8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and readprayers.
The following paper was presented: -
Papua Act. - Infirm and Destitute Natives Account - Statement of the Transactions of the Trustees, 1918-19.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if his attention has been called to a paragraph appearing in this morning’s newspapers, stating that the owner of a racehorse was awarded £3,675 damages because the horse was killed by placing its foot in arabbit hole owing to the negligence of a racing company having charge of the course on which the animal was raced. If £3,675 is estimated as the value of a blood horse, at what rate will the Minister compensate the dependants of soldiers who have lost their lives?
– Parliament, including the honorable senator, has already decided that question.
SenatorBakhap. - The honorable senator is the first member of the Senate to compare a man to a horse.
– Arising out of the answer to my question, I ask the Minister for Defence if, in view of this additional information as to the value of a blood horse, the Government and the honorable senator will give Parliament an opportunity of assessing the value of a soldier’s life proportionately?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of that question.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Government furnish a. statement setting forth -
the total amount of Commonwealth public works expenditure in each State of the Commonwealth since the inception of the present form of Federal Government;
the amount of such expenditure per head of the population of each State of the Commonwealth, the number of the population being that estimated by the Commonwealth Statistician at the date of furnishing the statement?
– Since the abolition of the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution on 31st December, 1910, State distinctions have disappeared from Commonwealth accounts. The Treasury is, therefore, not in a position to compile the information suggested.
fares and Freights.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Postmaster-General’s approval increase passenger fares or freights?
– The answers are : -
Motion (by Senator Earle) agreed to-
That two months’ leave of absence be granted to Senator Mulcahy on account of urgent private business.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It will be within the knowledge of honorable senators that during the war canteens were established in connexion with the Australian Imperial Force. I wish to take this opportunity of publicly acknowledging the services that were rendered to the Commonwealth and to the soldiers by a number of gentlemen throughout Austraila who, although busy men, gave their time gratuitously in the general management of those canteens. I should like particularly to acknowledge the services rendered by Mr. Lockyer, of the InterState Commission. He rendered service that was very valuable, not merely because of the time he devoted to the matter, but because also of the great ability he displayed in establishing the canteens and in generally overlooking their management. A number of other gentlemen in each of the States rendered valuable service. Accountants in each State gave their services in an honorary capacity in the supervising of the accounts of the canteens.
I think it must be admitted that the canteens were of substantial benefit to the soldiers. They enabled them to conveniently obtain in the camps in which they were stationed certain articles of good quality at below the usual retail prices. It was a very much better system than that which obtained at the beginning of the war, when all sorts of traders were allowed into the camps, and, as we know, were in some instances guilty of very peculiar practices. The establishment of the canteens rendered it unnecessary to continue that objectionable system.
– This applies only to camps in Australia ?
– Yes. An extension of the system took place in the establishment of canteens on board ships and also in Egypt, and I think I may say that they were generally successful.
The object of this Bill is to vest the surplus funds of these canteens in trustees for the benefit of widowed mothers and other immediate dependants of deceased soldiers, and for the benefit of seriously disabled soldiers. It is estimated that during the war the total value of the trade done by the canteens amounted to upwards of £7,000,000.
– That does not include the battalion canteens.
– I think that includes all of which the Defence Department had knowledge. A large amount of the profits made by the canteens was distributed in the purchase of material for recreation and sports for the soldiers. It is obvious that in the case of a continually moving Force, such as ours was, it was impossible to justly distribute the whole of the profits made by the canteens amongst those only who were responsible for them. For instance, when a battalion moved out or a batch of reinforcements was removed from camp, there would be profits then in the hands of the canteen committee which justly would be due to the particuliar unit removed. Throughout the war a considerable quantity of assets and stores were accumulated which at the close of the war were sold. They had been accumulated from the turnover generally of the canteens, and could not be said to be the property of any particular unit, although a particular unit might have been in camp at the time the assets and stores were sold. They were, in fact, the property of all. Another pleasing feature in connexion with the canteens is that right throughout they have been self-supporting. At one time, it was necessary to obtain an advance from the Treasury for the canteens in Egypt, but the whole of that amount has since been repaid, and those canteens also were self-supporting. The troops were well catered for, the best quality of goods being obtained at less than the usual retail prices, and yet substantial profits were made. The main object was the welfare of the troops, and I know of no complaint by the men as to the prices charged, or as to the administrationi of the canteens. If any complaints were made, they did not reach me. The accumulated profits and the disposal of the assets represent a sum of about £500,000. Certainof the funds could not be distributed during the war, and so they were invested, and interest thereon has been accumulating. These funds are the property of the whole of the Australian Imperial Force, but it was not possible, with any sense of equity, to distribute the money among the whole of the troops. This question arose very early in the war. In 1917, the Returned Soldiers Association wrote asking me what would be the destination of the surplus, and in August of that year I informed them that it was proposed to distribute the fund in the manner set out in this Bill.
– Was it not suggested that the surplus should be devoted to the blinded soldiers ?
– They are included in the Bill.
– But I think it was suggested that the blinded soldiers should receive the whole of it.
– There may have been some such suggestion, but the intention of the Government was to distribute the fund amongst the. disabled soldiers, and the blinded soldiers are, of course, included. I turned up the letter this morning, and found that the blinded soldiers were certainly included among the disabled soldiers, and they are provided for in the Bill.
I may add that the allocation of this fund will not be in substitution of anything that is being done, or proposed to be done, by the Repatriation Department for our disabled soldiers. I want to make this quite clear
The Senate recently passed a Repatriation Bill in which there is provision for substantially increased weekly payments to blinded soldiers, the amount being increased to about £4 per week, but any money paid to disabled soldiers from the canteen trust fund will not be in substitution of that. I am glad to say also that since it became known that the Government intended to establish this trust fund the trustees in the estate of the late Sir Samuel McCaughey, in New South Wales, intimated that they are holding a large sum of money - over £400,000 - in trust for certain purposes in connexion with our soldiers, and they have decided to invest the whole of it in the canteen trust fundi for the benefit of disabled soldiers, so that the amount now available will be about £1,000,000. The trustees will act in an honorary capacity, and I wish to direct particular attention to the personnel of the Trust. The president for the time being of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia will be a member of the Trust, so that our returned sailors and soldiers will always have a representative on that body. Mrs. Alfred Deakin, widow of the late Right Hon. Alfred Deakin, will also be a member, because of her extensive and sympathetic work on behalf of the soldiers, particularly in Melbourne. The general public, I believe, are not aware of the vast amount of work which she has done, but it has been known to me, because she was engaged at the hospital head-quarters near the barracks. I do not think that any woman in the Commonwealth has done more for our soldiers. Her work has also been generously appreciated, not only by Victorian soldiers, but by men from, all the States, as she came in touch with them as they passed through head-quarters on their return to their respective States. Throughout the war she was, in very truth, a friend of all the soldiers. She did a magnificent work for them, and, also interested herself in the care of the families of many soldiers during the war. It is very desirable therefore that she should be a member of the Trust, more particularly as the trustees will be dealing with the female relatives and children of deceased soldiers. Another member of the Trust will be Mr. Lockyer, who was responsible for the management of the fund right throughout the war, and it is felt that he would be a source of strength to the trustees. The Hon. George Swinburne, well known as a capable business man, will be another member. MajorGeneral Sir Cyril White, another of the trustees, is a typical Australian soldier, and being on the permanent staff at head-quarters, will always be available. Mr. Percy Whitton, who has been the financial adviser in connexion with the canteens, and is a man of undoubted ability, is also to be appointed.
– Are they all Victorians ?
– We do not know. We cannot say in which State the president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League will reside.
– But all the others are Victorians.
– They are residing in Victoria, but in these appointments there has been no idea of favouring Victoria at the expense of the other States. It is obvious that if Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland were to have representatives on the Trust, there would be considerable delay in the dispersal of the funds, and the trustees would be put to considerable expense as they would have to reside in Melbourne for the first few months, at all events. Besides, General White cannot be called a Victorian. The other member of the Trust is to be Mr. Harold P. Moorehead, who was a private in the Australian Imperial Force. and who has had considerable experience in connexion with the work of the Repatriation Commission. Mr. Moorehead is a very capable man, and one who possesses the confidence of the rank and file of the Australian Imperial Force. I may say that . the trustees of the McCaughey estate have been informed as to the personnel of the Trust, and they will have no hesitation in handing over to it the funds intrusted to them for this purpose. The object of the Trust will be to distribute these moneys for the benefit of the classes of eases I have mentioned. As regards the McCaughey bequest of £450,000, which is to be transferred to this Trust, it has been provided that the money shall be allocated as follows: - (a) Pastoral, agricultural, and technical education, £300,000 - that is for the benefit of the children of soldiers; (6) beds and cots in hospitals for wives and children of soldiers, £50,000; (c) subsidies to building funds of Australian Imperial . Force units, £50,000; and (d) other special purposes to be decided by the executors,. £50,000. I trust the Senate will realize that we are not dealing with public money, and that we are bound to honour the promise that was primarily made to the representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. They were informed as to how the money would be used, and have given their approval. I ask the Senate to take the view that the trustees are not to disburse the money in any other way than that provided. The Trust will have to render yearly accounts to Parliament of the way in which they have expended the moneys committed to their charge, and the fund will be subject to the usual audit provisions. I trust the Bill will have an early and speedy passage.
– In speaking on the second reading of this Bill, I wish to support what the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has said in regard to those persons who are to constitute the Trust to administer this fund. I offer no opposition to the appointment of any of the persons mentioned by the Minister, as I have the highest opinion of the personal character and ability of the proposed members o.f the Trust, and feel sure that they are quite capable of carrying out this responsible work. I believe that the president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League will always be selected with due regard to his character and ability; but, person- ally, I would rather see a selection made from ex-service men who have been abroad. That would not necessarily exclude the president of” the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League.
– How could such a selection be made ?
– That is quite a reasonable question, because there would probably be difficulty. A notice, however, could be published in the daily papers throughout the Commonwealth intimating that a ballot would be taken, and that soldiers, wherever they were situated, could vote by post. I am of the opinion, however, that the selection of the president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, as the representative of the soldiers, is hardly right, as I consider that a selection should be made irrespective of organizations. We have only to consider the .amount of money at the disposal of the trustees to realize the importance of the work they are to perform. I have not associated myself very closely with any of the naval or military organizations that have been formed in connexion with the war; but I do not think any one can remain in public life for any time without quickly learning that there are rival organizations and institutions. Quite a number of things have been said concerning these organizations. I have heard it stated that those who first hurried back from the Front formed these associations, and, now they are entrenched in their dug-outs, consider they are ‘the only representatives of the soldiers. The soldiers, being such a scattered force, have not the cohesion that is desirable. I am not claiming to be sufficiently in touch with .the associations to know to what extent these organizations are representative of the general body, but from what I have heard I consider it my duty to be on the alert to see that when such measures as this are introduced, both sides shall be heard, and the question tested. It is our duty to see that the soldiers outside these organizations are not overlooked, and probably when the Bill is in Committee I shall move an amendment to the effect that the representative of the soldiers on the Board shall be selected by a vote of the people concerned. I realize that there is expense and difficulty attaching to such a proposal, but the importance of the question is such that we should face it. Such persons should be selected as the representatives of the soldiers, and not of any particular organization.. After my long parliamentary experience, I have a very strong .objection to Boards constituted in this way, particularly when they are to handle funds for the benefit of certain people. I can recall instances in the State which I represent, where, as the result of accidents in coal mines, huge funds were created to alleviate suffering, and where the officers in control of those funds drew more money from them than the people they were intended to benefit. Senator Henderson will realize that that statement is not overdrawn.
– That is correct.
– But this is to be an honorary Board.
– Exactly. The question then arises as to whether honorary Boards aTe satisfactory. I am not discounting the value of the splendid services men and women have given gratuitously, but, generally speaking, when entering into arrangements for handling a huge sum of money, it should be a set ‘ principle to pay for services rendered. If I had money, little or much, I should reckon that to have it successfully handled it should be intrusted, not to amateurs on an honorary basis, but to responsible’ people appointed because of their ability and capacity to handle money. I have a rooted objection to these Boards for doling out charity. With such a splendid sum of money to commence with, a Government anxious to benefit the soldiers, and alert to use it in the best way, would recognise that it was the nucleus of a fund which, properly used, after thought and consideration, could develop from one end of Australia to another businesses in which the soldiers could participate, and which would bring in a substantial revenue. Instead of the money being gradually dissipated or quickly spread out in charitable dole3, it would thus be a source of perpetual revenue for the benefit of the soldiers and their dependants.
– You refer to such an industry as the manufacture of wool-tops, for instance.
– Tes, and clothing factories, or I would use Sir Samuel McCaughey’s munificent bequest for the repatriation of soldiers in establishing educational colleges. I would take, but not without paying for it, part of the best land’s in every State of the Commonwealth - some of the rich sugar lands of Queensland, which give a return of 20 per cent, more profit per acre than do our best wheat lands in New South Wales, and portion of the rich dairying or potato lands of Victoria, and some of the best wheat lands and the best woolgrowing lands in those or other States.
Here is a fund of money which, if agricultural institutions for the instruction of soldiers’ children were conducted on the profit-making principle, would be at the disposal of the Government, and within a very brief period of time would give a permanent- return from every State of the Commonwealth. It would not be a matter of the money being dissipated in a year or two with nobody receiving much benefit from it, and eternal dissatisfaction being expressed with the way it had been used, but we should have the nucleus of a fund both for establishing educational institutions and for the development of profitable industries that would be worthy of the generous gift of Sir Samuel McCaughey, the great squatter who died in New South Wales recently. It would also ‘be more worthy of the splendid voluntary services rendered by those men who so successfully conducted the canteens that our soldiers were better served, with better goods, of better quality and more quantity - I think that they got two cigarettes more in a packet from the Government than from private sellers - than would otherwise have been the case. I appeal to the Government to withdraw the Bill, realizing what an excellent opportunity they have to their hand to develop institutions that will be of permanent benefit to those left behind by the soldiers who gave their all fighting for this country. ‘Senator Bolton referred to a proposal concerning the blind. I do not think that more than 250 blinded soldiers, have returned.
– About 200, I think.
– I am not particular as to the exact number. Here isa fund of money, partly given by thecommunity and partly earned by the soldiers themselves in the canteens, by which,, under successful management, the soldiers could be provided with occupations giving them businesses and places of instruction that would train them to do different kinds of work, leading to permanency of employment.
– And a deep interest in life, which is what they need.
– Giving not only permanency of employment, but an interest in life, as Senator Bolton very properly says. Here is the opportunity for it. The Minister may tell me that the Board will take all these things into consideration.
– - You argue in a different way so far as the war gratuity is concerned. In that case you want to give the soldiers cash so that they can squander it.
– The honorable senator has not yet heard my argument about the war gratuity. It was not out of consideration for the soldiers that I wanted to pay the gratuity in cash, but out of consideration for my country. I do not want a lot of people hanging about dependent upon the Government for anything. I desire the matter to be settled promptly. I shall leave that question to be discussed at the proper time, but I altogether deprecate this method of inquiring whether what I am saying about this Bill will fit in squarely with what I am going to say about another. I am expressing about this Bill how it strikes me in the first place. I have little time for Boards administering large sums of money in the interests of other people, because of the number of occasions on which they have failed and the few on which they have been a pronounced success. I would rather this money were put into a Government Department, created immediately for the purpose, with an officer in charge, a staff sufficient for him to carry on, and a Minister in this and another place responsible for it, so that the representatives of the returned soldiers and the other people interested could have information daily when Parliament was sitting, or at any time they chose to approach their parliamentary representatives. That, too, would give an infinitely better form of Board than the one the Government now propose. This idea of spreading your institutions away from any controlling influence is on quite different lines. I am glad that Senator Pearce reminded us that it is not public money which the Board is going to handle. The very fact that a Bill is being passed here to deal with it makes it public money. We cannot pass a Bill to deal with money that we have no right to control. When the measure goes through we shall have the right to control that money, and by parsing the Bill we are taking the legal right to decide its destination. This is an excellent opportunity to put the money into those branches of employment that would do so much good. There is sufficient of it to attempt a lot of things, whilst among the men who have come back there are enough to control the fund in the interests of the soldiers and their dependants. Pour hundred and fifty thousand pounds is a lot of money, but that is the sum which is to be put at the disposal of this Board, or Committee, under the conditions attached to the bequest. The Board does not strike me as competent to deal with that money in that practical, hard-headed, commonsense way which the generous giver would have wished.
– -Have not his trustees to be satisfied that the Board is competent 1
– So far as their ability for this particular Trust is concerned, I think the trustees appointed will “fill the bill” as well as any other body of men that the Minister could get together. The Minister assures us that the trustees mentioned by Senator Shannon are satisfied. I am speaking here as a trustee of the whole of the people of Australia, who are interested in the proper use of this money. Here is a fund, which if used by a branch department under the control of the Government, would be subject to the continual criticism of this Parliament, and might, therefore,- be very effectively administered. Such amethod of handling it would be infinitely preferable to its administration by an honorary Board. The easiest answer to any criticism of an honorary body would be for its members to say, “Well, we are giving our services voluntarily, and therefore we will get out.” My experience of Boards leads me to believe that the administration of this fund will probably devolve upon one or two executive officers, whose decrees the other members of the proposed Board will merely register. In these circumstances I do not regard the proposal of the Government as an effective way of dealing with such . a huge fund. Here is a unique opportunity for them to do something splendid for the dependants of deceased soldiers, who did so much for this country. I know that Ministers rarely have time to think of anything outside the beaten track, but I do ask the Minister for Defence to recognise the glorious opportunity which is here presented to him. His remarks in moving the second reading of the Bill seemed to imply that it would be only a little while before the work of the Board would be finished. I do not share that opinion. Let me deal with the Melbourne aspect of this proposal by way of illustration. The soldiers’ money has been used from one end of Australia to the other, and I am sorry, therefore that the proposed Board will be purely a Melbourne one.
– There will be a Local Committee in each State to advise the Board.
– I am very glad to hear that. It seems to me that such a step is very necessary. But I cannot forget that a most sacred compact was made with Victoria that this Parliament should remain in Melbourne for a period of only ten years. It has already been here for nineteen years, and yet there is no indication on the part of the people of Melbourne that they desire to do the fair thing to the remainder of the people of Australia. This matter evidences the grip of affairs which Melbourne likes to get and to retain. Of course, I know that Senator Earle, who comes from the little isle of Tasmania, is so accustomed to inhale the Melbourne atmosphere that he has come to regard this city as Australia. But we who breathe a freer atmosphere have a firmly-rooted idea that Melbourne is merely a very small portion of Australia. I am not at all satisfied with the way in which Melbourne has dealt with this Parliament. Yet, under this Bill, it is proposed to constitute a Melbourne Board, to whom is to be handed over huge sums of Australian money. This body will be advised from the rest of the Commonwealth by State committees.
– There is no provision in the Bill for their appointment.
– That is so. What chance has a Local Committee to advise, against the Melbourne influences which are so strong that they can disregard the sacred promise made to the people of Australia concerning the establishment of the Federal Capital in New South Wales? If those influences can flout Australia in a big matter, what can they not do in respect of a small one? There is so strong an atmosphere of Melbourne about the proposed Board that, so far as Australia is concerned, one forgets it altogether. I would like to see a branch of a department constituted.
– Of the Meteorological Department ?
– Of the Defence Department. I merely rose to express my views quite mildly, because, as I have already stated, I entertain noobjection whatever to any member of the proposed Board. But I do think that this body should be made a branch ofthe Defence Department, in order that it might be continually under the criticism of the representatives of the people. I am satisfied that we cannot insist upon proper attention being devoted to duty by the members of an honorary Board, who will merely present us with an annual report of what they are doing. But even if the Board be of an honorary character during its initial stages,it will not be long before we shall be called upon to pay the expenses of its members. They will thus get allowances. Indeed, I do not know whether that is not contemplated at the present time.
– Then I shall have an opportunity hereafter of saying to the Minister, “I told you so,” because as soon as the members of the Board find that they are being subjected to expense in doing the country’s work in an honorary capacity, they will want to be reimbursed. I am sorry that the Minister should have decided to constitute the Board in the way proposed. It would have been much better if the fund had been placed under some Minister responsible to Parliament. Although the Minister has reminded us that these funds ‘are not public moneys, the passing of this Bill will make them public moneys, since we must take the responsibility for the body to whom the administration ofthe funds is intrusted. We are constituting these funds public funds, and the best safeguard for the public funds of the people of Australia is that their administration shall always be open to question in Parliament. The Minister may say that the proposed Board will be open to criticism. The secretary of the Board will drop the members a line to say that at half-past 3 on the afternoon of a particular day a meeting will be held for the discussion of important business. The Board will meet, and in accordance with the usual perfunctory performance of duties by such bodies, will do just what the secretary, or the man with’ force and brains on the Board, proposes shall be done. I am aware that some people consider that an excellent way of doing business, but from my experience of the handling of funds gathered from the public in the State I represent, the results have not been sufficiently satisfactory to warrant my permitting this Bill to go through without registering a protest against it. I advise the Minister that in this measure he is proceeding on the wrong track, and that this money should be vested in a Department controlled by a Minister responsible to the representatives of the people. That is, in my view, the wisest way of administering such a fund.
Debate (on motion by SenatorFoll) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The gratuity payment that is proposed to be made under this Bill, let me say at the outset, is not a matter of right, but is a gift from the people of the Commonwealth in recognition of honorable service. No undertakingwas given to members of the Australian Imperial Force that any gratuity at all would be paid them. It is somewhat interesting to look back over the history of gratuities paid in connexion with war services. The first of which we have any record was known as “batter money.” How the term originated I do not know, but it was proposed in connexion with the Peninsular War, when Wellington, anxious to deter his soldiers from looting captured towns, promised them that if they abstained from looting, they would, at the conclusion of the war, have “batter money” paid to them. That course was followed at the conclusion of the Peninsular War, and has, I believe, been followed at the conclusion of each war in which Britain has since been engaged. No such thing was contemplated in connexion with the Australian Imperial Force, and I am sure that no such inducement was needed in order to restrain Australian soldiers from looting any town they might take.
I want to say, in justice to myself, that the question of the pay ment of the gratuity was not overlooked, as has been suggested in some quarters. In 1918, before I left for England, I gave instructions to the Defence Department that inquiries should be opened up with the British. Government and the Governments of the various Dominions of the Empire to ascertain what they proposed to do in connexion with the gratuity. My colleague (Senator Russell) will remember that whilst I was in England I cabled to him intimating that I had had numerous inquiries from members of the Australian Imperial Force as to what was going to be done in the way of the payment of a gratuity. Senator Russell had these inquiries followed up, and when the question came to be faced by the Government, we were able to give the result of our inquiries as to what was proposed or was being done in this connexion in other parts of the Empire.
It will be of interest to the Senate to compare what is proposed by this measure with what is being done in other parts of the British Empire. I have here a comparison of the gratuity payable in the different parts of the Empire. For instance, in the case of a soldier who left Australia in November, 1914, and. was killed in April, 1915, at the landing on Gallipoli, the amount of gratuity paid would be-: -
In the case of a man who left Australia in November, 1914, was wounded at Gallipoli, returned to Australia, and was discharged in November, 1916, the gratuity paid would be: -
The rate of payment in Canada is six months’ pay and allowances for three years’ service; five months’ pay for two years’ service; four months’ pay for one year’s service; and three months’ pay for any service of less than one year. In New Zealand the rate is1s. 6d. per day for service abroad only. For home service Canada allows three months’ pay for three years’ service; two months’ pay for two years’ ser- vice, and one month’s pay for one year’s service or less. In New Zealand no gratuity is paid for home service. In Canada the gratuity is paid in monthly instalments. In New Zealand it is paid principally through the banks.
The total estimated cost of the proposed gratuity to Australia is £28,000,000. Of this sum, £6,000,000, it is estimated, will be required to meet the cash payments provided for under various clauses of the Bill. Arrangements have been made with ‘the banks by which this sum of £6,000,000 will be made available as an overdraft to the Commonwealth upon which interest will be charged at the rate of 5^ per cent.
I wish briefly to deal with the contention that the gratuity should be paid in cash, and with some of the arguments used in support of that contention. As one of the arguments, and the one most frequently used, for a cash payment, and as indicating that the necessary . cash is readily available, critics quote the figures showing the deposits in the banks, comparing 1914 with 1919. According to these figures, the deposits in the banks in 1914 amounted to £186,600,000, and in 1919 they amounted to £280,000,000, showing an apparent increase of £93,400,000. These figures are illusory if quoted to indicate a corresponding increase of -wealth. Money to-day is not a true index of the quantity of goods or the real wealth available.
I invite the attention of honorable Senators to some very interesting figures, which will be found in No. 12 of Mr. Knibbs’ Commonwealth Year-Book to illustrate this. It is shown there that in 1901 we exported goods, exclusive of gold and specie, to the value of £35,348,396, and in 1917-18 our exports were valued at £74,912,489. But the value in each case is in terms of the prices ruling in those years, and if our exports in 1917-18 were valued on the basis of the price levels of 1901 they would have amounted to only £35.946,491. The significance of this is that, notwithstanding the fact that our population meanwhile had increased by 33 per cent., the real wealth available for export in 1917-18, when compared with the export of 1901 on the basis of the prices ruling in that year, indicated an increase in the value of our exports of less than 2 per cent.
I can’ give honorable senators some figures illustrating the same point in connexion with the value and weight of imports into the United Kingdom, where an account is kept of weight as well as of value. In 1913 the value ‘ of the imports into -the United Kingdom was £659,200,000, and their weight 54,500,000 tons. In 1919 the value of the imports was £1,467,600,000, and their weight only 40,000,000 tons. Those figures show ‘that it cost the consumers of Britain £808,300,000 more on war values for 14,500,000 tons less weight of imports.
– Why does the Minister make a comparison of imports for the United Kingdom, and of exports for the Commonwealth?
– For no particular purpose, except to show that the same thing applies to imports and exports. I have some figures, also, in respect to exports from the United Kingdom which, perhaps, will satisfy Senator Bakhap. In 1913, Great Britain exported piece-goods to the extent of 7;000,000i,000 yards, valued at £97,000,000 ; and in 1919 she exported 3,500,000,000 yards, which were valued at £178,000,000 - one-half the quantity estimated at double the value.
-Does the,, honorable senator argue that if we get higher prices for our produce, that does- not bring more wealth to the country ?
– I do,” under the conditions I am now going to state. ‘ The fact is that the figures quoted do not indicate an increase of wealth, but the decreased value of money, owing to the inflation of values because of the gigantic borrowing for war purposes, and to decreased production. I think it is clear from the figures I have given that those who loosely argue that because of an apparent increase in the deposits in banks, which every one knows is due to the tremendous amount of paper circulated in the Commonwealth by reason of our war borrowing, the country is in a position to meet the gratuity as an immediate charge, are arguing on false premises, and take a mistaken view of what the figures they quote really represent. Fa, from indicating that the country is better able to pay, when their true significance is taken into consideration, they indicate that the country is less able to pay; and it would be far better if, instead of an increase in the deposits in banks, we could show an increase in production, which is the only true test of our ability to pay.
There is another phase of the question which I think I am justified in bringing under the notice of the Senate and of the public. I refer to the undertaking which the Commonwealth has already shouldered, and is shouldering, in connexion with the quite proper and legitimate obligations to the Australian Imperial Force. The interest and sinking fund payment and war pensions, it is estimated, will represent an annual charge on the Commonwealth of £27,000,000. That will remain an annual charge until the Commonwealth is in a position to re place these bonds, not with other bonds by fresh borrowing, but with goods or real wealth produced. Until we are able to do that, this amount must remain an annual charge upon the shoulders, of our 5,000,000 of people.
Let us consider the expenditure that ‘ has already been either undertaken or to which Parliament has already committed the country on behalf of the returned soldiers. I am absolutely in sympathy with the objects for which that expenditure is to be incurred; but it is very desirable, when considering any extension of the scope of the measure, that we should know just what aTe the Commonwealth commitments. I have here a statement bearing upon that point. The figures aTe - ;
If to the above we add the total recurring liability in the form of interest on out war loans, the amount is £49,584,336, representing expenditure on our soldiers and their dependants up to the end of the present financial year.
In regard to the qualifying service for war gratuities, I may briefly set it out as follows: - On the military side, those who embarked for service overseas, ls.. 6d. per day from date of embarkation to 2Sth June, 1919; those who enlisted, but did not embark, ls. per day from the date of reporting for duty until the date of discharge, but not to exceed six months. For the naval service - ls. 6d. per day for members of the Naval Forces who served in a sea-going ship after the 4th August, 1914, and before 11th November, 1918, or who during that period were borne for pay on the books of one of His Majesty’s Australian ships; ls. per day for members of the Naval Forces other than members of the auxiliary service who did not serve . in a sea-going ship in the period mentioned; ls. 6d. per day to men of the Naval and Military Expeditionary Force to New Guinea from the date of enlistment to 28th June, 1919 ; and ls. 6d. per day to Imperial reservists who embarked from Australia before 10th November, 1918, for service overseas.
The gratuity will be paid in. nonnegotiable bonds, with certain exceptions for classes of cases as indicated in clause 13, for which cases cash payments may be made. Provision is also made for the investment of the gratuity in approved companies comprised of returned soldiers or their dependants ; and deductions from the amount of gratuity to be paid may be made in cases where fraud and deception have been practised upon the Commonwealth. It is not proposed to give authority to deduct an ordinary debt due to the Commonwealth; but where it is clear that fraud and deception have been practised, the Government think it only right that the amount -involved should be deducted from the amount payable to the recipient.
– That relates to Australian Imperial Force pay, -I presume 5
– And any other payment made by the Commonwealth to the soldier. It includes payments by the Repatriation Department. There is provision to set up a prescribed authority to determine the period of disqualification. The Bill provides that in certain cases men will be disqualified from participating in the gratuity; but there may be only a partial disqualification, and it will be the duty of this prescribed authority to investigate and make recommendations as to the period of disqualification. This authority will also have power to determine the destination of the gratuity in certain cases with which Senator Gardiner, who at one time was associated with me as Assistant Minister for Defence, will no doubt be familiar. At that time the same question arose in connexion with the payment of separation allowances. In certain cases it would ‘be an injustice to pay this gratuity to the beneficiaries under the will of a deceased soldier, by reason of the fact that there were other dependants or relatives who had a prior claim. This gratuity is not in the same category as the ordinary assets of an estate, because it is a gift by the Commonwealth, and, therefore, Parliament, is entitled to provide that, where the facts are clearly established, certain relatives of a deceased soldier shall be provided for.
I have no doubt that there will be a natural desire on the part of certain honorable senators to endeavour to include other classes of cases within the scope of the Bill, because during the war so many persons rendered excellent service to their country, although not on the battlefield. But we must draw the lino somewhere, and I venture bo say that if any attempt is made to extend the scope of the Bill, other cases on the border line will also be entitled to consideration. If we could have stopped at those who went overseas, our difficulties would have been eased considerably, but as a result of the conference with the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association the Government decided not to draw the line at those who actually went overseas, because the claims of other men seemed to be almost equally strong. We decided, however, to limit the payment of the gratuity to the fighting Forces that were available and could have been used by the Government for this purpose; whether we have succeeded logically in doing that is a matter for the Senate to determine. We feel we have. If honorable senators are inclined to widen the scope of the measure and include other cases, I invite them to think of the next allied class of case to that which they desire included. They will then realize how difficult it is to stop until they include every group which was in any way associated with the armed Naval and Military Forces of the Commonwealth. If the measure is to be extended to include those who helped to take our soldiers to the field’ of action, and the men who worked in the munition factories to provide the munitions of war, it may also be argued that the men engaged on our coastal steamer service to bring our soldiers from Western Australia to Victoria for special training should be provided for, because to a certain extent they were exposed to as much risk as were men engaged on steamers conveying troops from Melbourne to Port Said. In the early stages of the war, when our soldiers were being brought down from Queensland, or over from Western Australia, to Liverpool, Broadmeadows, or Seymour camps for special training, German ships were within striking distance of our shores, whereas later in the war period, when transports were taking our soldiers to Egypt, there was no known enemy ship anywhere in the Indian Ocean. Men engagedon transports on the Pacific route, taking ships through the Panama Canal, also ran a certain risk but in the issue of war zone medals for seamen the Pacific has not been recognised as a war zone, and, therefore, medals have not been issued to seamen engaged on that route. I warn honorable senators that if they seek to include all classes of cases they will find themselves in an interminable morass. There are two main classes of men to whom this gratuity should be paid, namely, the sailors and soldiers who actually went to war, and, having provided for them, I think that, taking the situation by and large, we have done all that we could be fairly asked to do.
I invite honorable senators to consider the various provisions by which the Bill is safeguarded, and say whether, in their opinion, they are adequate or too stringent. We cannot accept any extension of the Bill for the reasons I have indicated. I am one of those who Believe that our soldiers were better paid,better fed, and better clothed than the soldiers of any other country engaged in the war. That is the opinion I hold, and it is supported by all those who have had anything to do with the soldiers. It cannot be contended that the pensions and the repatriation conditions generally are not a fair and just recognition of the claims of the service men. In this respect Australia compares more than favorably with other countries, especially as regards repatriation, and I ask honorable senators not to look upon this measure separately, but to consider it in conjunction with other such benefits.
– It compares more than favorably just as our soldiers compare more than favorably with others.
– I ask honorable senators not to regard this as a provision standing by itself, but to consider it in connexion with the other measures adopted for the benefit of our sailors and soldiers who, through their official organizations, have expressed their satisfaction with it. In that spirit, I invite honorable senators to give the Bill a speedy passage, so that the bonds may be issued and the machinery set in motion.
– What about the members of the Naval Reserve?
– They are in much the same position as certain members of the Military Forces. In the Military
Forces, first of all, we had permanent soldiers in the garrison troops, including men who were thoroughly skilled gunners. As sections of the German fleet were in the Pacific in the early stages of thewar, these men could not enlist. Many of them asked for permission to go abroad, and were refused, but towards the end of the war, when the German fleet had practically disappeared from the seas, that embargo was lifted to such an extent that we allowed certain members to enlist in the Siege Brigade, in which heavy guns were used. But the Siege Brigade being a comparatively small unit, only small reinforcements were required, and there were always more men available than were actually required. Therefore, while technically given permission to enlist, only a few of the men had the opportunity of doing so. There were also the men of the Australian Garrison Artillery. Early in the war, these men were called up for guard duty at Thursday Island and other points, where it was necessary to have garrison troops. Many of them asked permission to enlist, and had to be refused, but, later, the embargo was removed, and a large number actually joined the Australian Imperial Force. We had the compulsory provisions of the Defence Act, under which men were liable, to engage in naval or military work, and certain men, not as a result of choice, were drafted into the Naval Reserve. Under the Defence Act, it is rather a peculiar anomaly that, whilst we had not compulsion on the military side, there was a conscription clause whereby we could send men in the Naval Reserve to any part of the world. That was introduced by a Labour Government, of whichI was Minister for Defence.
– You had men who volunteered under those conditions.
– These men did not volunteer, as they had been conscripted under the Defence Act, and sent into the Naval Service. There was a further power in the hands of the Government to conscript them to serve in any part of the world, but the Government did not operate that power. To the credit of these men, it must be said that many wished to volunteer for service in the Australian Imperial Force, but the Government said their services were required here.
– The present naval cadets are subject to the same legislation.
– In regard to the Naval Reserve, there are two classes. One was kept in Australia within territorial waters, and, in fact, some of them were not employed on shi,ps at all, but on wharfs and at various other points, just as were members of the Military Forces. Their service was analogous to that performed by members of the Military Forces, as many of them were engaged in the examination of vessels that had been held up by the fort before entering the Heads on approaching both Melbourne and Sydney. Although the duties of these men included the searching of vessels arriving, they did not actually go outside territorial waters. There were, however, others who were engaged in searching for mines after the Cumberland was sunk off Gabo Island. Such men are included in those to whom payment is to be made.
– And also the gunlayers on transports.
– Yes, as it is believed that these men underwent something approximating war experience. In regard to the Naval Reserve and members of the Citizen Force, it is admitted that many made a. sacrifice, as their finances and industrial prospects were interfered with. But in a sense it can be said that scores of thousands of people who did not serve in the Australian Imperial Force made, in one way or another, some sacrifice. This is not a Bill to reward’ those who made sacrifices in consequence of the war, but it purports to reward those who served in a war zone or in war operations. Whilst it may be true that those who were employed at guard work at certain stations or on wharfs received less pay than they would have received in other avocations, it must be admitted that they did not incur the risk of others, and that their occupation was a comparatively peaceful and easy one. Under these conditions their claim does not merit the same consideration.
– What of the men who received permanent injury in camp, and who did not go abroad ?
– It does not provide for the men who were permanently injured in camp, but the dependants of those who died in camp will receive the gratuity.
– What of the dependants of those who met with a serious accident in camp?
– Such cases as those are dealt with under our Pensions Act. Where men were injured in camp they will receive ls. per day under the conditions laid down, but if ai man who enlisted died in camp, his dependants will receive a gratuity based on the rate of ls. 6d. a day, because it was the intention of such a person to proceed to the Front.
There is another point with which I would like to deal. The question has been asked- why we should pay men, who went away in the first- division, who were wounded at the landing and on their return to Australia were discharged, for the whole period of the war, as against a man who went away with the first division, and, although wounded several times, served right through. iv n the face of it, it looks like an inequality, but after careful examination I do not think it is. In the first place, it must be remembered that no men were discharged at their own request, but at the wish of the Government. When a soldier returned wounded the medical officers appointed by the Government examined the man, and if the medical officers reported that he was unfit for further service he was discharged. Such a man volunteered to give his services for the whole period of the war, but the Government under the circumstances decided to relieve hi of his obligation. It seems right, therefore, that he should re”ceive a gratuity based on the full war period. Those men who returned as a result of their own undoing are not to receive consideration.
I think honorable senators can rest assured that this matter has been fully considered by the Government. Wo went through an election when this question was pending, and it may be taken for granted that every phase of the problem was brought under the notice of Ministers. The Government announced broadly the basis upon which the gratuity would be payable, and it was included in the policy of the Government and their supporters at the recent election. The party supporting this policy has been returned, and, therefore, we should be safe in assuming that it has the imprimatur of the people of Australia.
– I am sorry the Minister has introduced, that.
– That is the opinion ! hold. We told the electors that we favoured the payment of the gratuity in non-negotiable bonds, whilst those in opposition said that they were prepared to pay cash, and made that a clear-cut issue.
– The Minister stated that the gratuity was to be paid in cash.
– Senator Gardiner is referring to an unfortunate occasion when I trusted that unreliable source of information - the press. A statement was telegraphed to Western Australia, and appeared in the West Australian, to the effect that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had stated that he had made arrangements with the banks for the gratuity to be paid in cash.
– A ..similar statement appeared to the New South Wales papers.
– The Prime Minister corrected that. I repeated the statement on the strength of what appeared in a newspaper paragraph. When there appeared to be some doubt I received a telegram correcting the statement, which I at once made public through the columns of the West Australian.
– I am depending Upon that unreliable source. Did not the Minister say at one meeting that he had received a telegram from the Prime Minister confirming the statement?
– Yes. I sent the Prime Minister a telegram stating that the report of his meeting in Adelaide gave the terms of the gratuity to be paid and had been published in the West Australian.. I asked whether I could use that statement as one coming from him. I did not repeat the terms of the published report as it was somewhat lengthy, but I assumed that it was correct. The Prime Minister telegraphed back, giving me permission to use the published statement, and I quoted it. The point was then raised as to whether it was an accurate report, and as to whether the Government had made arrangements to pay the gratuity in cash. I think the statement was challenged by the banks. Seeing this, I then telegraphed to Mr. Hughes to know whether he ‘had said that he had actually made the arrangement with the banks. Receiving from him a reply that he had not made such a state ment, I corrected what I had previously said.
– What is the reason for giving cash to a man who marries since his discharge, and not to other men?
– The assumption is that when a man is about to marry he is put to considerable expense. He wants to obtain his furniture and set up a home. This, I suppose, is looked upon as a sort of wedding gift from the Commonwealth to the man who takes on marriage obligations, whereas the old married man has made his arrangements and generally expects to be able to rub along.
– Does that apply to all those who have married since their return from the war ?
– I do not think it does, but I should not like to give a definite answer on that point. I shall have it looked up. I assume that it applies to those who marry after this Bill becomes law, but I do not want to make that statement definitely.
– That is rather an invidious distinction.
– Where are you going to draw the line? I would remind the honorable senator that the question of marriage in the Australian Imperial Force in the Old Country when I was there was rather a delicate one. I am afraid that we shall be rather adding to the difficulties of the Treasury if we extend the principle too far.
– Notwithstanding the speech of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who would give us to understand that this measure has the approval of the members .of the Australian Imperial Force, I venture to say that if a vote were taken, not of the officers of the various associations or at some of the meetings of the associations, but of the whole of the members of the Australian Imperial Force, it would be found that no Bill that has ever been before this Chamber would meet with less approval at their hands than would this particular measure. I have spoken to a very considerable number of returned men, and have never yet met one of them who approved of the idea of paying them in bonds. On the contrary, all I have met are vigorously in favour of the amount feeing paid to them in cash, and at once.
– You did not meet very many, then.
– I met very many of them. The honorable senator’s statement is quite incorrect, and he does not know what he is talking about, because I met hundreds and thousands of them. We are informed by the Minister that it is proposed to pay a certain number of classes of cases in cash, the total amount of which will approximate to £6,000,000. We are further informed that many employers are to cash the bonds, and we find from one of the clauses of the Bill that the War Service Homes Commissioners and some other public Departments “will accept the bonds as cash. I do not know how many millions will be covered by those provisions, but I assume that at least another £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 may be regarded as being liquidated, so far as the soldiers are concerned, in that way. That would account in all for about £12,000,000. I refuse absolutely to subscribe to the idea that the Commonwealth is unwilling to pay this money in cash. I disagree entirely with . the deductions of the Minister for Defence that this was the issue on -which the recent elections were fought, and that the returned men deliberately voted for the Government in such large numbers as to give them a majority in some oases on this particular issue. There were many other issues which commanded the attention of returned men and electors generally. All those I have come across have been strongly in favour of the payment of the gratuity in cash, and only last night a big deputation of the returned men pleaded with the Prime Minister, if he could not possibly pay the whole amount due to them in cash, to give them at least 50 per cent, of it in cash. When these men went abroad the prices of commodities in Australia were at a certain level. While those who remained on the spot were surprised at the persistent manner in which the prices of various commodities rose, it must have been quite an eye-opener to the men who returned to find the purchasing power of the sovereign had decreased in many cases by 25 per cent., and latterly to a much greater degree.
I do not regard the gratuity as a grant or gift, but look upon it as something to which the returned men are absolutely entitled, because during their absence no increases whatever were made in their so-called salaries.
– Yes, there were increases in the separation allowance.
– I am aware of it; but I was speaking of the 6s. per day actually paid to tine men themselves. The men who remained in Australia obtained in many cases the benefit of industrial awards whereby their wages were to a certain extent increased, and it is only equitable that the men who were abroad and received no increases of that sort should get something by way of increase on their return to Australia. I look upon this payment, not as a gratuity or gift, but as an absolute right. I must express my entire regret that the Government cannot see their way clear to bring down a measure to pay the men in cash. Had the war continued, we should have required to find the necessary amount of cash to carry on the war.
– You opposed men going.
– That statement is quite untrue, and this is no place to endeavour to circulate statements without foundation in fact.
– You said Australia had done enough. ^
– The honorable senator has no right to keep on making a statement which is denied by me, and which he knows to be untrue. No statement of that kind was ever made by me, or by my party. The honorable senator repeats it so frequently that no doubt he believes it himself. At the same time it has no foundation in fact, it is entirely misleading, and is only worthy of Senator Guthrie.
One phase of the Bill has my entire approval. It has been the custom in the past, when money was being divided, to give more to those who were receiving higher salaries than to those who were receiving lower pay, and I am pleased that the Government have proposed in this measure ‘to give all hands in the Australian Imperial Force a flat rate according to the class in which they are placed. There are five classes to whom it is proposed to give a flat rate of ls. 6d. per day, and two classes who are to receive only ls. per day. I do not wish to comment adversely on the separation of those two classes as laid down by the Government. I recognise that it is difficult to stop short of giving the whole of the people directly engaged in the war a share in the proposed distribution of public funds, and I have no doubt that in the near future the Government will bring down an amending measure to extend these provisions. it is very much easier to do that than to propose at a later date to curtail or exclude any of the classes for whom provision is now being made.
The information given by the Minister shows that Australia purposes making a more liberal payment by way of gratuity than has been made by any other country. To this, again, I have no objection. I think the Government have done the right thing in fixing the period for which the gratuity will be paid, as from the 4th August, 1914, to the 28th June, 1919. When we consider the immense wealth of Australia and the facility with which money can be borrowed for other purposes, and expended; when we consider the facilities that can be made available in certain directions–
– For expending money?
– For borrowing money, and, if necessary, for expending it, it is surprising to me that the Government cannot be screwed up to the point of borrowing at least another £25,000,000 for the purpose of at once liquidating this claim.
In numerous clauses of the Bill I notice that there is a reference to “the prescribed authority.” This “prescribed authority” is to be vested with very extensive powers, which it will exercise over a considerable number of years. To my mind, it would be far more economical if the Government were to add the £25,000,000 that will be involved in the payment of this gratuity to our national debt, and to pay interest upon it in the ordinary way. Our indebtedness would not be very materially increased thereby. That would be the right policy to adopt.
There is one clause of the measure which seems to be of so obscure a character that it ought not to be passed without honorable senators first ascertaining what it really means. In clause 12 there is a provision which, unless altered, will lead to a very great deal of difficulty and interference. It reads -
A member of the Forces who has married since the date of his discharge.
This provision is so vague that even the Minister himself cannot pretend that he understands its meaning. -Personally I do not know how many members of the Australian Imperial Force have married since their return from the Front; but if it be intended to pay the gratuity to those who may marry after the passing of this Bill, there does not seem any logical reason why the measure should not be made retrospective, so as to include all those who have married since their return to Australia, or who have married and remained in Great Britain. The Government have no option but to make this provision applicable to all members of the Australian Imperial Force. Otherwise they will be drawing a distinction which ought not to be permitted. If the Government cannot borrow an additional £25,000,000 they may possibly be able to borrow a few million pounds so as to make the clause applicable to all married members of the Australian Imperial Force, because the expenses of these men during the war were quite as onerous as were the expenses of those who were not married. Either the provision must be excised from the Bill, or it must be made retrospective in the way I have suggested.
In my opinion, it would be far better’ to withdraw this measure and to submit a fresh Bill providing for the payment of the gratuity in cash to the whole of the members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– Had the country agreed to that proposal the honorable senator’s party would have been returned to power.
– I do not know that my party would have been returned to power on a question of that sort. If any honorable senator chooses to test the feeling of any public meeting -in this country he will find that it is in favour of immediately paying this gratuity in cash to our returned soldiers.
– I addressed a good many meetings during the election campaign, and I never once heard the question of the gratuity mentioned.
– Yet we have been assured by the Minister for Defence that the electors voted against the payment of the gratuity in dash. I thank Senator Bakhap for having come to my assistance, and for having shown the Minister that he does not know what he is talking about.
I anticipate that at a later stage the Government will submit an amending Bill, with a view to extending the benefits of this measure to other men who were engaged upon war service. I fail to see why the munition workers should be excluded from the Bill, especially when we reflect that they enjoy the advantages conferred by the War Service Homes Act.
I am very pleased to observe in the measure a provision which I should like to see extended in many other directions. I allude to that clause in the Bill which reads -
The amount of -
any war gratuity, or
any interest paid or payable to any person in pursuance to section 13 of this Act shall not be liable to income tax under any law of the Commonwealth or a State and shall not be deemed to be income for the purposeof the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-19, or the War Pensions Act 1914-16.
As one who is entirely opposed to the Income Tax Act in all its ramifications, I warmly approve of that provision. If the Government can pay the balance of these bonds in cash on 31st May, 1924 - only a few years hence - there is no reason why they cannot pay it now.
– We shall have more wealth then.
– I have no doubt that the extra wealth which we shall then possess will be counterbalanced by a good deal of additional expenditure. Of course there may be a few returned men who do not require the money represented by the gratuity, and who are quite willing to allow it to remain with the Government. But 99 per cent, of their number urgently need it. To pay them in cash now would do away with the necessity for constituting the “prescribed authority,” and would be of very great assistance to many members of the Australian Imperial Force who have entered into obligations, and to whom a gift of £80 or £100 would represent no mere trifle. If the Commonwealth can afford to pay them this money in 1924 it can afford to pay it now.
– I have no doubt that in a general way my attitude on the question of remunerating the soldiers for their services during the war is well known. I certainly shall not revive old memoriesto any great extent, but throughout the war I had in mind the waging of it upon financially the most economic lines with the hope that, in the event of victory alighting on our standards, we should be in a position to know the extent of our liability, and in the light of that knowledge would be able to address ourselves to the question of granting to our soldiers amost substantial gratuity. But the policy which I had in my mind as a member of the rank and file of this Chamber was not adopted by the nation. Seeing that our soldiers were remunerated on a very substantial scale, as the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has indicated, compared with the other belligerent nations, I think that the scope of this measure shows that the Government, representing the people of Australia, will not be either belated or parsimonious in their gift - for gift the gratuity is.
The Minister remarked that something quite interesting could be said about war gratuities in general. I echo that statement, but as I understand that it is the intention of the Government to get this measure through and give the benefits of its operation to the soldiers at an early date, I do not think that any good purpose would be served by being unduly reminiscent in regard to the gratuities paid to the victorious armies of nations in long past periods of the world’s history. The payment of a gratuity to victorious soldiers has been quite a common thing. It was done by the ancient Roman Empire, and I am sorry to say that, because of the great use, or perhaps I should say misuse, of the principle of a gratuity or donative to victorious soldiers, it was a substantial factor in bringing about the downfall of that Empire. The legionaries stationed in the capital developed an appetite which, grew with that upon which it fed. It is notorious that emperors, or would-be emperors, being willing to purchase the favour of the standing army of the capital with a donative, gave an incentive to those tumults which brought about the downfall of the Roman Empire. So much was this the case that we have the spectacle of the Roman Empire on one occasion being put up for sale, so that some rich aspirant to the Imperial purple might give to the soldiers a gratuity which should in some measure satisfy an appetite that had become almost insatiable.
Fortunately in this Democracy of ours no apology is required for the payment of a gratuity such as is set forth in this measure to the ever victorious soldiers of our Australian Army.
– The Government won their renewed lease of office with this bribe. They deliberately bought it in the open market.
– By such a statement the honorable senator lays his own party open to a more serious condemnation. Were I in his place I should not use such an argument for a moment, because all I can say is that, if in the form proposed in this Bill the gratuity is a bribe,, what the honorable senator’s party offered was a bribe ten times over. It was a bribe designed to secure the favour of the soldiers of Australia who had been alienated by the party opposite because of their lukewarm attitude during the second, third and fourth years of the war.
– The soldiers have a fair view of the attitude of honorable senators opposite now and during the elections.
– I am sorry that members of both political parties sought to make out that this was a burning question, and that the soldiers of Australia were so obsessed by the consideration of whether they would get cash or bonds that their view on the matter was going to be a decisive factor in the election which took place last December, I addressed quite a number of meetings in Tasmania on behalf of the National party on general principles, and I have no hesitation in saying that not one question referring to the gratuity was asked me by a returned soldier or any other elector. The soldiers did support in a very large measure the National Government, but, fortunately for the “common sense of Australian Democracy, they did so on general principles and not on the question of the gratuity.
I have indicated that I had hoped, had my policy in regard to the war been adopted, to have supported the payment of a more substantial gratuity than that for which provision is made in this measure. My policy was not adopted, and it now only remains for me, as a Government supporter, to justify this measure, as I am quite prepared to do, not only in a general sense, but in regard to most of its particulars. I do not think it requires very much justification. We had a meeting purporting to consist almost entirely of returned soldiers, who forgathered yesterday evening on the steps of this legislative building. I understand that that gathering was the outcome of a tremendous meeting supposed to have been held at one of the places of public resort in this city a few days ago. It was set forth that a very large number of people, estimated at 5,000, attended that meeting, and passed a resolution to the effect that this Parliament should pay the gratuity in cash. When we consider that there must be at least 40,000 or 50,000 returned soldiers in the city of Melbourne and suburbs, and when we reflect that it is not alleged that more than 5,000 people of all classes attended the meeting referred to, it will be seen that only a very small percentage of the returned soldiers felt keenly enough on this subject to demand cash instead of bonds.
– How many returned soldiers were within eight miles of this place last -night ?
– I say that in Melbourne and its suburbs there must be 40,000 or 50,000 returned soldiers. The honorable senator is aware that Melbourne contains about one-sixth of the population of Australia. One-sixth of the returned soldiers, according to the law of averages, must reside in this city and its suburbs. One-sixth of the soldiers repatriated at present must number at least 40,000, and I ask where were they last night when the alleged deputation was present on the steps of this building intending, I will not say to overawe, but to make some very strong representations to this honorable body? They were represented by 2,000 or 3,000 people, a large number of whom were not returned soldiers.
– Many of whom were women.
– Yes. The gathering consisted also, to some extent, of volatile youths, whose particular occupation or enjoyment, it seemed to me, was to suggest a bar sinister on the escutcheons of such members of the Senate as have escutcheons, andto invite those honorable gentlemen bearing the bars sinister to come out and address them. I am glad to say that the Senate, with the adroitness and wisdom which characterizes its deliberations, had adjourned that we might discuss this question in the calm atmosphere which surrounds our meeting in this chamber to-day.
– The honorable senator should not attribute the adjournment to adroitness.Was it not due to lack of business?
– I saw indications on the steps of this building last night which led me toregret that in early youth I had not embarked in the tobaccoselling business.
It seems to me that, after all, we are splitting a straw in this matter, but I believe that the difference between the two proposals is in favour of the issue of bonds. The bonds will mature in four years’ time. Very many of our young soldiers have at present a very poor appreciation of the value of money, and in four years’ time they will have acquired some sense of the responsibility of citizenship. The money, in four years’ time, will not be like the snows of last year, but will be available on the maturing of the bonds, when these young men’s experience of the world will have increased and it will be of greater service to them then than it would be now.
– And when £1 will be worth twenty shillings.
– Let us hope so.
– On the same argument, it would be of still greater service twenty years hence.
– Had my line of policy been adopted, I confess that I was in favour of paying any war gratuity which might have been determined on by the Legislature in cash, but I am not above learning something with the progress of the years. I have in mind certain instances - and I am sorry to say they are rather numerous - in which soldiers going to the battlefield and inspired by filial affection, which, perhaps, had lain somewhat dormant for years, made substantial allocations out of their pay in favour of their aged parents. Those parents, with a love and devotion which, I suppose, characterized them from the time of the birth of their children, instead of spending that money, saved the whole of it, and had substantial sums awaiting the returned soldiers, amounting in one case within my personal knowledge to £200. When their sons fortunately returned from the scene of action after peace had been arranged by the victory of their arms and of those of our Allies, their parents presented them with the money that had been saved; but I am sorry to say that I could give instances in which the young fellows, not having had before so much money in their lives, dissipated the whole of it. They derived no benefit from the money saved for them, and at the present time they are doing pick-and-shovel work instead, perhaps, of being successfully established in a business which £200 in capital might have secured for them.
I think it will be admitted that the honorably large percentage of soldiers repatriated, and who have fitted themselves already into the grooves of civilian life, and are earning sufficient to keep them in an honorable way, are not in immediate want of the cash. A man who has been satisfactorily repatriated, and has been provided with employment in which he is earning £3 or £4 per week, is not in need of spot cash. If the young soldier who has had very little experience of the world save what he gained on the battlefield, were given his gratuity in cash, I believe that he would have very little of it before the four years during which the proposed bonds will be current have expired.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Gardiner) will see that those of our soldiers who served almost right through the war had in many cases substantial accretions of pay, because of the allocations which they made to relatives who in quite an honorable majority of cases saved the allocations for those who happily came back from the Front. Such men are not in immediate need of the money which would be available from the sale of the bonds. In the case of the younger and more irresponsible men who enlisted after th’e war had gone on for two or three years, the amount that would be available to them in cash would be comparatively small, and would not be of any material benefit in the hands of young men of twenty-one or twenty? two years of age. It will be better, in all the circumstances, that the gratuity should take the form of a deferred payment, so to speak. I really honestly believe that if Australia were in a position to pay cash at this moment, having seen what has happened in the case of some of our soldiers who have returned, I should feel myself bound to vote tor the payment of the gratuity in bonds instead of in cash.
I will admit that there is a specious force in the argument used by some of those who, in order to curry favour with the small section of soldiers demanding cash, ask the Government to pay the gratuity in notes or specie. They say that had the war gone on, we would have been, obliged to finance it, and that, consequently, we should be able to finance the £28,000,000 or £30,000,000 required to pay this gratuity in cash. But honorable senators who take this view are poor psychologists. A nation fighting for its life, with the hand of the enemy at its throat, is very much in the position df a boxer in the ring, called upon to endure right, through a twentyround contest in the hope of securing victory in any one of the twenty rounds, if he can. During that contest, he must strain every nerve, watch every move of his opponent, evade punches that may be fatal, and generally act, while in the ring, at high pressure to stand a chance of victory. That is what a nation has to do in time of war. Oau any sensible man with a knowledge of human nature say that what a nation can do> in war time it can do in times of peace? Human nature cannot stand the strain, and so the argument that because we would have been obliged to provide a large sum of money had the war continued, we should now provide cash for the war gratuity, has very little point in it so far as I can ascertain. I wished to see Australia endure to the end so as to secure that high moral position, which pomes to a nation victorious in war, especially a just war, but I never was one to ‘ ‘ slobber ‘ ‘ over our soldiers, so to speak. I thank no young man for having gone to” the Front and fighting for his country. It was his duty. But as even duty should point the way to glory, and be recognised, although it is duty, I now cheerfully vote for a measure like this, and say to any representative of the soldiers who may be in the gallery, that if our Treasury were full to overflowing, and if we had received the full portion of our expected indemnity from Germany, in the interests of a considerable portion of our returned men, I would vote for bonds instead of cash, so that by a system of deferred payments, they would receive the cash four years hence, when they will be older citizens, and when the money will, I believe, be of more benefit to them.
This about ends what I intended to say on the measure. Our soldiers were victorious, and I have assisted to welcome large numbers of them on their return. I hope they may never have occasion to leave again to fight for our liberty. To those who sleep upon the field of honour, no words of mine, and no eulogy, are necessary. They died gloriously at the post of honour, and I hope that the traditions which they have established will endure, and be the best bulwark of our nation for generations to come.
There are, however, one or two points upon which I should like information from the Minister for Defence. I believe that the measure is well designed, but I think provision should be made for certain perfectly legitimate transactions that have already taken place. A large number of our boys who showed filial respect both before and after they went to the war, have, on the anticipated value of bonds coming to them, obtained cash from their parents for the purpose of entering into certain business arrangements or other enterprises which, perhaps, cannot be classed as business concerns. The bonds are non-assignable, but I think some reservation should be made in favour of members of a soldier’s own family who are willing to advance the amount of money due to him in the form of bonds, and that they should be permitted to hold the bonds as security.
– That will open the door very widely.
– I do not think it will. The filial relationship between most Australian soldiers and their parents has been admirable. The fact that many of them believed they were going to make the supreme sacrifice on the battle-field aroused in them a long dormant sense of respect for their parents.
Clause 9 seems to be rather indefinite.
It reads -
Any person who -
Not being a lawyer, I may not be able to construe the clause correctly, and so I want to know if the beneficiary cannot be a person outside those mention in paragraph (b) ?
– Yes. The clause provides that if other persons have a prior and moral claim upon the amount of gratuity, we shall have the right to pay it to them and not to any beneficiary under the will. For instance, the father of a deceased soldier may not have supported the family at all ; the burden may have fallen upon the mother. In that case we should have authority to pay the gratuity to the mother, although the f ather may be the beneficiary under the will.
– Then I should like to know the reason for the omission of the word “ sister “ from the clause. Many of our soldiers have been brought up by elder sisters, and I see no valid reason for the exclusion of sisters from the list of eligible persons to whom the gratuity may be paid. I know that any amendment we make will mean that the measure must be reconsidered in another place, but I cannot waive my right - and I hope this Chamber will never waive its right - to review a measure, even if despatch is so much to be desired.
– That will not be urged as a reason here.
– I am sure it will not.
Clause 15, I notice, provides that the war gratuity shall be inalienable except as prescribed -
Except as prescribed, no interest in any war gratuity, or in any Treasury bond issued or to be issued in payment of any war gratuity, shall be alienable, whether by way or in consequence of sale, assignment, charge, execution, insolvency, or otherwise howsoever.
I suggest that in Committee some reservation be made in favour of parents who are prepared to advance money on the strength of the gratuity bonds due to a returned soldier, their son.
Having referred to the only two clauses which I intend to challenge in Committee with the hope of amending them, I content myself by supporting the measure in principle and in detail.
– What about the Naval Reserve men?
– The Minister has sufficiently indicated his attitude, and I do not feel called upon to further discuss the matter on the second-reading stage. I promised to be brief, and I am going to redeem my promise.
.- I realize that the Bill should be proceeded with as rapidly as possible, and I shall follow the example: set by Senator Bakhap, and be brief. I thank the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) for his consideration in permitting me to continue the debate at a later stage, but I shall not press my request. I like to approach the discussion of the Bill irrespective of party considerations or what has been done in another place.
I congratulate the Minister upon the ability he displayed in moving the second reading, and the skill with which he anticipated objections to the limitation of classes as participants in the gratuity. In his off-hand way, the Minister said that if we endeavoured to include another section of men, whose claims for the gratuity appear to be almost as strong as those of the members of the fighting Forces, we would find still another section with claims almost as strong, and that once the door were opened we might go on extending the scope of the measure indefinitely. . But I would’ like to put Parliament, in relation to this Bill, in the position of a father with a number of children around him, and to whom it is his intention to distribute gifts. This gratuity is a gift. It cannot be claimed as a right, and we, as the representatives of the people, .are in a sense the directors in the allotment of this gift. Let us say, then, that a father has drawn his sons around him, and says to one, “ I am not going to pay you for your splendid exhibition of courage in this late incident, but in the fulness of my heart I am going to make you a gift. Take your seat there.” Another boy he pats on the head, and says, “I am not going to reward you for the dangers you encountered and the death which you faced, but I am also going to make you a gift for the way you comported yourself in this late incident. Take your seat there.” Then we will assume that a third son is waiting to be called upon. He also volunteered his aid, and although he was willing, and perhaps more anxious than either of the other sons, to take his part in the late incident, his services were required in another place. Imagine his feelings, then, when gifts were handed to other, and perhaps less deserving, member’s of his family while he was overlooked.
– You are not stating your case very correctly.
– I think I am, and I say this Parliament should have the right to determine the allocation question of this gift to our men. The Senate should surely face the question of the justice of the claims of those who ask to be included, and if they are equal to others there is no reason to draw the line and say that some must be excluded. I have used this illustration chiefly in regard to the Naval Reserve men and those of other branches of the permanent service. These men not only volunteered, but their services were utilized in Australia during the whole war period. The Minister for Defence stated that certain members of the Naval Forces were not given permission to volunteer at the outbreak of hostilities, but towards the termination of the war they were allowed to enlist. Such men were: in charge of big guns, and were only allowed to leave when vacancies occurred as the result of casualties on the other side. There were many who were quite prepared to go, but the opportunity never came, and, therefore, they are not included. Many of them were serving the country in different ways, and, in doing so, incurred considerable pecuniary loss, as they were receiving the military or naval pay of, say, 5s. per day. It is easy to say that they were merely searching vessels, and that they were not incurring danger. We are not making this gift in consequence of danger incurred. There are hundreds, or, perhaps, thousands, of these men who were called up, and although they were willing to volunteer were prevented.
– Take off the skid; the wheels are dragging heavily.
– I am endeavouring to show that men who were called up for service were prevented by the Government from going abroad. The naval men went through months, and even years, not knowing at what moment they would be required as reserves, and, in consequence, were prevented from pursuing their ordinary occupations. Melbourne was the head-quarters pf tie naval authorities, and the reservists may have been called up for service at any moment.
Senior Senior. - But they were not.
– But they were in the service the whole time.
– The honorable senator claims that as they were not sent abroad they should receive the reward.
– I am more than disgusted - I say, advisedly - when honorable senators opposite, knowing the weakness of their own side, indulge in ridiculous statements, and sometimes falsehoods, in an endeavour to support their case. If I had been looking for an opportunity for the members of the National party, who have misled the soldiers to believe all sorts of things about the Labour party, to appear in their true colours, it would ‘be impossible for me to create conditions that would show them more in their true light than they are showing themselves to-day.
I expressed regret when the Minister stated, during the course of his second-reading speech, that the question of the payment inbonds as against cash was submitted to the country during the elections and received the approval of the majority of the electors. The Minister and every one else knows that to be false . It is absolutely a misrepresentation of the position. It was originally the policy of the Government - it was stated during the elections, and I can easily prove it - that the gratuity should be paid in cash. That was the position the Government and their supporters placed’ before the country.
– The honorable senator is a representative of the State of South Australia, and I shall quote froma South Australian newspaper to show that what I am saying is correct.
– That is nothing.
– I can quote from a speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to prove conclusively that what I am saying is true. Why keep up this miserable pretence that the elections were fought on bonds versus cash? It is ridiculous to say that a majority of the soldiers were in favour of bonds. Surely honorable senators opposite possess sufficient manliness to say that they camouflaged the whole issue and led the soldiers to believe that payment would be made in cash. Although this promise was made on the hustings, immediately the Government were returned to power the tables were turned, and they decided to pay in bonds.
– That is not correct.
– I shall produce the statement of the Prime Minister, and will then ask the honorable senator whether it is not correct.
– That does not alter the fact.
– The Minister for Defence claims that the election was fought on this issue, and, having received the verdict of the people, the War Gratuity Bill hasbeen introduced in its present form. If I produce proof to show that what I am saying is correct the responsibility rests upon the Minister and his supporters to contradict my statement.
– I am prepared to contradict it.
– The honorable senator will have the opportunity.
– I accept the challenge.
– I have heard it said by interjection that honorable senators on this side made it an issue at the recent elections and tried to bribe the soldiers by offering a cash gratuity.
Let us get to the real basis of this question. The representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League invited the Prime Minister to meet them, and he did so. At the conference the representatives of the League placed their proposals before the Prime Minister, and he promised that the money would be paid. But he said this, “ Mark you, it is not going to be a one-sided bargain. If we pay you this, you must support our party at the coming election.”
– I am saying it deliberately, and with a full sense of the responsibility of a man holding a position in the public life of this country, and who, the electors have shown, can be trusted.
– How could the action of 300,000 be controlled in that way?
– I am giving the history of this contemptible business, and have stated deliberately that the Prime Minister told the representatives of the League that if the soldiers were paid the gratuity they would have to support the National party.
– What authority has the honorable senator for making such a statement ?
– I am the authority.
– Were you at the conference ?
– Then how does the honorable senator know that the statement was made?
– The Minister will have an opportunity of contradicting it if he so desires. I am taking the responsibility of saying that it is true.
– The honorable senator would say anything.
– It is true, and I challenge Senator Newland to produce one statement that I have made during the whole of my parliamentary career that can be said to be a deliberate misstatement or a falsehood. The record of my utterances here during the last ten years are recorded in Hansard.
– This is the Temple of Truth.
-This is a temple of democracy. The Minister has said that the gratuity was an issue at the recent elections, but I say most emphatically that at the beginning of this business the Prime Minister, at a secret conference with the representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, made it his business to say that if the men were paid the gratuity the Government and their followers should have the support of the soldiers’ organization.
– It could not have been a very secret conference if the honorable senator knows what occurred there. Senator Pearce. - The honorable senator must have been there, or some one who was present must have made a statement.
– I am making the definite charge, and challenge any one to say that it cannot be substantiated. It is time Parliament got back to a position consonant with its dignity, as that would be much better for the Parliament, for the Government, and for the people of Australia.
– The honorable senator is trying to introduce into the Federal sphere what has recently occurred in the State he represents- an atmosphere of suspicion.
– I am stating a fact.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– The Prime Minister, at the request of the soldiers, met and conferred with their representatives and agreed to pay the gratuity in return for their support.
– On behalf of the Prime Minister, I deny the accusation. It is incorrect, and I ask the honorable senator to submit his proof.
– Will the Minister give an inquiry?
– You prove it.
– It is not necessarily a question of arranging some secret inquiry, but merely one of requesting the executive of the League to be called to the bar of the Senate and asked if the statement was made. If the representatives of the soldiers do not support my statement I will not remain here any longer. I am not side-tracking the question, but bringing home the true position to those honorable senators who have said that we used the gratuity as a means of securing the soldiers’ support.
– The honorable senator and his supporters tried to go one better, that is all.
– We said we would pay in cash.
Let me remind honorable senators that the records of this Chamber show that this matter was considered before we went to the country. Before the close of the last session I said that the question of a gratuity to soldiers was likely to be an issue at the elections, and as a sinister atmosphere was surrounding it, I asked whether it was not possible for Parliament to sit a week longer and pass the Bill. The records in Hansard will show that such a question was asked. On every platform I said that I favoured payment in cash, but I did not make that statement with a view of getting soldiers’ votes. I never putit in such a way that it could be calculated to be an endeavour to win the soldiers’ support. I said that a reward, gift, or gratuity - whatever you like to call it - had been offered to a large body of men, possibly 200,000, and that there were two issues before the people - one for payment in bonds and the other for payment in cash. I clearly stated that, in my opinion, nothing could be more harmful to the soldiers than to keep them waiting months or years for some favour from the Government, and that in the interests of the whole community, and not in the interests of the soldiers, cash should be paid. I considered it would pay us handsomely to settle the matter at once. Cannot honorable senators imagine the effect upon hundreds of thousands of men waiting week after week, month’ after month, or even year after year, for a few pounds that may be due to them and nursing in their hearts the grudge that a pittance was to be given to them in the way of a gift? This was made a test question for one general election and will be made the same for another. There is no doubt about that, because the period was fixed for it to be made a test at another election. At the elections, so far as the soldiers were concerned, we got quite as large a share of their support as we deserved. In view of the misrepresentations of the National pres3 and of National speakers, I am surprised at the magnitude of the support that we did get. Now that the returned soldiers know how the Government party twist the result of the last election, and tell the returned soldiers by the Government’s mouthpiece, Senator Pearce, and by Mr. Hughes in another place, that they made the question at the last election one of cash or bonds, and that the returned soldiers themselves decided for bonds, so that the Government are only keeping their word, Ministers and their supporters may talk as eloquently as they like, but they cannot stuff that lie down the throats of the returned soldiers. The soldiers know, for they were here; they heard and read everything that was said and done by the Ministerial side. Now that they know how Ministerialists will squirm and turn and misrepresent the position regarding cash or bonds, they will realize how little these members are to be depended on for their version of what ‘happened when they were -away fighting, and will measure the Ministerial party accordingly.
There was a demonstration outside the building last night, at which, taking Senator Bakhap’s figures, there were 3,000 or 4,000 men present. Senator Bakhap says that that is a very poor percentage of the number of returned men in Melbourne. I say it was an enormous gathering.
– About 300 people!
– Let me tell the honorable senator how he can estimate the number of persons present. Let him measure the length of the steps outside, and count the number of steps, and he will find that 3,000 is much nearer the number who were assembled there last night. I think these gatherings approaching Parliament are a mistake. I realize that they do not influence honorable senators, but there is something else which should influence them, and that is the sentiment which causes those gatherings.. I express my disapproval of the gathering itself, because it was more calculated to create resistance than approval on the part of members of Parliament who are doubtful. They will simply show their independence and courage, as the soldiers themselves would do. by doing the very reverse of what a gathering in force would want them to do. But honorable senators themselves cannot afford to pass over that indication of feeling by the returned soldiers. I had the privilege of introducing seven representatives of those men as a deputation to the Prime Minister yesterday evening. I heard them put their requests ably, respectfully, and forcefully.
– Did any one of them say that the Prime Minister had promised them cash?
– They were not pressing that point at all.
– Do you think they would have overlooked such a statement as that if it were true ?
– I shall prove that statement, and, in doing so, I shall quote specially from a newspaper representing National interests that circulates in the honorable senator’s State.
– And I shall quote the Prime Minister’s own words.
– I shall quote the Prime Minister’s words as reported. The deputation put their case ably and forcefully for improvements in, this Bill, including provisions which they think should be put into the Bill. For instance,’* they urge the extension of its provisions to the Naval Reserve men who were called up for service, and kept week after week, and month after month, away from their ordinary avocations, but who are not put on the same footing as men who volunteered and remained in camp for the same number of months. Take the case of the man who volunteered and went into camp. He enlisted, and was willing to go abroad, but did not go, yet he benefits under this Bill. He gets the gift from the nation. (But the other man, who volunteered in like manner, was kept in the service, was willing to enlist, and did not go abroad, is told to step upon the left. The favoured applicant, who did no more, or not as much as he did, goes on the right, but he gets no gift, no reward, no gratuity. The deputation emphasized these things to the Prime Minister, and showed the injustice of them. I am not going to say that they moved the Prime Minister, because it appears to me, not only with regard to> Governments, but with regard to Parliaments, that it is not the justice of the case that appeals to Parliament so much as the question of whether the Government’s measure is to be maintained intact line for line and comma for comma. Evidently it does not matter to the Senate, when the Government bring down a measure, whether or not you can show conclusively that there are people just outside the line who ought to be included. The Minister admits that the men referred to are very close up to a claim for inclusion, but he said that if the Government included this lot, for whom we were able to make out a case, somebody else could make out a case for the inclusion of another lot further on, and it would be impossible to draw the line. When this gift is given by the nation, no one should be left out whom the members of the Senate can show to be justly entitled to inclusion. It should not be a question of whether we should open the door for fear that two will .come in instead of one, but of whether the one at the door has a right to come in. The Senate should decide these matters only upon the question of the absolute right of the claimant to participate, so far as that right can be settled. This deputation was ‘representative of that great gathering, because it was a great gathering. They had another gathering on Sunday. In fact, they are gathering in numbers from one end of the country to the other, and that fact should be remembered by Ministerialists, who say that we wanted to outbid them at the election for the soldiers’ votes.
I foresaw before the last election the evils of having to fight the issue of whether a large number of the people were to get benefits from the Treasury or not. Senator Bakhap began his speech by an historical reference to some one who was called to a position of authority because he had the wealth to distribute. This question will also be read in cold type in the pages of history. It will go down to posterity as an historical fact that a Government with a majority of supporters in both Houses of Parliament won their position by the hugeness of the bribe which they offered to a certain section of the community for their support.
– What was your offer?
– I would not have offered anything. If I had been a member of the Government, I would have said., ‘’ Bring the Bill into Parliament, and let Parliament decide to pay them. If Parliament so decides, pay them immediately, and, if not, nothing should be given.”
– How can you call it a bribe when you say that you endeavoured to outbid us ?
– The honorable senator has never heard me say that we endeavoured to outbid the Government for the soldiers’ support. As soon as we became aware of what the Government were doing, we offered to meet the Government so as to pass the measure before Parliament rose, and so get the matter settled.
– On what basis?
– On the basis that the business would wear the sinister aspect of being a bribe, if it was held out as a bait during election time. There would have been nothing wrong if Parliament, as the representatives of the nation, had decided to make a gift to the soldiers. The proper course for the Government to take was to put their views before Parliament in the shape of a Bill, pass the Bill, and pay the money. But when they promised to make it a gift, as asked ‘by the returned soldiers from the Prime Minister, and granted by the Prime Minister on the condition that the returned soldiers should in return work for the Government during the. election, they did a great wrong.
As the Minister for Defence addressed himself to this point, I wish to make a quotation. The Minister, when in Perth, said that he had telegraphed to the Prime Minister, and had received confirmation of the report that an arrangement had been made with the banks for the cash redemption of the bonds.
– What paper does that appear in?
– It appears in the Age, and is headed “ Defence Minister on the Gratuity.” It reads -
Perth. - In his speech on Tuesday night, Senator Pearce referred to the war gratuity. Se said that the financial conditions of the country made a cash payment impossible, but that he had telegraphed to the Prime Minister, and had received confirmation of the report that an arrangement had ‘been made with the banks for the cash redemption of the bonds.
– Then there was a subsequent publication.
– Of course there was, but the Minister for Defence has said to us, “ The issue you put before the country was that we said ‘bonds’ and you said ‘ cash.’ “
– Long before the election occurred, that quotation was corrected, and the Prime Minister’s actual statement was given.
– Even ifthe Minister made the correction - and I am not going to hold him responsible for the corruption of the press of Australia - he knows that a corrupt press would never undo what his statement had done, because that statement deliberately misled the soldiers. Although his first statement appeared, I venture to say, in every Nationalist paper in Australia, I am sure that his correction appeared in none of them.
– Yes, it did.
– I invite the Minister in his reply to produce his correction.
– In this case they did me unusual justice,because they gave my correction the same space as they gave to the first statement.
– Probably it was like Mr. Hughes’ withdrawal. Some honorable senators opposite will say that Mr. Hughes never offered cash. There are quite a number of things that Mr. Hughes said on this matter. When in Adelaide, he is reported by the Register to have said that the. Government “ had made an arrangement with the banks whereby the soldiers who wanted cash for their bonds could go there and get it.”
– What date?
– That is an extract from the Register of the 11th November, 1919. The election took place on 20th December, and there is the Minister’s statement as reported in the Register not much more than a month before.
– That is only part of what he said.
– I shall give more before I have finished. The Government claim that they won the election on their promise to give bonds, that the soldiers themselves approved of bonds, that the community supported bonds, and that, therefore, this Bill is to make the payment in bonds, as the Government said they would make it. Honorable senators opposite know very well that, by the mouth of the Minister for Defence, by the words of the Prime Minister, and by the whole of the Nationalist press of Australia, the Ministerial party promised that they would pay the soldiers in cash.
– That statement is absolutely contrary to fact.
– They repudiate it now that they are safe in their seats, and the returned soldiers will know how to value their misrepresentation of our party. They will know that all that the Ministerialists said about ouractions during the war can be measured by their conduct on this occasion. I never ask to have any Government in a more despicable position than this Government occupies, in trying to stuff down the throats of the soldiers the statement that the election was fought on the issue “ The Government offer bonds and the Opposition offer cash.” So far from the Government carrying the flag of bonds and us carrying the flag of cash, the Ministerialists told the returned soldiers from every platform, and in all their press organs, that in return for their support they would give them payment in cash.
– I wish I had some of your Labour literature that was issued under the title “ Cash or bonds.”
– I have kept a very useful record of it.
– That must have been some of it that you were quoting from.
– “Do not take Hughes’ Promissory Notes.”
– I know that a prophet is not without honour save in his own country, but the Prime Minister’s promissory notes are now pretty long dated. They were to be negotiable immediately, but now they cannot be cashed until 1924. Let us look at’ this matter as men, and not as members of a political party. What is the reason for postponing the payment of the gratuity? Is it difficult to raise the money now ? If it is, how much more difficult will it be in four years time? Is there a man conversant with the financial affairs of the world who can complacently say, “We will issue bonds, payable four years hence, because it will be easier to pay them then than it is now.” The individual who can say that does not appreciate the dangers to be encountered during the next four years. I would pay these bonds in cash now, even if we had to increase our note issue.
– And thus increase the cost of living.
– That is why the honorable senator is hero. He owes his election to the profiteers.
– Why is the honorable senator here?
– Clearly, I am here by the design of Parliament. Nothing else can account for my election. The organization of the National party was so complete, and our electoral machinery was so effective in preventing the Labour party from securing representation here, that my return seems little short of a miracle.
An honorable senator said just now that I was not quoting from a newspaper. But I extract the following from a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 7th November last: -
Mr. Curtis saidhe had received a statement from Mr. Hughes to read to the meeting in regard to the gratuity. According to this, Mr. Hughes promised -
Immediate distribution of bonds on the assembling of Parliament.
Bonds will be taken by banks and Repatriation Department as the equivalent of cash in purchase of land and houses.
Cash will be paid in all urgent cases, and where a soldier marries or a soldier’s widow remarries.
The Government will redeem in cash by May, 1921, not less than £12,000,000 sterling.
Mr. Hughes pointed out that the bonds cashed by the banks andRepatriation Department would probably amount by that date to £10,000,000, so that the Treasury would have to arrange for the redemption of over £20,000,000 in this period.
Here are two sums mentioned. The Government undertook to redeem £12,000,000 worth of bonds by 1921, and the banks and the Repatriation Department, we were assured, would probably redeem an additional £10,000,000 worth. That accounts for £22,000,000 worth of bonds which could be cashed by 1921. Yet not merely the Minister for Defence, but his supporters, now say that this question was an issue at the recent election, and that one political party declared in favour of payment by cash, whilst another professed itself in favour of payment by means of bonds. But, by the mouthpiece of the Prime Minister the National party said that bonds to the extent of £22,000,000 would be redeemed by 1921.
– The honorable senator has gained quite a renown by making reckless statements, and this is another evidence of his ability in that direction.
– The honorable senator knows that his statement is incorrect. I never make reckless assertions. I rise to a point of order, and ask that the honorable senator should be compelled to withdraw his statement.
– I did not hear the expression to which exception has been taken, but it is a well-known rule of the Senate that any statement, even if it be not offensive in itself, if it be so regarded by the honorable senator concerned, must be withdrawn. I therefore ask Senator Gardiner to withdraw his statement.
– You know, sir, that I am always anxious to comply with your ruling. But there is a limit beyond which I ought not to be asked to go. If I am not permitted to say that an honorable senator’s statements are reckless, that they are usually reckless, and thathe has a reputation for making reckless statements, I shall be prevented from speaking at all.
– The honorable senator is mistaken in saying that I am seeking to impose a limit upon his use of language. Our Standing Orders and the rules and practice of the Senate impose the only limitations in that connexion, and I am bound to give effect to them. It is a well-known rule that even if the language used by an honorable senator cannot be literally construed as offensive, yet if it be so regarded by the honorable senator concerned, it must be withdrawn. Senator Gardiner knows that, and in conformity with the usual practice of the Senate, and for the maintenance of its dignity, I think that he ought to withdraw his statement.
– I am inclined to think, sir, that you are overlooking the fact that I used no unparliamentary language. If I withdraw my statement, I shall be consenting to a curtailment of my rights as a member of this Chamber. I will, therefore, substitute for my original assertion the statement that Senator Senior persistently makes misstatements, and gives utterance to falsehoods here. Having said so much, however, I now most unreservedly withdraw all that I have’ said.
– I rise to a point of order. Has the honorable senator a right to impute falsehoods to me?
– Having withdrawn the statement which I made, I desire to know whether the matter can be further discussed?
– When Senator Gardiner was speaking, he used the word “ falsehoods,” imputing that the statements which I had made were falsehoods. I say that they are not falsehoods, because I hold the statement of the Prime Minister on the matter in my hand.
– It does not matter whether the ‘ honorable senator holds the statement of the Prime Minister in his hand or not. Senator Gardiner was not justified in applying the term “ falsehoods” to any statements by the honorable senator. However, I think that he used it only by way of illustration of what he might have said, and then unreservedly withdrew it.
– The South Australian Register of 11th November, 1919. contains the following statements by Mir. Hughes: -
I gave the league everything it asked for except the increased pensions. Later on, he said -
I am going right on to the soldiers themselves. When I agreed to everything that the league asked for, what more could I do? Later on, under a separate heading, and still quoting from the Register-
– A reliable newspaper.
– If the honorable senator will send me a copy of it, I will preserve’ it as a curiosity, because a reliable newspaper on political matters in Australia is worth keeping. Under the heading of “ Cash Promised,” I find the following in the journal which I have mentioned : -
Mr. Hughes has made arrangements with the banks whereby the soldiers who want cash for their bonds can go there and get it. (Thunderous applause.)
Yet Senator Senior affirms that the issue at the election was ‘ ‘ Bonds or cash. ‘ ‘ Senator Bakhap has said the same thing.
But he knows very well that if I could trot out his speeches during the recent” election campaign, I should find that the soldiers were promised bonds which could be cashed immediately.
– I never dealt with the gratuity question in my addresses.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. He was not up for election, and had no occasion to mention it. I was inclined to let this matter pass without discussion, because I see no advantage to be derived by any party as the result of angling for the support of a large number of people by holding them in suspense in the expectation that they are to receive something from the Government. The soldiers themselves asked for this gratuity, which originated with their representatives in meeting assembled.
– I am afraid that the Minister was in England at the time.
– The Government was collecting information in regard to the matter during 1918.
– It originated at the Paris Conference.
– I quite realize, that when the Minister left Australia he intended to keep the Government informed of what was taking place elsewhere. I do not suggest that the Government had not in their mind the payment of a gratuity. But what really happened was that the soldiers themselves invited the Prime Minister to meet them for the purpose of discussing the question of the granting of a gratuity. Mr. Hughes, shrewd man as he is, then said to them, “Very well. If we give you the gratuity, you must do your part at the elections.”
– That is quite an imaginary charge.
– I challenge the Minister to summon to the bar of this Chamber the men who were present at the meeting.
– Upon an imaginary charge.
– It is a charge which I make as a representative of the people. Mr. Hughes was going to .pay in cash. Let me repeat his statement -
The Government has made arrangements with the banks whereby the soldiers who want cash for their bonds can go and get it. (Thunderous applause.)
With that stuff published in every newspaper in Australia, what can honorable senators opposite think will be the opinion of the soldiers concerning them when they persist, as Senator Senior and others do, in saying that the soldiers were never offered cash?
SenatorSenior. - Nor were they.
– Of what use is it for honorable senators to try to dodge the difficulty in the face of the printed evidence I have quoted?
– Is that statement signed by Mr. Hughes ; because I hold his signature here?
– This appeared in the public prints, and I suppose it was referred to by every candidate on the Opposition side, and I challenge honorable senators to produce the evidence that it was contradicted.
– Would the honorable senator care to be judged by everything that has appeared in print about him?
– No, but I think that I do not unfairly judge the Prime Minister when I say that if something that was not true’ was published about him he is just the man to send a contradiction along.
– He did do so.
– I challenge the honorable senator to produce the contradiction.
– Senator Pearce has produced it already.
– No, he has merely made a statement. In the course of his reply to this debate the Minister may produce evidence that the statement I have quoted was contradicted. If it was contradicted there is surely some record of it. He will have the dinner hour in which to search for the contradiction, and if he does not produce it I shall go down through my life imagining that no contradiction of the statement was ever made.
– The honorable senator is to be judge and jury.
– I am asking for proof, and I am willing, in fact, no one is more willing, no matter how much we may disagree, to be sometimes fair to the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator is playing a game of bluff, and nothing but a game of bluff, all the way through.
– If I were bluffing I should take no notice of Senator Senior. To show how fair I wish to be. I shall quote something from the Age of the 22nd November, 1919, which some persons may claim as a contradiction of the previous statement I have quoted. In the Age Mr. Hughes is reported to have said -
The sum of £6,000,000 would he paid in cash as soon as the gratuity scheme was completed. The bonds would be accepted by the Repatriation Department in payment for homes and furniture and businesses, and a further £10,000,000 would be redeemed by 1921, and the bonds would be taken up by the employers under the arrangements as completed.
Was not that a complete statement that the bonds were to be taken up ? The Repatriation Department, the Government, and employers were to cash them. I only refer to the matter because honorable senators are trying to justify their adherence to the payment of the gratuity in bonds as if the last election were fought by our party saying that the payment should be in cash and the National party saying it should be in bonds, and that as they won they are now only carrying out the will of the people.
Many more quotations might be made from speeches of the Prime Minister, and I might quote from a number of other members of the party opposite if that were worth while. The quotations I have made from the Prime Minister go to show that he very cleverly led his hearers to believe that the soldiers would get the gratuity in cash.
– Some one offered the soldiers bonds. Who was it?
– The soldiers were led to believe that they could get the bonds cashed by the banks, the Repatriation Department, and business men. The Prime Minister very cleverly led the community generally to believe that the payment would be in cash.
– Does not the honorable senator think that Senator de Largie’ s question is a very pertinent one?
– I did not hear it.
– ‘The honorable senator asked who it was that offered nonnegotiable bonds?
– Some one offered cash, and some one offered bonds. Who was it offered bonds?
– I can understand the Prime Minister going to the returned soldiers for their support and offering to pay them a gratuity. I can understand that he then .said, “Remember, it is not going to be a one-sided bargain. We give a gratuity, but you have to work for -us at the election,” and then telling the innocent public that the gratuity was to be paid in bonds. It is quite possible that many felt the menace to the country if thousands .and tens of thousands of men could not get what they are ‘entitled to. If it is felt that the nation is called upon to make a gift to the returned soldiers, it should be made without any conditions at all, because the country is wealthy enough to afford to do that.
– The honorable senator has not yet discovered the party who offered the bonds to the returned soldiers.
– The Prime Minister is the party who offered the bonds., and when he found that that was causing some consternation - not in cur ranks, because he did not bother about us, but in the ranks of his soldier supporters - he backed and filled, as he always does, and said, “I will give you bonds, but will make them negotiable. The Repatriation Department will take them, the Government will redeem £10,000,000 of them by 1921, and the banks and employers will take the bonds.” The right honorable gentleman still says that the banks will take the bonds, though I do not know whether under this Bill that could be allowed.
– Some of them will, if it pays them. They will take them by way of protection of an overdraft.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the central executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League did wrong in agreeing to the payment of the gratuity in bonds ?
– I am not saying that they did wrong. I say that the Prime Minister did wrong in bargaining with them for their support on the eve of an election. I know that Senator Foll is not capable of realizing what a wicked thing that was to do.
– I say that no party can barter anything with the Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League.
– According to Senator Gardiner they would barter their souls away.
– I agree with. Senator Newland that the’ National party would barter their souls away. I take it that I am correctly interpreting his interjection.
– According to the honorable senator they would barter their souls away. That is the opinion he has of the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League.
– Adopting the words of Senator Newland, I say that the National party bartered their souk for their political existence, and contaminated the public life of this country by a stain that can never be wiped out.
– That is the honorable senator’s groundless charge again.
– They degraded the whole community of Australia, and particularly the returned soldiers, by putting them in the unfortunate position of men who had a bribe dangled before them for their votes.
– That is the honorable senator’s charge, but there is not an ounce of truth behind it.
– I do not care what Senator Newland’s opinion of our party may be, particularly in view of the statements he made concerning this party, because of the attitude we adopted and because we would not smoodge to the soldiers, or to any one else.
– ‘But when they came back honorable senators opposite smoodged to them right enough.
– Qf course, they have been smoodging to them ever since they came back.
– The soldiers now know the type of men who misrepresented our attitude. They know that the men who now say that they never promised the gratuity in cash are persons whose word cannot be trusted for five minutes. They will know that in this Parliament they have had the audacity, in the face of the printed statements in their own newspapers, and uncontradicted by the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence, that the bonds were to be cashed wherever they could be cashed, to continue to deny that cash was offered.
Honorable senators opposite are not prepared to face this question as a matter of doing absolute justice to men who served under all conditions. They are not prepared to listento the reasonable claims put forward by returned soldiers even while this Bill is under consideration. One of the things for which the deputation asked was an extension of the percentage of the gratuity to be paid in cash. The deputationists were the most moderate men who were ever listened to. They told the Prime Minister that, as he knew the conditions of the country at the present time, if he said that the Government could not pay the whole of the gratuity in cash they might agree to increase the percentage to be paid in cash. If honorable senators opposite had at heart the interests of these men, in view of their power in the Senate, they would carry some amendment of the Bill to increase the percentage of the gratuity to be paid in cash.
– Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– No, sir, I think I have an hour and a half.
– That is not so.
– Should I be in order in moving the suspension of the Standing Orders to permit me to continue?
– I desire to give the honorable senator the fullest opportunity to debate the measure, and I believe honorable senators generally agree with that. I am prepared to move that he be given an extension of time.
– Give me another half-hour.
– Only a Minister or member in charge of a Bill on the second reading is entitled to more than an hour. As I do not think we should encroach upon the dinner-hour I shall resume the chair at 8 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Extension of time granted.
– I thank the Senate. This is the first occasion on which I have accepted an extension, and I do so only because of the importance of the measure under consideration.
I find I have occupied a considerable amount of time over the argument as to whether the recent election was fought by the Labour party standing for the payment of the gratuity in cash, and the Nationalists for the payment in bonds, and I propose now to quote extracts to show that the Nationalist party and the Nationalist press from one end of Australia to the other declared that bonds would be paid and that they could be cashed immediately. The Sydney Daily Telegraph on 12th November, 1919, made the following statement in a telegram from its Adelaide correspondent : -
Addressing a crowded meeting of returned soldiers called by him in the Adelaide Town Hall to-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) announced that arrangements had been concluded with the banks to give cash for the gratuity bonds.
Mr. Hughes said: The Government have made arrangements with the banks whereby the soldiers who want cash for their bonds can go there and get it. (Thunderous applause.) The banks will hold these bonds exactly as they hold war loan scrip. They are the best security in the world, that is if you have faith in yourselves and the Commonwealth.
A Voice: When will these bonds be delivered?
Mr. Hughes: When Parliament meets.
In order to be perfectly fair to the Prime Minister I shall now quote an extract from the Sydney Evening News -
Questioned at Ballarat to-day concerning the war gratuity, Mr. Hughes said that he was not correctly reported at Adelaide in saying that he had made arrangements with the banks to cash war gratuity bonds. What he did say was that he would make arrangements with the banks, and not that he had.
The Sydney Sun, on the same date, published the following statement from the Prime Minister -
I did not say that I had made arrangements with the banks to cash the bonds. What I said was that I will make arrangements with the banks, and most certainly I will.
On the 7th November a returned soldier, Lieutenant Cortis, is reported by the Sydney Evening News to have made the following statement: -
Lieutenant Cortis this morning said with regard to his negotiations with Mr. Hughes and the gratuity question: “The Prime Minister gave us a lot of his valuable time yesterday, and took the trouble to secure the advice of leading bankers, who said they were prepared . to accept the bonds as collateral security against their client’s account in the purchase of houses, land, &c. This to my mind, makes the bond equal to an order for goods.”
Bonds will be issued which will be reserved for repatriation purposes. The banks will also receive bonds as collateral security.
That was not enough, so the Daily Telegraph printed the following in bold black letters -
The Government have made arrangements with the Savings Bank and all the associated banks by which the soldier who wants to cash his bond through other than the Repatriation Department will be able to go to the banks and get cash for it.
The following statement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 20th November -
The Treasurer is proceeding with negotiations with the banks, and it is hoped that a still more liberal system of cashing bonds will be arranged in the course of the week.
I need not quote any further, seeing that I have produced statements in the leading newspapers’ of the Commonwealth to dispute the statement made by Senator Senior. The Melbourne newspapers stated, while the election campaign was in progress, that the gratuity would be paid in bonds that would be redeemable by the Government up to a certain amount in 1921, by the Repatriation Department, and by business firms; and I could quote a long list of business men in my own State who have given an undertaking to cash the bonds. If in the .face of these quotations Senator Senior, Senator Pearce, or the Prime Minister will persist in declaring that the issue at the recent election was cash or bonds, and that the election was won by the Nationalists on that issue, all I can say is that I despise their mental attitude. The Labour party made it quite clear that if returned to power it would pay the gratuity straight out in cash, and the Nationalist party said that they would pay in bonds, which would be as good as cash, because they would be redeemable immediately.
In the Bill there are several matters with which I shall have an opportunity of dealing in Committee. I invite the attention of honorable senators particularly to the position of men who enlisted but did not go to the Front. They are to be allowed ls. per day, and I want to compare their position with that of the
– I remind the honorable senators that this is a measure which the’ Senate may amend.
– I am glad of your assurance, Mr. President, and in: Committee I shall ask honorable senators to assist me in amending the BuT in certain directions, irrespective of the warning issued by the Minister that the inclusion of another section will so widen’ the scope of the Bill as to render it advisable to - consider other classes of cases.
– Will, the honorable senator agree to restrict the operation of the Bill to those who went into the firing line?
– Well, what about the mercantile marine ?
– Let us deal first with the Naval Reserve men. I have not sufficient knowledge to speak with authority, but I discussed this matter with a man who has given it some study, and was informed that about £150,000 would cover all the claims likely to be made by members of the Naval Reserve Forces.
– More than that.
– In view of the fact that we are dealing with about £28,000,000, why should we do an injustice to one section of the community when such a comparatively small amount, is involved ? It has been said that the naval reservists were engaged on homeservice work and were not subjected to risks, but I haveseen, one man who was wounded as the result of an- accident, and I have been told of another who. owing to the accidental discharge of a firearm, was injured in the lungs. These men, therefore, were exposed to danger, so why should they be shut out? The Senate will be well advised if it considers each claim upon” its merits, and grants the gratuity to the naval and military reservists who were called up and who volunteered. Why should not these men, who were prepared to go to the Front, he placed on the same basis as those who were in camp, and who did not go abroad ? It is the duty of the Senate, when the opportunity comes, to include these men in the provisions of the Bill.
– Should the munition workers be included?
– Yes. The munition workers had to take risks in crossing the sea, and, in my opinion, their work was as instrumental in bringing success to the Allied arms as was that of the men engaged in the trenches. Senator Reid. - Where would the honorable senator draw the line?
– We are out to do justice to men who offered their services to their country in its hour of peril, and why should we draw the line? I opened my speech this afternoon by illustrating the case of the father who was dealing out rewards to his children for services rendered, and showed the inequality of drawing any line whatever be- . tween one boy and another. I am not going to attempt to draw it.. Let the Government do it.
– They have done it.
– They have, and I am not -at all satisfied with the way in which it has been done. We are sent here as representatives of the people, and are responsible for our actions on their behalf. I ask honorable senators not to be led away by the statement that by granting a gratuity to one section we are opening the door to other sections. When the measure is in Committee it is my intention to move that men such as those in the Naval Reserve, who are not now entitled to consideration, shall be included; and I ask honorable senators to carefully review the whole position to see that, in fairness and justice to the men, this gift of the nation shall be extended to them. Why should there be any distinction between the men in the Naval Reserve and those who were in camp and who did not go abroad? I am open to conviction, and if I am wrong I am prepared to admit it. What is the real issue ? I have endeavoured to show that both parties dealt with this question exhaustively on the hustings. The Labour candidates stated openly to the electors that they were in favour of a cash payment, and the Prime Minister and his. followers that they would give as good as cash by issuing negotiable bonds.
– Can the honorable senator suggest where we are going to get the money?
– Does Senator Guthrie think that the country is not in a position to pay cash?
I read a recent report of the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in regard to our note issue. This Parliament, in its wisdom, decided that the gold reserve must not be lower than 25 per cent, of the note issue. According to the statement issued by the Acting Treasurer, I think this week, against the £57,000,000 worth of notes issued there is a gold reserve of 43 per cent. According to a rough calculation which I have made, it would appear that there is, therefore, a gold reserve of approximately £34,000,000. If that is so, approximately £90,000,000 worth of notes could he issued, and the necessary cash could therefore be made available without in any way straining the- note issue. If it is true; as has been said, that many of the recipients of the gratuity would squander their money, we would soon be able to get our note issue back to its ordinary position.
The question of paying cash instead of issuing bonds should be considered honestly and fairly. I believe in paying the gratuity in cash. A loan could be floated, and the soldiers permitted to take up negotiable bonds to the extent of the amount due to them. I believe it would be an easy matter to raise £20,000,000 in Australia for a loan to pay the nation’s gift, and that the aditional amount required could be paid out of the note issue.
– Ask the soldiers to take up a loan to pay themselves?
– Give them an opportunity. Allow them to take up bonds exactly the same as the bonds that I and’ other senators hold in the war loans.
– “ Frenzied finance!”
– “Frenzied finance,”’ if the honorable senator so desires to term it. Many persons who cannot claim- to have done anything in connexion with the war have taken up bonds, and are receiving 41/2 per cent, interest for those issued under the first loan, and 5 per cent., for those issued later, but men who have rendered splendid service to the . Empire are not to receive the same privilege.
– The honorable senator cannot negotiate- his bonds.
– I can go to the Stock Exchange to-morrow and get £95 or £96 for a £100 bond, if I so desire. Let us take the position of the. man who risked all. He is to be given a non-negotiable bond, whereas the man who invested only what he could spare,, and who did not do anything, is handed, a negotiable bond with which, he can do what he likes. Notwithstanding this, honorable senators are prepared to say that we are making a free gift to the men. We are saying that they deserve consideration, but that we cannot trust them. Some would be reckless and I do not blame them, but a majority of them would be as staid as others,, and would- handle their money carefully. It would be art easy matter to place £20,000,000 worth of additional bonds, on the Australian market at once, and pay the balance in cash. There are no great difficulties in the way, and it would prevent further pandering to the soldiers for their vote, and I say that with every respect to- the soldiers. I am in favour of a cash payment, because I do not want this bargaining to continue. It is undesirable to. have a large body of men waiting, on. the doorstep of the Government f or favours. I. do not want another election fought on such a question as this.. I do not want to see gathering crowds in the front of this building requesting the members of this Parliament to give men their dues. I do not want agitations from one end1 of the country to the other, and repeated requests from men who have done their share, and who have been promised everything. The Government have said that they cannot pay the men for four years, and there is growing dissatisfaction in the ranks-. This country will be well advised if it immediately throws aside all. that has passed, and faces the difficult problem courageously. The sooner we settle- with the soldiers the better, as it is miserable and deplorable to keep men waiting month after month, and year after year, for that to which they are nowentitled. It is despicable to think that there should be delay after the statements of the Prime Minister that the bonds were to be negotiable by the banks, andnow to say that they will be tied up until May, 1924.
– Fully five-sixths of the men assembled outside this building have never been to the Front. They are “ cold-footers.”’
– Is the honorable senator in a position to judge the men outside?
– I have been amongst them.
– One has only to meet the men to realize that- they believe that the nation has made a promise and should keep it.
Senator Pearce argues that the money in the banks is not an indication of the wealth of the country, and that the stocks of the warehouses will need to be replenished before we are financially sound. The Minister argues that good’s must be imported and paid for.
– The banks hold the paper. -Senator GARDINER. - There is over £300,000,000 sterling in the hands of 15,000 people.
– How much has the honorable senator?
– It is not much, and it is not much to say that a nation that enables 15,000 people to hold £300,000,000 is in a position to pay this gift in cash. The men whose claims we are considering fought for the protection of that wealth, and surely we can raise £28,000,000 to discharge our debt. A man who invests £100,000 in war bonds, draws £5,000 per annum from the people in the form of interest, and would any one say that we desire to repudiate that debt? We are paying interest because the money was paid to ‘the nation when it was needed. We would shudder if any one even suggested repudiation. This is a debt just as honorable and deserving. It would be a financial wrench. as I know there are difficulties in the way; but, personally, I prefer to meet my obligations to-day rather than put them off until to-morrow, and the Government should meet their liabilities in the same way. It is outrageous to suggest -that the money cannot be found when we realize that if the war had lasted three months longer it would have meant the expenditure of millions more. If the Minister for Defence had had his way, and had sent 16,500 men per month from Australia, it would not have- meant the expenditure of a paltry £25,000,000
Sterling, bu)t something approximating £225,000,000. «
– The war might have terminated earlier.
– Surely an honorable senator who makes such a stupid interjection does not imagine that a few hundred thousand more Australians would have been responsible for the termination of the war, and that they could have done what the Allied Forces with 7,000,000 men could not do. Does Senator Reid think that an additional 200,000 men from Australia would have been instrumental in bringing that terrible conflict to an earlier termination when it took the United States of America with her millions to hasten victory?
– It was an army of 40,000 Australians that first started the walk back to Germany.
– The Minister knows perfectly well that when, he first asked for this additional number of men they would have made very little difference. If -the war had been conducted as the Minister for Defence desired, more than £25,000,000 would have been needed long before the signing . of the armistice, and now the Government are refusing to pay in cash £2S,000,000 in discharge of a just and honorable debt.
– And you would not send men.
– If the financial position is as bad as the Government would like us to believe, it is a good thing for Australia that more men were not sent. We would not have then been considering the payment of a gratuity, but the question of getting the men back, and in doing so we would have had to strip the country of practically everything. The record of the Labour party in this connexion is a good one, as 256,000 men were sent overseas when a Labour Government were in office, and only 70,000 men were sent after there had been a change in the Administration. We are frequently’ asked whether the money is available to pay the gratuity in cash, and* I give an emphatic reply in the affirmative. It is an easy matter to raise a loan in which the soldiers can participate and hold negotiable bonds, as do other members of the community. At one time our financial advisers said that the Government dare not ask for more than £10,000,000, but the country stood up to its obligations, and without any difficulty £22,000,000 was raised. If the Government were to ask for £20,000,000 they might get £40,000,000. Such a proposition as that I have outlined would appeal to the best sentiments of the Australian people, and I trust the Government will review the whole position, shoulder their obligations, and pay . in cash. That would be the best day’s work they have ever done.
– I should not like to charge Senator Gardiner with making rash and in- accurate statements, although that would not be difficult to prove. So far as rash and inaccurate statements are concerned, all it would be necessary to do would be to read what Senator Gardiner has said. It would be a work of supererogation to charge him with making rash statements, because every one who knows him or reads his speeches is aware that he is rash in his statements, and so far as inaccuracy is concerned that has to-night been characteristic of his whole speech. He has taken newspaper paragraphs, and put them into the mouth of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), with the emphatic assertion that they are the Prime Minister’s statements. He has taken small paragraphs, and pieced them together, and would have us believe straightway that the result represents, what the Prime Minister said. He must know that that is not correct.
– You do not know half . of what the Prime Minister has said.-
– I do not, and I have never claimed that I did.
– You are sponsoring his statements.
– I shall leave him to sponsor his own statements over his own signature, and give the date. Then if Senator Gardiner is an honorable man, as he frequently puts it to other honorable senators, it will be for him to withdraw the inaccuracies that he has uttered to-night. Instead of charging other honorable senators with being hasty and inaccurate, he will realize that in his haste he has said what is not right.
– I will give you a challenge if you are game to accept it. Put my statement and’ yours side by side, and if you can find one judge, even on your own side, who will say that my statement is inaccurate, I will resign if you will do the same.
– The honorable senator would not ask me to gild refined gold, because it needs no gilding. He would not ask me to paint the lily, because the lily is already white enough. When I put side by side with’ what Senator Gardiner said to-night the statement of the Prime Minister, over his own signature, of what he did say, Senator Gardiner should be convinced that he is wrong, although I know the old saying that-
A man convinced against his will Is of the same opinion still.
– I challenge you to test my statement of what the Prime Minister said on the public platform, and your version of it, pick what judge you like.
– The honorable senator, for instance, says that on every platform so-and-so was said. To prove that that is a rash statement, he must have been present at every platform, or he cannot say what took place there. He, forsooth, sets himself up as the selfappointed judge of what is hasty and inaccurate, yet the first of his statements that I quote convicts him out of his own mouth of both hastiness and inaccuracy. He was not in South Australia, and cannot say what was said there. I believe he was not out of New South Wales, yet he asserts that “ on every platform” certain things were said. He brings no proof, and expects us to accept what he says as gospel truth.
I promised that I would read what was issued over the Prime Minister’s own signature for the advantage of speakers during the recent campaign. It is dated Melbourne, 18th November, 1919, and signed by W. M. Hughes, Prime Minister.
– Put the whole of it on record.
– I shall do so-
Following are the main features and latest , details of war gratuity scheme, including results up to date of negotiations by the Treasury with banks and employers, of which I spoke in Adelaide, when I was trying to arrange for banks and such employers as were willing to do so to cash the soldiers’ gratuity bonds.
Basis of gratuity - ls. 6d. a day flat rate from date of embarkation to 28th June, 1919. This covers all Australian Imperial Force mcn, naval men, Imperial reservists, doctors, and nurses’. One shilling a day from enlistment to discharge for men who did not leave Australia, limited to six months, except in special cases. Bonds to be. cashed by Treasury in all cases of hardship or special urgency, on soldier’s marriage or on soldier’s widow.’s remarriage, and for all widows and mothers of deceased soldiers. Bonds will be received as cash for all purposes under Repatriation Department, including purchases of land, war service homes, businesses, and furniture. Bonds will he accepted by banks as collateral security for purchase of land and houses from private owners. Ten million pounds’ worth of bonds will be cashed in May, 1921, and the remainder cleared off as soon as it is possible to raise money on local or foreign market.
The Treasurer is proceeding with negotiations with banks, and it is ‘hoped that a still more liberal system of cashing bonds will be arranged in the course of the week. I feel satisfied that the proposals of the Government are regarded by the overwhelming bulk of the soldiers as most satisfactory, and the executive of the Soldiers’ League informed me that nearly every branch of the league that had an opportunity of consideringthe scheme has apjproved of it. (Signed) W. M. Hughes,
I have not made a statement. I have simply read the Prime Minister’s words. I put them side by side with Senator Gardiner’s carefully thought-out and deliberatelyweighed utterance, containing, as it does, all that pellucid stream of truth which is so characteristic of the honorable senator. I am sure that when he reads the two side by side he will recognise that this evening he has been totally unlike himself. The statements contained in that document signed by the Prime Minister do not accord with the statements attributed by the honorable senator to the Prime Minister. This document was carefully thought out. It was intended to be the basis from which speakers should take . their cue. They were to adhere to it, and they could not pledge the Prime Minister to anything beyond it. They could not say that he had promised . anything beyond it.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– I only want to know what you . are quoting from.
– I am quoting from Weekly Notes - a document that was supplied to speakers.
– By whom?
– It does not matter by whom; this document is signed by the Prime Minister and bears the date quoted.
– Did you all have to say the same thing?
– lt is characteristic of the honorable senator to side-track the clear truth. I might just as well ask Senator Gardiner whether Senator Grant or Senator McDougall said the same as he said.
– You are quoting a document, and I want to know what it is.
– I have given the honorable senator the name of the document - Weekly Notes - which was supplied to speakers on the Nationalist side, so as to guide them in their utterances, but this, I take it, is a. distinct document that was signed by the Prime Minister so that we could clearly and emphatically state what he had promised.
– Was that published before the election?
– W eekly Notes was published and sent to us week by week before the election. The full title is Weekly Notes for the Information of Members and Speakers. It was published over the name of Archdale Parkhill, of Hunter-street, Sydney, so that this comes right from the city that my honorable friend comes from.
– It was not’ the Prime Minister, then, that you were quoting?
– I am quoting the Prime Minister’s statement, and I have given the responsibility for it.
– The position was so doubtful, then, that you all had to say the same thing.
– The position was not doubtful, but as this was a business transaction it was ‘absolutely necessary that the clear and emphatic terms should be laid down.
– Will you tell me if that was a public document before the election ?
– How would any one know except the speakers on the Nationalist side that it was issued?
– Because it waa published broadcast.
– There was no scarcity of copies.
– We know Archdale Parkhill. Do you know who he is?
– I believe he is the Secretary of the National party. It is not a question of who or what he is. It simply shows that this is an authoritative and official statement.
– And you solemnly read a statement from the Secretary of the National League to prove that I am wrong.
– I do not. I read what the Prime Minister sanctioned and signed, and what I am positive the Prime Minister will indorse. It nails Senator Gardiner down as having made rash and inaccurate statements, and now he wants to knock the head off the nail. I wish it distinctly put on record that this is not the statement of Archdale Parkhill, hut the statement of “William Morris Hughes.
– By whom is it authorized?
– That has nothing to do with the question. Senator Gardiner has tried to make out all along that there was no difference between the two parties, and that the election was not fought out on the question of whether the gratuity should be paid by bonds or in cash.
– Hear, hear! It was all cash.
– Then why this statement by Mr. Hughes? The honorable senator knows that his deputy leader at the time tried to go one better than the Government.
– Who was that?
– Mr. T. J. Ryan, the director-general of the Labour party’s campaign. He directed the honorable senator’s party into a bog, with the result that it has lost from this Chamber all its representatives with the single exception of Senator Gardiner himself. As director of the Labour party’s campaign, Mr. Ryan stands condemned, and as a critic of rash statements, Senator Gardiner himself also stands condemned. He has stated that we can pay this gratuity in cash. But within five minutes, from the time he affirmed that by the inflation of our note issue we could pay cash, his common sense conquered, and he recognised that payment by means of bonds would be preferable. Consequently, he pointed out that we could raise a loan of £20,000,000 for the purpose. Now what is a loan but payment by means of bonds? Yet the honorable senator is a firm advocate of payment by cash. After exhausting nearly all his breath, he announced his firm conviction that if such a loan were offered, the soldiers themselves would take it up. He had previously been arguing most strenuously that the soldiers were in dire need. Yet he declared that these men who were in . such, dire extremity would accept bonds in preference to cash. The honorable senator closed his address by contradicting his own statements. When, however, the Government propose to issue short-dated bonds for the payment of the gratuity, he condemns their action. If he condemns them for proposing to issue bonds £10,000,000 worth of which are to be redeemed by May, 1921, what ought we to say -of the honorable senator’s project to issue long-dated bonds which, presumably, would be redeemable ten years hence ? When Senator Gardiner has slept upon the matter, I am sure he will feel that he has got himself into such a knot by his speech to-night that he will desire to erase it from the records of Parliament as a disgrace to them.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to use language of that sort in regard to any honorable senator’s utterance.
– I am quite willing to withdraw it. I was quoting the opinion which the honorable senator himself would have of his own speech - not my opinion of it. However, if you, sir, think that his common sense will not have recovered sufficiently early to permit ot him viewing the position in that light, I am quite willing to withdraw my statement.
– I would nob like the honorable senator to withdraw any statement concerning me. Whatever he may say, no matter in what terms it may be couched, will be praise.
– Coming to the Bill itself, I regard it as evidence of the desire of the people of Australia to do something more than they have already done for the soldiers who fought, not only our battle, but the battle of civilization. I do not think it is a good or a wise thing to quarrel over the question of how this gratuity shall be paid. The party giving the gratuity knows best how it can be given. It seems to me unreasonable to argue that it should have been offered upon terms other than those upon which it has been offered.
– We should not look a gift horse in the mouth
– Not altogether. Australia has recently passed through the most severe financial crisis that she has ever experienced. To-day we are carrying a heavier load than we have ever carried in any period of our history.
– A heavier load than any of the other oversea Dominions.
– Yes. It is the wise man who counts the cost before he incurs it. Only the foolish man undertakes to do things that he is unable to do. Anybody who has inside knowledge in connexion with the notation of the last loan knows that difficulties were experienced in securing its full subscription. Yet we are urged to do something which it is not wise for us to do at this juncture. Since the close of the contributions to the last loan,- we have not cut a wool clip, gathered a crop from our fields, or dug out minerals from our mines. Yet it is from these commodities that we derive the wealth of Australia. The conditions under which this gratuity was to ‘be granted to our returned soldiers were placed before the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, whose representatives were thus seised of the difficulties which existed in the way of payment by cash. Senator Gardiner ought to know that if the scheme which he ha3 outlined were adopted and an additional £25,000,000 worth of notes were issued, it would mean an increased cost of living to the soldiers themselves, to all their dependants, and to the widows of deceased soldiers - -an increase that would be more injurious to them than will be the payment of the gratuity in bonds.
– That is merely an assertion of the honorable senator.
– It is not. But if the honorable senator does not know it, he stands self -convicted of an absolute lack of knowledge of economics. If he does not know it, I advise him to look up authorities on the subject, and he will then discover that it is so. The inflation of the note issue would mean the depreciation of the value of the notes. If we could withdraw from circulation a large portion of our note issue, we should do a great deal towards reducing the cost of living. On the other hand, by increasing our note issue we shall most certainly depreciate the value of the notes. Seeing that the soldiers themselves have acquiesced in- the terms upon which the gratuity is to be granted, why should Senator Gardiner askus to listen to the cry of those who are outside the organization to which I have referred ? Is it wisdom to listen to them, or, rather, to heed the views of the responsible representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League? I think that Senator Gardiner must recognise that the course adopted by the Minister is the wiser one - wiser not only for the soldiers themselves, but for the people of Australia, who have to foot the bill.
I do not grudge the payment of this gratuity in any sense. But I would point out that the men who rendered service to the nation throughout, the war have already received a gratuity. Senator Gardiner is quite aware of that. He knows that the men were granted full pay for a certain period during which they were not on service. So that this gratuity is really a double-banked one.
– I am certainly not aware of any previous gratuity having been paid.
– Then I ask the Minister for Defence whether our returned men we’re not granted a full week’s pay for every six months of service by them ?
– They received 71/2 days’ pay for every six months they had served abroad.
– So that this gratuity is really a double-banked one. That being so, it ill becomes Senator Gardiner to press those who are paying it-
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that if a man who has been absent on service for twelvemonths receives a fortnight’s pay in addition to his ordinary pay, he is beinggranted a gratuity? Is not such a payment too mean and paltry to be mentioned here?
– I do not suggest that our Australian soldier has received a monetary recompense forwhat he hasdone. Yet the fact remains that he has been the best-paid soldier who has stood upon the battlefields of Europe. Undoubtedly he deserved to be the besttreated soldier of any who stood upon those battlefields. Senator Gardiner,, therefore, cannot say that there is anything of the spirit of meanness in the attitude which has been adopted by this Parliament towards our returned soldiers.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the soldiers- have already been paid a gratuity in getting payment for seven days’ leave for each six months of service, and that that is something which ought to be mentioned in connexion with the Bill.
– The honorable senator is driven very hard for an argument when he quotes that against me. He regards that as something miserable.
– Yes, quite miserable.
– Its absence would have been sufficient reason to induce the honorable senator to plead for it, but because it was provided for without having been promised, and without his having an opportunity to take exception to it, he comes forward now and says that the seven days’ payment for each six months of service was a mean and petty thing.
– That leave was in addition to the ordinary leave they got in the Old Country.
– The bringing of the matter up here, and calling it a double gratuity, is what I consider mean.
– I say that it was regarded as a gratuitythat the men should be paid for their services when on leave in the Old Country, and again after they returned to Australia.
– The public servants get the same consideration every year.
– I do not regard it as a matter sufficiently important to be mentioned, and would not have referred to it but for the action of. the honorable senator in suggesting that we should do this, that, and the other thing, and should pay cash, when he knows quite well what would be the consequence of our doing so at the present time.
– Before the honorable senator leaves the question of the better payment of our soldiers, may I ask whether he has noticed in to-night’s newspapers that the people of the United States of America are paying their soldiers 4s. 2d. a day?
– Does Senator Gardiner consider what the amount . of £108,000,000 they propose to pay would amount to if their payment was at the same rate per head of population as ours ? He can work it out for himself. If £28,000,000 is paid by 5,000,000 people, how much should 100,000,000 people pay?
– The honorable senator will find a way of answering the question, but I direct attention, all the same, to the United States payment.
– Senator Gardiner forgets another aspect of the matter. He overlooks the difference between the financial position of the United States and that of Australia to-day. What has been the burden of the war to the United States of America?
– She has profited by it.
– Yes, every day that it was continued, and she has also endeavoured commercially to make additional profits since the war ended. Yet Senator Gardiner quotes what the United States of America is doing as against the contribution made by Australia. No nation in the world has done more nobly than Australia did in the war, and no nation has done more nobly by her soldiers. They deserve all that they have received and all that we can give them, but we must consider the people who have to cope with the financial position in which this country is placed.
Coming to the question of the enlargement of the scope of the measure, let me say that certain lines were laid down in what was practically a bond between the Prime Minister and the executive of the’ Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. Now that, the Bill is actually before us, Senator Gardiner would break down the boundary line agreed upon to take in others who have been excluded. The honorable senator overlooks the fact that if the fence were shifted as he proposes there would still be others outside the new boundary line who would feel that they had the same right to inclusion ‘ in the benefits of this measure as those whom the honorable senator wishes to have included. Following the honorable senator’s line of argument, we might continue to enlarge the scope of the measure until every one who did anything, even to the woman who knit the last pair of stockings for the soldiers overseas, was included amongst those to be given the gratuity.
– Does the honorable senator claim that the person who knitted a pair of socks for the soldiers is as much entitled to consideration as’ are the Naval Reserve men?
– I do not claim anything of the kind. What I say is that the argument which the honorable senator put forward for -th© inclusion of the Naval Reserve men, if carried to its logical conclusion, would bring us to the position I have stated..
– It is very easy to give the taxpayers’ money away.
– If we followed ‘out Senator Gardiner’s argument we should include ‘the last individual who did anything in connexion with the winning of the war.
– Let the honorable senator take the case of the Naval Reserve men, and, without mixing them up with any others, try to convince me that they are not as ‘much entitled to be considered as are the men who went into camp but did not go overseas.
– When speaking on the Repatriation Bill recently I mentioned certain persons who might put in a claim to benefits under that measure, but the Minister in charge of the Bill said that the men of the merchant .service had .an equal claim with those to whom I referred. I had to admit that, and when the honorable senator invites my attention to the claim of the Naval Reserve men to inclusion in this Bill I do not doubt that they have some claim, but their claim does not find a place in this measure.
– Will the honorable senator gave some reason .why it does not find ia place in this measure 1 -Senator SENIOR. - Because there -most be a .limit, <and it- seems t>o me that the limit imposed by the Bill is the best that could be suggested.
– - So that, whether :a man’s claim ds joist or not it must not be considered if he is ‘outside that limit?
– I might just as well plead that we .should include men who enlisted but -did mot leave Australia and were not subjected to the dangers Which were undertaken by those who -served abroad.
– We might include the men who were not -allowed to enlist because they were not -old enough, but who enlisted when they became old enough.
– That is so. They showed that they were just as willing to serve abroad as those who are included in this Bill. We might, on the principle advocated by Senator Gardiner, continue to. enlarge the scope of the measure -until we included the last woman who .knitted the last pair of socks sent to the soldiers overseas.
– The last man, the last shilling, and the last sock.
– Can the honorable senator give any good reason why the Naval Reserve men have been left out ?
– The honorable senator contends ‘that they should be included, but gives no reason why they should be included any more than young men who, before they reached twenty-one years of age, were quite willing to- enlist if permitted and render service abroad.
– My reason was that they -served the country during the whole time of. the war, and are as much entitled to -the payment of the gratuity as men who were in camp and did not leave Australia.
– Let me remind the honorable senator that the farmer who grew wheat to feed the soldiers served the -country during the whole time of *he war, and so did the squatter who grew sheep, and the munition worker who went oversea and made munitions to help to win the war.
– Or who stayed in Australia and did so.
– Some stayed in Australia. We might .continue to put forward cases of this kind ; but I say that the line must be drawn somewhere, and Senator Gardiner has .not ^proved that the limit set by the Bill is an unjust one. There are many emitted that I should like to see included ; but I recognise that, in agreeing to -this measure, I am not proposing -to part with -my -own money, but with the money of the taxpayers, of whose purse I am sent here to be the guardian. I am prepared to adhere to the limit of the Bill. There may in time be some revision of the measure when strong reasons may be given” for the inclusion of other persons; but we must deal with what is before ns, and to do more than is proposed in this measure would be to do an injury to ourselves as well .as to our soldiers.
If Senator Gardiner wall -compare the statement I have quoted, signed by Mr. Hughes as Prime Minister, with -the provisions of this .Bill, he -will see that this measure faithfully ‘Carries out to the letter the promises made by -the Prime Minister. I wish it a speedy passage through this Chamber, and I hope that when it becomes law it will be helpful to the soldiers. I .recognise that there are many purposes to which the gratuity bonds may be devoted. There are soldiers living in houses built for them under the War Service Homes Act, who may have been neglectful in meeting their obligations. Such men will be able to present their gratuity bonds to meet their instalments under that Act. The bonds will be as good as cash to them, and I ‘believe that in practice it will be found that this measure is more liberal than on the face of it it appears to be. I trust that its bitterest opponents will yet recognise that it is a useful measure, and one that stands to the credit of Australia.
– I thought that it would not be necessary for me to follow my honorable colleague from South Australia (Senator Senior), who has done so well in replying to certain statements made in the Senate this afternoon. I was under no delusion, when this Bill was first introduced. I had no doubt that it would be fought in this Parliament as bitterly as were the elections, and I am not at all surprised, therefore, at the statements which have been made in discussing it in this Chamber and in another place. I am not surprised at the v’iciousness that has been exhibited in attacking members of the National party and in attempting to show that they fought the elections with the help of a bribe to the returned soldiers. That statement has “been made often, and doubtless will be made again. ‘ No matter what may be said here or in another place, the charge will continue to be levelled at members of the National party that the war gratuity was offered to the soldiers as a bribe for their votes. Senator Gardiner asked to-night why the gratuity was not paid prior to the last election, but he knows just as well as anybody else that it was not paid because Parliament was expiring by effluxion of time, and the Government felt that they had no right to deal with the taxpayers’ money without a fresh mandate from the people. Had the gratuity been paid before the last election., the charge now made by Senator Gardiner about the bribing of returned soldiers might have held good.
I am not going to wade through all the arguments brought forward by Senator Gardiner to-night, but I may remind him that, although he quoted newspaper extracts with all the conviction of a man who believed in them, he ought to be the last member of this Chamber to depend’ on newspaper extracts, for on other occasions he has told us that he does not believe what the newspapers say, and that all along they have been systematically unfair to him. Yet, when statements are made in the press concerning the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the honorable senator repeats them here tonight with the object of ‘securing publicity in the press, if they care to publish them, and certainly through the pages of Hansard, thus making it appear that they are actual facts. But the Prime Minister does not need defence at my hands, nor is there occasion for me to defend the Government. I am going to justify my attitude, and that of those associated with me, in South Australia. Whilst an this subject I may add that, so .far as my recollection goes, on only one occasion during the whole of the election campaign - and, with the exception of Sunday nights, I addressed an audience somewhere every night - was the question of the gratuity referred to, and that was in the form of a question. I asked the questioner to stand up, so that I could have a look at him. He did so, and- then I asked him where his returned soldier’s badge was. He was not wearing one, so I took it that he was asking the question out of sheer curiosity, and not because of any prospective benefit to himself. In the- circumstances I refused to answer it. I did not refer ±o the gratuity all through the election campaign, but nearly all of the candidates opposed to the Nationalist party based their speeches practically upon this one question.
– But your soldiers in South Australia believed that the Prime Minister had arranged with the banks to pay cash.
– The soldiers of South Australia are the same type of men as are those in New South Wales. They are Australians. The honorable senator himself professes to be an Australian, so I should have thought that of all men he would have been the last to make any comparison between the soldiers of any one State and another. For my part, I can only se© Australia. All the men who went away fought as1 Australians.
The honorable senator said something about the gratuity being a bribe to the soldiers, and quoted extracts from the Prim© Minister’s speeches in Adelaide. I want now to quote what Captain Dyett, the Federal president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, said upon this subject. Captain Dyett not only fought at the Front, but during the voluntary recruiting and conscription campaign worked strenuously to send help to the mates whom he had left over yonder. Like a good many others, he was misled by the reports that had appeared in the press concerning the Prime Minister’s statements in Adelaide. It will be remembered that the Prime Minister was interviewed in that city, and delivered an address to returned soldiers. To this Captain Dyett took exception, holding the view that the Prime Minister should not have gone behind the executive of the Returned Soldiers Association in regard to the payment of the gratuity. The Prime Minister, in his address to the soldiers, made some reference to an organization with which he had been connected as having* been hobbled by another organization, and remarked that he was not going to take it lying down if the returned soldiers were going to allow their organization to be hobbled by some one else; and Captain Dyett, in his reply to the Prime Minister’s statement, said -
To be consistent should he not have been adVised by the decision of the executive of the South Australian branch of the League, which refused to call the meeting concerned for the purpose of hearing the Prime Minister, because in doing so the League’s constitution would have been deliberately violated?
Concerning the Prime Minister’s references to the hobbling of the organization, Captain Dyett said -
The statement by Mr. Hughes naturally made the executive indignant, because right throughout the interviews we have maintained strict neutrality. The League is not hobbled, and, while I am president, shall not be hobbled, but shall pursue a definite course of neutrality.
Here, then, is a statement by the official mouth-piece of the Returned Soldiers Association, repudiating entirely the suggestion mad© by the Prime Minister that his organization was being hobbled. On the third point in the Prim© Minister’s statement, namely, the arrangements made by the banks for the negotiation of the bonds, Captain Dyett said -
The third point is that Mr. Hughes, when referring to the bonds being negotiated by the banks, said “I will,” and not “I have,” yet, according to an announcement made by Mr. Pearce in Western Australia, on Tuesday, Mr. Hughes despatched a telegram confirming the report that arrangements had been made with the banks for the cash redemption of the bonds.
The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has explained that this statement was a misprint. He has told us that he sent a telegram to the Prime Minister, asking if certain statements mad© by him in Adelaide were correctly reported ; and the Prime Minister, not knowing what the Minister for Defence was referring to, replied that they were correct. Subsequently, however, when the matter was explained to the’ Prime Minister., he declared that the statements appearing in the press were wrong. The Minister for Defence repeatedly repudiated the statement, and Senator Gardiner is taking a very unusual course in declining to accept the denial.
– Senator Pearce admitted the statement was correct, and explained how it cam© to be made.
– The whole statement was a mistake, due to a misprint, and Senator Pearce has told the Senate the circumstances under which the telegram was sent.
– But he does not contradict the accuracy of the report.
– No ; and the omission of any reference to what Senator Pearce had wired to the Prime Minister gives colour to the belief that the latter had made the statement, although Senator Pearce has since given the fullest publicity to the whole of the circumstances. Captain Dyett also said -
Now, while I regret the necessity for this explanation, I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without referring to the question of the gratuity bonds. At the previous interview to the one at which the suggestion was made regarding the issue of interest-bearing, nonnegotiable bonds, Mr. Hughes definitely stated that it was impossible to pay a cash gratuity.
I emphasize the fact that the question of the gratuity bonds was mentioned at a previous interview, presumably the first which the Prime Minister had with the executive of the League, and at which he declared it was impossible to pay the gratuity in cash. Captain Dyett on this point said -
Mr. Hughes definitely stated that it was impossible to pay a cash gratuity. He declared that the money was not in the country, and that we should have to deal with it on a paper basis. On the assurance given by Mr. Hughes, which was supported by information confidentially imparted, concerning the financial situation of the country, its obligations, and the impossibility of raising the money by loan, the soldiers’ executive had no alternative but to consider the question of paying the gratuity on a paper basis.
The suggestion ‘relative to the war bonds was made because it was considered that the interests of Australia would be protected on the one hand, and because it was thought that the majority of the soldiers, in view of the financial position of the country, would accept them.
I do not need to quote more. Captain Dyett goes on and shows conclusively that from the commencement of the negotiations with the Federal Executive it was understood that the soldiers were prepared to accept the gratuity in nonnegotiable bonds. Further on Captain Dyett says in his interview -
After Mr. Hughes had acquiesced in the various recommendations concerning the details of the payment of the gratuity, I asked him whether he would prevent the placing of any restrictions on the Associated Banks, and allow those institutions a free hand to’ negotiate the bonds. In asking that question, I pointed out that I thought that the Associated Banks might act accordingly. Mr. Hughes said, “ What reason have you to believe that -they are considering that?” Continuing, at a later stage, he said that once you made the bonds negotiable you could sell them immediately. It would upset the whole financial situation of the Commonwealth. The thing was that if you put £25,000,000 more money on the market, prices would go up, the markets would be disorganized, and financial’ chaos would be produced. I next asked whether he would allow the banks to accept the bonds as security for bank overdrafts, and Mr. Hughes replied that that was the same thing. I do not think that it is necessary for me to quote any more. The Prime Minister refused the banks the right to handle these bonds from the very commencement. I care not what honorable senators may say, we have the statements of Captain Dyett, as “reported in the Melbourne and Adelaide newspapers, which are just as reliable as those quoted this afternoon by Senator Gardiner, and Captain Dyett, being in Melbourne at present, could be questioned on this matter within an hour or so if the honorable senator so desired. It is unnecessary for one to go any further in replying to the charges that this party has been guilty of attempting to bribe the soldiers. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) has a very poor ‘ opinion of the returned soldiers, their relatives and dependants, if he believes for a moment that they or the organization representing them could be bribed by the Prime Minister or any other person.
Senator Gardiner referred to a.’ statement I made last week in relation to the attitude of has party during the period when our soldiers were fighting with their backs to the wall. At that time the members of his party and the representatives of its organizations carried resolutions by the score to the effect that they would not assist in sending recruits overseas.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not true. He is repeating a falsehood.
– Iam not.
– You are.
– I am repeating facts.
– Give us your authority.
– My authority Will the honorable senator say that the executive did not carry a resolution absolutely prohibiting members of the party going on recruiting platforms and that if they did so it would be at the risk of being expelled from the party.
– No responsible body representing labour has done that.
– I do. not know what the honorable senator wouldcall a responsible body. There are a lot of irresponsibles as has been shown by recent events.
– That is an open question.
– As late as 1918 I took the recruiting platform . with Mr. Holman, and I never heard a word of complaint from any organization of ours.
– I am well aware that Senator Gardiner took the recruiting platform,- and that the parliamentary leader of his party acted simullarly. There were, however, very few others who did anything to assist recruiting.
– I did.
– I know that.
– Why does the honorable senator say that the Labour organizations would not allow it?
- Senator Gardiner claims that the organizations represent the Official Labour party, and” I say that neither Senator Gardiner nor Senator O’Loghlin represents the whole party. I know they went on the recruiting platform, and deserve every credit for the work they did. I have correspondence that came into my possession as chairman of .the Recruiting Committee in South Australia, showing that the Trades and Labour Council, as the representative of the Labour party in South Australia, refused absolutely and definitely to send a delegate to the Recruiting Committee to help with the work.. I have also statements of those who reported the Recruiting Committee for using recruiting platforms for political purposes,, notwithstanding that I had expressly forbidden their use for such purposes. A notice was conspicuously posted on all platforms that they were not to be used for political purposes. I have a statement covering three or four foolscap pages of matter prepared in the Trades Hall in Adelaide reporting me to the Director-General of Recruiting for having used these platforms for political purposes. These statements were deliberate falsehoods, because I never uttered a word concerning, politics, and I did not permit any recruiting officer to make statements a second time that had a political significance. These organizations did not act in this way with the idea of. helping recruiting, and it is futile for honorable senators opposite to tell me that they did, because, as chairman of a Recruiting Committee, I put in two and a half strenuous years in connexion with that important movement.
I have abundance of proof here and elsewhere to show that the Labour movement never made the slightest attempt to assist the returned soldier. I have every right to say that. The Labour organizations failed in their duty to the soldiers at a time when assistance was urgently needed.
– That cannot apply to organized labour. The honorable senator is not telling the truth.
– The honorable senator can apply it to whom he likes. He takes credit for/the large number of workers who went to the war; but they went, not with the advice of the executive of the organizations, but in spite of it. I do not apply the accusation to Senators Gardiner and O’Loghlin, because I know they did assist; but the Labour party as an organization was opposed to sending men to the Front, and it is futile to say that resolutions were not carried in theterms I have indicated.
– It is not true.
– It is true. I do not wish to place on record the letters I have in my possession; but it will require very little inducement to make me read the whole of them to show where the organizations in South Australia actually stood. The South Australian organizations were well in line with those in other parts of Australia. I regret exceedingly having to say these things, because I would like ‘the Bill to go through without recriminations. But when these charges are made, I am not going to allow the party to which I belong to be slandered without offering strong protest. In connexion with questions of this kind, it is usual for honorable senators to slander one another until their time has expired, and very often the Bill under discussion is quite, overlooked.
I have given very careful consideration to the provisions of the Bill, and say frankly that I would like many of them to be extended to meet the case of others who went overseas or who rendered good work in Australia. A line has been drawn, including certain sections of men, and if that line is altered, where are we to stop ? If we went on in an allembracing way,, it would mean that practically every war worker would benefit. It would mean including all who went overseas, the men who enlisted and could not get away, and many others, who did their best to get to the Front. It seems only fair that many of these should- receive something, and I repeat that I would like the munition workers, the naval men, and those who undertook dangerous work to be included. We have to remember, however, that as a Parliament we have to hold the balance as evenly as we can between the soldier who is entitled to the gratuity and the taxpayer who has to meet the bill. Under this measure the fairest thing has been done, having in view all the circum- stances. I desire to make it perfectly clear that I would like to see others included, but I am satisfied that at present it is impracticable to extend its provisions to others, no matter how deserving they may be. The Bill, as finally agreed to by Parliament, must be in such a form that it will not be necessary in, say, six or twelve months’ time, to bring down an amending measure to make ‘provision for others. For that reason I hope honorable senators will give the measure their best attention, so that it will leave this Chamber as nearly perfect as it is possible for such legislation to be.
In South Australia there is a movement amongst the returned soldiers to establish Army and Navy stores on a rather ambitious scale. The South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League has very kindly supplied me with an advance copy of the prospectus of the proposed business, which is to be conducted on a cooperative basis for the benefit of the soldiers,, their dependants, and war workers generally. Because they thought that the Bill did not quite cover their requirements, they had two amendments inserted in another place, but they are not satisfied that those will do exactly what they want, so they have sent to me another amendment. I have had a discussion with the Minister in charge of the Bill about it, and he has promised to have a clause drafted to meet the objection which I raised. It is, therefore, not my intention to give notice of that amendment until I see what the Minister proposes.
I wish to call attention to one matter which, I believe, has not been discussed by any other honorable senator. Many young, men who left Australia were engaged to be married.. They left their allotment money to their1 young ladies in hundreds, and perhaps thousand’s, of cases. Numbers of them have, unfortunately, not come back. They willed everything they had to their sweethearts in Australia.
– They could not have included the gratuity, because they did not know of it at the time.
– No, but it is questionable whether or not the gratuity will go in the direction in which the will has been made. I do not suppose that Ministers have overlooked this case, but where all the young man’s property has been willed to his sweetheart and away from his parents, the Minister should consider whether it is possible, apart altogether from what the prescribed authority may do, to insert in the Bill a provision making it compulsory that the gratuity shall go to the parents. There are other cases to which the Minister for Defence referred this afternoon, where men have not been all that they ought to be towards their wives and families, and the soldier son has gone away and’ been killed. The gratuity, by virtue of the fact that the father is the next of kin, may go to the father instead of to some more deserving member of the family; Is that provided against?
– And would the prescribed authority have power to see that the gratuity goes to the parents in the case of the young, man who has willed everything, to his young lady?
– Sub-clause 2 of clause 9 gives a discretion on the facts of the case.
– Even if there is a will?’
– I am glad tohear it. I think that the father or mother ought to be entitled to the gratuity, .’even if the young, woman gets: everything else.
I have been asked to ascertain when these bonds will be dated, and from what date the authorities will begin to pay- interest on them. The soldiers are very keen for information on that point, and I trust the Minister will supply it.
The Bill allows the War Service Homes Commissioner to take bonds as payment. There is a class of. men who* at the present time, have war service homes, and in South Australia a large amount of interest and principal is overdue. The war service homes- principle has been in operation in South Australia for about twelve years now, so far as the general community is concerned, and the arrears of interest do not amount to £300 in the case of the general public, but they amount to something over £4,000 in the case of the returned’ soldiers.. When the war service homes authorities and the banks press the returned men for payment of those arrears, the answer invariably is, “ I will pay you as soon as I get my gratuity.” That is’ a very good reason as far as it goes why the bank should wait, and it is waiting. But the authorities are in this difficulty. Whilst under this measure they may accept the gratuity bonds as payment, they are given no power to stop the amount of arrears out of the gratuity before the bonds are handed over. In South Australia the State Bank is doing the work that the War Service Homes Commissioner is doing here. Will it be possible for the Minister to provide in the Bill - I am not assuming that the men will attempt to shirk their responsibilities, but some of them may do so - that the War Service Homes Commission, which I presume would include the State Bank of’ South Australia, shall have the right to send in a claim to the authorities who are paying the gratuity, and to have the amount of the arrears stopped? It has also been suggested to me that, in order that this may be done, the bonds should be issued in tens or multiples of tens. This would make it easier for all concerned to clear off the small amounts outstanding in the case of war service homes.
I am sure that 98 per cent, of the soldiers in Australia are quite satisfied with the provisions of the Bill. I have spoken to large numbers of them, and have been very closely associated with them,- since the Bill came forward, in the co-operative business which they intend to start in South Australia. I know from first-hand evidence, from the soldiers themselves, that the great majority are satisfied with what is being done for them. The soldiers are meeting this question in the right spirit. They are not accepting the gratuity as a bribe or as a gift in any shape or form. They recognise that it is something to which they are entitled, and they know that, if it were not for the straits and necessities of our present financial circumstances, the people of Australia would be much more generous in this regard even than they are now. The soldiers are just as familiar with the financial difficulties of the country as honorable senators are. They are reasonable in their requests, and I am confident that, if the Bill is passed in the form in which it has been drafted, with slight amendments, very general satisfaction will be given to the returned soldiers and also to the taxpayer.
.- I take this opportunity of refuting some of the charges made by Senator Gardiner against the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. The honorable senator is one of those men who always like to have somebody whom they can slander. That is especially the case with the honorable senator when he comes back from an election where his party has been roughly handled. Upon this occasion he_ had nobody else to seize upon, and therefore, took the opportunity of slandering - I use the word advisedly - the League.
– That is quite untrue.
– The honorable senator said earlier in the debate that the. Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the executive of the League acted in collusion, and that the executive offered to support the Government party at the elections provided that the Government did certain things for them in return in connexion with the gratuity.
– My statement was that Mr. Hughes said that this was a bargain, the Government saying, “ If we pay the gratuity, you will give us your support during the elections.” I said not one word about what the reply of the League was.
– I listened very carefully to the honorable senator’s remarks. He also said that the League represented only a certain number of the soldiers, and that the whole of the soldiers’ associations should be consulted in matters of this kind. He would be one of the first to insist that any negotiations affecting labour should take place between the Government and a recognised association of the individuals concerned. Not long ago, when Australia, was asked to send a representative to the Labour Congress established under the Peace Treaty, and it was suggested that the Government should nominate the delegate, the honorable senator rose in protest. He said, “ If anybody is to go, he should be appointed by the Labour organizations.”
– I said he should be elected by. the whole of the unionists, just as I say, now, that the whole of the soldiers should have been consulted.
– The honorable senator did not say that the whole of the men who worked with their hands should be consulted. He would confine the choice to the unionists; yet in this case, where negotiations have to take place between the Government and the soldiers, he resents the fact that the Government negotiated with what is. probably far the strongest of the soldiers’ organizations in Australia. I shall quote the financial membership of the League, so that Senator Gardiner may understand that it speaks with a certain amount of authority when it voices the views of the soldiers, although there may be men outside it, as there will be men outside every association till the end of time. I am informed that on the 31st December last the financial membership of the League was: Victoria, 42,000; South Australia, 17,000; Western Australia, 16,000; Tasmania, 7,000; New South Wales, 23,000; and Queensland, 16,000; or a grand total of 121,000. Considering the total number of returned soldiers, the League can very rightly claim that it is in a sound position to speak in their interests. Since those figures were compiled, new members have been continually enrolling. Senator Gardiner might, at least, have moderated his remarks so far as the League was concerned. I indorse every word Senator Newland said regarding that body being beyond corruption. I assure Senator Gardiner that the League will be no party to any scheming by his party, or by the National party, or by any other political body. It is an independent, non-political, and nonsectarian organization, composed of soldiers, and fighting for what it believes to be the best interest of the soldiers themselves. I think that Senator Gardiner is heartily ashamed of himself already - indeed, I never saw him look so ashamed as he does to-night.
– When the honorable senator says that I have uttered a condemnation of any soldiers’ organization he is repeating what he ought to know is not true.
– In this Chamber one is bound to accept an honorable senator’s denial, and consequently I will not press my statement further. Yet Senator Gardiner was not desirous that negotiations should take place between the Government and the recognised organization of our returned sailors and soldiers.
– I want to give every man an equal chance of being heard.
– It is in the best interests of the soldiers themselves that they should become members either of existing organizations or of organizations which may be formed in the future. The honorable senator is not speaking in the best interests of the men themselves when he uses language which is calculated to create dissatisfaction with the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League.
Under this Bill, I note that a man who was injured in camp is entitled to an allowance of ls. per day.’ I know of one case in which a man who was in camp was injured in a bombing accident; as the result of which he lost the sight of both eyes and also sustained the loss of one hand. In such cases I think the full amount of the gratuity should be paid* In regard to other men who entered camp for a time and were discharged suffering from minor disabilities, I do not intend to move an amendment. But those who were permanently injured in camp are, I think, entitled to enjoy the full benefits conferred by this measure. I should like the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in his reply, to deal with the question of the soldiers who are entitled to receive the gratuity in cash consequent upon their having married. . I have been asked by people in Queensland whether the measure means that those members of the Australian Imperial Force who have married since their return from the Front are to receive the gratuity in cash, or whether it refers only to those who may marry after the Bill becomes law. This is a burning question, and one I would like the Minister to answer. The scheme which has been adopted in South Australia in connexion with the soldiers’ co-operative movement is one which should be extended to other States. The sum of money, involved iD the .payment of the gratuity is so large that if it be kept intact a great deal of good may result to our soldiers. If through their own organizations they will form co-operative associations and establish- new industries whereever they can be established, instead of the money proving a drain upon the taxpayers of this country, it will prove a boon to them.
.- I do not think there is anybody in Australia who objects to granting our returned ‘soldiers the gratuity which the Government propose to give them under this Bill. There are, of course, differences -of opinion in regard to the scope of the measure, ‘and I know that great dissatisfaction exists amongst quite a large number of persons in Australia who are entitled to consider that they did all they possibly could towards winning the war. They offered their lives to the Government in an endeavour to achieve that objective, and it was no fault of theirs that the Government did not accept their offer. Many of these people consider that they are entitled to this gratuity, and I am inclined to agree with them.
The Labour organizations of this coun- try have been criticised for their attitude towards the conduct of the war, and in this connexion I desire to recallone or two matters which appear to have an important bearing upon that question. If there be any bodies in . Australia who are entitled to claim that they stood wholeheartedly for the . gratuity proposed to be paid to our soldiers, it is our trade union . organizations. In 1916, when a conference was held in Melbourne to devise machinery for the purpose of opposing conscription, two resolutions were carried. Quoting from the official record of the conference, the first resolution reads -
That this congress is firm in . the belief that the system of voluntary military servicehas been successful, and if supported by the financial resources of the nation it will be most effective, while it will leave no machinery, as would conscription, to be used after the war to crush the aspirations of the workers.
The conference which carried that resolution was representative of 280,000 members of organized labour. The second resolution demanded -
An increase of pay to the private of 10s. per day, with a corresponding increase of separation allowances to apply to all dependants.
We are thus entitled to claim that we supported the payment of this gratuity wholeheartedly.
SenatorFoll. - The conference did not pass any resolution about providing reinforcements.
– It has been said that organized labour opposed voluntary recruiting. Until there was a split in the political Labour party of this country - there has never been any split in the industrial Labour party-
– Oh, yes, there has.
– Up to the time that a split occurred in the political Labour party, 260,000 men had been recruited and despatched to the Front by the people who were representative of organized labour throughout the Commonwealth. These men had been sent away without any opposition whatever; on the contrary, they had received the wholehearted support of the labour organiza- . tions of Australia. Until conscription was first mooted those organizations did not raise a finger to prevent any of their members . appearing on the recruitingplatforms of this country. Personally, I have never been on a recruiting platform, because I declined to ask any man to go where I was not prepared to go myself. Yet there are plenty of men who actually did that, and some of them are in this Parliament to-day, although they were fit and qualified for active service. Seeing that the labour organizations of Australia never imposed any restrictions upon their members in regard to recruiting until the split occurred in the political Labour party, it is entitled to claim that if the Government had paid the soldier the amount it desired them to pay him there would have been no need for the granting of this gratuity or for recrimination between political -parties.
I do not give the Government any credit for submitting this proposal regarding the payment of a. gratuity to our soldiers. Other people were very much more far-seeing than are they. This proposal really originated at the Paris Conference with Lloyd George and Clemenceau. Lloyd George was anxious to give the people of Great Britain some inducement to build up his waning popularity. He desired to offer them some bribe by means of which he could buy back his way into Parliament. This fact is made abundantly plain in a book written by a very talented Englishman who graduated in one of the great colleges of Britain, and who represented the British Treasury at the Peace Conference. His book is entitled The Economic Consequences of the Peace, and in it he shows very clearly that the Peace Conference arranged that all the cost of repatriation, of the payment of gratuities, and of war pensions was to be exacted from Germany. There was just about as much sincerity in those proposals as there was in Mr. Lloyd George’s cry for the hanging of the Kaiser. Lloyd George knew perfectly well that Germany .could not pay .these immense sums, but the decisions -of the Conference served his purpose, and Mr. Hughes was not slow to copy his example. The whole thing was a ‘political move.
Nobody begrudges our soldiers this gratuity, -and, personally, I would not care if the Government extended the provisions of the Bill so as to provide or the granting of a pension to me. But it is idle for honorable senators ito put into Hansard speeches which reflect ion each other when the facts are on record, and cannot be controverted.
– The resolutions passed at the Perth Labour Conference were only -so much fun.
– Those resolutions stand, as a record of Labour activities, and nobody who took part in that gathering need he ‘ashamed of them. The decisions of the conference merely meant, “Until we have some understanding with the -Government of this country, and with the people who are conducting the war, we will take no further part in recruiting.” All that the conference desired was that the Allied ‘Governments should state “plainly in black and white the terms of the settlement which they required. I do not claim that -the resolutions of that gathering inspired Presi, dent Wilson in any way, but it is a fact that immediately after the holding of the -Perth Conference, President Wilson announced has decisions, which were in complete accord with them.
– Did the decisions of the conference have anything to do with the action of the United States Senate in rejecting the Peace Treaty ?
– I may be in a position to throw some light even upon that question. Immediately after the Perth Conference resolutions we demanded from Labour supporters that they should refrain from further assisting in recruiting the manhood of the country until our people stated plainly -the terms upon which they were prepared to effect a settlement. That is all that we wanted, and I ask whether it was not time that something of the kind was demanded when over 300,000 of our men had gone away from Australia, and God only knew how many more would be required. Was it not a fair thing in the circumstances f or us to ask that -our own .people should say in plain language on what terms they were prepared to end the fight ?
– How could we quote terms when we were being pushed back?
– Before we were being pushed back the enemy offered us terms and we would not accept them, though we accepted, after all, terms that were no better than those that were offered. Two .years before the fight was finished, terms were offered to the Allies, and they were rejected twice. We knew that, and we said that it was time that some one spoke out, and that Labour would do so .if no one else did. We said that there should be no more recruiting, so far as organized labour was concerned, until our people were prepared to state the terms on which they would be willing to finish the fight. Yet now we have honorable senators putting forward statements of this hind in the endeavour wilfully to try to mislead the people of the country and themselves as to the meaning of the Perth resolutions.
I say that Labour has nothing to thank the Government for. They have not to thank them even for this .gratuity. It was put forward, in the first place, by the ‘gentlemen, who engineered the Peace terms as an election bribe in other countries, and the Government were not slow to adopt the same measure for Australia.
– The honorable senator’s party offered to .go one better, and pay the gratuity in cash, and then they did not win.
– I tell the1 honorable senator that we were justified in offering to pay the gratuity in cash. The organizations of Labour in Australia desired that the soldiers should be paid 10s. per day. , And if the Government were proposing to give the returned soldiers, not ls. 6d. per day, but 4s. 2d. per day, as is being given in the United States of America, they would be coming nearer to what the Labour party desired. I .am of opinion that the cash payment of the gratuity could be arranged. While we are going through ,-great financial stress in this country, I -say, as other honorable senators have said, that had the war continued for some time longer, and our men been abroad, we would have had to feed and clothe them, and supply them with munitions of all kinds. This country would have done so if the war had lasted for another year, and the cost to Australia would have been four or five times as much as the gratuity will cost us now.
– But that money is now being spent on repatriation.
– I am aware of that, but that is altogether outside the gratuity. The repatriation scheme is one thing and the gratuity is another. I say that £2S,000,000 in cash, if that is the sum required to pay the gratuity to the soldiers, could be raised by this country if the Government were in earnest in the matter. That could have been done, too, without any disturbance of the industrial affairs of the country.
I remember that during the election some gentleman asked me how I proposed to pay the gratuity. I have forgotten the exact figures now, but I told him that there were so many hundreds of millions of pounds more in the banks to-day to the credit of some persons than there was before the war. I asked what was wrong with taking that money from the profiteers, who were evidently the only persons who were accumulating money, and depositing it in the banks- I asked what was wrong with taking £2S,000,000 of that money from those people who had robbed the soldiers’ wives and children while our men were fighting abroad, and giving it as a gratuity to the soldiers in cash. The other fellows could have been given bonds. That would not have disturbed the industrial affairs of the country. The only difference would have been that while the money would still be in the banks, it would be to the credit of the soldiers. If they spent it, the men with whom they spent it would put it in the banks. Whatever was spent by the soldiers would have found its way back to the banks, to carry on the industries of the country. The only difference, as I say, would have been that the money would be in the banks to the credit of the soldiers instead of to the credit of the profiteers. But the Government would not take that on, because the profiteers were paying their election expenses. They were very gentle with them, and stroked their hair, although the Prime Minister, when he came back to Australia, talked of shooting them.
– It seems to have paid the honorable senator to advocate a “ No” vote at the referendum.
– The honorable senator is wrong, because I advocated a “ Yes “ vote.
– The honorable senator’s party did not do so.
– Most of the members of my party did so. Whatever was done in the State from which Senator Foll comes, I know that in this State we advocated a “ Yes “ vote, and carried it. I say that the soldiers, after all, belong to the class of people who are mostly to be found in the ranks of organized labour.
– I do not admit that.
– I am not concerned about whether the honorable senator admits it or not. I state what, so far as I know, is a fact. Whatever we can do in the way of giving the soldiers a gratuity will be a means of settling them, and will enable them to. continue to be an asset in the country as they have always been, for future wealth production and the propagation of the race. I do not know that any one objects to that. I shall endeavour, when the Bill is going through Committee, to have certain clauses of it amended, so as to extend its operation in the direction I have indicated to include some people who think, and I agree with them, that they have a just claim to be included amongst those who will be benefited by its operation.
.- I shall occupy but a very few minutes in reply to the debate. I do not propose to follow the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) through his long oration, because I think it has been well disposed of by Senators Senior and Newland. I took the opportunity during the dinnerhour to place the statement which Senator Gardiner made with regard to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) before him. I told him that Senator Gardiner, speaking in the Senate on the War Gratuity Bill, said that the Prime Minister at the conference with the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, in regard to the gratuity, made the grant of the gratuity conditionalupon the returned soldiers supporting the Government at the election, and that he had said, “ This is not to bo a one-sided bargain.” I am authorised by the Prime Minister to give that statement a flat denial, and to say that it is absolutely incorrect, and contrary to fact. I shall leave the people of this country to judge between the Prime Minister and Senator Gardiner in this matter, and I have . no doubt at all as to what their judgment will be.
Senator Foll raised the question of the gratuity being paid in cash to those who marry. That applies to those married after discharge from the Forces. As regards men injured in camp, I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that they are entitled to a war pension. This is not a Pensions Bill or a measure to provide payment for injuries received. The men to whom the honorable senator referred receive consideration under the War Pensions Act. In addition, if they enlisted in Australia, and did not leave the Commonwealth, they will bo paid at the rate of1s. per day. The other points raised in connexion with the measure can be best considered in Committee, and I therefore do not propose to detain the Senate further at this juncture.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 April 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200415_senate_8_91/>.