15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.SPEAKER. - I have to announce that I have received a return to the writ which I issued on the 3rd May last for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Wilmot, in the State of Tasmania. The endorsement on the writ confirmed the notification by the Chief Electoral Officer of the election of Lancelot Thomas Spurr, announced to the House yesterday.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received any protests from the Koala Club of Australia in connexion with the exportation of live koalas to New Zealand for the Centennial Exhibition there next year? If so, what action does the Government propose to take in the matter?
– I have not received a protest from any one in respect of the proposed exportation of koalas, nor have I received any application for permission to export them. The Commonwealth Government does not consider the granting of a permit to export Australian fauna unless and until it receives an application from a State government to permit such exportation.
– Is the Government floating a £6,000,000 loan in London at £98 10s., and bearing interest at 4 per cent.? If so, how do the conditions as to discount and rate of interest compare with other loans floated recently?
– The loan that is being issued to-day in London is for £6,000,000 sterling; the price of issue is £98 10s., and the interest rate is 4 per cent. The loan will mature in 1964, with the option of redemption after 1961, so that it is for a fairly long term. The yield to the latest date of redemption will be £4 2s. per cent. The lists will open and close on 7th June. I may add that, in view of Australia’s defence programme, the question of raising a loan in London has been under the consideration of the Government for some time, but until recently, the conditions had proved unfavorable to such an operation. Some weeks ago our stocks receded and, as honorable members will probably know, showed a yield of approximately 5 per cent. in London.
– Investors had not much confidence in the Government.
– Australian loans shared the recession with other gilt-edged stocks on the London market. During the last fortnight our stocks have improved so appreciably that we are now able to make a flotation at the effective rate of £4 2s. per cent. I may say that defence loans are outside the terms of the Financial Agreement, but, following the practice that has been established, it was considered desirable to consult with the Loan Council, and to get its formal concurrence in this flotation before making it. That was done. I should add further that it is intended to use the proceeds of the loan to pay for essential defence requirements which it is necessary to obtain overseas.
– In connexion with the £6,000,000 loan which is to be raised in London at £98 10s. at the rate of 4 per cent. interest, I ask the Treasurer whether that is not equivalent to a rate of interest in Australia of a shade over 5 per cent.? Is he aware that sufficient funds are available in London at the moment to meet interest payments on our external debt for the next three years? In those circumstances, does he not believe that it would have been wiser for the Government to utilize some of those available funds rather than go on the London market for a loan on such unfavorable terms?
– As to the latter part of the honorable member’s question I say, “No”. In my opinion the course we pursued is the right one. As to the first portion of the question, I do not know by what process of reasoning the honorable member arrives at the conclusion that 4.1 per cent, in London becomes 5 per cent, in Australia, because while it U quite true that every £4 sterling we pay in interest represents £5 in Australian currency, it is equally true that the £6,000,000 sterling raised in London represents £7,500,000 Australian.
– Is the Prime Minister able to confirm the intimation which he gave to this House some time ago that he contemplated that Parliament would rise on the 9th instant? A definite statement on the subject would’ be of convenience to honorable members.
– Whether or not the House will conclude its sittings on Friday next depends entirely on the progress that is made with the business. If necessary, honorable members will be asked to sit after that date. The Government has in mind that before the sittings conclude it may be necessary to deal with the flour tax, to which the honorable member for Indi referred yesterday.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to say whether any communications have been received from the Imperial Government detailing a change of policy on its part arising out of the denunciation of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement by Herr Hitler ?
– I am unable to give a definite answer to the honorable member’s question, but I shall let him know if any such communication has been received.
Cost of Living INQUIRY
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether the inquiry into the cost of living in Canberra has been completed, and, if so, whether a report has been furnished; and whether it will be made available to honorable members?
– I am unable to answer the honorable member’s question offhand, but I shall obtain the information and let him know to-morrow.
– About a fortnight ago I asked whether the Government, or the Defence Department, would institute day labour work in lieu of the contract system in constructing a seaplane base at Rathmines. Has the Minister for Defence yet come to a determination with respect to this matter? If not, will he expedite the decision in view of the anxiety of the many unemployed in: the locality to secure employment ?
– Until such time as the necessary contour surveys have been made, and various prior preparations in connexion with the site completed, it will not be possible to give to the Department of the Interior sufficient information on which to start the work that is necessary. As soon as these preliminaries have been completed I shall discuss with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, the advisability or otherwise of having the work done by day labour.
– Some months ago I made representations to the Prime Minister who was then Attorney-General and Minister for Industry, and to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, concerning the shocking conditions under which waterside workers are obliged to work in Hobart, and asked that a shelter-shed and other accommodation be provided. Those honorable gentlemen visited Hobart subsequently, and promised to dd something about the matter. Can the Attorney-General say when their report will be made available?
– Within a few days 1 hope to be able to furnish the honorable gentleman with a copy of the reports made by the Minister for Trade and Customs and Senator Allan MacDonald on this matter. The shelter-shed to which he refers will be completed within about ten days.
– I ask the Treasurer whether certain public works in various States are being delayed because of lack of finance, and whether in view of the recommendation made by the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, that it is within the capacity of the Commonwealth Bank to grant financial accommodation to the Commonwealth and State Governments free of interest, he will take appropriate action to ensure that no further delay is incurred on those works? If he is not prepared to adopt the recommendation of the Royal Commission to which I have referred will he state his reasons for refusing to do so?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a matter of financial policy, and it is not customary to make statements of policy in reply to questions.
– Can the Minister for Social Services, who recently attended a conference in Victoria in connexion with a national fitness campaign, say what financial assistance the Commonwealth Government proposes to give to that campaign ?
– I am unable to supply any information on the subject at present. The matter is still under consideration, but I hope, within a day or two, to supply the House with some information on the subject.
Royal Commission : Terms of Reference
– Is the Prime Minister able to state if any progress has been made in connexion with the inquiry to be conducted by a royal commission into the additions to the General Post Office, Sydney ?
– Having had the advantage of a discussion with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), I am now able to state that the terms of reference will be these -
To inquire into and report upon the circumstances in relation to the proposal to erect certain additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, including the matters leading up to and relating to -
– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank Bill appears to be receding in its position on the notice-paper, can the Prime Minister indicate whether it is the intention of the Government to ask the House to pass that measure during this period of the session ?
– I am still in that state of optimism - although I admit that I maintain it with difficulty - that I was in a week ago.
– On two occasions I have addressed questions to the Prime Minister and to the Attorney-General concerning the desirability to appoint an industrial inspector in Northern Queensland, and, if that is impracticable, to take up the matter with the Queensland Department of Labour and Industry, in order to see whether there can be some collaboration in the matter of policing Arbitration Court awards. Can the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General give any information on the subject?
– Subsequent to that matter being raised by the honorable member, as Attorney-General I had some discussion with the Queensland State authorities. The matter is now before my colleague, with whom I have discussed the matter, and I hope shortly to be in a position to inform the honorable member what has been done.
– On the 11th May, 1 asked the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions : -
Although nearly a month has elapsed since the questions were asked, replies have not yet been furnished. Can the Minister expedite the matter?
– I regret that there has been some delay; I was under the impression that replies had been furnished. The matter will have my immediate attention.
Mr.SHEEHAN.- Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to state whether a decision has been reached in the matter of granting invalid and old-age pensions to naturalized Asiatics from Lebanon. Palestine and Syria?
– If the honorable member will give me until to-morrow, I hope then to be able to answer his question.
– On the 2nd June, the following paragraph appeared in the Launceston Examiner : -
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) announced to-day that a contract had been made with Huddart Parker Limited, of Melbourne, for the maintenance of a steamship mail service between Sydney and Hobart, from the 29th April, to the 25th October. A subsidy at the rate of £307 13s.10d. in respect of every return trip will be paid, subject to a limit of £4,000 for the season.
Does that statement mean that the airmail service between Sydney and Hobart is to be discontinued, or does it refer to the existing subsidy for maintaining an ordinary mail service between Sydney and Hobart? If it refers to the latter; will the Postmaster-General make representations to the shipping companies to provide a weekly shipping service between the two cities mentioned?
– The paragraph refers to the ordinary mail service to Tasmania. The present air-mail service will not be interfered with.
Mr.BEASLEY. - Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is possible for a decision on the shipbuilding industry to be reached and a report tabled in Parliament before the House goes into recess?
– I. am unable to say at present whether that is practicable. The matter is under the consideration of the Government, and if possible, a report will be tabled or a pronouncement made before the House rises.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation noticed a report in the Melbourne Herald, of the 5th June, in which it is stated that, although the flying boat Guba is equipped with a radio compass, Captain Taylor and the navigator, Commander Lewis Yancey, distrust radio navigation and pin their faith to celestial observations? Does the Minister agree with that statement?
– My appointment as Minister for Civil Aviation does not give mesufficient confidence to contradict such authorities as Captain Taylor and Commander Yancey in regard to what is the best navigational procedure. The fact is that when navigators are endeavouring to secure direction from a single station, and that station has only just been picked up, it is not possible always to say whether the bearing given is exactly correct or 180 degrees out. In other words, if a navigator has overflown the station, the manreceiving the direction would not know whether the aircraft was approaching the station or leaving it behind. Therefore, in cases like that, terrestrial bearings are more accurate to check the bearing given by the direction-finding station. On this occasion, not so much because of bad visibility, but because of bumpy air conditions, the taking of sights was impossible.
– Have any new stamp-selling machines been installed in Brisbane and suburbs? If not, when are these machines likely to be made available?
– I understand that some machines have already been installed in Brisbane. I shall have investigations made, and furnish the honorable member with a detailed answer.
– In order to enable honorable members to make arrangements ahead as far as possible, can the Prime Minister inform the House as to whether the motion to be moved to-morrow by the Minister for Social Services will be pursued to finality before the House rises ?
– The answer is “ Yes “.
– Can the Minister for Social Services indicate the position of thenegotiations which the National Insurance Commission was conducting with doctors and friendly societies which were initiated by the then Treasurer in February last?
– At the time when the administration was changed the discussions to which the right honorable member refers had not been completed. In view of the declared intention of the Government to introduce a. wider scheme of medical service, no further action has been taken along those lines.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce state whether he has been successful in securing a boat to lift the fruit left on the Hobart wharfs?
– I have had no information about that matter to-day. Immediately questions are over, I shall seek it and transmit it to the honorable member.
– Is it a fact that certain contracts for the supply of munitionsmaking machinery have been placed in Germany? Can the Minister state the approximate value of such contracts, and whether it isa fact that a German expert is at present in Australia advising the defence authorities with respect to the installation and operation of the machinery?
– It is a fact that certain machines have been ordered from Germany. Speaking from memory, the value of the machinery is approximately £40,000. I have no knowledge as to whether any German engineers are in Australia helping to install it.
– In order to make the position clear will the Minister inform the House whether the munitionsmaking machinery ordered from Germany could be procured in Australia or within the British Empire?
– It certainly could not be procured in Australia nor, to the best of my knowledge, in the British Empire.
– Has the new aeroplane ordered for the use of the Civil Aviation Department yet arrived; what kind of plane is it; what did it cost; and is it to be used extensively by Ministers or only by departmental officers?
– The Percival Gull Q6 ordered for the use of the department is due to arrive on the 10th June. Whether or not it will arrive on time I cannot say. It is intended primarily to be used for testing and checking beacons and direction-finding installations. Although this apparatus has already been tested for several airports, it will be necessary for the department to carry out continual tests in order to check any variations which may take place. That will be the major use to which the aircraft will be put. Apart from that it will be used in transporting the Air Accidents Investigation Committee to the scene of any accidents that may occur, and also for the transport of officers of the Civil Aviation Department on inspections of aerodromes and work of that sort. The aircraft was not purchased for the transport of Ministers.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House of the estimated cost of compiling the national register of man-power and the register of wealth taken in 1915? If the Minister has not that information at hand will he procure it?
– I have not the information at hand, but a perusal of the debates of 1915 discloses that it was estimated to cost approximately £150,000. I understand, however, that there was very little if any justification for that estimate.
– How long was it anticipated it would take to compile the register ?
– I do not know.
– Has any estimate been made of the cost of compiling the register of man-power proposed in the National Registration Bill?
– Yes. It is estimated to cost £40,000.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).I have received from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The powers and position of the Australasian Performing Right Association in the Commonwealth, and the attitude of the Government thereto “.
That the House do now adjourn. in order to draw attention to: thepowers and position of the Australasian Performing Right Association in the Commonwealth, and the attitude of the Government thereto.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– It is my desire this afternoon to bring before the attention of the House and the country the situation which exists to-day in regard to the operations of the institution known as the Australasian Performing Right Association. May I say thatI do not bring this matter forward with any spirit of hostility towards the Government or towards authors; I am merely desirous of seeing legislation placed upon the statute-book of this country under which the rights of authors will be protected. My grievance is that, under the law as it stands to-day, the authors of this country, and indeed of other countries, are not adequately protected. The present Copyright Act should be abolished and replaced by an entirely new act. The first Copyright Act was passed by this Parlia-. ment in 1905. That act was repealed by the Copyright Act 1912, which adopted as the law of the Commonwealth the. British Copyright Act of 1911. The British act is contained in the schedule of the Commonwealth act, and cannot be altered by this Parliament except as to matters of procedure and remedies. Further slight amendments of the Commonwealth act were made in 1933 and 1935. The chief grievance to-day is that the Australasian Performing Right Association has set itself up in this country as a taxing authority, and is collecting huge revenues from the users of copyright music. To some of that revenue it has a legal right; to the rest it has no legal right whatsoever. According to statements made to me by representatives of the association some time ago, when I came into contact, if not conflict, with them, it is evident that, on their own showing, the rights in respect of 15 to 20 per cent. of the music upon which they claim royalties in Australia do not, in fact, belong to them. To the fees collected on that music they have neither legal nor moral claim. In respect of the rest of their collections, I should say from my investigations that it is extremely doubtful whether they have a moral claim to more than half. They admit that they collect royalties onthe works of men who have been dead for 90 or 100 years. When Parliament passed the Copyright Act, its intention was undoubtedly to protect the interests of authors; it was never intended that an association, which acquired the rights of the author in his work, for a very small amount perhaps, should afterwards, and for an indefinite time, continue to levy toll on the public for the enjoyment of that music. It has been stated to me, in correspondence, that the Australasian Performing Right Association holds the copyright of everything from the Psalms of David to God Save The King. Certainly, in regard to God Save The King, I believe that it is literally true that the association is entitled to a royalty every time a band plays the national anthem, and every time it is played over a radio station. I have been given to understand that the music of God Save The King was brought to England from Germany with the first George, so that it is extremely doubtful that any of the money collected for the playing of that air now goes to the heirs of the person who wrote the music. I have not yet heard that the association has attempted to copyright the Ten Commandments. Perhaps they contain matter in respect of which it would be unwise to attempt to collect fees. There is no legally constituted authority in Australia to prescribe the fees which the association may charge. As the law stands, it may charge anything it likes, and it does. When the first international convention in respect of copyright was drawn up, and the present copyright law was passed, there was no idea that such huge revenues would be drawn from the cinema and radio. Those things have come in since the law was passed, and to-day the Australasian Performing Right Association collects revenue on every gramophone record made in Australia. It also collects royalty from every commercial broadcasting station every time the record is played. A scale of fees is laid down, and these fees must be paid, no matter how many times the record is played. In addition, the association collects from the Australian Broadcasting Commission 6d. out of every listener’s licence-fee paid in Australia. It also makes a levy on every hotel, cafe, passenger steamer, dance hall, district hall and mechanics’ institute, each having to pay a guinea or several guineas for the right to use music, although, in respect of from 15 to 20 per cent, of that music, the association has no rights at all. I have been informed that, as the result of the introduction of talking pictures, the use in picture theatres of music subject to royalties has fallen by 70 per cent., but the actual fees charged have doubled, and the association is not yet satisfied with the amount it is getting. . On hotels and cafes, and places of that kind, the association levies fees for what it terms the “ right of diffusion.” Notwithstanding the fact that it has already collected a royalty from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Commission, or from commercial stations, which broadcast the music, it also demands fees from the cafe or hotel for the right to have the music diffused in a place of public entertainment or public patronage.
My grievance is not that fees are collected in this country, but that the money does not go to the authors. The great bulk of the money is going overseas to an international concern which has very little interest in the development of music or art. My idea is that the fees should be levied and collected by the Copyright Office in Australia which would be responsible for paying the money over to the authors or their representatives. At present, there is no obligation upon the association to prove in Australia that it is entitled to the royalties it claims under the law. It is proper that any person who makes a claim should be compelled to produce a title to what he claims. I absolutely repudiate the right of any international combine, which has purchased the works of authors for a small amount, to levy toll on the rest of the world for an indefinite time for the use of those works. It was with extreme surprise that I learned, when I was PostmasterGeneral, from representatives of the association, that it maintains in Melbourne, at its own expense, a musical composer whos.e sole job is to watch when music is about to become public property, as it were, by the expiry of the copyright. When the copyright of .a piece of music is about to expire rendering the association no longer entitled to collect copyright fees, it is the duty of this composer to alter a few notes or to write a new preface so that the work cn be copyrighted again for another period of 50 years with no interruption to the game of collecting copyright fees. I cannot imagine that the Commonwealth Parliament ever intended that to be the practice when, for the protection of authors, it instituted the law of copyright. Some one must be responsible for the condition of the law and, as I see the situation to-day, that some one is the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth. It should be his first duty to see that the copyright law is kept up to date in order to keep pace with development, so that the injustices which are perpetrated under the existing copyright law will not be possible. When amendment of the law is necessary it should not be left until public clamour demands that some justice be done before amending legislation is introduced into Parliament. I shall be told by the Attorney-General that it is difficult to alter the situation because Australia is a party to an international agreement on. the subject, hut sister dominions, which are similarly placed, amongst them Canada, have not found that an obstacle to action on the lines I contemplate. The Dominion of Canada has done everything, but we in this dominion, except in one or two instances, have done nothing. Canada has altered the law and set up a commission which every December publishes in the Government Gazette, a table of .fees to which the Performing Right Association is entitled for the ensuing twelve months. The commission lays down the amount to be paid in respect of every wireless station, hotel, cafe and every other body which is levied. To give the honorable member some idea of the way in which Canada has placed limitations on the activities of the Performing Right Association, I cite the fact that the amount to be paid in respect of all unlicensed cafes in Canada for 1938, was assessed by the commission at 1,000 dollars. This is paid on their behalf by the Canadian Broadcasting Commission which, like our own broadcasting commission, is a fairly wealthy institution, with the result that they themselves are absolutely free of any copy- right fine or fee. The New Zealand Government gave notice in February that it was not satisfied with the prevailing rates of payment to the New Zealand Performing Right Association, which are second only to those paid in Australia where the fees are, with the exception of those paid in Italy, higher than those paid in any other country. Our broadcast fee is ls. Id. a licence. The fee in Italy may be higher than that, but there are certain restrictions on the use of radio in Italy which have retarded the development of broadcasting in that country in comparison with other European countries. In New Zealand, I believe, the rate is to be reduced to 6d. South Africa is also taking action.
– That is the amount paid to the Performing Right Association by the equivalent of the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– Yes, but the New Zealand Government is controlling all radio, and I believe that in Australia there should be only one payment to the Australasian Performing Right Association on behalf of all broadcasting stations. I put it to the House that a man, no matter who he may be, cannot listen at the one time to more than one broadcasting programme. We have many broadcasting stations and, under the present system, the Australasian Performing Right Association receives 6d. for each listener’s licence from the Broadcasting Commission, whilst the commercial stations, using their own records, have to pay individually to the association. But, I argue that a man can listen to only one station at a time and that therefore there should be only one fee. Arrangements no doubt could be made to apportion the fee between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations.
– Would the honorable member say that the operations of the Australasian Performing Right Association increase the cost of music?
– I should say that that is true. It will be argued that, as the result of the introduction of radio, the sales of music have fallen off, but evidence can be adduced from the Broadcasting Commission and commercial stations that they have been requested repeatedly by the Australasian Performing Right Association to broadcast certain pieces of music in order to increase the sales of that music, so that the argument is not likely to bear a great deal of investigation. The history of the dealings of the Australian Broadcasting Commission with the Australasian Performing Bight Association is remarkable. There is nothing in the Australian law to compel the two interests to accept arbitration, but after a lot of trouble arbitration came about last year, and late in May, 1938, a decision was given by the arbitrator, a distinguished King’s Counsel of Sydney, who found that the Performing Bight Association in Australia was entitled to 5.9d. a licence. He awarded 6d., but that agreement had hardly come to being with a currency of six months before the Australasian Performing Bight Association demanded from the commission 7d. a licence. When the commission showed signs of compliance the Australasian Performing Right Association demanded that that amount be paid in sterling, making it 8fd. If there were anything to condemn the activities of the Australasian Performing Right Association it is its action so soon after the award to break it by demanding an increase of almost 50 per cent., notwithstanding the fact, that, at the same time, it was levying the commercial stations more than it had previously. From the commercial stations the Australasian Performing Right Association demanded an increase by 10 per cent, of the amount to be paid by them in the current year. I believe that that was finally beaten down to an increase by 5 per cent. Nevertheless, there was an increase. The Australasian Performing Right Association may be able to show that actual reductions have been made of the fees it levies, but the total income of the association from broadcasting and the cinema has increased heavily, and, unless some restraint is placed upon the association by way of legislation, I see no limit to the amount that it will be prepared to demand in the very near future for the use of its works, and also, let me remind the House, for the use of works to which even it admits that it has no title whatsoever. This Parliament cannot allow private institutions to collect moneys by way of royalties for the use of something which they do not even claim to possess. [Leave to continue given.] Nor can this Parliament allow them to dispose of money, to which they are not legally or morally entitled, without accounting to anybody in this community for its disposal. The remedy lies in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. First, there should be a thorough review of the law. That, in my opinion, would involve the passing of completely new legislation. But in the meantime some short act should be passed to limit the fees which can be collected by the Australasian Performing Right Association, and to force the association to prove that it is entitled to collect them. I am certain, from investigations which I have made, that if the Australasian Performing Right Association were asked to produce proof of its ownership of music on which it collects fees for performance in this country, it would be up against one of the toughest propositions ever put to any one in the Commonwealth .
– Does the honorable mem ber think that the position warrants investigation by a royal commission?
– There has already been inquiry by one royal commission and I have no great love for referring these matters to such bodies. T am one of those old-fashioned people who have a strong liking for ministerial responsibility. I believe that a Minister should ascertain what are the facts about a particular matter, and then make a decision and stick to it.
– Like 2KY, for instance?
– Yes, even like SKY. I believe that under present conditions more than 50 per cent, of the fees received by the Australasian Performing Right Association is unjustly collected. Consequently, there is very great need for a complete review of Australasian copyright legislation. The channels through which this money is collected by the association are many, its revenue has greatly increased in recent years and not even charitable institutions are exempted from the payment of fees. The files of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department include letters relating to an application by a reverend gentleman in Hobart for exemption from the payment of copyright fees in connexion with plays which were staged by a charitable organization for the purpose of raising funds to carry on its work. The application was refused and the payment demanded and subsequently received amounted to 80 per cent. of the takings. No one can contend that that is a reasonable charge.
– Fees have to be paid even for the playing of the National Anthem.
– That is so. Having regard to all these facts and many others which could be raised in connexion with this matter,I consider that bushrangers who operated in the earlier years of Australian development were a very dull lot. We now know to our cost that there are methods by which money may be collected more easily and without risk to life or reputation.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has made out a very good case for a review of the Copyright Act. In my opinion, copyright fees should be collected by the Commonwealth Government. Payment would then be guaranteed to those entitled to receive remuneration for works which they had written or composed. The reform suggested by the honorable member for Barker is long overdue. As was pointed out by the royal commission in 1933, there appears to be no doubt that the Australasian Performing Right Association is a super-monopoly controlling or claiming to control most of the music which the public must use. The monopoly is therefore able to dictate its own terms. Over a long period, many protests have been made against the unbridled rapacity of this combine. The great bulk of the musical works on which fees are collected by this association are the production of overseas composers and writers. Very little money is collected in respect of purely Australian compositions. It would be interesting to obtain a return showing what percentage of the £60,000 paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and by commercial radio stations, is received by Australian and overseas writers and composers.
– Does that £60,000 represent the total collected from both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial stations?
– Yes. Approximately £32,000 a year is paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and £28,000 a year by the privately owned stations. Who are the people constituting the Australasian Performing Right Association?I shall read to honorable members the names of some of them, and I have yet to learn that they are either writers or composers. They include -
– That is so. They are neither writers nor composers, but we are told that they have purchased the Australian rights of the works which they control.
– Probably the composers of some of the works on which the Australasian Performing Right Association levies fees are on the dole
– No doubt some of the people responsible for these works are in old men’s homes in London, while their compositions are being played in Australian theatres and halls, and the Australasian Performing Right Association draws in the aggregate large sums from those theatres and halls,/ There is no record to show the proportion of the money that goes to the composer. Being a monopoly, the association is able to dictate its terms without let or hindrance. The time has arrived when we should give greater encouragement to Australian composers and writers. We as a parliament - I speak certainly for members of the Opposition - do not stand for great middlemen’s organizations such as this combine, which is able to dictate the fees to be paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and also by commercial broadcasting companies. It is high time we had a further quick inquiry into the activities of this association with a view to ascertaining what sum was paid for the exclusive right to levy fees on songs and music used in Australia to-day, and what return is being received on that investment. The Government should also take some definite action. The information that we are seeking would be very interesting. After taking evidence in all States, the royal commission of 1933 made some very interesting observations. The report of that commission states, inter alia -
It is difficult to imagine any other monopoly with such powers as are possessed by the Australasian Performing Bight Association through its affiliation and association with the Performing Right Society and other societies throughout the world.
It controls or claims to control over 80 per cent. of the best music which is subject to copyright - and no one is in a position to dispute these claims.
It can dictate its own terms - without the association’s consent, no one can use its music in public. Thecommunity is prevented from listening to its music unless the association agrees to its use in public.
There is, and, unless the law he altered, there can be, no restraint placed upon its demands.
That was the considered opinion of the royal commission appointed by the Commonwealth Government in . 1933, but nothing practical has resulted from the findings of that body. As the honorable member for Barker says, it would be a waste of time to refer this matter again to a royal commission. The commission of 1933 made fifteen helpful recommendations, but, with two minor exceptions, they have been ignored.
The Australasian Performing Bight Association also claims the right to charge churches and other places of worship for the performance of musical works as part of their service. The royal commission stated that, at the time of its inquiries, no such charge was being levied, but that the association reserved the right to impose such a charge if it so desired.
– It is imposing that charge.
– Yes. The royal commission’s report went on to say that if a religious service were broadcast, the broadcaster could be called upon to pay a performing fee. The royal commission stated, in its report, that it was most desirable, in the interest of the public and particularly the sick, the blind and the aged, that religious services should be broadcast, and that it appeared unreasonable that such broadcasting should be burdened with the payment of a performing fee.
The association also circularized schools of arts, and institutes of various kinds, throughout the Commonwealth, demanding the payment of two guineas, or five guineas, according to what sum is believed it could obtain from these bodies for the performance of various works. The royal commission recommended that there should be no fee or charge payable for the performance of any musical work in any place for religious, charitable, fraternal or educational purposes, if the entire proceeds, after deducting the reasonable costs of the performance, be devoted exclusively to religious, charitable, fraternal or educational purposes, or for the maintenance of the places in which such performances are held. I have yet to learn that the Government has acted on that recommendation. What has been done with it?
The New South Wales Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia printed and issued a number of small pamphlets for the use of gatherings of returned soldiers. The pamphlets contained songs which during and since the war have been widely used by soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force and the British Army. In August. 1930, a firm of solicitors, acting on behalf of the Australasian Performing Right Association, sent a peremptory letter to the league alleging that it was infringing the copyright of certain clients of the association, with the result that the league was unable to continue the publication and issue of those pamphlets. The royal commission pointed out that, although in cases in which claims for performing fees had been made, or suggested, by the Australasian Performing Right Association only a nominal fee had been claimed by it, the fact, remained that the association could, if it so desired, charge any fees which it deemed fit. It appears to have unlimited powers; at least, there is no limit to its demands. The Australasian Performing Right Association also makes claims on cafes and restaurants, ships, and societies representing schools of arts, literary institutes, mechanics’ institutes and the like. In my own district I have had numerous complaints from bodies of this kind.
The royal commission also referred to the cases of picture theatres and pointed out that, whereas in 1926, tho association charged £18 15s. per annum for a theatre to seat 1,500 persons in which 2,600 pieces of music were used, in 1932 it made the same charge for 4] 0 pieces of music.
Another complaint against the Australasian Performing Right Association is that it will consent to grant licences for only a short term, generally twelve months, after which further arrangements have to be made. On renewal the association fixes its own prices. The new arrangement is always to its advantage. Business people contend that such short contracts increase the difficulty of making satisfactory arrangements for the carrying on of their businesses.
To-day, the Australian people are paying higher broadcasting fees to the Australasian Performing Right Association than are paid to similar bodies in any other country. The Australian rate is ls. Id. a year in respect of each listener’s licence. Of that amount, 6d. is paid by the national broadcasting stations, and 7d. by the commercial stations. [Leave to continue given.] The fee of 6d. paid by the national broadcasting stations was arrived at by arbitration in May, 1938. At that time, the Australasian Performing Right Association refused to consider any award extending beyond the end of that year.
– Is 6d. payable in respect of each performance of a musical work?
– No; 6d. is paid by the national stations and 7d. by private stations in respect of each listener’s licence. That amounts to ls. Id. for each licence. The following statement shows the number of licences and payments in respect of each receiving set for the year 1937 :-
It will be seen that the charge in Australia is higher than in any other country, with the exception of Italy.
– In an answer which J supplied to a question last week, I stated that the Tee paid in France is 1.4d. in respect of each licence.
– That makes my case even stronger, and shows how unreasonable are the charges levied by the Australasian Performing Right Association. The average world rate is 6.51d. for each wireless receiving set.
The Australasian Performing Right Association operates in New Zealand as well as in Australia. In the sister dominion, however, a Labour government is in power. The result is that the Australasian Performing Right Association has seen fit to recognize the justice of a joint fee for both national and commercial stations. Some time ago it concluded an agreement whereby musical and other works were made available to both classes of stations for the one fee of lOd. for each licence. If that charge is reasonable in New Zealand, what justification is there for ls. Id. a. licence in Australia ?
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the national stations pay fees to the Australasian Performing Right Association out of the revenues received from listeners’ licences?
– Yes. The national stations pay 6d. and the commercial stations 7d. in respect of each licence. In the aggregate, the payment to the Australasian Performing Right Association is 1s.1d. in respect of each listeners’ licence, or a total of about £60,000 a year. We have no information as to what percentage of that amount, if any, is paid to the composers and writers whose works are broadcast. It is time that the Government did something in the matter. We stand for the protection of the rights of composers and writers; but we are opposed to exploitation by middlemen who are , not composers, but publishers who have purchased Australian rights for nominal sums and are fleecing the public.
Canada is probably the country in which broadcasting conditions most closely approximate those in Australia. Both are large sparsely-populated countries, with the centres of population widely separated. Approximately 1,200,000 licences are current in Canada, and about 1,150,000 in Australia. In both countries there are national broadcasting stations as well as commercial stations. The fees payable by Canadian broadcasters have been investigated in four successive years. The first investigation was by a royal commission, presided over by His Honour Judge Parker. Following that inquiry, there were three investigations by the Canadian Copyright Appeal Board, which is the statutory tribunal set up by the Canadian Parliament as the result of Judge Parker’s recommendations in respect of copyright payments. The original fee recommended by Judge Parker was 8 cents a set, which, at the present rate of exchange, is equivalent to 5d. in Australian money. Despite all endeavours on the part of the Canadian Performing Right Association to have that figure increased, the Canadian Copyright Appeal Board, at three successive annual sittings, has maintained that charge. Its last decision was given in January of last year. Nowhere in the world has the subject of broadcasting copyright payments been so carefully and exhaustively examined as in Canada. The result is that the charges in that dominion are much less than half the fees that are demanded in Australia. These facts speak for themselves. There is no justification for the present state of affairs being allowed to continue. It is high time that something was done in this matter, particularly as any action that may be taken will not affect the rights of the composers.
– What does the honorable gentleman suggest should be done?
– That is a matter for the Government to determine. The honorable member for Barker has asked the Government to introduce new copyright legislation. Moreover, the Government itself should collect all the fees, and pay a reasonable amount to all persons or associations who can produce proof that they are entitled to payment. The Australasian Performing Right Association, which to-day is paid £60,000 a year, should be called upon to show what it has paid for the rights that it claims to possess, and what percentage of its receipts go to the publishers. I do not deny that the association has a legal claim, but surely Parliament should be supreme in these matters. If the existing act is iniquitous, it should be altered.
– Who fixes’ the rate of 1s.1d. for each receiving set?
– It is fixed by the Australasian Performing Right Association. The association claims to have the law on its side, and accordingly it demands 6d. from the national stations and 7d. from the commercial stations in respect of each licensed listener. The association practically points a gun at the heads of those in charge of broadcasting as it does when dealing with picture shows, schools of arts, and others. They are given no option but to pay what is demanded. Among the persons who derive the greatest benefit from these fees are the owners of the most expensive private yachts on the Sydney Harbour.
– Does the association pay any of the money that it receives to the composers of the music which is broadcast, or to their descendants?
– I do not say that they do not do so, but we have no evidence of such payments. It may be that some of the composers are inmates of poor- houses in England. We have a right to know the facts. The Government should bestir itself. It is high time the Government did something. The royal commission of 1933 made certain recommendations, but no action has yet been taken upon its report.
– The question of granting a copyright should be really on original work and not on work containing a few slight changes from the original.
– That is so. Such an attitude is a reasonable one. All of these concerns have been groaning under this iniquitous impost for years. I urge the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) to do something about the matter and not to allow it to drift on for some considerable time. I ask him to ‘ act on the recommendations of the royal commission and, furthermore, to make the necessary additional inquiries. It is useless for him to tell us that nothing can be done this year because of other legislation, because this is surely one of the big questions of the moment that calls for legislative action. I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Barker.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has raised-
– A hornet’s nest.
– I was not going to say that, but the honorable member has raised a very important and, certainly, a highly complex question. I endeavoured to follow the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), but I must admit that I got hopelessly entangled in the thickets of the payments to the Australasian Performing Right Association, and just how these should be adjusted I do not know. I have been associated, in a former incarnation, with the Copyright Act. The original measure was introduced by me. It was then considered to be a highly satisfactory piece of legislation, and continued to be so regarded for many years. Unfortunately at that time the political seers of the day were not able to envisage the possibilities of radio, the cinema, and the gramophone. What was sought at that time was to provide a law to protect the author of copyright in sheet music. Times have changed, and we are now asked to consider the use of musical compositions by broadcasting stations, and urged to make suitable amendments of the law. The
Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to be under the impression that an amendment can be made quite simply. I shall state exactly what is the position so far as I understand it. The 1912 act, which is the principal act, adopted the British Copyright Act of 1911, section 25 of which provided that any dominion might adopt that act with such modifications as related to procedure and remedies. That was done; so, in substance, the Commonwealth act of 1912 adopts in this country the provisions of the British Copyright Act of 1911, and we cannot, under our act, vary the British act except in regard to procedure and remedies. That is a very important point. The honorable member for Barker quoted the opinion of outside counsel that an amendment could be made to the. law without repealing the principal act.
– I did not quote any opinion of counsel.
– At any rate counsel’s opinion supplied to my department, set out that the Commonwealth could provide - (1.) That no action shall be brought until after service of a notice of action specifying the particular breach and the damages claimed for it.
With that we agree. (2.) An arbitration as to the amount 01’ damages to be paid.
That is provided for by section 13a of the principal act. (3.) The Australasia.il Performing Right Association cannot recover, as damages in any year, for a breach of copyright by broadcasting by licensed stations, a sum exceeding 6dper wireless set licensed in that year.
Counsel is of opinion that amendment, of the Commonwealth act can be made without going beyond the provisions of section 25 of the British act; because it is an amendment relating to procedure and remedies. With that we do not. agree. It is “ evident that it affects the right of the author, because copyright, is meaningless unless it protects the author and grants to him that return for his property which is the fruit of his brain. It follows, therefore, that in order to make any amendment which would vest in any body created under . the amending legislation, the power to fix fees we should have to legislate de novo and bring in a new
Copyright Act. I am not prepared to say that that is impossible, or that it ought not to be done.
Now we come to the merits of the matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke very disparagingly of the Australasian Performing Right Association. He branded it as a monopoly - a word easily spoken - and said that it was bleeding the unfortunate listeners-in in this country to the extent of £60,000’ a year, made up of £28,000 from the Australian Broadcasting Commission and £32,000 from the B class stations. But, he asked, “How much of that amount does the composer receive?” and left us groping in the immensity of space.
– The Government should satisfy itself on that point.
– What remedy does the honorable gentleman propose? Although lie says that under the present system, under which the Australasian Performing Right Association charges 6d. and 7d. against the national and B class stations respectively, the composer gets nothing or very little, he proposes to reduce the fees payable to the Australasian Performing Right Association.
– The money might go to the author instead of to the speculators.
– There is nothing to compel any composer to join this organization. Copyright is a personal right; it is a. reward for labour. Are we proposing to steal the fruit of a man’s brain? The author has a right to withhold or dispose of his composition in any way, and on any terms he pleases. He need not, however, join this association. He can go to every person who uses his music and demand from that person whatever fees he pleases.
– The Australasian Performing Right Association consists of music publishers who have bought the Australian rights, and not of composers.
– We are dealing with the composer. The honorable gentleman says that the composer would be better off if the fees payable to the Australasian Performing Right Association were reduced. The honorable gentleman should ask any trade unionist whether he would be better off if his wages were reduced. Would the honorable gentleman, for instance, ‘be tetter off if his salary were reduced ? I know that I should not be better off if mine were reduced. The real question is : “ Who is to collect this money ?” And the answer is : “In the nature of the thing the individual composer is not in a position to collect his fees, or to protect his right.” What is this right? It is a world-wide right. Honorable gentlemen talk about the Australian author. If the Australian author’s right were confined to Australia he would get practically no financial return for the fruit of his brain. Its greatest value lies in the fact that it is a world-wide right, and entitles the author to royalty whenever his music is performed in any part of the world. It is the author’s right to impose fees. The difficulty is to collect them. By the Rome Convention of 1928, it was agreed that countries might provide by their laws for the fixing of fees, but only in respect of fees for radio reproductions. They could not fix fees in respect of any reproduction in theatres, concert halls or public entertainments of any kind. So that all that my friend has said in respect of public presentations for charitable and religious organizations is irrelevant. Reference has been made to Canadian legislation on this matter. I shall not say anything about that legislation except that, in- my opinion, it does not comply with the international obligation under the Copyright Convention. Practically every civilized country in the world is a member of the convention and legislates within its scope, the object of the convention being to protect and encourage the composer. I am just as keen as the honorable member for Barker that the composer should receive full reward for his work. But I ask honorable members how that is to be done except through an Organization of this kind. The names of big music publishing firms which compose this association have been mentioned. That organization is in being. It has been termed a monopoly. But what is a composer to do unless he elects to act for himself? There is no need for him to approach this association if he thinks he can do better for himself by remaining outside it. If he joins it he does so of his own free will. Many people think that they can do much better outside a union than in it, but the majority of workers join a union. If the union is badly managed then it is their business to remedy that state of affairs. “We must endeavour to march with the times. The honorable member for Barker complained of the increasing amount that flows into the coffers of the Australasian Performing Right Association. All I have to say is that, as time goes on, more and more musical productions are put over the air. Some people seem to think, and quite rightly, that additional encouragement might be given both to the music publishing firms and to composers to produce somethng which will be at once a little tuneful and uplifting. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition complained that nothing has been done as a result of the recommendations of a royal commission. Something was done. Section 13a of the act provides that fees can be fixed between the parties by arbitration.
– By voluntary arbitration; but the association does not want arbitration.
– On two occasions, fees have been settled by arbitration.
– And it took two years to get the association to go to arbitration.
– The association was not responsible for that.
– It was.
– And it went back on its agreement.
– It has dishonoured every undertaking.
– The matter was settled by arbitration, and the parties fixed what, in their opinion, were fair and reasonable charges.
– The right honorable gentleman will find that the arbitration section in the 1935 act extends the right to Australian possessions.
– The Government recognizes very clearly that there is room for improvement. But it is not easy to protect composers, and at the same time ensure that listeners shall have that wide range of choice to which they are entitled at low cost. The honorable member spoke as though a composer had no rights. He has the first right; he has the right to be paid for the work of his brains.
– We contend that he is not adequately remunerated from the money collected by the association.
– I have said over and over again that he can fix his own fee.
– Can some poor composer in London, for instance, fix his own fee ? It is only the association that can fix the fee.
– The poorest composer can fix his own fee and make his own terms, but he finds, as most of us do, that in dealing with a complex matter such as this he can secure his rights more effectively through an organization. That is why authors and composers join the association. It may be contended that the amount charged by the association is excessive, and that a tribunal should be appointed to fix fees. To do so, the existing act must be repealed and a new measure introduced in which provision is made for the appointment of a suitable tribunal. I am not going to say definitely that the Government will do that now; but it will give careful consideration to what the honorable member has said with a view to introducing such remedial legislation as the situation demands.
.- The right honorable the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) in his apologia for the Australasian Performing Right Association said that the whole question resolves itself into the one of who is collecting the money, but he is in error because it is a question of who is receiving the money. If we examine the subject we must have good reasons for doubting that the composers are receiving the huge fees collected by the association. Three weeks ago I asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) “How much does the Australian Broadcasting Commission pay the Australasian Performing Right Association “ ? I believe that the answer I received was that £44,000 was paid by the Commissioners. I then asked if the Minister could say how much of that £44,000 went to Australian authors, to British authors) to authors other than British, and how much went into the pockets of those who were neither authors nor composers. The Postmaster-General said that he was unable to secure the information as it was in the private possession of the association and that the association was not disposed to disclose it.”I carried my questions a little further and sought the opinion of the previous PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie- Cameron) . I asked whether, during his term of office, he had made any inquiries as to where the money went, and he said that to the best of his knowledge and belief, from information he had obtained, not more than £500 of approximately £100,000 went to Australian authors or composers. [ remind the House that in addition to the £44,000 paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australasian Performing Eight Association receives huge sums from commercial broadcasting stations, picture shows, and private entertainments throughout Australia. In these circumstances the amount probably collected greatly exceeds £100,000, and of that amount it can be confidently stated - and the association may, if it likes, disprove it - that Australian authors and composers do not get more than £500. A former Postmaster-General endeavoured to ascertain, by means of a questionnaire, the amount that some leading composers are receiving. Quite a number replied, and the “ top liner “ stated that five years ago he received £1 10s. 8d. a year, and that for the last half-year the amount had dropped to 2s. 2d.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ top liner “ ?
– The person who received the maximum amount. The composer who received the largest amount from the £100,000 collected, got £1 10s. 8d. a year five years ago, and for the last half year only 2s. 2d. The AttorneyGeneral says that authors are entitled to benefit from what they write, and composers should benefit from their compositions, but I have given the degree of the benefit they receive. In these circumstances it is obvious that action should be taken by this Parliament to protect not only the authors and composers, but also the people of Australia against this form of taxation. For it is a form of taxation, because on compositions used in every little country hall or church a levy which has never been authorized by this Parliament is made.
– Quite a number of composers sell their compositions to Palings, in Sydney, for cash.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that such persons should join the association; hut it is a matter of a person’s right. These people have no market for their compositions other than through the association, which can pay themwhat it pleases from the fees it collects. The association is able to do this merely because it is sufficiently strong in legal and other respects to make it impossible for any individual to fight it. How can any individual resist & claim madeby the association for one guinea or two guineas? If he refused, the association would take the matter to the High Court, and, if necessary, to the Privy Council., Authors and composers find that they have no option but to give way to this form of blackmail. That is a severe term to use, hut in many instances it amounts to’ blackmail. So far as I know, the Adelaide City Council is the only body which has resisted the claims of the association. The association claimed £250 a year because certain music had been played in the Adelaide Town Hall. The Adelaide City Council contested the claim in court where its legal representative said that the association should collect the amount from the persons concerned, and not from the council. The City Council won the case on a point of law, and the association did not get its £250. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) statedthat the Australasian Performing Bight Association’ has in Melbourne a musical composer whose sole duty it is to go through old music coming into “ the public domain “ and alter a note here and there or do what they term “adapt “ it. As soon as it is “adapted” and used by a broadcasting station, or by- any other body or individual, the association claims a fee. Can it be said that an author who has been dead for, say, 100 years or more, can benefit by the levies imposed by the association and its kindred organizations overseas? The Attorney-General in asking what could be done threw his hands in the air and said : “ This thing may be iniquitous, but what can the Commonwealth Government do? We might bring down an amending act; we shall give the matter consideration.” The Government should follow the example of the sister Dominion of Canada. If Canada can take these people by the heels,. Australia can do so. In the interest of the taxpayers, it is the manifest duty of the Government to act in this matter. The Government should take this association to task and do as Canada has done. It has been stated that there is .an international convention which deals with the matter, but that convention has not met for many years, and the Australasian Performing Right Association can prevent it from meeting. The decisions of that convention apply to New Zealand, Canada and other countries, and if those countries have taken the matter in hand, why should not Australia do so?
– Recommendation 15 of the royal commission suggested that it should be brought before the International Commission, but the Government has done nothing in that regard.
– The AttorneyGeneral asked what has been done to date. Whatever has been done to date in an attempt to bring this matter into focus and prevent the Australasian Performing Right Association from further exploiting the Australian people was done by the honorable member for Barker when Postmaster-General. The control of the operations of this association with respect to broadcasting is within the province of the PostmasterGeneral. The honorable member for Barker is to he commended for bringing this matter to the notice of the Government before the House goes into recess so that it can be considered before the Australian Broadcasting Commission makes a new contract with the Australasian Performing Right Association. That contract, I understand, has to be approved by the Postmaster-General. Although I am quite prepared to believe that the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) is desirous of giving this matter fair consideration, he has to have the backing of the Attorney-General and the Cabinet in any decision he makes, and from what we have heard this afternoon
I am not at all satisfied that he has that full degree of support for his opinions from the members of the Cabinet which would enable him to protect the public against the rapacity of this international group which is exploiting it. Another important point made by the honorable member for Barker was the relationship existing between the cinema proprietors throughout Australia and this international group. The honorable member pointed out that although the use of orchestral music by cinemas has decreased by about 70 per cent, during recent years owing to the introduction of talking pictures, the fees charged by the international group have increased by 100 per cent. In other words, although the cinema proprietors are using 70 per cent, less music they have to pay double the fees charged before the advent of talking pictures. At the same time the kindred body, the Australasian Performing Right Association, is collecting fees on all music used in talking films. The proceeds of these collections go to the international organization. After what has been said by the honorable member for Barker and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, it is unnecessary for me to pursue this subject beyond pointing out the unsatisfactory position that exists in relation to the adaptation or arrangement of the works of old masters. Under the present system it is impossible to perform the works of old masters, ‘Wagner for instance, without being liable for the payment of fees to the association. [Leave to continue given.] . Despite the passage of years, the association continues to levy toll in respect of all adaptations of the works of old masters which otherwise, because of their antiquity, would become public property. Under the patent laws of the Commonwealth a patent expires at the end of fifteen years, and no individual or group of individuals can, merely by making a few minor alterations to the original invention, repatent it. The adaptation must represent a very substantial alteration from the original. A similar provision should be made under the copyright law in connexion with the adaptation of music. The House is indebted to the honorable member for Barker for having raised this matter. I sincerelyhope that the present PostmasterGeneral will be successful in persuading his colleagues in the Cabinet to accept his views on the matter, and that when the House reassembles after the recess legislation will be brought down to deal with what in the United States of America would be termed a “ racket “.
.- The honorable member for Barker is to be highly commended for having brought this matter to the attention of the House. For his action he will earn the thanks of every artist. It is distinctly unfair that the Australasian Performing Bight Association should be permitted to continue to levy toll in respect of the performance of works which are the brain products of composers and authors. There was a time when the purchaser of any work of art could freely take it. from one country to another; but to-day if a work of art is sold in France the French Government has the power to prevent it from being taken out of the country. The first silver bust, the work of that great sculptorRodin, remains by Government decree in Paris, although it was purchased by a friend of mine who wished to present it to the National Art Gallery in Sydney. So far he has been able to secure only a copy of it, the French Government insisting that the original shall remain in France. The Government might well consider the exercise of a similar restriction in respect of works of art produced in this country. If the AttorneyGeneral will not take steps to curb the activities of the Australasian Performing Bight Association, I appeal to his colleague the Postmaster-General to take the necessary action. I assure the honorable member for Barker that every composer and writer in this country will thank him for the action which he has taken to-day.
. -I should like to have some idea as to how this problem, is to be handled. It seems to me that the trouble we are facing is inherent in the capitalist system as a whole. For instance, some obscure member of the community may develop sufficient capacity to compose, a song. He is unable to determine the value of his creation until the public demand is established for it. Very often such a person has only limited resources at his disposal and cannot afford the cost of placing his work within reach of the public. He therefore takes it to some publishing company which has its contacts with entertainment firms. After negotiations for the sale have been completed an agreement is signed with the composer.
– Often a pretty tough one.
– That may be so. In many instances the composer is so close to the bread line that he is anxious to obtain ready cash for his work. The publishers then proceed to market the song in a form calculated to capture the public fancy. It is fairly safe to say, of course, that many songs are composed which do not receive much public support. Many of them get no further than the publishers’ offices.
– They are not worth singing.
– That is so; neverthe- . less the public taste is rather strange in these matters. Who would have thought a few years ago that what we know as jazz would enjoy its present popularity? It is all a matter of taste, and to some degree, the cultivation of taste. Advertising methods also play their part in creating the demand. The publishers, having acquired a song, proceed tomake arrangements for its use by broadcasting, gramophone recording or performance in music halls. Up to a point we must accept the principle that the publisher has a right to get a return for the money expended in purchasing and marketing a composition. If all composers were able to ascertain the real value of their compositions, this problem of performing right would be fairly easy of solution; but it is impossible at the time a work is sold to estimate its value in future years.
– It is a difficult matter viewed from, any angle.
– I agree.I have taken agreat deal of interest in this matter and I can see the injustice that is meted out to a composer whose brain has conceived something that is in wide public demand. He has no knowledge of the future value of his composition when he disposes of it for a small sum. which, however, he is satisfied to accept at the time. Subsequently, as a result of advertising and proper marketing, his work becomes of great value, but he receives nothing of its enhanced value. It may be argued that the existence of some organization is necessary to protect the works of composers, but it appears to me that the Australasian Performing Right Association is established to protect not the rights of authors and composers but rights which have been acquired by it. In other words the association is out to protect those who buy rather than those who have produced the work. It is difficult to argue against that. After all, the composer is willing to sell and the buyer pays him an agreed price.
– On that reasoning the whole case put forward by the honorable member’s party in connexion with profiteering on munitions manufacture falls to the ground.
– I am not arguing against what may appear to be an injustice in this matter; but how can we safeguard the composer?
– I suggest that the composer could be safeguarded under the copyright law.
– If he needs money and sells at an agreed price, his interest is terminated. Can he be safeguarded after he has disposed of his rights in a composition which subsequently becomes of much greater value ? When a composer first sells his composition he has no means of knowing what its future value may he.
– Business acumen is not one of the outstanding characteristics of most artists.
– That may he so. Most artists are in poor circumstances. How often have we read of artists living from hand to mouth in garrets. We should endeavour to provide some reward for their efforts and some protection for their interests should any of their works become of great value.
It is a very difficult matter to “deal with. I am just as critical of what has happened as is any other honorable member, but I am anxious to overcome the difficulty with which we are confronted.
– In some instances, a royalty is paid to the composer, and it would be necessary to make provision to safeguard his interests.
– That is so. However, the action of the Australasian Performing Right Association in keeping a man in Melbourne for the purpose of altering music upon which the copyright is about to expire, so that a new copyright may be taken out on it, deserves the severest censure, and something should be done to put an end to it. It is almost incredible that the association should be allowed to do such a thing. Once a copyright has expired, the public should then be given the benefit of the composition free of all fees and charges.
– But the original, unaltered piece of music would still be available for free performance, would it not?
– No doubt it would, but the music publishers would probably co-operate to take the piece in its original form off the market.
– The music publishers are in co-operation with the association.
– No doubt they are the association, to a large extent. I see great difficulty in the way of protecting the just rights of composers, and yet protecting the interests of the public. We all appreciate the action of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in raising this matter. We are anxious that an improvement should be effected, and I have merely stated the difficulties in the way, so that we may the better be able to overcome them.
.-] congratulate the honorable* member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) upon having raised this matter. We owe him a great deal for the information which he has placed before the House, and I hope that the matter will not be allowed to rest here. I think that honorable members all have made up their minds that some action must be taken, and I hope they will insist upon it. I raised this subject seven years ago, when complaints were being received regarding demands for fees in respect of music played at little country entertainments. Even in respect of music played for charitable purposes the representatives of the Australasian Performing Right Association were demanding copyright fees. If the Canadian Parliament is able to legislate on this matter, this Parliament also should be able to do so. I hope that the House will insist, even if the Government does not, that while we are prepared to ensure that reasonable royalties shall be paid to authors and composers, we shall not submit to extortion or fraud.
.- Can the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) state what is the amount of royalties paid direct to authors and composers?
– I have no information on that point. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked the same question, and I replied that I would have to obtain the information from the Australasian Performing Right Association.
– No good purpose will be served hy this debate if it is not followed by action. All honorable members agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that something should be done to remedy the position. Like other honorable members, I have had experience of the demands of the Performing Right Association. The City Council of Brisbane was defied by that body, which seems to possess autocratic powers, and the council had to submit. The proprietor of one of the leading cafes in Brisbane had played in his cafe some music which he did not know was copyrighted. Some one in the cafe recognized the piece and reported the incident to the association, which made a claim. The proprietor defended the action at a cost of some hundreds of pounds for legal expenses, but eventually he had to pay. I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that many interests are involved. As he pointed out, composers frequently have the greatest difficulty in finding a market for their works, and probably would not be able to dispose of them at all except for the assistance of music publishing houses. While it is admitted that the association is doing useful work in that regard, we should not submit to extortion at its hands. It should not be impossible to devise some method of protecting the rights of authors and composers, and of doing justice to the public as well.
.- The honorable member, for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked for suggestions for dealing with this problem. First, I think we should compliment the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on having raised the subject, and I believe that ail honorable members are in agreement that some action should be taken. The difficulty is to decide just what should be done. As the Minister has pointed out, the composers place themselves in the hands of the association, which protects their rights. It seems to me, however, that the Australasian Performing Right Association is claiming copyright on a number of works in respect of which it could not establish any legal rights. The association should be made to score out all the out-of-date works, and to prove its claim to the fees which it demands in respect of the others. It is common knowledge that old melodies dating from the dim past are often cooked up in a new way and psalms syncopated and copyright claimed on them. I understand that the association has been asked for proof of its rights, and that it has refused to supply it. In the circumstances, it is wrong that a public body like the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be paying commission to an organization that cannot substantiate its claims.
An associated matter is that the United States of America is not a signatory to the International Copyright Convention, and a person who writes a book or makes a film or composes a piece of music in Australia has to produce it in the United States of America within 30 days, or he can claim no exclusive rights in it, and any person resident in the United States of America can produce a similar work without paying anything to the Australian author. The copyright arrangement should be made reciprocal. If the United States of’ America will not agree to meet us in the matter, we should not recognize copyright in American works. I put forward the two proposals I have mentioned for the serious consideration of the Government when taking action.
– This is a matter which goes very much further than the department which I administer. As the Copyright Act stands at the moment, it is very difficult for us to take any action to right the wrongs referred to by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron)-. I know that he, when he was Postmaster-General, explored the possibility of such action. He sought legal opinions on the subject, and, as often happens, those opinions differed. Those who advise the Government say that, in order to make the adjustments desired, it would be necessary to enact an altogether new copyright act. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is, of course, affected. The statements of the honorable member for Barker can, in the main, be substantiated. He has interested himself in the subject, and on the files of the department are the records of his investigations, which I- have read with much interest. Up to the time of the royal commission, presided over by Mr. Justice Langer-Owen, the rate imposed by the Australasian Performing Right Association was on a sliding scale, under which the broadcasting commission paid at the rate of approximately 11½d for each licensed set. The commission alone paid more than £50,000 a year. The commission at that time lacked the information necessary for it to compare the rates in other parts of the world with the rates in Australia, hut subsequently it suggested voluntary arbitration under the Copyright Act, and that was agreed to by the Australasian Performing Right Association. The statement by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) concerning delay ‘Ls borne out by information on the files. It was not until about two years later, after the Australasian Performing Right Association had stonewalled very successfully, even to the extent of threatening legal proceedings against the commission, that the arbitrator sat and eventually awarded a fee of approximately 6d. a wireless set to. the Australasian Performing RightAssociation. That award applied only to the national stations. The arbitrator could, not take into consideration the revenue that the Australasian Performing Right Association was receiving from the commercial stations because they were not joined in the case. But the commission assumed that the rate of 6d. would ‘be the total rate to apply ove’r the whole field of “broadcasting stations, national and commercial. Because of the fact that the Australasian Performing Right Association accepted the award as binding it to accept 6d. a set from the Australian Broadcasting Commission only, and because it continued to demand 7d. a set from each of the commercial stations, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has taken certain action which I hope will be sustained and upheld.
I do not want to talk at great length on the comparison between Australia and Canada, although I agree with the contention of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that the conditions in the two dominions are almost identical. Canada has an area of 3,729,000 square miles, and Australia, 3,000,000 square miles. Canada’s population is 11,000,000 as compared with a population of 7,000,000 in Australia., and, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Capricornia, there are approximately 1,200,000 licensed radio sets in each country.
– And about the same number of broadcasting stations in each.
– Yes. The point; is that, whereas the performing-right fee paid in Canada is only 4.85d., the fee in Australia is 6d. a licence from the Australian Broadcasting Commission and 7d. from the commercial stations, making a total of ls. Id. It is significant that when the inquiry was held in Canada, the Performing Right Association claimed only 6d. a set, as against ls. Id. in Australia, and the commission gave judgment for 4.85d. In a country that is analogous to this country, the Performing Right Association laid claim to a fee which is less than half of the fee which it demands from the two sorts of broadcasters in Australia. I agree, therefore, with the honorable member for Barker - I cannot do otherwise because the evidence in the files is so complete. The position as I see it is this : the arbitration award has expired and unless we propose to continue paying an amount that the Australian Broadcasting Commission considers excessive, then we must either introduce a new bill or agree to arbitration. The Australian Broadcasting Commission are loathe to adopt the latter because of their previous experience when the process of arbitration was held up by the Australasian Performing Bight Association for a period of two years with a consequent loss of £40,000 to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– What is the honorable gentleman’s view with regard to the major question as to whether the composers should derive the benefit of copyright fees?
– The honorable member for West Sydney himself pointed out that a composer may sell his wares, thereby losing control. I interjected, when he was speaking, that there were others who retained their royalty rights and their interests must be protected. The inherent fault of the royalty system is that the composer or the publisher who wishes to claim royalties must either himself establish that his compositions are being played over certain broadcasting stations - and that is impossible because of the difficulty of policing - or seek a publisher, who joins with other publishers in forming a protective organization called the Performing Bight Association, which claims royalties on all public presentations of copyrighted material. An agreement between the association and the interests upon which levies are made is generally reached, and payments are made according to the terms of that agreement. The Australasian Performing Bight Association would find it difficult to establish in court that compositions for the public presentation of which a royalty was claimed were in fact broadcast by any station or stations at any given time or times.
– In order to do so members of the association would have to listen constantly to all broadcasting stations.
– That would be impossible.
– Nothing can be done for a composer once he contracts his rights away.
– Obviously, no. The composer, who would otherwise he able to command higher than the ruling rates for the performance of his compositions, when he comes under the control of the Australasian Performing Bight Association places himself in exactly the same position as a skilled labourer who joins a union. A labourer may be entitled because of his skill to more than the award rates of pay, but once he joins the union he must conform to the award for that union. The composer comes under the organization and takes the standard rate of royalty instead of standing on his own and endeavouring to obtain greater reward because it would be impossible for him to know when his compositions were being presented.
– Is there not a provision in Eire that the benefit of copyright fees must be given to the original composer of the work in respect of which the fees are collected?
– That may be so., but I should like to know how it is done-
– What proportion of the £60,000 collected in royalties goes to the composers ?
– I answered a similar question by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). I have asked the Australasian Performing Right Association to make that information available and if it be made available, I shall convey it to the House. At the moment we have no information beyond what was given to the royal commission in 1932, and I suggest that that is too old to be of any use to this House. Since that commission sat the number of musical items broadcast has increased enormously. The number of broadcasting stations too has increased.
– The honorahle gentleman’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) proposed-
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
.- Will the Minister give some reason for this motion? It is the first that I have heard of it.
– We have sat an extra day this week, because the Government is desirous of pushing ahead with the business in order that Ministers may be free for the Loan Council and the Premiers Conference next week. ‘ The Government asks honorable gentlemen to help it to complete the urgent business in time.
– Is it necessary to adjourn Parliament merely because the Loan Council is to sit? The Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) and the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender), who will attend the Loan Council, are not in the House now. There should be no greater need for them to be here if Parliament sits next week. Does the Government propose that the House shall meet the week after next?
– The Prime Minister indicated earlier to-day what he proposed to do, and I understand that the honorable member concurred.
– Oh, no !
– This motion gives effect to the decision then reached.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section forty of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1034.
Motion (by Mr. HARRISON for Mr. Street) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the retirement of certain officers of the Staff Corps of the Permanent Military Forces of the Commonwealth. ?
Debate resumed from the 5th June (vide page 1221), on motion by Mr. Street -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The National Registration Bill arises from the policy for a survey of Australian resources recently enunciated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The principle of a survey or stocktaking of the nation is endorsed by all parties, including the Labour party. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) recently complained that many of the planks of the present policy of this Government had been borrowed from the Labour party. The controversy which has marked the debate on this bill centres on the best possible route towards achievement of the parties’ common purpose. For the life of me I cannot see any good grounds for the opposition to this bill which has been expressed by members of the Labour party. The Opposition, unjustifiably, in my opinion, sees something sinister in the bill. From some of the speeches of honorable gentlemen opposite it would appear that the antagonism which has greeted the bill in some quarters is due to the propaganda of Labour members of this Parliament. Not all the unions are suspicious of this bill. I believe that the great body of the workers of Australia, being men of sound common sense, recognize that if we are to give of our best in time of war, which we pray to avoid, we must prepare for war in the best possible way. How, then, can there be any just ground for opposition to a measure which has no other object than to enable us to do our utmost in a great emergency? That is the sole object of this bill. Any one who objects to it might just as well object to the taking of an ordinary census. The word “ inquisitorial “, which has figured so prominently in this debate, could more aptly be applied to the ordinary census than this harmless census that the Government is proposing to take. It is so innocuous that one might almost be inclined to agree with those who think that this bill, like the Supply and Development Bill, has been devised simply for the purpose of finding jobs for those who, for the time being, have lost their positions in the National Insurance Department. But we may dismiss all this as being too ridiculous for words.
The Opposition has referred to the necessity for a census of wealth or a levy on wealth. Let us examine this claim before we come to a decision. I do not know whether honorable members opposite desire to interfere with the hundreds of millions of pounds of capital invested in the secondary industries of Australia which employ 550,000 hands and pay salaries and wages amounting to nearly £100,000,000 a year, and have an output worth nearly £500,000,000 a year, or to interfere with the deposits in Australian banks, including the savings banks deposits, amounting to over £230,000,000. There are facts which must be taken into consideration when we consider a wealth levy or census. The combined taxes collected by all Australian governments amount to over £121,000,000 a year ; next year that amount is likely to be considerably exceeded. It is to be emphasized that this huge taxation, which can be called a capital levy, does not include the large amounts paid in rates to the municipal and other localgoverning authorities. Already we have a wealth census in Australia. Through income tax collections, we have a compulsory annual census of incomes of £200 a year and upwards. Also we have an annual census of company -returns, giving the names of shareholders and the number and value of shares held by every person. We have, further an annual census of landholdings. Every shire and municipal council throughout Australia is required to make a. return each year showing the names of property-holders, and the areas and values of their properties. These properties and lands are taxed according to their declared improved or unimproved value. Thus it will be seen that provision exists for the compilation of quite voluminous returns respecting the people and wealth. It must be remembered also that in time of national emergency, if any action in regard to wealth were deemed to be necessary, the required legislation could be quickly passed through this Parliament. In coming to a decision on a census of wealth we should have to be just, so that the general economic position and the employment of workers would not be jeopardized.
Honorable members opposite have declared that this measure is the thin edge of the wedge of conscription. It is difficult to understand that rather absurd argument or why all this talk of conscription has arisen. Honorable members know that there can be no conscription in Australia without the express sanction of Parliament. This bill has nothing whatever to do with service overseas in time of war. If persons volunteer for overseas military service, the Government cannot prevent them from going. Provision is already made for service in Australia should the necessity arise to repel an invader. Even if that were not provided for, would any honorable member desire to .alter the position? Of course not. Surely we all are prepared- to do our part in the defence of our own country. Otherwise we should be subservient to our birthright and false to all our traditions, chief among which is the love of freedom.
Can any honorable member seriously argue that the supplying of the simple particulars which the ‘Government is asking in this proposed questionnaire, implies any sacrifice of our manliness or of the privileges which we enjoy, whether as citizens of the Commonwealth, or as members of trade unions or other organizations in the community? What is it that we are asked to do under this bill? Males between the ages of 18 and 64 years are required to give particulars about themselves and their families in much the same way as is required at an ordinary census to which no one objects. The persons to whom the questionnaire will be addressed are required to state whether their health is good, had or indifferent; the nature of their work - whether skilled or unskilled - whether they are capable of engaging in any other occupation, a.nd if so, the nature of that occupation.
When opposition is offered to such a simple and obviously sensible proposal, one might well ask what the country is coming to. It has been urged that the duty of an Opposition is to oppose proposals brought forward by the Government. Perhaps the explanation of the Labour party’s attitude lies in that. It is difficult to find any other reason for objecting to this measure. How can any honorable member opposite contend that this proposal has any relation whatsoever to conscription - whether the thin or thick edge of the wedge ? That argument is employed for the sole purpose of stirring up the feelings of the workers against a proposal which has everything to commend it in the eyes of all patriotic Australians. It is extraordinary that, ‘at such a time as this, any opposition should be offered to the preparation of a national register. If the Government had proposed to include in the questionnaire a request for particulars relating to military service, then by a considerable stretch of the imagination, one might have found an excuse for objection to the hill. But it contains no such provision. Even if it did, what harm could it do? On the contrary, it might be a very good thing ,to have available to the Government details of military training possessed by men on the register. Such information would, I believe, be extremely helpful to the nation ; and this Government should do everything possible to make sure of the defence of this country.
If it is considered desirable that, in the taking of the ordinary census, information should be given concerning skilled crafts and occupations of the people, surely it is not less desirable that in a national register particulars of any military service, which so many thousands of our people have had, should also be furnished. How do we stand in regard to potential defenders?’ How many of these men would be available for service should the occasion arise, and in what capacity should they be employed ? The answers to some of these questions would depend upon the ages of these men. If we are not to have this information, I am afraid that a good deal of confusion, if not chaos, would occur if one morning we found an enemy off our shores. Is it not better that the compilation of the information envisaged by this national register should be carried out in an orderly way? I am at a loss to understand why questions relating to the military service possessed by many have been omitted from the questionnaire. Surely it cannot be because of thi3 bogy of conscription? The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his speech at the Sydney Town Hall on the 15th May, said that this was a matter for Parliament to decide. According to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald report of .that speech, the right honorable gentleman said -
This census is being taken bo that the country will be able to classify its resources of nan-power and production.
Apparently the Prime Minister was referring to both the Supply and Development Bill and the National Registration Bill- . . If you went through European countries to-day, you would be amazed at the way they are preparing, so that, should war occur, it will find them prepared and leaving nothing to chance . . . There is nothing undemocratic about using every man under a democracy according to his best capacity.
As was expected the vast audience applauded the right honorable gentleman’s speech. The phrase “ every man according to his capacity” reminds me very strongly of a similar phrase used so often by our friends opposite - “ From each according to his capacity ; to each according to his needs “. The Prime Minister went on to say that Parliament would, no doubt, decide whether the question of military .training should be included in the national register. He added that if this question were asked, one hundred men might give one hundred different answers. One might state he had served in the infantry; another that he had been in the camel corps; another that he was in the junior cadets at school; still another might say that he had gone through the universal training course 25 years ago. So many varying answers might be given that an attempt at classification would probably lead to chaos. “ The fact is “ the right honorable gentleman said. “ that when it comes to military training it will not take very long to sort out the men who know and those who do not know. A question of that kind has been omitted after deliberation “.
I cannot see the logic in the supposition that grown men can be trusted to answer questions relating to their family history, their age, occupations, &c, but cannot be trusted to make a simple statement of their military experience, if any. Instead of there being any difficulty in classifying the answers dealing with military experience I should think it would be a very simple thing to do. Also the information gained would be extremely valuable to the Commonwealth. I leave the matter there. I think the House is entitled to a fuller statement on the subject. It will be of value to. secure the particulars asked for in the schedule to the bill. Whilst I think it would be better to ask for the additional informa- tion to which I have referred, I support the measure.
.- The bill is viewed with suspicion not only by members of the Opposition, but also by the great mass of the people outside this Parliament. Protest meetings are being organized by representatives of the working classes in all capital cities of the Commonwealth. They do not regard this measure as a harmless proposal. They see in it an attempt, as the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) himself admitted, to organize the man-power of Australia, and this, we believe, will lead to conscription. This Government was returned on a policy of no conscription in Australia. But the bill will give to the government of the day the right to demand the services of men who are specially trained, for work in time of emergency. In his secondreading speech, the Minister said that the purpose of the national register is to plan in advance the utilization of man-power in a national crisis. The basis of the scheme is the compulsory registration of all male persons between the ages of 18 and 64 years inclusive. The hill will make possible a form of industrial conscription. The implications of such a proposal are so grave, and so closely concern the daily lives of the working classes, that the Labour party is strongly opposed to it. It regards the proposed national register of manpower as a preliminary step to conscription for both military and industrial purposes, and on that ground it is implacably opposed to it. In a country like ours where any appeal to the spirit of patriotism in a crisis is met with an enthusiastic response from the whole community, national service on -a compulsory basis is as unnecessary as it is harmful. Australians voluntarily served magnificently in the Great War, despite the fact that the fields of action were thousands of miles away. .Should any peril threaten the Commonwealth itself, the passionate love of country which is felt by all Australians, would ensure a contribution of voluntary service in every sphere of defence that would be unsurpassed in the annals of any nation. In announcing the Government’s intention the Minister stated that the register was required “to enable a survey to be made of the supply of the various classes of skilled persons in relation to the demands of the army, navy, and air force, the Government munition factories, annexes of private factories, and other industries”. That statement cleary indicates that the regimentation of labour, as well as the enforcement of military service on lines with which the Fascist countries have made the world familiar, is one of the main objects of this legislation. Industrial and military conscription of this character means that a privileged class will be established almost immediately. The son of the wealthy man will be found congenial employment, whilst the son of the worker will have to shoulder a gun. For the intellectually elite, jobs will be found in technical units, but that will not be the lot of the workers. There will be no equality of either service or sacrifice. During the last conscription campaign the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. W. A. Holman, said that it was a shame that intellectual men should have to fight in the ranks. He stated that, in the event of conscription, he would do his best to save university graduates from being compelled to go to the war. I see in this bill something of that spirit. The Government and its supporters are determined that the men in the overalls shall do all the fighting, whilst the sons of the wealthy will be found soft jobs. The Opposition claims that youths designed for defence service later on should now be given useful employment and opportunities to secure apprenticeships at award rates, but the Government apparently has no such purpose in mind. It has no plan to provide work for unemployed lads, but any number of plans to compel them to register for national service, notwithstanding that at the moment the Government has no use for their services. The Government cares nothing that they are forced to exist on a dole of 7s. 6d. a week. Nevertheless, such lads will have to fill in the form set out in the schedule, like men who are in constant employment or have some stake in the country and who will not be called upon to take any active part in defence of the country.
– ‘The honorable member is scarcely correct; wealthy men will also have to fill in the form.
– That may be; but, in the event of war, they will be regarded as skilled men and placed in safe positions. Such men will not be compelled to shoulder guns. The latest census figures show, that at the time of their compilation, 348,566 men and women workers were unemployed and forced to subsist on the miserable dole. The Statistician showed that 1,449,144 breadwinners earned less than £2 a week ; that 375,686 earned between £2 and £3 a week, whilst another 307,199 were paid more than £3 but less than £4 a week. A further 240,280 breadwinners came within the class earning less than £5 a week. How can families live on such pittances? There is the further deplorable fact that 40 per cent, of the children in our schools are suffering from malnutrition. Why does not the Government introduce an unemployment register for the purpose of safeguarding the health of all these people?
The Opposition contends that defence and employment must go hand in hand. The soil of our country is stored with inexhaustible wealth; our people are energetic and intelligent; and there is need for many public works to be carried out. Moreover, the country is able to control credit resources in order that these works may be carried out. Why does not the Government compile a register of these various activities, in order that work may be found for the unemployed who are forced to exist in want and to die in hunger? Clause 20, which sets out the power of officers to ask questions and require the production of documents, will operate harshly in respect of individuals who are endeavouring to establish themselves in new occupations. Let us consider the case of a man who at one time led a sea-faring life, but at the outbreak of war is employed on land, where he desires to remain. Knowing that he had previously been a sailor, the Government might order him to serve at sea.
– That is not provided for in clause 20.
– The bill requires every male between certain ages to state not only his present occupation, but also any previous occupation. As clause 20 gives to certain officers the power to ask questions and to require the production of documents, those officers could call upon the ex-sailor to produce his discharge. The production of that document would probably determine his fate; he would be ordered to serve where directed.
– There is nothing in the bill to say so.
– Clause 22 requires every male person on attaining the age of 18 years “to fill in a census form. There will be no skilled workers between the ages of 18 and 21. I predict that in the event of this bill becoming law, thousands of lads will not sign the required form, in which event they will probably be placed in detention camps, as happened when the compulsory military training scheme was in operation some years ago. Lads who did not fulfil the prescribed period of training were ordered to serve for as long as 10 or 14 days in such camps. As there is already a register of apprentices - and they will be the only lads between the ages mentioned who will be of use in any special capacity, because other lads will have no specialized training - it is obvious that the object of this bill is to require these lads to render compulsory military service. Clause 23 requires changes of address to be notified. Even if a lad merely moves from one street to another in the same district, he will have to notify the change.
– Adults already have to do the same under the Electoral Act.
– The workers of Australia will always give of their best without compulsion. The history of this country shows that the Australian man or woman works best in co-operation. That is demonstrated clearly whenever a great disaster, such as a bush fire, or a mine explosion, takes place. We should do well to encourage the spirit of co-operation in the defence of Australia.
The first duty of the Government is to make Australia worth defending. Every adult man should be given full-time work, and be paid the basic wage. Moreover, such wage should be supplemented by a liberal scheme of family endowment.
Property rights should be restored to the workers, so that they may have a stake in the country. We should establish full economic rights for the people in this democracy by setting up boards composed, of workers, employers and experts, to plan industry for both peace and war. If social justice be provided, there will be no need to talk of conscripting Australian workers for military training, for in such circumstances they will quite voluntarily serve their country. It is unjust to speak of a national register for conscripting human lives for home defence until the Government has worked out in detail, and begun to apply in practice, a national scheme for compiling the fullest information regarding wealth, income and property. If, in the event of war,theGovernment were to insist that the profiteers behind the lines should receive no more than the soldier in the trench received, there would be very little talk of war, and very little prospect of it occurring. Justice demands equality of sacrifice in the preparation for a just war, as well as in the war itself. Can we deny a just wage to the soldier inthe firing line while any citizen serving his country in a purely civil capacity receives a high salary and accumulates great wealth by profiteering and other means.
I claim that the bill is distinctly harmful, and against the best interests of the masses of the people of this country. Moreover, there is no need for it. At the present time there is no likelihood of war. The Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) said that he did not believe that this country would ever be invaded, although some raiders could possibly attack it in the event of war. In the light of that statement, is there any need for such preparedness involving as this bill proposes a violation of a greatdemocratic principle? The possibility of a few spasmodic raids does not justify the abrogation of this principle. The Opposition sees behind this bill an attempt by the militarists of this country to impose a dictatorship on Australia. I fear them, just as much as I fear the dictators in other countries. They are the enemies of democracy, for they are desirous only of establishing a military caste in Australia.
– In my opinion, this bill embodies a business-like proposal. Allsections of the community and all members of this House have, subscribed to what they call an adequate defence policy. I submit that no defence plan can be fully effective unless and until the country’s man-power, as well as its material resources, have been organized. We should not wait until we are threatened with an invasion ‘before we prepare for our defence. Preparedness is the objective of this bill. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) said that, in the event of an invasion, the man- ‘ hood of Australia would rush to the colours. How foolish to wait until then, when more effective resistance could be guaranteed by being prepared beforehand ! However effective our war equipment may be, it will be of no use unless we have efficient men trained to use it to the best advantage.
– Is that the purpose of this bill?
– That is one of its main objectives. We should know what our resources will be in the event of an emergency. One of the tragedies of the last war was the unpreparedness of Great Britain and its allies. Had those nations taken the steps that we are now taking, the war would not have lasted so long as it did.
– And fewer lives would have been lost.
– Another of the tragedies of the last war was the attempt to fit square pegs into round holes.
– It is easy for the honorable member to talk like that.
– Why should it be easy for me? I have seven excellent reasons for taking a. vital interest in this bill, for, although I have no daughters, I have seven sons, and naturally, like every other father in this chamber, I am deeply concerned about their future.
– The honorable member is prepared to conscript his own sons?
– There will be no necessity for me to conscript my sons, because like all true Australians they will be prepared, in the hour of the country’s need, as the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) said, to rush to the colours.
– And that is what we say.
– But with this marked difference - to ask men to go to war untrained would be to ask them to commit suicide. That is why the Government proposes this preparatory plan. As a matter of fact, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) stressed the point the other night that the department was unable to equip all of the volunteers in our militia forces. That failure, I point out, was due simply to the lack of organized preparation. Some honorable members object to the provision in the bill to compel citizens to fill in returns for the purposes of the national register. I remind them that the people of Australia are already compelled to fill in a multiplicity of returns. Births and deaths must be registered, and, in between, marriages. Our citizens are obliged to furnish all kinds of returns. [Quorum formed.’]
Reference has been made in this debate to the taxation of wealth. I say frankly that the cost notonlyof actual war, but also of defence preparations, such as we are now engaged in, should be borne largely by persons enjoying large incomes. It would be very difficult, however, to arrive at an equitable basis for a tax on wealth. The true value of an asset is its earning capacity; that argument is unanswerable. A person might own an asset valued at £50,000, and yet, at the same time, find difficulty in raising sufficient money to pay a wealth tax. Many so-called assets, such as unproductive freehold’ and plant are really liabilities inasmuch as they do not return sufficient to enable their owners to meet land taxes and local government rates. This illustrates the difficulty of arriving at a basis for a wealth return. I know of a man in Brisbane who had an equity of something like £50,000 in a. certain property from which, however, he derived practically no income. At the same time he was obliged to pay land tax and rates amounting to thousands of pounds on that property. In his land tax return he valued his equity in his property at £50,000, and in any return whichhe might be obliged to make in respect of a national register of wealth he would show the value of the property at a similar figure.
– Was he a dummy ?
– No. As a matter of fact he paid a considerable purchase price for the property and, eventually, lost it entirely. On the other hand, it would not be fair to levy a wealth tax on liquid assets when, for the reasons I have stated, fixed assets should escape. No one should be allowed to accumulate riches during a time of war. As I have already indicated, the most equitable means of raising the revenue necessary for the defence of this country would be to place a special tax upon those enjoying large incomes, not only during a period of actual war, but also while the country is preparing its defences. However, I would point out that during recent years, wealth has been taxed to a certain degree. In 1917 direct taxes collected by the Commonwealth and State Governments totalled £34,000,000, whereas ten years later it had increased to £46,000,000, and in a further decade . to £70,000,000. In that period of twenty years, revenue from direct taxes in this country increased by over 100 per cent. In addition there has been a marked increase of local government taxation. These figures do not include any revenue from customs and excise or from trading concerns such as the post office and railways. We must not overlook that fact in considering the national economy. When honorable members talk about taxing wealth, they- should bear in mind that the true value of an asset is its earning capacity. For this reason it would be very difficult to arrive at an equitable basis for a wealth tax. I repeat that the fairest way we can raise the revenue necessary for preparing the defence of this country is by placing a special tax upon people enjoying large incomes.
.- I shall endeavour as far as possible to condense my views on this measure. In my parliamentary career I have had experience of two wars, the Boer War and the Great War, and I hope that I shall have no experience of another. Wars seem to be simply a matter of piling up millions upon millions of pounds of debt. Poor England is burdened with a national debt of £8,000,000,000, without taking into account its debt to the United States of America on which it has suspended payment, whilst Australia’s national debt is approximately £1,200,000,000. We should always be prepared to meet any financial commitments involved in the preparation of our defences. I do not object to the expenditure of money in the purchase of aeroplanes, submarines and forts for that purpose. I recall that one of the greatest admirals, in history, Jackie Fisher, said that a man who would attack a fort on a mainland was a. fool. I agree with that view. Does anyone, who is not a. lunatic, think that England or Australia will ever pay off its national debt? I have asked this question of conservatives, liberals, nationalists and labourites, and I have never heard a sensible man reply that these debts will be paid. In these circumstances, if we are confronted with the necessity of piling up further millions of debt we might as well incur the expenditure. Only two nations, Finland and Venezuela, have repaid the whole of their national debt. I believe in the voluntary principle in respect of defence. This measure represents the thin end of the wedge of conscription. I do not: say that tie Government has that intention. Any one who has recollections of the conscription referendum campaign during the Great War will admit that Australians at that time were most loyal to the voluntary principle. “ No compulsion was placed upon them then, although many people in our midst would have liked to see conscription introduced. During the Great War, Ireland and Australia, were the only two countries which recruited their military forces under the voluntary system, and that system answered well in both of those countries. When I stayed recently at a first-class hotel I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with many crusty conservatives. I put to them the proposal - and I now place it before1 honorable members in thu hope that they will accept it - .that every man who enlists for military service should he paid at the- rate of £1 a day. During the Great War our soldiers received 6s’. a day, and they were the highest, paid of any of the soldiers who served in Flanders. What an advertisement these men were to tha world ! Many people were astounded to learn that Australia with its comparatively small population could afford to pay its soldiers 6s. a day. I
Iia ve asked crusty conservatives, liberals and others whether they thought that in the next, war Australia should pay its soldiers £1 a. day, and every one said “ yes “. If I were asked a similar question when on a public platform, I should reply in the same way. The payment of such a comparatively high rate would, of course, add a few more millions to our’ indebtedness; but there are some who make a. joss of a budget. They would say “If we did that we could not balance the budget “. We never shall, while we continue to pay interest on borrowed moneys.
– It Will not matter much if we cannot balance the budget.
– No. We should set an example to the world by saying that a man who risks his life in fighting for his country is worth a minimum of £1 a day. The President, of the United States of America and three of his predecessors - Harding, Coolidge and Hoover - have stated that in the next world war not, only will the lives of young men bc thrown into the great cauldron, but all wealth and potential wealth - everything owned or dominated by the wealthy - will also be involved. Years ago when the Labour party introduced universal military training, causing a division in the party, provision should also have been made for the conscription of wealth, and had that been done there would have been no division in our ranks. I would have voted for it in those days, although in doing so I might have been wrong. In the future I should like to see everything placed on a voluntary basis wherever that is practicable. Recently I read a book entitled *The People’s Army, and in the introduction written by Major Atlee, the Leader of the Labour party in Great Britain, he said : “ Christian pacifist principles are the cause of the failure of recruitment “. That may be so. Whenever men are asked to enlist for active service overseas there are many who say the men who enlist will be well provided for on their return. I recall that the late Sir John Madden, having made such u promise to the men who enlisted for service in the South African war, and finding the Government had not kept it, was man enough to say that he regretted that his lips had ever uttered such an undertaking. In common with other honorable members, I know the deplorable conditions which exist amongst the unemployed, including many returned soldiers in Melbourne. Speaking as m medical man I know that. many returned soldiers are in ill-health because they cannot get sufficient food, and that their nerves are broken in consequence of war service. I understand that 29,000 men are already registered for employment at the munitions works at Maribyrnong. In these circumstances the Government should take the people into its confidence, and provide money to make work available, and in that way enable them to purchase sufficient food to make them strong and healthy. If men cannot obtain sufficient food they cannot be expected to be physically fit. The strength of Caesars army was due to proper feeding which ensured physical fitness. I again express the hope that the Government will not endeavour to use this measure as a. means to introduce conscription, and by so doing break a pledge of the Leader of the Government. Before the Great “War poor old England had a national debt of about £800,000,000, but that debt has since been increased to £8,000,000,000. Before the war Australia’s national debt was under £100,000,000, but it has “now reached £1,200,000,000. I have never met one man or woman - and the women are inclined to be more conservative than the men - who considered that a man prepared to sacrifice his life for his country should not be paid £1 a. day. I once volunteered for active service, but I was turned clown with a dump because I was declared not to be physically fit. Even if I could not do what others had been trained to do I could have attended to’ the wounded. I hate war as much as I hate hell, but should there be another war I hope that it will result in the end of all cruel and unjust dictators.
– I intend to support this measure, the object of which is to record and organize our man-power. Should we fail to do that, we shall not be taking effective measures for the defence of Australia. Other nations are organizing their man-power and should we not do so we shall not be standing up to our obligations. I was amazed to hear protests and suggestions of coercion from honorable members opposite. They have .said that the Government is doing something unpalatable to the people. Nothing of the kind. Honorable members opposite say that they believe in the voluntary system, but I do not think that they do. Their attitude in the House is governed by caucus decisions so that they dare not speak freely, and ‘ they believe in compulsory unionism. They have suggested quite seriously, although it is ludicrous, that registration should be voluntary. It would be just as reasonable to suggest- that the payment of income tax should be on a. voluntary basis. Therefore this register must be compulsory, but it will be no more so than the last census when information was gathered in respect of all the resources of the Commonwealth. It is, however, upon its omissions that I propose principally to speak. Although I do not regard many of the questions submitted in the census, such as those relating to the marital state of the people, as important, some that have been omitted are highly necessary. This is a defence questionnaire; it is certainly not an economic one. It applies to all persons between the ages of IS and 65 years, the range covered by the Defence Act, ever since the act was first passed by this Parliament. We should have complete information in regard to all persons between those ages. One very important omission from the questionnaire, however, is that no information is sought regarding military service performed either in earlier years or under the present system. The Prime Minister said in the press recently that information of that sort would be very conflicting and that “ it would be so varied as to be unclassifiable”. If that be so, surely that criticism applies also to information regarding employment. A man may have his own opinion as to what kind of an engineer he is, and he will state that, opinion in answer to questions regarding employment, -Wo know that during the war the Australian Imperial Force head-quarters had littlerecorded information as to the skill of the volunteers. If an appropriate question were included in the schedule of this bill, and in answering it a man said that he had a thousand days of active service in such and such a battalion, and had been wounded, the department would at least know that he had been a fighting soldier. The absence of such a question is, in my view, an omission that should berectified. As far as J. know there is no record anywhere of Imperial ex-service men now living in Australia. So.me thousands of these men came to this country immediately after the war, but many thousands of them left because of adverse circumstance. During the four years of the depressionwe lost some 30,000 men, many of them ex-service men who had come to Australia to find a new environment, and to pioneer a new life for themselves in this distant part of the Empire. Many of them still remain here. I wish that many thousands more of them were arriving to swell our population and strengthen our defence. Many of those in our midst are ex-Indian army officers and “Tommies” who have had varied experience in warfare. There are also many ex-soldiers from New Zealand living in the Commonwealth, but no record of their services is in possession of the Government. I challenge the Minister and the Commonwealth Statistician to produce statistics dealing with this matter. We all know what happened during the last war-
– Twenty-one years have elapsed since the Great War ended.
– I could make several retorts to that interjection. That was not theanswer given when my motion to deal with the disabilities of returned soldiers under the Repatriation Act was swept aside. The answer then was that it was unnecessary to discuss the subject. The Minister for Defencehas asked them to join the militia reserve. Apparently the Government is cognizant of their services and is desirous of utilizing them again. I appeal to the Minister for Defence to include in the schedule of this bill a question relating to military service. During the last war under the emotion of patriotism, which Dr. Johnson said is the last refuge of a scoundrel when used for ulterior purposes, Kitchener’s armywas formed of hundreds of thousands of young volunteers, and our own volunteer reinforcements went abroad not caring a jot whether they were paid a pound a day or a shilling a day, They were not conscripted for service but were animated by a desire to serve their country. The great majority were men who had had experience under the compulsory training system in Australia, and I know that the experience thus gained was a great aid to them and helped the’ Australian divisions to establish their great repute overseas. If statistics had been compiled showing the useful avenues in which those men could have been employed they could have been drafted into units where their technical skill and training could have been fully utilized and the tremendous slaughter of men not classified and put into proper jobs could have been a voided. But the lives of many men who, in civilian life, were occupying key positions - men whose services would have been invaluable in economic and industrial organization - were thrown away. Had they been placed in appropriate categories that loss would not have occurred. Ourfirst fatal casualty in the Australian Flying Corps was Lieutenant Merz, a brilliant young doctor who might have been better employed in the Australian Army Medical Corps, especially in Mesopotamia where there was a shortage or doctors and where, in fact, he sometimes rendered medical as well as flying service. I mention that case merely to emphasize the point which I am making and because he was my particular friend. Many young medical students served in the first Australian division on . Gallipoli; they were subsequently recalled to finish their medical course and later were drafted to the Australian Army Medical Corps as medical officers. Surely the Government is cognizant of that. The Minister, who is a military man, knows that many men whose qualifications fitted them for more important work were sent away in the ranks of the infantry.
– They joined the infantry because they desired to do so.
– I agree with the honorable member, who was in. an infantry unit, that many of them joined an infantry battalion because they had a predilection for a particular battalion.
– Would the honorable member have forced them to join other units?
– No. Not if they preferred not to.But if proper records of qualifications had been kept here and overseas Colonel Newcombe, who had accompanied T. E. Laurence on . most of his excursions and was a brilliant linguist, would not have been serving on Gallipoli attached to the Australian engineers. He could have been rendering great service to the Empire as an intelligence officer ; indeed he subsequently distinguished himself in that capacity. There were many men of great ability among the Imperial Service officers, and there are men in Australia now who have special qualifications in engineering, aviation, and in other directions. If the Minister wants the names of these men privately I shall be glad to supply them.
– I quite accept the honorable member’s assurance that that is so.
– If that be so, why is this questionnaire left incomplete? Why is it but a poor imitation of the 1915 schedule?
– It is not.
– The questions appearing in this schedule are almost word for word a copy of those which appeared in the 1915 schedule.
– That is not so.
– Questions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 are the same. If there are any original questions. I should be glad if the Minister would point them out.
– Questions 1 to 7 are the same, but from then on the questionnaire varies from the 1915 schedule.
– Of most importance, inmy view, are the omissions from what is practically a carbon copy of the 19.15 schedule. It. is admitted that this questionnaire is to be sent out by the Defence Department and that it is to cover all males of military age, yet the most important question concerning military service is omitted.
– It was . in the 1915 questionnaire.
– And it should be- there-, now.
– I shall reply to that criticism of the honorable member.
–I emphasize the necessity for the insertion of such a question in the schedule. It would be far better for the Government to insert it than to leave it for some private member to move for its insertion.
Sitting suspended from 6.14. to 8 p.m.
. - I regret that it is necessary for me, like other honorable members of the Opposition, to oppose the bill. Nevertheless, we do not take second place even to the Minister and his colleagues, in our desire for scientific organization of manpower and material resources for the defence of Australia. This bill, however, represents a great tactical ‘blunder, inasmuch as it has been introduced when perfect harmony within our shores is more necessary than ever it has been. The inevitable result, which the Government must have foreseen, will be to create discord andturmoil. The bill is unnecessary, for we could obtain the desired information from our electoral offices and census returns, and by questions asked of recruits to the militia forces. If information were obtained in this way, fear and mistrust would not be aroused in the minds of the people by the employment of methods militaristic in character. 1 sympathize with the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Street). It has been introduced shortly after a fight in Great Britain over the enforcement of conscription. Surelythe Governmenthas not forgotten the fight that took place when an effort was made to introduce conscription in. Australia? Nothing is more hated by the people than military conscription. It is always associated with economic conscription, which also is abhorred. Honorable members on this side have good reason to fear the outcome of this bill if it be persevered with in its present form. I have not the slightestdoubt regarding the Minister’s personal outlook in time of peace, but if this measure is to be administered at all, it, will be in a time of hysteria. I do not think that the bill has . been framed to meet an . emergency, because its form belies, that suggestion. It is evidently intended to be a part of the permanent plan of Australian defence. The principal executive officer is to be young enough to serve for five years before reaching the retiring age, and he is to have the right of further appointment at the end of that, period. Other provisions of the bill dispel the idea that it is” intended only to meet an immediate emergency.
– 1 take the honorable member to task for his use of the word “ immediate “.
– Perhaps it should not be used in that connexion; but the bill has created an immediate fear in the minds of the people. Workers are already organizing against the proposed register, because they believe that it, has been introduced at a time of panic and more than suggests conscription both of life and of labour. The hill contains a penalty clause, and refers to all kinds of compulsion to make people answer questions which probe into their intimate domestic affairs. The workers cannot imagine that such queries can he associated with ordinary defence operations. About a year ago, the Minister for Defence introduced a scientific defence plan.- .Had that scheme been adopted, all the information required could have been secured in ample time to cope with the additions to our defence forces. At present we find that, we cannot handle satisfactorily the men who have volunteered to join the militia forces, although many leaders desired the recruiting campaign to fail.
– They are being handled.
– But, they cannot be handled as quickly as was expected. If any more strain should be imposed upon the Defence Department at the moment, we should find that chaos instead of order would result. Two or three periods of unnecessary internal discord in Australia have already been caused by bad administration and panicky legislation. They have created an immense amount of danger, difficulty, turmoil, tragedy and mistrust, and have not brought any good in return. Those lessons should have been a sufficient warning against the repetition of such mistakes. Although it may not be intended to be so, the present bill is an amplification of measures such as the- War Precautions Act, the Crimes Act, and the Transport Workers Act. If an emergency should occur, administrative action would be taken immediately, with all the unfortunate consequences that we experienced during the last, war, when a bill similar to this, wilh the exception that ir had international instead of internal application, was introduced. That, legislation was intended definitely to conscript manpower to fight outside Australia, whereas this legislation proposes only to conscript, man-power for labour and- military service within the country. Fear of the conscription of labour, in military uniforms, under military discipline, at military rates of pay, and under military conditions, has created very definite opposition to this bill. I have referred to earlier legislation and its effects in order that the Government may realize the defects of the present measure in time to render it, less objectionable. When it was suggested 24 years ago that, our man-power should be conscripted, the trade union movement, and all kinds of other groups, immediately called interstate conferences to protest against the proposal. Members of the- Society of Friends, people who were conscientious objectors, and many others, met under one banner to fight against the conscription of human life for service overseasDelegates from every corner of Australia passed the following resolution by a ‘ majority of 25S.00O votes to 753 : -
This congress records its uncompromising hostility to the conscription of life and labour, and on behalf of the industrial organized workers of Australia, resolutely declares against any attempt to foist conscription upon the people of Australia.
Because I and other persons had that resolution printed in a. manifesto, which historians now regard as a valuable document and which is contained in the Parliamentary Library, it was seized and censored. It contained not, one abusive word, not one line to which anybody could take exception in peace time, when men’s minds are properly balanced. The manifesto was seized in my office, and I was escorted with fixed bayonets to hand it over to the Defence Department. One of my colleagues - almost, a life-long friend - who had sat with me at conference tables to draft resolutions designed to improve the conditions of the Australian people, censored it so that only the headings and the names of the members of the committee were left, and then said that we could print it. I am referring to a former Minister for Defence, Sir George Pearce. The way in which the outlooks of administrations differ is demonstrated by the fact that when I sent this self-same manifesto to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, every line of it was published in a British -journal called The Nation, and in the Manchester Guardian. The British Government and the British people did noteven blink an eyelid. They regarded it as quite proper and sensible propaganda; yet, , in this country, people were gaoled for trying to distribute it. There may not be any danger in this bill as it appears on paper, but a dangerous state of affairs may arise from the powers it confers upon the Government at a time when people have lost their sense of balance.
– The regulations cannot be inconsistent with the act.
– Penalties can be added to those already existing, and other offences can be prescribed to which those penalties may apply.
– There is a limit to that.
– Why meet trouble now?
– The answer I give to that question is the same answer that the Minister would give. Do this thing gradually; it would be too late at a time of turmoil. I am trying to meet all the fears which I know the people outside are hugging to their breasts; which I am hugging to my breast. I can visualize myself next Sunday addressing 10,000 or 20,000 people at Wirth’s Circus or the Exhibition Building in Melbourne on this bill. I speak now so that I shall be understood, and in the hope that we may find some way out of these difficulties now instead of waiting until it is too late. On the last occasion when legislation of this type was introduced in this Parliament a promise was made . by the AttorneyGeneral of this Government (Mr. Hughes), who said “no search-warrant need be accepted, no arrests will be made, and no prosecutions will be launched unless I sign the papers “. Brigadier Williams signed the papers! The right honorable gentleman forgot all about his promise. Men wore arrested; offices raided. The manifesto to which I have referred, with other literature, was seized. All kinds of things happened, and the name on the papers was that of Brigadier Williams, not that of the right honorable member for Bendigo or whatever electorate the right honorable, gentleman then represented. Promises were not kept then, and they will not be. kept now; not that I suggest that the Minister is dishonest, but the honorable gentleman will not be on the spot.
– Let us put him on the spot.
– That is unkind.
– It will be impossible for the Minister to administer this bill. Let us examine the personnel and outlook of the NationalRegister Board which is to be established under this legislation. The board will be composed of a highly-qualified military officer-
– Who says so?
– A representative of the Defence Department, if the Minister wants it that way.
– That is very different.
– The Minister denies that he will be highly qualified. He will merely be an under-strapper in the department.
– If the honorable gentleman will join the department I shall- see what I can do about appointing him.
– I should like honorable members to let the Minister and myself come to grips without aid. One member of the board will be a military technician, a man who has been a military officer.
– That, is supposition.
– The board will consist of a representative of the Defence Department, a representative of the Department of Supply and Development, and the Commonwealth Statistician.
– That is correct.
– The Commonwealth Statistician is an excellent gentleman and he is a. marvellous man for statistical work, but, on this board, he will have a. cold, unsympathetic outlook on the man in the street who protests against this bill, because he will not know anything about his feelings. The man from the Defence Department will have a purely military outlook, and in all probability the representative of the Supply Department will be a military man too. That board will be saturated with purely military ideas and in the execution and administration of this measure I forecast all kinds of difficulties which would not arise if its purpose were achieved by peacetime methods without reference to a national register at all.
– Is the honorable gentleman’s objection purely psychological?
– This bill creates a psychology of misunderstanding and fear, o
– The honorable member is playing a great game of skittles.
– No. I do not close my eyes to what happened many years ago. They are fools who do not learn by experience. Knowing what happened years ago and something of the psychology of the industrial masses of Australia, I know what will happen again. I know what is happening. The Minister is trying to come to some understanding with the representatives of the people, but he must have the co-operation of the Australian workers to make this a success.
– Hear, hear!
– I am trying to help the Minister when I point out the difficulties from the other man’s point of - view which I know and he does not know, although he is trying to grasp it. We can get all the data that we want without this legislation.
Censorship ! How censorship runs mad in a period of hysteria. The English were not troubled by literature of a type of which the people in this country were afraid. A century or so ago men were put on the rack for (refusing to answer questions of the character proposed in this bill. The Ministry does not propose to put men on the rack physically, but it does propose to gaol men until they answer those questions. It would not be outside the realm of possibility, if a man refused to answer questions, to imprison him for twenty years unless there was a change to a more lenient government.
– That is not so. The maximum term of imprisonment prescribed is three months.
– If the man continues to refuse to answer a question he will be given periods of three months in gaol until he becomes tractable. He may get out for a brief breathing space, but I doubt it. This bill and the Supply and Development Bill are in conflict with the principles of British justice in that the onus of proof is on the defendant and in that the prosecutor is himself to determine the forms of indictment and trial. The cards are stacked against those people who have the temerity to translate into defiance the universal objection to this measure. It is axiomatic that no one is guilty until proved guilty and that men shall be tried by their peers, but under this hill a man is regarded as guilty until he proves his innocence and it lies within the power of the prosecution to deny him the right to trial by jury. I object to the interference with the people’* liberty.
The last time when some persons thought it was necessary to have conscription, the people of this country refused to allow it. As the result this country was one, if not the only country, of very few countries which did all that they did do without duress.
– Ireland was the only other country.
– Some people in this country protested against so many men leaving the country. Farmers complained that their crops were perishing in the field because there was no manpower to reap them.
– And the honorable gentleman’s government said to them : “ Grow more wheat “.
– The honorable gentleman is a hit mixed in his dates. If there be one chapter in the history of Australia of which the people can be more proud than any other, it is the fact that we did what we did without having to resort to conscription.
– Order 1 The honorable member is not in order in proceeding thus.
– This bill is not a temporary bill. It is meant to implement the defence scheme. It is not meant to meet an immediate emergency. The Minister has admitted that.
– Not an immediate emergency.
– ‘Surely there is a rainbow in the international sky that holds the prospect of peace.
– With a mad dog in Europe ?
– The prospect that peace will continue is becoming more and more pronounced every day. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has joined that band of thinking men all over the world who have come to the conclusion that there will not be a war. Let us hope that his opinion is correct. I feel sure that it is and that there is no need to rush this matter through Parliament.
– A pious hope that there will be no war does not necessarily mean that there will be no war.
– We can implement our scheme of national defence and make it as the Minister hopes to make it without this legislation. It was a tactical blunder to introduce the bill. Many people in Australia have gradually, but surely lost faith in this Government, and worse still, lost faith in our parliamentary system because of the multitude of legislative acts by regulation and the calm aquiescent passiveness and silence of the rank-and-file members of the Government party. The first thing that strikes a visitor to this chamber is the fact that the Ministers, isolated Ministers very often, are the only ones who take any part - -
-Order ! The honorable member may not reflect upon honorable member’s attitudes towards other measures in this House.
– I am speaking of the present. I am trying to point out why the man in the street is fearful of this legislation.
– The honorable gentleman referred definitely to occasions in the past.
– I shall try to link it up this way. One reason for the objection of the people to this legislation is that it is an addition to the method of executive government which they have been’ bearing against their will in the last two or three years. Executive government always has been the prelude to dictatorship. All needed information can be obtained from the Electoral Office, the census, and the answers to questions which recruits are asked when they are enlisted. We should not be interfering with the free play of ideas and the education of the different sections of the Australian people. It is anti-Australian and anti-democratic to do so. This measure contains all of the elements of the Fascisti in Italy and the Nazis in Germany. It is anti-Australian because its basis is compulsion.
– The basis of the ordinary censorship is compulsion.0
– Compulsion for military service and compulsion of labour are objectionable to the people of Australia. I have not lost faith in the loyalty and patriotism of the people. What they did in an overseas war without compulsion they will do ten times over in defence of their own shores. I object to this legislation opposed to the characteristics of the Australian people who love freedom and liberty. They do not like to be lassooed and threatened with all kinds of penalties if they do not answer questions which are objectionable to them. I appeal to the Government to find some way out of these difficulties without in any way interfering with the efforts to complete the scientific defence plan. Some more attention should be given to the suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that it would be possible to get all this data by means of the ordinary census. All of the information necessary could be obtained by means of an ordinary census to which no one objects. Trouble is bound to arise if people are required by what is virtually a military tribunal to answer questions in order that they may be listed in a national register. Our greatest fear in connexion with this measure is that it will lead to the conscription of labour. I urge the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) to allay that misgiving by doing thoroughly what he but half did when he compromised on the amendment submitted by the Opposition during the discussion in committee on the Supply and Development Bill.
-Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to /he hill before the House.
– This bill is the twin brother of the one which has just been passed through this chamber. Both measures are closely related ; they are part of the same plan. For that reason the Opposition cannot support them. The Government decided that it would not exclude the Commonwealth as an employer from the scope of regulations to be made under the Supply and Development Bill.
-Order ! The honorable member must not refer to a bill which has already been passed.
– The subject to which I have referred - the conscription of labour - is contained in this measure-
– There is nothing in this bill about that.
– The honorable member for Barton should read the heading of the bill.
– Apparently the argument of the Opposition is that the compilation of a national register is all right so long as it is done quietly and not openly.
– Our fear is that the national register to be compiled under this bill will mean conscription of labour. The Government could, I believe, remove that fear by calling a conference of representatives of the trade union movement throughout Australia to discuss Labour’s objections to the proposal in its present form. If the Government could assure these people that there was no danger of labour being conscripted, the co-operation of the working classes would be ensured. At all events, there would be a greater measure of co-operation than will be possible if the Government runs contrary to their wishes by forcing compulsion upon them. I cannot help recalling the bitter aftermath to the happenings in 1915 when the Government of the day took action similar to that which is now contemplated. Much of the objection to this proposed national register would never have been heard had the Government submitted the proposal in a sensible and ordinary peace-time manner. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the suggestions that have been made from this side of the House because I believe it will be possible to obtain all the necessary data without compulsory registration of the people.
.- I do not wish to cast a silent vote on this bill nor do I wish to hide the fact that I regard it as essentially a defence measure. It provides for the marshalling of our national resources - men, money and material. Should this country be invaded the necessary information which is to be gathered by means of this national register would be immediately available. The Government scheme would be more complete if the register included details of military service and of wealth resources. I hope that in the committee stage the Minister will submit an amendment to provide for this additional information.
– Will the honorable member elaborate his reference to wealth resources ?
– Information concerning the wealth resources of the Commonwealth was provided for in the national register of 1915; apparently there was no difficulty about getting those details on that, occasion. To prepare adequately for any emergency a country must have immediately available all information necessary in order to provide efficiently for defence. The only way in which information of this kind can be obtained is by a national register such as is contemplated in this bill. I believe in universal military training. Legislation providing for universal training is actually on the statute-book; it has merely been suspended. At one time the Labour party approved this system; lately it seems to have degenerated. Universal military training seems to me to be the natural course for any country to take if it wishes to make its defence secure. Such a scheme is in the interests of the youth of a country. The young men benefit physically from the exercise which training involves, and because they become more or less skilled in arms they are much better equipped to defend their country. Conscription of man-power and of resources is essential to the adequate defence of Australia. My view is - “ One in, ali in”.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) took objection to this measure on the ground that the questions requiring answers would have a serious psychological effect on the people concerned. Yet the honorable gentleman himself, no doubt, often approached people with whom he is accustomed to associate, with nasty questions on behalf of some trade unions. He and his colleagues believe in solidarity. That is what Australia needs at this stage in our history. There can be no room for “ rats “ or “ scabs “ in our plans for defence. “ All in “ must be our motto, if ever we have to face an aggressor nation. All that is desired by this measure is that, in the event of an attack, the whole of the nation’s resources shall be at the disposal of the Government. Members of the Opposition should not be opposed to the views which I have expressed, or to the bill, because, for one reason, in a statement reported in the Canberra Times of the 19th October, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) enumerated thirteen points of the Labour party’s defence policy, of which the first was -
A survey of man-power and resources, industrial and primary. It is essential that the number of nien able to carry out all forms of work be known.
When the honorable gentleman spoke of a “survey” did he mean the compilation of a national register or a survey from an aeroplane?
I can conceive of no sound argument against the bill. The purpose of the projected national register is to compile the information which the Leader of the Opposition, in his statement, claimed was necessary in the interests of the defence of Australia. How can it be argued thai the Government is endeavouring 10 create a fear psychologically, as was suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports? If its proposals are calculated to create a fear psychologically, the same objection applies to the statement of Labour’s defence policy by the Leader of the Opposition. But honorable members opposite do not see it that way. Merely because the proposals emanate from the Government, they argue that they will result in the disunity of the people. I cannot see how a survey could be made unless some steps were taken on the lines laid down in this measure.
Some honorable members seem to fear that this is a defence measure. Of course it is. I should be very sorry to hear the Minister say that it was not. Therefore the compilation of a national register cannot be delayed until the country is attacked. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports seemed to think that war was not imminent. I am glad to know that that is his opinion.- I submit that because the British Empire has awakened to the urgent need for defence preparations, and has set about providing adequate defences, the outlook in the world to-day is much better than it has been for some years. As an integral part of that Empire, to which we are all proud to belong, Australia must play its part in achieving preparedness. If the British Empire is in a position to defend itself, peace will be maintained for a much longer period than if no preparations were made at all.
I do not think that any Australian citizen would object to furnishing the information required by the authorities under this bill. I repeat that provision should be made for the inclusion of particulars relating to military service. The bill is merely the fulfilment of the aspiration of the Leader of the Opposition, who, as I have said, not long ago professed to be in favour of a survey of the man-power of Australia. It is essential that the Government should know the qualifications of Australian workers, their occupations, their training, and their ability to render essential defence services. Since millions of pounds are to be spent on the national defence programme, I urge the Government to include in the bill provision for the tabulation of the wealth resources of all citizens of this country. Those are my sentiments. I have long held them. I believe that when a country is at war, the whole of its resources must be utilized to the fullest extent, and the services of both its men and women must be employed in the best possible way. There is no room for “ blacklegs “ in time of emergency. We know that in every community certain individuals will endeavour to shirk their responsibility in time of war, but are not backward in taking the plums when the emergency has passed.
.- Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), I see great danger in this measure. . I have some real knowledge of what occurred during the Great War under what purported to be innocent legislation - the War Precautions Act. I have read the debates which took place in the Commonwealth Parliament in connexion with that legislation. It was stated on that occasion that there was nothing to fear, because the measure was in the best interests of Australia. I have a very clear recollection, however, of what was done under it. Men were sent to gaol by others who themselves should have been in gaol. This is not the innocent bill which honorable members would have us believe it to be. In reply to an interjection, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) drew attention to the heading of the bill, and claimed that its purpose was the taking of a census. It certainly provides for the the taking of a census, but of only a certain portion of the community, males between the ages of 18 and 65 years. No provision is made for any one else. The questionnaire provided in the schedule provides for the collection of such information as the nationality of fathers and mothers of persons being registered. What has information of that kind to do with a man’s eligibility for service in time of emergency?
– The same information is required by trade unions.
– If I were the honorable member for Barton, I should not say too much about trade unions.
Yesterday the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) referred to the statement of Labour’s defence policy made some time ago by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). They referred to only part of his statement. The Leader of the Labour party mentioned a number of other things besides a census of the man-power of the country. There would not be a great deal of opposition to this measure if it aimed merely at ascertaining Australia’s resources and ability to resist an attack. I have a clear recollection of what was done between 1914 and 1918. During those years many men offered their lives for their country ; they could not do more than that. But the people who “ sooled “ them on are still drawing interest on the money that they provided so that others could fight to protect their interests. Many of those who did the fighting are either now lying in Flanders fields or crippled. This bill will make the same kind of thing possible in the future. I represent as intelligent a body of people as does any other honorable member in this Parliament, for, like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I represent the organized Labour movement of the Commonwealth - a movement whose representatives in this chamber exceed in number the supporters of the Government. It is a remarkable fact that whenever legislation of this character is introduced - legislation which, when introduced, appears to be perfectly innocent - the same people stand behind it. .But under some of the supposedly innocent legislation of the past, many strange things were done.
– Those things could not be done under this legislation.
– They could be done by regulations made under this legislation.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that it could not be done under this legislation, by any means.
– I shall need a greater assurance than that of the Minister, for I have had a bitter experience of what can be done under legislation of this kind, innocent though it may appear to be. Clause 23 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.
Should such person fail to notify his change of address in the prescribed manner, what will happen? The bill provides that he may be prosecuted, arrested, and fined, or even imprisoned. He may be a man travelling from place to place looking for a job. What address could he give? He would have no regular place of abode, no permanent address which he could supply; yet he could be placed in gaol for not complying with the provisions of this legislation.
– Surely the honorable gentleman does not put that argument forward seriously?
– I*do. These things were done in the past under similar legislation. This bill is the first step towards conscription for either industrial or military purposes, or both. If it is not for that purpose, why has it been introduced ? All the information that the Government wants for other purposes could be obtained from a general census of the people. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that even if a general census did not give all the information that might be desired at a particular time, one or two additional questions which would not cause offence could be added. Moreover, if the aim were merely to ascertain the possibilities of this country, its womenfolk would not be excepted. During the last war the women of Australia did a great deal to assist in the successful prosecution of the war.
– Hear, hear !
– They are ready to do so again, should the necessity arise; but no effort is being made to ascertain what they could do.
– With respect to the women, we have done what the honorable member’s party suggests; we have provided for a voluntary register.
– Why not do the same in the case of men? If the women can be trusted to act voluntarily, so can the men. During the last war they proved conclusively that they were willing to act voluntarily. At that time, I was head of an organization which provided between 40,000 and 50,000 volunteers for active service. Those men were not conscripted, nor were they called upon to furnish a national register. With few exceptions, the men of this country would dr? their part in a time of need. There is no need for compulsion, or for any register, or for the imposition of a. £50 fine.
– I agree that the majority of the men of Australia would be prepared to do their part.
– Then why the compulsion ? And why ask them to say where their parents were born? What is the purpose of that question? What has it to” do with the defence of Australia?
– It is distinct from nationality, which is a matter of law.
– If men are available and willing to render service, what does it matter where their parents came from? What has the birth-place of their fathers to do with their service ? Will o a man’s service be rejected if his father came from a certain place?
– No one who is required to fill in this form is being asked to render service.
– Then what is it all for?
– I have already given the reason. The purpose of the question referred to is to obtain some indication of the origin of people born outside Australia.
– If the object. is to find how many people there are in the Commonwealth, there are other means of obtaining the information. For instance, the electoral roll contains the name of every person over 21 years of age. That should be sufficient, because, in my opinion, persons under 21 years of age should not be compelled to supply this information unless they are enfranchized.
– It is not possible to ascertain a person’s age from the electoral roll.
– Each person’s age is given on the index card. There is a complete record of such things already in the possession of the Government, and therefore this legislation must have some other purpose. Some time ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) appealed to the . men of Australia not to do with these forms what had been suggested might be done with them. His appeal showed that he realized that the people feared that some sinister motive lies behind this measure. I believe that they are right in thinking so, notwithstanding the protestations of the Minister. The people generally know what is meant; they are just as able to interpret the motive of the Government as are the members of this Parliament. The history of this country shows that they have often been proved to be correct in their estimate of the purpose of legislation introduced into this House. Men whose only desire is to do the right thing by Australia are not willing to submit to compulsion when there is no need for it. The Government can obtain all the information that it needs without resorting to the means proposed in this bill; hut if it honestly believes that this information is necessary, it should go the whole way with the job.
– -By taking a compulsory census?
– Every census is compulsory. As I have said, any additional questions found necessary at any particular time could be added, and no one would take any exception to them. But when legislation is introduced to require a particular section of the community - all males between the ages of 18 and 65 years - to answer a questionnaire, the community rightly seeks to know the reason. It is not sufficient to say that the purpose of this questionnaire is to ascertain the resources available to meet an emergency. This legislation will serve no real purpose in that direction, because the women are excluded.
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the age range should be increased, by including those under eighteen and all over 65 years of age?
– I suggest that the Government should ask the women the same questions as it requires the men to answer. If it be right to compel men to do certain things, why is it not right to compel women to do them? Is the Government afraid of the women?
– Not in the least.
– For some reason, known only to the Government, women are excluded, from this measure. The bill before us reminds me strongly of other allegedly innocent legislation introduced into this Parliament years ago by the then member for Bendigo, who now represents the electors of North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). I have read what he said at the time. He declared that there was no need to fear the legislation then before the Parliament, as it had been introduced in- the best interests of Australia. He said, further, that there was no intention to conscript any one ; but we all know that he made two strenuous efforts to force conscription on Australia. At that time, some things that no one is proud of to-day were done. Some persons in the community were treated disgracefully. Similar things could happen again under this legislation.
The last clause of the hill contains dangerous provisions. It provides that the Governor-General may make regulations for carrying out, or giving effect to, this legislation, and, in particular, for prescribing penalties not exceeding £50 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both, for any offence against the regulations. Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I ask what would happen if a man continuously refused to answer the questions set out in the schedule?
– I cannot anticipate any legal decision.
– I desire to know what the Minister himself would do if, after three months, a man still refused to obey the law?
– That would be outside my province.
– Then it must be outside the Minister’s province in the first place.
– I agree entirely with the honorable gentleman.
– Clause 27 reads-
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which by this act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act and in particular for prescribing penalties not exceeding Fifty pounds or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both, for any offence against the regulations.
Ordinary mortals in this country are to be compelled to answer questions, but the great industrial undertakings are not to be subjected to any inquisition. They will be able, in the future, as in the past, to snap their fingers at the Government. What happens if the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited refuses to answer questions? Nothing happens. The same is true of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and the oil combine.
– That is not so.
– These concerns have defied the Government on many occasions.
– There is nothing about them in the bill.
– Why is that?
– The bill does not deal with companies.
– The Government is prepared to attack individuals, but not corporations, because they are its best friends.. These combines are not dealt with by the Supply and Development Bill, a measure which will be as futile as this one. These organizations will refuse to answer questions whichthey do not wish to answer. In the future, as in the past, they will defy the Government, which at all times is prepared to submit to them. The Government is prepared to compel the trade unionist to answer this questionnaire, and even to require him to supply information regarding the nationality of his parents. I shall not be obliged to answer such questions. 1 am over 65 years of age. I hope that the bill will be defeated. I realize that some honorable members who do not like certain of its provisions will vote for it ; but as for me and my party, we shall oppose it. I oppose the bill for the reasons advanced by honorable members on this side of the House. We believe that it definitely represents industrial conscription, and probably the first step towards military conscription.
.- I am sure that honorable members generally were surprised at the innocence exhibited by the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and Herbert (Mr. Martens) in putting the case for the Opposition against this measure. It is evident to me, at any rate, that this matter is causing embarrassment in the Labour movement. When honorable membersopposite say that this bill is innocent, they speak the truth. However, they qualify that statement with expressions of suspicion of the Government’s intention. I fail to see on what ground they base that suspicion. Honorable members on this side are as good Australians as any opposite. In fact, we have more of the milk of human kindness -in us than honorable members opposite. They speak with tongue in the cheek when they complain that this “ measure is designed to regiment and discipline our manpower for conscription. When I last visited North Queensland I took the opportunity to inspect a sugar mill, and there I discovered that more than 25 per cent, of the trade unionists in the locality were not allowed to secure employment as cane-cutters unless they could prove that they were British subjects. These men are designated foreigners. Do not honorable gentlemen opposite regard that as discipline? I have yet to learn that any society can survive if it is not organized and governed by certain laws. Apparently the qualms of honorable gentlemen oppositein respect of this measure arise from their failure to realize that Australia is facing an emergency. If they were to visit China to-day, and witness the bombardment of defenceless cities on the seaboard by Japanese squadrons, they would readily agree that every justification exists for this country to prepare its defences. To them Australia appears to be safe, at. least temporarily, because of the stand which has recently been taken by the United States of America and Great Britain against aggression. In any case, if ever the mad dogs of war are let loose in Europe, Australians will rise to the occasion and defend this country with all their might. In such circumstances we shall be no more favorably disposedtowards conscription than we were in 1915. The loyalty and courage of the Australian people are beyond question. The sons of this country have written their name indelibly in history by their deeds in the Great War.
– Without conscription.
– There is no suggestion of conscription in this measure. Honorable members opposite have had a had dream concerning conscription. They have had a nightmare in which they have had visions of being turned out of their homes and marched down the street. I challenge honorable gentlemen opposite to find one word in this measure which can be interpreted to mean conscription. They are forced to rely on the argument that the proposal of the Government is open to suspicion. Surely when our eountry is faced with a great crisis, as it is at present, honorable members irrespective of party should be able to look one another in the face and declare their trust in each other. In an emergency, no party should stand aloof simply because of political differences. Honorable gentlemen opposite say, in effect, to the Government, “ What you are doing is right; your action is innocent enough but we cannot trust you”. That is sheer propaganda. I recall that in 1932, when a Labour government was in office in New South Wales, a man of my acquaintance was told that he could not get a job on the railways unless he joined a labour union. [Quorum formed.] I lived in the industrial area of Balmain for over 30 years, and in that period I was made continually aware of the domination which labour leaders exercised over the workers. Young men could not obtain a job unless they joined a union. That, of course, is a form of discipline, a principle against which honorable members opposite now protest. We have been informed that 500 trade unionists have declared that they will refuse to make returns in connexion with the national register. I suggest that if the honorable member for Melbourne Ports approached those men and said to them, “ Now look boys, this is on the level; you can trust the Government “, they would readily cooperate in this proposal.
– Will the honorable member come with me?
– Yes. I have not the slightest doubt that trade unionists will listen to reason in any circumstances. If this proposal is put fairly and squarely before them, they will respond to the Government’s call as readily as they did in 1914. I have always held that high opinion of trade unionists generally, and for that reason they have always trusted me. I have before mc a copy of the Canberra Times of the 19 th October last in which appears a statement attributed to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on the proposal now before thu House. The honorable gentleman is reported as saying that he favours a register of man-power.
– Not a register, but a survey, of man-power.
– I rise to a point of order. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that about two years ago when I attempted to quote from a newspaper when dealing with a measure concerning the citrus fruit industry, you asked me if 1 could vouch for the authenticity of the statement, and when I replied that I could not, you ruled that I was out of order. . I ask if the honorable member can vouch for the authenticity of the statement from which he is quoting.
– I understand that the statement from which the honorable member proposes to quote has nothing to do with any debate which took place in this Parliament during the current session, therefore there is nothing in the Standing Orders which forbids it.
– That is so. The statement reads : “ Survey of man-power resources, industrial and primary - it is as well that the number of men able to carry out all forms of work be known “. That state; ment was made by the Leader of the Opposition. I wish to remind honorable members that the men of Australia are courageous enough to defend this country, and would be the first to admit thai our resources of man-power should be known so that should the need arise those resources might be utilized to the best advantage. No honorable members in this House should be more concerned about the effectiveness of our defence prepara-tions than the honorable gentlemen from Queensland, because that State is the most vulnerable in the Commonwealth. T am of opinion that the best possible road communications should be established with the northern part of this continent. T feel certain that the Japanese, mainly because of their activities in the pearling industry, know more about the north of Queensland than the Australian Government. If the Queensland members of the Labour party in this chamber gave I heir support to this measure, they would be assisting in the defence of Australia. Should Japan, or, in fact, any other nation, decide (o invade Australia, a landing would possibly be made in Queensland, because of its abundance of natural resources. They would be hard to dig out. I believe that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) would be one of the first to offer his services, and that even the honorable member for
East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would assist, even if he had to be pushed. If Queensland were attacked New South Welshmen and Victorians would soon come to their aid. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who said that the bill is an innocent measure, contended that all of the information required can be obtained through the Commonwealth Electoral Office or through trade union organizations. Having had a good deal of experience in finding out all I could concerning certain individuals, I think it is necessary to obtain a register of man-power at the earliest opportunity.
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order! I cannot allow the debate to proceed in a disorderly way. Personal references are disorderly.
– I do not agree with the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) that there is any need to register women also, because when the war dogs are released the women of Australia will render valuable service. Already many experienced in driving motor vehicles have notified the authorities that they are willing to respond whenever a call is made. The honorable member for Herbert also said that if women are not to be registered, the bill should be rejected.
– He did .not say anything of the kind.
– I have been associated with the industrial movement much longer than the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) ; he does not know what the bill provides. We have never heard of Jack Holloway-
-Order! The honorable member must refer to honorable members by naming their electorates, and not by name.
– Strong exception has been taken by honorable members opposite to the penalties provided in this bill, but can they cite an instance where a penalty of some kind is not inflicted when the law is broken?
– A court is never like this.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) derives a considerable income from fees paid by those who break the law. This form of registration is proposed in order to protect the men, women and children of this country. All that the Government proposes to do in the event of war is to place men where their services can be most effective. An overwhelming majority of Australian . men would be willing to register without any compulsion and be anxious to serve in an emergency. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports spoke for over half an hour, but the only fault he could find with the bill was based on suspicion. Is he not prepared to trust his fellow- Australians ? I have always supported the cause of the workers, who, I know, have received greater concessions from anti-Labour governments than they have from other governments. For instance, we have been informed only recently that this Government proposes to introduce legislation to compel preference to unionists, and in that way endeavour to wipe out sweating in industry. I have always believed in preference to unionists. I have been asked by unionists to explain the object of other measures, and after discussions lasting sometimes a couple of hours, they have admitted that the Government is right. An overwhelming majority of unionists will be willing to register under this bill. I should have liked to have heard the Leader of the Opposition address himself to this measure.
– He is a sick man.
– I am sorry to hear that; his indisposition may be due in some degree to the inconsistency ‘ of his alleged supporters in this chamber. If Australia is unprepared and the British navy were unable to come to our assistance, Japan or any other nation could land here almost without opposition. Thank God we do not believe that that is likely to happen. We have seen the way in which defenceless towns and villages in China have been bombarded by a ruthless invader resulting in the death of many thousands of non-combatants, including women and helpless children. That could happen in Australia. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who emphasized the necessity to construct national highways to be used in the event of our coastal trade being disorganized in time of war, should realize the necessity for this measure. No one abhors the thought of another “ bloodbath “ more than I do. I have three sons who would be called upon for service, but I know that the Government must take effective steps to protect this counry During recent election campaigns the members of the Labour party endeavoured to make political capital by saying that this Government supports the policy of conscription, and will introduce the system whenever an opportunity is afforded. This Government would not compel men to fight overseas against their will, but the occasion may arise when every able-bodied man in Australia will be expected to defend this country. Should Great Britain call on us for our assistance, conscription will not be needed any more than it was in 1914. Australian men have sufficient courage and intelligence to understand that they must fight in order to preserve their liberty. The Australian men, realizing how generously they have -been treated by Great Britain in purchasing large quantities of our exportable surplus of primary products, supplying us with the latest machinery for use in our secondary industries, and information concerning secret devices for use in time of war, would always be willing to shoulder a rifle in the defence of the Empire.
– What has this to do with the bill?
– The honorable member devoted the whole of his speech to an attack on conscription which is not provided for in the bill. I know more of the Australian workmen than many honorable members opposite, and 1 believe that if trouble arose every able-bodied Australian would use all the strength at his command to protect this wonderful land of ours.
.- I am at a loss to know why so much stress has been placed by honorable members opposite on the word “ conscription “, which is not mentioned in the bill. It is not intended by the Government, or by any one else, that conscription shall be introduced into this country. It is definitely a wrong interpretation of the measure to say that if it should ‘become law the workers of this country are likely to be conscripted. The objective of the bill is merely to enable a classification of men of military age to be made so that their services may he utilized in the most appropriate directions in time of emergency. Surely the country is entitled to the information necessary to enable that to be done. Surely those responsible for shaping the destiny of this country are entitled to have the fullest information regarding man-power. It is conceded that the captain of a football or cricket team is entitled to know the capabilities of the individual members of his team so that each man may be placed in the position on the field where he can render the best service to the team. By this measure, the Government is merely seeking’ to compile a national register so that individual members of the community may be able to render maximum service in the shortest possible time during an emergency. If war should ever be declared in this country - and we hope that Australia will never have to meet an aggressor - we do not want to have to do in a very short time what we are seeking to do in a more leisurely fashion in the measure now before the House. I sincerely trust that the information to be collated under this measure will never have to be used. There are some honorable members who, like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), firmly believe that Australia will never have to experience a war, that it will never be attacked, and that .we may sit in quietness, peace and luxury with the assurance that war will never confront us. We do not want to see in this country a repetition of what happened to the peaceful people of China, Albania and Abyssinia. We must be prepared to meet an invasion. We must have the means at our disposal for placing men in the shortest space of time in positions where they can render the greatest possible service. Other honorable members go so far as to say that they will do everything possible to incite men to break the law by refusing to answer the questionnaire. It is deplorable that any Australian-bom citizen should make a statement of that nature in this chamber under the coward’s cloak of parliamentary privilege. The industrialists who are incited to break the law will have to suffer for its breach while those who induced them to take this action will he protected by parliamentary privilege. It is a lamentable state of affairs that any one in this country should make such statements at a time when the Government is seeking complete co-ordination of industrial, commercial and military activities. I support the bill in a general way. I agree that some amendment may be desirable, but honorable members will have an opportunity during the committee stage to move any amendments which in their opinion will improve the bill and make it more acceptable. This bill represents an endeavour to co-ordinate the whole of the forces of the nation. It is necessary tha t they should be co-ordinated, and it is also necessary that there should be complete co-ordination between the various branches of the defence forces, which in recent times has not been much in evidence. I have found - and I offer this merely as constructive criticism - that Ministers are not getting correct information from the permanent heads of their departments. Proof of that is to be found, in the fact that I have written to the Minister for Defence asking for certain infantry units to be formed, and have been advised by the honorable gentleman that they had been formed on a certain date, on’.y to learn that they had not been formed Or even thought of. I have had similar experiences in connexion with the Works Branch. I have received letters from the former Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) stating that works which I have requested should be undertaken have already been carried out; but investigations have proved that they have not been put in hand, nor has any attempt been made to do so. I say this in ibo friendliest way to show that coordination does not exist between Ministers and departmental officials. This coordination is just as necessary as the coordination of the man-power and industrial activities of this country. I know that the task of the Government is difficult and immense, but these things have to be pointed out in order to prevent the dissemination of misleading and incorrect information in the future.
If, a?! the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has said, :the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Curtin), made a statement to the effect that the man-power and resources of this country must be surveyed, he made a very statesmanlike utterance, and the honorable gentleman is capable of making many. Honorable members opposite are making this word “ conscription “ a nightmare which is frightening them in every way. They are misinterpreting the objective of this bill and misleading the very people in whom they should inspire confidence that this measure will result in the best utilization of the services of all males of military age in times of emergency. The Government is taking this precaution in time of peace to see that everything will be in order should the time arrive when the man-power will have to be marshalled for the defence of this country. I never will support a policy of conscription, because I do not believe it to be necessary. I believe that the men and women of this country will willingly play their part in a time of emergency, much as I hope that that time will never arrive. I hope that there will also be complete cooperation among honorable members on both sides of the House in order to see that the necessary work is carried on without delay, and that everything possible is done to assist the Government in implementing its defence policy, which is so essential to the welfare of this country.
.- I intend to oppose the bill which is similar to one introduced into the Imperial Parliament in 1915 to conscript men of military age. Honorable members opposite have pointed out that the word “ conscription “ is not mentioned in this bill. . I remind them that it was not mentioned in the British act to which I have referred. Nevertheless, I believe that the purpose of the bill is. to impose military and industrial conscription in Australia. The only difference between this bill and that introduced into the Imperial Parliament in 1915 is that while the latter called for the ‘registration of men between the ages- of 19 and 45 this bill calls for the registration of boys of eighteen years of ase-
– And patriarchs of 65.
– That is so.
– The honorable member may find himself called up.
– If it were necessary I should be quite prepared to do my share in the defence of this country. And that, I believe may be . said of every individual in Australia, particularly the workers. What people are to answer the proposed questionnaire? Included among them will be not only thousands of men who served in the Great War, who have been very badly treated by this Government and practically every Government during the last twenty years, but also thousands of their children who have known nothing for the last ten or fifteen years but misery and starvation in their homes. Many of them for the last five or six years have not been able to secure employment. The Government is asking those boys to sign registration cards that might be the means of compelling them to undergo the sufferings that their fathers experienced twenty years ago.
– Only if Australia be attacked.
– I am satisfied that if war broke out in Europe to-morrow the youth of this country would be sent into the front line trenches. In reply to an interjection by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.. Beasley) the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) said last night that he hoped that this bill would be used for military conscription.
– I said nothing of the sort. I said that it could be used for compulsory training.
– That is the same thing. I have no doubt that the honorable member, who holds a responsible post in the military forces to-day, was speaking with some authority, and that he has been consulted in connexion with the measure before the House. Compulsory military service, whether in Australia or in the front line trenches thousands of miles away from this country, is abhorrent to the people of Australia, and therefore it is my duty to the people- whom I represent to record my protest and vote against this hill. The treatment meted out to the men who served in the last war is very prominently in our minds. Every returned soldier on his return to this country received a gratuity bond, but many of them were almost immediately robbed of it. If I had my way, I would cancel every war gratuity bond that is not in the possession of a returned soldier. It is my opinion that most of those who hold gratuity bonds issued to returned soldiers do so illegally.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– During the last five or six years thousands of young men have been wandering the country seeking erfployment. They have no fixed place of abode, and yet they will be required to fill in registration cards stating their place of abode, and penalties are provided rendering them liable to a fine of £50, or three months’ imprisonment, if they fail to notify a change of address. Something ought to be done to rectify that. I have a vivid recollection of the promises made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when he was Prime Minister during the last war. He promised that conscription would not be introduced, and yet, a few months later, he introduced a bill for the purpose of imposing conscription. When he was charged with breaking his promise he said, “ What does it matter what we said yesterday?” I remember those occurrences, and so do the people of Australia.
I was astonished to-night to hear the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) refer as he did to the Japanese nation. We have no quarrel with the Japanese nation. As far as we know, Japan is a friendly power. We are trading with that country, and are at peace with it. I challenge the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), or any one else, to say that we have any potential enemies in the world to-day. We are sometimes told that Germany is a potential enemy, but the fact was revealed in answer to a question to-day that the machinery which is to he used for the manufacture of a portion of our military equipment is to be purchased from Germany, and we all know that nearly all the factories in Germany, and Italy too, for that matter, are under government control.
ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Collins). - The honorable member is wandering from the subject.
– I was referring to the fact that this is a war measure.
– No, it is not.
– If the Minister denies that it is a war measure, will he go so far as to say that it is a peace measure? If it is, then statements such as those made by the honorable member for Barton should not be made in this chamber. They are not in the best interests of Australia. Under this proposal, mcn are to be required to answer questions regarding their age, country of birth, name and nationality of father and mother, and so on. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that all such information could be obtained from the census that will be taken next year, or the year after. Wo shall be merely wasting money in taking a national register when the same information could be collected through the census. If the Government tries to force this register upon the people, I fear that a great many persons will become the guests of His Majesty. Already, in every metropolitan area, and, indeed, right throughout Australia, organizations are forming with the object of resisting the register. People fear that the Government is not honest. They say that if there is a real need for conscription, they should be told plainly. For my part, I do not see any need for a register of this kind. All the news that is now being received from overseas, and the statements issued from time to time by the Government, point to the fact that international relations are better to-day than they have been for years past. Therefore, I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will withdraw the bill. If it does not, then I hope it will at least make this a complete register covering wealth as well as man-power. I understand that in the United States of America, the resources of the country are properly tabulated, so that the authorities can tell almost exactly what the national wealth is. We, too, should know the economic and financial resources of our country, so that, if trouble comes - I do not believe that it will - steps may be taken to compel those who possess the wealth to bear the burden of protecting it.
.- The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) said that, if the people were told in plain language what danger confronted them, their reception of a measure of this kind might be different. The honorable member does not seem to be familiar with the published policy of his own party. The Labour party has consistently stated that it stands for the defence of Australia, that it is prepared to do everything necessary to that end, and that, if it were entrusted with power, it would be equally as diligent in looking after the national defences as is the present Government. Its methods might be different, but its policy would be the same, namely, the security of Australia. The Labour party admits, therefore, that there is need for a greater degree of security than we possess to-day. The honorable member for Lang asked for plain language. Could any language be plainer than the events which are taking place in various parts of the world to-day? Does the honorable member want us to wait until bombs are actually being dropped on our cities? It would then be too late for us to make preparations to repel an invader. The honorable member said that the international situation had improved, that events were not so- threatening as they had been. I recollect that, when I first came into this House a little more than twelve months ago, the first speech I made was on the subject of defence, and while I was speaking the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) interjected that international relations were much improved. So it seemed at the time, but in the intervening twelve months more than one nation has come under the heel of the aggressor. Australia is no different from other nations except, perhaps, that it represents a considerable prize. I do not point to any particular nation as being our possible enemy. I hope that we shall be allowed to live on friendly terms with all nations, but we cannot ignore the lessons of history which teaches us that too often those nations which are not in a position to defend themselves go down before their more powerful neighbours. I am reminded that not so very long ago the Communist League of Australia, and the newspapers which (-support it, were diligently advocating that Great Britain and Australia should defend Czechoslovakia against the threat from Germany. They were full of criticism of the indication that the British Government would not participate in the defence of that democracy, and would not join hands with Russia. That criticism may be read in any Communist leaflet published at the time. Now the Communists are advocating a boycott of the national register. I heard this advocacy a couple of weeks ago in the Sydney Domain. The great Labour party which represents such a vast section of the Australian public is guided by the voice, not of its leader (Mr. Curtin), but of a section of the Australian community which has shown gross inconsistency. The Leader of the Opposition was running true to the illustrious traditions of the Labour party in the statement which he made last October, when he said that Labour believed that there should be some form of national registration, because the first form of national registration established in this country was instituted in 1915 by the Labour Government led by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher. Speaking on the War Census Bill in this chamber in July, 1915, Mr. Fisher replied to Sir Joseph Cook in these terms : -
It is an old rule that what a person says last is what he must stand by. I understand the right honorable member to say at the close of his speech that he recognizes that this is the Government’s- own proposal.
That is the Labour Government’s own proposal.
– Proposals made by “ Billy “ Hughes.
– Not by Mr. Hughes, but by the Labour party of the time. Mr. Fisher continued -
There is no harm in clearing up the matter. The Government is prepared to take responsibility for the measure, and so is the party behind it.
The strongest criticism of the bill offered by the Leader of the Opposition was that it contains a new proposal; but that is not so. The proposal is as old as human society, almost as old as the hills. In the very earliest times the people were numbered, and their capacities ascertained, so that they might be allotted their proper spheres of action.
– Does the honorable gentleman want us to go hack to those days?
– I want the members of the Labour party to adhere to the policy laid down by their illustrious leader 24 years ago. They boast that it was Mr. Fisher who established the Commonwealth Bank. They cannot express pride at what he did on the one hand and not take into account the things that he did on the other hand. Some of the men who supported him in 1914 support the Labour party to-day.
– I never knew him, and I never wanted to know him. That is my opinion of him.
– I dare say that Mr. Fisher, were he still alive, would have no regrets about that. It was not only the Labour party of that period that supported legislation of this type. One of the most conservative of conservatives, Sir William Irvine, supported a register of wealth. I can see no real reason why a register of wealth should not be established equally with a register of manpower, and any proposal to include such a register, if there were good reasons to believe that it would be of value, would receive my consideration.
– Remember that the last things said are those that count.
– It will have my consideration and may possibly have my vote before this bill is passed. I adjure members of the Opposition, before they blindly decide to condemn this proposal, to give to it the same measure of consideration that I am prepared to give to the other side of the question, and not to be stampeded by the agitation of those whom I believe to be not the real friends of the Labour party, but the Communist elements outside. During the 1915 debate, Sir William Irvine said in respect of a census of wealth -
I have heard timorous expressions-
Timorous feelings are in evidence to-day - outside this- House with regard to the intentions of the Government in taking a census of the general wealth of the community, and I have made it my business to tell the people who have given expression to these views that I do not think this proposal portends in the larger sense any attack upon wealth, as wealth.
He went on to say -
No government, no people, who understand the situation, would for a moment attack that wealth, which is actually the working capital of a community. Nobody would attempt to do that. lt would be as fatal to a community as it would be fatal to an artisan if the tools of his trade were sold in order to buy his daily bread.
No government, no matter what be its political creed, would be game enough, if it studied the economics of the Commonwealth, to put into practice anything that would be utterly ruinous to the Commonwealth. I do not know if there is any foundation for the talk about capital being scared by such a census, but unless the Government can convince me that it is unwise, I see no reason why it should not be taken.
The Government should go a step further than it evidently proposes. It has denied that there is any military implication behind this proposed census. That may be the Government’s intention, but I hope that there is some military implication behind it. If compulsory service of some kind is to be introduced, this register should be of real value in determining those who are to go into the ranks and those who are to remain in munitions works and other industries in order to give service equally valuable to that given by men in the ranks.
– Is the honorable gentleman in favour of compulsory training ?
– -Absolutely ! There is no equivocation about that.
– The honorable mem- _ ber is a “ dinky-die “ conscriptionist.
– I am not. If war occurred we could not train men in six months or even twelve months. It would be of no use to invoke this register and to give uniforms and rifles to 150,000 men and think that he had an army. It would be murder to send untrained young men into the lines against an army which had been undergoing training for three or four years. We should do a real service to the interests of the young people, about whom there has been so much talk in this House, by ensuring that they are efficiently trained to enable them to hold their own against the armies of any country in the world.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the criticism that has been expressed concerning the form of the questionnaire proposed in this bill. The fact that persons who are to be registered are to be asked whether they are single, married, widowers, divorced has been the subject of much derision, though it is obvious that these questions have been inserted merely in order to simplify the task of those who may be required to fill in the form. If the questions were not set out in such detail many persons coming under one or other of the categories would not know how to describe themselves. It would seem, therefore, that these questions have been included in order to meet the requirements of every individual in the community, and not necessarily for the purpose of ascertaining information of any real value.
The Government has done the right thing in introducing this bill for a national register, but I am not convinced that it has done the right thing in omitting one of the most important questions, namely, details of previous military service, because, in time of national emergency, there must be speedy means of ascertaining what previous service men have had. I do not intend to labour points that have been so well canvassed by other speakers, but I sincerely hope that the Opposition will not fall into line with outside organizations which have threatened to boycott the measure. Honorable members opposite have a great influence over a considerable section of the people, and if they go about the country condemning the scheme,. the value of the bill might be destroyed. They might succeed in bringing about a defiance of Government authority, which is not a good thing for democracy.
– We are fighting Fascism.
– Honorable members opposite may think they are fighting Fascism, totalitarianism, or militarism. This proposal, I remind them, is the work of a democratic Parliament.
– It is the product of a minority Government.
– If any section of the community does not obey the laws in this democratic country, democracy fails, and the time is approaching when another form of government may be forced upon us.
– A true democracy implies a majority government.
– Members of the Opposition should give serious thought to the probable result of their falling into line behind outside organizations in this matter. If we compare the statement of Labour’s defence policy made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) three months ago, with the attitude of the Opposition to-day, I do not think it can be said that the Opposition is leading outside organizations in this matter. Every honorable member on this side of the House will endorse what the Leader of the Opposition said in October.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not declare in favour of compulsory registration.
– The honorable member’s interjection is merely a quibble over words. Every sincere and honest member of the Opposition knows that registration, to he effective, must be compulsory. Trade unionism is based on compulsion. There is some element of compulsion in all laws relating to taxation and in many other statutes. By introducing this measure the Government is merely aiming to put the defence of this country on an efficient basis. To be effective, registration must be compulsory so that in time of emergency every man may be called upon to do his part and render efficient service to the nation. We know that, in the absence of compulsion in a time of emergency some people will give willing service, but others will endeavour to evade their obligations. This question of compulsory or voluntary registration touches the fundamental principles of the Labour movement. The Labour party stands for compulsory arbitration, and compulsory membership of trade unions. It does not allow individual workers to decide whether or not they shall belong to such organizations.
– That is a breadandbutter question.
– This is something even more vital. It may involve the very existence of the nation. We have had evidence of the truth of this statement in the ravages of war in Spain, Abyssinia and China. The people of those countries have been concerned not so much about a reduced standard of living, as about a fight for their very existence. The substitution of margarine for butter was the subject of debate in this House a few days ago. The time may come - we all sincerely hope that it never will - when the people of this country will be glad to live on fat. In Spain, during the prolonged civil war, the people were obliged to eat horse-flesh, whilst in other countries that have experienced the horrors of modern war, the populace have been reduced to living on weevil-infested blackbread. In these countries, the issue has been, not the retention of an existing standard of living, but the right to live. That is a position in which we might find ourselves. We hope that such a time will never come; but history, the lessons of which cannot be disregarded, shows that nations which have not taken adequate steps to defend themselves against possible attack, have eventually been attacked. I sincerely hope that this nation will prepare itself for an emergency, not only by compiling a register of man-power, but also by introducing compulsory military training.
– The system introduced by the Fisher Labour Government was not called conscription. It was designated universal military training. And universal military training it is to-day. I cannot understand how members of the Opposition can regard this measure as propaganda, since the very existence of the country might be at stake in the near future. I hope that they will modify many of the views which they have expressed, and will allow the Government to get on with the business of defending this country.
.- I oppose the bill, because I believe that it is a prelude to conscription. This is the only conclusion that one can reach after listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who expressed himself to be definitely in favour of conscription. No measure introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament in recent years has caused such universal dissatisfaction, and that at a time when all sections of the community should be united in their efforts to provide for the adequate defence of this country. I am not in accord with the views of Government supporters who declare their belief that war is imminent.. Bat we must view world affairs seriously, and do ‘all that is humanly possibly to ensure that Australia’s internal defence is adequate. This involves a certain amount of contentment among the people with respect to their condition. An endeavour must be made to secure unity of the two groups upon whom the burden of defence will rest - the industrial organizations of the country and the primary producers. This bill has produced discontent and unrest throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. Government supporters have accused the Opposition of leading that discontent. That is far from the truth. In every metropolitan district town halls and other large buildings have been engaged for the purpose of holding demonstrations in opposition to the proposed national register. The Government has not given any sound reason why it should foist this register on the people. Professing to favour the voluntary system, the Government recently inaugurated un intensive recruiting campaign. The result of the appeal for recruits has been remarkable; more than the required number has been obtained. But the Government has lamentably failed to cope with the enlistments. In my electorate there are thousands of men who have offered their services in various defence units, but for whom no provision has been made by the Government. In one centre alone - a flourishing town and district of about 10,000 people - 100 names were submitted nearly eighteen months ago, and although more than 30 letters have passed between the Returned Soldiers Association and the Government, adequate provision to meet enlistments has not yet been made. A similar state of affairs obtains in other centres. The Government has given no real reason for the introduction of this legislation, which is undermining the morale of. the people throughout Australia. There is wholesale dissatisfaction with the Government’s proposal; the rank and file of the people of the Commonwealth have directed their representatives in this Parliament to oppose this bill.
I am alarmed at the uncalled-for utterances of many supporters of the Government when referring to the Japanese nation and people. From the stand-point. of our primary production Australia owes a great deal to Japan. I represent a rural constituency, noted for its wool, and .1 know what the Japanese market has meant to the wool-growers and other primary producers of this country. Hundreds of thousands of pounds has been lost to Australia by the trade diversion policy of a former administration. There is no indication that Japan plans any attack on Australia. That was evidenced by the utterance of the recently-appointed Consul-General for that country. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that iia people wish to have friendly intercourse with us. Australia, as a primaryproducing nation, desires reciprocal trade with Japan. I deplore that responsible men in this Parliament, particularly supporters of the Government, should say anything which might give offence to nation; which desire to be friendly. It. should be the aim of every honorable member to advance the cause of peace, and to that end he should realize that it is his duty to refrain from provocative utterances. If, coupled with the national register, there had been a census of the Wealth of Australia, this measure might have had a better reception. There is no justification for foisting this legislation on the people, and therefore I ask the Government, before it is too late, not to proceed with its intention, which can only cause unrest, and dry up the wells of voluntary service. There is no gainsaying that this bill is the forerunner of conscription, either industrial or military, and therefore it should be opposed by every true Australian. I oppose the measure, and I commend my colleagues on this side of the House for their opposition to it. I shall do all that I can to thwart the intention of the Government.
.-I shall oppose this measure, because I believe that it is unnecessary, and because I believe that every person in the community is prepared to accept without compulsion a fair share of responsibility for the defence of this country. Before asking the inquisitorial questions set out in the schedule, we should provide those who are asked to furnish returns with a stake, in the country. There are thousands in our midst who have never done a day’s work because they have been unable to secure employment. They have no stake in the country of their birth, and they will resent this questionnaire. We are told that “ coming events cast their shadows before them “. When a census was taken in the United Kingdom during the early years of the Great War, conscription followed soon afterwards; in Australia also the war census was the preliminary to an attempt to foist conscription upon the people. Admittedly, a referendum was held in Australia, but it followed shortly after the census of the nation’s manpower. Much has been said in this debate regarding press reports of statements attributed to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) concerning the establishment of a national register. I feel sure that in dealing with that matter the Leader of the Opposition would have specifically in his mind the establishment of a voluntary register, and in such a proposal he would naturally include provision for a survey of wealth and material resources. This measure does not make any provision whatever in that direction. The Labour party strongly opposes the principle of compulsion involved in this proposal. All honorable members are aware of the tragedy of our unemployed youth. Many men between the ages of 18 and 21 years, who will come within the scope of this proposal, are now searching the length and breadth of this country for employment. Should they fail to notify immediately every change of their address they will become liable to a fine of £50, or imprisonment for three months; or to both of these penalties. This provision reacts very harshly upon the unemployed youth of this country who, in an economic sense, have had a raw deal. All honorable members hope that Australia will never become embroiled in another war, but in preparing for such an eventuality it is the duty of the Government in a proposal of this kind to provide for a register of wealth. No such suggestion, however, is made in this measure. No man is to be questioned as to his resources. Although the Government refuses to provide employment for many of our young men and thus inspire them with real patriotism - it says that the problem of employment is purely a matter for the States - it includes these men within the scope of this measure. Men under the age of 21 have not even a voice in the election of this Parliament. Thus they must stand helplessly by whilst thi? Government introduces this measure, which may be the forerunner of harsher legislation which will directly affect them. Clause 16 provides for the conduct of censuses. This proposal does not stop merely at one particular census. It empowers the National Register Board to take censuses on any matters which it might deem desirable. For instance, it may take a census on the question as to whether the men of this country are prepared to. undertake military service overseas.
– The honorable gentleman is not quite correct. I have foreshadowed an amendment which will not permit this schedule to be altered without the. sanction of Parliament. That amendment has been circulated among honorable members.
– As I have just returned from my electorate, I was not aware of that amendment. 1 thank the Minister for’ his intimation and shall not deal further with that aspect of the bill. The National Register Board is to consist of one representative from the Defence Department, one from the Department of Supply and Development and the Commonwealth Statistician. Clause 5 provides for the appointment of an executive officer for a period not exceeding five years. I should like to know whom the Government proposes to appoint to that position. Apparently the appointment will carry a very good salary. Clause 9 empowers the board to delegate any, or all, of its powers and duties under this measure to that executive officer. If that be done, it will mean that the executive officer will virtually become a dictator. Who has the Government in mind for this appointment ? Will the gentleman be one of its political rejects? We know that Sir George Pearce, an ex-Minister for Defence, is awaiting appointment to a good job by this Government. Does the Government intend to appoint him to this position?
– I can relieve the honorable gentleman’s mind on that point. The appointee will not be Sir George Pearce.
– In any case, this executive officer might virtually become a dictator.
– r-The Minister must approve of any delegation of powers by the board.
– That is perfectly true. The Minister has also to approve a prosecution. Before any member of the board can divulge any information in a return he must consult the Minister, and if the Minister should decide that, in the public interest, the information should be divulged, it can be disclosed. It is grossly unfair that a Minister should have the power to disclose confidential information which may be used for political purposes. That is one reason why we are opposing the bill. The Labour party has always opposed anything in the nature of compulsion in defence matters, because it believes that this country can be adequately defended without compulsion in any form; if an appeal were made in the proper form the Australian people to be affected by this measure would give voluntarily all the information required. There is no need to provide for the imposition of penalties up to £50. If threats are to be employed I am afraid that very little information of value will be obtained. If I were threatened I would not feel inclined to give the particulars required, but if asked to do so without any compulsion, I would probably give what was needed. The industrial movement ; believes that this measure is the forerunner of industrial conscription, and that a compulsory register is quite unnecessary. Many of the young men who would be the first to be called upon to defend Australia have not even been given the right to work, and consequently have been denied the standard of living to which they are entitled. I shall probably support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) to provide for the registration of wealth. The worker offers his life, which is all that he has to offer, and surely it is not too much to ask that those possessing wealth should record their financial resources. In the event of war the assets of the wealthy would be protected; the workers, unfortunately, . have very little to protect. Had provision been made for a registration of wealth, I do not think that there would have been much opposition to the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Green) adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - Ho. 13 of 1939 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In this connexion it is pointed out that a direction-finding station at Kalgoorlie could not be used to guide an aircraft to safe landing during conditions of heavy ground fog.
Further, it is intended to provide directionfinding equipment whichwill allow the pilot to guide his aircraft to a position over the aerodrome but whether the pilot be permitted to land his aircraft or proceed to another aerodrome will depend upon the height of the cloud ceiling at the time.
Broadcasting Station 2KY.
d asked the Postmaster-
General, 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 Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers: -
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Signals, 4th Division, 12th April, 1939.
Elizabeth-street, Melbourne. four name has been forwarded to Signals, 4th Division, by the Deputy-Director, Postmaster-General’s Department, Melbourne, stating you are eligible for enlistment in the militia forces.
If you have not already enlisted, vacancies exist in this unit. Signals, 4th Division, Signal Depot, Albert Park, S.C.5. You may report at the following times: - (Then follows a list showing hours of attendance, &c). (Sgd.) J. P. Locke, A.I.C., Adjutant
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Commonwealth Oilre fineries Limited.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the increased volume of business done by all the major oil companies during the lost four years, can he inform honorable members why the Commonwealth Government has not received any profit during that period from Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, especially in view of the fact that £.17,000 was received during the years 1931-32 and 1932-33?
s.- I am advised that in order to provide for the rapidlyexpanding business of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, profits have, with the concurrence of both, the Commonwealth Government and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, been re-invested in the company during the period mentioned instead of being applied towards the payment of dividends.
Indian Ocean Survey.
Mr.Conelan asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
Is the multi-millionaire, Mr. Archbold, financing the air-mail survey flight of the Indian Ocean?
If not, who is financing the project?
If the taxpayers of Australia are paying the cost, will he say what particular benefit the survey will confer upon Australia?
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : –
Lorenz Radio Beacons.
n. - On the 31st May, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked me the following question, without notice : -
Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether the Lorenz beacons obtained by hits department have yet been put into operation at the principal aerodromes throughout Australia and whether commercialaircraft have been fitted with the necessary apparatus in connexion therewith; have the beacons and equipment been tested satisfactorily by the officers or his department?
I now inform the honorable member that of the ten beacons being supplied between Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and between Melbourne and Hobart, eight have been tested to the satisfaction of the department, and four - Brisbane, Kempsey, Sydney and Essendon - are in operation. Instructions regarding the use of the other four are in course of distribution. The remaining two beacons - Adelaide and Nhill - should be tested before the middle of this month. All Douglas type aircraft are now fitted with beacon receivers, and installation is proceeding on other aircraft. All major aircraft likely to be using the beacon routes should be fitted before the end of June.
Sydney-Brisbane Air Service: Night Flying.
n. - On the 30th May, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked me the following question, without notice? -
Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware whether the aircraft which are being used on the night air-inail service between Sydney and Brisbane are equipped with wireless equipment for direction finding?
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the aircraft being used for night flying on’ the Brisbane-Sydney route is equipped with an ultra-high frequency radio beacon receiver, and makes use of the ultra-high frequency radio beacons at Brisbane, Kempsey and Sydney for navigation purposes. In addition, direction-finding receivers are situated at Brisbane and Sydney and are available for use by the aircraft as required.
Aerodrome at Maylands.
– On the 30th May, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following question, without notice: -
I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether any decision has been reached with regard to the enlargement of the aerodrome at Maylands, Perth?
I now desire to inform the honorable member that no decision has been reached with regard to the enlargement of the aerodrome at Maylands, Perth. Certain investigations have recently been made of alternative aerodrome sites in the vicinity of Perth with a view to giving full consideration to the provision of an aerodrome which will meet future requirements for civil aviation purposes. The question of enlarging Maylands aerodrome or providing a new aerodrome is at present receiving attention.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 June 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390606_reps_15_160/>.