15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. I. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Publication of JOURNAL
– A week ago, I asked for particulars of the estimated cost of the proposed journal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Postmaster-General stated yesterday that it was neither customary nor desirable to give details of the commission’s financial transactions, other than are disclosed is the accounts prescribed by Parliament, and added that the journal would not be run at a loss. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether, in the public interest, and in the interest of 1,122,250 holders of listeners’ licences in Australia, who are supplying the revenue for this journal, it is not essential that the details asked for should be supplied? Will the Minister make further inquiries to this end?
– I .shall approach tho commission, to see whether I can obtain the information.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that certain proprietors of newspapers and journals have made representations to him with the object of preventing the Australian Broadcasting Commission from publishing advertisements in its proposed journal? If so, were any of those proprietors able to assure him ‘that a journal could be conducted successfully without advertising revenue?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “Yes “ and to the second part, “ No “.
– Is the Minister for Defence willing to make inquiries in respect of the persistent refusal of the metal trades’ employers’ organisation to meet the engine drivers and firemen in a conference to discuss conditions arising out of their employment? If such inquiries disclose the attitude of this employers’ organization to bo as I have stated, is the honorable gentleman willing to make representations to the lessees of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, where a large number of metal trade workers aTe involved, with a View to a conference being ‘arranged between the unions concerned and the dockyard management, and thus counteract the defiant attitude of the employers’ organization in resisting discussion of industrial problems, even to tho extent of hindering tho work of his department?
– A conference has been called to deal with this particular matter to-morrow. Consequently it would be wrong of me to make now any statement in regard to the position. However, after the conference has been held, whatever the decision may be, I hope that I shall be able to meet the wishes of the honorable member. I trust that there will be no cause for a further meeting.
Embargo on Importation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce if it is a fact that the period for which the potato embargo was lifted expires today? If so, is the honorable gentleman in a position to inform the House as to whether or not the embargo is to be lifted for a further period, or is to be re-imposed ?
– The Prime Minister will, it is expected, make to-morrow a statement which will embody an answer to the honorable member’s question.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to make some reference to the matter of microphones in tho chamber, which was raised in this House yesterday, because some misunderstanding may have arisen from what I then said.
The receivers to which the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) and other honorable members have taken exception, were installed by r technician from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, who was of the opinion that they would be helpful to me. The matter was first mentioned to Mr. Speaker, and his permission to install them was obtained. I understood from the technician that he had approached the Opposition, with a view to ascertaining whether or not it would offer any objection.
There is, I think, considerable misunderstanding as to what these receivers do, and are intended to do; there would appear to be the impression that private conversations between honorable members may be overhead. I give the House the most positive assurance that that is not so. 1 confirmed my previous impression by an experiment this morning, when, beyond a confused and wholly unintelligible murmur, I was unable to distinguish anything.
There is one other point that must be touched on; it is, that these receivers do not in any way help any person other than one wearing headphones. Consequently, the advantage, if any, derived from the amplification of sound in the chamber, is confined to me, honorable members of normal hearing being left in an unaltered position.
Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, reference was made to a connexion between the microphone at Mr. Speaker’s end. of the table and the Prime Minister’s room. I need only say that I was not consulted or even informed about such a connexion, nor did I know that one existed until I read of it this morning. The receiver at the far end of the table, which is the one through which sounds pass to my headphones, has been on the table since 1931. So far as private conversations of honorable members are concerned, they are in exactly the same position as they have been for the last eight years. I have only to add that the financial responsibility for the installation is entirely mine.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The matter referred to by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) was raised yesterday at question time, and further references were made to it on the motion for the adjournment last night. I stated last night that, in view of what had been said by the Attorney-General to me, I would make a personal investigation. I did so, and some tests were conducted this morning. Some of the officers of the House were present, as well as the . AttorneyGeneral. It had been objected that the Attorney-General might hear private conversations carried on in a low voice. Of that I was not really in a position to judge, but the right honorable gentleman assured me himself that he could hear nothing of such conversations, and” never had been able to. The chief engineer attached to the staff of Parliament has supplied me with the following report: -
Reporting on the microphones installed in the chamber for the use of Mr. Hughes, I have to advise, after careful tests, that ordinary conversation on the benches is only audible as a murmur, and the words cannot be distinguished. When, however, a member is addressing the House, and pitches his voice accordingly, the Minister will hear him clearly. I am of opinion that there is no danger of Mr. Hughes overhearing any conversation on the benches conducted in ordinary tones.
Another point was raised by the honorable member for Boothby, who stated that the installation was responsible for certain noises which he found objectionable. This morning I sat in his seat, and had some of the officers of the House speak from the opposite side of the chamber, and I was unable to detect any objectionable sounds in the microphone. In view of what has been said, I think we might allow the microphones to remain for the time being, but if any honorable member finds them objectionable in any way I hope he will inform me.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether any firms have approached him with an offer to engage in the manufacture of motor car chassis in Australia? If not, what steps are to be taken to establish this industry, and will the Government, before it commits the country to anything definite, allow the matter to be debated in Parliament ?
– Some time ago, the Prime Minister made the position of the Government in that respect quite clear to the House. The Government has already received a number of proposals, and it is prepared to consider any others that may be received, for the manufacture of cars in Australia.
– Will the Prime Minister take steps to provide Judge Drake-Brockman with the extra power required to deal with cases of sweating in the clothing trade?
– I am at present investigating the possibility of dealing with this matter by amending legislation. If that is found to be feasible, I hope to introduce such amending legislation next week.
– My attention has been drawn to the Hansard report of a speech made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) on Friday last during the debate on the Supply and Development Bill. According to the report, the honorable member stated that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) did not support the proposal which he, as Minister for Trade and Customs, had submitted to the House for the reduction of duties on imported cement. If the honorable member for Balaclava will refer to Hansard of the 27th March and the 21st May, 1936, he will find that onboth occasions I supported the proposal which he, as Minister, submitted.
– On the occasion referred to by the Minister for Social Services, I mentioned a number of Ministers, and his name was inadvertently included. I now recall that it was he who helped to defeat the duties on sanitary ware.
– In view of the very low price of wheat, and the unprofitable nature of the industry even with the assistance afforded by the flour tax, will the Treasurer give favorable consideration to a request for some further financial assistance to growers during the coming year?
– The position of the wheat industry has been the subject of prolonged examination by expert officers representing the States and the Commonwealth, who met in Canberra last week. The result of their discussion has not yet come before the Government, but no doubt it will. Further, there will be a conference of State Ministers with representatives of the Commonwealth to discuss the same subject, probably the week after next. The purpose of these conferences is to make an attack on the important problem referred to by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether the Government has been invited to attend a world conference on wheat? If so, when will the conference take place? Is the Minister aware of the disparity between the prices obtained for, wheat in the various States? Why is it that the price in South Australia is, generally speaking, about 4d. a bushel below that ruling in the eastern States?
Sir’ FREDERICK STEWART.There is a Standing International Wheat Committee which was in session quite recently. It is not sitting at the moment. I know of no suggested conference other than that. With regard to the disparity between wheat prices throughout the Commonwealth, I am not aware of the facts related by the honorable member, but I shall bring his question under the notice of the Minister for Commerce.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to answer question No. 8 on the notice-paper?
– That question relates to the matter which was discussed here the other day regarding the acceptance of a tender for certain additions to the General Post Office, Sydney. All I can say at the present time is that the matter is under consideration by the Government. The possibility of some speedy investigation of the matters raised in relation to the tenders is now being investigated by me. I have had the advantage of some tentative conversations on the subject with the leaders of the other two parties in this House, and I shall make a statement to-morrow. In the meantime, I assure honorable members that no contract will be signed.
– Is there any truth in the statement that the Government of New South Wales has agreed, or proposes, to appoint a commission to inquire into the question of pensions to coal miners on their reaching the age of 60 years, with the object of replacing them by the unemployed youth on the various coal-fields?
Is it a fact that the Queensland and Victorian Governments have indicated their intention to participate in such inquiry, for the purpose of bringing about more harmony on the coal-fields ? If this is a fact, will the Government co-operate with the governments mentioned for the purpose of giving such inquiry Commonwealth wide scope?
Is it a fact that at a conference held by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in Canberra about fifteen months ago with the miners’ executive officers regarding the financing of this pensions scheme, Sir George Knowles, the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, suggested it could be financed by the Federal Government placing an excise of 3d. or 4d. a ton on all coal produced? Was the late Prime Minister sympathetic to such an excise as a contribution to a settlement of the then impending coal dispute?
If these are facts, will the Prime Minister indicate to the House his preparedness to co-operate with the States in the setting up of a commission for the purpose of covering the whole of Australian coal-fields, and also state if he will be prepared to impose an excise duty on coal as suggested, thereby bringing about a settlement of one of the miners’ major claims, in addition to absorbing many unemployed youths in the distressed coalfields areas?
– The question is extraordinarily long. I remind honorable members that lengthy questions should not be asked without notice.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was good enough to supply me with a copy of the question.
– It is important. That is why I did so.
– I am not blaming the honorable gentleman, I assure him. He was good enough to inform me of the question so that I should have it before me when answering it. The first question implies that there is a proposal by the Government of New South Wales to appoint a commission to inquire into the question of pensions to coalminers, but I regret that I have no information to that effect. I made an inquiry but could not substantiate the statement. The same is true of the second question, which asks whether the Victorian and Queensland Governments have indicated their intention to participate. The third question asks whether the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, suggested that such a pensions scheme could be financed by the Commonwealth Government’s placing an excise of 3d. or 4d. a ton on all coal produced. I have inquired from Sir George Knowles. He informs me that he offered no view as to what the excise should be. The amount referred to by the honorable gentleman was, in fact, the amount put forward by the miners’ representatives when Sir George Knowles was asked to advise as to whether there was any constitutional difficulty about imposing such an excise. He advised that there was not.
– That is more in his line.
– Yes. As to whether the late Prime Minister was sympathetic to such an excise I am unable to say. There is no record of the matter. The fourth question asks whether I shall indicate to the House my preparedness to co-operate with the States in the proposed commission. It follows that I cannot answer that yet, because, so far as I know, there is no proposed commission. But I would point out that the suggestion about a special excise duty on coal, in order to produce a specially accelerated pension for coalminers, while it is one which, of course, I shall consider, has obvious difficulties attached to it, because it would involve discrimination between coalminers and other miners and other industrial workers. Therefore, while I say to the honorable gentleman that I shall take his suggestion into consideration, it would be unwise for me to encourage him to believe that the suggestion can be accepted.
– Has Cabinet reached a decision regarding a revision of telegram rates ?
-Cabinet has decided to re-affirm the decision of the previous Government.
– In view of the fact that the greatest right of any citizen is the right to vote, will the AttorneyGeneral consider that, in any amendment of the Divorce Act or improvement in the difficulty of domicil, any citizen could claim the right of domicil where he or she has the right of voting.
– The only satisfactory solution of the difficulties that at present exist with regard to domicil in relation to divorce is the creation of an Australiawide domicil instead of the separate State and territorial domicils at present existing. The question whether a bill providing for such a domicil should he introduced is a matter of policy upon which I am not in a position to make a pronouncement at the moment.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce. By way of explanation, I have a product which in its natural state is pure white. It has been artificially coloured and resembles butter, and tastes like butter, but is not butter.
– The honorable member is giving information rather than asking a question.
– Will the Government give consideration to suitable action in conjunction with the State governments to prevent the public from being deceived by this product which is undermining the dairying industry and is largely manufactured from coco.-nut oil, fish oils and other things, which have not the same health content as butter?
– It is hardly necessary for me to indicate that every member of this Government is opposed to deception of any sort. The subject-matter of the question is to be considered by the Agricultural Council which is to meet shortly.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been drawn to an article by the aviation correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald which contains the following extract:- -
The announcement in the Herald that the British Air Ministry plans to supplement the flying-boat service to Australia with “ express “ landplanes ….
If that report be correct, does the Government propose to expend further money on the preparation of bases for flying boats on the Australian coast, and what compensation, if any, is the Government likely to receive if the present service is discontinued?
– I have not seen the article referred to and the Government has received no information from the Government of the. United Kingdom of any such proposal.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to a newspaper report that Dr. Donald Thompson, the Australian anthropologist, has been awarded the Wellcome Foundation Gold Medal for anthropological research, in recognition of his work in Arnheim Land, and has also been appointed Australian representative on the permanent International Committee for the study of the conservation of native races. Dr. Donald Thompson’s work has been acclaimed in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Will the Minister for the Interior place Dr. Thompson in an appropriate position in the Native Affairs Branch when it is established, in view of the fact that that branch will be largely based on reports made by Dr. Thompson, who, at great risk to himself, spent two years among the aborigines in Arnheim Land? Dr. Thompson will shortly return to Australia and I think that a responsible appointment in this new department would be a recognition of his valuable services.
– I believe from statements in the press that the first part of the question is correct. I shall refer the second part to the Minister for the Interior.
– In view of the considerable increase of prices of commodities which constitute the general purchases of pensioners, will the Prime Minister take immediate steps to increase the payment granted to these deserving members of the community?
– I regret to say that the answer must be in the negative.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs propose to table a tariff schedule before the close of this session, with a view to implementing recommendations made by the Tariff Board as from the beginning of this financial year?
– I am unable to say definitely whether a tariff schedule will be tabled prior to the recess. Tentatively, my opinion is that no such schedule will be tabled this session unless the House continues to sit until about the end of July.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior as to whether any decision has been reached by the Government with a view to securing the services of the Queensland astronomer, Mr. Inigo Jones, who has specialized in long-range weather forecasts for many years, and “whose forecasts over recent months have been very accurate and, consequently, are much appreciated by men on the land throughout Australia? When I asked a question of the Minister’s predecessor on this matter, I was informed that an investigation would be made. Has that investigation been completed?
– I have no information on the subject, but I shall ascertain the position, and inform the honorable member to-morrow.
– Has the Prime Minister yet made any inquiry into alleged sweating in back-yard factories? I mentioned this matter some time ago, and the right honorable gentleman replied that he would make such inquiries. What is the result of those inquiries?
– I did make inquiries on that matter, but in order that I may be enabled to give the honorable member a full reply, I prefer to answer his question to-morrow.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce if he will have prepared statements showing the amounts of financial assistance that have been given to the dairying and butter-making industry, and the margarine industry, over the last ten years? Will he also prepare a statement showing the average wage paid in each of those industries during that period?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s request under the notice of the Minister for Commerce.
– With reference to the press reports that the Minister for Civil Aviation is favorably considering the creation of a larger Air Force Reserve, as the result of representations made by aero clubs and individuals, will the honorable gentleman make an early statement dealing with the extent of this desirable reform ?
– I have not made any statement to the press on the lines indicated by the honorable gentleman. I informed the press that inquiries are being made into the potentiality of civil aviation for training pilots at the ob initio stage.
– In view of the difficulty which authors experience in publishing their books, does not the AttorneyGeneral consider that the Government can afford to pay the published price of all books which unfortunate authors are obliged to supply free of cost to the Commonwealth Library? If so, will he consider an amendment of the Copyright Act in this respect?
– In order to comply with the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, it would be necessary for the Government to amend section 40, 1 think, of the Copyright Act. I have not had time to consider the matter at length, but I am of opinion that it is not desirable that the amendment he suggests should be made.
– I ask tie Prime Minister whether his Government retains the inner executive, or inner-cabinet group? If so, what Ministers have been appointed to that group to fill the positions vacated by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby)?
– The only inner group in my Government consists of myself and all of the other member’s of the Cabinet.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether the monthly magazine on national insurance, which was being published with the authority and under the patronage of the National Insurance Commission, is still being published ? If so, does it still enjoy the patronage of the National Insurance Commission?
– It is quite incorrect to say that the journal, to which I presume the honorable member refers, was published with the authority and under the patronage of my department. I understand that the journal has ceased publication.
– Will the Prime Minister furnish to this House a statement, giving his reasons why he requested newspapers throughout the Commonwealth to refrain from publishing any of the many thousands of letters which they received protesting against the excessive amount of the annuities granted to the widow and family of the late Prime Minister?
– As I made no such request, directly or indirectly, to the press, or to any section of the press, I am not in a position to furnish my reasons.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether he has received a number of protests from branches of the Invalid and Old-age Pensioners Association regarding the excessive annuities granted to the family of the late Prime
Minister, while pensioners are’ expected to exist on a miserable £ 1 a week-
– Order ! The honorable member must be well aware, in the first place, that it is improper for him to refer as he has done to a measure passed by this Parliament, and in the second place, that it is distinctly out of order for him to refer to an amount provided by the Parliament as a “ miserable “ sum.
– I was referring to statements made in the protests.
– It is fairly clear that the honorable member was expressing his own view.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has received a number of such protests containing statements similar to those I have mentioned?
– The honorable member must pay regard to the direction of the Chair. He must not try to evade the ruling.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether-
– The honorable member may complete the question that he has begun to address to the Prime Minister. I shall then be willing to answer his question to me unless it refers to the form of his question to thePrime Minister.
– That is exactly what it does refer to. I wish to know whether in putting a question to the Prime Minister I am in order in making reference to words contained in the letters of protest to which I wish to direct attention ?
– It is not in order, in asking a question, to refer to improper statements that other people may have made. In my opinion that would even be more disorderly than for an honorable member to express “his own opinion in a way not permitted by the Standing Orders. It appears to me that the object of the question is to direct attention to what is described as the “excessive annuity”. I can see no other reason why he should frame his question as he has done.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has received a number of protests from branches of the Invalid and Old-age Pensioners Association concerning the annuity of £20 a week-
– I shall not allow the honorable member to make any further references to that matter which has already been considered and determined, by the House.
Mr.WARD. - Well we shall have something to say on the subject on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has received from various branches of the Invalid and Old-age Pensioners Association a number of letters of protest against a recent action of the Government and whether it is proposed to furnish those organizations with a considered reply to their representations? I also wish to know whether the Government intends to give favorable consideration to the requests of these organizations for like consideration: in regard to their own rates of pension?
– I have received a number of letters relating to the subjectmatter which I understand the honorable member has referred to, and no doubt some of them have come from branches of the Invalid and Old-age Pensioners Association, although I cannot say positively that that is so. The reply to those representations was made by the Government at the time a certain measure was considered and approved by a majority of honorable members.
– Last week I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether it would be possible to post, at the office of the Works Department in Sydney, a list of all works recently let giving the name of the successful tenderer, the nature of the work, and the place where the work was to be done. Has any decision been made on this subject ?
– I referred the honorable member’s question to the Minister for the Interior who has, no doubt, since referred it to his department. I have heard nothing further, hut I shall make inquiries into the matter and advise the honorable member of the result.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether the Lorenz beacons obtained by his department have yet been put into operation at the principal aerodromes throughout Australia, and whether commercial aircraft have been fitted with the necessary apparatus in connexion therewith? Have the beacons and equipment been tested satisfactorily by the officers of his department ?
– I cannot, offhand, give the honorable member exact information, but in the last week or two practically all the beacons have been tested, and I believe I am right in saying that all but two are considered to be working in an absolutely satisfactory way. Aircraft on one or two lines have been fitted with receivers. I shall obtain exact information on the subject and furnish it to the honorable member.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of ft bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for invalid and old-age pensions.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Sir Frederick Stewart do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £15,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. This is the usual measure submitted to Parliament for the purpose of appropriating an amount from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for payment into a trust fund to enable pensions to be paid at rates already approved by Parliament.
The total amount appropriated by Parliament to date for this purpose is £225,000,000, and the balance of the appropriation now remaining is only sufficient to meet pension payments to the 30th June, 1939.
Although Parliament is being asked to appropriate £15,000,000, which is the usual amount appropriated, the whole sum will not be withdrawn from revenue immediately. Revenue is drawn upon only as required to enable pension payments to be made as they become due.
This measure has no relation whatsoever to the rates or conditions under which invalid and old-age pensions are paid, and is intended merely to provide funds for the purpose.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Iti committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the States.
– I am loth to intervene at what is ordinarily ,a formal stage of proceedings, hut I point out that no indication has been given by the. Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) as to the purpose for which this appropriation is to be made. He has moved that it is expedient that a sum of money should be voted for assistance to the States, but ‘before we deem it desirable that this money should be voted, the honor able gentleman owes to the committee an explanation of the purpose for which this money is to be given to the States. There is a great variety of uses to which the States could put it, but I think that a definite statement of the purpose of this measure should be given.
– The purpose of this measure is to appropriate £200,000 to’ assist the States to overcome the problem of unemployed youths, both male and female. It completes a sum of £400,000 which was promised in 1937 ‘by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), to’ the States, for the purpose of assisting in the vocational employment of youths and their technical training. Under the Commonwealth Government’s scheme provision is made for youths between the ages of 18 and 25 years who have , been adversely affected by the depression and have been unable to secure employment.
– What is the total amount of the appropriation?
.- 1 believe that so far as New South Wales is concerned the youth employment scheme was cancelled on the 1st January last. I raised this matter a few weeks ago, and was informed that new arrangements were being made with regard to New South Wales. Five months have now elapsed and it is desirable that honorable members should know what has been done in New South Wales. Several honorable members who represent New South Wales electorates have received letters from youths who are seeking employment under the scheme which they understand to be in operation. They should be made aware of the actual position.
Question “resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Mr. Perkins do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In September, 1937, following proposals made to the States by the dien Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), Parliament appropriated an amount of £200,000 to- assist the States to overcome the problem of youths, male or female, who were unemployed through missing the opportunity for industrial training during the depression. When the bill making that appropriation was introduced, the Minister explained the negotiations with the States, and it is, therefore, only necessary for me to mention briefly the circumstances under which the grant was made.
All States were invited to put forward proposals for dealing with the problems as they presented themselves to the respective governments. A survey was made of the extent of youith unemployment in each State, and the direction in which the expenditure of the money would afford the greatest relief to those concerned.
The schemes submitted by the States were all approved by the Commonwealth. No hard and fast rules were laid down, and they differ in detail, but the principal features are along the following lines: -
Generally speaking, efforts have been made by the States to train individuals for those pursuits which are most suitable to their capacity and circumstances.
Owing to the amount of work entailed in making the requisite survey and completing arrangements for training, the schemes did not come into operation so early as had been anticipated, and the £200,000 voted by the last Parliament was not fully expended in 1937-38. The balance has been used during the current year.
The present position is that three States have exhausted the money made available by the Commonwealth and their own Parliaments, and their funds will be substantially overdrawn on the 30th June next. It is, therefore, necessary to make available the remainder of the grant promised by the Commonwealth.
The additional £200,000 to be provided by this bill was included in the 1938-39 Estimates. In November last it appeared that about half of that amount would be sufficient for this financial year, but it is now clear that some States require their full quota. Parliament is, therefore, asked to appropriate the full sum included in the Estimates. The money will be paid to the States as required to meet their expenditure.
The allocation of the proposed vote of £200,000 is the same as that of the similar sum voted in 1937-38. It is based on population, with a slight variation allowed for the degree of unemployment among youths in the various States, as follows : -
Most of the States are contributing approximately £1 for £1 with the Commonwealth, and the total expenditure, Commonwealth and State, will be in the vicinity of £800,000.
This scheme, inaugurated by the Commonwealth, has undoubtedly proved of great value to the community, and in particular to those youths whose training was interrupted or prevented altogether by the depression. As a very rough indication of the number of individuals benefited and to be benefited, the following figures, furnished at the 31st December, 1938, may be of interest: -
It is as well to emphasize that the circumstances and the methods of training vary considerably in the States, and the above-quoted figures are not a reliable guide to the relative benefit received by each State.
The provision of £200,000 by this measure will complete the full grant of £400,000 originally contemplated by the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holloway) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 30th May (vide page 932).
Clause 5 - (1.) Subject to the directions of the Governor-Ueneral and to the next succeeding sub-section, the matters to be administered by the department shall be matters relating to -
the provision or supply of munitions;
the manufacture or assembly of aircraft or parts thereof by the Commonwealth or any authority of the Commonwealth ;
arrangements for the establishment or extension of industries for purposes of defence;
the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of stocks of goods in connexion with defence;
arrangements” for ascertaining 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 sectionmay be administered by the department.
Upon which Mr. Forde had moved, by way of amendment -
That at the end of sub-clause 1 the following paragraphs be added: -
– This is the first clause of any consequence in this bill. I believe that what I may describe, without exaggeration, as an inordinate time has so far been occupied in the committee stage. I venture to point out to the committee, and in particular to honorable members of the Opposition, that this may well be regarded as an urgent defence measure. It would not have been introduced, and the Government would not even have considered the establishment of a Department of Supply and Development, had not the international situation been what we all know it to be. In other words, the bill is a reflection of the gravity of the times in which we live. Although the Government has no desire to limit legitimate discussion, I appeal to honorable members, and particularly to those of the Opposition-
Order! The committee has before it an amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde).
– I merely appeal to honorable members, and particularly to the Opposition, to give this matter, which is one of national urgency, a rather more rapid passage than it has so far had through committee.
.- When progress was reported last night, the committee was discussing an amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), for the addition of certain new paragraphs to clause 5, sub-clause 1. The first proposal of the honorable gentleman is that one of the matters to be administered by the Department of Supply and Development shall relate to the construction and extension of roads and railways. Speaking both for myself and for members of the Country party generally, while we are not antagonistic to other proposals contained in the amendment, we are opposed to the inclusion of this provision in the clause. I believe that it should be our duty to cultivate good relations with the States. The construction and extension of roads and railways is a matter which comes within their province and their legislative domain; the Commonwealth can construct roads and railways only with their consent. What is their attitude towards the Commonwealth in this connexion? Has it been to block anything that the Commonwealth might desire to do for purposes of defence ? Quite to the contrary, all of the States have indicated extreme willingness to cooperate with..the Commonwealth in the carrying out of any works which may be regarded as having a defence value, such as, presumably, the construction and extension of roads and railways. It seems to me, and to other members of the Country party, that we should be prepared to work with the States on this helpful basis of co-operation which they have agreed to give rather than to say bluntly that we shall undertake these works ourselves. If we say that, we shall not only ignore the constitutional limitations involved, but also show a lack of appreciation of the most helpful attitude of the States in this connexion.
The honorable gentleman next suggests that the search for additional oil resources shall be a matter to be administered by the new department. I believe that a useful purpose would be served if the committee indicated its desire that this work should in the future be carried out by the Department of Supply and Development. At the present time, there is a rather extraordinary division of departmental responsibility in this matter. The Department of the Interior deals with the seareh for oil, while the Minister for Supply and Development deals with such matters as the inquiry into power alcohol, the extraction of oil from coal, and the like. These matters have previously been kept in separate watertight compartments, whilst obviously all of them really belong to one department, and that the new Department of Supply and Development. I consider that that department should take over from the Department of the Interior the responsibility in connexion with the search for oil. I understand that there is no objection on the part of the Department of the Interior to this responsibility being taken from it and given to thenew department.
The suggested newparagraphs i andi deal with the production of power alcohol from sugar or other vegetable crops, and the production of oil from coal or shale. These matters are already being handled by the Department of Supply and Development, and I see no objection to their being explicitly mentioned in the bill. That would not necessarily mean that the department must immediately proceed to produce power alcohol or oil from shale, because the wording at the beginning of the clause indicates that the department “may” administer matters relating to the production of one thing and another, and that it need not necessarily commence producing. The production of power alcohol and of oil from coal or shale, in my opinion, is very closely related to the search for additional oil resources, and if it be good to have a definite reference to the latter, it should be equally good to refer specifically to the former. The Country party, of course, has long had as an objective the decentralization of secondary industries, particularly those related to defence. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) desires assistance in the passage of his amendment, I ask him to withdraw the paragraph relating to the construction and extension of roads and railways for the reasons I have stated. The Country party would then be prepared to assist in the passage of the other paragraphs.
– It was not intended that the Commonwealth should undertake those works. The idea was that the department should convene a conference of Premiers or, if necessary, of Ministers for Transport, to discuss the matter, so that it might be lifted from the wastepaper basket of unconcern and placed on the table of action.
– The honorable gentleman would receive some support for his amendment if he were prepared to withdraw that particular provision; otherwise, I can only indicate that I propose to move at the appropriate time for the amendment of his amendment by the omission of those words.
– Is the honorable member speaking for the whole of the Country party when he says that he will vote for my amendment?
– If the words to which we object are omitted, I shall be prepared to support the remainder of the amendment, and so will members of the party generally.
. - I regret that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has indicated that his party will support the amendment only if the proposed new paragraph g is omitted from it. That paragraph, I consider, relates to one of the most important matters with which this new department should deal. I should not like to see the succeeding paragraphs which cover other important matters lost if some compromise in that direction could not be reached; but would the Country party - for which the honorable member appears to be speaking - support action from this side designed to have railway and road facilities placed on a proper basis ? Without that, it would seem to be difficult for the Opposition to accept the suggestion. If the subject has been analysed by honorable members, it will be admitted that there are few, if any, roads in Australia over which heavy mechanized traffic could operate in the event of the need arising to move large numbers of troops from one point to another. It is obvious that some department must do what other departments have, so far failed to do, and this new department should, if created, undertake the task. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Gippsland, ‘ and other honorable members of his party, have read in press organs such as the Melbourne Herald, the Melbourne Age, and the Melbourne Argus, the statement apparently founded on reports by experts that our roads would not stand up to the traffic they would have to carry in an emergency, necessitating extensive military operations. If that be the case, can we hope for any greater activity in the future from the departments which so far have been handling the matter? I say emphatically to the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Casey) that this Government, and previous administrations in which the honorable member for Gippsland was included, have failed to tackle the problem, although the promise was made during election campaigns that they would do so. Having that in mind, we should hardly feel justified in accepting the suggestion of the honorable member, even though it goes four-fifths of the way towards meeting the desires of the Opposition. I hope that he will reconsider his attitude on that matter. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) covers important activities which should come within the province of the new department. That department is to be clothed with certain powers which the Government thinks it should possess in order to ensure the proper defence of the country, but other powers which it ought to possess are not -to be conferred upon it. As a railwayman, connected with railway operations for a long period, I know, and in this I am supported by eminent authorities, that in the event of an emergency the railways would not be able to meet the demands of the Defence Department. As far back as 1923, the InspectorGeneral of the Australian Military Forces, said -
The linking up of our capital cities by railways, beyond striking distance from the coast, and the establishment of a uniform gauge throughout the Commonwealth are matters of paramount importance.
It is beyond question that a uniform gauge will avoid many of the disadvantages of possible troop movements caused by breaks of gauge with the necessary transfer from one system to another. Apart from the delay, inconvenience and the. wastage of man-power at transfer stations, the disorganization of units due to the varying capacity of trains of different gauge is serious, and may mean considerable delay at a critical time.
And again, in 1925, he made this statement -
The disabilities under which Australia is suffering on account of the breaks of gauge in its civil transportation, and the difficulties which would be imposed upon military transportation in war, are generally recognized, and it is regrettable that the production of a practical scheme to remedy this matter has been so long delayed.
But there is more in it than that. At the present time, it would be impossible to handle more than eight or nine trains a day across the breaks of gauge at Albury and Tocumwal. It has been estimated that it would require 49 standard trains to move a division of troops. This does not include the supply column and ammunition companies, &c, which would require another 26 trains. The total number of trains, therefore, which would be required to move a complete division on 4-ft. 8^-in. and 5-ft. 3-in. gauges is 75. It is doubtful whether Albury, under present conditions, can handle more than eight to ten trains a day. The first member of the Naval Board, Sir Ragnar Colvin, said recently that for every ton of goods carried interstate by train, 16 tons were carried by coastal shipping services. If that be so, our position in the event of a coastalblockade would be desperate. At the present time, Albury handles about 300 tons of freight a day. Perhaps that quantity could be doubled if necessary, but in wartime the demands upon it would be much greater than that, and could not be met successfully. The Government seems to envisage the probability in time of war of a raid from overseas or, possibly, an invasion, and if that were to take place, it is almost certain that the coasts would be blockaded. The Government professes to be satisfied with the reports of experts that the position is amply safeguarded. We should know the names and positions of these persons who have advised the Government, so that the responsibility for their advice may be fixed upon them. On the 7th November, 1938, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) stated, in answer to a question, that defence requirements on the railways could be met by -
Development of transfer facilities at breakofgauge stations.
The duplication oi certain sections of our railway lines.
The ballasting of lines which may be required for heavy material traffic.
The provision of certain new railway lines, and, finally, the standardization of certain lines.
Nothing, however, has been done in that direction. I doubt whether plans have even been prepared. The Melbourne Argus, in its issue of the 19th May, 1939, stated -
Men, munitions, and formal defences are, of course, the primary needs of Australia in these days of alarms and excursions; but equally indispensable are these economic, industrial, and developmental assets which are the solid background of a nation’s strength. I agree with that, and I believe that the necessary powers should be conferred in this bill, and that that principle should be applied to transport facilities.
– But of what use would it be to put in the bill powers that we do not possess? Why not get the States to exercise the powers which they do possess, and which they are willing to exercise?
– I suggest that, for defence purposes, the Commonwealth Government can take whatever power it desires, particularly if war were declared. The Government, however, is not even making any preparations to meet an emergency. It is obviously neglecting its duty. I am certain that supporters of the Government and members of the Country party feel on this matter as I do, but do not declare themselves because of Government policy. The Government is simply ignoring the problem of standardization of railway gauges because it is costly. The job appears to be beyond its capacity. If it desires the co-operation of the States in its work, it. is bound to find some of the money necessary. In August, 1936, the honorable member for Gippsland, who was then Minister for the Interior, stated at a conference in Adelaide -
In view of the progress which has been made in road and air transport, this committee considers that, before any decision is arrived at with respect to standardization of railway gauges, a further inquiry by a competent body should be made, having special reference to the economic and defence aspects.
Though that was in 1936, the committee has never met yet. Promises have been made time and time again, and I have repeatedly asked questions of Ministers, but nothing has been done. I maintain that the powers asked for in the amendment are essential and should be incorporated in the act if the bill is passed, and I hope that members of the Country party will support the amendment. The Melbourne Argus, on the 18th October, 1938, stated-
We are making small arms and all kinds of munitions. The Government is co-operating with manufacturers, and there is, it must be conceded, a good deal of activity in this direction. But the kind of co-ordination which ensures a level progress, so that supply of munitions keeps abreast with efficient manpower, which embraces increased population, which ensures rapid transport, whichcontemplates the abolition of coastal sea-borne trade, is entirely lacking. A broader vision and a bolder policy are immediate needs.
In its issue of the 19th October, the Melbourne Age stated -
In view of the great practical value of unification to Australia, it is not unreasonable to suggest that half the cost be met by the Commonwealth, which would leave £1,500,000 a year divided between the five mainland States. From a defence point of view the value of the railway network cannot be overemphasized. The main highways have not been built to carry heavy military load’s and even now require continual maintenance.
In the last six years Victoria has spent in unemployed relief works sufficient money to have converted the gauges in Australia to the standard 4 ft. 8) in.
I do not know whether members of the Country party are aware that, during the ten years from 1927-28 to 1937-38, no less than £285,000,000 was expended on land settlement and works for the relief of unemployed, and on sustenance. Those are astounding figures, and yet we have not even started on the standardization of railway gauges, an undertaking estimated to cost only £21,000,000. The figures are taken from the records in the Commonwealth Statistician’s Department. I again quote the Argus on this subject as follows: -
This one aspect alone has several phases. First, a half-completed unified gauge would be of no use. for the rapid transport of men and material between points most likely to be attacked if war came to Australia. Secondly, however eager the authorities might be to push the work to completion after hostilities had actually begun, the man-power could not then be spared. Thirdly, while prospects for a continuance of peace are more favorable at the moment than they have been within recent months, the facts cannot be blinked that Europe continues to be an inflammable mass, with hands ready to apply the match, that Great Britain would be drawn into any world war, and that Australia would automatically come within the ambit of the trouble … An enemy powerful enough to effect a landing on Australian soil would have to be supported by naval forces sufficiently strong to dislocate coastal shipping. Thus an enormously increased burden of transport would be thrown upon the railways at a time when the conveyance of troops and munitions would be making heavy demands upon them. Even with a unified gauge the problem would be formidable enough; with a broken gauge the state of affairs would be chaotic . . . The authorities’ who decided in November last that the work, considered as a defence adjunct, was not sufficiently urgent to be put on the priority list should now be convinced that that decision must be reversed immediately.
I support that, and I ask the honorable member for Gippsiand and his colleagues to support it also.
Mr.WILSON (Wimmera) [3.58].- The amendment is such that we might all support it. Indeed, I am at a loss to understand the argument of the honorable member for Gippsiand (Mr. Paterson), who took exception to the proposal dealing with roads and railways. I fully appreciate the necessity for this amendment being inserted, because even a layman can appreciate that roads and railways are of vital importance for defence purposes. It is suggested that the acceptance of this amendment might involve an encroachment upon matters in which the States have supreme rights, but there is no obligation on the Commonwealth to take any action in that regard other than to supply the States with the necessary funds. There is a need for better roads and for better railways, the provision of which would serve the dual purpose of furthering our defence preparations and, if they were not needed for an emergency - as we hope they will not be - of providing a permanent benefit to the community. I can see no argument against the amendment.
As for the proposal regarding the search for oil, this again, is something to which- 1 can give my blessing. It is unfortunate that the attempts that have been made up to the present to discover flow oil in Australia have had negative results, although much money has been expended. It might be worth while to try out the new department to see what it can do in this way. The production of power alcohol is another matter to which we can all give approval. There are many products and by-products from which power alcohol can be produced, particularly wheat and sugar.
The decentralization of secondary industries, particularly defence industries, is mentioned in the amendment. Experience will prove that the Government has shown very short vision in undertaking defence expenditure and works in coastal areas, particularly the great cities of Melbourne and Sydney, which are most vulnerable to attack. Despite arguments about increased costs, it would be wiser in the long run if industries were established in more inland districts. That would also be of advantage in bringing about a more even distribution of our population.
Mr. GEORGE LAWSON (Brisbane) [4.2 1 . - I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). In voicing the Country party’s objection to the proposed new paragraph -
The amendment also contains a proposed new paragraph - (ft) the search for additional- oil resources.
I am one of those who believe that up to the present the Commonwealth Government has not given sufficient assistance in the search for flow oil in Australia, and that there is oil to be found in payable quantities in Queensland if only sufficient money is made available to allow of tests of possible oil-bearing country. A week or two ago I discussed this question with certain people who are deeply interested - interested from a national point of view - and they claim that oil will be found in Queensland in the near future if the Commonwealth Government makes sufficient financial assistance available to those who are conducting the search. The production of power alcohol from sugar and other vegetable crops is a national matter which should be taken up by the Commonwealth Government. The Queensland Government has given noteworthy assistance to the power alcohol industry in the northern canefields, but its activities are limited by a decision of the High Court, which, however, could not hamper the Commonwealth Government if it decided to follow the lead given by the State Government. In the absence of indigenous oil, power alcohol would play a vital part in our transport, industries and defence if Australia were involved in war.
The amendment also contains a provision for the decentralization of secondary industries, particularly defence industries, in which Queensland is particularly interested. It is essential if the bill is to be complete that this provision should be embodied in it. I endorse the complaint by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) against the centralization of industries, particularly defence industries, in two small areas on the coast of Australia, namely, Melbourne and Sydney.
– The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr.RANKIN (Bendigo) [4.14].- I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and I do not see any reason why it should not be accepted by the Government. The objection voiced by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) would be met if the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) inserted in the proposed new paragraph-
If we are to make any progress in defence it is essential that the railway gauges be standardized. If we should be attacked by a force of any size, the breaks of gauge would imperil our safety. It has been stated officially that at Albury twelve trains could be handled daily. I doubt that estimate. The greatest test to be placed on a break of gauge would probably arise in circumstances in which a defeated force, in the last stages of exhaustion, and handling guns and munitions, would require to make the quickest progress possible. It is not likely to be’ severely tested in ordinary circumstances. From a defence point of view it is imperative that we standardize our railway gauges. I, personally, have seen disaster caused by difficulties arising from a break of gauge in a railway system. Because of the improvements which have been effected in transport generally, many people, to-day, are inclined to think that breaks of gauge are no longer a serious impediment to transport. However, should we have the misfortune to require rapid transport over sections of our road system in wet seasons, we might experience difficulties similar to those experienced by the British forces in the attack on Jerusalem. In the course of those operations a metal road, which was quite as good as the Hume Highway, except that it was not sealed, completely disappeared in mud on the Yebna Flat, on the Philistine Plain, under heavy military transport.
No serious attempt has yet been made to discover flow oil in payable quantities in Australia. In my opinion certain influences have militated against such a discovery. From what I saw on a visit which I paid recently to the Gippsiand East area, I am confident that vast quantities of oil exist in that district. If we ever hope to make a success of defence, we must have fuel, and it is in this direction that the new Department of Supply and Development can do very valuable work. I trust that it will take up the matter of discovering flow oil from a national point of view, and refuse to allow anything to stand in its way. It would be absolutely disastrous should we run short of fuel in a time of emergency. In Gippsland I saw oil coming up under gas pressure in quantities much larger than is being recovered from many oil wells in the United States of America to-day.
For a long time I, personally, have been dissatisfied with the activities of the Defence Department with regard to the decentralization of secondary industries, particularly defence industries. Most of these industries are situated in coastal areas, where they are vulnerableto attack from the air. With the exception of the industries in Melbourne, all of them are within range of gun-fire from the sea. Such a position is very undesirable and I consider that a fair proportion of these industries should be established in inland cities and towns. The tanks in which thebulk of our oil is stored are situated in vulnerable positions, and practically invite bombing. In such circumstances we might easily lose the greater part of our supplies of fuel very soon after war is declared. I urge the new department to give serious consideration to the construction inland of underground reservoirs which will not be easily discovered and bombed by an enemy. I agree with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) that we should, as soon as possible, establish connexion between Darwin and the southern railway systems, because we might easily lose command of the seas in the event of war. Should war break out in Europe, for instance, the British navy would be tied up in European waters for a considerable period.
– That is not so.
– I believe that it is very likely.
– We have had a lot of assurances to the contrary.
– And a lot of the assurances given to us have not been substantiated:
– It is a matter of opinion.
– Yes. I believe that in the event of war in Europe the British people would not allow any substantial portion of the British fleet to be removed from British waters until potential enemy fleets were defeated. In my opinion that would be the right attitude for them to adopt. It is useless to protect your legs if you are going to allow some one to out out your heart. Should a war occur in such circumstances, we might temporarily lose control of the seas around Australia, and, in that case, Darwin would be isolated, particularly should such an eventuality occur in the wet season, when the roads to Darwin are impassable for four or five months. I cannot see why the Government should not accept the amendment, nor can I see any reason why the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) should not accept my suggestion to make provision in their respective amendments for the extension of roads and railways in cooperation with the States.
– Proceedings opened this afternoon on this clause with the delivery of a lecture by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) as to the rate of progress being made with this ‘measure. I am prepared to admit that a glacier might be considered a speed hog, compared with what has happened on this bill. Certain statements appear in the press to-day which virtually charge the Country party as the culprit in this regard. That is not a fair statement, and I hoped that the Minister would have taken the opportunity when he was speaking on this aspect to put the matter right.
– I have not seen the reports to which the honorable member refers.
– The Minister would be well advised to have a look at the press. That sort of thing tends to produce hostility and friction between various parties ; it is not helpful.
I think that the Minister will concede that this is a very important bill, notwithstanding what has been said by some of his colleagues, and that he has little to complain about concerning the co-operation of the Country party on this measure.
– Who made those statements ?
– Those statements are being made, and, obviously, they are emanating from some one here. If this debate is to become merely a matter of delivering curtain lectures, there are many experts in that line here. I myself, for instance, could throw off the mask of humility which I have worn since I became a member of this chamber, and say one or two things in connexion with the absolute lack of any directing energy on the treasury bench since Parliament met.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the. amendment.
– If this bill i3 the important measure that the Government has said it is, and which I, and, I think, most honorable members, believe it to be, then there ought to be something of that speed and business-like attitude in the conduct of public affairs exhibited from the treasury bench which we were led to believe some months ago would be the distinguishing feature of this Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has moved an amendment on which there has been a certain amount of debate. There is a lot of force in the arguments put forward by the honorable members for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), but I point out that this is not merely a question of transport facilities being incorporated in the Department of Supply and Development; it is rather a question as to whether the Commonwealth is to be empowered to assume certain obligations and liabilities in regard to the extension of services which, under the constitutional distribution of duties to-day, are essentia,lly the responsibility of the States. If th.’s Government, through the Department of Supply and Development, intends to make a move towards a greater degree of unification than we have achieved hitherto, then let us make it consciously, and with our eyes open.
– The main roads boards have moved in that direction.
– That may be, but this proposal seeks to give greater power to the Commonwealth in regard to two matters which are State matters, than has been hitherto contemplated by the Commonwealth, and I have very grave doubts as to whether some of the States would be prepared to go so far as to accept what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, consciously or unconsciously, contemplates in his amendment. Every State government, and local governing body, is interested in this proposal, and we are entitled to some expression of opinion from them. Until such time- as that point has been cleared up, one way or the other, wisdom dictates that we should support the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Gippsland this afternoon.
Some time ago, there was constituted, for what useful purpose God only knows, some sort of council of State and Federal authorities which was supposed to go into the problem of transport now and again. I may be a Doubting Thomas with regard to the future and usefulness of that body, but in connexion with a bill of this description, taking into consideration the existence of that council, and the limited powers already vested in this matter in this Government, we should be extremely wise to seek the co-operation of the proper bodies towards the ends we have in view, rather than to take without their consent, or authority, powers which have never yet been sought by the Commonwealth, and which the Commonwealth at present may be rather ill-equipped to exercise. Consequently, I suggest to the committee that it would be wise at this stage to support the attitude of the honorable member for Gippsland.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). I see no reason why the Government should not accept it. It seeks to give to the Government definite powers to take certain measures with respect to our defence programme. These matters will require practical handling. I wonder whether the committee realizes the important part which an efficient road system would play in the event of a city like Sydney being attacked from the air. Do honorable members realize that egress from Sydney from east to west, which would be practically the only safe means of egress in time of attack, can be made only by the Parramatta-road ? If that road should be blocked by bombardment, or by other means, the large population of Sydney would find it almost impossible to escape inland, as all other roads leading from Sydney are not capable of handling heavy traffic. Panic and confusion would be inevitable, however the local authorities might attempt to organize an evacuation. In this matter the Newtown Municipal Council has particularly drawn attention to the congested condition of the main arteries passing through its area. Consequently, I contend that the Department of Supply and Development should give attention to “the construction, widening, and extension of main roads “ for defence purposes. It is true, also, that our railways do not at present provide adequate means of retreat for the civil population of Sydney, if they should be attacked from the air. The railway over the Blue Mountains, which is the only means of travelling direct from east to west, would be quite inadequate for the heavy traffic that would occur if the general population had to be evacuated. Naturally, the State governments are concerned, in their railway policy, with the economic position of the State. But they regard defence, in which the railways play an important part, as a Commonwealth matter. For this reason it is necessary that the Commonwealth, through this department, should immediately enter into consultation so that preparations may be made to use the railways to the best advantage, at least in a time of emergency.
Looking to the north, the Hawkesbury River bridge is vital to railway communication between Newcastle and Sydney. Newcastle is by far the principal supplier of coal and steel to the metropolis. If the Hawkesbury River bridge were destroyed, it would be disastrous to the many industries and people of Sydney. In my opinion, it is incumbent upon the new Department of Supply and Development to give the most careful attention to these matters. It should not be left until a time of emergency. Now is the time for the Commonwealth Government to seek State co-operation in the use of railways. The National Government should be authorized to act upon this matter immediately. The State railway authorities have as much business to handle as they can deal with in normal peace times. In New South Wales, 140,000,000 people and approximately 12,000,000 tons of merchandise are transported over the State railways annually. It is stated by eminent railway authorities that, under existing conditions, it would take two months to transport a complete military division from Perth to Queensland. Our limited rolling-stock and permanent ways, together with our breaks of gauge, are accountable for this. For the reasons I have given, I shall support the amendment, and I sincerely hope that the Government will accept it.
– A good deal may be said in favour of the inclusion of the proposed new paragraphs h, i and in the clause, but I do not think that “ the construction and extension of roads and railways” or “the decentralization of secondary industries “ could be dealt with more effectively by the new Department of Supply and Development than they are being dealt with at present. It must be remembered that the proposed new department is, in actual fact, an annexe to the Defence Department. It is being established to relieve the Defence Department of a great deal of the detail work which it now has to do. Reference has been made to the association of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with the new Department of Supply and Development. I remind honorable members that under the act constituting that council provision is made for it to do what it can to promote the development of the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth. In this connexion much has been done to investigate our oil resources. As to our oil resources, all honorable members must be well aware that for many years a diligent search has been made in the Commonwealth, and also in its territories, for oil. For some years a prize of £50,000 was offered for the discovery of oil. Three of the most competent men in the world are advising the Government on this subject. I refer to Dr. Woolnough, the Commonwealth Geological Adviser, who was appointed by the Bruce-Page Government and has since been re-appointed by governments of every political complexion ; Dr. Keith Ward, of the Adelaide University, and Dr. Wade, who is a world authority on geological investigations in connexion with oil. That committee has done great work. Some honorable gentlemen have had a deal to say about surface indications of oil, both in Australia and New Guinea. The natives of New Guinea have known of the existence of oil seepages for many years. Similar seepages exist in Gippsiand. It is generally agreed by geologists, however, that seepages indicate a fracture of the oil-bearing strata, and they are, therefore, not regarded with great favour.
– The Commonwealth Oil Investigation Committee has reported that at least 150,000,000 gallons of oil, on a conservative estimate, are available in Gippsland.
– I do not deny it. I am simply pointing out that for many years much attention has been given in this country to prospecting for oil. Several hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on this work.
– The honorable member must mean “ wasted “.
– I do not deny that some money may have been wasted. It would be folly to deny that government departments do, on occasions, with the best of intentions, waste a certain amount of public money.
– Private enterprise wastes money as well.
– -That is so. Mistakes occur under both government and private control. It has been truly said that those who make no mistakes make nothing. Errors will continue to occur and money will continue to be wasted at times so long as the human element has to be taken into account. We must be guided in our search for oil by the advice of our experts. I do not know that any more can be done to encourage the search for oil by the new Department of Supply and Development than has been done hitherto by already existing departments, but perhaps some new plans may be evolved. The principal purpose of the new department, however, is surely to organize and correlate all the activities that will be involved in the defence of the Commonwealth in case of attack.
The honorable members amendment refers to “ the production of power alcohol from sugar or other vegetable crops “. I believe, with all my heart, that every possible step should be taken in this direction, but I am well aware that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done a tremendous amount of work to assist in the production of power alcohol from these sources. In the last report on the subject which was issued to honorable members, it is pointed out that the production of power alcohol from certain crops cannot be compared for economy to the production of oil from natural flow. The Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, Mr. Rogers, is doing a fine job of work. Here again while I do not know that the inclusion of this subject among the functions of the new Department of Supply and Development will have any beneficial effect, it may possibly prove to be advantageous. We all hope that an effective means of producing oil from coal or shale will be discovered. I take off my hat to the honorable member for Hunter £Mr. James) for his unceasing interest in this subject. Recently a company has been incorporated in Australia which, with financial aid from the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales, will make further investigations into this important subject. Here again, however, it must be said that flow oil would indubitably be less expensive than oil produced from coal or shale.
We must all agree that it is desirable to provide oil storage tanks in positions that are not vulnerable. This subject should be investigated. Recently certain experts from Great Britain made recommendations involving the use of, disused coal pits for the storage of oil underground. An expenditure of between £15,000,000 and £16,000,000 was mentioned. It is most desirable that the Commonwealth and State governmentsshould co-operate on this important subject. We should have sufficient oil reserves in Australia to enable the country to maintain all essential undertakings for a reasonable period in the event of a sudden dislocation of our current sources of supply.
As to the construction and extension of roads, I remind honorable members of the excellent results that have been achieved under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. If we compare the condition of our roads to-day with the condition of them, in 1926-27, prior to the introduction of the Federal Aid Roads scheme by the Bruce-Page Government, we must agree that our situation is incomparably better to-day than it was then. We have to confess that we cannot perform miracles by merely waving a magic wand.
In reference to our railways, I give place to no other honorable member in my enthusiasm for the standardization of our gauges. Like the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), I hope that this important national work will be put in hand. I have yet to find any effective device that will overcome the difficulties associated with our breaks of gauge. Every mechanical contrivance that has so far been investigated would, if put into general operation, involve the travelling public in serious risks. Our railway transport problem can be overcome only by the adoption of a uniform gauge, and the longer .this step is delayed, the more it will cost. I agree with all that has been said with regard to the difficulties which would be associated with the transport of troops across the continent. The linking up of the north and south by the completion of a line to Darwin has been suggested by one honorable member, but I would go further and say that all important points should be linked up. No doubt a huge expenditure would be involved, but the work is of vital importance. I could almost support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) if paragraphs g and k were excluded. I do not mind how much investigation of our national needs is to be carried out by the new department, and if such investigations are brought to successful fruition, then so much the better. I suggest that paragraphs h, i and j of the amendment might be well worth the consideration of, and acceptance by, the Government. I do not care what additional power is given to the Department of Supply and Development so long as that power is not taken away from departments which are already administering these things.
– I think that the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has a wrong conception of the import of paragraph k. He apparently doubts that the Government would have constitutional power to deal with matters specified in paragraphs j and lc. Surely there can be no such doubt about paragraph k. because it relates exclusively to defence.
– Not exclusively, according to the wording.
– It relates particularly to defence industries. I admit that there is a difference. We are dealing, however, with a measure which relates exclusively to defence.
– I agree with that.
– Whether paragraph k of the amendment relates exclusively or particularly to defence, the result is the same, namely, that there surely can be no doubt about the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to deal with this matter.
– The Commonwealth has power to deal with it under the Defence Act. Why should the same power be put into this legislation?
– I see no reason why we should not supplement any power which exists in other legislation by incorporating it in this bill.
– The Defence Act empowers the Defence Department to establish an industry whenever and wherever it likes.
– I submit that this provision would not conflict with anything contained in other legislation, and would be quite consistent with existing powers. Therefore the Opposition is of the opinion’ that the argument advanced by the honorable member for Parkes is rather confounded, and, if I may venture to suggest it, somewhat illogical. I do not think that the constitutional -power of the Government to deal with matters mentioned in paragraph k of the amendment can be questioned.
I agree substantially with the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) . I had not the pleasure of hearing all of his speech, but I endorse the views expressed in that portion of it which I did hear. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) challenged the statement made by the honorable member for Bendigo that, in the event of war, Australia might be .thrown upon its own resources, because the British navy would be fully occupied in other waters. From information gathered while attending the Empire Parliamentary Association Conference in London recently I feel that the fear expressed by the honorable member for Bendigo - is fully justified. The opinion expressed by British Cabinet Ministers then was that it was most desirable that the various component parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the event of being cut off from outside assistance should endeavour to make themselves self-contained, so that they could carry out their own defence operations and be in a position to feed and clothe their own people, as well as protect them. Surely that statement was definite enough. Members of the association were informed that if such provision had not been made, then the various parliaments should immediately recognize their obligation, and set about fostering essential defence industries, so that their countries could be made self-reliant, and- independent of outside help in the event of hostilities. The statement by the honorable member for Bendigo, therefore, seems quite justified. It has also been endorsed by people in responsible positions who are well-qualified to give advice on this matter.
Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and several other honorable members who have voiced their opinions on the question of flow oil, I am not at all satisfied that the search for that essential commodity in Australia has been carried out thoroughly. Furthermore, I feel that the bona fides of certain activities which have been carried out might be seriously challenged. Some years ago, while I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, that body conducted an inquiry into the search for flow oil in Australia. I was one of the five or six members of that committee who visited Papua. One of the locations inspected was a place in the interior which, at one time, had been considered a good site for boring operations. It was on the advice of the Commonwealth Geologist, Dr. Woolnough, that exploration was commenced in this locality. A certain quantity of oil was discovered, although not a payable quantity. The Commonwealth Government, however, about that time came to some agreement with the AngloPersian Oil Company under which the experts of that organization were to take over the search for flow oil in Australia and the territories. The Commonwealth undertook no obligation to reimburse that company for anything, other than possibly the salaries of the men engaged in the work.
– The Commonwealth paid all expenses.
– I am telling the story as it was related to members of the Public Accounts Committee. As soon as these experts started work they closed down operations at the site to which I have referred and transferred the drilling equipment to another locality. So far as I know, even to this day oil has not been discovered in payable quantities, nor am I aware that any favorable indication of the existence of . large oil resources has been found. Subsequently considerable agitation occurred in favour of private exploration and investigation for flow oil in Papua, and among the areas eventually opened up was the very site which, as I have said previously, Dr. Woolnough had selected, but had been abandoned toy the experts of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
– I think the honorable member for Hindmarsh means Dr. Wade, and not Dr. Woolnough.
– No, I understand, the recommendation was made hy Dr. Woolnough.
– Then it must have been a recent one.
– The oil lease to which I referred was subsequently developed by several brothers. The Public Accounts Committee questioned a representative of these people, and, as was stated in the report made by that body, that witness was a most unsatisfactory one. It was ultimately elicited from the man that he had formerly been an employee of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
– That is one of many such cases.
– It might have been a coincidence, but the circumstances were decidely suspicious. I am not at all satisfied that the area referred to has been properly explored or that its oilproducing possibilities have been determined. At any rate, that was the position disclosed by the investigation of the. Public Accounts Committee, and the minority report of that committee, signed by Mr. J. El Fenton and myself, expresses our dissatisfaction with that state of affairs. No doubt, investigations might well toe made into the bona fides of other people who have carried out boring operations in various parts of Australia. I believe that in Queensland there is a strong belief that oil exists in payable quantities, but that successful development of these resources is being suppressed by big companies.
– Oil wells in Gipps land have been sealed.
– No doubt the same thing has been done in other parts, of the Commonwealth. The Government should undertake exhaustive inquiries with a view to ensuring that this country is. not being deprived of its own natural resources >by gigantic monopolies which are seeking to .make the people of Australia believe that oil does not exist in commercial quantities.
– Not only that, but the national safety is being endangered.
– That is so. The fact that national security is being endangered makes it imperative that this Government should make every effort to locate flow oil, which many people confidently believe exists in commercial quantities, but is being withheld from development through outside influence.
I commend the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) on his continued efforts to awaken the Government to the necessity for the standardization of our railway gauges. The Minister for Defence (Mr: Street) scoffed at the representations made by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) with regard to the transportation of troops from Perth to Queensland. I point out, however, that the Public Accounts Committee, of which I was a member, also dealt with this matter and the opinion then expressed by military experts was that the transportation of troops fromSydney to Perth would take six weeks. I agree with the honorable member for Parkes that the problem can best be dealt with by the conversion of the whole of the railway systems of Australia to a standard gauge. Although there may be many devices which offer opportunities to overcome temporarily the break of gauge difficulty, we should be well advised to tackle the matter fully and properly from the beginning. Such moneys as are available should be devoted to complete standardization.
– The honorable member’s time has expired. [Quorum formed]
.- I have listened to the debate with sustained interest, and have carefully examined the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). That examination has convinced me that the extra powers for which he desires to make provision are, in the main, provided for under existing acts. The Federal Aid Roads Act passed by the Bruce-Page Government in 1925-26 gives to the Commonwealth the fullest powers, in co-operation with the States, in respect of the development of our roads. Already, by ten years of concentrated effort and co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, there has been substantial improvement of main roads in every State. Last year, the agreement was extended for a further period of ten years, and the sum of £3,600,000 is being made available annually for the continuance of the good work of the previous ten years. This co-operative effort has given to Australia ‘ roads of which every Australian may justly feel proud. I fear that, if we legislate under this measure in respect of a matter which is adequately provided for in the Federal Aid Roads and Works Act, in all probability we shall limit the power which the Commonwealth now possesses to have roads built according to its desires. I should not like, either by word or by action, to influence honorable members into doing what I believe would limit the power which the Commonwealth now enjoys to have good roads built. This continent is large in area. A very fine scheme was devised, under which money is made available according to the population and the size of the State in which the roads are to be constructed. The acceptance of this particular proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would handicap, and possibly restrain, the good work now being done.
In respect of the second proposal - the search for additional oil resources - the Commonwealth already has specific power, and is dealing with the problem in excellent fashion. Under the Petroleum Oil Search Act 1936, a trust fund of £250,000 was established to encourage the search for oil and to afford financial assistance to persons willing to employ their own capital in that direction. To companies of approved standing, the Commonwealth Government makes an advance on the basis of £1 for £1 to assist them in their drilling operations, and on thebasis of £1 to £2 for geological survey purposes and drilling. Every possible effort has been made within recent years to discover oil resources, and full power exists to-day to encourage and assist the search for oil.
In respect of the production of power alcohol from sugar-cane and other vegetable crops, I point out that in October, 1938, the Commonwealth established a standing committee on liquid fuels and substitutes therefor from all oil resources, with a view to securing greater national independence in this connexion. That committee is making a general survey of the wide field covered by the production of oil from molasses, maize, potatoes and other agricultural wops. It is also investigating the production of’ benzol from coal, and of oil from coal. The Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, in Great Britain, which has a branch in Australia, ha* already spent over £2,000,000 in the investigation of processes for -the extraction of oil from coal. There is co-operation to-day between Great Britain and Australia, and we are kept informed of the progress that is being made. Some time ago, an expert in the person of Sir David Rivett was sent around the world to investigate processes in other countries. The results of all investigations the world over are being made available to this Parliament, and we know exactly what the position is. Oil is being produced from coal in large quantities in many parts of the world, but its practical use depends entirely on the cost of production from either black or brown coal. To-day it is not possible to produce it at a cost which would enable it to compete with flow oil. I am perfectly certain that the Minister (Mr. Casey) and those who are associated with him have examined in every respect the oil resources of Australia, and. I believe that the inclusion in this measure of provision for future action would restrict what is being done under other legislation.
The ‘last proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is the decentralization of secondary industries, particularly defence industries. I remind the committee that the new department is being set up with a view to decentralization, that nineteen industrial annexes have already been provided, and that many more, I hope, will be established. The railway workshops of the States are being utilized for the purpose of developing the engineering side of our secondary industries. Operations are being conducted on a large scale at Lithgow, Maribyrnong, and Footscray, for the manufacture of. munitions, machine guns, large shells, and the new Bren gun. The decentralization of our secondary industries is most essential to a balanced national development. The adoption of the amendment would in all probability have the effect of lessening the powers proposed to be given under this bill, and may be extremely dangerous. I hope that the committee will appreciate the unwisdom of accepting the amendment unless the proposed paragraph g is excluded from it. In my judgment the federal aid roads authority is the largest employer of labour and user of manufactured goods in Australia. Nevertheless, as an alternative, provided railways and roads are excluded from it, the carrying of the amendment as it applies to the other proposals, while unnecessary, would not materially affect the measure. I am willing to support such a proposal.
– I welcome, in certain respects, the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). I should like this measure to be placed on the statute-book, because I believe that what is being done in this connexion is long overdue. I worked very hard indeed for many months to secure the establishment of a department of supply and development. As presented, this measure does not definitely provide for long-range planning.
The Government, by clause 5, is legislating for the arrangement or coordination of surveys of Australia’s industrial capacity and Australian industries generally, and is also taking steps for the economic security of this country in a time of war. In my view, the measure should go very much further than simply provide for conditions arising out of a state of war. I am anxious that our position should be safeguarded in time of peace - that there” should be such economic security in peace time as would permit of an increase of the number of happy people actively employed at decent rates of wage3 and in accordance with good standards of living, not alone when there is huge expenditure in anticipation of war or when there is a war, but continuously, and in times of normal development which, after all, must be the ultimate basis of our defence. Although the Minister (Mr. Casey) dealt with this particular aspect in his second.reading speech, with a copy of which he was kind enough to supplyme, I should like the bill itself to contain some reference to it. Therefore, the amendment of” the Deputy Leader of the Opposition somewhat appeals to me, because it deals not only with economic security in , a time of war, but also with the decentralization of industry and the conditions of development in a time of peace. For that reason I am prepared to support part of his amendment, though I agree with the honorable member for Gippsiand (Mr. Paterson) that there is no real necessity for paragraphg relating to the construction and extension of roads and railways. Roads are, at the present time, dealt with under the Federal Aid Roads Act, and there is an arrangement between the Commonwealth and State governments regarding the construction of railways for strategical purposes. Matters regarding the development of power resources from oil and coal could probably be dealt with by the Commonwealth under existing legislation, but it may be advantageous to draw attention to them again in this measure. The decentralization of industry calls for a continuous and sustained survey by the Department of Supply and Development and appropriate action by the Federal Government, and it is proper that reference should be made to it in the bill. Therefore, I am prepared to support the amendment if paragraph g be omitted.
– I do not propose to discuss the amendment at length, but I draw attention to the matters covered by paragraphs h, i. and j, which more or less group themselves naturally. As was pointed out by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt), the Government is, and has been for considerable time, actively pursuing investigation into the matters covered in those paragraphs. The Department of the Interior has been associated with the search for oil, and I, as Treasurer, was associated with the committee dealing with the matter and know what financial assistance has been rendered by the Commonwealth. The production of power alcohol and of oil from shale and coal, as well as other matters connected with the pro duction of liquid fuels in Australia, have been the subject of intense research. Quite recently the Government set up a standing committee on liquid fuel, which will consider, among other things, the scrubbing of town gas for benzol, and the evolution of a portable and relatively cheap method of running motor vehicles on producer gas. It is evident, therefore, that paragraphs g, h, and i would not have the effect of initiating any new lines of activity, but would merely serve to draw more pointed attention to them. The search for oil is under the control of the Department of the Interior, and I cannot see that any advantage would be gained by transferring it to another department, which is already carrying a very big load. Personally, I am not seeking any additions to that load, particularly in the early period.
– Could not some of the activities be taken over by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ?
– The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research already has certain aspects of all these matters in hand. I do not think that it is of much concern what department is handling them, so long as the work is being actively carried on. If one were to begin particularizing regarding, the work of the departments, one would have to go to very great lengths. I do not say that there is any great disadvantage in laying stress on these matters, or in drawing attention to the need for Australia making itself independent of outside supplies of liquid fuel which might be cut off in time of war, but neither can I see any great advantage in doing so.
I am in agreement with those who have stated that the construction of roads and railways is essentially a matter for the States. The work is being carried on quite effectively now under existing arrangements, and I do not think that anyadvantage would be gained by including a reference to them in this bill. The Government has, for some time, been concerned with the decentralization of secondary industries, particularly those which have a bearing on defence. In respect of private enterprise, of course, the Government has relatively little power to influence the location of new enterprises. An entrepreneur will naturally establish his business where he thinks it will be most effective.
– Rut the British Government has succeeded, by means of taxation and transport arrangements, in encouraging new industries in certain specified areas.
– I admit that by such means the British Government has encouraged the establishment of industries in the depressed areas, and in places where they would be more secure in time of war. Those considerations do not apply to the same degree in Australia. However, the Government desires to encourage decentralization, so long as it does not interfere with the active prosecution of defence preparations, which is the first consideration. Subject to that, the decentralization of industry, and particularly of defence industries, is a very desirable objective. In that regard, the Contracts Branch has gone a good way in trying to encourage secondary industries in States other than New South Wales and Victoria by laying it down that prices submitted in tenders are to be f.o.b. at the factory gate. Therefore, factories in the north of Queensland, or in the west of Western Australia, even though situated inland, should be able to compete on mbre or less favorable terms with factories in Sydney or Melbourne.
The Government is prepared to accept a considerable part of the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). It is prepared to accept paragraphs h, i, j andk, but for reasons which it believes to be good, it cannot accept what the honorable member proposes to incorporate in paragraph g. The Government will, at a later stage, move an amendment providing that, at the end of paragraph f 1, the following words be added : -
Including plans for the decentralization of secondary industries relating to defence.
Also, at the end of paragraphf 2, it proposes that the following words should be added : - and in particular the investigation and development of additional oil resources, the production of power alcohol from sugar or other vegetable crops, and the production of nil from coal and shale.
– In what way does that differ from the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition?
– There is very little difference, indeed, except that the various matters are put in the places where the Government thinks they are most appropriate. The Government has gone a long way to meet the wishes of the committee, and has “accepted, in effect, all parts of the amendment that would have any real meaning if incorporated in the bill.
– The Government has accepted all of the amendment except paragraph g.
– Yes, and it has declined to accept that for the reasons stated.
.- In view of what has been said by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), I ask leave to alter my amendment. I congratulate the Minister on the complete somersault of the Government from the attitude it displayed last night when its spokesman, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt), after hearing my amendment and the excellent speech delivered by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), proceeded to say that it was quite unnecessary, that it would interfere with the working of this measure, that the Government already had the powers and that the amendment would encumber the bill with a lot of useless deadwood.
– Order! The honorable gentleman has exhausted his right of speech. He may only ask for leave to alter his amendment.
– The Assistant Minister was right in what he said.
– The Government has capitulated to four-fifths of my amendment since the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has returned and indicated the attitude of the Country party. To meet the objection raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) to the proposed new paragraph -
I am prepared to insert the words “in co-operation with the States “. I am prepared also to omit proposed new paragraphs h, i, j and k because the
Government, realizing that the numbers are against it, has capitulated with a view to including other paragraphs as outlined by the Minister.
– I think that they should be retained. It is the Deputy Leader’s amendment, not the Government’s.
– The Government has capitulated to the extent of accepting those paragraphs because, if it did not do so, the amendment as originally submitted by me would be carried by the committee.
– Order I That matter cannot be discussed.
– In view of the fact that the Chair rules that I cannot elaborate my argument and give my reasons, I shall not alter my amendment except to meet the objection of the honorable member for Bendigo, because I believe that the Minister, in putting what I seek in his own amendments, is quibbling in order to avoid defeat and he wants to deprive me of a victory.
– Order I
– I did not envisage at any time the intervention of the Commonwealth Government without the cooperation of the States. I had in mind when I moved the amendment the speech delivered by the Premier of Queensland urging the revival of the scheme enunciated by Lord Forrest for the construction of a railway from Dajarra through Oamooweal to Darwin and a railway running south to Bourke linking with the east-west railway lines of Queensland. The Premier of Queensland recently resubmitted that scheme to the Commonwealth Government, and if it had been carried out there would have been no occasion for reference to the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to enter into matters connected with the construction and extension of railways, because there would have been no infringement of the rights of the States.
The TEMPORARY CH AIRMAN.Order! I shall ask the honorable member to resume his seat, if he does not comply with my request for him to confine his remarks to asking for leave to alter his amendment.
– There are many other matters to which I should like to refer, including the construction of a northern highway west of the Great Dividing Range.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order!
– I know that I spoke twice last night, and I do not wish to take up more than my share of the time of the committee. The Chair rules that I am not at liberty to elaborate on mj amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is only entitled to ask leave to alter his amendment.
– In that case, I stand by the amendment with the exception of the alteration needed to meet the wish of the honorable member for Bendigo, and I hope that the Country party will stand by it too, and not stand up for the trickery indulged in by the Minister.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Capricornia is disorderly. Am I correct in saying that the honorable member asks for leave to alter his amendment by adding the words “ in co-operation with the States”?
Amendment altered accordingly.
.- 1 am very pleased at the entente cordiale, the complete harmony, which has been established in regard to this amendment between the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) on the one hand, and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) on the other. I am only sorry that it has been achieved at the expense of the Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt).
– The Assistant Minister is now in consultation with the right honorable member for Cowper.
– He may be in consultation with the right honorable member for Cowper, but I point out that on this clause the Assistant Minister, in a most eloquent and painstaking speech as spokesman for the Government
– And a legal man, too.
– Yes, a lawyer and a loyal Supporter of the Governnierit - said that he could not possibly accept the amendment.
– I suggested that it was entirely unnecessary.
– No greater concession to the powers of numbers has ever been exhibited. I was impressed myself by the speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). It appeared to me, until I had heard the Assistant Minister, that there was no answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but, of course, the ingenuity, loyalty and capacity residing-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the subject before the committee.
– I am endeavouring to do that subject only to such rights of illustration and comparison for the purpose of argument as I presume to think I enjoy. I have before me the amendment of the Deputy. Leader of the Opposition, and surely I am entitled to call attention to the confusion which is created in the minds of honorable members by the fact that one Minister is asking for the acceptance of the amendment . and another. Minister is asking for its rejection. That I supposed was a legitimate comment to make on the position as it is now before the committee. It is significant in connexion with this clause to recall the fact that it has already been improved by one amendment accepted by the Government, and now it is prepared to accept the major part - 90. per cent. it is alleged - of this present proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but only, by a curious coincidence, after, a count of heads and after a speech by the right honorable member for Cowper, the Leader of the Country party. The amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition really arises put of the discussion upon the bill generally. These references to the construction of roads, to the taking account of our fuel resources, includingoil, power alcohol and the productionof oil from coal and shale, and the decentralization of secondary industries, were all matters considered which in the course of the discussion carried on, let me say, by the Opposition and the Opposition alone, without any assistance from the Government benches-
– And the Country party.
– We have had a little assistance from the Country party.
– Yes, to-day, but on other days, too. We got some little assistance from the Country party, but hone whatever from the Government benches which remained dumb and apparently unintelligent. These matters; which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested are proper matters for inclusion in the administration of this Department of Supply and Development, are all matters which were canvassed in the course of the second-reading debate. The thrashing out of this bill at the hands of the Opposition, and of some members of the Country party, has resulted in this concrete proposal to meet the wishes of those who have contributed to this debate. We find, apparently, that; as to ninetenths of the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we are able to command a majority, and in characteristic style the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) wants to claim the baby as his ; he suggests that it reflects honour upon the Government. It is not his; and We do not propose to allow affiliation proceedings along those lines to succeed. The Opposition having won by hard fighting as to nine-tenths of this amendment nothing remains for discussion except the one-tenth which, as I have said, by curious coincidence is not the part on which the Country party will support the Opposition, and, therefore, the Government is not conceding it. I point out that road construction is not new as a matter for consideration by the Federal Parliament. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and other honorable members, mentioned the Federal Aid Roads Act 1926. I had the honour of playing some little part in the passage of that measure.
– For, or against, it?
– As usual I was critical and constructive. The matter is not new to us, and I think that the suggestion to focus attention on the necessity for roads and railways, as ancillary to defence, is a very intelligent proposition. I suppose no honorable member, more than the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), or, indeed, in equality with him, has advocated the standardization of railway gauges. He has addressed himself to the subject as an expert with a store of knowledge, and has, above all, stressed the importance of the standardization of railway gauges for purposes of defence. The amendment, like the provisions of the bill itself, merely makes a gesture. It seeks to bring within the purview of this department the importance of the construction of railways and roads for purposes of defence, and calls’ attention afresh, and in a new connexion, to the subject of the standardization of railway gauges. I should be sorry to see it omitted. It could be rejected, one would assume, only because the Government considers it lacks sufficient importance to be included.
After all, as I have frequently said, the inclusion of this . provision does not impose any obligation upon Parliament to legislate in any particular way, nor does it derogate in any way from the sovereignty of the States, or from their control over the national railways. The control of the national railways by the States is admitted, except insofar as, by agreement, they have ceded authority to the Commonwealth, and this theyhave done in some instances for good reasons. That the Deputy Leader of the Opposition agrees to this matter coming within the purview of this department by agreement With the States. The amendment calls attention to the fact that the States control the railways and the roads ; but as they have agreed under the Federal Aid Roads Act to do certain things in connexion with roads, so they might very well agree, for purposes of defence, to cede their ultimate authority over particular roads for particular purposes. I keep on insisting, because I think it is of the utmost importance that this legislation will operate only in case of emergency. It is not a measure for normal conditions. It is designed to meet special circumstances arising out of war, so confidently predicted or the dangers of war, which I do not admit. Thus, it seems perfectly obvious that under pressure of necessity, and for good reason, we might want to take control of railways and roads if the Government should happen to heright.
– We might have to.
-Yes, in certain cases, we might have to do so in spite of the States. I am perfectly sure that the Commonwealth’ Government Would not hesitate to take such action in spite of the States, or any body else, if national necessity required it. But the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggests, and I think wisely, that at present, when we are not at war, and as the States control the railways and roads, our purview of that subject should be limited by agreement with the States. I can hardly see any objection to that course, and I am surprised that my friends of the Country party have not ordered the Government to follow it. However, they have thought fit not to issue instructions to the Government. If they had given such orders all parties would then be in agreement.
– To which Country party is the honorable member referring?
-I remind the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that there can be little doubt that the Government has assessed the various sections of the Country party as to how far it might be obliged to capitulate. The Government whip is working overtime. The Government will not capitulate if it is certain of its numbers, and, therefore, it is sure of sufficient support in rejecting one-tenth of the amendment. When I asked the Assistant Minister to explain the object of the extraordinary provision contained in sub-clause 2, he replied that if I would only sit down he would give me the explanation. Then when I resumed my seat he said that the reason why it was proposed to be enacted that certain things might be within this department one day, and out of it another day, was because some of these matters were being dealt with by different departments, such as the Customs Department, and. so on.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa; [5.55].- I wish to address myself briefly to that part of the amendment which the Government has rejected - that the department should concern itself with the construction of roads and railways for defence purposes in co-operation with the States. For the last ten years local-governing bodies in my electorate, together with other organizations, have urged the Commonwealth Government to construct a very important road for purely military purposes. That road, which was surveyed many years ago by the Defence Department for defence purposes, would stretch from the top of Mount Keira, and run through Sutherland and Liverpool to Wilton. Past governments did not deem the expenditure to be justified. To-day, however, when we are asked to deal with such matters from the point of view of an emergency, and when, as honorable members opposite declare, we are within the shadow of war, the construction of this i road transcends in importance any other similar undertaking requiring attention by the Government. Should the railway bridge at Como be bombed and destroyed - and this is likely because the bridge spans the George’s River at its mouth - access from the military camp and munitions supplies at Liverpool to the South Coast would be cut off. The only alternative route would be along the main southern highway to Moss Vale and down the Macquarie Pass. However, should circumstances necessitate rapid mobilization, the proposed road would prove of incalculable value because it would provide direct connexion between Liverpool and any part of the South Coast. Another “alternative would be to construct a road along the route suggested from Sutherland to Liverpool, but in order to do the job properly it should be constructed from Mount Keira. Only to-day I submitted a letter from the Southern Illawarra Shire Council to the Minister for Defence asking once again that this road be constructed.
The Government apparently considers that this problem is not its responsibility. A regular supply of primary products is essential to our welfare. Munitions, clothing and foodstuffs are necessary alike for the army and the civilian population in time of war, but to handle them efficiently adequate road transport is required in all parts of the Commonwealth.
One of the big difficulties is that the roads constructed by various State roads boards, and even the main roads constructed under Commonwealth grant, to which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) referred, run parallel to and in competition with the railways. The . Defence Department should collaborate with the State authorities and find the money to provide an efficient road transport system to facilitate mobilization operations. The shire and municipal councils that construct most of our roads cannot deal with this national problem unaided, for wide areas have to be served, and much money found for the work. The feeder roads which bring primary produce to the railheads are often very dangerous for heavy traffic. In very rainy weather, even at a time of extreme pressure, vehicles would be bogged all along our subsidiary roads and we should be defeated even before we- started to fight, because supplies could not be maintained. The electorate which I represent is not very extensive, but I can visualize that state of affairs within its boundaries. Every country representative in this committee can visualize the same position in his own district. Hardly one decent feeder road can be found in any part of New South Wales, yet the maintenance of such roads is essential to a sound defence programme. To my mind, road construction and the establishment of an efficient transport system transcend in importance many things the Government, is now doing and even the problems of the production of oil from coal and the decentralization of industries. In fact, transport is a corollary to the latter project. It appears that the new Department of Supply and Development will deal with our problems in the same old piece-meal fashion of the Defence Department. Most of the important things attempted by this and the preceding Government have been inefficiently handled. The Government merely considers one aspect of a question and leaves the major considerations to go hang.
The standardization of our railway gauges was referred to this afternoon by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), but the only reply of the Minister for Supply and Development to their representations was that this was the responsibility of the States. Which State does the honorable gentleman expect to undertake the responsibility of standardizing railway gauges? Is the work to be done by Victoria or New South Wales or any other State? Obviously, this has always been a Commonwealth problem, although the co-operation of the States is necessary. I have no military knowledge, but it is stressing the obvious to say that no intensive scheme of mobilization can be carried out properly if railway gauges are not uniform. Some years ago, when the Commonwealth Parliament was sitting in Melbourne, I had an experience which illustrated the disabilities of our breaks of gauge. At that time, two-thirds of New South Wales was suffering from a drought, but South Australia was experiencing a very good season. While sheep and cattle in New South Wales were dying of starvation, railway trucks, piled high with fodder from South Australia, were at Albury waiting for their freight to be transferred to rolling stock of a different gauge. That was bad enough, but not so serious as the position would be if we had to suffer such delays in the transport of munitions and troops from New South Wales to Victoria or to race them to South Australia or Western Australia. It is crass stupidity on the part of the Government not to attack this problem and find a solution for it.
– The United Australia party is not sufficiently capable.
– That is true; yet cbe necessity for the standardization of railway gauges is so obvious that it should be hardly necessary even to mention it. The present Minister for Defence, like his predecessors, has adopted the attitude that this problem is of minor importance compared with other things. I submit that it is of major importance. It is considerably more important than some of the projects which this Government is undertaking, and certainly it is of greater importance than the erection of buildings to house machinery, which will be oiled and left to stand idle for perhaps two or three years. The standardization of railway gauges is the foundation upon which we must build the rest of our defence operations.
When referring to oil supplies, the Minister for Supply and Development said that he was prepared to allow the problem to be referred to the new department under the general powers contained in clause 5 of the bill. He said that it was not necessary to do so, as the work had been very well done by the Department of the Interior, but apparently he is prepared to do it more or less as a sop to the Opposition. If the new department cannot do this work better than it has been done by the Department of the Interior, it will be a bad job for Australia. What has been done up to date in the search for oil ? The Government has approached the problem in the wrong way. Honorable members were told last night that a £1 for £1 subsidy was being paid to private companies engaged in geological and geophysical surveys in the search for oil. This new department will not meet the needs of the situation by merely adhering to the subsidy policy. If it is good enough for the Government to provide £1 for £1 subsidies, it is good enough for it to share fifty-fifty in any oil that is discovered. Private enterprises should not be allowed to take all the profit, and perhaps bleed Australia in a time of war.
– The underground oil resources should belong to the nation.
– That is so, but the honorable member will find that the Government will not accept that policy. People from two districts of my electorate applied to the Government for financial assistance in the search for oil. One application came from Bargo and the other from a little place called Bonny Rig, not far from Liverpool. There might not have been good prospects of success, but at least the applicant made out a reasonable case which warranted some inquiry by the Government. Both applicants were poor. Perhaps, if they had been representing big companies they would have received greater subsidies than the £1 for £1 ratio. As it was they were told that while oil might or might not be found in their localities, they could be assisted only on the basis of a £i for £1 subsidy. I submit that, because of the necessity for ensuring adequate oil supplies for defence purposes, the Government would be justified in spending any reasonable amount to investigate and test any area where there was reasonable indication that oil existed. It might be only a shot in the dark, but it would be justifiable.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is very pleasing to observe from the form of the amendment now before the committee how far the members of the Opposition are leaning towards the Country party platform. If they had extracted only another page or two from the official platform of the Country party this amendment would have been improved still further. In their enthusiasm for the principles of the Country party, they have seized upon not only its Federal platform but also part of its State platform in relation to roads and railways. It is quite understandable that such mistakes should be made in their new-born enthusiasm. The proposed new paragraph le dealing with decentralization of industries, reminds me of a book entitled The Road Bach, which I read some time ago. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) must be recalling the days when he advocated the formation of new states and the decentralization of secondary industries.
– No. I advocated the revision of the Commonwealth Constitution to give unlimited powers to the Common’ wealth, with the devolution of adequate local-governing powers to the subordinate State legislatures.
– Members of the Country party welcome the step which the Opposition has taken and feel hopeful for the future now that the Opposition inclines so far towards their own views. As a supporter of the Country party, I must accept most of the proposals in the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, for I have been supporting such a policy for years, but I cannot share the honorable member’s views that we can amalgamate State and Federal activities through the provisions of this bill. Possibly that would cause a degree of confusion. I wish now to refer to the paragraph or the amendment that deals with the construction and extension of roads and railways. If I thought for one moment that the Commonwealth Government had not adequate powers under other acts of Parliament to deal with these matters, I should have no hesitation in supporting the amendment in that respect. But I have every reason to know that the Government has those powers and is exercising them well. As an example I draw attention to the railway that is being constructed between Sandy Hollow and Maryvale. It is designed almost entirely for defence purposes. If war should occur after it is completed, troops could be brought from the southern States without experiencing any of the dislocation that might be caused by the destruction of bridges over the Hawkesbury River.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Some of the suggestions put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in his amendment are acceptable to me, and no doubt, to other members of the Country party, because they embody principles .upon which the Country party has gone before the electors year after year. Not only does the amendment embody many points covered by the Country party’s platform, but also the bill itself contains much material which, a3 I shall endeavour to show, has for a long time been part of that same platform. On the subject of defence, the platform of the Federal Country party of Australia, adopted at a conference held in Melbourne on the 16th July, 1937, includes, inter alia -
A five-years’ programme of defence works, and expansion in the Navy, Army and Air Force, with special provision for the needs of the Northern Territory.
Extension of Australian munition factories.
Special assistance for the establishment of aerodromes and flying-boat bases with modern equipment in strategic positions throughout Australia.
These principles were observed by the Government when drafting this legislation, and in .a diligent search through the Country party’s platform, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition discovered further good points, and proceeded to incorporate them in his amendment. In con- nexion with the coal industry, the Country party’s platform includes -
Full utilization by generation of electricity, the extraction of motor spirit and the recovery of all by-products.
How can honorable members of the Country party refuse to support at least those portions of the amendment which embody principles adopted by that party two years ago. I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the thorough search which he has made into the Country party’s platform. My only regret is that he apparently has not continued ‘to read pages 5, 6, 7 and 8 of that platform, in which he would have found further information that might have proved of value to him.
Regrets have been expressed at the length of this debate, to which, in the opinion of some of the honorable members, the closure should have been applied. I think, however, that the debate has shown that the more honorable members of the Opposition say, the closer they come to the policy of the Government with regard to the real defence of Australia. The honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) revealed to the committee that he has been sitting up late at nights, studying military strategy, and has found that the most important road, from a defence point of view, is in his own electorate. If the debate were permitted to continue for another week, perhaps the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would find something good in the Government’s defence policy after all.
– Yes; you can take the Victoria Barracks out of my electorate.
– There are several reasons why I am not prepared to support all portions of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I believe that if the defence work on the roads and railways in the Commonwealth had to wait until this bill were passed, the country would be even in a more dangerous position than it is to-day. This question is not a matter solely for the Commonwealth Government, but is one for cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth. That co-operation is now being availed of in New South Wales at least in the construction of a railway from Maryvale to Sandy Hollow, which will provide an alternate route from Sydney to the north in the event of the Hawkesbury River bridge being destroyed. I regard this measure as one of extreme urgency, and for that reason, I do not propose to encumber discussion upon it, with platitudes, but I will not support the insertion in this measure of all kinds of pious hopes and resolutions which have no real value. As I have shown, some of the principles embodied in the amendments submitted by the Opposition have been taken from the Country party platform, and no doubt we could find others in the same category which would all make good reading and good propaganda in the bill, but would not do very much to assist us to repel an invader. What we require is a measure containing a few simple and easily understandable provisions, and a government behind it which ‘is determined to see that effect is given to them. I refuse to support amendments which have been designed purely to embarrass the Government. If amendments are to be put forward, then they should be of such a character as to assist this Government, and succeeding governments, in the administration of this legislation. I think my friends of the Opposition are optimistic enough to hope that they will be charged with the administration of this legislation some time in the future. I intend to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition with the exception of paragraph g.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made a very clumsy effort to claim credit for many suggestions which the Labour party has put forward in amendments moved by members of the Opposition. The honorable member’s speech, in which he claims that these matters are taken from the party platform, really illustrates once again how parties opposed to the Labour party are prepared to take credit for principles which, for many years, have been part and parcel of Labour’s platform, and have been rejected by them for years until they have found public acceptance, and, when they can be rejected no longer, are then adopted and claimed as their own by the reactionary parties. Another example of this was given at the last conference of. the Young
Nationalists’ Association, when that organization adopted principles which, for many years, have been important planks of the Labour party’s policy. That kind of thing has been done time and time again, and it is not worth while the honorable member for Richmond making his claims for advanced ideas at this late stage. The honorable member has suggested that paragraph g of the amendment should be eliminated. I am sorry that he has taken that attitude, because 1. believe that a provision empowering the Government to take control of necessary roads and railways for defence purposes should be quite in accordance with the Government’s wishes in this matter. The Melbourne Age of the 15th March, 1939, deals trenchantly with this question, and in a special article under the heading “Railways for National Emergency “ states -
An adequate defence system means a great deal more than an efficient navy, air force and army. Also essential, among other things, are efficient and adaptable secondary industries, and an effective, flexible and adequate transport system.
I emphasize the words “ flexible and adequate transport system “. The article continues- -
When Lord Kitchener reported on Australia’s defences in 1910, he stressed the importance of railway facilities. As a result a War Railways Council was established. It consisted of the Quartermaster-General, Commissioners of the Commonwealth and State railways, and directors of naval reserves and mobilizations of military operations and of supplies and transport movements.
A question which I asked in this House recently elicited the information that the Railways War Council, although still in existence, has not met for more tha.n ten years. Since all this talk of war and national emergency has taken place it has come to light, but I doubt whether the members of the council are alive to the situation. The Age article further states - :
It was indicative of the past policy of defence, which had envisaged expeditionary movements only, that the War Council had met on two afternoons only in the past fourteen yen re. With the present realization of the prime factor that railways would be, in an emergency, the weakness of the organization of the War Railways Council has been revealed.
No national rail policy has emanated from the council, mainly because the State
Kail ways Commissioners are bound by the financial and economic policies of their respective State Ministries.
That is where the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition comes into the picture -
In official circles, it is suggested that consideration will be given by the Federal Cabinet to the proposal to create a single authority capable of exercising the necessary powers to put in hand railway works essential to cope with a national emergency.
I wish to lay stress on that last phrase “ essential to cope* with a national emergency”. The object of this legislation is to cope with such an emergency, yet there is no suggestion of creating a single national authority to deal with it. If this amendment is accepted- and it should be accepted by the Country party at least - that position would be greatly remedied and could be put on a similar footing to that of the federal aid roads grants. It was argued very strongly by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), not as a member of Parliament, but as legal counsel, that the Federal Aid Roads Agreement is unconstitutional. In the 1938 C.L.R., page 405, it will be- found that the present Prime Minister, acting as counsel for the Victorian Government, said -
The Federal Aid Roads Act 1926, is invalid because it is a law relating to road-making and not a law for granting financial aid to the States. It is therefore, not warranted by either section 90 or section 51 of the Constitution. . . .
The Defence power would only authorize, an act for constructing roads for military purposes ….
If the act is one for granting financial aid to States, it does not comply with section Ofl of the Constitution.
But the whole court disagreed with that construction.
The same argument has been advanced with regard to railways. We are not suggesting that, the rights of the States should be usurped, but here we have the Prime Minister appearing for the Victorian Government and contending that what was done in this Parliament was unconstitutional. A similar view was expressed by Mr. Hannan, K.C., for the State of South. Australia. He said -
Under this Federal Aid Roads Act there is a gift of money to the States and any terms and conditions that are imposed by it are not for the return of the money or for keeping the asset in a good condition as a security, but they are of such a nature an to show that it is the Commonwealth which is to make the roads acting through the States as its agents. To come within section U6 the financial assistance must be such that it is not merely incidental to the carrying out of the purpose which is the case in the construction of roads.
Why should not the Federal Government construct railways for defence purposes, and the States act as its agent? After the case had been argued by the most eminent counsel, the decision of the full bench of the High Court was a 3 follows : -
It is plainly warranted by the provisions of section 98 of the Constitution, and not affected by those of section 99 or any other provision of the Constitution, so that exposition is unnecessary.
Therefore the action to upset the federal aid roads grants legislation was defeated. L believe that if, as is proposed in this amendment, the Commonwealth were to take possession of State railways for defence purposes, it would be acting quite within its rights under the Constitution; because placitum 34 of section 51 of the Constitution confers on the Commonwealth power in relation to railway construction and extension in any State, with the consent of the State. It reads “ railway construction and extension in any States with the consent of that State.” The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) has suggested that the Common wealth should do this work in co-operation with the States. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has made it clear that the intention under the amendment is at all times to seek the co-: operation of the States; but the honorable member for Bendigo has been good enough to suggest that provision for such co-operation should be included in the amendment. In view of all the circumstances, I cannot see any logic in the objections raised by members of the Country party. They have certainly in this instance put forward the amendment of the Opposition but excluding that portion having reference to roads and railways and they have dominated the Government, in their insistence upon the acceptance of ideas that they have “ cribbed “ from the Labour platform and adopted as their own. In respect of other matters which also find a place in the Labour platform they “jib” and say “ We cannot go so far as that “. This is further evidence of the conservatism with which they view certain proposals until they are forced by public opinion to accept them.
A Minister in the present administration has advocated the standardization of the railway gauges for defence purposes. I make the following quotation from a letter addressed to the West Australian of the 27th February last, by Senator Collett, now an Assistant Minister, under the heading “ Co-operation in Defence “ : -
In respect to railways, it is tacitly agreed that the construction of the standard gauge lines connecting with the States is an essential factor to be accounted for in any strategical plan. Without it there may be critical delays in communications, and, possibly, tragic loss of time in transporting reinforcements, munitions, raw materials and foodstuffs from point to point. The situation would become especially acute should there be a loss, even temporarily, of freedom in the use nf oversea and coastal routes.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has also supported the idea that the standardization of the railway gauges should be undertaken. Everywhere there are those who cry out that this ought to be done, but when they are invited to convert their professions into realities .and they have the .power to do so, they shirk that responsibility. I trust that, in view of the provisions of the Constitution which permit this work being undertaken by the Commonwealth in co-operation with the States, the wiser members of the Country party will support the policy of the Labour party. Many move quotations could be made from press articles, some of them in most scathing terms. The .press of Victoria, at. all events, has no illusions regarding the capacity of this Government. The Melbourne Herald of the 18th October, 193S. published the following: -
In a vast territory like that of Australia, ample provision for rail, road and air transport on a war footing is imperative. Many questions arise, including that of unifying railway gauges.
Here is a momentous inspiring work of the first magnitude that will give us safety and more than safety - that will hasten a democratic organization offering ultimately a more secure and a better life to all who work. Australia looks for the inspiring leadership.
It looks in vain; there is no inspiring leadership on the other side of this chamber.
– Order! Inspiring leadership is not involved in the amendment.
– I am quoting an article which relates to the subject under review. I want to show what view the press holds in regard to the undertaking of works of this character by the Commonwealth. Under the amendment, the Government has the chance to display inspiring leadership; but, unfortunately, it is incapable of doing so because of the absence of such leadership in its ranks. An article published in the Melbourne Argus of the 2nd November, 1938, contained the following passage: -
It goes without saying that the most useful step in such an expansion is to undertake public works of a character that will facilitate national defence, such as the unification of railway gauges. To embark on such projects requires a far sighted and courageous financial policy - a policy of casting bread upon the waters in the confidence that it will return after many days. Many big problems are interwoven in the one transcendent problem of making Australia safe from external aggression. For their solution they call for big men with big ideas.
Unfortunately, the Government has ‘been devoid of big ideas for a long period. On the 11th November, 1938, tie Argus returned to the attack in an article in which the following passage appeared: -
The seeming inability of Federal Ministers to see the relation of developmental works to defence preparations is very disconcerting. It docs not even appear that any serious consideration has been given to the question of railway gauges.
That is a sentiment that I have been voicing for many years. It has found a place in the programmes placed before the people at general elections. The late Prime Minister put it in his policy speech on several occasions. The Country party, through its leader, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) advocated it, yet when placed in a position to do so has taken no action to bring it to fruition and honorable members of his party are now objecting to its being incorporated in this legislation. The article went on to say -
Yet the relation of rail transport to military measures is close and obvious. Mobility is not in the motto of the Ministry. To make railway communication efficient and rapid is a real military measure, and one of the highest importance.
I stress the next point -
The bitumen-surfaced highways would break like pie-crust beneath the loads of military material which it would be necessary to move from point to point if we were at war. Such changes in the railway system as are most obviously necessary should be undertaken at the earliest moment. If the altered system never carries a gun the work will remain as something permanently useful - a national asset, as Mr. Dunstan would call it.
Here is an opportunity to do something. Even the great press organizations of the country are calling aloud for the Ministry to undertake this work; but the Ministry has no constructive ideas. I have endeavoured to show, and I believe that I have shown, that placitum 34 of section 51 of the Constitution provides means whereby this Government could, if it wished, extend the railway systems. I say quite frankly that the States have not sufficient funds to undertake this work, which must be regarded as principally a defence work, and that the responsibility for that portion of it rests on the Commonwealth Government. What proportion of the cost the Commonwealth should defray is a matter for discussion, but it should certainly be not less proportionately than is devoted to the making of roads leading to works operated for defence purposes. Can the Government not see that something of this kind is implicit in any defence preparations? Does it not realize that it is necessary to view the matter in a broad Australian spirit? If there be any Australian spirit left in Ministers, I appeal to them to take some notice of a man with the vast military experience of the honorable member for Bendigo, who has said that with the existing breaks of gauge it would be impossible in the event of Australia being attacked for the situation to be adequately met. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has also had military experience, and I know that he and others with such experience support me in this matter. Here is a proposition which might involve an expenditure of £21,000,000. Well, we have spent £285,000,000 upon land settlement, works for the relief of unemployment, and sustenance, in a period of ten years. To neglect the matter further seems nothing short of a crime. I am unable to understand why this allegedly young, virile, Nationalist Ministry, which set out to show how things ought to be done, should neglect such a proposition, and should resist the attempt by the Opposition to have a paragraph inserted in the bill providing the authority to undertake work of this kind. It is amazing to me, and I believe also to many honorable members who sit behind the Government, who should join with the Labour party in seeing that the Government gets on with the job.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the Chairman do report progress.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In the House:
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The Chair is bound to accept the report of the Chairman of Committees. If this question wore to be raised at all, it should have been raised in committee.
Question put -
That the House will at a later hour this day again resolve itself into the said committee.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Declaration of Urgency.
Mr. CASEY (Corio - Minister for
Supply and Development) [8.40]. - I declare that the Supply and Development Bill 1939 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the Supply and Development Bill 1039 is an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage to the end of clause 9, until 10.45 o’clock p.m. to-day.
For the committee stage to the end of clause 14, until 4 o’clock p.m. to-morrow.
For the committee stage to the end of clause 17, until 5 o’clock p.m. to-morrow. (ti) For the committee stage - ^postponed clauses and new clauses, until 6 o’clock p.m. to-morrow.
For the remaining stages, until 6.15 o’clock p.m. to-morrow.
– I move as an amendment -
That the times “ 10.45 “, ‘* 4 “ “5 “, “ 0 o’clock p.m. to-morrow “ and “ 6.15 o’clock p.m. to-morrow “ he omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the times “ 11.45 “, “ 5 “, “ 11.45 “ 12 o’clock noon, Friday, 2nd June “ and “4 o’clock p.m., Friday, 2nd June”. 1’ have five minutes under this extraordinary process! One would think that the emergency was in this Parliament and that the subject before honorable members did not concern national security.
– The Opposition asked for it.
– We did nothing of the kind. Despite all said previously on this side of the House as a contribution to the understanding of this problem, the fact remains that ten members sitting as Government supporters on the “ guillotine “ have felt disposed to offer contributions to the elucidation of the circumstances and have endeavoured to persuade the Treasurer to accept either wholly or in part the suggestions which had come from the Opposition. The time-table submitted by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) contemplates the complete passage of this bill by to-morrow evening with all its important clauses still to be discussed,. and the Minister proposes that the discussion to-night shall terminate an hour earlier than the discussion terminated last night. I propose alternatively that the discussion of the bill should terminate at the usual closing hour of 4 o’clock on Friday. That would enable the House to be assured that there shall be a reasonable discussion of the remaining very important and significant features of this legislation. I suggest that we discuss this measure for as long tonight as we did last night. The discussion of clauses 9 to 14 until 5 p.m. tomorrow would double the time proposed by the Minister, because, whereas he proposes one hour, I propose two hours. For the committee stage to the end of clause 17 I propose that the time be until 11.45 p.m. to-morrow whereas the Treasurer proposes till 5 p.m. to-morrow. The three clauses include the important clauses which deal with the regulations about which the Country party has said so much. The Minister for Supply and Development proposes that the “ guillotine “ shall fall finally at 6.15 p.m. to-morrow whereas I suggest that the discussion of postponed clauses and new clauses shall last till 12 noon on Friday and of the remaining stages until 4 p.m. The difference between us is merely a difference as to whether there shall be a rigid adherence to the impossible plan of discussion contemplated by the Minister or acceptance of the best alternative that I can put forward to ensure at least that there shall be for the remaining stages of this discussion some approach to deliberate discussion and examination. My plan cannot be said to be one which delays consideration of this measure in the Senate because the Senate will not meet again this week and under it this bill will be completed on Friday in time for it to be ready for the Senate when it assembles. I ask the Minister to accept my time-table. I put it to the right honorable gentleman that the discussion that has taken place has been an important and valuable contribution; no allegation.? can be made to the contrary. My timetable bears on its face the readiness of the Opposition to give to this measure reasonable consideration. There can be no other judgment entertained towards what we are doing. The difference between us is only Friday.
The way in which this time-table has been thrown down is not fair. Previously in the history of this Parliament, when it has been anxious to impose the “ guillotine “, the Government has consulted the Opposition, but, on this occasion, no such courtesy has been extended to us. I, at any rate, had not contributed to any protraction of this discussion.
– The honorable gentleman has been away.
– I have been here all this week, and I have taken less time in committee than honorable members sitting on the Government side. I say to the country that the organization of this nation for the purpose of national defence should be dealt with on the democratic principle of open discussion, and a fair consideration of amendments which have emanated from the Opposition. Under this procedure our amendments will not be submitted to the vote. If the Minister does not accept my alternative time-table he will show that he is afraid to allow a vote to be taken on the Opposition’s amendments.
– The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
.- I second the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The action of the Government cannot be justified on any grounds. Parliament, after a long adjournment, has been sitting for only a few weeks. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), when introducing this measure, said that it was one of the most important measures ever introduced into this Parliament. Members of the Opposition have rights, and it is very evident that they have not been wasting the time of Parliament, because the only constructive amendments that have been offered have come from it. That can be proved, as the Government has accepted, or practically accepted, two of its amendments.
– Order! The honorable member for Capricornia is not discussing the time schedule.
– The Minister for Supply and Development referred to the numbers of speakers on each side of the chamber. I have taken the trouble to ascertain the facts, and I find that to-day ten honorable gentlemen opposite and only eight on this side have spoken. Surely we are justified in discussing at great length the amendment that I have moved, on which the Minister has somersaulted.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must discuss the matter before the Chair.
– The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment extending the time for the consideration of this bill until 4 p.m. on Friday. Whereas under paragraph c of the motion moved by. the Minister for Supply and Development the discussion of clauses 15, 16 and 17 would cease at 5 p.m. tomorrow, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition extends until 11.45 p.m. to-morrow the time for the discussion of those clauses which embody important Labour principles, in respect of which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has circulated an amendment of great importance. The 74 honorable members of this House could not discuss the measure in the time allotted by the Minister. The Minister does not want discussion. This time-table provides ample evidence that the Government is adverting to the inner dictatorship of Cabinet, over not only its own party, but also the chamber. I am amazed at the Country party supporting the “guillotine”.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must not reflect on a vote of the House.
– I appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) so early in the life of this new Government not to stand for the system of “ guillotining “ legislation through Parliament, but to extend the time so that the important amendments moved and foreshadowed by the Opposition shall be discussed. The Government does not want them to be discussed, because it realizes that they might embarrass its supporters and members of the Country party. The Opposition realizes its responsibilities in dealing with a measure like this, and has submitted these amendments, not with a view to obstruction, but in order to improve the measure. How can we improve it if we are not given the time to do so? No one can say that the amendments are foolish, because the Government has already accepted one and promised to accept another.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not discuss any happening in committee.
– I emphasize that it is necessary that we should have time to discuss these amendments, because I am certain that if they are discussed honorable gentlemen opposite will be so convinced of their value as to cross the floor and votewith the Opposition.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I am surprised at the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) in view of the fact that 37 hours have been occupied in discussing this one clause. The time allotted in the motion for consideration of the remainder of the measure will bring the total number of hours spent in the discussion of this bill to 42, spread over 12 sitting days, whilst the time already occupied in this debate works out to an average of about 40 minutes for every honorable member on both sides of the chamber.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable gentleman is not discussing whether the time allotted in the resolution is adequate or inadequate; he is discussing something which took place earlier.
– The Country party is always prepared to take every action needed to secure full discussion on any matter meriting such consideration. We are. satisfied in this case that the time provided is sufficient to consider the issues involved. It is a principle of the Country party to consider any business before the House on its merits.
.- I protest against the curtailment of this debate. The proposed allotment of time allows one hour for the discussion of the very important clauses of the bill including that dealing with regulations. That period is totally inadequate for this purpose, particularly in view of the fact that, in addition to the numerous amendments circulated previously, a further batch of amendments in the name of the. Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) have just been handed to honorable members. I notice that some of these amendments include proposals which were embodied in the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). It cannot be said, therefore, that the Opposition has simply been holding up the measure. The fact that the Government is prepared to accept some of the proposals of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition justifies the request of the
Opposition for more time than is allotted in the motion. Probably, if our request were granted we might be able to persuade the Government to accept further amendments. The clauses dealing with regulations is one of the most important of any bill. Apparently the Government’s idea is to restrict debate on this aspect, and then to bring down regulations which will not bear full and frank examination. I have no doubt that the electors will take the first opportunity to condemn such action.
– In moving his amendment, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) stated that the record of speakers showed that to-day ten honorable members on the Government side spoke as against eight honorable members of the Opposition, in respect of which I direct the attention of the honorable member to the record yesterday which shows that thirteen speeches were made by honorable members on this side, compared with 32 speeches made by honorable members opposite. The figure in respect of the Opposition clearly indicates the endless repetition indulged in by honorable members opposite. This matter has been continuously before the House and the committee for over a fortnight. The second-reading stage occupied; fourteen hours, and the committee stage 26 hours.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman think that the measure deserves that consideration?
– Yes, it certainly deserves full consideration, but the plain fact remains, and no honorable gentleman has any reason to doubt it, that the Opposition has deliberately obstructed the measure.
– I rise to a point of order. I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the gross reflection on the Opposition, and on the Chairman of Committees, implicit in the observation of the Minister. He said that we had deliberately obstructed the measure. That is offensive to me, personally, and distinctly unparliamentary. Therefore, theexpression should be withdrawn.
– If what I said is offensive to the honorablegentlemanI withdraw it.
.- The necessity for full discussion on this measure was proved this afternoon when it took us many hours to drive into the heads of honorable members opposite the necessity for putting into the bill the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde).We know now that the reason for the “guillotine” is because members of the Country party refuse to sit all night, or even after 11 o’clock, not because, the Government wants them to do so, but because they will not do their job as members of this Parliament as it should be done. The object of the “guillotine” is to allow these honorable gentleman to go slow on the job, and that is the reason why, after taking up as much time in speaking on the measure as honorable members on this side, they now support the “ guillotine “. They are too lazy and too indolent to do their job as members of this Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) is distinctly out of order.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw his remark concerning the Country party.
– I withdraw it, but I have explained the reason for the application of the “ guillotine “. The sheaf of amendments circulated by the Minister covers two and a half pages, and is almost as big as the bill itself. The bill covers only about four pages, yet it has been so badly drafted that the Government has been obliged to propose so many amendments, not one of which, I point out, can he discussed, or explained, under the time-table proposed in the motion The Government is using the forms of the House to jamb through this legislation.
– I shall be able to explain every one of the amendments.
– I should like to know how the right honorable gentleman will be able to do so in the time allotted in’ the motion. When legislation is rushed through in this way, honorable members are not given an opportunity to give full consideration to important measures, and consequently,”numerous” amending bills must be introduced each session. We are not given sufficient opportunity to analyse the principles of measures, or to test them from a drafting point of view. This practice is an insult to the House and to the committee. It is certainly a reflection on the democracy of this country, and does not square with the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a few weeks ago, that he intended to restore the deliberative character of this chamber in keeping with democratic principles. The Minister said that there was obstruction yesterday.
– I said “ for a fortnight “.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
. - It is usually said that time marches on, but in this chamber during the last two or three weeks, if it has moved at all, it has been at a very slow dead march, particularly so far as this bill is concerned. The Government is not altogether blameless in this regard.
– This is the honorable gentleman who loves to wound, but is afraid to strike.
– We have had speeches made from the treasury bench which, on reconsideration by Ministers, would not have been made.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to refrain from discussing happenings in committee.
– As to the opportunity which will be afforded by the allotment of time embodied in the motion for the proper consideration of this measure, and the amendments thereto, might I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that, having paid us the compliment of annexing a fair slice of the Country party’s policy in his amendment, it was hardly necessary for him to go into great labours in order to convince us of the necessity for voting for it. One thing that would have distinguished the- conduct of the Opposition in other circumstances would have been that it would have had the opportunity to seek a decision which it seemed anxious to avoid.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the motion.
– Personally I have always been a believer in providing adequate opportunity for the discussion of the measures submitted to honorable members, but a limit must be put somewhere.
– What about the discussion of the licence of station 2KY?
– If the honorable member wishes to debate that subject I am sure that some interesting speeches would be made, but they would not be very pleasing to honorable gentlemen opposite.
– The honorable member is running away.
– Not at all.
– The honorable.member for” Barker must discuss the motion before the Chair, and nothing else.
– If I may say so, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is discussing something else.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is not addressing tis Chair.
– Although I am a believer in providing adequate time for the discussion of tie business of the House, it is sometimes necessary to arrange a time table in order reasonably to expedite debate.
– The honorable member should vote for my amendment if he believes in adequate discussion.
– The strongest criticism that can be levelled at the Government on this occasion is that it did not seek a conference with the leaders of the other parties in order to arrange a timetable that would be acceptable to all concerned. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), having had some experience of what it means to lead a minority party, will in the future see the wisdom of taking the leaders of the other parties into his confidence, so that timetables acceptable to all parties may be arranged. I have no doubt that if that practice were inaugurated, business would proceed more satisfactorily.
-Order! The honorable member is again not discussing the motion.
– Evidently the Ministry will have to pay a heavy price for the vote of the honorable member for Barker.
– Possibly it may not have the wherewithal to pay it. The object of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in moving his amendment is to extend the time for the consideration of the remaining clauses of this bill. I believe that every honorable member, even those who have been doing some electioneering in various distant electorates recently, have had ample time to consider the principles upon which the bill is founded.
– I shall not allow the honorable member to continue his remarks unless he confines them to the motion.
– The extension of time desired by the Leader of the Opposition would not afford honorable members any better opportunity to consider the principles of the bill than they have already had.
– Tie (honorable member has exhausted his time. The time allowed for the consideration of this motion has expired.
Question put -
That the times proposed to be omitted (Mr. CURTIN’S amendment) stand part of the motion.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved on the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed. .
Clause 5 (Functions of department).
– The Government is unable to accept the amendment in the form in which it has been proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde),but I have circulated a proposed amendment which is substantially the same as that now before the committee, and in due course I shall move it.
Question put -
That the paragraphs proposed tobe added (Mr. Forde’s) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave. - I move -
That after the word “ war “, paragraphf, sub-paragraph (i), the following “words be inserted: - “including plans for the decentralization of secondary industries and particularly those relating to defence “, and that after the word “ war “, paragraph f, sub-paragraph (ii), the following words be inserted.: - “and, in particular, the investigation and development of additional oil resources, the production of power alcohol from sugar or other vegetable crops, and the production of oil from coal or shale “.
.- These amendments will be supported by the Opposition, because they represent a belated recognition by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr.Casey) of the principles embodied in an amendment which stood in my name. . The right honorable gentleman only saw the light after the Government whip had informed him that a majority of honorable members would support my amendment. The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) who is a member of a learned profession, examined my amendment last night and, after consultation with the Minister, said that he could see no merit in it at all. He went to great pains to point out that the amendment was quite unnecessary, and would only hinder the ‘bill -by ‘curtailing provisions already in the measure. His arguments, however, apparently carried little weight with honorable members because, as I have said, it was ascertained by the Government whip that my amendment would he supported by a majority in the committee. In order, however, to deprive me of a victory by having my amendment carried, the Minister set out to extract from it all those provisions which honorable members of the Country party said they would support, so that these honorable members would not have occasion to votewith the Opposition and thus bring about the defeat of the Government.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! These aspects of the question are not involved in the clause under discussion.
– The Opposition can at any rate assume credit for having brought forcibly before the Government the importance of including plans for the decentralization of secondary industries, particularly those relating to defence, and also the necessity for investigating and developing our oil resources, including the production of power alcohol from sugar or other vegetable crops, and the extraction of oil from coal and shale. The Government said that all of these matters were already being fully investigated and that there was no need for provision for such investigation to be included in this measure. It was not until the Opposition brought forward a constructive amendment incorporating paragraphs dealing with all of these matters that the Government, realizing it was in danger of defeat, decided that it was advisable to have them included in this measure. It is one of the worst political somersaults made by any government in my twenty years of parliamentary experience. It demonstrates that this Government, which consists of only 26 members to the Opposition’s 30, cannot move in any direction without consulting members of the corner Country party. When it is found that members of that party will not lend their support, then it is necessary for the Government to change its attitude, andrush hither and thither in a frenzy of excitement, consulting its Parliamentary Draftsman with a view to having the necessary alterations made to placate the Country party. Is it any wonder that this tottering Government is facing its political doom ?
– The honorable member for Capricornia knows well that his remarks are- not in order and he must not proceed along these lines.
– I leave it at that. The Opposition will support these amendments, which have only been brought forward by the Government under duress in order to avoid defeat. The principles embodied in them were all included in an amendment which stood in my name. I am amazed at members of the Country party now supporting these amendments, because of the opposition which they offered to mine, which embodies all these principles and furthermore provided for the construction and extension of railways and reads in co-operationwith the States.
Amendments agreed to.
.- I move -
That the words “this section”, sub-clause (2), be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words: “paragraphs (a) to (e) (inclusive) of the last preceding sub-section”.
This is a consequential amendment necessary because the Opposition was successful in havingthe provisions of clause5 tightened up by making it mandatory that the Minister should take whatever steps are necessary to control and limit profiteering.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) Where, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, it is necessary or desirable in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth that information should be obtained in relation to industrial, commercial or other undertakings, or with respect to any goods, the regulations may require such persons or classes of persons, as me prescribed, to furnish, as prescribed, such information and particulars, as are prescribed, with respect to those undertakings or goods. (5.) The punishment for an offence against this section shall be as follows: -
Five hundred pounds or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or both.
– I move -
That the words “ or imprisonment for a term not fixceeding three months, or both “. sub-clause (5), paragraph (a), be omitted.
Under this clause, the Government reserves to itself the option to prosecute an offender summarily before a police magistrate or by indictment, that is before a jury. Under the provision of this clause an offender who is convicted by a police magistrate may be fined up to £50 or sentenced to three months’ imprisonment or both, whereas any one convicted by a jury will be liable to a fine of £500, or to imprisonment for one year,” or both. My view is that if an offence is so insignificant that the Government considers that the offender should be deprived of the right to be tried before a jury, then that offence does not justify a sentence of three months’ imprisonment or imprisonment at all. The clause should be amended so that in the case of minor offences an offender would be prosecuted summarily before a magistrate and be liable only to a fine. Offences for which the Government considers imprisonment should be imposed, should be tried by a jury. It is obvious that the offence of refusing to answer questions may vary in magnitude. Whereas it might be a serious offence when it amounted to an obstinate refusal, it might be of far less importance under other circumstances. In my opinion, a fine is quite sufficient punishment for a minor offence, and, for offences considered serious enough to warrant imprisonment, provision should be made for a trial by jury.
– With all due respect to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I submit that there is nothing objectionable in the clause as it stands. It is customary in acts of this description, where offences may he of a minor or major nature, for jurisdiction to deal summarily with minor offences to be conferred upon a magistrate, and at the same time to reserve the right to charge a person by way of indictment. Section 5 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1904 provides -
Offences against any act which -
are punishable by imprisonment, but not for a period exceeding six months ; or
not being punishable by imprisonment, are not declared to be indictable offences, shall, unless the contrary intention appears in the act, be punishable on summary conviction.
Sections 233b, and 231 and 232a of the Customs Act provide for the imposition by summary jurisdiction of imprisonment up to two years. I instance only these two acts, but there are many cases which come to my mind in which provisions such as this are included.
The effect will be, that an offence of only a minor nature will be dealt with by a magistrate. Many magistrates, at all events in New South Wales, and” in some of the other States, have the power to commit a person to prison for at least six months. I submit therefore, that having regard to the course which for years past legislation has followed in this Parliament and in every State of the Commonwealth, the clause should be accepted as drawn.
– I apprehend a danger in connexion with this matter. It seems to me that it would be wrong to give a Minister or any other authority, the right to follow one of two courses. I know of cases in which the Government has been particularly desirous of imprisoning a particular individual, and has not been so greatly concerned about another individual. In such circumstances, if it wished to get rid of one person for a lengthy period, it could choose the course which permitted imprisonment for twelve months, rather than that which provided for imprisonment for three months. I ask the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) whether it is true that the person in charge of the prosecution could discriminate against an individual to whom he was personally antagonistic, with the result that a longer term of imprisonment might be imposed. If that be so, it is quite wrong.
.- 1 cannot understand, and I should like the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to explain to me how the person charged is to know whether he is to answer in respect of an indictable offence, or a minor offence which is punishable summarily.
– When he is charged in court he will know that by the nature of the charge laid against him.
– I do not think so. Normally, the procedure is by way of an information, which usually does not disclose whether the offence is indictable or is triable summarily.
– An offence chargeable upon an information is not a summary matter.
– It goes before a magistrate in the first place.
– By way of a charge.
– Yes, by way of preliminary inquiry ; in the case of an indictable offence, for committal, and in case of a non-indictable offence, for hearing and decision. But in this case the offence is one and the same.
– The prosecutor must elect whether the trial is to be summary or before a jury.
– Does he elect when he swears the information and the summons is served on the individual?
– At the commencement of the proceedings.
– If the offence is prosecuted summarily, it goes before a magistrate, who deals with it first and finally. But if the accused person is to be indicted, the magistrate commits him for trial. My point is, that the accused person is entitled to know when he is charged, whether he. is to be indicted or is to be dealt with summarily. In my opinion, it is fundamentally wrong that the magistrate should be left with the decision as to whether he will deal with the case summarily or commit the accused for trial. Normally, the accused person knows - at all events if he is advised - whether the offence with which he is charged is an indictable offence or one to be dealt with summarily. There are some minor offences in respect of which the accused person himself may elect either to be dealt with summarily, or to be sent for trial upon an indictment. But here there is no question of election; the matter is left to the court.
– It is left to the prosecutor.
– I am not quite clear as to whether it is left to the court or to the prosecutor; the clause does not make it clear as to whether it is one or the other. But my main point is that the accused person will not know whether he is charged with an indictable offence, or with only a minor offence in respect of which he is to be dealt with by the magistrate. As the clause stands, it puts the court, and above all, the accused person, in a most invidious position. He cannot prepare his defence.
.- The clause itself resolves the problem raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). Sub-clause 5a makes provision in respect of an offence prosecuted summarily, and sub-clause 56 relate. to an offence prosecuted upon indictment.
– But the accused does not know -which it is going to be.
– He knows immediately he enters the court. Every prosecution must have a commencement. The prosecutor must elect, at the commencement of the proceedings, whether he proposes to proceed summarily or by way of indictment. The criminal code allows the alternative, which is constantly exercised, of proceeding summarily or by way of indictment. In -almost every case, the summons discloses whether or not the matter is to be dealt with summarily. The prosecutor is always obliged to elect at the beginning of the proceedings the procedure that he intends to follow - whether he proposes to ask for summary conviction or will endeavour to obtain a committal for trial by jury. The amendment of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is that the power of a magistrate in all summary jurisdiction should be limited to the imposition of a fine. Magistrates have the power to impose a fine with the alternative of imprisonment, and generally, the limit of their jurisdiction is imprisonment for six months, which is greater than the provision of three months in the bill. I think that I oan say quite definitely that in no police court in Australia -is the magistrate restricted to less than six months. Therefore, the jurisdiction .proposed :by the bill is by no means too wide.
– I submit to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the matter is always clear when an accused person is brought before a magistrate. Legislation of this type finds its parallel in legislation dealing with crimes. In the Crimes Act of New South Wales, certain offences are set forth, and there is the provision that they may be dealt with summarily. If the offence is to be dealt with upon indictment, a different procedure is followed, with which every man who appears before a court is acquainted, because the magistrate explains it to him -before the proceedings are commenced. To my knowledge, that procedure has been followed for at least the last 40 years. I know that, in the legislation of this Parliament and practically every State of the Commonwealth, similar enactments prevail. Therefore, if a man is to be dealt with summarily, he is charged summarily, but if he is to bc dealt with upon indictment, the magistrate informs him that ho need say nothing, because the inquiry is purely one to determine whether or not he shall he sent to trial. f Quorum formed.’]
.- The point raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is, I think, that a nian who is charged will not be given any information as to whether it is proposed to deal with him summarily or he is to be sent to trial by jury, until the prosecutor has informed the magistrate at the hearing of the course that ho desires to take; the information will not intimate to him which course is to be followed.
– It will in New South W ales.
– It may not in Victoria. It is quite possible that what the honorable member for Batman has said is correct; I have not examined the point, and am not contending for it. What I am contending for is this : The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has said that in the Acts Interpretation Act a distinction is drawn between summary and indictable offences. I agree; but I submit that it is exceptional to have a provision under which the prosecutor - not the defendant - can elect the form which the prosecution shall take. The Assistant Treasurer relies on the Customs Act. We cannot do so. That act is the parent of all sorts of abuses; it places the burden of proof on the defendant instead of on the prosecutor. Put shortly, what I am submitting is that, if the prosecutor has the option of bringing a man either before a magistrate or before a jury, the more important cases should go to a jury, and the minor cases to a magistrate. In order to make it clear that that is what is to be done, the act should say that a man can: not be imprisoned by a magistrate; that the prosecutor cannot ask a magistrate to make an order for imprisonment. This act will operate in a time of war. Those who have knowledge of what occurred during the last war, realize how the minds of magistrates are inflamed by prejudice, by the pressure of the press, and by what they feel is the pressure of governments. We know how magistrates acted during the last war. Therefore, I am not prepared to see them endowed with the power to send a man to prison, for having refused to answer questions. It is not a case of defending the class that I represent. I am defending the interests of all citizens. In the main, it will be the constituents of honorable members sitting on the Government benches who will be dealt with under this legislation. A man may be charged with an entirely minor offence, or with a serious offence. If it be a minor offence, the Government should be able to charge him before a magistrate, and the magistrate should have the power to do no more than fine him. If it be a major offence, he should be given the option of a jury trial, and upon conviction be liable to imprisonment. I shall not expound the point more elaborately, because three other amendments of the Opposition have to be considered before the time allotted to the clause expires.
.- In the State of Victoria, the practice in the case of offences of this kind is to charge the accused with the offence in the statute, and not to indicate whether the offence is indictable or non-indictable. That he must find out by reference to the statute itself. A person would look in vain in this statute, when it is passed, to find out whether the offence with which he is charged is indictable or not. The accused would suffer a grave injustice in that he would not know until he appeared in court whether the offence with which he was charged was an indictable one, or merely a trivial one carrying a penalty of a small fine.
In my second-reading speech, I criticized what I described as the inquisition which it was proposed to set up under this clause. The Government, actuated by purely political reasons, may question persons upon a very wide range of subjects. I am not concerned to know whether the person is an employer, and a possible profiteer, or a worker; he is, presumably, a citizen entitled to a citizen’s rights. Under this proposed legislation he may be submitted to examination under regulations. The offence is really to be created by regulation. It is not described in this clause, or anywhere in the bill except in most general terms. The penalty is fixed in the bill for an offence which is not set out, and against that I protest. I protest against the granting of powers so wide and general, to be supported by regulation, and I protest against penalties being imposed for offences which are to be created by regulations not yet adopted., It is premature to fix these severe penalties for offences which are to be created at a later stage.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Blackburn’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Majority . . … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause7 - (1.) The Governor-General may enter into any arrangement with the Governor of any State providing for any matter necessary or convenient for the purpose of carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and in particular for -
.- I move -
That after paragraph (c), sub-clause (1.), the following paragraphs be added: - ” (d) the development and exploitation, in co-operation with any State, of any deposit of ore or other natural resource: and
the provision or supply of munitions and the manufacture or assembly of aircraft or parts thereof by the Railways Department or other authority of any State.”.
This amendment, if agreed to, will authorize the Commonwealth Government to approach any State government and enter into arrangements with it regarding the exploitation of deposits of minerals and other natural resources. Such an arrangement would be of great benefit to Western Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales. In Western Australia and Tasmania there are vast deposits of iron ore that have not yet been worked. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has made frequent references to the need for establishing an industry for the extraction of oil from coal. Such an industry would be invaluable in time of war. The iron deposits at Yampi Sound in Western Australia have not yet been exploited for two reasons, first, their isolation, and, secondly, because of the interference of Commonwealth authorities. Koolan Island in Yampi Sound consists entirely of high-grade iron ore. Leases have been taken up from time to time by speculators, but the deposits were not worked because of their great distance from markets. Then, within the memory of all of us, a company was formed by agreement with Brasserts Limited of London under which the ore was to be exported. Several months later the Commonwealth Government placed an embargo upon the export of iron ore from Australia. One reason suggested was that the ore was to be sent to an Asiatic state to which for national reasons it was undesirable that it should be sent, but a remarkable thing was that after the imposition of the embargo on ore from Western Australia ore continued to be exported from Whyalla in South Australia by the Broken Hill Proprietary. Company Limited. While the development of this important industry in Western Australia was held up, no less than 832.,000 tons of iron ore was exported to Japan out of a total of 1,346,000 tons exported altogether from 1932 to 1938 and 265,000 tons of iron scrap to Japan during the same period; yet the Western Australian company was debarred from exporting one pound of ore.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the amendment.
– I am sure that the Chairman (Mr. Prowse), who is also a West Australian, although he subscribes to political beliefs opposed to mine,is with me in opposition to the exploitation of the State of Western Australia by big interests. He must be with me in my advocacy for the Commonwealth Government to enter into an arrangement with the Government of Western Australia for the development as a State instrumentality of the State’s iron ore resources. The scope of the amendment, of course, is not confined solely to Western Australia. There are mineral resources in Tasmania which also could be exploited by the Commonwalth. To illustrate the lengths to which the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will go, I need only cite the fact that near to the iron ore deposits on Koolan Island in Yampi Sound which are owned by the State, there are similar deposits on Cockatoo Island, which is leased by that company. It has never put a pick into the ground, and is merely biding its time until another company starts to exploit Koolan Island, when it will again use its influence to prevent export. My amendment must appeal to all honorable members except those who are determined to help the big private interests to exploit the public.
– The proposed new paragraph d moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) refers to -
The development and exploitation, in cooperation with any State, of any deposit of ore or other natural resource.
I submit that clause 7, 1, is sufficiently wide to provide for co-operation between governments for the development of national resources. It reads-
The Governor-General may enter into any arrangement with the Governor of any State providing tor any matter necessary or convenient for the purpose of carrying out or giving effect to this act . . . [Quorum formed.]
Proposed new paragraph e of the amendment is covered by paragraphse and b of clause 5. Paragraph b has relation to the manufacture and assembling of aircraft. In clause 9 the Governor-General is empowered to - establish, maintain and operate or arrange for the establishment, maintenance and operation of factories for or in relation to the provision or supply of munitions.
The Government has circulated amendments to clause 14, which also contain sufficient power for the Government to do everything that it needs to do.
– I am particularly interested in the proposed new paragraph d moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green). The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) argues that its provisions are covered elsewhere in this bill, but I submit that there should be a specific reference in it to the subjectmatter of the amendment. It has been shown clearly that big interests which have a monopoly of the right to exploit certain resources neglect to do so. That neglect is most marked in Western Australia, and the Chairman (Mr. Prowse) and other honorable gentlemen from Western Australia should welcome this proposal, which would ensure that the Commonwealth and State Governments would repair their neglect and should he prepared to vote for it. I take it that if the proposed new paragraphs were inserted in the bill the Commonwealth Government would be able to compel companies which have control of Australian resources to develop them. No company should be allowed to hold resources on lease without being forced to utilize them for the benefit of the State in which they are placed. They should not be allowed to retard the development of the rich iron ore resources of Western Australia. Another mineral which would be covered by the proposed new paragraph is tantalite, which is used to harden armour-plating. Australia produces the major part of the world’s supply of that mineral. It was reported in the press the other day that a large quantity of tantalite was being exported to Japan, where it is used for armament purposes. I do not say anything against Japan, but the Government should exercise supervision over the export of raw materials which may one day. be manufactured into munitions for use against us. Tasmania has resources of osmiridium, which would be developed under this proposed paragraph. It will be found that there are more valuable minerals of this kind in Australia than in any other country, and it is an obligation on the Government to take action to exploit them or care for them in such a way that Australia will have the use of them.
.- I do not subscribe in any way to the implication of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) that the Government should prevent the export of raw materials to Japan, because there is no better way to antagonize countries than to refuse to trade with them ; nor do I intend to discuss the attitude of the Government in regard to the deposits of iron ore at Yampi Sound or the wretched report that it received on those deposits; but I impress upon honorable gentlemen that we shall create trouble if we do not allow our raw materials to be exported. I see no harm in the proposed new paragraph d, which merely asks for - the development and exploitation …. of any deposit of ore or other natural resource.
I see no reason why the Government should not accept it. I think, however, that it would be. placed better in clause 5 than in clause 7. There is no necessity for the insertion of the proposed new clause e, because the provision or supply of munitions and the manufacture or sembly of aircraft are already provided for in the bill.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) clearly presupposes that the mining enterprises would be carried out by the Government. That is not the policy of the Commonwealth Government. It is for private enterprise to develop resources, and it is only when private enterprise falls down on the job or its operations are insufficient to exploit national resources that the Government may find it necessary to step in. The amendment clearly envisages the development and exploitation by the Commonwealth and the State Governments combined of ore deposits and other natural resources. If the Government should find it necessary, in an extremity, to follow this course in respect of some rare mineral, or metal, which it did not pay private enterprise to exploit, it already possesses power to do so. The amendment, therefore, is unnecessary.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be added (Mr. Green’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. j. H. Prowse.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Advisory committees).
– I move -
That the following sub-clauses be added: - (4.) No person who has any monetary, interest in any industrial commercial or other undertaking which is or has within the preceding twelve months been directly or indirectly concerned in supplying munitions (including aircraft) to the Commonwealth or any authority of the Commonwealth shall be appointed to be a member of any committee constituted under this section. (5.) Any member of a committee who acquires any such monetary interest as is referred to in the preceding sub-section shall cease to be a member of such committee.
In the limited time at my disposal I can only say that the amendment is designed to ensure that the Government will not appoint its supporters, particularly representatives of vested interests and monopolies, to these advisory committees. There is a danger that it will appoint to the committee which will advise it on the purchase of munitions persons who are interested in the selling of munitions to the Government. Such a practice is reprehensible and has made politics stink in older countries of the world, as we are aware from inquiries which have been made into the activities of vested interests. Furthermore, representatives of such interests, who are appointed to committees of this kind, invariably accept the opportunity to secure inside information, and are thereby enabled to compete unfairly in their industries. This practice opens the door to patronage and corrupt practices, which should not be tolerated in a democracy. In the democratic country we should keep responsible government clean, and avoid practices which have had a most detrimental effect upon the people of older lands.
– To accept the amendment would be to ignore entirely the absolute necessity for the Government to have the best brains in the community to advise it. In the establishment of the Department of Supply and Development, many problems arise which do not come within the experience of members of the Public Service, and it is necessary to enlist the assistance of the best advice obtainable in industrial circles. The members of the advisory committees will have nothing at all to do with the consideration of tenders.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 -
The Governor-General may establish, maintain and operate, or arrange for the establishment, maintenance and operation of, factories for or in relation to the provision or supply of munitions.
.- I move-
That, at the end of the clause, the following sub-clause be added:’ - “ (2) No factory or annexe shall be established or erected upon land that is not the absolute property of the Commonwealth, or of an authority of the Commonwealth, or of a State, or of an authority of a State.”
My object is to secure a decision by the committee as to whether it stands for the prohibition of the private manufacture of arms and munitions for profit. In this measure, the Government has gone out of its way to encourage the private manufacture of defence requisites.
– I challenge that statement.
– The Government proposes to expend £1,000,000 in the purchase of machinery which is to be added to the plant of private manufacturers.
– But the machinery will remain the property of the Government.
– Private firms will have free use of it. There will be only eighteen or nineteen annexes, and this means that-about £50,000 will be required to equip each of them. The machinery erected will be part of the plant of the private manufacturers.
– That is not so.
– For all practical purposes it will be, because it will be used by the private firms.
– The time allotted for the consideration of this part of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be added (Mr. Hollow ay’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided.
Majority . . 10
(The Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Question put -
That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee divided.
Majority . . 9 (Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative..
Western Australian Primary Producers’ Organizations - Conditions of Employment in New Guinea.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 4th May, when discussing the wheat industry in this House, I made the following statement: -
As honorable members are probably aware, in Western Australia there is a Wheat and Wool Growers Union and also a Primary Producers Association. The latter organization is housed in an extensive warehouse, and is engaged not only in buying, but also in storing and selling primary products.
Mr. J. S. Teasdale; the president of the Primary Producers Association of Perth, has written to me pointing out that my statement concerning the trading activities of the Primary Producers Association is incorrect. The Primary Producers Association is a farmers’ organization, and is the parent body of the Western Australian Country party both Federal and State. It is also’ a farmers’ industrial organization. There is also a large farmers’ cooperative organization in Western Australia known as Westralian Farmers Limited. This is the trading organization, with a large warehouse and buildings in Wellington-street, Berth, to which I referred. I am pleased to make this correction, as although I am entirely opposed to Mr. Teasdale’s politics, I have a high regard for Mr. Teasdale personally, and also for the public spirit he has displayed in many directions, and I have no desire to misrepresent the activities of his association.
.- I bring under the notice of the Minister in charge of External Territories a very deplorable state of affairs that exists in connexion with the employment of certain workers in Commonwealth territories. A Mr. Roy Delbridge, of Melbourne, secured employment some time ago with the Enterprise of New Guinea Petroleum and Gold Development Company for a period of two years. I have details of the terms of the agreement under which he went to New Guinea to work. In this agreement it is provided that -
The company shall take out a guarantee with the Yorkshire Insurance Company in lieu of depositing an amount of £30 landing bond required under the Customs Ordinance of the Territory of New Guinea. The cost of such guarantee shall be £2 15s. and this amount shall be deducted from your first full month’s wages.
Honorable members know that the conditions applying to a worker who goes to the Territory of New Guinea provide that a bond of £30 must be lodged as a guarantee that he will not be stranded there, should he lose his employment. After working three months in the territory Mr. Delbridge did lose his employment. He made unsuccessful attempts to secure other work and, being in destitute circumstances, he was naturally anxious to leave the territory. He applied to the Yorkshire Insurance Company, which was responsible for the issue of the bond, and received from it the following letter : -
In reply to your letter of the 9th instant, re your being stranded in Wau, I have to inform you that this is a matter for the Administrator and it does not concern us until a person is put out of the country. I would advise you to interview your late employers and see if they can assist you, or failing that I think it would be better for you to try to get another position and earn enough money to pay your passage out of the country, otherwise it is a serious matter.
Acting Attorney at Salamaua.
The company accepted payment of a premium in order to provide a guarantee bond of £30, the sole purpose of which was to provide money to pay his return passage. When the company failed to meet its obligations under the bond, Mr. Delbridge found himself in a desperateposition. He sought the advice of Mr. Victor A. Florance, a barrister and solicitor at Wau. That gentleman, realizing the desperate state of Mr. Delbridge, offered him free the advice contained in the following letter: -
Further to our recent telephone conversa tion herein, it seems to me that Mr. Delbridge should call upon his recent employer to arrange for his passage to Australia. Apart from any question of the employer’s common law liability to afford his passage whence he came, Mr. Delbridge was obliged to pay to his employer the amount of a premium for his. “landing bond” guarantee.
In addition to his fare, Mr. Delbridge would probably be entitled to heavy damages.
In reply to your inquiries as to deportation by the Administration, this matter is dealt with in the Police Offences Ordinance 1925, sections68 to 73.
A conviction under section 69 would seem to be equivalent to a conviction under section 68, and by sub-section (2) of section 68 “ Any person convicted of being an ‘ idle and disorderly person ‘ within the meaning of the last preceding sub-section shall be guilty of an offence. Penalty - Imprisonment for twelve months “.
Under section 73 the magistrate may in addition to the penalty, recommend to the Administrator that he be removed from the Territory . . .
It must not bo overlooked that the penalty is imprisonment for twelve months. The practice in Rabaul was to suspend the- penalty pending the result of the recommendation to the Administrator. But the magistrate is not obliged to make the recommendation, and if lie were unsympathetic, he could impose the penalty and send Delbridge to gaol.
If Delbridge gives the police a statutory declaration in terms similar to the draft enclosed herewith, I am inclined to think it would be the duty of thepolice to charge him under section 69, although that section only says the police officer may arrest or summon him to appear.
In order to show how serious is the position of workers in such circumstances, I shall read section 69 of. the ordinance -
This unfortunate man, who had been guilty of no offence, found himself in the position that, in order to obtain a passage out of the country - a passage which he had been guaranteed by the insurance company - he had to swear a statutory declaration as follows: -
I, Roy Delbridge, of Wau, New Guinea, mechanical fitter, do solemnly and sincerely declare -
I have no money and no credit andto lawful means of support nor have I any prospect of finding any lawful means of support while in the Territory of New Guinea.
I am aware of the purport of sections 68 to 73 ‘ of the Police Offences Ordinance 1925 and desire that I may be charged and convicted thereunder and deported under the provisions of section 73 of the said ordinance.
That declaration was signed before a justice of the peace. Within twenty minutes of signing it, Mr. Delbridge was arrested and placed in the cells, where he remained for eight days. His only offence was that he had lost his employment. In order to show how Commonwealth officials in the territory treated this unfortunate workman, I shall detail to the House what happened to a friend of his who attempted to get into touch with him in the prison. The friend, Mr. Syd. Barker, a dental surgeon of Wau, wrote to Mr. Vertigan the following letter:-
I have heard that Mr. K. Delbridge is at present incarcerated in the Wau jail. 1 am of the opinion that Mr. Delbridge has no legal counsel, and, “ as his best friend in law “ I respectfully seek permission to visit Mr. Delbridge at noon to-day.
A reply by return would be appreciated.
To that letter he received the following reply, dated the 3rd April: -
I acknowledge receipt’ of your letter of the 1st instant relative to Mr. Delbridge.
Mr. Delbridge has not asked for your assistance, and until he requests a visit from you, permission will not be granted.
That letter was signed by Mr. D. H. Vertigan, Assistant District Officer. Although this unfortunate worker had not committed any offence, he was kept in prison for eight days, and his friend was refused permission to visit him in order to understand his predicament and suggest means of assisting him. I ask the Minister in charge of External Territories (Mr. Perkins) to make inquiries’ into the circumstances of this case, for if such things happened to this man, it is probable that they have happened to others, also. The insurance company is only defrauding workmen when it obtains payment of premiums on the pretence that it will give to them a guarantee bond of ?30, as provided in the ordinance of the territory, to protect them in the event of their being stranded. It will be a disgrace to the Administration, and to the Government, if such things are allowed to remain uncorrected. This unfortunate worker went from Australia to the gold-fields of New Guinea, but because he lost his employment he was compelled to make himself practically a criminal - he had to agree to a conviction being recorded against him - so that he could get back to the country from which he had come. I hope that full inquiries will be made to see that insurance companies are not allowed to continue the malpractice of accepting money in such circumstances.
– I have no personal knowledge of the case brought under notice by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), but I assure him that I shall have inquiries made in respect of it immediately, and advise him later of the result.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1939 -
No. 4 - Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining).
No. 5 - Land.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers: -
Assistance in connexion therewith.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. It is customary for the States eacn year to arrange for temporary accommodation by means of treasury-bills to cover expenditure until receipts from taxation in the latter part nf the financial year come in, when such treasury-bills are usually redeemed. In the present financial year the financial position of some of the States has become serious in consequence of bush fires, drought, &c, and the States sought increases of loan programmes to cover extraordinary expenditure due to these causes, in order to assist the States, the Commonwealth Bank offered to fund £3,000,000 of these treasury-bills, instead of requiring their repayment.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
5.T he Queensland Government announced a fortnight ago its decision to adopt the recommendations of the majority report of the” Royal Commission on Sugar Peaks and Cognate Matters, which recommendations will ensure that the future production of sugar will be limited to the requirements of the home market plus Australia’s export quota each year under the International Sugar Agreement.
h asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
s asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
– On the 25th May, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked the following question, upon notice -
What is the weekly amount being paid foi salaries and administrative costs in respect of national health and pensions insurance?
The weekly liability for salaries at this date is about £460, and for administrative costs (excluding rent) £80.
In explanation of these, figures I may say that altogether 125 officers took up duty with the commission. As soon as the work began to slacken off the officers who could be spared were loaned to other departments for duty, and as much annual recreation leave as possible was granted.
When the Government’s policy of suspension was declared, the Public Service Board was asked to transfer permanently to other departments as many of the staff as could be spared. At present 49 officers are engaged in Canberra and the States and most of these will be taking up duty with other departments within the next fortnight, as soon as the work of examining approved societies’ books end accounts is completed.
As regards rentals, nearly allof the leases of premises in country districts have been terminated, and space in city offices is being sub-let to other departments as it becomes available.
I shall make a further statement on this subject when the National Insurance Bill is before the House.
Naming of Airports.
s. - On the 9th May the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) asked a question, without notice, regarding the matter of naming certain airports in Australia after distinguished Australian flyers.
I desire to inform the honorable member that this matterwas first considered bythe Lyons Government in March, 1937. It was then decided to retain the present names of Government civil aerodromes and airports, and to allot place names to any Government aerodromes “which may be established in the future. It was further approved that the naming of aerodromes owned by municipalities or private individuals should be entirely a matter for the owners, as in the case of the municipally-owned aerodrome at Bundaberg, which has been re-named tho Hinkler aerodrome.
In January of this year, the matter of re-naming the Government aerodrome at Mascot was again considered by the Government, which approved of the aerodrome being re-named “ The Kingsford Smith Aerodrome “. Accordingly maps and publications are now being amended to show the name “ Kingsford Smith Aerodrome “.
Apart from the above, there has been no actual decision to have airports named after other distinguished Australian airmen.
n. - On the 19th May, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked whether some measure of protection would be given to. the butter industry, either by imposing an import duty on the imported materials used in margarine, or an excise duty on butter substitutes.
I indicated to the honorable member that an inquiry was being held, and that the matter would be given further consideration.
I am now in a position to indicate that the imported materials used in the manufacture of margarine represent on. the average only 6.7 per cent. of the value of the finished article.
In view of the small value of the imported materials, it is obvious that any increase of the import duties would have very little effect on the position of the competition of margarine with butter.
In regard to the excise duty proposal, I would point out to the honorable member that Australia produced 438,900,000 lb. of butter in 1937-1938, as compared with 5,600,000 lb. of table margarine for the same period; i.e., the production of table margarine represents only 1.3 per cent, of that of butter.
The competition is relatively small and has not affected the butter industry to any marked degree. The price of margarine has remained practically constant over a period of years.
This matter, however, will be discussed by the Agricultural Council when it meets in about a fortnight’s time.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– It is not in the interests of national security that information respecting railway capacity for military movements should be made public. I shall, however, be glad to supply the answers personally to the honorable member for his confidential information.
Griffith By-election : Speech by Minister for Defence.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
If a record was broadcast, was the record made at the expense of (a) the Government,
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Grant to Trooper’s Widow.
e asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister state -
t.- ‘The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 May 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390531_reps_15_159/>.