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Thursday, 13 May 1915

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - With regard to the question of German clubs, raised by Senator O'Keefe, much of the action taken in dealing with enemy subjects is necessarily confidential. The inquiries are mostly made by the police or detective service, and the action taken on their reports is frequently of a confidential character. We do not make a public announcement of the fact when a German is taken into the detention camp. He simply disappears, and his friends know where he is. The German clubs have been under surveillance since the beginning, of the war, and wherever necessary they have been closed. Many of them have British members. They are all under watch, and if suspicious circumstances arise in connexion with any of them, action will be taken. All of them have been searched, and no incriminating documents have been found in any of them. I recommend Senator Grant to compare the Bill with the EstimatesinChief , because Supply Bills are founded on the Estimates, and it is not desirable to repeat in the Bills all the details of the Estimates. I did not know the honorable senator was going to bring up the case of the employment at Liverpool of men whom he. regarded as non-unionists. Singularly enough, the man Boswell, against whom the charge is made, would be regarded by our friends opposite as the last man whom they would desire to be given the right to employ these men, as he is the president of the Political Labour Council of the district, and himself a unionist. The whole trouble arose through having a number of different craft unions, which, whilst all united in the same body, are very jealous about the demarcation of their work. There are a number of local tradesmen OUt of work at Liverpool, and the Commandant called on Mr. Boswell, knowing him to be a labourite, to employ the men. He in turn called on the men whom he knew to be competent tradesmen and unionists. The organizer of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, who was also called on to supply men, when he found some men already employed, jumped to the conclusion, as he had not selected them himself, that they were non-unionists, and lodged a complaint.

Senator Grant - Then your information is that these men are unionists? It is not mine.

Senator PEARCE - That is my information. It has been made clear to all branches of the Defence Department that not only is the policy of the Government preference to unionists, but that a man must be a unionist at the time he is employed. It is not sufficient for him to come along as a non-unionist, get the job, and then join the union. He is expected to be a bond fide unionist when he gets the job, and I intend to see that that is' carried out. I am rather surprised at the young fellow mentioned by Senator Newland cabling out for money for any necessities at the hospital in Egypt. Not only is the hospital thoroughly equipped, but the Red Cross Society has collected thousands of pounds, and is in daily touch with the hospital, through their organization, by cable and otherwise. It is continually sending forward, not only requirements in the way of extra luxuries, but money, and it has its agents there to see that the patients get everything the doctors will allow them to have. It is generally known that there is really no need on the part of friends or parents to forward money to wounded soldiers in Egypt- A cable was sent out here by a certain military officer who made himself very busy in the matter, and the gentleman who received it would not take action before showing it to me. I cabled to Cairo, because the inference to be drawn was that there was a shortage of money to purchase the luxuries necessary to a person in a delicate state of health. The reply which came almost immediately was that the Red Cross Society had plenty of money and was supplying everything required. The whole thing was merely an attempt on the part of this individual to get a little advertisement for himself. The Commonwealth Bank is affording every facility to send money to Egypt, or from Egypt to Australia, at very little cost. It has established a branch both of the ordinary bank and the savings bank in Egypt, and soldiers can transfer their money very cheaply from here to Egypt, or from Egypt to here. By paying the cost of the cable they can send money by that means also, at very much less cost than that mentioned by Senator Newland. Honorable senators, when appealed to in this regard, should refer people to the Commonwealth Bank. In regard to the Eastern Extension Cable Company, it must be remembered that the concession of a free cable by relatives to inquire about persons dangerously wounded is of considerable value. That must be said to the credit of the company. If thousands of men are wounded, it will mean a very big thing to frank all the cables of inquiry every week-end from Australia to Egypt, and to frank the replies from Egypt also, and the replies from Egypt to Australia. We ought to recognise that it is a big concession.

Senator Keating - Have they been doing that for some time?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. They have displayed a very generous spirit in that regard. Senator Needham asked a question in regard to a matter he brought up some time ago, and that is the boots and candle tins supplied by contractors. I am sorry to say that I have not yet received a report from our chief examiner. I can only state, in defence of the official, that he is exceedingly busy. However, now that the matter has been mentioned again, I will try to obtain a report. The honorable senator also referred to the position of armourers' assistants. On Friday last he referred to the fact that electrical engineers in the Post and Telegraph Department had obtained an award. On receiving my Ilansard proofs, [ directed an official to get a copy of the award, and compare the rates prescribed therein with the rates which we pay for a similar class of labour, and I found that the latter are higher. The award does not strengthen in any way the claim of the armourers' assistants for an increase., I looked into the matter myself, and found that the Department is paying a higher wage than is fixed in the award. I do not know that there is any other matter which I am specially called upon to deal with at this stage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first and second time.

In Committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 postponed. /Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Old-Age Pensioners in Charitable Institutions - Advertising in the United States - Contingencies - Unemployment in the Timber Industry: Sleepers - Seasoning of Timber - Railway Construction - Post and Telegraph Department : Contract Post Offices : Use of Motor Cars : Preference to Local Manufactures :' Horse Mail Service and Cost of Podder - Reported Loss of Australian Submarine.


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