7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon.. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he noticed in this morning’s newspapers’ the statement that Mr. Holman, the Premier of New South Wales, has made final arrangements with General Pau for the care of soldiers’ graves in France? If this be so, was Mr. Holman acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, or do the Government intend to keep the control of this business in their own hands?
– I read the paragraph on this subject which appeared in this morning’s Argus with considerable astonishment, and for this reason : More than - two years ago the Commonwealth Government communicated with the British Government and arranged with them for the creation of a Graves Commission to deal with the graves of all British soldiers from any part of the Empire, no matter in what theatre of the war they might have fallen. On. that Graves Commission Australia is represented by the High Commissioner.
– Does the arrangement apply to graves in France as well as in Gallipoli?
– Yes, to all theatres of the war. Frequent communications have passed between the two’ Governments on the subject, and we have been kept fully informed of all action taken. A register of graves is being compiled, and arrangements are being made for headstones, photographs, and the notification of relatives. Frequent statements have been made to the pressby myself as to the action which has been taken, and the constitution of the Graves Commission. In the circumstances, honorable senators will realize that I was considerably astonished at learning from the newspaper paragraph this morning that Mr. Holman has made all the necessary arrangements in this connexion. I do not know what Mr. Holman may have said or done to justify the paragraph referred to, hut I mention the fact that more than two years ago these arrangements were made between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government.
Administrative Work in London.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Upon whose recommendation and upon what grounds did the Commonwealth Government lodge the protest against the erection of the proposednew Trades Hall, Brisbane, upon the site fixed by the Queensland Government?
– The answer is-
Upon the recommendation of the Commonwealth Meteorologist, on the ground that the erection of the proposed building will seriously interfere with the meteorological records, particularly the temperature and humidity readings with which the life and health statistics are so intimately concerned.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave begiven to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the estates of deceased soldiers.
Bill received from House of Represen tatives.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill passing through all its stages without delay.
In submitting this, motion, I inform honorable senators that it is desired only to carry the Bill to the moving of the second reading to-day. The Minister who will have charge of the Bill will move the second reading, and it is then proposed to adjourn the debate until the next day of sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 12th December (vide page 9147), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- By courtesy of the Minister in charge of this innocent-looking measure, I was enabled to look through it last night. I find that, like other innocentlooking things, it has a sting in its tail which justifies me in opposing it for all I am worth. There are some provisions in the Bill to which I have no objection. Clause 2 provides for the suspension of the system of examination for appointments to certain positions in the case of boys up to eighteen years of age who have served in the Australian Imperial Force. That is a proposal to which I have not the slightest objection. I do not share the fears which some persons have expressed as to the consequences if our hoys who went to the Front are given these privileges. I think that steps might very well be taken to protect the interests of young fellows who left private employment to go to the Front before they bad served their apprenticeship to different trades. There is some provision to deal with such cases under the . Repatriation Act, but I believe that in many instances that provision has not operated effectively. There is provision in this Bill to appoint members of the Australian Imperial Force to the Public Service without requiring them to pass the prescribed examination. That has my approval. I have never favoured the prescribed examination for appointment to certain positions in the Public Service where men are put to an education test to pass which requires qualifications that are not at all necessary for the performance of the duties which they will be called upon to perform. Many men have been turned down as the result of these educational tests- who could have carried out efficiently the work required to be done.
Clause 3 of the Bill proposes the insertion of a new section to permit of the dis; missal of enemy subjects “without compensation. A .private employer, when he dismisses a man, gives him no compensation. He merely tells him to get out. If the Public Service were conducted to a greater extent on the lines on which outside services are conducted, it would give greater satisfaction than it does to-day. After a man has been in the Public Service for a few years, be anticipates that certain benefits will accrue to him later in life, and does not care about leaving his job, whilst a. man in private employment will have no hesitation about throwing up his job at any time for one he considers better. It very often happens that the benefits anticipated by public servants as certain to be enjoyed in the future are found to be only myths.
Clause 4 of the Bill makes provision in the case of extra holidays in addition to. the eight holidays prescribed by the principal Act. The Minister has said that claims have been made for payment for these holidays, and, in my opinion, the claim for payment for them is a just one. I approve of the proposal to grant a day’s pay for any extra holiday on which a public servant may be employed. But I do not approve of the proposal to pay only a proportionate part of a day’s pay where the officer has worked during only part of a holiday. I do not believe in that at all. If a man is brought back to ‘ work on a holiday he should receive a full day’s pay for it. I know that there are some cases in connexion with post-office3 in outlying districts where men may be called upon to put in only about half-an-hour’s work after the arrival of a mail, and it may not be reasonable to ask that they should be paid for a full day in such cases. But in many cases a man may be brought back ‘ to work in the middle of a day for an hour or two, and his whole day is practically lost. When the Bill gets into Committee I shall submit an amendment to provide that no proportionate payment shall be less than half-a-day’s pay. I do not know whether the Minister will be prepared to make that concession, but I think it is a fair one to make.
The clause to which I strongly object is that which would enable the Public Service Commissioner to override any award of the Arbitration Court. I have always believed that the Government should be just as completely bound by Arbitration Court awards as are outside employers. In my view, the provision suggested is unconstitutional. It would have the effect of creating a Court superior to the Arbitration Court. I shall not support any such proposal. I noticed that the Commonwealth Government were recently fined in open Court for a breach of an award of the Arbitration Court. It is a disgrace . that the Commonwealth Government should be fined for a breach of a law of their own creation. If the Public Service is to be made attractive, public servants should be treated in the same manner as private employees.
I have not much more to say, except that as clause 6 provides that there shall be no extra payment for concession holidays, it will mean that the employees, if they are required to work on those days, will get no extra pay. Concession holidays should be treated in the same way as “ holidays made by an award of the Arbitration Court. What I particularly ob- ject to is the principle that enables the Government, in the administration of tha Public Service, to override an award of the Arbitration Court, thus placing Government servants in a position different from persons employed by private employers.
– I should like to ask the Minister in charge of the Bill why the usual practice of supplying honorable senators with a copy of the original Act, and showing the effect of the proposed amendment, has not been adhered to on this occasion. It is a very great convenience to honorable senators to be able to refer to the original Act as proposed to be amended, instead of having to wade through it in order to ascertain the effect of any proposed amendment.
– I regret that this course has not ‘ been adopted, but I shall make inquiries, and ascertain the reason.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time,
Exclusion of Strangers from Precincts of Parliament.
.- I rise, Mr. President, to bring under your notice, as a matter of privilege, a gross indignity to which I was subjected last evening. Some time after 10 o’clock - at about half-past 10, I think - one of the officers pf the Senate informed me that certain persons desired to speak to me, and, of course, the Senate being closed, I had of necessity ‘ to go down on to the steps of Parliament House to see them. I saw a man who had been well known to me for a considerable time. He explained that they desired to discuss with me a matter of great urgency to a number of people in Victoria, and also to- the public generally. I invited him and his friends to accompany me to my room - the room set apart for my accommodation at the rear pf the Senate, where, as Leader of the Opposition, I transact all my public business. When I returned to enter the House, an official acting, so I was informed, under the instructions of Mr. Speaker, said that although I would be permitted to enter, my friends would not. I am not making any complaint against him. He treated me with the utmost courtesy. Now, as honorable senators know, I am of an easy disposition, so, not desiring to cause unnecessary trouble, I preferred to enter the Senate by the back entrance in order to take my friends to my room. I do not know if I was in any way encroaching upon my privileges as a member of this Senate in so inviting my friends to my room to discuss public matters with me, and I want to know now whether Mr. Speaker has power to prevent me or any other honorable senator from inviting friends to the precincts of the House, or whether we may be subjected to similar indignities to those I suffered last evening. I felt it very keenly, especially as I was prepared to vouch for the reputation of my friends.
I want to say further - although I do not like to give expression to this view - that I have felt of late that I have been personally singled out for indignities. I do not think that you were aware of the incident which I (have mentioned as occuring last evening. Possibly this is the first you have heard of it, but many things have happened in regard to certain matters, and my present disposition is to put my protest in the form of a resolution in such a way as to compel their immediate discussion by the Senate. On a question of privilege, my complaint is that I, as a member of this Senate; accompanied by a few friends, was refused admission to the precincts of this Senate yesterday evening, and I feel I would not be discharging my duty were I not to report it to you immediately.
– Perhaps I may be permitted, for the information of Senator Gardiner and other honorable senators, to briefly review the position as between Mr. Speaker and myself in regard to the conduct of affairs in this Parliament. The honorable senator is quite right in assuming that this is the first that I have heard. of the matter to which he refers. In ordinary circumstances, Mr. Speaker has supreme control over his side of the House as I have over the Senate side; but we have a mutual arrangement that when one is absent the other will act for him. That is the generally recognised practice, and I think honorable senators will agree that ib is a sensible one for carrying on the business of Parliament. I noticed in the paper this morning that there was some little commotion outside Parliament House last evening, and I may say that on fo’rmer occasions, Mr. Speaker and I have had to take drastic action to insure good order, and for the protection of Parliament, because it must be remembered that Parliament ceases to be a free Parliament if anything it does or attempts to do is the result of pressure of any kind, it may be from an association or individuals, in conjunction with outside interests. Parliament must be absolutely free from control of that sort, or it ceases to be a free Parliament. It is in the fulfilment of these duties that Mr. Speaker and I have, on other occasions, taken drastic action, for which we have accepted full responsibility. But I never did consider that those instructions went to the length of preventing any honorable members of this Parliament from bringing friends into this House, especially when they are - as Senator Gardiner said he was - prepared to vouch for them. Had I been here last evening I certainly would have prevented any such action.
I want also to assure Senator Gardiner that he is under an entirely false apprehension if he thinks for one moment that he has been singled out by me at any time for differential treatment and indignity which would not be put upon any other honorable senator. As far as I am concerned, that apprehension is totally unwarranted. As a matter of fact, I have heard other honorable senators on his own side express the view that I have conceded to Senator Gardiner more latitude than I have allowed other members of this Chamber.
– For the sake of your own reputation I hope you have not.
– I have tried to be fair in every particular.
– I have never asked for privileges; I only want my rights.
– As. I have said, I have tried to be fair to every honorable senator.
– May I ask you, Mr. President, was I within my right in asking friends to discuss a matter of public importance with me in the room set apart for the Leader of the Opposition at the rear of this chamber?
– Certainly; so long as the honorable senator can vouch for the persons concerned. That right is generally recognised. It must, however, also be recognised that the rights of Parliament override the rights of any member of the Legislature, and even the rights of the Government. I have always contended that the rights of Parliament -are superior to those of the Government.
– Is it not a factthat some little time ago a deputation crowded into the Queen’s Hall ?
– That is quite true; but immediately I heard of it I gave instructions that no- such deputations should be allowed there in future. When one of the members (Mr. Rodgers) wanted to take certain .people round to a better position, from which they could hear to more advantage, I stopped them. I took full responsibility for my action. I can only again assure Senator Gardiner that no attempt has ever been made to put any indignity upon him, and that no indignity will ever be put upon him while I am occupying this position. But it must be recognised that the rights of Parliament are supreme over the rights of any honorable senator, and members are expected to loyally protect Parliament from any outside influences whatsoever. I do not accuse, nor do I suggest, that Senator Gardiner has done otherwise. I think that possibly a mistake occurred last evening, and if I had been acquainted with the facts I would have seen that Senator Gardiner was not interfered with. That is all I have to say in the matter.
– Let me say, in order that there may be no idea of illfeeling in the matter, that T only asked for permission to enter the front door in order to -take my friends to the room set apart for rr.e at the rear of the Senate. It is a fact that there had been a commotion in front of Parliament House, as the outcome of a public gathering, but it had broken up, and there was no commotion when I presented myself at the door with the .people whom I desired to take into my room.
– I feel sure that it was entirely a misunderstanding, and I hope the honorable senator .will accept that assurance.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- I ask the Minister in charge (Senator Russell) not to proceed with the Bill this session. It is not so simple as it appears to be. On the contrary, it is of very great importance to the Public Service of the Commonwealth, for it overrides the decision of the Arbitration Court. I did not have an opportunity of speaking on the second reading of the Bill - I am not complaining, Mr. President, that Senator Russell rose to reply before I was able to speak - but I do ask the Minister to realize the very serious position that will be created by wiping out the effect of the Arbitration Court award. Personally I am not prepared to hurry forward a measure which contains a provision of that kind. I ask the Minister, in all friendliness, seeing that we are approaching the end of the session, to consent to the postponement of the Bill until we have been afforded an opportunity of thoroughly looking into that provision. A clause which practically says that this Parliament is going to do something which will render null and void a decision of the Arbitration Court, is of too serious a character to permit of its consideration being hurried.
– In order to make the position perfectly clear to the Leader of the Opposition, may I say that, upon reaching my office this morning I saw the secretary of the Public Service Association,
Mr. T. W. Meagher. I explained to him the provisions of this measure quite frankly, and he took no exception to any one of them. I am afraid that Senator Gardiner is labouring under a misapprehension. If he will agree to the measure being proceeded with until we reach clause 5, which is the clause to which he objects, I will move for the postponement of that provision until he has had a reasonable time to consider it.
– I propose to refer to clause 5 of the Bill, for the purpose of showing how it affects this clause. It reads -
No extra payment shall, in pursuance of any award made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911, be made to any officer in respect .of duty performed by him on any day before the 24th day of September, 19i7-
which was, under the law of a State, appointed to be a public holiday; and (!>) which the Minister administering the Department in’ which the officer was employed, had, in exercise of a discretion conferred upon him by the award, allowed as a holiday.
Upon reading that clause, honorable senators will understand, what we are being asked to do.
– That clause is intended to prevent the post-dating of any claim.
– I am only interested in having the whole of this matter placed clearly before the Committee. I take my full share of blame for not having spoken upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The VicePresident of the Executive Council knows the circumstances which brought about that result. I thought that he had risen to make an explanation, and being reluctant to intervene, I sat quietly in my seat. The result was that I lost my opportunity to speak upon the motion. I gather from the statement which has been made by the honorable gentleman, that he imagines that somebody has interviewed me upon this question.
– Oh, no !
– Clause 5 struck me last evening as being one of very grave importance. I have in my mind a case in which a decision was given by the Arbitration Court some considerable time ago - a decision which the Government refused to accept. If that be not a fact, the Vice-President ‘ of the Executive Council will have an opportunity to explain the position. But I believe that the Arbitration Court has given an award in regard to certain holidays which the Government have declined to accept.
– Order! The honorable senator is discussing a later clause of the Bill.
– I quite realize that I shall be the subject of special treatment.
– Order! The honorable senator is not in order in reflecting upon the Chair.
– I simply mate the statement that I am quite aware that I shall be subjected to special treatment.
– If the honorable senator makes that statement as a reflection on the Chair, he must unreservedly withdraw it.
– I unreservedly withdraw it.
– I rather fancy that the suggestion made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council was scarcely appreciated by Senator Gardiner. That suggestion was one which was submitted to Him and to other honorable senator?. From Senator Gardiner’s remarks, I gathered that the part of the Bill to which he takes exception is clause .5. The Vice-President of the Executive Council thereupon suggested that if the Leader of the Opposition would consent to the Bill being carried to’ that stage, the consideration of clause 5 would be postponed until next week, which would not only allow Senator Gardiner all the time’ that he requires to look into it, but would also afford the Minister a further opportunity of considering it. I submit that his suggestion is a reasonable one.
– If the conditions are such as the . Minister for Repatriation has stated them to be, what is the difference between adjourning the debate upon the Bill now, and adjourning it after we have dealt .with all its provisions other than clause 5 ? In the consideration of measures presented by the Government to this Chamber, there has certainly been no undue delay. But clause 5 strikes me as being so objectionable that I ought to have an opportunity to put the whole case against it before any portion of the measure is proceeded with. There is, therefore, very little difference ‘ between Senator Millen’s suggestion and my own, and consequently I cannot see why the debate on the Bill should not be immediately adjourned. Certainly time will be saved by adopting that course. If the difficulty which I have in my mind can be satisfactorily adjusted my attitude towards this Bill will be similar to my attitude towards all other Bills that have been presented to us. But if that difficulty be not satisfactorily adjusted, my attitude towards the Bill will be the attitude which Senator Millen himself would adopt in similar circumstances. T do not make that statement in the nature of a threat, although I know that my manner sometimes suggests to the Minister for Repatriation that I am threatening the Government. With the volume of business that is awaiting our attention, why should the Government endeavour to force thi3 Bill through hurriedly?
– I do not think that the honorable senator can fairly make that statement in view of the suggestion which I have offered.
– ^1 thought that the objection which I had urged would have been met in a reasonable way. I am under the impression that this Bill is intended to override an award of the Arbitration Court. If my statement be not correct, I ought to be informed of the fact, and I ought also to be informed of the reasons why my statement is incorrect. I think it would be far better if the consideration of the Bill were deferred until next week. I am not in an obstructive mood, and I am not labouring under any feeling of soreness over last night’s incident. I am merely asking that the consideration of the Bill he deferred until I have had from the Minister an exact explanation of the particular portion of it towhich I have referred - an explanation that doubtless I should have received had I jumped up and spoken on the motion for the second reading of the measure.
– In my speech upon the second reading of the Bill, I said that clause 5would probably prove to be a debatable clause.
– To me the Bill looks like an attempt on the part of the Government todisregard an award of the Arbitration Court.
– When I offered the suggestion which I made just now, I did so solely with the idea that we are working to-day under the shadow of Christmas. I made that suggestion with a view to allowing us to make as much progress as we can on matters upon which there is no difference of opinion, and to postponing until next week matters upon which some discussion will take place. In short, my object was to economize time. If that ecenomy will be achieved by postponing the consideration of the Bill until next week the Government are quite willing to adopt that course. I therefore suggest to my colleague that he should agree to the postponement of the Bill until next week.
– I welcome the suggestion of the Leader of the Senate. His present attitude is, I think, a wise one. So far as this Bill is concerned, provided that a satisfactory explanation of the matter relating to the Arbitration Court he forthcoming, it will receive no more opposition from me than do ordinary measures which come before this Chamber. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to get the fullest information upon the subject I have mentioned, before the Bill again occupies our attention.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 12th December, vide page 9146) :
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Eligible person “ means -
An Australian soldier who satisfies the Commissioner that he -
is married; or
is about to marry; or ( iii )has dependants for whom it is necessary for him to maintain a home; or
the female dependant of an Australian soldier. “ Female dependant “ means the widow of an Australian soldier, or, in the case of a deceased Australian soldier who was not married, his mother, provided that -
she is a widow and was, prior to the enlistment of the soldier, dependent upon him; or
her husband is so incapacitated as to be unable to contribute materially to her support; “Holding” means land of which an applicant or borrower is the beneficial owner in fee-simple.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) a suggestion to extend the definition of the term “eligible person.” My proposal is that something should be done by the Government following upon lines laid down in the Queensland DischargedSoldiers Settlement Act, wherein provision is made for the erection of workers’ dwellings at repayment rates of 10s. 4d. per £100 per twelve months, as against the rate payable under this Bill of 12s. per £100. The scope of the measure might well be extended to embrace any persons who have served in any of the Armies of His Majesty the King.
– The term “Australian soldier” means any Australian who has served with any section of the King’s Forces.
– I suggest going even further. The scope of the Queensland Act includes any person who has served in the Imperial or any of the Dominion Armies, and who afterwards settles in- Australia. It is reasonable to assume that after the waT there will be a large influx of population to the Commonwealth. Australia has received a great advertisement - not only from the fact of our troops having proved themselves fighters of the first class,’ but also owing to the circumstance that the average Australian soldier abroad has been characteristically free with his money. That has naturally appealed to soldiers from other parts of the Empire ; and they would say to themselves, “ A country which can provide so liberally for its troops ought to be a good place for me to settle in.”
– It was the best advertisement Australia ever had.
– I am glad to have that confirmation ; but there was another great advertisement which Australia received, and as to which, I think, Senator de Largie will not support me. I refer to the fact that the Commonwealth turned down conscription. However, I do not wish to introduce that debatable subject, but to argue strictly upon a nonparty basis. I firmly believe that people in Great Britain and other parts of the Empire have become so heartily sick of their experiences under conscription that they would be inclined to say, “ Australia, which would have nothing of conscription, is the place for us.”
The purpose of the Government in this measure, is to build dwellings to overcome the housing problem for our returned Australian soldiers. Even accepting the Minister’s statement that the Commonwealth, by financing this project, may experience a loss of about 1 per cent., that would be a loss well balanced by the results achieved. I am confident, however, that, before very long, if this scheme does not become entirely self-supporting, it will closely approximate to that desirable state. If the Government accept my suggestion for the inclusion of all persons from any part of the Empire who have served in any of the Armies of the Empire, that will liberally expand the scope of this measure. I do not contend that Australia should provide housing accommodation for the world at large; but it would be a good thing if the scheme had the effect of attracting former Imperial soldiers to immigrate to Australia. Honorable senators will not have forgotten the national expenditure undertaken prior to the war, in advertising our country for the promotion of immigration. If we can offer the proposition in this Bill as an inducement, we shall be’ doing something practical towards adding to our population.
– Would it not be better to incorporate that project in a different measure altogether?
– There is no need for that, seeing how simply the scheme has worked in Queensland. I move -
That the following paragraph be added to the definition of “ Eligible person “ : -
The term may be extended by the Governor-General in Council so as to include in any individual cases or class of cases members of His Majesty’s Naval or Military Forces during the present war, whether from the said United Kingdom or any of His Majesty’s Dominions, for the purposes of the present war, who have received their discharge from service before their arrival in Australia.
If the Minister is not inclined to give immediate consideration to the amendment, I hope he will agree to the recommittal of the clause subsequently, in order .that some such provision may be included.
– My sympathy is entirely with the suggestion of the honorable senator. I would naturally be anxious to do anything possible, not only as a recognition of the war services of our blood brothers in other parts of the Empire, but also as an inducement to immigration. But we shall have a fairly tough proposition in meeting the necessary requirements of our own men. Repatriation, like charity, should begin at home. I am not at all certain that we are out of the wood in regard to the obligations which we must take upon ourselves for adequately dealing with our own men. If it were not for our responsibilities concerning them, T would willingly accept the amendment to broaden the scope of this measure as Senator Ferricks desires. Not only with regard to this aspect of our repatriation efforts, however, hut in connexion with many others also, it is highly necessary that we should go slowly before making our schemes all-embracing. For example, with regard to land settlement, many people have urged that it would be an excellent plan to make the conditions applicable to British soldiers. ,To-day we are’ confronted with the difficulty of finding land for our own men. It would be an infamous wrong, both to them and to former British soldiers who may immigrate, to include all in our promised benefits when, at the same time, the Government could not meet their requirements. This whole subject is wrapped up with the public policy upon immigration ; and, concerning that, there have been various opinions expressed as to how far Australia should look for a-n access of population consequent upon the termination of the war. The matter has not escaped the notice-of the Government?, and is part of the larger problem regarding how far we can offer inducements to the former British soldier to come out to Australia. Before we advance any inducements, we must be perfectly certain that we can fully redeem our promises. At present I do hot feel that we’ would be in such a position.
If the Government can see their way clear to adopt the principle of the amendment, they will do so. But I ask the honorable senator not to press his proposition now, but to accept my assurance that the whole question of the treatment to be meted out to the British soldier is under the consideration of the Cabinet, and will be further dealt with during the recess. If Senator Ferricks pushes his amendment now, I shall not be able to support it, although, as he knows, I have every sympathy with it.
– I was pleased to hear the Minister state that we shall have an opportunity to consider this Bill after the recess.
– The honorable senator did not hear me indicate that.
– I judged so by the tone of the Minister’s remarks.
I support the amendment, and desire to bring to the notice of the Minister a further good reason why the definition clause should be broadened. Only those Australians who have served^ with the Australian Imperial Force, or with other British . Forces, are to come under the scope of the Bill as it stands. I call attention to the case of those Italian reservists who were resident in Australia, and who were called to their national colours. I suppose that French reservists in Australia were also called up, and their position would be the same. They fought, or were prepared to fight, in our own cause, and they went just as willingly as any one else.
– Then they concealed their .willingness very successfully.
– I desire to avoid the debatable question of conscription, but am bound to state that it was with a feeling of great repugnance that I witnessed a country, which would not accept conscription, permitting, residents of Allied nations to be conscripted to their countries’ colours. If those reservists, after the war, should return to Australia and become naturalized, surely it would be only fair that they should be given the benefits of this legislation. I think I am correct in saying that after a certain period we _ were not enlisting unnaturalized subjects of other countries. I . hope the Minister will give attention to the case of natives of other countries who went, by force or willingly, to the war at, their country’s call. I doubt if there is a big percentage of them, and not a very big proportion of those who did go will want to take advantage of this Act. In that international frame of mind that is spreading its sentiments so rapidly throughout civilization, the Minister might consider their case.
– Why should not their own Governments build them homes ?
– If an unnaturalized Australian who went to Italy to fight at the call of his country returns here when the war is over, is it reasonable to expect Italy to do anything for him ? He has left his own country, and thrown his lot in with us.
Another section that I should like to see “included is the munition workers who went away to serve in Great Britain.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing that question on the’ amendment now before the Chair.
– I want to see munition workers included in the definition of eligible persons.
– If the honorable senator wishes to move a farther amendment, he can do so at the proper time. “
Senator MILLEN (New South “Wales-
Minister for Repatriation) [12.3]. - I was able to inform Senator Ferricks that I viewed his suggestion with sympathy, but I cannot extend the same conciliatory assurance to Senator Gardiner. The unnaturalized Italians to whom he refers are aliens. They were residents here, but not citizens of Australia. The very fact that they were called on to serve in Italy was evidence that they owed allegiance to another Power. I can hold out no hope of including them in this Bill. We should not jeopardize the successful working of the Bill by unduly loading it up financially by bringing in a number for whom this scheme was not primarily intended.
– Would a naturalized Italian come under it?
– Yes, if he enlisted with our Forces, because then he would be an Australian. The Bill was intended, not for all classes, but for those Australians who fought for the Empire during the recent war.
– What would happen to a naturalized Italian’ or Frenchman who. immediately war was declared, went to his own country and joined the colours 1
– I do not think provision is made for him, but if he wished to .serve in the war, would he not have joined the Australian Forces?
– Sentiment might come in.
– Then . his naturalization was only on paper? If a man took out naturalization papers with the sincere intention of becoming a member of this community, he would join our Forces. Another powerful reason why he should do so is the difference between, the pay offered by European countries and the much more reasonable remuneration offered to those who joined the Australian Forces. I question whether any naturalized Italian would have gone to Italy to enlist when he could enlist here.
– Strange ‘to say, the very case which Senator Millen regards as impossible has occurred, to my knowledge. An Australian native, son of French parents, for some reason, instead of enlisting as an Australian with the Australian Forces, went to France, joined up with the French Forces, and was in the fighting line to the finish. It seems remarkable that men should do this, but there may be other cases. Would men of that kind have any rights under this Bill?
– That man is an Australian.
– But he did not enlist as an Australian.
– I can see from the Minister’s attitude that he is merely bringing forward this Bill as the thin edge of the wedge, and is not prepared to extend its operations to the classes of persons already mentioned. That is somewhat to be regretted. As a student of political economy, the Minister must realize that the more people come to Australia the greater the possibilities of the country. It is absurd to say that, with all the intelligence at the disposal of the Federal Government and the various State Governments, and the innumerable committees at work now trying - to run the country, ways and means cannot be discovered to find land that can be made available. There are more than 3,000,000 square miles in this country. Millions of acres are not occupied; millions are held out of use. The Commonwealth, with its vast machinery, ought to be able to extend to British soldiers the same privileges that the Queensland Labour Government can extend to them. That Government is able to offer, not only to Queensland returned soldiers, but to any returned Australian, or any other person, conditions far in advance of those offered by any other State. It should not be impossible to extend the operations of this measure so as to embrace at least all those persons embraced in the Queensland Act. The more people are brought to Australia, the higher will be the land. values of Australia, and the more money we shall get from that source later on,, when we impose the straight-out land tax without exemptions or graduations.
– After Senator Grant’s suggestion as to increased land values, I suppose I ought to support this amendment. 1 have had a good deal of sympathy with those Italians who have been torn away from their peaceful avocations amongst us, and sent to fight for their country, but that was one of the hardships of the war. They were Italian citizens. Citizens of other countries were subjected to the same conditions. Many of them went voluntarily. These men deserve sympathy; but their country should provide the means to settle them if they want homes here. It is going to take all Ausralia can do to provide for her own soldiers, and we should be quite- sure that we are not cutting any of our own men out.
– The ‘State will let those people have Crown land at the same rate as our people.
– Yes, if they become naturalized. All those foreign Governments that have been fighting so loyally with us will get a splendid cut out of the indemnity from the German people, and can apply a considerable portion of that money in building homes for those who have fought for their own countries. Although, as Senator Grant says, an influx of population will have the effect of increasing the price of land here, I am sorry that I shall have to oppose the amendment.
– Senator Millen scarcely believes it possible that a naturalized foreigner would go to his own country, to fight on the poor pay offered there, rather than enlist in our own Forces on the high pay we offer. But when the conscription campaign was on, I actually discussed this, question with a .Frenchman. He was an ardent conscriptionist, and was most em phatic in his objection to our action in offering high pay. He said a soldier fought for his country without pay. He was quite sincere in that view. He was a peculiar product of his nation, and such cases are by no means rare. ‘ It is not hard to realize the sentiment of a Frenchman who immediately went away to fight under the banner of his country when his country was attacked, although he was a naturalized subject of Australia. If such a man comes back from the war, he appears to be debarred from taking advantage of this measure. When he went away, he might have had no idea of what Australia would do in the war. The first troops we sent away went to Rabaul. When France is attacked, all the instincts of his youth rise up in a Frenchman, and his one desire is to defend the country he was born in. That is the sort of thing I am always complaining about in the foreigners from Great Britain that I see around me. They too frequently go back, mentally, to their own country, and forget Australia.
– You are now directing attention to quite another class - the Australians who have served somewhere in this war. That is not the point you first raised.
– My attention was called to that class by Senator Ferricks’ amendment. On the second reading, I said I hoped we would not bind ourselves so hard and fast as to be prevented from doing things which a Commissioner administering the Bill would think legitimate. If more time were given for discussion, probably more cases could be brought forward.
– Several cases have been referred to as proper to be brought within the provisions of this Bill. I think it is a reasonable proposition that we should make provision for an Australian who ha’s served with any section of the Imperial Forces, and that he should be given the benefits of this Act. I might be prepared to go so far as to say that we should provide that any Australian serving anywhere on the Allied side should receive those benefits. But, for the reasons I have given, I do not think it would be entirely safe at this juncture to adopt the wider amendment submitted by
Senator Ferricks. If the honorable senator will agree to withdraw his amendment T shall have an amendment prepared to include within1 the provisions of this Bill any Australian fighting in the war, no matter what Allied colours he fought under.
– Perhaps the Minister would accept the suggestion to draft an amendment which will be. satisfactory to himself, not leaving the matter entirely open, but leaving it to the discretion of the Commissioner.
– I should like to have an opportunity to look into that proposal before giving a definite answer.
– I do not suggest that the Minister should give an immediate answer.
– I have in mind the case of an Australian soldier who went to the war, leaving behind him a widowed mother and a sister dependent upon him. While he was away the mother died, and he was subsequently killed. The sister who was entirely dependent upon the soldier is left.
– Is she a single woman ?
– Yes. I am anxious that such cases should not be overlooked. I recognize the absolute impossibility of following in this Bill the various ramifications of relationship. But it is for that reason just as well that difficult cases which occur to. honorable senators should be mentioned. The Commissioner under this Bill will be authorized to lay the foundations for the spending of £50,000,000, and the Committee might very safely intrust such an officer with discretion to decide in special cases whether a person is a dependant of a soldier within the meaning of the Act.
.- I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he will consider the proposal to include within the benefits of this measure men who left Australia to serve as . munition workers. I know that a num ber of those men were not eligible for service in the Australian Imperial Force, but they were anxious to do their bit on behalf of their country. I am aware that in some cases very great hardship has resulted from these men going away. Some have impoverished themselves, and have lost their previous business connexion. I think it is reasonable to apply the benefits of this Bill to such men. 1 do not believe that there were in all a great many of them, They went to the help of their country in its time of peril, and they should, in my opinion, receive some consideration, as well as those who engaged in active service in the war.
– I know of some cases where all the eligible members of a family went to the* Front. I can mention the case of one family where the sons, who were really the mainstay of the family in carrying on the work of a farm, went to the Front. During their absence the father died, and the widow, being unable to carry on, was left practically destitute. Two of the sons were killed at the Front, and yet” the widowed mother, in this case, would not be included within the definition of dependant under this Bill.
– Is there a son alive?
– It would be necessary for him to keep a home if he wished to keep his mother, and he could apply for a home under this Bill and take his mother to live with him.
– It struck me that such a case as I have mentioned would not be covered by the Bill.
– If the honorable senator will look at sub-paragraph (iii) of paragraph (a) of the definition of “ Eligible person “ he will see that it includes an Australian soldier who satisfies the Commissioner that he has dependants for whom it is necessary for him to maintain a home.
– I think that would cover such a case as I have mentioned. I direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that in this Bill “ Holding “ is defined to mean land held in fee simple. It is quite possible that some of our soldiers on their return will desire to live in the Federal Capital Territory, in the Northern Territory, and in some other territory of the Commonwealth. I know that some men who enlisted in South Australia came from the Northern Territory. To deal with them provision shouldbe made to include leaseholds within the definition of “ Holding.”
.- The matter to which Senator Senior has last referred was mentioned during the secondreading debate, and I have asked the draftsman to see how far it may be possible to meet the conditions that obtain in Federal Territories. In regard to Senator Foil’s suggestion to include munition workers amongst those eligible for benefits under this Bill, I point out that throughout our repatriation legislation we have designed benefits for those who took up theduty of fighting for the Empire, and we have drawn a sharp line between them and all others. If it is intended that we should extend our repatriation efforts to others than those who have risked life and limb, we should not do so in a partial way, as is now suggested, but we should “reconsider the whole question of repatriation. Personally I do not think that We are called upon to make the same provision for those who served as munition workers and in other civil capacities as for those who risked life and limb in defence of the Empire. I therefore ask the honorable senator not to press his proposal at this juncture. If munition workers were included in the benefits of this Bill it would be difficult to see how we could refrain from amending the larger measure of repatriation in order to put them on the same footing, under that Act, with those who were on active service abroad.
– I can see that there are many difficulties confronting the Minister, and I sympathize with him oh that account. But I submit this position for his consideration : A munition worker, at a great pecuniary sacrifice, leaves Australia and goes to Great Britain to assist in producing munitions of war, and is not included amongst those who may benefit under this Bill. A military officer, at no pecuniary sacrifice, but at great pecuniary advantage to himself, goes to London to assist in the Empire’s participation in the war, and is included amongst those who mayshare in the benefits provided for in this measure. I cannot see how the munition worker can be said to be less entitled to consideration than is the military officer in the case I have suggested. But I do see the principle that is involved in the differentiation made, and I agree with the Minister in adhering to it.
I rose chiefly to call attention to the definition of dependant. When Senator Senior mentioned a particular case, the Minister referred him to the fact that an eligible person will include one who has dependants for whom it is necessary to maintain a home. I find that a female dependant is defined to mean the widow of an Australian soldier, or in the case of a deceased Australian soldier who was not married his mother, provided that -
– The honorable senator will see that there is a difference between “ dependants “ and “ female dependants.”
– I see that there is.
– A soldier may be a single man- with a number of younger brothers and sisters to bring up, and he will need a home for that purpose. His case is covered by sub-paragraph (iii) in the definition of “ Eligible person.”
– I realize that this Bill is going to be interpreted by civil servants, and the Minister knows how prone they are to interpretation according to the strict letter of an Act. We cannot legislate for exceptional cases, but we can so legislate that such cases will not be shut out from all consideration.. At thetime a soldier goes to the war his mother may not be dependent upon him. Her husband may not be incapacitated, but may refuse to support her, and she is left to the support of her son. The son may be supporting a wife, and they may give the mother a home. I do not think that such a case would be covered by the Bill, and I suggest that a clause might be drafted, not for the purpose of giving any one benefits under this Bill, but to give the Commissioner powers sufficiently wide to prevent the shutting out of really deserving cases.
– If the suggestion of Senator Gardiner is not adopted I foresee that it will be necessary for the Government to bring down later an amendment of this measure extending the definition .of “ Eligible person.” That will be found necessary in connexion with regulations recently promulgated by the Repatriation Department, aud it will be found necessary here, unless some such provision as Senator Gardiner has suggested is adopted. I think that we might, with a fair degree of safety, give the Commissioner power to exercise his discretion in dealing with individual cases of hardship. It would be impossible in four or five lines to describe all the persons who might be fairly regarded as eligible for the benefits of this measure. .1 see no provision here to deal with the case of a woman whose husband may have deserted her, or been divorced from her, who was dependent upon her son during the time he was at the Front, and whose son has married abroad. I should regard the mother in such a case as entitled to consideration under this Bill quite as much as some of those who will be included. I suggest that the Minister consider the suggestion to bring forward a comprehensive amendment leaving this matter in the hands of the Commissioner.
.- “In view of the statement made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) I shall- not press my amendment; but I think his statement that there is a line of demarkation between the soldier and munition worker is wrong, and that, in the near future, it will be necessary to review the whole position. An army, no matter how brave, is powerless without the munition worker.
– You could extend that argument to those who have made money available, for our war loans.
– The big man, with money available at 5 per cent., cannot be placed in the same category as the munition worker.
– Money is just as essential as munitions.
– But the capitalist who provided money from his banking account at 5 per cent, did not risk his life.
– Nor have munition workers, as a rule.
– The Minister is wrong. We have read reports from time to time of terrific explosions at munition factories, causing the death of a large number of munition workers. Only the other day I read of a man who, having been rendered physically unfit by service in previous wars, was not eligible for active service in this war; but he went to England as a munition worker, and, as the result of an explosion at a munition factory, he was blinded. That man has come back to Australia to find that he is not eligible to participate in the benefits of this scheme, or any of the Repatriation Department’s activities.
– But he obtained compensation from the British Government.
– Compensation would not be equivalent to the privileges enjoyed by returned soldiers under this Bill. I fail to see why such a man- should not have the opportunity of getting a home of his own.
– I do not know that anything can be more thankless than to be forced into taking up the position of appearing to resist amendments in connexion with which there is a large amount of sentiment. It is possible for honorable senators to go on bringing up hard case after - hard case, and upon them to base a claim for a widening of the provisions of this Bill, apparently placing the Minister in’ the position of appearing rather hardhearted because he cannot accept amendments, however much he may sympathize with them. I yield to nobody in my sympathy for those who have suffered in this . war. . But any one who takes a balanced view of the position will recognise that a responsible Minister, before accepting an amendment, must ascertain its probable effect upon repatriation generally and the finances of the country. Senator Grant’s suggestion presents all the difficulties in a nut-shell. He says that we should give to the Commissioner power to make provision for any case that he thinks fit. If we did that we might as well strike out all reference to eligibility, and simply say that any one can come under the provisions of this measure if the Commissioner approves of the application.
– But the Minister, himself hopes to see that state of affairs brought about some day.
– Yes; but we have no right, in the name of a soldiers’ housing Bill, to bring in a general reform of that character. I am prepared to go as far as any one in bringing about effective legislation for the suitable housing of the masses of the people; but we have no right to use this scheme for any reform of that character. If_ the people are ready for such a proposal, let us approach the problem directly, and not use a Bill brought in for one purpose as a lever for the introduction of a scheme with which it has nothing to do. In spite of what Senator Gardiner says, I believe the terms of the measure are fairly wide and liberal, and much as I would like to go with honorable senators in the direction of still further widening it, I do not feel justified at this juncture in accepting the suggestions made. I have not the slightest doubt that the Bill will require amendment. A man who has any practical knowledge of politics, and especially of a measure of this kind, affecting as it will hundreds and thousands of people, who will come under its provisions, would be an egotist if he thought it would not require revision at some future date. I ask the Committee, therefore, not to unduly widen its provisions at the present time, in view of the fact that honorable senators will always have an opportunity of reviewing this legislation.
– I direct the attention of the Minister to the definition of “ Borrower “ and “ Purchaser.” For the sake of clarity
I think it would be advisable to insert the word “eligible” before “person” in both definitions, so that a ‘ ‘ borrower ‘ ‘ would mean an “ eligible person who. has received an advance,” and a “ purchaser “ would mean an ‘ ‘ eligible person who has purchased from the Commissioner a dwellinghouse and land.” The Minister might consult with his officers and Bee if it is not advisable to make these definitions clearer.
– I shall do that.
.-I am going to bring another hard case under the notice of the Minister, who, I think, will admit that I could easily have embarrassed him had I framed an amendment to meet the case of the French soldier to whom I have already referred. I refrained from doing that, because we have no right in a matter like this to press amendments which might place the Government in a false position. When I was speaking on the second reading I said that it would not be advisable to tie ourselves down to definitions that might prevent us from doing what, perhaps, we may desire to do. Let me quote the case of a soldier who has a large family, but the mother of the family is not* his wife. Would she be provided for under this Bill ? I do not think she would.
– If the soldier is not dead he could apply himself.
– If deceased, would his widow come under the Bill 1
– Legally she would not be his widow, and legally would not come under this Bill; but if it were possible to provide for cases of the kind, I should be disposed to allow such a woman to have the benefit of this measure.
– Just so. The Minister will pardon me if I bring under his notice these hard cases. Perhaps he will remember that I was occupied almost daily for about fifteen months, in the Defence Department, dealing with hard cases, such as those I have just mentioned. This Bill should deal with such cases. I ask the Minister to consider this aspect of the problem. I am not going to suggest how we should alter the definitions, but I ask him to give the matter consideration, so that in the future he may not be prevented from doing what he might feel inclined to do if the law allowed him.
.- I move-
That after the word “ simple “ in the definition of “ Holding “ the words, “ or is the holder of a miner’s homestead lease or perpetual lease “ be added.
Yesterday, I understand, the Minister (Senator Millen) said he would consider favorably the question of including certain land held on perpetual lease under the operations of this measure. I point out that in the definition “Holding “ means “ land of which an applicant or borrower is the beneficial ownerin feesimple.” On the mining fields throughout the Commonwealth there are many blocks of land that are utilized as residential sites. Some of them are occupied by very modest buildings, though in afine position from a residential point of view. 1 know that many young men, holding miner’s homestead leases, are so situated, although they are occupying residential sites by virtue of miners’ residence rights, renewable from year to year. I think the Minister stated yesterday that he thought he could make some provision to bring perpetual leases in the Federal Territories under the operation of this Bill, but he said nothing about leases on mining fields, and I feel that, if they are not included, the beneficial operations of this measure will be somewhat restricted. My amendment will widen the scope of the scheme. The Government should not take up the position that the Queensland Government should be expected to accept the whole of the responsibility in the erection of soldiers’ dwellings merely by reason of the fact that the land is held under perpetual lease or under miner’s residence rights.
– Would it not be a fair proposition to expect them to provide homes on land of which they hold the feesimple ?
– Under this Bill the Commissioner may take any land under fee simple. It is quite wrong to suggest that it is only inferior or inaccessible blocks which are utilized for town or suburban perpetual leases, as was asserted yesterday either by Senator Crawford or SenatorReid. I have since lookedup the DischargedSoldiers’ Settlement Act of Queensland, and also the Workers’ Dwelling Act. and I find that those Statutes empower the State to acquire land anywhere for the purpose of perpetual lease, just as does our own Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act.
– That means that the State may be repurchasing land from private land -owners.
– I think that the Queensland Government are now acquiring a portion of the reserve at South Brisbane in the direction of Belmont. They intend to utilize this land for the erection of soldiers’ dwellings. I may say that workers’ dwellings on perpetual lease’ are not a bit unpopular amongst the returned soldiers in Queensland. Yesterday, I mentioned that 382 applications for these dwellings had been approved, and that, during the past three months, sixty-seven Additional applications from returned soldiers had been received. These figures may not be re* garded as very large, but for a single State they are, nevertheless, very satisfactory. Between the 5th September and 5th December of the present year, there was an increase from 315 to 382 in the number of approvals given to applications by returned soldiers for perpetual leases in the towns and suburbs of Queensland. That shows that these men are taking advantage of the first three years’ freedom from rental in respect of land, which may thus be acquired, and of the half rental terms which are granted during the following eleven years. Ordinarily, perpetual leases issued by the Queensland Government in towns and suburbs carry a charge of 3 per cent., but in the case of returned soldiers this rate has been reduced to 1½ per cent. If the Government will consent to a similar provision being inserted in this Bill, it will be necessary for them to lay down the conditions under which our soldiers shall occupy perpetual leaseholds in towns and suburbs after the erection of homes upon them. At any rate, I commend to the notice of the Minister the conditions operating under the QueenslandAct, which require returned soldiers, who take up perpetual leaseholds in town and suburbs, to pay only half the usual rental after the first three years of their occupancy, and to liquidate the survey fee by instalments extending over ten years. I ask the Minister not to discriminate between perpetual leaseholds in Queensland and similar leaseholds in the Federal Territory. There is no good reason why the Government should differentiate between town and suburban perpetual leaseholds in Queensland and the lands in our Federal Capital Territory.
– In the one case the Government making the advances will own the land, whilst in the other it will find the money in respect of land which is owned by somebody else.
– A perpetual lease is virtually a fee simple except that the Crown has a say in the matter.
– Mining leaseholds are not held in perpetuity.
– While a man has a miner’s right, and renews it annually nobody can jump his block. If that is not a lease in perpetuity, it is a pretty close approach to it. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in regard to what can be done under this Bill for such places as the Northern Territory, the Federal Capital Territory, and Norfolk Island. We have read that a number of men have enlisted from these Territories. Yesterday I endeavoured to ascertain the exact number that had enlisted from the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island respectively, but I was informed that the Defence Department did not classify them. Consequently we can have no idea of the number who enlisted from the Northern Territory, and who may desire to settle there when the war is over. As there is such an acute shortage of settlement in that Territory, I trust that the Minister will favorablyconsider my proposal.
– I would invite the attention of Senator Ferricks to the very great difference which exists between leasehold lands held by the Commonwealth Government, which will be finding the money to effect improvements upon them, so that if a leasehold were forfeited for any reason whatever, it would fall back to the same authority which provided the money with which to effect the improvements, and those leaseholds which are held by other authorities and which, in case of any breach of the conditions governing them, would fall back to an authority other than that which had effected the improvements’. I am quite prepared to consent to the Bill being applied to leaseholds issued by the Commonwealth Government - that is to say, leaseholds in the Federal Territory, the Northern Territory, and other Territories under our control.In such cases there will be no greater risk than will be incurred in cases of a feesimple. If a breach occurs of the conditions attaching to any such lease or to the improvements put upon it, the whole asset will revert to the Government which provided the money with which to make those improvements. But I cannot assent to the proposition that money should be advanced by the Commonwealth to effect improvements upon leaseholds granted by other Governments and other authorities, and concerning the terms of which I know absolutely nothing. There are certain leases issued by the New South Wales Government in respect to which it would be an unsound policy to make these advances. I do not know the conditions governing the leases to which Senator Ferricks has referred, but. he must recollect that those conditions are always subject to variation by the Parliament of the State which issues the leases.
– There is a distinction between the class of leases to which I have directed attention and ordinary leases.
– I have already said that I cannot absent to the honorable senator’s suggestion without knowing more clearly what are the terms of those leases. But I am prepared to make the Bill apply to perpetual leases in our own Territories, where the land is owned by the Commonwealth Government.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Incorporation of Commissioner).
– I desire to direct attention to the extraordinary . powers which it is proposed to vest in the Commissioner. He is to have “perpetual succession and a common seal, and be capable of suing or being sued, and shall, subject to this Act, have power to acquire, purchase, sell, lease, and hold tenements, hereditaments, goods, chattels, and any other property for the purposes of this Act..” Then, “ All Courts, Judges, and persons acting judicially shall take judicial notice of the seal of the Commissioner affixed to any document or notice, and shall presume that it was only affixed.” It seems to me that such powers should be vested in a differently constituted authority or in the Minister. Of course, the clause provides that the Commissioner shall be subject to the direction of the Minister. But many things may become highly complicated if the Commissioner be vested with the whole of these powers.
– This is rather a legal question than anything else. The clause is intended to provide that if by reason of any act that is done, a person has a grievance against the Commissioner, the tatter may be sued. A similar provision applies to the Railways Commissioners and to many other public officials. It constitutes them a legal entity,
– It seems to me that the clause will have the effect of putting the Commissioner above the Courts.
– I may be wrong, but that is my impression.
Sitting suspendedfrom 1 to 2.30 p.m.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. The War Precautions Bill when it was originally introduced, at the beginning of the war, was agreed to in this Chamber practically without division. That was a recognition on the part of honorable senators of the extraordinary conditions under which the country found itself when faced with the circumstances of warfare. It does not seem to have been realized, however, in what a different and difficult position Australia stands, and then stood, as compared with Great
Britain. I have been surprised at the non-recognition of that fact. I have noticed, in the criticisms levelled at the Government for bringing forward the Bill now before the Senate, that there has been an entire failure to realize that the Commonwealth Government, under the Federal Constitution, were very differently placed from the Government of the United Kingdom. The latter, without the exercise of any special legislation of this character, already held those powers which this Government did not possess, but which became essential to enable the Commonwealth to take its place with the rest of the nations at war. There were things which this Government had no power to do - which they were expressly precluded from doing - under the Constitution. A great deal of the criticism so far launched against the Government in this connexion has been to the effect thai we should have brought down special legislation for this, that, and the other purpose. I ask honorable senators to remember that, apart from the fact that we were at war, we had no power to legislate upon such matters, and it was only because our responsibilities with respect to national safety had clothed us with the right and the need to take to ourselves those powers, that the War Precautions Act and its regulations were brought in. The United Kingdom could have proceeded in the ordinary legislative way to deal with most of the war-time problems which arose; and, now that the war is virtually over, the British Government are clothed with sufficient ordinary peacetime powers to deal with every problem which the war has raised. But our Federal Constitution did not give us similar powers. It was only the state of war which gave us the requisite powers. That thought should not be lost sight of in any criticism which may be offered both as to this Bill and as to what has been done under the original Act, and with respect to what may be proposed during the transition stage from war to peace. The proposed extension of the law, as set forth in this Bill, is. intended to get over that transition period. I ask honorable senators, therefore, to temper their criticism with an appreciation of that view-point.
Criticism of the “War Precautions Act and of the regulations promulgated under it would not be pertinent to the question whether or not some legislation is necessary during the transition period. The regulations all came before Parliament, and on more than one occasion members of the Opposition^ in one or other of the Chambers, tested the feeling of members of Parliament whether this dr that regulation should not be repealed. .Therefore, the Government are justified in assuming that what was done under the Act so far as the issue of regulations - and I do not refer to the administration of them - was. concerned, had the consent of the majority of members of Parliament.
The difficulty with which we are faced in approaching the transition period is that no one can say with certainty what may be the length of that interregnum. It is an awkward factor in coming to a decision upon the period during which the Act should continue to be. in force. In this Bill a compromise has been made between what the Government thought necessary and what the critics of the measure deemed justified. It is proposed that this Bill shall extend the War Precautions Act for three months after the termination of the war, or until the 31st June, 1919, whichever period is the longer. No one can say to-day that that will be a sufficient length of time. No one can say whether, during that time, we shall have returned to normal conditions. The term may be ample, but, obviously, before then Parliament can be called together, and if complications should arise and there should be, for example, a recrudescence of hostilities - which is possible - Parliament could specially legislate and further extend the period to be covered by the Act. Should the Peace Conference proceed smoothly and come to a swift and satisfactory conclusion, there should be ample time during the period set out in the Bill to permit the Government to finalize the various activities in operation under the existing Statute, which activities, undoubtedly, should not come to a sudden termination.
I desire now to state some -of the. reasons why the Government feel that we have a Tight to ask for the extension.
First; any reasonable man who has kept himself informed of what has been done will realize that a sudden termination of these various activities would be not only undesirable, but fraught with considerable danger to the country. Therefore, I do not anticipate any criticism of a kind which will claim that it is possible to suddenly do away with the War Precautions Act and all the activities which have been launched under it, immediately upon the proclamation of Peace.
– Following up that argument, if the things which are now being done must be continued for a little while longer, can we not do without any further regulations interfering with liberty ?
– Any further regulations should be only of a character necessary for the termination of those activities. But . one cannot foresee what that may mean. There may be some development which would necessitate the issue of fresh regulations.
Now, I will deal with specific considerations. First, there is the control of_ aliens. About 5,000 or 6,000 enemy aliens are being held in internment camps in Australia. A policy has yet ,to be adopted in regard to those aliens. Many honorable senators have read the statement of Mr. Lloyd George, who speaks as head of the Government of the United Kingdom, wherein he has laid it down that aliens, or such of them as were not born in the United Kingdom, must be repatriated. Obviously that is a question of very high policy.
– It might be a question of electioneering tactics.
– Or it might be a declaration of policy to be given effect- to by the British Government. While we in Australia have full freedom to act for ourselves in such matters, there should be throughout the Empire some consistency. It would be extremely inconsistent if the United Kingdom were to legislate in one direction and other parts of .the Empire acted in a different manner. A Minister in South Africa has made a declaration practically similar to that of Mr. Lloyd George; and if the
Government of this country, with the consent of Parliament, decided to adopt a like policy, the powers of the War Precautions Act would be necessary to give effect to it. There is no power in the Defence Act, so far as I am aware, which would permit the Government to take such action.
– Would the Government 3]ave power under the Act to extradite aliens from Australia?
– I have said that I do not think we have any power, unless it may be under the War Precautions Act. We may have power under the Immigration Restriction Act, but I am very doubtful. Under that Statute the Government have power to deal with persons seeking to come into Australia, but I do not know whether there is provision for sending them out of the Commonwealth.
– Such persons would have acquired domiciliary rights.
– That is so.
Regulations have been issued under this Act dealing with the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth, the safety of our railways, the control of explosives, and the regulation of the sale of firearms. Until peace has been declared we should certainly not throw down our arms. The regulations concerned with the safeguarding of the Commonwealth are among those means by the help of which a nation conducts warfare; and, perhaps, from the point of view of the welfare of the country, one of the most important functions of the War Precautions Act is that affecting the sale of our primary products. The ramifications of those matters are enormous, and the responsibilities which they throw upon the people of the country are very great. Three-fourths of the commercial life of Australia to-day depends for its well-being on the operations being conducted under the Act in relation to our primary products. We all know that sudden revolutionary changes in commercial life are not only undesirable, but extremely dangerous.
– This Act itself comprises revolutionary changes, and the sooner we get back to normal conditions the better.
– I think so, too; and I am just as anxious, if not more so, than the honorable senator, to do that. Criticism has been advanced to the effect that Ministers are anxious to continue the responsibilities which this Act imposes upon them.
– The protection, and not the .responsibilities.
– I emphasize the responsibilities. They have added tq the discomforts and the distastes of Ministerial life 75 per cent. They have made Ministerial life a burden, and infinitely more politically dangerous, too; because Ministerial actions are far more than normally open to attack. If anybody should welcome the return to normal times it should be Ministers- themselves ; and if there are those who should be glad of the continuance of the Act and the regulations under it, from the political view-point, it should be members of the Opposition.
I call attention to the item of wool. The Imperial Government have’ arranged to purchase, through the Commonwealth Government, the wool clip of this country for a period of one year after the war. I do not know what machinery you can set up to deal with that other than the machinery that has been created through the War Precautions Act. It lies in the mouth of those who clamour for an immediate repeal of this Act and the immediate cessation of Commonwealth activities under it - because we have no power to deal with them other than this - to show some other means of dealing with it. The only other means of a legislative character that I know of is the machinery, of the State Governments. I invite honorable senators to look back over the history of attempts at co-operation amongst the six State Governments in Australia. They will find it a record of gigantic and ghastly failure. I have been, privileged to attend one conference of Federal and State Ministers. Senator Fairbairn, with his desire for economy, will be interested in this. I saw those Ministers come to a consideration of the question of ‘the amalgamation of the statistical branches of the States and Commonwealth. I saw them come to a unanimous conclusion that that was desirable and necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth. I saw them come to a decision that it should be done. It is not done yet, and my information is that, if certain of the States can prevent it, it never will be done. One has only to read the records of the Premiers’ Conferences to find innumerable instances that show how impossible it is to get six Governments to march step by step on’ any subject; yet that is the only other legislative machinery that can be utilized in Australia -for such problems as these.
– What are you going to do when the War Precautions Act expires ?
– Things will be normal, and we will have to abandon the idea of Federal action in these matters, unless we adopt Senator Gardiner’s suggestion and unify some of them through the Constitution.
– Cannot special legislation be introduced for those individual matters?
– There can be no special legislation except from two sources . - one the Constitution and the other the Defence power. This is the expression of our right to legislate through our Defence power, in which, we say, these things are inherent. The country is getting back from a condition of war to a condition of peace, and the High Court will tell us quickly and bluntly that the only right we have to legislate on these matters is derived from our Defence power, and not from the Constitution.
– That is the moot point : How long will the power have effect after the Imperial Government has proclaimed peace?
– I would not venture to give a legal opinion; but we are buttressed in our position, because we have sought the best legal opinion we could obtain in Australia. The gentlemen consulted have told us they believe we have the power to do what we are asking Parliament to allow us to do. , But I do not think they would argue that - when we have passed through the transition period, and sufficient time has elapsed after the proclamation of peace to enable conditions to re turn to normal - we have had a patch put on the Constitution by which we can do something which we could not have done under the Constitution before the war.
– My camplaint is that this Bill proposes to apply that patch
– It does, and I recognise it. There are war conditions and peace conditions, but there is an interval between war and peace. That is the interval when the negotiations are taking place, and before peace is ratified.’ Obviously, we cannot get back into a state of peace in a day. Our legal advice is that, over the period that that transition must take,- we have’ the power, inherent in our Defence power, to operate in regard to these things.
– But the existing Act will carry you up to the declaration of peace.
– It will; but it will not give us a sufficient length of time to enable these things to be adjusted. I should have thought that Senator Pratten, who tells us that he represents the commercial classes of New South Wales, would be the first, knowing the gigantic nature of these operations, to recognise that these matters cannot be terminated on a given day.
– I shall try to ‘point out how they can be.
– Another question is the purchase and sale of butter and cheese. These products have been sold; not only for the period of the war, but in the case of butter for one year after. The sales and arrangements for the delivery and control of the products are all under the War Precautions Act.
– Are not most of those arrangements in the nature of contracts ?
– I should think that the contracts would persist in their validity even after the Act itself expired.
– I would not venture to say so. I do not know what force the Commonwealth has behind it, except the force of law, and the only law under which we can express these agreements and enforce them is the War Precautions Act.
– The contracts are only between this Government and the British Government. They are not between this Government and the producers.
– I am glad Senator Russell has reminded me of that point. If we are to carry out our agreement with ‘the British Government we must have some control with regard to the article being produced in this country.
– Have the arrange-‘ ments between the producers and the Government been entirely voluntary ?
-No. the arrangements have been made under a War Precautions regulation.
One of the most important points is raised by the moratorium provisions. The . main set of these regulations provides for an extension of time for the payment of principal moneys in connexion with mortgages, agreements for the sale and purchase of land, and certain leases containing purchasing clauses. If these regulations cease to operate, all those payments will suddenly fall due. The Commonwealth has borne, and is bearing,- a great financial strain, but if that were to come to pass suddenly the financial strain that we have been bearing would reach practically the breaking point. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has in this matter consulted, not only the Treasury officials, but the Council of Finance, on which we have some men of considerable experience and judgment. They view with great alarm the possibility of the sudden termination of the moratorium regulations. They bay it is essential for the financial stability of this country to have a tapering-off policy instead of a sudden cessation.
– If the States introduced legislation continuing the moratorium, that would get over the fancied interregnum.’
– I am glad of that interjection, because it emphasizes the necessity of the tapering-off period. The legislation would have to be passed by six State Parliaments, who would have to be brought into line.
– If the State Parliaments do not recognise the necessity, the need cannot be as urgent as the honorable senator fears.
– A State Parliament may recognise the necessity, but the exigencies of the situation do not always enable it to legislate. The State Parliament may be expiring by effluxion of time. All sorts of things may make it impossible for a State Parliament at a given period to pass legislation, no matter how willing. I believe most of the State Parliaments will be quite willing to take any action the financial authorities of the Commonwealth suggest as necessary in this regard. That is the way in which we hope the tapering-off period will eventually merge these matters into State legislation, so far as possible. This is the practical way out of the difficulty.
– If the financial difficulties are so great, do you think you are doing justice to the community by introducing a Bill that may throw all these difficulties upon us within the next six months?
– Yes; because- this gives us breathing time, and we have a Committee of the highest legal talent obtainable examining all these questions. Its members want time to do this, and when they have done it they will tell us what they think should be done. They may tell us that, in order to deal with this matter after this Act expires, it will be necessary to get the States to pass legislation of a certain character. We would then approach the States, and get their consent, and they would introduce their legislation. This may pass in three of the States, and we may then have to extend the regulations for a month to enable the other States to come into line. At any rate, this Bill gives us breathing time to look around and to see what to do.
– Do you not think, n view of the magnitude of the matter, that all that ought to be done now?
– It is being done now. That Committee of legal gentlemen is to-day considering these questions and drafting opinions for the Government as to what action we should take on each of them. Until we get that opinion we cannot say what action can, or should, be taken. As that may involve State legislation, the period we are asking for is not too long.
There is another’ set of moratorium regulations with which every honorable senator is deeply sympathetic, and which none of us would like to see wiped out of existence now, or at any time during the period of demobilization. I refer to those relating to soldiers and their dependants with regard to rent and the protection of furniture. A- good deal has been said about the rent regulation, which has had to be operated frequently, but the one relating to the protection of furniture has really been the more valuable of the two. I have had to send on some very hard cases to the law officers for action to be’ taken, where, if it had not been for these regulations, the families of our soldiers who were away fighting for us would have suffered most severely. The soldiers will not_all be back by the 30th June. Every honorable senator, will see that that protecting shield around the wife and family of our soldiers cannot be withdrawn until the soldier, is back here to take his place as their natural protector.
– If it was withdrawn, there would be a terrible noise.
– Yes ; some of those who are clamouring for the immediate repeal of the Act would be the first to blame the Government for having withdrawn that protection.
– The honorable senator should distinguish. There are some who clamour for the repeal of the Act; there are others who simply do not want it to extend beyond the war period.
– No one can say what that war period is.
– It is bound to be for some months.
– It will have to be determined by the Peace Conference. I have not seen any definite date fixed yet even for the assembling of that Conference. We have seen reports of a series of meetings that have been held to draft proposals for the Peace Conference, and it may happen that when the Peace Con ference meets, it will be merely to. put ita imprimatur upon proposals that have already been decided. Therefore, the impression that the deliberations of the Peace Conference will extend over many months may prove to be altogether mistaken.
I have referred to. the fact that we have secured the services of a number of eminent legal gentlemen in the community to assist in connexion with these matters. I think it well to mention the names of these gentlemen to the Senate in- order that it may be seen that they are men of standing in the legal profession, and possessed of knowledge qualifying them to advise upon these questions. They have generously consented to give their services to the Commonwealth to deal with them.
– I think that most honorable senators know their names.
– That may be so; but it might be well to mention the names for public information. The gentlemen to whom I refer are Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., Mr. Adrian Knox, K.C., Professor Harrison Moore, Professor J. B. Peden, Mr. H. E. Starke, Mr. E. P. Simpson, and Mr. J. M. Cameron. It will be admitted that these names represent an array of legal talent, and that the advice of these gentlemen should be of great assistance to the Government in dealing with these questions.
The greater part of the regulations under the War Precautions Act dealing with the Defence power will be repealed at the earliest possible moment. Naturally, they may be allowed to expire immediately there . is some certainty of peace, and a return to normal conditions.
– They will all be repealed?
– As soon as we can say definitely that peace has arrived, all these Defence regulations under the Act will be repealed.
– That is definite.
– This, of course, will not- cover regulations affecting internment. I have already pointed out that if repatriation of aliens is decided upon, the powers of the War Precautions Act will be necessary to carry out such. a decision, and the regulations in that regard must be extended until such time as the repatriation of aliens, if adopted, can be completed. We arenot in a position to say now what policy in that regard will be adopted until we know something of the decisions of the Peace Conference, and have further information as to the course of action to be followed in other parts of the Empire.
– But we do not require those regulations to meet the case of Australian-born citizens, who have been interned.
– I do not say that we do.
– I do not think that the Senate would give its assent to the deportation of any Australian-born person.
– It should not give itsassent to their further internment, now that the war is over.
– I remind the honorable senator that the war is not over, and we cannot say that it is over until peace has been declared.
As regards the censorship, it has already been considerably relaxed, and will be further relaxed as conditions make that possible.
– It is interfering even with Hansard at the present time.
– May I correct the honorable senator. What he refers to is not the work of the censor.
– The Minister cannot correct me, because I can produce Hansard proofs in support of what I say.
– I can defy Senator Gardiner to show me that the alterations which; I understand from press paragraphs, have been made in a speech in another place, were ever before the censor. The censorship to which the honorable senator now refers has been carried out under the authority of a resolution passed in both Houses of this Parliament, and is exercised in either House by the President or the Speaker respectively, on the advice of the Crown Law officers. When I saw the statement which appeared in the press, I sent for the Deputy Chief Censor, and asked him whether he had been consulted in any way in connexion with the matter. He was not consulted. He did not see the matter in question, and knows nothing at all about it. I say this, because I want Senator Gardiner to be under no misapprehension.
– I am obliged for the information, but the fact remains that there is still censorship, whether it is carried out bythe Crown Law officers and the President, or Mr. Speaker, or by the officers of the Defence Department.
– But the honorable senator has referred to a censorship which has been authorized by this Parliament for its own protection, if at any time those invested with the power see fit to exercise it. I cannot bring that censorship to an end. It has nothing whatever to do with the War Precautions Act.
– The Minister is putting himself in a worse position than I thought he was in.
– Who submits such matter for censorship to the Crown Law officers ?
– The President or Mr. Speaker, as the case may be, deals finally with the matter. The censorship to which Senator Gardiner has referred is not operated under the War Precautions Act, and if that Act were repealed tomorrow, it would not affect the matter.
– That would still go on?
– Yes, until Parliament says it shall stop.
– Then I think the time is coming when Parliament should say stop.
– The only censorship in operation to-day is that affecting references to the Allied nations or matters affecting the Peace Conference. Honorable senators who view the position calmly will agree that that censorship is -reasonable and necessary. We are approaching the time when we shall sit with the representatives of theother Allied nations at the table of the Peace Conference. There may be at that table, also, representatives of the enemy nations. We know that most of the Allied nations are Democracies, and that public opinion will direct the course which they will take at the Peace table. If the enemy were to be free, through the press, by publications or speeches, to throw the apple of discord amongst the Allied nations, and suggest that the action of one is a cause of offence to another, the prospects of a - successful issue of the Peace Conference would not be very re-assuring. Every one of tha Allied Governments is retaining the power of censorship over all matters affecting the Peace Conference until its deliberations have been completed.
I come now to what is a very troublesome subject, and one which leads to a great deal of controversy, and that is the question of price-fixing which has been carried out under the War. Precautions Act. I have often been amused at the criticism directed against price-fixing by certain sections of the community. Honorable senators will find that the man who has an “article to sell will indulge in a .general condemnation of price-fixing of all kinds, but immediately he enters the market as a buyer he is the first to come to the Government and demand that he should be protected from exploitation by some other section of the community.
– He wants to sell in the dearest and buy in the cheapest market.
– Yes; but I am pointing out that he is not very consistent in his action in this regard-. If he is selling meat, or wool, or wheat, he must not have the- price of those commodities fixed. But when he goes into the market to buy, he says to the Government, “ You must protect me by fixing the price of poison that I require to poison rabbits.” When he goes into the market to buy sulphate of ammonia, he demands that he shall be protected by the’ Government fixing the price of that article. When he wishes to buy wool-packs and cornsacks, he says, “You. must cut out the middleman, or, if you let him in, you must regulate the amount of commission that he is to be paid. You must not permit the middleman to exploit me.” But when he has put his wool into bales, or hi3 wheat into sacks or stacks, he says, “ You must let me dispose of my produce in a free market.”
– That is human nature.
– It is; but it is not very consistent.
– The sooner we get back to that condition of things in all the States the better it will be for Australia.
– That is a great admission from the honorable senator.
– Does the honorable senator mean the condition of a free market ?
– I quite agree with the honorable senator, but I did not expect such an interjection from him. I say that the only justification that the Government had. for taking up this ques-tion at all was found in the artificial and abnormal conditions created by the war. The cessation of the war will do away with those abnormal and artificial conditions, and the sooner we get rid of them the better.
– Will that be when peace is declared?
– When peace is declared, or earlier, if possible. In some cases it may be possible to relax the operations of price-fixing, and return to normal conditions even before peace is declared.
– That is not such a definite’ statement as the Minister has made with respect to the defence regulations.
– We cannot speak arbitrarily or definitely on this question. I might give some examples in support of that statement. We entered into an agreement with the Queensland Governfor the purchase of sugar, and the price to be paid for it. We pay the Queensland Government, who, in turn, pay the producers of sugar. The Commonwealth Government then fixes the price to the retailer, of sugar. That arrangement during the period of war has operated to the distinct advantage of every class in this community.
– The fruit-growers do not say that.
– I am aware that they do not.
– Because the jam manufacturers are not giving them a fair deal.
– I know that the fruit-growers do not say that; but I may inform honorable senators that, in the last jam contract entered into, the interests of the fruit-grower have been protected, because provision has been made that the fruit-grower shall obtain a certain price for his fruit. What has been the’ history of the dealings in sugar throughout the world during the war? Whilst we are getting sugar at the retail price of 3£d.- per lb., the price in America and Great Britain has been from 7d. to 9d. per lb., although our sugar has been white-grown sugar and most of the sugar sold in America and Great Britain for from 7d. to 9d. per lb. has been blackgrown. The arrangement we have made has enabled the grower of sugar in Australia to obtain a profitable price, though not an over profitable one when we consider his difficulties from drought, storm, and flood. He has been able to secure that price through the operation of price-fixing under the War Precautions Act, and with the exception, possibly, of Java, the consumer in Australia during the war has been able to obtain sugar at a lower price than has the consumer in any other part of the World.
– What about New Zealand t
– Sugar has never at any time been cheaper to the retailer in New Zealand that it has been in Australia.
– That is not so.
– I am aware of Senator Pratten’s knowledge on this question, but I invite him to prove that the price to the retailer has been cheaper in New Zealand than Australia. I have no doubt that he will be able to prove that the jam manufacturer has procured sugar more cheaply in New Zealand than has the jam manufacturer in Australia, but that was due to the operation of the middleman in New Zealand.
– And we have been sweating the grocers.
– I think that Senator Russell dealt with that statement adequately by showing that there have been fewer insolvencies amongst grocers during this period than “during any. other period in the history of Victoria.
– There have been none at all during the present year.
– I do not wish to dwell too long on the sugar question.
– I should like the Minister to dwell upon it a little longer.
He has referred to the English price, and I ask him whether the English parity is above the Australian when the high shipping freights are taken into account.
– It all depends; a certain amount of beet sugar imported from France has been used in England.
– It was mostly Cuban sugar that was used in England, and that was £10 per ton dearer than the price of Australian sugar.
– I believe that the raw sugar was taken to England and the refining done there.
– Yes; the greater part of it.
Senator- PEARCE.- The refining has gone on, and yet we have had cheaper sugar in this country than in Great Britain.
– What is the difference in the price of sugar to the jam manufacturers in Australia as compared with New Zealand ?
– I could not say, but I believe that to jam manufacturers sugar in “New Zealand is cheaper than in Australia - that is to say, - the wholesale rates are cheaper;
– That is Fijian sugar, is it not ?
– Yes. I understand, however, that sugar is not cheaper to the retailer in New Zealand. I would also like to say that; according to my information, jam has not been cheaper in New Zealand than in Australia, so that the consumer of that country is not getting the benefit of this, to the manufacturer, happy condition of affairs in New Zealand; whilst, on the other hand, the consumer in Australia has been protected. I venture to say, further, that the jam manufacturers of this country have ‘done better during the whole of the war period than ever before in the history of the industry, so that if they are squealing it is up to them to show that they have suffered. My information is that they have not. I think, too, that an examination qf the war-time profits schedule would bear out the statement that higher profits have been made during the war than in the pre-war period.
– But the Government will “ scoop “ most of that profit.
– Yes, all but 25 per cent. What I have said shows that under this “ horrible”” system of interference with- a free market, the jam manufacturers of this country have not suffered.
There are other commodities in respect of’ which something might be said with advantage. Take wheat, for instance. I invite any honorable senator to say what the price of wheat would have been in Australia with a free market.
– One shilling per bushel.
– Perhaps .so ; but I doubt very much whether even that price would have been maintained in a free market.
– But the farmers would not have grown so much at that price.
– If they had not grown so much, I venture to say that we would have had large armies of unemployed in all our cities and a period of economic depression and disaster, because wheat-growing is one of our staple industries. Considerable criticism was directed against the Government for fixing the price of wheat; but in regard to this industry, as to the sugar industry, we can show that, although the price was fixed, Australia has enjoyed cheaper bread than any other country at war. In this way, by price-fixing, we have been able to adjust artificial conditions and benefit the producer without injuring the consumer. Moreover, we have been able to prevent that wholesale disaster, due to war conditions, which would inevitably have overtaken the industry had this action not been taken. And- yet there are people who make it appear that the producers and the consumers have both been injured by the operations of this Act. I want to show that in connexion with the great industry which enters into the daily life of the great bulk of the community, either as producers or consumers, the operation of these regulations has been beneficial to the country as a whole.
All that has been done constitutes a reason why there should be a tapering-off period to enable those great industries which, during the war period, have been under control,, to adjust themselves to new conditions. The legislation affecting the Wheat Pool is complicated by the fact that there are four States in the Pool. Two States are looked upon as nonproducers of wheat, but they are consumers. And whilst as producers they may not be interested, as consumers they are vitally concerned in the operations of the Pool, so that it was essential there should be complete uniformity in regard to regulations dealing with this problem throughout ‘ Australia. State regulations of themselves would have been unable to secure this uniformity of action which was so essential. Some trouble arose in regard to sugar, but I venture to say that if a poll of the individual States had been taken there would have been found a great diversity, of opinion as to what ought to have been done. Under the Federal authority we were able to secure uniformity and to confer substantial benefit on the producer without prejudicing the interests of the consumer.
– How long do you intend to prohibit the importation of sugar ?
– I cannot say. How long some of these regulations are to continue is one of those questions the Government must look into. We must accept the advice of certain officials and take responsibility for any decision we may come to in regard to our great primary products. I am sure that Senator Pratten cannot expect me to dogmatize on this subject. He will realize that it is so complex that it will require the most earnest consideration before it can be determined.
I want to say, however, that the Government have no desire to continue these powers merely for the sake of being clothed with a little additional authority. Let me quote the regulation as to sport as one instance in relation to which action has been taken. Whatever may have been the opinion as to the wisdom of controlling sport, the Government exercised that authority in the belief that it was right, but as soon as the need for recruiting had passed, we at once took steps to repeal, those regulations, and they will cease to be effective as from 27th Decern-‘ ber.
– Much to the relief of the Minister.
– Yes, much to my relief, and I dare say to the relief also of my colleagues, to whom I frequently brought matters of this kind for consideration when perhaps the time of Cabinet could have been better employed.
– There never was much need for restriction.
– Probably not; but yet I do not remember hearing Senator Pratten get up and say that we should not have taken that course.
I wish now to say that directions have been issued to every Department, operating under the “War Precautions Act that they are to go through the various instructions and regulations that have been promulgated from time to time, with a view to seeing which of them can be terminated. It is the desire of the Government that these officials shall carefully consider the ramifications of the various authorities constituted under the War Precautions Act with this end in view.
– They are acting under those instructions now?
– Who will be the final arbiter?
– The Minister controlling the Department, subject to references and general instructions from Cabinet. In my own Department I have a committee of officers going into the various questions from time to time to ascertain what regulations may be repealed. A number of regulations dealing with matters prejudicial to recruit-‘ ing ceased to be operative when the need for recruiting ceased.
– Then why have not those interned Australians interned because of having made speeches prejudicial to recruiting, beenreleased? They are not prisoners.
SenatorPEARCE.- I will try to answer the honorable senator. The cessation of the need for recruiting is due to the fact that our armies in the field are sustaining no casualties, because of the armistice; but, until we go to the Peace table, we shall be in the position of an armed truce. The people to whom the honorable senator refers have been interned because the Government believed, on the evidence before them, that their presence in the community was prejudicial to the safety of the Commonwealth. Those conditions of prejudice will continue until peace is really achieved.
– But I am speaking particularly of those who were interned because their speeches were regarded as prejudicial to recruiting. Why not release them immediately?
– Because we have not interned any persons for that offence.
SenatorFerricks. -No ; but you have imprisoned them.
– No; we have prosecuted them for offences against the War Precautions Act, and the Courts have sentenced them to terms of imprisonment. None of these persons are in our internment camps.
– Then, theoretically, recruiting might be resumed?
– It might.
– But you have interned these men.
– They are not. interned. The honorable senator is under a misapprehension about this question of internment. Internment is not punishment. It is a precaution taken during a period of danger.
– It is punishment for those who are affected.
– Yes; but that is not the object of the action. Any man who has been punished for an offence prejudicial to recruiting has been prosecuted under the War Precautions Act.
– And some of the men interned say they were never better off in their lives.
– Yes. I do not know whether honorable senators are aware that there are between 600 and 700 voluntary internees in our camps. In the early stages of the war these men, because of their nationality, and because they were looked upon with suspicion, were unable to secure employment. For this reason, they voluntarily sought in-, ternment.
– But some of the in’ternees have complained about the quality of the food.
– All that I can say is that if I never had worse food I would never have any. fear about my diet for the future. Our internment camps are open to inspection by, not only our own officials, but by the Consul-Generals for neutral countries. Never once have they reported that the food has been either insufficient or badly served up. I may add that we intend to take photographs of the men who have been interned for four years in our camps, and place them alongside photographs of. the poor wretches who have escaped from the German camp3. I venture to say they will provide a striking illustration in regard to the treatment of men here and in Germany. Honorable senators, before they give credence’ to any such complaints, would do well first to make inquiries. I do not .know whether Senator O’Keefe is referring to a man who was interned at Brisbane ; but, if he is, I .may inform the Senate that there is a record in the Defence Department from him to the effect that the statements concerning his treatment in the camp were made without his authority, and that he has had no complaint whatever to make. I ask the honorable senator, in the interests of his own country, not to promulgate any statements of that nature without making a due examination as to the facts. I will give him every right to go to our internment camps at any time to make any inspection whatsoever. He will then be able to satisfy himself that the conditions which obtain in these camps are not what they have been represented to him to be.
– I am speaking of a man who was an internee, and who had to eat gaol food.
– I am not going to repeat what I have just said. The Government are faced with a difficulty, and have to deal with an unknown period of time. We ask honorable senators to exercise forbearance in their criticism, and to make that criticism applicable to the circumstances of the case. In short, we invite them to render us that generous as sistance which they have uniformly rendered to us during the period of the war.
– Will the’ Govern ment state a case for the High Court, which is the. interpreter of our Constitution, with a view to determining how far the validity of the War Precautions Act will persist after the Imperial Government declares peace?
– I cannot give an assurance in that direction, but I will certainly bring the matter under the notice of the Acting Attorney-General. I do not know whether he can state a case for the decision of the High Court. Probably Senator Keating can tell us.
– I do not know that he can.
– I think the honorable senator will also say that in the panel of legal men who are advising us to the best of their ability, we have some of the most eminent counsel in Australia. But, in any case, I promise to bring the question which has been raised by Senator Bakhap, under the notice, of the Act ing Attorney-General.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed, vide page 9244) :
Clause 5 (Incorporation of Commissioner) .
– I wish to know whether it is the intention of the Government that a Deputy Commissioner shall be appointed in each State. I see no provision for any such appointments in the Bill, and this appears to be the proper place to insert it. If the Commissioner deals adequately with the position, he will be expected to supply housing accommodation to every returned soldier,- and to every. soldier’s dependant, at very short notice. That being so, I am of opinion that a Deputy Commissioner will require to be appointed in each State.
– Provision is made for the appointment of Deputy Commissioners in clause 15.
– Yesterday, when I was discussing this Bill, I stated that on a former occasion when the Repatriation Bill was under consideration, I submitted a proposal that the Commonwealth should provide widows and invalid dependants of deceased soldiers with free homes for life, and that Senator de Largie had attempted to cover it with ridicule. Thereupon, the honorable senator raised a point of order, and denied the accuracy of my statement. I then promised to supply him with convincing proof of its absolute accuracy, and T am now about to redeem my promise. I do not know what is the matter with Senator de Largie, whether he is growing old and falling into “ the sear and yellow leaf,” but he was certainly very much annoyed because of my statement that he had ridiculed my proposal - a proposal very similar to that which is contained in this Bill. But “ ridicule” is a very mild term to apply to the attitude which he adopted on the occasion in question. I have taken the trouble to look up Hansard in order to prove the accuracy of my statement, and I find from that publication that on 1st August last year the honorable ‘senator in discussing my proposal, said -
Nobody seems to understand what kind of a house the clause seeks to provide.
– Order. That question does not arise in connexion with this Bill.
– I take it that on this question of administration I am perfectly at liberty to quote Hansard in reply to the charge made by Senator de Largie.
– The remarks which the honorable senator is quoting do not refer to this Bill.
– Do you, sir, rule that I am out of order?
– Then I shall have to dissent from your ruling. I move -
That the ruling of the Chairman that I am out of order in quoting from Hansard, remarks made by Senator de Largie in reference to soldiers’ homes, be dissented from.
In the Senate:
The Chairman of Committees. - Whilst in Committee I ruled that a quotation which Senator McDougall was making from Hansard was not in order, inasmuch as it did not refer to the pre sent debate. Thereupon he dissented from my ruling. I based my ruling on Standing Order 413, which provides -
No Senator shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the Senate for personal explanations. .
– This Bill provides for the housing of soldiers’ dependants, and the remarks of Senator de Largie which I was quoting were made by him on” a proposal submitted by me on a former occasion in regard to the very same question.
– In connexion with this matter there are two standing orders which must be read in conjunction, namely, standing orders 413 and 414. Standing order 413 provides -
No senator shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the Senate for personal explanations.
That standing order is to some extent qualified by standing order 414, which reads -
No senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents, except Hansard, referring to debates, in the Senate during the same session.
I do not know exactly what occurred in Committee, but if Senator McDougall was merely reading an extract ‘from Hansard to illustrate a point which he was endeavouring to make in discussing a clause of the Bill, I presume that he was in order. If, on the other hand, he was attempting to raise a discussion upon a proposal that had been previously dealt with by the Senate, he was undoubtedly out of order. Standing order 414 is most explicit that an honorable senator is at liberty to rend extracts from Hansard. As a matter of fact,’ Hansard of the current session is the only document from which an honorable senator, can quote. He would not be in order in referring to- another matter which has already been dealt with, except by way of illustrating a point. I rule that Senator McDougall is entitled to read an extract from Hansard as provided by standing order 414. I am at a disadvantage, however, in not knowing exactly what the honorable senator was proposing to do - whether his argument was intended merely to illustrate a point, or whether he intended to discuss the provisions of a measure which has already been dealt with. If Senator McDougall does not propose to do more than read an extract from Hansard by way of illustrating a point raised in the discussion of the present, Bill he should be allowed to do so.
– In quoting from Hansard I was merely endeavouring to indicate some of the points raised by Senator de Largie in criticism of my proposal. He asked whether the proposed house for the accommodation of the widow of a private would be the same class of dwelling as for the widow of an officer. That, by the way, is a point Which has not been explained in regard to this Bill. Will a private soldier be in a position to secure the same type of house as an officer?
– The matter of rank makes no difference at all. The limit is the amount of £700 in any one case.
– That explanation fully satisfies me upon that point. Then there was another criticism advanced by Senator de Largie. He said, “Are these houses to be suitable for a big family, or for a. small family?”
– In this Bill there is only the financial limit.
– I will quote one other remark of Senator de Largie. He said -
I can only conclude that the proposal represents so much political bird-lime, and that it has been put forward for quite another purpose than that of providing homes for the widows of our fallen soldiers.
As a matter of fact, I was easy on the honorable senator when I said that he ridiculed my proposal. Certainly, there was no occasion for him to get his feathers ruffled. One other point was raised by Senator de Largie’s remarks yesterday. He stated that I had not the support even of members of- my own side. It is rather unfair to say that, seeing that we have twelve honorable senators on this side, and that there were thirteen who then supported my proposal. Not only had I the unanimous support of colleagues on this side; but one honorable senator on the Government side was also with me. I always gain the support of Senator Bolton for anything having to do with our soldiers.
– Do you say that your proposal was on all-fours with this?
– -The title of this Bill is, “ To make provision for Homes for Australian Soldiers and Female Dependants of Australian Soldiers.” My proposal was to build homes for female dependants of deceased soldiers. I compliment the Government and congratulate them on having brought this measure forward ; but, when an honorable senator gets his feathers ruffled when it is pointed out that he ridiculed this proposal previously, and is now - as a supporter, of the Government - going “baldheaded “ for the same thing, I can only say that I did not blame him for being a supporter of the Government, right or wrong.
In the Bill, the Commissioner is to be given powers which will place him above Judges, Courts, and everything and everybody else. I think such powers should be vested in more than one man. No single individual is infallible. There should be more than one solitary official to carry the responsibility of disbursing the huge sums which will be required for the housing of our soldiers under this measure. The Government should make provision against the possibility, also, of something untoward happening to the Commissioner.
– Reference has been made by the Minister, I understand, to the appointment of Deputy Commissioners. I hope Senator Millen has not lost sight of my suggestion that the Federal authorities should use the machinery already in existence in the States, rather than overload the administration under this Bill.
– I hope that my remarks to Senator Grant were not interpreted to mean that the Government intended to appoint deputies. I pointed out that the Commissioner would have, and must have, power to appoint officers. It is desired to utilize the machinery of existing State banking institutions, and it would be necessary, therefore, to give the Commissioner power to create his own staff, if an agreement could not be reached with the various State banks.
– If it were decided to discontinue the operations of this Act during the period for which the Commissioner had been appointed, would he be entitled to receive his salary for the balance of that term, after his office had been done away with?
– The honorable senator is now dealing with a point which comes under another clause - that having reference to the tenure of office of the Commissioner.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory. - Ordinances of 1918 -
No. 14 - Crown Lands.
No. 15. - Closing of Roads.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– 1 wish to know if the Vice-President of the Executive Council has any information with regard to a matter which I raised on 10th December, when I quoted a press letter concerning the Weather Bureau ?
– The following is a reply received by the Secretary to the Home and Territories Department from the Commonwealth Meteorologist: -
The increases to the professional officers were all granted by the Arbitration Court, and, moreover, the salaries paid are consider ably less than those given to officers in similar positions in the meteorological services of England, India, and America.
While for the three clerical positions mentioned, the minimum and maximum salaries are £220-£310 and £320-£400. The officers concerned have filled the positions for long periods, and have been at the top of their respective classes for some years; the immediate advance in pay in each case is £10 only. No new appointments have been made, but in view of the absence of officers on active service, the filling of any positions for which the enlisted men were eligible, and had been recommended, has been held over. The claims of each member of the staff at the Front are always considered in any changes made, and they have without exception received all possible advancement during their absence.
The total number of enlistments of eligible single men for active service was equal to 62 per cent.
With regard to the reference to nonessential Departments, I would invite attention to the judgment of Mr. JusticeHiggins in the Professional Officers’ Arbitration Award, inwhich he states that no one can fail to see the transcendent importance of observations which may lead to the foretelling of the rainfall and temperature for a country such as Australia; and yet doubt is thrown on the value of meteorological research conducted by men of high scientific attainments.
– The French Mission has just terminated a very successful visit to Australia. When the members of the Mission departed from France there was a prominent Labour representative amongst them, namely, M. Thomsen. Unhappily, the leader of the Mission died while on the voyage, and some member of the party had to return with the body to France. M. Thomsen volunteered to do so and thus lost his place with the Mission. Subsequently the French Government decided to send him out to Australia in company with another official, as a supplementary mission. I wish to know whether the Government have taken any steps to entertain those distinguished visitors, and to see that they are afforded full opportunities for travelling about Australia and securing all the information they may desire.
– Arrangements have been made in the direction indicated by the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181213_senate_7_87/>.