15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - The House, and the country, will know that during the last few weeks efforts had been made toset in motion a procedure which would enable the coal strike to be brought to an end. As a contribution to those efforts; I suggested that as none of the parties to the dispute, apparently, was willing to take the steps necessary to initiate a conference, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions might approach the Court and request the president to summon a compulsory conference. I felt certain that no ill service could be rendered to Australia by the holding of such a conference. It happened that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, not being a registered body under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, had no standing and could not be heard. Consequently the suggestion that I made in the then circumstances, did not reach any conclusive result. It was pointed out that if the Australasian. Council of Trade Unions could secure authorization, then, in the public interests, it was conceivable that an application from it would be considered. I have since endeavoured to help the matter further and, as the result of a request which I made, the Combined Mining Union’s executive to-day carried a motion in the following explicit terms: -
In reply to the request of the executive of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions for authorization from the Combined Mining Unions’ Committee to allow the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to seek a conference to allow a reasonable settlement of the coal dispute, the Combined Mining Union decide to accede to their request.
The Australasian Council of Trade Unions has always been ready to do all in its power to facilitate the holding of a conference. In view of what the Prime Minister , (Mr. Menzies) said during last week, to the effect that a conference might lead to a settlement of the dispute, it appears to me very desirable in the national interests, which at this juncture should be the paramount interests, that this decision of the Combined Mining Unions’ executive this morning should be given effect, and that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, now having the authorization of the Combined Mining Unions’ executive, should make an application to the court. Not having a precise knowledge of the legal difficulties of the various judgments that the court has given upon the act, I am ready to believe that there still may exist some procedural difficulties; but I submit that the points of procedure and legal technicalities, having regard to all the circumstances, should not now stand in the way of a compulsory conference being held. I have no more to say other than to express the hope that the conference will meet and that the Combined Mining Unions, as representatives of the workers, will take into account the circumstances in which Australia finds itself at this juncture. I also say, with equal propriety, I believe, that I hope that the employers at the conference will take very seriously into account the grievous circumstances under which this country at present labours.
– by leave - For weeks past there have been no procedural difficulties whatever in the way of the Combined Mining Unions approaching the court and asking it to convene a conference, or, alternatively, of the unions making application to the court to re-open any question or to vary any award. I am therefore at a loss to understand the references made by the Leader of the Opposition to procedural difficulties. As to the dispute generally, I hope to have an opportunity later in to-day’s sittings to say something in a general, and also in a particular, way to the members of the House.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to an article in this morning’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph headed “ Communist Attack.” I call attention to the following extract: -
Mr. E. J. Harrison, M.H.R. said at Rose Bay Methodist Church : “ It may be necessary to form an organization similar to the New Guard to combat communism in Australia.”
Will the right honorable gentleman take the necessary steps to declare illegal any organization intent upon subversive action, or which in any way seeks to invoke the rule of force as suggested by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) respecting the formation of a body similar in practice and purpose to the notorious New Guard? Will the Government also take suitable action against any person, including the honorable member for Wentworth, who advocates the formation of a body to override constitutional methods ?
– I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member has referred, but I assure him that the Governmentis ready to take the necessary action against subversive action and civil disorder from whatever source it may come.
– Following upon the remarks I made on the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday, concerning an increase of 10s. a ton in the price of superphosphates, I ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the great importance of superphosphates to agriculture he will call upon the Tariff Board, or some other body authorized to make a public inquiry upon oath, to ascertain whether the increase of price is justified?
– I shall discuss the subject with the Minister for Trade and Customs and later furnish the honorable member with a reply to his question.
– The Prime Minister informed me before Christmas that the censorship was imposed purely and simply in order that no information would be made available to the enemy. The coalminers’ official organ, Common Cause, on Thursday last had to submit to the censorship, with the result that such things as an appeal by the miners for funds were not allowed to be published. This extract from the report made by Mr. Justice Davidson of his commission after the lockout in 1929 was also struck out-
The action of the proprietors in closing the mines as they did was in direct conflict with the statutory principle of compulsory arbitration and in complete disregard of the interests of the community.
-Order! The honorable gentleman is not asking a question.
– It is very hard to ask the question unless I can read these statements. I vouch for the accuracy of what I have road.
– The honorable member is not in order in doing so; he must ask a question.
– I content myself with what I have done. The censor also refused to allow publication of the statement -
The mine-workers are willing to accept the Drake-Brockman award, even though it did not give them all they wanted.
– Order! The honorable member merely is giving reasons why he wants certain information and why certain things should not be done. He has not attempted to ask a question.
– Then I ask these questions -
Can the Minister explain why the following articles were censored last Thursday from the Miners Federation official organ Common Cause: -
Does the Minister consider that other censored items will assist Herr Hitler to penetrate the Maginot Line or sink the British navy, such as advice to women as to how to conduct their homes during the strike period; a decision against evictions from homes during the strike period; notices of meetings to be held; and a statement : “ The mine-workers are willing to accept the Drake-Brockman award, even though it did not give them all they wanted ? “ These things have all been censored. Are they likely to be of benefit to the enemy?
– Common Cause is well known to be a Communis tcolitrolled paper, and any matter published which is prejudicial to the efficient conduct ofthe war is open to censorship. Common Cause has been an active factor in the promotion and maintenance of the coal strike which, in the view of the censorsorship, that, is, in my view, is the result of sheer Communist activity. I am interested that an honorable gentleman in this House should stand up and defend this Communist activity.
– Can the Minister for Information yet say whether he has discriminated between the Communist party of Australia and the Communist League of Australia? I ask this question because I notice that a publication known as The Militant has not been included among the organs which come under the censorship ban.
– I shall he pleased to look into the matter and give the honorable member an answer.
-Seeing that the miners are being prevented from putting their case before the public in their official organ, will the Minister give consideration to preventing all newspapers from making any reference to the coal strike as such references may be useful to the enemy ?
– At the outset of the censorship the chiefs of the various Services laid down certain rules. They prohibited certain matters from being discussed or reported in the newspapers. Apart from that, the newspapers were permitted to be their own censors, subject to the condition that in cases of doubt they would either not publish the report or submit it to the censors. That generous concession to the press was extended to all papers, Communist as well as others. However, we have had trouble from the Communist papers for some months. They have avoided sub’ mitting articles to the censors, and even since we issued the rule calling upon them to supply their manuscript before publication, there have been ceaseless attempts on their part to evade the censorship law. In consequence of such action, the censorship has been compelled to adopt a special procedure against Communist publications. I regard these publications as enemies of Australia at any time, but particularly now, as the nation is at war. They are out to “ white-ant “ the nation’s war effort in every conceivable way. Despite the efforts of the censors, their articles are directed against Australia, against constitutional government, and against peace in industry.
– Is it intended that matter which has been censored in respect of Communist publications because of its objectionable influence on the conduct of the war will be censored from other newspapers?
– Not necessarily. In future Communist newspapers willbe prohibited from writing on certain subjects at all. They are enemy publications.
– Last week I asked the Minister forCommerce when the exporters of apples and pears in Tas- mania, who have been put out of businessbecause of the inauguration of the apple and pear acquisition scheme, would be given an opportunity to participate intheir regular business of exporting apples and pears. The Minister indicated that the Apple and Pear Acquisition Board would make a statement about the matter. “Will the Minister issue a statement to the press notifying the public in Tasmania that those people who have sufferedfrom the operation of the apple and pear acquisition scheme will be allowed to re-engage in their business?
– I will take the matter into consideration.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether under the National
Security Regulations an employer is bound to re-employ an employee who has resigned from his position for service in the Military Forces and is later discharged from the Forces?
– Under the National Security Regulations an employer is bound to re-engage any one who enlists from his employment and subsequently eeas.es his employment in the Forces. The case mentioned by the honorable gentleman, however, appears to contain an element of doubt inasmuch as it is a caseof an individual resigning from his employment pripr to his enlistment. As a kerbside opinion I would say that, in that case, it might not be obligatory on the employer to re-employ him, but I shall consult legal authority to ascertain the actual position.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Tr.ade and Customs whether it isthe intention of the Government to circulate the Townsend report on shipbuilding and whether it is intended, before circulating that report, to bring down any legislation in this session to deal with the question of shipbuilding in Australia?
– In reply to a similar question last week I indicated theftthe report had yet to receive the consideration of Cabinet.
– Can the Minister for the Army tell me the reason for the delay in the Sydney District Finance Officer’s department in the fixing of the allowances for wives and’ widowed mothers of members of the Australian Imperial Force and more particularlythe Militia Forces? Is it due to the complicated character of the work or to the fact that the office is understaffed ?
Mr.STREET. - The delay is due to neither cause. It is realized that there is a certain amount of delay, but, as I indicated last week, the regulations covering the control of allowances for dependants are at present under review in order that greater authority may ‘be given to the DistrictFinance Officer to give him a freer hand. When that is completed I think that the delay which now occurs will he almost entirely removed.
– by leave - Speaking on the motion for the adjournment on Friday last, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) made certain statements regarding the money made available to the States by the Commonwealth Government for defence works. He referred to certain answers to questions given by the Premier of New South Wales on the 2nd April last. I undertook to get in touch with the Government of New South Wales in order to ascertain the facts of the matter. - I did so, and the reply I have received bears out the statement I made to the House originally, namely, that there was a firm arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State Governments that the moneys made available by the Commonwealth were to be in addition to relief moneys expended by the States ; that they were not to be used in place of any moneys for any benefits to the States; and that the permissible income regulations respecting food relief pr rationed relief recipients were not to apply. The reply also indicates that those arrangements were carried out by the State Government in their entirety. The writer, Mr. Bellemore, Under-Secretary to the Department of Labour and Industry, New South Wales, furnished particulars of the number of relief workers at present on the cards in New South Wales, ‘together with the number of adult males registered at the State Labour Exchange, month by month since August last. It is shown that, although a number of unemployed have been absorbed on full-time work, the number of those on relief ration work has, since the commencement of Commonwealth works, remained substantially constant. The writer says that the statement made in the House by the Premier of New South Wales was based on information supplied to him, and was correct. Men on relief works are regarded as unemployed, and retain their registrations as unemployed until they secure full-time work; so that in a call-up of unemployed for full-time works, men on relief works are included if their registration numbers are within the numbers called. It did not follow, it is pointed out, that replacements on relief works were made from the same area where relief workers secured full-time work. For example, if 25 relief workers from Manly secured full-time work under the Defence scheme, they called up 25 men from Manly and Warringah Shires to take the places* of the 25 workers sent to full-time work. Practically every municipality in the metropolitan area shared in a call-up for defence works, having due regard, in the first instance, to the claims of the unemployed nearest to the works.
– Will the Treasurer lay on the table of the House the reply he received from the Under-Secretary of the Department of Labour and Industry in New South Wales on this matter? I want to know how many unemployed were given work and how “the money was spent.
– I am prepared to lay the reply on the table of the House if it is desired.
– Will the Treasurer make inquiries from the Premier of New South Wales regarding the number ‘ of men who were employed on relief work on the Sydney University, the Burroughs road scheme, the Cook’s River drainage scheme, the Marrickville drainage scheme, and the Sandringham scheme before the money was made available for defence works, and bow many are now employed on those undertakings?
– Yes. Mr. Bellemore also indicated that where relief workers had been taken from certain jobs and given full-time employment under the Defence scheme, work had been found for at least a similar number of relief workers.
– So as to minimize the dislocation of trade between Australia and Canada through the operation of import licences, will the Treasurer open discussions with the Government of Canada with a view to arranging a credit system for the purpose of carrying on normal trade until the end of the war?
– The Government is prepared to give consideration to any proposition that will conserve dollar exchange, and secure stability within the Commonwealth.
– Now that supplies of Lockheed aircraft have reached Australia, can the Minister for Air say whether it will be possible to release for civil purposes the Douglas aeroplanes that were taken over some time ago by the Defence Department? In view of the anxiety expressed by members of the public that the aeroplanes now in civil use are being worked excessively, can he give the assurance that the customary high standards of servicing and inspection have been maintained?
– I can assure the honorable member that I, as Minister for Civil Aviation, have kept before the attention of the Air Board the necessity for getting these Douglas D.C. airliners back on their routes as soon as possible, but it will not be possible for that to be done for some weeks yet. In the meantime, the greatest care is being given to the maintenance of the D.C.’s, which are doing so much work at present.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to the many resolutions carried by wheatgrowers’ organizations requesting a further early payment of ls. a bushel from the No. 2 Wheat Pool? In view of the urgency of this matter, what action is it proposed to take, if any?
– Resolutions have been brought under my notice, and the necessary action is being considered.
– Having regard to the unequivocal statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that there are no Communists in the Labour party, can the Prime Minister confirm the statement in the press that Mr. Orr, general secretary of the Miners Federation, is a Communist ?
– I can.
– He is not a member of the Labour party. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) is as much a member of the Labour party as is Mr. Orr.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral the following questions: - 1.. Is Mr. Orr secretary of the Miners Federation ?
– Speaking offhand and without inspiration, I must declineto wallow in that Serbonian bog.
– I ask the Prime Minister if it is true that a Mr. Bondy Hoare, who is a member of the Executive of the Miners Federation and a past president of that body, said at a meeting at Kurri Kurri : “ The only flag is the Red flag”? Is the Miners Federation affiliated with the Australian Labour party or the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, or both?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question the answer is “yes”; the gentleman did say that and a great deal more. As to the second part of the question, I am unable to answer it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to a statement in the press that the sale to Japan of 100,000 tons of flour, representing 5,000,000 bushels of wheat, has just been completed? Does that mean that Japanese buyers are definitely in the Australian market, and that from now on the prospects of an expanding flour trade with Japan may be regarded as having improved ?
– All I can say is that Japanese buyers were in the market to the extent of buying 100,000 tons of flour.
– Does the Prime
Minister consider that the Government is making sufficient progress against the Communist menace, and,seeing that it isdisentegrating our friends opposite, does he not think that legislation should be introduced to suppress communism entirely so that we may know where we stand ?
– I shall give con sideration to the honorable member’s question.
– In the Mining
Standard of March, it is reported that the Treasurer had committed the Commonwealth Government to a scheme for the abolition of slums. Is the honorable gentleman in a position to say whether any sum of money has been set aside for distribution among the States for that purpose, and, if so, what amount has been allocated to Tasmania? Further, will he take the necessary steps to enable private companies to carry out as expeditiously as possible buildings in Hobart to take the place of slums ?
– As I understand the honorable member’s question, the Mining Standard has been misinformed.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development say whether, when his activities in regard to the building of British aeroplanes in this country have been completed, it will mean that all aeroplane engines built in Australia will be constructed in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia ? If so, and in view of a policy of decentralisation, will the Minister consider the claims of Queensland in this connexion? Further, does he propose that part of the engine construction programme shall be carried out by private enterprise, and, if so, will he consider the claims of firms like Walkers Limited and other Queensland firms in this connexion?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Consideration will be given, and, indeed, is being given, to the claims of not only all of the States but also of individual companies within the States.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to say when the balance-sheet and profit and loss statement of the Post Office for the year ended the” 30th June, 1939, will be available to honorable members?
– I have not the information with me, but I shall make inquiries on the subject and advise the honorable member.
– In dealing with appraisements by the Central Wool Committee for the 1939 series will the Minister for Commerce take into consideration the claims of Moree as a centre for wool appraisement, seeing that the Moree district is one of the most important wool centres in Australia?
– I shall give consideration to the matter, but I think that it is most unlikely that a wool appraisement centre will be established at Moree.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce if, when the first year’s appraisements of Australian wool are completed, the Government will direct the attention of the appraisers or the British Government, or whoever may be responsible, to the fact that in the opinion of growers the basis of appraisements has been definitely altered since the scheme first came into operation? As this was decidedly unjust to those growers whose wool was appraised in the early stages of the . operation of the scheme, will the Minister make it clear to the proper authorities that the same thing should not occur during the second year’s appraisements ?
– Any question like that will naturally be brought under notice of the Central Wool Committee and I have no doubt that the complaint which the honorable member has voiced has been brought to the notice of the committee on many occasions.
– Has the Minister done so?
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether any restrictions are’ being placed on the naturalization of persons who have come here from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Denmark, which countries are now under -enemy control ? Further, can he say whether the quota of Jewish population under the refugee agreement has been filled, and whether, in dealing with naturalization matters concerning people from the countries mentioned, any discrimination ia now being made between Jews and others?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ yes “. I shall secure the information requested iri the second part, and I point out in reply to the third part, that every individual case is examined on its merits.
– Can the Minister for the Army indicate what stage has been reached in his inquiries regarding the introduction of legislation to provide repatriation benefits for merchant seamen involved in the present war?
– Inquiries have reached an advanced stage and it is expected that a repatriation bill will be introduced during this session.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Customs if, when considering ways and means of increasing the production of raw cotton, he will give the fullest consideration to the proposed “Wura “Water Conservation and Irrigation Scheme, as recommended by the eminent engineer, Dr. J. J. C. Bradfield, who claims that the scheme will enable 60,000 acres of land suitable for cotton growing to be irrigated, thus trebling the quantity of cotton at present produced? Has the Minister received a copy of Dr. Bradfield’s report, and if so, will it be considered by Cabinet?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s request to the Minister for Trade and Customs. I have received a copy of the report direct from Dr. Bradfield, but there is nothing further that I can add at the moment.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to a report which appeared in the press during the week1 end, that it was possible the Government might issue instructions that no petrol should be sold during that period? Has the Treasurer any further statement to make regarding the deputation from representatives of the petrol users of Australia, which was supposed to be held to-day?
– I have not seen the newspaper article referred to by the honorable member. The petrol conference is now sitting.
– I ask the Minister for the Army if it is a fact that mechanization of the Australian Imperial Force is being carried out by overseas firms and, further, is it a fact that there are firms in Australia equipped to deal with this work whose plant, is not being used for the purpose I have mentioned?
– It is not correct. The chassis of mechanical vehicles which are being supplied to the Australian Imperial Force come in a very large part from Canada, but 75 per cent, of the completed vehicles is made in Australia. Certain advanced types of mechanized fighting vehicles are not made in this country, and they are being supplied by Great Britain.
Debate resumed from the 19 th April (vide page 230), on motion by Mr. Scholfield- -
That the following Adress-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-Genera-] be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency :
We, the House of Representatives of the Par;liament of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.-^ It is evident to me, after perusing the Governor-General’s Speech, that the Government is making a very desperate endeavour to distract public attention from the failings of the Government, particularly in connexion with the misdoings of certain Ministers.
I make it quite clear at the outset that I am opposed to sending troops for service outside Australia, because, judging from what honorable members opposite have said, it is necessary, if one is to pro.ve that one is a patriotic Australian, to do everything possible to denude the country of its manpower and thus leave it exposed to aggression, from whatever quarter it may come. My opinion is that the men who advocate the sending of troops from Australia in existing circumstances are either unconsciously, or consciously, guilty of a traitorous act to this country. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Deputy Leader of the Government (Mr. Archie Cameron) are accusing others of changing their views in regard to this question, they themselves not very long ago held the opinion that no men should be sent for service outside Australia. -Soon after the outbreak of war the Prime Minister was reported as having said in this House -
To-day we have a real problem of Australian defence. Its exact nature we do not yet know, because we don’t know what the final line up of nations will be. Until we do know it would be unwise to send large numbers of trained men from Australia. You may ask why we have not made a straight-out promise to send expeditionary forces abroad. My answer is . . . this is not the last war, when there was no real’ problem of Australian security from attack, when Russia, Italy and Japan were out allies.
If it was then necessary for the Prime Minister to state that it would be unwise to send Australian troops abroad, how much more so is it necessary at this moment that Australia’s manpower shall be retained? The Deputy Leader of the Government, who has challenged the Leader of the Opposition with a change of front on this question, said in February of last year, before the war broke out -
Australia cannot participate in. a European war by sending an army; and Britain may well be so fully occupied in a European conflict that we may have to depend on our own resources for an indefinite period. Our first duty is to defend ourselves, our second to supply other British countries with the means of living and waging war.
We know that the Minister has a remarkable reputation in respect of changing his mind.
The ex-leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) has a peculiar policy. He said: “I am in favour of sending troops abroad, but not of sending them any further than Suez”. He said, in effect, that if the men were sent only so far, and the necessity arose for bringing them back to Australia, they could be brought back easily. Evidently he had been watching the children play yo-yo. But will the right honorable gentleman explain what would happen if Australian troops sent abroad were actually engaged in hostilities and Australia were attacked ? Would he expect those troops to be withdrawn and returned to Australia even if it were possible to bring them back here?
Personally, I would not send a man outside Australia under either the voluntary system or conscription, because the time may arrive when we shall require every man here. But what has the Government committed the country to do ? In considering this point, we must recollect that, although the Prime Minister has contended that the individual members of the coal-mining unions should have been consulted by ballot to ascertain whether they were in favour of the policy now being applied and advocated by their leaders, he himself has committed this country to his Government’s policy without in any way consulting the people. He has actually committed us to the sending of 90,000 troops abroad by next June. In addition, 28,500 men are required under the Empire Air Training Scheme. Military experts have expressed the view that once hostilities commence 2,400 men will be needed each month to reinforce each division in the field. In other words, they expect to require replacements to the extent of 150 per cent, each year. If the war is continued for any lengthy period it is obvious, in these circumstances, that the country will be absolutely denuded of its able-bodied men.
Let us examine exactly what the Government is doing, because it is obvious that if it is to maintain its operations on the” basis on which it is seeking to establish them, it will have to keep up a constant supply of recruits. In my opinion, the first phase of the scheme will be the introduction of conscription for overseas service. It is significant that not one definite undertaking has been given by an honorable gentleman of the Government, that the Government will not, in any circumstances, introduce conscription for overseas service. Nor has any definite undertaking been given that before the adoption of such a policy the people will be given an opportunity to decide the question at the ballot-box. The Government’s methods in respect of recruiting should be carefully considered. There has been introduced into Australia what is known as the “ universal training “ scheme. Honorable members opposite, including members of the Government, have assured members of the general public that the only purpose of the scheme was to train the young manhood of the country so that if the need arose they would be capable of defending our shores. But what’ is happening? Every day these compulsory trainees are paraded in the military camps and lectured by military officers. They are told that they might as well enlist for overseas service with the Australian Imperial Force because when they are released from their three months’ compulsory military training there would be no jobs available for them. The Government is assisting to this very undesirable end in that it has issued regulations under the National Security Act which prevent the investment of moneys in all sorts of directions. I believe that this is being done in order to make the unemployment position so serious that young men who are looking for jobs will not be able to find them, and that employers when asked for work will be able to say, “ There is no work for you here, but if you report at the barracks you will get a job there”. I believe that this Government, and also the anti-Labour State governments, are endeavouring deliberately to aggravate the unemployment position, and particularly the amount of unemployment caused by the coal strike, with the object of compelling young men to join the Army. In support of this statement, I direct attention to the ridiculous action of the Government of New South Wales in dismissing fettlers from the railway service on the ground that there is a shortage of coal. Everybody knows that whether coal is obtainable or not the permanent way must be maintained in proper order.
The minimum age for enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force is stated to be twenty years, but in actual fact the Government is practically snatching children from the cradle. When the wife of a man of the Australian Imperial Force goes to collect her separation allowance and the allowance for her dependent children she is invariably obliged to present a birth certificate for each child, despite, the hardship and difficulty this sometimes entails ; but when a young man desires to enlist he is not obliged to present his birth certificate. All that he has to do is to sign an attestation form. This has been the cause of considerable trouble already. C have brought under the notice of the Government cases of certain young men who have enlisted against the wishes of their parents while under the age oftwenty years, but in spite of my representations, which have been substantiated by ample evidence, I have not been able to secure the release of the young men. The stand taken by the Minister for the Army has been that, as the young men have sworn that they are over the age, he must accept their word. When I have pressed for the discharge of certain individuals he has adopted the attitude that, as tha Government has incurred certain expense in training the men, they cannot be discharged even though they be still in Australia. One young man who was the subject of representations by me was at Fremantle when I asked for his discharge, but the Minister would not hear of it. He said that, as expense had been incurred in the young man’s training, the best he was prepared to do, despite the fact that the father and mother of the boy had made a sworn declaration that their son was not. twenty years of age, was that, with the consent of the parents, but also with the approval of the young man himself, he would hold him for service at the base until he had reached twenty years of age.
I regret to say also that the Government is not taking adequate steps to ensure that men who enlist make adequate provisionfortheirwives and dependent children. As a matter of fact, men who have deserted their wives and families are given special consideration and are actually encouraged by the authorities to join the Army. Unless such a soldier is prepared to make an allotment, no separation allowance can be paid in respect of his wife and children. There is no obligation placed upon the man to make such an allotment. Consequently, a number of men are actually joining the colours in order to avoid their obligations.
It seems rather remarkable, too, that while the Government is engaged in this policy of denuding this country of its man-power, it is permitting foreigners to come here. I do not object to a man because he happens to have been born in another country, but it is remarkable that while steamers are transporting Australian men from our shores, other steamers are bringing foreigners here to take their place in our industrial activity. Whilst the Government is very anxious to get men to join the colours, all its anxiety about them evaporates after they have been enlisted. Many young men have joined the Army because, having been out of work for long periods, they feel that if they enlist they will at least be able to provide some money for the support of their dependants or of their parents. But the Government’s action in these cases is also very unjust. A separation allowance of 3s. a day is provided for a man’s wife and ls. for each dependent child providing he has been supporting them at the time of his enlistment and has made an allotment of 3s. a day to his wife from his own pay. If a married man enlists who is subject to a court order for the maintenance of his wife and family and he has not been complying with it, the Government will not compel him to obey it. Ft argues that the wife was not, prior to the man’s enlistment, dependent on her husband, even though the dishonoured court order is still in force and therefore uo separation allowance should be paid. The Government does not compel a soldier to make an allotment in such a case.
– Yes it does.
– I have had the opportunity to read the regulations which the department has circulated for the instruc tion of the District Finance Officers, and I know that what I have said is correct. If the. Minister desires specific information I shall be quite prepared to provide it for him. I say that men who have deserted their wives and children are not being obliged to make allotments for their support, even though in some cases court orders may be in force in regard to them.
The unemployed sons of needy parents are also put in an unfair position. This is how the regulation reads in respect of these cases -
Separationallowance may be authorized to be paid to dependants or partial dependants other than wives and children of a member to assist in maintaining them in the same degree of comfort as that which they enjoyed before the member’s enlistment.
Actually what happens is that if a son who enlists had been receiving, prior to enlistment, a dole of 8s. 6d. per week, the Government argues that before a separation allowance may be paid the soldier must make an allotment ; and if he makes an allotment of 3s. a day for his mother, she will receive 21s., which is 12s. 6d. more than she was receiving before the boy enlisted. This sort of thing is going bil all over the country and is leading to seething discontent in military camps everywhere.
– There is no discontent in the camps.
– That is not so. I know of specific cases at the Ingleburn camp. I am better acquainted with the circumstances there than at the other camps. If the Minister desires me to do so, I shall bringspecific cases under his notice.
It is regrettable also that the treatment meted out to persons in more orless influential positions is very different from that of the unemployed who enlist. The working-class man gets much less consideration than those who are in better positions.
I asked a question in this Parliament some little time ago to ascertain whether any members of Parliament were drawing both their military pay and their parliamentary allowance. I think that all honorable members will agree that it is quite inconsistent for the Government to adopt a cheese-paring policy in connexion with the unemployed men who enlist, and a different policy in connexion with men in better circumstances who may join the
Army, Navy or Air Force. It should not, under the plea of economy, deny to mothers, wives and dependent children the. few shillings provided for them by way of allowance under the regulations, and, at the same time, permit members, of Parliament, who may enlist in the Militia Forces for service inside Australia, to draw substantial allowances in addition to their parliamentary pay. In reply .to the question which I asked, the Minister furnished me with the names of the following members of Parliament who are in receipt of their parliamentary allowance as well as their military pay: -
Major-General G. J. Rankin, D.S.O., V.D., Commander, Second Cavalry Division (Victoria).
Major A. G. Cameron, attached headquarters, Fourth Military District (South Australia ) .
Lieutenant W. V. McCa.ll, Thirty-sixth Battalion (New South Wales).
Gunner K. C. Wilson, Forty-ninth Battery, Royal Australian Artillery (Militia) (South Australia).
Do not forget that they are not on 5s. a day. Major-General Rankin receives ?250 per annum plus special allowances while he is in camp in addition to his parliamentary allowance, yet he supports a Government which is cheese-paring in its dealings with the dependants of those who enlist to do the real fighting. Major Cameron is on 30s. a day in addition to what he receives here. Lieutenant McCall, who was promoted after one week in the Militia from private to lieutenant, receives 15s. a day. So it can be seen that these men who are always talking about subversive elements in the community are themselves the real subversive elements. Such things are sufficient to cause discontent and unrest in the army, without those things which the Minister for the Army parades as being calculated to prevent the Government from successfully carrying out its war preparations.
Consider another instance in which the Minister for the Army himself was involved. This instance shows that the Government has one standard for one section of the community and another standard for another section. An ordinary soldier who is absent without leave is subjected to fines, because he is merely a private, one of the workers; but if it happens that a man moves in more ele vated circles, the treatment is entirely different. We should not have known about the facts which I am about to cite if it had not been for utterances made by a police magistrate in Victoria. Lieutenant-Colonel John Wesley Mitchell, who was evidently associated with the Minister for the Army, had a very serious charge preferred against him, but failed to appear when the case was before the court for hearing, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. The police magistrate who dealt with his case, said-
An adjournment of the hearing was granted on September 9th. The case has been before me three times since then. Each time Mitchell was absent on some pretext, and on December 20th a warrant was issued. The whole case is unfortunate and discreditable and an obstruction of justice. The Court has been misled. What I suspected in the first place is now a fact . . . that it was to keep Mitchell out of court until, some other authority acted.
The other authority was none other than the Minister for the Army. No wonder the Government tried to divert public attention and had nothing to say in the speech of the Governor-General about mis-government and misdeeds of Ministers of the Crown. We should have known nothing about this matter had it not been for the police magistrate’s outspokenness. The Minister for the Army approached the Attorney-General in Victoria, Mr. Bailey, and said that he wanted to see that the warrant was not executed against Lieutenant-Colonel Mitchell. Mr. Bailey had this to say -
That he had asked Mr. Street to put his request’ in writing which ‘he did.
Mr. Street said that Australia could get plenty of privates, but it would have difficulty in replacing an experienced and capable officer like Mitchell.
Truth newspaper asked Mr. Bailey if he knew - that Mitchell was last week named in a city court civil case as one of four partners in a land settlement firm and that in giving judgment against the partners for ?42 the magistrate had suggested roguery?
This is the sort of thing in which the Minister becomes involved. Yet he wants Ihe people to have confidence in him and the other Ministers. How could the people have confidence in a Government composed of men who use their ministerial positions to prevent the machinery of justice from moving against their friends and. those with whom they are associated, whereas, their attitude, if a worker offends, is “let the law take its course “ ?
There was not one word in the Governor-General’s Speech about what the Government proposes to do against the greatest menace in this community, those guilty of really subversive tactics, mainly, the profiteers, the friends of members of the parties opposite. Not one word about them! The Treasurer (Mr. Spender), said recently that, while the war was on, there was to be no further issue of bonus shares, but the honorable gentleman knows that the burglars have got rid of their loot. They have already distributed all bonus shares that they desire to distribute for some time at least.
Let us investigate the monopolies. Some honorable gentlemen opposite have spoken about these monopolies when there has been not a great deal of public attention focussed on them, but they remain silent in the present circumstances. General Motors-Holdens Limited in 1937, on a capital of £1,527,400, made a profit of £1,005,733. The shareholders did not receive dividends that year. The ordinary (shareholders took their dividend at the rate of 81.19 per cent, in the form of ordinary shares. In 1938, when the capital was £2,311,600, the ordinary dividend on the enlarged capital was 55 per cent. What has this Government done to protect the people against this exploitation?
Consider the Australian Iron and Steel Limited. Australian Iron and Steel Limited will pay two and a half years’ dividends on the preference shares on the r 1st May next, which will clear all preference arrears. As two and a half years’ dividend was paid earlier in the year, the distribution on the preference shares for the full year will be equal to -29.06 per cent, on preference capital. This distribution, requiring £290,625, is equivalent approximately to one year’s preference dividend plus 5 per cent, on Australian Iron and Steel Limited’s ordinary capital, which would represent 2 per cent, on the larger capital of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, holders of all the ordinary shares in Australian Iron and Steel Limited. Record profits of £353,504 were disclosed by Australian Iron and Steel Limited for the year ended the 30th November last. This is the Government that says that it is restricting profiteering in wartime. Further than that, in case honorable gentlemen overlooked it, in 1938, £2,000,000 in ordinary shares in Australian Iron and Steel Limited was issued to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to liquidate advances made by that company. The capital was increased so that the shares could be issued. That was done in order to conceal from the public the exorbitant profits that were being made. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited watered its capital and declared a 12^ per cent, dividend - the customary dividend - in an attempt to show that there was no increased exploitation of the public. Consider the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited itself, because it is remarkable that the Treasurer should declare that no more bonus shares were to be issued. According to my information, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited recently announced a bonus share issue involving capitalization of £4,459,000. This distribution is the second largest ever made in Australia. The largest was that of Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which made -a- present of £5,850,000 to shareholders in December, 1934. Other large distributions were made by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, £2,558,814 in January last; and by General Motors-Holdens Limited and British- Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, each of which was in the vicinity of £1,000,000. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited’s distribution will be in the proportion of about 64 shares to every 100 held. The most amazing thing is this, as showing what this Government would do to protect its friends: In 1934, the then Treasurer (Mr. Casey) had passed through this Parliament a bill to amend the Commonwealth income tax legislation in directions recommended by the Taxation Commission. One purpose of the amending legislation was to make bonus shares liable to Commonwealth income tax. I was amazed to learn from inquiries from the present. Treasurer (Mr. Spender) that the latest issue of bonus shares by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is to be exempt from Commonwealth income tax. That fact will be interesting to the community which faces the certainty of having to pay increased taxation. Why should the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited be allowed to make a gift of more than £4,500,000 to shareholders without the recipients having to pay one penny of income tax in respect of that gift? The dividend paid by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is still unchanged at 12£ per cent, in spite of the fact that that company has watered its capital.
Here is the amazing history of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The original capital of the company,formed in 1885, was £320,000. A bonus share issue of £900,000 was made in 1918, followed quickly by a further bonus issue of £600,000. the Broken Hill Proprie tary Company Limited’s paid capital is £6,950,776. Most of that is watered capital, upon which the Australian public has to provide for the payment of dividends.
In order to show the progress that the monopolies have made, as the result of benevolence of anti-Labour governments, I shall cite the profits the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has made in recent years -
That is since the Government started its war preparations. Besides making those profits, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has provided for the depreciation of its assets as follows: -
The men who control these industries are the men to whom the Government looks for advice on policy. Here are a few of them, all friends of honorable gentlemen opposite: Sir Colin Fraser, Sir Alexander Stewart, Mr. Essington Lewis, Mr. F. P. Kneeshaw, Mr. Eadie, Mr. Marcus Clark, and Mr. Norman Myer of Mebourne. There are many others. These are the directorships that they hold: Sir Alexander Stewart i< director of the Australian Consolidated Industries, of Broken Hill South, of Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals, and of the Dunlop Perdriau Rubber Company; Mr. Kneeshaw is director of the Kandos Cement Company; Mr. Essington Lewis is general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, director of Australian Iron and Steel Limited, Commonwealth Steel and Ryland Brothers, chairman of the Bureau of Steel Manufacturers, a member of the Commonwealth Government’s Defence Advisory Council and director of Lysaght Brothers, Australian Wire Rope Works Proprietary Limited and Stewart and Lloyds (Australia). Proprietary Limited. Sir Colin Fraser’s interests are as follows: - Director of the North Broken Hill, Broken Hill South, Imperial Smelting Corporation, New Broken Hill Consolidated, Zinc Corporation, Electrolytic Zinc, Taranaki Oil, Associated Pulp and Paper Limited, Dunlop Perdriau Rubber Company, Australian Aluminium Proprietary Limited, member of the Commonwealth Government’s Defence Advisory Council. It should be evident to the public that, in spite of the fact that these men are supposed to be giving their services voluntarily, they are reaping benefits in other ways because of the enormous profits earned by the firms with which they are connected. * Leave to continue given.’]*
I have tried in this Parliament to obtain information regarding the commercial associations of Ministers themselves. Mr. Menzies held 300 shares in Equity Trustees, who are large shareholders in Howard Smith’s Limited, who are, in turn, one. of the largest shareholders in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Mr. Menzies had 5,000 shares in the National Reliance Investment Company, and Mrs. Menzies had 3,750 shares in this company. National Reliance Investment Company is a shareholder in Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand, who, in turn, are shareholders in the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited. Mr. Menzies held 1,333 shares, and Mrs. Menzies ‘1,000 shares, in Capel Court Investment Trust, which is a shareholder in Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia anl New Zealand. I asked the Prime Minister what he had done with those shares, and another Minister, by interjection, said that he had disposed of them. I have a fair idea of what happened. There is such a thing as the transferring of shares to a dummy, who holds them on behalf of the original owner. I want the Government to have a proper inquiry in order to find out whether transfers of this kind are legitimate business transactions, and not a mere matter of convenience for the Ministers concerned. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) said of the advisers of the Government that they were all residents of Melbourne, or representatives of big Melbourne interests; Evidently, it is not only members of the Labour party who believe that these men have their own interests to serve.
I am not impressed by the talk of members of the Government who say that we are in- this war in defence of democracy. I have an idea that their motives are very different. I want to see the defeat of Hitlerism and nazi-ism, but for different reasons from those actuating honorable members opposite. It is quite clear that the members of this Government are not concerned with the defence of democracy, and the rights of free nations. . .At one time, this Government was expressing its abhorrence of the action of the Japanese in bombing Chinese cities and slaughtering helpless women and children, but suddenly a change came over the scene. The Government saw that the British imperialists were prepared to come to an agreement with the Japanese imperialists, provided their own interests were conserved. The Chinese were still being bombed, and their women and children slaughtered, but here is what our Prime Minister had to say -
The temporary interruption of the happy relationship which has existed for many years between Great Britain and Japan can only be regretted. The serious nature of the issues which arose cannot lightly be dismissed, but there is good reason for believing the dispute has passed its worse stage.
I think we may reasonably anticipate a satisfactory settlement. The preliminary agreement signed by representatives ;of Great Britain and Japan took a practical view of the position in China. Great Britain had commercial interests in China, and could not allow those interests to be destroyed by the course of hostilities. ‘
Once the interests of these men were protected, they wore quite prepared to allow Chinese cities to be bombed, and the right of the Chinese people to their own form of government ceased to be a matter of interest to them.
I charge this Government with deliberately bringing about the transfer from Sydney to Melbourne of a government examiner of footwear so that he would no longer embarrass the crook manufacturers who were supplying boots to the Defence Department. Mr. S. G. Gill was senior examiner of boots for the department in New South Wales. He has been a. public servant for 28 years, and was appointed to the inspection staff in 1929. Thus, he has been examiner of boots and shoes for the Defence Depart’ ment for eleven years. In 1938, he applied for a reclassification, and here is a communication from Mr. E. J. O’Connell, secretary of the Contracts Board, touching on this application -
There is no doubt that Mr. Gill has handled a large volume of work for some time and that the diverse nature of the stores examined does require a great deal of versatility and responsibility. Mr. Gill’s ability and application to his duties are considered most satisfactory and if there is any way of finding means of granting his application, it is recommended that the matter be favorably considered.
That shows that Gill was competent, but he was advised, in a communication dated the 20th December, 1939, of his transfer to Melbourne. The letter, which was signed by the Secretary of the Military Board, was as follows: -
I am directed to inform you that the approval has been given to the transfer of Mr. S. G. Gill, Senior Examiner, Inspection Staff, from Sydney to Melbourne. Mr. Gill’s transfer will be of a permanent nature, and further advice will be furnished regarding the date he is to report for duty in Melbourne.
He appealed against the transfer, and then he found out why he was being transferred. Here is a letter signed by W. M. Sutherland, Inspector of Stores -
It is considered that you are temperamentally unsuited to efficiently conduct inspection work of any extent on your own responsibility without causing friction and irritation tocontractors. In this regard you. are reminded that in the recent contract of Messrs.. McMurtrie and Company for military boots,, it was found necessary owing to strained relations between yourself and the firm, to withdraw you from the factory and send im Examiner from Melbourne to take over the necessary examination work. ‘.
In view of the- large contracts now in progress iii, Sydney it is desired- that any possibility of friction arising between any one of the contractors and yourself be avoided as this would only help to retard production which in the present circumstances would bc quite impossible in the interests of the department.
Your long service has been taken into account and your capabilities as a good tradesman have been recognized, but, in view pf the foregoing, it is considered that the transfer is. necessary and that it should bc effected immediately.
I took the matter up with the Govern.ment and found that there had beer trouble between Gill and the firm of McMurtrie Limited and the. Fineley Shoe Co. In order to show the opinion of other men in the department regarding Gill, I quote here a letter received from EL. H. Potts, who is connected with the Department of Defence in Melbourne -
Yon have no doubt been more than a little worried at the complaints made, by Mr. Fineley about the number of boots you have had to reject during the last few months, but I want to assure you that you need not be at all anxious about the Department’s attitude towards you in the matter. From our point of view, it is an indication that Von arc carrying out your Unties well and faithfully and that you are not allowing yourself to be influenced in any way by the attitude of the contractor.
That letter was written in November, but in December, Gill received notice of his transfer. I took tho matter up with the Minister, because Gill wanted an inquiry. Here is the letter I wrote to the Minister-
I received the following reply -
With reference to your personal representations regarding the case of Mr. S. G”. Gill, of 3 Tremare-street, Concord, New South Wales, Senior Examiner, Inspection Branch, regarding Mr. Gill’s transfer from Sydney to Melbourne. 1. have made inquiries in this matter and find that very careful consideration was given to Mr. Gill’s case before a decision was readied in respect of his transfer.
Mr. Gill was the Senior Examiner of Boots and Leatherwork in Sydney and it became apparent some, time ago. that he was temperamentally unfitted to conduct efficiently inspection work without causing endless friction wi,th and irritation to contractors, so much so that relations with one contractor were so strained that it became necessary to withdraw Mr. Gill from the factory and transfer another Senior Examiner from Melbourne to, take over th.e examination. A climax was reached later when a deputation from Sydney hoot manufacturers, which included the President of the New South Wales Boot and Shoe Manufacturers and Allied Trades Association, waited, on the Inspector of Stores and Clothing in. Melbourne and stated they refused to tender’ for boot’s whilst Mr. Gill was in charge of the inspection work in Sydney. In view pf tho urgent need for production and reasonable inspection, the interests of the department would not bo served by the retention of Mr. Gill in Sydney. He is, however, a good tradesman and ‘should be able to render satisfactory service in Melbourne where he will be under supervision.
I put it to honorable members that this man was shifted from Sydney after eleven years’ satisfactory work because he was incorruptible; because the manufacturers could not get at him. When they found that he would not pass in?ferior boots, but insisted upon their being up to specification, a deputation of manufacturers waited upon the Minister, and the Minister took the part of the profiteers, just as this Government has always done. I asked the Minister for particulars regarding the personnel of the deputation, and whether any evidence bearing upon Gilles qualifications had been offered. Here is the insulting reply I received -
With further reference to your letter of Jflth March, 1940, relative tq the case of Mr. S. G. Gill, an officer of the Inspection Branch of this Department, I have given consideration to your request for further particulars respecting the deputation referred to in my letter of 18th March, 1040.
I regret j am unable to meet your wishes in this regard. You will, of course, appreciate the necessity for officers to be controlled by the department whian employs them and that no situation .could be allowed to develop which tends to reverse such a principle. I feel that to prolong the correspondence in this matter would serve no “rood purpose, more especially when it is realized that, by seeking outside influence, Mr. Gill is contravening a statutory regulation which renders him liable to serious’ disciplinary action.
I -have read Mr. .Gill-‘s file and am quite satisfied that his case has received full and equitable consideration. In these circumstances, I .think you will agree it is better to close the matter at this stage.
Here is what a Minister of this Government (Sir Frederick Stewart) had to say about the firm of McMurtrie on a previous occasion, when that firm with others was charged with attempting to exploit the public of Australia : -
An attempt has been made at flagrant profiteering.
I have finished making statements about this matter. I propose to use the most extreme powers available to me.
Later, as reported in Hansard of the 28th November last, page 1584, he said -
On the 16th November I submitted to this House a statement informing honorable mem- bers of the activities of the Supply and Development Department. In the course of that statement 1 referred to a concerted attempt by certain boot manufacturers in New South Wales and Victoria to exploit the department and the community by adherence to a predetermined scale of prices when tendering for footwear of the various types required for the defence forces, such scale representing increases of up to 30 per cent, and 40 per cent, on the prices that had previously prevailed. . . .
I regret having to affirm that a perusal of these documents, in the light of the surrounding circumstances, discloses a deliberate attempt at war profiteering on the part of at least tcn manufacturers. . . .
Included among the ten manufacturers was McMurtrie Limited, whose part another Minister takes to-day, when he victimizes an officer who carried out his duty. An alarming state of affairs is revealed. Mr. Gill was superseded in Sydney by Mr. W. B. Austin, who is a brother of the managing director of the Austin Shoe Company of Melbourne, which also is a contractor to the Government. It is clear that the Government has a case to answer. In view of the facts Mr. Gill should be given a proper trial. The Government should be compelled to produce evidence iti support of its statement that he is unfit to continue in his position. [Further leave to continue given.]
I wish now to refer to the motor car manufacturing agreement. Before his admittance to the Cabinet, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) demanded a royal commission, but now, apparently, he is quite satisfied to have a bill introduced into Parliament, and » that it shall be treated as a non-party measure so that members may vote as they think fit, free from party allegiance. The public of this country will not be satisfied with anything less than a royal commission. The Government is content to introduce a bill, knowing that the numbers against it will be sufficient to cause its rejection. The Government is not concerned at the waste of time involved, because it hopes that, with the disposal of the bill, the matter will be forgotten, and that the many unsavoury features associated with the agreement will be overlooked. I shall mention some persistent rumours that are circulating in Sydney in order to show that an inquiry is justified. A great deal of publicity was given to the action of the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) in leasing a racehorse named Billie from Mr. W. J. Smith, who is head of Australian Consolidated Industries, which was given the promise of a monopoly in regard to motor car manufacture; but there are also other matters associated with the agreement which did not receive similar publicity. I have been informed, although I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the wide-spread rumour, that prior to arranging the agreement the Treasurer (Mr. Spender), who is, I understand, a friend of Mr. Smith, frequently visited him. Further, I have been informed that the Treasurer has been retained as the legal adviser to this firm, the retaining fee mentioned being £3,000 per annum. In the light of these rumours, honorable members will agree that there are features surrounding this agreement which justify more than a discussion in this Parliament, and make the appointment of a royal commission imperative. In order to ascertain the truth in relation to the leasing of the race-horse mentioned, a thorough sifting of the facts by a royal commission is necessary. I do not know how the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) became acquainted with the facts. Even a frequenter of race-courses for years might never have known that the “ Mr. Rodney “, whose name appeared in the race-books as the lessee of the race-horse Billie, was the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs. Generally a man assumes a nom de plume only when he has done something which he wishes to hide from others. The ex-Minister has frequently said that there was nothing wrong with the transaction. If so, he should not object to a thorough inquiry. He has not explained why he leased the horse under the name of “Mr. Rodney”.
Supporters of the Government have assailed the Miners Federation in connexion with the present coal strike, and Lave claimed that subversive elements are at work. I draw attention to another dispute which took place in Sydney recently, namely, the refusal of the waterside workers to load flour on the Gogra Here are the facts. On Thursday, the 4th April, 1940, at 1.30 p.m., a letter fr om Mr. Dillon, secretary of the Shipowners Association, was delivered by hand to Mr. Healy in connexion with the trouble on the vessel mentioned. The Federal and State union officers had a conference at three o’clock that afternoon, after which they instructed the vigilance officer for that district to proceed to the ship and advise the men to accept employment under award conditions. But the ship-owners did not wait for the union to take action. They immediately departed for Melbourne where they interviewed the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) on Friday, the 5th April. A telephone message was sent to Mr. Mullens, M..L.C, the State secretary of the Wa terside Workers Federation, by Mr. McKnight, the Attorney-General’s private secretary, making inquiries in regard to the dispute. Mr. Mullens said that it was a. matter for the Arbitration Court, and suggested that it should be submitted to the court for a decision. The court had already been approached in May, 1939, when it said that it would not he prepared to deal with the matter as an individual complaint but would deal with it as part of the general log of claims. At 1.45 p.m. on the Friday, the following urgent telegram was sent by the Attorney-General to Mr. Mullens in Sydney: -
Re Gogra Government greatly disturbed at refusal of men to lond this ship which is carrying supplies to Australian soldiers stop cun quite understand grievance of man asked to work dusty cargo without smoko and in normal times would not be surprised by refusal to continue without smoko but the times are not normal stop this flour is for Australians who ure called upon to endure much greater hardships than loading dusty cargo stop 1 ask the nien to load this flour for their fellow Australians overseas stop I ask them to do this because the flour is for Australian soldiers who have gone overseas to fight for Australia.
That was the first intimation that the men had as to the destination of the flour. Honorable members know that under the National Emergency Regulations the waterside workers are not made aware of the destination of any ship. Consequently they did not know that the flour was required for the troops abroad. For some months the men, when engaged upon similar work, had been taking a “ smoke-oh “ and having the amount involved deducted from their earnings. It was, evidently, a matter of arrangement between the owners and the men; but when the owners knew that the flour was required by the troops - and I repeat that the men did not know the destination of the vessel - they refused to allow the “ smoke-oh “, thereby hoping to precipi tate a dispute and inflame the public mind against the men. The telegram from the Attorney-General to the State secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation did not arrive at the Sydney office until 5.10 p.m. on the Friday, notwithstanding that it had been despatched at 1.45 p.m. No doubt . the Postmaster-General (Mr. Thorby) will attempt to explain the delay. It was received by the caretaker of the building. The secretary to the union had previously intimated that he would be away from Sydney during the week-end. The telegram, therefore, did not come under his notice until he returned to his office on the Monday morning. The Attorney-General and his officers knew the address of the federal officials, but they did not attempt to get in touch with any of them. On Sunday, the 7th April, the Attorney-General apparently decided that his telegram had been ignored, and thereupon he issued, through the press, a threat that the Transport Workers Act would be extended to Sydney. It is clear that the Government is willing to submit disputes to arbitration when it suits the employers to do so, but not when arbitration suits the men. On this occasion, arbitration did not suit the employers, and. therefore the Attorney-General said that it was a matter, not for the Arbitration Court, but for the Government. At 9 a.m. on Monday, the 8th April, a letter from the Attorney-General was handed to Mr. Healy. .That was his first official intimation of the trouble on the vessel. Had the men been advised by the owners that the flour was required, for the use of the troops overseas, there would have been no dispute. That is clear from the fact that, although Mr. Healy did not receive the Attorney-General’s letter until 9 o’clock on the Monday morning, the men had already started work without any advice from the union officials. They had read in the newspapers that the flour was required for the troops. Why was the Government prepared to intervene in that dispute and not willing to intervene to settle the coal strike? It is evident that it favours employing the arbitration machinery only when the employers wish that to be done. I have already quoted from the telegram sent by the Attorney-General in which he admitted that, in ordinary circumstances, the men would be justified in refusing to load such a dusty cargo without a smoke. The award of the court provides for “ smoke-oh “ breaks at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for men employed in carrying bagged wheat, shovelling bulk cargoes, or carrying lead bars. But no “smoke-oh” is provided for men carrying flour, pig-iron or zinc-ore cargoes. The discrimination shows how ridiculous the award really is. Waterside workers are forbidden to smoke on any wharf or in any ship’s hold ; they are compelled to work for four hours without a break or be subject to a fine of £5. Bather than handle dusty cargoes under such conditions, they have refrained from offering themselves for work. The employers want the right to select the men that they shall employ, but they object to the men having the right to choose the jobs on which they shall offer for work. That proves that the Government wants to have a law for one ‘small but influential section of the people and a different law for the workers. Recently an employer prosecuted a number of men in the police court for alleged violation of the conditions of the award. The police magistrate convicted them and they appealed to the High Court, but it decided against the appeal by three to two. Evidently, therefore, it is laid clown as a form of procedure that, once a waterside worker accepts employment, he is to be at the mercy of the employer, and must remain on the job so long as the employer desires him to do so. I again charge the Government with having interfered in one dispute whilst, refusing to interfere in another on the plea that it was a matter for the Arbitration Court to decide.
I refer now to the “ Red bogy “. The Government has been spreading propaganda in an endeavour to inflame the minds of the public against the Labour party and the trade unions and to distract attention from its own misdeeds. The honorable member foi Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) recently made a statement in which he urged the formation of an organization similar to the New Guard, of which he was a member when it was in existence. It is hardly necessary for the honorable member to urge the formation of such a body because a joint committee of that character meets in Sydney on almost every Thursday at the rooms, of the Sane Democracy League, which would be better known as the “ Insane Democracy League “. This committee is representative of the Empire Society, the Guild of Empire, the Sane Democracy League and the Defence League of Australia. It has decided upon a programme of strong propaganda to be launched through the press, letters to be prepared by persons appointed by the committee, and to be signed by leading citizens, such as members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures and citizens and ratepayers’ associations. When the campaign has been sufficiently developed, public meetings are to be called with a view to passing resolutions demanding strong action from the Government. The directors, of this campaign will be Sir Keith Murdoch. Sir Arthur Rickard, Sir Sydney Snow, Mr. Eric Campbell and Mr. Docker.
– The honorable member’s further time has expired.
. The only reason I can imagine why the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) rose to speak was in order to draw a very clear contrast between the opening speeches in this debate and his own. for the benefit of honorable members of this House and those who read the parliamentary debates. The honorable gentleman’s speech was so full of insinuations and misrepresentations that it failed to rise above the usual level of his speeches, which is well below the level of the pavement.
To return from the perambulations of the honorable member for East Sydney to the subject before the House, I propose to refer to those parts of the Governor-General’s Speech most relevant to broad matters of policy. The most important part of His Excellency’s Speech is undoubtedly the one about which honorable members opposite, for obvious reasons, wish to say very little. In that section it is stated that in the opinion of the Government the future of Australia is as much at stake as that of the other allied countries, and that the Government’s policy embraces not only the most effective measures possible for ensuring the local defence and security of Australia, but also a full participation in the naval, military and air activities of the Allied ‘forces abroad. The two opening speeches in this chamber dealt in excellent fashion with the moral causes of this war. Great Britain has been responsible over the centuries for nearly every institution of real value, not only in this country, but also in others. The light of freedom has burned in England for hundreds of years and the constant struggle of the British people has been to develop free institutions. It is only right to remind this House and the coun-try that these very institutions are threatened to-day by the march of barlyne hordes under the domination of a barbaric autocracy in Europe. I have had the privilege of standing in halls in Great Britain which saw the beginning of central banking, a subject often discussed in Australia to-day. I have been in the hall which saw the ‘beginnings of insurance and its allies the ‘friendly societies, and out of which have come the most advanced social services known in the world to-day. No matter how many institutions of real value exist in the world I darc to say that investigation would show that most of them had their birth in that marvellous nation from which wc spring.
Because the moral values at stake in this war have been dealt with by earlier speakers, I shall proceed to deal with another aspect which is just as important. Tt, has been said that the British people fight only for one or two objectives. The first one is very clear in the minds of the British people, but it is not so clear in the minds of Australians. It is the fear that, if Hitler continues unchecked the day might arrive when he would be powerful enough to win a world War in which case their country might never again enjoy the independence which they have enjoyed for centuries past. The position is somewhat1 different with France. Should Germany win a war, there would always be a France, mutilated perhaps, but having control in some measure of its own destiny. Great Britain knows that if it should lose the war and thus the power of its navy, it. would stand purely and simply at the mercy of the most dominant power on the continent. The British people know that their country only grows sufficient food to provide for them for two days out of every week. Therefore, they realize that if they should lose a war, they will become the slaves of the most powerful nation in Europe as their economic independence could be threatened at any moment.
– The honorable member must know that the German fleet has been annihilated.
– I am talking of possibilities that might have occurred only if Germany’s actions had gone on unchecked. If we lose this conflict, Britain’s interest will be threatened not for just a. generation to come but for all time. I suggest that this war is also a fight for Australia’s self-preservation, because Australia, too, stands in somewhat the same position as Great Britain. It is an island continent and Australians carry on their trades and have their accepted standards of living simply, because the Mother Country has control of the seas. Apart from the loss of its venerated institutions, Australia would bc completely subjugated to’ the power that would emerge from an enemy victory in this war. We are fighting not only for high moral values but also for the right to retain our property, our trade, our standards of living, and our right as a free nation to advance in the world.
Previous differences between the Government and the members of the Opposition apparently remain unchanged.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said in his speech last week. “ There is no change in our stand “. Therefore the Opposition holds the view that Australia’s main business in this war is to “ cash in “ on the business side and to make its contribution by supplying £1,000,000 worth of food to the Mother Country; such was the offer made by the Leader of the Opposition at the outbreak of hostilities. If he still holds the same opinion, obviously there has been no. building up of that offer - an offer which could be likened to a housewife offering a little “ tucker “ to a tramp at the kitchen door. The gulf that lies between the Government and the Opposition is a very wide one.
– Yet the Government invited the Opposition to join in the formation of a national government.
– I shall deal with that point later. We, on this side of the chamber, believe that we must share very fully in this war, no matter where it may be fought. We give an assurance to the people of Australia that we shall not undermine their security in any way, and that any action that we may take will only be taken with due regard for all the factors operating at the time. I suggest to members of the Opposition, as I suggest to people outside the Parliament, that the only capable judge of the true position and of the assistance we can expect from the Mother Country in the event of attack, is the Government. Members of the Government are the only ones in Australia who to-day have full knowledge of all the facts relating to the war. We must, therefore, trust the Government. On, more than one occasion Australia has received very definite assurances from Great Britain that it has naval forces at its command strong enough to safeguard Australia at any time. .Surely, in view of the events of the last few weeks, honorable members must realize that the British navy is now in a better position to defend Australia than it was at the outbreak of war. We also have the knowledge that, under the Empire Air Training Scheme, Australia is to become an air power of no mean importance. That is possible only because Great Britain has agreed to send us hundreds of aeroplanes.
– What has happened to the Government’s policy, as stated by the Prime Minister, of manufacturing thousands of aeroplanes in Australia?
– In that connexion Australia owes a debt of gratitude to this Government. I ask honorable members to recall the position that existed four or five years ago when debates took place in this House on the subject of defence. At that time, honorable members opposite asked, “ Where is the enemy? What are we preparing to defend ourselves against ? “. The Government was repeatedly attacked for spending millions of pounds to provide for the defence of the country. When the then Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) first broached the proposition to manufacture aeroplanes in Australia, the importance of the project was not fully realized by the Opposition, but today there is at Fisherman’s Bend, in Victoria, a factory actually manufacturing aircraft at the rate of six a week. Australia also has an enormous scheme in train to build bombing aeroplanes, and it is hoped that next year some of those machines will be in actual service.
For the Opposition to twit honorable members on this side of the chamber about any failure to produce aircraft earlier in this country is most unwise. It is unwise also for honorable gentlemen opposite to twit us in any way on the subject of defence. Labour has had a variety of defence policies - so many in fact, that I am sure the Leader of the Opposition must have found himself in doubt, from day to day, at one stage, as to whether he was declaring the real policy or not. Even to-day, we are in doubt on the subject. Only last weak, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions approved of Labour’s defence policy, anaemic as it is, by only two votes. That policy may be overthrown to-morrow for all we know. The same organization during the same conference defeated, by only five votes, a motion similar to the “ Hands off Russia “ resolution of the Easter Labour Conference. I therefore say that Labour has no right to twit us about our defence policy. In any case, the people of Australia are watching what is going on, and when the time comes will express their opinion upon it. I am sure that when the opportunity to do so arrives they will 3peak with no uncertain voice in declaring their judgment on the Labour party and its defence outlook.
Labour’s policy of non-participation in respect to the sending of men abroad has been helped by statements of certain leading men of this country over a number of years. It seems to me that the Labour party is playing quite distinctly for party political ends. It is pandering to the fears of a great many Australians that danger of invasion is imminent, and that the danger may come from our near neighbour, Japan. Warnings have been issued from time to time by certain people about possible menace from the East. ‘ In these circumstances I can well imagine that the problem of whether we should send men abroad or not is of no small importance in the eyes of many people. For this reason, I suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should take the people of this country much more into his confidence than he has done hitherto. He should give them reliable information as often as possible of changes in the war
Bitnuti.cn, and he should also give them the benefit of any assurances that he has received from the Mother Country. If he would do so, he would find the people standing very solidly behind him. It is not simply a matter of Britain being able to send three battleships together with the necessary supporting craft at any moment into our northern waters, but of the guarantee, that, at all times, Britain is able and ready to help us. Do honorable members realize that Great Britain is building 1,000,000 tons of shipping this year and is launching five 35.000-ton “battleships? If these facts wore hammered home into the consciousness of the Australian people, it would be all to the good. Our people should be brought to a full realization of the great strength of the British navy. If that were done, many of their fears would be dissipated. As a constructive suggestion [ therefore say that the Government should cause frequent statements to be issued concerning the war situation and should take the people as fully into its confidence as possible. An informed democracy is the safest form of govern ment that man has devised. An uninformed democracy may be very little better than a mere rabble.
On the subject of publicity, I suggest) that a great deal more information should be made available to the Australian people at convenient points concerning the type of man required for the Australian Imperial Force and the Empire air scheme, the qualifications needed, and the rates of pay offered. The Government’s publicity on this matter during the last few months has been seriously deficient. Many of my constituents have asked me questions on these subjects which I have been hopelessly at a loss to answer, because the information was not readily available. I suppose other honorable members have found themselves in the same situation in their electorates.
Another subject on which there seems to be a serious dearth of information relates to places of enlistment. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) to consider using town halls and shire halls throughout the country as publicity centres and depots for recruiting. There are very few drill halls in my electorate. In some instances, it is a real job for a man to enlist. The work of recruiting, like certain other defence activities, should be decentralized. If town halls and shire halls were made centres of information where forms of application for enlistment could be obtained, it would be all to the good. I believe that the adoption of such a policy would make the enlistment of the next division which the Government may require so easy as to surprise those in authority. The method that I am suggesting was, I understand, in operation during the last war; but whether it was or not, it is, in my opinion, a desirable method.
I wish now to make some observations concerning the subversive elements in our midst. I was glad to notice in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech the pointed references to the menace from these sources that exists in our midst. I am sure that none of our men would feel very happy about enlisting to go overseas if they felt that the very foundations of our government in this country were likely to be overthrown during their absence. Undoubtedly, we have enemies on the home front. The fact is too plain to be denied. The world has had an example, in recent happenings in Norway, of the result of this kind of thing, and we, in Australia, are having some experience of it in connexion with the deplorable coal strike. The method of the Communist party, as I well know, is not to establish itself as a separate entity; it is to work in the dark through other organizations. Its policy is to white-ant working class movements, and then suddenly to assume control. This procedure has been followed ever since there has been a Communist party. We saw the great demonstration of it in Russia. Unless we are careful many institutions in Australia may suffer, and those in control to-day may find themselves overthrown at ft moment’s notice. The plain favt has emerged recently, that nearly all of our big trade unions have been white-anted by Communists, with the result that Communists are now in control. The Opposition party in this Parliament now finds to its horror the range of that control. If that party should win an election the people of this country might even find that they have inadvertently placed themselves under the control of the Communists.
– The honorable member cannot believe that.
– If the Opposition does not wake up, that is what might happen to it. I know that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is as much opposed to the Communists as I am, but I regret that I cannot say the same of some of his colleagues. I well remember the honorable member for East Sydney on many occasions in this House referring to Great Britain as a foreign imperialist power. .,Mr. Orr, who is one of the leaders of the coal-miners, would have us believe that Russia is the Mecca of all true Australians, and that Russian methods alone can ensure to the Australian people’ tho standard of living which they would like to enjoy. The honorable member foi Hindmarsh and I have travelled in Russia and we know something about conditions there. I consider it is my duty as a member of this Parliament to say what I know about this subject, and 1 respectfully suggest that it is the duty of the honorable member for Hindmarsh to tell the working people of Australia, and especially the coal-miners, the real position in Russia. The coal-miners appear to be loyal to their leaders, who are Communists, bu’t surely the rank and file of the coal-mining unions cannot understand the real position in that country.
– My views on the subject are well known.
– The working class of this country are being led to believe that only in the Russian way can emancipation come to them; but the Russian people threw off one tyranny, only to find themselves burdened by another just as bad, and in some respects, much worse. At least the old Russian peasant had his log hut and a soul to call his own. He has no soul to call his own to-day. In Russia, the Czar and his aristocracy were overthrown only in order that others might take their place. Comrade Stalin lives at the Kremlin and also inhabits different palaces that once belonged to the Czar. He has his own fleet of Packard cars. The palaces of the nobles along the banks of the Volga River are to-day the homes of high Soviet officials. The select pools along the river are guarded so that the unwashed herd dare not draw near. We are able to tell of these things -because we saw them. W’e are able to tell the truth also of the frightful poverty of the masses of the people. I think the honorable member for Hindmarsh will bear me out when I say that all the time we were in Russia, we did not see a decentpair of boots; in fact we hardly saw a pair of boots at all.
– Hear, hear!
– We can . tell of the miserable rations distributed to the people dwelling in the cities, and of their awful oppression under a regime which for ruthlessness cannot be equalled anywhere in Europe, even taking Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany into account. We can tell all these things. We can point to Sir Walter Citrine’s visit to the Russian tenements and his description of the housing scheme in Russia and of the frightful conditions there. As Mr. Grenville, M.P. said in Brisbane, it can be claimed -without fear of contradiction that the Australian worker to-day is many more than four times better off than the Russian peasant. His position is infinitely better. We can tell how the Russian regime has attempted to crush Christianity; how every nun of the old regime had been referred to as a prostitute; how every priest had been reckoned to be a mere tool of the capitalist class; how the churches are used as centres for the anti-Christ movement’. I wonder if the workers at Kurri Kurri and other centres in the coal areas are acquainted with all these things? Do they stand for a system that has completely destroyed all morality and undermined all Christian life and swept away whatever little freedom the Russians had under the old regime? I wish that the articles that the honorable member for Hindmarsh wrote after his return from Russia were widely read amongst the coal-miners. I should like thom to heed particularly his closing words ‘which are in effect, “ There is nothing in Russia that I should like to see transferred to Australia. “. The Russian Soviet is the class of government that is held up to the Australian people as an example to follow. We have been too long in attacking this menace in our midst. I am not worried about accusations hurled across the chamber about the rights of free speech. I would not hesitate to declare illegal any movement that seeks to undermine everything that we value. I would not hesitate to sack every Communist in any part, of governmental services in Australia. We hear of school teachers who are distributing Communist literature among their pupils. Clergymen betray their cloth when they talk about the virtues, of the Russian regime. I would hit this Communist menace and hit it hard.
– The honorable member is talking like a Fascist.
– I am a demo-
Mt upholding all that democracy stands for. I can understand the honorable gentleman interjecting because the Trades and Labour Council at Ballarat also passed the “Hands off Russia” resolution. I wonder what the honorable member will have to say about it when he faces the people at the next election. I hope that he will say more than was said bv his leader about the “ Hands off Russia “ resolution carried by the Easter conference of the Australian Labour party in Sydney.
I hope that the coal strike will be ended without any drastic action before many days have passed. Arising out of the coal strike, I suggest that the Government should not only conserve in Australia all the commodities necessary for the successful prosecution of the war that have to be imported, but also all those essential requirements that are produced in Australia. It is astounding that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited should have to close down certain of its activities a few weeks after a strike occurs because of lack of coal. It is more remarkable that the whole war effort of Australia is likely to come to a stand-still if the coal strike continues. We should take every lesson from the present situation and ensure that it will never be said again that Australia’s war effort wa3 impeded because stocks of coal had not been accumulated,. Accumulated stocks should be on hand to safeguard against any- eventuality. Before his death, the late Honorable C. A. S. Hawker was endeavouring, in a private capacity, to enumerate and classify all essential war needs of Australia. The Government would do well to follow the course that- he began and tabulate all essential needs and make sure that there are sufficient stocks of them to ensure that, should any hold-up occur in production, there would be no interruption to industry.
I have been twitted about the talk of a national government, hut what is the position to-day? [Leave to continue given.) There should be only two elements in this House to-day. One should be composed of all those who want a full-blooded war effort and the other by those who stand on the other side. of the fence. The Labour party to-day is split asunder. It consists of two parties, the Australian Labour party, non-Communist, and the Australian Labour party, about which honorable members can draw their own conclusions. It “is because there is no unity in the Labour party that honorable gentlemen opposite have such a miserable policy, but I do believe that there is a number - it may be small - of honorable members opposite who believe that a real Empire and Allied effort is necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. They should consider events of the last week or so. I ask them : Is it right that you should stay with the subversive elements in Labour’s ranks and Labour unions which are certainly controlling you at the moment, or is it not better that you should join us in having only one objective, a vigorous and unremitting prosecution of this war to the bitter end until victory is achieved? We on this side are quite prepared to let all party political matters fall behind us, to allow any controversial matter not to interfere with our relations in this present crisis and to work with honorable gentlemen opposite for the only end that is worth achieving, a great and glorious victory.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. During my temporary absence this afternoon I understand that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made this statement -
I have been informed, although I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statement, which is the subject of a widespread rumour, that prior to arranging the agreement the Treasurer, Mr. Spender, who is, I understand, a friend of Mr. Smith, frequently visited him. Further, I have been informed that the Treasurer has been retained as a legal adviser to this firm, the retaining foe mentioned being £3,000 per annum.
Where the honorable member obtained his information I do not know, but the statement is wholly untrue. I acted for Australian Consolidated Industries Limited as I have acted prior to my joining the Ministry for many big industrial concerns in New South Wales. My only association with Mr. Smith since joining the Ministry was months before the agreement was ever thought of, when I visited, as I have visited many other industrial concerns, the plant of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited to inform myself of the character of the works. I say unequivocally that I have never received a retaining fee of £3,000 a year or anything indeed. Since joining the Ministry, I have substantially and almost completely relinquished my profession.
.- In reply to the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who commented on the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that there had been no change in Labour’s attitude so far as a successful prosecution of the war was concerned by saying that all that
Labour was prepared to do was to cashin on the war, “ supply tucker “, I declare that the Labour party’s policy has been enunciated time and time again. The Leader of the Opposition has stated definitely where the Labour party stands.
– Where does it stand?
– A few thousand men despatched to Europe or any other part overseas would he a mere drop in the ocean, whereas they would be vitally needed in this country in the event of invasion. I take it that the press is correct when it says that certain sections of the French forces have been demobilized. Britain has not called up the whole of its conscripts. The honorable member for Deakin has often told u3 about his trip around the world. I daresay he attended the Empire Parliamentary Conference in 1.937. No doubt he will remember a statement by Sir Samuel Hoare, one of the leading Ministers in the British Government, that, in the event of another European conflict, Britain would not require the dominions to do what they did in the last war, that is, to send troops to Europe.
– Where did the honorable member get that from?
– From persons who were present.
– I did not hear it. He never said it, either.
– It was said at the conference of 1937. Sir Samuel Hoare said that Britain would, in the event of another war, require the Dominions at least to protect themselves. The honorable member for Deakin also referred to the Empire air scheme, which, he said, was made possible only because Great Britain was sending us thousands of aeroplanes. That may be true, but why is it necessary for Great Britain to send aeroplanes to this country? Here in Australia we have everything necessary for the construction of aeroplanes. We have the raw material and the man-power. If we have not at present sufficient skilled workers, these can be brought from elsewhere to teach our own men. It is now to be done by the Government, but the Government should have acted two years ago when this course was urged upon it by the Labour party.
Tlie honorable member for Deakin advocated a coalition government. He painted a wonderful picture, and told us all about the beautiful lollies we should get if we came over to his side. That sort of thing might be very well in a debating society, but how could we associate ourselves with a government that does not even possess the confidence of its own alleged supporters, and that is condemned by the great bulk of the Australian people, who are only waiting for a general election to turn it out of power ? The Labour party is united behind its leader. Jack Curtin, the Leader of the Opposition, stated at the outbreak of war where the Labour party stood, and we stand to-day where we stood then. The Labour party says that we are behind the Allies in the prosecution of this war for the crushing of nazi-ism. “We did not begin to advocate this only six months ago. We fought against nazi-ism and fascism ever since they first raised their ugly heads. Unlike members of the Government, who, not so long ago, gave lectures at social gatherings about the wonderful work being done in Germany, the Labour party opposed nazi-ism from the start, and has never shifted its ground.
Reference was made by the honorable member for Deakin to paragraph 3 of the Governor-General’s Speech, which is as follows : -
My advisers have put into operation a war policy which, being founded upon the view that the future of Australia is as much at stake as that of the other allied countries, embraces not only the most active measures possible for ensuring the local defence and security of Australia, but also a full participation in the naval, military and air activities of the Allied forces abroad.
L am keeping in mind the provisions of the National Security Act and its regulations. I do not want to take advantage of parliamentary privilege, and since the outbreak of war I have refrained from referring to some of the matters which are burning topics among my constituents of the northern part of Australia. The paragraph which I have just quoted mentions local defence. In that regard the Government stands condemned in the eyes of those whom I represent.
Australian airmen are on active service in and around Great Britain, while thousands more will be trained for participation in the Empire air scheme. Two years ago, the Labour party told the people of Australia that Australia’s first line of defence was in the air. For that we were branded as “ isolationists “, but now the Government; is adopting our policy in toto, the policy outlined by the Leader of the Opposition in Fremantle.
– We do not say that Australia’s first line of defence is in the air.
– Then why is the Government adopting this air scheme ? The Government did not realize the potentialities of air warfare, or understand the developments that have taken place since the last war. It was nol until the outbreak of hostilities that it began to think. Then it threw its weight behind the Empire Air Training Scheme. We can only wonder why this scheme was not inaugurated much earlier. If the Government had adopted in 1937, instead of in 1939, the Labour party’s policy, the policy enunciated on many occasions previously by Labour, there would not be so much confusion and inefficiency now in regard to applications for enlistment in the Air Force and regarding our Air Force generally. There are hundreds in the north and west in my State who are breaking their necks to join the Air Force, but they will not be admitted because they have not an “ old school tie “. There are lads in outback places who possess a pilot’s ticket, and others who are trained fitters. I have been trying for six months to help a lad to join the Force. He is one of a family of nine, whose father could not send him to a secondary school. He has no old school tie, and so he is refused admission. If he had one he would have been in the Force long ago. y Lads as far away as Cairns who want to enlist have to travel at their own expense to Brisbane and support themselves there while waiting to be interviewed by the enlisting officer.
Paragraph 6 of the Governor-General’s Speech contains the following statement: -
In view of the approach to conditions of full employment of our resources, my advisers will, in this session, direct particular attention to further taxation measures and the authorization of war loans.
The words to which I draw attention are, “ full employment of our resources “. At the present time our resources are not being anything like fully employed. This year I paid a visit to certain mining centres in the district behind Cairns, where there are deposits of wolfram, tin and scheelite, minerals which are vital to the manufacture of precision tools necessary in the production of armaments. Let me quote the following news item from the Brisbane Telegraph, of the 25th February of this year: -
£300,000 DEAL IN METALS WITH BRITAIN.
All of Australia’s output of wolfram and scheelite metals, vital for armament work, has been purchased by the United Kingdom Government, at a price which it is believed will exceed £300,000.
New South Wales is listed as the sole exporter of scheelite, but there are huge deposits of this metal in the north. Why is there no reference to them? As regards the claim that South Australia and Victoria are the main producers of wolfram, I cannot do better than quote from the Brisbane Telegraph, of the 26th February last -
So far no advicehas been received by the Minister for Mines, Mr. D. A. Gledson, that Queensland will benefit in the £300,000 expenditure by Britain on the purchase of wolfram, molybdenite, scheelite and other minerals used in the manufacture of explosives.
Discussing this proposed purchase to-day the Minister said that Queensland was ready to produce wolfram, scheelite and molybdenite as soon as the Commonwealth Government intimated that there was a payable market.
That is reasonable. Men cannotbe expected to go out into the backblocks and suffer all sorts of discomforts and inconveniences in order to obtain metals, only to find when they return that there is no payable price for the minerals. The newspaper report continues -
These metals were extensively mined in Queensland during the Great War, when this State was the world’s greatest producer. It supplied three-quarters of the world output, and Canada the other quarter.
Queensland produced three-fourths of the world’s output of wolfram, yet when the Commonwealth Government enters into a contract for the supply of this material, Queensland is forgotten. The report shows the stupidity of those who say that wolfram comes chiefly from Victoria and South Australia-
– What is the price of wolfram ?
– It has been fixed at 50s. sterling a unit. Not long ago it was only 36s. a unit ; in 1937, the price went as high as 139s. 9d. a unit. In 1938-39, Australia produced 19,708 cwt. of wolfram, valued at more than £290,000. That represented about £14 4s. 3d. a unit, but the miner received only about £8 a unit. Men who sit in upholstered chairs at polished desks in well carpeted rooms in offices in ornate buildings, equipped with telephones and every possible modern convenience, receive more for these metal* than do the men who obtain them.
Another paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech refers to the coal strike. Much has already been said regarding this dispute, but as there are coal mines in my electorate, where men are on strike, I cannot be indifferent to the issues involved. Behind this strike there are elements which it is difficult to understand. Judge Drake-Brockman spent from the 3rd November, 1938, to the 20th April, 1939, investigating the coal-mining industry. He went down into the bowels of the earth, where he. saw for himself the conditions under which the miners work. On the 29th June, 1939, he delivered his judgment which provided inter alia for a 40-hour working week - eight hours each day from Monday to Friday, inclusive. The award also provided for proportionate increases of wages, so that the men in receipt of wages would earn in 40 hours as much as they previously received for 44 hours’ work. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has said, the award, although generally satisfactory tothe miners, did not give to them all that they desired. Later, the Full Court upset Judge Drake-Brockman’s award, whereupon the men went on strike. Men who have experienced the hardships associated with strikes do not go on strike merely for the sake of doing so, or in order to obtain a holiday from work. They do not lightly choose to spend their time idly, waiting until the tussle with the boss is over, because they know the hardships involved, not only for themselves but also for their families. They know that while they are idle their womenfolk have the utmost difficulty in providing the families with the necessaries of life. The workers know that they can never regain what they lose in wages; they go on strike only because some vital principle is involved. Last Friday the Prime Minister went to Kurri Kurri, one of the centres of the Newcastle coal-fields. His speech on that occasion was broadcast over the national network. The leaders of the miners had asked that their side of the story should also be broadcast, but their request was refused. They then issued an invitation to the Prime Minister to attend their meeting at the sports ground. Any one listening to the Prime Minister’s broadcast speech would have thought that he visited the sports ground without an invitation from the men - that as a brave man he was prepared to face a horde of ferocious lions or cannibals. Instead, he met an assembly of 6,000 of the finest of Australia’s citizens, whose daily occupation takes them into the bowels of the earth. The people with whom I come in contact want to know what the Government is doing to settle this dispute. With the nation at war conditions to-day are not the same as when the waterside workers were on strike. If the Prime Minister and his colleagues are, as they profess, eager to win the war for the Allies, and if the coal strike is interfering with the nation’s war efforts, it is the duty of the Government to take action to settle the dispute. The miners do not wish to remain out of work; they are anxious to get back to their jobs. They will not, however, go back under conditions which are worse than granted to them in 1939 by Judge Drake-Brockman.
I wish now to refer to that portion of the Governor-General’s Speech in which His Excellency says “ In marketing administration my Ministers have the valuable assistance of boards established for the purpose “. I was one who viewed with grave concern the intrusion into government administration of the captains of industry as members of boards. I do not question the capacity of these men to do the job; if they did not have high qualifications they would not occupy their ^present positions in industry. We are told that they are rendering valuable assistance to the Government at no cost to the country. I am not naturally a suspicions person, but I admit to being a little suspicious of this board. I have studied the working of regulation 153 under the National Security Act dealing with hides and leather. The chairman of the board controlling hides and leather is Mr. J. F. Murphy, -Secretary of the Department of Commerce. If all of the members of the board were like Mr. Murphy, the producers would be satisfied. The deputy chairman, Mr. E. Anderson, is a retired tanner. Other members are Mr. E. J. Bowater, general manager of Vesteys; Mr. Douglas,, is, or was, associated with a firm of hide exporters; Mr. T. Crannitch is a hide broker; Mr. W. E. Hooper is associated with a large Melbourne firm of hide dealers; Mr. Goldstein is a manufacturer of boots and shoes, and Mr. Zehan who is a Victorian grazier. This board was constituted for the purpose of marketing Australian cattle hides. The State that produces 90 per cent, of Australian cattle killed for export was not granted representation upon it. The regulations provide that, in addition to the members of the board, one person, who must be a hide-broker - that is a middle-man - carrying on business in Queensland, or a person actively engaged in such business in Queensland, who must be appointed by the Minister, may attend and take part in any meeting of the board, but may not be permitted to vote or be counted “in any quorum. In other words, control of this industry, as is the case with almost every other one in Australia, is handed over to hig interests in Sydney and Melbourne. The industry is vital to Queensland, and the livelihood of thousands of men in that State depends upon its prosperity. Under the regulations, a man must possess a meatworks licence before he can deal in hides. In the early stages of the activities of the board in Queensland, licences were issued to Vesty’s Swifts, Bed Bank, Borthwicks, and to the Queensland Meat Industry Board, which does not kill one head of cattle. [Leave to continue given.] Men fulfilling contracts for the supply of meat to the British Army are operating at the Brisbane abattoirs. One of these, last year, killed 40,000 head of cattle. Certain private operators who did not obtain licences had to sell their products as “ butchers’ hides “, at a rate considerably lower than the appraised price paid for hides sold by meatworks licenceholders. They had to sell according to a sliding scale of payments varying from 5d. down to 2d. per lb. That was unfair discrimination against those who were not granted licences. The discrimination in favour of owners of meat works was as much as 4s. to 8s. a head of cattle. Because of this the small operators without meatworks licences were almost unable to buy animals. One such man went to a place north of Brisbane to buy 250 head of bullocks. After inspecting them, he said that £10 a head would be his maximum offer. A licence-holder then stepped in and bought them for £10 ls., which was at least 4s. a head less than their true value. The point was that the unlicensed man could not afford to pay more than £10. He would have sacrificed his chance of making a profit if he had paid more. As the result of this state of affairs, the men who were not granted licences commenced a strong agitations, and telegrams, couched in terms that would not be regarded as parliamentary, were forwarded to responsible Ministers and members of the board protesting against this unfair discrimination. The upshot was that members of the board came to Brisbane, and after hearing the cases of the men, issued meatworks licences to them. It had taken from the 16th December, when the first application was made on their behalf by the Queensland Meat Industry Board, until the end of February to win their point. During that time, some hides were being appraised and sold at a much lower price than they were worth. Some operators had refused to market their hides until they were granted meatworks licences, and, consequently, they were able to sell at a higher price than they would have obtained otherwise. I have been informed that operators in other States also suffer disabilities because they had been refused meatworks licences. A licence gives a man the right to sell his own hides. If these men in Queensland had not been granted meatworks licences, the operators owning their own works could have sent the cattle to their works for treatment. Also with less competition the price of cattle would have been forced down. The Queensland Meat Industry Board, with no cattle to treat, would have had to pay off a considerable number of the 1,600 men employed by it, and would have been forced to turn to the State Government for financial assistance. Such assistance could only come from taxation. So it will be seen the interests of a large number of people who pay taxation in Queensland are wrapped up in the activities of the board.
Another matter affecting the industry is that of price discrimination. The authorities fix one price for Sydney and another for Brisbane. Each year 231,000 head of Queensland cattle have been driven to New South Wales to be sold and treated, and the prices obtainable for hides in Sydney are higher than those paid in Brisbane. If the cattle are killed in New South Wales, the price available for hides is as much as Id. per lb. more than is paid in Queensland. Thirty southern tanners are to-day operating in Brisbane, although previously they had not operated on that market. The number of hides available on the Brisbane market is communicated to the southern States each Wednesday, although the information is not made available in Brisbane until each Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, by which time the Brisbane tanners fulfilling contracts for military boots, learn that the hides have all been sold by tender. Because of this practice the Queensland manufacturers cannot maintain their contracts except by purchasing inferior hides at a higher price, from the South. They have been able to obtain only one-third of their requirements of hides, and therefore, they are scarcely able to cover overhead expenses. Vendors of hides on the Brisbane market do not receive as much as vendors operating in Sydney. As an example I point out that the class of hide called the “ best butchers’ hides “ was appraised at 8-Jd. per lb. in New South Wales. The open auction price for that class was 7fd. For the same quality the appraised price in Queensland was 6Jd. There is nothing questionable about those figures, because I have taken them from actual catalogues. I call attention to a case in which the appraised pricein Queensland for 45-lb. hides was57/8d. per lb. The bid at open auction was 7¼d. per lb. The appraised price in New South Wales was6¼d. per lb. In this instance there is an excess tax paid by the Queensland producer of 13/8d. per lb. The Commonwealth Constitution is involved in this matter. Brisbane hide vendors are obtaining counsel’s opinion as to the constitutional aspect of the operations of the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board, and they have been informed that its operations conflict with section 51 (ii) relating to taxation which provides “ taxation so as not to discriminate among the States “. The instances which I have quoted represent taxation discrimination. The Brisbane hide vendors are asking a fair thing: all they want is to be given the same price as the Sydney operators. I refer again to the case in which a hide appraised at57/8d. per lb. was sold at open auction for7¼d. per lb. The appraised price was all that was paid to the producer; the excess went to the credit of the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board. The result was that there was an excess tax of 13/8d. per lb. on a 45-lb. hide on the Queensland producer over the Sydney price of6¼d. That represented an extra penalty tax on the Queensland grower -of 1s. 4/8d. a head over the appraised price.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Mr.RIORDAN. - I direct attention to the following tables which set out in detail the appraised prices of hides on the Brisbane market and also on the Sydney market: -
The tables will merit the closest study. They show quite clearly the disparity which has been the cause of so much trouble in Queensland. There is no real justification for this disparity. It is based upon the circumstance that, when war was imminent, the graziers who normally supplied the Brisbane market withheld their stock and hides from sale because of the uncertainty of the whole situation and the realization that the Government intended to fix prices. As the result of the disparity in the prices, 231,000 cattle which have been driven over the border into New South “Wales and sold are appraised at the Sydney prices - ‘the higher rates. Normally the hides which would have found their way to the Brisbane market are now going to southern tanneries. A further result has been that 30 southern tanners are now operating on the Brisbane hide market. This will affect contracts for military boots as Queensland boot contractors will experience difficulty in securing leather. The difference between the price realized at auction for hides and the appraised price has been paid into Consolidated Revenue, which is having a very unfair effect upon Queenland and ls actually causing the Queensland people concerned to pay an excessive penalty tax. Steps should be taken without, any delay to correct this position. The shortage of hides to Queensland tanners is causing unemployment in the Brisbane tanneries, and this in turn is having an adverse effect on employment in the boot manufacturing industry in Queensland. I direct attention to the destination of the hides from the Brisbane abattoirs which normally go to Brisbane tanners as further indicating the unsatisfactory situation. For the week ended the 9th March, only C.6 per cent, of the hides from the Brisbane abattoirs found their way to the Brisbane market. The corresponding figures for the succeeding three weeks in March were 17.8 per cent., 34.7 per cent., and 35.2 per cent. Of the total number of hides available during March, only 23.7 per cent., on the average, found their way to the Brisbane market,, which was less than 25 per cent, of the total requirements. Brisbane tan neries are not getting sufficient hides to meet their requirements or to fulfil their orders. I understand that the deputy chairman of the Hides and Skin Board has been in Brisbane investigating the position. It will be interesting to see the result of his visit. The board is supposed to operate in the interests of the Australian producers as a whole. I therefore trust that as the result of this visit the price of hides will be fixed at a rate equal to that obtaining in Sydney. If this course is followed, the Queensland industry will be satisfied. But some such action is essential, otherwise all those interested in this industry in the northern State, including the employees, will be penalized. The employees in tanneries are only working from week to week, and they are surely entitled to some security of employment. They should not he left to feel that their work is constantly in jeopardy. I appeal, through this Parliament, to the members of the board to give serious consideration to a revision of the price of hides so that Brisbane prices will be similar to those obtaining in New South Wales.
– I have always rather enjoyed the debates of the kind that honorable members opposite engage in during the coneluding months of the Parliament. I am by no means a veteran, but I have been a member of six Parliaments and so on six occasions I have listened to honorable members opposite, as a general election has approached, rise one after another in their places in this House-
– Have only honorable members of the Opposition risen?
– Honorable gentlemen opposite have risen one by one to tell the people of this country, and the world at large, what a wonderful win the Labour party would have at the forthcoming election. But what, in actual fact, has been the record of this boasting party? It has been a hopeless record. The truth is that on only one occasion for almost a quarter of a century has the Labour party been entrusted with a majority at a general election. Consequently, while in a sense I enjoy listening to their remarks, I am also becoming a little impatient. What happened following the election that the Labour party did win? The party was returned with one of the strongest single parties that this House has ever known, but in less than two years it had broken into a dozen pieces through its own civil war. On the other hand, the parties opposing it have been returned on nine occasions with a majority. To put it in another way, on only one occasion in nearly a generation have the members of this boasting Labour party, or its predecessors, been returned with a majority. In all that time the Labour party has not written a single line of legislation which has been favorable to the working men of Australia. This is the actual truth, and in view of the speeches that we have listened to from the Opposition benches in the last few days it .is as well that it should be told.
Yet it is the members of this party who have the audacity to stand up in this House and accuse honorable members on this side of the chamber with being bunglers and misleaders of the people. I say, therefore, that it is as well that the truth should be told occasionally, and that the empty prophecies of these boasters should be revealed for what they are worth.
I wish to ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin)-
– The honorable gentleman should apologize to me before he asks me anything.
– The Leader of the Opposition will grow old before I shall ever apologize for anything I have ever said of him. The honorable gentleman has taken advantage of his position to level charges against a few officers engaged in my department. These public servants and journalists have had utterly baseless charges laid against them without any opportunity having been given to me to reply. They have been charged with being bunglers in their work, and this must be prejudicial to their very livelihood in the future. When I replied to the Leader of the Opposition in kind, lie asked for an apology! The charges levelled against these men were among the basest ever heard from a prominent member of the Australian Parliament. That is the truth, and since I first said so the Leader of the Opposition has not ceased to squeal, just as he is squealing to-night.
– I have not heard any squealing. The squealing is in the Minister’s imagination.
– I shall drop the matter at that. I can look after myself and I do not want either sympathy or threats from the honorable gentlemen opposite.
– As the Minister attempted to make an apology he should have made it properly.
– I did not attempt to make an apology. I withdrew one phrase; but there was no apology.
– Oh !
– There was no apology and none was intended. But if the Leader of the Opposition will now stand up and apologize to the members of my staff, I shall be pleased to apologize to him.
– What for?
– For using his position to make a most unwarranted attack upon members of my staff.
– I did not make any attack upon them.
– The honorable gentleman attacked them as bunglers.
– I have never called them bunglers.
– I suppose it is the old story. The pressmen have taken him up wrongly!
There are two or three mysteries that are concerning me quite a lot at present which I should be extraordinarily pleased to hear some honorable gentleman opposite explain. I have been worried for quite a long time, as I believe the people of Australia have been, by the mystery of the defence policy of the present Opposition party. Where does the party stand and what is its policy in this war? The next mystery upon which I should like some light thrown is the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition on communism. I should like him to tell us explicitly what he thinks of communism and what he thinks should be done with Communists. Then I should be particularly rejoiced if the honorable gentleman would tell us frankly what he thinks of the present Labour party position in New SouthWales.
– The Minister should look after his own party affairs.
– I am quite able to do that, but I should like some light - as I am sure the people of Australia would - upon these three questions : The Avar policy of the Labour party, its policy on communism and its real position in New South Wales.
Let us take, first, the Labour party’s defence policy. At the outset we were told that Labour was opposed to compulsory military training in this country. That was all right up to that point. We were then told that it was utterly opposed to the sending of any units of troops outside Australia for service overseas. A clear exposition was given on that subject, and we were assured that Labour would stand to it. But after troops had been sent overseas, the question arose whether Labour, if it came into power, would leave them there without any support or would bring themback to Australia. The party advanced a little at that point, and said it would leave them there. The next question was: Would it reinforce them? After a great deal of hesitation, because the party was beginning to think of its masters outside, it was announced that it would reinforce them. I wish honorable members to pay particular attention to this point because, while the Labour leaders said, during the Corio by-election, that Labour would reinforce the men who had been sent abroad, it is a fact that, before that by-election and since, a considerable number of members of the party have gone up and down the country doing their best from innumerable platforms to stop the recruiting of young men for service overseas.
– That is not fair. Name them !
– Name them? If honorable gentlemen opposite spoke to-morrow they would speak against recruiting for service overseas.
SirCharlesMarr. - It has been done in this House.
– And during tin’s debate. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) opened his speech to-night by declaring against our soldiers fighting abroad.
– Name them!
– Will the honorable gentleman say that it is not true?
– I say that it is not true.
– It is untrue. Name them!
– I shall name them in my own good time. There you get a positive policy of political dishonesty. You have this force overseas, an increasing force, the very flower of our Australian race, and the Australian people and those young men overseas have no assurance, in the event of honorable gentlemen opposite being returned to power while this war is on, of their being reinforced.
– The Leader of the Opposition has already declared that they will be reinforced.
– What is that assurance worth when so many of the party are opposing recruiting for service overseas ? “ No service overseas “ is the first plank in the Labour party’s war programme.
I come to the Empire Air Force. What is the Labour party’s view on that? I think that I heard the Leader of the Opposition claim, when this great scheme was announced, that it was the policy of the Labour party, but I have never heard him say, nor could I bring the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) up to say, although he claimed that we had, so to speak, stolen his party’s thunder, that he favoured this Empire Air Force for which we are to train 26,000 pilots, observers, bombers and gunners. Does Labour believe in and subscribe to that policy?
– There is silence.
– Yes. Where is Labour on that? Surely, it is a great and vital question for this country to-day. It is one of the greatest training schemes that any country has ever undertaken. It is a greater programme than Britain undertook at any time before this war; yet not one word will the Opposition say as to whether it approves of the policy or not. Does the Labour party expect to go to the country dumbonthatsubject? Is Labour going to allow all this work to take place in the meantime and on the eve of the elections declare that it does not believe in it and it will not let men go away? Is that to be the policy, or, as I strongly suspect, have those outside conferences that control the Australian Labour party, said “ Oppose it !” ? I believe that in their hearts honorable gentlemen opposite believein it but have not the courage to say so, because the conferences will notlet them .
Let us ask honorable gentlemen opposite, while we are asking them a few questions on. policy, where they stand in respect of the Navy?. Is their policy the three-miles territorial limit, or is it that our Navy is toserve overseas? Are our ships to go to the North Sea as circumstances require and opportunities permit as they didin the last war? That is a fair question. Are they to convoy Australian ships to the East or Near East if Labour comes into power, or are they not? All we get in answer to these vital questions is dead silence. I have never seen such a lack of courage in politics in all the time . I havebeen associated with politics. In view of this silence, . what does Labour mean and whom does it expect to. impress with its declaration that Australia is, according to. its policy, an integral part of the British Empire?
– British Commonwealth.
– Or Commonwealth. . “ Empire “ is a word that honorable gentlemen opposite dislike. We shall say “ Commonwealth “. What notice can be taken of Labour in this country when it says that it is heart and soul opposed toGerman nazi-ism, that it is against these brutal aggressors and overrunners of small nations ? What does a statement like that mean, if there is to be nothing behind it? Not a blow is to be struck; not one. Labour will train troops, teach them all that is to be taught of modern infantry methods, train a great air force, build a navy. Labour wants us. to get busy in shipyards building a navy which is not to go outside the three-mile limit:
– The honorable member says “No”. What is the Labour policy if it is not that, if its idea of participating in this war is by spending vast sums of money and piling up totally unnecessary Australian defence?
Opposition Members. - “ Unnecessary?”
– In its magnitude unnecessary. This air force that we are contemplating is unnecessary for the defence of this country.
– It is not.
– No one would dream that it is necessary. Labour’s great contribution to the smashing of this foul, modern German brutality is to arm and remain in this country. What would happen to us if our Allies armed and remained in their countries? What would have happened to us already if Britain had kept its navy in the North Sea? Would one shipload of stuff have got out of this country to British ports? Surely, there is a little spirit of reciprocity to our Allies and the other parts of the Empire that are fighting in this war. The Labour party claims to be a rival national party to this party, a contender for leadership. Now, in the gravest time we have ever known since the landing at Sydney Cove, we find that that party refuses to declare a defence policy of any sort whatsoever. Labour says that our contribution is to make our part of the Empire safe. I venture, for what my view is worth, to suggest to honorable members opposite that this country could not possibly be saved by a stay-at-home policy. If trouble arises in the Pacific,’ if any great power makes war upon us in the Pacific, there is only one certain power and force that can save Australia and that power is Britain, and that force the British navy. That is the plain truth. We have not in our power, no matter what we do or spend within the next two or three years, the ability to save Australia unless the British navy, capital ships and other ships, is in these waters, to deal with any aggressor.
– New Zealand agrees.
– Yes, New Zealand agrees. That country has a Labour government, which, I venture to say, is a saner government than would be a government composed of members of the Opposition that we have here. Australia could not be saved against even eight or ten -enemy cruisers. It could be kept intact and the enemy might not land here, but- the economics of the country could not bc kept going. Those standards for which we have fought and wrought for two or three generations in this country could not be maintained - the wages standard, the hours standard, and the living standard. Those standards would he destroyed if any trouble came in the - Pacific, if we had been content to sit down here and defend Australia at home. It must be obvious, and I believe that it is, to honorable gentlemen opposite, just as it is to us on this side ; but the trouble is that they are not free men. I say that in no offensive way. I believe that it is just as obvious to them that, if this war is to he won, if we are to avoid defeat and have victory at the lowest possible price in human life, if we are to prevent those great peoples that are at present neutral from going over to the enemy and, if possible, attract them to our side; not only must we fight, having first made this country safe, in the north where the enemy is and break him. hut also, if we are to achieve those things, our slogan should be “ promptitude “. We should get into this war overseas with all force and speed. -I have indicated that only one thing would save us here and that is the British navy. After all, we should be certainly falling down in all our breeding and tradition if we made no reciprocal gesture in this war. The British navy, from battleships to the smallest craft, is fighting and sacrificing in all the waters of the globe; but it is not solely employed in fighting. The present fighting on the Norwegian coast, all these contests in the air and upon the English Channel, the protection of all convoys, all that vigilance and sacrifice of the best British life are just as much for the men, women and children in this country as for the English, Scottish”, Irish and Welsh people at home. Are we by the adoption of the Labour party’s policy to make no contribution, to suffer no sacrifice? Is that policy for us, as a British race? Well, it is the only defence policy from honorable gentlemen opposite. If I cannot move them by any appeal to their love of country and their pride of race, I shall try them again on material grounds. If trouble comes in the
Pacific and, as I have said, we do not get a great British force to help us, we lose the control of the seas. Our export trade comes to an end and the price for our primary products will collapse. All this prosperity we enjoy, is that not worth even a blow? Are we to make no effort to defend this new prosperity which the war has brought us because of the purchase of our commodities by Britain? Are we to turn this almost fully employed continent into an unemployed one?
– Fully em- ployed?
– Yes, allowing for normal unemployment, the level of employment is high, as honorable members know very well. I should now like to say a few words-
– About the profiteers?
– No, about the position of the Labour party in New South Wales. This is, according to the side of the House from which one views the matter, at once the greatest tragedy, and the greatest comedy that I can remember in Australian politics. It is high tragedy to honorable members opposite, particularly to those who follow the Leader of the Opposition, but it is great comedy to us who sit on this side of the House. We think it is fine fun, and I am sure that honorable members oppo- . site will not resent the zest with which we enjoy it. I do not wonder that we are in the dark as to where honorable members stand in regard to this new “ boxon “ in New South Wales. The Leader of the Opposition does absolutely nothing about communism. It seems difficult to understand why; it seems to be loaded somewhere. It must be that the Communists control so much of the Australian Labour, party that they have a stranglehold, not only on three of our greatest industries, coal, iron and steel and transport by sea and land, but also on that which is more significant to honorable members opposite, the pre-selection ballot. That is what the Communists have laid their nasty hands on, and so the Leader of the Opposition has very little to say abou I the Communists. It is all the more refreshing, therefore, to learn what the goldminers at Kalgoorlie had to say on the matter yesterday. One wishes, in a time of crisis like this, that there were a little of that kind of courage among honorable members opposite. I am not afraid to say what I think of Communists, and what I should like to do with them, but we are not likely to hear much on the subject from honorable members opposite, unless the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is going to break out. I wish he would. However, while the Leader of the Opposition says nothing on his own behalf, he condemns the Government for not taking stronger action against the Communists. At the same time, he condemns and abuses the honorable member for West Sydney because that honorable gentleman is one of two who have formed the antiCommunist Labour party. It is difficult to know where the Leader of the Opposition stands, and what really is the attitude of his supporters towards this malign influence which threatens to ruin Australia, and has brought about this coal strike which is causing immeasurable suffering, not only to a grand body of men, but also to a grand lot of women and their children. They have nothing to say against this foul, foreign-financed group, these enthusiasts for Russian communism. I have no terms strong enough with which to denounce them. Honorable members opposite claim to represent the workers, and yet they stand aside while this deadly sabotage goes on, while this strike continues against one of the finest awards that Labour has ever won out of the Arbitration Court. It is one of the richest awards that Labour has ever been given by that court. The miners, who are a fine lot of men, a patriotic lot of men who came out of the last war with a splendid record, are now the victims of a Communist clique. I am not one of the veterans of this House, but I was in the galleries of the Commonwealth Government in the early days of the Labour partv in the first Commonwealth Parliament. I remember Labour men of a different kidney from those who are here now. When there was industrial trouble, members of the Labour party like Andrew Spence, Charles McDonald and the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) did not spend their time sitting about Parliament. One rarely saw them in the House unless they came down to fight in the interests of the men. They went to every meeting, and, if the strike were in the mines, they went to every pit. If they believed the workers were wrong they said so, but if they thought they were right, they fought their battles with them. In condemning the present members of the Labour party in this respect, I make an exception in favour of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and one or two more. Apart from them, I defy any one to name a member of the Opposition who has gone within 100 miles of the coal-fields. Why? Because they are afraid. They are afraid that they will lose the preselection if they go against the Communists.
.- I am glad to observe that the Government proposes to continue its war effort. It is impossible to understand the attitude of the Opposition at the present time. I cannot see how any loyal subject of the British Empire can possibly support it. My only complaint is that the Government is not doing enough. In the last war Australia, with a population of approximately 5,000,000, had, within sixteen months of the time war was declared, four infantry divisions in the field, and one formed and on the way.
– We had Japan with us then.
– If the honorable member believes that Japan is a menace to us there is all the more reason why we should have our men in training. We then had four brigades of light horse, and many men in the camel corps. It is true that we are now doing much more in the air than we did then, but still we are not doing enough. With a population of 7,000,000 we should have six divisions in training. If members of the Opposition really believe that there is danger from the East, then they have something to answer for. They have to answer for the fact that every young man in Australia has not had military training, so as to be able to take a rifle and use it as a trained soldier.
– The Government must answer for that.
– It was a Labour government that suspended the system of compulsory military training.
– But this Government has been in power for nearly ten years.
– If this country is ever attacked from the East the Labour party will have to answer for the fact that the young men of Australia are not trained to take the field. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said that, in his opinion, if danger threatened the Dutch East Indies, and the people of Australia were asked for assistance, they would willingly render that assistance. It was only a little while ago that every honorable member of that side of the House voted against a proposal for bringing the overseas territories of Australia under the Defence Act. Surely this is a remarkable somersault. In the first speech I made in this House on defence, I suggested that, in the event of war, we might have to send a division to help in the defence of Singapore, or to go to the assistance of a friendly nation in the East, and I can remember the jeers with which members of the Opposition greeted that statement. I remember the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asking me where I thought the frontiers of Australia were. I thought then, as I do now, that the frontiers of Australia are anywhere from which the security of the Empire or Australia may be threatened, whether it be New Guinea, Europe, the Dutch East Indies, or anywhere else.
– But does the honorable member agree with the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron) that’ ten divisions should be sent?
– If necessary, yes. I certainly believe that we should have six in training. The Leader of the Opposition said that Australian troops had been sent away from Australia to a place where there was no war. In my opinion, a good reason why there is no war there is because the British and French have a substantial force there in readiness. Although there is no fighting there, our partially trained men are relieving trained British troops for service in France or Norway. Members of the Labour party would have us believe that they are afraid of aggression against Australia itself, in spite of the fact that the British fleet commands the seas. Yet, in spite of their professing to believe in the imminence of danger, they are not prepared to support the introduction of compulsory military service. Why? Because they think their opposition to it is a good election cry. They know that every young man capable of bearing arms should be trained to use them in the defence of this country.
– Does the honorable member know that during the last war the soldiers in the trenches voted against conscription?
– I voted against conscription, and I would again vote against it for service overseas. Australia can get all of the men that are required for overseas service without conscription if they are asked in a proper way.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that the men in the camps were dissatisfied with their pay. As far as the men of the Second Cavalry Division are concerned, I am in a position to say that they were satisfied with their rates of pay.
– What about the men in receipt of 5s. a day?
– There have been no complaints from them. I believe, however, that Australia should treat men of the Australian Imperial Force more generously, and also that their officers are entitled to the mess allowance which they always received in the past. The men have had certain increases of pay, but the officers are worse off as regards pay than they were in the last war. A Staff Corps colonel in the Australian Imperial Force actually loses about £90 a year in order to risk his life and serve his country in the field. That is wrong. All Australian Imperial Force officers should be granted a mess allowance.
– What about the privates?
– They should get Australian conditions and rates of pay.
– The Government does not think so.
– The honorablememfor for East Sydney also complained that members of Parliament who are serving in the Militia are receiving two salaries. I am the most highly-paid military officer of such members, and my pay is the same as a divisional commander receives in time of peace when the number of training days is only 24 a year, although since the House rose for the Christmas vacation I have served four and a half months in camp. The only exception is that I do not get a mess allowance. I have had to pay for my own meals, and, in the circumstances, I do not think that I have been overpaid. As to the other members of this Parliament who are in receipt of military pay, the amount is so small as to be not worth mentioning.
– The honorable member receives £250 per annum in addition to his parliamentary allowance.
– That is correct. I get the same pay as a divisional commander gets in time of peace.
– Yet the wives of privates nic refused a separation allowance.
– If, as the honorable member for East Sydney says, there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the men in camp regarding their rates of pay, it is possibly because some person like the honorable member has been trying to cause dissatisfaction. I remember that some time ago the honorable member went to Garden Island, where he tried to create dissatisfaction and disloyalty among the naval ratings. Fortunately, the men of that gallant service were loyal, and they took no notice of him.
– The Government was compelled to grant them certain concessions.
– If anything which the honorable member for East Sydney said had any effect on the Government, it would not be fit to govern the country.
In. his usual style, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) made an impassioned appeal for an early cessation of hostilities. How he proposes to obtain that result I do not know, for he is not prepared to fight against the dictators, nor would he allow any one to go from Australia to fight them. Peace can be won only at the point of the bayonet.
– Why did the honorable member shake hands with von Luckner when, he was here?
– I have never shaken hands with him in my life. I suggest that the honorable member for Batman should wait as a deputation on Hitler with his proposal. Were he to do so, he would- probably be treated as he deserved.
He stated that the present trouble was largely due to the fact that Britain had infringed the neutrality of Norway. One of the proudest boasts of the British navy might well be that it did infringe the neutrality of Norway in order to rescue British seamen from the Altmark Norway committed many breaches of its neutrality. For that, I cannot say that I blame the Norwegian people ; they were in the position of a small boy confronted by a bully standing over him with a stick. No one believes that the Norwegian authorities did not know that British seamen were imprisoned on the Altmark ; but they allowed them to remain on board. The action of the British navy in rescuing them is something of which the British race has reason to be proud, even though British ships had to enter neutral waters to take them off the ship. The honorable member for Batman said that Germany followed a bad example when it infringed the neutrality of Norway. Will he tell us whose example Germany followed when it invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland, and massacred thousands of innocent people? The example was set, not .by Britain or France, but by the leaders of their own breed who down the ages have acted similarly. Modern Germany followed the example of those Teutonic knights who entered Danzig, massacred the whole population and occupied the city. What Hitler did in Europe is what he would do in Australia if we were to adopt the policy of the Labour party or the Communists in this country and allow the British to be defeated.
– The policy which succeeded in Corio.
– Possibly the electors of Corio, knowing that the Government was safe in any case, did not think that it mattered much how the by-election resulted, but when the general elections come around I do not think that the people of that electorate, or of Australia generally, will take the risk of returning a government with such a stupid defence policy as that of the Labour party.
The honorable member for Batman also said that when one sees a bush fire, he does not sit down and watch it. I say that his policy is definitely that of a man who would sit down and watch a bush fire and take no action to stop it until it reached his own fence. Probably he would then throw down his bough and run- for his life. The honorable member is not living in the right country. 1 suggest that the honorable member for
Batman should go to Pitcairn Island, where the country is so poor that nobody wants it. Possibly, he may be able to live in peace in such a place. Australia is the greatest prize in the world for any nation such as Germany or Russia. He also said that he was entitled to know why his constituents should have to fight on foreign battle- fields. Apparently, he is prepared to sit down here until the enemy comes, and then he would see his constituents - not only the young men, but also the women and children-die on Australian soil, and not lift a hand to save them.
As I have said, I have only one complaint regarding the Government’s war policy, and that is that it is not doing enough. Australia should have six divisions in training, in the East, and in Australia. If the fear of the Labour party is correct, what greater defence could we have than three or four divisions of young Australians ready to defend Australia? I believe that Germany will not be defeated anywhere but in Germany itself.
In relation to a few matters, I regret that I am forced to agree with the honorable member for East Sydney. I agree with him that a great number of the boots supplied for use in the Army were a disgrace to their makers. Some which were supplied to my division were not worthy of the boot manufacturers of Australia. They were rubbish compared with the boots that, were supplied during the last war.
I also agree with the honorable member regarding bonus shares issued by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. In connexion with this matter the Government made a grave mistake. The people of Australia are prepared to submit to heavy taxation, but they will resent the company mentioned being allowed to distribute large sums of money by means of bonus shares which are not subject to income tax.
The Government must take steps to deal with the wheat industry of this country. The position to-day is a little better than it was, but the payment to the wheat-growers is most inadequate.- It is essential that another- payment be made. Huge quantities of wheat are- still stored in Australia, and arrangements must be made to make a’ further advance to tha growers. Seeding time”- is again upon them, and unless a fairly substantial advance is made to them, they will not be able to carry on until the- next harvest. Although wheat is required in Europe, it is impossible to get sufficient ships to transport it, and consequently arrangements will have to be made to store it in Australia. “When the war is over there will be hungry millions in Europe and Asia, and large quantities of wheat will be needed. Despite a heavy carryover, the price will probably increase, a» it did after the last war. The Government must stick to the wheat-growers and enable them to carry on, in order that the world may be saved from what might be possibly a greater disaster than the present war.
.- In the course of his speech on the Address-in-Reply, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to the present coal strike. Again to-day he made a statement on the same subject. As honorable members know, I went up last week to the coal-fields and had a varied and interesting afternoon at Kurri Kurri.
– A very good place.
– A place of which I formed, a high opinion and a place in which I had the pleasure of addressing 4,000 men who impressed me, and I say it quite frankly, as decent men who were just as good Australians as I claim to be -myself, but who were palpably being led by the most extraordinary collection of people that I have ever clapped my eyes upon. I want to say something to the House about the coal strike.
I want to say something about the attitude of the Government to the coal strike and something, about the merits which are involved in this strike. Since I believe, in going right to the point, I should like to say, after the most prolonged consideration of the issues involved in this dispute, after hearing deputations from both sides repeatedly, that this coal strike is entirely without justification. When I decided that I would go to Kurri Kurri - and I may say in order to relieve the doubts of some critics that I went to Kurri Kurri because I was advised that that was the most central place to which to go - I did expect that, if any argument arose, and I was not so innocent as to believe there would be no argument, I would hear something about the merits of the dispute. I went there as Prime Minister, and I went there offering to address the coal-miners on this dispute sis the Government saw it. The leaders of the coal-miners decided, so far as I can see, that my meeting should be boycotted. I can only imagine why. I can only guess as to the reasons which made the leaders of the strike unwilling that the leader of the country should speak to the strikers. I draw my own conclusions about it. But the fact is that my meeting was boycotted.
– Because the right honorable member would not let the strikers broadcast.
– I expected my honorable friend to make that remark. He says : “ Of course they boycotted your meeting, because you would not allow their spokesman to speak over the national broadcasting system.” I shall deal with that. It is a very common error into which the honorable member has fallen to believe that, when a Government of a democratic country has something to say, it must immediately provide that some opposition to the Government shall have something to say.
– The right honorable gentleman went to Kurri Kurri in tho interests of the employers.
– That is the honorable member’s assumption. I am very glad to hear him put it into words. The assumption is that I went there as the representative of the employers and that, of course, the representatives of the employees must have their word, and that then the public should judge. I went there as the representative of the Government of Australia, and the sooner it is realized that there can be only one government in this country at one time, the better. I am not, as the head of this Government, conducting a debating society. I went to the coal-fields when, I suppose, it would have been quite easy to remain here, in order that, as the head of the Government, I should say to as many men as could be got to hear me what the Government felt about this matter.
– The right honorable gentleman could have settled the strike from here.
– The honorable gentleman should undertake my present responsibilities if that is his view. My meeting was boycotted. I received a heated challenge - it literally floated through the air - to come to where the miners were at the local football ground, because there they were to have an indignation meeting and there they were to listen to all the eloquence of their leaders ; and I accepted the challenge and went there and waited for an hour and ten minutes while those leaders of the coalminers debated among themselves as to whether they should allow me to speak. Finally, their audience, having the matter put to them, decided that they would hear me speak. But it was an interesting experience, because I listened to four speakers; then I said something, and then I was told that there would be one speaker in reply; but, in fact, there were four. If this was a debate, it was a novel one to me - eight speakers on one side, one on the other - but I am happy to say that I remained quite unmoved by it, because if you are one speaker against eight, and you have all the merits, you need not worry.
– The right honorable gentleman went to Kurri Kurri with a closed mind.
– There are too many closed minds in this dispute, and that is what I went up there to deal with.
– What was the percentage of the majority that decided whether the right honorable gentleman should be allowed to speak?
– By a majority of 50 to 1 the men decided that they would hear me, and I venture to say that some of the gentlemen on the platform were most disconcerted by that decision. One would have imagined that, in the course of sitting on the edge of a boxing ring engaging in light badinage with the people in the front row and listening to eight selected orators, I should have heard something about the merits of the coal dispute. I heard not a word about the merits of the coal dispute.
– The right honorable member was carried away.
– If I were the honorable member, I would not talk about being carried away, because he will be carried away at the next election and never heard of again. I have no doubt that he will prove to have been the most vociferous corpse that was ever carried away.
I imagined I would hear something about the merits of the strike; but what did I hear? I heard from eight speakers, with one honorable exception - I should place on record that Mr. Baddeley, one of the State members of Parliament, observed decency and restraint throughout in the presentation of his case and I except him - but with the exception of him, I heard nothing but a constant stream of abuse and, in the case of one or two speakers, abuse couched in the most filthy language, of myself in particular, because I was there and I was to be terrorized, and of the Government in general and of the judges of the Arbitration Court, giving a particular place of dishonour to the chief judge, Sir George Beeby. And throughout the whole of this stream of lurid, but dubious, eloquence, I heard not one word as to why there was a strike, what the merits of the strike might be, or the terms on which the strike could be terminated. I heard an intolerable amount of nonsense about flags - about the Union Jack, and the contempt in which it ought to be held, and the glories of the Red Flag. I heard nothing that would suggest that there was any realization on the part of those men that .this strike is keeping out of employment thousands of miners who, as I say, are decent citizens of Australia, and committing to a life of temporary poverty their wives and their families. That was a very remarkable experience, so rem ark.able in fact that I want to take the opportunity to say something to this House, with its permission, about the merits of this dispute. They ought to be placed on record.
This dispute arises out of an award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, an award delivered in the first instance by Judge DrakeBrockman, and then, because questions of standard hours were involved, taken to the Full Arbitration Court under the law of the land. I say that in the first instance because it is important to realize that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has for many years provided, as my friend the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) knows from his own experience, that questions of standard hours shall be dealt with by the Full Arbitration Court.
– And also provides that uniformity of hours should prevail in an industry.
– The honorable member had better have another look at the act. It is provided that standard hours shall be dealt with by the Full Arbitration Court. That provision was among those left untouched by the Labour Government when it amended the act in 1930. And so when Judge Drake-Brockman undertook to affect the hours of work the employers raised the point that this was a matter which had to be dealt with by the Full Arbitration Court. They were right, and it went to the Full Arbitration Court, and it was dealt with. Then because the Full Arbitration Court confirmed some changes in the award made by Judge Drake-Brockman, this country has ‘been plunged into a strike, and set upon a course which, if it is not changed, will lead to an industrial dislocation of the first magnitude and will lead temporarily, at least, to the paralysing of Australia’s war effort.
Let me just examine what the position of these awards was. Under the award of the Full Arbitration Court the hours of employment of all underground workers in coal-mines, and of surface workers whose work brings them into direct contact with the handling of coal and coal dust - a group described by the court as the “face to wagon group” - were fixed at a 40-hour week, bank to bank, inclusive of crib time, and therefore representing an actual working week of very considerably less than 40 hours. Those men who were given that period of work - underground workers and surface workers in’ the “ face to wagon group “ - number no less than 85 per cent., as I am informed, of the workers in and about a coal-mine. In the case of those surface workers who are not in direct contact with coal, and who are not in the way of being directly affected by coal dust, the hours were preserved at the hours existing before the dispute - 86 hours a fortnight. For men working on the surface, working under conditions not one whit inferior to those existing in other industries, a period of 13 hours a week was prescribed. This dispute, in short terms, is produced by the activities of those organizations which are in the 15 per cent. and which say: “We should not have an 86-hour fortnight ; we should have a 40-hour week, bank to bank, inclusive of crib time, exactly the same as the men down below.”
– They say nothing of the kind.
– They do indeed; they have devised some beautiful proposal of their own. I say that on the numerous occasions on which this matter has been put to the Government the proposition has been that the men on the surface - the engineer, the engine-driver and the mechanic - should go to work at the same time as the underground miner, and knock off at the same time; that there should be a uniformity of hours between them. If there is to be uniformity of hours between them, it means that these surface workers are to have a 40-hour week, inclusive of crib time, because that is what the underground workers have. That means, actually, that the working week for the surface workers will be37½ hours. In order that this claim may be prosecuted by direct action, in defiance of the court and of the law of the land, the industries of this country arc to be tied up and the supply of munitions is to be impaired.
– How does the Prime Minister get at the37½ hours a week?
– By taking the 40 hours a week and deducting meal times. That gives 37½ hours.
– That has prevailed since 1916.
– The honorable gentleman is referring to underground workers, and I am not. The underground workers were granted a 40-hour week, bank to bank, by Judge Drake-Brockman and this was confirmed by the Full Court. The only matter in dispute relates to the men working on the surface, and the hours they are to have. . I wonder what honorable members think, and what the public of Australia will think, . of the claim that the men working on the surface should have de facto a working week of37½ hours in order, that they may have the same working time as the underground miners, without any consideration of their health and the nature of their work, or their incom par ably superior conditions generally to those of the men who work down below?
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that . 8,000 decent Australians would be striking if the position were as he has put it to the House?
– I have . not. the slightest doubt that the position is as I have put it. I have gone to too many pains to verify the character of this dispute to have any doubt of what I am saying. If the Leader of the Opposition finds it impossible to believe that 8,000, or 80,000 decent Australians can be misled by a set of imposters, it will not be the first time that it has happened, and it will not be the last.
What I say, of course, will not impress some honorable members opposite very much, whichever party they belong to.
– What about the parties on the other side?
– If the honorable gentleman will have it, there are two parties on this side of the chamber, the United Australia party and the United Country party. On the opposite side, there is the anti-Communist Labour party and, well, the non-anti-Oommunist Labour party. I am occasionally unkindly reminded that there was a distant time in my life when I practised the law. I had then a good connexion amongst the trade unions. I remember with very great interest and some pride that we usually won in those days. But there was one thing that I then discovered. It was that what the other fellow said was better evidence sometimes than what I said. So I have consulted what might be called an authority. I produce this newspaper with very great pleasure because I am the last Prime Minister who will be able to produce it. It is called Common Cause. It is, moreover, the official organ of the Miners -Federation of Australia.
– What is the date of it?
– It is dated the 14tb October, 1939, and it is edited by Mr. W. Orr, -who is the general secretary of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation and who, I may say, was one of the more eloquent spokesmen to whom I listened the other day. Common Cause, for the 14th October, 1939, was published in relation to the award of the Full Arbitration Court which I have been discussing, and which had been made something over a week earlier. The newspaper published the full text of the court’s award as to hours, which award has been the cause of this devastating strike and is now hounded down by these people as something that no free man could tolerate. The award is being challenged by these men as something that justifies the paralysing of all Australian industries. I ask honorable members to remember that, because on the 14th October, when the matter was still fresh in their minds, and when the full text of this pernicious award was not only in their minds, but was also actually published in their journal, this is what was said about it on the first page of the paper -
The award of the Full Bench of the Federal Arbitration Court on the federation’s claim for a reduction of hours has now been issued, lt is published in this issue in full. A full perusal of it will indicate that it consolidates the federation’s gain of a uniform 40-hour week.
Commenting on the award, the general president, C. Nelson-
The “ C.” Nelson may mean “ Comrade “ Nelson, but I shall have to obtain some technical advice on that point. The report proceeds -
Commenting on the award, the general president, C. Nelson, said one material gain achieved its a result of the award was the elimination of the obnoxious clause in the Brockman Award affecting surface employees wherein it was compelled them to work an extra half-hour per day.
The establishment legally of a maximum working week of 40 hours to be worked in five days was also a material gain to the federation on a Commonwealth-wide basis. The natural sequel was that the coal-owners could not work on Saturdays without involving the penalty of paying the special overtime rates. As act out by the court, the award would give two clear days’ rest for the mine-workers away from the mines.
That was. what Mr. Nelson had to say about it; but, if I may say so, there is a greater man than Mr. Nelson. It is Mr.
Orr. Mr. Nelson’s technique is smoother than that of Mr. Orr, the gentleman who announced proudly last Friday that he was a Communist, and the gentleman who is the natural foil and complement to that stirring speaker, Mr. Bondy Hoare, who spoke about the iniquities of the Union J Jack
– Is the Prime Minister trying to convey the idea that the miners were or were not with their spokesmen?
– I wish to make it perfectly clear to the honorable member for Hunter that I came away from his electorate, as I did on a former occasion, with a very warm regard for these mine-workers, and with a very low regard for those who were misleading them.
I shall not read in full the leading article in Common Cause, the editor of which is Mr. W. Orr, but it says -
The “ first round “ gave the majority of federtionists employed in the industry the highest wages in history. The “ second round “ as well as giving industrial advances has meant the first decided improvement in social conditions since the early days of the industry.
Later it goes on -
A fortnight’s paid holidays take the place of an enforced lock-out, never legally recognized, at the workers’ expense. Most significant of all, this impressive forward move has been made at a period when all understanding of social trends and past experience would suggest that this was a time for a capitalist offensive. Instead of standing with our backs to the wall, grimly awaiting an attack upon conditions, we have gained in an offensive. When has it ever been done before?
That is what Common Cause had to say, and let no honorable members say “Ah, yes ; but those are the bleatings of a Communist with whom we have no truck”. Those are the bleatings of a -Communist, it is true, hut the Communist occupies the position of general secretary of the federation as, unhappily, Communists occupy positions as general secretaries of other organizations in Australia.
– “A Daniel come to judgment.”
– I accept my colleague’s observation, except that I suggest that Mr. Orr, by deed poll, should change his name to Daniel.
Let me say one further thing on the merits- of the dispute. It has been said in this dispute, and not at Kurri Kurri, but in conference I understand’, that over and above these great results of which these men boast there should be further advantages. It matters nothing that this country is at war. It matters nothing that we are engaged in a combat the loss of which will destroy unionism and all industrial conditions. These people say: “We must seize the golden moment and take advantage of the preoccupation of this country and of the earnest desire of the Government and Parliament to get on with the business of the war to get something more. If we do, what does it matter? The employers will pay it. It is quite true they have no profits worth talking about- “
– What rot!
– I knew that the honorable member would say something of the kind. He can always bc relied upon to make the right observation for my purpose at the right time. Quite plainly there is a dilemma here. Either further costs, in addition to those involved in this award, can be met by the coal-mine owners out of profits, or they cannot. If they cannot, then the price of coal to the Australian consumers must go up. The choice is one or the other.
– There have been no qualms about putting up the price of wheat.
– Then I take it that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) accepts the proposition that the price of coal would have to go up ?
– If necessary, yes.
– Well, the Australian public will not readily accept the proposition.
– What about the profits of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited?
– Some honorable gentlemen opposite are always ready to refer to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. They do so on every possible occasion. To them the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is “Public Enemy No. 1”. .’ As a matter of fact, one or two members of this Parliament would not be here if it were not for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. They should remember this occasionally.
I had a look only this afternoon at the Stock Exchange records to see what these coal-mining companies who, so we are told, can so readily disgorge their profits are paying in dividends. For the information of honorable gentlemen opposite who may be of a speculative turn of mind and who may care to invest some of their savings in a really good thing, 1 shall tell them about this.
– The right honorable gentleman should sell some of his Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited shares.
– I have none to sell. It is a pity for the honorable gentleman who wades always in the financial sewer ; but, if it is any comfort to him, he may know that, when I became Prime Minister, I sold every industrial share that I had in the world.
– To dummies.
– When the honorable gentleman says “ to dummies I say that is a lie, but that will leave him unmoved, because lying is his stock-in-trade.
– The right honorable gentleman is not game to have an inquiry into his share holdings.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must not interject. His interjections lead to disorder which must cease.
– As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, though I appreciate that your responsibility is to maintain order in the chamber, I have always found that the abuse of the speaker is an unfailing substitute for real argument.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must not interject; I shall not warn him again. His remarks have led to gross disorder. The fault is not altogether on the one side, but it is mostly his.
– Now, I had a look, as I was saying, at the records of these coal-mining companies.
Mr. McHugh interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wakefield must not interject. I have warned him earlier to-night.
– I took out, and I am sure that this will be illuminating to the honorable gentleman, the simple story of five of the major mining companies. The Caledonian Collieries Limited, which has a capital of £1,500,000, has ordinary shares paid up to £1, which the honorable member could buy for 2s. It has 6 per cent, cumulative preference shares, which might, perhaps, attract the honorable gentleman, as a prudent investor, a little more than the others. These can be bought for 10s. 6d. Cessnock Collieries has a capital of £275,000. It has a more fortunate story. Its ordinary shares paid up to £1 can be purchased for 16s., and the preference shares, paid up to 10s., can be bought for 8s. Heddon Bellbird has a capital of £450,000 in ordinary shares paid up to £1, which can be purchased by the member for East Sydney for 2s. 3d. a share. Two and three for a £1 share!
– That is astounding.
– Well, it is a magnificent opportunity to become a capitalist.
– Tell us the profits that the companies are making from their shipping activities and their iron and steel works.
– I now come to J. and A. Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited. I wonder what ships they own ; what steel works they have.
– They have plenty.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hunter must not interject.
– All equally unprofitable, because it is one company and it has £900,000 of capital and its ordinary £1 shares can be bought for 17s. 6d. Mr Kembla has £350,000 of capital, and £1 shares which can be snapped by any honorable gentleman for. 5s. 6d. a share. If it were in accordance with the rules of the House, which it is not, I would ask the permission of the Chair to get a parcel of those shares from the proprietors and conduct an auction. If the proposition is that these companies., are so rolling in profits that they ought to be making concessions which are beyond those described in such glowing terms by Common Cause, what is wrong with buying some of them ?
– The unions should buy the shares.
– Yes. I am indebted to my colleague. The unions should buy (hem. A fraction of the money laid out on this strike would buy the unions a majority holding in some of those - companies ; but it does not happen, because it is a strike to get out of industry, already unprofitable, conditions, and conditions, mark you, in all the circumstances that I have described, which are even better than the magnificent conditions awarded by the court and described in such glowing terms by the man who is the strike leader and is now holding the industry of Australia to ransom.
– Are those .companies carrying on out of sheer love and desire to serve Australia? [Leave to continue given
– I am obliged to the Leader of the Opposition for his interjection. The honorable gentleman will be one of the first people to realize that on many occasions a company, firm, or individual will find it far cheaper to carry on business, even at a loss, in the hope that some day the tide may turn, than to close that company up, and for ever lose the capital.
Mr. Rankin. - Did His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman not take into- account the capacity of -the industry to pay ?
– The learned judge devoted a good deal of consideration in his judgment to the state of the industry and he pointed out, as I have, not in the same terms, that the industry was nol to be described as a profitable industry, but for reasons, which seemed good to him, admittedly, he was prepared to go the whole distance in relation to the surface men as well as in relation to the men underground. I do not want to be offering my view of His Honour Judge DrakeBrockman’s reasoning ; it is not my function to do so; it was the function of the Full Court, and the Full Court, the duly constituted tribunal to deal with what the learned judge said in the court in the first instance, did so. The Full Court pronounced its judgment. I turn to that. It is said that these men have a grievance, because something was given to them by the first judge, and was taken away by the other judges. It is true in one or two particular instances that that was done, but there are two comments that I want to make on it. The first of them which I have made to the miners themselves, and now repeat is this: What would have happened if it had been His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman who had given the inferior award, and the Full Court that had given the better one? Would we then be told by these men that you cannot take any notice of the Full Court ?
– The right honorable gentleman is puttingup “ Aunt Sallies “.
– It is a very interesting “ Aunt Sally “. It is one that the honorable gentleman might care to consider if he were one bit as familiar with the history of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as he is with one or two other matters. He would know that on many occasions trade unions in Australia have had cause to be thankful that there is a court of appeal. He would have reason to know that it was because of the existence of the appeal court that many of the technicalities of the Arbitration Court were swept away. But the court is constituted under the law, and the Full Court has given the judgment with which we are concerned. One of the judges of the Arbitration Court, His Honour Judge O’Mara, had an application made to him by the federated engine-drivers. The federated engine-drivers are, of course, one of the groups of people concerned in this dispute, and, although they were on strike, they applied to His Honour Judge O’Mara on a certain proceeding, the nature of which does not matter, because the real question was whether they were justly or unjustly on strike against the Full Court’s award. His Honour Judge O’Mara said this -
The Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australia asks that the hearing of this dispute he continued notwithstanding the strike of its members in the coal industry. That strike is a strike against an award of this court and if newspaper reports are correct that fact is further aggravated in the case of this union by the assiduous attempts of one of its officers to belittle this court by misstating its decisions and questioning the capacity of certain of its members.
That sentence does not surprise me, because the same tactics were resorted to at, Kurri Kurri. What was said about His Honour the Chief Judge at Kurri Kurri would not be printable even in Hansard -
No objection would be taken to this last line of criticism if the statements of fact upon which it is based were correct. Unfortunately, they are not. The impression exists that the awards off the Full Court in which by a majority decision the award of Drake-Brockman J. was set aside, wasless favorable to the general body of employees than the awards of the lastmentioned judge. This mistaken view seems to be shared by many. The awards of the Full Court altered the award of DrakeBrockmanJ. in many respects, increasing hours and wages in some cases, reducing them in others, but, in the aggregate , increasing benefits’ beyond those conferred upon- themen by the award of Drakc-BrockmanJ. Though the members of this union-
That is the engine-drivers federation - were amongst those who lost in this readjustment their wages nevertheless remain higher, and their hours much shorter than those of the general body of engine-drivers with whom I have been dealing.
That is a very weighty observation. Any examination of these awards will indicate that it is a true observation. What I want to emphasize to honorable members is that this devastating dispute is one which seeks to improve good conditions, that conditions already better than those enjoyed by people in any comparable industry should be made even better. The basic wage in New South Wales for a 44-hour week is £4 2s. The basic wage in these coal-mining awards for an unskilled surface hand for a week of 43 hours is £5 10s. 6d.
- -That is if they work.
– Yes, precisely; I accept that.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The right honorable gentleman has misrepresented what I intended by my interjection. When I said “ That is if they work “,I meant distinctly “ if the coal trade is sufficient to give them work not that the men are striking, as the right honorable gentleman tried to convey.
Mr.MENZIES. - I accept willingly the explanation of my honorable friend. At thesame time, with the best will in the world, I take leave to remind the honorable member that by far the greatest amount of broken time in the coal industry since Mr. William Orr took charge of it has been brought about by strikes, and not by other circumstances.
– I only wish that I had the right toreply; that I had not spoken earlier on this motion.
– I assure the honorable member that I also wish that he had the right to speak again.
– Then move a separate motion, and I will show what the circumstances are.
– As I explained at Kurri Kurri I am . always wrong. Up there they were so nervous that they put up before me four speakers, put me in the. middle, and four after me. I am on this occasion enjoying the rare privilege, for the time being, of having the last word. I hope that my friends will not grudge it to me. It is very seldom that I have.
– Will the right honorable gentleman tell theHouse that theFull Court took from the craft unions the 20 per cent. increase that Judge DrakeBrockman had given them?
– The honorable member . reminds me of the wages aspect of this award, and I am grateful to him. He has reminded me that the Full Court, when it came to make the consequential wages adjustment, granted a smaller increase than Judge DrakeBrockman had done, but in the Full Court the unions refused to call any evidence on that point at all. The court was asked to increase wage rates, so as to give the same earnings as before. When this matter was finally considered by the Full Court, the unions concerned offered no evidence and no argument on the point, and the Full Court made a percentage adjustment which was different from that made by Judge Drake-Brockman.
Mr. Curtin. - The evidence taken before Judge Drake-Brockman was before the Full Court.
– It was, and I am glad that the honorable member has mentioned the fact, because it has been suggested that the Full Court ignored the evidence. It is true that the Full Court had the evidence before it, but it is also true that, although the proceedings before the Full Court lasted, not eleven minutes, as one heated advocate said, but eleven days, the unions refrained from calling any evidence., or offering any argument on “wage adjustments. The Chief Judge of . the Arbitration Court, before the strike began, said that if the unions desired to come before him and tender evidence on that matter, and bring accountants to give evidence, “ he would hear them. . .
– And he said he would lift it up.
– Why did he undertake to lift it up without hearing evidence?
– He would act on the reports of the accountants.
– The Attorney-General and I know more about it than the Prime Minister, and we know why the Chief Judge said he would lift it up.
– It was made clear that if the. unions wanted to give evidence, and bring accountants to go into the matter of wage adjustments, they could have done so. The court door was open, but those leading the miners said that they did not want the court. Their most vigorous leader said, after the strike had begun, “ We are doing well, and we will go on until we tie up every industry in Australia”. That, as a statement of Communist objective, is- complete and perfect. From the point of view of Australians, though it may be complete, it is far from perfect, because this community still believes, by an overwhelming majority, in the principle of arbitration. It believes in having an umpire to give a decision, and it believes the umpire’s decision ought to be observed. We occasionally talk of our affairs and national activities as if- they were a game, employing the terms of games to describe them. Would any honorable member - and I put this same question to the miners at Kurri Kurri - suggest that after the referee had given his decision in a football match, one team should hold a stop-work meeting to decide whether they would obey. [Further leave to continue given.]
I- want to say this by way of conclusion : The Arbitration Court has, for a long time, made it clear that if either party to this, dispute invoked its jurisdiction, and asked it to call a conference, it would do so. The court has, for as long . as I can remember, had power to vary an award or to re-open any question, though in relation to these matters, it has laid down and follows the excellent rule - and I hope.it. always will - that people who are on strike against an award of the court cannot invoke its. jurisdiction to vary a ruling. That is a healthy rule, and a sound one. Even at this stage, before. -it is too late, before the sandsof the patience of the Australian community have run out completely . I say- to thesemen that there is one plain course before them; that is, to go back to their work. Having gone back to their work, let them then take such grievances as they have to the court, and say to the court, which is the proper authority, “You made a mistake; you should have made this adjustment; we have evidence on this point and on that “. It is not for me to decide those points. They are, for the court to decide. People who recognize the value of this tribunal would not go on strike against an award. If, after the delivery of an award, after the first fine careless rapture has subsided, they come to the conclusion that something has been overlooked, or some mistake made, let them go back to their work, and then approach the court for the adjustment to which they think they are entitled. I want to make it clear that the patience of the Australian community is not inexhaustible. The Australian community will not tolerate, nor will the Australian Government tolerate, the tyingup of the vital industry of Australia in order that, against the decision of the court, something that is good may be made a little better. This is not the time for that sort of thing, and the Australian community expects, now that this matter has been discussed, now that the dispute has become clearer to the minds of every one, together with its consequences, that the men who are unhappily and misguidedly on strike will go back to work immediately. I hope they will.
– ‘Will the right honorable gentleman say why he will not assist in having a compulsory conference called ?
– If the honorable member asks me, by some form of political intervention, to weaken by one jot the authority of the Arbitration Court, and the authority of the law of the land, he is wasting his time.
– The nation is at war.
– That is all I want to say at this stage. I hope that, before the sands run out, wisdom shall prevail, and that, in the next day or two, we shall see the men go back to work. This is no game that we are playing. The penalty for defeat in this war will not be merely that the man who is working an engine on the surface at a coal-mine will have to work so many hours a week ; unionism itself will be in the balance; industrial conditions will be in the balance. Is there anybody in Australia so foolish as to imagine that we are any more immune from the perils and the chances of this war than was Norway which, for a century, had been sleeping in peace in its northern seas? I wonder what would happen if an enemy were actually to appear off the Australian coast? Would we be having strikes to decide whether we should work for 40 or 43 hours a week? Would there be any of these disputations? No, of course not. If we have any sense of reality regarding the position of the country, we should give up treating this business as if it were an industrial game. We are coming down hard onto the fact that if we are to defend our principles of industrial justice, security under the law, a new province for law and order, as the great Higgins described the Arbitration Court, we had better be about the business of defending it, not destroying it.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented -
-The honorable member has already spoken to the question. He may make a personal explanation but in doing so must confine his remarks to explaining where he has been misrepresented.
– Yes but I have been deliberately misrepresented. On the day the Prime Minister went to my electorate to address the miners, I did not go there, because I did not want to fight him in my own backyard, or do anything that might embarrass him. I preferred to put my case here. I have done so, and I have been misrepresented in regard to it. I think I ought to be allowed to correct some of the statements which the Prime Minister has made.
– There will be other opportunities to speak upon the merits of the coal strike, but the honorable member may not speak again in this debate.
.- The Governor-General, in the first paragraph of his Speech, says that the war was forced on Britain and France by flagrant international law-breakers. We must recognize that the root of this war lies in the Nazi ideology, which would destroy everything that is dear to the people of this country, and to those of the other democracies. Nazi-ism is carrying out organized propaganda which is designed to destroy the religious beliefs of the people, and to substitute the barbarism of the Middle Ages, whilst Russian ideology, which can be described as atheistic communism, is spreading throughout the world. In the early stages of the great move by Germany to destroy the world, where did some of the leading representatives of Australia and Great Britain stand? History shows that the action of Mr. Anthony Eden, in accepting the philosophy of Russia, caused Italy and Japan to leave the League of Nations. British statesmen showed weakness in not being able to understand the methods adopted by the Russian delegates at the League of Nations. To-day the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) delivered an oration in relation to the coal industry. Some time ago the right honorable gentleman visited England, and I understand that he also went to Germany, for after his return to Australia he spoke to the people of Australia from one of the Christian churches and told them that the Germans were a wonderful people, and that the Nazi organization was playing a great part in world civilization. But the Nazi was just the same then as now. At that time Germany was preparing to destroy the smaller nations of the world by force, but the right honorable gentleman was captured by Nazi-ism because at heart he is a Nazi. He is responsible for encouraging the Nazi organizations that exist in Australia to-day, using mean and contemptible methods to destroy the nation. When I walked along one of Canberra’s streets with him some time ago he said, “ I have a great admiration for the Nazi organization of Germany. There is a case for Germany against Czechoslovakia. We must not destroy Hitlerism or talk about shooting Hitler, the gunman of Europe.” In this address to the people of Australia, the Prime Minister put up a case on behalf of Nazi-ism. He attacked the party of which I am a member because it opposed Nazi-ism from its inception. We pointed out how Naziism had interfered with the religious liberties of the Christian people of the world. He poses as the saviour of this nation, yet he has encouraged German people to march into smaller countries.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has also eulogized Naziism. When he first entered this Parliament, he objected to taking the oath, and wanted to take the Nazi oath. He knows that in his electorate there are German schools carrying out Nazi propaganda and teaching the pagan ideology that has resulted in the Christian churches of Poland and Czechoslovakia being ruthlessly destroyed. Why are not these Nazi institutions in South Australia dealt with? They are in contact with the Nazi organization in Germany. I want to see the destruction of Nazi-ism - that ideology which for many generations has claimed that the German people have been ordained by God to rule the world. I am not now, and never have been, associated with any Nazi organization.
– There are Nazis in Australia.
– Of course there are. As I travel about Australia I hear, in hotels, workshops and elsewhere, a good deal of Nazi propaganda. There are in our midst influences which seek to undermine the British Empire. Nazi agents come here as tourists and as migrants. Wherever they go, they disseminate their propaganda; yet the Commonwealth Government has done nothing to put some of these Germans, who are British subjects, in concentration camps. Some of them should be tried for high treason. In some of our Australian universities lecturers teach Nazi-ism and defend atheistic Communism. Why has no action been taken against them? The Government is not consistent in dealing with organizations of this kind. After the war to end war, in which 60,000 Australian lives were sacrificed, members of the Parliaments of the British Empire went to Germany, and reviewed the German armies. France, England and the United States of America advanced millions of pounds to Germany. For what purpose was that money used? It was used almost solely to create an army which sooner or later would menace the peace of the world. Germany should have been stopped in 1933, but no action was then taken. I voice my protest against the action of the pacifist Prime Minister of England at that time, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, in allowing Britain to disarm, while permitting Germany to increase its strength. In the light of these facts, why blame me and my colleagues on this side, and say that we will not cooperate with the Government in its war effort? The party to which I belong has co-operated to the fullest degree possible. Two years ago we told the Government what we thought it should do to meet the situation that was arising. I supported the recommendation of LieutenantGeneral Squires in favour of a. mobile force in this country.
– That proposal was never voted on in this House.
– At that time, the honorable gentleman’s chief concern was to get into the Cabinet. Far from hindering the Government’s war effort the Labour party has helped the Government. If the Country party had given to the Government similar support, the defences of this Commonwealth would be’ more advanced than they are. When the Prime Minister was seeking funds for necessary defence works, the Country party was concerned chiefly with taking the business out of his hands. I do not regard it as my duty to dictate the policy of the Government of the day. It is the duty of the Government to carry out an effective policy for the protection and preservation of the women and children of Australia, and in co-operation with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and their allies to crush Nazi-ism. The Allies did not expect that Norway would be one of the first battlegrounds in Europe. I am pleased that Germany attacked Norway because it gave to the British a chance to deal a heavy blow at Germany’s navy. I do not think that Germany can successfully assail the Maginot Line; indeed, I doubt whether Germany will attack it at all.
According to a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. McEwen), the position in the Middle East is satisfactory because there are about 1,000,000 men there ready to block any move by either Russia or Germany. Germany may attack Holland, in which case a serious position might arise in the East, and Australia might become more intimately involved in the struggle. I understand that the military experts of Britain recognize the possibility of a conflict between nations in the Pacific over certain territory and some oil-fields held by the Dutch. That is an argument in favour of greater military preparedness on the part of Australia. I realize the need for a navy, an army, and an air force for Australian defence. Two and a half years ago, when the creation of a strong air force in this country was advocated by the Leader of the Opposition, his suggestion was ridiculed by honorable members opposite, who said that aeroplanes could play only a. small part in the defence of Australia. The Air Force will be a decisive factor in this gigantic struggle.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) said this evening that Germany might win the war. An honorable member who makes such a statement has not taken into consideration the wonderful organization of the Allied blockade, which alone can win this war and which is destined to be one of the greatest factors in bringing about an Allied victory. When it has been carried to a successful conclusion, it will be remembered as a master stroke in the tight of the peace-loving democracies. 1 have no illusions about the war.
– The honorable member for Deakin said that no expeditionary force would go overseas without him.
– He attacked the Labour party and then said that no expeditionary force would go without him. An expeditionary force has already gone and the honorable member for Deakin is still here. Not one member of the Labour party is opposed to voluntary enlistment and I have never opposed or hindered the sending of men overseas. Some time ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) stated that he was in favour of sending reinforcements to the Australian Imperial Force. Honorable members on this side of the House have fought for better conditions and higher pay for those men, who are making the greatest sacrifice possible for any man to make. Honorable members of this House will not be called upon to make great sacrifices, because they will not be in the firing line; but those great Australians, who are just as good as those who fought in the last war, are willing to sacrifice all that is dear to them; yet the Government is not prepared to* pay them a decent wage for the job they are doing in defence of this country and the British Empire. That is a scandalous thing that will go down in the history of this country as one of the greatest blotches in the history of the United Australia party Government.
I have listened with disgust to honorable members opposite who have accused members of the Labour party of being Communists or associates of Communists. I. have always been opposed to the Communist organization and its propaganda among the working classes. Its teachings are false and do not give the correct lead to the workers. I have stood on platforms and fought Communists in their endeavours to obtain a hold over the workers and pull them out on strike, just for the sake of striking. The Labour party is opposed to Communists and it believes ‘that if any seditious statements are made, or if any organization detrimental to the nation is established, the Government has all the powers that it requires to suppress them. The Government has not used those powers up to date. It has asked, “What does the Labour party want ? “ The Labour party has no voice in the control of those individuals who from time to time indulge in scurrilous propaganda and take sides with the enemies of the British Empire in this war. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, any country that is allied with Germany is opposed to Britain, and the Labour party is opposed to any enemy of Britain. He has said repeatedly that the Labour party stands behind Great Britain in thi? war. Does the Government want anything more definite than that? The Labour party in Tasmania is not infested with Communists; nor does it associate or co-operate with them and their propaganda in Australia. Any suggestion to the contrary is an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people. If that is the only thing the Government can bring against the Labour party at next elections it is in for a bad time, because the people will reject such statements.
– That issue will be enough.
– I am not afraid to go to my electors and say: “The only thing that the Government has against the Labour party is that its members are Communists “. The people in the electorate I represent do not encourage Communists or Nazis as they do in the electorate of the Deputy Leader of the Government (Mr. Archie Cameron). The honora’ble gentleman has not said a word about that, because he is afraid to do so. He has not the courage to admit that Nazi organizations go hand in hand with the United Australia party and the Country party. I am waiting to hear the Minister announce that Nazi-ism is prevalent in his electorate.
I understand that the Government intends to ration supplies of petrol, because it is coming from non-sterling countries. From figures I have in my possession, I find that during 1938-39, Australia’s imports of crude oil included the following quantities: Iran (Persia), 28,899,681 gallons; Netherlands East Indies, 23,292,092 gallons; the United States of America, 384,504 gallons. Imports of petroleum and shale spirit, including benzine, benzoline and gasoline, included the following: Bahrein Island, 41,857,362 gallons; Iran, 33,949,335 gallons; Netherlands East Indies, 217,860,514 gallons ; the United States of America, 49,994,577 gallons. In the last eight months imports of petroleum have included the following quantities : Bahrein Island, 37,267,798 gallons; Iran, 20,825,008 gallons; Netherlands East Indies, 156,890,197 gallons; the United States of America, 13,932,086 gallons. Those are the chief contributors to Australia’s oil supplies. The Government has not told the people that they are burning too much petrol. The first thing the Government should do is to ensure that the Government itself is not wasting petrol. In the last five months, since the outbreak of war, the military authorities in Australia have wasted thousands of gallons of oil, and they will be largely responsible if petrol rationing is introduced, thus putting numbers of men out of employment. The Government has been approached on the subject. I wrote to the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), who told me that my claims were deliberate mis-statements of fact. I made investigations and found that my statements were true. If the Minister will obtain a Commonwealth Audit report he will find that it contains reference to scandalous and extravagant waste by the Defence Forces ; yet the Government tells the unfortunate worker, who is eking out an existence with perhaps only one lorry, that he must curtail his petrol consumption, because it all comes , from the United Sta.tes of America. That is not true. The great majority of oil imported into Australia comes from Iran and the Netherlands East Indies. Why does the Government tell deliberate lies?
– Imports are linked with the dollar, and not with sterling.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that petrol was coming from the United States of America.
– I have never said so, and the honorable member knows it.
– The honorable member did say so and advocated a policy of conserving the dollar exchange.
– I did not say that.
– Of course the honorable member did. He is dreaming. Who is paying the money for the petrol wasted by officers of defence forces, who go to dances in motor cars controlled by the Defence Department?
– I rise on a point of order. I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether I have any protection from deliberate misstatements.
-The honorable member may deny them. There is no other form of redress. When the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has finished his speech he may make a personal explanation that he has been misrepresented.
– I have listened to arguments submitted by members and supporters of the Government to camouflage wilful and unnecessary wastage of petrol. Those honorable members know very well that in the final analysis Britain and France will depend upon adequate supplies of petrol for victory in this war. They must keep their machines supplied with fuel. The Government should take immediate stock of the position and conserve oil supplies that are at present being wasted by officers of the defence forces who joy-ride in cars that should be used for military purposes.
The Labour party has helped to unite the forces of the people whom it represents in order to co-operate in the Government’s fight to win this war. In return, when the Government believes that an election is imminent, it says that the Labour party is associated with communism and is prepared even to stab the nation in the back. What can it expect the Labour party to do other than to protest against this villainous propaganda? I heard the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) say, “The Australians were not good enough soldiers to take Gallipoli”. That was when the honorable gentleman was advocating conscription. When I challenged him with the statement that the Australian soldiers were equal to any in the world he squibbed it, as he always does. 1 made representations to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) while he was Minister concerning a pension for a soldier, and he said to me, “ No, Gerry ; they just swing the lead “. Just fancy a Minister making a statement like that and alleging that men who were four years in the trenches would swing the lead in respect of a soldier who applied for a pension.
– That is a deliberate misstatement.
– It is true. The honorable gentleman said it in his room.
– The statement is untrue, but it is characteristic of the honorable gentleman who made it.
– The time has gone when honorable gentlemen opposite can get away with statements of that kind. If they intend to make misstatements about us they must expect us to retaliate. They cannot expect to avoid the responsibility of statements made behind closed doors.
I wish now to refer briefly to the apple and pear industry. I direct attention to an article which appeared in the Huon and Derwent Times dated Thnrsda.y, the 11th April, 1940. It read-
Heavy Loss to the Pool.
Unexampled Chaos and Dissatisfaction. lt went on to refer to the very great dissatisfaction in Tasmania with the apple and pear organization scheme, and stated -
Tlie worst aspect of the experience however is that a loss lias been imposed upon the Tasmanian Apple Pool which competent authorities conservatively estimate at £12,000.
That scheme was inaugurated by a United Australia party Government, and the Tasmanian apple-growers will not forget it. I make a protest against it on behalf of the merchants who have suffered. Some of them who had been in business successfully for fifteen years have had their businesses disrupted and have lost their livelihood. Their businesses were treated, in fact, as badly as they could have been treated in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia. Although these particular men did a great deal to pioneer the apple industry the United Australia party Government and its supporters have treated them as not worthy of consideration.
What has happened to the Country party which we were told stood for the farmers ? We . know that for many months they engaged in sniping, and night after night in this Parliament did their best to irritate the United Australia party Ministry. Now, however, they are included within it. Formerly they said, “We shall look after the farmers “. Now they are saying “ We have got what we want and the farmers can look after themselves “. I interviewed one Minister in regard to the apple and pear scheme and he said to me “ I know it was crook and a failure, but it will not happen again next year”. Of course it will not happen again next year because there will be an election before then.
I see the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) in the chamber. I regret that I have need to complain about certain aspects of his administration. Many qualified young men who have applied for positions in the Defence Department have not even had their applications acknowledged. I hold the Minister responsible for this. [Leave to continue r/iven.’] In Hobart, five supporters of the United Australia party have been appointed to half-time jobs in the defence service. I regard these as political appointments, and I protest against them. Other men who were qualified were apparently not even considered, although they applied. This, in my opinion, constitutes an abuse of political power. The Prime Minister had something to say tonight about the sewer. The members of the United Australia party have proved themselves to be the most notable sewer workers in the Parliament, and I do not hesitate to say so. Does the Minister for the Army deny having the making of the appointments to which I have referred?
– The honorable gentleman does not desire to know anything about them. He is a’ very nice fellow personally; nevertheless, he will have to stand up to the charges that I make against him. These were unjustifiable political appointments. Other applicants with the appropriate qualifications should have been considered. One young man had an application in for six weeks and it was not acknowledged. I could also bring another case under the notice of the Minister. Such treatment is unworthy of a democracy. It appears to me that the Minister should visit Tasmania and make an investigation, but apparently he has little time for anything outside Victoria. It is unfair that persons in receipt of high incomes should be appointed to part-time jobs and other persons with better qualifications should not be considered. An appeal has been made for the co-operation of the Labour party, but administrative acts of the kind to which I refer will not do anything to secure that co-operation.
I regret very much the references made this evening by the Prime Minister and other honorable members to the alleged association of Communists with the Labour party. I regret also that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) should have insulted the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who in the last war was found fighting in the ranks. That honorable member stood up to his obligations and should have not been insulted.
The members of the Country party deserve particular condemnation; for, although some months ago they were howling at the Government like a pack of dingoes, they are now found in the same team. It is unjust of honorable gentlemen opposite, who have apparently sunk certain differences to join now, as they are doing, in a most unwarranted attack upon the loyalty of the Labour party. I repudiate any suggestion that the Labour party has anything to do with Communists, whose ideology is as foreign to us as is that of Nazi Germany. It appears to me that the United Australia party has persuaded some Communists to undertake the job of attempting to discredit the Labour party and to kill its chances of securing a majority at the coming elections.
– What does the honorable member for West Sydney say about that?
– I fought communism long before I became a member of this Parliament and I shall continue to fight it inside and outside this House. The doctrines and philosophy of communism are totally out of harmony with those of the Australian Labour party. I shall fight communism relentlessly. I have always been true to the principles of democracy and have always resisted communism. I am also totally opposed to the Nazi philosophy of the Germans. I am as true an Australian as the Prime Minister, and I shall fight for the principles of democracy which are dear to me.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) accused me a few moments ago of making a certain statement about petrol. I have not since the re-assembly of Parliament last week mentioned the word petrol in the House and in the circumstances consider that the honorable member should withdraw his remark and apologize for having made a mistake.
– If I have misrepresented the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and attributed to him a remark made by some other member of the Country party, 1 withdraw the statement.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jolly) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed. -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I do not desire to detain the House unduly, but as I have already spoken in the debate on the Address-in-Reply I shall not have another opportunity to refer to the speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) following upon his visit to the coal-fields. I spoke on the coal strike last Thursday, and I do not believe that I in any way misrepresented the situation. I think the Prime Minister will give me tho credit of not attempting to misrepresent any situation in the House. I think it entirely wrong under our system of government and of society for any honorable member to make any misleading statements. I do not believe that the right honorable gentleman has purposely misled this House.
– The honorable gentleman does not think that I made reference to his speech, does- he?
– None whatever, but the right honorable gentleman made statements to-night which conveniently left out certain things about this particular crisis.
I remind the honorable member that it is not in order for him to refer on the adjournment to a debate which has taken place in the House, except to explain where he has been misrepresented. I have allowed him, and will allow him, to make a personal explanation, but not to refer to statements made by the Prime Minister in general.
– That makes it very difficult for ir.r.
– I realize it, but the Standing Orders and the practice of the House are strict about that.
– I give the Prime Minister this credit that probably through ignorance - I say “ ignorance “ respectfully - of an industry which is very intricate
– Order !
– All right, I shall go out. Close the doors and adjourn the House.
– The honorable membermay refer to the industry, but not at th is stage to a speech made by the Prime Minister or any other honorable gentleman in the House during the sitting.
– I am going. You would protect him anyhow. I always notice that.
– The honorable member will remain in the chamber until he has withdrawn his reflection upon the Chair, or I shall name him.
The honorable member for Hunter having left the chamber,
– I name the honorable member for Hunter.
– The honorable member for Hunter is very hard of hearing. I shall tell him. You know that, Mr. Speaker.
The honorable member for Hunter having returned to the chamber,
– I sympathize with the honorable gentleman, because I know that this is a matter in which he is intensely interested, and I realize his feelings, but the Standing Orders must be upheld by the Chair. I pointed out to him that he could not reply to a speech made by the Prime Minister. I took exception to his remark to me personally. I am sure he did not mean to be offensive, and I shall overlook it this time.
– in reply - Like yourself, Mr. Speaker. I have the warmest appreciation of the interest that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) very properly has in these matters. He has experienced what very few of us have. He lives with this trouble, so to speak, at his front door. He sees it intimately. I have neglected no opportunity in conversation and speech wherever I have gone to indicate that the honorable gentleman, in my opinion, has done his best from the beginning to obviate this trouble and to end this trouble. I made no reference to his speech in the course of my own, and therefore I can be acquitted of any misrepresentation of his. He and I disagree on some of the facts of the dispute; that disagreement does not prevent me from having a complete understanding of the honorable gentleman’s position and a most complete sympathy with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were preedited : -
Department of Information - Summary of Activities for period ended 31st March, 1940.
Ordered to be printed.
Norfolk Island- Report for year 1938-39.
Apple and Pear Export Charges Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 57.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 41.
Gold Tax Collection Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 179.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Orders Amended, &c-
Cinematograph Films Censorship.
Press Censorship (3).
Trade Commissioners Act - Regulations
Amended- Statutory Rules 1940, No. 42.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Performing Right Fees.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Frost asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Is it his intention to adhere to the allAustralian apple and pear pool as agreed to by the fruit-growers when the bill was introduced last session, or is he considering a separate pool for each State, as reported in the press recently?
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
When apples or pears sold under the apple and pear acquisition scheme realize a price which is less than the cost of casing, packing and marketing such apples or pears, is it the intention of the Government to debit the resultant marketing loss to the pool?
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Interest Charges in the Australian Capital Territory.
– On the 19th April, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) asked me to have inquiries made into the reports of the exploitation of the poorer classes in Canberra in respect of hirepurchase agreements and interest charges by money lenders.
I am now in the position to inform the honorable member that following on complaints made some years ago as to the excessive interest being charged by money lenders in the Australian Capital Territory, the Money Lenders Ordinance 1936 was promulgated. Since then, there have been no complaints.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) has informed me that he has not received any complaints as to the exploitation of the poorer classes in Canberra in respect of hire-purchase agreements. If the honorable member furnishes the AttorneyGeneral with particulars of the complaints referred to by him, the complaints will be investigated and appropriate action taken.
r asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The members of the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board are -as follows : -
Thomas Tehan, representing cattle-raisers.
G. Goldstein, representing manufacturers of leather footwear.
Mr. Murphy, Secretary, Department of Commerce, Canberra.
Mr. Anderson, company director, Sydney.
Mr. Tehan, grazier, Seymour., Victoria.
Mr. Cranitch, in the employ ofthe Farmers and Graziers Grain Insurance and Agency Company Limited, Sydney.
Mr.Donglas, . manager ofWilsonCanhan and Company, Melbourne, wool and hide exporters.
Mr. Bowater, of William Angliss and Company, Sydney.
Mr. Hooper, of W.Braithwaite Proprietary Limited, Preston, Victoria, president of the Federated Master Tanners and Leather Manufacturers Association of Australia.
Mr. Goldstein, proprietor ofthe Rightwea r Shoe Company, St. Peters, presidentof the Boot and Shoe Manufacturers Association of New South Wales.
nasked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
These figures may be dissected as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Since the last war, what is the total amount spent up to the 31st December, 1939, on-
Mr.Street.-The answers to the hon orable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Imperial Force : Punishments.
n asked, the Minister for the
Army, upon notice -
Mr.Street.-The answers to the honorable member’s questions’ are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 April 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400422_reps_15_163/>.