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Friday, 23 April 1915

Mr JENSEN - Yes; practically word for word.

Mr Mathews - That may not be good enough for us.

Mr JENSEN - The Government feels sure that what is good enough for Great Britain in a matter of this kind is good enough for Australia. We have received a copy of the British amending Act, and by means of our Bill propose to do what has been done by the Imperial Parliament.

Sir Robert Best - Does the British Act provide for trial by civil tribunals?

Mr JENSEN - Yes. When the Bill had left the House of Commons and reached the House of Lords it was discovered that, if passed into law as it stood, it would take his civil rights from practically every person in Great Britain, and an amendment was made to prevent that. We propose to similarly amend our law. This Bill gives the Commonwealth Government the right to take over certain factories, or the goods manufactured in them, for the use of the Defence Department. Before the war broke out, we had had happily no experience in matters of this kind, and our original Act was largely a copy of an Imperial measure. Experience has shown the English legislation to be inadequate, and our experience has been similar. Things for which there was no statutory authority have had to be done by the Government by the exercise of its inherent power to deal with circumstances as they arise in times of war. The Bill concerns chiefly matters of detail, and is intended to fill up gaps which have been found to exist under the operation of the original Act. It makes it clear that offences against the regulations are punishable on summary conviction. It also gives to the Government power to take over any mill or warehouse, or anything contained in them, in order that all necessary equipment may be provided for the carrying of the war to a successful issue. The powers given to the Government by this legislation are very great, but it is' absolutely necessary that the Government should have them. We have already practically commandeered the output of every woollen mill of importance in Australia. In justice to the proprietors of these establishments, I wish to say that they have met us in a most honorable and gentlemanly manner, and have not placed any obstacles in the way of our doing the right thing in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.

Mr Gregory - Have you done the same by them ?

Mr JENSEN - Yes. We are paying prices for their output which meet with their entire approval.

Mr Gregory - What about the regulations regarding preference?

Mr JENSEN - Every member of the Government, and every member of the Labour party, will stand by the principle of preference to unionists. But I do not wish to discuss that matter now. If at any other time we are attacked on the subject, we shall know how to meet the attack. I desire to say at once that the manufacturers of Australasia have met the Defence Department in a truly patriotic spirit, and that, I suppose, is because the Government have not taken up any strong attitude in regard to prices, but have given practically those that were asked for. The manufacturers admit that they have been satisfactorily treated by the Department, and that, at the prices paid, they are able to sell us the goods at a certain profit. It was an admirable idea on the part of the Minister of Defence to hold a conference representing the whole of the manufacturers of Australia, and thus to approach and deal with the question in a manner worthy of the occasion. At present the Government have no power to take such steps for the acquisition of supplies, and the object of this Bill is to give them the necessary legal authority. Honorable members may be surprised to learn that we have gone to certain warehouses - I am not talking of woollen mills - in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and elsewhere, and have practically taken possession of the underwear and other "woollen goods off the shelves for the use of our men. Our justification is the necessity occasioned by the war, and I have much pleasure in informing the House that many of the merchants have disposed of those goods to us at the invoiced price, although there is no doubt that, if they had insisted, they could practically have got the prices , ruling in retail establishments. It is my duty, as Assistant Minister, to gratefully acknowledge such patriotic conduct on the part of our merchants, and I do so gladly. It has been stated that even at present the Government have sufficient power to take possession of goods in the way I have described, but it is our desire to make the position absolutely sure by means of this Bill. It is also provided in the measure that civilians who are charged under the War Precautions Act shall have the right to trial in a civil Court - a right now non-existent. It is only some six days ago that we received from the Imperial authorities an intimation that a similar provision had been incorporated in their War Precautions Act, and the AttorneyGeneral, together with the Minister of Defence, then decided to follow the British example.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - That provision would not apply to such cases as were referred to yesterday.

Mr JENSEN - No ; but at present every person charged under the War Precautions Act must be tried by a military tribunal.

Mr Brennan - That provision will not apply to any but British subjects.

Mr JENSEN - That is so, and to any woman, a British subject, who may have married an alien. I have had a consultation with the Minister of Defence, and I find that he is not prepared to allow any person under naval or military discipline to be tried by a civil Court, but that all outside military discipline shall have that right.

Mr Burns - The men concerned in the Papuan affair would not be tried by a civil Court?

Mr JENSEN - No. "We, as a people, boast of our nation and of our Army and Navy; and surely we can trust our Defence Forces.

Mr J H Catts - Some things go on that we cannot stand up for!

Mr JENSEN - That may be so occasionally, but will anybody assure me that everything in the civil Courts is as it should be? Honorable members should not be biased by what they heard yesterday. May I be permitted to say that I am sorry that the names of one or two gentlemen should have been mentioned

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