14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Mr.CURTIN. - I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether it is a fact that quite recently the Commonwealth Government communicated with the Governments of the States, suggesting the desirableness of an immediate resumption of migration to some extent, and inviting the States to indicate the number of migrants they would be prepared to accept? Furthermore, does not the communication indicate that the steps which the Commonwealth Government suggested that the States might take were initiated with the. concurrence of the Government of the United Kingdom ?
– The subject of assisted migration was informally discussed by a sub-committee of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held recently in Adelaide. Members of that committee requested that definite proposals should be sent to the various States for their consideration. Subsequently, the State Premiers were communicated with and the Commonwealth suggested that, while the time was not yet opportune for the resumption of assisted migration on the scale which existed prior to the depression, a partial restoration to the extent desired by the different State Governments might be made of the provisions in relation to assisted passages from the United Kingdom. While the Premiers of Queensland and New South Wales were in London, they had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Home authorities, and they are now prepared to discuss it on its merits. That is all that they are asked to do.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House lay on the table of the Library or, preferably, on the table of this House, any memoranda or communications between the Government of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the States, relating to the proposed resumption of migration in whatever form it is proposed to resume it?
– I shall examine the position to see what communications have passed between the several governments, and what can be done to accede to the honorable gentleman’s request.
– In view of the fact that few Australians will find it possible to visit the United Kingdom to witness the coronation ceremony in 1937, and that Australia’s 150th anniversary will be celebrated in 1938, will the Acting Leader of the House say whether the Government is prepared to invite His Majesty the King to visit the Commonwealth in 1938, and to hold a coronation ceremony at Canberra, followed by the official opening by His Majesty of the Australian War Memorial? Further, will the Government also invite His Majesty to take part in the sesqui-centenary celebrations which will be held in New South Wales at that particular time?
– I shall bring the suggestion of the honorable member to the notice of the Prime Minister.
– Will the Minister administering War Service Homes say. whether the construction of new homes is proceeding according to schedule, and also whether the arrears of applications are being overtaken appreciably? Is it worth the while of any returned soldier to make an application for a home?
– A sum has been placed on the Estimates for the overtaking of all arrears, and it is hoped that the construction of the houses which have been approved will be proceeded with at an early date. No new applications of a date later than the 31st May last arc being accepted.
– Certain war service homes which have been vacated having been sold, the returned soldiers by whom they were surrendered are now entitled to payment of a sum fixed by the department, but that payment cannot be made until the Estimates have been passed. Is the Minister administering War Service Homes vested with authority to instruct that, this payment be made without awaiting the passage of the Estimates ?
– It is not so much a question of the Estimates being passed as it is of establishing the equity of the new purchasers. As soon as a new purchaser . has paid sufficient to show that’ he has some standing and equity, the money is made available to the previous occupier of the home.
– In the case that I have in mind, the amount has been fixed.
– If the honorable member will let me have the name of the person by whom the premises were vacated, I shall have inquiries made and advise him of the result.
– What were the circumstances in which applications for war service homes received after 31st May last were refused?
– There was an accumulation of applications spreading over about three years, and it was thought that it would be useless to accept further applications until the arrears had been dealt with. They ate now in course of being overtaken. Cabinet has decided that no further applications for new homes will be received. That decision was based on the fact that any possible applicant would have to live more than 100 years in order to repay fully the amount advanced. The decision does not apply to reverted homes. Any person who finds a reverted home which suits him may make application for it, and, provided he is otherwise suitable, hi» application will be granted.
– How many are there on the waiting list ?
– There are some hundreds on the list.
– In view of the fact . that, on the Minister’s own admission, some hundreds of applications for war service homes have not been approved, will he consider re-opening the whole subject, with a view to granting all applications made?
– Every application received before the 31st May and approved is being proceeded with. Not only immediately prior to that date, but also during the whole period of the activities of the Government in relation to war service homes, there have been rejected applications. Every application is considered on its merits. It is not intended that applications which were considered and refused before the 31st of May, shall be given further consideration ; but every one approved before that date will be gone on with.
– What about those received since?
– No applications have been received since then, but all lying in the office at that time were considered.
– Can the Minister say whether there was any public announcement that applications for war service homes received after the 31st May last would not be considered? Are we to understand from his statement thi, morning that the Government has definitely decided not to build any more war service homes, or is the policy it is now adopting of a temporary nature only?
– An announcement was made by my predecessor, and full publicity was given to it.
– I have not met any one who saw it.
– I saw the announcement myself, particularly in Queensland newspapers. Although the department is not building any new homes, it will sell reverted homes and take over owners’ mortgages from returned soldiers. If a returned soldier is already in possession of a house obtained through a building society, or by means of other mortgage, and is paying what he considers an unduly high rate of interest, h® may approach the department, and, provided he has an equity in the property and is otherwise satisfactory, the department will take over the mortgage.
– On the 25th September the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) asked the following question, without notice: -
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence been drawn to the statement that a naval rating on H.M.A.S. Canberra waa recently sentenced to seven days’ imprisonment for having neglected to place a collar stud in the shirt of an officer, and that another naval rating on the same vessel was sentenced to tcn days’ imprisonment for having misplaced a dinner plate? If so, and the statement has not been verified already, will he verify it and inform the House of the result? 1 am now iu a position to inform the honorable member that my attention has been drawn to the statement mentioned. It is not correct. Punishment in the Royal Australian Navy is awarded in strict accordance with the provisions of the Naval Discipline Act, which does not permit the penalty of imprisonment for a minor offence. I am advised that over six months ago, an officer’s steward was awarded a penalty of seven days’ extra work, which is a minor and non-exacting punishment, for negligently performing his duty in laying out an officer’s uniform. As this was the culmination of a series of omissions of duty showing slackness, he wa3 reported, and the punishment was awarded by the Commanding Officer after hearing the man in his defence. There is no mention in the charge about a collar stud. No rating in H.M.A.S. Canberra has been punished for misplacing a dinner plate.
I ask leave to make a statement which furnishes certain particulars in reply to the attack made on the Navy by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– I object, unless the matter may be debated.
– Then I shall make the statement on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– Is the Minister for Commerce aware that experiments are being conducted by the Elgin Gas Corporation, in connexion with a new method for the storage of fruit? This corporation has in store at the Sydney Municipal cool stores a quantity of oranges, tomatoes, passion-fruit, mandarins and pineapples. Several cases were opened up to test the contents, and all of them were in good condition after having been in store for periods extending up to 72 days. It is claimed that the experience gained shows definitely that cases of oranges or any other fruits, including passion-fruit, can be landed in Great Britain in p’erfect condition, and after removal from the ship’s hold will remain saleable and in good condition for fourteen days. Will the Minister have an inspection made, and investigate the whole matter, in view of its vital importance to the fruit-growing industry?
– On behalf of the Minister for Commerce,’ I examined the fruit tested under this process. Officers of the Department of Commerce are now making a close investigation, with a view to reporting on the actual results.
– Will the Minister concerned state whether the Larrakai, a vessel imported recently from the United Kingdom for the purpose of patrolling the northern waters of Australia to prevent poaching by Japanese sampans upon our trochus shell and other valuable marine products, has completely broken down, as is affirmed by a report which appears in the press to-day? Is it true that this vessel has been submerged in the harbour at Darwin, and that recently, during a visit to Koepang, two of its engines ceased to function and it had to limp back to port on one engine? Is it proposed to return this vessel to the Navy? In view particularly of the fact that the personnel of Japanese sampans recently fired on natives in New Guinea, will the Minister take the necessary steps to have the northern waters patrolled by a seaplane until the Larrakai is replaced by another vessel ?
– I have seen in this morning’s Canberra Times the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I am at a loss to know where it originated. It is true that I have received from the Administrator at Darwin, a letter in which he points out that certain mechanical defects have developed in this vessel, and alludes to certain aspects of the design of the boat which mako it not altogether suitable for extended sea trips, but I have had nothing in the nature of such a report as that which the press has published. This vessel is the property of the Department of Defence, and I propose to take up the matter with the Minister for Defence upon hia return to Australia.
– If, on investigation, it is found that the patrol vessel in northern waters has actually broken down, as reported, and in view of the fact that occupants of J apanese sampans have fired on natives, with the result that both they and the white population in the northern part of the continent are fearful for their safety, will the Minister confer with the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, with a view to sending a seaplane to protect those people?
– I am afraid that the honorable gentleman has become somewhat mixed in Iris geography. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) spoke of a vessel at Darwin which is being repaired. I, as Minister for Trade and Customs, am concerned with a vessel to patrol waters off the coast of Queensland where nothing untoward has happened for some time. I have already made a full statement of the investigations carried out in those waters. Insofar as his question relates to New Guinea, it should be addressed to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of Territories.
TREATMENT of SCABIES
– I ask the Minister for Health the following questions without notice: - (1) Is it a fact that all citizens of Canberra pay a hospital tax? (2) la it a fact that the Canberra Hospital refuses admittance to any patient suffering from scabies? (3) In the event of such a refusal, does the hospital treat such sufferers as out-patients?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: - (1) With certain exceptions, a hospital tax is payable by all citizens of Canberra in receipt of an income of not less than £2 a week. (2) Admittance is not necessarily refused; each case is dealt with according to its clinical condition. (3) If the patient does not desire treatment by his own medical attendant, he may receive treatment as an out-patient.
-Has the Commonwealth Government taken any active steps to encourage the expansion of the wool textile industry in China as a means of stimulating the market in the East for Australian wool ? If not, will it consider taking such action?
– Certain suggestions along the lines indicated by the honorable member have been made, and will receive the consideration of the Government.
– Is the Minister for Health in a position to say whether arrangements for maternal welfare, in accordance with the policy he enunciated last year, have been brought to finality, and will he state the position in New South Wales?
– Arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States ha ve proceeded to the stage that the fund collected by the Commonwealth, to which it donated £50,000, has been distributed among the States, and committees have been set up in each State. Those committees are under the control of the State governments. Of course, there can be no finality in this matter so long as one generation succeeds another. I am unable to state the exact position in New South “Wales, but I know that a committee has been appointed and is functioning satisfactorily. During the week-end I shall consult with Mr. Fitzsimons, the State Minister, dealing with this subject, and shall furnish the honorable gentleman with further information later.
– ‘Can the Minister for the Interior say whether any company operating at the oil-field at Lakes Entrance has applied for assistance from the Commonwealth under the legislation recently passed? If so, can he say whether that assistance is likely to be given, and if there is any likelihood of Lakes Entrance developing into a useful oil-field?
– An application was made by one company operating at Lakes Entrance; it is now being considered by the technical committee which advises the Government on these matters. I find it difficult to express an opinion as to the future of the Lakes Entrance oil-field, but, undoubtedly, more oil has been found there than at any other place in Australia.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House say whether the Government’s policy of diverting trade from the United State3 of America and Japan is calculated to assist in the direction of regional understanding and non-aggression pacts for Pacific countries in the spirit of the League undertakings to which - the Attorney.General referred a few days ago?
– I have no doubt that when, the negotiations have been completed it will be found that they have had that effect.
– With regard to the seizure of books at the Perth Literary Institute, and the statement of the Department of Trade and Customs that certain prohibited books were handed over by mutual arrangement, has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen, a letter in the West
Australian of the 16th September, in which the secretary of the institute repudiates that statement? Further, is he aware that the secretary of the institute claims that The Golden Ass, which the department states was seized because it belonged to an edition of American origin with; indecent illustrations, was seized by officials who did not examine the illustrations, and that the American edition referred to is unknown to them? Will the Minister make inquiries in order to satisfy himself as to the procedure adopted by the customs officials, and give to this House a plain statement of the position without mental reservation of any kind whatsoever?
– I have nothing to add to the answer which I gave to the honorable member yesterday in “reply to « question on notice.
– Does the Government approve of the practice, which, apparently, is indulged in by one of the justices of the High Court, of writing books on subjects of political controversy, or which are likely to come before the court for hearing?
– What book a judge should write, or what views he should express, are matters for him to determine. It is not for any government to give to a judge any direction, or to offer him any advice, in such matters.
– Is the Minister for Commerce in a position to make a statement regarding the negotiations with the Australian Oversea Transport Association in relation to wool freights? If not, can he say when the Government will be in s position to bring in an amending bill to place wool outside the scope of the legislation passed to enable agreements to be made with the association referred to?
– The executive of the Australian Oversea Transport Association discussed this matter yesterday, but the Government has not yet had an opportunity to examine its recommendations. Until it has examined them, T am not in a position to express an opinion on the subject.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “Broadcasting over the national radio stations of political propaganda, in reference to Ministerial Statements; facilities afforded to Friends of the Soviet Union and the Fourth Internationale; and the necessity for equal facilities to be provided for the Australian Labour party.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The urgent matter of public importance to which I direct attention is - “ The broadcasting over national radio stations of political propaganda, including the broadcasting of ministerial statements, during the last twelve months; the recent facilities accorded by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to representatives of the Friends of the Soviet Union and the Fourth Internationale; and the necessity for equal facilities to be provided to the Australian Labour party to broadcast over the national broadcasting system.”
I submit this subject as one of urgency, because the recent developments in the control and policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that have brought our national radio facilities very close to what I regard as a public scandal, in that a serious and continuing injustice is being done to a very large section of the community, which, under the legislation governing the commission, is denied any voice in the conduct of this vast public utility.
Over a long period, the Labour party, as the official Opposition, has watched with growing alarm the increasing practice of the commission to make facilities available to Ministers to broadcast statements on controversial matters of public policy that are, definitely and unmistakably, political. I shall refer to a few instances of this kind of thing. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has, on more than one occasion, had the national network made available to him to speak on the serious trade position precipitated by the Government with Japan. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) has also obtained direct access to the public to give his views, as a Minister, on the controversial question of the alteration of section 92 of the Constitution. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has also been provided with radio facilities to advocate certain phases of the Government’s defence policy over the national network. Altogether, according to information furnished to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in reply to a question, addresses have been delivered on 75 occasions by Ministers on subjects, the majority of which have been definitely controversial. In contrast with this remarkable treatment of Ministers, only three members of the Opposition have spoken on six occasions through the national stations.
– How often has the Opposition applied for the use of these facilities ?
– I shall refer later to that point. Doubtless the Government will say that the occasions on which Ministers spoke were of sufficient national importance to warrant the public being given first-hand ministerial information on vital national problems; but it will not be able to get away with it like that. The specific subjects to which I have referred are all controversial matters of government policy, on some of which even members of the Government parties are not unanimous. The Opposition holds very strong contrary views on some of the subjects that have been discussed. Naturally, therefore, it takes a grave view of the situation. It cannot be gainsaid that, as a medium for the formation of public opinion, the radio is tremendously powerful. That has been realized in every country of the world. It is worth noting that, in connexion with every dictatorship that has been set up on the basis of the totalitarian State, a complete monopoly of the wireless facilities has been reserved to the Government, and no views other than those of the Government are allowed to be broadcast to thu world. This is true of Germany, of Soviet Russia, of Italy, and also of other countries where there are methods associated with government which I believe nobody wants to see in operation in Australia. But it is becoming increasingly clear that this Government is drifting in that direction, and is reserving to itself the right to propagate only its own view to the public through the agency of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The Opposition has no objection to the views of the Government or of any individuals being disseminated over the air, but it insists that equal opportunities should be provided for the Opposition and other large and representative sections of public thought to use the air for that purpose. During last year, when this Government adopted a certain line ni policy in relation to the ItaloAbyssinian. dispute, which the Opposition honestly believed brought Australia within an ace of Avar, we took a diametrically opposite view. If anything could constitute a national crisis, that certainly could have clone so.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission at that time provided facilities for all kinds of people to broadcast their views on the crisis, but when the Labour party of New South Wales made application for its representatives to use these facilities to broadcast the case it was placing before the public, its application was refused. Possibly the Government was not consulted regarding that refusal, but it cannot escape responsibility for the actions of the commission which it set up to control the undertaking. That is one reason why I now invite the Government, through the two parties which support it, to join with the Opposition in drawing up a scheme to prevent any government from taking undue advantage of its position. It is this Government to-day, but it may be another to-morrow, and it would be better for all concerned to place the control of such a subject beyond reproach.
The particular matter that has brought me to my feet is even more serious than that to which I have just referred. By its action in placing our national broadcasting service at the disposal of numerous semi-political bodies such as the Constitutional Club, the Legacy Club, the Country Women’s Association and the Australian National. Council of Women, and by its selection of speakers on chosen subjects, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is gradually enlarging its panel of speakers who are notoriously anti-Labour in their comments. It is also providing still further facilities for Government members individually to diffuse their propaganda in their own electorates.
When the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) returned, to his electorate and spoke on the Government’s policy at a “ welcome home “ affair, he was provided, not only with access by radio to the whole of his constituents, but, also with a nation-wide relay. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) was, for a period, provided with facilities for regular broadcasts, ostensibly on his experiences while abroad, .but it is safe to say that all the honorable gentleman’s experiences were retailed with a very careful eye to the electors of his own division.
The commission, however, has now gone further, particularly in New South Wales. The Labour party is being vigorously assailed by the Communist party throughout Australia, yet this very moment is chosen by the commission to give national facilities to Communists to speak to the whole of the public on issues which we claim have a very direct bearing on the struggle of the Labour movement to defeat the propagation of the the principles of minority dictatorship within the Labour movement, and no facilities are being afforded to the Labour party in New South Wales to furnish a reply. The most striking fact in this connexion is that the speaker chosen to represent the communists was no other than Mr. W. J. Thomas, the delegate of the Friends of the Soviet Union on a recent visit to Russia, and who, I understand, was provided with credentials to make the trip by no less a person than the Prime Minister. On the face of it, there certainly appears to be a very disturbing and sinister link in these facts. Without some adequate explanation, one can only conclude that the Government and the Friends of the Soviet Union are in some sort of alliance in this attack on the Labour movement. This is remarkable in the light of the fact that the Government is trying to convince the public - it does so particularly at election time - that it is making war on the Communists. There is actually before the court at present a prosecution against the Friends bf the Soviet Union. It appears to me that this prosecution is intended to be of value on the eve of the next election, and that the evidence will be published at some chosen moment, so that it may, in some way, injure the Labour party.
The Government cannot have it both ways. Its two-faced attitude on this subject is obviously insincere. It cannot pretend to challenge the Friends of the Soviet Union as an unlawful organization, and then allow the Australian Broadcasting Commission to provide facilities for members of the union to present their views over the national broadcasting system while denying the Labour party any opportunity to make use of the same facilities to furnish a reply. Apparently, the Friends of the Soviet Union are also friends of the Federal Government. After Mr. Thomas had stated his case in two broadcasts, whom did the commission call on to answer him? Was it a representative of the Government which alleged that Mr. Thomas was a member of an unlawful organization? It was not I Was it a representative of the Labour party which claims that the Communist party is a subversive organization seeking to destroy much of the individual freedom which even our present democracy provides? It was not! The commission actually sought out the other faction into which the Communist party has been split. It found the Fourth Internationale which propagates the doctrine of civil war, and condemns Mr. Thomas’ party; for it claims that that party has departed from the doctrine of international revolution. The commission obtained the services of Professor John Anderson, the leading propagandist of the views of the Fourth Internationale, and gave him broadcasting facilities to carry on the Communist faction fight, and, incidentally, to attack the Labour party in so doing. This Government, has fought many elections on what it calls the “ Bed Menace “ and has tried to brand the Labour party as a Communist body, yet it is allowing the commission to use the licence-fees of the listeners of Australia to spread the knowledge of communism, and will not allow Labour to put forward its case. It is obvious that this kind of business must be cleaned up.
The position in regard to the allocation of B class licences’ is already a scandal, with which I shall deal at a later stage this session, but the developments in regard to A class broadcasting are now becoming even worse. When the Australian Broadcasting Commission Bill was before this House on the 3rd May, 1932, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said -
The Minister will have power to stifle the voice of his opponents over the wireless.
In reply to that statement, the then Postmaster-General, Mr. Fenton, said -
Nothing like what the honorable member for Dalley has inferred is intended under thi clause.
What is that assurance worth to-day in the light of the happenings I have already related? Does the Government stand for this kind of thing? Is the Government a party to the reservation of national broadcasting facilities for the Government and the friends of the Government? If it is a party to the gagging of the Opposition and the friends of the Opposition, let it say so. The Government should answer these questions. If it says that it is a party to these practices we shall know where we are, but I remind it that what the present Ministry is now able to do, a Labour government may be in a position to do after the next elections.
If the Government has any sense of fair play, or regard for public propriety, and if it still stands by the assurance given to the House by Mr. Fenton, let it accept this motion, and place the national broadcasting system beyond mischievous manipulation. The cost of the system is borne by the annual subscriptions of a large number of listeners, who are entitled to be assured that the administration by the commission is free from any taint of partisanship. The men who have ‘been engaged by the commission over a period of years to act as commentators on subjects of public importance continually colour their observations for the purpose of putting before the public the propaganda of the opponents of Labour. In announcing the results of the last election in Sydney, the commentator went to much pains to relieve the minds of the people, because the counting seemed to be going against Government candidates. I telegraphed to the station concerned, and asked whether those in charge realized that their duty was merely to give facts as to the progress of the count. Honorable members who have regularly listened to broadcasts from national stations must admit that what I have said is true. There must necessarily be strong differences of opinion on controversial subjects, and it is of advantage to the people to hear the arguments that can be advanced on both sides. In the final analysis, a full and impartial discussion of important issues is conducive to the best results in the conduct of public affairs.
– How many requests by the Labour party for permission to broadcast have been refused?
– An application was made with respect to the ItaloAbyssinian dispute, and our party received a blank refusal. If one’s request is rejected in respect of a vitally important subject, one is not likely to make similar applications. The Opposition has waited for this Parliament to resume its sittings, and it now asks the Government whether it subscribes to the policy pursued by the commission. Ministers may say that they are unaware of the commission’s policy, but we say that, if it has adopted a partisan attitude, it should no longer enjoy the confidence of this Parliament. I think we may safely say that it no longer has the confidence of the public. The Leader of the Opposition or his deputy should have an opportunity to express the views of the Labour party when a Minister uses a national station to make a speech on a controversial subject. I trust that the Government will take steps to rectify the partisanship that has arisen, and that it will be unnecessary in future for the Opposition to make a similar complaint.
.- With a great deal of the principle underlying the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) we can all thoroughly agree. There is no doubt that the administration of broadcasting over the national stations should be above any consideration of party. The views of the Opposition on any subject as to which broadcasting facilities are afforded should be respected and heard. I do not deny that the Opposition has a function of the first importance to perform in the democratic government of the country. I have always believed that a powerful Opposition, and one that is heard, serves a most useful and indeed essential purpose in the carrying on of democratic government; but, when we have stated those principles, and when I have indicated that we are in agreement with the honorable member in relation to them, we come to a much more controversial aspect of this problem, which is summed up, perhaps, by this question: Has the Government, or has any body for which the Government must accept responsibility, violated those principles? That is the point to which we must direct our attention this morning. It is highly undesirable to waste time in discussing matters which are not in dispute.
The Broadcasting Commission carries out its duties under a statute known as the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1932, which provides for the establishment of a commission, for its incorporation, and for the giving to it of an independent existence. Under section 52, it is provided that the commission shall have power to determine to what extent, and in what manner, political speeches may be broadcast. That confers upon the commission itself, and not upon the Government of the day, the power to determine who shall speak on a political matter, and the conditions under which he shall speak. In fact, when the bill was introduced into this Parliament, it provided, in clause 52, that the Minister might, from time to time, by notice in writing, prohibit the commission from broadcasting any matter. The control was placed in the hands of the Minister, but, in the course of the discussion, a majority view was expressed in favour of detaching that matter from ministerial direction, and putting it into the unfettered hands of .the commission, itself. 1 am told, although it is probably not of much use to resurrect past discussions, that the proposition came from the Labour party, which thought that the whole matter should be left in the hands of the Minister.
– ‘He at least would have a responsibility to this Parliament.
– He would also have a temptation to exercise his right in a political way, whilst an independent corporation would not suffer that temptation. My first point is that the deliberate and discussed decision of this Parliament was that the determination of political speeches to be broadcast should oe left solely in the hands of the commission. There is no provision in the act whereby a Minister or the Government may give the commission directions on that point.
– But who appoints the commission?
– It is true that the Government makes the appointments and fills vacancies on the commission, but that is equally true in regard to other bodies. The Government of the day appoints justices of the High Court,, but is that any reason why it should give directions to the court as to the way in which it should discharge its onerous duties?
My second point is that the present Government has not, on any occasion, sought to influence any decision by the commission under the section to which I have referred.
– It is not necessary to do that.
– I am in a better position than the honorable member from Tasmania to inform the House as to the position. Neither this Government, nor any member of it, has given any direction to the Broadcasting Commission. The decision is reached by the commission as to the nature of the broadcast to be made, and the identity of the person who may make it. I have indicated . that the commission deals with the matter independently by statute, and that this Government does not, and has not, given any direction to the commission upon it.
I now turn to the particular matters which have been referred to by the honor- able member for West Sydney. He has said that some 75 broadcasts have been, made by members on the Government side in this Parliament, and that a relatively insignificant number of broadcasts have been made by members on the Opposition side. In the first place, it is inevitable that Ministers will use the national network move frequently than private members of any party. Ministers in the course, of their duties go from State to State’ and, in accordance with the very proper practice in this country, they are asked to speak at. public functions.
– And they go from country to country.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s amendment; they go from State to State and from country to country. The only difference is that when a Minister goes to another country the broadcasting, authorities do not seek to broadcast what he has to say, whereas in the various States, this is part of the usual courtesy shown to: representatives of the Commonwealth Government. The practice is an entirely proper one and at civil, or other public functions, arrangements are made- to broadcast the speeches of Ministers. Can any honorable member really say that he objects te that? After all, the Government of the country happens to be the government because at the moment it is the choice of the people and is responsible for the administration of the country. It is inevitable, therefore, and proper, that if a Commonwealth Minister visits, for instance, Perth or Brisbane, he should be received as a representative of the government of. the country and should be invited to speak in order to give to the people of the State what is, in many instances, an all too rare opportunity of having contact with the government of the day. When he does that, who can object to the Broadcasting Commission deciding that this is the kind of speech that ought to be made available over the air to the people? To think of these matters as inevitably involving the application of debating society rules, is all wrong. A Minister visits a State as the representative of the government of the country and in my view - honorable members can take it for what it is worth - it is entirely proper that what he has to say should be made available to the people of that State. If honorable members look at this list, of speeches made over the air by Ministers they will find that a great number of them can bo covered by this observation. They have been made in the course of receptions extended to Ministers by various communities throughout the Commonwealth. Furthermore, I notice that on this list are several speeches which were made by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in relation to the flotation of loans. I do not suppose that any honorable member will suggest that it is not entirely proper that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, when subscriptions to a loan are being invited from the public, should be given every facility to obtain the widest publicity for the success of the loan; and I do. not think that any one would suggest that when he has made such a broadcast some member of the Opposition should be called upon to state its opinions against the loan. We have to apply sound commonsense rules in these matters, and in perusing this list of speeches I find it difficult to see how those rules should bc departed from. On other occasions Ministers and honorable members have made speeches on matters, not of party political concern, but of general interest. Some people think that whenever a politician makes a speech it must follow that his speech will be a party political speech. I notice that my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) made one speech on literature. I do not know how he managed to handle the subject of literature from the United Australia party viewpoint; I do not imagine that he did. I myself have been guilty of being broadcast over the national stations in defence of the system of democracy. I hoped that when I spoke on that topic I might have the satisfaction of knowing that I presented the views of every party in this House. Yet it is suggested that if a speech of that kind occurs in this list, it must be regarded as a proGovernment speech, and ought to be balanced by an exactly corresponding Opposition speech to the Government’s speech, by a member of another party.
– The Opposition’s complaint is not with the speeches broadcast, but that certain speeches have not been broadcast.
– I am obliged to the honorable gentleman for that interj’ection. In this particular controversy, therefore, the onus is on members of the Opposition, if they say that the commission is at fault, to prove their charge, not on the ground of the permission it has granted, but because of its refusal to grant permission for their speeches to be broadcast. In such circumstances, one would have expected them to produce a number of instances in which applications had ‘been made to the commission for permission to speak, and had been refused. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) made a reference which, I hope ho will permit me to say, was a little vague. He said that in one instance the Opposition was refused permission to present its views on the ItaloAbyssinian dispute. In the limited time available since yesterday, I have made inquiries from the commission in order to find out if any facts could be made available, at such short notice, on this matter, and I have been informed that the only application for a broadcast in relation to the Italo-Abyssinian dispute was made by, or on behalf of, a Mr. Graves, whose speech, it was desired, should be broadcast from a public meeting at which there would be other speakers, and for which the time-table was uncertain. I have been informed that the refusal of the commission in this instance was due, not to the character of the speech proposed to be made, but entirely to the technical difficulties of fitting the speech into a broadcast programme. In such circumstances, the Broadcasting Commission was either right or wrong. If it were right, then the matter is finished with. If it were wrong in the instance I have just mentioned, then it was competent for members of any party in this House to point out to the commission that their side of the controversy had not been heard, and request the commission to give them a studio broadcast. But I have nothing to show that such an application was made. I think it may be said that what is true of many people is, iti this instance, also true of members of the Opposition - they prefer to have their grievance.
The other particular case referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney was that of a talk on Russia, on which subject a talk had been given ‘bv a Mr. Thomas. On this case, the Broadcasting Commission made an observation which, perhaps, I cannot do better than read -
Mr. Thomas gave his version of the facta leading u> to and surrounding this crisis (namely, the Zinovief executions), but as Jio obviously presented a point of view which was in justification of the Russian Government’s action, the commission arranged for a talk on the following night by Professor ,’fohn Anderson, who was known to he critical of the ‘Russian Government in this matter, and whose criticism not only applied to the executions, but to the’ Stalin regime itself.
A criticism coming from a nian holding views which many people might consider proSoviet, waa obviously far more forcible than would bo one coming from some one who had no sympathy with the Russian system.
Speaking as an individual, that seems to iac to be a sensible piece of reasoning, but, assuming that it is wrong, this isobviously the kind of problem that was deliberately taken by this Parliament out of the sphere of political control, when it handed over to the commission the conduct of broadcasting. Apart from this objection and the claim that the Opposition was denied a broadcast on the Italo-Abyssinian question, no case has been put forward by the Opposition to substantiate its charge that there has been a refusal by the Broadcasting Commission of reasonable facilities to place the viewpoint of the Opposition before the public.
– .What about broadcasts by commentators?
– It has not been my privilege to listen to any of these commentators on world affairs, but it has been my privilege to listen to the anguished observations thereon of my colleagues who have heard some of them. [ gathered then that one particular commentator was making very rude remarks about the Government; and now I gather from members of the Opposition that be has been making rude remarks about them. If that is so, he appears to be criticizing all of us, and sometimes, really, he oan hardly be blamed for that.
I regret that I cannot deal with this particular allegation, as I have no personal knowledge of these commentaries, but I am prepared to agree with honorable members opposite to this extent - that if the Broadcasting Commission decides to offer to the public a commentary, whether it be monthly, weekly or daily, such a commentary should, as far as is humanly possible, be free from any political colour.
I do not intend to make further reference to the list of speeches now under discussion, and, in view of the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition, which has narrowed down the ground of controversy, I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything further. In this matter the Government stands for exactly the same principles as does the Opposition, and it would be an enormous pity if the case were otherwise.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has dealt very subtly with the gravamen of the charge made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) by defining the broad principles of democracy and specifying the advantages to be gained by the Australian people through hearing responsible Ministers, as often as. possible, when they visit the various States. I assure him that when I asked for the information contained in this list of speeches it was not my purpose to censure either Ministers or the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Wireless has developed to an extraordinary degree in Australia. At first the general view was that political speeches should not be permitted over the air; but as things stand at present, it is incontestible that the public looks to the radio for much of its information, and, therefore, the situation should be entirely reviewed. If there is to be the utmost freedom on the air, then, as the Attorney-General has said, the responsibility of the Opposition to the country, if not as great as that of the Government, is at least next in importance. I ask if it is not an extraordinary thing that, in a comparison of speeches made by honorable members of the Opposition with speeches made by representatives of all other classes, not including Ministers alone, it would appear that the Australian
Broadcasting Commission, during the last year at any rate, has found it in accordance with the general principles of its administration right and proper to provide the utmost facilities for speeches by Ministers,and also, by and large, for the expression of all other classes of opinion, except those of honorable gentle men who sit on this side of the House. I make that charge distinctly and definitely. When the Attorney-General asks if the Opposition made application to the Broadcasting Commission for the right to be heard over the air, I pay the honorable gentleman and his colleagues the manly tribute that, on no occasion, except probably when the Prime Minister desired to broadcast about the Japanese trade position, did they request the commission to put a microphone at some table where they were speaking. They would not do that. But the commission, apparently eager to placate Ministers, and probably having the temperamental desire to give to Ministers’ speeches the utmost publicity, did, as a matter of course, for them what, as a matter of course, it systematically declines to do for the speeches of the members of the Opposition. Did the Attorney-General apply to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the right to speak over the air ?
– Of course he did not. He is the same type of individual, in general character, as I hope I am myself.
– Did an organization make the application?
– I have no idea.
– I very much doubt it. If that case stood alone there would probably be a good deal in the contention of the Attorney-General that the speeches of Ministers are of deeper significance to the Australian public than those of the Opposition, and should be broadcast as frequently as possible, and that the Broadcasting Commission is simply interpreting the wishes of the people. It is not a matter of what I think is an advantage; rather is it a question of disadvantage, and the accusation I make of partisanship in the facilities which the commission gives for broadcasting public speeches appears to be well-founded, by reason of the fact that it has given such few facilities to the members of the Australian Labour movement and of the Opposition to broadcast their views. I reinforce that charge, based upon its omission, by what I describe as the extraordinary agreement which marks the whole of its commentaries, and the greater part of the speeches delivered by lecturers who discourse upon economic and quasipolitical subjects. I direct attention to the professional engagements which the commission makes with certain lecturers, who deliver speeches which create a controversial atmosphere for honorable members of the Opposition and a favorable atmosphere, by and large, for the acceptance of speeches which Ministers may deliver from time to time. Those who have been associated with newspaper organizations know that a headline in a newspaper can completely destroy the general purport of the news which follows it. It can create an impression regarding the meaning of an article quite different from what it would have been had a different headline been used. I have heard commentators, particularly “ The Watchman,” who was a former Nationalist member of this Parliament
– The Leader of the Opposition would not say that “ The Watchman” supports the policy of this Government.
– The fiscal policy, of “ The Watchman “ is f undamentally opposed to that of honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber.
– He is opposed to the Government, too.
– I say definitely that his commentaries on fiscal matters are distinctly helpful to the Government’s policy, and prejudicial to the views of those who sit on this side of the chamber. These are the accusations I make,not only against “ The Watchman,”but also against a commentator using station6WF in Perth. I make a similar complaint concerning “ The Spectator,” whom I have heard. In Sydney and in other capital cities I have listened to these commentators. As one who is not altogether a novice in these matters, I know that each of these commentators presents news with a distinctly political sig- nificance. Commentators are in somewhat the same position as newspaper editors, and, by the treatment of news, can make it favorable of acceptance. In that way they have an enormous authority in inflaming or appeasing public opinion. The commission, like the daily newspapers, is an instrument in shapingpublic opinion. Wireless broadcasting is now in the hands of persons, with one exception who has been a public servant, who have been identified in one way or another with political organizations which rally behind this Government. Mrs. Couchman was actively associated with the political life of anti-Labour. The same can be said of Mr. Herbert Brookes and Mr. Orchard. Those three persons constitute a majority of the commission.
– Has Mr. Herbert Brookes everbeen associated with politics ?
– He was presidentof the Victorian Chamberof Manufactures, and has sat opposite the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in discussing industrial disputeson many occasions.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I welcome this opportunity to discuss the subject of wireless broadcasting introduced by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley)., who, however, failed to produce proof that the representatives of the party to which he belongs have been denied opportunities similar to those enjoyed by the representatives of the Government. The only instance cited by the honorable member was that of Mr. Graves, who was refused permission to broadcast the views of the Labour party on theItalo-Abyssinian dispute. Mr. Graves does not represent the Opposition in this chamber. I do not think that Station 2KY, which iscontrolled by the Labour party, would grant him permission.
– Yes. He is thesecretary of the party in New South Wales.
– I do not think that the present members of thecommission are the most suitable for the positions they occupy.
Mr.Rosevear. - They wete all political appointments.
– I donot admit that, but in view of the importance of the work they have to perform, and the impartiality which should be displayed, more suitable persons could have been selected. When the bill under which the commission was appointed was before the House, I said that a mistake was being made in appointing only part-time members, and experience has shown thatthe best results have notbeen obtained. Economists associated with the Sydney University have spoken over the air on controversial subjects, and on one oocasion a Mr. Black, speaking at a meeting of the Leagueof Nations Union, attacked the present Go vernment. Shortly afterwards I contradicted some of his statements, but he repeated them in a later broadcast. I believe that if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) wished to make a public declaration on a subject of importance to the Australian people,the facilities afforded to Ministers would also be afforded to him. The only refusal cited wasin thecaseof Mr. Graves, who is a paidservantofthe Australian Labour Party and not a public man. Only recently he became a member of the Legislative Councilof NewSouth Wales by jockeying “ certain votes.
– The statement of the honorable member for Barton that the secretary of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales secured a seat an the Legislative Council in that State by “ jockeying “ certain votes is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– As the remark of the honorable member for Barton was not directed to a member of this Parliament, I cannot ask for its withdrawal. I ask the honorable member for Barton not todepart from the terms of the motion.
– I was merely saying that the person who was refused the right to broadcast is not a public man. I agree with honorable members that party politiesshould not be discussed overthe national network. If membersof the Opposition aredeprived of the right to speak on controversial subjects, they can utilize Station2KY and otherstations if they so desire. Ministers should have the right to explain the purport of important legislation to be dealt with in this Parliament, and to outline the policy of the Government on major problems of the day. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) knows that an election was lost because a man named Thomas, who is a friend of the Communists, was associated with the party. Some of the rules of the Australian Labour party which were adopted at the request of Thomas have since been used against him. It is not often that we hear charges from members of the Opposition that the United Australia party is associated with communism. The honorable member for Cook has always said that I received certain preference votes from Communists.
– The honorable member did.
– Well, that shows the good sense of the Communists in that respect at any rate. They know that the man put up against me was not worth voting for in any circumstances.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) speaking to the subject before the Chair, which has to do with the Wireless Broadcasting Commission. It seems to me that his utterances are very wide of the subject.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), when speaking to his motion, said that the Communists in Australia were allied to the United Australia party, and I have been trying to disprove that statement.
-It appears to me that the honorable member for Barton was replying to certain accusations made by the honorable member for West Sydney. Members of the Communist party were given opportunities to broadcast a certain matter, and the complaint of the honorable member for West Sydney was that no opportunity had been afforded to the Labour party to reply. The remarks of the honorable member for Barton were addressed to that phase of the subject. While he was not strictly in order in that his remarks were not within the terms of the motion, I allowed him to proceed because he was replying to statements of the honorable member for West Sydney.
– I submit that the honorable member for West Sydney has not made out a case insofar as his charge of political bias against the commission is concerned, but I believe that, in other respects, the commission is not doing its job properly. It is not giving encouragement to Australian artists, for instance. Moreover, members of the commission are extraordinarily hard to interview. The chairman, Mr. Cleary, shuts himself in his office, and is very particular as to who may be admitted to see him.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support the motion. In my opinion, it is very unfair that the representatives of one school of political thought should be heard over the air, while those of the opposing school of thought are denied an opportunity to reply. ‘ The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) has said that, in only one instance, was the Labour party refused permission to speak over the air, that being in connexion with the ItaloAbyssinian dispute. The point is that Ministers do not have to apply to the commission for permission to speak ; they are invited to do so by the commission itself. That was what happened in the case he mentioned, and when the Labour party sought to reply, it was denied permission, allegedly on the ground that it would be too much trouble to connect the hall, in which the meeting was being held,- with the broadcasting studio. Various representatives of the Labour party, including Mr. Beasley,, addressed that meeting. In the case referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney when speaking to the motion, one section of the Communist party was given facilities for broadcasting an address justifying certain executions which had recently taken place in Russia, and the commission then invited a reply from another section of the Communist party, which, did not approve of the executions. However, no facilities have been placed before the Labour party to broadcast its opinion on the subject. Had that been done there would be no need for this motion.
Recently, the Government decided to set up a committee to confer with the representatives of the Government in the various States on the subject of migration, and that information was recently broadcast through the national stations. There is still a great deal of unemployment in Australia, and the Labour party believes that migration should not be resumed until a serious attempt has been made to absorb the persons already unemployed here. It is doubtful, however, whether the Labour party would have been given an opportunity to place its views before the public over the national stations had this protest not been made.
When the bill constituting the broadcasting commission was being debated in this Parliament in 1932, strong opposition developed’ to the original proposal that the Postmaster-General should have power to determine what matter was to be broadcast. Eventually it was decided that this power should rest with the commission, though some of us thought that the interests of the public would not necessarily be better served by a commission hand-picked by the government in office. Now it is evident that what might have been done by a Minister in the way of prohibiting the broadcasting of matter directed against his party is being done just as effectively through the commission, which represents the Government’s views. It should be laid down as a principle that, when a Minister is invited to speak over the national stations on a controversial subject, a representative of the Opposition in that State should be given the opportunity to reply. Only if that is done, can it be said that the commission is carrying out its duties in an impartial manner.
.- It would be difficult to exaggerate the influence of wireless broadcasting on the general life of the community to-day. It profoundly affects public thought, and plays an important part in educating, instructing and entertaining the great mass of people. Therefore, any discussion dealing with the control of broadcasting is necessarily of interest and importance. I think we all accept the principle that there should be no stifling of discussion through the medium of broadcasting, any more than there should be through the press, or at public assemblies. We may contrast the position regarding broadcasting in Aus tralia with that which obtains in a totalitarian state in which complete control of all broadcasting facilities is in the hands of the Administration. In Australia we have national stations controlled by a broadcasting commission, and we have, in addition, commercial stations operated and controlled by private interests. In regard to the national stations, while we agree that no attempt should be made to stifle discussion on topics of general interest, we should also agree that those stations should not be made the medium for the dissemination of party propaganda by one side or the other. The commission has a duty, not only to provide entertainment for the public in the form of music plays, &c, but also to provide instructive and entertaining talks by people with special knowledge of the subjects discussed. Such discussions should not be coloured by party opinion, but should deal with the merits of the subject. In the difficult task of holding the balance in this regard, the commission has, in my opinion, done particularly well. Many of the commercial station* are operated by political party organizations, the Labour party holding licences in respect of two important stations, one in New South Wales and one in Victoria. I shall refer later to the influence which those stations exercise, and to the opportunities provided for the dissemination of propaganda by members of the Opposition and their supporters. The broadcasting commission has occasionally called upon members of political parties to deliver addresses, but the subject has been generally treated in a non-party way. It is inevitable and desirable that members of the Government should be given facilities for broadcasting speeches when they visit other States, and even their own State. For the time being, they represent the government of the Commonwealth, and it is only right that the people should hear from their own representatives what the Government is doing from time to time. No real objection was taken to that practice, at any rate, by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Opportunity has been given to members of all parties to speak on. matters of general interest For example, the honorable member for
Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has spoken on the question “ Will the world follow the Soviet?” and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) broadcast an address on “ The Church in Europe “.
– That was a “Pleasant Sunday Afternoon” address.
– And so were most of the addresses given by members of the Government parties.
– That is so. I myself this year have discussed over the national broadcasting system two subjects - one, compulsory training, on which I expressed views, contrary to those at present held by the Government, and the other, criminal reform, in which I am interested, and on which I expressed views critical of governments generally. I think that most honorable members take much the same stand when broadcasting on questions of general interest, and are no bound by party ties. Either the Opposition is aggrieved Because it has notbeen given opportunities for using the national broadcasting system for purposes of propaganda, or it feels that it has been slighted by not having been invited more frequently to express its views on current topics of general interest. It was admitted that the Ministers who have broadcast have toot employed the opportunity for propaganda purposes. No suggestion has been made that any private members on this side of the House have taken advantage of wireless broadcasts over the A class circuit to further party end’s.
– Yes, they have-.
– If all that is demanded is opportunity to broadcast propaganda, I submit that the case of the Opposition lacks strength. If opportunities for discussion of party propaganda are required, they are amply presented by the B class station which the Labour party at present controls. I know only by hearsay of the station in Sydney, But, as I understand that it is under the “control of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) I can well imagine that he would not be slow to use it to place before the people the strongest possible case for the party to which he belongs.
– Order! That station does not come within the scope of this motion..
– No, but the Opposition has claimed’ that it is given insufficient opportunity to place its views on controversial questions before the public.
– That is not the question.
– Members of the Opposition have suggested that opportunity has not been given to them by the national stations to put their case before the people, but I point out. that members of the. ministerial parties have not. used opportunities they may have had for political propaganda, and that the needs of the Opposition are well catered for at the present time by the stations which it controls. The discussion gives sufficient proof, if any be required, of the wisdom of Parliament in stipulating in the Broadcasting Act, that decision on political addresses should rest with the commission. The discussion has shown that there is always the possibility in the absence of such a check, of a Minister taking advantages of opportunities afforded to him to make broadcastsof political value to him. Suggestions that the appointments to the commission are made from supporters- of the Government lose much of their force, if we compare the practice in the making of all government appointments of which the appointments to the judiciary are possibly the highest.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [12.20],.- I support the motion. Each of the Government supporters who has spoken in this debate, including the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), has declared that the Broadcasting Commission should control with absolute fairness the great public utility of wireless broadcasting: They have all tried to show that the commission hasnot been influenced’ by party politics) and that it has not given advantages, to Ministers at various times to speak on matters of a controversial nature. The Attorney-General mentioned that when in 1932 the bill for the creation of the commission was before this House, the Opposition insisted that responsibility for vetoing or admitting any speeches broadcast over the national network should remain in the hands of the Minister. Our principal reason for making that demand,, was that the PostmasterGeneva] should .be responsible to Parliament for any acts of commission or omission on the part of the controlling authority, more particularly when unfair distinction was drawn by the commission between political parties. It was considered by this party that a Minister .should be ready in this House to .accept responsibility for any offences against fair play. The Attorney-General sought to show that by divorcing the control of the Broadcasting Commission from the responsibility of a Minister., we have set up a .board which is impartial and treats all parties alike. But his argument falls to the ground when .we examine the personnel of the commission. .Practically all the commissioners are drawn from the party which the Government represents. One of the members is & former Nationalist Minister. Another member is a lady who was prominently associated with the United Australia party in Victoria. Mr. Cleary was transferred by an anti-Labour government in New South Wales from the managership of a ‘brewery to control the State railways. If he does not make a better success of running the Broadcasting Commission .than he did of running the railways in New South Wales, this Government will have nothing upon which to -congratulate itself in making the appointment. This gentleman has been the subject of anti-Labour favours ever since he left off brewing. He was appointed to >the Broadcasting Commission, allegedly because he knows something about music, but the only thing he knows about music is what he learned by his acceptance of complimentary theatre passes, ‘given *to him in ‘his ‘Capacity as a member of the Railways Commission, Mr. H. E. Brookes is another political appointee. What is the use of the ‘Government trying to make capital out o$ the fact that a commission has been set up to control broadcasting, and has taken the responsibility of vetoing or granting permission for speeches from the Minister,, when that commission has just as much party “bias as has the Minister? If the responsibility were placed in the hands of .the Minister we should have a person .in this House with whom we could check up the sins crf omission and commission. Reference has been made to the number of speeches made by Ministers, and it has been argued that these speeches -were on matters of purely national interest, .and .not <of any political consequence. Perusal -of the list, however, indicates -that -on practically every -matter of -a controversial character that has .taken place in the last two or three years in this country, Ministers have had opportunity to put .their side of the case before the people over national broadcasting stations, whilst discussion by members of .the Opposition has been stifled. On one occasion, when the Labour party attempted to break down the barrier to discuss over the air the Italo- Abyssinian dispute, the secretary of the New South Wales Labour party mad© application to the Broadcasting Commission for permission for the leaders of the party to speak. Permission was refused. ‘The excuse given by the Attorney-General was that the commission was not able to St the discussion into its time-table.
– Jock Garden could hav« spoken over has own station.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) ii disorderly.
– I .may inform .the honorable member for Barton that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) was not to have been one of the speakers.
– He should .have been
– The list of speeches made ‘by ‘honorable members shows that, -whilst the commission was not able to fit into its programme the one discussion for which -the Labour party had applied in three years, it has been able to adjust its .programme to lave national broadcasts from various clubs, such as the Constitutional Club, of civic receptions to Ministers, and farewell -talks by the -Prime Minister and -other Ministers before leaving for overseas. The .Abyssinian question transcended -in importance, at .that time, all other subjects,, and yet, whilst .the commission had plenty of programme space to .spare for ‘Other matters on which members opposite were .allowed to speak, It could ;not find a place on -the programme for a discussion by this party of the Abyssinian issue. In the last twelve months the commission, has been able to fit into its programmes 75 broadcasts by Ministers or private members supporting the Government, whereas only six members of the Opposition have been able to broadcast. The commission considers whether the proposed broadcast will be of interest to the public despite its importance. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) was found a place on the programme to enable him to discuss “Literature”.
– That address was delivered at Wesley Church.
– On another occasion the Attorney-General made a speech on the subject of “democracy.” Bothof those’ honorable gentlemen would find a quarter of an hour ample time in which to convey to the public all that they know about literature and democracy.
– In total disregard of all calls of the Chair, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) continues to interject. His interjections are irrelevant, and are only meant to annoy other honorable members. If he does not cease I shall bc compelled to take drastic action against Lim.
– I can appreciate the willingness of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to permit persons who have a profound knowledge of their subject to monopolize the national network for a period ; but when the Minister for Trade and Customs delivers an address on “ literature “ and the Attorney-General . on “ democracy “ it is too much to expect the public to be interested in them.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has admirably explained the position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and has shown that it operates with fearless independence. Doubtless a considerable measure of criticism could be directed against the commission, and I agree with the contention of honorable members that the time allotted by the A class stations for talks on political sub jects should be shared equally by members of the Government and the Opposition. Criticisms may be levelled also against musical programmes and the various commentators, but I emphasize the difficulty which the commission experiences of pleasing all classes of listeners. Without exception Ministers have not sought permission to broadcast their speeches. If honorable members examine the position they will find that the majority of these talks have been delivered at the “pleasant Sunday afternoon “ gatherings organized by Wesley Church, Melbourne. Honorable members of both sides of the House have sjioken at those gatherings. As a matter of fact, of the six occasions in respect of which I am mentioned in the reply to a question as to the number of times that Ministers have spoken over the air, three related to the “pleasant Sunday afternoons “. Although I have been Minister for Trade and Customs for nearly four years, on only one occasion have I broadcast a speech relating to the tariff. That occasion was when the Cabinet visited Western Australia and Ministers were invited to explain to the people of that State the function and policy of their respective departments. Having regard to the number of broadcast speeches which have been made by honorable members of thi3 House, the charge of partiality which has been made against the Australian Broadcasting Commission cannot be sustained. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) himself has actually delivered more addresses over the air than have some Ministers. Mr. Makin. - No.
– The honorable member gave an address upon the “Church in Europe “, and “ International Affairs “ ; the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has also broadcast; and by no stretch of the imagination could it be stated that the views of the various commentators are in accord with government thought. The very public commentator who has been mentioned by honorable members of the Opposition, is a stern critic of the tariff policy of the Government. On the only occasion on which I have spoken at the Constitutional Club during the last few yours lily remarks were not broadcast, because the Australian Broadcasting Commission considered that my subjectmatter was of a political nature. But on the Monday previously . I had the privilege of listening to a broadcast of the remarks of a critic of the Government, and on the following Monday a similarly adverse speech was broadcast from the same quarter. That experience definitely shows that so far from the Australian Broadcasting Commission going to great lengths to please the Administration, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) assorted, it does act independently of the Government. Nor ar« the opinions of the commentators necessarily favorable to the Government. Some pi the critics are merely academic, and not in touch with governmental affairs. Their remarks may be equally as displeasing to the Opposition as they are sometimes to the Government.
I regret that some honorable members have seen fit to criticize the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In this connexion, I take up the cudgels on behalf of only one of them, Mrs. Couchman. Honorable members of the Opposition have asserted that she owes her position on the commission to the fact that she was associated with the Australian Women’s National League, and was its president for years. That should certainly not be a disqualification. T was not a member of the Government fit the time, but T know that Mrs. Couchman was selected because she possessed every qualification for the position. She has a university degree, is highly cultured, and no woman is better fitted to occupy a place on the board. In regard to the number of times that Ministers have been said to broadcast, on one occasion on which 1’ was stated to have broadcast n speech, T was merely a supporting speaker, the function being a parliamentary dinner at which I was supporting the toast to a State Premier. It is therefore ridiculous for honorable members to cite the number of occasions upon which a Minister may broadcast as evidence of favoritism on the part of the Australian Broadcasting Commission towards the ministerial parties.
– Was not a speech at an Australian Natives Association social broadcast ?
– I do not think so; I wish it had been, because the functions of that organization are usually a monopoly for the Opposition. The Australian Natives Association appears to be a stamping ground for the Australian Labour party, and a Minister of this. Government who speaks at one of its functions knows that his remarks often receive censure. At the same time such a function does afford him an opportunity to put the Govern-, ment view. Perhaps it will be of advantage if the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasts the speeches which will be delivered at the next important function of the Australian Natives Association.
– Is the Australian Natives Association wholly devoted to the Australian Labour party?
– A section of the Australian Natives Association supports the Australian Labour party but is not enthusiastic about the honorable member. In my opinion, the AttorneyGeneral has conclusi vely shown that there is ito discrimination by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in favour of the Government.
.- I endorse the very sound principle that A class stations should not be used for purposes of political controversy; they should be kept free from party politics. As a result of the debate this morning, I am perfectly satisfied that this principle has been established, and that all parties are in accord with it. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who submitted this motion, rather suggested that his desire was to have this matter settled for all time, and I join with him in hoping that the A class stations will always be kept free of party politics. If honorable members will analyse the list of speeches which arc stated to have been made by Ministers from A class stations they will find that the allegation that the commission has been allowing the stations to be used for party political purposes is without foundation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) entirely undermined the case which was submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney when he indicated that his complaint against’ the Government- was not that it had used stations- for political purposes, but that iti had denied, the* right t& certain’ individuals’ tO’ broadcast.
– The Leader of tieOpposition referred to speeches that were not delivered.
– During the course of his speech the honorable gentleman could cite only one instance of a person being denied permission to deliver an address, over an A class station; and’ 1° do not consider that the charge was established’. One vital point should, not be overlooked : The act which constituted the Australian Broadcasting Commission does not leave with the Government thechoice in these matters. Ministers have nothing to answer in this connexion. The. commission has- rightly exercised the function which this- Parliament has entrusted to it; and- its impartiality is beyond question.
– But if the AustralianBroadcasting Commission- is not doing its job- impartially the Government has the right to take- action?’ Mr.. FRANCIS. - I agree; but nocase has been made out this morning to warrant the intervention of Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney are speaking’ with different voices’ on this matter.
I do not agree with the criticism which has been levelled to-day against the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In my opinion, it has carried out its functions remarkably well.- I contrast the extraordinarily unsatisfactory position, which existed in Queensland under the old regime,, shortly before the Australian Broadcasting Commission was constituted, with the present state of affairs. Queensland listeners were given only the fag ends of all sorts of programmes.
-Order ! The honor-
Bible, member’s remarks are not relevant to* the motion.
– I am endeavouring to defend the commission from attacks which have been made to-day by certain honorable members.
– The attacks on the commission have been made in respect to a’ certain definite matter; and; not itsgeneral administration.
– As a- passing reference; may I say that the various1 criticisms against the- Australian Broadcasting Commission which have been made to-day by honorable members’, are unjustified( It is carrying, out its functions most satisfactorily; and- the charge against it- of partiality for- the Government, cannot be sustained’. The unsatisfactory conditions which existed’ in Queensland- before the Australian Broadcasting Commission was constituted’ have been rectified1, and the A class station of that State- now possesses” an orchestra, which hitherto’ had been denied if.
– The- honorable member must observe1 my ruling.
– If I were permitted I could indicate the efficiency and1 impartiality of the commission’s, administration. I desire to pay that tribute to the commission,; particularly after- the criticisms which have been voiced! to-day. J am confident that it is. conscientiously endeavouring, to discharge the. trust reposed in it by this Parliament,, and nothing which has been said: in this debate1 can convince me that, it has. failed’, in this respect.
– In the. light, of the evidence submitted,, even, by Government speakers, does the honorable member think that the commission has. taken an impartial course-?.
– I do. In- my opinion, no case has been made out te justify a charge of partiality against the: commission. The Leader of the Opposition stated that he did; not object to what has- been done by the commission or to the list, of speeches to which reference has-been made; but he. did complain that certain persons had not been permitted to broadcast.
– Does the honorable member consider that the Opposition has a right to reply to any controversialpolitical matter which is broadcast by a Minister ?
– If “ any definite political’ s-peech is made in the interests of a certain party the Opposition should be given an opportunity to reply. If, at election time, the Prime Minister’s policy speech is broadcast, the Leader of the Opposition should be given the right to state his views.
– The Leader of the Opposition is granted that right.
– If, in connexion with a referendum, the affirmative view is broadcast by one party, those who take the negative side should be given the right to reply. I believe that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who represent a small coterie, were given an opportunity to broadcast their views in respect of a matter of some public importance. The record of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shows that it has always acted impartially toward all sections of political thought. If a Minister delivers a speech at a civic reception or on a special visit to a town, or at any other function which is broadcast, I fail to- see any necessity for his political opponents to reply to what are actually the normal observations of a Minister, and are without any party purpose. . Although the honorable member for West Sydney has not justified his charges against the Australian Broadcasting Commission his motion has given to honorable members an opportunity to speak in support of a principle which this House fully approves.
Sitting suspended from l&.k5 to 2,15 p.m.
.- The motion is a declaration of the unquestionable right of representatives of every school of political thought to express their views over the national broadcasting stations, and our complaint is that, hitherto,, this right has been enjoyed, for the most part, only by persons whose political views are in line with the policy of the present Government. I have listened to broadcast addresses for many months, and I take the strongest exception to those delivered by the well-known commentator known as “ The Watchman.” On every occasion when he touches on Government policy, he is on the side of the United Australia party.
– rOn the contrary, he has, at times, severely criticized the Government.
– Invariably he condemns Labour policy, possibly because he himself is a known free-trader, and Labour’s policy is protectionist. On one occasion he commented very adversely upon the tariff policy enunciated by Mr. Forde, who was Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin Government. Any public servant who criticizes publicly Government policy should be suspended. For a long time I was unaware of his identity, but upon inquiry I discovered that “The Watchman” is Mr. E. A. Mann, a former Nationalist member of the House of Representatives for Perth, and I no longer wondered why he spoke so strongly in support of the United Australia party. I feel sure that his display of political bias will bring discredi t upon the broadcasting commission’s national broadcasts of comments on views of the day. I compliment the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) for the restraint which he showed when, during a recent visit to Tasmania, he was entertained by the Chamber of Commerce in Hobart. The honorable gentleman, speaking to a mixed audience, wisely avoided topics of a controversial nature.. His ministerial colleagues have not always shoAvn the same good taste. On many occasions, before mixed audiences, they have delivered strong political addresses which, of course, have been quite out of place; I congratulate the honorable member ior West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) for having submitted his motion, and for the manner in which he showed how the idea of a national broadcasting commission was being “ whiteanted “ by means of partisan broadcast talks on controversial subjects. If it is right for a section of the Communist party to broadcast its theories, and for another section of that party to reply, surely representative members of the Labour party are equally entitled to use the national network for the furtherance of Labour’s ‘policy. If this opportunity were given, we would not utilize it merely to speak on the shooting of certain individuals in other countries, but, we would place before the people of Australia the principles of our party. It is well known that, when the ItaloAbyssinian dispute was engaging the attention of the Commonwealth Government and ‘ statesmen overseas, “ The
Watchman “ declared himself definitely on the side of the Commonwealth Government with regard to the imposition of sanctions, about which there was a wide divergence of opinion in Australia ; but a representative of the Labour party was not giveu the opportunity to state ils views. I protest against the action of the broadcasting commission in endeavouring to damage the interests of Labour by allowing its commentator and other speakers to misrepresent its policy on subjects of current interest.’ Even the trade dispute with Japan has been discussed in the same partisan spirit by “ The Watchman “. The action of this Government in using the national network for the furtherance of nationalist policy may be taken as a precedent, and when Labour returns to power, it may appoint some of its supporters to the commission and use the network in the same way. Over the air recently, Mr. Thomas, spoke approvingly of the Russian «xperirnent, and Professor Anderson took the opposite view. We claim that the Labour party should have the same opportunity to broadcast its policy to Australian listeners. The function of the broadcasting commission should be to educate and entertain listeners. The average licence-holder does not v ant to listen to the dry “ tripe “ served up by “ The Watchman “. Unless boon there is a radical change of policy, we shall have national broadcasting stations being used even more frequently by Commonwealth Ministers for propaganda talks against Labour. Our complaint is that the broadcasting commission is not impartial, that it is biased against the principles of the Labour party, and that it allows political “ deadheats “ to broadcast nationalist propaganda to the detriment of our party.
.- I spproach the discussion- of’ this motion from an entirely different angle. I claim for the advocates of every school of political thought the right to the free expression of their opinions. For years I have listened to broadcast addresses, in which violent attacks were made upon the Soviet system of government. Not until recently was the opportunity given to state the other side. No man can speak with more authority about the conditions in the Soviet than Mr. Thomas, who has returned recently from Russia, and no man is more capable of stating the case against the Soviet than Professor Anderson. I listened to both broadcasts and disagreed with both. I have discussed the Soviet system of government over SKY, our own station, on several occasions during the last few years, but I give to my political opponents the same opportunity to express their opinions freely. In the recent broadcast discussion dealing with Russia, there was no reference whatever to the principles of the United Australia party, the Country party, o’ the Labour party.- The speakers confined their attention to conditions in Russia. It was a fair and informative debate. Surely we have not reached the stage in this country when we deny to others the right which we claim for ourselves to the free expression ot’ political opinion.
– Who has made that suggestion ?
– When the Leader of Mie Opposition reads the report of the speeches to-day, he will see.
– Will the honorable member explain why Mr. Thomas was allowed to speak, and a representative of the Labour party was denied the same right 1
– I am not dealing w ith that point. All I am saying is that there should be complete freedom for the expression of political opinions over the air.
– I have never disputed that.
– Then we are in agreement. Our leader and the secretary of our party wished to speak over the national network and put Labour’s view with regard to sanctions against Italy, but they were denied that right.
– Who is the honorable member’s leader?
- Mr. Beasley and Mr. Lang, and the secretary of the Labour Conneil is Mr. R. A. King, M.L.C. They desired to state the case against sanctions from the Federal, State and industrial points of view; but were told that the only opportunity which political leaders would have to speak over the national network would be during an election campaign, and then only one speech for each party would be allowed. We have been under that impression all along. I also raise my voice in protest against the commentator on the A class circuit known as “ The Watchman “. Whenever the commission’s commentator said that a government had acted rightly I knew that if I took the opposite view I should be in the right. We have been educating our people along those lines. . This gentleman is a public servant, and is paid with public money. It is not for him to give expression to his own views. His duty is merely to announce news, not to comment upon it or to twist it. So well has he fared financially in the position that he is able to take a trip abroad.- I have nothing to say against the present Sydney commentator, who takes no side in politics, but gives a “ rap “ to either side when it is deserved. “ The Watchman “ has acted disgracefully. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is a national organization, not a party auxiliary. I stand by the statement made to-day by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in. regard to the privileges enjoyed by Ministers. We have no complaint to make in that regard. But we do say that when a controversial matter is raised, either the Leader of the Opposition or some person deputed by him should have the right to reply.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
The following papers were presented: -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 103fi -
No. 38 - City Area Leases (No. 2).
No. 40. - City Area Lenses (No. 3).
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 30th September (vide page 715), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - the Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £7,900 “, be agreed to.
– I had. not intended to take part in the discussion of the budget. So good is it, that it seemed to me to call for not very much discussion by representatives of the Government. But I have been brought to my feet by the fact that a former Attorney-General of the Commonwealth has, characteristically, thought fit to make a personal attack on me, and, as some circulation and credence may be given to his remarks, it seems proper that I should offer a few brief observations by way of reply to them.
– It was not a personal attack.
– I do not propose to rehearse or review the history of the James case, and of the judicial decisions which have been given with respect to section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has already relieved me of that obligation. Nor do I propose to enter into an entirely fruitless discussion, as to the correctness or otherwise of any decision given by any court, because this problem of the interpretation of section 92, insofar as it relates to the question of whether or not that section binds the Commonwealth, has now been set at rest by the Privy Council. But I do want to say a few words in regard to the remarks which the honorable member for Batman has seen fit to make concerning my association with the determination of the matter by the Privy Council.
Speaking with the advantage of afterwisdom, the honorable member described the dictum of the High Court of Australia in the McArthur case - to the effect that section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution does not bind the Commonmonwealth - as amazing and revolutionary. I offered, in somewhat more restrained language, similar criticism in a publication to which the honorable member has referred. The opinion which I expressed, in relation to that decision, in the Australian Law Journal in 1928, is now held against me. The opinion which the honorable member offered to the same effect in 1936 is, I suppose, to be counted to him for virtue. The only difference is, that mine was given before the case was decided, and his after that event.
I understood the honorable gentleman to say - I have not had an opportunity to peruse the report of his speech ^tliat by appearing for the State of Victoria as well as for the Commonwealth I had ‘a foot in each camp. Those honorable mem’bess who were present in this chamber during the course of a debate which took place while I was in England this year, will remember that the last accusation made against me in connexion with the case was that I had both feet in one camp and !had, therefore, no legitimate connexion with the other. But the honorable gentleman says that I had a’ foot in each camp. Indeed, in one of those masterly efforts ait .paradox which he achieved yesterday, he said that I was in the fortunate position that, if the ‘Commonwealth won I was .aid sight here, and if the Commonwealth lost, or. if Ae State of Victoria won - I for.get ‘how .lie actually put it - I -would be all light in Bounkestreet. That sounds very .attractive (until one remembers that, if the Commonwealth lost in the Privy ConnciL he .State of Victoria lost also, and if the Oomimonweadth won, the State iof Victoria won also. By referring to matters such as the’ State transport laws, the honorable menfber has endeavoured to suggest tfhat the worst service fhat could ‘be performed on’ ‘behalf of the .’State ,of . Victoria -asias *far me to succeed in the argument which I, .apparently inaompetently, addressed to the IRrdVy Council. He overlooked one consideration -which will not be far from the minds <of the majority of honora’ble members ..of (this .chamber, namely, that whatever the (position may be as to the validity of State (transport legislation, it will be .disco-v.er.ed wlien .the High Court deals with the case which is now pending with .respect to it. But when .this .question fell for decision in thg P.rivy Council, there was -one -pnoblem confronting the Parliament of the iComanonweal-th .amd the various States. It w.as aiot an academic problem, but -one of the greatest practical moment. It was - how far .could the marketing legislation >of this country be sustained 1 In that problem, the .State of Victoria had an interest just ;as vital as that of the .Commonwealth, a<nd .-so had the States of New South Wales and Queensland. It is no mere .coincidence that those three States made .common cause to support the Gommonwealth in the litigation on the matter before the Privy Council. My honorable and learned friend has suggested -that, in the course of my argument, which apparently he has perused, I submitted views which were calculated to destroy the interests of my client, the State of Victoria. Conducting a post-mortem of one’s own argument is an ill business. I do not propose to match the criticism of my argument with an endeavour to praise it. It is not for me to offer a view on the skill, the completeness, or the accuracy of the argument that I addressed to the Brivy Council. It is ‘sufficient for me to say that I did the best that I could. I may also ‘be pardoned if I add *hat tlhe Privy Council offered no adverse observations on the manner in which I performed the task.
– The honorable gentleman received the bouquet; but the judgment went against him.
– Of course, it did. Had .the honorable gentleman been in my place he might .have won, but without the bouquet. I direct the attention of honorable members to one very striking fact. Such argument as I presented to the Privy Council -on behalf of the State of Victoria, in common with the Commonwealth of Australia, was presented on the instructions of the Government of Victoria. Those instructions were, that the State of Victoria desired to support entirely the submission of the Commonwealth. My learned friend, Mr. Manning, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, appearing for that State and Queensland, acted under similar instructions. My learned friend, the ‘honoraib’le member for Batman has now discovered that both Mr. Manning and I were recreant- I think that that was .the word which he used - to our .duty; that, while pretending to appear for certain State governments, in reality we were undermining those governments. It is interesting to record that the State of ‘Victoria has made no criticism -of my argument, and that the’ States of New ‘South Wales and Queensland have made no criticism ‘of the argument advanced by Mr. Manning. The only person who has complained on behalf of those three governments is the honorable member for Batman, the selfconstituted representative of those instrumentalities, which I should have thought might be expected to understand the character of the case that they wished to have presented for them before the Privy Council, without reference to the honorable member.
– I am a citizen of Victoria.
– In the earlier portion of his speech,, the honorable member appeared to be a little cold and diffident. Warming to his work, he had the effrontery to say that, in the oourse of my argument, I had ridiculed Sir Robert Garran.
– Hear, hear!
– That statement is entirely false. In the course of my argument, I was confronted by the undoubted fact that in Vizzard’s case, presumably on the instructions of my predecessor in this office, Sir Robert Garran, as counsel for the Commonwealth, had made a submission which was entirely at variance with that which I was presenting to the Privy Council. When this was brought up, I informed the Privy Councilr- very respectfully, I hope - that it was a novelty to me to be told that, because some counsel appearing for the Commonwealth in some former case had used a particular argument, no succeeding counsel could use an inconsistent argument in a case of the same type.
– Was that when the honorable gentleman referred to “estoppel “ by Garran ?
– It was. At the time, I thought it was almost a bright remark. It was not until I ‘heard the honorable gentleman’s interpretation of it that either I, or my friend Sir Robert Garran, realized that I had ridiculed that gentleman.
After this prolonged post-mortem examination, the honorable gentleman went ©n to say that I misled the Privy Council by saying that the Commonwealth iand >the Staite -of Victoria were making common cause. That statement, he :said, was totally incorrect.
Mr-. Brennan. - I did not say that the honorable gentleman misled the Privy Council. He made the statement, but did not -mislead.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean ‘that I tried to -mislead the Privy Council?
– The honorable gentleman made a submission which wa3 not justified.
– I take up the sneering allusion that I did not mislead the Privy Council - of course it was too wide awake to be misled - but that I did my best to mislead it, and was not competent to achieve that object. The honorable gentleman affirms that it was totally incorrect to say that the -Commonwealth and the State of Victoria were making common cause. If he will pursue his researches into this case a little more profoundly, he will discover that the litigant was the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth was taken to the Privy Council as a respondent by the appellant James, and every State in Australia, with the exception of South Australia, applied to the Privy Council to be allowed to intervene. When anybody intervenes in a case by leave, he is allowed to do so in order that he may do one thing, namely, support either the one party or the other. In this case Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland intervened to support the Commonwealth. When they filed their formal case in the Privy Council, the formal case filed by Victoria was “ The State of Victoria relies on the arguments set ‘out in the case for the Commonwealth of Australia “. Yet, apparently, that is not making common cause I What is more, the State of Victoria in its instructions to me repeated exactly the same thing. When the case come up for hearing, I rose, as I thought in my innocence, and said to the Privy Council “ My lords, in this case the Commonwealth ‘of Australia and the State of Victoria are making common cause “. Do honorable members think that I was right?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hearl Mr. Brennan. - Nevertheless, the case was lost.
– So mow .the .gravamen of the attack is that I lost. The honorable member cannot have it “both ways. With some learning, the honorable member for Batman reviewed the history of the case yesterday, and pointed out that the proposition on ‘which I had to rely on the authority of the High ‘Court was amazing and revolutionary. If lie proved anything to his own satisfaction, yesterday, it was that I could not have won the case. Indeed, he said so, because he said that I had gone home to flog a dead horse.
– Hear, hear !
– Having gone to London to do my best to save this legislation for the people of Australia, and having failed, the honorable gentleman sneeringly says “You lost “. I tell him that I went as close to winning as any other honorable member opposite would have done.
– The honorable gentleman was a long way behind.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Tasmania should keep out of this discussion. I call him the honorable member for Tasmania advisedly, because only by reason of section 92 of the Constitution is he enabled to sit in this chamber at all. The fact is that, on this whole question of marketing, the Commonwealth and three State Governments were fully seised of the tremendous importance of saving the legislation, if that could be done. It was for that reason that they made common cause, and by having, as far as possible, the one submission of their case to the Privy Council, they sought to indicate, as they were entitled to indicate, the immense constitutional importance of this controversy to all the people of Australia. The fact that they were defeated is, may I say, of no particular moment in considering the subject that the honorable member has raised. After all, whenever an advocate argues a case for any one, as on the many’ occasions I have argued cases for the honorable member himself, he does his best for his client. I remind the honorable member that I sometimes win cases entrusted to me.
– Hear, hear!
– From the honorable member’s remarks, it would appear that on this occasion, however, I lost through some defect of my own. I make no apology for that.
– The honorable gentleman lost because he reflected conflicting interests.
– In this matter the honorable member for Batman has the privilege - in his case not a rare one - of standing alone. The clients whose money was spent and whose interests were at stake have never made that complaint ; they have not even hinted at it. If the honorable gentleman would re-peruse the argument, including my own 49,000 words of contribution to it, he would discover that the greatest possible care was taken in the course of my argument, and also in the supplementary submissions of Mr. Manning, to preserve, as far as possible, the interests of both golvernments in the face of section 92.
– Not one word was said for the State of Victoria.
– I cannot hope to illuminate the honorable member any further. I suggest that he re-read the argument. After all, it is not be expected that a man will grasp all the intricacies of a subject like this, the first time he comes to it.
I offer one final observation. Reference was made by the honorable member for Batman to some difficulty in which he imagined I should find myself. He said that, writing in a private capacity in the Australian Law Journal, I expressed one opinion in 1928, whilst in my capacity as an advocate before the Privy Council in 1936, I submitted another view. He then asked what argument I would submit to the people of Australia. That sort of thing is all right for an ignorant crowd, but it does not represent the kind of argument that should be addressed to this Parliament. No one knows better than does the honorable member for Batman, that, when a man goes into court as advocate his own views do not matter. He has no right to have his own views in his mind. He is there to represent his client.
– As Attorney-General?
– Yes, as AttorneyGeneral. “When an Attorney-General goes into court to argue on behalf of the Crown, he has exactly the same duty as any other advocate. He owes to his client all the zeal, all the industry, all the honesty, all the skill that he possesses. If he allows his own personal views and prejudices to cloud the submission that he will make, then he fails in his duty as an advocate. If it were not so - if an advocate presenting a case were at liberty to say “I will not have that because I hold views to the contrary “ - he would be acting as judge rather than as advocate. The beauty of our judicial system is that a man who goes into court as an advocate goes there to speak with as much skill and earnestness, as much power of conviction, as he possesses on behalf of his client, who is not able to speak there in his own proper person. Yet it is said that because, when writing in a somewhat judicial capacity for a law journal, I said something inconsistent with the submission I made subsequently to the Privy Council on behalf of a client, I have placed myself in a false position. If the honorable member for Batman had had more experience of court work he would have put himself many times in a similar position, and would know that it is not a false position. He would know that the voice of the advocate is never expected to be the same as the voice of the judge. The duty of an advocate is to his client and to the case that he presents; and so long as he performs that duty with honesty-
– For a private client.
– Does the honorable member suggest that one rule should apply in the case of an advocate who speaks on behalf of a private client, but that another rule should apply when an Attorney-General speaks on behalf of a government? Is it to be suggested that, whilst cases may be presented with the utmost vigour, ingenuity and resource on behalf of a private client, a government is to go into court crippled by having as its legal representative a man who says “ There is a point here which might appeal to your lordships, but I do not propose to put it, because I once wrote sin article against that view”? Their lordships of the Privy Council would very properly put it, “Mr. Attorney, you had better go away from this court and learn your duty “.
Debate resumed from the 30th September (vide page 6S1) on motion by Mr. Thorby -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the House has for its object the providing of a bounty of 2s a case on oranges exported to the United Kingdom. In introducing the measure, ‘the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) gave the history -for the last few years of the bounty provided for this industry. Of all the primary producers who have needed assistance during recent years, the growers of citrus fruit have probably needed it more than any others. The industry has been affected, by circumstances beyond the control of the growers most of whom are small settlers with limited capita;! who have taken up small holdings, and, by their own labour and that of the members of their families, have succeeded in obtaining a living from the growing of citrus fruits. Their original capital outlay does not give to them any return for a number of years, because the trees take some time to reach maturity. They are therefore entitled to move sympathetic treatment than is justified in the case of other producers whose returns are more speedy and those who have other sources of revenue. The industry has been handicapped by two main causes beyond the control of the growers. First, the purchasing power of the people during the depression years was so low that the home market for citrus fruits dwindled. A further reason for their plight was the loss of the New Zealand market. I do not think that honorable members generally are fully aware of the seriousness of the loss of that market. It was the most severe of the many blows suffered by the growers. During earlier discussions in this Parliament in relation to the citrus fruit industry, the loss of the New Zealand market was generally attributed to the embargo placed on the importation of potatoes from New Zealand. I well remember the discussions on that subject and the representations made by interested bodies from various parts of Australia. It was held by Australian growers of potatoes that the embargo was necessary, because New Zealand potatoes suffered from a disease known as “ corky scab “ which, if introduced into this country, would injure the Australian industry.
That argument was very strongly pressed by interested1 potato-growers in -some areas, but I am not in a position- to state the degree of good faith in which it was advanced. Reports have reached us from New Zealand that this disease is already present in Australia, and’ should not be used as. a justification for prohibiting the entry of New Zealand potatoes into this country: Because of the very wide differences of opinions on- the subject, honorable members should be.- more fully advised on this aspect of the. controversy. Undoubtedly sufficient time has elapsed to enable the true facts to- be ascertained. However, the ground of objection to the admission of Australian citrus fruits into New Zealand seems to have shifted. To-day we. are told that the authorities in New Zealand fear. that, the admission-, of our citrus fruit into- that dominion will result in the introduction to it of the Mediterranean fruit fly. The Assistant Minister, when discussing this subject yesterday, said that since he had been associated with the negotiations all the- discussion has hinged upon- that objection. I am obliged to state, however, that certain, agents and merchants in Sydney, who handle this fruit, do nol! concur in the Assistant Minister’s, opinion that this is the real problem. Rightly or wrongly they feel that beneath the controversy more powerful factors than even the Mediterranean fly are exercising a great influence in the determination- of the stand that rs being taken. I cannot bring myself to believe that the Government of New Zealand,, without having very good grounds for doing so, will continue to oblige its people to pay a- very much higher price for Californian oranges than they would need to- pay for the better quality oranges that could be admitted into the do-minion from Australia. If the Government of New Zealand is forcing its people to pay a higher price than is necessary, then we have a case for definite action, and we should give publicity to the fact. Speaking for the citrus-growers of ‘New South Wales, I can say quite definitely that the New Zealand market is of such importance that everything humanly possible should be done to regain it for Australia. I am not satisfied that the Government of New Zealand intends ‘ to ifr. Beasley. remain permanently adamant. In any case I feel- that the full, facts of the- situation have, not been- revealed. Three Ministers of the Commonwealth Government have visited New Zealand within recent years-, and have discussed this subject with two different administrations in that dominion. Sena-tor Sir Waiter MassyGreene was the. first Australian Government representative- to take the matter up- in New Zealand. Afterwards the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart)- visited Aat country while he was in ministerial office, and at present the> Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) is there on the same mission. No doubt, all these honorable gentlemen, were fully seised of the details of the situation. I hope that at a later stage in this debate the honorable member for Parramatta will state his. own views upon the issues that have been raised and say what he thinks could be done to bring the negotiations to a satisfactory issue. Surely it is not. impossible satisfactorily to adjusta trade disagreement of this kind with a dominion which is almost at our elbow. It seems Gilbertian, in a way, that we should be concentrating on the securing of markets for this fruit 16,000 miles distant, when a large market is capable of exploitation just across the Tasman Sea.
After all, the provisions of this- bill must be regarded as of only temporary benefit, for .the- Assistant- Minister told us i-n> his second-reading speech that unless the industry organized itself on lines similar to those adopted- by other industries, the Government would not be prepared to grant further assistance to it. Two points seem to me to need settlement. If I sense the feeling of honorable members on both sides of the chamber who are directly interested in the subject, correctly, they feel that the negotiations have been conducted in an unsatisfactory atmosphere, and that we have not yet ascertained the real reason why the New Zealand market has nol been regained for our citrus-growers. The second point is that if we could ascertain the real cause of the trouble, we could make a more effective approach to the authorities in New Zealand, if the fault be on their side; but we should take immediate, steps to- remedy the position irrespective of what interests aro involved.
I now direct attention to another consideration. Although this bill provides for a bounty on the export of oranges, it contains no provision that will be of any assistance to mandarin-growers. The people engaged, in the mandarin, industry have had. an extremely bad time during tha last few years. Many of them have had to pick their fruit, throw it on, the ground and plough it in. This is au extreme hardship to men who have had te- wait for a. number of years for. their, trees- to come into bearing. The result of this situation is that many mandarin-growers are in a sad plight today. These people must be considered to be in. what I shall call the small settler class, and, as such they are. entitled to the fullest, consideration “that. Parliament can give them. Their resources are limited. They are not. in the position, of other primary producers who,, if one line of production, fails, can turn to some other line. With these, people, any failure in the profitable marketing of their fruit is a complete failure, and. results in a collapse of their affairs. Many mandaringrowers were formerly engaged in. industrial enterprises in city areas, but saved sufficient money to invest in their small fruit-growing properties. This means, of course, that they and their families were able to leave- the more densely settled areas in the cities’, and become independent of. private employers, and consequently immune from the usual trials and tribulations of those who are entirely dependent upon secondary industries for their living. This being the case, Parliament should consider the adoption of some permanently effective measure to stabilize their industry.
We have been told that the Government is trying to develop citrus fruit markets overseas. This, of course, requires the solution of many difficul-ties which ar-e invariably associated with an export fruit trade. Refrigerated space is, for example, always a problem. Those who have witnessed the marketing of our fruit overseas, have told us that it is essential that the utmost care shall be taken in the picking and packing as well as the marketing of our products. If the. fruit is injured in any way in the packing, it comes out of the cases, bruised and more or less unattractive, so that all the advertising in the world would not ensure a satisfactory market for it. Several, Ministers have in recent years investigated overseas the problems associated with the marketing of our fruit, but I am not at all sure that they have been the right people to undertake this duty,, though they have set about their inquiries with the best of intentions. After all, the packing and marketing of this fruit is a job for specialists. Picking; and packing are just as important as advertising and selling. I appreciate: the difficulties connected with this aspect of the subject, but I have not yet been convinced that the investigations that have been- made overseas have resulted in any real progress. It seems to me’ that certain other countries have advanced much farther1 than Australia in> this- regard in the last few years. It is about four years since the New Zealand1 market collapsed, and in that time some more effective- overseas marketing- arrangements could surely have been made. The citrus market- of certain other countries has developed to a much greater extent than that of Australia. According to figures compiled by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census’ and Statistics, the citrus-growers of the United States of America increased their sales on the British market in. 1935 by 6.33: per cent. Brazil’s figures have decreased by 1’.19 per cent. The people who seem to have improved their position more than anybody else are those associated with the industry in Palestine. They supplied no less than 10 per cent, of the total fruit placed on the British market. South Africa’s exports have increased by .16 per cent., whilst those of other British countries, including Australia, have- decreased by nearly 1 per cent.
– The season in Palestine occurs at a different time of the year from that in Australia.
– That may partly explain the position, but I ask the Assistant Minister if any steps are being- taken at the moment, as the result of the present trouble in Spain, to capture for Australia any part of the Spanish share of the British market?
– The season in Spain also occurs at the wrong time of the year from our point of view.
– Apparently, then, iiic- argument must be advanced that, from a seasonal point of view, our interests clash with those of other countries ?
– In that respect we clash particularly with Brazil and other South American countries, and also with South Africa ; this is a serious difficulty.
– Is it not a fact that Glasgow merchants recently ordered a big consignment of oranges from South Africa?
– I could not say.
– In view of these difficulties Australia does not seem to have much hope of capturing the market in Great Britain as a means to offset the loss of its New Zealand trade. The situation is very serious. In 1933 about 31,500,000 hundredweight of oranges, valued at about .-£8,000,000, were placed on the British market, and of 10,500,000 hundredweight, valued at £7,000,000, placed on the British market in 1934-35, Australia’s share was valued at only £S2,968. When we consider the total consumption of citrus fruits in Great Britain this figure is not very striking from our point of view. The position calls for much improvement. If we are to accept the statement of the Assistant Minister that much of Australia’s difficulty is due to seasonal clashes with other countries, and, assuming that the quality of our fruit is equal to that of other countries, our only remedy lies in some action being taken to persuade the British Government to regulate its citrus imports with a view to giving Australia a greater share of the British market. As to whether such a step would be practical in the light of ties which the British Government may have with these other countries, we cannot say, but it is a point upon which those in close contact with the trade would be able to enlighten us. Apparently, we cannot beat these other countries to the British market, first, because of seasonal clashes, and, secondly, Ix-cause of disadvantages arising from our greater distance from that market.
– The problem of cold storage also is a serious one.
– Our only chance then seems - to lie in persuading the British Government to take some action that will give Australia a greater share of the British market. When the bill is being debated in committee more information will, perhaps, be available to honorable members on this point.
Finally, I wish to deal with the bounty itself. During the course of the speech of the Assistant Minister honorable members on this side indicated, by interjection, that we were anxious to see that the bounty was paid direct to the growers themselves. I understand that growers have not yet received any payment under the bounty of 6d. a case, provided in respect of the 1934 export crop. I have been informed that growers who forwarded their oranges to Gosford packing houses, which handled a good deal of the fruit in that season, have not yet received payment under that bounty on 661 cases. I have been advised that the people who handle these exports, shippers in particular, maintained that they had suffered loss in marketing this particular fruit overseas, and, consequently, were entitled to recoup ‘themselves out of the bounty paid on such fruit. In accordance with the procedure followed in the payment of the bounty for that year, the shippers concerned, acting as agents, received the bounty in the first instance, and, after recouping themselves for their losses, passed on the balance, if any, to the growers. I do not think that this Parliament approves of such a procedure. The bounty was advanced for the specific purpose of helping growers, so that at least they would be enabled to remain on their blocks and prepare their holdings for the next crop. I do not think that this Parliament intended that any part of the bounty should be used to make good the losses of agents. The shippers were obliged to run an ordinary risk in handling these products and they should have accepted that loss in the usual way. This money should be paid direct to the growers who shoulder all the burdens in the industry. They are settled on holdings and probably work very long hours to produce their fruit. Consequently, any assistance which this Parliament might feel disposed to grant them from general revenue - and this applies not only to growers of citrus fruits, but to other primary producers as well - should be paid direct to the producers themselves, who should be permitted, in all cases, to dispose of that money in their own way. I want to be satisfied by the Assistant Minister on thi3 point. Does this measure meet the position which I have indicated? The Assistant Minister has circulated an amendment which be proposes to move in committee, but even this proposal, if I interpret it correctly, seems to provide that the payment of the bounty shall still be made through agents. I understand that the department will require a clearance from agents as to the amount of exports, but I do not think that this procedure binds the department in any ‘way to pay the agent. The amendment circulated by the Assistant Minister says -
Where the grower of the oranges exports the oranges through an agent, . the bounty may be paid to the agent . . .
– And the amendment adds that the agent shall be liable to account therefor to the grower.
– He can account for any money he withholds by saying that he deducted it in order to meet the grower’s liability to himself.
– Yes, and he would then place the responsibility upon the grower to prove, probably through legal action, that the money should have been paid to him. In such circumstances, the grower most probably would take the line of least resistance, arguing, that it was useless to throw good money after bad. I contend that if it were specifically provided in this measure that the bounty must go direct to the grower, then, irrespective of any agreement to the contrary which might be signed between the grower and his agent, no authority could deprive him of this right. I believe that a grower could not contract away his right when the relevant legislation provides for direct payment to himself. Such a law would be supreme, and the Government would then recognize only one person in the distribution of the bounty, and that would be the grower who actually produced the fruit. I hope that honorable members will take this view of the matter when the measure is being considered in committee, and that they will provide specifically for the payment of this bounty direct to the grower, thus ensuring that the payment will be made to the people who, it is intended, shall receive it. Finally, I hope that something practical will eventuate in respect of the New Zealand market.
– I support the proposals embodied in this measure on two main grounds. First, I believe that it is particularly desirable that we should explore on behalf of the Australian citrusgrower, the potentialities of the British market. This is necessary because of the tremendous possibilities for expansion of the citrus industry in most of the States, but particularly in New South Wales and South Australia. After studying figures which came under my notice when I was Minister for Commerce, I suggested that within a few years from that date, when the trees then being planted came into full bearing, there would be an oversupply in Australia of some millions of bushels of fruit on the basis of the markets then available. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to the importance of the British market. It is true that Britain imports between 10,000,000 and 11,000,000 cwt. of oranges annually, and it is equally true that of that market Australia, so far, has secured a very insignificant share. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) suggested, by way of interjection when the honorable member for West Sydney was speaking, that this fact was due mainly to our season clashing with the seasons of competitive countries, and also to the fact that Australia was at a disadvantage in being situated further than its competitors from the British market. It is a fact, however, that Britain receives almost half of its total imports of oranges from July to November, a period during which Australia could supply the British market. Obviously, the long distance over which the fruit has to be transported presents a serious problem. Scientific investigations have enabled our fruit-growers to overcome many of their difficulties, but their experience during the last few years has been such as to indicate that we have not yet reached anything like perfection in this direction. It is hardly reasonable, therefore, to expect the citrus-grower, out of the small margin he receives -on his product to-day, to carry on his industry without help from this Government. Because of the great potential value of the export market, I strongly support the Government’s proposal.
The citrus-growers are to-day, and have been for .some time, suffering very serious disability because of political action, or inaction. Until a few years ago, Australia exported annually to New Zealand 250,000 cases of oranges ; but, .because of a dispute between the two dominions, the volume of exports has been .tremendously reduced. I was surprised to hear the Assistant Minister say that the difficulty in the way -of a reconciliation between Australia and New Zealand on this matter was the need for taking measures against the introduction of disease. I remember that, at a conference held in Canberra of plant pathologists .and representatives of the States, the Commonwealth, and of New Zealand, it was unanimously decided that it was no longer necessary, in the interest of plant health, to retain these quarantine prohibitions. . It was stated that .the ordinary quarantine provisions would he sufficient to prevent the introduction of corky scab and fire blight into Australia, and of sandy blight into New Zealand. When I attended a conference in Wellington in 1934, a tentative agreement was formulated between the representatives of Australia and New Zealand with a view to overcoming these trade difficulties, and the .citrus-growers of Australia are disappointed that no attempt has been made to ratify that agreement.
I ask leave to continue my speech at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the following paper, laid on the table of the House, on Iiic 23rd September last, tie printed .-
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Thirteenth Annual Report, for year 1935-36.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read * first time.
.. - I move -
That the House -do now ‘adjourn.
On the 24th September, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made a statement in this House in which he suggested that there was tyrannical oppression of ratings of the Royal Australian Navy by their officers, that the personnel was discontented, that harsh and unjust punishments were ,given, that personnel had no method of representing any grievance or unjust treatment, and that the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) declined to supply information regarding the discontent which was stated to exist. All these suggestions or statements are emphatically denied. The honorable member’s charges are apparently based on a letter or letters stated to -be received from ratings. The letter quoted by the honorable member for East Sydney contains grossly inaccurate and exaggerated statements, and obviously emanates from an individual who is not worthy to belong to the Naval Service, amd who apparently desires to discredit that Service.
The penalties for offences in the Navy are fixed by the Naval Discipline Act, and no punishments outside that act are inflicted. All punishments in the Australian Squadron are recorded and examined by higher authority, first by the Admiral commanding, and, secondly, by the Navy Office. Charges of harsh or unjust treatment of personnel are unfounded. It is not correct that there is general discontent in the Australian Navy. It may be, and is probably inevitable anywhere, that among over 4,000’ men there exists an odd one or two who imagine that they have a grievance, but any such naval rating has a proper and satisfactory method of having his grievance investigated, and this method is fully known to all personnel. Nojustifiable cause for discontent exists..
Ratings now have had a full restoration of Financial Emergency Act deductions, and, within the last four years, material concessions, for example, free railway warrants twice a year to their homes for leave, excise-free tobacco in sea-going vessels, increased leave allowances, &c, have been granted, so that ratings are, in fact, now better off than they have ever been before.
That the charge of tyrannical treatment of personnel and general discontent is ridiculous and untrue is shown by the fact that, during the first six months of this year, over 70 per cent, of the personnel whose engagements expired in that period applied for, and were permitted, to re-engage for a further period of five years. Would this large proportion of men voluntarily extend their service if the conditions’ were in any way like those depicted by the honorable member for East Sydney and his correspondent? The Naval authorities regularly receive numerous applications from exratings desirous of re-entering the Royal Australian Navy, and from parents and others who desire sons and friends to be entered. Many such applications are sponsored ot recommended by members of Parliament of all parties. As mentioned before, an occasional malcontent is inevitable amongst” any large body of people, but. to suggest that there is in consequence general discontent in the Australian Navy is a most unjustifiable attempt to discredit a loyal and efficient body of men, of whom the country has good reason to be justly proud.
On 23rd September, the Minister for Defence, in reply to a question by the honorable member for. East Sydney regarding welfare committees,, explained that periodical reviews of service conditions are held. These reviews are, for all practicable purposes, the same as the previous system of welfare meetings, and’ afford personnel ample opportunity to put forward proposals for improved conditions. As stated by the Minister, a review took place in the latter part of 1935, when ratings put forward no fewer than 152 requests on various matters, such as an extension of age of retirement, food and victualling, promotion, leave, improvements in uniform, &c. Each request received full and careful con sideration, many were approved, and the whole series of requests, with the decisions thereon, were printed and promulgated for the information of. all ratings. So much for general welfare !
In regard to individual welfare, the Minister pointed out that, in any case where an officer, petty officer, or man thinks he has suffered personal oppression, injustice or other ill-treatment, or has been unjustly treated in any way, the regulations provide fully for his complaint to be considered by higher authority. Any suggestion that a person submitting a complaint is victimized bv his officers thereafter is utterly ridiculous and untrue.
The statement that Naval authorities are concerned as. to the political viewpoint of. the parents of recruits is not correct. The- Naval authorities, do make full inquiries, as to the character of candidates, as- only those of good character are accepted. They also endeavour to make certain that, candidates, neither belong to, nor are associated with,, any disloyal organization.
.- 1 listened with attention to the carefully prepared statement of the Minister (Mr. White) representing the Minister for Defence, in regard to the complaints T made concerning the activities of some of the officers of the Royal Australian Navy. The Minister made the bald statement that no such tiling as tyranny existed in the Navy,, but only this morning he admitted that one naval rating had received seven days’’ additional work - which means that he lost seven days’ holiday - because he had failed to lay out correctly the uniform of an officer.
– He had been found guilty of a series of offences; that was only one of them.
– The Minister put up a straw man and knocked him down again by denying my alleged statement that a rating had received ten days’”’ imprisonment for misplacing a dinner plate at table, but the fact is’ that I never made any such statement. My statement, which was in accordance with information supplied to me, was that a rating was given ten days additional duty because he served Commander Settings from the wrong side.
– There is nothing in the honorable member’s other statement, either.
– The Minister has tried to suggest that there is nothing wrong in the Navy, and that the men are quite satisfied and contented. He said that many ratings who had served the period of their enlistment re-applied for service. That merely indicates to me that the prospect of obtaining employment outside the Navy is very bad, and these men, failing to find work, have no option but to re-apply for admission. It indicates that the Government has so mishandled the unemployment situation that the men find it impossible to obtain work outside the Navy. The fact that many applications ore received from parents for the admission of their sons to the Navy proves nothing, except that the parents have no idea of what they are attempting to let their children in for. If they knew that they were offering their sons to be flunkeys in the Navy, instead of seamen, they would change their minds.
I have heard honorable members of this House boast of the “ silent Navy “. Whatever justification there may be for that boast, there is no doubt regarding the silence of the Naval Board, as honorable members have learned who have tried to obtain information from it. Invariably the reply to representations is that the matter has received further consideration, but the board cannot see its way to alter its previous decision.
The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), in reply to a question, said that the welfare committees were not necessary, and were not desired by ratings in the fleet, as they still enjoyed adequate facilities for bringing complaints and suggestions before the authorities. I happen to have in my hand a copy of Commonwealth Navy Orders, 106 of this year, dealing with the body which handles complaints of naval ratings from time to time. One of the requests made by the naval ratings was that the welfare machinery previously in existence be restored, in preference to the present arrangement for reviewing service conditions. The decision in that case was - “ This request is outside the scope of the review “. In order to show the natura of those complaints I point out that the ratings asked for the provision of a separate bathroom for patients suffering from venereal disease. That is an instance of the “ good “ conditions which, according to the Minister, prevail in the Navy. Men who have contracted highly contagious complaints are using the same bathrooms as the perfectly healthy men. This surely is a most serious matter. Tha decision of the naval authority, which tha Minister has stated, deals sympathetically with the complaints of ratings, was “ This will be considered in connexion with new construction “. In the meantime tha health of men on board the ships is endangered.
I invite the Minister in charge of the House, to convey to the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) tha necessity for setting up a board of inquiry to investigate these conditions. The witnesses should not be only the naval ratings themselves, because the men are so tyrannized and so afraid of victimization that many of them would not be prepared to give evidence. The only means which they have to ventilate their complaints, is through members of Parliament, and even in these circumstances they do not hand-write their letters, but submit them in typescript, lest the communications come into the possession of the Naval Board, which by an examination of the hand-writing, could ascertain the source of the complaints. If such an inquiry be held, witnesses should be summoned from ex-naval ratings who would be willing to coma forward and tell of the many complaints that have existed among the naval ratings for a considerable number of years. Tha fact that some ratings, while still in the service, have been prepared openly to state their complaints in an effort to obtain some alleviation of the harsh conditions, is sufficient evidence of the serious dissatisfaction which is existing. If the Government is prepared to institute the inquiry which I have suggested, it will obtain all the evidence it-needs.
Another complaint which has been made to me relates to the discrimination which is shown between officers and men in regard to the treatment meted out to them. I understand that when a vessel is in port, the ratings are permitted to receive visitors on two days a week, usually Saturdays and Sundays, but their visitors must go ashore at 5 o’clock. On the other hand the officers are permitted to keep their visitors on board till any hour of the morning, and they may even awaken a boat’s crew to man a launch and take the guests ashore.
I also invite the Minister to submit to the House details of the conditions which are prevailing at the present time at the naval prison at Garden Island. I have been informed by men who have been incarcerated in that prison, that they would rather undergo twelve months’ detention in a civil gaol than one month in the naval prison at Garden Island. It has been said that honorable members should not refer to these matters, because they arc deemed thereby to cause discontent in the Navy. There is no need for honorable members to cause discontent because the conditions which are now operating in the service have already done so. Another matter for complaint is that the officers ure permitted to bring liquor aboard the ships, but if any naval rating were to go afloat under the influence of liquor, or if he ventured to bring a bottle of liquor aboard, he would probably be sentenced to a long term of confinement in the cells. But so far as the higher strata of the service are concerned, quite a different set of conditions prevail. Does the Minister imagine for one moment that the workers who send their sons to join the Navy are aware that the youths are compelled to become the flunkeys ofofficers who probably come from different strata of society? And does not the Minister believe that the officers are capable of cleaning their own clothes and that it is not right to call upon full-grown men to wait upon mere boys of seventeen and eighteen? The complaints which I am ventilating are legitimate, and I ask the Minister to institute inquiries and not come to this House with a carefully prepared statement by the Naval Board in reply to my statement. I invite the Government to conduct an independent, inquiry and to take evidence from naval ratings _ and former naval ratings, thus making a thorough investigation of conditions generally in the Navy.
If it does so it will find that good grounds exist for the complaints which have been made about the treatment meted out to the men. The Government should take the necessary action to rectify these matters.
– I desire to direct the attention of the country, since it appears futile to direct the attention of the Government, to the lack of frankness that has characterized Ministerial statements in regard to what is being done respecting the resumption of migration. Last May I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) whether it was a fact that while the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) were abroad, they were engaged in consultations with the Dominions Office and representatives of the British Government with respect to the resumption of migration. In reply the Prime Minister informed me that he had no knowledge of any such discussions, although, he said, some discussion may have taken place. He proceeded to remark that whatever consultations had taken place had not led to the passing of any communication between the two Ministers and himself. Later on, one of the officials of the Dominions Office made it plain that he was in a position to say that certain progress had been made in respect of negotiations for the resumption of migration to Australia. During this session, I again put questions to the Prime Minister upon this subject, and the answers given, freely translated, were that no such steps were being contemplated by the Government in this direction. Broadly, I think that that is a reasonable inference to draw from the statement which the Prime Minister made to me. To-day, having learned that the Commonwealth Government had directed a communication to the governments of the States, which, it was said, had arisen out of a discussion at the recent Premiers Conference, I asked the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) if he would lay on the table all the documents relating to this ‘ matter. He has not done so, although he has stated that he will have a search made to see what documents in this connexion oan be made available for my perusal.
What I “want to know is : What definite proposals has the Commonwealth Government made to the States in respect to resumption of migration in some form or other; has the Commonwealth Government requested the States to resume the system of nominated passages, and what kind of financial provision is to be made either by the Commonwealth or the governments of the States in order to advance the money for such passages? Furthermore, in view of the unemployment position in Australia at the present time, and having regard to the specific statements which have been made by the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) in relation to migration and population, and the importance of first dealing with our -own social conditions before migration can be regarded .as a reasonable and practical policy, is the Government going behind the hack of Parliament to land us into the position of some sort of agreement or some understanding with Great Britain in respect to migration again becoming a feature of its policy? At this .stage I do not propose to .say more upon this matter, other than to express the opinion that, while the Government was declaring in this chamber that nothing was being done in respect to a resumption of migration, none the less, conversations were taking place behind the back of Parliament between members of this Government and the British authorities - conversations which warranted a high authority in Great Britain in saying that, although he could cot make a public disclosure, he was in the position to express the view that there would shortly be a resumption of migration ‘to .Australia. That statement was made by the Marquis of Hartington, and I quoted his remarks in my speech on the budget. Now we have, not answers given by Ministers to questions in this Parliament being vindicated, but the prophecy of a .British statesman being fulfilled. The present position seems to be that the ‘Commonwealth is endeavouring to stage-manage the situation in such a way as to permit of migration again becoming part of its ordinary arrangement. Before any further progress is made in this direction it is only reasonable to ask that there should be a review by this Parliament of the econo- mia and humane aspects of the predepression migration policy, of its. costs to Australia, its effects upon the budgets, particularly those of the States, the disappointment that it occasioned in Great Britain, and the great deal of unihappiness which it caused to those who were its unwitting victims. Before there is any resumption of migration in any form, this Parliament should at least be .given the opportunity to let the Government know what view it takes on the matter. I raise this subject today in this form, because it must be clear to honorable members that the Government is carrying on a series of negotiations, all of which are said to be delicate, without making any statement in connexion with them to this House. There are negotiations in regard to trade relations, air-mail services, to migration and other matters, none of which, it is alleged, can, because of the delicacy of them, be the subject of .a reasonable debate or decision by this Parliament, but all of which must lead to the Government making a final conclusion when it is too late for this Parliament to veto it. I object to that practice being followed in regard to migration.
..- 3 warmly support the .contentions of >th* Leader of the Opposition (Mr, Curtin) in regard to migration, and I feel that his statement, which is most opportune, demands from the ‘Government some definite information as to what is the real purport of the consultation which has taken place between it and tha States. This House should have the opportunity to review fully the circumstances which may lead to an early revival of the policy of migration. I well remember the desires of persons on the other side of the world to have a redistribution of population, and the inordinate wish on their part to thrust upon Other countries a great number of their unemployed, I am afraid, without paying due regard to the unemployment position and the suffering of peoples of such dominions as Australia. In my opinion, they were not prepared to reason out the situation in a logical manner; they had little or no concern as to what weTe the prospects of the people already in the dominions; their principal concern was to ease the unfortunate economic condition which had presented itself iu the life of their own country. We should definitely safeguard the rights of our own people. I have seen sufficient evideuce of misery and suffering which have been occasioned to people who were tempted to migrate from Great Britain by false and misleading representations as to their prospects here. Many of them who came to Australia have not had an opportunity to engage in any ‘ form of- satisfactory employment, and they have suffered conditions of continuous unemployment. While unemployment continues to be substantially rife in Australia, we should be prepared to recognize, first, the obligation- that we owe to the persons who are already without work in Australia, and ensure that suitable and satisfactory means of livelihood are provided for them. Such conditions alone should be the attraction for others to come to Australia to share in the benefits which this country might make available to them.
I also desire to express complete dissatisfaction with the way in which honorable members aTe required to await answers to questions that they place on the notice-paper. I sought to suit the convenience of the Minister administering War Service Homes by giving two days’ notice of a question on Tuesday, expecting it to be answered to-day. It should have been possible to obtain within a few hours from the branches of the department throughout Australia the information that I asked to have supplied to me. If the department cannot supply certain particulars within a reasonable time, its organization must be gravely inefficient and its records be lacking in completeness. If Ministers wished to secure information they would experience no difficulty in doing so. I am required to wait indefinitely for information that should have been furnished to me this morning. The answer that I have been given is, “ The information is being obtained, and will be made available to the honorable member as soon as possible “. That is not satisfactory. In view of the ample time given to procure the information, I .ask the Minister in charge of the House to see that the wisdom of showing a little more expedition in supplying answers to questions is impressed upon this department.
, - I shall convey to my colleague, the Minister .administering War Service Homes (Mr. Hunter) the views of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin).
I regret that I had not the opportunity to hear all that was said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on the subject of migration. There has been a good deal of speculation, in the press and elsewhere, as to the existence of some elaborate schemes in relation to migration. Such speculation is without foundation. Those who., within the last fifteen years, have had experience of organized migration for land settlement in Australia will, I imagine, be rather chary about again entering into schemes of a similar nature. I appreciate the honorable member’s viewpoint, however, and shall bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr.. Lyons) the remarks that he has made, together with the suggestion that perhaps some formal statement might be made to the House.
I .should like to add, for myself, that when I was in England this year in company with the Minister for Commerce (Dr.. Earle Page), I had, I suppose, several informal conversations in connexion with the problem of migration generally. That is inevitable when a Minister visits Great Britain, because there has awakened in Great Britain in the last year or two a very extensive interest in the problem.
– It seems to be the chief interest.
– I do not agree with what the honorable gentleman .said about the desire to force on us persons who are unemployed or unemployable.
– That was definitely my impression.
– On the contrary, the discussions which I had with responsible British Ministers indicated that they are very well aware of our problems in that connexion, and are not desirous of forcing our hands in any way. I refer .to this merely as an example of how conversations can be distorted by those who speculate about them. I am not, of course, referring to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I am relying largely on the fact that to-day the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) told me that a communication had been addressed to the States on the subject.
– I am not able to answer the honorable gentleman in that connexion. The Acting Leader of the House said that he would, go into that matter, and doubtless he will do so. While he and I were in England this year, we were invited to attend a meeting of a committee which had been set up by the British Government under the chairmanship of Lord Hartington. That, no doubt, is how Lord Hartington came to make a statement on the matter. The Minister for Commerce and I attended the meeting together. We did not go there as representatives of the Commonwealth Government to put forward a scheme in relation to migration. On the contrary, as two men who presumably knew something about public opinion in Australia, the conditions that exist here in relation to migration and land settlement, and the problems which this country has encountered, we were invited to offer quite frankly our individual views as to the nature of the difficulty which ought to be considered by any committee in dealing with the matter. That, I am sure the honorable member will agree, was a proper thing for us to do. In a very frank and critical way, we discussed whatever questions were put to us by the committee, making it clear all the time that we did not speak on behalf of the Government, but were merely giving the results of our own observations. . We did not submit any scheme, but merely discussed - as we were bound to do if we were to be of any service - the nature of the problems which undoubtedly surround this very difficult subject. I have never made any attempt to conceal my own view, which is that I should like to see, in proper circumstances, a very great expansion of the population of Australia by means of migration. In common with all other members of the Government, however, I am completely aware that, to rush blindly and impetuously into some elaborate scheme for moving people from one country to another, might very well make our last state worse than our first. We have yet a lot to learn from the experiences of past endeavours, some of them political, to get rid of some aftermath. The experience of the last ten or fifteen years, I assure the honorable member, are not being forgotten. If I may say so, I appreciate his desire to have, if possible, some formal detailed account given of this matter as far as it has gone. I shall convey that wish to the Prime Minister, with a view to ascertaining whether it can be acceded to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Canberra-Sydney Telephone Facilities.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Sausage Casings Hides
Rabbit and Hare Skins Kangaroo Skins Sheep skins with wool Pearlshell Wool, Greasy Wool, Scoured Tallow - unrefined . . Tin Ingots Coppei Concentrates
Total value of all exports from Australia to United States of America
Labour Conditions at Darwin.
asked’ the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - 1;. Will the Postmaster-General indicate just how the annual charge of- £28 claimed by his department to represent the cost of providing and maintaining a public telephone cabinet is constituted?
Sir Archdale Parkhill, (through. Mr. White). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions- are as follows: -
Bacon Market in the United Kingdom.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
e. - The answers to th* honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to- the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Total value of goods exported from Australia- to Japan’
9*158,392 I 9,156,454
11,102,799 I 9,657,097 I: 114,100,784
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Of tlie amount of £18,100 appropriated for research into health matters for the financial year 1930-37, what amount, if any, is to be used for dental research?
– No special appropriation has been made for dental research, but the National Health and Medical Research Council will formulate a considered policy in respect of any such allocation.
n asked the Minister in charge of WaT Service Homes, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained’, and will be made available to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Search fob Gold.
son asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon n otice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Western Australia -
The McPhee’s Patch Area (2 plans). The” North Polo Mining Centre (1 plan). Lalla Jiookh Mining Centre (3 plans). The Nullagine Conglomerates, Pilbara
Cold-field (3 plans).
The Nullagine River Concession No. 6»5n, Pilbara Gold-field (1 plan). Taiga Taiga (Pilbara) Gold-field (4 plans ) .
The Blue Spec Gold-Antimony Quartz Veins, Middle Creek, Nullagine District (4 plans).
Marble Bar Gold-field (0 plans)-.
Bamboo Creek Gold-field (.9- plans) . Northern Territory -
The Pine Creek Gold-field (G plans).
The Union Reefs Gold-field (1 plan).
The Golden Dyke Mine and adjacent areas (5 plans).
Soldier’s Cap Area. (5 plans). Tiekelano Area (9 plans). Dobbyn Area (7 plans). Northern Territory -
Magnetic Prospecting at Tcmiaut’s Creek (11 plans).
A summary df the results in connexion with thu above areas and a description of the organization of tlie survey are set out in the reports of tlie committee appointed to direct and control the survey for the periods ended the 30th June, 1935, and the 31st December, 1935, which were presented to Parliament on the 27th November, 1935, and the 23rd April, 193C, respectively, and copies of which, bound in one volume, have been recently circulated to members.
It is hoped to present at an early date the report of the committee, for the period ended tho 30th June, 1930. This will deal with the results of field work during 1936 covering a period of little more than two months. Dic programme of field work for 1930 in regard to aerial photography and geological and geophysical examinations in the areas selected, as outlined on pages 72 and 73 of the report for the period ended the 31st December, 1935, is progressing satisfactorily.
Cloncurry district (geological and geophysical ) .
Croydon district (geological and geophysical).
Portluiid-roads district (geological nnd geophysical ) . Northern Territory - Daly River district (geological). Pine Creek district (geological and geophysical ) .
Eastern MacDonnell Ranges district (genlogical ) .
Jervois Range district (geological). Tennant’s Creek district (magnetic survey).
Western Australia (Geological) - Pilbara Gold-Held. West Pilbara Gold-field. Kimberley district. West Kimberley district. Ashburton-Goscoyne district.
: asked the Minister representing the Minister .in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
When will the report for 1935-36 of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research be presented to this House?
– It is expected that thu annual report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for 1935-36 will be presented to Parliament within the next fortnight.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361001_reps_14_151/>.