15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 11.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Information seen a report in this morning’s Canberra Times under the heading “ Censorship’s Inglorious Bungling “? The report relates to the landing of the Australian Imperial Force in Britain, and indicates that the news was given to the press, but because permission was withdrawn-
– The honorable member should ask his question.
– Has the Minister for Information seen the press report referred to ; can he Bay whether or not it is true that certain bungling did take place ; if it is not true, will he take steps to have the report corrected, or at least see that the position is clarified!
– I saw a report of the character referred to in one section of the press. The matter is at present being investigated in order to ascertain the actual position.
– Can the Minister for Air give to the House the latest information in relation to recruiting for the Air Force, particularly with respect to the classes which already have long waiting lists, and those classes for which men are required immediately?
– I assure the House that recruiting for the Air Force has been most satisfactory. Recruiting depots have been set up by the recruiting directorate of the Department of Air, and there has been a voluntary organization, on a Commonwealth-wide basis, with strong committees in every State. This organization has been effected by a central committee of notable flying people, under the chairmanship of Sir Donald Cameron. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the splendid work that has been done by Sir Donald Cameron and his committee. It is a continuation of the wonderful service which Sir Donald has given to this country in war, in this Parliament, and in other spheres. The flow of recruits into the Air Force recruiting depots has not only provided adequate personnel in every category but has actually caused a longer waiting list in some categories than is considered to be desirable. From now on, the chief problem in connexion with recruiting for the Air Force will be to restrict the flow to those categories in which personnel is definitely required, namely, air crew trainees. Although there is a long waiting list, and many men will not be called up for months, we require a long waiting list of men of this and certain other types. With regard to other categories, there are 63 musterings, in only four of which any considerable flow is at present required. I refer to .trained fitters, men to be trained as niters, *nd cooks. One of the .great difficulties has been, that men ‘without trades, or tradesmen not urgently required at present, have .been offering in .such large numbers that the job of dealing with the men who are wanted has been made difficult, and irritation and disappointment have resulted. “What is necessary now is that the public shall be informed of the classifications that are definitely needed, and the qualifications required of applicants. For that purpose, an experienced newspaperman has been appointed as Director of Public Relations. His job will be to provide the State committees with day-to-day information of the immediate requirements of the Air Force, in form suitable for publication, thereby enabling people to know the kind of men that are wanted, as well as those who are not wanted at the moment. His appointment should remove many of the difficulties which have arisen. Mistakes also have undoubtedly been made because of lack of experience on the part of the recruiting officers, but the position is improving from day to day.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Air whether it is not possible to expedite the examination of Air Force recruits? Recently, a man complained to me that he had volunteered three months ago to serve in the Air Force, but that he had heard nothing since. He was anxious to know what the authorities were going to do about his application because, if they were not going to accept him in that capacity, he would join the Australian Imperial Force. When I made representations on his behalf, I received a letter stating that the man’s application had been received, and that he would be called up for an interview in three months’ time.
– This case, although an extreme one, having regard to the length of the delay, is not, unfortunately, unusual. The interviewing of applicants could be expedited quite a lot if it were possible to duplicate the interviewing committees. The present rate of taking in trainees is limited by the medical staff available. The examination of recruits for the Australian Imperial
Force is making a heavy demand upon the medical profession. “We already have engaged 200 medical and dental .officers, and this .number must be increased to 400. I shall investigate the possibility of still further increasing the medical staff so that the examination of Air Force recruits, which takes over an hour for each man, may be expedited. I admit that the delays that have taken place have worried m« a great deal. I ask honorable members to bring specific cases of this kind under the notice of the recruiting officers in the capital cities.
– I have done that
– Well, perhaps in this instance the matter cannot be expedited. It is well, however, to bring such matters under notice in case the application has been overlooked. It must be realized that the clerical staff has had very little experience, and it is possible that mistakes may be made from time to time.
– In view of the fact that a large number of recruits is clamouring for enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force, will the Minister for Air take steps immediately to have enrolled a further 115 trainees, to bc stationed at Archerfield, where, at the present time, there is the necessary equipment, although there are only 45 trainees and 44 instructors?
– Trainees are being taken into the Air Force according to plan, and as the facilities become available under the expansion of the training organization. I shall look into the position with respect to Archerfield, which will shortly cease to be used for training purposes. It is not desirable to say exactly what is the intended function of every station, but if the honorable member wishes I shall tell him for his personal information what are to be the training and operational functions of stations in the vicinity of Brisbane.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that during the last fortnight men who have offered for enlistment in the Air Force as fitter trainees and fitter transport drivers have been refused enlistment and have been advised to offer for active service outside the Air Force? I also ask the Minister whether he will sec that provision is made for a reserve list to be compiled so that men with the required qualifications may enrol?
– I shall inquire into the matter. With regard to fitter transport drivers, I know that we have a long waiting list. Many more such men are enrolled than we are likely to require for a considerable time.
– I understand that in South Australia the private banks are exerting an unfair influence on people who have given mortgages to them.
– Questions must not contain allegations.
– Will the Prime Minister cause immediate investigations to be made, with a view to protection being afforded to business people and private citizens who have given mortgages to private banks, especially those whose assets exceed their indebtedness to such institutions ?
– I shall have the matter investigated promptly.
– Will the Government, under the powers to be conferred on it by the amending National Security Bill, see that the equipment of the major motor companies is converted wholly or substantially from the production of motor car bodies to the manufacture of aeroplane engines and other munitions of war? Further, will the Prime Minister see that the engineering resources of all of the States, not merely of the two central States, are mobilized and used for the production of war munitions?
– tinder the new organization of the Munitions Department the fullest use will be made of all suitable private engineering and manufacturing resources. Particular attention is, in fact, being paid to the need for decentralizing these activities to the fullest possible degree. I am able to say that Western Australia has been given special consideration in this respect.
– Can the Minister for Commerce say whether the Government proposes to make a further advance to the wheat-growers of Australia, and, if so, can he give any indication of the amount of the advance, and the date of payment ?
– No decision in this matter has yet been arrived at. As soon as it is made, details will be published.
– Is it true that, following a visit of inspection to certain establishments by parliamentary representatives and representatives of the press, men were taken off the work within fifteen minutes, and the machines left idle?
– I saw that myself.
– -Is it a fact that there is a general relaxation of work in connexion with annexes in Sydney? Is it correct that at least 50 per cent, of th<- shell cases processed at the Eveleigh railway annexes were discarded during the process of manufacture?
-1 shall answer the last question of the honorable member first by saying that the statement contained in it is not Only untrue, but also ridiculously untrue.
– Two hundred shell cases were put into the furnace.
– As part of the process of manufacture. I have been in touch this morning with the works manager of the Eveleigh workshops, and he assures me that not more than 5 per cent, of the shell cases have had to be discarded. He says, further, that that is not an extraordinary percentage in connexion with work of this kind. Apart from that assurance, I know that that is so.
– He is pulling your leg.
-As to the honorable member’s suggestion that there was some “ shadow “ -work done during the inspection, I have seen the statement, and it is based on a remark made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I ask honorable members, who know the honorable member for West Sydney and his patriotic fervour which he has recently developed, whether they think that he is the man to keep a secret like that locked up in his bosom until yesterday, when at the inspection he had 65 associates, including five newspaper representatives? As a matter of fact, in the week immediately following the inspection 282 more men were employed in the annexes which were visited.
– by leave- 1 shall not take advantage of the leave that has been granted to me, but shall content myself by stating facts in rebuttal of the charge which the Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) has levelled against me. I visited the annexe at Eveleigh and took part in the inspection. I remained in the annexe for at least fifteen minutes after the inspection had been completed, and after the 60 odd gentlemen who comprised the inspection party had actually left the works. Because Eveleigh was the last place of inspection it was not possible for me to make contact with the members of the party again, and, therefore, I could not make the statement to them which the Minister suggested I should have made had I been filled with intense patriotic fervour. Fifteen minutes after the inspection had been made, I again passed through the annexe, and found that a number of the machines that had been working while the inspection was in progress were no longer working, and that the men had left them. I directed the attention of the foreman to what had happened, and also had the opportunity to bring it under the notice of the Staff Superintendent of Railways, Mr. Funnel, who happened to come on the scene at that, very moment.
– When was that?
– Fifteen to twenty minutes after the inspection party had left the annexe. The reason why I delayed, if it is necessary to state a reason, was that I had passed over to the other bay of the annexe, and was inquiring why the machines on that side were not working. I was referred to the foreman, and it was my discussion with him that kept me behind the rest of the party.
The other members of the party did not visit that part of the annexe. They had gone to look at the tool room, and after that they left the premises. I went towards the tool room some time after.
– Mr. Funnel went back in my car to town.
– He walked out of the building with me. If Mr. Funnel went back in the Minister’s car, the Minister must have delayed somewhere else without my seeing him. The point is this: I did not have an opportunity to make these matters known at the time of the inspection because the majority of those who comprised the inspection party had already gone. I do not desire to take any advantage of the situation; I merely appeal to the Minister not to be wholly led by the advice that is tendered to him by those associated with his department. Let him remember that those who offer the advice have their own interests to safeguard. No doubt they make reports to the Minister, but those reports might not, contain all the facts. The information given to me was received from the men working in the workshop itself, and those men know that the whole thing on the day of the inspection was a set-up. The men were brought over on Friday from other parts of the works to work the machines during the whole of the week-end in the annexe. The result was that a large number of the shell cases that we saw being produced had to be put ‘back into the furnace, and I know this to be a fact, as the information is from the men who work at Eveleigh.
– As the charges made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) are of a serious kind, does the Minister for Supply propose to let the matter rest there, or will he make a further statement?
– I assure the honorable member that the matter will not be allowed to rest where it is.
– Now that the Government has unlimited powers, will the Minister for Supply and Development see that those who have offered their factories to the Government, and the Queensland Railway Workshops, are utilized to their fullest capacity by Mr. Essington Lewis and his advisers?
– The Director-General of Munitions Supplies and his associates are at this moment engaged in a survey of the whole of the potential productivity of Australia, including both mechanical and personnel aspects.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether he was present at the Chullora workshops inspection when Mr. Storey, who is in charge of aircraft construction there, addressed the members of the parliamentary party and also the newspaper representatives? Did he hear Mr. Storey admit, in reply to questions put by me, that 30 per cent, of the parts of the bombers bought in Great Britain to be assembled in Australia were missing when the packages arrived here? Did he also hear Mr. Storey admit that if seven machines were ordered we should be likely to get only two of them complete? If he heard these statements has he investigated them? Does he think that there has been sabotage in respect of these aeroplanes, or is the shortage of parte due to cheating on the part of the manufacturers from whom they were ordered?
Wits not present when such statements were made, but I shall have an investigation made into the matter.
Motion (by Mr. Hutchinson) - by leave- agreed to -
That leave of absence for the remainder of the session be given to the honorable member for Fawkner (itr. Holt), absent on military service with the Australian Imperial Force.
– Having regard to ihe marvellous response of the public in offering interest-free loans to the Government, will the Prime Minister favorably consider introducing a 10 per cent, reduction of all Commonwealth salaries, with the exception, possibly, of those below a certain figure, the money to be placed to their credit in war loans, free of interest?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be taken into consideration.
Manufacture in Australia.
– Will the Minister for Air consider having American aeroplanes constructed in Australia under licence, and the importation of a nucleus of American craftsmen to train operatives in this country?
– The Government is exploring every possibility of drawing on American resources. I do not want to enlarge on what those resources may be, but, such as they are, we shall use them to the fullest possible degree.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether there have been any recent sales of flour to other countries? Does not the Government think it would be wise to explore every possibility of selling flour, rather than wheat, overseas, so that we may in this way provide additional employment in Australia, as well as conserve shipping space?
– Preference in all cases is given to sales of flour. Sales are being made from time to time.
– I have been informed by members of the delegation which inspected munitions annexes in Sydney that Mr. Storey had told them that it would be possible to produce more air bombers if he could get magnesium metal from America. I now ask whether it is a. fact that the Department of Supply has been offered magnesium metal by a Tasmanian company, but that the offer has not been accepted ? Will the Minister take action to see that the offer is accepted, so that the production of bombers may not be delayed?
– It is, of course, true that, in some degree, our ability to manufacture aircraft depends on our ability to obtain supplies of material from places other than the United Kingdom. It is also true that I have received correspondence from the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) regarding the offer of a Tasmanian company to supply magnesium metal, but it was not a specific offer. A specific proposal has now been submitted to the company through the honorable member, and we are still prepared to discuss the matter with him.
– I have received several telegrams in connexion with the revocation of authority for the production of the newspaper, the Daily Mirror. Here is a fair sample -
Under impression that Government ‘would keep word I left good job to accept position on Daily Mirror. Something happened and licence has been revoked. Would you kindly mc what you can do? Three tiny Australians and two big ones arc anxious.
Will the Prime Minister state the reasons for the revocation of the permission for the publication of this newspaper? Will he also state, if the decision is irrevocable, whether compensation will be paid to the interests concerned, and if so, whether provision will be made for a part of the amount so allocated to be applied for the benefit of those who relinquished jobs to take up positions on the newspaper about to be published ? m Mr. MENZIES.- Cabinet revoked the licence because of the urgent and growing importance of conserving overseas exchange. The matter of compensation to the company affected by the revocation will be promptly considered by Cabinet when a claim is formulated and presented.
– Can the Prime Minister tell me whether or not the application of Truth and Sportsman Limited for a licence to import newsprint for the publication of the Daily Mirror was considered and approved on two occasions, first by the Minister for Trade and Customs and, secondly, by Cabinet; and whether, just before the order to revoke the licence was made, Sir Hugh Denison and Sir Graham Waddell visited Canberra and consulted, the Prime Minister? Will the Prime Minister advise me as well, whether they discussed this matter with him before the licence was revoked? If that was not the purpose of their visit to Canberra, oan the right honorable gentleman advise the House of what their business was?
– The matter referred to was considered at least twice by Cabinet with an, interval of time between the two considerations. Before the second consideration, my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, was interviewed by the proprietor of the proposed evening newspaper. I was certainly interviewed by Sir Graham Waddell and Sir Hugh Denison, representing the Sydney Sun. Whether that was the sole business that they had in coming to Canberra I do not know, but they certainly interviewed me in relation to that matter. The whole subject was considered by Cabinet. The views of both parties were available and the matter was considered and decided. A day or two later I saw Mr. Norton himself. He was brought to me by the Leader of the Opposition and he made representations which were further considered by Cabinet, and Cabinet decided to adhere to its decision to revoke the licence.
– I do not think that the Prime Minister realized the significance of the latter part of my question, so I shall ask him again whether, when the Government is considering any claims which may be advanced by the company concerned in the publication, of the Daily Mirror, he will take into consideration the position of persons who, by taking positions on the staff of the Daily Mirror, in the hope that its publication would be allowed, gave up what would be possibly life-time positions on the staffs of other newspapers? Will the Prime Minister make provision for compensation in such cases as that?
– I do not quite comprehend how the Commonwealth is going to look after the compensation of individuals who had some arrangement with this company, but, insofar as they become entitled to compensation from the company, the company will no doubt bring that matter into account in pressing its claim on us.
– Will the Prime Minister promise to consider the grave difficulties associated with the pearl-fishing industry in the north-west of Western
Australia, due to the overlapping operations of nationale other than Australians? Will he consider the suggestions of Captain Gregory, a master pearler in Broome, for a solution of the difficulty, as outlined by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) in a speech delivered on the 30th May last, and reported on page 1597 of Hansard
– I shall look into the matter.
– Having regard to the numerous requests from men over military age who are anxious to serve the country at this time, will the Minister for the Army consider the advisability of Appointing an officer to co-ordinate and control civilian efforts in Australia, and, at the same time, to encourage such organizations as rifle clubs?
– I imagine that a question regarding the control of civilian organizations might! he more properly directed to the Prime Minister. Howover, I assure the honorable member I hat his suggestion will receive full consideration in the scheme of Australian defence.
Mi’. DEDMAN. - I ask the Minister for Commerce: Is it a fact that, within the last fortnight, two Japanese vessels have loaded scrap iron for Japan? If so, will the honorable gentleman consider the prevention of further exports of scrap iron to that country?
– I cannot say offhand whether or not scrap iron lias been loaded for export to Japan, “but I should say that it is quite likely that such is the case. There is a huge surplus of scrap iron in Australia, and as it is not wholly needed here no useful purpose would be served by keeping it in this country.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform me whether he has any records that show that available scrap iron has been refused to Great Britain while scrap iron has been exported to Japan f
– I have no such records and I am fairly sure that they do not exist.
– Constitutionally, the remainder of the life of this Parliament is about seven months. In view of the portentous character of the events that appear to be imminent within that period, during which neither the Government nor the people will be disposed to discuss general elections, will the Prime Minister state if the Government has considered whether or not an election should be held this year, or that the life of the Parliament should be extended? If the life of the Parliament is to be extended, will it not be necessary for an authorizing act to be passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom? If that be so, will the Government take action to secure the requisite power from the Parliament of the United Kingdom before that Parliament itself becomes more intensely involved in the actual incidents of war, so that, should this Government and this Parliament decide to extend the life of Parliament, such a decision may be promptly given effect?
– In my view, the honorable member is right in thinking that the extension of the life of this Parliament would, in certain circumstances, require an authorizing act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. As to whether such an extension should ba sought is a matter which would be greatly affected by the particular circumstances of any given time. Consequently, the Government has not yet thought it necessary to consider it.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether or not any encouragement has been given to primary producers to plant this year extra acreage of products suitable for export overseas, on account of the very serious position in Europe? Should not the Government give a lead in this matter, in order that <!very advantage may be taken of whatever opportunities present themselves for the supply of suitable foodstuffs to the Old Country?
– There is no shortage of foodstuffs in the United Kingdom. We are at war with the other countries to which the honorable member has referred, or they are occupied by the enemy, and the blockade being applied by the British fleet will prevent supplies from reaching them. The whole matter will be considered at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council to be held next Monday week.
– -In correspondence, and in discussions with persons who reside in country districts, there have been made to me many expressions of anxiety regarding the continuance >pf farming operations, particularly on dairy farms, because of the extraordinarily large numbers of enlistments by the young members of different families, as well as by employees of primary producers. Has the Government yet begun to consider the advisability of an effort being made along lines similar to those followed by Great Britain last year, to set up a special organization to meet this emergency, and, if possible, to utilize the services of women who arc anxious to assist in this connexion ?
– The matter will be discussed at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on Monday week.
– If it be the intention of the Government to establish another military camp at Ballarat, will the Minister for the Army see that a practice is adopted contrary to that which, I understand, operates at Bendigo in regard to supplies of bread and meat? I understand that these supplies are taken to Bendigo from Melbourne. Will the Minister see that supplies are obtained in or adjacent to Ballarat?
– The matter of sites for new camps to be established throughout Australia is at present under consideration, and I hope that a decision will be reached early next week. Ballarat is being considered as one of the sites. With respect to contracts for supplies, I point out to the honorable gentleman that there is nothing which debars the merchants of either Bendigo or Ballarat from submitting tenders in competition with those submitted from other places.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any foundation for the report that the Government has selected a person to represent Australia at Tokio? If so, is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement on the matter?
– A selection has not been made, but the matter is under consideration by the Cabinet.
Enlistment in Australian Imperial Force.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider allowing militia units to enlist as units in the Australian Imperial Force?
– Consideration has been given to the adoption of such a practice, but it is not regarded as either desirable or administratively possible.
– Will the Treasurer say whether the Government has decided to accept interest-free loans as a factor in the financing of war-time commitments? If so, has a policy been formulated under which such loans may be properly controlled for a period in the future? Is a contract being entered into between the lenders and the Government, or will the loans be subject to repayment at the will or the whim of subscribers?
– The Government has furnished an opportunity for interestfree loans to be subscribed by the people to an amount of £5,000,000, following upon a number of requests by persons who desired to make such contributions. The terms on which the money is advanced to the Commonwealth are, usually, that it shall be loaned for the period of the war or for that period and a certain additional period thereafter, provided that, if the lenders get into difficulties - as, for example, in the payment of probate duty or income tax - they may make application to the Commonwealth for repayment. I have no doubt whatever that such requests would be granted.
– In view of the press report of a shortage of copper in Australia, will the Minister for Supply and Development expedite the report of the geologist who is now conducting investigations in north-west Queensland and the north-eastern portion of the Northern Territory, adjacent to the Gulf of Carpentaria to ascertain if the huge deposits in those areas warrant the building of a railway from Mount Isa to a Gulf port?
– I shall have inquiries made to ascertain if it will bo possible to comply with the request of the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for the Army take action to decentralize authority in connexion with the army administration, so as to give greater authority to State commandants and others in charge of army direction in tho States? I am informed that the State commandant has authority to expend only up to £25 without referring the matter either to Canberra or to Melbourne. I have also contacted the recruiting authorities who are directing the effort in New South Wales, and have been informed that they have no authority to expend money without reference to Melbourne.
– Every effort is made to achieve decentralization as far as possible, in order to speed up and to achieve greater efficiency. The figure mentioned by the honorable member as the limit to which a State commandant may incur expenditure is that which existed two or three years ago; it is now some hundreds of pounds. I have placed no restriction on the efforts of the DirectorGeneral of Recruiting to fulfil the task that has been placed in his hands.
Registration of Ne w Union.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the registration of another union to cover workers in the coal-mining industry has been granted by the New South Wales Industrial Registrar, thus causing very grave unrest in the ranks of members of the Coal-miners Federation, due to the fact that such registration is in contravention of the terms of settlement of the recent coal trouble, which specified that the conditions existing prior to the stoppage should operate ? In order to effect harmony in this industry, will the right honorable gentleman take steps under the National Security Act to cancel this registration?
– The honorable member was good enough to mention this matter to me yesterday afternoon. 1 am having inquiries made into it, and hope to be able to tell him something about it, perhaps later in the day.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that recruiting in Canberra is below the average of country towns in the surrounding districts, duo partially, no doubt, to the fact that, in at least one case, a conscientious objector was appointed to the Public Service to fill the position of an officer who had enlisted, at an additional salary of £100 a year?
– I am unaware of the state of affairs alleged by the honorable gentleman to exist. I shall certainly make inquiries, in order that he may be furnished with an answer.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has considered the provision of a moratorium to cover the property of men whose income has been seriously depleted as the result of their enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force?
– That matter will be considered very shortly.
– What is the nature of the offer that the Minister for the Army has received from Wauchope’s saw-mill at Coffs Harbour?
– The firm has offered to the Government for the duration of the war, 2,000 super, feet of timber a week, free of cost. The mill, plant and material are being made available by the company and the employees are giving their services in their own time. This patriotic offer has been gratefully accepted.
– Has the Minister for Commerce any knowledge of any offer by the Japanese authorities to construct freight-carrying ships in exchange for Australian primary products?
– No proposal for the construction of ships in exchange for primary products has been made to me or, as far as I know, to any other member of the Government. Certain propositions in regard to the supply of some very old ships were made but were entirely unsatisfactory.
– Will the Minister for the Army see if it is possible to arrange for a system of defence training in distant parts of. the Commonwealth so that the people in those areas may be enabled to assist hi the defence of Australia should the occasion ever arise ?
– That will receive consideration.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether provision is made in any Commonwealth act compelling compensation to be paid for any property or plant which is taken over by the Government under the National Security Act?
– That question is very wide. The Constitution provides that the Commonwealth may acquire property on just terms; the Prime Minister referred to that provision yesterday. The practical application of the honorable gentleman’s question, however, may be easily answered. It is not the intention of the Government to take property from people without compensating them.
– Has the Minister for Air any information concerning the construction of the extensive training camp at Evans Head? Is it not a fact that the contractor is being considerably hindered by the lack of forwardness of the work of the Department of the Interior in preparing the ground so that he can get on with the job?
– I have no knowledge of the delay, but I shall ask the Minister for the Interior to inquire into the matter.
– I have been advised by the secretary of the Combined Railways Workshops Committee at Townsville that the authorities in a raid upon his home seized the minute book, bank pass-book, roll book and correspondence of that body as well as books written by the Dean of Canterbury and John Strachey. Does the Prime Minister think it right, to say the least of it, that, amongst other things, the organization’s bank pass-book should be taken?
– I have not the vaguest idea. I should want to know whose pass-book it was and for what purpose it was being used before I could venture an opinion. As to why anybody should want to seize a book by the Dean of Canterbury, I have not the slightest idea.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether Cabinet has yet considered the Townsend report on shipbuilding in Australia and if any preparatory arrangements have been made to implement that report pending any legislative action which might be necessary ? Will the Minister be good enough to let me have a look at the report, because I am particularly interested in the subject?
– Exhaustive consideration has been given to the report in relation to the shipbuilding programme to which the Commonwealth has committed itself in connexion with the construction of naval vessels. Any further statement will be made by the Prime Munster to whom I shall convey the honorable member’s request to peruse the report.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government has yet come to a decision on. the rate of bounty to be paid to the Australian cottongrowers in the next five years?
Compensation of Injured Members
– Can the Minister for the Army tell me why neither compensation nor military allowance has been paid to members of the Australian Imperial Force who were seriously injured at Rutherford camp before last Christ mas? Since they have received no compensation or military pay they are now in destitute circumstances. I have made repeated applications to the Defence Department about this matter.
– I very much regret the delay indicated by the honorable gentleman. I will see if this, with every other outstanding case, can be speeded up. but hundreds of thousands of people a.re being, handled by the Department of the Army now compared with only 25,000 eighteen months ago.
– In view of the unlimited powers held by the Commonwealth Government, will the AttorneyGeneral see that the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Maritime Industry are implemented at once so as to bring about complete harmony on the waterfront ?
– I shall do the best I can. I have had very wide experience of conditions on the waterfront and I
Iia ve never known complete harmony.
– The right honorable member should know something about conditions on the waterfront. Why not do something now?
– I shall do my best
– The Victorian Institute of .Surveyors has devised a scheme whereby its services will he used in rapidly mapping key points of Australia in conjunction with the Defence Commands. In view of the urgency of preparing defence maps by topographical and geodetic methods, will the Minister for the Army favorably consider the same body co-ordinating its work with army head-quarters ?
– The suggestion will be considered.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs able to give the House any information concerning the latest position in respect of the capitulation of France, and the submission of peace terms by Germany?
– The latest information in the possession of the Government is that the Prime Minister of France asked, through the medium of General Franco, the Dictator of Spain, that the German Government should indicate what terms it would require for the cessation of hostilities in France. It was indicated to the Government of France, in reply, that it should appoint delegates to meet the German Dictator and his officials, when -terms would be submitted to them. It has been stated in the press that the French Government appointed plenipotentiaries to attend, but that statement is not accurate. The three persons appointed were not plenipotentiaries empowered to negotiate, but were, in fact, no more than three emissaries sent to receive the terms from the German Dictator and bring them back to the Government of France for consideration. We know no more than that.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs able to give the House any information concerning the position in the Netherlands East Indies?
– I have nothing to add to ray previous statement on that subject.
– In view of the very deep interest taken by members of the general public in ministerial statements and the broadcast speeches of Ministers, I ask the’ Prime Minister whether we are to take it that when Ministers speak they give expression to the views of the Government, or are we to understand that they are voicing their own private opinions ?
– I cannot understand how a Minister who makes a statement on some public political subject can be taken as speaking other than on behalf of the Government.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether any consultations have taken place between himself or other members of the Government and representatives of insurance companies with the object of safeguarding the interests of soldiers who are serving with the forces, in respect of policies taken out prior to their enlistment or of policies taken out subsequently ?
– I have had correspondence with insurance companies on that subject. I cannot say offhand what stage has been reached, but if the honorable member is interested I shall let him know the result of it.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you are aware that a distinguished member of this House, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) who has already won Empire distinction, has unsuccessfully risen 38 times to-day in seeking the call from the Chair to ask a question! Will yon, sir, permit the honorable member to secure a world’s record in this respect?
-If the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) had been more observant he would not have asked his question. The honorable member for Bendigo received almost the first call from the Chair for his party to-day.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the existing treaty between Australia and Italy in relation to immigration has been automatically revoked by the breaking out of the present hostilities, or whether, after hostilities cease, it will again automatically come into operation?
– The situation is somewhat complicated by reason of the fact that the treaty to which the honorable member has referred was made prior to federation between the Government of Italy and the Government of the United Kingdom, and had application to the then existing Australian colonies. The Government is at present seeking to ascertain the proper steps to take to terminate the treaty.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the serious position of the primary producers of Australia, and also of many business people, he will consult with the State governments with the object of introducing some moratorium provisions to meet the situation?
– The question of how far moratoria should be introduced in respect of various sections of the community is now under consideration. The particular aspect of the subject referred to by the honorable member hae been under attention, and material in relation to it has been prepared by the Department of Commerce which will shortly be submitted to the Cabinet.
– I have received a telegram from Mr. McGregor, the State president of the organization formed by the unemployed in New South Wales, in which he states that in consequence of the high cost of living the position of many unemployed persons is desperate. He points out that single unemployed persons in Canada and New Zealand receive an allowance of fi a week. This allowance is increased in respect of men who have dependent wives and children. He also states that a single unemployed person in Australia receives 8s. 6d. a week and that this is causing great discontent and hardship. On his behalf I ask whether the Government will make some money available through the Commonwealth Bank, free of interest, in order to put national works in hand and also to provide employment for men and additional relief work for women ? Is the Prime Minister aware of the great hardship that exists in New South Wales among the unemployed by reason of the fact that the Commonwealth Government has permitted certain defence works to be administered by the State Goverment under its own regulations? The result of this has been that the unemployed are given only intermittent work and, after finishing on a job, their names are put at the bottom of the list of registered unemployed. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether, in the future, defence works will be administered by the Commonwealth itself and not through the works departments of the State governments?
– As it is frequently stated that the Commonwealth Government is not? sufficiently utilizing the Works Departments of the State governments I can hardly bind myself to exclude the use of them altogether. The suggestion of the honorable member will, however; he borne in mind.
– In view of statements that have been made by the Minister for External Affairs, and also in consequence of what I have read in the press, to the effect that the military difficulties of France have been due to the lack of mechanized equipment for the troops, I ask die Minister for the Army whether in order to remove fears that are prevalent in this country concerning the equipment of the members of the Australian Imperial Force, he will give an assurance that the men are fully provided with up-to-date equipment. Will he also undertake that no expeditionary force will ho permitted to leave Australia in the future until it is properly equipped with the necessary mechanized arms?
– The armoured divisions to which the reports referred to by the honorable member apply are not coinparable to the units which have been raised in Australia. We are not raising armoured divisions for overseas service. We are sending infantry divisions abroad and, in every case, it can be said that they will not go into action unless they are fully equipped with modern weapons.
– I have received a telegram from the president of the Waterside Workers Federation at Hobart, Mr. Lonergan, who is very much concerned about the following paragraph which appeared in the Hobart Daily News on the 12th June: -
INTERNING OF UNION LEADERS TALK ALLEGED.
A member of the Waterside Workers’ Federation lias sworn an affidavit alleging that he was approached by a federal agent and asked if he could recommend two members to stand for president and secretary in the event of the present holders of those offices being interned.
Mr. Lonergan is a very capable and honest nian. I wish to know whether any action is contemplated against him, and, if so, on what charge? What are the intentions of the Government?
– The intentions of the Government are strictly honorable. In order to relieve the honorable member’s mind, I can assure him that the regulations promulgated last Saturday under which certain subversive literature was seized were not directed against any trade union official, or trade union premises or offices. These will not be affected in any way. Any suggestion of internment, is entirely the invention of an enemy.
– Does the right honorable member suggest that I am an enemy !
– The answer is definitely “No!”
– Numbers of Italians who are naturalized British subjects have, been interned in my electorate at Werribee. Many of them are the heads of families with dependants. Oan the Minister for the Army say what steps are being taken for the relief of the dependants of interned aliens?
-Pare is taken to look after the families of interned aliens where circumstances warrant such action. If the honorable gentleman knows of any particular instances where this is not being done, I shall be glad to look into them.
– In view .of the need to pass legislation which will be brought forward after the luncheon adjournment, it is not proposed to answer any further questions without notice to-day. Sitting suspended from 12.4-7 to 2.15 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Mr. Fadden do prepare and bring in a bill to curry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender, and read a first time.
[2.17 J . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As recently as last month, the Parliament appropriated an amount of £68,394,000 to cover commitments for war services up to” the 31st December, 1940. In introducing the bill covering that appropriation I said, that I could, not give a guarantee that “further similar appropriations would not be necessary before December, as it appeared to. be inevitable that further and greater efforts would have to be made, and that the Parliament would have to make additional moneys available for war services. In view of recent developments, further financial authority is* now sought from Parliament.
This bill seeks authority to raise and expend £20,000,000 for war purposes generally. In previous loan acts details of the appropriation have been given in a schedule, but it is not practicable to do so on this occasion, as elasticity of appropriation is required to meet any emergency. Consequently a wide authority is being sought.
It will not be necessary to borrow this £20,000,000 for some little time, as the Government has ample loan funds available at present, and will use them as required for war purposes, subject, of course, to the appropriations actually approved by the “ Parliament. One of the main purposes to which the £20,000,000 will be devoted is the supply of munitions. Mr. Essington Lewis, who was recently appointed as DirectorGeneral of Munitions, has made a thorough survey of the position of munitions production, and has submitted to the Government plans for intensifying production and equipment for war and defence purposes. His plans, which have been considered and approved by Cabinet, cover the acceleration of all production at present in hand, the establishment of new factories for the production of additional types of munitions, an increased, range of weapons and ammunition therefor, the production of machine tools, and an expanded plan for the training of munitions workers. Although Australia’s, output of munitions has recently been-, increased considerably, many of the articles, which are to W produced have hitherto not been manufactured in thiscountry. The plans provide an extensive programme for the manufacture of” various types of modern artillery including, particularly, anti-aircraft- and antitank guns.
An immediate objective of the new Munitions Department in connexion with, gun. ammunition will be the development of the already established annexes up totheir maximum production. At the samo time, industries not yet engaged in the production of munitions, will be utilizedand developed to the utmost. If necessary, entirely new factories will be built;, but that will be decided only should a survey indicate that the existing commercial establishments cannot produce- all that is required. Briefly, the policy wil] be to utilize the commercial productive, capacity of Australia to the utmost, and to expand government factories or build new ones only in cases in which commercial industry cannot be used or adapted. The foregoing remarks relate particularly to gun ammunition production, but the principle is1 also being applied, wherever possible, to gun and machine gun production.
Another important industry which must be developed, although it does notcome within the usual meaning, of munitions, is the production of the large number of machine tools that will be required for making munitions, and for making tools and gauges that are essential to the production of munitions. The facilities for munitions production already available in Australia, together with the new additions which. I have inst outlined, will not only provide for the adequate defence of Australia, but will also afford invaluable assistance to the Empire effort generally. I commend the bill to the House and predict for it a speedy passage.
.- This bill seeks1 the authority of the’ Parliament for an appeal by the Government to the- people of Australia for subscription to a loan of £20,000,000, tho money to be: used in the prosecution of the war. Although £65,394,000 was appropriated recently to cover commitments for war purposes up to the 31st December, 1940, we are now being asked to sanction the raising of an additional £20,000,000, making, a. total of £88,394,000 to the end of this calendar year. In view of the grave international situation, the Opposition does not intend to oppose this measure; but this is an occasion when honorable members may discuss the purposes for which the money is to be used, and the results that are likely to accrue from its expenditure. In these critical times; every one should assist in the’ raising of loans which the Government believes to be necessary for the conduct of the war. Before I conclude, I hope to say something about other means of financing the war. In order to ensure a ready response by the public, I suggest that something more than an appeal by the
Treasurer (Mr. Spender) should be made. Other Ministers should make it clear that Australia will get the quickest return possible from the expenditure involved. Both in the press and in: the Parliament, serious allegations of inefficiency, delay and waste in regard to the manufacture of munitions have been made, and it would allay a great deal of the anxiety in. the minds of the people if the Government would deal explicitly with each of these charges, instead of airily brushing them aside. If these charges- of inefficiency and waste be time, a vigorous overhaul of the departments concerned should be undertaken. That is one reason why the Opposition has urged that, as far as possible, the Parliament should remain in session during the war, so that Ministers may be subjected, to criticism, if necessary, and required to give information regarding war finance, the present state of the country’s defences’, and what further step3 are possible to bring about greater efficiency irc connexion with our defence, effort. If the charges be not true, or if they be exaggerated, I submit that a clear and definite statement of the facts should be given the widest publicity by every Minister directly affected. If that were done, I believe that the Government would experience less difficulty in raising the money necessary to carry on the war. Some honorable members have had a good deal to say about carelessness and inefficiency on the part of government departments, but Ministers have not dealt with that criticism in the right spirit They have shown intolerance and resentment of criticism. It cannot be said that tire Opposition has adopted the attitude of a carping critic in regard to the Government’s war effort. It is- true that there has been criticism by members on this side, but most of it has been helpful and constructive. I should like Ministers to regard more seriously the criticism offered in this chamber, especially that relating to the expenditure of large sums of public money in providing foi; the defence of this country. I have here a typical instance of the communications that are being sent to the Government by representative men. The letter which I shall now read was addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr.. Menzies), but a copy of it has been sent to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) -
At a meeting attended by 1,500 of the employees at the Newport railway workshops on the 17th instant, disapproval was expressed at the lack of use of available plant in the workshops for the manufacture of war equipment, and the following resolution carried: That this mass meeting, realizing the necessity of providing our troops with modern arms and equipment, demands the right to participate in their manufacture to a greater extent than at present “.
The manager of the workshops, when addressing the meeting, stated that neither he nor the railways commissioners were able to obtain sufficient supplies of material to increase the production of the present limited programme of war work.
Combined Union Shop Committee
I could read other communications from various organizations, hut the onewhich I have read is typical of the others. It shows that, in the opinion of responsible men, the maximum effort is not being made to ensure the defence of this country. What is the Government doing about it? Has it any reply to this charge brought on the 19th of June of this year by the workmen of the Newport workshops in Victoria? Has it any reply to the charges made by those associated with the workshops in other parts of Australia that plant and machinery are not being utilized to the fullest capacity in the making of arms and munitions? Or is the Government attempting to brush these charges aside, hoping that it can get into recess, and thus avoid parliamentary criticism? In this morning’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald the following appears: -
Grave Shortage of Weapons - Amazing Revelations about British Expeditionary force - Huge Supply Effort Now Being made -Planes, Tanks and Guns.
FromG. M. Long,
Our War Correspondent, who was with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium.
London, June 20.
It would bea pity if the people of the Dominions did not realize the extent of the shortage of the British Army’s equipment and of planes during the battles in France, or the magnitude of the effort which must be made
If the shortage of many weapons is to be repaired and inadequate weapons to be replaced by effective ones.
One reason why the British Army in France was so small was simply that there wore not enough weapons.
In the first three months in FranceI never saw a medium or a heavy tank, only the light tank of the type used in Australia. I never saw a single medium or heavy British tank in the twelve days from the 10th May to the 21st May. When the war broke out, Britain had one armoured division in England, but it was not in Belgium when the battle began. One armoured brigade later took part. An armoured division fought in the battle south of the Somme.
I have quoted sufficient to show the deplorable state of unpreparedness, and the lack of equipment necessary for the arming of the British Expeditionary Force. If that applies to Great Britain - and I believe it does - it applies with even greater force to Australia. People are reluctant to criticize the Government for these shortcomings, for fear that they will be met with the gibe that they are merely advertising our weaknesses to the enemy. The time has arrived, however, when the suppression of the truth may lead to greater weaknesses. The very fact that there has been all this criticism, and that it has not been replied to adequately by the Government, shows that there must be some ground for it. War to-day is entirely different from what it was in 1914. Mr. Hore Belisha, when Secretary of State for War, speaking in the House of Commons on the 11th October, 1939, said-
It was a light army that travelled in 1914. Nearly 60 per cent. of the fighting troops were infantry men relying on their rifles and bayonets and two machine guns per battalion. Now only 20 per cent. of the fighting troops wereinfantrymen, with50 Bren guns,16 anti-tank rifles, and other weapons as well, per battalion.
It is not now so much a matter of manpower as of equipment, of heavy tanks, and of aeroplanes. I have yet to hear from this Government an authoritative statement of what it is doing to supply our requirements in these directions. We know that in that pocket of territory surrounding Dunkirk there were close on 1,000,000 men of the Allied forces, English, French and Belgian, who put up a gallant fight, but who. largely because of lack of equipment, were unable to defeat the enemy. We do not want
Australia to be in that deplorable position if we are attacked. I hope Australia never will be attacked, but we should be in a position to defend ourselves if necessary, and for that we must have mechanized forces. During the last federal elections, the Labour party urged the construction of a huge air force, and the establishment in Australia of more industries of a kind that could he changed over at short notice to the manufacture of military equipment and munitions. “We urged that munitions of every description should be manufactured under government control. I believe that it is very largely due to the Government’s neglect of these matters - not only this Government, but also preceding governments of the same kind - that we are to-day in a position of comparative unpreparedness, tn September, 1938, General Sir John Burnett-Stuart, formerly Director of Military Operations and Intelligence at the War Office, discussing Australia’s defence measures, said -
Where are your tanks, your anti-aircraft gunn, your wireless equipment and so on, in such quantities that any real force could be quickly fitted out and trained, and take an effective part in a battle fought on modern lines?
We know that much has been done since 1938. The position has been greatly improved, but I am not satisfied that everything has been done thai could be done. That is why I emphasize the importance of a national stocktaking. During the parliamentary recess, Ministers should bend all of their energies towards seeing that the very best use is made of the huge sums of money which the people are raising for defence expenditure. This war has shown the terrible necessity for being prepared. It is necessary that Ministers should produce more definite evidence d at they are overhauling their departments, that departmental heads are exercising a sufficiently close supervision over expenditure, and that the maximum output of munitions and equipment is being achieved.
Undoubtedly a great deal more of the financing of this war should be done b a judicious issue of credit through the Commonwealth Bank.
– What does the honorable member mean? Does he suggest that the bank should finance this £20,000,000 loan?
– I believe that more use could he made of the credit resources of the nation than is being done at the present time, and, in order to do that, the Government will have to exercise its authority. It must not rely on the advice and direction of the private banking institutions of Australia.
– It is not doing so now.
– The last Treasurer (Mr. Casey), when asked in this House whether he intended to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Reforms, said that he had called into consultation the representatives of private banks and, after conferring with them, he was satisfied that it would not be in the best interests of the nation to give effect to the commission’s recommendations. That was after consultation with his masters, the private banking institutions. Those institutions have too much influence over the Government. In addition to taking care that there is no extravagance or inefficiency or delay in the use of these huge sums that are being voted, we should examine the possibility of utilizing other methods of financing our war effort. The last war cost us £882,000,000. Already interest charges on loans raised in connexion with that war have cost the taxpayers £305,000,000. Interest and sinking fund payments amount to £9,500,000 a year, and war repatriation expenses to another £9,500,000, making our annual commitments in that regard no less than £19,000,000.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that this war can be financed by the use of the national credit?
– It could be so financed to a much greater degree than is being attempted now.
– To what degree?
– The Treasurer has plenty of time to go into this matter thoroughly with the Commonwealth Bank authorities, and with departmental experts, yet he expects me to say on the spur of the moment the exact amount. If I were in the Treasurer’s place I know that I should utilize the credit resources of the country to a much greater degree.
We still owe £175,000,000 in Australia in connexion with expenditure incurred! in the last war, as well as £90,000,000 overseas. If we rely on the- old, orthodox method of. finance; which involves going cap in hand to the- financial institutions for advice and assistance, no new ground will he broken. The Treasurer must initiate schemes for the utilization, of the credit resources of Australia.
The Opposition will watch very carefully the way in which this money is being expended, and the Government may expect sharp criticism when the House next meets if no attempt has been made to eliminate waste and delay in the. production of munitions.
I should like the Treasurer to say why the Government has not done anything in regard to the very fine report prepared by Mr. Townsend on the subject of shipbuilding in Australia. Surely that matter is bound np with defence. It is, in fact, vital to the continuation .of our war effort.. The Government received the report months ago, but was content to pigeonhole it because it was not then prepared to make a decision. I realize that Ministers are very busy men. But surely they have- at their command!, at a time Like this, when- they have been given unlimited powers, the services! of the very best brains in Australia.. There is no justification for the unwarranted delay that has taken place in dealing with this very important matter. W& are up against an acute shortage of overseas shipping space. What has the- Government done in re spect of it? All this is bound up with tie matter of Australia’s ability to hold out, and) to- supply foodstuffs to- the people of Great Britain, when, the tempo is quickened by the enemy in an effort to prevent ships from arriving in any part of Australia and the other dominions. The Government has certainly failed completely to expedite the building of ships in Australia. Had the advice of the Opposition been heeded over the last ten years,, the shipbuilding industry would have been established in. Australia long ago, thousands of artisans would have been employed, and we would have been in a far better position than t]1 at which we occupy to-day for the building of vessels that are neces- sary for the defence of this country. Members of the Opposition are reluctant to- make daily spirited attacks on the Government in regard to these matters. The few remarks’ that I have made today are trifling compared with the criticism that will be levelled at the Government if, when the House next meets, it does not furnish satisfactory proof that Ministers are on top of their departments, that their experts have eliminated all waste, delay and extravagance, and that they are pushing- ahead with the task of developing the defences of Australia so that there will not be a repetition of the mistakes of the- past in Australia and other parts of the world.
.- I do not think that there will be any opposition to this bill. We all realize the need of the Government to provide funds for every purpose related to the defence of this country. I have listened, to a long dis:sertation by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and am amazed at the advice that is tendered by one who refuses- to accept any responsibility.. For a long time, I have advocated that the party which sits opposite should join with us and do all that it can to assist us in this great crisis.
My purpose in rising was to emphasize what I have urged time after time in connexion with war loans. I should have liked the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to tell us whether this loan is to be issued on- the same terms as the last loan.
– I could not say, as we did not know when we would approach the market.
– In no circumstances should there be any increase of the interest rate, no matter what the difficulties of the Treasurer may be.
– There, will not be;
– I insist that there shall be no increase of the interest rate. I recall that, during the last war, while some persons were aiding the- Government by subscribing to its war loans, others were having returned to them on their- investments 10’ per cent., 12- per cent, and 15 per cent. I object to this voluntary system, for the success of which we have to depend: so greatly on certain persons- for the protection of the country. Every section of the community should be compelled to bear its fair share of the burden at a time like this. Recently I attended a meeting in a country town which attracted a splendid audience. One man said, “ I shall give £1,000 free of interest”. Another man said “I can afford only £100”. A third man offered £250, and a woman said that she would subscribe £10.
– If some persons are prepared to sacrifice their lives to defend the country, why should not others he compelled to give all that they have?
– A friend of mine who invested £5,000 in the last loan, will not be able to contribute to the next loan without causing considerable embarrassment to himself. Some members of the community invest in shares, which return them 7 per cent., 8 per cent., 10 per cent., and sometimes 15 per cent, and 20 per cent., while failing to subscribe to war loans. According to a paragraph that appeared in last Tuesday’s Melbourne Argus, Abraham Lincoln, a onetime president of the United States of America, speaking in a time of war, said -
Voluntarism is the unprincipled dodge of cowardly politicians. It has ground up the choicest seed corn of thu nation. It lias consumed the young, the generous, the patriotic, the intelligent, and the brave, and it has wasted the best moral, social and political clements of the republic and left the cowards, the shirkers and the money-makers to stay at home and procreate their kind.
Those who shirk their duty are to be found in many avenues; they occupy high positions, and draw hig emoluments.
In a question I asked to-day, I suggested that, for the purpose of filling war loans, the Commonwealth Government should withhold 10 per cent, of all salaries and emoluments that it pays, including payments to members of Parliament, and public servants, with special concessions to those who arc in the lower grades, these sums to bc placed in freeofinterest war loans. An enormous sum will he required to carry on our war activities. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Commonwealth Bank should issue nil the credit that is necessary.
– He did not; he said that a larger use could ‘be made of credit, which is a very different thing.
– What he suggested was, that much better use could be made of the Commonwealth Bank. I should not like the Commonwealth Bank to issue bonds free of interest, because the time might come when it would need to realize on those bonds. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) knows perfectly well that it might need to raise capital to meet its own obligations. Bonds carrying an interest rate of 3 per cent, or 2£ per cent, would be negotiable security, whereas interest-free bonds would not be negotiable.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not advocate an interest-free loan.
– I do not know to what degree the Commonwealth Bank has released credit, but I should imagine that in short-term loans the issue has been from £90,000,000 to £100,000,000, which is a very large sum to have floating around in a country like Australia. One can realize that the easing of the money market has .been due entirely to the issue of credit by the Commonwealth Bank. I am sure that the Treasurer will endorse my statement that that institution has given to the Government generous assistance in connexion with shortdated loans. The time may come when we shall have to take all the risks of inflation; but that time has not yet arrived. The Government should seriously consider the issue of compulsory loans, to which every person would be compelled to subscribe according to his income. It is a crying shame that persons who have huge fortunes should have them invested in enterprises which return them 5 per cent., 6 per cent., or 7 per cent., and have not subscribed 6d. to a war loan. They are shirking their responsibility.
.- There i3 no question that this request of the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) for the right to raise £20,000,000 for war purposes should be granted instantly. In supporting the bill, I should like to comment on three or four points which I think ought to be borne in mind at the present time. Before doing so, however.
I think that I ought to point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that his figures in respect of the actual war expenditure out of loan in the last great war were slightly exaggerated. The total war debt was never more than about £300,000,000.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition added the accumulated interest.
– The present war debt of Australia is £266,000,000, of which £S0,000,000 is owed to the British Government and carries no interest, leaving about £180,000,000 which is carrying interest. The total has been reduced considerably by the operation, during the last sixteen or seventeen years, of the sinking fund established by the Government of which I was a member in 1923. Upon my entry into Parliament I raised the question as to the way in. which the war should be financed. I. am glad that the Treasurer proposes to raise, by means of taxation, a substantial proportion of the amount to be expended for war purposes. Especially should he do so if prices should rise to any degree, because that would make very much less than it otherwise would be, the burden ultimately to be borne by the community. On the last occasion, the amount derived from taxation for war purposes represented something like 17 per cent, or 18 per cent, of the total expenditure. On this occasion the percentage ought to be very much higher. However the money be raised, whether by taxation or by loan - and, after all, a loan is simply deferred taxation, because ultimately it has to be repaid to the people from whom it is borrowed - I urge that it be raised in such a way that it is expended almost a3 quickly as it is received, and that large balances are not allowed to accumulate in the Federal Treasury, thereby interfering somewhat with the free flow of money for purposes of employment.
– We are watching that aspect.
– If money raised by way of loan or taxation is expended immediately on defence works, the result will be general employment, the people will be able to stand up against the imposition of taxation with much greater «a.ee, there will be all-round prosperity, and every one can be usefully employed. That must be our aim during the war, in order to achieve an effort that will be 100 per cent, worth-while. I trust that the Government will pay special heed to this suggestion. Very considerable encouragement would be afforded if, from time to time, the Treasurer could publish particulars of the exact position of the Treasury balances, in order to show that this policy is being followed and that a great deal of money is not being frozen. I believe that the money should not be spent merely, as has been mentioned by the Treasurer and elaborated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, on actual war purposes. We should not be careless of the interests of the great producing industries of this country, but should make certain that money is available to place them on an absolutely sure footing. The Government should give as close attention to the establishment in this country of very much greater cold storage facilities as it is giving to the establishment of munitions factories, because, if the export of our products were interrupted, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of perishable products would rot unless greater storage space was available.
– Near the seaboard?
– I should prefer to see the cold stores a little way inland, but I am not concerned so much with their location as with their provision. There are sufficient wise men in Australia to decide where they should be. In war-time it is not possible to give to expenditure the same meticulous attention that is given in peace-time; because when new departments are suddenly brought into being or existing departments are expanded and subdepartment created, oversight becomes slackened ; but much more could be done than is being done to make certain that the various departments and branches keep in close contact.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has raised the matter of the Evans Head Flying School which is in his electorate and near the southern portion of my electorate. I had the privilege of inspecting the site of the school on Tuesday. Work that was authorized and should have been done ten or eleven months ago, namely, the clearing of the ground, is only now being proceeded with. Tenders were called for the other work to be done in seven weeks, but that work cannot be undertaken until the land has been cleared. That sort of thing wastes both time and money. It occurs as the result of the fact that liaison between departments is not perfect. As the result of the war, departments have been split with a resultant change of work for many officers. Some are not so busy as they should be and have capacity to be. The departments should be combed to see that all officers are usefully employed.
Later, when the first blaze of enthusiasm has gone and we have spent more and suffered more, it will be more difficult to obtain money from loans. I had the unpleasant task in the decade from 1920 of converting the whole of our debt from the. last war. Debt conversion is difficult. The smaller the amount we have to convert the easier it will be not only for the Treasurer and the Government, but also for the people generally.
.- I know that the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) cannot give us the exact terms of this loan which is part of the loan programme announced by him some time ago, but will there be a sinking fund for it?
– That is prudent. I urge that there be no extravagant expenditure on defence buildings. The money should be expended on the manufacture of munitions and other war equipment, not on ornate structures. I raise this matter to-day because I have been given to understand that recently when tenders were invited for an important defence building in Brisbane the specifications included provision for the installation of oil-burners. That is unwise because in Queensland there is plenty of wood and coal ; oil-burners are not necessary, especially at a time when our fuel supplies must be dependent on the dollar exchange position. That aspect is only one of many, but it is most important.
I support what was said by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) about the need to make sure that all persons who are able contribute to war loans. I take it that the Treasurer has had a survey made of the funds available for loan purposes, but he should ascertain whether all who can do so are subscribing to loans. There are many people who feel it their duty to subscribe to war loans at a great sacrifice, but there are others who, although subscription to loans would entail no great sacrifice, are refraining.
– I do not think that all those who could subscribe are doing so.
– The honorable gentleman is right. With the honorable member for Swan I agree that it is equitable that the people should share the burden of war loans as they do taxation. In the last war there was active competition between the States and between towns in the matter of loan subscriptions. I should like to see that spirit abroad to-day.
– On this bill, which provides opportunity for us to direct attention to the way in which loan moneys may be utilized, I shall draw direct attention to two matters.
The first concerns what is being done to provide from our own resources those raw materials which we cannot now get in required quantities from abroad. I refer particularly to aluminium, which is absolutely essential in the construction of aircraft It appears that America is the onlyplace outside Australia from which we are likely to obtain supplies of this vital product, but I point out that not only is the United States of America expanding its own aircraft industry, but also that other neutral countries are also looking to the United States of America for supplies.
– Canada is the greatest producer of aluminium.
– And in Canada the British Government is making demands for the metal which are stronger even than our own. What are we doing in this country to examine our own resources? A university professor, last week, published a statement to the effect that the scientists of this country are not being used sufficiently in our war effort. The Commonwealth Government should use the State Mines Departments for the purpose of surveying our resources. They know where the ore deposits are located and have the means of ascertaining their value. These should be tested in order to ascertain what percentage of this raw material can be obtained locally. I am aware that supplies, of it can be obtained here because the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), has said so several times in this House. In the last few weeks, particularly in the last fortnight, I have received a fair amount of correspondence indicating that tests already made have yielded positive results. Money is needed in order to make further investigations. Local production should be brought to the highest state of production within the shortest space of time in order to supplement our supplies from overseas.
The other matter deals with the construction of the proposed dry dock at Sydney. A deputation led by the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Jennings) recently waited on the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to discuss this subject with him. I am aware that it is not particularly the duty of the Treasurer to deal with this work, which is a matter for another department, but I wish to ascertain from him whether the Government has finally decided the methods to be employed in the construction of this dock.
– Not yet, but the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said that he has under close examination the representations made to me. I expect that a decision will be reached shortly.
– That is very good. The points raised at the deputation were to the effect that, if the plant and men of the Sydney Water and Sewerage Board were used in the construction of the dock, not only would the delay that would be occasioned by the calling for tenders be averted, but also the cost would be kept at the lowest level, because the board would not work on a profit basis. I am pleased to know that it is the intention of the Government to examine the proposal made by the deputation and I hope that a decision will be readied within the next two weeks. The construction of the dock by the Water and Sewerage Board would meet the point raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), because the work would be of such a character as to require only a smattering of highly-skilled labour. The rest of the labour would be either semi-skilled or unskilled. Most of the defence expenditure is being used in the production of munitions which requires skilled or nearly skilled workers. The dock work, however, would be of a general labouring character and would go a long way towards meeting the needs of the unskilled mcn who are work! ess.
On the general question, the matter which crosses my mind is the national debt and whether these loans shall ever be repaid. I am satisfied that they will not be. The huge interest burden that has been piled up on Australia simply on the security of the country as a whole has crippled us. It is because of the general financial policy which has existed in this country in the past that we are to-day in a state of general unpreparedness and slackness, and have a shortage of skilled workers. Throughout the last ten years, when we have been ceaselessly urging the Government to expand our industries, provide employment for our people and train skilled artisans, we have been told that finance was not available. That plea was advanced also when we were striving by every means in our power to provide work for the great army of unemployed people in our country. “Now that war has overtaken us, the provision of money is regarded as a secondary consideration, as any honorable member would be told if he were to say, from his place in this House, that we had insufficient money to provide for our defence requirements. Of course, I agree that we must provide for the defence of this country, and we are prepared to do everything possible in that regard. It is, nevertheless, timely to argue that if money can be raised for defence in a time of war, it could also be raised for development in a time of peace, when thousands of our men who are willing to work should be provided with jobs on big national undertakings. Our review of the past cannot eradicate from our memory the hardships that our people suffered in the years of the depression, but at least we can learn from what is now happening that there is no need at all for us to permit a recurrence of the experiences of the depression years.
The- two points to which’ I. wished mainly to direct attention had relation to raw materials and to the building of the new dock.. I am particularly glad that the Treasurer expects that the situation in that regard will be clarified within the next two weeks;
– I. hope that it will.
M.r. BEASLEY. - In those circumstances I am prepared to allow the matter to remain as it is.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Spender) should feel gratified that this bill is being allowed to pass through the House without opposition. Nevertheless, on such an occasion’ as this, honorable members are entitled to express their views concerning the methods adopted to both raise and expend public moneys. I cannot help thinking to-day of the change that has occurred in the financial outlook of many honorable members of this Parliament in the last eight or mine years.. If the war continues for another three or four years - I hope that it will not last so long - we may have, to make much, move drastic change;; of our ‘ financial policy ;. the new needs of the people will force governments to encroach upon the private profit-making- interests. When the Scullin Government was in office. I well remember the Treasurer of the day making representations to the Commonwealth Bank in order to obtain a loan of £18,000^000. That amount was “small change” in comparison with the amounts’, that are being raised in these days: The honorable gentleman was told that the- money could not be provided in consequence: of the existence of certain legal limitations although we were passing through a terrible- period of depression. It was said, that the Government had already exceeded, the. amount that the bank was authorized to issue on the basis of the existing’ gold reserves. Since then, at least twenty times that amount has been made available without any gold backing whatsoever. There is no gold backing to-day. This very fact shows how ridiculous it is for honorable members opposite to criticize,, as they have done, any new suggestions that” are put forward by honorable members eni this side of the chamber in. order to ease the financial problems of the country. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) urged, in his speech on this bill, that greater use should be made by the Government of its own financial instrument, the Commonwealth Bank, his remarks were met with hostile, interjections. The ignorant character of such interjections will be obvious in a few years time.
I have been endeavouring to discover for quite a long time, by the asking of questions and also by other means, the amount of the financial accommodation which the Treasurer has obtained from the Common wealth Bank,, and the extent to which reliance has been placed upon the resources of the private banking institutions. If we do not use. our own banking instrument to the utmost degree, it seems to me that we. are, in a sense, almost disloyal; for oar failure to do so /indicates, a lack o?f confidence in the security of the country. Surely we should rely more on the Commonwealth Bank, which is one of the greatest financial institutions of the British Empire, than wo do upon private’ banking resources. The failure to adopt such a national ideal and the obstinate practice of regarding the interests of the private bankers as sacrosanct, will yet be proved to be one of the, real causes of our failure, to safeguard our country from defeat. Why cannot we be told the extent to which the, Commonwealth Bank has accommodated the Government ?, If there are reasons why this information should not be made public,, some means, should be devised to give us the information con:fidentially. If that were done I should not continue to aggravate the.- Treasurer by asking for the information..
As things are, our interest bil] is growing daily; in spite, of all attempts by the Treasurer to keep the interest rate down to a lower point, than it would be at in normal circumstances.. We ought to be doing everything possible to prevent any increase of our- interest bill, or our post-war financial burden will become greater than our people can carry. Whether we shall ever be. aWe to repay the public debt is of course in the lap of the gods. AD of the debts that; were incurred during the last war have Hot been paid. The result has been that certain countries have been hesitant to supply war materials on this occasion. That is not in any sense an exaggeration. Why did Great Britain have to send shiploads of gold abroad, in spite of all dangers at sea, in order to obtain aeroplanes and other equipment? In all the circumstances, there was every justification for the question which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked concerning our ultimate capacity to pay our war debts. We know very well that we repudiated, to a certain degree, some of the indebtedness we incurred during the last war, for we have made only token payments in that respect. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that we did not have to pay the £80,000,000 involved. I remind him that the payment of this indebtedness has only been suspended. Legally, we still owe the money. It will probably still be owing long after we are dead.
I again urge that the Treasurer should use the resources of the Commonwealth Bank to the greatest possible degree-
– I have the same desire as has the honorable member, and, within my limits, I will endeavour to do everything I can do.
– I am glad to hear that remark. I cannot imagine any Treasurer having a different outlook. During the last eight or nine years, however, the honorable gentleman’s predecessors in office have adopted a much more conservative outlook. Every effort has been made in the past to handicap the Commonwealth Bank. The business of the private banks has been regarded as sacrosanct. For many years the fundamental basis of the financial policy of the Government was that the Commonwealth Bank should not be permitted to compete for the available banking business. I hope that the present Treasurer has broken down that policy.
– It has been broken down for years.
– I remember vividly when the policy was in full force. T had an interview some years ago with the late Sir Robert Gibson in regard to a request made to the Commonwealth Bank to provide finance to assist the fanners to re-sow their fields. Sir Robert admitted that it was possible to comply with the request, but he said : “ It shall not be done, because it is not the policy of the Government to do that kind of thing “. It was often said that the Commonwealth Bank must not enter into trade. It may be true that that policy has been varied to some degree but in our opinion it has not been sufficiently varied. Why should we have to pay interest to the private banking institutions on the £20,000,000 now proposed to be raised seeing that the Treasurer could obtain the money through the Commonwealth Bank and pay the interest to that institution? I am not asking that the money shall be made available free of interest. I am asking, however, that the interest payable in respect of it shall go to the Commonwealth Bank, which means that it would come back again into revenue. I do not know whether the practicability of following this course has been overlooked, but in any case the whole situation should be reconsidered.
One of my main reasons for rising was to impress upon the Government the need to provide adequate storage facilities for our wheat and other foodstuffs. The right honorable member for Cowper referred to that important subject this morning. This is an urgent matter. It will not be denied that, generally speaking, thousands of bushels of wheat are destroyed in Australia every year by the ravages of mice and weevils. Although we may get through odd years without any loss at all under this heading, we are always in danger of this. I can well remember travelling through many wheat districts of Australia during the last war, and seeing the result of the ravages of mice, and the sad loss incurred by our failure to provide adequate storage facilities. I saw many wheat stacks which had a green growth six inches high on the top of them. All of that wheat practically was destroyed. Moreover, all of our wheat sheds had to be fumigated, and the wheat lumpers had to wear masks while they were engaged in their work because of the foul conditions that prevailed. Beautiful wheat, amounting to thousands of tons, was reduced to filthy husks. The same thing will happen again unless we provide adequate storage facilities for the wheat that we must hold at railway terminals and elsewhere for certain periods. Unlimited quantities of raw material for this work and thousands of unskilled men arc available to build silos where necessary; such facilities would be a good asset to Australia.
There should also be continuous effort on the part of the Cabinet, in association with the major oil companies, to provide storage facilities for large quantities of petrol and lubricating oils. I have made some inquiries on this subject to find what is done elsewhere, and 1 am convinced that our storage facilities for these commodities should be greatly increased. I realize that this would involve expense, and that considerable difficulties would have to be surmounted, but I believe that there are in Australia men big enough to overcome them as they have been overcome in other places. I urge that storage tanks to contain large reserve supplies of petrol and oils should be provided in thi3 country, as in other countries, such as Japan. Unless we do this, we may find ourselves in trouble, notwithstanding the existence of large quantities of machinery and defence equipment We sometimes hear the men in charge of the major oil companies of Australia described as thieves and vagabonds, or worse. Those terms may not directly be applied to them, but that is what the condemnation amounts to. I do not believe that such remarks are justified, for, in my opinion, the men in charge of the worth-while oil concerns in Australia - those who have assets in this country and would lose much should the Allies be overthrown - are decent men and no different from other business men in the community. I believe that if they were invited by the Prime Minister to tackle this problem they would be prepared to give much more assistance than is generally realized. I hope that something will be done in this direction because the need is urgent. Let there be a round-table conference between representatives of our government and those controlling this most urgent of all defence requirements.
I urge the Treasurer to utilize the machinery provided by the Commonwealth Bank to a greater degree than hitherto. As I have said, I am not greatly concerned with the rate of interest that may be charged, so long as the money is expended on useful and necessary work and circulates in the community. I fear that loans raised by existing methods take money away from people who would use it in industry, anu that consequently there is a gradual freezing of business. Because of the enlistment of so many men, and the fact that the places of those men cannot be filled by fresh labour, the community is living on a more restricted income than formerly; there is less spending power in the aggregate among the people, and, therefore, less demand for goods and services.
– There is more spending power to-day than there was six months ago.
– That may be, but the money is going into one channel and is providing employment in only one direction.
– The figures do not indicate that. On the contrary, there are 90,000 more persons employed to-day than there were in August of last year.
– They are mostly engaged on war work. Not every man seeking employment can be employed on work of that character. The building of a graving dock would absorb some of the unskilled labour which cannot now be utilized. I believe that if the Government could get more fitters and turners the opportunity to provide employment f or many unskilled workers would be increased, but they are not available. To-day most of the money that is expended goes in one direction, with the result that the demand for goods and services is becoming less; and, unless we are careful, we shall again experience a depression, because of a shrinkage of the general wages fund of the community, notwithstanding that some persons will be earning more money than ever before. I do not imagine that the Treasurer has overlooked these matters, but I ask him to give to them his most earnest consideration. While there are urgent works to be undertaken, no man should be idle
.- I hope that we shall have ample time for the consideration of important matters of state, including matters of finance. I am impressed with the curious relationship of the bill now before us, which has for its object the safeguarding of the unearned increment to the investor, to the measure which recently passed through this chamber, under which the control of the lives and working conditions of the workers ds to be taken over by the Government without qualification, reservation, or secured interest.
– The same power is being taken over property and finance.
– Say a word or two on behalf of the farmers.
– I could say a lot on their behalf, and should be happy to do so, were it not for the fact that that matter can be much more intelligently and thoroughly dealt with by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) himself, whose experience of the subject and loyalty to the farmers have been proved by demonstration in this House on many occasions. The measure before us is Loan Bill (No. 2) 1940, and its principal object is to authorize the Treasurer, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Act 1911- 1940, or of any act authorizing the issue of treasury-hills, to borrow moneys up to a total of £20,000,000. By reference to the principal act, I notice that such stock shall bear interest at a rate to be fixed by the order creating the stock, and that interest should be payable half- ‘ yearly on days to be fixed by such order. I notice, further, that the principal moneys secured by any stock, and the interest thereon, shall rank equal and without priority or preference, and shall he a charge on the Consolidated Revenue. These matters are, in their character, elementary; but I cannot but be struck by the care taken to preserve the interests of investors, compared with the utter lack of concern for the interests of the workers. I remember that during the last war, when the Right Honorable W. A. Watt was Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and the course of the war had reached a stage much less disastrous to the interests of the Allies than that which faces us to-day, a bill came before the Parliament to authorize the raising of compulsory loans. I do not think that that proposal went so far as to envisage compulsory loans without interest, but J take leave to avail myself of the opportunity to point out one or two .things. The Government has now a more absolute power than any government has ever’ enjoyed since the inauguration of responsible government in Australia. I should suppose that its powers include the power of searching investigation of various financial organizations .for the purpose of determining how much interest is derived by persons who have no practical need of it, because their income from other sources is above the basic wage.
– I move -
That the question be now put.
This is deliberate stonewalling.
– I ask that the remark of the honorable member be speedily withdrawn.
The “honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is not in order in charging another honorable member with deliberate stonewalling. The question is: That the question be now put.
– Is the remark not to be withdrawn?
Mr. SPEAKER__ I have called the honorable member for Wide Bay to order for making a disorderly remark.
– I know that most of these institutions do control funds - certainly the banks do - which, in part at least, are made up of investments of people of small means, people in a humble way of life who, by reason of age or sex or other circumstances, are unable to apply themselves to the earning of a living in any other way. Much interest, however, is a contribution to luxury and an incentive to idleness. I referred also to the matter of a compulsory loan. I suggest that, the international position being what it is and having : regard to the fact that this loan is for war purposes, and that the position overseas has deteriorated very seriously, legislation for an interest-free compulsory loan might be considered. The Treasurer might very well put before honorable members and the country the result of his investigation into the financial position of the various organizations which I have indicated, and some of which I have named.
Reference was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and by others, notably the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), to the importance of exploiting in some uniform and logical way the credit of the nation through the Commonwealth Bank. When that was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Treasurer asked, by interjection, “ How much would you raise ?” Really, it is pitiful that so fatuous an interjection should come from such a source as the person charged with the serious duties of ComE on wealth Treasurer. Of course, the amount that one can raise on the credit of the nation cannot be stated even approximately at a moment’s notice in terms of so many pounds, shillings and pence. It can be stated only in general terms, and it is obvious that the Treasurer has not even the poorest understanding of this subject. It can, as I have said, be stated in general terms that money can be raised to an indeterminable amount upon the security of the nation. The guide to the degree to which that can be done is the degree to which the security is being improved, in the first place, and the index is the employment of all our employable men, and the value of the services which they are rendering. It is the contention of intelligent persons who have studied this subject that to-day every employable person should be actively employed. If he were so employed at wages adequate to enable him to Vive a decent and normal life, and if all the services were being rendered to the Commonwealth of which the Commonwealth is in urgent need, there would be no unemployment, and there would be vastly increased spending power. Over and above that, there would be an indefinite but a tremendous margin of value still available in the Commonwealth for the purpose of financing our necessary defence. That elementary statement of the position, which obviously is not understood by the Treasurer, should be sufficient for the moment.
With that, as I have no desire to embarrass those gentlemen who seem more intent upon catching their train than upon discharging the public duties that fall upon them, I shall leave the matter at present. I do not intend to oppose the passage of this bill. My opposition, I realize, would be quite futile. The Government adopts, in regard to matters of finance, purely conventional methods. Its revolutionary methods are confined entirely to its treatment of the working class, their standards of life, and their general interests. That being so, we may let the bill pass with these few necessary, not over-long and, I trust, not overtedious observations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (By Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, the 6th August next, at 3 p.m., unless Mr. Speaker shall, prior to that dato, by telegram addressed to each honorable member of the House, fix au earlier day of meeting.
– The previous decision of the House was that we should meet again on the 2nd July. I can understand that the development which has occurred in respect of the Government’s appreciation of the position made it desirable that the House should be called together earlier than was intended, so that the recess was, in fact, of shorter duration than we had expected. It is conceivable that the recess upon which we are about to enter may also be much shorter than is expected.
During the last session it was the intention of the Government to pass legislation imposing special company taxation. This was not done, the reason given being that the various interests affected desired to make representations to the Government so that their position might be fully understood. This company tax was part of the general plan of taxation. The other parts of the plan have been carried into effect, and the taxation imposed. Now, if Parliament is not to meet until August, the delay in imposing the company tax will be longer than was expected when the House recently rose.
– That is so, but it will not affect the collection of the tax. I have satisfied myself on that point. It was the desire of the Prime Minister that these measures should be passed, but if the company tax is passed when Parliament next meets, there will be no delay in the imposition or the collection of the tax, AllY more than if it were passed now.
– Nor in the yield?
– The understanding, when the House last rose, was that Parliament should meet in the first week of July for a review of the Government’s position, and that we should meet in the first week of each successive month thereafter in order that a regular review might be made. I quite appreciate the undesirability of now meeting in the first week of July. I see no reason why we should meet within a fortnight of the close of the financial year, and am quite ready to consent to the passing of the motion.
.- I believe that, when this matter was previously considered, the general feeling was that the House should assemble more continuously, especially having regard to the grave uncertainty of the international situation. Point has been given to that argument since it was advanced, by the fact that we were called together suddenly and unexpectedly, and that a very important measure has had to be carried through under the pressure of that instrument which we employ for the abbreviation of discussion. If we agree to this motion, I quite see that we may be called back again before the date fixed. It seems to me, however, that if the House were kept in more regular session, there would be no danger of a repetition of the circumstance of being called together to legislate without discussion. It is this process of legislating without discussion, or with quite inadequate discussion, against which I made my previous protest, which has been justified by subsequent events, and against which I now protest again. As the motion stands, and in the light of the fact that Parliament has been called together during this week for only two days, I suppose that we may submit grudgingly to the proposed recess until the 6th August. But I do say, with re-emphasis of the statement that in my view Parliament should be kept more continuously in session, that the watchdog of this institution is absolutely necessary to safeguard popular rights, and that the very serious invasions of those rights by the Executive have completely jutified everything that I have said on this subject in the past.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-36, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to the House the result of its investigations: Repairs and improvements to the wharf at Port Augusta, South Australia.
The report of the Public Works Committee indicates that the wharf is in a bad condition, and that it would be unsafe to use it for a further twelve months. The piles and the decking are rotten; they have been eaten by white ants and sea insects. The committee has recommended that the wharf be provided with fresh piles, that it be extended for a further distance of 4 feet into the gulf, and that new timber decking be laid. The estimated cost of the work is approximately £36^500, and it is proposed that these repairs be done by day labour.
.- 1 have read the report of the Public Works Committee, and am a little disappointed that it should have recommended the use of wood instead of concrete. If the Government intends to engage in the construction of a. wharf or any other public utility, it should first consider the enormous cost of wood. According to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock), the wood of the present structure has been eaten away by insects. The time has arrived for the Government to be practical, by constructing the piers of concrete. I do not agree with the statement of the Public Worlds Committee that concrete piles could not be put down because, having to go through gravel, the ends could not be squared up. In Hobart it has been proved conclusively that concrete piles can be squared up even if driven through a hard substance. If wood were driven through a hard substance, it would suffer to a greater degree than concrete. The Government is showing very bad judgment in proposing to have this work carried out on the lines recommended, because in a few years the wooden piles will again have to be replaced. Concrete lasts practically a lifetime, and needs no repairs; consequently, in the final analysis, it is less costly than wood. Perhaps some interested party has been instrumental in securing the adoption of wood because of timber supplies in South Australia.
– There is no timber in South Australia.
– Tha t makes the position worse.
– The present structure has lasted for 55 years.
– Harbour trusts and marine boards carry out construction works in concrete. It will be found that the new decking and piles will rot. How much money has been spent on the repair of the existing structure? On bridges and other works that have been carried out in. concrete, thousands of pounds have been saved. The argument that concrete is unsuitable because horses will have to use the wharf cannot be sustained. A rough surface would overcome that difficulty. The method of construction recommended is out of date. Concrete decking would be far superior, and have a longer life than wood. I hope that when the Government undertakes construction works it will do so by the most up-to-date methods, and at the least cost to the people. “We have not money to waste on wooden construction when concrete will, last for a lifetime. The members of Mie Public Works Committee should have made themselves better acquainted with the qualities of concrete and the deterioration of wood before coming to this Parliament with a recommendation in favour of wood.
.- I support the motion. The Public Works Committee had an opportunity to investi gate this matter fully. I am satisfied that the proposed work is absolutely necessary. After an investigation on the spot, the committee came to the conclusion that the wharf should be built. The present structure is very old, and I am glad that the Government has seen fit to approve of the provision of an almost new wharf. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has argued in favour of the ase ot concrete. I was very strongly of that opinion, too. In South Australia there is a shortage of wood which could be used for this particular work, and an abundance of cement. The evidence tendered to the committee, however, was overwhelmingly opposed to my argument, and eventually the committee decided to recommend what is known as a turpentine wharf, which, I believe, will meet the position of South Australia. I hope that it will not be long before this facility is provided. The development of the Port Augusta district is of vital interest to the people. A railway runs on to the wharf, and thus facilities will be provided for the shipment of wool and other products. The Government has acted in a business-like way. If many other works of this character were referred to the Public Works Committee it would be a good thing for the taxpayers.
.- I support the motion. As a member of the Public Works Committee, I inspected the wharf at Port Augusta and took part in the investigation of the proposal to effect repairs and improvements to it. The wharf has stood for 55 years and, when we saw it, had given its maximum service. After examining experts - architects and engineers, men who have been long associated with wharf construction work - we reached the conclusion that there was need to reconstruct the wharf and to drive new piles where required. The weight of evidence was in favour of wooden piles, as against concrete.
– The wooden piles aTe cheaper than concrete.
– Not only that, but almost equally serviceable. The Government and its officers are to be complimented on the energy that they have displayed in preparing for the reconditioning of the wharf.
– I am glad that at long last the Port Augusta wharf is to ‘be reconstructed. As to the relative merits of concrete and wooden piles, I am ready to accept the recommendation of the Public Works Committee in favour of wooden.
– Experts favour concrete piles.
– The Public Works Committee is here to guide us as to the relative merits of materials. Whilst as a layman I should be inclined to the view that concrete piles would make for more permanent construction, the committee must have had sound reasons for recommending wooden piles, because it went thoroughly into the matter. Port Augusta has a great future. It is eminently suited for the establishment of munitions factories, because, not only does it occupy a central position, but also its distance from the open sea is a natural protection. The district has special claims for consideration in any new defence projects. The line through Port Augusta which links our railway system should be extended to Whyalla, because that town should not be dependent solely on the sea route for the transport of materials both to and from the Whyalla works. I appreciate what has been done and support the action of the Government.
.- As a member of the Public Works Committee, I mustsay that it is time that a new wharf was provided at Port Augusta if the district is to go ahead as it should. The people there are progressive and they do everything they can to forward the interests of the district. Their enterprise is worthy of the support of this Government. The Public Works Committee went exhaustively into the respective merits of timber and concrete piles. It learned that the life of timber piles is about 40 years and that the cost is less than half that of concrete. The committee was guided in its decision that the piles should be timber by those facts.
– What sort of timber is it?
– The original piles were of jarrah. Although the wharf was built 55 years ago, some of the old piles are still there; some have been renewed. That speaks well for the quality of the Western Australian jarrah. The committee found that although the decking had been renewed, the wharf was unsafe. The new piles will be of turpentine wood from northern New South Wales. Unfortunately the demands that have been made on the jarrah forests for piles have been so great that they are no longer procurable. Hence the decision to use turpentine wood. Had jarrah been available I have no doubt that it would have been used, because that timber is equal to any timber in the world for piles. Concrete piles are being used in Hobart, but that is because the marine life in the Hobart waters limits the life of timber piles to either fifteen or eighteen years. When we were at Port Augusta we learned that vessels could not be fully loaded, because of the lack of loading facilities at the wharf. They had to leave port half loaded, and top up elsewhere. When the wharfis reconstructed boats will be able to load fully and go straight to their destination. That will mean a great saving. I recommend this expenditure. The Public Works Committee is not out to save money at all costs; its purpose is to get full value for all money expended. The only thing that we eliminated in this case was the fender. We considered it to be quite unnecessary in the quiet waters of Port Augusta and it would have cost about £2,000. If a fender were at any time found to be necessary it could easily be added. I trust that the Minister will see that the work is carried out with the least possible delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 4.25to 6.10 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
National Security Bill 1940.
Loan Bill (No. 2) 1940.
Illegal Organizations - Extension op the Life of the Parliament - Contracts for Military Supplies - Contributions to the Financial Requirements of the Government - Wheat Industry - Home - Defence Units - Moratorium - Railway Transport Facilities.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House <lo now adjourn. Mr. BLACKBURN (Bourke) [6V11].- Under regulations which, I understand, came into force last Saturday, authority was given for an order to be made naming certain bodies as illegal organizations. The bodies named included the Communist party of Australia and the Minority Movement - I presume the militant Minority Movement. A body not named is the Communist League of Australia, which is affiliated with the Fourth International. -One of the excuses given for the attacks that have been made on the Communist party of Australia is that it is under the direction of the Soviet Government or the Comintern, and is therefore alleged to be associated with Russia and Germany in the war. That does not apply to the Communist League of Australia, a body commonly known as Trotskyites, which opposes the line taken by the Government of Russia and the Stalin party. Attempts have been made to prevent the holding of its meetings. The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) has stated that it is not covered by the recent order, but he has threatened to put it out of action. I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) personally to consider this matter. If these people are to be dealt with in the same way as the Communist party of Australia, they should be given notice that they are to be so dealt with, and should not be put out of action merely as the result of threats by the police or by the Prime Minister’s colleague. I shall hand to the right honorable gentleman a statement that I have in connexion with the matter.
.- I should like to touch very briefly on a matter that I raised during question time to-day, namely, the extension of the life of this Parliament. Whether or not the life of this Parliament should be extended is a matter that will have to be determined according to circumstances which will arise from time to time. I feel that, should it be considered necessary, the requisite machinery should now be put in motion so that, in the event of such a decision being come to, it may be given effect with the least possible delay. I understand from those who are constitutional authorities that, in order to extend the life of Parliament beyond the three-year period and three months thereafter, which period will expire some time in January next, it would be necessary for an authorizing act to be passed through the Parliament of the United Kingdom. I point out that Great Britain is at present in a state of great peril. Within the next month or two there may be a concerted Nazi attack on London, and it may be necessary for the Parliament of the United Kingdom to vacate Westminster and function elsewhere. 1 therefore think that steps should now be taken to secure the authority of that Parliament for the abrogation of the Constitution of Australia so that, should it be desired to extend the life of this Parliament, there will be the constitutional authority to do so. I urge upon the Government the need to act with as great a degree of promptitude as possible. It may be that we would desire to go to the country; but my personal reaction to that, in spite of my feeling that at times an election is desirable, is that, with the country in the present state of tension, nobody wants to be bothered with such matters as party politics, local politics, or anything other than matters connected with the successful prosecution of the war. I fail to see how the Executive could concentrate on the very urgent business which the war places upon it if, at the same time, it had to concentrate on the winning of an election. Although I am not affected to any greater degree than any other honorable member, 1 suggest that all parties in this House should collaborate as early as possible so that an approach may be made to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and the necessary machinery may be put in motion to enable the life of this Parliament to be extended, should that be desired, without encountering any practical difficulty.
.- During question time to-day, the matter of foodstuffs for military camps in different districts being supplied locally was raised, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) replied that there was nothing to prevent the merchants of Ballarat, Bendigo, or any other district from submitting tenders. I have been in touch with the officers of the Defence Department in Melbourne who have charge of the arrangements in connexion with this matter, and have been informed that one contract has been let for the supply of the requirements of the whole of the camps in Victoria. I consider that those who, in different towns, have made race-courses or show-grounds available to the Government free of cost, and are doing everything possible in other ways to help the Government, are entitled to some consideration. This is a matter which should be considered by the Defence Department. The Minister for the Army should institute inquiries to see what may be done. The Government needs, and is given, the support of the people, but certain of its actions may lead to the loss of some of that support.
Another matter that I wish to raise affects every honorable member of this House. I believe that we have all attended “ win-the-war “ rallies, and other meetings of various sorts, at which the people have been asked to make money available to the Government in the form of interestfree loans and war savings certificates. I attended recently a meeting at Rushworth, an old decayed mining town with quite a poorish class of country surrounding it. The people of the district are so keen on the successful prosecution of the war that, at this meeting of about 200 persons, an amount of £2,357 was subscribed, one-half in interest-free loans and the balance in war savings certificates. The local school children have taken up £547 worth of war savings certificates. During the last ten days the people of the town have taken up at the local bank and post office £3,200 worth of war savings certificates. This makes a total of £6,104 from a town of only 600 or 700 persons. We who are elected to this House are regarded as leaders of the community, and should therefore set an example to these people-
– Does not the honorable member think that we do?
– I do not know whether we are doing so or not. I am not saying anything against honorable members. I was about to suggest that, in order to set an example to the people and the Public Service of Australia, we should indicate our willingness to make a sacrifice. We should be prepared to do what Hitler told his people they had to do. Hitler’s admonition was, “ Germans, tighten up your belts “. If we were to give to the Government our salary for one week in each month as an interest-free loan, such an example might have a very far-reaching effect. I intend to do so personally, and I hope that the members of this House and of the Senate will do likewise.
.- I wish briefly to endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I believe that the time has come when we should take into serious consideration the extension of the life of this Parliament. I have been approached by hundreds of persons in all walks of life, who have said that it is our duty to get on with our joh and not to seek votes. This matter was discussed at a meeting of about 500 people which I attended last week. The opinion expressed then was that any action on the part of members of Parliament to bring about an election would be looked upon with disgust. I urge that the recommendation made by the honorable member for Rich- [mond be adopted. I am not speaking from any personal motives; I am speaking as the voice of the people.
I also endorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that members of Parliament could set an example to the people of Australia. Many people have already made big contributions to Commonwealth loans and are not in a position to do so again in the future. It would be a wonderful gesture if, in r.his time of crisis, members of Parliament agreed to contribute one-tenth of their salaries, or £100 per annum to war funds. Although £100 from each member does not seem much, the aggregate would be more than £10.000 a year.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the money be contributed as a loan or as a gift?
– I am suggesting that it be contributed as a gift, but I will be prepared to fall in with whatever course is acceptable to other members. I fail to see how we can justly ask the people to make contributions towards war funds unless we set an example.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean one-tenth of the total net income of members of this Parliament, or only one-tenth of that portion of their income which they derive as members of Parliament?
– I have examined this matter very thoroughly and in my opinion honorable members could make a substantial contribution out of the £1,000 a year which they receive.
– What about their other income ?
– Much of my other income has been used in the direction which I have indicated, just the same as it was during the last war ; and should another loan be floated I would not be in a position to contribute a large sum to it. If honorable members opposite were prepared to contribute the whole of their income, I should be willing to do likewise. At a time such as this I do not believe in voluntary subscription. In passing a measure such as the Loan Bill which was before honorable members to-day, the Government should endeavour to determine, at least to some degree, the sources from which the money is to be obtained. I say to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that I am prepared, if necessary, to put the whole of my income - it is very small - at the disposal of the Government. I draw attention to the fact that, in South Australia, the invalid and old-age pensioners have, by means of the 3d. a week which they normally contribute to their funeral expenses, subscribed £1,000 to the Commonwealth war loan. Surely honorable members can also make a sacrifice. The example set by the invalid and old-age pensioners is a lesson to us. If we cannot live on £900 it is time we died.
.- I have listened with great interest to the discussion that has just taken place on
the suggestion that voluntary contributions be made to assist the prosecution of our war effort. In my opinion if the Government is to depend on voluntary contributions or public loans, we shall lose the war. I differ in my view from some honorable members as to the nature and sources of money and its functions. I do not believe in freezing present current funds. I believe that the Government should write up all the money that it requires through its own financial institutions, and to that extent it should adopt the methods which are used by our enemy to finance its war effort.
To-day many of our young men are volunteering for service abroad and are being sent overseas. They are taking every possible personal risk. In many cases those whom they leave behind are in financial difficulties, and are making great sacrifices. Some soldiers have foregone substantial salaries to discharge their duty in the defence of the Empire, and have left their dependants in difficult circumstances. Also, there are many primary producers who are in financial difficulties owing to the deferred payments for wheat, and for the reason which I have just mentioned. Their sons are going away to the war and in some instances aged parents are facing great hardship and financial embarrassment owing to the pressure that is being brought to bear upon them by creditors, who are exercising their rights under the law to dispossess them. It is high time the Government took some action to protect these people. I hope that the Prime Minister will do what he promised to do on a previous occasion, and give thorough and prompt consideration to this matter. Correspondence which I have received has left no doubt in my mind as to the true position. I hope that honorable members will appreciate the seriousness of the circumstances and will endeavour to see that the required protection is given.
The honorable member for Bendigo referred to the fact that offers were being made by thousands of citizens to assist in some way our ‘war effort. These people realize the danger which is confronting Australia and the Empire and are anxious to play their part. In many areas shire councils, agricultural councils and other public bodies hare offered to do organizing work of’ various kinds. In some of the larger towns throughout rural areas there are splendid facilities for giving preliminary training to recruits and for organizing home-defence units. I do not wish to be parochial, but from my electorate communications have been sent repeatedly to the Minister for the Army in that respect. Offers have been made by the shires of Swan Hill and Mildura, two very important centres. The Minister for the Army should (take notice of the desires of the people and accept their offers. If the people are not given a lead the enthusiasm of to-day will dampen down a lot.
On the farms there is a great deal of scrap iron, which, if it is of any use to the authorities - and I think that it should bc - the farmers are willing to deliver it to railway sidings. That should be considered. The question of decentralization of defence activities should be given the consideration to which it is entitled. What has happened in France as the result of centralization of production of munitions in big cities should be a lesson to us.
Mr. THOMPSON (New England). 0.32]. - I should like to be able to support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), for some lead to be given by members of this Parliament to the community in contributions to war loans or gifts to the Commonwealth, but I am afraid that after the explanation of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) who supported him. the proposal is quite impracticable without the introduction of legislation by the Government. If the Government decided to legislate to put all members and all members of the Public Service on an equal footing, it would set a standard for the whole community which would not be acceptable to the community, whatever some honorable members may think. Members who want to make interest-free loans or gifts to the Commonwealth can do so by sacrificing portion of their income. Honorable members will in their own time and in their own way, and according to their financial circumstances, make contributions to the Commonwealth. I do not know that it would be proper for the Parliament to require members to reveal their financial position, and to say to them “You should put in so much and if you do not we shall make you “. The repercussions of such a policy would be serious. The people are contributing freely and generously all that they are asked for by the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has told us with emphasis that he oan promise more and more taxation. Not only members of this Parliament, but also the people outside will have to make a contribution to that. It will be a substantial contribution by members of Parliament, especially those who have other income beside their parliamentary allowance. Those who feel this way can salve their conscience by making voluntary contributions, but the Government, with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), should give consideration to every suggestion making for equality of effort by honorable members.
The matter raised by tho honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) I raised myself two or three weeks ago. It was considered by my colleagues to be premature, although all agreed that it was an interesting proposal. I am glad to see that since then what was regarded as a lone-wolf effort has been accepted as having considerable merit. Since then the war situation has worsened and whatever merit there was in the case which I placed before the Parliament is much stronger to-day. I content myself with reaffirming the views that I expressed then, by reiterating that, if we want to prolong the life of this Parliament, we need only ask the British Parliament to pass an enabling bill.
– The honorable member would run away from the electors.
– There is no such suggestion. To my surprise, when I went out into the electorate expecting a certain amount of carping criticism on the lines suggested by the honorable member, I found absolute unanimity amongst the people that Parliament should not dream of inflicting general elections upon them at this time of crisis, when they are in a state of great mental stress and certainly have no goodwill towards Parliament. The people to-day are not prepared to look at ourselves, and our policies in a general way. An election would have to be fought on the one issue of the war. and the people know that. Their only question is what we are doing to play our part in this crisis. If we stayed here a little longer and did not dislocate the country’s war effort, the electors would bc behind ns. If the suggestion made by the honorable member for Richmond is seriously considered by the Government in consultation with the Opposition - we cannot carry it out without the approval of the Opposition - it will have the support of 90 per cent, of the people. I urge the Government, in the few weeks of the recess, which may possibly be shorter than we expect, to give most serious consideration to the honorable member’s proposal, and to evolve a method by which we can test the feeling of both Houses and submit our wishes to the British Parliament for ratification.
– The British Parliament is too busy.
– If we could do it under the National Security Act we should do so.
– Nobody would enjoy it better than the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh).
– I shall not suggest that the honorable member for Wakefield more than any other honorable member would appreciate a release from the burden of having to carry out an individual campaign. Many honorable members who would be certain to be returned at a general election are in favour of this proposal. I do not think that we need consider whether this proposal would give an advantage to members of any political party. At all events it does not cause me any concern. I am convinced that the people would approve of it, and that if it could be submitted to them, it would have their unanimous endorsement, I therefore urge the Government to give it serious consideration. If there are insuperable constitutional obstacles to its adoption that is the end of the matter. I decline to think, however, that we are the slaves of an instrument of our own creation and that we are powerless to do anything although the Empire may be disintegrating and the heavens may be falling. I refuse to believe that in our present circumstances, the Constitution is unalterable, no matter what may be the wishes of the Parliament or the will of the people. I hope that, when Parliament reassembles in August, or earlier if circumstances demand an earlier meeting, the Government will bring forward a proposal on the lines which I have indicated. If Parliament does not want it, and if there is not an overwhelming majority . for the project in both Houses, nothing can be done.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) ‘6.43’. - I direct attention to the desirability of introducing moratorium legislation in the interests of men who enlist in our fighting services. Some questions on this subject, including one from in y self, were asked of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to-day. A large number of these men will suffer a substantial reduction of income, and as a consequence, many may be unable to meet their commitments unless some form of relief is provided. The Prime Minister to-day said that the Government was prepared to give the matter early consideration. I hope that this will be done, because, unless some such relief is promised, those who have enlisted may be subjected to considerable financial risk and others who may be thinking of enlisting may hesitate, because of the knowledge that their income would be so substantially reduced that, in some cases, they would not be able to meet their financial obligations and SupPort their f families. I feel sure that any moratorium legislation that may be introduced would have the full support of members of all parties in this Parliament.
The other matter to which I would direct attention is the urgent need for an immediate improvement of transport facilities in Australia. As honorable members know, I have always been a consistent advocate of the standardization of railway gauges; but as a man endowed with some amount of common sense, I realize that expenditure on such .an undertaking at the present juncture could not be contemplated, because the work could not be completed in time to be of military value. I know that the Government has given consideration to the question of providing improved facilities at railway sidings in the various
States to permit of the more rapid movements of troops and equipment should that be necessary. The Locomotive Enginemen’s Union, of which I am honorary president, desires to give every assistance to the Government in connexion with this matter. It is suggested that, in addition to providing better facilities at sidings, provision should be made for the reconditioning of engines and rolling stock, so as to avoid unnecessary delay in this essential work. Members of the union are prepared to give the fullest co-operation to the Government in this matter. I believe the Railways Commissioners have also intimated that they will give every assistance and advice to the Minister for the Army in connexion with this matter, but extra siding accommodation may be rendered of little value unless proper reconditioning facilities are provided.
On the subject of war finance, I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and other honorable members have indicated that they believe that the Government should avail itself of the resources of the Commonwealth Bank and national credit. I believe that the fullest possible use should be made of the facilities provided by that institution in order to carry on the war more effectively. I would say more on this subject, but time will not permit.
.- I have not the slightest doubt that if honorable members were called upon to consider the suggestion of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) in respect of interest-free loans to the Government, they would support it to the limit of their resources. The possibility of prolonging the life of this Parliament, a matter first mentioned by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and referred to again this afternoon by that honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), would, I feel sure, be appreciated by the people of this country. They wish to avoid general elections at a time like this. The Prime Minister would be well advised to give the suggestion careful consideration. If any constitutional difficulty that may exist could be removed in the way that has been suggested, Commonwealth Ministers would not be obliged to neglect their important administrative duties for a month or six weeks in order to stump the country in an election campaign. I hope that this matter will have the attention of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 12 of 1940 - Professional Officers Association.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1940 -
No. 8 - Regulations Publication.
No. 9 - Juvenile Offenders (Probation).
No. 10 - Canberra Community Hospital (No. 2).
House adjourned at 6.50 p.m. until Tuesday, the6th August, 1940, at 3 p.m., or an earlier day and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will he supply answers to the following questions concerning volunteers for home service: -
Are men eligible to apply whose ages range up to 40 years?
What will be the rates of pay and separation allowances ?
For what period of service will these volunteers be signed on?
For what periods of time will these men be away from their civilduties for training, camps, &c.?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The periods of time which the men will be away from civil duties depends on the experience of the volunteer. The following per sonnel will be enlisted in the Australian Army Reserve and will be required to carry out such training, other than camps of continuous training, as may from time to time be required of the active Citizen Forces: -
Other personnel will be enlisted in the active Citizen Forces and will be required to undergo continuous training of three months’ duration in camp.
Industrial Reference Boards.
n asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. This information is being obtained.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 June 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400621_reps_15_164/>.