4 April 1918

7th Parliament · 2nd Session

The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 3581



Seizure of “ Hansard “ Reprints


– In view of the. recent invasion of Parliament by military authority and with military force, and since it is rumoured that you, Mr. President, were responsible to some extent for giving permission for the invasion, I should like to know whether you have any statement to make to the Senate concerning this gross infringement of parliamentary privileges?

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

– The only statement I have to make with regard to the rumour alleged by Senator Gardiner to exist is that there is absolutely no foundation whatever for the suggestion that I had anything to do with giving permission to anybody to infringe parliamentary privileges. However, in response to what I regard as Senator Gardiner’s invitation to refer to the matter to which I think he alludes, though he did not definitely mention it, I am quite willing, with the concurrence of the Senate, to state what I know of the incident.

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!


– I presume that Senator Gardiner alludes to the seizure in another place of certain reprints of Hansard by military authority or by some authority of which I have not been informed. The only knowledge I have of the matter is that some time after 12 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, the date of which I do not remember, and just as I was leaving the building, I got an urgent telephone call from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) informing me that he believed that there were 20,000 or 30,000 pamphlet reprints of Hansard on the House of Representatives side of the building which were not proper reprints. Seeing that Mr, Speaker was not. present at the time, the Minister asked me to issue instructions that these pamphlets should not be allowed to go out of the building until such time as he had obtained an opinion regarding them from the Crown Law authorities. I reminded the Minister that my authority did not extend to the House of Representatives side, but that, in view of the circumstances, which ho assured me were urgent, and which assurance was subsequently confirmed in a letter forwarded immediately, I said that, acting for Mr. Speaker, as he and I have always done for each other in urgent cases, I would issue the necessary instructions that the pamphlets should not be allowed to go out of the building until Mr. Speaker could be communicated with by telegram, whenmy responsibility would, of course, cease. Before 12 o’clock on the following Monday Mr. Speaker had arrived. That is all I had to do with the matter, and all that I know about it.

page 3582



Australian Representation

Senator NEEDHAM:

-I ask the

Minister representing the Prime Minister whether Australia will be represented at the forthcoming Imperial Conference, to be held in June. If so, what are the names of the delegate or delegates who will represent the Commonwealth? Further, if Australia is to bo represented at that Conference, will this Parliament be given an opportunity to discuss the questions that will be submitted to the Conference, so that the interests of Australia, as an integral portion of the Empire, may be protected?

Senator MILLEN:
Minister for Repatriation · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I propose to deal with the matter to which the honorable senator refers as portion of a Ministerial statement which I hope to make later in the day.


Senator NEEDHAM:

– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he is aware that Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian Parliament, is to accompany the Prime Minister of that Dominion to the Imperial Conference to be held in London this year, and, if so, are the Government in favour of the Leader of the Opposition of the Commonwealth Parliament accompanying the Australian delegates to that Conference?

Senator MILLEN:

– I understand that the statement to the effect that Sir Wilfrid Laurier is to be a co-delegate from Canada to the Imperial Conference is not correct. If the honorable senator will give notice of his question I will place myself in a position to speak more definitely on the matter.

page 3582

SUPPLY BILL (No. 5) 1917-18

Assent reported.

page 3582



Senator PEARCE:
Minister for Defence · WESTERN AUSTRALIA · NAT

– Before we last adjourned the honorable senator asked certain questions on this subject, and he was promised the information he desired. The honorable senator asked the following questions : -

  1. Number of aliens internedin the Commonwealth since August, 1914, and the cost of supervision and maintenance to date?
  2. Number of aliens subsequently released from internment?

The answers to the questions are as follow: -

  1. The number of alien enemies interned in the Commonwealth from the outbreak of war to 31st January, 1918, including persons removed from ships, and also males (but not women or children) brought from overseas to Australia, was approximately 5,973.The cost of supervision and maintenance to 31st December, 1917, was £787,659.
  2. The number of alien enemies subsequently released from internment was approximately 796.

Notes. -(a) The exact number of alien enemies who have been interned cannot be given, owing to (1) the nationality of some internees being doubtful, and (2) internees who have been released and again interned being counted a second time.

  1. The total given for the number released includes - (1) Germans brought to Australia after the capitulation of German New Guinea and afterwards repatriated under the terms of the capitulation; (2) alien enemies repatriated or allowed to leave Australia, under instructions from the British Government, in accordance with agreements between the British and enemy Governments; (3) Jugo-Slavs released for service in the Servian army and other Jugo-Slavs released as having pro- Ally sympathies; and (4) Czechs released as having pro-Ally sympathies.
Senator PRATTEN:

– At the last sitting of the Senate I placed certain questions on the business-paper seeking information concerning enemy aliens. Is the Minister in a position to answer those questions ?

Senator PEARCE:

- Senator Pratten was promised information in reply to the following questions : -

  1. How many enemy aliens have been interned throughout Australia since October, 1917, to date?
  2. How many have been liberated?
  3. How many have left Australia?
  4. How many have escaped from confinement?
  5. How many have been recaptured?

The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -

During the period 1st November, 1917, to 24th January, 1918 -

The number of alien enemies interned throughout Australia was 74.

The number of alien enemies released was 4.

One alien enemy left Australia.

The number who escaped from internment was 2.

The number recaptured was 2.

page 3583




– I ask the

Leader of the Government in this Chamber whether his attention has been called to the cases of perjury that have recently been tried in Sydney, in which the evidence clearly showed that a Beef Trust exists in Australia?Further, will the Government inquire whether there are trusts and combines operating in Australia to increase the cost of food to the people, and, if so, will these bodies be declared illegal associations, and prosecuted with the same vigour as the Government are prosecuting members of the Industrial Workers of theWorld?

Senator MILLEN:

-I am under the impression that the Government are taking steps to deal with the matter of price fixing. If the honorable senator will put his questions on the business paper I will endeavour to get more detailed answers to them.

page 3583



Senator THOMAS:

– I ask the Vice-

President of the Executive Council how much wheat, which has been bought and paid for by the British Government, is stored in Australia, and if the reason for its non-shipment is lack of shipping space ?

Senator RUSSELL:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · VICTORIA · NAT

– The reply to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -

The total quantity of wheat (inclusive of the wheat equivalent to flour) now in Australia which has been bought and paid for by the British Government, but not yet shipped, is 2,144,000 tons. Shipment has not been made owing to lack of freight.

page 3583


The following papers were presented : -

Australian Imperial Force. - Report by Right Honorable Sir S. W. Griffith, P.C., G.C.M.G., as to strength, casualties, required reinforcements, &c.

Cattle-Tick Pest - Report and Recommendations of Conference called by Commonwealth Advisory Council of Science and Industry.

Commonwealth Railways Act 1917. - By-law No. 2.

Customs Act 1901-1916-

Proclamation prohibiting importation and exportation (except under certain conditions) of Copra (dated 10th January, 1918).

Proclamations prohibiting exportation (except under certain conditions) of -

Animal Fertilizers and Superphosphates (dated 23rd January, 1918).

Butter, Cheese, Cream, Concentrated milk, Condensed milk, Condensed skim milk, or Dried milk (dated 13th February, 1918).

Defence Act 1903-1917. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 23, 24, 26, 27, 42, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72.

Electoral -

Statistical Returns in relation to the submission to the electors of the question prescribed by Regulation 6 of the War Precautions (Military Service Referendum) Regulations 1917; and Summaries of Elections and Refer endums, 1903-1917.

Statistical Returns showing the voting in relation to the submission to the electors of the question prescribed by Regulation 6 of the War Precautions (Military Service Referendum) Regulations 1917, within each subdivision of the States of -

New South Wales.



South Australia.

Western Australia.


Naval Defence Act 1910-1912.- Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 16.

Navy and Defence Administration. - Royal Commission. -

First Progress Report; together with Announcement by Prime Minister, and Memorandum by Minister for Defence, 15th February, 1918.

Second Progress Report; together with Reports by Finance Member and Quartermaster-General ; SolicitorGeneral’s Report and Memorandum by Prime Minister on Howell-Price case; Report by Secretary, Prime Minister’s Department, on observations in paragraph 27 under heading “ AuditorGeneral and his functions”; and Prime Minister’s decision on recommendations 11, 12, and 13, dealing with position of Auditor-General.

Third Progress Report.

Fourth Progress Report.

Decisions of Cabinet, 15th March, 1918, on Second, Third, and Fourth Progress Reports.

Memorandum, dated 18th March, 1918, by Minister for Defence, on the Reports of the Commission. ,

Memorandum by Prime Minister on the Reports of the Commission.

Papers presented to British Parliament. -

China - Text of Notes between United States and Japanese Governments regarding Policy, with Declaration of Chinese Government.

Dominions Royal Commission -

Minutes of Evidence taken in Central and Western Provinces of Canada in 1916 (Part I.).

Memoranda and Tables as to Chief Harbors of British Empire and Certain Foreign Countries, and Suez and Panama Canals.

The War-

Correspondence with Netherlands Go vernment respecting defensively armed British Merchant Vessels.

Correspondence with German Government regarding alleged misuse of British Hospital Ships.

Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1916. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 4, 20, 21, 22, 29, 30, 40, 49.

Audit Act 1901-1917.-

Amendment of Transfers of amounts approved by Governor-General in Council -Financial year 1916-17- Dated 23rd January, 1918.

Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 299; 1918, No. 13- No. 43.

Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired at-

Ayr, Queensland - For Defence purposes.

Bunbury, Western Australia - For Quarantine purposes.

Cordalba, Queensland - For Defence purposes.

King Island; Tasmania - For Defence purposes.

Launceston, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.

Lithgow, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.

Rosemount, near Brisbane, Queensland - For Defence purposes.

Rutherford, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.

Norfolk Island. - Ordinances of 1918 -

No. 1. - Export of Timber.

No. 2. - Executive Council.

Northern Territory. -

Crown Lands Ordinance 1912-1917. - Regulations amended.

Ordinance of 1917 - No. 11. - Crown Lands (No. 2).

Ordinances of 1918 -

No. 1. - Supreme Court.

No. 2. - Crown Lands.

No. 3. - Darwin Town Council.

Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910, and

Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1890 (of South Australia). - Plan showing certain Post and Telegraph Reserves in the Northern Territory, not required for the purpose of the Post and Telegraph Department, resumed by Proclamation appearing in the Commonwealth Gazette, dated 11th October, 1917.

Public Service Act 1902-1916.-

Appointments, Promotions, &c. -

Prime Minister’s Department - G. S. Brownley.

Department of the Treasury -K. J. Gorman.

Department of Trade and Customs -

M. F. Brownrigg.

W. A. B. Gibson.

Postmaster-General’s Department; -

G. Bolton.

L. B. Fanning.

R. T. Faragher.

Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 14, 15, 31, 32, 38, 64.

Public Works Committee Act 1913-1917.-

Third General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.

Seat of Government- Ordinances of 1917 -

No. 1. - Inflammable Liquid.

No. 2. - Explosives.

War Precautions Act 1914-1916.- Regulations amended, &c - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos,

5, 6, 12, 19, 25, 33, 34, 35, 37, 39, 45, 53, 55, 56, 57, 60, 61, 62, 66, 69, 73, 75, 80, 87.

Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1915. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 17.

page 3585



Business Commission’s Report

Senator PRATTEN:

– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he has yet received the accountants’ reply to the report of Colonel Thomas?

Senator PEARCE:

– No suchreport has been received.

Senator PRATTEN:

– It was published in the newspapers.

Senator PEARCE:

– I am not responsible for that. No such report has been received from the Commission.

page 3585



Australian Troops

Senator PEARCE:
Minister for Defence · Western Australia · NAT

– I ask the permission of the Senate to move, without notice, a motion concerning the terrible battle now proceeding inFrance, in which the Allied nations are engaged. [Leave granted.] I move -

That this House records its unbounded admiration of the heroic efforts of the Allied armies on the Western Front, its pride in the valour and achievements of the Australian troops, and itsfirm intention to fight on to secure a victorious peace and the freedom of the world.

I may explain that Senator Millen, as be has the Ministerial statement in charge, has asked me to move this motion. That is the reason why he, as the Leader of the Senate, is not moving it himself. It is a motion which, I am sure, will find a responsive echo in the hearts of all true Australians. All of us, no matter what our political views may be, have been stirred to the depths by the serious and dramatic events that have been taking place on the bloody fields of France. Not even the least imaginative of us can lose sight of the terrible portent that may be behind those events for the country that we love and to which we belong. It is no exaggeration to say that human liberty and freedom are at this moment trembling in the balance, and that the titanic fight now going on is a fight that will determine the future history of this globe for centuries to come. When we see the enormous hordes that Germany and Austria are able to put into the field, and that, notwithstanding the incomparable bravery of the British andFrench troops, they have been able to overwhelm many of our countrymen and to drive them back into a condition that constitutes a strategic danger to the Allied cause, we must all realize how serious the issue is. This Parliament, representing, as it does, the people of Australia, and being, as it is, the guardian of all those countrymen of ours who are at this moment fighting for our liberty, is the body best qualified to speak in the name of this country, and to send oversea to those countrymen of ours, to their British cousins, and to their gallant French and American Allies, a message of hope, encouragement, and admiration. In that message I feel sure we can all join. I feel confident that there is no room for a difference of opinion on the matter, and I hope and believe that this motion, moved as it will be in both Houses of this Parliament, will go forward as the unanimous expression of opinion of this country, showing our interest, our sympathy, our trust, and our hope in regardto this great struggle. Because I hope and believe that the motion will be the unanimous expression of opinion of the Australian people, I do not propose to say one word on any other phase of this great issue, except that - and I think I can be permitted to say it without arousing any hostile discussion, or without it. being said that I dragged into the question anything of a controversial nature - if ever there was a call for unity of action, if ever there was a call for us to forget our party and political and all other differences, and to remember only that we are Britons, and that in this struggle we stand possibly to share a common victory or a common fate, that call is now. That fact should surely enable us to learn the lesson that this great conflict is teaching us, and help us and all sections of the community to draw closer together to render support to our gallant countrymen, and our gallant Allies, who are so sorely pressed at this juncture.

New South Wales

– I asso iate myself with all that the Minister for Defence has said on the motion. I feel the gravity of the situation, for no one can read what is happening on the battle fronts of Europe without a considerable amount of anxiety ; but with all the anxiety that the powerful offensive of “the enemy may cause us, we know that it is in battle fronts alone that heroes are made, and Australia and the Empire, and their Allies, have developed quite a large number of heroes, who have in the past done valiantly, fighting, as the Minister has so well worded it, for human liberty and human freedom. There is another wise old saw that “high hopes fulfilled from disappointment spring,” and I venture to say that many of us of a more sanguine nature, who, perhaps, had looked upon the war as more than half won twelve months ago, can still feel that the present disappointment is only a temporary set-back, that the hopes, not only of Australia and the British Empire, but of the civilized world, will be realized, and that the flag of freedom will still fly over a civilized community. I join entirely with the Minister in the submission^ of the motion, and can join heartily also in his suggestion that the time has passed for personal or party differences. The time has passed for mere words and phrases which pretend to bridge over those differences, and, although I have not consulted the party .1 represent, I think I am speaking the thoughts of that party when I say that we are quite prepared to meet this Government in any sane proposal to assist our soldiers fighting at the Front. I second the motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators rising and singing the National Anthem.


– The motion has been carried without a dissentient voice.

page 3586



Report by Royal Commission.

Senator O’KEEFE:

– I ask the Minister for Defence if he has read the following portion of the Second Progress Report of the Royal Commission on the Navy and Defence Administration : -

At the inquiries conducted by the Inspector of Military Accounts and by the Board of Inquiry referred to in paragraph 2 of this report, it could not then be definitely established that any official in the Pay Office or in any other section of the Defence Department received any direct benefit from the “ pay sheet “ and other frauds alleged to have been committed by exLieutenant Howell-Price, although in some instances the circumstances were such as to create grave suspicion. Owing to the decision not to proceed with the further charges against the accused, these circumstances could not he followed up. The incident discloses gross. negligence and laxity, and provides a remarkabledisplay of unquestioning credulity. It is inexplicable ‘that ex-Lieutenant Howell-Price was not prosecuted for embezzlement or for the alleged forage frauds, but was convicted on a charge of forgery only, when it is considered that the amount involved under the two former heads far exceeds the sum in respect of which the forgery charges were laid. In justice toall concerned, and in order that certain suspicion may be removed, we think that proceedings should be taken-

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens:

-Order! The honorable senator is contravening my ruling, as well as the well-known practice of this Senate, namely, that questions must only be asked for the purpose of obtaining information, and must contain no argument. The honorable senator is reading a long statement from, I presume, a report of a Royal Commission. If other honorable senators were to be allowed the same freedom of discussion, the asking of questions would be endless, and . would lead to very lengthy debate. The honorable senator is only entitled to indicate the passage to which he alludes when asking a question, and must not read a long statement.

Senator O’KEEFE:

– I have no desire to contravene your ruling, Mr. President, but in this particular instance the question I desired to ask was1 contained in the last line of the paragraph which I was just about to read. It would have been impossible for me to ask my question unless I had read the paragraph referred to. I now ask the Minister for Defence if he has read the report - of course, we all take it for granted that he has - and if, in pursuance of the recommendation contained in this particular section of it, he intends to take any steps as suggested 1

Senator PEARCE:

– I can assure the honorable senator that I have read the report very carefully, including the particular paragraph referred to.. I would suggest that the honorable senator peruse the papers which I have laid on the table of the Senate this afternoon. These include a memorandum by the Prime Minister, and give reasons for the action taken in regard to the Howell-Price prosecution. The papers to which I refer will be circulated among members, and the honorable’ senator will have a complete statement, upon which he may base subsequent criticism or questions.

Senator O’KEEFE:

– The Minister has not replied to my question, which was> based on the explicit recommendation in the latter part of the paragraph, that further proceedings be taken in order to straighten out certain matters and to remove suspicion from certain people, as well as to ascertain if there have been further frauds involving other persons. Has the Minister made up his mind to give effect to the recommendation by instituting further prosecutions ?

Senator PEARCE:

– The answer is No, for the reasons set out in the memorandum by the Prime Minister which I laid upon the table of the Senate to-day.

page 3587



Senator LONG:

– I ask the Minister for Defence if the regulation dealing with public statements, but directed more particularly against the organization known as Sinn Fein, has been laid on the table of the Senate, and, if not, when the Government propose to lay it on the table 1

Senator PEARCE:

– I do not think that regulation was among the papers laid on the table to-day. I will see that the honorable senator is informed when this is done.

Senator Long:

– You had better cut it out altogether.

page 3587


Senator MILLEN:
Minister for Repatriation · New South Wales · NAT

(By leave). - Since Parliament rose, as honorable members are doubtless aware, the Treasurer (Lord Forrest) has been obliged by serious indisposition to resign his position m the Government. Honorable senators will, I am sure, join with me in wishing the right honorable gentleman a speedy restoration to health, and in congratulating him upon the signal honour bestowed upon him by His Majesty the King in recognition of a long and distinguished public career. The vacancy thus created has been filled by the appointment of the Honorable W. A. Watt, as Treasurer. The Honorable L. E. Groom has assumed the office of Minister for Works and Railways. Senator Russell has been appointed Vice-President of the Executive Council. The following gentlemen have been added to the Ministry: - Honorable A. Poynton, Honorable G. H. Wise, Honorable W. Massy’ Greene, Honorable R. B~. Orchard. The reasons for these appointments and the duties assigned to the new Ministers will be referred to later.

The Senate and the country are aware of the gravity of the present military situation in Europe. Without attempting to arouse undue anxiety, it is plain that the British and Allied Forces are being subjected to a strain hitherto unparalleled in this fearful war. The Empire is now facing a crisis which calls for the utmost effort and sacrifice. In the face of the common danger it is not too much to hope that the people of all parts of the Empire - including this Commonwealth - will present a united and unwavering front. Only in such unity can safety be found. The Government invites, and will do everything in its power to promote, this vital national solidarity. It will be within the knowledge of honorable members that the British Government has asked representatives of the Dominions to meet in London at an. early date. The Government feels that at this critical juncture Australia must be represented thereat. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) are to represent the Commonwealth,

In a Ministerial statement addressed to Parliament shortly before the adjournment, it was intimated that the Government propose to take steps in the near future with a view to strengthening it, and making it more efficient to meet the increasing pressure of war duties and those economic and other conditions arising out of the war. It has been obvious for some considerable time that the pressure upon several Departments caused by the war necessitated such a policy. The difficulty thus felt will be intensified by the absence of two senior Ministers visiting London. The additions to the strength of the Government to which I have before alluded have been made to meet the situation thus created. In connexion with these new appointments, it ‘ has been deemed advisable to arrange such a re-allotment of Ministerial duties as to secure the most efficient discharge of the public business. Mr. Poynton will act as Minister for the Navy and will also have charge of shipping and shipbuilding. Mr. Wise will discharge the duties previously undertaken by Mr. Groom, and will be give,n certain defined lines of administration, among which will be allotments and separation allowances, contracts^ and supplies until the business board takes these over. Citizen Force administration, rifle club matters, works and certain details of the Australian Imperial Force. ^ It has been arranged that Mr. Orchard’* shall have complete control of the recruiting movement, and be free, as far as possible, from administrative work. The recruiting staffs will, however, be passed under his control. The Government has reason to believe that its proposals relating to voluntary recruiting will thus be stimulated, and that by the co-operation of all classes in the community the desired reinforcements will be forthcoming.

A large number of commercial undertakings of considerable magnitude, the direct result of the war, has heretofore been centered in the Prime Minister’s Department. These matters include metals, wool, wheat, butter, and others of a similar character. The control of these will be transferred to the Trade and Customs. Department. Senator Russell and Mr.0 Massy. Greene will be associated with the Minister ‘ for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen), and two representatives of the business world will be invited to act in consultation with them. Although Ministerial responsibility will be fully maintained, it is hoped by this to secure the assistance of competent business men, and thus insure the handling of the gigantic undertaking above referred to with national advantage under a minimum of friction.

Certain financial measures will be presented, including an Income Tax Assessment Bill, Supply Bills covering supplementary estimates for the two past years, and for the necessary provision for the current year, and Bills relating to inscribed stock and to the sinking funds.

A Bill to amend the Defence Act will be introduced, embodying many of the suggestions made by the recent Royal Commission to inquire into military and naval administration. Provision will also be made for strengthening the Citizen Forces.

In order to co-ordinate the work of the Defence Department more completely with the other Commonwealth Departments, and with the general policy of the Government, it is proposed to establish a Council of Defence, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Navy, the Minister for Defence, representatives of the Navy and Defence Departments, and two members of the recently appointed business Board.

Honorable senators are familiar with the proposals of the Government with reference to recruiting. The Minister for Defence will deal in detail with this matter later in the debate.

The Commonwealth ship-building scheme is now definitely established. The Commonwealth Government has taken over from the Victorian Government the State Ship-building Yards at “Williamstown, and two standardized steel ships of 5,500 tons are now under construction. Six others of similar design will be also constructed there. In addition to this a contract has been let with the New South Wales Government for the construction of six similar vessels at Walsh Island, and for two at Devonport, in Tasmania. Negotiations for the construction 6f steel ships in Queensland and South Australia are not yet complete. All the material and- engines for these vessels are being manufactured in Australia. That is, with the exception of the large plates for the first six ships, which were not procurable here, and were ordered from America. This material is now on its way.

In June, 1917, an order was placed in America for fourteen first-class wooden ships of 3,200 tons, four to be equipped with two full Diesel engines, and ten first-class wooden cargo steamers. Owing to various reasons, mainly to troubles with shipways, delivery of material, labour troubles, &c, the delivery of these boats has been delayed. Two vessels have been launched and others will shortly follow. All are expected to arrive in Australia during the year.

Twenty-two oversea ships have been diverted from the Australian trade, and to further meet the urgent and pressing requirements of the British Government five others under Commonwealth control have been diverted. In addition to this, twenty-six vessels hitherto engaged in the coastal and Eastern trade and eight engaged in New Zealand trade have been released for the use of the British Government. Two contracts for construction by private firms in Australia of wooden ships to be fitted with auxiliary engines have been completed. One is for six ships of 2,600 tons. The second is for six ships of 2,300 tons.

Senator Bakhap:

– Can the Minister say in which State that contract has been placed ?

Senator MILLEN:

– I am not able to say.

Senator McDougall:

– What does it matter so long as the ships are being built? That is the important thing.

Senator Gardiner:

– The States again.

Senator MILLEN:

– I am not able to say which particular States are to build those ships. I will be able to give that information later, however.

Senator Barker:

– Say Tasmania.

Senator Bakhap:

– Why not? We have been able to build ships in Tasmania long ago.

Senator MILLEN:

– Orders for material for seven additional steel ships to be built in Australia, of same type and design as those now under construction at Williamstown and Walsh Island, are now the subject of negotiation.

Senator Bakhap:

– Is Walsh Island all right? I am speaking to the honorable gentleman who said it was a State matter just now.

Senator MILLEN:

– With a view to utilizing vessels engaged in the Australian coasting trade to the best advantage, and in order to free as many ships as possible for the service of the British Government overseas, regulations have been made providing for the appointment of a Controller of Shipping, a Deputy Controller of Overseas Shipping, and a Deputy Controller of Coastal Shipping, who, with six representatives of the Inter-State companies, constitute an Inter-State Central Committee. The Controller of Shipping has power to requisition any vessels registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade, and to vary the rates of fares and freights to be charged on vessels requisitioned. He may also determine which vessels may be made available for the oversea shipping service.

After protracted negotiations with representatives of the Labour organizations interested in the ship-building industry, practically the whole of the unions concerned, with the exception of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, have signed the agreement, which the Government laid down as an essential to the commencement of the construction of ships, providing for continuity of operations, dilution of labour, and piece-work. Piece-work rates have been mutually agreed upon in a number of cases, and the Federal Ship-building Tribunal appointed to settle disputes is now engaged in determining further piece-work rates.

The economic and industrial problems which face the Commonwealth during and after the war have been the subject of careful consideration; and the Government has formulated a comprehensive scheme of organization which it has submitted for discussion and criticism to the Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures. The Government has been met in a broadminded and patriotic spirit by these bodies; and after full discussion the main principles of the scheme have been approved. They involve the complete organization of all industries, primary and secondary, into associations, which will send representatives to a general Council ofCommerce and Industry, and the Science and Industry Bureau will be thoroughly equipped and re-staffed to be at the disposal of this organization. The scheme is directed to enable Australian industries to adapt themselves to the new conditions, and to rebuild, on a new basis, the post-war channels of trade and commerce.

As the result of numerous complaints in connexion with the delay in delivery of cornsacks to meet the requirements of last harvest, Mr. Percy Whitton, Chief Prices Commissioner, was instructed to make a full inquiry into the matter, and his report has now been received. This report will be laid on the table for the information of honorable senators.

To establish and maintain better interests between capital and labour, it is proposed that the Attorney-General shall also be Minister for Labour; and an Advisory Council, representing employers and employees, will be appointed to keep touch between the Department and the industrial interests affected. Legislation will also be brought forward to remove certain defects of the existing industrial machinery, and to provide more effective methods of dealing with industrial problems. The matter is, in this time of national crisis, of the highest importance for defence; and it is proposed to deal with it by a Billframed in reliance upon the Defence power - and therefore free from the complicated constitutional limitations of a Commonwealth Arbitration power. The scope ofthe measure will be limited to certain industries of national importance - for example, transport, base metal mining and metallurgy, coal mining, the manufacture of iron and steel, the handling of wheat, &c, for export, the manufacture of munitions, &c.

The Act for the repatriation of our soldiers has been proclaimed, and will be operative from Monday next. The regulations have been gazetted to-day, and if they are not available to-day they will be available for honorable senators upon the next day of sitting. In connexion with this new Government activity, I propose, one day next week, to make a statement fully setting out for the information of honorable senators, not only a summary of what has been done, but also an indication of the many activities for which provision has beenmade. It has been found necessary in connexion with this Act to provide for certain amendments to be made. I have given notice to introduce a Bill to achieve that purpose.

That is the statement which I proposed to put before honorable senators as to the proposals of the Government for the present session, and it embodies information on many matters which are, I think, of very considerable public importance. To enable the Senate, if it wishes, to discuss this statement, I beg to move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.

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Did the Defence Department receive from the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League, the Trades and Labour Council, and the Chamber of Manufactures a written request to the following effect, viz.: - That in the interests of wounded soldiers and others a Committee of the best surgeons available - preferably Inter-State - be appointed to deal with all surgical appliances submitted to the Defence Department; the Committee to determine, subject to the formal approval of the Minister for Defence, what appliances shall be adopted; the proposed Committee to supersede the present Advisory Board, which, although having eminent men in its personnel, has no real power but to advise, such advice not necessarily being adopted by the Defence Department?

If so, will the Minister accede to this request?

Senator PEARCE:

– The answers are -

  1. A written suggestion was received on8th September, 1917, from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures that a Board of Surgeons, or surgeons and business men, with executivepower, should be appointed to whom inventions that aim for the relief of suffering or maimed soldiers could be submitted. This was replied to on 25th September, 1917, by a communication pointing out that there are in existence in Victoria two Advisory Boards consisting of leading surgeons and physicians respectively, to whom inventions in connexion with surgical appliances are referred for expert advice.
  2. Approval was given some time ago for the formation in each State of an Advisory Committee consisting of the best available surgeons and physicians. Much valuable service has been rendered by these committees in connexion with all matters concerning the health and well-being of the troops, and surgical and medical inventions and appliances have been submitted to them for examination and report. In addition to these permanent committees the Department has always been able to obtain the services in an advisory capacity of the best experts in all branches of medical and surgical science. Under the system suggested the proposed Committee would be Federal in character. This modification, if adopted, would involve more disadvantages than advantages. Apart from the difficulty of bringing together from all over Australia the several members of the Committee, it has been found in the past that, owing to local variations in conditions, corresponding variations in the provisions made in the several districts are sometimes advisable. The granting to such a Committee of powers other than advisory is not necessary for the purposes in view and not advisable for other obvious reasons.

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Senator PRATTEN:

asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

  1. Is the inclusion of sugar, or are articles containing sugar, prohibited in soldiers’ parcels to Europe?
  2. If so, why, and at whose request or authority ?
Senator RUSSELL:

– The answers are -

  1. No.
  2. See answer to No. 1.
Senator PRATTEN:

– Arising out of the answer, mayI point out that last December Colonel Oldershaw specially stated that sugar was prohibited from being included in soldiers’ parcels?

Senator Russell:

– That would not matter. He is not a responsible Minister.

Senator PRATTEN:

– Then why does the Minister not reprimand him for making an irresponsible statement?


– Order!

page 3591


Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Wednesday next.

Senate adjourned at 3.55 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 April 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.