15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G.J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Assistance in Defence Preparations.
-Will the Minister for Defence state why the rifle clubs of Australia have not been approached with a request that they assist in the preparations for the defence of Australia?
– The rifle clubs, as such, will in some places play a part in the defence of Australia by providing guards for certain vulnerable points. It is rather difficult to say in what other way they could he of particular value to the defence of Australia except by the enlistment of their members in the militia forces.
Ministerial Communications with Governor-General.
– The Prime Ministerhas been good enough to furnish me with some information relating to communications that passed between Ministers and His Excellency the GovernorGeneral in connexion with the recent change of Government. Will the right honorable gentleman make available for perusal the letter addressed by his immediate predecessor to the GovernorGeneral on thesubject?
– That letter, I take it, is the letter of resignation of the last Administration. I shall certainly make it available.
– Will the Minister for Defence state -
– I think that I can best reply to the honorable gentleman by stating that on Monday next I shall discuss the whole of the circumstances connected with the incident to which he has referred with representatives of the Australian press proprietaries, the Australian Journalists Association, and certain other interested bodies, in order that a working arrangement may be reached. Anything that I might now say in regard to the specific question raised by the honorable gentleman would not serve any useful purpose.
– In the matter of press photographers taking photographs following an air tragedy, will the Minister examine the papers relating to previous similar occurrences?
– I shall have those papers with me when the discussion takes place.
– Will the honorable gentleman now give to honorable members the facts that have been presented to his department, instead of postponing their publication to the date of some future interview, seeing that the Parliament of New South Wales has had. placed before it the report of the police department of that State in relation to the particular incident that has been mentioned?
– I refer the honorable member to the answer I have given to the question asked by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– Has the honorable gentleman seen the statement of the Premier of New South Wales, published in to-day’s press, that if the Commonwealth Government should decide to hold an open inquiry into the alleged assault by personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force on a press photographer recently, the State will be pleased to co-operate in the fullest degree, and will assist in every way the conduct of that inquiry? Is it proposed that the forthcoming discussion shall be an open one?
– I have not seen the press statement to which the honorable gentleman has referred. The discussion that I propose to hold with interested parties on Monday next will not be an open one.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a leading journalist, on the Sunday following the accident, described the conduct of Air Force officers as brutal and an interference with the liberty of the subject? Will he, before the House rises, make a statement setting out the facts associated with the accident, so that before the Minister for Defence engages in the conference to which he has referred members of this parliament, and, through them, the public, will know the truth?
– I was not aware of the efforts of the leading journalist to which reference has been made,but no doubt the honorable gentleman Has correctly represented his remarks. I can only repeat the answer given by the Minister for Defence, that he proposes to have a consultation on this - subject, in order to evolve some satisfactory rule which will prevent any similar trouble in the future.
– Why not give the facts to this House?
– I have nothing to add to my colleague’s answer.
Tariff Board Inquiry
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the inquiry by the Tariff Board in connexion with wireless valves has been completed and a report presented? If not, when is this report likely to be available?
– This report has not yet been received.
Position of Chief of the General Staff.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the appointment of the Inspector-General of the Military Forces to the position of Chief of the General Staff, consequent on the temporary transfer overseas of Major General Lavarack, is intended to indicate that, in the opinion of the Government, no officer of the Australian forces is capable of holding that position during the absence of Major-General Lavarack, Further, can the honorable “gentleman readily justify the holding by one man of the rather anomalous dual position of Chief of the General Staff and InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces?
– Order ! In asking a question the honorable gentleman may not express an opinion.
– There is not, in this appointment of the Inspector-General of the Military Forces, the implication suggested in the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question. The arrangement is merely a temporary one, designed to avoid dislocation in view of important changes that will shortly be made in connexion with- the introduction of the command system, -which.it is hoped will be completed before this House next goes into recess. Frequently in the past, particularly in the case of General Sir Harry Chauvel, the duties of InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces and Chief of -the General Staff have been capably discharged by one man. On this occasion, the arrangement will operate for a period of only about four weeks.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the prospect of success of the loan of £7,500,000 to be floated at the end of this month at an interest rate of £3 17s. 6d. per cent., is causing anxiety to Treasury officials? Because of this anxiety, is there any possibility of the rate of interest being made higher than that now proposed? Is the loan to be floated at par, or at a discount?
– The terms and conditions on which the suggested loan is to be issued are still under consideration by members of the Loan Council, and therefore I am not as yet able to make any statement in regard to them.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government proposes to make a grant available for youth training throughout Australia? If so, what conditions will attach to the ?
– I have had this matter before me in the last day or two, hut it has not yet quite reached the point at which I may make a statement upon it. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, or repeat it next week, I shall be glad to provide him with an answer to it.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development received any report on the subject of obtaining liquid fuel from brown or black coal of a more recent date than the report of 1937? If so, when will he be able to make it available?
– I understand that the honorable gentleman refers to the report on the extraction of oil from coal made by Sir David Rivett .after his trip abroad.
– Was not that in 1936?
– I believe that it was in 1936 or 1937. Since that date, no further report has been received, although Sir DavidRivett, as chief executive officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has kept himself informed of all developments in Great Britain and elsewhere, so far as he has been able to do so. There is no specific report of which I have any knowledge, other than that received quite recently by the Premier of Victoria, which has been made available to the Commonwealth, and regarding which we are now in communication with that State.
– Does the honorable gentleman not consider that the qualifications of the technicians who advise the Imperial Government on the subject of the extraction of oil from coal are as high asthose held by Sir DavidRivett ? If so, how does he reconcile lack of action in- Australia with the extensive operations in the United Kingdom with a view to making that country independent of foreign fuels for national requirements, the result of which is that the Royal Air Force is now able to depend on oil produced in Great Britain?
– I cannot discuss the extent to which Great Britain is independent of imported oil supplies, but it may ease the honorable member’s mind if I inform him that the Government has access to many sources of information on this subject. The authorities in Great Britain have been most generous in supplying us with information of a technical nature relating to the extraction of oil from coal. The Government also knows something of the extent to which such oil is being used in other countries. If I could make that information public the honorable gentleman might be surprised at the degree to which it differs from his own opinions.
– Can the Minister say what progress has been made towards the extraction of oil from shale at Newnes, and when the plant there is likely to be in production?
– The Newnes enterprise is in course of being created by the company that is exploiting it. The machinery is now on order, and the preparatory work is proceedingsatisfactorily.
It is not expected that there will be any appreciable delay beyond the starting date anticipated eighteen months ago, which I believe is January, 1940.
Position in NorthernWaters.
– In the annual report of the Administrator of the Northern Territory, attention is drawn to the fact that last year from 4,000 to 5,000 tons of pearl shell was fished out of Northern Territory and Thursday Island waters by Japanese pearlers, compared with about 800 tons recovered by local pearlers. Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior state whether it is the intention of the Government to take any action for the patrol of these waters by means of a seaplane - the Vigilant being useless for this purpose- in order that the local industry may be protected against foreign encroachment ?
– The whole matter of pearling in northern waters is receiving the deep consideration of the Minister for the Interior.
– Last Friday I asked the Postmaster-General whether he intended to give effect to the intention of his predecessor to ask Parliament to abolish interstate telegram rates as from the 30th June, 1939, but no reply was given to the question.Will the honorable gentleman now reply to it?
– I draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that it is not the practice to disclose matters of policy, or the intentions of the Government, in answer to questions. I inform him, however, that the matter he has raised will in due course be made the subject of a statement to this House.
– I hold in my hand the report of the High Commissioner in London for 1937, which I received during this week. Like other reports, it is almost antique by the time that members receive it. I ask if it is not possible to have these reports made available more quickly after the expiration of the time to which the information in them relates. This report was signed on the 30th May, 1938, but was not printed until April, 1939.
– The honorable member’s request seems to be reasonable, and I shall look into it.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs taken any action to inquire into the affairs of firms in Australia which are making excessive profits under the shelter of the tariff?
– I have already instituted inquiries into the profits made by several firms.
– Will the Minister’s inquiries extend to the glass manufacturing industry?
– In view of the unsatisfactory position of the wheat and dried fruits industries, will the Minister for Supply inquire into the possibility of establishing agricultural distilleries in Australia? There ure about 600 such distilleries in Europe. Will he also take into consideration the desirability of having available other spirits to mix with motor spirit in the event of war?
– In this connexion the attention of the Government has been confined to the distillation of molasses because it was advised that that was the most economical material from which to obtain power alcohol. The distillation of grain of any sort, or of many other crops, in order to produce power alcohol is not an economical process from the point of view of the growers because the cost of power alcohol distilled from wheat is high, even should the grain cost only ls. a bushel.
– There are by-products which can be disposed of.
– Any such possibilities will be explored in the immediate future, and if any further information on the subject be obtained I shall see that it is transmitted to the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Prime Min,ister consider the desirability of amending the Public Service Act in order to give permanent employment to returned soldiers who have been temporarily employed for from two to three years?
– I shall take the honorable member’s suggestion into consideration.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the statement of representatives of building societies throughout New South Wales that they are unable to obtain finance for the building of homes, and consequently propose to seek money for the purpose overseas? Will he take steps to have funds made available for the purpose by the Commonweal lth Bank?
– My attention had not been directed to the statement, but I shall inquire into it.
– In pursuance of knowledge that I have gained, I ask the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Treasurer, whether a memorandum which was circulated by the Commonwealth Bank to the State Treasurers and to the Commonwealth Treasurer at the recent meeting of the Loan Council will be made available to honorable members of this House prior to the resumption of the debate on the Commonwealth Bank Bill? If the document referred to is to be regarded as confidential, and therefore one which, in the public interest, ought not to be made generally available, what justification is there for the Government placing honorable members of this Parliament, who are responsible for the Commonwealth Bank Act, in a position whereby they have less information than is given to State ministers who have no responsibilities in that connexion?
– I have not seen the document referred to by the honorable gentlemen. It came into existence and was apparently presented before I assumed office as Treasurer. I shall obtain a copy of it and shall read it, after which I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s question.
– Can the Minister for Defence say how many of those brilliant officers, if any, who have passed through the Royal Military College at Duntroon since its inception have risen beyond the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel? If no cadet has risen above that rank, will the Minister state the reasons?
– If the honorable gentleman will possess his soul in patience for a short period, I think that his wishes in this matter will be fully satisfied.
– In the absence of the Postmaster-General, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the specifications for the new general post office building in Sydney provided for coal-burning boilers for power and central heating, and that the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Sir Harry Brown, cancelled those specifications and instructed that oil-burning boilers be installed in their place? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that seven large concerns, including the New South Wales Public Works Department, Farmer and Company Limited, Hotel Australia Limited, and Tillock and Company Limited, who did have oil-burning boilers for power and heating, have converted them to coal-burning boilers owing to the fact that, with the use of automatic stokers coal is 50 per cent. cheaper than oil?
– Order ! The honorable member must not make statements or debate the matter.
– Will he take into consideration also the fact that coal is a local product, and difficulty may be experienced in obtaining supplies of oil?
– Order ! In this question, as in others, the honorable gentleman has gone far beyond what is legitimate in the asking of questions.
– Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the carrying out of the original specifications for this building, which provide that coal-burning boilers shall be installed?
– I know that the Postmaster-General has had this matter under his consideration in the last few days. I myself am not familiar with it. but I shall see that my colleague supplies an answer to the honorable gentleman’s question when the House meets on its opening day next week.
– In view of the desirability that Tasmanian youths shall co-operate with men in other parts of the Commonwealth in the aerial defence of Australia, will the Minister for Civil Aviation see that one of the new flying machines which the Government contemplates obtaining for the use of Ministers is given to the Tasmanian Government for the purpose of training air pilots in that State?
– There is no intention to purchase an aeroplane for the use of Ministers. I shall give consideration to the request of the honorable member that better facilities be provided for youths, in Tasmania, to learn flying than seem to be available at present.
– Many European countries, particularly Germany, have established power alcohol plants in great numbers in agricultural areas.
– Order ! I remind honorable members that the practice of giving information to Ministers when asking questions is contrary to the rules governing the asking of questions; also that the practice of asking a Minister whether he is aware of certain things which is merely a means of telling the Minister something. Honorable members should read the Standing Orders and frame their questions in such a way that the Chair will not so frequently have to call them to order.
– In view of the report by Dr. Cook, a noted expert on power alcohol, that it is difficult to produce power alcohol economically except from tropical crops, will the . M inister for Supply and Development see that our efforts in this field are concentrated upon the’, utilization of crops grown in our tropical regions, viz., certain roots, including sweet potatoes, and sugar cane, and thus aid in the development of the northern parts of Australia?
– I shall be only too glad to refer any specific proposals which the honorable gentleman may make in this connexion to the Standing Committee on Liquid Fuel.
– In view of the ruling which you have just given, Mr. Speaker, can you inform us how, when Ministers refuse to give information, honorable members themselves may be able: to give it to this House?
-It is not the function of the Chair to give such advice. Certainly the Standing Orders forbid honorable members to give information, make statements, or express opinions -when asking, questions.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to the following paragraph in a statement by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) published in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, in which he complained of venomous attacks made upon him by the metropolitan press : -
Since, his resignation, the attitude of the same Press had undergone a distinct change. Apart from minor mishaps, two serious accidents had gone uncommented upon, beyond a mere recording of their happening. Whereas lie had a staff of five persons to conduct the work of the department, which was stated to be excessive, 20 were” now similarly engaged, in addition to which there were four Ministers controlling the department.
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I shall look into it;
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health and Social Services been drawn to a statement appearing’ in this morning’s press, that the total cost of national insurance to” date amounts to £115,660? In view of the numerous guesses that have been made during the last twelve months as to the cost of national insurance, ranging from £100,000 to £1,000,000, will the Minister say whether £115,660 is an official figure?
– Presumably when the honorable member speaks about the cost of national insurance, he means the cost of preliminary investigations to date. On that assumption I can only say that, as only two or three days have elapsed since I invited, from the appropriate bodies, claims in respect of their expenditure in this direction, and have not yet received one reply, it is perfectly obvious that any published estimate of the- total cost is pure speculation. There is no information yet available as to the total actual expenditure in -connexion with national insurance.
– As I, and, I am sure, other honorable members, experience difficulty in hearing much of what is said in this chamber, including remarks by Mr. Speaker, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior investigate the acoustic properties of this chamber with a view to installing amplifiers?
– I shall ask the Minister for the Interior to give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he proposes to make public the report of departmental officers following their inquiries into the activities of monopolistic industries in this country?
– A full statement covering that subject will be made to the House in due course.
– Is the Minister for Defence yet in a position to inform the House when the extended naval programme at Cockatoo Island Dockyards i.« likely to1 be commenced, and whether a statement made by the general manager of that establishment, who has just returned from England, to the effect that 2,000 additional men are to be employed, means that 2,000 men over and above the “existing staff will be engaged? This question is important because hundreds of men are seeking my aid to obtain employment in this industry.
– I realize the importance of the honorable gentleman’s question, and since he raised the matter the other day, I have taken steps to check the statement attributed to Mr. Fraser. I shall endeavour to furnish to-day, if possible, the information which the honorable gentleman desires.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any information as to the health of the Attorney-General, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because disquieting rumours are in circulation that he is very ill.
– I am happy to say that my right honorable colleague is rapidly recovering from a slight indisposition.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Wednesday next,at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the supply of Munitions and the Survey, Registration and Development of the Resources of Australia, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members are aware of the fact that for some considerable time the Commonwealth Government has been pursuing an energetic policy of preparation for the adequate defence of Australia. It is unnecessary for me to enlarge on the unfortunate necessity for such action. The introduction of this measure marks another milestone on the road towards our goal. The bill is broadly described in its long title. Apart from the obvious function of supplying to the Department of Defence its requirements of munitions, the latter part of the long title refers to the “ survey, registration and development of the resources of Australia “. This measure is complementary to a bill to create a national register of the male population of Australia, which will be introduced to-day by my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street). It provides, amongst other things, for the taking of what is, in effect, a census of material resources in Australia, as distinct from the national register of man power with which the Minister for Defence is concerned.
The Prime Minister, in announcing the creation of the Department of Supply and Development, has paid tribute to the admirable work that has been done in the past by the Minister for Defence and his department in connexion with munitions supply, and I welcome this opportunity to associate myself with what the Prime Minister has said. The pressure and range of this work of achieving economic preparedness is increasing daily, and, as the Prime Minister has announced, the Government has, in consequence, created this new Department of Supply and Development. It will be the task of the new department to develop and to carry forward the work of the efficient supply of the requirements of the armed forces of the Commonwealth, and to extend the scope of industrial and economic preparedness for any emergency that may arise.
Apart from the essentially defence supply aspect of the measure, there is inherent in it, as will be apparent from some of its clauses, the idea of some appreciable degree of national planning. Australia is an island continent, and we are dependent on the freedom of the seas for the continuance of our national life on a normal basis. If either our imports and exports or both were interrupted in time of war, our industries, employment and living standards would clearly suffer, apart altogether from the obvious lessening of our ability to exert the utmost resistance to an enemy. A great many of our industries are dependent on the importation of small, or large, quantities of raw materials or components. This applies to defence industries providing the civil needs of the population as a whole. Should we be denied the ability to import our requirements freely, and no provision bo made to meet this situation1 in advance, some degree at least of industrial dislocation would inevitably result. It will be one of the aims of this new department, by the various means that are open to us, to meet this situation in advance, and to endeavour to ensure that, to the greatest ox tent possible, industry in Australia will lie enabled to continue without dislocation in time of war. The necessity for such action on the civil side is found in our own experience nearly 25 years ago; in 1914, the Australian community found itself faced with not only problems of warfare, but also disturbances of trade, dislocations of industry, and many other anxieties which were, in themselves, a handicap to the main tasks that suddenly confronted the nation. In the quarter of a century that has passed since those days, the vulnerability of our economic structure has not diminished ; rather have our economic relations become more complex and increasingly interdependent. We certainly produce a greater variety of commodities to meet our own needs, but our economic structure is based on the conditions of peace. It may, unfortunately, have to be adapted to meet the conditions of war. The provisions of this bill are directed towards this objective.
It can readily be realized that a community organized to provide for the well-being of its citizens in time of peace, which is the normal objective in a democratic state, requires considerable re-organization and adjustment to. meet the changed conditions of war. Such an adjustment in past years, could, and did, await the actual outbreak of war. Under the conditions of modern warfare, however, it would not be prudent to imagine that we could successfully follow past practices. Preparedness for the worst in the organization and development of our armed forces, and their supplies, and also of the industrial -and commercial activities of our community, is essential if dislocation is to be avoided. It is better to prepare now, even in the hope that all our efforts may ultimately prove unnecessary, than to take risks and court possible disaster. Had we a choice out course might be different; but we have no choice in present circumstances.
Tn normal times, and indeed up to the present, a self-contained organization is provided in the Defence Department against the contingency of war. That department is capable of expanding its activities as the need Arises, but a point is reached, as it is deemed to have been reached now, when it becomes necessary to detach from the administration of the Defence Department those activities not directed towards the organizing of the actual fighting forces, in an endeavour to relieve, in some part at least, the great strain under which the Minister for Defence and the Department of Defence have been labouring for some time. This stage has also been reached in Great Britain. This policy is dictated solely by the needs of the present situation, which require acceleration and expansion of the programme initiated in the Defence Department itself, and becomes the primary duty of the Government in the interests of the selfpreservation of our people.
The bill provides for the transfer to the Department of Supply and Development of the function of providing supplies for the Defence Forces. To this end the new department will control all munitions factories established under the Defence Act, together with the personnel of those establishments. This arrangement will continue so long as this legislation remains in force, but the period of operation provided in the bill is five years. The staffs which will be transferred to the new department will carry with them all the rights and privileges accruing to them, and at the end of the period of operation of the act, will again return to the strength of the Defence Department.
The defence establishments which will be taken over are: -
Ammunition Factory, Footscray, Victoria.
Clothing Factory, South Melbourne, Victoria.
Explosives Factory, Maribyrnong, Victoria.
Ordnance Factory, Maribyrnong, Victoria.
Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, New South Wales.
Munitions Supply Laboratories, Maribyrnong, Victoria.
In addition, the eighteen industrial annexes now in process of being established will also pass to the Department of Supply and Development.
The new department will have at its disposal the best advice available in our community. Already, the Government has had ample evidence that leaders in the scientific, industrial and commercial world in Australia are not only willing but also anxious to render service to the country in this period of emergency. Although many of these men are carrying heavy responsibilities in their own spheres of work, they have readily responded to the invitation of the Government to assist in an advisory and consultative capacity - in many cases on an entirely honorary basis. Several advisory panels and committees have already been formed which have furnished valuable advice to the Minister for Defence. The bill provides for the continuance of the committees already established and for the setting up of others as they may become necessary. Those already established and which will become consultative bodies in the new department are: -
The Advisory Panel on Industrial Organization.
The Economic and Financial Committee.
The Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels.
The Government proposes also to establish, practically at once, an accountancy panel to advise on the control of prices and profits in the private manufacture of munitions. This matter of profits made on Government contracts in connexion with munitions supplies is largely, and rightly, in the minds of the Australian people. The Government has already gone a long way in this regard, and it proposes, through existing machinery and on the advice of the Accountancy Advisory Panel, to ensure that undue profits are not made. Other committees already formed will remain attached to the Defence Department, but since the closest possible liaison on matters of mutual interest will be maintained, all the committees will virtually serve both departments. The possibility of huge profits being made on Government contracts for the supply of munitions has been present in the minds of the Australian people in recent months. The Government has already considered this subject, and proposes, through existing machinery, and on the advice of this advisory panel, to ensure that no undue profits shall be made in the future.
One development on which the Government intends at once to concentrate, and which will be an important branch of the new department, is the manufacture of fighting aircraft in Australia. This will entail the development of an extensive organization, but the Government proposes to use in the fullest possible way the existing industrial resources of the country for the manufacture of the component parts, and to confine its own activity to the establishment of large assembly centres in Sydney and Melbourne, Air frame manufacture will be under the control of the department itself and will be arranged by the placing of contract orders for the manufacture of parts and components, principally with the railway workshops in a number of the States. The assembly of completed aircraft will be undertaken in the main assembly centres of the Department of Supply and Development.
In the short period in which this Government has been in office, it has not been able to complete the legislative form of its proposals for aircraft manufacture. It is possible, and indeed, it is hoped, that this will be effected while this bill is before the House. In that event, amendments will be made to this bill, so that it will deal with this important subject in more detail.
The policy of the Government, throughout in the organization and development of resources of supply for the Defence Forces, is not to establish large factories which in normal times would be idle and thus impose a heavy charge on the community, or, on the other hand, to allow an unrestricted development of munition and associated factories on a large scale by private enterprise. It is proposed to adopt the middle course of bringing existing government-owned defence establishments to the stage of the highest possible output and to supplement production by establishing annexes associated with existing industrial establishments. Additional government establishments will be created only in the rare cases in which the industrial annexes will not supply our full requirements, or where industry, as at present organized, cannot be extended or adapted to meet the requirements of the defence forces. The closest possible supervision will be exercised by the Government over the production of munition supplies in these annexes.
The Government’ believes that it has all the. powers that it can possess in respect of the control of profits in connexion with munitions manufacture. The application of these powers is increasingly engaging the attention of the Government. The bill specifically provides that the new department shall closely investigate the cost of production of munitions, and it will pay particular attention to the control and limitation of profits in connexion therewith.
Considerable thought has been given in many countries to the limitation of armament profits. Measures for the taxation of excess profits have been draftedand passed in various forms to meet the position - but, so far as I am aware, in no instance, have they been really successful in operation. Such a method of attacking the problem may be described as shutting the stable door after the horse has been’ stolen. For the time being at least, the Government proposes to attack the problem from what it -believes to be the more logical point of view - to ensure that only the most reasonable profits are made from the business of munition manufacture. We have reason to believe that we shall have wide co-operation in our endeavours.
Provision is made in the bill for information to be furnished by all industrial undertakings, as well as merchants and others, so that the new department may have at its command a knowledge of the industrial resources of Australia. This will involve what is tantamount to a stocktaking of industry and of material resources, in order that the Government may know what materials are on hand and what is the productive capacity of industry. This procedure will enable the Government to gauge whether stocks of essential imported materials are sufficient to meet a state of war when a certain amount of dislocation of shipping is inevitable; whether supplementary stocks should be obtained; whether substitutes for imported materials exist within Australia, and, if not, whether suitable substitutes can be found and developed. In this regard, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which will now function under the Minister for Supply and Development, by delegation from the Prime Minister, will prove an invaluable aid. Its sphere of activity, which, in the past, has been confined chiefly to the problems of primary industry, will in future be extended, progressively, as necessity demands, to embrace certain problems connected with secondary industry.
In all its work the new department will maintain the closest possible co-operation with other Commonwealth Government departments, and in particular with the Departments of Defence, Trade and Customs, and Commerce. It will also co-operate with the State Government departments. It is clear that this new department cannot alone carry out the Government’s intentions. It will have to rely to a large extent on the cooperation of other existing departments, both for essential information, and, subject to the decisions of the Government, for the implementing of its proposals.
No one is more conscious than I am that we shall need all the expert assistance - that we can get. I am confident that this will be forthcoming both from other departments and from Australian industry in general.
The bill is drafted in broad terms. In preparing the measure alternative causes were open to the Government. It could have .attempted to set down in precise terms the exact functions that this new department would perform, or it could have stated general objectives and relied on its experience and good sense, as a Government, to deal with .the problems that have to be faced. It was decided to adopt the latter policy, which it believes to be the right one. What I have just said applies, in particular, to clause 5 of the bill, which recites these broad objectives. Insofar as the bill provides for the taking over of existing machinery from the Department of Defence, the provisions are intended to be precise.
One other point of consequence that I make at this stage is that it is usually confidently asserted that, when a new department is created, new and formidable administrative machinery must inevitably be created. I hope and believe that this will not be so in this instance. The greater part of the machinery already exists, and will be taken over from the Defence Department. Such new staff and machinery as will be necessary for the adequate functioning of this new department will bo relatively small. It, may, conceivably, grow in the course of time, but only as a consequence of deliberate intent on the part of the Government, in order to carry out functions that are not now apparent.
In conclusion, I think I might say that the bill, in conjunction with existing machinery, provides for an effective partnership between the armed defence forces of our country and the civil preparedness of its people. The bill suggests and provides great opportunities for constructive co-operation, and, on behalf of the Government, I commend it to honorable members in the hope that it may prove an effective contribution towards the strengthening of our Australian economy and of our powers of resistance against possible aggression.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beasley) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Street) agreed to -
That he have leave tobring in a bill for an act to provide for the taking of censuses for the purpose of National Registration, for the establishment of a National Register, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
When, at the beginning of last December, I introduced the Loan Bill, which covered in detail the expanded defence programme of the Government, I quoted the following words from a speech delivered by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) -
It is the intension to press on with the completion of plans for all phases of national activity in an emergency. The aim of these is to provide for the parts that could be played by every organization, industry and citizen, either in respect of their normal work in the life of a community or by special voluntary effort.
Then I went on to say -
Nothing less than organization on this scale will give a democratic state a comparable degree of preparedness to an authoritatarian state.
The wider steps necessary to implement the Prime Minister’s declaration are briefly: -
The organization of man power and women’s voluntary efforts.
The regulation and control of primary production in an emergency.
Industrial mobilization of secondary industries in an emergency.
Commonwealth and State cooperation in peace and war.
Action to put these necessary steps into effect has been taken, first by the introduction of a women’s voluntary register, and the compilation of this is now in progress. The Commerce Department has made considerable progress on the planning necessary for the regulation and control of primary production in emergency. Finally, a great deal of preparatory work on industrial mobilization has been done by the advisory panel, and I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work of this body, which has been functioning on a voluntary basis for the last eighteen months. The members of the panel have been giving two to three days a week to the work without any cost to the Government. Their work will now be continued by the Department of Supply and Development, which is being created by the bill just introduced by my colleague. At a conference held in this chamber at the end of March last, afirm basis was established for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in times of peace and war. At that conference, at which I was present, all the States, irrespective of the character of their governments, gave evidence of the greatest willingness to co-operate whole-heartedly in the measures which we considered necessary for the defence of the country.
There still remains the organization of man power, and it is to deal with this aspect that the present bill has been introduced. The necessity for the preparation of plans for the allocation of the man power of the nation in a national emergency became evident as a result of the experience of the Great War. Honorable members will recollect that serious waste of trained material occurred owing to the misplacement of men. Recalls had to be made from the Services of men specially trained, in order that essential services might be properly manned. It was found that men possessing technical qualifications were employed in units where there was no opportunity to use their skill, while other units in which they could have been profitably employed were short of the required number of technicians. The object of setting up an organization to register the man power of the nation is to ensure that, as far as possible, every man shall be allocated to the task for which his training and avocation best fit him, so that the utmost value in service will be available to the nation to meet an emergency.
Briefly, therefore, I can say that the objects sought in this bill are, first, a general survey of man power and, secondly, the establishment and organization of a national register for use in preparing for a national emergency.
The purpose of a general survey is to provide an assessment of all skilled labour and man power throughout the country in order to throw light on the adequacy or inadequacy of existing resources. It is unnecessary for me to point out that this is essential in Australia, where industrial organization is of comparatively recent growth. We do not yet know enough about it to give us complete confidence in the framing of plans to meet a national emergency.
The object of the national register is to ensure that the allocation of man power, in accordance with national requirements in an emergency, may be planned in advance. The basis of national registration will be a census of all male persons between the ages of eighteen and 64 inclusive, and this will be taken during a period to be defined by proclamation. Provision is also made in the bill for obtaining the requisite information from incoming migrants, and from persons as they reach the age of eighteen.
The schedule to the bill sets out the information required from those who are included among the persons of whom a census is directed to be taken. It is intended that these forms shall be placed in post offices where they will be collected, filled in, signed and sent post-free to the Commonwealth Statistician. In order to” assist those who have to fill in cards - which have been made as simple as possible - full instructions will be made available in printed form, and as much help will be given as possible through the ordinary publicity channels, such as newspapers and radio. It is hoped to have officials available in the larger centres who- will be able to assist by personal advice.
There are, I believe, some who say that this is a form of industrial conscription - that it is proposed to do something that is foreign to the spirit of democracy - something that is abhorrent to Australians. I cannot believe that any one can suggest such a thing seriously. I need not remind honorable members that already the law of the land provides for the calling up of all males between the ages of eighteen and 60 for service in time of national emergency. All this bill sets out to do is to ensure that, if that time should ever unhappily arrive, the law of the land shall operate intelligently.
It will be noticed that in the schedule provision is made for collecting certain unemployment statistics. Two sets of information are required on this point, and, when it is collected, we shall have at our disposal valuable data upon which to base unemployment statistics. At the present time, we depend entirely upon information supplied by the trade unions.
– Is this an economic or a defence measure?
– There is no reason why we should not avail ourselves of the opportunity to collect information that will be of use in the preparation of social legislation.
The national register, ‘ as such, will be controlled by a National Register Board, which will consist of a representative of the Defence Department, who will be chairman, a representative of the Department of Supply and Development, and the Commonwealth Statistician. The board will function under the Minister for Defence, and there will be an executive officer for general administrative work associated with the register. For the taking of the census, the machinery and organization of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics will be used, and use will also be made, at a special stage, of the electoral offices.
When the cards are received, the Commonwealth Statistician will prepare detailed tabulations for special use. A coding staff will be necessary for this, and will be composed entirely of returned soldiers to be recruited on a pro rata basis in the various States. When this detailed analysis is complete, there will be a set of machine cards available for use at any time in Canberra, and the original cards, which will be correspondingly numbered, will be sent back to each State capital, where they will be kept up to date as regards addresses, &c, by a small staff working in conjunction with the electoral authorities.
At this stage .both sets of cards will be available for use by the Defence Depigment, the Department of Supply and Development, or any of the various planning committees. As can be realized, this will take a considerable time, but special attention is being given to enable the information provided by the register to be utilized more rapidly in the event of any sudden emergency. Honorable members will realize that, should the defence forces ever be required to mobilize, they will require to increase greatly their peace numbers in all classes, and particularly in regard to men employed in many skilled occupations. At the same time, skilled mcn are necessary for the production of equipment and the output of munitions. Further, it is obvious that key men in industry must not be allowed to vacate their positions to enlist in the defence forces; that would throw industry in general into .difficulties, and affect the provision of supplies to the forces and the general life of the community. The national register, however, will provide means by which the allocation of appropriate classified personnel can be made to meet the requirements both of the defence forces and of the community in general. A list of reserved occupations is being compiled and will be published for information. Men trained in these particular occupations are limited in number and there would naturally be great demand for them in time of war. Individuals whose names and occupations appear on this list would he precluded from serving with the forces in an emergency. . Thus, those men for whose services there may be rival claims of various national activities will be allocated between the defence forces, munitions supply authorities and industry generally. It is possible that some readjustment of the personnel at .present serving in the militia may be necessary to obviate the withdrawal of key men, or those on the list of reserved occupations, from their civilian employment.
Two other matters to which I direct the attention of the House are, first, the fact that adequate safeguards from the point of view of secrecy - precautions against the divulgence of information by officers - are contained in this bill, and, secondly, the fact that in April last year the late Prime Minister issued an invitation to the Australasian Council for Trade Unions in the following terms : -
On behalf of the Government I desire to extend an invitation to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to nominate an advisory panel, which would be consulted on these and other questions and would appoint representatives to any committees that may be set up to examine them.
That invitation still holds good, and I think honorable members generally trust that means will be found before long whereby it can be accepted.
– There is nothing about wealth in this.
– Not in this bill. Honorable members will, I hope, realize that the passing of this bill will mark another -step towards the completion of plans for all phases of national activity in an emergency.
Debate (on motion by Mr. CURTIN) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 10th May (vide page 266) on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill bc now read a second time,
Upon which Mr. CURTIN had moved hy way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words: - “ this House, being desirous of being completely assured as to the needs and resources of the widow and children of the late Prime Minister (the beneficiaries of this proposal), refuses to accord a second reading to a bill proposing a grant of such magnitude until the needs and resources of the said beneficiaries as well as the amount of the grant (if any) which may be properly made by this House have been examined and reported on by a committee representing all parties in this House “.
– by leave - Since the submission of my amendment the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), by leave of this House, made a statement in which hp. invited the representatives of all parties in this House to meet him informally in conference. As that step conformed to a substantial part of my amendment, I agreed to accept the right honorable gentleman’s invitation, and with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. -Rosevear) represented my party at the informal conference. There were also present the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Thorby) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock). The Prime Minister was present and he was accompanied by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). Discussion took place. One of the submissions of my amendment was that we should be assured as to the needs and circumstances of Dame Enid Lyons and her family. I think that I can say that the committee has been completely assured that those circumstances necessitate that some provision be made. The committee was unable to agree to make a report to the House regarding the amount of annuity which should be voted. As there has been by this procedure a substantial achievement of the purpose of my amendment, I ask leave of the House to withdraw it.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
.- I should have thought that the committee which was appointed yesterday to confer “with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would have had power, and would have used that power, to make a more thorough inquiry than it made. I understand that the committee accepted an assurance by the Prime Minister that the submission of the estate of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to the Public Trustee in Tasmania had disclosed an estate of about £100. I can hardly credit that, and I am not yet satisfied that the estate of the deceased right honorable gentleman is in such a bad way as is indicated. If what has been told us is correct, it is a tragedy. Irrespective of the condition of the estate, I feel that I cannot support the bill. The only source of enlightenment for honorable members about this matter is the daily press. We find from the newspapers, that apart from the conference of representatives of the parties, the United Australia party also met yesterday to discuss this measure. In view of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) obtained leave to make a statement and to withdraw, his amendment, it would have been appropriate for the Prime Minister also to make a statement. As it is, we are in the dark as to what is proposed. We do not know whether the bill is to stand in its present form or is to be amended.
– I entirely concurred with the statement made by the Leader pf the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), which accurately reported what had taken place, and therefore I had nothing to add.
– The Canberra Times published a report that there is a likelihood of an alteration of the bill as a result of the meeting of the United Australia party.
– I noticed that report and was most interested in- its contents because they seemed to be completely imaginary.
– Oh ! Then I must confine my remarks to the bill as it stands. I cannot support it, because I know that many thousands of widows in this country are in distressed circumstances. They are fighting an unequal battle in .trying to maintain a home for “their children. I and other honorable members have seen them struggling for an existence in the district from which I come to sit in this chamber. As the result of the introduction of a widows’ pension in New South Wales their position in that State, bad though it is, is not so bad as it was. But New South Wales is the only State in the Commonwealth where there is a widows’ pension. The high rate of casualties in coal mining means the. death of many breadwinners, whose families are left in destitute circumstances, .as the result of which . the widowed mothers, so difficult is their struggle, soon find their way to either mental hospitals or the cemetery. These women and their departed husbands have played their -part in this country to their full capacity, and it is wrong for us to vote the money of the taxpayers to the widow of one whom we knew in this chamber, while they are in dire want, misery, and despair.
The Government thinks that the only inquiry necessary in this case relates to the circumstances in which Dame Enid Lyons and her family should live. If an honorable member on this side of the House dies, his dependants, before being granted financial relief, have to undergo the rigid examination of what is known as the “ means test “. That has happened. 1 do not want to mention names, because I do not think that it is right to bring names into this chamber, but when a member of the Labour party died recently, leaving a widow and two little babies, younger than any member of the family of the late Prime Minister, it was suggested that the widow, being a young woman, might again marry and that she had near relatives to whom she could look for support. When another honorable member from this side of the House died it was suggested that because his nephew had taken his place, the deceased member’s widow should look to her relative for the support of herself and her children. Absolutely no provision has been made by this Parliament for the widows and children whom I have cited. None whatever! Let us analyze the position a little more closely. Legislation has been passed for the assistance of widows of some exmembers of this House who were in dire distress, but in no case has the grant exceeded £3 a week nor has there been any provision for children. Those members rendered service to the community to the limit of their capacity. What is the difference between their widows and the widow of a Prime Minister? In what different category is the widow of a soldier who made the supreme sacrifice for his country on the field of battle or died subsequent to his return to Australia, it being obvious to all except the Entitlement Tribunal that his death was due to war service? What becomes of the orphaned children of returned soldiers? Has any provision been made for them after the age of sixteen years? Certainly not. Yet this bill makes provision for the payment of £500 a year to Dame Enid Lyons for the maintenance of her children until the youngest of them reaches the age of 21 years.
– It is now proposed to make the age sixteen years.
– I questioned the Prime Minister on that point, and he said that we should take no notice of press reports as they were completely imaginary. The age stated in the bill is 21 years. Seeing that the eldest child is now 23 years of age and the youngest six years of age, the former will be 38 when the latter reaches 21. If the maximum age be sixteen years, the eldest will be 33 when the youngest ceases to participate. We cannot know what income the eldest child may have at that age. I believe that all honorable members should be entitled to contribute to a superannuation scheme similar to that of the Public Service, and thus be enabled to make provision for their dependants. We should not then have repeated appeals to set something aside out of the money of the taxpayers for the assistance of their widows and children while no provision whatever is made by six out of the seven governments in this country for the poorer and more destitute widows. I sympathize with the widow and family of the late Prime Minister, but at the same time I realize that there are thousands of these widows whose interests we should first consider. A little more justice .and equity should be meted out under our social service legislation, “including the Repatriation Act.
Let me again review the position from the standpoint of the widow and children of a returned soldier. The widow gets, at the most, £2 a week for herself and 10s. a week for each child under the age of 16 years. The Government of the day told the members of the A.I.J7. before they left Australia that this country would be ever grateful for their action and would always recognize its responsibility to them. How many sons of deceased soldiers have reached the age of 21 years, and even 25 years, without having been able to secure employment? Yet under this measure, even if the maximum age be fixed at 16 years, the eldest children will participate in the payment until they are more than 30 years of age, irrespective of the amount of their income from other sources. Under the
Repatriation Act, the widow of.a deceased soldier loses her pension within twelve months after .re-marriage. This bill makes no provision in respect of the remarriage of the widow.
– An amendment in respect of that matter has been foreshadowed.
– The Prime Minister said at the beginning of my speech that we should take no notice of amendments foreshadowed in the press. Such contemplated amendments should be circulated. I accept the assurance of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) that it is intended to incorporate in the bill a provision in relation to re-marriage. That is only fair. But I cannot agree that all the children should participate in the payment until the youngest child reaches the age of sixteen years if that is to be proposed in lieu of twenty-one years. That would be grossly unfair. Has the Government ever attempted to appoint a guardian or a trustee to brighten the lives of the orphaned children of returned soldiers? Unfortunately, many of these children are left to the mercy of State schools, and miss the affection and guidance which they would probably receive from a trustee or a guardian as is proposed in this measure. The fathers laid down their lives in the service of their country; surely, then, everything possible should be done for the offspring! I appreciate the fact that members of Parliament have to meet many calls on their purse. I have been a member of this Parliament for almost eleven years. I had £20 iu my pocket before I commenced my parliamentary career, and I am £200 in debt to-day. If I were to pass out to-morrow, under the “Widows’ Pensions Act of New South “Wales my unfortunate widow would have to pass a means test; the whole of her circumstances would be inquired into. “Whatever may be the earnings of any unmarried child living in the home of a widow, 50 per cent, of the gross sum is deemed to be the income of the widowed mother, whilst if the child is not living in the home, the rate is 25 per cent. That is supposed to be, and it is, a very humane piece of legislation, which other States might well copy.
I believe that we are going beyond the bounds of decency and humanity in making such, provision that the eldest child of the late Prime Minister can participate in this grant until after passing the age of 33 years, irrespective of the amount of her income.
– It is a mis-use of public money.
– It definitely is a misuse of public money. It is not fair. Unfortunately, these matters have to be ventilated in the interests of the many thousands of persons who have never had the privilege of having their cause pleaded in this House. A widowed woman who visits my home has reared fourteen children. A fortnight after her husband died, her eldest son was accidentally shot in the bush. She had to pass a means test, and her pension was reduced because one of her children, aged fourteen years, had obtained employment.
– There would be no reduction in that case.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! It appears to the Chair that the honorable member is criticizing State legislation. That may not be done.
– I am endeavouring to show the difference between the provision here proposed, and that made under a widows’ pension scheme in one part of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) knows full well that 50 per cent, of the income of any child living in the home of a widowed mother is regarded as the income of that mother.
– A boy of fourteen years is not taken into account.
– Order ! I ask honorable members not to debate that matter.
– It is no secret that many members of Parliament, because of the calls that are made upon them by charitable organizations and other bodies whose appeals cannot be disregarded, are not able to make adequate provision for their dependants. Many honorable members on this side of the House rely entirely upon their salaries. I have not been able to make suitable provision for my wife should I die. This Parliament should be invited to consider a comprehensive scheme of insurance for its members whereby, in the event of their death, their dependants would be provided for out of members’ contributions. The subject should not be dealt with in this piecemeal fashion. We should have a system of insurance for members similar to the superannuation scheme for Commonwealth public servants. I do not for one moment suggest that my wife or children are better than the wives and children of any other workers in the community. Therefore, why should we’ vote the people’s money away in this manner? All, to the full extent of their capacity or opportunity, play their part as social units of the Commonwealth. Because the workers have never received what they consider is a fair deal, we have been sent to this Parliament to speak for them. We appeal to them for their votes, and having been sent here, it is our duty to see that their interests receive fair consideration. There should be no discrimination in our social legislation between the children of the ordinary citizen, the children of deceased soldiers, and the children of a member of Parliament or even a Prime Minister. All are the future citizens of the Commonwealth, all have the same right to be maintained according to a reasonable standard, and all should have the same educational facilities to fit them for good citizenship.
Because of the high position which Mr. Lyons held, probably every one in the community feels that his widow is entitled to special consideration. In my opinion the original proposal was not fair and reasonable. The intention was to place at the disposal of Dame Enid £1,000 a year - £500 for herself and £500 in trust for her children until the youngest reached the age of 21 years. Under the amended scheme the provision for the children is restricted to a period of ten years. This means that when the youngest child reaches the age of sixteen years, no further payments will be made in respect of the children. Though some people may think it logical to make special provision for Dame Enid Lyons, the children of the late Prime Minister are no better than the dependants of any other unfortunate widow in the community. I think that the annuity of £300 for the widow and £200 for her children which the Leader -of the Opposition will propose in committee would be more than fair and reasonable. This- would work out at £5 15s. 7d. a week for tlie widow, and £3 17s. a week for the children. I consider also . that provision for the children should cease as each reaches the age of sixteen years. This proposal would give to Dame Enid Lyons a total income of £9 12s. 7d. a week. This amount is excessive in my opinion, but if it is accepted by the Government, no one could claim that the widow and dependants of the late Prime Minister would not be receiving fair treatment, especially when compared with the total income provided under other legislation for widows and dependants. It is grossly unfair to provide, out of the Consolidated Revenue, £1,000 a year, or £20 a week, for the annuitants under this bill. I invite honorable members to compare the provision made in this bill with the treatment given to invalid pensioners and their wives and children. Section 22h of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act contains a provision, inserted in 1932 by the first Government led by the late Mr. Lyons, and, so far a3 I have been able to ascertain, the Government does not intend to repeal it. It provides that if the relatives of any applicant for an invalid pension either severally or collectively adequatelymaintained him, he is not entitled to a pension. I also have knowledge of the refusal of a claim for invalid pension by a man, 52 years of age, because his father, who was then aged about 80, was deemed to be maintaining him adequately.
-Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, or its administration.
– I am merely making a comparison between other social legislation and this bill. My intention is to show that invalid pensioners are not getting anything like the same treatment as is proposed in this mei sure. In one case within my knowledge a woman, whose husband is an invalid and in receipt of an invalid pension, is unable to take other work because the care of her invalid husband and children occupies the whole of her time. As she is unable to supplement her income- by other work she is forced to live on the invalid pension given to her husband.
– Order ! The honorable member is obviously criticizing a Commonwealth law.
– These people do suffer undue hardships because of the operation of that social legislation. This bill contains no stipulation regarding the probable income, from other sources, of Dame Enid Lyons and her family. Some members of the family may, during the currency of this legislation, occupy positions returning them as much as £10 a week; yet they will participate in the benefits provided by this measure until the youngest child reaches the age of twentyone years. If under other legislation the income of the beneficiary is assessed and payments reduced accordingly, there should be similar provision in this bill. I would support an amendment of the measure on the lines which I have indicated. Such an amendment would. I believe, meet the views of the people generally. I know that many people are opposed to the Government’s proposal although they approve of suitable provision being made. I do not consider the Government’s proposal fair, particularly in view of the fact that the dependants of others who served their country to the fullest extent of their capacity and the opportunities presented to them have not received the benefits now proposed for Dame Enid Lyons. The bill is grossly unfair and does not accord with my view of Christian justice. It discriminates between the wives and dependants of returned soldiers and others and the widow and dependants of the late Prime Minister. On the 28th October, 1916, an Australian soldier was posted as a deserter, whereas the records later disclosed that he was killed in action. Tet his widow and child had to suffer for twenty-two years without a pension, In July of last year I directed the attention of the then Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll) to this case, with the result that the Minister endeavoured to make some restitution to the woman and her son, both of whom had unjustly suffered for many years the stigma attached to the term “ deserter “, although the man had been killed in action.
– Order ! The honorable member is criticizing the repatriation, administration. That may not -bc done under this bill.
M.r. JAMES- All that that widow received, in respect of the son whom the father had never seen, was the ordinary pension payable until he was 16 years of age. A lump sum was paid. The widow herself merely received the pension ordinarily payable to a soldier’s widow. Even a woman who suffered so great an injustice as I have mentioned was not granted a pension anything like that proposed in this bill.
– I shall have to call upon the honorable member to resume his seat unless he confines his remarks to the measure before the House. The matter to which he has referred has nothing to do with the bill.
– I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will, place the same restriction on other honorable members as you are placing on me.
– Order !
– Apparently, I am not to be allowed any latitude.
– The honorable member will resume his seat. It must be clear to every honorable member that the Chair cannot allow a discussion of any injustice associated with the administration of government departments olof any subject outside the scope of this measure. Such matters are clearly not relevant to this measure. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I shall conclude by saying that I am strongly opposed to this bill. I hope that, in committee, amendments will be moved to reduce the annuities to at least one half the amounts now proposed. Even that amount would be far in excess of what is allowed to others. I shall vote for any amendment the object of which is to reduce the proposed grant.
.- I shall not address the House upon the justice of this measure, for I am satisfied to rely upon what has been placed before it by th<? Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). There is no difference of opinion among members, irrespective of party, as to the need for some provision to be made for Dame Enid Lyons herself, and also for the education and maintenance of her family.
– lt should be reasonable.
– The circumstances of this case are such that in the opinion of the Government there should not be any quarrel in respect of the sum to be paid. I rise to remove certain misapprehensions which, I think, have not yet been dealt with. In committee, an amendment will be proposed to provide first that the annuity to Dame Enid Lyons shall cease in the event of her re-marriage, and, secondly, that in respect of the amount to be paid to her as trustee, and to be used for the education and maintenance of her family, the amount shall be paid for only ten years from the commencement of the act, when the youngest child will have reached the age of sixteen years.
– That is not in the bill.
– In committee I propose to move that in clause 4 the words “until the youngest child attains the age of 21 years “ be omitted, and the words “ for a period of ten years,” be inserted in lieu thereof.
Several honorable members have urged that provision be made to grant pension rights to members of this Parliament and their dependants. I realize the force of the representations that have been made, and am in a position to say that at the present moment a scheme to provide annuities to members, and provision for the dependants of deceased members, is under consideration by me, in consultation with representatives of each party in the House, and is receiving not only my sympathetic but also my urgent attention.
Referring again to the terms of the bill, it is sufficient for me to say, first, that the amount which is proposed in this bill is, in the belief of the Government, not more than is reasonable, and, secondly, that the Government is not losing sight of the necessity for providing some scheme of superannuation for members generally, in order to remove the possibility of their dependants becoming a charge on the country.
– That matter should not bo brought up at this stage.
– I should not have mentioned it at all were it not that more than one honorable member has already done go.
– Mention of it suggests that inducements are being offered to honorable members to support this measure.
– No inducement is being offered. Indeed, none should be needed. Had not the matter been referred to by a number of honorable members opposite, I should not have mentioned it.
The proposed provision for the family of the late Prime Minister does not mean that every member of that -family is to receive a specific amount for a period of ten years. The intention is that £500 per annum shall be paid to Dame Enid Lyons for the support and maintenance of the family as a whole. It does not follow that any portion of the sum will be paid to a child who has reached the age of 25 or 26 years.
– There is nothing to prevent that from being done.
– It does not necessarily follow that it will be done. It is intended that Dame Enid Lyons shall be granted this sum in order to enable her to apply it generally for the advancement and maintenance of the members of the family for a period of ten years. When one has regard to the burdens placed upon her in connexion ‘with the maintenance and education of her family, the amount suggested is not unreasonable.
.- I rise to criticize the bill before the House. At the outset I say that I favoured the proposal of the Opposition that adequate inquiries should first be made into the need for such >a bill to be brought before this Parliament. It is true that a committee met, and that certain information was supplied to it; it was for the members of that committee to be satisfied that adequate inquiry a3 to the circumstances of the’ family had been made. I am of the opinion that whatever inquiries were instituted were carried out too hurriedly to obtain sufficient information to guide this House. However, we must accept the assurances of the committee on this point. I regard this bill not so much as a proposal to give an annuity to the widow of the late Prime Minister, and another annuity for the maintenance and education of his dependent children, as a measure designed to provide a pension for one widow in the community. I support the view that this Parliament is justified in making adequate provision for any widow who finds herself in a position similar to that of Dame Enid Lyons, but I have never yet supported a policy which grants privileges to a few. I believe in justice for all, and for. that reason I am of the opinion that this subject must be approached from an angle different from that indicated in this measure. We must satisfy ourselves as to the real position. A good deal of extraneous matter has been introduced into this discussion, particularly by members supporting the Government. Much has been said about the sacrifice made by men occupying public positions. I shall not discuss that point other than to say that my membership of this Parliament has not entailed any great sacrifice on my part. On the contrary, I am grateful that the electors of East Sydney felt disposed to send me here as their representative. On other occasions when social legislation has been before this Parliament, honorable members opposite have insisted that the most careful inquiries should be made into the circumstances of applicants for relief. In this instance, however, we are .told that the means test should not be applied. One Government supporter said that the idea of a close inquiry into the circumstances of the family was repugnant to him. I recognize no privileged section of the community. If it is repugnant to the honorable member to ask the widow of the late Prime Minister to indicate what her circumstances are, in order that Parliament may determine what measure of assistance should be rendered to her and her family, it should be equally repugnant to him to ask other members of the community for similar information. Honorable members are aware of the procedure which is usually adopted in dealing with applications for relief.
Although the Government explains that the object of this bill is to provide an annuity of £500 for the widow of the late Prime Minister, and a similar annuity for the maintenance of certain of her children, the fact is that it is intended to grant to one widow in the community a pension of £1,000 a year. I have frequently heard honorable members say that the laws of this country should apply equally to all of its citizens. If a pension of £20 a week is to be granted to one widow, I should like supporters of the proposal to indicate how they justify their attitude in respect of the granting of assistance to other widows in the community.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.”]
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I objected very strongly to the proposal to give preferential treatment to an individual widow. In endeavouring to justify this preposterous proposal - it is preposterous, in the circumstances, to give a widow a pension of £20 a week - honorable members opposite stressed the fact that the late Mr. Lyons was unable to make any provision during his lifetime for his survivors. I have already expressed my dissatisfaction with the cursory nature of the examination made by the committee which has considered this matter since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) moved the second reading of this measure. On many occasions, when matters have been brought before this Parliament concerning the circumstances of other unfortunates in the community, honorable members opposite have argued that those who do not exercise sufficient care in the management of their affairs cannot expect the Government to give them more assistance than is required for their mere existence. The late Mr. Lyons was a member of the Tasmanian parliament for many years; he then became a member of this Parliament, eventually assuming the highest position within the gift of this Parliament. Honorable members opposite have spoken of the sacrifices which occupancy of the office of Prime Minister entails, and have suggested thai a man does not put himself in that position but is voted into it by the people, and the supporters of his party. It is likewise true, however, that men are under no compulsion to run as a candidate either for parliament or for th, position of Prime Minister. Vs :i member of this Parliament, and as Prime
Minister of this country the late Mr. Lyons received in salary a total amount of approximately £20,000, and, in addition, was paid a liberal travelling allowance of £3 a day. It might be said, therefore, that while he was Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons had greater opportunities to provide for the future wellbeing of his family than the great majority of other citizens enjoy. I am not suggesting that if the late right honorable gentleman did not make sufficient provision for his family, that this Parliament should refuse to give any assistance to his widow and family because of his failure to provide for them. However, let us be consistent in our treatment of matters of this kind. This is a proposal to give a pension of £20 a week to one widow, because she happens to be the widow of a Prime Minister. Let us examine the attitude adopted by honorable members opposite when other cases of this kind have come before the House. In speaking to this measure, the Prime Minister said, “ We must deal with this question in a warm and generous spirit “. Is it not reasonable to ask members of this Parliament to approach every case of this kind that comes before them in a warm and generous spirit? Are members of the Government to exercise such a spirit only in particular cases? To-day, the Commonwealth Government makes no provision for the payment of pensions to widows generally. Under the Repatriation Act pensions are paid to only 4,000 out of 9,000 war widows in this country, and, in many cases, the amount is so small that it stands as a living monument to the incapacity of this Government and the unsympathetic treatment meted out by it to that section of the community.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member is not in order in reflecting upon an Act of Parliament.
– I am endeavouring to draw a comparison between the amount proposed to be paid as a pension to the widow and family of the late Prime Minister under this bill, and that now paid under existing legislation to a particular class of widows. No provision is made under Commonwealth law to-day for the payment of pensions to widows generally. Consequently, it is only natural that we should ask ourselves why the Government proposes to be over-generous in its treatment of this particular case. For this proposal is over-generous ; we are being asked to vote an annuity of £500 per annum to the widow of the late Prime Minister, and also an annuity of £500 for the maintenance, education and support of his family. Evidently some honorable members opposite have already expressed a good deal of dissatisfaction, otherwise we should not have certain amendments before us. The original proposal was to continue the payment of the annuity to the children until such time as the youngest child had reached the age of 21. Then it was indicated, by way of interjection by the Prime Minister, that the annuity would terminate when the youngest child reached the age of 18 years. Now, following further discussions among honorable gentlemen opposite, amendments which have been circulated by the Government propose that the annuity shall be paid until the youngest child is 16 years of age. Surely honorable members opposite cannot justify the payment of £10 a week as a family allowance, because that is what the proposal really amounts to. I am informed that the difference between the ages of the youngest and the second youngest child is four years, so even under the Government’s latest proposal a pension of £10 a week will be paid for the maintenance of one child.
– It is not for the maintenance of one child, but for the maintenance, advancement and education of all of them.
– Does the honorable gentleman subscribe to the view that we should vote the people’s money to support any one until he or she reaches the age of 33 years? He says that this money is being voted for the maintenance of all of the late Mr. Lyons’s children, and, I am informed, the eldest will be 33 years old when the youngest attains the age of sixteen. Surely no one will suggest that it is the responsibility of this Government ‘ to continue maintaining any dependant of an ex-member of this House until he or she reaches the age of 33. Yet that is to be the case, because this bill makes no , provision for any periodic review of the circumstances of the family of the late Prime Minister. How are wc to know what changes may take place in the family’s circ umstanc.es at any time in the future? It is difficult to’ discuss many aspects of a matter of this kind in public, but 1 understand that there is a possibility in the future of a considerable legacy being left to this family. Do honorable members opposite suggest that if the family should, as a consequence of that legacy, find themselves in comfortable circumstances, when they would no longer require assistance from this Parliament, there should be no review of the circumstances? Should not Parliament be enabled to reexamine the matter when some of these children grow to manhood and womanhood and commence to earn their own livelihood? As I said previously, 1 believe in the principle of just treatment to all, but privilege to none. In this case the Government is giving preferential treatment to one particular widow. I do not propose to go into the details of similar cases which have come before this Parliament, but I point out that when members of the Opposition, in the last few years, have brought under the notice of the Government claims for assistance on behalf of dependants of certain ex-members of this Parliament who found themselves in impoverished circumstances, we were unable to secure any sympathetic treatment at all. Our requests that allowances bc granted in such cases were refused until the Government found it necessary to grant concessions in an endeavour to ensure an easy passage for this measure. This explains why the Government has conceded as much as it has in this connexion. Under this measure it is proposed that the payment of the annuities he retrospective, whereas in respect of previous cases no such provision was applied. How can the Government justify the granting of a pension of only £3 a week to the widow of one ex-member of this Parliament with a young family dependent upon her, and contend that it is sufficient for her to rear and. educate her children, whereas it proposes to grant an amount seven times as great to the widow of another exmember for an exactly similar purpose? The one widow would be just as anxious as the other to give her children the best possible education. I said earlier that this Government had never introduced, nor has the Parliament ever passed, legislation to provide allowances for widows. I was wrong to the extent that the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act made some provision of thatkind, but in such cases certain outside contributions were to be made and the pension was to be only 12s. 6d. a week for widows and 3s. 6d. a -week for each dependent child. How can it bo expected that the one widow will be able to rear and educate her children as she would wish to do under such conditions, whereas it is argued that Mrs. Lyons must have a very much larger sum for the purpose? Surely it is not right that a pension which it is proposed to grant in one case should be denied to other members of die community similarly situated. I can see no justification whatever for the granting of a widow’s pension of £10 a. week and a family allowance of £10 a week, making £20 a week in all, in the case of the widow and family of the ex-Prime Minister, whereas legislation already passed by this Parliament, based upon a contributory scheme, provides for only 32s. 6d. a week for widows and 3s. 6d. a week for each dependent child.
– How does the honorable member, justify his salary in comparison with the salaries of ordinary working men?
– I am glad to hear the honorable member’s interjection. I can always justify my salary on the ground of the work that I do for my constituents. I can quite understand, though, that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) would find difficulty in explaining his ease in his electorate if a similar question were directed to him. Moreover, on every occasion in this Parliament when a proposal has been under discussion for an increase of social service allowances I have voted in favour of it. but the honorable member for Deakin has voted consistently against such increases. It is surprising also that while in the case of the children of the late Prime Minister it is proposed that sustenance shall be provided until they reach the age of 33 years, as the Minister admits-
– I did not admit anything of the kind. I have been trying to explain the matter to the honorable member but he will not let me do so.
– Under the National Health and Pensions Insurance act cognizance is taken of the position of dependent children only until they reach the age of fifteen years. No allowance whatever is provided for them after they reach that age. Why should there be preferential treatment in this case? Another factor that should be borne in mind is that it is proposed that the education of the children of the late Prime Minister should be extended over a great many years. Evidently honorable gentlemen opposite are unmindful of the position of the dependent children of many other persons in the community. According to the latest figures that I have been able to obtain, 15,267 children under the age of sixteen years were working in our factories in 1931-32. The number had increased by almost 17,000, or about 100 per cent, .to 32,144 in 1936-37. Not very long ago in Victoria 2,000 girls under the age of fourteen years applied, in one year, for work in factories in order to augment the family income. The salary range for such employment varied from 8s. to 14s. 6d. a week. No action was taken by this Parliament to remedy that state of affairs. Where is the warm and sympathetic treatment, to he found in the case of these girls? Whenever any suggestion has been made by members of the Opposition that something should be done in such cases, the reply is a bald statement that it is not a matter for this Parliament. We have been told that various tribunals have been established to deal with it and that, in any case, it is the function of the State parliaments to regulate employment and to make provision -for these unfortunate people. I do not agree that this Parliament should be excused from its responsibility to legislate for the benefit of every section of the Australian community.
Let us look at the subject from another point of view. In New South Wales to-day a man, with a wife and eleven children, who is on relief work, receives only 5Ss. 3d. to maintain his household. When he is in work his pay is £4 0s. 9d. a week. Although this Government may allege that it has no responsibility in respect of unemployment within State boundaries, it cannot escape responsibility for the unemployment that exists in the Australian Capital Territory and for the totally inadequate scale of sustenance it provides for unemployed persons. It is interesting to notice that a man, with a wife and family of eight children, who is on sustenance in the Australian Capital Territory receives only £1 10s. 2d. a week. Will it be suggested that that is sufficient to maintain a family of ten? I ask once’ more: “Where is the warm and generous treatment for this section of the community?”
I do not think any honorable member can justify setting up a special standard for the widow and family of a man who for years occupied the highest position in the land and denying the same standard to the widows and families of other men who were less favorably situated. If warm and generous consideration is to be given to the case of this widow and family it should also be given to other widows and families. For the reason that that is not proposed, I cannot support the bill ; nor can I support a proposal which I understand is to be made later that the amount to be provided for the purposes of this bill shall be reduced by about onehalf. The original proposal of the Government was preposterous. I also think that, in the circumstances which face us, a proposal that the amount of pension shall be £10 a week is also unthinkable. I shall not, by my voice or vote, assist to pass a bill which will give privileges to some which are denied to others. If the Government would place before us a bill to provide pensions for all widows and dependent children, I should be prepared to give it very careful consideration ; but I am not prepared to vote for this measure.
I quite appreciate the difficulties of dealing with this case. I do not desire that the circumstances of the Prime Minister’s widow and children should he brought before the Parliament in detail; but if it should be necessary to take that step, I should not regard it as being any more repugnant or obnoxious than it is for applicants for invalid and old-age pensions to be obliged to supply .the detailed questionnaires which they must furnish before their claims can receive consideration. I believe that the private circumstances of families should be kept from public examination. Some other way of dealing with such matters should be devised, so that any necessary investigations could be made without hurting the feelings of any one in the community. 5fet, as things ,are, a warm and generous approach to these subjects in the case of pensioners and others does not seem to concern the Government very much.
I have still another reason to give why I cannot support either the bill or the foreshadowed amendment. For the year ended the 30th June, 1938, 5,000 persons were evicted from their homes in New South Wales alone.
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss that subject under this bill.
– My purpose in mentioning it is to indicate to honorable members opposite who wish to make nice speeches, and to deal with the problems of the community in a warm and generous spirit, that plenty of scope exists for such activities.
Finally, I ask honorable members to consider very carefully how they cast their votes on this measure. I assert definitely that it is unjust to propose to pay a pension of £20 a week to this widow and family, when even the bare necessities of life are denied to many other widows and families. I reiterate that, for the reasons I have given, I shall vote against the bill and also the foreshadowed amendment, which is designed to reduce the amount of pension by half.
.- A short time after the death of Mr. Lyons I attended a church ceremony, and I was glad to see that every religion was represented there, the Jewish among the others. I wish that we could achieve the same degree of harmony in our parliamentary affairs. With a project of this kind all sections of the House are naturally in sympathy. At the time I pronounced my eulogium on the late Prime Minister, I did not realize, as I do now, what a wonderful man he was to have kept his party together. I now know that it is a very quarrelsome party, and my admiration for him has increased tremendously. I am glad that a com mittee was appointed to inquire in a decent way into matters relating to the object of this bill; but consider the six pages of questions, some of them with twelve questions each on them, which the unfortunate applicant for an old-age pension has to answer ! Can we not have a committee to remove some of those infamous questions that are an insult to the applicants, and a reproach to this Parliament? I learned one lesson from an. old man who was, until recently, an old-age pensioner. It was to this effect: “ Judge not your own child, but every child. Judge not according to the life that one woman wants, but that every woman wants, and that every mother wants “. I welcome this bill, though I do not approve of some of its contents, and would not vote for it if a division were called. I welcome it as an example of what we ought to do for every mother of eleven children. On the very day that the announcement was made that it was proposed to make a grant of £25,000 to Dame Enid Lyons, the newspapers carried a story about a mother of twelve children who could not find a home. As the result of the recent bush fires in Victoria, there is one woman, the mother of eleven children, without a home, but I did not hear any Minister of the Crown suggest that special action should be taken on their behalf. We hear constantly about the need for increasing the population, but we do not give the people enough food to feed their children I say that as a medical man, backed by the highest medical authority in the world. The paltry wage paid to a great many of our people is not sufficient upon which to bring up a family. I do not know whether there is some malign influence at work to prevent the people knowing their wealth. Dr. Wilson has removed some information regarding the private wealth of Australia from the latest epitome of statistics; but for the year 192S-29, the last for which information is available, the private wealth of Australia was estimated at £526 for every man, woman and child. We are born into this world, we live here a little while, and then we pass along, leaving behind us wealth to the value of thousands of millions of pounds for the wise men in politics to divide. We have never known what the public wealth of Australia really is; what is the value represented by the unsold lands of the country, the big public works, and the unworked mines. As a matter of fact, the mineral rights in the land belong to the State and Commonwealth. Assuming the public wealth to be half that of the private wealth, we arrive at a total of more than £7,000,000,000, which amounts to over £1,000 for every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth. Yet we allow mothers and children to lack food. For the last three years I have made an effort to raise money with which to buy milk for children attending creches and kindergartens in Victoria. So far the public have subscribed over £4,000 for this purpose. I should like the Prime Minister to take steps to ensure that every Australian child receives two pints of milk a day. In Russia, that country about which so many lies have been told, every child is entitled to receive .not less than two pints of milk each day. I, as an Australian, loving my country, want to see the same provision made here. With the possible exception of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), no other honorable member of this House has seen the home life of the poor in the cities as I have seen it. I have seen mothers trying to make a meal for their children when there has not been enough food in the house. I have never known any man, be he a conservative of the deepest dye, who would not favour the ‘making of adequate provision for the children, at any rate. I remember when there were no old-age pensions or invalid pensions in Australia, when the destitute had to contrive to live on 2s. 6d., and sometimes as little as ls. 6d. a week, distributed by benevolent societies and church authorities. Thank God those days have gone. When the old-age pensions scheme was introduced in Victoria, I tried to induce the authorities to base the system on the pensions scheme operating in the Public Service. I was unable to do that, but, at any rate, we succeeded in having the pension fixed at 10s. a week. An attempt was made to compel the dependants of the old people to contribute to their support, and I remember that there were two deaths, one very shortly after the other, as the result of taking poison instead of medicine when government officers were about to make investigations regarding means.
The widows of New South Wales have to thank the Government of John Lang for the widows’ pensions scheme in operation in that State, the only State in which widows receive a pension. In this respect, New South Wales stands upon the pinnacle of civilization. Let us all follow the good example.
I lived for six years in London as a medical student, and that was where I first learned my hatred of “man’s inhumanity to man “ which as Bobbie Burns wrote “ makes countless thousands mourn “. I appreciate what it is proposed to do in this bill for Dame Enid Lyons, and I ask that similar treatment be accorded to every mother of eleven children. Every one would like to see the children healthy and well fed. There is no head of a State, be he king or president, if he is wise enough, who would not rather have a healthy population than one dragged up in slums.
I crave the indulgence of the House to include a personal reminiscence. A few years ago, I had a glorious birthday party. I wish that every member of this House could have its equal. Over 2000 persons paid for admission to the Town Hall in Melbourne, and the birthday cake weighed 188 lb. Needless to say I did not eat it. Those who organized the party worked very hard, and about £60 was raised for the purchase of milk for- the children. Next year they wanted me to have another hig party, but I said that one like that was enough for a lifetime. Instead, I paid a visit to the creches and kindergartens where the children were being looked after by their nurses, and I remembered that the man who had instituted the system of kindergartens was allowed to die almost a pauper. They asked me if I would allow myself to be photographed for the screen, and I agreed, provided it were for a good cause. Thus it was that, at the age of SO, I became a movie actor, together with my well-loved friend and comrade George Prendergast, who was one of the straightest men that ever lived. Nothing could induce him to swerve from the path of duty as he saw it. I never see that picture without wishing that my old friend were with me still. Well, when they came and said, “ What do you want to do?” I said, “Could I make an appeal for the creation of a fund for the supply of milk for the mites at the kindergartens?” I thus became a movie actor. One little mite, when she came along with her twopence, said that she had seen me on the screen - that wonderful invention - and I asked her whom she liked best. She replied, “I like you, Dr. ‘loney”. For these little ones - nearly two thousand years ago, Christ took the children in his arms and blessed them - I ask more than they receive at present. I ask that they get enough food. I feel that the hearts of all honorable members are with me in that. There is no honorable member who would refuse, if it were put to the vote, to see that the children are properly fed. I welcome this bill, because it tells me that the hearts of men who wish to look after the welfare of eleven children of a dead man must ask for the same or better treatment for every mother of twelve children - even six children. God knows that is enough for any working man to have.
.- I realize that nothing I can say in this Parliament will influence the intention of the Government to make provision under this bill for the widow and family of our late Prime Minister. I realize also how difficult it is to speak on a measure of this sort without, perhaps, creating the impression that one is actuated by some bias, conscious or unconscious, against the individual concerned. I have no conscious bias against the late Prime Minister or his widow and family. On the contrary, I have the highest respect for them. My relations with the late right honorable gentleman, although I am of different political thought, were of the happiest. On the occasions I had to approach him on matters which required sympathetic handling, I found that sympathy always forthcoming. But I realize that in a discussion of this sort one must put a point of view or express one’s feelings eliminating entirely the personal element. To the extent that I am capable of doing that, I intend to do it. In view of the knowledge that honorable members of all sides of this House propose to support some pension for the widow and children of the late right honorable gentleman, I feel it is a case in which ministers and honorable members are inclined to put themselves upon a pedestal, and unconsciously make themselves believe that they are of greater service to the community than other people who serve the Commonwealth, the common people outside this Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman should have a high conceit of himself.
– This subject is a painful one, and I ask the honorable member not to interject. In ordinary circumstances I do not ask for that. When I say that I do not exclude honorable members from the wide range of people in this community who have a humane outlook. I cannot refrain from illustrating this situation by citing supposititious cares. In case “ A “, we have a citizen outside this Parliament in the industrial, professional, clerical, or primary producing sphere, giving of his best to the Commonwealth, and the common good. He dies, leaving his widow and children unprovided for. That means that his widow has no other recourse to aid than to social laws and institutions of this community. I need not name the particular institutions or social laws from which aid can be sought. In case “ B “, the son of a worthy individual cited in case “ A “ is elected to this Parliament by virtue of the confidence which the electors have in him. He might have special gifts to serve, but Providence provides them. He is no more a worthy citizen than his father. He may be Prime Minister or he may be an honorable member of the rank and file of this Parliament. He dies. This Parliament then passes a special act to provide a special pension for his widow and children. The widow in case “ A “ is no less worthy than the widow in case “ B “. I cannot view this matter in any other way than by drawing this analogy.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) interjected whilst the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was speaking on this measure, and asked how could the honorable gentleman justify the higher salaries for members of this Parliament than for people outside. My retort to that interjection is that honorable members, after they pay various travelling expenses, very often are in receipt of no more than the basic wage, or the wage of artisans. That fact must be taken into consideration. It is because of it that a Prime Minister and many members of this Parliament leave their widows and children unprovided for. But that is another question. It is a possible case for more adequate remuneration of the Prime Ministers and honorable members,- but that can be argued on its merits at the right time and place. When it comes to providing for widows and children, however, I cannot see my. way clear to support a proposal which creates class privilege in this community, and puts one widow in a more worthy position than another widow.
– This is a special case.
– The honorable gentleman says that this is a special case. There are many grand women in this community who have rendered of their best in the service of this Commonwealth. The best that we can give them is the invalid pension, the old-age pension, the soldiers’ widows’ pension, or to propose, as was proposed in a measure which passed this Parliament last year, that, for the subscription of ls. 6d. a week, the payment of £1 a week should be made after a certain age. This illustrates, perhaps, the conceit that we have of ourselves. It is said, when an honorable gentleman dies, that he dies because of strain of office, overwork, or because of extra service unselfishly given to this country. There is not the slightest doubt that, in many cases, that is correct in every particular, but that applies to many men in every other walk of life. It applies to primary producers, who are harassed by debts, mortgages, long hours of labour and inadequate remuneration. These men come to an early grave because of the services that they render to their country. It applies also to the artisan, to the unskilled worker, to the professional worker in medicine or law. In these circumstances, how can we say that we should regard this as a special case deserving of special consideration ? The onus of proving that any disability from which he suffers is due to his war service is thrown on the returned soldier. It has been said that the strain imposed on the late Prime Minister was the cause of his early death. That may or may not have been the case. This problem troubles me, and I feel deeply the obligation to speak as I have spoken. But the electors of my constituency sent me here not to grant privileges or to raise distinctions between one worthy member and another of our community, but to endeavour to place every member of the community on the same basis. Even-handed justice should be meted out to all. I realize that this measure, in some form or other, will have the support of honorable members of all parties. That speaks volumes for their humanity, and I pay tribute to them for it. But I ask them not to forget that I and many other honorable members will use this case as a precedent in the future in support of any case of a widow and children who are equally worthy and entitled to assistance. Only a month or two ago a worthy citizen of Williamstown, Victoria, with a wife and twelve children, could not secure a roof under which to house them, although he was prepared to pay rent for it. In the following week, a family of eight children in Malvern, because of its size, could not obtain shelter. Were those special cases, or were they not? Neither this nor any other parliament in Australia lifted a finger to provide housing accommodation for those people.
I conclude by expressing the hope that this House will accept my contribution to the debate in the spirit in which it is made; it is not actuated by bias, nor have personal considerations consciously intruded into it. I feel that I should do wrong were I to assist this Parliament in any way to take out of the pockets of those who are less fortunately situated, such as widows who are receiving a pension of £1 a week, money with which to pay a much more handsome pension to others who occupy a similar position. In the circumstances, I am opposed to the bill.
– I desire to address myself for a few minutes only to the unfortunate circumstances that have necessitated the introduction of this measure. I speak on behalf of the 50,000 odd electors whom I represent in this Parliament. At the outset, I wish to make it clear to the Government that I am opposed to the .bill. A pension of £20 a week is not my conception of what is right, although I agree largely -with the statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) concerning the dignity and the importance of the office of Prime Minister and the necessity for this Parliament and the people of the Commonwealth always to hold it in the highest regard. Although we pride ourselves on our democratic institutions, and on the character and integrity of those who occupy the office of Prime Minister, that must not sway our consideration of what pension should be paid to the widow of a Prime Minister. Both the Prime Minister and his wife have my wholehearted sympathy because of the arduous nature of the task they have to perform in the discharge of their functions. I am quite satisfied that the late Prime Minister’s death was hastened by the severity of the strain imposed upon him in rendering service to this country. The duties of the office would kill any man who remained sufficiently long in it, and for that reason there must be a periodic change in the occupant of it. The right honorable member for ‘Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was a near friend and colleague of the late Prime Minister and remained with him to the end. The emotionalism of the* last sad hours must have affected him deeply. I can therefore quite understand his statement that Australia would not forget the widow, and the further statements that he made to the press. I believe with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) that had an appeal been made to the Australian public for the support of the widow, she would have been amply provided for by those who consider that her late husband had rendered yeoman service to this nation. But to take from the Treasury £20 a week for the support of his dependants is quite another matter. The generosity of the people of this country would have been abundantly demonstrated, and a sufficient sum would have been provided as the result of a public appeal to have made the introduction of this bill unnecessary.
The precedent of making provision for the widows of ex-Prime Ministers has already been established, but in no case has the amount exceeded £3 a week. If that be a reasonable pension, why should a larger amount be provided in this particular case? This proposal to grant a pension or annuity to the widow and children of the late Prime Minister, out of all proportion to that provided for the dependants of ordinary members of Parliament, is wrong. The total amount payable should diminish as each child reaches the age of sixteen years, so that the nation’s responsibility in respect of the children would cease entirely when the youngest child attained that age. The contingency of the re-marriage of Dame Enid Lyons is to be provided for in the bill. I know of no reason why the annuity to the late Prime Minister’s dependants should not be on all fours with the pension paid to the widow and dependants of any honorable member who has rendered service to this country. The financial circumstances of the late Prime Minister as disclosed to the special committee of honorable members clearly demonstrated to the public generally that members of Parliament give freely of their services to this country in so many cases but are unable to make suitable provision for their dependants. I agree with my leader (Mr. Curtin) that it is a fine thing to be able to say of our democracy that its public men go through all the temptations which public life so often offers to them, and emerge from it poor men. For myself, I can say that I did not come to this Parliament to make money. No decent man does. We come here to give service because wo early caught the disease of endeavouring to render public services in some sphere, and to leave the world better than we found it.
I am prepared, because of precedents established, to support a measure to provide for the widow and children of the late Prime Minister in the same way as widows and dependants of other members of this Parliament have been cared for, and I would also approve of ample provision being made for the large family which the late right honorable gentleman left. But I am opposed to the bill in the present form, and I hope that it will not become law. Let us bold the scales of justice evenly and give to the widow and children of our late Prime Minister the same treatment as that meted out to the widows and dependants of all ex-members of his Parliament.
– The Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) has already very fully expressed the views of the Country party on this subject. The Country party will accept the proposed amendments circulated by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender). They do not materially affect the original pronouncement made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) when Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government of the day, that Dame Enid Lyons and her children would be adequately provided for. I wish to make it quite clear that members of the Country party would not be prepared to support any proposal that would be tantamount to a repudiation of that promise.
.- I wish to make my position quite clear both to this Parliament and to the people df the country generally. I do” not agree with the principles embodied in the bill, nor do I agree with the terms of the amendment which has been suggested in other quarters. Like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) I believe that the Government’s original proposal was outrageous, and that the amendment also is too liberal. I see no reason why special consideration should be given to the widow of one ex-member of this House, even though he held the office of Prime Minister. It was a shock to me to learn of the unfortunate circumstances disclosed by the investigations into the late Prime Minister’s affairs by a committee of this House. That disclosure made it clear to honorable members that certain accusations which had been made against the late right honorable gentleman, on more than one occasion, were quite without foundation. I make no excuse for my attitude in this matter. A precedent has been established for the provision by this Parliament of an allowance to the widows and dependants of deceased members. ‘ That precedent should not be departed from in this case. If the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was carried away by sentiment when making his promise that the widow and children of the late Prime Minister would receive special consideration, that is no concern of mine. Probably that sentiment was the result of the long association between the right honorable gentleman and the late Prime Minister. Such an association, as honorable members know, often cements a friendship, and in times of grave trouble leads to the saying of things which otherwise might not be said. I think the original suggestion was that a grant of £25,000 or an annuity of £1,000 would be given to Dame Enid Lyons and her family. The bill now before the House provides for an annuity of £1,000 for ten years. With due deference to other opinions that have been expressed, I say emphatically that there is no justification for the widow of a deceased member of this Parliament receiving an allowance equal to the salary payable to a private member. By way of interjection, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) how he could justify the emolument which he receives as a member of this Parliament. I say candidly, that the allowance made to honorable members of this Parliament is not fairly apportioned according to the size of the various constituencies. The provision made by even the most careful member during his term of office does not leave, his dependants very well-to-do. It should also be borne in mind that membership of any parliament precludes a man from investing whatever money he may have in certain directions. There are, of course, very good reasons for that restriction, which, I think, applies to members of all legislatures in this country. I shall vote against the bill and reserve the right to vote against the amendments.
– I should like to make my position in this matter quite clear. While. I favour some provision being made for the wife and children of the late Prime Minister, I protest against what I consider almost indecent haste in dealing with this matter. Had we adopted the usual practice, we should have waited until a calmer atmosphere prevailed. Then, I think, the measure introduced by the Government would have been different from the one now before the House. This bill makes certain that for at least ten years the income of Dame Enid Lyons will be equal to that which her husband would have received as an ordinary member of Parliament, without the necessity to maintain- two homes. Although I am anxious to do something for the family, I believe that 1 should not be justified in voting for the measure because, in my opinion, it proposes a misuse of public money. At a conservative estimate, even taking into consideration the proposed amendments, the sum to bc appropriated under this measure will amount to £15,000 or £16,000. There is not in this Parliament any man who has a guarantee of the permanent occupation of his seat for a term sufficient to entitle him to that sum. Before the death of Mr. Lyons, every one in Australia who could feel the pulse of political events, felt certain that a change of leadership of the Government was almost daily imminent. Some people who claim to know the facts have gone so far as to say that it was definitely agreed that such a change would have taken place within a month or two of the death of the late Prime Minister. But even if we do not take that point into consideration at all, and deal only with the principle underlying the bill, I claim that there is no justification for such an unfair proposal. We have had other instances of ex-Ministers of this Parliament, who gave long and faithful service to the country, dying and leaving their widows and families in almost destitute circumstances - I know of several such cases personally - ‘but in no case was the widow of the deceased member granted an annuity exceeding £156 per annum. Why there should be such an elaborate margin between their cases and that of the late Prime Minister I cannot imagine. I should be prepared to double the amount given in other instances because of the size and youthfulness of the family of the late Prime Minister, but that I should vote for the expenditure of from £15,000 to £20,000 of public money - and I do not think that the Minister can make it much less, even when the proposed amendments are taken into account - is something which I believe I have no right to do. The principle underlying the bill is wrong. How can I face any section of the people of Australia and attempt logically to justify my vote for this measure in its present form? The bill was conceived in a moment of great emotion, and is the outcome of the sentiment attaching to the dramatic termination of the late Prime Minister’s life. The fact that he died while actually in harness as Prime Minister is the reason for the great difference between the proposals in this case and the amounts granted on other occasions. I am aware that this is the first time that Parliament has been called upon to consider a grant to the widow of a Prime Minister who died in office, but, when other men who served in the Commonwealth Ministry for long periods, and held high portfolios, such as that of the Minister for Trade and Customs, died, their widows were granted only £3 a week. I admit that in no other instance was the family so large, and, in my opinion, that does make a difference. That difference can be met by increasing the amount paid in other instances. But why the amount should be larger just because the Prime Minister died while holding office, rather than six months later or a few years earlier, I cannot imagine. Had he relinquished his post through illhealth as was probable, or had the change which many people consider was imminent actually taken place, the proposals contained in this bill would never have been submitted to us. I suggest that the great difference between this case and others is the outcome of sentimental emotion rather than common sense. For the reasons that I have stated, I shall support the second reading in order to enable a more reasonable scheme to be evolved in committee. I shall oppose the proposals of the Government and also that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in the hope that we shall arrive at something equitable. Unless a reasonable compromise is agreed to, I shall be forced to vote against the bill altogether.
– I am amazed and disappointed at the trend that this debate has taken. I believe that our late Prime Minister died richer than any honorable member can ever hope to be - I speak metaphorically, not of material possessions. We might write as his epitaph that to be remembered is notto die but to leave this life with a credit balance, and to pass over the Great Divide wonderfully solvent. Because the late Prime Minister was so endowed, I am amazed and disappointed at the course of this debate. I feel impelled to make reference to several remarks made by honorable members. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) suggested that there was an obligation upon this House to give proof of certain things to the public. I submit that we have nothing to prove to the public. It is the duty of the public to be politically-minded and to learn what is being done in this Parliament. I am confident that the electors of the Northern Territory are politically-minded; if the electors of other constituencies are not, it is not the duty of the Parliament to educate them. The honorable member for. Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) suggested that, because of ill-health or other reasons, the late Prime Minister could not have continued long in office, and that had he died while a private member this measure would have been different. Had the late Mr. Lyons been able to penetratethe veil separating the present from the future, I am confident that he would have preferred to vacate his post and to receive the meagre allowance paid to private members rather than die in the knowledge that a debate such as the present one would take place. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked how could he logically justify his support of this measure before the electors of his constituency. I ask, how could he do anything but support it? Citizens of this grand country should be proud to know that they had a Prime Minister who, although he had every chance in his high office to accumulate wealth, placed service to his country before self-aggrandizement and riches. Unlike the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I feel sure that every one of my electors will agree with this proposal. Those who do not would prove unworthy of such service as was rendered on their behalf, and on behalf of Australia as a whole, by the late Prime Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to.
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of annuities to the widow and children of the late theRight Honorable Joseph Aloysius Lyons.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, to the widow of the late the Right Honorable Joseph Aloysius Lyons an annuity at the rate of Five hundred pounds per annum.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause - . . for the maintenance and benefit of herself and for the maintenance, education, benefit and advancement of thechildren of the late the Right Honorable Joseph Aloysius Lyons.
The purpose of my amendment is to. provide an annuity at the rate of £500 per annum to Dame Enid Lyons, and, during her lifetime, to oblige her to make provision for her own maintenance and also for the maintenance, education, benefit and advancement of her children. The proposal of the Government, having, regard to the next clause, is to give Dame-
Enid Lyons a sum of £1,000 per annum, to be used for the purposes of her own needs and for the responsibilities which she will have in the care and nurture of the dependent children of the late Prime Minister. In substance, I propose that the combined annuity of £1,000 be reduced to £500 for the whole of the life of Dame Enid.
– And what provision would be made for the children in the event of Dame Enid’s death ?
– In the event of this: amendment being agreed to, I propose to move certain amendments that would provide for that contingency. In order that honorable members may gain a proper appreciation of what is involved in this amendment, I point out that my subsequent amendments will be designed to provide for an appropriation of £100 per annum to be payable to a trustee to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral for the maintenance, education, benefit and advancement of the children of the late Prime Minister until such children attain the age of eighteen years. It could easily happen - I hope it will not-*-that within a year, for instance, my proposal would mean that £700 would have to be paid to the trustee as against the annual appropriation of £500 which 1 now suggest, because the trustee would have to engage a person to have custody of the children, and would, therefore, have to pay wages to such a person. These contingencies, I hope, will never arise, but provision must be made for them. The needs .mid circumstances of the family of the late Prime Minister demand that this Parliament shall make adequate provision for the maintenance and care of the widow and dependants of the late Prime Minister. I believe that an annual amount of £1,000 is too great a provision to be made. Such provision will set a precedent which, in years to come, will be discovered to be unfortunate. An annuity of £500 would represent a provision by this Parliament in accordance with the dignity of the status of the widow of the . late Prime Minister, and it should be reasonable provision for the responsibilities which now devolve upon her.
Before the right honorable gentleman became Prime Minister he was a private member of this House. Normally, honorable members expect to remain private members. Ministerial office, in the very nature of things, is usually for a much shorter period than representation of constituencies in a private capacity. I said sufficient yesterday to indicate my view of the emoluments paid to the Prime Minister. I agree that the late right honorable gentleman was not paid a sum which enabled him to make very great provision for his wife and children. The salary of a private member is £1,000 a year. It is fair to say, I think, that had the late right honorable member retired from the office of Prime Minister and continued as a private member of the House for, say, five or seven years - one former Prime Minister has in actual fact remained a private member for about seven years - the amount that he would have been able to make available to his- wife for her own and her household responsibilities, and for the education of the children, would have been approximately £600 in each year. I do not think any honorable member of the Parliament finds himself able to do much more than that. I have tried to look at this subject in a common-sense way. If my estimate in this respect is in error, the degree of error is very little one way or the other. In view of the calls made upon the salaries of private members for political and public expenses in connexion with their position it is unlikely that any of them are able to make more than £600 of their salary available each year for private purposes. I feel that an amount of £1,000 a year for the purpose proposed in this bill is out of proportion. What I have proposed would be reasonable and proper. The amount is far higher than that provided for widows of other former Ministers of State, and the like. I take into account that seven of the late Prime Minister’s children are under the age of eighteen years, and that some of his family who are over that age will need to undergo a period of training before they will be able to engage usefully in the ordinary business of life. We have, I believe, to avoid making a provision which is out of harmony altogether with what would be the normal expectations of the family had the right honorable gentleman continued to be a private member of the Parliament for some years to come, yet the provision should not be entirely disregardful of the high office which he filled at the time of his death. A grant of £500 for the widow and another grant for the children of £500 for two years and at a lesser rate on a sliding scale for ten years is too much. My proposed provision of £500 a year represents the earnings of capital of approximately £10,000. If it had been suggested at the committee meeting last evening that the former Prime Minister had left an estate of a capital value of £10,000 the committee would have been reluctant to come to a conclusion that the family was in need. Therefore, if we make an allowance of an amount which a capital of £10,000 could be expected to yield we cannot be accused of being regardless of the dignity associated with the high office of Prime Minister, or of being mean-spirited. At any rate I should not feel that way. My proposal can bejustified, having in mind the significance of the office of Prime Minister and also the number of children dependent upon the widow. This is an embarrassing and difficult subject to discuss. I have approached it as temperately as I am capable of doing. I cannot do more than say that, having regard to what I believe to be my duty, as a citizen of Australia, to the widow and family of the late Prime Minister, and also to my duty, as a representative of the people in this Parliament, to the taxpayers, to safeguard reasonably the funds of the Commonwealth, the provision I now propose is reasonable and proper. I therefore submit it confidently to the committee.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In accordance with a promise made by me in reply to a question by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) this morning, I lay on the table of the House a. copy of a communication dated the 20th April, 1939, addressed by the Right Honorable Sir Earle Page to His Excellency the Governor-General, tendering his resignation as His Excellency’s chief adviser and head of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. It reads : -
I desire to tender my resignation of the position of your Chief Adviser and Head of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Yours sincerely, (Sgd.) Earle Page.
His Excellency the Governor-General.
In view of the pressing nature of the economic problems facing the wheat industry, I have to-day suggested to the State Premiers that these problems should be the subject of early consultation between the Commonwealth and the States. The problems are not only serious; they are also extremely complicated. So that they may be examined in the most efficient manner by the Ministers, I have suggested to the Premiers that there should be a prior discussion by Commonwealth and State experts, who would report to the Ministers’ conference. I am hopeful that the expert committee will come together in Canberra almost immediately, and that the ministerial conference will be held within a few weeks.
. -A couple of days ago I asked whether the Government would lay upon the table of the House the reports of the Government Geologist on Yampi Sound and the iron ore deposits there. I was informed that these were confidential, and therefore could not be tabled. I fail to see why there should be anything confidential in reports which relate to the quantity of ore available at Yampi Sound. I ask the Government to reconsider the matter, and to lay on the table of the Library copies of the reports of Dr. Woolnough.
– I shall look into the matter again.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his statement, made no reference to his promise that a select committee of this House should be set up to inquire into proposals for the stabilization of the wheat industry. He stated that Commonwealth and State Ministers, and those whom he referred to as experts - I presume he means by that, prominent persons connected with the marketing and handling of the farmers’ wheat, including wheat merchants - are to confer on the subject. I regret that nothing further seems to have been done about the appointment of a select committee, and also that the Prime Minister has not seen fit to invite to the conference actual representatives of wheat-growers’ organizations, which include men capable of stating authoritatively the opinions of the growers themselves. It has been our unfortunate experience in the past that many of these conferences have been attended by socalled experts who have a greater interest in making a profit out of the farmers’ wheat than in making wheat-growing profitable to the farmers. I therefore express my regret that the Prime Minister has not seen fit to invite to these discussions the accredited representatives of the growers themselves.
.- Today’s newspapers report that it is proposed to construct a naval dock in Sydney at a cost of £1,000,000.
– In what paper did the honorable member see that?
– -In the Canberra Times, I think. At any rate, I understand that such a dock is to be built. I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) whether he has obtained a report from’ competent authorities on the suitability of the various harbours of Australia for this purpose. I have received a report from an eminent naval authority to the effect that, for the purposes of a naval dock, the Hobart harbour possesses advantages over all others in Australia. I understand that Fremantle also possesses certain advantages, but unlike the Hobart harbour it is not surrounded by high hills, that would protect ships lying inside from enemy gunfire. The Prime Minister shakes his head, because I dare to suggest a site for this dock. As a humble member of Parliament, I insist upon my right to make representations on the subject. I ask the Government to take into consideration what I believe to be an important factor in the defence of Australia. As I have said, I have heard expert naval opinion to the effect that Hobart is the most suitable place for such a dock, and, therefore, I believe it to be tuy duty to place these representations before the Government. For three years I have been making representations on the subject, but have received no satisfaction. I am informed that, because there are two entrances to the port of Hobart, it would be impossible for an enemy to close the port. That is an advantage which no other harbour in Australia possesses. I ask the Minister for Defence to have a naval survey made of the port of Hobart, and if the result of that survey is unfavorable, I am prepared to accept it, but until such survey is made I shall feel justified in pressing the claims of Hobart. The Commonwealth Government is the big partner among Australian governments, and, unfortunately, it is always inclined to listen to the representations of the big States, rather than to those of the small ones. Commonwealth Ministers have always slighted the representations we make on behalf of Tasmania, realizing, as astute politicians, that there is little support to be had from Tasmania. I defy the Prime Minister to disprove the report which I have obtained from a competent naval authority regarding the port of Hobart.
– I shall go further, and say that I think the port of Hobart is quite the most attractive place in Australia.
– I want justice. According to the report I have received, the hills around the port of Hobart are sufficiently high to prevent enemy ships from firing upon naval vessels lying in the port. I find myself unable to get what I. would call a satisfactory reply from the Minister. We are laying down a programme for the defence of Australia which will cost many millions of pounds, but very little of the money is to be expended in Tasmania. I appeal to the Minister for Defence to order a naval survey of the river and port at Hobart in order to ascertain whether it is satisfactory and whether from the point of view of defence it is not at least as well protected ns any other Australian port.
– I desire to make what is in the nature of a personal explanation. In its report of the debate on the Special Annuity Bill in this house yesterday, the Melbourne Herald has n heading “Mr. White with Labour “. I suppose because of lack of space the -newspaper was not able to report all that I said. The heading would indicate that I support Labour’s attitude in this matter, but I definitely do not. I supported the proposal to appoint a committee of the House to discuss the matter, and that, I think, was eminently desirable. I had hoped that such a preliminary inquiry would obviate the canvassing in the House of those intimate and personal details that unfortunately have been discussed to-day, and that a committee representative of each of the parties would arrive at a conclusion acceptable to the whole Parliament. I paid tribute to ourlate lamented leader and to that eminent lady who is his widow, and said that the right thing should be done, but that the right way to do it was to inquire into the matter through a committee which could get the details and bring back an acceptable scheme. I mention only the Melbourne Herald and the Argus because they created a wrong impression.
– A terrible thing to be with Labour !
– I have often been with Labour in other things, but at the moment I am concerned only with this matter.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been good enough, according to promise, to make available a letter addressed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) when he was Prime Minister, to the Governor-General, in which he tendered his resignation as head of the Government, that resignation carrying with it the resignation of the Government. I understand that that letter has been incorporated in Hansard, and I need not read it again. But the record, as far as my information extends, is not yet complete. Every body is aware that the Leader of the Government immediately preceding the present Government in office had tendered his resignation and that a new Government was in prospect; therefore, the confirmation of that by a letter carries us no further. But I am given to understand that on the date that the right honorable member for Cowper tendered his resignation, he visited the Governor-General and presented his written resignation in person, and then tendered certain advice to the Governor-General. I am not sure, of course, what that advice was, but I have good reason to believe that on the same day and consequent upon the fact, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) had been sent for and commissioned to form a government, the right honorable member for Cowper addressed a letter to the GovernorGeneral.
– Other than the letter of resignation ?
– I have not seen it.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that he is not aware of it?
– I do.
– That being so, I ask the right honorable gentleman to have the record completed. There is nothing, I should like to re-assure the Prime Minister, in the suggestion that I am making of a sinister or disingenuous character. I am merely asking in accordance with precedent now well established that the record of material matters be completed. I believe that the Minister might very well inquire as to the existence of that letter and as to whether or not there is any objection to its being made a matter of public record. I quite understand that there are many occasions on which purely private interviews must take place between the representative of the sovereign and his chief adviser. That is quite in accordance with tradition and practice. But it has become very well established in recent years - I could, perhaps, and may on another occasion, cite ample authority for this statement - for the relevant communications passing between the chief adviser of the Crown and the representative of the Crown to be made public. If it be true, as I understand it is, that the right honorable member for Cowper had already tendered his resignation, which resignation had been accepted, it would be technically a fact that he was not Prime Minister at the time that he wrote that further letter ; but he was in charge until his successor to the office of Prime Minister was appointed. He was standing in loco of the Prime Minister and, that being the case, that letter, written by him., dealing with the change of government, was a matter of great public interest and some importance, and should, if possible, be disclosed. At all events, I ask the Prime Minister to consider the matter for the interest of honorable members and the country at large, and to let me know whether he proposes to make any inquiry and, if he does make such inquiry, the result of it .
– I take this opportunity to reply to the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) who, with true and characteristic humility, brought before the House the claims of Hobart as a site for a naval graving dock. I cannot say offhand what data is available in the naval records concerning the various sites for naval bases throughout Australia, but I have no doubt that the information is fairly full and complete. However, in view of the very definite opinions expressed by a high naval authority - to quote the honorable member, who, I hope, will make available to me the name of the gentleman in question - I undertake to have a look at all the available information, and to see that it is brought to the personal notice of any individual who may come to Australia to advise the Government in connexion with the site for a dock, as well as to the notice of the Naval Board, if that has not already been done. Probably the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) would assert that as a site for a naval base Albany has qualifications at least equal to those of Hobart, and in his advocacy of the claims of Albany he would be iust as eloquent as the honorable member for Denison has been in championing the claims of Hobart. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) also has in mind a site in South Australia.
– I have cited the opinion of a naval authority.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the representations which he has placed before the House to-day will be fully considered.
– in reply - I inform the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) that the conference on the wheat industry to which I referred in my statement, does not necessarily exclude the possibility of setting up a select committee. This course was adopted partly as the result of communications from the State governments themselves, and partly because, in a problem of this urgency, it is felt that we should obtain as soon as possible the joint views of the State governments, which, after all, are very intimately associated with the problem and are largely responsible for wheat-growing policy in their own spheres.
With regard to the honorable member’s further point concerning the calling into conference of representatives of wheatgrowers’ organizations, I shall be very glad indeed if, at some time convenient to himself, he will have a talk with me and suggest the names of the persons he has in mind. I assure him that I have quite an open mind on the matter, and will be glad to avail myself of the best assistance offering.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has again referred to the communications which passed between the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the Governor-General in connexion with the recent change of government. When the honorable gentleman raised this matter the other day, I had the files examined. I assure him that the only document relating to or associated with the resignation of my predecessor is the one that I have tabled to-day. I have not seen any other document, nor have 1 heard of one, and personally I am completely unaware of the nature of the advice tendered by my predecessor to His Excellency. On the day on which the letter was written which has been tabled to-day, I was communicatedwith by the Official Secretary to the Governor-General. I interviewed His Excellency and, as the result of that interview; was entrusted by him with a. commission to form a government. I am! quite unable to speak as to what advice His Excellency had had before that interview; from either my predecessor or any other person ; there is no record of it in my department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Resignation of Sir Earle Page as Prime Minister - Copy of communication, dated 20th April, 1939, addressed by the Right Honorable Sir Earle Page to His Excellency the Governor-General tendering his resignation as His Excellency’s Chief Adviser and Head of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Royal Australian Air Force - Establishment of new flying training school and selection of site at Forest Hill, Wagga, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 4.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
i asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– Imports of these goods are not separately recorded in official statistics.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to’ the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With reference to the Tariff Board’s report of 1934 on agricultural implements, which was given effect to only in part, will he request the Tariff Board to bring that report uptodate, with a view to an opportunity being given to Parliament to adopt the recommendations ?
– The matter raised in the honorable member’s question with respect to a review by the Tariff Board will receive consideration.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has undertaken to make a statement to the House at the earliest opportunity with respect to the establishment of the tinned plate industry.
Waterside Industrial Troubles.
s. - On the 5th May, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) stated that before last Christmas he made representations to the Attorney-General regarding the tying up of the Zealandia by the engineers, but had received no reply thereto.I then promised the honorable member that I would make inquiries into the matter.
I am now in a position to state that, on the 17th January last, I received a telegram from the honorable member asking that action be taken against the chief engineer of the ship. The dispute was one between the Institute of Marine Engineers and the Seamen’s Union and was settled on the day the telegram was received by me. Both organizations were quite satisfied with the settlement and, as neither side desired that any further action be taken, the honorable member’s request for action was not acceded to.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. STREET. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 447, (b)892, (c) 432 and (d) 269. The figures supplied in respect of (d) relate to other Munitions Supply Board establishments or activities such as the clothing factory, munitions supply laboratories and inspection staff. It is assumed that this is the information required by the honorable member. 2. (a) 41, (b) 1,999.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Senior Captain of the Royal Australian Navy is being retired although under the retiring age, and that two Royal Navy captains are being brought out for positions which the Australian officer could fill more efficiently because of his knowledge of Australians and his greater experience ?
t. - The captain referred to is a retired officer of the Royal Navy who has rendered long and honorable service in the Royal Australian Navy. He is being retired under the regulation which allows the retirement of an officer when he cannot conveniently and suitably be employed. His term in his present appointment, which is normally two years, has already been extended to three years.
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Air Force Accidents.
t. - On the 4th May the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following question, without notice -
Is it a fact that the reports of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee on the Arthur’s Seat and Richmond crashes of Avro Anson machines last year have not been made public? If so, why?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that statements based on the reports of the Air Accidents
Investigation Committee on the crashes at Arthur’s Seat and at Windsor, New South Wales, were issued to the press on the 23rd September, 1938, and the 15th February, 1939, respectively.
Dry Dock Facilities in Port Phillip.
– On the 3rd May, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following question, without notice -
Will the Minister for Defence state whether officers of his department have recently made inquiries regarding the lack of dry dock facilities in Port Phillip? If not, will he have inquiries made into the matter in the near future ?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that docking facilities for naval purposes at all Australian ports are constantly under review by the Naval Board, which is in possession of data regarding the existing docks. The provision of a capital ship dry dock, capable also of taking large merchant vessels, is now under investigation by the Commonwealth Government. The adequacy of docking facilities for commercial purposes is a matter for consideration by the State authorities.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390511_reps_15_159/>.