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Wednesday, 21 April 1915


Senator READY - Simply because, under the voluntary system, we can get more men than we can arm and equip. Why, then, should Senator Bakhap advocate conscription, and give utterance to wild, disquieting statements, which are calculated to create a wrong impression in the public mind?


Senator Bakhap - I should be expelled from the Senate, just as it was proposed to disrank Lord Roberts.


Senator READY - We do not use an elephant rifle to shoot a mosquito, and I am not suggesting that such a course should be adopted. I believe that I rightly gauge public opinion when I say that any attempt to impose conscription upon Australia would be bitterly resented by our organized Democracy. I believe that our people would even resort to physical force, if necessary, in order to avoid it. Senator Bakhap has not shown that any need exists for taking such an extreme step. He has not proved that we can arm or equip more men than we are arming and equipping now. He has merely affirmed that we shall have to resort to conscription, and to pay our conscripts1s. 2d. per day. He declares that he fails to see much difference between compulsory training and conscription. Compulsory training is an arrangement made in time of peace, under which men have to undergo prescribed periods of training.


Senator Bakhap - To get merely a semblance of training.


Senator READY - Conscription is a system under which men are taken right away from their civil occupations, and made soldiers exclusively for two or three years. Yet the honorable senator says that there is not much difference between compulsory training and conscription.


Senator Bakhap - Compulsory training is classed by one of the honorable senator's leaders as conscription.


Senator READY - I do not care what it is classed as by one of my leaders. There is all the difference in the world between the military training of a man whilst he continues to follow his civil occupation, and conscription, which takes him away from his occupation, and compels him to become a soldier to the exclusion of all else for two or three years.


Senator Bakhap - They would be remarkable soldiers who followed their civil occupations whilst receiving their military training.


Senator READY - On the battlefields of Europe such soldiers have done credit, not merely to themselves, but to the whole British nation. The British Territorials have nothing to be ashamed of in comparison with the Regulars who are now in the field.


Senator Guy - How did the Australians acquit themselves in South Africa?


Senator READY - That is a sufficient reply to Senator Bakhap's assertion. Surely the honorable senator does not think that Australia has reached such a parlous condition that it cannot afford to give our soldiers a rate of pay sufficient for the maintenance of their wives and families. Senator Bakhap has put forward the argument that only single men should be enlisted. But if married men volunteer for service abroad, why not allow them to go ? I am very glad that adequate provision has been made for their dependants. I know that quite recently I have been approached time and again by relatives of men serving in our Expeditionary Forces, who complain of the inadequacy of the present rate of pay, and of the trouble experienced in maintaining big families upon it, although they are patriotic enough to exist upon it during the period of the war. That rate, I claim, is the very minimum on which we can expect these people to maintain themselves. Any reduction would be an insult to the Democracy of Australia.


Senator Bakhap - How many women are dependent on the pay of single men?


Senator READY - I would remind the honorable senator that there are relatives besides wives who have to be considered. I know of dozens of instances in which the breadwinners - and single men at that - have gone to the front, and in which families are dependent entirely upon the wages payable to those breadwinners for their maintenance. I noticed that Senator Millen was very silent when Senator Bakhap advocated the payment of only1s. 2d. per day to the men of our Expeditionary Forces. He did not indorse it; neither will Senator Shannon.


Senator Bakhap - I was speaking only for myself. The Liberal party incurs no responsibility for my opinions.


Senator READY - I am glad that Senator Bakhap accepts the full responsibility for his statements. He will have to do so whether he likes it or not. In reply to ' an interjection by Senator de Largie as to the wealthy classes financing this war, Senator Bakhap affirmed that he was quite prepared to make sacrifices. I take it that we all are. But I would ask, " What is the need for the suggested reduction in the pay of our soldiers to1s. 2d. per day, seeing that the wealthy classes of this country have not yet been called upon to make any alarming sacrifices?"


Senator Bakhap - Why are not the British soldiers paid 6s. per day?


Senator READY - Because the conditions which obtain in the two countries are entirely dissimilar. We have our own standard of comfort and decency, which, I am glad to say, is higher than that of Great Britain. We have a higher standard of living.


Senator Guy - And yet there is room for improvement.


Senator READY - There is no doubt about that. I wish to show that in the Commonwealth there are large incomes which have not yet been heavily taxed, and when it comes to a question of making sacrifices, I hold that there should be an equality of sacrifice. In view of the fact that the nation is engaged in a struggle for its very existence, those persons who derive big incomes should be called upon to make commensurate sacrifices. In his famous Limehouse speech Mr. Lloyd George, in speaking of the taxation of unearned incomes, said that in case of war the nation would be justified in taking, for the time being, all these incomes in Great Britain. What does that mean ? It means that all the incomes in England, Scotland, and Ireland which are derived from investments either in the form of rent, interest, or dividends, may be justifiably confiscated by the nation when it is fighting for its existence. I wonder whether Senator Bakhap will be so ready to indorse that statement as he was to declare that we should pay our soldiers, who are about to fight the Empire's battle, only1s. 2d. per day ? Turning to an interesting little booklet, compiled by Mr. Knibbs, I find that as far back as 1911 there were 3,536 individuals in Australia with a total income of £22,953,874.


Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Just about enough to keep the war going, so far as Australia is concerned.


Senator READY - Each of these incomes is in excess of £2,000 per annum. Before advocating a decrease in the wages paid to our soldiers it would be the duty of any Democratic party to tap this source of wealth, which, so far, has not been very much exploited. I admit that some of the men deriving these incomes are paying State taxation and also paying the Federal land tax. But a large amount of this wealth still remains untouched, and, in accordance with the policy laid down by Mr. Lloyd George, its owners should, in the last resort, he called upon to contribute their incomes to enable us to maintain our race and Empire.

I congratulate Senator Bakhap upon his candour with reference to paying ls. 2d. per day to our troops. I shall watch with interest the attitude adopted by his Liberal colleagues when they speak on this matter. I wish also to congratulate the honorable senator on his eleventh hour conversion to the proposition that the Commonwealth should possess larger constitutional powers than it now' has. His is a somewhat belated confession, but ,1 hope that during the next referenda campaign in Tasmania he will tell the people that even he was previously mistaken, and that some of the constitutional powers for which a Labour Government have already asked twice, ought to be granted to this Parliament.


Senator Shannon - If honorable senators opposite will only ask for what they require the people will give it to them. But if they ask for what they asked on former occasions they will get the same reply again.


Senator READY - I hope that there will be no shifting of positions upon this matter so far as Senators Bakhap and Keating are concerned. On one occasion we know that Senator Keating voted for the Constitutional Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill. in this chamber. We congratulated ourselves regarding his conversion, just as probably we are prematurely doing so concerning Senator Bakhap. We thought we had at least the comfort of knowing that Senator Keating was democratic enough to go out fearlessly and tell the people to vote "yes," but judge our surprise when we found Senator Keating, after voting for it in the Senate, telling the people both at Launceston and Hobart to reject both referenda. One was good enough for him tn vote for, and then it was bad enough for him to advise the people of Tasmania to reject. I think the people are entitled to know exactly where they are in regard to this matter, and to understand clearly what is the attitude of the honorable senator who has just preceded me.

I have been delighted to get from both sections of the community of Tasmania - from Liberals and Labourites - the assurance that while some might disagree with the policy of this national Labour party, they admit - and particularly fair-minded Liberals - that this party has achieved everything that they could expect during this time of war. I feel certain, also, that after this session has gone by, the legislation which we will pass will justify a renewal of the confidence of the people.







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