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Wednesday, 7 July 1915

Mr THOMAS - Of course, I accept the explanation; but had the Minister visited the camp with the honorable member for Nepean, a large number of matters could have been dealt with straight off. I have not been able to take interest in the Liverpool Camp, because of distance from Melbourne; but when my boy was at Broadmeadows I visited the camp there several times, and various complaints were brought under my notice. I learned, however, that there are two sides to most questions. The honorable member for Calare instanced the case of an actingsergeantmajor, who, he said, was not getting the pay of his rank. The honorable member first omitted to say that the man was only acting as sergeant-major, which makes all the difference. Very often, before a man can qualify for promotion, he is permitted to act in the rank to which he aspires. A private's first step is to the position of corporal. The corporal may become a sergeant, and so on. It is of advantage to a corporal who wishes to become a sergeant to be permitted to act as a sergeant. Such a man has a better chance of passing for sergeant than a man who has not acted in the position.

Mr Pigott - But the lieutenant to whose case I referred was being charged 3s. 6d. a day for mess expenses, although he was not receiving the pay of the rank in which he was serving.

Mr THOMAS - There may have been some hardship in that case, but most young fellows who aspire to a higher rank are glad to act in the higher capacity before submitting themselves to examination to prove their qualification for promotion. As to the supply of overcoats, I know that members of one contingent were not given overcoats until shortly before they left. But overcoats are often stolen. One young fellow of whom I heard had his overcoat stolen by a tent mate, and became liable for its replacement.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - A man should not become liable to pay £2 for an overcoat costing 12s. 6d.

Mr THOMAS - If these overcoats cost only 12s. 6d. there are fortunes to be made in the tailoring business.

Mr Atkinson - The overcoats served out at Liverpool the other day were bought in the Sydney warehouses at that price.

Mr THOMAS - As the Government intends to appoint a Judge to inquire into all these matters, I have no doubt that good will come of the discussion. I am sure that the honorable member for Nepean was actuated by the best of motives. Things are happening in these camp which I cannot mention here, and which it would be almost impossible to imagine. Another matter to which I wish to refer is one to which attention has been drawn by the honorable members for Bendigo and Melbourne. Some time ago the honorable member for Bendigo referred to the voluntary contributions that were being made for many laudable objects connected with the war, and asked for some Government supervision of the collections, and to-day the honorable member for Melbourne asked that there should be a central authority appointed lay the Government to control the numerous patriotic collections. I under stand that the Government have replied that they are taking the matter into consideration. I hope that they will take it into their serious consideration. Though they cannot prevent any voluntary association collecting money without full approval of the State Governments, I hope that the time will not be far distant when the Commonwealth Government, working in conjunction with the State Governments, will see that no collections are taken up without the full consent of the Commonwealth Government, and that there is proper control over these organizations. Otherwise, we shall have a tremendous scandal in Australia. Our people are open-hearted and generous, and at this particular juncture are ready to subscribe right and left to anything arid, everything in connexion with the war, but it is due to them that the Government should see that the money is collected by people who are properly authorized to do so, and that there is Government control in connexion with every effort in this direction. We have had grave scandals in the past in connexion with voluntary subscriptions. I believe that in connexion with the Creswick disaster the trustees took some of the money that they should not have touched. There is in Great Britain a very large fund called the Prince of Wales' fund, amounting to £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, which money has been collected on behalf of wounded soldiers ; but in Glasgow the cost of distributing lis. from this fund is 9s. Of every £1 raised, 9s. is spent in the cost of distribution. Some may not imagine that such a thing could happen in Scotland, where the people are so careful with the bawbees, but, seeing that it has, we can well imagine what may happen in other places. Naturally there was some outcry when these Glasgow figures were made public, and the. defence put up was that, as the work of distribution was put in the hands of clerks who were out of employment, the money paid to these clerks could be set down as relief pay. I do not say that nothing should be done for the unemployed, but it is hardly fair to raise money for wounded soldiers and use it for the relief of the unemployed. The Lord Provost of Glasgow took £17 10s out of the Prince of Wales' fund in order to go to London and make some inquiries, and when this matter was ventilated in the press the Town Clerk ofGlasgow pointed out that, as the Lord

Provost went to London on general matters, his expenses should not have been drawn out of this fund, and it was only done by mistake. However, the fact remains that the money was taken by the Lord Provost for a trip to London, and if such things can happen in the Old Country they are just as likely to occur in connexion with the funds that are now being raised in Australia. I have no desire to stay the flow of benevolence and philanthropy in connexion with the war, but a few days ago a collection was being taken up for the wounded soldiers returning to Australia. It is my view that the Commonwealth Government should make full and complete provision for every wounded soldier returning to Australia by means of general taxation. If we called upon the people of the country to bear this cost, they would gladly respond.

Mr Atkinson - Hear, hear; as long as the tax was equitable.

Mr THOMAS - To me the fact that people should be selling buttons and collecting money in order to make provision for our returning wounded seems to be a reflection on 'the Commonwealth Government.

Mr Pigott - I expressed that opinion a month ago.

Mr THOMAS - When we have so much weight of intellect - that of the honorable member and my own - brought to bear on the Government upon this matter, something should be done. I hope that the Postmaster- General, who is in the chamber, will bring the matter under the notice of the Government, following upon the questions put by the honorable members for Melbourne and Bendigo. These organizations for raising, by voluntary means, money for laudable objects, seem to be multiplying, and should be under complete Government control in order that the public may know that when they subscribe money it will go to the object for which they give it.

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