15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.FORDE.-Will the Minister for Defence inform the House as to the estimated cost involved in the issue, collection and classification of the cards to be used in connexion with the national register?
– It is approximately £40.000.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has tendered any advice to the British Government on thesubject of the proposed Anglo-Russian alliance? If so, will he indicate to the House now, or at a later date, the nature of that advice?
– I may say that I have had notice from the honorable member for Bourke that he also proposed to raise this subject. My answer is that the negotiations between Great Britain and Russia are at present at a stage at which it would be unwise to publish the details and the views offered by any Dominion government. I can say, however, that the Commonwealth Government, whilst it. has properly emphasized the special interests of Australia in the Pacific, has said nothing that would prejudice a better Understanding, and a closer arrangement of a non-aggressive kind, with Russia.
– The Prime Minister will probably have seen in the press recently the statement made on behalf of the Government of Japan to the effect that Japan does not contemplate entering into any military alliance with European powers, but desires to avoid participating in any conflict in Europe. Has the Prime Minister or the Minister for External Affairs received any official advice from the Government of Japan on this subject?
– Certain official messages have been received with respect to the position of Japan and certain European countries, but I do not think that any good purpose would be served at the present time by disclosing detail^ of the communications.
– Was the Minister Assisting the Treasurer correctly reported in the press yesterday as having stated “ There are certain urgent public works required by the States, and money must be found for these, but there is a limited resource of employable man-power available “. If the Minister was correctly reported, is he aware that 118,500 workers in Australia are now on sustenance, according to the latest figures available from the Commonwealth Statistician, and that thousands of others who are not registered for sustenance are employable? If he is aware of this fact, what does he mean by stating that the resources of man-power available are limited?
– An honorable member, in submitting a question, should not ask a Minister the meaning of words attributed to him.
– The answer to the first two portions of the honorable member’s question is in the affirmative.
– Can the Assistant Treasurer say whether his statement that certain works cannot be undertaken because sufficient man-power is not avail- able, was based on the report of any departmental officer? If so, who was responsible for the report, or was it merely an expression of the Minister’s own opinion ?
– The answer to the first portion of the question is “ No “, and to the last portion the answer is “ Yes “.
– In view of the numerous requests received by honorable members from constituents seeking employment, will the Assistant Treasurer state where he alleges a shortage of man-power exists ?
– If the honorable member read the whole of my speech in its proper context, there should be no need for him to ask the question. I shall, however, be glad to give him information upon any portion of my speech should he so desire.
– Is the Assistant Treasurer prepared to supply honorable members with a list of jobs for which sufficient man-power is not available, if they will supply him with a list of the unemployed in their electorates?
– I have insufficient time to do what the honorable member suggests, but I shall be willing to assist him in any way I can.
– Will the Assistant Treasurer state whether he was speaking for the Government when he said that man-power available for certain public works is limited? What public works had he in mind when he made that statement?
– In the speech to which the honorable member refers, I expressed my personal views. Again I suggest that honorable members should read the whole speech, and if they do so, they will find that I referred, not only to men who are employed, but also to those who are unemployed.
– In view of the great dissatisfaction prevailing among the members of the mobile defence force at Darwin, owing to lack of barracks, will the Minister for Defence take an early opportunity to visit the locality, and, in the meantime, treat the barracks merely as camps, for the purpose of the payment of allowances? Mr. STREET.- In reply to the firstpart of the honorable member’s question, the answer is “Yes.” As to the latter portion of the question, the honorable member’s suggestion has already been adopted.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make available, for the perusal of honorable members, all the papers, correspondence and reports received by his predecessor in connexion with, the cancellation of the broadcasting licence of station 2KY?
– I do not think that any good purpose would be served by doing that.
– Will the Minister for Defence st.ite whether all forms in connexion with the national register have been prepared, and are ready for issue, notwithstanding the fact that the bill dealing with the matter has not yet been passed?
– Forms nra not yet ready for issue.
– Will the Treasurer say whether the Government has yet reached any decision as to the rate of interest to be paid in connexion with the proposed Commonwealth loan?
– That matter has been the subject of negotiations between the various Premiers as members of the Loan Council, and it is not yet possible to make a statement concerning it, but one will be made as soon as possible.
– Is it a fact that orders have been given for nine Avro- Anson bombers to be grounded?
– Certain of these machines were grounded for the fitting into their instrument panels of Sperry blind-flying equipment. Some days ago, BO Anson machines were waiting to be so fitted. Whether the number has now been reduced to nine, I am unable to say, but, by the end of the present month, the whole of the 30 machines will have been equipped with these instruments.
– Seeing that the Minister for Defence has announced that the Government proposes to expend approximately £500,000 at Rathmines, on Lake Macquarie, for the purpose of establishing a seaplane base, and in view of the prevalence of unemployment in that district, particularly on the northern coalfields of New South Wales, will the Minister for Defence consider the .allocation of the work on the day-labour basis instead of giving it to contractors, who, I understand, would probably bring labour from other districts?
– I undertake to look into the matter, and to see if it is possible to meet the wishes of the honorable gentleman. *
– Has the PostmasterGeneral seen the statement in the leading article in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald that “Mr. Harrison mis-stated the position when he told Parliament that the broadcasting commission was launching its own journal owing to its inability to obtain publication of its programmes in one important centre? “ If so, does he now subscribe to the statement by the newspaper that the commission had merely been unable to obtain continued free .publication in extenso of ite announcements, a privilege enjoyed by none of the other vehicles of public entertainment with which the Australian Broadcasting Commission often directly competes ?
– I have seen the statement, and later this week I hope to be able to make a statement in regard to the matter referred to.
– If the policy of the Government in relation to broadcasting is determined by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and if, as is reported, that body is shortly to :be reconstituted, will the Postmaster-General give consideration to the claims of country interests for representation on the commission ?
– I shall give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member.
– In connexion with some little controversy that is proceeding in regard to national broadcasting, may we have the positive assurance ofthe Postmaster-General that the public interest will be given priority in consideration of any claims being put forward by the newspaper proprietors ?
– I assure the honorable member that every consideration will be given to every interest which is likely to be affected in this matter.
Mr.LAZZARINI.- In view of his statement to an honorable member lastweek that the contract price of certain shells was £1 10s., less 7s. returned by the company, can the Minister for Defence inform the House if the shells referred to are similar to those supplied to the British Government at 12s. 6d. each?
– I cannot give a definite answer offhand, but the shells are probably not the same.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to make a statement as to the attitude ofthe Commonwealth Government in relation to the state of affairs existing at the international settlement at Amoy?
– I think that the honorable gentleman is under some misapprehension as to the settlement at Amoy. Australia is not a partner in that settlement, and consequently had no direct grievance. In the event of any Australian national, or the property of any Australian, suffering at Amoy, representations would be made by the Commonwealth Government, through the British Government, which is a partner in the concession.
– In connexion with the suggestion that all overseas mails should be carried direct to Sydney, will the Postmaster-General make arrangements whereby air mails for Western Australia received from overseas will be sorted at Darwin or before that airport is reached, and forwarded direct to Perth?
– The distribution of air mails is now being considered by officials who, in due course, will make recommendations with respect to night flying and the distribution of mails between capital cities.
Roadsand Breaks of Railwaygauges
– Can the Minister for Defence say whether any investigation has been made by the military authorities or any other section of the department into the strength and carrying capacity of main and other roads of strategic value for the transport oftroops and heavy mechanized units in case of an emergency? If so, can he inform the House of the results of the investigation? If no investigation has been made, can he give an assurance that efficient means of transport for military purposes and mechanized units already exists? Otherwise will he give early re-consideration to the standardization of railway gauges with a view to that work being given priority in the provision of means for heavy transport?
– Generally, the answer to the honorable member’s question is “ Yes,” with a reservation as to the last portion of it.
– Will the Minister inform the House of the nature of his reservation as to the efficiency of the roads and other means of transport for heavy military purposes?
– The reservation to which I referred was as to recommending that the standardization of railway gauges should he undertaken immediately. The military authorities have full information as to the carrying capacity of all main and strategic roads.
– In view of the startling statement of Captain Waterson, who at one timewas in charge of the Larrakia, as to inordinate expenditure and maladministration in connexion with that vessel, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior recommend to the Minister for Defence that a sloop be sent to northern waters to undertake patrol work under the control of the navy or that the existing patrol vessel be transferred to the defence authorities, to whom the. patrol of Northern Territory waters really belongs?
– I shall make no such recommendation, but I shall draw the attention of the Minister for the Interior to the honorable member’s question.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make inquiries with a view to ascertaining what progress has been made, either by his department or by the State governments, towards the ratification of the conventions decided upon at the International Labour Conference held at Geneva in 1936? Conventions dealing with hours and mining havebeen agreed to, but the other conventions have not yet been ratified.
– I am not familiar with the subject myself but I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know to-morrow.
– Will the Minister for
Health obtain a report from the Commandant of the Seventh Military District as to how many beds he would require in the hospital at Darwin, how many will be requiredafter the air force squadrons arrive there in J une, and how many in three years time ? Will he also make available to the House the evidence, if any, given to the Public Works Committee by the Chief Medical Officer at Darwin as to the number of beds required, or. failing that, the evidence given by the Chief Medical
Officer to the Administrator and forwarded, I assume, to the Public Works Committee?
– The report of the Public Works Committee, which embodied the evidence of the Chief Medical Officer, was before this House last week in connexion with the proposal to build a new hospital at Darwin. As to the other portion of the honorable members question, I shall consult withmy colleague, the Minister for Defence.
– As the Government appears to have come to no determination in regard to national insurance, will the Minister for Social Services say how the very large s’taff engaged by the National Insurance Commission is at present employed ? In the event of the Government abandoning national insurance, or of its proposals being rejected by the House, how does the Government propose to place those members of the Public Service who surrendered other positions to join the National Insurance Commission?
– The honorable member’s question appears to bc founded on wrong premises. I thought that the statement by the Prime Minister last week as to the Government’s policy in relation to national insurance made the position clear. I hope, not without some justification, that before long all the present officers, and others also, will be more than fully engaged in carrying out the policy of the Government.
– In the reply which he gave just now, did the Minister for Social Services endeavour to convey that the Government was committed to accept any policy “recommended by the select committee to be appointed to inquire into national insurance?
– The Government knows its responsibilities in this matter, and will assume full responsibility for any action it may take.
– What useful purpose can be served by referring a. matter to a select committee when the Government’s policy is already known and its mind on the matter is already made up?
-. Presumably the honorable gentleman is referring to a hope which I personally expressed in regard to national insurance. Obviously, the Government would need to have before it any recommendation that mightbemadebyaselect committee before it could finally decide its policy on the matter.
– I point out that the Minister for Social Services, in replying to one of my previous questions, did not answer, my query as to how, in view of the indeterminate attitude of the Government in relation to national insurance, the large staff at present attached to the National Insurance Commission is being employed.
– I apologize for having failed to answer that part of the honorable member’s question. As a matter of fact, there is not a large staff attached to my department in connexion with national insurance. Most of the officers who were engaged by the commission have been seconded to other departments, including two members of the commission itself. That policy will be continued, sufficient staff being maintained to deal with matters affecting the commission as they arise.
– Can the Minister give a rough estimate of the cost to date incurred by the Commonwealth Government ire connexion with its experiment in national insurance, including such items as compensation to approved societies, printing costs, salaries and the like?
– In reply to a similar question some weeks ago, I supplied information to the House showing that the cost incurred in connexion with national insurance, including both departmental and nondepartmental expenditure, was in the region of £120,000. Efforts are now being made to obtain fuller information concerning this expenditure, and as soon as this is available I shall communicate it to the honorable member.
– In the absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, I ask the Prime Minister whetherit is a fact that Ansett Airways, who recently lost a. Lockheed Electra aeroplane by fire, have been refused permission to import another machine of a similar kind to replace the one destroyed?
– I do not know the facts, but I shall refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– In view of the fact that the Government has accepted the responsibility for rendering financial assistance to some widows within the Commonwealth, when does it propose to introduce a scheme of widows’ pension to apply generally throughout the Commonwealth?
Mr.MENZIES.- The problem referred to by the honorable member is bound up with the problem touched upon in a question answered by the Minister for Social Services relating to National insurance. As the honorable member will remember, the scheme of national insurance passed by this House dealt, among other things, with the matter of widows’ pensions, and that question, therefore, will form part of the matters to be placed before the proposed select committee, and will be included in the matters which, subsequently, will be determined by this House.
– In connexion with any scheme of widows’ pensions which may be introduced by the present Government, will the Prime Minister see that such pensions are placed on a non-contributory basis as is now the case in respect of pensions of this class already being paid by the Government of New South Wales?
– The honorable member’s representations will, as always, receive consideration.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether any representations have been received from the potato-growers of Tasmania for the re-imposition of the embargo on the importation of potatoes from New Zealand? If not, is it intended to re-impose that embargo?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Representations have been received from the Potato Advisory Board as the result of which a conference has been arranged between the Minister and that body to take place next Thursday.
– ls the Minister for Commerce yet able to make a statement regarding the intentions of the Government in connexion with the importation of potatoes from New Zealand?
– The position has not altered since I last referred to it in this House other than that a conference has been arranged, to take place on Thursday next, between the Minister for Commerce and the Potato Advisory Board.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the Commonwealth Government proposes to make any grants to the States in regard to the proposed physical fitness campaign? If so, what aru the amounts, and when will they be made available?
– The late Government had already arranged for an endowment for this purpose at the rate of £1,000 a year for three years to each of the six Australian universities. Further recommendations from the coordinating council, which met in Canberra recently, are now about to be presented to the Government. These deal with a proposed amplification of policy in this .matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to take any action in connexion with the report published in the Sydney and Melbourne press to the effect that hundreds of girls are being sweated in the iron industry in both those cities? If he cannot give an undertaking concerning any action contemplated by this Government, will he at least assure the House that none of the establishments found to be guilty of this practice, will share in any of the contracts to be let by the Government for defence purposes?
– I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable membor. but I shall have it looked into.
– In September last, a deputation waited on the Minister for Trade and Commerce, who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, requesting that invalid and old-age pensions be made payable to. Asiatics from Palestine and Syria. The deputation was informed that an early decision would be reached on this matter, but so far no decision has been announced. Could the Prime Minister enlighten me on this point?
– I regret that I was not aware of the representations, but I shall have inquiries made at once and see that a decision is given promptly.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce during this period of the session reciprocal legislation between New Zealand and Australia in the matter of invalid and old-age pensions?
– The matter is under consideration, and a statement on the subject will no doubt be made in due course.
– When the Estimates were being considered last session, the then Minister for the Interior partly promised me that we would endeavour to see that a memorial was erected in Canberra to the memory of Australia’s greatest poet, the late Henry Lawson. Will the Prime Minister bring this matter before the Cabinet with a view to having this memorial erected in time to permit of the next Governor-General, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, unveiling it as his first public function in this country.
– I shall investigate that matter in a sympathetic spirit.
– Following my interview with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Supply and Development. at which I asked that one of the Government’s experts should report upon the Phoenix Oil Extraction Company’s method of extracting oil from coal, and the reply of the Minister for Supply and Development, that the company refused to make certain information available to the Government’s oil expert, I desire to ask the Minister whether he is aware that the company’s representative informed me that Mr. Rogers told him that his department desired to know what ca.talyst was used before he would inspect the plant. Is the Minister aware-
– Order ! I have frequently informed the honorable member that he must not frame a question-
– Doe3 the Minister consider
– Order ! The honorable member must not interrupt me when I am on my feet.
– Then you ask the ques-lion for me.
– The honor.able member for Hunter will resume his seat. He must frame his questions in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development if it is a fact that Mr. Rogers, of the Scientific Research Department, stated that before he would make an investigation into the Phoenix Oil Extraction Company’s process, he desired to know what catalyst was used? Does the Minister consider it fair that a company should be asked to disclose that information before the process is reported upon?
– I was not aware of the fact mentioned by the honorable member. All I know is that it is necessary for a technical officer of the Government to be generally informed of the process employed by the Phoenix Oil Extraction Company to enable him to advise whether or not, in bis opinion, the process is one which affords some chance of success.
– In view of the fact that two parliamentary committees have inquired into the matter of amending the Bankruptcy Act and reported to the Government, can the Prime Minister state if we can now understand that the Government has abandoned all ideas of amending that act, particularly in view of the fact that the hill has been discharged from the notice-paper?
– Subsequent to the investigation and to the reports of the committee referred to by the honorable member, supplementary suggestions in relation to amendments were received during my term as Attorney-General, ,and these were considered. It is not intended to abandon an amendment to the Bankruptcy Act: but as the honorable member will realize, it is impracticable for this Government, at short noti.ee, to introduce a bill in relation to that subject. The matter has not been overlooked, and the bill will he brought down at the earliest possible date, because I desire, and know every honorable member desires, an amending net to be placed on the statute-book.
– Is it the intention of the Postmaster-General, before any tender is accepted, to refer to the Public “Works Committee, for investigation and report, the desirability of spending £300,000 in the purchase of the site in Sydney previously occupied by Hoffnung’s buildings in Pitt-street, and in the construction of a new building costing many hundreds of thousands of pounds? If not, why not?
– A tender has been already accepted. Work on the project has gone too far now for it to be referred to any committee.
– Was the contract for the work signed by this Government or by a previous government ?
– The contract was approved by this Government, hut all the negotiations regarding the calling of tenders were carried out while the previous Government was in office.
– Is it usual, Mr. .Speaker, for Ministers to answer questions without notice if those questions are already on the notice-paper? The last two questions asked are on the notice-paper.
– It is not in order for questions without, notice to be asked or answered if a similar question is upon the notice-paper. The question on the paper deals in part with the matter referred to in the question of the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– I was merely drawing the Minister’s attention to the fact.
-Can the Postmaster-General give the approximate cost of the new general post office building in Sydney?
– That information will probablybe given in answer to the questions on notice referred to by the honoraible member for Calare (Mr. Thorby).
– Has the Minister for
Trade and Customs initiated any steps for the arrangement of reciprocal trade agreements with overseas countries with the object of finding an outlet for our surplus primary products, particularly wheat ?
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior make representations to have the Parliamentary Works Committee sent to Darwin to institute a zoning system and to arrange for a proper housing scheme, and will he ensure that the committee shall have the benefit of the services in a technical capacity of either the Brisbane city planner or the Perth city planner?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for the Interior.
– Has the Government yet considered the proposal to reconstitute the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee ?
– Has the International Wheat Conference adjourned, and if so, for what reasons and until what date?
– I shall obtain the information, and make it available to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Social Services, in his capacity as president of the New South Wales Housing Committee, yet made representations to the Commonwealth Government with a view to securing its co-operation in a general housing scheme? If so, will he say what was the result of those representations ?
– Is the Minister for Defence aware-
– Order !
– Troops in certain units have gone into camp without uniforms, and were lent working suits, overcoats, &c, for use while in camp, this clothing having to be returned when they left? Is he aware that some troops are still without uniforms? When will the Government be in a position to supply uniforms to all trainees?
– I have frequently asked honorable members to frame questions in accordance with the Standing Orders. To ask if a Minister is aware of something is distinctly forbidden.
– I cannot say, but I shall inform the honorable member as soon as I obtain the information.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff . 1939.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Bill 1939.
Special Annuities Bill1939.
Defence (Visiting Forces) Bill 1938.
– I desire to inform the House that I have received from Mr. Desmond Clarkea letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
Debate resumed from the 19 th May (vide page 594), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. BLAIR (Northern Territory) “3.48]. - When the House adjourned last week, I was pointing out that, although this bill is called the Supply and Development Bill, there is a danger that those functions contemplated under the word “ development “ will be swamped by the activities associated with supply. This danger will continue to exist until the meaning and importance of “regionalism” is better appreciated. This is a much misunderstood and neglected term, though every member representing an outlying area should know that he is committed to foster the regional development of the district he represents. So that honorable members will know what regionalism means, and understand that it is not merely a fantastic term, I propose to refer to what is being done in this connexion in other countries, .and particularly in France, one of the most united, and best developed countries in the world. The following is an extract from an article by Professor Roberts, of the Sydney University, published in the Australian Geographer: -
In the question of French regionalism factors of history, geography, race, economics and administration all blend together, although geography is the final factor (in that it determines economics and in the past mainly determined history), and the whole significance of the question is that it illustrates geographical determinism over a long period of time.
The modern problem dates from the conflict of two opposed theories at the time of the French Revolution. The basis of the Ancien Regime was the provincial organization, for the provinces corresponded to profound differences in race, history, customs, laws, fiscal regimes and spirit. The old provinces, indeed, appeared to be increasingly vigorous in the years immediately preceding the Revolution, and the provincial assemblies had recently been strengthened in order to check the civil intendants. In point of fact, the provinces had no legal existence, for the whole stress was one the forty gouvernments, and the monarchy had already evolved the idea of extreme centralization as its most effective weapon.
– The honorable member reads what he says and ought to know. I point out that Australia* to-day is facing problems somewhat similar to those which confronted the French nation for many hundreds of years. Unless we have an efficient scheme of regional planning the optimum carrying capacity of this country can never be reached. In rebuttal of the jibe that the French nation is not united, Professor Roberts goes on to say -
The French say, with Duruy, that “there is no country in the world with a more real physical unity than France”, and argue that while the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Rhonegap give coherence to the country, none of the physical divisions is sufficiently pronounced to create immutable political divisions. The geographical centre, they go on, has been the historical centre, and this creates a narrow solidarity between the provinces.
Under the heading “ The Facts of Regionalism” he says -
Most post-war projects’ realize that there are three separate fields (administrative regionalism, intellectual regionalism, and economic and social regionalism), and, though all unite in wanting local assemblies as a basis, it is agreed that little is to be gained by confusing these various aspects.
His concluding remarks are as follows : -
At present, the position is that administrative regionalism is practically nugatory (because Republican policy and vested interests have made Etatisme ascendant), sentimental regionalism is constantly growing (especially in Alsace-Lorraine, Brittany and Provence), and economic and geographical regionalism can be stopped by nothing. The very pressure of events is hastening them at a terrific rate, and France, if she wishes to avert suffering, must clearly differentiate such regionalism from administrative regionalism and not lump all manifestations of this phenomenon into one amorphous mass. All told, regionalism, in its various guises, is one of the most significant and interesting phases of post-war French life.
In the citation of this bill the word “ development “ is used. Unless we group Australia into natural regions by an economic survey, which would mean redrawing the map of Australia, we shall fail to take full advantage of the expenditure of the millions of pounds of money to be made available under this bill in the name of development. It appears that much of this money will be scattered around in the cities of Melbourne and
Sydney. I know that I am not alone in that view; it is shared by many other honorable members who during this debate have castigated the huge monopolies in those two cities. We all affirm our conviction that without certain principles, liberties and rights, we could not regard any organization of society as a tolerable one. As an independent member of this House, I believe in government by persuasion backed by science or exact knowledge. I need not add that exact knowledge is a compelling logic. I do not believe in dictatorial violence ; but I realize, with many others, that the democratic system is on trial. The vote of honorable members on this bill will show just how they stand in regard to the question whether or not we are to take full advantage of the money to be expended under this bill to develop some areas which it would be uneconomic to develop were the money not to be made available. This bill lias a decided defence flavour. It represents an endeavour to preserve peace; but it. seems to mc that this Government has forgotten that in its political aspect the problem of peace is actually one of government. The motive of profit-making, of which we have heard so much in this House during the last week,.has already in other countries, particularly England, to a greater degree than is realized, ceased to be the mainspring of economic activity. The development of the resources available to the community under public ownership or control for the use of the whole community will be further extended in the years to come. I like to think that the same outlook will continue, and that big business, that is, the “commercial complex “ will be infected by this ethical outlook. Does this bill suggest that that desirable state of affairs is likely to be brought about? It certainly suggests that there shall be a curtailment of profits-
– Curtailment is suggested but nothing specific has been provided.
– I am afraid that it will be impossible to police provisions for the curtailment of profits. This “ might be “ bill is thrown down in front of us. It makes no suggestion of spreadability or equity, yet the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) saw fit to suggest national planning. Probably I would not have been on my feet had not the all-embracing term “national planning “ been misused during this debate. What a slur on the’ host of scientific thinkers, engineers, town-planners, regional planners, business men and sociologists who alone could enunciate a policy of regional planning in this country ! I have frequently stressed the need for such a policy in this country. I am not unmindful of the fact that on the now famous 6th December last year the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), among the members of the Government, was the first to use the expression “national planning” in this House. Prior to that, the Government regarded any suggestion for national planning as blood-red in its origin. Subsequently it began to revise it3 views and regarded this subject as somewhat pink in origin. But now we have the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr.” Casey) referring to national planning as an objective of this Government. I strongly object to the use of such an all-embracing word in connexion with this bill.
Let us see the character of the planning that is being done overseas. I direct attention to the January, 1936, Newsletter of the American -Society of Planning Officials in order to show that this idea is not by any means new. England, of course, is doing as the Americans are doing. The American society’s Newsletter states that the aim of the organization is -
To promote efficiency of public administration in land and community planning.
Nothing like that is contemplated in this bill. The report reads -
Thirty-one State planning boards, the District of Columbia, three planning regions and two foreign countries were represented at the Conference on State Planning Administration called by the society and held in Chicago du, ing the second week in December. Representatives came from as far south as Alabama, from as far west as California, Washington and Oregon, and from as far north and east as Massachusetts and Vermont. A resolution was adopted at the conference urging that Congress enact the bill now pending before it providing for the creation of a permanent national planning board.
That is the very thing I have been advocating in this House ever since I have been a member of it. The report proceeds -
Judging by the statements made at the conference and by the many letters received since the conference, those who attended were very well pleased and valuable results were obtained. New York writes as follows: “As 1 stated at the meeting. I feel that it was the first conference ever held which accomplished the purpose for which it was called.”
The work of the national planning authority of the United States of America is being done without any shelving or back-sliding. The policy of the organization is clearly stated and it is being effectively applied. In regard to regional organization, such as is very desirable in Australia, the report states -
A regional organization, whatever its varied form, should not be considered as a new form cif sovereignty, even in embryo. It need never develop to the stage where it will have elected officers, a legislative body, and the power to tax. Consequently, the region need not have fixed boundaries. By the same token, the region need have no definite body of citizens.
An Australia-wide planning authority should be established for Australia. That could be easily done if we adopted a regional system in preference to our existing State system, and any difficulties in relation to overlapping could be successfully combated. In this regard the report adds -
Many citizens may consider themselves as belonging to one region for one purpose and to an adjoining region for another. From the point of view of the National Planning Agency, regional planning work should be focussed in a central office to which have been assigned certain problems, largely overlapping because of having different n.real extents.
The statement proceeds to refer to continuous national planning, for any effective national planning must be continuous as it will need to go on for centuries. It, states -
We recommend the establishment, from time tn time, us needed, of regional planning commissions of the general type of those recently set. up in the Pacific north-west and in New England, as advisory bodies for planning purposes in their respective areas. These regional planning commissions have consisted of representatives of State planning boards and of a federal district chairman representing the National Planning Board, and have been advisory rather than operating agencies.
Yet this Parliament scorns to call upon scientists. It regards the scientist as some kind of vermin, or, perhaps I could say, a reptilian creature which deserves no consideration. The President of the United States of America, however, holds quite a different opinion. Shall we dare to set ourselves above him in this matter? The National Planning Board of the United States of America has done remarkably fine work. A great deal of the excellent developmental work in the Tennessee Valley, and in other areas that are now carrying large populations in the United States of America, was inaugurated by the National Planning Board. The President set up this authority to give advice on national planning, and he has not hesitated to develop national resources in conformity with the advice of the Board.
Some such authority must be established in Australia, but unfortunately, the Government has only a limited vision. All it can suggest is that some accounting authority shall be authorized to probe deeply, or perhaps not so deeply, into the activities of the profit-makers. The profit-makers are, of course, very real persons in Australia. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) scathingly indicted them in his speech here a few days ago. He. referred, in particular, to the iron and steel industry, the sugar industry, and one other. He had his own methods of describing these octopus organizations, but it was quite clear that he was deeply sincere in his denunciation of them. I shall describe them in my own way. I suggest that each of the three industries to which the honorable member referred is like a large circle surrounding many smaller circles which touch one another at various points. Perhaps a better illustration is found in the description by a schoolboy of the marine animal foraminifera which inhabit the deepest and darkest beds of parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. His words were as follow: -
Foraminifera are minute marine animals enclosed in shells perforated by innumerable perforations through which the’ animals protrude their tentacles.
Honorable members may consider that that is an even more perfect description of these monopolistic organizations than that given by the honorable member for
Indi. But, any spirit of banter apart, it is highly essential that we shall do our very utmost to deal effectivelywith these monopolies in order to ensure that the development of this country shall proceed on sound lines.
Our greatest need is decentralization. Unless the Government is prepared to introduce some measure to ensure the effective decentralization of our key industries, it will lay itself open to the charge of insincerity. In my opinion, the producers of iron and steel should be required to limit their activities to production. They should not be permitted to accept big contracts for governmental construction works. The assent of various administrations to that policy in the past has had highly unsatisfactory results in the North. I know that various contractors have been termed interveners or entrepreneurs because they have dared to tender for contracts for government works which have involved the expenditure of substantial sums of money. It has been said of some of these tenderers that because they have not £100,000 or so behind them they are really men of straw and should not be allowed to tender. The adoption of this attitude towards them has undoubtedly been suggested by the big monopolists which, under current government policy, are not only producers of essential raw materials, but also contractors for works in which it must bc used.
– Surely the honorable member is aware that the production of iron and steel in this country is practically in the hands of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited..
– I see that the honorable member forWakefield (Mr. McHugh) agrees with me. I hope he will also support my contention that the key industries of this country must be decentralized. Last year, when certain honorable members representing South Australian constituencies called attention to this subject, they were told that decentralization was not possible. It will never be possible so long as we permit the producers of essential raw materials, such as iron and steel, to accept government contracts in which the materials they produce are used. Adherence to that policy will result in these huge organizations scorning the activities of companies with limited capital. Obviously, companies which are able to use in contract work the raw material which they produce, will always have an advantageover other companies which have to purchase such raw material from. them.
In the northern areas of Australia - I am not merely referring to my own electorate - small contractors have been deprived of contracts hecause it would he a little more costly to give them to them. If certain authorities in inland towns were given the right to form a company they could produce the smaller articles that are required under the defence scheme. There is no need to concentrate all activities in the south-eastern corner of the continent.
In continuation of my remarks on national planning I shall quote an article by Charles E. Merriman, a member of the National Resources Committee of the United States of America, the adoption of whose recommendations has made for the development of the American continent. There cannotbe development without the aid of scientific men. They are track finders. The article reads as follows : -
The report of the National Resources Board brings together, for the first time, exhaustive studies by highly competent inquirers into land use, water use, minerals and related public works in their relation to each other, and to national planning. The report lays the basis of a comprehensive long range national policy for the conservation and development of our fabulous natural resources. If the recommendations arc put into effect, it is believed that they will end the untold waste of our national domain now, and will measurably enrich and enlarge these national treasures as time goes on.
The following are perhaps the most important recommendations: -
A land purchase programme providing for the retirement of some five million acres of sub-marginal land yearly for some fifteen years, with administration through a permanent land planning section, cooperating with State and local boards and authorities.
I think that that would appeal to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
It is that permanent body instead of what has been suggested in this bill that I am desirous of seeing set up. This bill allows the Government to choose its advisers as it thinks fit; but it is a permanent body of advisers that is needed - men on high salary, not with administrative authority as some honorable members think proper, hut with authority based on exact knowledge.
There arc three outstanding considerations in looking at plans for planning: -
I submit that these conditions exist in Australia. In proof of that I refer honorable members to the report of the
Royal Commission on Bush Fires in Victoria. That report should have awakened honorable members to the fact that there is no co-ordination and that there is jealousy even between departments in a small State. How then can we have co-ordination in an area of 3,000,000 square miles unless we have a national planning authority. Mr. Merriman continues -
It is an error to conclude that all planning: involves regimentation of a deadening nature.
He is up against that all the time. He does not believe in regimentation interfering in the lives of the people.
I am not referring now to the objections of those who think of regimentation as an interference with their robber-baron privilege of private exploitation and oppression, but to those who sincerely believe that there is a danger of sacrificing something which is valuable to civilization.
Wise planning makes provision for decentralization as well as for unification, for territorial and individual decentralization, for independent criticism, judgments, and initiative, for preserving and creating free areas of human activity. The zoning of power is as important in political as in economic organization. We may plan indeed for fuller liberty - and indeed are now so planning.
Sound planning is not based on control of everything, but of certain strategic points in a working system. Control of these points holds the system in balance, reconciling order, justice, liberty. The best planning willfind these strategic points shown by the social directives of the time, with least delay, and sees no more points than are necessary for the purpose in mind.
What happens is: -
I am not unmindful of the complexities and difficulties in the way, but dangers lie around as well as ahead, from non-action as well as action. We cannot proceed as if nothing had happened in recent years, or couldever happen again. Our doctrines of liberty, equality and democracy are not to be regarded merely as legal phrases to be paraded and celebrated on memorial occasions. No modern social structure is secure that does not promise more to the body and soul of those who feel themselves disinherited by the present order of things.
If there is affliction and bitter distress, it is becausewe will not reach out and take the gift of the gods in our day. There is food. shelter, clothing, adornment, relief from physical and mental disease, leisure for the appreciation, enjoyment, expression of the human personality in richest form, if we arc ready to reach out the hand and take them, through thu social, economic, political arrangements that condition ‘them. lt we can look the facts in the face and not do what we do not like; if we can consult our fears less and our hopes more; if we can think more in terms of the present and future and less in terms of the past; if we can show inventive ability in social and industrial arrangements equal to that developed in technical advancement, we can realize the promise of life more fully than even the prophets have ever dared to dream.
That article sums up planning from the technical side right down to the human problem. This bill does violence to my intellect. It makes reference to “national planning”. That term should never be used until a board exists comparable to that which exists in the United States of America from which the President of the United States of America is not ashamed to take advice. Therefore, I say that if Country party members who come into this Parliament advocating the formation of new States support this bill in the name of national planning, it is about time that the large body of country people who sent them here found other representatives who would more truly voice their opinions and support a movement for the regional development of country districts.
.- It does not appear to me that the ranks of the great United Australia party are very thrilled by the introduction of this measure, the first in regard to Supply and Development, if I may judge by the beggarly array of empty benches while this urgent measure is being considered in this, to use the words employed in the conscription referendum of 1916, “ time of grave emergency.” I notice that an Assistant Minister, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), has moved forward to a seat at the table, thus leaving the ministerial bench empty.
I was very greatly entertained during the debate to hear an honorable member who is a recent acquisition to this distinguished debating society state that although the powers conferred by the bill are great and far-reaching, there is always control by Parliament as a safe-
Tare”. The words “ control by Parlia ment “ take my mind back to the period of the Great War. I remember the measure of control exercised over legislation passed by Parliament in those years. Many of us recall that as a time during which the totalitarian State worked at its best. If any person imagines that, when the time comes, if ever it does come, for giving effect to this measure, the elaborate powers which are now being taken, or at least previsaged by it, will be controlled by Parliament,, that person has not profited by the study of history. There is never “control by Parliament “ in time of war, or in anticipation of war, because Parliament presupposes discussion, consideration and decision, based on evidence, and these things are always absent from popular conceptions in time of war. If I should be found quietly assenting to the second reading of this measure, or at least seeming to assent in that I may not call for a division or join with at least one other honorable member in doing so, it will not be because I view it with any approving enthusiasm ; much less that I imagine that the bill has in it the essence of a charter of liberty at least equal to that of Magna Charta. I will assent to it, if at all, I fear, grudgingly, and with an entire absence of reforming zeal, mainly because I am not in a position to command sufficient numbers to oppose successfully the motion for the second reading.
Most measures introduced into this chamber are described at some stage or another as “ a bill for an act.” When passed in due course, an act perhaps confers rights; almost certainly it imposes obligations and re-arranges, at least over some limited area, the relationship of some members of the human family to others. This measure is certainly “ a bill.” but it would be unduly optimistic to suggest that, in any real sense, it will become an act, according to our accepted definition of the term, because it neither confers rights nor imposes obligations.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), in a very comprehensive speech, said that it was a declaration of policy, and that an act of Parliament was not the proper medium for a declaration of policy. That was not far wide of the mark, but I prefer to say that the bill is a rather broad hint at policy - an indication of what policy is to f ollow. The fact that it opens up a very wide field for discussion has been made evident by various speeches delivered upon it. I have listened to some interesting observations from my next-door neighbours of the Country party. For example, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) discussed exotic plants, flax and jute. A little further away, although still a neighbour, is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who gave us a learned and most alluring disquisition on precious metals, some of which, but for the honorable member’s contribution to the debate, I would probably not have heard of at all. So I again have to thank the honorable gentleman for having given me some help in regard to the tantalizing subject of tantalite, the merits of wolfram, and the delights of manganese
– Do not forget osmiridium.
– It would be a great pity if, in a discussion of practical defence measures, osmiridium were excluded from our consideration.
– Nor should vanadium be excluded from the consideration of vanity.
– All of these have passed before us in review as matters for consideration by practical men in connexion with defence. I thank these honorable gentlemen for their spoken essays, and am far from suggesting that any one of them was, even in my humble judgment, out of order; because it is quite obvious that in regard to this bill, which hints at policy and suggests things which may in some way be marshalled or captured in the interests of defence, no limit whatever should be placed upon the imagination of public speakers
Although I may, and probably shall, at least appear to assent to this bill by remaining silent while the second reading is being passed, there certainly are in it matters to which, on principle, I cannot agree, even though they be merely declaratory. I shall not agree to that portion of the measure which authorizes an inquisition into the private lives, habits, and businesses of individuals.
Those matters might, in particular circumstances, and to a particular end, be fit subjects for a royal commission or other properly constituted body of inquiry; but I shall never agree to a bill which seeks, through the medium of regulations, to empower a government to enter upon an unlimited area of inquiry into the lives and businesses of individuals, merely because of the declaration in advance that, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral - which means the Government - the answers to the questions asked are necessary in the interests of defence. I shall never agree to give to a government the right to declare to whom and when an act of Parliament shall have application. I shall never. agree to the right being established of the prosecutor to determine at will whether an offence is indictable or one to be dealt with summarily. I shall never agree to a restriction being placed on the freedom of the labourer to work where ho will, to be employed by whom he may, or to his being regimented from one class of employment to another in order to suit the exigencies of the Government,’ in the name of defence. It would not be at all difficult for me, upon a little further inquiry, to find other grounds upon which I should be opposed to the contents of this bill ; but I shall allow to stand for the moment those that I have mentioned, and shall suggest, others as the measure passes through committee.
Supply and development are quite pleasant phrases, which seem to me to be associated with peace, social service, and general uplift. Yet this measure, whatever else it is or is not, is certainly a war measure. It deals with matters of daily concern to us in our ordinary lives, such as the acquisition of goods, the development of industries, employment and unemployment, wages and the lack of wages, and the costs of production ; but it deals with all of these matters in their relation to war-
– To defence.
– lu their unwanted relation to war-making, and not in their proper relationship to one another in the interests of what I have already described as social service and general well-being., enlightenment and popular happiness. As a matter of fact it is quite possible - as the Assistant Minister at the table (Mr. Holt) as a lawyer probably recognizes - chat the bill would not have any legal validity, at least in many particulars, except as a war measure. It is only as ‘ ancillary to war that this Commonwealth, the Constitution of which is rigid and the powers of which are limited, could break the bond between the Commonwealth and the States arid infringe upon the rights not only of the people as individuals but also of the States as component parts of the Federation. In war time it can do such things. In a time of war, not only has it invaded those rights, but also, in very serious particulars, it has been upheld in having clone so by the highest court in this land, the High Court of Australia.
The militarization of this country is proceeding apace. One of the “most recent evidences of that is to be found in the fact that we now have four Ministers tor Defence. There is the generalissimo (Mr. Street), who has an offsider - as we say in the Labour party. There is the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), who also has an offsider. My honorable friend from Denison (Mr. Mahoney), who encourages me, will be well aware that in this case supply and development are, as I have already said, only for purposes of war. We should never lose sight of that. Only a few months ago, we were passing through one of the various crises which we have recently experienced. I think that at least five of them have come and gone. They have arrived, they have been blown up, admired and passed current among the people, and they have burst and disappeared. At the beginning we had only one Minister for Defence, a gentleman who has now ceased to be a Minister of anything at all. He sits over here as one of my friendly neighbours in the Country party. He bore all this burden, and no wonder he was a little testy in temper with so heavy a load and under a succession of such so-called grave emergencies. Now we regard the smiling, placid, contented face of the present Minister, with his three colleagues, each almost as great, but not quite so great as himself. All their efforts are .directed to the business of war!
Whilst the principal object of this measure is, no doubt, to create a new department, it is difficult to find its purpose by merely reading the bill. Realizing that the members of the Ministry are so many, that their supporters are so few, and that their tenure of office is so precarious, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will understand, from the point of view of pure expediency, how desirable it is to have as many salarydrawing Ministers at the table as possible since they “know not the day nor the hour.” The subsidiary object of this bill is to take power and acquire information for use under a War Precautions Act, or other such measure, as may be required by a government working continuously towards the objective of Avar. I know that my honorable friend, the Minister for Defence, marvels that I should accuse him of working for the objective of war.
– I do.
– When a person is caught up in a machine, he ceases to be a free agent. When the machine turns for war, he turns with it. The honorable gentleman may think that he is implementing this machine, but I tell him that the machine is implementing him. That is why one so intelligent and benevolent can be the apparently willing instrument of the war-makers.
That this is a war measure is well illustrated by the very fact that the Minister for Defence is now at the table. The bill was introduced, not by the Minister, but by the deposed Treasurer, who, having submitted the ‘bill, went away to buttress up the falling fortunes, of United Australia partyism in another State. But we have at the table his natural successor; the Minister for war has taken his place. We have not seen the Minis ter for Supply and Development save for a passing visit at question time when he anxiously sat for a while on the front bench. Further than that, we have not seen him in the chamber. He has not been consulted about this bill, and he is, doubtless, not interested in it, except that, when he was appointed Minister for Supply and Development, he insisted on his precedence. He was determined to be senior to the Minister for Defence. All that has been publicly stated is that it is to be recognized that, although he is not here, and is leaving the bill in the hands of the “War Minister, he is to he technically and nominally, and for social purposes, the senior Minister. On that much he insisted.
On toning to clause 5, sub-clause 2, we find the quaint purpose of the bill disclosed in these terms -
The Governor-General may from time to time determine the extent to which or the conditions upon which any of the matters specified in this section may be administered by the Department.
I ask the Minister if he will be so kind as to make a note of my special interest in this sub-clause. Has he ever known an act of Parliament hitherto, which, as is stated in this case, applies here to-day and there to-morrow ; to one group to-day, and to- another group to-morrow; to a part of a group to-day and to another part of a group to-morrow? Is the Minister’s idea of equal justice as between all the King’s liege subjects that the arbitrary requirements of a government should demand that the law should flit like a sparrow from bough to bough in this way, to suit the Government’s political necessity? I ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt), as a lawyer, what he thinks of that; later he may tell us. It must be remembered that the Governor-General - and this means the Government - will determine how and where the law may operate in that .way, and it is not, apparently, to be done by the process of a regulation adopted and laid on the table and capable of being disallowed by the House. It is to be done through the swift process of the order in council, which, as far as I know, is not subject to the same legal procedure as that applying to a regulation made under statutory authority. At all events, I should be pleased to know that I am wrong. To me it seems monstrous that a law should bear upon its face, as this measure does, a confession of its obvious inequity.
The next clause is the one which introduces the inquisition. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) said that it was easy to imagine with what gentleness the processes of “big business “ would be dealt with under this clause. Imagination may well run along those lines, but I permit my thoughts to travel also in the opposite direction. I ask myself, not how gently will the inquisitor deal with his friends, but how harshly^ will he deal with his enemies. This notion of approving in advance of the commencement of war, and in anticipation of the passage of a war precautions act the policy of setting up an authority, empowered to an unlimited extent to be prescribed by regulations not yet adopted, to put individuals, presumably privately, upon the rack of inquisition is a very disquieting one. There is here a further invasion of our civil liberties, and one to which I do not propose to lend the very slightest countenance. Clause 6, sub-clause 1, states -
Where, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, it is necessary or desirable in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth that information should be obtained in relation to industrial, commercial or other undertakings, or with respect to any goods, the regulations may require such persons or classes of persons, as are prescribed, to furnish, as prescribed, such information and particulars, as are prescribed, with respect to those undertakings or goods.
Those are prescriptions over which this Parliament will have no supervision. Are we in this young country, and at this time, to lend encouragement and support to a policy of this kind, to a general power in government to make secret investigations under heavy penalties? Was it not rather our belief that justice would continue to be administered in the open light of day, according to the well-established principles of jurisprudence known to Britain and its associated dominions? The definition of “goods” is - “ goods “ includes all kinds of personal property, and also includes anything growing in or on land and mineral or other deposits;
I find nothing in that clause, as it stands, which would- prohibit the secret tribunal from requiring an answer to the most intimate personal questions directed against the liberty of the individual by the body unknown to be set up under this measure. I do not propose to lend any countenance to it by my vote or approval. The only exception admitted in the bill relates to secret trade processes which we are assured will be sacrosanct. The clause states -
Nothing in this act shall authorize the making of any regulations rendering it compulsory for any person to disclose any secret process of manufacture.
Liberty is nothing! The freedom of the subject is trivial! The principles of British jurisprudence are minor considerations, but processes of manufacture go to the root of commercialism. That is a business matter, and if life is sacrosanct, business is more so, and a great deal more so than individual liberty. I had the advantage of hearing the greater part of the excellent and comprehensive address delivered by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) on this measure, and I was impressed by the temperate and restrained manner in which he analysed its contents. I have taken a somewhat different line. I do not propose to make a speech on defence or on preparedness. I should like occasionally to find myself free to speak in this Parliament without addressing argument to the subject of war mongering and war scares. I believe that history so far has been on my side. The war scares have come and gone. They have blown out, and have been proved to mean nothing.
– But with much profit to the armourers.
– I agree with the honorable member. A war scare can be quite as profitable as a war itself, probably more profitable. In a sense a war scare fills the pockets of the armament makers to repletion better than does a war, and it can be maintained for a very considerable time, as our present experience proves. However, let me not be misunderstood. I do not say for a moment that it is impossible that this country should be involved in war. I think that there is a real danger of Australia being involved in war, but only by this Government. So long as this self-governing nation, so far removed from the theatre of war, unthreatened by any nation, unmenaced, unmentioned, almost, by other nations, resolves to remain at peace it will be left in peace; but so long as we have a government pledged, in the words of the late Prime Minister, who has now passed beyond criticism, to 100 per cent, interference in international quarrels in Europe, and in almost any part of Europe - so long as this Government pledges us to enter into commitments with countries at that distance in respect of other countries con tiguous thereto, there must be a continuing danger of war. The safety of Australia cannot be assured internationally until the policy of Labour is applied by a Labour government in Australia for Australia.
.-‘ The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Brennan) referred to this bill as a great and urgent measure, for which, however, he had no approving enthusiasm.
– I did not say that it was great, and urgent.
– The honorable member used those words, though perhaps in a different sense.
– I must have misled the honorable member.
– The words great and urgent describe this bill, because it is designed to ensure that, if .a national emergency should arise, Australia will be prepared for it as well as is possible. We must prepare, not only in regard to the supply of munitions, but also in regard to those contingencies affecting trade, the storage of primary produce, &c, which might arise in the event of hostilities, and against which we must provide in every way that our ingenuity can suggest. I join with the honorable member in saying that I do not believe that any of us view this bill with enthusiastic approval. I would much rather be debating ah international agreement, entered into by Australia as a nation within the British Commonwealth of Nations, providing for international disarmament, and designed to ensure peace. Unfortunately, no such agreement seems possible. Again using the honorable member’s words, it is unfortunately true, that we do not know from day to day what may happen overseas to involve Australia in a war that has its roots in the ambitions of people far removed from us. That being so, a government would be betraying its trust if it did not take whatever action was possible to ensure the security of Australia.
I should like to know why the Ministry for Supply is not to carry out the works which it institutes. I have read the bill, and it appears to me that another title could be given to it. This is really a bill of works, because it provides for the undertaking of works of almost every conceivable kind, including works associated with the manufacture of munitions, works to provide storage of primary products, works in connexion with roads and various forms of transport and so on. Yet, we find that the Department of Works is to remain entirely outside the control of the Minister for Supply. The works are to be undertaken by another department which has been described as the “ Ministry of a hundred tasks,” and is certainly one of the most congested departments of the Commonwealth. It seems strange that the works to be undertaken in connexion with matters arising out of this bill should be delegated to a notoriously congested department for performance, and that the Minister for Supply and his assistant should exercise’ no control or supervision over them. I have on previous occasions made inquiries on this subject, but have, so for, received no satisfactory reply.
The honorable member for Batman also drew attention to the fact that the Department of Defence now employs the services of four Ministers. I approve of that arrangement. The task is beyond the capacity of one man, however great he may be. Surely, among the four Ministers now associated with this department, one should be able to exercise control over the works to which I have referred. For instance, the Minister controlling Civil Aviation (Mr. Fairbairn) is now engaged upon rationalizing matters associated with his department, but once that has been done, the department will more or less run itself. I suggest that this Minister could well be placed in charge of the works contemplated in this bill.
Reference has been made in the course of this debate to oil fuel. The finding of flow oil in commercial quantities in Australia is of vital importance to this country, both in war and in peace. There is a conviction in- the minds of many honorable members, and in the minds of the public also, that everything possible is not being done to find oil in Australia. There is a suspicion that some influence is directed against the finding of oil. I do not propose to go into that aspect of the matter, but merely point out that, despite the fact that private enterprise and the Government have expended many thousands of pounds on investigations flow oil has not yet been found. Nevertheless, it has been authoritatively stated that flow oil exists in Australia in commercial quantities. Some time ago, I c.-.me in contact with a. geophysicist of international repute, who stated that, he was quite sure that flow oil existed in commercial quantities in Australia, and that, if the proper methods were employed, it could be found within six months. This matter is of no mean importance. The expert to whom I refer is well known to the Government.
– What is his name?
– I have no authority to disclose his name. His qualifications, however, are such that private enterprise in Australia has subscribed sufficient capital to employ his services in areas outside the Commonwealth. That fact shows how highly private enterprise, at any rate, thinks of him. I do not suggest that our present advisers are not the best we can secure; they may be, but the plain fact remains that they have not found oil in Australia. The point 1 emphasize is that if divergent views exist among experts as to the efficacy of the method being followed in the search for oil in Australia, the Government should accept the opportunity to consult any geophysicist of standing, and should, at least, allow him to inspect the exploratory work now being carried out. Furthermore, this expert has had experience in practically every oil-bearing region in the world, including oil fields in Russia, Mexico, the United States of America, and Roumania. I doubt whether the Government’s present advisers have had anything like his experience. After checking up on his qualifications, I should be inclined to put him in charge of this work in order to give him an opportunity to substantiate his claims. He states that he would be prepared to give his services to the Commonwealth entirely free in the event of his failing to discover flow oil ; he is prepared to stake his reputation on finding flow oil in commercial quantities in this country. In those circumstances I should certainly be prepared to give him every consideration.
Clause 5, sub-clause 1, provides that the matters to he administered by the department shall be matters relating to - (e). arrangements for the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence;
surveys of Australian industrial capacity and the preparation of plans to ensure the effective operation of Australian industry in time of war; and
These are very wide powers. I do not object to wide powers being given to the Minister in such circumstances, and I am aware that it would be impossible to detail in a measure of this kind all the powers that might be required by him. However, I have misgivings concerning this particular sub-clause, because I feel that the views of certain members of the Government may lead them to embark upon industries which may not be necessary to Australia and the maintenance of which in the long run may involve an over-riding cost to the people of this country. Almost any industry one may like to mention has a bearing on defence. I am all the more concerned about this matter because inan explanation given to the House a week ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that motor car manufacture would be commenced in Australia at as early a date as possible, one of the reasons for its early commencement being the purposes of defence.
– That was the first reason he gave.
– Like other honorable members, I am not against the manufacture of the complete motor car in Australia ; nor am I against the establishment of any other industry, so long as I can be assured that it will make for the economic benefit of Australia as a whole. However, the Tariff Board has inquired into this particular industry, and has made certain findings in respect of it. Two days before the Prime Minister made this statement, I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) whether this industry was considered to be necessary from the point of view of defence, and whether certain gentlemen who had been invited to Canberra to discuss it had come here at the invitation of his department? In as clear-cut a reply as one could desire, the Minister answered that no person interested in motor car manufacture had come to Canberra at the invitation of his department, and that the department did not consider this industry necessary for defence purposes.
– Not one witness could be produced before the Tariff Board to say that it was necessary for defence purposes.
– -The illustration which I have just given arose only during the last few weeks. The giving of such powers to the Minister as are enumerated in this measure, may mean eventually that efforts will be made to establish industries which will, not only prove very costly to the people of Australia, but will also mitigate against the success of industries which are unquestionably of vital importance to this country. Shortly after the first Lyons Government assumed office, the view was expressed officially that the depression, not only in Australia, but also in other countries, was due primarily to the fall of prices of primary products. It was also stated as the belief of the Government of the day that economic recovery depended primarily on the recovery of prices of our exportable products. Consequently, all of the energies of the Government at that time were directed to that end.
Mr.McEwen. - And also to reduce production costs in primary industries.
– Yes. The Ottawa Agreement assisted us to a very great extent in attaining that objective. As the result of this policy, Australia rose out of the depths of the depression to a prosperity the equal of which in some respects it had never known before. However, a different psychology is at work to-day. Many people now hold the view that Australia’s future advancement is bound up almost entirely in the development of industrial enterprises which cannot export products because, in the majority of cases, our production costs are too high to enable us to compete on overseas markets, and also because of our distance from those markets. The new policy may have advantages so far as defence is concerned, but it savours very much of economic self-sufficiency.
– How can we have economic self-sufficiency without industrial development?
– I arn not suggesting that we can. The policy of economic self-sufficiency has never succeeded, and it never will. Any policy which aims at hindering international trade and international investment will never contribute towards the peace of the world. The building up of synthetic industries in Germany and Italy in an endeavour to make those countries self-sufficient in a time of war is to-day one of -the very reasons why we are threatened with war. The synthetic machine which Hitler has built up in Germany threatens to devour him and his system should it collapse, and I do not wish to see anything of the kind adopted here. I am not against industrial expansion. In order to populate this country adequately and to ensure that we, as a nation, shall be free from the ups and downs associated with a country which relies solely on primaryproduction, we must expand industrially. I am afraid, however, that this idea, which is definitely held by many honorable members to-day, may lead us along the road to economic insanity and defeat the very object which they have in view.
– The honorable member -believes that some people are willing to exploit our defence position?
– ,Yes ; I fear that because of the great powers proposed in this measure to be conferred upon the Minister, we may go far beyond the objective which the Government now has in mind. I warn the Government to bear that aspect of the matter in mind, and I shall watch any move in this direction with the closest possible interest. T still maintain - and I defy any honorable member to say otherwise - that Australia’s financial security depends basically upon its export industries. Our development must be -built upon
1 23 J
this foundation. Anything that interferes with that basis, and, consequently, interferes with the economic stability of Australia by decreasing our accumulated funds overseas, must rebound in such a way as to reduce our standard of living. For instance, this financial year our overseas funds will probably decrease to something like £10,000,000. That prospect is by no means pleasing. Therefore, I urge the Government to tread very warily along the path it is about to take. I know that we shall be obliged, in the interests of our defence, to establish many new industries in this country, but in considering our needs for war purposes, the Government should, before it embarks on any synthetic ventures, or establishes any factories that will prove white elephants in time of peace, if such a time should ever recur, consider the storage of these commodities a much better proposition. After all, any commodity so stored could always be utilized should the quantity placed in reserve prove to exceed requirements for defence purposes.
The only other point with which I propose to deal is that relating to profits. I believe that if the people of Australia can be assured that profit-making will be kept under control, they will be more amenable to the expenditure of large sums of money for defence purposes. Under this bill, provision is made for the appointment of an advisory panel to work in conjunction with the Minister for Supply and Development and his permanent Staff. The members of this panel will advise as to the best means to check profiteering in the manufacture of munitions and in the production of materials used in their manufacture. As honorable members are aware, under the definition of munitions in clause 4, almost every commodity produced in this country can be brought within the scope of the bill. I know that this is the hope of the Government, and that it will probably be fulfilled in some instances.
– Does the honorable member know if it is more than a hope?
– The power which the Government seeks to acquire should enable it to work in an effective maimer in certain cases, but the mere making of profits in the manufacture of munitions is one thing, and the general profit-making that takes place in time of war is another. I do not think that it is possible to devise any system to prevent profiteering in a general way under this measure. The co-operation of the Treasury will have to be sought. As honorable members are aware, I have for a long time .been very keen to see the introduction of some means by which the Government could tax undue profits made in any industry. I am well aware of all the difficulties associated with the taxing of excess profits, but, I still believe, notwithstanding what has been said concerning “shutting the stable door after the horse has gone “, that something of the nature proposed is imperative. It should be possible to assess excess profits, but, studying the whole range of manufacture and primary production in Australia, it is not easy to devise a means by which industrial activities can be supervised effectively, and excess profits actually determined.
– Docs that mean that the honorable member has not any confidence in the proposals of the Government?
– Yes, in certain directions, but I do not think it possible to devise a satisfactory scheme to cover the whole of Australia’s industrial activities in the manner suggested by the Minister when introducing this bill. In moving the second reading of the bill, the Minister for Supply and Development said that he would work in close co-operation with the Department of Commerce and the Department of Trade and Customs. I believe that he will also have to work in close co-operation with the Treasury. It is the bounden duty of the Treasury to prepare supplementary legislation well in advance in order to satisfy the people of Australia that no excess profits will be made, or that if they are made that the Governmen will by legislation be able to bring such profits, or a great proportion of them, into the Federal Treasury for use for defence purposes.
– Does the honorable member not think that the Government should indicate what it regards as a fair rate of profit?
– I think that it should, and possibly that will be stated by the Minister when he replies to the debate on the second reading. There seems to be a general consensus of opinion that the rate of profit made on the manufacture of munitions should be comparable with that derived from investment in treasury bonds, and I believe that that is the intention of the Government. This measure does give the Minister wide powers, but I believe that they are essential, and that under the present Minister a new and vigorous drive will be made so to organize Australia that, in the event of war, it will be able to meet the position with a minimum of disorganization.
.- The bill before the chamber really has its germ in section 63 of the Defence Act, which empowers the Governor-General, among other things, to “ establish and maintain arms and ammunition factories “, and -
Subject to provisions of th is act do all matters and things deemed by him to be necessary or desirable for the efficient defence and protection ot the Commonwealth or of any State.
This measure really expands the provisions contained in that section, and assigns the work in connexion with this department of energy to the Minister for Supply and Development. It deals mainly with the production and supply of munitions, in the widest sense, of all those things necessary or useful for the purpose of defence. I am not one of those who believe that the fear of war in the world is due mainly to the activities of the makers of arms. I believe that those are subsidiary causes, and that there are other and deeper causes. All down through history we read of rulers perturbed by the activities of the makers of arms, and treating them as the real factors in bringing about war. Aristophanes in his comedy Peace, written in 421 B.C., describes how Trygaens went to Heaven to bring back peace to this earth, and on his return was met by protests of the makers of arms and armaments, who said that if there were peace they would be deprived of their living. The most ambitious attempt ever made to prevent the private manufacture and sale of arms was that made by the Emperor Justinian, in the fifth or sixth century. His Corpus Juris Civilis included “ novel “ So, which provided that nobody should manufacture arms unless licensed by the Government, and then only in licensed factories, and that no person should sell arms to any private person. Justinian was one of the great war makers, but after his death much of the empire he had founded by conquest fell to pieces. Even his laws against private manufacturers of arms «nd armaments did not prevent war. The importance of munition-making in the world seems to be explainable in this way: Every nation is becoming industrialized - becoming an industrial manufacturing nation - and it develops the production of goods which its own people are unable to buy; they have not the purchasing power, ‘ because only a fraction of their national product goes to them as wages. Nations then have to sell their surplus abroad in competition with other nations. That has become increasingly difficult, and to-day is practically impossible. Nations cannot feed, clothe aud maintain their working classes by producing exchangeable goods. What then does a nation do that is not in a position to employ its own people in the production of exchangeable goods, and yet must employ -them or bc exposed to social revolution? It devotes a good deal of capital and energy to the building up of industries which do not produce exchangeable goods. It embarks on public works and on preparation for war, because the advantage, if we may so term it, of such a policy is that profits are provided for capitalists and employment for the workers. A country cannot provide profits for capitalists and employment for the workers in industry by producing only exchangeable goods, because every country has a surfeit of such goods.. If a country can employ its people on the manufacture of materials required in war and ensure profits to the capitalists and employment to the workers engaged in the industry-
– ls that the foolish policy we are adopting?
– Apparently we have to prepare to destroy men in order to maintain them. That is the position in the world to-day. But for our concentration upon the preparation for war a greater number of persons than are unemployed in Australia and in other countries would be unemployed. That, I think, accounts to a large extent for the great preparations for war that are being made in every country. The following paragraph appears in a circular which has been sent to me - I shall not give the name of the author - and follows other warnings and advice which have been given: -
The Commonwealth has entered also upon a new. era in the production of munitions of war. This is another very valuable adjunct in defence and aid to economic prosperity. A long view plan is in the early stages of development by which Australia- will produce not only for herself but also for New Zealand, South Africa and the Empire in the East, and the Pacific. All these enterprises mean work for thousands, the circulation of more money, more business all round, more new wealth created each year - a widening and ever-expanding circle of prosperity. Australian investors must be intensely interested in all this expansion, not only from the paramount aspect of national safety and growth but also from what might be termed “ self interest “. Increased industrial activity means more general prosperity. That in turn connotes larger turnovers, higher profits, bigger dividends.
That represents the warnings and advice given to investors all over Australia. We have been told that the way to prosperity is through the development of the armaments industry. Now comes this bill containing many clauses which mean nothing at present; they must be worked out and their meanings revealed later. The experience of the Great War has warned the people against giving too much power to govern.ments. I make no reflection upon the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), whom every one likes and trusts, when I say that I look askance at giving these powers to any government, even one formed by the party to which I belong. The Labour party now regrets that at the beginning ‘ of the Great War it entrusted to a government of its own party powers that were in the nature of a blank cheque, because the War Precautions Act was used to cause permanent injury to the Australian people. The people of Australia generally will scrutinize most carefully every measure designed to give to the Government wide powers to be used in the event of war, and will insist that regulations made under the legislation passed by this Parliament shall be carefully examined by the House. They will not again give to any minister or government such a free charter as was given in 1914. Regulations to curtail the liberty and intimately affectingthe well-being of the workers of this country should not be made by the Governor-General; if made at all such laws must be enacted, by Parliament itself after full discussion.
– What regulations, made in war time, seriously affected the workers ?
– A great number of regulations which seriously affected the workers were made during the Great War. I admit that other regulations, such as those which fixed prices, benefited the workers. Probably more government by regulation would have taken place at that time were it not for the fact that the man to whom those powers were entrusted had previously belonged to the Labour party, , and although he had departed in some degree from the policy of that party, he stood true to his old belief in unionism and desired to protect it. I shall not reply further to the interjection of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). If he made it seriously, I shall be prepared, on some other occasion when I have a couple of hours to spare, to give him a full list of the war-time regulations made against the workers.
There are some things in this hill which I cannot understand, as for instance, the definition of “ time of war.” The definition is not limited as it is in the Defence Act, where it means a time of actual or apprehended invasion of Australia. There is no such limitation here. Under this legislation it will be possible for the Governor-General to proclaim that a state of war exists in Australia, even though there he no actual or apprehended danger of invasion, but merely a war which involved Great Britain at the other side of the world, and did not involve Australia at all.
Mr.Brennan. - As for example, the present time.
– I come now to the scheme of the Government in respect of the munitions industry. It proposes to regard the manufacture of munitions as both a private and a public industry; that is to say, most of the production of munitions willbe carried out by private enterprise, but the Government reserves to itself the power to establish factories. In my opinion that is wise. For reasons associated with the Constitution, I do not think that it would be wise to provide that only the Government should manufacture munitions. If the manufacture of munitions were made a government monopoly, we should develop factories in time ofwar, only to find that after the war those factories could not he used at all; they would have to remain idle, and the workers employed therein would be forced to seek employment elsewhere.
– In other words the honorable member believes that it would be a good thing to let the capitalist carry all the losses.
– At the conclusion of the war the private capitalist could beat his swords into ploughshares and his spears into pruning hooks. He could use his plant and his employees for the manufacture of useful implements of peace, whereas the Commonwealth’s only power would be to make things required for the defence of the country. Honorable members know that when the government of the day desired to utilize its plant at Cockatoo Island for the manufacture of turbo alternating engines for the Municipal Council of Sydney certain private manufacturers moved the AttorneyGeneral of the day to apply to the High Court to stop the Commonwealth Government from doing that work. The High Court decided that the Commonwealth Government may not manufacture for peaceful use. I was not, however, talking about losses when the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) interjected. I was pointing out the difference between the powers of private manufacturers and those of the Commonwealth Government. The latter can manufacture only in relation to defence, whereas the private capitalist can use his plant and his employees to manufacture implements for peace-time use.
– -If the honorable member’s argument be developed further, it means that if any one has to do the sacking, it should be the private employer.
– I am not concerned about sacking. Either the honorable gentleman is pretending^ to misunderstand me, or he desires to misrepresent me. I do not think that he wishes to misrepresent me. I repeat that the Commonwealth Government may manufacture only things that are connected with the defence of Australia, and nothing else. 1 Its powers would be temporarily enlarged in the event of war, but at the conclusion of the war those powers would shrink again as they did after the Great War, The Commonwealth Government would not be able to turn its factories to the production of peaceful implements as the privates-capitalist could.
A great deal has been said about the necessity for controlling the prices charged by private producers of munitions. The Minister has suggested that a profit of 4 per cent, would be reasonable,” but I point out that it would be impossible to determine the actual profits made by such a body as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Unless there were some reliable check upon the actual cost of production by its subsidiary companies, there would be no means of ascertaining that company’s production costs. In order to produce figures to prove that it was not making more than 4 per cent, profit, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would need only to arrange with its subsidiary companies to charge inflated prices. If the Government be in earnest, it should insist that no private company shall manufacture munitions unless it discloses the names of its subsidiary companies and the number of shares held by it, and by its directors in every other company. With that information in its possession, the Government might be able to keep -a check on costs; otherwise a reliable check would be impossible, and any attempt in that direction would become a laughing stock. Such information should he obtained from all private manufacturers of munitions. I am of the opinion that no person should be allowed to manufacture munitions except under licence, one condition- of which should be that he shall make the fullest disclosures ° as to his relations with other manufacturing bodies.
At the moment I am mainly concerned with the power to make regulations. Clause 16 contains a general power to make regulations, whilst clause 6 gives something in the nature of specific power, in that it authorizes the Governor-General to make regulations calling upon such persons or classes of persons as are prescribed to furnish, as prescribed, such information and particulars as are prescribed with respect to certain undertakings or goods. Clause 6, sub-clause 4, provides -
Any offence against this section may bc prosecuted either summarily or upon indictment.
If the offence be prosecuted upon indictment, the case will be heard ‘before a jury, but if dealt with summarily, it will be heard before a magistrate without a jury. It is open to the Commonwealth Government to bring the offender before either a jury or a magistrate. It may be said that minor offences do not justify a jury. My answer is that if the offence be a minor one, the penalty also should be of a minor nature. No man should be liable to be sent to gaol by a police magistrate.
– If he is a profiteer, yes.
– No man who has not been convicted before a jury should be sent to gaol. One of the greatest invasions of liberty is’ the increased power given to magistrates, sitting without juries, to impose heavy sentences and imprisonment. If the offence- be sufficiently serious to warrant imprisonment, the guilt of the offender should be proved before a jury of his peers.
– Is any penalty provided for profiteering ?
– No. The bill provides that, if a man refuses to answer questions, he may, at the option of the Government, be brought before either a police magistrate or a jury. If the case be heard before a magistrate the penalty is a fine not exceeding £50, or imprisonment for three months; if the offence be prosecuted upon indictment, the offender may be fined £500 or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding one year, or both.
– What is the penalty for breaking some prescribed industrial provision ?
– I am dealing with clause 6, and expressing the opinion that, in minor cases in which the. offences are prosecuted summarily, only a small penalty should be provided; I suggest a penalty not exceeding £10 without im- prisonment ; but if the case were considered to be serious, it should .be heard before a jury. Offenders in such cases should be either fined or imprisoned. I believe strongly that one of the fundamental liberties of the British people is that no man shall be deprived of his liberty except upon conviction by bis peers. That fundamental right was given in Magna Charta, but, with the passage of the years, it has to a great extent been destroyed.
The bill provides a general power to make regulations, and I have given notice of an amendment designed to prevent what is generally termed “ industrial conscription “. I shall not discuss the amendment in detail now, except to say that it is necessary. I believe that something in the way of planning and control of the production of munitions and other things necessary for the defence of this > country should be undertaken. My quarrel with the Government is that, in this bill, it is asking for powers which are too wide and indefinite. Most of the details will be prescribed in regulations, and we all know of the habit of issuing regulations when Parliament is not sitting. Like the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I am jealous of the right of the Parliament to control legislation by disallowing regulations. I think that we are in very much greater danger of taking a step upon that inclined plane upon which this country first ventured in 1914. Under the pressure of public opinion, and the fear of war, we are in danger of giving to the Minister of the day powers which ought not to be given to any man, however we may trust him. Ministers come and go. The virtues of the present Minister should not make us blind to the danger of vesting the occupant of his office with such extraordinary powers. I believe that power will corrupt anybody, and I have sufficient affection for the Minister to desire that he should not be corrupted. The House should be very careful to restrict the power of the Government to act without the consent of the Parliament.
Mr. FADDEN (Darling Downs) [5.55’J. - At this stage of this important debate very little new ground can be broken. However, I desire to make a few comments on matters which arise in the consideration of this measure. The bill can be made a very important piece of legislation if the Government is sincere in the application of the principles which it embodies, and is desirous of carrying out that national stocktaking that is so essential in’ the unsettled conditions at present obtaining in the world. T submit that if a thorough, conscientious and equitable stocktaking of the resources of Australia is carried out, very many of the ills from which we have suffered can be remedied. A large sum of money is to be expended on the defence of this country; that money is to come out of the purses of our people. Consequently, it should be the aim - it certainly is the responsibility - of this Government to see that value is received for every pound expended, and that no person makes any undue profit out of such expenditure. The disbursement of a huge sum of money on the indispensable defence of this country can be carried out in parallel with the development of very many important industries, that are requisite not only for defence, but also for the general economic welfare of Australia during peace time. I refer particularly to the position in which Australia finds itself in regard to that very essential commodity, oil. Let me deal first with lubricating oil. Australia is reluctantly compelled to import, from overseas approximately 15,000,000 gallons of lubricating oil annually. It is not very difficult to imagine what would happen to our industrial activities, to say nothing of the defence of this country, if the supply of lubricating oil were cut off as the result of hostilities in which we were embroiled. We depend on a seaborne trade for the whole of that essential commodity. What steps are we taking to find substitutes which would alleviate the intolerable position were the supply of lubricating oil from other sources to be cut off? That brings me to a matter upon which I have spoken publicly whenever the opportunity has been presented, namely, the necessity for taking steps to produce petrol substitutes in this country. I know that the Liquid Fuels Committee has been set up to carry out an investigation of this very important matter. As a Queenslander I am particularly interested in the research and investigations carried out in connexion with power alcohol. From all I have been able to read in connexion with this matter and from statistics collected from 49 countries and made available by the courtesy of the United States of America Department of Commerce, I find that Australia is practically the only country in the world which is entirely dependent upon imported petrol; at the same time, it is the only country which has failed to provide by national legislative enactment for the compulsory blending of imported petrol with locally produced alcohol. “We import into this country approximately 360,000,000 gallons of petrol annually. If we compelled only a 10 per cent, addition of locally-produced spirit we would at least be able to dispose of 36,000,000 gallons of power alcohol annually. It has been stated that, from an economic viewpoint, power alcohol cannot compete with imported petrol. We know very well that it cannot, but neither can a lot of other things produced in this country compete with foreign articles. We do not want them to be competitive if their production is to be at the expense of the White Australia policy and the industrial conditions of which we are proud. Comparison with the prices of imported petrol is not the basis upon which we should approach the national consideration of the local production of fuel oil. Eather we should consider how indispensable is an assured supply of fuel, particularly in time of war. I urge the critics who reject local production of power alcohol as uneconomic to bear in mind that they have no guarantee as to what the petrol companies in this country will charge for their product at any time. We know very well that the Government was not able to satisfy itself and the people, even after exhaustive inquiry by a royal commission, regarding the activities of the petrol companies in Australia. We also know that during the war Australians paid as much as 3s. 6d. a gallon for imported petrol, and that even at that price supplies were, rationed. We got exactly what the petrol companies were prepared to give us and only at an exorbitant profiteering price. To make the price of imported petrol an excuse for discouraging the expansion of the power alcohol industry is ridiculous, decidedly unfair, and un-Australian, because the price of imported petrol has no relation to the costs of production, importation and distribution. During the last few years there has been a big move to amalgamate the great merged corporations of the United States of America with the combines of Europe. One of the most notable achievements in this direction was the pooling of the interests of the Standard Oil Trust of the United States of America, the Royal Dutch Shell Company, the British firm of Imperial Chemical Industries, and the German Chemical Combine known as the I.G. for the commercialization of the patents for the production of fuel oil from coal by the hydrogenation process which received so much publicity in this country and which has such an indefatigable champion in the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). This gigantic monopoly was brought about in 1931 by the establishment of the International Patent Company, with head-quarters in Germany, which operates in all countries including Britain and Australia. The rationalization of the world’s petroleum industry, outside Russia, has been brought about by an Anglo-American-European “ understanding “. Honorable members know that Australians, particularly those interested in power alcohol, have suffered greatly because of lack of encouragement of that very important industry, the expansion of which I consider to be essential. All the factors necessary for the successful establishment of the industry are here. First, we have the market. At present we import almost every drop of petrol that we use. Secondly, we have all the raw materials necessary for the production of power alcohol. We also have the sunshine, the rain, the idle men - plenty of people are looking for work - and the idle land. As we are anxious to provide adequate defence for our country, why can we not do as the people of other countries have done? During the war, Germany had to produce alcohol locally, because it had no other liquid fuel for its mechanized armies. Approximately 40,000 distilleries were established throughout Germany to process all surplus materials from farms. Refuse, and even straw were used to produce power alcohol. Certainly it had to be done at a price. “We in Australia, have the opportunity to establish the industry, and it is the responsibility of the Government, and in fact, of every Australian, to see that it is established. The industry should not be considered simply from the point of view of pounds shillings and pence, particularly as we have to depend now on imports from other countries.
The cotton industry is also vitally important to us. Cotton is a raw material for defence purposes. I have the privilege and pleasure of living in and representing a State which has within its borders the only suitable cotton-growing land in Australia. If all Australia’s requirements of cotton were to be supplied by local industry, the growers of Queensland would need to crop another halfmillion acres of land. Visualize what that means! People are looking for work. The problems of defence, of decentralization, and of the development of rural centres are staring us in the face. En the circumstances the opportunities available are not merely opportunities; they are also responsibilities. We should take full advantage of them. If the Government is sincere in its intentions, it has a wonderful opportunity in Queensland to- give practical application to this measure, the main purpose of which, so we are told, is to effect a national stocktaking and develop the country’s resources. Our policy should be determined by our own needs, not by external influences. No considerations, other than those which involve an effort to find the best methods to develop Australia’s resources, increase its population, and ensure the security of its people beyond any possibility of successful challenge, should be permitted to affect the position. Some honorable members have become so pro-English that they are now anti-Australian, although they do not recognize it. We must give serious consideration to our defence responsibilities, and do everything in our power to reduce expenditure on the defence programme, even though we may be told by our experts that it is essential. We are informed that we are in danger of war. War implies a breach of international relations, and therefore it appears to me that every logical system of defence should provide for the maintenance of international, friendships, the smoothing out of difficulties with potential enemies, and the establishment of intimacies with potential allies. The Commonwealth Government has neglected this aspect of defence. Australia has a special interest in Japan and the United States of America. Consequently, the Government should be trying to solve outstanding problems which affect our relations with Japan, and it should also be trying to secure some promise of assistance from the United States of America in the event of war. Other dominions have appointed Ministers to non-British countries. The Australian Government has refused consistently to follow their example. It is not necessary to make appointments wholesale. Still, an Australian Minister at Tokyo would be invaluable at presentHe could do much to improve international relations, and help to solve outstanding problems. Possibly, also, he could act as an intermediary between Japan and the United Kingdom. An Australian Minister at Washington could do much to establish Australia’s security, and, as a consequence, lessen expenditure on what, under existing circumstances, seem to be essential defence activities. It may be true that the “United States of America will not make a general agreement with the British Commonwealth of Nations, but it is quite probable that it would be willing to conclude a regional defensive pact with Australia. These factors are far more important than the mere expenditure of money, particularly when the expenditure is decided upon by experts, or so-called experts. Naturally, I believe in the employment of experts, but I have had some experience also of so-called experts. The Government should not place too much power in the hands of, or repose too much confidence in so-called “ defence experts It has the responsibility to decide all matters of policy. It should formulate its policy and then see that it is applied. Naval and military experts often seek to take advantage of critical times in order to urge expenditure on projects calculated to advance the interests of the professional sailors and soldiers rather than those of the country. We must benefit by experience and take full advantage of the knowledge that is in our possession in order to ensure that Australia obtains full value for every pound expended, and that a pound is not expended if a shilling will be sufficient.
The decentralization of our population is highly necessary. Records show that although our population has increased by 38.4 per cent. in the last twenty years, the population of the six capital cities has increased by 58 per cent., whereas that of the country districts has increased by only 24 per cent. Obviously this unhealthy tendency should be arrested. Every possible means should be used to adjust this ill-balance of population. Australia needs not only an increase, hut also a better distribution, of population. We must remember that the security of the country is based upon its man-power.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I shall now develop the claims of the country side of Australia for the better distribution of industries. Wherever practicable, industries should be removed from densely populated to less vulnerable parts. In considering the problem of secondary industries, it is necessary to remember that a prime objective of any government should be to produce a wellbalanced state, that is a state in which a due proportion is maintained between primary production, secondary production and trade. History is full of examples of empires and states which have decayed, after a period of brief prosperity, because of failure to maintain this balance, or, to put it in another way, because of an over-emphasis oh either primary products, secondary production or trade. The maintenance of a proper proportion between primary, secondary and commercial activities contributes to the development of the self-sufficient state in this way: -
The maintenance of a proper balance will lead to a progressive increase of population, properly distributed through the country, and probably giving evidence of a more equable distribution of wealth. This increase of population is essential to Australian security partly because world opinion will not tolerate forever the Australian claim to territories which are not fully used and partly becauseit will supply the man-power necessary to defence. In this connexion I desire toput forward as strenuously as I can the claims of Queensland.
– Where is that?
– North of. the Tweed. There are honorable members of this House who would give the territory north of the Tweed to the Japanese, or any other potential enemy, if it meant the well-being of the rest of Australia. The State of Queensland is the most vulnerable State in the whole of Australia. I need not stress that to responsible honorable members. It is almost the least populated, and the least developed. It has the greatest potentialities and the greatest resources of any of the States. I recognize that I am leaving myself open to the charge of being parochial, but I lay stress on this because the defence of the rest of Australia will depend on the garrisoning of the coastline of Queensland and the effective occupation of sparsely occupied and undeveloped spaces. I, in common with other honorable members from Queensland and Queenslanders generally, view with alarm the scant consideration that has been given by way of defence expenditure to Queensland. I hope that that will be remedied under the national stock-taking that this bill proposes, and that the resources of
Queensland will come very forcibly under the notice of the Government, because ii is on that State that Australia will have to depend for the raw materials needed, not only for the defence of this country, but also in time of peace. I am sure that there is no honorable gentleman who regrets the Government’s policy in regard to the establishment and maintenance of the great sugar industry. Everybody recognizes now that whatever consideration or concession was bestowed .upon that industry, the expenditure it involved has been the best defence expenditure that this country could possibly undertake. Every responsible Australian will also agree that every farm house in the tropical belt of Queensland and on its coastline constitutes a garrison for the defence of this country.
I shall now touch on the various details of this bill. I notice that the bill is designed to bring into operation an act that will continue for five years. I submit that because it is a measure which provides to the greatest possible degree, and the greatest disadvantageous degree, for government by regulation, if this bill is to have any virtue, the shorter the period during which it is allowed to operate the better it will be for parliamentary procedure and democracy generally. It should be an annual bill. It should be a measure to come before Parliament each and every year for the reconsideration of Parliament just as the British Army Act has gone before the House of Commons every year since 1689, when in the reign >.>f William the Third the Mutiny Act, subsequently in ‘ more recent years replaced by the Army Act, was first passed. There could be no possible argument against bringing this measure up for, reconsideration each and every year so that Parliament could accept that responsibility which belongs to it and government by regulation could be minimized. It could then be considered’ in the circumstances of the time and omissions could be rectified.
One of the most important provisions of this bill is for co-operation between the governments of the Commonwealth and the States, but I urge that there should also be brought into the realm of essential co-operation the co-operation of local-governing bodies and local authorities, so that the three spheres of activity, namely, local government, State government and Commonwealth government, would be co-joined. It must be remembered that the same people are represented within those three spheres.
I am astonished that some definite plan is not contained in this measure. Nothing concrete has been placed before Parliament. We have, been told that this will be done and that that will be done, that this will be considered in committee, and that that will he covered by regulation. There is no excuse for the Government’s failure to lay down a definite plan for co-operation and coordination of the electric light undertakings of Australia, because that is one of the greatest requirements for the defence of the country in the event of an invasion. A definite plan could and should have been set down for consideration by this Parliament, whereby the capital cities would not be dependent, in the event of hostilities, on their own isolated electricity supplies. A plan should be devised to link up all the electricity undertakings throughout the Commonwealth.
I am also astounded that there is no protection for the people of Australia against the horror and dread that every body must have when war is spoken of or defence is undertaken. I refer to profiteering. It is a serious responsibility of the Government to lay down a definite scheme to prevent undue profits being made out of any unfortunate circumstances which may be forced upon this nation. I throw a suggestion out to the Government. I do not agree with methods of excess taxation, because 1 recognize - I speak with some experience - that all taxation is paid by the workers and the producers, who cannot pass it on. The greatest factor in the cost of living is the class of taxation that can be passed on to the two terminal points that I have mentioned. We must, therefore, look for another method to control profits. I believe that prevention is better than cure. There is nothing to prevent the Government from operating a definite scheme for profit limitation on the same b.isis as the. gas and electric light companies have to operate. We all know that gas and electricity can be sold to the consumers only on the basis of government requirements and regulation. The Government can go further by having price-fixing legislation and methods in order to prevent people from making undue profits out of the defence of this country.
– The gas and electricity undertakings do well.
– They may, but there is some protection for the consumers. If we rely on the taxing of excess profits, we shall allow those concerned to pass the tax on, and we shall keep up the cost of living. The “War-time Profits Act was passed in September, 1917, and it was thought that it would stop profiteering. lt referred to the profits from the start of the war. It contained certain formulas, and regulations were framed; but, as one who had vast experience in a professional capacity of that act, I can say that the people against whom it was designed to operate got out of it cheapest and best. I would not be associated with any such measure again.
– The honorable gentleman is on the wrong side of the House.
– I am glad that I am not now outside the House. The total revenue derived by the Commonwealth from this tax amounted to £7,863,838. Stated in other words, that was the penalty paid by those who were deemed to have made undue profits from business undertakings during the war. Is it any wonder that I do not desire to ‘be associated with any method or system designed to excess profits of war mongers or profiteers? As the custodians of the people’s interests, our responsibility is to see that no undue war-time profits are made. Rather than allow profits and then tax them after they are made and thus allow the cost or effect to be passed on to the two main sections of the community who pay it in the final analysis - workers and the producers - we should prevent the profit by a scheme of limitation such as I have mentioned.
– Has the experience of the honorable member convinced him that attempts to control war-time profits have been futile?
– It has. Most people who have had the experience of the operation of the war-time profits tax will say the same. The people whom it sought to control had very little difficulty in evading it. As one who has had experience of this matter, I remind the Government that prevention is better than cure, and I urge it to adopt some method for the effective limitation of war-time profits. The people of Australia should be assured that the Government will leave no stone unturned in its endeavour to prevent profiteers from acquiring undue profits from expenditure on defence.
– The honorable member is very optimistic if he expects this Government to take action in that direction.
– I express that hope. Indeed, I am confident that everything will be done to that end. I believe that the Government, will conscientiously try to do the right thing by the people from whose pockets the money for this huge defence programme will be drawn. Every possible precaution should be taken to ensure that the people of Australia get full value for the money to be expended. I hope also that the Government will bear in mind the wisdom of seeking the co-operation of the Government of Queensland, not only in the interests of that State, ‘but also in the interests of Australia as a whole.
– The vast expansion of our defence programme in recent years has rendered inevitable certain adjustments of administrative machinery, not only of the Department of Defence, but also of practically all Commonwealth departments. In 1932, our defence expenditure totalled £3,200,000. For the present financial year the estimated expenditure is in the neighbourhood of £26,000,000. There has been that constant cumulative increase until we are now faced with a record peace-time expenditure for defence. It is obvious, and has been obvious for many months, that a department which had been handling an average annual expenditure of less than £10,000,000 could not, as then constituted, carry the load of almost treble the amount. Consequently, the Government’s announcement of the creation of the new Department of Supply and Development was, I believe, received with the widest approval.
The variety of subjects dealt with by honorable members, in the course of this debate, the length of the debate itself, and the public interest which it has aroused, have provided more than sufficient evidence of the necessity for the bill.
– A very big proportion of this defence expenditure was formerly handled by the Works Department which the Government has now abolished.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) secured an extension of his time in order to place his views before the House. If he does not interrupt me I shall not ask for that privilege. Under the bill, as the honorable gentleman has pointed out, the Government takes very wide powers. I suggest, however, that that is essential - even inevitable. It is necessary to make provision for supplies for all branches of the defence forces; to take measures to ensure that there are adequate reserves of essential commodities which to-day are either imported or cannot be manufactured within a reasonable time in Australia, or for which we have to make provision within this country in the future. The scope of the matters to be dealt with and the degree of uncertainty as to the extent of the problems which will arise have, I repeat, rendered inevitable the taking of very broad powers under this measure
The fear which has been expressed in some quarters that the exercise of these powers will be abused is, I suggest, entirely groundless. The bill itself contains certain checks. Two are to be found in clause 5 which specifies the various functions of the Department of Supply and Development. In the first place of the subject-matters enumerated only those which the Governor-General directs may be dealt with by the department. Towards the end of that clause there is a provision that the Governor-General may determine the extent to which any of the matters specified may be administered by the department. Thus there is a very real check, at the outset, on the exercise of the powers conferred by this measure, and the responsibility rests, not only on the department, but also on the Government. Furthermore, there is a definite limit of time placed upon thu functioning of the department itself. The life of the department is limited by the bill to a period of five years and it will not be possible to extend it without the approval of Parliament. Also, the regulations under which these powers may be exercised must come before Parliament regularly for approval.
Some honorable members have expressed the fear that these powers may be used to ride rough-shod over existing government policy in respect of the establishment of secondary industries. Here again, I suggest, the fears are without substantial basis. This Government is fully conscious of its obligations under the Ottawa Agreement. It ha3 shown repeatedly its desire to use the machinery provided in the Tariff Board Act, and honorable members are well aware that any action which it may take in connexion with Australian industries must eventually come before this Parliament for approval. Those honorable members who have expressed the greatest concern in this respect are well aware - and I assure them that the Government also is conscious of the fact - that the continued existence of the Ministry is dependent, in the last analysis, upon their support. There is, surely, a real assurance in that comforting fact!
Several honorable members have expressed the opinion that, in making some provision for the manufacture of munitions by private enterprise, the Government is violating some fundamental principle of civic morality. I suggest that a common-sense approach to this problem will lead to no other conclusion than that the policy being adopted by the Government in this connexion is the correct one. It ensures that Australia’s peace-time requirements of munitions and defence equipment will be obtained from government establishments. In time of war, of course, the demand for these supplies will be greatly increased. Surely no one will contend that in time of peace we should maintain, as government establishments, the necessary industries for producing the enormously expanded requirements that would be needed in time of war !
It has .been suggested also that greater use should be made of government workshops. But I think that most honorable members will agree that the Government’s policy is a sound one. The Government has declared that Australia’s peace-time requirements shall be supplied from government workshops, but that to meet emergency requirements in time of war it will utilize private industrial establishments. Therefore, it has been necessary to put these private industries on such a basis that, should the emergency arise, they can with the least possible delay and with the least possible dislocation be converted to the production of government requirements. The further suggestion has been made that, since the Government has decided to establish annexes, it should make fuller use of. State government workshops. Need I point out that in time of war all State railway workshops would be working to capacity, whereas many private industries which to-day are producing peace-time requirements, some of which are luxury items and certainly not all are necessities, would be comparatively idle? Under the Government’s scheme, many of these establishments could rapidly bo converted to the production of munitions and other defence requirements.
Another fear which has been expressed is that the Government may be exploited by industries converted to war-time needs in respect of the prices charged for their commodities. The information given to the House by my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) should do much to allay this fear. As honorable members are no doubt a ware, it is intended to set up an advisory panel of accountants. Let there be no misunderstanding as to the function of this body It is not suggested that these gentlemen should do the work of cost accounting for the whole of ‘the activities of the defence establishments, whether conducted by the Government or by private enterprise. It, is intended that the members of this panel, all of who are men of standing in their own profession - many possess specialized skill in cost accounting, which is a particular branch of accountancy - will examine the present checks which the Government is exercising. If they consider these checks to be inadequate, they will be at liberty to suggest alternatives, or improvements, and it will be a responsibility of the Government and of the new Department of Supply to see that machinery for limiting any exploitation of the people is introduced and is working effectively. The Government gives Parliament and the people of Australia the sincere assurance that action will be taken to restrict any attempt to make what is virtually blood money out of defence preparations of the Commonwealth.
– Who will decide that?
– That will be the responsibility of the Government, which will be answera’ble to this House and to the people of the Commonwealth if they do not approve of what is done in that regard.
– Why not make the necessary provision in the bill?
– No authority except the Government can effectively accept that responsibility.
Practically every speaker has stressed the desirability of making proper provision for adequate supplies of oil fuel and other fuels - ha® stressed the encouragement and development of that particular phase of our requirements. The Government can withstand any charge of either negligence in the past or lack of appreciation of the urgency of this problem so far as the future is concerned. It has made financial provision- in the past in respect of operations designed to discover oil in this country; it has kept functioning a permanent body - the (Ml Advisory Committee - to advise it on matters relating to oil supplies; and it has the standing committee on liquid fuels, whose particular task is to give advice in respect of substitutes for petroleum products. In addition, on the defence side more particularly, there is functioning at the present time an oil sub-committee of the Principal Supply Officers Committee, and a further sub-committee of that committee which is concerned with ma tters of storage and of rationing for defence needs. Consequently, adequate machinery is in existence to deal with this particular subject.
Then there are the preparations which are going ahead for the production of oil from shale at Newnes. I deplore, on behalf of the Government, suggestions made earlier in’ this debate questioning the bona fides of those who are conducting that particular’ enterprise. It has been suggested that, in effect, the undertaking at Newnes is possibly only a “ blind “ or a “ cover-up “ for some of the big oil companies, and that the sincerity of the undertaking given by those in charge of the enterprise to produce oil fuel from shale within a reasonable time is open to question. I give an emphatic denial to any such suggestion. At the present time, 403 men are working at Newnes on this project, and 150 additional men are working on the improvement of the road from Capertee bo the Newnes field. Plant which could not be obtained in Australia has beeen ordered abroad, and a considerable quantity of plant is also being manufactured locally. 1 pay tribute to the public-spiritedness of the gentlemen in charge of the enterprise, who have invested £166,000 in a highly speculative undertaking. In addition, as honorable members are aware, the agreement contains a penalty clause which provides that, failing production by the 1st January of next year, a penalty may be imposed amounting to one-tenth of the capital invested.
– Penalties may be waived, as was the case with the last syndicate.
– Only with the approval of this Parliament. On all sides there have been suggestions ranging from bold statement to sly innuendo that allegedly sinister influences are retarding the development of the oil industry in the Commonwealth.
– There is nothing “ alleged “ in them.
– Are we to assume, then, that there is some gigantic conspiracy, in which are involved not only the oil companies but also the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments, many of whom are either composed of or arc controlled . by members of the same political colour as honorable members opposite? In the States of Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria, all of which have been mentioned as possible fields for the production of considerable quantities of oil, there are either Labour governments or, as is the case in Victoria^ a government subject to considerable pressure by Labour members. Is it suggested that there is a gigantic conspiracy in which they are involved, or is the accusation levelled against them that they have been either dilatory or negligent in respect of this particular matter?
One other matter upon which I desire to touch I should not have regarded seriously had it not been raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who led the debate for the Opposition. He suggested that, in the acquirement of goods for defence and other governmental purposes, the present administration is influenced by an inferiority complex, and that apparently, in its view, the Australian-made article does not meet our requirements, either on account of its quality or from some other cause, with the result that to a far greater degree than is necessary we are going outside the Commonwealth for our supplies. With every respect for. the honorable gentleman, and a proper appreciation of the very able and informative speech that he made, I suggest that that is one accusation which he cannot substantiate.
As was pointed out by the Minister for Defence, at least 82 per cent. of our total defence expenditure is to be incurred within the Commonwealth. If the honorable gentleman cares to make a tour of inspection of the Government establishments at Maribyrnong and Footscray, I believe that he will regard as a revelation the degree to which resources for our self-containment and security are being developed. The degree to which we have been able to produce goods which in the past we deemed to be completely out- side either our mechanical or our productive resources, is one of the most remarkable features of the post-depression period. I point not only to the manufacture of our own munitions requirements, not only to the arrangements with the British Government for the manufacture of aircraft that will be returned to Great Britain to help to meet the requirements of that Government, but also to the encouragement that is being given to the establishment of such important industries as the new tinned plate industry, which has been referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. Perhaps I may here pause for a moment to review the criticism, not only unmeasured but also, I suggest, irresponsible, which has been levelled at what is popularly known as “ big business “ in this country. It is rather an extraordinary characteristic of some aspects of Australian politics that, whilst success in any other profession or calling in life, even that of politics, evokes a certain degree of admiration and respect, success in a commercial or business sphere inspires the wildest, most flagrant expression of suspicion. In this matter we might not only exercise some measure of restraint, but also give credit where credit is duc. In one breath honorable members like the honorable member for West Sydney accuse the Government of not developing industries sufficiently, and in the next breath, roundly and utterly condemn those men who at this very moment are making a splendid job of the development of the secondary industries of this country. Some recognition should be accorded to those leaders of industry, many of whom are now making their expert services available to the Government voluntarily and in an entirely honorary capacity.
The only other point on which I desire to touch i3 that which relates to the making of surveys of our material resources. Some honorable members have affirmed that, whereas it is apparently the intention of the Government to attach to the National Register Bill a schedule setting out in detail the information to he sought, no such provision is made in this measure. There are very good reasons for that, which doubtless will be given to the House in considerable detail during the committee stage. I now give to the House the assurance that the Government has every intention to exercise fully the power to bo given to the new department in this regard. I could produce for the inspection of honorable members a printed questionnaire which has already gone out to secondary industries. Whilst in a survey of this kind it may be found desirable to send out a questionnaire to different industries, and we may require to touch on different aspects in respect of those industries, it may not be considered necessary to seek information from every establishment registered as a factory. I understand that there are in the Commonwealth about 25,000 registered establishments which, technically, come under the heading of “ factories “. The elimination of those that employ uo more than four hands would reduce the number to about 12,000. Therefore, it may “be found that the questionnaire need not be sent to more than a relatively limited number of industrial establishments. One reason why it has been found necessary to take this power is that the response to the questionnaire already sent out has been very disappointing; only about one-third of those sent out were returned in any degree of completion, and even those are on the average about 40 per cent, incomplete. Therefore, in order to obtain a proper survey of the material resources essential for the planning of reserves and, if necessary, the substitution of some materials for others that we now have to import, such information must be. obtained.
In conclusion, I point out to the House that the objects underlying the introduction of this measure are, first, to improve the administrative machinery dealing with our defence preparedness; and secondly, to plan ahead, not only for the possible future defence requirements of this country, but also for its proper development, insofar as it will, by its passage, advance that development aud promote our security, it is fairly entitled to the approval and the commendation of members of all parties. In that, spirit, and in the confident belief that, such will be the result of the operation of the measure, if agreed to, I commend it to the consideration of honorable members.
– The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) carefully mentioned many matters not dealt with in the bill, but studiously avoided consideration of the many evil effects that must flow from the measure. Many Australians will be much disappointed ami shocked when they fully realize the nature of the defence policy of the Government as expressed in this bill. No political party objects to a proper survey of the potentialities of this country with, regard to defence, or a careful tabulation of our resources so that they may be put to the best possible use; but why is it considered necessary at this stage of our history to pass a bill of this kind ? Almost daily, Ministers and members generally express abhorrence concerning the undemocratic form of government obtaining in countries ruled by dictators, and suggest that Australia, at least, should adhere tenaciously to the principles of democracy, and not permit them to be undermined. Coupled with the proposed national register and the Crimes Act, the legislation now under discussion is reminiscent of conditions experienced in this country twenty years ago which rendered necessary the passage of the War Precautions Act
The first great exception that I take to this bill is that it is proposed to hand over to private enterprise the manufacture of arms and ammunition for sale and profit. This is a complete reversal of the policy advocated by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) when be held the position of Treasurer, and is contrary to the people’s wishes. The Government now proposes to provide £1,000,000 to assist private manufacturers io extend their works so that they may increase their profits by the manufacture and sale of munitions. The Minister repeatedly said that he was opposed to private enterprise having anything to do with this work. He stated that, although the Government should not compete with private enterprise in ordinary commercial spheres, private factories should not be permitted to engage in the manufacture of arms and munitions for profit. Yet this bill is designed to assist private enterprise to turn Australia into a depot for the supply to countries bordering the Pacific of death-dealing instruments.
Scores of books fresh from the press contain sworn evidence collected by royal commissions and at other governmental inquiries condemning the manufacture of arms and munitions by private enterprise because it is generally recognized that the profit made in this trade is one of the greatest incentives to war. This Government boasts of a desire to uphold the democratic ideals of the people of Australia, and pretends to hate the warlike methods of dictatorship countries, yet it is now -proposing that Australia shall compete with other countries in the private manufacture of death-dealing instruments. The people have never been consulted by referendum on this matter. If their opinion were sought it would be shown that they are strongly opposed to this country being thrown into the very cockpit of war. Under the bill, private manufacturers will not only be given contracts for the manufacture of munitions, and a government subsidy of £1,000,000 to encourage them to tender for this work, but they will also have the free use of departmental blue prints and the services of experts now “in the employment of the Government.
During the Great “War it was found necessary to give contracts for the supply of clothing and other equipment required by our troops to government factories, and these supplied the necessary goods at half the prices that private manufacturers had been charging. We have been told that the annexes to private factories will be used only in war time. I desire to know whether we are now living under peace or war conditions.
– The machinery installed in the annexes is not now being used.
– How is it then that already that great octopus) the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, has been engaged in the manufacture of shells for the Defence Department? Last week we were informed that the price charged for shells made by this company was so exorbitant that the company was ashamed to take the money.
– That is a distortion of what was said.
– Why then did the company return 7s. in respect of each shell supplied? This was done because it realized that within a week or two the whole world would have known that the price charged was too high. Therefore the company cut the ground from under the feet of the Government by returning a portion of its excess profit.
Highly-paid accountants; some of whom receive salaries up to £5,000 a year, are employed by the firms engaged in the manufacture of arms and munitions. The Government, apart from advancing a large sum of money to assist in the financing of private manufacturers “who desire to extend their equipment, proposes in this bill to establish an advisory panel for the purpose of indicating to the department the quantity of arms and equipment that should be produced, where they should be made, and the prices that should be charged for them, and these same men will be the tenderers themselves; they will be defendant, jury and judge. Scores of inspectors, probably paid high, salaries, will be needed to measure the sleeves and legs of every pair of trousers needed by our troops to make sure that private manufacturers do not rob the Government. It will be necessary to make sure that measurements are not skimped and that the right classes of materials are used. Government factories for the manufacture of clothing and munitions and other defence equipment have shown in the past that they are quite capable of meeting the defence requirements of Australia. It would have been fin easy matter to double the number of persons employed in government workshops, and it would have been of advantage to the people, because the goods needed could have been produced at a much lower price than will bc charged by private manufacturers. We have been told that it is necessary to assist private manufacturers to establish annexes to their factories, because they may prove to be white elephants ; but we know enough about the methods of private manufacturers to be sure that expenditure involved in extensions to existing plant will be taken into consideration in determining the cost of production in connexion with all government contracts and that they will safeguard themselves against white elephants at the people’s cost.
For twenty years, owing to constitutional barriers, valuable plant in government factories has been lying practically idle, oi’ machinery has been dismantled and disposed of, because all work done in these factories must be carried out exclusively for defence purposes. There have been resolutions of chambers of manufactures, deputations to Ministers, and test cases before the High Court in an attempt to. prove that a breach of the Constitution was taking place. When the Commonwealth Clothing Factory sought to keep its machines in working order and its staff available by making uniforms for policemen, the chamber of manufactures, aided by a sympathetic government, asked the High Court to determine whether the making of a policeman’s uniform could be described as a military operation. The decision of the High Court prevented that establishment from making police uniforms. The fault for our unpreparedness lies with the Government because of its policy of protecting private enterprise. An anti-Labour government gave away the woollen mills, and allowed private enterprise to increase its profits. The mills were taken over by an organization of returned soldiers and ever since then have successfully competed with other concerns. Those mills could have been retained by the Government to make uniforms for members of the naval, military and air forces. Similar action was taken with respect to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. That establishment should still be in the hands of the Government, as it could have been had the Government been allowed to undertake such work as the making of a few boilers and machine parts for semi-government institutions, even if not directly for defence purposes. Governments with the outlook of the present administration, which ought to have known the trend of world affairs, and the need to he prepared, cared only that private enterprise should continue to make profits. Even in time of war private enterprise is sacrosanct!
– The honorable member is an out-and-out socialist.
– I do not deny that. My first objection to this measure is that it is opposed to all the ideals and principles for which we have fought for 20 or 30 years. I never thought to see the day when private enterprise would be allowed to make profits for the manufacture of armaments and munitions in Australia. Many citizens of this country will be disgusted at the compromise with principle which would not have been thought possible twelve months ago.
Another objection to this bill has been anticipated by the Minister. He can sense the opposition to the hill as it- stands. In its original form the bill made it possible for wages boards determinations and agreements to be set aside.
– There was never any intention of that, and the honorable member knows it.
– I do not know it. The bill contains wide powers enabling the Minister to do many things by regulation. This legislation is to remain in force for five years. Those years may be peaceful, but before they have passed all of the economic advance of the last twenty years may have been destroyed. Even if the bill contained no other objectionable feature, I, and I believe every other member on this side of the House, would be justified in voting against it because of the danger of interference with existing standards. The Minister has distributed amendments designed to meet the objection to which 1. have referred. It is true that they will remove some of the objections to the clause. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has drafted an amendment which will safeguard the wages and working conditions of the artisans and labourers who will be conscripted under regulations declaring certain factories and workshops to be factories established for, or in relation to, the provision or supply of munitions. If it be true, as the Assistant Minister said, that there is no intention to interfere with existing awards, the Government should accept the amendment of the honorable member for Bourke. .Should it do so, the Opposition’s attitude towards the bill may be different. As honorable members know, there is at the present time a strike of workers at Darwin. Although number? of men hav» been, sent there to take the place of the strikers, so far they have not done so; but unless the Government exercises some common sense, the whole of the works at Darwin are likely to be held up. The Northern Standard, published at Darwin on the 12th May, contains the following paragraph : -
Evidence of the tactics being adopted by the contractors is given in a letter Mr. Wilmott sent to the Works Director (Mr. Stoddart). The letter requests the Works Director to ask the Minister for Works to submit to the Federal Government a suggestion that the
Commandant of the 7th (N.T.) Military District (Gol. S. C. H. Robertson) and the Manager of the Commonwealth Railways (Mr. K. McDonald) be advised that all materials consigned to the contractors carrying out work for Commonwealth Departments be classed as material for defence purposes. The material would then be subject to protection in the event of the dispute being extended.
This group of contractors in Darwin recently reduced the wages of the workers by 16s. 3d. a week. When the men resented the reduction of their pay, the contractors referred to suggested that the Commonwealth Government should declare the materials required by them to be war materials.
– Are not the men at Darwin not working under award conditions?
– The honorable member should tell the whole story.
– As it has been suggested that I have told only half the story, I shall relate the facts leading up to the present upheaval. During the depression the men obtained an arbitration award, but since then the cost of living has increased to such a degree that they were paid 16s. 3d. a week more than the award rates. Every decent employer in Darwin paid his employees at the higher rates, but when this group of contractors obtained big government contracts they went back to the old award which was fixed in depression times.
– The award should be brought up to date.
– The action 0f the contractors may be justified on legal grounds, but certainly not on moral grounds.
My second objection to the bill is that it. leaves too much to be done by regulation. The secret star-chamber methods for which we blame Germany and Italy ?>re not acceptable to the Opposition. The Prime Minister tells the members of the Millions Club flint we must defend our democracy, yet in this measure his Government proposes to act along the lines followed by dictator countries. This bill is the very antithesis of democracy, and is not likely to be accepted by a democratic people. The Labour party’s defence programme includes’ provision for a national survey of all industries in order to discover their potential value for defence purpose*. The Opposition is not opposed to what the Government seeks to do, but it maintains that democratic means of defending the country should be adopted. The contention that we must work along the lines of the dictatorships in Germany, Italy and elsewhere, is an admission that we have lost faith in democracy. Under this bill the GovernorGeneral may make regulations. That means that regulations will, in fact, be made by the Government, the GovernorGeneral merely signing what the Government desires. Regulations become law as soon as made.
– That is changed now.
– Regulations do not become law until Parliament has an opportunity to consider them.
– Honorable members know how easy it is to miss th significance of regulations which are laid on the table of the Blouse. Frequently the time for disallowance expires before honorable members are alive to the danger. Government by regulation is not democratic. Because this bill contains the evil features to which I have referred, it represents legislation decades behind present-day thought. It lets loose again the lust for profit from the making of armaments/ Many of us did not think that Australia would ever be made a cockpit of wars. In the future, Australia is to manufacture munitions, arms and gas appliances to standard patterns, thereby offering an enticement to foreign vessels to replenish their supplies in this country. Australia, which was supposed to be an outpost of the Empire which would carry on peacefully with all the world, is, almost overnight, engaging in warlike activities, and its people are being brought almost to a state of hysteria by reports of wars and rumours of war. People whose principles are opposed to legislation of this kind are almost forced to swallow their convictions. We must ask ourselves whether these things shall continue for’ ever; whether under coercion we are to accept the things that wo bate. We are told that ati enemy is knocking at our doors. I do not believe that that is so, nor do I agree that this legislation is necessary. Australia is not likely to be attacked unless its people so far forget their manners as to insult the peoples of other nations.
In committee I intend to urge the adoption of the amendment which will be proposed by the honorable member for Bourke, which aims at testing the Minister’s statement that the conditions of the working people of Australia will be safeguarded, and that people will not be dragooned by regulations into workshops for the purpose of munition or armament manufacture when wages and conditions built up over years are to be suspended. If the Government has- no desire to cut wages or to take away any of the privileges which the workers now hold dear, then it should have no objection to accepting the amendment which will be moved by the honorable member for Bourke. If it declines to accept that amendment, I hope every member of the Opposition will vote against this measure, lock, stock and barrel.
.- There is much in this bill which commends itself to me. Some of its general principles will, I have no doubt, be approved by the majority of honorable members, ‘but at the same time, there is much in the measure which is vague, unexplained and undefined. I do not agree with the contentions of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) who speaks of “ imaginary “ enemies. Let him tell the Albanians, the Abyssinian,?, or the Chinese, of imaginary enemies. We .cannot live in isolation; we are part of the world, part of an Empire, and wc must be realistic and face facts. Insofar as this measure will improve the position in respect of supplies of the Defence Department, I applaud it, because there has been a deplorable lag in that respect. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) admitted, in reply to a- question which I asked, without notice, this afternoon, that the department had not overtaken the supply of uniforms for volunteers in the militia forces. Our army is a small one, its full strength is only 70,000, and about half of that number have been enlisted within the last six months; yet we have not been able to supply all of those volunteers with uniforms, despite the fact that the enlistment campaign has been in progress since September last. The Minister is, undoubtedly, a hard worker, and is applying himself earnestly to his job, but he must take some responsibility and blame for the fact that all of these men have not yet been issued with complete kit. It is a fact that certain units have gone to casual camps without uniforms, and when in camp were issued with working clothes, boots and greatcoats, which were taken from them when they left camp. Months have passed since they enthusiastically came forward to enlist, but these men are still without uniforms, and even now attend Saturday afternoon and night parades in such circumstances. If my statement is challenged, I can cite the units and specific instances which I have in mind, but the Minister admitted sufficient in his reply to my question this afternoon to prove that the department has been guilty of an omission in this respect. If any provision in this measure will tend to improve this position, all honorable members will heartily support that part of the measure at any rate. If mobilization is necessary, and if we should be dragged into war willy-nilly - and war may come at »any time - we shall have to make provision for more than 70,000 men, because, under the Defence Act, all men from 18 years to 60 years become liable for service.
Mv. Street. - The honorable member will realize that we could have equipped the militia force completely if we had taken over all of the civilian factories.
– That is only taking refuge in a pretext. Let us recall what happened in 1911 when universal training was introduced and equipment was found for 100,000 men.
– We then had more time to prepare.
– The Minister has had six .months in this instance.
– We had two years to prepare in 1911.
– As I was an area officer at the time, I know that they were all equipped.
– But the honorable member was not an administrator.
– I have administered a bigger department than the honorable member, .and I can say that the job was well done in 1911 by Sir George Pearce, who “was then Minister for Defence.
– The department had two years in which to prepare at that time.
– At any rate it did the job. The Minister says that the department could have provided all necessary uniforms had it taken over all of the. civilian factories. I submit that the failure of the department shows that there has been absolute inefficiency on its part. The department did the job very well in clothing the Australian Imperial Force in 1914. It did not have two years to clothe our forces on that occasion. The first division was fully equipped and sailed in a matter of a few weeks. I recall that my own unit was fully clothed and equipped in a fortnight, and the department on that occasion did not take over the civilian factories in order to do so. The Minister should not take refuge in a. pretext of the kind which he has suggested.
– The strength of the first division was 20,000, whereas this is a matter of equipping 70,000 men.
– The department really has to equip an additional 35,000, because the militia force was 35,000 strong before the enlistment campaign was started in September last.
– We have to equip an additional 40,000.
– The Minister can raise it by another 5,000 if he wishes, but even on that figure, is it creditable to the department that within six months it has not yet completed its work of clothing these few men? I point out further that, what was once the portfolio of Defence is now being shared among four Ministers, and that the former Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has been brought in to help. I suggest that the Minister might well look into the. contract branch of his department. It may be revealed that the channels through which the contracts have to go and the red tape in which some of the officials may be enmeshed, are responsible for the delay. Many officers of the department are earnest officials who are endeavouring to do their best .according to the regulations, but I suggest that contracts could be let infinitely quicker than isthe case at present. I suggest that the manufacturers of boots and clothing could be called in and asked to put forward their proposals and quotes on a mass basis, and the department could then place its orders quickly or call for three quotes, as was its practice at one time. In fact, whenever purchases are made without calling tenders, three quotes should always be obtained, a procedure not always carried out. The Minister could very well look into that suggestion. I feel sure that by acting in that direction he could effect greater savings to the taxpayers and bring about greater efficiency in his department.
In the hope that it will tend towards greater efficiency and more rapid development, I intend to support this measure on general principles,but I hope that the Minister for Supply and Development will apply his ability to the the development of the Commonwealth. If his department is merely to be one to which surplus officials who have been recruited by the National Insurance Commission are to be transferred, the proposal will not bear examination. The former Treasurer, who has now been transferred to the Department of Supply and Development, was previously Minister in charge of Development. In this new department a great field awaits him, and if he applies himself to the task, in which he will have the full support of Parliament, he can bring about the development which is needed in this country. We are on the threshold of great new industries, such as the manufacture of motor cars and aircraft and ship-building. These industries can be undertaken on a large scale. Another aspect which the Minister should bear in mind is the decentralization of these industries. In asking for all of these powers, however, he should be careful that he does not put power into the hands of vested interests in a way which will re-act detrimentally on the taxpayer. We have his assurance that a careful survey will be made of expenditure and prices - it may he a pious promise that may prove futile - but there is nothing definite in the measure to ensure that profits will be carefully explored. We are told that the annexes, which are excellent institutions modelled upon the shadow factories in England and will be utilized for the manufacture of arms and munitions - will be operated on a basis of small profits. But what of the people who will supply the raw materials to those annexes? After all, very little profiteering exists where competition is encouraged. There is very little exploitation among the smaller manufacturers, but there is top much exploitation where monopolies are concerned, and the whole power of pricemaking may very well fall into the hands of a ring, with the result that the public is exploited, and an unnecessary burden is placed on the taxpayers. The profiteer is of a type that no one can admire. There can be no doubt that we have profiteers in our midst. They are a product of the last war - and are powerful to-day. The American poet, Alan Seegar, who was killed in France, wrote of them -
Those who watched how the battle veered
Waited, profited, trembled, cheered.
We have the profiteers with us to-day, and we should not wait until war is declared before we take steps to check up on profits. ‘To-day we are piling up stores of shells and munitions, as we would also be if war were declared,’ yet certain essential materials for the manufacture of war requirements are in monopolistic hands. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has been attacked at length in this debate, and there may be some merit in the arguments used against that concern, but I point out that that company supplies steel to Australian users at a cheaper price than British manufacturers of steel supply that commodity to British users. Prices of steel in Great Britain are fixed by a cartel which controls the prices of that commodity, not only in Great Britain, but also on the Continent. Australian steel is obtainable at cheaper prices, and is more efficiently made.
– But that does not prove that there is no exploitation in Australia.
– I do not suggest that, but simply point out that there may he some merit in the fact that Australian steel is cheaper than British steel. But what about other materials, such as copper, zinc, and tin? These are controlled by a monopolistic group, and at present copper, which is one of the components of brass, is loaded with fictitious costs. Does the Minister consider it fair that copper mined in Australia is sold to the public, and I presume to the Government, at a price equivalent to the cost of exporting it to Britain and re-importing it plus exchange?
– I shall be obliged if the honorable member will let me check his figures.
– I point out that during the war period the prices in Australia moved up and down as the prices fluctuated overseas and when the Australian pound depreciated by 30^ per cent, before it was pegged at 25 per cent., as it is at present, Australian prices moved up almost simultaneously by 30^ per cent. There may be some merit in this being done, but I suggest there can be very little. The Tariff Board condones this practice in respect of certain supplies, but it is definitely a loading against secondary industries in Australia. Copper is- one of the essential ingredients of brass which is so extensively used in the manufacture of munitions. Is the Government satisfied with these prices as a basis on which contractors shall supply materials to the annexes? If it is not satisfied on that point it should provide specifically in this measure to check profiteering. I shall now quote the prices to which I have referred, prices for which the Minister for Defence has asked and about which I think the Minister for Supply and Development knows something -
The price/s quoted is/are based on a price of electrolytic copper wire bars of £53 15s. per ton, made up of the London market price of £43 per ton, as issued by the Australian Mines and Metals Association, plus the bank buying telegraphic transfer Tate of exchange, Australia on London, of 25 per cent., and is to be varied up or down by one-tenth of a penny per lb. for every complete £1 or part thereof by which the price of electrolytic copper wire bars, as issued by the Australian Mines and Metals Association, plus the bank buying telegraphic transfer rate of exchange, Australia on London, on the day of receipt of order by us, is greater than £53 10s. lid. per ton, or less than £53 per ton respectively.
Is the Government to be satisfied with that? Zinc is used in making brass which is employed in the manufacture of cartridge cases and small arms. Sheet brass which is rolled in the munition works at Maribyrnong is used extensively in the manufacture of shell cases. Here is an opportunity for the Government to display some activity. I should not have mentioned this subject but for the attitude which the Government has adopted in omitting specific methods of dealing with excess profits, though it declares its anxiety to do so. The Minister should ascertain whether undue profits are being made by manufacturers.
– And injure his friends who are shareholders?
– I do not suggest that the directors of this company, two of whom are on -the industrial panel, are profiteers. They may be conducting their businesses in a legitimate manner, and the profits they make may be moderate and reasonable; but this is definitely a matter which should be investigated and I now suggest a way in which it can be handled.
It is anticipated that the profits allowed to those manufacturing in annexes shall be about 4 per cent., which is a fair return on the capital and labour invested, and equivalent to the rate of interest paid on government bonds. In some businesses where energy, enterprise and effort have to be displayed, a profit of even 6 per cent, may be fair. That profit is allowed even in Germany where industry is socialized. I do not think there is much that we can copy in that country, and I believe that £ have said sufficient on previous occasions to show how I abhor the German form of government.
– Six per cent, would be no good to General Motors-Holden’s Limited.
– This is an occasion on which the directors and shareholders of these companies can show their practical patriotism. It is a call to patriotism. We have appealed to the youth of this country to join the Militia so that they will be trained in the event of war, and those who do not want to go or who cannot join our fighting forces can serve in other ways. The great controllers of industry can help their country by foregoing the profit that might come to them through trading in the weapons of death and of defence. This measure will apply to the profits made not only cm materials and equipment but also on foodstuffs. I suggest that our friends in the Country party should not look alarmed because the profits of those engaged in primary production should also be checked.
– There is no alarm here.
– Profiteers and monopolists will have to be watched and curbed. Many manufacturers and producers would, no doubt, come forward of their own free will without waiting until pressure is applied and offer to supply at reasonable rates the materials they win from industry and the earth to the firms which are patriotically establishing annexes. Large profits will not be made in these establishments, but those supplying the raw materials may be making excessive profits.
– The wheatgrower cannot make much profit when his product is selling at under 2s. a bushel.
– That may be so, but amendments are being rolled off so rapidly that we are hearing of new ones almost hourly, yet there is no specific amendment to deal with profiteering. The Government should frame another amendment to provide that in the supply of raw materials, particularly metals, used in the manufacture of munitions the profits shall not exceed 6 per cent. I support the bill in the hope that when the measure is in committee some necessary amendments, some of - which I propose to move, will bc inserted. I believe that the bill can be of great ‘ benefit to the taxpayers. Surely no one thinks that the £70,000,000 which has been earmarked for defence purposes for the next three years is to he expended on equipping 70,000 trainees? Cruisers and aircraft are expensive, and we know that many millions of pounds will be expended on munitions, and rightly so, because without munitions we cannot fight. I regret the negative attitude adopted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) who said that this country is in no danger of attack, but that if we build up armaments somebody will want to use them. Any day we might have to fight for our existence. One hundred and fifty years ago we acquired this country cheaply and easily without fighting, but to-day there are only two persons to every square mile of Australian territory, while Japan has 370, Belgium over 700, and even Britain which is spending thirty times more a head of population on defence than we are, has 493 to each square mile. We have a great responsibility. We must not be the weak link in the Empire chain. If this measure will assist our Defence Department to function more efficiently, and lead to the more extensive development of the Commonwealth, it will be worth while and enable us to feel more entitled to hold this continent.
Mr. GREEN (Kalgoorlie) [9.37 .Beading the speech of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) who introduced the bill, I gathered that the object of the measure is to control defence supplies. That is a desirable objective at which no one can cavil, provided that the expenditure is reasonable. It is pertinent, however, to ask at this juncture what is proposed to be done to develop our resources. It would appear that if effect be given to the policy outlined by the Minister, a good deal of the work undertaken by State departments will be duplicated, more particularly that, done by Mines, Forestry, Agriculture and Water Supply Departments. On all those subjects ample information is available without establishing a Commonwealth department to obtain it. The Minister also stated that the establishment of the new department will not result in a. large increase of staff, but judging by experience, although the staff may be small at present, it will be unduly large before long. When the Development and Migration Commission was established some years ago, the staff consisted of a commissioner and one typist who did all the work, but before long an army of expert and clerical assistants was employed. Commonwealth expenditure lias grown out of all proportion to the work undertaken, due largely to the fact that the Commonwealth controls the main source of revenue, the Customs Department, and through the Loan Council, limits the expenditure of the States. Unfortunately, unemployment now appears to be a permanent feature of modern civilization.
The unemployed should be assisted by some system such as that in operation in the United States of America and in the sister dominion of New Zealand. We need not only national security but also social security, and the proposed expenditure of £70,000,000 on defence over three years is altogether disproportionate to our annual revenue of which it represents about one-fourth. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that Australia as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations must play its part. Our annual revenue is about £90,000,000 and we are expending approximately £23,000,000 on defence this year.
– Our revenue is nearly £100,000,000.
– In 1937-3S New Zealand only expended £1,631,000 on defence or one twenty-second of its revenue of £36,059,000. New Zealand because of its geographical position is in greater danger than is Australia, yet that country is expending on defence one twenty-second of its revenue. South Africa is expending £1,779,000 on defence during the year 1938-39 but Australia, because its people are stampeded by the European and Australian press, is spending one-fourth of its revenue. The manufacturers of munitions and the suppliers of raw materials will be able to make excessive profits, and for the first time in the ‘ history of Australia, an opportunity will be afforded to create a psychology of fear and to establish large munition concerns such as have been established, in European countries. One writer said that the firm of ‘Vickers in Britain and Krupps in Germany endeavoured to cause wars, not in those countries but in others and to create a psychology of fear. The position in September last was more acute than it is to-day. When a member of the militia, I recall the late General Hutton telling us that Australia was likely to be invaded. Earlier than that the scare had been “ Beware of Russia.”
– Yes, in 1885.
– And when the cable broke by some accident, or through some convulsion of the earth, it was a sure indication that the Russians had cut it, and the militiamen were called up to defend their bleeding country. The great enemies of Britain in the time of Nelson were the French. Nelson was quite convinced that every Frenchman was a scoundrel, that he simply could not be otherwise. Now we are prepared to take the .French people to our bosoms and fight beside” them against a race from which we are proud to say that a large part of our population has sprung - the Anglo-Saxons. When our country was in some danger our men went readily to its defence. Unfortunately, some of those who fought on that occasion have become so used to telling of their deeds of prowess at Pozieres and elsewhere that they have become saturated with the idea that war may come again at any time. Thus, in a country far removed from the seat of any possible war, we have these war mongers. One, of the unfortunate legacies we have from the war, is the presence, even in this chamber, of these loud-mouthed hale and hearty warriors. In 1936-37 - the latest year for which I have the figures - Canada expended £A5,780,000 on defence, not a fourth of what Australia is expending this year, although Canada has a population of 11,000,000 against our 7,000,000. I know that I shall be met with the argument that Canada is alongside the United States of America, and looks to that country for defence, but Canada would repudiate that suggestion. Nowhere else among the British dominions is there this same fear that has been voiced so loudly in this chamber to-day.
– Will the honorable member give the British defence figures ?
– For the year 1938-39, the British defence estimates were £343,000,000, out of a total revenue of £1,034,000,000, which is something over one-third of the total revenue. But Britain is right against the scene of any war that might occur, and its position is not comparable with ours. If our desire is to make Australia safe for democracy, we should provide social security for every man, woman and child in this country. Here we have a population of less than 7,000,000 in a country which the geographers tell us is capable of supporting a population of 45,000,000, and yet over 108,500 of our people are being supported by the States on relief work. It is not impossible to provide social security for every one. It could be done, but the greatest obstacle is this immense defence expenditure brought about because of the fear engendered by the pres3 cables. Last week the danger was one thing, this week it is something else. A man was killed on the Polish border near Danzig yesterday morning, and we are told that the position is very grave, indeed. To-morrow we shall hear nothing about it. “We should be sane enough to know that there is no prospect of an immediate war in which Australia will be involved.
I have no doubt that honorable members read what appears in the Bulletin from time to time under the heading of “ Uncabled additions “. It is a remarkable thing that a large part of the speech of Herr Hitler, made in the Reichstag on the 28th April, was not published in the Australian press. I do not hold a brief for Herr Hitler, but we must admit that Germany has grievances. There is a monstrosity of a government in that country, in comparison with democratic governments, but it is a wellorganized system. It would not suit us, and one has only to go abroad in order to realize the value of democracy. Nevertheless, there are men in this chamber who are little Hitlers in their hearts. What is the immediate trouble before us? We are told that Germany wants Danzig. What an astonishing thing ! There they are again, we are told, after some other country’s territory. Every schoolboy of sixteen knows that the small, free city of Danzig was previously held by Germany. Under the Treaty of Versailles, a corridor was pushed through from Poland to the sea between East and West Prussia, and Danzig was made a free port for Poland. Poland has a comparatively small population, and it is unreasonable to suppose that the Poles “would threaten Germany. For my part, I do not believe that they are going to do anything of the kind. It is true that the cable liars. say they are, but I do not accept that. I do not think that Poland would be mad enough to go to war with Germany because it holds a piece of German territory which Germany wants back, to which it is entitled, and which eventually it will get. Part of Herr Hitler’s last speech was cabled to this country, but some essential parts were not. In a portion, which was not cabled to Australia, Hitler made the following proposals - to Poland :-
As a matter of fact, the majority of the people in Danzig are Germans and Nazis, who favour reunion with Germany. Whether we like it or not, we must concede that the people of any country have the right to determine what kind of government they want.
– Was Czechoslovakia given that right?
– Lord Runciman, who visited Czechoslovakia as a peacemaker, reported that the Germans in that country were suffering many grave injustices. Herr Hitler’s speech continued -
In return Germany is prepared -
To recognize all Polish economic rights in Danzig.
To ensure for Poland a free harbour in Danzig of any size desired which would have completely free access to the sea.
To accept at the same time the present boundaries between Germany and Poland, and to regard them as ultimate.
To conclude a 25-year non-aggression treaty with Poland, a treaty, therefore, which would extend far beyond the duration of my own life; and-
Honorable members are aware, and none better than the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron), that a considerable part of what is Poland to-day previously belonged to Germany.
– Is the honorable member in order in discussing such matters on the question before the Chair ?
– I take it that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) is trying to show that the bill before the House is unnecessary.
– That is just the point, and the honorable member for Barker does not like it. The speech continued -
We see, therefore, that Poland has really no right to this territory, and it is absurd to suggest that Poland has the right, against all sense of justice, to drag Britain into a war in which Britain would have no chance of success. I do not think for a moment that Mr. Chamberlain will embark upon a war in which Britain must inevitably bc defeated.
Now let me quote another authority, no less a one than the honorable member for Barker, who has been freely interjecting. He is reported in the Bulletin as follows: -
The change in Britain’s foreign policy was the theme of Mr. Cameron’s contribution to the debate. Germany, he stated, has “just grievances against Poland “, and he asked “ whether a move by Germany to have its grievances redressed is something upon which British lives and money should be squandered “. Going further, he said, “ The present British alliances do not comply with the three main principles which should govern all alliances: community of interests, identity of objects, geographical and strategical ability to render mutual aid “.
Where arc the community of interests and identity of objects so far as Russia is concerned? And in regard to Rumania and Poland, where are the geographical and strategical considerations which would make it possible for the allied countries to assist each other? How could Britain send troops to Poland?
Nobody answered the member for Barker, probably because nobody could answer him.
There is no reason why Britain should bo committed to the defence of territory on behalf of Poland, for which the Poles themselves would probably not be prepared to fight in any case.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– Britain, therefore, cannot be involved in war in the near future unless it indulges in an altogether irrational meddlesomeness over Poland’s alleged threat to oppose the might of a well-armed nation of 70,000,000 people. [ cannot imagine that Poland would be foolish enough to court national disaster in that way. Nevertheless, Britain may go to war as an ally of Poland over Danzig ; and if that happens, is Australia to be involved? The Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) disagrees with the honorable member for Barker in regard to this matter. He says that Australia would not necessarily be at war if Great Britain were at war.
The latter part of the title of the bill which relates to the survey, registration and development of the resources of Australia, indicates that the new department will undertake inquiries which could well be undertaken by the States through their existing departments and machinery. We know from experience what the setting up of a new department involves. Outside of those European countries which are on the brink of war, this country stands out as having lost its head more than have any others in its war preparations. It is proposed that no less than £23,000,000 shall be expended this year on war preparations. Every pound unnecessarily spent on defence is taken out of the mouths of the unemployed men and their wives and children.Social services in this country have been sadly neglected. Why is it that since the Labour Government relinquished office in 1931, no legislation has been placed upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth for the assistance of the common people of this country? I am determinedto tell the truth as I see it about this gross extravagance in respect of defence preparations. I do so because I believe that although my opinions are shared by many honorable members opposite, they have not the courage to stand up and tell the people the facts. I am not opposed to expenditure for necessary defence, but I am not prepared to cast my vote in favour of a measure which will enable private armament manufacturers to amass vast riches and to dominate the legislature of this country at the expense of the social security of the people generally. Contrast the position in Australia with that which exists in New Zealand where a Labour Government is in office. The New Zealand Government is not pouring out its treasure on defence preparations because of the false alarms raised by interested war-mongers ; rather it is doing everything possible to better the lot of the New Zealand people by passing humane social legislation. Yet that dominion requires adequate defence just as much as does Australia. In his secondreading speech on this bill, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) said -
Considerable thought has been given in many countries to the limitation of armament profits. Measures for the taxation of excess profits have been drafted and 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 cooperation in our endeavours.
Does the right honorable gentleman really believe that big companies like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will adopt a high standard of ethics so far as profits are concerned, a standard differing from that observed by munition manufacturers in other countries of the world ? It has been said that the accounts of companies engaged in the manufacture of munitions will be examined by a panel of accountants in order to impose a check on undue profits. Everybody knows, of course, that it is the easiest thing in the world for clever accountants to hide profits. Let us consider for a moment the progress that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has made during an era of peace, so that we may be able to see how it may welter in profits during a time of war. The company commenced operations in J8S5 with a’ capital of £320,000. By 1 890 ite capital had grown to £384,000, by 1912 to £600,000, and by 1918 to no less than £3,000,000. On the 1st May, 1937, the authorized capital of the company was increased to £7,500,000, of which £5,220,371 was issued. Let us now see what dividends were declared. In May, 1936, the company declared an interim dividend of 6i per cent. In November of the same year a further interim dividend of per cent, was declared, and, according to the latest report which I have been able to obtain, a further dividend of 6J per cent, was declared in June, 1937. So it will be seen that recently the company has been declaring annual dividends of 12-J per cent. If the business of the company is such as to enable it to declare such high dividends in norma] times, what huge profits the company will make if it be given an opportunity to manufacture war materials can be imagined. Yet honorable members opposite are opposed to trusting State governments with .the manufacture of munitions in their own establishments. Here we have a clinging to the old ideas of former administrations that governments should not engage in manufacturing operations because by doing so they deny private manufacturers of opportunities for exploitation. Is it not true that following the sale of the Geelong Woollen Mills, which had been established by the Fisher Government, there was an immediate increase of the price of cloth which brought about a corresponding increase of the price of clothing to the Army? Did we not have a similar experience of rising prices following the disposal of the harness factory during the regime of an anti-Labour government? In these circumstances, now that the world situation is much calmer, is it not wise to consider a reduction of the proposed defence expenditure to a more reasonable amount and. the utilization of a. portion of the money earmarked for defence preparations for assistance to the unemployed, their wives and children who, in a country whose granaries are bursting, have insufficient nourishment? If honorable members are interested to learn what has gone on in the past in the world-wide armament racket, I commend them to read George Seldes book, Iron, Blood and Profits. It is an arresting exposure of the operations of the armament ring, and the truth of the statements of the author has never been denied. Max Huber, the President of the Permanent Court of International Justice at the ‘ Hague, said : -
It must bc admitted that this armament industry is interested, if not in actual war, at least in a state of warlike tension which favours the constant increase of armaments.
This Government is endeavouring to create an atmosphere of war so that, in this country, the expenditure on armaments may be increased without question. Mr. Bonar Law, the famous English statesman, said in the House of Commons in 1924 that £104,000,000 had been paid to ship-owners between the 4th August, 1914, and Armistice Day, 1918, for ships which had cost, originally, only £01,000,000. This occurred, let me remind honorable members, at a time when the workmen of the Empire were being called upon to lay down their lives to preserve what they understood to be their liberty. As a matter of fact, the nation was being sand-bagged, in the name of patriotism, by armament gangs. Mr. Bonar Law also said on the 24th May, 1917, that a ship of 8,000 tons, sunk that year, had involved the government in an expenditure of £150,000, although its original cost was only £40,000. He added that the ship-owners had made a profit of £350,000,000 between 4th August, 1914, and January, 1917. Mr. Bonar Law also had sufficient courage to declare : -
I have some interest in ships. For every £.100 I put in I received last year £47, after all taxes, including excess profits tax, had been paid.
I shall give some other instances to show that armament manufacturers are regardless of ali decency. A general of the American army invented a disappearing gun-carriage, which, had it been retained for the nation, would have given the Americans a superiority over every potential foe. But the invention was immediately taken over by a firm whose president is one of America’s noblest patriots, and the rights were sold to all foreign governments, which now are able to use the equipment in the killing of American sailors and soldiers. All this is done in the name of patriotism! The marvellous French gun known as the “ 75 “ was taken to the Putiloff works, in Russia, where engineers from Krupps’ works were working side by side with British and French engineers. Of course, they learned all the secrets of this famous gun and made them known to their compatriots. The good old British firm of Vickers Limited helped to arm the Turks immediately before the war, and the
Turks used British armaments almost exclusively in killing and wounding Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli. These, let ns remind ourselves, were the Anzacs whom we revere. Basil Zaharoff, a Turk of Greek parentage, presented a submarine to the Greek nation, On the day on which the submarine was put into commission, Zaharoff took a steamer across the Aegean Sea, landed at Constantinople, the home of the enemy, pointed out the danger in the submarine, and then sent an order for two similar submarines to Torsten Villi elm Nordenfeldt, who was operating a small factory in England. Zarahoff - and we must be fair to him - has contributed largely to the funds of many patriotic societies. And so the awful game goes on.
In spite of all these facts, this Government is proposing to permit private enterprise to manufacture munitions. We face the gravest danger if we allow even £1 of public money to be expended in purchasing munitions of war from private companies. God knows the experience of other nations in this regard has been bitter ! I trust that the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) will move slowly in this regard. He ought to utilize to the very fullest extent all State instrumentalities capable of producing essential munitions, and he ought also to take immediate steps to enlarge existing Commonwealth factories which produce munitions. I believe that we are spending a great deal too much money on munitions. The tension in respect of Poland has lessened. We are told now that less likelihood of war exists in that quarter. Where is war likely to occur? Who are our potential enemies? No one cares to say. Will it be suggested that Italy and Germany are likely to assail us? Surely they have sufficient troubles to cope with already. Is France a potential enemy? Perhaps some honorable member will mention Japan. When I was Minister for Defence in the Scullin Government, I was told that Japan was the only nation in the world that was at all likely to attack Australia, and that the danger from that quarter was slight. Whatever feelings Japan may have towards Australia to-day, all honorable members- will agree that it has trouble enough at its own door. I do not believe that the Japanese people wish to attack Australia or that Japan has ever intended to invade our shores. I was informed definitely, while I was Minister for Defence, that that policy would he futile because in the six months that would be required for adequate preparations all the world would learn of any warlike intentions. It is true that an attack could be launched in these days in a much shorter time, but how many points could be attacked? Sydney Harbour could be shelled. But steps have been taken to meet any such emergency. Are the democratic nations of the world likely to fight us? It seems to me that our greatest danger is from the munitions manufacturers. We know very well how the moneyed interests behind the munition manufacturing enterprises are willing to do almost anything for profit. The private banking institutions of this country contributed £250,000 to defeat the campaign launched by the Scullin Government for the improvement of the banking and monetary system of Australia.. They poured out their treasure to halt democratic advances. I bitterly resent the tremendous expenditure that this Government is incurring, for I realize that 108,000 working men of this country are still out of employment and their wives and families are in dire need. The Government of New Zealand has not dreamt of any expenditure of this magnitude, nor, for that matter, has the Government of Canada. The Government of South Africa will not entertain any such proposals. We ought to be following their good example.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
This act is divided into parts, as follows: -
Part I. - Preliminary.
Part II. - Administration.
Part III. - Miscellaneous.
– I move -
That after “ Part II. - Administration.” insert “ PartIIa. - Aircraft Assembly.”.
Since this bill was introduced the Government has made further investigations of the organization of aircraft assembling, with the result that it now is able to introduce a number of additional clauses to set out in greater detail its intentions concerning the creation of an aircraft manufacturing authority. The amendment puts into the list of parts of the bill this new part 2a, which is merely descriptive of the part which I shall introduce by amendment at a later stage.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
– I raise the point to which I referred to in the debate this afternoon. “ Time of war “ is defined as meaning - any time during which a state of war exists, and includes the time between the issue of a proclamation of the existence of war or danger thereof and the issue of a proclamation declaring that the war or danger thereof declared in the prior proclamation no longer exists.
That is based upon the definition in the Defence Act, hut I point out to the committee that this bill does not exactly follow the scheme of that act. In the first place, the definition of “ time of war” in the Defence Act, uses the word “ actually “before the word “ exists “. Secondly, the Defence Act defines “ war “ as meaning - any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on, the Commonwealth or any territory under the control of the Commonwealth by an enemy or armed force.
It is very material, because before the Governor-General can proclaim that a war exists, he must he satisfied that there is in fact a war. There is no such definition in this bill. As this clause is drawn, it would he quite sufficient for a war to exist between Britain and some other country without Australia being in any way involved, endangered, or affected for the “time of war” provisions to be proclaimed. Under the Defence Act, the Governor-General cannot proclaim that a state of war actually exists unless his advisers are satisfied that there is “ any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on” this country. I suggest that the omission of a definition of “war” from this bill would enable its provisions to be brought into operation merely because Britain was at war without Australia being in danger or being involved in war. Assuming that a European war was in progress without Australia being in any way involved, a state of Avar could be proclaimed here, and the “ time of war “ provisions of the measure could be brought into operation. I submit that the limiting definition of “ war “ contained in the Defence Act should be incorporated in this bill. I do not want to move an amendment without consulting the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), and I should like to hear his views.
– I take the point raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). As he has stated, the definition “ time of war “ contained in the Defence Act has been lifted almost textually and placed in this bill. There is no definition of “ war “ in this bill, for the good reason that the term “ war “ is not used, except when prefaced by “ time of “. In other words we define that and it appears to be unnecessary to go further. I appreciate that the honorable gentleman fears that in the event of a war remote from Australia opportunity could be taken to proclaim a time of war in Australia, but I do not think that that is practicable.
– I understand that the Minister disclaims any intention to make this legislation apply unless Australia is affected by or is likely to be involved in a war?
– Yes. The Government has no sinister intention. The definition of “ time of war “ in this bill has a broad significance. It might well be that in some unfortunate circumstance a war on the other side of the world would clearly forecast a war in Australia.
– The right honorable gentleman says that Australia is in danger of war now.
– There has been no proclamation. I propose to say a little about that later. I shall confer with the Government’s legal advisers upon the point taken by the honorable member for Bourke. Meanwhile I suggest that the clause be postponed.
Clause 5 - (1.) Subject to the directions of the GovernorGeneral and to the next succeeding subsection, the matters to be administered by the department shall be matters relating to -
the arrangement or co-ordination of -
.- On the second reading, I pointed out that the Government had said that it intended to check profiteering in the manufacture of armaments and munitions. That is a laudable object, but so that it may be something more than merely a pious wish, I want to see it in the billProfiteering has happened in the past, and unless there be some definite prohibition, it can happen again. There will be little scope for large-scale profiteering in the annexes, but there will be plenty of opportunity for it in connexion with the supply of metals and other raw materials that may be in monopolistic hands. In my second -reading speech I showed how the price of copper is loaded with phantom costs of exchange. Although copper is mined in Australia, it is priced as though it were brought from overseas. I move, therefore -
That the word “profits”, sub-clause (1.), paragraph (e), bc omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ net profit to six per centum “.
Six per cent. is a fair return for labour and capital. The amendment would permit those who chose to take less to do so, but it would impose a fair maximum on profits.
– The honorable gentleman’s amendment would not touch raw materials.
– I think it would cover everything.
– No. It would only have relation to munitions.
-“ Munitions “ is defined thus - “ Munitions “ means armaments, arms and ammunition, and includes such equipment, machines, commodities, materials, supplies or stores of any kind, as are, in the opinion of the Governor-General, necessary for the purposes of defence;
I should think, therefore, that raw materials would be covered.
– The Minister for Supply and Development said that sub-clause 1, paragraph e, referred only to profits of annexes.
– I hope that it is allcomprehensive, because that is my intention. Here is work for that panel of accountants that has been mentioned. It will, I have no doubt, do good work, and my amendment will give it an opportunity to explore those phantom values that have been put on metals. At the same time,it will be a test of the sincerity of the Government. I do not say that it is insincere, but I am not satisfied with the broad statement in this bill, which bears the marks of hasty drafting. An amendment on these lines is one which the committee can well support.
– I want fromthe Minister (Mr. Casey) a full explanation of what arrangements he proposes to make for the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence, under paragraph c of subclause 1? Will he have power to give assistance, and if so what will be the nature of the assistance, for the establishment of new industries? We know that a very wide meaning can be given to the phrase “for purposes of defence” as well as to the term “ arrangements.” Not long ago honorable members were informed by a Minister that the manufacture of motor cars in Australia is absolutely essential for purposes of defence.
– The sub-clauses of clause 5 are in broad terms, for the simple reason that it is not possible in a measure of reasonable dimensions first to anticipate and then to state precisely what powers the new department will need. Honorable members will note two important provisos, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the clause, which limit the exercise of the proposed powers.Sub-clause 1 provides that the matters to be administered shall be subject to the directions of the GovernorGeneral and to the next succeeding sub-section; whilst sub-clause 2 provides that the Governor-General may, from time to time, determine the extent to which or the conditions upon which any of the matters specified in the section may be administered by the department.
– That gives very wide powers.
– It does; but under the conditions that I have outlined, that is inevitable.
Mr.Brennan. - Sub-clause 2 extends rather than limits the powers.
– It places on the Government the onus of determining the extent to which the Minister shall exercise these particular powers.
The point behind paragraph c is specifically the possibility of the extension or development of the annexe proposal as time goes on. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) has already stated at the second-reading stage that it is neither the intention nor the wish of the Government to override the Tariff Board Act, the Customs Act, or the Ottawa Agreement, under any power taken under this legislation. The policy of the Government in regard to the extension of industries in this country is well known.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to profits and their control. It may be as well if I give to the committee a sketch of the conditions under which materials, armaments, and goods generally have been purchased by the Defence Department in the past, and will be purchased or acquired for that department by the Department of Supply and Development in the future. There are three main heads, under the first of which are the government workshops. There can be no suggestion of profit in their case, except possibly in respect of the purchase of raw materials.
– That was my principal point.
– I say with respect that it is impossible to select one or two raw materials and make a specific rule in regard to them. I repeat that there can be no question of profits, apart from the purchase of raw materials, in connexion with government workshops. Then there are the annexes, in respect of which the mat)ter of profits is dealt with in the agreement made between the Government and the industry to which each annexe is attached. In almost all cases, the profit is limited to 4 per cent. The third method . is purchase on tender by the Contracts Board. At the present time, the greater part of the defence requirements is purchased by the board on public tender. During the short existence of this department, the Assistant Minister and I have had numerous conversations with all of the senior officers of the Contracts Board. From the evidence placed before me, I believe that the system of contracts militates in itself against the possibility of excessive profits being made. In almost all instances there is very keen competition. Members of the Contracts Board, particularly the senior members, have through years of association with the problem become very closely acquainted with the prices of raw materials and finished goods, not only in the various capital cities of Australia, but also abroad. I am assured that there is little if any opportunity to make profits in respect of goods purchased by the Contracts Board. The matter of raw materials also is involved. Whenever the Contracts Board notices that a successful tenderer is getting away with what the board believes to be a high price, even though the tender be the lowest submitted, it inquires into the costs on which the tenderer has made up his price. If its investigation shows that the price of raw materials is too high, the board inquires as to the reason for this high price of raw materials.
– Has the board done that with regard to metals?
– I spoke to members of the board only this afternoon, and found that on many occasions it had investigated costs of raw materials and other costs making up tender prices.
– What is done when an overcharge is made?
– The board pursues the matter through the Customs Department or any oilier appropriate department. On several occasions this matter has been followed up through the Tariff Board. When the price of an article that has been the subject of tariff protection enters into the cost of finished goods tendered for, the Contracts Board has frequently referred the matter to the Customs Department in order to see whether the privilege of tariff protection has been abused. Raw materials, of course, cover many things besides metals. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has asked how the price of metals is determined. I think that the case put by him is that a ton of copper is sold at a price which is, in effect, the London price, plus the exchange between Australian currency and sterling. I understand him to say that there is a limiting factor of £60 odd a ton for first grade electrolytic copper. I, myself, believe that there is a limiting factor in the price pf copper, zinc or any other metal subject to this same condition. It may well be that a horizon of cost is established in respect of each metal which is, I should imagine, somewhere about the cost of production of that. metal in Australia. When the world price is below that, there is this loading in respect of exchange.
– That is a matter to be established, and I shall try to discover the true position.
– I said that the London price is quoted and exchange is added to it.
– The honorable gentleman read from a document, and I shall be most interested to peruse (he full text »f it.
– Here, is a copy. Read it out.
– It contains proof of what I have just said. It states -
The price quoted is based on a price of electrolytic copper wire bars of £60 18s. 9d. a ton made up of the London market price of £48 15s. per ton plus bank buying telegraphic transfer rate of exchange, and is to be varied up or down ….
Reading that document, I should think that the price of copper, and, presumably, the prices of other metals concerned, have some definite relationship to whether this practice is invoked or not. As to the cost of raw materials, I suggest that it is quite impossible, by striking some arbitrary rate of 6 per cent, to control profits generally. Who could say in respect of timber, various metals, glycerine, copper sulphate, or the thousands of other things purchased-
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister has been quoting from a document which, as I understand the position, was surreptitiously passed into his hands by my friend the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). I ask the Minister, with the utmost politeness, the nature of the document from which he was reading. I wish to know whether it is in the possession of the committee. This is not a private debate between the honorable member for Balaclava and the Minister.
– No point of order has been raised. The Chair assumes that the Minister was informing his mind with, regard to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Balaclava.
– Speaking to the amendment, I suggest that it is quite impossible, by the selection of an arbitrary percentage and its inclusion in the bill, to control prices in the manner suggested. In one case, 6 per cent, might he an outrageous profit, and in another instance one at which nobody would undertake to provide certain articles. It depends on how the 6 per cent, is made up; there are many ways by which it can be done.
– Will the Minister accept 10 per cent.?
– I repeat that in connexion with the government workshops there can be no suggestion of profiteering, except possibly in respect of the supply to them of raw materials; nor in the annexes can there be any profiteering because of the limit of 4 per cent, which I have mentioned. As to purchases by the Contract Board, by public tender, I am advised that in respect of almost every line that the Government has to purchase, the competition is so keen that the question of undue profits cannot, in fact, arise. In addition, the Government is seeking the best advice it can get by the creation of an advisory accountancy panel of five men who are expert in the business of costing and profits. They will advise the Government on broad lines as to whether its existing methods are adequate, or whether improved methods should be introduced to deal with the problem. I am certain that it will be quite impracticable to state a certain rate of profit to apply to all kinds of transactions connected with defence requirements. Announcements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and by me in the early stages- of this measure, made it clear that the Government intends to ensure that the Australian public shall not pay excessive prices or, indeed, more than moderate prices for the goods required for defence purposes.
– Put it in the bill.
– Anything more specific is impossible.
– I should like the Minister’s confirmation of my interpretation of the implications of Clause 5, 1 c, which readsarrangements for the establishment or exten sion of industries for purposes of defence.
I understand the words “extension of industries “ to apply to “ annexes “, but the “ establishment “ of factories may refer to some which are entirely a new industry, or industries, which may be set up here for the purposes of defence. If the Government decided to establish some such new industry, and considered it necessary to impose higher duties than now exist, I understand that in accordance with the Tariff Board Act it would be required to submit the proposal to the Tariff Board for recommendation and report before it could legally increase the duty? Will the Minister say whether or not that is a correct interpretation of the position?
– I am afraid that the discussion is not altogether relevant to the clause. I am asked at short notice to give a ruling on what is essentially the business of the Minister for Trade and Customs. I shall see that my colleague is acquainted with the remarks of the honorable gentleman, and, no doubt, he will give an answer at an appropriate stage of the proceedings.
Light-weight Woollen Goods - Wheat Industry.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- My attention has been invited to a report in the Melbourne Argus of the 18th May, in which Dr. I. Clunies Ross, the Chairman of the International Wool Secretariat in London, in a report to the Australian Wool Council, is reported to have said -
Light weight wool goods, both for ladies’ wear and men’s suitings, are not manufactured in Australia, and that a reduction of the existing tariff is desirable in order to allow these cloths to be obtainable in Australia.
As far back as 1929-32, when the Scullin Government was in office, protective duties were imposed on ladies’ lightweight dress materials and lightweight materials for men’s suitings, with the result that these goods are now extensively manufactured in Australia, giving employment to about 3,000 operatives. I ask the Minister to make inquiries into the report with a view to obtaining authentic information on the subject, as the statement of Dr. Clunies Ross is damaging Australian industries. It is incorrect to say that these goods are not manufactured in Australia.
– I think that Dr. Clunies Ross was referring to special lines of goods for which there is a strictly limited demand. If my interpretation of his remarks be correct, a possible explanation is that the limited demand in Australia has a definitely deterrent effect on the local manufacture of such goods.
– They are manufactured here.
– I shall give attention to the matter, and see that a full report is forwarded to the honorable gentleman and also to Dr. Ross.
– I understand that recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) conferred with honorable members from both parties opposite, who represent wheat-growing districts, in connexion with the difficulties confronting the wheat industry. Is the Prime Minister, or the Minister for Commerce (Senator McLeay), prepared to receive a similar committee from this side?
– I do not know to what conference the honorable member is referring.
– It was reported in the press that conferences were held in connexion with the wheat industry with honorable members from both parties opposite, who represent wheat-growing districts.
– The fact is that I received a deputation from senators, and also a deputation from honorable members from Western Australia. I was asked to receive the deputations and I received them.
– Would the right honorable gentleman be prepared to receive a similar deputation from honorable members on this side?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 40.
Air Navigation Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1939, No. 2.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 34.
Superannuation Act - Sixteenth Annual Report of the Superannuation Board, for year 1937-38.
Wool Publicity and Research Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 38.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The followinganswers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to bring in an amending Copyright Bill at an early date; if so, when?
– A decision regarding the amendment of the Copyright Act has not been arrived at. It is unlikely that any amending bill will he introduced during the present sittings of the Parliament.
n asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
As the Commonwealth Government, by its holding of 500,001 shares, has a controlling interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, will he ascertain and advise the House what annual salary is paid to the managing director, Sir Ernest Fisk, and the amount of expenses claimed by him for the years, 1934, 1935,1936, 1937 and 1938, respectively ?
– The chairman of directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has been asked to supply me with information to permit of this question being answered. I am advised that the matter will he considered at the next board meeting of the company.
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 19th May, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
No advances have been made since the financial year 1929-30.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the Library the report of the investigation as to (a) the extent of iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound, and (b) the amount available in the other main ore deposits of Australia?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
The investigations into the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound and in South Australia and Tasmania have not yet been completed.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Available details of the quantities of iron ore exported from (a) Whyalla, South Australia; (b) Yampi Sound, Western Australia; (c) all other sources in Australia during each of the past six years, are . as follows: -
Quantities were only 61 tons and 4 tons respectively and were exported to Japan.
With regard to the names of exporters asked for in questions 2 and 3, the department’s policy is to treat as confidential all information relating to the transactions of importers and exporters.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows. -
Commission improved facilities for treatment and increased accommodation for anticipated future requirements are essential. ‘
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions ,are as follows. -
Taxation of “War-time Profits.
s. - On the 19 th May, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What, amount of revenue has been received under and by virtue of the War-time Profits Tax Act, giving the amount for each year since the inception of the act (September, 1917), with particulars (if possible) of the classes of business or activity from which collections have been received or on which taxation was assessed ?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Revenues received under the War-time Profits Tax Act are -
The amounts marked “ Dr. “ represent the excess of refunds over collections in the years shown.
The classes of business from which collec-tiona have been received appear in the seventh and ninth reports of the Commissioner of Taxation, and are as follows: - Pastoralists, shipping, mining, softgoods, hardware, financial, grocers, jewellery, butchers, bakers, millers, boot trade, engineering, miscellaneous.
State Government and Semigovernmental Borrowings.
s. - On the 18th May, I promised the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to have a return prepared showing the amount of State government borrowings and semi-governmental borrowings during the last three years. The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : -
These figures do not include conversion of existing loans.
n. - On the 19th May, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries: -
Defence Contracts: Shell Cases.
t. - On the 19th May, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked the following question, without notice -
Will the Minister for Defence state the amount of the tender price accepted for shell cases, upon which the successful tenderer refunded the sum of 7s. on each case?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the contract price was 30s. 2d., which was reduced Ky the company to 23s. 2d.
Control of Erosion.
y. - On the 10th May, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked whether my attention had been drawn to the fact that in the United States of America certain areas affected by erosion were being sown with a special grass, the seed of which was being obtained from Russia. I have made inquiries into this matter, and I am now able to inform the honorable member that there are several grasses which have their origin, in Russia and which are useful iri soil erosion control. The Department of Agriculture of the United States of America sent an expedition to Mongolia, Russian Turkestan, and other parts of Asia, in order to collect such grasses. The expedition was successful in obtaining a number which wore subsequently planted in several introduction testing areas in the United States of America. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Reseach has for several years past been in communication with the Department of Agriculture of the United States of America in this connexion, and that department has furnished seed of a number of promising grasses. They are being grown at Black Mountain, Canberra. The best of these grasses are poor seeders, hut cuttings can be made available at present in limited quantities. Already one of these grasses has given good results in arresting sand drift in the Mallee of South Australia. If the honorable member would like to inspect these . grasses
Hnd to obtain further information in regard to them, I suggest that he get into direct touch with Dr. Dickson, Chief of the Council’s Division of Plant Industry at Canberra.
Employment of Youths.
s- On the 10th May, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked the following question, without notice -
Is the Prime Minister aware that it is a common and growing practice among employers in Australia in occupations that do not require apprenticeships to discharge young men when approaching adult age, and to engage boys or youths at low rates of pay to replace them?
If he is not aware of it, will he have early inquiries made? If he is aware of it, can he five the House any information as to the steps, if any, being taken to meet the situation arising from this serious state of affairs?
I desire to inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth Government is in communication with the Government of New South Wales in connexion with this matter, and that a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and the States will probably be held in the ear future.
Returned Soldiers in Public SERVICE
– On the 11th May, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked the following question, without notice -
Will the Prime Minister 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 desire to inform the honorable member that, so far as appointments to nonclerical positions are concerned, returned soldiers under 51 years of age who have given two years’ continuous temporary service in such positions are accorded a preference for appointment ,by section 34 9 c of the Public Service Act. It is the practice to appoint such returned soldiers in the prescribed order of preference with other returned soldiers, as vacancies occur, if they are engaged in a class of employment for which permanent positions are created. In regard to clerical positions, appointees to the permanent . staff must demonstrate the possession of educational qualifications of a reasonable standard, and the appointment of persons to such positions solely on length of temporary service without regard to educational qualifications could not be agreed to. Provision already exists for the appointment of returned soldiers who have passed examinations of a lower standard than that applied to other entrants to clerical positions. The existing provisions of the Public Service Act as to the appointment of returned soldiers are considered to be very reasonable, and the Public Service Board is unable to recommend any further amendment of the act in this connexion. The policy as to. preference to returned soldiers is being very closely observed, and it may be mentioned that within the last two years over 1,000 returned soldiers have received permanent appointments.
Tinned Plate Industry.
s. - On the 17th May, iri reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), I promised to have inquiries made as to whether any request had been made from any State other than South Australia with respect to the establishment of the tinned plate industry.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the Government of South Australia was the only State Government to make representations to the Commonwealth Government on this question. commonwealthrailways:profit from Stores Department.
-On the 5th May, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) asked the following questions, upon notice : - 1.What were the profits from the salesof the stores department of the Commonwealth Railways for each of the years from 1928-29 to 1937-38, and for this year to date?
On the 17th May the following information was supplied in reply to No. 1 . -
The profits from sales of the Railway Provision Stores and Bakeries for each of the years from 1928-29 to 1937-38, as disclosed by the audited accounts, were as follows: -
The Minister for the Interior has now furnished information regarding No. 2 as follows: -
Portion of the profit from columns (1) and (2) is transferred annually to TransAustralian Railway Revenue. The rest is retained in the Railway Provision Stores Account for working purposes and to meet possible developments until it can safely be transferred to Trans-Australian Railway (in the case of the Trans-Australian Railway Provision Stores and Bakeries) and North Australia Railway Revenue (in the case of the
North Australia Railway Provision Store). The amounts so transferred in the years referred to were: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390523_reps_15_159/>.