15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.CURTIN. - I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has any knowledge that tenderers for terracotta facing for the General Post Office building, Sydney, were subjected to price discrimination for the same quality and quantity of terra cotta, byWunderlich Ltd., which has a monopoly of the supply of this material and which has admitted that the discrimination amounted to £2,632 in a total price of £10,522. Is not this discrimination contrary to public policy and also to public interest as applied to a Commonwealth building? Furthermore, has the Prime Minister any knowledge as to whether or not the Master Builders Association of Sydney has appointed a special ‘ committee to investigate the matter ? In view of these disclosures, will the right honorable gentleman now undertake that the House will be afforded an opportunity to consider notice of motion No. 1 as tabled by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, before any further action is taken in connexion with this building?
– I was not aware of the matters to which the honorable gentleman has referred, consequently I must ask him to place his question on the notice-paper, and I shall see that a reply is furnished to him by to-morrow morning. I may add in the meanwhile that so far as I know it has not been the practice of either the Government or any Government department, when calling for tenders or when examining tenders received, to investigate the price at which any tenderer may be obtaining any of his supplies from any source.
– What about the notice of motion?
– I have said that I shall furnish’ a reply by to-morrow morning.
– Are honorable members to interpret the arrangement of business on the notice-paper on Friday and to-day as an indication that the Government proposes to ignore the motion of which I gave notice on Thursday last? Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that he will advise the Leader of the Opposition before 11 a.m. to-morrow that he will take the necessary steps to bring this motion to the top of the notice-paper for consideration tomorrow afternoon?
– I shall take the suggestion which is implicit in the honorable member’s question into consideration.
Lease by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has acquired a lease of the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits, and that the embargo on the export of iron ore has been lifted?
– The honorable member was good enough to indicate that, he intended to put this question, and I have made an inquiry concerning it. The information furnished to me is that the’ Australian Iron and Steel Limited, in which the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is interested, has for some time held leases at Cockatoo Island but not at Koolan Island, in Yampi Sound. It is the leases at Koolan Island which, as the honorable member will know, the Yampi Sound Mining Company contemplated developing for the export of iron ore. There is no information in the department indicating that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has acquired, or has attempted to acquire, any leases at Koolan Island. The embargo on the exportation of iron ore has not been lifted.
– by leave - Having regard to the various representations that have been made to it, the Government has given consideration to the proposal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to establish a weekly journal. It desires to point out that it is improper for the Executive to attempt to overrule the will of Parliament as expressed in an act of Parliament. In the present case, the law relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission is contained in the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1932. Section 5 of that act says -
For the purposes of this Act, there shall be a Commission, to be known as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which shall be charged with the general administration of this Act.
It is true that certain other provisions of the act reserve control to the Minister in relation to certain payments by the commission, the issue of debentures by the commission, the appointment of certain officers, and the like; but the fact remains that, speaking broadly, the administration by the commission within the terms of the statute is not made subject to political direction.
Section 17 of the act provides -
For the purpose of the exercise of its powers and functions under this act, the Commission may compile, prepare, issue, circulate and distribute, whether gratis or otherwise, in such manner as it thinks fit, such papers, magazines, periodicals, books, pamphlets, circulars and other literary matter as it thinks fit (including the programmes of national broadcasting stations and other stations) :
Provided that, prior to the publication of any programme in pursuance of this section, a copy of the programme shall be made available at an office of the Commission on equal terms to the publishers of any newspaper, magazine or journal published in the Common wealth.
This provision was debated and approved by Parliament, and could not be abrogated by the Government except under an amending act.
It follows that what the Government is being asked to do is either to make the Broadcasting Commission subject to political direction in the exercise of its power to publish a journal or, alternatively, to eliminate the publishing power altogether. The Government is not at present prepared to follow eithercourse:’. It believes that control of broadcasting by a com mission will be mostconducive to the proper development of broadcasting, and it sees no reason for denying to the commission the right to publish a weekly journal of a special broadcasting kind, since that right has practically all over the world been treated as being properly ancillary to broadcasting itself. The Government has been informed by the commission that the proposed journal - which will combine the best features of the two publications of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Times and The Listener - will contain a very full statement of coming programmes, reprints of talks given over the national stations, and articles of a special technical or cultural interest. In these circumstances, it appears to the Government that the proposed journal is of a kind which the commission may properly determine to publish, and it is not, therefore, -prepared to ask Parliament to prevent such publication.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether there is any truth in the press statement that as the result of consultation between him and the broadcasting commissioners arrangements have been reached whereby the commission will be restricted in certain directions in respect of the advertising matter which is published in its proposed new journal?
– I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to my statement to-day which clearly sets out the position. ,
– Has the attention of the Minister been directed to a paragraph in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Amalgamation of Territories,” in which it is said that Dr. Clive Shields, M.L.C., of Victoria,has expressed the view that the measures taken for the establishment of a defence force at Port Moresby will involve a waste of money as, in his opinion, Port Moresby is not the appropriate centre for a defence force, and that a strong naval and air base should be established at Samarai? What is the official view?
– I have read the statement in question. I have not seen Samarai, but I understand that it is a small island, almost impossible of defence, whereas Port Moresby, on the contrary, provides a very efficient area for the defence of the locality. Port Moresby has been chosen only after the fullest investigation by the Chief of Staff. I prefer to accept the advice of my principal advisers.
Sir HENRY GULLETT (Henty-
Minister for External Affairs). - by leave - On the 2nd September, 1937, the Japanese naval authorities instituted a “ pacific blockade “ against Chinese shipping along most of the Chinese coast. The object, it was explained, was to prevent the movement of supplies by sea from Chinese ports to Chinese military areas.
Although an assurance was given in Tokyo that “peaceful commerce carried on by third powers “ would be fully respected, the Government of the United Kingdom was warned that, if the Chinese resorted to action such as the misuse of the flag, foreign ships might have to be examined in order to verify their nationality. As the Government of the United Kingdom was anxious to avoid a situation in -which Japan might institute a regular blockade, and in order to prevent, as far as possible, the misuse of the British flag, it informed the Japanese Government that, while it did not admit Japanese rights in this matter, it would, in practice, permit verification of the nationality of British shipping on the following conditions : -
If a, British warship is present, the Japanese warship undertaking the search should ask it to verify the right of the vessel concerned to fly the British flag.
If no British warship is present and if there is genuine reason to suspect that the vessel is not entitled to fly the flag, Japanese naval authorities will be permitted to board the vessel and examine the certificate of registry, provided that they make an immediate report to the British naval authorities. The right was also reserved to claim compensation for damage sustained by the owners of British shipping delayed or stopped under this procedure.
The Japanese Government accepted condition 1, and, as regards condition 2, stated that there would be no objection to informing British naval authorites by the quickest available means if the vessel concerned was established as British.
This procedure was agreed upon after consultation -with the dominions. In the case of Australia, the Government of the United Kingdom was informed that no ships on the Australian register were engaged in passenger traffic or trade with Chinese or Japanese ports, although three ships owned by the Eastern and Australian Company Limited, and one by Burns, Philp and Company Limited, all on British registers, followed the Sydney to Hong Kong route.
No official information has so far been received of the circumstances of the recent interference by the Japanese with a Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company liner. According to press reports, the Japanese naval authorities have declared a “ blockade “ extending 200 miles from the Chinese coast “to prevent the delivery of military supplies to China “. The above-mentioned arrangement of 1937 is the only one recognized by the other powers concerned. There has, as yet, been no formal declaration of war in this Sino-Japanese dispute, and the question of belligerent rights has not arisen.
The position created by the reported action of Japan is receiving consideration by governments.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether it is a fact that plans were prepared and a site selected in Canberra for offices “for the Civil Aviation Department, and arrangements made for the transfer of the central administrative staff of the department from Melbourne to Canberra? Has this Government reversed that decision? If so, has the Government abandoned the principle of locating central administration staffs at Canberra?
– I cannot deal with Government policy in answer to questions. I can inform the honorable member, however, that a building has been leased in Melbourne to house the Civil Aviation Department temporarily, because the premises which it occupies at present, at the rear of Victoria Barracks, are required for defence purposes.
– I shall repeat my question, because I do not think that the
Minister for .Civil Aviation understood it. Is it a fact that arrangements were made, plans prepared and a site selected for the erection of a building at Canberra to house the Department of Civil Aviation ? Does the Government intend to go ahead with the transfer of that department from Melbourne to Canberra?
– 1 am unable to give that information offhand. The position when I was appointed Minister was that a building in Melbourne had been leased to accommodate the Civil Aviation Department. The lease was for a year with a right of renewal for a further period of three years. I do not know whether there is provision- for a further extension at the expiration of that period. I do not know whether any plan has been prepared for the permanent establishment of the department in Canberra, but 1 shall make inquiries. I presume that it is the intention in due course for all departments to be at Canberra, but the position when I took over the department was as I have stated it. Occupation of the leased premises in’ Melbourne was not given on the date fixed and, as the matter was pressing from the points of view of defence and the reorganization of the department, another lease was taken and within a’bout ten days the department will shift to its new home.
Investigation of Affairs by Taxation Department.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether there is any foundation for the disquieting statement of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) that a wealthy financial group is engaged in a dispute with the Taxation Department concerning colossal liabilities, or is the statement merely of an alarmist nature? I ask the question in consequence of an -intimation from the Prime
Minister that the Commissioner of Taxation is unable to advise whether any taxpayer or group of taxpayers was, or is, engaged in such a dispute.
– It is probably true that taxpayers, wealthy and otherwise, are at any given moment, engaged in a dispute with the ‘Taxation Department. When a dispute occurs, the Taxation
Department satisfies itself of the circumstances and makes an assessment. Means are then available to the taxpayer to test the accuracy of the departmental assessment. Until these steps have been exhausted, and a final decision reached, it has not been the practice of the Commissioner of Taxation to publish the names of taxpayers engaged in disputes with the department. It would be unfair for him to do so.
– I did not ask for names.
– In the long run, after the case has been concluded, and an award given which indicates that fraud or evasion has occurred, it is the practice of the Commissioner to state, in his annual report, the names of the taxpayers concerned and brief particulars concerning the matter. That will he done in due course, in the case of taxpayers now engaged in disputes with the Commissioner. I am sorry that I cannot possibly add anything to that answer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether the Department of Commerce has interested itself in the new process for the taking off of sheepskins by air pressure instead of by the slaughterman’s knife) and whether it has instructed its London veterinary officer to watch the result of a trial shipment, from New Zealand to Great Britain, of some carcasses that have been treated in this way ? Is the honorable gentleman able to say whether skins taken off in this way are freer from flaw than those taken off with the help of a knife? “
– I have no personal knowledge of the circumstances related by the honorable member, but shall refer his question to the Minister.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a report of proceedings at the annual meeting of the Federal Tobacco Advisory Committee, held recently at Atherton, in which it is stated that a resolution was adopted drawing attention to the alarming increase of imports of tobacco leaf from 11,000,000 lb. in 1933-34 to 23,000,000 lb. in 1937-38? Will the Minister give immediate consideration to this development in conjunction with the recommendation adopted at the last meeting of the Federal Tobacco Advisory Committee, held in Perth, that greater protection should be afforded the industry through a substantial increase of import duty and a reduction of excise duty?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member refers, but I assure him that the matter will be given full consideration.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any idea as to whether the Commonwealth Bank Bill will be proceeded with before the close of the present session?
– Until it is possible to find out how soon the two imperative and urgent measures relating to the Supply and Development Department and the National Register will be finally dealt with, it will not be possible for me to answer the honorable member’s question with precision.
– Can the Treasurer say offhand whether any form of debenture adopted by the Commonwealth Bank gives the debenture-holder, on default, the right to put a receiver on the assets of the bank or otherwise to attach the assets of the bank? Is it intended to issue debentures in such form in connexion with the proposed mortgage bank?
– I should prefer riot to give offhand an answer to a question of law, but it is not proposed in the Commonwealth Bank Bill, to which. I take it, the honorable member is referring, to do anything that will or may take control of the Commonwealth Bank out of the hands of its directors and put it into the banks of the debentureholders.I am aware that statements to that effect have been circulated, but they are quite without foundation.
– In view of the reply given by the Minister for Supply and Development to a question asked by myself last week that the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, Mr.Rogers, refused to investigate the claim of the Phoenix Oil Company until the company first supplied him with the catalyst which it used in the production of oil from coal, and seeing that the Minister has since denied that Mr.Rogers requires that information, will he now instruct Mr.Rogers to investigate the company’s claim that it can produce oil from coal at a cost of 5.4d. a gallon?
– Provided the company is willing to be frank with the Government in respect of its process, the Government will certainly make available to it the services of Mr.Rogers.
– What about Sir David Rivett?
– Mr.Rogers, who is an expert in these matters, is the proper person to make such an investigation. He has already carried out many other investigations of this kind. Provided he is given free and frank access to the company’s process he will report confidentially to the Government, and in such circumstances the company will run no risk that any of its secrets will be -divulged.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether any decision has been reached with regard to the enlargement of the aerodrome at Maylands, Perth?
– I cannot, at present, give the honorable member any information on this matter, but I shall inquire into it.
Mr.RIORDAN. - Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to an article appearing in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph which states -
Fleet for the Far East. Australia and New Zealand are pledged to provide an adequate battle fleet in the Far East if Japan finally joins the Axis.
If this be so, to what extent is Australia committed in this matter? Can the Minister give the House any further information on this point?
– It is not so, and, consequently, I have no further information to give to the House.’
– Has the Minister for Social Services been correctly reported in the press as having stated that he intends to pay invalid and old-age pensioners by cheque? If so, will he, before coming to a decision on the ma’tter, receive a deputation from representatives of organizations of invalid and old-age pensioners, which have previously opposed the payment of pensions by cheque?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.The reference by the honorable member to the newspaper quotation is not strictly correct. Investigations are proceeding in respect of this matter. I am prepared to receive representations, either documentary or personal, from the organizations to which he refers before reaching finality.
– In view of the decision of the department to start paying old-age pensions in congested areas at 8.30 a.m., will the Treasurer take steps to have the staffs at the post offices increased so as to avoid inconvenience to pensioners and public alike?
– I shall have the suggestion of the honorable member considered at once.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development when we can expect the promised report in connexion with the exploitation of the brown-coal deposits in South Australia ?
– I have had no further information upon that matter since I replied to a question on the same subject some time ago, but I shall have an investigation made.
Evasion of Income Tax
– If the practice of issuing bearer bonds in connexion with Commonwealth loans is continued, as indicated in current advertisements, will the Treasurer take the necessary steps to protect the Commissioner of Taxation against evasions of income tax on the part of any investors in these’ loans?
– I am not aware that there has been any evasion of income tax in relation .to this matter, but I shall discuss the subject with my departmental advisers.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen the editorial appearing in yesterday’s Sydney Sun in which it is stated that the examination of 800 returned soldiers on Saturday for 51 temporary jobs on the National Register was a grimly pathetic story? Does he agree with the statement in that editorial that, “It was a miserable best for the nation to do on their behalf, as an undertaking of soldier preference. Even now, it is not too late for more elastic sympathy in repatriation administration “ Does the Minister feel that the administration of this department should be widened in order to do something for returned soldiers who are still out of employment?
– I have seen the editorial referred to by the honorable gentleman, and with most of it I certainly agree, but I know that the Australian repatriation legislation is possibly the most liberal in the world. Every opportunity will be taken by this Government to see that the Repatriation Act fully covers the requirements of the returned soldiers who come under it.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce note in the reply of the Minister for External Affairs to my question about the ratification of the conventions of the International Labour Conference a statement to the effect that some of those conventions are to be taken into consideration in amendments to the Navigation Act? If it is intended to amend the Navigation Act, will the Minister for Commerce arrange for the maritime unions to confer with him as to the form of the amendments?
– I shall ask the Minister for Commerce to give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s request.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware whether the aircraft which are being used on the night air-mail service between Sydney and Brisbane are equipped with wireless equipment for direction finding?
– .Offhand, I am not certain of exactly what equipment is carried by those aircraft, but I shall inquire and give to the honorable gentleman the information which he desires.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in the press in which the member for Ballarat in the Victorian Parliament, who is a member of the United Australia party, was reported to have said that the problem of unemployment was more important than the problem of defence? Does the Prime Minister endorse that statement? If he does, will he see that the Government abandons concentration on defence and concentrates its efforts on solving the problem of unemployment?
– I have not seen the statement referred to and therefore can offer no useful comment on it.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any constitutional limitation on the powers of this Parliament to pass legislation inaugurating a scheme to make a full inquiry into the affairs of private individuals or undertakings with a view to having some supervision1 or limitation of profits?
– It is not the practice to answer questions of law under the guise of questions without notice.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether there has been any alteration in the constitutional position since he, as legal representative of the Shell Oil Company, successfully challenged the right of a royal commission to examine the books of account, balance sheets, &c, of the major oil companies in order to ascertain their profits?
– I was not aware that I had successfully challenged the jurisdiction of a royal commission on that point. It was a considerable number of years ago, and I have forgotten. I shall try to recall what occurred on that occasion, and let the honorable member know. However, I can assure the honorable member that the Constitution, as a document, has not changed since that time, but the interpretation of the Constitution does, from time to time, suffer from what I may describe as fluctuations.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House of the method which is adopted in the selection of recruits to the permanent military forces and the Royal Australian Air Force? Does the Minister not think that some special consideration should be given to applicants for enlistment in those forces from areas where unemployment is prevalent, or is there any truth in the statement that the selection board lays down a condition that recruits, particularly recruits to the Air Force, must have some social standing?
– There is no truth in the latter part of the honorable gentleman’s question. I am sure that the honorable member will realize that it is the duty of the interviewing boards to get the best possible applicants irrespective of where they may be located. I can understand the honorable gentleman’s desire to obtain preference for his own constituents.
– Is it true, as reported in the press, that the Government proposes to purchase ten giant Sunderland flying boats at a cost of £500,000? If so, will the Minister for Defence have one stationed in northern waters for patrol purposes?
– It is true that it is proposed to purchase an unspecified number of Short-Sunderland flying boats, and it is intended to use them for part of the time in and around Port Moresby. No doubt that information will cause satisfaction to the honorable member and his constituents.
– Has the Minister for Social Services yet obtained the information for which I asked previously regarding the weekly cost for administration and salaries of the National Health Insurance Commission?
– I am sorry that I have not yet supplied the information to the honorable member. It will be supplied to-morrow.
– Will the Minister for Defence assist me to understand a communication which he has addressed to me ? Why is it that an officer . who served in the Royal Australian Navy as a cadet midshipman, and was therefore a very junior officer, -whose appointment “was terminated owing to unsatisfactory conduct, cannot be allowed to re-enter the Naval Service ‘because of his record, whereas the same objections do not apply to his joining the Army, the Air Force or the Militia? Why is there this distinction between the various arms of the Defence Forces, and why is it that persons of lower moral calibre ‘are ‘apparently more acceptable in the Army, Militia, and Air Force than in the Navy?
– I cannot recall offhand the circumstances under which the appointment of this officer was terminated, but when I find out I may be able to say why he should be acceptable in another arm, although not acceptable in the Navy.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs able to report any progress in the ship-building industry in Australia ?
– Progress has been made, and I am hopeful, before the House rises1, that I shall be able to make a statement on the subject.
– Has the .attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior been drawn to a statement by Captain Waterson of the Larrakia, upon his return to Darwin recently that the control of that vessel was unsatisfactory, .and that it should be taken away from the administration in Darwin and placed under the Department of the Interior, because he was unable to obtain any backing from the Darwin authorities ?
– My attention was drawn to the statement, but I have no comment to make on it. It is a matter for the Minister, and I shall refer it to him.
Appointment of Returned Soldiers
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is .a fact that the Public Service Board is interpreting section 84 of the recently amended Public Service Act, which provides for the employment of returned soldiers to permanent positions in the Public Service after they have been in continuous temporary employment for two years, as meaning that they can be appointed only to vacancies created by the Board? Is this in accordance with the spirit of the amendment, seeing that the effect of it will be that many of these men will never obtain permanent appointments at all?
– I cannot answer the honorable member’s question from my own knowledge, but I shall make inquiries, and let him know.
– What was the result of your inquiries, Mr. Speaker, regarding the operation of the amplifiers which have been installed in the chamber? Just here it is over the odds; one does not know what is going on.
I do not remember promising to make any inquiries. I was under the ‘impression that I had informed honorable members why the amplifiers had -been installed. I do not know what the honorable member- means by stating that they are “ over the odds.” The amplifiers were placed in a position to enable the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) to hear questions and other business in which he was interested. The amplifiers can be turned off by any honorable member, but I ask honorable members not to do so. If they think that they are objectionable, through allowing the AttorneyGeneral to tear private conversations - that is one objection that was put to me - T shall ask an attendant to turn them off. I think that that is very desirable, because I have seen honorable members - playfully, of course - interfering with them, and making little noises. The AttorneyGeneral himself can at any time turn them off so that he cannot hear.
– I should like to make a personal explanation. I am in no way responsible for these ingenious devices, but I must say that the manner in which they have been received is such as to rob them of all usefulness.
– I was under the impression that the amplifiers had ‘been installed at the request of the AttorneyGeneral, but in view of his statement, they will be .removed.
-I should like to know whether the cost of installing the amplifying apparatus in this chamber was borne by the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) or by the Government? If the cost was met by the Government, I should like to know what sum was involved ?
– The right honorable the Attorney-General has just stated he was not responsible for the installation of the apparatus, so I think it may bt: assumed that he had nothing whatever to do with the cost involved.
– Will the Minister for Defence state what procedure is followed in selecting appointees to the Royal Australian’ Air Force? Are competitive examinations held, and are such matters as the family and environment of applicants taken into consideration ?
– Generally speaking, candidates are required to undergo medical and written examinations, and then are finally selected by personal interview. I will furnish the honorable member for West . Sydney with a copy of the appointment conditions for the various services, setting out exactly what qualifications candidates are required to possess.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 26th May, (vide page826).
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 air craft or parts thereof by the Commonwealth or any authority of the Commonwealth ;
arrangements for the establishment or extension of Industries for purposes of defence: (d) the acquisition, maintenance and dis posal of stocks of goods in connexion with defence;
arrangements for ascertaining costs 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.
Upon which Mr. Forde had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ subject to the directions of the Governor-General and to the next succeeding sub-section “, sub-clause1, be omitted.
.- I do not feel disposed to allow this matter to remain where it is at the moment. Earlier in the consideration of this measure, I addressed certain observations to honorable members of this chamber and followed them to-day by asking a question without notice, in an endeavour to find out exactly what powers the Government would possess under this measure with regard to inspecting the books and accounts of private firms engaged in the manufacture of war equipment, and thus ascertaining what profitsare being made. It is very important that honorable members should know what the powers of the Government would be in this direction, so that we may ascertain whether or not the Government is genuine and sincere in its expressed desire to limit profits. Obviously, unless the Government wereclothed with adequate authority to send inspectors into private establishments with power to demand that they should have supplied, for examination, all books and accounts, then it is of no use talking’ about limiting profits, and the time of this committee is merely being wasted.. I should like the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) to give the committee some indication, at least,, of what powers the Government would possess with regard to the making of” the very necessary inquiries into the affairs of those people who would be engaged in the ‘manufacture of defence equipment.
Amendment agreed to.
– by leave - I move - .
That after the words “ relating to”, 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
.- I should like to know what attitude the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) is adopting in regard to this discussion. If he continues to ignore requests for information made by honorable members, then it is only to be assumed that the Government itself knows that there are certain limitations on its powers with respect to its alleged desire to examine the books,. &c, of private manufacturers and, therefore, it is not sincere and genuinein its expressed desire to limit. profits. It is well known that, in the past, private manufacturers have successfully challenged the powers df the Commonwealth Government to ascertain by means of royal commissions the profits made on various undertakings. If the Minister is to be honest with this committee, he should tell honorable members exactly what powers the Government would possess under this legislation. I feel that honorable members of the Opposition should press the Government for this important information, so that they may ascertain whether or not the Government could be clothed with sufficient authority to introduce a scheme which could permit of the strict supervision and regulation of profits. For that reason, I repeat the request which I have made for information.
– The power of the Government with respect to annexes’ is contained in an agreement with the parent company. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would read the bill he would see, in clause 6, the specific power about which he is inquiring,
. Following the receipt of additional information during the week-end, I should like to know from the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) whether or not his statement is true - that machinery which is to be installed by the Government in private establishments would be installed only in the new buildings or anexes which are being erected for that purpose. I should like to know if there is any truth in a statement made to me that in the case of a Sydney organization, machinery is being installed, not in an annexe, but in the main engineering workshop, in which the company has carried on its activities for a number of years. Is it reasonable to expect that that machinery will be allowed to remain idle, except when government orders are being filled ? If the Government is in any instance installing machinery in existing workshops, and in association with the present equipment of such workshops, is it not contrary to the conditions laid down by this discussion, during which it has been generally accepted that all new machinery would be established in annexes, and quite apart from existing activities? I should like to know what the position is so that I may further examine the case to which I have referred.
– I know of no instance in which the Government has paid for machinery and permitted it to be installed in the ordinary workshops of a private establishment. However, in saying that I do not want it to be assumed that in the future the Government will not, in the case of some reputable private organization, install machinery in existing workshops, which are especially suitable for the production of a particular commodity required by the Government. It might well be that, with the addition of a certain complicated machine to its plant, an engineering shop would be properly equipped for-‘ the production of certain goods. The Government wishes to keep itself entirely free and open to install a tool or tools of that sort in a private workshop. Such tool or tools would be the property of the Government, and would not be used by the firm except for government purposes.
.- The somewhat flippant and, indeed, rude answer given by the Minister (Mr. Casey) to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in which he suggested that the honorable gentleman might have read the bill before he spoke,, does not dispose of the question raised by the honorable member, which is strictly pertinent to this discussion and upon the answer to which largely depends the further question as ‘ to whether or not this clause is worth adopting. The amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is the only substantive matter that has been accepted as part of the departmental operations of this department. That means that inquiries are to be made as to the profits that are to be earned in any particular industry. The question raised by the honorable member for East Sydney, as I understand it, is as to what powers the Commonwealth possesses to institute these inquiries and to press for the answers; because, if there be no legal authority upon which the matter rests, clearly it will be futile to pass a law which would be dependent upon the willingness or otherwise of profiteers to disclose the degree to which they are profiteering. I do not undertake, at all events at the moment and without research, to state what is the legal position in regard to the powers of royal commissions, but, I understand that since the decision in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and the Commonwealth, the generally accepted view has been that this Parliament may pass legislation with respect to any particular subjectmatter, defining precisely what the inquiries are to be relevant to. Of course, the matter must be one in respect of which this Commonwealth Parliament has jurisdiction. “Within those limits, a royal commission or any other questioning body may be vested with, powers of inquiry. But it is obvious that under this merely enabling bill the powers of inquiry are to be of a most general character, and do not relate to any specific subjectmatter, such as, for example - to cite two cases that occur to my mind - the petrol inquiry and the inquiry in relation to the activities of tlie Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, but envisage a general and rambling inquiry on subject-matters not yet discussed. Speaking from memory and without research, I suggest that there is good reason to suppose that there is not in the Commonwealth the power to make such inquiries. The succeeding clause advances the matter no further than does this particular clause. It provides that any old question may be asked, by virtue of regulations which have not yet been laid on the table of the House or adopted. The authority for asking such questions is not disclosed, and the Minister, upon being questioned, has given no information on the subject. When the honorable gentleman suggests that honorable members might read the bill, I desire leave to tell hiin that we read it most thoroughly while he was making a more or less futile endeavour to prop up the United Australia party in Tasmania.
-For the’ information of the honorable gentleman, I did not go to Tasmania.
– The endeavours of the right honorable gentleman were unsuccessful, wherever he was.
– All that I have to add to what I said before is that, if an individual wished to pursue his tender for a certain contract, and upon being asked to make his books available to the Government, did not wish to do so, he would not get the contract.
.- I shall not accuse the Minister (Mr. Casey) of not having read the bill; but I do not think that he understands it- He referred me to certain penalties provided for by clause 6, and to certain powers that would enable these very necessary inquiries to be made. I now ask him to explain whether it is merely proposed to ask a firm tendering for a contract to furnish its books, &c., for examination by government officers, refusal to do so involving the loss of the contract? So far as I can gather, the refusal of a firm tendering for a contract to make its books available for inspection would not constitute an offence.
– I am conscious of the difficulty associated with the matter of profits. We know perfectly well that the actual profits of many corporations are hidden by the inclusion in the accounts of huge fees and salaries in respect of directors and officials, and that often interest is claimed on a capital that is only nominal and not on one which has actually been subscribed. Would it not be possible to make some provision for taking into account the capital actually subscribed, and the fees and salaries of directors and officials? Such a provision would be of great assistance in the determination of whether or not excess profits were being made.
– The points raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) are covered by the term “ costs “. I am advised that it is better not to particularize in respect of certain items of cost, because thereby the particular term “ costs “ might be limited.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That paragraph e be omitted.
By a prior amendment, the provision made by paragraph e has been included in the initial part of sub-clause 1, in order that it might not be subject to the directions of the Governor-General. It has been pointed out that under the original draft of the measure the GovernorGeneral might not direct that arrangements for ascertaining costs, and for’ the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions, should be a matter to be administered by the department, and should not be subject to any direction. Under the clause as amended, the provision will be mandatory. We realize that even now a great deal will depend upon the bona fides of the Minister and the Department of Supply and Development in their endeavours to eliminate profiteering. We know that there are many ways in which unscrupulous persons may arrange their balance-sheets so as to hide profiteering. I sympathize with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who considers that profits may be hidden by the inclusion in the accounts of large amounts in respect of the fees of directors, and the salaries and expenses of executive officers. The Opposition, in drawing up its amendment, inserted the word “ costs “, which it hoped would cover the point raised by the honorable member for Swan, and has asked the Government to see that the closest scrutiny is made of all of these matters with a view to avoiding the possibility of profiteering in the manner suggested by the honorable member. But I again emphasize that, notwithstanding anything we may do in this Parliament, if the Minister and the department are not extremely vigilant in watching this matter, profiteering will be practised. Parliament and the people will take the keenest interest in this matter, and if the Government and this new department be found recreant to the trust reposed in them, they will fully deserve the criticism they will receive in this chamber.
.- Now that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has succeeded in establishing his point, which is all to the good so far as it goes, I ask why the significant ‘Dower conferred upon the Government respecting the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions is limited to that one matter. No one knows better than the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as he has shown in the faint praise with which he has damned this bill, that noobligation rests upon the Government or upon any body to limit profits. The honorable gentleman has succeeded in ensuring that inquiry into profits will be definitely part of the activity of this new department if and when it operates, but he is well aware that thewhole of the remainder of the “ functions of department “ are subject to directions of the Governor-General. These directions may change from day to day, and even from hour to hour, for this is a changeable Government. Why should not the clause state definitely that the powers listed in paragraphs a to / shall definitely be “ the matters to be administered by the department” ? Why is the whole clause, with the one exception to which I have referred, left to “ directions of the Governor-General “ ? I know that we shall be dealing with the regulationmaking power later, but it seems to me to be most unsatisfactory to establish a new department and then state that its functions shall be exercised only “ subject to the directions of the Governor-General “. Is that not an insult to our intelligence and that of Parliament ? Surely the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt), who is a lawyer, realizes the difficulties that may be incurred in consequence of the presence in the statute of a provision of that description. I have had a long experience of statutory enactments and I cannot remember a previous occasion when we had inserted a phrase of that kind. In effect, what the clause provides is that the matters covered by paragraphs at,of shall be administered by the department “ subject to the direction of .the Governor-General “. Why was not the definite power set out in the new paragraph made to apply to all the paragraphs? It is curious that the Government informed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that not only would it accept his amendment, but it would also tighten it up to make it more effective. I hope the Assistant Minister will explain why the special provision applies only to the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition and not to other provisions of the clause.
– I shall explain if the honorable member will give me an opportunity to do so.
– I shall be delighted to hear this enthusiastic young Assistant Minister explain what a veteran Minister has declined to explain, and I sit down fairly glowing with the joy of expectation.
. - The explanation is simple. [ Quorum formed.] The activities of this new department will inevitably cover many matters normally dealt with by other departments. We may find, for example, that the arrangements for the supply of defence requirements will overlap in certain departments. Unless care is taken, the activities of this new department may overlap activities of the Defence Department, or the Trade and Customs Department, or the Department of Commerce. It is to prevent such occurrences that the provision “ subject to the directions of the GovernorGeneral “ is included. As the clause is drafted now, it will be practicable for the heads of various departments to consult one’ another to ensure that the activities of one department shall not impinge upon those of another. I assure the honorable member that the Government has no ulterior motive in connexion with this part of the clause. Its sole object is to ensure . that the work shall be performed as efficiently and as economically as possible. The real purpose of the provision is to provide a convenient method of working, and to avoid overlapping and duplication.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. brennan (Batman) [4.26].- I move -
That the following paragraphbe inserted after paragraph (e) : - “ (ea) The compulsory acquisition of real estate on just terms for purposes of defence; “.
I do not know whether the Government is prepared to accept this amendment, but perhaps I shall be able so to impress it with the soundness of my case that it will do so.
– That power already exists.
– It is true that the Commonwealth Government has the power compulsorily to acquire real property. I wish to give significance to that power in relation to the activities of the new Department of Supply and Development. We are told that this is an emergency measure, though I do not admit that a state of emergency exists. If the Government thinks it necessary to catalogue certain powers which shall be exercised by this department - powers which, it is generally admitted, may be exercised now by already existing departments - I think it desirable that the power compulsorily to acquire real estate should also be listed. It is said that the powers set out in clause 5 are particularly necessary for defence purposes. So also is the power compulsorily to acquire real estate. I remind some of the people of this country who claim to be patriots, but whose perfect patriotism I venture to doubt, that this measure represents something more than profits for profiteers. It represents something more than jobs for persons, engaged at adequate remuneration, in public departments. It represents a serious invasion, in many respects, of the liberty of the subject. That being so, I should like to remind land-owners in this country that they may have to surrender their interest in land for the safety of the country. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has already called attention to the fact that we are proposing to build on the land of other people. As an elementary principle of law, buildings, subject to certain qualifications into which I need not enter, usually go with the freehold. The Government proposes to put its own buildings upon other people’s land - the answer given to the honorable member for Werriwa was that the Government did not propose to acquire the land - and to set up machinery and plant on the land of other persons. The Labour party sees a great danger in this setting up of machinery on private land. It sees the danger of the creation of vested interests, more deeply rooted even than they are at present. Therefore, we desire, since we are living in a time of gesture without serious accomplishment, that we should make a gesture to those who own freehold that that freehold may, through the operation of this department, be compulsorily acquired in the interests of the nation in a grave emergency. It is for this reason that I propose my amendment, and I should suppose that the Government would have no objection to accepting it, because, after all, it does not say that the Government shall acquire, or filch, any land from anybody, it merely reminds people that land may be required just as readily as lives may be required, and just as readily as liberty may be invaded. Because we think that land is not quite so sacrosanct as liberty and lives, we should like the Government to give an earnest of its sincerity and its alleged belief in a continuing crisis, by putting it on record that we may have to take land as well as lives. I ask the Government, therefore, to accept my amendment.
– The Government does not propose to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), because it finds that ample power for the purpose which he has suggested already exists. It has been advised by its legal advisers that it is not satisfactory draughtmanship to incorporate in a subsequent measure powers which are already in existence under previous legislation. So far - as the acquisition of land is concerned the Commonwealth Government is given full power of compulsory acquisition under the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936. Section 13 of that act reads -
The Commonwealth may acquire any land for public purposes -
So far as the compulsory acquisition of goods is concerned we are given full power under section 67 of the Defence Act to acquire compulsorily goods required for naval, military -and other defence purposes. [Quorum formed.’] The honorable gentleman sought information concerning the future, or ultimate ownership, of plant and buildings erected in connexion with annexes. Specific provision is made in any contract that the building, if pro vided by the Government, shall remain the property of the Government. . Similarly, specific provision is made in the contract that the plant is, and shall remain, the property of the Government. There is no danger, therefore, of any acquisition by long possession, or any other cause, by the contractor of property which is government property.
– The explanation given by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) does not appear to be adequate. He says that in the arrangements made with these firms, not because of any provision in this bill, but because of the contract that will be made with the firm, it will be laid down that if the building has been constructed by the Government it will remain the property of the Government. But these buildings will be on land which is owned by private enterprise, and as the site is owned, we shall presume, by the same enterprise which owns the rest of the factory to which the annexe is attached, they will become subject to any encumbrances which this firm, or incorporation, may have to carry. If a receivership be put in to take control of that company it appears to me, as a layman without too much knowledge of the subject, but as one who has had fair experience, that, in all probability, the Government’s plant will be involved. I raise this point in order that the Government can assure the committee that, where it erects a building on land owned by somebody else, the assets of the Commonwealth shall not be subject to any contingency to which the other assets of the land-owner are exposed. That point must be cleared up. The same observation applies to machinery and plant installed by the Government. ‘The factory can be owned by A. B. and Company, but the Commonwealth installs machinery in that factory. In such a case, what would be the position of the Commonwealth in the event of A. B. and Company selling their establishment, or going out of business, or being made bankrupt? These points justify a further examination of the position by the Assistant Minister,who is himself no mean lawyer.
The next point I raise is one of a principle. Under this measure there is being set up a department which is. responsible for the organization, and, in some cases the initiation, of services which are part of the foundation on which the defensive capacity of the country is to be based. The amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) does not direct, but implies, that the supply department, when it considers that a certain annexe is required, shall also endeavour to acquire the land, and that it shall say that this land is to be acquired on just terms, for, bear in mind, this measure contains a clause which limits the duration of this legislation, and at the end of five years when this department will cease to exist, we shall have property held by private persons more or less as caretakers for the Crown.
– The contract is made between the Government and the company.
– There is nothing in the bill to indicate the nature of the contract which the Government must make. The right honorable gentleman assured us that there will be in the contract this protective provision, but Parliament is hot putting it in the statute. I do not question, for one moment, the bona fides of the Assistant Minister’s statement, but the fact remains that this danger confronts us.
– There might be certain State laws which would overridethe contract.
– I cannot speak on that point. Despite the fact that this compulsory acquisition power exists in another statute, we must bear in mind that to the new Department of Supply which is now being set up ought to be given an instruction that, where possible, it shall acquire the land upon which these establishments are erected. The Minister is aware that honorable members on this side do not believe in private ownership of munition factories.
– Neither do I.
– Well, so far as possible, the Minister should acquire the land upon which these annexes are constructed in order that the annexes will remain, in perpetuity, the property of the Crown. Even that, I feel, will not be a sufficient safeguard, because we know of the record of disposals of Commonwealth assets such as the Commonwealth Woollen Mills and the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I support the amendment because it appears to me that, however much the same power may be found in another statute, if it be not specifically provided in this statute the Minister and the department will be entitled to say that they are under no obligation to acquire land as land for the purpose of erecting these annexes. They should be given such an instruction as a general direction. Furthermore, because of the reasons which I indicated earlier in my remarks, in order to protect the property of the Commonwealth we should, as far as possible, authorize the department to acquire its own land.
.- When I was speaking on another amendment the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) indicated his intention to move this amendment. Its terms are wide, but it is directed mainly towards the annexes to be erected by the Government. We all know that the Commonwealth Government has the power to acquire land for postal and all other public purposes, but the point is that, under this measure, the Government proposes to erect, on privately-owned land, buildings alongside other buildings in which private enterprises are carried on. The term of this legislation is to be five years. What will happen at. the expiration of that period? I venture the opinion that this Government will follow the lead given by similar governments of the past, both Commonwealth and State, and give its property away unless it is prevented from doing so by the incorporation in this bill of a provision for the Commonwealth to acquire the land on which the defence annexes are erected. It is my honest opinion that the omission to include such a provision in this legislation is due to the fact that in the mind of the Government is the intention to hand over to private enterprise in five years’ time all of the. buildings and plant that it is proposed now to put in its care. The fact that there is no contrary provision in the law will be seized upon as an excuse for that to be done. Two- thirds of the war scare and the frenzied manufacture of munitions is due to the desire of the
Government to distribute to its friends dividends, in this case taking the shape of Commonwealth property, in return for their support. We have been told that the men at the head of the companies to which these annexes are to be entrusted are patriotic, and that they do not seek unduly to profit from undertaking the manufacture of munitions on behalf of the Government. I am not a land-owner, but if I were assured that I should be allowed to partake of this work on conditions exactly the same as that on which the existing contractors will work, I should immediately purchase land for the Government to erect a factory on it. I should have no difficulty in raising the necessary finance, and I warrant that I should be able to make a very good profit. The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) has assured the committee that the safeguard which the honorable, member for Batman seeks to have placed in the bill will be contained in the contracts between the Government and the companies which undertake the work, but I shall not be satisfied with that, because nobody can satisfy me that this Government is any different from similarly constituted governments of the past, which, contracts notwithstanding, have never hesitated to give to their friends undertakings owned by the people. That belief will be verified at the end of the five-year period of this legislation, unless the land on which the annexes are erected “is acquired in pursuit of a definite provision of this bill. Nothing else will satisfy the Opposition, because governments of the same kidney as this Government have been tainted by their anxiety to reward their supporters by trie gift of public funds and other properties.
.- I have previously referred to the vague wording of this clause. It would appear that the difficulty confronting the committee at the moment is wrapped up in paragraphs c and d. Paragraph c provides for - arrangements for the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence.
Apparently it is under that paragraph that the Government has contacted with certain selected companies for the purpose of getting up munitions annexes. The paragraph itself is vague; it gives no hint at all other than that which leads one to expect that the Government intends to extend the private industry of producing munitions. Apparently, it is intended to set up under the control of private enterprise, and on property owned by private enterprise, these munitions annexes. It is rather pointed, too, to draw attention to paragraph d, which deals with acquisition, ‘because the only acquisition that is intended is the acquisition of “stocks of goods in connexion with defence There is no mention of acquisition of the land on which the annexes are to be built. The only reference in the bill to the power of the Government to set up these privately-owned or controlled annexes is contained in paragraph c. The point raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), in his amendment, deals with something far deeper than the superficial effects of that paragraph. The question arises as to whether a contractor, by the mere signing of a contract with the Government, can cancel the effect of existing statutes, which is that if a man owns a block of land and somebody else places a factory on that land, the factory becomes the property of the person owning the land. The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) defends the omission of the safeguard sought by the honorable member for Batman by saying that by signing the contract in connexion with the establishment of an annexe, the owner of the land assigns to the Government his claim on that land.
– No, his claim on the building.
– Well, “the claim on the building. I do not believe that the Minister has convinced the committee that any contractor, who is a debtor, can contract away rights that he has in any of his assets or, which is more to the point, rights that his creditors have in those assets. Of what value would be the contract between the Government and the contractor in the event of the contractor’s bankruptcy ? I venture the opinion that, unless the legislation specified otherwise, the contract would be worthless and that the creditors would have claim, not only on the land on which the annexes were built, but also on the buildings themselves, and, I am of the opinion, the machinery contained therein. I understand that about £1,000,000 worth of machinery is to be provided by the Commonwealth Government for installation in the annexes. Irrespective of what the value is, if the Government considers it to be necessary or important that it should depart from the established policy of previous governments that munitions should be manufactured by Government instrumentalities, it should observe its duty to the people of Australia and ensure that there is no flaw under which it can lose its right to the factories and the plant. The Assistant Minister has assured the committee that, in normal circumstances, the Government, by reason of its contracts, will preserve its title to the annexed buildings and plant, but he is far from assuring it that its title will be preserved in abnormal circumstances, that is, in the case of the bankruptcy of the contractors. The Assistant Minister has not assured the committee, first, that the contractor can, by the signing of a contract, cancel the effect of existing statutes dealing with the ownership of land, and, secondly, that the contractor can sign away the rights of his creditors, either present or future. I do not think that the Assistant Minister has looked into that aspect and when he has done so, I should like to hear him on it. Until such time as the Assistant Minister is able to assure the committee on the points that I have raised, I shall be disposed to vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman, which proposes the insertion of the following paragraph :-
Since the amendment would make the position absolutely safe in all circumstances so far as the Government is concerned, I cannot understand why the Government refuses to accept it. Such a provision is necessary in the interests of the Government arid the taxpayers.
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is such a reasonable one that I am convinced that, if we could only get a sufficient number of Government supporters into the chamber to listen to the debate, it would be carried. [Quorum formed.]
Now that there are a few more Government supporters in the chamber I trust that they will realize that the amendment is a very desirable one. I have no doubt that, when the honorable member for Batman moved his amendment, he had in mind the history of the various factories controlled by federal governments in the past for the production of munitions, equipment and materials. It is hard to understand the opposition of the Government to the amendment, except that it may be afraid that it would adversely affect the interests of certain wealthy corporations that have been successful in coming to an arrangement with the Government for the establishment on their property of defence annexes. What reasonable opposition can the Minister sustain to a sub-clause reading -
The compulsory acquisition of real estate on just terms for purposes of defence. when read in conjunction with subclauses c and . d of tlie clause ? One’s mind goes back naturally to the experience of the country in connexion with the Commonwealth Woollen Mills established by the Fisher Labour Government in 1910. Mr. Fisher did not go to private manufacturers and ask them to allow the Commonwealth to put machinery on privately-owned land. He negotiated with the Geelong Harbour Trust, which with the consent of the Victorian Government, made a grant of 13 acres to the Commonwealth upon which the mills were erected. For the six years which ended in 1922, the Commonweatlh Woollen Mills made a gross profit of £347,000. During that time, depreciation amounted to £88,000.
The honorable member must confine his remarks to tie clause and the amendment.
– If the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, with all their machinery, had been placed upon privately-owned land, it is quite possible that a government of the same political colour as this Government might have made an even greater sacrifice of them than was made when they were sold. The same thing applies to the Commonwealth Harness
Factory, and the Commonwealth Clothing Factory, both of which were eminently successful commercial concerns.
– The honorable member is discussing matters which are not relevant to the clause.
– It is vitally important that defence annexes, should be on land owned by the Commonwealth. Surely the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) and his department could enter into some arrangement with the present owners by which the land on which annexe buildings are to be erected would be transferred to the Commonwealth. The’ Government should not place .buildings and machinery to the value of thousands of pounds on privately owned land. It is possible that the Government, at the end of five years, may feel so grateful to some powerful company like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited that it will want to hand over to it valuable buildings and machinery without adequate compensation. I know that the Minister wants to get this bill through, and I say to him that he would get it through with much greater celerity if he were to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Batman.
– Apparently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) was not in the chamber when it was pointed out that this amendment is entirely unnecessary because all the power which it proposes to convey to the Department of Supply is already possessed by the Commonwealth under the Lands Acquisition Act, which enables the Commonwealth to acquire compulsorily any land it may need. The insertion of a similar provision in this bill would not in any way enlarge the powers of the Commonwealth.
– That is a peace-time measure. We want a similar provision in this war-time measure.
– The power conferred by the Lands Acquisition Act can be exercised by the Commonwealth either in peace or in war. It is unnecessary to limit the wide powers conveyed under that act by the insertion of a corresponding provision in this measure. It was1 suggested by the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the Government should, in order to protect any assets it may possess in buildings or plant, acquire by purchase land now owned by private organizations conducting defence annexes. I remind him, however, that to do so would be to perpetuate a state of affairs which he would be the last to advocate. We are making provision under the annexe system for an emergency. We are already providing all our peace-time requirements through Government munitions establishments. If we were to purchase at its full value land adjacent to large industrial organizations, we might feel obliged to carry on, even in peace-time, establishments existing on those lands. The Government has taken what it feels to be the wisest and safest course, at the same time giving the fullest protection to. Commonwealth assets. Under the contracts entered into with the annexe holders the Government will obtain a lease of the land upon which the annexes are erected for a period of ten years at a nominal rental of £1 a year.
– Where does that appear in the bill ?
– It is in the contract form.
– We cannot accept the Minister’s assurance on that point.
– In making the statement now I have placed on record the obligation of the Government in this regard. The Government will take a lease of ten years. over these lands, with the option of extending the period if it desires, and this affords ample protection for any assets that may be placed upon the land. The bankruptcy of the contractor would not affect the safety of the Government’s assets, because they will be on land leased by the Government. However, while the bankruptcy of the contractor would not affect the assets of the Commonwealth, it might affect the successful conduct of the operation carried on in the annexe, and, consequently, special provision exists that, in the event of the bankruptcy of the contractor, the Government may immediately determine the contract between them.
– What would then happen to the building?
– The building- will be on land over which the Government holds a lease for ten years, with the right of renewal. It is proposed that the buildings, shall be constructed of light steel, with galvanized iron covering, so that they will give adequate service for the period contemplated, but will not represent any substantial loss when that period has elapsed. In view of the explanation I have given that the assets of the Commonwealth will be adequately protected, and that the Commonwealth already pos-. sesses adequate powers for the acquisition of any lands it may require, I trust that the committee will dispose of the amendment without further discussion.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) stated that the amendment was not necessary because the Commonwealth already possessed power under the Lands Acquisition Act to acquire what lands it needed, but the Opposition desires the inclusion of this amendment so as to put it beyond all doubt that the Commonwealth shall have power to acquire land, whether by purchase or lease. I cannot understand why the Government is opposing the insertion of this proposed new sub-clause. It is a reasonable provision and one which is to be expected in a measure providing for the construction of buildings and factories on leased lands.
– It is unnecessary.
– The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development, being a lawyer, knows well that the question of whether or not the Government has power to do certain things under certain legislation is one for interpretation, and decision by the Court. Members of the Opposition want to make sure that the power of the Government to acquire the land on which these buildings are to be erected will not be in doubt.’ But it seems to me that the Government is most anxious to proceed with the erection of these annexes simply to assist its wealthy supporters, and not in order that the machinery to be installed may be brought into use in the interests of the nation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred to the sale by the Government of the woollen mills. Similarly I instance action taken three or four years ago by this Government in connexion with defence buildings and equipment at Thursday Island. Fortifications, were destroyed, buildings, barracks, &c.,. established there were sold to local residents and other persons for a mere song, and the . garrison was removed to Darwin. The Assistant Minister . also stated that provision was made in the contracts for the leasing of land, and that the terms of leases would also make provision for cases in which the owner of the land became bankrupt. In that case he said that all improvements belonging to the Government would be protected because of a ten years’ lease. If the Department of Supply and Development is to remain in existence for only five, years, why does the Government propose to lease land for ten years ? The Minister stated that in the event of the bankruptcy of the proprietor of land leased by the Government, there would be nothing to fear because the Government buildings could not be interfered with and the lease would continue at a nominal rental of £1. That may be all right in the case of the first lessor, but eventually the Government may find that its position is not quite so sound when the estate has passed into the hands of a trustee in bankruptcy. For this reason . and for other reasons advanced by honorable members on this side of the House, I cannot understand why the Government should oppose the insertion of this proposed new sub-clause. I suppo rt the amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I think that at this juncture honorable members should be informed of the actual contracts which have been entered into by the Government with various firms on whose property annexes have been built, or will be built. The actual form of agreement which is being signed has not been presented to Parliament, and in view of the importance of the issue raised the committee should have fuller information at its disposal. The term of the agreement is an important factor. The bill will remain in force for five years only. Yet honorable members have been informed that the agreements are likely to be for a longer period, possibly ten years. Thus the agreements are being made, or will be made, entirely outside the operations of the Department of Supply and Development, and the rights given to that department by this bill. I repeat that the terms of the contracts should be placed before the committee, together with all available information on the subject, so that honorable members would better be able to judge the merits of this legislation. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) said that action could be taken by the Government under existing laws with regard to the acquisition of land, but the process of acquiring land under the existing laws takes a considerable time because certain procedure must be followed and many formalities have to be observed. It is doubtful whether, under existing legislation, the Government could take urgent action to acquire certain lands should the necessity to do so arise. This matter would be placed beyond all doubt if the amendment moved by . the honorable member for Batman were carried. As the Government is apparently prepared to go as far- as it possibly can in the direction of conscripting the manhood of this country for compulsory service in time of war, it should also be prepared to assume immediate control of capital in the form of the land upon which the annexes are built. The companies concerned may be subject to mortgage commitments, or to control by debenture holders. It may be that a company with which the Government is carrying on negotiations has not the right to sign away concessions because its stocks are largely in the hands of debenture holders who are entitled to control its policy. Every possible care therefore must be taken to ensure that factories and equipment established by the Government on privately-owned land are not in danger of passing from the hands of the Government. As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) pointed out, the fact that this measure will operate for only five years might result in the passing of valuable government property into the hands of private enterprise. With this possibility in view, industrialists . might make it their business to encourage the Government to construct factories upon their land in the hope that in a short time valuable equipment would pass into their hands to use as they desired. It is all very well for people to be liberal with their own money, but the Government is now dealing with public funds and cannot afford to be over-generous. There has been a tendency in all countries to indulge in extravagances when spending money on defence matters, but the Commonwealth Government should proceed cautiously. Public money amounting possibly to millions of pounds should not be expended in the establishment of annexes and factories on property to which the Government has no legal title. The Government should make sure that it has the power to acquire at the shortest possible notice the land upon which its factories have been established should the necessity arise. It would be very unfortunate if it found by a decision of the courts that it had no title to the improvements made on leased - lands.
– The reply given by the Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt), and, indeed, the statements by all Ministers on this subject, have only served to make the problem more difficult. It seems to me that at least, this portion of the defence plan comes under suspicion in view of action taken by this Government, and its predecessors, in connexion with national undertakings. During the last two decades, nearly all of the factories and workshops ever established by governments of this country have been dismantled and disposed of at ridiculous prices to private enterprise. Take, for instance, the great Cockatoo Island Dockyard, which was practically given away. The company which took over this establishment has been operating it successfully ever since. Another instance of failure to carry on national undertakings was the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers at a price which, accordingto authorities, was approximately one-third of their value. I understand that the Commonwealth has not even received all of that money, and that the outstanding amount docs not carry interest. I point out that the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was really part of the Commonwealth’s defence plan, and that these vessels formed an auxiliary branch of our naval service. They were strengthened -in certain parts so that they could easily carry guns. The price of their disposal was such that it is really ridiculous to talk of it as a sale at all. The sale of the woollen mills and the harness factory has been cited by other speakers. In view of all these things, how can honorable members help being suspicious of a proposal such as this and the present Government’s action in connexion with this measure is so suspect that one cannot help having little confidence in the whole defence programme.
The reply made by the Assistant Minister only strengthens disbelief in the logic of the scheme. The honorable gentleman said that under existing legislation the Commonwealth Government had power to take over property should the occasion arise. I know that such action can be taken under the Lands Acquisition Act, but is it not all the more proof of the lack of sincerity on the part of the Government that power to acquire land has not been included in this legislation? lu view of the history of the association of. “this Government and its predecessors with previous undertakings, members of the Opposition cannot be blamed for doubting the safety of the public money which it is proposed should be invested in the construction of annexes and the installation of machinery on privatelyowned land. I submit also that this legislation provides no guarantee against the contingency of the owner of the land leased by the Government becoming insolvent. My main complaint is not in connexion with the cheeseparing that has been carried out. I could put up a logical case in favour of annexes, but if annexes are to be of any use at all then the existing plant of manufacturers must be used. The shafting, driving gear, pulleys, belts and other equipment already established in the workshops must be used if the Government is to derive any advantage at all from tlie annexes. If, as the Minister has indicated, the annexe is to be a building complete of itself, whether it be of brick, wood or steel, containing plant which at certain times is not to be used, why should it not be attached to existing Commonwealth factories? Then the running and driving gear ‘ of those establishments could be attached to it whenever required.- I can see no logic in the scheme as outlined. But even if there were logic in it,I should be opposed to it, because my opposition is directed to the utilization of private enterprise in respect of work which can and should be done in our own workshops. The Bren gun, and other implements of war that are difficult to make and are not turned over very rapidly, are made in Commonwealth establishments. If the proposed expenditure of £1,000,000 in the provision of annexes to the works of private manufacturers were devoted to additions to the plant of Commonwealth establishments, all the extra work which might be necessary in a crisis could readily be undertaken by those establishments. I object on principle to private enterprise being entrusted with the manufacture of munitions of war.
.- I am in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I do not believe that annexes should be placed on other than Commonwealth property. I should like the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) to state by whom the annexes are selected, and to whom one should apply for the privilege of having one provided.
– Who are the favoured few ?
– As the honorable member for Batman asks, who are the favoured few?
– The honorable gentleman can learn that by perusing Hansard.
– I am acquainted with one or two annexes which are attached to the factories of big engineering firms, controlled by men like ‘Lord McGowan. Practically the only labour employed in these particular engineering works is junior labour. Probably when the Government receives the account for material supplied it will find that the cost of wages has been calculated on the basis of adult rates. I again ask, by whom are these annexes selected?
– The Principal Supply Officers’ Committee.
– I emphasize this, because I know that the Government is favouring the big monopolistic concerns and that the small workshops are entirely ignored. An inquiry into the matter is demanded. The information sought is such as this Parliament should have. The establishment of annexes on propertyother than that held by the Commonwealth is entirely wrong. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment, and supply the information desired, and that, in the event of an extension of annexes, the smaller engineering firms, notalone in New SouthWales, but also throughout Australia, will have an opportunity to compete for this particular work.
– I am at a loss to understand why the Minister (Mr. Casey) cannot accept the perfectly reasonable amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). “Were he to do so, he would show some sign of wisdom, which so far in the debate has not prevailed on the Government side. It appears to me that the Government is stonewalling its own bill.
– The honorable member and his colleagues are doing the stonewalling.
– Everybody knows that there is something radically wrong with the reception of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), and that his loud speaker is uncontrollable. The view that I take is, that the amendment would safeguard the interests “of the people whom we represent. Although the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) claims that it is not necessary because existing laws cover the matter, surely when some doubt is expressed by members of the legal fraternity on this side of the House, as a brother lawyer, he ought to be prepared to give it serious consideration. The disagreement on this occasion may be purely professional rather than a matter of logic. The amendment provides for the compulsory acquisition of real estate on just terms for the purposes of defence. I believe that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) expressed the view that it is possible that higher than reasonable prices might be paid. According to the experience that I have had in respect of land resumptions, the attitude of Government departments towards owners ; of private building blocks is anything but fair. “When the Commonwealth seized land for the extension of the Essendon aerodrome some persons who had paid between £75 and £110 for blocks were offered only £15 for them. They were unable to have the figure increased, because they were without the means to fight the department and were unable to impress the authority concerned with the justice of their claim. I know of cases of women who have been struggling for years-
– I cannot allow the honorable member to. proceed on those lines. His remarks do not touch the amendment.
– Will you be good enough, sir, to indicate in what way my remarks are not relevant to the amendment, which provides for the acquisition of real estate on just terms for purposes of defence. I am endeavouring to cite cases in which land was acquired by the Commonwealth on unjust terms. The words used in the amendment itself are acquisition on just terms.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I do not think that that has anything to do with the amendment.
– I am reluctant to disagree with your ruling, sir. Surely it is in order to argue in favour of the insertion in this clause of a provision which will ensure that the Government will take into consideration what is just and what is unjust ! That, I contend, is very much to the point. What has been done in the past ought to have a bearing on what is to be avoided in the future. I ask you to allow me to give particulars of the acquisition of land on unjust terms.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The matter is one not of just terms, but of whether the power of compulsory acquisition should be included in the bill.
– On just terms.
– I shall not permit particulars to be given of other cases.
– I have no wish to trespass on the judgment of the Chair, and will, therefore, avoid details. There are on record cases in which the amount paid upon compulsory acquisition has been considerably below the purchase price; and the position has been made worse by the fact that land so acquired had been purchased by its owners for the purpose of erecting homes thereon. There is also another aspect which has to be considered. The Government might acquire land for the purpose of establishing annexes for the manufacture of munitions and, in consequence of speculation bringing the private operators of the annexes to insolvency, the people’s equity might be jeopardized. I commend the honorable member for Batman for so clearly recognizing the position which might arise should this provision not be enacted. If the Assistant Minister has a further consultation with his chief he will probably conclude that, rather than delay the passage of the bill, the wiser course would be to accept this additional safeguard, even though the argument on which he bases his objection to it may appear to him to be perfectly sound. I do not know how the Government can expect the full cooperation of the Opposition if it persists in its present attitude. The logic of the argument in favour of the amendment is unanswerable. The Government would seem to be taking advantage of every opportunity to prevent the Opposition from so amending the measure as to make it more acceptable than it is now, although no amendment would make the principle which it embodies acceptable to me. I am totally opposed to the policy of handing over to private enterprise the manufacture of munitions. Honorable members opposite cannot answer the arguments that I am advancing, because there is no answer to them, therefore they remain silent. It seems as though they have been instructed to he dumb. The Labour party desires to ensure that the public outlay on these annexes shall be safeguarded, and I intend to do everything I can to achieve that end. I trust that wisdom will be displayed by the Government and that the amendment will be accepted. . This bill is repugnant to me in many ways, but if certain amendments can be incorporated in it, it would be less repugnant. Perhaps the Labour party, by proposing amendments, may be able to ensure that ultimately a measure, in some respects at least acceptable to them, will be passed.
Mr. BEASLEY (West Sydney)[5.42]. - The only answer that has been made by the Government to the request for the insertion of this amendment is that power already exists to acquire land in another act. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) has referred to the Lands Acquisition Act and has suggested that the Government’s power to acquire land is complete. It may be said, however, that the Government’s power to do many of the things set out in this clause is complete, yet provision has been made in the bill to confirm the power. We contend that the Government’s power to acquire land for the purposes set out in the bill should also be confirmed. If it is necessary to make specific reference to certain other matters, we contend that it is just as necessary to make specific reference to the power to acquire land. That the Government already possesses some of the powers ref erred to in the bill is shown conclusively by the fact that certain clauses of the measure have been “lifted” from the Defence Act. It is evidently felt that the powers contained in these provisions should be definitely provided in this bill. If that be so in respect of these matters, it is probably so, too, in relation to land acquisition. We all know that the powers provided in acts of Parliament are subject to prescribed conditions in such acts. Consequently, the power contained in the Lands Acquisition Act to acquire land is subject to specified conditions. The regulations made under different acts of Parliament concern the power of the Government to administer according to such acts. It is highly likely that the power to acquire land, to which the Assistant Minister has made reference, is circumscribed in many ways in the Lands Acquisition Act, and may not effectively apply to this bill. If this bill must be passed, the Labour party desires the conditions to be such that will enable a Labour administration, when’ it comes into office, to be - entirely free from the power and influence of private armament manufacturers. This Government, may not be in office for long, and when it loses its majority, its policy will naturally cease to have effect. If a Labour government comes into office, as is likely, it will naturally wish to be free to give effect to its policy. The Labour party has emphasized again and again during the last fortnight that it is totally opposed to the manufacture of munitions by private enterprise. Unless an amendment, such as that moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is inserted in this bill, a Labour government may find that it cannot prevent the manufacture of munitions in privately-controlled annexes, or even properly control the situation while the land upon -which these annexes are erected is in the hands of those people. For that reason, it desires to ensure that, if necessity should arise, these annexes shall be brought under definite government control. The power, provided in other acts of Parliament to acquire land is governed by the conditions set out in those acts. Those conditions may not be similar to the provisions prescribed in this measure. Surely it is logical to ask that the powers which this measure purports to place in the hands of this Government shall be subject to the conditions set out in the measure. While it is perfectly true that the Government may be able to commandeer land for some purposes, it may not be able, under existing statutes, to commandeer it for the purposes set out in this bill.
– -It can compulsorily acquire land for all purposes.
-I am not a lawyer, but 1 am very well aware that the interpretation of acts of Parliament is not simple. Different circumstances load to different interpretations. An act of Parliament may remain unchanged, but the application of the law may vary. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has himself told us that, although the Constitution is the same to-day as it was ten or fifteen years ago, the interpretation of it fluctuates. That is what we fear in connexion with the power to acquire land. Is there anything wrong in principle with the compulsory acquisition of land for defence purposes? If not, why does the Government resist this amendment? The members of the Labour party are well a ware that the general public regards this bill with considerable misgivings, and is particularly hostile to any scheme to place the manufacture of munitions of war in the hands of private enterprise. Fears are frequently expressed that undue profits will be made. The Labour party acknowledges the justification for those fears, and desires to do everything possible to remove them. We are well- aware that State laws place definite restrictions upon the tenants of buildings. The acts of various States relating to landlords and tenants have a great deal to say on this subject. If a Labour government came into office and desired to take certain action in respect of some of these annexes, the owners of the land might object strenuously, and unless the Government held the title deeds to the land, might even be able to prevent it from operating the machinery, although both the machinery and the buildings housing it were provided from public funds. The Assistant Minister seems to rely upon the authority of the Commonwealth contracts, but he would hardly admit that a Commonwealth contract could override a State law. A Commonwealth law might, under certain conditions, override a State law, but a mere contract could scarcely have such force.
– If trouble arose, the Commonwealth Government would still have the power provided by the Lands Acquisition Act, and it could use it, if necessa ry.
– That being so, I can see no real objection to incorporating in the bill the amendment of the honorable member for Batman. I put it in good faith that certain provisions of this bill have given rise to suspicion in the public mind. Anything that will place the manufacture of munitions of war in the hands of private enterprise is properly regarded with abhorrence by the people at large. If any suspicion of profiteering is current, it is equally likely that suspicion will be rife that the arrangements for the control and management of these annexes is not satisfactory. The machinery to be installed in the annexes will be valuable. It is not likely that even the smallest machine installed in these annexes will be erected and equipped for less than £1,000. I have no doubt that some of the equipment will cost a great deal more. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) referred to a matter of some moment. Is the power supply for these annexes to be independent of the source of power for the nearby factory, or is. it to be run off by the same generating units by the use of additional pulleys and shaftings! If the annexes are to be quite separate, it seems to me that no justification exists for locating them near existing private enterprises in preference to existing government establishments. We find it hard to believe that private manufacturers are establishing these annexes for the benefit of the general community purely .out of the benevolence of their own hearts. Private manufacturers are not accustomed to do things like that. ‘ I. cannot believe that any private manufacturers will expend large sums in providing and. operating annexes unless they are assured of a good return. The value of the land on which the buildings will be erected will be considerable in some cases. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is establishing an annexe at Pyrmont, and to provide room for the building it demolished a row of cottages from which it was receiving substantial rents. Does the Government suggest that this company is willing to do that in a purely benevolent spirit, and without any expectation of an adequate financial return? All the circumstances surrounding the establishment of these annexes cause us to do everything in our power to ensure that the substantial public funds involved are adequately protected. We are living in a hard world so far -as business is concerned, and I have yet to meet business men of the type which the Government would lead us to believe will do this work. My next point is that the period of five years, the duration of this legislation, will soon slip by. Is this valuable machinery then to be” left idle?
– Ten years is the period provided for in most eases.
– Like old soldiers, it will fade away.
– Yes, that is what will happen.
– It is government property.
– That is our argument. Can we imagine a company such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, for instance, allowing this machinery in five years’ time to lie greased and idle on its property? It. is not logical to expect a company to be satisfied with such a state of affairs. The Government’s attitude on this point raises the question as to whether it would not be better to confine these annexes to railway and municipal workshops. The Government also claims that it could not embark on works which it could not keep in operation permanently, and, on this ground, justified its refusal to purchase sites for these annexes and to nin them without any assistance from private enterprise.
– The honorable gentleman will realize that the ability of any industry to qualify for an annexe depends on the capacity of the tool-room of the parent plant.
– I feel sure that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) is aware of the latest developments with respect to the standardization of tools and gauges. He had an opportunity to acquaint himself with that matter when an inspection wa.3 made recently of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. We saw how that establishment reduced the problem of tools and measurement devices to a fine art. Standard gauges and patterns are now available to industry. These devices enable measurements to be standardized to one-thousandth part of an inch. Thus the problem of tools has got beyond the stage of the separate toolroom.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Although I have listened to this debate for the last two weeks, I have so far refrained from saying anything, because I am of the opinion that this measure should have been dealt with within 48 hours. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) has pointed out that the powers covered in the amendment are already enjoyed by the Commonwealth Government under the Lands Acquisition Act and the Defence Act, and, consequently, the amendment is unnecessary. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has raised a query as to the ownership of the annexes. He stated that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited had bought a row of cottages which it had demolished in order to make way for the construction of an annexe. Surely honorable members know thatmany companies, in a patriotic endeavour to relieve the community of some of this expense, have agreed to contribute land, buildings and plant associated with the annexes. For the honorable member’s information I mention that the companies which have agreed to contribute land, building and practically all of the plant include Stewarts and Lloyds, of Newcastle, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Sydney, and the Commonwealth Steel Proprietary Limited, Newcastle, in respect of aircraft bombs. Those which have agreed to contribute land and building, include Charles Ruwolt Proprietary Limited, Melbourne; Australian Glass Manufacturing Company, Melbourne; New South Wales Government Railways; South Australian Government Railways; Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company, Sydney ; Amalgamated Wireless ((Australasia ) Limited, Sydney; General MotorsHoldens, Adelaide; and Johns and Waygood, Melbourne; whilst the companies which have agreed to contribute land only include the Victorian Government Railways; H. V. MacKay, Massey Harris Proprietary Limited, Melbourne; R. B. Davies Proprietary Limited, Sydney; MacKenzie and Holland Proprietary Limited, Melbourne; Duly and Hansford Proprietary Limited, Sydney; Commonwealth Steel Proprietary Limited, Newcastle, in respect of shells; and the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, Geelong. I am sure that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) will agree that the Newcastle firms mentioned are honest, despite the allegation of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and a number of his colleagues, that all companies of this kind are not to be trusted in the performance of their duty to the nation. I object to the committee being held up by amendments which are totally unnecessary. Apparently, honorable members opposite are prepared to accept everything which the honorable member for Batman says is correct from a legal point of view. I assure honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) who mude his regular speech, that the establishment of these annexes will lessen the possibility of all of those fearful things .happening which he has visualized. T ask honorable members to reconsider their attitude towards this measure. Never have I known so many amendments to be proposed in connexion with any measure as has been the case on this occasion, and, I regret to say, most of them have been proposed simply with the object of holding up the bill.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– The Assistant Minister has made it clear that the powers covered by the amendment are already enjoyed by the Commonwealth Government under the Lands Acquisition Act and the Defence Act. Consequently, I repeat, the amendment is unnecessary. I ask honorable members opposite to desist from their tactics in delaying the passage of the measure.
– The honorable member himself is stone-walling.
– No. I hope that honorable members will not trifle with this measure, but will realize the urgency of making adequate preparation for the defence of this country.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is to be commended on his high public spirit in moving this amendment, which is designed to protect the assets of the community. Having heard the arguments advanced by honorable members on this side I am amazed that the Government should have selected the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) to answer them. It is, indeed, a serious matter when the Government proposes to expend large sums of money in order to develop industries controlled by private enterprise without, at the same time, providing adequate safeguards to ensure that its assets will remain in the ownership of the community. Honorable members on this side have endeavoured to secure information from the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) as to what is likely to happen in the event of certain circumstances arising, but he has not had the courtesy to give the opinion of the Government concerning those very important matters. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) has declared that the powers covered by the amendment are already vested in the Comrnonwealth . Government. Hepointed out that the Government did not propose to continue operating these annexes in peace time. I am not even prepared to accept the statement- that we are yet in a state of war, but, evidently, the Government believes that a real emergency has arisen, and immediate preparations must be made in the piling up of supplies of armaments. However, when the Assistant Minister says that it is not the intention of the Government to operate the annexes in peace time, we must naturally ask what is to happen to the annexes when the Government admits that peace exists. Isthe machinery to be removed from the annexes and stored, or is it to be handed over to private enterprise at bargain prices as has been the fate of other valuable assets of the Commonwealth ? I support the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in pressing for some explanation as to the necessity for establishing these annexes under the control of private enterprise. As the Assistant Minister has said that they are to -be operated as distinct units from the factories to which they are attached, he might be able to explain why they should be attached to private industry in any way whatever. The Minister pointed out that private employers had at their disposal skilled artisans who could be readily transferred from’ the ordinary factory to these annexes.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– Before the sitting was suspended, I was endeavouring, with not a. great deal of success, to elicit some further information from the Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) about this clause, with particular reference to the Government’s refusal to accept the very reasonable amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I was endeavouring to obtain from the Minister some of the reasons as to why money- should be expended on annexes to private industry rather -than extensions to government workshops. The supporters of the Government have endeavoured to show that the main purpose behind the establishment of these annexes is to utilize to full capacity the workmen available in private, undertakings, but I take it that these workmen are already fully employed. It would be a far better plan for the Government to enlarge its own operations and thereby give additional skilled artisans experience in the munitions branch of industry. That would tend to absorb the 29,000 Australians who are registered for employment in government munitions works.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member must confine himself to the amendment, which refers only to the compulsory resumption of land.
– The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development claims that the Government has power under existing legislation to acquire land, but that is challenged by the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) whose legal opinions I prefer to accept against his. The Government may be satisfied with agreements, but the mere fact that an agreement provides for certain conditions does not necessarily mean that it is valid in law and can be enforced. The Government, therefore, must, run a. real risk of losing the assets contained in the annexes which are to’ be established ‘by the expenditure of large sums of public money. I should like the Assistant Minister to indicate what will happen to these annexes when there is no longer any need for them. He said that this was a war-time measure. Although there is no evidence that we are at war the Government is attempting to prove that an emergency is- imminent. The bill provides for a five-year period for the legislation, but, according to the Assistant Minister, the leases will be for a period of ten years. Evidently there is some doubt in the minds of Ministers as to for how long this legislation will be required to operate, and nobody seems to be quite clear as to what will happen to these annexes when they are no longer needed for their declared purpose.
– The honorable member is afraid that they will be taken over by private industry.
– Yes; there is a real danger of that. If the Standing Orders would allow me to do so, I should say that the Government is guilty of deliberately planning to hand them to private enterprise.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not pursue that course.
– Differing opinions exist among legal men in this chamber as to what is the legal position in any case of insolvency, as to whether claims can be made on these assets. Legal men disagree on most points, and when they do one has to decide whose opinion one will accept, and, knowing the calibre of legal men in the Labour party, I have no hesitation in accepting their viewpoint. What objection can there be to the removing of the doubt by placing a definite provision in the bill? It is all right for the Government to say that it has the power to acquire land under other legislation, but we desire to know whether the Government intends to exercise that power. The general public would not be satisfied to see millions of pounds of its money expended with the chance of it being lost. I say “ millions of pounds “ because it will run into millions. This is only the start. Already there are to be 19 annexes and about £1,000,000 is to be expended on them. No Government spokesman has told the committee the full . extent to which this plan is to operate, but I have no doubt that it will involve the expenditure of millions of pounds, and the public will be interested to know what steps the Government is taking to protect its assets. One way to protect the assets of the public would be to acquire the title to the land. No honorable member should consider expending such a large amount of public money without taking precautions to ensure that no private individual has opportunity at any time to take over public property for his own purpose. We know the history of this Government, and its predecessors. We know what they have done in respect of other State assets.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not in order in discussing that aspect. The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). One million pounds’ was recently , expended in modernization of the Islington workshops in South Australia. I do not know whether other States are similarly placed, but all of the work necessary for the £30,000,000 worth of railways in South Australia is able to be performed in those workshops. The Premier of the South Australian Government, which is of the same political construction as this Government, has definitely stated that all work that can be done at Islington shall be done there.
– Order ! I remind the honorable gentleman there is only one issue before the Chair, the compulsory acquisition of land.
– I should have thought that the Government would not have needed to be convinced of the need to protect public assets. The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) has said that the power to acquire land is contained in other legislation, but the Opposition believes that this bill itself should protect the people from a loss of assets as the . result, perhaps, of the insolvency of a company on whose land an annexe is built.
– It. was explained earlier to-day that the buildings will be erected on land leased by the ‘ Government and that they will be government property and, therefore,unattachable.
– But it is not stated in the bill.
– We want it in the bill.
– We have made it clear by Government statements.
– Within a year a statementwill have been forgotten.
– But the leases will still be in existence.
– We are not satisfied. We want a. definite provision in the bill. It may be all right for a year or two to have government assets on private land, but as time passes legal difficulties may arise.
– The contracts are for a ten-year period.
– Ten years is a short time in the history of this country, and . the nation should own the land on which its assets are situated. I do not rise ‘. to speak very often, but 1 am impelled to speak on this occasion because I believe that a principle is involved. One of our duties in this House is to ensure that the assets of the country ure not impaired. We are anxious that the Government should make it quite clear in this bill that the land upon which these annexes are to stand shall be purchased by the Commonwealth. Let us assume that the defence building programme continues for three or four years, and then this mad world turns from war to peace. There will then be no more need for defence measures of this kind, and it is possible that the annexe factories will be allowed to fall into disrepair, and be eventually sold at a loss to the manufacturers by whom they have been run.
– The contracts stipulate that the .properties shall be effectively maintained for the period of the lease, which is ten years.
– All of those conditions should be contained in the bill.
.- The Government has to tax Australia quite heavily enough for defence without adding to the cost the purchase of land where it is quite unnecessary, and where the use of such land can be had for nothing. If this Government, or any succeeding government, considered it necessary to further protect its own property by purchasing the land upon which the annexes stand, there is every facility and authority in existence at the present time. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) took the opportunity to oppose once more the whole policy of defence annexes. I advise him, and other, honorable members on that side of the House, to read the very admirable speech made by their colleague, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), last week on. this subject, in which he showed the necessity for the provision of annexes associated with private enterprise. If the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) were Attorney-General, I cannot help feeling tha.t he, as a legal man, would be absolutely opposed to such wholly unnecessary duplication of existing legislation as this amendment implies.
.- The observation just made by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Pater son) that the Crown should not acquire for money land of which it can obtain the use free of charge from private individuals, suggests a very strong argument in favour of the inclusion of this amendment in the measure. I can think of nothing more pernicious, more liable to introduce an element of patronage and, in the last resort, of profiteering, than that the Government should place itself under an obligation to private individuals in respect of anything it may require in a national emergency. It is preposterous, to my mind, that in an emergency measure designed for use only in circumstances of war we should say that this man or that man - perhaps a man ill.disposed towards the safety of. the country - is willing to allow us, a nation, the use of his private land for the making of munitions, and for the operation of our defence works. The Crown at such times must be supreme. The Commonwealth must have absolute control over what assets are necessary for the defence of the country, especially in an emergency. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) tendered as his only objection to the acceptance of the amendment the excuse - and it was nothing more than an excuse - that it was not necessary. He did not say that it was bad in principle; he did not say that ho objected to it on its merits; he merely said that it was already provided for by tlie law of this country. It cannot bc too often repeated that almost all matters provided for in this clause are already the subject-matter of legislation, or are capable of being legislated upon under existing statutes. If the honorable gentleman is sincere, and is anxious to pass this bill - and we are given to understand that the Government, is anxious to pass it - what would be easier for him than to accept an amendment that, at the most, repeats something which is already enacted elsewhere under the Lands Acquisition Act, in the passage of which in years past I had the honour to take some part? There is very good reason, however, why the power should be taken afresh in this legislation to give point to our abandoning everything for war purposes. It provides for the acquisition of land on “just” terms. Tn drafting the amendment, a very simple one, to my mind, I thought that the Government would have accepted it without hesitation. The Government does not very often accept amendments proposed by me, but I thought that it would accept this one in the spirit in which it was offered, in order that we might get on with the business. But no! With an obstinacy apparently dictated by purely personal considerations, the Government insists upon declaring that, even though we sit up all night, and though this measure of grave national emergency be retarded, still it will not accept the amendment which, in principle, it has already accepted, but which, so it says, is covered elsewhere by legislation.
I have this to say in regard to the acquisition of land on just terms. If my friend, the Assistant Minister, will take the trouble to refer to the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936 he will find for himself the method thereby laid down for determining the value of land compulsorily acquired. Section 28 of that act is as follows: -
– (1.) In determining the compensation under this act, regard shall be had (subject to th is act) to the following matters: -
I’ point out that that act is directed toward the acquisition of land at a time of peace, and to the fixing of a price based upon purely business principles, not at all the principles that should obtain in time of war or emergency.
– That section is wide enough to permit of the paymentof fancy prices.
– Yes ; it is wide enough for that. My point is that what may be just as an act of buying and selling in normal times may be unjust when land is to be acquired in time of emergency. The Lands Acquisition Act does not envisage a state of war; this measure does. It is directed to a period of five years, when it is hoped that this war-mongering will have come to an end; or, at the very worst, the war will be over, it is directed to a period culminating in a declaration of war which those seers, projecting their minds into the future, affect to be able to discern looming in the not far distant future. That being the case, it is evident that the point is not adequately covered by the Lands Acquisition Act, with its leisurely lumbering procedure.
There is this further point to consider : The Government has apparently acted by entering into a series of contracts in anticipation of this bill being passed. Some favoured members of Parliament are able to quote the names of individuals with whom the Government has already entered into bargains in anticipation of the passage of this legislation by Parliament - in my view, a proceeding of very doubtful propriety indeed.
– A list was published in Hansard weeks ago.
– We do not know what has been done in regard to these annexes. I gravely suspect persons who come with gifts to governments. They come, no doubt, with an intelligent anticipation of favours to come.
– What about the railway workshops ? They are on the list, too.
– That may be so. The railway workshops, and government workshops generally, are the instrumentalities that should be employed for this work. Private land, private manufacturers, and private profiteers, should not come into it at all. The question of the value of land required for governmental purposes has been discussed by the High Court.
A footnote to section- 28 of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936, in the Consolidated Commonwealth Acts, states -
Held by the High Court in an action for compensation under theProperty for Public Purposes Acquisition Act 1901 (which has been repealed by this act) that in assessing the value of land resumed under that act the basis of valuation should be the price that a willing purchaser would at the date in question have had to pay a vendor not unwilling, but not anxious, to sell. Spencer v.Commonwealth (1907) 5 C.L.R. 418; 14 A.L.R. 253. This provision was applied to the provisions of this act by the High Court in Minister of Stale for Home Affairs v. Rostron (1914) 18 C.L.R. 634. Per Isaacs and Rich J. J. (quoting from the judgment of Lord Buckmaster in Fraser
City of Fraserville (1917) A.C. 187 at page 194) “ Hie value to be ascertained is the value to the seller of the property in its actual condition at the time of expropriation with all its existing advantages ami ‘with all its possibilities, excluding any advantage ‘due to the carrying out of the scheme for which the property is compulsorily acquired.”
I draw attention to the last line of that quotation. I do not wish to exclude the purposes for which this land is to be acquired nor the disadvantages which may be incurred. ‘The purposes are special purposes, and not the ordinary purposes of a buyer and seller in times of peace. They relate to extraordinary times. I submit to the committee, and particularly to the Assistant Minister - this is the final word I shall be able to say on this point, although I shall have much to say on other aspects of the bill - that it should be remembered that there may be a vast difference between a price which is considered just for the acquisition of land in time of peace, and a price which is considered just for the same land in time of war when the manhood of the country is being conscripted for defence purposes, and we may be standing with our backs to the wall. It is true, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has said, that even under the Lands Asquisiti on Act upon which the Assistant Minister relies, there is amply wide scope for the payment of private individuals by the. Government on a handsome scale.
– -The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Honorable members on this side are forced to push home the strong opposition which they feel to the objections being raised by the Government to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). Discussion on this matter has now extended over a lengthy perio”d, and the Government has resisted all efforts to have this clause made watertight by the carrying of this amendment.
– There are about seven or . eight other, amendments to be moved by other honorable members of the Opposition.
– That is so, and they are all necessary, but this is a very important one. Possibly, if the Government realizes that the Opposition intends to fight this question to the limit, its attitude may be more reasonable. There are unusual circumstances which justify the amendment now before the committee. It is agreed by all honorable members that the powers to be conferred upon the Government by this legislation cover a very wide field - clause 5 itself has very wide scope - but one of the most important points which should be adequately covered by this legislation is left entirely out of the bill. The Opposition has endeavoured to remedy this omission by putting forward an amendment for the insertion of a new sub-clause by which definite provision may be made for the protection of property on which public money is to be expended. It has been pointed out that whereas the operation of this legislation will extend only over a period of five years, contracts may be made for periods up to ten years, but honorable members do not know what is in those contracts. That is something that the Government is keeping to itself. Honorable members should know the exact form of these contracts, so that they could better estimate the proper course to follow. Unfortunately, the Government takes the attitude that it must be entrusted with all the responsibility. The experience of those people who are strongly opposed to the making of munitions by private enterprise, has been, that some governments cannot be trusted in matters of this kind. While this Government and the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Casey) may not have ulterior motives, experience has shown that in cases where public property has been handed over to private enterprise, the interests of the general public have been sacrificed. Examples have already been cited in this debate. The amendment now before the committee will give that form of protection which honorable members feel to be absolutely necessary. It is our desire that the Government should have power - it need not exercise it unless it feels it is essential to do so - compulsorily to resume real estate on just terms for defence purposes, but I believe that it should be compelled to exercise that power. I stress the word “just”. I believe that “just” means “fair, right and equitable terms, which will give a measure of justice to the people who provide the money “. I want to be sure that there is inserted in this bill something which will enable the Government to take action which is wellgrounded. If that is done, this committee will be doing something in the interests of the people. If not, honorable members are shirking their responsibility. When bills of this kind are brought down it is the duty of members of the Opposition, as well as of the Government, to see that the interests of the people are protected, If sums of money are to be paid out of the public purse as the result of obligations undertaken by the Government, steps should be taken to ensure that value is received for that money. In short, it is our desire to see that money paid for land on which government annexes are built is fair and reasonable. The policy now being applied by the Government in connexion with annexes is a departure from the usual procedure. To establish these annexes it is necessary to have land. In the case of annexes to railway workshops there will, of course, be very little difficulty in regard to land. It is :n connexion with annexes to private establishments that the real trouble arises. After a large amount of money has been spent on the construction of huge new defence factories, the trend of political events may be such that these undertakings are unnecessary. In such an event, steps must be taken to ensure that, the valuable machinery installed by the: Government for use in conjunction with private under takings does not revert to the owners of the land on which the factories or annexes have been established, lt is possible that private manufacturers will claim that, as the annexes have been attached to their factories and built on their land, they should be allowed to retain them. If the land were owned by the Government, that difficulty would not arise. A better understanding between the Government and the Opposition could be arrived at, if this amendment were accepted. There are many other amendments to be brought before the committee, but if this one were accepted it would show a spirit of compromise which is only to be expected from the Government.
– The Government has already accepted one amendment from the Opposition.
– That is true. I think that the Assistant Minister, and honorable members generally, realized the importance of that amendment, the acceptance of which showed a recognition of the weight of opinion, rather than graciousness. I suggest, persuasively rather than demandingly, that after listening to the honorable member for Batman, who has quoted the remarks of learned jurists in support of his argument, the Government should realize that the weight of argument and of justice is on the side of those who support the amendment now before the committee. Honorable members on this side will continue to fight until the Government realizes that its own supporters are not the only ones who have rights in this chamber. If the Government persists in its refusal to recognize those rights, by rejecting suggestions made by the Opposition while at the same time forcing its own provisions, then opposition to this* measure must continue. I am not anxious to see the- bill passed, because I do not believe in the principle which underlies it; but if we are compelled to accept it by reason of the temporary coalition of the Country party and the’ United Australia party, we want it to contain the best possible provisions. I could hardly imagine such a. coalition, in view of the feeling shown from, time to time. I trust that, the utmost consideration will bc given to the arguments advanced by my learned and lay colleagues, who have a strongsense of justice, and believe that the Government ought to act rightly and justly. I emphasize the term “just”. We want something done which we feel will be just. If the Government, upon reconsidering the matter, accepts the amendment, it may “ just “ get the bill through.
– I am astonished at the refusal of the Government to accept the amendment. An Opposition is an integral part of British parliamentary institutions; but, while absolutely necessary, its sole duty is not to oppose, although that contention was advanced many years ago by a
British statesman. It is our desire that the bill be improved. My colleagues have said that they (are opposed to many of the principles that it contains, but as the Government has the support necessary to pass it, we can only endeavour so to amend it as to bring it more into accordance with oar ideas. We have no doubt as to where the members of the Country party will be when the test is applied; they will be where they have always been, voting solidly for the reactionary forces of this country - a Country party in name only.
In connexion with munitions annexes, the Government is opposing a very reasonable proposition which is in the forefront of democratic thought in Australia and every other country; that is to say, that, as far as possible, the Government shall own the land on which munitions are manufactured. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has asked why the Government should buy the land when it has the use of it for nothing. That argument is dictated by his Scottish instinct, and leaves out of account the principle involved in the matter. The Government is making preparations for the Department of Supply and Development to deal with many matters, and it is absolutely necessary that it should coordinate the work that it has begun. Paragraph a is in respect of “ the provision or supply of munitions “ ; paragraph b deals with “ the manufacture or assembly of aircraft or parts thereof by the Common wea’lth or any authority of the Commonwealth”; paragraph c relates to “ arrangements for the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence”; paragraph d covers “the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of stocks of goods in connexion with defence “ ; and paragraph e, before the amendment of the clause at the instance of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), makes provision in relation to “ arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions “. We who sit on this side of the chamber do not regard it as possible for the Government to act effectively under the arrangements that have been made. When we find manufacturers saying in effect that if the Commonwealth provides the annexes they are prepared to use their own land and to- produce without making excessive profits, I can only remind the Minister of the warning to beware of the Greeks when they bring gifts. The Commonwealth is providing machinery for use on land owned by the manufacturers. Has any honorable member heard of any business firm which would be prepared to place buildings on land owned by others? I want to know from the legal luminary at the table what legal hold the Government will have over buildings placed on land owned by the manufacturers?
– The land is leased by the the Government for a period of ten years, at a rental of £1 a year.
– When ,that lease expires, who will shift the machinery?
– When the lease expires at the end of the ten-year period, either the firm concerned may take the machinery and the building at an agreed valuation or, if it is not prepared to do that, the Government may - and it will - move both the building .and the assets. The building will be constructed of a light steel frame, with a galvanized iron roof. It is designed with the object that, if necessary, it can be removed.
– I do not care whether it is to be on wheels, and there will be a tractor handy to take it away. We know that, although the Federal Government has considered itself supreme in the matter of legislation, on many occasions we have had the unfortunate spectacle of its having lost litigation, not only in the High Court of Australia, but also - thanks to a Tory government - before a higher authority outside of Australia, - namely, the Privy Council. I fear, therefore, the possible consequences of the Government providing machinery for private enterprise to make munitions for this country. Such action is without parallel in any other country in the world. Notwithstanding the sad experience of .the British Government in regard to the manufacture of munitions - I need not quote the speech of the Right Honorable Lloyd George in connexion with the immense profits made during the last war-
– Order !
– I shall make my reference relevant to the question before the Chair. Clearly it is impossible for the Commonwealth Government to control profits made from the use of machinery placed on land belonging to some one else, when it was impossible for the British Government to do anything of the kind while Great Britain was engaged in a death struggle. In what respect is the capacity of this Government greater than that of the British Government? You, as a free trader, Mr. Chairman, and other members from “Western Australia who hold similar views, know that the greatest curse of this country has been the big manufacturer who, irrespective of the claims of the farmers, has continued to charge high prices for goods which could have been manufactured for half the price elsewhere.
– The honorable member is not confining his remarks to the subject before the committee. I ask him to discuss the clause.
– I have attempted to show that it is dangerous for tie Government to place such an important matter as the manufacture of munitions, which are a supreme necessity during a period of war, in the hands of. people who, we are told, will not make profits. This shows that the Government stands for private manufacture even, in a period of great stress. “We know that it stands for individualism - each man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost, except the big man on top who is in control of those who are underneath. This is individualism run mad. I trust that the amendment will be carried.
– I had hoped that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt), and particularly the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), would have realized the importance of the proposal which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has submitted in this amendment, and that they would have endeavoured to give the Opposition some encouragement to collaborate with them, and afford that co-operation which they profess to be perpetually seeking in order that the industrial basis of defence in Australia may be successfully “ laid. Here is an important principle. The honorable member for Batman says that among the various duties which this new department shall have imposed upon it in addition to the establishment of industrial annexes, shall be the power and the duty to acquire the land upon which, at the discretion of the department, certain of these annexes shall be established. The Assistant Minister has told the committee that the power compulsorily to acquire land is already given by the Lands Acquisition Act. That is perfectly clear, and we are all aware of it. But here we are setting up a new department and are not only giving to it the authority given by the statute law to a Commonwealth department, but are also laying down a specification of its duties. “We desire that, as far as possible, the department shall establish these annexes on Commonwealth land, as a department, rather than merely as a tenant of land owned by private enterprise under conditions which would expose the property of the Commonwealth to all the difficulties that are inherent in a tenancy - which, as we know, involves business relations with . banks and creditors. These relations could quite easily expose the property of the Commonwealth to the risk of being compounded in a common receivership, along with the other assets of the owner of the ground. But there is more than that in it. The Minister has said that the Government’ is opposed in principle to privately-owned munitions establishments - that it desires no less than the Opposition to take the profit out of war and the preparations for defence. Yet here, when that point is reached, we have the Assistant Minister, by interjection - not in his speech - saying that the assets of the Crown on this privately-owned land will be safeguarded by the terms of the contract which the Government will make with the owner of the ground and the factory to which the annexe is attached. There is no specification in the bill that the contract shall contain such a precautionary provision.
– The contracts are already made.
– Of course they are. But new contracts will be made in respect of new annexes; and, in any event, the old contracts no doubt are variable. I’ have not seen any of these contracts, and do not know whether or not they contain the condition that they are terminable by mutual consent within or at a given period. I do not know what right the Crown has reserved to itself to terminate these contracts. The Assistant Minister has merely told us that leases have been obtained from the owners of the land upon which annexes have been established, and that these are a complete protection to the Crown. Unless something to this effect is endorsed upon the title to the land - I speak as a layman, and not as a lawyer - the Crown will have very little protection. The Assistant Minister, who is a lawyer, must be aware of that fact.
Another aspect must be considered. We are putting buildings on private property for public purposes and talking in terms of a period of five years. What will be the position in respect of this Commonwealth property after the fiveyear period has expired, when we hope that the international situation will be such as to make concentration upon defence measures not so necessary as we are told it is to-day ? The government of the day may decide, at the expiry of five years, that the need for this department has ceased to exist. What will he the position of the parliament of the day in such an event ? This measure will simply expire by effluxion of time, and Parliament is not likely ito he consulted as to what shall be done. The owners of the land will take steps to recover the possession of their property, and it is certainly not clear what will happen to the government assets in the establishments concerned. Obviously* the Government will not be able to remove the machinery and equipment without the consent of the owners of the land unless the contracts, which we have not yet seen, reserve that right to the Crown. Even presuming that such rights are reserved, to where would the machinery be shifted? Commonwealth factories of a similar type may not be in existence. As a matter of fact, what will happen will be what has happened in every other case of the kind- Like the Commonwealth Government Woollen Mills and the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line, these assets will be given away at bargain prices to persons engaged in the industries concerned, and the Government will find itself dispossessed of costly equipment obtained in a time of national emergency and probably at the highest prices ever known. Consequently, additional heavy burdens will be placed upon the taxpayers. This could be avoided if the commonsense proposition of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) were accepted. This country is spending £63,000,000 upon defence measures. Not one penny-piece of that money should be translated into personal gain for any individual citizen. I notice that the manufacturers concerned in these transactions have not been very generous in respect of the voluntary national register, and I have no doubt whatever that immediately it is practicable for them to do so they will secure possession of this equipment. The Opposition hopes that, by means of an amendment that has already been made to this clause, profiteering in war equipment and in the provision for -defence will be avoided; but we should not now lay the foundation for ultimate profiteering at the national expense, by making it possible for die owners of the land upon which these annexes are situated to inherit the whole equipment under conditions disadvantageous to the Commonwealth. It should not be possible for this equipment ultimately to be converted into the processing requirements of the manufacturers concerned. I say to those in occupation of the attenuated government benches opposite - they have been occupied this afternoon by only two or three members at a time - that they should not be dumb to every argument, deaf to every appeal and blind to every vision. The welfare of the people of this country should be their paramount consideration. Unless they take greater cognizance of the representations of the Opposition they will find it even more difficult than it has hitherto been to make progress with this bill.
– If honorable members opposite require every single provision of this bill to be explained four or five times in .the course of this discussion, it seems that’ the bill will not be passed within the period that has been stated to be the estimated life of the proposed new department. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has chided the Government for not accepting an amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) which, in the Government’s opinion, and also in the opinion of . its legal advisers, would merely be an unnecessary repetition of a power already vested in the Government under the Lands Acquisition Act.If every power proposed to be exercised by this new department is to be referred to in this bill, the measure will be cluttered up with all kinds of unnecessary provisions. The Government has the power necessary for the purposes in mind ; and even if it were prepared to humour the Opposition in regard to this amendment relating to the acquisition of land, it could not possibly undertake to humour it in regard to many other foreshadowed amendments. The powers which the Government will exercise through this new department are contained in a number of- statutes, such as the Petroleum Search Act, the Customs Act, the Defence Act and several others. Is it to be expected that we shall meet every whim of honorable members opposite and duplicate numerous powers already conferred upon the Government in these other acts? The widest possible scope has been given to this department.
– There is this difference: The Assistant Minister will recognize that if the amendment of the honorable member for Batman is made to this bill, it will become, from the departmental point of view, an expressed wish of the Parliament that the land upon which the annexes are established shall be acquired. I f it is not made, it will remain simply a question for the department to acquire certain of the land if it wishes to do so. That is a notable distinction.
– -The Government will have to carry its responsibility in this connexion. If it considers that land should be acquired for defence purposes, it can acquire it under existing powers. It can acquire land for defence purposes, just as it can acquire all kinds of goods and equipment required for defence. As this power is already in existence, no good purpose would be served by duplicating the provision which confers it upon the Government. Even if this amendment were accepted it would not be mandatory for the Government to acquire all the land on which annexes are established. The Government is not prepared to clutter up this measure with unnecessary provisions which will merely duplicate the sections of existing statutes.
The Leader of the Opposition asked what would be the position in respect of Commonwealth property at the end of five years, assuming that Parliament did not renew the life of this department. If he will look at sub-clause 2 of clause 12 of the bill he will find that if the life of the department is not extended the factories that have been established shall “ be deemed to have been established under the Defence Act “. In other words, they will revert automatically to the control of the Defence Department. That, in fact, is what will happen in respect of most of the functions of the Department of Supply and Development if the department ceases to function at the end of the five-year period. Provision has also been made -in the contracts that at the end of the lease period, or any additional lease period that may bo agreed upon, contractors, at the option of the Government, may acquire the factory buildings and their equipment, at an agreed valuation. If contractors are not desirous to purchase the assets the Government will take them over and use them for its own purposes. The buildings have been deliberately constructed with this possibility in view. They are made of fabricated steel, which lends itself to easy dismantling.
– Under what authority were the ‘buildings constructed and equipped ?
– Under power that exists in the Defence Act. The Government has very extensive establishments for the production of defence requirements during peace time. The annexes have been designed solely for emergency purposes, and will not be brought into operation unless a state of emergency actually arises. It may be that at the end of the five-year period, or a subsequent period, it will be decided that the Government’s own factories are adequate to supply all necessary defence requirements. . If that should be so, the assets which the Government has in these annexes can be disposed of or dealt with in a satisfactory way. Honorable members may be assured also that the Government is convinced, and so, too, are its legal advisers, that the Government property in these annexes is fully protected in the event of any misadventure in business on the part of a particular contractor. If the Opposition is genuinely desirous to see this department established, I suggest that it should allow the bill to pass without attempting to make many of the unnecessary amendments that have been foreshadowed. In almost every case the amendments seek to provide power which is already exercisable by the Government under other statutes.
.- The little additional information that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) has given simply makes confusion worse confounded. I have asked frequently during Our consideration of this bill, not only at its second-reading stage, but also since it has been in committee, how the Government intends to protect its interests in these annexes. Now the Assistant Minister has made it fairly clear that the protection rests upon the conditions contained in certain leases. The Government, we are told, has leased the land on which the annexes are established, but is it paying the rent to the philanthropists who own the land ? If so, what is the amount of the rent ?
– We are paying £1 a year. That has been stated previously.
– The Assistant Minister may quibble as much as he likes concerning the ownership of the assets in these annexes, but history in this and every other country, as far as I know, confirms the view that when a lease falls in the assets upon the land revert to the owner of the land. It is well known that when the Government leases land for a period of years, and private individuals build hotels, or put other improvements upon the land, all buildings and improvements revert to the Crown on the expiry of the lease. The Government cannot get away from that. We were told, first, that the Government was protected by a written agreement, and now we find that the only agreement to be entered into will be a lease, which offers no protection at all.
– There is a contract to which a lease is attached.
– The Assistant Minister says that these annexes will revert to the Defence Department at the expiration of ten years, when the companies may take possession of the building and machinery if they so desire, at what will be termed a revaluation. I cannot repeat too often that this Government, or any government of the same political colour, in all its dealings with private enterprise, gets nothing, and private enterprise gets the lot. It appears to me that this arrangement is being adopted in cold deliberation, with the full intention that when the term has expired, private enterprise will be handed these assets at next to nothing. The Government claims that it is taking action to reduce profits. If it intends to give to these companies the handsome presents which it will be allowed under this measure to hand over to them, the companies can well afford to take a little less profit on the goods they will manufacture. Will the Assistant, Minister, as a legal man, deny that if the Government leases land from private enterprise, and erects buildings on that land, the whole of the buildings and their contents will, notwithstanding anything in the contract, revert to the lessor? He has complained that the Opposition is simply holding up the measure. So long as the provision covered by the amendment is not inserted in the measure, I shall continue to do my best to hold up the measure. That, apparently, is all I can do to protect the interests of the community. This Government will not be in existence for ten years, and, perhaps, half of the present honorable members will not be here either. The Government, therefore, has no right to enact legislation of this kind which may operate against the interests of the people, and may, indeed, result in the future taxpayers H’ this country being robbed of this property. Furthermore, it may militate against any action which some future government may feel obliged to take in the interests of defence. The Assistant Minister rejects the amendment, reiterating that the powers covered by it already exist under other acts. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) showed clearly how the provisions of the Lands
Acquisition Act in this respect do not fit the bill completely in this case. If the Government desires to acquire land for annexes by virtue of its power under that act, it will be obliged to enter into a transaction which, as the honorable member for Batman agreed, will allow gross manipulation on the part of private enterprise, in order to secure fancy prices. The Assistant Minister also said that the annexes would be so constructed that they would be removable. Is it the intention of the Government to remove them from one site to another? The whole of the proposition is selfcontradictory. The honorable gentleman also said that the Government had already entered into some agreements for the leasing of sites for annexes. In that case, it is merely bringing down this measure in order to provide for something which it has already done. It had no right to anticipate the decisions of the legislature in that regard. It would be very interesting, I suggest, if the Minister would table some of the contracts which have already ‘been entered into, in order to allow honorable members to examine them. If that were done, possibly we should approach this matter from a different point of view. But honorable members are denied any information concerning the terms of such contracts.
– It is an affront to the Parliament.
– The Government simply says, in effect, “ Give us the legislation, and we will do the job “. My experience of governments, particularly this Government, is that unless they are bound by the letter of the law, they are prone to do very peculiar things. They seek to manipulate matters in the interests of their friends in such a way that their actions are very hard to follow. The Government should accept the amendment. By doing so it would provide some guarantee that valuable governmental assets will not .simply be given away as has too often been the case in the past.
.- I support the amendment moved ‘by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). Honorable members, and the people as a whole, should be under a deep sense of gratitude to the honorable member for his attempt to have this provision incorporated in the measure. Honorable members will have noticed that I have not thought it worth while, up to this stage, to pass any remarks regarding this measure. I have refrained from speaking on it because I am of opinion that it is .unnecessary, and that it has been introduced by the Government simply to give Parliament something to play about with. The Government no doubt regards the measure as a safe one on which it oan command the support of the Country party. In the meantime, it neglects the grave problems on which it does not see eye to eye with that party. It has a responsibility, for instance, with regard to national insurance and unemployment, but it realizes that in dealing with those important problems, it would probably run on the rocks. In those circumstances, it tosses this measure into the parliamentary arena. On the admission of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt), we learn that many of the provisions of the clause now under consideration duplicate powers which the Government already possesses under other acts. Only a few minutes ago, he pointed out to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that the provision covered by the amendment was already contained in the Lands Acquisition Act. That is probably true, but I point out to him, that power to deal with “ the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of stocks and goods in connexion with defence,” as set out in paragraph d of sub-clause 1 of this clause, is contained in another act. Why, then, if he refuses to duplicate certain power in this clause, does lie not also refuse to incorporate in this clause the provision to which I have just referred? If he is prepared to duplicate one power, he should be prepared to duplicate others. The fact -of .the matter is that this bill .has been introduced merely to lead the people to believe that the Government is in earnest in preparing the defences of this country. While it is wasting the time of Parliament in this way, it is neglecting the grave problems confronting this country. The Assistant Minister emphasized that, because this power is covered by another act, it is entirely unnecessary to incorporate it in this measure. Assuming that that is so, is it not a good tiling to place right under the noses of the officers who will administer this measure, the fact that they have power to acquire land on which the Government intends to erect annexes? Not only would such action emphasize the fact that the power is available, but it would also save the time of the departmental officers in searching in other statutes in order to ascertain their powers. I repeat that I have been, to a great degree, disinterested in this measure, because it is a hollow mockery. I have been conscious of the fact that it has been thrown to Parliament merely as a plaything to occupy the time of the Parliament in order to divert attention from the Government’s failure to deal with more serious problems. However, when so vital a question is raised, as the ownership of the land upon which the people’s money is to be spent, I have been spurred to enter my protest against the Government’s refusal to provide proper safeguards simply on the pretext that it already possesses the power to do certain things. Honorable members have been left in ignorance as to what has been done in regard to the annexes. We hai*e been supplied with only the vaguest information concerning what is to be done with- them in the future. On the budget debate last year, I asked by way of interjection, of the then Minister for Defence, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), how many of these annexes had been built, and I was informed that none had been built. Now We are given to understand that many annexes are already in existence, and that certain undertakings have been entered into in connexion with them with various private firms. Surely Parliament is entitled to know where, and how many of these annexes have been constructed, and to information as to the provisions of the agreements regards buildings, rental, and land. The Assistant Minister has stated that, on the expiration of the period of ten years, the Government will be enabled, because of the type of construction of these buildings, to remove them to other sites, where they may be required for other purposes. In the absence of any concrete information on that point.
I suggest that, in the main, the various engineering workshops which are building these annexes will, with the connivance of this Government, build them of reinforced concrete, bricks or stone, and with a roofing of structural steel. The story of the Minister that these annexes will be readily removable can be discounted, because we know that they will be constructed of permanent materials. The result will be that after a year or two the people who operate them will be able to take them over from the Government at their own price. This Government is no different from previous conservative governments which, whenever opportunity has offered, have taken it to transfer to private ownership at a nominal price the machinery, instrumentalities and belongings of the people. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was sold in similar circumstances, and the Government has not yet been paid in full for the steamers. The Assistant Minister would have us believe that, at the expiration of the period in which these annexes will be necessary, it will be possible to jack them up and drag them away by means of a tractor ; but he knows as well as I do, and he does not deny it, that they are to be substantial buildings and that, in order to make secure their conversion to other, uses after their contemplated use is no longer necessary, it is essential that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman should be incorporated in this legislation.
I regret that this question of annexes has arisen, because we have in every State remarkably fine engineering workshops where the most highly-skilled mechanics are employed. In Victoria there are three railway workshops and the great State enterprise at Yallourn. Nearby all of them there is ample land available. They have the administrative staffs and skilled technicians needed to undertake the supply of munitions. If they were used exclusively there would be no occasion for a discussion as to what would happen when the need for annexes disappeared, because the problem would not arise. In these circumstances, I enthusiastically support the amendment which the Assistant Minister has described as a request from an honorable member on this side of the House of the committee, but which, in reality, is submitted by a united party. I believe that it has the whole-hearted support, not only of honorable members on this side of the committee and its supporters in the electorates, but also of the constituents of honorable members opposite. I give the amendment my blessing, and congratulate the honorable member for Batman on his f oresight. I hope that the Government will yield to the pressure which the Opposition is exerting on it. If it docs not, I am -prepared to talk indefinitely at every opportunity, and I hope that my colleagues will do the same.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). This is the first time that I have taken part in the committee discussion of this bill, and I should not have risen now if it had not been for the fact that I realize the importance of the subject. Any expenditure which this Government applies towards the improvement of private properties resultsin an improvement in the localities in which those properties lie, with the result that there is a tendency for working people to buy or build homes in the district. Before I became a member of this Parliament, I spent nine years as a director of a co-operative consumers society which in some instances leased land from the Government of New South Wales. Whenever extensions to the society’s properties were made, workers’ homes were built nearby. In consequence ground, values and rentals were raised every year, and then there was a review of the leases, and generally an increase of rentals. Private owners of land will be more avaricious than was the State Government. In my opinion the amendment does not go far enough to protect the assets of the people whose money we will use in building annexes to private industry. Paragraph c of clause 5 provides for - - arrangements for the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence.
That means the extension of private industries. I suggest that after the word terms for “ in the amendment of the honorable member for Batman the words “ the extension of industry for purposes of defence “ should be inserted. It would then read -
If drafted as I have suggested, the amendment would demonstrate clearly that any extension of industry would occur on land owned by the Government.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) was right when he said that the Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) had confounded the position in his attempt to enlighten honorable members. The Assistant Minister referred to sub-clause 2 of clause 12 which reads -
Immediately prior to the expiration of the operation of this act, factories established, or deemed to have been established, in pursuance of this act, which at that time are maintained in pursuance of this act, shall, by force of this act, be deemed to have been established under the Defence Act.
That does not clear the position. Whether the factories operate under the Defence Act or under this proposed act, they will still be on land leased from private enterprise, and reversion of the factories from control under this legislation to control under the Defence Act will not lessen the fact that the lessors will be able to charge the Defence Department any price they like for the renewal of the leases. My experience as a director of a co-operative consumers’ society indicates that a rise of rental values always follows an improvement of a locality and, where annexes to industry are built on privatelyowned land or land owned by the Government, the population will increase and consequently land values also.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has already directed the notice of the committee to the futility of the statement by the Assistant Minister that, if necessary, the Government will be able to remove the annexes that are to be provided under this legislation. They will be of modern construction and irremovable. They could be demolished, but in that case all that would he left would be a load of refuse which would be used merely for the construction of roads or for the filling in of parts of Sydney Harbour.
The Department of War Service Homes is compelled to take the title to the homes. Thereby the purchaser or occupant is definitely tied down. If it is good enough to do that to occupants of war service homes, so as to make sure : lalthe Government gets its pound of flesh from them, for money spent upon the land, surely it is good enough to take similar precautions in respect of the land upon which defence annexes are erected under this hill, by acquisition of the land as suggested in the amendment of the honorable member for Batman. If it is fair to make returned soldiers pay the last farthing for any.thing expended by the Government under the War Service Homes Act, the Government should not hesitate to apply the same principle to rich manufactures working under the annexes scheme. The Government is proposing to carry out certain works at Lake Macquarie for the establishment of a flying-boat base there, and for this purpose is acquiring certain land upon which workers’ homes are at present situated. Thirty-two workers have received notices to quit their properties on this account, and they have been given no option. Why not lease the land from them, and then let the workers have the value of what improvements are effected on it, when the Government is finished with ii? If that principle is good enough for the big man, it should be good enough for the little fellow also. Apparently, however, the Government is still applying its policy of greasing the fatted pig. Until 1934, these 32 workers were in my electorate, but since the boundaries were altered on that occasion they are in another electorate. However, because they work in my electorate they came to me recently asking me to do something to save their homes. Their life savings had been invested in these homes, yet they are to be unceremoniously removed because the Government wants the land- The Government does not say to the big corporations like the Broken Bill Proprietary Company Limited that it wants so much of their land. No, it takes a lease of part of the land, and builds a defence annexe upon it. Why not build annexes for the sea-plane base on the land owned by the workers at Lake Macquarie? Those men take a pride in . their homes. They felled the virgin bush, and grubbed out stumps in order to make their homes. I have asked the Minister what provision is to bs made for them ; whether they are to be given blocks further back so that they will at least have the view of the lake, or whether they will be given a right-of-way so that they will be able to get down to the lake for bathing, &c. The Minister, however, has assured me that it cannot be done.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I had not intended to speak on this amendment, but as the debate has proceeded, it has become evident that the matter isof such importance that every honorable member should express an opinion upon it. The Government did not at first take the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (“Mr. Forde) seriously, but when it became evident that many of its own supporters were sympathetic towards the amendment if was forced to accept it. The Government would also do well to accept this amendment, and I am sure that if honorable members opposite were free to speak their minds they would give it their support. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) has said that the Government will take a lease of five years over the land upon which annexes are to be built, and that it may extend the lease for another’ five years. What is going to happen at the end of the five-year period? The person from whom the land has been leased will have some say when it comes to a renewal of the lease. Will the Government enter a caveat against the sale of the property?
– The Government is fully protected.
– That is merely an evasive reply.
– I can see that the honorable member does not want a reply at all.
– If the Government enters a caveat against the sale of the property, what chance has the owner to effect a sale in the event of his receiving a desirable offer? On the other hand, if the manufacturer has the right to sell the land at any time, will the Government then be in the position of having^ to make a new deal with, the purchaser? The Assistant Minister stated that it was proposed to erect temporary buildings only, but the buildings must be such as to afford proper accommodation for the persons who are working in them, .and to protect adequately the expensive machinery which will be installed. The Assistant Minister, probably having no experience of such matters, said that the buildings, could be removed at a moment’s notice. I remind him that it is necessary to put down massive foundations to carry heavy machinery, and the foundations cannot be removed. Moreover, once the buildings and machinery are removed, the foundations will be valueless.
The Assistant Minister has stated that the position of the Government will be adequately safeguarded, but honorable members on this side who possess a legal training have pointed out many defects in the measure. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) mentioned the fact that the Government was compulsorily acquiring certain lands at Lake Macquarie and turning workmen out of their homes. Recently, the Government resumed some land for the construction of an aerodrome at Cambridge, in Tasmania. The price of the land eventually was determined by litigation. The Government sent its own valuators along to value the property, and it was proved in the subsequent court case that they did not know what was a proper value for the land. On another occasion certain land was wanted for a farm prison, and the Government valuator placed a value of £1,600 on the land. The owner was asking £5,000 for it, and a little later was able to sell it to a private purchaser for £4,000; yet the Government could have forced that owner to sell at a price very much below the market value. That is the sort of deal the poorer people get from the Government. It will resume land compulsorily from poor people, but it will not take land from the rich corporations with whom it enters into agreements for ,&ie erection of defence annexes. If the machinery which is to be installed in an annexe is to be electrically driven, it will probably be necessary to install larger transformers and high voltage lines, and the owner of the property will be able to make use of those facilities during the whole of the time the annexe is situated on his property.
The Assistant Minister stated that the factories would not be required in peace time, but I point out that so long as these establishments and their valuable machinery were in existence, use would be made, of them by the wealthy combines on whose land they were located. Thus, as usual, the Government would be assisting its friends. I say, without fear of contradiction, that this is one of the greatest ramps to which this Parliament has ever been subjected. I am pleased that the honorable member for Batman has had the wisdom to see the necessity for this amendment, and I trust that it will be supported. [Quorum formed.]
– If the intention of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is that land on which these annexes are situated should be compulsorily acquired, then the strongest case that could be made out for that policy was the unanswerable argument put forward by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). I do not believe that, in all oases, land should be compulsorily acquired. If trouble arises with the private manufacturers, then the Commonwealth Government has sufficient power to take action. I do not think that public money should be used to purchase freehold leases from private organizations, -when it could be better employed in other directions.
– The amendment merely provides that that power could be used if necessary.
– Considerable difficulty and legal expense would be ‘involved in the resumption by the Commonwealth of land situated in the centre of a private industrial undertaking, and further trouble would also be involved when the time came to hand the land back to its original owner. Many industrial organizations in Australia have acquired considerable areas of freehold land, on which they have established valuable growing industries. Private manufacturers have been asked for the right to establish annexes alongside the existing workshops, and some publicSpirited citizens, who are prepared to assist the’ country, have offered land to the Commonwealth Government rent free. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) said that litigation might, arise in the future, when these private manufacturers might demand certain things from the Commonwealth Government. I submit that the powers with which the Commonwealth Government is already clothed would be quite adequate to deal with any contingency. The only difference between the existing conditions and those proposed by the honorable member for Batman is that he desires that the power to resume land which now rests with the Department of the Interior, should also be vested in the new Department of Supply and Development. Officials of the Department of the Interior who deal with land acquisition are experts, and are able to carry out their work efficiently and expeditiously, under the conditions prescribed by acts of this Parliament. There is no necessity, therefore, for similar authority to be given to the new Department- of Supply and Development.
– Leases under the Lands Acquisition Act are limited to three years.
– The lease of an annexe is governed by the lease itself. If that lease terminates, and difficulty is experienced in securing a furtherlease, then the Government can pass an act of Parliament in a very short space of time tomeetthe position. Even without such action, there is power, under existing legislation, to deal with a landholder who does not agree to conditions which the Commonwealth Government th inks are fair and reasonable. Nothing would be gained by the passing ofthis amendment. I know that several industrial concerns have refused to allow annexes to be established alongside their factories. In some such cases, the land owned by the private manufacturers may only be sufficient to meet their own requirements, and I do not think that the Government should have specific authoritycompulsorily to take away from these people portion of their land, particularly if such land is centrally situated and its loss would ruin the future development of the industry. Should trouble arise, existing legislation would be sufficient to see that, the interests of the people are safeguarded, and no improvement of the wording of this legislation, as suggested by the honorable member for Batman, would strengthen that safeguard.’ Therefore, -I submit that we can do no more than leave the position as it is, and allow the authority to acquire land to rest with the Department of the Interior. There is another point that should be mentioned. The amendment must be read in conjunction with the clause, as a whole. The terms of the clause are: -
Subject to the direction of the Governor- Generaland to the next succeeding sub-section the matters to be administered by the department shall be matters relating to . . .
Those matters are set out in the clause, and the proposal is to add the following : -
The compulsory acquisition of freehold estate on” just terms for purposes of defence.
The strong point made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was that the inclusion of this provision would give a lead to the Defence Department as to the determination and the desire of Par- . liament. That is all right so far as it goes. But the second sub-clause reads : -
The Governor-General may, from time to time, determine the extent to which or the conditions under which any of the matters specified in this suction may be administered by the department.
It thus becomes a matter for determina tion by the Governor-General, not by the department. The Leader . of the Opposition is thus stripped of the’ very strong point that he might have made in an otherwise weak case.
.- I support the amendment, which should be accepted by the Government. From 4. p.m. to-day the Opposition has been hammering at the Government to accept it; and now the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has decided, to lend us his support. That speaks well for the amendment, and is a clear indication that we are on . ‘the high road to secure its acceptance. I cannot understand why the Government desires to prevent the consummation of our desire. It. should know that private enterprise will. use . the annexes for its own advancement. There is no doubt about that. When war service homes were being built for returned soldiers, a returned soldier in the Reid electorate negotiated for the building of a house on a certain block of land. The Government agreed to his proposal, and a house was built at a cost of approximately £900. When the time arrived for him to enter into possession, the discovery was made that the house had been built on the wrong block ; yet that man to-day owns the property. Exactly the same thing will happen in connexion with these annexes ; it is unavoidable. . The remarks of some Government members would lead one to suppose that an annexe is comparable to a public telephone cabinet, and can be carried away with ease; as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) said, it can be put on wheels and carried away - just as the “Cafe de Fairfax” is carried away in Hunter-street, Sydney, every night. The Government will, of course, have to choose a good block of land on which to place the annexe. The area of the land devoted to the operations of a private manufacturer may be 25 or 30 acres. A concrete road will be built, into the property, kerbing and guttering will be provided, and there will be lorries to transport the machinery to the works. Who will bear the cost of all this ? When the machinery, worth probably hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases, commences to produce munitions of war, those munitions will have to be stored, and the probability is that storage space will” be provided on this private property, necessitating the construction of palatial concrete edifices. Then there will have to be housing accommodation for the watchman. If annexes are built where some of the “ Nats “ come from, two or three watchmen will be needed. This is one of the reasons why they should be on Commonwealth property. At the Chullora workshops in the Reid electorate, which adjoins the electorate of the honorable member for Parkes, there are hundreds of acres on which the Government could build annexes, Commonwealthowned and controlled, of a capacity sufficient to meet the needs of New South Wales. I was greatly astonished to-day to hear the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) mention a list of persons who have been specially selected by the Government to have annexes built on their property.
– They are volunteers.
– No honorable member on this side has been- able to secure a similar privilege. I know some of the names, and can say that not one name is that of an official of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.” Beasley) pointed out this afternoon that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is demolishing houses in his electorate for the purpose of building an” annexe on the land. Many of those who were evicted from the houses before their demolition were returned soldiers. This is regarded as evidence of loyalty. The adjoining property is in the ownership of the same concern. Immediately the annexe is provided by the Commonwealth, at an expenditure unknown to the majority of people, bigger and better houses will be built on the adjoining property, and the workers will be charged a- higher rental. There is no valid argument against the acceptance of the amendment by the Government. Its objective is merely to provide necessary security, so that the private manufacturer will not be able to cheat the Commonwealth out of what right belongs to it. What objection can be raised to the inclusion of such a provision in the bill? Everybody knows that private manufacturers have overdrafts with banks, and that they are heavily mortgaged. Should they happen to be-, come insolvent, will they be able to say to the mortgagor, “ Do not touch the 5 acres in the middle of my property, because it belongs to the Commonwealth.” All. of the roads leading to the annexe will ‘pass through the property of the private manufacturer. I can visualize the attitude of the “patriots” who will wish to foreclose. When Shylock demands his pound of flesh he invariably gets it. To prevent the possibility of any such happening in connexion with these annexes, I ask the committee to vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Brennan’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Collins.)
Majority . .7
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- 1’. move -
That at the end of sub-clause 1 the following paragraphs be added: -
the construction and extension of roads and railways; (h ) the search for additional oil re sources ;
the production of power alcohol from sugaror other vegetable crops; .
the production of oil from coal or shale ; and (k.) the decentralization of secondary industries, particularly defence industries.
The list of the functions of the new department appearing in clause 5 is incomplete. Consequently, I desire the five new paragraphs stated in my amendment to be added. Even a casual reading ofthese paragraphs must satisfy any unbiased person that the matters referred to therein should receive attention in any defence programme that even pretends to be adequate. It is advisable that these matters should be brought prominently under the notice of the Minister for Supply and Development. Without doubt, this Government has muddled our defence preparations during the last six years, as, in fact, it has muddled every other major wort to which it has given its attention. Notwithstanding the frantic efforts now being made by the Government to provide for the defence of this country, our present position is most unsatisfactory. This is entirely due to the incompetence, vacilliation and procrastination of the Government. In order to show that the members of the Labour party believe that something should be done in this direction I cite the following unanimous decision reached at the Federal Labour Conference held in Canberra recently -
We deplore the lack of preparedness for the defence of this country, which is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government and indicate the urgency of speeding up production of necessary equipment, munitions &c, and all things that are required in connexion with adequate defence.
The construction and extension of roads and railways is of great importance, particularly from a defence point of view. Rapid means of transport is one of the most essential features of any defence project. In a country such as Australia rapid transport of troops and munitions from one portion of the continent’ to’ another is of vital importance. During a crisis railways would he the chief means of internal transport, but it is amazing to find that leading military strategists contend that for defence purposes the standardization of railway gauges is unnecessary. Although we have been informed that amongst military experts there is no unanimity on this subject, tlie late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated in his policy speeches prior to the last two general elections that the standardization of railway gauges was to be undertaken, not only to facilitate transport, but also to absorb the unemployed. Such promises have been made on numerous occasions, but, with certain by-elections over, the Government conveniently ignores them. I bring this matter forward again in the hope that the Minister in charge of the bill will see if some practical policy in this direction cannot be adopted.
In the matter of main internal transport roads ure .as important as are railways, for modern warfare is highly mechanized, and rapid means of road transport should be provided in the event of the rail transport becoming disorganized by aerial attacks. The late Lord Forrest took a keen interest in defence and offered on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to build a line from the Northern Territory to Camooweal if the Queensland Government would extend its railway system to that point. The Tory Queensland Government of that date did not agree to the proposal and the matter was dropped. The present Premier of Queensland realizing the importance of the proposal suggested a railway line from Dajarra to Camooweal, provided the Commonwealth Government built a railway from Camooweal to the terminus of the Northern Territory railway . system. In these circumstances, I strongly “urge the Minister (Mr. Casey), who is a man of initiative and ability, to take up this matter seriously, and, if necessary, convene a special conference representative of the Com mon weal th and State governments concerned in order to have the project discussed and if possible a decision reached. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers the Premier of Queensland suggested the construction of a great northern highway west of the dividing range. Such a highway would benefit defence, assist in the development of the country, and also increase -the population in the sparselypopulated north.’ The Queensland Government was very disappointed because the proposal was not adopted, and protested very strongly. About that time Brigadier-General L. C. Wilson said -
Mechanised equipment is totally inadequate. They have a few tanks in Sydney and some in Queensland. There is no anti-tank or antiaircraft gun here. There is no shore buttery in Queensland north of Brisbane.
The Premier of Queensland is disgusted with the treatment meted out to the northern State, particularly when from an expenditure during the last four years of £3,250,000 on defence works, only £136,000 had been expended in Queensland. I understand that the Premier of Victoria also submitted certain proposals in connexion with the construction of roads for defence purposes. I should like the Minister to look into these proposals at the earliest possible date, because if they are proceeded with, employment could bo found for a large number of men who are to-day out of work. I believe that over 100,000 men amongst the unemployed would be capable of being employed on works of this nature.
Provision is also made in my amendment for the development of fuel oil resources. Liquid fuel is the main requisite for defence purposes, because war could not be waged for any time unless adequate supplies of fuel oil are available. Practically all of our naval vessels, aeroplanes, tanks and transport vehicles have to depend on fuel oil for their power. From time to time the Government has evinced interest in the search for flow oil, and at a Cabinet meeting held in Hobart some time ago it was decided to treat the matter as urgent. Unfortunately since then nothing lias been done, showing clearly that the Government is adopting a policy of hesitancy, uncertainty and muddling. It has known for years that in the event of war our supply of fuel oil would last only a few months, and that we would be in practically the same position we were in years ago. It is amazing that we have never been able to find oil in Australia, Papua or the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. Some additional encouragement must be given for this .purpose. What does the Government propose to do about it? It has talked about it but has done nothing of .a helpful nature.
I propose now to deal with the production of oil from coal. 1 take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. . James) who, since his entry into this Parliament, has taken a keener interest in this matter than any other honorable member. He has lost no opportunity to bring it before the various governments that have held office since he has been here. Ho speaks very feelingly on the question, because there is a large army of unemployed in his electorate where extensive deposits of coal exist. If t he Government were to tackle this problem in earnest I believe that some economical system of extracting oil from coal Would be discovered. In his policy speech in 1934, the late Prime Minister, with the approval of the United Australia party stated that the extraction of oil from coal was one of the proposals designed by the Government to provide work for the unemployed, and that he would not, allow the matter to be shelved any longer. He added that it was of transcendent importance, and that the Government would take it up enthusiastically. As soon as that election was over, however, nothing was done. The matter was again shelved. It is no wonder, therefore, that the honorable member for Hunter feels disgusted with the apathy and indifference of succeeding governments to this matter. I refer to the problem in my amendment with a view to bringing it more directly under the notice of the new Department of Supply and Development. Queensland as well as New South “Wales possesses almost unlimited deposits of coal. In my own electorate deposits are left unworked simply because it is impossible to find a market. This difficulty, however, could be overcome if the Government were prepared to engage the services of the best experts available.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– If no other honorable member is anxious, at the moment, to speak, I shall take my second quarter of an hour. In October, 1937, the late Prime Minister stated that the Government contemplated taking further steps to increase the local supply of liquid fuel. He said -
It is proposed,, in conjunctionwith the State governments, to encourage. ‘the principal gas companies throughout Australia to. extract benzol from coal gas. It is believed that we can produce an additional 3,000,000 to 4,000.000 gallons of high grade spirit by this means. The proposalhas the further advantage of involving the use of from 50,000 to 100.000 tons more coal, and this will provide more employment in the coal areas.
And nothing has been done. As it is vital for defence purposes that we should ensure adequate oil supplies, the aspect of Costs should not be the primary consideration. From a defence point of view the Government must give more favorable consideration to this matter, which has so frequently been brought before Parliament by the honorable member for Hunter. Undoubtedly the whole of our defence system depends upon an adequate supply of liquid fuel, but it appears that Professor A. H. Burstell was correct when he said -
The Defence Department does not seem to be regarding this questionas one of Australia’s most urgent defence matters. 1 wish now to deal with the production of power alcohol from sugar, or other vegetable crops, as mentioned in my amendment. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. . Riordan) has taken a very deep interest in this matter since his election to this Parliament. He and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) have contributed some very fine speeches on the subject. I urge the Minister to take up this matter in earnest, particularly in view of over-production in the sugar industry. In 1937, we produced810,300 tons of sugar, of which the local market consumed only 338,000 tons, whilst the balance was exported and sold at a price which is not payable. We must find means of utilizing locally our surplus sugar production. The extraction of power alcohol offers a valuable avenue in this respect, particularly from a defence point of view. The Government has failed to find flow oil, or to extract oil from coal on a commercial basis. I believe that it will succeed if it goes into the matter with a will to win through, but, probably, it will not be able to arrive at a means of extracting sufficient oil from coal to supply all of our requirements. For this reason, I strongly urge the necessity for exploring to the full the possibility of extracting power alcohol from our surplus sugar and other vegetable crops. This matter has already been placed before the Government, but nothing has been done. I point out that even in the United States of America, the land of flow oil, farmers are creating n new market for agricultural products by the economic manufacture of power alcohol. America’s first power alcohol plant, which was recently opened for production at Aitchison, Kansas, with a rated capacity of 10,000 gallons a day, was over-bought four times by eager customers before the - plant was completed. If the United States of America finds this proposition payable, surely we are justified, particularly from the defence ‘point of view, in giving every encouragement to the production of power alcohol. Queensland has taken up the matter with enthusiasm. The whole of the facts were placed before the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he last visited Queensland, but the Government has failed to take action. In Japan, from January, 1938, a blend of 20 per cent, of domestic alcohol with imported petrol was made compulsory by law. The way for the manufacture of power alcohol has been surveyed for us by nineteen other countries, some of which have ample supplies of domestic flow oil, namely, Austria, Argentine, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Peru, Phillipine Islands, Poland, Santiago de Chili, South Africa, Sweden, Russia and the United States of America. Australia has lagged behind-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit, Mr. Chairman, that it is contrary to practice .and the rules of debate for the honorable member to read his speech. If the time of the committee is to ‘be wasted in this way, the honorable member should at least be required to deliver an extempore oration instead of reading practically three-fourths of his speech.
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to make reference fo his notes.
– I am not reading my speech; but, in dealing with a somewhat technical subject, I am doing what Ministers and other honorable members do, namely making reference to my notes. The facts . which I am placing before the committee are evidently displeasing to certain Government supporters, especially the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). He does not want to see the sugar industry developed. An expansion of the industry to meet Commonwealth requirements in power alcohol would mean an increase of employment and a population in the vulnerable north-eastern part of Australia. Deputations have waited on the Prime Minister and the Queensland representative of the Government, but so far nothing has been done. Since this Government talks of the necessity for adequate measures for defence, it cannot disregard the unanswerable case that has been put up by the Queensland sugar industry for a thorough examination of the possibility of increasing our supplies of liquid fuel by the extraction of power alcohol from surplus sugar production or other vegetable crops. If power alcohol can be extracted from other crops as economically and efficiently as from sugar, that will be all to the good. I am not tied to any one type of agricultural product. But our experience at Sarina in central Queensland, has shown that this industry can be made a great success. Hitherto the principal difficulty has been the attitude of the major oil companies. They do not approve of the expansion of the sugar industry for the puropose of producing power alcohol. Some years ago, the Queensland Government introduced legislation compelling .the oil companies to blend a certain quantity of power alcohol with imported petrol, but the companies took the earliest opportunity to test the validity of the act in the High Court, with the result that it was declared to be invalid. The Queensland Government proved that the industry could be made an unqualified success. If the Commonwealth Government would only take this matter up with the enthusiasm displayed by the Queensland Government, the production of power alcohol could be increased five-fold. . If the sugar industry were asked to supply 45,000,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum, it would necessitate the growth of 2,000,000 tons of cane. This would mean 100,000 acres under production, and 140,000 acres under the plough. Honorable members will readily understand what this would “mean to those 150,000 able-bodied men who, according to latest figures, are willing to work but unable to secure employment. The expansion . of the sugar industry, as suggested, would provide employment for a large number of men at award rates.
Three points must be considered in relation to the extraction of oil from coal and shale and the production of power alcohol from sugar and other vegetable crops. The first and most important is that the production of liquid fuel by such processes is essential to a sound defence programme. That cannot be gainsaid in view of the fact that flow oil has not been discovered in large quantities in Australia, and that the Government has not exploited fully the possibilities of producing oil from coal. The second point is that such undertakings would employ thousands of men directly and thousands more indirectly. The third is that the production of fuel by these means would provide a larger market for a great deal of our primary products. Coal liesun exploited in our mines to-day because it does not pay to extract it, and much of our sugar is produced at a loss.
The final matter to which I shall refer is the decentralization of industries, and particularly defence industries. When the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) was Minister for Defence he, as the representative of a country electorate, took a very keen interest in. this subject and stated that the time had arrived when secondary industries should be developed, ‘not only in the capital cities, but also in country areas where they would not be vulnerable to onslaughts made by any aggressor nation whichmight decide to bomb the big key industries of the Commonwealth. He pointed out that, if unprotected coastal regions were selected as sites for the establishment of important industries, their defencewould cost the Government a considerable sum. I believed then that the Government was serious in its intention to do something of a practical nature in the direction of decentralization of industries, but it has done nothing.
When the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Deputy Prime Minister he stressed the importance, from the point of view of defence, of a planned policy of decentralization, involving the establishment of factories in important country centres throughout the Commonwealth. Instead of being a policy of decentralization, the new Government’s policy has been one of centralization. Surely the important country towns throughout Australia are deserv-. ing of inclusion in some system of planned development of secondary industries. The problem is one that should be tackled by the Commonwealth and State governments acting in concert.
This problem was tackled with great ability and enthusiasm by the British Government, whose policy has resulted in the employment of thousands of people in areas of Great Britain where previously there were few secondary industries. Early in July of last yearthe British Government appointed a royal commission under the chairmanship of Sir Montague Barlow to “ inquire into the causes which have influenced the present geographical distribution of . the industrial population of Great Britain and the probable direction of any change of that distribution in the future “. The commission was further required to consider various other questions, as the result of which employment has been provided for hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise would not be in employment. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Capricorni a (Mr.Forde) has moved a series of amendments to clause 5, but,’ whilst the Government is impressed by the representations which have been made by him, no useful purpose would be served by including in the clause the subject-matters specified in the amendment. I shall deal with the proposed amendments seriatim. The honorable member has moved for the insertion of a new paragraph -
The construction of roads, except within the territories controlled by the Commonwealth, is essentially a State function. However, the closest co-operation will be sought between the department and the relevant State authorities for the development of adequate facilities. Clause 7 (1) provides for this general co-operation, and is sufficiently wide to embrace the matter envisaged by the honorable gentleman. The Government therefore believes the. amendment to be unnecessary, and is not prepared to accept it.
The honorable member has moved for a new paragraph h -
The Commonwealth has already interested itselfunder the Petroleum Oil Search Act of . 1936 in the search for oil in Australia. Under this act a sum of , -£250,000 was appropriated and advances were made to companies on £1 for £1 basis for drilling operations. The act provides, also, for’ advances on a basis of £1 for every £2 expended by companies in the conduct of geological surveys and for the purchase of drilling plants in connexion with the search for oil. . The Government is fully appreciative of the overwhelming necessity for. a keen, intensive and unremitting search for oil in Australia. Clause 5, 1,f, ii of this bill, providing for the arrangement or coordination of the investigation 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. provides also the necessary administrative power to prosecute the search for oil. The purpose of the amendment as moved by the honorable member for Capricornia is, therefore, served in the sub-clause 1 have quoted, and the Government is accordingly not disposed to accept the amendment.
The honorable member has movedfor the insertion of the following paragraphs : -
In October, 1938, the Government established a standing committee on liquid fuels, for the purpose ofinvestigating the possibilities of the production in Australia of liquid fuels and substitutes therefor from all sources with a view to obtaining greater national independence in this regard. The function of the committee’ is to make a general survey of a wide field of production including benzol, power alcohol from molasses, wood-waste, &c, the development of producer gas as a substitute for liquid fuels and the production of oil from coal, including black and brown coal, and from shale. Up to the present, this committee has functioned under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, but will now- be brought within the scope of the Department of Supply and Development. This committee, therefore, is the very same sort of committee which the amendment proposes to set up. In view of this the amendment is . unnecessary and the Government is, therefore, not disposed to adopt it.”
The honorable member has also moved for the insertion of a new paragraph -
In regard to this amendment, I can only repeat what has already been said by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) on several occasions in this chamber in respect of the extension of defence factories. Provision has already been made for additions to factories in existence at Lithgow, New South Wales, and at Maribyrnong and Footscray, Victoria, and to the artillery proof range at Wakefield, South Australia. The location of these extensions and of any others contemplated is dictated solely by reason of the allied nature of the munitions already being, produced at those centres. In selecting sites for the production of munitions, regard must be . paid to both strategic and economic aspects, but if it be decided to undertake the manufacture of entirely new types of munitions, not associated with the present group of factories, the establishment of new factories at inland centres will receive full consideration. It will be observed from what has been said that the Government is fully alive to the view which the honorable member’s amendment is designed to emphasize, but with the powers taken in clause 9 of the ‘bill which provides for the establishment of munitions factories the amendment so far as it relates to munitions factories is quite unnecessary. So far as the amendment relates to secondary industries, I. think the matter the honorable member has in mind is fully covered by what I have. said in relation to clause 5 1c and it seems quite unnecessary, particularly as clause 5 deals purely with administration, to make the specific provision the honorable member seeks.
The Government is fully alive to the importance of the subject-matters contained in the amendment and to the need for the successful prosecution of the activities implied therein, but the powers sought in- the amendment are already contained in existing Commonwealth statutes and, for that reason, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. At the same time, the matters covered by it are receiving, and will continue to. receive, the full consideration of the Government. * Quorum formed. *
.- I rise to second the amendment moved by the . Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Forde).- Replying to the honorable member forCapricornia, the Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) said that the construction and extension of roads was a matter for the State governments. There might be some justification for that view if the distribution of the petrol tax which is collected from the motor car owners for road improvement and construction were in proportion to the collections; but as it is not, the honorable gentleman’s argument is not valid. Dealing with the question of the search for additional oil supplies, the Assistant Minister said that aid for this purpose had been given to private enterprise. This country is in the grip of one of the strongest combines in the world, the oil combine, and it is inimical to the interests of that combine to find flow oil in Australia. The Government claims that it is assisting in the search for oil because it has made some money available for that purpose, but if it were genuinely desirous of finding oil, it would take steps to establish a body like the Geophysical Survey to undertake, this work.
As to power alcohol, and oil from coal, the Assistant Minister said that in October, 1938, the Government had constituted a standing committee on liquid fuels, on which the primary’ producers had no representation. He spoke quite eloquently on the subject. When Parliament met I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when the report of the committee would be available. It had been announced that the committee had carried out certain investigations and had submitted a report to the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman replied that he had received the report, but could not say when it would be made available to the House. . What is the use of asking members of the Opposition to accept this standing committee on liquid fuel if they cannot see the reports that it submits? Judging by the recent announcement in the press, the chief result of the report furnished by the standing committee is to be another handout to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company - Limited, and that other wealthy combine., the Australian Gaslight Company of Sydney, for the manufacture of benzol.
On the subject, of the decentralization of the munitions industry, the Assistant Minister referred to Lithgow and Maribyrnong. The point is that these annexes which the Government will establish will be associated with factories situated either on the coastal strip or in close proximity thereto, withthe result that, in the event of attack, they would be at the mercy of a raider or attacker.
The first power suggested in the amendment is the construction and extension of roads and railways. ‘.For. some time I have urged that action be taken along these lines in the interests of the defence of Australia. To-night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that Lord Forrest, on behalf of the then Commonwealth Government, had offered to construct a railway through Dajarra to Camooweal, in Queensland, and Dar win. The Tory Queensland Government of that date refused the offer. The present Premier of that State has frequently stated that action would be taken by the Queensland State Government if the Commonwealth Government would extend the line from Darwin to Camooweal. The Australian taxpayer is being asked to foot the bill, :i mounting to many millions of pounds, for the establishment of fortifications at Darwin. Already a garrison has been sent there, and numbers of public works, including a hospital, are in progress. The fortifications at Darwin are to be utilised in conjunction with those at Singapore. But Darwin is isolated from the rest of Australia. There is neither a road nor a railway connecting Darwin with the south of the continent. In the event of Darwin being attacked, what would be the position? I know that the so-called military advisers of the Government are of the opinion that if a road were built connecting Darwin with the south, it would merely be a road for an enemy to use. Apparently, the “ brass hats “ have developed an inferiority complex, lor they are talking about evacuation as an argument against the connexion of the road or rail system of Darwin with that of Queensland.
– That is unjustified.
– Why has the Government not taken action to connect Darwin by rail with the Queensland railway system or, if it does not favour me construction of a railway, why has it not done something to connect Darwin with the rest of the continent by road? The only possible answer is that the military authorities are afraid that any railway or road constructed in that locality would serve merely to assist an enemy.
On many occasions I have referred to tho isolation of the north-eastern portion of this continent. That portion of Australia is connected with the south only by a railway, a connexion which could be severed by one bomb from a hostile bomber. The Government, should undertake the construction of an inland road for military purposes from Charters Towers, on the north-western railway to Brisbane. The Government claims to iia vo a defence policy for Australia, but, apparently, that policy provides that the whole of the north and central Queensland will be thrown to tho wolves, and the line of defence made the Hunter River, for the purpose of protecting the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Why is it that the Government has not any fortifications - not even a. gun, or a military aeroplane, or a destroyer, or a submarine- -north of Brisbane? I admit that some works are at present under construction near Brisbane, but is it any wonder that the people of “North Queensland are perturbed when, they reflect that they have been left to defend themselves with pea-shooters and “ shanghais “ and, possibly, a few boomerangs from the blacks?
At one time, Charters Towers was one of the great mining towns of Queensland. It was a common saying that a person had not travelled unless he nad visited Charters Towers. To-day, there are many hundreds of disused mining shafts in the vicinity of the town which would be ideal as underground tanks for the storage of petrol supplies for defence purposes. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the storage of oil at Charters Towers. That place would provide a suitable base for the defence air squadron which, it is proposed to establish at Townsville to draw its fuel supplies.
The Government should honour its promise to standardize the railway gauges of Australia, a promise which has been made by this Government at election after election. At present it is possible to travel by railways of one gauge from Brisbane to Albury, but as there are no military roads, more should be done in order that troops may be moved quickly from place to place in the event of war.
I have already referred to the search for oil. In my opinion, it would be opposed to the interests of the wealthy section of the community for flow oil to be discovered in Australia. I ask the Government to intensify the search. It is significant that oil was discovered in the first bore sunk at Roma, but somehow an obstruction found its way into the pipes and the bore had to be abandoned, I shall not refer to the production of oil from coal and shale, as that subject will be dealt with exhaustively by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James).
I mentioned a little while ago that most of the privately-owned munitions works were situated on the coast between
Newcastle and Melbourne, and it is there that the defence annexes will he established. In Western Queensland there is one of the greatest industrial undertakings in the Commonwealth, namely, tlie Mount Isa mine, which is situated in a highly mineralized area and produces copper, silver, lead and gold. There is, in addition, a mountain of iron ore. The equipment there is suitable for the manufacture of munitions, which could be used to supply military forces in central and northern Queensland, and also the forces at Darwin. At the present time, munitions of war have to be conveyed to Darwin by water or on camel back; there is no other means of communication. If Darwin were attacked from the sea it would be impossible to supply the place with munitions because of the lack of rail or road facilities. Probably the Government would bo compelled to round up some of the aborigines to defend the place with boomerangs.
I maintain that the Government could make use of the railway workshops established in various parts of the country for the production of munitions. This would make for the decentralization of “the munitions industry.
I am particularly interested in the production of power alcohol from sugar and other crops. Australia has fertile lands in areas where the rainfall is suitable, and where there is a virile white population, which is all that is necessary for a thriving power alcohol industry. At the present time, Australia ‘imports 360,000,000 gallons of oil every year, and the quantity is increasing. It is brought here in tankers which return in water ballast. This shows what a tremendous rake-off the oil interests must be getting from Australia. Is it any wonder that the primary producers find the oil combines- up ‘against the establishment of the power alcohol industry. They are .also in conflict with the Government because the Government would lose 7Jd. for every gallon of power alcohol produced, this being the petrol tax on every gallon of imported petrol. ‘ A proposition was placed before the Commonwealth .Fuel Adviser, Mr. Rogers, by interests in Queensland which have offered to manufacture power alcohol for ls. 6d. a gallon. When the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) visited northern Queensland lie received a deputation from the sugar growers on the coast, and the maize growers on the Atherton Tableland, asking the Commonwealth Government to encourage the production of power alcohol; yet, when he returned to the south, their request was refused. Other countries’ are endeavouring to make themselves independent of imported oil. South Africa is paying a bounty of 3d. a gallon to the manufacturers of power alcohol. The Australian manufacturers do not ask for a bounty; all they want is an opportunity to establish their industry. Another thing to be remembered is that some of the petrol imported into Australia is produced by black labour. Power alcohol in Australia could be produced in a string of factories extending from Mossman in northern Queensland, right around the cO.;st to Perth, and all the labour would be white. Moreover, it would not be necessary to have the factories on the coast; many of them could be situated far inland. The sugar growers of Australia export 412,000 tons of sugar each year, and that sugar is produced at a loss to the growers, though its sale abroad creates large credits far this nation abroad. However the growers are prepared to continue exporting if the Government will assist them in their fight against the oil combine, and make it possible for them to establish a power alcohol manufacturing industry. They are prepared to produce an extra 100,000 tons of cane for the manufacture of power alcohol, and this would bc of tremendous assistance in providing additional employment in sugar-growing areas of Australia. The Government says that it wants to occupy the country effectively, and there is no better way of doing this than by encouraging industries which would provide employment. In the United States of America, 35,000,000 gallons of power alcohol is used annually in the motor industry, 15,000,000 gallons in the cosmetic trade, 1,500,000 gallons in the manufacture of felt hats and 2,000,000 gallons in the tobacco industry. Large quantities are also used in the manufacture of munitions. Recently, the Commonwealth passed legislation providing for the payment of a bounty on wheat. If a power alcohol industry were established in Australia it would provide an outlet for surplus wheat as well as for sugar-cane from Queensland, potatoes from Tasmania, beetroot from Victoria, and maize from all States. The establishment of this industry is wrapped up -with the defence policy of Australia.
The Defence Forces of the Commonwealth are being mechanized ; the Government is acquiring giant flying boats and, we are told, buying military planes by the hundreds. All of the mechanized arms of the forces will be powerless to move should this country be attacked and its supplies of oil fuel cut off by an invader. The Minister for Defence knows that if this country were attacked by a potential enemy which lies to the north it would bring its fleet down on a line between Singapore and Darwin and so could bring transports and other units of its fleet . on an internal line to attack Australia, and they would not be molested by a defending force as we would have nothing in Australia to stop them. What chance would there be for an oil tanker to get through to a northern port should our northern coastline be invaded ? Even had we decided to build . a fleet of submarines to assist in the protection of this country, our purpose could not have been achieved because of the naval agreement between Germany and Great Britain under which both countries were to have equal submarine tonnage. Germany’ has recently said that because of recent developments, that agreement no longer remains in force; but we are now left powerless to meet an aggressor. Should this country be. attacked from the north, our mechanized forces would have to’ remain in. the south and Queensland would become another Manchukuo. This state of affairs has been brought about because the Government has not been prepared to evolve a modern defence policy. As a matter of fact, the present defence policy of the Government was drawn up in 1910 by several gentlemen in London who had never seen Australia and who knew nothing of the vast distances which separate its centres of population. That policy envisaged the possible evacuation of Queensland.
– That is untrue.
– If that be so, the
Minister will have anopportunity to have something to say about it later. I repeat that the present defence policy of the Government was drawn up in 1910 by gentlemen thousands of miles away from this country who knew nothing of local conditions, and that it was aimed at the repelling of raiders and not attackers, hut the plan of defence to-day must be to repel attackers; yet the old plan is still being followed. If the power alcohol industry were established in Australia, new markets would be provided for our primary producers. If the Minister accedes to the request of the primary producers throughout Australia that the power alcohol industry be established, he will do a great serviceto them. Members of theCountry party who are supposed to represent the cause of- the primary producers in this Parliament with the exception of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), have never whispered a word in favour of the establishment ofthe ‘ power alcohol industry.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
MICROPHONES IN CHAMBER.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am very sorry that at this hour I feel it incumbent upon me to raise a matter of very considerable importance. I learn that during the life of this Parliament certain instruments have been placed on the table of this chamber which have, by means of transmission to the office, of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), enabled the Prime Minister of the day to hear debates that take place in this chamber, and that the apparatus is so located on the table that it is conceivable that he can hear, and I understand did hear, conversations between his own Ministers at the table. From my knowledge of what has now taken place I have reason to believe that if it were within the means of the Prime Minister to have heard what was being said in this chamber, then he could also conceivably have heard conversations and discussions which took place at this table between my deputy and myself, that having regard to the location of the instrument it was no more difficult for conversations between myself as Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to be heard than, it would be for conversations between the Minister at the table and anybody assisting him to he heard. I understand that part of some conversations were actually heard. In any event, as you know, Mr. Speaker, I have taken every precaution to ascertain whether or not this apparatus was installed, and I say it was so installed; thai without leaving his suite, the Prime Minister could hear what was going on in this chamber, at least to some extent. I desire to know by whose authority the apparatus was installed. If it were installed ‘by your authority, I say that you should have reported it to the whole House, and that the House itself should have determined whether or not this was a proper adjunct to the facilities which, as a matter of courtesy, should be extended to the Prime Minister. I submit that if it were considered a right and proper means to enable the Prime Minister to do his work with the least disturbance to his routine duties as Prime Minister, it is conceivable that claims may have been made for similar facilities to be extended to other honorable members. No such application was made by anybody else. I do not know whether application for this facility was made to you, whether you approved of it, or whether you knew that it was intended to install it. I want to know whether or not the Government paid for it. I raise this matter now because the whole question . as to who can give directions regarding what can be done in this building has tobe decided. I know that gadgets have been placed in one of the party roomsin this building in order that certain additional facilities maybe provided. The House Committee is responsible for the general conduct and the management of the parliamentary building; but you, sir, are responsible to honorable gentlemen : for what goes on in this House. The re-arrangement of the furnishings would,.I submit, be a matter for your direction.
– It is not suggested, . I presume, that there’ is any device in my room capable of recording the proceedings in this chamber.
Mr.CURTIN.-No, but there havebeen some extraordinary happenings in this chamber. To-day I heard the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) disclaim all responsibility with respect to certain apparatuswhich, I understand, was placed in the chamber for his convenience. A question has been asked as to who will pay for this apparatus. I do not know what answer will be given to it. I desire to know who was responsible for placing in the chamber this means of transmi t tingdebates to the Prime Minister’s room. 1 believe that such a transmission was made during the period in which.the national insurance legislation was under discussion. I have verified that, and I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whetheryou authorized it, or whether it was done with your knowledge? If so, why did you withhold from the members of this chamber the fact that this was being, done?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The matter that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is one of which I knew nothing about until recently. I did not give any authority, nor was I asked permission, to have any apparatus installed in the chamber or connected with the Prime Minister’s room. The officers of the House tell me that they had no knowledge of it. They were not asked for, nor- did they give, any authority for the installation. The apparatus has not been connected with the Prime Minister’s room since the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been in office. I heard of this matter when I was looking at the microphones that have been installed here to aid the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) to hear questions and other statements in which he is interested. The Prime Minister said that he did not want the apparatus in his room, and it has been removed. I knew nothing about is when it was installed. I do not know who paid for it, and I was not aware of its existence until recently. Therefore, I was not responsible for it in any way. The microphones now in the chamber have been here for some time. They were installed, in conjunction with the oilier apparatus which the Attorney General uses, to assist him to hear what is said in this chamber.
– Who paid for it ?
– I do not know. It was not paid for by the Government or by the Parliament.
– It is sufficiently clear from -what you have said, Mr. Speaker, where I stand in this matter. I always understood that the microphones on the table were placed there to aid my colleague, the. AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes). It appear.; that some time ago - last year as far as I can find out - it was thought convenient to attach these microphones to a circuit which was also connected with a loud speaker in the Prime Minister’s room, so that he might be in touch with the debates in this Parliament. I offer no opinion on that, but, in point of fact, within a few days of my becoming Prime Minister, as you, Mr. Speaker, will remember, you spoke to me about it, and said that, particularly since these additional microphones had been installed, honor-‘ able members thought that their conversation might be restricted by the possibility of its being reproduced through the loud speaker in my own room. On that being pointed out, I said, “ Well, there is one immediate answer to all that, and that is to have this loud speaker removed “.
– The right honorable gentleman ‘ must have been having a delightful private entertainment.
– I have had none. It is true that I was tempted to find out what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) thought about me, but I decided that, in the interests of members generally, the right thing to do was to remove the instrument, and it was removed.
Mr.Curtin. - I have confirmed that.
– Such debates as I now hear I listen to from my place in the House. Therefore, the remarks by the Leader of the Opposition relate to a matter of the past. My colleague the Attorney-
General made a remark to-day that had an element of jocularity in it, because, without the microphones, he would be hard put to it to hear the remarks of honorable members. Consequently, the removal of these instruments from the chamber would prevent honorable members from exercising their right to question my colleague. Acccording to the questions which I have heard in the last, month or two, that would be a serious interference with their privileges, and I am sure that my colleague would not, desire to interfere with them.
– Who paid for these instruments?
– I do not know. I can assure the House that I did not.
Having regard to the rate of our present progress with the legislation before the House, it may be necessary to ask honorable member. to sit on Monday of next week.
– To remove any possibility of misunderstanding, I point out that, when I said that neither the Government nor the Parliament had paid for this apparatus,I was referring to the instruments in the chamber. I do nor, know anything about the apparatus which was in the Prime Minister’s room.
– Is it not, usual to consult yon, Mr. Speaker, before such apparatus is installed?
– I can only regret, that in this case I did not know of it.
– Will you say that, from now on, you will not allow any changes to he made without your knowledge or approval ?
– I cannot say that; nothing will be done without my knowledge, but nothing of the kind will be done without my approval if I am aware of what is proposed.
– And will their removal be ordered?
– I discussed the matter of the microphones with, the Attorney-General this afternoon. Apparently, I did not understand the position clearly this morning with regard to his responsibility for their being here. I did give approval for their installation. They are in the chamber on trial, and, as I explained some time ago to honorable members, I think -that it is only right that the AttorneyGeneral should he assisted, if that be possible without inconvenience to other members. I asked honorable members to tell me if they found the instruments to be in any way objectionable. In view of what the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have said, I propose to look into the matter again, and I shall give the House an opportunity to express an opinion as to whether it wishes the pre sent arrangement to be continued.
The following paper was presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 1 1 of 1939 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
House adjourned at 11.49p.m.
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister in Charge of External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are ‘ as follows : -
E asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
During the transfer of theRoyal Military College to the VictoriaBarracks. Sydney,
Since the re-transfer of the college to Duntroon. (a) how many cadets have been in training each year, (b) how many completed their course each year, and (c) what was theannual cost of training the cadets?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
TheRoyal Military College was transferred in Sydney in February, 1931, and retransferred to Duntroon in February, 1937.
(a.)1931 - 31, including one discharge; 1932 - 31, including five discharges; 1933 - 31, including four discharges; 1934 - 35, in- cluding five discharges; 1935 - 51, including live discharges; 1936 -61. including two discharges. 1. (b) 1931 - eleven graduated; 1932 - nine graduated; 1933 - nine graduated: 1934 - nil; 1935 - four graduated; 1936 - ten graduated.
The annual cost of the college in the years 1930-31 to 1937-38 is set out hereunder: - 1930-31- £ 43.092, partly at Duntroon and partly at Sydney: “1931-32- £1 7,074, at Sydnev: 1932-33- £17.020, at . Sydney; 1933-34 - £16,448. at Sydney; 1934-35-^£l9,551, at Sydney; 1935-36- £23,039, at Sydney; 1936-37 - £39.082. partly at Sydney and partly at Duntroon; 1937-38 - £43,232, at Duntroon.
The abovefigures include the salaries of members of the Permanent Military Forces employed at theRoyal Military College, also salaries of the professorial staffs, and general expenses of the college. 2. (a) 1937-75. no discharges; 1938-87. three discharges: 1939 - 106. 2. (b) 1937- fourteen graduated; 1938-34 graduated.
n asked the Minister for
Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
October, 1930,and terminating on the 1st October, 1934., the company operated the following services, subsidy payment being made on a mileage basis at the rates as shown: -
Perth-Derby - 2s. 7d. a mile for first year, 2s.6d. a mile for second year, and 2s. 5d. a mile for third year.
Derby-Wyndham - 3s. 3d. a mile during the whole period of the contract.
Perth-Darwin - Subsidy rate,1s.5d. a mile. Excess mail ‘ payment - In addition, the company is paid1s. 9d. for each pound in excess of 14,500 lb. per quarter ex Darwin, and in excess of 42,000 lb. per quarter ex Perth carried. To date, no payment has been made under this clause.
Wyndham-Daly Waters - Subsidy rate. 1s. 7d. amile.
n. - On the 24th May, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Fordo) asked the following question, upon notice: -
I am now in aposition to furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries: - 1. (a) Under an arbitration award made last year, the payment by the Australian broadcasting Commission to” the Australasian Performing Right Association was fixed at ltd. per licence. The award was for a period terminating on the 3 1st December, 1938, and conditions for the current year have not yet been fixed; (6) payment by commercial stations is in accordance with an agreement between the Australian Federation of Commercial Stations and the Australasian Performing Right Association. The federation estimates that the total payment for the year will average approximately 7d. per licence.
Albert and Son, Sydney; Boosey and Hawkes, Sydney; Chappell and Company.. Sydney; Davis and Company, Sydney; Nicholson’s Investments Limited, Sydney; Paling and Company, Sydney: Sterling Music Publishing Company, Sydney; Allan and Company, Melbourne: W. Bassett, Melbourne; L. F. Collin and Company, Melbourne; Sam Fox Music Publishing Company, Melbourne; . J. C. Williamson Limited, Melbourne; A. Eady Limited, Auckland; Chas. Begg and Company, Wellington; Performing Bight Society, London.
With regard to No. 4 (a) the commission has no knowledge. Regarding No. 4 (b) see list set out above.
y asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Importation of Aircraft.
n. - On the 23rd May, tha honorable member for Parkes (Sir
Charles Marr) asked the following question, upon notice: -
In the ‘absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that Ansett Airways, ‘ who recently lost a Lockheed Electra aeroplane by fire, has been refused permission to import another machine of a similar kind to replace the one destroyed ?
I wish to inform the honorable member that no such request has been received from Ansett Airways.
s. - On the 24th May, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n. - On the 26th May, . the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries: -
On the 24th May, the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked the following question, upon notice : -
In connexion with the proposed journal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, what is the estimated yearly cost, revenue and profit?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answer to his inquiry: -
It is not customary, or desirable, to give details of the commission’s financial transactions other than are disclosed in the accounts prescribed by Parliament. The estimate given by the commission’s expert advisers, however, definitely shows that the journal will not bc run at a loss.
On the 18th May, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the f ollowing questions, upon notice : - .
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following answers to his inquiries : -
Adamstown Rifle Range.
t. - On the 25th May the honorable member for Hunter (Mr.
James) asked the following question, without notice -
Is it a fact that the Defence Department proposes to close the present rifle range at Adamstown? Is the Minister aware that protests have been lodged against such a proposal ? Will he inform the House where it is proposed to put the range?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is not proposed at the present juncture to close the Adamstown rifle range. The executive of the Hunter River District Rifle Clubs Union (Newcastle area) has expressed the view that every effort should be made to keep the Adamstown rifle range in existence, and that these views were representative not only of the union committee, but of the whole of the riflemen, together with a vast number of citizens.
The Commonwealth land containing the range proper extends to approximately 1,100 yards beyond the target position. This area is divided by a dedicated public road, one chain wide, crossing the range centre line at about 600 yards beyond the targets, and has existed through the range area since its inception.
The Greater Newcastle Council has commenced the construction of a tourist highway on this site, and anticipates completion in approximately two years.
In view of this hindrance to the Commonwealth’s freedom of action, due to the increase of traffic through the danger zone which will result on completion of the highway, and as the council’s attitude indicates serious obstacles to future range usage, inquiries are at present being made with a view to ascertaining whether a suitable alternative site, adjacent to Newcastle, is available to meet defence requirements. A site in the vicinity of Stockton has been suggested.
Militia Forces: Leave and Pay.
T, - On the 19th May the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) referred to the question of thepay of employees of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard who are members of the militia forces, and asked whether the difference between their civil and military pay would be made up by the dockyard authorities when such employees were required’ to attend military camps.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is understood that Cockatoo Island employees, when absent on military duty, are not paid tho difference between their normal pay and military pay, but the policy to be adopted by the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company in future is at present under consideration, and I am awaiting further advice from the company.
Defence Contract fob Boots.
– On the 25th May the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked the following question, without notice -
Has the Minister for Defence investigated the quotes of tenderers for the supply of boots to the Defence Department with a view to discovering whether the prices submitted by the successful tenderers were due to sweating in those particular factories, and whether the prices submitted by the unsuccessful tenderers were due to an attempt at profiteering?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that tenders are generally invited throughout Australia for the bulk requirements of boots for the department, and the lowest tender is accepted, if satisfactory. There has been no .suggestion of either sweating or profiteering. However, as I previously stated, if the honorable member has any particular case in mind and will furnish details, I shall be only too glad to investigate it.
Rathmines Seaplane Base.
t. - On the 23rd May the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked if consideration could be given to the allocation of the work in connexion with the seaplane base at Rathmines, Lake Macquarie, on a daylabour basis instead of by contractors.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the proposal for the establishment of a seaplane base at Rathmines is still in course of development, and I am advised by the Department of the Interior that the question of the method of the execution of the work has not yet been considered.
Manufacture of Munitions : Contracts.
t. - On the 26th May the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked if the £11,653 19s. lOd. paid for the 10,061 empty streamlined 18-pounder quick-firer, high-explosive shell supplied under contract included the 7s. a shell which was refunded.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the price of £11,653 19s. lOd. for the 10,061 empty streamlined 18-pounder quick-firer, highexplosive shell was not inclusive of the 7s. a shell which was refunded. In other words, the £11,653 19s. lOd. was the amount finally paid by the department after the 7s. a shell had been deducted.
t. - On the 26th May, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) referred to a published statement to the effect that the failure of the voluntary register of productive capacity was due to the lack of preparation and mismanagement in the Defence Department. The honorable member asked if the figures published were correct and if official authority was given for their publication.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member ‘that the questionnaire relating to the voluntary register of productive capacity was not framed by the Defence Department officers. It was prepared by the Advisory Panel *on Industrial Organization, not only after very full consideration by that body, but also after it had consulted members of the Economic and Finance Committee and a senior representative of the Department of Trade and Customs.- Returns furnished by the Chamber of Manufacturers and kindred bodies who arranged the distribution showed that the questionnaire was issued to 5,416 firms. The number received back up to the 24th May, was 1,S66, of which 1,185 had been completely filled in and 681 incompletely filled in. Approximately 120 of those shown as completely filled in were originally incomplete and were completed only after personal contact was made with the firms by departmental officers. No official authority was given for the publication of the figures in the newspaper referred to by the honorable member.
t - On the 26th May, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following question, upon notice: -
Will the Minister for Defence give the following information in respect of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills: - (a) the gross profits; (b) 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?
I am now in a position to inform, the honorable member as follows: -
t - On the 26th May, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: - 1. (a) Being a Government establishment, gross profits are not recorded.
t - On the 26th May, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following question, upon notice: -
Will the Minister for Defence give the following information in regard to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory: - (a) the gros’s 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?
I am now in a position to inform the honorablemember as follows: -
IRON and Steel.
– On the 26th May, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following questions, upon notice -
land and in Australia on the let January, 1938, 1st July, 1938, and 1st January, 1939?
I am now able to furnish the honorable, member with the following information : -
Particulars arc not available with respect to the domestic selling prices of galvanized corrugated iron in the United Kingdom on the dates referred to in the honorable member’s question. The prices I have quoted were those applicable for export. However, if this information is inadequate, I shall have inquiry made in London with a view to obtaining domestic prices on the dates concerned. Galvanized iron is sold in Australia principally in 26 gauge thickness, while in the United Kingdom it is understood that 24 gauge is the principal thickness sold.
n - On the 4th May, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) asked a question, without notice, relating to a reduction of telephone charges during the next financial year.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the question of telephone charges and those for services rendered to the community by the post office is inextricably related to the finances of the Commonwealth as a whole, and any question of reductions must be considered in the light of the general financial position, commitments for social and other services, and the requirements for national defence.
Telephone Department : Disconnexions - Countryfacilities.
n. - On the 4th May, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked a question, without notice, relating to the disconnexion of telephone services where the subscriber is suspected of illegal betting.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that it is not the practice of the department to cancel telephone services where the subscriber is suspected of illegal betting. The normal procedure is to comply with any request from the Police Department for the cancellation of a telephone service installed in premises in respect of which a conviction has been obtained of carrying on an illegal business which includes gaming and betting. The department’s authority for this procedure is telephone regulation 62. It is considered that this arrangement, under which a conviction must be secured against an offending subscriber or person for a breach of the law before a telephone service is withdrawn, represents the only practicable course open to the department. Prior notice of the department’s intention to cancel the service and the reason therefor is given to the subscriber concerned. The suggestion that the departmental officers listen in to conversations in order to detect cases where services are used for illegal purposes is not correct. No such observations are made. The advice in the first instance comes from the police authorities who have their own method of detecting breaches of the relative State laws.
On the 4th May, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked the following question, without notice: -
Is it the intention of the Telephone Department to provide facilities for wireless telephonic communication with people in fardistant areas?
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the question of establishing radio telephone facilities in outback areas for the purpose of bringing otherwise inaccessible points into direct communication with a centre which is connected to the long-distance telephone system has been receiving close consideration by the Post Office, which recognizes the importance of developing such a scheme, if practicable, for adoption in districts which are now more or less isolated because of the prohibitive cost entailed in erecting land-lines. The matter is, however, one of great complexity, and so far no simple and economical solution of the difficulties which have to be surmounted has been found. The present position is that two low-power radio telephone transmitting and receiving sets suitable for operation as telephone or telegraph units have been purchased by the department, and are being subjected to laboratory tests as a preliminary to their installation and operation on an experimental basis. In view of the importance of this particular matter, the studies will be pursued vigorously in the hope that a satisfactory solution may be found. . .
Trade with Japan.
– On the 26th May, . the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked me a question concerning Japanese exports to and imports from Australia. I can now inform the honorable member -
Tram-car Manufacturing Industry.
n. - On the 26th May, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked the following questions,without notice; -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 18th May, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked certain questions, upon notice, in regard to Italian hats imported into Australia. I am now able to inform the honorable member that inquiries elicited the fact that the felt hats referred to are fur felt hats, the annual requirements of which in Australia are 87,000 dozen, whilst the total orders placed since the 1st January, 1939, for Italian fur felt hats for the whole of Australia is only 80 dozen. The duty-paid landed cost of these hats does not show any detriment to Australian industry.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390530_reps_15_159/>.