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Friday, 23 April 1915

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . - It seems to me that the debate on the Ministerial statement has been fairly well threshed out, but I desire to offer a few remarks to the Senate. First, let me congratulate the Prime Minister and his colleagues upon the very capable manner in which they have handled the affairs of Australia in the most unparalleled stress which, so far, we have had to face. According to their own statement, and I think according to the opinion of a majority of the people of Australia, if not of all, the Government have done extremely well in securing the financial stability of the Commonwealth in undoubtedly a most serious situation. Therefore, I think that we may fairly congratulate Ministers upon having spared no pains and performed every duty requisite to the well being of this growing country. The magnitude of the work which has been performed by the Government, and the efforts which have been put forward by Australians generally, have been fully recognised throughout the civilized world. Of course, we must make an exception of Senator Bakhap. I admit that he had a sort of complaint to level against Australia in regard to what might be called the general apathy she had shown towards the position as it now presents itself in the Empire. Were I to say that he actually complained, the probability is that he would deny my statement, and plead that he did not complain of Australia's failure to do something, but of Australia not having done just enough. That is, I think, the position he would take up. But the distinction between the two positions is so fine that I am inclined to regard his statement as, in a morbid way, a complaint against all concerned. I propose to quote an opinion expressed some time ago by an authority that I am sure

Senator Bakhapwill not repudiate. I refer to the London Times. It takes quite a different view of what Australia has done, and is doing, from that which was expressed by my honorable friend. According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 20th April, the London Times, in a leading article, on the 6th March, said -

We publish a remarkable list of the liberal gifts showered upon the joint committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John from all parts of the British Empire, and particularly from Australia. It is a record which must appeal vividly to all who have sufficient imagination to perceive what lies behind an imposing column of figures and a varied list of commodities. The three thousand odd bales and cases of hospital stores and clothing represent between 40 and 50 consignments sent at various times and from many parts of the Australian Commonwealth. Thousands of blankets and pillows, bandages, splints, crutches, and even safety pins show that not only a spirit of unstinting generosity, but an immense amount of careful thought, has gone to the choice of the gifts.

But Australia has not stopped there. Her richest industries have contributed each in its kind. A thousand carcases of frozen mutton, 1,079 crates of rabbits, 10 tons of butter, groceries, wines have been shipped to the stores department of the Red Cross, in order that, after the direct needs of the hospitals have been supplied, those goods not required for consumption in the hospitals might be sold to swell the funds of the joint committee. Other countries have contributed similarly according to their means. Egypt sends cigarettes; South Africa offers grapes as well as clothing. The isles also have brought gifts. Guava jelly from Montserrat, honey and walking-sticks from Jamaica, oranges from Dominica, Malta, and Trinidad - they pile up a wonderful miscellany of good and useful things. We may well take pride in the spirit of helpfulness which has produced so remarkable a result, and, while our gratitude goes out to all who have taken part in it, we would pay a special tribute of admiration to the signal effort of Australia.

Senator Guthrie - Was Tasmania in- cluded in Australia?

Senator HENDERSON - Tasmania, I presume, comes in for her share of praise, even though Senator Bakhap discards the efforts she may have made.

Senator Bakhap - Oh, no. I do not discard her efforts, but I say that we could have done a great deal more in a military sense.

Senator HENDERSON - Apart from that, let us look at one other thing. I have here a schedule of the gifts in money, as well as the gifts in kind, from Australia, up to the publication of that leading article in the

Times.Up to that time £119,136 had been contributed from Australia and .the oversea Dominions, and out of that sum the total received from the Commonwealth was £72,609. The schedule includes, in addition to Australia, no less than thirteen other oversea Dominions in the British Empire. Senator Bakhap believes that we should have done a great deal more than we have done, but it is evident that other people consider that we have done excellently. .We have, in fact, accomplished a great deal. I have now to refer to the matter which was really underlying Senator Bakhap's complaint. He has told us that he believes in the principle of conscription. The honorable senator would conscribe every single man in Australia physically fit to perform military duty. I hope that there is no other man in Australia who favours the adoption of such a course. I believe that there is sufficient manhood and patriotism in the British race to make it unnecessary ever to adopt so barbarous a principle. We are in Australia providing by law for the compulsory military training of our youth. We are teaching them how to handle a gun and something of the art of warfare. When we have done that I have no fear that the British race in Australia has so deteriorated that our people will be found unwilling to face any foe in the defence of a righteous and legitimate cause. It is so that the whole of the people of the British Empire regard the cause for which they are fighting to-day, and in the defence of which they are prepared to expend not merely their last shilling, but their last man. We have been informed by the statement read by the Minister of Defence that over 70,000 of the manhood of Australia have been sent to the front, or are being prepared to go to the front. That is no inconsiderable proportion of our small population, and I have no doubt that the number can be brought up to 100,000 if necessary in the near future. I hope that the war will not continue much longer, but if it does, I. am satisfied that our trainees will show that they have the pluck and the patriotism to volunteer their services iD the defence of the Empire. Australia has done well up to the present, and has in fact done all that she could do. I have no doubt that she will continue to do equally well until the war is at an end. I should like to refer to what Senator Bakhap had to say as to the wages paid to our soldiers. He has told us that we might do better than we have done if we paid our ment ls. 2d. per day, which is the price put upon the services of the British soldier. The British soldier is a very cheap man.

Senator Bakhap - He is very cheap at that price.

Senator HENDERSON - If Senator Bakhap had listened to Senator McDougall last night, he would know that there are several cheap things in that land of wealth and poverty that ara much to be deplored. We were told by Senator McDougall that there are men in the Old Country who receive for their work 15s. a week, and on this wage they are expected to keep their wives and families. This is in the country that is practically financing the civilized world to-day. It only goes to show that the ill-distribution of the wealth earned in the Old Country is its greatest curse.

Senator Bakhap - Should the war last for two or three years, does the honorable senator believe that the Imperial Government could keep 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 men in the field, and pay them 6s. per day per man?

Senator HENDERSON - I do not know of anything to prevent that being done in view of the immense sources of wealth in the Old Country that are untapped. Those sources of wealth have been accumulating by the adoption of the very course which Senator Bakhap recommends, the payment of ls. 2d. per day to men who should have received six. or seven times that amount.

Senator Bakhap - The raising of revenue in Great Britain is already a serious matter.

Senator HENDERSON - The wealth of England is a long way from being exhausted vet. Great Britain has for so long been paying her men 15s. per week for their toil, and her soldiers ls. 2d. per day for spending their blood and their lives on the field of battle, that she has been enabled to accumulatewealth to an enormous amount.

Senator Bakhap - And is able to fight . to a finish and win the war.

Senator HENDERSON - Yes, I have not the slightest doubt that she will win the war, and she would not be any less likely to win if she paid her people and her soldiers a living wage.

Senator Long - There is no objection to paying officers three or four guineas a day.

Senator HENDERSON - No; of course, they are worthy of such payment; but when it is a question of the remuneration of " the man behind the gun," ls. 2d. a day is considered enough.

Senator Bakhap - Does Senator Henderson really believe that I consider that officers should be paid upon a lavish scale ?

Senator HENDERSON - We have no evidence to show what the honorable senator believes should be done with the officers, but we have in print the statement of what he thinks should be done with the men. I repeat that the Empire will not be less likely to win in this conflict if our people are paid as they ought to be, the living wage which their labour is worth.

Senator Bakhap - I do not think that Mr. Lloyd George, democratic and radical financier as he is, would care to undertake the responsibility of finding the money.

Senator HENDERSON - It is not a question of Mr. Lloyd George finding the money at all; the money is there. The industries are there, and they are finding the money out of the toil of the working people. I am glad that the Government, at no very distant date, propose to submit for our consideration a revision of the Tariff. The war should provide Australians with a very salutary lesson. It should show us the absolute necessity of utilizing every resource we have to make Australia a self-dependent country. When the Tariff comes before us for consideration, I shall on every occasion endeavour to have everything which is not produced in Australia placed upon the absolutely free list; but on the other hand I shall do all that lays in my power to impose as nearly as possible prohibitive duties upon everything that can be made in Australia. The war has shown us that we are in about the most dependent position that a country could be in. Where should we have been a few days after the war broke out if we were still paying a subsidy to the Old Country for the naval and military protection of the Commonwealth ? We should have had German rule in Australia, the German flag would probably have been hoisted over Sydney, and Senator Grant would have been made a prisoner, because it is a certainty that that flag would have been hoisted there.

Senator Grant - Where would the British Fleet have been?

Senator HENDERSON - Looking after the North Sea, where it would have had quite enough to do.

Senator Grant - They looked round about Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands.

Senator HENDERSON - They watched the Falkland Islands, and did it very well; but I maintain that Australia would have been in a helpless position if she had not made provision for the day that actually came. It certainly would have been better, as we all know now, if we had begun ten or twelve years ago ; but we made a commencement sufficiently early to enable us to prove ourselves of very salutary service to the Empire. Having accomplished that, our next need is to be able to make from our own raw material in our own factories every warlike requirement. We have the raw material and the men, and all that is necessary is to establish the industries, so that if any other disturbance of the kind takes place overseas we shall not have to look round to ascertain what material we are likely . to. be short of, but will be in a position of security.

Senator Ready - The need is not for conscription, but more munitions.

Senator HENDERSON - Yes, we do not require conscription. We have the men, and our men have always shown themselves to have the pluck. I am quite satisfied that all that we need is an industrial development that will make Australia what it ought to be - selfcontained and independent. Nature has munificently provided us with resources, and all that we have to do now is to take advantage of them and make Australia what it should and will be - a country fitted for Australians.

Debate (on motion by Senator Guthrie) adjourned.

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