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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- The honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat is about as unfitted as is any honorable member to make the speech to which we have just listened. We can all admire his humour.

Mr Deakin - - Can the honorable member understand it ?

Mr KELLY - We can all understand his humour, but honorable members on this side of the House do not accept the VicePresident of the Executive Council as a model of consistency. He has informed us now of his " abandonment" by the leader whom he deserted without a moment's warning to land himself in the honorary and honorable position in which he now finds himself. It is a most pitiable thing that a Minister of the Crown should get up in his place in this Chamber and make statements of that kind, knowing, as he must, what proof we have in the public prints of the falsity of his statements. The honorable gentleman held a meeting in his own constituency only a few weeks before the betrayal which has landed him in his present position, and that meeting was held in conjunction with the leader by whom he has been so curiously "abandoned." At that time, the honorable gentleman said that the fiscal question was sunk, and he hoped for ever, and further that the only menace the country had to fear were the honorable members who have just cheered him to the echo. At that meeting at Lismore, the then Prime Minister, and leader of the party to which I have the honour to belong, said -

He personally considered it to be an honour to be allied with such men as Sir George Turner and Mr. Alfred Deakin ; they had agreed to a truce, and in politics as in private life the keeping of a promise was a matter of personal honour

And then, as if in echo to that statement, the honorable gentleman who has just addressed the House, said -

When Mr. Reid proposed a fiscal truce, he knew that he would faithfully and honorably carry it out, and he was confident that he would not use it as an opportunity to tomahawk the Protectionist Party.

Yet the honorable gentleman has just tried to make us believe that the only thing which drove him into his present lucrative posi tion, was the fear that his great leader, at that time, was going to try to tomahawk the Protectionist Party ! The honorable gentleman went on to express a hope that the Federal political alliance would last, and he said -

The fiscal question ought never to have divided up the parties, and he hoped it would never again do so; and separate him from men of the intellectuality, ability, integrity, and high personal character of their guest of that evening.

When the honorable gentleman gets up in his place here and says such things as those to which we have just listened, about people whom only a year ago he described as possessed of all the virtues, I should say we have about reached the dregs of political controversy. I have just been reminded that this same honorable gentleman presented my honorable leader with his portrait in oils.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman was specially selected to make the presentation in the Town Hall, Sydney.

Mr Ewing - This is the first I have heard of it. Was it my portrait or Mr. Reid's portrait?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman presented Mr. Reid with his own portrait in the Town Hall, Sydney.

Mr KELLY - To show honorable members that the press of his own constituency, that had all his life supported the honorable gentleman, did not lose sight of the iniquity of his conduct in betraying his late leader, I may say that the Northern Star writes of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in the following terms : -

Mr. ThomasThompson Ewing deserves a paragraph all to himself because, like his leader, Mr. Deakin, he threw over Mr. Reid and his antisocialistic principles without an instant's warning when the time appeared most ripe.

Mr Deakin - The right honorable member for East Sydney, without an instant's warning, threw over the people with whom he was in alliance.

Mr KELLY - If the Prime Minister desires an impartial opinion of his conduct I shall quote the labour press upon his actions.

Mr Deakin - I am glad to hear that the honorable members thinks that an impartial opinion.

Mr KELLY - Those impartial judges have given expression to statements concerning the honorable and learned gentleman of a. kind which justify the assertion that there has never been such an indictment of a public man uttered in the Commonwealth.

Mr Deakin - Except by honorable members opposite; I think they are very good rivals in respect of violent abuse.

Mr KELLY - Not at all; we have never said anything nearly so strong as the labour press has said about the Prime Minister's action in wrecking the late coalition.

Mr Deakin - Yours may not weigh as much, but were meant to be as strong.

Mr KELLY - The Northern Star further said of the Vice-President of the Executive Council -

There are many who expected better things from the member for the Richmond. Less than a month ago Mr. Ewing joined the Council of the Anti-Socialistic League; less than a fortnight age he was busy forming branches of the league in the northern rivers. Now he has taken office in a minority Ministry, which can only exist by, and with the co-operation of, the very party he pledged himself a few weeks since to strive to exterminate.

That is the Vice-President of the Executive Council, to whose diatribe we have just listened ! It is somewhat difficult nowadays to get any answer from members of the Ministry, but I have to-night only a few questions to ask The deputy-leader of the Opposition referred to the trip made by the Treasurer to England, and I 'desire to express my sense of gratification at the right honorable gentleman's action. He was able to go to England for a considerable period, and it reflects great credit upon the officers of his Department that his absence should not have been felt. The right honorable gentleman proceeded to England to gain information in connexion with the consolidation of the States debts. Although the ground may to some extent have been cut from under his feet by the report prepared by Mr. Coghlan on the subject, I still think he did much good while in England in advertising Australia, and in correcting many of the false impressions of the Commonwealth that were prevalent there. He had not bee.i a month in the mother country before every one knew that somewhere in these Southern Seas there was a land flowing with milk and honey, and the works of the right honorable gentleman. In advertising Australia the right honorable gentleman did signal service during the recess. Two things which he did in England reflect verv great credit upon him. In the first place the right honorable gentleman delivered an outspoken address against the Commonwealth policy of borrowing. No one has spoken in England so openly ora that subject as did the Treasurer.

Sir John Forrest - I said that we were not extravagant, and it was a proof that we were a careful people, because we had not borrowed anything yet; I did not say that we were not going to borrow.

Mr KELLY - The right honorable gentleman took credit for the fact that the Commonwealth had never borrowed anything.

Sir John Forrest - I said' that the Commonwealth had been in existence for five years, and the fact that in that time we had never borrowed anything showed that Ave were not a reckless people.

Mr KELLY - The right honorable gentleman's remarks in this connexion evoked greater cheering than anything else he said, and I hope now that he has got away from that cheering he will put into operation his great principles, and will recognise that the Commonwealth should not borrow money, even for the construction of a railway which will cost many millions.

Sir John Forrest - I advocated the construction of the railway in the very same speech.

Mr KELLY - I do not think that the right honorable gentleman explained that its construction would involve an expenditure which could only be met by the borrowing of ^3,000,000 or ,£4,000,000. Another matter upon which I must congratulate the right honorable gentleman- was his steadfast advocacy of the principle underlying the Naval Agreement. A considerable amount of intriguing was going on for the purpose of representing the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia as being anxious to create an Australian NavyThe right honorable gentleman, who was known to every one in England as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and one of our leading public men, threw himself into the fray in a most courageous spirit, and did such work that the Navy League elected him a vice-president. Addresses were presented to the , right honorable gentleman in which his actions were highly commended, and I am aware from mv own


knowledge that his action in this regard did more than anything else to counteract the intrigues in favour of an Australian

Navy then going on in London. For this the right honorable gentleman deserves the thanks of the House. I believe that the

Treasurer will admit the necessity for the presentation of some report on the question of the consolidation of States 'debts, and will give us an opportunity of discussing the question as one which is likely to be of importance at the next election. With, this slight token of my appreciation, I pass from the Treasurer to the Postal Department. Although Federation has been in existence for six years, verv little indeed has been done to co-ordinate the various postal services of the States. We still have in each of the States different stamps and a different system of postage in every way. In addition to that, the postages are not uniform. There are different denominations of stamps in different States. I suggest to the Department that all its efforts should be directed towards co-ordinating these State services and arranging for uniform denominations of stamps so that wherever one goes in Australia one may be able to obtain the stamps that one requires.

Mr Page - Does the honorable member believe in a uniform penny postage system ?

Mr KELLY - I do not think that that is practicable at present. But a Commonwealth issue of stamps, with uniform denominations, is not an impossibility. Let me give an instance of the present lack of method. Honorable members are well aware that a 1½d. stamp is in some States extensively used. But in other States of Australia there is no i|d. stamp. In New South Wales we have denominations which Victoria has not, and Victoria has denominations which we have not. I think that the same denominations of stamps should be obtainable in all the States. I must refer to one other point in connexion with the Post Office. We learn from this evening's newspaper that a combination of shipping companies has tendered for the Commonwealth mail contract. I understand that that contract is to be laid on the table of the House at an early date. But a combination of any kind' is penalized under the Anti-Trust Act.

Mr Kennedy - Not a combination of any kind. A combination per se is not penalized.

Mr KELLY - My honorable friend gives quite a different reading to the Australian Industries Preservation Bill from that which a number' of people in Australia, who are fortified by legal opinions, give to it. .They believe that the Bill, as framed, penalizes every combination, good or bad, and for whatever purpose it is formed, providing that it is con cerned with trade and' commerce. I wish to deal with one or two other matters concerning which I hope to have the support of the honorable member for Corio, and of the Minister representing the Defence Department Owing to the action of Parliament in regard to pensions in the Defence service, a number of hardships have arisen. I will give an example. Here is the case of a driver who was seriously injured whilst in the exercise of his duty. This driver is a young man, who will never foe fit for work again. In my opinion he ought to obtain adequate monetary compensation.

Mr Crouch - Was he injured whilst on duty?

Mr KELLY - Yes; during manoeuvres in the National Park, Sydney. The utmost which that man can get under the regulations is the paltry sum of ./"270 odd. How long would that sum suffice to keep a young man who is crippled for life?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Can he do nothing at all?

Mr KELLY - Absolutely nothing. I have written to the Department about the case, and have received a letter which I will read.

Mr Crouch - It is an act of meanness.

Mr KELLY - It/ is an act which reflects the greatest discredit upon this Parliament, or whoever is responsible for the regulations. The following is the letter which I have received in reference to the case: -

With reference to your enquiry in re ex-Driver Fay, I beg to inform you that the Medical Board have reported further on his case, and the Minister has now approved of payment being made to him of ,£185 16s. 2d., which, with the £q2 18s. id. already paid, makes up all that he can receive under the Regulations.

The Department has paid to him the maximum sum under the regulations, so admitting the truth of what I am saying.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Has the honorable member asked the Department to make a special, grant?

Mr KELLY - I asked the Minister only yesterday.

Mr Crouch - When I asked that these regulations should be considered by the House, the honorable member for Wentworth was one of the principal opponents of the motion.

Mr KELLY - No one knows better than the honorable member that that is not so.

Mr Crouch - But it is so.

Mr KELLY - I was discussing this question with the Minister only yesterday.

Mr Page - The regulations were brought under the notice of the House last session.

Mr KELLY - I beg to differ from the honorable member with regard to that. My views are in the pages of Hansard, and every honorable member who is interested can read them.

Mr Page - It does not matter what reasons 'the honorable member gave; he opposed the consideration of the regulations.

Mr KELLY - My reading of the motion then submitted, and what it was intended to do, are all on the pages of Hansard, so that he who runs may read. They are open to consideration by my constituents, as well as to any one else who cares to look at them. When I 'discussed the case of this cripple with the Minister yesterday, he suggested that when the money paid to him had run out the Department should again be approached, when he hoped that something would be done. The Minister was willing to stretch a point as far as he could. But the view which I put to honorable members is that here is an injured man who is practically eating up day by day his life's substance. He knows that when the sum of money granted to him is exhausted he must starve. No one who has served a public department well deserves such treatment as that. I suggest that an alteration; of the regulations is necessary to meet exceptional cases of this kind.

Mr Crouch - There was an injured man who was offered 30s. by the Department twelve months ago - a week's* wages ; and he has not got it yet.

Mr KELLY - It is a disgraceful state of things. Here is a poor man, without any one to help him, and he cannot get adequate recognition from the Department. But if a retired soldier happens to be a colonel, instead of a man from the ranks, this Government takes a great interest - in his welfare. I am referring to the case of Colonel Price. I say without the slightest fear of contradiction, that, as shown in that case, a colonel can manage to get a Government to introduce a Bill for his special benefit.

Sir John Forrest - Colonel Price got nothing.

Mr KELLY - But the Government took up his case, and brought in a special measure to meet it. I do not want a special Act of Parliament to deal with individual cases of this kind. What I ask is that there shall not be charity doles, but that there shall be a right for a man who has been injured whilst engaged in public service to receive proper compensation. I ask for that on behalf of alt grades of the service. I have to mention another case, that is not on all fours with the one that I have just dealt with. There are several men in the same position as this latter. I have before me the case of a man who has served 33 years and 275 d'ays. He is in the possession of exemplary discharges, a meritorious medal, and every recommendation a man could have, and yet, after having served his State, nearly thirty-four years, he is now, in the evening of his life, turned out to starve.

Mr Page - What was his rank?

Mr KELLY - He was a barrack sergeant. As a gunner, he served 169 days ; as a bombardier, 310 days; as corporal, 1 year and 305 days; as sergeant, 10 years and 37 days; as sergeant-major, 12 years and 198 days; and as barrack sergeant, 7 years and 351 days. He is Sergeant Walsh, and I believe his age is about 60.

Mr Crouch - Where does he come from ?

Mr KELLY - He will, under the redistribution, be no longer a constituent of mine ; he comes from Sydnev.

Mr Crouch - I knew a Sergeant-major Walsh.

Mr KELLY - That is the man; and there are several other similar instances. All this points to the necessity for some sort of pension scheme in the service, whether it be a scheme absolutely maintained by Parliament, or a scheme started by Parliament, and automatically carried on by the Department.

Mr Page - I do not believe in pensions.

Mr Fisher - Pass an old-age pension scheme, and let them all have old-age pensions.

Mr KELLY - This and other similar ' cases deserve attention. This man has given as honorable service as it is possible to give, and it reflects gravely on the Commonwealth that much a man should be turned out to starve in the evening of his life-.

Mr Crouch - He received £5 per week as sergeant-major.

Mr KELLY - Yes, but I think, though I am not sure, that under the State law, such men. - and I do not say they are altogether not to blame - looked vaguely forward to some sort of retiring allowance.

Mr Crouch - He received £5 per week as sergeant-major for over fifteen years.

Mr KELLY - He received a fair salary, and gave good service for it. This case is on a different footing to that of Driver Fay.

Mr Page - Fay ought to have a pension.

Mr KELLY - There is no doubt about that. It is my strong conviction that we should, as far as possible, arrange for an automatic system of pensions, if Parliament will not grant a. pension on the ordinary Imperial scale. There are one or two further points I propose to deal with in reference to the Defence Department - matters of administration solely, for I would not, of course, touch now on questions of policy. During recess, I understand that one of the days which should have been occupied in training by the field artillery, was occupied in giving a sort of display at a show in Sydney ; and I do not think that is right. Artillery work is a highly technical art ; and it is our laudable ambition to train up a citizen soldiery to be an absolutely serviceable field artillery. Every day of service should be used in service, and not in mere display. I merely ask the Minister to see that this sort of thing does not occur again, because it is not right, and will undermine the efficiency of the service if it is allowed to go on. I make these suggestions in all friendliness, because - I do not care which Government is in power - I am sure our only desire is to see the Department properly managed; and we hope that this, at any rate, will be one Department free from party influences. Every one who has studied the question knows that, for some reason or other, there is the gravest lack of confidence right through every rank. Everywhere we see a spirit of unrest among officers and men alike. We have seen officers resigning and giving up the sword for the ploughshare.

Mr Page - A very laudable object.

Mr KELLY - Perhaps if we had more ploughshares we should not need so many swords. At the same time, one of the best officers we ever hadin the service has given it up in disgust. He may be wrong or he may be right.

Mr Page - It is only the best men who will resign.

Mr KELLY - This matter is well worth the serious attention of the Department, and the state of affairs ought to be remedied. I suggest that the best way is for. the Department to act absolutely loyally in regard to the regulations. Make liberal regulations, if you like, but let officers and men know that the administration will be as loyally carried on under those regulations as is the civil service under its regulations. Having made the regulations, let the Department administer them in spirit as well as in letter. There are only two other matters to which I wish to refer. Quite recently a number of " kites " have been flown, especially in the Melbourne press, in reference to a change in the Defence administration. I hope these are only "kites," as I believe them to be. One newspaper, at any rate, hasbeen pretty confidently stating that it is proposed, in appointing a new InspectorGeneral, to give him a seat on the Board.

Mr Crouch - That appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

Mr KELLY - If it did, it also appeared in the Melbourne Age.

Mr Page - The newspapers are about right.

Mr KELLY - If the statement is right, the change will undermine the very principle of the Defence Act, which is that the Inspector-General shall be an independent man reporting to other independent men. If the Inspector-General is going to report to himself, what chance have we of knowing that his inspection has been honestly made, seeing that we have no means to check him? I sincerely hope that no such action will be taken as that which is foreshadowed in certain quarters. I regret that the gentleman who so brilliantly entertained us a few moments ago is not in his place ; but I should like to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, why it is that we have not had reports, as it was intended' we should, from the members of the Military Board?

Mr Crouch - Members received the report during recess.

Mr KELLY - There is a report signed by Senator Pl ay ford as President of the Board; but there is no report from the military members of the Board. The honorable member for Corio will see the point at which I am driving when I remind him that the Naval Director, who is in an equivalent position to that of the Military Board - he is the Naval Board - has signed his report to this House, whereas the military members of the Military Board have not signed their report.

Mr Crouch - The reportis signed by the President in his corporate capacity.

Mr KELLY - Then why did the Minister not sign the report of the Naval Board ?

Mr Crouch - I suppose he did not choose to do so.

Mr KELLY - Both Boards are on exactly the same footing. Has the Minister written his own report, or has he merely signed the report of the officers? That is a very pertinent and fair question. The Minister should take this matter into consideration, and even if he does not think the reports of the Military Board are worth printing, he might well allow them to be placed on the table of the library in the near future. I do not wish to take further advantage of the opportunity to discuss these questions this evening. I regret that I have had to occupy the attention of the Committee for some time in bringing them forward, but feel sure that those who take an intelligent interest in them will recognise that there is considerable force in the points I have raised.

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