Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 24 June 1915

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It. is. the, same thing.

Senator MILLEN - Nobody would attempt, tot defend- this- course' of conduct,, and I. urge upon the. Minister that, he should make a drastic example,, without perhaps, going to the extreme limits suggested by the honorable senator.. If some, action of this kind were taken, it would, I. think, minimize-,, if not. entirely disperse1, this, trouble. Now I come to> another, matter - that, of the medical ex: amination of our men, particularly- in regard to. their- teeth,.. I. cannot help thinkings, in- spite, of the official' assurances which have been- given,, that, there- is( still a. want, of uniformity in the various,States That something, is amiss is-, apparent by the announcement,, if. correct, that, theMinister has called, a medical conference to. consider various' matters connected, I presume:,, with the; medical! examination of those who: are offering; as; recruits. If that- is so.,, perhaps; nothing more- need be said on the subject- at the present moment, but. I. can. assure, the. Minister that' there is a general- feeling- of dis-satisfaction' that- the instructions with regard to. medical examination, are. not the same- in. all the-. States^, and; thai the examination, on the dental: side- ie, unduly severe. In: this connexion I would like tot ask the Minister whether- it. is. a fact that- men who. are passed from the, Cadets by- medical examination to go, into the Citizen Forces are being turned down when! they, volunteer' for the> front I- There is> a good' deal to be> said for passing initio. the> Cadets a', boy who*, though not over- robust',, will) be; able. to> stand, the strain --slight as it is - which will be thrust upon .him, because the course of training is an the nature of physical development ; but any man who has passed into the .ranks of the Citizen Forces ought to have undergone such an examination as would entitle him to go to the front at once. I believe, however, I am correct in saying that men who .have been passed from the Cadets into the Citizen Forces are now being rejected presumably upon the same medical (examination. I urge the Minister to take this matter into consideration. If we 'are justified in .-going to the expenditure =of training men they ought to be capable of passing the .medical examination necessary to send them to the front. It have had mentioned to me the case of a lad who, having passed that medical -examination, has .since been .rejected. "When the system was brought into force his complaint was that he was compelled to serve. " At that time," he said, " I Aid not 'like it; but I have come to see the wisdom of it, and now when I "want "to .go, you won't allow me."

Senator Blakey - - Could he not have -developed some particular disease in the meantime?

Senator -MILLEN.- I understand that is -not so in .this -case, but I think the .standard laid down for the examination of oar "Citizen Forces should "be sufficient to .pass men for the front. I 'have another matter to which I invite the .attention of t'he Minister. I was not present in the "Senate last Friday, as I was in my own 'State taking part in a recruiting meeting, "but I noticed that Senator Pearce made a statement as to the action taken by the Government with regard to munitions. The '-Minister stated -

Up to 'that time - The middle of September - when he Government took office - no action 'had -been taken to inquire into the possibility o'f manufacturing Shells or guns in the Commonwealth

In the House of Representatives Mr. Fisher 'made what the "papers said was the same .'statement, but this reported utterances differed .'slightly. He said - At .that time no steps had been taken 4o pro vide for the manufacture, within Australia, of either ordnance or ammunition therefor.

I am quo ting both statements, so 'that it cannot be -said that I am taking advantage of the mere words. There can be only 'one object :ii making that statement, I submit. Mr. Fisher, on the one hand, 'and 'Senator Pearce, on the other, were presumably making a "statement to the Parliament and -to the 'country as to what they had done. The reference to the fact that those who had preceded them had done nothing could, I submit, have only 'been made with -one object in view, and that was to show that there had been a remissness on their part.

Senator Blakey - The same game as you are .playing.

Senator MILLEN - I am told that it. is the same game as I am playing. But si ;am not conscious of .having -played any game in this matter.

Senator Blakey - Not you yourself but your party.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator'® interjection is only ,a confirmation of the statement with which .1 commenced my address. I do not think that any -one

Senator Blakey - Tike honorable senator's .party are accusing the Government of remissness at the present time.

Senator MILLEN - I admit, again, that there have been things left undone which ought to have been dome Months ago. Bui I am not bringing the matter forward in any party -spirit, but because I want the things done. Indeed., I heard with a great deal .of -pleasure the .'announcement fey 'Senator Pearce .that steps are being taken to get the various Committees together in order that there .shall be a united effort throughout Australia to make use of any resources we .possess. Senator Pearce, by making the statement quoted, could have bad only one -object in view, and that was to show that the previous Government had been remiss.

Senator Pearce - It was to put before 'the public and the unscrupulous press outside a statement that up to that time nothing had been done. 'Senator MILLEN.- There are two things I want to put before the Senate. One is that the statement is absolutely incorrect, and the other is that there is a "very big difference between the month in which we held 'office 'after the war -and the long period which has intervened since the elections. I will now pass from that aspect of the question, and justify my remark that the statement made by 'Senator Pearce and Mr. Fisher is inaccurate.

I must add that 1 was extremely sur- , prised to find Senator Pearce putting his name to the statement. He must have authorized the payment of a fee to a scientist to whom I gave a commission to inquire into the question of what we could do in the direction of making steel.

Shortly after the war broke out, a Science Congress was held in Australia, and in the course of administering the Department the question naturally arose as to how we could obtain steel should, by any possibility, the chance of getting supplies from abroad be interrupted, even intermittently. A further question was that, if the control of the seas was lost, or if even a shipment or two of these necessary supplies should not be forthcoming, could we possibly do anything to make the shells for the guns we use here? Among these scientists was a gentleman named Professor Rosenhain, whose acquaintance I had not then the pleasure of possessing, but who stands in the very first rank of those who possess knowledge of the chemistry of metals. After discussing the matter with Colonel Legge, who was then Chief of the General Staff, it was decided that a commission should be given to Professor Rosenhain to advise- us as to what we could do in the way of making steel for rifles, and possibly for the field guns we use. , That commission was given to the professor two or three weeks after the war broke out. I did not remain in office to receive his report, but I presume that, as there was a fee to be paid for it, he presented a report, and I presume, also, that the Minister sanctioned the payment of that fee. "Whilst I did not receive the report, I did have a conversation with Professor Rosenhain on this subject a few days before I went out of office. He told me then that his inquiries were not complete. I do not propose, for obvious reasons, to give the details of the conversation, but he certainly led me to believe that the result of his inquiries would be of considerable encouragement and assistance to us in the circumstances. The fact that I called in that gentleman and I the fact that he was given a commission to inquire into the matter are, I submit, a complete answer to the statement of Senator Pearce. It shows that we lost no time in inquiring into the possibility of doing something in this direction. There is another matter of a similar kind which

I the fact that he was given a commission to inquire into the matter are, I submit, a complete answer to the statement of Senator Pearce. It shows that we lost no time in inquiring into the possibility of doing something in this direction. There is another matter of a similar kind which

I desire to refer to. When I know that at a time of very considerable rush I was endeavouring to do, and, I think, did succeed in doing, an amount of work of some advantage to this country, it is a little irritating to find our opponents affirming that nothing was done. In regard to the second shift at Lithgow, August had not passed before I sent for the manager of the Small Arms Factory to discuss with him the question of a second shift. Yet a great deal is made out of the fact that the present Minister sent for Mr. Wright. I sent for Mr. Wright; he came to Melbourne in order to discuss the matter, and after the discussion he urged then exactly as he urged right up to the time that the Parliamentary Committee met, right up to the last moment, that a second shift was not desirable.

Senator PEARCE - Why did you not " sack " him ? You say that I ought tohave done so.

Senator MILLEN - Because the Minister did not leave me there long enough to do it.

Senator PEARCE - You could have " sacked " him before he went back.

Senator MILLEN - No, because I had not then the information which later has been brought before us; but when Mr. Wright went away he left in my mind this impression : that, while he could not start a second shift then, because it would take time to train the men, he would be able to do so in a short time. It was on that understanding that he went back with authority to start overtime. He did start the overtime. It never occurred to me then that, at the end of ten months, Mr. Wright would still be insisting that a second shift could not be employed. But if it had, I would have done what I did as a private senator, and that is, get an opinion from other persons just as competent as Mr. Wright.

Senator Guthrie - Who are they?

Senator MILLEN - Some of the leading engineers of Australia.

Senator Guthrie - Let us have the names.

Senator MILLEN - That is not necessary, but I may mention Mr. Ferguson as one and Mr. Davis as another. The gentlemen who were called in by the Government to report, and their own Public

Works Committee, say that a second shift is possible.

Senator Pearce - "Is desirable."

Senator MILLEN - And possible.

Senator Pearce - After a period of time.

Senator MILLEN - I do not understand the Minister.

Senator Pearce - They do not say that it is possible immediately.

Senator MILLEN - Mr. Ferguson did not say that it was possible until the Ministers put a specific question.

Senator Pearce - And then he qualifies his statement, as you know.

Senator MILLEN - It is a curious thing that I cannot get a copy of the report of these gentlemen. Although, it was tabled a fortnight ago, it is not available to honorable senators yet. Both the main Committee and Mr. Davis in his subsidiary report affirmed that a second shift is possible.

Senator Pearce - Possible, if certain steps have been taken.

Senator MILLEN - That is to say, it is possible if you set to work to train a second shift.

Senator Guthrie - When?

Senator MILLEN - They say that if we set to work to train the men required, we can have a second shift in three or four months. That was their original report; but now the Minister finds, after further inquiry, that he can, if he likes, have a second shift at work within a fortnight if he will take untrained men.

Senator Pearce - Mr. Ferguson says he would not recommend that the labour organization be interfered with.

Senator MILLEN - The labour organization, I repeat, is not going to affect the permanent position of any man there. The second shift of trained men is merely a temporary expedient, to come to an end when the emergency passes away. Before Mr. Lloyd George proclaimed that Great Britain was short of munitions, it never entered my mind, or the mind of any one else, that a big manufacturing country like Great Britain, with the large manufacturing resources of France behind her, would ever find herself in that position.

Senator Pearce - Yet your press said that I ought to have been aware of that fact.

Senator MILLEN - During many months the Minister ought to have known the position, and, what is more, the Minister himself has shown that he has, with increasing clearness, seen the want, by the communications he has made to the Imperial authorities.

Senator Pearce - I saw the necessity for self-sufficiency for Australia, but neither I nor any one else knew at that time that Great Britain was short,- or likely to be short of munitions.

Senator MILLEN - Certainly during the last few months it has become very obvious.

Senator Pearce - It is easy to be wise after the event.

Senator MILLEN - It is not a matter of being wise after the event, because during the last few months it is clear from statement after statement that a shortage exists. I think that in fairness to myself I am entitled to ask the Senate and the people to consider that what was then possible and at all practicable was done by me during the short time I remained in office after the declaration of war. . Passing to other matters, there is in charge of the Liverpool Camp a doctor with a German name and of German descent. I do not know whether the Minister is aware that on that account a very considerable amount of dissatisfaction exists in the ranks of the volunteers. I do not wish to give the name of the doctor publicly, but I will give it to the Minister privately. It is reported on excellent authority that in the early days of the war the doctor was giving expression to sentiments which did not indicate a wholehearted adherence to" the cause of the British Empire.

Senator Guthrie - What were they?

Senator MILLEN - When a medical gentleman in his club expresses a very grave doubt as to whether the British Empire is going to win, and says, " Don't be too certain; Germany is not beaten yet," his- conduct is open to grave suspicion, when it is coupled with the fact that he is of German descent. Thank God, there is only one doctor of that kind at the Liverpool Camp, and if the Minister will get the names of the medical officers there, he will learn to whom I refer.

Senator Pearce - Are the people who heard the sentiments expressed prepared to give information ?

Senator MILLEN - I do not know, but at a time like the present, I do not see that we should tie ourselves down to the ordinary rules ;oI -evidence before we (decide -to act.

Senator Pearce - & ,am :prepared (to keep i their names "confidential ; will they give me any information?

Senator MILLEN - .That I cannot -say at this (juncture. If .the .Minister lis merely going 'to :say, ' ' 1 will not -act lai call. except un accordance with the law of evidence .prevailing in ta 'Court,'- .he iis .likely to :prove very little. i.Senator Pearce - :I will give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. (Senator MILLEN - Jin this :case, the Minister has a doctor with -a (German 'name and ,OI 'German nationality. 'Senator Pearce - W.e have had -men with German names -and -of 'German :de.scent dying. at Gallipoli. [Senator 'MILLEN. - .That ia so ; -but in ;th'is particular -case it as inconceivable -that <4fae Department .would .t.un the slightest risk. There >is any in umber of -other doctors .available.

Senator Pearce - Mi .there >is any :doubt about >the (doctor at all, H will shift him. :Senator M'ILLEN.,- I will furnish the (Sinister with the -name, is quite evident 'that the has heard something of this /matter -before.

Senator Stewart - I -believe that:some other .doctor wants .his ..job. (Senator MILLEN - That :may .be ;so ; \it 'was not a (doctor -who 'brought the matter 'under .my , notice

Senator Stewart -: - ?It is playing .it very low 'down. .'Senator MILLEN.- -Was it playing lit very :low down -when Lieutenant Edwards, holding a commission in our -An-my., was detected in writing home, 'and .saying to this .people, " You -do mot know what it is to be in =a-n -enemy .country.. Would to God 'there were -twenty Emdens here-!"

We could find nothing about that .man 'until we 'got his letters. That case should 'lead the Minister, if the circumstances at the Liverpool -Camp are such as to involve a -suspicion, 'to say, " I will not run a -.ris*k, but will put a .doctor there who will 'be entirely above suspicion."

Senator Guthrie - Is there -.anything against that doctor in regard to his attitude towards British interests ? ^'Senator MILLEN. - The honorable senator might have asked 'the ;same .question about Lieutenant Edwards. I think :f.1, sit no one-wishes to be harsh to strangers 'within our -gates, but I paint out that national 'preservation comes -before ,all. in this i case, we haste ko remember that there is a considerable camp of interned Germans. I would like the Minister to inquire .whether this doctor is in very frequent consultation with them. There may be nothing in that, but it is talked of amongst our .men in the camp. I wish mow to offer the Minister a. suggestion. He has made a declaration, which has gone all over Australia, that .we .want 'every .man .possible. . Following that declaration, .there should .certainly be an improvement in the recruiting facilities offered to those willing to present themselves. At present, young men who desire .to enlist have to suffer considerable disabilities. 'Is it not .possible to have recruiting depots throughout the States, instead of having them located only at the capitals? Tit is a considerable undertaking lot- young men .up country, even if franked on the railways, to .leave their jobs to come-down to 'Sydney, possibly for a week, with a chance of being rejected. Even if it costs them nothing otherwise, it means that many of them may "Jose their billets. It shou'ld '-be -possible 'to have depots, not in 'every town, 'but in all 'the 'larger towns, so as to minimize the inconvenience and time taken before would-be recruits can .present themselves lit head-quarters. If we 'are in earnest 'about 'recruiting, we shall not 'wait until 'the men come to the existing 'recruiting depôts, 'but take the depots into 'the country districts as far as 'we can, 'not -only ' as . an invitation to 'the men,

A remarkable state, of affairs exists at Liverpool Camp in connexion, with the canteen arrangements. The whole- of the extra-military supplies which- the' thousand's- of soldiers can purchase have been-, centralized, under- the solecontrol of a private- firm of contractors!

How extensive the scope oi the. company is and how remunerative its operations must be can be gleaned from- the fact- that its1 control extends' over- the canteen, the vaudeville and', picture shows, the: hairdressers,, the chemist, the tailor, the. laundry, the fruit stall-,, and the photographer. The churches and.' the. camp stadium are; However; independent. As- a matter of fact, it? is the- canteen propraetors, who have assumed- control of the other- undertakings,, and. they have been, given the! sole- monopoly of the sale of. tobacco,, groceries,, soft drinks, and other refreshments. ' They have been- created' a trust.

The first tiling that marked- the transfer- of direct responsibility from the; military? authoritis to.- the.- canteen- proprietors was- an; increase im the rent of- the tent shops. The- hairdressers; for instance, who had", paid' £T 10s. & week- ground rent, were- informed' by- their new* landlords that, they would have- to: pay £2. 5s. in future, and that, those who ran over three; chairs would have, to nay. an extra amount:

But it is- not this* aspect of; the affair that is- of such- concern as the- fact- that the men's pay should go to swell the- profits: of as private concern, introduced! into a'.big centre of. Government, organization..

There, is.- a great deal more- details, but? the statement.- really, boils, down to. this;-." that instead of letting^ the; soldiers' sunt the canteen! themselves, as.- was- done., at Broadmeadows, and. the whole of, the? profits go to, t,lie- soldiers,, these- facilities have been, farmed out, at . Liverpool to; a; firm, or series' of firms-:

Senator Grant - Private* enterprise.!'

Senator MILLEN - That. is= so?: and, of course,- private enterprise'* has- not been: slow to take, advantage, of: the opportunity.

Senator-McDougall - They are. paying a>. good' price, for? its - £150 a.', monthfor every; thousand' mem

Senator MILLEN - But at Broadmeadows, the. men. save- the- profit, which r the contractor would make above;- t£e* £W0. It is- not- the contractor who* ispaying the £150 per month; it is thesoldiers. who are paying, it, and' in addition, they,- are paying the contractors a profit for being- there. At Broadmeadows a totally different system* was adopted: The. canteen, was. made, the property and business- of the soldiers,, and any profit resulting therefrom belonged to them-.. A great, deal was, said, and: justly-, as to the admirable; results, of. that, undertaking, and one. is. astonished therefore,, seeing it worked out so well,, to find: an entirely, different system adopted; at Liverpool. I' invite, the Minister's.- attention to. the matter.. . To. met it; is revolting; to, think that the men. who have gone, there to offer their lives, if necessary for the* dB fence of the country, should, be put. in- a less favorable position, than were their fellows: at. Broadmeadows, especially seeing, that an alternative course was; so easily- available:..

Senator Findley - The honorable, sena-tor said that certain rents had been raa= tonally increased. By whom?

Senator MILLEN - According, to. the statement',, the Department has- given, to a certain firm a franchise or. privilege, to. run. certain undertakings at. the, camp, and. this firm, in turn farms out the. right to., say, a hairdresser, or photographer-: to. start business, there. Haying, received, the concession from: the. Department,, its is, increasing the rents.- to. those who have en:tered into., these: subsidiary undertakings!

Senator Findley - And the land., be* longs to:- the- (Grown !

Senator MILLEN - That is so. I hope the Minister will be able to deny the statement, but it is so definite that I felt that I was more than entitled to bring it before the Senate.

Senator Grant - They ought to pay a heavy land tax there.

Senator MILLEN - Surely it is a heavy enough tax when a man has to pay .£2 5s. a week to put up a barber's tent1! In- justice to the contractor or contractors, I should quote the following further statement from the article -

It can be said that the canteen is run excellently so far as the supplies are concerned, and that the prices are only reasonable under private enterprise conditions. Goods are sold a.t ordinary market prices. There have been complaints about the refreshments, but a visit by a Sun reporter to the canteen did not bear them out. For sixpence a cup of tea, ready , sweetened, and two huge corned-beef sandwiches, or a generous helping of cake, was obtainable. It was rough but good fare. There is no cause of complaint against the contractors, who are merely carrying out well an ordinary business undertaking. The whole question is one of principle. Should private persons make a profit - which, because of the extent of their operations, must be huge, but not unfair - out of the troops? Or should the troops be afforded the advantage of cheaper supplies and participation in the earnings of a co-operative canteen?

That is the position I want to put before the Senate. Having tested the cooperative canteen principle at Broadmeadows with, I believe, excellent results, there was no justification for adopting another principle at Liverpool. There was rather every reason to start at Liverpool a similar venture to that which resulted so successfully at Broadmeadows. Senator McDougall made reference to the amount paid. On this subject the article says -

An arrangement between the military authorities and the contractors is pending, and will provide for a big rental charge, based upon the number of men in camp. The amount will run into about f600 or £800 a month. That apparently corroborates Senator McDougall's statement.

Senator McDougall - I asked the question last week, and got the answer from the Minister.

Senator MILLEN - But the point is that it is obvious that the rent paid comes out of the pockets of the men, and private enterprise will not go there unless, in addition to the rent, it makes something for itself. It should be the duty of the Government to see that every penny of profit made from what ought to be a co-operative canteen is used for the bene fit of the men who provide that profit. If the matter is not finally concluded, I hope the Minister will at once break off the negotiations, and see- that, the men at Liverpool get the same excellent opportunities of working the co-operative principle as were furnished to their fellows who went into training at Broadmeadows.

Suggest corrections