15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Enlistment op Officers.
Minister for External Affairs yet in a position to furnish a reply to a question which I asked last week relating to the enlistment of officers of the Public Service in the territories under the control of the Commonwealth, in which I pointed out that these men had been refused permission to enlist unless they first resigned their positions?I ask this question to-day because several men from the territories who have enlisted, some of them in the Air Force, and are now in Sydney, have declined to accept superannuation payments made to them on the basisof their retirement from the Public Service.
– I hope that an answer will be given to the honorable member this afternoon.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether the analysis of the national register has yet proceeded far enough to be of value in determining which men of those who enlist should be sent overseas and which should stay at home?
– The national register is under the ministerial control of the Prime Minister who replied last week to a similar question asked by the honorable member forWatson (Mr. Jennings).
– Can the Acting Leader of the House say whether the statement contained in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, that it is the intention of the Government to declare the Communist party to be an illegal organization, is correct ?
– Order ! The honorable member should not ask a question as to the correctness of a newspaper report.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will make a statement on the subject to-morrow.
– Has the Government yet come to a decision as to the measures to be adopted to deal effectively with the communist menace in Australia?
– As I have intimated, the Prime Minister expects to make a statement on that subject to Parliament to-morrow.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to the press report of a speech broadcast from Canberra last Sunday night by the
Attorney-General in the course of which the right honorable gentleman said : “ We have lately heard much about communism. Resolutions warningus to’keep hands off Russia ‘, inspired by the Communists, have been adopted by the Labour party “ ? Will the Minister draw the attention of the Prime Minister to this mischievous and defamatory statement, which is likely to have a prejudicial effect on recruiting among the workers of this country?
– I have not read the text of the broadcast to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall peruse it and take whatever action I may consider appropriate.
– I am in receipt of communications from branches of the Country party in Western Australia who are prepared to organize a scheme to bring to Australia refugee children from Holland and Belgium under approved conditions. I now desire to know whether the Government will favorably entertain such a scheme, preferably under government control and subject to such conditions as may be thought fit?
– The Government will certainly give consideration to any representations made by the honorable gentleman in that connexion.
– In view of the fact that the Imperial Government is sendingSir Stafford Cripps to Russia in order to try to enter into an agreement with that country, does not the Acting Prime Minister think that it is unwise for members of this House continually to ask questions and demand statements from the Government in relation to the Communist party? Would it not be more in order if they were to ask questions relating to an organization in this country known as the New Guard which is led by Eric Campbell?
– Order ! Questions should not contain names of persons.
– Does not the Acting Leader of the House think that it would be advisable to take more notice of the New Guard led by Eric Campbell-
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether it is not a fact that the Allied forces in France and Belgium suffered very severely as the result of the presence in those countries of what is known as the Nazi Fifth Column? Is it not also true that a similar organization exists in this country, that its leader visited Herr Hitler a couple of years ago and, on his return to Australia, was loud in praise of Herr Hitler ? If these are facts, does not the Acting Leader of the House consider that the time has arrived when the leader of this organization and his followers should be closely watched, and dossiers compiled regarding their activities? The organization in this country to which I refer is known as the New Guard.
– If the honorable member is in possession of any information of the kind which calls for the compilation of dossiers, I advise him to place it at the disposal of the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Information arising from a complaint by the Guardian of Townsville. The Guardian complains that, although it was allowed to publish statements made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron), it was refused the right to publish a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Cur tin). It also complains that it has been refused the right to publish statements made by the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and East Sydney (Mr. Ward) notwithstanding that their remarks were published in the Tribune. If the complaint is well founded will the Minister say why there has been differentiation in the treatment of the two newspapers?
– I have no knowledge of the details referred to by the honorable member, but if he will provide me with data I shall have inquiries made, and shall furnish an answer later.
Report by Public Works Committee.
Mr. francis (Moreton) [2.35]. - I lay on the table the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the proposed repairs and improvements to the wharf at Port Augusta, South Australia, and move -
That the report be printed.
As this report has had to be prepared in record time, the committee has, therefore, not laid the evidence on the table; but if any honorable gentleman wishes to peruse the evidence, it will be made available to him in the office of the Public Works Committee.
Motion agreed to.
Sir KEITH MURDOCH.
– Is it a fact that the Government proposes to appoint Sir Keith Murdoch to a position which will entitle him, as well as Mr. Essington Lewis, toattend meetings of the War Cabinet?
– I should say that the person who suggested to the honorable member that such an appointment was under contemplation should be approached for the information which the honorable gentleman desires.
– It has been stated that there is in contemplation in Australia a plan to trade, or forward, diamonds to the United States of America, as they have an enhanced value to-day. As this may have an important bearing on the Empire dollar pool and international exchange, will the Minister have investigations made into the matter?
– The matter will be looked into, and a reply furnished to the honorable member.
Duty on Gifts of Tobacco.
– Is it a fact that heavy duties are being imposed on parcels of tobacco sent by patriotic organizations to troops overseas, and, if so, will the Acting Leader of the House see that this commodity is delivered to the troops free of duty?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and ask that a reply be furnished.
– Yesterday in Martin-place, Sydney, the facilities provided for men enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force were found to be totally inadequate.
– Order !
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that the facilities available in Sydney for the enlistment of men in the Australian Imperial Force are totally inadequate?
– The honorable member is, in effect, repeating a statement for which he has already been called to order. He should ask. his question without making statements.
– Will the Minister for the Army give consideration to the need for providing greater facilities for men enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force than exist at the present time?
– Yes. If the existing facilities are inadequate, steps will be taken immediately to see that arrangements are made to cope with any rush of recruits.
” SIXTH COLUMN.”
– Is the Acting Leader of the House in a position to state the policy of the Government in relation to the formation of a “ sixth column “ ? I am in receipt of a telegram from Messrs. Dobson and Stafford, of Coolangatta. asking for information as to the procedure which should be adopted by organizations of returned soldiers and others in order to assist the “sixth column “ movement in suppressing “ fifth column “ activities in this country. Can the Minister say whether this matter has been discussed by Cabinet, as was promised by the Prime Minister yesterday, and, if so, whether any decision has been arrived at?
– At this stage, the Government has no statement to make in the matter.
– Does the Acting Leader of the House regard as correct the statement of the Archbishop of Hobart, the Most Rev. J. D. Simonds, published in the Melbourne Advocate of the 23rd instant, that “ Tons of good fruit, needed by so many people, has been deliberately destroyed in Tasmania in order that the market price may not be disturbed. Is a civilization, which regards markets as of greater value than men, worthy of the name of Christian?”.
– Order ! I remind honorable members that it is not in order to ask a Minister whether a statement made by any person is correct or not. The question may be framed in such a way as to ascertain whether such things as are alleged are happening.
– I ask the honorable gentleman if tons of fruit, badly needed by the people of Australia, are being destroyed in order to keep up the market price ?
– If the honorable member will bring the statement under my notice, I- shall be perfectly happy to investigate it.
– by leave - Since the review of the operations in Belgium and northern France, which I gave to the House on Friday last, the situation of the Allied forcesin this area has continued to give rise to serious anxiety. At the week-end, some hope arose that British and French counter-attacks against the northern and southern flanks of the German salient across northern France would lead to a reduction of the gap through which enemy forces were moving towards the Channel coast. Unfortunately, these hopes have notbeen borne out. The gap between the French forces along the Somme and the British Forces north of Arras has, in fact, widened. The prospect of effecting a junction of the Allied forces by this means is now becoming increasingly difficult. Meanwhile, the enemy has exploited the opening to the Channel coast with great rapidity. Boulogne, after a gallant resistance, has fallen into German hands. Calais, according to our latest information, is still holding out, although for some days its communications by land have been cut off. Further along the coast, German units have been reported on the way to Dunkirk, whilst Dunkirk itself has been heavily bombed. It is evident that this German penetration so far along the coast must have gravely endangered the lines of communication of the British Expeditionary Forcein Flanders.
An important new development in the last 48 hours has been an intense German attack on the other side of the Allied defensive position in Flanders. The heavy German pressure in the Courtrai area has forced back the Belgian right flank, and the enemy has exploited the opening between here and Menin to extend the drive in the direction of Ypres. British forces, which have gone to the assistance of the Belgians in this area, have been heavily engaged. The Allied forces in Flanders are thus, in general, in a position in which they are subject to intense pressure on both sides.
Along the southern flank of the German advance the situation is largely unchanged. On the Somme and Aisne the French are holding firm and German attempts to extend penetration in the Sedan area have been checked.
In the air, operations havebeen on an intense scale in the last two days. The Royal Air Force has maintained constant attacks on the enemy’s rear communications and concentrations, and very heavy losses have been inflicted on German aircraft. As the result of the many proofs of the efficiency of the British air force in both attack and defence the morale of the Royal Air Force has never been higher. The defence against certain enemy air attacks on the eastern and south-eastern coast of England has also been successful. The estimated total of German aircraft lost and damaged on the Western Front between the 10th and the 24th May amounts to nearly 2,000. Much enemy air activity continues over the Straits of Dover and the English Channel. It appears that the German occupation of the Dutch coast is now being utilized for the dropping of parachute mines in this region. Small German naval craft also appear to be operating from Dutch ports.
Information as to the intentions of Italy at this juncture of the war continues to be conflicting. On the one hand there is no doubt that the mobilization of all arms of the Italian forces has reached a point at which Italy is on a full war footing and ready to enter the war at the shortest notice. On the other hand, there has been a slackening of organized antiBritish sentiment. It is also understood that the British representative who has been negotiating with the Italian authorities on questions arising out of the British contraband control has returned to London with proposals from the Italian Government, which, it is to be hoped, may form the basis for a satisfactory agreement between the two governments.
Enlistments in Canberra.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that men who enlist for the Australian Imperial Force in Canberra are kept waiting for several weeks before being able to obtain permission to enter camp, with the result that many of them find themselves stranded because of lack of funds, and that some of them have deemed it expedient to proceed to Sydney and re-enlist in order to obtain such permission ? If the honorable gentleman has no knowledge of the matter, will he examine the position with a view to having it corrected ?
– I am not aware that the position is as the honorable gentleman has stated it to be, but I shall make inquiries this afternoon, and if he be correct, shall immediately have the matter rectified.
– Has the Government yet arrived at any decision with respect to the export of sheepskins ? Will a report on this matter be made available to honorable members before Parliament adjourns ?
– A decision has already been arrived at, and I hope to be able to make a statement dealing with the matter at an early date.
– Last week I asked the Minister for Repatriation whether the Repatriation Department stopped the payment of 5s. a week given to sons of disabled soldiers when they entered camp for training as members of the Militia Forces ? Is the Minister aware that the department now says that that payment is an allowance and not a pension? As public servants and members of Parliament continue to draw their salaries, in addition to military pay, will the Government consider the advisability of continuing the payment of this allowance to the sons of disabled soldiers, when they enter camp?
– The payment made to children of disabled soldiers is not a pension, but an allowance towards the cost of their education. Obviously, when such a young man enters camp his education is not continued in the sense for which the allowance is granted, and, consequently, the allowance is stopped during that period. The latter part of the honorable member’s question relates to Government policy, and it is not customary to make statements of policy in answer to questions without notice.
– If specific instances are brought under the notice of the Minister for Commerce, in which it is clear that bag merchants charged prices for secondhand wheat sacks last season over and above the fixed price of such sacks, will he take steps to see that such extra charges are refunded to the purchasers concerned?
– If the cases to which the honorable member refers are brought before the Prices Commissioner, I have no doubt that they will receive due consideration.
– In order to enable honorable members to make their private arrangements and at the same time meet the convenience of the Government, will the Acting Leader of the House indicate on what days Parliament will sit next week ?
– A statement on that matter will be made to the House to-morrow.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform the House whether legislation to amend the Repatriation Act will he dealt with before the conclusion of the present period of the session?
– Such legislation will be dealt with during this period.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to a statement published in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph that a senior surgeon serving with the Australian Imperial Force in Palestine has requested some people in Sydney to send hospital equipment for use by the Australian troops in Palestine? If such supplies are needed, will the Minister take steps to despatch them as soon as possible?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member refers. I have very grave doubts that the Australian Imperial Force in Palesline is experiencing any shortage of medical supplies, because I am aware of the quantity of equipment that was despatched to Palestine with those troops. I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– In view of the fact that many thousands of alien subjects have arrived in this- country during recent years and that these people are unable to enlist in our military forces because they are not naturalized, will the Government give consideration to the formation of a foreign legion, in order to enable them to serve in the war on Australia’s behalf?
– The matter raised by the honorable member will be brought under the notice of the appropriate authority.
– In view of the urgent need for the production of munitions, can the Minister for Supply and Development say whether the Government intends to take advantage of the modern machinery now available for this purpose in the railway workshops at Launceston? This machinery is now being used for only a brief period each day.
– As the result of representations made to me a few days ago by Tasmanian representatives, inquiries are being made as to the capacity of that workshop for the manufacture of munitions.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether it is probable that the use of newsprint throughout Australia will be greatly curtailed, and, if so, will he see that the new evening paper, The Daily Mirror, which it is proposed to publish in Sydney, will be allowed its fair quota?
– Rationing of newsprint is not merely a probability, but a certainty.
– In view of the proposed rationing of newsprint, has the attention of the Government been drawn to the fact that each Sunday newspaper published in Sydney consumes for one issue more than the total newsprint requirements of the provincial press in New South Wales ? When the proposed restrictions are being considered, will the excessive use of newsprint by these Sydney journals he borne in mind?
– That fact has been observed by the Government.
– Has the Government yet decided the basis upon which the use of newsprint will be restricted?
- By leave - The Government has decided to ration newsprint for use by daily, Sunday, weekly and other periodical publications. The percentage reductions to be applied are as follows: -
Daily papers -
Provincial papers, 24 pages and under per week - exempt.
Provincial papers, exceeding 24 pages and up to 48 pages per week - 162/3 per cent. reduction.
Intermediate papers, exceeding 48 pages and up to 72 pages per week - 25 percent. reduction.
Large papers, exceeding 72 pages per week - 35 per cent. reduction.
Sunday papers -
Containing 24 pages to 32 pages - 25 per cent. reduction.
Exceeding 32 pages and up to 48 pages - 30 per cent. reduction.
Exceeding 48 pages - 35 per cent. reduction. Weekly papers -
Containing 16 pages or under - 25 per cent. reduction.
Exceeding 16 pages and up to 28 pages - 30 per cent. reduction.
Exceeding 28 pages - 35 per cent. reduction.
For the purposes of the rationing scheme, the tonnage of newsprint used in each separate publication during the year 1938-39 will constitute the starting point for reductions in consumption. The scheme will operate from the 1st July next. The sliding scale of reductions adopted is based upon the average number of pages, broadsheet or the equivalent thereof, contained in each publication during the year 1938-39. Although the scheme will not come into operation until the 1st July, 1940, it is expected that newspaper interests will immediately undertake progressive reductions of the size of their papers so that undue dislocation may not occur when the full percentage reduction is applied. I emphasize the great need for conservation of nonsterling exchange resources, particularly as applied to the dollar. The present difficulties are great, and these are becoming intensified. In these circumstances, the Government has decided that these restrictions shall operate for a period of six months, and before the expiration of this period the question of newsprint rationing generally will be reviewed. The rationing proposals will lead to a saving in consumption of approximately 54,000 tons, which means a saving of over £1,000,000 of non-sterling exchange. The Government is appreciative of the cooperation of the industry generally in endeavouring to find ways and means to evolve an effective rationing scheme.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether the report is correct that during a trial run the bearings in machinery constructed in the munitions annexe at Pyrmont ran hot and seized? If this be so, has any investigation been made to discover whether the failure of the machinery was due to sabotage or to faults in machinery purchased by the Government?
– I replied to a similar question a few days ago by the honorable member for West Sydney, and that answer can be found in Hansard.
– I understand that the Minister’s reply to the question asked by the honorable member for West Sydney was that it was usual for bearings in new machinery to run hot. I now ask the Minister whether that is the only reason the Government can discover for the failure of this machinery?
– As the honorable member’s question is obviously based on a reply given to a previous question, it is not in order.
– As some munitions plants are working two shifts of twelve hours each, and it is anticipated that three shifts may be worked at others,
I ask whether it is a fact that at the Eveleigh workshop no munitions have yet been produced, although a plant was installed at that establishment six months ago?
– To the best of my belief, the statement is not correct, but I shall have inquiries made.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
– In view of the urgent need for pressing on with our war preparations, has the Minister for Supply and Development considered the working of three shifts on all defence undertakings? If this has not already been done, what is the reason for the delay?
– In respect of some munition factories, three shifts have been worked for quite a long time. More recently, in consequence of the shortage of trained operatives, we have developed a system of working two shifts of twelve hours each. I assure the honorable gentleman that the Government is endeavouring to produce munitions at the greatest possible rate.
– Has the Minister for the Army given consideration to my representations that arrangements be expedited for paying allowances to the wives and children of soldiers serving abroad in the Australian Imperial Force, who left the country without making provision for their dependants? In many instances, wives were compelled to take out court orders. In other instances, wives have waited for three months without receiving any part of their husband’s pay, and I know of one wife who has given birth to another child since the departure of her husband, but has not yet been able to get an allotment.
– Yes, consideration has been given to the matter, and everystep possible has been taken to speed up the payments of allotments. Where a court order is in operation, there is no reason why there should be any delay. Where it is necessary to obtain the signature of the soldier concerned, some delay must inevitably occur. If the honorable member will see me after question time, I shall investigate the cases he has in mind.
– Why should a court order be necessary? Should it not be sufficient for the wife to produce her marriage certificate ?
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill 1940.
Land Tax Assessment Bill 1940.
Land Tax Bill 1940.
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1940.
Income Tax Bill 1940.
Motion (by Mr. Spender, through Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) 1930-36.
Bill brought up by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender, through Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax Exemptions Act 1935-39.
Bill brought up by Mr. Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
This hill provides for the amendment of the original act in several particulars, the most important being the alteration of the number of words in the normal telegram from 16 to 14. A further amendment provides that the ordinary telegram of 14 words may now be transmitted from any post office to any point, within a radius of 15 miles, for 9d. That will do away with what is known as the border rate on telegrams. Under the present arrangement, a telegram lodged on one side of a State border, to be delivered a few miles away on the other side, is charged for at the interstate rate of 1s. 4d. for 16 words. Under the new rates, it will be possible to send a telegram of 14 words across the border, or to any point within 15 miles of the office at which it is lodged, for 9d., the same rate as now applies to the metropolitan area. Thus, a telegram of 16 words may be sent for l1d., which represents a net saving of 5d. on the present border rates for such a telegram. A further amendment provides that a 14-word telegram will be accepted in any part of Australia for transmission to any other part of Australia for1s. That abolishes the interstate telegraph rate, which is1s. 4d. for
L6 words. Honorable members will note that there is also listed .on the Notice Paper a Post, and Telegraph Kates (Defence Forces) Bill, which provides for the granting of certain concessions in respect of telegrams sent to, and despatched by, members of the Defence Forces serving both inside and outside Australia. It is also proposed to eliminate the double rate now imposed on all telegrams lodged after ordinary business hours, and in that way distribute the traffic more evenly, as is done in connexion with telephone trunkline calls, which, when made after ordinary business hours, are charged at a lower rate. The next clause provides that double rates now imposed on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday shall be eliminated. These concessions have been made in an effort to remove certain anomalies, which have existed since the inception of federation, and should benefit all sections of the community. By reducing the rate on ordinary telegrams, it is estimated that the additional annual revenue will be between £50,000 and £52,000. The concessions in the matter of after-hour telegrams, holiday rates, and the interstate border rate represent a loss of from £20,000 to £35,000. Another concession relates to the telegrams transmitting news items to broadcasting stations. At present the rates for press telegrams are substantially reduced, but broadcasting stations, which have representatives transmitting news telegrams to them, have, under the present system, to pay the normal telegraph rates of ls. for sixteen words, Id. for each additional word, and double rates for urgent messages. That is a serious handicap, and there does not appear to be any reason why the rate on news telegrams despatched to broadcasting stations should be higher than that on press telegrams. It is, therefore, proposed to grant to the broadcasting interests the same rates as are now paid on press telegrams. The average number of words in a telegram transmitted to any part of Australia is eighteen, and the average cost a word under the rates provided in this bill will be approximately .81d., whereas in the United Kingdom the rate is .83d. and in New Zealand l.lld.
– In New Zealand the distances to be covered are shorter.
– Yes ; and the charge is higher. In the United States of America, where there is a zoning system, the charge varies according to the distance within each zone, from 1.05d. to 4>.05d. a word. The rate is regulated by the distance which the telegram has to be transmitted. Although the distance to be covered in Australia is great, the proposed rate is low. In Australia telegraph messages are despatched from Darwin to Hobart, and from the east coast to the north of Western Australia, but all such telegrams will be carried at an average flat rate of .81d. a word, or fourteen words for ls. The new rates proposed in this bill will compare more than favorably with those in other countries.
– That shows the advantage of public ownership.
– Yes. The proposed reductions have been made possible by careful administration in the postal department, where, after a long period of years, the system of control has been found satisfactory.
– Are we to understand that under these proposals the department estimates to receive an additional £27,000?
– Yes. Although it is proposed to make concessions representing approximately £30,000 annually, by eliminating the interstate rates, double rates on telegrams after hours and on holidays, and by granting press rates to broadcasting stations, it is anticipated that the additional revenue received will be approximately £25,000. But the - benefits will considerably outweigh the slight disadvantages. At present many telegrams contain superfluous words, and it is customary for persons despatching messages containing from twelve to fifteen words to add an additional unnecessary word or initial because no additional cost will be incurred. As the number of words in an ordinary telegram is to be reduced from sixteen to fourteen and the charge on interstate telegrams will be ls. for fourteen words instead of ls. 4d. for sixteen words, the public will be able to send sixteen words for ls. 2d., as against sixteen words for ls. 4d. In the border areas, where the rate has been sixteen words for1s. 4d., under the proposed system sixteen words can be transmitted for l1d., thus showing a saving of 5d. A reduction of the maximum of words from sixteen to fourteen will also be of assistance to the Postal Department, because every 100 telegrams at the reduced number will represent a maximum of 1,400 words instead of 1,600 words. Thus the number of telegrams which may be despatched in any given time will be increased, and that increase, of course, will cause a corresponding expansion of revenue. The reduction will also lessen the average delay in the despatch of telegrams. Even now, throughout the Commonwealth, the average delay is only fifteen minutes, which is a very creditable achievement. There are of course isolated cases in which a longer delay occurs.
– The telegram rate within the metropolitan area will still be 9d. ?
– Yes. The rate will be 9d. within a radius of fifteen miles from any post office in Australia, including border offices, but, of course, the sender will be only allowed fourteen words for 9d. instead of sixteen as previously.
– How should afterhours telegrams be lodged?
– They may be lodged in the ordinary way at any post office which is open for the receipt of afterhours telegrams, or at any station which is closed, upon the payment of an opening fee. The Sydney General Post Office is available for the despatch of telegrams for 24 hours a day and seven days a week. At present telegrams lodged after hours are charged double rates, but this bill amends that provision, and as the result the staff which is operating after hours will be occupied all the time, and possibly additional employees will have to he engaged.
– How many country offices are never closed?
– There are many; particularly interstate offices. I emphasize that the press also will not be obliged to pay double rates for telegrams lodged after hours. That will relieve the telegraph system, by encouraging press users to operate in the slack hours, and so leave the normal business hours more free for use by the public.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill will amend the Postal Rates (Defence Forces) Act 1939. In regard to telegrams, it embodies amendments included in the previous bill, and in addition it provides that half rates shall apply to telegrams sent from or to mem bers of the Commonwealth Forces in any part of Australia, with a minimum of 6d For telegrams being sent more than 15 miles, the charge will be 6d. for fourteen words, with an additional1d. for every two extra words in ordinary telegrams, and1d. for every additional word in urgent telegrams. The reason for fixing a minimum charge of 6d. is to obviate the necessity to calculate halfpennies.
The schedule to the bill deals with letters and letter-cards, &c. Such matter will be carried at half the ordinary rate whether its destination be inside or outside Australia. The charge for postcards will he reduced from11/2d. to1d. That provision was contained in a previous amending bill, hut this legislation makes it apply inside and outside Australia. Printed matter will be carried at the rate of1d. for 8 oz. instead of1d. for 4 oz., so that consignors will be able to despatch newspapers, books, &c, at half the previous charge. Some of the reduced rates set out in the schedule to this bill already apply, but in regard to parcels, the further amendment embodied in this bill provides a parcel rate of 6d. for 1 lb., rising on a graduated scale to 11 lb. for1s. 9d. The present rate is 11 lb. for 3s., and prior to the passing of the last amending legislation, the rate was 11 lb. for 7s. 3d.
In brief, the bill provides a special halfrate for telegrams transmitted to and from members of the Commonwealth Forces, and certain concessions in regard to mail matter.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 1087), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the paper be printed.
– The statement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made to Parliament on the 22nd May was important not only as indicating the further steps which the Government intends to take in ‘respect of Australia’s war effort, but also as showing the very farreaching consequences for Australia of the course that the war is taking. In view ; of ‘ the statement of the Prime Minister, and also the subsequent statements made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. McEwen), there can be’ no gainsaying the fact that the British Commonwealth of Nations is now engaged in a veritable struggle for its existence. The Opposition, throughout the whole course of the war, has adopted the attitude that whatever may be the social and political differences and the divergences of economic policy us between the Government and the Opposition, they, - do not, when all is said and done, require fractious and discordant objection by the Opposition to whatever the Government may seek to do. We stand basically on the original declaration made by me at the outset of the war. We regard this struggle as a vital conflict between two divergent systems of government. We say that Germany caused the war. Since then testimony after testimony has been forthcoming of the utter ruthlessness with which it has sought to achieve its war-like ambitions.
There is no need for -me to re-si:ate the various pronouncements which Labour has made in respect of the inherent justice of our participation in this terrible struggle because we have said so much in general support of the cause of the Allies, and have endeavoured to be as constructively helpful as possible in organizing Australia’s war effort The argument has been advanced that the Opposition can do much more than it has already done to ensure both the success of the Allied cause and a greater, degree of efficiency
in the organization of Australia’s war effort. My reply is that 1 know of nothing that we can do that we have not done, or tried to do, that would serve those -ends. I know of nothing that we could do in the Government that we have not attempted to do outside it. Outside the Government we have a least manifested to the people of Australia that the conduct of the nation’s war effort is in the hands of an administration responsible to Parliament; and that the Parliament, however long this struggle may take, is the very essence and reality of what I shall describe as representative government. That manifestation would not be possible if we were to pursue a course which those who have not examined the position closely are disposed to ask us to take.
It is beyond argument that we are now in this struggle completely. We are in it, not only because the British Commonwealth of Nations is in it, but also because the war is taking a course which brings more imminently to us not merely the potentiality, but also the possibility, of actual attack upon us in our own territory. The Labour party throughout its existence in Australia has always resisted oppression. We have not submitted to those who have sought to impose economic, social or other enslavements upon our people. We have behind us a record of refusal to yield to tho powerful vested interests of our own country which have endeavoured to dictate social and economic conditions to us. It should, therefore, be unnecessary for me to say that the Labour party will never yield to a foreign dictator. We make it plain now that the course which the war is taking in Europe has so greatly increased the danger to Great Britain, that we do not share with certain critics in our own country the view that, because of these developments, the members of the Commonwealth Government should be made scapegoats. If we have anything critical to say. against the Australian Government, or the individual members of it, respecting the manner in which the nation’s war effort is being managed, we shall say it here, and seek to say it in such a way as will be helpful. There has grown up in the Commonwealth in the last few weeks a view that impliedly, what has happened in France and Flanders is, in some way, attributable to what has, or has not, been done in Australia. It is also said that the momentous developments in France and Flanders may be better met, to some extent at least, if certain political changes were made in this country. That appears to me to be not only an unrealistic approach to the problem, but also a failure to take into account the fundamental necessities that confront this country at least. There is danger to representative government, and also to the organized movement of Labour, in. Australia if those who arc engaged in these various public activities are given support which they can organize under their own auspices. Such activities can do nothing to achieve national solidarity and unity in this country, but can only embarrass the Government of the day.
We are sitting on the left of Mr. Speaker because at the last general elections the policy speech which I delivered on behalf of the Labour party did not result in the return of a sufficient number of members to give us control of the Parliament. Due to an accident in point of time, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) found himself Prime Minister when war was declared. This, however, is no justification whatever for laying all the blame for what has taken place in Australia on the shoulders of - the right honorable gentleman, or upon those of the Ministers associated with him. I make that statement quite frankly. But there appear to me to be many issues arising in the Commonwealth which require much more careful examination by Ministers than they have apparently been disposed to give to them. All the subversive elements are not. related to those who are being systematically accused of being Leftists. Much is- being said in other quarters which is tending to undermine confidence in the Government, frustrate its activities, and lessen the respect for the national leadership. At nil events it will not improve our leadership in any way whatever, and will not contribute anything to the national unity of the country. On the contrary, it may make the country a theatre of intense political disputation.
We hold to certain opinions and principles in relation to our social and political order. But we see no earthly reason why, because we hold a different view regarding the way in which the country should be governed, we should continuously and discordantly slate the Government for its war-time administration, when our own common sense tells us that the Government is acting as it thinks it should act, and, in any event, has to come to this Parliament periodically to give an account of its stewardship. The Parliament has not failed the Government. None of the measures that the Government has brought before Parliament since the war commenced has failed to receive ready and rapid consideration.
We have learned that, within the last week or so, the Government of Great Britain has taken great powers to itself. If is neither the province nor the duty of anybody in this country to criticize, either favorably or otherwise, the actions of the government of another country. Great Britain is a self-governing entity. So is Australia. The British Government does, in its own way, what it thinks it should do. It is not answerable for its actions to anybody in this country. The powers which have been taken so recently by the Government of the United Kingdom, as the result of the vote of the Blouse of Commons, are no greater than those which are either definitely stated, or at least very greatly implied, in the legislation which this Parliament passed in the early stages of the war. It is true that there is a fundamental distinction between the two sets of powers. The National Security Act, which gives to the Commonwealth Government almost carte blanche to administer the affairs of the country as it thinks proper, retains to the Parliament the power to prevent the Government from imposing coercion and conscription upon the citizens of Australia. To that I have but to say that only a week or two ago in this Parliament honorable members supporting the Government were as vocal as I have been in declaring their hostility to the employment of conscription as a war-time policy. Therefore, there is no point at issue between parties in this House on that subject. In Great Britain, also, the main parties in the Parliament are apparently united upon it. Therefore, having regard to the general political outlook of the representatives of the people in this Parliament, we can at least say that any failure in connexion with the organization of Australia’s war effort has not been on the part of the Parliament. It is an executive failure, if there be any failure at all. I make that statement with a very great deal of reservation, because I am not prepared to believe all the wild statements that have been made in certain places in recent weeks regarding the Government’s failure to do this, that, or the other thing. It is true that «]] honorable members would probably l ike to see much more done by the Government. But surely not one of us is in a position to say what are the reasons that have prevented some things from being done as quickly as we would like or as efficiently as we would like. There must be, on the part of any government organizing Australia for war, a realization that it has to transform an economic and social system that does not work too well oven in time of peace into a completely national co-ordinated war system. That transition is bound to involve many new problems, and inevitably there must be a great deal of dislocation. When I face members of the Government and their supporters from my place in this House, and seek information about what should be done and how it should be done, I at least pay Ministers the compliment of imagining myself to be in their places before I make any statements. I do that also in justice to my own self-respect. Tha.t is the right and proper mental attitude for all critics, either of the Australian Parliament or the Australian Government, in this hour of crisis.
There are divergences between the opinions of the Government and the opinions of the Opposition on major matters of policy regarding the organization of Australia’s war effort. I stated those differences explicitly, even if shortly, at the commencement of the war, when I said that this conflict was one in which the very safety of Australia’s people and the integrity of its soil could easily be the subjects of actual aggression. I know of nothing that has occurred since then that does not bear out the truth of that statement. Every new phase of this war has made it obvious that no country can regard itself as immune from assault. The utter ruthlessness, recklessness and disregard for treaties and previous statements that has marked the whole programme of t.he German Government have demonstrated the uncertainty with which all countries can regard their position, however remote they may be from the actual theatre of war. That is particularly true of members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but it is almost equally true of neutral countries. The statement made to-day by the Minister for External Affairs refers, in its final paragraph, to the uncertainty with which the British Foreign Office and the Australian Department of External Affairs view the possible future actions of a great power, and suggests that the line-up of our enemies is not yet complete. It must be clear .that, if one of the great neutral powers enters this war, a second great power may also become involved. Therefore those who link the safety and security of Australia entirely with the fortunes of war in Europe are failing to take into account what I would regard as the primary responsibility of any Australian government - to pivot the whole of its policy, first upon the security and integrity of its own soil and people, and secondly upon the contribution that it can make to the common cause. The only difference between the Government and the Opposition lies chiefly in the fact that the Government believes - no doubt for what it considers to be excellent reasons - that the safety of Australia can best be secured by focussing the maximum of its energy upon what the Government would describe as the common cause. Ministers and their supporters contend that Australia’s safety is best served by the maximum use of its man-power in other theatres of war. As I said at the beginning of the Avar, the Opposition differs from that view. To-day it differs even more strongly and with greater conviction than it did then. The war has assumed a catastrophic phase in Flanders and France. Is. there anything that this nation could have done since the outbreak of hostilities which would have had so decisive an effect upon events in Flanders and Prance as to have obviated the present, unfavorable position? The total population of Great Britain, France and Belgium is approximately 90,000,000. Their man-power is more than twelve times that of Australian To exercise any important influence on events, or change the situation from what it now is to what we would like it to be Australia would need to send overseas forces so numerous as actually to denude this country of man-power.
– The Australians turned the scale at Amiens in the last war.
– I am not speaking of what took place in the third year pf the last war, but of what has actually occurred in the first eight months of this war. That is something which all of us need to take into consideration. Whilst I make it quite plain that the situation as it now exists, and as it has existed since the war commenced, allows for differences of opinion between the Government and the Opposition as to what Australia should have done, we now have to look realistically at the fact that whatever men have gone from Australia under the direction of the Australian Government, have not gone to that theatre of’ war which, unfortunately, cannot be looked upon with satisfaction to-day. The position, therefore, is that neither the Commonwealth Government, nor the nation, because of what it has done or has omitted to do, can be held responsible for the present tragic position of the armies of Britain and its Allies in France and Flanders. As we see the position and realize- all that is implied in the dangers that beset us, it is our duty to make certain that this nation shall be quickly and ‘ efficiently organized on a maximum war footing. We must not only make the most effective use of the means that we are now employing, but also use such interval of time as may be given to us to ensure that the utmost preparation is made for any emergency. At the beginning of the war I said that the maximum of our manpower is the minimum of our national requirements. Having regard to modem practice in warfare, a strong air power is indispensable for the defence of this country. For some years past that need has figured conspicuously in the utterances of Labour supporters in connexion with the defence of Australia. Some have not agreed with us, but all the evidence goes to show that the forces on land, as well as on sea, can be either helped tremendously, or damaged tremendously, by the degree of air-power which they possess, or’ have to resist. No nation to-day, however effectively it be organized in respect of its land forces, or even in respect of its naval forces, can regard itself as being capable of self-defence unless it also has a strong air force. Accepting the situation as it is, I sec no way by which Australia can now effectively organize an air force - which we must have, if we are to feel safer than we now feel - except in complete collaboration with the “Empire air scheme. It is my considered opinion that there is an urgent necessity to proceed with that programme, not as was at first contemplated, but by increasing and accelerating its development. That implies’ the most intense concentration by the Australian Government upon the industrial basis of a much larger air organization than probably was at first thought to be necessary. Apart from the difficulties that may be encountered by the Australian Government in getting the requisite numbers of aeroplanes from other countries, and the delays which we, as men of common sense, know will occur in respect of their local manufacture, it should be clear to the Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), that upon that clear-cut line of national policy there will be no disputation in Australia. The evidence given yesterday by one of the largest trade unions in Australia of its readiness to do its part in this task supports my belief that there is no insuperable obstacle to a complete and maximum effort being secured in this connexion. But I offer this word of advice. That maximum effort on the part of the Australian nation can best be obtained by argument and persuasion, by inducement and consideration, and not by beating the big stick or by attempts at ‘ coercion or dictation. The trade union’ movement consists of men and women who are freeborn Australians. They have inherited the same traditions of liberty as have the men and women who are not in the trade union movement. The manufacturers, the employers of labour, and those who superintend labour, are not more loyal to the instincts .and institutions of this country than are the men and women who work for them. If the Government has to negotiate with the manufacturers of boots and the suppliers of other commodities about this, that or the other thing - and that I admit is right and necessary, because the Government cannot understand their difficulties otherwise - the same procedure should be applied to labour, with a view to understanding the difficulties of the workers. The Government will find that a policy of reason will be mo3t useful. It should set out clearly what it wants to be done, and those who are in positions to do it or to say that it cannot be done as the Government wishes will, if they say “ no “, also say how it can be done. This procedure, which is the right procedure for a nation of free people to adopt, especially when the Government is in office by the consent qf a free people, is the only sound policy. Even though we are passing through the most dreadful crisis of our history, let us not scrap our birthright in attempting to preserve it.
It will not be sufficient for us in Australia to devote our activities entirely to building up a strong air organization, and the contribution that can be made in that connexion would be far more decisive in preserving the integrity of the British Commonwealth of Nations than would be a great number of divisions which, in certain quarters of Australia, it is lightly presumed this country can organize and despatch overseas. In addition to organizing our air force, which, I repeat, can now only be done in collaboration with the Empire air scheme, steps should be taken’ to place the land and shore defences of this nation on a better basis. I ask. that immediate steps be taken to train 100,000 volunteers in this country. Before the war commenced I assisted, as did other honorable members on this side, to organize a militia of 70,000 men. That objective was attained. Many of those militiamen have since joined the Australian Imperial Force and left Australia. But since the beginning of this year the Government ha3 scrapped the volunteer system for the service and defence of Australia, and has substituted a system of compulsory training which is confined to men of certain age groups. . That may be cheaper, but it is not fair in principle. cOne of the things which has contributed to an uncertain and unsatisfactory state of the public mind in Australia is that so many thousands of people have volunteered to do things, only to find that the Government has not been able to avail itself of their services. That is destructive of the very essence of the thing that we call patriotism. There should not be one idle man in this country at this juncture. A couple of years ago when proposals for a national register were before us I was asked whether
I believed that a voluntary register, would he any good. I did believe that it would he good. I thought then, and I still think, that a voluntary register would have produced from 500,000 to 600,000 names, and would have contained information as to what training the men had had, and also what they were willing to do. The tabulation and classification of that register would have given groups of fitters, engineers, motor drivers, men capable of working in the manufacture of munitions, and also a vast army of others willing to be trained for the land forces of the Commonwealth. As the result of the information which would have been available, those men could have been trained. One leading newspaper said a few days ago in a leading article, that the men of military age in Australia should be sent overseas in order to save the Empire, leaving to the old men and the children the defence of the Commonwealth. That such a procedure should be thought to be fair seemed to me so grotesque a contention that I wondered whether I had read aright..
Mr. Gregory.; Would the honorable member leave the defence of Australia to volunteers ?
– I do leave it to the volunteers. This nation has never failed to produce all of the volunteers that it has ever sought. I remind the honorable member that there have been at least ten applicants for the most hazardous and difficult service of all to every man who lias been used. Although there have been over 80,000 applicants for the Air Force, only about 8,000 have been accepted for that arm of our defence. I venture to say that that is true also of the other types of service for which the honorable gentleman would ask. Would the honorable member have only conscripts?
– I would train all of them.
– It is impossible to train all of them. There never has been, in any country, a system of training which has not made possible the exemption of large bodies of men for all sorts of reasons. [Leave to continue gwen.] I make it clear that that, too, represents one of the fundamental divergencies of Government and Opposition policies. We say that the 100,000 men whom we ask to have trained immediately should be volunteers. We contend that those volunteers will be forthcoming. We put it to the Government that that would be the right way in which to act, and that when the first 100,000 had been trained, a second 100,000 should be called up. It is also tremendously important that this army should be trained, not on the basis of the exploded military strategy of either the last war or previous wars, but by the High Command taking into account the evidence that is before us as to how this war is being fought. This army must he mechanized, and the foundation of such mechanization is the factory rather than the military college. Although I have the very greatest respect for the military college, I venture to affirm that the factory must be the foundation of Australia’s capacity to defend itself. Therefore, the thousands of industrialists, the workers in dungarees, who are handling tools, are the very backbone of Australia’s war effort, but that involves a humdrum and unspectacular kind of activity. 1 consider that justice has not been done to the Government in respect of its achievements on the factory side since this war commenced. The Department of Supply and Development is not so bad as certain political propagandists would make out. I do not believe that there has been failure on the part of this Minister or that Minister to get things done.
After all, on what has the Government had to draw? It has not dealt with the representatives of trade unions. If it has been let down, the responsibility rests on the employers of this country. They are Ihe persons who superintend the engineering and factory organizations. They have supplied in the past and are even now supplying particulars of prices and volume of production. Any survey of what can or should be done must commence with the request to them to state what they can do. If it be true, as conceivably it is in some instances, that many of them have offered to do things and that their requests have not been acceded to, there is a case against the Minister or the department concerned. I said three weeks ago that too much is demanded of Ministers in respect of routine departmental administration. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) and another Minister ought to be independent of any particular department. They should deliberate together as a committee, exercising general superintendence over the whole of the administration in respect of the war effort. If they needed helpful suggestions, or a constructive approach to the subject, and sought to widen the area of their knowledge, there are representatives on my side of the House who would always be available for consultation. Our support of the Government and our contribution to Australia’s war effort are not conditional upon our being made Ministers of State. The mechanization on the factory side of this campaign has to be achieved as rapidly re possible. The Prime Minister has said that an enlargement of the destroyer strength of the Navy is contemplated. That, too, involves an indispensable requisite. It would be of no use to call up men for the Navy if we had not the fighting ships into which to put them; and if we have not the fighting ships, do we need sailors? No, we need factory workers, men who can engage in ship construction. The building of a dock to accommodate capital ships has been talked about for years, but no steps were taken to put the work in hand. We are now told that we are to have such a dock. I have not been able to read at all closely the report of Sir Leopold Savile, and I have yet to discover in what way this dock can be related to Australia’s war effort at the present juncture. Its construction will take three years. True, the work will employ a vast army of men, but the great proportion of them will be unskilled. I speak subject to a second thought on this matter. Unless the war lasts for more than three or four years, of what earthly use will that dock be in relation to Australia’s war effort? That is something which ought to be examined by the members of this Parliament. I know that the newspapers of Australia will swallow the proposal as a demonstration of the acceleration of Australia’s war effort. So long as something new is being done, they seem to think that that is evidence of additional vigour. I do not. Unless the dock would definitely contribute within the next year or two to the maximization of the forces that we can employ against those that are likely to be opposed to us, there are other needs to which we might apply ourselves with greater advantage. If I am offered means of helping to defeat an enemy if the enemy will only wait for three years, I prefer to spend the money on the organization of land forces, on the improvement and acceleration of our contribution to the Empire air scheme, and on the purchase of ships if we are unable to build them ourselves - because ships are indispensable.
– The purpose of the dock will be, not to build, but to repair ships.
– The reports seem conclusive that the dock will not be available until at least three years have elapsed. If a groat naval battle were to take place on the western side of this continent, between Rottnest and Wyndham, a dock at Sydney would be far n way from where the ships would need it.
– Singapore would be closer.
– As a matter of fact, Singapore is as close to Fremantle as is Sydney. Subject to a second thought, [ ask that that matter be further considered.
– I think that the honorable gentleman will find that his second thoughts are better.
– They may be. The honorable gentleman will admit that at least three years will elapse .before the dock can repair a battleship, unless - and [ am not above suspecting him of it - he proposes to build the dock in a year and to conscript labour for that purpose. There would then be no limit to what he could do; but he would be unable to do all of the other things that have to be done. It is not concentration upon one aspect of defence which appears to me to he essential in the organization of Australia’s capacity, but a proper balance in the. distribution of our population and industries. There must be coordination of all of them in a sensible plan, having regard to what can be done.
I shall now say a word about munitions. It may be perfectly true that, at the moment, we cannot produce all of the different types of munitions that we would like to he able to produce; but at least we can produce to the maximum those that we are capable of producing. Instead of going in for armaments on the basis of the best in the world, without having assured ourselves of our capacity to supply munitions for those particular types, we have to make certain that, even if we do not have armaments of the best types in the world, at least we are using those types for which we can be assured of a continuous supply of munitions. The two things have to go together. If we cannot produce guns of the greatest destroying power, let us concentrate on the next best. At least let us have a balanced organization, so that we shall know that we have the munitions for whatever guns we use. Guns without munitions of the type necessary to feed them would be wasted; and munitions that are not intended for a particular gun would also be wasted. There must he no waste effort in this matter; therefore, there must be the most intimate correlation of these activities.
Something will have to be done in regard to our reserves of oil, petrol and rubber. These commodities are regarded as indispensable. I also say that the organization of our oil supplies must embrace more than the conservation of those supplies. The Minister for Supply and Development may say that the time for rationing petrol has not yet arrived. It must ‘be proved immediately, beyond all possibility of doubt, that no limit will be set to the tremendous consumption of petrol that will ensue once we begin actually to use it under war conditions. That has not been done. We know that the distances between our various reserves of oil are enormous. We do not know in what particular part of this continent the onthrust of an enemy may have to be met. Therefore, we should have not only the requisite motor units for the rapid transportation of our defence forces, but also supplies in as large a quantity as we can procure them, of indispensable fuels. Whatever be the reserve at present, I ask that the people of Australia be at once directed to reduce their consumption of petrol. The storage of petrol is a matter that must have the most careful consideration of the Government and its advisers. It will not be sufficient to have the whole of our reserves stored in one place, or left exposed in a position that would be vulnerable if our defences were to collapse. The effect of that would be immediately to destroy our means of transportation.
I had intended to say a word in respect of a muzzled Parliament and the duration of the forthcoming recess. I put it now to the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Archie Cameron), that we are ready to give to the Government the utmost help in carrying out the general principles of Australia’s defence with a view to ensuring our security. In order that that may be done, this Parliament should not be closed, but should meet regularly. As I said last week, I do not ask that it should meet every week, or every day. But in order that the people of this nation can feel that opportunity is afforded for the ventilation of injustice and the righting of wrongs, their representatives should at least be assured that the Government will meet them not only regularly but also in such circumstances as will ensure the utmost consideration of whatever grievances they may have.
I have only to say, in conclusion, that although we sit on this side of the House and honorable members of the Government parties sit opposite, there is not much difference between us, except in respect of coercion,” conscription, and the number of military units that should be sent overseas. Outside of those matters, there does not appear to me to be any fundamental difference to affect our common allegiance to what are the major interests of the people of Australia. But because we differ on those three things, it would be an act of unwisdom were I to thrust myself or my party into a national government. We see no reason for such a government. We feel that it is far more advantageous to national unity for the workers of Australia to see the spectacle of their party remaining loyal to them as a class, yet, at the same time, supporting the Australian nation in the greatest ordeal that it has yet been called upon to face.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) stated that to-day we are involved in a struggle for our very existence. Whatever differences of opinion may have prevailed in Australia over a week ago, every section of the community is now aroused to the dangers inherent in events which are now taking place hourly. The enemy is at the Channel ports, and the heart of England is exposed, to a danger the like of which has not threatened Britain since the days of Napoleon. The people of Australia, who are looking to leaders of all parties in this Parliament for real inspiration in this time of struggle, will be very ^disappointed indeed by the speech just delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. The first part of his speech was nothing more than an apologia for the refusal of the Opposition to join in the formation of a national government and stand side by side with representatives of other parties in defence, as the Leader of the Opposition himself said, of our very existence. The only welcome announcement contained in the honorable gentleman’s speech was a very belated indication that the Labour party now supports the Empire air scheme.
– We advocated such a policy years ago.
– That is nonsense. It was only to-day that we were definitely informed that the Labour party supports this scheme. In his concluding remarks the Leader of the Opposition promised to the Government the Opposition’s help and counsel) but such co-operation is much less valuable than an offer to share the responsibility of government would be. I thought that I might have heard the honorable gentleman state definitely to-day that he and his party were prepared to accept that responsibility. Public opinion in this country has demanded in no uncertain voice that in the present crisis Australia must have unity. Just as the sheer pressure of events overseas has at last forced the Labour party to recognize the wisdom of the Empire air scheme, the pressure of future developments in world affairs will either force that party into a national government or smash it to pieces. The Labour party to-day is composed of two elements: first, those who stand foursquare with the great majority of Australians in recognizing the necessity for a full-blooded war effort on the part of this country ; and, secondly, those who can only be described as subversive elements.
– I thought that the honorable member wanted unity.
– So I do; and I. am disappointed that greater promise of such unity was not given this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not blame all honorable members opposite in this respect. I censure only those who all along have prevented their leader from enunciating a vigorous war policy. Surely in the present crisis we cannot afford to accommodate people who profess to be pacifists, or who refuse to accept their fair share of responsibility in facing the greatest crisis which has ever confronted the Empire and Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to adverse criticism of the Government which is being voiced outside this Parliament at the present time. A full, answer can be given to such criticism. At this juncture, however, I propose merely to point out that it has arisen because of the tardiness of the Government in implementing Australia’s war effort, the Government’s failure to call for reinforcements for the Sixth Division, or to announce the formation of a seventh division; whilst the German fury had hurst upon us almost overnight with dramatic suddenness and astounding success, before the formation of an eighth division was proposed. However, the criticism, which is coming from all quarters, will be useless unless it be constructive. I applaud the decision of the Government to raise an additional division, but I wonder whether, even allowing for this action, we are doing sufficient. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the difference between the policy of the Government and that of the Opposition in regard to the sending of men on active service overseas. Not one honorable member on this side would send a soldier from Aus: tralia if he thought that by so doing our own existence would be endangered. In matters of this kind, however, private members and the public outside are not in possession of all of the facts of the situation. The Government alone is aware of all of the facts, and it alone is able to appreciate whether any lack of endeavour on our part to contribute forces at any given point, or at any given moment, will weaken the Empire’s war effort. As the result of my visit overseas some five years ago I know that a feeling then existed in Germany and Italy - and in this connexion I was guided by information which I gained in quarters of the highest possible authority in those countries - that when danger threatened Britain the Empire would crumble. It was said that Britain could, not expect the wholehearted support of every member of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the event, of its being embroiled in war. That conviction has undoubtedly influenced to a very great degree the actions . taken by Hitler and Mussolini during recent years. Therefore, any statement to-day that Australia, or any other part of the British Empire, is not prepared at any moment to go rapidly to the assistance of the Mother Country and its Allies, to any point where’ dominion forces could be of most value, distinctly weakens Britain and its Allies in this conflict. For this reason I have always deplored the reluctance of the Opposition to send men abroad to help our Allies on the field of battle. Honorable members opposite, by the constant reiteration of such a policy, have definitely weakened
Australia’s war effort. How many members of the Australian Imperial Force are not working men? How many of them are not supporters of the Labour party at the ballot-box? How great must be . their confusion to find, as they rush to the colours, that the party which they have supported for so many years now merely says to them, “ Well, you wanted to go; but if we were in power not one of you would be allowed to go “. Such an attitude recalls to my mind the statement made to me by an old Labour leader - “If you want to know the real feelings of the working class of Australia, you will seek them in vain from Labour members of Parliament, or in the Trades Hall “. I am sure that the great majority of Australian workers want to make the greatest possible contribution to our war effort. They realize that all that they have worked for, collective security in industry, trade unionism, and the liberty they now enjoy, will be endangered if we lose this Avar. Proof of that is provided by the manner in which the workers are now rushing to the colours. As I have already said, no honorable member on this side would agree to send one man out of this country if he thought that such action was not in the best interests of Australia. However, if we can spare the services of men, and believe that their presence overseas might contribute to the success pf the Allied cause, surely we should send them abroad. I should refuse to accept for military training any individual who was not fully prepared to fight anywhere and at any time in- defence of our cause. We are told to-day that the reason why the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia Forces cannot be rapidly expanded is because we have not sufficient equipment for the numbers who are prepared to enlist. It would be nothing short of murder to send men into battle improperly equipped. If we are short of such equipment, let us get down to the job of acquiring it immediately, even should it involve giving to the Government additional powers.
– The Government already possesses the requisite powers to deal with that problem.
– That may not be the case. In spite of the National
Security Act, I understand that the Government does not possess certain powers that are essential to enable it to prosecute our war effort to the fullest possible degree. While this equipment is being provided, we should take steps to ensure that every man who enters camp is prepared, at a moment’s notice, to serve wherever he is required to fight for the Empire’s cause. Our soldiers may be called to serve anywhere in this conflict, because we do not yet know, for instance, whether or not Italy will ally itself with Germany. It appears, however, that Italy will shortly enter the war on the side of the enemy.
– The honorable member does not know where he wants to go.
– The honorable member who has just interjected promised that he would enlist so soon as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) enlisted, but he has not yet honoured that promise. He prefers to stay with his communistic friends in East Sydney. Should Italy enter the war on the side of Germany, the Allies will require considerably increased forces in the Middle East, the Balkans or in Egypt, and we shall be asked to supply men in one or more of those theatres. To-day, not only are such forces not available, but also it appears that we are not doing sufficient to ensure that we shall be able to supply them should the need arise. I believe that the men can be obtained without conscription. Once the young men of Australia realize the danger - and they are beginning to realize it to-day - I have no doubt that they will offer themselves in sufficient numbers. However, it seems to be a waste of equipment and of camp space to train men who arc not prepared, if necessary, to go beyond Australia to fight. I have always maintained that the person who is willing to allow war to enter Australia before he will fight and who will not use every endeavour to keep the war on our frontier - and our frontier lies overseas at the moment - is a very foolish person indeed. Quorwm, formed.] If wb have not the camps and equipment to train a large number of men at the present time, we should use what we have for training members of the Aus- tralian Imperial Force. I am sure that we can get far more volunteers than we are able to equip and train. If we had the facilities, I would call unhesitatingly for 100,000 men to be trained to fight anywhere at any time.
I come now to the Air Force. It has to be admitted that it will take a considerable time to get the Empire air training scheme into operation. Again, equipment is the all-important) factor. Owing to events in Europe during the last few weeks, it is uncertain whether we shall be able to get the necessary supplies from overseas to enable us to play our part in the training scheme as we would like to do. So far as the war has gone, it seems clear that the successes achieved by the Germans have been very largely due to their numerical superiority in the air. There are other contributing factors, but that is the most important. It is inspiring to learn that our airmen, though fewer in numbers, have demonstrated their superiority in skill and courage over the Germans, and that, since the 10th of this month, our air force and anti-aircraft defences have brought down 2,000 enemy planes, whilst only 600 of ours have been lost. Since air supremacy means so much the question arises, What can we do to help? I cannot answer that question, because. I have not the necessary information at my disposal, but I hope that the Government is giving it due consideration.
A good deal of just criticism has been directed against the Government for its delay and hesitancy in dealing with the subversive elements in our midst. All over Australia there are organizations and groups whose operations are militating against the efficiency of our war effort, ft is a mystery to me why an. organization like the Communist party, which aims at the overthrow of all those political and religious institutions which we hold dear, should be permitted to exist at a time like this. I am in favour of freedom of speech, but do the Communists promise ns freedom of speech ? They do not. We know that communism is one of the worst tyrannies that the world has ever seen.
– The Communists treated the honorable member very nicely when he was iti Russia.
– They treatedme as well as any one else ; perhaps better. They even sent their famous Arrow carsto Riga for us. But what I saw in Russiaconvinced me that communism was ait evil that had to be fought because it destroys, not only political freedom, but the moral life of a nation as well. It should not be tolerated in Australia. If I were -an enemy of Australia, I would not attempt to work only through an organization like the Communist party, which is known to be hostile; I would try to work through organizations of greater apparent respectability. I sometimes wonder whether those organizations which are causing unrest in the community are as innocent as the title on their note-paper would make them appear. I wonder whether organizations which seek to spread financial doctrines which are nothing but twaddle, are really what they seem to be. They have men going around the suburbs distributing pamphlets on which the most brazen nonsense is printed. I know that many of the men so engaged are of military age, and should be at the recruiting booths. I know that some of these organizations are under suspicion, and are being watched, but does the Government propose to take appropriate action? Our great weakness all along has been our failure to act in time. Always we have been too late. I hope that, in future, the Government will be in front of public opinion, and will do what is necessary to destroy this menace at our doors.
On the subject of the proposed graving dock to be built in Sydney, I can speak only as a layman, but I find myself largely in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition when he questions the wisdom of expending millions of pounds on the construction of a dock capable of accommodating a battleship when it cannot possibly be ready for use for three years. Hitler has launched his blitzkrieg or lightning war, but we appear sometimes to forget that fact. We have tended to develop a complacency which has proved the enemy of our cause. If it is true, as we are told, that the Germans are short of oil and iron ore, they will undoubtedly reek a quick decision. Our enemy is not likely to wait for three years until we have finished our graving dock. I think the project should be re-examined by the Government; if the money can be put to better use in some other direction, we should not hesitate to do that.
I believe that public opinion, and the course of events, will eventually bring about important changes in this Parliament. It is only natural in a time of grave crisis for people to come together,’ and shoulder their responsibilities as .a united body. Ever since the outbreak of war, I have urged the formation of a. national government. I am disappointed that even yet the gulf between the Government and the Opposition is not bridged, but I am a little heartened that it has evidently become narrower. I say to the more responsible elements, on the other side of the House that this is a time when united we stand, divided we may fall. In view of all the dangers which confront us, surely the time is opportune to consolidate our forces by forming an Australian national government to lead the nation.
– The Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies) speech, which outlined the Government’s defence policy, gives to honorable members on both sides of the chamber an opportunity to review the whole situation, and to offer candid criticism concerning Australia’s unpreparedness. I refuse to believe that at a time such as this the Government should not be criticized, or that it can evade the responsibilities which it should shoulder. It is the duty of the Government to provide for the adequate defence of Australia and to expand its activities to such a degree that we shall be able to act as any nation should act in time of war. Tho degree to which the Government has failed to give effect to the policy which we understood was in operation is clearly shown by the Prime Minister’s own admission that it is now proposed to do certain things which should have been done long ago. His statement is also an admission of the fact that Australia is unpre- pared for the new phase of war activity which has now developed in Europe. Therefore, we must proceed to examine what the Government has done and consider how we may improve the position.
We all feel very concerned for the unfortunate refugees- in northern Prance and Belgium, and sometimes we shrink from thinking of the serious plight in which hundreds of thousands are placed. Many refugees are now easy prey for large German bombers, and the other instruments of destruction which are used with such vigour against helpless and innocent people. Words cannot describe what is occurring, and no one can visualize clearly the hardships and terrors which are being experienced by those who are forced to leave their homes , and seek refuge in other countries. I hope that it will not be said that those who now offer constructive criticism are being wise after the event. To sonic extent that is true; nevertheless, it is our responsibility and right to determine what must be done in order to secure the safety of the Australian people. We can gather from what has already happened the nature of the responsibility which rests upon us, and the course which we must follow if we are to bt’ prepared. In studying the position overseas, it appears to me to be extra- ordinary that more adequate preparations were not made by the Allied nations to meet the situation which has now developed in France and Belgium. It is ;i matter not so much of man-power as of adequate supplies of modern equipment. In respect of aircraft supplies, it has been- stated in responsible quarters that the preparations made by the British and French Governments were at least two years behind their enemy’s. Whilst defence -activities in Britain have been con((n tra ted largely upon naval power, our enemy, by developing its air power, has placed us at the great disadvantage we are in in- our present position. Although it is hoped that eventually our naval strength will be an. important factor in bringing success to the Allied arms, if appears that Germany has outflanked its opponents in the matter of aircraft construction, and that the British authorities, as .well ‘as those in positions of responsibility in Australia, are not even yet prepared to meet the situation. The Government can escape criticism and avoid responsibility only if democratic principles as embodied in our present parliamentary procedure are to be disregarded. If we were not to place the responsibility upon the Government, offer criticism, or condemn Minister’s) we would be failing to exercise the rights which we should exercise in a democracy, and would in fact be undermining the powers which this Parliament possesses. Should we fail to do our duty in this respect, a force greater than Parliament may arise among the people and usurp the. powers whichour parliamentary institution possesses and thus lead us towards a dictatorship such as we are fighting to-day. In these circumstances the Government must stand up to the criticism which will be levelled against it, and not endeavour to excuse any Minister who maybe charged with failing to carry out satisfactorily the responsible work entrusted to him. The responsibility rests entirely upon the Government and must be shouldered by it. Apparently the sudden change in the European situation has altered the defence plan formerly agreed upon, and the rapid advance of the German Army . brought forward strong criticism in the British Parliament which ultimately resulted in the leadership of the British Government being changed Had not such strong criticism been offered against the leader- ship of Mr. Chamberlain probably he would still bePrime Minister. The representatives ofthe British people in the HouseofCommons,who condemned his leadership, demanded that a change shouldbe made. Ifthe Australian people aredissatisfied they are entitled todemaud thata different defence policy be adopted. Similar developments also occuredin France; where; inconsequence of strong criticism, Gamelin was removed from his position as CommanderinChiefoftheAlliedForces. Criticism forcedthe French Premier to remove fifteen generals in the French Army from the importantpostswhich they occupied, and other radical and far-reaching changes were made. Therefore it is useless for the representatives of the Australian people to bury their heads in the sand and allow personal consideration for Ministers to prevent criticism.
The statement of the Prime Minister dealt with a number of important subjects, out the one to which
I wish to refer more particularly is the construction of aircraft in Australia, which undoubtedly is an undertaking of major importance. No honorable member opposite can deny that the Labour party had sufficient foresight and determination to advocate a complete system of aircraft construction in Australia. That was the principal issue at the last general election. Members of the Labour party stated on every platform that having regard to the nature Of modern warfare and the conditionsin this country, aircraft construction was of more importance than the building of battleship’s. The Government led by the late Prime Minister received advice similar to that tendered to the British Government which concentrated upon naval construction. The building of aircraft did not appear tothem to be of outstanding importance. The opinion of the British Government dou-btless influenced the Commonwealth Government, and aircraft construction here was not developed. By adopting the’ British policy, Australia has not provided for the production of modern implements of war under a decentralized system. Instead of making Great Britain the workshop of the world, defence activities of the Empire should have been spread throughout the dominions: Because British policy has been slavishly followed by anti-Labour governments in Australia , we are now Confronted with the problem whichwe are endeavouring to solve. Thehonorablemember for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) wasincorrect in saying that we are not following the admire of Britain in this matter. It is because we have followed Britain that we are in difficulties to-day. It is a matter of finding just exactly where the advice has to be tendered. However,the present Government succeeded at the last general elections, and the Labour party must, of course, accept the people’s decision; but’ from the time of its election the Government apparently has not seen fit to consider the importance of this matter. Frequent declarations of theGovernment’s intentions have been made and the Government has gone so far as to appointaMinisterforSupply Broadcast’s have been made by Government representatives and literature set ting out what the Government intends to do has been circulated, but unfortunately the Government has gone very little further than the making of speeches. Of course it is nice for the people of Australia to hear reassuring messages broad- cast, as to what the Government intends to do, but speeches will not win the war, and the public is clamouring for some definite action. The Government cannot lightly brush aside or simply condemn this criticism; it is real and determined criticism from people who, naturally, have a keen personal interest in the Government’s activities, and have in mind nothing but tho achievement of the best means of protecting the country, and a desire to make a vital contribution in keeping with Australia’s position, to the Empire’s war effort. There should be no attempt to stifle or condemn public opinion on these matters.
I have been interested in the construction of aircraft in Australia and, together with my associates, I have” been following closely the many references made in this House and in the press to the Government’s programme. Last week I felt disposed to make some comment on this subject and did so; I do not retract in any degree from what I said. Several months ago we were informed that the Government intended to utilize railway workshops throughout the Commonwealth for the construction of Bristol Beaufort bombers, that contracts for many parts of this type of aircraft would be let out to railway workshop annexes and to private manufacturers, and that these parts would be assembled at central workshops - I think the railway workshops of Victoria and New South “Wales were mentioned as central assembling points. It was intended that we should manufacture at least sufficient numbers of these bombers to meet our own requirements. Such was the announcement months and months ago. The railway workshops in New South Wales set out to erect buildings suitable for aircraft manufacture. At Chullora a large workshop was erected, but despite the fact that that building has been completed for a considerable time, no work of any consequence has yet been commenced. About the middle of last year the Government agreed to send to the Bristol factory in England, for training, a number of men, about 80 in all, chosen from the fitting and electrical trades. I am advised that these men returned to Australia in January of thu year, but since then they have done absolutely nothing in the manufacture of aircraft in Australia. They have simply walked about aimlessly and no attempt has bea made to utilize their services. The equipping of the Chullora workshops has not even extended to a proper organization of stores. For instance that workshop has not yet been fully supplied with frames and stock trays to carry various types of equipment required in the manufacture of aircraft. A visitor to that workshop will see ball races lying around the concrete floor and suffering deterioration because of the dampness which arises from the concrete. No effort is being made to store them properly. Other valuable equipment is lying around in similar confusion. Not until about a fortnight ago was a staff sent to the Chullora workshop in order to make preliminary arrangements for the storing of -equip* ment. The only work now proceeding is being done by eleven boys under the direction of a couple of artisans from Fisher-, man’s Bend. These artisans are instruct-, ing the boys in simple form3 of fitting and process making. Furthermore, the blueprints which were sent from England have not yet been set out in such a way that they may be followed in detail. J am also advised that modifications which have been suggested in regard to those blueprints in order to meet Australian conditions have had to be submitted to the Bristol factory in England before they could be approved of. That gives an idea of the unfortunate lack of organization which exists, at least so far as Chullora is concerned. If a requisition is made at Chullora for even a hammer head, it has to be referred to Spotswood in Victoria. The vast stores organiza-tion of the New South Wales Railways is not being utilized in order that material required in the manufacture of aircraft may be provided as rapidly as possible. It is an extraordinary position. TheMinister receives his advice from- what might be called the top of the service, but what has struck me most; forcibly is the fact that in the. upper ranks, there is a great deal of petty jealousy between Smith, Jones unci Brown, regarding their prestige in the work which they are called upon to do. They are arguing among themselves as to whether or not one supervisory job is more important than another. Quite a number of these men have been moving around the various workshops, but still nothing has been done. It reminds one very much of the position in the French Army from which fifteen generals were recently sacked. Those in control of plans for the manufacture of aircraft in Australia no doubt have been drawing high salaries, but they have been producing no practical results. It seems that more than fifteen generals of the aircraft industry should be sacked, because nothing short of action such as that will satisfy members of the public who have become extremely dissatisfied with the repeated failures and breakdowns in the aircraft manufacturing organization. For instance, here is a simple illustration of a constructive idea which might be brought into operation immediately. The New South Wales Government Railways has a stores organization which has taken many years to develop. It is efficiently organized, and it not only buys for the New South Wales Railways, but also for the New South Wales Main Roads Board and other public utilities. When an effort was made to utilize this service in connexion with the aircraft industry, it was found that the prestige of one of these “ heads “ appointed by the Commonwealth Government had to be considered, and, instead of using the New South Wales Railways organization, stores had to be requisitioned from Spotswood or some other part of Australia. There is no reason why all available State services should not be utilized in the establishment of this industry.
There should be some co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. As a matter of fact, honorable members on this side of the House have argued all along that, with proper co-ordination of State and Commonwealth instrumentalities, not only in regard to the aircraft industry, but also in regard to munitions generally, there would he very little need to let important defence work out to private enterprise. Just as a very efficient government organization has been built up in the Postal Department, so similar organisations could be set up to deal with munitions manufacture. Before many more days go by the Government will be forced by public opinion to take over all defence annexes and munitions establishments, including those about to be engaged in the manufacture of aircraft, and operate them in such a way that’ there will be full utilization of all existing Commonwealth and State instrumentalities. Those who would stand in the way of efficient organization must be brushed aside.
– In this case are not all the heads government officials?
– The former Victorian Railways Commissioner, Mr. Clapp, was appointed to take charge of the aircraft manufacturing industry. 1 am not sure just how much knowledge of aircraft construction Mr. Clapp has, but apparently he was given the position because of his organizing ability. Whether he has been prevented from exercising his organizing ability or not, I am not able to say.
– He made a good job of the Victorian Railways.
– That is the difficulty with which we are faced in this discussion. It is not my intention to condemn Mr. Clapp, because I have not heard him speak in his own defence. If he were to state publicly what he thought about the matter - I believe he has already said it privately - we would have a clearer picture of the situation. It is time for him to speak in order, that the people may know just who is responsible for the hold-up in this undertaking. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) talked of subversive activities, but I suggest to him that when practical results are taken into consideration the subversive activities in connexion with the aircraft industry are as serious as those of which he spoke. It would appear that there is something radically wrong. Instead of getting the right men properly organized to do the work, there has also been a tendency on the part of those in charge to whittle away conditions of employment, and to reduce existing gradings in the industry. It i3 interesting to note just how the organization of this aircraft industry should function. Aircraft parts known as details are in charge of a storeman, and a number of these details make up what is known as a component. Storemen must be thoroughly trained, because if the full number of details is not supplied, and for that reason components are inefficient, then life is endangered when the machines take the air. Inefficiency in the manufacture of aircraft can have such drastic results that it is essential that men should be thoroughly trained. Something should also be said in regard to defence annexes. Plant was installed at the annexe of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited at Pyrmont, but on a trial run it was found to be faulty. I have been unable to ascertain exactly what the trouble is, but there is a strong suspicion that the plant was faulty right from the start. Consequently, when trouble did arise it was not altogether unexpected. There again it appears that there is something seriously wrong at the top, so far as organization is concerned. The time has arrived for a complete showdown in regard to aircraft construction.
– The men cannot use the machinery we have.
– If that is so, they should he trained to use it. The Australian workmen have proved themselves to be adaptable. Some of them may not have the requisite skill at the moment, but if they are given even a reasonable opportunity to train they will soon fit themselves to engage in new forms of production, and we shall have all of our machinery working satisfactorily. Unfortunately, at present, there is a definite lag. The Government seems to have had in its mind the development of this scheme over a two-year period. The Prime Minister, in the statement that we are now discussing, referred to matters proceeding “ according to plan “. I ask : What plan is the Prime Minister working to ? Upon whose advice is he working? Was the plan prepared a-t the outbreak of war, or at some subsequent time? Was it devised on the advice of the officers of the Air Force? Was it suggested by the British Government? Whatever may be the answers to these questions, the fact re* mains that our requirements are not being met. If an error of judgment has been committed, the Government must carry responsibility for it, not only in relation to aircraft construction, but also in relation to other developmental operations in connexion with the nation’s war effort. Air-Commander Wackett said to me six months ago at Fisherman’s Bend that, at the rate at which we were going, we should not get a machine in the air before the Avar was over. That was apart from the Wirraways. It seems that he was right. I hope, therefore, that immediate steps will be taken to stimulate aircraft construction in a vigorous way in this country. If changes are needed in personnel, they should be made immediately. It seems to me beyond doubt that they should be made. I admit that Ave should not expect the Minister for Supply and Development to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the details of aircraft construction and engineering, but he is, nevertheless, the pivot around which all our organization should centre. He should gather round him all the organizing ability which is needed to meet the situation which the country faces. He is the centre of our activities. I do not expect him to know all about the details of these operations, but I certainly hold him responsible for the development of an adequate organization to meet the situation. .
The Government ha3 ‘been severely criticized in another place because of its failure to produce a sufficient supply of Bren guns. Recently, we have had thousands of our young men in militia camps for training, but Bren guns were not available for them. Apparently, this manufacturing organization, like that in relation to aircraft, i3 lagging seriously.
I am, at the moment, concentrating my thoughts on equipment that will be needed for home defence. It would he interesting for the Government to make information available to indicate to us the exact position, and the seriousness of the lag. I do not know whether- we have yet been able to do very much in .the construction of tanks. There -is noi doubtthat, the organization in relation to all of these requirements is very much in; arrears, having in mind now the -urgent defence needs of the country. If the nationalization of our industrial undertakings is necessary in order to speed up operations, the Government should not hesitate 24 hours to take the necessary steps to that end. “We can no longer feel, even at this distance from the main centre of the war activities, that we are safe from attack on our own soil. Our own safety depends upon our acting with speed and efficiency in these matters.
I come now to the subject of the despatch of Australian troops for service overseas. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has declared, it is at this point that we find a fundamental difference of policy between honorable gentlemen opposite and ourselves. [Leave to continue given.’) The honorable member for Deakin endeavoured to make a good deal of political capital out of the attitude of the Labour party on this vital issue. _ He spoke with such heat that he was obliged to withdraw some of his expressions. His criticism of us was of the strongest character. In these circumstances, it is pertinent for me to direct the attention of honorable members to a leading article which appeared on the front page of yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Sun. That, newspaper, let me remind honorable members, cannot be accused of ever having shown much sympathy with the policy of the Labour party, particularly in relation to the Avar; yet I am able to refer to this article for support for the Labour party’s- attitude on service overseas. The honorable member for Deakin has apparently not been able to keep abreast of events. The judgment of the Sydney Sun is in accord with the judgment of the Labour party. No doubt its attitude has been influenced by the radical change of the war situation during this month. Here is what it published
Does every Australian realize -
That Australia herself is threatened?
That it may not bo u matter of meeting the menace only abroad this time? That we may yet have to defend ourselves on our own soil nml mav need, our own airmen and sailors In do it?
The great fleet which has been our protection will be spread as. a protection for the heart of the Empire from the Arctic to the
In that hour we will have to protect ourselves.
We will not be able to draw from England the equipment for our defence. All that can be made in the British factories and in those of our Allies and the United States of America will be needed in Europe.
That is the judgment of this newspaper, which must have its finger, in some degree at least, on the pulse of public opinion. Its declaration is solidly in conformity with the opinion of the Australian Labour party. We feel, quite frankly, that in view of the war situation that has developed, and which now confronts us, we may have to defend ourselves on our own soil, though God forbid that that should happen!
Perhaps I should not make any extensive reference to the situation in the East, but I feel entitled to point out that nations, whilst making one declaration to-day, may make an entirely different one to-morrow. That is the history of the international negotiations of the two years before the war. It has also been the history of international comment and undertakings since the war broke out. Nations may speak about .maintaining the status quo to-day, but, how will they speak tomorrow? Who can deny that what a’ nation may regard as the status quo today may not be what it will regardas such to-morrow? The very fact that the Government of Holland is now in London may, in the view of certain nations, alter the whole position. It may be alleged that the Dutch Government is, by reason of its location, being subjected to certain influences.’ New situations ar& continually arising.
Unfortunately, the position in “ the United States of America is unsettled, to a serious degree. It is regrettable, in my opinon, that a presidential election is to be held in that country this year. Things would probably have been more stable if no such election had been in prospect,, and it is probable that clearer thinking would have resulted in more definiteaction in the United States of America.
All that I have said goes to support the attitude of the Labour party in connexion with the sending of our men abroad forwar service. But, after all, the experienceof this war has shown that it is equipment, rather than men, which we need.
The success of the German arms has been due largely to its equipment. Members of the Government have made that admission, and we all know that the great infantry battalions of the German army have not been seriously engaged against the Allies until the last few days. Equipment is, in very truth, the key to the situation. There can be no question about that. This makes our lag more serious than ever.
The Government must carry the responsibility for the unsatisfactory position in which we find ourselves. No matter how the members of the Ministry may talk about their desires, their intentions, and their anxiety to defend the country, they must be held responsible for our lack of preparedness. I do not, for a moment, suggest that they are any less keen than other honorable members of the Parliament in their desire to provide for the adequate defence of the country. The questions we have to ask are: Has their judgment been sound or otherwise? Has the advice upon which they have acted been reliable? Has the Ministry been entirely right in accepting all advice tendered to it by naval, army and air force leaders? If the Government has failed in its judgment, and thereby left us less adequately provided with equipment than would otherwise have been the case, it. must accept the full responsibility for it. I am sure that had the Labour party been in office it would have been called upon to bear all of the responsibility. It would also have been subjected to the most violent criticism. In fact, there would have been persons in the community who would have advocated removing its members from the Parliament altogether. This Government has been fortunate in that the public criticism to which it has been subjected has not been more severe. In my opinion, the attitude of the public to the Government has been generous; but that is not to say that we should excuse its failure to prosecute our war effort to the fullest possible degree. It is of little use, in the present circumstances, to talk about a two-year plan. The whole situation has completely changed now. How futile then it is to plan for two years hence !
– It will probably have changed vitally within a fortnight.
– If it he in our favour-
– We do not know that.
– We should have been prepared.
– God only knows what the situation will be! There has apparently been a gamble, both at home and abroad, that things would turn out all right. Unfortunately, they have not turned out all right. There appears to have been a disposition to hope that something would turn up, whereas we should have been utilizing the whole of our resources and been fully prepared at home. Germany did not gamble. We have been told on and off for years that the German nation was bankrupt. Unfortunately, we. have been sadly misled in many ways in respect of international affairs. Almost every month it has been possible to read in one newspaper or another that Germany has been in an extremely difficult economic position internally. In actual fact, during this period the German nation has developed the most formidable war machine that the world has ever seen.
If the financial system of this countryhas been at fault, we must abandon it. When it comes to a choice between preserving the existing financial system or the ideals of our country and the country itself, there is only one thing for it. We have resented the ideals and aspirations of the German nation, and have hoped that they would not spread beyond the borders of Germany. If our financial authorities have acted in such a way as to leave us unable to resist the threat of being overwhelmed by the ideals and practices of the Nazi leaders, then they have proved to be the greatest traitors that the country has ever known. It is undeniable that because of financial restrictions in the last few years we have been unable to use the services of tens of thousands of unemployed people in this country in order to provide us with adequate defence equipment. Every honorable member must agree that a great many of our unemployed young men havebeen allowed to go to seed because the financial system miserably failed to find them their proper place in industry. These men if given their opportunity would be more fit and able to do their part in defending Australia both in industry and otherwise, and, in the new situation that may arise, we may urgently need them. Australia would have trained artisans to-day if the -Government had kept our factories, workshops and industrial undertakings abreast of modern developments. We could have provided employment for thousands of boys who leave school each year and seek apprenticeships in trade. Their parents have worried and striven to secure jobs for them, but no opportunities have been provided for them to learn to handle hacksaws, files or hammers and chisels. Our present plight is a sad story. During and prior to the depression years, successive governments starved the man-power of the country and allowed potentially valuable skilled tradesmen to go to seed. As a result of that short-sighted policy, thousands of men in Australia to-day are incompetent, judged by ordinary industrial standards. They were willing and anxious to secure employment, but none was available. To-day it would be useless to put many of those men to work in our aircraft factories or other defence establishments. That is a sorry state of affairs. Whoever may carry the chief responsibility, a great deal of shame should be felt by all of us ; and when the rising generations look back to this time I am sure that they will not place the blame on the responsible parties which alone had a voice in the control of this country’s destiny. Since governments of ihe same political colour as the present Ministry have been in power since 1932, they must accept the major responsibility for our present plight. All of the blame cannot be laid on the shoulders of the Labour party. It is not our fault that this country is in such dire straits to-day because we challenged the existing financial system and the influence of vested interests, and we struggled unceasingly to reduce the inequalities existing in our social system. But the United Australia party governments, and governments including the Country party, preferred to follow orthodox lines of finance and tried fruitlessly to continue an old-world system in a world in which conditions were changing almost daily. It accepted 1914 standards to meet a completely changed world of over 20 years later. Whilst we were content to follow the well-worn path of orthodoxy in finance and other phases of government, Hitler developed a new system, and so tickled the ears of his countrymen that finally he persuaded them that the regime which he inaugurated was the greatest that the world has ever known. Having done so much, the people of Germany were in a frame of mind in which they were drilling to sacrifice their lives on land, at sea, and in the air, in order to destroy Great Britain and its Allies, in the conflict that is now raging.
Time will not permit me to discuss problems associated with shipbuilding in this country, but I have no doubt that other honorable members will deal with those matters. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) will recall that nine or ten months ago shipbuilding projects were discussed with him by representatives of trade unions, who pleaded that something should be done. We talked the matter over with Rear-Admiral McNeil, who represented the Australian Naval Board, and the suggestion was that the British Admiralty might be persuaded to authorize portion, at least, of its naval construction programme being carried out in Australia. It was thought that in this way it might be possible to train Australian artisans, and, at the same time, ease, in part, the unemployment problem then existing in Great Britain. We made it clear, however, that we did not wish to see an already overcrowded labour market in Australia prejudiced by the admission of skilled artisans who might interfere with the continuity of work that was available for Australian workmen. We believed that the adoption of that proposal would have benefited Australia ‘ greatly. Sometimes I am inclined to believe that responsible officials whose duty is to advise governments in respect of such proposals help to dig the grave of the British Empire because they fail to grasp the significance of particular proposals to protect, the far-flung dominions of the Empire. This is the sorry picture that faces us to-day. No one will deny that we have neglected many opportunities to strengthen the paramount position of the
British Empire. Leaders of other nations have, in recent years, inclined to the view that because of our inactivity, and because of our failure to do what is expected of us, we do not deserve to hold the position we now occupy as the leading nation. I realize, however, that it is useless to indulge in post-mortems about what has happened. The past has gone. Let us deal with the immediate needs of this country and, without further delay, remedy the mistakes that have been made.
.- I had not intended to take part in this debate, and would not have done so if the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) had not attempted to mislead the House with respect to responsibility for our present defence position. Having been a member of this House for twenty years, I feel that I can speak with some authority about the matter. The honorable member for West Sydney, I recall, was a member of the Scullin Government which so drastically mutilated the defence system of this country. It abandoned universal military training of the Australian youth,, and it carried 0U severe economies in connexion with the Royal Military and Naval Colleges which were transferred from- their then existing sites, to other localities. That Government poo-poohed the suggestion tha t any enemy would ever attack this country. .
– A wise man sometimes changes his mind.
– It is unfair for the honorable member for West Sydney to now rise in his place in this House and condemn others for our present desperate position. He must be aware that the difficulties now confronting this country are the result of the policy of the Labour Government of which he was a member in virtually abolishing Australia’s system of defence.
– This Government has had- eight years in which to reverse any mistakes made.
– I admit that some blame for the present position must rest on subsequent governments for failing to reverse the policy of the Labour administration which- made the mistake of depending upon the League of Nations, at a time when other nations were feverishly arming.
– The time for postmortems has passed.
– The honorable member t for West Sydney, in the whole of his speech, devoted himself to a .postmortem examination of our present critical position. Powerful nations like Germany, Italy and Japan were given a long start in the grim business of rearmaments. It is easy to criticize this Government, which was” expected, within the space of a few months, to make up the whole of the leeway due to neglect of earlier governments. For that reason 1 have much sympathy with Ministers who have had the responsibility of mobilizing and training tens of -thousands of young Australians to take part in the defence of the Empire. There may be ground for criticism of the present Government, but I think attention might more justly bo directed at that earlier government which abandoned the defence of this country. I hope, however, that we shall have no more of these post-mortems.. I sincerely trust that in this grave crisis all sections of the people will stand together. We need unity now more than at any time in our history. If we are to save this country we must stand together. I think it is unwise to discuss at length the situation which is causing us so much concern.’ We might with more advantage give attention to those measures which it is essential should be passed by this House for the purpose of ensuring our safety. Above all I should like to see the establishment of a national government. I should very much like to see the Leader of the Opposition in a national ministry. The honorable gentleman has always been helpful to the Ministry, and generous in his criticism of it. He very wisely takes the broad view. I know, of course, that he has to answer to his party, and I think it a very great pity that his party will not get behind him. We have our backs to the wall. This is no time for party differences. I hope that a.ll sections of the’ people will come together and face with courage the situation in which we as a unit of the Commonwealth of Nations find ourselves.
!- To-day Australia, as an integral part of the British Empire, faces a grave crisis. The position of the allied forces iu France a lid* Belgium is desperate. The enemy is at our gates and the fate of humanity and civilization, as we know it, is trembling in the balance. “England itself is nearer to actual invasion than it has been at any time in the last 150 years. As honorable members are aware, a hairbreadth may separate success from failure, victory from defeat.. Therefore, any assistance that Australia may be able to give to the Empire may be a decisive factor in this war, even though our trained forces may not be able to give immediate help on’ the western front. In a crisis such as this, we should not stand on ceremony and should consider at once what action should be taken. Our duty ls to face naked facts. If there should be mistakes in the Government’s direction of the country’s war effort, we should not cloak those mistakes. We should correct them. That has been done in France already. The Premier of that country has dismissed a number of generals from the army. The people of Great, Britain have realized the seriousness of the position and have done what they can to expedite their war effort, because they know that the problems of this war are not static. The conditions of warfare are changing continually, and the people of Great Britain realize that each new situation may have to be met with new measures directed by new men. It is obvious that at a time like the present, inefficiency of administration or indecision in implementing policy may be just as damaging in their effects as actual treason. It seems to me that the Government has at last recognized the importance of that fact. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced a week ago that the Government intended to accelerate its war programme.
We should examine that programme in an endeavour to see whether, even yet, it meets the requirements of the occasion, desperate as it. is. We can only appraise the true value of the Government’s programme by examining the present condition of our war effort, very carefully and asking ourselves how much of what, has been achieved is the direct result of this Government’s activities and how much is the result of the activities of previous governments. In order properly to evaluate that programme, Ave must compare it, not with what has been done previously in this country, but with what our Allies are doing and also with what our enemies are doing. We must acknowledge that, although the pace of our actions here may bc faster than ever before, we are likely to be defeated if our enemies are racing while Ave are onlywalking. We should be victorious, if Ave concentrate upon achieving that end, because our resources entitle us to victory if Ave use them efficiently and quickly.
Honorable members will recall that about eighteen months ago the Lyons Government, which preceded the Menzies Ministry, submitted its war programme to this House. It said that it would expend more than £63,000,000 on preparations for the Avar which it believed to be inevitable. It said that it would expand the Australian fleet by purchasing new cruisers from the British Government and reconditioning certain cruisers in Australia. It declared, also, that in order to provide the best facilities possible for British and American battleships in the event of danger threatening the nation, it wouk build a dock in Sydney capable of accommodating those enormous vessels. Incidentally, by way of reply to remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. ‘Curtin), I point out that I regard the construction of such a dock as not only a military necessity, but also a civil need. When I was in the United Kingdom three or four years ago, I discussed
Tho next item in the programme of the previous Government was that 78,000 men should be at once enlisted in the Militia. Provision was also made for the raising of the first section of a permanent mobile force, as recommended by General Squires. There was also an expansion of the air programme, including the construction of bases at Townsville, in Queensland, and in New Guinea. That Government also made provision for the manufacture of aeroplanes. Preparatory work had already been undertaken, the Commonwealth aircraft factory being practically completed and ready to function. Before it went out of office, that Government had also made partnership arrangements with the British Government to build aeroplanes in Australia, half of the output to be for Australia and half for Great Britain. It also envisaged a huge expansion of industrial production. It proposed to set up an industrial panel of the best men among the industrialists of Australia, and it tried to secure the appointment to that panel of representatives of the trade unions. It also established a National Council for the purposes of co-ordinating the activities of the States and the Commonwealth, and of ensuring that the money expended would be used to .the best purpose. That Government realized that the interests of the States of the Commonwealth were one and indivisible, and that while prosecuting the war with all the rigour possible, it should see that industry functioned fully at the same time. On the economic side, that Government made arrangements with Great Britain for the sale of our surplus exports. .Provision was also made for the appointment of various committees, some of which were brought into existence in February of last year. A new chapter dealing with exports was added to the War Booh; the National Register Bill was framed and an agreement had been reached with some of the States to transfer to works of a military value some of the money allocated to other works. That was the programme which was being carried out by the Government which preceded the Menzies Government. The new Government had six months before war began to continue those preparations, but apparently it did not think that war was fir Earle Page. imminent. It delayed the construction of a graving dock, with the result that that work is only now about to commence.
– The right honorable gentleman should tell us how long the Government has had the report on the dock.
– The report has been in the hands of the Government for, perhaps, only two or three months, but the previous Government did not intend to wait for the full report. Nor did it want a report about every port in Australia. Sydney was the obvious strategic site. The expert who submitted the report left the country months before the document reached the Government.
This Government has also abandoned the attempt to create a permanent force of from 8,000 to 10,000 men in Australia, although provision for its creation had been made. The establishment of a National Council, which was approved by all of the Premiers, was a wise and prudent proposal of the previous Government. The Australian Manufacturer, in its leading article of the 15th April, said that the establishment of a National Council and the provision of an adviser on supply and development to co-ordinate industry would mean a great deal in accelerating the development of Australia. I say these things in order to indicate that the present Government evidently did not think that war was imminent. One has only to cite statements by the Prime Minister to show that that was his view. However, war has come upon us. When we consider our population and resources, we must admit that our efforts bear unfavorable comparison with those of the sister Dominion of New Zealand, or of Canada. The important point now is that nine months after war began the Government has at long last decided to build a graving dock, to have continuous consultation with the States, and co-ordination along lines determined fifteen months ago. I atn pleased that the Government has decided to appoint a Director-General of Recruiting, whose duties will be to rouse the latent enthusiasm of the people of this country, but. in the present circumstance.?, that decision does not go far enough. We must go a. great deal further and mobilize our manhood more effectively than we have done. To that end, we must do four things. We must make to the people of Australia an appeal that will be universally acceptable; we must set up an organization to enable us to make the best use of the country’s man-power and. its material possessions; the whole of the people must be disciplined ; and we must provide the proper equipment without which no modern war can be successfully waged. There are certain things which must be done if our efforts are to tie successful. As to an appeal to the people, I believe that, despite what was said this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition, the formation of a national government in this country, as in England, would have an extraordinary influence on the people, because it would show that unity prevails in the highest council of the nation. We should go further, and be prepared to co-opt men from outside Parliament to assist us if they command the confidence of large Sections of the people. In England, Mr. Ernest Bevin, secretary of the general trade union movement, has been co-opted, just as during, the last war Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. Barnes, prominent Labour leaders, were called in to assist the Government. If this were done, the Government, could rely on greater support from the people generally. If it be impossible to do that, I put it to the Government and to the Opposition that it should he possible for us in Australia to do as New Zealand has done. The Government could remain as it is, but there could be a National War Council on which Labour leaders, not merely in Parliament, but also from outside Parliament, could discuss with the Government the various problems to be faced, and then place them before the people, so that every section of the community would know what was needed. It is useless to say, as the Leader of the Opposition says, that there are only a few points on which we differ, because those few points are fundamental. We must keep on endeavouring to find some highest common factor on those points which will enable us to make a unified effort. In this House of the Parliament there are 75 members who have been chosen to represent the people. Is there not some way in which every one of us who, I take it, has some special quality or he would not be here, could be used in the national interest? Some may be employed in a recruiting drive; others, in fostering harmony in industry; others, in encouraging the producers to work better; and, still others, in assisting business people with, their financial problems. If we could do that - this Parliament, acting as a kind of national council, and each of us doing the job for which he is best fitted - we could return every six or eight weeks and spend a week or two together. There would not then be the present clamour for Parliament to remain open; the Executive would he able to do better work, because it would be able to devote its energies to problems of administration : and the work of the Parliament would be more beneficial because of the experience gained by members. If we do nothing more, I strongly urge that we do that much. We must get closer together. Our political differences are nothing compared with our hatred of the methods of the Huns. Our political fears are nothing to the fears for our standards of living should the Huns succeed.
A few weeks ago there was a big conference in Canberra to discuss how best to reduce the amount of money sent out of the Commonwealth to buy petrol. Proposals for rationing petrol were not favoured because it was contended that rationing without exemptions would ruin many business people. There was also a suggestion that the use of petrol would be lessened if the . price were increased by the imposition of higher duties. Several suggestions were put forward, but the conference could not agree that any of them would work. Since then the Government has accepted the simplest but, at the same time, the worst method, that of imposing a further tax of 3d. a gallon on petrol. The higher price of this commodity is affecting timber carriers who haul the logs to the mill, as well as those who take the sawn timber to the railways and the ports. These men are working on contract, rates which have been cut to the bone. The additional charges which they will have to meet will ruin them. Other men who convey cream long distances will also be adversely affected. In fact, all carriers will be hit hard by the increase- of -“the price of petrol. Surely we should be able to devise some better system, so that essential industries may be provided with their requirements of petrol, even if it means that “ joy-riding “ will have -to be discontinued. Those who need petrol for their businesses should be able to get it, whilst those who use it only for their own enjoyment should not be able to get it at all. Should the war last for some years - and if the forces now fighting in France are defeated within the next two or three weeks, it will last for years - we shall have to continue our war effort and at the same time maintain, as far as possible, our normal business activities. We shall not be able to do that if we strike a blow at our essential industries. The Germans are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and before we can defeat them we must show the same indomitable courage and determination to win. According to reports, it appears that, although there are millions of troops arrayed against us, the German nation is only half mobilized in a military sense, the other half being employed in productive activities for the nation. We must act in such a way that our nation also can put forth its best effort. To that end, we must organize our resources more efficiently. Efficient organization would surely mean that the big administrative departments of the States, in which there are many trained men, should be used to their fullest capacity. If the States are to be stinted of money, as they must be [f we are to meet our war commitments, the services of State officials -should be put to the best possible use.
In the recruiting campaign, every State and local government activity should be utilized. I was glad to hear the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) say yesterday that he was issuing instructions to that effect. It is necessary to do very much more than has been done so far. The age limit should be raised still further. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the attempt should be made to raise a large volunteer army for home defence as well as overseas. I am completely in favour of that. Instead of the age limit being 40 years for such an army, it should be 48 years or 50 years. I believe that scores of thousands of men of from 50 to 55 years of age would be able and willing to undertake’ home defence duties, and thus release the younger men for other military duties or industrial occupations. Organization is needed to ensure that the best possible use is made of our man-power. Three or four days ago, an appeal was made by the Minister for the Array for the enlistment of members of the medical profession, of which there is a shortage in the military organization. If health inspectors and others who have had two or three years’ training in certain medical aspects were permitted to deal with certain aspects of camp life, the fully-qualified medical men could he relieved of much routine work and could devote their attention to the more important duties. On a. recent visit to the Sydney showground, 1 learned that the only doctor whose services could he obtained to give attention to the troops was a . doctor for women’s diseases who attended for half a day. He admitted that not for many years had he treated- such cases as those with which he was there called upon to deal. If a certain percentage of men of the old Australian Imperial Force were placed in each battalion, they would provide muchneeded stiffening, and enable the younger men to obtain experience which would be invaluable. From what I have gathered from returned soldiers throughout Australia, thousands of them are straining at the leash in their anxiety to serve in the forces. If the war should last for a considerable length of time we shall have to send overseas or train for the defence of Australia in this country a much larger number of troops than we have yet thought it necessary to raise. It is abaclutely essential that men of all classes should be subjected . to discipline, and be trained in the routine of camp life. It would be an easy matter to have a volunteer force trained by members of the old Australian Imperial Force.
What is most important is the organization of the equipment of Australia. Training could easily he proceeded with even with inadequate equipment. Up tothe present there has been only a minimum of equipment, and the training has not suffered greatly on that account. In speaking of equipment I refer not merely to the provision of clothing or munitions, but to a very much wider range. Mr. L. J. Hartnett, in an article that he contributed to the Sydney Morning Herald in July of last year, gave a proper definition of equipment when he said -
There is a natural tendency when thinking of war, and then of industry, to associate them with shells, guns, aeroplanes, tanks, and the like; but wo must visualize that in time of war to-day, there is hardly a single article which does not become an essential supply. Whether it be chocolate for emergency rations, canaries to detect poison gas, special clothing materials for decontamination squads - they are all as essential as the guns and ammunition.
Supply is Vital.
The next war, unlike the wars of earlier days, will be “ all in “, total involvement, total siege warfare; civilians - men, women and children - and all the production capacity, wealth, and everything else will be drawn in.
I point to this because I interpret “ industry “ as “ all industry “. We must overcome the tendency on the part of many manufacturers and others to shrug their shoulders and say “ it won’t affect us much because we are not an engineering firm capable of making shells or guns “.
What we need to endeavour to secure by organization is the smooth production of all essentials. In connexion with primary production, the supply of electricity in country districts will have to be substantially increased, because when the young men leave the farms for military service, the work will have to be continued by their fathers, mothers, sisters and younger brothers. The ravaging of Holland, Denmark, Norway and the Baltic States will make it necessary for us to send to Great Britain much larger quantities than we have been sending of butter, meat and other primary products. Many years will elapse after the termination of the war before those countries will be able to resume production, . so that we need have no fear of losing whatever market we may secure. Further, more and more artisans should be trained. If it be not possible to train them fast enough in the engineering shops, the Commonwealth should assist in their technical’ training in the various technical schools of Australia. The building of ships in Australia must be undertaken, to enable our goods to he exported. If Germany takes possession of a. large stretch of the Atlantic coast, or if Italy should enter the war and its submarines should take to the open sea or control the Mediterranean, many Allied cargo vessels may be lost. If this is to he a war to a finish, an extra ship or dock may mean all the difference between our being able to keep Great Britain supplied with foodstuffs right up to the last stage, and being conquered by reason of a shortage of supplies.
As a last word, I should say that the one thing of which there is a shortage is man-power. Statistics show that in the last war the deaths from disease were twice as great as the deaths from wounds. Every endeavour should therefore he made to ensure that the fullest advantage is taken of the advances that have been made in surgery, medicine, dentistry, and the preservation of foodstuffs. It would be false economy to limit the number of doctors and dentists attached to our battalions and hospitals, when by their assistance we might easily double our actual effective fighting strength. I hope that the Government will not take a parsimonious view of this matter. The surest way to increase our man-power is to provide the utmost degree of the best medical and dental treatment. The future of Australia can best be assured by the development of an organization in war-time that can be carried into peace-time, for the preservation of the health of the nation.
Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
.- One need not emphasize the gravity of the war news received tonight, and, in consequence of it, one does not desire to address the House at length. Australia is now experiencing one of the most critical periods in its history. We have the privilege of living in probably the freest country in the world, and we must face up to the grave possibilities of the international situation. If ever there has been a time when Australia should be “ on side “ it is to-day. We are at death grips with a ruthless and formidable foe, and, in view of this awful peril, we must put every ounce of available energy into the struggle. Thesituation calls far unity of thought and action. This is no time for political disunity. As we are engaged in an all-in war, we should not have some in and some out, bickering and criticizing, and placing obstacles in the way of the Government, which is doing its best to overcome the great difficulties with which it is confronted.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) made an impressive and temperate speech. He said that if, in the conduct of this war, there had been any failures at all, they had been Executive rather than Parliamentary ones. Notwithstanding interjections by honorable gentlemen opposite, he said that he wa3 quite satisfied with the Government’s action in the conduct of the war. It was interesting to hear the Leader of the Opposition support the Empire air training scheme, and he urged its acceleration. L” should go a long way with him in his remark that the foundations of defence lie in the workshops of our country. “War, as waged to-day, is more mechanized than at any other period. I believe that members of the trade unions of Australia are loyal sons of Australia, and will do their part in the great national effort that is required. This is a time for deeds, not words. My object in rising is merely to say that, if ever there was an occasion when a national government should be formed, so that it could speak with one voice and obtain unity of action, in order to preserve our freedom, it is now.
– The speech delivered to-day by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was typical of most of his remarks on war issues since the present crisis has developed. I, for one, was unable to conclude that the attitude revealed by him to-day indicated a radical change from that taken up by him for a considerable time past. Characteristically, his speech was oratorical and academic, but unhelpful to the Government in this time of national stress. The same may be said of the speech delivered by the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who followed the Leader of the Opposition. Those honorable gentlemen represent different factions of the Australian Labour party, but none the less, they are representative spokesmen of the same movement, which holds about half of the electorates of Australia. They criticized the Government for failure to do many things, and the burden of their song was that many steps which the Government is compelled to take to-day should have been taken in the past. I remind honorable members generally that, until lately, no recognizable efforts have been made by honorable members opposite to force the issue on the very matters about which they spoke to-day. The Leader of the Opposition concluded his speech by stating, almost in an offhand way, that he was really not concerned with the proposal for the formation of a national government, because his party still held the opinion that the situation did not call for any dissolution of the present status of the Opposition. He argued that an alert and critical Opposition would be much more valuable to the nation in this time of crisis than co-operation by all parties in the House for the purpose of forming a national administration.
If I remember his words aright, he said that there were two fundamental issues which made it impossible, in any circumstances, for the party which he leads to accede to the demand throughout. Australia for a national government. One was tha,t his party was concerned about the number of men to be sent overseas. It should be noted that he did not say anything about the desirability of sending men overseas. He also stated that his party was not really in sympathy with the present methods by which the Government is raising manpower for the defence of this country. I took that to mean that he regarded the present compulsory training system as virtually conscription, and that, while the Government maintained that policy, there could be no active co-operation between his party and the parties composing the present Government. Only a cursory examination of these two points is required to realize how fictitious they are. In the first place, the people of Australia have almost unanimously accepted the system of compulsory military training during the present crisis, and even the Labour party, until the Leader of the Opposition spoke to-day, has not ventured to suggest any alteration of that system. Now the Leader of the Opposition says that, because his party cannot get an assurance that the Government is not in favour of the policy of conscription, it cannot possibly join in a national government. As the Government has given most unqualified assurances that conscription for service overseas will not be introduced, and as the people have accepted, almost without dissent, the system of compulsory training for home defence, the honorable gentleman and his party cannot possibly maintain that as a valid ground for refusing active co-operation in the prosecution of Australia’s war effort. As to sending men overseas, the honorable gentleman referred to the number of men. I took that to mean that he is not too certain in his own mind whether the movement which he represents is prepared to-day to recede from the policy adopted by the Government of sending a certain number of men overseas. He should amplify his remarks in. that regard, and I think that the public will expect him to do so in the near future. Are spokesmen of his party prepared to say, even at this late stage, that Australia should withdraw from that policy; that in some way we should recall the men already overseas; that we should not send reinforcements to them ; or that we should not raise additional divisions for overseas service? Members of the Opposition should have cleared that matter up. Surely they now have an opportunity to say definitely that they refuse to join forces with the present Government in the interests of Australia and the Empire, because they do not wish more men to be sent overseas.
– That point was explained in the Corio by-election.
– Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. If that by-election were fought again now, I doubt whether the result would be the same.
I draw attention to the intense public agitation that is general throughout Australia. Lengthy reports have appeared in the press about public meetings, at which resolutions have been passed, in the most forthright terms, demanding that the parties come together, forget their political differences and join in forming a national government that will concentrate every effort upon the preservation of Australia and the granting of adequate assistance to the Empire. The storm is growing in intensity.Up to the present grave turn of events, there was not a great deal of dissatisfaction with what had been done by the Government; but, because, in the last few weeks, the situation has changed very much for the worse, the public has become more alarmed than before, with the result that it demands a speeding up of our war activities, and a union of all parties in this Parliament. If honorable members have it in their minds that the formation of a national government is really desirable, they should express that view during this discussion, which may be the last opportunity they will have to speak on war issues before the House goes into recess. The Leader of the Opposition should give a better lead on these matters. Much criticism has been directed against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I will say that not much of it has come from the Opposition, but outside this Parliament there has been a lot of press criticism of the Prime Minister, the Government, and of Parliament. “We know that the Prime Minister has done everything that one man can do to provide adequate leadership for the country at a time when problems of a kind never before revealed are calling for solution. No leader in the last war had a greater task to perform, nor could he have given a better account of himself than the Prime Minister is giving. In the circumstances, are we justified in throwing the whole burden on to one man? Is it right that we should attempt to make him the scapegoat? Because we lack mechanized forces, because we have not established a shipbuilding industry, and have not sufficient skilled artisans, are we to tell the Prime Minister that he alone is to blame? That kind of criticism panders to a section of opinion in the country which is always ready to look for a scapegoat, but we know that there is no justification for turning and rending one man at this moment of crisis, merely because he does not measure up to the standard. which this section of opinion or that chooses to set up.We are entitled to a greater degree of cooperation from the Opposition, which represents half the electors of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition, as the spokesman of that vast body of opinion, lias some responsibility at a time like this. So has the honorable member for West Sydney, as the representative of a party which claims to be the dominant Labour party in New .South Wales. These leaders are not justified in standing aside and leaving the entire job to the Prime Minister. What lead are they giving at this time? They have criticized the Government for what it is doing, and particularly for what it is not doing, but they have not attempted to seek tho underlying causes. They have not said that most of our difficulties at the present time are due to the fact that, when there was a Labour government in power a few years ago, our defence system was practically abolished. Since then it has had to be built up again. The honorable member for West Sydney blamed the depression and the financial system which, he said, deprived the Labour Government of the financial resources necessary to maintain an expensive defence structure. In the circumstances, he said, there was nothing to do but to let the defences go. Members of the Labour party do not now accept any share of the blame for our present position, but seek to hold this Government, and the present Prime Minister, entirely responsible. In my opinion, the logical thing for the Leader of the Opposition and. the honorable member “for West Sydney to do is to make an offer to the Prime Minister, saying to him, “ If the weight is too much for you, if you want our co-operation, we shall give it to you “. They do not do that, however. Having criticized the work of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition said that it was useless for the Government to look for anything more than tacit co-operation from the Opposition. “We shall criticize the Government in a friendly way,” he said, “but there are certain fundamental differences between our parties.” In my opinion, those differences are fictitious. In the present crisis, they simply do not exist, and the Leader of the Opposition is well aware of it. The people of Australia are not afraid that conscription will be introduced. The Labour party has attempted to raise this bogey, but it has failed signally to arouse any enthusiasm with its anti-conscription cry. According to the Leader of the
Opposition, the conscription issue is supposed to be one of the fundamental differences between the Opposition and the Government. The .other, is the question of how many men are to be sent overseas. Why does not the Leader of the Opposition tell us himself’ how many should be sent, or whether any should be sent at all? An authoritative statement from him on this point would be helpful. The honorable gentleman gives himself the lie when, after treating us to sanctimonious assurances that he is anxious to help the Government, he runs away from the first real issue that is raised. In the circumstances, we are inclined to doubt his assertion that” he wishes to do only what isbest for the country.
We were told by the honorable mem’ber for West Sydney that one of our greatest weaknesses at the present time was the shortage of skilled workmen, and for that he blamed the employers. Though there is a shortage of skilled workmen, the blame does not rest with the present industrial system ; it rests with the educational systems of the various States. The Commonwealth Government has no control over technical education. If we are now faced with a tragic shortage of skilled labour, let us put the blame where it belongs, that is, on the State governments. It must be admitted, however, that the State governments have received no encouragement from this Parliament. For years past, the Government of New South Wales has been asking for a special Commonwealth grant for technical education, and the other States have joined it in seeking a grant of £5,000,000. a year for the same purpose. To all such appeals we have turned a deaf ear. So far as I know, the subject has never been debated in this House. Reference may have been made to it by individual speakers, but Parliament has never been given an opportunity to indicate whether or not it approves of the proposal to give Commonwealth aid to the States for technical education. We should now endeavour to find out what facilities the States possess for the speedy remedying of the position.
This brings me to another point: Have we not reached a stage when it is too late to consider defence plans that may take two or three years to bring to fruition?
Wu ure faced with a situation which may deteriorate rapidly from day to day, and we must consider measures to meet it now, not as it may exist in the very near future. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition in one thing at least, namely, that it does not seem to he of much use to embark upon the construction of a. graving dock in Sydney, at a cost of £3,000,000, when we know that it cannot bc completed before three years. It is a pity the work was not begun three years ago, as it could well have been, but there is no sense in pinning our faith to it now. It cannot be a factor in our present defence plans. 1 urge the Government not to waste money and man-power on such an enterprise. Let vis drop it, and get on with something else. We should consider what must,be done if. within the next few weeks or months, Australia itself should, be in danger of attack. What should we do if the position in Europe becomes so bad as to necessitate on our part a much greater measure of participation in the conflict overseas? Let us consider what steps we could take immediately in the event of a direct attack on Australia. Let us consider what we should do to increase, within the very near future, the measure of assistance to our Allies overseas. Those are the only two points that really matter. Plans that will take a long time to complete are only cluttering up our national effort. “With that the Leader of the Opposition appears to agree. He seems to believe, as I do, that the position is so dangerous that we should drop long-range preparations, and concentrate upon what is immediately necessary. That was one of the soundest tilings the honorable gentleman said. The situation is changing overnight. Before we go away this week we should awaken to the responsibility to have a national government in existence regardless of what outside sectional interests, such as trade unions or political organizations, may say about it. The people are demanding a lead from this Parliament and it is our duty to give it.
I urge the Government not to sidetrack itself on projects that are too late to be of any value to the defence of Australia now. It is too late to embark upon the construction of a graving dock for it to be of value for the defence of Australia or our Allies. Proposals for the training of youths over periods” of two years are of no use in this situation. If we have no facilities for the building of ships, we must do without them and pu up with it. If we have not the plant.f or the manufacture of some munitions, we must do without that. What we have to do now is to make the best use’ of the material at our disposal. What we can do is to regiment our man-power, and gather together the strands of the industrial fabric and concentrate them in turning out to the utmost of our ability those urgent defence needs and things which we can immediately produce. We must give to the people of Australia reason to have more faith in the courage of- this Parliament. Honorable members should not turn on the Prime Minister, or members of the’ Cabinet, such as the Minister for the Army or the Minister for Air and flay them every day for not having done this or that. We must get together amongst ourselves as the representatives of the people. Every member of the Ministry was elected to Parliament; yet we throw the whole weight on thom and then crucify them if they do not do things as this or that individual thinks they should be done. National unity is wanted. Unless the leaders of the political parties are prepared to submit to the people a proposal that, if necessary - I do not say that it will be, because the clouds may disappear, although it does not look as though they will - the life of this Parliament should be prolonged, we cannot get anywhere with the problem. That proposal cannot bc made to the people unless we have a national government, because a condition precedent to the prolongation of the life of Parliament is that all of the people’s representatives are in agreement as to that course and can satisfy the people that it is in the national interests to do so.
-A striking feature of the most interesting speech delivered by the Prime Minis’?(Mr. Menzies) was the announcement that the Cabinet had decided to ask Mr. Essington Lewis to join the Ministry. I commend that decision, and suggest that it should be followed by a decision to bring other leading industrialists into the Government. Men with organizing ability are badly needed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin) made a very good speech in conformity with the policy of his party. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition and the majority of honorable members opposite would willingly accede to the formation of a national government if they felt themselves free to do so. It is there that 1 join issue with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), because it would be useless for the Leader of the Opposition and one or two of his colleagues to join the Ministry, without the approval of the trade unions.
– I agree.
– I believe that that approval could be obtained if a conference of Labour leaders were called by the Leader of the Opposition to consider a suggestion that the time has now arrived for all sections of the people to work in unison, with the one desire to assist, not only Australia, but also the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in this war. Our position is desperate. I shall not elaborate on what would happen if we were defeated, other than to say that the prosperity that has been developed in the 150 years of this country’s history, under the protection of the Union Jack and the British navy, would be swept away. We dare not sacrifice the liberty that we owe to British democracy. I repeat my belief that the Labour movement would willingly stand behind any decision by the Leader of the Opposition to join the parties on this side of the House in a national government. One difficulty that does arise, however, is the policy to which the Labour party has subscribed for many years - opposition to universal training. I have strong objection to leaving the defence of this country to volunteers. In the last war the workers were equal in loyalty with every other section of the community.
– Too right they were!
– There is no question about it, but I disagree absolutely with honorable members opposite who say that we should depend for our defence upon volunteers. That means asking one section to make sacrifices which are not made by another section. A policy which has that end in view is not fair. Yet it is the policy of the Labour party. I do not blame the Scullin Government for having suspended compulsory military training, because the wretched conditions of the depression forced upon it all sorts of dire economies. But for years after the depression I advocated without avail the reintroduction of universal service. The outbreak of war forced the Government to act. Those whom I blame for the straits in which Australia finds itself to-day are those Ministers who, two or three years ago, went to Europe and, seeing the threat to our security that was arising - they could not have helped realizing what Germany was doing - did not have the courage, on their return to Australia, to tell the people of the dangers that confronted them and of the need to be prepared. Those Ministers must have observed how Germany was placing every man at the age of sixteen years into labour camps for two years before placing them in compulsory military training for a further two years. They must have seen, as the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Churchill) described time after time in the House of Commons, that Germany was expending hundreds of millions of pounds for the one purpose of destroying all of those opposed to its scheme of aggrandizement.
The Defence Department, too, went completely to sleep. The time has come for a thorough re-organization of that department, and for the appointment at its head of a man who will see that the officers do their duty. Even since this war has been in progress the department has continued to apply the policy, which marked its pre-war activities, of refusing to grant facilities for people in somewhat, remote parts of the country to mobilize themselves into compact defence units. Particularly has this been the case in Western Australia, where the department refused such requests from districts such as Wongan Hills and Wiluna, particularly at Wiluna where a fine number of miners wanted assistance from the department for training. Those are only two examples from many. In order to ensure that the huge sums that are being voted by this Parliament for the defence of this country are wisely expended the whole of the Defence Department should be overhauled and some system instituted whereby Australia will have better prospects of being made safer than appears to be the case at the moment.
It seems peculiar to embark now upon the construction of a graving dock at the cost of £3,000,000, which will take three years to complete. God knows where we will be at the end of three years. The money would be better expended on aeroplanes, tanks and other armaments necessary for the immediate carrying on of the war.
I cannot close without making a further reference to the need for a national government. It is my opinion that, had a national government been in existence months ago, the coal strike would not have occurred, because there would have been in power in this Parliament men who would have been able to say to the coal miners, “ You must chase the Communists from your midst “. Such a government would be able to talk in straight language to those other industrial organizations which have come under the domination of the Communist party. I cite the Australian Railways Union, in which that man Ross seems to hold so much sway. Ross appears to be one of the worst characters that one could come across. I have seen photographs of his insidious work. The miners’ newspaper was sufficient evidence of the hold that the Communists have on the Miners Federation.
Germany is in the wonderful position which it, occupies to-day because it has the concentrated power of a subservient people. That is the power which we have to fight. At any other. time I should not dream of suggesting a fusion of all interests in the one Cabinet, but, in order that in the future we may enjoy the liberties that we have enjoyed in the past, till of our powers must be harnessed at the quickest rate possible. Everything that we can do to help our people at home in England must be done; it is our duty. I reject the proposition that Australia is our only concern. “We have a duty to the land which gave us our freedom. We have troops in the Near East to-day. They were sent there for at that, time it was not known whether Russia would strike south and, in the near f uture their presence there may be of great value should war break out in the Mediterranean. It is not known now where they will be required, hut they can be depended upon to do what the Australian contingents did in Palestine and France in the last war. I urge the members of the Labour party to get in touch with the leaders of industrial organizations throughout Australia and ask them to approve of the establishment of a controlling authority, comprising ali shades of political thought, in order that we should work to the end that there shall not be in this country the horrors which Nazi-ism has forced on Holland, Belgium, Poland, and the other countries which have come under its domination.
.- It seems to me that we are wasting time by discussing what might have been, or talking of mistakes of omission or commission which have occurred in years gone by. It also appears to me that if we are going to act upon the belief that the war will be over within a few weeks, and that there will be an immediate decisive triumph by the Allies or the enemy, we are again wasting time. If talk is to mean anything it must be talk of planning for a long and protracted struggle in which not only Great Britain itself but also the dominions, including Australia and New Zealand especially, will be exposed to attack. It is from that point of view that I shall discuss this matter.
Most of the discussion in this debate has ranged around the issue of whether or not there should he a national government. I am one of those who believe very strongly that without the party system of government there cannot be real democracy. It is the party system that secures to the people real participation in government; it is the party system that organizes criticism of the government which exists, and having organized that criticism, by presenting the people with an alternative to the government, enables them to make a choice between men and policies. That is the great justification for the party system. I do not believe in party bitterness or, to use the Prime Minister’s phrase, “ partisan strife “. The party struggle should be a. conflict between men who hold different principles, and yet, despite those principles, respect one another just the same. That is what I have learned during nearly twenty years in politics.
Does the need foi maintaining the party system disappear in time of war? 1 submit that it does not. The people who urge the formation of a national government do. so in order that the responsibility of government may be distributed over all parties; because they want to do things of which some of the people do not approve; and they know that they cannot afford to do these things while there is an Opposition party which would make electoral capital out of them; because they want to take strong measures - repressive most of them - and they know that if they have all of the parties behind one government nobody will be able to throw the blame on to anybody else, and everybody will be more or less responsible for what is done. Therefore, a national government becomes a very great danger. I “think that the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Curtin) should commend itself to all people who have a reasonable respect for democratic principles. By disregarding all opportunities for captious criticism of his opponents the honorable gentleman has sot an example which might well be followed by some Ministers. I remind honorable members that the first person who tried to exploit the war for party purposes was the Prime Minister when he endeavoured to win the Corio by-election by saying that the outcome of that election was being closely watched by Hitler himself. That takes us back to the days of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who, during the Boer War, said, in respect of the elections of 1900, that a vote for the Liberals was a vote for the Boers. .Similarly, at the congressional elections in the United States of America in 1918, the then president, Mr. Woodrow Wilson, appealed to the people to return a Republican congress so that the war might be properly prosecuted and the Government adequately supported. While in time of war there is need for party warfare, there is need for a vigorous and live Opposition. It is true that there is a national government in Great Britain to-day, hut we must’ remember that in Great Britain most of the things which kept the parties apart have disappeared altogether. For instance, they had agreed entirely on military policy - they had already carried conscription - -and they had agreed that there should be no by-election campaigns during the war, a most important arrangement, because it meant that should a vacancy occur then it would be filled by a member of the party to which the former member who had resigned or died belonged. Having done these things, the real difference between the parties had disappeared. But, England has previously been engaged in great wars and has not found it necessary to create a national government. For 22 years, from 1793 to 1S15, with a break of one year after the peace of Amiens, England was at war with France yet for only one year of that war did England have anything like a national government. Foi1 the rest of the time, the Tory party was in power and, although in 1802 the leader of the Whigs, Mr. Fox, became converted to the necessity to defeat Napoleon, it was not until 1806 that he became a Minister, and then only for a year. It is also a fact that the American political system does not lend itself to a non-party government, and consequently there is not much talk of that system there. The American Civil War was carried on without any attempt to form a national government. In fact, most Democrats supported the war, yet opposed the Government at elections. I do not believe that a national government, is at all possible in Australia, because, in the words of my leader, there are differences between our parties which are insuperable. As the Leader of the Opposition said, there is a great difference on the question of coercion; there is a difference in the outlook of the various parties with regard to industrial relations; and there is a difference with regard to the extent and character of our war operations. With respect to the lastmentioned difference, I do not propose to offer any argument, except in regard to the statement by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), that we should be prepared to do as much overseas as Canada and New Zealand are doing. Canada and New Zealand can have no real home defence policies at all; Canada because it is under the aegis of the United States of America, and New Zealand because it cannot possibly defend itself. We have been assured, however, that Australia is capable of defending itself, and I am confident that the people of Australia, tlo not propose to du n udc this country of defenders by throwing its men into a fight, on the other bide of the world.- The Leader of the Opposition said that the parties are divided with regard to industrial relations. The honorable member for Swan (‘Mr. Gregory) spoke of’ the coal strike, but my view in regard to that disturbance is entirely different, from that taken by the honorable member or by the Prime Minister. 1 believe that the coal strike was. in effect, in the same category as the engineers’ strike, the strike on the Clyde, and the strike in South Wales in Great Britain during the last war.
– Those people did not have arbitration courts.
– Some of them did have legislation for the compulsory settlement of disputes. It must be remembered that there cannot be a dispute unless there arc ‘ two or more parties at. variance. In my opinion the Prime Minister made himself the champion of the masters against the men. I am glad he did not pursue Iiia policy to its logical extreme, because I am satisfied that, had he done so. he would have destroyed all possibility of national unity. I do not believe that it is possible to get rid of industrial strife completely in time of war, but I believe that we should be able to get a lot nearer to completely eliminating it if we had better industrial machinery. The Arbitration Court has done a great deal of good work, but where it has failed is that it has continued to lay down h. general standard for all industries, all workers, and all sorts of disputes; it, has tried to put everybody into a sort of Procrustean bed in order to secure uniformity. The Arbitration Court said, in effect, that it could not consider the claim of the coai n 111Cl S for reduced hours because, if it gave a forty-hour week to the coal industry, it would be creating a precedent for other industries, and for future occasions. Wc must overhaul our industrial legislation which has existed unchanged since 1904. We must have a number of different types of arbitration tribunals, presided over by men who know industry. Our system should be such that we will bc able to remove industrial friction when it first appears. We should use our enlarged defence powers to lay down standards for the time of the war by means of legislation passed in this chamber. I think I may say without egotism that there are members on this side of the House - I am one - who have considerable experience of the working of industrial legislation, and if there is anything I can do to assist in bringing about this need, and making possible the removal of friction, .1 shall regard it, as my duty to do it. During the last war the Federal Government in the United States of America did great work and constituted a National War Relations .Board which was a kind of pyramid, at the apex of which there was a chief board presided over by two chairman who took the chair at alternate meetings. One chairman was a nominee of the employers, ex-President Taft, afterwards Chief Justice of the United States of America, and the other was a nominee of the employees, Frank P. Walsh, who had been chairman of the Industrial .Relations Committee. That body said, “.Wc have the machinery by which we can deal with all of your industrial troubles as soon as they arise. We shall deal with them on the basis that if you submit, them to us you must not, be on strike “. The result was that although it was not illegal to strike, and no attempt was made by law to prevent people from striking, the alternative system offered to the workers by the government was so satisfactory that there were no strikes at all, or at, least only very small ones. The United States of America to-day lias a more efficacious system of dealing with industrial disputes than has Australia. Of course, America has given a great deal more to the workers by law than the workers in Australia have received.
– Both sides arc left, free in the United States of America.
– That is not so. The employers are forced to recognize, meet and confer with the unions. That is not the case in Australia. What happens here is that the court summons a compulsory conference. The representatives of the two sides sit opposite, glower at each other, and do nothing. They cannot be compelled to confer. The judge thereupon declares that the conference has failed and refers the matter to the court. That is not the procedure in the United States of America.
– What are we fighting for to-day?
– I shall deal with that point later in my speech.
Another issue on which the Leader of the Opposition said that we were opposed to the Government was in relation to coercion. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that the Leader of the Opposition had declared against compulsory military training. 1 did not gather that that was his point at all. He was expressing opposition to the methods of compulsion adopted bythe Government, not only in relation to military service, but also in relation to the suppression of opinion and the disbanding of certain organizations and associations. It is government policy to act in this way, and while that remains so, we cannot be expected to agree with the Government. Whatever may be the opinion held on this side of the House concerning the Communist party, we do not wish, as J understand it, to see that party suppressed or its members denied the opportunity to express their opinion. I believe that the reasons which are impelling the Government to take steps to suppress the party are related not to its belief that the party is a menace to Australia, but, first, to its desire to make political capital by connecting the Labour party with the Communist party and secondly to its desire to placate an enormous number of middle-class Roman Catholics who are opposed to the Communist party because of differences of religious opinion which I think are quite irrelevant to the main problem.
The previous Commonwealth Government attempted to suppress the Communist party by other methods. I refer to the repressive measure passed years ago which provided for proceedings in our law courts. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) regaled the Millions Club, a few days ago, with a story of subversive activities which he had discovered in 1935.
– I did not discover them. I was informed of them, and they occurred in 1931, when a Labour government which was in office did nothing about it.
– We have an act on our statute-book which provides that any association may be declared an unlawful association by order of the High Court. After that course has been taken every member of such an association becomes stamped with a stigma of being a member of an unlawful association. An unlawful association is defined, in brief, as an association which advocates the overthrow, by violence, of the Government of this or any other country. The Lyons Government took action under the Crimes Act to have the Communist party declared an unlawful association. The matter arose in this way: The Friends of the Soviet Union published a newspaper called Soviets To-day, which incidentally, this Government has now succeeded in suppressing. On the occasion to whichI am referring the government of the day refused permission for Soviets To-day to be carried through the post. The proprietors of the newspaper took the remedy they had under the Post and Telegraph Act of suing the Commonwealth Government. The Government took steps in the High Court, in June, 1935, to have the proprietors of the newspaper - the Friends of the Soviet Union - declared an unlawful association. It then contended that the Friends of the Soviet Union was affiliated with the Communist party which, it was alleged, was an unlawful association. So action was taken to have both bodies declared unlawful associations. This action, which was taken in August, 1935, was based on the allegation that the Communist party advocated the overthrow of constitutional government by violence. The proceedings were still before the court in May, 1937, at which time they finally disappeared quietly in this way: The action brought by the proprietors of the Friends of the Soviet Union was dismissed without costs by the consent of the Friends of the Soviet Union. The action taken by the Commonwealth Government was then dismissed by the consent of the Commonwealth Government, and the Government removed the postal ban which had applied to Soviets To-day and also to about twenty other newspapers.
It seems to me to be curious that there has been no change in the character of the speeches against this body. Honorable gentlemen opposite say, “ We know that this is a subversive organization, the purpose of which is to destroy constitutional government “. The Commonwealth Government had an opportunity to prove this charge before the court between 1935 and 1937, but it did not take it. Instead it surrendered its opportunity and said, “ “We shall drop our proceedings and we shall also withdraw the postal ban on Soviets ‘To-day and other newspapers “.
– “Who was the AttorneyGeneral at that time?
– The present Prime Minister. The Minister for Commerce was not a. member of the Government, but his colleague, the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Thorby), was in the Cabinet.
I dissent entirely from the views and methods of the Communists, but the differences between myself and the Communists are much less than those between myself and the United Australia party, because the ultimate objective of the Communist party and myself is really identical. The ultimate objective of the United Australia party is not at all identical with my objective.
– Does the honorable member believe in the destruction of everything?
– I do not believe in destruction; nor do I believe in the adoption of violence of any kind as a method of securing changes. I doubt if even the Communist party believes in it. What the Communist party says is: “Before any fundamental change can be made in our system the possessing class will take up arms to resist it, and the workers have to be prepared for that”. 1 do not agree with the adoption of that course. I do not believe that any change is worth paying for by violence or by the destruction of a single innocent life. I fail to see how the use of force to effect changes can do other than bring ruin and destruction upon innocent people and, consequently, I am against that method.
Whatever opposition I had towards the Communist party was intensified after the war began, when the Russian Government sent its forces into Finland. A large number of people in this community, and also in the Labour movement, feel exactly as I do in that connexion, although others tried to apologize for what Russia did. Our opponents seized the opportunity to say “ Now let us make war on Russia “. They pretended that because Russia had invaded Finland Great Britain should make war on Russia. I disagree with that view. However I detest the Russian invasion of Finland. I must say that I regard the Russian experiment in government as one of the greatest that the world has ever known. I do not wish to see it fail or destroyed. Thousands upon thousands of workers, and people who are not Communists, feel as I do. We do not wish to see the war turned against Russia.
– Who said we wanted war against Russia?
– I do not believe that I am far wrong when I express the belief that the Minister for Commerce has been advocating for a long time past, that Great Britain should go to war with Russia.
– I have not been able to distinguish between German aggression against Poland and Norway and Russian aggression against Finland. If it were a crime for Germany to invade those countries it was equally a crime for Russia to do so.
– I agree that it was a crime, but I cannot see that that is a sufficient reason for advocating war against Russia. This advocacy has made men feel that the anti-Communist action in Australia is a cloak to cover war against socialism. In my opinion it would be a serious crime for Great Britain or France, or any other country, to use the Russian invasion of Finland as a pretext for an attempt to destroy Russia. I look upon- the Russian Revolution as many other people now look upon the French Revolution. The French Revolution caused a great deal of bloodshed and repression, but, in its ultimate result, it effected one of the most beneficial changes that the world has ever known. The Russian Revolution may do the same thing.
The activities of the Government against the Communist party are regarded by great masses of workers not as a means of attacking the principles of the Communists, but as a means to secure an advantage over the Australian Labour party. “ We have heard it said over and over again by certain individuals that they draw a distinction between the Leader of the Labour party, who, they say, is a patriotic man, and some other members of his party who, they say, are guilty of subversive actions. They go on to say, “ We know that certain Labour organizations and certain members of the Labour party will defend the Communist party as long as we keep attacking it. We shall therefore keep on attacking it for it will enable us to brand the Labour party with the stigma of communism “. It has been said that members of the Communist party who are also members of trade unions have dictated trade union policy and so caused strikes. I point out, however, that there were strikes during the great war before the Communist party existed. It was said, at that time, that the strikes were due to an organization known as the Industrial Workers of the World. The power of this Parliament was used to destroy that organization. An act was passed which declared it an unlawful association. That measure was passed, I believe, when the members of the Industrial Workers of the World were accused of having started certain fires. Some members of the organization were tried for this offence, convicted, and sent to prison. Several years afterwards all of them, excepting one, were liberated. If members of the Communist party are officials of trade unions this is not to be taken to mean that the workers are favorable to communism. It indicates, rather, their desire to appoint to official positions the most efficient members available in their organization. Communists who have been elected to office in different trade unions have been chosen because they were believed to be efficient by their union colleagues. The policies of the trade unions are not dictated by the Communists. The policy of the coal-miners union was not so dictated. This was proved conclusively by the ballots taken recently when great majorities were recorded in favour of a certain course of action. The few Communists who might be in those unions could not possibly have influenced that vote to such a great degree. The policies of the trade unions are dictated by the trade unionists themselves. To say that the coal-miners are as wax in the hands of the few Communist leaders is an insult to the men.
– The debate is now very wide of the subject-matter of the paper referred to in the motion.
– I connect my remarks, Mr. Speaker, in this way : The Government did not use its power to repress the Communist party in peace time. As I have pointed out, it actually abandoned legal proceedings that it had initiated.
– The Government did not intern Germans in peace time.
– The argument that is now being used in order to justify action against the Communists is that they are causing industrial trouble.
I have indicated what I regard as three . impassable gaps between honorable members opposite and ourselves. I do not believe that it is practicable to form a national government while those gaps remain, and it seems to me that they are of such a nature that we cannot bridge them. However, that is not to say that there is the slightest reason why, even having regard to our differences of opinion, we should not work together on the big task before us.
– It is ridiculous to suggest that we can work together when we have ideals on which we cannot agree.
– I have no desire to remind the Minister for Commerce of certain things which he has said in the past. In fact I am not concerned about them at all at the moment. I am trying to conduct this discussion on a purely impersonal basis. The Minister was not in the chamber when I said that on this side of the House there were men whose experience in industrial matters was probably unrivalled, either inside of Parliament or outside of it. I added that we were prepared to put our services at the disposal of the Government in any way that would tend to minimize industrial friction and preserve continuity of industrial operations during the war, provided that in doing so we do not sacrifice
I he in terests of the people Y<3 represent.
.- The subject of this debate is Australia’s increased war effort. I propose to confine my remarks to that subject, and avoid following those honorable members who raised controversial issues. I was in Sydney on Sunday last and I felt deeply impressed by the numbers of people who filled the churches to overflowing, seeking spiritual support and guidance in their determination to carry on this struggle which will affect the destiny of our nation as well as other nations for generations t:o come. Few of those who prayed imagined that their prayers would be answered by some- sudden success of our armed force?, unless the efforts of those forces were accompanied by deeds of courage, by endurance, by the sacrifice of thousands of lives and by the provision to those forces in the air, on the sea and on land, of equipment equal to that of the enemy. What the people of the Empire prayed for was the strength, determination and courage to carry on the fight to final victory so that the will to win should be unimpaired by any reverses which we might meet on the way. To-night we have heard news of serious reverses in the theatre of war in Belgium. There may be other hard knocks to come. But, whatever may be the final verdict in Belgium, the continuance of this war to final victory is an essential. Even if the Government has not the active cooperation of all parties in this House, it has behind it the strength of all classes of the people outside.
It is a matter for very great regret that it lias not been possible to secure the acceptance of joint responsibility in the Government by members of the Opposition. I shall not discuss the motives which prevent, those honorable gentlemen from participating in the formation of a national government. They have expressed certain reasons for their stand which may, or may not be, sound. But the time will come when we will have to close our ranks and forget even the differences of ideals that were stated by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). When all is said and done, those differences are insignificant in relation to the very big issues confronting us to-day. If the prayer of the people so fervently expressed on Sunday can be given a practical answer by the Government, that answer will be by the Government’s increased purpose in the national effort and the trebling of its energies in the work which confronts it. This is not the time for recrimination. I believe that if any honorable member had before the dinner adjournment prepared a speech that contained any recriminatory statements, he must have been strongly inclined- to tear it up on hearing the grave news from overseas. The Government needs help and support. It needs a sympathetic understanding of its problems. It also needs the spur of helpful criticism and commentary applied by honorable members. It is not all-wise, It is not acquainted with the ideas and reactions of all sections of the people, and, therefore, honorable members can do a service to the country, without being hurtful to the Government, by giving helpful criticism and commentary whenever they think it is needed. The people are anxious for action indicative of resolution, steadfastness of purpose, and a proper conception of to-day’s serious situation. Effort and sacrifice are now to be our portion. For the first eight months it almost seemed aa though the war were being conducted in an atmosphere of peace. We carried on our normal recreations and business customs. Those days are gone. The majority of the people to-day are ready to do whatever is required of them in the national interest. Those who will not co-operate, should be forced to do so, under the powers which the Government possesses. If any lesson is to be learned from the fighting in Flanders, it is that intensely trained men, in large numbers, modernly equipped, are an essential of warfare which we, too, must have to the limits of our capacity. There are, of course, physical and practical limits to what we oan do, but I believe that we often regard as insuperable obstacles which appear so only because our approach to them is out of date and lacking in determination. Many tasks which we think are impossible and which Ministers tell us are impossible, can be accomplished if they are approached with the conviction and determination that they can and must be done.
There is but one solemn duty and purpose confronting the Government, the Parliament and the people to-day - the defence of Australia at home and abroad. Nothing else matters very much. I have felt strongly, since news was first received of the invasion of Belgium, that we should set aside all matters not directly pertaining to the prosecution of the war. The Government has adequate powers under the National Security Act to deal with all other matters, and I believe that the co-operation of the Opposition, if it were sought, would be readily given in an endeavour to avoid discussion in Parliament of any subjects of lesser moment than the winning of the war.
We must double, treble and even quadruple our rate of production in defence industries. It is useless for Ministers to tell honorable members, in answer i;o questions asked in this chamber, that double shifts, or even treble shifts, cannot be worked in munitions factories. It can be done if there is the will to do it. Thousands of skilled men are engaged at the present time in unessential occupations. Their services could be secured for the nation’s war effort if the seriousness of the position were properly put to them. There would be no need to employ industrial conscription or deprive them of their personal liberties. Thousands of men are engaged on relief works and other jobs, such as the construction of scenic roads and tourist tracks - facilities for the enemy, in fact, should it ever invade this land. Their services could easily be diverted to constructional work of a character which would be valuable to us in our present extremity.
The spirit of the people must be mobilized. There is to-day a great deal of concern among Australians; and at times it may amount even to some weakening of the morale. The surest way to strengthen that morale is to give the people something useful to do when they want to do it, and make them feel that each one is helping towards a successful conclusion of the war. I know that many thousands of men capable of helping the nation in this emergency are denied the opportunity to do so, because they are a year or two over military age, or for some other relatively unimportant reason. An expert mechanic or engineer 50 years of age would be as good as one 40 years of age as a fitter in an aircraft, factory. In many instances he would be better, because he would possess more experience than younger men. I know highly qualified men who time and again have offered themselves for some sort of war-time service. Many of them have written to me asking me to use any influence that, I possess in order to secure the acceptance of the service which they willingly offered, in some cases without asking for remuneration. The Government should co-opt the services of every one capable of helping the nation at this time. It is not sufficient to offer to these people, and to their representatives in this Parliament, polite refusals and then to sidetrack them for the duration of the war. It is the duty of the Government to organize the resources of the nation. Should it decide to take the strongest, action, it will have the support of the vast majority of the people. The services of every citizen ought to be utilized, [n the last resort, the Government will probably demand the services of every person capable of serving. Individual liberty and civil rights will become a thing of the past if we lose the war, and, with it, our general rights. The safeguarding of individual and civil rights can be ensured only if we are able to safeguard the general rights of the community. I believe that at this juncture the Government could ask for any sacrifice, and that the people would respond. Recriminations will avail us nothing now. We all can be wise after the event; that retrospective view is of no benefit, except insofar as we can learn from our mistakes to do better in the future. Finally, I say that the greatest gap in this country through which the enemy can drive is the division in our own ranks. I sincerely hope that, even now, the members of the Opposition and those who are not direct supporters of the Government, but recognize as clearly as does any member on this side of the House how serious the situation really is, will change their views regarding co-operation with the Government, and after consultation with their organizations outside - and that I realize is essentia] - will adopt a different attitude, with the result that Parliament itself will reflect the unity of the people outside. [Quorum formed.]
.- Like my colleague, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I believe that the present situation is too grave for any member of this Parliament to try to make party political capital out of it. Whatever observations I shall make during this discussion, I shall make solely with a view to helping the people of this country. I am of the opinion that the best thing that could happen at the moment would be for the Government to make way for a Labour government, as that would enable a proper defence policy to be put into operation. The present Government is inefficient; it has merely muddled along since the war began. As the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said, there is an outcry against the Government from every section of the community. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) frankly admitted that the only purpose that a national government would serve would be that, with all of the parties united, the workers could be coerced into accepting whatever conditions the Government saw fit to force upon them. He said that had there been a national government, there would not have been a coal strike. There willnever be an effective defence policy for this country while the government in office represents the monopolies. Honorable members who are older than I am will recollect that, during the last war, private enterprise was responsible for the scandals connected with the KidmanMayo contracts for the building of ships. In that crisis private enterprise was unable to rise to the occasion and give unselfish service to the country. Instead, it used the difficulties confronting the country ‘to enrich itself. To-day we have in office a government similar to that which was in office at the termination of the last war. The Government has modelled its defence system in accordance with the wishes of monopolistic interests, principally the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. It has done so to such a degree that the functions of Parliament are being handed over to the big business executives. Mr. Essington Lewis was first an adviser of the Government, but from now on he will practically direct the Government’s policy. In the present grave situation, a Labour government would not talk to these big monopolistic interests about limiting their excess war profits, but would say that there was no reason why any individual or company should make exorbitant profits as the result of the war activities of the Government. It would see that industries were taken over in their entirety as part of a scheme for the proper organization of the defence effort. The Government would have the workers believe that it intends to call for equality of sacrifice. It claims that it will limit war profits, but it does not explain what is meant by excessive profits. We know well what will happen. The Treasure (Mr. Spender), in deciding upon a war profits tax, fixed certain classifications to determine the rate of interest which companies may earn, hut he made certain that those classifications were satisfactory to the big business executives. That they were satisfied with the Government’s policy is evident from the fact that immediately the Government’s proposals were announced, the shares in many companies rose in value. The Government has made no real effort, to prevent war profiteering. It asks the Opposition to assist it in a full-blooded war effort. What is meant by that? Instances have been brought to light of manufacturers supplying inferior goods to the Department of Supply and Development, but instead of the Government taking action against them, it has deliberately used its powers in such a way that these unscrupulous manufacturers and suppliers of inferior goods have been able to enrich themselves at the country’s expense.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) would have us believe that no evidence has been submitted of the existence of such a state of affairs. I remind him of the revelations made in this House in connexion with the supply of military boots, and of the victimization of a zealous officer because he did his duty in rejecting boots of inferior quality. I ask honorable members opposite why it is that Australia is in such a precarious position in regard to its defence. Governments of a similar political colour to that which now occupies the treasury bench have had control of this country for a number of years. Time after time they have rejected proposals which the Labour party considered were necessary for the defence of this country. The experience of other countries has at, last convinced the Government of the importance of the air arm of our defence services, but, after eight months of warfare, the Government is able to utilize only one-tenth of the men who have offered to serve in the Air Force. The reasons are that it has not sufficient aeroplanes to train them properly, and that there are not in this country the materials necessary for the construction of such machines. Even if the Government had theplanes, it is doubtful whether it. could be sure of sufficient supplies of petrol for their use. When the Labour party proposed that an industry should be established to extract oil from coal, the Government was not prepared to listen. Yet it is obvious that if the supplies of petrol from outside sources were cut off, Air Force machines could not remain in the air for long.
– The machines of the Air Force could do so, as there would be sufficient petrol for the purpose.
– Had an industry for the production of petrol from coal been established in this country, the position would be much more satisfactory. There is also a lack of shipping space for our exportable surplus products. It is true that under various schemes the Imperial authorities have agreed to purchase much of Australia’s surplus production, but because of the lack of shipping space the problem of getting those products to the Old Country still remains. The Government, in a muddling way, instead of proceeding with the construction of ships, is having inquiries made, and is calling for reports for the consideration of Cabinet.
The matter of shipping space has been discussed and examined over a period of years, and ample data with respect to it should be available. I believe that sufficient data are available to enable the Government immediately to proceed with the extension of the existing shipbuilding facilities, in order that it might make a proper contribution to the defence of this country. It now proposes the construction of a dockyard which will take three years to complete. The period of construction will probably be longer than three years because, although the Government has reached the stage of having come to a decision, it is more than likely that another twelve months will elapse before the work is put in hand.
The endeavour is being made to inculcate the idea that there is to be equality of sacrifice. Let us consider the present methods of financing the conduct of the war. We are living in unusual times, and I believe that the only government which could provide for the adequate defence of Australia is one which would be prepared to depart from the old orthodox methods of finance and try out new methods. It is necessary to re-orientate our ideas with respect to the financing of the war. Unless that be done, what will be the position of the workers of this country; how can they be expected to become enthusiastic in regard to the Government’s programme? Prices are sky-rocketing, the purchasing power of the wages they receive is being reduced, and they are asked to exist under worse living conditions than those that they have previously enjoyed, whilst those who move in more influential circles - the wealthy section of the community - are not asked to make a contribution commensurate with their capacity. It is amazing to find that under the taxation proposals of the Government the increase of tax in respect of the worker with an income of £300 a year is to be 120 per cent., whilst the man whose income is £40,000 a year will have his tax increased by only 2 per cent. A man whose income from property amounts to £400 will pay an increased tax of 150 per cent. whereas one whose income from property is £1,000 will have his tax increased by only 12 per cent. Doubtless the Government believes that it can convince the people that these proposals represent equality of sacrifice. If to-morrow the people were to place a Labour government in charge of the affairs of this country one of its first actions, in order to make adequate provision for our defence, would be, not to hand over the powers of the Parliament to business executives, but immediately to nationalize all war industries, and so develop and extend them as to make the fullest use of the whole of our resources, including manpower. As an example of inadequacy of preparation, I instance the single-track railway to northern Queensland. There are many essential defence works winch are not being undertaken by the Government., while thousands of men are still walking the streets looking for employment and are being asked to exist on a dole of 8s. 6d. a week. Our resources may be utilized fully only by the nationalization of our industries. Certain hig business executives are more concerned about preserving their privileges and profits than anything else, and their political representatives in this Parliament are not, prepared to do ‘anything which would displease them. Honorable members who have been interjecting are more concerned about defending capitalism than about winning the war. If, for instance, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), who criticizes the point of view of the Labour party in these matters, had to choose between preserving capitalism and losing the war, he would prefer to lose the war. Government members may say, “This is not the time for such criticism ; what we want is co-operation from the members of the Labour party and from the workers’ organizations outside “ ; but let us consider what the workers got out of the last war and what they are likely to get out of the present conflict. In an endeavour to induce Labour members to join a national government, honorable gentlemen opposite argue that we have to protect our liberties. Judging by what is happening, 1 believe that we shall have need to protect, our liberties in Australia as well as abroad. We cannot close our eyes to what is occurring. The Government uses a strict and excessive censorship against many journals in Australia. It has completely suppressed some, not because of their refusal to assist in keeping valuable information from the enemy, but because they have criticized the Administration. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) says that in these times there is no room for any criticism. We know the record of that gentleman in regard to the defence of liberties. Before the outbreak of the war, he had earned the reputation of being what may be described as a petty dictator. Some months before the war began he wanted to disfranchize all women, ito take away from them all of their civil rights and liberties. The only right that he is prepared to grant to them is that of being slaves in the home. That, is exactly what he said - that they had only one niche in this community. Before there was any talk of subversive agencies, he closed down a broadcasting station, merely because it was criticizing the Government and himself personally. He does not like criticism. Then we have the Postmaster-General (Mr. Thorby) who is such a champion of liberty that if he had the opportunity he would shoot members of the Opposition who disagree with him.
– It was the Leader of the Opposition whom he mentioned.
– That is true. He would probably act similarly to other members of the Opposition. If we cared to examine the credentials of other members of the Government we should probably be able to show what their characteristics are. Take the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) who sits complacently on the front ministerial bench. During the first Darling Downs by-election, he described as “ bloodsuckers “ the very persons with whom he is in complete agreement to-day - the members of the United Australia party.
– The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– I arn endeavouring to show that it is impossible for us to have any association in a national government with members of the present Administration.
– The honorable member is not, even doing that.
– These gentlemen are to-day urging the co-operation, of the Labour. party in a national government for the one purpose of giving effect to a policy that is suitable to big business but unpalatable to the workers. They believe that they could induce the workers to swallow the dose only by prevailing upon some members of the Labour party to join them in a national government. One of the journals that are criticizing the Government is the Sydney Daily Telegraph. What does the Government propose to do with respect to it? Action to prevent its publication is not to be taken against it because of its criticism, for the reason that there are wealthy interests associated with it. Instead, if rumour be correct, the Government proposes to make one of the wealthy executives of the company, who formerly was a member of this Parliament, the Co-ordinator of Industrial Services. On the one hand, the Government is exercising its powers of suppression, and on the other hand, a form of political bribery in order to prevent criticism of its administration. Further, according to rumour, Sir Keith Murdoch is to be appointed to the position of adviser to the Government in connexion with the Department of Information. Thus by gradual stages the powers and the rights of this Parliament are being sacrificed. If the Government succeeded in its efforts to induce some honorable members of the Labour party to join in the formation of a national government - I am pleased that it will be unable to do so because we are unanimous in our opposition to the proposal - the next move would be to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), to extend the life of this Parliament and to set up an outside organization in the form of a dictatorship which would take away every civil right and liberty that the people enjoy to-day.
– The Labour party has joined in the formation of a national government in Great Britain.
– The honorable member refers to happenings elsewhere. At the moment my concern is with what the Australian Labour party proposes to do in the present situation. I join with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) in saying that the Labour party and those who oppose it can have no unity of purpose in respect of the ultimate goal. The object of honorable member: opposite is to preserve capitalism and all that it means - hovels in the cities, starvation among the workers, and inequality in the treatment of the community. The aim of the members of the Labour party is to end such conditions. For that reason, Labour members cannot be induced to enter a national government. I am chided with being unprepared to support the Government’s efforts. I tell the Government that if the Labour party were given an opportunity to govern, the people of this country would have their shores properly defended. We believe that Australian man-power should be kept in this country for the defence of its shores, that Australia should have an air force powerful in its ability to strike in the defence of this country, and that the industries of the nation should be so developed that that air force could be put in action and kept in action against any invader, from whatever quarter he might come. Organizing the nation’s resources, we would not bother to discuss with big business executives whatever problems arose in order to see whether it was possible or profitable for them to engage in Government undertakings or to make supplies available. On the contrary, we would nationalize and take complete control of their industries. By such means the resources of the nation could be organized as they never had been previously; and only a Labour government is capable of doing that. The workers are asked to make sacrifices for the defence of this country. Honorable members opposite should understand clearly that eventually the workers will come to the conclusion that if they have to make sacrifices they must obtain some of the rewards, and must not be treated as they were in the last war, when many unfortunates who went abroad returned smashed in health and body, only to find that anti-Labour governments denied them pensions and even the opportunity to obtain employment. I remind honorable members who complacently talk about the responsibility of others that Hitler could never have been in the position to develop his present effective war machine hut for the support that he received from certain interests in Great
Britain. Honorable members talk about the Fifth Column. Of whom is the Fifth Column composed in this country ? I ask the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) what persons in this Parliament and outside it endeavoured not very long ago .to prevent the shipment of war materials to Japan? The members of the Labour party, the members of the trade unions, who had nothing to gain personally - they were not striking for higher wages or better conditions of employment - realized that the quarter to which these materials were being shipped was the only quarter from which Australia might expect attack in the future. They refused to make the supplies available; but because the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was concerned, and because it. had its political representatives in this Parliament, it demanded that the men should be coerced into shipping war materials to a potential enemy. Labour, on the other hand, is prepared to defend this country, because it desires to build up in Australia a different form of society from that which has always existed here. Labour wishes to see proper development of industry in the interests of the people, and not in the interests of an influential few. Then this country would be able to give to its defenders, after they had rendered war service, an opportunity to bring up their families with a decent standard of comfort. The honorable member for Wide Bay would say that the Labour party does not believe in the sanctity of the home; but, after the last war, many returned soldiers could not remain with their families. They were forced to hump their swags along country roads, picking up a few shillings here and there, in return for their labour. The honorable member does not object to that, because he sits back on comfortable cushions in this Parliament and enjoys his parliamentary salary. Of course, the standard of living at Canberra is quite satisfactory to him; but, in my electorate, and in many other parts of Australia, there are thousands who have to submit to a very low standard of living, not only as the result of our participation in war, but also in peacetime.
What does the Government propose to do to solve Australia’s economic problems? We have a large surplus of primary products that cannot be disposed of. Mice are destroying wheat stacks; yet, in the cities, and even in the country towns, there is among the poorer sections of the community a dearth of food and clothing. The Government has no suggestion to offer as to how the food that is being wasted could be made available to those who are in sore need of it. One of our defence problems arises from the fact that we have a sparse population with which to defend a large country. Owing to the present insecure economic position of the working classes, many of them are not prepared to undertake the responsibility of rearing large families, and, consequently, the population is not increasing. In what were called the depression years, private employers were permitted to evade the conditions of various industrial awards, and, therefore, there are not sufficient apprentices coming forward in the skilled trades. Yet, to-day, the Government bemoans the fact that there is a dearth of skilled tradesmen. Had Labour been in office in recent years, it. would have implemented a progressive policy in this regard. There would have ‘been an adequate supply of skilled tradesmen, a healthier population, and fewer rejects among those offering for military service. Owing to the extent of malnutrition among the children of the workers in crowded cities, voluntary organizations have been set up to distribute hot. soup to them during the winter months. The Government has no plan to solve this problem, but it protects the class which exploits the public and reaps rich profits from the country’s difficulties.
When the Labour party is offering criticism of the Government, in order to assist the community, the Government is not prepared to grant the right of free speech, even in this Parliament. It desires only to hear speeches which in some degree commend the Government for its actions. Various organizations are being established outside this House, with the object, if they cannot bring about the formation of a national government, of setting Up a form of dictatorship. Of course, if they could get the Labour party to agree to the proposal, their task would be simplified, but the people are most anxious at the present time to bring about the downfall of this Government.
The subversive elements in Great Britain that are retarding the war efforts at the present time are not found in the ranks of the trades unionists, but among those who move in more influential circles. The Fifth Column is formed of men like Sir Oswald Mosley, of whom the honorable member for Wide Bay no doubt approves.
Discrimination lias been shown in Australia regarding the allowances made to the dependants of men serving with the defence forces, and even with regard to the internment of enemy aliens. Influential enemy aliens are allowed their liberty in various cities in Australia, although other enemy aliens, who are not so wealthy, are interned. It is common talk in the streets of Sydney that certain wealthy Germans, although supposed to be interned, are allowed abroad, at certain periods, to attend to their business affairs in the city, after which they return to the internment camps. That is how the Government is carrying out its defence programme ! The programme to which it is giving effect is that of “ big business “. The sooner we have a federal election, the sooner the people will have an opportunity to pass judgment on the present Government, and the sooner we shall have a Labour government in power.
.- ‘I believe it to be absolutely essential, in the interests of Australia’s war effort, thai every party in this House should get behind the Government. It is hypocritical for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the leader of the nonCommunist Labour party (Mr. Beasley) to criticize the Government for our inadequate defence preparations, when the,) and their parties are so largely responsible for the position. The security of Australia as well as that of Great Britain and the rest of the Empire is threatened to-day, and it was a Labour party that abolished compulsory military training in this country. No doubt members of the Opposition will retort that this Government, or one of the same political complexion, has been in power for some years, and could have restored compulsory .training if it had wished to dp so.
I point out, however, that the Labour government dismissed many highly trained officers of the Navy and the Army, and so disrupted the organization for compulsory military training that it would have been a very big task to put the system in operation again. During the years of the depression, the people were fed with stories that the League of Nations would protect us, and that war would not occur again. In the circumstances, they were not prepare;! to face the cost of an adequate defence system. Only when they saw that their liberties were directly threatened were they willing that the necessary expense should be incurred. All thoughtful people have known for a number of years that Nazi Germany constituted a threat to the security of Great Britain and the Empire. The Government cannot be absolved of all the blame for our present ineffective defences. Instead of being strong when our fate is being decided on the battlefields of Flanders, we are able to provide only one paltry air squadron for reconnaissance work in the North Sea. Within nine months after the outbreak of the 1914 war, we were able to put a force on the slopes of Gallipoli consisting of more than a division of infantry and three or four brigades of dismounted light horse, and those forces had an important bearing upon the conduct of the war. To-day in the same period we have only one incomplete division in Palestine. The Government has no reason to be proud of its war effort, nor has the Opposition, which is so largely responsible for the fact that our young men are not now trained to defend their country. I would warn them that Germany is not the only possible enemy. Australia’s war effort is lagging because the Government and this Parliament have failed to face facts. For the last few years every one has known that the Em pi: . - was threatened. Because of the position in Europe to-day, the threat is a very grave one, and the Empire will be fortunate if it escapes that threat. Many things are responsible for our present position, and I do not exonerate the Government. The apathy of the people has been due in great measure, to the slogan of the Government, “ business as usual “. That. advice, and the talk about making a just peace, had a bad psychological effect, so that the people were not prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. The wealthy people of Australia were not prepared to give up their wealth. The young men of Australia were not prepared to risk their lives, and the workers of Australia were not prepared to forget their unions and think only of their future as a race. They were misled. Democracy, as it is known to-day, can survive only if the people are told the truth. Churchill told the people of Great Britain the truth for years past, and everything he prophesied has come to pass. We, too, must be told the truth if we are to come safely through this, the greatest crisis in our history.
Many things must be done to put the country on a proper war footing. For one thing, I believe that Australia should be properly mapped. For military purposes, such maps as we now have are practically useless. There are huge areas in the centre of Australia of which there are no maps at all. With modern photography, it is not a difficult thing to map a country, and the work could be carried out as a part of the training of our Air Force. I know the value of accurate maps. In the Palestine campaign we fought over great areas of desert similar to the country iu central Australia. We also fought over mountainous country in Judea. Lord Kitchener, when a. lieutenant in the engineers, was responsible for the mapping of that country, and more than 40 years later the maps proved invaluable. Maps of the same kind should be prepared here. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), who, I believe, is the only licensed surveyor in this House, has pleaded on many occasions for the proper mapping of Australia, but little has been done.
For many years honorable members have urged that adequate supplies of military requirements should be obtained. Shortly after I entered this House, I heard the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) say that the military forces were even short of blankets in this, the greatest wool-growing country in the world, and he urged the Government to speed up military supplies; yet the Government took no notice of him. When it was necessary to call up 70,000 militia men for training, they could not be supplied with blankets, uniforms or tents. The Government has something to answer for.
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) said that he had been told that Australia could defend itself. I do not know who told him so. Possibly, he was told by some of the Communists from the coal-fields - perhaps Mr. William Orr.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron) told us that we could defend ourselves.
– And so we will, to the last man in this country.
– Lord Kitchener told us.
– Lord Kitchener was here in 1910 when the proposition was very different. In those days it might have been possible for Australia to defend itself, but. only with the assistance of the British fleet. It is the same to-day. We depend on the British navy.
– The Minister for the Navy said that we could do it.
– He may have said so, but i have very grave doubts about it Australia, might bc able to defend itself for a little while, as Abyssinia did, but, if the British fleet were destroyed and we were left to fight with our own resources, although we would put up a better fight ‘than Abyssinia did, the end would be just as sure.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked, “Why is Australia in such a state as regards defence?” The answer is: Simply because the. party to which he belongs has done everything that it. can to destroy the defence of Australia, to stop Australia from preparing itself, and to stop our production of munitions and our training of men. As honorable members know, the honorable member for East Sydney has made some of the most disloyal speeches that have ever been made in any legislature of the British Empire. He is one of many who are responsible “ for our present inability to defend ourselves.
– That is not true.
– It is true. I have heard the honorable member for East Sydney make those speeches here.
To-day we are taking part in the Empire air scheme and are asking for great, numbers of young men to join the
Air Force, but the Government says that, irrespective of other qualifications, a man must hold the intermediate certificate before he is a fit and proper person to become a fighter-pilot or an observer. Some of the greatest fighters that we produced in the last war did not have any “ old school tie “ to wear. Men from my own regiment - -Billy Guilfoyle, who is now an Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Air Force, Stan- Muir and McCann, men of that type - and Macnamara, the first winner of the Victoria Cross in Palestine, who, I believe, is now a group captain in England, did not have an intermediate certificate. They were soldiers with the fighting spirit and did not need the intermediate certificate to tell them how to shoot the enemy. Yet to-day the Air Force is refusing the services of some of the best material in the world, men from the hill country of Gippsland and from the plains of the Mallee, who have had no opportunity to attend a secondary school. They have the merit certificate from the State schools, which were the only schools they could attend. For that reason the Government says: “No. They are not fit and proper persons. They would not be able to navigate a plane “. In the last war men like them proved that they were among the greatest fighting pilots that the world had ever seen. The possession of “ the old school tie “ did not enable other pilots to shoot one extra aeroplane down.
Another matter which I shall bring forward closely concerns the Minister for the Army. Many insulting references to the Militia of Australia have been made by certain individuals, prominent amongst whom is a man who once sat in this House. He broadcasts through the National Broadcasting Stations under the name of “The Watchman”. He has been very aptly called by Smith’s Weekly “The Botchman”. On the 15t,h May, this man broadcast from 2CO at 12.40 rum. and insultingly described the Militia camps as holiday camps.
– An armchair fighter.
– Yes. Although he was a. young man at the time of the last war,. he does not wear a returned soldier’s badge to-day. There are. hundreds of men in the division which I am proud to command who left their properties practically unattended to go to camp. Some men ride in regularly from Kosciusko 70 miles to Tallangatta in order to attend parades. They are of the type of men who, during the camp, were burnt out by the disastrous fires which swept through the west and north-east of Victoria, and they almost, lost their all. One man who owned one of the greatest merino studs in Australia had 10,000 stud sheep before the fire and only 34 after. Another man lost, eighteen miles of fencing. Many farmers who owned small properties had their homesteads burnt out. They should not have to listen to the insults that are hurled against them by a smug, self-satisfied gentleman calling himself “The Watchman”. It is a disgrace that they should have to do so. Other people besides “ The Watchman “ want putting in their places. One of them is the silvertailed ink-slinger they call the Acting Minister for Information. That man also said that the response from the Militia was a disappointment and a disgrace to it.
– Is the present Acting Minister for Information (Sir Henry Gullett) a silver-tailed ink-slinger?
– Yes. The attitude of the Government, to enlistment was largely responsible for the fact that, when the Sixth Division was formed, there was a comparatively small response from the Militia. The Government decided that it would call for enlistments from people outside the Militia. It said that after a certain number from outside bad enlisted and the Militia had held its camps, it would allow a certain number of militiamen to join. In 1914, two or three officers were taken from every unit in Australia and the men who were in those units, having confidence in their officers, followed them. The militiamen are prepared to do the same to-day. From my own division, 210 officers volunteered and 1,500 other ranks followed them. Ninetyone of those officers were taken, but 120 who volunteered have not been accepted. Why should the Militia have to listen to insults from Ministers and others? The Prime Minister himself said that the Government ‘ was disappointed at the response from the Militia. I tell the Prime Minister and the Ministry generally that the only body responsible for whatever disappointment there might have been at the response of the Militia to the call was the Government itself. This week, 30 officers and 230 men from my division have been accepted. If the Government took a reasonable number of officers from that division, the number of other ranks that would enlist would increase four or five-fold. Two officers were taken for the reconnaissance regiment, and that squadron was practically completed from other squadrons of the division.
Whilst I have no sympathy with the statements of the Leader of the Opposisition or the Leader of the so-called antiCommunist party concerning our war effort, I do not exonerate the Government from blame. If it does not wake up the people will put in its place another government which will lake the necessary steps to ensure that Australia will accept its full share of the job of supplying the Mother Country and the Allies with material, nml will also put as many troops on the plains of Flanders as Great Britain itself has to-day. I do not say that the Government of the United Kingdom has altogether pulled its weight, as it had, for some time, in Mr. Chamberlain, a Prime Minister who did not do his job. The people of England, for that reason, replaced him. If this Government does not wake up and accept the services of every man who is prepared to fight for the honour of the Empire and Australia, or to work so that our forces shall be supplied with all the equipment they need, it must be dispensed with, and another put in its place, which will coordinate and expand all of our war-time activities. [Quorum formed.]
.- I do not propose to speak at any length in this debate, for this is no time for futile discussion. The Empire and its Allies are to-day fighting an enemy which acts first and talks afterwards. We are, in fact, engaged in a life and death struggle in which Australia is vitally concerned, for all our spiritual, social and material privileges are at stake. It is imperative that we should concentrate all our energy on the war effort. Parliamentary control at this period is too unwieldy. We cannot expect to conduct the. affairs of the country efficiently in a time of war if the Government has to listen to the advice of 110 members of the Parliament. I appreciate the reasons given by the Opposition for declining to take part in a national government. These are, as .1 understand them, related to their desire to preserve their party interests and rights. I would remind honorable gentlemen opposite, however, and also the members of other parties who are anxious to preserve party interests, that if the Empire is defeated we shall not have a parliament, let. alone political parties.
In order that we may concentrate all of our resources on our war effort, I offer the suggestion that a committee representative of all parties be selected to confer with the Government and to advise it concerning the most effective way to meet the exigencies of the situation which faces us. Such a committee would not devote its time to useless debate, but would actively consult with and advise the Executive. Such honorable gentlemen as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), are sincerely anxious, I believe, that we should win the war, and they could with propriety be asked to act on such a committee as I have suggested. If this course were followed the Government would be assured at this critical time in our history that advice would be available, in an effective form, concerning all the activities that must be undertaken. In Germany, whatever one man says, goes. Here, 110 individuals are offering advice. How can we expect successfully to combat our enemy under these conditions?
– “Where no counsel is, the people fail, but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety “.
– In the multitude of counsellors we may also fall by the way. I offer my suggestion because I feel that we must act to-day. To-morrow may he too late. I appreciate the sincerity of honorable members and the earnestness of their .-desire to assist the Government, but no good purpose can be served by long debates at this critical time. I have sat in the House throughout this debate and, for the most part, not more than twenty members have been present at any one time. “What good purpose can the debate serve in such circumstances? I very much fear that we are in grave clanger of destroying our democracy by talk. I urge that the most careful consideration be given to my suggestion.
.- At this critical period of our history I wish to say a few words which I hope will be constructive and helpful. We are undoubtedly facing the gravest issues that have ever confronted us. T have read a lot about totalitarian methods of government and preparation for war, and consequently I have no illusions about the power of the enemy. My interpretation of civilization is that it leads to Christian socialism, under which governments will be actuated by high ethical principles. I claim to be a Christian socialist, and thai is why I am a member of the Australian Labour party. For that reason, I have some leanings towards freetrade, and at times have been asked why I am not a member of the Country party. My reply has been that I am not a member of the Country party because, in my opinion, that party takes a parochial view, and does not have regard to the interests of the nation as a. whole. That leads me to refer to the present war position. I realize that the Allied forces are in imminent, danger. Germany has been working for many years to achieve its present great strength. How- can democracy face. such a situation and counteract the totalitarian idea of government? In my opinion it can do so only by using the resources of the nation to the full capacity, in order to make a supreme effort to resist the evil force overshadowing the world. We all hope that the struggle will soon end, but I fear that the rumblings of this conflict will continue for a long time. At such a time, the Government should forget that it is a capitalist government, and opposed to national control of the country’s assets. The Government is not, in fact, opposed to national control, because in the Post
Office, for instance,- it has a great public utility which handles large revenues and performs a national service effectively and efficiently. The resources of the nation should be commandeered by the nation and used in the interests of the people. lt is idle to say that that cannot be done. If we are going to call upon the flower of our manhood to offer their greatest possession, the citizens of the nation who have wealth in any degree should make that wealth available to the nation, free of interest. I appeal to the Government to marshal the nation’s resources along the lines of national socialism.
– Why not have a national government?
– There is no need at the moment for a national government in Australia, although, if I were in England, I should’ support a national government there because of the imminent danger facing that country. In my opinion, the British and French armies arc more courageous than the German forces - that was shown during the last war; but the mechanization of the German forces has made it possible for them to force their way to the Channel ports. There has been a good deal of talk about a national government. I ask supporters of the Government what more could members of the Opposition have done than they have done. Representatives of the trade unions are now in conference with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with a view to the industrial organizations assisting the nation in this crisis to the fullest degree possible. To-night the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) offered his industrial legal knowledge and experience to the Government in an attempt to keep the industrial machinery working smoothly and effectively. This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition (.Mr. Curtin) left the House in no .doubt as to the support of the Opposition for a maximum war effort. [ agree with the remarks of the honorable mem her. for Bourke regarding the danger associated with Labour amalgamating with its political opponents. Labour is totally opposed to the Government’s peace policy in many respects, for Labour believes in a collective effort by the nation for the nation. The Labour party has consistently aimed at socialistic ideals. Labour believes that the nation should assist the wheat industry, the sugar industry, and other industries which are of national importance and in need of assistance. We, on this side, believe that the industries of a nation should be so regulated that their watchword will be “use” instead of “profit”. I offer my services to the Federal Government to be used in any way that will not conflict with the principles that I hold dear. Those principles I shall not sacrifice; but anything that I can do to help this country during this crisis I am willing to do. Some of us in this Parliament have a knowledge of rural problems which may be of assistance to the Government. My knowledge of such problems and of marketing, 1 offer freely to the Government. Unfortunately, Australia has large quantities of primary products which cannot be exported. If I can see the writing on the wall for Europe, particularly England, it is that those countries will experience’ great difficulty in regard to food supplies. The Government should speed up production, and take control of industry. There should not be one unemployed’ person in Australia at a time like this. The resources of the country should be utilized to ensure the maximum effort possible. Non-Labour governments have had control of the Treasury for the last nine years, yet they blame the Labour Government which was in office in 1931 for not having organized the resources of the country to prepare for war. The effect of the rectification of the financial position of this country by the Government led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was to put that right honorable gentleman and his party into opposition. But the point is, not what may have been the omissions of cither the Scullin Government or the Lyons Government, but that this young country, in common with the whole of the British Empire, is dangerously close to losing all of the freedom for which it has fought. I have no illusions concerning the organized attempt that is being made in that direction. Why have the democracies not been able so to arrange their affairs that they would be strong enough to meet this onslaught?
– I gave the reason two years ago. It is, that we are talking while the dictators are acting.
– Ever since the termination of the last war there have been from 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 unemployed in Great Britain. That has not been the case in Germany. Democracy has failed in that regard. There have been from 100,000 to 400,000 unemployed in Australia, quite unnecessarily. For the last ten years, the average number of unemployed has been 200,000, in consequence of which the loss to the nation has been no less than £400,000,000. That unemployed army has been described in certain publications as the “ demons of democracy “. No conservative government would eradicate unemployment. A Labour government would so marshal the resources of the country that unemployment would disappear entirely. In New Zealand, resources have been brought into contact with labour power, with the result that unemployment was brought to an end in two years. Had that been the position in Australia since the termination of the last war, we should have had sufficient strength in every way to resist an enemy. Democracies are at the cross roads and must change their policy, removing the nightmare of unemployment which stares the great mass of the workers in the face day by day. These are the causes of our weakness, and they must be rectified. Just as chickens run to the mother’s wing in time of trouble, so does the nation now look to the Government for aid. Industries like those of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and General Motors-Holdens Limited, in which millions of pounds are invested and which have so much to lose, must be marshalled in the interests of the nation in this crisis. If the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is not big enough to undertake the task, the people of this country will defeat him and his Government and will place the responsibility on a Labour government. The Government has clone a good deal in the last few months in preparations for the conduct of the war. Like the Leader of the Opposition, I realize that the first and most important thing is to have our factories working to their fullest capacity. If the Opposition can assist the Government, without affecting the principles which it holds dear, its help and advice will he freely placed at the disposal of the Ministry. When the House meets again, I hope that the international situation will have improved. We all realize the very dangerous position of the Empire at the present time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Francis) adjourned.
War: Situation in Belgium.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have to inform honorable members that official advice from London has been received to the effect that the Belgian Army has capitulated. A report, as yet unconfirmed, has also just come to hand that the Belgian Government has declared its intention to continue the state of war with Germany, and to organize resistance with such Belgian forces as can be got together in France.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– Employees in munitions establishments are engaged by the day as temporary hands, and, in the event of an employee enlisting, his services necessarily terminate. The question of re-employment after demobilization will depend on the circumstances then prevailing. “A.B.C. Weekly “.
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the statement made by the former Postmaster-General, on behalf of the Government, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s journal would not be financed from revenue from listeners’ licence-fees, and as the information asked for regarding the financing of the journal is of public importance, will he have the details placed before Parliament?
– I am not aware of the statement referred to, which is alleged to have been made by the former PostmasterGeneral regarding the financing of the A.B.C. Weekly. Information is being prepared by the commission in regard to this journal, but in view of the fact that the general manager has been busily engaged attending to important administrative duties prior to his enlistment for active service, I have not pressed for the early completion of these returns. As soon as the report comes to hand it will be made available to Parliament.
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– It is notin the public interest that I should disclose any information in regard to the guarding of wireless stations in time of war.
s. - On the15th May, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister for Defence Co-ordination, arrange to co-ordinate the methods adopted in regard to recruiting for the Air Force and the Australian Imperial Force? In order that the right honorable gentleman may understand the purport of the question, I mention that the mayor of Grafton told me last night that whilst the local recruiting committee may publicly farewell Air Force recruits and publish their names in the newspaper, and whilst they may march through the streets, thereby stimulating recruiting, thenames of recruits for the Australian Imperial Force are never published and that such men arc merely given their rail warrants and allowed to leavethe railway station without any public farewell.
Would it not be possible for them both to be treated in the same way? There seems to be some doubt as to whether the censor is p inventing the names of Australian Imperial Force recruits from being published. Moreover, will he arrange to make it possible for the medical officers for the Air Force and tha Australian Imperial Force, who are stationed respectively at Grafton and Lismore, which are 90 miles apart, to examine recruits for both the Air Force and the Australian Imperial Force! At present recruits have to travel to the respective town, except on occasions when tho appropriate authority visits the other centre.
I am now in a position to inform the right honorable member that there is no departmental objection to civic and other bodies according public farewells to recruits, whether Australian Imperial Force or Air Force. It is not the practice of either the Army or Air Force authorities to publish the names of recruits, nor is it considered advisable for such information to be made available through departmental channels for publication. There is, however, no departmental objection to the publication of names of recruits if they are. communicated to tho press by the men themselves or by civic or other bodies with the men’s consent. With regard to the medical examination of recruits, notwithstanding the similarity of the requirements for recruits for tha Australian Imperial Force and those for recruits for enlistment as gound personnel for tho Royal Australian Air Force, there are certain administrative difficulties which render it inadvisable to provide for medical officers of the Air Force and of the Army stationed respectively at Grafton and Lismore, to examine recruits for both the Air Force and the Australian Imperial Force, as suggested by the right honorable gentleman. In the case of prospective air crews, these personnel are required to pass tests which are not imposed on recruits for the Australian Imperial Force, and it would be impracticable for army medical officers to examine Air Force recruits as such officers have not undergone special training required to familiarize Air Force examiners with the technique of examinations for that force, nor are they versed in the use of certain special equipment or the interpretation of special tests as applied to aviation. An arrangement has, however, been in force for some timo under which the appropriate Army forms are made available to Air Force recruiting centres so that men rejected for the Royal Australian Air Force may be recorded as fit for the Australian Imperial Force, if such is the case. Such medical examinations are accepted by the Army. Forms of application for enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force are being made available at Australian Imperial Force recruiting depots.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 May 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400528_reps_15_163/>.