15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House if honorable members are to interpret the arrangement of business on the notice-paper to-day as an indication that the Government proposes to ignore the motion of which I gave notice yesterday? The motion reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, the proposed work of the erection of additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, should be at once referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for early inquiry and report, and, in the meantime, no action should be taken to enter into any contract in relation to thiswork.
– I regret that I cannot answer that question.
Mr.Forde. - The Prime Minister should be here to answer it.
– Possibly he should be; . but that, of course, applies also to the Leader of the Opposition.
– He is taking part in a by-election campaign.
– I can answer the honorable gentleman by saying that the Prime Minister has been called away.
– Will the right honorable gentleman give to the House the assurance that no action will be taken to enter into a contract for the erection of additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, until the serious allegations made in this House on Tuesday in respect of the tenders for this work have been cleared up by a thorough investigation?
– I can- give to the House the assurance that in whatever position the matter stands at the moment, it will remain in that position until the
House next meets and an opportunity is given to discuss it.
– That is evasive, and unsatisfactory.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral declare definitely whether, at this moment, the contract for the extensions to the Sydney General Post Office has been signed by the Government?
– Obviously that question should be directed to the Minister for the Interior. The PostmasterGeneral has nothing -whatever to do with the signing of a contract of that nature.
– Has the contract for the additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, yet been signed ? If the Minister is unable to give me an answer to the question now will he agree to supply it some time later during the day?
– The latest information I have was up to Tuesday afternoon last. The contract had not then been signed, but the contractor had been informed that his tender had been accepted. It is the intention of the Government to honour its promise to accept the tender.
– Before my motion is debated?
– The Government has entered into a bond with the contractor which it must honour. Usually about eight or ten days elapse between the making of the decision to accept a tender and the actual signing of the contract. In this matter the Government feels that its honour is at stake, and that it must sign the contract after having notified the contractor of the acceptance of his tender. In regard to the other portion of. the honorable member’s question, I shall ascertain whether the contract has yet been signed. I do not think it has.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs received any information of a blockade by Japan of the China coast? “Will certain Australian products, the most important of which is wool, be included in that blockade? Does the honorable gentleman, or the Government, intend to take any action in connexion with the matter?
– The Government is not in possession of any information in support of the suggestion of the honorable member.
Investigation of Affairs by Taxation Department.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether there is any truth in the disquieting statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Martin that a wealthy financial group in Melbourne is engaged in a dispute with the Taxation Department in respect of colossal liabilities, and that Parliament would be staggered if it knew the amount involved, or whether this is merely alarmist propaganda? I ask this question on account of the intimation made to me yesterday by the Prime Minister that the Taxation Commissioner is unable to identify any taxpayer or group of taxpayers who or which is engaged in such a dispute with the department.
– Order ! In asking a question, the honorable member is not in order in suggesting the employment of propaganda, or in drawing any such inference.
– I am informed that the Prime Minister answered this question yesterday. As I cannot answer it to-day, I think that the matter should be fairly well settled.
– With reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh on the 18th instant, relative to Australian treaties with Italy, I desire to state that no treaty relating to commerce in general, or to the application of quotas with respect to Italian migration to Australia, has been made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Italy; but I lay on the table of the House a copy of the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Her late Majesty, Queen Victoria, and His Majesty, the King of Italy, which was signed at Rome on the 15th June, 1883, and to which all of the States of Australia, with the exception of South Australia, acceded in 1884.
– I ask the Assistant
Treasurer whythe scheme of the Government of New South Wales, which was subsidized by the Commonwealth, for the vocational training of unemployed youths, was cancelled on the 1st January last?
– This scheme was not cancelled on the 1st January last; but no ‘ applications for training have been received since that date. The training of those already in the scheme is being continued. The Government ‘ of New South Wales has under consideration a more comprehensive scheme, in respect of which it is in communication with the Commonwealth Government.
– Some years ago, the defence establishments manufactured shearing requisites. I ask the Minister for Defence whether these establishments still manufacture goods for sale outside the needs of the department?
-Until recently, when the practice was discontinued on account of increasing militia requirements, the Commonwealth Clothing Factory fulfilled certain outside orders. The operations of the munitions factories in Melbourne are now entirely confined to Government orders. I believe that, to a very slight degree, the small arms factory at Lithgow is making shearing machinery, probably only to complete outstanding orders.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that his department is attempting to claim a duty of £6,000 on a model glideaway sought to be imported by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board for the purpose of establishing the tramcar manufacturing industry in Australia? Does the honorable gentleman intend to follow the usual practice in such cases, namely, to permit the importation, duty free, under by-law, of machinery . intended to form the basis of the establishment of a new industry?
– The matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred has not been brought under my notice, but I shall have inquiries made and shall give it my personal attention.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether, when he vacated the portfolio of Minister for Territories, he had finally decided upon a site for the capital of New Guinea? If he had not done so, will he pass on to his successor, for the guidance of that, gentleman in making a determination in the matter,, the information that he secured as the result of his long and intensive search?
– I shall be glad to do so; and I hope that the information will be of considerable assistance to my successor.
– I ask the Minister for Defence what tasks are to be allotted to the men who are enlisted in the proposed Australian Imperial Force Volunteer Reserve ?
– A very full statement on that subject has already been made. The A class reserve will complete mobilization principles, if required, and the B class reserve will discharge garrison and administrative duties, and safeguard lines of communication.
– Pursuant to a promise made yesterday by the Prime Minister, in reply to a question without notice by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield), I lay on the table of the House a copy of a letter dated the 19th May, 1939, received by the Prime Minister from the Federal President, Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, setting out the views of the league on the suggestion that & select committee be appointed to consider an alleged anomaly in the Repatriation Act.
Regarding the question without notice asked by the honorable member for Balaclava (.Mr. White), in which reference was made to letters from branches of the league, including the Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, Blue Mountains, and Cresswell State Sanatorium branches, on the same subject, I desire to intimate that the Prime Minister has not received letters from the organizations mentioned. A letter has, however, been received by the Minister for Repatriation from the Wentworth Falls sub-branch, a copy of which is also being laid on the table.
– One of the letters tabled by the Acting Leader of the House expresses views directly opposite to those expressed in the letter which Sir Gilbert Dyett sent to the Prime Minister-
– Order ! The honorable member must ask a question.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation why, seeing that the letter he received expresses views directly opposed to those expressed in the letter sent by the president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia to the Prime Minister, this letter was not also handed to the press, as this matter is to be discussed in Parliament?
– For the very good reason that I did not receive it until this morning.
– That is strange, seeing that it is dated the 22nd May.
– With reference to the letter sent to me by the Wentworth subbranch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia on the 22nd May, and a. letter in a similar strain, which the Minister for Repatriation says he did not receive until this morning, which, he says, prevented it from being handed out to the press with the letter from the president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, seeing that other honorable members received a copy of this letter two days ago, will the honorable gentleman make inquiries as to the cause of the delay ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
– On the 9th instant the Minister for Defence, in reply to a question that I asked upon notice, informed me that 10,061 empty streamlined 18-pdr., Q.F., H.E., shells had been supplied under contract for a price of £11,653 19s.10d. Was that price inclusive of the 7s. a shell which was refunded ?
– I believe that the honorable member is referring to two entirely different contracts, but I shall be glad to look into the matter and advise him of the position.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to a statement published in the Argus to the effect that the failure of the voluntary register of productive capacity was due to lack of preparation and mismanagement in the Defence Department? Was the questionnaire, in fact, prepared by the
Defence Department? Is it correct, as published in the Argus, that 12,000 forms were sent out and only 4,000 returned, of which only 2,000 were completely filled in? If these figures are correct, was official authority given for their publication? If they are not correct will the Minister indicate the extent to which they are inaccurate? Does he contemplate taking any action to ensure reasonable accuracy in reports on matters of such importance?
– The last part of the honorable member’s question is beyond my province. Generally speaking, the report to which he referred was not correct. The questionnaire sent out was carefully prepared by the appropriate authorities, acting in collaboration with the economic and industrial committees, and also the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs. If the honorable member will give notice of his question I shall have any further information he desires obtained for him.
– As work in connexion with the provision of the new post offices listed in last year’s Works Estimates has been suspended, I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will review the decision that has been made in this regard so that the most urgently needed new ‘ buildings in country districts may be erected at the earliest opportunity?
– I shall give further consideration to the matter.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence to his statement, made on the 17th November, 1938, that, in accordance with resolutions passed at a recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Government was examining “ earlier items of priority” with a view to fresh consultation with the States on the subject. I now ask the Minister whether a survey of those works hasbeen made and, if so, whether any decision has been reached regarding the works to be undertaken? Assuming the correctness of press reports concerning the large sums of money involved in these works, will the Minister say what aggregate expenditure could be avoided on such items if the standardization of our railway gauges were undertaken ? If he cannot now give the aggregate expenditure that could be so avoided, would he obtain the information and furnish it to the House?
– I cannot answer the honorable member’s question at the moment, but I shall obtain a reply for him.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House of the present position in the negotiations between Great Britain and Russia?
– I am sure that upon reflection the honorable member will agree that this is not the time to make statements on that delicate subject.
– The reply which the Minister gave yesterday to my question, concerning Japanese exports to and imports from Australia did not give me the information I desired. I wish to know, whether Japan has exceeded its quota of exports to this country, and also what exports have been made from Australia to Japan. Will the honorable gentleman supply me with the exact figures?
– I shall furnish the honorable member with the information at the earliest possible date.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce able to give the House any information concerning the progress of the International Wheat Conference?
– I shall secure the information and supply it to the honorable member.
– Three weeks ago I asked the Postmaster-General to investigate the frequent breakdowns in connexion with the cable from Victoria to Tasmania across Bass Strait, as telephonic communications were being seriously affected. He said that the matter would be investigated. The wires had been in use for upwards of twenty years. Has he any further information of the subject?
– I made preliminary inquiries concerning the statement of the honorable member and found that it could not be substantiated-
– That is not true. It is a deliberate lie! The Minister is telling a lie!
– Order! The honorable member for Denison is out of order.
– Why did the Minister say I was not telling the truth?
– The honorable member for Denison is distinctly out of order.
– I rise to a point of order.
– There is no point of order.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. A reflection has been cast upon me. The Minister has said that my information was not true.
– The honorable member is entirely out of order. First, he should not have interjected, and, secondly, he most certainly should not have said that the Minister was making an untrue statement. The honorable member must resume his seat.
– Some six weeks ago I made representations to the Chief Engineer of the Postmaster-General’s Department, Hobart, in connexion with the frequent breaking down of telephonic communication between Tasmania and the mainland, and I was informed by the engineer that the breakdowns were caused by the wires being insufficient to carry the load. I now ask the PostmasterGeneral if that information is correct?
– In view of the interjection made by the honorable member while I was answering another question, I believe that no good purpose could be served by my answering this question. I shall, however, refer the matter to the officer concerned to see if he can verify it.
– I ask the ActingLeader of the House whether, in view of the fact that a practical formula was evolved last night in connexion with the Supply and Development Bill by means of a consultation between representatives of the Government and the Opposition, the Government, in the national interests, will also confer with the Opposition to see whether a satisfactory formula can also be agreed upon in connexion with, the National Registration Bill?
– That is the kind of question that is best left unanswered.
– I ask the ActingLeader of the House whether the report in the press is correct, which states that he would not- appoint a local arbitrator to intervene in the dispute at Darwin, but that when the men resumed work he proposed to ask Judge DrakeBrockman to visit Darwin to hear the claims of the men? Does not the right honor able gentleman think that the best method to settle this dispute is to appoint a local arbitrator as is desired in Darwin? I understand that if he is prepared to do this the men will resume work.
– That, of course, is the version of the union, which says, in effect, that if we do what it wants us to do it will fall in with our wishes. There is nothing very unusual about that. Judge Drake-Brockman has expressed his willingness to go to Darwin to hear the claims of the men.
– What does he know about it?
– The men at Darwin are entitled to all the privileges that are extended to members of unions in the South, but to nothing more than that. It has been a fixed principle for many years that arbitration and strikes cannot proceed at the same time. The Arbitration Court has therefore always insisted upon men on strike returning to work before it will adjudicate in any dispute. That is the position at the moment in respect of Darwin. I express no opinion concerning the setting up of a local tribunal as that issue does not arise at the moment. The men at Darwin are being, offered arbitration on exactly the same terms and conditions as apply to unions in the South. With that they must be satisfied.
– In the event of the Tariff Board recommending protection for the tinned-plate industry in Australia, how long does the Minister consider it will take the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to enter into the production of this important commodity?
– I am afraid I am unable to answer that question. I shall have inquiries made. If it is possible to make an estimate I shall have it forwarded to the honorable member.
Permanent Appointment of Returned Soldiers
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been called to a circular sent to honorable members by temporary returned soldier employees in bis department, pointing out that they are not being provided with an adequate opportunity to comply with the provisions of a section of the Commonwealth Public Service Act which gives them the right to qualify for permanent employment, and also that the majority of them will shortly reach the age of 51 years when they will be debarred from securing permanent employment? If the honorable member has seen the circular will he give consideration to the arguments advanced therein?
– I have not seen the circular. No doubt I shall receive a copy of it in due course; when I do so I shall give consideration to the matter.
– Is it not a fact that the former Minister for Works, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), was under a similar bond to Grant and Company in that, although the contract with that firm . had not been signed, they were promised the job? If this Government can upset the bond of the previous Ministry why cannot it hold up this contract until the matter has been debated in this House?
– In the case of the earlier tender the firm had not been notified of the acceptance of the contract. In the latter case the firm had been notified of the acceptance of the tender, which makes a ‘considerable difference between the two cases.
– Will the Minister give an assurance to the House that the contract for the additions to the Sydney General Post Office will not be signed before the House is given an opportunity to debate the motion, notice of which I gave yesterday?
– As I have already told the House, I am unable to say at the moment whether . ornot the contract has been signed. The Acting Leader of the House has already given an assurance that the matter will remain where it is at present until the return of the Prime Minister.
– Until Tuesday next.
– Is there any truth in the suggestion that, after the closing date for the receipt of tenders for the re-modelling of the ‘Sydney General Post Office, only one tenderer was allowed to review his price?
– No tenderer has been permitted to review his price.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the various replies to questions relating to the Sydney General Post Office given this morning can be taken as an indication that the Government desires to challenge the House on this question ?
Question not answered.
– Orders of the Day. Presentation of Papers-
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the question has not been answered.
– Order! The Acting Leader of the House need not reply to the question.
– Surely the right honorable gentleman should reply to such a very important question?
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
Opposition members interjecting,
– These interjections are disorderly. If the Minister says that he did not hear the question-
– Why not be fair?
– If the honorable member again interjects while I am on my feet I shall name him. If the Minister says that he did not hear the question
– I rose in my place to ask a question.
– I name the honorable member for Hunter for defying an order of the Chair.
– If ever I get in the chair and you blink an eye I will put you out.
– Very much may be said for the honorable member for Hunter. A good deal of confusion and cross firing of interjections has taken place. I feel certain that he does not wish to be disrespectful to the Chair. I appeal to him now to put himself in order.
– The Chair has been, I think, extraordinarily patient with the honorable member for Hunter. The honorable member has defied a ruling of the Chair. I warned him that if he interjected again I should name him.
He did so immediately, and further aggravated his offence by making remarks derogatory to the dignity of the Chair. The Acting Leader of the House may not have heard him, and I feel that I must direct his attention to that aspect of the case.
– In deference to the Minister, I withdraw.
– It is not a question of withdrawing. The honorable member has been out of order many times, and the Chair has been most patient with him. I warned him that I would not again excuse his disorder. If he apologizes to the Chair now I shall pass this incident over, but I shall accept nothing less than an apology.
– I apologize.
– On a point of order, I understood the Chair to say that if the Acting Leader of the House did not hear the question it could be repeated.
– I said that a Minister was not obliged to give an answer. If the right honorable gentleman had informed the Chair that he did not hear the question asked by the honorable member for Barker (Mr Archie Cameron) it could have been repeated, but he did not , do so.
In committee: Consideration resumedfrom the 25th May (vide page 788).
Clause 5 - (1.) Subject to the directions of the Governor-General and to the next succeeding sub-section, the matters to be administered by the department shall be matters relating to -
the provision or supply of munitions;
the manufacture or assembly of aircraft or parts thereof by the Commonwealth or any authority of the Commonwealth ;
arrangements for the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence ;
the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of stocks of goods in connexion with defence;
arrangements for ascertaining coats and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions; and
the arrangement or co-ordination of -
surveys of Australian industrial capacity and the preparation of plans to ensure the effective operation of Australian industry in time of war; and
the investigation and development of Australian sources of supply of goods, which in the opinion of the Governor-General are necessary for the economic security of the Commonwealth in time’ of war. (2.) 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.
.- An amendment which I foreshadowed, and which the Government has intimated that it will accept, has been redrafted, but this will involve my obtaining leave to deal with an earlier portion of the clause than that already reached by the committee. I ask leave of the committee to do so. [Leave granted.]
– It is my purpose now to move a series of amendments, as follows : -
That the words “Subject to the directions of the Governor-General and to the next succeeding sub-section” sub-clause (1), be omitted ;
That after the words “ relating to “ para. ( 1 ) the following words be inserted “ arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions, and, subject to the directions of the Governor-General and to the next succeeding sub-section “ ;
That para, (e) be omitted;
That the words “ this section “ sub-clause (2) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “paras, (a) to (e) (inclusive of the last preceding sub-section “.
If my amendments- are agreed to the clause will then read -
– (1.) The matters to be administered by the Department shall be matters relating to arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions, and, subject to the directions of the Governor-General and to the next succeeding sub-section -
– The honorable member cannot move more than his first amendment.
– Then I move-
That the words “ subject to the directions of the Governor-General and to the next succeeding sub-section “, sub-clause 1, be omitted.
The object of the Opposition is the elimination of all profiteering from the manufacture of armaments. “We realise that constitutional difficulties stand in the way of full effect . being given to the desire of the Opposition, which is a complete government monopoly of the manufacture of munitions. The Opposition was very dissatisfied with the clause as originally drawn. It set out what the Governor-General may do, and that, of course, meant what the Minister or the Government may do, but it was not mandatory. The Opposition believes that a provision should be inserted in the clause to compel the Minister to control and limit profits. That is why I gave notice on Tuesday of my intention to add the following proviso: -
Provided that no such determination shall exclude provision for the ascertainment of costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions.
Other amendments proposed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) were designed to limit the profits to 6 per cent.
– The amendment deals with the production of munitions; what about raw materials, foodstuffs and clothing?
– The definition of “ munitions “ is extremely wide.
– That is so. It reads- “ 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.
– There is a qualification which still leaves the matter in the hands of the Governor-General, which means the Government.
– The word “ metals “ should be inserted.
– I shall be glad to accept any suggestion found necessary to tighten up the clause; I desire to avoid any gap through which the Minister or the Government may escape from the intention of Parliament. Other amendments referred to were well intentioned, but the Opposition could not support them, because it regarded them as impracticable and likely to lead, in some cases, to excessive profits and, in others, to unfair discrimination. However, as this Parliament cannot lay down uniform rates of profit for every transaction, the Opposition believes that Parliament should delegate that power to the Government, and that it should be mandatory for the Minister to control and limit profits as far as possible. I realise that, if the Government be not sincere, this Parliament will be impotent, because, with all the facilities at his hand, the Minister may still evade his responsibility. I take it, however, that the Parliament will be vigilant, and that periodically an opportunity will be given, to it to discuss matters relating to such control. For that reason, I am dissatisfied with the panel of public accountants which has been announced by the Government to deal with costs and profiteering. Certainly, the men who are to constitute the panel are eminent in. their profession in the States of New South Wales and Victoria; but as they are at the head of large accountancy concerns they will not, in my opinion, be able to give the necessary time to investigate charges of profiteering in the manufacture of armaments, as would be possible if competent working accountants on the staff of the Department of Supply and Development were given the task. I believe that if there were a sufficient number of competent accountants in the department, whose sole work would be the examining of tenders and contracts and the profits made by contractors, much more effective work would be done than is possible by this grand council of eminent public accountants. It must be remembered that members of the accountancy panel will act in an honorary capacity, and that their responsibilities in connection with their own businesses will leave them with little time to devote to this work. If they are to act in an advisory capacity merely in order that they may make suggestions for an improved accountancy system, they may serve some useful purpose; but I do not think that in the examination of accounts in order to ascertain whether profiteering has been indulged in, they would be as efficient as trained expert accountants in the employ of the department would be. I should like to hear the Minister further on this point. I assure him that the only desire of the Opposition is that profiteering shall be eliminated from the manufacture of munitions. As has been stated before, the Opposition would like to see the. manufacture of munitions made the sole monopoly of the Commonwealth and undertaken in factories of its own. In times of peace that should be sufficient. However, the Opposition cannot initiate legislation; that is the privilege and responsibility of the Government. This bill has been introduced by the Government. As the Government has done nothing to improve it, the Opposition has not been idle, but has put forward several constructive amendments for improving it, as far as possible, so as to eliminate even the likelihood of profiteering in the manufacture of munitions. A great deal will depend on the Minister as to whether or not effect will be given to the intention of the Parliament. I assure the Minister that the Opposition will be most vigilant in regard to these matters. Every possible inquiry that it can make will be made, in order to ensure that no profiteering in armaments, which is so abhorrent to the common people of all countries, shall take* place. I desire some further assurance from the Minister as to the steps intended to Vw; taken to give effect to the will of
Parliament. I believe that my amendments, if carried in the form in which they have been moved, will improve the clause considerably. Last night the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) expressed some fears as to the amendment originally foreshadowed by me, but the clause in the form in which it will read, if amended, should meet his objections. Sub-clause 1 will then commence -
The matters to be administered by the department shall be matters relating to arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control- and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions . . .
I invite the Minister’s attention to the definition of “ munitions “ in clause 4, and ask him to have it examined by the legal officers advising him, in order to ensure that it completely covers every article that can be manufactured for the Department of Supply and Development. The Opposition does not want this bill to apply to certain manufacturers, and not to others.
– I assure the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that the Government is at one with him as to the necessity for eliminating profiteering, and that it is determined not only to eliminate actual profiteering, but also to do everything possible to prevent anything approaching profiteering in respect of the manufacture of munitions and the supply of goods and materials required for the purpose of Australian defence.
– Previously, the right honorable gentleman, did not admit the necessity.
– The amendment originally foreshadowed by the honorable gentleman has been recast on a rather grand scale, but the Government is in complete agreement with the clause in the form in which it will read if the amendments which have been moved be agreed to. As the honorable gentleman will admit, the Government has placed at his disposal all the legal talent of the Government in order to assist him in framing his amendment in a satisfactory form. The clause as now proposed to be amended will give effect to the Government’s intention.
– An unholy alliance!
– The two provisos to the clause as originally drawn were not intended in any way to apply to paragraph e, so that the Government readily accepts the amendments.
I wish now to refer to the functions which the Government intends that the advisory accountancy panel should exercise. Its members will not be engaged in chasing individual alleged profiteers. The department already has a competent staff of accountants and officers constantly engaged in investigating questions of cost in one place or another. They will continue to do that work. [Quorum formed.] I was attempting to put the functions of the advisory panel into their proper perspective. It is not intended that these five eminent accountants shall be put on the bread-and-butter task of chasing alleged profiteers. The department has a staff of expert accountants and cost investigators who will be able to conduct routine investigations. The advisory panel will investigate the existing checks and safeguards, and will have at its disposal the services of the senior accountancy officers of the department..
– How can the advisory panel, without practical experience of the working of the system, discover what loopholes there are?
– With the assistance of the senior accountancy officers of the department, the expert accountants on the panel will quickly pick up the essentials of the system in operation in the munitions factories, the annexes, and in connexion with the purchase of goods by contract. The panel will be concerned only with broad principles. I do not expect that they will come out with a single suggested reform that overnight will cure all alleged evils. I expect that, after investigation, they will make a dozen or more suggestions regarding the methods used in the acquisition of goods by the department. I do not believe that there is any magical formula that can be discovered to solve all the problems.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition referred to the use of the word “munitions “. I refer him to the definitions in the bill. There the word is defined as including “ armaments, arms ‘ and ammunition, and includes such equipment, machines, commodities, materials, supplies and stores of any kind, as are, in the opinion of the Governor-General, necessary for the purposes of defence.”
– Then it must include metals.
– Yes; and clothing, boots, &c, also. We set out to make the definition as wide as possible so as to include everything for the forces and the proper functioning of the department.
– I feel rather disgusted with the whole debate on this measure. For the last three days and nights honorable members have been racking their brains in an attempt to evolve some way in which to checkmate the anticipated attempts at exploitation by private manufacturers of defence equipment when we should be objecting to the principle itself. The fact that we have devoted so much time to the task is an admission by every one, including the Minister (Mr. Casey) himself, that it is recognized that unscrupulous exploitation does, in fact, always take place when the manufacture of armaments is handed over to private enterprise.
– No; I deny that completely. All of the proofs submitted have been in relation to overseas experiences. There is no proof that exploitation has taken place in Australia.
– There is one industry in Australia which made 90 per cent, profits on its capital during the war. That has been brought out in evidence.
– -So real is this fear of exploitation that we should, instead of trying to devise means of preventing undue profit-making by private manufacturers, concentrate our attention on the elimination of private manufacturers altogether. Everything that has happened since the September crisis - when we were kept here in fear and trembling until midnight waiting for something to happen - indicates that there is no need for this elaborate defence scheme at all. As a matter of fact, we should now be evolving plans to meet the situation that will arise when the Government, in a few months’ time, declares that it will not be necessary to complete the £63,000,000 defence plan. I prophesy with confidence that, ‘before half of the three-year period has expired, we shall call a halt to this scheme. If there were only a possibility of that occurring, surely we should .be making our plans now to meet the problem of unemployment when it arises. We should be considering how to get the men now employed on munitions work back into other employment. I do not suggest that one penny of the money appropriated for defence should be put back into ordinary use, but I say that it should be expended in creating avenues of employment for men now out of work, and for those who will be out of work when the defence programme is slowed down. If .this is not done, another depression will follow.
– That situation only arises after a war.
– I feel certain that there will not be a war. The Government proposes to expend £1,000,000 on the setting up of defence annexes. The money will be devoted to the purchase of elaborate machinery to be installed in the factories of accommodating manufacturers. These machines will be painted with vaseline, like rifles when they are being stored away, they will be swathed in waterproof and airproof paper, and stored in this condition against the time when they may be needed, which may not be in our lifetime. I do not say whether that is right or wrong, but that is what the annexes” are for. They may never be used during the period of this current programme. In the meantime we are making contracts with private firms for the supply of goods that we do want immediately, such as clothing, boots, &c., for the militia. Up to the present, all ammunition and guns have been made in our own munitions factories, and I hope that scheme will not be departed from. The annexes are there in order to supply defence equipment in the event of an immediate invasion. Six months ago it may have looked as if there were such a possibility, but the position is now different. I ask, therefore, why we should not devote the £1,000,000 allocated for defence annexes to enlarging the capacity of our existing munitions factories, so that they may supply the equipment necessary for the carrying out of our orthodox defence measures and thus obviate the evil of private traffic in war supplies. If that were done all of these long drawn-out and inconclusive conferences between the accountants and the lawyers for the purpose of preventing exploitation would be rendered unnecessary. Most of the government factories are only skeletons which could easily be enlarged upon in order to increase their productive capacity. It would then only be necessary to install extra machinery, and to employ additional labour - the same labour that will be employed by the private manufacturers - to enable the government factories to supply all the needs of the Defence Department. The overhead costs would not be increased, the only additional cost being for extensions of plant and labour. The Minister for Supply and Development stated that there had never been any exploitation in Australia in connexion with defence supplies. This is a ridiculous statement.
– Then where did the pro,ceeds from the excess profits tax come from ?
– Just so. Let me quote some particulars regarding the supply of defence equipment in Australia. Referring to the Commonwealth Woollen Mills and other Commonwealth enterprises, including the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, the munitions factories and the harness factory, the ‘Secretary of the Defence Department in 1918 said -
It can be authoritatively stated that these factories can materially improve the quality of military clothing and equipment generally.
The general manager of the woollen mills in 1918 said-
Clothing was supplied to the department at prices lower than the existing contract rates.
Ex-Senator Guthrie, of the United Australia party, said, in September, 1932 -
The mills have tended to prevent Government departments and returned soldiers from being exploited. Whilst charging comparatively lower prices for splendid material, the Government mills have been able to show a substantial profit year after year.
I am disappointed, because I thought that the Minister would at least have had our defence clothing requirements manufactured by our own mills. The Commonwealth Clothing Factory began operations in 1911 with an advance of £6,000 from the Government. Fancy such a small amount as that for such an enterprise! From time to time it received further advances. By 1918 it had repaid all of its advances and had a credit of £132,000. From 1911-12 until 1924 the total value of the output was £2,400,000 and the profit for the year 1924 was £9,532. If the Minister for Supply and Development looks at the records he will see that the Commonwealth Clothing Factory, which supplied millions of pounds’ worth of uniforms from cloth spun in our own woollen mills, not only paid for its land, buildings and machinery and repaid advances made to it by the Treasury, but also showed a profit. Everybody was more satisfied with its products than with the products of the sweating shops of Flinders-lane, for that is how they were described, and thousands of pounds was saved by lower prices. My argument is that the money to be expended on annexes should be transferred to the establishment of our own plants, and that we should immediately embark on the manufacture of all of the boots, uniforms, and khaki cloth that we need, because by and by, if the necessity arises, the work will have to be taken over. That would do away with this endless argument about costing and the prevention of exploitation. I do not think that under the proposed system it would be possible to prevent exploitation - not that I suggest that the Ministry does not desire to prevent it - because I have had some experience of costing samples and small units to fix for tenders the prices of some of the commodities which are now under discussion. The moment mass production starts, and every hour thereafter, costs become less and less per unit. The costing committee will have to sit permanently, because every day on which these repetitive processes go on, the cost of production becomes smaller. However, I am altogether opposed to the private manufacture of arms.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
.- As this discussion proceeds, every hour seems to furnish further” justification for the criticism which I levelled at the bill on the second reading, namely that it bore every evidence of having been ill-conceived and hastily drafted. We have before us now an amendment which has been substituted for an earlier amendment to’ the clause, which members of all parties acknowledge to be unsatisfactory. This is the third day on which we have discussed this clause, which is the first machinery clause of the bill, and there still remains a bevy of proposed amendments to be discussed by the committee. I am surprised at the nature of the amendment which is now put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). It certainly covers the point to which I directed attention last night when I pointed out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) that the proposed amendment, which the Minister had indicated that he would accept on behalf of the Government, still left it open for the Executive to refrain from proclaiming the limitation and control of profits as one of the matters to be administered by the department. This substituted amendment certainly does make it a direction of the Parliament, and not a possible direction of the Executive, that the control and limitation of profits is to be one of the functions of the department. But still it is to be left quite open to the Government to decide as to how that direction of the Parliament is to be interpreted; as to how this glorious statement of policy, from which none will dissent, is to be put into operation. I have complained every time I have spoken on this bill, as ‘many other honorable members have complained, that this clause is merely a general statement of policy and contains nothing which will indicate to the committee how this policy is to be put into operation. I have said that it is not the responsibility of private members to make good the shortcomings of the Government in this respect. ‘Certain private members have endeavoured - I sympathize with them in their inability - to choose a form of words which will exactly convey what they have in mind and will be beyond criticism. But it is not their responsibility to do this; it is the responsibility of the Government, and I quite expected the members of the Opposition to place it on the Government. Now we find connivance between the Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– That is very unfair. The Opposition has roundly condemned profiteering in munitions.
– We find to-day every member of the Opposition has condemned the general principle of profiteering, but has joined with the Government and accepted equal responsibility with it, in putting in the bill merely a proclamation of policy rather than something concrete. So the Opposition has placed itself from this moment in such a position that it will be disqualified in future from any criticism of the manner in which this legislation is administered.
– Will the honorable member vote against the third reading?
– No. There must be a Department of Supply. I am merely endeavouring to improve the bill.
– The honorable member’s bluff has been called. He is squealing because he is not in the Ministry.
– That is a cheap sneer. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), leading the debate on behalf of the Opposition, said that the Opposition would neither delay nor oppose this measure.
– That is not fair. I said that Labour would not delay or oppose adequate preparations for the defence of Australia, . and I went on to qualify that.
– I do not want to be less than fair; I rely on a dependable memory, but, if the honorable member assures me that I am wrong, I certainly accept his word. I go on to say that everything that has been said from both sides of the committee on this matter goes to justify my earlier criticism, that the bill is very unsatisfactory as at present drafted. The table is almost littered with proposed amendments from all sides, including amendments circulated by the Minister, which are almost as lengthy as the original bill. So I again express my concern -and surprise to find the Opposition joining with the Government in accepting responsibility for including in this measure a general enunciation of policy in regard to the control of profits, and thereby placing itself in the position in which it can no longer criticise the measure for shortcomings in details as to how these provisions are to be implemented.
.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has gently criticized the Labour party for its attitude to this clause. The procedure so far is clear, and the progress very little. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) moved an amendment which had the intention of laying down as a principle that profits ‘on the supply of munitions should not exceed 6 per cent. Exactly what the 6 per cent, was to be on, nobody seems to know.
– Yes we do.
– Well, I do not.
– The honorable member cannot blame me for that.
– I am not blaming the honorable member. I think that, to the extent to which he went, his effort to place some limit on soaring profits was praiseworthy, and I commend him for it. But I was not prepared to accept the principle that the’ manufacture of munitions, to be used in time of war and attack upon Australia, should be a special matter of barter as to whether those providing the arms should have 6 per cent, or 5 per cent., while young men of the class which I represent were giving their lives for the defence of the country. That is the difference between us. The attitude of the Government is interesting. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) immediately saw in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) a real danger - the danger of defeat of the Government. There would have been danger had the Labour party as a body, or in fact some of its members been prepared to accede in any circumstances to the principle of profit making in the manufacture of munitions. It must have ‘been a great relief to the Minister when he learned that the members of the Labour party were not supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Balaclava. He breathed freely and new courage came to him with that realization. When the Minister thought that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) was employing this apparently useless measure for the purpose of making some gesture against profiteering, he immediately embraced the amendment, and did not hesitate to say that he was prepared to put the whole of the resources of the Commonwealth Crown Law Department at our disposal if we would assist to remove the danger of defeat of the Government by the union of our forces with those of the honorable member for Balaclava. Never have I seen an obsequious butler standing at the door of his royal master bow with more profound respect and courtliness of manner than characterized the Minister as he reached out with both hands to accept the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member’s party has now accepted this in another form.
– It was perfectly obvious that in the stronger terms in which the Ministeroffered it to us, with the aid of theCommonwealth Crown Law Department, we must accept it. The honorable memberfor Balaclava said that it is a nebulous proposal. It would be a nebulous proposal if there where sufficient substance in the bill with which to make a cloud. But it is less than nebulous because, it would be impossible to make a cloudout of the whole bill.
– Why not submit some constructive suggestions.?
– I am engaged purely in constructive criticism of the measure. I direct the attention of the committee to what the Minister has actually done by way of embellishing the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He has lifted this part relating to manufacture of munitions for profit out of the general body of matter which may be administered by this department, and placed it in a special position in which it is made mandatory that the arrangements for. ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits on munitions shall be– not may be when the Government thinks fit - definitely dealt with by this department. All the matters referred to in paragraphs a, b, c, d and / may, by a stroke of the pen, ‘be taken out of the control of this department by the Government overnight. Although there is insufficient substance in the measure with which to make a cloud the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will remain. That is all that will remain. A department is being established and a part of its ‘business will be, as a matter of law, to make arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions. This great department has to consider that question. To that extent the Leader of the Opposition has done something. The matter of profit does not arise in any real sense. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) stated earlier that -this bill does not enact any law. It may be a bill, but it does not impose any obligation or confer any franchise. It simply provides that there shall be a department of supply and development. The Minister in charge of that department will have precedence over the Minister for Defence. That was the only condition under which he would accept the portfolio of Minister for Supply and Development. He is determined now, on the suggestion of my leader, to have undoubted rights under the bill for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions.
– The honorable member suggests that he does not mind so long, as he has the name?
– The Minister does not mind so long as he has the name and precedence over the Minister for Defence. This is simply a war gesture. The Government says, as it did during the last general elections, that there is to be a war. For electioneering purposes, it says “ We must have a war. Nothing else will save us “. The war scare was used in connexion with the by-elections for Wakefield and Griffith, and is also being employed in connexion with the by-election for Wilmot.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause.
– Some day the Minister in charge of the bill will come to this House with a proposal to strengthen his ne.w department, and will tell us what he intends to do, and at that stage the committee will begin to consider the manufacture of munitions for profit, the rate of profit and so on. We are now filling in time until the 9th June, after which the Government will be safe until Parliament re-assembles. I do not wish to waste my valuable time on this measure, but it is very satisfactory to know that when the Governor-General decides that it is not desirable that the Government should act under paragraph a, which provides for the supply of munitions; b, relating to the manufacture or assembly of aircraft; or c, with respect to arrangements for the establishment or extension of industries for the purposes of defence, the Minister will still be in possession of the powers to make arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member has exhausted his time. The honorable member for Balaclava.
– I waive, temporarily, my right to address the committee at this stage, in favour of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin).
.- I desire to make a few observations in order to put the position of the Opposition more fairly and honestly before the committee than it has been put by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). Usually I have found that honorable member very fair, but he has not been so to-day. In the first place I should say that the discussion on this clause, which has proceeded for some days, has demonstrated to me and to the country most definitely the soundness of the general policy of the Labour party that, so far as is humanly possible, there should be no profit making during war time or in preparation for war. Preparations for war should be made in government factories and government workshops and not in establishments conducted by private enterprise. Numerous speakers have said that we cannot control profits. Whilst that is true to some degree, it is not entirely correct. We can have some control, but it is very difficult, particularly in time of war. In the absence of a complete government enterprise the only really effective control a government can exercise is by possessing at least a nucleus of equipment and staff and in that way have a check on the prices charged by private manufacturers. The Minister said to-day that there were no examples of profiteering - I may have misunderstood the right honorable gentle.manduring a war.
– I said that I had seen no evidence that there was profiteering in Australia in the supply of munitions today. I did not mean during war time.
– The Minister referred to profiteering overseas which would apply not to to-day but to the war period. The point stressed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) was that profits had been wrung from the people during the war period.
– I do not deny that.
– I am glad to have that admission. It proves that we must now take every precaution. The position of the Labour party is this: This bill is not our responsibility ; it is the responsibility of the Government’. We say, as a general principle, that the Government should do more of this work, and leave less of it to private enterprise and profitmaking. The Government chooses to adopt another method; our responsibility as members of this Parliament is to try to tighten up this measure as far as is possible in the circumstances in which we find it. The honorable member for Indi says that we have connived with the Government. We have done nothing of the kind. We have brought down an amendment to the Government’s proposition that the Minister has accepted, That the Government has enabled, the drafting officer to redraft the clause to contain the principle of our amendment does not constitute connivance. Any honorable member who says that, does not know the first rudiments of parliamentary procedure; unless he wants to misrepresent. What is the honorable gentleman’s trouble? He supported an amendment yesterday to fix the rate of profit at 6 per cent.
– I did not.
– What did the honorable gentleman suggest should ‘be done with this bill?
– I have said many times that something definite, and not just a mere statement of policy with regard to the control of profits, should be included in the bill.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I said that that is not for a private member to suggest; that is the responsibility of the Government.
– Very well, that is exactly our amendment. With respect to the proposal to limit profits to 6 per cent., we say first that that profit might be considered to be too high in some cases, whereas it might approach reason In other cases. But no member of this committee, and, I believe, no private individual in the community, can stay off- hand that any figure represents a proper profit to be made in connexion with the manufacture and production of munitions. Every case must be examined in detail. Consequently, we are not prepared to put ourselves in the absurd position of fixing a figure ; but we say, as the honorable member for Indi agrees^ that something ought to be done. Our objection to the bill was that, as originally drawn, it placed no mandate on the Government to do anything with respect to profits. The relevant clause simply laid it down, that the government “ may “ do something in that regard. We drafted an amendment to provide that it “ shall “ be done, and thus placed the responsibility upon the Government to say how it should be done, and also made the Government responsible to this Parliament if its action in this direction does not prove effective. It ill becomes the honorable gentleman to talk about connivance. I know the ‘history of profiteering in the Great War; I followed it closely and I know how our people suffered in paying, not only for munitions, at overcharged rates, but for everything they wore and ate, in order to satisfy the shameless and ruthless profiteering that went on. One of the very few checks which the Government had, in the midst of war, on profiteering in connexion with supplies to our Defence Department, was the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, which was set up by the Labour Government of 1910-13. What happened to that mill after the war? It was practically given away to the friends of the government of the day, and the Deputy Leader of that Government is, to-day, the leader of the honorable member for Indi. Yet the honorable member talks about connivance. I knowthe fight which the Labour party put up when that mill wasbeing sacrificed ; and, indeed, that mill was sacrificed at a time when the Government had in its possession all of the facts. It was parted with in 1922 or 1923, when the Government had at hand the report of the Inter-State Commission of 1919, which was a damning indictment of profiteering by the textile mills of Australia. The summary of that, report shows that the industry, on a total capital of £1,144,385, over a period of three years made a net profit of £1,197,095. On supplies, for instance, of blankets and flannels, it made up to 41 per cent, on capital, land up to 16 per cent, on turnover, whilst on supplies of serges and tweeds, its profit was up to 37 per cent, on capital and up to 20 per cent, on turnover. Figures in respect of ten manufacturing firms in Victoria, showed a profit of up to 49 per cent. and in respect of five firms in New South Wales, up to 36 per cent, on capital.
– What does the right honorable member think would be a reasonable profit?’
– You cannot lay down a figure. We saw last night how even honorable gentlemen opposite backed and filled on the proposed limitation of 6 per cent. The first amendment proposed was to apply this limit, presumably in respect of turnover, although the basis on which the profit was to be calculated was not made clear.
– It was on the basis of the net cost of the item.
– That is on turnover. The honorable gentleman, who has had some experience in matters of this kind, must know that it is very difficult to make such a calculation. For example, one article may involve 50 per cent, labour costs and 50 per cent, material costs, whilst on another article labour costs might be 10 per cent, and the cost of materials 90 per cent. One is practically the turnover of raw material, and a profit of 6 per cent, on the turnover, repeated about twelve times a year, would yield a total profit of from 60 to 70 per cent. Then, in another amendment, it was proposed that the profit should be calculated on the assets employed. I point out that a big firm might have a million pounds’ worth of assets employed for a short period. Who is to check for what period the whole of those assets are employed? Such a company might employ only a portion of its assets on particular work, and yet indicate on its return that the whole of its assets were so employed. On the other hand, we might have smaller firms specializing in a particular field. Thus, a big firm might be profiteering on a basis of 6 per cent., whereas a smaller firm showing the same per cent, of profit on assets of less value might not be profiteering. We cannot, therefore, fix an arbitrary figure.
– But the right honorable gentleman believes in some profit being made?
– I believe that we should eliminate all profit in war supplies. The honorable gentleman thinks that we should give these companies .6 per cent., whether it be on a small or a big turnover.
– The proposal is that 6 per cent, should be the maximum.
– We know that in practice the maximum becomes the minimum. No party in this House can administer any law until it is on the treasury benches, but we say that certain principles should be followed, and if those principles are followed, a substantial measure of justice can be done. I am not saying that, at this stage, the Government could set up ail of these factories, and be left with them on its hands when the war is over, for, unfortunately, the Constitution restricts us to manufacture only for government departments, and, therefore, such factories could not compete outside. At the same time, I believe that we could expand our activities further than we are doing in connexion with State workshops and Commonwealth factories. Then, if war eventuates, we can do what was done in Great Britain during the Great War, namely, take control of the private factories and so obviate the dangers of profiteering. However, this discussion will have done some, good insofar as it will have told the people of Australia and those who are to supply materials to the Government that this Parliament will not brook the profiteering that was associated with the Great War. My last word is that the attack made upon the Opposition by the honorable member for Indi was most unfair, when, in fact, it was the Opposition, and not the honorable member, who discovered the weakness of this clause and forced the Government, by making this provision mandatory, to do something to limit prices. In those circumstances, it is most unjust for the honorable member to charge us with connivance.
.- It is a great pity that an opportunity has not been taken during this debate to get down to something more specific than the proposal accepted by the Government. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) says that the whole bill is less than nebulous. Every honorable member abhors the thought of war profit- eering, and on this .occasion we, the representatives of the people of Australia, had a great opportunity to take specific action in order to prevent profiteering in the manufacture of materials of war. I am profoundly disappointed that some better proposal has not emerged from this debate!. Some honorable members criticized my proposal, although I was very pleased to hear approval of it expressed in several, quarters. I proposed my amendment in a tentative way, hoping that it might be approved, but in doing so I was earnestly endeavouring to find some method of stopping profiteering. We regard profiteering in times of actual warfare as undesirable, and we should look upon it in a similar light when we are building up supplies in preparation for war if it comes. I feel sure that the people of Australia would have been better pleased had we been able to provide in this measure some definite check against profiteering. The manufacturers themselves would have welcomed such a decision, because most of them are honest and wish to do the right thing. Furthermore, competition tends to control profits. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) quoted figures showing that, during the Great War, certain firms had made profits ranging from 40 “per cent, to 90 per cent. I proposed the figure of 6 per cent., not as a fixed figure, but as a maximum, realizing that competition would tend to reduce average profits, probably to as low as 2 or 3 per cent. If a contractor showed in a statutory declaration that his profits on any particular contract would exceed 6 per cent., his tender would be rejected, but if, for any reason, the Government believed that a profit in excess of 6 per cent, was warranted in a particular case, it could bring forward a special measure to obtain permission to allow that profit to be made. I sincerely regret that greater support was not forthcoming for my proposal.
– ls not the Government in earnest in fighting profiteering?
– I recall that a few years ago, when I brought down a tariff report dealing with cement, which is used in connexion with gun emplacements, and other defence works, and the Government sought to act on that report by reducing the duty on that commodity, its proposal was defeated by the vote of several honorable gentlemen who are now members of the Ministry. The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt), who said last night that I could have used my influence when I was Minister for Trade and Customs to reduce profits, voted against it although the cement ring was keeping up the price. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.- John Lawson) was another who voted against that proposal.
– Well, the Minister for Health and Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) definitely voted against it. Do these honorable gentlemen intend to preserve the commercial world for profiteers? Will they not take this opportunity to restrict the activities of profiteers? I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that the responsibility should not be thrown on private members to find a way to achieve the objective which the Government has in mind in bringing down this grandiose measure. In view of its attitude in this discussion, I cannot help questioning the sincerity of the Government. It initiated this business, and in a speech recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) declared that profiteering must be kept out of the supply of munitions, but after days of debate, and after the Government has pushed aside such a humane proposal as the motion for a select committee to consider necessary amendments of the Repatriation Act, we are asked to be satisfied with its efforts in respect of this bill. Yesterday I put a question on the notice-paper with regard to the location of the headquarters of the new Department of Supply and Development, and also the accommodation which would be necessarily required to house the officials to be appointed, and this morning I was informed that ‘ the headquarters would be in Melbourne close to the Defence Department. That is as it should be, because close cooperation between those two departments is essential. But I was further informed that steps had ‘been taken for the Principal Supply Officers Committee to occupy premises which had been leased by the National Insurance Commission. I am wondering how much of this arrangement is a fitting in of surplus public servants and the taking over of accommodation secured for that experiment in national insurance, and how much it represents a serious attempt to deal with the problem of supply of essential requirements in a time of emergency. I am profoundly disappointed that after many days’ discussion in this Parliament nothing better has been evolved to check profiteering than the amendment drawn up by the Government and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), in collaboration. Although the Government has had the advice of officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, it has not submitted a provision that will tie the profiteer down to any specific limit.
– This amendment will tie a rope around his neck.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) may think so ; I do not. I believe that many honorable members are as disappointed as I am at the thought that if,, unhappily, “war should come Ave shall, unless a more definite provision is inserted in this bill to check profiteering, see a repetition of what occurred in connexion with the supply of essential requirements during the Great War and previous wars.
The discussion on this measure is not finished. I understand that it will be continued next week.” As an earnest of its sincerity in this matter of controlling profits, the Government should confer during the week-end with its legal advisers, with a view to adopting a formula that will impose a definite limit on profits in a national emergency. I support the. principle of the bill, but I deplore the lack of any specific method for checking profiteering. Unless the Government produces a formula better than the one contained in the amendment, it will be suspect by the people.
– I am not inclined to accept the nebular hypothesis in connexion with this bill, because I feel that no one can dismiss lightly the possibility of war within the next few months, or next year. If I thought that war were a remote possibility, my attitude to this bill would be different But I, and the members of my party, do not reject the possibility that, within the next few months, this country may be involved in a major conflict.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) does not think so.
– I am glad to think that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) agrees with the premises of my argument. Believing, as we do, that war is a grim possibility, it appears to mp - I come reluctantly to this conclusion - that it is necessary to make some preparations. As my leader (Mr. Curtin) has often pointed out, the preparation of materials for war is really more important than the preparation of men. Adequate supplies of munitions and other equipment readily accessible may save the lives of men. It is necessary, therefore, in a time of emergency which may lead to war, to make preparations for the supply of all essential needs.
I should prefer that all munitions were made in government-owned factories. But I am faced by the fact that when, in peace time, the urgent demand formunitions had ceased these factories and their staffs could not constitutionally be diverted - as privately-owned factories can - to the production of peace-time goods. Even if there were no constitutional objections to that course, it would be almost impossible to establish, in a few months, sufficient Commonwealth factories to produce all materials necessary. Therefore, we must . use machinery already in existence, partly governmental and partly belonging to private organizations. We should be blind to the nature of the world in which we live if we believed that private manufacturers would carry on work on behalf of the Government without any return for the capital they had invested in their enterprises. Therefore, if munitions are to be manufactured by private undertakings, an adequate return upon the capital invested must be paid. That brings me to this point upon which I think most honorable members are in agreement. If unchecked, private capitalists engaged in the manufacture of supplies in time of national crisis would, as they have always done in the past, take advantage of the nation, and endeavour to get the maximum return on their capital. Agreement with this view has been expressed by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), who has said, over and over again, that he does not believe that private manufacturers should be allowed to make undue profits when engaged on work for the nation.
We come now to the point upon which there- is a divergence of opinion. We have before us the Government proposal to limit and control profits, which upon careful scrutiny appears to be inadequate. It empowers the Government to make provision for the control and limitation of the price of munitions - using the word “ munitions “ in the sense that it embraces all goods, primary or secondary, essential to the defence of a country. Clause 6 empowers the Government to regulate all the activities enumerated in it, but also in the same breath, it provides that the Government could refuse to do so. A critical scrutiny of the bill seems to indicate that while the Government may take the power to limit and control prices it could, by certain directions and determinations by the Governor-General, deprive itself of this power. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had drafted an amendment designed to prevent the Government from abandoning its duty to control and limit prices. In the discussion of that amendment there was a general acceptance by honorable members of the principle embodied in it. It was agreed that a government should not divest itself of this power to control and limit profits. There is a minor divergence of opinion on the merits of a proposal to fix by statute an inflexible maximum rate of profits. The difference on that issue is entirely subsidiary to the main question on which we all agree. There is a general agreement that the Government should be responsible to Parliament and the country for the control and limitation of profits and that it should not be relieved of the burden of that responsibility by any provision of this bill.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) said that the amendment circulated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not go far enough and could not accomplish the purpose intended by the Deputy Leader himself, and by honorable members generally. I do not regard the point raised by the honorable member for Indi as one of substance. In my opinion, the amendment originally submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was sufficient to accomplish the design which honorable members of the Opposition, and several Government supporters had in mind. But, as the discussion proceeded, it occurred to the honorable member for Indi, that the amendment contained a loophole, and as that possibility might also have occurred to other honorable members, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition expressed his willingness to recast his proposal so that there should be no possibility of doubt about its efficiency.
The point which has been raised is that by no determination under sub-clause 2 of clause 5 should power to control and limit prices be withdrawn from the Government. The honorable member for
Indi suggested ‘that that power might bewithdrawn by direction from the GovernorGeneral, and that the Government might say “ “We shall not exercise any of these powers unless directed by the Governor-General “. That point havingbeen raised, it would have been very unwise not to solder up the hole, imaginary or real. That was the only reason for the alteration of the amendment drawn up by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– That shows how unfair was the statement by the honorable member for Indi.
– I was very surprised indeed to hear the honorable member for Indi make that statement, because I have always regarded him. as a very fair-minded man. The Opposition has endeavoured to make this clause foolproof, and to ensure that there shall be no means available to a government of evading its duty to limit and control profits. In saying that, I do not wish to cast any reflection on the present Government. I believe that the Minister for Supply and Development sincerely desires to do his job well and that other Ministers have the same object.
– “What is the right honorable gentleman’s job?
– Under this bill, his duty will be to limit and control prices to be charged by private manufacturers. But we have to contemplate this position : Ministers come and go. The pressure on governments varies; not infrequently pressure is exerted on governments by persons who are supporters of the political party represented by the Government and who may be, in fact, -the paymasters of the party in power. Wc want to make it quite clear that this committee will not approve of any evasion by the Government of its duty. In effect,- the committee should say to the Government : “ We will not authorize you in any shape or form to evade the performance of your public duty”. It is therefore desired to amend clause 5 to meet all possible objections, including that raised by the honorable member for Indi. The form that the amendment now takes provides that although directions and determinations of the GovernorGeneral may limit the other activities set out in clause 5, no such limitation may be placed on the control by the Government of profits. We are not concerned about the several other activities which are set out in this clause. We know that these will be attended to. They are all necessary undertakings.
– We are concerned with them.
– We know that they will be done. We believe that the Government will take steps to administer matters relating to all the functions set out in paragraphs a, b, c, d and / of subclause 1. We are not so much concerned about these things. What we are concerned with is that the power, to control profits must not be limited. If the Go’vernment decides not to exercise this power at all or in full, it is answerable to Parliament and the people. I submit that there should be nothing in this bill which could authorize a government to evade its duty. If the clause had been accepted in its original form, it might have been said, in the future, that this committee contemplated the Government refusing to control prices. That is what must be avoided. Honorable members of the Opposition have drawn up their amendment on the assumption that the Government really made a mistake in the drafting of this measure. We have accepted the word of the Government that this was the case, and in order to show our bona, fides we are endeavouring to so alter the clause that the duty of the Government to control profits would be specified and inescapable.
– The honorable member for Indi had no practical suggestion to make.
Silting suspended from 12. J/5 to 2.15 p.m.
.- One thing which emerges very clearly from this debate is that members of all parties genuinely desire to restrict the profits arising from the manufacture of armaments, but that the great difficulty is to arrive at any formula under which that may be achieved. It appears to be quite clear that neither the Government nor the Opposition has been able to secure definiteness. The amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) certainly makes the matter a little more definite, but apart from that it cannot be considered as other than a mere machinery alteration.
I feel that it is incumbent on me once again to explain the proposed amendment that I have circulated, a copy of which honorable members have doubtless received. The whole of the argument so far has related to the impossibility of fixing a percentage of profit on the basis of the unit. I have stated previously, and I now re-state, that I do not believe that that is what any honorable member is seeking. What we mean by the restriction of profits to a reasonable limit is restriction as applied to the capital of any particular company. I believe it to be quite impossible to arrive at a basis of profit until the turnover is definitely known. The loading of profit on to an item would in no way approximate to what every honorable member has in mind. I suggest that my proposal is a practicable one. Do not honorable members really want the profits derived from the manufacture of munitions - regarding munitions in a narrower sense than is implied by the definition in the bill - restricted to what they believe is legitimate, and in accordance with what the people of Australia will be willing to accept in view of the difficulties they are experiencing and the tremendous burden of taxation they have yet to bear? I should say that the majority of honorable members definitely wish to tie down the making of profits at some fixed level. The Minister has stated that he intends to attempt to limit the profits of the annexes to 4 per cent. ; but that 4 per cent, will be on turnover, and will have no relation to the capital invested. We know that the majority of the proprietors of these annexes have invested very little, if any, capital in them apart from the land : that in most cases the buildings and machinery have been provided by the Commonwealth Government. Yet, so far as I have been able to glean, after all expenses of raw material, labour, and certain overhead in regard to management have been taken into account, these annexes are to be allowed to earn a profit of 4 per cent. What profit they will actually make annually, taking into consideration the meagre capital invested, will be determined by the number of orders they receive. It may be possible in time of war to give only one order, in which case the 4 per cent, would be applicable to the year’s transactions. I do not believe, however, that either in war or in peace it would be possible at any given time to decide what orders were to be placed over a period of twelve months. In nine cases out of ten, more than one order would be given. We know what was the experience of Great Britain in the last war; the estimate of orders made at the beginning of the year was found to be totally inadequate before a month or two had elapsed, and it was constantly increased. One can readily imagine that if 4 per cent, is to be allowed without taking into account the capital invested, big profits may be made. Would not any honorable member be delighted to have the Commonwealth provide him with a factory and all equipment, and be guaranteed a profit of 4 per cent, on everything he turned out?
– Would it not be on a contract basis?
– It might be; but we do not know the number of contracts.
– It is similar to the basis on which an architect works.
– It is something of the sort. The profits accruing to a manufacturer over a year’s operations may, in proportion to the limited capital invested, run into very high figures. I do not see any reason why that proposal should not be altered to one providing for a profit of up to 4 per cent, on the capital invested. The majority of honorable members will agree that 4 per cent, is a reasonable amount to expect to make when one is dealing with weapons of war. If not, what profit do honorable members suggest? Under my proposed definition, munitions are defined as relating purely to weapons of war. I have done that for the simple reason that it would be quite impracticable to police the matter under the definition in the bill, taking into consideration all phases of Australian industry, because such an enormous staff would be required. I propose to reduce the definition to specific terms and, as honorable members know, to something which would be vital and would be the means of saving men’s lives in the event of war. In respect of private manufacture, I again propose to tie down the definition of munitions. Although it would be quite impossible to police the matter on any large scale, specific cases could be policed. I suggest to the committee that 4 per cent, would be a reasonable profit. It has been said that that would become the minimum profit demanded by all of those who tender for defence contracts. To any honorable member who advances that argument I should say that competition will be an important factor, and that 4 per cent., would allow a sufficient margin for the inevitable variations of tenders. If we are in earnest we should indicate to the people that we are definitely going to tie down the profits on the manufacture of munitions, not on a unit basis, but on one providing for a given percentage per annum. My proposed amendment would achieve that purpose. The limited definition of “ munitions “ which I suggest would make possible that which, under the wider definition of the bill, would be impracticable to police and to work.
.- I ask the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) to clear up a matter that he left in suspense last night. He told us that the profits of those who operate the annexes would be confined to 4 per cent, on turnover. Previously he had said that the Government owned the annexe buildings and supplied the machinery, but that in most cases other interests provided the land. I want to know whether the Government intends to obtain the title to the land?
– I shall explain the position.
– I want the right honorable gentleman to fulfil that promise better than he fulfilled the promise to explain the deal in relation to shells, for I did not hear him say anything at all about that subject. If the land on which these annexes stand has not been transferred to the Crown, the Government will actually present the interests which own the land with the buildings and all the machinery installed in them. That is the law.
– I propose to move an amendment later to provide for the compulsory acquisition of the land.
– That seems to me to be the only effective way to deal with the situation. The Minister said that for the 4 per cent, on turnover the firms operating annexes would supply skilled labour and supervision. But the skilled labour is not theirs to supply! It is true that these firms may employ a certain number of skilled artisans, but surely it will not be suggested that they can force the men to work how and where they like, irrespective of the wishes of the men concerned. The plain fact is that the Government could employ these artisans just as. satisfactorily as can those who operate the annexes. If it offered wages equal to or a little higher than those offered by private enterprise, it would have no difficulty at all in obtaining all the labour it required. Seeing that only a certain amount of supervision is to be provided by private enterprise, a profit of 4 per cent, on turnover would be a handsome return from the annexes. The Government is actually making a handsome present to the people who will control the annexes. For these reasons I disagree with the view that a satisfactory arrangement has been made. I do not believe that this country is as near to war as some. honorable gentlemen opposite seem to think, but if war should occur these annexes will operate for a certain period during which munitions are required. What will happen afterwards? I venture the suggestion that the annexes will be given, bolus bolus, to the firms concerned, just as the Commonwealth Woollen Mills were given to private interests years ago. Probably the excuse would be that as; under our existing* constitutional limitations, the Government could not engage in industry, and as it would be necessary to keep the machinery in operation so that employment could be provided for the people, the annexes should be given to those who could continue to operate them.
I admit that I am hazy as to the practices in other countries in this regard, but the establishment of these annexes under the conditions announced seem to me to be an entirely new departure. To put it bluntly, the Government is using the excuse of the imminence of war to make a handsome present to certain vested interests in this country. If the Minister would build an annexe and equip it for me I would guarantee that, even with the small capital at my command, I would be able to supply the articles required. Actuallythe Government has selected certain interests, established annexes for them, and undertaken to allow a. profit of 4 per cent, on the turnover, . although the fortunate persons concerned will supply only a certain amount of supervision. It is idle to say that skilled labour will be supplied. Private enterprise cannot undertake to supply skilled labour. All it can do is to supply the chairman of directors or a manager, or a sub-manager to supervise the work. Artisans are not exactly slaves. They cannot be forced to work where and how their employers wish. A remuneration of 4 per cent, on turnover is a little too generous for mere supervision.
I wish now to make some comment upon the observations of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) this morning. So long as honorable gentlemen opposite make accusations of ‘that kind against the Labour party we shall continue to refute them. The honorable member suggested that because we have submitted an amendment to the bill we are allying ourselves with the Government. That is quite inaccurate. We do not believe in profits from war or the preparation for war. If- we were responsible for the government of this country we should see that profits were not made from these things.
– And there would be no preparation for war.
– There would be no profits from the preparation for war.
– There would be no preparation for defence.
– That is not what I said. If I were allowed-, I should say that that is a deliberate lie.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I did not say it. I said that I would say it if I were allowed to do so.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– If I made any implication I withdraw it. The Minister completely misrepresented what I said, and he cannot get away with it in this committee, whatever he may do on the hustings.
– Hansard will show what the honorable gentleman said.
– The Minister cannot get away with that sort of “ guff “ here, whatever he may “put over” elsewhere. I said that if ‘the Labour party, were in power there would be no profits from war or the preparation for war. If the Minister cannot understand plain English I cannot help it.
– Hansard will show what tlie honorable member said.
– It will, and if it does not, there will be something else done about it. I do not know whether the Minister is smarting under recent events, or is in doubt about the outcome of the Wilmot by-election. He may be seeking for something to cause misrepresentation even .at this late hour. Perhaps something of that kind accounts for his irritation to-day. I stand hy the policy and programme which Labour has declared repeatedly from the platforms of this country, and I shall continue to do so. This Government is formed from among honorable gentlemen opposite. ‘ Of course, we cannot make them accept our policy, for they have the force of numbers; but if we can get support from some other honorable members, we shall certainly oblige them to legislate as nearly in accordance with our policy as possible. Our policy is to eliminate excess profits and profiteering. In framing this measure, the Government endeavoured to camouflage the real issue by inserting in it a clause which gives the Minister power to do as he wishes. Notwithstanding the statement made by the honorable member for Indi our position is perfectly clear. When the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) first raised this question of the limitation of profits, the policy of the Opposition was dearly stated. It was also clearly expounded in the excellent speech delivered by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) this morning; and it was repeated when the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) gave notice of his amendment. Although I am hesitant to say so, we can sympathize to some degree with the attitude adopted by the Government because we realize that it is difficult to embody in the bill a clause, free from loopholes, which would fix a fair percentage of profit, having regard to the means utilized by big companies to hide their profits. I again say that we have brought forward this amendment making it mandatory on the Government to restrict profits in the interests of the people. The Government, of course, will have to accept responsibility for what it considers to be a fair rate of profit. After all, it will retain control of the affairs of this country for only a short time. I do not know that it will be given an opportunity to implement this bill for a very long period before Labour will be asked to take over the reins of government. However, while we remain in opposition we shall continue to play the part of watchdogs. If the Government does not make some effort to limit profits, it will have to answer for its failure to do so to this Parliament and to the country. That, in plain terms, is the attitude of the party which I represent. I enthusiastically support the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition because I realize that it represents a sincere attempt tc> make this clause watertight. We ‘believe it gives the fullest measure of protection that we can hope to get, having regard to the clashing policies of the parties on both sides of the House, and while the Government is kept in office by honorable members who judge the success of all enterprises - governmental or otherwise - by the profits they make. When honorable members on this side assume the reins of government, they will be able to give effect to Labour’s policy that there should be no profit in the manufacture of armaments, and the efficacy of that policy will be determined by the human well-being of the nation. We realize that we cannot get honorable members oppositeto change their outlook in regard to measures of this kind, and that we have to be content to get the- best we can. I support the amendment, and trust that the committee will carry it.
.- This matter has been “so well discussed and so completely threshed out that there is not very much more for any honorable member to say.
– The honorable member should speak for himself.
– I have listened for the last two days to the speeches of honorable members, all of them aimed at the single purpose of finding some formula for the control of excessive profits. Some honorable members sought to prevent all profit in time of war. In regard to that, of course, there is a great difference of opinion, but there is a general agreement among all honorable members that exploitation of the community should be prevented particularly in relation to defence expenditure. I simply rise not only to support very briefly the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), but also to congratulate him and his party on their general attitude towards the amendments which have come before the committee, lt would have been very easy to sabotage this bill altogether by moving for the insertion of impracticable amendments, which, if they had been carried, the Government would have found it impossible to apply, and which would have resulted in the inability of the Government to carry on the work of the Department of Supply and Development in such a fashion as is necessary having regard to the position of this country in relation to defence at the present time. It is the duty of all honorable members whether they sit in Opposition “ or behind the Government to assist the Government in the ultimate framing of a bill of this character. I believe that the Opposition has approached its consideration of the bill from that viewpoint, and that its sole purpose in bringing forward this amendment is to ensure that the measure, when it becomes law, is really effective. The bill, as it stood, did exhibit a certain weakness, in that it left to the discretion of the Government the question as to whether it should or should not investigate profits. The effect of the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the
Opposition now makes that investigation mandatory. I think that in all measures in relation to defence our. prime consideration should be to enable Australia to be better prepared to defend itself than it was in September last year when we were faced with a crisis. The paramount consideration ought to be that, in the event of hostilities, valuable Australian lives might be spared if the preparations which we now make are effective. I support the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition believing that it is an honest attempt to protect the people against exploitation by those entrusted with the manufacture of war materials.
– I was certainly not satisfied with the bill as it was originally drafted, and I may say that I am not even thoroughly satisfied with the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). I realize, of course, that to limit or control profit making is a difficult task. Ever since the idea occurred to man that he might exploit his neighbour for profit we have lived throughout the ages under a system in which profit making was the keynote of human activity. After centuries of experience of the utilization of the cunning of man to devise ways and means of making profits, it is extremely difficult for us to devise ways and means to protect the Government against exploitation by profit makers. It appears to me that the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition will have only one effect, namely, it will make mandatory for the Government to attempt the control and limitation of profits, whereas in the original bill the question of whether or not there should be control was left entirely to the discretion of the Government. That leads me to ask what is meant by munitions, and whether we should allow exploitation to take place in connexion with all the other requirements of the naval, military and air forces of the Commonwealth. Even in the definition of “munitions” in clause 4 one can see the same weakness as is evident throughout the bill. That definition reads-1- “ Munitions “ means armaments, arms and ammunition, and includes sud) 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.
The dictionary meaning of “ munitions “ is “All essential things for war purposes “. lt is clear, therefore, that in that definition the Government has provided a means of evading the terms of the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition, which he desires shall be mandatory. It would appear that, apart from actual arms, armaments and ammunition, every other necessity of the naval and military forces is to be placed in a different category, unless specially dealt with by the Governor-General. That means that, even if the amendment be agreed to, it will still be left to the discretion of the Government to say whether or not those other requirements of the Defence Forces are to be brought under the provisions of this legislation relating to the limitation and control of profits. I fail to see why we should permit exploitation in respect of uniforms for troops any more than in relation to shells or rifles. During, the last war some of the worst examples of exploitation were associated with the sale of polluted foodstuffs by profiteers. There is no more reason why the manufacture of clothing, or other requirements of the armed forces, shall be free from safeguards than is the supply of munitions, arms and armaments. Unless it is distinctly laid down in the definition of “ munitions “ - I understand that clause 4 has not yet been finally dealt with - that all of the equipment necessary for the Defence Forces is to be brought within the same category, we shall not achieve a great deal, even if the clause, -as amended, should prove workable. I am opposed to the suggested amendment of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) which proposes to apply a rule-of -thumb method to the measurement of profits. It is no better than that foreshadowed by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall).
– There is a difference.
– That may be, but there is no distinction; in each case the honorable member has merely succeeded in deceiving himself. I believe first, that we should make it mandatory for the supply of all munitions to be subject to supervision as to profits, and, secondly, that we should place on the Government, or a properly constituted board, the responsibility of “seeing that there is no exploitation, whatever kind the goods may be. It has been said that the proposed accountancy panel will provide a sufficient check, but I do not think that its members will have the time to make their work really effective. The task will be a full-time job for a committee of experts entirely responsible to the Government and with no private interests whatever to serve. The proposed amendment of the honorable member for Deakin-
– The amendment is not yet before the committee, and may not be discussed at this stage.
– I shall say no more on that point than that the proposed amendment falls far short of a satisfactory definition. I admit the difficulty of covering these things in general terms, but I believe that, even if the amendment which has been moved be carried, the clause will be merely an instruction to the Government to have an exhaustive inquiry into what, after all, constitutes only about one-third of the requirements of the nation in relation to defence. Because of that limitation, I hope that some honorable member will evolve a suitable amendment to cover effectively the control and limitation of profits in respect of everything that is necessary for the defence of this country.
.- It would appear that the committee has made some -slight progress, for the clause in its original form left to the Government the power to say whether or not it would exercise any supervision of profits, whereas now, according to the wording of the amendment which has been- accepted .by the Government, the obligation to supervise profits has been accepted by the Government. I am doubtful, however, whether we are much closer to the objective of most honorable members, namely, a proper regulation of profits. The amendment, as now worded, commences -
The matters to he administered by the Department shall be matters relating to arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions.
The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) has told us that adequate machinery to check profits already exists. Now that the Minister has accepted the obligation to control profits, 1 desire that he shall inform the committee of the nature of the methods which will be employed. Will the Government rely on the existing machinery, by which contracts will first be submitted to the Contract Board for consideration and afterwards will be subject to review by a special committee of the department? The right honorable gentleman has said that that system is entirely satisfactory. If that be so, this amendment will not accomplish anything, for things will remain as they were/ 1 am not satisfied that the methods at present employed make it certain that no excessive profits are earned by those who supply goods to the Government. The Contract Board makes no inquiries regarding the position of the firms which submit tenders. For its information it must depend entirely upon what is supplied to it by the contracting firms themselves. I should like to know from some of the legal men in this chamber whether the Government possesses any power to send its officers on to the premises of successful tenderers, for the purpose of examining books of account, balancesheets, &c. Are we to assume that the Government will be satisfied with the assurance of the successful tenderers that no undue profits are being made? What make me suspicious of the whole thing is the alacrity with which the Government accepted the amendment.
– We are still wondering about that.
– Unless the Government really has power to examine balancesheets and books of account, the carrying of this amendment will be of no use whatever. Nothing has been stated by the Government so far to indicate what it believes to be a reasonable rate of profit. The Minister for Supply and Development has not yet satisfactorily answered the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), in regard to the price of metals. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt), without making any inquiries whatever, expressed himself as satisfied that the companies were supplying copper at a reasonable rate.
– That opinion was fortified by a Tariff Board report.
– If that is the attitude of the Government on the matter, of what use is this amendment? It appears that the Government is already satisfied with the position, and why? Because men who control the companies supplying the goods assure the Government that no excessive profits are being made. For my part, I am not satisfied that manufacturers in Australia are any different from those elsewhere, and I believe that there is need for the most stringent supervision. I have heard the Assistant Minister defend General MotorsHoldens Limited in this chamber; yet, according to its balance-sheet, the company last year made a profit of 99 per cent. It is evident that the Assistant Minister has very different ideas of what constitutes reasonable profit from those held by the Opposition. The Government is anxious, I know, to get this measure through as quickly as possible. It has not relished the discussion on this clause, but it has had to endure it because it lacks the numbers to apply the gag. Honorable members should insist upon the Government laying before Parliament a definite plan for the supervision and control of profits. The Minister for Supply and Development stated earlier that the Government had no constitutional power to require companies to submit their books for examination. If the Government has not access to balance-sheets and books of account, how can it know what profits firms are making? The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) holds the opinion that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to compel firms to make such information available to the Government. When a royal commission was appointed, after agitation by the Opposition, to inquire into the profits of major oil companies, the Prime Minister, who was then Attorney;-General in the Government of Victoria, was also legal representative of the Shell Oil Company, one of the major oil companies whose affairs were being examined. He. advised the oil companies that there was no obligation, on them to supply information to the royal commission - which meant to the Government, that had appointed it. I should like to know whether the constitutional position is any different now from what it was then. If the Government has no power to compel firms to make information available, why are we wasting time with this clause now? Of course, it is quite obvious that the Government never intended to make any effective inquiry into the profits of firms supplying the Defence Department with goods. It would not dare. So far as the speeches made on this bill are concerned, there appears to be unanimity among honorable members on the desirability of limiting profits, but we know that honorable members opposite, make such speeches in order to make their electors believe that they wish to prevent exploitation. As a matter of fact, the political masters of the Government are the very men who are doing the exploitation. Look at the lists of directors of the companies that will be supplying goods to the Defence Department. They include men who sit on the executive of the United Australia party. In that capacity they control the Government, and are responsible for the selection of honorable members opposite before ever they contest an election. That being so, how can any one imagine that the Government is really sincere in its professed .desire to limit profits? I daresay that if we had time to look through the lists of shareholders of those companies, we should find that even some members of the Government are interested, and will benefit by the expenditure of these millions of pounds on defence. Let us drop all this hypocrisy, and say what we really mean. The Labour party is not tied to any outside vested interests. Labour members come here free and untrammelled, hut our opponents cannot say the same of themselves. If they would be honest, they must admit that they have to carry out the orders of their political masters, who are themselves the exploiters. During the war, Mr. Sam Walder, of New South Wales, made a fortune out of supplying tents, flags and other defence equipment to the Commonwealth government. He was not condemned by members of the United Australia party; he was not shunned as a social crimi- nal. What happened? The Commonwealth Government, aided and abetted by the United Australia party Government of New South Wales, recommended him for a knighthood ! So, instead of the Government condemning and taking action against him, and those like him, it honoured him. Some of the greatest profiteers in the country are men upon whom titles have been bestowed in reward for their accumulation of enormous wealth by the exploitation of the community. They are the men who hold executive positions in the United Australia party. Sir Samuel Walder, I believe, is still on the executive of the United Australia party in New South Wales. It is very, unlikely that he will stand aside and allow the Government to limit the profits of himself and other exploiters of the people. Under existing conditions, there is no possible way to eliminate profit because, even though the whole of the work be undertaken in government workshops, the profits of those who supply the raw materials cannot be eliminated unless complete control is taken of the industries of Australia. Nevertheless, in government workshops, there is at least the opportunity to regulate profits. Honorable members opposite have indicated their insincerity in this matter of controlling profits by the fact that they continually say, “ We cannot do the whole of the work in government workshops, because to do so the Government would have to expend enormous sums of money to build and equip factories, which after the emergency passed, would remain as ‘white elephants ‘ “.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I risk unpopularity by rising to speak after such a long period has been devoted to the discussion of profits in the supply of armaments, but I ask the committee to bear with me while I express one point which troubles me in respect of the degree to which the amendment can be applied and as to how far the mandatory powers contained in it are to be exercised. The amendment starts by declaring in a definite and mandatory way that the Government shall be called upon to do certain things in regard to the examination of profits and the prevention of profiteering. To carry out that mandate, the Government declares that it proposes to set up an advisory panel of accountants. When this was first mentioned, I gathered the impression that it would be a powerful and influential’ organization, but after the submission of the amendment by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr.Casey), from my point of view, considerably watered down the part which this panel would play. The right honorable gentleman said that the panel would not undertake a close study of profiteering.
– Not in individual cases.
– Before a formula could be devised to overcome profiteering, it would be necessary to study individual cases. Otherwise the question could not be considered properly.
– The Minister said that he was satisfied that precautions against profiteering already existed.
– I am not satisfied on . that point. Evidence elicited from a study of the tenders by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for the supply of shells is sufficient to destroy the worth of any declaration made by the Minister that precautions against profiteering already exist.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with -the conditions under which copper is purchased?
– No.I gathered from the Minister that this advisory panel was to do no more than consider the methods now being applied by the existing costing staff of the Defence Department.
– That will be the starting point.
– The Defence Department has an organization now for costing and a method to check prices and examine the affairs of tenderers. I do not know how far it goes in examining theaffairs of tenderers, but I am inclined to the view that it is not far.
– If the lowest tenderer in a group of tenderers is thought by members of the costing staff to be too high, they can and do make an investigation.
– But the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that the Government had declared that its powers of investigation were limited by the Constitution. The investigations carried out by the Defence Department must be scant. It is safe to say so, because, to take only one example, whenever an investigation of the affairs of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has been attempted, the company has invoked its legal rights and not only resented, but also refused to allow the investigation to be made. Whatever be the side on which we sit, we must admit that the power of finance is greater even than the power of . the Parliament. The advisory pan el which it is proposed to appoint will examine the methods applied by the costing section of the Defence Department.
– And, if necessary, alter them.
– One of the members of the proposed advisory panel is the assistant general manager of the electricity undertaking of the Sydney County Council, Mr. Nolan, whom I regard as a very capable officer. Especially in the supply of cables and lamps, that undertaking is constantly being brought up against the power and influence of the tenderers who collaborate with one another in fixing prices.
– In that case, Mr. Nolan will be in a good position to advise us.
– But the point is that he has not been able to overcome it.
– He has the sort of experience that we need.
– The right honorable gentleman must not misconstrue my implication. The electricity undertaking has been confronted with these tactics among tenderers for a great length of time, and the records of the Sydney County Council as it is now constituted, and the City Council as it was formerly constituted, of which the honorable member for East Sydney was a member, are cluttered with references to this matter. In spite of all efforts, nothing has been possible to prevent this collaboration. I am satisfied, therefore, that in spite of all that one can say in emphasis of the competency of Mr. Nolan-
– He is a very capable officer.
– I could not say anything but good of him; but, at the same time, in his own business, he has been unable to overcome sharp practices among tenderers.
– I had many discussions with Mr. Nolan last week, and he is entering upon his new work with great enthusiasm and hope.
– I am not suggesting that he will not do his best, but it is not sufficient to accept an expression of hope, because he cannot be provided with sufficient power to make the investigations which we consider essential. Moreover, I do not think that he will be brought into actual contact with the phase of the inquiry which we consider necessary, because the Minister has said that he will deal only generally with the methods adopted by manufacturers. If any success is to be achieved, those conducting investigations - into the financial operations of companies engaged in the production of munitions will have to follow the operations of such companies in all their ramifications even to other countries, because in some instances these are not confined to Australia. As many of these concerns are interested in overseas undertakings, it will be very difficult to determine the profit actually being made on a specified article. If the Minister has followed the speeches delivered on this bill, he will realize that there have been ‘many suggestions of profiteering on the part of some tenderers. Although I do not think it right to say that, they were meant to apply to every case. Our experience during the war period and since has forced us to express views which otherwise would not have been expressed. If the Government has not the constitutional power to make as complete an investigation as is necessary, it has at least the power to refuse to accept the tender of a contractor who is suspect.
– It should refuse to deal with contractors who decline to produce their books for examination.
– Yes, one of the conditions imposed should be that a contractor must be prepared to submit his books to enable the representatives of the Government to obtain the information desired. That would overcome, to some degree, the constitutional difficulties that exist. Contractors could be told quite bluntly that if they are unwilling to observe such a condition their tender will not be considered. Why is it necessary to insert after the word “munitions” in sub-section 1 the words “ and subject to the directions of the Governor-General and to the next succeeding sub-section . . “? Practically the same words appear in the definition clause already passed by the committee.
– That is to ensure that the powers can be extended if thought fit so to do.
– Yes, and they could be restricted. Does the word “munitions” include, say, foodstuffs?
– Yes; it includes all of the commodities required for defence purposes.
– Would it include clothing and foodstuffs?
– Yes, when used for defence purposes.
– If “munitions” includes food and clothing used for defence purposes, why is there any need to include the words mentioned ? “ Munitions “ is or is not all-embracing.
– That is the only means by which it can be made all-embracing.
– It would appear from the wording of the clause that it is not all-embracing. I am prepared to admit that costs may vary according to the number of articles to be manufactured and to the need to import, say, jigs, gauges and patterns which are very costly. If the number of articles to be manufactured is small, the overhead would naturally increase. Can the Minister give, any indication of the articles to be manufactured in comparatively small quantities? We have dealt almost exclusively with commodities to be produced on a large scale. Perhaps it is impracticable to supply the information at the moment.
.- It would appear that the further the debate proceeds the more involved it becomes. Numerous amendments have been circu- lated, and one proposed to be moved by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) provides that private companies tendering for defence contracts shall not be entitled to receive a profit in excess of 4 per cent, on the capital invested. It was suggested that if the amendment were adopted a profit of 4 per cent, would be added to the price of the tender accepted. I was a contractor for many years, and I would have considered myself very fortunate had 4 per cent, been added to my tender in which provision had already been made for a margin of profit. If the procedure suggested were adopted, the profit allowed by the Government would be additional to that for which provision had been made by the contractor. Very little information has been given concerning the buildings and annexes which the Government proposes to erect. We have been informed that £1,000,000 is to be expended for that purpose. Does the Government propose to charge private enterprise interest on the expenditure incurred in the establishment of these annexes, in the event of their being used in the filling of government orders, or will private enterprise be allowed to use these plants entirely free of charge? No explanation has been given on that point.
– It has been fully explained about three times. Private enterprise will not use the annexes during peace time.
– Because we shall not allow them to do so. The annexes will be separate buildings.
– Then why does not the Government take control of them? Furthermore, will the Government provide the raw material required by these factories ?
– Then it is useless for the Government to put up these buildings.
– The 4 per cent, is fixed: - on materials, wages and administrative cost.
– Another point is whether contractors will be obliged to specify where these goods are to be manu- factured? For instance, factories in Melbourne, which use generated power, will be competing with factories in Tasmania, which have available cheap hydroelectric power. Despite the different costs in respect of this item, will the Tasmanian contractors receive 4 per cent.? In order to facilitate the manufacture of munitions, the Government of Tasmania, which controls the hydroelectric power supply in that State, would be prepared to make power available to these factories at a concession rate, -as it already does’ in connexion with a number of industries. In that case the Tasmanian factories would be enabled to compete unfairly with factories on the mainland. In view of these circumstances, will the Government oblige tenderers to state where these goods are to be manufactured ? The further we proceed with this measure the worse muddle we get into. We should decide at once that the whole of these annexes shall be controlled by the Government. The Government should undertake to buy the whole of the raw material and handle the complete process of production. Only by that method will it be able to abolish profiteering. Even at this late hour the Government should withdraw this measure with a view to redrafting it. I have here a sheaf of amendments, one contradicting another. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that the Government hopes to conclude the session by the 9th June, but it will be extremely lucky if this clause has been disposed of by that date.
.- It has been suggested that the Accountancy Advisory Panel will be able to regulate prices, because these experts will investigate costs very carefully. I propose to mention two instances, both of which arose during the brief period when I was Minister for Defence, in order to show that such a job is beyond even the best of accountants. At that time the department was contemplating the renewal of the air-mail contract from Perth to Wyndham, which was then being operated by a Western Australian company. The usual procedure was to give preference to the company operating a particular service, provided it was giving satisfaction and its contract was not considered to he excessive. The Secretary of the Defence Department and I considered that the cost in this case was excessive, so we asked the company to submit a fresh tender. Thereupon, the manager of the company conferred with the investigating officers of the department and proved to the satisfaction- of some of those officers that the price being paid was not excessive. However, as I was determined that the price should be reduced, I was reluctantly compelled, in accordance with my duty to the country, to call for fresh tenders. As the result the contract was given to the MacRobertson Miller Company, which now operates that service. The point I emphasize is that although the departmental costs accountants thoroughly investigated tho figures of the company which previously operated this service, and came to the conclusion that its price was not excessive, the price tendered by the MacRobertson Miller Company was half of that amount. We might very well be suspicious, therefore, of the ability of private enterprise to build up balancesheets which will defy the best accountants to prove that costs shown therein are excessive.
A similar case arose at the time I mention in connexion with the supply of oil and petrol to the Defence Department. In order to check up on the costs of the company which had this contract I decided to call for fresh tenders. The Shell Company quoted a price, and, although the tender embraced .hundreds of items covering different kinds of oil required by the Air Force, that submitted by. the Shell Company was identical with the tender submitted by the company seeking a renewal of the contract. It was impossible to separate the two tenders in any one particular, despite the fact, as honorable members know, that prices charged by the companies for distribution of petrol and oil in this country are excessive. Consequently, I have little faith in the competitive system, in which the Minister of Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) places his trust, to keep prices down to a reasonable level. At any rate, that system did not prevent the companies which I have mentioned from putting in prices which did not differ by a fraction of a penny. We got out of our difficulty in that particular case by dividing the contract between the two robbers.
Telephonic Communication with Tasmania - Repatriation Department - Industrial Dispute at Darwin - Sydney General Post Office.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I again direct . attention to a matter which I mentioned about three weeks ago in this House; namely, the frequent failure of broadcasting programmes transmitted through the submarine telephone line to relay stations in Tasmania. I have also complained on several occasions that Tas.man ian business people seeking to make calls to business houses on the mainland are delayed for long periods and sometimes have been unable to transact their business. I brought these complaints to the notice of officials of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Hobart, and I also had a long discussion with officials of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The engineer of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, whom I consulted, informed me that the telephone lines between Tasmania and the mainland were not heavy enough to handle the traffic. I was further informed that it would take several months to complete a survey of the requirements in this connexion, and that additional wires would have to be installed in the cables to cope with the normal traffic. I then submitted that information to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison), with a request that appropriate action be taken. As a member of this Parliament I considered that it was my duty to make- these representations to the honorable gentleman. I treat all Ministers with courtesy, and expect the same treatment from them. Every honorable member who places before a Minister representations which have come from his constituents expects them to be investigated. At no time have I ever attempted, by misrepresentation of the facts concerning any particular matter, to enlist the sympathy of any Minister. Neither have I tried to take an advantage of my political opponents. As all honorable members know, Tasmania suffers tremendous disabilities which sometimes are accentuated by unsympathetic treatment by Ministers in this Parliament, Unfortunately for my State, most of ,the Ministers live’on the mainland and have very little knowledge of the grievances of people of Tasmania. I admit, of course, that some members of the Cabinet have been courteous to me, and have given sympathetic consideration t,o any representations which I have made. But I challenge the Postmaster-General to disprove my statement, made on the authority of at least one engineer of the Postmaster-General’s Department, that the telephone lines between Tasmania and the mainland are inadequate to cope with the load that is put on them. If necessary I can give to the Minister the name of the engineer who made that statement. I am not endeavouring to mislead the honorable gentleman. I question whether he has much sympathy with Tasmania, mainly because, with other members of this Government, he has to rely for support on political organizations in New South Wales and Victoria. But so long as I am in this Parliament, I shall fight for the rights of Tasmania, no matter what the attitude of the Ministry may be. I shall not be side-tracked by any misstatements of fact.
In connexion with several repatriation matters which I have raised in this House, I have received what I consider to be very unsympathetic treatment. However, I shall do my best to see that deserving returned soldiers get the benefits to which they are entitled under Commonwealth legislation. Because of their war service, many of these men are now broken down in health, but their claims for a pension have been disallowed. The Government must face the issue and see that these men receive benefits to which they are justly entitled, even though twenty years have elapsed since the war ended. Unfortunately, the PostmasterGeneral, who is also the Minister for Repatriation, is a “two-way” man. Although he professes to have profound sympathy -with returned soldiers, he repeatedly rejects representations made to him in this House on their behalf. I shall have no hesitation in telling the “ Diggers “ just how much sympathy the honorable gentleman has given to cases which I have brought under his notice. The Repatriation Act should be reviewed, so that more protection may be given to these unfortunate men, many of whom served for. four years in France or elsewhere overseas during the war. Their health has now broken down and they are in need of sympathy and assistance, but on some occasions, when I have made representations on their behalf, very rough replies have been given. The Minister himself is a returned soldier. Presumably he walked side by side with some of these men, and shared their privations in the trenches, so he should do his best now to ensure for those of his former comrades who are now in necessitous circumstances, at least some of the good things of life which he, as a Minister of the Crown, enjoys.
– I draw attention to difficulties which have arisen in Darwin in connexion with the extensive public works programme now being carried out there. Tenders for various undertakings were invited by the Government. Some of these works, particularly the water supply scheme, are regarded as very urgent. Am “Tig the firms to receive contracts is a Western Australian organization which, believing that it would get some protection from the Government, tendered for the water supply scheme. I understand that higher wages are paid by the contractor than by the Government; the respective amounts being £5 10s. a week gross, and £4 13s. 9d., plus margins, a total of £5 3s. a week ; yet it is the men employed by the contractor who have gone on strike! Does the Government intend either to relieve the contractor of his contract or to prevail upon the men to return to their employment? A judge of the Arbitration Court has offered to proceed to Darwin to inquire into the case of the men, and to apply retrospectively whatever award he might make.
– Since the contractor obtained the contract at the rate of wages then prevailing, has he not reduced wages by 16s. 3d. a week?
– I have received from the contractor a letter, in which he says that he is paying £5 10s. a week.
– I have received a letter from one of the men.
– The point is, whether the Government is prepared to endeavour to get the men to return to work, or to take over the contract. If the men will work for the Government, but not for a private - contractor, the Government ought to take over the contract.
– I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), concerning the disabilities suffered by Tasmania through what he terms the inability of the cable connecting it with the mainland to carry the load now put upon it. Although I do not question the accuracy of the information which the honorable member has had supplied to him, or which he has given to the House, I point out that it is different from the information in the department. However, I shall certainly take up the matter, and if the facts are as the honorable memberhas stated, shallbe the first to acknowledge them.
With respect to the remarks of the honorable member concerning repatriation, 1 need only say that I take second place to no man in this House in my sympathy with returned soldiers. The honorable member should know that the cases referred to me are in the last resort adjudicated upon by a tribunal which is far removed from political control and cannot be influenced by the Minister in charge of the department. That tribunal has on it representatives of returned soldiers’ organizations, who consider the claims of returned soldiers, and give a ruling which is final. Therefore, the extravagant phrases used by the honorable member, in charging past and present Ministers with hard-heartedness, cut no ice. Any case referred to me will receive courteous consideration.
. - I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior if he can give to the House a definite assurance that the contract for additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, will not be signed before Parliament meets next week.
– I give that assurance. I have ascertained upon inquiry to-day, following the question asked by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), that this contract has not been signed, and that the arrangement is that it will not be signed before next Tuesday.
– Will the House be given an opportunity to discuss the matter before the Government signs the contract ?
– I shall not go so far as to say that. The only assurance that I, as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for the Interior, am able to give, is that the contract will not be signed before next Tuesday, on which day the Minister will return to Canberra.
– in reply - The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) may rest assured that the Government is watching with keen interest and concern the trend of affairs in Darwin. As I stated yesterday, the Chief Judge in Arbitration was approached with a view to a judge of the Arbitration Court being sent to Darwin to adjudicate upon the matter. Judge Drake-Brockman was, and is, ready to go, but he has quite rightly said that the men must first return to work. Otherwise, an invidious distinction would be drawn between the treatment meted out to the men of Darwin and the practice adopted in respect of workers throughout the Commonwealth. I have been very closely associated with the industrial unions of this country, and can say that in every case the principle has applied that the Arbitration Court will not adjudicate in any dispute unless the men first return to work. There cannot be arbitration and strikes in simultaneous operation. I point out to the honorable member for Swan that a considerable number of men in Darwin are working under conditions to which those men who have struck have taken exception. All that these latter are asked to do is to resume work upon the conditions under which their fellow workers are employed at the present time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Alleged Anomalies -
Letter, dated 19th May, 1939, to Prime Minister from Federal President, -the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia.
Letter, dated 22nd May, 1939, to Minister for Repatriation from Wentworth Falls Sub-branch, the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia.
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Twenty-fourth Session, Geneva, June, 1938 - Reports of the Australian delegates, together with Draft Convention adopted.
Italy - Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between United Kingdom and Italy (Rome, 15th June, 1883).
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 42.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act -Ordinances of 1939 -
No. 6 - Justices.
No. 7 - Dairies Supervision.
No. 8 - Darwin Administration.
House adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– It is intended to establish the head-quarters of the Department of Supply and Development in Melbourne so that close and continuous contact may be maintained with the Department of Defence. Steps have been taken for the Principal Supply Officers’ Committee to occupy premises which had been leased by the National Insurance Commission.
Details concerning space and additional rentals have not, however, yet been determined, but this information will be supplied to the honorable member when it becomes available.
n asked the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Manufacture of Munitions : Tasmania’s Claims.
y asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– Full consideration will be given to any special facilities offered by the different States, including that of cheap electric power, in the selection of any additional sites for the production of munitions. The position of Tasmania in this regard will be borne closely in mind.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
What attitude is being taken by the Commonwealth Government to the appeal of the Chinese Government to the League of Nations for the application of economic sanctions against Japan?
– The recent appeal of the Chinese Government for the imposition of sanctions against Japan was submitted to the Council of the League only. As Australia is not a member of the Council, it is not at present called on to indicate its attitude.
Industrial Arbitration : Publication of Booklet by Department of Commerce.
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers: -
Aerial Medical Service: Accommodation for Pilot at Wyndham.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information : -
The position was investigated by the late Minister for the Interior, but it was decided that the erection of a residence, for the pilot at Wyndham was not a matter for the Commonwealth Government.
Interstate Telegram Rates.
y asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The matter is still the subject of review.
n asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
s asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The depth of water in the entrance channel to Lake Macquarie does not admit of the passage of naval vessels. No action is proposed by the
Defence Department to provide such access, as the seaplane base to be established there will be sufficiently close to the naval base at Sydney to ensure efficient co-operation between the naval and air forces.
y asked the Minister for Defence,upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he give the following information in regard to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory: - (a) The gross profits; (6) the net profits; (c) value of output; and (d) number of employees engaged, for each year from the time it commenced operations to the present date?
– The information will be obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he give the following information in respect of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills: -
The gross profits; (5) the net profits; (c) value of output; and (d) number of employees engaged, for each year from 1916-17 to the date the mills were sold?
– The information will be obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Militia Forces: Uniforms.
t. - On the 23rd May the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question, without notice -
Is the Minister for Defence aware that troops in certain units have gone into camp without uniforms, and were lent working suits, over-, coats, &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 am now in a position to inform the honorable member that in certain camps items of working dress were issued to personnel for whom service pattern dress is not yet available. At the conclusion of camp, some of the working dress uniforms were withdrawn for washing and reissued in accordance with normal procedure. It has not been possible, up to the present, to clothe completely all members of the militia with service dress uniform, but all essential items of uniform should be available at the end of June next.
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
On the 19th May, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the following question, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to . furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries : -
Sydney City Council Loan.
s. - The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked yesterday if the Treasurer would state the reason why the Loan Council refused permission to the Sydney Municipal Council to raise a loan in Australia to meet a maturing London loan of £1,000,000?
I have now made inquiries and am in a position to inform the honorable member that the Sydney Municipal Council did not seek the approval of the Loan Council to raise a loan in Australia in order to redeem the London maturing loan. Approval was sought by the council for the conversion of the loan in London, and this approval was granted by the Loan Council and the loan duly converted at 5 per cent, at par, which was the same rate of interest as that applicable to the maturing loan.
Price of Copper.
n asked the Minister for
Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Research Station in South Australia.
y. - On the 25th May the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) asked whether any action was being taken by the Government to acquire a property in the south-east of South Australia for the purpose of establishing a station of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Supplemeriting the information which I then gave to the honorable member,- I am. now in a position to inform him that consideration has been given by the council to the question of acquiring a portion of the Struan Estate or, alternatively, utilizing the Kybybolite Experiment Farm for this purpose. It was ascertained, however, on investigation that the most important diseases in this district were footrot, internal parasites, enterotoxaemia and blowfly strike, and that all those were being investigated by the council elsewhere. In these circumstances it was considered that justification did not exist for establishing further stations.. According to the council the main need of stock-owners in the south-east of South Australia was not so much further research into the diseases mentioned, but better knowledge of the application of research work carried out, and it was thought that information in this regard could best be imparted by a resident veterinary officer of the South Australian Department of Stock.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390526_reps_15_159/>.