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Friday, 16 July 1915


Mr J H CATTS (Cook) .- The scheme which the Attorney-General proposes to put into operation for taking a census of the manhood and wealth of the country is a step in the right direction. Proposals have emanated from Opposition members, who are supposed to be business men,, which would mean that the taking of the census, instead of occupying only a few weeks, would occupy a few months. To those who have had experience of handling large bodies of men engaged in voluntary work, the idea of utilizing voluntary labour for the census in different parts of the Commonwealth - which requires accuracy and expedition - is ridiculous.

We must have information before- we can; take action. So far we have been acting without information. A number of honorable members are discussing, the Bill as if it provided for action. It does nothing of the kind. It provides merely for the accumulation of information. As a matter of fact, this Parliament has done practically nothing. It has not done a solitary thing of substance in connexion with our present difficulties beyond the passing of two or three Supply Bills. True, the Referenda Bills have been carried. This is a necessary prelude to much necessary legislation. But we have done nothing as a Parliament regarding many great subjects over which we have undoubted power, and which it is essential should be dealt with.

There has been no definite authority obtained from Parliament for the sending away of any number of troops. We have passed' an incidental measure - the War Pensions Act - but Parliament itself has sanctioned nothing. lt is proposed to acquire the sugar crop of Australia, at a cost of about £2,000,000, but this Parliament has not authorized it, nor have we considered the proposal.

Judging from the speech of the AttorneyGeneral, it is in contemplation to acquire the whole of the wheat crop of Australia, or it is thought that it may be necessary to do so, and to harvest, transport, and market it at a cost of about £25,000,000. But no proposal has been put before Parliament for dealing with the matter. Parliament has not been asked to consider the scheme in detail, or to sanction it.

In all the great financial arrangements that have been made, whatever they may be - I have very vague ideas of what they are, and doubt whether any honorable member has precise information concerning, them-


Sir John Forrest - It is not thought necessary to consult Parliament under the present regime.


Mr J H CATTS - Parliament has not considered 'the financial situation, and has not arranged it. In that respect we have full control of the finances of Australia. But we have not even had a chance to put our heads together to grapple with the financial difficulties of the Commonwealth.

In regard to. foodstuffs-


Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member think this relevant to the Bill?


Mr J H CATTS - I think it is quite relevant. The Attorney-General, in introducing, the Bill, discussed all these subjects.


Mr SPEAKER - He mentioned them, but he did not discuss them.


Mr J H CATTS - He stated that one of the reasons for requiring the information that is to be collected under the Bill is, that it may be found necessary to organize the manhood of .the Commonwealth for the harvesting of the wheat crop.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member may refer to these matters, but he will not be in order in discussing them in detail.


Mr J H CATTS - I do not wish to refer to them in detail; but to make a passing reference to them.

In regard to our food supplies, and the production of the country, all that Parliament has done, or is now asked to do, is to obtain information. If that is all that is necessary, the government of the country may be carried on by the appointment of Ministers who will undertake the management of our affairs, and elucidate problems of the greatest magnitude which arise during a time of war, when most serious consequences may arise put of what is done. If a small executive can handle the situation at a time like this unaided, I do not know what Parliament is for.Under this system it would be enough for the constituencies to choose members to form a kind of superior electoral college for the election of the National Executive.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the Bill.


Mr J H CATTS - So far as the Bill provides for the acquiring of necessary information it is a step in the right direction, and I enthusiastically support it.

The speech of the Attorney-General in introducing it shows that it may be necessary to nationalize the whole means of production in this country, and to arrange for distribution under Commonwealth authority.


Mr Sinclair - Parliament will have to accept my suggestion, and go to the States for the power that is needed.


Mr J H CATTS - That, it seems to me, would be a futile proceeding. The States are continually being asked to do certain things, and some one or other of them is always lagging behind, or causing delay by making alternative suggestions. I do not' think that it was ever contemplated that the Commonwealth should go to the States and ask them for certain things, though it was contemplated that the States might offer certain jurisdiction to the Commonwealth.


Mr McWilliams - Surely there is no harm in consulting the States.


Mr J H CATTS - They have been consulted. There was a conference recently, at which the Commonwealth Ministers met the Premiers of the States, and what was the outcome ? Nothing has been done in connexion with any of the great problems that are exercising the minds of the people.


Mr Sinclair - We say that we have not the power to do certain things. Why object to a . short cut to get that power ?


Mr J H CATTS - There is no short cut, and there is nothing original in the suggestion. Every effort to . find a short cut has been futile.

We are seeking information as to the wealth of the country. I should like to see the whole means of exchange in this country under Commonwealth control. We could, by the nationalization or socialization of exchange, by creating our Commonwealth Bank a bank of issue, deposit, exchange, and reserve, almost wholly solve the financial difficulties now confronting us.

The countries that are best fitted to meet an attack on their national existence are those which have provided for the nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the countries which act most thoroughly along those lines will soonest recover from the social, industrial, and financial paralysis and exhaustion caused by the war.

The necessities of the war are compelling us to enter upon this scientific organization, and to eliminate waste of both material and men. Germany to-day has a vast-


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is now going quite beyond the question. I have allowed him fair latitude, and I ask him to confine his remarks to the Bill.


Mr J H CATTS - I am discussing what might be done with the information which it is proposed to collect. The acquiring of information can only be justified as a basis for action. I am showing how the information might be used in order to benefit the Commonwealth. Surely that is relevant.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member can see that there would be no finality if I permitted such a discussion.


Mr J H CATTS - I admit that it would open up a wide field, but surely it is not irrelevant because it opens up a wide field for discussion. However, I shall reserve the remarks prepared on the urgency and desirability of socialization for another occasion.

The Bill provides for the tabulation of the personal services which can be rendered, and for a tabulation of the wealth, of the country. It has been said that there is at present no parliamentary or statutory authority for conscription in this country, but as I read the Defence Act there is authority for conscription here for service both at home and abroad. Section 33 of the Defence Act reads -

The Governor-General may, subject to the provisions of this Act, raise, maintain, and organize in the manner prescribed, such Permanent and Citizen Forces as he deems necessary for the defence and protection of the Commonwealth and of the several States.

That section gives the Executive power to raise any defence forces that it may deem necessary. That is a def ence force as differentiated from our compulsorily trained Citizen Forces.


Sir John Forrest - What does the Constitution say?


Mr J H CATTS - There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent forces from being sent to serve outside Australia whether they have been raised voluntarily or under compulsion. Section 60 of the Defence Act says -

1.   In time of war it shall be lawful for the Governor-General (the occasion being first communicated to the Parliament, if the Parliament be then sitting, or notified by proclamation if the Parliament be not then sitting), by proclamation, to call upon persons liable to serve in the Militia Forces to enlist in the Militia Forces, and thereupon such persons (other than those who are members of the Defence Force) shall, in the manner prescribed, enlist in the Militia Forces for the prescribed period.

2.   A proclamation under this section may call upon all the persons specified in any one or more of the classes hereunder set out so to enlist but so that the persons specified in any class shall not in anycase be called upon so to enlist until the persons specified in every preceding class are or have been called upon.

Then section 53 provides that -

In time of war, the Governor-General may, subject to the provisions of this Act, place the Defence Force, or any part thereof, under the orders of the Commander of any portion of the King's Regular Forces or the King's Regular Naval Forces, as the case may be.

Section 33 provides for the raising of a defence force, which is different from the Citizen Forces; section 60 allows this force to be called upon to serve where prescribed, and section 53 allows it to be put under the command of officers of the King's Regular Forces.

Mr.Finlayson. - The Act does not say that men can be compelled to serve outside Australia.


Mr J H CATTS - They may be placed under the command of officers of the King's Regular Forces.


Mr Page - Of the King's Regular Forces here.


Mr J H CATTS - Under the orders of the commander of any portion of the King's Regular Forces or of the King's Regular Naval Forces. It is not stated that the King's Regular Forces must be here.

Mr.Finlayson. - Not necessarily outside Australia.


Mr J H CATTS - Not necessarily anything. The Act makes no qualification. Where the King's Forces are is an open matter under the Act. I admit that men cannot be sent to serve outside Australia except with the consent of the Executive Government. That is not the point being argued. There has been an argument as to whether there is statutory authority for the sending of troops to serve outside Australia whether compulsorily enrolled or obtained by voluntary enlistment. My reading of the Act is that there is statutory authority to send conscript troops outside of Australia under certain circumstances. Point is given to this by the definition of " war " in the Act. The Defence Act defines war as - any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on, the Commonwealth, or any territory under the control of the Commonwealth by an enemy or armed force.


Mr Burns - That is only in regard to the Commonwealth.


Mr J H CATTS - The honorable member's interpretation is too narrow. If it were apprehended that Germany was about to make an attack upon Australia there is provision in the Defence Act for the using of Australian soldiers. at any point even outside Australia where the invasion could best be prevented. I think that the honorable member for Balaclava agrees with that.


Mr Watt - I do entirely.


Mr Finlayson - If that contention is sound there is no need for the Bill.


Mr King O'Malley - There is no need for the Bill.


Mr J H CATTS - There is need for the Bill. There is need for the information which this Bill provides the means of obtaining. But I can find nothing in contradiction or limitation of the provisions of the Defence Act which I have read.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m. Mr. J.H. CATTS. - From the manner in which my remarks on this subject have been received, it appears to be generally admitted by honorable members that there is power to send a conscript army to Europe if there be any danger or apprehension that we may be invaded by a European foe. And our defence could best be made by attacking such foe outside of Australia.

From the schedule of the Bill which calls for particulars from the manhood of the country in relation to defence, it would almost appear that it had been drafted with the direct idea in the mind of the draftsman that conscription was to be given effect to. I do not believe that to be the case ; but it would certainly seem to be so from an investigation of the document, apart from any Knowledge of what is in the minds of Ministers. The first schedule to the Bill asks the men of this country to give particulars as to their social condition arid their health. But there is no space left oh the sheet in which a man can indicate in any way whether he will be prepared to bear arms in case of necessity. If we only ask a man as to his fitness, but not as to his willingness to fight, you either contemplate compelling him to fight regardless of his wishes, or you will need a second census to ascertain his mind in this respect. There is little difference between compulsion and the moral coercion suggested by the honorable member for Flinders.


Mr Higgs - The Attorney-General has said that there is no intention to use the Bill in that way.


Mr J H CATTS - I think the honorable member was out for a few minutes when I was pointing out that, taking the sections and definition of the Defence Act to which I have referred, together with the schedule of the Bill now before us, one would infer, if he did not know to the contrary, that conscription was directly aimed . at. I was submitting that there should be a suggestion in the first schedule something like the following : - " If you are prepared to bear arms should necessity arise, you are entitled to make a statement to that effect." I do not say the question should be nut directly, but there should be some means taken to ascertain the mind of the manhood of the country on the point.


Mr Chanter - Would not that be moral compulsion ?


Mr J H CATTS - It could be put in such a way as not to be moral compulsion. The alternative suggested is that, if occasion arise, certain names shall be picked out, and an intimation sent directly to the persons so selected that, they are expected to bear arms and take part in the defence of the country, presumably here or abroad.


Mr Yates - Where does moral compulsion begin and end? Is there not moral compulsion at. the present time ?


Mr J H CATTS - I admit that it is difficult to say where moral compulsion begins and ends. If the suggestions of the honorable member for Flinders be acted upon, and men between certain ages, and of certain social condition, are picked out and told that they are expected to take part in the defence of the country, it is moral coercion, and about the nearest thing possible to legal coercion.

There should be no compulsion and no coercion, unless it be deliberately decided on by this Parliament. The Prime Minister has given us his assurance that there will be no conscription - no compulsion - under this Bill.


Mr Fisher - I say that there cannot be compulsion under this Bill by any Government.


Mr J H CATTS - I submit for the right honorable gentleman's consideration the sections and definition in the Defence Act to which I have referred.


Mr Fisher - That means the defence of Australia.


Mr J H CATTS - I do not wish to go over the sections again.


Mr Fisher - I know them. We have not power to call out anybody at the present time, and send them away for the defence of Australia.


Mr J H CATTS - With all respect to the Prime Minister, there are quite a number of honorable members, including the honorable member for Balaclava, aformer Premier of a State, who agree with the interpretation I placed on the sections, namely, that the Defence Act gives power, under one section, to raise a defence force, and, under another section, to place that force under the control of His Majesty's commander anywhere necessary to meet the apprehension of attack upon the Commonwealth.


Mr Fenton - It seems to me that the words " Commonwealth and territories " indicate that service in the Commonwealth and territories only is intended.


Mr J H CATTS - If the honorable member looks more closely at the sections and the definition, I think he will see that the matter is not so easily disposed of.


Mr King O'Malley - Supposing it was decided that the defence of Australia lay in England or America, could men be sent there?


Mr J H CATTS - That is how I read the Defence Act.


Mr Fisher - Then what is the use of our going to all the bother of raising Expeditionary Forces if we can get the men in another way?


Mr J H CATTS - I submit that the Government could get the men in another way if they desired, and that is not being done simply because it is not the policy of the country. They have statutory power to compel men to go anywhere to defend Australia.


Mr Fisher - Every one who goes does so "voluntarily.


Mr J H CATTS - Certainly, but I say that the statutory authority is there to take the other method if the Executive so decides.


Mr Fisher - I say it is not; and this Government would not do it. What is the use of arguing like that?


Mr Fleming - To say that this Government would not do it is not to say that the authority is not there.


Mr Fisher - These things must be done by Statute, and not by inference.


Mr J H CATTS - I quite agree, and I do not mean to throw any doubt on the Prime Minister's assurance when I say that I have seen clauses put into Bills on similar assurances that they would not be used for this or that purpose, but when those Bills have come to be administered and interpreted as Acts no reference is made to the debates in Parliament in order to throw light on their meaning - the measures are interpreted according to the letter. As a matter of principle, it is always dangerous to accept assurances of the kind in Parliament, instead of having these assurances embodied in the measure.


Mr W Elliot Johnson - An Act ought to be made clear by its own terms.


Mr J H CATTS - Quite so; and I think it would be well if a clause were inserted providing distinctly that no object of the Bill is in the direction of conscription.


Mr Fisher - That would be perfectly ridiculous !


Mr J H CATTS - The right honorable gentleman is certainly in a humour to use the most extreme terms.


Mr Fisher - Such a clause would not at all fit into this Bill.


Mr J H CATTS - I have heard the right honorable gentleman in this Parliament say things which I thought perfectly ridiculous, but in deference to him,

I have not used such terms regarding him.


Mr Fisher - I must be following a bad example!


Mr J H CATTS - It looks like it. In regard to the tabulation of wealth, there seems to be a little apprehension, particularly on the other side of the House. As a matter of fact, such information ought always to be at our disposal, and not only in time of war. I have wondered at the paucity of knowledge that we have been able to obtain from our Department of Statistics. For this I do not blame the Statistician, but I do blame the various Governments, who have not placed sufficient money at that official's disposal for this necessary work.

I find in -the New York Sun of 4th June of this year a complete tabulation of the wealth of the people of the United States. The article is headed, " What We are Worth"; and "Should Uncle Sam Decide to Impose an Income Tax." There is in that return a complete return of the wealth of every individual of the United States. For every man, woman, and child the amount is 1.965 dollars, and the total wealth 187,739,000,000 dollars, including exempt real estate. Following on that table is a comparison with other countries, and particulars as to the various States of the Union. The population of the States is close on 100,000,000, and the information is available at any time it is required by the Government. In this or any other country we cannot have proper material on which to base taxation unless similar returns are made; and I sincerely hope that now we have started the taking of our wealth census will never stop. An honorable member has interjected a remark as to the ability of Sir Timothy Coghlan, and he was certainly a very able statistician, but I believe that Mr. Knibbs is at least his equal.


Mr Fisher - As good as any in the world !


Mr J H CATTS - No one can come in touch with Mr. Knibbs without being struck with his great capacity for the work he has undertaken. I was very pleased to hear what the Attorney-General said about Mr. Knibbs yesterday. There is no red-tape about him. He goes straight to the point, and is both direct and scientific in hismethods.

As the Bill will probably be rushed through at the Committee stage, I desire to take this opportunity of saying a word about the machinery. It has been suggested by members on the other side that voluntary labour should be made use of in a wholesale fashion. We have large numbers of men who are prepared to offer their services. I have had some experience of the employment of considerable bodies of voluntary helpers in political campaigns, and, in my view, the honorable members who have suggested that we should make use of voluntary help in work of this character can hardly have had much experience in the organization of voluntary help in their own electorates.

In my own electorate, in the electorates that my party have asked me to take charge of in New South Wales for organizing purposes, and in the general organization of the work of the last campaign in New South Wales, I had a good deal of experience of the value of voluntary help from persons who were inspired with the ideals of the movement, who were extremely enthusiastic, and whose help was given under the best conditions, and my conclusion is that such help cannot equal in value the help that could be obtained if the same persons were regularly employed under direct and continuous supervision in some systematic and methodical way. I do not disparage in any way the great work voluntarily done for the labour movement. I am merely trying to compare voluntary, as against paid, labour for taking and analysing the census now under consideration. During the last State election I was asked to take charge of the second ballot campaign in that electorate of New South Wales in which the State Attorney-General was interested. The time at my disposal was only a week or ten days, and we had to engage paid labour to do a certain part of the organizing work; yet by its help we transformed a minority of 100 into a majority of 300 after a very strenuouslyfought contest. The voluntary help was magnificent, but it would have even been more effective if we could have paid the same persons and insisted upon more rigid carrying out of instructions. If we could engage our political helpers regularly at an election, work on definite lines, with power to insist upon the carry ing out of instructions, our results would be immensely increased and improved.


Mr GROOM - Had you sufficient to make a fair comparison?


Mr J H CATTS - Oh, yes. It .was rather an important election, and I am bound to say that all the money required was available. The Attorney-General did not stick at a pound or two so long as the work was effectively done. I would like to see what employment is going to be distributed, particularly at a time like this, but the distribution must not be at the cost of inefficiency. It would be a most inefficient way of handling this matter if we were to have a number of depots in various parts of the Commonwealth. All these cards will have to come in through the Post Office. They will arrive on different days on account of the distances they have to be sent, and if arrangements could be made for their complete handling at one common centre that would be the most efficient way of carrying out the census. The idea of utilizing voluntary labour in all parts of the Commonwealth is. in my view, absurd. As many inspectors as employees would be required to see that the work was carried out. Voluntary helpers can come in when they like, do what they like, go out to lunch when they like. It is impossible to exercise the same supervision and discipline over such assistance as it is over those whose duty it is to carry out the work under effective control. I was surprised to hear the suggestions that came from honorable members of some experience on the other side of the House, and I think their suggestions ought not to be followed. If the Attorney-General, with the experience he has had of matters in this direction, would consult with Mr. Knibbs, I feel sure that they would be able to evolve some scheme which would enable the work of tabulation and analysis to be done properly and at reasonable cost.

Mr. LYNCH(Werriwa) f2.37]. - -I have great pleasure in supporting this proposal, because I think it is a first step towards that marshalling of our resources which has already been too long delayed. For months I have advocated the adoption of a system which would enable us to obtain the information that we hope to get as the result of this census. Suggestions of conscription have been made. We have been asked what the intentions of the Government are in putting forward this measure at all. I do not think we need discuss the question as to whether conscription is in the air or not. It may be quite true that this is the first step towards conscription. It may be the first step to quite a number of tilings. If a man, feeling he is in danger of robbery, gathers his valuables together, that step may mean that he is going out to spend his wealth on riotous living, or it may mean that he is going to put it in safe deposit. The suggestion regarding conscription does not affect the issue at all, although it does strike me as being an attempt on the part of the tail to wag the dog, for the dependency surely cannot talk about conscription until conscription has been decided upon at the head of the Empire. What I think the proposal does mean is that, having responsible government in Australia, we are trying to forge weapons by which we shall be able to take a full and comprehensive record of everything that can appertain to the welfare of the people of the Com.monwealth under our present system of government. We hope, by the information we shall gain, to be able to say exactly what powers we can put into this fight, either at home or abroad, and what resources we can marshal so as to lie able to .sustain a prolonged effort. It cannot be argued that a responsible Government such as the Federal Government is should be compelled to fall in with all sorts of movements originating throughout the States. Rather should the Commonwealth Government direct the actions of the States in one comprehensive policy. We hope by this information to.be able to say exactly what can be done, and what is impossible, and we can only do that by focussing our energies upon the development, not only of a higher standard of military excellence, but upon the development of all the matters that are necessary in order that we may maintain successfully, not only our military position, but also the solvency of the community. Surely we are not going to adopt a policy such as that which leads the drunkard to exclaim, " Fill it up again, boys," irrespective of what the consequences may be. We desire to know exactly what number of men of fighting age we have in the country, how they are employed, and how best they may be em- ployed. We have also the right to know the number of industrial efficients in the country who are volunteering, and whether it is necessary to debar them from going forward; in other words, whether their labours at home will be more valuable to the general interests than -their presence in the trenches abroad. We have a right to know what wealth we have in the country, how it is employed, and how it affects the welfare and solvency of the people, and what part of that wealth may reasonably be subject to taxation, or some other demand, should the exigency of circumstances require it. The honorable member for Richmond, when- dealing with this matter, seemed hardly to appreciate the position, because no sane man on either side of the Blouse would for a moment support any system which would dry up the fountains of industry throughout the Commonwealth. Rather would he strive by every possible means to bring about an accession of power and strength in the various industries that are all essential to our success. But a large portion of our wealth is not capital invested in the production of other wealth. A large amount of money is being wasted, just as many people waste mental and physical energy. That money, I think, might, as a last resort, be employed to better ends, and we shall be able to see by this census how far it can be touched by taxation.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What does the honorable member' include in that class ?







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