to the Government and get a home over the head of any soldier’s widow. That system should be extended throughout the Commonwealth. But it can be done only by unified action on the part of the National Government, whose aim should be to place all dependants of soldiers on the same footing. Conceivably, objection may be taken to the wording of the clause, but the same objection can be taken to any clause. Scarcely a Bill is ever passed by Parliament which does not require amendment within a month after it comes into operation. It is only by experience of its working that one can discover its defects. I repeat that the clause represents a bond fide effort on my part to do my duty, and I am content to allow the matter to rest there.
.- I do not desire to give a silent vote on this clause, although I cannot support it in its present form. The clause seeks to make it mandatory on ‘the part of the Government to supply houses to all war widows and other dependants of deceased soldiers.
– Invalid dependants!
– Quite so. The thing is impracticably. I should have very much liked to have seen an amendment, such as was sought by Senator Bolton, made in the earlier part of the Bill - an amendment under which the Commonwealth would be empowered in certain circumstances to provide homes for war widows. But to affirm that the Government shall house all such widows and invalid dependants of deceased soldiers is an impracticable scheme. I do not know whether the clause can be amended so as to make lt optional for the Commission in certain cases to use the money which has been provided for the repatriation of our soldiers, for the purposes of furnishing war widows with homes. If that can be done I shall vote for it. But a proposition whicli declares that the Government shall house all war widows for the term of their natural lives is simply an impracticable one. The widows of many of our fallen soldiers will probably have homes sufficient for their requirements. But would they remain in those homes if the Government were bound to provide them with homes?
– If they are wealthy enough to have a good home will they be likely to accept the miserable home provided by the Government?
– The clause provides that the Government shall house these people.
– But it does not say that the widows shall live in those houses.
– Is.it contended that the Government would be likely to erect an inferior class of home?
– It means that if the widows could afford a better home, they would not avail themselves of .the aid of the Government.
– Under such a system, we should be pauperising the poor soldier’s widow while recognising the right of the officer’s widow to live’ in her own home. I am only sorry that some honorable senators did not display the same energy in assisting to send reinforcements to .tlie Front that they are now exhibiting on behalf of our war widows.
– Do we pauperise all women because they do not all receive the old-age pension ?
– Certainly not; but they have the right to receive it if they choose to do so. The suggestion in this clause is an impracticable one.
– It is in operation in one of the States.
– But is it mandatory in that State? Certainly not. In particular cases of hardship, homes are provided there. But this clause affirms that the Government shall provide homes. Every honorable senator is anxious to do all that he possibly can to assist the dependants of soldiers who have lost their lives at the Front, but the proposition which is now before us is absolutely impracticable.
.- I think that the ill-digested proposal which is now before the Committee has pretty well served its purpose. From its many defects, which have already been pointed out, it is quite apparent that it was not seriously placed on the businesspaper. Had it been, the mover would have exercised more care in the framing of it. Nobody seems to understand what kind of a house the clause seeks to provide - whether it is to be a dwelling worth £100, or one worth £500. Then I ask whether the house to be provided for the widow of a private would be of the same class as the house provided for the widow of an officer ? Are these houses to be suitable for a big family, or for a small family ? I can only conclude that the proposal represents so much political birdlime, and that it has been put forward for quite another purpose than that of providing homes for the widows of our fallen soldiers. Senator McDougall must admit that he did not give the clause sufficient consideration.
– I can explain its details now.
– The Committee have been discussing the matter for a considerable time, and though the honorable senator has already spoken twice, he has failed to throw any light upon it.
– In my speech upon the second reading of the Bill, I mentioned this clause.
– When the War Pensions Bill was under review in the Senate, no such proposal was put forward. Why ? The very gentlemen who now champion it, then formed part of a thumping majority on this side of the chamber, and could have passed it, or anything else which they chose to put forward ; but not. a word of the kind was ever suggested. What faith, then, can we place in a proposal of this character, coming, as it does, from men who are now in such an insignificant majority that all they can do is to make a noise ?
– We have now before us a Bill in which we can include such a proposal.
– And we had a Bill before us at the time of which I speak.
– Since then we have had experience of returned soldiers, arid we know what soldiers’ widows are suffering.
– Is that a sufficient reply, seeing that the War Pensions Bill first engaged our attention in 1914, and that an amending measure was introduced in 1915 ? On neither of those occasions was a proposal of this kind brought forward.
– Cases are coming before us every day.
– I know; and I believe many experiences will be revealed before we have finished with this subject. I agree with the Minister that this Bill is not the final word. No doubt, time will show the necessity for improvement, and the Government will doubtless be open to conviction in that direction. Where the necessity for a proposal of this kind is shown to the Senate, I hope a much more satisfactory scheme will be placed before us. No one seems to understand what this proposal means, or where it will carry us. We are nob told what dependants are to be provided for, and the Government cannot be expected to incorporate so farreaching a proposition in the Bill on the mere ipse dixit of the mover. I quite Believe that Senator McDougall is in sympathy with us, heart and soul ; but he must know in his own mind that this proposal is impracticable.
– It is not impracticable in New South Wales. It is in actual operation there.
– Whilst I should very much like to assist in giving the utmost consideration to the dependants of Australian soldiers, a very pronounced limit can be reached. The specific aim of the Bill is to repatriate our soldiers, to absorb them again into our ordinary everyday life, and not so much to look after their domestic interests. The new clause proposed has a special social significance. It proposes to give free lodgings to the widows of fallen soldiers, and to their dependants, without number and without stint. Those dependants make a formidable list, for a start, and the honorable senator did not tell us what his proposal will mean to the taxpayers. Neither did Senator O’Keefe nor Senator Needham.
There is force in Senator de Largie’s remark that it is strange how senators adjust their attitude and conduct according to their geographical position in this chamber, that is to say, according to whether they sit on the left or right of the chair. When the War Pensions Bill was before us, the -position of dependants was specifically considered, and that was the opportunity for honorable senators like Senator McDougall and Senator 0:Keefe to show whether the Government proposals were adequate or not. Honorable senators on your left are now making a laudable attempt to introduce into this Bill a proposal absolutely foreign to its purpose and scope - a proposal which should have been put forward on the previous occasion, instead of being the subject of an eleventh-hour conversion, or a death-bed repentance.
– May we not profit bv experience?
- Senator O’Keefe does not bother now about the burden he would impose on the taxpayers. He did at one time. I do not suggest that he has changed his attitude because he has changed his position from this side of the chamber to the other; but it is significant that when he sat on this side his opinions on that point w.ere totally different. I do not know what has come over him. When war pensions were being considered, he was very concerned about the burden to be imposed on the taxpayers. When he assures the Chamber, on his honour as a senator, that we should adopt this course, I am entitled to examine his reasons from every angle, in order to find out the nature of the change that has come over him. He is not at all concerned to-day about the burden to be imposed upon the taxpayer; but I can refer the Senate to the report of his remarks on the War Pensions Bill, when he had a chance of attending to the wants of the widows and dependants of soldiers. On that occasion, instead of treating the widows with due care and solemnity, he was quite jocular, and referred to “ eleventh -hour marriages “ - which was a grave reflection on the widowsof our soldiers. He said the women who took part in those “eleventh-hour marriages” were not entitled to much consideration. How is it that he has become so suddenly reconciled to those marriages, and to the impost which Senator McDougall’s proposal will place on the general taxpayer? There was no equivocation about the honorable senator on the previous occasion. He had a tender regard for the taxpayers then. He has none now. Why? Surely the interest of the taxpayers should be vital to an honorable senator, whether he sits on your left or on your right. The honorable senator now asks, “What is a million?” and even Senator McDougall does not tell us what his proposal will mean to those called upon to pay the bill.
SenatorFerricks. - Senator Millen asked, “What does £60,000,000 matter?”
– I am pleased to hear the honorable senator’s voice. He has been silent so long that I thought he had lost the power of speech.
When standing sponsor for a’ proposal that goes perilously near transgressing the Standing Orders relating to relevancy, Senator McDougall should have given the Senate some idea of the financial burden involved, if only for the sake of his colleague Senator O’Keefe, who previously was so sympathetically tender towards the taxpayers’ interests. What did Senator McDougall say when the War Pensions Bill was submitted in 1915, or when the amending Bill was going through in 1916? Where was the boy who stood on the burning deck? He was, just like Senator McDougall, not there. By the amending Bill the war pensions were increased by 50 per cent.; but I search in vain through the Tecords of the debates for the words of these new champions of the “ eleventh-hour widows “ and mothers and dependants of soldiers. Senator O’Keefe certainly pointed out the imperious obligation on the people of this country to look after the dependants of their soldiers, but he emphasized, at the same time, the need to conserve the interests of the taxpayers. The two things were so finely balanced in his mind, that he adjusted himself in a marvellous way to the occasion, and voted for the Bill. He had misgivings, because he did not like some of the soldiers getting married so hurriedly, and hehad a particular grievance against “ eleventh-hour wives.” But now they can be all eleventh-hour widows without a protest from him. The “ eleventh-hour widow “ was just the same last year as she is now. The interests of the dependants of the soldier were just the same in 1915 as they are to-day. Why, then, this remarkable tenderness on the part of Senator O’Keefe towards the soldiers’ dependants? Why his newfound anxiety aboutthe soldier’s widow?
When the War Pensions legislation, introduced for the special purpose of safeguarding the interests of our soldiers, was going through, the honorable senator sought no improvement, but he referred, I am sorry to say, to the “ eleventh-hour widow” of the soldier. That, I think, was a grave reflection upon women who married soldiers on the eve of their going away to the war. As regards the taxpayers, when the War Pensions Bill was going through the Senate, Senator O’Keefe said, on page 5612 of Hansard, volume 78 -
There are big financial problems ahead of Australia, and if we can by any means minimize the burden which the people will be ealled upon to bear, it is our duty to do so.
Why does not the honorable senator say that now?
– I do.
– We all say that.
– No. Senator O’Keefe, in 1915, said, “ Let us lower the burden,” but now he says, “ Let us raise the burden mountain high.” What kind of sympathy is that? Was it the sympathy which was overflowing like the perennial spring? To-day, without any regard for taxpayers’ interests, he takes up another attitude. I object to this spasmodic display of sympathy. Sympathy wants to be uniform and consistent. It ought to be universal, like mercy. That is the kind of sympathy I prefer, and I would appreciate far more a man who would come and sympathize with me when I was in a lowly condition, dependent, homeless, and friendless, than a man who would come when I was up in the stirrups and successful.When we find Senator O’Keefe making reflections about widows, I cannot understand why widows are entitled now, according , to the honorable senator, to be regarded as dependants, and to merit a free home, if they should live to be as old as Methuselah. I am at a loss to trace this remarkable change of front on the part of the honorable senator. As emphasizing further the sensitive feeling which he had in 1915 for the taxpayers of Australia as against the dependants of the soldiers, he made this weighty statement -
It is the liability which is cast on the taxpayers of the Commonwealth that concerns me.
What does he say to-day ?
Turning to another honorable senator, we find that the prime mover of this proposal is silent. The War Pensions Bill went through without a word of comment from the honorable senator. Yet on this occasion he has not vouchsafed to the Committee the faintest idea of what his proposal would mean to the taxpayers - a thing about which Senator O’Keefe was so impatient in 1915. Before we vote on an important proposal of this kind, we are entitled to know what it means. The Minister has told us as nearly as he could ascertain from the calculations of his officers what the Bill in its original form will mean to the Treasury. But along came Senator McDougall with his proposal, and we do not know where the outlay will end. It might mean an expenditure of £1,000,000 or £30.000,000. But what is the sum of £30,000,000 to Senator O’Keefe or Senator McDougall nowadays ? It is nothing. This proposal is made simply because those two honorable senators have changed ground in the Chamber. When they were in a position to do things, why did they not act ? The War Pensions Bill went through the Senate while Mr. Fisher was their leader. They had more influence with the Fisher Government than they have with the present Government. Why did they not act then? Why do they exhibit this marvellous new-found sympathy? I would not dream of suggesting that there is any ulterior motive for their present day attitude, such as that there is a general election in the distance. Oh no! - these men tower above such paltry, sordid, mean, contemptible motives as that ! They live on the mountain top. They lived there when they stooped down and tried to cut off my head.
– Will the honorable senator connect his remarks with the question before the Chair ?
– I beg pardon, sir. In 1915 the friends of the soldiers and of their dependants had a chance to act if they never had one before, but they were as silent as a tomb. An Egyptian mummy was nothing in comparison with these bold warriors who now stand forward as the bright champions of the dependants of the soldiers. In 1915 Senator McDougall did not avail himself of the opportunity to stand here and say to the Minister - “ These pensions are insufficient. I shall stop here until I drop from exhaustion rather than see such a glaring inadequacy of provision as this paltry measure go through; I am McDpugall, the champion and the friend of the dependants of soldiers.” That is what the honorable senator should have done in 1915 and 1916. He was as silent then as a petrified log, and now that he is in a helpless position on the other side, he wishes to help the dependants of the soldiers. He might as well be beating the air. What is the cause of all this new boiling sympathy ?
Again, who ever suspected Senator Ferricks of having lost the gift of the gab here? He illuminated the chamber for days and weeks on end with his eloquent tones; but when the War Pensions Bill was going through he, too, was silent.
– You are not game to read my remarks.
– Where was this gladiator then ; where was this violent champion of the dependants of the soldiers ?
– Read my remarks.
– Here is the record.
– Be fair now; quote my remarks.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8.10 p.m.
– It is quite clear that when a radical amendment of this description Las been moved, a responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the mover to give some approximate calculation of its effect upon the finances. Up to the present, neither Senator McDougall nor any of his supporters have indicated what amount of money will be involved by the adoption of the amendment.
– Nothing is provided in the Bill.
– Yes, an amount is to be provided under the operations of the Bill, but at the present moment I am not entitled to speak on that aspect of the case. But Senator McDougall’s proposal means money. How much, even he is not able to say. It is clear that Senator McDougall’s proposal will impose an additional burden on the taxpayers. I do not want it to be understood, however, that I baulk at the prospect - within the limits of reason or even within the limits of generosity - of discharging- the obligations we owe to the dependants of Australian soldiers. My remarks in this connexion indorse the attitude I took up during the debate on the second reading of the War Pensions Bill in 1915. When every mother’s son of the advocates of this proposal were dumb, I objected to that measure on the grounds of its inadequacy, and I was gratified in May of last year when the Government brought down a Bill to extend its benefits, my objections to the parent Act being then removed. While both of those measures, which were calculated to compass the scope of Senator McDougall’s present amendment, were under consideration, Senator McDougall and his supporters of to-night, so far from urging the Government of the day to make adequate provision, were speechless. Senator O’Keefe took the view then that the provision contemplated was much on the extravagant side. ‘
I am entitled to draw attention to this fact in the light of the new-born sympathy for soldiers’ dependants now exhibited by Senator McDougall and his supporters. Two years ago they were as dumb as an Egyptian mummy at a time, too, when they might have achieved something. I therefore ask myself - Whence comes this change of front; this exhibition of the “ bleeding heart “ by Senator McDougall for the dependants of our soldiers? I remember, also, that Senator
O’Keefe went on to say that some of the soldiers got married at the eleventh hour, and called their spouses “eleventh-hour widows.”
– You have fold us this three or four times already.
– On that occasion the burden of Senator OKeefe’s discourse was that the taxpayers of Australia would be saddled with an expenditure that they could not afford by the provision for allowances for soldiers’ dependants. To-night, Senator O’Keefe appears in a brand-new role. He forgets all about the eleventh or the tenth-hour widows, and in this year of grace, 1917,’ he wants to get as much as he can for the soldiers’ dependants. I repeat that we are entitled to an explanation, although I know it is very much like going to a goat’s house for wool to expect an explanation from these gentlemen concerning this volte face, this facing northbysouth, on this particular question. Why has this change come about? As I have already pointed out, two years ago they could have got their own Government to give effect to the policy they are now advocating, and it is quite plain, therefore, that we have to look in some dark, mysterious direction for their change of front, this “ swelling-heart “ affection which has so lately developed amongst them. Is it because they have changed their position in this Chamber? Of course, I would not for a moment suggest that they were looking for votes! Perish the thought! Even Senator Barker, who is yawning- at the present moment, yawned about a dozen times when the Bill was going through, and had not a single murmur of disapproval then. When there was1 a golden opportunity to secure what members opposite are now advocating, his voice was not heard; he was as mild as a cooing dove. I repeat that we are entitled to full revelation from the father of the amendment, Senator McDougall, down to his supporter, Senator Needham, who swallowed holus-bolus the previous measures dealing with this subject.
– I did not.
– I am afraid that Senator Needham ‘ must have suffered badly from legislative indigestion judging by the manner in which he swallowed the two previous measures.
This Bill is for the repatriation of our soldiers, and has nothing to do with the purpose for which Senator McDougall moved his amendment. Does the honorable senator’s action amount to an exhibition of kite-flying ? No ! These gentlemen surely would never descend to that level !
– Your kite-flying about the Northern Territory was not successful.
– Has this gentleman gob speech at last? I understood the Queensland junta had muzzled him, because he has been for so long silent. We are pleased, however, to notice that speech has been restored to him, despite the attitude of the Queensland junta.
– Well, your junta fixed you up over the Northern Territory, anyhow.
– As I have already pointed out, the War Pensions Act of 1915 and the amending Act of 1916 provided for the dependants of soldiers in a way vastly superior to the consideration given to soldiers’ dependant’s in any other country in the world. I make that statement without fear of contradiction, and I do it with pleasure, because I was a supporter of the Government which brought’ in those proposals. The honorable senators opposite were also supporting the Government then, and they did not then object to what they now term the “inadequacy” of these proposals. Is their change of front now due to the fact that they are sitting on the other side in the Senate? I do not know, but they should be called upon to show cause for their novel position.
We have to consider what will be the effect of the amendment on the finances of the country. When the parent Act, with which I was not satisfied, was under consideration in the Senate, I did my best to improve it, and I succeeded; but the measure, as it passed the Senate, did not satisfy Senator O’Keefe, on the ground that it would impose too great a burden on pur taxpayers. It appears, however, that he is now prepared to throw the taxpayers overboard, to hang the consequences, and pile up the burdens on the people. If Senator O’Keefe was so sensational about the interest of the taxpayers in 1915, why is he so indifferent to-day ?
– Order ! I remind the honorable senator that he is repeating himself.
– Tedious repetition.
– Tedious repetition.
– Order ! If the honorable senator does not obey the Chair I must take some other measures.
– Take them. What have I done?
– The honorable senator must withdraw that remark. It is disrespectful to the Chair.
– I withdraw it.
– I remind Senator Lynch that he is repeating himself continuously.
– It is sometimes necessary to repeat one’s self if one’s arguments are to soak into some thick heads.
– Order ! The honorable senator must know that he is nob in order in repeating himself.
-Under the Pensions Act of 1915-16, provision is made for a pension, in the case of a widow with three children, amounting to £3 12s. 6d. per week. If the family is larger, as it may be in most cases, the provision made for the dependants of the deceased soldier must be regarded as very fair indeed. Itis easy to imagine, although it may seem somewhat harsh to say so, that with the provision which this Parliament has already made, the widow and dependants of a deceased soldier, in a financial sense, may in some cases find themselves better provided for than they were while he was alive. I do not say that in any ‘harsh spirit at all, bub in order to show the effect of the Pensions Act which honorable senators opposite supported, and to which some objected on the score of its liberality. We are giving the dependants of our deceased soldiers treatment more liberal than is provided for the dependants of deceased soldiers by any other country in the civilized world. I supported the War Pensions Act in the first instance somewhat grudgingly, but in the hope that its provisions would be liberalized, and I lived to see the day when they were liberalized by the amending measure which was passed last year.
This brings me to the consideration of the financial position of this country. It has to be reckoned with. It is not necessary to remind even Senator McDougall and his supporters of this. There must be a limit to our liberality and generosity, because of the burden imposed upon the resources of the country. We have legislation which goes a very great length in order to meet the social, domestic, and industrial requirements of the dependants of our soldiers, but Senator McDougall and honorable senators who are supporting the amendment he has moved wish to go much further. They desire to give additional assistance to all the’ dependants of a deceased soldier from the widow right down. the line to the mother-in-law, the sister-in-law, and the half-brother.
– The clause refers to invalid dependants, and not to those mentioned by the honorable senator.
– We know the formidable list of dependants which is included in the War Pensions Act. I do not know whether Senator Needham is acquainted with the nature of this proposal or not, but I am reading the amendment literally.
– The honorable senator is not reading it correctly.
– These little men have an awful lot of cheek at times.
– The honorable senator prides himself upon being a big man, but he is not one.
– If he could have his way Senator Needham would allow the gaps at the Front to go unfilled. He would make more widows if he had his way.
– Order !
– The finances of the country have to be taken into account in dealing with a measure of this kind. We meet with people every day who are prepared to be very generous with other people’s goods, though not with their own. The honorable senators who are supporting the amendment ask us without rhyme or reason, and without figures or. consideration, to take the serious course of saddling the country with an expenditure bo large that they can give us no idea of what it is likely to amount to. They are asking the Committee to do too much. They make the request because their’s will not be the responsibility of financing the proposal, and, let me repeat it, when they had the responsibility they failed to assume it. Now that they are irresponsible they would impose new taxation upon the people of this country, because that is what the proposal they make involves. They shirked their duty when we were dealing with the War Pensions Bill, but I did not shirk my duty on that occasion. . We have been three years engaged in the war, and the case of the dependants of the soldiers was just as urgent in the early stages as it is to-day when we were considering legislation for the repatriation of the soldiers alone.
– There are no houses provided for in that legislation.
– There are no houses and no free boarding-houses on the sea coast or elsewhere. Now Senator McDougall. says that we should provide* the dependants of deceased soldiers with free lodgings anywhere throughout the Commonwealth, in addition to the pensions for which provision has been made. I say again that some people are very generous with other people’s goods. When these gentlemen were in charge of the goods of the nation they dodged their duty in a most unmanly and discreditable way, but now, when they are irresponsible, they are prepared to be more than liberal with the ‘goods of other people. Whom do they, represent ? They have no right to be here at all. They represent no one.
– Order !
– Yet they ask us to take the serious responsibility of carrying a provision which may involve the country in an expenditure the extent of .which they are unable to estimate. It is not for the Committee to take this foolish and ill-considered step by accepting the amendment submitted by Senator McDougall.
I know that what I am saying hurts, honorable senators opposite. They do not like to be reminded of their inconsistency, of their shuffling hypocrisy, and of the time when, with the opportunity to do something in this direction, they failed to take advantage of it - of the time when they were so false to their trust.
– So so!
– Senator Barker would treat this matter with levity, but I am pointing out to him, and those who, with him, are supporting the amendment, that when the proper legislation was going through they had their opportunity to make it more effective if they thought that necessary, and that they failed then to stand up to their work. They turned a deaf ear, and steeled their hearts against the dependants of the soldiers. Now they clamour for more consideration for them.
– Order ! The honorable senator is repeating himself.
– I say that the finances of the country must be considered. We have been three years at war, and, in addition to what can be extracted from the people by way of taxation, our war bill is in the neighbourhood of £150,000,000. It is quite plain that we cannot go on in this way much longer without taking stock of our financial position. It is much worse to-day than it was in 1915 and 1916, when the war pension measures to which I have referred were passed. Yet we are told by honorable senators opposite, with joyous indifference, that we must go further in .this direction.
The only object of these honorable senators is to win votes from the country at the next election. I will say that now. They are prepared to turn their backs upon the opinions they expressed a year or two ago, for the purpose of winning votes.
– Order !
– I am where I always .have been. No elector has ever taken me at a false valuation. I have never courted the votes of the electors, and I am not going to begin to do so now. But these vote chasers opposite dream of nothing else but their seats in- Parliament.
– Order ! This has nothing to do with the clause before the Committee.
– So far as the financial aspect of the matter is concerned, we had better wait to see how our existing legislation pans out.- If the provisions of the existing law are found by experience to be inadequate, to leave .the dependants of soldiers less provided for than the dependants of other citizens, to place them beyond the galling conditions of poverty and want, .then no one will be found more eager than I to do whatever may be necessary in order to treat these people handsomely. Unlike these Johnnycome.latelys, who desire to gain popular favour by trifling with the finances of the country, I take up on this measure the stand which I took up in 1915 and in 1916. In view of the fair measures which, according to our resources, we have already passed to deal with the dependants of our soldiers, there is no justification for the amendment. I am opposed to it, and I again request and demand those who are supporting it to explain why they have somersaulted upon the position which they took up in 1915 and 1916 on this question.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [8.38]. - If sympathy were of any use to Senator McDougall, he has had plenty of it expressed by nearly every one who has spoken on his amendment. But when honorable senators are asked to put that sympathy into practical effect by voting for it, they are not prepared to do so. I rise to bring before the Committee the views entertained on this matter by the returned soldiers themselves. A meeting of returned soldiers was held here to-day, at which resolutions bearing upon this very matter were passed. Honorable senators may have read them, but I wish to put them on record. I find that at a meeting of the Victorian Returned Soldiers and Sailors League, which considered the matter of widows being excluded from the operation of the Repatriation Bill, Sergeant J. W. McKenzie, speaking to his fellow returned soldiers, said: -
Boys, to every soldier I say this : I would sooner see all the boys in the room excluded from the Bill than that the widows of my comrades should be excluded.
Then ‘ the following motion was unanimously agreed to: -
That the Victorian branch of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Imperial League enters its strongest protest against the exclusion of the widows of deceased soldiers from the Repatriation Bill now before the Federal Parliament, and urges Parliament to take into serious consideration the injustice thus done to dependants of men who have made the supreme sacrifice. It further requests the Government and Parliament to include a clause in the Bill which will bring soldiers’ widows within the scope of the Act.
I think we are entitled to consider the views of the men in whose interests this Bill has been devised. I do not believe we can have a stronger pronouncement on the matter now before the Committee than that which I have, just read. I have no desire to quote at length from the report of the meeting in question, but it goes on to say that the Association has had communications from Tasmania and elsewhere strongly indorsing its attitude in regard to including widows within the scope of the repatriation scheme. What does it matter what was said or done by any one of us either one year or two years ago? The question which we have to decide is, “ Is this a fair proposal in the in- . terests of the widows of our soldiers and of their dependants?” If we neglected to make adequate provision for them on a former occasion, rt,hat is no reason why we should repeat our error now. .Let the Minister accept the principle that is embodied in the proposed new clause, let him put it into proper form and place it on our statute-book in the interests of the dependants of our deceased soldiers.
– We have just listened to a long speech by Senator Lynch which was made up of two parts - one a personal attack upon myself, which only amused me, as it did other honorable senators, and the other consisting of wearisome repetition. I take back nothing that I said in the speech recorded in Hansard, vol. 78, page 5612, which was quoted by the honorable senator. I ventured to say in that speech that it was foolish for the Defence Department to countenance and encourage hasty marriages by men who remained in camp for only a week or two after they had enlisted, because such marriages must inevitably increase the financial obligations of Australia. Because I expressed that view, Senator Lynch took an hour in repeating my speech, and, in doing so, mentioned my name about 170 times. I take back nothing that I said on the occasion in question, and, further, I affirm that it does not affect the sincerity of my attitude now.
Senator Lynch talks about inconsistency. This wild man from the West, who went all over Australia like a bowling -Dervish, endeavouring to induce the people of this country to send every man to the Front, whether against his will or not, and who wished to create more widows in Australia - this man ventures to come here and chide others with inconsistency. He has declared that some honorable senators are supporting Senator McDougall because of geographical considerations - because they happen to have changed their places. I have not changed my opinions if I have changed my seat. But Senator Lynch has, and that is why he could not discuss the merits of this clause, but occupied about an hour in personal abuse of others, and in wearisome repetition. The honorable senator need not worry about geographical changes. I am on this side of the chamber because of my consistency. I did not profess certain opinions to gain’ Ministerial office for a few months, and then get kicked out. My reward is the approval of my own conscience. I know that I have adhered to my opinions. But because Senator Lynch, in the company of his new-found friends and supporters, finds himself with such a large following, he ventures to tell the minority in this Chamber that they must say nothing and do nothing. Even if the votes which I cast two years ago, or six months ago, were wrong, is that a reason why this Committee should continue to do wrong?
– The honorable senator admits it, then?
– I do not. I said then, and I repeat now, that it was far better for the Defence Department to discourage the creation in Australia of more and more widows than to shirk its responsibility to those who have already been made widows by the war. My idea is that fewer married men and more single men should have gone to the Front. But Senator Lynch and his friends would send, not only all the single men, but all the married men, and thus make more widows. Then Senator Lynch would shirk his proper responsibility to the widows who are left here.
When we have a measure before us, we ought not to spend all our time in digging out what somebody said on a former -occasion, ‘ as reported in Hansard. Rather ought we to debate its merits, and if we can offer any valuable suggestions to offer them freely. That is what the Vice-President of the Executive Council asked us to do.
– But he did not ask honorable senators to wade in with a lot of proposals, quite apart from the main principle of the Bill.
– The main object of this Bill is to provide for the repatriation of our soldiers. But does not that carry with it the duty of providing in an equally generous fashion for the dependants of those who will never return?
– We have measures in actual operation dealing with that phase of the matter.
– What chance would this “miserable minority,” of which. Senator Lynch spoke, have of bringing forward an amendment of the “War Pensions Act ? No chance whatever. I am sorry that we have to provide for so many widows; but that circumstance makes me all the more determined to provide properly for them. I am not like Senator Lynch, who would make thousands and thousands of additional widows in Australia, and then shirk his obligations to them. Yet this is the gentleman who stands up here and twits other honorable senators with a dereliction of duty; and with having changed their views. I repeat that we have stuck to our opinions. We did not change them for personal advantage, as some honorable senators did.
We have been asked by this “Daniel, come to judgment,” to put forward some sound and reasonable arguments in favour of this amendment. I say that the amendment carries its own justification. It is intended to provide for the widows of deceased soldiers, and also for their dependants up to sixteen years of age.
– Thehonorable senator would not do that.
– That is only another observation of the kind that usually proceeds from a man who was always unscrupulous, and who does not ‘hesitate to descend to the well-known trick of tearing a few lines from the text of a speech by an honorable senator-
– Readthe full text. Hansard is there for the honorable senator to quote.
– Will Senator O’Keefe be good enough to address the Chair?
– I will do so; but I would remind you, sir, that, during the whole time. Senator Lynch was on his feet, his speech was practically a tirade of abuse of honorable senators. The reasons which have been put forward by Senator McDougall and others are the sound and solid reasons in favour of the insertion of this new clause. Those reasons are good enough to commend them- selves to a majority of the people of this country, and, consequently, there is no need for me to detain the Committee by elaborating them.
– Very briefly I wish to refer to one phase of this question which has already been mentioned. Doubt has been cast upon the practicability of the scheme outlined in this new clause, and in this connexion I wish to mention what is already being done in the State of Queensland. As evidencing that the proposal embodied in the clause appeals to the people as a whole, I may say that in Queensland bands of voluntary workers have been organized, and these have set about the task of erecting homes for the widows of soldiers. One person will donate an allotment of land, a timber merchant will provide the timber, a plumber will furnish the iron, and a painter will supply the paint. Then carpenters, plumbers, painters, and labourers go out at stated periods and erect these homes free of cost. When completed, they are handed over to the widows of fallen soldiers.
In the course of his second-reading speech upon this Bill, to which we all listened very attentively, the VicePresident of the Executive Council did not attempt to discuss any of its details. He said that at that stage it was quite impossible for him to do so, and that he intended merely to set out the broad outlines upon which the repatriation scheme is to be carried out. He added thathe could not even say the’ amount of the expenditure that would be involved in it. Yet because Senator McDougall could not supply all this information, Senator Lynch has found fault with him. To my mind, that was an unreasonable attitude for Senator Lynch to take up. Prior to the honorable senator’s speech I was under the impression that this Bill was a non-party measure, as it certainlyshould be.
– So it is.
– Will any unbiased senator say that Senator Lynch’s speech was a non-party deliverance? From beginning to end it was one tirade of abuse of honorable members upon this side of the chamber and of their policy. Bracketing Senator de Largie with Senator Lynch, I say that it is merely history repeating itself. It has been our experience throughout the Labour movement in Australia that when a man leaves the Labour party, or is enticed away by a figure head of the Labour party, and is eventuallyleft in the soup he does not blame the man who led him away, but blames the Labour party for not being caught with him. The wild and windy oration of Senator Lynch to-night was not only not informative, but did not touch the main question. His gyrations would have been betterperformed out in the Queen’s Hall.
With regard to the necessity for the amendment, is there any more, sad sight than a widow with perhaps a young family left to fight the battle of life ?
– That case will be provided for under this Bill.
– Partial provision is made in the War Pensions Act, which many members of the Labour party of that day endeavoured to widen. I challenged Senator Lynch just before the dinner adjournment to quote my remarks. He ploughed through Hansard, but did not do it. When the War Pensions Bill was going through, I advocated that when a pension was being paid there should be no discrimination between the widow of a private and the widow of an officer. I said that as 6 feet of earth made the colonel and the private the one size, so the widow of each should be on the same basis with regard to pension receipts.
The Pensions Bill was a very good firsb step, which the Labour party can claim credit for having introduced, because, if we are to accept statements made in the Senate, the members of the Labour party forced it from the then Government, but it must not be regarded as the last step. Surely we can progress as time goes on.
– Are you considering the Pensions Act now, or an entirely different measure?
– The question of the welfare of the widow of a soldier is inseparable from the question of the repatriation of our soldiers, and if the pension scheme is not before the Senate, this is the place to make the necessary provision. Some of us perhaps more than others realize what the battle of life means to a widow with children.
– If the woman has children the present Bill will meet the situation.
– But it will not put a house over her head.
-Will it meet her case in regard to accommodation ? Only to-day, Senator Newland, who, with Senator Lynch, is a follower of the Government, asked Senator Millen, without notice, whether the Government would take into- consideration the exorbitant rents charged by landlords throughout Australia. Senator Millen replied that that very important question was under the consideration of the Government. Here then is a chance for the Government to put that consideration into practical effeot. We have all read in the columns of the daily press that there are rings or combinations of landlords, particularly in the capitals, and more particularly in Melbourne, who have notified their house agents that they will not have the wives or dependants of soldiers in their habitations as tenants. What is to become of the widow of a soldier if that sort of thing becomes general? What consideration will landlords have for the widow of a soldier who has lost his life fighting 12,000 miles away ?
It is the duty of the Government to make provision such as Senator McDougall advocates, and no more fitting time can be available than the present. The opportunity is offered by the Bill and the amendment. I assure honorable senators opposite that I am honestly endeavouring to view the matter on a broad Australian basis of justice, and that I have no party feeling about it. I absolutely resent a measure and amendment of this sort being discussed in the contemptible spirit introduced by Senator Lynch. We should endeavour to view the matter as broadly as possible. I therefore ask honorable senators oppositethis question - and if they do not care” to answer it in public, let them put the question to themselves - Is it fair to the widow of a soldier to throw her upon the cold mercy of the world, or of the landlords of Australia? I unhesitatingly say it is not.
– We are not discussing that question.
– I am discussing it. If Senator Bakhap does not care to answer it publicly, will he put it to himself?
– I should have no hesitation in answering it publicly.
– The honorable senator and I differ if he thinks it a fair thing to throwthe soldier’s widow on the mercy of the landlord.
– Playing to the gallery again !
– I resent the imputationof playing to the gallery. Is the shadow of an electiontroubling Senator
Lynch? Is there trouble in the Fusion that he is afraid of going to the country ? So far as we know, an election is three years off, but if the honorable senator has any inside knowledge, it might account for his curious conduct. Surely we can discuss a matter of this kind now without dragging in an election. What has an election to do with the widows of Australian soldiers ?
Although I am not a jingo, as Senator Lynch is, I flatter myself that I am capable of realizing the seriousness and sadness of the absence of any such provision as Senator McDougall advocates. Australia owes a clear duty to the widows and invalid dependants and young families of the soldiers who have died abroad, and the amendment must have the sympathy and support of any honorable senator who views the matter on its merits, apart from the party aspect. I am disappointed that Senator Millen did not at least ask for time to consider the proposal, so that it might eventually be included in the broad scheme which he has laid before the( Senate. He should’ have done that as Minister in charge of the measure.
– These amendments have been on the table for some days.
– Order! Surely it is not in order for the Chairman to interject ?
– So far as I am aware, Senator Millen has not given to the amendment that sympathetic consideration which we might naturally expect from the Leader of the Government. If he could not accept .it, he might have told us as an alternative what the Government propose to do in the matter. If he is not- going to accept it, will he assure us that an opportunity will be given for a further amendment of the War Pensions Act, so that added provision may be made for the widows of soldiers, in view of the greatly increased cost of living which has come about since the last Pensions Act was passed, and the aeroplane heights to which many commodities have soared) If the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment, or if honorable senators opposite are not prepared to sink their party allegiance, and vote as I am sure their consciences and convictions dictate, I hope the Minister will give the Senate an assurance that later on additional pro vision will be made for the widows and dependants of Australian soldiers.
– Senator Ferricks ended by taunting honorable senators on this side with being more loyal to their party allegiance than to the dictates of their consciences, but it was the same gentleman who a few moments ago deprecated the tendency to make this a party measure.
– The party aspect was brought in by honorable senators on your side.
– I merely direct attention to that point as showing what, in the honorable senator’s mind, constitutes a party measure. If honorable senators on this side are not disposed to accept every amendment that comes from that side, apparently it is a party measure.
I did invite suggestions, but surely that does not imply a willingness to accept every suggestion made? Is am prepared to accept any suggestion that’ will tend to make the Bill more workable. This amendment is a threefold proposition - that the Commonwealth shall take the responsibility of finding houses for widows, for dependants, and for children up to the age of sixteen. Senator O’Loghlin found some comfort in quoting from the report of a meeting of the Returned Soldiers Association held here, but even the resolutions of that body did not ask for housing for dependants. If, therefore, Senator O’Loghlin finds so much strength and comfort in those resolutions, ho should join me in pointing out to Senator McDougall that his amendment goes too far. I demur to the proposition that Senator O’Loghlin can stand on the declaration of the Returned Soldiers Association one moment, and discard it the next, and I have still to learn that the Returned Soldiers Association will ask for less than what they think is a fair thing. If Senator O’Loghlin will read from the report, a copy of which I have before me, he will find that in the minds of the speakers was not the childless widow but the widow with children. Senator Ferricks dealt’ also with the widow with children, and seemed to think that she was provided for only in the Pensions Act. But where children are in existence this Bill” makes ample provision. .
– Not for the widow.
– It makes ample provision for the children, and where the children are amply provided for, they are no burden or tax on the mother. The only class excluded is the childless widow. That becomes a very simple proposition. When I tried by interjection to convey this idea, Senator Ferricks said the Bill did not provide housing. The honorable senator is wrong. The Bill leaves the repatriation authority to protect’ and nurture the children in whatever way is thought fit. It does not tie their hands to say that it shall find a house when a house is not suitable. It may be that a widow with children has a house. Obviously, therefore, the sensible way to help the children there will be not ito give them another house, but to give assistance in some other form. There may also be the case of a widow who, with a pension, is able to rear her children, but who is not in a position to give them the sort of schooling which she would like to give, possibly to send them to a high school. By leaving the Bill as it is now, so far as the children are concerned, the repatriation authorities will not be bound downto the house, but can travel over the whole range of beneficial activities, and they- are charged distinctly with the obligation and duty of looking after the children of incapacitated and deceased soldiers. We come down, therefore, to the widow who is without children. In the vast majority of these cases, the widow will be a young woman. I resent for the second time this day the suggestion that there is any want of sympathy on the part of those who take the same view as I do. We have to deal with the case of a comparatively young woman, who is receiving a pension of £1 a week. Is it intended that we should, in all these cases, provide a house for the woman, or in only some of the cases ? If it is to be done in all the cases it means that the pension is not enough, and ought to be increased.
A reference has been made to what is being done in New South Wales in this regard. The State is not finding a house in every case. It is giving the rental equivalent.
– Already 330 houses have been built for widows.
– By whom ?
– By the Government.
– The offer of the New South Wales Government was that they would find a house, or give the rental equivalent, and they are giving to-day 12s. 6d. per week. If that view is intended to be indorsed by this amendment, it is tantamount to saying that the pension ought to be 32s. 6d. a week, and not £1. If it is to be given to all the childless widows, the simple way to do it is not to throw any responsibility on or leave any option to the repatriation authorities, but to amend the Pensions Act so- as to provide that the pension shall be 32s. 6d. a week in the case of every widow without children.
– Will you bring down anamendment?
– Will you dothat?
– I will not.
– That is an honest admission.
– Let it go forward as a straight-out proposition that we are going to increase the pension in the case of these young women to 32s. 6d. a week, and we will immediately be met with a demand to raise the scale of pensions correspondingly.
– So you ought !
– All right; let my honorable friends take the responsibility of doing it.
– Certainly we will.
– Senator Ferricks put forward a very fair request. Seeing that this is a matter which ought to be dealt with in the Pensions Act, he asked what opportunity would there be of amending the Act. I can promise the Senate that a Bill to amend the Act will be brought down, and although the amendment will not cover ithat position, an opportunity will be given to honorable senators to introduce any amendment they like into the Act. I am not taking the responsibility of proposing an amendment, which, in effect, would mean an increase of about 60 per cent. all round in the scale of pensions. If honorable senators are going to start out on a scheme of that kind, they will pass from the principle which I think animated us all, of doing a fair thing to our returned soldiers and their dependants in trying to meet their cases according to the necessities - they will pass from that principle and go into a lavish scheme, which would not only involve almost impossible financial responsibilities, but would, I venture to say, prove; in very many cases, more harmful than beneficial.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added to the Bill (Senator McDougall’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
.- After the rejection of the first of my series of proposed new clauses, I do not intend to flog a dead horse very much. I move -
That the following new clause be added to the Bill:- “ 24. Employers promising to keep positions open for those who enlist shall register such promises with the names of men enlisting to whom it applies, and shall be compelled to honour their contracts upon the soldier’s return. This is also to apply to all public authorities.”
Some firms have not kept their obligations to returned soldiers. Men find themselves back again in employment, not at the salary which they formerly received, but at a lower grade. The Prime Minister has referred to . this matter in very strong; terms. I do not intend to refer to it in stronger terms than he used. I want to see embodied in this Bill in black and white a provision which will compel unscrupulous employers to keep their promises to unfortunate soldiers. I hope that we shall never have a repetition of what we have had here to-night. In all honesty and fairness, I moved the insertion of a new clause; and though you, sir, made a brave attempt to defend me against the abuse of an honorable senator, the Leader of the Senate did not intervene.
– I have every possible sympathy for the point of view expressed by Senator McDougall in this amendment; but I am going to ask him to consider whether it will be possible to give effect to it, even by a provision in an Act of Parliament. Many of these promises were given; there is no record of them, and unless a record was made at the time, I venture to say that one would have very great difficulty in proving in a Court the existence of a promise.
I take it that Senator McDougall does mean that this provison shall be retrospective. No language, I think, could be too strong to denounce the conduct of those employers who, giving a promise of that kind, were to an extent instrumental in inducing employees to enlist, and have failed to make the promises good. I see very great difficulty in trying, in an Act of Parliament, to provide anything in the nature of a punishment for such employers. I might tell Senator McDougall that I am now inquiring to see whether it is possible to get an authentic record of these promises, but, so far, the prospects are not at all hopeful. We have had returned soldiers stating that they were given certain promises by their employers. All that I can say about the matter is that I do not believe that any Court, on the evidence brought to me, would sustain the complaints.
– And many of the promises so given have been redeemed.
– Yes. I was going to say that there have been good employers and bad employers. Some employers have not only kept their promise, but have gone far beyond it. I have had very frequent and gratifying evidence of the desire of many employers, large firms and small employers, to go a good deal beyond that which they pledged themselves to when the war broke out. But, nevertheless, there are employers who have not redeemed their promises. I ask Senator McDougall, as a practical man, whether he thinks it is possible, by anything we can put in this Bill, to meet those cases ? And certainly, in the form in which this proposal is couched, I venture to say that it would be so much waste paper.
– The Bill will be found to be that before long.
– The proposal reads -
Employers promising to keep positions open for those who enlist shall register such promises, with names of men enlisting to whom it applies-
If there is an employer who does not intend to’ redeem his promise, he is not going to register it, and there will be no record. We can see now that possibly we were a little lax in the early days. I think that, where promises- of that kind are given now, an effort might be made to keep track of them. Up to the present the Government have received no evidence on which a prosecution could be launched.
– In some cases they have ceased to be employers.
– In some instances that, is so. I had brought before me one case, in which an employer was quite willing, but utterly unable, to redeem his promise, because the commodity in which he was dealing was imported. His manufacturing business depended upon importations, and as he could get no material, not only was he unable to redeem his promise, but he was not able to carry on his business. In a case like this, there was a bond fide excuse for a failure to redeem a promise. I ask Senator McDougall, therefore, to refrain from pressing his amendment. I do not think that it will do any good, and I suggest that he should leave me free to find out if it is possible to obtain a record of any of these promises. Senator McDougall also mentioned a case of a Government Department not keeping its promises. If by that he means a Federal Department, and if he will supply me with the particulars, I shall immediately make the necessary inquiries. I cannot believe, however, that any Federal Department is negligent in a matter like this.
– I did not say a Federal Department. I referred to the State railways of New South Wales.
– I am glad to have the honorable senator’s assurance; and again I say that if he will give me particulars of any case, I shall place myself in communication with the State Railways of New South Wales, and draw attention to their dereliction of duty.
– I think the Minister will find that there are two sides to that question also.
– I can only say, in support of the interjection by Senator Thomas, that I have been approached with similar complaints, and when I placed myself in communication with the Railway authorities in New South Wales I found that in two cases out of -three connected with the Eveleigh sheds, the men had not submitted an application, and that there was a job waiting for% them. I cannot help thinking, in view of my own experiences, that Senator McDougall was speaking under a misapprehension; but if he will give me the particulars, I will see that immediate representation is made to the Government of New South Wales, and I have no doubt, judging from their past actions, that they will right a wrong if one actually exists.
.- I see no difficulty whatever in requiring employers to register their promises. The proposed new clause will not be retrospective in its effect, and the intention is to deal with unscrupulous employers. I “admit that some employers are honorably fulfilling their obligations, and I think the amendment will do a lot of good, as well as help recruiting, because if men know that their positions will be kept for them on their return, they will have a greater inducement to enlist. I know of three cases in which employees of the Federal Government lost their positions when they were called up under the Military Service Proclamation of last year; but I am glad to know that when I brought the matter under the notice of the Minister, they were replaced. It is a fact, however, that those men lost about two months’ work. I will be able to give the Minister, not one, but dozens of cases, in which men have been subjected to this form of tyranny. We shall be doing something’ for the benefit of our soldiers if we pass a law calling upon employers to honour their promises to the men who go out to fight their country’s battles.
.- It appears to me that the clause has been moved for the purpose of killing time, because if a returned soldier does not desire to resume his former employment, the employer will not be exempt, from prosecution by the Government. Then, in the case of a returned soldier, perhaps maimed and on that account unable to follow his old occupation, there is nothing in the clause to release the employer of a promise he may have made. It is unreasonable to insert a clause compelling an employer to redeem a promise irrespective of the possibility that a returned soldier may not desire to follow his former occupation, or be unable to do so.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added to the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Amendment (by Senator McDougall) negatived -
That the following new clause be added to the Bill: - “ Employers as well as public authorities promising inducements such as making up pay, insurance, &c, shall be compelled to register such promises and carry’ them out under Government supervision.”
.- I move-
That the following new clause be added to the Bill:- “26. In order to protect returned soldiers from the sweating arising from “ freedom of contract” and “individual bargaining” and to protect trade unionism from any attempt to disrupt it by unscrupulous employers, all returned soldiers receiving preference ok employment shall receive full standard trade union wages and shall become members of the union of the trade calling into the employment of which he enters.”
The effect of this clause will be toprotec returned soldiers and trade unions from unscrupulous employers, who may desire to use returned soldiers for the purpose of breaking down the trade union system, which has been of such benefit to the workers of this country. So long as returned soldiers get the standard rate of wages, trade unionists will not object to their receiving preference in employment.
– Can you expect a crippled soldier to receive a standard rate of wages?
– No ; but wo would not expect a crippled soldier to be asked to follow his ordinary trade. I know a crippled soldier could not work at my trade, and I do not think he would be able to work at the trade which the honorable senator followed. There is an idea amongst trade unionists that unscrupulous employers will be tempted to use returned soldiers to break down trade unionism. Huge stacks of coal have been stored from one end of New South Wales to the other, but I have had an assurance from the Minister that this coal has been stored for war purposes. I am perfectly satisfied with that assurance, and I believe, also, that the men would be satisfied if they knew, but there is a certain feeling of distrust concerning these coal stacks. It is feared that they might be used to injure the cause of trade unionism, and that returned soldiers will be exploited for the same purpose.
– Do you not think that returned soldiers have some backbone themselves ?
– I believe they have; and I noticed, some time ago, that returned soldiers refused to load coal in New South Wales during a dispute. But, as I have said, there is a feeling in trade union circles that soldiers may be used to injure unionism. I do not think they will myself. They are standing loyally by those awards, but they have a feeling that something injurious to them may arise, and I submit this amendment in order to dispel that impression.
– I have been rather surprised to hear Senator McDougall’s remarks, as to my mind they throw some reflection upon the returned soldiers. He says that there is a feeling in trade union circles that the returned soldiers may in some way or another allow themselves to be used for the purpose of pulling unionism down. It used to be claimed by my honorable friends opposite that a large percentage of the men who went to the Front were unionists. If that be so, is it conceivable that, having gone to the war and proved themselves fully qualified members of the best and noblest union that has ever existed in Australia, they should turn their backs upon unionism, and lay iconoclastic hands on the unions they helped to support ? Senator McDougall will allow me to say that) fear as to the use which may be made of our returned soldiers is not the reason for the proposed new clause. It is not fear that the returned soldiers will become breakers of unions that is at the bottom of this proposal; The reason for the amendment is to be found in the latter portion of it. It is not that the returned soldiers will be used to beat down wages, because that is impossible since the wages are fixed by arbitration tribunals.
-It is felt that unscrupulous employers may use them.
– They cannot use the returned soldier to break down wages fixed by an award any more than they can use for that purpose a man who has never been to the war at all. By a conspiracy between employer and employee an award may be evaded, but that is a danger which, if it exists at all, exists to-day, and with just as much force as applied to the workman who is not a returned soldier. The real purpose of the amendment is set out in the last two lines of it. That is to say, that this is a proposal to compel the returned soldier to become a unionist. That is the real purpose of the amendment. The proposal is that we should de liberately rope in the returned soldier, whether he wishes it or not, and compel him to become a member of a union. To agree to the amendment is to say that preference to the returned soldier is a myth, that while we have talked about it it does not mean anything, and that he must become a unionist before he can get any preference. To accept the amendment would be to nullify altogether the policy of the present Government, which is to give preference to the returned soldier above everybody else. Having stated the simple issue involved in the amendment, I leave it to the Committee.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added to the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Amendment (by Senator McDougall) proposed -
That the following new clause be added to the Bill : - “ 27. Where assistance to returned soldiers is necessary to establish them in civil life, the amount required to enable them to support a family shall not be subject to payment of interest or repayment of principal.”
– I merely intimate that I am unable to accept the amendment, and leave it to the Committee.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added to the Bill : - “ 28. (a) No disabled soldier or sailor shall be discharged except at his own request or when equipped for and provided with work.
The Nation shall educate and equip such soldiers or sailors to earn their own livings.
The Nation shall provide means by scientific methods of overcoming disablements.”
In speaking on the second reading of the Bill I explained why if is desirable that such a clause should be included in it. It is unnecessary to go over the same ground again. I have no doubt that the Committee will see the wisdom of doing something in this direction. Some of the men are discharged before they should be, and some are not as well equipped to carry on their occupations as they might be. Some of our medical men admit today that we have not got the best scientific methods of overcoming disablement.
– I point out to Senator McDougall and the Committee that what the honorable senator isaiming at in regard to the education and equipment of these men is, as I thought I made clear when introducing the Bill, provided for. It is quite true that these facilities do not exist today. That is recognised, but I was able to tell honorable senators that already initial steps are being taken to establish workshops in connexion with hospitals, and that these will be followed up by more elaborate institutions to provide returned soldiers with necessary instruction. As I can assure Senator McDougall that the objects he has in view will be met, I ask him to allow the amendment to be negatived without a division.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time;
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until
I submit this motion, because, owing to the commendable expedition with which this Chamber invariably proceeds with the despatch of public business, we find ourselves a little ahead of the work in another place. I anticipate that by Wednesday next another place will have sent forward sufficient business to keep us employed. Meanwhile, I see no advantage in asking honorable senators to meet here when we have a practically empty business-paper.
– Whilst I have no intention of opposing the motion on this occasion at any rate, it seems to be somewhat unsatisfactory that the Senate should be called upon to adjourn so early in the session when there is business on the paper that can be discussed. I may remind the Vice-President of the Executive Council that I have two motions on the business-paper which I have not the slightest intention of allowing to be completely overshadowed by the forms of the Senate, or the desire of the Government to adjourn from time to time. While on this occasion I shall not oppose the adjournment, I certainly think that these two motions are of sufficient importance to warrant their discussion at an early date with a view to arriving at a decision upon them. I ask for some assurance from the Leader of the Government in this Chamber that if there be not sufficient Government business, to keep the Senate in session honorable senators will, during the next week or two, be afforded an opportunity of arriving at a decision in respect of private members’ business.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [9.51]. - I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to an inaccurate statement which appeared in the press of the 30th July.
– Order ! The honorable senator cannot do that.
– In reply to the remarks of Senator Bakhap, I have no desire to push on one side such important private business as that which stands in his name. But he must recognise that there are certain constitutional limitations imposed upon the powers of this Chamber, and it is inevitable, therefore, that from time to time it must be left without business. In submitting this motion, I was not actuated by a desire to consult the convenience of the Government, but rather by a desire to consult the convenience of honorable senators. I say atonce that if it is the desire of honorable senators that we should meet to-morrow for the purpose of proceeding with private members’ business I will willingly withdraw the motion.
– Is there not any
Government business on the notice-paper?
– What about the Daylight Saving Repeal Bill?
– That is a measure which will be received with such wholehearted unanimity that I hardly felt myself justified in calling honorable senators together for the purpose of dealing with it. In view of the generally hostile demonstration against the suggestion that we should meet to-morrow, I assume that the motion which I have submitted does commend itself to the approval of the Senate. But I can assure Senator Bakhap that I will see that he is afforded, at an early date, every opportunity of bringing forward the motions to which he has referred.
– We certainly ought to know the Government’s attitude towards them.
– I shall endeavour to ease the honorable senator’s laudable curiosity on that point when the House reassembles next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to revert to a subject which I was about to mention on Friday afternoon last, when I was prevented from doing so by the Standing Orders. I am sorry thatthe Minister for Defence is not in his place, but I am sure the Vice-President of the Executive Council will take a note of my remarks,’ and see that they are referred to him. The matter to which I wish to allude has reference to the statement of the Minister in connexion with the Critchley Parker pamphlets.
– Have we not had enough of that?
– Perhaps we have. The Minister for Defence stated that the editor of the Tribune did not wish to publish a letter which passed between the Catholic Federation and the Department of Defence, dated 27th March last. Now here is a letter written by the editor of the Tribune, which was published in the Argus of 27th July of this year. It is headed “ Official Correspondence,” and reads: -
To the Editor of the Argus.
It was stated by the Minister for Defence, in reply to Senator Needham yesterday, in dealing with the refusal of the censor to allow the publication in the Tribune of a certain correspondence between the Catholic Federation and the Defence Department anent the Critchley Parker pamphlet, said, “There was a rule that official correspondence should not be published without permission. The Tribune had not asked for such permission.”
– Order! The honorable senator is now referring to a previous debate which is not in accordance with the Standing Orders. As I understand the position, he is quoting from a debate which took place here a short time ago.
– I am reading a letter which appeared in the Argus on the 27th of last month. The portion that I have read does refer to a previous debate. Do you, sir, rule that I am out of order ?
– Certainly. Under standing order 414, no honorable senator is at liberty to read extracts from newspapers or documents, excepting Hansard, referring to debates of the same session. Yet the honorable senator is now attempting to read from a newspaper an extract which refers to a debate which took place during the present session.
– I am quite aware of that Standing Order, but I was not aware that it applied to a motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, an honorable senator is at liberty to speak on matters which are not relevant to the particular motion, but he is not entitled, under cover of that motion, to refer to matters which are otherwise out of order.
– I wish to bring a matter under the notice of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The other day I asked a question in reference . to an article which appeared in the Age relating to the high price of onions. I . asked if the Minister controlling foodstuffs had had any warning of the cornering of this product, andhe replied, “ No.” I think that his answer was unfair, seeing that on 16th January, 1917, I wrote to Senator Russell as follows : -
Dear Sir, -
I have been informed that large contracts arc now being, or have been made, for the exportation to America and Canada of most of our coming onion crop.
If this is the case, it will mean that we will have to import onions for our own use from abroad. As you know, the dearth of tonnage will make the cost of importation almost prohibitive, and the people will be called on to pay dearly for this substitute for their own crop.
I would suggest that inquiries be at once made into the matter, and, if necessary, the exportation of our own crop prohibited.
The reason given is that the American onion crop has been a failure.
Awaiting your reply,
Faithfully yours, (Signed) ALLAN McDOUGALL.
Events have since confirmed the prediction which I then made. In a statement which appeared in the Melbourne Herald the other evening, a merchant is reported to have said - “ It is not a boom. It is not even abnormal. Prices were much higher some years ago. I think they touched £29 10s. a ton.
Fewer onions are held in Melbourne than in any previous years. If more are arriving, they are being distributed as fast as they come to hand. Our export trade to America has been the largest on record. “ New Zealand is a large consumer. Orders were held up because there was no freight Now that difficulty is being overcome, and we are filling New Zealand orders received as far back as May.”
To the question as to whether a false market existed, he gave an emphatic denial. “ Twenty-five to 30 per cent. of theGippsland onions that are coming to hand,” be affirmed, * are rejected, and the remainder are of pour quality. The Western District crop is not so large as was expected.”
My complaint is that I was given an- answer that was not correct. On 16th January I gave warning of what would take place, and this merchant shows that my prediction was absolutely correct. The price of this food product is still rising. I believe onions are now £14 a ton, and likely to go up further. If the Minister in charge of foodstuffs had taken the slightest notice of my warning six months ago, this would not have occurred to-day.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [10.5]. - I wish to direct attention to ‘the very unfair treatment which the Commonwealth accords to those of its employees who enlist to fight for their country. In South Australia the Government makes up the difference, if any, between a man’s pay as a Government employee and as a soldier, and I believe the same rule applies in the other States; but the Commonwealth treats its employees much less liberally and generously. I am officially informed thatthe Commonwealth employee who enlists to fight for his country has to bear any pecuniary sacrifice involved. If his pay as a Commonwealth servant- is greater than his pay as a soldier, he loses the difference. That is most ungenerous and unfair treatment to mete out. to our soldiers. The Commonwealth should be at least as fair to its employees as the State Governments are to theirs. As the Minister of Defence is not present, I trust the Leader of the Senate will bring the matter under his notice, and under the notice of the Cabinet, so that this glaring anomaly may be rectified. I do not think any one can justify a policy which mulcts a man in a pecuniary penalty for serving his country, when he takes a risk of his life, severs his home ties, and makes other sacrifices.
– I shall bring the matter mentioned by Senator O’Loghlin under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 August 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170801_SENATE_7_82/>.