15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Notification from Chief Electoral Officer.
– I have to announce that I have receiveda notification from theChief Electoral Officer for the
Commonwealth in connexion with the writ which I issued on the 3rd Maylast for the election of a member to serve” for the electoral division of Wilmot, in the State of Tasmania, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the Bight Honorable. Joseph Aloysius Lyons, and that, by the notification, it is certified that Lancelot Thomas Spurr has been elected in pursuance of the said writ.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I inquire as to whether you have received a return to the writ which you issued, or onlya notification of the result of theby-election?
– I have received a certificate in the terms that I have mentioned.
– May I again, on a . point of order, inquire as to whether the admission to ‘this House of a member elected at a by-election is lawful on a mere notification by the returning officer, or whether the actual return to the writ is necessary?
– The writ has not actually been returned to me. Because I was informed that Mr. Spurr had been elected, I inquired of the Chief Electoral Officer as to whether or not he could tell me of its whereabouts. The certificate that I have received is the result of that inquiry. Action similar to this has been taken on more than one occasion previously.
Mr. Spurr made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
– In view of the wireless news that the flyingboat Guba, while on a survey of the Indian Ocean, has missed Cocos Island and has set a course for Batavia, will the Prime Minister inform the House as to what official news has been received by the Government, and as to whether the flying boat has a sufficient supply of petrol to enable it to reach Batavia ?
– Messages were received this morning, in the first instance from Cocos Island by cable, indicating that the authorities there were in wireless touch with the Guba but that, on ‘account of the inability of the flying boat to obtain a cross bearing to any vessel in the neighbourhood, it had experienced considerable difficulty at that stage in locating Cocos Island with a view to making a landing there. Subsequent reports indicated that the Guba was cruising in the neighbourhood, but was unable to locate Cocos Island. At about lunchtime I received a message from Mr. Percival, on the Guba, indicating that they had. decided to proceed east in the direction of Batavia. Just as I entered the House this afternoon I was handed a further message which had just been received from the Guba, stating that it is now flying on a course towards Soenda Strait, between Java and Sumatra, in conditions which, at the . position of the aircraft, were overcast, with considerable haze. This procedure is in accordance with the decision to proceed to Batavia rather than to use surplus fuel in an endeavour to reach Cocos Island, under existing conditions. I may saythat the tone and terms of that message, like those of the message previously received from the Guba, do not indicate that any gravedoubt was felt regarding its ability to reach Batavia, and it would appear to have been assumed that the condition of the fuel supplies was satisfactory for the purpose. I can only say that we all sincerely hope that this is so.
When the matter first came before me, and thereappeared to be some real doubt of the Gubabeing able to make a safe landing at Batavia, having regard to the condition of its fuel supplies, I immediately had a communication sent to. the British Government representative’ at Batavia, requesting that arrangementsbe made at once with the Government authorities there to send out a ship, if necessary, in the direction in which the Guba was travelling. I think it proper to assure ‘honorable members that no delay was permitted to occur in taking such steps as mightbe necessary. I, of course, hope that they will prove to be unnecessary.
Embargo on Importation.
– I ask the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Commerce whether or not the report is cor rect which appeared in a Sydney newspaper since the last day of sitting, indicating that the Government proposed to remove the embargo on the importation of New Zealand potatoes?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.The Prime Minister made a few days ago a statement in regard to the whole position. The right honorable gentleman then informed honorable members that the partial suspension of the embargo had now terminated, but that the whole matter is receiving consideration, and that in that consideration due regard isbeing paid to the interests of the potato-growers and consumers, the citrus-growers and consumers, and all others who are interested in the matter.
Prime Minister, as Attorney-General in the Lyons Administration, commenced investigations into the conditions of the waterside workers in the differentports of the Commonwealth. I understand th at the present Attorney-General has continued those investigations, and I ask him whether they have been completed. If they have, has he received the report of the investigator? If he has, will he make itavailable to honorable members prior to the rising of the House at the end of this week?
– I assume that the honorable member refers to a report in relation to Queensland ports.
– It is an Australian investigation, but I am more concerned about Queensland.
– A distinction has to be drawn. A report is being furnished by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, in regard to ports from Adelaide to Sydney. Senator Allan MacDonald was asked to visit the ports from Cairns down to Brisbane. He has done that. He has presented his report, andI shallbe glad to let the honorable member have a copy of it. The matter is receiving the consideration of the Government, and. I hope the honorable -member will let me. have his opinion of the report after hehas read it.
– Does the report mentioned by the Attorney-General cover the conditions of waterside workers at Port Kembla? If so, will he let me have a copy of that report?
– At my request, Senator MacDonald included port Kembla in his investigation, and he has made a special report on conditions existing at that port. I shall be glad to show that report to the honorable member, along with the general report covering conditions in Queensland ports.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral also supply me with a copy of the report by Senator MacDonald on licensed ports in Queensland, four of which are in my electorate?
– I shall be glad to supply the information to the honorable gentleman.
– In view of the fact that the Australian iron and steel industry is now able to compete successfully on the world’s markets in the sale of its products, will the Minister for Tradeand Customs ask the Tariff Board to review the existing dutieson iron and steel products in order to determine whether they are unduly high, or even unnecessary?
– I assure the honorable member that his request will receive the consideration of the Government.
– On the8th May, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked the following question: -
In view of the increased telephonic business and wireless communications between Tasmania and the mainland during the last ten years, will the Postmaster-General take immediate steps toincrease the lineage between Tasmania and the mainland, whichhas not been improved for twenty years?
On the 30th May, he asked a similar question regarding a breakdown of the service between the mainland and Tasmania, because of the failure of a line which had been in use for upward of twenty years. It is obviously incorrect to state that the line has been in use for upwards of twenty years, because there was no telephone communication between Tasmania and the mainland twenty years ago. Moreover, the statements of the honorable member in regard to delays to telephone business are at variance with the facts. The records which are regularly taken of the business transactions between Tasmania and the mainland indicate that, during the busy hours of the day, say from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the average delay rarely exceeds five minutes. During the late evening hours, say, between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., when concession rates operate, the. delay to business frequently reaches an average of 45 minutes, but this condition applies to all important circuits, and is unavoidable, in view of the cheap tariffs which apply. While the existing telephone channels, that is, two between Melbourne and Hobart, three between Melbourne and Laun ces ton, and one between Melbourne, King Island and Burnie, reasonably meet present-day requirements, careful consideration has been given to proposals for augmenting the present facilities, and an order has already been placed for the provision of additional channels of communication in the existing cable. The question of supplementing the submarine cable service by a radio link, which will be suitable for both telegraphic and telephonic purposes, is being exhaustively studied, and it is hoped to make these facilities available in the near future.
Supply of Uniforms
– Last week, I asked the Minister for Defence how many new uniforms had been issued to members of the militia forces in each of the States during May. Is he yet in a position to supply this information?
– I regret that I cannot give a detailed reply without communicating with every militia unit throughout the Commonwealth. That is not possible, but I hope,- by to-morrow afternoon, to be able to state the number of uniforms supplied by ordnance to each depot.
– Has the Minister seen reports published in the Sydney newspapers that, in the first cavalry and divisional signals unit due to go into camp, 75 per cent. of the men were without uniforms? It was also stated in the report, that a considerable number of resignations had been received by officers commanding those units, because of the lack of uniforms and other equipment?
– I have not seen- the report. I again direct attention to the memorandum which I circulated to honorable members recently regarding clothing for the military forces. In that communication, emphasis was laid on the fact that normally a recruit does not get a uniform until he has been in the force for three months. In accordance with a decision made in February, it was decided to issue uniforms as quickly as possible. I have nothing to add to the circulated statement, which sets out the position very fully. I know nothing about the alleged retirements.
– In view of the fact that it is not usual to issue military clothing to recruits until they have been in the forces for three months, will the Minister for Defence consider the issuing of warmer clothing to men going into camp during tho present cold season other than the ordinary dungaree suits which are conducive to the contraction of pneumonia. It is a fact that recently, when the 4th Battalion in New South Wales was sent into camp without uniforms, citizens of Burwood contributed funds with which uniforms for this battalion were purchased, and that sales tax was charged on those uniforms?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ Yes “. I have no information concerning the second part of his question, but shall be glad to obtain from him any particulars regarding the matter which he may have in his possession.
– In view of the fact that approximately 10,000 bushels of apples in Tasmania have been sold, and are awaiting shipment overseas, and that another 10,000 bushels will have to be shipped shortly, will the Minister for Commerce take steps to ensure that n. vessel calls at Hobart this week to pick up those cargoes? Will he ascertain whether it is possible for the Tuscan Star to lift the apples, and if so, will he make the necessary representations to the agents ?
– The honorable member communicated with me on this subject a little while ago, and I have already instituted inquiries regarding it.
– I have received a copy of a resolution passed by the Fitzroy City Council in which attention is drawn to the widespread unemployment and, indeed, destitution, in that municipality. The council has invoked such influence as I may. have in this Parliament to relieve the situation. In view of the position there described, will the Prime Minister, who must know that similar conditions prevail widely throughout Australia, reconsider the decision of the Government to adjourn Parliament at the end of this week? Will he afford the House an opportunity to consider and discuss ways and means to relieve the position of the workless and the destitute during the winter months?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will receive consideration.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether there is any truth in the press report that a new wireless station for broadcasting Australian news in foreign languages is to be erected? If so, will he see that it is erected in Queensland, and that preference is given to Australians in the matter of employment when it is completed?
– There is no truth in the report that such a station is to be established.
Validity of Legislation
– Oan the Prime Minister say whether the judgment of the High Court in the case affecting the validity of the legislation imposing a sales tax on flour will be delivered before Parliament goes into recess? What does he propose to do if the judgment is not delivered until after Parliament adjourns, and the judgment has the effect of invalidating the legislation?
– I hope that the judgment will be delivered this week. If it is not, then one’3 ideas about the sitting of Parliament will need to be re-cast, because I attach great importance to being in a position to take prompt action should that judgment make parliamentary action necessary.
– In connexion with a question asked without notice on Friday last by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully), and supported by interjection by the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse), I desire to intimate that representatives of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation will meet the Minister for Commerce and myself in Canberra on Friday next, the 9th June, for the purpose of submitting representations in relation to the position of the wheat industry.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it would be possible to make available to honorable members, before the close of the budget debate this year, the Auditor-General’s report on the preceding financial year? It was not until early this year that honorable members received the Auditor-General’s report on the accounts for the financial year which closed in June of the preceding year.
– I cannot positively say that that will be done, but I agree with the honorable member that it is most desirable that that report should be in the hands of honorable members during the budget debate, if that is feasible. I shall make inquiries to see whether it can bo done.
– A report appearing in to-day’s press indicates that the headquarters of the now Department of
Supply and Development will be established in Melbourne. I ask the Prime Minister whether this report is correct? If so, is there any valid reason why the head-quarters of this department cannot be established in Canberra ?
– In the absence of my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development, I can answer the honorable member’s question only in general terms, but I understand that the Supply Department will be established in Melbourne for the reason that the Department of Defence is also in that city, and it would not he possible, having regard to the close interlocking arrangements between these two departments, to have one in one city and one. in another city. That would lead to great inefficiency of administration.
– When will those departments be established in Canberra?
– That question is bound up with the problem of financing quite large buildings for administrative purposes in Canberra, and of providing dwellings for members of the staffs to be transferred. That problem, in conjunction with the general problem of office accommodation, is at present under the consideration of the Cabinet.
Chairman of Royal Commission
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to announce the name of the judge to be appointed as chairman of the Royal Commission to inquire into the Sydney General Post Office contract?
– I regret that at the moment I am not able to make such an announcement, but as soon as I ca.n do so I shall convey the information to Parliament.
– In view of the increasing numbers of the Labour party in this House, will you, Mr. Speaker, see th-.it honorable members who sit on our loft are put in their proper place on the Government side?
– If it appears that members of the Labour party have not sufficient room, it will be made available to them.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the present Government has agreed to confirm the decision of its predecessor to abolish the surcharge on interstate telegrams? If not, will he explain the reason for any alteration of this decision?
– The first part of the honorable member’s question has already been answered. A statement has already been made with regard to the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if it is correct that entrance to the Royal Military College, Duntroon, has been made available to certain selected candidates who will go into the College in June of this year, and will graduate as lieutenants in December, being given priority over candidates who have ,been in the College for the last two or three years?
– I ask the Minister for ‘Trade and Customs if it is correct that Burns, Philp and Company Limited has decided to take its ships for cleaning and repairs to Eastern waters rather than have such work done in Australia? I have been informed by representatives of tho Dockers Union that this is so. If this, company does not have this work done in Australia, will the Minister reconsider the subsidy at present paid to it?
– I have no information on the point raised ‘by the honorable member, but I shall .have inquiries made and communicate a reply to him us soon as possible.
– I direct , the attention of .the Minister for Trade and Customs to the fact that a shipment of fur felt hats has left Italy, and ask him whether he will kike steps to pi-event the dumping of these hats in Australia?
– My latest information on the subject is that, whereas the requirement of the Australian market in felt hats is 87,000 dozen, the orders on hand from Italy total only 80 dozen. Furthermore, the retail price of the Italian hats in question range from 35s. to £2 2s. each. Information in the possession of the department does not indicate that a charge of dumping of these hats would be sustained. However, I shall make further inquiries into the matter.
– Will the Prime .Minister give immediate consideration to the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee for the purpose of considering the many anomalies in the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, with a view to the early passage of legislation to remedy them ?
– In view of the considerable number of skilled artisans who are leaving Australia to accept employment in New Zealand, what action is the Government taking to find employment for men so that their services may be retained in this country?
– I was not aware that there was any shortage of employment for skilled artisans in Australia, but I shall look into the matter.
– On the 25th May I sent to the Minister for Defence t two telegrams relating to the Townsville aerodrome. So far I have not; received a reply. Can the Minister say whether he received those telegrams, and, if so, whether replies have been sent, and to what address?
– I am unable to say offhand whether or not I received the telegrams referred to. If I did, and no reply has been sent, I regret the oversight. I shall have immediate inquiries made
M.T. BEASLEY. - Has the Assistant Treasurer given consideration to the state of affairs that seems to have arisen in New South Wales, namely, the possibility of a State deficit involving the curtailment of relief works and works conducted by municipalities, thereby causing a great deal of unemployment and consequent hardship? Further, has he any information to give to the House regarding foreclosures in respect of farm properties, a matter which has given rise to considerable concern in country districts, especially as the Commonwealth was supposed to have made grants to meet such conditions?
– No specific consideration has been given to the matters referred to, but they are generally under consideration. I shall be glad to give specific consideration to them in consultation with the Treasurer.
– Will the Prime Minister say when the Government will cease to give consideration to vital problems, and take definite action to solve them.
M.r. MENZIES. - lt ma) appear remarkable to the honorable member that the Government believes that consideration should always precede action, and that action taken without prior consideration is generally useless.
– Is the Minister for Defence able to say whether any ships of the Royal Australian Navy were constructed in the yards of Cammel Laird and Company, the makers of the ill-fated submarine Thetis’1.
– I cannot answer the honorable member’s question offhand, but I shall obtain the information.
– Last week I inquired whether the aeroplanes now operating at night between Brisbane and Sydney were equipped with radio direction-finding apparatus. So far I have received, no reply. Can the Minister for Defence say whether such equipment has ‘been installed ?
– I shall bring. . the matter under the notice of my .colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation/ who -will supply the honorable gentleman Avith an answer.
– Is it a fact- thu the multi-millionaire, Mr. Archbold, is financing the survey flight over the-Indian Ocean, and, if not, who is financing the project? If the taxpayers of Australia are to meet the bill, will the Prime Minister say what benefit the survey is likely to confer upon Australia?
– Portion of the financial liability in respect to this flight will be borne by the Commonwealth. If the honorable gentleman will be good enough to put his question on the notice-paper, or let me have it, I shall see that an exact answer is given to each part of it.
– Will the Prime Minister obtain from the Government Statistician information to show whether or not it is a fact that as imports into Australia increase, so employment increases, and vice versa?
– If the information’ is fairly readily available I shall sec that it is obtained, and forwarded to the honorable member.
Manufacture in Australia.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs give an assurance to the House that a statement will be made this week setting out what definite action has been taken ‘by the Government in furtherance of the proposal to manufacture motor car engines in Australia? Will he say how many proposals have been received, and whether it is expected that tin early start will be made with this industry?
– Negotiations in respect of a venture of this kind must necessarily be fairly protracted. I do not think that it will be possible for me to make this week any addition to the clear statement made by the Prime Minister about a fortnight ago.
– I have received from Mrs. F. M. J. Baker a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy on the occasion of the death of her husband.
Motion, (by Mr. Street) agreed to -
That lie have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Defence Act 1903-11)34, and for other purposes.
S eco n d R-e a din 13 .
Debute resumed from the 2nd .June (vide, page 1.165) on motion by Mr. Street -
That the bill lie now road a second t i mu.
.- This bill to authorize, a census of man-power is complementary to the measure recently passed by this House to make provision for a survey of material-power. Notwithstanding our abhorrence of anything in the nature of militarism, recent events have forced on us the conclusion that we must take steps to prepare for the possibility of Australia being attacked.
– Is there another crisis?
– There is no crisis at the moment, and none is anticipated; bat happenings during the last two or three years, and particularly the fate which has befallen a number of small nations, make it incumbent upon us to prepare for our own defence. The object of these two bills is to make these preparations. The first step that has been taken is to take stock of what we have in the way ‘of materials and man-power. The stocktaking of materials is provided for in the Supply and Development Bill. The aim of the bill now before the chamber is that ive may be able to acquire such knowledge as would enable each man to be fitted into the niche which he would most usefully fill in defence of the Commonwealth. The army in the field has to be supported by an army in the workshops and the aim of this measure is to ensure that our technicians will be in the workshops, not footslogging in the infantry. When the last war rook place it found Australia unprepared, but it did not matter much then, because we were safe at home. But when the next call comes to Australia, it may be a call to defend our own homes, and, although we do not fear that that is imminent, we know the liability to it. . We realize that the call, when.it does come, will come quickly- that there will be very little warning - and it is, therefore, our first duty to be prepared. Australia has no intention of embarking on any crusade and I think that none of us has ambitions to seu Australia militarized on the European model. The object of these two bills is to provide for our own protection. Objection, much of it unreal, has been made to answering the questions which are to be asked. The questions are set out in the schedule. If honorable members peruse them they will see that they are perfectly harmless- and are of the character which we are accustomed to answer in the census which is held every ten years. The questions relate to these matters: - Age last birthday; country of birth of self and parents; nationality; dependent relatives; general health; name, business address and business of present employer; grade of occupation; unemployment. A particular question concerns craft or occupation, and the person answering the question- naire must state his craft or individual occupation on which he is engaged and any other skilled craft or occupation in which he has special skill or training. Obviously, the purpose of these questions is to enable those in charge of preparations for defence of the country to know where our man-power lies, where tradesmen can be found in order for them to be allotted to their allocated places. There is nothing inquisitorial in the census to which objection can be taken. It is of the type of the ordinary census. It will bc remembered that during the last war a census was taken embracing questions somewhat like these and, in addition, questions relating to property. I do not know that anybody raised serious objection to answering the questions then, or that anybody was damaged by answering them, and I believe that there is no good and honest reason to object to answering questions contained in the schedule to this bill. The leaders of the Labour party are encouraging the people to resist, even to the extent of going to gaol, rather than answer these questions.
– “Where did the honorable member get that from?
– It is to be seen in the newspapers.
– Does the honorable member believe everything he reads in the newspapers?
– I do not flatter the honorable gentlemen who are interjecting by thinking that they are Labour leaders. The policy of the Labour party on defence was declared as late as last October by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and that policy had as its first plank a survey precisely of the character which the Government comprehends in the Supply and Development Bill and this bill. The policy of Labour on defence was declared by the Leader of the Opposition, somewhat after the style of the late Dr. Woodrow Wilson, in a series of points. The honorable gentleman took thirteen points and he was careful to state that he declared the Labour party’s attitude in order to make it clear at a lime when the defence of the country was absorbing the attention of the seven Australian parliaments. The first plank of his platform was the establishment of a survey precisely similar to that proposed by this Government. It would be better to read from the precise report in the Canberra. Times newspaper of the 19th October, 1938. It was an account of an interview with the Leader of the Opposition.
– Will the honorable gentleman vouch for the authenticity of the extract?
– Of course. It is much more reliable than any other declaration of Labour members. It is an official declaration made by the Leader of the Australian party. It reads -
The Labour party’s attitude on defence was defined by Mr. Curtin to make it clear at a time when the defence of the country is absorbing the attention of the seven Australian governments. Points in his policy were: - ( 1 . ) Survey of man-power and resources, industrial and primary. It is essential that the number of men able to carry out all forms of work bc known.
There is a precise summary of what this Government is doing.
– Why then is the Opposition wasting time?
– The Opposition would waste another fortnight if it had the opportunity. It is prepared to encourage the workers to resist this legislation by force if necessary. I can understand why the Leader of the Opposition was not put up to speak on the second reading instead of the Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde). If the Leader of the Opposition had been put up he would have had to swallow those words and would have found it very distasteful to-day.
– Does the honorable gentleman not know that the Leader of the Opposition is ill? He is making an unfair attack.
– I know that the Leader of the Opposition would find it uncomfortable
– The honorable member thinks that he is malingering?
– No, the Leader of the Opposition is not a man of that type. Probably he will be more ill when he tries to explain his words. It only shows that the Labour party has no settled policy on defence except one that hinders.
That fact stands out from the many declarations that it has made. As soon as any government attempts to do something useful and effective the Labour opposition throws every obstacle in the way. Its policy is opposition and hindrance, and contains nothing of value that will contribute to the defence of this country. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he intended to oppose the measure because it is a means to provide for industrial conscription. I am surprised that he should object on that ground, because industrial conscription is the ultimate objective of the Labour party. For years provision has been made- in that party’s platform for the nationalization of production, distribution and exchange, which is industrial conscription such as operates in Soviet Russia and, in a somewhat modified form, in Germany, where it is supported1 by the National Socialist party. In these circumstances it is easy to realize that this Government is unsympathetic towards industrial conscription or, in fact, State socialism of any kind; but it believes that in an emergency provision must be made to utilize the services of the man-power of the nation and its resources in order to ensure the safety of the nation. The members of the Opposition intend to oppose this measure because they contend that it is a step towards conscription, but I cannot see any possible reason for that contention. “ The conscription to which honorable members opposite refer must mean conscription for service overseas.
– Does the honorable member believe in ihat ?
– No, ‘and it is not proposed to introduce the system. I take it that the Labour party does not oppose the conscription of Australia’s manhood for the defence of Australia within Australia”. For the last 30 years Commonwealth law has provided that the Governor-General may, in time of war, call upon all male persons between the ages of 18 and 60 years to serve in the defence forces of the Commonwealth, and :no government, labour or otherwise, has’ ever attempted to amend the law in that -respect. Therefore, the only tag which the Opposition is trying to fix upon :this Government is that of conscription for!. service abroad. I deny that any such proposal has ever been made by the Government. On the contrary, the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Street) and responsible party leaders have declared in the clearest possible terms that they are opposed to compulsory service outside Australia. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made such a declaration, in most unmistakable terms.
– What of the present Prime Minister?
– He has made a similar declaration. In introducing the bill the Minister for Defence made it clear that the Government did not propose at any time to introduce compulsory service abroad. After such a clear declaration of policy, no government would be guilty of such a complete volte face as honorable members of the Opposition ascribe to it. Public opinion of Australia is almost unanimously opposed to compulsory service overseas. Whilst I believe that if Australia were attacked the government of the day should be in a position immediately to introduce the conscription of men, materials and money in order to assist in the defence of the country - every one would support such a policy - I hold that no man should at any time, or under any consideration, be compelled to serve outside Australia against his will. Of course, service in the navy is voluntary, and when a man joins the navy he knows that he is liable to serve wherever his ship may be ordered. Should this country be attacked conscription would be introduced immediately, whatever government was in power, and there would be no place for any Labour leader who urged resistance in that respect. The first to object would be the workers themselves, because they are as patriotic as any other citizens.
– We all know that.
– They have proved it over and over again. Any man who opposed conscription for service in Australia would be harshly dealt with. The only respect in which the bill is unsatisfactory is that the proposed census does not go quite far enough iri that no provision is made for taking a. census of wealth.
Mr.- GANDER - “Would the honorable member support that?
– I propose to move an amendment to that effect later.
– That will not be acceptable to some honorable members opposite.
– A census of our resources would be incomplete without a. record of our monetary resources. We should know where the money lies. Later, I propose to move an amendment to provide that a census of the wealth resources of the country be taken, to which there should not be any objection, particularly as a census is being taken solely for making the necessary provision for the defence of the country. I challenge the Opposition to give any valid reason why any Australian should refuse to defend this country should it be attacked. If this country were attacked any Australian, worthy of the rights of citizenship should be willing to place himself in service at the place to which he may be ordered by the persons in proper authority. Any man who claims the right to say that, in the event of this country being attacked, he would please himself whether he would join in its defence, is not a worthy Australian citizen and should be denied the rights of citizenship. I say further that, once it is conceded that it is the duty of every man to take part in the defence of this country, it follows that in order that he may he given a part in which he will be of most use, we must know in what direction he can be most usefully employed. I support the bill.
.- On the face of it this bill seems, to the uninitiated, to be one of the most harmless looking pieces of legislation ever brought down in this Parliament; but after an examination of the motives that led to its introduction Ave find it to be one which we must oppose with all the resources at our command. Before discussing the bill itself I should like to .refer briefly to the statement of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Curtin), as recently as October last, suggested in this House that a survey should be undertaken in order to place the defences’ of this country on a sound footing. Such a reference by an honorable member who is opposed to the party to which I belong suggests that the Government, lacking sufficient initiative to bring down a bill for this purpose, followed the hint given by the Leader of the Opposition on that occasion. If that be so it is regrettable that the bill thrown down to us now is evidence that the Government by no means grasped what was in the mind of my leader when he suggested that a national survey should be made. What was suggested was that among other things, a survey of the wealth of this country should be made for use in time of emergency. We have seen other instances of the failure of governments of the same political colour as that of the present Government to grasp the import of suggestions made by the Opposition. For instance, in 1932 the NationalistCountry party Government of Queensland seized upon child endowment, which has been a plank of the Labour party’s platform for many years, as an election cry; but because of its complete misunderstanding of Labour’s policy .in connexion with this matter, it was politically annihilated. Now, this Government has seized upon a, suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, and because it does not sufficiently comprehend what he had in mind, it is courting political annihilation.
In his second-reading speech on this bill the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) said -
When, at the beginning of Inst December, I introduced the Loan Bill, which covered in detail the expanded defence programme of the Government, I quoted the following words from a speech delivered by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) -
It is the intention to press on with the completion of plans for all phases of national activity in an emergency. The aim of these is to provide for the parts that could be played by every organization, industry and citizen, either in respect nf their normal work in the life of a community or ‘by special voluntary effort.
Then . went on to say -
Nothing less than organization on this scale will give a democratic state a comparable degree of preparedness to- an authoritatarian state. ‘ . .
The wider steps necessary to implement the Prime Minister’s declaration are briefly: - ‘
The organization of man-power and women’s voluntary efforts -
I take it that this bill is designed to organize man-power -
We have heard nothing about that -
And we have heard nothing about that.
– The honorable member heard that subject debated for three weeks.
– Apparently the Minister is referring to a measure which was passed through this chamber recently, and which was designed to give a “hand-out” to the wealthy supporters of the Government. The Minister went on -
The object of this bill is not to organize man-power but to compile a register which will be of assistance to those who desire to destroy the liberty of the people of this country. The honorable gentleman continued -
The purpose of a general survey is to provide an assessment of all skilled labour, and man-power throughout the country in order to throw light on the adequacy or inadequacy of existing resources.
Apparently he is convinced that if we take a survey of man-power we shall then have a survey of the whole of the resources of this country. Why is no . provision made in the bill for a survey of the property owned by the wealthy supporters of this Government? Why not a survey of wealth and industry? Apparentlythe Government is desirous of making a survey of man-power only for the purposes of conscription. As . a matter of fact, the Minister admitted . that in his second-reading speech.
– I certainly did not.
– The honorable gentleman said -
There are, I believe, some who say that this is a form of industrial conscription - that it is proposed to do something that is foreign to the spirit of democracy - something that is abhorrent to Australians.
– Read on.
– I admit that the Minister said there was an excuse for this when he said -
There is no reason why we should not avail ourselves of the opportunity to collect information that will be of use in the preparation of social legislation.
What social legislation has been introduced by this Government since it has been in office? A former Government, with which the Prime Minister and other Ministers were associated, brought down a bill for national insurance which, had it been gone on with, would have resulted in its political extinction.Since then the present Government has been endeavouring to cast off the stigma which rests upon it in relation to this important matter. The Minister went on to say -
Further, it is obvious that key men in industry must not be allowed to vacate their positions to enlist in the defence forces.
In other words, hebrings down a measure to conscript the workers of this country, but at the same time he exempts the friends of the Government and their friends from compulsion to leave these shores to engage in a. capitalist war overseas. The honorable gentleman also said -
A list of reserved occupations is being compiled and will be published for information.
Before this debate closes the Minister should give us some indication of what these reserved occupations are.
– I shall do so.
– I am pleased to have that assurance from the honorable gentleman. I feel sure that, when the list is made available, we shall find that it has been so cleverly compiled as to provide even further protection for the friends of the Government. I oppose this measure not because I am hostile to the taking of a survey to ascertain the resources of this country, but because it is evident that the sole purpose of this bill is to ascertain something by means of which the workers of Australia can be readily conscripted in the event of an emergency. A true survey would include not only man-power but also resources of both primary and secondary industries and of wealth. All that this bill provides for, however, is a survey of manpower. Is it any wonder that we on this side are suspicious when we hear a speech such as that delivered by the Minister for Defence in which he admitted that this bill might be regarded in some quarters as the first step in the direction of industrial conscription ? We know that men of the generation to which the honorable gentleman belongs had to face a situation similar to that which confronts us to-day, and I, as a representative of the present generation, cannot allow this occasion to pass without declaring emphatically that the young men of to-day will not be prepared to give their lives, possibly, just to make the world a better place for vested interests. We refuse to sacrifice our homes, property and all that we hold dear. We know very well what would be the outcome of a world conflict, and we are not blind to what has taken place in Europe. We are not prepared to leave Australia’s shores, although I say without hesitation that, should war come into this country, we would fight to the best of our ability to defend it. My reading of the Defence Act convinces me that, by repealing section 49, the Government could, to-morrow if it so desired, conscript the man-power of Australia for service overseas.
– That would have to be done by Parliament.
– It has frequently been stated on the hustings, over the <air and in this Parliament that, living as we do under the British flag, we enjoy freedom and privileges that are not given to people in some other countries. But this measure, which, as I have said, is a step in the direction of the conscription of man-power, is an attempt to break down that freedom. If it is carried it will notbe long before other forms of compulsion will creep into our national life. Our democratic rights will be filched from us slowly, but none the less surely. This Government is drifting towards fascism. This measure is one which we would expect to see enacted in a totalitarian State.
The bill provides for the compulsory registration of men between the ages of IS and 65 years, and the Defence Act makes provision for the enlistment, in a time of emergency, of men between 18 and 00 years. The’ present state of world unrest is the direct result of control by international armaments ring. Following the passage of this bill, the next step towards conscription will be the introduction of compulsory military training, which, we know, is favoured by the Government. It hoped that Australian workers and their sons would not enlist in sufficient numbers in the voluntary militia. It has been disappointed; the total enlistments now exceed the ‘original quota. But how could this Government hope to introduce a compulsory training scheme when it is unable to equip members of the volunteer militia with uniforms, rifles and ammunition?
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. Recently, representations were made to the Government on behalf of militia recruits in Cairns, who complained bitterly about the lack of equipment. Can the Minister say how many rounds of 303 ammunition there are in the Cairns district? I believe that if a return were called for it would be found that there was not more than one round per man. Yet the Government talks of compulsory military training! That will come, however, as sure as this bill will go through Parliament, and subsequently there will be conscription by this “ roundthecorner “ method.
The bill also provides that youths must register within 30 days of attaining the age of eighteen years, and that youths between the ages of 18 and 21 must notify any change of address. That is another indication of what is in the mind of “the Government. The majority of youths between those age limits are as yet unskilled; they are learning their trades or professions. It is the most important period of their lives. Why is this particular section of the community singled out? If a national register is to be compiled, it. should provide for notification to be made by all men whose names appear on it. These are the things-that make the Opposition suspicious of this measure.
The bill makes provision for the appointment of a board to consist of a representative of the Defence Department, who will be chairman,’ a representative of the Depart men of .Supply and Development, and the Commonwealth Statistician. It enacts further that there shall be an executive officer of the board. Who is this executive’ officer? What, will be his duties? Will he be a member of the Commonwealth Public Service? We know from experience of this Government and its predecessors, that when a position such as this’ is created its occupant is usually selected before the legislation is introduced to Parliament. Apparently this board will be constituted on the lines of a board of directors, similar to directorates of which several Government supporters are members. The bill also empowers the board to demand additional information from any person who registers. Not satisfied with the information asked for in the bill itself, the board is to be authorized to make any other inquiries it thinks fit. To my mind, the whole thing savours of fascism, or worse; it is like the Spanish Inquisition brought up to date. The bill empowers the Governmnent to pry:into the private affairs of all men between the ages of 18 and 65 years.
– So does any census; so does the Income Tax Act.
– This is not a census, this is” a sectional thing. A census is something that applies to every man, woman and child. This is an inquisition into the private affairs of certain sections of the community, and those only. The Prime Minister says that he has faith in the people of Australia. He has appealed to their sporting spirit to cooperate with him in these trying times. He says that we must have freedom of speech - that our free institutions must not be challenged, yet he brings down a measure providing for compulsory registration. Is he afraid that the people will not support him ? If he knew anything of the sacrifices the workers had made in the years from 19.14 to 1918, he should have no fear of the response of the- people when they are appealed to in the proper way. Australians enlisted in’ their hundreds of thousands when Australia was in danger, and they are just’ as ready to respond again, but they will not be driven. I can see what is behind this measure. This is an example of fascist rule, towards which the present Government has been tending ever since the last elections. Apparently it is not prepared to’ trust the people. The workers have never let Australia down. That was demonstrated on Gallipoli and in Prance. They are always prepared to assist in any movement for the protection of Australia, In contrast with this, however, “we have a record of vested interests which, time and time again, have let Australia down. During the last war,- when the workers were dying overseas to . make the world safe for democracy, the wealthy interests were reaping a harvest from the war loans and profits. During the economic depression the same people, or people of the same class, opposed every proposal for a reduction of interest rates. One does not need to be a wonderful prophet to foretell that this national register will prove to be but the first step towards compelling the workers to” sacrifice their lives, if need be, in defence of the factories and investments of the wealthy classes, The workers will not be asked to make that sacrifice; they are to be compelled. A true survey of Australia’s resources would necessarily include a register of wealth, but the Government is apparently frightened that, if a survey of wealth were made, the people would wake up to the fact that they are being exploited. Why could not the Government introduce a voluntary register? The system of voluntary military training has proved successful, and has been endorsed by the people. Of course, it is obvious that information sought under this measure is wanted for an ulterior purpose. The Minister is to have power to divulge the information obtained through the register, another indication of the drift of this Government towards fascism. The Minister is also to have power to say whether or not persons shall be prosecuted. Clause 24 is simply reprinted from the Crimes Act. It creates no new offences. It is very similar to the Queensland criminal code. But clause 26 may well be described as the straw that breaks the camel’s back. This
Government is always telling us to tune in to Great Britain, but clause 26 provides that a man charged with an offence is not to be regarded as innocent until he is proved guilty, which is the British way, and the onus is on him to prove himself innocent. That is the negation of British justice. Section 27 provides for the making of regulations, but we, who are now considering this bill, have no knowledge of what may be contained in those regulations. We hope that the Minister will give us an opportunity to discuss them.
I am opposed to this measure because it is not democratic. If there is to a census, or a complete record, let us have it by all means; not a half-baked proposal of this kind which is sectional in its application. , It does not apply to the whole of the community, and no register of wealth is to be made. The Supply and Development Bill, which has just passed through this House, made no provision for a register of wealth, but merely provided for attaching defence annexes to private factories. It was simply a hand-out to private enterprise.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! The honorable member is not in order in discussing that bill.
– The Labour party is not opposed to the making of an effective survey of our national resources, but. it is opposed to this bill, because it is incomplete and sectional in its application, and because of its compulsion on a certain section of the community.
– by leave - I have received a further telegram direct from Mr. Percival on the flying boat Guba. It is as follows : -
The Guba. is now approximately 270 miles from Soenda Strait. At 0,100 feet, conditions of heavy cloud and haze. There is ample fuel in the tanks to make Batavia. The Netherlands Indies civil aviation authorities have been radioed for permission to alight there. Engines running smoothly and all well.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that this measure is not exactly what it might appear to be. It has been described as the first step towards industrial conscription; I prefer to regard it as the second step towards that end, because the Government took the first step when it introduced the Supply and Development Bill. The Labour party objects very strongly to this bill. We believe it to be part of the Government’s plan to establish industrial conscription, and regard it as the forerunner to military conscription. We also strongly object to it because it contains no provision to take a census of wealth. I am not very greatly influenced by the alleged authorities which were quoted by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) with respect to the Government’s intention, because we have too often heard leaders of the Government give assurances in certain directions and subsequently seen them adopt a contrary policy. I have been reliably informed, for instance, that the honorable member for Perth himself supported conscription a few years ago. If he believed in such a policy then and supported it, it is quite obvious that he is not to be relied upon when he suddenly appears as an opponent, of conscription. I should like the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to explain why the Government became aware so suddenly of the necessity for altering its policy in this matter. When Cabinet met early this year in Hobart, it favoured the establishment of a voluntary register, and official statements were issued setting out reasons why the Government was against a compulsory register. However, for some reason unknown to the general public, it suddenly decided: to reverse its policy, and establish a compulsory register of national resources. Will the Minister inform the House why the Government altered its policy so suddenly in this regard? The voluntary register had not been given a trial, and in view of Cabinet’s decision at its meeting in February last in Hobart, I should like to know why, without any test whatever, it deserted that proposal. It is well known that several Ministers have always been conscriptionists, and it would appear that, when they were able to exercise greater influence following the reconstruction of Cabinet, they decided upon a compulsory register. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, was originally a strong supporter of the proposal for. a voluntary register. I point out this fact in order to show how little we can rely upon the words of leaders of governments when they are dealing with so important a matter as this. Giving his reasons for a compulsory register after he was converted to that proposal, Mr. Lyons said that it was required for the following purposes : -
To establish an individual record of the skilled persons in the schedule of reserved occupations, so as to ensure! -
Analysing that statement closely, it is evident that something more is desired by this Government than a census of the national resources and man-power in order that we may be enabled effectively to organize our defence. I should like the’ Minister to explain just what is meant by the words of the late Prime Minister which I have just read - “ That persons in factories, annexes and essential industries remain at their work, and that the additional members required are allotted from non-essential industries and general production”. . To what spheres are these additional men to be’ allotted? Why should we need to release them if it be not for military service? Tho Minister might also explain exactly in what circumstances the Government will consider it necessary to apply the provisions of this measure. It is true that many statements, such as those quoted by the honorable member for Perth, have been made’ regarding the attitude of the Government on this matter. The late Prime Minister was reported in the Age, Melbourne, on the 20th October^ 1937, during the election campaign in that year, as saying -
The people can take my pledge - conscription will not bc put into force. In case of necessity the men of Australia would not have to have conscription imposed.
Speaking in Brisbane about the same time the late Prime Minister further stated -
The Government has no intention of ever introducing conscription. It is satisfied with the voluntary system.
Will the Minister explain whether or not the Government has altered its policy in this respect? Has it decided that the voluntary system is useless? Has it deserted the voluntary system? If it is determined to continue with the voluntary system what is the necessity for this measure? If it is not tho intention of the Government to use the information which it secures through this register for the purpose of imposing conscription, what is the use of it? What is the use of obtaining information compulsorily unless the Government intends to take what will then be the logical step of using such information for the purpose of compelling men to render service as workers or as soldiers? In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
The object of setting up an organization to register the man-power of the nation is to ensure that, as far as possible, every man shall he allocated to the task for which his training and avocation best fit him, so that the utmost value in service will be available to the nation to meet an emergency.
Is the emergency to which he refers to apply only when this country is faced with invasion, or will it be an emergency of the kind which has occurred so frequently in recent weeks? We know that this legislation has been introduced on the pretext that happenings on the other side of the world have given rise, according to the Government, to an emergency. Exactly in what circumstances will the Government declare that an emergency has arisen in order to provide itself with an excuse to impose industrial conscription, and conscription for military service overseas? It is useless for honorable members opposite to deny that the Government intends to impose conscription for overseas military service. The most important thing, unfortunately, is that the Government has power to impose conscription for military service overseas without making any appeal at all for the approval of the people. It can take such action by virtue of a majority in this Houseby amending existing legislation. If theGovernment is sincere in its declarations on this matter and if it does not intend to introduce conscription for military service overseas, I should like to know why I and other honorable members have failed in questions directed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to secure information regarding its powers in this direction under the Constitution, despite the fact that the Prime Minister is alleged to be one of the best constitutional “ brains “ in the community. No member of the Government has been prepared to assert that a safeguard now exists in the Constitution against any attempt to impose conscription for military service overseas. If this Government were sincere in this matter it would immediately give to the people an opportunity to place this safeguard definitely in the Constitution. The honorable member for Perth said that all honorable members were aware that the majority of the people of Australia is opposed to conscription tor overseas military service. That is true. In my constituency, for instance, the majority is opposed to it, but I am not so certain that a majority of the members of this Government is opposed to such a policy. Therein lies the real danger. Although the majority of the people is opposed to such a policy and might elect representatives to this Parliament to uphold that view on such an issue, nothing in the Constitution compels any Government to enact only that legislation which has been approved by the people at the ballot-box. We known that governments are prone to depart from policies on which they are elected. Honorable members may be elected to this Parliament as anticonscriptionists, but a government which they support might, on the plea that unforeseen circumstances have arisen, declare that it has no alternative but to impose conscription for overseas military service. In such circumstances all of the declarations made by honorable gentlemen opposite are of no avail, if they fail to place this issue directly before the people and undertake to give effect to the people’s verdict. Let us examine the position as it exists at the moment. The honorable member for Kennedy said thai there should be no objection to the organization of industry on a basis that would enable us to implement the most effective defence plan possible. Where the defence of Australia is concerned there can be no real argument against any effective plan for the protection of our shores, but has this Government ever displayed any ability in providing such a plan? It says that it must have a. register of all of our skilled employees, and also a plan to allocate them to spheres where their services can best be utilized; yet to-day 29,000 unemployed skilled Australians are registered for employment at the Government’s own munition factories.
Mr.Street. - Not skilled.
– The Minister will admit that many of them are skilled workers.
– Very few of them.
– So long as the Government allows any skilled artisan to remain unemployed it is not giving effect to any plan for the adequate defences of this country. Only to-day an honorable member brought under the notice of the Government the fact that many hundreds of our skilled workers are leaving Australia to take jobs in another dominion simply because anti-Labour governments here are not prepared to provide them with opportunities to earn a. livelihood. When the Government speaks of an emergency, does it not consider that an emergency has arisen in the life of an individual member of the community when he cannot secure employment in order to provide the necessaries of life for those dependent upon him. It isto the discredit of the Government that the only time that we can expect the labour power of the country to be fully utilized is when Australia is said to be in danger of attack. If the Government were genuinely anxious to defend
Australia, it would take steps to develop the continent, for the country’s best defence will be provided by industries so developed as to enable them to maintain a much greater population. If the Government were in earnest about the defence of Australia, it would take a census of wealth, but there is no suggestion that it be undertaken. Only those who have their labour to sell, and possess no other assets, are to he called upon to train, principally in their own time, in order to become an effective unit in the country’s defence. Should war come ho will be called upon to risk his life, and should he come through the war unharmed he will be expected to return to industry, when, out of the wealth which he assists to produce, he will be called upon to pay for the war in which he risked his all. Australia is still staggering under the burden of the cost of the last war. If the Government genuinely believed in equality of sacrifice, it would call upon the wealthy people in our midst to make their contribution. In his second-reading speech, the Minister said that provision for defence was in the nature of an insurance policy for Australia. An insurance policy for whom ? If the matter were determined according to present-day insurance practice, the workers would not have to pay high premiums in order to obtain policies to cover their meagre possessions; but the wealthy people in the community, who own the country’s industries and control its financial institutions, would have to pay enormous premiums for their assets in the country to be guaranteed.
– 41 hey make their contribution by way of taxes.
– Let us examine the Minister’s statement. The cost to Australia of the Great War already totals £540,000,000, exclusive of the cost of war service homes. Interest and sinking fund represent approximately £345,000,000, whilst the annual interest burden, which the people are still called upon to pay, is about £9,350,000. A great deal of .the expenditure on. war was paid out of revenue, but that does not necessarily mean that the sacrifice was equitably shared, for in the final analysis the cost of every war is borne by those who constitute, in a financial sense, the lower strata of society. The workers pay the whole cost of every war. Although interest and sinking fund payments in respect of internal war loans total £29S,000,000 to date, there is still £179,000,000 owing. According to the latest figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, every child born of Australian parents enters the world bearing a debt for war purposes alone of approximately £39. In view of the fact that the community generally is still paying for the last war, how can the Minister claim that that influential section which supports bis party has paid the cost? The big financial interests have no true patriotism; they respond to the country’s call only if their own financial interests will be served thereby. Unless they can be shown that war loans represent a good and secure investment, with regular payments of interest guaranteed by the Government, their response is poor, notwithstanding that the money may be wanted for the country’s defence. Many of the loans which have been floated since 1 932 have been under-subscribed, notwithstanding that an examination of the advertisements in respect of many of them would show that the Commonwealth Treasurer pointed out that the money asked for was necessary for the development of the country’s defences. Let us see how the wealthy people of Australia responded to those appeals : -
Those subscriptions are exclusive of contributions by the Commonwealth Bank.
– The loans could not have been attractive, or they would have been fully subscribed.
– The honorable member’s interjection supports my contention that those who have money to lend, and would be the greatest losers in the event of Australia ‘being successfully invaded, subscribe to defence loans only when the terms of such loans are attractive as a financial investment. They do not contribute out of any sense of real patriotism. Even if there were no interest at all on such loans - and, in my opinion, defence loans should be free of interest - these wealthy gentlemen, who are regarded by the Government as patriotic and publicspirited citizens, should still have made their contributions and caused the loans to bc over-subscribed. The reason that the loans were under-subscribed is that they did not offer a sufficient ‘financial inducement to these people. The only way to get them to assist in the defence of the country is to offer th&m high interest rates. In an emergency, when the call on the wealth of the country is greater than in normal times, these wealthy interests take advantage of the situation. A study of happenings in Australia during the last war will show that the greater the difficulties of the country, and, therefore, the greater its need for the support of its wealthy citizens, the higher were the rates of interest demanded, by them.
– I hope that the honorable member intends to connect his remarks with the bill.
– According to the Minister, this bill aims at the efficient organization of the country for its defence. There can be no efficient organization without a census of its wealth. The Government is failing in its duty if it does not provide for such a census. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th January, 1 939, as having said at a recruiting rally:-
If wo have the right to call upon the youth of tho country then we also have the right to call upon the wealth of the country.
At that time the honorable gentleman was a private member of this Parliament ; I wonder what his views are now that he is a member of the Cabinet?
In my opinion, this bill seeks to establish a military dictatorship in Australia. The Minister may attempt to ridicule that contention, but I shall endeavour to show from his own bill that it is well founded. This measure provides for the setting up of a National Register Board which will consist of one representative of the Defence Department who shall be its chairman, a representative of the Department of Supply and Development and a third member who shall be the Commonwealth Statistician. As the Department of Supply and Development will be an auxiliary of the Department of Defence, there will really be two defence officers on the board. There is to be no limit to the inquiries which the board may make into the private affairs of citizens. It is true that, following protests by the Opposition to such, provisions, the Minister has circulated a number of amendments which purport to place a limit upon the inquisition that may take place. The Deputy Leader of’ the Opposition (Mr. Forde) pointed out that the inquiries need not be limited to the questions set out in the schedule to the bill, as there existed power to alter them from time to time.
– The proposed amendments were circulated before the Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke.
– They were circulated only after the protest of the Opposition became known to the Minister. Let us examine whether the proposals of the Minister will be effective in preventing any extension of the inquisitorial prying into the circumstances of any individual member of the community. Clause 16 reads - 10. (1) A census or censuses of male persons or classes of persons who have attained tho age of eighteen years and have not attained the age of sixty-five years shall be taken in such States, Territories or parts of the Commonwealth and on such day or days or within such period or periods as the Governor-General by Proclamation directs.
Clause 17 says - (1.) The Commonwealth Statistician shall, subject to any proclamation and to the directions of tho Minister, prepare forms and instructions, and take all necessary steps, for the taking of any census directed to be taken under this act. (2.) The forms so prepared shall be made available at post offices and postal receiving offices throughout the Commonwealth, and at such other place or places as the Minister directs.
There is no mention in this clause of the form prescribed in the schedule. The clause merely states that the census forms shall be prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician subject to proclamation and directions given by the Minister.
– I am advised that that is not so.
– The Minister denies it, but I am quoting from the bill and I defy the Minister to place any other interpretation on the clause. There is no limit on the inquiries that the military police will be able to make into the private affairs of members of the community, because we find that clause 20 reads - _ For the purpose of any inquiries or observations necessary for tlie proper carrying out of this act or the regulations, all persons shall, when required by the Commonwealth Statistician or by any officer authorized in that behalf in writing by the Commonwealth Statistician, answer questions and produce documents within such time as the Commonwealth Statistician or the authorized officer thinks fit.
Power is to be given for the delegation of authority by the Commonwealth Statistician who could, and no doubt would, delegate it to military officers. We know what happened during the last war when we had our War Census Act and our War Precautions Act. Decent citizens were disturbed at all hours of the day and night and their possessions were turned over because the government’s officers were seeking evidence - its nature was never disclosed - in the hope that they would be able to procure the conviction of decent persons for the mere reason that their political beliefs were opposed to those of the government of the day. Who is to know that this Government will not use its powers to the full? The chairman of the National Register Board no doubt will be a military officer and as such he would not be concerned about the opinions of the elected representatives of the people in Parliament. That board may delegate its powers to certain military gentlemen. We know exactly to what the unfortunate citizens would then be subjected.
The Minister said by way of interjection to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that it was not the intention of the Government to introduce conscription or to use this measure for that purpose. He said that that would be against the policy of the Government. If such be the case, why has that clause 23 been included? It reads -
Any male person who has attained the age of eighteen years, or who, after the commencement of this act, attains the agc of eighteen years, and has not attained the age of 21 years shall, within 30 days of any change occurring in his address, notify that change of address in the prescribed manner.
The Minister told the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), “ That is only to bridge over the gap from IS to 21 years, when they would ordinarily become enrolled and information concerning the change of address would become available to the Department.” The Minister also said “ This register will not be for the purpose of getting information in order to introduce conscription; it is designed to assist in organizing industry”. I wish the Minister could indicate to honorable members in what trade or calling he considers that a youth of eighteen could be skilled. Why, most youths of that age are only starting to learn a trade and do not become skilled until they are much older. If the bill were only for the purpose of organizing industry, there would be no need to begin the registration of men at the tender agc of eighteen. But it is “ not. The eighteen-year-olds constitute the first class to be called up in a conscript army. The people and honorable members themselves, therefore, should have no hesitation in concluding what is behind the introduction of this measure. The Minister will have great, difficulty in explaining, if this bill is only for the purpose of organizing industry, why it is necessary to have a check on the youths of from 18 to 21 years of age, because he must admit that few of them would possess any skill in their trades or occupations. How can the Government expect to succeed with a measure, the purpose of which is industrial and military conscription? In spite of their protestations about not supporting the policy of conscription, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his colleagues recognize that a great section of the community is suspicious of this Government. Experience of its inept handling of problems gives the community every right to mistrust the Administration. If the Government believes that the workers would not voluntarily supply information to be placed on a national register, how does it expect to obtain it compulsorily against the opposition of the general community? Cbe Minister for Defence cannot point to any speech made by any member of his party in the last election campaign in which an indication was given to the general public that the Government intended to introduce such a measure as this. The Government talks about maintaining respect for democratic institutions. How can there be respect for alleged democratic institutions, when a party elected on a particular policy departs from it immediately it takes control of the treasury bench? This Government has no mandate for this bill. Such a proposal was never placed before tlie electors or approved by them, and, in my opinion, the true democrats outside this Parliament will be doing1 more to uphold the principle of democracy by preventing this Government from achieving its purpose under this measure than by meekly submitting to it. The workers have effective ways to prevent the Government from imposing its will upon them. The Australian people will not weakly yield to enforcement of the Government’s militaristic policy. The Government can drive them to the machines, tie them to the machines if it likes, but it cannot make them use the skill which they possess in operating those machines. The workers of this country would be ready if the occasion arose, voluntarily to defend the country against an invasion-, yet this Government thinks it necessary to introduce compulsion under this measure. I heard on one occasion an eminent gentleman say that if ever the occasion arose when men would not voluntarily defend their country it would be because the time had arrived when the country was no longer worth defending. When the workers are needed to defend this country, they will refuse to allow the continuance of exploitation of themselves and their dependants. Does the Government imagine that they are content to become trained and skilled in the use of arms and use them only when a small, influential coterie in the community demands that they be used? The workers are prepared to defend this country, but do not imagine that they will allow the continuance of the state of affairs that has existed h recent years. The workers are not unreasonable when they demand that, whether it be war-time or peace-time, they have the right to live as human beings. They want those who are by reason of age or infirmity, unable to take employment to be provided with sufficient income to enable them to live on a like standard with the rest of the community,. But what is the attitude of this Government with respect to these questions? ThePrime Minister has definitely refused even to .consider an increase of the rate of invalid and old-age pensions; he did not say that that was because of any financial difficulties confronting the Government. In reply to a question which I asked, he said that the Government would not even consider an increase of the rate of pension. The right honorablegentleman told the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that he was not prepared to do anything to assist the unemployed. Yet he appealed to the people’ssporting spirit. The people of this country, he said, had an inherent sportingspirit and because of that he appealed tothem. We do not want weak, sentimental appeals from a supine Prime Minister. What the workers want, and will demand when they are strong enough to do so, issocial justice. Why should the children of the workers have inflicted on them such misery and degradation as exists in Australia to-day? What has this Government done in the way of national planning toend that? The people in New South Wales are pleading with the State and the Commonwealth Governments for funds toenable the heating of schools so that children may receive their education in comfort; an appeal came from Melbourne for a few thousands of pounds for the supply of milk to needy children, but the Commonwealth Government said that it had no funds available for that purpose.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s references are rather wide of the bill.
– They may be, but they are pertinent to present circumstances. This Government has appealed for the co-operation of the general community, but unless it can prove that it is prepared to give to the people something more than has been their lot for many years, it cannot expect that co-operation. This Government has lost the confidence and support of the people. Every by-election that has been decided in recent months has been lost by the Government, and with a few more by-elections we should have a .change of government. It has lost seats which were formerly strongholds of the United Australia party, proving conclusively that the Government’s policy is not approved by the people. The Government sent the Prime Minister to Wilmot.
– I contend that I am able to show that this measure has not the support of the community. The voice of the people must be heard in this democratic chamber. The people have no other means of expressing their will than through the ballot-box and we must be guided by their recent decisions. The policy of the Government has been rejected by overwhelming majorities, at the by-elections.
– The Chair insists that this measure has no relation to the- by-elections which have taken place.
– As a member of the Labour party, I am convinced that this Government is out to impose industrial and military conscription on the people and that this measure is as much a part of its plan as was the last measure passed by this chamber. The Government uses high-sounding titles. The last hill was entitled “ A bill to establish a department of Supply and Development “. This bill is “ A hill for an act for the establishment of a national register “. They are complementary measures and are part and parcel of the Government’s policy to inflict conscription on the people. I ‘hope that the Opposition will not be carried away by the weak arguments of the Government supporters, who say “ Oh, yes, but members of the Labour party have expressed themselves as approving of some form of national survey”. The Labour party has a definite policy with respect to the marshalling of the resources of this country, but not only for the building up of war machines ; it believes that the whole of the resources of the country should be marshalled and organized to end want, misery and degradation. Labour hopes to organize the community in peace as well as in what the Minister describes as times of national emergency. But what does the Government propose? It says “ Yes, we shall have national planning “. What does that mean but to give to those who control private industries additional opportunities to exploit the general community, and give to the workers nothing more than the right to serve when the master says that they must serve.
– I intend to support this measure, which provides that a census shall be taken of Australia’s man-power for economic and defence purposes. Several amendments are essential, because the schedule is not sufficiently comprehensive to enable the Government to obtain fill the information it may require. If provision be not now made for all that may bc required the Government will have to obtain parliamentary approval of any additions to the questions in the schedule because the scope of the census should not be extended merely at the will of the executive.
– Under the amendment circulated that could not be done.
– I accept the assurance of the Minister (Mr. Street), but I believe that there is still some doubt on that point. I assume that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who referred at length to conscription, refers to. conscription for service overseas, not for service within Australia. . I would favour the introduction of legislation to provide that Australia’s manhood shall not be conscripted for service overseas, and I believe that the Government and, in fact, the members of all political parties in this chamber, are opposed to such a policy.
– When did this change occur ?
– If Australia were at war or threatened with invasion, sections of all classes would voluntarily offer their services, as they have on other occasions, in the defence of this country, but under the voluntary system some make great sacrifices whilst others who are equally able to serve take no risks or responsibility whatever.
– That can still be done under this measure, because provision is made foi certain persons to be exempt.
– There is still opportunity to amend the hill in that respect. Surely the honorable member for East Sydney will not suggest that political considerations were of any consequence during the Great War, because men of all classes willingly volunteered for service in the interests of the nation. If we should ever have to fight for our existence, and retention of the privileges which we now enjoy, all sections should shoulder the responsibility. Any man who is not prepared to fight for his country does not deserve the liberty which he enjoys. [Quorum formed.’] I remind the honorable member for East Sydney, who referred to the fact that a number of loans raised recently for defence purposes were under-subscribed, that in 1915 I suggested that contributions to war loans should be compulsory, that the rate of interest should be low and that subscriptions to the loan .should be on the basis of income. During the world war a grave mistake was made, both in Australia and in Great Britain, by neglecting to provide for compulsory subscription to war loans. I and many others’ mortgaged our homes to raise money for investment in war loans, whilst others who refused to contribute received 10 per cent., 15 per cent., and even 20 per cent, on other investments. When a final adjustment was made under a conversion loan, those who had contributed to war loans had to accept a reduction of interest, whilst those who had not subscribed one penny in that way were allowed to retain the huge profits made from other investments. I intend to support the amendment which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has foreshadowed - that a wealth census also shall be taken. If the Government should oppose such an amendment it will rightly be charged with introducing the bill with the sole object of securing particulars of Australia’s man-power, regardless of the wealth resources of the nation. Every preparation must be made for the protection of this country, because should Great Britain be involved in war, Australia will have to defend itself. The honorable member for Perth cited a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and published in the Canberra Times, in which he outlined the defence policy of the Labour party. Strangely enough, it embodies exactly what the Government proposes to ‘ do under this bill. On the 7th. December, the Leader of the Opposition also said -
Tlie Government has the paramount responsibility to do its utmost to bring its best judgment to bear on this subject/and to ensure that no lack of preparation shall impair this country should it be raided or invaded.
The strongest opposition to this measure is coming, not from the members of the Labour party in this chamber, but from the trade union movement. It is difficult to understand why the Opposition should be opposed to the Government obtaining information that will ‘be of vital interest to Australia in an emergency. The honorable member for Perth quoted a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition recommending the policy contained in this hill. The paragraph I quoted is to the same effect. Why then does the Labour party oppose the measure? The Government should introduce universal military training. Should this country be invaded, the Government would, under the present system, be compelled to send untrained men into the firing line, whereas if universal military training were in force a comparatively large number of trained men would be available for active service.. It would be criminal to ask un trained men to attempt to resist an invading army of trained soldiers. I know from experience that universal training is strongly favoured by many young men. My own sons, and others with whom I have conversed, said that they enjoyed it, and were sorry when it was suspended. Under such a system all classes share the responsibility and it tends to create a fraternal feeling among the lads. I am afraid that propaganda is being used against this measure merely to embarrass the Government, and not because of what the bill contains. I support the bill, and hope that it will meet with the approval of a majority of honorable members.
.- I do not agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), that propaganda is being used against this measure merely in order to embarrass the Government. Surely the ‘ honorable member is aware that the members of the Labour party, and those whom they represent, are always anxious to do their utmost to ensure the effective defence of Australia, but they are opposed to compulsion. Having perused the bill very carefully, I cannot understand why it has been introduced, particularly as Australia does not appear to be in any danger. As the information supplied to this House, and the news from abroad, do not suggest that there is any possibility of this country being attacked, it is difficult to understand why the Government should insist on the passage of a bill providing for the compulsory registration of Australia’s manhood. The Minister denied that registration is for economic purposes.
– It is an economic measure principally ; we cannot, separate its economic aspects from its defence aspects.
– If, as we are now told, it is partly for economic purposes and partly for defence purposes, I challenge the Minister to show why there is any need for compulsion. I am here to represent the workers, who will suffer most in the event of war.
– The honorable member is supposed to represent the electorate of Denison.
– Yes, but the workers sent me to this Parliament. The bill is undemocratic. During the Great “War, when Great Britain required assistance, hundreds of thousands of Australians volunteered for service overseas and fought in Turkey, France, Palestine, and other countries. If there was no need for conscription then, compulsion cannot be justified to-day. Boys of eighteen years of age are to be compelled to register, not with the object of placing them in industry, but in order that they may be compelled to assist in the defence of this country. This Government has no plan for the absorption in industry of our unemployed youths; but it is quite prepared to conscript them for national service in a time of emergency. I have no doubt that the bill now before the House marks the first step towards the introduction of compulsory military training for all youths between the ages of IS and 21 years.
– Compulsory military training is advocated by the State Labour party of Tasmania.
– That is not so. In a speech at Deloraine during the Wilmot by-election campaign the Premier of Tasmania said that he supported the defence, policy laid down by the conference of representatives of the Australian Labour party at Canberra. My reply to the honorable member for Barker is that the electors of Wilmot returned a Labour candidate. Under this bill, the Government proposes to keep a check on the movement of youths from one State to another and from one town to another, but it is not prepared to do anything to find jobs for them. I compliment the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) upon having pointed out passages in the Minister’s second-reading speech which prove beyond reasonable doubt that the sole purpose of this bill is to conscript the unskilled workers of this country. I stand firmly behind those unfortunate* young men in this country who, through economic circumstances, have been robbed of an opportunity to learn a trade, and I shall do everything in my power to give them a fair measure of the good things of this life. I shall go out into the highways and the byways and tell the unskilled workers that in the opinion of the Government they are only fit for cannon fodder, and that they alone will have to bear arms for the defence of their country. What of the sons of the wealthy classes in this community? Will they have to shoulder a rifle and defend their country against an aggressor? Not at all; they will be classed as skilled persons or placed in the category of the professional men.
– They will be regarded a* key men.
– That is so. I have always opposed the ideals of the totalitarian States; I believe in democracy and the freedom of the workers. Even the Prime Minister has said thai; he believes that every man should have the right to say whether or not he should share in the defence of this country. The right honorable gentleman said that if the people are opposed to the compulsory registration of the man-power of this country his Government may as well “give up the ghost “. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the ghost of conscription is walking. The method of conscripting the workers which the Government is endeavouring to foist upon the people today is no different from that which the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) when war-time Prime Minister of Australia, endeavoured to foist upon the people in 1916. It will meet the same fate. If the Government is anxious to provide adequately for the defence of this country it should endeavour under a five years’ plan to raise a standing army of 50,000 trained men. The Minister shakes his head. What is wrong with that suggestion? I know very well that he will ask who is to pay for it. Why should not the wealthy people in the community pay for the protection which such a standing army alone could afford? That suggestion does not meet with the approval of the Government, because the cost of a standing army would mean the imposition of additional taxes on the wealthy friends of the Government, who live in the luxurious suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. The Government is not prepared to conscript the wealth of this country for defence purposes, because its very existence in office depends upon the support of wealthy people. We should have a highly-trained and mechanized army of between 50,000 and 60,000 men.
– Apparently we differ only on the matter of numbers.
– Has not the Minister been advised by his experts that Australia needs a standing army of that strength ?
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I am endeavouring to submit a method of providing for the defence of this country. Honorable membersopposite, with tongue in cheek, lave said that they support the system of voluntary ‘ enlistment, but, at the same time, they raise no objection to this national register of man-power. They have also said that no government has a constitutional right to compel Australian citizens to serve outside of this country. It has often been stated by the Minister that the Navy is our first line of defence. Is it denied that the men of the Navy will be the first to be sent outside Australia in the event of the outbreak of war in which the Empire is involved? The mothers of this country should be told that if they bring sons into the world who through no fault of their own are denied an opportunity to acquire skill in a trade, the Government will regard these young men merely as cannon fodder. Is it fair that certain people classed as being employed in key industries should escape liability for service in the event of an emergency, whilst unskilled workers are to be conscripted? What is wrong with the present militia system ? Although the response to the recent appeal for volunteers has been very generous, I understand that the system is to be abandoned because of pressure ‘brought upon the Government by its wealthy supporters.
– Did not the honorable member hear me give notice to-day of my intention to bring in a bill to amend the Defence Act?
– What do I know of that bill ? I have no .doubt that it is merely an attempt to play up to the Opposition. If the Minister is sincere in his endeavours to place the unemployed youth of this country in industry, he must be prepared to lay down a policy which will embrace plans for their training. I submitted to’ the House some time ago a plan for the employment of workless youths, and was told by the responsible Minister of the day that the employment of youths was the responsibility not of the Commonwealth, but of the States.
– Only the ‘other day a Sydney boy aged sixteen years committed suicide because he could not obtain work.
– That shows the state of mind to which these unfortunate youths are reduced. There is nothing in this bill to provide for the absorption of boys in industrial enterprises. When the history of this country is written no one shall be able to say that I helped to fasten conscription upon our youths. The former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, in a broadcast speech only a few days prior to his death, said that foreign capital was available for investment in this country. I understand that foreign capitalists have told the Commonwealth Government that conscription of the man-power of this country must be introduced in order to protect their substantial investments here in a time of emergency. If that is true, we should be rauch better off if foreign capital were kept out of Australia. This country should be able to finance its defence requirements through the Commonwealth Bank. When a Labour government is in office that, will be done. All necessary developmental works and defence measures will be (financed through the Commonwealth Bank, and a Labour Government will see that Australia’s youths have equality of opportunity for employment in this great country.
The Minister has said that conscription of private wealth is not necessary for defence purposes. The Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Ogilvie, has said that he would not support the proposed compulsory registration of the man-power of Australia unless plans were also made for the registration of our wealth resources. That is Labour’s policy. We believe that the wealthy people of this country - the idle rich who ride in their costly limousines to such luxurious places of entertainment as, say, the 40 Club - must be made to disgorge their wealth in the interests of the defence of Australia. If the Government is sincere in its expressed desire for equality of sacrifice, provision must be made for compulsory registration of the nation’s private wealth. Why should anybody be ashamed to have his wealth resources registered by the Government in case of national emergency?
– Some people might have to explain how they got their wealth.
– There may be something in what the honorable member for East Sydney has said. It is well known that the principal subscribers to defence loans are wealthy people, who invest in order to secure a high rate of interest. If the interest return is not good enough, they withhold applications, with the result that the government of the day is obliged to increase the rate of interest. This bill should include provision for the compulsory utilization of wealth, as well as man-power, in a time of emergency. People who subscribe to defence loans continue to draw their interest sometimes for an indefinite period after .the time of emergency has passed. For instance, interest is still being paid on loans raised over twenty years ago in connexion with the Great War, whereas the Commonwealth’s liability in respect of the worker who enlisted ceased, in many cases, when the soldier gave his life for his country. If the Government wishes to conscript the man-power of this country for use in time of war, it should also say to its wealthy supporters, who contribute to its election funds, “You must be willing to give your wealth in a national emergency, at a reasonable rate of interest for the period only of the war “. There can be no adequate compensation for the loss of a life> because human life cannot be assessed in terms of money.
The bill contains simple but wellconcealed provisions by virtue of which the Government will be able to maintain its hold over the people of Australia. We have been, told that the Government wishes to take the unemployed from the street corners and make men of them. To do that, it is not necessary to conscript them. When the need arises, the nien of this country will offer their services freely, as they did during the Great War, and they will do all that may be required of them. Compulsion is abhorrent to all true Australians. One could imagine that this measure had been conceived in the military cockpits of totalitarian states. Clearly, it has been inspired by those arch-traitors of democracy in England, who are working hand in hand with Hitler and the other dictators. International armaments manufacturers and financiers, who sponsor legislation such as this, have by their scientific methods of plunder extracted millions of pounds from the working classes of all countries. The plan for conscription provided for in this measure has been adopted by totalitarian states in Europe and elsewhere. Many months ago the Government allowed the people to become alarmed at the prospect of an early world war, clearly with the intention to introduce conscription, notwithstanding that it is unable to provide uniforms and equipment for militia recruits obtained under the voluntary system. The Government should take over all essential clothing factories and thus make sure that sufficient equipment is made available to men who have voluntarily offered their services for the defence of Australia. But the Minister is not courageous enough to do that. Under this bill, my boy and other Australian lads must be registered when they attain the age of eighteen years. It is all very well for Government supporters to claim that by opposing this measure, the Labour party is adopting obstruction tactics for the purpose of hindering the Ministry in carrying out its defence programme. I assure the Minister that that is not the* case. The questionnaire to be submitted to the people is iniquitous. It requires the person registering to state his mother’s name, his father’s name, where he was born, and so on. A man might be unable to furnish the name of his father, but he could make a good soldier. Such a question is an insult to Australian citizens. The Assistant Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Holt) is regarded as the big man of the future in the Cabinet. Apparently, he is the man who is going to blast the workers into submission. I submit that all the information which will be sought under this bill in connexion with unemployment could be obtained from the State governments.
– State governments have not all the data required.
– I say that they have. Every man over the age of eighteen years who is out of work, is registered when he applies for sustenance.
– And all the necessary information was obtained in the Commonwealth census of 1933.
– That is so. The taxpayers of Australia will be called upon to foot the colossal bill which this Government is incurring in the name of defence. The Ministers are holding on to office as long as possible by claiming that the country is in danger and so fostering a psychology of fear. If what I am saying is not true and if real danger exists, I challenge the Minister to assume immediate control of all essential industries. I would support legislation to that end. By introducing legislation such as this in order to put shackles on the workers, the Government shows itself in its true colours. The truth is that the country is becoming too democratic for this reactionary Tory Government, which sees the possibility of grave industrial upheaval unless the workers be suppressed. The workers in all countries are demanding peace. That this is the view of the great majority of Australian people was evidenced by the huge attendance at a peace gathering held in. Melbourne about a week ago, at which the Prime Minister was present. But in spite of this, the Commonwealth Government is preparing for war.
– For what does the honorable member suggest a standing army of 50,000?
– To ensure .world peace and the preservation of democratic rights. If that were the Government’s purpose, there would never be any difficulty in securing volunteers. If a standing army were paid on the same basis as the recently constituted Darwin garrison there would be no lack of volunteers. No trouble was experienced in securing over 70,000 volunteers for the militia.
– No trouble was anticipated.
– Then why is the Government bringing down a compulsory measure such as this?
– The honorable member should read my second-reading speech.
– I read the Minister’s speech, in bed and in the train, and I could find in it nothing relating to the real defence of this country.
It has been said that one volunteer is worth ten pressed men. If that is so, why is the Government now introducing this measure of compulsion? If the Government proposes to plan for the economic development of the country, let it do so on a comprehensive scale, and in such a way as to provide employment for the thousands of youths who leave school every year. Walking the streets of the city of Melbourne are scores and scores of college-educated boya with leaving certificates, who are unable to find work. Let the Government provide those boys with jobs ;ind give them something to fight for, and there will be no need to compel them to defend their country. Evidently the Government proposes to do the same as was done during the last war when it sent to every man cards inquiring why he had not enlisted. They sent one to me.
– The honorable member did not join up?
– I did not, and never once did the men who went to the waT ask me to go; it was those who stayed at home, the “ soolers “, who tried to make me go. This measure provides that all males over the age of eighteen roust register. Why put the age as low as eighteen ?
– They should be at school.
– Of course they should. They should remain at school until they are placed in industry. I do not understand how the Government can expect to get away with this measure, which will bring about its downfall yet. The workers, the trade unions, and private citizens by the thousand have asked me to do everything in my power to oppose the introduction of conscription. They do not want their ‘boys to be placed under the control of the swashbuckling military officers, to whom they will he handed over if this Government has its way. God forbid that my son should ever be left to the mercy of some of the military officers in the barracks at Hobart! If honorable members want to know why I am opposed to conscription, I shall tell them a story of what I know of some of those men.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– Surely I shall be permitted to state my objections to the introduction of compulsory military service. The Government evidently proposes to take these youths for training at an age when they require the greatest care and attention from their parents. It is at that age that youths become either good citizens or useless, and they will not be helped to become good citizens if they are left at the mercy of the military machine. We know that there would be grave danger of their suffering moral and spiritual injury. Whenever compulsory military training has been introduced, moral standards have deteriorated. The bill provides that if youths do not register they will be fined. The Government proposes to make little criminals of them under a new military code. I have travelled widely in Australia, and have spoken to thousands of men on this subject of the defence of Australia, and never once has a man said to me that it would be necessary to compel him to defend his country. I have asked them whether I could quote them as saying that, and they told me that I could. I have discussed this matter with some of the most radical men in the labour movement, and without exception they have all stated that they were ready to defend Australia under a system of voluntary enlistment, but that they will not support conscription. Members of the Government accuse the Opposition, of being opposed to the adequate defence of Australia, hut that is untrue. We favour adequate defence measures, but we are opposed to this bill because we know it to be a thinly disguised attempt to introduce compulsory military training. I have been authorized by the workers to use every means in my power to oppose this measure, and to appose compulsory training. All those who are opposed to the totalitarian system of government, with its brutal destruction of individual liberty, must necessarily be opposed to this measure. This proposal is directly opposed to the interests of the workers. It is a blow at their most cherished liberties. It is a proposal to hand the people over to the military caste. Under the guise of a simple, inoffensive hill for a national register, the Government is seeking to pave the way for the introduction of conscription. The workers will not be deceived, however. They recognize it for what it is - an attempt to impose totalitarian government upon Australia, and to rivet the shackles of conscription on the wrists of the workers. I oppose the bill.
Sitting suspended from. 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - For the information of honorable members, I wish to announce that word has just been received from Port Hedland that the flying boat Guba arrived safely at Batavia at 3.25 p.m.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [8.1].- The billbefore the House is to provide for the taking of censuses for the purpose of national registration, for the establishment of a national register and for other purposes. And the motion before us is that the bill be read a second time. I am opposed to the bill and to the motion. At the outset I should like to state my grounds of objection in general terms as follows : -
I shall take the first two of those propositions together. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), in introducing the bill, quoted from a speech made by himself last December, in which he referred to a speech delivered by the late Prime Minister (Mr Lyons) some time prior to that date as manifesting the snail-like celerity with which this Government is dealing with this extraordinary “ time of emergency.” He said -
The late Prime Minister said it is the intention to press on with the completion of plans for all phases of national activity in an emergency.
I have taken leave to say before that we have lived in a curious succession of emergencies for many months past. Even the last elections were conducted in an atmosphere of emergency. These fireworks seem to havebeen operated by somewhat dampened powder, and government crackers are now quoted at about two a penny in the matter of emergencies. If I may be allowed just a passing reference to the question of emergencies with which we are still dealing in this bill, I note that we are so far restored to normal that the Government is liable to switch off at a moment’s notice to, say, a fight for office, or the reconstruction of the remnants of national insurance, or the Sydney General Post Office contract, or margarine versus butter, or matters of that kind which are dull in the emergency market. My first point is that from, and including, the last elections the evidence is that the attempts of the Government to create and foster war hysteria are a record of failure and futility. I should not be permitted, I am sure, to go into details of history to justify that statement, but I may properly refer to them in general terms. As far back as the last general elections, on. an appeal to the people of the Commonwealth for the election of a Senate on the ground claimed by the Government that we were living in a time of great international unrest and that stable government was required, the overwhelming vote of the people was against the Government. In all of the by-elections since held the vote has gone against the Government, and, in addition, in the 1937 election the then Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, the head and front of the militarist propaganda, was himself defeated, together with a number of other members in another place who were active in imperialist propaganda. These facts to an individual in normal times would not, perhaps, have been peculiarly significant. There has been a general progress on the part of the Opposition and the Labour party, hut I should not claim, in normal times, that it was significantly great.
– As claimed by the Government, certainly the times are not normal ; they have been made abnormal by this Government. And having regard to the fact that the appeal has been in each of these cases to the patriotism of the people on the basis of a national emergency, and to the fact which was well stated by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), and which, I think, will be acknowledged by all - that in an emergency the people of Australia may ‘be absolutely relied upon to come to the service of this country - we can only rightly conclude that the people have not believed the Government. They have rejected its advice. They have turned it down on this question of international danger. There is no evidence anywhere that the country has accepted the judgment of the Government that there is a call for drastic militarist propaganda and action such as is involved in this bill. The dispassionate observer, therefore, must accept as true that the Government has no mandate for the continuation of intense militarist propaganda, and, further, that the electorate is unimpressed by every effort that the Government has made up to this time in that direction. Referring to his speech in December last, the Minister said -
Then I went on to say the widest steps necessary to implement the Prime Minister’s declaration are, briefly, (1) the organization of man-power and women’s voluntary effort
And a little later, in his modern version of the late Prime Minister’s speech, he said -
Action to put these necessary steps into effect has been taken, first of all, by the introduction of a women’s voluntary register and the compilation of this is now in progress.
I am sure that the ladies will be delighted to know that there is to be no compulsion upon them. That act of chivalry on the part of the Minister is entirely worthy of himself and of the Government, and I am sure a vote of thanks will be duly accorded him by the representatives of ladies’ organizations with which he is in great favour. The fact that the Minister declared there is to be no compulsion put upon the ladies to organize is a pretty broad hint that compulsion is to be put upon the men. That is the natural inference which we draw from the fact that no compulsion is to be put upon the ladies. I do not know why the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is so sensitive to even my mildest interjection.
– The honorable member is not present.
Mi-. BRENNAN.- I am sure that he is one of the vast army who Will read my remarks if they have been unfortunate not to be present to hear them. But this afternoon - and in some degree this applies also to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) - the honorable member for Swan said that so far from favouring conscription for overseas military service, he would be favorable to having a law passed to prevent it. He probably meant an amendment of the Constitution, because there is an existing law which prevents conscription for overseas service. The honorable member for Perth is also opposed to it. So are they all, “ who, you all know, are honorable men “, opposed to conscription for service overseas. I was so interested in the psychological development of the honorable member for Swan that I asked him politely, “ Since when has this change taken place?” His response was a display of petulance which, however, in characteristic style, I heartily forgive. I repeat the question: Since when have these gentlemen ceased to be compulsionists for overseas service? There may be something in the fact that both the honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for Swan come from Western Australia, for that State was a hotbed of conscription during the war. It remained conscriptionist to the last. The honorable member for Perth, who, on the warfront of home service, spoke eloquently and persuasively in favour of conscription, now declares that, in no circumstances, would he favour compulsory service for overseas. I have great respect for these honorable gentlemen, but, in the light of history, I cannot accept their word with regard to conscription for overseas service. My experience has been too bitter. We greybeards, or baldheads, as the case may be, have been through too much ; we remember, but we do not trust. That is my answer to the honorable member for Swan. I think that these gentlemen are like the character in Hamlet of whom it was said, “ the lady protests too much, methinks “.
I made another note while the Minister was speaking. He said -
At a conference held in this chamber at the end of March last, a firm basis was established for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in times of peace and war.
I sometimes think that it would be a good thing if the Hansard reporters were empowered, on certain occasions, to insert in parenthesis the word “Laughter” as an indication that an observation has been either not seriously intended or’ not seriously received.
– Onthe contrary, it was most seriously meant.
Mr.BRENNAN.- On a firm basis?
– At a conference between the Commonwealth and the States?
– It was a special conference.
– Was it the conference at which the right honorable, member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) presented his scheme out of which arose the Supply and Development Bill?
– The Minister may . think that I am wrong, but I remember the conferenceto which I am referring. 1 do not remember any conference between the Commonwealth and the States at which a firm basis for cooperation between them for the purpose of defence, was ever established, but I do remember a conference at which the right honorable member for Cowper submitted a thoughtful scheme of works and development which received but scant courtesy at the hands of those present. My recollection of it is that the representatives of each State made a bold bid for as much money as they could get for public works to provide work for the unemployed. On that occasion, Mr. Stevens, the Premier of New South Wales, propounded the new doctrine that, by means of a fiduciary issue, money should bo raised to meet the necessities of the unemployed.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– Obviously, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is short of ideas.
– I am not profoundly disturbed by the honorable gentleman’s interjection, but if I were short of ideas, that would be all the more reason why I should make the best of those that come to my mind. The address of the Minister - and this applies to most of the speeches by honorable gentlemen supporting the Government - contained frequent references to manpower and war material. For example, the Minister said -
The object of setting up an organization to register the man-power of the nation is to ensure that, as far as possible, every man shall be allocated to the task for which his training and avocation best fit him, so that the utmost value in service will be available to the nation to meet an emergency.
What strikes me about this debate is the curious attitude of the Minister at the table - whoever he may be - how objectively he refers to the “masses of mankind “. For instance, the Minister for Defence spoke of mankind as cattle apart, or material apart. He looks at mankind all the time from the outside. When he speaks of organizing man-power he does not say “.We shall organize ourselves”, or that “I, this Minister, and you, the members of this Parliament, and all of us human beings shall do certain things “. Instead, looking at the mass of mankind. - the cattle which are to be operated upon - and regarding mankind objectively, he says “We must organize this man-power, and this material, for the defence of the country.” But when it comes to saying in whose defence they are to be organized, he finds that that is a vastly different thing. We find that the organizing of man-power - these cattle and this material - is entirely designed for the protection and maintenance of the material goods possessed almost exclusively by those gentlemen who speak so glibly about “ the defence of this country “ when they mean the defence of themselves and their possessions. The masses are to he organized in their interests. They see things from the point of view of a bullock-driver in charge of a team of bullocks. When they say that men shall be allocated to the task for which they are best suited, they say, in effect : “ We shall put Ginger in the lead, and Baldy in the pole near the load, and Rough-neck in the middle “. The Minister is the picturesque gentleman who wields the whip with the long handle and the impressive lash for the purpose of organizing the man-power and the material in the load in the interests of this country, “which country we are,” as the oath taken toy every juryman puts it. At one stage during the Minister’s speech, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked : “ Is this an economic or a defence measure ? “ The Minister replied guardedly - if I do not quote him exactly he will be able to correct me - “ This is a measure which could be employed for the purpose of social betterment or uplift.” He did not claim that the main purpose of the bill was the betterment and uplift of the people, the improvement of their social conditions, and their rescue from the mire, but he suggested that in more sympathetic hands it might be so used.
– When Labour comes into power it will be so used.
– As the honorable member has so aptly indicated, a Labour government might employ this legislation, or a similar measure, to improve the lot of the common people.
– When Labour comes into power!
– I shall never occupy a place of power if the approach to it means adopting the policy favoured by the honorable gentleman. I would rather remain in opposition, as I have during most of my political life, than seek the prizes of office by the sacrifice of principle.
Under this legislation, a board is to be established. More will probably be said on that aspect during the committee stages. The chairman is to be a representative of the Defence Department, and the board itself will function under the Minister for Defence. These and other facts demonstrate conclusively that the bill is merely a measure of militarist propaganda.
– The honorable member has no proof of that.
– I did not expect the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) to understand it, but I claim to have demonstrated my point. About the third point - “ industrial matters “ - the honorable member for Perth gave us a little enlightenment when he asked, “ What is it but an inquiry as to the men we have and the niche into which we can put them “ ? I wonder could political impertinence proceed further than an inquiry as to the niche in which men are to be put. Has the honorable member ever read John Stuart Mill’s essay on “ Liberty “ ? Does he not know the fundamental principles of the human night? Does he know nothing as a lawyer of the basis of British jurisprudence? This is supposed to be a. democracy. The European democracies are endeavouring to present a combined front against the fascist countries. I assure my honorable friends opposite that my friends in the Opposition know perfectly well that the dividing line between democracy and fascism as understood by honorable gentlemen opposite is fine. Indeed, they are prepared to step over to the fascist ranks at the slightest hint of opportunities.
– On that reasoning the honorable gentleman would not accept Britain and France as democracies.
– I do not accept the honorable member for Barker as a democrat. Neither do I accept Britain and France as democracies. I accept them as capitalist, imperialist countries, whose governments are out of sympathy with the interests of the working class for whom I stand in this Parliament. I am not in the least interested in this Parliament to uphold the interests of capitalist imperialism in any part of the world. I am concerned to protect 60,000 electors and their young families, members of the working class, in the electorate which I represent. In this bill we find no single measure of social uplift, no relief of unemployment, uo intelligent inquiry, indeed, no inquiry as to how men may be best placed.
– Or where.
– Yes, or where they may be best placed in their own interests. There is no mention of reproductive or necessary work, nothing of that kind, no employment of the man-power and resources of Australia for the advancement and development of the rising generation, no scheme for the uplift of womanhood. There is only regimentation for the purpose of war against an unknown and an unthreatening enemy, and, incidentally, no time, no money for the creation of better relations with nations, neighbour nations, for example, but all time and all money for war mongering.
Finally, my fourth point is that this is unnecessary re-duplication for no purpose which is worth achieving. So far as it represents a census, so far as it represents useful information for the purposes I have mentioned, we already have a Census and Statistics Department employing capable officers and machinery, but the Minister tells us that a further ‘band of officers is to he employed in conjunction with that department.
– And in the Electoral Department.
– Yes. The Census Department is an intelligent compiler of useful information. At any rate, a new department and new employees are to be set up. There may be some consolation in that 30 or 40 jobs are created for the tens of thousands of people who aYe out of work and looking for jobs, but that will be a partial and, I fear, futile attempt to deal with the big problem. When these departments are scrapped and these attenuated emergencies have been finally thrown aside and cast into the bin as damaged electoral goods, what is to become of the thousands of people who are now employed in making munitions, in compiling registers, in the abortive national insurance, in the Department of Supply and Development? When all this hysteria has died down will it again be the sad fate of a Labour government to inherit the consequences of the misdeeds of its predecessor, and so earn the displeasure of the electors, as it -did before in similar circumstances. Because I do not believe that this bill contains any germ of usefulness for the people whom I represent, because Government policy is guided by war hysteria and because I feel that this House is wasting time instead of pressing on to do something of real benefit for a disappointed and disillusioned people, because the rising generation is clamouring for employment and opportunity and the adult generation - 29,000 people in the munitions works alone - is struggling to keep its employment or secure other work, and because this Government has neglected opportunities and is serving only personal ambition, I am opposed to the bill.
– I did not intend to intervene in this debate, and I have done so only because of the extraordinary charges made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), in particular against the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), but generally against supporters of the Government. The honorable member, placing himself on a pedestal, charged the Minister and the Government with hysteria. He charged us with the faking up of a sham emergency for some reasons unknown to him or unknown to us. I need only remind the honorable gentleman, and honorable members of the House as a whole, that this hysteria with which the honorable member charged us, this state of emergency which we declare, prevails to-day in almost every civilized country. I put it to the honorable gentleman and to. members of the Opposition that the attitude of the honorable member is his alone. “When the honorable gentleman declares that there is no danger to this country at present he not only is alone in this House and in this country, but also is practically alone in all the world.
Opposition Members. - Oh !
– Well, let us take some of these countries which we know are great peace-loving countries. Let us first consider the United States of America. There 130,000,000 people are in possession of a land the size of Australia. They are safe, one would say, if any people of the world are safe. But what is taking place? They are arming on a scale in peace time that they have never practised before. Why? Because either they read the sign of the. conditions of the world to-day correctly, or the honorable gentleman alone reads them correctly. Why should they bo proceeding to spend hundreds of millions of pounds sterling on purely defensive measures if there be no menace abroad? With their 130,000,000 of people, their great industries, their prodigious engineering works, their infinite man-power are they not incomparably safer than ourselves with our mere 7,000,000 people scattered thinly over the same area? Surely there is something more than hysteria in the policy of this Government with regard to preparedness for war. I tell the honorable member that there is in this bill something more than hysteria, something more than faking up and exploitation of the “ cattle “ « of this country, as the honorable member for Batman was pleased to term the multitude. Next let us consider France, because, despite the assertions of the honorable member for Batman that France is a capitalist and imperialist state and not a democracy, I venture to say that it is the grandest democracy in the world.
– I do not agree with that.
– True, there are capitalist influences in France to-day, but there are capitalist influences behind the Australian Labour party to-day.
– Who are they?
– They will be wooed for their money by honorable gentlemen opposite when the election? come round.
– Who are they?
– We all know who they are. Let us also consider Holland. Is Holland belligerent? Is it anxious to provoke war? No. If there be one peace-loving nation it is Holland. Yet it is arming up to the last penny that it can afford ; and what of the other countries right through Europe, those little countries like Poland and Roumania ? Is the menace that they believe they are under, the shadow that they believe they live under,, imagination and war mongering? Surely there is something more in it than that. Surely, in spite of what the honorable member for Batman said, there is, as every body knows, a real danger to the people of all of the smaller countries to-day. I believe, the Government believes and its supporters believe that there is a real and near danger for Australia.
The honorable member for Batman made a singularly bad choice when he described the Minister for Defence as a bullock-driver anxious to assemble and drive a team of bullocks. I hope I shall not embarrass the Minister. Everybody knows his war record. Since the war I doubt if any man in this country has given more time and capacity to the development of the militia forces than he. The honorable member for Batman made a singularly bad choice in his somewhat uncharitable - to put it mildly - attack on the Minister. It was unworthy of the honorable gentleman at his best, although it is quite fitting of him at his worst.
What would be the position of Australia in the event of a European war? Should Australia be raided or invaded - I do not think that the possibility of invasion is very great - we should probably lose our United Kingdom markets almost immediately, and there would be an immediate prostration of practically every rural industry in this country.
– Rubbish !
– Fully 50 per cent, of our total production and 95 per cent, of our export of butter goes to the United Kingdom, and 95 pei cent, of our export of frozen and chilled beef, and mutton and lamb is also disposed of in that market. If war should occur, ships might not be available to carry our primary produce to overseas markets, and our rural industries would be in a hopeless position. The excess production over the Australian market would be very heavy, which would mean an immediate fall of prices, and, in fact, the total collapse of prices within Australia. The purchasing power of the people would bc severely restricted, and manufacturing industries would lose at least 50 per cent, of their customers. Moreover, unless we were extraordinarily fortunate, 50 per cent, of our people would be thrown out of employment.
– Ah !
– The honorable member may say “ Ah “, but I am stating the truth. What is the objective of honorable members opposite who say that this country is not menaced? Why are we making determined attempts to defend Australia? It is not to win a war on Australia’s shores. Our objective is to build up the defence of this nation, within our financial power and capacity, so that we will appear unattractive to a potential aggressor. A potential enemy always measures another nation, not by its navy or by its air force, but by its effective man-power. That is the recognized standard by which Australia, would be tested. If we want peace - such as the honorable member for Batman and the rest of us pray for - our immediate duty is to demonstrate our fighting capacity. This is the first step towards that end. We are indicating to the world that we are moving towards the defence of this country, and surely our first step is to take stock of- our defensive, capacity. “ In endeavouring to do so, we should not engage in recreation or in dreaming, but should measure the strength of the forces at our command, and determine how they can be made available in the event of an emergency. If men are to be called to service, we must necessarily have a stocktaking so that we can decide who shall be employed in the manufacture of munitions, in conducting transport, and in all other classes of work other than fighting. To attempt to do that when danger was upon us would result in utter confusion, and it would he impossible to provide that measure of defence to which Australia is entitled. That is all that the Govern^ ment is endeavouring to do.
– Does not the Minister think that the first duty of the Government is the preservation of mankind - to make provision for those who are here?
– The honorable member contends that the first duty of the Government is the preservation of the people. That is our first objective.
– The Minister has misunderstood me.
– Civilization is menaced and Australia is in danger. In endeavouring to demonstrate our strength, our first duty is to prepare so that we shall be ready should an emergency arise.
– lt would be very interesting to know whether the views of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on the international situation and a national register are those of the Labour party. Despite the applause which came from the Opposition while the honorable member was speaking, I do not think that that honorable member expressed the considered views of his colleagues. It was not said that the Government was attempting to create a war hysteria immediately prior to the Munich conference, or when the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia on the 10th March or the Italians marched into Albania a month ago. No one can contend that the European situation is normal, and that there is no- need to prepare for the defence of Australia. The Leader of .the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) holds an opinion totally different from that of the honorable member for Batman because, on many occasions during the last two years, he has stated very plainly that it is absolutely essential that every preparation must be made for the defence of this country. In explaining the defence policy of the Labour party, the Leader of the Opposition said - ‘ 1 now present a programme as being Labour’s conception of Australia’s defence needs and which it will implement as a government. Survey of man-power and woman-power resources (industrial and primary), is essential that the number of men and women able to carry out all forms of work be known. The Labour party believes in organization, not disorganization. It would be fatal to have all the best men called up for active service, leaving industry at a standstill. There should lie an allotment of man-power and woman[lower between services and industry.
– Who said that?
– Those remarks were made by the Leader of the Opposition only four or five months ago. The Government is endeavouring to do what the Leader of the Opposition proposed. I thought that almost every one believed that we should have an inventory of the man-power resources of this country. Great Britain, Germany and Italy have had similar registers in operation for some time, and it is obvious that we cannot plan the defence of Australia unless we know exactly how many persons we have available, and the work which they are capable of performing. This proposal is not new to the Labour party because, in 1915, when a Labour government was in office, it introduced a bill in which provision was made to take a census almost identical with that now proposed. The policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition is similar in most respects to that proposed by the Lyons Government, which is now being sponsored by this Government. There should not be any need to argue as to the necessity for a register of our manpower, because the principle as approved by practically all sections of the community. There may be room for. discussion as to the method by which such an inventory should be obtained, but an effort should be made to secure the greatest goodwill and the maximum of unanimity as to the policy to be adopted. That is why the previous Government originally proposed a voluntary, instead of a compulsory, register such as that now proposed. It was thought that a voluntary register, although not so complete, would be more expeditious. Suggestions were made by the late Mr. Lyons, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) and the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey) how a voluntary’ register would enable us to get this information. An attempt was made to compile a voluntary register, but it was found that the complete co-operation which was looked for and was necessary in the community was not forthcoming. As nothing but a complete register would be of any value, it became necessary to provide for the compilation of a compulsory register.
– What attempt was made to compile a voluntary register?
– About a year ago, when an attempt was made to secure the co-operation of the great trade unions of this country for this purpose, the Leader of the Opposition said that in his opinion the method proposed was a good way to approach the matter. We all remember how the trade union leaders refused to co-operate with the Government on that occasion. An attempt was also made to secure the fullest degree of co-operation of employers, but it was found that, owing to the lack of complete co-operation, the whole field could not be covered. That being so, it seems to me that the bill now before the House presents the only possible means of obtaining this very necessary inventory of the man-power of the Commonwealth. I am sure that no patriotic or sane person in Australia believes that such an inventory should not be compiled.
– Quite a number of people do.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. In these circumstances I believe that we should make arrangements for the taking of a compulsory register. If the principle is agreed to, then we must do one of two things; we must either do what is proposed in this bill, that is, take a special partial census of the people of Australia between the ages of 18 and 65 years to enable us to know exactly what they are doing, or we must have a complete census of the whole of the people of Australia, including in the questionnaire the questions which appear in the schedule to the billnow before the House. This bill represents, in my view, an attempt to implement the decision of a previous government to compile the information necessary in a way that will he most satisfactory to the people generally. It represents an attempt to secure the goodwill of every section . and class of the people ofth is country. The bona fides of the Government are shown by the inclusion in thebill of a schedule which indicates the details that will he required, and by the undertaking given by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) that he will accept an amendment to the bill to provide that the terms of the document to be submitted to the people may he altered only by the consent of the Parliament. Could any faireror better attempt be made to secure the goodwill and trust of the people of Australia than is represented by the hill now before the House? Although the Leader of the Opposition agrees that the compiling of this register is inevitable and necessary, individual members of his party do not hold that view.
– The Leader of the Opposition is opposed to this bill.
– What will be the position if this bill is not made law? The taking of a partial census of the, people such as is envisaged in this bill is absolutely necessary in the public interest in order to determine the manpower resources of this country. As I have said, if the bill is thrown out, there is no alternative but to take a complete census of the people to include the questions contained in the schedule to this bill. The Government has power under the Census and Statistics Act 1905-1938 to take a. complete census of all citizens and to put any questions it wishes to the people. Section 8 1 of that act provides -
The census shall he taken in the year One thousand nine hundred and eleven and every tenth year thereafter or at such other time as is prescribed.
It will be seen, therefore, that the Government already has authority to prescribe that time at which a census shall be taken. Section 16 of the act provides -
The Statistician shall, subject to the regulations and the directions of the Minister, collect, annually, statistics in relation to all or any of the following matters: -
Paragraphl evidently refers to matters prescribed by executive council minute. So that the position is that the Government would be able to deal with this matter in a very broad way under the Census and Statistics Act if the desire of the Opposition to defeat this bill happened to succeed. It. has been suggested that the mere fact that provision has been made in the bill to ensure the return of census cards must necessarily mean the preliminary to conscription. I give that the lie direct. In regard to the general question of conscription for war purposes or for service overseas, a very definite undertaking for the life of this Parliament was given by the late Mr. Lyons, a former Prime Minister, the Leader of the United Australia party (Mr. Menzies), and myself, as Leader of the Country party, that no Australian shall be conscripted for overseas service.
– Does the undertaking of a former Prime Minister bind the present Prime Minister?
– I have not. the slightest doubt that if the present Prime Minister were asked if he isbound by the election declaration of the former Prime Minister, he would say that he is definitely bound.
– The present Prime Minister has never admitted that.
– When the War Census Bill, a similar measure to that now before the House and brought down by the
Labour party, was debated in this Parliament in 1915, when a war was actually being waged and this country was making its maximum effort both at home and abroad, the leaders of all parties were unanimous that information such as that proposed to be secured in this bill should be compiled. The present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes),, who was then Prime Minister, during the reading of the War Census Bill, said -
It is regarded as a means for more effectively waging the present conflict upon the principle of voluntary service. That is the purpose of this bill.
Sir William Irvine, speaking for the Opposition at the time, said -
Honorable members, whether they think that any compulsion, moral or otherwise, should bc used, will agree with me that it is desirable that the whole community should know who are the people who might best go to the front; who might render the most effective service with the least disorganization and with the least suffering to this ‘community.
– Will the right honorable gentleman quote my speech on that occasion ?
– The honorable member will have an opportunity not only to quote his own speech, but also to read the division list which I take it was called for before the bill passed the secondreading stage, which Will show how the great majority of the Labour party voted in regard to the measure. This attempt to delay the passage of this measure by drawing in the red herring of conscription is not in the interest of the safety of this country, and should be resisted to the end.
If there is much objection to the bill in its present form by certain sections of the people - and in my opinion every measure for the defence of this country should have the backing of all sections of the community - I suggest that the only alternative left open to the Government is to take a complete census of the people. All that would be required to do this without delay would be to advance the normal time for the taking of a census by a year. This course is worthy of consideration because it would result in the saving of approximately £150,000. It seems to me that the questions proposed in the schedule to this bill could be printed on a form of a different colour from that on which the general questions- are asked, so that the information’ obtained on these particulars could be immediately collated by the census office. Even if this course meant a delay of six months in the compilation of the information, it would be worth while if it had the virtue of overcoming objections which might be raised to the present proposal. This matter should be determined irrespective of party politics. I see no objection to the alteration of the year for the holding of the census because it will be remembered that, for reasons of economy, the taking of the last census was deferred from 1931 to 1933. In my opinion, we should coinpile this national register immediately. My only reason for suggesting a wider census of the people is that by that means we may be able to get unanimity of opinion and overcome any objections to the method proposed in this bill. I urge the House to pass the bill as it stands.
– I have listened very attentively to speeches for and against this measure, and I have been struck by the complete lack of reasonable argument against it. I cite to honorable members some of the irrelevancies which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) had to introduce into his speech in order to make even a reasonable contribution in opposition to the measure. The honorable gentleman touched upon the fiduciary issue, the desirability of authorizing Hansard to record “Laughter” at suitable passages of honorable members’ speeches in . order to indicate that some statements are not meant to be taken seriously. He talked about ladies who protest too much, and. then went on to give us a long dissertation about bullocks and bullockdrivers. I suggest that when a parliamentarian of the experience of the honorable member for Batman has to resort to such extraneous matters in the debate on a bill for the compilation of a national register, there is very little real argument against it. After condemning the measure the honorable member said that its adoption would lead to useless duplication of information which is collected under the Census and Statistics
Act and our electoral procedure. He also declared that it would lead to all sorts of evils.
Opposition members originally objected that the bill would pave the way to conscription for service overseas. “When they found that that argument would not stand examination, that existing laws effectively prevented conscription of manpower for service overseas without the consent of the people, they changed their ground and urged that this measure was the forerunner of industrial conscription. This term “ industrial conscription “ has been heard very often in this House during the debate. I should like from honorable members who used it some explanation of its meaning. In my opinion it is only one of the many catch-cries which are coined to appeal to an unthinking public. There is really no such thing as industrial conscription. But if these words can be construed to mean what honorable members opposite have in mind when they speak of conscription in industry, I suggest that we have, at the present time in labour organizations, a milch more rigid form of industrial conscription than that which will be brought about by the carrying of this measure.
I congratulate the Government on the introduction of the bill. I have long advocated the principles contained in it. I was opposed to the system of voluntary registration. World conditions being what they are, there is ample evidence of a fear among the people of all countries that their man-power will be called upon to resist aggression. We should be absolutely stupid if we followed the lead set by honorable members opposite and allowed the tabulation of information relating to our man-power and resources to be left until a time of emergency was upon us. There is no ulterior motive behind the bill, as has been suggested by the Opposition. .Should an emergency arise . we should be able, without delay, to put the right men into key positions in the defence of this country. I am supporting this measure because I believe that all the necessary information should be tabulated so that* in a national crisis, it may be used without delay. Listening to speeches -made by honorable members opposite, one would be inclined to think that only the working people of this country were to be circularized and listed under this legislation. I point out that supporters of the Government throughout Australia - obviously from evidence produced at elections they ari in greater numbers than supporters of the Opposition - would also be required to fill in the proposed form. Therefore, the bill does not single out any particular section of the community. Many of the working class - those who support honorable members opposite - have for very many years advocated a measure such as this. This evening we had evidence that even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has been in favour of it.
– The Leader of the Opposition has not been in f avour of a compulsory national register. He stands where the La’bour party stands on this measure.
– My statement is based on evidence which has been produced in this House. According to a quotation read by an honorable member this evening, the Leader of the Opposition has, in the not distant past, advocated something on the lines of what is provided for in this bill. I can see nothing wrong with the information which is to be sought by the questionnaire provided in this bill, and apparently honorable members opposite can see nothing wrong with it, either. Evidence of that is to be found in the fact that their only argument now is that the bill will lead to something else. Apparently they are not afraid of the legislation itself, but of what it may lead to, and I have shown that it cannot lead to anything which will not be subject to decision by this Parliament. Until something further is suggested, honorable members opposite should cease to talk about this bogy of industrial conscription, whatever that may mean.
The purpose of the bill is to acquire knowledge for use in time of emergency, and I submit to our friends opposite that, if it is their desire to provide adequate defence for this country, they must be in agreement with the principles of the measure. In the Great War there were many instances of people who enlisted for service being given jobs for which they were entirely unfitted, and sometimes there was a considerable delay before others better equipped for the work were appointed in their places.
– This bill will not alter that position. The Government proposes to leave it to the people themselves to declare for what work they arc fitted.
– In other words, the Government is making it compulsory for an applicant to state his qualifications. Honorable members opposite apparently do not agree with that state of affairs, because they are opposed to anything in the nature of compulsion.
– The honorable member said that in the last war men were given jobs for which they were not fitted. The same position will arise under this legislation because the men themselves will declare what work they are capable of doing.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) apparently misconstrues my words. The men to whom I referred were apparently selected at random by senior officers who thought that they looked as if they could do certain work. They might even have been selected in alphabetical order, but they kept the jobs until in some haphazard fashion it was found that it was not being done satisfactorily, and then the senior officers set about finding others more suitable to do it. In that way valuable time was wasted. The compilation of a register such as that provided for in this bill would eliminate the possibility of such inefficiency and waste of time. Australia cannot afford to wait until an emergency arises before all the necessary knowledge is tabulated. The honorable member for. Batman said that the people of Australia could bc relied upon to come to the defence of the country willingly in time of emergency. I ask honorable members to note that statement particularly. Apparently r.he honorable gentleman believes that should Australia be attacked, all citizens of the Commonwealth should place their resources at the disposal of the nation. That is what is advocated by honorable members on this side, but whereas our desire is to utilize all citizens in the most efficient manner in time of emergency, the honorable member for Batman and other members of the Opposition would wait until a crisis arose before taking any action. Surely honorable members will agree that that is not the right procedure. Arguments against this bill are being advanced by honorable members opposite merely because they are in opposition, whose duty it is generally believed is to oppose. Their arguments haveconvinced me that in their hearts they know that the bill is a sound one. I would go further than the provisions of this bill, and, as has been advocated from Opposition benches, I would make a very complete census of wealth, productivity, transport, and other resources. I know that many of these things are at present being investigated, and that much valuable information has been gathered. I would, however, include in this bill provision for the collection of all information needed for the defence of this country.
Some years ago I read a newspaper article written by a university professor who had made a very extensive tour through Germany. I was struck by a. statement in that article that soon after the conclusion of the last war the German authorities set about tabulating all the information envisaged by this bill, and most of that suggested by other honorable members in the course of the debate. All of that vital information is now in the official records of the German Government.
– Surely the honorable member is not advocating the introduction of German law to this country.
– Not for a moment. But I suggest to the honorable member foi- West Sydney that when there are aggressive nations in the world, Australia cannot afford to sit back and say “ We are not going to fight. Please d«i not come near us “. That was tried by Abyssinia, China and other countries, and the result is known to all of us. As a good Australian, I want this country to be in such a position that any nation which might contemplate invasion would realize that having had all our resources tabulated for defence purposes, our successful invasion would be fraught with extreme danger to the invader.. [Quorum formed.]
– I oppose this bill. Very little good will be done by obtaining the particulars which the Government desires. A few minutes ago the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) spoke of planning for national security and the necessity for tabulating man-power in order to learn how it might be applied to industry. Honorable members on this side believe that if the Government is anxious to secure information for this purpose, it should be anxious also to conserve Australia’s man-power; but such is not the case. No greater condemnation of the Government has been offered than the departure from this country during the last few months of hundreds of skilled artisans, who have gone to New Zealand to seek permanent employment. They are representative of the best of our manhood. If man-power is necessary for defence, the Government should provide employment, instead of which it is discouraging men who are asking for work. When the Government decided to carry out new defence works, hundreds of applications for employment on government works were made to me and to other honorable members; but the Government tells us that there is no employment offering. If the country is to be defended, it should be made worth defending by ensuring economic security for its citizens after they reach the agc of eighteen years. Many of them now live in economic terror. Men with families know not what to-morrow holds in store for them. A different state of affairs exists in other parts of the world. Canada is carrying out a policy of training artisans for skilled occupations, so that there is no necessity for its young men to seek work in other countries. The direct opposite is the case in Australia. The Government is encouraging the entry of foreign migrants, many of whom cannot even speak English. A businessman told me only last week that when he advertised for an employee the first fourteen applicants for the position were foreigners who had arrived recently. He was astounded at the number of applicants who called on him during the day. It is appalling that men should be brought to the country believing that there are plenty of opportunities for employment, while some of the flower of our manhood are being forced to leave. Any scheme of economic planning should be designed to protect and benefit the very people who are leaving our shores. If the Government would only guard the welfare of its people, there would be little fear of their failing to do their duty should an emergency occur. I do not think that, the need will arise in the near future. Much of the alarm that exists has been caused by the Government. Some honorable members have described this measure as a forerunner of conscription. To support this contention, we may refer to what ha3 been done in the past, both in Australia and in other parts of the world. A census of man-power taken in Great Britain recently was followed immediately by conscription. We are told, that conscription was brought about, not so much for the safety of Great Britain itself, as to meet the demands of countries with which it had made treaties. The War Census Bill was introduced in Australia in July, 1915, during the Great War. The opposition to that measure was similar to that which is offered to the present bill. Parliament was told that the War Census Bill was not in any way a forerunner of conscription, but twelve months later the government of the day tried to enforce conscription. The measure was introduced by the then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), who is again AttorneyGeneral in this Parliament. In his second-reading speech in 1915, he said, amongst other things, “ The bill does not contemplate conscription.” Those words would appear to be reassuring to Parliament and to the country. He added -
I do not believe that conscription is necessary . . . The measure contemplates the organization of our forces for the better waging of the conflict upon the principles of voluntary military service.
That measure, however, was passed through Parliament in the face of opposition from both sides of the House. To show the atmosphere of suspicion that surrounded the measure and the belief that it was associated with conscription, I shall quote the statements of a number of prominent members of the House at that time.
Sir John Forrest said
We cannot make use of it except by recourse to conscription.
Sir Littleton Groom, then member for Darling Downs, said -
The measure may give us certain information that will prove of use if we are to have conscription.
Mr. Glynn, who represented the Angas electorate, said -
I confess I cannot see the necessity for it, unless it means conscription.
Sir Joseph Cook said
If we take this measure of compulsion - I hesitate to use the word - to the manhood of Australia, the reflex influence coming from a man having to record details of himself in this compulsory way will be excellent when the recruiting sergeant makes his appearance.
He apparently had the view that the measure would enforce a sort of economic conscription by compelling men to join the armed forces because of the information which they had given to the Government.
– None of those men were Labour members.
– That is so. Further opposition was expressed by Mr. Hannan, the member for Fawkner, who said -
Fear has been expressed by many people that the intention of the Government was to introduce conscription. I am perfectly satisfied after the assurances given by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, that conscription is not the intention.
Sir Austin Chapman, member for Eden Monaro, said that he had no fear that conscription would be introduced under the measure, but many other members expressed the opinion that it would be a forerunner of conscription. It was definitely pointed out that otherwise it would have no value, because men could not bc allotted to any particular sphere of activity under a voluntary system. Opinion expressed outside Parliament supported that view. It was stated in the press and elsewhere that the bill would lead to both industrial and military conscription. Because honorable members were dubious about supporting the bill, Mr. Fisher, the then Prime Minister, said -
Any attempt to associate this bill with conscription is an attempt to mislead the public.
I recall the famous statement made in the same debate by the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes), who was also Attorney-General at that time -
In no circumstances would I agree to send men out of this country to fight against their will.
If the day ever comes when men will not fight when their country is at death grips, it will be because the country is rotten to . the core, and not worth fighting for.
In view of these statements one would have naturally expected that no attempt would be made to force conscription upon the people of this country. We know, however, what happened pursuant to the compilation of the register ,in 1915. Indeed, the speech made by the Minister in opening this debate reminds one of the speech made by his colleague, the Attorney-General, on that occasion. In fact, the two speeches are almost identical except that the Minister’s speech includes current topics.
– I have never read the speech of the Attorney-General.
– The Minister said-
There are, I believe, some who say that this is a form of industrial conscription! - that it is proposed to do something which is foreign to the spirit of democracy - something that is abhorrent to Australians.
The Minister pointed out that such was not the Government’s intention, and he proceeded to show how this legislation would be applied in order that every one might be allotted tasks in which his services could best be utilized. Under the War Census Act 1915 similar information was obtained, and tabulated in respect of age groups, single and married men, occupations and so on. It is proposed to tabulate this information in a similar way. What could be the object of the Government in asking for this information if it did not intend to introduce conscription? It could only be applied in connexion with a compulsory service scheme. In view of what happened subsequent to the enactment of the War Census Act in 1915 honorable members to-day are justified in refusing to accept the word of the Govern* ment as to the purposes for which it requires this information. Denials similar to those , now being expressed by the Minister were given in 1915. The then Attorney-General denied in the plainest language that the Government intended to introduce conscription ; yet only twelve months later he was the leader of a government which endeavoured to force conscription on the people by way of referendum. In view of these facts, one must be wary of any assurances given by the present Government in this respect. Such assurances could not be accepted in 1915, and they cannot be accepted with any greater confidence now. It is significant that national registration was the prelude to the introduction of conscription recently in Great Britain. Our fears in this direction are also justified by the noncommittal attitude adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who has declined, in answer to numerous questions, to say whether the Government is for or against conscription. The right honorable gentleman has merely replied that a statement will be made on this matter at the appropriate time. Consequently, we are justified in regarding this measure as an instalment of conscription. It is the intention of the Government first, to obtain all of the information it requires, and then to go ahead with the introduction of conscription. I point out that when the attempt to introduce conscription failed “ in 1916 the information obtained under the “War Census Act 1915 was never used. As the cost of compiling that register wa3 £150,000, I question the estimate of £40,000 which the Minister has given in respect of this register. I reiterate that this information can be of no value whatever unless the Government intends to introduce conscription. Therefore, it is not an urgent measure. The Government, however, persists in regarding it as such whilst it neglects its responsibility to deal with questions of vital importance to the national and economic welfare of our people. It is a frivolous measure born of war hysteria, and, therefore, futile. Any expense incurred in the compilation of this register will be wasted, because the register might never be used. Certainly it will never be used if the Government does not intend to introduce conscription. This bill represents the introduction of a vicious principle, and 1” say unhesitatingly that the people will not accept it. It provides for heavy penalties, ranging up to imprisonment for six months or a fine of £50, for failure to lodge returns. It is hardly necessary to manufacture additional crimes, because the liberty of our people has already been too greatly restricted. They should not be called upon to make these returns. An important omission from the bill is its failure to provide for a register of wealth, although in 1915 such information was collected.
– There was no Commonwealth income tax then, but the people have to make a Commonwealth income tax return annually now.
– I remind the honorable gentleman, as I pointed out in 1933 when the returns from the last census were being discussed, that about 70 per cent, of the breadwinners of this country do not return any Commonwealth income tax return because they are not earning more than £3 a week. That is a disgrace to any government, and this Government would be doing a far greater service to Australia if it paid more attention to the compilation of a register of wealth instead of man-power. In connexion with this aspect of the War Census Act 1915, Sir William Irvine said -
I should not nave the slightest objection to district committees handling manhood returns. The wealth returns would have to be dealt with as confidential, and dealt with only by regularly-paid officers
At that time, apparently, the Government was prepared to allow manhood returns to be obtained by local committees, but regarded all information concerning wealth as most confidential. Discussing that measure in 1915, Sir Joseph Cook said -
I hope that the available material for the prosecution of the war will continue to pour in.
That summarizes the view which this Government takes of this measure. It regards the manhood of this country as war material. It is, indeed, unfortunate that the Government is actuated by hysteria and prefers to deal with measures of .this kind, whilst neglecting to implement economic and social reforms for the advancement and betterment of the people. If it attended to its duty, it would be more concerned about giving to the people conditions worth fighting for, which would remove all doubt as to whether or not they would be prepared to defend their country. The Government’s defence policy is one of sham, show and expense. Daily the people are faced with new economic worries. The Government has much to say concerning what it describes as the major matter of defence, yet only a few months ago we were informed in the press that sufficient text-books were not available for distribution among the members of the militia forces. If this report be true, it is a serious reflection on the Government’s sincerity and ability. I do not know whether such books must be imported.
– They have been printed locally.
– At any rate, it is a disgrace to the Government if they were not available when required. Surely we have military experts here capable of compiling these text-books! In conclusion, I repeat that the Government has failed in its duty to establish any planned economy for the social welfare of our people. It has forced many of our skilled artisans to find employment in other countries. That fact is sufficient to condemn any government. Yet we are told that the Government has inaugurated a plan for the technical training of our youth. Again I point out, by way of warning, that the happenings consequent upon the passage of the “War Census Act in 1915 compel us to view this measure with the greatest apprehension. We must not be satisfied to acceptmerely what the Government says it intends to do, because we shall probably find that another measure will be introduced to impose conscription, as was done in 1916. [Quorum formed.]
– Honorable members on this side of the House are opposed to any measure that can be interpreted as likely to lead towards conscription for military purposes and service overseas. The history of the past struggles in relation to conscription should be sufficiently well known for honorable members to realize the determination of the Opposition to oppose any measure designed to impose conscription On the manhood of Australia. Government supporters may claim that the bill has no such intention. Indeed, Ministers have given certain undertakings in that connexion, and their supporters have contended that those undertakings ought to be accepted by us without question. We must, however, be guided by past happenings, and in this connexion I remind the House that similar declarations were given in 1915. With all the eloquence at their command, Government supporters of the day denied that the legislation to provide for a war census was the forerunner of conscription. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was Attorney-General in the Government of the day, declared emphatically that the Government was entirely free from any desire to impose conscription upon the people ; yet, within twelve months of that time, the right honorable gentleman used all the powers that he possessed in an endeavour to force conscription upon Australia. Government supporters should therefore realize that the Opposition believes that its fears are well founded and its attitude to this measure justified. Because we on this side cannot accept the declarations of Government supporters as to the purpose of this measure, we must exercise all the powers that we possess to oppose any measure which is designed to impose, or is capable , of imposing, conscription on the people of this country. In so doing, we are only faithfully discharging what we believe to be our duty.
In his opening remarks, the Minister declared that the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) had said that certain things were necessary. Those things he enumerated as follows: first, the organization “of man-power and of women’s voluntary efforts; secondly, the regulation and control of primary production in an emergency ; thirdly, industrial mobilization of secondary industries in an emergency; and fourthly, Commonwealth and State co-operation in peace and war. Under those four headings, the right honorable gentleman declared the purpose of the Government and its intention to proceed along the lines indicated. From the stand-point of the Government, that apparently meets their policy, but the Opposition believes that even this declaration lacks one important essential. There is no suggestion that those who enjoy the wealth of this country arc to be’ called upon to mobilize their resources in the interests of the nation, or to make any sacrifice for its defence. Labour believes that the wealth of this country arises from the application of man-power to industries, both primary and secondary, including the development of the country’s mineral resources. These efforts have resulted in the production of enormous wealth, making possible to a few great comforts and a very high standard of living. In this regard the Labour party is continually striving to bring the standard of the masses more into harmony with that of the wealthier sections of the community, and thus remove the wide disparity in the living conditions of the people. It believes, however, that whenever efforts are directed towards calling upon those people who have done well out of Australia to make some sacrifice, there are influences always at work to prevent such efforts from being successful. If we are to decide .between one man’s life and another man’s wealth, there can be no question that a man’s life is of more value than is all the wealth in the country. Honorable members know that in all ages, whenever wars have been waged, the sacrifice has .been made chiefly by the poorer people. They are called upon to make sacrifices far beyond what ought to be expected of them, whilst others in the community not only make no sacrifice, but even become richer and more prosperous because of war and conflict among the nations of the world. Wo believe that the position should he reversed, and that the first to make sacrifices should be those who have made most out of the country. There is, however, a tendency to regard their possessions as sacrosanct; no one is supposed to interfere in their affairs, or to inquire as to their wealth, their investments, or their income. These things are said to be the individual’s own concern, and not matters for the nation to probe into. They are personal, and must not be touched, and this Government is providing the usual protection for them.
– We do now under the income tax law.
– But only to h very limited extent. There should be much wider powers of inquiry into these matters of wealth, if our defence programme is to be complete. If the Government desires to make a gesture to the working class its first move must be in the direction I have indicated. Otherwise the people must view with suspicion, doubt and, in fact, opposition, the Government’s proposals because they will have at the back of their minds the feeling that the old story will be repeated if a war occurs and that the workers will be the greatest sufferers. We have only to survey tlie result of the last war to realize that the workers sacrifice all and gain little or nothing in times of conflict. To illustrate my argument, I need only cite the mandates which Australia administers as the result of the peace settlement. Those mandates have been of great value to shipping magnates and the investors in plantations and gold-dredging, but to the workers they have not been worth a snap of the fingers. It is well for the Government and its supporters to appreciate the fact that these things are paramount in the minds of the people, not only the rank and file, but also large circles of people outside their ranks, who, nowadays, are looking at these problems that confront us from the point of view that I have taken. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Defence recalled that he had previously set out, under four headings, the wider steps necessary to implement the declaration by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) of the Government’s intention to press on with the completion of plans for all phases of national activity in an emergency.The Labour party’s view is that the Minis’ter for Defence omitted the most important step of all when he made no mention of a census of wealth. Consequently, the attitude of the Opposition, particularly that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), whose references to this matter have been quoted in this debate, is altered.
– Would the honorable gentleman support the national register if wealth were included?
– The Opposition will be able to say exactly where it stands if a proposal for its inclusion be introduced. Before I have finished the curiosity of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) will be satisfied. The Minister went on to refer to other matters which may establish doubt in the minds of many people. When the Government asks for the support of the Opposition for a. particular project, we are entitled to expect, that, as far as practicable, the cards will be laid on the table. The Opposition has a right to know more than it has been able to ascertain. The Minister for Defence- proceeded -
The Commerce Department has made considerable progress on the planning necessary for the regulation and control of primary production in emergency.
I do not know what that means. How much planning has been done? In the last fortnight, the newspapers have reported meetings of farmers in New South Wales to discuss an attempt to boycott financial interests which are fore-, closing on their properties, thus depriving them of their life savings. It looks to me, therefore, that any planning that has been undertaken by the Commerce Department has not led towards putting primary production in a position to meet the demands that an emergency would create. Again I must express my dissatisfaction. It appears to me that the problems of primary production have arisen from a shortage .all along of the financial resources needed to make this country able to meet an emergency. All of this tends to support the view of the Opposition that the Government has not yet laid down a policy of action which would provide for all the needs’ that an emergency would create. The solution of the problem lies in a direction other than that ‘ in which the Government is moving. The “ wider steps necessary “ are not so much those enumerated by the Minister for Defence as steps in the direction of financial reform. I may not discuss the monetary system on this bill, but it is difficult to divorce it from this important subject. Dictatorship countries seem to be able to proceed to build roads and ships, and to grow all kinds of primary products by handling the monetary system in such a way as to have the work done first and the financing problems are apparently worked out later.
– And those countries export very little.
– Exactly. It is by management of their financial resources that those countries are able to “ put it over “ the rest of the world.
– Do not forget that manpower also is regimented in those countries.
– I. shall come to that. When Herr Hitler decides to build a road from one end of Germany to the other, the work is undertaken without demur or delay and agencies to provide employment and all necessaries for the German subjects are set in motion. But if we in Australia propose a public work, the construction of a road, for instance, all action is paralyzed until we solve the problem of financing it. The state of affairs in these countries contrasts strongly with that in Australia, because, whereas, in Germany and Italy works that are necessary are provided for, it is reported in the Sydney press that -financial stringency in New South Wales may shortly bring relief works and many other governmental activities in that State to a stand-still. -The authority for that statement is a Minister in the Government of New South Wales. We cannot, therefore, prepare for an emergency if we are facing a financial deadlock. It would seem that we are merely fooling ourselves’ by putting such legislation as this on the statute-book. There is ground for suspicion that the Government, instead of dealing with actualities, is either merely tinkering at the problem or requires the register of man-power for a purpose quite apart from the purposes enunciated in the Minister’s secondreading speech. As the discussion proceeds, the Minister may he able to give us more details of what is being done. He may be able to satisfy me that the credit resources of this country will be so marshalled as to ensure that the maximum production of primary industries will be maintained and that we shall he able to store sufficient products to tide us over au emergency. But he -has yet to explain why the farmers in parts of New South “Wales are fighting to remain on their holdings and are talking about boycotting those who are trying to dispossess them.
The Minister’s speech mentioned that he had ‘attended a conference of the Commonwealth and State Ministers at which it was agreed that there should be the closest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in times of peace and war. An unfortunate feature of these conferences is that we never receive very much information about them. Premiers come and go, conferences are held and decisions reached, and we read about them in the newspapers. Beyond that we receive no information.
– The official reports are circulated.
– It is true that a report of the conference to which the Minister referred was circulated. That conference decided that a National Defence Council should be created. The national council was to comprise the Prime Minister, probably the Minister for Defence and the State Premiers. There was to be some planning-
– That is not the conference to which the honorable member for Batman referred.
– No, that conference ended in some disorder. I am referring to a subsequent conference at which the Premiers were ironed out, and became more susceptible to the wishes of the Commonwealth, Government than previously. I do not know the reason, but probably they received more loan moneys.
– Has the honorable member read my speech at that conference.
– I have had an opportunity to study it only cursorily.
The late Prime Minister delivered a long speech, but the report states, “Mr. Lyons here made a confidential statement to the conference on the subject of international relations “. He then continued his speech. I am aware of the fact that certain information concerning the activities of this country and others in planning for war cannot be disclosed, but I, in common with other members of the Opposition, find that I am not in possession of as much information as was supplied to the State Premiers or to. others who heard the late Prime Minister at the conference. He imparted to them information which has not been disclosed to us.
– The honorable member could have obtained all that information had his party agreed to the formation of a national government.
– My party, I hope, will never slip quite so far as to do that. Any member of this Parliament should be able to get at least some of the information made available at that gathering. Humble as my standing is in this Parliament, I represent as many, constituents as the honorable member for Barker, and I am entitled to possess more information than I have received. The Government asks us to agree to measures introduced in consequence of alleged states of emergency and crises, and, in effect, to accept all that it proposes without the necessary information on the subject. As we proceed I believe that the honorable member for Barker, now that he is outside the Cabinet, will not feel inclined to accept all that is said from the treasury benches.
– =I never have.
– I agree, therefore, with the honorable member. If the Premiers were given information such as this report suggests, why was it not supplied to this Parliament? That is one instance in which we are entitled to doubt the real meaning of the bill. We are entitled to ask whether a state of emergency now exists, and if there is any justification for panic in regard to world affairs. We are entitled to complain that we have not been given any more information than has been supplied to the general public. The Premiers were apparently told more than we have been told. The conference then proceeded to deal with other subjects. The late Prime Minister said, “ The first considerations would be financial considerations which would necessitate the best possible use of the money available for works “. At that conference the financial aspect must have been prominently in the mind of the late Prime Minister, and he must have been questioned by the Premiers. We have not been given any information on that point either. In reading the report, we find many references which the Minister never touched upon when introducing this bill. In addressing the conference at great length, he spoke of State works and their defence value, and improvements to proposed works as contributions to the Government’s defence scheme. He went on to stress the need to deal with “ the scope of certain precautionary measures “ which, he said, included briefly -
He also referred to “ Other special measures as necessary.” What does that mean? What are the “ special measures “ ? That phrase indicates the nebulous state of the mind of the “Government at that time.
– At the end of the title of every act, the words “ and for other purposes “ appear.
– That is what we refuse to accept, and that is why we question this schedule which leaves the way open for the Government to alter the questionnaire. I understand that it has now agreed . to submit an amendment in that respect. We do not believe in handing blank cheques even to governments. The honorable member for Barker says that it is customary to use the words “ and for other purposes “ in acts of Parliament. Well, past customs are not fit ting in very well with present circumstances. An opposition would not be worth its name if it passed ambiguous phrases without endeavouring to ascertain what is actually proposed. When the Minister replies to the secondreading debate, he should give more information concerning the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the National Council, alleged co-ordination of Commonwealth and State activities, and what is meant by “ other special measures as necessary”. That information was not given by the Minister in his second-reading speech.
– That phrase might include the conscription of wealth.
– Or it might mean the conscription of men.
– I spoke at great length.
– Yes, at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, but not in moving the second reading of the bill.
– The report which the honorable member is citing was in the possession of honorable members.
– Yes, buthonorable members have insufficient time to compare such reports with the bills that are brought before the House. It is, of course, good ministerial work not to say too much in moving the second reading of a bill because if too much information is given more will be demanded. All men who have had Ministerial experience realize that. Nevertheless, we are warranted in asking the Minister what actually happened at the Premiers Conference, how far the suggestions made are likely to be implemented, and what authority the National Council is to have. Is it to be a national council in name only, or is it to have authority to give effect to the resolutions agreed upon ? The honorable gentleman also said “ On the adoption of the precautionary stage and on the adoption of the war stage, the Commonwealth Government proposes to advise each State Government of the action that is being taken, and to request it to co-operate with the appropriate Commonwealth department or defence service, &c.” I hope that in his reply to the second-reading debate, the Minister will enlighten the House more fully on the matters contained in this report. The report goes on to deal with the Commonwealth War Book which, it is said, was supplied to each Premier. I have made inquiries about this book, but no honorable member has been able yet to tell me anything about it.
– The honorable member missed a most excellent broadcast which I made regarding that subject. I shall be pleased to let him have a copy of my remarks.
– The honorable gentleman is at a loss to understand why the Opposition feels aB it does in re.gan to this hill. He says, in effect, “ I believe that the purpose of the bill is to take a census of man-power and to do certain other things.” When we question him as to what is meant by “ other things “ he seems to think that such curiosity is not justified. We have to examine the report of this conference of Commonwealth and State representatives in order to learn what is behind .this bill. The report contains vague and nebulous references which give rise to suspicion. I draw the Minister’s attention to this so that h° may be able to appreciate why the Opposition regards as unconvincing the meagre details regarding this preparation for war that were contained in his secondleading speech. The honorable gentleman has indicated that the report of The conference was the basis upon which this bill was drafted. It was resolved by the conference that the national defence plans should be on the basis of preparations for a major war. That is an uncomfortable thought. It seems to us that much more was said at the conference than has been said in this Parliament, and, consequently, we are led to believe that behind this man-power proposal is something of which we have been told nothing. Taking as a guide what happened in 1915, when a proposal similar to that now before the House was debated by the Parliament, we are justified in our caution and our resolve that similar happenings shall not follow the passage of this bill.
I come now to the contention that a census of man-power is necessary “ in order that men possessing technical qualifications shall be directed into their right sphere “. Reference has been made to the fact that during the last war many skilled men were employed in directions in which no advantage could be taken of their particular qualifications. I should say that this compulsory questionnaire will be of no more value than any inquiries made during the last war to ascertain particulars of the skill of the volunteers. All that could be done then was to inquire of volunteers what particular qualifications they had in certain directions. This bill will achieve nothing more than that. Every man between certain ages will be called upon to declare his occupation. We shall have to rely upon the honesty of the men concerned for the correctness or otherwise of the information collated. If T agree to fill in a form in the schedule to this bill, and I have any particular skill, I shall declare it. But there will be nothing to show that the information I shall give will be accurate. If, during the last war, I had volunteered and had been required by my commanding officer to state what skill I had, I would have declared it, and then been allotted to certain duties. If men were allotted to duties in which .their skill was wasted, such errors must have been due to false declarations or to incompetence on the part of their supervising officers.
– That was not the position. Men were accepted for active service without regard to their skill and occupations.
– That is one of the weaknesses of the voluntary system.
– If I were to declare my ability to install telephone communications, it should not take the commanding officer more than ten minutes to test my capacity to carry out that work. If, on the other hand, a boilermaker were instructed to install a telephonic system, it would demonstrate a lack of competency on the part of the responsible officer.
– If the honorable member had enlisted for service in the Great War he would probably have been made a cook.
– If I were detailed to the cook house, and were capable of carrying out the duties of cook, I should consider myself doing probably the most important job of all. A man’s capacity to do a job or otherwise can .be tested by trying him out. If I were engaged in industry and were picking out men to do certain jobs, the responsibility would be upon me to test their capabilities for the work they were to perform. If a man declares his fitness to carry out certain work, his immediate superior can determine in a very short time whether or not his declaration is correct. This bill does no more than call upon certain persons to declare their skill.
– During the last war a man who had been in charge of the Newport “Workshops might have found himself a lieutenant in a light horse unit, and in that capacity his special qualifications would have been wasted.
– If that is the approach to this subject, I repeat that this bil] does not alter that condition of affairs. If a lieutenant in the militia forces is a key man in, say, the Newport workshops, the military command should direct that he remain in those workshops.
– If voluntary training is to be adhered to, we shall have to take every man we can get.
– In effect, the honorable member for Bendigo says .that he does not agree with the voluntary training system.
– That is so; I do not.
– Then the case put by the Opposition is partially supported by this declaration. We say that this bill is the forerunner of the very thing advocated by tho honorable member for Bendigo.
– I hope so.
– Then we .are getting along very well. I have taken ten minutes to make this point, but the time was well expended. Now that my point has been sustained, I shall leave the matter there.
It seems to me that more explanation should be given of clause 23 which deals with the registration of youths upon reaching the age of 21 years. The clause reads -
Any male person who has attained the age of eighteen years, or who, after the commencement of this act, attains the age of eighteen years, and has not attained the age of 21 years shall, within 30 days of any change occurring in his address, notify that change of address in the prescribed manner.
I would like the Minister for Defence to explain the reason for the selection of youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years for compulsory notification of change of address.
– It is to avoid duplication. Other people are provided for in the electoral register.
– On the face of it, that seems to be a logical answer. I am inclined to look at the provision from another viewpoint, because I remember that youths to be called up under the British compulsory training system are between those age limits. It seems to me that this clause will enable a very close tab to be kept on these people in another way. Apparently, apart from the purposes of a national register, the people between these age limits are to be watched very closely.
– It will be the same with people of other ages.
– No ; people of other ages are not prescribed in the bill.
– As I explained to the honorable member, the provision with regard to minors is to avoid duplication.
– The electoral registration machinery does not require particulars as to ages of persons enrolled, yet under this legislation, youths between the age3 of 18 and 21 years will be registered. However, the Minister has declared that there is no sinister reason for this, and that the bill merely provides for registration in the ordinary way. It is claimed by the Government that the questionnaire set out in the schedule to the bill will provide the information necessary to ensure that, in a national emergency, people will be allocated to jobs for which they are best fitted. Persons being registered are required to state their country of birth. That, I suppose, is a reasonable question, but I fail to see what the country of birth of a man’s father and mother has to do with his ability to do certain work in time of emergency.
– Nothing whatever. It is merely a part of the general survey, and has no relation to the national register for defence purposes.
– Yet the claim of the Government is that this bill has been introduced solely for the purpose of acquiring information necessary for the allocation of work in time of national crisis. Another part of the questionnaire refers to dependent relatives. I again ask, what have dependent relatives to do with a man’s ability to do a particular job of work? Similarly, what has the number of children to do with the registration of a man for national service in the workshops?
– He might have all his time taken up looking after them.
– That is true, and if that is to be regarded as sufficient grounds for conscientious objection to service, then apparently it is a way out. The next part of the schedule deals with employers. If the Government desires to know what work a. man is best fitted to do, surely there is no reason for inquiries with regard to his employers. The Government does not ask people who invest their wealth in bonds, securities or normal business investments, where their money is. It is regarded as a sacred right of capitalists to invest their money wherever they please.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jennings) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Street) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 2.30 p.m. to-morrow.
Militia Forces: Conditions at Enog- gera Camp - Salary and Allowances of Sir Ernest Fisk - Hatcraft Proprietary Limited.
Motion (by Mr. Street) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) a statement which I have received from a reliable source with reference to the conditions at Enoggera camp during the recent training exercises there of the 15th/26th . Battalion, and I hope that the Minister will have immediate inquiries made in the interests of the members of the militia forces. I feel keenly on this matter, because I was one of those who, in Queensland, did all they could to stimulate recruiting so as to bring the number of militia up from 35,000 to 70,000. I cannot say, of my own knowledge, that the statements in this communication which I have received from a person holding a high position in Queensland are true, but they are sufficiently grave to warrant an inquiry. The following is an extract from it: -
Monday, the 8th May, dinner time brought about its first disillusionment when dry bread, a slice of corn beef and tea was the menu, and when pleas ofthe men were heard, butter (a very dear item, we were told) was brought on. The food for the rest of the camp was not that which a young soldier would sit down and enjoy in peace time.
The meat seemed to have had all the goodness boiled out of it. and, withthe exception of turnip and cabbage on a very few occasions, greens were noticed by their absence.
The general opinions of the men were that better meals would be obtained in gaol. The hygienic surroundings of the camp did not im press most of these healthy young men. Thecans of water for washing plates, cups and utensils were all thickly coated with grease when, several hundred men had washed their plates in them; it was impossible to have the utensils thoroughly cleansed. The conditions ofthe meals were such that a number of men bought their own food, which saved them from the sickness which a number of unfortunate men have to suffer in the form of dysentery. This disease first started on Sunday, the 14th May, and about 60 men were taken to base hospital and a steady stream of men was at the Resident Medical Officer’s tent every day until the last camp. Out of twenty odd men in the hand, seven turned out to play the guard on. On Wednesday, the 17th, every mess orderly, permanent, was also stricken. Headquarterswing men were transferred to other companies’ huts to make room for the sick men. A continuous stream of men was constantly going to the latrines, which certainly would be the breeding place of any malignant disease. Such places as the latrines, showers and washing facilities should be renewed without further delay. The mess tables were wiped with a rag which failed to take the grease off. A fire was situated close to the mess hall, from which soot, &c, kept blowing in on our meals while we were eating. This camp, which may have been successful, was a dismal failure. in the eyes of men and not until proper organization of feeding and cleaning arrangements is made will they succeed. The abovementioned facts are what I found at the camp, and can be vouched for by many in the 15th/20th Battalion.
That statement is borne out by several other members of the same battalion, and by sergeants of the Army Medical Corps. I attach no blame to the Minister, but if the charges are true, those responsible for such conditions should be taken to task.
.- Of late I have repeatedly asked in this House for information regarding the salary and expenses paid to Sir Ernest Fisk, managing director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Commonwealth Government holds a controlling interest in this company. Under an agreement dated the 28th March, 1922, the Commonwealth paid £375,000 15s. for a controlling interest in the company, this representing a payment pf 15s. a share on 500,001 shares, out of a total of 1,000,000 shares. The only condition on which the Government permitted private enterprise to carry on the business of wireless communication, which should have been a public utility like telephones and telegraphs, was that the Government itself should have a controlling interest in the enterprise. It was believed by the Parliament of the day that it would exercise control over the activities of the company, and, with that idea, two members of the board were nominated by the Government, the right honorable William Morris Hughes, who is still on the board, and Mr. F. Strahan, secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, who was appointed at a later date. Although I asked my first question on the 19th May, the reply was not received until just recently. I do not blame the Prime Minister for that, because I know that the company was bluffing him as long as it could. Notwithstanding the fact that the Commonwealth holds more than half the shares, the company stated that at a meeting of directors, it would be decided whether or not information regarding (the salary and expenses paid to Sir Ernest Fisk would be made known to this Parliament. The meeting of the board was held on the 29th May, and the reply furnished to me by the Prime Minister stated -
The majority of the board of the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is Unwilling that details of that kind should become a matter of public knowledge.
Why this hush-hush policy? .What is there to hide? The statement continued -
The company is incorporated in the State of New South Wales, and the Companies Act of 1936 of that State, though it provides that accounts of public companies have to contain certain particulars, including the total amount paid to the directors as remuneration for their services, expressly excludes from this provision the remuneration paid to a managing director of a company. I am, however, able to say that the amount paid to Sir Ernest Fisk has been communicated confidentially to me, and that, in my opinion, having regard to the nature of the business of the company, and the work done by Sir Ernest Fisk, it is not unreasonable.
No mention is made of expenses in that reply. It is in the interests of the Prime Minister himself that the total amount paid to this officer should be revealed to this Parliament. This is more than a public company, because the Commonwealth has a controlling interest in it. We should never have allowed wireless to become the preserve of a company. I am not suggesting that that point is relevant to this matter, but I mention it because this gentleman is continually booming himself in the press. This company has undertaken the manufacture of receiving sets, although, I feel sure, it was never contemplated by the Government of the day that the company should operate in that sphere. Furthermore, it has been due to representations made by this company and others that a high import duty has been placed upon wireless valves which makes it impossible to import a wireless set from any country, although it may be much more modern than any set made by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Whilst I do not make any imputation against the Prime Minister, I suggest that there is something sinister in the general attitude of this company towards this Parliament. When I was PostmasterGeneral I tried to secure information of this kind from the company, and I was treated more cavalierly than has been the case on this occasion. Senator Gibson, also, when he was PostmasterGeneral before myself, attempted to get this information, and was treated iti ‘ similar fashion. In fact, the attitude of the company towards Ministers became a joke in the Public Service. The salary of each public servant is published in the Estimates; but, apparently, that gentleman is immune from any such disclosure. It it any wonder that he does himself pretty well? Mr. Strahan, if he knows, cannot give us this information, whilst the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) is as dumb as an oyster on the matter. Is it not possible to force this company to disclose to the Auditor-General what this man receives? The Auditor-General’s report dealing with this matter simply reveals that, according ito a public statement issued by the company - that, I point out, it is obliged to issue in order to be listed on the stock exchange - the Commonwealth Government has put so much money into the company, but apart from this gentleman’s share of dividends it is impossible to say what he receives. I am sure that his salary is twice that paid to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, although the latter is charged with a far greater responsibility. Recently this gentleman returned from a trip to the Old Country by the Orient liner Orcades., on which he took one of two special suites for which accommodation he must have paid at least £1,000. The Government has a right to know whether such expense was met by his company. The Prime Minister should stand up to this gentleman, and direct the Government’s representatives on the board, whose hands, I am aware, are now tied in the matter, to make known to the Government how much this man is drawing, not only in salary but also by way of the princely expenses which, i am sure, he allows himself.
.- I wish to make a few observations on replies furnished by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to questions which I asked relative to contracts let by -the Contract Board. The first question was -
Has tlie Government received protests from the Felt Hatters Union, Sydney, complaining that the Arm of Hatcraft Proprietary Limited, is not observing the terms and conditions in. regard to contracts let to it by the Government?
The answer was -
Since 1934, when the firm obtained itsfirst contract, the union has maderepeated protests to the various Ministers and to the Defence Department, ‘but has not yet received a satisfactory answer. This firm continues to obtain a share of all contracts.
The second question was -
Has the Government investigated thesecharges; if so, what is the nature of the investigating officer’s report?
The answer was -
Yes. The investigation officer’s report discloses that the statements of the union werenot sustained.
The inspecting officers have no knowledge of the skilled branches of the felt hat industry. The Defence Department hasadmitted in correspondence with theunion that it has not one officercapable of distinguishing between military work and civilian work until over one-half of the manufacturing operation has been completed. Any inspection carried out by the inspecting officers has been one-sided. Thedepartment sends its officer to inspect thework. Having no specialized knowledgeof the industry, he makes inquiries from the men at the factory, who inform him that they are satisfied with their conditions, .and that they are entitled to dothe work they are doing. On this assurance being given, the officer is apparentlysatisfied that all is in order. The department has consistently refused the union’s request to be allowed to send a representative to attend during inspections. The union has offered the department the services of a fully qualified’ journeyman felt hatter to carry out the inspection free of charge. Thedepartment will not attempt tobring this firm into line with al! other firms, by insisting on the observance of award rates .and conditions. It continues to send along inspecting officers who have no knowledge of what to look for, and who are, therefore, unable to detect any breaches of the award. That,, no doubt, is what the department desires.
A practical roan would hare been able to detect a breach of the award immediately ; the inspecting officers of the department have not been able to detect one breach of the award since 1934. The third question was -
Is this firm observing award rates and conditions?
The answer was -
This firm is not at present observing the terms and conditions of the Felt Hatters’ award, nor has it done so in the past. It commits breach after breach of the award under the very eyes of the inspecting officer, and because of his lack of knowledge of the industry is never detected.
The fourth question was -
Does the Government insist that, in connexion with all contracts let by it, award rates and conditions shall be observed?
The answer was -
If that is so, why does Hatcraft Proprietary Limited refuse to allow an inspection of its premises by union representatives ? If award rates and conditions are being observed, what has it to bc afraid of? It would appear either that this firm and the inspecting officers are acting in collusion, or that the inspecting officers are ignorant of the manufacturing process.
The fifth question was -
How many journeymen felt hatters are in the employ of Hatcraft Proprietary Limited?
The answer furnished was, “ Ten “. That answer is incorrect; evidently it is intended to protect this firm. The Department -of Defence stands convicted on. its own admission, because this firm employs only three journeymen felt hatters and has never had more than three in its employ. These are the only men who are entitled to work on the skilled branches of the trade. This answer calls for a departmental inquiry, for the Minister must now be convinced that the charges laid by the union are correct. He should investigate this deliberate lie.
– Order !
– It is a deliberate untruth. That is the information which has been supplied to me.
– Order 1 Obviously if the remark would be disorderly if made by the honorable member it is equally disorderly if made by a person supplying information to the honorable member.
– The sixth question was -
What is the rate of delivery per week from this firm?
The answer supplied to me was- -
The most recent contract allotted to the firm provides for delivery at the rate of 1,000 hats per week.
This answer proves beyond doubt the union’s charges that this firm is not abiding by the award, for it would take between ten and twelve journeymen felt hatters to do the skilled work needed to supply the Defence Department with 1,000 hats a week. It would appear that the answer given to my fifth question was an endeavour to provide the firm with a good answer, because both the Defence Department and the firm knew that it requires more than three journeymen to do 83 dozen hats a week. The union requests the Minister to inquire of any manufacture of felt hats whether it would be possible for three journeymen felt hatters, doing all of the skilled work of the trade, to do 83 dozen, or 1,000 hats a week. The Felt Hatters Union claims that its statement can be substantiated at an inquiry. It is extremely dissatisfied with the refusal of the Defence Department to hold an inquiry into the activities of Hatcraft Proprietary Limited. It claims that an investigation would show that its complaint is justified.
– in reply - The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) referred to the conditions in the military camp of the 15th/26th Battalion at Enoggera last month. I spoke to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who attended the camp during a portion of the period that the men were there, and whilst he admitted that there was some sickness among the men, he assured me, from his own experience and from conversations with other members of the unit who were in camp, that the conditions were not as set out by the honorable member for Brisbane. However, I consider the statement to be so serious that I shall have immediate inquiries made, in order to satisfy myself, and, I hope, the honorable gentleman also, that the statements made to him were grossly exaggerated.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) referred to the salary and allowances paid to Sir Ernest Fisk. I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who may himself reply to the honorable gentleman.
The matter referred to by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) has been under my notice on several occasions during the last six months. I have suggested to Mr. Devereaux, secretary of the Felt Hatters Union, who, I imagine, supplied the honorable member with the material for his remarks, that the remedy is in his own hands if only he will take the firm to court. He will not do so, however. Nor will he give to me any reason for not doing so. As the firm has not been cited, obviously the union’s representative is not allowed to inspect its works. I have had minute investigations of the activities of this firm, and the result in. every instance has convinced me that it is obeying the award. I have discussed this matter with Mr. Devereaux, and with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) who has interested himself in it. Mr. Devereaux has endeavoured to raise the technicality that certain men are not journeymen. He has also told me that it is impossible for any firm to compete with the prices quoted by Hatcraft Proprietary Limited, and pay award rates. For two or three contracts the tender of Hatcraft Proprietary Limited was the lowest, but for the last contract that firm was not the lowest tenderer; it secured a portion of that contract only because the lowest tenderer could not do the whole of the work. Other tenderers quoted prices which were so close to that of Hatcraft Proprietary Limited as to leave no appreciable difference between them. If this firm has done nothing else, it has succeeded in bringing down the prices of these defence requirements. I regret the somewhat intemperate language used by the honorable member in describing officers of my department. I am sure that on reflection he will realize that those officers make their investigations impartially, and have nothing to gain by allowing awards to be flouted. The industrial officers are as keen to see awards complied with as is the honorable gentleman. I have investigated this complaint so often that I am of the opinion that no useful purpose would be served by conducting a further investigation. As I have said, the remedy lies in the hands of the union, but it will not take the matter to court.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Nauru - Ordinance of 1939 -
No. 1 - Motor Traffic Ordinance amendment.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of J. Johnston, Department of the Interior.
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable the Leader of the Opposition to my statement in the House of Representatives on the 1st June, that a royal commission will be appointed to inquire into and report upon the circumstances in which a tender was accepted for additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, and a contract signed in relation thereto.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made to ascertain if the information is available.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– It is not in the interests of national security that information respecting railway capacities for military movements should be made public.
y asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– Representations have been made by Associated Motor Transport, of New South Wales, and Mr. C. Kemp, of Ocean House, Sydney, with a view to securing Commonwealth assistance in connexion with the granting of a Crown coal lease in the Burragorang Valley, New South Wales. These interests intimated that it was intended, if the lease were granted to produce oil from coal, and it is understood that the low temperature carbonization process would be employed for that purpose. As mining, except within the territories controlled by tile Commonwealth, is a State function, the Premier of New South Wales was approached in this matter. The Premier stated that ‘the main products to be derived from the lease would be coal, or coke which would displace coal, and as the policy of his Government was not to grant further Crown leases to mine for coal, the application made by Associated Motor Transport could not be approved. This information was conveyed to the interests mentioned and they were told that the Commonwealth Hydrogenation Committee, a body comprising technical experts of the Commonwealth and the States, reported in 1937, “ that there is little hope of the low temperature carbonization process proving of real practical value in the provision of Australia’s requirements of oil on a large scale unless a huge market for ‘ semicoke the prime product,- can be found.”
This view was recently endorsed by the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels, which stated -
In the opinion of your committee the production of oil from coal by. low temperature carbonization is unattractive. The quantities of petrol likely to be derived by this process are small, while without greater density of population no sufficient market can be found for the prime product of the process - smokeless fuel - to admit of large-scale operations.
e asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is, “No.”
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are’ as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :-*-
n. - On the 2nd June, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked the following question, upon notice : -
Does the abolition of the interstate rate on telegrams apply to the Cabinet decisions at Hobart- -namely, (a) the double rate for telegrams sent on Sundays and holidays, and (b) the press rates to broadcasting stations for matter to be broadcast, and also to press interstate telegrams?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the Government’s re-affirmation of the Hobart decision to reduce rates in respect of interstate telegrams did not. apply to the matters referred to in (a) and (&). It is not
s. - On Wednesday, the 31st May, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) asked the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The whole of these unexpended balances are already committed to expenditure or will .be committed when all claims in hand have been examined. The balance of the approved allocation will be made available to the States aB required.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 June 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390605_reps_15_160/>.