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Friday, 16 July 1920

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is aggravating his offence.

Mr Gabb - As there is a no-confidence motion in progress I withdraw my remark.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable mem- ber must withdraw his remark without qualification.

Mr Gabb - I withdraw it.

Mr SPEAKER - If honorable members will cease their interjections there will be less occasion for me to call so frequently for the observation of the Standing Orders. These frequent interjections lead to disorder and unpleasantness. I have no wish to interfere with the progress of the debate, but when these interruptions are so constant I must appeal to honorable members to observe the Standing Orders and decorum in debate.

Mr GROOM - The first measure to disfranchise naturalized Germans was passed by a Labour Government, and the first interference with the right of Australian natives of German descent was contained in that Act. We all know that that is a correct statement of facts. On the 28th September, 1916, when the Military Service Referendum Act was assented to, a Labour Government was in power.

Mr Nicholls - No; it was the Hughes Government.

Mr GROOM - Mr. Hugheswas the Prime Minister, but the Ministry inincluded, among others, Senator Gardiner, Mr. Mahon, and others. In section 7 of the Military Service Referendum Bill we find the following -

Provided further that, notwithstandinganything contained in section 10a of that Act, the following persons shall be disqualified from voting at the referendum: -

(a)   any naturalized British subject who was born in any country which forms part of the territory of any country with which Great Britain is now at war. Provided that this paragraph and sub-section (1) of section 9, shall not apply to any naturalized British subject, wherever born, who produces to the presiding officer a certificate signed by the District Commandant of a Military District, or an officer thereto authorized by him. that that person is a parent of a person who has been or is a member of the Forces; and

(b)   any person who is interned in any place of internment.

Section 9 makes provision whereby the votes cast in certain proclaimed districts by German natives were to be recorded in a particular manner.

Mr Wienholt - What does the Minister mean by "German natives"?

Mr GROOM - Persons born in Australia, of parents who came from Germany.

Mr Laird Smith - The point is - who passed the Act ?

Mr GROOM - Attempts have been made to place the responsibility on the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), whereas it was the common responsibility of Parliament, and the only proper and manly course is for us to recognise it, and stand up to what we ought to without putting the blame unfairly on others.

Mr Brennan - That was one of the things which placed the Prime Minister in the position of being the honorable member's leader.

Mr GROOM - It was the loyalty of the Prime Minister which displeased the honorable member for Batman. The Prime Minister stood up for his country. However, I am endeavouring to make these remarks impersonally. I have not attempted to say a word against individuals. I have endeavoured to criticise measures.

Mr Brennan - The honorable member could not give me a greater affront than to say that I had any connexion with that iniquitous legislation.

An Honorable Member. - Did not the honorable member support it?

Mr Tudor - The honorable member did not. I. shall read the division list to prove that he did not.

Mr GROOM - The honorable member's association with the Prime Minister, I think, will be his sole reason for being remembered in future.

Mr Laird Smith - The Leader of the Opposition was on this side when this legislation was passed.

Mr GROOM - But he had previouslyresigned his portfolio as Minister for Trade and Customs.

Mr Laird Smith - On a point of order, the Leader of the Opposition has referred to me as " that." I ask whether that is a fair observation?

Mr SPEAKER - The reference is distinctly personal and offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.

Mr Tudor - I withdraw it.

Mr Laird Smith - If the Leader of the Opposition does not close his mouth I shall repeat why he got out and the understanding there was.

Mr Tudor - There was no understanding.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Yesterday I had to complain that in the effort to maintain order the Chair did not always receive from some members of the Ministry the support it has a right to expect. It is useless to attempt to maintain even a semblance of order unless the Chair is supported by those who ought to show to the rest of the House a better example than to shout out loud interjections immediately the Chair has called for order. Interjections across the chamber must cease, particularly when an honorable member is speaking.

Mr GROOM - The point I was endeavouring to make was not to suggest that individuals voted for this particular class of legislation, but that it is not fair to place upon one man the collective responsibility of the House, although there were certain individuals who objected to the measure, and took a stand against it. We ought to bc just in our criticisms.

The Government will emerge from this debate in a stronger position. We are not ashamed of our war record. We can look back upon it with satisfaction, because of the position in which Australia found itself at the close of the struggle. No country in the world was then better situated in many ways, no country's industries were less affected, there was no country in which prices were lower during the war, or where men could carry on their industries better, no country could show steadier progress or improvement in the wages and conditions of its workers. And now that the war is over we can congratulate Australia on emerging from it with such success and at the same time pay our tribute of praise to those mcn who gave us that security and liberty of speech under the freedom of which some people now abuse the very privileges which our soldiers secured to them.

Mr Tudor - I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has intimated that before the Military Service Referendum Bill was passed I had left the Labour Ministry. That is* true. I resigned my portfolio on the 14th or 15th September, 1916. However, a member of the Ministry has interjected that he would disclose what he claimed to be an "understanding." I made no understanding or undertaking with any person when I resigned, and' I am convinced that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will admit that I made none. I made my position quite clear. I said that whenever the Ministry would seek to introduce conscription, either by regulation or by a Bill, I would ." get out."

Mr Charlton - The Prime Minister has already stated that in the House.

Mr Tudor - That is so. I have not had the opportunity of perusing the division list on the second reading of the Military Service Referendum Bill, but, speaking from memory, I am quite convinced that every honorable member who is now sitting in Opposition, and who was in Parliament at that time, opposed the Bill.

Mr Groom - I was referring to a particular clause of the Bill.

Mr Tudor - First of all, we opposedthe second reading. It will be well remembered that after the Bill had been passed and the Referendum was to take place, and when it was proposed to bring into operation a certain regulation under the Military Service Referendum Act, a meeting of the Executive Council was held in Melbourne about three days before' the Referendum was taken, and it was attended by the then Minister for the Navy (Mr. Jensen), Senator Gardiner, the - Treasurer, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and

Senator Russell.That meeting turned down the proposed regulation, but subsequently Mr. Jensen was summoned to Sydney, and a meeting of the Executive Council was held there, at which a regulation was passed preventing certain persons from voting at the conscription referendum unless they signed their names. As a result of this step the honorable member for. Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and Senators Gardiner and Russell resigned their portfolios rather than participate in the passing of such an iniquitous regulation.

Mr Groom - That is quite apart from the matter of disfranchising enemy subjects.

Mr Tudor - No honorable member on this side of the House voted for the provision in the Bill which disfranchised these electors.

Mr Groom - Honorable members did not vote against it.

Mr Tudor - They did.

Mr Austin Chapman - Was this Bill debated before or after the arrangement referred to by the Honorary Minister (Mr. Laird Smith) ?

Mr Tudor - There was no such arrangement. I would rather walk out of politics than sacrifice any. principle on which I had taken a stand. The Hansard containing the record of the division of the House on the second reading of the Military Service Referendum Bill has just beenplaced in my hands. The division wasas follows: -

It is true that certain honorable members now sitting in Opposition did vote for the second reading of the Bill, but I think it will be found they voted against the disfranchisement clause. I object to statements such as we have heard to-day coming from the Ministerial bench. I admit that the Minister for Works ' and Railways (Mr. Groom) was prepared to say that I had nothing to do with the Military Service Referendum Bill, but in the heat of political argumenthonorable members are sometimes only too ready to cast a slur on others. I am not ashamed of anything I have done.

Sitting suspended from1.3 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr Groom - As a matter of personal explanation, and in order that no injustice may be done to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), I wish to make it quite clear that he was not a member of the Government at the time of the passing of the Military Service Referendum Bill. I think I made it clear that the other Labour members of the Government at the time were Mr. King O'Malley, Senator Gardiner, Mr. Mahon, and others. I said that a Labour Government was responsible for its introduction, and the Bill contained the provision for the disfranchisement of aliens who have become naturalized in Australia, and that also, under clause 9, it introduced the first interference with the exercise of the vote by those born in Australia of German parents. All of those statements are correct.

Mr Mathews - I do not think that all of them are correct. I think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was responsible for it, and he got Mr. Jensen to go to New South Wales to get the assent ofthe Governor-General.

Mr Groom - What I have stated is shown to be correct by the actual provisions of the measure.

Mr Tudor - I was quite right in my statement on the subject.

Mr Groom - If honorable members will refer to the Act, they will find that it provides in sub-section 4 of section 9 that-

If, in the ease of any person enrolled in any proclaimed subdivision the Presiding Officer has reason to believe that that person is the son or daughter who was born in any country which forms part of the territory of any country with which Great Britain is nowat war, the Presiding Officer may issue to the person a ballot-paper indorsed with the words " Section 9."

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman will admitthat a majority of the Labour party voted against that.

Mr Groom - No, I will not.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman read the division ' list this morning.

Mr Groom - I have the division list before me, and the total of the " Noes " on that occasion, was . twelve. The Bill was introduced, and a motion submitted that it be read a second time, and upon that motion an amendment was moved by Mr. Burns in these terms -

That in the opinion of this House conscription of human life is inadvisable, and that the proposal of this Government, if given effect to, would be destructive to the best interests of Australia.

On that amendment the twelve honorable members whom I have mentioned voted in its support, and, of course, the others voted against it. After that there was a vote on the motion for the second reading, and then the Bill was taken into Committee. There was no division in Committee on clause 9, and no one in Committee challenged a division on the clause at all. It contains, as I have shown, the provision for the disfranchisement of naturalized enemy aliens, and also the provision interfering, under certain conditions, with the right of persons born in Australia whose parents were born in enemy countries.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable gentleman say that no one challenged that provision?

Mr Groom - I say that there was no division taken upon that clause in Committee on the Bill.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But a division was taken on the whole Bill, and thirteen of us voted against it.

Mr Groom - No, only twelve voted against it. I have set out the facts, and they are correctly recorded in Hansard.

Mr J H Catts - By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that during the course of my remarks yesterday I stated that in New South Wales there were 16,000 returned soldiers with land certificates unable to be provided with land. The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) contradicted me very flatly, and was called to order for using unparliamentary language in describing my statement. I wired to Sydney this morning in connexion with the matter, and through the CommonwealthOfficesI asked my typist there to ring up the State Lands Department of New South Wales and send me . the figures. The following is the urgent telegram I have received in reply : -

J.   H. Catts, M.H.R., Melbourne.

To 10th instant 19,783 qualification certificates issued. Three thousand three hundredand six men settled. One thousand five hundred and sixty-six approved to settle or outstanding. (Signed) Gibson.


I had the figures when the Labour Government came into office in New South Wales, and, apparently, as one may expect from a business Government, 1,000 have been settled since those figures were compiled. It is clear that my figures quoted yesterday are approximately correct, and, apparently, there are now 15,000 returned soldiers holding qualification certificates in New South Wales who have not been provided with land.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I also wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr McWilliams - Does the right honorable gentleman desire the debate on the censure motion to close at 4 o'clock?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - In spite of any debate I do not propose to let this matter go without a statement of the facts. I am sure that, in the circumstances, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) would not do so. The statement made by the honorable member for Cook . (Mr. Catts) was that he had been informed by the New South Wales Government that the reason why more men had not been settled on the land was that funds were not available.

Mr J H Catts - The statement which the right honorable gentleman challenged was as to the 16,000 holding qualification certificates.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I intend »to make my statement now. The last figures sent over here by the Minister - not figures obtained from a typist in the Commonwealth Bank - are as follows-

Mr J H Catts - On what date?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - These figures were furnished yesterday by wire from the Minister. The agreement at the Conference in January, 1919, was that there should be 8,000 men allocated to New South Wales, and to settle them we were to find money to the extent of £8,774,000. To date 4,000 of the 8,000 returned soldiers roughly have been settled, and now we are informed by the New South Wales Government that to settle the other 4,000 arranged for they will require another £4,500,000 in addition to the £8,774,000 they were promised. The latter sum ha3 been available the whole time to the New South Wales Government, and they have claimed less than £4,000,000. Now, all that the Minister is asking for at the present time is 1,800 additional settlers for New South Wales, for which he seeks a further £4,500,000. There are the figures.

Mr J H Catts - That does not challenge my statement.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - It does, indeed. I say, again, that all the money that the New South Wales Government require is at their disposal, and the reason why all that was promised to New South Wales has not been spent does not arise from lack of the money but -from lack of adequate arrangements by the New South Wales Government. Over £4,000,000 is still at their disposal for the purpose of soldier settlement.

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