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Wednesday, 2 June 1915


Mr SPEAKER -The right honorable member must withdraw that remark.


Mr Joseph Cook - I withdraw it.


Mr J H CATTS - Whilst referring to commodities in respect of which there is a scarcity, I must not pass over the question of forage. Carters and others, who have to employ horses in connexion with their business, find it practically impossible to obtain fodder. Inquiries that have been made, however, show that there is plenty of fodder stored away in country districts. But every one is waiting for a rise. Holders of these supplies think that because of the war prices will go up, and they are holding on a little longer in the hope of securing a little more for their produce.

The machinery is not in existence to meet the situation. This is a defect which should be at once remedied. The Government should act even on the information at hand. I believe that they have ample power under the export laws, the War Precautions Act, and our statistical powers to deal with this matter.

The country is in a state of war, and surely if the Government find that those who have control of food supplies are manipulating the markets, that they are making money out of the war conditions that prevail - that they are. prepared to starve people and to starve the families of men who are fighting at the front - they should take action. The man who is prepared to starve the families of our soldiers at the front is one of the biggest traitors in the country.


Mr Fenton - The biggest criminal in the country.


Mr J H CATTS - I repeat such a man is one of the greatest traitors we have in the country. He is the enemy within our gates. I contend that the Government are not taking adequate steps to meet the situation, and that we have ample power under the War Precautions Act and the law relating to exports to deal with the whole matter. It is said that we need to have the Constitution amended.


Mr Joseph Cook - The honorable member, after making these strong statements, ought to go a little further. All these Governments have the power to do what they like so far as foodstuffs are concerned.


Mr J H CATTS - Does the right honorable member include the Federal Government in that statement?


Mr Joseph Cook - Yes.


Mr J H CATTS - I believe that they have the power, and the Leader of the Opposition confirms my view. At all events, I should like to see them exercise the powers they have. We should then learn whether they were really insufficient to cope with the situation. The Government ought certainly to exercise their ingenuity in endeavouring to devise means to meet the trouble.


Mr Webster - Proclaim martial law?


Mr J H CATTS - If there were no other means of dealing with the matter I should be prepared to say that we should proclaim martial law to an extent sufficient to give the Government authority to deal with the foodstuffs of the people. At this hour it is impossible to discuss the question as one would like to deal with it, and to prepare a motion on the subject.


Mr Joseph Cook - I do not know what the honorable member hopes to gain by raising a matter like this at this hour.


Mr J H CATTS - In my own way, in my own party, I have been doing what I can to impress upon the Government the seriousness of the situation, and I feel it is time that my constituents knew that I have expressed in the House my view as to what ought to be done, and that the Government should get a move on.


Mr Joseph Cook - I think the honorable member has chosen the very worst time to do this.


Mr J H CATTS - I have availed myself of the only opportunity offering me. Private members' day has been taken away, in order that the Government may occupy the time with Govern- ment business. Therefore, private members have to find their own time and opportunity to bring before the House matters which they consider to be urgent and important. I think I would not be doing my duty if I held silence longer. I consider this question of foodstuffs one of the most urgent and important that is before the country to-day, and second only to arranging for the despatch of troops and munitions to assist in the battles of the Empire.


Mr Fenton - Let us deal with this tomorrow.


Mr J H CATTS - We will approach the question again to-morrow ; and I hope that other honorable members will join me in making a demonstration which will impress on the Government the urgent necessity of action. With the expression of that hope, I shall leave the matter for the present ; but I trust that these few remarks will be taken into earnest consideration by the representative of the Government, and that the Ministry will do something to assist in mitigating what is almost a famine in the necessaries of life, on account of circumstances which have arisen out of the existing state of war.

Mr.SAMPSON (Wimmera) [11.6]. - Lord Denman, a former GovernorGeneral of Australia, writing to the London Times on the subject of "National Service," is credited with having said -

In Australia its success has been acknowledged. The Labour party is fairly entitled to the credit of it. In my opinion, it is due chiefly to the efforts of Mr. Fisher, Senator Pearce, and Mr. Hughes.

The honorable member for Ballarat has just handed to me a copy of the Herald of this evening, in which the following cable message appears: -

Following upon his first letter to the Times on the subject of the adoption by Australia of universal military service, Lord Denman, formerly Governor-General of the Commonwealth, now writes to that journal to point out that it was at the invitation of a Liberal Ministry that Lord Kitchener went to Australia. Inasmuch as it was on his report that universal training was based, and as the Labour Government administered the scheme during the early years of its operation, the responsibility of its inception was shared by both political parties.

I am glad to read that modification of Lord Denman's original statement, although his Lordship does not deny the statement I previously read. I regret very much that a former Governor-General, in advocat ing nationalservice in Great Britain, should have imported any names into the discussion; but as names have been so imported, it is only just to those to whom the real credit is due that their names also should be mentioned. In 1907, a comprehensive policy of universal service was outlined in this House as a matter of Government policy by Mr. Deakin.


Mr Burns - Supported by the Labour party.







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