15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chairat 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker-
Acting Leader of the House). [10.31]. - I lay on the table a copy of the following paper : -
Graving Dockfor Capital Ships - Report, together with” perspective view of proposed., dock, by Sir AlexanderGibb and Partners. and move-
That the paper be printed.
In doingso, I inform honorable-members that there arc ten other maps, some of them of huge dimensions, which I do not propose shall be printed. I shall, however, make them available to honorable members who may desire to inspect them.
Mr.Curtin. - I understand that the report which has just been tabled is only a precis of the complete report.
– It is a. full report.
– Has not a portion of it been excised?
– Only one secret letter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the Acting . Leader of the House whether the Government will give consideration to the construction of the proposed dry dock at Sydney by day labour? Will it also consider any proposals that may be ‘ advanced with the object of making available such equipment as the Main Roads Board and other State instrumentalities may have at their disposal suitable for this work? I make my suggestion in respect of day labour, in order that all the available unskilled labour that is not at present being used may be absorbed in this work. I also desire to avoid any “ cornering “ of the work in the interests of a relatively few people regularly employed by contractors, for it is- a job in which all unemployed who are capable of doing so should be engaged.
– The Prime- Minister pointed out, in ‘-his pronouncement on this- subject, that a very large proportion of the money that would be expended in building the dry dock would be paid for unskilled labour. I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s suggestions under the notice ofthe proper authorities, and in due course a decision will be made.
-In, -. . view of the statement made by the -Government of New SouthWales that at an early, date it is proposed- to drive a tunnel through King’s Cross, Sydney, to relieve the congestion of traffic, and in view of the hundreds ofthousands of tons of filling that will ‘be required to reclaim the area in which the graving dock is to’ be constructed, will the Acting Leader of the House consider conferring with the Government of New South Wales so that effect mightbe given to ‘both of those very desirable works ?
– That, very venture has been in the mind of the Government and, if the conference has not already taken place, I have no doubt that it will take place shortly.
CONTRACTOR AND INDUSTRIALAWARDS.
– Is the Minister for Industry in a position to say whether delay is occurring in connexion with the contract for certain worksof an urgent nature at the Royal Military College at Duntroon, and’, if so, what is the cause of the delay?
– My information is that the Industrial Inspector, Mr. Blakeley, has reported, that the contractor for these works, a Mr. Maston, whose tender was about £5,000 below that of any other . tenderer, has committed a number of serious, breaches of industrial awards. Whether or not these allegations, can be substantiated remains to be seen. I . am sure that the honorable member would, . not suggest that such serious allegations should pass unnoticed. Awards, are made with the intention that they shall be observed. No contractor should be. able to undercut other tenderers by such a substantial amount and then, seek to recoup himself by refusing to pay award rates. _
– Will the Acting Leader of the House take immediate action to prevent the printing in newspapers of photographs of strategic portions of the coast of Australia which may be of value to an enemy ? I have in ray hand a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald containing- a photograph showing’ the position of the proposed new graving dock in the harbour1 at Sydney. Will the-‘ Minister take action to prevent the publication of such photographs in the future?
– I do not know that there is any cause for action in the case referred to by the honorable gentleman. I have- just laid on- the- table a plan of the proposed graving dock, which thereby becomes public property. It will soon be known, all over the world that a graving dock is to be constructed at Sydney. That is something which cannot be concealed and, therefore, I cannot see that any great harm is being done by the publication of the photograph referred to.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to radioand press reports this morning that Russia, Germany ‘and Japan propose to hold, at Peiping, the former capital of China, a conference to discuss the future of the Netherlands East Indies? Assuming that there is some foundation for the reports, can the Minister advise the House how far this proposal affects the statement that, he made a short time ago regarding . the maintenance of the status quo in the Pacific? Can he say whether any discussions have taken place with the Government of the United States of America in connexion with this matter, and, if so, what advice the Commonwealth Government tendered to that Government and other responsible authorities in the East? This is a matter of vital importance to Australia.
– I have noticed the report that a conference is to be held between the three powers mentioned by the honorable member, but the Government has no official information in respect to it. Iam, however, having inquiries instituted, with a view to getting official confirmation or otherwise of the report.
The honorable member asks if I am able to add anything to my earlier statement regarding the maintenance of the statusquo in the Pacific, particularly in relation to the Netherlands East Indies. That statement was to the effect that’ three Pacific powers- Japan, the United States of- America, ‘ the United Kingdom - together with Australia, had severally declared that the position of- the Netherlands- East- Indies should not be affected by hostilities in Europe. The only thing that I can add to that statement is that I have since had an interview in Canberra with Mr. Akiyama, the Consul-General for Japan, when assurances on behalf of the respective governments were given that neither Australia nor Japan would take any action likely to affect the present position in regard to the status quo in the Netherlands East Indies.
No specific representations to the Government of the United States of America have been, made in this regard ; there has merely been the declaration of policy which I indicated previously.
– Does not the Minister think that it would be wise to make proposals to the United States of America in favour of an agreement being entered into, whereby the policy of the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America could be enforced in the event of action being taken to upset the status quo of the Netherlands East Indies ?
– I have no intention whatever to answer that question by expressing my opinion, or the opinion of the Commonwealth Government, in respect of any such proposal.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the Government has reconsidered its decision to impose a ban on certain American magazines, and, if so, what decision has been arrived at?
– Further consideration is being given to the matter referred to by the honorable member, and as soon as a decision is arrived at, I shall inform him of it.
Enlistment of Men for Overseas Service
– Is it.a fact that men from the territories under the control of the Commonwealth who desire to enlist for service overseas have been informed that no further permission to enlist can be given; also that men from the territories who are in Australia at present, and desire to enlist, have been informed that they must resign from, the Government service before doing so?
– I cannot give a definite answer to the honorable member’s question offhand, but I shall have an investigation made, and let him know.
– In view of the statement made by the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs last week regarding the position of the Australian tobacco industry, and the probability that licences would be issued for the importation of tobacco from the United States of America in order to meet an impending shortage, will the Minister place before his colleague a suggestion that, before any licences are issued, a full statement regarding the position, particularly in relation to local stocks of both imported and local leaf, will be submitted to Parliament?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will give an undertaking that the House will be afforded an opportunity to discuss the Townsend report on shipbuilding before Parliament rises at the end of next week?
– I can give no such undertaking.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is the policy of the Government to discontinue the allowances to sons of disabled soldiers who may enter militia camps? I point out, in explanation, that an allowance of 5s. a week is made through the Repatriation Department to the children of disabled soldiers. I have in mind the case of a young man who was working on a State Agricultural Farm. When he was called up for service in the Militia the 5s. a week payable to him by the Repatriation Department was- discontinued and he was, in fact, asked to refund an amount of 18s. 7d.
– That case, or one very similar to it, has already come under my notice. I am having inquiries made and whenI ascertain the exact position I shall give the honorable member a reply toh is question.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the special circumstances of the application for a loan of £50,000 made by theBallarat City Council, he will review his decision on the matter with the object of giving a favorable reply?
– I have already answered a question on this subject. I am prepared to reconsider my decision, but I cannot hold out any hope that I shall give a more favorable answer.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for Commerce a question respecting the payment of 2s. a case on apples and 3s. on pears which were damaged by a storm that passed through the Adelaide hills. I wish now to ask whether the Government proposes to pay an extra1s. a case upon this fruit, making 3s. for apples and 4s. for pears? Has the Minister yet received the inspector’s report on the position in that locality, and, if so, what does he intend to do about it?
– I have already stated that the Government intends to pay up to 2s. a case on apples and 3s. a case on pears, being 75 per cent, of the value of the fruit as assessed during last January. The extra1s. a case to which the honorable gentleman has referred will be paid only on fruit delivered to the agents of the board and, even then, it must be of the stipulated quality.
– That means then that it will not be paid?
– If the growers cannot deliver the fruit the money cannot be paid. It is not the intention of the Government to make any further assistance available to those growers who suffered loss through hailstorms. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) referred the other day to damage that had been done to the apricot crop in parts of Tasmania. The Commonwealth Government does not intend to intervene in that matter, which it regards as falling within the province of the State Government, through the instrumentalities of which it must be handled.
Telephone Trunk Line Concession Rates
– I have received a letter from a friend of mine in camp who has complained that he had not been given the advantage of the telephone trunk line concession rates which he was under the impression applied in all military camps. As the purpose of this concession rate is to enable the men in camp to make telephone contact with their families at a special rate, I ask the Minister for the Army whether he will see that these concessions apply to all men who are in camp?
– I was under the impression that the concession applied to all military camps and I am surprised to hear that it is not so. If the honorable member can give me any details in connexion with the matter. I shall look into it.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he has seen a report in this morning’s press to the effect that one of the trading banks in New South “Wales has commenced to call in money on overdraft on the ground that it is required by the Commonwealth Government? Will the honorable gentleman make inquiries into the matter, and see what action can be taken to prevent such action?
– Recently, I intimated to the House that there was no justfication for any suggestion that the Commonwealth Government had advised the trading banks to call in money on overdraft in order to make it available for Government purposes. The report mentioned by the honorable member was brought under my notice this morning. I shall have inquiries made, and shall inform the trading banks that it is not in accordance with the policy of the Government to take such a course. I shall take appropriate action in connexion with such cases as are brought under my notice.
Answers to Questions
– Some weeks ago. certain questions were asked in the House concerning the cost of production, the circulation, and other matters relative to the A.B.G. Weekly. The PostmasterGeneral said, in reply, that he would ascertain if the information could bo furnished. I have not. had any further reply. I therefore ask thehonorable gentleman whether it is intended to ignore requests for information of this kind in relation to public undertakings? Does he not think that the information should he supplied in the public interests?
– I have made the promised inquiries concerning the A.B.C. Weekly. However, I do not propose to make demands upon the time of public officers who are doing important departmental work under war conditions in order to permit them to prepare long statements giving facts and figures which are not of national importance. As soon as the information can be made available without interfering with other important work, it will be done.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House if his attention has been drawn to a report which appeared in a section of the press to the effect that Mr. Lang, speaking at a function in Sydney, at which some of his admirers made a presentation to him, said that the only two people in Australia who seemed to be satisfied with the Government’s war efforts were Mr. Menzies and Mr. Curtin? Will the honorable gentleman say whether Mr. Lang has forwarded any suggestions to the Government for the improvement of its war efforts? Will he further say whether, if such, suggestions are received, they willbe given sympathetic consideration ?
– So far as I know, Mr. Lang has not communicated with the Prime Minister on this subject, but the honorable member may rest assured that, if Mr. Lang shows any anxiety to help to speed up our war effort, his suggestions will be considered. He is the sort of man I wish to meet, and to meet quickly.
– He does not wish to meet the honorable gentleman.
– That is the trouble.
– Can the Treasurer tell me whether the sums of money which, the press announces, have been provided by various individuals to assist Australia in its war effort are gifts or merely loans ?
– Some are outright gifts, and the balance loans to the Commonwealth without interest for the period of the war.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- About a fortnight ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior a question concerning the naturalization of enemy aliens and I understood from his reply that such persons who were not of military age were eligible for naturalization under certain conditions. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether, in view of the proven facts concerning the activities of enemy aliens in other countries, he does not think that there is grave danger in granting naturalization in any circumstances? I ask that the practice of granting such naturalization . shall entirely cease.
– The honorable member has not quite accurately stated the effect of my answer. I said that applications for naturalization from enemy aliens might, under certain conditions, be considered, but I did not suggest that they would be approved. The Defence Department is always consulted in respect of such applications and many questions are asked and reports secured before any consideration whatever is given to the granting of such requests. Practically no enemy aliens have been naturalized in Australia for some months, and it is hardly likely that any will be naturalized.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to the fact that those who control the Hermannsburg mission in the Northern Territory have been granted not only their original area of 27,000 square miles or 17,280,000 acres, but also, in consequence of subsequent representations, an additional area of 14,000 square miles or 8,960,000 acres of country adjoining the previous holding. I ask whether under its longrange planning scheme, the Government proposes to continue to control the development of Central Australia, or whether it is to be handed over to imported Nazi, missionaries?
– The honorable member may rest assured that the Commonwealth Government will continue to control Australia.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether Mr. E. A. Mann, who makes daily broadcasts over the national network, speaks on behalf of the Government when he makes certain very offensive references to young men who have not seen fit to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, and equally offensive references to some who have done so, as was the case in yesterday’s broadcast?
– The individual referred to has absolutely no connexion with the Government and does not represent its opinions.
– Will the Post master-General suggest to the Australian Broadcasting Commission that the instructive and stimulating talks given by the commentator known as “The Watchman” be continued without interruption and that where possible those talks should be published in the A.B.C. Weekly?
– The whole question of broadcasts by commentators over the various broadcasting stations, both national and commercial, is carefully reviewed from time to time. Occasionally protests are lodged by one section or another about certain comments, but the instructions are that nothing offensive, partisan, disloyal or subversive shall be allowed to be broadcast. Every care is taken to see that the commentators keep within reasonable limits.
– Has the Post- m aster-General received applications from school teachers for the granting of licences for wireless sets used for educational purposes in schools ?
– The Postal Department on many occasions has considered the question of free wireless licences. The policy applied is that licences will be granted free to blind persons. Other applications for free licences cannot be considered, because it is impossible to draw a line of demarcation between those applications.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform me how the life of presentday military boots, which he said recently was about six weeks, compares with the life of military boots issued during the last war?
– The honorable member should) join up and get personal experience.
– I want to make all necessary inquiries before I consider doing so.
– If the honorable gentleman will undertake, in exchange for a reply to his question, to test the boots for himself, I shall be delighted.I said recently in this House that it had been found that the life of a military boot varied from six to nine weeks. That applies to the sole; the upper lasts very much longer. I also said that a bootof a new type had been introduced that would last very much longer. From memory I should say that the life of the military boot to-day is about the same as that of a boot issued 25 years ago.
– Can the Acting Minister for Information inform me whether newspaper posters that are displayed in city streets are subject to censorship? If not, will the Minister give consideration to a greater supervision of posters, issued by a certain kind of sensationmongering newspaper, which have an upsetting effect on the nerves of the public ? Is the Minister aware that newspaper posters in Great Britain have been abolished for the duration of the war? Will the Minister consider taking similar action in Australia?
– I have been interested in the honorable gentleman’s question and I shall be pleased to consider it immediately.
– Is the Minister for Commerce- yet in a position to tell the House when a further payment from the No. 2 Wheat Pool will be made?
– Not yet.
– I lay on the table the report and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Files, being hand tools of trade.
Ordered to be printed.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation indicate what progress has been made in the drafting of the bill to deal with the repatriation of merchant seamen? Will he confer with the interested parties before a final decision is reached, because they might be able to make suggestions to improve the bill?
– The matter has not yet been finally decided. I shall be nappy to meet representatives of the seamen and discuss the bill with them.
– Will the Treasurer be able to bring down before the Parliament adjourns his proposals for giving relief to certain sections of the gold-mining industry from the disadvantages that they suffer under the Gold Tax Act?
– I hopeso.
– Has the Acting Leader of the House seen the report in the press that a member of the House of Commons was arrested by the Speaker on the recommendation of a British Minister? Does the honorable gentleman intend to make any similar recommendation to the Speaker of this House? If so, in order that I myself will be able to come to a speedy determination as to whether this
House should adjourn ornot, will he indicate if any member whom he may have in view is in my immediate vicinity ?
– The honorable member may rest assured that I have no hostile intentions towards him. If I have towards any one else, I shall keep them to myself until I am ready to act.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 3 p.m.
.- On a previous occasion, when this matter of irregularity of the meetings of the Parliament was raised, I voiced an objection, and, I am happy to say, succeeded in arousing lively interest in the matter. I must protest against this proposal to call the Parliament together on Monday next, knowing, as I do, that it presages the rising of the House at a very early date. May I call attention, in a few words, as a reason why I should not. agree to the House meeting on Monday, to the-‘extraordinary irregularity of the sitting days and hours up to . now. We met for the first time in this year, many very important and eventful months having gone by, on the 17 th April, and in that week we sat on the usual days.I;say “usual” because, for many years past, it has been presumed to be the regular practice to sit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I regret that no government has so far departed from that rule as the present Government. We met on Wednesdaythe 17th April, and in the very next week we were required to meet on the Monday and we sat in that week on the Monday and Tuesday. In the next week we harked back to the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday sittings, but for only three weeks in this present session have the regular days of meeting been observed. This week we met on Tuesday, a procedure against which I have protested. Next week, it is proposed that we meet on Monday. My first objection to this backing and filling is that honorable members are entitled to know what are the sitting days of this Parliament,- because they have their arrangements to make. It is unfortunately true that some honorable members who come from distant electorates cannot make arrangements in their constituencies while Parliament is sitting. That is unavoidable, because of geographical factors, and there is nothing that oan ‘be done about it; ‘but the majority of honorable members are in a position, if the House meets on regular days to make arrangements to keep in touch with their electors, and serve their interests. I suggest that Wednesday, Thursday, and .Friday of each week are suitable sitting days. Meeting on those days is not an’ undue tax on Ministers, who, it is admitted, ha ve their own duties to attend to, and it is a fair thing to the majority.
– It is very inconvenient for some.
– Perhaps, but it is impossible to provide the maximum convenience for everybody. The days of sitting were decided upon long ago, and adhered to for years without demur, as representing the greatest measure of convenience to the greatest number of members. When a question was asked in this House recently as to when Parliament would rise, the head of the Government said that Parliament would rise when the business before it was disposed of. Such a statement springs from an entire misunderstanding of the relative positions of the Executive and the Parliament. Parliament is not the servant of the Government - it is the master of the Government. The Parliament is the people, and Parliament is assembled, not’ for the purpose solely, or even mainly, of recording Government decisions, or for voting money, but primarily for deliberation, so that the representatives of the people may speak what is in them for the benefit of the people. That is the derivative meaning of Parliament, and that should be its function. For that reason, I object to this departure from the established rule. I am opposed to the meeting of Parliament on Monday next. The proper day for the meeting of Parliament next week is Wednesday. On a proper appreciation of the relative positions of Government and Parliament, and a proper appreciation of the rights of the electors and the convenience of honorable members, I. am opposed to the meeting of Parliament on .Monday of any week. For one thing, it makes it necessary for honorable members to travel on Sunday. For these reasons, and for others which I might, urge if I were not reluctant to take up the time of the House, I am opposed to the motion.
.- Will the Government, for the convenience of honorable members, arrange that, after Monday next, Parliament should meet at 10 a.m., and adjourn at 10 p.m.? I -appreciate the fact that Cabinet has important work to do, but there are certain bills to be discussed next week which will not require the attendance in the chamber of more than one or two Ministers directly concerned. The convenience of honorable members would be met if wo could occupy the whole of our time while we are here in considering the business which has to be done.
.- This motion is similar to the one which we opposed last week, and which caused a considerable stir in the political dovecote. We do not object to meeting on five, or even on six, days a week, if necessary, but we have a deep-rooted objection to Parliament being closed at the end of next week. That is the basis of our opposition. Any honorable member who finds it inconvenient to attend. Parliament on five days a week should not offer himself for election. All honorable members should be prepared to do a full-time job in the interests of the country. They should be prepared to meet as* often as necessary, and, at a time like this, as often as possible. Our objection is that we are being called together early next week for the express purpose of rushing the business through, and closing Parliament, for an indefinite period. If we may take some notice of what- the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said the other day, it is the intention of the Government to call Parliament together for shorter and rarer sessions. If they are to be any shorter and rarer than they have been for the last six years, there will be practically no sessions at all. Not only has the Government’s proposal met with opposition in this House, but our objection h’as also been taken up in the press which usually has no fault to find with the
Government. The Government has been caustically criticized for its proposal to close Parliament and govern by regulation through the Executive. It has been suggested that we should have a national government, in order to take advantage of the talent to be found in all parties. Certain objections to this proposal have been advanced by the Opposition, but there is no objection to our pooling our mental resources in the interests of the nation. Since we are not to have a national government, we ought at least to have the national Parliament meeting as much as possible, so that members of all parties may have an opportunity to express their opinions, and thus assist the Government, perhaps as effectively as if they were members of a national government. In spite of the fact that there is a national government in Great Britain possessed of such dictatorial powers that it could close Parliament for the duration of the war if it wished, the British Parliament is kept in session so that the Government may be assisted by the collective wisdom of the members. Also, if the Government strays from the straight and narrow path, it can be checked by the representatives of the people. Since we have taken so many of our ideas from the Mother of Parliaments, I cannot understand why we should not follow it in this. The Government in Great Britain is taking the representative’s of the people into its confidence to a greater degree now than in peace-time. There is another objection to the closing of Parliament, apart from the rooted objection of allsections to government by regulation: It tends to destroy the confidence of the people in Parliament itself.
– I rise to a point of order. Are we supposed to be discussing the closing of Parliament, or the meeting of Parliament on Monday next? I understand that the motion before the Chair is that the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday of next week.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Strictly the motion is- that the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next. Honorable members, in giving reasons for opposing that motion, say that they fear that the motion presages the early closing of Parliament. In the circumstances. I must allow the discussion to continue.
– The ^-closing of Parliament in these critical days will undoubtedly have the effect of destroying the confidence of the people in the Parliament. There is very little to show that the people have confidence in the Executive which now proposes to usurp the powers of Parliament. It has been suggested that Ministers are unable to . concentrate on their duties while Parliament is in session. The fact is that, even while Parliament is actually sitting, Ministers are seldom present in. the chamber except at question , time. Moreover, the Government has set up influential boards, and committees to deal with most of the major problems arising out of the war, so that the extra duties devolving upon Ministers cannot be very numerous. We objected last week when it was proposed to meet on Tuesday of this week, and our objection is the greater now because we realize that the closing of Parliament is more imminent. Some honorable members may say that this is not the time to fight the matter, that the motion provides merely for the meeting of Parliament next Monday and not for the closing of Parliament on next Friday, and that, therefore, the time to fight is next Friday, when the motion is moved that the House, at its rising, should adjourn until a date to be fixed by Mr. Speaker. In my opinion it would then be a little too late to fight. I remember a man once prominent in politics, who always said : “ I love a fight ; I shall never run away from one; but the present is not the time to fight “. With him, the time never was “ present “ to fight ; he always stalled off the evil day. We propose to fight to-day, because we realize that next Friday would be too late to do so. Our real reason for opposing the motion under consideration is that we object to the Parliament being closed next Friday.
– The matter under consideration has assumed wide dimensions, and now involves the consideration of whether it is justifiable to assume that certain things will happen, given a certain set of conditions. To” make that assumption is to stretch the matter too far. The motion asks the House to consent to an extra sitting day next week, and honorable members opposite cannot reasonably object to that. For as long as I have been a member of this House, the Government has always been asked to agree to additional, sitting days, and for that reason I believe that in. the present instance the proposal of the Government will have the full support of honorable members opposite. As to whether we may accept the proposal as an indication that the House will rise for a period at the conclusion of business next week, if I interpret public feeling aright, it is desirous that the Government should bend its every energy to the successful conclusion of the war effort in Australia. That can be done only by one of two methods - either by the appointment of a much smaller War Cabinet, which will sit continuously, and complete the work on which the nation is engaged, or, by the present Cabinet adopting a procedure similar to that being followed by the British House of Commons, namely, by assuming full powers and doing what I believe the British Government will ultimately do - suspend ‘the sittings of Parliament and. devote its time entirely under the new powers to the successful prosecution of the war. In a world of democracies, the ideas of honorable members opposite would be quite 3.11 right. A democracy might then have the Parliament sitting, deliberating, questioning, and wasting time in respect of matters of great moment. But when up against a dictator, who cuts across all of the avowed principles of democracy, and achieves his aims whilst democracies merely talk about theirs, other methods have to be followed. If it be necessary to meet gangster methods with gangster methods, those methods must be employed. This Government should follow the precedent established by -the Government of the United Kingdom; it should take to itself full powers, because, in a time like the present, in order to preserve our liberties, we must agree for a -time to forgo them.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the scope that can be allowed in discussing the motion.
– Honorable members opposite assume that it is the intention of this Government to close Parliament at the conclusion of business next week. I am pointing out that, if I am to assume that that is essential in order to preserve democracy, it should be done. I can hardly conceive of a dictator overseas calling the Reich together and asking it to deliberate, criticize, and question his methods. If it be necessary for this Government to assume full power, and to close this Parliament next week, delaying its reassembly until it is necessary to indulge in the formalities associated with general elections,- then, for the good of this democracy, that should be done. It is the only way in which to meet the gangster methods that are being employed against democracies.
– The motion before the House is, that it shall meet on Monday next, but the consideration which the House has given to it embraces a much wider issue. According to the speeches that have been made, the question is, whether or not this House is to ‘be closed at the end of next week, and closed indefinitely. I do not thinkthere can be on either side of the House any misapprehension as : to the “‘position in which the Oppositionstands with respect to the significance of Parliament during the period of the war. We have said, and I now repeat, it, that we believe that Parliament should remain, in control of the Government. We made that one of the pivotal points in our: original declaration. But I think that we are men of common sense. That does not mean that Parliament should sit every day in each week, or that it should sit every week while the war is being carried on. It means neither the extremity of a closed Parliament, nor the asininity of a Parliament talking merely for the sake of hearing itself talk. It means that the Parliament should meet to transact such business as . is placed before it by the Government - which, after all, has the chief responsibility for its submission - but in such circumstances as will maintain two things : First, the authority . of the Parliament over the Government; and secondly, the continuance by Parliament of a reasonable appreciation of the difficulties of administration. It means that those two things - the authority of Parliament and the responsibility of the Administration - shall be taken into account by all of., us, and that a proper balance shall be struck when determining what shall be the meetings of Parliament, and what shall be the periods during which Parliament shall be adjourned. I have never wavered upon that outlook, and I do . not yield to anybody, anywhere, in respect of what I consider to be the rights of Parliament in this matter - rights which ought not to be asserted merely for the sake of annoying the Administration. Nor do I fail to appreciate the obligations due to the Administration. ‘ But I also say that the Administration must not abuse the opportunities given to it to do its work. When this matter was first raised, I understood that the proposal was that, instead of meeting regularly on three days in each week, as had been announced, a variation was sought and it was desired that we should meet on four days in the present week and on five days next. week, in order to dispose of urgent financial measures with which it. was imperative we should deal. This country is at war. The Opposition believes that the cause of our country is a just one. The proposition that this House should sit more frequently than bad been indicated, in order that it might deal completely with urgent financial measures, and that there would be no curtailment of discussion, was one with which I agreed ; because I preferred that when Parliament was sitting there should be no restriction upon honorable gentlemen in presenting whatever views they may hold, and I realized that, in order to’ achieve that purpose, it might be necessary to increase the number of sitting days. But I did not agree to the proposition in order that Parliament might be locked up for an indefinite period. I do not know whether I have an orderly or a disorderly mind. No proposal has been submitted to this Parliament that it shall adjourn for an indefinite period, and I have not put my arguments to such a proposition, which, in substance, has yet to be submitted to u3. I am not foolish enough to believe that it may: not be implicit in the mind of the Government to adjourn for a period. I am willing to agree to a reasonable adjournment. What is a reasonable adjournment is a matter for the consideration of all members and all parties. I believe that I understand the situation when I ask the Government to take into consideration the view that we have repeatedly put, and which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has properly stated, namely, that Parliament must be the masters of the Government in this crisis. The Government should take that into account. On the other hand, I. hope that I am sufficiently endowed with reasonableness to take into account the difficulties of the Administration. Should the Administration say to the Parliament, “We should like to adjourn for three or four weeks “, that would be perfectly proper; but should it ask for Supply for an indefinite period, or for powers which it could exercise without asking this Parliament for authorization - a proposition to which apparently the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) would agree-
– I would do anything to bring the Avar to a successful conclusion, and not merely offer lip service.
– That is a matter for the Parliament to decide. The House of Commons acts in one way. If this Government wishes to act similarly, it should ask this Parliament to agree to its so acting, and not do it by a side wind! That is the whole point. Let us have the matter clear and direct. I conclude by saying that I never intended - I do not think that anybody can suspect me of having ever intended - weakly to acquiesce in an indefinite adjournment of Parliament. I am quite save that neither the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) nor any of his Ministers understood that my agreement to increase the number of sitting days, in order to pass financial emergency measures, involved me in acquiescence of the closing of this Parliament.
– That is so.
– I believe that Ministers are able to speak frankly to me, and I have never been misled by them. On the other hand, I have never misled them. The suggestion has never been put to me that this Parliament should meet on four days in the present week and on five days next week in order that it might then be closed up. But it was indicated - and I indicated it to those to whom I feel a sense of responsibility - that it probably meant the close of this period of the session. They were in no doubt about the matter; they did not need to guess it: 1 told it to them. As to what should be the period of adjournment is a matter concerning which I have never been given any indication by a Minister. I have m y own mind in respect of it, and when the subject arises I venture to say that J shall be able to deal with it just as effectively as any honorable member of this Parliament can deal with it on a motion that is unrelated to it.
.- Whilst supporting the motion, I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin) thatI fully agree with what he has said. I am quite satisfied that it is not the wish of that gentleman to have Parliament called together for the purpose of obstructing the Government, although some honorable members may have that desire. On the other hand, there are many honorable members who are not quite satisfied with the work that the Government has so far done in connexion with the prosecution of the war. The need may arise for an alteration of the personnel of the Cabinet, and for more effective work to be done. I do not say that that will be necessary, but it may be. I should strenuously object to any long delay in calling the Parliament together to deal with whatever matter may need attention.What I, in common with the majority of honorable members, desire to achieve, is the most effective means of assisting the Empire in the prosecution of the war.
. - The House will note the difference between the statement made to-day, and that made last week by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in connexion with the adjournment of Parliament. The Prime Minister stated last week that the House, at its then rising, would adjourn until a certain day this week, and indicated further, that in the following week it would meet on Monday. The Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Archie Cameron) made no reference whatever to the Government’s intentions regarding parliamentary sittings after this week. There was an obvious difference in that respect between his silence and the statement which the Prime Minister made earlier this week. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) suggestedthat there should be. a plan for more regular meetings of Parliament.
– That may come later.
– The honorable member has been here a long time, and must be aware that this matter has been discussed over and over again, without any satisfactory results. Many honorable members consider that a better approach could be made to the problems of the Parliament if a plan were introduced for regular days and hours of sitting and regular sessional periods. The Acting Leader of the House, when submitting this motion that the House would meet at a certain time next Monday, gave no indication as to what would happen after Monday. Consequently, honorable members are left in the dark as to whether there will be any regularity of sitting days after next week, or any sittings at all. They are entitled to come to the conclusion that the Government does not intend that Parliament shall sit after next week. I believe that the Acting Leader of the House would have stated its intentions if that were not the case. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) did not state clearly whether he thought that Parliament should. go into recess after next week or not, and honorable members must decide for themselves, therefore, what is the proper course to take. I hold the view that Parliament should not go into recess after next week, because the situation now is more serious than it has ever been, and the need to have Parliament in session is more urgent than ever before. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr: Harrison) expressed the opinion, in effect, that Parliament should not function as it normally functions and that certain powers should be taken by the Government.
– It has taken some of those powers already.
– Members of my party admit that the Government has power to govern by regulation, but we argue that it should be subjected, not only to advice, but also to the criticism of its exercise of such powers by members of. Parliament. The honorable member for Wentworth spoke about the safety of democracy. I understand that democracy is the great principle involved in this war; and it has often been said that we are engaged in this House in a struggle to safeguard the thing which we hold most dear - democracy.
– Can the honorable member say. that sincerely in the light of eventson the other side, of the world?
– A week or two ago the ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Chamberlain, was considered not to be competent to meet the requirements of the war situation, but a change of leadership was possible only because Parliament was in session and the representatives of the people were in a position to demand that a change should be made.
– The honorable member knows that, if there had been more action and less talk, the position now existing on the western front would never have come about.
– The whole trouble is that, when Parliament is in recess, there is not sufficient action on the part of the Ministry. I and my supporters, therefore, want Parliament to remain in session so’ that honorable members can force the Ministry to take more action when they consider that more action is necessary. That is my answer to the honorable member. All honorable members must agree that all of the material resources of the nation should be marshalled in. order that our efforts to win this war shall be crowned with success. The question now before honorable members is whether they think it would be better to agree to an adjournment or keep Parliament in session in order to apply whatever powers they possess towards the achievement of success. Ministers may have a great deal of ability, but they cannot expect to be infallible and capable of dealing efficiently with every problem that arises. They may be efficient in many respects, but nobody is completely efficient in every respect. For that reason Parliament should not adjourn. I expressed this view earlier this week when I asked the Prime Minister a. question in relation to the sittings of Parliament. In his answer, he said that at times it was a perfect nightmare for Ministers to have to meet the Parliament. The honorable member for
Wentworth has expressed sympathy for that attitude. I am opposed to it. If Parliament were kept in recess, our efforts could not be used to the fullest degree. It is now more important than ever before in the history of this country, that Parliament should meet at least twice every week, in order to keep closely in touch with the progress of the extraordinary events overseas.
– I would be quite prepared to attend every sitting, if it were necessary for Parliament to meet on six days each week; but I am not prepared to agree that it should continue to sit on even three days each week, if we are only to hear inanities while the whole world is in convulsions. With this sort of thing continuing the position of the nations involved in the war might be changed. I welcome the suggestion that Parliament should be allowed all the time that is necessary to discuss important matters but, at the same time, I urge the Government to confine discussion in this House to matters of real moment. I do not agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that Parliament should hand over control of the country entirely to the Government and go into recess, leaving the Government in a position comparable to that of the leaders of totalitarian States. The principle would be good if the Government and its administrative officers were prosecuting this war with all the vigour and determination that is required ; but the Government might not be . conducting its war effort in that way, and, therefore, might not be giving full expression to the wishes of the people. I would, . therefore, take exception to the closing of Parliament and the stifling of helpful criticism and advice which honorable members are able to give by expressing the opinions of the electors. A great deal of valuable time is wasted when Parliament meets on three, four or five days a week in order to discuss matters which might be completely changed by the course of events overseas. An adjournment of Parliament for a fortnight or three weeks would be satisfactory, but there should not be a long adjournment. After this brief recess, it should meet on at least one day in each week, so that honorable members might be able to give the Government the benefit of such valuable experience and knowledge as they may possess. I suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) confer with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin) in order to decide what business should be brought before Parliament for discussion. All matters not pertaining directly to the tremendous task now confronting the nation should be completely eliminated from the business-paper, and a minimum of time should be allowed for discussion of the remaining subjects. I regret that immediately after the Prime Minister had made his statement, this week, on the Government’s plans for the more vigorous prosecution of the war, he announced the ‘ introduction of one of the most contentious legislative measures that could have been introduced.
– Order ! This is not an occasion on which the honorable member may discuss business which has been brought forward by the Government.
– It is too lightly assumed that complete success will crown the efforts of the Allies in this war. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and other honorable gentlemen, have said that our ultimate success cannot be in doubt. It will be in doubt if we fail to put forward every ounce . of strength that we possess towards final victory.
– Order! The Chair cannot allow so wide discussion on this matter.
– I point out, as other honorable members have pointed out, that the function of Parliament at this time is to help the Government with constructive criticism. If Parliament is to be kept open it should be only for the purpose of concentrating on the major issues of the moment. I believe that honorable members on both sides of the House are willing to give of their time and their talents to assist the Government. We recognize that the Prime Minister and his colleagues must have time in which to deal with vital problems, and should not be compelled to meet Parliament for more than one or two days each week. I therefore suggest that the Government should provide for a brief adjournment of the Parliament - possibly for a fort night - and then arrange with the Leader of the Opposition for sittings to be held on one or two days a week in order to discuss only urgent matters. I sincerely hope that the Government will approve of that suggestion as an expression of the sincere desire of honorable members on both sides of the House to give it practical assistance in dealing with the serious problems of the day.
.- I believe that honorable members generally will agree with the very sensible suggestion made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), because I do not think any honorable member desires that the House should sit more than one or two days a week. Once Parliament agrees to an adjournment, however, the decision as to the times when Parliament shall meet will be in the hands of the Government. Whatever decision this House may make about the length of an adjournment, once it has gone into recess the Government can extend the period of adjournment by pro- , roguing Parliament. I would not object to the present proposal if the Government would guarantee that Parliament shall not remain in recess for more than a month. Once honorable members close the discussion of a- motion for the adjournment of the House they will have no further measure of control in this matter. The House may decide to adjourn for a fortnight, but the Government will have ample power by prorogation to extend that period if it so wishes. The chief function of Parliament, especially in time of Avar, is to enable people who have complaints against the administration of the Government to express their grievances,to have their wrongs redressed, and to defend their rights. The chief function of the Parliament is not to pass legislation or to authorize the appropriation of money. The Parliament, as the High Court of the nation, is entrusted with the duty of preserving the individual rights of the people, which, at times may be vindicated only after discussion by the Parliament. When the Parliament is sitting the Government’s treatment of individuals is less severe than when it is not in session. I am convinced that, when this House ceases to sit, the difference between the treatment of the people by the Government and the treatment that they receive now will be the difference between the actual treatment, of the people by Solomon and the promised treatment of them by Rehoboam. Honorable members will remember that Rehoboam told the people that, whereas his father had chastised them with whips, he would chastise them with scorpions. I have no doubt that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron) would fill the role of Rehoboam willingly by chastising the people with scorpions. I rise, as I think does the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) also, out of no disrespect to my leader, or any desire to dissent from what has been said, but I believe that we stand here as representatives of the people who’ are likely to feel the heavy hand of the Government upon them. Therefore I hold that Parliament must continue in session, in order that we may be the protectors of those people. “What the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has said about a national government has no relevance to this House. In the House of Commons there is no difference of principle between the several parties, whereas there are wide differences of principle between the two main parties in this House. In the House of Commons whatever differences previously existed have been bridged, and consequently a national government is possible in England.
– The differences should be bridged here.
– The fact is that they are not bridged here. Indeed, there is only one way by which they can be bridged, and that is by the Government indicating a greater willingness to protect the liberties of the people. “When it is proposed that the Parliament shall be closed indefinitely, thereby making the way open for the country to be governed by a constitutional despotism, our only course is to protest by opposing such motions as that now before us.
– No one can seriously object to the motion before the Chair unless it means that Parliament is to be closed for an indefinite period. I rise, first, to compliment the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on his speech, with which I entirely agree ; and, secondly, to express my disagreement with the contention of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that the Parliament should remain constantly in session because attention to their parliamentary duties was the full-time job of all members. Were’ Parliament to sit continuously, many commendable attributes of members might be lost entirely, whilst the chief qualification for- membership might easily become the ability to carry a soapbox to the corner of the street, and there proclaim such high-sounding ideas as the brotherhood of man and -the sisterhood of woman.
– Order !
– Throughout the world, the great masses of the people are content to have things done for them; but there are others, whom I describe as the thinkbig section of the community - and 1 include in that section the Leader df the Opposition as well as the small ‘band of scientific people left in the world - who are not satisfied merely that things shall be done, but are concerned with the methods employed. In this connexion, I agree with both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I have before me a journal containing an article which sums up the position well. It is by an eminent New Zealander with an “ A “ class brain. I refer to Mr. J. W. Mawson, F.RJ.B.A., M.T.P.I., M.I.Struct.E., who was one of the senior officers during the Savage regime in that dominion. The publication from which I quote is. the journal of Public Administration of May, 1938, which is published by the New Zealand Institute of Public Administration. I commend it to members of the Government. The honorable mem’ber foi Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has said that he is not concerned with the methods by which things are done, so long as they are done. I shall therefore read for his edification one paragraph in that article by the gentleman with the “ A “ class brain to whom I have referred. Mr/ Mawson writes -
In the world to-day the general public is remarkably little interested in how things are done. What alone is of interest is what is done. We may deplore the inertia of the masses, we may argue that the masses rule, but the inexorable logic of fact is that the public “don’t care “.
This Parliament does not care.
– Order! The honorable member must not reflect on the Parliament.
– The article continues -
We shall have gone a long way when we have a public who can recognize that the social welfare is influenced just as much by the way things are done as by what is done.
If that be true in regard to matters affecting the social welfare in normal times it applies even more strongly in a time of war. I agree with those who say that we on the back benches are concerned with the way in which things are done. I therefore trust that the House will he called together within a month, bo that members may take their part in national affairs, and not leave everything to members of the Ministry in the belief that they are so competent as not to need advice. Even if the masses of the people are satisfied to go on in a “ don’t-care “ way I am not satisfied to do so. I am concerned with how things are done as well as with their doing.
– I do not propose to offer any opposition to the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Archie Cameron), but I cannot see any necessity for this drastic alteration of tho normal procedure of the House, especially in view of the changing international situation from day to day. The position in Europe has altered so radically since it was decided that Parliament should rise for an unspecified period as to make it obvious that_ the Government should reconsider the whole position.
– “Was that decided?
– It was decided by the Government.
– That is an admission for which we were waiting.
– It was generally understood that at the end of next week, after certain legislative matters had been dealt with, there would be a short recess. In view of the appalling situation now confronting the British Empire, the Government should not proceed with its intention to adjourn Parliament for even a week or a fortnight. During that period, developments may occur which will necessitate the immediate recall of members. In the circumstances, what is the advantage of creating a hiatus in the work of the Parliament? The people of Australia expect the Parliament to be in session at a time like this. There is no suggestion that the House of Commons or the French Chamber of Deputies is to close down. I remind the Minister that Australia is equally concerned with Britain and France in the events that are taking place, because Australia is a vital partner in the task not merely of defeating the major enemy, of the Allies, but also of saving our Allies and ourselves. Even though it may be inconvenient for members of the Government to have to meet Parliament, I think that they should be prepared to put up with that inconvenience. After all, the members of this House are the elected representatives of the people; and they are just as concerned as are members of the Government with what is happening in the world today. Private members have an equal responsibility with members of the Government for any failure to carry out an adequate defence policy for* this country. The Government is the agent, not the master, of the Parliament. If we admit the mastery of the Government, we admit that our boasted democracy is based on an illusion. I never heard any member stand in his place and say that once a government is chosen ‘ from among the elected representatives of the people, it becomes the master of the Parliament. At all times the Government is subservient to the will of the Parliament. If there is a clear expression of opinion by members on all sides that the Parliament should not go into recess, the Government should abandon its intention, and I hope that it will do so. Although I am 100 per cent, behind the Government in its war-time effort and believe that it is doing a good job, I am not prepared to abrogate the rights and responsibilities of members in this grave bour of crisis. From day to day the position is changing. Only this morning tho Minister for External Affairs (Mr. McEwen), in reply to a question, said that a difficult situation may develop in the Pacific in the near future. “We know that things happen quickly in these modern times, and it is possible that what appears to he static to-day may be in a state of flux, or, to use a more expressive term, “ blown to smithereens “ tomorrow, by some development which no one can now foresee. Having regard to the sensational happenings in the war areas, and their possible repercussions on the defence policy and the safety of this country, we should be unwise to adjourn Parliament for even a brief period. I sympathize with members of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), for I recognize that they have to carry the weight of the administrative work associated with the implementing of the country’s war policy; but it is not the fault ‘of the Parliament if members of the Government will not seek the help of other honorable members. I do not know that it is necessary that only a dozen or so of the elected representatives of the people should have to carry the full weight of Australia’s wartime activities. It may be possible to make greater use of the services of honorable members,
– The honorable member is now going farbeyond the terms of the motion’.
– I submit that there is no necessity for Parliament to adjourn on the ground that members of the Government are so heavily pressed by their administrative duties. The war work of the Government need not rest upon the shoulders of only the present members of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister yesterday asked : “ Where am I to get help”? I feel sure that the right honorable gentleman could get it from any members of the Parliament.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion. ;
– I submit that it is necessary for Parliament to remain in session continuously while the present crisis continues throughout the Empire. If the members of the Ministry need help they can get it by asking for it. Honorable members of all parties would be glad to help them.
.- It seems that of late the principal purpose for which Parliament meets on a Friday is to determine when it shall meet sub sequently. The only consideration which should be before us is whether there is work for Parliament to do. If by sitting for five days next week we can complete the programme which the Government has in mind, there surely is no need for us to sit for any longer period. I do not agree with the view of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that Parliament should meet for the purpose of maintaining ‘the civil rights of the people. There would be nothing essentially wrong in following that course, and it might even be described as a useful pastime. In actual practice, however, it seems that the meetings of Parliament are being devoted largely to the hearing of complaints from persons of subversive tendencies in the community, such as Communists and others. Such individuals, in my opinion, deserve very little consideration.
– What about the “ fifth column “?
– Does the honorable member for Perth envisage a situation in which there must be no disagreement with the views of the Government? Does he think that he is always right and others always wrong?
– That is not my point of view at all; but I object to Parliament being called together simply to listen to complaints such as those voiced to-day by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). We have bigger and more important things to do. When the business which the Government desires to bring forward has been done, the work of Parliament is finished for the time being. My view is that the Prime Minister should maintain consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, and that when any emergency arises, or when any new business needs to be transacted, Parliament should be summoned. To summon Parliament when there is no real business to put before it would simply impede the administrative work of the Executive. The Government could give an assurance, I think, that it does not intend to keep Parliament in recess until an election is imminent, or to deprive honorable members of any opportunities for consultation that Parliament offers. If a reasonable assurance is given on these points, we may safely leave it to the Ministry to determine when the meetings of Parliament shall he held.
– When Parliament is in recess, the general community very commonly expresses the opinion that parliamentarians are a lot of loafers. I am totally opposed to the suggestion that a parliamentary recess of an indefinite duration shall be approved. I am tired of hearing members of Parliament described as loafers. During the present disturbed times, it is particularly essentia], in a democracy, that Parliament shall be summoned at reasonably regular intervals. If a referendum of the people were to be held now to determine whether Parliament should go into recess or not, a strongly negative vote would be given. The National Security Act clothes the Prime Minister with far more comprehensive powers than any previous Prime ‘ Minister has had. While I do not suggest that the present occupant of this high office is likely to use his practically unlimited authority in the vile manner in which Herr Hitler uses his power, it is, I think, desirable that the administration of the Government shall be subjected to some measure of review. Legal authorities with whom I have discussed the matter have told me that under the National Security Act, the Executive is able to exert almost unlimited power. This, I submit, -is an added reason why Parliament should be required to sit for reasonable periods at reasonable intervals. In these terrible times the people of our democracy look to the Parliament for guidance and support. If they are not given a lead by the Parliament, whence can they expect to get it? I am an old man, but if any-, body called me a loafer to my face, I should do something very definite about it. I urge that whatever the decision may be on this motion, and I am not against the House meeting for five days next week if it is necessary, we should make it clear that we are not favorable to an unlimited parliamentary recess.
– I do not understand how there can be any misunderstanding of the attitude of the Opposition. We do not oppose the meeting of Parliament for five days next week. What we complain about is that no satisfactory statement has been made concerning the intention of the Government respecting subsequent sittings of the House.
– No statement has been made at all.
– That is my complaint. 1 suggest to the Government two reasons why it has not hitherto been able to secure the wholehearted co-operation of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The first is that honorable gentlemen opposite, in a very unfair and immodest manner, continue to make statements which imply that they, and they only, are concerned about the defence of their country. The second is that the Government does not make statements, which are sufficiently definite in character, concerning its intentions. The implication at present, for example, is that at the end .of next week’s sittings Parliament shall adjourn for an indefinite recess. Neither I nor my colleagues would offer any objection to Parliament sitting regularly for four, five or even six days a week, if . necessary ; but we are opposed to an indefinite parliamentary recess. Why does not the Government take us into its confidence? There is undoubtedly an impression abroad that the Ministry intends to complete th business of this period of the session next week. We are opposed to an indefinite parliamentary, recess under present conditions.
.- I do not think that the Government should allow Parliament to go into recess under present conditions. I realize, of course, that Ministers are burdened with very heavy administrative work. For that reason, I suggest that an undertaking should be given to us that Parliament will be called together for, say, one week in each month, in order that honorable members may be kept informed of the position, and may express their mind to the Government, and also in order that those who represent constituencies in distant States may have an opportunity to return to their electorates at reasonable intervals. Personally, I am dissatisfied with the war effort of the Government. I fear that unless Parliament meets regularly, and provides a1- definite spur to the Government, certain very necessary steps for the defence of this country and the assistance of the Empire may not be taken.
– I wish to make my position clear. I consider that it is necessary for Parliament to meet as regularly as possible. I do not suggest continuous sittings, for I realize that there is something in the contention, made from time to time, that Ministers must be given a fair opportunity to discharge their administrative duties. A strong feeling is present in the electorates that Parliament should not remain in recess for indefinite periods in this time of grave emergency, but should be a real factor in the government of the country. I suggest that a proper opportunity should be provided for us to discuss the subject of future sittings in order to reach an agreement. Obviously, that cannot be done on this motion, which relates only to the sitting days for next week. It would be wise for the Government, in my opinion, to seek the opinion of honorable members generally in relation to future parliamentary sittings. If that course were taken a good deal of misunderstanding, and possibly some recrimination would be avoided. The motion is that the House sit five days next week; I should not mind if we sat for six days, but 1 realize that that would be unsatisfactory to those who have obligations in their electorates. I do not accept the implication of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that Ministers can do better work when Parliament is not sitting, because, if Parliament is closed, the rights of the electors are abrogated. Parliament must be kept in session so that, if necessary, there can be outspoken criticism of government policy, if that policy warrants such criticism - not destructive criticism, but criticism which would bo helpful to the Government and the nation. I stand for parliamentary government and the maintenance of the rights of the people’s representation.
.-I take it that this debate was initiated by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) .
– It was.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) said that he would not be opposed to sit ting six days next week ; neither should I. It may safely be said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been in constant touch with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on this matter, and, if it be possible to conclude the business of Parliament next Friday, I should think that the Prime Minister will continue to keep in close contact with the Leader of the Opposition. Parliament will be called together whenever those two gentlemen think necessary. That is reasonable and honorable members should accept it. Parliament has been in session for six weeks, but very little business has been done. Why, one week was taken up by the stonewalling of some honorable gentlemen on the Electoral Bill !
– Order !
– I do ask all honorable members of the House to realize that this is the time for action, not words.
– I refuse to give a silent vote on this motion. I remind honorable gentlemen that this House is the master of its own business. In case ‘the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and other honorable members who are opposed to this Parliament being closed do not realize that, before this House goes into recess the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), or some other Minister, will have to move a motion that the House at its rising adjourn to a date to be fixed. Then will be the time for honorable gentlemen not only to talk, but also to vote. It will be for the House to decide whether or not it shall go into recess; but that cannot be decided on this motion. Honorable members are merely beating the air in talking about a recess on this motion. It will be interesting to see where the honorable gentlemen who are opposing this motion to-day will be when the Prime Minister does move that the House go into recess.
– On the train to Sydney.
– If the Prime Minister does move such a motion, it will be competent for honorable members who realize the need for a recess to enable the Government to carry out its administrative work, but are opposed to an indefinite period of recess, to move an amendment that the House adjourn until a specified date. I have no objection to being here for five days next week, .and I cannot, therefore, oppose this motion, but next Friday, if the Prime Minister moves that the House adjourn until an unspecified date, I shall protest not only with words, but also with my vote. I shall not have rushed away to catch my train. If the Prime Minister gives an undertaking that Parliament will meet again at a reasonable date, the House can then decide what it will do.
.- The present situation could be easily overcome if the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Archie Cameron) would add to this motion an assurance that the House would meet not only next week, but also the week after, and keep on meeting for the period of the war. If he did so, he would probably receive the unanimous support of honorable members.
– in reply - I will add nothing to the motion which is before the House.
– Then we shall vote against it.
– The Government is faced with the most extraordinary situation. If honorable members think that it is their duty or in their interests to be in their constituencies, in their constituencies they should be; but, in time of war, if the Government thinks that it is the duty of honorable members to be in Parliament, and wants them there, in Parliament they must be. There can be no answer to that.
– Yes, there is. The Government is the servant of Parliament.
– The Government has the right to call on Parliament to give attention to business. Many points have been raised in this debate. I shall answer one or two of them. The Government in time of war must have complete, absolute and untrammelled powers to act in what it considers to be the best interests of the country. There can be no answer to that.
– A dictatorship!
– I do not care what honorable members call it. War is not conducted by talk ; war is conducted by giving orders on the one hand, and obeying them on the other. In addition to that, in a country like ours, there must be a certain amount of control over the Executive. That control is exercised by Parliament, by the House of Representatives in particular, and, therefore, there must be periodical meetings of Parliament; because, if any Minister makes a mistake in time of war, there can be no excuses. The penalty for failure, the penalty for blunders, is dismissal, and if that is not done by one, it must be done by the House.
– I do not give a hang about Corio. The question is that this Empire, of which we still form part, is faced with conditions the like of which have never been seen since the break of the Fifth Army in France in 1918. Honorable members who talk about private convenience, about whether they should be in their electorates on Friday or Saturday, or about whether Parliament should sit three days or six days a week with the prevailing conditions in France, and the inherent possibilities in every aspect of this situation, simply disclose that they should not be sent to Parliament by the electors. If .that is to be the attitude of certain honorable members of this House, then it is not the extension of the life of the Parliament that should be contemplated, but an appeal to the electors that they put men into Parliament who are prepared to stay there and do their job.
– Let us have an election now.
– When that time comes there will be some pretty serious gaps on the Opposition side. This is not a time for wasting the time of Parliament on matters like this. The Government has certain business to put through. It is urgent business, dealing with matters like the company tax and the sugar agreement. I said last night that I wanted the Sugar Agreement Bill passed to-day, and I shall expect the House to put it through to-day. If honorable gentlemen are going to use the time of the House to ventilate matters as they did yesterday, they must be prepared to give the Government certain business as it is required. I leave for future consideration of the House a motion which may or may not be moved next week, with, which this House will have to deal when it is moved.
Question put -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 3 p.m.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . 43
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Income Tax Bill . 1940.
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1940.
Land Tax Assessment Bill 1940.
– I have received from Mrs.Wilks a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made’ by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave - By a special issue of the Commonwealth Gazette published to-day, a total ban has been placed upon the further publication of the following Communist newspapers and periodicals: -
Soviets To-day, of Sydney. _ ;
CommunistReview of Sydney. “ ‘
These papers have been active in every walk of life, from the waterfront, the mercantile marine, the railways and works and factories, to the churches and the universities. They are slowing up the loading and unloading of our ships and the output of our coal-mines. They whisper their poison into the ears of undergraduates and churchmen.
Under the pretence of advocating peace, Communists work for the weakening of our allied war effort and the strengthening of the enemy. They are splashed right through the Militia - not as open Communists, but as whisperers and urgers against enlistment for overseas service. In brief, the Communists are in every form and guise enemies of Australia, and they should be treated as such. Every loyal Australian who wishes to keep his country and the British Empire from disaster, should repudiate Communists of any degree, and look upon them as. enemies as they would enemies in arms. They are even more dangerous than an honest foe. They should be denied personal association by all Australian men and women who are true to their country in this hour of supreme emergency.
Honorable members will recall that, a few weeks ago, censorship forbade certain Communist newspapers and periodicals, and a few other papers under the control of Communists, from writing upon a short list of specified subjects. This embargo is now removed with respect to newspapers outside the banned list which I have just announced to the House. The embargo against writing upon certain subjects was imposed upon a handful of Australian newspapers to cover a few weeks while censorship was engaged in a thorough investigation into the Communist press. While it stood, however, it applied to only thirteen newspapers out of a total number of approximately 3,500 newspapers and various periodicals published in Australia. The embargo has served its purpose, and will not be renewed.
Apart from the nine Communist newspapers which have been banned by order to-day, there is still a number of papers or magazines owned by trade unions, but edited, or otherwise controlled, by Communists. The Commonwealth Government makes a special appeal to these particular trade unions to free their publications as soon as possible from Communist control. Until this control is removed, they will be subjected to severe censorship. These Communist-controlled publications represent but a very small proportion of a great and worthy special trade union press. Not less than 56 other newspapers of various kinds are published regularly by organizations of sound and loyal employees with an approximate total membership of 570,000.
I appeal first to the great body of trade unionists, who have so far controlled their own’ press, to continue to do so, and to the few others who have allowed the Communists to take possession of their papers to clear out the Communists immediately. The Communists make no. pretence to run these trade union papers in the interests of trade unionism. They axe running them almost entirely as agencies for the spread of communism. (Communist editors can bring nothing but trouble upon the admirable trade union movement in Australia.
I do not overlook the fact that the Communists-, now that their regular press has been banned, will endeavour in many ways to carry on partial publication by underground means. They will resort to every form of roneo and other so-called printing, and to surreptitious distribution through letter-boxes and other channels. All of this activity - writing, printing, and circulation - will be punishable by law. The work, however, will probably be done anonymously, and detection and conviction will not be a simple matter. The Government, therefore, calls upon all citizens who are behind it in this effort to stamp out the -Communist menace, to co-operate with it in every possible way in the prevention of this illicit distribution of evil and seditious propaganda.
The strongest evidence that nothing that censorship has yet done in its endeavours to suppress the Communist press has in the least degree trespassed against the freedom of the legitimate press of Australia is to be found in a special article entitled “ Labour, Censorship and Communism” which appeared in The Labor Call, published in Melbourne on the 9th May. I quote the following from this article -
The Labor Call is the official organ of the Victorian Labor movement, and as such has not been troubled by the censorship.
Rules which have been laid down by the censors have been faithfully followed out by the Labor Call in accordance with Labour policy.
Those rules have not interfered with the right of Labour to criticize.
Those rules have not cut across any of anr protests against restriction of free speech.
The full voice of Labour will be raised against the censorship on the day that the movement finds- itself prevented horn expressing itself in the way Labour has been accustomed to expressing itself. But the Labor Call does not anticipate or prognosticate that such an occasion will ever arise.
This Government has not trespassed, and will not trespass, in the slightest degree against the proper freedom of the Australian press. It will, however, make war upon the Communist press, and communism generally, by every means in its power.
Fighting in Belgium and France - Ministerial Statement.
– by leave - Since the brief review which I gave to the House yesterday, the position has unfortunately again deteriorated. Yesterday’s review mentioned the threat to the Allied lines of communication in Belgium and northern France implied in the German drive to the Channel coast. This threat is now much more pronounced. Having pushed up from the Arras- Amiens-Boulogne sector, the enemy is now engaging British forces around Boulogne. German armoured units have been reported still further up the coast, only a few miles from Calais. The enemy is clearly mailing a determined attempt to secure all three of the important Channel ports - Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. Action on land is being supported by continual bombing of the harbour facilities of these three places. It is obvious that a continuance of this pressure will lead to serious supply difficulties for the Allied forces in Belgium and northern France.
It is known that the enemy now has several armoured divisions operating between Arras and the coast. Supporting infantry divisions are meanwhile being forced up into the gap with great speed. The Allied forces, both north and south of the German salient across northern France, are fighting magnificently to hold up the enemy advance. Since yesterday increased French pressure has been reported south of the salient, on the German left flank, especially in the neighbourhood of Amiens.While those efforts continue, in combination with the counterattacks in progress by both British and French on the German right flank to the east of Arras, there are grounds for hoping that the Allied position can be retrieved.
It must not be overlooked that the enemy’s supply problem is also a formidable one, and that the difficulties of maintaining the momentum of the drive to the Channel must have been greatly increased by the heavy attacks of the Royal Air Force on railway and road communications in the enemy’s rear, even as far back as the Rhine.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May, 1940(vide page 1093), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That thebill be now read a second time.
– Speaking on behalf of the official Federal Labour Opposition, I wish to say that we support this bill, which approves the sugar agreement made on the 18th April, 1940, between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland, under which the prohibition of foreign importation of sugar is to continue for five years from the 1st September, 1941, except for certain kinds of sugar required in small quantities, for manufacturing purposes and of such kinds as are needed for scientific purposes. This is the tenth sugar agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland. It is necessary that the agreement be approved as soon as possible so that the planters may know what to expect after the termination of the existing agreement, which expires on the 31st August of next year. It is not unusual for the new agreement to be entered into eighteen months or so before the expiration of the current one. As the crop takeseighteen months to grow to maturity, it is necessary to renew the agreement at this stage. I believe that the agreement, in its present form, has the approval of all sections of the community. It is of very great importance, not only to the Queensland growers, but also to the 24,600 workers directly engaged on the cane-fields, and the 16,400 other workers indirectly associated with the industry. Failure to approve this agreement would give a severe set-back to the industry. It would prejudice the position of the workers directly and indirectly engaged, and that of the farmers whoso capital is sunk in it. Injury would also be inflicted upon a big section of the business community in all centres from Brisbane north along the coast. Moreover, it would adversely affect that very good market which is provided in Queensland for the products of the factories in the southern States. The cancellation of the agreement would not adversely affect the great Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which makes much more profit out of black-grown sugar from Fiji than out of white-grown sugar in Queensland, where it owns only four mills out of a total of 33. If there were no sugar agreement, and no government control of the sugar industry, the growers and the workers would receive less, but the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited would make more profit out of black-grown sugar. For a period of five years, the industry will have to stand any war disturbances in the way of wage increases, and higher production cost. For the next five years the price of sugar will be static, whereas costs of production are not likely to decrease - except to the degree that efficiency may be improved - while tie general tendency, as we know, will be for costs to rise.
– Does this agreement differ from that entered into by the Seullin Government, and, if so, in what respect?
– With the exception of slight variations, it is practically the sama as the agreement entered into by the Scullin Government in 1930. Before il entered into its agreement, the Scullin Government appointed a special committee to investigate the industry. On that committee were representatives of the consumers, millers, growers, employees, fruit processors, housewives., and confectionery companies, with a representative of the Commonwealth Government in the person of Mr. A. R. Townsend, who was then chief accountant in the Trade and Customs Department. The chairman oi the committee was the Honorable John Gunn, an ex-Premier of South Australia. As the result of that inquiry, a further fruit concession committee was set, up in order to determine concessions to be given to. processors of fruit. The Sugar Inquiry . Committee recommended that “the sum of £350,000 be made available to assist the fruit industry. Another result of the investigation made by the Scullin Government was that all of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited’s refineries in Australia name within the scope of arbitration awards. The original sugar agreement was entered into between the Fisher Federal Labour Government and the Ryan Labour Government in Queensland.
Even those who, in normal times, oppose government control of industry ti the slightest degree, realize that, in. a .time of war, government control of this industry is essential. I have in mind what happened during the last war when, as the result of government control of the industry, consumers of sugar in Australia were saved a sum of £16,000,000 during the war. For the whole of that period they received sugar at less than half tho price which they would have had to pay had we been obliged to import sugar.
– How much have the consumers of sugar in Australia since paid. over and above the price for which they could have secured imported sugar ?
– Let us deal with one phase of the matter at a time. But for government control of the industry, consumers in Australia would have been obliged, during the last war, to pay for Sugar grown in other countries by black labour twice as much as. the price at which they obtained Australian whitegrown sugar. During the last depression, when world prices of commodities fell to unprecedented levels, there were times when, despite the employment of black labour, the industry in Java and Cuba was absolutely in the doldrums, and practically went bankrupt. Does any one seriously contend that in those days the industry in Australia - and this is the only country in which sugar is grown with white labour - should have been wiped out in order to enable us to obtain sugar at a lower price from black-labour countries? Even the most ardent free trader, who has the interests of Australia at heart, will admit that this industry has more than earned the protection which we have given to it. To-day., it is highly organized, with the result that at the present time the retail price of white-grown sugar is cheaper in Australia than in any other country with the exception of New Zealand, where th, price of black-grown sugar is the same as the Australian price of 4d. per lb.
The industry is also of great value because, through our sales of sugar to Great Britain and Canada, we are enabled to pile up credits abroad at a time when they are urgently required. In London alone, the sale of sugar increases our credits by £8,000,000 a year. At a time when we so urgently need to pile up overseas credit*. this fact makes the industry of exceptional importance to this country. Today, more than half of the sugar produced in Australia is exported.
Under the agreement, conditional upon this Government carrying out certain undertakings, the Queensland Government undertakes to do certain things on behalf of the industry. Its first obligation is -
To refrain during the period from the 1st September, 1941, until the 31st August, 1946. from exceeding specified maximum prices at all State capital cities, Darwin, Fremantle and Launceston, in respect of refined sugar, raw sugar, mill sugar, golden syrup and treacle
Bold to manufacturers, wholesale merchants and retail grocers, such maximum selling prices being the same as those which hare operated since the 5th January, 1933.
The Queensland Government also accepts full responsibility for any loss which might arise from the export of surplus cane-sugar from Australia. I also emphasize that this agreement is not. as many people assume, an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. It is an agreement between this Government and” the Government of Queensland. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited’ is not a party to it at all. Nevertheless, much of the criticism directed against it is based on the assumption that it gives to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited a monopoly in the industry. Some critics contend that if they can defeat the agreement they will thereby crush the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. The fact is that the company’s interests are so firmly rooted in countries where sugar is grown by black labour, that, even if the industry in Australia were destroyed, no harm would bc done to it. The company derives ‘most of its profits from its sugar interests in black-labour countries, and it is significant that it has always been opposed to government control of the industry in Australia. Indeed, it could make much greater profits if it were allowed to import black-grown sugar and refine it here. Out of 33 sugar mills now operating in Queensland, only four are owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, the remaining 29 being owned, and controlled largely by sugar-growers themselves. The growers operate their mills on a co-operative basis. The Colonial Sugar Refining
Company Limited also has a refinery in each of the State capitals, with the exception of Hobart.
– What percentage “of the total production of sugar in Queensland is produced in the four mills of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited ?
– They crush only 15 per cent, of the cane produced in Queensland.
– Some years ago a Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited mill at Childers was taken over by the local farmers’ co-operative organization, and, to-day, that mill is one of the largest in the State. The mill al Tully, which is also owned and controlled by growers, is claimed to be the most efficient in the world. More cane is crushed at that mill than at any Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited mill. In view of these facts it cannot be said that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has a monopoly. The company’s milling rates are the same as those of the other mills, whilst it must also comply with the same conditions observed by the other mills. Briefly, the terms of the agreement with the refining companies are -
According to the finding of the inquiry committee appointed by the Scullin Government, and since corroborated by departmental investigations, the charge for refining sugar in Australia is lower than that in any refinery in the United States of America or Great Britain. This advantage can be attributed largely to government control of the industry and tei a. high standard of efficiency. But for government control, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited would have been enabled to continue its policy of dictating prices, as it did for many years before the advent of the Cane
Prices Board legislation which gave to the growers, in consultation with the millers, a voice in the determination of the prices to be paid for cane. That board is presided over by a judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland. Before it was constituted the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited decided what prices should be paid for cane, and if the growers refused to take its prices they were obliged to leave their cane rot in the .fields. These facts should dispose of the bogy that this agreement gives to. the Colonial Sugar Refilling Company Limited a monopoly in the. industry. But for this agreement the .opposite would be the case, because if it be not renewed the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited will be enabled to import black-grown sugar and refine it here, and make far greater profits than it is able to make to-day from its refineries and distribution of sugar. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, made a statement dealing with the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited on its Australian transactions in sugar in which he said -
If income taxes be taken into account, the company’s net profits on refining and distributing are equivalent to only one-fourteenth of n penny per lb. of sugar.
The honorable member based that statement on the result of inquiries made by sugar experts in the Trade and Customs Department. It cannot be overlooked that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited makes the bulk of its profits from sugar grown by black labour in Fiji and from other investments. It sends this sugar to the British market, and on it receives the preference of £6 15s. a ton which is given by Great Britain in respect of colonial sugar, compared with a preference of £3 15s. a ton on sugar from the dominions. In addition to its sugar investments in Fiji, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has invested reserves from profits in shipping, in the growing and canning of pineapples, and in other enterprises, the profits from which are included in its balance-sheets. Further, it has in Sydney a distillery which is producing industrial alcohol, and it is now erecting another dis- tillery in Melbourne for the same purpose. Those who say that all would be well if the company were wiped out, should remember that it finds between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 every year to finance the sugar industry, and at a rate, of interest lower than that at which the Commonwealth Bank could, or would, if approached, make the money available. The Commonwealth Bank rate is 4£ per cent., whilst that charged by the company is less than that figure.
I have addressed, in different parts of Australia, meetings at which I have been asked, “ Why, was the sugar agreement enacted by the Scullin Government “ ?, or why did Ave support an agreement enacted by some other government, giving complete monopoly to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. The explanation of the matter has always caused amazement to the interrogator, who had been led to believe that the propaganda put forward had accurately stated the facts.
The system of finance put into operation by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited enables the cane-growers to obtain SO per cent, of the value of their cane within two or three weeks of its delivery at the mill. That is a very im’portant factor, and it is reflected in the facility with which the growers are able to engage labour and pay all of the costs in connexion with the production of the cane. I emphasize that the Sugar Inquiry Committee, which was representative of the consumers, the cane-growers, the fruit-grower’s, the confectioners, the processors and the workers in the industry, having thoroughly investigated the workings of the industry, including the part played in it by the 1 Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, came to the following, conclusion : -
In all the circumstances we are of opinion that the earnings of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited in Australia are not excessive, and that the work of refining and distribution of sugar is carried out efficiently and at reasonable charges. The refining and - freight charges are adjusted annually with the Queensland Sugar Board on the basis of the actual, cost, and it is clear from previous experience, that any savings in the. cost of refining, freights, &c. in any one year are always returned to the sugar industry in the next season. In view of the fact that the- net- ; profit. of the company, after paying income tax,.: is only “5½ ‘ per cent, per . annum on the working capital and written-down value of the fixed assets used in its Australian operations, we are of the opinion that the fee of £1 per ton for administration, depreciation and interest on refinery capital, and -the fee of 7s. per ton for selling - from which two fees alone the company obtains its refining and distribution profit - are reasonable.
In the circumstances,-I hope that we have heard the last of propaganda adverse to the industry, which seeks to induce the belief that the destruction of what is described as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited monopoly would result in cheaper sugar to the consumers. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited would not be hurt one-hundredth as much as would the 180,000 persons who are directly and indirectly dependent on the industry in Queensland, because the company has its roots in black-labour colonies and could continue : the operations of its refineries by the refining of sugar produced under black-labour conditions.
There is a mistaken idea abroad in the community, that the cane-growers in Queensland are earning unreasonably high incomes. As a matter of fact, a substantial majority of the growers to-day do not come within the income tax range, showing that they - are not making inordinate or unreasonably high incomes. This is largely accounted for by the fact that many of the growers are small producers, and the deductions which they arc allowed to make on account of the cost of fertilizers and labour for cane cutting, reduce their gross incomes. Under legislation passed by a Labour government in 1915, there is a Cane Prices Board, on which is represented the growers and the millers. That board is presided over by a Supreme Court judge, and it determines what is a fair price to be paid to the- grower for his cane. Certainly the ‘ Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited strongly opposed the establishment of this board. -When the Labour party in Queensland, in 1915, promised that if returned to powerit would introduce this legislation, the Tory government of the day said that it would splinter every plank of the platform of the Liberal party, as it was then known ; but shortly afterwards a Labour government brought it into operation.
– It was carried by the Tory party in the Queensland Upper House.
– At the time there was a Legislative Council in Queensland. The Labour party had some representatives in that chamber, which had hanging over its head the threat that it was to be abolished. This legislation was so beneficial to the great mass of the cane.growers of Queensland that the Tory Legislative Council, with that threat of abolition hanging over its head, dared not refuse to pass it, although for years Tory governments in Queensland had refused to pass it on the ground that itc would be an unreasonable interference with the rights of private property. The Labour party was not tied to the rights of private property. In time of war those rights are not supreme. The Labour party believes that the interests of the mass of the people should always be supreme, and for that reason it was free to promise the cane-growers, when it went to the country in 1915, that legislation for the constitution of a Cane Prices Board would be passed, that the growers would have representation on it, and that it would determine what was a fair and reasonable price to be paid for their cane. The cane-growers of Queensland are today satisfied with the board. They believe that this is one of the most pro: gressive steps ever . taken by any government in Queensland; and it had to be made by a Labour Government.
There are in the community people who, through lack of knowledge, talk about a dreadful sugar octopus straddling Australia and taking out of the community more than it gives back. It is well to remember that vessels which every year come south from Queensland laden with sugar, go north laden with goods from factories in the southern States which give employment to 500,000 Australians. There cannot be one-way traffic between the Australian States. For the financial year 1937-1938, the value of Queensland’s purchases from other States was £22,500,000, whilst the sales of that State to the other States were valued at £13,700,000, an advantage to the other States of nearly £9,000,000.
From the defence aspect, the sugar industry is of very great importance. The increase of population in the vulnerable north-eastern part of Australia, due largely to this industry, has been remarkable. No other industry, I maintain, could be developed with such bene.ficial results to Australia in peopling that north-eastern portion of the continent. If we examine the census returns of 1921 and 1933 we shall find that the increase of population over the whole of Australia between the taking of the two sets of figures was 21.94 per cent., whilst the increase in Queensland alone was 25 per cent. But in the cities and shires of the eleven sugar districts of Queensland, from Port Douglas to Mackay, the increase ranged from 1092 per cent, in the Cardwell shire, where a new sugar district - the Tully - was opened up, to over 100 per cent, in the Innisfail and Mossman districts, from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, in the shires of Ayr, Ingham and Sarina, and from 50 per cent, to 80 per cent, in Cairns, Proserpine and various shires of the Mackay district. In only one district of Mackay was the increase as low as 28 per cent. The average increase in those districts over the twelveyear period was 87.5 per cent., compared with an increase of 21.94 per cent, over the whole of Australia. It is well to bear these figures in mind when assessing the value of the sugar industry to Australia. The increase of population in the lower sugar district of Bundaberg also has been remarkable.
Queensland has the largest tropica] white population in the world, namely 240,796 persons, most of whom are either directly or indirectly associated with the sugar industry. In 1933, the tropics of Western Australia contained only 5,32S white persons, whilst the Northern Territory, despite the expenditure of millions of pounds of public funds on its development, had only 4,182 white persons.
– In the same latitude.
– As the Assistant Treasurer says, in the same latitude - comparable country on the other side of Australia. An empty far north would be a positive incitement to invasion from other countries. The sugar industry, therefore, has been of predominant national value to this country strategically, economically, diplomatically and. indeed, in every other way.
That there are foreigners, both farmers and workers, in the sugar industry in Queensland, I do not deny; but it is well that we should consider what percentage they represent of the total population.
– There are a lot of foreigners in Sydney.
– There are a lot of foreigners in Sydney and in every othecapital city of Australia. Thi3 is an old bogy which is frequently trotted out, so it is well to reply to it. The object is to make it appear that the sugar industry is being run by foreigners. In the sugar districts from Ingham to Mossman there are many persons, Australian-born of both British and foreign mothers, who bear foreign names and are very good Australians. There are, in the north, some Australian-born families of Italian parentage, with grandchildren who are now managing the farms, and they are good Australian citizens. The 1933 census returns with respect to the number of persons engaged in the sugar industry in north Queensland and New South Wales showed that 87.24 per cent, of employers and employees were either British-born or naturalized British subjects. The naturalized British subjects represented 10 per cent., and would include foreign-born persons who had been in Australia for at least 30 years ; in any event, they would have had to be in Australia for five years before they could become naturalized. During the last few years there lias been an increase of the number of foreign-born subjects who have purchased farms, but the position of the British-born employees, particularly millhands and cane-cutters, is well protected by mutual understandings between the organizations representing the employers and the employees. As regards farms and farmers in the sugar-growing industry, the Queensland Government has by legislation empowered the Central Cane Prices Board to deal with the terms and conditions of all sales or leases, including the personnel of proposed purchasers or lessees. This industry has not gone into the control of foreigners.
A considerable amount of criticism has been voiced in regard to the retail prices of sugar; but much of it is due to lack of knowledge on the part of the critics. Propaganda hag also been indulged in by -such, organizations as the Housewives Association and the Free-Trade Town and Country Union. Statistical information regarding the comparative retail prices of sugar in various countries, expressed in Australian pence per lb. supplied by the Department of Trade and Customs on the 2nd April, 1940, shows that whereas the average price in the Australian capital cities is 4d. per lb., the world average is 5.5d. per lb. Surely that refutes the argument that consumers in Australia are paying excessively high prices. In the United Kingdom, where 50 per cent, of the sugar consumed is obtained from black-labour countries, the price is 5.6d. per lb.; it is 19d. per lb. in Russia; 13d. per lb. in Italy; 8.5d. per lb. in Germany; and 4.86d. per lb. in France. Compare these prices with the price of 4d. per lb. ruling in Australia for whitegrown sugar and 4d. per lb. in New Zealand for black-grown sugar. These figures present a clear picture, elaboration of which is unnecessary. Although Australia is the only country in which cane sugar is produced entirely by white labour, the Australian retail price is 1.5d. per lb. lower than the average retail price of refined sugar in 41 of the principal countries of the world. In addition, wages paid in Australia to all workers in the sugar industry, from the cane farms to the refining depots, are fixed by Arbitration Court awards.
In reply to critics who allege that the increase of the price of sugar is unreasonable, I quote the following comparative Australian retail prices: -
It can be seen from that table that the price of sugar has increased by only half of the average increase for all goods, and is now relatively the cheapest of all common foods. And the figures show that the export industry of these products has substantially increased.
Criticism of the sugar agreement has been voiced by grocers who claim that, although their margin of profit is not sufficient to meet handling costs, they are not allowed to increase the retail price of sugar. The point is that the retail price to be charged by the grocers is not covered by this agreement. That is a matter entirely between the grocers and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland.
I am glad to see that the new agreement makes provision for further concessions which were set out by the Treasurer in the course of his secondreading speech as follows : -
The Commonwealth and Queensland Governments have, therefore, decided that, as from the 1st September, 1940, the wholesale discount of 2 per cent, on sugar shall be payable monthly to any person, firm or corporation who or which, in the opinion of the Queensland Sugar Board -
provides reasonable credit facilities for retailers on a comprehensive range of groceries ;
keeps reasonable stocks of such groceries for resale to retailers; and
buys not less than £1,500 worth a calendar month of sugar and other sugar products.
That is a further concession given under the new agreement.
– How many people benefit by it?
– Many people. There are wholesale buying firms like the Queensland Country Traders Association, which has branch wholesale houses in New South Wales, and which buys on behalf of thousands of small shopkeepers, thus enabling them to obtain the benefit of the wholesale concessions. There are similar organizations in other States. That matter should not be confused with the price which the grocers are permitted to charge for sugar, because this agreement does not deal with retail prices. I repeat that that question is now being considered by Professor Copland.
Australian sugar is supplied to all manufacturers of goods for export at the Australian equivalent of the world’s parity (free market) price, that is, as cheaply as our manufacturers could obtain any foreign sugar without paying Australian customs duty. Hence no disability whatsoever is suffered by manufacturers of jam, canned fruit, condensed milk,, &c, who wish to engage in the export trade. The following table shows the great increase of exports of the principal goods containing sugar since 1930-31 :-
The benefit of the world’s parity price for export goods containing sugar is provided by export rebates for goods other than fruit products, amounting to approximately £80,000 per annum. Rebates on fruit products are paid from a fund administered by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and amount to 216,000 per annum. That fund is also utilized, to reduce the price of sugar for the Australian trade, and for bounties on exports of canned fruit, jam and berry fruit pulp. That is a substantial concession. The system was inaugurated when the Scullin Government was in office in 1930, and it was then that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was first set up. On that occasion the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) and others put forward a plea on behalf of the fruit-growers, and as the result this concession was inaugurated. The Sugar Inquiry Committee recommended that assistance amounting to 35315,000 per annum be given, pending a substantial recovery from the then’ existing conditions in the fruit industry. At that time jam manufacturers refused to buy fruit from the growers, and the stone fruit industry was in a perilous condition. During the following year,, the Ottawa Agreement was introduced and the fruit industry; enjoyed increased preferences for canned fruit, chiefly on the British market. Since then, the annual expenditure by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has resulted in an average payment of approximately £216,000 per annum which will be continued under the agreement now before Parliament. In ‘ addition-, there will be a formula to assist the export of jam, which will result in another £45,000. per annum coming from the ordinary funds of the sugar industry to assist the fruit industry, making a total of approximately £261,000 per annum. As the export of jam has increased by 800 per cent, and that of canned fruits by 300 per cent, it will be seen that the committee which commenced to function under the 1930 agreement has done good work. As manufacturers who use sugar for export get it at the Australian equivalent to world parity, they are not being penalized in any way by the sugar agreement. Instead of being ruined, the fruit industry has been substantially assisted by the agreement. There should be an understanding between the committee and other industries which depend on- sugar for processing.
In conclusion, I have pleasure in saying that the Federal Parliamentary Labour party wholeheartedly supports this agreement which it regards as the most satisfactory arrangement that could be arrived at in the interests of all sections of the community. If facts count for anything, I cannot understand why there should be any serious opposition to the agreement.
.- The effect of this bill will be that fifteen months before the expiry of the current agreement, the sugar industry will be granted a further term of security in its privileged position, amounting altogether to about six year3. The sugar industry differs from other industries in that most other industries have good periods and then lean years ; the sugar industry never has a lean year, but some years are fatter than others, and last year was the fattest of all. During the last season, the sugar industry had an accession to its gross funds amounting to nearly £1,000,000, which, of course, is a matter for congratulation; because the accession came from abroad as the result of- the high prices received for sugar exported, and not from the pockets of the Australian people. During the last season, the Australian sugar industry disposed of 202j000 tons of sugar at £8 10s. a ton. Following the outbreak of war, the British Government entered into negotiations for the purpose of purchasing all surplus sugar in the Commonwealth. The price of £7 10s. a ton agreeable to Great -Britain and to the colonies was arrived at. To that price, the” Australian sugar industry agreed, and that price was paid for subsequent deliveries. Therefore, for the first 202,000 tons of last season’s- sugar crop, the sugar industry received £8 10s. a ton, and for the remaining 330,000 tons the price received was £7 10s. a ton. That gave the Australian industry an average price of £A.101s. a ton last season. The average price in the previous season was £8 4s. 3d.; therefore the Australian industry last season enjoyed an advantage of £1 17s. a ton on a total of 532,000 tons exported, making an additional profit of £980,000. That might not be the exact net profit, because there may have been some slight additional costs for fertilizers and bagging; but at any rate the net profit was not less than £950,000. Packing costs for sugar are not so high as for other primary products, such as wheat. The value of 1 lb. of sugar is equivalent to the value of 5 lb. or 6 lb. of wheat, and, therefore, the cost of bagging exported sugar is relatively low in relation to the price received.
– Is the honorable gentleman talking about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited?
– No ; I am talking about the price paid to Australian producers for exported sugar. One would expect naturally that the Australian public would be allowed to share, in some degree, at least, the’ good fortune of the producers, but they are still paying an unreasonably high price. The price charged to Australian consumers is £33 4s. a ton. After making allowances for discounts, that represents approximately three times the price obtained overseas. A few other countries may be paying high prices for sugar, but the comparison . is not a fair one. Most of them, can import Australian sugar at £7 10s. a. ton, which is the landed cost in Great’ Britain.
– Not to-day.
– The honorable member is in error. He is referring to the price of raw sugar.
– The prices of raw sugar and mill-white sugar are not comparable.
– The difference is not. very great. - ‘
– Will the honorable member say that sugar can be produced more cheaply in Australia than in any country where black labour is not employed ?
– Maybe. Australian producers are extremely fortunate in that the conditions for sugar production in Queensland are most favorable. That is one reason why the Australian public should not have to pay an excessively high price for the product.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has put up a strong argument in defence of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. Unfortunately it is not unusual for Opposition members to profess to oppose monopolies and thus earn great applause from the electors and then to come into this House and “ barrack “ strongly for a monopoly, simply because it happens to be in their interest to do so. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is the most rapacious monopoly in Australia. Its record proves that, and to say, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, that it derives its profit from its operations outside Australia, is simply to throw dust in the eyes of the people. For many years the annual profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited have been approximately £1,000,000. This season, no doubt in consequence of the windfall to which I have referred, the company has been able to declare for the year ended the 31st March, 1940, a substantially increased profit of £1,103,000.
– That is only the disclosed profit.
– Yes. The company also mentioned that it had set aside for depreciation an amount equivalent to approximately £1,000 a day.
– How does the company make that profit?
– By exploiting the Australian public.
– That is not correct.
– It is absurd to attempt to persuade the House that the company could make all of that profit out of its operations in Fiji, because the total annual production of sugar inFiji is comparatively small.- « -
– It is one-sixth of the company’s production in Australia.
– The representations of some honorable members opposite regarding the company’s operations in Fiji are utterly misleading. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and other sugar interests were parties to an international conference, the purpose of which was to put an end to the disastrous conditions which prevailed in the industry during the depression. Large numbers of sugar producers in Java had become bankrupt. The free market price was as low as £4 10s. a ton, and I believe that on occasions it fell even lower. That conference resolved upon a price of £9 a ton as a fair charge to cover production costs, plus a reasonable profit, employing black labour under favorable economic conditions. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to-day is not receiving £9 a ton for its surplus product that is exported. The overseas price tc-day is £7 10s., and, during the depression years, it was as low as £4 10s. - a hopelessly unprofitable rate. Nevertheless, the company has been able to show a huge profit each year. Before the economic depression affected the industry, the annual production of sugar in Java was 3,000,000 tons - three times Australia’s maximum production in any year.
– The honorable member knows what, happened to the producers of Java.
– They would not have been forced to reduce production so drastically had they been able to bleed the Javanese public as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited bleeds Australian consumers. They had to rely upon the world market. Most of them went bankrupt and their total annual production has decreased to 450,000 tons - onehalf of Australia’s present production. It is absurd that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and its spokesmen in this House should pretend that its profits are derived from the sale of sugar produced by black labour in Fiji. Cuban t producers almost suffered the same fate a3 * those of Java. Fortunately for them, they had .support from, their home market and they were not forced into bankruptcy. Conditions were so severe, however, that i’ became necessary to convene the inter national conference to which I have referred in order to save the industry from extinction. In spite of the chaotic economic conditions prevailing at that time, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited was able to declare a profit of nearly £1,000,000 every year throughout the depression. That profit, I repeat, was derived in the main from sales to the Australian public at exorbitant prices.
The grocers do not. derive much benefit from the sale of sugar in Australia. They are few in number and cannot wield the political influence that the sugar industry exerts in Queensland. “We are told that 240,000 people in that State are directly interested in the industry, and therefore no political party dares to oppose the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. Honorable members opposite, many of whom are elected by working people from the capital cities of the various States, support the interests of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited while knowing very well that, in doing so, they are working against the best interests of their electors. They do so because they know that any political party which seriously attacked the interests of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited would lose all support in Queensland. That is why the sugar interests exert so much political pull and have so many “barrackers”. in this House, so that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, instead of being condemned as a hydra-headed monopoly, is warmly supported by many honorable gentlemen, who- pretend to be protectors of the poor consumers. The grocers have a bona fide complaint. They have been treated unfairly by the sugar interests for many years. Grocers living in metropolitan areas are allowed a profit of 11 per cent, on the sale of sugar, and those outside metropolitan areas are allowed a profit of only 8 per cent. No one knows better than the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) that no retail business can be carried on successfully on that margin of profit. A profit of 20 per cent, to the grocers would be more reasonable. Under present conditions, grocers sell sugar at a loss. There is no reason- why this pr<*:perous industry should not pay a ‘fair return to every section of the community associated with it.
Mr. Anthony.Cannot the grocers make up the loss by increasing the price of tea ?
– No ; the price of tea is controlled. The honorable gentleman disregards the fact that any increase of the profit made by grocers on tea would add to the cost of that commodity to the consumers. The sugar interests are not concerned that the people are called upon to pay high prices for this sugar, and evidently the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) thinks that it would not matter if they had to pay more for their tea.
The western tropical portion of Australia has been compared with the eastern tropical portion of the continent. Whereas the population of northern Queensland has grown rapidly during recent years - there are now 240,000 people in that area - there has not been the same growth ot population, in the western tropical areas, where the people number only about 10,000. Had the western area received one-fourth of the assistance, by way of bounties, that has been granted to the sugar industry, if also would bp prosperous.
– Why do not the people there try to grow sugar?
– People grow sugar : tropical regions not as a means of recreation, but in order to make profits. There is money to be made in the growing of sugar in northern Queensland, and consequently the population of that part of Australia has increased. Those profits are provided by the consumers of sugar in this country.
I return to the claim of the grocers for fair treatment. They have no political influence and, consequently, they gilittle consideration. Some time ago theasked the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to agree to the retail price oi sugar being increased by -Jd. per lb. I would not agree to any increase of the retail price of sugar, because there is no need for it. Instead of the price being increased, there are good grounds for its reduction. Last year the sugar industry made a profit of about £980,000, of which amount the workers received a considerable proportion. The Queensland- Government saw to that. Wages in the sugar industry were raised by about 4?. a week, which is a substantial increase. The balance went to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and other mill-owners and employers. The whole of that £980,000 accretion to the sugar interests of Australia has been divided among those engaged in the industry, and now it is claimed that there is not sufficient money available to enable a fair deal to be given to the grocers. The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner did not care to assume the responsibility of dealing with this matter. In his reply to the grocers he said that he would defer his decision until the Parliament had dealt with the sugar agreement. He refused to increase the price of this commodity above 4d. per lb. in the capital cities. I have no complaint of that. He left to the Parliament the decision on the larger question of granting some relief to the grocers. All of the parties in this House have sheltered behind the constitutional provision that the Commonwealth is not in a position to fix prices. Those interested in the industry play off the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner against the government of the day, with the result that the grocers must continue to accept the same starvation wage as before. Now. however, the constitutional difficulty can be overcome under the national security regulations. It may be said that the regulations should not be used for this purpose- but, I remind the House that only this week it was argued that they might properly be used in order to give to one company the monopoly of the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. It is not fair to the grocers that the Government and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner should seek to evade the responsibility for arriving at a decision in this matter. Either or both of them could fix a fair price. There if plenty of margin to allow reasonable treatment, to be given to the grocers, without increasing the charge to the public. The profits made by the industry have enabled an enormous, fund to accumulate. That fund should be drawn upon by the Government in order to give a small measure of justice to the grocers. I shall vote against the bill, because there is no reason other than a political one for its introduction at this stage. In these uncertain times there is no justification for attempting to fix the price of sugar six years in advance. This matter could well be left until next year, or until the next Parliament meets. There is plenty of time for an inquiry to be undertaken. I should like the bill to be referred to either the Tariff Board or a royal commission, and should a motion to that effect be moved, it will receive my support.
.- This is a bill for an act to approve of an agreement made between the governments of the Commonwealth and Queensland. The present agreement has been in operation since 1915, and we are now asked to approve a new agreement signed on the 18th April last. The first significant fact that I notice is that the new agreement will not come into force until September, 1941. Considerable pressure must have been placed on governments of all shades of political opinion, since it is noticeable that agreements relating to t lie sugar industry are always ratified by this Parliament about eighteen months before they come into operation. Neither the present Government nor any honorable member who has supported this measure has shown a good reason for the apparent anxiety to pass the bill eighteen months before the agreement will operate.
The agreement covers certain classes of sugar used in Australia and exported. The major departure from previous agreements is that Darwin will be brought under the same terms as regards wholesale prices as the capital cities from the 1st September, 1941. The Minister laid stress on the argument that this will be of distinct advantage to the small population of Darwin, where the public is now charged a retail price of 54d. per lb. as against 4d. per lb. in the capital cities. The amount involved is not great, in view of the smallness of the population. The Minister did not say that the people of Darwin will get sugar at retail prices comparable with those in the capital cities ; he merely said that that is possible. As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has pointed out, that is a very convenient get-away. Although this bill does not deal with retail prices, the people of Darwin1 are promised a possible reduction of the retail price from the 1st September, 1941. No guarantee is given that this reduction will be made, and the Minister confesses that he is not in a position to give such a guarantee. In other respects the agreement differs little from those made in the past.
The Opposition has no desire to prejudice the position of those sections of the community which come under the scope of the agreement. I refer to the workers in the industry, the primary producers, the manufacturing interests and the sugarconsumers. I take leave, however, to express doubt whether any or all of the benefits alleged to flow from these agreements are actually received by those sections. There is a strong feeling abroad that the retail price of sugar should be reduced. “Whilst it is claimed by the advocates of the present agreement that the workers in the industry, the primary producers, the manufacturing interests and others derive great benefit from the agreement, nobody will deny that large and unfailing benefits have been reaped by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.
Legislation giving effect to sugar agree-‘ ments has been submitted to the Parliament from time to time by governments of various political colours, and it has become almost heresy for anybody to question whether the agreements confer the benefits claimed to bc given, because such criticism would reflect upon the various parties that have been in power. The agreements have never been short of champions from all sides in politics, but, . in all parties, certain members have doubted whether the benefits alleged to flow have actually been received. It is urged by those who say that benefits have been given, that Australia has been freed from, kanaka labour, that the growers have gained security of a sort, and that the manufacturers of canned fruits have received concessions that they have been able to pass on to the growers of the fruit. I put it to the House that it has never been able to measure up this agreement on its merits. The Parliament has not been provided with the facilities to enable its members to reach a balanced judgment on this matter. From time to time various committees of inquiry have been appointed to investigate the position of the industry, but the remarkable fact is that most of those bodies, after having gone a certain distance with their inquiries, have failed. The workers’ representatives have not spragged the wheels, the primary producers have not placed difficulties in the way, and the public has not ceased to be anxious to hear the detail’s, but, on each and every occasion when a commission has got down to bedrock, the Colonial Sugar Kenning Company Limited has stood on its legal rights, and has refused to disclose certain information. The Public Accounts Committee, of which Mr. J. M.’. Fowler, then, member for Perth, was chairman, held an inquiry into the position of the industry in 1922. In a statement published on the 9th August, 1930, Mr. Fowler declared -
Skilled accountants have given up in (les pantile task of trying to read the true position of the- Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited in balance sheets. Mr. Edward Nixon reported to my committee in 1022 that there was evidence of millions of pounds of undisclosed profits, camouflaged in many ways. He discovered enough to know that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited holds the whole sugar trade of. this country in the hollow of its hand. It met 113 with an absolute refusal to divulge the full extent of its profits.
A minority report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee that investigated the position in 1931 was signed by Mr. C. G. Fallon, president of the Australian Labour party, and general secretary of the Queensland branch_of the Australian Workers Union. This report dealt with the difficulties that confronted the Labour movement in Queensland when endeavouring to adjust the wages of the employees in the industry. Dealing with the method «>f computation in relation to the awards for the workers in the sugar industry, the committee stated that much of the data had to be gathered from the Central Board.,, but it added -
All members of the Central Board or local hoard’ and all chemists, inspectors and other officers associated therewith, are required te subscribe to an oath of secrecy, for the violation of which they are liable to a heavy penalty. It was consequently not competent for the committee of inquiry to have access, to the confidential records of the Central Sugar Cane Prices. Board or local boards for the purpose of checking the data upon which’ award’s are based or of determining the cost’ ->f production.
It will be obvious,- therefore, from the statement of Mr. Fowler respecting the difficulty of investigating the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and of analysing its complicated accounts, and also from the statementsigned by Mr. Fallon and others respecting the method of determining a fair and living wage for the workers in the industry, that it is definitely open to question whether the benefits said to have accrued from this- agreement, in the form in which it has hitherto operated, have really been realized. The inspectors, officers and chemists employed by the Sugar Board have been pledged to secrecy and so have not been able to reveal to the various investigating bodies the full facts of the case. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited., backed up by all the legal powers that may be brought into the service of a great monopoly, has been guilty of a stubborn resistance to every effort to ascertain and disclose the true position of the industry. Consequently honorable members of this Parliament are not in any better position than were the honorable members of previous parliaments to give a true judgment ou the value of the agreement, for the evidence on which such a balanced judgment could bo formed is not available to them, any more than such evidence was available to their predecessors.
It has been asserted in days. gone -by, sis the Minister asserted yesterday in introducing this bill, that, in consequence of the operation of the sugar agreements for the time being in force, benefits have flowed to the workers in stabilized wages, to the primary producers in stabilized prices for raw sugar, and to manufacturing interests in rebates which have been passed on. to the sugar-growers. In truth, the reality of these alleged benefits is open to the gravest doubt. This much may be said with certainty, that the agreement has been, far more beneficial to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited than to- any other of the interests affected by it. It is for this reason that we are requesting, that a royal commission, vested with, the complete power which may now be given to it under the National Security Act, but which previous Governments have never been in a position to confer upon any investigating authority, should be appointed to examine all the facts of the case in order to see whether the sugar-growers, the consumers, mid the workers have actually benefited from the improved methods of cultivation in use, the application of scientific and inventive genius to the manufacturing side of the industry, and the improved methods of distribution.
I shall examine in some detail the justification for the arguments that have been advanced for so many years that the sugar agreement has been beneficial to the various interests concerned.
We were told by the Minister yesterday that if the agreement were approved, the employees in the industry would be guaranteed work under the rates and conditions fixed by the appropriate arbitration tribunals. There is nothing new in that, for such a guarantee has been- in operation for the last 25 years. We have been told that the passing of the original sugar agreement resulted in the withdrawal of all kanaka labour from the industry. That may be true, but such labour has been replaced to a much larger degree than was admitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) by southern European labour. The Minister also said that since 1911 the basic wage in the sugar industry had increased by GS per cent. But it is a fact, too, that the average increase of the price of groceries required by the workers has been 66 per cent. It is thus apparent that, after more than 25 years of operating under this agreement, the deplorable conditions of 1911 have been improved by only 2 per cent. What were the conditions in 1911? The majority report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931 pointed out that “ after the change from black to white labour the ruling wages were from £1 2s. 6d. to £1 5s. a week, with keep, for both field and mill work “ and that these remained in force until the 14th August, 1911. Comparing the improvement in the basic wage with the increased cost of groceries in the period since 1911, the workers are: to-day only 2 per cent, better off than they were then. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Censorship - Wheat Policy - Wak Service Homes Land at Launceston - Manufacture of War Supplies in Tasmania - Magnesium Alloy - City of Preston Loan.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this, the first opportunity available to honorable members, to protest against the policy announced to-day by the Acting Minister for Information- (Sir Henry Gullett) in connexion with the suppression of certain newspapers which publish views disapproved by the Government. That policy is inconsistent with the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when the national security legislation was before Parliament.
– The position is very different to-day from what it was then.
– The promise, which was made for all time,. was to the effect that the powers provided under the national security regulations would not be used to suppress freedom of speech or the liberty of the press. I have, on several occasions, submitted in this House that the proper way to combat argument is to disprove it by other argument. If the arguments advanced by the Communist party arc wrong - and, in relation to the war, I believe them to be entirely wrong - the way to deal with them is not to suppress them but to answer them. Failure to answer arguments on such matters suggests inability to do so, but I believe that the arguments advanced can be effectively answered. The Minister referred to the position taken by The Labor Call, which is a small paper. I myself read the article; it incorporated a letter which had been received from the censor. All that the censor promised immunity for was reports of trade union proceedings. He promised that, so long as the paper confined itself to reporting trade union proceedings, it would have no trouble with the censorship. But The Labor Call goes far wider than that. It and the Labour press generally deal not merely with the conduct of trade unions, hut nlm with the political policy of the
Labour party, and that policy is opposed to that of the Government, particularly in relation to the war. Just as at the beginning of the last war the repression of small minorities was followed by repression of the press and attempted repression of the activities of the Labour movement, so shall we have that in this war. “What would the Minister say about comments upon the censorship and upon t.he policy of his Government by the much more influential Australian Worker 1 3 say to the Minister that he will not suppress the circulation of Communist opinions, or other opinions of which he disapproves; other people have tried to do ro in the past and have failed. A much more powerful man than is the Minister, in the person of Prince Bismark, tried for thirteen years to suppress the German Socialist party. For thirteen years that party was under the ban and for thirteen years its press was prohibited. Nevertheless, its press circulated and its propaganda was kept in existence; and when the ban was removed in 1891,. the German Socialist party polled 500,000 votes at the elections.
– Where is the German Socialist party to-day ? How far did that party get in Germany?
– That is not the point. I know that the Minister is in ill health and I do not propose to argue with him as I would argue with any other man.
– Do not spare me on that score.
– I do not spare the Minister, but I do not intend to argue with a sick man on irrelevant considerations. It does not matter what has happened to the German Socialist party. My point is that it was impossible to destroy the Socialist party by suppression.
– The honorable member is supporting rank disloyalists and seditionists in this country.
– I am not. I am supporting the freedom of the pre3S. If it is sedition to say that no man should be allowed to leave Australia for military service overseas, I agree with that sedition. But I do not agree with the Communist view of the war. The Minister has repressed, amongst other papers, a paper which dissents from communism, is anti-Stalinist, and attacks the Communist policy and the Russian policy during the war. Because its view is that this is an imperialist war and that no troops should .be sent out of Australia, it is crushed. In Prance, the policy of repressing papers and parties has been carried to the extreme that every workingclass paper and organization which does not agree with the Government’s policy is silenced. I predict that before long in Australia Labour papers .which express opinions adverse to the Government’s policy and to that of raising of soldiers for overseas service will be silenced. This Government has used the war for political purposes, and party advantage. Just as it used the war in an attempt to have its candidate returned at the Corio byelection, it is seeking to use the war for its own purposes to-day.
– The honorable member could use the same arguments against the criminal law just as effectively.
– The Minister’s policy is to lock up people for fear that crimes will be committed.
– The Communists are committing crimes against this country every day, and the honorable member is supporting them.
– The Minister should refrain from personal attacks upon me. He cannot engage in a temperate argument with anybody. He is distinguished in this House for that quality. I- have no desire to enter into an argument with him. I. can preserve my respect for him only by refusing to argue with him. The intemperate policy into which he has led the Government is a policy which menaces not only the people who are now suppressed, but also the Labour movement of this country.
– I impress upon the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) the necessity for immediate action to be taken in connexion with the next wheat harvest. There, has been too rauch delay. The wheat-growers are in a state of grave anxiety as to what action this Government, either by itself or in concert with the State governments, will take. Honorable members from wheat-growing districts have not the remotest idea of what to say when they return to their constituencies. We want to know where we stand. The Minister for Commerce should use his best endeavours to bring the State Ministers to Canberra as soon as possible in order to discuss the future of the wheat industry, and then let us know what is to be done.
.- I raise a matter of importance to my electorate which involves something in the way of profiteering by the Commonwealth Government in its transactions with the Tasmanian Government over some land that was originally purchased by the War Service Homes Commission. Those transactions have an interesting history which I shall briefly relate. In May, 1920, French’s Estate, West Launceston, a little more than 11 acres, was purchased by the War Service Homes Commission for £1,500, for the erection of war service homes. No blocks have been sold to returned soldiers, but eight allotments, sold on the open market, have returned £1,000 to the War Service Homes Commission. In July, 1935, just over two acres of the land was sold to the Tasmanian Education Department for the building of a school. The price was £425. It is claimed by the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Senator Collett) that, at the time when this land was sold land values were low. Recently, because of the growth of population in the area, the Education Department negotiated with the War Service Homes Commission, and the Minister, for a further block of 1. acre 28 perches adjoining the school. The school and playing area had to be enlarged and there was no other suitable land in the locality. The War Service Homes Commission, realizing that the land was of value to the department, forced it to pay £1,125 for the additional area required. Until the Education Department became interested in the locality, no other land in that area had been sold; but when the school was erected, many persons desired to reside in close proximity to it. In reply to a series of questions submitted to the Minister controlling this department, I was informed that the allotments sold by the War Service Homes Commission, on the plan of subdivision approved by the
Launceston City Council in 1937, realized from £110 to £145 a block. That is an indication of the popularity -of the locality and of the -degree to which the value of land has increased, due largely to the erection of a school. The value of some of the land which was reserved for the erection of shops adjoining the school increased considerably. The Tasmanian Education Department had the land valued by outside competent valuers, one of whom I know from personal experience to be of high repute. Although this gentleman Tamed the land, at £710 and the Education Department’s valuers had assessed its value at £700 and £710, the War Service Homes Commission insisted that the land was not to be sold . for less than £1,125, or about £400 above the price fixed by competent valuers. The assertion that a portion of the land had been reserved for the erection of shops is mere moonshine, because the locality is unsuitablefor that purpose. The Commonwealth, knowing that that was the only suitable land for the extension of a school recreation area forced the Tasmanian Government to pay an unnecessarily high price. Originally, the War Service Homes Commission owned 11 acres, for which it paid £1,500, and up to the present the Education Department has paid £1,625 for the land it has . acquired, or £125 above the original price paid by the commission for the whole area. Certain subdivisional . and other expenses -have been incurred, but as the Education Department has purchased only about 3 acres, an area of 8 acres is left for subdivision and resale to the public. The sales to the public to date have realized £1,000, so that a total of £2,625 has been received for the land already sold, and the commission has still 42 blocks ranging in price from £125 to £200 each for sale to the public. Over a long period, the Tasmanian Government has been very generous to the Commonwealth Government, as land controlled by the State has been leased to the Commonwealth Government at a “peppercorn “ rental. This matter was not brought under my notice until the transactions were approaching completion, and I have stated the position in order to show an instance of flagrant profiteering on the part of the Commonwealth. As a matter of principle land required by any State Government should be made available to it by the federal authorities at least at the price fixed by independent valuers, instead of at the excessive rates which I have mentioned. I enter my emphatic protest against the action of the Commonwealth in this respect.
.- I desire once again to protest to the Government for its failure to announce that a further payment is to be made to the wheat-growers. I have raised this matter frequently, and I am growing tired of my lack of success. I desire to impress upon the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has been himself a farmer, and who represents a rural electorate, that numbers of rural producers are going insolvent week by week. The difficulties of the man on the land are not appreciated by a great many city people, and are not fully appreciated even by most honorable members of this House. It is almost impossible to overs tress the difficulties of the wheat -farmers. They have so far received an advance of 2s. 10½d. a bushel on their wheat, and transportation costs have to be paid out of that. The average cost of transportation is about 4£d. a bushel, but in some instances it is as high as 7d. a bushel. Thu3, the farmers have in no case received more than 2s. 6d. a bushel, while some have received only 2s. 3d. It is now near the end of May, and the farmers have run up debts with storekeepers, phosphate merchants, and others, and. those debts must be paid. I agree with the Minister as to the desirability of varying production wherever possible. Where the rainfall allows of it, farmers should switch to other crops, and I appeal to them to do so, because it seems hopeless to produce wheat at a profit. The fact remains, however, that large areas arc suitable only for the production of wheat, and it would be difficult to convert them to the production of other crops. It is certain that the Government will have to make another payment. Why, then, not make it when it is needed most? Probably the Government will not advance another shilling as has been asked, but it will advance something, and I appeal to it to make the advance now. Only this afternoon, we were discussing the renewal of the sugar agreement, which will ensure profitable production for the sugargrowers during the next six. years. We know that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is gradually acquiring control of the mineral resources of Australia, and it will be assured of receiving the full cost of production, plus a liberal profit. Every branch of secondary industry is assured of a profit because of the tariff. General Motors-Holdens Limited have made a profit of £2,000,000 over the last two years. Only those engaged in primary industries are expected to work at a loss, despite the fact that the wheat industry is vital to the prosperity of this country. It contributes to the healthy condition of our overseas trade balance, by paying for our imports, and providing the interest for our overseas debts. There are in the ranks of the Government members of the Country party who are supposed to represent country interests particularly, and I appeal to them for their assistance in this matter. The Minister for Commerce is aware of the absolute poverty of a great many of the wheat-farmers at the present time. City dwellers do not realize that thousands of farmers, with their wives and families, are living under conditions far below those of basic wageearners
.- I desire to .bring under the notice of the Government the need for increased production of essential war supplies, if wo arc to play our part in assisting Great Britain and it3 Allies in this war. Months ago, I urged the Government to take advantage of the hydro-electric power available in Tasmania to produce war materials. In this hydro-electric power, Tasmania has a tremendous advantage over the other States, and this should make it an ideal place for manufacturing. The first cost is the only cost in the production of hydro-electric power. Once the scheme is in operation, thi’ power is produced day and night, practically free of cost, and cannot be interfered with by industrial troubles on the coal-fields. The Tasmanian hydro- electric scheme is the second largest in the world. If Australia is to take its proper place in this war, it must produce ever-increasing “quantities of war materials, particularly aeroplanes. We must have hundreds, and even thousands, of aeroplanes if we are to win this fight. We need them for the purpose of training our young men to become pilots, and we need them to send overseas to help Great Britain in its fight against the enemy. The prospect of grave developments in the Pacific should help us to realize our need of a strong .air force. In Germany magnesium alloy is used almost exclusively in the manufacture of planes. In 1933 production in that country was 2,000 tons, whereas in 1937 it had increased to 16,000 tons. This metal is utilized in the construction of aeroplane engines, propellers, and plane carriages and furnishings, including the seats. We find to-day, however, that this Government has not applied one penny towards the utilization of this metal. At the same time we are told that we cannot secure it from Great Britain, because that country needs all of the metal it can get for its own requirements. In view of this shocking state of affairs I am not surprised at the attack made in the press upon the Government for bungling the job of manufacturing aeroplanes in this country. We can immediately secure all of our requirements of this metal from Tasmania, where vast deposits of magnesium exist.
– Nobody is stopping Tasmania from supplying the metal.
– Only this week the Government declined an offer of 200 tons of this metal. In view of these facts I can only conclude that the statements made on behalf of the Government, that it intends to galvanize the man-power of this country, is sheer boasting, because so far it has failed deplorably to galvanize industrial production for war purposes. In reply to a question which I asked in this House, I was informed that there was a shortage of magnesium alloy in Australia, and that we must import this metal. As I have already said, we cannot get supplies from England. This metal is being used in the manufacture of aeroplanes in the United States of America and Canada. The Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies) recently declared that it was intended to produce thousands of aeroplanes in Australia. How can we produce machines here unless we first ensure that we have adequate supplies of the raw materials required ? The Government does not seem to be perturbed even by the fact that there is a shortage of this metal in England. We have also been told that at present we cannot secure our requirements of aluminium overseas, and that for this reason the manufacture of aeroplanes in Sydney has been delayed. It is useless for any Minister to say that we do not require magnesium alloy, when it is obvious that we must have as many aeroplanes as we can possibly produce or purchase. This metal is also ideal for the manufacture of motor cars. To-day the cylinder heads of the Ford engines, which are manufactured in Canada, are made from magnesium alloy. I have been informed on good authority that it has proved to be the best metal yet used for that purpose. Of course, I am aware that large industrial groups, like the Baillieu group, who have interests in aluminium and steel, will oppose any suggestion that the deposits of magnesium in Tasmania should be developed, because this metal would compete with aluminium and steel. Recent scientific investigations show that magnesium alloy is far superior to aluminium or steel for the manufacture of motor cars and aeroplanes. It is onetenth lighter than aluminium, and much stronger than steel. The Government now has an opportunity to give proof of its initiative by developing the deposits of this mineral in Tasmania for use in the manufacture of aeroplanes and motor cars in this country. In Germany, before the war, complete motor cars were manufactured of this metal. Those cars have given every satisfaction. I have been informed by Sir David Rivett that, owing to losses due to the limited carrying capacity of heavy rolling-stock, railway companies in Britain changed over to rollingstock constructed of magnesium alloy, in order to be able to carry heavier freights in proportion to the weight of rollingstock. By this means these companies converted a loss into a profit. I do not delude myself that I shall be able to convince the Minister for Commerce on this matter, because I feel that he is unable to appre- ciate the requirements of heavy industries. The problem in relation to the export of wheat can be overcome quickly, but that does not apply to commodities for the building of aeroplanes and gun carriages, the lightening of the weight of our railway rolling-stock, and the reduction of costs by the replacement of steel and iron by another strong and durable metal. The Minister for Commerce has said that Australia’s resources of steel and iron’ are limited. That being the case, it is his duty to lend every assistance to the development of this magnesium alloy which will conserve our resources of those materials. He ought not to adopt a dogmatic attitude, but should welcome co-operation. I am prepared to give every assistance possible in an endeavour to produce the requirements of this nation. I appeal to him to get down to facts. The fact is that there is no metal for the production of aeroplanes, and consequently the people are being deceived. If anything goes wrong, we shall hold the Government responsible.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I had desired to say something in support of the matter raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), but doubtless a better opportunity to do so will arise. I merely wish now to bring under the notice of the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Archie Cameron) a matter that has been referred to mo by the Town Clerk of the City of Preston. It relates to an application by that corporation for a loan of £16,000 for urgent permanent works. I can hardly do better than quote from the letter itself, to show the urgency and the great importance of the matter from, the point of view of this important public body. I shall not quote the whole of the letter. The latter part of it reads -
I wouldlike to point out that schedule of Loan No. 22 for £16,000 is for immediate, urgent and necessary works of drainage and concentrated storm waters, etc., from low-lying areas necessary in the interests of public health, through increased building activities. The same applies to the need of footpaths for wage-earners, school children and families to get to and from their daily destination dry shod during the coming winter months. The amount of £6.000 for necessary attention to electric lighting services, is essential and urgent. A list of above works and statement of loan schedule is attached for your information.
It is very desirable that favorable consideration be given to the granting of the required permission as early as possible.
The necessary procedure of advertising under the provisions of Special Order for Borrowing required under the Local Government Act is now being proceeded with.
When the estimates of this council were drawn up for year ending the 30th September, 1940, moneys anticipated to be raised under this loan for £16,000 formed a very important part in the preparation of receipts and expenditure for the present year.
Both this loan and loan of £20,000 for works carried out and to be carried out under private street construction are involved in the financial position of the municipality..
Unless the required permission can be obtained or assurance given within the next few days, that permission will be granted to raise this money, which is available, the only action open to the council to avoid financial embarrassment through the upset of its carefully prepared estimates appears to be curtailment of programme of works to be carried out and immediate and continued reduction of staff and dismissals of men.
This position, you will readily agree, is not in the best interests of the community at the present- time.
My council does not anticipate such drastic action being taken by the Commonwealth Treasurer, but “you will understand the delayed permission is very unsettling to my council and its carefully prepared endeavours in the interest of our community.
I assume that the application, which apparently is made under the. National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations, has been lying before the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) for a considerable length of time. I ask the Minister at the table (Mr. Archie Cameron) if he will bring under the notice of the Treasurer, should that gentleman be the proper Minister to deal with the matter, the representations that I am making, as being of some specialurgency in the circumstances, and at least to let me have a reply when the House re-assembles next week.
– The various matters that have been raised will be brought under the notice of the Ministers concerned.
In reply to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), in reference to the suppression of Communist newspapers, and. the right of individuals to say and do what they like during wartime, I say quite frankly that I do not recognize that right, nor does the Government. “We are fighting a Avar, and not arguing one.
– That is what Hitler said.
– I do not care what he said, nor do I care what was said when the National Security Act was passed. Conditions have changed entirely since that time, whatever they may have been then. To-day, any act directed against the internal peace, security and good government of this country, is aimed at this country and has to be dealt with. Certain newspapers have transgressed, and this afternoon I signed an order authorizing that they be closed down. The Government is not going to allow this sort of thing to continue. If other newspapers wish to meet the same fate, they have only to act in a similar way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented: -
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1938-39.
House adjourned at 4.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. Freight and passenger rates charged by aircraft carrying companies in New Guinea are not regulated by the Administration but are matters for arrangement between the companies and their clients. The Administration . has entered into a contract with Guinea Airways Limited for the carriage of goods and passengers for the Administration. The contract makes provision forcarriage of mails and cargo at1d. per lb. and for passengers 40s. each way between Salamaua and Lae.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Defence Works at Windsor.
Mr.Riordan asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Naval Board.
h asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are ‘ being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
r. - Yesterday the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr.Riordan) asked questions relative to the proposed inquiry by the Tariff Board into the question of tobacco.
The inquiry, which is a public one, will commence at Melbourne on Monday next, the 27th May. On the question as to whether the Tariff Board will extend the inquiry to other centres, I may say that, the fixation of the places and times at which the board will hold inquiries referred to it in accordance with the Tariff Board Act is a matter for the board itself. The Minister for Trade and Customs assures me, however, that he will immediately forward to the Tariff Board the representations made by the honorable members with respect to the extension of the inquiry to Western Australia and north Queensland.
r. - On the 16th May, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked me a question concerning the admission into the Commonwealth of vacuum cleaners on captured German ships at present in Dutch East Indies ports.
I have now obtained information from the Department of Trade and Customs which shows that, for the ten months to the end of April, 1940, 51,379 vacuum cleaners valued at £244,907 were imported into Australia. In regard to the view expressed by the honorable member that the vacuum cleaners on these German steamers might be dumped in Australia, I would point out that there are no grounds for this assumption, in view of the following reasons: -
Australian Imperial Force: .Recruits from New Guinea.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
t. - I am not aware of the cases referred to by the honorable member. A quota of reinforcements for the Australian Imperial Force was allotted to New Guinea and was filled. These men were medically examined and transported to Queensland at public expense. The question of raising a further quota from New Guinea is now receiving consideration. If the persons to whom the honorable member refers submit applications for refunds to their Commanding Officers, consideration will be given to their claims. Satisfactory evidence will be required that the medical examinations in New Guinea were for the purpose of determining their fitness for service with the Australian Imperial Force, and that they travelled from New Guinea with the express intention of enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force, and did so enlist within a reasonable period after their arrival in Australia.
Puckapunyal Military Camp SITE
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
t.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 May 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400524_reps_15_163/>.