15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday the Minister for External Affairs said that the Allies were in possession of approximately five-sixths of the Dutch oil reserves and that the remaining one-sixth had been rendered useless. In a broadcast at 7 o’clock last night it was stated that Germany had seized most of the Dutch oil reserves. As these two statements are at variance, can the Minister supply accurate information on the subject? Further, can he make a statement as to the truth or otherwise of the statement appearing in this morning’s press that Germany has gained possession of approximately £26,000,000 of Dutch gold?
– The honorable member was not accurate in his reference to my statement yesterday. I then said that official advice received by the Government was that of a quantity of 450,000 tons of oil in Holland, five-sixths had been destroyed and the other one-sixth rendered unfit for use, before the Germans completed the occupation of north Holland. That is the official advice received by the Government, and I have no doubt that it is accurate.
As to the report that the Germans have secured possession of £26,000,000 of Dutch gold, I have no information on the subject, but the Government has been informed that Dutch bullion was removed to England prior to the German occupation of Holland. Whether all of it had been removed, or whether £26,000,000 remained, I amunable to say. The Government has no information on that subject.
Italian and American Attitude
– Can the Minister for External Affairs inform the House of the latest authoritative news regarding the movements, or likely decisions, of the Italian Government in relation to affairs in Europe? Can he say what the attitude of the United States of America is, and whether the Government has received any information in regard to this matter through its representative at Washington ? Further, can he say whether there are any means whereby members of this House can be informed more fully of international developments, and the attitude of the Government towards them?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, the Government has been advised during recent weeks of what, I think, may fairly be described’ as the progressive deterioration of the attitude of the Italian Government towards the Allied governments. It has been informed by the Australian Minister in Washington that, during the last 48 hours, President Roosevelt himself has directed a personal appeal toSignor Mussolini for the maintenance of peace. I am unable to give to the honorable member any information whatever as to the effect of that appeal in the quarter to which it was directed.
– What is the general attitude of the United States of America?
– I take it that the honorable member refers to the Government of the United States of America. The general and consistent attitude of the Government is to exert every effort that it properly can exert towards the maintenance of peace in both hemispheres. The honorable member asks whether it would not be possible for this Government to give more accurate’ and intimate information to honorable members as to international relations generally. I have endeavoured to keep honorable members apprised of events, but they will understand that it is not possible for the Government to take the public fully into its confidence in relation to every aspect of international affairs.
– Surely the members of this Parliament have a right to know?
– As to the general relations between the nations we cannot read in advance what is in the minds of other nations. The Government can only form opinions in regard to many matters.
-What is the present position regarding the Dutch East Indies and also Dutch New Guinea?In view of the existing international situation, can the Minister for External Affairs say whether assurances have been received that those territories are being adequately safeguarded ?
– The Government has been advised by the Government of the Netherlands that, notwithstanding what may be the fate of the Netherlands in Europe, the Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies has had delegated to him complete authority in respect of the government of those colonies, and has under his control adequate forces to maintain internal security there.
– What about security from external attack?
– That is a matter upon which only an opinion can be formed. The Government of the Netherlands is still intact, although at present it is domiciled in London. I take this opportunity to make it clear that the Government of the Netherlands has indicated to the governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States of America and Japan that it desires and requires no interference or help from any outside power in the maintenance of the independence of the Netherlands East Indies. Each of those governments has replied that it concurs. That is a separate and considered policy of the governments of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, as well as of the United States of America and Japan.
– Was not that the advice that they tendered in regard to Holland, which afterwards was invaded ?
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information as to whether the Dutch fleet, which recently sailed for England, is to be stationed in the Netherlands East Indies, as this is a matter of vital importance to Australia ?
– The major portion of the Dutch fleet has always been stationed in the Netherlands East Indies; only minor units have been in the home waters of the Netherlands. Those vessels are, I understand, now operating in conjunction with the Royal Navy.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for the Army ifhe would permit me, and other honorable members, to peruse the list of names of persons who had been interned at the outbreak of war ; those who were subsequently released and re-interned; and also those still in custody. The Minister said that, out of consideration for the national safety, my request could not be granted. I now ask him whether he will reconsider his decision, and advise me in what way the national safety would be affected by granting my request.
– I see no reason to alter my previous decision in this matter, and I am sure that, upon reflection, the honorable gentleman will realize that it is most undesirable that the lists of such individuals should be given publicity in any way.
– In view of the congestion in the offices of the Defence Department, and the trouble which honorable members experience because of the growing number of requests by widowed parents of soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force for the same treatment as is given to married dependants, will the. Minister for’ the Army take steps to ease the situation? I understand that officers of his department are awaiting a decision in this matter. The numbers of persons affected runs into some hundreds.
– It is confidently hoped that a decision in this matter will be reached some time to-day.
Road: Capital Site
– Can the Minister for External Territories say whether any progress has been made with the building of a road to the New Guinea gold-fields? Has any route been decided upon ; has work commenced, or is it likely to commence in the near future? Further, can he say whether, in connexion with a committee’s recent recommendation for the establishment of a new capital of New, Guinea at Lae, the Government proposes to remove the capital from its present situation at Rabaul?
– As to the last portion of the honorable member’s question, the Government decided not to remove the capital from Rabaul, but to establish a seismograph station there, so that reasonable warning may be given of probable volcanic activity.
In regard to the proposed road, surveys have practically been completed, and the latest advice is that the department in New Guinea is about to call for tenders for the work. The Administrator of New Guinea was in Canberra recently, and discussed these matters with the Government.
– Some time ago 1 wrote to the Minister for the Army urging the appointment as junior storemen in the Army Ordnance Stores of men who had passed the qualifying Commonwealth examination, and he promised to take the matter up with the Army Board. Can he now say what has been done in the matter, and if it is intended to make such appointments ? Further, can he say whether the head storeman has requested the appointment of junior storemen?
– I have not seen any such request from the head storeman, but I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know as soon as possible.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked me for information regarding the number of factories at present engaged in building aeroplanes in Australia, the names of such companies concerned, and whether any of the factories were owned by the Commonwealth Government. At the present time, aeroplanes are being built in Australia by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Melbourne, which is engaged in the production of Wirraway aircraft, and by De Havilland Aircraft Proprietary Limited, Sydney, which is manufacturing Tiger Moth aeroplanes. Those factories are not owned by the Commonwealth. In addition, there are many private engineering establishments now actively engaged in the manufacture of aircraft parts for aircraft mentioned, as well as for Bristol Beaufort aircraft. Under agreement with the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, sections of the railway workshops in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide have been adapted to the manufacture of air frame components, required for the Beaufort scheme. They will be staffed by the Commonwealth Government, and will produce the main sub-assemblies. The final assembly of the completed Beaufort aircraft will be accomplished in Commonwealth factories at Mascot, New South Wales, and Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria. Both of these factories are now nearing completion.
– Has the Prime Minister received representations from various organizations, including many local-governing bodies, directing attention to the subversive activities of the Communist party in Australia, and suggesting that action be taken against it? If so, has the Government given the matterconsideration ?
– Yes, I have received a number of the communications to which the honorable member refers. The wholematter is, and has been, under the consideration of the Government.
– In view of the everincreasing cost of living, particularly in regard to necessary commodities required by the invalid and old-age pensioners, does the Treasurer propose to take any notice of the petitions recently presented by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and myself, signed by 14,000- persons, praying for an increase of” invalid and old-age pensions to 30s. a. week ?
– The honorable member’s question raises a question of policy, and it is not customary to give information in such matters in reply to questions.
– I move -
That the House, .at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
Having regard to the urgent need for disposing of certain legislative proposals now before Parliament and to enable Ministers to concentrate on their administrative duties, I ask honorable members to sit on four days next week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and to sit on five days in the following week.
– Why was not the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) courteous enough to inform honorable members of this proposal earlier in the week? The last announcement on the subject was that it was intended to sit on three days of next week, and honorable members were told that they would be informed in due course, and in sufficient time, of any alteration, so that they could make their private., arrangements. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister could not have told us on Wednesday last of his intention to alter the sitting days.
.- I gather, by drawing an acute inference, rather than from the direct admission of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), that the motion now before the Chair is a preliminary movement towards the early closing of this Parliament. For that reason-, I am opposed to it, and if I can get but one honorable member to support me in this chamber - and I think I can get more - I shall press it to a division. This Parliament has been in session - a new one - for just over four weeks. It mot. in circumstances of great national disturbance and anxiety, and it has- been engaged, in the discussion of matters of serious importance, each honorable member endeavouring, at least, to represent, to Parliament, and to the country, the views he holds on those matters. It is of the essence of the democratic system that Parliament should meet and deliberate. It is opposed to the demo* cratic principle that bureaucracy, namely, the Executive, should snatch from the Parliament and the people their right to deliberate and discus-*, and I intend to lend no countenance whatever to the Prime Minister’s obvious desire to shirk discussion in this Parliament, and seek the repose and quietude of his office in order to apply a policy which has never been discussed by Parliament or approved by the people. On the contrary, insofar as the people have been tested, they have shown their disapproval of that policy. I was going to say that I was profoundly sorry that my leader was not present, but I see that he is in the chamber.
– I have no objection to sitting an extra day next week.
– We recently regularized the sittings of this House in accordance with a well-established practice, namely, that we should meet on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each week. However, hardly had we reverted to this practice, which has been hallowed by experience, before we are presented with this motion, designed obviously to bring the sittings of Parliament to an early termination. My leader has stated that he has no objection to Parliament meeting on Tuesday of next week. I have this objection to it : That it is a departure from the rule for the sittings of the House which we only recently adopted. This departure from practice is unsettling to honorable members who make arrangements in their constituencies in accordance with their understanding of what the days of sitting are to be. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) takes this motion for what it merely expresses, and has no suspicion that it presages the early rising of Parliament, then I have regretfully to inform my leader that I am less guileless in the matter than he is, and that I have no intention whatever of accepting the motion at its face value, when, as a matter of fact, I have information, which I regard as being reliable, that the intention which 1 attribute to the Prime Minister is the intention which he actually holds. In any case,. I propose to take no risk especially as a disturbance of existing arrangements- is involved., and I shall vote against the motion..
– It is hard to understand the arguments of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). First, he suggested that democracy placed on the shoulders of members of the Parliament the responsibility to representtheir constituents in this Parliament.
– And to draw their Allowances and go home again!
SirCHARLES MARR. - That may be applicable to the honorable member. He objected first that Parliament did not sit long enough, that democracy was being deprived of its privilege of representation in Parliament, and he suggested that Parliament should sit for a longer period. Well, the proposal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is that we should sit one extra day next week, and two extra days the week after. The honorable member complains in one breath that Parliament does not sit long enough and, in the next, that it is proposed to sit too long. If this Parliament were made up of any considerable number of members following the leadership of the honorable member for Batman, it might be advisable to close it up altogether for the good of the Empire and the cause we have at heart. Statements have been made here during this week which must have shaken the faith of the electors in those responsible for them. Listening to some honorable members one would imagine that the Empire, of which Australia is not an unimportant part, was merely going along its peaceful and accustomed way, instead of being engaged in a veritable death struggle. It is time that we awakened to the fact that we are at war. The present Government has upon it a greater responsibility than any preceding Commonwealth Government has had. The time of Ministers is fully occupied in the consideration of matters of great moment, and they should be given as much time as possible for the performance of their duties, even if that meant the closing of Parliament so that they might be able to concentrate on their work. We have the spectacle of unity in the Old Country. The whole of the British Isles are united.
– The British Parliament sits every day.
– And in the British Parliament there are great Labour men - imperialists and empire builders, not wreckers. Labour in the Old Country can show to my friends in the honorable gentleman’s corner a great example of unity by combining with other parties to bring this Empire through.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable gentleman is not discussing the motion.
– The proposal of the Prime Minister is one that should meet with the approbation of every member of this House. If Ministers areprepared to give another day to sit here and listen to some of the drivel–
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is distinctly out of order.
– I make no charge against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and some of his supporters. The Prime Minister said the other day that the Leader of the Opposition had done a great job of work and we believe it. Certain honorable member? opposite have given all that they can give to helpthe Government and I pay my respects to the Leader of the Opposition and those honorable gentlemen for the part that they have played.
– If the honorable gentleman praises me, I shall resign.
– The honorable member for Batman should take an example from the Leader of the Opposition and some of those who sit with him.
– I suggest to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) that, however great be his admiration here for the members of the British Labour party, if he were in the United Kingdom he would be stilla conspicuous although inefficient tory. This admiration at long range does not help us at all. The motion is that the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next week, instead of Wednesday. I have no objection to that course. I have understood, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said to-day, that certain of the financial proposals of the Government are urgent and that it is from the point of view of the Government desirable that the legislation should be completed early as the result of, not curtailment of discussion, but an increased number of sitting days next week. To that course I, as Leader of the Opposition, believing that the Opposition should not be muzzled and also that there should be the fullest possibility for consideration of government business, readily consented. When yesterday, in another part of this building, I intimated that consent to my colleagues, no objection was taken. That is an entirely different question from the closing of this Parliament. When a proposal is submitted to close this Parliament, which has not come before us at all-
– Hear, hear!
– Is that so? If the honorable member will assure me that the Prime Minister has not expressed his intention to close this House, I shall be satisfied.
– I say to the honorable member for Batman that my understanding is that the Government desires to sit one additional day next week in order that it might pass certain bills which, owing to the financial requirements of the Government, have now become a matter of urgency. I prefer that we should sit an extra day in order to deal with that programme in this Parliament without the use of the closure and the other devices to shorten debate than to refuse to consent to meet on Tuesday and thereby, perhaps, jeopardize the fullness of the debate.
– Can the Government explain why we have been wasting time discussing an electoral bill?
– I suggest that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) put that question to the head of the Government, not to me. I am opposed to the social, economic, and financial policy of this Government just as relentlessly, and I hope a little more consistently, than the honorable member for West Sydney.
– The swords are sharpening on the grindstone !
– That is all right. I do not need to be told what my duty is. The moment I cease to discharge my duty to the satisfaction of those who have appointed me as Leader of the Opposition, there will be no delay in the appointment of another Leader of the Opposition.When the Prime Minister does intimate that he desires to lift this House, we should decide when and how this Parliament should meet. It will depend on the character of his statement. If the Prime Minister says that he desires a fortnight or three weeks for the purpose of carrying through the administrative tasks of the Government, which men of common sense must know is an inevitable part of government, I shall consider that proposal fully and weigh its merits, and then invite my colleagues to discuss with me what attitude we shall take. That position has not arisen to-day, and I ask the honorable member for Batman not to press this matter to a division. He has indicated his point of view, and when the proposal for a long adjournment of this House is put forward it can he raised again in debate.
One thing to be considered is the reference that has been made to the convenience of honorable members in their constituencies. That may be important, but I remind honorable members that I have a constituency, which has within it as many people as those of other honorable members. I am not able to make any constituency engagements of any sort or description. That applies to a number of other representatives in this Parliament, and they, I venture to say, apart from political obligations to their electorates, are entitled now and again to have regard paid to their domestic desires. I have a family, too.
.- I did not know that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) would raise this point upon this motion, but it seems to be that he is perfectly justified in doing so. I do not understand that I gave approval to the Government’s truncation of the session.
– Hear, hear!
-When I heard of the proposed lengthening of the sitting days for the next two weeks I took the proposal to be part of the speeding-up process, which takes place before a session comes to an end, and as the prelude to an early end of this session. I object to that very much, and agree with the spirit of the remarks of the honorable member for Batman. I approve of long sittings of Parliament. I should like to see the House sitting throughout the year. I approve of the House sitting four days next week if the object of the change is to meet the Government’s convenience, but I do not approve when I know that the object is an early rising of Parliament so that Parliament will be out of session and the Government able to legislate by administrative act under the National Security Act. I see the force of the point made by the honorable member for Batman. It is much easier for us now to discuss the principle whether Parliament is to come to an end at the end of a fortnight than it would be at the end of that period on the motion for the adjournment of Parliament to an indefinite date. The stand taken by the honorable member for Batman is one which the people of Australia will thoroughly approve. It is one of which I thoroughly approve. In spite of the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), and largely because of his remarks, the people of Australia will approve of the protest entered by the honorable member for Batman. The honorable member for Parkes desires that Parliament should be out of session in order that the Government shall be able to do things without check. The only check that we have on the abuse of power by a government is the fact that Parliament is sitting.When Parliament is sitting administrative acts can be almost instantaneously criticized by members, but, when Parliament is not sitting, all sorts of things are done against which there is continual protest. That continual protest is only effective if the newspapers are with us, but we know that the newspapers are not with us, and that they will not voiceprotests against government policy because they are behind that policy. I support the honorable member for Batman in his protest against bringing this session to an early close. The honorable member has taken this opportunity to protest because he knows that if we wait until the motion for the final adjournment of Parliament is submitted, we shall have very little chance of making our protest effective.
– A personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) misquoted me when he said that I desired that this House should remain in recess. I did not say that. WhatI said was that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was having a bit both ways. I have no desire to see Parliament suspended.
– I had no desire to misrepresent the honorable member and I accept his statement.
.- I suggest that we deal with things in their proper perspective. It, may be that the intention of the Government is to lift the House the week after next. We are not in the Government’s confidence.
– The Leader of the Opposition has so informed me.
– Oh, that alters the whole thing.
– I have no such knowledge. If this House is to be lifted in a fortnight, after a sitting of only six weeks, I shall join in the protests and vote against the adjournment, but I do not think that we are testing that matter on this motion, if it is pressed to a division. I support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin) in asking the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), or any other honorable member, not to divide the House on this motion, but to reserve it to the proper time when we shall divide on a motion for Parliament to go into an early recess. I have had the responsibility of leading a government and I can see’ that it is important that the list of financial proposals put forward by the Government to meet an emergency, very similar to the list of proposals that my government put forward when it had to meet, an emergency, should be passed by Parliament at the earliest possible moment.
– Yet we have been wasting time on an electoral bill.
– I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the Government has not the right to take the time of the House on a measure like that, for the delay of one day in passing some financial measures means the loss of money.
It is urgent that the money bo collected. We approve of the measures in general, although we do so with certain criticism. That business should be put through Parliament as speedily as possible and only then should we deal with routine business. This Parliament should not go into recess, but we should sit four days a week, not only next week-
– All the year round.
– I should not say that. There has never been a Commonwealth Parliament which has sat all the year round.
– It would mean the end of cabinet, government..
– Ministers could not do their work if Parliament sat four days a week all the year round.
– Ministers do too n inch work.
– I agree that we should not allow a bureaucracy to develop, but there arc acts of administration, acts of detail,, which are not for this Parliament, that have to be carried out. I reject the belief that this Parliament., after a long recess, should go into, recess again, having sat for only six weeks. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition agrees with that point of view. But I suggest that this motion should be carried, that we should sit four days next week to clear up the financial business, and that then we should come to grips with ellis matter of an- early recess.
.- I propose to vote against the motion. I congratulate the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) upon his very timely objection to the procedure proposed by the Government. It is not my intention to split straws. Any member of this House who in the light of the exhibition we have had during the last couple ot days, of extensive consideration being given to matters that are of no account, professes to believe that the House is to meet on Tuesday of next week simply for the purpose of expediting the passage of certain financial proposals of the Government,, and does not see in the proposal the first step towards the speeding up of business with the idea of closing Parliament next Friday week, is easily satisfied with the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I am concerned, as are most honorable members,, with the way in which the Government is controlling the affairs of this country. We are given very little opportunity to discuss its administration. It has often been suggested that we should follow the example of the House of Commons. We know that, during the war, that parliamentary institution has functioned more regularly than at any other period since the last war. Even though there is now a national government in Great Britain, and criticism of its activities is reduced to the minimum, the necessity is still realized for the Parliament to meet regularly and to have the last word, if it has any, in the conduct of the affairs of the country. Whether the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is satisfied or not with the assurance given by the Government does- not concern me. Wha t I am concerned about is the tendency in this country, particularly during- the last couple of years, to establish a. bureaucracy in the Cabinet to govern the country by regulation, totally ignoring the wishes of Parliament. We shall not assist to break down that bureaucracy if we fall for such a suggestion as the Prime Minister has apparently made, that the purpose of the proposed extra sitting day is merely to expedite the transaction of certain government business. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has said that this is not the proper time to protest. With his knowledge of parliamentary procedure, the right honorable gentle nian must know that when the Government finally decides to adjourn it will be a. little too late to voice a protest. If the desire be to keep the House in session, and to retain in the Parliament control of the nation’s affairs, this is the only fitting time for the making of such a protest.
.- I join with other honorable members on this side of the House in protesting against the proposal of the Government to bring about an early cessation of the sittings of this Parliament. I believe that, in the present unsatisfactory state of affairs in this country, and because of the maladministration of the Government
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order.
– Many things are happening in this country which honorable members regard as unsatisfactory.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the motion; he is getting right away from it.
– I am protesting against the proposed alteration of the arrangements with respect to the sittings of this Parliament, because I am of the opinion that the purpose of the Government in projecting the early closing of the Parliament is to prevent the ventilation of many matters which honorable members consider are nothing short of a public scandal.
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order, and if he does not pay regard to the ruling of the Chair I cannot allow him to continue.
– I take it that the matter now before the Chair is the intention of the Government to add to the sitting days of this Parliament. In my opinion, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has not been quite frank in his explanation with respect to the necessity for this alteration. I, with other honorable members, am of the opinion that the aim of the Prime Minister is to bring about anearly cessation of the sittings of this Parliament. I join with other honorable members in protesting against that proposal, because the Government not only attempts to curtail discussion when matters of grave public concern are brought before this House for its consideration, hut also uses its majority to gag-
– Order ! The honor- able member will resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order. I believe there is a standing order which provides that if one honorable member moves that another honorable member be further heard, the motion must be put to the House. I, therefore, move -
That the honorable member for East Sydney be further heard.
-Order ! The honorable member is in error. There is a standing order which provides that an honorable member who has been ordered by the Chair to discontinue his speech has the right to require that the question of whether he be further heard be put.
– Then I move-
ThatI be further heard.
Question put -
That the honorable member for East Sydney be further heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- - If anything were needed to convince me that the protest of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) against the evident intention of the Government to go into recess at the end of this month is entirely justified, it has been furnished by the vote just taken. I am opposed to this Government being allowed to reach the haven of recess at the end of this month. The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), that the proposal is that the House shall meet on one additional day next week and on two additional days in the following week, presages the definite intention that this Parliament shall adjourn at the end of the month. The vote just taken is an illustration of an attempt to dominate Parliament by a Fascist reactionary government.
– Order ! The honorable member may not reflect upon a vote of the House. I have allowed a reasonably wide latitude in the discussion of the motion, but the honorable gentleman must be well aware that he is out of order in criticizing anything that has been done by the House, by a Minister or by a private member upon a motion which relates merely to the next sitting day.
– I am quite satisfied that this Government of Fascist tendencies is attempting to rush Parliament into recess in order to prevent freedom of speech-
– Order ! The motion before the Chair relates to the number of sitting days next week, and provides that the House, at its rising, shall adjourn until Tuesday next. The honorable member’s remarks must be relevant to that motion.
– Shall I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in suggesting that the proposed extra sitting day for next week is intended and, in fact, is deliberately designed to enable the Government to confine the whole of the debates to budgetary matters ? If the motion is agreed to it will be practically impossible for honorable members to obtain adequate time to demonstrate to the public that an effort is being made by the Government to deprive the people of many of the liberties which they are supposed to enjoy, and for the retention of which, indeed, the great world conflict is now raging. I am aware of many incidents which indicate that this Government, either consciously or unconsciously, is adopting the same tactics as Hitler adopted-
– Order ! I shall not allow the honorable member to continue speaking in that strain.
– I thought that you would not, sir.
– In any case, did Hitler ever desire Parliament to sit on Tuesday?
– The suggestion of the Prime Minister that Parliament shall sit for one extra day next week and for two extra days in the following week is not acceptable to us, as it will give us an altogether inadequate opportunity to expose the intentions of the Administration. I believe that if the public is made aware of those intentions it will strongly disapprove of them. Only yesterday it was demonstrated in this House that one Minister, at any rate, was prepared to use every means in his power to prevent the ventilation in Parliament of the legitimate grievances of a public servant.
– That is so.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is out of order. The honorable member for Ballarat also clearly recognizes that he, too, is out of order.
– I do not admit that.
– The honorable gentleman said only a moment or two ago that he thought I would not permit him to continue to speak in the strain that he had adopted. He must be well aware that it is not in order for him to reflect upon a decision of the House.
– Shall I be in order, sir, in seeking to illustrate what I consider to be an undesirable practice that this Parliament is adopting?
– The honorable member may be in order, if he does not speak the truth.
– I shall name the honorable member for East Sydney if he interjects again during this debate. The honorable member for Ballarat may proceed with his illustration. The Chair will then determine whether it is relevant or not.
– It has been amply demonstrated already during this session that the Government is prepared to deprive public servants and others of the opportunity to have their grievances ventilated in Parliament.
– I shall not allow the honorable member to continue in this strain. His remarks must be strictly relevant to the motion.
– The motion before the Chair indicates the intention of the Government that Parliament shall go into recess at the end of this month. I am opposed to the adoption of that course. I am not so much concerned about the actual sitting days for next week and the following week, but I am very definitely concerned about the objective which the Prime Minister has in view. I am satisfied that his purpose, and the purpose of his followers, is so to arrange the business that Parliament shall go into recess at the end of this month, to enable the Government thereafter to dominate the country by Fascist practices.
– Order ! The honorable member must resume his seat. His attitude to-day has been distinctly defiant of the Chair.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) proposed -
That the honorable member for Ballarat be further heard.
– I rise to order. Seeing that the honorable member had already resumed his seat, I ask whether it is competent for him now to move that he be further heard?
– I had ordered the honorable member to resume his seat; but I must confess to some little difficulty in determining whether the honorable gentleman had already finished his speech and resumed his seat voluntarily. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister had risen before the honorable member had resumed his seat, but I did not call him from the Chair. I shall allow the motion to go to a vote if the honorable member for Ballarat so wishes.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) put -
That the honorable member for Ballarat be further heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 4
– It seems that the corroboree in the ranks of the Labour party, which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) assisted by his remarks a few moments ago, may continue to develop into a tribal fight preceding a blood bath at the next elections. I cannot see how any honorable gentleman can reasonably object to the specific proposal of the motion, but as the honorable member for Batman was permitted to draw a red herring across the trail, by suggesting that be could read the Prime Minister’s mind, or was a party to a little mental telepathy, and was consequently allowed to cast a slur upon the Executive of this country, I may perhaps be excused for saying a word or two concerning executive authority.
– The Prime Minister informed us of his intentions regarding the session. That was how I knew of it.
– I do not know much about the hypothetical or empirical methods which the honorable member usually applies, but I feel that I must support his remarks, and also those of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), concerning the inadvisability of Parliament going into recess. That course should not be adopted. I do not’ go so far as to suggest that that is what is in the Prime Minister’s mind, but I assert my right as a back-bencher to say that we, as back-benchers, have allowed the Executive to exert far too much authority. Back-benchers are either too lazy to do their work or they have allowed the Executive to steal their authority. About two years ago, when the present Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) sat on a back bench, he criticized the Government most caustically for its disregard of private members.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the motion.
– I stand for the rights of back-benchers in this House. I am not a shadow of any other honorable member. I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) with regard to government by regulation. If any honorable member in this House has good ground for such objection, it is the member for the Northern Territory.
– Order ! The question of government by regulation may not be discussed upon the motion now before the Chair. It is irrelevant.
– It has been suggested that Parliament is soon to go into recess, in order that the Government may rule by regulation. Certain parts of the Commonwealth are controlled entirely by regulation.
– The honorable member will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– I hope that other backbenchers will deliver speeches similar to that of the present Minister for Air to which I have referred, and demand that private members be taken more into the confidence of the Government before legislation is introduced, so that their knowledge may be utilized to a greater degree andthey themselves may be treated as being more than shadows of others.
. -The motion before the House is that the House at its rising shall adjourn until Tuesday next at3 p.m. No honorable member has protested more consistently against closing the doors of Parliament than I have. I do not recede from the position which I have taken up frequently in this chamber, and will take up again if the occasion demands it; hut in this matter I stand with my leader. I have no objection to comingback here next Tuesday. Since Parliament met,I have not missed one day’s sitting and I intend to continue to attend to my duties here in the same way, because I believe it is the duty of honorable members to be here, not in their constituencies, when Parliament is sitting. Indeed, that is why we have been elected. Much of the discussion this morning would have been avoided had honorable members confined their remarks to the motion. It may be that the Government desires to adjourn Parliament the week after next. Should a motion to that effect be moved, I shall oppose it. That would be the time to object to the closing of Parliament. I shall do so even if the hour be 2 o’clock in tie morning. If the motion can be defeated, the House will remain open. I shall not give a silent vote on this motion, because I want my constituents and the country to know why I shall vote for it. As I have said, I have no objection to comingback next Tuesday.
– I have, because the motion is a breach of an arrangement already made.
-Should a subsequent motion to adjourn Parliament the week after next be moved, I shall fight against it to the utmost of my ability.
– I strongly support the proposal of the Government that Parliament should sit on additional days. As honorable members know, I have a strong objection to allnight sittings, but the financial proposals of the Government may necessitate night sittings unless extra day sittings are agreed to. In view of world conditions generally the exhibition that has taken place in this chamber this morning reminds me of a lot of unruly schoolchildren making a noise merely for the purpose of doing so. There is important business for us to do, and I hope that we shall be allowed to get on with it. I am extremely anxious to avoid all-night sittings, and if we are to give reasonable consideration to the legislation brought before us, we should get down to business, and not waste time.
.-I regret that honorable members opposite have seen fit to charge some honorable members on this side with deliberate stonewalling. The motion before the House is a violation of an undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when Parliament assembled some weeks ago. He then said that the House would sit on three days of each week. Relying on that undertaking, many honorable members have made arrangements to be in their electorates on Tuesday next. If the pressure of departmental work required Ministers to spend more time in their departments, I am confident that the Opposition would grant to them pairs to enable them to do so. As to the contention of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that this is not the time to oppose a motion that Parliament should adjourn for a somewhat extended period, I point out that such a motion would probably be moved on the last day of the intended sittings, when members would have their luggage packed, and be desirous of getting away from Canberra. In such circumstances, the Government, with its majority, would probably move the “ gag “ as it did yesterday
– Order !
– The Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has foreshadowed the introduction of a measure to impose a wartime tax on companies, but, notwithstanding the importance of such legislation, the Government has wasted two days of this Parliament, and probably will waste still more days, in dealing with a bill to amend the electoral law, in order that it may have an advantage at. the next elections.
– Order ! That matter may not be debated now.
– The Government is more concerned with “rigging” the elections than in i mposinga war-time tax on companies.
– in reply - As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) reminded us, the motion before the Chair is, “ That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at3 p.m.” I have heard no argument in opposition to that motion.
– I said that it was a breach of faith.
– I heard the honorable member say something, but I repeat that I heard no argument against the motion. I rose to say that, although I informed the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) yesterday of my intention to make this change, I regret that I did not inform the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) of it. I owe an apology to the honorable member for that oversight; I confess that the obligation to tell him about it completely escaped my mind.
Original question put -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 38
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Development aware that many people have been offered employment if they can provide motor lorries but, owing to possible restrictions of petrol supplies, they are afraid to commit themselves to any debt for the purchase or hire of motor lorries? Can the Minister inform the House if it is the intention of the Government to restrict petrol supplies ?
– I am not aware of the circumstances indicated by the honorable member. The tatter part of his question relates to a matter of government policy upon which I cannot give a reply at this stage.
– Has the Prime Minister seen articles published this week in the Daily News which are decidedly intended to influence public opinion against the prosecution of the war in Australia, and will he have inquiries made to ascertain whether it is not necessary that the tone of that journal’s articles should be restricted ?
– My attention was directed yesterday to a leading article published in the Daily News which was undoubtedly of a scandalous and treasonable character. I have brought the matter to the notice of my colleague, the Acting Minister for Information (Sir Henry Gullett) who controls the censorship.
– In view of his statement that certain articles published in the Daily News were of a treasonable character, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the position of honorable members of this House who arc members of the board of directors of that newspaper? Will he deal with those honorable members as well as the newspaper?
– In pursuing any policy, the Government will be no respecter of persons.
– I understand that the Royal Aero Club of South Australia has been notified by the Department of Air that it is not to be used further as an elementary training centre for the Royal Australian Air Force, and that all Commonwealth members of Parliament from South Australia have been informed of that position and asked to co-operate in requesting the Minister for Air to give an explanation of this decision. I now ask the Minister if he is in a position to make a pronouncement as to whether the club will continue to be used as an elementary training centre for the Air Force, and, if that is not the case, whether he will indicate the policy of the Government in the matter?
– The Royal Aero Club of South Australia has communicated directly with me in connexion with this matter, and my South Australian colleagues in the Cabinet have also mentioned it to me. The club is labouring under a misapprehension in regard to the actual position. On the outbreak of war it was decided to use the facilities of all aero clubs and civil flying schools for training Air Force recruits. The capacities of these schools varied from two or three pupils to twelve pupils; but as it has been found to he inefficient to train recruits in such small units, arrangements are now being made for the establishment of elementary flying training schools of greater capacity in the capital cities. It is hoped that aero clubs and civil flying schools, either individually or collectively, will submit, to the Department of Air quotations for conducting these schools. Any aero club or other similar organization which has the necessary capacity and experience will be given an opportunity to submit an estimate. I assure the honorable member that the Department of Air appreciates very much the valuable work that has been done by aero clubs since the outbreak of war.
– The Prime Minister was good enough to inform me a fortnight ago that he Would consider my suggestion that the Government should establish an industrial board for the Northern Territory. I now ask the Prime Minister if he will be able to give a definite reply to my representations before the end of the present sittings of Parliament ?
– I am afraid that the honorable gentleman is not quite accurate in his interpretation of my answer to his earlier question. I said that the matter would be considered, but I did not indicate in what light it would be considered or what would be the result. It is now under consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce what arrangements, if any, are being made for a review of wool prices during the coming season under the agreement for the disposal of the clip? Are any negotiations taking place for further sales of wool to be made to the United States of America?
– The Government is making such reviews as it considers wise to make in the circumstances. Sales of wool to the United States of America, or any other country, are a matter for discussion between the purchasers and the Government of the United Kingdom.
– When will the Minister for Commerce be able to tell the House whether the agreement for the sale of Australian wool to the United Kingdom has been re-considered and what alterations to remove unsatisfactory aspects of the agreement are expected to be made?
– The Government has under consideration the whole question of the wool agreement and its future. I am not able to say at this stage when I shall be able to make a pronouncement to the House.
– Is there any possibility of a review being made of the decision ofthe Minister for Commerce in regard to the distribution of the amount of £500,000 for the removal of wheatgrowers from marginal areas, in order that something may be done in the interests of primary producers in the State of Victoria?
– The decision which I have made in regard to that matter stands for this year.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether different menus are provided for officers and men proceeding abroad, with the Australian Imperial Force, and, if so, will he inform the House of the quality of food provided in each case?
– I shall obtain the information and inform the honorable member.
– Can the Prime Minister indicate to the House when the Government proposes to terminate the present sittings of Parliament?
– When the business available to Parliament has been concluded.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior in a position to advise the House if the survey, commenced more than twelve months ago by Dr. Woolnough, the Commonwealth Geological Adviser, in order to report upon the iron-ore deposits in Australia, particularly at Koolan Island, Yampi Sound, and Whyalla, has been completed, and if a report thereon has been furnished to the Government?
-Some reports have been sent to the Department of the Interior, but the Government considers that it would be unwise to make their contents public.
– In view of the fact that many of the applications, which were the subject of Tariff Board reports recently tabled in this House, were made for increased duties on the basis of normal peace-time trading conditions, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs give the House an opportunity to discuss those reports?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Prime Minister.
– Has Cabinet yet considered and made a decision on the Townsend report on shipbuilding? If so, is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs able to give a guarantee that, before the present sittings of Parliament are concluded, action will be taken, by means of legislation or any other process, to inaugurate a shipbuilding programme in Australia?
– Consideration of the Townsend report by the Cabinet has not been completed. I am unable to say whether Parliament can be given an opportunity to discuss the matter before it goes into recess.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question in regard to the military camp at Gawler, South Australia, which is known as a Light Horse camp, although other units have been in camp there. The site has been vacated, and rumours have been circulated that it will not be used again for military purposes. Will the Minister inform the House if the site will again be used for military purposes during the war, or if bis department has decided to abandon it?
– Whilst I am not able to answer that question completely, I am able to say that the Gawler site may be used again as a militia camp, but only for a short period; that would be in the case of the. Light Horse regiment for a period of twelve days next year. I shall make inquiries into the matter and give the honorable gentleman a more complete answer.
– Yes- to-daythe honorable member for Mari- byrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked whether it was a fact that 75 men employed in a section of the munitions establishment at Maribyrnong had been given one week’s notice of termination of their employment.
In reply the answer is “ Yes “, but I desire to inform the honorable member that, as promised, I made immediate inquiries into this matter. It is regretted, however, that it will be some weeks before supplies of materials are available in sufficient quantity to re-employ these men. Difficulty will be experienced in supplying materials for the men who are not being given notice, and, in fact, if the coal strike had continued into next week it would, unfortunately, have been necessary to give notice to a further large number of men. The men who are now under notice will be re-employed at the earliest possible moment, and, in the meantime, an effort is being made to absorb a number of them into the training scheme. In that respect it is hoped to place at least 30 men within the next few days, thus reducing the competition for re-employment when the time arrives. A memorandum is also being sent to the suppliers of materials indicating that they are not to work on commercial orders until the munitions work is in full flow again.
– Has the Deputy Prices Commissioner in New South Wales made reports and recommendations for the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner disclosing certain cases of war profiteering, involving, in one instance, a subsidiary of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited ? When does the Government propose to launch prosecutions against the people concerned?
– I am unaware of any such report. A question dealing with the same subject-matter was asked on notice by the honorable member and a reply was furnished.
– In view of the serious concern with which many people throughout Australia regard the activities of Communists will the Prime Minister makea pronouncement on communism before Parliament goes into recess, in order that it might be discussed in this House ? .
– I shall endeavour to do that.
– Can the- Minister for the Army tell the House- when the finance section of his department will rectify the many, anomalies, connected with soldiers’ allotments? If I might be pardoned for mentioning one case-
– The honorable gentleman is not:even in order when asking a question . in saying that there are anomalies.
– Will the Minister endeavour to speed up payments to wives who have no : allotment from their husbands who went away with the’ first lot of troops? I have written to the Minister aboutthis matter, but I have notbeenabletohave things rectified, in spite of the fact that one of’ the wives concerned has just, given birth to her second child. ‘
– As I indicated to the honorable member for . Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway)’ thismorning, it is hoped that a decision will be reached to-day to correct certain difficulties which have arisen in connexion with dependants’ allowances. In cases in which members of the Australian Imperial Force have proceeded overseas without having made an allotment, there must be, as the honorable gentleman will realize, some lapse of time, because it : will be necessary to obtain the authority of the individual who. has gone overseas. When decision has been reached on the outstanding questions, a great many of the difficulties that exist will be removed.
– Is it a fact that mothers of single unemployed sons who enlist are being refused separation allowances by the military, authorities whilst parents in comfortable circumstances of sons who have been able, to contribute from their own earnings to the upkeep of the household, are receiving- separation allowances ? Ifthatisthe case, why the discrimination ?
– As I have indicated on many occasions, I hope- that decision will be reached to-day in order to remove certain difficulties which arise in’, connexion with the payment of soldiers’ allowances. If that decision is reached to-day it will- be conveyed to honorable members as soon as possible. It will be foundtheir that many of the points raised by honorable members will be covered;
– In view of ‘ the fact that the tragic happenings in Norway, Denmark and Holland have been largely due to the presence in those coun-. tries of a “ fifth column “ recruited f rom the wealthy classes, is the Prime Minister, taking any action to keep an eye- on the same class of people in Australia in order to ensure that we shall not have a similar situation arise in this country?
– The closest watch is maintained on all persons who are engaged or who are thought to be engaged hi subversive . activities.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information to give to the House concerning negotiations between Great Britain and the Soviet for an agreement? Is the Minister able to indicate the terms of the agreement which is under discussion? What progress has been made in regard to that agreement?
– I have no information which would enable me to reply to the question.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests or amendment : -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to9) 1940.
Estate Duty Bill 1940.
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1940.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-30, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee oil Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported- to the House the result of its investigations: - Erection of a community hospital in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 16th May, 1940 (vide page 963).
Clause 13 (Directions for postal voting)
– As with most other clauses, I rise on this clause to obtain from the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Nock) advice as to the need for the change that is suggested. The committee would be helped a great deal if the Minister, at the outset, would explain the reasons which have prompted these proposed changes in the electoral law.
.- I., too, should like the Minister to tell the committee just what this clause proposes to do. What sort of directions for postal voting are to be given? Postal voting facilities exist to-day. What improvement of those facilities does this clause intend? At various times, borderline tactics have been employed in the use of the postal voting machinery and the com- mitteewould be well advised to act carefully in dealing with this clause.
– This clause is a formal clause consequential on clause 16 which contains the proposal that postal votes be accepted if received within seven days after the close of the poll, provided that the returning officer is satisfied by the postmark on the envelope or otherwise that the vote was recorded and that the envelope containing the ballot-paper was posted before the close of the poll.
.- What would happen if the postmarkwere not discernible? That frequently is the case. How then would the divisional returning officer satisfy his mind that the postal vote complied with the law?
– If the postmark be obliterated, or be not clear to the returning officer, he would be entitled to have regard to circumstantial evidence. For example, if there were only the one mail from a given locality on a certain date, and the letter reached him by that mail, that evidence should be considered by him. The matter is one for his discretion.
– Would he be-in a position to accept testimony by scrutineers on behalf of the candidate?
– I cannot say.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Penalty for failure to post or deliver application or postal ballotpaper).
– I do not propose to allow any clause to go through without an explanation by the Assistant Minister. If the honorable gentleman refuses to furnish one, I shall call for a division and vote against the clause.
.- The practice in committee has been, that if there be anyparticular clause on which information is desired, it is sought. A good deal of time is thus saved, because the Minister has not then to address himself to many of the clauseswith respect to which no explanation or information is needed, because honorable members, are thoroughly familiar with them. This clause makes additional provision in respect of the imposition of a penalty for failure to post or deliver an application or a postal ballot-paper.
Clause agreed to.
Section96 of the principal act is amended -
by inserting after the word “to” (first occurring) the words “ the end of the period of seven days immediately succeeding “ ;
by inserting, after the word “or” (first occurring), the words “received up to the close of the poll”: and
by inserting in paragraph (b), after the word “ witness “, the words “ and that the envelope bearing the certificate was posted or delivered prior to the close of the poll “.
Section proposed to be amended -
A t the scrutiny the divisional returning officer shall produce all applications for postal note certificates and postal ballot-papers, and sh all produce unopened all envelopes containing postal votes received up to the close of the poll by him … or by any other divisional returning officer . . .and shall -
if satisfied that the signature on the certificate is that of the elector who signed the applicationforthe certificate and that the signature purports to be witnessed by an authorized witness and that the elector is enrolled for the division, accept the ballot-paper for furtherscutiny, but if not so satisfied, disallow theballot- paper without opening the envelope in which it is contained;
– This clause deals with the posting of a postal vote prior to the close of the poll. By paragraph c it provides that a postal vote shall be valid if the envelope bearing thecertificate is “ posted or delivered prior to the close of the poll “. Will the Assistant . Minister (Mr. Nock) explain what is meant by “ delivered “ ? One can understand that “ posted “ implies its having been placed in the post office and stamped. I am not altogether satisfied with the Assistant Minister’s explanation in regard to the obliteration of the postmark. Is there any possibility of an elector who votes by post being deprived of his vote because of either faulty or dirty rubber stamping? At times, many envelopes have the postmark blurred in the post office and it is hard to’ tell where they are from, particularly when they come from country post offices, which have not the best of stamping machinery and consequently are not to blame. I take it that the meaning of “ delivered “ is, that either an elector himself, or an individual on his behalf, must deliver the postal ballotpaper to a registrar. If it were delivered to a returning officer, that gentleman would know that he had received it before polling day. Is it intended that the postal ballot-paper must be delivered to a registrar, and that he must certify that fact although he posts it after polling day, and that in such circumstances the vote would be formal?
– The meaning is clear; the postal ballot-paper must be delivered prior to the close of the poll.
– Delivered to whom?
– It must be delivered to a registrar or to the returning officer before the close of the poll. If posted, it could be posted before the close of the poll and be valid if it reached the returning officer within seven days of that event.
– The Assistant Minister’s explanation sustains my objection. An elector could deliver a postal vote to a registrar in an area in which possibly there would be little means of scrutineering it, and that officer could keep it in his possession. There is not strict departmental control over the registrar, because in nine cases out of ten he may not be a full-time servant of the Electoral Department. The Assistant Minister has said that, so long as this officer stated that he had received the postal vote prior to the close of the poll, it would not matter whether he retained it in his possession for two or three days after the poll hadbeen taken.
– That is what the honorable gentleman’s statement implies, because he has said that it has to be delivered to a registrar. I shall not vote for a provision which allows a registrar, who is not nearly so responsible as the divisional returning officer, and is merely a part-time officer of the Electoral Department, to retain a postal vote in his possession until after polling day. He should see” that it is posted immediately he’ receives it. I think that the word “ delivered “ ought to be omitted from the clause.
– It seems to me that a returning officer in a subdivision could gather into his possession any number of postal ballot-papers which may have been either delivered or posted prior to the close of the poll, and keep them for seven days before forwarding them to the central electoral office for counting or investigation. If that be the provision, then undoubtedly in far-flung areas it would be competent for such votes to be in the possession of persons who could very easily either alter the direction in which the vote was cast or make postal votes informal. If the provision be for custody in such circumstances, it ought to be voted out.
– The act already contains this provision. Any postal vote in any area may be delivered to the officer in charge at any polling booth, or to any returning officer, but it must be delivered before the close of the poll. The other provision is to extend to seven days the period for the receipt of postal ballotpapers.
– Are seven days sufficient in far-flung areas ?
– That is what has been agreed to.
.- When the returning officer is posting ballot-papers to electors, he should also furnish theft with the names of the candidates who are contesting the election. Many . electors who are far distant from their electorates have no idea of what candidates are standing for election, tmi experience difficulty in indicating their choice on the ballot-paper. Their selection should be simplified by their being furnished with a list of the candidates who have been nominated.
– Can the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) tell ns whether any provision is made to compel the presiding officer or other relevant officer to forward the ballotpapers that he receives? It is obvious that the proposed alteration of the law makes provision for delivery as well as for posting. I am not suggesting that officers have corrupt minds, but it is within the bounds of possibility that they would have an idea of the contents of envelopes delivered to them. If they Avere compelled to forward the papers immediately they were received, one difficulty which occurs to my mind would be removed. Such subsidiary machinerywould enable the provision in respect of remote areas tobe administered effectively.
.- Any postal vote posted to a returning officer before the close of the poll will be counted’.
– What about the presiding officer?
– The presiding officer at any polling booth has to send them on. Regulation 44 of the regulations provides that he shall endorse each envelope, place in a separate outer envelope all of the envelopes bearing postal vote certificates relating to- the same division, and immediately advise, by telegraph or by such other means as is directed, each divisional returning officer concerned of the total number of envelopes, bearing postal vote certificates, so forwarded to him.
– All that is covered is the advice, to the divisional returning officer of the number of postal votes. There is no provision in respect, ofwhat the postal votes , represent in relation to the candidates. The votes, may. be left in the possession of the. presiding officer- for seven days before they need reach thu divisional returning officer for , final scrutiny. The provisionwas never intended to apply in thatway.
– That is not the provision.
– The occurrence is not prevented. The seven days’ allowance is intended to cover the remote Sub- divisions.Consequently, I move -
Thatthe following paragraph be added to the clause: - “ (d) by adding at the end thereofthe following sub-section: -
Such postalvotes affected by this section as have been delivered to apresiding officer in any polling booth shall be opened and counted in the presence of scrutineers or other representatives of the candidates, and shall then befor- warded to the divisional, returning officer for final’ scrutiny.’ “.
My object is to prevent postal votes-front being left in the possession of presiding ‘ officers Avithout the scrutineers or representatives of the various candidates’ knowinghow the votes have been cast.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.1 5 p.m.
– The provision’ which I am- seeking to amend permits postal votes to remain in the custody of a presiding officer for sev.en days after, polling, day. The Assistant Minister. (Mr. Nock.), has replied that under the regulations it; is necessary for all such postal votes, to be forwarded to the divisional returning officer forthwith. I am still not satisfied that certain postal votes recordedinremote areasmay not be held- back, in which case there would at least be some, opportunity to- interferewith them. It isfor that- reason that I am, suggesting- that such postal votes shall be opened at the polling booth, after the close of polling,, in the presence of- the scrutineers : for- the candidates concerned, and forwarded subsequently, with all other votes, to the divisional returning officer. If that procedure were followed, the interested parties would at least know what postal votes have been recorded.
– No alteration of the present procedure is being made in this particular matter.
– Whenever an alteration of the provisions of the principal act is made we should exercise vigilance to ensure that it will not affect existing procedure in other respects.
– This clause affects only postal votes which are actually posted, and not those which are delivered.
– It cannot be denied that it is permissible for a presiding officer to hold postal votes for a period up to seven days after the close of the poll.
– If the presiding officers carry out their instructions, they will forward -the postal votes forthwith. If they do not do so they may get into trouble.
– But what would happen in the case of a presiding officer who, while not forwarding the postal votes forthwith, yet forwarded them within the stipulated seven days? The votes- would still be valid. Presiding officers, like other persons in the’ community, have their political opinions. In outback areas a station-owner may be the presiding officer, and his politics may he well known, as may, also, the politics of the relatively few electors who vote at that particular polling- booth. What I desire is that the nature of the postal votes recorded at remote polling places shall be made known to the interested parties forthwith, and shall not be left, without some check, in the possession of the presiding officers. There should be a scrutiny- of such votes after the close of the poll.
.- I hope that the amendment will not be accepted. If the Assistant Minister (Mr.. Nock) is even contemplating accepting it, I ask him how he would suggest that the provision of the principal act which precludes the counting of any votes at a polling place other than the head-quarters of a subdivision may be overcome?I believe that the provision that there should be no disclosure of the particulars of polling at subsidiary polling places was inserted in the Electoral Act years ago by a Labour government. Under our existing system, which has been in force for many years, all ballot-papers must be sent to the headquarters of a subdivision to be counted. It would therefore seem to be impracticable to adopt the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) without making a vital alteration of our counting system. The provision limiting the counting of votes in this way was made in order to prevent the details of . polling at small and remote polling places from being published. As the honorable member himself has pointed out, it often happens that a station owner is the presiding officer at a remote polling place, and we have known of workers in such places being victimized for having voted against the desires of the station owner. The Assistant Minister has . explained that under the regulations, postal votes delivered at a polling place must immediately be placed in the ballotbox. It would not be possible, therefore, for a presiding officer to hold such votes for a period up to seven days. I am definitely opposed to the suggestion of the honorable member for West Sydney, and would offer the strongest objection to any alteration of the existing system which would permit votes to be counted at small and remote polling booths.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has put very clearly the arguments against the amendment movedby the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and I agree with his view. What he has said would apply to a number of small polling places in my own electorate. There is another difficulty in accepting the amendment. Section 96 of the principal act provides -
At the scrutiny the divisional returning officer shall produce all applications for postal vote certificates and postal ballot-papers, and shall produce unopened all envelopes containing postal votes received up to the close of the poll, and shall -
compare the signature of the elector on each postal vote certificate with the signature of the same elector on the application for the certificate and allow the scrutineers to inspect both signatures;
That procedure could not be followed if thu amendment were accepted.
– I have provided for that in the final scrutiny.
– It appears to me that the present practice is about as good as can he devised, having regard to all the circumstances.
– I can see no necessity for altering the present system of postal voting, and I speak from a practical experience of about a quarter of a century. At present, an elector who desires to record a postal vote must make an application for a postal voting-paper on the prescribed form. This is sent to the appropriate divisional returning officer, who returns the paper to the applicant. The recording of the vote must then he witnessed by a Justice of the Peace. The returning officer finally compares the signature on the application form with the signature on the postal ballot-paper.For this reason, all postal votes must be returned to the divisional returning officer for counting. Under this proposal, presiding officers in remote places will be allowed to count postal votes.
– No; such votes can bc counted only at the ‘head office.
– In outlying places many candidates do not have any scrutineers at all, so that there is no one to check the presiding officer when he counts the postal votes.
– He does not count them, and it is not proposed that he shall do so.
– If that be the position, I have no more to say.
.-I trust that the amendment will not be accepted. If presiding officers are given the right to count votes in remote places, where there are no scrutineers, anything may happen. Even if everything were fair and straightforward, nasty insinuations might be made and stigmas would attach to men who are perfectly honest. Although the present method is not perfect, it is better than one which permits presiding officers in remote places to count votes. If that were allowed, not only would there he no advantage, but also unnecessary expense would be incurred. I prefer that the act shall remain as it now is.
.- I rise mainly to admit that I was mistaken in my reading of section 92 of the act. That section does provide for the delivery of postal votes to the presiding officer, but only in exceptional cases, where there is a last minute delivery and insufficient time for the vote to reach the divisional returning officer. Only in those circumstances can an authorized witness deliver a vote to a presiding officer. The votes are placed in boxes, and the whole procedure is hedged around with safeguards, the chief of which is that no one but the divisional returning officer may open the envelopes. Section 96 provides that only the divisional returning officer may open them, after he has produced them unopened to the scrutineers. Upon the postal votes being opened, the divisional returning officer may have to make certain decisions. It seems to me that greater suspicion would be associated with postal voting if presiding officers who are not permanent officials of the electoral department, as are divisional returning officers, were authorized to open votes. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that the presiding officer should be allowed to open postal ballot-papers because he cannot be trusted to hold them. If he cannot be trusted to hold them, he certainly should not be allowed to open them and make a provisional decision upon them The divisional returning officer is much more familiar with the act, and is far more likely to be fair and impartial in dealing with these matters than is a presiding officer who, possibly, has been engaged for the day and is probably partisan in his outlook. I trust that the honorable member for West Sydney will not persist with his amendment.
. - My point, has been misrepresented. The proposal of the Government provides for a period of seven clays between the handing in of the postal vote and the time that it reaches its destination. It is because of that lapse of seven days that I think it necessary for the contents of these postal voting envelopes to be known at the centres where the count takes place. My amendment refers to the count. Ballot-boxes from small polling booths are brought to one centre, where they are counted. The postal vote, and its envelope, become free and detached from the ballot-box. That must be so, or else the count of the ordinary votes could not take place by the presiding officer at the counting centre. The counting centre may be a town like Inverell, where, perhaps, the ballot-boxes from six or seven smallpolling booths are counted. When those boxes come in they are opened, and the postal votes taken out. Postal votes may lie on the table while in the custody of the presiding officer who is counting the votes at Inverell. Why should not the scrutineers, who deal with ordinary votes, scrutinize postal votes also, and thereby make clear what the postal vote for that centre is, instead of leaving such votes in the possession of some person who may retain them for seven’ days, or such period as will enable them to reach the divisional returning officer for the district within seven days of polling day? That is my point.
– Is not the lack of postal facilities the reason for holding postal ballot-papers up for seven days?
– A period of seven days was provided for in order to meet conditions in remote subdivisions;but in making provision for those places, we have also made it possible for presiding officers to retain votes unnecessarily, even where there is a daily postal service ; they may hold them for seven days, notwithstanding that the regulations provide that votes must be forwarded forthwith.
– If they hold them when they could be forwarded, they are breaking the regulations.
– That may be, but, the delay does not make the votes invalid so long as they reach their ultimate destination within seven days. There is time for votes to be interfered with.
– If the honorable member will read clause 4 he will see that this provision applies only to districts declared by the Minister.
– The provision is not confined to such places. An altera tion to deal with remote places also widens its general scope. It has general application. The only answer given by the Assistant Minister to my contention is that presiding officers are bound by regulation to forward the votes forthwith’; but he cannot deny that, so long as they reach the divisional returning officer within seven days, even though they have been held back, they are still valid votes which must be counted. My amendment deals only with the counting of the votes. The Assistant Minister says that the postal votes are placed in the box, and the inference is that they are safe thereafter ; but I point out that, although they go into the box, they come out of it later. They do not remain in the box until they reach the divisional returning officer.
– I did not suggest that. They are all put together and sent to the divisional returning officer.
– The votes may be put into the box at the centre where they are recorded, but they do not remain in the box until they reach the officer whose reliability the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) says is unquestioned. I am not questioning the reliability of the divisional returning officer. My point is that the votes do not reach that officer in the same form as when they were lodged in the ballot-box at the polling booth. I repeat that in attempting to meet the needs of remote subdivisions we have widened the scope of the law in other directions. In order that a check of postal votes may he made when the count of other votes is made, we should provide that the interested parties should know immediately the result of the postal vote at each counting centre. I have not studied postal voting in detail, because I represent a metropolitan constituency, but several honorable members on this side have said that postal voting cannot be policed.
– Postal votes are not supposed to be policed. If the honorable member’s suggestion be given effect to, the secrecy of the ballot will be violated.
– I make no charges against any one, but I am entitled to take what I believe to be reasonable precautions. For that reason I ask that the postal votes be counted when the primary votes are counted. Scrutineers should be able to satisfy themselves that the count of postal votes is known to all who are interested. By altering the existing legislation to meet conditions in remote places, we make it possible for presiding officers to hold postal votes too long. It is not sufficient that they may be liable to punishment for a breach of the regulations. The point is that votes which have beendetained are valid so long as they reach the divisional returning officer within seven days.
.- I cannot see what the period of seven days has to do with the presiding officer at all. Section 96, if these amendments were made, would read as follows : -
At the scrutiny the divisional returning officer shall produce all applications for postal vote certificates and postal ballot-papers, and shall produce’ unopened all envelopes containing postal votesreceived up to the end of seven days immediately succeeding the close of the poll by him orreceivedupto the close of the poll by any other divisional returning officer or any assistant returning officer or presiding officer in pursuance of sub-section 2 of section92 ofthis act and shall -
It seems to me that the period of seven days applies to articles received through the post by the divisional returning officer. A voter can post his postal ballot-paper so that -the divisional returning officer will receive it seven days before the poll closes, but, in order that the person whose postal ballotpaper cannotreach the divisional returning officer in time may yet be protected, it may be delivered to the presiding officer on the polling day. Therefore, I cannot see where the seven days’ delay that has been mentioned by honorable members is likely to occur.
– I said that provision is made for a delay of seven days.
– Not in the case of a presiding officer.
– All postal votes must be addressed to the divisional returning officer, who is the only man entitled to open them.
– I agree.
– If a postal vote does not reach the district returning officer within seven days but does reach the presiding officer on polling day, the vote is still valid irrespective of the irregularity.
– It is valid so long as it reaches the presiding officer on the day on which the poll closes. As far as its validity is in question it does not matter whether or not he sends it on to the district returning officer. The result of an election may turn upon this point. A presiding officer’s mistakes cannot invalidate a vote; his duty, according to the regulations, is to forward a vote to thedivisional returning officer. The amendment proposing a delay of seven days, relates merely to anything which is sent to the divisional returning officer through the post. The act makes an exception of clemency for the person who cannot lodge his vote in time, so that it will be valid so long as he is able to deliver it to the presiding officer on polling day. It would be a great mistake to lend any countenance to the proposal that presiding officers should open postal ballotpapers.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be inserted ( Mr. Beasley’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr.Prowse.)
Majority . . 41
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 (Printing of Senate ballotpapers).
.-This -clause provides! that the order -in- which the Senate groups- will appear on the ballot-papers shall, be determined’ by draw instead of, as at present,” by alphabetical calculation. The order of the names of the candidates within a group shall, except where those candidates have expressed a mutual desire for a particular order,be determined by draw; and the order of the names of the ungrouped - candidates - which will continue to be placed after the groups - shall be- determined by dra w.
The proposed method of placement will equalize the chances of all Senate groups so far as ballot-paper position is concerned; and also, to the extent it applies, the chances of the individual candidates: to priorityof position. This, it is- considered, will provide a much fairer method of ; placement than the one now inuse.Itwill remove entirely any advantageor handicap in placement derived merely from the possession of a particular name, and, in consequence, it should restrainanytendency,thatmight otherwise develop in the selection of candidates,ofplacingapremiumonthose whose names happen to commence with an earlyletter of the alphabet.
– The clause proposes a drastic change of- the existing system. I believe, that honorable members will agree with me that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) has failed to state any good reason why a change should be made. He has merely saidthat the clause proposes a fairer’ method of placing names on the ballot-paper. In what way is the present method unfair? Many members of Parliament whose names begin with letters near the end of the alphabet would prefer that their names should remain in their usual positions on the ballot-papers because, under the present system, electors know where to look for the names of the candidates whom they support. Senate ballotpapers are usually long and, if the Government’s proposal were implemented, electors would-be obliged to go to a great deal of trouble to find the names of their candidates. At present they know exactly where to look for the name of a candidate beginning with “ S “ or “ W “. Interested voters would not record their votes merelyby, marking the ballot-paper from beginning to end in alphabetical order.
The object of any amendment of the electoral law should be to make voting more readily understandable to disinterested people, and to- create greater interest. According to the Government’s proposed amendment, the name’ of a candidate, beginning with, say, “P” mightoften appearattheheadoftheballot, paper, followed by an “A,”R”or “ B “.
– What would be wrong with that?
– Take, for example, the name of a candidate beginning with “ S “. Under the present systom-tvoters would know exactly . whereto look for his name, particularlyifhe had- contested previous elections. They would have to waste time searching : for it if it were jumbled up with all other names.
Senate elections involve more informal votes than any other form of election in Australia. Thousands of informal votes are cast at each Senate election, and I believe- that the Government’s proposal would increase the number of informal votes, if it were implemented. All honorable members should be opposed to . anything that is likely toincrease informal voting. So far the, Minister has failed to- prove, that any definite, advantage will be derived from, the Government’s amendment and, unless.he does give such proof, honorable mem:bers should vote against the clause. Some honorable members may vote in favour of it simply because it is a Government proposition, but I point out that the elec-. toral reform should, be treated as a nonparty matter.
– Hear, hear !
– I think the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) will’ agree that the Government, must give some adequate reason why the amendment should be made, before honorable members should lend their support to it. What improvement can result from this amendment? The names of candidates would merely be placed in envelopes, dropped into a box by the presiding officer, juggled about in the presence of any electors who might care to attend, and then withdrawn from the box in such a confused order that the electors would; :find it difficult to record an intelligent vote.
– But the last division shows that this bill is being treated as almost a non-party measure.
– It showed that the Opposition, when it sees a proposal put forward which it does not believe to be of. advantage to the electors, feels compelled to vote against it. I am forced to believe that the Government is supporting this measure for the political advantage that it will reap from it.
– It will reap no advantage.
– We could have had a non<-party investigation of the electoral r system and recommendations made upon which we could agree, hut the Government did not want an investigation. It wants a bill that suits it and it is prepared to force the Opposition to acceptthat bill whether it is good, bad or indifferent. –This clause, introduces .into the Electoral Act a lottery. Such a thing should form no part of the electoral machinery. If the clause is agreed to there will be a regrettable increase of informal votes. .
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) showed remarkable imaginative powers when he said that this bill had been introduced for the purpose of giving to the Government an advantage at the elections. This clause confers benefit on no political party. All that it does is give an equal chance to all candidates for election to Parliament, irrespective of initial letters of surnames. I.t will not assist the United Australia party, the Country party or the Labour party, the one more than the other. The honorable member said that good reason would have to be shown for the need for the change proposed in this clause before he would support it. The mere fact that there is to-day in pre-selection ballots a premium on the candidates whose names begin with the letter “ A “ is itself good and sufficient reason for altering the system in order that the man whose name begins with “ W “, “ Y or any letter other than “ A “ will have just as good a chance as the man whose name begins with “ A “. This clause provides a good way of getting out of the difficulty, although there is still an element of chance and of slight advantage in that one group will occupy the left-hand section of the ballot-paper, the second group the middle section and the third group the righthand section. There may be an advantage to the party which is fortunate enough in the ballot to get the left-hand section, because we are accustomed to writing and reading from left to right, hut the advantage will be less than now when the names are placed vertically. The system proposed is as good as can be devised to bring about the greatest possible degree of equality.
– Does the honorable member know of any other country which employs a system similar to that which is proposed in this clause.
– None comes to my mind, hut I should not think that the honorable member would be so conservative - as to need . hundreds of precedents elsewhere before setting about a reform. I should think that the honorable gentleman would be progressive enough to move along a new track if he thought that there was an advantage in doing so. I think that there is an advantage in this clause.
– For the voter or the candidate?
– It is an advantage to no party, but it is an improvement in that it does away with the premium on the initial “ A “. The mere fact that the Labour party in New South Wales at the last -Senate election nominated a team of four gentlemen all of whose names begin with the letter “ A “ is in itself significant.
– It is funny that the Government did not wake up to that until the last Senate election.
– It is better to waken now than to remain in somnolence indefinitely. I have pleasure in supporting this clause, which will do a service to Australia by ensuring that all men, irrespective of the names to which they happen to be born, will have an equal chance at the polls.
.- This clause represents a definite attempt by the Government parties to confuse the people at the polls. People are trained from childhood to look for names in alphabetical order. Members of clubs are listed alphabetically. The telephone directory, the electoral roll itself .and, up to now, the ballot-paper have all been printed alphabetically.
– The division lists are alphabetical.
– Yes, and the electors are trained in the alphabetical system and should be allowed to continue to look for their choice of candidates in the way in which they have been trained. The alphabetical order presents less possibility of confusion and, therefore, less possibility of informality than there will be by a jumbling of the names and an alteration of the layout of the ballotpapers as -is proposed. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) made play on the fact that there is a premium on the man whose name begins with the letter “A”. There always has been, if there is any advantage in being at the top of the ballot-paper, but I suggest that the person who takes a blind stab and marks his paper from top to bottom is a stupid voter and is not common.
– He is the man who often decides elections.
– Then the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) owes his place in this Parliament to the stupidity of the people who started at the top cf the ‘ ballot-paper and went down the list. I point out to honorable members opposite, who lay stress on the fact that the man lucky enough to have his name begin with “ A “ has an advantage, that there is just as big an element of luck in having your name drawn out of the hat first or last.
– But the odds are that the man whose initial letter is later in the alphabet will not always, be last, as is the case now.
– The element of luck will by no means be eliminated by an alteration of the ballot-paper. In the one case it is the luck of parentage and in the other the luck of a glorified “ bob in “ sweepstakes, in which whoever has his name drawn from the hat first wins the prize of the major chance at the poll. It is a revelation that the Government should be so much disturbed, after all of the years in which anti-Labour Senate teams have swept the polls, at its overwhelming defeat in 1937.
– Entirely because of the choice of candidates whose names began with “ A “ by the Labour party.
– I remember that the United Australia Party chose a man named Aarons for its Senate team.
– It did not choose him’.
– He was chosen, but he ultimately did not run., He was pulled out of the team to make way for some one else. Everything in the garden was lovely when the United Australia party was winning the Senate elections, but as soon as it had a catastrophic loss it became a crime for any one to be way down the list on the ballot-paper. If we- sincerely want an intelligent vote from the electors, the ballot-paper should be as simple as possible, and the best and simplest way in which to arrange the ballot-paper is in accordance with. ,the.alphabetical rule which everybody knows. 1 point out to honorable gentlemen opposite that my name has never been at the top of the ballot-paper; it has either been in the middle or at the bottom, but T have been successful every time I have nominated. The point is that if the people want to vote for you they will find your name wherever it be. This clause had its genesis in the panic which swept through the United Australia party and the Country party after the 1937 Senate election.
.- Nobody can accuse me of having any objection to a name beginning with the letter “ A “ remaining at the top of the ballot-paper. -There are great advantages in having a name beginning with the letter “ A “. The Labour party has recognized the special quality of those .whose names begin with that letter to such a degree that, before the last Senate election, it conducted a diligent search throughout New South Wales, in particular, and other States for likely legislators with that distinctive beginning to their names. In spite of the fact that it is generally recognized that people with the letter “ A “ at the beginning of their names are politically in advance of people whose names begin with the letters “Z” or”W”, I must concede that people who have not inherited names highest inthe alphabetical order should share equal rights with- those- who have inherited such names. The proposals madebythe Government give a degree of equality to everybody. It is true, as the honorable, member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said, that, even if the proposed change be made, a man may still find himself at the top, middle or bottom of the ballot-paper; but the outstanding point of this legislation is that political parties, knowing that there is! an. element of chance as to where . their candidates’ names will be placed on the ballot-papers, instead of being sure of the top position, will lookfor the best candidates, irrespective of what their names be. Therefore, I think that, bypassing this legislation, the- committee would do a great service, particularly to members of the Labour party whose name does not begin with the letter “ A “. Those whose names begin with ‘” S “, “ R “ or “ W “ would have equal chance of selection as Senate candidates because the position in which the names were to appear on the ballotpaper would not be known. I suggest that common sense, fairness, and equality to all, dictate that the Government proceed with the legislation it is now endeavour- ing to pass. Last night I mentioned that in the electorate of Richmond, 15,000 first preference votes were cast for the Labour candidate who stood for election to the House of Representatives. That man campaigned for six or seven weeks. His name was a household word throughout the electorate. He was a man of very high repute, and was held in high regard and esteem personally. But the unknown “ A’s “ of the Senate team polled 17,000 votes. That is to say, these absolutely unknown candidates polled for Labour 2.000 more votes than were polled by the accredited Labour candidate for the House of Representatives. I suggest to any honorable member who cares to approach the matter from a fair, reasonable and impartial point of view, that that affords absolute evidence of the . fact that the holding of the top position on the ballot- paper resulted in the addition of at least 2,000 to the “A” team for the Senate. This represented, probably, an additional vote, of 15,000.
– A Senate candidate invariably poll’s more votes than the- candidate for the House of Representatives.
– I have noticed, that in my electorate there is a reasonable degree of equality. The situation . to which I have referred has not, tomy knowledge, occurred previously in the history of federal elections. We need a reasonably intelligent expression of the opinion of the electors. I supportthe proposal of the Government. _ .,’ “
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr.Paterson)contendsthatsomeadvantage will accrue to men whose names are placed ontheleft-handsideofthe ballot-paper, whilst the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) hasmentioned the case of a well-known manin his electorate, who failed by 2,000 votes to reach the total number of votes polled in that electorate by the candidates for the Senate.” Probably, the electorate was too well acquainted with the man who stood for the House of Representatives to vote forhim. The -honorable member’ for Gippsland is prepared to gamble - a thing which in every-d’ay life he does not do - in the hope of getting first choiceof positions. ‘ I believe that it is an advantage to be on top of the ballot-paper ; but I remind honorable members that in four of the States, in’ which the names ‘ of the candidates did not commence with “ A “, the Labour party still obtained a majority of the votes cast, and but fora stupid distribution of preferences in another State, would have had its candidates returned there also.
– The names of the Labour candidates were on top of the. ballot-paper in all of the States.
– The only difficulty of the Government party was that they could not select three “ Aarons “. ‘ The one “ Aarons “ who was selected was subsequently withdrawn, when it was found that the group could not obtain the top position. It is all “hooey” to say that this National Parliament should so far degrade itself .as to place names in a box, and draw to determine which group shall occupy the most favoured position. Honorable members ought to go into a paddock with two pennies on a kip, and toss the pennies into the air, eliminating one name at a time. This is just as much a gamble as that would be. No more degrading suggestion has ever been made in any parliament than that the returning officer should be asked to place names in a box and draw for positions, the fortunate ones being placed on the left-hand side and those less fortunate somewhere else. Nothing more degrading could be brought into this Parliament. Why not put legislation into a hat and draw it out? That would be .just as logical as this proposal, which is an insult to the intelligence of the people. I marvel at the temerity of the Government in asking us to agree to the drawing of lots to determine where men shall have their names placed on the ballot-pa.per. The present practice has been in operation for fifteen years, and was not questioned until in New South Wales - so it is alleged - the deliberate attempt was made to select four candidates whose names commenced with
A “. I remind honorable members that that was the first time there had been such an- occurrence, and it may be the last. Because the Government alleges that something which happened in New South Wales might happen everywhere else, it brings forward this proposal. I want to know why a man whose name begins with
A “ should have that name put in ‘a hat, so that it may not appear at the top of the ballot-paper. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that in everyday life the alphabet is followed when information is being sought. I do not believe that the top of the ballot-paper offers the enormous advantage suggested by honorable members. The majority of the electors know who their candidates are. A certain number of them may go from the top to the bottom of the ballot-paper. 1 challenge contradiction of the statement that some electors vote 1, 2, 3, for all of the groups, believing them all to be the same. It is illogical, unfair, and degrading to put names in a- hat and draw them to determine the positions they shall occupy on the ballot-paper. It is worthy only of a government of this kind.
– I do not think there was any need for this amendment. I believe that it would be wrong to draw names out of a box. We should continue the present custom, which has been in existence for many years. No doubt the Government became scared because the Labour party has in the Senate fifteen men who do not have to stand for election on the next occasion. Had the reverse been the case, I do not think that any alteration would have been proposed. On one occasion in Denison my opponent, whose name was McPhee. was placed ahead of me on the ballotpaper. I objected that “ Mali “ came before “Mc”, but was ruled out by the returning officer. I consider that scheming will be possible under the proposed system. Honorable members probably know that there is a game called “ crow ,:, which is played to trap the simple or the unwary. A number of pieces of paper ure placed in a hat, and the member of the party who withdraws the piece on which is written the word “ crow “ has to shout drinks. The simple man is given first draw, and as every piece of paper placed in the hat has the word “ crow “ written on it, he naturally is the victim. Gambling provides opportunities for cheating. We are not acting democratically in changing a system that has been in existence for many years. The reason for the proposal of the Government is that there was a definite swing to Labour at the last Senate elections. The Government has to win every Senate seat contested at the next elections in order to maintain its majority in that chamber. Consequently, it is resorting to a new method for the election of candidates. The alteration of the form of the ballot-paper is wrong, because it will confuse women voters especially. Those whose names commence: with “ A “ should not be interfered with. Adam’s name began with that letter, and Adam was the first man. This is a stupid proposal introduced solely because the Government parties were overwhelmingly defeated at the last Senate elections. An attempt is being made to confuse the people and to destroy an electoral system which has worked satisfactorily for 40 years. I strongly protest in the name of democracy against this effort to reduce the listing of names on the Senate ballot-paper to a gamble. We should not descend to the methods of the gambling houses and the two-up schools. We should think more of the prestige of Parliament. This is a vicious and villainous attempt to impair the dignity of Parliament. [Quorum formed.]
.- We find the real reason for the introduction of this bill in the clause now before us. The Government parties have harboured the idea that the Labour party of New South Wales, by selecting for the last Senate elections four candidates whose surnames began with the letter “ A “, obtained an unfair advantage. In my opinion, it is a purely mythical advantage. Among the 75 members of the House of Representatives, only one has a surname beginning with “ A “, while nine have surnames beginning with “ S “. 1. have no doubt at all that the names of those nine members appeared last on the ballot-paper, but it was not detrimental to them. I am opposed to the proposal that the names of the various groups of candidates should be placed in the box and the box shaken before the names are drawn to determine their position on the ballot-paper. That procedure is entirely unworthy. I am also opposed to the appearance of the names of the political parties on the ballot-paper. We should not recognize political parties on our ballot-papers. What is to happen to independent candidates under this system? Apparently they are to be classified in one group, and if the independent group should be drawn out of the box first when the order of parties is being determined, the names in that group will go on the left-hand side of the proposed horizontal ballot-paper. An independent candidate should not be forced to have his name grouped with that of other independent candidates. If the names are tobe drawn out of a box, the independents should be regarded as individuals and not as a group, and if the name of an independent should be drawn out first, his name, as an individual, should go on the left-hand side of the ballot-paper with the other names following in the order in which they are drawn. It is, at any rate, quite unreasonable and unfair to group all inde pendents together, for their policies might be very different. The adoption of these methods in the election of members of a democratic parliament is entirely undesirable, and I can see no reason why we should depart from the procedure which has served us well for 40 years.
.- The reason why this proposal is before us is that, honorable members of the Labour party who sit on the cross benches opposite have shown a remarkable capacity, and some degree of duplicity, in selecting certain persons as Senate candidates.
– One of the Government parties selected Captain Aarons.
– Does the church to which the honorable member belongs approve of the adoption of lottery systems of this kind ?
– This proposal is before us solely because of an unexampled demonstration of trickery by the ruling authorities of the New South Wales Labour party prior to the last Senate election. Apparently they scoured the country in order to find a sufficient number of individuals whose surnames began with the letter “ A “ to serve them as candidates for the Senate. We have not had any difficulties of this kind in elections for the House of Representatives. I recollect, however, that on one occasion a person named Gosling was chosen as a candidate.
– And, of course, we all know another person named Gander.
– Mr. Gosling’s name was subsequently withdrawn and the name Donovan substituted. There is, however, no fair grounds for comparing the House of Representatives ballot-paper with that of the Senate, for we rarely have more than three candidates for one seat in the House of Representatives election, whereas in the Senate the number of candidates may rise as high as a dozen or more. I shall go so far as to say that probably 25 per cent, of the people do not know who their Senate representatives are. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) took care to give the 1,500 aged men in institutions in his electorate a duplicate ballot-paper to ensure that they would vote as he desired. Possibly the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) did the same kind of thing in respect of certain aged men in hia constituency. The members of the Senate are largely to blame for the difficulties in which they find themselves. They are not well known to the general community in their respective States. In my opinion, it would be a good idea to pass a law to compel members of the Senate to do some active propagandist work between general elections in the various States which they represent. If the names of the honorable members of the other place were wellknown, certain difficulties which we are now facing would not arise. It can hardly be gainsaid, however, that the honorable members of the Labour party in the corner opposite know a great deal about fixing votes and elections. I believe that the selection as Senate candidates of men whose surnames began with the letter “A” was done deliberately. It was, in fact, a gamble which succeeded.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. In any case, I ask him, what happened to Captain Aarons?
– I know Captain Aarons very well. I am sure that if he became a member of the Labour party, he would give honorable gentlemen opposite some military drill, which would ensure that they would be less unruly in the future. Apparently, the members of the Labour leagues and other Labour organizations throughout New South “Wales were told, prior to the last election : “ Yon cannot hope to be selected as a candidate for the Senate unless your surname begins with, the letter ‘ A “’. When it came to candidates with names beginning with B, C, D, E, F, G, and so on to the end of the alphabet, they said to the members “ Unless your name starts with ‘ A ‘ you cannot be selected “. Honorable members opposite are silent. Their silence gives consent. If, for instance, the honorable member for Reid, or the other gentleman for whom he is keeping a seat warm in this chamber - I refer to Mr. J. T. Lang - wanted to become a member of the Senate, he would be disqualified from preselection because his name does not begin with “ A “. I ask the honorable member for Reid if he can deny that. I hope that the committee will agree to the Government’s proposal, for then we shall have a Senate ballot-paper which is fair to all.
.- This clause contains the reason for the introduction of this measure. Notwithstanding that the Empire is at war against a deadly enemy, the Government has seen fit to introduce a bill, the object of which is to gerrymander the next federal election. I use the word “ gerrymander “ advisedly. The Government realizes that it has no chance of winning the next Senate elections, or even the elections for members of the House of Representatives, unless it resorts to some subterfuge whereby it can gull the people into voting for its candidates. I wish to correct the erroneous view held by members on the other side, including the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), that the Labour party in New South Wales, when seeking candidates to contest the Senate election, went around looking for men whose names began with the first letter of the alphabet. That is an entirely wrong conception of what took place.” Twenty thousand members of the Australian Labour party participated in the pre-selection ballot. The names submitted to them totalled about 24, and not all of them began with “ A “.
– They were dependent on the honorable member’s instructions before the ballot took place.
– I must have a tremendous influence in the Labour party if I can instruct 20,000 of its members how they shall vote at a pre-selection ballot. I thank the honorable member for the high opinion he has of me and of my influence in the Australian Labour party.
– That high opinion may mean that the honorable member will lose votes.
– Every member of the Australian Labour party is eligible to contest a pre-selection ballot. At the preselection, ballot Senator Amour received more votes than any candidate had ever received previously. Senator Amour has been an alderman of the Bankstown Council for nine years. He has attended every Labour party conference, both country and city, in New South Wales, for ten years. When the timber workers were on strike in 1929 his home was a depot for feeding strikers. During the seamen’s strike it was again a depot. Those occasions resulted in his becoming well known among trade unionists. While other honorable members said that the timber workers and the seamen should have returned to work, Senator Amour fed them, at the little depot in his private home. It is all very well for honorable members to laugh; but I ask them how many of them had food depots in their homes during the timber workers’ strike; or when the miners or seamen were out of work. . Senator Ashley also is widely known throughout New South Wales. For seven years, he was mayor of Lithgow. He has been an alderman of the Lithgow Council for twelve years, and has attended Labour conferences regularly for many years. Honorable members opposite say that the selected members were hand-picked, but that is not so. Senator Armstrong is a brilliant young man who was a fellow university student with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). He obtained a position with the Sydney City Council, and later, when he submitted his name to a pre-election ballot, he was chosen. Last on the list of the four selected men is Senator Arthur. Twenty years ago he contested the Nepean seat against Richard Orchard. He also contested the Hawkesbury seat.
– Did he win ?
– No ; but he put up a good fight on behalf of Labour. He became well known in the Nepean and Hawkesbury districts, and when an opportunity came to select candidates for the Senate, delegates said, “ Tom Arthur will do us “. He was also for many years an organizer of the biggest union in Australia, the Australian Workers ‘Union. Later, he was appointed a conciliation commissioner by the Labour Government of New South Wales and he carried out his duties well and faithfully. Those are the four men who were selected to contest Senate seats on behalf of the Labour party. Now the Government says that because these men won the Senate election there is a likelihood that only men with names beginning with “A” will have any chance of election; and therefore it proposes to establish a lottery
– The Government wanted to give the “ G’s “ a chance.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) a question, and if he answers it truthfully, 1 shall sit down. I ask him, “ Are you in favour of a lottery ? “
– Question time ceased this morning.
– This bill is a lottery, which is another word for a gamble. I know the record of the Assistant Minister ; he is one of the cleanest living men in the House. If “Gloaming” were entered for a novice race of seven furlongs at Randwick, at ten to. one, I do not believe that the honorable gentleman would have a shilling on him. Yet he is! willing to submit his name to a presiding officer, to be placed in the ballotbox and shaken up. I remind him. that there have been times in Australia when ballot-boxes would not stand shaking. 1 ask the same question of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). I also put, it to the Minister for Supply and Development. (Sir Frederick . Stewart). Finally, I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself whether he- is willing to institute a lottery through the Commonwealth ?
– I shall consult my colleagues, and give an answer to the honorable member on Tuesday next.
– I know that the right honorable gentleman is not in favour of a Commonwealth Government lottery; but I suggest that the Government should start a. gamble as to whose name shall be placed at the top, and at, each intervening stage to the bottom, of the ballotpaper and sell tickets at 10s. each throughout the Commonwealth. I suggest that the Assistant Minister and the Minister for Supply and Development, and the honorable member for Barton should submit their names, and that the lottery be drawn on the 17 th July, which I understand is to be the date of the nextelection.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks must be relevant to the clause.
– The Government’s proposal is alottery, or gamble. The ballot-box is to be shaken. I was privileged to attend the declaration of the poll when Senators Amour, Ashley,
Armstrong and Arthur were elected. Each of them returned thanks to the returning officer. A defeated candidate, Mr. Dave Hall, also returned thanks. He said, “ The probabilities are that before the next election comes round I shall have changed my name! If I drop the .first letter of it, I shall improve my chance of election “. Senator Darcey also spoke. He said, “I shall never drop the first letter of my name “.
Commonwealth Railways - Shipbuilding in Australia - Docking facilities - Canberra Housing - Censorship - Wheat Industry - Price of Fuel Oil - Loss of Avro- Anson Aeroplane - Australian Imperial Force : Arrival of Second Contingent in Egypt.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- A few months ago, the Commonwealth Government let a contract for the erection of a number of cottages along the TransAustralia railway line. Although the work lay wholly within the States of South. Australia and Western Australia, the specifications provided that stoves of a pattern made by a Melbourne manufacturer, whose name was mentioned, should be installed. Objection was taken to this, and a Perth manufacturer of stoves was permitted to quote. Advice has now been received from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner that the tender of the Perth manufacturer was higher than that of the Melbourne manufacturer, so that the original specifications would be adhered to. It would have been much better if the original specifications had made it possible for manufacturers in any part of the Commonwealth to tender. It would be much better, also, if the Commissioner could realize that there are industries in Ade>laide and Perth capable of supplying some of the requirements of the Commonwealth Railways, and that those cities have a special interest in the Commonwealth Railways, which give them a right to be considered .when work of this kind is’ being given out. On previous occasions
I have had to complain of the discrimination exercised by the Commonwealth Railways against the industry and trade of Western Australia. For many years, goods from the eastern States, particularly Victoria, have been carried over the Commonwealth Railways to the goldfields in Western Australia at rates materially below those charged on the State railways. In fact, they are being carried at a loss, and the industries of Western Australia are suffering very materially from this unfair competition made possible by dump freight rates on lie Commonwealth Railways. I should like to know why the head office and the central administration of the Commonwealth Railways are situated in Melbourne, 800 miles from the nearest point of the two railway systems under their control. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner should he required to have his office in Adelaide, at least. In that case, his Victorian complex might bc somewhat less pronounced. I trust that the points I have raised will receive duo consideration by the Government.
– I wish to refer to a matter which is exercising the minds of a great many people in Australia at the present time, namely, the need for speeding up our shipbuilding programme. For the last three years some of us have been trying to induce the Government to make the dry-docking facilities in Australia more modern, and to get the shipbuilding industry under way. Two years ago we did induce the Government to introduce legislation the purpose of which was to encourage private firms to tender for the building of ships with Government assistance. After -.that legislation was passed, many persons, thinking that something would be done, canvassed one another with the idea of sharing the work of supplying internal equipment &c, for ships. Practically nothing has, however, been done yet in regard to shipbuilding. A British expert was appointed to inquire into docking facilities, and to report upon the best, place for a big modern dock capable of taking a capital ship. I have no doubt that he was the best man we could have obtained, and he duly made his inquiries and presented his report. All we have heard of the report so far is a newspaper statement that about £3,000,000 is to be expended on one dock in one particular State. It is not suggested, surely, that we should hold up our ship-construction programme until that dock is built. Even for the purpose of replacing ships worn out or lost in the ordinary course of peace-time trade, it is desirable that we should begin our programme without delay. Since the outbreak of war, however, so much shipping has been lost by enemy action, and such unusual demands have been made upon what remains, that it has become dangerous for us to delay any. longer lest we should find ourselves without tonnage l,o take our produce overseas. Vessels have recently been chartered from the United States of America, but such is the international situation at the present time that the United States of America will not continue to risk its vessels in this way. I trust that I shall not be called a little Australian because I remind honorable members that I represent an electorate which has historical associations with the shipbuilding industry in Australia. During the last war, many new vessels were built at Williamstown, while many others were remodelled for troopcarrying. Williamstown was also the chief ship repairing port in Australia. Since then, the Commonwealth Government has handed the dockyard over to the Melbourne Harbour Trust under certain conditions; but although naval architects are still associated with it, very little is being done in the way of shipbuilding. It is not a question now of whether we oan build ships. That has been settled long ago. The question is, how long it will take us to complete a freighter of, say, 10,000 tons dead weight, and what would be the cost a ton. The answer is that by adopting the British method of sharing the work among the engineering firms prepared to co-operate in the venture we can now build ships here’ in half the time previously thought possible. It is also maintained that we can build ships here to-day at the same cost a ton as in England where costs have been doubled due to conditions arising out of the war, such as the increased price of materials and the shortage of skilled workmen. It can be established, therefore, that we can build ships in a reasonable time, and at a reasonable cost. Every week we allow to go by without taking action makes the situation more serious. We are told that British tonnage will not be allowed to come south of the Equator, because the whole of it will be required to carry troops, and to fulfill other purposes associated with the war effort of the Allies. Therefore, we must depend upon ourselves.. It has even been suggested that what was at the beginning a blockade of Germany is gradually turning into a blockade of Britain, because of the cutting off of European food supplies from Great Britain. Therefore, it will become our duty more and more to make up the deficiency. Australia could not double its exports if it were called upon to do so at the present time, although the requisite quantity of commodities would be available; it simply could not provide sufficient shipping space to transport it. To charge the Government with inaction in this matter would, be cowardly, because it has to deal with many difficult problems, and I certainly would not raise the subject if it were not of national importance from the point of view of war policy as well as peace-time needs.
Firms in Victoria have not been given a fair share of shipping repair and construction work in the last ten years. Tha t is due to two or three factors, among which is the agreement between the Commonwealth and the company which has taken charge of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
Only £1,000,000 of the total of £3,000,000 proposed to be expended in New South Wales on the construction of a new dock would be required to make the existing facilities in Victoria adequate to cope with the largest vessels that are likely to be built in Australia, at any rate for the next decade. Therefore, I ask that a part of the £3,000,000 be expended in Victoria, not experimentally, but in the certainty of developing Australia’s shipbuilding operations rapidly and efficiently by immediately bringing the docking facilities right up to date. Victorian, firms have the docking facilities and most of the plant necessary for the construction of a modern vessel of 10,000 tons dead weight. Probably a larger crane would be the only new equipment required. Experts agree that a vessel of that size could be constructed in nine months, and that three such vessels could be built in’ two years, each operation reducing the average time of construction as well as the cost. This would be a remarkable feat in normal conditions, and obviously it would be more difficult of achievement in time of war, but even so it demonstrates how urgent the matter is. Et is necessary, therefore, that the Government should take action now in order that our shipbuilding . programme may not suffer in the future. It would not be too pessimistic to predict that the Government will experience all kinds of difficulties if it does not take definite action now to provide shipping tonnage for exports of foodstuffs and the transport of men, if necessary, to the other side of the world.
Investigations have been made already to determine how the work could be distributed among Victorian firms. Neither in this country nor anywhere else can a vessel be constructed expeditiously at one central depot. Vessels must be built in Australia, as the Queen Mary was built in Great Britain, and as aeroplanes are built in the United States of America, by canvassing engineering workshops in order to distribute amongst them various parts of the construction work. Preliminary canvassing has already been carried out in Victoria. The firms which have been selected have intimated the quantity of work they could undertake for the construction and equipment of a complete vessel. The hull could be built at Williamstown dockyard or some other dockyard in Port Phillip, and the remainder of the work could be rationed among various engineering firms.
Although the Cockatoo Island Dockyard in New South Wales is an excellent one, it cannot keep pace with the requirements of the country.
– It is also vulnerable to attack.
– Day and night shifts are being worked there, and some men are working more than one shift daily. That does not make for the maximum of efficiency. In any case the dock is not capable of dealing with the future shipbuilding programme. When I met a member of the Government and a naval architect in Melbourne recently the question was raised as to whether engineering workshops in Victoria were capable of constructing engines and other parts of a modern vessel. As fortune would have it, I was accompanied by Mr. Aird, manager of J. Thompson and Company, Castlemaine, who was able to prove conclusively that his firm had already built the class of engine that would be required, and had even supplied some equipment for the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. All that is necessary now is for the Government to decide when a start should be made with construction work. I realize that Cabinet is faced with many delicate problems but this, also, is an important war problem. In any case it will take a long time to build modern vessels, and the longer the Government delays, the longer it will be before new vessels can be launched. The position becomes more dangerous with every day that passes. W6 have not even repaired and maintained existing craft in good order, and, as the years go by, we shall lose ground, and the shortage of vessels will become increasingly acute. 1 ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to bring this matter before Cabinet in order to make a definite decision upon it as soon as possible, for, when peace is declared, work must be found for those now on war service.
.- On a number of occasions in this House I have expressed criticism of the high cost of constructing houses in Canberra. The matter has become more urgent now because, in the near future, several more Commonwealth departments will be moved to Canberra. When the headquarters staffs of the Postal Department and the defence services, and a number of patent officers, are brought to this city, hundreds of additional houses will be required for them. According to what I can learn, the transfers will involve three or four thousand people, who will probably require 700 or 800 houses.
Honorable members will recall that about two years ago I submitted to this
House plans and specifications of types of houses that are built in Adelaide in the form of semi-detached pairs, at a cost of £900 for each pair. I have asked more than once that a scheme for building houses of this kind should he introduced in Canberra, although I do not suggest that the work could be done as cheaply as in Adelaide, because freight rates and other factors would necessarily affect the final cost. Last year I was told that 200 houses were to be built in Canberra, and Iagain submitted these plans, and had discussions with architects and valuators, who assured me that this type of house would not cost more than £1,100 a pair in Canberra. I had previously told the then Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that I intended to move the adjournment of this House in order to discuss that matter, but after being given this assurance by departmental officers I allowed the matter to drop. I was amazed to learn later, however, that the cost of erecting such houses in Canberra had been estimated at £1,600 a pair, not £1,100, as I had been informed previously. These facts show the necessity for a. thorough investigation. I appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to endeavour to arrange for the Minister for the Interior to inspect the houses in Adelaide, which are let at a rental of 12s. 6d. a week. Many workmen in Canberra receive wages no higher than those paid in Adelaide, and I am sure that, owing to the high rents of houses in Canberra, and -the bus fares that have to be paid, the lower-paid men here suffer hardship. Shortly before the late Prime Minister died, he and I inspected the houses in Adelaide, and he was greatly impressed by them. He told me that he would do all in his power to have cottages of a similar kind erected in Canberra. What has been done in other States could be done in this Territory, and, as hundreds of additional houses will have to be erected, if all Commonwealth Departments are to function from the Seat of Government, it should be possible to save hundreds of thousands of pounds.
.- Shortly after the outbreak of war the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a declaration on the subject of the censor ship which filled some of us, at least, with the hope that that function would be administered on a more reasonable, not to say more indulgent, scale than during the last war. I pointed out that, as the war went on, this matter would, for all practical purposes, pass out of the hands of the Prime Minister, and a rigorous administration of the censorship would occur as usual. I regret to say that my prophecy has been more than fulfilled. Recently, I addressed a question to the Minister in charge of censorship with regard to a publication known as Soviets To-day. I was not a reader of that journal, although I do not close my mind to publications of that or of any other kind which are not, in their nature, obviously objectionable. Nor do I think that even my most unreasonable opponents would suggest that I have any association with the doctrine of communism. I am, however, deeply interested in the liberty of the subject. I addressed a question to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister in charge of censorship, who is absent from the House a good deal, owing, I understand, to the unsatisfactory state of his health, which I greatly regret. However, the Prime Minister said that he would make inquiries and provide me with an answer. My question, related to Soviets To-day, and I pointed out that this publication was not really censored, but, in effect, was suppressed. The whole of the matter in it, whether it related to the war or not, merely from the fact that it related to the Soviet Republic, was sufficient in the mind of the censor to justify its censorship and suppression. In reply to my question, “ Upon what principle was this matter wholly suppressed?”, the Prime Minister said -
The whole of the copy submitted for the issue of 22nd April of Soviets To-day related to Russia, and so came within, the prohibition issued by the censorship that certain newspapers should not- refer to neutral countries, including Russia. The matter was therefore deleted.
If this publication will observe censorship conditions in the same spirit as Australian newspapers generally are doing, it will have no difficulty with censorship.
We have ample proof of the reasons . why it is very easy for the daily press, at least, to comply with censorship conditions ; but I ask the Prime Minister whether he could imagine a -more petulant or more prejudiced attitude than that disclosed by this answer to my question. Not every newspaper that refers to Russia has that matter censored or excised, although that would be pitiful enough, but the fact is that certain newspapers only may not refer to Russia. It seems to me to be perfectly obvious that, the censorship is directed to the suppression, of the newspaper to which I have referred, by this indirect method which has never been approved by this chamber, and which can have no possible relationship to the successful or safe prosecution of the war. We are prepared to accept the inevitable, namely, that nothing must be published which gives to the enemy information it is thought the enemy should not have. We are prepared to accept the further condition that we must not publish anything which tends to hearten the enemy or to depress our own people. I do not say that that is tobe wholly commended, but most people are prepared, to accept it without grumbling. However, we find that a particular newspaper is chosen, because- of some political leanings which its editor and management are supposed to have, and it is- said of it that it may not say anything to the advantage, or in praise, of the Soviet Republic, that it must not refer to what that country is doing for the health or education of the people, or to what, as an experiment in socialism, as some people think, is being practised there, and that it must not even mention Russia. I repeat that I cannot find anything to describe such an attitude on the part of the Government other, than that it is petulant and prejudiced and deliberately unfair to certain citizens. I refer again to the final paragraph of the answer to myquestion -
If this publication will observe censorship conditions in the same spirit as Australian newspapers generally are doing- it will have no difficulty with the censorship:
Censorship conditions ! My complaint is that the censorship conditions are not equal and are not applied equally to allpublications, but are applied with prejudice to certain newspapers, because their views areapparently unpalatable to the honorable gentleman who- has the administration of the censorship. That cannot be too strongly condemned, and, frankly, I am surprised. I have serious political differences with the Prime Minister - they will stand or await solution as may be - but, generally, although I am opposed to the right honorable gentleman in policy, having regard to his own point of view, it has always appeared to me that he has undertaken his duties with moderation and without unfair discrimination. I refer also to World Peace, another publication. World Peace- had an article on conscription and historical references to it. It is all cut out simply, apparently, because the journal is World Peace. The whole publication, like Soviets To-Day. is practically suppressed by a back-door method. I do not associate myself with all of the matter that has been excised.. I have not even read it - ‘that is not my responsibility - but I have read certain parts for the excision of which I can find no excuse whatever. I have received a letter from Mr. G. K. Peel; national secretary of the League for Peace and Democracy, in which the concluding paragraph is -
As you will see from the material enclosed, we are not even allowed to give facts about the humanitarian achievements of a great doctor in China, or facts about the laststruggle against conscription.
Surely one would have though that, in view of the declared position of both parties against conscription, historical references to that matter would have been permissible. A Mr. Campbell’ has forwarded to me a. letter which I find a little amusing, It contains the typewritten script of a well-known poem by the wellknown Australian author, Henry Lawson. The poem is known as “ Faces in the Street”. I remember that, in my callow youth, I used to recite this poem to a more or less entranced audience of callow people like myself. I never thought that 1 should live to see the day when “ Faces in the Street “,. by Henry Lawson, would be solemnly censored, suppressed and forbidden circulation in a particular journal in my native country.
– Can the- honorable gentleman recite the poem now?
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) suggests that I should repeat some of this matter here. I prefer not to do so.. I am very, jealous that this Parliament should not have this evil of censorship, imposed upon it.I remember sadly that that was done in the last war, and I do not desire by an indirect method to force into publicity matter which has been already proscribed by the censorship. However, I do not suppose that that applies to Henry Lawson’s poem. Here is a verse -
And when the hourson lagging feet have slowly dragged away,
And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day.
Then, flowing past my window, like a tide in its retreat,
Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street -
Ebbing out, ebbing out,
To the drag of tired feet
While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street.
As a whole the poem, although a little morbid, is rather a beautiful thing, well done. And it is entirely suppressed, deleted. Mr. Speaker, I would say in conclusion that it does appear to me that the censorship is being administered illogically. I regret extremely that we should have to come to the pass when matter is refused publication in a particular journal. If a thing is objectionable, it is objectionable in itself, not because of the means by which it is published, but because it is published. It seems to me that that should be the principle underlying the administration of the censorship. If the censorship is to be used with bitter political bias against papers the honest thing would be to use the powers under the National Security Act and suppress certain papers directly, instead of employing, a method of suppression which has never been used before, and which, in my view, should bo condemned.
– I support the appeal made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) for the speeding up of action to build vessels in Australia, particularly in Victoria. I do not claim that Victoria, is the only place where vessels should be built, but it should be the first and paramount duty of the Government to build them in this country. I was always conscious of the necessity, from the defence point of view, of the fact that we should build our own merchantmen. But what has reinforced my belief more than ever is that I recently read a hook written by Ellen Wilkinson, a British
Labour member of Parliament, entitled The Town that was Murdered. It is a complete outline of what happened to the shipbuilding trade of Great Britain after the last war. It brought vividly to my mind the fact that one of the difficulties of the Allied cause to-day is that the capacity of the smaller shipyards of Britain to build merchant vessels is crippled, by virtue of British policy, which I need not go into here. In these circumstances, I feel that there is an exceptionally strong case for some urgent action by this Government to make the earliest possible start to build vessels in Australia. The transport of foodstuffs from Australia overseas is as important as ; if not more important than, the transport of troops for overseas service. I regard shipbuilding in Australia as important as the construction of aeroplanes in this country. I suggest that the Government should appoint immediately an authority representing employers, employees and its own representatives, vested with immense powers and subject only to the final authority of this Parliament, to undertake the control of ship construction in Australia. At Williamstown in Victoria and in various parts of New South Wales, valuable facilities to assist in ship construction are available, and in some cities and in certain inland centres there are substantial engineering establishments, which, when wewere building ourown vessels, were providing turbines, pumps, electrical machinery and all such accessories as are necessary in building merchantmen. In my own constituency there is the old established firm of Thompson & Company, which holds royalty rights over Parsons turbines and many other accessories essential to ship construction. When ships were built in Australia that firm actually provided the whole of the internal equipment for vessels. Shipbuilding in Australia has been murdered, as Ellen Wilkinson says it has been in England. As stated by the authority which I have just citedbetween the termination of the last Avar and the outbreak of this conflict, shipbuilding in Great Britain, for various economic and political reasons, has been murdered. I trust that a new policy will he enunciated, and thus give to a number or well-trained artisans now employed in our engineering establishments and docks, an opportunity to engage in this industry which is so essential to the Allied cause.
I also wish to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I am not a Communist, nor am L a member of the Communist party. The only political party to which 1. belong is the Australian Labour party. I believe that if this country acts true to form and fights Hitlerism in an endeavour to retain liberty, those who have conscientious convictions should have the right to express them. The censorship as at present conducted is absurd, and has reached a stage when it can be said that there is a vendetta against certain newspapers and journals. Recently I delivered a speech in this chamber which was published in Hansard and in which I criticized a member of the Government. Hansard is circulated throughout the Commonwealth, and if what 1 then said was fit and proper to be published in Hansard, surely there is no reason why it should not appear in any other journal. When an attempt was made to publish it in the Tribune, it was completely censored. Surely that is going beyond what may be regarded as impartiality and fair play. I do not think that any one will accuse me of saying anything in this ‘ House which could be regarded as being of material assistance to the enemy or injurious to the cause of the Allies. The censorship policy which the Government has adopted may some day react against those who are now its supporters in this chamber. I can imagine the attitude which the honorable member for Batman, if Minister for Information, might, feel inclined to adopt towards the views of any honorable member now sitting opposite. It does not need a wide stretch of imagination to conceive of such a position arising. Why should the Minister for Information be the only judge as to whether the spoken or written word is detrimental to the cause of the Allies? I realize that there should be some system of censorship in the national interest, but it is time that the Minister for Information adopted a more reasonable policy. Apparently his action is supported by the Prime Minister, because complaints such as I am now making have been made for some considerable time. I have no interest in the policy of the Tribune, or any other Communist newspaper; but as an educated individual [ believe that even in time of war we should have the right to read the opinions of others on world-wide problems. The rights which the Labour party exercise to-day are being exercised, not because of any tender feelings which honorable members opposite may have towards us, but because throughout the ages we have fought and obtained those rights by sheer force of weight and by virtue of the cause which we espouse. I suppose a system of censorship prevents the enemy from receiving information which may be detrimental to Great Britain and its Allies, but I cannot understand, why a speech which was published in Hansard and circulated throughout Australia cannot appear in any other newspaper. The speech of the Minister for Commerce could also be used to show that he did not believe in the cause for which the Allies are fighting. I trust that the Prime Minister will take immediate step* to ensure that there shall be reasonable liberty for the expression of thought, even during the present strife.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and the” honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) with respect to the importance of the shipbuilding industry. Although I cannot throw a great deal of light upon this important subject, it must be admitted that the shipbuilding industry is of vital importance to Australia. I understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is commencing the construction of ships at Whyalla, on Spencer’s Gulf, in South Australia. I have also received from Port Pirie a request that ships be built there. Spencer’s Gulf provides a natural protection for the carrying on of works; because of its geographical situation, attack by an enemy would be almost impossible. There is, further, the unfortunate situation that our primary products, which provide 92 per cent, of our exports, and pay for the whole of our imports, in addition to our other overseas costs, are not moving away from our shores speedily enough, but are accumulating throughout Australia. Millions of bushels of wheat, millions of gallons of wine, and thousands of tons of fruit are being held up. One of the principal reasons why the Government cannot make a second payment to the wheatgrowers is that it cannot export the wheat and receive payment for it. We have had placed before us this afternoon the most unfortunate position of Great Britain in regard to its shipbuilding programme. 1 endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), and supplement them by an appeal to the Government, which doubtless realizes the very grave position in which the Allies are placed. I have no illusions in regard to this colossal struggle. It is most important that we should feed our allies with primary products, which we have in abundance. Great Britain gave, shipbuilding contracts to Norway and other countries, which are now held by the enemy. Apart from finance and man-power, the most important matter in this war. at the moment is to approve of a vigorous and extensive programme of shipbuilding. The Labour party would have the work carried out by the nation, for the benefit of the nation. If the Government will not itself embark upon the undertaking, it should at least approve of plans that will enable the programme to be speeded up. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has clearly shown, not one hour should he lost.
.- I have no desire unduly to harass the Government in regard to the wheat industry, but the position is so very critical to thousands of men engaged in that industry that I am again constrained to raise the matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House this afternoon. Every mail that i receive brings me further evidence of the straitened circumstances of the wheat-growers. Their morale is rapidly deteriorating. In support of that statement, I quote from a. letter that I have received to-day, some cognizance of which I hope will be taken by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), because it will indicate to him and the Government the psychology that is developing among the wheat-growers of Australia This is not an isolated case;
I have met men in many areas pf the wheat belt who are giving expression to similar views. The letter makes the following statements: -
If the wheat-grower has any backbone at all, or any dignity left, he cannot fail to rebel against such intolerable conditions, such rank injustice and such economic tyranny. Where is this much boasted democratic freedom, that allows even the possibility of such a deal as will bo handed out by this Governmentappointed Wheat Acquisition Board with one solitary wheat-grower included? No other section of the community would tolerate it for a moment. Labour does not hesitate to strike for its rights, even in war-time - e.g., Darwin defence works, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would unconditionally and emphatically refuse such terms as cited above. If the Government persisted in such an offer at a bankrupt price, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would close down immediately.
I pass on to another statement -
I might also mention that Mr. Menzies promised satisfaction by August, and that lie would not leave it till October or November, a.nd I may as well also mention that only yesterday Lord Halifax informed us that Britain was fighting a war (which may involve millions of lives and hundreds of millions of pounds) against German Huns on account of the disregard of pledged words (so that it is apparent to Australian wheat-growers that nil Huns do not reside in Germany) and I say that if that is sufficient ground for a war in Europe, then we have often had equally good grounds for a war in Australia.
The writer goes on to say -
Before long the wheat-grower will enlist to escape voluntarily; he will be free of the tyranny of wheat-growing, he will bc fighting tor freedom, foc will take a well-earned holiday on certain pay, food and lodgings supplied gratis, in the front trenches in Europe, hd will have escaped from the much boasted British justice as- exemplified in Australia, which demands of the farmer a much higher standard of patriotism than from other classes of the community, demands that he should produce and sell his goods at a loss, after working long hours, taking all the risks with the elements, in producing the necessities of life, while the remainder of the community demands shorter hours, a higher standard of “living and costs of production or services plus a profit.
What is patriotism? Something that is relegated to the limbo of affairs till money, the god, is satiated, then patriotism crops up later and becomes a hobby, a pastime for those able to indulge it when all material desires and more arc satisfied. British and German steel magnates and armament, firms know no boundaries, no nationalities, no patriotism, except at their own price. Australia, like other parts of the Empire, is placing men in uniform and arming them to fight and spending millions of pounds in the process. The wheat-grower does more than .his share in providing the necessary credit, and what is the objective? Every day we hear some authoritative version of the Allied war aims - to proserve our freedom, our democracy, to banish tyranny, to preserve our standard of living, &c, &c. Are Australians put into uniform and handed a rifle with the object of fighting to retain among other things the Australian wheat-growers’ extremely doubtful privilege of selling wheat ait bankrupt prices, recently I s. Od. a bushel at our siding, and at one stage tlie lowest price for 300 years, as well as to drag to earth a man by the name’ of Adolf Hitler who, whatever else may be said against him, has for some years past guaranteed his wheat-growers a paltry 10s. Od. per bushel?
– Germany seems the place for him.
– The honorable member does not appear to realize that I am reading a letter from a very distressed wheat-grower who is greatly concerned about the apparent indifference of the present Commonwealth Government to the desperate plight of this industry. The letter continues -
Is tills one of the reasons why our much Haunted democracy, which includes Australian wheat-growers, should prevail over the much abused Nazis, who include German wheatgrowers? Is the standard of economic freedom in Australia, as represented by the ls. Od. bushel touch, on such a high plane that this country feels morally bound to help destroy a regime which permits the existence of an economic tyranny as represented by a mere 10s. (id. bushel touch? This apparently is patriotism, but any action by any Australian which tended to raise the price of wheat in Australia would, I presume, be most unpatriotic. The Federal Government has done, and is, therefore, still continuing to do, its best to avoid being dubbed unpatriotic on that score.
L” think I have quoted sufficient from this lengthy letter to indicate to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the attitude of mind that is developing among some of the wheat-growers of Australia who are in a desperate plight. This industry has been declining for many years. The wheat-growers looked to this Government for .some years to take some definite steps to improve the position, but very little has been done. The urgent need at the moment, I point out to the Prime Minister, is the payment of another advance in respect of the wheat in the No. 2 Wheat Pool. Unless some action in this regard be taken, I venture to say that at the forthcoming general elections, despite all the flag-waving and special pleading on that score, the wheat-growers will endeavour to elect a .different .government in the hope that their conditions may bo improved. I sincerely trust that within the next week or two another payment will he made in respect of the No. 2 Wheat Pool.
– I should have had no occasion to speak to-day had a letter which I forwarded to the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) last December been given the consideration to which it was entitled. The subject to which it referred was fuel-oil supplies, which, honorable members will appreciate, is of considerable significance to wheat-growers. Fuel-oil is essential to modern power-tractors. As honorable members know, the diesel engine plays an important part in fanning life to-day. I point out that between December, 1937, and December, 1939, when the letter to which I have referred was written, four increases of price were made in respect of fuel-oil. During the Spanish war the price rose 10s. a ton in two rises of 5s. each; later there was a further rise of £1 a ton. The increase of 10s. a ton which caused my constituent to write to mo came into force on the 29th December, 1939. Fuel-oil which, in 1937, was £5 a ton at, Fremantle is now £7 15s. a ton. The letter which I forwarded to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and which he returned to me with his compliments but no other comment, recites the facts to which I have referred and points out the difficulty which these price increases are causing to farmers. My correspondent said -
Practically all the fuel-oil used in Australia comes from Borneo, so where is the extra cost?
We can understand, of course, that some shipping difficulties may be facing the producers and shippers at present, but I can see no justification whatsoever for such a heavy increase as has occurred. [ urge that this whole subject be referred to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner (Professor ‘Copland) for immediate inquiry and report. I shall bring the subject under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs again by letter, and trust that some adequate explanation will be forthcoming in respect of the increases, or that action will be taken to reduce the price of this commodity to a reasonable figure.
– I regret to inform honorable members that an Air Force AvroAnson aeroplane has been missing since early yesterday afternoon. At 11.33 a.m. yesterday three Avro-Ansons left Point Cook for Camden. They struck severe icing conditions when they wore about half an hour out from Point Cook. The formation was broken. One machine landed at Cootamundra and another managed to return to Point Cook, but wireless contact was lost with the third machine at 1.15 p.,m. yesterday. Since then all efforts to locate it have failed. The search to-day has been impeded by very bad weather conditions. Every effort has been made to locate the machine by broadcast messages and searches in likely localities, but so far without success. It is hoped that better weather to-morrow will make possible a most intensive search.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Prime
Minister) [5.8]. - in reply - The various matters referred to by the honorable members who have participated in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House will receive consideration.
I wish to refer in particular to a matter raised by the honorable member for “Batman (‘Mr. Brennan) in relation to the censorship. He mentioned an article or material which had been censored from the publication Soviets To-day. Tho honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn ) wrote to me a day or two ago concerning another example of the censorship. Honorable members will realize that I do not pretend to be familiar with the detailed work of the censors, and it will be understood that I am not able, at this stage, to give any reason for the deletions to which specific attention has been directed, though I have no doubt that an adequate reason will be forthcoming. When I received the communication from the honorable member for Bourke I had every intention to discuss the matter personally with my colleague who is responsible for the censorship. As honorable members know, it has not been possible during the last few days to confer with the Minister for Information (Sir Henry Gullett) because, unfortunately, he has been indisposed. I have brought the cases to his attention, and I propose aa soon as possible to discuss the matter with him, with a view to seeing whether the principle upon which the censor is to operate can be clarified.
For the last half hour or so I have been awaiting an opportunity to mention another matter. i have just received advice that the second contingent of the Australian Imperial Force has arrived safely in Egypt. Disembarkation from the troopships has begun in the Suez Canal area, and the troops are proceeding to their specified stations in Palestine. The commander of the contingent is Major-General. I. G. Mackay, C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D. The troops are reported to be in excellent spirits. This announcement comes at a time when Great Britain and France need our moral and physical support in their hour of testing. No Australian will have the slightest doubt that our men will fight courageously and strongly at whatever point they are called upon to serve. No one will fail to realize that the transport of our troops in the manner that I have indicated emphasizes again the mo3t important fact that the Allies command the sea. The discharge of the complex arrangements which the convoy of the troopships over thousands of miles of sea involves, has been effected with the utmost precision. The troopships left Australia according to schedule on a date fixed- well in advance, and they arrived at their destination at the hour which had been arranged some weeks before. The contingent comprised men from all of the States of the Commonwealth. They sailed from Australia in April, and they arrived at their immediate destination in the Suez Canal area between two and three o’clock this afternoon, eastern Australian time. From the time that the troops sailed from their Australian port, their ships have been guarded by British, French and Australian warships, lt should be mentioned, too, that the Royal Australian Air Force watched over the convoy for long stages of the voyage. Vigilance was not relaxed for one moment, and the success of the convoy is an indication of the efficient manner in which all branches of the defence forces can work in collaboration.
Tn the last few days I have appealed more than once for a closing of our ranks in Australia. I believe that the events of the last week have brought us closer together, and that we are more than ever prepared for the task ahead. For our part, if it were necessary to reinforce the many pledges that I have made since September of last year, I think tho arrival of the second contingent of our soldiers in Egypt says very clearly to Great Britain and to France in the hour of their great difficulties, “We were by your side when this war began. We will be with, you to the end “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of F. J. Howard, Department of Civil Aviation.
National Security Act - National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
Summary of National Security (Capital Issues) “Regulations.
House adjourned at 5.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– As this question relates to the source of supply of essential materials required for defence purposes, it is considered undesirable that the information required be made public. [ am prepared to discuss the matter privately with the honorable member.
Defence Department: Compensation for Occupied Premises.
t. - On the 10th May the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following question, without notice -
Can the Minister for the Army explain the withholding, for the long period of six months, of the payment of £20 by way of compensation due to a citizen of La Perouse who was forced to vacate premises to make way for the Defence Department?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that a number of claims have been received by the Department of. the Army in respect of compensation for losses alleged to have been sustained as the result of occupation for military purposes of certain premises at La Perouse. As these claims were of an unusual character, approval was given for their settlement by the Crown Law authorities in Sydney in accordance with the respective legal entitlements of the several claimants. I have issued instructions that early settlement is to be effected to the extent that the department is liable for payment.
Perth City Council.
r. - Yesterday the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the following question, without notice : -
Has the Treasurer granted permission to the Perth City Council to raise a loan of £70,000 for municipal purposes?
I am now able to inform the honorable member that approval has been given for the Perth City Council to raise a loan of £75,000 for municipal purposes.
Walsh Island Floating Dock.
n. - On the 10th M.ay the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following question, without notice:-
Has the Minister for the Navy any information to the effect that negotiations have been entered into for the removal of the floating dock now established at Walsh Island, Newcastle, to Whyalla or any other part of the Commonwealth ?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that no negotiations arc proceeding for the removal of the floating dock now at Newcastle.
s. - Yesterday the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked me, without notice, whether the system of censorship in Australia was based on advice received from the Imperial authorities.
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Not necessarily. War-time censorship in all countries follows the same principles, but methods are frequently varied to meet local problems.
Apple and PearBoard: Appointment of Clerk.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Capital Issues Regulations.
r. - On the 19th April, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) addressed a question to me regarding the effect of the Capital Issues Regulations as regards the limitation of interest both with respect to existing securities and future issues. In reply, I desire to inform the honorable member that the regulations as at present framed do not directly impose any limitation upon the rate of interest except in respect of advances made by banks, existing mortgages or charges which may be renewed, and unsecured loans and deposits. They form part of the Government’s constructive programme for consolidating the economic and financial resources of the country. Amongst the various objects which the Government has in view is the maintenance of low interest rates. As one of the means of securing this end, it is provided in the Capital Issues Regulations that all persons desiring to raise capital or to issue securities for borrowed money outside certain specified limits, shall first secure my consent. This consent may be granted subject to such conditions as it is found necessary to impose. A usual requirement is that the interest payable on a fixed interest bearing security shall be in conformity with the standard which it is thought should apply to that class of security. Limitations have, therefore, been imposed in certain cases. This policy has been attended with some measure of success. The rates of interest payable on loans raised by local authorities and some governmental bodies have been definitely lowered. There has been some resistance to a general lowering of interest rates on mortgages, because certain lending institutions have, I know, been endeavouring to increase their rates, and the statistical evidence shows that the average rate of interest on real property mortgages has increased, slightly in recent months. As such a movement is entirely contrary to the Government’s policy, the control under the regulations has recently been extended to cover all mortgages exceeding £5,000 in one year. I am keeping the matter under constant review, and if this latest action proves inadequate, I shall not hesitate to extend the control still further. A summary of the existing provisions of the regulations is being placed on the table of the House.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 May 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400517_reps_15_163/>.