15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G.J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Prime
Minister) [2.31].- I move-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, the 1st May, at 3 p.m.
I do this because it has been suggested that itwould be a convenience to honorable members who desire to attend Anzac Day services in their electorates if they could get away from Canberra to-night. The proposal is convenient to the Government, which has a great massof Cabinet work, includingWar Cabinet business, under consideration, as the adjournment would enable the Cabinet to devote tonight and to-morrow to that work. The proposal of the Government is that we should adjourn this evening, about dinner-time, in order to enable members to catch trains, and that we meet onWednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week, reverting to Tuesday,Wednesday and Thursday sittingson the following week.
– I sincerely hope that the adjournment is exclusively for the purpose indicated by the right honorable gentleman. I suggest to him that, before the motion is put, he should indicate to the House the truth or otherwise of reports which have appeared in certain sections of the press that the Government intends to introduce some licensing system in connexion with mine-workers - a proposal which, I submit, would be most contentious.I couldnot agree to an adjournment of theHouse if that course were being contemplated.
– The Government does not contemplate licensing mine-workers.
– I sincerely hope that the interregnum between the adjournment to-night and the resumption of the sittings next week will be used by all those who have influence in Australia to bring about more orderly conditions in industry.
– I should be glad if the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would indicate - if he can do so at this stage - the regular sitting days during this session.
– The present proposal is that we shall sit onWednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the following week, and alternate those arrangements in the succeeding weeks. ‘Should it be found necessary later to sit on four days a week, we shall do so.
– The alteration of the sitting days this week, requiring members to attend here on Monday without much notice being given, did cause a measure of inconvenience. If we could plan our future arrangements on some basis similar to that mentioned by the Prime Minister, honorable members would be able to attend to business here and in their electorates as well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Prime
Minister). - by leave - I stated just now in answer to an inquiry across the table by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin) that the Government does not contemplate the introduction of a licensing system in relation to mine-workers. The Government has, however, given further consideration to the ‘problems which arise from the coal dispute, and it believes that an announcement, in precise terms, of its policy should be made at this stage. Accordingly, I now announce that, unless the mine-workers decide this week to resume work and pursue constitutional methods, the Government will, at the beginning of next week, take steps toreopen the mines. The Governmentis determined that war industries and essential services shall be maintained.
– In the event of the mine-workers refusing to acquiesce in the
Government’s ultimatum and the Government re-opening the mines, can the Prime Minister say under what conditions they will be opened ? Will work be carried on under the Drake-Brockman award, or the award of theFull Arbitration Court?
– The Commonwealth Government would not contemplate reopening the coal-mines except on the terms and conditions prescribed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– Seeing that the Prime Minister has stated that the coal-mines would be re-opened by the Government under the conditions laid down in the award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is aware that most of the States, and certainly New South Wales, provide in their regulations relating to coal-mining that no man shall work at the coal face who has had less than two years’ experience? This stipulation has been made in order to safeguard human life in a dangerous calling: In these circumstances, how does the right honorable gentleman propose to obtain qualified men to work in the mines?
– All safety provisions will be observed, but notwithstanding that fact, steps will be taken to open the mines in the contingency to which Ihave referred.
– In view of the serious conflict that will occur on the coal-fields, should the Government introduce free labour, will the Prime Minister, even at this late stage, use every power he has in order to bring the parties together ?
– I think it will be generally agreedthat I have exhausted every effort up to this stage. It was because of that fact that I made to-day’s announcement, and to that announcement I adhere.
– Last night, the Prime Minister quoted from the publication Common Cause, to show that Mr. Orr and Mr. Nelson, officials of the Miners Federation, had said that the coalminers’ award was one of the best awards that had been issued. Does not the Prime
Minister agree that that was tantamount to indicating to the rank and file that they favoured the award, as I know they did? How can he, then, come to the conclusion that this strike is the result of Communist leadership, when the Communists, in the first place, said that it was a good award? Does the right honorable gentleman know that this isnot the miners’ fight, but is due to the dissatisfaction of the craft unions, and that the miners are in it because they have been brought up with strict sense of union solidarity, believing in the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all?
– Order ! The honorable member is conveying information, not asking for it.
– That being so, why did not the Prime Minister inform the House in his speech that theFull Court of the Arbitration Court took away the 40-hour week from the craft workers, and also took away the 20 per cent. increase which the judge had granted to them?
– Dealing with the interrogative portion of the honorable member’s remarks, it is true that the Communist leaders started off by applauding the award. It is equally true that they later on. condemned it. It is equally true that they have since fomented the strike. It is also true that one of the two gentlemen referred to announced recently that he, and those connected with him, would carry on this fight till they had tied’ up every industry in Australia. The whole story furnishes an example of how men can follow a course of conduct which begins with the approval of an award, and ends with what can only be described as revolutionary action.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Bishop Moyes, of Armidale, recently visited the coal-fields, spent some hours underground, discussed the coal strike with representatives of mine managements, the miners’ lodges and the miners’ wives and then stated that he was sure the rank and file of the miners had a genuine grievance which he was convinced was a general feeling among themass of the men and was not the result of agitation by a few?
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that the question which I endeavoured to ask and which you disallowed was no different in character from the question that has just been asked by the honorable member for Ballarat, who referred to a newspaper report.
– There is no point of order, nor can there be on a ruling given from the Chair. The question asked by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) was framed in an entirely different way from that of the honorable member for Ballarat.
– My attention has been directed to the report quoted by the honorable member for Ballarat. I regret to say that it is not the first occasion on which I have found myself compelled respectfully to disagree with a bishop.
– Is it a fact that Mr. W. Orr, the general secretary of the Coal- miners Union, who has admitted that he is a Communist, spent several years in Soviet Russia?
– That is a direct question to which I can give a direct answer. I understand that Mr. Orr has on many occasions admitted that he is a Communist, and the information in my department shows that he has visited Russia.
– Will the Attorney-General inform me whether it is a fact that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), have visited Soviet Russia? If so, does he consider that they are, therefore, in sympathy with communism?
– I am unable to answer the honorable member’s question specifically, but I know it is a fact that one of my colleagues who visited Russia has been ill practically ever since his return to Australia.
– Is the Government in possession of information that would indicate that the Communist party in Australia is receiving funds from overseas? Has the Government any information to show that the Communist party in Australia is openly preaching the overthrow of the Government by revolution?
– As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I have no doubt that the whole essence of communism is as indicated by the inquiry. As to the first part, I shall have inquiries made.
– In view of the information that the House now has in its possession about the preaching of revolution by Communists in Australia, why has no suitable action been taken against those persons, especially in view of the fact that this country is now at war? Is there any truth in the suspicion that prevails in some quarters that the Government is allowing these men their liberty for its own political purposes?
– There is no truth in that suspicion and I am quite sure it does not exist in the mind of the honorable gentleman. The first part of the question relates to a matter of policy on which it is not the practice to answer questions.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact, as reported in the press, that Lord Halifax has been conferring with M. Maisky, the representative of the Soviet Government in England, in regard to a trade pact between the two countries? If so, do the Prime Minister and his supporters approve of the action of a Minister of the Imperial Government in conducting negotiations with the representative of the Soviet Government?
– I would not offer any opinion on negotiations between the British Government and the representative of a European government, with which it was not at war, regarding trade matters unless those matters affected Australia. It is, I believe, true that such conversations are going on. I can well understand that they must, because Great Britain and Russia, not being at war, have certain trade relations which must bo made the subject of conversation between them.
– In view of the reported shortage of water, and the urgent need for adequate supplies of water, at
Whyalla, in South Australia, as well as the possibility of the position becoming more serious owing to the rapid growth of the population at that place, will the Government consider malting a special grant to the South Australian Government for the provision of adequate supplies of water at the place mentioned?
– The matter referred to in the honorable member’s question has been the subject of direct discussion between the Commonwealth Government and the Premier of South Australia. From the point of view of the Commonwealth, the discussions have been carried on in the most sympathetic way. Representatives of the Commonwealth were sent to Adelaide to have some further detailed discussion with the Premier of South Australia, and when their report has been received, the Government will give further consideration to the matter.
– In view of the uncertainty existing in regard to the total expenditure on defence, and moneys raised from war loans and defence taxation, will the Treasurer say if there has been delay in connexion with war expenditure and the carrying out of the defence programme? If so, will he state the reasons
– There has been some lag in connexion with defence expenditure. That lag has been taken fully into consideration in the financial programme of the Government. I hope next week to make a statement in the House as to the financial policy of the Government, when this matter will be fully referred to.
– The Minister for the Army will recall that I wrote to him in January of this year urging that an inquiry be made into alleged improper practices associated with military contracts and that since then I have made repeated requests for a reply. I now desire to know whether the Minister can reply to my representations on the matter.
– The matter to which the honorable member refers is now the subject of correspondence with the Con tracts Board. This afternoon I have communicated with Melbourne on the subject and I hope to be able to supply the honorable member with information with regard to it early next week.
– Will the Prime Minister have prepared a list of trade union officials and associates of the Australian Labour party who have at various times declared themselves to be Communists, and table the information in this House?
– I shall ascertain whether the material asked for is available.
Mr. NOCK (Riverina- Assistant
Minister). - by leave - I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act ] 913-11)30 the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report - Repairs and improvements to wharf at Port Augusta, South Australia.
The wharf at Port Augusta was erected approximately 50 years ago. Since then heavy maintenance work has been carried out. A recent examination above and below water has disclosed that serious deterioration has taken place and that it ha3 reached the stage at which practically the reconstruction of the wharf is necessary. The wharf is an integral part of the Commonwealth railways. Under the provisions of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1936, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is required to maintain it in a state of efficiency. The wharf is now in such a condition that, in the interests of safety and efficient working, it must be attended to. Various schemes, estimated to cost from £14,000 to £70,000, have been considered. In view of the apparently heavy expenditure involved, the Commissioner arranged for an expert engineer for wharf construction maintenance from the Melbourne Harbour Trust to examine the wharf and submit a report. As the result of such examination, and following upon collaboration between the engineer and the
Commissioner, a scheme of repairs and improvements has now been recommended. The scheme provides for the renewal of approximately 310 piles, the renewal of timber above and below water, the widening of the wharfby about 4 feet to protect the toe of the stone-pitched bank, and the strengthening of the design of the wharf. The estimated cost is £34,700.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Minister for Social Services in a position to make a statement regarding the Government’s plans in relation to national insurance, particularly as it affects unemployment ?
– I am not able to make such a statement at the moment, other than to say the matter is receiving the serious consideration of the Government.
– Will the Minister for Commerce inform me whether, in view of the urgency of the matter, the Government is taking any steps to devise a wheat stabilization scheme ? Does he propose to call a conference of State Ministersto consider the matter, or will it be dealt with by the Australian Agricultural Council? May we hope for early action on the subject?
– The matter is receiving my consideration at present.
– As an aftermath to the attack of the Minister for Supply and Development upon the boot combine, I ask the honorable gentleman whether he will now inform me of the present position in relation to the supply of military boots? What has been the average increased price of such boots, and by what means did the Government arrive at an agreement with the boot combine?
– The result of my attack is that the Government has secured more than 300,000 pairs of military boots at a very satisfactory price fixed by myself.
– What is the price?
– The contract price is 14s. a pair, which is 1s.11½d. a pair lower than the tendered price that provoked my attack. The price now being paid is, I consider, a fair price for the class of boot being obtained.
– What about the quality ?
– The quality is exactly the same as it has been for years.
– Oh, no! The Government shifted one of its inspectors because of the quality.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.That suggestion by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) only confirms the remark made of him last night by the Prime Minister.
– The Minister for Supply and Development stated that the price for boots in recent contracts was 1s.11½d. a pair less than that demanded by the manufacturers, but how much is the present price greater than the price in contracts made before the dispute occurred ?
– The present price is very much lower than many manufacturers demanded prior to the arrangement, and, as I have indicated already, is1s.11½d. a pair less than was demanded by the meeting of manufacturers which provoked action by me.
– In view of the importance of gold in relation to the exchange position, I ask the Treasurer whether any consideration has been given to the encouragement of the production of gold from new mines, or from old mines which may be re-opened?
– I have already indicated to honorable members that the subject of gold production is receiving my consideration.
– Having regard to the extraordinary answer given to me by the Postmaster-General to a question which I asked him a day or two ago, concerning the cost of publishing the
– Although I am PostmasterGeneral, I do not control the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in respect of the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly. I propose to go to Sydney during the next week and have arranged a conference with some members of the commission, with the object of obtaining detailed information regarding not only the publication of this journal, but also other matters.
– In view of the irregular running of steamers carrying second-class mail matter to Tasmania, I ask the Postmaster-General whether he will take steps to arrange for such mail matter to be carried to Tasmania by aeroplane? If not, why not?
– I am not aware of the altered conditions that prevail.
– The honorable gentleman should be aware of them.
– I do not pretend to keep abreast of all the altered time-tables in operation owing to the restrictions imposed by the coal strike. I know that certain railway and shipping services have been curtailed and that the public has had to suffer some inconvenience thereby. The department is doing everything in its power to maintain the best possible mail services.
– I ask the Acting Min ister for Information whether the new censorship rule now being applied to Communist newspapers is also being applied to the Daily News, of Sydney, the chairman of the board of directors of which is Mr. Nelson, a Communist? Is that newspaper the official organ of the Australian Labour party?
– The reply to the first part of the question is “ No “. I am informed that the Daily News, of Sydney, is now under direct Communist control.
– That is a lie!
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark and apologize for having made it.
– I withdraw.
– The honorable member must apologize.
– To whom?
– To the House, for having used an expression that is unparliamentary without any provocation whatever.
– The Prime Minister used provocative expressions last night.
– Order ! Does the honorable member for East Sydney apologize ?
– I cannot say whether the Daily News is the official organ of the Australian Labour party of New South Wales.
– It is; and it is not under Communist control at all.
– I have reason to believe that it is.
– The Minister knows that it is not.
– He also knows that his statement is untrue.
– Has the Acting Minister for Information been informed that the secretary of the Miners Federation is chairman of directors of the Daily News?
– That is not true! He is not chairman.
– I mean the president of the Miners Federation, Mr. Nelson.
– The honorable member should use his terms correctly.
– Is the Minister aware that Mr. Nelson applauded Russia’s defeat of Finland and was extolled by the Moscow radio for his utterance? I desire to know from the Minister if this is the same Mr. Nelson, who was the principal selected and endorsed candidate for the Labour party at the recent annual elections of members to the Upper House of New South Wales?
– I should be pleased, as far as I can, to obtain answers to the honorable member’s questions.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform mewhether it is a fact that certain menwho enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, who had been only two weeks in camp, were sent abroad without receiving final leave to say farewell to their parents ? If it is a fact, will the honorable gentleman try, in the interests of the parents of the boys, to obviate any such happening in the future ?
– I find it difficult to believe that such a thing has occurred. All troops are given embarkation leave of six days in their home town, if possible. I know of no case in which that rule has been departed from, but if the honorable gentleman can bring cases under my notice, I shall inquire into them. I assure him that if such a thing has occurred it will not be repeated.
– In view of the fact that certain Communist literature is being distributed in the letter-boxes of people, resident in various suburbs of Sydney, I ask the Attorney-General whether any action will be taken to prevent it? The leaflet to which I refer is being distributed by the Communist party of Australia.
– The honorable member has given me a leaflet which I assume is typical of the kind of literature to which he has referred. In my opinion the distribution of such printed matter should be prohibited. I shall do what I can to stop it.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question relating to literature which is being distributed. The leaflet which I produce carries the title, Communism: its aims, and methods. There is, in this leaflet, a most serious allegation against the loyalty of the officers of the honorable gentleman’s own department. I ask him whether has has seen the leaflet, which contains the following specific statement: -
In the General Post Office - the great nerve centre of our postal, telegraphic and telephone communications - under the guise of loyal servants of the people, the agents of Communism await the zero hour. When it arrives, they will be able to cut all communications, hamstring any efforts to rally the armed forces that have not been seduced from their allegiance, and dislocate and paralyse the commercial, industrial and social life of the country. Then the revolution will begin in dead earnest.
I ask the Postmaster-General if there is, to his knowledge, any evidence at all which would warrant this foul aspersion being made against officers and employees of an important government instrumentality? If there is no such evidence, will he, in justice to the members of the Commonwealth Public Service, see that those responsible for what would then be a libellous pamphlet - who appear to be the “Australian Democratic Front”, of 39 Martin-place, Sydney - are dealt with as contributing to a state of civil disorder ?
– I have already had an opportunity to peruse the document to which the honorable member refers, and I have read very carefully the paragraph which he quoted, as well as the balance of the article. I have no knowledge whatever of the persons that may be referred to in the article. I have asked the persons responsible for the publication of the document to supply me with all information they have at their disposal which might justify the publication of such a statement. Naturally, I am not in a position to vouch for the integrity of every postal employee throughout the Commonwealth, but I feel that the serious allegations contained in the article cannot be sustained against the members of the Postal Officers Association.
– Has the Acting Minister for Information been informed that the Miners Federation is affiliated with the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party, and that this affiliation carries full rights in regard to the selection of Labour candidates for election to this Parliament, as well as in regard to the election of delegates to conferences at which Labour policy is formulated? Has the Minister seen the following paragraph, which appears in the official organ of the Miners Federation, Common Cause, of which Mr. Orr is editor : -
To-day the British lion has fallen into a pit . . .
– The honorable member is going beyond what is permissible in asking a question. He is seeking to give information.
– I desire to know whether the Minister, in carrying out the suppression of communism, will instruct his officials to keep a close watch on all publications in New South Wales?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I understand that the position is as he has stated. In reply to the second part of the question, I can assure him that a close watch is being kept, and will continue to be so kept, on all publications issued by Communist bodies, or those in any way associated with Communist bodies.
– I desire to ask the Acting Minister for Information if he has given consideration to the following statement appearing in the official organ of the Miners Federation, Common Cause, edited by Mr. Orr: -
To-day the British lion has fallen into a pit which he dug himself. He had meant it for Soviet Russia. We are not going to help him to come out. The lion is telling us, “ Pull me out by the tail, dear lamb, and we shall be eternal friends. . ..”
– It is quite clear that the honorable member is giving information, and that he is not seeking it.
– I am asking the Minister a question. I am asking him if he will give consideration to a statement with a view to taking the necessary action. He cannot answer my inquiry unless he knows what the statement is.
– It is not permissible, under cover of asking a question, to convey information or to read a lengthy statement from a newspaper.
– A statement has been made by the secretary of the Miners Federation, and I desire to know from the Acting Minister for Information if this statement was subjected to the censorship of his department? The statement is as follows: -
To-day the British lion has fallen into a pit . . .
– The Chair has already ruled that the honorable member is merely trying to convey information. He may not proceed with his question.
– Will the Minister in. charge of External Territories supply me with the latest information regarding’ the stage reached in negotiations between the Governments of Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia, who hold a joint mandate over Nauru, in regard to the proposal for manning the phosphate vessels with white crews, instead of coloured crews as at present?
– I cannot give the information, but I shall see if it is obtainable.
– In view of the fact that a visiting member of the British Parliament, Mr. Grenfell, said that he had seen a map of Australia indicating where centres of German Nazi-ism were situated, and that the Hermannsburg Mission in Central Australia was one such place, will the Acting Minister for Information take immediate steps to have that mission closed down?
– I am afraid that the honorable member’s question relates to a matter that does not come within my province.
– Is there a famine of apples in Australia? If there is not, can the Minister for Commerce give any reason why apples should not be available at the hotels at Canberra that are under the control of the Government? Will the Minister undertake to confer with the Minister for the Interior on this matter?
– I am perfectly certain there is no famine of apples in Australia. I am equally certain that the arrangements in the hotels have not been altered. I am willing to confer with the Minister for the Interior, but, if the honorable member wants apples, I advise him to send to Batlow and get them himself.
-Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to give effect to the promise that was made at the last election by the late Right Honorable J. A. Lyons that, if returned to power, his Government would institute a Commonwealth housing scheme?
– All that I can do is remind the honorable member that this country is engaged in a war which will determine whether we will need homes at all.
– Will the Minister for Commerce say whether it is proposed to allow the Apple and Pear Acquisition Scheme to continue in its existing form or whether he is giving consideration to various proposals, particularly from New South Wales, for the amendment of that scheme in the near future ?
– The present scheme will operate for this year in New South Wales as well as in other States. Any proposals for amendment of the scheme can be considered only in relation to next season’s crop.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if you can explain why I was asked to withdraw a term which was considered to be unparliamentary whereas the Prime Minister used the same term last night without check from the Chair?
– If the honorable gentleman wished to direct attention to any remark made last night he should have done so then. However, I remember the incident quite well. The honorable gentlemanhimself provoked everything that was said.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) recently entertained at his western district home the Fascist son of Von Tirpitz, the U-boat commander ? If so, does the right honorable gentleman think that such action is proper in a Commonwealth Minister?
– If my colleague did, I am sure that the entertainment was excellent.
– Has the Postmaster-
General seen in the press in the last couple of days statements that storekeepers in the Cessnock and Kurri Kurri districts have complained that letterscontaining cheques from the Miners Federation, which were posted in Sydney at 10 a.m. on Friday, did not reach them until Monday? Is there any attempt by the Postal Department, through the censor, to open and scrutinize these letters so as to delay them deliberately inorder to stop the credit that the miners are getting from the storekeepers?
– I have no knowledge whatever of such statements in the press, but it is ridiculous to suggest that there would be any deliberate attempt by the department to delay correspondence going to the coal-fields for the purpose of preventing the miners from obtaining relief.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House when additional or final payments will be made for barley, as I understand that the barley has been definitely acquired by the pool at a fixed price?
– The barley was acquired by the pool. The first payment was made on delivery and the second payment lately. The last payment will be made when the whole of the barley has been disposed of Incidentally, the barley was not acquired at a fixed price.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce, in amplification of a question I asked earlier when the Minister asserted that the barley crop had not been acquired at a fixed price, if he will inform the Parliament whether the various grades of barley suitable for malting and the respective grades of feed barley controlled by the pool are not acquired at fixed prices?
– Barley was not acquired at a fixed price. The rate of the first advance on the various grades of barley - Malting No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 - was fixed by the board, but it is not correct to say that the barley crop in respect of the whole, or any one variety, was acquired at a fixed price.
– I should not rise to ask this question were it not for the fact that the Acting Minister for Information has not yet answered a letter which I wrote to him from Newcastle on Sunday. Is the Minister aware that there is a good deal of discontent amongst members of the Australian Imperial Force owing to the fact that the censor here is opening their letters? The complaint that I made to the honorable gentleman was that one officer from my district took strong exception to the fact that the censor had opened a letter written to him by his wife. “Will this practice of the censor prying into letters addressed by a woman to her husband on the other side of the world be discontinued ?
– As censorship of communications comes under the Defence Department, I shall reply to that question. I have not seen the letter to which the honorable gentleman refers, but, as it was addressed to my colleague on Sunday, it has not yet reached me. I can give no assurance that letters addressed to anybody will not be censored, because it is obvious that the censor has not the slightest idea of whom the writer may be.
– What progress has the Attorney-General made in regard to requests made for a number of months, for central picking-up places for seamen in Sydney?
-Offhand I am unable to supply the information that the honorable gentleman seeks. I have been in communication with the employers constantly. I shall look through the files at the earliest possible moment with the honorable gentleman.
– In view of the national need to restrict the use of petrol will the Minister for Supply and Development endeavour to take more effective steps to bring down the price of producer gas units? What has been done in that respect?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.With a view to encouraging the development of the producer gas unit industry the Government has made an arrangement with a number of manufacturers in the different States under which some 425 units are being or have been manufactured in order to encourage and stimulate the use of those units amongst transport organizations. In the last two days a conference on this matter has been held and I have no doubt that the development of producer gas units and other substitutes for liquid fuels will constitute part of the investigation which is proceeding.
– Was the Minister for Health correctly reported as stating that his department was setting up an organization for the purpose of providing employment for invalids throughout Australia?
– My statement was incorrectly reported in certain newspapers. The proposal that I am developing is to co-ordinate the whole of the efforts of the organizations at present associated with the welfare of crippled children in order to ensure adequate treatment, education, vocational training, and subsequent employment for those afflicted.
– Has the Government any information that money or other material is being supplied from overseas or Australian sources for the purpose of carrying on subversive activities in Australia on behalf of members or active sympathizers with (a) Nazi organizations, (b) Communist organizations? If so, how long has such information been in its possession? If such information has been in the Government’s possession for some time, will the Prime Minister inform the House why action has not been taken before this?
– I do not know, but I shall find out.
– Will the Minister for the Army lay on the table of the House all papers relating to the case of LieutenantColonel Mitchell, in Melbourne, in regard to which the police magistrate who dealt with the case suggested that the
Minister had been responsible for withholding execution of a warrant and thereby had obstructed the course of justice?
-I shall have very great pleasure in laying on the table of the House the two letters which comprise the file in question.
– Does the Prime Minister approve of the sending of supplies from Australia to aggressor nations? If not, will he allow negotiations to be completed for the supply of 100,000 tons of flour to Japan, which is an aggressor nation ?
– Failing concerted action by a group of nations, I favour the continuation of trading relations with countries with which Australia is on terms of peace.
– When the Prime Minis ter was quoting the profits earned by various collieries last evening, how was it–
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to a debate which took place last evening.
-Then I ask the Prime Minister if he is aware that during 1939 the Caledonian Collieries Limited made a record profit of £20,027 and that J. and A. Brown and Abermain made a profit over the same period of £94,911?
– I am not aware of those precise figures, but I point out to the honorable member that even if J. and A. Brown and Abermain did make a profit of more than £90,000, the capital of that firm is £1,900,000. To say what the profit is without reference to what the actual capital may be is to say very little. The fact is that the shares of each of the companies referred to, as I pointed out last night, stand at a substantial discount in the market.
– I ask the Prime Min ister if it is a fact that contraband supplies from the United States of America are reaching Nazi Germany through Russia, and if so, can he justify the appointment of an Australian ambassador to the United States of America?
– An answer to that question would involve a complete examination of Australia’s relations with the United States of America, which, I am happy to say, in spite of the honorable member’s question, are excellent, and, I hope, will be even better in the future.
– I ask the Prime Minister if there is any truth in the statement made in a recent issue of the World Digest, condensed from a translation of an article published in Le Journal De Roubaix, to the effect that a flying submarine has been invented which can travel under water for distances up to 20 or 30 miles, and can rise 300 feet into the air? If the Prime Minister has any information about this claim, will he convey it to the House?
– No information is available in any of the fighting service departments in relation to the matter referred to by the honorable member.
– I ask the Treasurer if any finality has been reached by the conference that has been held in Canberra regarding the Government’s intentions in connexion with the rationing of petrol supplies?
– The conferencewas sitting this morning,but I do not know yet whether its deliberations have been concluded.
Debate resumed from the 22nd April (vide page 342), on motion by Mr. scholfield -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it please Your Excellency:
We the House of Representatives of the Parliament 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.
.- I con.gratulate those honorable gentlemen who moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General on the high note on which they initiated this debate. I do not propose to say very much about the war. So much has already been said here and elsewhere that it is difficult to say anything new which would be helpful. The position is so grave that it calls for less talk and more action if we arc to combat successfully an enemy which acts first and talks afterwards. In the interests of civilization every effort should be made to win this war as soon as possible. It is not only killing the flower of our manhood but also destroying the soul of humanity and lowering the moral and spiritual, standards of the world.
Recent developments have brought the war nearer to our home, and it is now clear that the first responsibility of the Government is to be prepared to defend Australia’s shores. I believe that the Commonwealth Government has been in close consultation with the Government of the United Kingdom in order to ascertain how far Australia can go in assisting the Empire without endangering its own safety. To a great degree, however, Empire defence is home defence, for without the Empire we would soon have no homo to defend. Since the beginning of this war we have been given a very vivid reminder of the degree to which our economic security depends upon the supremacy of the British Empire. What would have been the value to us of the £100,000,000 worth of primary produce which we have shipped to the other side of the world if our trade routes had not been kept open? The transport of these commodities was only possible because of the protection afforded by the British navy. Our destiny as a free and intelligent people is bound up with that of the British Empire because, if the Empire should go down, Australia would become a big prize for one of the large powers which would then dominate the- world. Apart from these consideration?, common gratitude demands that Australia should be prepared to go to the assistance of the Mother Country in a time of trial.
A very urgent and important problem confronts the Commonwealth at the present time. It is the necessity for the provision of further shipping facilities.
I trust that at an early date the Government will proceed with a vigorous programme of shipbuilding. The commandeering of many of our merchant vessels for war purposes, and losses due to the war, have created a very serious shortage of shipping space for the transport of our primary products overseas. That position is already acute, and it is becoming more acute as the war proceeds and will remain so for some time after the war has ended. An effective shipbuilding programme is vital in the interests of Aus-, tralian economy and in order to keep the Empire supplied with foodstuffs. The building of ships, therefore, should be the first consideration of the Government ; because that work is certainly more important at the present time than the manufacture of motor cars. In view of the limited equipment and number of skilled men available, it is clear that it will be impossible to proceed with vigorous programmes for both shipbuilding and motor car manufacturing. Therefore, the Government must concentrate for the present upon shipbuilding. Finance for both projects will have to come from Consolidated Revenue. The Government has raised a special levy of approximately £1,350,000 for the manufacture of motor cars, but this sum has gone into Consolidated Revenue, not to the credit of a special fund, as apparently some honorable members and others outside Parliament believe.
I was pleased to note that the GovernorGeneral referred in his Speech to provision for an amendment of the electoral law, and I trust that the Government will proceed this session with some reform of the present system of Senate elections under which the position of a man’s name on the ballotpaper, rather than his personal qualifications, determines his election. An examination of the present personnel of the Senate discloses that of 36 senators, 33 have names beginning with letters in the first half of the alphabet - the A-to-M group. The desire of all parties to nominate candidates whose names begin with the letter “ A “ or closely succeeding letters is becoming more intense. At the last Senate elections- when nineteen senators were elected because an extra senator had to be returned in New South Wales-only one candidate whose name began with a letter in the latter half of the alphabet was successful. The names of most of the senators elected began with one of the first few letters of the alphabet. Lf the present system .is allowed to continue we shall soon reach the absurd stage when only men whose names begin with the letter “A” need apply as candidates for election to the Senate. I emphasize that this method would reduce the selection of members of the Senate to about 5 per cent, of the electors, and that, if continued, it would ultimately undermine tho foundations of our democratic institutions. I trust that during this session the Government will introduce a pleasure to amend the electoral law relating to the election of senators, and so end a state of affairs which is a reflection on tho intelligence of the people.
The Government is to be complimented on the able manner in which the country has been transferred from peace to war’ time conditions. The task has been tremendous; only those who have been closely associated with it have any conception of its magnitude. The drastic action that lias been found necessary in certain directions has naturally caused inconvenience, and, in some instances, heavy losses. It would appear– and I emphasise this point- that at times members of the public have been unnecessarily irritated. One of the most serious complaints is in connexion with the delay in obtaining decisions as to what should be done. 1 realize that, as we become more accustomed to the new order, many of these irritations will disappear; but I suggest that more latitude be given to officers in the various States, so that decisions may be made more speedily. As to the rationing of imports and price-fixing, I submit that, in all fairness, the business community should be told as soon as possible what decisions have been made, and what action they may take. At present, business is being hampered because of these delays. I know of many business people who hesitate to develop their businesses because they do not know how the restriction of imports will affect them.
I trust that in preparing its taxation proposals for the coming year, the Go- vernment will pay due regard to the requirements of State Governments, in order that the taxation measures of the Commonwealth and the States will be more equably distributed among all sections of the community. There is danger of overlapping, resulting in one section of the community having to bear more than its fair share of the heavy taxation which will have to be borne. I also suggest that arrangements bc made between the Commonwealth and State Governments to spread the income tax assessments over the year. I would point out. that in Queensland the State income tax and the State development tax become due about a month before the assessments for federal income tax are payable. The Treasurer (Mr. Spender) would do well to confer with the State Governments in this connexion. A more even spreading of the payments would be a convenience to taxpayers, and would cause less disturbance of industry. In Queensland, for instance, com moree and industry are disturbed unduly during the months of March and April, when those heavy assessments hu vo to be met. I trust that the Minister will do .something to stagger future assessments. At present, the assessments stagger tho taxpayers. I hope flint re shall have an early opportunity to discuss the income-tax proposals of the Government. I repeat what I said when discussing the last budget that, if the Government lias any proposals to deal with war-time profits, it, will riot repeat the procedure followed during the last war, when it was possible for n company making 60 per cent, net profit to escape the war-time profits’ tax, whilst other companies with a net profit of, say 12 per cent., had to pay it. Whatever is done in this connexion, I hope there will bo a less complicated system than on the former occasion, and that the tax will be in proportion to the profits.
I arn pleased that the Minister for the aRmy (Mr. Street) has decided that, as far as possible, members of the Australian Imperial Force will receive training in their own States. Some month 3 ago, when it was announced that all of the training would take place in Victoria and Now South Wales, I urged that the mcn should be trained in their own States, mid T am glad that that is to be done in the future. Such training willbe in the interest of, not only the men themselves, and their relatives who wish to visit them in the camp, but also the States from which they enlist.
.- In speaking to the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, which was prepared by the Government of the nation during a time of war, it is outstandingly important thai we, as public men, should state clearly our views on various matters of national interest. It is with feelings of regret and sadness that I see another war in my time. Men who saw active service on the other side of the world during the last war, cannot but be saddened by the knowledge that another crisis has come upon the world. During the last twelve months, I have attended 22 gatherings of returned soldiers, and I have noticed a distinct change of outlook on the part of the “ diggers “. That is not to be wondered at when we reflect that many of these men now see their own sons, or nephews, or the sons of their friends, in uniform. They are facing again their own experiences in the last war. The Labour party, of which I have the honour to be a member, has a definite defence policy, but it is not a “ brass hat “ policy. We have before us constantly a vision of the time when men will see clearly that this human madness must cease, and the slaughter of other nationals relegated to the days that have been. We visualize the clay when international disputes will be settled by reason.
– The honorable member is an optimist.
– Surely the honorable member agrees with Shakespeare that “ there is no darkness but ignorance”. It has also beenwell said, “Let the world be flooded with intellectual light”. The clay must come when war will be no more; for surely honorable members do not believe that the present darkness will continue for ever. Unless we have a vision of a better world, what is the use of fighting at the present time? Life would hardly be worth while unless we believed that a brighter day would dawn.
– What about the German political philosophy?
– Irrespective of that philosophy, or any other philosophy,I urge the honorable member to try to see past the jungle to a world in which Christian principles will prevail. Honorable members opposite who would have the people believe that the great party to which I belong is allied with communism should remember that the Labour party is the only political movement in Australia that has retained its original name, whereas the parties in opposition to Labour have at various times been known as Conservative, Liberal, National Defence League, Nationalist Country party, Farmers and Settlers Association, Liberal and Country League, and now the United Australia party. I joined the Labour movement when I was seventeen years of age in the days when Tom Price, the father of the present honorable member for Booth by (Mr. Price), was Premier of South Australia. Tom Price was one of the cleanest, truest Christian Socialists who have ever been associated with the Labour movement. It is extraordinary that whenever an election approaches some means is invented by the opponents of Labour to heap abuse and misrepresentation upon this party. If it is not communism, it is the Sinn Fein, the Independent Workers of the World, or Bolshevik organizations that we are accused of supporting. Always the views of the very extreme left wing of the Labour movement are alleged to be the views of the movement as a whole. Honorable members opposite know very well that the Labour party definitely excludes Communists. Moreover, it is the only political party in Australia, including the United Australia party, the United Country party, the Nationalists, or any other anti-Labour party by whatever name it may be known, which does exclude them. It is well-known, however, that Nazi and Fascist sympathizers are to be found in the United Australia party. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is admittedly an advocate of the regimentation system of government. IfCommunists are criminals in the eyes of the law, if the preaching of the doctrines of communism are against the law, I challenge the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to take appropriate action in such cases as are brought under his notice. He is the Prime Minister and he has the power to act.
We have heard a good deal about the coal strike in the course of this debate. I do not propose to say very much about it, for I wish to discuss certain rural problems that need attention. I assert, however, that if the Prime Minister had permitted the Attorney-General and Minister for Industry (Mr. Hughes) to deal with the coal strike it would undoubtedly have been settled before now, for that right honorable gentleman knows a good deal about the circumstances of working people. I accuse the Prime Minister of endeavouring to “beat up” a Communist scare, and of Jinking the coaminers with it, in order to help certain electioneering moves that are on foot. I challenge him to make it clear that he did not take the negotiations for a settlement of the coal strike out of the hands of the Attorney-General for this very reason. Last night the Prime Minister revealed very clearly, by his attitude to an interjection that I made, that he intends to do nothing to settle the coal strike unless the miners go back to work, and, of course, if they do that, they will settle the strike themselves. Is it too’ much to ask of the Prime Minister of this democracy, in a time of national crisis when the whole transportation system of the nation is in difficulty, and when enormous problems must be faced, to use the power he has to settle the strike? The right honorable gentleman could settle it to-morrow morning if he wished to do so, and certainly he should so wish, in the interests of the nation at large.
– It would not pay him politically to do so.
– Tha t is what I am pointing out. The only honorable member of this Parliament who has made any real attempt to settle the strike is the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and, after all, he is not able to wield very much power, whereas the Prime Minister has complete power to take all the action necessary to effect a settlement. But he prefers to set up an electioneering “ Aunt Sally” to shy at in preference to concentrating upon the all-important work of developing the resources of the nation to the fullest extent for the protection of the country in this time of war.
His followers generally have shown by the speeches they have made in thi3 debate that they are with him in this matter.
I wish to deal briefly with the crippling effect that this war is likely to have upon the finances of Australia if orthodox methods of finance are applied. I urge the Government not to wait until the war ends before it attempts to cope with a financial situation that will overtake us if there is a strict adherence to orthodox methods. If that course is followed this country will encounter the greatest economic blizzard, and the worst depression, that has ever been known. Our national debt to-day totals £1,300,000,000. The last war cost Australia £900,000,000, but we have only been able to find an aggregate of £542,000,000 for public works. In the course of the years we have paid £1,200,000,000 in interest on our public debt, but we still owe £1,300,000,000. Those figures are sufficiently alarming in themselves ; but is any honorable member able to contemplate them, together with the probable costs of the present war, if the ordinary methods of finance are adopted ? In my opinion we shall be forced to make some change in our financial policy. I appeal to the Government not to cripple our people by imposing upon them a crushing load of extra taxation. Rather should the Government do its utmost to expand the credit resources of the nation in the interests of the people at large. We are already one of the most heavily taxed peoples in the world, and it would be a disaster if the Government should insist upon keeping to the old tracks in finance.
It is quite safe to say that with the mechanization of industry it is possible to provide an abundance of food and services for all of the people. Two hundred years ago the people of the world had only what they could contrive to obtain with their own banda, and want and misery were frequently the lot of the workers. To-day our mechanized methods of production have developed the equivalent of 15,000,000,000 horse-power throughout the world, and this could, and should, be harnessed for the benefit of the race. To put it in another way, the horse-power which is available for the service of every man, woman and child of the 2,000,000,000 who inhabit the earth, is sufficient to produce an abundance of food and services for the benefit of mankind, and there should be no need for any widespread unemployment. Want and misery, wherever it is found, breed communism. It is the difficulties of our economic system which cause strikes. If the various governments would use the resources of the nations for the welfare of their people a very different outlook on life in general would soon be apparent. There would be an abundance of the good things in life, and people would be happy. It is necessary, of course, that a decent standard wage should be provided so that the workers may have enough money to buy the goods that are being manufactured at an increasing rate by the machinery that has been invented. Unless the Government is prepared to use, to a greater degree than ever before, for the good of the nation, the credit resources which the people themselves create, trouble is inevitable. Adherence to present financial policies will undoubtedly mean that we shall go to the wall.
A great deal more consideration should bc given by the Government to the hand, ling of our primary produce. We have been told that contracts have been made for the sale to Great Britain of Australian primary products to the value of £100,000,000. The sale of our wool accounts for between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 of that vast total. I do not propose to discuss to-day the details of the sale of our commodities, for I dealt fully with that subject during last session ; but I shall devote some attention to the appraisement of our wool.
I say quite definitely that the basis of appraisement has been altered since the first appraisements were made some months ago. At that time the appraisements were on a lower ratio than at present. I have been furnished with many accounts of sales by people in my electorate, which indicate clearly the truth of my contention. I have no wish to minimize the difficulty of appraising our very fine Australian wools. I realize the hundreds of different classes of wool involved and the consequent difficulties of appraisement, but even that does not excuse some of the extraordinary anomalies that have occurred. I shall cite the experience of two residents of my electorate, Mr. S. H. Giersch and his son, Mr. P. B. Giersch. Their flocks had exactly the same breeding, and they grazed in adjoining paddocks, so that conditions were in all respects identical, yet the son received Hd. for his ewes’ fleeces, while the father received 12£d. For the backs the son received 6$d., and the father 7fd. I could cite dozens of other similar cases, but that is as good an illustration as any. f am convinced that the basis of appraisement was altered during the season, with the result that some growers lost thousands of pounds. Anomalies of the kind I have mentioned have occurred in the appraising of big clips where expert classers have been employed, and where there has been no guessing in regard to classes. I hope that some adjustment may be made to recompense those growers who lost financially because of the alteration of the basis of appraisement. I also hope that, during the coming season, the one basis will be maintained throughout.
The wheat industry has been frequently referred to in this chamber. It is the most important industry in Australia, and employs more labour than does any other. I strongly recommend that a further advance of ls. a bushel bc made to the growers, seeing that they have so far received only 2s. 6d. That advance has already been spent in settlement of storekeepers’ accounts, and in paying costs of harvesting. The second crop must be sown now, and the growers are in need of a further advance. Although more information than ever before has been given to the Government on this subject within the last twelve months by speakers in this chamber, the Menzies Government has done absolutely nothing for the wheat industry. The only good that has come to the industry has arisen out of the calamity of the war, which has raised the price of wheat, in common with that of other commodities. I would say only this for the Government, that it has applied the policy of the Labour party by arranging for the Commonwealth Bank to make available £20,000,000 from which the advance to the farmers of 2s. 6d. a bushel has been paid. The wheat industry is in a worse position to-day than it has ever been. Recently, the Premier of South
Australia gave evidence before the Commonwealth Grants Commission, in’ the course of which he discussed the position of the wheat-farmers on marginal lands. A member of the commission asked how the State Government was getting along with this problem, and the Premier replied that it was getting on well; that it was handling it. He said that, on a certain date, there were 2,000 farmers on relief from the State bank, but that, at the time of speaking, the number had been reduced to 700. That meant, of course, that during that period, 1,300 farmers had gone off their farms to swell the army of the unemployed. The number of wheat-farmers is steadily declining. Never before have so many wheat-farmers been “ going down the road “ as now. It is necessary, therefore, that the Government should arrange for a further advance of ls. a bushel to the growers.
The Minister for ‘Commerce has had many interesting meetings all over Australia with apple and peargrowers who subjected him to such a barrage of disapproval that I have felt sorry for him. However, after consulting with those engaged in the industry, I am of the opinion that it would have been much better for the industry had no system of control been instituted at all. I am informed that all apples and pears grown in Australia this season could have been consumed here if proper arrangements had been made. Under the controlled scheme, one-quarter of this season’s crop had to be, destroyed. We are not so prosperous that we can afford deliberately to destroy one-quarter of any crop we raise. There are hundreds of thousands of persons in Australia below the breadline, and they could very well do with some of the fruit that was wasted under this acquisition scheme. W,e have no reason to be proud of the fact that we have made apples and pears so dear that a large section of the population cannot afford to buy them. Then the question arises: Are the growers going to benefit? All of this waste might have been avoided by a little organization. I suggest that if arrangements had been made for the carriage of apples and pears over the railways to any part of Australia at a. uniform freight of Od. a case, whether to private persons or to storekeepers and fruiterers, the whole qf the crop could easily have been absorbed. [Leave to continue given.]
One of the most important matters bearing on the defence of this country and the conduct of the war is the, supply of foodstuffs by Australia to Great Britain and its Allies in Europe. The principal requirement of primary producers to-day is ships, ships, and more ships. One of the best wheat crops that this country has ever produced now lies waiting for transport overseas, In South Australia, no less than £6,000,000 worth of wheat is held up at railway sidings. In Australia £20,000,000 has been invested in the wine industry, which is South Australia’s third most important industry. A vast supply of dried fruits and dairy produce is also held up, because there are not sufficient vessels to take that produce to the other side of the world. Yet in England certain kinds of produce are being rationed. We in Australia seem to suffer from an inferiority complex. We should not depend upon Great Britain for everything. We speak of the British navy as a thing that will always be available for our protection. Why do we not build up our own navy, and provide mercantile marine that would enable us to market our produce overseas? When the Labour party was in power, many ships were built in government dockyards. This policy was adopted during the last war. In the early stages of the war the people generally, and particularly the primary producers, suffered severely at the hands of the shipping combines, whose profits were enormous. Australia being far removed from the markets of the world, the plight of the producers was most serious, because there was insufficient shipping to convey their goods overseas. In view of our experience during the last war, one would have expected that a vigorous programme of shipbuilding would have been put in hand by the Commonwealth authorities on this occasion.
The Australian Commonwealth Line saved the primary producers £2,000,000 in one year, and during ‘the period over which it operated, it saved them many millions of pounds. If the 20 or 30 ships of that line had been available to-day, they would have proved a god-send to .us. Snips are needed now almost more than soldiers, as far as an effective contribution by Australia to the cause of the Empire is concerned. The private shipping combines steadily, but surely, applied pressure on the Government formed during the last war by .the United Australia party and the Country party, .and brought about the sale of those vessels. Mr. Bruce, who was then Prime Minister, eventually decided to give in to the pressure, and seven ships, which cost £7,500,000 to build, were sold for £1,900,000. I understand that of that amount £500,000 is still outstanding. The vessels were practically given away, because the big shipping companies had told Mr. Bruce that the formation of a government line of steamers was contrary to their policy. In this case the Country > party fell down badly on its job. In dis- cussing the proposed sale of the ships in 1927, its leader, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), said -
Interest would be saved if we were able to sell the line, say, for £4,000,000.
Other members of that party stated definitely that the line was of such great raine in times of peace and war, and so vital to the interests of the primary industries, that they were absolutely opposed to its sale, yet that party was associated with a Government that practically gave the fleet away. If it were in existence today, we should not have the spectacle of £6,000,000 worth of wheat lying at railway sidings in South Australia for weevils and mice to eat, when children in Great Britain have to go short of many articles of food. The Government should use some of the credit of the nation to build more ships. It should adopt a bold policy, because, unfortunately, this war may not be brought to an end for a considerable period. Despite the fact that the policy of the present Government is opposed to State enterprise, the nation demands that in this crisis ship construction should be undertaken. But care should bc taken, in implementing such a policy, to see that increased prices are not given to the great Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and associated companies, which are steadily but surely cornering the mineral resources of the na tion.
I have dealt with the problems that most seriously affect Australia at the present time. The Labour party’s defence policy has been clearly outlined by my leader. We are not a “ brass hat “ party, hut we realize that the aggressor in Europe must be stopped. To show that, when no election is looming, even members of the Government believe that the defence policy of the Labour party is a sound one, I remind the House that, immediately after the declaration of war, the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), tho last wartime Prime Minister of Australia, used these words -
I wish, first, to express my very great pleasure, which I am sure is shared by every honorable member on this side of the chamber, and, in fact, in the Parliament, at the pronouncement 4)y the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) of the policy of his party. His words will give great satisfaction to the people of Australia. He left nothing unsaid that wo wanted to hear. He left us in no doubt as to the attitude of Labour in this great emergency. I cannot conceive of any way in which his statement could be amended in the interests of Australia.
What more could be said in favour of the policy of the Labour party ? That party, to which I am proud to belong, has the highest Christian ethics of any movement I know of in the world, and can stand ap to all the gibes about communism and I.W.W.-ism. It has done so for 40 years. It has governed in every State of the Commonwealth. It is governing in three States to-day, and it is keeping another government in power in. Victoria. Some of the best acts on the statute-books have been placed there by Labour governments. Labour has furnished some of the best statesmen that Australia has produced. It can look back on its history with pride, because it has sprung from the noor class, starting in the industrial areas and gradually extending its influence into the rural areas, until it has now assumed a national character. It has been assailed by the present Government because of a desire to win the next elections. It is still true to the high Christian principles that it has always espoused, and it will continue to fight for them. If necessary, it will be crucified, as was the greatest Christian socialist the world has ever known, by the same money power that would crucify it to-morrow.
.- I should not have spoken to-day except for the ominous statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with regard to the coal strike. He has said that next week he proposes to open the mines and attempt to work them by free labour. Appended to the award of Judge Drake-Brockman is a history in serial form of the disputes in the coal industry. The first dispute, and one over hours, occurred in 1S73, and not far down thi3 long roll occurs the mournful and laconic entry: “ 188S - Strike- free labourtroops “. As long ago as that an attempt to work the mines by free labour loosed upon the people the military forces of the colony of New South “Wales 1 The project, which the right honorable the Prime Minister and his colleagues have adopted, is a project which exposes this country to the great danger of disorder and to an enormous breach of national unity. During the Corio by-election campaign the Prime Minister told us that the eyes of Hitler were on Corio. I should like to know upon whom the eyes of Hitler will be very soon if there is a breach of the national unity of Australia. The responsibility for that breach will rest upon the Government, which instead of acting as mediator takes the side, as governments of this sort always have done, of the owners and masters. It appears to me from a careful study of the award that the facts of this dispute . have been forgotten or overlooked. They are encrusted with a mass of prejudices, and I propose to deal with the prejudices with which this dispute has been clouded by none other than the Prime Minister himself. In the first place, he tells us that, the miners are unsportsmanlike, because they dispute the umpire’s decision. What was the umpire’s decision ? The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has told us that he considers that the umpire’s decision was the decision of His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman. The miners think so and, if one reads the records, one would think that there is a good deal in that. What happened? There was a stoppage of work in the New South Wales coalfields for six weeks in 1938. The cause of that stoppage was that the owners had refused to confer upon demands made by the unions in the mining industry. One demand was for a reduction of hours. That stoppage ended upon a basis suggested by the Government of New South Wales. The suggestion made by that Government was that the part of the claims which could be dealt with by the Arbitration Court should be dealt with by the court and the part which could not be should be examined by a royal commission, and that upon the report of that commission social legislation might be passed. In his judgment His Honour Judge DrakeBrockman says this at page 5 -
Prior to this resumption the unions had been informed that so soon as work was resumed by all the employees concerned the court would, without delay, proceed to hear and determine so much of their claims as comprised claims relating to industrial matters.
That was the basis upon which the men resumed work: That so soon as work was resumed by all the employees concerned, the court would, without delay, proceed to hear and determine so much of their claims as comprised claims relating to industrial matters.
The matter came speedily before the court. On the Srd November His Honour Judge Drake Brockman began consideration of the case. He sat almost without a break until it finished. He sat on the 22nd December and he resumed his sitting on the 4th January. As the result of his hearing, which closed on the 20th April, he delivered a judgment on the 29th June: The judgment has been so often discussed that it is hardly necessary to say more than this: That inasmuch as there had for a. long time been the same hours “for surface workers as for workers underground, His Honour, when reducing hours for workers below ground, thought it was desirable also to reduce hours for the surface workers. His Honour pointed out that some of the employers themselves thought that that course was desirable. He said -
I would have hesitated to grant any portion of this claim if the employers had vigorously opposed it - several of the principal witnesses for the employers regard uniformity of hours so desirable and stated that any reduction granted to underground workers should be granted to all workers.
If honorable members would direct their attention to the valuable summary of the history of the industry which is Appendix “ A “ to the judgment they would see that that is so. For a very long time hours have been eight a day for five days and about four for the sixth day for all workers in the mines, not distinguishing, on that basis, between the underground workers and the surface workers, the only distinction being that the crib time was taken as part of the 44 hours in the case of the underground workers, but not in the case of the surface workers. What happened? After that award was made the owners applied for a variation of hours so as to restore the hours to what they had been previously. When the variation came before the Full Court, it did not hear additional evidence. In His Honour Judge DrakeBrockrnan’s second judgment he mentions the fact that no additional evidence was heard. What did the Full Court say? It simply said this : “ This court does not propose to consider individual claims for a reduction of hours below 44 ‘’.
That was the position taken by the court. That is to say, notwithstanding the court’s intimation made in the first instance that so much of the claim of the men as were industrial matters would be forthwith heard and determined by the court, the court said: “We will not deal with this claim of the surface workers for reduced hours “. At page 11 the majority judges said this -
This court recently declared that a 44-hour week should he the standard for normal occupations and at the same time intimated that it will entertain applications for less hours on health grounds but that otherwise except as the result of agreements any further reduction of the standard will be considered only on a general inquiry.
That is to say, the court said : “ We do not consider your claim at all. We do not want to hear evidence upon it. We do not want even to read the evidence that has been given upon it. We simply say that we are not going to consider any claim for a reduction of hours below 44, except in certain instances on health grounds, unless as part of a general ininquiry.” The men who say that they accepteda promise that all their industrial claims would be forthwith dealt with by the Arbitration Court can justly say that they had the umpire’s decision in their favour and that that decision was taken from them upon a technicality. I do not think that the sportsmanlike people of Australia would attach much weight to the argument of the Prime Minister, if it were put as it should be put, that, on substantial grounds, the court, which the men had accepted as umpire, gave the workers this concession and that upon a technical ground it was taken away from them.
– The honorable member should know that the “ decision “ is the decision of the Full Court, not of a single judge.
– Apparently the honorable member was not in the chamber when I explained what had occurred.
– What the honorable member for Bourke has said puts a different complexion on the matter.
– The true complexion. Any one who studies the documents themselves, instead of listening to whatthe newspapers or other interested opponents of the miners tell them, will believe that what I am saying is a true statement of the position and is backed up by the documents.
The next thing we are told is that the men are guilty not only of the unsportsmanlike offence of rejecting the umpire’s decision, but also of the offence of engaging in a. dispute in wartime and of threatening to paralyse industry in wartime. It takes two to make a dispute. The dispute would not exist at all if the mine-owners were not resisting the claims of the men.
– And accepted the umpire’s decision.
– Yes. At any rate it is the owners’ refusal of the men’s terms as much as the men’s insistence upon their terms that brings about this dislocation of industry in wartime. It is true that the employers brought their application for a variation before the court before the war began, but it had hardly been heard before the war started and they still persisted. A fair thing to say is that, at any rate, part of the responsibility for the continuance of the dispute and the dislocation of industry rests upon the employers just as part rests upon the employees.
We are told - apparently it is the worst offence that these men committed - that the miners have Communist leaders ; that the general secretary is a man who admits that he is a Communist. From that it is inferred that the men are Communists. Mien engaged in the same class of occupation in Western Australia were foolish and unfair enough to say that 75 per cent, of the coal-miners in New South Wales are Communists. What is the position? Mr. William Orr was chosen by the vote of the miners, I suppose, because of his efficiency, and because of the men’s confidence in him, although they had no confidence in his politics. Men of the same class as those who elect a Communist as their general secretary reject the Communists with such wholehearted enthusiasm at general elections that the Communists lose their deposits. That is true not only in New South Wales but also at Wonthaggi, in Victoria. But even suppose it is reasonable to assume that the coal-miners themselves have been infected by this Communist virus by one of their officials, what are the facts of the dispute? Who are the main claimants? A great deal of what the miners ask for, apart from hours, has been conceded to them, and to the miners working underground, 85 per cent, of the members of the Miners Federation, a great deal has been conceded. They have a 40-hour week, inclusive of crib time. That is to say, they have a working week of 3-7-i hours. The men who have not the benefit of a 40-hour week are, in very few cases, members of the Miners Federation. There are other unions involved in this dispute. To name some of them, there are the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association of Australasia, the Blacksmiths Society of Australasia and the Federated Mining Mechanics Association of Australasia.
The Prime Minister has had very considerable experience of industry. He has appeared in the Arbitration Court and other courts as advocate not only for the owners but also for the unions. No one knows better than he the class of men in the Amalgamated Engineering Union, highly skilled conservative trade unionists. The same applies to the engine drivers. They are the aristrocrats of labour, highly skilled workers. The members of the Miners Federation who work on the surface are surface labourers, but the other surface workers are highly skilled men. and they are men who are hardly ever Communists. They are the conservatives of labour. The Miners Federation is fighting not so much its own fight as for about 15 per cent, of its own members ; even now it is fighting for the skilled mechanic who works in the » mining industry, just as the skilled mechanic has had to support the miners when the latter have gone out on strike.
You will find more Communists among the middle classes than among the working class. I repeat that the fact that two, or three, or four Communists may be among the leaders of the Miners Federation does not affect the attitude of the other unions who are fighting in support of the miners’ demands in this struggle. Men are called Communists who, in fact, are not Communists. The northern president of the Miners Federation, Mr. Bondy Hoare, has long been a member of a body known as the Australian Socialist Labour party. He is not a Communist. It is quite true that in this dispute he agrees with leaders who are Communists. But many other men who are not Communists also agree with those leaders and are fighting side by side with them in this struggle - men who, in some cases because of their religious convictions, opposed communism, whilst others on the political platforms and at the ballot-box reject Communist candidates with contumely. You will find such men working shoulder by shoulder with so-called Communists in vindication of the miners’ demands. It is quite within the power of the Government to settle this strike fairly. No persons are more willing than the miners to listen to the Prime Minister if he approaches them in a spirit of equity, fairness and humanity. I believe that if the Prime Minister had given the miners an opportunity to state their position equal to that which he took himself, he would have been received with open arms on the coalfields. If the miners had been allowed to broadcast their case just as he broadcast his own and the mine-owners’ case to the country, there would be no trouble on the coal-fields now. I can sympathize with the spirit of men who refuse to allow their institutions to be used as a megaphone by the Prime Minister in order to broadcast their opponents’ side of the case to the country. I appeal to the right honorable gentleman to listen to my representations in this matter. The history of the mining industry is studded with bitter struggles. As I have already pointed out, 50 years ago we had strikes followed by the calling in of free labour under the protection of troops. Unlike wharf labourers and seamen, the coalminers are a solid and permanent community of workers who live as well as work side by side, and they have been drilled and trained in the principles of class solidarity and loyalty. How can the Prime Minister expect to deal with men of that kind easily? Does he believe that by putting free labour into the mines he will do anything but divide the community in a desire to bring about an early election, just as he tried to fight the Corio by-election on the war issue and talk of national unity. Just as Joseph Chamberlain exploited the Boer War for election purposes in 1900 and Woodrow Wilson in the last war appealed to the American people to give his party a majority in Congress, so this trouble with all its attendant misery to the miners and the workers generally will be used as a means to enable the United Australia party to secure a new lease of political life.
– Why should not the miners observe the law?
– The honorable member knows that no party to an industrial dispute observes the law. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) pointed out, the former Nationalist member for Fawkner demanded in 1929 that the Government should prosecute the mineowners, and the Government, after considering the matter, refused to prosecute them. It is merely academical to ask why parties to an industrial dispute do not obey the law. You cannot settle disputes or bring about industrial peace in that way. I am not sure that the political advantage which the Prime Minister and his colleagues expect will accrue to them. In 1909, the Premier of New South Wales. Charles Gregory Wade, was faced with a coal strike. He passed special legislation for the purpose of dealing with that strike, but when the people of New South Wales realized that the strikers’ leaders, including Peter Bowling, were brought down from the coal-fields to Sydney with irons on their limbs, they rejected Charles Gregory Wade at the next election with such determination that he never again obtained office in New South Wales; and at the following federal election in 1910 they voted overwhelmingly in favour of Labour because of this experience of a coal-owners’ government which pursued the owners’ ends.
I appeal to the Prime Minister to preserve national unity in this country. I ask him to do all he can to preserve that unity. We were told that the eyes of Hitler were upon Corio. Eyes more searching, more watchful and more unforgetting than Hitler’s are upon the Government of Australia in this crisis. They are the eyes of the Australian people, not merely of those now living, hut also of posterity. If the Government abuses its powers in an attempt to drive these men back to work, the name of Robert Gordon Menzies will go down to posterity, not as the man who, in a time of war, rose to the heights of national statesmanship and made national unity his first consideration, but as one who, in a great war, divided the people, and took the side of the strong and the rich against the poor and the weak. His name will go down to our children and grandchildren as that of the man who broke this strike or, at any rate, tried to break it. I appeal to him not to do that. I believe that it is his desire to build out of the country’s present trials a great reputation, a monument more enduring than bronze, in order that future generations of Australians will honour his name as that of a great man who, in a time of crisis, did generous and magnanimous deeds the memory of which will live in this country for ever. I hope that he will do that. I hope that the Government will not adhere to its present policy.
.- I should not have participated in this debate but for the attempts of honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), to justify the actions of the strikers. They are doing a disservice to the people of this country by encouraging a continuance of the strike. The remarks of the honorable member for Bourke always carry much weight in this House. He laboured the contention that in this instance the strikers should be entitled to take advantage of the decision of the single judge, that is, the decision of the lower court, or the decision of the Full Court, whichever they preferred. He pointed out that in the lower court Judge DrakeBrockman decided in favour of the principle of uniformity of hours, whereas the Full Court altered that decision. The honorable member contended that the men should have the right to maintain the decision of Judge Drake-Brockman, and to reject those parts of the decision of the Full Court which do not suit them. As a lawyer, the honorable member knows very well that the decision of the court implies that of the higher court. The Arbitration Court has one principle in common with our civil and criminal tribunals in that proceedings within its jurisdiction are initiated before a magistrate or a single judge. That decision is final unless it be appealed against. Certain limitations as to time and conditions are prescribed for the lodging of appeals of this kind. Either party to a plaint, if it be dissatisfied with a decision, has the right of appeal against the judgment of the lower court. But when the full bench upsets a decision of the lower court it is quite wrong to say that the decision of the court is the decision of the lower court. It is the decision of the higher court that counts, because that decision really abrogates the decision of the lower court. In this instance the miners refused to accept the decision of the Arbitration Court. That court was constituted for the purpose of ensuring that justice would be done to employees. It was established for the advantage rather of employees than employers. The miners now refuse to abide by the decision of the court. The honorable member for Bourke advanced the extraordinary proposition that no party will observe the law in industrial disputes. He referred to the decision of the court as an academic matter. That proposition cannot be tolerated for one moment. Too often in the past sections of employees have been dissatisfied with the decisions of the Arbitration Court and have repudiated them, and too much encouragement is given to such opposition by nien like the honorable member for Bourke and other honorable members opposite. These honorable gentlemen must feel in their hearts that the strikers are doing wrong. At the present time, when this country is at war and, when by their action, they are throwing other people out of employment, thus retarding our war effort, honorable gentlemen who talk in this vein are committing a disloyal and immoral act. They must know that they are doing wrong in speaking in this chamber in order to encourage the miners to continue on strike. I deplore the element of party politics which has been introduced into this debate. I confess that honorable members on this side have been as much’ to blame in that respect as honorable members opposite. However, it is most deplorable when any honorable member should speak in this House in order to encourage the miners to continue their resistance. They must know that, by striking, the miners are acting illegally and disloyally, and that such action cannot be justified. Consequently, honorable members opposite would1 do a great service to this country if they would either refrain from giving encouragement to the strikers or take their courage in their own hands and tell the strikers quite plainly the truth of their position. Members of the Opposition, or of any other political body, who by such actions encourage men to prolong the strike, put themselves in a position akin to that of the Communist leaders who are misleading the miners-.
– I can at least agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that much of the talk during recent sittings of this House has been so much windowdressing, but I do not agree with his utterances regarding the Labour party and the miners in the present industrial dispute on the coal-fields. The honorable member has failed lamentably to sustain any argument in rebuttal of the statements made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) in his admirable speech. It is all very well for members on the Government side to make inflammatory speeches, in an attempt to condemn the attitude of the men engaged in this or any other struggle because, after all, both sides in an industrial dispute break the law. A few years ago, when there was a lock-out in the coal industry, the Government of the day refused to listen to an appeal by one of its supporters, who was an eminent barrister, that action should be taken, against the coal-owners. That fact is overlooked by Government supporters to-day. They are always on the side of money power and against those in the community who are less fortunate. I listened last night to the inflammatory address delivered in this House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he condemned the miners.
– He condemned their leaders.
– The miners are the people who suffer.
– That is true. I can imagine the Prime Minister going to Kurri Kurri and in his usual schoolmasterly fashion addressing the miners and telling them what they ought to do. Every honorable member knows the overbearing attitude of the right honorable gentleman when he wishes to emphasize a point. Whatever his intentions were in going to Kurri Kurri, I am convinced that his visit only inflamed the minds of the men because of the arrogant attitude that he adopts on such occasions. However, as I do not know a great deal about coal-mining in New South Wales, apart from what I have read on the subject, I shall pass on to deal with matters of more particular interest to my own electorate.
A few days ago, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) delivered a fine address, in which he made some telling points against Government members who have been making election speeches recently. Last night we were treated to a typical speech by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Henry Gullett). He spoke in the style to which those of us who have been here for some years have become accustomed. We have also become accustomed to seeing the honorable gentleman crash his way into governments and criticize governments when not a member of the Cabinet. The Minister does not greatly impress us. I am afraid that he was not par ticularly truthful last night when expressing his bitter antagonism against the Labour party. It is true that that party has not been in power in the Commonwealth for 25 years, although in 1929 the people of Australia became so tired of anti-Labour governments that when Mr. Bruce appealed to them on the issue of the continuance of the Arbitration Court, they expressed definitely their preference for a Labour government. Unfortunately, there was not a double dissolution, and because of a hostile majority in the Senate the Labour Government was unable to clean up the mess which it had inherited. The Minister was at considerable pains to tell the people of the failings of that Labour Government, but he did not say, for instance, that the Bruce-Pago Government had borrowed money overseas in order to pay interest on money borrowed previously. Nor did he tell the people of the treasury-bills falling due within three months of the Labour party coming into office. That was a part of the legacy which the Scullin Government inherited in 1929.
I shall pass on from the happenings of those times to refer to a report in the Hobart Mercury of a visit to Tasmania by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) who before the Country party became associated with the Government of the country was an assistant minister in the Cabinet. The report states -
Mr. H. E. Holt, M.H.R., arrived at Launceston yesterday. He said in an interview that only by increased representation of the Government party could . Tasmania take its proper part in assisting Australia’s war effort.
That sort of thing is being said by members on the Government side of the House. The idea is to get the people to believe that only the parties which form the Government are interested in the welfare of Australia and in preserving the bond that exists between it and other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Honorable members know that if a statement is repeated often enough with sufficient emphasis, some persons in the community will believe it. That is the basis upon which business people conduct their advertising. They advertise their products until people are persuaded that they are what they are represented to be. For instance, a person who wishes to buy a tin of boot polish generally asks. not for boot polish, but for a tin of “Kiwi” or “Nugget”. That is the explanation of the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner in Tasmania recently. I am sorry that the honorable gentleman is not now in the chamber, but as he was aware that I proposed to refer to the article in the Mercury, he cannot blame me for doing so in his absence. I challenge him to cite one occasion when Tasmanian members in this House have voted against measures designed to increase the protection of Australia. I challenge him to produce one piece of evidence to show that the Australian Labour party has voted against such measures. It is true that we on this side have differed from the Government in certain aspects of Australian defence, but it cannot be said truthfully that we have opposed the granting of money for the defence of Australia. The newspaper article goes on to say -
I am not suggesting that the State Government is not giving full co-operation, because I believe it has been behind the Federal Government in its national endeavours. However, four of the five Federal seats in Tasmania aro held by Labour members, who, no matter’ how moderate they may be, are still under the rules of their organization, and are bound by the majority. This means that Tasmania, which could play a big part, is proving a political weakness. The significance of our efforts is heightened by the events of the past few hours.
We are determined to make a special effort to obtain the return of Government supporters at the next election, and I hope to impress on some of the leading men that they can do their part in assisting us in time of war by making some sacrifice and coming forward as candidates or supporters.
I have no complaint to make about members of any political party going to Tasmania and urging supporters of that party to come forward and contest > an election. That of course is permissible; but I object strongly to the insinuation which the article contains, particularly as the statement was made by a man of military age against men who, together with their families, are playing an important part in connexion with the defence of this country. I challenge the honorable member for Fawkner to indicate one instance in which the Tasmanian members of the Australian Labour party in this Parliament have done anything to hamper in the slightest degree the appropriation of the money required for the defence of Australia.
I associate myself with the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) a few days ago when he directed attention to the fact that we might possibly be faced with dangers closer to Australia than Suez. His warning was timely, and I recall that on previous occasions when he has made similar utterances he has always received the support of honorable members on this side of the chamber. The justification for his pronouncement is borne out by recent events, and there. is every reason why the Government should heed the warning given by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member must admit that Australian troops are playing a very important part overseas.
– The sending of troops overseas may be of some value ; but our first consideration should be the defence of our own shores. The Government should realize that, since the outbreak of war, conditions have altered considerably, and that the danger to Australia appears to be developing. On one occasion the honorable member for Fawkner, whose statement I have just cited, instead of endeavouring to strengthen the bond of friendship with other nations in the Pacific, made some unfriendly references to our neighbours. One must speak on such subjects with some restraint, but honorable members should not say anything likely to endanger the friendly relations which exist between Australia and its neighbours. Unfortunately some honorable members opposite do not exercise sufficient restraint. On 23rd September the following paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Herald : -
The British Ministry of Information in a statement to-day, expresses Britain’s gratitude at the Australian decision to send air force men overseas, which is considered the most practical form of help at a time when England has more untrained volunteers than she can handle.
A high authority points out that Australian troops are not yet urgently needed. Britain wants from Australia, firstly, aero engines; secondly, trained pilots; thirdly, food; fourthly, other war commodities, and only fifthly, troops.
He adds : “ Compared with the last war, our technique is completely altered. This will be a war of attrition, not of spectacular battles. Wo will wait while German internal events come to our aid.”
That statement answers the interjection made by the honorable member for the
Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) a few moments ago. It would appear that the British Government requires aeroplane engines, pilots and foodstuffs. In connexion with the last mentioned it is reasonable to ask whether the Government proposes to pay any regard to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition made some months ago that a large quantity of foodstuffs should be sent to Great Britain as a gift from the Australian nation. I suppose that Government supporters have forgotten that the Australian Labour party made such an offer.
– The question of whether further offers were to be made had not then be considered, but the offer should not have been ignored.
For many years the defence policy of the Australian Labour party has been criticized severely by honorable members opposite; but that is not surprising because when general elections are approaching the Government’s supporters try to woo the electors by raising bogys or by drawing a red herring across the trail in an endeavour to mislead the electors. Governments such as this Government have never won an election on a definite policy. In 1913 when the Labour party was in control in both branches of this legislature it tackled the problem of defence in statesmanlike manner. When that Government suggested the establishment of an Australian navy its political opponents said there was no need for such a navy, and that we were not prepared to accept the protection afforded by the British navy. Despite criticism, the Labour party formed the first unit of the Royal Australian Navy, and that navy is playing an important part to-day in assisting to convoy our produce overseas to Great Britain. The establishment of the Royal Australian Navy was ridiculed by the an ti -Labour parties of that day, but it is significant that none of them has ever taken any steps to abolish that navy.
The Labour party also established the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow and the Munitions Factory at Maribyrnong; these activities were also the subject of strong criticism by anti-Labour forces.
We know, however, that both of these factories rendered great service to the nation during the last war, and have been of immense use in connexion with the defence measures now being taken. I believe the Minister for the Army said a day or two ago that Australia was now sending ammunition abroad for the use of Great Britain and the Allied forces. During the last war many Australians went abroad as munition workers to the great advantage of this country and of the Empire.
The Commonwealth Woollen Mills, the Commonwealth Clothing Factory and the Commonwealth Harness Factory were also established by the Labour party and, in their day, rendered outstanding service to the community at large. We all know to our deep regret that the Bruce-Page Government sold the woollen mills, but who was it that got in on the ground floor in connexion with that sale? I do not accuse the Prime Minister or his colleagues of doing so, but an honorable gentleman of another place undoubtedly did very well by his activities in connexion with that sale. It was said that the woollen mills were being operated at a loss. I suggest that the loss was not unlike the “ loss “ that the coalowners, to whom the Prime Minister referred last night, are suffering. At any rate the honorable senator to whom I have referred and also his wife were the buyers of large parcels of shares in the company which took control of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. They were not deterred by any allegations that the woollen mills were unprofitable.
The Labour party also established the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth note issue which, together, have been perhaps the greatest financial bulwarks that the nation has known. I have no need to discuss the usefulness of the Commonwealth Bank at any great length, for the newly-elected honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) delivered an able address on that subject a few days ago. It was his maiden speech in this House and I congratulate him upon it. The Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth note issue have been of vast value to the nation. In 1924 the BrucePage Government “had a shot” at the Commonwealth Bank, and altered its constitution, taking control of it from the Governor of the bank and placing it in the hands of a board of directors. The result has been that the operations of the bank have ever since been restricted in certain directions. The bank has not been able to conduct its affairs with the maximum of value to the people. Unfortunately, persons interested in the operations of the private trading banks have been able unduly to influence the situation. The Commonwealth Bank rendered outstanding service to the nation during the last war, and the late Sir Denison Miller, the first Governor of the bank, made it clear that it could have rendered just as signal service to the nation in peacetime as it did in wartime had it been allowed to do so. Anti-Labour governments have prevented it from doing so. Although the bank has been handicapped in that it has not been able to develop its business on a competitive basis, its operations have shown a profit of many millions of pounds to the Commonwealth.
All of these activities were set in motion in the three or four epoch-making years preceding the 25 years to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Henry Gullett) referred last night. No other period in the history of this nation has been productive of such notable legislative achievements.
It will be remembered, also, that it was a Labour government which established the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line. The purchase of the Bay liners and of the other vessels in the Government’s fleet was a great development, and it was tragic that the ships should subsequently have been sold by the BrucePage Government. Had the fleet remained in the possession of the Government, we should not now be facing such difficulties as the Prime Minister has referred to in the last day or so in the transport of our products overseas. The right honorable gentleman did not, it is true, state that the difficulties we are now facing would have been minimized had those ships not been sold, but it is nevertheless a fact that had that sale not been made the position would have been very much easier now than it is. The ships were practically given away. When the five Bay liners and two Dale steamers were sold to the White Star Line, controlled by the Kylsant interests, in 1928 they represented a total outlay of £7,225,000, comprising capital cost of £4,725,000, and running losses of £2,500,000, or so it was claimed. The vessels were sacrificed for £1,900,000, the conditions of the sale providing that £250,000 should be paid in cash and the remainder in ten annual instalments of £165,000 [Leave to continue given.] Thus an asset worth approximately £7,000,000 was sold for less than £2,000,000; but the Commonwealth has not even been paid that price. I understand that £600,000 is still owing on the line, because the firm which purchased the steamers had as its head a man who, to say the least of him, was not quite honest, and, because of his dealings, is now in gaol.
– As he had no intention of paving, he might as well have offered £10,000,000.
– That is so. But whatever the sale price, the loss to the nation of the service of these ships was tremendous. Not only did the transaction involve the Commonwealth in a loss of many millions of pounds, but also, because the vessels were sold at a sacrificial price under powerful political pressure, the primary producers of this country have been compelled to pay dearly in increased shipping freights, by reason of the removal of the competition factor which the seven steamers constituted during the time they were operating in the national interests. The estimated saving to the primary producers of £500,000 a year, in respect of f reight charges, proves the correctness of this contention, if any proof be needed. Despite the fact that these ships were being run at a loss, the Government would have been wise to keep them in service, because of the effect they had on overseas freight rates. In any case, much of the loss was due to mismanagement. Immediately the vessels were disposed of, freights rose and the result has been a loss to the primary producers of this country of about £500,000 a year. That was in normal times. The value of the ships in this time of war would be inestimable. Had the Bay lines been retained, they could have been operated as they were during the last war. Not only would they have been able to supply Great Britain with the foodstuffs which it so urgently requires, but they would also have enabled Australia to preserve its economic stability by continuing its export trade. It must be remembered that Australia has to meet vast interest commitments overseas. It is necessary to preserve the dollar exchange, and the goods which we could have sent out of this country would have gone a long way towards doing that. As it is, primary products are going to waste. Only a fortnight ago I saw apples which had been dumped on a river bank because space could not be found to ship them overseas. In Canberra good apples cannot be obtained, and the ones for which Hd. is paid are of very poor quality. There is not an apple on the tables of the hotels run by the Department of the Interior. Fruit and other primary products cannot be obtained overseas. I repeat that the Bay liners were not sold but were given away, and actions such as that are in marked contrast to the accomplishments of the Labour Government during i the short time it was in power. I challenge the present Government to produce any evidence, after three years of office, that it has to its credit legislative achievements in any way comparable with those of the Labour Government.
– It cannot be done.
– I agree with the honorable member that it cannot be done.
I should like to refer now to the treatment of wives and children of soldiers now serving in the defence forces. 1 realize that this subject is a controversial one. It relates to husbands who have been living apart from their wives and families. These separations may have been due to any of a variety of reasons, but it is usually the wife and children who suffer most if the husband either will not work, or, when he does work, spends his money in such a way that his domestic responsibilities are neglected. Some of these men have volunteered for service abroad, and have either left Australia, or will do so in the near future and, because in some cases the wife has been successful in getting from the court a maintenance order for only £1 a week - £1 a week would be the maximum if the husband were not in regular employment - the Government has decided that it can pay no more than that. In other words,, the Government is sheltering behind thefact that the man who has enlisted in its military forces has, in the past, so neglected his responsibilities that his wife isin receipt of only £1 by means of a court separation order. I have received communications from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) in regard to this matter, and he informs me that war financial regulations clearly state that a separation allowance can be approved only when theallotment made by the soldier is not sufficient to cover the amount of the court order. I say to the Minister now that if that provision is contained in the war financial regulations, there is somethingwrong with those regulations. It is timethat the Government realized its responsibility, and ceased to shelter behind suchtechnicalities. It is a gross injustice that: the wives and children should be so neglected. The. whole principle is wrong; and I appeal to the Minister to examine these regulations, and see whether they cannot be amended. Surely rectification of this anomaly would not involve heavycost, or upset any vital principle.
– All of the regulationsare under review at the present time.
– If the Minister will give an assurance that this regulation will” be sympathetically reviewed, I shall not pursue the matter further.
– They are all under review, including that particular regulation.
– Very well. If it is. altered satisfactorily I shall have no more to say.
I express the hope that the dayis not far distant when the peoples of the world will recognize the Christian principles upon which democracy exists, and’ that war will bo banished from the earth : that we shall have peace and goodwill among all men, not only those in theBritish Commonwealth of Nations and in the countries of its allies, but alsoamong those who are to-day our enemies. There are plenty of the good1 things of” life for every.body, and if mankind is prepared to recognize the principles of” social justice, there should be no need for conflict between man and man. I think that there is something in what the- honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) said this afternoon regarding, the importance of Christian principles. The same, point was made only a day or. two ago. by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I associate myself with those remarks. I believe that if we were to apply the good old. golden rule of doing unto others as we would that they should do unto us, the principles of social justice would be more generally recognized. There would be no more conflict between man and man, and there would be peace between all the peoples of the earth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gregory) adjourned.
Technical Traineesat Point Cook andlaverton
Motion (by Mr. Street) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Aviation (Mr. Fairbairn) to the position of a group of about 150 young men, recruited as wireless operators, and for other skilled positions, who are at present supposed to be undergoing training at Point Cook and Laverton. Some of these men. have been there for three months - none has been there for less than two months - and they are becoming dissatisfied because they have not yet started their classes for training. They are working for 5s. a day,, which is much- less: than many of them were receiving, before they enlisted,, and they are engaged upon labouring work, such as digging postholes and shovelling mullock. They do not mind hard work, but they are anxious to begin their training. They have been told that the first class will begin on the13th May. Only half the number there will be enrolled in- that class, and the other half will be enrolled three months later. Thus, some of the men, will have been in camp for six months before beginning their training, and the training period will last for eight months. They will receive no increase on the 5s. a day until they get through their course. They do not want to do labouring work, which they think ought to be given to older men who are in need of a job. Some of these young trainees are married, and they would, not have gone into camp so soon if they had known that they would have to wait so long before beginning their training… I doubt whether the. Minister would have wanted them to go into camp so soon had he known the circumstances. I should like the Minister to look into this matter, and to get. the classes into operation as soon as possible. Some time ago I raised the issue of providing work for men at Point Cook and Laverton on the enlargement of the aerodrome, the alteration of the water supply, and the building of roads so that the aerodrome weald lie entirely inside the main road to Geelong. I know that between £30,000and £40,000 was set aside for this work. I notified the Williamstown Council, which had been promised £ 15,000 to doup the rifle range at Williamstown, that a larger scheme was to be put into’ operation, and that many more men would beemployed. In thisI went perhaps beyond what the Minister would have authorized me to say, but I was anxious to assure the council that provision was being made for the unemployed in its district, provided the men were suitable for the work. I am wondering whether these trainees, who ought to be studying for their various courses are being employed on this work, instead of the men from the district who ought to be engaged upon it. These trainees are becoming dissatisfied. They entered camp full of enthusiasm to get on with their job, and that enthusiasm is evaporating. Some of them, I understand have not even been taught Morsecode, though many, of course, had some training before they entered. I should like the Minister to inquire whether the money which was passed for this work is to be expended upon it, and whether the trainees are being engaged upon work which should be done by outside labourers.
. - I shall investigate the matters which have been raised by the Honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and I shall tell him early next week exactly what the position is.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Grant to New South Wales for Relief of Unemployment - Communication from Under-Secretary, Department of Labour and Industry of New South Wales, regarding Belief Workers.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General - A. G. Richardson.
Commerce - S. L. Heriot, J. V. Howden.
House adjourned at 6.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
i asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice - 1.Have complaints been made concerning the standard of accommodation at Brassey House, Canberra, whichwas taken over last August bya new management?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
y asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Has he investigated allegations, current in Melbourne, that corruption in various forms has been associated with the leasing of contracts by the department to private firms? If not, willhe order that investigations be made?
– I am not aware of any allegations of corruption associated with the letting of contracts. If there are any suspicions of the kind, I am most anxious to know of them. As the honorable member has stated that they exist, I hope he will go further and furnish me with definite information upon which I can institute investigations.
d asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Price of Sugar.
r. - On Friday, the 19th April, 1940, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked me whether I had any power to deal with the margin obtained by retailers of sugar. In elaboration of my previous reply I desire to state that the control of prices of sugar and other declared commodities is administered by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner under the National Security (Prices) Regulations and that I have no power to deal with the subject. Orders made by the Commissioner may, however,be suspended by the Minister for Trade and Customs inaccordance with regulation18.
– On Friday, the 19th April, 1940, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) asked the Minister for Commerce a question concerning prices charged for second-hand bags. In elaboration of the reply then given, I wish to state that if the honorable member will bring to my notice any specific cases a full investigation will be made by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner and any necessary action will be taken by him in cases where overcharges are proved. Regulation 20 of the National Security (Prices) Regulations provides that, in addition to any other penalty that may be imposed, the court may order the defendant to refund to the purchaser the difference between the maximum price fixed under the regulations and the price at which the goods were sold.
Price of Superphosphate.
r. - On Friday, the 19th April, 1940, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), when speaking during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, referred to the increase by 10s. a ton of the price of superphosphate and questioned the authority of the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to take evidence on oath.
On the 22nd April, 1940, the honorable member asked whether the increase by 10s. a ton of the price of superphosphate could be referred to the Tariff Board or some other body authorized to make a public inquiry to ascertain whether the increase of price is justified. I bring to the honorable member’s notice the fact that, although public inquiries are not held by the Commissioner in the same manner as Tariff Board inquiries, the Commissioner has full power under the National Security (Prices) Regulations to summon witnesses and take evidence on oath. In practice he frequently requires data concerning applications for increased prices to be supported by statutory declarations. As regards the specific increase of 10s. a ton permitted by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner on the 2nd January last, the Minister for Trade and Customs has informed me that this increase was permitted after an exhaustive inquiry had been made by the Commissioner into increased costs since the outbreak of war. The increases were due mainly toincreased freight on rock phosphate and increased costs of sulphur and sacks and were in all cases on account of additional costs on imported goods or freights over which the Government had no control.
Owing to the operation of the averaging principle and to the policy of the companies in purchasing early supplies of imported goods, the increase of 10s. a ton was, in the circumstances, moderate.
r. - On Friday, the 19th April, 1940, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), when speaking during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, asked a question concerning the operation of the National Security (Fair Rents) Regulations. In reply to the honorable member, I wish to state that following his representations on the matter to a previous Minister, the matter was given consideration, and steps are being taken to amend the regulations in the manner suggested by the honorable member. It will be realized that in some States local authorities are acting under the powers conferred by the National Security (Fair Rents) Regulations and the proposed amendments are still under discussion with these authorities.
s asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400423_reps_15_163/>.