12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
– Can the Leader of the Senate inform us when his promise to institute an inquiry into the chief primary industries of this country will be fulfilled?
– The matter has been under consideration for some time by the Minister for Markets, with whom I have been in consultation. The Government hopes to be able to secure the objective of Senator Lynch after the passage through Parliament of the bill for the establishment of a Commonwealth wheat pool.
– I have received a communication from Senator Glasgow intimating that in accordance with Standing Order 64 (1) he intends to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance viz., “ The decision of the Government to alter the practice of preference to returned soldiers, which has been in existence for many years and which has legislative recognition in the Commonwealth Public Service Act.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [11.4]. - In accordance with the letter which I have forwarded to the President, I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber received a great shock when they learned that the principle of preference to returned soldiers in government work, which has operated since the return of the men from the war, had been altered under instructions issued by the Government. In the press on Wednesday last it was announced that an alteration had been made in the form of contract for works controlled by the Works and Railways Department. The old clause in the contract dealing with preference to returned soldiers read : -
In carrying out works under this contract, preference shall be given, other things being equal, firstly to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory records of service, and secondly to members of trades unions.
In its place the following clause was recently substituted by ministerial direction -
In carrying out works under this contract, preference shall be given to unionists.
Honorable senators will see that the substituted clause contained no reference whatever to returned soldiers. When the new rule became known the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in this chamber, and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) in another place, asked questions in order to ascertain whether the principle of preference to returned soldiers had been jettisoned by the Government. In this chamber the Minister replied that the matter was under consideration; in another place the Prime Minister asked that the question be placed on the notice-paper. At the time the decision of the Minister to alter the clause in the contract had been made, and it must have been known to the Prime Minister. Apparently, the matter was considered by Cabinet yesterday morning, for the instruction was altered to read -
In currying out the work under this contract, preference shall be given - other things being equal - firstly to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service, who are members of Trades Unions and, secondly, to members of the Trades Unions.
As honorable senators are well aware, preference to returned soldiers has been the policy of successive governments since the end of the war. That policyhas, moreover, received legislative recognition by the Parliament of Australia. Sections83 and84 of the Public Service Act dealing with the employment of returned soldiers in the public service provide -
( 1 ) Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, a returned soldier whose name is enrolled in the prescribed register for temporary employment shall, if competent for the work required, be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier.
It has remained for this Government to alter a policy which has existed since the termination of the war, and has the acceptance of the vast majority of the people of Australia. In orderto hoodwink returned soldiers the original direction of the Government has been somewhat altered. According to the press, the Prime Minister stated yesterday that all returned soldiers were members of trade unions. If that is thecase, what is the reason for discriminating between returned soldiers and trade unionists? The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia has jealously guarded the principle of preference to returned soldiers, and has done its utmost to ensure the fulfilment of the promise made to the men when they enlisted that everything possible would be done for them on their return. The league will admit that up to the present successive governments, as well as the people generally, have done a great deal for returned soldiers. No greater assistance can be rendered to the men who fought than to give them employment. It is scandalous that at a time like the present, when it is extremely difficult to find work, returned soldiers should be deprived of the preference they have had for so long. During the war honorable senators opposite, in common with other sections of the community, urged men to enlist in defence of the Empire, and promised them that they would be well looked after on their return. Many men enlisted on the strength of that promise. Some of those who left our shores have suffered great disadvantages through their enlistment. Young men who enlisted at eighteen years of age, and had not learned a trade or settled down in any avocation, were at a great disadvantage in re-establishing themselves in civil life on their return after three, four, five, or six years’ active service. It is true that a great number of returned men of a resourceful and selfreliant spirit have re-established themselves in the community without any assistance whatever, either from governments or individuals; but others were not so well equipped, consequently a duty, devolved upon governments to do something to find them employment. I am particularly concerned with the lot of the returned soldiers who are unskilled labourers and who could be employed in contract work controlled by the Public Works Department. It is terrible, at a time when employment is so scarce, that the Government should have thought fit to deprive the returned soldiers of the principle of preference. While the Government is not legally bound to grant it to them, outside the Public Service, it is morally bound to do so. The fact that the Government’s decision applies to the Public Service would indicate that the intention was that in all work the principle of preference to returned soldiers should be admitted.
– Should it apply to the men employed in clearing the mails from the overseas steamers on the waterfront?
– Yes, if the work is given by the Commonwealth Government. Up to the present time the principle of preference to ex-soldiers has been admitted in connexion with all work made available by the Commonwealth. Instructions were issued by the Public Service Board regarding the operation of this preference in dismissals, and for many years it was decided that the order of preference in dismissals should be the same as in employment. Presumably that arrangement has now been varied under instructions from the Ministry. I have a case before me of two clerks of works in South Australia, one a returned soldier named Fergus, and the other a non-returned soldier named
Rogers. Rogers was informed by the works director that his services were to be terminated. He immediately” pulled the strings “ and Fergus received notice of dismissal, the non-returned soldier being retained. The Government may suggest that Rogers’ period of employment had beena little longer than that of Fergus, but that would not interfere with the principle of preference if Fergus were competent to do the work. Rogers, however, notwithstanding the fact that hehad been given notice of dismissal was retained, and Fergus was given notice of dismissal. I ask honorable senators opposite if, when men were invited by them to enlist for service in the late war, they were asked if they were unionists. Was preference in enlistment given to unionists? Certainly not.
– Many of them asked men to go to the front.
– Although a majority of honorable senators opposite were against conscription, I believe that a considerable number of them did endeavour to persuade men to enlist, but in doing that they did not claim that the enlistment should he restricted to unionists.
The present freedom of the people of Australia to conduct their affairs in the way they desire was made possible by the work of the returned soldiers, and surely it would be disgraceful if others in the country should receive preference over them in the employment provided by the Government. One comes across many instances of hardship. Often, and particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, single men have found themselves in great difficulties owing to incapacities due to war service. They have been removed from their positions and married unionists have been brought here to take their places. These men are at such a great disadvantage that they are unable to assume domestic responsibilities. The fact that there are no returned soldiers among the members of the Cabinet should not preclude the ex-soldiers from fair treatment.
– The two Government Whips are returned men.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.But they have no voice in the Cabinet.
– The late Government had only one returned soldier among four Ministers in this chamber.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I hope that honorable senators opposite will understand my feelings in this matter. I have seen the work of the returned soldiers at the front. I know the selfsacrificing service that they have rendered to Australia, and the comradeship that existed among them. I remember how proud they were of the fact that they belonged to this country. Are they now to be treated in the way proposed by the present Government? Surely Ministers should realize their responsibility, and do everything possible to see that these men are given whatever work is available. I warn the Government that the returned soldiers have a very powerful organization, and their league will see that they get a just reward for their services. If justice is not done to them, they will prove themselves to be just as effective in dealing with the Government as they were in combating the enemy during the late war.
– I regret exceedingly that the honorable senator has seen fit to voice a protest on a matter to which he has, apparently, given very little, if any, serious thought. He said that he wished the supporters of the Government to appreciate his feelings in the matter; but I ask him, and those responsible for his submitting this motion, to appreciate the feelings of the Government. Ministers entertain as high a regard for the returned soldiers as honorable senators opposite do. Loyalty to the Crown, and sympathy with the ex-soldiers, are subjects over which neither political party has a monopoly.
– Actions speak louder than words.
– The honorable senator who interjects was a member of the Labour party during the troublous times of the war, but he has since joined the other side in politics. Of course, if he is judging the Labour party on his own actions now, he is entitled to do so. The Labour Government, which I have the honour to represent in this chamber, is as loyal and as keen as the Opposition in its regard for the returned soldiers. It is most unfair for any member of this chamber to refer to the Government’s action as akin to a scandal, without a full investigation of the actual facts. We are told, for example, that the previous Government, recognizing that it owed such a deep debt to the returned soldiers, intended, in connexion with every activity that it controlled, to secure absolute preference in employment for them. I invite the mover of this motion to examine the conscience of the late Government with which he was associated. Did he ask for such a preference in connexion with the sugar bounty, or the bounty on galvanized iron for which the Government provided? Did he demand that such a provision be inserted in the mail contracts ? Men who are not returned soldiers are now engaged under contract in clearing the mail steamers, while returned soldier members of the Waterside Workers Federation are idly walking the streets of Port Adelaide. It is no use fencing by simply saying that absolute preference should be confined to unskilled work. A government or a minister who alleges that he stands for the principle of preference to returned soldiers should support it in its entirety. I ask the honorable senator to test the sincerity of purpose behind the motion by referring to the action of the Government, of which he was a member, and of the party to which he belongs. I do not mind what test he applies. Take, for example, the selection of members of the late Ministry. Did the Nationalist party give preference to Senator H. E. Elliott, who is a returned soldier, over Senator McLachlan, when changes were being made in the Bruce-Page Government? Did the Nationalist party, when making appointments to the late Ministry, prefer General Cox to Senator Sir George Pearce? Did it prefer Senator Sampson, yet another returned soldier, to Senator Ogden ?
– The Minister would not call them unskilled workers surely?
– Of course not, but if the principle of preference to returned soldiers is sound in the case of unskilled workers, it must be sound where skilled workers are concerned, and it should be observed when considering appointments, even to the highest positions in the land. Will any member of this chamber deny that Senator Sampson would have been as successful in administration as was Senator Ogden, or that Senator H. E. Elliott would have been a credit to the Nationalist Government? The attitude adopted by honorable senators opposite exposes the fallacy of their contention that in its administrative acts this Government is disloyal to our returned soldiers. Without wishing to cast any reflection upon you, Mr. President, or the Chairman of Committees, I remind the Senate that this principle of preference to returned soldiers was not observed when appointments were made to the highest official places in this chamber. I may add, also, that the honorable senator who was responsible for the inclusion in our legislation of the principle of preference to returned soldiers was actually driven out of the Nationalist party. Will any honorable senator say that Senator Duncan, a returned soldier, was given a fair trial?
– He was not unemployed.
– Honorable senators opposite should remember also what happened, not so long ago, in the working of their own party machine, in connexion with pre-selection ballots. Is it not a fact that Senator Cooper, with his fine war record, caused the resignation of a Nationalist who opposed him in the preselection ballot in Queensland?
– I never heard of that.
– Is it not a fact also that Senator H. E. Elliott, in Victoria, opposed Mr. Slater, a returned soldier with a splendid war record? Again, is it not true that during the election campaign he spoke on behalf of a man who, although eligible for war service, did not enlist? Senator Lynch, too, came over to South Australia to advocate the claims of a man who was eligible during the war, but did not enlist, against two returned soldiers with war records. Other Nationalist supporters went to the Murray district to speak on behalf of a candidate who, during the war, lost his position on account of his nationality, and spoke against Mr. Clem Collins, a returned soldier candidate. if we are to examine each other’s consciences in relation to the observance of this preference to returned soldiers, what will be the result? Senator Sir William Glasgow attempted to limit the principle to the employment of unskilled workers. If it is to apply it should be applied to every class of employment. We should not allow all the plums of office to be secured by nonreturned soldiers, and expect returned soldiers to be content with preference only in those occupations which call for unskilled labour. The Bruce-Page Administration did not always observe this principle, particularly in appointments to higher positions. How many members of the Development and Migration Commission and the Federal Capital Commission were returned soldiers? Does any honorable senator suggest that there were not available many returned soldiers competent to occupy those positions ? We are entitled to assume that there were a number of returned soldiers eligible for such appointments, but so far from giving preference to them the previous Government induced a non-returned soldier member of the South Australian Parliament to give up his position to accept appointment as a member of the Development and Migration Commission.
The motion has been submitted mainly for the purpose of harassing the Government and influencing the various returned soldiers’ organizations. What is the position ?
– Yes; tell us something about it.
– I am well aware that the honorable senator does not like what I am saying. He does not like returned soldiers to know that when the Bruce-Page Government considered appointments to the position which he occupied in the Ministry, preference was given not to a returned soldier, but to a unionist who could be bought over, and settled in the Nationalist camp. Senator Sir William Glasgow has suggested that-in the Rogers case we were bound by a statute law to continue the preference in employment to a returned soldier. But in both cases mentioned by the honorable senator, the persons concerned were temporary employees. They were not appointed under any specific statute, and therefore the particular section mentioned by the honorable senator did not apply to them. The legislation embodying the principle of preference to returned soldiers definitely limits it to certain circumstances. When the Government came into office, there were 150,000 men out of employment in Australia, including a considerable number of returned soldiers. The Ministry could not take the view that it represented only one particular section of the community.
– It would appear that it did.
– We have to hold the balance evenly between all sections of the community. The legislation, as I have stated, definitely limited the principle of preference. The Government could not go outside that section. Its duty was to consider the interests of all.
– Including the interests of non-unionists.
– Yes. I shall deal with that point presently.
– If it had its way this Ministry would slay non-unionists.
– I deny that. This Government pays regard to the interests of non-unionists as well as of unionists. Its declared policy is the maintenance of the principle of arbitration. It secured election on this policy, and it intends to stand to it. Senator Sir William Glasgow reminded us that when the call came for volunteers for the war, we who asked men to enlist did not then suggest that preference should be given to unionists. That would have been impossible, because no arbitration award has been made in connexion with war services. Arbitration implies collective bargaining, which, in its turn, connotes the existence of trade union organizations. It follows, therefore, that if our arbitration system is to be maintained, we must have industrial organizations amenable to the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. Awards of the court are, in effect, contracts entered into between the respective parties. Obviously the duty of the Government, if it wishes the arbitration system to be effective, is to see that competition between the contractors is fair, and the only way to achieve this object is to ensure that all contractors pay a uniform rate of wage, to be determined by the Arbitration Court. An employer employing members of a trade union at award rates of pay should not be required to compete with another employer employing non-unionists and not called upon to pay the fixed rate of wages or observe the same industrial conditions.
This principle of preference to unionists is not new. It has been a regulation in the Public Service for many years and has never been objected to by honorable senators opposite, some of whom, were in the previous Ministry. This Government is prepared to honour every promise it made to our returned soldiers.
– It has not observed the promises made at the last election.
– The honorable senator’s interjection is typical of the attitude of honorable senators opposite, who are prepared to use even the returned soldiers to harass this Government.
– Did not the Labour party use them at the last election?
– We endorsed several returned soldiers as Labour candidates, and some honorable senators opposite and their friends declared from the housetops their hostility to them. They endeavoured to defeat our returned soldier candidates and in certain cases they were successful. The Nationalist party gives preference first to members of its party, and secondly to returned soldiers, whereas the Labour party gives preference to returned soldiers inside the Labour movement, and that is the principle which this Government is observing.
– It was not observed in appointments to the present Ministry.
– We have several returned soldiers in our party and they take part in meetings of the caucus. We do not declare that in regard to all appointments there shall be preference to returned soldiers. Senator Ogden would have us believe that the Nationalist party does, but yet it is remarkable that of four Ministers representing the BrucePage Government in this Senate, only one was a returned soldier.
I hope that the motion will not be carried. If Senator Sir William Glasgow had taken the trouble to see Mr. Hawker, a member of another place, he could have obtained from him a true statement of all the circumstances relating to the cases which he has mentioned this morning. One of the two men who had to be retrenched is a carpenter and the other a mason. The carpenter is a returned soldier, but the mason is not. The latter had been for some considerable time acting as foreman. The Public Service Inspector, believing that ho had to give absolute preference to returned soldiers, gave notice of dismissal to the mason. When the matter was brought under my notice I communicated with the works director, who informed me that there was no comparison between the two men as regards their qualifications and but for other considerations he would not have hesitated for a moment. Rogers, he said, would have been the last man he would think of dismissing. Surely honorable senators will concede that some elasticity should be permitted in administering this principle of preference to returned soldiers. The case of the incapacitated returned soldier mentioned by Senator Sir William Glasgow is not an uncommon one. Such a man may have a son who applies for a position but which cannot be made available to him because preference has to be given to his father. We have a vast army of unemployed and a specific provision is that preference shall be given in certain directions: beyond that the discretionary power remains with the Cabinet. The situation has caused this Government many anxious moments, and, as has been pointed out, a Cabinet meeting was held because there had been a misinterpretation of a previous decision. When the attention of the Government was drawn to it, the position was altered and Cabinet’s decision was clearly set down. That is the position which we have reached today. There is no intention on the part of this Government to issue a challenge to returned soldiers, and I do not think Senator Glasgow is entitled to say that the returned soldiers are out to challenge the Government. The policy of the Government is to give the returned soldiers a fair deal. Notwithstanding what Senator Glasgow has said, the person to whom he referred got his job and he went away out of sheer patriotism. He possessed those high motives which I contend prompted most men to go to the front. 1 believe that the returned soldiers realize that when the Government is doing its best for them, it is not in their interests for honorable senators opposite to submit a motion such as is under discussion this morning.
Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) 1 11.47 . - I regret extremely the rather low plane to which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) has brought the debate this morning. The honorable gentleman indulged in a good deal of specious reasoning, and introduced into the discussion extraneous matter and trivial detail which have no real bearing on the great principle which is the subject matter of this motion. On Friday last the people of Australia paid homage to those brave men who. having experienced untold privations and hardships, gave their lives in the service of their country. I should like the Minister to realize - and I think he does - what was in the minds of all of us who left some 60,000 of our fellow “ cobbers “ on the battlefields of Gallipoli, France, Palestine and elsewhere. It was fitting that on the loth anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on the Gallipoli peninsular, which was celebrated on Friday last, we should recall what happened in 1914. The chief reason why so many our of fellow citizens enlisted for service overseas has been mentioned this morning. There were undoubtedly many reasons, but I submit that the main reason which actuated the great majority of men who enlisted was this : They went in support of an ideal - ideals are perhaps hard to express - and proceeded overseas, without compulsion, because they did not wish to see freedom swept from the earth. We realized that might is not right, and we knew that if might should triumph life in Australia would not be worth while. Numerically we are a small nation, but it is well to realize that some 416.000 Australians enlisted, that of that’ number 332,000 proceeded overseas, and that 60,000 did not return. The casualties to the army of 332,000 were actually 243,000. That is striking and grim evidence of the terrible fighting, suffering and hardship which our men endured during those four and a half years of war. It was not a war of our seeking or one in which we were compelled to engage against a driven and crazy nation which, lusting for power, set the whole world on fire. We enlisted in the interests of freedom. Wc did not ask for anything, but the Government of the day and the Australian people were lavish in their promises of what they would do when we returned. No fewer than S3, 000 of the fellows who caine back did not ask for anything. They did not seek assistance from the Repatriation Department or any “other Government department. They were the lucky ones who returned to the occupations in which they were engaged prior to enlisting. We should not, however, overlook the fact that amongst those who enlisted were many youths of from eighteen to twenty years of age, who for three, four or five years were being deprived of an opportunity to establish themselves in remunerative employment, and settle down in civil life. The position with which they were faced on their return was exceedingly difficult, and the Government of the clay and the people of Australia were most generous in their promises to these and the returned men generally, who were acclaimed the saviours of the country. And let there be no mistake about it: they were the saviours of their country. Parliament approved the principle that other things being equal men who placed their bodies - all they had to offer - between this country and the onslaughts of its enemies should have preference in employment. I speak with feeling on this matter because, for many years, I was president of a returned soldiers’ league in Tasmania. I know from personal experience of many pitiful, cruel and hard cases which had to be considered and of the necessity to deal with men who had become physical and moral wrecks due primarily to the damnable and rotten business of war. I was amazed yesterday when I heard the reply given to a question which was asked in this chamber, and which was to the effect that the principle of preference to returned soldiers was to be departed from. After all, such preference was not a very big thing, but it was something. It was a recognition that these men deserved well of their country. In actual practice it did not amount to very much, but it was a slight concession, and it should be retained. Personally, I feel very sore about this action on the part of the Government, and I am amazed at its failure to realize the true position. I extremely regret the pitiful and paltry reasoning of the Minister in dealing with some of the points raised, and particularly his reference to the composition of a previous Cabinet, which was quite beside the point. There has always been the proviso that, other things being equal, returned soldiers should have first preference. That to me is only fair.
– What is wrong with what they are getting now?
– I shall deal with that in a moment.
– I wish the honorable senator would.
– I do not wish to debate this important subject from a political view-point - I do not wish to bring it down to that level - but I cannot help recalling the “slobbering” over returned soldiers that was indulged in by the members of the Labour party prior to the last general election. In a pamphlet issued by the campaign director of the Labour party, Mr. Theodore, promises were made to returned men that could not possibly be fulfilled, but they influenced unthinking persons to support the Labour candidates. I feel sick and sorry when I think of the way in which members of the Labour party, during the last election campaign, absolutely slobbered over returned soldiers who, as I have said, were the saviours of the country. These men went away because they believed that we should be free to run our own country in the way we desired, and that our men and women should be able to live according to their lights so long as those lights did not interfere with the rights of others. That would have gone by the board had not the allied forces been victorious; we should have been dominated by “ Fritz.” After all this slobbering the action of the Government appears to me to be a Judas-like betrayal. Let us consider the position as it now is with respect to preference to returned soldiers who are trade unionists. Will a contractor be able to select his own employees? I submit he will not. Applications will have to go through the hands of the secretary of the union, and it will depend upon that official whether returned soldier unionists shall or shall not receive preference. The decision will be left entirely in the hands of a person who may be hostile to returned soldiers, and if that is so, it will not be hard to imagine what will happen.
– But supposing there are no contractors?
– This applies to contracts.
– Yes. I take it that this preference provision, in accordance with the Government’s policy, will be inserted in the conditions of all contracts and will provide that returned soldier unionists shall have first preference and then ordinary unionists. The returned soldier non-unionist is not even to be considered. That is absolute compulsion. The Australian Imperial Force was not a compulsory force, it consisted of volunteers as our defence force does to-day. The principle underlying the Government’s policy in this respect is to compel people to become unionists. I think that compulsory unionism is repugnant to every rightthinking Australian, particularly when we boast about our freedom as a people and of Australia as a free country. The members of the Australian Imperial Force went overseas to fight for freedom as they understood it. Politicians, pedants and historians may argue for years and search blue books, white papers and other documents in order to determine the cause of the great world conflagration ; but we knew what the diggers were fighting for. They knew that the freedom of this country was at stake. That is why we went away to fight; that is why Ave endured, suffered and stuck it out to the bitter end. But what the Government has done cuts away our freedom. In the last analysis it amounts to compulsory unionism. A returned man must join a union to get work. I am speaking without heat and trying to look at the matter as calmly and dispassionately as I can, but I regard it as pitiful and paltry indeed that the present Government should set aside a policy approved by the great bulk of the citizens of this country and by all rightthinking people - that the men, who in those days of dire peril to Australia, went away to fight and suffered and bore the heat and burden, should have something tangible, although not wonderful, in the shape of preference in employment. It was a slight recognition by the people that the men who had served deserved well of their country, and it is not too late even now for the Government to give back to the returned soldiers that which they have enjoyed practically since the cessation of hostilities.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– The action taken by the Government is most regrettable and unfortunate, and is calculated to stir up all kinds of conflict and trouble at a time in our national life when such things should not happen. I feel that Ministers have not given the matter the full consideration it warrants. They have not looked at it from all the angles from which it should be viewed. There is no need at this time to stress the obligations of the people of Australia to returned soldiers. It is generally admitted by all, with few exceptions, that so long as there are returned soldiers in our midst, those obligations remain. During the war quite definite promises were made. As Senator Sampson ha.3 said, they were not asked for, but they were given. The soldiers were assured that when they came back to Australia a grateful nation would see that they were given something a little better than a fair chance. That promise has not always been kept, but it was an obligation imposed on the community which was accepted by all sections, all parties and all interests. No one at that time would have dared to stand against giving a promise of that kind. But now, after many years, it is proposed to depart from what has for a long time been an accepted principle - that of a straight-out preference to returned soldiers. Mistakes may have been made by the past Government, but that does not in any way remove the obligation on the part of the present Government or succeeding governments to honour the promises that were made to our soldiers, and the argument of the Minister on this point, therefore, was quite specious. It had very little reference to the present issue. The degree of preference hitherto extended by the Commonwealth to returned soldiers has been in many respects quite inadequate. Provided a returned soldier was as good mentally and physically as a non-returned soldier he would be given preference. A preference of that sort was worth hardly anything, but at any rate it was something which was worth retaining in the hope of getting more, and returned soldiers valued it exceedingly.
I have no desire to make any reflection upon the Government or upon anybody; it is not the time for anything of that sort; but I remind Ministers that at the last election this question was not raised, was not even mentioned. During the election returned soldiers were given to understand quite clearly by every party and every candidate that whatever might happen their interests would be conserved, and that nothing would be done to deprive them of any of the privileges they quite rightly enjoyed. Yet the Government has now announced a policy which means that returned soldiers, unless they are also trade unionists, will be deprived of the preference they have hitherto enjoyed. Our soldiers did a greater service to this country than it would be possible for any other section of the community to render, and to class them as being inferior as citizens to trade unionists is an entirely wrong policy. The man to whom this country owes an obligation should, because he is a returned soldier, be good enough to hold any position he is qualified to fill without being asked to furnish any further qualification. Yet now, no matter what his war service may have been or what his social or family obligations may be, he is to be asked not “What did you do as a soldier?” nor “What promises were made to you as a soldier?” but “ Are you a trade unionist?”
– “If not, you can starve !”
– If he is not a trade unionist, I am afraid his position is likely to be a most deplorable one. He will not be able to obtain employment.
– Why cannot he join a union ?
– To compel a returned soldier to join a trade .union if he does not wish to do so is a most unfortunate stand to take up. His qualifications as a returned soldier should be quite sufficient in this community without any further requirement being imposed upon him.
There are not too many returned soldiers in our midst to-day. They arc dying very rapidly, and in a few years those who have not gone will not be in a physical condition to compete with the rest of the community for the jobs that are offering. In the few years, therelore, between now and then, I feel that we ought not to repudiate our obligations to them. If the Government will undo what it has done and leave the position as it was, which X beseech it to do, it will redound to its credit; it will show the people of Australia that Ministers arc mindful of the obligations of the community to returned soldiers, and that the Commonwealth Parliament has not forgotten what Australia owes to the men of the Australian Imperial Force.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) [12. 10 J. - I believe that I am correct in saying that no one regrets the necessity for this motion more than does Senator Glasgow himself, but he could not avoid submitting it because he has been “ through the mill “ and knows what the returned soldiers, as portion of the Australian Army, did at the front. He does not want Australians to become ungrateful all at once. I do not think that they are ungrateful. I do not think the party that stands behind the Government is ungrateful. But there is an element in that party that has never had any time for returned soldiers, and the predominance of that small section of the Labour party has caused this unfortunate step to be taken by the Government. In his playful, bantering way, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) has told us that his Government is as loyal and as keen in the interests of returned soldiers as are honorable senators of the Opposition. Words are cheap; it is actions that count. Surely the vast body of returned soldiers in Australia are seeking no more than they are entitled to get when they ask for the right to work and live, and when they ask their country to have some recollection of the part they played during the war. They played .it when other men would not. They realized that if they did not take up the cudgels on behalf of this country, it would most likely be in for a bad time. Has any one amongst this ungrateful band ever tried to picture what would have happened to Australia if fate had ordained otherwise and we had lost the war? Some people say that we should not have been very much worse off. The pity is that, they do not go to those other countries where they say the conditions of life are better than they are in Australia.
The latest action of the Government does not indicate the correctness of the Minister’s remark that Ministers are loyal and keen to the interests of returned soldiers. The Minister also claimed that discrimination had been shown in the ranks of the Nationalists and that returned soldiers had not been given their due. In the last. Government there were five returned soldiers.
– There were eight.
– At any rate in the present Government, there is not one returned soldier. One would think from the remarks of Senator Daly that there are so many returned soldiers among the present Ministers that every morning they are paraded under Sergeant-Major Barnes and, doing the goose step, are marched to their respective offices. The fact is that there are no returned soldiers in the present Government, because among those who stood as Labour candidates at the recent election, there were not enough returned men to form even a corporal’s guard. When the members now on the ministerial benches were in opposition, the notice-papers for both houses of this Parliament were always full of questions which suggested that they were very sympathetic towards the returned soldiers. But now that the Labour party is in power, their attitude has been completely reversed. The late Ministry comprised a number of returned soldiers, and there were also a number of them in the rank and file of the Nationalist party. lt is not to be forgotten that they never did anything concerning the soldiers’ interest without consulting the returned soldiers. Did this Government consult the soldiers before issuing this instruction ? lt is true that in the ranks of the Labour party in this Parliament there are some returned soldiers, but what recognition have they received at the hands of the party? “What recognition has Mr. Martens, the honorable member for Herbert, received for his gallantry in the field? How has Gunner Yates been treated? It is said that Mr. Coleman uttered some sturdy words during the war period. Evidently they have been remembered against him. In place of these men who fought for their country, beardless boys have been elevated to the dignity of Cabinet rank. Not one of the returned soldiers in the Labour party is found in the Cabinet. One would have thought that, if only to save its face, the Government would have appointed one or more of them to ministerial positions. I have .here The Labour Manual, which circulated during the recent election campaign under the authority of Mr. Theodore, the campaign director in New South Wales. In its 60 pages there is plenty of stuffing - I shall not say “ lies,” because “ lies “ is an ugly word - but not one word regarding the rights of returned soldiers. The only construction that can be placed upon this omission is that the Government is as insensible as an Egyptian mummy to the claims of the men who fought for their country, and whose cause it espoused only when in opposition.
What did the Labour party do with Senator Digger Dunn? It led him about New South Wales like a prize animal in a show ring. The object was, of course, to impress soldiers when they had actually caught a solitary one themselves. The party endeavoured to profit from the fact that he was a returned soldier. The honorable senator is not now in the chamber, but he must know that the party made a tool of him. But when it comes to paying the debt it owes to the returned soldiers, the Government is as bare of sympathy as the proverbial frog is devoid of feathers. How better can that debt be paid than by giving to the men who fought not only the right to work but also the right to be free. Now when it comes to paying that debt, the Government shirks and skulks behind nice words and oily phrases. It shows no gratitude to the men who kept this country free. Honorable senators opposite profess to have done something for the returned soldiers, and to possess the same keenness and desire to help them as is shown by honorable senators on this side. I remind those concerned that actions speak louder than words. In trouble, when a man is beset with difficulties, he does not look to the empty, wordy and flatulent persons of his acquaintance for a helping hand, but to the man who is always at his post when wanted. And so it is with the returned fighter. The returned soldier never looked in vain to the Nationalist party for assistance. Yet that party has been maligned and castigated by the present Government. Will- anybody say that the Nationalist party ever turned its back on the returned soldiers? The corner stone of the Nationalist party’s platform is preference to returned soldiers. But the Labour party prefers the shirker.
– The Nationalist party prefers aliens.
– No, not even Mr. Theodore’s Southern European friends, whom he helped to come to this country. It will do no harm if we express a few plain home truths this morning. When the time comes for action, the people of Australia will see that the country’s defenders are treated fairly, and not left in the lurch as is now proposed. Australians are made of better stuff than to forget those who fought for them. Honorable senators who do not know the Australian characteristics may talk otherwise: but those who know the true Australian knows that his heart, like the country in which he dwells, is big and open. The returned soldiers know that the genuine Australian will not leave them in the cold, seeking, as it were, miserable crusts in the garbage bin of public patronage. The man who went out from the shelter of his father’s home, leaving behind all the sacred ties of home and kindred, will not be forgotten by the people, even though this Government forgets them.
In a publication before me I read that £35,000,000 has been expended in placing returned soldiers on the land. Did any one find fault with that expenditure? Did any one object to the country’s credit being pledged to that extent? Was any objection raised when, later, a grateful country wrote off £11,000,000 of soldiers’ indebtedness? No. The people of Australia recognized that otherwise justice would not have been done to the men who fought for this country. But now this Government would thrust them into the cold shades of oblivion and forget them. Surely Senator Digger Dunn does not stand for such treatment ! His mind will go back to the time when, with his fellow Australians. he fought for his country. Will he now agree that his comrades in the trenches shall be neglected, despised, forgotten? If I understand the honorable senator’s character aright, he will stand for nothing of the kind. He will fling party ties to the wind and stand up for his old fighting comrades. Why has the accepted policy of the country been reversed? It is due to that “ red “ element in the ranks of the Labour party which is dictating its policy. I refuse to believe that the trade unionists of Australia want to ill-treat the returned soldiers. Unfortunately, the wild and lawless element in the Labour party is in control and dictating its policy. But the day of reckoning will come as surely as to-morrow’s sun will rise, and when it does come the country will see that the returned soldier is not forgotten. When an appeal is made to the final tribunal - the people of this country - they will remember the faithful service of those who fought for their country and kept the flag of freedom flying. I am sorry that the necessity has arisen for the tabling of this motion; but if the discussion on it re-awakens in the minds of the Government and its supporters an eleventh hour realization of the debt they owe to the returned soldiers, it will not have been in vain.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.25]. - I cannot say that I am surprised at the action of the Government in relation to the policy of preference to returned soldiers; it is only what I expected. Unlike Senators Glasgow, Sampson, Duncan, and others, I was not at the front: as Minister for Defence during the war period, I was engaged in directing Australia’s war operations from this end. I therefore know what was the attitude of the Labour party towards Australia’s war effort after the great change that took place in 1916. The action now taken by the Government is not inconsistent with that taken by the Labour party from 1916 until the end of the war. I shall not be so hypocritical as to pretend that during those years the Labour party gave any support to our men at the front. I have not forgotten, and I can never forget, that in 1918, when the Australian Imperial Force and the rest of the soldiers of the Empire were fighting with their backs to the “wall ; when the reports we received from our Army Corps Commander showed the depletion of our battalions by casualties, and stated that men who ought to have been allowed to return to Australia because of war wounds had to be sent back into the firing line; when thousands of men of fighting age were unwilling to take their places-
– And among them was the right honorable senator.
– No ; I was not of fighting age. At that time, when a recruiting campaign was being conducted throughout Australia to induce men to enlist, and so to relieve their fellow- Australians at the front, the Labour organizations convened a conference in Perth. It was attended by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), and also by either Mr. Theodore or Mr. Ryan, as the representative of the party in Queensland. Mr. Hogan, the present Labour Premier of Victoria, and many other men now prominent in the Labour movement, were also at that conference, at which a resolution advocating peace by negotiation and the cessation of recruiting was agreed to. That it was agreed to stands to their eternal shame. Remembering the attitude of the Labour party towards the Empire in its time of stress, when our men were fighting for their lives and the casualties were at their highest, when the allied cause looked blackest, I am not surprised that to-day it ignores the claims of the returned soldiers. Undoubtedly, promises were made to the men who enlisted by the various governments of the day, both Commonwealth and State, as well as by those individuals who urged men to volunteer for active service.
– We cannot forget the speech of the present Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green), at Kalgoorlie.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That speech stands to his lasting discredit. I have many recollections of the attitude taken up by members of the Labour party at that time. I have given one incident which is indicative of their attitude generally. The reason for the Government’s reversal of policy is given in the Melbourne Herald of the 1st May, from which I shall read an extract -
The origin of the ministerial move dates back some weeks.
At the All-Australian Trade Union Congress a resolution was adopted urging the Government to give preference to unionists in place of returned soldiers.
Following this, a deputation of trade union leaders saw the Assistant Minister for Works (Senator Barnes), who is president of the Australian Workers Union, and urged him to make the change.
The president of the State branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League (Mr. G. W. Holland) said tb-day that an immediate definition was required of the attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards preference for returned mcn.
– I did not receive a deputation from those people.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The newspaper from which I have quoted states that a deputation of trade union leaders saw the Assistant Minister for Works (Senator Barnes), and urged him to make the change.
– That is not correct.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.This change was made without any announcement in Parliament. I asked a question on the matter in the Senate and I was informed that the final instructions issued were as follow : -
In carrying out the work under this contract preference shall be given - other things being equal - firstly, to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service, who are members of trades unions, and, secondly, to% members of trades unions.
When we called on the returned soldiers to enlist, risk their lives and give up their prospects of careers in Australia, Ave did not ask them whether they were trade unionists or not. Nor on their return was a promise made by the people of Australia qualified by any question of their being trade unionists or otherwise. There is hypocrisy in the reply to my question which I shall expose. There is a recognition of the danger that the Government sees in giving full effect to its policy, and so it camouflages that policy. It tries to make it appear that it is still going to give some sort of preference to returned soldiers.
– Its policy is straightout preference to unionists.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Of course. Before the late war, I was a member of a Labour Government that administered preference to unionists, and, therefore, I know the way in which that principle is applied. I venture to say that the present Government will apply it probably in a more rigid manner than the Labour Government did before the war. Let us see how it had to be administered in those days, according to the interpretation given by the caucus to that plank of the Labour platform. A contractor was expected to notify the secretary of the trade union of the labour that he required. The contractor did not make the choice of the trade unionists who were to be employed; it was made by the secretary of the trade union. The contractor did not know what men were available for employment. Similarly, a Government department had to apply to the union. It never saw the books of the union, and it did not know what men were unemployed, but it had to accept the men sent to it by the union. Under the Government’s decision, will a contractor have any choice as between a returned soldier who is a unionist and a unionist who is not a returned soldier? He will never know who of the members of the union are available for employment. The autocrat who will decide that matter is the secretary of the trade union. That is where one of the most vicious principles of the policy of preference to unionists becomes manifest; it makes the union secretary, who ought to be the servant of the union, its absolute master. The members are dependent on him for their livelihood. If he wishes he can leave their names off the list all the time, so that they will never receive employment. Therefore, it will be the prerogative of the union secretary to decide who shall be sent to employment, and the returned soldiers will be dependent, not on the contractors, but on the secretaries of trade unions for preference in employment in Commonwealth contracts.
My object in rising is to let the returned soldiers of this country know that the mention of them in the answer given to me in reply to my question is no guarantee that any returned man will receive employment on Government contracts. What is the logical outcome of this policy? The next stop will be to amend the Public Service Act, if the Government feels that it has power to do so. In defiance of Parliament, and despite the section of the act which Senator Glasgow read, the Government has issued altered instructions regarding the preference to be given to returned soldiers employed on Common wealth contract?. Before taking that action the Government should have asked Parliament for endorsement of such a policy by an amendment of the Public Service Act. While that measure remains on the statute book it represents an expression of the will of the Parliament, but the Government has acted in flagrant defiance of it.I am not surprised, but I am sorry that we have a Government in power that will do such things. Those who elected it probably had no idea that it would use its power in this direction, or otherwise they would never have sent it to the treasury bench. This is another instance of what can be done under the “mandate” which the Government claims has been given to it.
– I regret that Senator Glasgow has brought this motion forward, because it would appear to me to place the returned soldier in a situation that cannot be justified. Senator Sampson, particularly, spoke with great feeling on this matter. Gallant soldier that he is, he apparently thinks that the men who went overseas to fight for this country went there with a fixed purpose.
What did they go abroad for? They were Australian citizens before they were soldiers. Before the necessity for fighting in Gallipoli andFrance arose, they had to fight their own countrymen to establish their right to decent living conditions. We passed arbitration laws providing a reasonable method of settling industrial disputes, so that our own countrymen would not have to fight for the right to live. Did the returned soldiers go overseas to enable us to return to the old system of freedom of contract, which resulted in the sweating of men and women?
– The Germans would have done that.
– I shall have a word to say to the honorable senator a little later. Like most members of this chamber. I cannot claim the proud privilege of having been a soldier. The only relatives I have who took part in the late war are the sons of my sister, who, I believe, acquitted themselves as gallantly as other lads did. The Government now says that it will give preference to returned soldiers who are unionists. If honorable senators opposite go to the soldiers’ organizations, and say that they favour preference to ex-soldiers who are not trade unionists, I can well imagine what: those organizations will tell them. We can have an arbitration system only where labour is organized.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– This Government has no desire to be unfair to our returned soldiers. It believes that before our men took up arms in defence of their country and by their gallantry made history, they fought for privileges which they would value when thewar was over. I have the honour to occupy a responsible position in one of the largest industrial organizations in this country, and I realize, perhaps more fully than any other honorable senator, what the observance of this principle of preference to returned soldiers means to a considerable section of our people. Only the other day a young man came to me in Melbourne and said - “Where do I come in ? I was a boy when war was declared and unable to take my part at the front. The Government of the day established the principle of preference to returned soldiers and I am shut out. I had no chance to serve as a soldier, but I am a qualified tradesman now, and I want to know where do I come in as a citizen of this country”?”
– Naturally after returned soldiers.
- Senator Thompson is a returned soldier, and like a number of others he takes a one-eyed view of this matter. He thinks that returned soldiers are the only people on the earth worthy of consideration.
– If you ask any of these young Australians, who were too young to enlist what they think about this matter, they will tell you that although they never had a chance to perform any great, deed in defence of their country they are now shut out from employment.
– Order! I ask the honorable Minister to address the Chair.
– These young men never had a. chance.
– And they would have no opportunity to-day if we had lost the war.
– Many years have elapsed since hostilities ceased. Honorable senators opposite, or at all events some of them, seem to forget that there hits arisen a new generation of young men who are seeking employment. They are all good Australians, and should receive fair treatment. As an industrialist all my life I have always thought that a returned soldier and a trade unionist were one and the same person - that the terms were synonymous. Possibly I was wrong, butI am still unconvinced. I invite you gentlemen opposite to consult with the soldiers’ organizations and see if they have any real objection to the policy of the Government.
Tlie PRESIDENT.- The honorable Minister must address the Chair.
– The policy of this Government is to give preference to returned soldiers who are members of trade union organizations What is wrong with that?
– Returned soldiers’ organizations have already voiced their objections to it.
– Our returned soldiers are all gallant men, and we must honour them for what they did for their country. The point I wish to make is that although the great majority of them were wage earners, and members of some industrial organization, a certain number, prior to the war, did not feel the need to join the trade union movement, because they wore either employers themselves or were engaged in occupations that were not organized. Some at least were never in the industrial firing line. But if you consult, these organizations -
– Again I ask the honorable Minister to address the Chair. I have repeatedly warned him that he is offending. If he persists I can only come to the conclusion that he is wilfully disobeying the Chair.
– I can assure you Mr. President, that I would not dream of being discourteous to you, not only because you are occupying an honorable position in this chamber, but because I have a high regard for you personally. I repeat that a number of our returned soldiers were not trade unionists, because they were not employees prior to the war. But the great majority of the soldiers, from all parts of the British Empire, engaged in the war were wage earners, and belonged to some industrial organization which safeguarded their interests as individuals. Before they enlisted forwar service they were soldiers in the great industrial army, and fought to liberalize the laws under which they were working so that they and their descendants could live in reasonable comfort. In view of this factwhat objection can any reasonable person have to the Government’s policy? I object to all forms of hypocrisy. I believe always that the straight thing is the decent thing, and I am convinced that every man worthy of the name will stand up for principles which he believes to be right. For this reason I am prepared to stand to the policy which the Government has enunciated, that preference shall be given to returned soldierswho are members of trade union organizations, and after them, preference to trade unionists. I believe that 95 per cent. of the men who fought for this country will acknowledge the justice of this policy.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Unfortunately I am not a returned soldier, but that perhaps enables me to speak on this subject with more freedom than those honorable senators who were privileged to fight for their country in the Great War. My experience of returned soldiers is that they are exceedingly modest in any references to the part which they played in that great fight for freedom.We all remember, when the call came for men in all parts of the far-flung British Empire, how our men rushed to enlist and go overseas to fight for liberty and justice. To the honour of Australia, 420,000 men volunteered and 332,000 went to the front. Of this number 243,000 suffered casualties, and over 60,000 made the supreme sacrifice. Let us never forget the price which our men paid. Many of them returned to this country maimed and battered; they are amongst us to-day, living monuments to their heroism. Many of them will never be normal again, owing to their war injuries and war experiences. Some are cot cases and large numbers are suffering from the results of wounds of various descriptions or from the effects of gas. To the end of their lives they must bear the marks of the war, and they deserve every consideration at the hands of the Government. These men are passing out from day to day, although the majority of them are only half way through the normal span of a useful life. They have given glorious service to this country. Their deeds of heroism were not eclipsed by the efforts of men in any other part of the world. And how is this Government treating these men? The culminating insult was the notification on the 1st May that the Ministry had withdrawn the principle of preference to returned soldiers. It has cast them out of employment. The Government edict was a May-day message to the “ Reds “ ; to the forces that have been governing and bossing the official Labour party ever since 1916. It is rather unfortunate that theLeader of the Senate (Senator Daly) should have made any reference to the attitude of the Bruce-Page Government towards returned soldiers, because its regard for their welfare was an outstanding feature of its policy. Mr. Bruce, the head of the Government, was himself a returned soldier and the majority of his colleagues in the Cabinet also were returned soldiers. By contrast there is not one returned soldier in the present Ministry.
– I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the subject matter of the motion which is the principle of preference in employment to returned soldiers.
– I intend to conform to your ruling, Mr. President. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) referred to the Bruce-Page Government, and I am showing that the majority of its members were returned soldiers. It is surprising that the Minister should have made any reference to appointments to the late Government in view of the facts, for I repeat that not one returned soldier is in the present Ministry, although Labour candidates at the last election made lavish promises to returned soldiers in order to obtain their support. I have before me a green leaflet - I am surprised it is not red - entitled “Labour and the returned soldiers “, issued under the authority of the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) who was campaign director for the Labour party during the last election campaign. A paragraph in this leaflet reads -
A Fair Dealfor All
Are they getting a fair deal now?
It is one of the cardinal points of Labour’s policy to give a fair deal to returned soldiers, as to all other sections of the community. In the following pages an explanation is given of many hardships that exist and of the action that the Labour party will take to remove them.
That was, I suppose, if they secured their votes. Under the heading of “Employment “ the f ollowing appears : -
The placing in employment of partially disabled returned soldiers is a very hard problem. But for the sympathetic treatment of them by employers, it would indeed be almost impossible to solve. These men could all be found positions in the Public Service . . .
We now see how the Government is finding positions for them in the Public Service. Under the heading “Homes for Aged Soldiers” I find the following: -
The question of providing homes for returned soldiers who have passed the age of being able to compete in the labour market, is one that has not been thoroughly investigated. The Labour party pledges itself to take this matter up immediately if returned to power, and to make the necessary provisions.
What provision is the Government making for our ex-soldiers. It is making it practically impossible for them to obtain work in the callings in which they have been engaged, unless they join a trades union. The pamphlet also contains these words - “A Labour Government this time to remedy your hardships.” If that is not an insult to returned soldiers and to the community, I should like to know what it is. The pamphlet from which I am quoting is very informative, and I do not think that the promises it contains, and which are now being openly dishonoured by the Labour party, are likely to be forgotten. Not one of the promises made to the returned soldiers during the election campaign has yet been kept, and there is no sign of that party’s undertakings with respect to returned men being honoured. What is the result of this May day edict? Preference is to be given to returned soldiers and sailors only if they are unionists. I did not approve of the action of the previous Government in providing that preference was to be given to returned soldiers and sailors, all things being equal. There should be absolute preference without any qualifications. How can all things be equal when many brave young men, by fighting for years for our liberty, deprived themselves of the opportunity to become firmly established in civil life and to qualify in a profession, trade or calling? Those who remained at home made rapid progress in their professions, or in whatever work they were engaged ; but many of our soldiers, on their return, were naturally to some extent mentally or physically less fit and were quite incapable of competing with them. Considering the services rendered and the sacrifices made by these men, and taking into consideration the manner in which they disregarded self-interest and substantially assisted in securing the liberty of our people, they should have absolute preference, not only in governmental and semi-governmental, but in private employment. The lavish promises made by governments and other authorities should be honoured. I do not say for a moment that all unionists should have gone to the war - a fair percentage of them did - or that those who did not serve were all disloyal, but it cannot be truthfully denied that a fairly large section of trade unionists acted in a most disloyal way. Many of those who were disloyal or “ coldfooters “ are now to receive preference. Why should these “ coldfooters “ and disloyalists receive preferential treatment over men who gave up so much to fight for us? The present Government is giving returned soldiers about as much consideration as the members of the party to which they belong gave them during the war, particularly from 1916 onwards. What was the attitude of the Labour party towards returned soldiers during the year?
– Not at all. Certain trades unionists, who are supporters of the Labour party, refused to load food supplies and Red Cross comforts and also provisions which were being sent to the boys overseas for use during the Christmas season. The official attitude of the Labour party in 1916 was a disgrace to the Labour movement. In declining to load Red Cross supplies, a section of trades unionists let down the soldiers badly, and acted in a manner detrimental to the Empire. The attitude of the Labour party at that time differed greatly from that of the Labour party led by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, who, on behalf- of his party, promised to assist the Empire to the last man and the last shilling. What became of that high ideal? As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, from 1916 onwards the members of the official Labour party were the enemies and not the supporters of the soldiers. The waterside workers refused to load comforts and the party refused to encourage recruiting in any way, because they had no intention of assisting the war to a successful conclusion. We also recall the resolution passed at the Labour conference in Perth to the effect that no more recruits should be sent from Australia, and that the Allies should secure peace by negotiation. That resolution was passed when the Allied forces were fighting with their backs to the wall for our very existence.
The fact that this change of policy was brought into operation on the 1st May proves conclusively that the Government is pandering to the “ red “ element of the party. We have also seen the edict recently issued from the trades union conference in Melbourne. We cannot forget what the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) and some other members of the Labour party were reported to have said to the effect that the blind, lame, and tubercular soldiers got their desserts. While many trade unionists enlisted, he and other ablebodied men stayed at home and abused the soldiers. The Leader of the Opposition said that the people of Australia and the returned soldiers should have expected action such as this on the part of the Labour Government; but I am sure that the public of Australia will not tolerate it. When these men went to the war they were promised practically everything on their return, but this Government is now giving preference in employment to many who did not experience any of the hardships or sufferings in the great fight for freedom. It would be interesting to know when the promises made by Mr. Theodore in this green “ rag “ are to be honoured. When a deputation of limbless soldiers presented to this Government certain claims for assistance I asked a member of that deputation how he got on. He replied: “We did not get anything; we hardly expected it from this crowd.” In view of the recent decision of the Government the returned soldiers will surely realize that as in the past and during the war they will have to look to the Nationalist rather than to the Labour party for some measure of justice. The returned soldiers have been turned clown by the Labour party as they were during the dark days of the war, and I am sure it will not be long before the people of Australia will show in no unmistakable way their disgust at the action which the Government has taken.
– In submitting the motion under discussion Senator Glasgow quoted section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which reads -
Notwithstanding any tiling contained in this act, a returned soldier whose name is enrolled in the prescribed register for temporary employment shall, if competent for the work required, be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier.
I have quoted that section because I wish to direct attention to my own experience when engaged as a skilled workman at the Cockatoo Island dockyard during the regime of the Hughes Government, and later of the Bruce-Page Government. I enlisted for active service in 1914 when an employee of the Cockatoo Island dockyard, and returned to Australia in 1919. After my return to my employment in the dockyard severe retrenchments were effected from time to time owing to the diminution of work, and I, with many other returned soldiers, was discharged. Whilst the Government of which the Leader of the Opposition, and Senator Glasgow were members, was in office, returned soldiers were freely dismissed from government employment; but now, when the Commonwealth is faced with serious financial depression, and this Government, in seeking to do something in the interests of the welfare of the community, has made certain provisions concerning employment, its supporters are called disloyalists. Senator Guthrie has given us some “ drivel “-
– Order !
– Surely Senator Guthrie realizes that the members of the Government are sufficiently intelligent to be able to give effect to the policy which the Prime Minister outlined a few months ago.
– The Prime Minister did not announce that preference to returned soldiers would be withdrawn.
– Preference to returned soldiers has not been withdrawn. The Government has stipulated that returned soldiers who are unionists shall have first consideration in the matter of employment. Let me remind Senator
Glasgow that, in 1914, when the war-dogs of Europe were let loose on civilization, and when Australia, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, responded to the call of the Motherland, it was the Fisher Labour administration that had to take up the cudgels for Australia; and under the regime of that Government, a preference provision was placed on the statute-books of the nation. 1 challenge Senator Glasgow, who was one of my leaders on the other side of the world, to say whether it is not a fact that SO per cent, of those who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force were trade unionists. And J. claim that there were more honour rolls on the walls of the trades halls of Australia than are to be found on the walls of the halls of the representatives of the money-bags who will not give a returned soldier a job. Senator Glasgow knows that it is now almost a crime for a returned soldier to wear hi.:badge. If he does so, when he goes to the money-bags of big business to ask for a job he is spurned and kicked from the door
– Rubbish !
– It is not rubbish. I Iia ve two brothers. One enlisted at seventeen years of age and had his right eye shot out when a despatch rider. To-day he is vainly offering his services on the employment market in Sydney. Another brother is in the same position. I do not find our patriots rushing out to give these comrades of theirs jobs. The Commonwealth is paying a bounty to make sugar-growing a white labour industry, hut because the Bruce-Page Government allowed shiploads of Italians to be brought into this country, thousands of soldiers are now unable to secure employment in the sugar-growing districts. In South Australia what punishment was meted out to the waterside workers who refused to obey a mandate from the shipping rings of Australia and Europe? These great patriots of the British Empire; these great foster parents of returned soldiers decided that the returned soldiers on the waterfront must be penalized. How was it done? When the new Labour Premier, Mr. Hill, sent investigating officers to Port Adelaide, he found that on two vessels of 12,000 tons register, each working six hatches on over sea cargo and employing on the average from 250 to 300 waterside workers, every worker was an Italian or a Jugo Slav. In New South Wales the returned soldiers on the coalfields who would not suffer a reduction in wages were locked out by the late Mr. John Brown and the associated colliery proprietors, and Mr. Bavin sent his thugs up there and batoned and smashed them into insensibility on the roadsides. That is what the returned soldiers of the coal-fields have got for services rendered. At this particular moment these great patriots, these representatives of the money-bags of Australia
– The honorable senator is quite out of order in applying such epithets to honorable senators opposite.
– Honorable senators representing the money-bags of Australia of capital to-day-
– The honorable senator is repeating his offence. I hope that he is not doing so of set. purpose.
– I am speaking of individuals outside - of the wealthy concerns of Australia, the patriots who get up at their swell dinners with their heads wrapped in the Union Jack and their stomachs swinging in the breeze and talk about the British Empire and the Labour party, saying that we are a disloyal party. I regret that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) made a dirty and direct attack-
– I shall not allow the honorable senator, whatever lie may do outside, to use language of that description in the Senate. It is most objectionable and lowering to the tone of the Senate.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. President, I wish to say that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) made a direct attack on the integrity of the trade union leaders of Australia, many of whom are fathers of returned soldiers. While I am supporting the Labour Government of Australia I shall not allow Senator Pearce or any one else to assail their characters. With all respect to you, Mr. President, and for your high and distinguished position, I say that the words used by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, were lies and dirty lies.
– Order! the honorable senator will at once withdraw those words and apologize to the Senate for having used them.
Senator Dunn remaining silent.
– Again I call upon the honorable senator to withdraw and apologize to the Senate; otherwise [ shall have to report him to the Senate.
Senator Dunn still remaining silent.
– I have to report that Senator Dunn has been guilty of repeated disobedience to the directions of the Chair. It is now for the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) to take whatever action he deems fit.
– Mr. President-
– Does the honorable senator wish to make an explanation?
– I desire to explain that I do not wish to humiliate any one, but I think the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition-
– The honorable senator must not repeat his offence.
– With all dme respect to you, sir, I withdraw the words I used, and apologize. I have no more to say.
– I am somewhat in a predicament because I notice three honorable senators rising simultaneously to speak to the motion. As there is little more than half an hour available before the debate must conclude according to the Standing Orders, perhaps they can adjust the matter amicably between themselves.
– As the Opposition has had more to say on the motion than have honorable senators on the ministerial side, I think ministerial supporters should be given every opportunity to answer the charges that have been made against the Government.
– Very well, I shall call upon Senator Hoare.
– The preference regulation which has now been amended originally read as follows: -
In carrying out the work under this contract preference shall be given, other things being equal, firstly to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service and secondly to members of trades unions.
It now reads -
In carrying out the work under this contract preference shall be given, other things being equal, firstly to returned soldiers and sailors with satisfactory service who are members of trades unions and secondly to members of trades unions.
There is another provision -
In carrying out the work under this contract unnaturalized aliens shall not be employed except in cases where British labour is not available.
Looking at the matter from a fairminded point of view I fail to see how the regulation as amended can possibly hurt any returned soldier. He may still retain preference of employment by becoming a unionist if he is not already one, and I claim that fully 85 per cent, of Australian returned soldiers are already unionists. If the motion had been moved by any one but Senator Glasgow I should have said that its submission was an endeavour to make political capital out of the returned soldiers, but of course I could not attribute such a motive to a fair-minded man like Senator Glasgow. A lot of noise has been made-
– On the Government side.
– No, on the Opposition side. Senator Lynch and Senator Guthrie, metaphorically speaking, pulled down not only the chamber roof but the roof of the world in declaiming their sympathy with the returned soldier,, and in declaring that he would be most shamefully treated under this amended regulation. I remind honorable senators who were in the Senate some years ago that when the late Senator Bakhap advocated that the Australian soldier should not be paid more than ls. 2d. a day at the front, they did not have the common decency to say “We do not want to bring down Australia to the level of other countries which are paying their conscripts ls. 2d. a day. Let us rather raise the conscript soldiers of other countries tothe level of the Australian soldiers.”
– Where did the honorable senator get that information concerning Senator Bakhap.
– It is in Hansard and has been repeated over and over again without contradiction. I agree- with Senator Barnes that the battle for freedom had already been fought by the men who brought arbitration to this country, and so raised the standard of living for the workers of Australia. The men who enlisted, having before them the glorious example of those who brought them industrial freedom, were not prepared to become conscripts at ls. 2d. a day. Honorable senators on the other side of the chamber who now champion the claims of the returned soldiers should then have stood up for their rights. Now they speak of the injury which the Government’s action will do to the returned soldiers. Senator Guthrie mentioned unemployed tubercular soldiers. I want to know why these men were not employed during the years that the Bruce-Page Government was in office. Returned soldiers suffering from tuberculosis and other lung complaints frequently come to me for assistance. What have those who now profess to be anxious to protect the rights of returned soldiers done for them? True friendship is shown not by mere words, but by sympathetic action. Senator Sampson complained that the Government’s decision would compel all returned soldiers to become unionists. Does he suggest that returned soldiers are prepared to accept awards gained by unions of their fellow workers at considerable expense without- making some contribution to the unions which have obtained those conditions? The decision of the Government will do the returned soldiers no injustice. Most of the returned soldiers now seeking employment were unionists before they enlisted, and are unionists still. Even if they are not, it will not hurt them to join a union.
– At the front we were all members of one big union.
– I have been fighting for years for the establishment of one big union; and so have many returned soldiers. For their own protection, returned soldiers who are not unionists should immediately join a union. When honorable senators speak of injustice to returned soldiers, my mind goes back to the days when exploiters in the community took advantage of the men who fought. Galvanized iron, which they had bought for £18 a ton, was 3old to returned soldiers at from £82 to £120 a ton. But did the then Government do anything to protect the returned soldiers from exploitation? No. It showed its sympathy with them by leaving them at the mercy of greedy exploiters. A year or two ago I travelled from Brisbane to Cairns, calling at Mackay and other towns in the big sugar centres. I saw large numbers of unemployed returned soldiers whose places had been taken by Italians. When complaint was made to the late Government that Italians were displacing Australian soldiers, it replied that it could not prevent Italians from coming to Australia, and that if it attempted to do so international complications might ensue. It did not matter to honorable senators now sitting in opposition, that the employment of Italians forced Australian returned soldiers to walk the streets.
– A Labour government was then in power in Queensland.
– I remind the honorable senator that immigration is a function of the Federal Government. Before October last a Labour government had not ‘been in office in the Commonwealth sphere for many years. On the west coast of South Australia, where some road-making work was in progress, the only person working on the road who was not an Italian was the contractor himself. This man, a Britisher, employed Italians while returned soldiers begged for work and bread. The present Government says that, so long as Australians are out of work, employment should not he found for foreigners. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to criticize the action of the Government, but during the long period that the Bruce-Page Government was in office, they did nothing for the returned soldiers. One honorable senator, referring to the conditions in Canberra, made a statement which was not correct. When I asked him where he obtained his information, he replied that it was supplied to him by the Minister. It is strange that the Minister supplied me with very different information. The previous practice in the Federal Capital Commission in relation to preference was, first, married returned soldiers, domiciled in the Territory; then married men other than returned soldiers domiciled in the Territory; after them, married men not domiciled in the Territory; then single returned soldiers; and, lastly, other single men.I have here a communication which shows that under the new regulation the returned soldiers will be better off than formerly, because the new order of preference is, first, returned soldiers who are unionists.
– The local branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League passed a resolution last night protesting against the new conditions.
– I do not know the ground of their objection. Is it because they object to becoming unionists? If they do not, they have nothing to fear.
– But what if they do object?
– I say plainly that any returned soldier who is not a unionist should immediately join a trade union. Surely there is no disgrace in being a unionist.
– Order! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS (South Australia) [3.10]. - So much has been said on this subject that there is little need forme to occupy the time of the Senate further in discussing it. Instead of attempting to defend the action of the Government, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) endeavoured to show that previous governments had not treated returned soldiers as they should have been treated. The honorable senator would have done better if he had endeavoured to justify the Government’s change of policy.
– He would have found it difficult.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS.Under a motion for the adjournment of the Senate a full discussion of this important question is impossible. If the motion were carried it would mean that the Senate would have to meet to-morrow morning at 11 o’clock. As I live in Canberra. I should not be inconvenienced if the Senate did meet to-morrow morning; but. as it is not desirable that it should do so, we must, perforce, allow the motion to lapse. It will then go out to the world that the Senate was not genuine in its protest against the treatment of returned soldiers by the Government; that in criticizing the Government’s action we were merely beating the air. Of course that is not so. Senator Hoare said that it would harm no returned soldier to become a unionist. I take credit for having induced a considerable number of men to enlist, although when I did so, I made no promise to them regarding their treatment on their return to Australia. Whatever promises I have made to the soldiers, I made to them after their return. But supposing that during the recruiting campaign I had urged men to enlist, telling them that on their return to Australia they would have to join the Australian Workers Union or some other trade union in order to obtain employment, what inducement would that have been to them to fight for their country? Senator Hoare has forcibly stressed that point by telling us that a returned soldier will be no worse off to-day than before, if he joins a union ; but I point out that thousands of men in Australia would rather die of starvation than become members of a union, and, under the revised conditions of government contract work, there will be no chance of their obtaining employment unless they join a union. In order that they may obtain work the union secretary must recommend them for employment, and my experience of that class of official is that in most cases he has not a kindly feeling for the returned soldier. In all probability, when a returned soldier is sent to a job by a union secretary, there will be no others on the unemployed list. I hope that some member of the Senate, on another occasion, will submit a motion for the alteration of the present regulation. I protest as strongly as possible against the Government’s action, and I regret the Senate’s impotence to rectify the position owing to the terms of the Standing Orders.
.- Mr. President-
– I point out that in about fifteen minutes this debate must be concluded, and having regard to the courtesy which honorable senators usually extend to each other, I hope that the mover of the motion will not be deprived of an opportunity to reply.
– I have no desire to rob Senator Glasgow of an opportunity to reply to the debate, but I desire to say something in defence of the policy that the Government has adopted in regard to employment on Government contracts. I shall conclude my remarks in sufficient time to enable the mover of the motion to reply. I venture to say that those responsible for this attack on the Government are not so much concerned about the welfare of the returned soldiers as they are about that of their own party. They are endeavouring to turn the Government’s action to profitable political account. If one recalls the history of the Commonwealth since the late war, during the period when Nationalist Governments were in control, both in the Commonwealth and in the State spheres, one remembers many examples of the party that protests so much this afternoon failing to give preference to ex-soldiers. I well recollect one of my first experiences in the South Australian Legislature. When an attempt was being made by a section of the members of that Parliament to pass legislation to secure reasonable terms and conditions for the repatriation of returned soldiers, the proposal was frustrated by the Nationalist majority in the Legislative Council of that State. An empty gesture was made to the men in South Australia who had gone to the war. Legislation was placed on the statute-book to mislead them into believing that the Nationalist party had done something for them; but, from 1919 until the present time, not a foot of land has been acquired under the act that was passed in South Australia ostensibly for the purpose of settling returned men on the land. Those who wished to take up land were placed on blocks where it was impossible for them to succeed, because great expense had to be incurred by them in clearing and grading the land and providing for irrigation, although, if certain other estates had been acquired, the settlers could have carried on fruit-growing operations under natural conditions, and they would have had every opportunity to make a success of their holdings.
Senator Guthrie referred to the 60,000 Australians who sacrificed their lives during the late war. I ask honorable senators opposite if we should not do justice to the children of the ex-soldiers who were married and had families when they enlisted. Are the boys who were attending school when their fathers laid down their lives to be deprived of employment to-day, when they are the sole support of widowed mothers, and, perhaps, single sisters. Some of those lads now have the responsibility themselves of supporting wives and families, because they have now reached the home-making and breadwinning age. They are as much entitled to employment as any returned soldier. Who will see that the benefits that have accrued from the operation of the Commonwealth’s policy of compulsory conciliation and arbitration are not lost? Can the Returned Soldiers League, though it may be an excellent body, go to the Arbitration Court and plead the case on behalf of the unskilled worker? No. That duty is left to the industrial organization. The great majority of the unskilled workers, who happen to be returned soldiers, would prefer to have preference through their industrial organizations rather than through the league.
The late Government passed regulations under the Transport Workers Act. which operated at Port Adelaide in such a way that 2S0 returned soldiers, who were members of the Waterside Workers Federation, were debarred from earning a livelihood on the waterfront, and in the majority of cases they are still prevented from doing so, because absolute preference over them w:as given to unnaturalized aliens, SO of whom are still employed on the wharfs at Port Adelaide. Some of them are engaged in shifting mails out of or into steamers that run under contracts made with the overseas shipping companies by the Commonwealth Government. Two years ago I was in the Tailem Bend district of South Australia, and I had occasion to make inquiries into the conditions under which road contracts were carried out there. I discovered that a road contractor who was doing work under the Federal Aid Roads Scheme was employing 35 Southern Europeans on two big jobs, while at the same time dozens of returned soldiers in that district, many of whom were married, were unemployed. Not only have 280 returned soldier members of the Waterside Workers Federation suffered at Port Adelaide as the result of the action of the late Government, but many returned men who had gone into business there have had their custom taken from them. The volunteers on the wharfs are not drawn from the Port Adelaide district, but live in other suburbs, and their money is spent in the districts where they reside. Consequently these returned men were compelled to close their shops.
– That can be attributed to the union leaders.
– No ; the action of the late Government caused it.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [3.26].- The Leader of the Government stated that I had directed little consideration to the subject matter of the motion, but I assure him that I have given it a great deal of thought, and the discussion to-day has justified the course that I have adopted. The Government itself gave very scant consideration to the effect of the latest alteration of the terms under which tenders are called for Government work. When attention was drawn to the fact that the Government had robbed the returned men of the preference that they had previously enjoyed-
– I ask if that remark is in order.
– I do not take it to have any personal application. Presumably it is not directed to members of the Government personally.
– The returned soldiers have enjoyed this preference since the late war, but now, owing to the action of theGovernment, they have been deprived of it. I point out that, in the first instance, they were completely deprived of preference, and, when attention was drawn to the matter by the Leader of the Opposition, and by an honorable member in another place, the Government modified the conditions to the extent that returned soldier unionists were to have preference over unionists who were not returned soldiers. That was the only change made in the conditions.
– That was a disappointment to the Opposition.
– It may have been, but it showed that the Government was trying to get out of the very difficult position into which it had landed itself. It also showed that it had given scant consideration to the matter, as has happened in other cases in which it has found it necessary to modify its decisions. Under the altered conditions of employment, no returned soldier who is not a unionist will be able to get a job at all under a government contract.
– They must be union conscripts.
– Yes. Honorable senators opposite objected to conscription during the lata war, but the present Government proposes to conscript men into unions. Every man in the community who wants work will have to join a union. Members of the Ministry and their supporters do not mind compulsion being applied to the other fellow, but they object when it is applied to themselves. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) said it was not the policy of the Government to consider only one section of the community. What other construction can be placed upon its latest pronouncement of Government policy.
– I said it was not our policy to consider one section to the detriment of any other section.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The withdrawal of the principle of preference to ex-soldiers certainly is detrimental to one section of the community. In future a returned soldier will not be able to secure employment in a government contract unless he is a member of a trade union.
– And public money will pay for those jobs.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.These returned soldiers who have been shut out from employment are taxpayers and contribute their share towards the revenue necessary for supplying trade unionists with jobs to the detriment of returned soldiers. The action of the Government means that in future trade unionists will be singled out for preference over returned soldiers.
Senator Hoare also had something. to say about certain foreigners who had come to this country, and mentioned particularly foreigners who had settled in Queensland.
– That is a sore point with the honorable senator.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Not at all. All I wish to say on that matter is that the foreigners mentioned by Senator Hoare came to Queensland during the regime of La.bour governments led by Mr. Theodore and Mr. McCormack, and under the latest edict by this Government those foreigners will be given preference in employment over any returned soldier who happens to be a non-unionist.
– They would not get jobs against our men if I were boss.
– But the honorable senator has been advocating this preference to trade unionists as against preference to returned soldiers who are not trade unionists. It has been stated, also, that returned soldiers’ organizations have not objected to this latest phase of Government policy. That is not true. This afternoon Senators Plain, Lawson and Guthrie received telegrams from returned soldiers approving of the action of the Opposition in directing attention to this matter. I also have received telegrams.
– Did the honorable senator wire for the approval?
– We have had no communication with returned soldiers’ organizations with regard to this matter.
– The honorable senator’s explanation is too transparent.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I have no wish to further debate this matter. The subject having been ventilated, and attention having been drawn to the action of the Government, I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable sena tor’s questions: -
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is the Government still allowing so-called artificial silk yarn to come into the Commonwealth duty free whilst imposing a heavy duty upon wool yarns to the detriment of the wool industry ?
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The tariff provides for artificial silk yarns to he admitted free of duty, if the produce or manufacture is of the United Kingdom, and to be charged duty at the rate of 10 per cent, if produced in any other country. The reason for such treatment is that such yarns are raw materials for the knitting industry, and are not made in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
I desire to state, with reference to question No. 2, that Mr. Percy Deane has requested me to explain that no such statement was made by him and that the statement attributed to him by Senator Payne was really a newspaper comment at the top of the report of the speech. What Mr. Deane said was -
Common sense suggested a limit to the claims of the fit, but every soldier and every soldier’s dependants, handicapped in the battle of life by sacrifices in the war, was entitled to the sympathy and support of the community.
This statement appeared in the local newspaper.
– I rise to a personal explanation. My authority for asking the questions to which the Minister has just replied was the following telegram from Canberra, which appeared in a Tasmanian newspaper: -
CANBERRA, Wednesday. - The suggestion that the time was approaching when the policy of preference to returned soldiers would have to be modified, was made by Mr. Percy Deane to the delegates to the Interstate Legacy Club Convention.
Mr. Deane said that every soldier, and soldier’s dependant, handicapped by war sacrifices, was entitled to the support of the community, but common sense suggested a limit to the claims.
Before I placed my questions on the noticepaper, I took the precaution to interview a gentleman who I knew was present at the Legacy Club Convention. He assured me that the telegram which I have just quoted was substantially correct and that personally, he deprecated the making of such a statement.
– by leave - The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) conferred with me this morning to ascertain what was in the mind of the Government with regard to the proposal to establish a Federal Capital Territory Advisory Council; and for the information of honorable senators I desire to state that I have received the following memorandum from the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) : -
With regard to the desire of the members of the Opposition in the Senate that there should bo granted a complete civic control for the residents of Canberra, the Minister for Home Affairs states that after carefully considering this phase many months ago, he had decided to recommend to the Government that during the transition period as from the Commission method of control and semi-civic control, there must be complete Government control with participation by the people of their representatives on the Advisory Council. To this end, three citizens are to be appointed to this advisory committee.
It is anticipated that during the next twelve months there will be comment and probably criticism of the administration both by the people and by the elected members of the Advisory Council*.
When providing the ordinance for the election of the Advisory Council, the Minister purposely restricted the term to twelve months, both for the elected members and the Civic Administrator. This was done with the hope that at the end of twelve months greater civic responsibility may be granted to the people. It is too early at present to say what willbe done, but prior to the end of the twelve months term of the Advisory Council, the Minister will survey the whole situation and report to Cabinet.
If the ordinance is disallowed it will be impossible to have civic co-operation with the Government in the carrying out of the administration of Canberra.
I trust that this assurance will meet the objections raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
The following paper was presented : -
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 43.
Senate adjourned at 3.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300502_senate_12_123/>.