15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
SenatorKEANE. - Will the Leader of the Senate inform me when it is expected that the report of the Royal Commission on the Sydney General Post Office will be available?
– I do not know.
– In view of the reply just made to the question by Senator Keane, I ask Senator McLeay whether the declared intention of the Government to conclude this period of the session on Friday next is due to a desire to prevent Parliament from discussing the findings of the commission regarding the Sydney General Post Office contract?
. -by leave - My colleague, Senator Foll, has received an urgent telegram from Mr. J. Francis, the honorable member for Moreton, concerning a missing launch. Inquiries have been made, and I am now able to inform honorable senators that advice has been received that the launch Nerita, under the command of Mr. E. Carey, owner, which left Brisbane at 3 p.m. on Saturday on a fishing trip, and which was expected to return about 6 p.m.on Monday, is missing in the open sea off Cape Moreton. Reports indicate that twelve people are on board. The Deputy Director of Navigation in Brisbane, Captain I. J. Burch, has arranged for all ships in the vicinity to keep a close watch for the missing launch. He has advised the water police at Brisbane of the route which the aeroplane being used in the search should follow, having regard to the currents off Cape Moreton. Lighthouse keepers have also been instructed to keep watch.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In connexion with tenders for the erection of 24 residences on sections 28, 29, 34, 35 and 74, Ainslie, was the lowest tender accepted; if not, what was the reason for its nonacceptance?
No. Special conditions stipulated by the lowest tenderer were not acceptable to the department.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The replies are -
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended up to and including Friday, l6th June, to enable new business to be taken after halfpast ten o’clock at night.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . … 4
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That, until the16th June, 1939, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the noticepaper excepting questions and formal motions.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Debate resumed from the 13th June (vide page 1676), on motion by Senator Collett-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In the history of this Parliament there has probably never been a measure which has been received with greater disfavour by the Labour movement of Australia than has the bill now under discussion. The bill has the full opposition of every trades hall council ‘ in Australia which is affiliated with the Australasian Council of Trades Unions, The Western Australian body, although not affiliated with the Australasian Council of Trades Unions, has also expressed its opposition to the measure. This legislation has the full and undivided opposition of the executive of the AustralianWorkers Union, which, as honorable senators know, represents approximately 100,000 workers throughout Australia. It also has incurred the hostility of numerous organizations not connected with the Labour movement. Generally, the opposition to it is well summarized in a communication which has been received by senators on this side of the chamber from the governing body of the industrial movement in Australia.
– The masters of honorable senators opposite !
– The Labour party has no need to obtain instructions from any outside organization, because the Labour movement throughout Australia is one; when the Labour army marches, it marches with one objective. The majority of the men on this side of the chamber served their political apprenticeship in the trade union movement. Therefore, we can say to Government supporters that no other measure has received such whole-hearted condemnation as has this compulsory national registration bill.
I point out, first, that the Government has received no mandate to introduce this legislation. The present Government is on the treasury bench as the result of the 1937 elections, during which the Labour candidates predicted that if a United Australia party government were returned, conscription would inevitably follow. The Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Lyons), replying to that contention, said : “ The people can take my pledge that conscription will never be brought into force “. Clearly, the Government has no mandate for this legislation.
Secondly, the Government is not truly representative of the people of Australia ; I say that in a political sense, with every respect to Ministers personally. The Government is hanging on by the skin of its teeth, as it were, and is led by a man who, according to disclosures in the press, was elected by 23 votes to 19 of the United Australia party. That party has broken its previous alliance with the Country party, and the Country party has generally indulged in shamfighting by professing to disavow this and that legislation; but the moment the party whips crack or there is evidence of a risk of a dissolution of the House of Representatives, its members fall into line behind the Government. Yesterday, we had the spectacle of the “ guillotine “ in operation in connexion with a cognate measure, and last week similar action was taken in the other branch of the legislature to prevent the Opposition from moving desirable amendments to the bill now before us. When we go to the people - and the time does not appear to be far off - we shall have a wonderful weapon in our hands. We shall be able to tell them of the muddling leadership of the present Administration. So weak was its case, the Government would not allow proper discussion. Labour supporters will use that fact to the fullest possible degree with, perhaps, a little interest added. We realize that some time during to-day similar action will be taken in connexion with this bill; when we reveal some weaknesses in the armour of the Government, the “ guillotine “ will again be applied.
– The honorable senator’s hopes may not be realized.
– This Parliament was elected on a policy of “ No Conscription ; No Compulsion “. When challenged on this question, the late Prime Minister said that the people could take his pledge that conscription would never be brought into force.
– Why does the honorable senator work himself into a fury?
– The Labour party has not objected to the expenditure of huge sums on defence. It believes that the Government must know that danger really exists, or it would not attempt to commit the country to such colossal expenditure. Since the receipt of the Squires report the previous estimate of £63,000,000 has been increased to £78,000,000. We are not concerned about the additional cost if it be necessary; but we are concerned at the ghastly failure of the recent London loan. Obviously, the present Government, which is supposed to have restored confidence in Australia, has not done so, for it could get only about 20 per cent. of a £6,000,000 loan on the London market. What amazing evidence of Australia’s credit !
– Every penny of the £6,000,000. will be provided.
– WhenI asked what steps were being taken by. the Government, I was given an answer which did not say much more than “ See reply to No. 1 “. I shall have something more to say on that point later. I repeat that the Labour party has supported the Government’s defence programme. It said that when troops were wanted, the voluntary system would provide them. That system was tried, with the result that more men enlisted than were required. But, as my leader has pointed out on several occasions, the Government was not ready to equip them. I hope that by this time that state of affairs has been remedied. In the event of an outbreak of war. supporters of the Labour party will be the backbone of Australia’s defence, as they were in the dark years, 1914-1918, when the then Labour leader, Mr. Andrew Fisher, said that Australia was in the war to “ the last man and the last shilling”. The result of voluntary effort on that occasion resulted in 365,000 nien enlisting for active service. Members of the Labour party are just as conscious of the needs of Australia as are supporters of the Government, but we are not prepared to submit to dictation by a minority government which has not received from the people a mandate for a compulsory register. The Government could have met the situation by bringing forward the next general census. That action would have provided it with the information desired as to the avocation of citizens, the number of workers unemployed, and so on.
– And £150,000 would have been saved.
– That is not my concern at the moment. The taking of a census provides work for a number of men for several years. In any case, the census will have to be taken within the next few years. I have established that this measure is opposed by the whole of the industrial movement of Australia, that it is a breach of the pledge given by the late Prime Minister, and that the Government was not given any mandate for a compulsory register.
– That is not so.
– .Senator Johnston, as a one-time Labour man, must know that what I am saying is correct.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– The honorable senator was trained in the Labour movement, and he knows that the policy of Labour is decided only after most careful consideration.
A lot has been made of the fact that the Labour party expressed opposition to a national register of the man-power of Australia unless it was accompanied by a compulsory census of wealth. In the other chamber, an amendment moved by a leading member of the United Australia party, was accepted by the Ministry; and now the bill provides for a register of the property owned by every man and woman in Australia. Those provisions leave this party cold, for the good and simple reason that the Government knows that, whatever wealth census may be taken, it does not intend to take any action in regard to such wealth. It would not dare to do so. The only practical purposes of a wealth census is a compulsory levy on wealth. Fancy supporters of the present Government being’ associated with even the suggestion that the possessions of their supporters should become known ! I hope that when the Minister replies he will make clear what use. the Government will make of the wealth register. In my opinion, it can only have one purpose - a levy on wealth in. the event of an attack on Australia. However, I could talk for hours as to what happened during the years 1914-18. It cannot be contradicted, however, that ‘while other sections of the community responded to the call for men for service overseas, some rich men in the community unloaded onto the Repatriation Department land which was not worth one-twentieth of the price paid for it. Others put their money into war loans from which they are still getting a rake-off. On the other hand, many men who served overseas have not been given fair treatment by the Repatriation Department. I am glad that we now have a Minister in this chamber who is prepared to listen to individual claims. Members of the party which fought the Labour party between 1914 and 1918 were the biggest gainers by the last war.
The press of Australia demanded a compulsory wealth register, and this Government eventually decided to support; it. I have already alluded to the fact that I decline to be a “ Yes “ man to the other branch of the legislature. I shall resist this measure because I regard it as wrong in principle. The proposal was discussed at great length in the House of Representatives, and probably the Government will not permit of such a protracted debate in this chamber. To show the arrant hypocrisy of some of the supporters of the ministerial party, I remind the Senate that during the last few years £45,000,000 has been raised by way of public loans in Australia, the interest on which is paid and disbursed in this country. Out of the total amount, no less than £14,000,000 had to be underwritten by the Commonwealth Bank, despite repeated ministerial denials that loans had been underwritten. A wealth census would be useless, because, whilst the Government is prepared to regiment the man-power of Australia, it would not touch its rich friends. The Labour party is not deluded by the fact that a smokescreen has been laid by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), who submitted an amendment in the House of Representatives providing for a register of property. On Sunday evening last, a meeting of 3,000 unionists was held in the State Theatre, Melbourne. The fact that the gathering had been arranged only three days previously shows the hostility aroused by this measure.
-Who is arousing it?
– Nobody in the political arena has organized any of the unions’ meetings of protest. The rank and file of Labour is waiting eagerly for the day when this Government will be compelled to face the people and answer for its broken promises of 1937.
My main objections to a. compulsory national register are: (1) It is the first step to bring about industrial conscription ; (2) it is a forerunner of compulsory military training; and (3) it makes no provision as regards wealth.
When the Cabinet met in Hobart in February last, the Government decided to create a voluntary national register for the purpose of ascertaining the industrial resources of the nation. Two of the reasons given for the voluntary register were that it would cost less and would not take so long to complete as a compulsory register. There is a section of the Cabinet which has always been in favour of conscription, and eventually its agitation prevailed, for, about a month later, the Cabinet reversed its Hobart decision, and decided to introduce a compulsory register.
The Young Nationalists held a conference at Mornington, Victoria, and demanded a compulsory register. The Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) and the Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) exerted the greatest influence in the Cabinet in favour of the introduction of this measure. I am not concerned where the Country party stood in the matter.
It is prepared to support any party that keeps some of its members in office. Of its fifteen members, eleven had jobs in a composite Government, in which the Country party was able to squeeze both the United Australia party and the Labour party. I know that its Leader (Sir Earle Page) has said rude things about the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I do not attack the Prime Minister, except in a political sense. He is the same to me as was the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and as was Mr. Bruce and Sir John Latham. They all had to carry out a mandate from the small section that has the money. In February last we were to have a voluntary register, but in May it. was decided that a compulsory register should be introduced. Some explanation of the change is necessary, and I have given a few of my own ideas as to why the alteration was made. The late Prime Minister said that a compulsory register was required -
To enablea survey to be made of the supply of the various classes of skilled persons in relation to the demands of the navy, army and air force, Government munition factories and annexes of private factories, essential industries and other industries; and (2) to establish an individual record of the skilled persons in the schedule of reserved occupations, so as to ensure -
During the last elections the Government gave the people to understand that it was definitely opposed to conscription. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), on several occasions, intimated that the Government was opposed to a compulsory military training scheme or to conscription of any kind.
– It still is opposed to conscription.
– I was in the Wannon electorate during the greater part of the last general elections and I heard the member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) challenged on numerous occasions as to where the Government stood on the conscription issue. The Government had to flood Wannon with no fewer than six Ministers, including the then Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and it held that electorate by only 1,300 votes. Speaking at Creswick, Victoria, on the 20th October last, Mr. Lyons said -
The people could take his pledge . . . conscription would never be put into force.
In case of necessity the men of Australia would not have to have conscription imposed.
To a certain extent, that promise was fulfilled. Despite the bloodhounds of the United Australia party organization, Mr. Lyons had the decency to go on with the voluntary enlistment of 75,000 militia, which the experts said was ample, and the desired number was exceeded. But, after the unfortunate death of Mr. Lyons - and it was unfortunate for the organization which he led - a slip occurred, and we are now considering this bill, which will have the whole-hearted opposition of every senator on this side.
Much has been made of the fact that we, as Australians, should tune in with England. I see nothing wrong with that, because England is our mother country. The parents of most of the members of this chamber came from the Old Land, which is dear to all of us. Some people may think that that is not Labour’s attitude, but it is, and I think that honorable senators generally will agree with me. Great Britain has a voluntary register, and surely there would be nothing wrong in the Commonwealth Government tuning in with Great Britain, as far as its defence system is concerned. Sir John Anderson, Lord Privy Seal, who had charge of the Voluntary Service Register Bill, said in the House of Commons -
It has become moi.: and more clear to me during recent weeks from letters that I have received, from the newspapers, from talks that I have had, that many of the people who have been arguing in favour of a compulsory register, have been arguing, without realizing it, in favour of a different form of compulsion altogether, in favour of compulsory service or compulsory training, or, at any rate, something going far beyond the mere putting of one’s name on a compulsory register.
That is the point of view from which the workers of Australia, are regarding the Government’s proposal. They are convinced that it will go far beyond the mere putting of one’s name on a register for purposes of record in a time of emergency.
It may be asked why we should have doubt regarding the- sincerity of the Government, but I remind the Senate that in 1931 the party opposite, with the same organization and policy, went to the electors and decried the Labour party of the day for having reduced, the invalid and old-age pension. It declared that, if it were returned to office, a complete restoration would be made. It not only did not restore the pension, .but it also introduced hideous amendments of the law which made the position of the pensioners worse than before. Is the Labour party likely to forget some of the acts of the Bruce-Page Government against the interests of the trade union movement and the workers of this country? My party remembers the actions of the former Acting Prime Minister, Sir John Latham, for his official blunders. There was the attempted deportation of Walsh and Johnson. In connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, he introduced repeal provisions that almost wrecked the system, and ultimately, knowing that he was going out of office, he supported their elimination: Senator A. J. McLachlan was a member of the Cabinet at that time. Is it likely that the Labour movement will forget either Sir John Latham or Senator A. J. McLachlan, who were 100 per cent, behind the transport regulations directed against the waterside workers? On seven occasions the Scullin Government tabled motions in the House of Representatives for the repeal of the regulations, but on each occasion, in the following week, the Senate, in which that Government was in a minority, vetoed the proposal of the Labour party, and the regulations remained in force. Ordinarily, when an industrial strike is over, honorable treatment is given to the losing side, but the party opposite said to the workers concerned : “ We shall see that you never work on the waterfront again “. The result was that 8,000 men, including 930 “ diggers “, lost their jobs’. Still this Government will not consent to the withdrawal of the regulations. Consequently, when we say that we do not trust the Government we have ample grounds for our suspicion. Sir John Anderson continued -
Compulsion has its limitations and its Very definite limitations, even in war. Compulsion :in war can do this: It can give you men who will form members of a disciplined body which will act in formation under direct orders, people who in the last war were rather unkindly described as “ cannon fodder “. It would give you them.
In this regard it is interesting to note the following comment made by LieutenantColonel Cook when speaking in Melbourne recently -
They can never train conscripts as well as they can train volunteers - and all the storming troops were volunteers. Compulsory training could be introduced in Australia by order in council, but it would not produce the rightly-trained men.
When speaking on this measure in the House of Commons, Sir John Anderson went on to say -
And what use would- compulsion be in getting people,- as we need them in civil defence for jobs requiring judgment, initiative and discretion? How can you compel a .man to go into a job and say to him when you have got him there - “Now you are to exercise your judgment “’. The agencies on which to rely in the performance of these acts must be got by voluntary effort.
In highly technical work the conscript is not the best man for the purpose. Sir John pointed out that in 1915 the British Government passed a National Register Act. Sir Thomas Whittaker, who was a supporter of the coalition government of that date, in criticizing the measure, said -
Mere registration of itself is obviously ot no use. It is a means- to an end. What is the end? Tell us frankly what you are at. Organization? Yes, by all means. Efficiency? Yes, and where? And what has this to do with it? This bill’ is- a- waste of time, a waste of energy and gome waste of money. It is diverting attention from the neal trouble, the real necessity, the real danger. It is hiding it up and misleading the people. It is not’ everyone between the ages of 15 and 65 we want to stir up. They are not the people who are at fault, but those who should guide and use them . . . Tell the people exactly what you want, where and when you want them, ask them to register themselves, and do not make them feel they are’ being trifled with. Unless this bill is. going to be used for compulsion,’ it will be of no use whatever.
Those remarks are peculiarly applicable to this measure. I should like honorable senators opposite to explain the necessity for adopting a compulsory register in Australia when a voluntary register is sufficient for Great Britain’s requirements.
-Why have they conscription in Great Britain?
– Conscription is the last subject on which the honorable senator ought to talk. However, at the moment I must deal with the question before the Chair. No explanation has yet been given as to why Cabinet discarded its original decision in favour of a voluntary register. Can it be said that when an appeal to the spirit of patriotism of the Australian people has been made in any time of crisis, the response- has not been enthusiastic and successful? Does the Government doubt the patriotism of our people? Is it seriously suggested that the average Australian would not respond to a voluntary register? History has proved the loyalty and patriotism of the Australian people. This was shown in the Great War which is the only crisis Australia has yet been called upon to face. It is said that one volunteer is worth ten conscripts. I suggest that that axiom applies to-day as it applied in the Great War, when the Australian soldier proved himself to be the best worker and best fighter. Despite this glorious record’ this Government now wishes to place the stigma of conscription on the Australian people. The Australian worker will work and fight for his country, and all he asks in return is a decent job at decent wages, and a decent standard of living. Plenty of workers are willing and eager to help in the defence of this country. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) admitted that 29,000 unemployed men were registered for work at the munitions factories. Within the last month that number has increased to 34,000. The stupidity of legislation of this kind is accentuated when so many unemployed are screaming for work. What does the Government intend to do for those men? Industrial liberty is sacred to Australia. Although our workers have been treated in a niggardly and shameful manner in the past, their loyalty is far greater than that of those who are always flaunting their so-called patriotism in terms of money. No matter how the Government attempts to camouflage its real purpose this measure is designed definitely as the first step towards the introduction of. conscription. Such action is a disgrace to Australia and an insult to our people. The Government has no’ justification whatever for suggesting that the workers are not prepared to shoulder their full share of responsibility. I admit that it is the Government’s duty to finance adequately its defence programme. We have no fault whatever to find with it on that score. The Labour party agrees that our forces must be properly equipped, and that this should be carried out on the advice of military experts. We do not agree with the establishment of the new Department of Supply and Development, because we believe that it is unnecessary. Furthermore, we know that the majority of our skilled workers are to be found in the big industrial concerns, whereas the unskilled are to be found among the unemployed, for whom this legislation will achieve nothing of value. It is for this reason that the trade unions, which consist mainly of unskilled, workers, are so strongly opposed to this legislation. In that respect those unions are in step with the political wing of the Labour party, and I, personally, make no apologies for the opposition of the trade union movement to this legislation. Those unions have certain means of securing justice for their members, just, as the interests which back this Government possess means of securing what they desire. Those interests control the press and the radio and afford financial backing to the Government party. The director of the National Union in Victoria is paid a salary of £3,000 a year, and the Government party experiences no difficulty in securing all of the advertising hoardings at 6s. each a week for use in election campaigns. A cheque to meet that expenditure is invariably forthcoming. On the other hand, the Labour party cannot afford to spend more than £3,000 for the whole of Victoria on any general elections. Is there any justice in adopting compulsion in respect of manpower but not in respect of wealth? The wealthy people and the large financial concerns continuously advocate conscription in every form. Conscription of manpower but not of wealth is their cry. The wealthy expect the young men of Australia to prepare for war, and if war should come, to give their lives. They go even further and demand that all of these men should be conscripted, and offer them in return for their services a meagre monetary pittance. As the unskilled are to be found among the unemployed, no compulsory register is necessary in order to discover that fact. Honorable senators receive numerous inquiries from such men in search of work. Recently I interviewed three men who informed me that they had no qualifications for employment in the munitions factories. They told me they had been on the land. Unfortunately, in this and every other country, the unemployed man is usually unskilled. Furthermore, he is unable, in most cases, to undertake heavy labour. Consequently, industry has no use for him and society treats him as an outcast. No register is required by the Government to inform itself of the industrial qualifications of these men, because such information is available at the various employment bureaux throughout the States. This measure is the forerunner of compulsory military training and the conscription of the people generally. Consequently the Labour party will oppose it to the utmost of its power. Speaking at a recruiting rally in Sydney in January, the Minister for Health and Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) said -
If we have the right to call upon the youth of the country, then we also have the right to ca.ll upon the wealth of the country.
Those are the words of a member of tin’s Government who, as honorable senators know, poses as a great social reformer. Indeed, so emphatic were his utterances on national insurance and child endowment that we expected he would join the Labour party. Nevertheless, he remains to-day a member of the Government party which so far has failed to budge one inch in order to effect any social reform. Although he is a member of the Ministry, it remained for a private member, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), to move for the establishment of a wealth register. One proposal accepted by the Government in that respect, however, is innocuous. Sir Frederick Stewart must realize that the proposed wealth register is sheer political humbug, because not the slightest use will be made of it. In order to be able to call upon the wealth of the country we should have the fullest details on record. Australia has paid £298,000,000 interest on loans raised in connexion with the Great War, whilst our interest and sinking fund payments’ amount to between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000 annually. In addition, Australia still owes £179,000,000 on Avar loans raised within Australia. Is there any sound reason why we should not compile information concerning the wealth of Australia? Why will not the Government make such provision in this bill? In an article published in the Daily News, Sydney, of the 3rd May last, it was pointed out that 40 large companies held . reserves amounting to £70,000,000.That money is not in use. Nevertheless, I suggest, it will not be covered by this so-called wealth register. Sir John Anderson, in supporting theproposal for a voluntary register, said -
I can see no possibility of getting a united nation behind proposals involving compulsion when there is no necessity for it. The voluntary principle is at stake in this matter. I haveshown,or tried to show, how much that principle counts for even in war. Surely we have to give it every chance.
We are always being urged by honorable senators opposite to tune in with Great Britain. Well, if it is right to do so in . respect of other matters, it must be right in respect of this measure. The trade unions of Australia, including some of the most conservative organizations, have communicated with all their members calling upon them to resist the compulsory register. Probably no measure ever introduced into this Parliament has aroused such widespread hostility as has this one.
The Labour party favours a census of wealth, but it should be a comprehensive census. The Government claims to have provided for such a census, but that provision does not satisfy the Labour party. The census which it is proposed to take would be of no value at all, and the Government does not intend that it should. The taking of a census of wealth, as proposed by the Government, could be of use only as a preliminary to a levy on wealth, but this Government would never have the courage to take such action. I do not propose to speak in mere generalities by saying that the Government represents the rich interests of the country - that does not mean anything; but it is a fact that amajority of honorable senators opposite are associated with some kind of business, and are, therefore biased in favour of the business interests.
SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [12.5]. - I entirely disagree with most of what Senator Keane has said, and particularly with his concluding remarks, in which he suggested that honorable senators on this side of the chamber represent only the wealthy interests of the country. We on this side were elected by the votes of the people, the great majority of whom are hardworking persons in circumstances varying from fair to poor. So that we may claimto represent, as well as can honorable senators opposite, the workers. We yield to no one in our desire to improve the working conditions and standard of living of the whole of the people.
I congratulate Senator Collett on the clear and informative way in which he introduced this, the first major measure, of which he has had control. I can prophesy for him a long and brilliant
Ministerial career, and Itrust that Bis success in politics will be as great, and as beneficial to Australia, as has been his association with various defence organizations in Western Australia over a long period of years.
The purpose of this measure is to enable citizens to discharge a primary duty to their country in time of emergency: It is proposed to take a register of the man-power, and the material resources upon which the nation may draw if the need should arise. It is such a simple and necessary provision that it must receive the support of all reasonable persons. The Country party, in the House of Representatives, supported the main principles of the measure, and was mainly responsible for the addition to the original bill of a provision for a census of wealth, as well as of manpower.
– The provision was inserted in an amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn).
– I said that the Country party supported it, and without that support neither this measure nor the Supply and Development Bill could ever have come before this chamber. I am the last person who would desire to take from the honorable member for Perth the credit for having moved the actual amendment which was subsequently incorporated in the bill, but I repeat that the main principles of the measure were supported by members of the Country party, without whose support the bill could not have passed through the House of Representatives. I cannot see any valid reason for the vehement opposition to this measure by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, by his colleagues in the House of Representatives, and by the trade union movement throughout Australia.. I admit the seriousness of the opposition from the trade unions, but I think that it is due to a misconception. The unionists do not understand the full scope of the Government’s proposals in their amended form, particularly those having to do with the taking of a census of wealth. Unionists have been misled by repeated and deliberate misstatements that the taking of a register of man-power will be merely a preliminary to conscription. Senator Keane himself road the statement of Mr. Lyons that, during the life of his Government, there would be no conscription, and particularly no conscription for service outside Australia.
– This may be merely the first instalment.
– It is not merely an instalment of compulsory military training, something which I would support. That system was introduced by. a Labour government, which did magnificent work many years ago at a time when I was associated with that movement in a humble capacity.
This bill is part of the defence policy forecast by Mr. Lyons, and the more we study his policy, the more we realize how serious was the loss occasioned by his death. He said -
It is the intention to press on with the completion of plans for all phases of national activity in an emergency. The aim of these is to provide for the parts that could be played by every organization, industry and citizen, either in respect of their normal work in the life of the community or by special voluntary effort.
Thus it was the desire of the Leader of the Government which existed until quite recently that a. record of national resources should be made for use in an emergency, so that every citizen might be able to play his part in the defence of Australia. It must be remembered, also, that this measure is supplementary to the Supply and Development Bill which has just been passed through this chamber. That measure provides for a survey of industrial and material resources, particularly in regard to the supply of munitions, armaments and other defence requirements.
The bill is wholly in accord with the defence policy enunciated by Mr. Curtin, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. A few months ago, there was a good deal of discussion about Labour’s defence policy, and Labour was accused, rightly I think, of favouring a policy of isolation. Mr. Curtin made a statement in rebuttal of that contention, and the statement was published widely throughout the press, including the Canberra Times, of the 19th October last.
– Did Mr. Curtin support the bill?
– He did not lead any attack against it, although members of his party were active. Mr. Curtin said -
The first plank of Labour’s defence policy is a survey of man-power and of the industrial and primary resources. It is essential that the number of men able to carry out all forms of work bc know,i
– Is there anything about compulsion there?
– No. Mr. Curtin said that it was essential that that information should be obtained. I know of no method by which it could be obtained other than that provided for by the measure which we are now considering. I think that if Mr. Curtin were the Prime Minister at the present time, a similar bill would have been brought down, otherwise the desires expressed by him could not have been realized.
– What is going to happen if the trade unions are not going to fill in the registers ?
– If we had a voluntary registration for this purpose we could no more obtain a correct record than we could if we had a voluntary registration of electors, or a voluntary supply of land or income tax details.
– We had a voluntary registration of electors for years.
– We did not get a complete record by voluntary enrolment, and so Parliament, with the support of the party opposite, insisted on compulsoryenrolment for electoral purposes. If it be necessary to have compulsory enrolment for electoral purposes, how much more necessary is it tohave the compulsory registration of both manpower and wealth? Compulsion is necessary because it is the only way in which we can obtain from the citizens full and complete records of man-power and wealth. For years we had voluntary registration for electoral purposes, and ii was a failure. In this case compulsion is just as necessary as it is for electoral purposes.
– Is a compelled elector as good as a voluntary one?
– No. I think that the Labour party can be congratulated on the amount of voluntary work it gets done after having supported the measure providing compulsorily that the electors shall register and vote. Yet the party that was in the van in insisting that those duties should be done compulsorily says now that it will not have a compulsory registration of man-power or of wealth, such as is provided for under the measure. That attitude is ridiculous. The only effective steps to obtain a true record are those which the Government is taking. I supported the Lyons Government defence policy right through, and I support th is Government’s policy in regard to defence. Defence matters are questions about which the Government’s expert professional advisers have a good deal to say. I am satisfied that this legislation is in accordance with the advice given by them to the Government and by the Government passed on to Parliament. I regret that the repeated pleas of the late Mr. Lyons for Labour’s co-operation in the federal sphere in defence matters have not been responded to by the party opposite.
– Does the honorable senator want us to be responsible for bills of this sort?
- Mr. Curtin made a statement about the need for a survey of the man-power and the industrial and primary resources of the country, and pointed out that it was essential that the number of men able to carry out all forms of work be known. I dp not know what good a survey will be if the results of the inquiries are not entered in a register, any more than a survey of the electoral strength would be unless its results were entered in a roll which might be called a register.
– The honorable senator wants to “ shanghai “ us on the question of compulsion.
– Compulsory military training was “shanghaied “ by the Labour party. A Labour government introduced compulsory military training, and it is regrettable that years later the same party under different leadership repealed that legislation.
– The honorable senator forgets the Hughes conscription camps.
– I should like the honorable senators opposite to consider the pleas made by the late Mr. Lyons for complete co-operation in defence matters. The matter of the defence of Australia should be entirely above party politics. I support the bill in that spirit, because I think the proposals in the bill are right and necessary for a real organization of Australia’s man-power and material wealth.
One objective mentioned bythe Minister in his speech was the co-operation of the Commonwealth and the States in times of peace and war. On that subject the late Mr. Lyons wrote to all the State governments of Australia, some of which have been formed by the United Australia party and the Country party, and three of which are Labour. It is to the credit of those State Labour governments that they replied assuring the Commonwealth Government and the Prime Minister of their complete co-operation in all matters relating to the defence of Australia.
SenatorCollings. - The Government is spending very little money in any of the States where there are Labour governments.
-I am willing to give the Leader of the Opposition assistance to have that position rectified. I remind the Minister that this Government cannot expect continued support from the distant administrations - which happen to be Labour - unless a fair proportion of the defence expenditure is decentralized. We want decentralization, and not expenditure in any one particular State. There should be a much greater expenditure on defence in Western Australia. Decentralization may involve a big outlay on the establishment of complete defence units for the production of munitions and aircraft in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth.
– Yet the honorable senator continues to support the Government.
– I support the Government when it is right and I oppose it when it is wrong. I opposed it yesterday when I thought it was wrong in using the “guillotine” provisions against the Opposition.
– The honorable senator opposed the Government when he knew that it was safe to vote against it.
– That is not a generous statement. I supported the principle of free speech in this chamber, without regard to the effect of my vote. The State governments liberally offered their full co-operation with the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I regret that I can see no sign of that excellent example being followed by the members of the Commonwealth Labour party in either this chamber or in the House of Representatives. The State Labour governments and parties have set an admirable example to the Federal Labour party, and I trust that even at this late stage the honorable senators opposite will see fit to agree to the pleas addressed to them.
– I do not see the necessity for the intro duction of this bill. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
There are, I believe, some who say this is a form of industrial conscription - that it is proposed to do something that is foreign to the spirit of democracy and abhorrent to Australians.
That statement is quite correct. We members of the Labour party believe that the introduction of this measure is a move to bring about, not only industrial conscription, but also military conscription. This is the thin end of the wedge, and the final punch will be given when troops are needed for service overseas.
– Does the honorable senator believe in compulsory military training?
– I fought it at the State Labour Conference held in Tasmania. I was a delegate to that conference, having been appointed in the belief that I would stand up to any battle. When a lawyer is employed to plead a case, those engaging him do not choose one who will squib. So I attended the Interstate Labour Conference as the representative of the people who had elected me to express their wishes.
– I suppose that applies to the present speech.
– This speech will be consistent with the attitude that I adopted before ‘the State Labour Conference took place in Canberra. If the honorable senator follows me on this occasion and also my speeches in Tasmania, he will find that what I am saying is correct. Senator McBride stated that no state of emergency exists. If that be so why is there any necessity for the introduction of this bill? If there is a state of emergency looming up why does the Government not give us details? If there are any potential enemies likely to invade Australia why does . the Government not tell us who they are? I have said, and I repeat, that we can forget, for the next ten years, any idea of a foreign power landing an army to invade Australia. I do not say that we should not be prepared to meet any attacks that might be made by warships.
-The honorable senator says, “Do nothing”.
– I said that so far as a foreign power landing to take Australia is concerned, we can forget our fears of such an invasion. Should Great Britain be involved in war we shall be liable to attack from bombs hurled from the air or from shells fired from big war vessels. That would not be an invasion of Australia by an army.
– The only war in which we are likely to be involved, is one into which the Government will talk us.
– In view of the extraordinary success of the militia voluntary recruiting system, the only purpose of this bill is to camouflage the spending of money in assisting private manufacturers of this country, and to provide employment for those officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who were to have been engaged on the abandoned national insurance scheme. Positions must be found for these people somewhere. Tip to the present, the national insurance scheme has cost the country 6162,026. In respect of a census of manpower only, the national register is estimated to cost £40,000. Now that a census of wealth has been added, the cost will be considerably more, so it may be assumed that, together, the national insurance scheme and the national registration scheme will cost the country something in excess of £200,000. And for what? The national register will be just as big a hoax as the national insurance scheme. For what purpose is the national register designed ? The Commonwealth electoral rolls already provide a list of all people over the age of 21 years so that this measure will supply additional information only in respect of boys between the ages of IS and 21 years - the youth of Australia. As has been stated in the House of Representatives, this legislation is designed to provide the Government with an accurate record of all boys between those ages, so that should an emergency arise, the Government would know exactly where to put its hands on them. When the Government is ready to bring in conscription, those boys will be compelled to fight in defence of this country, or of some ‘European country; yet they are not given a vote for the election of representatives, to this Parliament.
– To what part of the bill is the honorable senator referring?
– I am referring’ to clauses 22 and 23.
– Then why all this talk of conscription ?
– I am dealing with the registration of youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years. It has been conclusively demonstrated that all the man-power necessary for the defence of this country could be obtained by voluntary means. Obviously, the Government does not want volunteers, because to-day thousands are offering their services to the country and are being rejected. Why is a. compulsory national register essential ? The Government claims ‘ that it wants to know what work men would be able to perform should the necessity to defend the country arise. But if the Government will call for applications for a job in the Commonwealth munition factories, it will get a response from almost every skilled tradesman in Australia. Workers are only too anxious to obtain jobs in any branch of the Commonwealth Government Service, because they know that conditions are good and that the positions are more permanent, than they are outside the Service. If, instead of resorting to compulsion, the Government were compiling a voluntary national register of man-power, and. tradesmen were being asked to state what work they were capable of doing, I am confident that there would be a registration of 95 per cent, of Australian workers. With regard to the voluntary system of recruiting for the militia, I state definitely that there are many places throughout Australia from which applications have been made for the establishment of a militia unit, but the Government has refused to grant them. Yet the Government turns round and claims that there is necessity for a compulsory national register so that men capable of doing essential defence work may be found in time of emergency. All that this bill sets out to do with regard to the registration of man-power could be accomplished without compulsion.
– What does experience show in that connexion?
– As I have just said, experience has shown that sufficient man-power has always been forthcoming voluntarily.
– Does the honorable senator not know that a voluntary register was tried ?
– I am not aware of that. Let us examine just what this legislation implies with regard to conscription. The Government wants to know exactly what people are studying in the universities for the various professions. It is well known that the majority of university students are from the wealthy sections of the community, because the working people of Australia are not in ‘a position to give their boys a university education.
– There is a free university in Western Australia.
– That is only one State. Does that free university provide board and books without charge?
– It is probably a free education in the same way as high school education in New South Wales is supposed to be. free. The bill has been so designed that the Government will know exactly where the sons of wealthy people are located and be able to exempt them from service.
– Rubbish !
– The questionnaire provided by this legislation will ask a nian to state for how long he has been unemployed. Can the Government be serious in asking such a question?
– Is the honorable senator serious ?
– - Of course 1” am serious. I am serious every time I speak in this chamber. Honorable senators opposite claimed that I was not serious in certain statements I made on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate recently, but I can prove by the production of medical certificates that I was serious.
The bill provides that should a youth fail to register within 30 days of becoming 18 years of age, or should he happen to make a false statement on his registration card, he will be liable to a fine of £50, or three months imprisonment, or both. Under our electoral laws, however, should an adult make a mistake, or fail to notify a change of address, he may be fined a maximum of £2. Why should that discrimination exist? Whyshould hardship, amounting to military law, be placed upon youths between IS and 21 years of age whilst adults are allowed to go practically scot-free?
– This bill treats every one alike.
– The object of the bill is to obtain a true detailed record of youths between the ages of 18 years and 21 years. These people are obliged, under the threat of severe penalties, to notify any change of their address. Changes of address among the adult population can, of course, be obtained from the electoral roll, but whereas failure to notify change of address under the doctoral laws of the Commonwealth might result in a maximum fine of only £2, this bill provides that these youths may be fined £50 for a similar offence.
– The honorable senator’s logic and reasoning are bad.
– Honorable senators on the Government side complain that we are thin-skinned, but, obviously, it does not take many facts to get under their skin. I do not think that Senator Johnston was quite fair when he said that, at the last general elections, the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) pledged himself to the introduction of a compulsory national register. Although the political creed of the right honorable gentleman was different from my own, 1 give him credit for having given an assurance to the whole of Australia at the last general elections that he would not stand for compulsory “military training. Yet this national register is the forerunner of compulsory military training. By bringing the late Prime Minister down to his own level on this issue, Senator Johnston was not doing justice to the reputation of the dead. Senator Johnston also said that it would be a simple matter to take a census of man-power and of wealth, but he omitted to tell the Senate what was implied by a census of wealth. In my opinion, the questionnaire in regard to wealth omits several items of importance. There is no mention, for instance, of assurance policies, which certainly are wealth.
– Only in respect of their surrender value.
– If assurance policies are not regarded as wealth, why are invalid and old-age pensioners who hold such policies penalized in regard to their pensions? Assurance policies definitely are wealth to the extent of their surrender values.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 until 2.15 p.m.
– Some honorable senators opposite contend that under this measure assurance policies should not be regarded as property. The value of all life policies is excluded from the questionnaire, but in order to prove that such policies should be regarded as property I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following paragraph in a letter written by the Deputy Commissioner of Invalid and Old-age Pensions and Maternity Allowances, Hobart -
The Invalid and Old-Age Pension Act and Regulations provide that the surrender value of a life assurance policy must be regarded as property.
The letter also gives the surrender value, of a policy in -the claim under consideration as £118. That amount is to be treated by the Deputy Commissioner . in the same way as if the claimant had £11S in the bank. It is difficult to understand why the Government has excluded the surrender value of assurance policies from, the questionnaire, as there are thousands of men who invest in assurance policies with the object of collecting the surrender value. During their currency they always have a surrender value which is equivalent to cash in the bank. There does not appear to be any valid reason why this omission, which will benefit only the wealthy section of the community, should be permitted.
– The Government is aware of that fact.
– That is exactly why insurance policies have been omitted. I ask Senator Johnston what the farmers and other primary producers will think when they are confronted with the problems involved in completing the questionnaire. They have considerable difficulty in completing their income tax returns to the satisfaction of the Taxation Department, but they will now have to complete this questionnaire or be subject to a heavy penalty or even imprisonment. . This is a further responsibility which will embarrass them unduly. The whole registration system provided for in this bill is a huge blunder, similar to the national health and pensions insurance scheme, which the Government is now compelled to shelve. At the next general election, honorable senators opposite will have a good deal to explain to the electors; that applies particularly to the members of the Country party, of which Senator Johnston is a member. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) stated in the House of Representatives that in the event of an invasion of Australia all industrial awards would be scrapped and Australia would be under martial law. If the Government be given too much power, it will be exercised to the detriment of the people. If a registration card should be lost in transit, as sometimes happens with ordinary mail matter, the onus of proving that it has been despatched to the Commonwealth Statistician will rest upon the individual.
– Where would the honorable senator place the onus.
– Should a card * not reach its destination, and the person who despatched it is unable to prove to the satisfaction of the authorities that it was duly forwarded, he will be liable to a penalty of £50 or gaol or both.
– That is the maximum and not the minimum penalty.
– If this measure is administered by the present Government the maximum penalty may be imposed. If an employee is compelled to supply the name of his employer why should not employers be compelled to give the names of all their employees ? All the embarrassment is being placed upon the employees and very little upon the employers. According to the secondreading speech of the Minister, 95 per cent, of the responsibility involved is placed upon the industrial section, and only 5 per cent, upon employers or those possessing wealth.
– That is the correct proportion.
– Of course it is, according to the Government, which believes that only the workers should shoulder any responsibility. The measure also provides for an objectionable form of compulsion which will doubtless be followed by the conscription of our manpower for defence purposes. Many honorable senators opposite who support a policy of compulsory military training have referred to the defence policy adopted by the Tasmanian Labour party. For their information, I direct attention to paragraph c of rule 5 adopted at the Hobart conference, which reads -
In the event of the voluntary response not being entirely adequate, compulsory military and national service in relation to any individual whosoever can in any capacity lie .used to repel such invasions-.
Compulsory training and national service would be introduced only in the event of a voluntary system failing. The paragraph continues -
But we desire to make it clear beyond all doubt that our support of compulsory national service is conditional on prior legislation for the mobilization of wealth and industry.
Such a policy would not have the support of ‘honorable senators opposite, because they do not believe in the mobilization of wealth and industry before the compulsory registration of employees. Provision for a census of wealth was not incorporated in this measure until it was brought forward by a private member, and was supported by the Labour party in the House of Representatives. The objects of this bill are to create war hysteria in the minds of the people, to cover up such blunders of the present Government as the national health and insurance scheme and its assistance to private manufacturing industries in the armaments race. Otherwise, it is the thin edge of the wedge of conscription. Tn the event of war overseas, the Government would know exactly where to obtain conscripts for overseas service.
– I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane), not on what he said, but on the manner in which he said it. When he was speaking I was reminded of the ne’er-do-well who, when unable to obtain employment, served as a missionary in the mandated territory of New Guinea. Living far removed from other white persons, he preached only to the natives, and in the end he converted himself. The honorable senator has for so long been touring the country and endeavouring to make the people believe that conscription is a part of the policy of this Government that in the end he believes that it actually is. The honorable senator poses as an opponent of conscription, and if his speech was as sincere as it seemed, it would have something to commend it. This measure was foreshadowed some time ago by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons).
– About nine weeks ago.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No; in September of last year. It was also mentioned by the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) in introducing a. bill in December last. On that occasion the Minister mentioned that, in order to implement the Government’s defence policy, the Government- would endeavour to bring about Commonwealth and State co-operation, industrial mobilization’, the regulation and control of primary industries, and the organization of man-power and women’s voluntary effort. Commonwealth and State cooperation was discussed at a conference of Common wen 1th and State Ministers in March last, when State Ministers representing different political parties said that they were prepared to give their wholehearted support to the Commonwealth in the interests of the defence of Australia. In the organization of primary industries, the Department of Commerce is doing excellent work. Industrial mobilization of secondary industries was embodied largely in a measure which was recently before the Senate. I was pleased to hear the second-reading speeches of honorable senators opposite on that measure, but I was very much surprised at the attitude they adopted when it was in committee. The fourth point mentioned by the Minister for Defence was in relation to the organization of manpower and women’s voluntary effort. The women in all States have responded admirably to the appeal. The objective of the bill now before the Senate is to prepare a register of the man-power of this country. When we have achieved the four objectives outlined by the Minister for Defence, I do not, think for a moment that we shall have finished the job, but at least we shall have established the groundwork upon which to build the defences of this country. This bill simply aims at a stocktaking of our resources not only in industry but also in man-power.
– And wealth.
– That is so. On contemplating any new venture a private individual would first summarize the whole position in order to ascertain what capital would be required to finance it and what labour would be needed to operate it. He would explore every avenue so that the risk of failure would be reduced to a minimum. If that caution is necessary in our private affairs, how much more is it necessary in respect of a matter which concerns the welfare of the- nation? The present method of approaching this all-important subject of defence is quite new so far as this nation is concerned. Australia’s contribution to the Allied forces during the World War of 1914-18 was magnificent. Our troops distinguished themselves on the field of battle and earned the respect, not only of our allies, but also of our adversaries. When they were sent overseas, they became part of the great army of the British Empire whose efforts were directed by the British War Office. On the battlefields they were led practically all the time by veteran soldiers who had previously been under fire. To-day, we are not preparing to send a contingent overseas to assist the Mother Country, but we are staging a. full-dress rehearsal for the defence of this country on land, on the sea, and in the skies. This is an altogether new departure in defence preparations, and to render our efforts worth while, the first thing necessary is to have a stocktaking such as is contemplated in this bill. Some time ago we had a visit from the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Bruce, who issued an invitation to all members of the Commonwealth Parliament to meet him in the capital cities and hear his views on the international situation. I only regret that that wonderful gesture on the part of Mr. Bruce was not fully availed of by members of the Parliament.
– Unfortunately Mr. Bruce did not visit Western Australia.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN While he was in South Australia his invitation was accepted by members of all parties represented in this Parliament. Mr. Bruce was just as anxious to impart information to the members of one party as to members of another. Senator Amour has said that the real issues of the international situation are shrouded in secrecy. There was no secrecy about Mr. Bruce’s utterances. He frankly answered every question asked of him. If the honorable senator had taken advantage of the opportunity to meet Mr. Bruce, he would probably have changed his opinion of him. Mr. Bruce gave us the benefit of deductions drawn not only from conversations with prominent men in European countries, and in the United States of America, but also fromthe information he gained as President of the Council of the League of Nations. He emphasized that, in the event of war on a large scale in Europe, Australia would have to rely on its own defence preparations for three or perhaps, six months. Therefore, it behoves us to make adequate arrangements for our defence.
– He was also satisfied that we would not have to send troops
– That is so.
– He said also that he could not see how any country could invade Australia while’ there was a war in Europe.
– He also said that Germany had no designs on New Guinea. The honorable senator tells us the part of the story that suits him and leaves out all that does not suit him.
– Mr. Bruce said, “Forget New Guinea; it is not in the scheme of things.”
– Honorable senators seem to be so well aware of what Mr. Bruce said that I shall leave it to them to fill in any gaps in my summary of what he said.
Under this bill it is proposed to set up a National Registration Board consisting of a representative of the Defence Department, a representative of the Supply and Development Department, the Commonwealth Statistician, and an executive officer. What are to be the duties of these gentlemen? I understand that a register of man-power is to be recorded on a card index system. Those required to answer the questionnaire will have to supply full particulars regarding their occupations and capabilities.
– Or they will not, as the case may be.
– The honorable senator is not advising them not to, I hope?
– They will be compelled to do so, if the Government has its way.
– They are not compelled to do so to-day, but when this bill is assented to next week, the giving of this information will be made compulsory. I take it that the purpose of the register is to enable skilled men to be placed in positions which they are best fitted to occupy at a time of national emergency. Is it intended that should one of the defence annexes require 10, 50 or 100 men, application must be made fortheir services to the National Registration Board? What useful service could the board serve in that regard ? It is obvious that the men required would have to be selected by those who understand the work which they will be called upon to perform. Only the foremen and those in control of the factories could say whether or not a man was competent to do the work required of him. Therefore, I fail to see what important work the members of the National Registration Board will perform.
– Other than draw their fees.
– I shall deal with that. During the discussion of a bill recently passed by this Senate, a great deal was said about, methods of costing to be applied for the regulation of profits. In my opinion the establishment of a costing department is very necessary. Everything inrelation to the defence of this country, even to the foes paid by those occupying high posi tions in various organizations set up by the Defence Department, should come within the ambit of the inquiry as to costs. I shall reduce my argument to a minimum by saying that I would rather employ ten men at £4 a week than one man at £2,000 a year. Some considerable time ago the -Prime Minister issued an invitation to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to nominate representatives on an advisory panel on matters of this description. I think that a panel composed of members of that body would be of immense value in the administration of the provisions of this bill.
– The honorable senator would like to have them sponsoring it; he has no hope.
– I have no doubt that a large number of persons associated with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions could give invaluable assistance. . If we are to make a success of this measure, we must have behind it the best brains in the country. Some of those brains are in the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
– The best brains are not behind the bill at the present time.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– I hope that the invitation extended to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions will be accepted.
Provision has also been made in the bill for a register of wealth. I take no exception to such a register, but at the same time I fail to see the necessity for it. The whole of the information which a register of wealth will disclose is already available in the Taxation Department. I realize that it cannot be made public by that department because the relations between individual taxpayers and the department are kept secret.
– Though the honorable senator objects to the inclusion of provision for a wealth register in the bill, he knows that it will not be used, and that, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) has said, it is mere camouflage to induce the public to accept the bill.
-I mentioned at the outset of my remarks that the whole of the speech of the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition was camouflage. During the last war, the Excess Profits Tax Act and the Wartime Profits Tax Act were imposed to control the aggregation of wealth by individuals.
– The wealthy interests are not so patriotic now when the Government is asking them to subscribe to loans.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the advantage derived by capitalists from their investments in war loans. It is a fact that a good number of capitalists sat at home and shared in the profiteering. They did nothing other than that. They did not fight. But there are other capitalists who did fight. Looking around this chamber, I see Senator Brand, Senator Cooper and Senator Collett. They fought.
– The honorable senator did not mention comrade Dein.
– Nor comradeFraser.
– I did my bit.
– In a sheltered position
– Order !
SenatorFraser. - I volunteered in 1915. That is more than the honorable senator did.
– The honorable senator was nowhere near the bullets.
– Senators Dein and Eraser are disorderly. They must not continue to interject after they have been called to order.
– A good deal is said about the part played by capitalists in the last war. Not for a moment would I try to refute the statement that there was profiteering; I admit, that there was profiteering, but it was not all on one side. Probably some of those capitalists about whom we hear so much from the Opposition side of the chamber did fairly well out of the war, but in England there were men working in the munitions factories at £10 or £12 a week, who struck for higher wages for manufacturing munitions for the1s. a day men in the trenches. Was that not profiteering?
– It was prevention of profiteering by the employers.
– The men struck for higher wages and thereby endangered the lives of the men in the trenches who were earning only1s. a day.
– We heard these bedtime stories from 1914 to 1918.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.This is not a bedtime story; it is an absolute fact. I do not judge the whole of those people who worked in munitions factories by the few who went on strike, and I ask honorable senators opposite not to judge capitalists generally by the misdeeds of the few. Not all capitalists were profiteers. Some men in each section may have done certain wrongs, but we should not assess the patriotism of both sections by the exploiting tactics of a minority in each.
With regard to the investment of money in war loans and the derivation therefrom of immense profits, I do not know whether honorable senators are aware of the fact that in Australia there are only 220,240 taxpayers.
– Direct taxpayers. What about indirect taxpayers?
– I am talking about income tax. It is in that field that we find our capitalists. During the war we raised £213,490,810 in war loans, and, although even to-day we have only 220,240 payers of income tax, 742,747 people subscribed to those loans. The interest therefore does not all go to big capitalists. The population of Australia in 1918 was approximately 5.000,000, of whom about 750,000 persons subscribed to the war loans. In the 5,000,000 there would be about 2,000,000 adults. Therefore, practically one in every three of the adult population of Australia profited from investments in war loans. Not all of them are capitalists.
I was somewhat doubtful regarding the passage of this bill, but I was heartened very considerably in hearing honorable senators opposite reiterate the statement that they are in favour of adequate defence for Australia. At some time or the other all honorable senators, I think, have expressed themselves as being in favour of an adequate policy of defence for Australia. I thought that I had a fair knowledge of the meaning of the word “ adequate “, but in order to make sure I referred to the dictionary, which gives the meanings of the word as (1) “ to make equal to “ ; (2) “ commensurate with a requirement or occasion”; (3) “fully sufficient for a purpose”; (4) “ proportionate to a specific end “. Honorable senators “must agree that if words mean anything, “ adequate “ is most comprehensive and, applied to defence, the definition “ to make equal to “ means to make our defence equal to the force of a possible aggressor. In regard to the second meaning, “ commensurate with a requirement or occasion “, the requirement and the occasion are now here. All nations of the world are in a tense state of anxiety as to what may happen. The third meaning is “ fully sufficient for a purpose “. That purpose is to protect our citizens and maintain this country for the people who have developed it. The fourth meaning is “ proportionate to a specific end “. To be proportionate in this instance is to neglect no detail, however insignificant it may be or appear to be, not only in raising an army, creating munitions and war machines, but also, as nearly as possible, in making perfect the organization of our strength. This bill is a means to that end, and, if honorable senators are in favour of adequate defence for Australia, they will support the measure.
– This bill, like the Supply and Development Bill, has its origin, in my judgment; not in what the Government would have us believe, namely, the need fora national register for defence purposes, but in, the economy peculiar not only to Australia, but also to other countries - unlimited profits for capitalists and wartime financiers. Let us look at the economic background to see if that deduction is justified. Since 1932, practically every attempt to float a loan by Commonwealth Governments has resulted in undersubscription. We have also an annual interest bill of £45,500,000. I can quite conceive of those behind the scenes who are responsible for the bill reviewing the position. I can imagine them saying “ We cannot float loans; they are undersubscribed. We have an increasing interest bill and we have also a stationary or diminishing population”. I propose to cite some figures from a statement by the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria, Mr. Hogan, which was reported in the Age of the 12th June. He said that whereas in 1930, the attendance of children at Victorian state primary schools was 228,756, the number in 1937 dropped to 209,000, and last year there was a further decline of 9,060, so that to-day there are fewer than 200,000 children attending at Victorian primary schools. Thus the economic background of the bill is an increasing annual interest bill, loans failing, and a diminishing population. I can quite imagine the persons behind the scenes asking themselves, “What are we going to do in these circumstances The only answer that I can conceive of them giving is, “ Something must be done to maintain the margin and volume of profits. How can it be done ? It must be done by reducing the status of the workers. How can that be done? As it has always been done in the past, by more coercive legislation “.
– The honorable senator must have had a bad dream last night.
– I am giving to the Senate some of the facts, and I should like the honorable senator to take cognisance of them. Profits from loans are regulated, but profits from industry are practically limited only by the extent to which workers can be coerced. As I have pointed out previously, the interest paid on war loans up to date is £297,000,000. Only £147,000,000 has been expended in the provision of war pensions. Money-lenders and financiers and other capitalists have received about £150,000,000 more than the invalided soldiers and their dependants. So when I say that this bill has its origin in the economy based on the principle of unlimited profits for capitalists and wartime financiers I am not exaggerating.
– Oh !
– The bill speak? for itself. Figures speak for themselves. I was careful to obtain the figures from the Minister. In my judgment the bill is a means to an end, and that end is a more despotic form of industrial and military conscription. In parenthesis, I wish to refer to a statement made by the Minister in his second-reading speech -
There are, I believe, some who say that this is a form of industrial conscription - that it is proposed to do something that is foreign to the spirit of democracy and abhorrent to Australians. I cannot believe that any one would say such a thing seriously.
I assure the Minister that I am saying seriously that to-day we have industrial conscription. I challenge the honorable gentleman to dispute that. Thousands of young men and young women in this country are denied the right to earn a decent livelihood and access to many of the things of life to which they are entitled. They are industrial conscripts. They have either to submit to that form of conscription, or be treated as the law prescribes they shall be treated. If they proceed to help themselves, without the authority of those who own the things which they need, they can be placed in gaol. That is industrial con<scription with a vengeance. It operates with respect to the thousands of persons in our midst who are compelled to seek sustenance in order to exist. It is no exaggeration to say that industrial conscription does exist. The only difference between industrial conscription and military conscription is that, under industrial conscription as it obtains to-day, the workers have the right to bargain for better treatment and to refuse to render service, whereas, under military conscription, they are deprived of the right either to refuse to work or to bargain for better treatment. Military conscription lays it down that a man who does not conform to the law can be dealt with in various ways prescribed by law; he may be gaoled, or, in extreme cases, placed against a wall and shot.
– As in this bill.
– Exactly ! We view the bill not just as it appears, but in the light of existing circumstances and the motives of those who introduced it. Honorable senators will recollect that before this bill was spoken of seriously, towards the end of last year, there was a lot of talk about conscription and compulsory military training. Numbers of members of the House of Representatives advocated at every opportunity compulsory military training. Suddenly, however, they ceased to speak in that strain; there was a dead silence on the subject. Now they urge the need for a department of supply and development and a bill to establish it, and an other bill to establish a national register. They have realized that they are more likely to achieve their desire by adopting means not so likely to arouse the antagonism of their potential victims.
– That is what the honorable senator is doing per contra.
– I am merely stating the facts.
– The honorable senator is merely stating his own distorted opinions.
– I come now to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Government would not. introduce conscription for overseas service. I give to the Prime Minister no credit for that statement, for he was only making a virtue of necessity. He probably had had a private talk with the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, and learned from that gentleman that, in the event of another war, the Empire generally would not expect Australia to send troops overseas. Now the Prime Minister claims credit for a policy of no conscription for overseas service. But when challenged to say whether or not he favoured conscription for service in Australia, he said, in effect, that he would meet that hurdle when he came to it. He is not prepared to give an assurance in that connexion.
– If he gave an assurance, would the honorable senator accept it?
– I am prepared to accept in good faith the statements of most men, unless I know that they are not to be trusted. I shall show that many who pledge their word in politics cannot be believed; their word cannot be relied on. So far as I know, the present Prime Minister has kept his word up to date, and I trust that he will continue to do so; but the fact that he refused to give that assurance convinces me that he is not prepared to take the same risk as is another honorable gentleman whom I shall name presently.
Under this bill it will be possible to establish in Australia - and probably the attempt will be made - labour camps similar to those in Germany, because the economic conditions under which we are operating are practically the same as in Germany. If there be any difference, it is a difference of degree rather than of kind. In Germany, the. wages of the workers are based on the cost of subsistence. The same is true of Australia. The less the workers in Germany can be induced to accept, the less they receive. That is the position in Australia also, the only difference being that the Australian worker has not yet been driven down to the same low level of subsistence as obtains in Germany. But the attempt will be made. It will be made when the pressure of unemployment becomes greater, and when the resentment of the workers against the conditions forced upon them increases. If the workers of Australia can be misled to the same extent as has happened in Germany, Italy and some other European countries, including England, they will get the same treatment as is meted out to their fellow-workers in those countries.
– The honorable senator is doing his best to mislead them.
– I am not. I am revealing the hypocrisy associated with this measure, and I think that I shall succeed to such a degree that shortly honorable senators now sitting on the Government benches will be on this side of the chamber. Senator Keane pertinently risked where the money for defence is to come from. The answer from the sponsors of this bill is that it is to come, as far as is humanly possible, out of the hides of the workers.
– No basic wage worker pays Commonwealth income tax.
– No, and there is no good reason why he should. Viewed in the light of circumstances, this bill points in the direction that I have indicated. Some days ago the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) drew attention to the fact that the Prime Minister had said that the only way in which this country could be governed effectively was by setting up a sort of dictatorship by six persons.
– He said nothing of the kind.
– Probably he had in mind that he himself would be the director of that dictatorship. I point out that effect has already been given to that desire, for an advisory panel on industrial organization, consisting of men who are well-known for the success ful manner in which they have exploited the workers of this country, has been” appointed. I refer to Mr. Essington Lewis, Sir Colin Eraser, Sir Alexander Stewart, M. Eady, Esq., the Honorable F. P. Kneeshaw, O.B.E., M.L.C., who will be associated with the Prime Minister himself.We are told that those gentlemen are prepared to work without fee. I am not at all astonished, for the fee which they would receive would be infinitesimal compared with what they can expect when the spoils are divided and dividends declared.
In this bill, as in a previous measure which I am not permitted to discuss, we find various clauses empowering the Governor-General to do almost anything that the Government may desire him to do. He is to be given practically a free hand. That means that the Government will have a free hand. I should not be astonished to find another bill introduced to provide that men may be shot without trial. The actions of the Government are leading to a dictatorship similar to that ofwhich the Prime Minister spoke so highly after his return from Germany.
I cannot help comparing the war financiers of to-day and their objectives with the slave-owners of old. I say emphatically that the war financiers of today, and their political henchmen, constitute a greater menace to society than the slave-owners of old ever did. It is always interesting to review matters in the light of experience. In 1915 a measure similar to that before us was being advocated in England. I have here a copy of the English Economist of the 5th June, 1915. That publication is controlled in the interests, not of Labour, but of those holding anti-Labour views. In the issue mentioned, the following appeared : -
At such moments as this in the national life, things vital are too readily sacrificed to speculative chances of doing a little more harm than you would otherwise do to your enemy. And the danger is all the greater because of the well-known methods which have been adopted with such success in the recent past, of “ tuning “ the press in advance. Newspaper proprietors and editors are a very small class, and with the help of the great newspaper trusts, the appearance, though not the reality, of public opinion can be manufactured by a crafty demagogue.
Thus the catchword of. national service or national organization is being used to cover ii multitude of sins, or, rather, of harmful proposals. It appeals especially to wellmeaning people who have been accustomed to do nothing and want to do something; still more to those who want to force others into spadework, and to “ teach a lesson to the working classes “. But if it be examined, it will be found to mean, like most other war emergency headlines, just nothing at all. The “ national “ register of industry recommended by Lord Milner and the bishops is merely a dodge for introducing compulsion in the Army and a w,11 t-martial regime in workshops as a sub.situte for voluntary work at properly paid rates. In some factories, where the managers arc incompetent and are unable to get the best work out of their hands (and especially out of the new hands who have been called in to fill the places of men gone to the front), there is the masters’ demand for compulsion. But employers who know the character of English workpeople and of the trade unions know that the dangers of compulsion are very much greater than the difficulties which compulsion and bureaucratic interference are supposed to ‘be going to cure.
A compulsory national register is suggested by those who want to draft all the young men of the country from productive industries into the Army or into the manufacure of munitions. That will involve a new army of public officials, in comparison with which the army of land valuers and the army of incometax collectors will look very small. It will also mean n rapid deterioration of public finance.
If the natural organization of trade, upon which the astounding commercial wealth and manufacturing’ and shipping supremacy of Great Britain has been built up, is a mistake, and if the individual freedom of Great Britain, which distinguishes us from all the nations of the Continent, is also a mistake in peace and in war, then wc can very well understand the proposal for a government inquisition in the form of a compulsory national register. By this means such voluntary organizations as the trade unions might be dealt n deadly blow and instead of strikes and lock-outs, when masters and men fall out we shall have class movements and revolutionary movements by armed organizations.
It is noticeable that the present cry for a national organization proceeds mainly from ecclesiastics and academic persons who contribute to the Harmsworth Trust, and also from journalists and newspaper proprietors in close touch with the Government. The late Government was discredited by various misfortunes and mistakes, and the new Government is casting about for some strong measure, or rather, some measure which will look strong - and appeal to feeble-minded people who are feeling flurried and cannot stand the east winds, of adversity.
The Government of the Commonwealth is anxious to take up what appears to be a strong stand in a time of national emergency, in order to distract tie attention of the people from the fact that it is not ready to do anything worth while. I was asked by interjection if I would accept an assurance given by th Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and I said that I would direct attention to promises given by others who had occupied the position of Prime Minister and had broken their promises almost immediately they had been made. In 1915, when the present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, and when the War Census Bill was under discussion, he gave an assurance that- the introduction of conscription was not contemplated. He remarked, “I do not believe that conscription is necessary”. Yet he was foremost in the subsequent effort, to make conscription the law of the land. Mr. Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, gave an undertaking that his Government would not introduce conscription during the life of the present Parliament, but his promise was broken within a few days.
– But the people of England are behind him.
– That remains to be seen. The fact is that he broke his pledged word. On the 4th May last, speaking in the House of Commons, he attempted to justify the introduction of conscription. According to the Hansard report, he said, referring to conscription-
Therefore, during the initial period of six months during which they will be undergoing their training, they will receive ls. per day, without any addition for rank or trade. That ls. will not be subject to tiny stoppages. (Laughter.) Well, everybody knows that there are stoppages from the pay of those who are serving in the regular and auxiliary forces, so I thought it necessary to say that there would be no stoppages. … In the case of allowances to dependants, which, if they were granted, would be at the rate of 17s. a week for total dependancy, and 12s. a week for partial dependancy, it is clear that these should only be paid where the need for them was established.
In Great Britain there was first a demand, and then legislation, for a voluntary register. Then, an undertaking was given that conscription would not be introduced, but finally it was imposed. In Australia, we notice a similar sequence of events. First. a demand was made for compulsory military training, which is conscription. Then a proposal was put forward for voluntary national registration, and nowwe have a bill to impose compulsory national registration. Ultimately, no doubt, an attempt will be made to introduce conscription, solely because the Government cannot continue to meet its enormous interest bills and allow wartime profits to be made, unless the workers be reduced to the lowest level of subsistence. That seems to be the process through which we are passing. If the Government be sincere, what is there to prevent it from training prospective soldiers under conditions similar to those under which men are trained for the police force, in which they receive the highest rates of pay and the best working conditions obtainable? Why not train 9,000 or 10,000 under such conditions for a given period, and subsequently train similar batches? If this were profitable to the Government, no doubt it would be done; but, of course, it would not be profitable, and, therefore, will not be done. The object of the Government is to adopt the cheapest possible method of training, so th at interest and profits may be collected as visual.
– Compulsory trade unionism is all. that the honorable senator understands !
– That can be justified, because it is a necessary corrective of industrial conscription. The following report appeared in the Melbourne
Age of the 25th March last: -
Distinct contrast with the views of other military experts on the question of conscription is provided by the military correspondent of The Times, Captain Liddell Hart, in a letter to that newspaper.
Captain Hart suggests objections first on practical grounds. Ultimate efficiency, he contends, is impaired, not assisted by enlisting men before adequate equipment with which to train them has been provided. The keenness of many Territorial recruits is suffering from lack of equipment. A still more difficult problem, he claims, is the provision of efficient instructors. “ On the grounds of the spiritual risks,” he continues, “ we are threatened by nations where compulsion is an end in itself - a principle of life. Compulsion under the pressure of their challenge would be a definite surrender of our own vital principles -an admission of spiritual defeat.
Compulsion is fundamentally incompatible with the claim for defending the principle of individual freedom.
It is easier to adopt than to shake it off. There would be no such prospect of immediate release, as at the end of the Great War.
Once compulsion is adopted, it will be hard to resist the extension of the principle to other aspects of individual life. We ought to think ahead before taking a step towards totalitarianism.”
Those comments were made by the military correspondent of the Times - a man who is recognized as an authority in Great Britain. The bill provides for exactly the conditions against which he warned the people of England. Opposition to conscription by Sir Ian Hamilton was reported in the Melbourne Argus of the 16th May last -
Sir Ian Hamilton
Opposition to conscription was expressed to-day by General Sir Ian Hamilton, who commanded the British Mediterranean Force at Gallipoli in the early stages of the campaign.
Addressing a meeting of veterans of the South African War, he said : “ It is nonsense to say that people are too old to be shot. But they may easily be too young. “ That is what we feel when a lot of elderly men and women impose compulsory service on boys.”
It is probable that members of the House of Commons will force the Government to reconsider its decision to pay conscription men 1s. a day.
When the Supplementary Estimate for the Military Training Bill is being discussed on Wednesday, they intend to urge that the daily rate of pay be fixed at 2s.
The Government, it is believed, will compromise by fixing it at1s. 6d.
The point that Sir Ian Hamilton makes is that people may easily be too young to be shot. He said -
That is what we feel when a lot of elderly men and women impose compulsory service on boys.
That is what is happening in this Parliament. Elderly men are proposing to impose compulsion on boys of eighteen years of age who have no vote. Those members intend to penalize the lads, and to haul them before the courts, jail them and brand them as criminals if they do not conform to the law.
– The Government excels in that direction when it is dealing with children. It is a cowardly attitude for men to take towards youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years who may not be acquainted with the law providing that persons who neglect to notify the department of a change of address may be fined any amount up to £50 or imprisoned for three months. A questionnaire is to be sent out under this legislation. In 1915 also, when the war census was taken, a questionnaire was introduced. As the papers were returned to the authorities we found that copies of the information supplied were handed to various politicians, and it was used on public platforms in order to bully men to enlist. Possibly that form of coercion is intended on this occasion.
– “Who said that the information was given to politicians?
– That happened.
– A Labour government took the census.
– A Labour government may have taken the census, but the men who went on the platforms and used information to which they had no right are the ones to be condemned. In our official capacities we receive any amount of information on all sorts of subjects, but we should deem it a breach of confidence to use it on public platforms.
That is the kind of thing that happened in 1915 after Mr. William Morris Hughes had returned from England and performed a volte face. Finally, I emphasize that under the existing conditions the worker has a right to bargain for higher rates of wages and better conditions of employment. It is his right to refuse employment or to serve under unjust conditions. The bill aims at depriving him of these rights and making him subject to the will of military officers, or the police, or any body else who may coerce him to the extent that the law permits. In the circumstances the Labour movement’s opposition to the bill is justified. Thousands of men who support the Labour party lived before the outbreak of the Great War, and they are alive to-day. They know what happened in the past, and they are telling the younger generation what it must expect. As word goes round, the intentions of the Government are seen in a clearer light andthe opposition increases. Ultimately, it will become still stronger and will defeat this bill even though the Government may succeed in having it passed in this Parliament.
– I have listened very carefully to the remarks made by honorable senators opposite. I particularly noted one observation made by Senator Cameron. He inquired what prompted the introduction of the bill. Surely it is obvious to honorable senators that the measure was submitted because of the promise given at the last election that if the Government were returned it would do everything it could to put this country in a state of defence, so that it would be able to withstand aggression. The bill before us is one of several measures which have been designed to carry out that undertaking . Senator Cameron takes a very pessimistic view of what will happen should this legislation be agreed to. I have carefully studied the measure, and I consider that it will do a great deal of good in providing work for more people and in turning that work to the best possible advantage, for the safety of the Australian people. He contended that the bill would tend to reduce the standard of living of the working people of Australia. That is his view, but the more people we can provide with work the greater will be the uplift of the general conditions in this country. Senator Cameron also made a great deal of his fear of military conscription. I fail to see any provision in the bill dealing with that subject, or anything from which one may deduce that the Government intends to introduce conscription subsequent to the passing of the bill. The measure is a sequence to the Supply and Development Bill that we passed yesterday. Following on the organization of industrial activities in Australia, this measure aims at organizing the man-power of the country. In that respect we have learned from the experiences handed down to us” from the Great War. Instead of waiting for hostilities to break out and then beginning to act, the Government is preparing in peace time for the training of the people for any eventualities. Senator
Aylett declared that the Government had submitted the measure in a spirit of hysteria. I cannot see that preparations made in peace time for an invasion of Australia are signs of hysteria.
– I said that the Government was working the people up to a state of hysteria.
– That is probably the honorable senator’s view, but the measure passed yesterday was considered in a cool, calm and collected manner, just as this bill is being considered. Any hysteria that may have been caused is due to hostility to the measure by honorable senators opposite, and the insinuations which they have made concerning the alleged intentions of the Ministry. Actually the Government is merely doing what any other sensible administration, in the circumstances, would seek to do, namely, make adequate preparations for defence by arranging for a comprehensive survey of the nation’s resources in man-power and wealth. I fail to see any items in the proposed return to which exception may be taken. The person requiring to fill in the form is asked to state -
Number of children
Grade of occupation -
In that form there is nothing of which any person need be afraid nor to which he need take exception. Nor is there any ground for the suggestion that the information furnished will be used for ulterior purposes. All that the Governments seeks is reliable data in order that there may be no wastage of man-power by the employment of persons in occupations for which they are not suited or trained. During the Great War numbers of men had to be returned from the front line for employment in some craft or occupation in which their special peace-time qualifications were needed for military purposes. When this bill and the measure which was passed yesterday have received the Royal Assent, the Government will obtain the necessary information. The authorities will then be better able to fit men into positions for which they are best suited.
– I would not say that it would be possible to do that. The State governments have some responsibility in respect of unemployment. The compilation of this national register will enable the Government, in time of emergency to make the best use of its manpower and resources. Without a national survey it would be impossible to do this. Senator Keane, this morning, declared that in a crisis the people would voluntarily respond as loyally and enthusiastically as they did in the last war. I agree with the honorable gentleman. But, I think, he will admit that Australian soldiers would not have been able to give such a good account of themselves in the last war if they had not undergone five months’ concentrated training in Egypt before landing at Gallipoli.
– And that was in addition to the training which they had received in Australia prior to embarkation.
– This bill does not suggest that Australian citizens will be trained for military purposes.
– I know that it does not. The point I am endeavouring to make is that without the information which this national register will place in its hands, a government will have no knowledge whatever of the qualifications of Australia’s man-power which, in a national crisis, must be put to its best use in the shortest possible time. The intention is to organize the resources of the Commonwealth more efficiently than was possible twenty years ago. The inclusion of a wealth census will make the national survey complete. Opposition senators have pointed out that this proposal was inserted in the bill at the instance of a private member of the House of Representatives.
– Of course it was.
– The fact that it was not in the bill originally, but was inserted as the result of the discussion of the bill in committee of the House of Representatives, is indisputable evidence of the freedom enjoyed by members of the parties supporting the Government. They do not blindly follow the Government. They do not take the attitude that because a proposal has been brought in by the Government it must not be criticized or altered in any way.
The wealth census for which the bill now provides will, I believe, be of material assistance in assessing the financial and economic resources of the nation for use in a national crisis, although it is true that, in time of war, much of the information which will be obtained could be secured through the medium of the Taxation Department under the provisions of the Defence Act. Honorable senators opposite take the stand that because a proposal is submitted by this government with the support of members of the United Australia party and the Country party members, it must necessarily be suspect. Consequently they set out to destroy it instead of assisting the Government to improve it, and in the case of the bill now before the Senate, ensure the defence of Australia.
Senator Keane, this morning, mentioned that trade unionists throughout Australia are opposed to this bill. I do not doubt that there is some opposition to it, because I, and no doubt other honorable senators, have received many letters of protest from trade union organizations, some of which threaten drastic action in the event of the bill receiving the Royal assent. In this connexion I remind Senator Keane that when he was a member of the House of Representatives in 1930 the Labour Government which he supported introduced a measure to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. On that occasion also members of the Senate, as well as of the House of Representatives, received many letters and objections to the proposal. In fact, this building was so crowded with trade union officials that it was hardly safe for honorable senators who opposed the bill to proceed from one room to another.’ These union officials button-holed members so persistently that some honorable senators had to come in through the back entrance in order to avoid meeting them. At that time the Opposition of which I was a member used its majority in the Senate to reject certain objectionable clauses of the bill and send it back to the House of Representatives. It was subsequently returned to the Senate .and again those same clauses were disputed. Finally, it was referred to a conference of managers and a compromise was arrived at, the main objectionable clauses remaining in. If the Labour Government had believed that the people were solidly behind the bill, it would have brought about a double dissolution and appealed to the electorate for an expression of opinion in regard to it ; but it was content to back down.
– The honorable senator knows why. He knows very well that it would have been impossible to secure a double dissolution at that time.
– I do not think so. However, when, within seventeen months, the Government went to the country, it was overwhelmingly defeated.
– Not on that issue.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) stated this morning that the whole of the trade unions of this country are against the bill now before the Senate. That may be so. I am pointing out that a few months after it was said on a former occasion that the whole of the trade unions of the country were behind another bill and that the people generally opposed the action of the then Opposition, when an appeal was made to the people they endorsed the action of the Opposition and threw the
Government out of office. The people realize that this Government is determined to honour its promise to build up. the defences of this country in order that we may be fully prepared to meet any eventuality in time of emergency. The watchword of the Government is “ preparedness “. It does not propose ro delay the strengthening of the defences of this country until hostilities have commenced. I support the bill.
– J. was hopeful that, during this debate, I should receive some enlightenment from honorable senators opposite as to the real purpose behind this measure. We should have been told what caused the Government to alter its policy from a voluntary to a compulsory national register. It seems extraordinary that a Cabinet decision to compile a voluntary register, arrived at in Hobart as recently as last February, should be reversed. Apparently a few members of the Cabinet who favour compulsory military training or out-and-out conscription have been able to shout loud enough to overcome the objections of the majority. This bill has obviously been introduced only to quieten those members of the Cabinet who have clamoured for conscription. Some honorable senators on the Government side are out-and-out conscription! St8
– What justification has the honorable senator for saying that?
– I have heard the honorable senator’s opinions in regard to this matter. I do not want him to interject because I desire him to take no part whatever in this debate. However, if he insists on doing so, he will get all that is coming to him.
– All that I ask is that the honorable senator shall not misrepresent me.
– By virtue of his membership of this Parliament, the honorable senator is not included in the category of persons required to supply the information asked for in the schedule to this bill. The honorable senator can sit here and prattle as much as he likes in regard to this measure; he is not affected by it. “When, during a time of national emergency, he had the opportunity to go on active service, he did not accept it. If the Government, as stated by the late Prime Minister, was satisfied with the voluntary system - such a statement has never been made by the present Prime Minister - and that the young men of Australia have such a love for their country as to inspire them with sufficient patriotism to enlist for its defence, why is there necessity for the introduction of this bill to introduce a form of conscription? In the last six years, definite assurances which have been made to the people by anti-Labour governments have never been honoured, with the result that the people feel that the present Government can no longer be trusted. That lack of trust is demonstrated by the presence in this chamber of no less than sixteen Labour senators, and in the results of the recent by-elections for the House of Representatives. This Government, with the assistance of the capitalistic: press, for too long has been tricking the electorate. with lying propaganda into returning a majority of anti-Labour representatives to both branches of the legislature. Apparently, the Government party is not very happy, for according to the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day, the Prime Minister is likely to resort to an election in order to extricate him from his difficulties. When the people are given the opportunity they will demonstrate how solidly they are behind the representatives of the organized workers of this country. The organized workers are holding meetings of protest against the actions of this Government in all the capital cities. One meeting has already been held in Melbourne, and another large meeting is to be held- in the Sydney Town Hall. They were arranged long before the Government determined that this measure should be debated in the Parliament. These meetings have not been summoned by the Australian Labour party.
– Honorable senators opposite receive their instructions from workers’ organizations.
– The organized workers issue no instructions to their parliamentary representatives. They merely watch their actions in the Parliament. If a representative of the workers carries out the job for which he was elected to the Parliament, the workers endorse his candidature for future elections. This Government is making itself still, more unpopular by this proposal for the compilation of a compulsory register of man-power, which is but the forerunner of conscription. It Iras become more and more clear to me during recent weeks, from letters which i have received and talks which I have had with many people, that many of those who have argued in favour of a compulsory register, have done so without realizing that they -are really arguing in favour of quite a different form of compulsion altogether - of compulsory service or compulsory military training, or, at any rate, something which goes far beyond the mere putting of one’s name on a card for the purpose of record in time of emergency. It cannot be denied that this bill is but the means of imposing compulsory military training and industrial and military conscription upon this country. Probably the Assistant Minister (Senator Collett.) is sincere when he tells us that he believes that there is no intention on the part of the Government to bring about compulsory military service or conscription in any form. “We have to remember, however, that when the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, in June, 1916, he said, “ There will be no conscription “, and that by September of that year he wrecked, the Government by trying to foist conscription on the people. What has happened in the past may happen again. That is why the workers are suspicious of the Government. What is the reason for clause 23, which provides that a.11 male persons between 18 and 21 years of age must notify any change of address?
– Is not that clear?
– It is perfectly clear to me, especially when I recall that when a voluntary register was adopted in England, the conscriptionists were not satisfied, but went further and forced conscription on the people. Men between the ages of IS and 21 cannot be classified as skilled artisans. Indeed, most of them have been denied the right to learn a trade, or even to work.
– That is a matter which should be discussed in committee.
– I propose to discuss it now, for in the committee stage the “ guillotine “ will probably be applied again in the same despicable way as it was applied yesterday, notwithstanding that the Senate has sat for only a few days this year.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- There is no need for the honorable senator to discuss that matter in connexion with this bill.
– Nor was there any need for Senator Cooper to refer to a double dissolution. I was going to remind you, Mr. Deputy President, of his transgression of the Standing Orders, but I feared that in referring to it I, too, would be a transgressor. Therefore, I let it go. Not only has the Senate sat on few occasions, but also some of its sittings have been exceedingly short - only an hour or two. Recently, . Senator Arthur and I interviewed a number of lads at the Commonwealth Bank on behalf of Mr. Beasley, the honorable member for West Sydney. The lads told us that they could not enter a technical college for training, notwithstanding that they were prepared to pay the fees. In order to test the accuracy of their story, I communicated with the head of the Ultimo technical . school, and I learned from him that there was no possible chance of those lads entering the school unless either they were under the age of sixteen years or were sent by the Employment Council for the State. Those lads were denied the right to receive technical training unless they gave up the jobs which they had taken in order to try to maintain themselves decently. And if they had left their jobs, they would have been denied food relief. Those who were responsible for this legislation - I refer to the people behind the Cabinet as well as to Ministers themselves - had in mind the early introduction of conscription. Senator Cameron predicted that one form of conscription would be the placing of men in labour camps. No conscript can ever be trained to equal a trained volunteer. All the storm troops who were so successful in the last war were volunteers. That compulsory military training does not produce the best men has been proved time and time again. Although I was fighting overseas at the time, I know what happened in connexion with the “ Hughesiliers “ who were called up in 1916. The Government knows that since” that time organized labour has made considerable progress. It must know, too, that organized labour is endeavouring to enlist the support of the people for a campaign against having anything to do with, the national register. We on this side realize that, however forceful our arguments, or however long we may talk, when the time arrives the Government will have sufficient numbers to put this measure through’ the Senate; but that is not the way to treat the workers of this nation. I predict that this compulsory register will do much to kill the pa triotism of the Australian people. Any form of conscription is regarded with suspicion as a potential danger to the liberty of the people. There are many in our midst who are always urging conscription of some kind - especially those who would benefit as the result of the increased defence expenditure. No reason has been submitted by the Government for the decision to discard the proposal for a voluntary register. Those who shouted the loudest for compulsion and conscription were able,, ultimately, to force the Government to accept a compulsory register. Can the Government say that any appeal to the spirit of patriotism, made in a time of crisis, has not been responded to enthusiastically and successfully? Does the Government doubt the patriotism of the people of Australia? It must do so, or it would not try to foist compulsion on them. The people will resent their sincerity and patriotism being doubted. Their loyalty and patriotism, have been proved on many Occasions. Is the Government so blind as to think that force is a weapon which can be used with equanimity and without repercussions? That a volunteer is worth tcn conscripts is as true to-day as it has ever been. The last war proved that the Australian soldier was the best worker and fighter in the field - ^Senator Dein does not know anything about that - but despite all the past glorious record, the Government now wishes. to force the stigma of conscription upon the Australian people. The Australian worker will always work for his country, and, if necessary, fight for it. All that he asks in return is a decent job, decent wages, and a decent standard of living. Me does not expect to have to wait until the exact number of unemployed is known before he obtains a job. The Government must know that there are 200,000 unemployed in the Commonwealth today. The restriction of credit, and the refusal of the banks to advance further credit to various societies have caused numerous people to become bankrupt.
– Where did the honorable senator get his figures?
– Possibly I am wrong in giving the number of unemployed as 200,000. It may be that the n urn bor U only .1.99,199; or it may be 200,001. I am not sure. Evidently Senator Dein wishes to ascertain the exact number before anything is done for them and is therefore supporting this bill.
– It would help us if we knew the exact number.
– The Opposition claims that the number of unemployed in Australia at the present time, including those who get short rations by way of sus.tenance, is at least 200,000. Men who are able and willing to work cannot find employment. Recently the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) admitted that 29,000 men had registered for work at the various munitions factories. Probably, that number has been increased by another thousand in the meantime.
– It has increased by over 4,000 in three months.
– Perhaps the honorable senator is wrong; the number may be only 3,999. However, the Government will ascertain the exact number before it. does anything for them. Industrial liberty is sacred to Australians, and although workers generally have been treated in a niggardly way, and many shamefully, I venture to say that their loyalty and patriotism are greater than that of many who are always flaunting before the country their so-called loyalty - in many cases it can be measured in terms of money. - Although the Government may attempt to camouflage the intention of this bill, the purpose is definitely the imposition of conscription. Such a course is a disgrace to Australia. and an insult to its people. While the
Prime Minister has posed as the apostle of freedom of action, and liberty of thought and expression, he adopts fascist methods of compulsion, and in his dealings with the people uses the “mailed fist “. I wonder whether the right honorable gentleman ordered the application of the “ guillotine “ in this chamber yesterday ?
– The honorable senator may find that he will be prevented from reading his speech.
– That is the sort of interjection that one would expect from the Leader of the Senate who always reads his speeches. It may be .said that liberty means responsibility. No one denies that; but I say emphatically that the workers of Australia are willing to take their share of the responsibility for the defence of Australia - more willing in fact than are those financial concerns whose main object is to see how much profit they can extract from the people during times of crisis. The Government, has no justification whatever for saying that the workers are not prepared to shoulder their full share of that responsibility. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that he had -
A well-founded feeling that there is a profound sporting instinct in the average Australian character that will give us a good run.
Mr. Menzies depends on the sporting spirit of the people to keep him in office. He appeals to that spirit for the benefit of himself and his supporters, but, in effect, he says that it is non-existent where patriotism is concerned.
I was interested to notice the anxiety of the Government when the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) submitted in the House of Representatives an amendment providing for a register of wealth. The statement was made on behalf of the Government that it was not prepared to accept the amendment, but immediately it found that it would be forced to do so, it changed its attitude.
– Why did the Labour party oppose it?
– It did not oppose the amendment, but it voted against the third reading of the bill because it will always oppose any form of compulsion.
We know quite well that the Government does not intend to have a survey of the wealth of the nation. It will secure a register of the man-power of Australia, but, no doubt, it will find many obstacles in its path if it attempts to prepare a register of wealth. If the Prime Minister appealed to the electors, and submitted such a proposal to them, I predict that the newspapers, the owners of picture theatres and others, would use every possible means of defeating it, and the Government would be more bitterly attacked than was the BrucePage Administration.
– Is that a threat?
– The threat would come from the racketeers and profiteers who keep this Government in power.
Thousands of those who went to the last war to fight for the preservation, amongst other things, of the wealth and large financial interests in Australia are now either in poverty, or working to pay interest on the money lent to the Government to provide arms, munitions and other equipment, so that the wealthy might be protected. The rich people expect the young men of Australia to enlist, drill and prepare for war, and, if war should come, to give their lives, if necessary, to protect their country and the interests of its people. Many returned soldiers are now physical wrecks, and have suffered tremendous hardship through being unable to prove that their present disabilities are due to war service. Thousands of “ diggers “ have been laid in the cemeteries, and thousands more, who will soon pass away, are suffering injustice because they cannot prove thai, they served .in a gas area, or because they are unable to find the doctors who treated them. I cannot imagine that they or their dependants will be ready to support the present proposal for a compulsory national register.
It has been stated that provision Ls being made for defence as an insurance policy for Australia, but who, I ask, will pay the premium? It will not be the rich man or the wealthy company whose money is invested in public loans which are used, amongst other purposes, to protect their financial- interests and ensure to them the receipt of full rates of interest. Recently, when a Commonwealth loan was floated in London to provide funds for defence purposes, about 60 per cent, of the loan was left with the underwriters. Clause 21 provides that the board may, with the consent of the Minister, from time to time, require any person who comes within -the provision of the bill to furnish fresh returns as may be asked for, and to supply any further information not on the present form, but as may be required by the board. Clause 20 also gives power to the Commonwealth Statistician, or any other authorized officer, to demand replies to any questions, and to compel the persons questioned to produce any documents demanded. I recall that a measure recently passed by this Parliament provided that no questions might be asked regarding patent processes. In the case of the big man, the Government is prepared to go only a certain distance, but the small man receives no protection. Will the worker bc asked whether he is a trade unionist?
– Does the honorable senator desire that that question be included in the schedule?
– No ; but I say that, if the questions already set out are insufficient, the schedule should be enlarged, so that we shall know exactly what questions are to be asked. These clauses give unlimited power to the board, which, it must be remembered, will be definitely under military control, as two of its members will be representatives of the Defence and Supply and Development Departments, and the Minister referred to will be the Minister for Defence. The Government not only adopts compulsion, but also reverts to methods similar to those of the inquisition. Privacy and that sacred liberty of mankind recently referred to by the Prime Minister are to be trampled underfoot. The schedule as printed would surely provide sufficient information for the purposes of a national register. It would enable persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years to be registered, and, if necessary, called up and shipped to Singapore.
It is much to be regretted that a government of the same political colour as that now in office determined to hand the Cockatoo Island Dockyard over to the Davis Gelatine Company. One of the three members of the board required to sign the necessary agreement represented the workers, and had been employed at the dock for eighteen years, but he was denied employment there because he refused to sign the agreement. That is the kind of thing that will be done under this measure in conjunction with the bill that was passed yesterday. When the Government has the names of the workers on the index it will ‘be able to handle them as it likes. It will see that any to whom it objects are not retained in a branch of the Commonwealth Public Service, and also that they are not kept in the employ of any State department. Why was not Mr. Burnett given his job with the Davis Gelatine Company? The Government knows all about that matter.
– I never heard of it.
– I think that the honorable senator was PostmasterGeneral when the matter came up.
– That is a new one on me.
– This opposition is a new one on the Government.
– I trust that the Government will get some satisfaction out, of the passing of the measure, because the working classes of this nation will not ger much. If the workers refuse to sign and return the cards, and the Government decides to take action against them on the ground that they have broken the law I hope that the Ministers will remember what the Opposition said. We shall not laugh at them as they have laughed at us. I ask them not to provoke trouble, but if they do so they should take what comes to them and not squeal. We were happy to. think that a voluntary system of registration would suffice. I believe that the Government would receive more cards under a voluntary register than under a compulsory system. I shall lea ve the subject until the bill reaches the committee stage when, I hope, the Government will not again apply the “ guillotine “< Cabinet would be well advised to revise the legislation and not provoke the trouble that is threatened.
.- I view this bill not through any party spectacles but as a patriotic Australian who wants to make any potential enemy think twice before making a hostile move in this part of the world. Such an enemy must be impressed by the fact that Australia is undivided in its preparations to meet any attack, and will be undivided in the event of attack. There is no doubt whatever where the supporters of Labour will be should war occur - they will be well to the front as they were in the Great War. The bill debated yesterday and this measure are to make preparations to avert war. Yesterday the Opposition castigated the Government for not doing, this and that thing for the proper defence of the Commonwealth; to-day, honorable senators opposite are criticizing the Government for doing something in that direction. The word “ conscription “ is loosely used. Conscription is associated with the raising of troops to serve abroad. That does not come into this argument. Section 59 of the Defence Act, which was passed in 1909, provides for the calling up of all males between the ages of 18 and 60 years for service in Australia in time of national emergency. All this bill sets out to do is to ensure that should that time unhappily ever arrive, the law of the land shall operate intelligently and functionsmoothly. The authorities want to be sure that there will be no confusion in getting the defending forces quickly out to sea. into the field, and up in the air. Nothing militates against efficient mobilization more than the withdrawal of personnel and their transfer to avocations for which they are better fitted. We do not want medical students digging trenches’, skilled mechanics peeling potatoes, telephonists acting as batmen, wireless operators driving army wagons, and’ railway engine drivers cleaning guns. We had experience of that in the Great War. I am not a great lover of compulsion, but we seem to get nowhere without some form of compulsion. How many of us would pay our income tax if not compelled to do so, or pay dog licences if we could evade them? Honorable senators opposite know full well that the employees who are endangering the standard of wages and working conditions in any industry are those who will not register and become trade unionists. If compulsory trade unionism is good for any industry, compulsory registration of every Australian citizen as a help to the effective preparation of defence measures, is infinitely more important. Wars are not made in these days after long parleys; they comewithout formal declaration, out of the blue. I cannot help believing that honorable senators opposite, all reasonable fellows, are being pushed from behind. Their objection to the bill is all “ hooey “. To me there is “no nigger in the wood pile “. This is just a straight-out honest attempt by the Government to obtain a census of avocations - a guide as to how Australian man-power can be profitably used to the best advantage in time of national emergency.
– Before I undertake a reasoned consideration of this measure I shall refer briefly to some of the most recent speeches delivered by honorable senators opposite. Senator Cooper made a definite statement - I am not sure how he related it to the bill under discussion, but probably he did so - about the failure of the Labour Government in 1930 to bring about a double dissolution. He said that fear of . what would happen as the result of a dissolution was the cause for that omission. I do not suggest that Senator Cooper knows that the statement is not in accordance with fact, but I do suggest that he does not understand very clearly at any time what is happening around him. The Scullin Government could not obtain a double dissolution in 1930, for a number of reasons, but a statement of one of them should suffice for this occasion. The Government could not dissolve Parliament until it had validated all of its -extreme tariff measures, which had not then been ratified by the House. Had Parliament been dissolved before those measures had been validated, the manufacturers could have demanded refunds of all the duties that they had paid under the Scullin Government’s heroic measures. Such refunds would have amounted to millions of pounds and their payment would, of course, have been impossible. A Senate hostile to the Labour Government would not have validated the bills. Therefore, Senator Cooper errs either in ignorance or deliberately. In either case, as a legislator of this country, he is culpable. His statement is on all fours with another equally inaccurate that he recently made in this chamber about the action of the Queensland government in connexion with the sale of meat. He quoted from a book which was not official and which had been written by an acknowledged bitter tory opponent of the Queensland government.
– They were official quotations.
– -The honorable senator should have mentioned the source of those quotations. The reverse of the picture that he painted is that the Queensland Government had passed legislation which cut in half the retail price of meat in that State. Whatever the Government lost through the competition of its own butcher shops with those of private owners, was counterbalanced by the money it put into the pockets of the consumers.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– I shall now deal with some of the remarks made by Senator Brand. He is such a friendly and genial soul that it hurts me very much even to contradict him. He stated that compulsory training is the simplest thing in the world, because the Defence Act already provides that all men between the ages of 18 and 60 years may be called up in times of national emergency. He could not, therefore, understand the Labour party’s present objection to compulsion. We do understand the provisions of the Defence Act and have understood them all along. Our opposition to this measure is entirely in conformity with that understanding. One of the main planks of the Labour party’s defence platform is the deletion from the Defence Act of all sections relating to compulsory military training and compulsory service. Therefore Senator Brand does not get anywhere with his argument. I know that honorable senators opposite are hostile to my remarks, and I am proud of the fact. No man in this chamber is happier than I am when I am under fire from the apologists for the wealthy interests of this country. Senator Brand also made a statement which, I suggest, is unworthy of him. He was only repeating what most of the other speakers, on the Government side have said. They interject with all the glibness in the world : “ What about compulsory unionism ! “ Let us consider it. It was not brought about by accident nor had it just “ growed “ like Topsy. It happened because of the cruel, cowardly and callous rapacity of the Australian employers of half a century ago, and because the standard of the wage workers was reduced to such a low level that industry experienced everrecurring strikes. That did not pay the capitalists, so they tendered the workers this advice: “You do not win anything by strikes. Usually you are defeated; you always have to give in when your women and children are hungry. Why not put men into Parliament to pass legislation for the benefits of the workers ? “ The capitalists were not in sympathy with the workers and gave that advice only because strikes were also disastrous to them. The captains of industry had sole command of government in every State in those days, and in Queensland they organized the military forces with instructions to proceed against the striking bush workers, “fire low, and lay them out”: I was on the job when the shearers strike was in progress, and I saw gangs of my mates going through the streets of one of the western towns wearing leg irons and handcuffs. Their swags were torn open in the streets in order to discover whether or not they contained incriminating evidence. My only sister married one of those shearers after he was released from a long term of imprisonment which he suffered because of his love of liberty and his enthusiasm for the organization of « the workers. We got into Parliament and with the passing of the years we succeeded in passing through the legislatures of this country measures for the benefit of the class which we represent. We made laws which eventually took the control of industry out of the hands of the captains of industry. As the result of our activity in the various parliaments “we now have on the statute-books of the several States measures providing for .compulsory unionism in some industries, and in all, the right for government inspectors to walk through the factories and into the offices of sweaters in -order to examine their wages sheets and see that they are obeying the law.
Do not let me hear any more of this jibe about compulsory unionism. If Government supporters could get a mental picture of the interests which I and my Labour colleagues definitely represent in this chamber, they would realize that there are in industry to-day some people as rapacious, and some companies as bowelless and soulless as those whom in those earlier days we had to fight and over whom we eventually triumphed through the organization of compulsory unionism.
Having probably somewhat stirred Government supporters out of their complacency, I believe that now I shall have their attention for what I am about to say. The Government has completely failed to realize the great importance to all the people of Australia of the measure which was passed yesterday in circumstances which I regret, but for which the Government is entirely responsible, and the bill now before the Senate. These measures, if one reads them casually, and if one took them at their face value in the same flippant way as Government supporters regard them, might be considered harmless measures for the purpose of collecting certain statistics. The bills will, of course, do that, but I want Government supporters to get some idea of the reason for the opposition to the bill by the organized workers of Australia represented in this chamber by the Labour opposition only.
– The honorable senator flatters himself.
– I have never flattered myself sufficiently to hope that I shall receive the votes of the interests which the Leader of the Senate represents. I should be ashamed if I did. But my wish is to establish the right atmosphere for the proper consideration of this measure… I would like to get the right background in the chamber, in order that senators supporting the Government may be the better able to understand the full import of this bill and why honorable senators on this side cannot see it as they do. Over other senators I have the advantage of age. I can look back to the very beginnings of the struggle for a true democracy in this country.I can look back and see how Australia has developed industrially and politically. In imagination, I can see again the workers - by the workers, I mean the people of Australia as a whole, struggling against tremendous odds to establish the Commonwealth as we know it to-day. I can recall things that were done by the class which I represent, things which to-day I would not consider right, but which were inevitable in the circumstances then prevailing. For example, if there is one principle of Australian national policy to which all parties now subscribe, it is that of a White Australia. A great many years ago I was one of a probably ill-advised group of young men who, long before this idea of a White Australia had crystallized into a definite plank of the Australian national policy, were fearful lest the influx of foreigners should jeopardize the industrial standards which we were then endeavouring to establish. I remember how we agitated to have every article of furniture made by other than a white worker stamped in order that the people would boycott its sale in the shops. I well remember a crowd of us on one occasion walking from one to the other end of the suburban area of the capital city in which I live, a distance of probably five or six miles, and smashing every window of every Chinese warehouse in our path. I would not advocate doing anything like that to-day. I mention the incident now in order to get in its true perspective the organization of the Labour movement of this continent which has been responsible for the national character of our industrial institutions. At that time we were receiving large numbers of migrants from the older countries of the world and there came from Ireland as fine a fighting band of rebels as ever came to advantage a new country. We were also receiving worthy settlers from Germany and from other countries; migrants who left the older countries of Europe because of lack of opportunity there and because also of the crushing of the democratic spirit. These people came to Australia, then a group of self-governing colonies, and started work. Gradually, as the result of united action, there grew up in this country a conception of national ideals. a hatred of autocracy, and a love of democracy and freedom in all its forms. 1 feel that if I can establish this right atmosphere in this debate, Government supporters will cease to sneer at the remarks of honorable senators on this side, and will take some note of our complaint about the undemocratic nature of this bill. They will, I hope, admit that we are the product of the freedom-loving and liberty-loving Australian continent.
– They enjoy all the privileges, but are not prepared to fight for them.
– I should not have taken notice of the interjection if it. had come from a lesser light on the Government side, or if it had been made by one with less responsibility. I ask the honorable gentleman not to be cowardly by implying that the Australian people, to whom I have been referring, enjoy all the privileges of a democracy, but are not prepared to fight for them. The interjection was unkind and entirely unworthy of the Leader of the ‘Senate, for whom I have great respect. The records of the great struggle between 1914 and 1918 show what the class to which I belong did to support the liberties which we all enjoy in this country. It is true that they were not alone; they were joined by equally gallant young men belonging to the well-to-do and privileged classes, and what is more important, there was no suggestion of compulsion about the whole business in those years. They volunteered to serve this country because the Government appealed to the best side of their nature. It did not attempt to employ compulsion. For what is the Government preparing? Is it a state of war, a danger of war, or apprehension of war? Why are we fearful that war may occur? We all know. We are preparing because certain nations with policies, ideas and ideals entirely foreign to Australian ideals, are endeavouring to drive the world into difficulties. This is a perfectly honest reason for apprehending danger. But do not let us forget that the complications in Europe are the result of political theories of capitalism run mad; the result of a frantic search for profits. We are preparing for war be cause of international complications arising from ill-digested theories of capitalism, communism, and, mark my words, of dictatorships and all forms of totalitarianism. It is because of the existence of these respective forms of go,vernment, in which large sections of people in Europe and elsewhere in the world believe, that we in Australia apprehend the danger of war.
– And we are pre: paring to defend ourselves.
– Yes, that is all right. But of what value is it if, in preparing to meet the results of these political theories, instead of proceeding along the lines of freedom, liberty and democracy, in which the people of Australia have been reared, and in which they believe, we adopt, the methods of capitalism, communism and dictators?
– Is the honorable senator opposed to the bill ?
– I am opposed to it lock, stock and barrel. I am opposed to it because it reeks of compulsion, communism, capitalism, dictatorships and totalitarianism. I shall oppose every line of the measure to .the last breath that I m’ay draw. Whatever action the Government may take to get it through this chamber, that will not be our responsibility. I say definitely, and I accept full responsibility for my statement, that when the Government has passed this bill, when it has slaughtered in this chamber, free speech, as it was slaughtered last night when the Senate committee was compelled to pass nineteen clauses of a bill without even being able to read, let alone criticize , or intelligently discuss then - when the Government has done all this, I ask Ministers never to forget that, to the extent that they had the opportunity, created only by the strength of their numbers, they stabbed Australian democracy and the principles of liberty and freedom to the heart. This Government has done its best in these two measures to destroy all that Australia really stands for and the best and most desirable aspirations of every loyal and good Australian. I now approach the bill on the basis which its sponsors have asked us to accept. The principle involved in the bill is that human beings and human life are regarded in the same way as machinery, stock in trade, &c. Honorable senators opposite may deny it - they probably will - but their denial “will be just as untruthful as their other denials. Human lives are to be taken stock of, we are told. After 150 years of the development of this great nation, after those ideals to which I have briefly alluded have been fostered and brought to fruition, after we have gone so far along the road of human liberty and progress, have we in 1939 only reached the stage at which wc are asked in the Australian National Parliament to take stock of human beings ?
– The flights of the honorable senator’s imagination can bring him to think anything.
– The only regret 1. have is that no matter how much eloquence I might possess, I could not make “ Senator McBride realize something of his responsibilities, or convert him from his soulless outlook. In every clause of this bill, human life is merely considered as the raw material for combating international complications in Europe. It is given no other consideration. I ask honorable senators opposite to review the schedule of this bill. I ask them if, in one line of it, or of the Minister’s secondreading speech, or of any speech made by any Government- supporter, there is recognition that these men, of whom it is proposed to take stock, are living, breathing, human entities, each with a soul, each with aspirations, each with responsibilities, and most of them having standing in the shadows behind them dependants for whom they must care and succour. Human product, human raw material to be taken stock of, to be dragooned into answering questions so that you may use them - for what? For the defence of Australian ideals? No, but for the defence of the very things we dislike in the nations from which the trouble is threatened. If the Government were appealing to them to defend Australian national ideals or to do something to increase freedom and democracy in this country, something might be said for compulsion, but nothing of the kind i=> c on templated.
– We arc appealing to them to retain the ideals of .democracy.
– You cannot retain the ideals of liberty and freedom by stabbing them to the heart, and by making slaves of the people upon whom you propose to inflict this compulsory national register. Every honorable senator on the Government side who has spoken has used this phrase or its equivalent : “ This is merely a stocktaking measure “. If the register were voluntary, it would hot be an assault upon the liberties of our people and the response would be far better than will be got by compulsion.
– Why did not the honorable senator help three months ago?
– A voluntary questionnaire was sent by the Government, not by the Opposition, to the interests represented by honorable senators opposite. The employers in industry were asked to submit answers to a few pertinent questions. One half of them did the job and the rest of them rejected it. That was the extent of their co-operation. Just as the response to the appeal for volunteers in 1914 was wonderful, so would there be a wonderful response if this system were made voluntary. In spite of our political differences, all of us have at least some faith in Christian democracy, using the term “ Christian “ in its highest sense. Regardless of our political creeds we as Australians can subscribe to the ideal of Christian democracy and unless that is our inspiration we shall get nowhere worth while, no matter what we may do. In this measure to-day the Government is ignoring every worth while principle of Christian democracy. It is ignoring human rights and putting men on the same level as- it would put machines in a factory. If honorable senators are in doubt .as to the truth of that statement I ask them to read the schedule of this bill. What are the people to whom this compulsory bill will apply to become? If they are compelled to answer these questions, and otherwise to be dragooned into this channel and that channel, no matter what the reason or excuse may be, the Government will be treating them only as slaves. After all they are but the slaves of a bad social order. There is little chance, if any, for them to accumulate property which would free them from the slavery of low wages, unemployment and the dole. Honorable senators opposite know that these conditions exist. There is no need to talk about the 150,000 men in this Australian democracy, who are able and willing to work and for whom no work is made available - men who know that they are condemned to the slavery of economic insecurity or unemployment. When there is an opportunity to ask them to serve their country they are not to be allowed to do so voluntarily. The Government has said in effect, “We shall not appeal to the better side of your nature and allow you to volunteer for this job. We do not trust you. You are slaves and we shall treat you as slaves and compel you to answer these questions “. I protest with every bit of earnestness I have against this measure. I may not have many years to live but when the end comes to me, as it must come to all, I shall at least know that for myself, for every other honorable senator on this side of the chamber and on behalf of this freedom loving Australia, I did my earnest best to prevent this bill from becoming law in its present form. Just as I believe that when the day of reckoning is at hand and we stand before the Judgment Seat, God will not look us over for medals, but for scars, I am sure that I am doing right in objecting, for as long as I have breath and energy left, to this nefarious measure.
May I be permitted to congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) on the very fine speech which he made this morning? May I also be excused for taking notice of the interjection which the Leader of the Government made while Senator Keane was speaking? He said, “The Premier of Queensland does not agree with you “. As honorable senators know, it was proposed to hold a meeting of the Loan Council in Canberra this week, but owing to the very regrettable passing of the Premier of Tasmania that meeting was postponed. The Premier of Queensland however is now in New South Wales waiting to come to Canberra for the Loan Council meeting next week. Two days ago he wrote to me -
I am enclosing herewith, for your information, copy of a statement which appeared in the Queensland press on Friday and Saturday last. In view of the garbled form in which this statement has been published in this State 1 thought it desirable that you should have an exact copy of what I actually said.
Mr. Forgan Smith’s statement was as follows
Speaking in regard to national defence and major Australian policy generally, Mr. Forgan Smith said that he was coming to the conclusion that Mr. Menzies and his Government regarded politics as a game, not as a national service. There is evidence to supportthis conclusion. First of all, in the Griffith byelection Senator Foll, in opening the campaign for the United Australia party, said that they were going to make defence the major issue in the campaign. In this way the Commonwealth Government tried to make defence a party political issue, thereby playing the fool in a time of national danger.
The national register proposal now before Parliament, being so one-sided in character, can only be regarded as a political move, provocative in character, at a time when the co-operation of all sections of the community should besought.In 1915 there was a complete census by the Labour Government, not only of man-power, but into every detail of the resources of individuals throughout Australia. The omission of a wealth census from the national register and other provisions contained in the bill can only be construed in one way, that the Menzies’ Government intends to adhere to the historic policy of conservatism, namely, that all public interests within the nation must be subordinate to the financial interests in the community.
– He was evidently misinformed.
-I shall say something about that later. The statement continued -
It is to be hoped that the Commonwealth Government, even at the eleventh hour, will reconsider the position and declare for. the principle of equality of sacrifice if and where necessary. The Labour party are naturally hostile to the bill in its present form, but amendment to what is considered an unjust law in a democracy can onlybe obtained through the Parliament itself by constitutional methods. To advocate any other course would be contrary to democracy and merely play into the hands of those anti-social forces who seek an opportunity to destroy parliamentary methods and replace them by a dictatorship.
Senator McBride interjected that evidently Mr. Forgan Smith did not know, when he published that statement, that provision had been made in this measure for the taking of a wealth register. I am not sure whether he knew it or not, but I am sure that he refers in that statement to equality of sacrifice, and that the clause in the bill relating to the taking of a wealth census has no relation to equality of sacrifice.
– That is the honorable senator’s opinion.
– I shall quote from a speech of the Assistant Minister’s superior in the House of Representatives - the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) - but, before doing so, I shall draw attention to the atmosphere in that chamber when the Government was compelled to insert additional questions in the questionnaire at the instance of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), who is not a member of the Labour party. The position was that the Menzies Government knew that it had no chance of carrying the bill without the amendment. What did Mr. Street say when he allowed it to be incorporated in the measure? There was a hurried consultation with supporters of the Government, and when heads were counted and it was found that the bill was doomed unless the additional questions were included, Mr. Street said -
I stated the reasons last night why the Government did not include a provision for a wealth census in the bill.
A few hours earlier, reasons had been given for not including such a provision in the bill. The Minister (Mr. Street) continued -
I ask honorable members on the Government benches to explain how a wealth census can be of any value. If they consider that the inclusion of this information in the schedule will help to offset the unfortunate psychological attitude that has been adopted towards the measure, I am preparerd to accept it for that reason.
– Most democratic !
– The honorable senator who has interjected is entirety hopeless. Is there anything democratic in inserting in a bill a provision which, in the Minister’s own language, is so much humbug, and is only put there in order to keep the party to which he belongs on the Government benches. The Government does not dare to face a general election and allow the people, who are the masters of parliament, to decide. Senator Wilson describes as “ most democratic “ the worst exhibition of insincerity, of sparring for time, and of making a show in order to deceive the electors, that I have ever witnessed.
Senator Keane referred to some of the difficulties that have occurred in connexion with the alleged patriotism of some people. Here again I know all about this subject, for I was in at the inception of the whole business, and know every phase of its development. I know that when the men came back from the theatres of war in their thousands - some of them, as the result of marvellous escapes, whole in body and in mind, but others, of whom there are some honorable examples in this chamber, maimed - leaving tens of thousands of their comrades dead on the other side of the world, the whole nation agreed that the best possible should be done for them because of the great sacrifices that they had made. Consequently, the governments of all the States devised schemes of soldier land settlement. But these spurious patriots - the men whom we were fighting yesterday when we sought to curb their profiteering instincts - who wrapped themselves in the flag and decried other men who did not subscribe to their 39 articles of alleged patriotism, sold to every government in Australia land which was entirely unfitted for the purpose for which it was sold. Not only so, but they sold it at extravagant prices, with the result that the records of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania reveal broken hearts and bodies, and tormented souls of returned soldiers in whom hope was crushed because they could not make a living on the land which these alleged patriots had sold at inflated prices.
– Who bought the land?
– Governments bought it on expert advice; but, unfortunately, as is usual in such circumstances, the “ palm oil “ was flowing freely.
– Speak for Queensland!
– I am speaking particularly of Queensland and I know what I am talking about. In order that honorable senators on the Government benches may not accuse me of unreliability 1 shall inform the Senate of what was said to me by the then Minister for
Lands in Queensland, the late Mr. Harry Coyne. Senators Foll and Crawford, although not participants in the unholy gamble, will know whether or not I speak the truth. On one occasion, Mr. Coyne spoke .to me in the following terms: - “ J oe, I believe that you are going into the Stanthorpe district. We are getting a flood of correspondence from that district as to what is going on. I wish that you would have a look at the settlement there. Take down the evidence of the men, and let me have it. I have gone there time after time, but I cannot make any headway. They think that I have come prepared with an answer to their complaints, and, therefore I cannot gain their confidence. See what you can do “. I went to Stanthorpe, and I saw that the settlers were brokenhearted. I have in my mind a vivid, picture of what I saw in another district. I went to a block on which a returned soldier was settled. He was a young Scot, who had recently married, and he was trying to carve out a living from land that was badly infested with prickly pear. He and his wife worked like trojans- the job that they tackled required men and women with stout hearts - and lived like” rats in a hole. Eventually, they were forced to leave their block. In the Stanthorpe district, hundreds of men and women were broken in body and soul, and they and their dependants were forced to leave their blocks. Their discarded orchards can be seen to-day. Every attempt made by the Government of Queensland to put much of that land into production proved hopeless. That land had been sold by spurious patriots at racketeering prices. Yet, in spite of these things, we are asked to accept this bill at the Government’s own valuation.
In defence of this measure, it has been urged that the census will provide a true record of the extent of unemployment in Australia. That has been commented on by other honorable senators, and I shall not repeat what has been said. There is, however, no need to argue about the number of unemployed persons in this country. I know that applications were recently invited for 51 jobs in respect of which returned soldiers were to be given absolute preference. Over 800 men sat for that examination, so that at least 749 of them must have left the examination room with their hearts broken and without hope,
– Some of them probably had jobs, but wished to improve their positions.
– Even if half of them already had jobs, there would still have- been 349 who went out of the examination room with their hopes crushed. But what does it matter how many of them there were ? Is a census - of the unemployed necessary for us to know what is going on? This afternoon there was placed in my desk a statement relating to the number of migrants admitted into Australia during the last financial year. It showed that 1,309 persons, including 535 Italians, had entered Australia from foreign countries. They are not our kith and kin, but they are still human beings with souls and bodies. We all regret that these people are refugees from their own countries, because either capitalistic or communistic dictatorship methods have driven them out; but we have a right to expect that first consideration will be given to that lost legion of Australians - those young men who have never had a chance. In the fullest sense, of the term they are refugees in their own beloved country - refugees from economic insecurity, unemployment, the dole and starvation. Although born in Australia of Australian parents, they are refugees in their own country; and Government policy means that jobs will never found for them.
– I know that il is useless to appeal to the Minister. This morning Senator Aylett spoke of insurance being an asset. .1 believe that there are many other things which those who are responsible for this bill claim to be assets. I have a lady friend who has been left by will an interest in an estate. Her husband died recently, leaving her as his sole executor. But because he had been left a reversionary interest in his father’s estate, the value of that estate was treated by the authorities as an asset, and was included in the amount upon which she had to pay probate and succession duties, although it ‘ is highly improbable that she will ever be able to do anything with the asset. In any case, it is not liquid.
– Did that happen in Queensland where there is a Labour government ?
– Yes. My point is that these things either are, or are not, assets. Under the inquisitorial proposals of the Government, inquiries will be made into every, estate except those which ought to be closely inquired into.
Senator James McLachlan is not now in the chamber. It is remarkable how honorable senators opposite make unfounded charges, and then retreat when evidence in rebuttal is forthcoming. This honorable senator sneered at Senator Keane, whom he described as the arch-champion of the anti-conscriptionists. I claim that it took some courage in 1915 and 1916 to be an anti-conscriptionist. I was in the “ scrap “ then, and so was Senator Keane and many other working-class advocates. We had no job. in. the National Parliament then. J .was , working for a private employer, and the prospect of the “ sack “, although I had a wife and five children to support, was. before me at every meeting that I addressed. Senator Keane did his job, too. Yet, in 1939, despite the risks we ran, the lineal descendants, politically speaking, pf: .the compulsionists and conscriptionists . of the. last war apparently expect.- us to listen, quietly to taunts of insincerity.., ….
Certain remarks were made by Senator James McLachlan about the recent visit to Australia of Mr. Bruce, He said that it was a great pity that more Labour men had not heard Mr. Bruce on that occasion. I, did not have an opportunity to hear him, because I was not in Brisbane when he visited that city. Senator James McLachlan did not state all that Mr. Bruce told him, but during the honorable senator’s speech, interjections came from Labour senators who had met Mr. Bruce, and had heard what he had to say. Honorable senators opposite are silent about much of what Mr. Bruce told them, because it would not suit their books to disclose it. In September last, I was a member of an Empire-wide conference that met at Lapstone, New South Wales. Delegates were present from every country in the British Empire, including India. The press was not repre sented, and, therefore, every delegate was free to express his convictions candidly. The result was that we had a conference that was invaluable to me, and, I believe, to every delegate. It was not necessary for Mr. Bruce to come to Australia this year, and tell us that an expeditionary force would never again be required to leave the shores of Australia, because, from the delegation from the United Kingdom, which included representatives of all shades of political opinion, we had that assurance on the best possible authority.
– Yet the honorable senator alleges that this Government would send conscripts overseas.
– Senator James McLachlan did not spring any trap on us when he said that we should have heard Mr. Bruce. He did not tell us that Mr. Bruce had said that Germany had no intention to demand the return of the mandated territory of New Guinea. I say that was all press “ hooey “ to work up a war hysteria, and make this country an easier prey for armament racketeers. Nor did the honorable senator tell us that Mr. Bruce remarked that it would never again be necessary for an expeditionary force to leave these shores. He did not say’ that Mr. Bruce declared that if the people of Australia defended their own country, no more would be expected of them, because that was all they could do properly. Anyway, why should I go to a public servant to hear a statement on international policy which the Government should have presented to this Parliament long before Mr. Bruce arrived in Australia?
We also heard from Senator James McLachlan the dictionary meaning of “ adequate “ in relation to defence. He gave us four definitions. [Extension of time granted.] The Opposition did not need them. Every three years the Australian Labour party holds’ a conference, a.nd issues a new booklet dealing with its constitution and general rules.
– What is the date of the book which the Leader of the Opposition has in his hand?
– It contains the constitution and general rules of the party as amended in 1938, and these are operative from the 1st January, 1939; but its defence policy has remained the same for years. I read that policy in this Senate from a red book dated 1935, and from a white bookdated 1932. The policy provides for -
Amendment of Defence Act to secure -
deletion of all clauses relating to compulsory training and service;
no raising of forces for service outside the Commonwealth, or participation or promise of participation in any future overseas war, except by decision of the people;
manufacture of munitions of war.
Then the conference added the following amplification of its defence policy -
Aerial defence, and the further development of commercial and civil aviation, capable of conversion for defence purposes.
This bill contains no provision for the taking over of air routes. The next paragraph reads -
The establishment of air ports and depots at strategical points on the coast and inland.
The Government has not a solitary airport in Australia from which a loaded bomber could depart, if it landed after a week’s rain. It would be necessary, in the event of invasion, to ask the enemy kindly to postpone its attack for a fortnight I The statement of Labour’s policy continues -
The provision of adequate stores of oil fuel, and concentration upon the production of oil from coal and/or shale; and the production of power alcohol from crops suitable for the purpose.
The intensification of a scientific search for additional oil sources, natural and artificial, throughout the Commonwealth.
The provision of bomb-and-gas proof shelters and the means of evacuating women and children from menaced areas.
When I wrote from Brisbane, months ago, asking the Government what provision had been made to deal with possible aerial attacks on Australian cities, it was unable to supply gas masks. The further we go into the matter, the more inadequate and insincere are the defence proposals of the Government found to be. It will be my task, and that of my colleagues, to stump the country from one end to the other, and to show the people what has been not done for the defence of theCommon wealth. I recently toured Tasmania for a month, and told the people of that State what a poor lot of patriots the members of the present Government and its supporters are. I charge this Government, even at this eleventh hour, with absolute insincerity with regard to defence.
Honorable senators opposite know the fate of the National Insurance Act. I suppose that not less than £250,000 has been wasted on that proposal.
– More than that.
– Perhaps so. The Government gagged the bill through the House of Representatives, so that it would reach this chamber when there were only three members of the Labour party in the Opposition ; now the Opposition consists of sixteen members.
One of the reasons why the Government is prepared to hang on to office by hook or by crook, and is hoping to go into recess on Friday or Saturday next, is that it intends that the new GovernorGeneral and his wife shall be received in Australia by a Ministry formed by members of the party opposite. The social climbers of this country are pressing the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to hang on to office, because it would be deplorable if the Duke and Duchess of Kent had to be received in Australia by a government composed of representatives of the working class. Whenever Queensland has been visited by royalty, the Labour party has been in office in that State, and I have yet to learn that any serious faux pas has been committed. I shall let the people- know how Senators Foll, Crawford and Cooper fought strenuously for this bill, because they could not trust good Australians. I shall also let them know the kind of answers which this Government gives to questions asked in the Senate. I deliberately asked how much the Government was spending on Yarralumla. That residence was good enough for Sir Isaac Isaacs, the finest Governor-General Australia has ever had. Extravagant expenditure is now being incurred at Government House, Canberra, and the additions that are being made are more extensive than the original building itself. From the answers to my questions I was able to elicit that £36,000 had been already expended on Yarralumla.
– Order ! Has that matter anything to do with the bill ?
– I am charging this Government with insincerity regarding defence. If the Government were sincere it would have stopped the waste on the national insurance scheme when it knew that the scheme was not to be proceeded with. If it were sincere it would not have spent £36,000 on Yarralumla. This morning’s press contains an inspired statement that the Government is considering the purchase of a property in’ Melbourne to accommodate the Duke and Duchess of Kent when they are in that city. If the nation be really in danger, and if the Government apprehends a state of war, as it would have us believe from its bills, it should shut down on every expenditure, particularly in view of the fact that every time the Opposition asks for help for a distressed section of the community we receive the stereotyped answer: “Nothing can be done because all the money available is wanted for defence purposes “. Senator Cameron deserves to be congratulated on his speech. If he had said nothing else but. read the illuminating quotation from the Economist, he would have rendered great service to the country. Every word of what he read applies to the situation to-day. Government supporters talk about tuning in with Great Britain. They know that the Government of that country had stood for the voluntary system, and that only recently Parliament decided to impose conscription.
– What system did Great Britain have during the Great War?
– I know what system it had. Ear be it from me to belittle any army that fought on the side of the Allies, but because Great Britain had conscription, can the Minister tell me that the rank and file of the “Tommies,” was equal to the Australians in service, in virility, and in quickness in the uptake? When on one critical occasion it was necessary to stem the tide during a retreat, it was the Aus.tralian troops who were called upon. The Minister should not talk to me about what system Great Britain had during the Great War. Because the Australian Government did not dare to put into force its policy of conscription we had soldiers as good as those of any other nation, if not better. Senator Cooper said that the enactment of this legislation would have the effect of bettering things for the workers.
– I spoke of this bill, and said that it would create work.
– I am admitting that, but I can hear Senator Cooper telling meetings of workers in Queensland what a good friend he is to them - that he is as good as a Labour man. He will inform them that he supported the bill because of the work that it would provide for them.
– Is this a preelection speech?
– It is a forerunner to one.
– Only the recess will save the Government from an (?lection.
– This bill is noi: one on which there is need to make a second-reading speech. It is a committee measure, and the Ministers will hear us in full cry then. When there is talk about the enactment of this legislation making work, I ask the Ministers whether one line in either this measure or in the Supply and Development Bill shows that they have considered what will happen when the defence expenditure has been discontinued. Not a line in yesterday’s measure nor in this bill indicates that ihe Government is prepared to sen.’! o::.’ :’. questionnaire which will help to plan against the economic insecurity that must occur when the defence expenditure ceases. Then there will be a depression, social services will be starved, business stagnation will occur, and there will be malnutrition and all the other horrors associated with unemployment. Yet Senator Cooper says that one of the reasons why he supports the bill is that it will give some people work.
– Work for gaol varders !
– The bill proposes to make criminals of men who are innocent young fellows to-day.
Sena tor McBride. - That is not correct.
– Either my statement is correct, or it is not; the event will prove. If I am proved incorrect, I shall apologize. These census forms are to be stacked at the Brisbane Post Office, where, owing to the congestion in the inadequate building, a person can hardly enter to buy a stamp. If he can see bis form, he will be able to take it out and fill it in. If, however, he does not comply with the act, the penalty prescribed is a fine of £50 or imprisonment for three months. Is it not a fact that as soon as the boys handle these census forms they may break a law ? Tens of thousands who will have compulsory census forms will not be able to supply all the details demanded.
– Honorable senators who have had experience with old-age pensioners know that about one in twenty is able to fill up the form, and the remainder have to call upon members of Parliament to help them. The oldage pensioner questionnaire is simplicity itself in comparison with the very complicated form to be used under this measure.
I should like to make a few comments on the Minister’s second-reading speech. He quoted a remark by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) -
Nothing less than organization on this scale will give a democratic state a comparable degree of preparedness to an authoritarian state.
I suppose that Germany has a more complete card index of its people than any other nation; every German is registered.
– We have to register under the Electoral Act.
– If the people are registered under the Electoral Act, why is there need for this bill? This compulsory census form is a disgrace to the Government that framed it, because of its inquisitorial character. Long before Senator Collett repeated Mr. Street’s statement, Cabinet had decided on a voluntary register, but later abandoned it. We have listened to the tones of emotion in which senators quoted the statement of the late Prime Minister, that conscription would not be imposed by his Government. That guarantee was quoted by every honorable senator supporting the Government. Not only did the late Mr. Lyons make that declaration, but 1 heard Dame Enid Lyons, with tears in her voice, say -
It is a cruel thing to say that my husband or his Government would ever stand for conscription. I tell you that if he proposed such a thing, I. should be ashamed of it and would denounce it.
What happened? When the question of the voluntary register was being ‘considered in the House of Representatives, a member of the Opposition asked about the promise made by the late Prime Minister on the matter. Have the Government supporters in this chamber forgotten the answer that was given in the House of Representatives? There the Minister said that Mr. Lyons’s statement did not refer to service outside of Australia; it referred only to compulsory military training. That statement was a falsehood. Anyhow, Mr. Lyons is no longer with us, and we do not trust the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the darling of the Clivedon set in the Old Country, the anti-Australian Australian ; and the people do not trust him either.
The Government says that we are wrong in objecting to its policy, and that we are wrong in interpreting the word “ compulsion “ as meaning conscription. The truth is that conscription is already in force, and the Government knows it. Let me read a document which is being circulated by the police authorities in New South Wales to every captain of industry, most of whose employees have already signed under duress.
– Has this document anything to do with the bill?
– Of course it has. Industrial conscription is already proceeding in one State of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that this is Australiawide?
– The document is as follows : -
A person who fills in that form is also called upon to take an oath to serve the King in the office of police reservist.
SenatorCollett. - By whom is that form issued?
– The New South Wales police. We do not trust this Government, because compulsion is already in force.
Sittingsuspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– My purpose is to bring to the Senate a realization of the motives behind our very definite opposition to this measure. If, in the course of my address, I have succeeded in conveying even an impression of our feeling in the matter I shall be more than satisfied. But I am not sure that I have accomplished what I set out to do. All the special pleading that we have had from Ministers and their supporters, all the interjections that were flung across the chamber while my colleagues were addressing themselves to this bill, suggest that ministerial supporters have not got a grip of the situation; that they are unable to get behind the verbiage in which the intentions of the Government are clothed in this bill. I want them to feel that we are very earnest in our opposition to this measure, as well as to the one that was forcedthrough the Senate yesterday. We are in opposition to it because we are Australians in an Australian Parliament, legislating for Australians; and we are actuated by sentiments which, as I said this afternoon, are not the prerogative of onesection of the community, but are common to all our people as a result of their struggle over the last century and a half to escape from the political and economic thraldom which still lies upon the populations of other countries.
I conclude with a few thoughts which. I think, are apropos, and will probably round off better than anything else could the address I have delivered. The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Collett) knows that I have very great respect for him, but I say to him that, he made the very best of a bad job in his second-reading speech. This bill has not been drafted within the last few days. The proposals contained in it have been under discussion for some weeks. They arenot entirely the outcome of the Government’s desire to do anything that will get them out of a very difficult political situation. If the Minister in charge of the measure would realize, as we do. that the cure for democracy which in this country and othercomponent parts of the British Empire, is said to be on its trial, is more democracy; and that the danger to theworld lies in autocrats and autocracy and rule by the privileged classes, he would see the unwisdom of attempting in Australia to apply compulsion in any shape or form. I say deliberately that compulsion is only another word for conscription. We on this side decline to camouflage what we believe is the real objective of the bill. Norman Angell has well said that -
The political doctrines by which alone conscription can be justified demands ofthe individual citizen for the purposes of the community the surrender of all his freedoms, convictions and conscience - but not his money.
That, I suggest, is worth remembering. As a final word I take the following from an address by a distinguished thinker, Professor G. D. Herron: -
It is only in liberty that man learns to be free; only in the possession of his rights does a man learn to practice the highest right - the right to do right.
– I subscribe to that.
– Prior to suspension of the sitting for dinner the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) treated the Senate to the most brilliant exhibition of ranting that I have ever listened to in this chamber. The honorable gentleman ranted and raved and beat the air in frenzy. But although he spoke for an hour and a half he did not touch upon the bill. We were disappointed because, when the sitting was suspended he had almost reached the bill. Of course, the honorable gentleman must not be reproached for his failure to deal with the bill ‘because, under the Senate Standing Orders a member of this chamber may not speak for more than one hour and a half on a motion for the second reading of any measure presented to it. At one stage, the honorable gentleman, as I have said, nearly touched the bill. He said something to this effect: “This bill will have the effect of making criminals of young men “.
– Quite true.
– Such a statement was entirely unworthy of the honorable gentleman. No one should remain a member of this chamber if he believes that it is legislating to make criminals of any persons in the community. If I thought that way I would go out of the Senate to-morrow and do so in honour. Nearly every piece of legislation which we pass contains a penal clause for offences committed against its provisions. I say, therefore, that it is sheer nonsense for any member ofthe Senate to suggest that a bill of which he disapproves will make criminals of some one. As is usual with, and characteristic of, the honorable gentleman and his followers, he made a strong attack on employers, and looking across the chamber suggested that honorable senators on this side were the representatives and tools of the wealthy and employing classes. I referred to this matter yesterday and took occasion to tell the Leader of the Opposi tion that although no Labour senator or combination of Labour members of Parliament ever does anything to provide jobs in this country, none of them ever hesitates to hurl insults at men who subscribe capital to business enterprises and give employment to Australian workmen. In view of the frequency of those attacks on the employers made by honorable senators and their Labour colleagues in the House of Representatives, as well as in the State Parliaments, no one could be surprised if the people who invest money in these industrial undertakings sometimes asked themselves whether they were justified in risking their capital. Some day Labour in this Parliament may reach the treasury bench, and if honorable senators opposite do, then what they now suggest the interests of the investing public will be in jeopardy.
Honorable senators opposite would show come practical sympathy for the working classes of this country if they applied their own capital and some of their energy to the establishment of industrial undertakings which would provide jobs for Australian workers. The truth is, however, that some of the leaders who are behind this campaign in opposition to the Government’s proposals to establish a national register are the very men who batten on the working men of this country. Numbers of these parasites are to be seen hanging around the Trades Halls of the various capital cities. Their one purpose seems to be to create discontent among the workers, but they themselves do nothing to provide jobs for fellow Australians. Most of their time is spent in abusing people, who, at least, are rendering some service to this country by furnishing the capital for industrial enterprises and giving employment to our people.
The Leader of the Opposition objected to the questionnaire contained in the schedule to the bill, but directed his attention principally to a questionnaire which, I believe, was submitted to recruits for the police force. That, I understand, is a voluntary questionnaire, and some of the questions are a little bit difficult. The honorable senator went through it question by question, and held it up as a horrible example of what the Government proposed to do under this bill, although, as a matter of fact, he did not deal in any detailwith the schedule to this measure. Let us examine the questionnaire that is before the Senate in order to see if there is in it anything to which objection can be taken. The persons requiring to furnish a return are asked to answer the following questions : -
British, natural born.
Place and date of naturalization. Foreign (state country).
Number of children.
Number of other dependent relatives.
Grade of occupation -
State total number of weeks unemployed in past 12 months.
If unemployed now state period since last employed in any occupation (other than sustenance or relief work ) .
Craft or occupation -
State branch of industry or profession in which now engaged.
Those are all simple questions that could be asked of, and answered by, any person without any doubt or suspicion. But honorable senators opposite, who are subject to the dictates of leaders of outside unions, know that they must find fault with it. We had an example of this last week when we saw, in the House of Representatives, a considerable number of these trade union executives watching their servants oppose this bill clause by clause. They came here for that purpose. The fees of the unionists were utilized to send them here to see how their servants in this Parliament were obeying their dictates. I have read the questionnaire ; that is the sinister document which honorable senators opposite say will bring about the introduction of conscription in Australia. Who are the people who issue instructions to honorable senators opposite? The following paragraph appeared in a letter addressed to me by Mr. J. V. Stout, secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council: -
Because it is felt that should the bills become law, there will follow much disruption in Industrial life, I have been directed to ask that you exert your influence to improve or at least maintain the present relations existing in industry. 1 can assure my friends of the Trades Hall and honorable senators opposite, that my efforts have always been, and always will be, directed towards the maintenance of the industrial standards of the people. I do not need the prompting of the Trades Hall Council to do so. Nevertheless, I can conscientiously vote for the bill now before the Senate. What does the Trades Hall Council say about the bill? Its spokesmen say that this bill will lower the industrial conditions of the workers, that it will make slaves of them, and all the rest of the rubbish we have heard from honorable senators opposite. Unfortunately, some honorable senators opposite swallow every word written by their mentors, and echo such sentiments in this Parliament. The trade union executives set out eight methods by which it is proposed to defeat the purpose of this bill. I shall not read them all; there is no necessity to do so. I content myself with saying that this letter sets out how the council proposes to exert its influence to defeat the national register. Then it appeals to me to oppose the bill on the ground that if I do not do so I shall be helping to interfere with the industrial standards that obtain in Australia. The party onthis side of the Senate is responsible for having introduced the legislation establishing the Arbitration Court and it is pledged to maintain the standards and conditions established by the court. It ill becomes the Trades Hall Council to ask me to join forces with it in its attempt to defeat this measure. My answer to that nefarious suggestion is the speech which I am now making, and this is the proper place for such an answer to be made. Unlike honorable senators opposite, I do not read a pamphlet for the accuracy of which I cannot vouch, and at the same time refuse to divulge the name of its author. I have given , the name of the author of this document, and I am prepared to allow any honorable senator who cares to do so so to peruse it. The following resolution was carried at a meeting of executives of trade unions held on Sunday, the 4th June, last: -
Further, in order to initiate a fund to finance propaganda against the national register, it be a recommendation to the Trades Hall Council that each union be requested to subscribe an amount of at least £1 for each delegate to the council.
From what source is that money coming? From the pockets of the unionists. I say that the law of this land should prevent a few of these union parasites - I do not refer to the unionists, but to those who live on their dues-from fostering this campaign against the law.
SenatorCameron. - This bill is not yet the law of the land, and the Government has no mandate to make it so.
– It soon will be the law of the land. These people have no right to filch the dues of the unionists who are told that their contributions to union funds will be used to preserve or to improve their industrial conditions. Hundreds of thousands of unionists see no harm in this bill. They have an inherent love of their country and they are prepared to play their part, not only by filling in the questionnaire set out in the schedule to this bill, but also, if the occasion arises by going very much further than that. Many thousands of these unionists never have and never will vote for our friends opposite; but their dues are used not only to keep a handful of people hanging around the Trades Hall but also to finance the propaganda to defeat a bill with which many of them agree entirely.
– What a man! Yours fraternally !
– I am glad that the honorable senator interjected; otherwise I might have overlooked him. The honorable senator spoke on the bill this afternoon, and at one stage, after taking a deep breath and swelling out his chest in self-satisfaction, he taunted honorable senators on this side of the chamber with being the representatives of industrial magnates and wealthy friends. Just to show whether or not that, taunt is justified let us consider for a moment some election figures. In 1934 when I was a candidate for election to the Senate, I got by many thousands a higher number of votes than had been recorded before or has since been recorded in New South Wales.
– What was the figure ?
– How did the honorable senator come to get that number of votes ?
– On my merits, certainly not because through an accident of birth my name happened to be on the top of the ballot-paper. My friends opposite were kind enough to place my name number thirteen on their voting card, even below that of the Communist candidate. My majority was 189,000. In view of this, can it be said that the electors of New South Wales regard me and my colleagues as being the representatives purely of the wealthy classes? That vote of 729,000 represented a majority of the working men in 1934. In other words, more working men and women voted for me than for the members of the Labour party.
– Well, why not join a union?
– I am told that I belong to the Whips union; but I cannot claim to be a good unionist because 1 have never paid any fees as a Whip.
– It is probably be cause no fees are demanded that the honorable senator is a member of that union.
– At any rate the other Whips do not subscribe to keep me; I keep myself. Senator Keane sees in this measure everything that is harsh, cruel and brutal - a design to rob the manhood of Australia of its independence. He
Went on to land Great Britain because, he said the British Government had introduced a voluntary register. The honorable senator said “ I shall tune in with Great Britain”. He did not tell us, however, that only a few weeks ago conscription, not compulsory training, was introduced in Great Britain. Apparently the honorable senator meant that in some instances he would tune in with Great Britain, and in others he would not. He should be fair enough to say in what respects he would tune in with Great Britain.. He wants it both ways.
– In respect of the national register. That is the matter before the Senate.
– The honorable senator asked why we should not follow the British example and have a- voluntary national register. The essential aims of a voluntary national register in Great Britain and a compulsory national register in Australia are quite different. Australia wishes to determine the total available supply of man-power and to assess the supply of skilled ‘labour. More than 100 types of skilled labour are required by a modern mechanized army. Great Britain has conscription and sufficient supplies of skilled labour, and wishes, by means of its register, to collect information relating to possible volunteers for emergency auxiliary services. Australia does not compel any one to perform any service in time of peace. The honorable senator also said that the unemployment register will not provide any information that is not already available. I remind him that no information is available of the total number of males unemployed, and the duration of unemployment. When Senator Collings was ranting about this questionnaire^ - this inquisitorial examination to which certain people will be subjected - be did not say that in 1933 he supported the taking of a compulsory census of every man, woman and child in Australia. The questions asked in that. census were far more searching than those proposed to be asked under this bill. So it is no less than idle talk for honorable senators opposite to say that they object to our men being asked to supply answers to these questions, when they are prepared every ten years to support a compulsory census. Senator Keane said that the
Lyons Government decided in February last to introduce a bill for the taking of a voluntary register and that in the following May the Government changed its mind and decided to introduce a bill for a compulsory register. That sounds a very harmless statement, but I draw this deduction from it: In February of this year the late Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister. As far as I can judge, in fixing the month of May for the change over to the voluntary register, Senator Keane wanted to have an unfair dig at the present Prime Minister. The decision to take a compulsory register was made in March of this year while the late Mr. Lyons was in office. Tho present Prime Minister was not even in the Ministry at the time. I may be wrong, but I believe that Senator Keane did not “ play cricket “ when he said that the change was made in May. Like many of his colleagues, he looks for something that might be hidden underneath.
– There is good reason for that.
– Nothing of the kind. I doubt that the honorable senator could give one instance of a non-Labour government having introduced legislation which had an ulterior purpose.
– What about the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act of 1932 ?
– When the Ottawa Agreement was introduced into the House of Representatives similar charges were levelled against the Government of the day, but they were never proved. The making of such charges is a common practice with the Labour party. I assure the manhood of Australia that I have no sinister purpose when I say that I believe that this national register is necessary. I see nothing sinister in it. I admit that when I read what a person says, I am prepared to accept it in good faith. I do not discard the good and grope in the mire for some evil. Good reasons for supporting the bill can be advanced. I shall support it, first, because I believe that a national register would be invaluable to Australia in the event of an emergency arising. Secondly, I believe that I am right in supporting it, because since the bill was introduced into this Parliament I have read all that I could find about it, and have listened to the views of honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives. and I have not found any logical reason for not supporting it. The only objection to the bill appears to be the fear of industrial conscription or military conscription. Honorable senators opposite use those two terms in the hope that the trade unionists of Australia will oppose the bill. If the bill has no merit at all, honorable senators opposite should point out its weaknesses; but they should not say that there is some ulterior motive for its introduction. I assure honorable senators opposite that those who support the measure have minds just as .lofty as have its opponents. Although I have not been able to find any logical reason for the opposition to the bill, I have found two miserable excuses. I have already named them; they are industrial conscription and military conscription. What industrial conscription means, I do not know, but I do know that industrial conditions in Australia are regulated by arbitration courts, which the party to which I belong is pledged to support. Never yet has any non -Labour government opposed obedience to the laws of the land, but I cannot say that of some of my friends opposite. I should be glad to know what they have in their minds. The terms “ industrial conscription “ and “ military conscription “ have been coined for the purpose of deceiving the unsuspecting public. Let us seek to ascertain the source of the opposition to this bill. Mr. A. C. Crofts, of the Melbourne Trades Hall, objects to compulsion in any form ; so does the Leader of the Opposition, although until to-night I did not know that that was his opinion. What a delightfully easy-going old gentleman Mr. Crofts must be! Compulsion in alr form is anathema to him. [Quorum formed.’] I spoke a little earlier of “ cricket “. Is it “ cricket “ for honorable senators who smart under just criticism to arrange with their colleagues to go out of the chamber so that the Senate will be left without a quorum? This delightful Mr. Crofts, who is the guiding force behind the opposition to the national register, objects to compulsion in any shape or form. Therefore, he must object to compulsory unionism, notwithstanding that he relies on it. for his bread and butter. I imagine also that he could make a strong plea for a compulsory levy on unionists, because it might mean more bread and butter for him. This free and easy old gentleman must also believe in voluntary education, and voluntary payment of taxes.
– He qualified his statement.
– Evidently, Mr. Crofts also believes in voluntary obedience to the laws of the land ! I suppose that he does not believe in the law which compels an employer to pay decent wages to his employees, or in a factory having to close at a certain hour so that its employees may not be overworked! Evidently, also, he does not believe in the law requiring every person to respect the rights and property of others! Senator Collings holds similar views. These gentlemen who profess that they do not believe in compulsion in any shape or form make idle statements first, and then start to think.
In considering this bill, I ask myself whether a -compulsory register is necessary in Australia, or elsewhere in the world, under existing conditions. I honestly believe that it is necessary,- and that its existence would help to make this country more efficient in a time of emergency. I also ask myself whether the questions in the questionnaire are reasonable. I have read them again, and I find nothing wrong with them. Even if I wanted to, I could not find a sound reason for objecting to any question set out in the schedule. I can honestly and conscientiously support a compulsory register.
I was interested in the small book with a yellow cover which the Leader of the« Opposition produced. The colour of its cover has frequently been changed. I do not know whether its contents vary to the degree that its cover does. Two or three years ago the book was coloured blue, but it got such a trouncing in the Senate that its publishers decided to republish it with a yellow cover. Senator Collings has supplied from the book some information for which I had intended to ask him. The Defence Act contains a provision authorizing compulsory military service for home defence. That act in its present form makes every man in Australia between the ages of 18 and 60 years compulsorily liable for service in an emergency. I intended to ask Senator Collings whether he advocates the repeal of that provision.
– He said so.
– Do the Leader of the Opposition and his party believe that if Australia were attacked service would be voluntary? In the event of Australia being attacked, the manhood of Australia would respond as it responded before; but even so, I do not believe that voluntary -effort would be sufficient. If Australia were attacked every man should be required compulsorily to give of his best. Will the Labour party advocate the repeal of that provision? I do not believe that it is game to do so. The defence policy of the Labour party is published in a booklet, the cover of which is changed every three years. The words “ adequate defence “ are belched forth from the throats of Labour politicians in season and out of season. With that, little book and verbosity they hope to beat an aggressor. If the position became very serious, and every man in Australia were required for service in the defence of the country, the Labour party would be prepared to consider the taking of a referendum of the people. If the. enemy would postpone its attack foi- a sufficiently long period - and, of course, it would be good enough to await the result of a referendum - the Parliament would meet, and, if the enemy would delay its operations for about nine months, it might then be informed whether Australia was prepared to put up a fight.
When the Lyons Government intro- »duced its first defence estimates in 1932. many members of the Opposition objected to the increase of the vote. In 1933, and also in 1934, they acted similarly.
– What did the Labour party do in 1914?
– I am glad to have that interjection. Shortly before the last war. a Labour government introduced compulsory military training. “ the present Opposition claims relationship with the Labour party of those days, why does it not now support, compulsory training? There is as much difference between the Labour party prior to 1916 and that of to-day as there is between chalk and cheese. Then there was mutual trust among members of the party; but, since 1916, Labour governments in both the Commonwealth and State spheres have been broken up by internal dissension, suspicion and distrust.
It was stated yesterday by some honorable senators that the world position had eased ‘ somewhat, and that this led them to doubt whether it was necessary to continue the defence programme that has been outlined. I can understand that line of reasoning; but, if the position has eased, this is due to Great Britain’s tremendous effort, and to its increased preparedness. While -the world Contains dictators with aggressive designs, we can never feel free from danger, and, even if they could be compelled to abandon their aggressive tactics, they would have the tremendous task of re-absorbing in industry many millions of men who, for some years, have been mobilized for war. I fear that it may be beyond the power of the dictators to have those men re-absorbed in industry. If the dictators find themselves in difficulties, they may embark upon a foreign adventure in order to distract attention from their internal troubles. .Until those millions of men find their way back into productive work, we cannot confidently believe that the international crisis has passed. Therefore, it behoves Great Britain, Australia, and the rest of the democracies to go ahead with their defence programmes, and to perfect them, for in that direction our” safety lies.
Notwithstanding the gibes of honorable senators opposite, we on this side would do nothing injurious to the working people of Australia. We merely ask them to answer a few simple questions, so that, in the event of a national emergency, information of incalculable value would be available. This would enable each man to render the most efficient service of which he is capable. The bill has no sinister motive, and the Government is entitled to the plaudits of the people generally for having” introduced it. I claim to have even a greater desire than the Opposition tohelp the working man, because 1 am prepared by ray actions in this Parliament to encourage people to engage in industry, knowing that some of my fellow men will thereby obtain employment. I ask honorable senators opposite to forget the idle talk and nonsense that is pumped into them from the Trades Halls. We can safely trust to the good sense of men between the ages of 18 and 65 years, and they should be allowed to think for themselves. All that can be expected, judging by the part played by the Opposition in connexion with this measure, is, that, as some honorable senators opposite have suggested, bonfires will be made of the questionnaire proposed to be circulated.
. - The bill contains many provisions which I believe have created grave suspicion in the minds of the great majority of the working people throughout Australia. In view of the ministerial statement on this measure in conjunction with the bill dealt with yesterday, I feel confident that some of the people will be very happy. A clause should be inserted to make Senator Dein the “ Minister for Asylums “, since he frequently used the word “ nonsense “ both to-day and yesterday. I draw particular attention to clause 25, which states -
In any proceedings foran offence against this act-
the averment of the prosecutor contained in the information that the defendant is included among the persons or classes of persons specified in any proclamation under this act shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary and
a certificate in writing signed by the Commonwealth Statistician, certifying that no form, filled in and signed by the defendant in accordance with this act, has been received by the Commonwealth Statistician, shall be prima facie evidence that the defendant has failed to transmit the form to the Commonwealth Statistician.
That, to my mind, is an outrage upon the intelligence of the people. It is assumed that, if the Statistician has not received a filled-in card, whereby a man will be possibly branded like a horse, the onus will be on that person to prove that he has complied with the law. This proposal is a direct negation of Magna
Charta. Goingback to the twelfth century, we find that the first great charter of King Henry III. included the following : -
No free man shall be seized, or imprisoned, or dispossessed, or outlawed, or in any way destroyed; nor will we condemn him, nor will we commit him to prison, excepting by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land.
To none will we sell, to none will we deny, to none will we delay, right or justice.
The second great charter of King Henry III. contained a similar provision as follows : -
No free man shall be taken or imprisoned, or dispossessed of his free tenement, or liberties, or free customs, or be outlawed or exiled, or in any way destroyed; nor will we condemn him, nor will we commit him to prison, except by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land.
To none will we sell, to none will we deny, to none will we delayright or justice.
Under clause 4, the Governor-Gener al may appoint a national register board, which shall have such powers and perform such duties as are conferred or imposed on it by the act or the regulations. Regulations could be issued from day to day, but we should not be likely to know anything about them until they came into operation. The National Register Board is to consist of a representative of the Department of Defence who shall be the chairman, a representative of the Department of Supply and Development and the Commonwealth Statistician. J. have to refer to the Minister’s speech to inform myself of what is behind that proposal -
Finally, a great deal of preparatory work on industrial mobilization has been done by the advisory panel. The work of this panel will be continued by the Department of Supply and Development.
When we read that statement in conjunction with the clause relating to the board we may well consider some of the gentlemen connected with the panel. For instance, I have investigated Mr. Essington Lewis’s activities in the industrial field and found that he has been a director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited since 1926. He has had general mining experience with that company at Mount Lyell; was foremanof the sulphuric acid plant and zinc plant at Broken Hill in 1904; was successively metallurgist and assistant manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s smelting works at Port Pirie, and manager of the Iron Knob Tramway and Ironstone Quarries; was assistant general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company in 1918 and general manager in 1921. He was the managing director of Australian Iron and Steel Limited, and was interested in the Broken Hill By-products Proprietary Limited, the Broken Hill Collieries Limited, Rylands Brothers (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Lysaght Brothers and Company Proprietary Limited, Australian Wire Rope Works Proprietary Limited, Lysaghts Newcastle Works Proprietary Limited, the Commonwealth Steel Company Limited, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Limited, Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Wellington Alluvials Limited, the Structural Engineering Company of Western Australia Limited, Port Waratah Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited, and the Titan Nail and Wire Company Proprietary Limited. Mr. Lewis was the chairman of the Bureau of Steel Manufacturing, a vicepresident of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, and a member of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, the London- American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, the Iron and Steel Institute, the Institute of Metals Society of Chemical Industry, and the Metals Treatment Society of Victoria.
– What will he have to do with the board? No names have been mentioned.
– The honorable senator said that a great deal of preparatory work had been done.
– Yes, so it has.
– The National Register Board will be connected directly with the advisory panel which will be representative of the wealthy exploiting companies concerned with the heavy metal industries of Australia. Mr. Essington Lewis and another man to whom I shall refer later will be members of the panel, and they will have access to the census forms which are to be filled up by the people who are about to lose their liberty. The Government has already taken away one of their liberties.
– The honorable senator’s general assumption is much too wide.
– Clause 9 provides -
The board or the Commonwealth Statistician may, in relation to any particular matters or class of matters, or to any particular State, territory or part of the Commonwealth, with the approval of the Minister, by instrument in writing, delegate to any officer all or any of its or his powers and duties under this act.
Four of the members of the panel and six Ministers representing wealthy people live in Melbourne. 1 draw attention to the words “with the approval of the Minister “. He will be in Melbourne too.
– Is there anything in the clause that is alarming?
– There is much in that clause that is alarming the people of this country. When there is a proposal to give such powers to a Minister we can only be guided by the experiences of the past, and our minds go back to 1916 and 1917, when representatives of the wealthy classes governed the Commonwealth. The leader of our party pointed out that we should be guided by the aliases under which the Nationalists have operated. During the war they changed from Liberals to Nationalists; later the Nationalists became the United Australia party, which joined the Country party. Now there is a one-party Ministry which will soon be known as the “ all out “ government. We recall that a previous government gave a definite pledge to the people that in no circumstances would it introduce conscription in Australia. The Government fought the election on that pledge, but only a few weeks later there was a cry for conscription. A proclamation was issued, bearing the name of George Pearce, and men were called into the “ stew camps “, but the people rejected the conscription proposal.
– There is no mention of conscription in the bill.
– There is reference to compulsion. We must be guided by the activities of certain men connected with the Ministry. Senator Dein will recall the New Guard, in which Sir Frederick Stewart was interested.
– I did not know it.
– During the discussion, Senator Johnston took exception to the idea that he had been elected by the rich to further the purposes likely to be effected when the bill becomes law. He did not like the references to the rich men connected with his party. When it was necessary to protect the people the Commonwealth Prices Commission was established, through which Mr. Catts, then a member of the House of Representatives, learned ‘that much exploitation was taking place in Australia. Eventually, the New South Wales Government introduced the Necessary Commodities Commission to protect the people against the profiteers who to-day are represented by the Commonwealth Government supporters. This bill contains no clause designed to afford protection to the people. There has been a desire to create an atmosphere in which the people would believe that the Government has no bad intentions. The Supply and Development Bill, that was passed yesterday, and the measure now under consideration combine to form a replica of the War Precautions Act. We know what happened in the year in which that act was passed, and we also recall the famous secret memorandum which said, among other things, “You must create a fresh atmosphere; you must close the picture shows, racecourses and sporting bodies “.
Clause 10 of the bill provides - (1.) The Governor-General may enter into any arrangement with the Governor of any State providing for any matter necessary or convenient for the purpose of carrying out or giving effect to this act, and in particular for -
– What is wrong with that?
– When the authorities desire to collect these census forms will these wide powers he necessary in order to enable the executive officer to do this work? I hope that when the bill reaches the committee stage something will be done to make the two schedules more definite. The first schedule is -
To be filled in by all persons (including corporate bodies and the agents of persons absent from Australia) who own or hold on trust property of a value exceeding (here insert prescribed value).
The Government is really seeking a blank cheque. The space in italics might be filled in with any figures. Why does the Government propose to leave that space on the census form blank? Why is it empty? Men like Mr. Essington Lewis and Sir Frederick Stewart operating in conjunction with the National Register Board will be able to resort to actions that will remind us of the days of the War Precautions Act when peoples homes were raided and private papers were abstracted by officers. That was done by a vindictive Prime Minister who tried to persecute the young men of the nation. I am not quite clear about clause 20 which provides -
The Board, with the consent of the Minister, may, from time to time, require any person included among the persons or classes or persons required to furnish particulars for the purpose of any census taken under this Act to fill in and furnish to the Commonwealth Statistician a form or forms in accordance with one or both of the forms in the Schedules to this Act setting out the particulars specified in the form or forms as at the date the requirement is made.
Why the reference to “ classes of persons “ ? Honorable members will note the use of the words in that clause “ as at the date the requirement is made “. Is that provision to be accepted at its face value? Possibly Mr. Essington Lewis and other industrial leaders who are to be appointed to the Advisory Committee on Industrial Organization will evolve some kind of form under which the authorities may raid the homes of the workers at any hour of the day or night. The bill is objectionable to all good Australians, and I hope that it will lead to the accession to office of a saner government in the near future.
– It has occurred to me that I might with advantage make a few observations on the conduct of this Senate. Although I doubt that it would have good effect, I should like to have it on record in Hansard that, in the discussion of this important measure, the only Minister present in the chamber is the honorable gentleman in charge of the bill, backed by five Government supporters. The arguments of honorable senators of the Opposition are not likely to have any influence on the views of absent senators. Perhaps we should do better if we conducted the Senate proceedings by correspondence, hut I assure the Senate that I speak in all sincerity when I say that the proceedings in this chamber on occasions become farcical. In the debate on this bill, honorable senators on this side are sincerely anxious to state their views for the benefit of Government supporters, but so few aro present.
Let me now say something about Senator Adam Kemball Dein. That honorable gentleman would like to give the impression that he always discusses legislation from a lofty point of view. In fact the honorable senator regards himself as a model of propriety and a gentleman of the first order. Yet in his speech this evening he referred in scathing terms to representatives of trade union organizations, and complained that they made representations to members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives with respect to this bill as well as the measure which was passed through the Senate yesterday. The honorable gentleman called them parasites, whereas the truth is they are officers of legally constituted and registered trade union bodies. They are doing the work expected of them in all sincerity and to the best of their ability. It ill becomes Senator Dein to refer in such disparaging terms to gentlemen who are performing a duty to those who employ them. I expect that they sometimes speak of Senator Dein as a “ sanguinary parasite of a politician “. If they were to express themselves in good Australian language, I doubt if I should be allowed to repeat it in this chamber. But I do not regard Senator Dein as a parasite. Nor do I think of any honorable senator opposite as such. Every man doing honest work is worthy of respect. I therefore ask Senator Dein, in future, not to degrade himself and the Senate by referring to the representatives of trade union organizations as parasites. I speak on this subject Avith some warmth, because I know the facts. For many years I was an officer employed by a certain industrial organization. I served it to the best of my ability, and the members were sorry to lose my services. I have been in close contact with working-class organizations for the whole of my. life, so I know how hard they have to fight against the organized opposition of the captains of industry. I know personally the officers of many trade union bodies and have no hesitation in Saying that they compare favorably with members of this chamber or of the House of Representatives. There may be rogues among them just as rogues are to be found in any other section of the community. Some may act as stool pigeons for the bosses. Such men have done harm to the workingclass movement; but, generally speaking, trade union leaders play their part honestly and do splendid work not only for their members, but also for the community as a whole through their efforts to improve the general conditions of the people. 1 hope that Senator Dein will, in future, refrain from speaking so disrespectfully of nien who are doing their duty by their employers.
– All this propaganda about the bill is not their duty.
– They are doing their duty just as honestly as the honorable senator believes that he is doing his duty in this chamber.
I express regret for having digressed in this way from the subject matter of the bill, but I thought that it Avas due to the Senate that I should offer some comment upon the unfair statement made by Senator Dein regarding representatives of the trade union organizations. I turn now to the bill itself.
There has been aroused in the minds of the people a fear that the measure is a prelude to further proposals which will have the effect of enslaving the workers and instituting a political system similar to, if not exactly the same as, that operating in many countries of Europe. There is the danger that modern democracies, in their desire to organize for the purpose of defeating those who, in other countries, are opposed to the democratic form of government, will forget their function and institute a system of government which smacks of Fascism. We on this side are not alone in this view of the trend of political events. The whole trade union movement of this country regards the bill and the preceding measure with suspicion. In the Brisbane Courier Mail of the 12th June, there appeared the following report of a speech delivered by the Reverend W. A. Hardy, at Holy Trinity Church, Woolloongabba, on the previous night: -
Though the Church must keep clear of politics, there are some political issues with implications for religion upon which it must declare itself. The proposed national register raises one issue.
The proposal, though innocent enough in itself to all appearance, created grave misgivings when considered in conjunction with previous arbitrary and tyrannical acts of the present Government.
The history of the last ten years shows how deeply Australian officialdom sympathizes with the methods, if not the aims, of Fascist government,” he continued. “ We know how Germany has treated religious organizations and leaders, and the same tendencies which have led to religious persecution in Germany are active in government circles and behind the schemes of Australian government to-day.
The register is to be condemned, moreover, because it is one more invasion by officialdom of that sphere of private life which must he kept inviolate if humanpersonality is to develop. The proposed nation-wide inquisition is an attempt to violate that sanctuary of individual life, wherein alone true religion can take root and flourish.
The pre-requisite of religion is liberty of individual conscience and action. . Political and religious liberty stand or fall together, and their price is eternal vigilance.
Will Christian people be vigilant enough to see in the national register a threat, not only to their political freedom, hut to their religious liberty as well ?
That is not the opinion of , a red-ragger or of a member of the Labour party. It is the considered view of a gentleman who, obviously, is a serious student of political trends in Europe and elsewhere; and as such it should be noted. I may not agree with everything that the reverend gentleman said, but I repeat that this measure has created in the minds of various sections of the community a. fear that it is the forerunner of other legislation to undermine our democratic institutions and institute a form of government described under the generic term of Fascism.
Senator Dein has told us that this bill is an innocent proposal; that there is nothing sinister in it and that it will not hurt any one in the community. He has endeavoured to persuade us that the only purpose which the Government has in mind is to obtain information. The honorable gentleman referred in some detail to the first schedule and asked what objection could be taken by any person answering the questions contained in it. I admit that many of the questions are unobjectionable.
– I direct attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– I referred at the outset of my remarks to what I regarded as the somewhat stupid procedure in this chamber. This is another evidence of that stupidity. Simply because Senator Dein believes that I played some part in persuading honorable senators on this side to leave the chamber while he was speaking, he called for a quorum, knowing that many of his own party were out of the chamber. I ask that the facts be recorded in Hansard so that the people will know why so many ministerial senators had left the chamber.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator James McLachlan). - Order!
– If Senator Dein was allowed to make certain untrue statements surely I should be given an opportunity to refute them. So long as this little political game is understood, I do not mind playing up to our friends opposite. They have had a victory on this occasion, but there will be other occasions when they will not do so well. This incident will make known to the public the childish stupidities indulged in by Senator Dein. Our good friend, the Solon from Sydney, quoted at length t he questionnaire that is included in the bill.I hold in my hand the census paper for the 30th June, 1933. I find therein that questions are asked regarding the name of the individual making the return, the sex, the relation to head of the household, number of dependent children, orphanhood, duration of marriage, whether any members of the household are deaf, dumb or blind, where the members of the household were born, and, if born elsewhere, the period of residence inAustralia, race, nationality, religion - that is not compulsory - foreign languages, schooling, and was service. The 17th question deals with occupation, and asks for information as to whether members of the household are engaged in wheat-farming, coal-mining, contracting, woollen mills, retailing, banking, law, &c, &c. Information is also required as to craft of each person engaged in industry, and grade - if working on own account without paid assistants. Information is also asked as to whether any members of the household are unemployed, and if so, the time lost, and the cause of unemployment.
– That document is much more inquisitorial than the questionnaire in this bill.
– I find that many of the questions are similar to those in the schedule.
– Why object to them?
– If, as Senator Dein says, this is merely an innocent measure devoid of any sinister intention why did the Government introduce it in the form of a compulsory national register when it knew that by doing so fear would be aroused in the minds of thousands of good Australians that this is a step towards fascism. The Minister who introduced the bill, Senator Dein, and Senator Cooper have said that this bill provides merely for the taking of a simple census similar in every respect to the census taken in 1933. If the Government wants a simple census why not take a census similar in every respect to that taken in 1933 If that were done it could obtain all the information desired without arousing fears in the minds of the people.
– The honorable senator is himself arousing them.
– They have already been aroused. Various organizations throughout the country are holding meetings to discuss this measure. Resolutions have been passed at those meetings to the effect that if the bill becomes law direct action will be taken to prevent its provisions from being enforced. The workers have said that they will not wait for a parliamentary majority to be given to the political party which represents them in this Parliament. It is obvious that there is something more behind the bill than the innocent “ babes in the wood “ opposite would have us believe. We are told that it is for the definite purpose of securing necessary information in order to enable this country to’ be prepared to meet an emergency. Senator Dein says that it is an innocent measure; but outside there is a furore against it. The people’s suspicions aro aroused. They remember the past tyrannical actions of the Governments of the same complexion; they know the present Ministry is composed of selfconfessed conscriptionists, and that it has for its leader a clever lawyer. Mr. Menzies, the leader of the present Government, is a highly- capable man. . He is a King’s Counsel, and has frequently appeared, very often successfully, in the courts of the land. A brilliant lawyer may plead any cause equally convincingly. Only those with limited mentality cannot argue both sides of a question. The clever lawyer can take either side and very often come out successfully. Quite a number of honorable senators on this side of the chamber have dealt with the bill clause by clause, and have shown that, once the National Registration Board has been set up under the aegis of the Department of Supply and Development, it is possible that regulations derogatory to the best interests of the workers will be promulgated. The workers are not exactly fools; they have had experience of to ry politicians in the past. They have had experience in the industrial arena of working conditions being broken down by unscrupulous employers operating under a government unsympathetically disposed towards the workers. My experience as a worker has taught me to be suspicious of the employers as a class; such is the fight for profits that often workers are unscrupulously exploited and deceived by their employers. Is it any wonder, then, that the workers are fearful and suspicions of this bill, despite what they have been told in regard to it by our friends opposite? They know that if this bill be passed by the Parliament it will be a step towards the fastening of the shackles of conscription upon them.
– The honorable senator will make himself believe that soon.
– Not necessarily. Belief is a psychological state of mind that does not depend exact.y on facts. Honorable senators opposite have many political beliefs; but they are not based on facts. We, on this side of the chamber, have a certain psychological outlook, a certain mentality which enables us to base our actions on real facts. What is the cause of that? Is it because men who have been through the industrial arena, who have earned their living with their own hand - artisans, miners, sailors, farmers, and workers generally - are realists? They are not given to flights of the imagination; they are accustomed to dealing with the facts of life. During the course of my life I have been an active worker in no less than 35 different occupations, as the result of which I have gained considerable experience. I always seek to get down to the facts, and do not allow my imagination to run away with me. Honorable senators opposite suffer through lacking the experience gained by working men. When certain resolutions are passed at gatherings of workers, they are based not so much upon imagination as upon cold, hard fact. The workers know only too well the struggle and fight they have to endure for a living; they know what it means to be unemployed; they know what it means to be exploited ; but, above all, when it comes to fighting a war, they know very well that they are the very people who will have to bear the brunt of the bloody struggle.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order !
– What U wrong with that? Do you object, sir, to the use of the words “ bloody struggle”? If so, I repeat them, and say that the workers know only too well that they will have, to bear the brunt of the bloody struggle of war. I would like to express myself in even stronger terms if I were permitted to do so. Many of the workers who know the horrors of war do not want this measure, which, they fear, may lead them to further enslavement. The bill itself may appear innocent enough, but, having regard, to the calibre and past actions of the men responsible for its introduction, the workers believe that under it, action may be taken to destroy the democratic principle which they value so much. We are told that for the purpose of organization the Government must have the information sought in the schedule. First, there are questions relating to nationality. Within a few hours a bill providing foi’ the registration of aliens which has already passed this chamber will be passed by the other branch of the legislature. If all aliens be registered, as they will be when that legislation becomes law, what need will there be for the information concerning nationality set out in the questionnaire? How far is it proposed to go in the direction of adding to something that already exists ? Another question relates to dependent relatives. Why is it there? I believe that there is a reason for these things. Is it possible that, when conscription comes, a man with, say, ten dependants will be exempted ? There was a census in 1933 and another census will Lc taken shortly. The Government already knows about the blind, and dumb, and maimed in the community; yet this schedule contains a question relating to them. How much better prepared to resist an aggressor should we be if the information contained on this form were known to the Government? If, instead of all this “ bally-hoo “ and “ boloney “, the Government directed its energies to the real defence of Australia, it would be doing something worth while. I imagine that, in their present state of mind, many persons in the community will not answer the questions truthfully. But even if all the questions be answered truthfully, I do not think that the answers will be of any value in strengthening our defences. In order to divert attention from its sins of omission and commission, the Government seeks to create a state of nervous tension by its talk of the imminence of war. Perhaps it is part of a great game of bluff, a matter of political expediency. The Government is in a constant state of uncertainty. It has no majority in the House of Representatives; it is shot at from, right and left by the Country party and the Labour party; and in order to continue in office, it has to divert the minds of the people from the facts. We consider that Australia is a democracy, but, in my opinion, there is no true democracy anywhere in the world. Democracy implies equality of opportunity. It certainly presupposes economic security for every man, woman, and child in the community. In Australia and in other countries also that security does not exist for thousands upon thousands of workers. The first duty of an organized State is to see that the masses of working men and women and their dependants shall have security of livelihood. That cannot be said truthfully of thousands of our fellow citizens in this country. Whenever jobs are advertised the applicants far exceed the number of nien required. In our large cities there are thousands of men, women and children insufficiently clothed, insufficiently housed, and ill-nourished because they are on the dole through lack of employment. Even in Canberra, there are some of the worst slums in any part of Australia. Before we talk glibly of responsibility, and the need for every man to do his duty by the State, the State should do its duty by the individual. We have reached a stage in our economic development when thousands of our fellows can no longer find a place in the industrial life of the country. It is not sufficient to say that men should have more initiative, - that, furnished with a tin of treacle and a. bag of flour they should go out into the bush in order to make a living for themselves. Modern life is such that many young men to-day lack the enterprise and initiative which their forefathers exhibited. There would be as much justification for condemning a lunatic for being a lunatic as for condemning a city worker for lack of initiative in not seeking work in a country district. If it be true that there are thousands throughout Australia who have no jobs, and are so. insecure economically that they are dependent on charity or a government dole, how can we ask them to accept responsibility? We cannot do so fairly. If the Government were sincere, long before this it would have had a register of the workers, both employed and unemployed, as well as the periods of employment. That register would have been compiled in order to find out how men who have Been out of work could be placed in industry and enabled to earn a livelihood. What a splendid thing it would have been for Australia if the community had been ‘ organized in that direction !
– Is the honorable senator contemplating a compulsory register ?
– It would not matter to me whether the register were compulsory or voluntary, so long as the information was obtained. What a splendid instance of Christian ethics it would be to find a community so actuated by great ideals that before men were asked to register their names with a view to fighting, they were given employment and the means of earning a livelihood! I have been fighting ever since I was a lad of fourteen for these things. I have spent a lifetime advocating them. By so doing I have gained no economic benefit for myself, because time after time I have been thrown out of employment. I have worked in mines, on railways, on board ships, on farms, and in many industrial establishments, all the time spreading the gospel of Labour. I have spent a lifetime in promulgating Labour’s principles, and I have a right to be heard in regard to these matters. If every man were part and parcel of the community, not only politically, but also economically, how different things would be .’ We have political freedom in that every person over 21 years of age has a vote; but why do we deny to some individuals their economic rights? Instead of men being mere bundles of energy, to be offered for sale on the economic market, how much better it would be if every man, woman and child was regarded by the community as being entitled to proper food and clothing ! In such circumstances, it would be right to impose compulsion upon every man to do certain necessary work in the community either as an industrial unit or as a military unit. That is my stand. I am not opposed to compulsion if, first there be a change of the economic relations in society so that every man, woman and child is provided for, and is recognized as a unit deserving of the best that the community can give. I am not a pacifist in the ordinary sense of the term. I do not turn the other cheek to the aggressor. Bather am I like the old Quaker who first carried out the biblical injunction, but later used his boot with good effect. I do not contend that compulsion is wrong in al] circumstances. Compulsion is not necessarily wrong.
– It depends on how it is applied.
– Compulsion is sometimes necessary, especially in a growing community. In the training of children compulsion is necessary. In education, compulsion has to be used. There was a time when parents would not allow their children to be educated. As a result, compulsion had to be exercised. There is nothing wrong in that, hut the gentlemen who deal with these matters attempt superficially to relate compulsion in regard to education with compulsion of people, against their conscience, to fill in cards to be used for war purposes. Men on the Government side, representing the dominant class, would put a dog-collar on the workers, such as was worn by the slaves of ancient Rome. They would probably like to see every worker wearing a brass collar and a number. They talk about patriotism and the good of Australia, hut they desire the workers to he kept in a state of servitude. Above all, they wish to have the workers so regimented that their services may be used at the lowest possible cost. Their slogan seems to be, “ Give us cannon fodder at the rate of 6d. or ls. a day”. This measure may be innocent in itself, but I regard it as the first step towards the organization of the workers so that they will be available as cheap cannon fodder.
– It was so in the early days.
– Of course; but the Australian worker is too free and independent to fall for a measure of this kind. That is why the Australian soldier achieved unique distinction on the fields of Gallipoli and Flanders. Honorable senators opposite desired, some time ago, to bring in a measure to make the working man pay for his own invalid and old-age pension, because it was said that the pensions bill had become too high. The richest man who has ever sat in this Senate was one of the strongest opponents of the old-age pension, and, if he had had his way, not a penny qf pension would have been paid to any poor old slave who had spent his life in working for the community.
The Labour party claims that there should be industrial and economic, as well as political, freedom. If it be necessary to enlist an army of fighters, they should be paid for their services. The industrial soldiers have the advantage of awards of the courts. Some of them are injured and killed in the course of their employment on the battlefield of industry. They are often broken in body and spirit, and many of them are afflicted with lung trouble. They go from job to job, and, although they are being exploited, they value their freedom. I see no reason why a man’s pay should be cut down when he joins the Army. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) advocated a standing army of 20,000, but the cry was raised, “Just imagine paying for all those soldiers. What an expense it would be. We cannot afford it”. This shows that members of the party opposite are conscriptionists at heart, and desire to be little Hitlers and Mussolinis. It is not surprising that the workers suspect the actions of this Government, and believe that it is still running true to form. I have before me an interesting book entitled Fascism for whom?, and it shows the ingenious methods adopted in Germany for the militarization of labour. It states -
The work-book is an ingenious method of preparing the militarization of labour in a future war. Hut it functions as ingeniously in peace time by affording the official labour exchanges all possibilities of what is called by the law “ putting the right man in the right place “. The workbooks of the employees may he retained, by the employers. Thus, the employees are. prevented from changing their jobs without the consent of the employer, who for his part depends upon the State authorities, lt is a punishable offence for an employee to accept a new job without presenting his workbook.
That is the state of affairs prevailing in Germany, where there is no industrial freedom, and where the workers must accept whatever wages the State authorities give.
I admit that, administered by a government having the welfare of the people at heart, this measure might not lead in the direction of fascism; but, administered by a government of a different kind, it would lead to the institution of a form of fascism.
.- I regret that this bill has been brought before the Senate. Whilst I believe that the Minister in Charge of War Service Homes (Senator Collett) is deeply interested in this matter, I am afraid that the bill is not such a simple and harmless one as his second reading speech might lead us to believe. Honorable senators opposite who have spoken about industrial matters appear to know very little concerning them; a lifelong experience as a trade unionist is necessary to enable one to appreciate the severity of industrial conditions. The Minister said, in the early part of his speech -
The object of the measure is to provide for the taking of censuses for the purposes of national registration, and for the establishment of a national register. This is ancillary to the expanded defence programme of the Government, and marks a further step towards the completion of plans for all phases of national activity in an emergency. The intention of the Government to press on with this work was pointed out by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in a speech made by him early in 1938, when he said that the aim of these plans was to provide for the parts that could be played by every organization, industry and citizen, either in respect of their normal work in the life of a community, or by special voluntary effort.
In 1937, when the Government appealed to the people, it was returned upon the policy of no conscription or compulsory military training. That policy was advocated on every platform. Now that the party is in power it is trying to bring in conscription. Senator Dein referred to Trades Hall officials. Apparently he imagines that he has complete knowledge of them. He may know, the building, but if he spoke of the workers there as he does here he would be thrown out. He knows no more about the Trades Hall than the hen which hatched a setting of duck eggs knew about the ducklings when they took to the water. The proposed register is an absolute slur on the people of Australia. During the last war 370,000 men volunteered without a word being said about conscription, and they proved to be the finest soldiers that went overseas.
– This bill has nothing to do with the military forces.
– The measure is an instalment of conscription
Senator Cooper declared that with the introduction of this bill the Government was fulfilling its promises to the people. When were those undertakings given? The conscript cannot be compared with the volunteer. I have been a union secretary for a number of years, andI say that a worker who is forced to join an organization cannot be trusted. Those men and young women who are employed in shops and who come forward and voluntarily join a union can be trusted. This bill should be thrown out, just as measures have been thrown out of the windows of the Legislative Council in Western Australia. I am sure that 90 per cent. of the people of the Commonwealth are opposed to the bill. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his remarks. His appeal to the Government and his description of the dismay that the passing of the bill would cause were worthy of the serious notice of the Senate. I have heard members speak in different Houses of Parliament, but I have never heard a better effort.
Before concluding I should mention that a letter from Mr. E. Needham, acting secretary of the Western Australian Branch of the Metropolitan Council of the Australian Labour party, informed me that a meeting, held in the Unity Theatre, Perth, on the 2nd June, agreed to the following motion: -
Believing that the national register, proposed by the Menzies Government, is the first step towards the conscription of manhood this public meeting, held under the auspices of the Metropolitan Council of the Australian Labour party, Perth, Western Australia, strongly protests against and declares its determined opposition to such register, contending that if a national register is necessary it should include wealth as wellas manhood.
– I have been told that this is a census bill.
– Who said that?
SenatorFRASER. - A Minister interjected to that effect. The title of the bill is-
To provide for the taking of censuses for the purpose of national registration, for the establishment of a national register, and for other purposes.
We have every reason to be cautious. We wish to know the meaning of the words,
Tor other purposes “. I propose to give information to Senator Dein and Senator James McLachlan about registrations. Most of us learn from experience, and the two honorable senators should do so. In 1915, a census was taken as a preliminary to the conscription issue in England. The passengers on every ship entering that country after a certain date were compelled to sign a register, the terms of which are not unlike those set out in the questionnaire before us. I was a traveller on a ship in 1915 and as I filled in a form I know what information it sought.
– What followed?
– In the following year, conscription followed. Earlier this afternoon, Senator Dein interjected that during the war I was in a sheltered position. I know that he was in a sheltered position during the Great War, but I left this country in 19 15/ and during my stay overseas, I occupied no sheltered position, nor did I receive £6 or £7 a week.
– I said that £10 or £12 a week was paid to competent men.
-The honorable senator’s statement is misleading and is a reflection on men who gave their lives while he w&a in bed sipping his morning tea.
– And drawing his dividends.
– Play the game.
– The honorable senator has taken off the gloves, and I accept his challenge.
– The honorable senator does not know what I was doing during the Great War.
– I do not care, but I do know that the honorable senator waa in a sheltered position. The insinuation made in this chamber is not correct.
– What insinuation?
– About sheltered positions. I set up my record of service against .that of Senator Dein. Having been rejected for active service I left this country and went overseas to join the Imperial forces. Meanwhile, Senator Dein was in a sheltered position 12,000 miles from the scene of warfare.
– A good soldier never skites.
– I had to reveal my position because the honorable senator said that I was in a sheltered position. I have also to correct Senator James McLachlan about the Australian munitions workers who left this country because there was a demand in the United Kingdom for their skill. Other men left here because of their inability to take part in warfare. I do not parade my patriotism.
– I take exception to the honorable senator’s statement that I was drawing dividends.
– It is .a man’s service that counts, not mere protestations of patriotism. This bill will be used for purposes similar to those for which the English measure was used. Men who had come home after the retreat from Mons preferred to return to the trenches in Flanders rather than engage in the filling of shells with high explosives. I have seen them led out blinded through the filling of shells. Yet, Government supporters talk about sheltered occupations, and munitions workers receiving £10 or £12 a week.
– So they did; I can prove it.
– .Skilled men are just as entitled to £10 or £12 a week as others are to dividends, but thousands of men, who were employed in doing their part in the factories did not receive £10 or £12 a week. When this legislation comes into operation the military board that will administer it will say that this or that man is by virtue of his skill covered by its provisions.
– No military board is provided for.
– There will be representatives of the Department of Supply and Development and of the Defence Department on the National Register Board. If that is not a military board the honorable senator does not know what he is talking about. I am entirely opposed to boys whose ages range from 18 to 21 years and who have no vote for this Parliament being compelled to do something against their will. I have known boys who, by virtue of the regulations of the Royal Australian Navy, the
Royal Australian Air Force and the Commonwealth Public Service have been unable to join those services. That navy was established by a Labour government.
SenatorWilson. - To what clause is the honorable senator referring?
– I am opposed to these young men being compelled to fill in these census forms. Many boys have been guilty of committing small offences, and some of them have been compelled to go to the police court to answer insignificant charges. Such boys are deprived of the opportunity to serve Australia in either the navy or the air force, and the regulations prohibiting them from doing so are wrong. Boys who have been branded in this way have a grievance.
– What is the honorable senator talking about?
– I am referring to that clause of the bill which requires young men under the age of 21 years to furnish certain information to the Commonwealth Statistician. Obviously it is the intention of the Government to use this bill to enforce industrial conscription upon the country. And the bill is a preliminary to conscription for military service. When the late Prime Minister met his Cabinet in Hobart some months ago, the proposal at that stage was for a. voluntary national register. But the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has always been a strong advocate for compulsory military training; hence our fear that under this bill we shall have industrial conscription.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– I make this de duction from the trend of events. Senator Dein this evening spoke of Trades Hall delegates as industrial parasites. May I remind him that his colleague on his right (Senator Wilson) is a member of one of the closest unions in the world?
– He has no objection to this bill.
– I know that. If he objected he might as well vacate his seat in this chamber. The medical profession also is a strong compulsory union. So is the pharmaceutical chemists’ organization.
– And the honorable senator is compelled to oppose the bill. He has had his instructions.
– I have not had instructions. The whole of the Labour movement is opposed to the bill because of the belief that it is preliminary to industrial conscription.
– That is what the people have in Germany.
– And we shall have it in Australia if this legislation passes. Senator Dein has often boasted that he topped the poll at the general elections in 1934. Need I tell him that it may be easy to fool the people once ? I am sure that he will not be able to fool them a second time. I will, however, say to the credit of the honorable gentleman that up to the present he is the only member on the Government side who has had anything to say in answer to the criticism of honorable senators on this side. No social legislation designed to improve the conditions of the people has ever been introduced by governments of the same political colour as this Administration. Despite all that the Minister and his supporters may say about the desire of the Government to do something for the workers, about the only thing which Nationalist governments have done has been to bring in legislation such as the Transport Workers Act in order to penalize workers who dare to stand up for their rights. This measure, we believe, will lead to industrial conscription. It contains provision for certain penalties to be imposed on persons who fail to furnish information in the prescribed form. Yesterday when we were dealing with a complementary bill, and were discussing particularly the proposal to limit and control profits, it was significant that no penalty was suggested by Government members for evasion by manufacturers of that law. If this bill be passed, as I have no doubt it will be, it will be because of instructions given to the Government by its masters, the capitalist and monopolistic interests in this country.
– As a freedom-loving Australian, I believe that I should say something in opposition to the passage of this bill, despite the conciliatory attitude of the Minister (Senator Collett) who introduced it. The honorable gentleman almost persuaded us that it could be accepted without discussion. But unfortunately for the Minister, the ancillary bill which came to the Senate from the House of Representatives, where it was passed with the aid of the guillotine, was suddenly subjected to the same treatment here last night. In the circumstances, is it a matter for wonder that honorable senators on this side are suspicious of this measure? Surely the bill which was passed yesterday by the guillotine and the one now before us merit full debate. The use of the guillotine should not be necessary. Because of the attitude of Government supporters, the people of Australia will readily believe that there is something sinister in this measure. I agree with the view expressed earlier in the evening that this bill is a slur on the people of Australia, especially upon the young manhood of this country, and I subscribe to the opinion that it will lead to some form of industrial conscription as well as compulsory military service. Honorable senators opposite have asked where provision is made in the bill for that. My authority for that is the statement of SenatorCollett that nothing less than organization on the following scale would give a democratic State a degree of preparedness comparable to that of an authoritarian State : -
The organization of man-power and women’s voluntary effort;
The regulation and control of primary production in an emergency; (industrial mobilization of secondary industries in an emergency; and
Commonwealth and State co-operation in peace and war.
– What is wrong with that?
– It is in respect of the industrial mobilization of secondary industries in an emergency that we fear the compulsory organization of workers and the bringing into operation of those conditions so graphically described by Senator Brown when he referred to working conditions in Germany.
– There is no provision for compulsory unionism in this measure.
– Under it the worker may be compulsorily directed to attend at any particular place. If this measure be passed nothing less than industrial conscription will follow. .
– There is nothing in the bill to support that suggestion.
– I do not know what language could be more effectively employed to convey it. It is provided in the bill that the National Registration Board shall be established, and shall consist of three members, one of whom shall be a representative of the Defence Department. Honorable senators opposite have suggested that we need not fear any interference on the part of the military authorities in the deliberations of this board. We have suggested that it will be possible, if this measure becomes law, for that militarism which we so abhor in other countries to be introduced into Australia. The very fact that one of the members of the board is to be an officer of the Defence Department lends weight to our contention.
– That is an amazing deduction.
– Another member of the board is to be a representative of the Department of Supply and Development. The board is to exercise such powers and perform such duties as are conferred upon it by this bill or by regulations. If this board is to do nothing but deal with the register, what necessity is there for its establishment? Why set up for the collection of this information an organization additional to that which already exists under the Census and Statistics Act ? A census of the Commonwealth is taken every ten years by the Commonwealth Statistician, whose staff is competent to undertake the compilation of all information sought in this bill. Honorable senators opposite have told us at great length that this measure proposes nothing more nor less than the taking of an ordinary census of the people: If that be so, why is not the Commonwealth Statistician entrusted with the work? Why is it necessary to call in the aid of an officer of the Defence Department and another officer of the sister Department of Supply and Development? The very nature of the constitution of the board exposes the desire that lies behind the measure which it is sought so adroitly to foist upon the people of this country. We can carry on with the means which we already have at our disposal. There is also to be appointed to the board an executive officer who, subject to the control of the board, shall exercise and perform such powers and duties as the board directs or prescribes. We all know that when the War Precautions Bill was introduced in this Parliament it appeared to be a very innocuous measure. All the members of the then Labour Government who spoke in support of it were warned of the power which it would place in the hands of the Administration. Not very long after, those who were instrumental in bringing that measure into operation had it used very effectively against them and the organizations which they represented. One would have thought that this Government, in introducing a measure of compulsion, would have studied the characteristics of the people against whom it is to be directed. The average Australian abhors compulsion. Our history is a record of fighting against compulsion and oppression. The very fact that this country is peopled by freedom-loving people to-day is because in its early history people came to these shores in order to evade oppression in the older countries of the world. Just as his predecessors in years gone by put up a fight at Eureka for freedom, the Australian of to-day will be prepared to defend the principle of the liberty of the subject. It is rather remarkable that every attempt to whittle away the freedom of the people has been made by stealth. That is what is happening in this bill to-day. The people are being told that there is nothing in this measure of which they need be afraid ; but once it becomes law they will know to their sorrow what it really means. Some reference has been made to the fact that a Labour government was responsible for the introduction of compulsory military training in this country. That is true, and it is equally true that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are the lineal descendants of the government responsible for the introduction of that system. It is true also that there are on this side of the chamber to-night men who at. the time that system was introduced were active in the counsels of the Labour movement. The Labour government of the day believed that it was necessary for the defence of the country to introduce the compulsory military training system. The Labour party listened to the blandishments of those who were endeavouring to foist compulsion upon it. It is rather remarkable that the great foe we were taught to fear in those days is the same foe as, we are told, threatens our security to-day. Much was made then as now of “ the yellow peril “. A picture was also painted of what was likely to happen to this country if it came under German control. In the circumstances which we thought then existed, the Labour movement introduced compulsory military training. We were foolish enough to believe that the type of compulsory military training introduced and administered by the Labour government would be democratic in form and that, under it the awfulness of the German military system, as we knew it then, would never be known. Not long afterwards we found that we had made a grievious mistake.’ Honorable senators on both sides of this chamber, who took an interest in the operation of the compulsory military training system, know that the detention camps in this country were filled with mere boys who had had no say in the election of a parliamentary representative or in the making of the law, and who had refused to undergo military training. Then the awfulness of that militarism which we had so much abhorred in other countries was unmasked. I have a book entitled Conscription under Camouflage; Compulsory Military Training in Australia, from which I propose to quote one or two paragraphs which I regard as apropos the matter we are now considering. Certain clauses of this bill lay down penalties for breaches of its provisions. There is, for instance, a clause which demands that youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years shall report their movements. They are required to notify the authorities of changes of address. These are lads df the same age as those who came under the provisions of the Defence Act relating to compulsory military training. The book to which 1 have referred gives the following summary of prosecutions launched under the Defence Act in connexionwith breaches of the law relating to compulsory military training-
Those are official figures supplied by Mr. S. A. Pethybridge, secretary to the Department of Defence, to Mr. Arthur Watts, the organizer of the Australian Freedom League. I trust that Senator Dein will accept them as being authentic. When members of the Labour movement voted for compulsory military training, they did not think that such things would ever occur in this country ; but they found militarism in all its ugliness unmasked. The thought of what would happen under a government not so democratic causes one to shudder. I know of one case in which a young man taken compulsorily into camp in Western Australia was thrown from a horse in front of a body of laughing officers and received a broken spine. Although crippled for life, he received only £191 as compensation. In many instances lads were punished by being sent into camps and supplied with only bread and water for food. There were scores of such cases. Yet those same lads who objected strongly to compulsion enlisted willingly when war broke out. Thousands of them rallied to the colours. They resisted compulsory training, not because they were cowards or shirkers but because inherent in them was a feeling of rebellion against compulsion. The same thing will happen again under this legislation. In preparing this measure, the Government has failed to recognize the calibre of the people of Australia. If Australia were either invaded or threatened with an invasion men would rally to the defence of their country in such numbers as to make compulsion unnecessary. Last year, during the September crisis when the
Prime Minister, acting on the advice of military experts, said that the militia force would be increased, the response was immediate. Australian youths rallied to the call, and before long more than sufficient had volunteered to meet requirements. It is well known that to-day thousands of young men are willingto enlist, but the wherewithal for their training is not available.
– This bill has nothing to do with military training.
– Then why are there to be representatives of the Defence Department and the Department of Supply and Development on the board?
– The representative of the Defence Department will be required because of his knowledge of military requirements.
– If this legislation is so innocuous, why is not its administration to be entrusted to the Bureau of Census and Statistics?
– Men with special knowledge are needed.
– Let us honestly admit that this bill provides for the regimentation of the nation, instead of trying to deceive the people by a subterfuge.
In an effort to make this measure a little more acceptable to the people of Australia, the Government, against its will, accepted the insertion of a provision purporting to provide for a census of wealth.
– The Government bowed to the will of Parliament.
– That sounds all right ; but the leader of this “ promising “ Government which came into office as the result of an unfortunate occurrence, promised that he would never agree to the throwing overboard of the greatest piece of social legislation that this country has ever seen. To-day he is preparing for its abandonment. Although there is now in the bill provision for the taking of a census of wealth, if will be impossible to achieve the objective that the Government has in mind. The bill that was passed yesterday, and which is ancillary to this measure, ostensibly provides against profiteering. For a similar reason the measure now before us contains a most wonderful schedule. All that will be necessary on the part of the wealthy section of the community - those who possess property valued at over £500 - will be to fill in this schedule, and show what wealth they possessed at the 30th June, 1939. The question which they will be asked to answer reads, “ What was the approximate value of the real and personal property owned or held by you on 30th June, 1939?” I should like to know what is proposed for 1940 and succeeding years during the life of this legislation. Will it be necessary for those who are required to supply this information to notify the department of any change of address? Will it.be necessary for them to submit another return in 1940?
– The honorable senator should study clause 20.
– That is one of the clauses to which the Opposition objects. It allows the Minister to do certain things. We on this side are confident that the board will not receive any instructions from the Minister to act in the direction that I have already indicated. Something has been done in this connexion, but so far as this measure is concerned, I claim that it will be impossible to eliminate profiteering. In a previous debate, several honorable senators went to much trouble to show that profiteering had occurred in certain branches of industry. We know that the talk of preparations for war has caused some industrial stocks to rise to peak prices that have not been equalled since the last war. The experience of those days should be sufficient to .convince the Government that its present proposal would not enable it to keep track of all profits.
I draw attention to an essay published in the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, over the signature of Ida Craven Mirriam, who dealt with the difficulty of tracing profits. “ Profiteering “ is a term of opprobrium that came into wide use during the last war, but it is on record that unsuccessful efforts were made to prevent even the early Roman generals from profiteering. Yet honorable senators opposite are so trusting as to imagine that excess profits could be prevented under this measure. The American writer to whom I have referred points out that the average profits of the steel companies were 4.7 per cent, in 1912, 2.8 per cent, in 1914, and 24.9 per cent, in i917. Extensive profiteering was found to have been practised in the packing industry, and examples of excessive gains were discovered in other industries.
– Much of that profit was obtained from Great Britain and France.
– Yes, and little notice was taken of it; but, when it was observed that profiteering was being practised against the people of the United States of America, an effort was made to prevent it. Even in Germany, a careful tabulation published in 1918 by Fuchs Rudolf indicated similar conditions in trade and industry there. For instance, the gross profits, expressed as a percentage of the share capital of a selected list of sixteen mining and steel companies, ranged in 1912-13 from 13 per cent, to 65 per cent., and in 1916-17 from 35 per cent, to 2.19 per cent. ; but, since increases had not occurred proportionately, the increase of gross profits in 1916-17 over 1.912-13 ranged from 18 per cent, to 467 per cent., whilst the increase of average profits in the 1914-17 period over the average for 1910-13 ranged from 33 per cent, to 846 per cent. I could cite further examples of such profits. An interesting work by J. A. Hobson, Taxation in the Nev; State, contains the following interesting information at page 170: -
To these must be added innumerable other minor profiteers taking advantage of war shortages to raise prices to extravagant heights on pretexts of dear materials and labour. Several reports of government committees reveal the huge profiteering done by many business firms in their dealings with the Government, especially with the Ministry of Munitions. But careful analysis, were it possible, would probably show that the biggest aggregate of profits were made by ship-owners, brewers, farmers and bankers. No published accounts give any true notion of their dimensions, which lire concealed by various devices. The case of ship-owners is particularly flagrant, and has been brought before the public by statements of Sir Leo Chiozza Money, whoso official position us a secretary to the Ministry of Shipping gives authority to his revelation. “ In the first two years of the war the net profits of British ship-owners came to about £300,000,000. In the same time the capital value of British ships rose by another £300,000,000”. In respect toships sunk by the enemy, Sir Leo informs us that “ the Government paid out to ship-owners the war price ofships “, thus converting into cash these enormous war profits. It is important to realize that the bulk of the profits here indicated never figured as income and never contributed a penny to war taxation, either under the bead of income tax or excess-profits tax. They wore an addition to capital values attributable entirely to high freights and sinkings. These huge fortunes of ship-owners came out of the misfortunes of war.
By means of this bill, the Government hopes to control the profits of the Australian prototypes of firms of that kind, but does it intend to deal with bank profits ?
– Give us a chance, by agreeing to the bill.
– I realize that the Minister would like me to desist from making references that he finds unpalatable. I have endeavoured to awaken honorable senators opposite to the fact that a measure of this description should not be rushed through the Parliament without mature consideration. The bill should not have been introduced in its present form. It has been gradually evolved since the last elections, when the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), emphatically denied that he and his party stood for compulsory military service. In September last, when he still had some Labour sentiments left, he again declared that his Government would not stand for compulsion. Almost immediately after his death the claim is made that this measure is a corollary of his statement. it is unfair to the memory of the former Prime Minister for senators to endeavour to maintain that he stood for compulsion. At the time when Mr. Lyons made those remarks there were “ soolers “ for compulsory military training, and there are still some. There will always be some, notwithstanding any effort made by the community to preserve itself. The Parliament of the United Kingdom has been forced to agree to compulsion, not because its members desired it, or believed that it was necessary, but because they were compelled by a foreign power to place the necessary legislation on the statute-book. So there is pressure behind this measure just as there was in the Old Country, where the Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, was obliged against his better judgment to declare in favour of conscription. Pressure is being brought to bear in a similar way on those who are controlling the destinies of the Commonwealth. The Labour senators have been asked why they fear industrial conscription. We do so because we know that those who are guiding this Government are representatives of the big business interests of Australia. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has represented those industrial concerns in legal proceedings. Since we know the history of countries where there is despotism, are we not justified in warning the people of Australia against any encroachment on their liberties? The Australians do not need compulsion to rally them to the defence of their country. If they are asked they will respond to the call as a freedom-loving people. They appreciate the great heritage that has been handed down to them, and that tradition should not be sullied by the passing of any law compelling them to prepare to defend their country. The mere submission of this measure brings discredit upon the Government because it is besmirching the name of this great Commonwealth. I hope that honorable senators will at least desist in their efforts to show that the Australians need compulsion to do things that they are prepared to do of their own free will.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn, till 11 a.m. to-morrow.
British Troops in Great War.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to refer to a statement made this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) regarding British troops in the Great War. I regret that he is not in his place at the moment, but I am sure that he did not mean all that he said. His comments will appear in Hansard, and will create a wrong impression in the minds of readers. I recall the momentous days in March, 1918, when 31 German divisions attacked and drove back nine British divisions over 50 miles. Australian and other British troops were hurried down from Belgium to relieve the shattered divisions and restore the broken line. The brigade I commanded was to restore a particular sector of the broken line by stopping the enemy’s onward march near Hebuterne. We got into position after dark on the 26th March. Next morning, I visited the battalion, and I came across small groups of three or four remnants from various British battalions - the Yorkshire Light Infantry, the Lincolns, the Notts, and Derby WestRidings - which had lost their officers and non-commissioned officers. It was about seven o’clock, and they were enjoying hot stew which the Diggers had given them. Isaid, “You fellows must go hack to the village of Souastre, four miles away, and find any other men left from your battalions “. Their reply to me was : “ We have had a good sleep and a good feed, and we want to box-on again with the ‘ Aussies ‘ “. That was the spirit of the “Tommies” who had gone through hell for five days and nights. Farther south, where the British and French armies joined, were the second Devons. They had been driven back day after day and night after night, until eventually they stood their ground to prevent the Germans from turning the French left flank. The position was taken over by another unit, and put of a strength of 586 only three answered the roll-call when relieved. This episode is recorded in the French official history of the war. The 9th Scottish division also figured conspicuously in that momentous week, and its deeds stand out in the Great War. It is unworthy of any person to belittle the part that these young Britishers played against crushing odds. The majority of them were youths under twenty years of age, and some were C.3 men, for the United Kingdom had by that time reached the limits of its manpower. I thought that I could not let any belittling remarks concerning our British comrades pass unchallenged without giving my first-hand knowledge.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior - F. AMurray.
Senate adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 June 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1939/19390614_senate_15_160/>.