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Wednesday, 14 July 1915

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) (Attor ney-General) . - I move - That this Bill be now read a second time.

This measure arises out of, and finds its justification in, the tremendous conflict in which Australia, as part of the Empire, is now engaged. Its object is the organization of the forces of the country so that we may put forth the greatest effort of which we are capable. It provides for the registration of our resources both in men and material. The Bill does not contemplate conscription, nor is a measure to legalize conscription necessary so far as service within Australia is concerned. I wish to make this plain at the outset, because in the minds of some is the fear that we may resort to a method of carrying on this great struggle altogether foreign to the spirit which has animated theBritish nation for many hundreds of years. I do not believe conscription is necessary. I do not say that the future may not hold within it possibilities which may shatter our present conceptions of what is necessary, for no man can say what this frightful wax may yet involve. But this Bill has not been introduced with a view to conscription. Conscription is not contemplated, and, in any case, as I have already pointed out, no legislation is necessary so far as the defence of the country is concerned, because the Defence Act provides for the calling-out of every able-bodied man between eighteen and sixty years of age for that purpose. The future may hold in store events which may shatter every preconceived idea of what is proper to be done, and grind to powder every political and economic principle that we conceive to be sacred and eternal. This measure, however, is to be viewed entirely apart from such possibilities. It is to be regarded as a means for more effectively waging the present conflict upon the principle of voluntary service. That is the purpose of this Bill. The present position is serious enough. We are not to anticipate that it will become worse, but we cannot continue our present efforts to deal with the situation as it now exists, at the rate at which we are proceeding, without organization of our forces. To draw from the vitals of society its best and most promising citizens, whose sublime spirit animates them to proffer their services, and to hurl them into the fighting line without regard to their obligations to their dependants or the industrial requirements of the community, is a short way to national suicide. The measure contemplates the organization of our forces for the better waging of the conflict upon the principles of voluntary military service which has been accepted by the nation both here and in Great Britain. I want now to put before honorable members very briefly - because it is not speeches we want, but actions - some of the purposes for which this Act is urgently required. I do not know whether honorable members have given any thought to what this war is costing us. I do not speak on this subject with any knowledge I have gained as a member of the Go vernment; I speak as a citizen. It is very obvious that we are now depleting our financial resources at a rate that makes existing methods of supply totally inadequate. Yet it is abundantly clear also that we must not only continue,. but increase, our present rate of expenditure. We cannot hope to lessen it. Rather, as time goes on, it is almost inevitable that we shall have to enormously increase it. We have now over 100,000 men under arms. I believe it is a fair computation that for every additional man who goes to the front the expenditure of this country is increased' by not much less than 25s. per day. I repeat that I am not giving these figures as a result of careful calculation, but putting before honorable members an estimate from which they may roughly gather how we stand. Here, then, we have a population of 5,000,000 people called upon to bear, not only the cost of maintaining over 100,000 fighting men, but also the cost of the Navy and of the additional expenditure for defence purposes in Australia. The burden of this war presses very heavily upon this community, and it is clear that we can only hope to bear the burden by proper organization of our forces. We must mobilize our resources. The task before us is no light one, but if it were ten times as heavy we should have to face it. We have, for example, to meet this year's war expenditure - in addition to our normal expenditure - as far as possible, out of the wealth created by the people - out of the produce of Australia. Last year we were confronted by a failure of our wheat crop, and other produce, and there have been heavy losses of stock. But we have reason to hope that next season will produce a record harvest. But what is the harvest without the reaper ? I do not know whether honorable members have given thought to the colossal nature of this one problem - the gathering and marketing of this harvest - yet to talk about fighting, without the means to finance your fighting force is idle. We have, therefore, to evolve such an organization of our forces as will enable us to garner our harvest, to market it, to get the money, in order that we may carry on this war. When I speak of harvest, I do not merely allude to the wheat harvest. I mean the general produce of Australia; but I speak of the wheat because it is rolling on and on - and will have to be dealt with and .got away. Many suggestions have been made on this matter. In these days people are most fecund of suggestion. Numberless ideas have been put forward to meet the occasion, but it is clear that there is only one effective way of doing so. First of all, we must ascertain our resources, and, secondly, we must use our resources in a scientific and effective way. I reject entirely the suggestion that we can handle the harvest, or deal with any of these problems, by the employment of boy labour or by female labour.

Mr Fleming - They can do a good deal.

Mr HUGHES - I do not say that in any carping spirit or with a desire to in any way belittle the motive that has prompted our friends to make the suggestions that have been made on this point. But agriculture nowadays has become an organized industry. It involves the use and care of intricate machinery; it involves the employment of highly-skilled labour; a,nd in our efforts to organize, in our effort to continue this campaign, we must pay due regard to the industrial requirements of the country, so that we may direct our forces in such a manner as to keep at the front every fighting man who volunteers and is fit for service, yet not impair the forces necessary to carry on the industries of Australia. By these means, and these only, can we hope to carry on this struggle to the bitter end. This, then, is the problem: To maintain our fighting forces at the front at the highest possible pitch of efficiency and to so organize the industrial resources of this country as to enable those industries that have direct relation to the war - such as the manufacture of munitions, warlike equipment, and material, and the production of all those things that are necessary to maintain the efficiency of our fighting forces, as well as those general industries by which alone we can finance the war to do what is required. Without organization of these forces, Australia will be unable to do her part in this great contest. For we must not rely on outside help. "For the first time in her history .Australia is called upon to maintain herself. As time goes on, and the rigours of this struggle increase, and

This Bill deals not only with men, but' with wealth. We propose to marshal all our resources, and as patriotism calls for sacrifice, that sacrifice must fall equally on all sections of society. There is the sacrifice of life which every man who is physically fit, and who volunteers, must be prepared to make. There is also the sacrifice of wealth, and it is abundantly clear that those who have wealth in this country must be called upon to make sacrifices which in normal times could not be expected of them. Sacrifices must be made by all sections of society - not only by the individual, but by property also.

I come now to the machinery by which we hope to give effect to the proposals contained in this measure. I must first of all ask honorable members to consider the colossal nature of this undertaking. It is a task that has hitherto not been attempted in. this country, nor, so far as I am aware, in any other, though Great Britain is now contemplating a measure of the same sort. This registration has to be differentiated from the taking of the ordinary census, which is approached leisurely, and dealt with even more leisurely. There is no immediate urgency about an ordinary census, and the matter is dealt with in the ordinary official way. But such a method of dealing with this registration would be absolutely futile. The one essential feature of this census for which all other considerations must make way is that it must be carried out with the utmost expedition. No matter what it 'costs, no matter how it disturbs the normal methods by which officialdom arrives at its data and conclusions, we must push on. In the taking of a 11 ordinary census it is the custom for collectors to go round to each individual, to leave a card with him, and then to collect it. I am informed by the Government Statistician that in taking the last census he had the assistance of 7,000 collectors. I am not quite sure of the period, but I think it took him fourteen months to complete his task and declare the result.

Sir William Irvine - How long did the collection take?

Mr HUGHES - I do not know exactly, hut it was a very long time. I want to take the House into my confidence in this matter, and to invite suggestions from any quarter that may help us. What we propose to do is this: We propose to make the post-offices in this country - and where there are no post-offices schools, police stations, or any other instrument of communal authority - the media for this census. It is proposed to send out cards containing the questions set out on the schedule, or such other questions as Parliament may think fit to suggest or as may be prescribed. There will he two cards. One will deal with wealth, the other with personal service; and they will be distinct in colour. One will apply to all male persons between the ages of eighteen and sixty ; the other will apply to all persons from eighteen years of age upwards, whether they be male or female. Property held by minors will be provided for under returns made by trustees. There will be cast upon every citizen the duty of getting these cards and filling them up. He must not wait until he is personally notified. He will not have a card brought to him. Each citizen will be called upon to go to the post-office or to such other place as may be decided upon, to get a card, and to fill it up. We shall issue instructions so that postal officials, police officers, school teachers, ministers of religion, in short, anybody and everybody who can and will assist us at this time, will be able to help the people to fill in these cards. We realize, of course, that ifc is much easier to draw up a schedule than to fill it in ; but at the same time we shall expect, and have every reason to believe we shall get, through the means I have suggested and from other sources, such assistance as will enable these cards to be filled up within the time laid down. That time, we suggest, shall be seven days from the date on which the cards are available.

Sir William Irvine - That does not apply to the wealth returns.

Mr HUGHES - I think so.

Mr Groom - It will be impossible to fill in the wealth returns within seven days.

Mr HUGHES - I shall not argue the point at this stage.

Sir William Irvine - Seven days is quite sufficient to allow for the filling in of the return as to personal service.

Mr HUGHES - If it can be shown that the work will he expedited rather than delayed by allowing an additional seven days in the case of the wealth card, I, for one, shall not offer any objection to such an extension. I am now dealing, however, with the plan that has been suggested, and which I desire to put before the House in its entirety. Each card having been filled in, is to be placed in a specially prepared envelope, and sent, post free, to the Commonwealth Government Statistician in Melbourne. The basis of the scheme rests upon what is known as the card index system, the advantage of which, after careful consideration, seems to be overwhelming. Honorable members will realize what this war census means when I say that it is estimated that, with 1,000 men giving the whole of their time to it, and working two shifts, the Statistician estimates that it, will take eight weeks to complete the returns dealing with personal service. Much depends upon personnel and the organization of the staff under the Statistician. We do not favour overtime. It is notorious that a man's efficiency for work becomes much less as the day goes on, and that the best results are to be obtained by working two shifts. The Government Statistician favours twoshifts working between them twelve hours per day. On that basis, with 1,000 clerks employed, and with a minimum number of classifications - because with every additional classification more work is involved - it is possible to get a return as to personal service in eight weeks after the commencing day. I come now to the question whether this work should be done in Melbourne, or in all the State capitals and in every local centre. The Government believes the best results can be obtained from dealing with the work here under the personal supervision of the Statistician. I ask honorable members, first of all, to realize what the card index sYstem is. and the nature of the work. We are to have 3,500,000 cards for the wealth census, and about 1,500,000 for the return as to personal service. A number of classifications have to be made.

It is proposed that the returns as to personal service shall be classified in groups, dealing with men between 18 and 35 years of age, men between 35 and 45 years of age, and men between 45 and 60 years of age. There are three main divisions. Then there must be a classification of men who are fit, men who are not fit, men who have dependants and of those who have no dependants; men who have had military experience and men who have had none; men who are following certain occupations which makes it desirable to keep them in the country, and men who are not. Each occupation represents a separate division. These represent the minimum number of divisions that can be made. There must also be a division relating to naturalized citizens of the Commonwealth. This, however, is a minor division which, for our present purpose, may be disregarded. From this statement as to the minimum number of divisions that can be made, honorable members will gather how many millions of motions have to be made in order that this registration of our resources may be accomplished. When I entered upon this matter I, like many other hopeful souls, was imbued with the idea that it could be done practically by waving your hand and saying, " Go on." But I have been brought to see the error of my ways, and realize now what a tremendous task this is. But it must be 'done, and it must be done within the minimum time. On the whole, the advantage is overwhelmingly in favour of a centralized staff, and relying on paid labour mainly, rather than on voluntary labour, for the actual classification. This is not to reject voluntary labour. There will be a tremendous field for voluntary effort outside, but for the work of the office we must rely mainly, but not entirely, on paid labour. It would not be wise to employ on the work of classification men who can give only an hour or -two each day to the service. We need to have men who can devote the whole of their time to it. Men who, niter spending six or eight hours each day in their usual place of employment, are prepared to give a couple of hours each night to this work would not provide the best class of labour for this class of work. It must be remembered that this is con'fidential work ; that no man is to be per.mitted to disclose any fact that comes to his knowledge in dealing with these cards ; that it is also specialized work; that as a man goes on with it he becomes increasingly efficient ; and that speed is the essence of the contract. We do not reject voluntary aid. On the contrary, we welcome it, and there will be ample scope for its usefulness. But for the 'work of classification, the Commonwealth Statistician is of the opinion that it is essential that he shall have under his control a staff who will be available throughout the whole period. He has had offers of service, amongst others, from the whole of the clerical division of the Public Service of Victoria. He has also received to-day an offer from the insurance companies of this State, placing 200 members of their staffs entirely at his disposal. An offer of that kind is, of course, entirely different from the volunteer service to which I was alluding. A man who offers to give the whole of his time is for our present purpose in exactly the same position as a paid officer. We must not forget what it is we desire to do. We have to approach this question, not from the stand-point of whether it costs much or little, but remembering that, whether it costs much or little, it has to be done.

Now to some details. In Australia to-day there is not enough paper of the kind necessary for this work. It will require 40 tons of paper, and there is not one ton, or anything like one ton, of the kind of paper we need for the purpose. As soon as this Bill has been assented to, however, an order for the manufacture of 40 tons of paper will be placed, and it will be ready and will begin to be printed upon one week from to-' day if this measure goes through. The first returns may be expected within ten days - or, at the outside, twelve days - from the day on which the first batch of cards is printed. There will be no delay. The population of Australia is widely scattered, hut four-fifths of it lives within a ring easily accessible, and the cards from that section of the population will be available within seven days after the date appointed for the closing of the return. I know that honorable members will say that there is plenty of paper available, and that every newspaper office can be engaged in this work, but I am sure that such cannot be the case.

Mr Sampson - Will the paper be made in Australia or will it be imported 1

Mr HUGHES - It must be made in Australia. We could not wait to import paper, even if we desired to do so. The making and printing' of the paper will be proceeded with immediately. I do not propose to deal fully with the schedules at this stage, but I ask honorable members to look at them, and to bear in mind that these schedules will be placed upon the cards, and that to these questions every citizen of the country will be expected to find answers. The difficulty has been, and will be, to make the questions such as to elicit the information we require, and yet be of such simplicity that every man may be able to answer them. The questions in the schedules have been framed with these ends in view. I do not pretend to say that they are not susceptible of improvement, and I invite honrorable members to suggest any improvements which they may consider advisable.

Mr Joseph Cook - What is the idea of the tabulation of wealth? What is. the immediate object in view ?

Mr HUGHES - The sole justification for incurring expenditure, which will not fall far short of . £150,000, and of undertaking a work which will turn the country upside down,, and involve prying into the affairs of all people, is the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Mr Joseph Cook - Do you think that £150,000 will be the cost of the census?

Mr.'HUGHES. - I say that the census cannot cost very much less than that sum .

Mr Joseph Cook - I think it will cost more.

Mr HUGHES - I hope honorable members will realize that this measure has been conceived and brought into the world with but little of that period which is. permitted for the gestation of ordinary measures. We have had to obtain estimates and face an urgent situation without having an opportunity to make that leisured computation which is proper in ordinary circumstances. I am giving a very rough estimate of the expenditure. The census will involve the expenditure of a good deal of money, and the sole object of that 'expenditure is that we may ascertain what are the resources of the country. We are asked to contemplate the sending to the front of 100,000 of the best and bravest of our men, and to keep our fighting force at that strength.. Any man who studies the dreadful casualty lists can calculate without much difficulty what that proposal means. The country is1 to be depleted week after week, and month after month, of its best men. To keep 100,000 at the front means, if the warlasts another year, not far short of 200,000 men all told. It is perfectly obvious- that we cannot meet such a demand upon our manhood without completely disorganizing the- whole economicfabric of our existence; nor is it possible to maintain such a force at the front unless we marshal our resources and utilize them to the very best advantage,, and call upon wealth to make its corresponding sacrifice. . Therefore, when theright honorable- member asks me for thejustification for inquiry into the wealthof the community, I answer that it is because in this struggle there are to be nodistinctions of class; every, man is togive, of his best, without stint. Let the man who has merely his body give that, and let the man who hasboth body and wealth give both.

The questions in the schedules havebeen designed to elicit the necessary information with the least possible friction, and', machinery has been devised for the purpose of enabling us to ascertain the resources of the. community in the shortest practicable time. The measure is onewhich honorable members on both sides. of the House desire, and I can only say, on behalf of the Government', that we shall' welcome any suggestions which will improve the Bill, or lessen, even by a day* the time necessary for registration.. Registration itself is useless unless the information be classified and made available. It is not sufficient merely to get fromeach man answers to the questions set down in the schedule. We are faced witha work of organization altogether novel in Australia, which will involve a tremendous effort, and which will call forthe co-operation of all sections of society. An honorable member asks me what honorable members of this House can do. They can do many things. They canconstitute themselves presiding officers, or whatever they may prefer to becalled, of their electorates, or do whatever can be done to marshal the resources in their electorates, to instruct the people how this census is to be taken, to urgethem to respond quickly, and to assist in every conceivable way this great work. In those ways every honorable member of the House can render a useful service tothe country.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta) £4.45]. - I do not propose to debate the Bill at very great length. "With the principle underlying it I am in very hearty accord. It is time that we had a numbering of the people in order to ascertain our available resources in men for the prosecution of this war. I believe the -census will have a great influence upon our methods of recruiting. If we take this measure of compulsion - and I hesitate to use the word - to the manhood of Australia, the reflex influence coming from a man having to record details of himself, which are to be numbered in this compulsory way, will be excellent when the recruiting-sergeant makes his appearance. At any rate, we shall be able to know, as we may have to know before this fearful war is over, what is the extent and character of our available resources in men, their health and physical fitness and their general war efficiency. The main thing we have to do is to make .an efficient war machine, and that the man shall fit into the machine is, of course, a vital necessity. Therefore, I regard the compulsory registration of the -available manhood of Australia as a step in the right direction. I do not know what else is to follow, but I do not hesitate to say that something must follow, unless, there are other developments in the meantime. Recently we have had an influx of recruits, perhaps as many as we could deal with. My own impression is that it is the organization that is, and has been all along, at fault; and I doubt whether we shall need to make any special efforts in recruiting once the fact becomes abundantly clear that we have an efficient organization to handle all the recruits that offer. I am glad to see the great impulse that has been given to recruiting in the State of Victoria. I hope sincerely that the movement will not cease, but that the available material for the prosecution of the war will .continue to pour in as plentifully as it is doing ' to-day. There can be no better way of teaching the enemy that we mean business, and are resolved to carry the war through to victory, than the efforts now being put forth for the enrolment of men. But let us not lose sight of the fact that the main problem is as to how the men are to be dealt with when they have enlisted. That, also, is a serious factor to be taken into consideration. 'The Bill is a step in the right direction, and I entirely and heartily concur in the proposals made by the Attorney-General to have a numbering of the manhood of Australia with a view to insuring that we may continue our efforts to prosecute the war, without fear of physical exhaustion, and with an accurate knowledge of what our resources in men are.

As to the other matter, I am not quite sure that we are taking the right course.

Mr Higgs - What is the other matter ?

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