15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Enlistment of Aborigines - Moratorium Legislation - Allotment or Pat
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether any aborigines have joined the second Australian Imperial Force, or the Royal Australian Air Force? If so, will these men be afforded full citizenship rights, and be covered by the provisions of the Repatriation Act and allied legislation which applies to other Australian citizens who enlist?
– I have no doubt that they will be treated in the same way as were aborigines who enlisted in the first Australian Imperial Force.
Mr.W ATKINS. - I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether it. is the intention of the Government to introduce, before the dissolution of Parliament, legislation for a moratorium in respect of members of the Australian Imperial Force and other serving forces?
– That will be done by regulation, not by legislation.
– Will the regulations be made retrospective, so as to protect the men from the date of their entering the forces, in view of the number of cases which already have arisen of creditors having seized property belonging to men who enlisted?
-In the framing of the regulations in question, the matter of whether, and, if so, to what extent, they should be made retrospective, is under consideration. The representation of the honorable member in that connexion will be borne in mind.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a number of wives and children’ of soldiers who have enlisted and gone overseas with the Australian Imperial Force are suffering a great deal of hardship due to the fact that many soldiers have made no allotment of their pay to them? In some cases allotments have been made to persons other tuan wives and dependants, and in others the soldiers have directed that portion of their pay is to be paid to the credit of their own banking accounts. The Defence Department adheres to the instructions issued by the soldiers and to obtain relief a wife must take out an order of the court for maintenance against he husband.
-Order ! The honorable member is giving information, and on many occasions I have reminded honorable members that it is not in order to question a Minister regarding his knowledge of a certain subject, and that they must direct a question to elicit information.
– In view of the hardship experienced by wives and dependants in such circumstances, will the Prime Minister, by the issue of a regulation, provide that soldiers proceeding overseas must allot portion of their pay to their wives, unless they prove that the moral life of the wife is questionable?
– I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for the Army, to look into the suggestion made by the honorable member.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the present practice of working public servants employed in the Postal Department an additional four hours a week has had the effect of preventing a number of persons, including war widows, from obtaining temporary engagement, as was the custom for a number of years? Will the honorable gentleman take steps to vary the conditions, or is it the policy of the Government thus to cause unemployment?
– The suggestion of the honorable member is absolutely incorrect. The effect has not been to displace any of the employees of the Postal Department. The object is to make up for the shortage of officers caused by the large number of enlistments and by transfers from the Postal Department to other departments for war services. Some of the additional work necessary on account of war conditions is thus being covered.
– It is affecting temporary employees.
– The employees are working the additional number of hours voluntarily and willingly, either by agreement with the department or through the Arbitration Court.
– That is not an answer to my question.
– It is an answer to the honorable member’s question. .1 have said definitely that the effect has not been to reduce employment iu the Postal Department, and that no employees have been dismissed in consequence.
– I have received a letter from a constituent, a returned soldier who enlisted for service in the present war, after having served for two and a half years in the Engineers’ Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department. This man has been discharged from the Military Forces on medical grounds and when he applied for reinstatement in the Postmaster-General’s Department he was informed that his job had been filled. Has any general instruction been issued to the Engineers’ Branch as to the re.-employment of former employees who have enlisted for war service and subsequently been rejected on medical grounds? Does the Postmaster.General consider that the chief officer of the Engineers’ Branch is acting rightly in filling the places of men who enlist for active service and refusing to employ them on their discharge from the Military Forces?
– I have no knowledge of the case referred to by the honorable member. No instruction of the kind mentioned by him has, to my knowledge, been issued. If the honorable member will give me full particulars of the case he has mentioned I shall go into the matter very carefully and sympathetically. I can assure the House that there is no intention to deny to discharged soldiers the right of re-employment in the department.
– Has the Minister for the Navy received information to the effect that the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union of Australia was requested to do shift work, in accordance with clause 10 of its award, on a vessel that is being fitted out as a transport at Cockatoo Island Dockyard? Is it a fact that the secretary of the union refused point-blank to continue with shift work in accordance with the terms of the award ?
– I received information to this effect yesterday. So far as I know, the honorable member has correctly stated the position.
Payment by Instalments.
– I ask the Treasurer whether arrangements for the payment of income tax by instalments have yet been finalized. If so, when will the new practice be put into operation?
– The decision has been made to implement a scheme to make payment of income tax by instalments compulsory, and the details are now being worked out. I cannot say at the moment when the scheme will become operative; a large number of administrative details require attention.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the regulations imposing restrictions on the press, the cinema, and the broadcasting service, which caused a good deal of controversy a little while ago, have been withdrawn? Is it intended to redraft these regulations? If so, will the new regulations be laid on the table of the House before the dissolution?
– The regulations in question are in course of being redrawn, with a view to making certain amendments modifying them in some respects. Consideration of the redrafting has not yet been completed. When that stage is reached, the regulations will be tabled. As to whether or not that can be done before the House rises, I am unable to say.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government proposes to proclaim the amended press regulations before Parliament rises?
– I have already answered a question on the same subject. The amendments are still under consideration.
– Some days ago I asked the Prime Minister a question concerning the censorship of political matter. Is the right honorable gentleman yet in a position to give me an answer to it ?
– I am not able to do so at the moment, but I propose to confer with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the Australian Labour party - non-Communist (Mr. Beasley) within the next few hours on the subject, if they are willing, to see whether an agreement can be reached for the adoption of a uniform practice.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether State Ministers of Agriculture had any proposals for the stabilization of the wheat industry to place before the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council held last week? If not, what arrangements are being made’ for the future discussion of the problem and what endeavours are being made to obtain a settlement of it?
– No State Minister of Agriculture had any proposal in relation to the wheat industry to place before the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council held last week, and, incidentally, none was prepared to discuss the stabilization of the industry, although I was prepared to do so. With respect to the future, State Ministers agreed to meet the Commonwealth Government, probably in October. It was resolved that each State Minister should produce plans and circulate them to the other States and to the Commonwealth. The position to-day is that, unless the Commonwealth has complete powers in respect of the wheat industry, it cannot of its own accord produce a proper and satisfactory stabilization scheme. If complete powers are given, I have no doubt as to the ability of the Commonwealth to effect a satisfactory solution of the problem.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether any action was taken at the recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in respect of poultry food ?
– That matter was discussed, and it was generally agreed that a special price should be fixed for wheat for use by the poultry industry for fodder purposes. The decision of the council has been conveyed to the Australian Wheat Board.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply and Development been drawn to a pamphlet issued by the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce, entitled “ Facts about the Proposed Petrol Rationing”, and having on the front page a ghastly death’s head with the caption “Death to Industry”? Does the honorable gentleman propose to issue a statement in answer to this alarmist and ghastly form of propaganda against petrol rationing? If not, will he place the matter before Cabinet, with a view to the protection of the activities of the Government in this vital war-time matter ?
– My attention has been drawn to the pamphlet but, so far, I have been able to look at only the cover of it. In contrast with the views described by the honorable gentleman, I am able to say that the Government has received approval of its rationing plan from corresponding organizations in the other States. I do not know that it is necessary to issue counter propaganda as suggested. Personally, I believe that the scheme itself is an adequate answer to all the allegations contained in the pamphlet.
– Has the Prime Minister received any information from the British Government which could be presented to Parliament to confirm the glowing and satisfactory reports that have been received recently regarding the superiority of the Royal Air Force over the German Air Force in recent air operations? Some doubt has been expressed concerning the reliability of the reports published in the press, and there is a fear that the figures may have been exaggerated.
– This subject was referred to yesterday by the Minister for External Affairs in reply to a question by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman). My .colleague then stated that the figures that had been published were correct. Since then I have received a communication from the Government of the United Kingdom containing an authentic summary of the aerial combats of the last few days, the contents of which I can communicate to honorable members.
The position is that the results of the recent . series of German air raids on Britain have been far more satisfactory from our point of view than the most optimistic expectations. The enemy’s losses have been far greater and ours far less than anything that was expected. For the period from the 8th to the 20th August the Germans lost T08 aircraft for certain. From the enemy’s point of view those heavy losses might have been worth while if equivalent losses had been inflicted on the Royal Air Force, if the dislocation and damage caused had been sufficient to cripple Britain, and if British morale had been undermined; but none of these ends has been achieved. The British losses in fighter aircraft were only 156 and in bombers only 36 for the period. Only 90 fighter pilots were lost. Secondly, the damage caused has in no way embarrassed the British defences, but has merely slightly inconvenienced them. I use this language deliberately, and by way of quotation from authentic information on the point. Thirdly, with regard to morale, the British spirit and determination, so far from having been undermined, has been strengthened. On the reverse side, from the German point of view, the most serious aspect of the operations during this period has been the loss of trained air personnel which is estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000 persons. Apart from the reduction of the efficiency of the German Air Force it can well be imagined that this loss may have a serious effect upon German morale.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce to a promise that was made by the Prime Minister to representatives of merchants who had suffered loss in consequence of the operation of the apple and pear acquisition scheme. These persons were told that steps would be taken to restore their business to them. Is the Minister now in a position to intimate what action the Government intends to take to give effect to that promise? If not, why not?
– The honorable member may rest assured that any promise made by the Prime Minister and myself will be fulfilled. I signed a letter to him yesterday bearing upon this question. Merchants who had been in the habit of exporting apples and pears overseas will be granted licences for that purpose in respect of the next season’s crop.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform me whether instructions have been issued to the appropriate officers of the Electoral Department to the effect that the names of persons serving in the Army, Navy or Air Forces must not be removed from the electoral rolls?
– I cannot give the honorable member a reply offhand, but I shall obtain the information for him.
– Just prior to the outbreak of war, when the Prime Minister visited the electorate of Hunter, he expressed considerable sympathy with the unemployed people in that district. Seeing that the Government is now spending millions of pounds in providing annexes for the manufacture of munitions and as certain mines in the Cessnock, Aberdare South and theWest Wallsend locality, which are now closed down, have equipment suitable for manufacture of certain classes of munitions, I ask the Prime Minister whether, in order to redeem his promise to provide work for the unemployed people in those areas, he will direct Mr. Essington Lewis to acquire the properties mentioned so that they may be used for the manufacture of munitions ?
– I certainly cannot undertake to give a direction to the Director-General of Munitions to acquire properties which may, or may not, be suitable for the manufacture of munitions; but I shall certainly direct the attention of Mr. Essington Lewis to the remarks of the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Commerce now prepared to take steps to assist private individuals and cooperative organizations to erect additional cool stores in order to provide storage facilities for perishable products that will soon be awaiting shipment overseas? I understand that a shortage of shipping space is likely to be experienced in respect of various products. I know that many applications have been made to the Minister for assistance to provide increased cool-storage accommodation.
– I do not look upon this as the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
-Will the Prime Minister inform me whether he instructed the State governments to take steps to curtail sporting activities during the war period? I refer, in particular, to horse racing and greyhound racing.
– I did not do so.
Mr.CURTIN.- Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to give me a reply to the representations which I made to him in writing some time ago concerning a proposal to increase greatly the accommodation of the naval establishment at Fremantle?
– I am unable to supply the information at the moment. Inquiries are proceeding and, as soon as a decision has been reached, I shall communicate with the honorable member.
– Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Commerce a question relating to the establishment of wool appraisement centres. Last night I received some information regarding the establishment of one centre. When may the House expect a full statement to be made on this important subject?
– The honorable member will receive a letter from me in the near future. The decision of the Government was that appraisement centres would bo established under certain conditions at Townsville in Queensland and at Albany in Western Australia.
– In view of the continued reports that the retorts at the Glen Davis works are approximately only 60 per cent. efficient, has the Minister for Supply seen the Renco retort and is it correct that it is 90 per cent. efficient? In view of the vital necessity for the maximum production of oil fuel in Australia to-day, if the honorable gentleman has not seen the Renco retort, will he examine it?
– I have not seen the retort referred to by the honorable gentleman, but I hope on Monday next to see the retorts installed at Glen Davis in operation, because on that day Glen Davis will start producing commercial petrol for distribution. That fact, I think, answers the suggestion that the retorts installed at Glen Davis are inefficient.
– In view of the doubt that appears to exist in the minds of some people as to the efficiency of the retorts at present being used at Glen Davis, is the Minister able to give the House an assurance that those retorts were installed only after advice had been sought from people most competent to give it?
– I understand that that is the case.
Periodof Compulsory Service
– I have received letters from parents complaining that the Defence Department is compelling their sons to continue training after they have finished their three mouths’ term. Does any section of the Defence Act permit the department to compel trainees against their will to undergo a longer period of training than three months ?
– That is a question of law which I am afraid I cannot answer offhand. I am surprised to hear what the honorable member says and I shall have an inquiry made at once in regard to the matter in the Department of the Army.
– Has the Prime Minister yet finally decided what regulations are needed to prevent unauthorized persons from wearing Army, Wavy and Air Force uniforms ? If the right honorable gentleman has not yet decided this important matter, can he indicate the reason for the long delay?
-I signed some regulations regarding that matter yesterday. No doubt they will be gazetted in the next day or two.
Compensation to Displaced Employees
– Is it a fact that the Government has compensated members of the Australian Journalists Association who lost their employment as the result of the cancellation of a newsprint import licence to the proprietors of Truth? If so, is it intended to compensate also members of the printing trades union who have lost their employment in similar circumstances, and when is payment likely to be made?
– No decision has been made in regard to the matter. In its various phases the whole matter is now pending a decision of the Cabinet. I anticipate that a decision will be arrived at within the next day or two.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House whether any further payments will be made from the No. 2 wheat pool, and, if so, when such payments are likely to be made?
– Seeing that 4d. a bushel was paid only last Friday, I do not think that the honorable gentleman can expect me to take his question seriously, especially as he knows that the wheat pool has an overdraft of over £18,000,000 at the present time.
– I desire to inform the House that I intend to lay on the table of the Library the annual report of the Australian Wool Board. Unless it is the wish of the House, I do not propose to have the report printed this year.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
-! have received from the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The failure of the Government to make adequate provision for compensation to the dependants of a certain soldier who died as a result of injuries sustained on military duty.”
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
-I ask the indulgence of the House while I outline the circumstances of a case which reveals an inhumanity on the part of the Government which I did not think was possible. It was my belief that, even in this strangely-assorted and muddled modern world, some sense of human values still remained, but, apparently, that is not so. From the evidence which I shall adduce, honorable members may be led to the conclusion that the Government is not only failing young Australians in life, but is actually allowing this callous failure to pursue them to the grave. As my leader, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has often said, the youth of this country are really a forgotten legion.
Since April of this year, I have had cause to make representations on behalf of the parents of a young Australian soldier who is now deceased. In the course of my activities in this connexion, I had communications with the late respected Minister for the Army (Mr. Street). I want to say here that I do not lay any personal charge against that honoured gentleman, who, at all times, treated me with the greatest courtesy; but I am accusing a system which allows a strangely inhuman callousness to creep into the handling of affairs of State. In order to make the position clear to honorable members, I shall read a letter which I received yesterday morning from the present Minister for the Army (Senator McBride). The letter summarizes the case in connexion with which I have made prolonged and persistent representations; it also exposes the attitude of the official mind, as well as the mind of the Government, towards human distress, which may be the lot of any of us at some time or other during our mortal existence. The letter reads -
August 17th, 1940
Dear Mr. Mulcahy,
I desire to refer to personal representations made toy you to my predecessor, the late Brigadier, the Honorable G.. A. Street, M.C., E.D., on the 17th April, 1940, and to the questions asked by you in the House of Representatives on the 22nd May and the 8th August, 1940, in regard to the claim made by Mrs. H. J. Mulliner, of 18 Roseneath-street, Earlwood, for compensation in respect of her son the late No. 427,521 Lance-Corporal H. W. Mulliner, of 55/53 Battalion, who died at the Prince of Wales Hospital on the 12th February, 1940, as a result of injuries sustained on military duty.
This case has been made the subject of full enquiry since your representations were made, but information, obtained as a result of close investigation, does not indicate that the parents of the deceased soldier were substantially dependent upon his earnings. Inquiryhas, in fact, elicited the information that the deceased soldier, prior to taking up duty with the military forces, had no permanent employment, but did odd jobs which enabled him to make a small weekly payment to his mother towards his keep.
The Defence Act does not authorize payment of compensation to the parents of a deceased member of the Militia Forces. My department, realizes, however, that the death of
Lance-Corporal Mulliner- -would be a very serious blow to his parents, and the approval of the Treasurer has been sought and obtained for the male inn; of a solatium payment of £50, which, it is felt, will be sufficient to cover any actual out-or-.pocket expenses which may have been incurred by the parents, and which will, I hope, be accepted by them as a gesture of sympathy from .the Commonwealth Government.
Action hae been taken accordingly to arrange payment of the sum of £50 to Mr. H. J. Mulliner, who is father and next of kin of the late Lance-Corporal Mulliner.
Minister for the Army.
I invite honorable members to ponder over the stark crudity of the terms in which the Commonwealth Government couches its estimate of the value of a young Australian’s life. I ask them to consider, in the first place, the words, “ out-of-pocket expenses “. I did not’ believe that in any community which claims to be civilized and cultured a woman who- has gone into the shadow of the valley to bear a child would live to hear a Government assess the value of her son’s life in such paltry arithmetical terms. Is’ there anything that we can do that can really compensate a woman for the agony and anguish that accompany the fulfilment of her task in the propagation of the race? I am convinced that whatever we may do for any mother .could not repay her for the anxious care that she bestowed on her child out of the fullness of her heart. That she should be informed by an Australian Government that it was- prepared to pay only £50 as out-of-pocket expenses for the loss of her son is, to my mind, the crudest insult that has ever been offered to an Australian mother. I feel this matter very keenly, because I have known the parents of the deceased soldier for many years. Before the depression, when the father was in regular employment, the family lived in circumstances as sheltered as are possible for the family of a working man, and it was under such conditions that this young man was reared. Later, the depression struck their home, and the father lost his employment. When the boy left school he, like thousands of others throughout Australia at that time, could find no place in industry. He obtained temporary employment, and now the Government says that, because his employment was only temporary, his aged parents are not entitled to more than £50 by way of compensation for his death. I draw particular attention to this passage in the extraordinary communication from the department-
Inquiry has, in fact, elicited the information that the deceased soldier, prior to taking up duty with the Military Forces, had no permanent employment, but did odd jobs which enabled him to make a small weekly payment to his mother towards his keep.
Who was responsible for that? Was it the boy’s fault that he could obtain only casual employment? Far from being an argument against the payment of reasonable compensation, that statement convicts the Government out of its own mouth. Young Mulliner was a victim of the depression, which was created by the same financial forces that are now so readily finding millions with which to wage war. Mulliner had to leave school during that troubled period, and the fact that he was able to obtain only intermittent work was something over which he, and other children of the depression, had no control. Is the Government really serious when it attempts to use as an argument its own inability to provide the means that would enable young Australians to live according to standards which should he the heritage of all Australians? In insurance circles there is a term, “ expectation of life “. In this case, the Government has taken upon itself the right to assess a young Australian’s expectation of employment. The letter says, in effect, that had young Mulliner lived, he would have remained an intermittent worker for the rest of his days. Is that the best that the Commonwealth Government can offer the youth of Australia to-day? Are all those young Australians, who have been forced by economic pressure to join the military forces, fighting merely that they may resume their position as intermittent workers when the war is over ? The Minister says that the Defence Act does not allow payment of compensation to members of the Militia. I want to know why. A man who joins the Militia commits himself to serve for seven years. He undergoes a period of three years’ training, and then belongs to the reserve for four years. Surely his services are as valuable as, if not more valuable than, those of the man who joins the Australian Imperial Force for service during the war only. I believe the late Minister for the Army intended to bring in an amendment of the act to provide that members of the Militia injured on service would be compensated, and that, in the event of their death, their next of kin would receive compensation. It has been said that death is a great leveller. Without having any desire to raise personalities, I remind honorable members that, while I have been a member of this House, we have not hesitated to make provision for the dependants of deceased members when circumstances have warranted it. That being so, surely we cannot reasonably say that the distress and loss suffered by the parents of Lance-Corporal Mulliner is less than that of dependants of deceased members of Parliament. Honorable members may recall that we passed through this Parliament an act providing for the payment of compensation amounting to £’750 to the relatives of a seaman killed on his job. In some of the States, particularly in New South Wales, Labour governments have passed legislation providing for the payment of compensation to workers injured on their jobs, and to the dependants of those who are killed in the course of their work. If my memory serves me right, a worker in New South Wales is paid up to £100 for the loss of a linger. Therefore, in the estimation of the Commonwealth Government, young Mulliner’s life was worth less than even a little finger. Such is the callousness of this Government to which matters affecting life and death have been entrusted. Had this boy lived he would have been able to help his parents in their declining years, when they were unable to support themselves. The failure of the Government to give adequate monetary compensation for his death raises an important question, because many thousands of our younger citizens have joined the military services. [Leave to continue given.] I put the facts of this case to the House in the cause of common humanity with every confidence that honorable members will appreciate the justness of my plea, and that the Government will withdraw this ill-considered communication, review the case and give at least the same mone- tary consideration to these bereaved parents as those of every other Australian worker would receive as a right.
.- I support the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). During the three months’ camp at Torquay, of the division under my command, three young soldiers were killed. Two of them, despatch riders, were killed owing to their initiative and keenness to do their job, which in war-time should be the one great thing in their favour. The authorities have said definitely that their parents have no claim against the Government. That is a most unfair attitude for them to take. Some of the boys who have been killed on military service were compulsorily called up. I agree with compulsory training, and that they should have been called up. I also realize that in the training of men there is always a certain risk of serious accident or death, but I believe that no honorable member would deny that a government which calls men to service must take responsibility for them. The reply sent to the honorable member for Lang in the case which he has brought before the House was most ill-considered. The fact that before joining the Army this lad had had only intermittent employment does not mean that if he had lived he would not have obtained a permanent job. The Government adopts a wrong attitude when it says, that because, owing to industrial conditions or some other misfortune, this young man had not been able to get permanent employment, it will pay to his parents only the approximate value of his assistance to them in the past. Surely we must look for better conditions in the future. Otherwise for what are we fighting? Why did men die in France if we are satisfied with conditions that exist now? I hope that the Government will not look at this matter in the way that it has done, will realize its full responsibilities and will, when assessing the value to his dependants of any young able-bodied Australian, consider, not what he has been able to do in the past, but the potentialities of the future when this country will be in a better condition than it is to-day. I have very much pleasure in supporting the honorable member’s motion.
.- I support the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). In doing so I wish to cite a case with which I had to deal in my electorate. An employee at the zinc works, with a wife and two young children, answered the appeal for the increase of the Militia to a strength of 70,000. Zinc works employees must undergo medical examination every twelve months and possess an A-class health certificate. This young man enlisted, thinking that he would be called upon to do sixteen days’ camp training, but he was called up for three months. Before going to camp he was examined by the military doctor and passed as fit. He had also passed the medical examination at the zinc works. He was vaccinated three times in the first week of his training, and he died in the next week, leaving his widow and children without support. The Government refused to take any responsibility on the ground that the death certificate showed the cause of death to be cancer. Now this man had worked at the zinc works for five and a half years and had lost only four shifts. How he could do that, passing the company’s doctor every year, with a malignant growth, I do not know. In his case the Government cannot escape its responsibility by claiming that his death did not arise from military service. The case I cite is worse even than that cited by the honorable member for Lang, and the Government should do something to help this young man’s sad widow, on whose behalf I made an appeal to the late Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) from whom I received this reply -
With further reference to your personal representations on behalf of Mrs. T. Hawkins, 39 Cascade-road, South Hobart, who desires to know if she is entitled to compensation in respect of the death of her late husband, Sapper Thomas W. Hawkins, I desire to inform you that I have caused inquiries to be made and find that compensation is not payable in this case. The matter was investigated very carefully, but, as the death was due to a preexi stent disability and not to a disease contracted on war service or on duty, there is no entitlement to compensation under the provisions of the Defence Act.
– I remind honorable members that it is not in order to deal with other specific cases on this motion. I have allowed, and will allow, references to the fact that the Government does not compensate the parents of individuals, but it would not be right to allow honorable members to cite cases in detail and expect the Minister to reply to them without notice.
– For what purpose is it proposed that the House shall adjourn?
– To deal with the failure of the Government adequately to compensate certain parents. The motion mentions a specific case. Its terms do not embrace all cases. This is a definite matter, which has to be dealt with in definite terms. Details of similar cases cannot now be referred to.
– I am referring only to the wife and family.
– The honorable member is not referring to the case, to deal with which the honorable member for Lang has moved his motion.
– Then I can say no more.
– I am pleased that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) has brought forward the case mentioned in his motion, because it is one of many similar cases which the military authorities have failed to cover by regulation, of lads who, having joined the Militia and been sent into camp, have contracted a disease. Medical evidence may be called to prove that the disease was contracted not in the camp, but some considerable time prior to joining the Militia. I am acquainted with a lad who, subsequent to entering camp, was placed in hospital to be treated for mastoids, and a separation allowance to his mother was refused. The military authorities have neglected a very serious matter in connexion with casualties that are caused in Militia camps. Regulations should be made, providing for the payment of compensation. In civil avocations, if a man meets with an accident, compensation is assured to him. If the accident should occur either going to or returning from work, or while actually employed, his dependants have the right to compensation. The military authorities may say that they are not engaging these men temporarily as employees. Such a contention, in my opinion, cannot be sustained. These men are called up to undergo military training. All of their actions are subject to military law, and they must obey every command that they receive. I sincerely trust that the Government will give consideration to this matter. There is no question that something should be done in respect of men who are called up to undergo training for three months. I suppose that the majority of honorable members in earlier years served for a period in the old volunteer forces. I bad the pleasure of being a member of such a force. That force had camp training for not longer than seven days at a time. It is quite a different matter to take a man body and soul for three months for camp training. The Government should see that reasonable compensation is paid in respect of those who may be injured.
– I support the motion of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), who, I believe, has acted wisely. I hope that the raising of the matter will cause the Minister for the Army (Senator McBride) to give more sympathetic consideration to similar cases. We all know that members of the Militia have met with accidents while in camp. Should life be lost, great hardship is inflicted on the relatives. This is a case in point. The poor circumstances of the dependants of this young man, and the niggardly treatment meted out by the department and the Minister, call for criticism and a frank expression of opinion by the elected representatives of the people. We do not regard this as proper treatment of young men who are being trained in the Militia, and will probably have to face danger of all kinds in the future should the safety of this country be threatened. It is true that, had this young man been a member of the Australian Imperial Force, his dependants would have had a claim under the Repatriation Act. I submit that he was just as faithfully serving the interests of his country in the Militia. He was 26 years of age, and was equipping himself with the necessary knowledge to play his part, if need be, as well as any soldier on any battlefield. Through no fault of his own, he was thrown from a horse and met his death, leaving his dependants in such circumstances that they can barely exist. The offer of the sum of £50 by the Minister to the bereaved relatives indicates that scant consideration was given to a most worthy claim. I was impressed by the statement that has been made in respect of the unwarranted delay which occurred in making the payment of £7 10s. due to the young man at the time of his death. The authorities took nearly two months to make that payment. This is in keeping with many other undue delays that occur in meeting claims by members of the Militia in respect of horses that are killed, and other claims that are usually met by the department. In my opinion, there is no justification for such delays. I believe that the Minister is sympathetically disposed towards this matter. It is quite possible that, in dealing with the numerous cases that come before him, he has not had the time to give to this case the consideration to which it is entitled.
– The honorable member knows that I do not deal with these cases.
– I oan understand that the Minister is unable to deal with all of these cases. I should like him to make it a point to deal with this particular case, and with any other cases that honorable members may bring before him from time to time. I shall be communicating with him in respect of other cases in which members of the Militia have met their death as the result of accident. If I know him, he will act much more generously than the department has acted in having offered the niggardly sum of £50 to bereaved relatives in straightened circumstances.
.- I am pleased to say a few words in support of the motion of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). Consideration of this particular problem is long overdue. It may be said that the motion has as its foundation one particular case. Nevertheless, there are many such cases which have not been given even the scant consideration that this case has received. The first notable feature is that the Government took six months to make up its mind as to whether or not it would pay compensation. It then forwarded to the honorable member for Lang, to be passed on to the parents, a letter couched in terms that one can only describe as uncouth and unfeeling, a letter which one would expect to be indited by an illiterate, not by a Minister of the Crown. It is true that the lad to whom the motion refers was serving compulsorily, and that he met his death in a place where he might not have been of his own volition, because in ordinary circumstances he might not have offered for military service. He was in a place to which he was compelled by the Government to go, and no one can say that he contributed to his death by reason of his own negligence. He was not covered, nor are any other members of the Militia, by any benefits which may flow from the Repatriation Act. Yet he performed just as useful service as is being performed by many thousands of the men who have gone abroad. It may be said that he occupied a comparatively sheltered position, being in camp in Australia, where hostilities are not in progress. It cannot be disputed, however, that many thousands of those who are on active service do not actually see the front line, and probably occupy just as sheltered a position; yet, if from any cause they should die while abroad, their dependants would be entitled to all of the benefits conferred by the Repatriation Act. I, therefore, claim that provision should be made to cover those who are serving at home, and that it should operate retrospectively in respect of all of those who have been injured or killed.
I have referred to the letter sent by the Minister to the honorable member for Lang. It pointed out that “the Defence Act does not authorize the payment of compensation”. Extensive research was not necessary to enable the honorable gentleman to make that discovery. The people would like to know what provision the Government proposes to make to enable compensation to be paid to the dependants of those who, having been compulsorily called into camp, lose their lives. Another point made by the letter was -
Investigation does not indicate that the parents of the deceased soldier were substantially dependent upon his earnings.
It went on to say -
Prior to taking up his duties with the Military Forces, he had no permanent employment but did odd jobs which enabled him to make a small weekly payment to his mother towards his keep.
It is true that actually his parents were not substantially dependent upon his earnings when he was called up for camp training, but at least it can be said that he did his best to help them by picking up odd jobs to enable him to make some contribution towards his keep. No evidence has been produced to show that the parents of this young man were not in very poor circumstances. The fact that he was not contributing very much towards their support at the time of his death is beside the point. If the Government intends to adopt the policy of paying compensation according to the earnings of a man at the time an accident may overtake him, we shall reach a pretty pass. A man injured while in only casual employment would probably get next to nothing.
– Does the Government assume that a man who is on parttime when an accident occurs to him, will remain on part-time all his life f
– It should be borne in mind that the less employment a man is able to obtain the lower is his standard of living, and the less reason he has to defend his country. It could even he argued that more substantial compensation should he payable in respect of an unemployed man who is injured or who dies while serving in the Militia, than in respect of a man in full employment or of independent means. The latter certainly has more to defend than the former. There is less justification for compelling an unemployed man or casual worker to serve in the Militia. This letter also stated: “The death of Lance-Corporal Mulliner was no doubt a very serious Wow to his parents.” Ti added, “A solatium payment of £50, it is felt, will he sufficient to cover any outofpocket expenses.” I should like to know the real motive of this outburst of generosity by the Government. Did the Government have in mind that £K0 would provide for, say, a state funeral? If not, it may later send along a request for a detailed statement of the expenditure incurred, together with an invitation to refund any balance that may have been left of the £50. Its miserable actions in connexion with this case suggest that that is not impossible. Of course, the young man’s funeral, if that is what the Government had in mind, would not have cost £50.
This is the first case of the kind in which compensation has been paid, but it is only one case among many in which compensation should have been paid. If the Government is not prepared to intimate to us clearly this afternoon that it proposes to loosen its purse-strings and pay reasonable compensation in such cases, it should at least clarify the position by stating exactly what will be done in the future. In this particular case, the Government has been compelled by public opinion to pay some compensation.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong)
P4.18]. - I feel alarmed at the state of affairs revealed by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). Are we to understand that the Government values the life of a young man, such as Lance-Corporal Mulliner, at only £50?
– That is not so, and the honorable member must know it. He has read into the letter something that is not contained in it.
– That may be the point of view of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron). What did the letter actually say?
– It said : “ The death of Lance-Corporal Mulliner would be a very serious blow to his parents.” It also stated, “ A solatium payment of £50, it is felt, will be sufficient to cover any out-of-pocket expenses.”
– My interpretation of those words is that the Government feels that the payment of £50 is sufficient compensation to the parents of this young man.
– That is not the correct interpretation, and the honorable member ought to look for another fairly quickly.
– I am not prepared to withdraw anything that I have said. The Defence Department has been particularly mean in dealing with cases of this kind. I have brought several such cases under the notice of the authorities. I call to mind, at the moment, the case of a young man who became ill on a certain day and was not sent to hospital because it was suggested that he was malingering. The next day he was sent to hospital and died. I hold the view that young men who serve in the Australian Imperial Force or in the Militia should be amply covered either by the provisions of the Repatriation Act or provisions similar to those contained in our workmen’s compensation legislation. At any rate, compensation should not be on a lower scale than that set out in our workmen’s compensation acts. A man in private employment knows that he is entitled to certain compensation in the event of injury, and that his dependants will receive compensation in the case of his death. A man who loses an eye, for example, is entitled to a payment of £300, or more. I have recently brought under the notice of the Defence authorities the case of a young man who lost an eye while he was serving in the Militia. If compensation at a lower rate than that prescribed in the Workmen’s Compensation Act is paid, it will be most unjust. I do not wish to accuse the Government of being mean in these matters, but it cannot be denied that the present position is unsatisfactory. Legislation should be introduced at once to meet such circumstances as those we are now considering. The departmental officers should not be left under any misapprehension concerning what they should do in cases of this kind. Whilst it is perhaps regrettable that the time of Parliament should be occupied in dealing with individual cases, it seems that this is the only means by which we can ventilate the serious grievances of the people and ensure that justice will be done. I ask that the Government reconsider the circumstances of the case of Lance-Corporal Mulliner, with the object of paying a more reasonable and adequate compensation to his parents.
.- I support the motion. The failure of the Government to compensate parents whose sons die while on service in the Militia is deplorable. The young men who undergo training in the Militia are performing an important national duty. The reply which the Government has made to the case submitted in respect of Lance-Corporal Mulliner is extremely weak. A solatium of £50 is poor compensation in the circumstances that have been outlined to us. The time has come when legislative action should be taken to ensure adequate compensation in respect of persons injured or killed, or who die, while in the Militia. What has been said this afternoon has reminded me of a situation that existed in Tasmania years ago under which a person who was injured while in receipt of the dole might find himself awarded the munificent compensation of ls. a week! Such a state of affairs should not be allowed to continue in any democratic country. If the men. in the Militia camnot be covered under the terms of our Repatriation Act they should certainly be covered by provisions similar to those contained in our Workmen’s Compensation Act. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron), who is at the table, cannot avoid responsibility for the present situation. Under your ruling,Mr. Speaker, I cannot deal with other specific cases, but I wish to refer, in passing, to a young man who was taken from a camp to the Hobart Hospital, where he died. Because he died in hospital and not in the camp, his dependants were refused compensation. Such a state of affairs is ridiculous and entirely unjust. The position in the Navy is also unsatisfactory. Not long ago, I submitted the details of a certain case to the Minister for the Navy but without success. The young man concerned went away in good health but was incapacitated while on service.
– He contracted a disease in respect of which compensation has never been paid.
– When I brought that case under the notice of the House, Sir Earle Page, who is a medical practitioner, said to me, “You stick to it; and don’t give up “. When I, a layman, obtain support of that kind from a doctor, I believe I am on good ground. It is unfortunate that adequate provision has not been made to ensure that the civil rights of the dependants of men who serve in the Militia shall be preserved. All of these men should be compulsorily covered because they are compelled to serve. The men engaged in the production of munitions of war are covered by workmen’s compensation legislation. It is only logical to ask, therefore, that the men serving in the
Militia shall be covered if not in the same way, at least to the same degree. If Lance-Corporal Mulliner had been employed in private industry at the time of his death his parents would have received compensation. Surely it cannot be argued that they are less entitled to it because he met his death while in training for the defence of his country ! That things like this can occur in a democracy makes me shudder. The wives and children of men who join the Army should not be required to rely on charity. I am submitting that the Government is failing in its duty in not making provision for compensation in the case of men who are injured or who die while serving in the Militia. An amount of only £50 has been provided as a solatium for the parents of Lance-Corporal Mulliner and that is totally inadequate. I have had a long experience of these matters and I can prove that the Repatriation and Defence authorities have not been as liberal as they should have been. The provisions of the Repatriation Act should be liberalized to cover all soldiers. From your long experience as a soldier, Mr. Speaker, you will agree that the dependants of a deceased soldier should never be left to the mercy of a hard and cruel world.
-Order! That subject cannot be debated upon this motion.
– In conclusion, the time has come for us to face up to our responsibility for the welfare of the dependants of those who proffer their lives in the service of their country. The provisions of the Repatriation Act should be extended, not only to those who serve overseas, but also to those who serve in this country, and protect the lives and property of our people. The honorable member for Lang is to be commended for having brought this matter before the Parliament before we go to face the electors.
– In supporting the remarks of the hon’orable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy)., for obvious reasons I feel in a somewhat invidious position. The correspondence read by the honorable member amazes me. Unless the Minister oan give some reason why a letter such as that read by the honorable member for Lang was signed by a responsible member of the Government somebody should be censured. A competent central body should be set up to deal with cases such as that now before us. When I was in Melbourne some months ago I received a telegram from Sydney asking me to make investigations in Melbourne with regard to the claim of the dependants of a member of the Australian Imperial Force who was killed while on duty in Sydney. I took the matter up with the Repatriation Department and was informed that the department experiences the greatest difficulty in getting rapidly and correctly the facts associated with cases involving even members of the Australian Imperial Force because the base records are kept at the command head-quarters in the various States. I was informed that no such difficulty existed in connexion with naval cases because the naval base records are kept in Melbourne. I suggest that the Minister for the Army should set up a highly efficient staff to deal expeditiously with all cases. I feel that we can rest assured that the Minister for the Navy will take up this important matter with his colleagues in the Cabinet, and that the Repatriation Act will be amended so that, in the words of the honorable member for Lang, equity may be portrayed. I trust that this motion moved by the honorable member for Lang will bear fruit. I look forward to the time in the near future when this Parliament will direct the Executive rather than be directed by it.
.- The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) is to be highly commended for having brought such an important case before the Parliament. I realize that Parliament is going into recess within the matter of a few hours, and that there is no doubt that, after the next elections, a new Government will be in office. This debate will at least serve one good purpose in that it will indicate to the new Government that it should not treat militiamen in the way in which the present Government is attempting to treat the parents of the late La nee-Corporal Mulliner. The letter addressed by the Minister for the Army to the honorable member for Lang in connexion with this matter reads as follows : -
I desire to refer to personal representations made by yon to my predecessor, the late Brigadier the Honorable G. A. Street, M.C., E.D., on the 7th April, 1940, and to the questions asked by you in the House of Representatives on thu 22nd May and the 8th August, 1940, in regard to the claim made by Mrs. H. J. Mulliner, of 18 Roseneath-street, Earlwood, for compensation in respect of her son, the late No. 427,521 Lance-Corporal H. W. Mulliner, of 55/53 Battalion, who died at Prince of Wales Hospital on the 12th February, 1940, as result of injuries sustained on military duty.
ThU case has been the subject of full inquiry since your representations were made, but the information obtained as a result of close investigation does not indicate that the parents of the deceased soldier were substantially dependent upon his earnings-
What a cruel, cold and callous attitude for a member of the Government to adopt ! -
Inquiry has, in fact, elicited the information that the deceased soldier, prior to taking up duty with the Military Forces, had no permanent employment, but did odd jobs which enabled him to make a. small weekly payment to his mother towards his keep.
That, Mr. Speaker, is the basis on which the Government valued the life of this boy.
– He gave his mother every penny he earned.
– I have no doubt of it. Whose fault is it but the fault of the Government that this boy had no permanent employment? Since I became a member of this House in 1931, I have received hundreds of letters from Ministers, but never have I received such a cold and callous reply as that which the honorable member for Lang has to forward to the bereaved mother of this unfortunate boy.
– I shall not forward it to her.
– No regard seems to have been paid to the fact that this boy lost his life while serving his country; emphasis is laid only on the fact that he was a dole worker. The letter continues -
The Defence Act does not authorize payment nf compensation to the parents of a deceased member of the Militia Forces. My department realizes, however, that the death of LanceCorporal Mulliner would be a very serious, blow to this parents, and the approval of the Treasurer has been sought and obtained for the making of - a solatium payment, of £50, which it is felt will be sufficient to cover any Actual out-of-pocket expenses which may have been incurred by the parents, and which will, I hope, be accepted by them as a gesture of Sympathy from the Commonwealth Government.
Although this hoy was only an intermittent worker, he must have quickly showed his aptitude for military duty to be promoted to the rank of LanceCorporal. I should like to hear the views of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) as to this gesture of sympathy from the Commonwealth Government. Honorable members can sympathize with the honorable member for Lang that he has nothing more than this cold and callous letter t< forward to the stricken parents of a lad who was killed whilst serving his country. Are we to compliment the Government upon its realization that the death of this boy would be a very serious blow to his parents ? I venture to say that there must have been a desperate argument in the Cabinet when the approval of the Treasurer was sought for the making of a solatium payment of £50 to the parents of the dead boy. The letter continues -
Action has been taken accordingly to arrange payment of the sum of £50 to Mr. H. J. Mulliner, who is the father and next of kin of the late Lance-Corporal Mulliner.
Mr. Speaker, I have listened to debates on adjournment motions brought forward in this House on a variety of subjects over many years, but never before have I heard a government charged with the paltry act of endeavouring to compensate parents for the loss of their son iu the service of his country by making a solatium payment of only £50 to cover funeral expenses.
– Before the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron) replies, I desire to make a few observations to which I hope he will make reference when he rises to speak. The letter from the Minister for the Army which the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) has read, states that there is no provision in the Defence Act for the payment of compensation to the parents of a deceased member of the Militia. That is admitted. Nor is there any such provision in the Repatriation Act, and therefore the Minister would be correct were he to say that no legislative provision exists for the payment of compensation to the parents of the deceased soldier whose case is now before the House. I wish to bring before the Minister and the Government the need to meet the altered circumstances associated with Militia training. Before the outbreak of war, such training was limited to a short period each year; the longest period in camp for Militia trainees was fourteen days. But the country being at war, and the need for more complete training being obvious, the period of training has been extended. Consequently, -the obligation of the Government to pay compensation in respect of injuries sustained by trainees is greater. The case brought forward to-day shows that, coincidental with the introduction of compulsory military training, legislation to amend either the Defence Act or the Repatriation Act to meet the altered conditions should have been introduced. If the Minister is in a position to do so, I should like him to indicate the view of the Government as to the way in which the altered circumstances can be met. It would appear that we have set out on a new course of training without considering the necessity to amend the existing law in respect of compensation. Honorable members will agree that with the extension of the period of training, the risk of injury and death has increased enormously, and that provision for such unfortunate happenings is an obligation resting on the country. I regret that such provision was not made before the need to provide for the case brought forward by the honorable member for Lang arose. It is well to have in our mind the compensation payable under other legislation for injuries. For instance, the Seamen’s Compensation Act provides for a payment of £75 for the loss of the joint of a toe; for the loss of the joint of a finger the compensation payable is £90; for the loss of the little finger the payment is £112 ; the loss of an eye involves the payment of £750. I shall not discuss the payments made under other acts for injuries suffered by men while carrying out their duties, except to say that the reply of the Minister to the honorable member for Lang falls far short of what is reasonable, much less satisfactory. Honorable members can imagine the feelings of the parents should they receive a letter couched in such terms. I urge the Government immediately to prepare legislation to cover such cases. Just as in industry men are liable to injury in the performance of their duties, so in military training considerable risks have to be faced, and adequate provision for compensation should be provided by legislation,
– I want this case to be dealt with without waiting for legislation of a general character.
– Had the letter of the Minister been worded differently the honorable member for Lang might have had a less painful duty to perform. Had the Minister, for instance, said that the Government intended to consider the introduction of legislation to provide adequate compensation to the dependants of soldiers who are injured, or lose their lives, on military service, and had decided to make an advance of £50 in this case, pending the preparation of the necessary bill, the grief of the parents at the loss of their son would not have been accentuated. Instead of something of that character, the wording of the letter gives the impression that the Minister regards the case as closed. The letter does not suggest that the Government has any intention to introduce amending legislation to meet such cases. I hope that the Minister for the Navy will inform the House that he will bring before his colleagues the desirability of introducing amending legislation.
.- Before dealing with the specific case which has been brought forward by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) I wish to say that, where particular individuals are concerned, it would be of advantage if proper notice of the intention to bring such matters forward were supplied to the Minister concerned. The first intimation that I had of the intention of the honorable member to move the adjournment of the House to-day was a little before luncheon time. Even then, I did not know the terms of the proposed motion, although I now under stand that the honorable member gave some indication of his intention to the Minister for the Army (Senator McBride). The papers relating to members of the Militia are kept in Melbourne, and consequently I am somewhat at a disadvantage in dealing with the motion before the House. Practically all of the information that I have regarding the case brought forward is contained in the copy of the letter which the honorable gentleman who moved the motion has already read to the House.
Dealing generally with the payment of compensation in such cases, I mention that this matter is dealt with in section 57 of the Defence Act. The original provision was amended in 1910 and again in 1917. As it stands to-day, the section reads -
When any member of the Military Forces is killed on war service or on duty, or dies, or becomes incapacitated from earning his living, from wounds or disease contracted on war service or on duty, provision shall be made for his widow and family or for himself, as the case may bc, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund at the prescribed rates.
– There is no necessity for legislation.
– It will be seen that the act confines the payment of compensation to the widow and family of the deceased soldier. The case which the honorable member has brought forward ds not met by that provision; that act deals with the Australian Military Forces in Australia. The cases of men who have been on active service overseas are much more fully and specifically dealt with in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, but the case now under consideration is not covered ‘by that legislation. All that I can say is that the Government has this matter in mind, and that some time ago a departmental committee was set up to inquire into the new conditions which we may have to face. The expansion of the forces, the nature of the duties that the men have to perform, and the longer period of service, raise many new questions. When the committee submits its report the House will doubtless be informed, but at the moment I regret that I am not able to deal more fully with the merits of the case which the honorable member for Lang has brought under the notice of the House. Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to - Thathe have leave to bring ina bill for an act to enable Justices of the High Court during the war to accept and hold other offices, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Mr. HUGHES (North Sydney-
Attorney-General) [4.58]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. This bill is a war-time measure. Its primary abject is to enable the Government to utilize in war-time, and for a period not exceeding twelve months thereafter, the services of the Chief Justice of the High Court in a post for which his qualifications render him especially suitable.
As honorable members know, the Government has decided that the Right Honorable Sir John Latham, Chief J ustice of the High Court, should become Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Commonwealth of Australia to Japan. Honorable members will recall that in 1934 Sir John Latham, who was at that time a member of this House, was appointed to visit Japan and the East as a goodwill mission from the Commonwealth. His mission was eminently successful and resulted in greatly improved relations between this country and Japan. The Commonwealth Government earnestly desires that those happy relations should continue, and believes that at the present time the appointment of Sir John Latham to Japan will assist very materially in the preservation of those good relations.
Clause 3 provides that notwithstanding anything contained in section 8 of the Judiciary Act, a justice of the High Court may, during the war and for twelve months thereafter, accept and hold any office designated by the Governor-General. Section 8 of the Judiciary Act reads -
A Justice of the High Court shall not be capable of accepting or holding any other office or any other place of profit within the Commonwealth except any such judicial office as may be conferred upon him by or under any law of the Commonwealth.
It is not quite clear whether that would exclude the Chief Justice from accepting this appointment, but, in order to remove any doubt, provision is made to override that section and to provide that-
Notwithstanding anything contained in section eight of the Judiciary Act of 1933- 1939, the Bight Honorable Sir John Greig Latham, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia may, during the war and the period of twelve months immediately succeeding the termination thereof, accept and hold the office of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in Japan, in the event of His Majesty appointing him to that office.
There is only one other provision in the bill, and that is ancillary to the clause I have just quoted. It provides that, in the absence of the Chief Justice from Australia, the senior justice shall, during such absence, be designated Acting Chief Justice. The principal act does not make provision for that and, on previous occasions, when the Chief Justice was absent on leave, the judge who acted in his place could not be designated as Acting Chief Justice. This is entirely a war measure arising out of the appointment which the Government desires to make. Honorable members are quite familiar with the circumstances, and I believe that the proposed appointment has the approval of the great majority of the people of Australia.
– I regret being called upon at short notice to address myself, even briefly, to this fundamentally important measure. However, as is usual in the conduct of business by this Government, time presses. The Government has made arrangements to close the session and hold elections, and little time is available for the consideration of all the implications of this proposed law. The position of the judiciary under the Constitution, and under the Judiciary Act, is much too important for cursory or casual treatment, and the appointment of a Chief Justice of Australia to a diplomatic position in a foreign country is not only important intrinsically, but it is also unprecedented.
– Only in this country, of course.
– The principle of diplomatic representation is itself deserving of much more serious and analytical treatment than we are invited to give it by the Attorney-‘General (Mr. Hughes), who has asked that the measure be treated expeditiously in order to suit his convenience, and I am anxious to meet his convenience within reason.
I doubt very much the propriety and the wisdom of this appointment. I do not question the personal fitness of the proposed appointee. I have not in mind any person whose name I should be prepared to recommend in preference to that of the Chief Justice for an appointment of this kind, but I am looking at the matter, not from the point of view of personality, but from the point of view of principle. The judiciary, under the Constitution, and under the Judiciary Act, is a very sensitive plant. It is an elementary principle in the making of appointments to the High Court, and, generally, to the benches of tribunals of lesser status, that a person, having been appointed, should have “ nothing to hope for and nothing to fear” from the Executive. It is considered that nothing less than that complete immunity is sufficient to ensure the absolutely pure and impartial administration of justice. Now we are departing from a principle, and establishing a precedent, in a way which, to mv mind, suggests danger. The Attorney-General quoted the following section of the Judiciary Act -
A Justice of the High Court shall not be capable of accepting or holding any other office or any other place of profit within the Commonwealth, except any such judicial office as may be conferred upon him by or under any law of the Commonwealth. .
This is not a judicial office; it is a political office. This is, in fact a political appointment, and it is not the first of its kind. The Government, not so long ago, appointed the then right honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) as Commonwealth Minister in Washington. Perhaps I would not be in order in discussing that appointment and all its implications, the political considerations leading up to it, and the questions arising out of it. There is notably, however, this relevant consideration: Was that appointment called for in priority to the appointment of a Minister to Tokyo? Was there any urgency, except political urgency, for the appointment? I can think of none, and I can think of very good reasons why the Minister accredited to Washington might have been retained for service in Australia. This Government appointed Mr. Abbott, not to a diplomatic position, but to a high administrative position in the Northern Territory. It appointed Sir Walter McNicoll to the position of Administrator of New Guinea, and General Rosenthal as Administrator of Norfolk Island. All of these were party political appointments. While I repeat that I have nothing to say in derogation of the personal qualifications of the Chief Justice of Australia, I do say that his appointment to that high office was itself a matter of expediency and political arrangement, the circumstances of which will be within the memory of honorable members in this House.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).They are scarcely relevant to this bill.
– It has to be borne in mind that the Chief Justice himself has apparently insisted - or, at least, it has been arranged with the Government - that he is to retain his position as Chief Justice of Australia, and that he may return to that office. If that is so the high principle that appointees to the bench should have “ nothing to hope for, and nothing to fear “., is unquestionably violated. The Chief Justice, being so appointed, may look forward to’ diplomatic appointments in the future; or, not necessarily diplomatic appointments, because a bill may be brought down at any moment and rushed through in the closing days of the session, as is being done in this case, authorizing the appointment of a Chief Justice, or of any other justice, to any position whatsoever. While I hold a high opinion of the qualifications of the present Chief Justice, I am very far from thinking thai he is the only person in Australia who could successfully fill the position of Commonwealth Minister in Tokyo. I am far from desiring to throw cold water on the appointment of the diplomatic representative there. My criticism on that head is that the Government has been very tardy in making the appointment; it might well have been made earlier. I believe in the appointment of diplomatic representatives to foreign countries, especially to countries which are practically neighbours, and in the cultivation of good feeling through, diplomatic channels with other nations. If our minds were more fixed upon friendly intercourse between nations there would be a greatly less belligerent intercourse between nations. So I do not discount the value of appointments of the kind contemplated. But this appointment is challenging; it establishes a dangerous precedent, and is open to criticism, as being one of the succession of clearly party political appointments. That aspect “of it is rendered the more unpleasant by the fact that it is made, after a long delay, just on the eve of an appeal to the people, which in itself is, as always, a suspicious circumstance. Having said so much, I conclude by repeating that I believe that Sir John Latham possesses the qualities necessary for this high office. I am, in a personal sense, rather proud that one who was a fellow student with myself and, if I may venture to claim it, also a friend of mine, should have succeeded to it. I have no jealousy on personal grounds. My criticism on grounds other than personal must, in the exercise of my public duty, stand. I am interested to note in a recent issue of the Canberra Times, some very pertinent observations on the same point. A leading article in that paper states -
The appointment will be welcomed no less because it is a very fitting choice than because of the significance of the office to which he has been appointed. This appointment, with its corresponding appointment of a Japanese Minister to Canberra, is the fulfilment of an essential part of Australia’s preparation to play her full role in the Pacific in the avoidance of misunderstandings and in the ‘promotion of peace in one part of the world at least. The importance of the appointment cannot be over emphasized and it is for this reason that the Government appears to have been unfortunate in its manner of making the appointment, for it appears ito involve an attack upon the traditional independence of the judiciary and to be in conflict with ‘the laws of the Commonwealth. This aspect of the appointment requires special notice . . . The independence of the judiciary is an essential principle qf British constitutionalism and was intended to be applied -under the Commonwealth Constitution. The Constitution Act in fact made special provision for the manner of appointment of Justices of the High Court with a view to maintaining that dignity and independence of the judiciary which was won in distant years during the constitutional struggles between the Crown and the people. That this was the intention of the Constitution is to be seen from the speeches made during the debates in the conventions that preceded Federation . . .
Then the article goes on to quote section eight of the Judiciary Act which I have already quoted. Reference is made to projected legislation, which is now before the House and which is designed, without apology and without very much explanation, to do violence to the underlying principle which guided the Constitution makers, who made the Judiciary a part of, but not a subordinate part, of the Constitution, and which has guided this House in the various Judiciary Acts which have been passed here. Those at least are some of the reasons, and others might very well be put and better put on a more mature consideration of the measure if time allowed - why the Opposition, although it is not disposed to oppose the passage of the bill, believes that this appointment is unfortunate and can only submit that it should not be accepted as a precedent.
– It is, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said, to be regretted that the Government has had to make inroads on the judiciary for the purpose of appointing an Australian Minister to Tokyo. No doubt the Government will claim that its choice for the post, the right honorable Sir John Latham, led the Australian Mission to Japan a few years ago and established there a measure of good will to Australia as well as high personal standing with the Japanese Government, and that, in those circumstances, his appointment to Tokyo will be of great value to Australia. No honorable member could under-estimate the importance of that aspect, especially now.
At the moment it is not Judicious to talk about it too much, but. recently I, in common, I suppose, with everybody else, have given serious .consideration to the far eastern problem. I claim no originality when I say that our relations with Japan might have been much better if we had made the appointment to Tokyo simultaneously with the one that we made to Washington. That, however, did not happen, and we must, therefore, meet the situation as it now exists. I am not competent to judge the feeling of eastern countries, but I understand that in making an appointment of this character the Government concerned has to be very mindful of the status of the person appointed. If his status is not of the standard that the foreigner believes is in keeping with his country’s place in world affairs, he is inclined to take the appointment in a sense opposite to that which was intended. It is said that the negotiations between Britain and the Soviet before the outbreak of war fell through largely because the Soviet Government did not consider that the representative of Great Britain had sufficiently high standing. We must appoint a representative at Tokyo who has no less standing than our representative at Washington, the Right Honorable R. G. Casey, and to do so I should say we should have to appoint from the Ministry a man whose standing was at least as high as that of Mr. Casey. I do not know whether that was attempted, but if it had been possible to appoint a Commonwealth Minister, the need to make the appointment from the judiciary would have been obviated. I must ask the question, and answer it myself I suppose, whether any Minister was prepared to accept the appointment. A man’s own affairs in his own country would have to be considered. Another point is that a man who might be mooted as a possible diplomatic representative in Tokyo might not, himself, feel that he had the competency to undertake a delicate diplomatic mission to a country of whose conditions and ideals we do not know as much as we should like. I advance those thoughts, because I can well understand that the choosing of a man for this difficult task would give any government cause for deep consideration. Great care would have to be exercised to ensure that the man chosen would be wholeheartedly accepted by the country to which he had to go. Apart altogether from any political considerations, we can be satisfied from reports received that the Government of Japan is not only satisfied .with the appointment of Sir John Latham, but also welcomes it. That is important.
On the question whether anybody else would have accepted the position, I oan say nothing, and, perhaps, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) is not disposed to disclose the answer. I feel, however, that the guiding principle in the appointment was the fact that the Chief Justice of the High Court, on a previous occasion, made personal contact with the Japanese, and would, therefore, be able to undertake such a delicate mission as that with which he has been entrusted. Nevertheless, whatever be the extenuating circumstances, we must agree that no principle shall be broken without a warning. That was the principal point made by the honorable member for Batman.
He, with a better knowledge of the personal qualities of the Chief Justice, has, without a shadow of doubt, expressed Sir John Latham’s competency to represent Australia at Tokyo. Therefore we are perfectly satisfied on that score. From the aspect of political considerations, I can merely say that I approved of the appointment of the Chief Justice of the day as GovernorGeneral of Australia, by a government of which I was a member. I believe that that turned out to be a good appointment, which reflected great credit on this country, and that, therefore, a wise decision was made. I hope that the decision in this case will prove to be equally as wise. The matter is one of being able to lay hands on the right man for the right job. Often, that is not so easy as would appear on the surface. Those who have had some administrative experience are appreciative of the difficulties which arise in matters of the kind. I should be loth to give to this foreign power an indication of any feeling towards the right honorable gentleman and his appointment, except one of the utmost goodwill. I am anxious that nothing shall mar his efforts to represent properly Australia’s point of view, and I trust that, as the result of his representations there will be a continuance of goodwill between Australia and Japan and no serious conflict will arise. If we send the right honorable gentleman on his mission with that feeling, his task must be immeasurably lightened. We must be guided, not by party political considerations, as we view them, in this chamber, but rather by the bigger and more important question of the maintenance of goodwill between the countries in the Pacific. The warning that has been sounded relates merely to the sanctity with which we regard the judiciary of our country. It is not for me to stress the point that, having accepted a judicial position, the appointee should be free in every sense. The law provides not only that he shall be free from extraneous influence in the discharge of his duties in such an important position, but also that he shall be safeguarded economically throughout his tenure of office. As pensions are provided in respect of the occupants of judicial positions, they have not the slightest fear of future embarrassment. These are most important principles without the observance of which we could not have a clean and an honest judiciary. It is on this account that I believe that the honorable member for Batman feels as he does. It should be made clear to those who wish to maintain these high principles that no extenuating circumstance other than that with which we are faced will be advanced as an excuse for departure from them. I endorse that view. Existing circumstances are exceedingly difficult, and I shall not make them more difficult. Bather do I approach this matter with a feeling of goodwill to the right honorable gentleman in his mission, and the sincere unqualified hope that success will attend his efforts.
.- I regret that I did not hear the speech of the right honorable the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes). I am glad, not that the bill has been introduced, but that the Government has taken the action of appointing an Ambassador to the Empire of J apan. My only criticism is that the appointment has been made very late, and that it does not form part of a general plan to send representatives of Australia to all Eastern countries. I cannot see why we should not have an Ambassador in China, and Ministers at Siam and Batavia. I cannot help feeling that, to appoint a Minister to Japan and not to China may be misconstrued as indicating that Australian public opinion is on the side of Japan in the Sino- Japanese war.
I do not believe that it is; nor does the Government intend this appointment to give that indication.
The bill, I take it, was rendered necessary by the provisions of the Judiciary Act. The Constitution itself does not create any disqualification; it does not say that a justice may not be appointed to any office of profit. The Judiciary Act alone says that.
A good deal has been said about the impropriety of holding out to a judge any prospect of further promotion or appointment. If that principle be valid, I believe that it may be departed from in exceptional oases. It is broken by th« appointment to a higher position of a judge who has retired; for example, when Sir Isaac Isaacs was appointed Governor-General of Australia, and when Lord Beading was appointed Viceroy of India. The principle should be accepted that only in most exceptional cases should a judge feel that he has any career beyond that of a judge. Having become a judge, he should feel that any further career is closed to him. I go so far as to say that the position of Chief Justice should always be filled by the promotion of the senior puisne judge, and that no judge should feel, when he goes on the bench, that he may be advanced or his promotion may be hindered by any action of his while on the bench. In this case, an appointment is being given to a judge while he is still on the bench. There is precedent for that in the case of Lord Reading, who accepted three appointments of this kind while he was Lord Chief Justice of England. He was president of the Anglo-French Loan Commission to the United States of America, which floated the great war loan of 1915. He was afterwards High Commissioner and Special Envoy to the United States of America, and later still, while he remained on the bench, he was High Commissioner and Special Ambassador, his title in that case being “ His Majesty’s High Commissioner in the United States of America, in the character of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on Special Mission “. He was given full power over the members of all the British missions in the United States of America, with unlimited authority to act on his own judgment. When he accepted that appointment, speeches of farewell to him were made by members of the Bar and by the Solicitor-General, Sir Gordon Hewart, afterwards Chief Justice of England, who pointed out that the appointment was without precedent. The Lord Chief Justice, replying, said -
You have said that there is jio precedent. To me that is not the answer, as, indeed, it is not for yon, Mr. Solicitor, speaking for the Bar. There is no precedent for the present time. Precedents must therefore be made if the exigencies of the circumstances demand them.
Although there was no precedent in England, there was one in a court which has had a tremendous influence on Australia; because the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, John Jay, who had been the most important man in the political and forensic life of the United States of America, was sent, while Chief Justice, as the American Envoy to negotiate a treaty of peace with Great Britain. The Treaty of Versailles which gave America its independence, left unsettled a number of difficulties between America and Great Britain. In 1794, fearing that, as the result of misunderstandings between the parent and the revolted child, there would be war, Washington sent an envoy to England to negotiate a treaty. That envoy was John Jay, and he undertook the mission while he was still Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America; I believe that the gentleman who is to represent Australia in Japan is probably the best person who could be chosen. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has said, he occupies one of the highest positions in this country. This must be regarded by Japan as one of the greatest compliments that Australia could pay to it. Australia sent to the United States of America a gentleman who had been its Treasurer. It is sending to the Empire of Japan a gentleman who occupies a vastly superior position. Further, it is sending to Japan a man who is already known to that nation, whose previous visit commended both him and this country to it. I believe that the Government has done a good thing in having decided to send Sir John Latham to Japan as the representative of Aus- tralia. This action ought to have been taken before, in relation not only to Japan, but also to other countries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without . amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from the 20th August (vide page 469) on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This legislation, introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Spender), has for its object the granting of such appropriations as are required for expenditure upon administration for a period of two months. It represents an appropriation of £6,732,000, and will make provision until the end of November.
This House, I consider., was entitled to a more detailed statement in regard to the general financial position, than that given by the Treasurer. In ordinary circumstances, at about this time, it would have, been considering the budget, but in the extraordinary circumstances caused by the decision to hold general elections, the Government has avoided making something in the form of a comprehensive survey of the financial position, and giving an indication of its proposals for financing the administration of the country for the next twelve months. Half of the year will have elapsed before the Parliament will have an opportunity to consider the financial proposals of the Government for the current year. As the elections will take place in September, the new Parliament will reassemble, possibly, in November, and no doubt it will not have an opportunity to consider the proposals until December, or even January or February. The Government has not dealt with the matter as it should have done. There is a disposition on the part of the press to blame the Opposition for the ‘selection of next month as the time for the appeal to the people; but the date fixed has been deliberately chosen by the Government, which alone can determine that matter. If this be not the most convenient time for the elections, the Government must accept responsibility for the suggestion which the Opposition has a right to make that the Ministry wishes to withhold certain information from the people, and is not prepared to be as frank as it should be with regard to the financial position. If a proper review of the situation were now made, the Government would give an indication as to the character of the taxation measures to be imposed upon the people. No doubt, the Government considers that that would be an unpopular thing to do at the present juncture.
In its preliminary statement, prior to the commencement of the financial year, the Government sought leave to impose additional taxation measures, under which the sales tax was to be increased to ls. 8d. in the £1, income taxation was to he reviewed in order to impose additional obligations upon the middle classes, as compared with the wealthy section, and war-time profits were to be taxed. Whilst the Government was prompted to impose taxes with all speed on the general community, particularly on the poorer sections and on those within the middle range of incomes, it has shown no desire to increase the tax burdens on the wealthy section, particularly the wealthy companies that are now making war-time profits. The Government is not prepared to make a full and frank statement as to its financial proposals and the extra load that will certainly have to be borne by the taxpayers generally. Therefore, it has failed in its obligations to the people. It has ignored their rights, because they are entitled to know what taxation measures /ire to be brought down, during the current financial year.
The action of the Government in deciding that the elections shall be held at this particular period has been accompanied by a general deterioration in public administration. If we have ever had proof of incompetence and mishandling of public affairs we have had it during recent months. Even the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) thought that an expression of opinion by him was called for. In one of the .Sydney newspapers of the 30th July last, he is reported to have said -
No one can be satisfied with the present Government. The people are united, but the leaders are not.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– Then the Sydney press has done the honorable gentleman an injustice. I have not seen or heard any refutation by him of the statement attributed to him until this moment.
– If the honorable gentleman had looked at the other Sydney newspaper he would have read what I did say.
– In my opinion it was the duty of the Treasurer to refute the statement in the section of the press in which it was published. I notice with interest that the newspaper, in which the Treasurer says that he was correctly reported, stated to-day -
The mass of electors would feel more confidence in Mr. Menzies as a leader, if they were convinced - and they by no means are convinced - that he means to place national needs before party exigencies.
Many public expressions of opinion show that the people realize that this Government can no longer serve them in the national crisis with which we are confronted, and that it will have to give place to a government more capable of administering public affairs.
In recent months, confusion has been caused in the public mind by reason of certain action on the part of the Ministry. This gave us reason to believe that, by its own sheer incompetence, it has come to recognize its own inability to meet the challenging situations of the present time. It seeks to find means of release from the necessity for an immediate declaration on matters of urgent public importance. The means of escape which it has chosen is the dissolution of this House. It is unwilling to give a frank statement as to its financial proposals for the future. This policy of delay is characteristic of the present Government. It does not wish to inform the people as to what measures it thinks should be introduced until possibly early in 1941. Before that time, however, the people will have taken a hand in the matter, and I confidently believe that the electors, by an overwhelming majority, will condemn this Government to political death. It has failed* to recognize its duty to the people, particularly in view of the grave crisis confronting us. I have no doubt that the people will repose their confidence in a party more worthy of its goodwill than are the parties now in office. I believe that, in the near future, the Opposition will take over the reins of government, and will prove itself to be more capable of administering public affairs than is the present Government.
– A good deal of discontent has arisen owing to the treatment received by the growers of flax. This is a new industry and a very important one, particularly in view of the fact that we are at war. There is much uncertainty with regard to this industry, as there is in respect of many other aspects of government policy. Under the present scheme for the production of flax, the growers’ share remains at the pre-war price of £5 a ton, but the price of seed to the grower has been raised to £30 a ton, or 15s. a bushel, so that the present value of seed must be based on the price charged to the grower.
As there is no open market for flax fibre to-day its value can only be based upon the actual figures paid for it by the Government of the United Kingdom. These figures are given vaguely as being between £96 and £180 a ton, according to quality. Generally the retted and scutched fibre is divided into two main classes, that is line fibre and tow. Standard prices are fixed for these two classes, with deductions for damaged or otherwise inferior fibre. We must, therefore, assume that £96 a ton is to be paid for tow and the higher figure of £180 a ton for f.a.q. line fibre. The British Government is paying £160 a ton for fibre in Northern Ireland, where the grower also does the -retting and scutching. In cases where the grower has not the facilities for retting and scutching, the Government is paying £10 a ton on the farm for the green flax straw. On the basis of fibre content and seed yield that I have already referred to, the Irish grower who does the processing receives a return of £16 for line fibre, £3 for seed, and the value of 1 cwt. of tow, the English price of which I am unable to ascertain, though I know that it would certainly be not less than £2 10s. per cwt., or £50 a ton. This gives the growerprocessor £21 10s. a ton for flax straw, against £10 which would be received by the seller of the green flax straw. The margin for processing is therefore £11 10s. a ton of straw. These figures are on the sterling basis, and, presumably, the price to be paid for Australian fibre is to be on the sterling basis. That means that for first-quality line fibre, the price in Australian currency, with exchange added, will be approximately £225 a ton, c.i.f. English ports, against a pre-war value of £100. Assuming that freight and insurance charges would balance exchange, there is still a margin of £80 over the pre-war price, equal to £8 a ton on flax straw, without taking into consideration the value of the tow.
It might be argued that processing costs as well as the costs of growing flax have gone up since the outbreak of war, but if the Government intends to insist upon pre-war prices for the farmer, it should adhere to the same principle for processors.
We have been told that the British Government has appealed to the Commonwealth Government to assist in stimulating flax production; but, according to a speaker at the Launceston conference of the Tasmanian producers’ organization, the Government is stimulating production by “poling” upon the patriotism of the farmers.
Parliament is entitled to a full statement of the details and the offer made by the British Government for flax grown on its behalf in Australia. What terms were offered? Were the terms at once accepted, or was a different arrangement made after negotiation ? It has been said that the terms offered by the British Government were not acceptable to flaxfibres processors because they were too liberal to the growers. The information given to growers was so meagre that rumours were bound to arise. Although the growers are prepared to carry on this new industry for the period of the war, it is most unfair that they should be penalized for their loyalty.
The Government has apparently admitted that a big profit will be made out of the flax fibre that will be produced in Australia. It plans to use that profit to assist to establish the industry upon an economic basis which will enable it to meet post-war competition. That, in itself, appears to be a laudable object. “We have been told that the fund will be used for the following three purposes: -
The first two of these purposes are obviously intended to benefit processors, and the third item is meant to convey the idea that it is to benefit growers; but in actual fact the growers will not receive one penny from the fund, which will simply be used to enable the processors to obtain flax straw at a price lower than the cost of production. The grower received £5 a ton before the war, when the industry had to compete with the products of Russia, Poland, and the Baltic countries, where labour is cheap ; but he is still expected to be satisfied with £5 a ton, though his costs have increased so considerably as to make that price definitely below the average cost of production. Does the Government intend to use the reserve fund to increase the price to the grower? It rather seems that it is to be used to maintain an unprofitable price, and to afford benefits to the processors.
If this industry is considered to be of value to Australia as a permanent industry, why has the Government not applied the established policy of Australia - protecting it by means of tariff duties? Other industries are protected, and the farmers have to carry their share of the price of such protection; yet in this instance the farmers are being asked to carry the whole cost of the establishment of this new industry which will be for the benefit of the whole country.
The growers are not asking for an exorbitant price. They do not even ask for the prices being paid to growers in Great Britain and Ireland. They do ask, however, for a price which will cover their costs of production. In connexion with the cultivation and harvesting of this crop the farmers are facing many difficulties which they do not have to contend with in other cereal crops. Cartage problems will be very great, as the majority of growers will be long distances from the retting mills, and transport facilities will be difficult to obtain just at the time when all crops are being harvested. The Government would be doing justice to the growers situated at a distance from the mills if it bought the flax on the farms. Even if the price were fixed at £6 on the farm a considerable margin in favour of the Government would still remain.
It is essential that this industry should be established on a basis which will give confidence to all concerned. If flaxgrowing is to survive as a post-war industry in Australia it should be organized on a liberal scale. The growers should be assured of a return which will at least meet their costs of production. In these circumstances I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to take special care to see that my remarks are brought under the notice of his colleague the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron).
Of course, I have to take the risk that nothing will be done. The Government has procrastinated for almost three years, and it may be that my submissions in relation to this industry will be ignored. I endorse the view of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) thatafter a certain date next month the Government will receive the due reward of its dilatory administration. I feel confident that the electors will speak in no uncertain voice and will return to power in this Parliament a political party with a broad national outlook which will form a progressive and effective administration. The people will not then be plagued by a government which on one day says a certain thing on such an important matter as petrol rationing, and on the following day says something entirely different on the same subject. The people are not likely to neglect the opportunity to replace such a government by another which will be more concerned about the true welf are of the country and of industry generally.
– I promise the honorable member that I will bring his remarks under the notice of the Minister for Commerce.
.- The first of several matters to which I desire to refer relates to the leasing by the Postmaster-General’s Department of three floors of a building in Bourkestreet, Melbourne, from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board. On the 17th August I addressed a question to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Thorby) on this subject, and in reply was informed that the rental paid for the premises was £67 a week. By means of a further question, I ascertained that the lease of these premises was taken in 1938, and that the transaction was conducted by the Department of the Interior. At that time, I understand that the Minister for the Interior was the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). In response to a further inquiry, I ascertained that the Department of the Interior had leased the three floors not from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board but from the Bank of New South Wales, which is the sub-lessor of the first, second and third floors, and Australian Cricketers Proprietary Limited, which is the sublessor in respect of the basement and the ground floor. From another source, I learned that the name of the lessors was Australian Cricketers Proprietary Limited, guaranteed by Radio Programmes Proprietary Limited. I do not know which information is correct. .My point is that, according to information given to me, the Department of the Interior made no inquiries from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board as to what rent it received for the whole of the building. I am informed that that board receives from Australian Cricketers Proprietary Limited, guaranteed by Radio Programmes Proprietary Limited, or, alternatively, from the Bank of New South Wales and Australian Cricketers Proprietary Limited, the sum of £1,000 per annum, or £20 a week, whereas the Postal Department pays to the sub-lessors the princely sum of £67 a week for the same premises. That is to say, the Minister for the Interior has allowed the taxpayers of Australia to be exploited to the amount of £47 a week.
– What is the date of the lease ?
– The date of the lease from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board to the Bank of New South Wales and Australian Cricketers Proprietary Limited was 1938. The lease was extended by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board to Australian Cricketers Proprietary Limited and Radio Programmes Proprietary Limited for a further eight years on the 1st July, 1938, apparently after the Bank of New South Wales and Radio Programmes Proprietary Limited had ascertained that they had a good. “ fish “ in the Department of the Interior. They approached the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board and secured a long lease of the premises in order to exploit the Commonwealth Government to the tune of £47 a week.
– What has the Government of Victoria to say about this matter?
– The Government has some control over the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, but it is the business of that board to secure the best terms possible for the lease of the building. Before he acquiesced in the signing of the lease, the Minister for the Interior should have ascertained from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board the amount it received as rent for the whole building. There has been gross carelessness somewhere. This example of profiteering should be dealt with under the National Security Act, but I suppose that measure will be invoked mainly for the purpose of preventing workmen from securing proper remuneration for their labour. I hope that some action will be taken to deal with this flagrant case of profiteering at the expense of the taxpayers of this country.
– Could comparable accommodation have been received for £20 a week?
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has not hesitated to advocate the coercion of labour. He supported the retention of regulations under the National Security Act, which prevents a man from getting a few extra shillings for his labour. Seeing that he was prepared to do that, he should he prepared to use coercion to enable the Government to secure accommodation at reasonable rates.
– The honorable member is evading my question.
– I am not. The Government has appointed numbers of boards and advisers on various subjects. Among those advisers is Sir George Pearce, who is paid £300 a year in addition to his remuneration as a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Why did not the Government ask Sir George Pearce to ascertain whether comparable accommodation in suitable premises could be obtained at a reasonable rent? I draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to this transaction. I hope that there are not many other transactions of a similar kind, and that steps will be taken to end this form of profiteering.
Some time ago I drew the attention of the Treasurer to an application by the City of Ballarat for permission to raise a loan of £50,000, of which £22,000 was to be expended in the_building of a new town hall at Ballarat, and the balance ou the construction of a baby health centre, various road and sewerage projects, as well as swimming baths in that city. The Treasurer saw fit to refuse the application. I then asked that further consideration be given to the application, as did also the Ballarat City Council, but again the application was refused. Subsequently, I asked the Treasurer to lay on the table of the House the file containing the application for this loan, but he refused to comply with my request. I then said that his refusal justified me in suggesting that there was something associated with the transaction which would not bear the. light of day. I did not say that there was something that would not bear the light of day, but that I would be justified in thinking so. Subsequently, I ascertained from another source that permission had been granted to the Swan Brewing Company of Perth, Western Australia, to increase its capital. The Government granted permission to that company to raise additional capital to brew beer, but it refused permission to build a new town hall and baby health centre at Ballarat. I also ascertained that permission had been given to raise money for the building of a picture theatre in Hobart.
– Quite right, too!
– If the Treasurer has nothing to hide, he should place the files on the table so that the representatives of the people may satisfy themselves that justice is being done. I also ascertained that the Perth City Council had been granted authority to raise £75,000 for the construction of roads and other public works. I see no reason for this preferential treatment of the Perth City Council. Although it is the practice in most Parliaments for Ministers to lay on the table of the House any file asked for by any honorable member unless it contains intimate personal information regarding a man’s character, I abandoned the idea of obtaining the files, and directed some further questions to the Minister. Last Tuesday 1 asked the following questions : -
The Minister supplied the following answers -
Since the inception of the Capital Issues Regulations on the 13th October, 1939, over 3,000 individual applications have been dealt with. To obtain the information sought, a vast amount of work would need to be undertaken, and it is not thought that, when compiled, these particulars would serve any useful purpose. In any case, as much of the information sought is of a confidential nature, it could not be made public.
I submit that it is not for the Treasurer to say whether the supplying of the information would serve any useful purpose ; that is a matter for this House to decide. When information is asked for by members of the Opposition, and is withheld, it is stupid for the Government to say as an excuse that the information would serve no useful purpose. Obviously, the Government’s interpretation of whether or not information would serve a useful purpose depends on whether or not the giving of the information would suit its oWn party political ends. No government would make available to members of the opposition information which would be harmful to the government. I draw attention also to the fact that the Treasurer’s reply to my questions was that much of the information was confidential. The indication is that some of it was not confidential, and surely that could have been given.
In view of all these circumstances, I suggest that the Government is more concerned with granting loan applications by brewers and picture theatre proprietors, than with making money available for baby health centres, swimming baths and town halls. I repeat that I am justified in asking for the information which I seek.
– What would the honorable member do with the information if it were made available? Three thousand cases !
– It would satisfy me and those I represent that this Government is at least an honest and businesslike administration, and that it has faith in the loan application authority which it has appointed. If all this information is so strictly confidential, why is it that the Capital Issues Advisory Committee, which comprises prominent business men in every walk of life, is allowed to deal with it? If it is right that these gentlemen,, who work in an entirely honorary capacity, should be allowed to handle these confidential applications, there is no justification for not granting honorable members of this Parliament access to the same information. It seems that we are on the very verge of a Fascist and totalitarian system. This case points to the direction in which we are heading. I am not making an election speech, but I sincerely hope that on the 21st September the people of Australia will show their disagreement with the political manoeuvring that is being indulged in by at least one Minister of the present Government, while similar tendencies are being shown by many of his colleagues.
.- I was surprised to learn to-day that despite the promise given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the famous National Security Information Regulations, 1940, No. 137, which were the cause of a great public outcry, have not yet been repealed or modified. When the outcry was raised, the Prime Minister gave a solemn undertaking to the people that the regulations would be repealed or modified, but hitherto no action has been taken. The Director-General of Information still has power to compel newspapers to publish anything that he may direct them to publish; to compel broadcasters to transmit whatever information he desires them to transmit; and to compel cinema proprietors to exhibit any item that he may direct. I have nothing against Sir Keith Murdoch personally. In fact, I have great admiration for him. With Sir Keith, I was a member of the board of trustees of the Melbourne Public Library, and it is not my intention to say anything against him. What I do say is that no individual, least of all a newspaper proprietor, should have such immense power over other newspapers as is provided for in these regulations. In Australia, there is a double-barrelled control of the press. There is first of all a government censorship which, incidentally, has not been employed in England, either during this war or the last. Apparently, we cannot do without it here. In Britain, censorship is entrusted to the Press Bureau, which exerts its own control. In addition to the government censorship here, under these National .Security Regulations, power has been given to the Director-General of Information to force newspapers to print whatever matter he directs. That means that the entire press of the country is under the control of the Government as completely as it would be in any totalitarian country. The Government might as well print the news in the Government Gazette and suppress all other papers. There is great danger in these regulations, especially at election time. I remember during the conscription campaign in 1916, after it was decided that a referendum should be held to decide the merits or otherwise of conscription for overseas service, we were threatened with a strict censorship, and the censor would not permit the advancing of any arguments against conscription. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) will remember how we made representations to the then Prime Minister, now the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), concerning various things we wished to say. The right honorable gentleman told us that we could not say these things because the censorship would not permit it. Had it not been for the vigorous protest of the Sydney Bulletin, backed by Mr. W. A. Holman, both conscriptionists, there would probably have been serious conflict over that referendum. Fortunately, the Government gave way and freedom of discussion was allowed. Are we now about to have an election on that basis? Possibly the regulations have been, repealed to-day, but there was no repeal of them among the papers issued to honorable members this morning. It is highly improper that the carrying out of a solemn promise given by the Prime Minister to the people of this country should be left to the last minute. This i3 an invasion, not merely of the liberty of newspapers, who should be able to look after themselves, but also of the liberty of every citizen. I would much prefer the system followed in England, whereby there is no direct government control of newspapers. As I have said, censorship there is in the hands of the Press Bureau, which is composed of newspaper men. I certainly have no reason to have any confidence in the newspapers, but whether I have that confidence or not, my desire is that the newspapers which, after all, are for the purpose of giving news to the public, should be free to give that news. This country would be much freer if it were like Great Britain and there were, more newspapers in it. I hope that the Prime Minister will see to it that these regulations are repealed at once. The Government should feel very ashamed that it has allowed almost a month to elapse since the Prime Minister gave an undertaking that action would bo taken.
I shall deal now with another matter of a similar character. Most unfair treatment has been meted out to people who are the object of police inquiries in Melbourne, and, no doubt, in other parts of the Commonwealth. Apparently, the technique of the police is to visit the unfortunate persons who are to be questioned, not at their homes, but at their places of employment. The police have been going to the places of employment of boys and girls and have been acquainting the employers of the fact that the boys or girls concerned are members of organizations which the Commonwealth regards as subversive. That system should not be permitted, and this Government should be ashamed of itself for allowing it. I know of many instances in which this technique has been used, and apparently it is used in connexion with almost every investigation that is being made. One girl was secretary of an organization in Melbourne, and when she went to work one day she found that the police had visited her place of employment and, in the course of their search, had opened her private desk, letting every body know that a search was being conducted. Those are very unfair tactics.
I shall deal now with the Government’s action in banning the body known as the Australian Youth Council. The excuse given by the Attorney-General for the banning of this organization was that it was believed to have Communists connected with it. I can understand the Government seeking to curb the activities of the Communist party, believing that it is under Russian control - at least that is the argument that has been used - but I cannot understand the validity of a government extending that action to organizations which have no real, connexion with the Communist party. The Councils of Youth owe their existence to action taken by the International League of Nations Societies which, in 1933, convened the first Youth Congress. Invitations to attend that congress were sent all over the world and a great number of people, including many members of youth societies, accepted. Before the congress mct, a suggestion was made thatCommunist control was being exercised and that communism was being introduced to Geneva. Attacks were made on the congress and Germany and Italy refused to be represented. However, the congress was held. Although a number of Catholic societies were not represented there were many Catholics present. The Communists present were not more than one in twenty. Senator Henri Rolin, president of the congress, said in the course of his address at the inaugural session -
Why should a programme so reasonable as ours and so respectful of the opinions of each have been met with so much opposition? Why, at the last moment, have some remained away with the result that the congress can no longer have all the success that for a moment we had hoped ? I will be frank. You know it has been rumoured in certain countries and published in certain newspapers that the congress is in support of a particular policy and aims at Communist propaganda. All this because we have committed the crime - although the original organizing committee and above all the Federation of League of Nations Societies include no Communists- of addressing our invitation to the youth of all countries and all tendencies including Soviet Russia and Communist youth of different countries. On this point the Organizing Committee has never for a moment thought it possible to compromise. However much it might regret certain refusals of co-operation, the committee could not for a moment think it permissible, without destroying that free exchange of views which was the central idea of the congress, to renounce its object or withdraw the invitation it had addressed to all organizations of youth in the different countries, without distinction of class or race, religious or political conviction.
A second congress was held at Vassal College, New York, by invitation from that university. That congress was attended by 800 delegates from all over the world, except France, Italy and Soviet Russia. The report made by one of the Australian delegates contains the following passage: -
Among the 800 delegates there were no more than 25 Communists, and it would seem highly improbable that this number could unduly influence the thoughts of the majority. Great Britain was represented by a delegation of 60, comprising young Conservatives, young Liberals, Socialists, members of the Student Christian Movement, various churches, the Peace Assembly and one Communist. In the Canadian delegation, also of 50, there was one representative of the Communist party and one from the League of Peace and Democracy (an anti-Fascist organization).
That congress was attended by Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt, wife of the President of the United States of America, and she has defended the congress against a charge of being under Communist influence. The Australian Youth Movement sent two delegates to the congress in 1936 and I think eight to the congress of 1938. There are branches of the Youth Council in all the States. The Victorian body has associated with it, not merely the Young Communist League, but also various church bodies, some of them pacifist and some not. I have always believed that, just as nothing should be done to muzzle the expression of opinion in this Parliament, so nothing should be done to muzzle its expression outside Parliament. I believe that if people advance arguments which are demonstrably wrong, their wrongness should be demonstrated by counter argument. If you prevent people from expressing their opinions, you raise in the minds of independent thinkers the thought that, after all, perhaps the arguments cannot he answered, because, if they could, it would be much easier to answer them and prove them wrong than to take steps to prevent their expression. This body had associated with it the Young Mens Christian Association, the Christian Endeavour Union of Victoria, the United Electors of Australia, the Young Mens Club of the Young Mens Christian Association, the Young Communist League of Australia, the Vocational Guidance Centre, the Young Theosophists, the Workers Sports Federation, and the League of Nations Youth Section. Also associated with it were the Australian Christian Students Movement, the Girl Guides, the Crippled Childrens Society, the Presbyterian Youth Association, the University Labour Club, and the University Peace Group.
– How many of those organizations have withdrawn from it?
– Some of them have withdrawn under threat or pressure. I point out, however that when the Government persists in this system of terrorizing people, it is no wonder that some organizations have withdrawn their affiliation. Some of the persons who are making the strongest fight for the right of free association are not Communists - they are antiCommunist. It is interesting to note the contrast between conditions in Great Britain and here in this regard. In Great Britain, people are free to argue, and to advance what views they like. In a recent “publication of the Left Booh News, four divergent opinions on the war are published. Over there, no one prevents any one from saying what he thinks. In England, those who believe that Communist doctrines are wrong are able to demonstrate in what way they are wrong, but in Australia we refuse to argue; we merely repress. I believe that the English system of beating down bad arguments by the use of good arguments is the right one, and that the system in operation here is wrong.
.- I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to inform me why the advance to the Treasurer is set down at only £1,000,000 as compared with £4,000,000 for the previous three months. Is it because part of the previous vote of £4,000,000 has not yet been expended?
– In my opinion, some system should be devised for keeping a more complete check upon defence expenditure. I know that, because of the pressing nature of defence work, expenditure is not subject to the same strict control as prevails in regard to other forms of Government expenditure, but I believe that an arrangement should be made with the Auditor-General to subject defence accounts to something more than the ordinary audit check. He should be empowered to make a complete investigation to determine, not only whether full value has been received for the money expended, but also whether the expenditure itself was justified. I understand that the Defence Department has its own internal check, but it would be advisable, I believe, for the Auditor-General to undertake this work.
-Surely the AuditorGeneral could not be expected to pronounce upon the advisability of every item of defence expenditure.
– Of course not, but if he had the power which I suggest should be given to him that, in itself, would constitute a healthy check. I make this suggestion because several instances of unnecessary expenditure by the Defence Department have been brought under my notice. One was in connexion with the arrangement made by the Defence Department in Brisbane for the hire of motor trucks at 25s. a day. In cases where it was necessary to have repairs effected, approval had to be obtained from Canberra for any repairs estimated to cost over £5. It sometimes took as long as 30 days to obtain this approval, and, in the meantime, the department was paying the hire rate of 25s. a day. I took this matter up with the Minister some time ago, . and I believe that the system has now been altered, so that it is necessary to obtain permission only in those cases where the estimated cost is £50 or more. That is only one of the many instances of the kind which have been brought under my notice.
I am very disappointed that the Government has not seen fit, during the life of this Parliament, to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee. I have, on a number of occasions, drawn attention to the need for a body of this kind to make a more thorough examination of public accounts than is possible at the present time. I believe that the Treasurer himself is favorable to the reconstitution of the committee.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).A motion for the reconstitution of that committee is an order of the day, and cannot be discussed now.
– I ask the Treasurer when he proposes to submit the budget for the current year?
.- I desire to expose what seems to me to have been a fraudulent procedure by the mouthpieces of this Government, and by members of the Government itself. For months past, the people have been told that, because of the seriousness of the war situation, it would be undesirable to hold general elections. It was even suggested that the life of Parliament should be extended. We appreciate the difficulties of the situation, but if those statements to which I have referred were put forward in good faith, why is it now proposed to hold the elections on the 21st September? Surely every one realizes that at no stage of the war have we been in a more dangerous position than we are now : yet the Government, which has been hinting right up till now that it would be inadvisable to disturb the public mind by the holding of elections, now announces that elections are to be held in a few weeks’ time. Personally, I am not worried about the result of the elections, but I point out that it is mere cant and hypocrisy for the press and for members of the Government to declare at one moment that the public mind must not be disturbed by the holding of elections, and then, in the next moment, to announce that they are to be held. There is no constitutional reason why this Parliament should not continue until the end of this year, or even into January of next year. Surely it would be better to wait until the winter season on the other side of the world, when things may be expected to quieten down somewhat, than to hold elections now.
– As Macbeth said -
If it were done, when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.
– It is a strange thing that the former Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, was able, when resigning as member for Croydon in the State Parliament, to say that it was necessary to resign then as the elections were to De held on the 14th September.
– Where did the honorable member get that from?
– From a letter which was supposed to have been read at a meeting of the Croydon branch of the United Australia party. We have a right to expect that public men should take the people into their confidence instead of talking claptrap about not wanting to bold elections at this time, and then telling their friends to get ready for elections on the 14th September.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to - That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
NEW AND OPPOSED BUSINESS AFTER 11 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 - Eleven o’clock rule - toe suspended for the remainder of this week.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to provide means whereby members of the Commonwealth Defence Forces on service outside Australia, or who have returned therefrom too late to secure enrolment in the ordinary way, may record their votes at federal elections and referendums held during the war period. In order to provide the requisite qualification, it is proposed, in clause 6, that a member of the Forces, who is not under the age of 21 years and who is serving outside Australia or has returned from such service but is not enrolled, shall be entitled to vote for the division in which he was ordinarily resident immediately before his appointment or enlistment, or, in the case of a permanent member, immediately before the declaration of war. This provision is similar to the one in the Canadian law under which at the recent dominion elections every active-service elector was entitled to vote for the district in which he was ordinarily resident immediately preceding the date of his appointment, enlistment or calling up.
The bill is mainly a machinery one and its provisions are self-explanatory. Part II., as indicated in the bill, relates to voting by members of the forces overseas, and in general prescribes the way in which the votes are to be recorded and dealt with. Commonwealth returning officers will be appointed, where necessary, and each such officer will, as far as the exigencies of war operations permit, be required to supply all requisite voting material to the commanding officers of the respective units serving in the area under his control. The bill provides that immediately after the close of nominations in the case of general elections, the Chief Electoral Officer shall notify each Commonwealth returning officer of the names, addresses and occupations of the Senate candidates for the respective States grouped as required, and of thi House of Representatives candidates for all divisions of the Commonwealth. Each Commonwealth returning officer will then forthwith cause to be printed a list of all the candidates with their addresses and occupations and supply copies of the list to each unit in the area under his control for the information of voters.
Each Commonwealth returning officer will, as soon as possible after receipt of the Chief Electoral Officer’s notification of the names, obtain a supply of Senate ballot-papers for the respective States fully printed with the names of the candidates in the order and grouped as directed. The House of Representatives ballot-paper, however, will be printed in blank, but the names of the candidates for the division will be written in by the officer designated to take the votes of members of the forces attached to the unit before he issues any such, ballotpaper to a voter. Unless time will permit of the requisite declaration envelopes being supplied from Australia, these also wall be obtained by each Commonwealth returning officer at his local centre.
Clause 10 provides that the commanding officer of each unit shall designate one or more commissioned officers before whom the members of the forces attached to the unit may record their votes; that lie shall hand over to such officer or officers the voting material received from the Commonwealth returning officer and that he shall notify in Orders where and before whom and on what days and during what hours votes may be recorded.
The way in which the votes shall be recorded is set out in clause 11. In general the procedure prescribed is virtually the same as that under which an elector votes as an absent voter at a polling booth, in Australia. The votes, when recorded, will be placed in the envelopes bearing the declarations of the voters, and. these delivered at the earliest practicable time to the commanding officer who shall, as provided in clause 12 of the brill, cause them to be transmitted to the Commonwealth returning officer as speedily as practicable. Clause 13 prescribes the action to be taken by the Commonwealth returning officer in respect of all envelopes received by him before the close of the poll, and clause 14 sets out that as soon as practicable after the close of the poll he shall take from the ballot-box or other receptacle all envelopes which have been accepted, sort
them into separate parcels according to the divisions indicated in the voters’ declarations and by the prescribed method extract the ballot-papers and proceed with the scrutiny. Regulations will prescribe the method by which the ballotpapers shall be extracted and the scrutiny carried out. The procedure will be closely akin to that employed in relation to postal and absent votes in Australia so as to ensure strict adherence to the principle of the secrecy of the ballot.
Upon the completion of the scrutiny of the votes dealt with by him, each Commonwealth returning officer will notify the Chief Electoral Officer of the result thereof, and these results will be communicated to the divisional .returning officers for inclusion in the returns relating to their respective divisions. It is proposed that each Commonwealth returning officer will count the first preference votes in respect of both the Senate and the House of Representatives elections and notify the Chief Electoral Officer of the result, but that, while retaining the House of Representatives ballot-papers for any further scrutiny and transfer of votes that may be required, he shall forthwith assemble and transmit by the most expeditious means practicable the parcels of Senate ballot-papers to the Commonwealth Electoral Officers for the respective States. Two good reasons exist for the transmission of the Senate ballot-papers to Australia. First, owing to the complex character of the preferential count in Senate elections, it is considered extremely doubtful whether the work could bo effectively carried out overseas and, secondly, it is confidently expected that by bringing the ballot-papers to Australia the final result of the elections will he determined considerably earlier than otherwise. This is owing to the fact that upwards of twenty or more counts arc usually involved and, if the completion of every count had to await the result of that count at several points overseas in response to each direction, probably involving a delay of two days or so in each instance, it is not unlikely that the period occupied would run into two months.
Part III. of the bill provides the means whereby unenrolled returned members of the Forces may vote. This provision is designed especially to meet the case of those unenrolled members who return too late to secure enrolment in the ordinary way, that is immediately before an election. Any returned men who were formerly enrolled for their home addresses and whose enrolments have been retained, will vote in respect of such enrolments; but if they are not so enrolled, they will have the right to vote under this bill in respect of the division in which they were ordinarily resident before appointment or enlistment in the Forces. Any such unenrolled returned men may make application for a certificate and ballot-paper much in the same way as a postal voter, and the recording and scrutiny of the votes will be effected along the same lines as those obtaining in the case of postal votes.
Under the miscellaneous clauses in Part IV. of the bill it is provided that compulsory voting will not apply to members of the Forces entitled to vote in pursuance of this measure. This is deemed necessary as war operations may preclude some members of the Forces from having the opportunity to record their votes and in any case it would be impracticable to apply the ordinary enforcement provisions. There is also a saving provision designed to prevent the validity of an election being challenged in consequence of any unavoidable failure or loss connected with the taking of the votes of members of the Forces under this bill. A similar provision was embodied in the Electoral War-time Act of 1917. I commend the bill to the House and urge its speedy passage.
.- The Opposition is glad that it has been possible to devise machinery whereby the men of our fighting forces will have the opportunity to vote at the forthcoming general elections, but the Government cannot be commended for having introduced this legislation so late. Its provisions should have been embodied in the Electoral Bill that was passed a month or two ago when we could have carefully studied the proposals and suggested improvements. The best has not been done in this bill because to impose the cumbersome method of absent and postal voting on the huge aggregation of men in camp will create congestion. Some better means could have been devised if we had had time to work out a proper scheme, I concede that the postal and absent voting system applies to ordinary citizens, who are not able to vote in the normal way, but their number is 30 few that no difficulty ever arises. I can imagine, however, the congestion that will occur in great encampments of men, 5,000 or 10,000 strong. Smooth working of the electoral machinery in’ those circumstances will be impossible. It is too late now to suggest amendments because to do so might create further confusion.
The Electoral Department should provide clerical facilities whereby the soldiers will be assisted in the filling in of application forms for postal and declaration votes. The bill provides that commanding officers shall be in charge of the conduct of the voting overseas. Wherever possible, the services should be secured of those who are free from the duties of men of this rank, because a certain degree of diffidence is felt by the men in approaching their superior officers in matters of this kind. I do not think that, in the conduct of a ballot, those who hold the higher military positions should be other than on an equal footing with the men in the ranks. There is no reason why the services of the officials of Australia House should not be secured by the department to undertake responsibility for the conduct of the ballot in respect of men who are in the United Kingdom. That would be far more acceptable than the proposed arrangement, under which commanding officers are to be given the right to determine the method by which the poll shall be conducted. The farther removed is military influence from the conduct of the vote, the more desirable will the position be. The men should have the most complete knowledge of the candidates and of the bodies with which they are associated; consequently, the proposed provision should be elaborated.
I realize that it is not appropriate to state in this legislation whether polling booths are to be established at the different camps throughout Australia. I presume that that will be the case, but I desire the assurance of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) on the point. Polling booths should be established in every camp throughout Australia, as well as abroad, and every facility should be afforded for the freest exercise of the franchise by those who desire to register a vote without hindrance; their civilian rights should be conserved in every respect. I ask the Assistant Minister to state what voting facilities are to he provided in the different camps throughout Australia.
Although we welcome this legislation, there are difficulties which might have been obviated had a little more consideration been given to the matter. There is one provision that I wish to have more fully explained. Two classes of persons will be eligible to vote, namely, those who are serving outside Australia with any unit, and those who have returned to Australia but are not enrolled as electors of the Commonwealth. The provision does not include those who have enlisted but are still in camp in Australia. I wish to feel sure that they will have rights equal to those of men who are serving abroad or who have returned from abroad. In other words, no section must be deprived of this right of citizenship.
– Will candidates be permitted to address members of the Forces?
– I do not know, what provision is contemplated to enable members of the Forces to be informed on the issues of the election. Every opportunity should be provided in that direction. The Assistant Minister should give the assurance that official representatives of the different parties will be enabled to place the views of those parties before men who arc abroad as well as those who are still in camp in Australia.
The Opposition welcomes the opportunity to provide facilities for the members of the Forces to exercise the franchise, and hopes that, whatever arrangements are made will enable this to be done as expeditiously and as easily as possible, so that the best results may accrue.
.- I should not have risen to address myself to this measure but for the exhibition by the previous speaker (Mr. Makin), of what appears to me to be an attack of the jitters. The honorable member has made one of the most ridiculous suggestions that I have ever heard. It is that those who are appointed to act as returning officers shall not foe higher in rank than the majority of the men who record a. vote. Clause 10 provides that the commanding officer shall be the returning officer, and shall have the power to delegate to officers whom he may select the duty of presiding over the conduct of the voting by members of the different units. A similar course is followed in the conduct of the ballot among the civilian population in Australia. Ordinarily, in the appointment of a returning officer, the selection is made of a schoolmaster or other leading citizen who has some knowledge of mathematics and the ability to interpret the act. The department does not say to the man in the street, “You will make a good returning officer because you are one of the rank and file; therefore you are the only man who can be entrusted with the ballot.” I sincerely hope that our friends opposite do not get the jitters at the prospect of the choice that is likely to he made by the majority of the members of the Forces. Because of the difficulties they would have placed in the way of the despatch of men abroad to help Great Britain, they do not deserve the sympathy of the soldier. Not one man would have left the shores of Australia had they been in power.
Order! The honorable member is not discussing the hill.
– If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has read the particular provision in question, he has not interpreted it intelligently. Had he done so, he would know that the commanding officer will have the right to delegate his powers to other trusted officers who are capable of doing the work. I cannot conceive why he should assume that the status of those entrusted with the conduct of the ballot should be no higher than that of the men who vote.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I sincerely hope that the Government will give such instructions to the appropriate officers as will ensure that the soldiers will be given an adequate opportunity to record their votes, for I am quite confident that the men overseas will know who arc their best friends in Australia, and who can best bo entrusted with the defence of this country, of Great Britain, and even of the trade union movement itself.
.- I endorse the views expressed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The introduction of this bill at this late stage of the session must inevitably, insofar as some of its provisions at any rate are concerned, awaken the gravest suspicion in the minds of those who support the Labour party. Every adult Australian who has been sent abroad is entitled to facilities to enable him to exercise his inherent right to vote, but it seems to me that the underlying purpose of the bill is to weaken his inclinations to exercise the franchise. I am led to this view, first, by the clause which provides that the commanding officers of the respective units shall be the returning officers. It is generally believed that commanding officers are not, as a rule, favorable to the Labour party. I hear an honorable member opposite saying, “ Oh, oh “, but that does not alter my opinion on the subject. I can see no reason why the officers at Australia House in London should not be put in charge of the elections, at least in respect of the troops who will be in camp in England on election day. Those officials are undoubtedly competent to do all that is necessary to hold an election. Seeing that we have this machinery available, we should use it. That it is not proposed to do so is, to my mind, suspicious.
I also regard with suspicion the provisions of clause 15, which relate to the notification of the result of the scrutiny. This clause provides, among other things, that the returning officer shall -
Why is it proposed that the parcels containing the ballot-papers for the Senate election shall be treated differently from those containing the ballot-papers for the House of Representatives election? Admittedly the counting of the votes in the Senate election is intricate, but that in itself is no reason for differentiating in the treatment of the ballot-papers. If the papers for the Senate election are to be transmitted to the Commonwealth, the ballot-papers for the House of Representatives election should be treated in the same way.
Clause 24 provides -
Notwithstanding anything contained inany other act, a person entitled to vote at an election by reason only of this act shall notbe guilty of anoffence by reason of his failing to vote at that election.
It is easy to see why that provision has been inserted. Voting will be compulsory within Australia but, apparently, it is not to be compulsory overseas. It appears that the Government intends to make it easy for the members of the Forces to refrain from voting. The commanding officers may not take the necessary steps to ensure that the men serving under them are fully informed concerning the elections, and we should not countenance any slackness in that regard.
– Mussolini may be busy on election day.
– I quite appreciate that in respect of some members of the Forces the recording of votes may be impracticable, but I can see no reason at all why men in camp in England should not be required to voteunder the same conditions as those which will apply to the electors within Australia. I do not question the impartiality of the commanding officers. I simply say that they should be obliged to take all possible steps to ensure that the men in their various units should be required to vote.
For the reasons I have given I regard this bill with suspicion. I protest against the inaction of the Government during the last twelve months in respect of these matters. We all knew that general elections would have to be held during this year, and it is improper, in my opinion, that the Government should have delayed introducing this bill until literally the dying hours of the session. We are well aware, of course, that certain honorable gentlemen opposite were hopeful that it would be possible to extend the life of the
Parliament. At one time, it was proposed that a referendum should be held to decide that issue. The suggestion received such a cold reception from the electors that it was not carried very far. I reiterate that honorable members who represent what are known as border-line seats regard this measure with the gravest suspicion. I am firmly of the opinion that the conduct of the elections in Great Britain should be placed in the hands of officers at Australia House.
.- Will the Minister in charge of this bill inform me definitely whether provision has been made for men serving in the Forces beyond Australia to retain their enrolment for the electorates from which they enlisted? Part III. of the bill relates to voting by uncontrolled members of the forces in Australia, and a reference is made in clause 19 of Part III. to the provisions of clause 6, but, reading the two clauses together, I am not at all satisfied that the men in the forces who are entitled to vote will be accepted as enrolled for the divisions in which they lived prior to their enlistment. I ask that an assurance be given that this principle will apply. If it is not already provided for in the principal act or in the bill now before us, an amendment should be moved to put the matter beyond all question.
.- It is remarkable that the Government should have waited until the dying hours of this session to introduce this bill. The country has now been at war for about11½ months, and every body has known for a considerable time that general elections would occur towards the end of this year. It is deplorable, therefore, that the introduction of this bill should have been delayed so long. Probably I am as much concerned about the matter as any other honorable member of the House. Ordinary electors in Australia are liable to prosecution for neglecting to vote. That provision should also apply, as far as practicable, to the men who are serving overseas. Probably the Government is of the opinion that the men in camp will not be very interested in the elections and will not take the necessary steps to apply for an absent vote. The Government should not ask us to accept this provision, particularly at this juncture. In clause 26 provision is made for the appointment of scrutineers. Can the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) say how scrutineers can be appointed overseas? He declines to answer.
– The honorable member knows as much about that as I do.
– The men can appoint their own representatives.
– Will they be representatives of the British Army?
– The commanding officers are Australian citizens.
– Could I nominate a person to act as scrutineer?
– If the Assistant Minister says that we can nominate scrutineers to look after the interests of those who are likely to vote for candidates who support the Labour policy I have no further opposition to offer.
.- Honorable members opposite are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. It is obvious to any one who knows anything at all about our electoral law that some members of the Opposition, who are remaining in safety at home, have offered a gratuitous insult to many gallant officers who not only served in the last war, but are also serving in the present war. The commanding officers will have no opportunity to see the way in which votes are recorded, as the men entitled to vote, after being supplied with the necessary ballot-papers, will enter a cubicle in which they will record their votes. The commanding officers who will handle the ballot-papers will not have any opportunity to influence the votes of the soldiers, and it is most unfair of honorable members opposite to insult these gallant men who are fighting for them overseas.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting the attitude of members on this side of the House.
– If that is so some explanation should be made.
– We are only asking that the soldiers should have the rights of ordinary civilians.
– They are getting ordinary civilian rights. The ballotpapers will be checked and the commanding officer of any unit would not dare to do anything irregular, and even if he did so the irregularity could be traced.
– ls it not compulsory for a civilian to vote?
– Of course it is. During the last war it was impossible for some soldiers to record a vote for at least a fortnight. If honorable members opposite insist upon compulsory voting for every member of the Australian Imperial Force serving abroad they will have to ask Hitler, Mussolini and perhaps their friends in Russia to cease fighting to enable the poll to be taken. Apparently the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) is suspicious of any one who by virtue of his service holds a rank higher than that of private. It is an absolute insult to suggest that commanding officers would conduct a ballot in other than a regular way. I am quite satisfied that the commanding officers in this war, as in the last, will see that the members of their units are allowed to record their votes as they think fit without being influenced in the slightest degree. Moreover, the men would not allow their commanding officers to dictate to them in any shape or form, even if they desired to do so.
.- I regret that a great deal of heat has been engendered into this debate. The resentment displayed by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is quite unnecessary, as no imputations or charges have been levelled against any officer of the Australian Imperial Force in connexion with his activities during the last war, nor were any charges made against any of the officers serving in the present war. The honorable member for Bendigo does not hesitate to cast suspicion upon members of the Australian Labour party and suggest that we have our friends in Russia. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), in expressing their view on certain provisions of this measure, said that it was desirable that every soldier, regardless of his political opinions, should be able to record his vote in the fairest possible way. It is useless to say one thing and to mean another. “We know that there is political partisanship and bias, most of which is conscious, but a good deal of it is unconscious. It is useless to deny the fact that in civil life men, through sheer partisanship and belief that the views of the party to which they belong are right, are influenced to do things which in ordinary circumstances they would not do. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said it was desirable that the ballot overseas should be handled by civilians and not by commanding officers. I support that suggestion, not because I wish to cast any reflections on the honesty of those who conducted the ballot in the last war or upon those who will do the work in this war, hut because it is only reasonable to assume that the majority of the commanding officers who will handle the ballot-papers will be supporters of the United Australia party. They will not be supporters of the Labour party. I have never known a general who has been a member of the Labour party.
– “What of Colonel Crouch ?
– Partisans who are placed in charge of polling booths may be influenced to act in a way which may suit the political party which they support. Investigations have shown that that is true.
– Is the honorable member referring to the tactics adopted at the Trades Hall?
– I could tell the honorable member something about the activities of the party to which he belongs, hut possibly he knows as much about them as I do. Every honorable member is anxious to provide that every member of the Australian Imperial Force, either in Australia or abroad, should have an opportunity, to record his vote. Although unworthy practices may not be indulged in, the suggestion of the honorable member for Hindmarsh is worthy of consideration. Surely it is possible to arrange for- a civilian staff, or for some of the privates, many of whom have had experience in election work in Australia, to handle the ballot. There is no reason why this work should be placed in the hands of the commanding officers.
– It is not.
– Who said that it was?
– The honorable member for Bendigo apparently thought that the responsibility would rest upon the commanding officers because he endeavoured to defend them. If the honorable member for Bendigo were placed in charge of a polling booth, and I, as a private, approached him for a ballotpaper, he would see by the gleam in my eye that I would vote Labour and would immediately place me on fatigue duty; and not very desirable fatigue duty at that.
Considerable partisanship was shown during the last war, particularly in the matter of propaganda, which I trust will not be permitted during this war. I recall that in France in 1917, when the Win the War party, led by the present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), sent most pernicious propaganda right up to the front lines. I ask the Minister to see that propaganda such as was circulated during the last war amongst the troops at the expense of the country and for the benefit of only one party is not distributed during this election. When the authorities could not supply us with sufficient rations, and it became a case of nine to a loaf instead of two to a loaf, room was thus found in our rations for propaganda of a most undesirable kind. Yet honorable members opposite talk about partisanship and criticize the attitude of members on this side. On every occasion the parties opposite have used their power and the instrumentalities under their control, including the press, to spread their propaganda and prevent the Opposition from disseminating its propaganda. The heat that has been engendered by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who is the last person against whom I would cast aspersions, shows that there is some justification for taking steps to ensure that the sole control of the ballot overseas shall not be solely in the hands of officers. I was an officer in the last war, but because I declared myself to be a supporter of the Labour party, I was looked upon with some suspicion. I cast no reflection on my fellow officers - they were some of the best men that I have ever associated with - but, generally, military officers are not supporters of the Labour party. Steps should be taken to ensure that the rank and file will have an opportunity to engage in this work if they have the ability to perform it.
– in reply - There has been a good deal of criticism of the bill, some of it unfounded and unjustified. One honorable member said that the bill had been brought forward too late, but I submit that if it had been introduced several months ago, as he suggested, it would not have been any more effective than the present measure is likely to be. The suspicion so loudly voiced by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was not justified, as many of the returning officers are returned soldiers. There is no more reason for fearing that soldiers will not get fair treatment in the recording of their votes overseas than there is for saying that the electors do not get fair treatment from returned soldier returning officers in Australia.
Several honorable members complained about the commanding officer being also the returning officer, but I do not know on what they base their complaint. Clause 5 defines “Commonwealth Returning Officer “ as “ a person appointed under this act to be a Commonwealth Returning Officer “. Nowhere is it provided that the commanding officer shall bc the returning officer, although the material for the election shall be sent to the commanding officer for distribution to other officials who will witness the voting of the soldiers. That is a method which has worked satisfactorily in Canada.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) suggested that civil officers from Australia House, London, might be appointed to assist in conducting the poll in England. I assure him that that will be done. A civilian officer of the Commonwealth Public Service at Australia House is being appointed Commonwealth Returning Officer to control the taking of votes in England.
– The Opposition is pleased that that is being done.
– As to scrutineers. Clause 26 provides for the appointment of scrutineers, so there is no need for apprehension in this connexion.
I assure honorable members that provision is being made by the Electoral
Office for booths to be erected at the main camps in Australia. Where the camp is a small one, provision will he made for soldiers to be granted leave in order to record their votes at a nearby polling booth.
– The soldiers will not be compelled to vote.
– Soldiers in camps outside their own electorates will be able to vote as absent voters.
The only other point of importance was that raised by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), who referred to compulsory voting. I make it clear that polling will he compulsory in Australia but not outside the Commonwealth. Australian soldiers abroad will not be compelled to vote.
– What arrangements will be made for representatives of the various parties to address the men in the camps?
– I cannot give any undertaking in that connexion.
It nas been suggested that the Electoral Department should give information as to the parties to which the candidates belong, but I point out that it has always been the practice for electoral officers not to do anything that would give ground for the suspicion that they are seeking to influence votes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Action by Commonwealth Returning Officer).
.- The Senate ballot-papers will have printed on them the names of the Senate candidates, and such ballot-papers will be issued to the commanding officers in each State. The ballot-papers for the House of Representatives will not, however, have printed on them the names of the candidates, but will be supplied blank to the commanding officers, who will be supplied with the names of the candidates. In my opinion, that is an unsatisfactory way to deal with the recording of votes. If the names of the Senate candidates can be printed on the Senate ballot-papers, the same practice should be followed in respect of ballot-papers for the House of Representatives.
– The position is different; the Senate ballot-papers will he the same for the whole State, whereas there may be as many as 27 electoral districts for the House of Representatives in one State.
– I cannot see why it should be impossible to supply printed ballot-papers containing the names of the candidates for the House of Representatives. Unless that be done, we shall have to rely upon the interest and diligence of the commanding officers at the various polling booths to fill in the names. Generally, the commanding officers will not be men keenly interested in the elections, and there is no guarantee that they will fill in the names of the candidates. An election cannot be impeached because of any mistake which the commanding officer may make. Printed ballot-papers for each House of Representatives constituency should be supplied along with the printed ballot-papers for the Senate. Otherwise, it is likely that we shall have a number of unnecessary informal ballot-papers in the election for the House of Representatives. When we are considering clause 11 I propose to show how this scheme will work out; but at the moment I am stating my objection to the supplying of blank ballot-papers for the election for the House of Representatives. I do not believe that the commanding officers will act dishonestly; but their position ought to be made perfectly clear. We should ensure that there will be the least possible ground for imputing dishonesty or negligence to them. That can be done by supplying printed ballot-papers for the election for the House of Representatives as well as for the election for the Senate.
– Fear has been expressed that the name of a candidate might be missed when the names are being written on ballot-papers for use in the election for the House of Representatives. A list of the names of all candidates will be available for perusal by the soldier himself. On the other hand, we have no possible chance of ascertaining how many ballot-papers in respect of each electorate would be required among a large number of soldiers. That is one difficulty apart altogether from the aspect of economy.
As both the returning officer and the soldier himself will be able to examine the list of the names of candidates for all electorates, I can see no great advantage in having printed ballot-papers in respect of each electorate.
– What is the present practice in regard to absent voting?
– The names of candidates are written on the ballot-paper.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle- Leader of the Opposition) [10.12]. - If circumstances exist which make it difficult to place these ballot-papers before voters in a reasonably intelligent way, such difficulties must be overcome, if -we are to assure the Australian public that these voters will know precisely what they are doing when they go to the ballot-box. I take it that it is intended to give the men in camp the same electoral rights as they would enjoy if they were in ordinary civilian life.
– They are to be given the same rights as are given to absent voters.
Mr.CURTIN.- As the number of soldiers who will vote in camps will be great, it is obvious that just as much congestion is likely to be encountered at these places as is the case at ordinary polling places. Consequently, failure to provide printed ballot-papers will add to the difficulties which will be experienced by the soldiers in recording their votes, and it is quite obvious that there will be less likelihood of an orderly poll. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) knows that in this age printing is not the only device available for showing names legibly. I cannot see any reason why ballot-papers could not be roneoed in order to supply the numbers required in each camp. The requisite arrangements could be made the day before polling day to ascertain how many soldiers would be likely to vote at a particular camp. I feel quite certain that the Electoral Office could provide the requisite labour for this work as it will have a fortnight in which to do it. The Chief Commonwealth Electoral Officer in Canberra will have a list of all ofthe candidates for the House of Representatives in his possession for the Monday followingthe closing date for nominations. These names are telegraphed’ to him by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each State, and he communicates these particulars to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each of the other States. I can see no insuperable difficulty which would prevent the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each State supplying to the commanding officer in that State a reasonable number of roneoed ballot-papers showing the names of the candidates for each electorate. If that be done, and there should happen to be a shortage of ballot-papers in respect of any electorate, the names of candidates could be filled in in writing on blank ballot-papers to make up the shortage. This would reduce to a mini- mum the number of ballot-papers on which it would he necessary to show the names of the candidates in writing. However, if we do not endeavour to ensure that a commanding officer is at least as well equipped to conduct a poll as are ordinary polling clerks, we shall impose difficulties upon him which will not, and should not, mark the conduct of the poll outside military camps. The Assistant Minister will admit that no insuperable obstacle exists to prevent the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each State who will have practically a fortnight from the date of the close of nomination to polling day, from making the requisite arrangements to supply an adequate number of ballot-papers. Such papers will be practically a facsimile of the printed ballot-papers. This course should be followed in order to minimize confusion and delay.
– This matter must be approached with regard to the actual conditions which will exist on ships and in military and air force camps overseas.
– I was dealing with military camps in Australia.
– Men from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are being trained in camps in New South Wales. This proposal has been carefully considered, and whether we take camps in Australia, or overseas, it is not merely a matter of enabling the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each State to get things in trim beforehand. Units of all sorts will he quartered in different States, and each unit will contain men from several States. So far as camps overseas are concerned, I point out that the brigade now stationed in the United Kingdom includes one battalion from Queensland, which itself contains men from, not only Queensland, but also the Northern Territory and the northern districts of New South Wales. The 9th battalion now in England contains men from fourteen electorates in Queensland and New South Wales. In addition, the personnel of naval vessels will consist of men from every State, and from nearly every electorate in the Commonwealth. The problem as to whether these ballot-papers should be printed, roneoed or written, is a matter which can very well be left to the officer on the spot who will be in charge of the polling.
– Will he be a military or a civil officer ?
– In overseas camps, he will be a military officer. I do not suggest for a minute that civilian officers will be available for this work. I cast my first vote when I was in the front trenches at Bullecourt, and as the result of my experience, I can assure honorable members that they have no need to worry as to the method which will be adopted. The officers on the spot will settle difficulties of this kind for themselves. I take the view that the Electoral Office knows what it is doing in this matter. It has put into this bill every provision necessary to meet all contingencies which previous experience and forethought can suggest. Consequently, I have no doubt that the methods proposed will prove satisfactory to everybody concerned.
– The principal point raised by the honorable member for Bourke 6Mr. Blackburn) was that the officer responsible for conducting the election might make an error by leaving a name off some of the ballot-papers^ thus rendering them invalid. The conduct of the elections will be an enormous task, and some risk will have to be taken. It is possible that names may be left off in some instances, but that should be rare. After all, we must have confidence in the ability of the men engaged on the job. If mistakes are made, they will probably average out pretty equally among all the candidates.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) suggested that it ought to be possible to provide roneoed ballot-papers some days in advance of the polling date. I do not believe that that would he practicable. Troops are moving from day to day, and the necessary movement of troops should not be held up to enable ballot-papers to be prepared. The officer in charge would have to exercise his common sense, and, in order to prevent confusion on polling day, he could ascertain in advance the divisions from which the troops under his command originally came, and the necessary ballot-papers could then be written out by hand the day before the ballot was taken. That would obviate the difficulties foreseen by the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot see that it should be necessary to provide 74 sets of ballot-papers for each major camp in the Commonwealth.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Notification of result of scrutiny).
– Clause 15 provides, among other things, that after the ballot has been taken, the returning officer shall assemble the parcels of Senate votes and transmit them to Australia, but that he shall retain the ballot-papers of the House of Representatives election for the purpose of such further scrutiny as the Chief Electoral Officer directs. I can understand why the distinction is made. The newly-elected senators do not take office until the 1st July, 1941, but there is a greater need for expedition in the case of the election for the House of Representatives. I point out, however, that in the case of one senator, his successor - who may be himself - will take his seat immediately after the election. I agree that it is unreasonable that the House of Representatives votes should be counted in Australia, but there should be some guarantee that the votes will come to Australia, and be available for examination here by the representatives of candidates. That would provide a check on commanding officers and on those who conduct the election, and would be an incentive to them to exercise care. We are not raising these doubts and difficulties merely for the sake of doing so, but because we remember what happened in the conduct of elections during the last war. No one can ever be certain how the soldiers voted on the conscription referendum. No one but the representatives of the Government was allowed to know that, and regulations were made forbidding any one to say that the soldiers had voted against conscription. When a woman was prosecuted for saying that they had, her counsel, now Mr. Justice Starke, demanded that the votes be produced in court and counted. For that purpose the magistrate adjourned the case, and the court never proceeded further.
This bill also contains provision for extending by 20 days the period for the lodging of petitions. In a closely contested election in which the scale is likely to be turned by the votes of absentees, the public will demand that the greatest care is exercised in determining which candidate receives a majority of the votes cast. Certainty on that point can be assured only by bringing the votes back to Australia as soon as possible, so that they may be inspected by the candidates or their representatives. Personally, I believe that the voting will be conducted honestly, but the people should be assured that the same care is exercised in recording and counting the votes of soldiers, as is exercised in the case of other electors. I do not doubt that the votes will be counted, but I have some doubt that the elections will, in all cases, be conducted carefully by the commanding officers. After all, they will not be interested in the elections, which are not part of their job. If they feel that the candidates will never see the votes, that the ballot-papers will, in fact, never be seen by anybody who is directly interested, they will tend to be careless. During the last war the general belief was that those conducting the elections among the soldiers felt that no one had the right to oppose the Government or the Government candidates.
.- I agree with the point of view expressed by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). It is most desirable that all ballot-papers be returned to Australia in order that they maybe checked.
– They will be returned to Australia.
– What would be the position if the boat in which they were being carried were sunk? Mr. MAKIN. - Clause 25 sets out that the validity of any election shall not be questioned on the ground that ballotpapers have been lost or destroyed during the course of their transmission to Australia. During the last war, the voting of soldiers gave rise to a great deal of concern, particularly in what was then known as the Angas electorate in South Australia where a man named Glynn, the sitting member, was closely pressed by a man named O’Flaherty. O’Flaherty polled the majority of the votes cast locally, but the count of the soldiers’ votes returned his opponent. Inquiries led to strong suspicion about the voting in that electorate. We do not want anything like that to arise on this occasion, and, in order to place the matter beyond doubt, the ballot-papers should be made available for scrutiny in this country. That is a reasonable request, and I hope that the Minister will grant it.
– I agree that votes cast by soldiers abroad should be available for checking in Australia. In an electorate of 60,000 voters the majority could be as small as eight votes and it would be quite possible for a candidate to be deprived of victory by carelessness in counting, especially if there had to be preferential counting. The Government would not be inconvenienced in any way by agreeing to make all the ballot-papers available to candidates or their scrutineers.
– I direct the committee’s attention to clause 15 b, which reads -
Upon completion of the scrutiny, the Commonwealth Returning Officer shall . . .
in the case of a House of Representatives election - retain the ballotpapers in safe custody for the purpose of such further scrutiny as the Chief Electoral Officer directs;
The papers will be retained by him until the count is completed, and will then be sent to Australia to be available for inspection if the Court of Disputed Returns should so order.
– That is not what we are asking for. Irrespective of the Court of Disputed Returns we reasonably ask that the ballot-papers be available on their return to Australia for inspection by the scrutineers of the respective candidates in the same way that votes cast in Australia are available for scrutiny.
– There is provision in the bill for scrutiny of ballot-papers abroad.
– But that is not scrutiny in Australia. “We have no means of making direct contact with scrutineers overseas. The Minister should give an assurance that ballotpapers will be available for scrutiny here.
.- I am not satisfied with the Minister’s assurance. Not even the Department of the Army can tell me where my friends in the Australian Imperial Force abroad are located. I have a good many friends overseas whom I would be happy to have act as scrutineers for me, but in the short space of time before the elections will be held, there is not the slightest chance of my communicating with soldiers whom I know, even if it were possible for me to communicate with them. I remind the Minister that one has to address a soldier, not by his name, but by number, and apart from that, God only knows where our men are. The Minister says that the ballot-papers will be available if the Court of Disputed Returns so orders, but who will meet the cost of invoking that court? The candidates or their scrutineers must have the right to go through the ballot-papers.
.- The Minister should at least promise to look further into this matter because scrutiny of the ballot-papers possibly would give cause for an appeal to the Court of Disputed Returns. Unless the candidate affected had the opportunity to check the soldiers’ votes, he might not know that he had a case for that court.
– The only assurance that I can give is that the electoral officers will look further into this matter. Clause 28 provides for the making of regulations, and it may be possible for a regulation to be made covering the point raised.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Validity of election not to be questioned).
.- I should like the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) to explain this clause, which reads -
I concede that the latter part of the clause may be necessary, but I direct attention to the first few words -
The validity of any election shall not be questioned on the ground of any . . . irregularity.
That brings us to position to which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has drawn attention. If the Minister honours his promise to allow scrutiny of votes to take place in Australia, grave irregularities might be disclosed and yet appeals to the court would be forbidden.
– This clause, according to my reading of it, really provides that an election cannot be questioned on the ground, for instance, that on a sufficient number of ballot-papers to turn, the scale the commanding officer had not properly filled in the names of the candidates, thus causing their rejection. The clause says -
The validity of any election shall not be questioned on the ground of anything done or omitted to be done.
It is the duty of the commanding officer to fill in on the House of Representatives ballot-papers the names of the candidates. If he does not do so, that is something which he has omitted to do, and, I should- say, the validity of the election could not be questioned on that ground. Elections in Australia cannot, be attacked on the ground of irregularity unless it can be shown that such irregularity affected the result, but in this case a large number of votes might be rejected, not through any fault of the voters, but through the negligence or indifference of the commanding officer. I incline to the view that that position lias to bc faced. When I suggested that the- votes should be returned to Australia and bc opened for public examination by the candidates, I had in mine] not an appeal to the Court of Disputed Returns hut tho check which tho knowledge of such a public examination would have upon those who have the conduct of the election. If an officer feels, “ I am doing my job according to the best of my ability, and do not have to take particular caro because nobody is likely to see the votes “ he will consider that he has no cause to worry. But if he feels that ultimately the ballot-papers will he returned to Australia, and interested persons will see and check them, with the result that his faults, defaults and omissions may bc exposed before Parliament, he will exercise much greater care. Therein will lie the value of having these votes returned to Australia, and opened for public examination. That is the only measure of assurance that we shall have that care will be exercised by the officers. It would be absurd to say that soldier’s votes can bc treated in the same way as the votes of civilians in Australia, and to insist on the same standard of accuracy and so on. Therefore, I agree that a provision of this character is necessary. All that I suggest is, that there should be some provision to compel commanding officers to take the job seriously and see that the ballot-papers are filled in properly, because I feel that the tendency of commanding officers will be to say, “ There ought not to bc an election. We have much more important things to attend to. Aro person should stand against a Government candidate “. If the votes are ultimately to be returned to Australia and examined by interested persons, the commanding officer will feel, “ My joh is not finished. Any faults or mistakes of mine will be subsequently brought against me “. That will keep him up to his job.
– The 1917 act’ contained a provision practically on all fours with that contained in clause 25, and there is no record of any complaint having been lodged in respect of it. It is necessary to provide against an emergency such as the sinking of a vessel bringing the ballotpapers to Australia, or their destruction by other means over which control cannot be exercised.
– I trust that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) will agree to the suggestion of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) for the omission of the words “ of anything done or omitted to bc clone or of any irregularity in the administration of this act, or on the ground “. That would remove the only objectionable feature. I can quite see that, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has pointed out, some members of the Forces overseas may not regard their duties very seriously, with the result that irregularities may creep in which may, if the voting be close, be the deciding factor in an election. I am unable to comprehend why the Assistant Minister declines to take some notice of suggestions made by honorable members who sit on this side which have practical value. Every honorable member wishes to do his utmost to secure an act that will do the very best in the circumstances. If the clause as it stands is allowed to remain, we shall run the risk of irregularities that would be avoided by the omission of the words that I have mentioned. There should he only the two grounds that would then remain for questioning the validity of any election, because it would be impossible to provide against the destruction or loss of ballotpapers during the course of their transmission to Australia, or the inability of any member of the Forces to record his vote. The intention of this legislation would not bc departed from if the Assistant Minister were to accede to our request. I trust that the honorable gentleman will be influenced by the powerful arguments that we have advanced. I can sec that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has some view to express. He does that by force of habit, whether he be right or wrong. I can hardly credit that he would assist us to achieve the end that we desire. If the matter be analysed fairly and without prejudice, and not from a party political point of view, it must he conceded that the clause as it stands opens up avenues of danger to the effectiveness of the poll which ought to he removed, and could be with the consent of the Assisting Minister.
– I fail to see how any honorable member can regard any portion of this measure from a party political point of view. The main effect of these voting provisions being common to all parties, it should be the aim of all to make their criticism constructive and free from party bias. In respect of the objections raised by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), and supported by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), I point out that, to allow the validity of an election to be open to challenge would lead to the possibility of its being entirely upset. The conception of a second election, following upon the first being declared invalid, is that all of the original voters have a second opportunity to cast their votes, with the result that a true record is obtained of the original intention. That would not be possible with the members of the Australian Imperial Force, because not only are these men widely distributed over the face of the earth but also, for very unfortunate reasons which can well be visualized - such as the loss of a ship or engagement in battle - the original voters may not again he available, and consequently the benefit of a second election which is possible in Australia would be lost. Therefore, the provision to which objection has been taken is a wise one, and its omission might cause a good deal of difficulty to arise. I agree with the other points raised by the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), concerning the desirability of having the ballotpapers returned to Australia so that the candidates may have them scrutinized and be enabled to assess the chance of succeeding on an appeal.
.- I should much prefer the rejection of the whole of the clause. I certainly feel that it contains a very dangerous proposition. In the form in which it is presented to the committee, it is an open invitation to carelessness and irregularity. It must be assumed that, under the provisions of this legislation, care will be taken by competent persons. I am quite prepared to concede that, most probably, and in the majority of cases, conscientious men, both civil and military, will so exercise their intelligence as to give full effect to the objects intended. If, in strenuous circumstances, an officer finds, in express terms, that the validity of an election shall not be questioned on the ground of anything done, or omitted to be done, or of any irregularity in the administration of the act, or on the ground that any ballot-papers have been lost or destroyed during the course of their transmission to the Commonwealth Returning Officer or to Australia, or on the ground that, for any reason whatsoever, a member of the forces was unable to record his vote, it is very probable that this measure will be treated lightly. I consider it to be a very serious measure, and, as the result of the invitation to carelessness contained in this clause, a person not entitled to be returned as representative of the people might be elected and actually constitute the Government’s majority. I agree that, while the majority of officers will be capable and conscientious, some may feel that the coming election should not be held at all, and, being held, is a matter of such trifling importance that it can be got out of hand in the easiest and quickest possible way.
I agree that soldiers overseas should be given the vote, and it follows from my agreement that their efforts should not be stultified in connexion with the ballot, but that a responsible person should see that effect is given to their wishes. The danger of the result of an election being in doubt can arise only in exceptional cases, but such a case might be one as I have said which would result in the return to this Parliament of a member who was not entitled to be so returned. We should rest on the assumption that the measure will be intelligently and carefully administered and that the vote will be conscientiously taken. There should be no invitation to any responsible person to consider that this is anything less than a serious piece of legislation. We should not assume that the act will be administered in circumstances which may render it susceptible of being treated carelessly.
– The ballot-papers might be lost through enemy action on their return to Australia.
– Yes, they might be lost through any one of a variety of causes, but the law should take its course until it is arrested by circumstances which can be dealt with only as they arise. We are not to assume that any votes will be lost or destroyed. We have legislation applicable to cases in which votes go astray. Let that law remain. In an emergency, this Parliament could deal legislatively in a few minutes, if that were necessary, with a case in which the result of an election could not be affected by a number of doubtful votes.
– If an election were invalid, could a re-election be held?
– That is a possible consequence which we should have to consider. In a case of serious doubt as to the choice of the electors, it is possible that a fresh election would be necessary.
.- I followed with interest the views expressed by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), but his speech did not justify his contention. It might so happen that a fresh election would have to be held, owing to certain votes cast in Australia having been dealt with irregularly. Irrespective of the soldiers’ votes, an irregularity in a polling booth in Australia might give a candidate the right to challenge the result of the poll. The honorable member said that it would be undesirable to consider the holding of another poll because it would be impossible to get the same electors together again. That argument is applicable to any electorate, because some of the electors would have left it a month after an election, others would have come into the electorate, and others, again, might have died. Electors on the roll on the 21st November might not be available for a fresh election on the 21st December. If the provisions relating to irregularities are not eliminated from this clause, the very right for which the honorable member for Richmond has contended will be lost. If there is no right to scrutinize ballot-papers, the right of challenge will be useless. Unless the right to record votes is subject to challenge, no real purpose will be served by returning the ballot-papers for scrutiny. The right of scrutiny would, no doubt, place a check upon the conduct of the poll and tend to improve the supervision. I feel that if the right to challenge is withdrawn, an open invitation will be given to the persons concerned to be careless in their administration. This might lead to considerable dissatisfaction with the result of the poll. The Minister would be well advised to make provision in the bill for the normal challenging of votes.
.- I agreed with the contention of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that it was desirable that ballotpapers should be returned to Australia for scrutiny by candidates, not necessarily to ascertain whether irregularities had occurred which could not be rectified and might render an election invalid. I consider that we should take steps, before the elections are held, to foresee general difficulties rather than have to deal with specific cases. If action is not taken now, embarrassing situations may arise later. The practical consideration that we must bear in mind is that we must not permit an impossible situation to arise. The elections about to be held will involve Australian voters in Great Britain, the North , Sea, Palestine, Egypt, Singapore and many unspecified places, and candidates from every constituency in the Commonwealth will be affected. If, by some mischance, an election were upset it would be impossible to take another poll under the same conditions.
.- I have had a good deal of experience with electoral petitions and I cannot see any real objection to the provisions of clause 25. I do not think that the clause departs very much from the provisions of the existing law. In fact, it practically reproduces the provisions relating to this matter in the act of 1917. At that time, however, this provision did not apply to elections held in Australia. Nowadays, before an election can be upset on the ground of irregularity, it must be shown that the irregularity affected the result. If an election were attacked upon the ground that certain persons were refused a vote, it could not be upset, because it is not permissible to ask persons who alleged that they had been refused a vote how they would have voted if they had had a vote. In the famous Ballarat petition of 1920, Mr. Justice Isaacs held that he could not upset an election because a voter had been wrongly refused a vote unless he could ask the voter how he would have voted had he been permitted to vote. His Honour proceeded to ask that question of a number of electors who complained that they had been refused votes, and he was informed that, had they been permitted to vote, they would have voted for Mr. McGrath. The election was, therefore, upset. Subsequently, the act was altered to provide that an elector who claimed that he had been refused a vote could not be asked how he would have voted if he had been given a vote. Moreover, an election cannot be upset on the ground of the refusal of a vote to an elector unless the individual elector concerned can be brought forward to say that he had actually claimed a vote. In respect of soldier voters it would, of course, be impracticable to take that course. It is desirable that the citizens of Australia should be consulted as fully as possible to ascertain their views in respect of the government and future policy of their country. That should apply, not only to citizens within Australia, but also to those who had been sent abroad. But, obviously, the votes of all electors cannot be taken under exactly the same conditions. The real check upon our electoral system is not the existence of Courts of Disputed Returns, for such courts nowadays decide only disputed points of law. We cannot decide questions that usually arose in the olden days as to whether persons were refused votes because of officers’ mistakes or because there was impersonation, because it is necessary to show that the mistake would have affected the result of the election. A Commonwealth election cannot be upset on the ground of impersonation, because an elector’s ballot-paper cannot be identified. It might be possible to prove that a number of impersonations occurred, but as the ballot-papers could not be identified, it could not be said that the result of the election was affected. That is the position as it stands to-day, and. consequently, the Court of Disputed Returns is not the check. We have a system controlled by trained men under the supervision of superior officers, which is keeping the electoral system pure. That is our best guarantee. We have trained men in the department and the esprit de corps ensures that the job will be done well. In taking a poll overseas there will be an absence of the protection which is afforded here, and I suggest that the only way to overcome the difficulty is to say to the people who are to conduct an election overseas that they must remember that their work will come back to Australia where it will be examined by officers of the department. That will be the only check. I do not object to clause 25 because I do not think that it departs very much from the existing law. I should, however, like something to be done which would make commanding officers conducting elections realize that their work may be criticized by the authorities in Australia, and that wilful mistakes will be brought under the notice of the public.
– The ballot-papers will be returned to Australia.
– Yes, and I hope that persons interested can examine them.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 (Scrutineers).
– Will the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) explain what protection this clause will afford. It has been said that the vote will be taken in a number of camps, and no one can ascertain in which camps the men will be. Who will scrutinize the votes for, say, the electorate of Bourke? Who will check the results, and are all the votes to be counted in one centre ?
– No. Some soldiers will be in England and others in Syria, Egypt and Palestine.
– What value is the provision for a scrutiny likely to be to the candidates? I do not think it will be of much advantage.
– I admit that it will be difficult to arrange; but without it objections might be raised.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 27 and 28 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th August (vide page 456) on motion by Mr. Nock -
That thebill be now read a second time.
– It appears to me that this measure is intended to vest complete and untrammelled power in the High Commissioner in London to appoint the personnel of his staff regardless of the Public Service Act. I am at a loss to understand why that should be done. Section 8 of the principal act of 1909 - the act under which the office of the High Commissioner was established and his status and salary determined - provides that the Governor-General may, subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1902, appoint officers for the performance of any duty required in the execution of that act. Under subsection 2 of that section the GovernorGeneral may except any such officer from any or all of the provisions of the Public Service Act. That section was repealed in . 1937, and now sub-section 3 of section 9 is to be repealed. That sub-section reads -
Every such appointment shall cease to have effect at the expiration of six months from the date of appointment unless the GovernorGeneral in the meantime confirms the appointment.
The net result appears to be that appointments are now to be made by the High Commissioner without reference to the Governor-General or to the Public Service Act. The speech of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) suggests that it is intended to issue regulations. The approval of the Governor-General is to be secured by means of regulations which arenot now before the chamber. I cannot say that that appeals to me greatly, particularly as we have not before us the terms under which appointments are to be made to the High Commissioner’s office. My first objection to the bill is that it vests in the High Commissioner the power to make appointments which, in my opinion, should be made in accordance with the Public Service Act. I take this opportunity to express the opinion that the High Commissioner’s office should be staffed by Australians. I know that that wise rule has been departed from, and I should be glad to be advised of the degree to which that has been done. The High Commissioner’s office might well be regarded as a little bit of Australia in London. Another objection to the bill is that it expressly excludes the hope, which some employees in more menial occupations have had, that their positions can practically bo regarded as permanent. The Minister is at pains to tell us that employees in a humble way of life, such as charwomen, office cleaners, and others, have been misled into the believing that their appointments are permanent by reason of the fact that they have been approved by the Governor-General, whereas, in fact, they are only temporary positions and the persons occupying them may be dismissed at a moment’s notice. I cannot say that I take any pleasure in removing that——
– False sense of security.
– I cannot say that I take any pleasure in removing even that false sense of security. I would prefer to make it a real security, for it may be that the fact that they thought their positions secure, because their appointments were accompanied by some ceremonious procedure, did, in fact, give to them a little more security than they otherwise would have had. I realize, however, that I can only criticize the bill, and allow it to pass.
– There is not very much to be said regarding this bill, but I take the opportunity which its introduction affords to draw attention to one or two matters.. Although the bill itself does not give a great deal of information, the Minister’s second-reading speech explained its purpose. In substance, it gives to the High Commissioner the power to appoint individuals to positions with which a degree of permanency is associated, instead of appointments being liable to termination at six-monthly intervals, and reappointrnents made by the Governor-General. But I rose particularly to direct attention to the necessity for the Government to take advantage of the services of trained individuals in the High Commissioner’s office and to retain them in the service for which their training fits them. I have in mind the case of an officer of the High
Commissioner’s office in London who represented Australia at probably fourteen meetings of the League of Nations and has had a considerable amount of experience in diplomatic work. He has returned to Australia because he could not get a permanent appointment in England. All of the valuable knowledge that he has acquired is lost to the Government and he is now doing a rather unimportant job in the Department of Supply and Development, probably counting nuts and bolts. I regard that as a waste of his experience and special training. Utilizing his services in the Supply and Development Department is like employing a trained airman to dig trenches somewhere behind the line. I ask the Minister to make inquiries into this case. He probably knows the gentleman to whom I refer. Surely it should he possible to put that man into a position for which has training fits him, rather than employ him in a job which could be done as well, or even better, by an ordinary clerk, without special training. If it is intended to develop diplomatic services in Washington, Tokyo and elsewhere, we shall need trained officers, and men who have been trained and developed in London for numbers of years should be taken into the new service.
pil.87]. - The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) raised two points, the first of which referred to casual or temporary employees. The old act provides that such employees after six months’ employment cannot be continued in employment without receiving either a fresh appointment or confirmation of their appointment by the Governor-General, whereas the amendment provides that the High Commissioner may continue their employment. The honorable gentleman’s other point related to the bringing of certain permanent employees under the Public Service Act. In Australia that is done by regulation. The proposal is that permanent employees in the High Commissioner’s Office shall be put on the same footing as similar employees in Australia, and be brought under the Public Service Act by regulation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Mr. SPENDER (Warringah- Treasurer [11.30]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to ensure that the duties set out in the Customs Tariff Resolutions of the 2nd and the 22nd May and the 20th August, 1940, shall operate until the new Parliament assembles. It provides for their validation until the 21st February, 1941. It is not proposed at this juncture to discuss the tariff schedule item by item, hut the new Parliament will have that opportunity if it so desires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of adjustments in duties of customs under Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is incidental to the Customs Tariff Validation Bill, and proposes to validate until the 21st February, 1941, the exchange adjustment alterations made by the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Proposals of the 22nd May. 1940.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the validation of the collection of the protective duty imposed on lifting jacks of Canadian origin by Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) proposals of the 22nd May, 1940. The period of validation is the same as for the Customs Tariff proposals, namely, until the 21st February, 1941.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That thebill he now read a second time.
The Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) proposals introduced into this House on the 22nd May, 1940, provide for the imposition of a special duty on chewing gum and chewing gum confectionery of New Zealand origin, and this bill seeks to validate the collection of duty thereunder until the 21st February. 1941.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of col lections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff (Special War Duty) Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is introduced for the purpose of validating, until the 21st February, 1941, the collection of the special war duty imposed by the proposals of the 2nd May, 1940. The special war duty was imposed for war-time revenue purposes. It is not possible to debate the proposals at, this stage, and it is necessary to validate collections made thereunder, in order to safeguard the revenue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.’
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill- -by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of excise under Excise Tariff
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The reasons for introducing this bill are similar to those stated in respect of the Customs Tariff Validation Bill. The excise tariffproposals covered by the bill are those introduced on the 2nd May, 1940, and the 20th August, 1940. The proposals of the 2nd May embody increased duties on petrol and form part of the Government’s budget proposals. Those of the 20th August give effect to the Government’s decision to grant protection to local producers of petrol and petrol substitutes from indigenous shale and coal. The period of validation is similar to that provided in the Customs Tariff Validation Bill, namely, six months.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That itis expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend section 20 of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1032.
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Thorby and Mr. Nock do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend one section of the Broadcasting Commission Act, and it deals with the allocation of funds to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As the law stands to-day, the commission receives 12s. out of each listener’s licence-fee. That arrangement was entered into when the licence-fee was originally fixed at £1 4s., so that the commission received 50 per cent. of each fee. Since then the fee has been reduced, but the commission still receives 12s. out of each. In 1933, there were approximately 469,000 listeners, and the revenue of the commission from that source was £250,000. At the present time, the total number of licensed listeners, irrespective of blind persons, who pay no fees, is 1,212,581, or nearly three times the number in 1933. The revenue received by the Broadcasting Commission) from listeners’ fees amounted last year to £700,000. According to the balance-sheet issued last year by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the total expenditure of the commission amounted to £613,641, leaving a surplus of receipts over expenditure of £106,493. With due respect, I suggest to honorable members that those are the vital figures which we should keep in our minds when considering this matter. This bill provides that the amount which the Broadcasting Commission is to receive from each listener’s fee shall be reduced by 2s., or from 12s. to 10s. It is estimated that this will reduce the revenue of the commission by £121,000. Allowing for the increased number of licences that will be issued this year, it is estimated that the commission would receive approximately £750,000 in revenue had its share of the licence-fees remained the same. The expenditure of the commission will, in all probability, be curtailed. The amount expended by the commission on artists’ fees, programme expenses, &c., for the year ended the 30th June, 1939, was £473,000. A considerable proportion of that was paid to imported artists, who received large fees, and in respect of whom other heavy expenses were incurred. Under existing world conditions, the Australian Broadcasting Commission can no longer draw upon a wide field of artists from abroad.
– Australian talent will get its chance.
– Yes, the commission will be compelled to draw to a greater degree upon Australian performers who are quite equal to the task, although, to some people, they may not have the same attraction as more famous people from abroad. The point is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has accumulated a reserve capital of about £500.000. To its credit a large part of that reserve has been re-invested in war loans, but, as a government, we cannot justify the commission’s continuing to collect 12s. from each listener’s licencefee, first, because of the large increase of listeners and, secondly, because every other Government department has been forced to pare its expenditure in order to assist in the national war effort.
– Why not reduce the licence-fee?
– -That matter is dealt with, not by legislation, but by regulation, and it is impracticable to reduce the licence-fee until the legislation has been amended in order to reduce the amount allocated to the commission. I assure the House that it is the Government’s intention in the near future to reduce the fee, but that will have to be done by regulation subsequent to the passage of this legislation. The real effect of this amendment will be that as from the 1st September next the Australian Broadcasting Commission will receive lOd. instead of ls. a month from each licence-fee, which will reduce its total revenues, on the figures we have before us, by between £120,000 and £125,000 in the ensuing twelve months. That will leave the commission with sufficient revenue to meet expenditure equal to that which it incurred last year and still have a surplus. Some honorable members may argue that there is no justification for that surplus, but there is a sound reason why we should allow the Australian Broadcasting Commission to accumulate a small surplus. The reason is that. the commission had to provide the capital expenditure for the erection, equipment, and organization of studios in the capital cities. The broadcasting stations themselves are provided by the Government through the Postal Department. I do not want to do anything which would hamper the commission or prevent it from accumulating sufficient funds with which to meet future commitments in respect of the provision of suitably equipped studios which will provide the best possible service that can be given to the listening public. Honorable members will realize that the commission will be deprived of about £120,000 which it would receive next year, if its allocation remained unaltered, and which would have given it a surplus of about £200,000 at a time in which the expenditure of other governmental activities was either curtailed or postponed.
Some people may think that the money of which the commission is to be deprived will go to the Postal Department, but the Postal Department is merely the collecting agency for the Treasury and every penny expended by that department has first to be allocated to it on the Estimates, by this Parliament, strictly in accordance with the practice which is followed with all other departments. I feel sure that all honorable members will appreciate the necessity for the passage of this bill.
– It was very necessary that there should be some review by this Parliament of the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and also of its relations with the Postal Department. The bill is very short and it proposes that as from the 1st September in each year the commission will receive 10s. instead of 12s. from each £1 ls. licence-fee collected by the Postal Department. I understand that as soon as practicable the regulation fixing the licence-fee will be amended. I take it, although I do not know, that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Thorby) will reduce the fee to £1. My recollection of the original act is that the licence-fee was fixed at 24s. of which 12s. was allocated to the Postal Department and 12s. to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and that, when the licence-fee was reduced, the Postal Department, which has to bear the cost of all technical services, lost 3s. from each fee and the Australian Broadcasting Commission nothing.
– The amount received by the Postal Department was always 9s. The other 3s. went to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
– The Postal Department took over the services which the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was rendering in return for that 3s. It is well to keep in mind that the Postal Department is responsible for a tremendously significant part of the whole wireless broadcasting organization of
Australia, namely, the land lines and all technical services incidental to transmission from studios.
The commission’s work largely consists in the organization and the arranging of programmes. The provision of technical services is very costly. One aspect of that matter to which I wish to make reference is the fact that there is no musical channel from Western Australia to the eastern States. It is therefore impossible for celebrity or other artists performing in Western Australia to he heard in the eastern States, and the extraordinary anomaly exists that, notwithstanding that Western Australia is charged with a proportion of the costs of every concert given iu Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane and broadcast to the west, when the artists appear in Western Australia the Australian Broadcasting Commission charges the whole of the cost of their performance to the Western Australian division of its organization. I understand that an additional trunk-line telephone from Perth to Adelaide, which would greatly augment the telephonic communications of this country and the arranging of a music channel from west to east, would cost approximately £180,000. I have urged that this service be instituted, but have somewhat softened my urge in the last year solely because of the obligation of the Commonwealth Government to find money for the prosecution of the war. It has to be borne in mind that the western State is not on an equality with the rest of the Commonwealth in respect of the wireless service, owing to the fact that music can be transmitted by land line from east to west but not from west to east, and it happens that when wireless talks are broadcast from west to east it is necessary to interrupt in some degree the ordinary trunk-line service. One of the things to keep in mind when capital expenditure is to be incurred in further extending the wireless services of this country, is to make sure that that feature is properly dealt with.
I feel that the war may be a good thing tor the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and that it will learn that the necessity to be self-reliant, which circumstances are impressing upon it, is also a desirability. I offer not the least objection, but in fact the greatest encouragement, to the commission making available to Australia the most renowned artists in any of the arts. That, I think, is quite reasonable. But it can be overdone. Furthermore, I believe that in some instances the choice of the commission has not been the wisest that could have been made, and has been detrimental to Australian artists.
I should like to have a real good talk about the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I object very strongly to the appointments recently made to its directorate. I do not believe that its members were wisely chosen, and if this bill related to that subject I should have something more to say about it. As they were not, in my opinion, wisely chosen, I see every justification for reducing the amount that the commission will have to spend.
Thursday, 22 August 1940
– At this very late hour I do not propose to say much that I should like to have said on this bill. I am glad that, for the time being, it has been found necessary and advisable to reduce the contributions that are made to the Australian Broadcasting Commission from the revenue derived from listeners’ licence fees. I hope that, the vote having been reduced, the commission will give greater consideration to Australian artists. Until quite recently, far too many overseas artists were brought to Australia at a high cost. As Australian listeners pay, in the aggregate, a huge sum, they are entitled to the best programmes obtainable, and the best artists that can be procured in any part of the world; but the proportion of Australian artists engaged should not be so low as it has been in the past.
I take this opportunity to appeal to the Minister (Mr. Thorby) and to the commission, to establish in Australia a grand opera of Australians. In the past, grand opera companies have been introduced to Australia, mainly from Italy. It is not possible to obtain such artists to-day, and, so far as we can judge, the war will last for a long while and there will be repercussions and uncertainty for a lengthy period after its termination. I appeal to the Minister to interest himself in the matter, by approaching the Commission with a view to having an Australian grand opera company established at an early date. I am perfectly certain that Australian singers who have gained fame throughout the world could do quite as well as imported artists.
– The Postmaster-General (Mr. Thorby) has made it clear that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is doing very well financially. I am not very enthusiastic about reducing the amount that it collects. There is very much work that it could do on the technical side, such as that suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), for the benefit of the people of Australia. I know that, in view of the big increase of revenue mentioned by the honorable gentleman when introducing the bill, that the claim will be advanced that the listeners’ licence-fees should be reduced. While I do not believe that more should be paid than is absolutely necessary. I claim that the commission could very well expend a great deal more in the expansion of national stations. It may be argued that already these stations are fully equipped.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission does not find that capital : it comes from money voted by this Parliament. Irrespective of the amount of revenue obtained by the commission, it does not expend one penny on the establishment of new stations.
– Does it not do anything on the technical side?
– Then I have not, at present, the opportunity to offer the criticisms that I desire to make. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I believe that a good deal could be said in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a whole, as well as its programmes, if a bill on those lines were introduced. The reserves accumulated should be increased, with the object eventually of erecting more stations. We are acting on the wrong principle in allowing commercial stations to derive so much of the revenue collectable from radio activities. It would be far better for this country if the whole of the broadcasting stations were nationalized as, I believe, is the case in New Zealand. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has reason for satisfaction in that its revenue is growing so greatly. The Government can therefore recommend the reduction of the amount previously collected.
.- I should like the Postmaster-General (Mr. Thorby) to tell us whether the amount allocated to the Postal Department iB sufficient to pay for the service actually rendered by it. I notice by reference to the profit and loss account of the Postal Department for the year ended the 30th June, 1939, that a profit of £76,054 was made in that year. In future, owing to the increased cost, will the allocation made to the department be sufficient to defray the cost of the service rendered by it ? I have always been at a loss to understand the reason for the existence of the present system of dealing with the money received from listeners’ licence-fees. Should not this commission be treated in the same way as other governmental activities? I suggest that in the annual budget, this Parliament should make separate allocations to meet the requirements of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the commission.
– That will be the actual effect of this measure, because the commission will be restricted to 10s. instead of 12s. in respect of each listener’s licence-fee.
– I take it that the sum allocated to the Postmaster-‘General’s Department will be sufficient to cover the cost of the technical services provided for the commission?
– That is so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– In reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who referred to the need for a special land line to enable musical programmes to be transmitted from Western Australia to the eastern States, I point out that a survey is being carried out at the present time in connexion with this work at an estimated cost of £180,000. The proposal is to have the whole of the preliminary survey completed and the plans prepared so that the work may be proceeded with as soon as the necessary funds can be made available. Whilst much could be said in favour of the view expressed by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), that a separate allocation of funds should be made in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, this bill provides the simplest means of using the revenue made available to the commission without re-opening the question of its general administration, and other matters of principle which may have to be considered later. The revenues which will be derived by the Post Office, although not earmarked for the requirements of the commission, are slightly greater than the needs of the department. In 1932 the total number of relays over trunk lines to national stations throughout the Commonwealth was 914, whilst in 1940 the total had increased to 11,066. In 1936, the Postmaster-General’s Department gave broadcasting services to national stations over the trunk lines for a total of 13,434 hours, and in 1939 those services were increased to 27,042 hours. That was a most substantial increase of the services made available to listeners over the national network.
– I feel certain, Mr. Prowse, seeing that this may be the last occasion on which you will occupy the position of Chairman of Committees, that it must be a source of infinite satisfaction to you to hear that the Government intends to place the broadcasting services in Western Australia on the same basis as those in the eastern States.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– As we are awaiting the return of measures from the Senate, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you suspend the sitting until the ringing of the bells this afternoon.
– To meet the convenience of honorable members, the sit ting will be suspended until the bells are rung, which will not be before 2.30 p.m. to-day.
Sitting suspended from 12.19 a.m. to 2.45 p.m. (Thursday).
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Gold Mining Encouragement Bill (No. 2) 1940.
Papua Bill 1940.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests -
High Commissioner Bill 1040.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1940.
Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Validation Bill 1940.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Validation Bill 1940.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Validation Bill 1940.
Customs Tariff (Special War Duty) Validation Bill 1940.
Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1940.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) - by leave - agreed to -
That ho have leave to bring in a bill for an act to make provision for payment of pensions and for the making of other paymentsin respect of Australian mariners who suffer death, disablement, detention, or loss as a result of the present war, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker-
Minister for Commerce) [-2.48]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is framed, in general principle, on recent war-time legislation of the Imperial Parliament, which makes provision, in respect of seamen employed on merchant ships registered in the United Kingdom, and of persons engaged in pilotage and lighthouse services in British waters, all of whom can be conveniently referred to as mariners, for benefits, payable from public funds, under three headings, namely -
Similar benefits are provided in this measure, but certain of the provisions of the British measure have been somewhat modified to conform more to Australian conditions, chiefly along the lines of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Under this latter, for instance, the basis upon which the rate of a pension is determined is the soldier’s rate of pay a day. This applies alike to the private and the general; rank is not considered. Under the British system, on the contrary, rank is the determining factor. The bill follows the established Australian system.
It is contemplated that those parts of the bill which relate to pensions and detention allowances shall be administered, under whichever Minister is made responsible for the act, by the Repatriation Commission, it already having the machinery and staff of trained officers necessary for the the work. The part dealing with compensation for lost or damaged effects will, on the other hand, be administered by the Department of Commerce, through the superintendents, mercantile marine officers, and other marine branch officials, already functioning at all of the principal ports of the Commonwealth. These arrangements will obviate the expense of building up any new administrative machinery for the purposes of the act.
The bill is drawn to apply to Australian mariners who, while employed in their respective callings, sustain a war injury resulting in death or incapacity, or are captured and detained by the enemy, or whose effects are lost or damaged by enemy action. The definition of “ Australian mariner “ is given in clause 3. It includes, in addition to the masters and crews of Australianregistered ships, those employed on pilot steamers and lighthouse tenders, as well as pilots. This follows the British scheme.
The term “ war injury “ is, by clause 3, given a comprehensive meaning, covering injuries arising out of both offensive action by the enemy and defensive measures against such action. It also includes any physical injury caused by, or in consequence of, capture by the enemy. The definition is self-explanatory. The phrase “ expected and suspected attack “, which occurs in paragraph a, subparagraph iii, of the definition, covers action taken on an Australian ship - for example, by gun-fire - not only when it is thought incorrectly, as it might turn out, that the ship is being threatened by a submarine or bomber, but also in routine drills, undertaken at the master’s orders, to familiarize the crew with the use of the vessel’s weapons. Any injury received by a seaman in and by reason of these exercises would accordingly be a “ war injury “, entitling him to compensation. Pension benefits are granted in the case of injuries directly attributable to war activity only where the death or incapacity of the seaman, as the case may be, is the “direct result” of a war injury. This is one of the fundamental principles of the British scheme.
In the case of the death of an Australian mariner, directly attributable to war injury, the pension payable to his widow will be that shown in column 2 of the first schedule, against the rate of pay of the seaman as at the time of the injury which resulted in his death. The pension rates, which are the same as those paid under the Repatriation Act, range from £2 7s. to £6 a fortnight. Provision is made, however, in certain circumstances, for the increase of a pension to a widow of less than £4 4s. a fortnight. This will be found in the proviso to paragraph a sub-clause 1, of clause 18, which provides that, in the case of a widow with dependent children, or whose circumstances justify such an increase, a pension of under £4 4s. may be brought to that amount. An allowance is to be made, in respect of each, dependent child under the age of sixteen years, of 15s. a fortnight.
The dependants, other than the mariner’s wife and children, to whom in certain circumstances pensions or allowances may be paid, comprise the same categories of persons as are dealt with under the Seamen’s Compensation Act, including parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, grandchildren and step-brothers, step-sisters, &c, together with, under certain conditions, ex-nuptial children and grandchildren. “ Dependent “ means wholly or substantially dependent upon the mariner’s earnings.
The rates of pension payable to an Australian mariner who is totally incapacitated, and to his wife, are set out in clause 18,* and columns 3 and 4 of the first schedule. These, also, are the repatriation rates. As in the case of death, an allowance of 15s. a fortnight will be payable in respect of each dependent child under sixteen years of age.
Special provision for pensions or allowances to de facto and separated wives or widows, when dependent on the mariner, will be found in clauses 19 and 20. Definitions of “ de facto wife “, “ separated wife “ and “ separated widow “ are given in clause 3.
The widow, or separated widow, of a deceased mariner, or the wife, or separated wife, &c., of one who is incapacitated, will have a first claim for pensions. As already mentioned, children are also specifically provided for. In the case of other dependants, however, such as parents, grandparents, &c, pensions will be payable only where no pension is payable to the widow or wife, &c. A further condition, imposed by clause 16, is that pensions are to be payable to these other dependants only when, in the opinion of the commission, they are without adequate means of support. A corresponding provision is contained in the Repatriation Act, as amended by section 43 of the Financial Emergency Act, and in the British scheme.
An important condition, applicable to pensions in respect of both death and disability, which will he found in paragraph a of clause 24, is that in no case shall the pensions to the widow and other dependants of a deceased Australian mariner, or to an incapacitated Aus- tralian mariner and his dependants, exceed, in the aggregate, the rate of pay that was being received by the mariner in his occupation. Here, again, however, an exception is made in respect of widows with dependent children and widows whose circumstances are such as in the opinion of the commission would justify the increase. Where, in such cases, the pensions aggregate less than that amount, the commission may increase the amount of the total pensions to a sum not exceeding £4 4s.
In cases of blindness and certain other serious injuries specified in the second schedule, an allowance for an attendant, varying from 40s. to 80s. a fortnight according to the circumstances of the case, may also he granted by the commission as an addition to the pension.
Part IV. of the bill, embracing clauses 34 to 44, deals with detention allowances, payable where an Australian mariner has been captured and is detained by the enemy, and whose wages are not payable during that period. This is the first provision of the sort. to be enacted in any Australian legislation, and is based largely upon the corresponding portion of the British scheme recently instituted for seamen on ships registered in the United Kingdom. The amount of the detention allowance payable will depend first, on the rate of pay the mariner was receiving at the date of his capture and, secondly, on his conjugal condition ; that is, the amounts payable in respect of a man with dependants, other than a wife, are higher than those fixed for a man without dependants, while for a man with a dependent wife, they are still higher. The different rates are set out in clauses 36 to 38, and in the sixth schedule. As in the case of pensions, the fortnightly detention allowances payable under the bill shall not exceed, in the aggregate, the rate of pay a fortnight of the Australian mariner. Of the total amount of allowance payable, a portion is to be reserved for the mariner himself, to be paid to him upon his release from detention. Another reserved portion may be expended wholly or in part for his personal benefit, for example, in forwarding him parcels of food and other comforts, or for the benefit of his dependants. The balance of the amount of the total allowance is to be available for payment to, or for the benefit of, the seaman’s dependants, in such proportions as the commission directs. Any balance of this portion remaining unexpended may be paid to the mariner upon his return. The respective amounts of these “ reserved “ and “available” portions of a detention allowance, relative to the total amount payable, arc set out in the sixth schedule. As in the case of pensions, payment of a detention allowance to any person other than the mariner himself is contingent on satisfactory proof being furnished that that person was, or but for the detention would have been, wholly or substantially dependent on his earnings. In the case of a de facto wife, the conditions laid down in the definition of the term must also have been fulfilled.
The grant of a pension or allowance may at any time be reviewed by the commission, which may cancel or vary the grant, as circumstances require.
The provision relating to compensation for war damage to effects also is new to Australian legislation. As in the case of detention allowances, the new provisions contained in Part V. of the bill - clauses 45 to 48° - are based on the recent Imperial legislation for the benefit of seamen serving on ships registered in the United Kingdom. Subject to the maximum amounts respectively specified in the seventh schedule, compensation will be paid for the loss of effects by enemy action on their value at the time of loss, or, in case of damage by enemy action, on the amount by which their value had been depreciated by such damage.
It may be suggested that the maximum amounts of compensation fixed by the seventh schedule are too low, as not being sufficient to enable a mariner to replace effects - in the way of clothing, jewellery, instruments, &c. - normally carried by him while employed on the coast. In answer to any such contention, it must be pointed out that the present times are not normal, and that the compensation provided for in the bill is intended to cover only outfits essentia] to the voyage, and such as a reasonable man would carry in these times, keeping in mind the possibility of sudden and unexpected attack on his ship by the enemy. Such items as valuable watches and jewellery, wireless sets and surplus clothing should, it is suggested, in these days be left in safe keeping ashore until the end of the war.
This explanation deals only with the more important provisions of the bill. Most of the clauses to which I have not referred are machinery provisions, or are self-explanatory.
I yesterday took the opportunity to submit the bill to the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I thank those honorable members for their courtesy in having devoted yesterday and last night to a consideration of its provisions. I also express thanks to Mar. Tudehope, the secretary of the Maritime Transport Council, for the work that he did and the assistance that he gave to the Department of Commerce in the preparation of the measure and in the consideration of what it contains. Believing that the Opposition will feel very much as does the Government in respect of such a bill, I commend it to their favorable consideration.
.- I am glad that the Government has introduced this bill and desires Parliament to pass it before to-day’s adjournment and thus save it from being lost sight of during and after the elections. The Labour party has been agitating for three or four years for legislation of this character to cover the members of the merchant shipping service, who are at present undergoing great risks in the pursuit of their calling. We were delighted when the late Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) told1 us during the discussion of the last bill that was introduced to amend the Repatriation Act, that a measure of this kind would be submitted to Parliament. That honorable gentleman, whose untimely death we all so deeply deplore, assured us also that, the provisions of the bill would be made retrospective to bridge the gap between then and the passing of the bill. That promise has now been fulfilled and I am grateful. Its purpose is “ to make provision for the payment of pensions and for the making of other payments in respect of Australian mariners who suffer death, disablement, detention or loss as a result of the present war and for their dependants. I take it that all seamen on all merchant ships on the Australian register will be covered, whether the ships are engaged in interstate, intrastate or overseas trade. I understand also that persons employed or. pilot ships, lighthouse ships and so on will bo covered. Legislation o:t’ this kind is very necessary in time of war, as an examination of the figures relating to tho merchant marine service during the last war will clearly show. It has been stated that during the last war 15,000 seamen died in ships that were torpedoed or subjected to other disasters of war. A total of 23,000,000 persons and S0,000,000 tons of munitons, stores and fodder were carried on ships other than warships of all kinds during the last war. In addition, transport was provided for 2,200,000 animals and 43,000,000 tons of coal. Big demands wore made upon the merchant shipping services during the last war, and it appears that even bigger calls will be made during this war. It will be remembered also that during the last war the Plimsoll line was raised, thus adding still further to the risks the sailors had to take. We would never have agreed to that course being taken in normal times, but it became necessary, particularly during the latter part of the war, for ships to carry larger cargoes than usual. All who travelled on ships during those days undertook abnormal risks. The situation became so serious, in fact, that vessels commonly regarded as “ coffin ships “ were called into service to take the place of vessels that had been sunk. The wartime risks of seamen are very much greater than those of peace-time. I do not think that the merchant service seamen received half the recognition that they were entitled to for the part they took in the last war. Many of them received no consideration at all in respect of pensions, sick pay or allowances. Very many of our men were engaged, after their ships left Australia, to act as members of gun crews. There would be one naval rating in each crew in charge, the balance volunteering from the merchant crews, who received 6d. extra a day. Our seamen suffered great hardships during 1 1 iti war and because of the conditions under which they had to work they contracted rheumatism and other similar diseases which greatly shortened their working lives. It is only proper, therefore, that we should take care that a similar state of affairs shall not arise in consequence of this war. I wish to know whether the provisions of this, measure will overlap those of the present Seamen’s Compensation Act to the detriment of the seamen?
– This bill will apply only during war conditions.
– Will the provisions of this bill result in a deterioration of the conditions provided under the Seamen’s Compensation Act?
– Not to my knowledge.
– I take it also that the wives and dependants of seamen, and also the seamen themselves, who happen to be receiving pension or other payments, such as sick allowances and the like, from other Commonwealth sources, will not suffer any loss through the passage of this hill. We should not countenance anything of that kind. If that position is covered, I shall be satisfied in that respect. Honorable members generally will be glad to know that this measure is to bc administered, to a large degree, by the existing Repatriation Commission. No other authority is better qualified to deal with a matter of this kind. I trust that the ships’ crews will have representation on the committees that are to bo appointed.
– Attention will be paid to that point.
– I understand also that seamen who are taken prisoners of war and detained in foreign parts may rest assured that their dependants will be cared for until they themselves are repatriated.
– That is so.
– We are glad that allowances are to be provided for attendants for disabled seamen. Will the Minister inform me whether eligible members of the families of disabled seamen will be permitted to draw the allowances provided for that purpose if they perform the duties.
– A good many of these matters will be determined by the committees that are to be appointed, butI can see no reason why the suggestion of the honorable member should not be adopted.
– The bill provides fora maximum pension of £2 2s. a week for an able-bodied seaman on the minimum wage. That rate is fairly comparable to the rates provided under the Repatriation Act. An amount of £1. 3s. 6d. a week is provided for the widow of a seaman, and £2 2s. a week is provided as a fee for an attendant. These rates are not, to be regarded as wages, for no one could live properly on such an income. It is partly for that reason that I urge that provision he made for the eligible members of the families of disabled seamen to be permitted to draw the attendants’ fees when they perform such service.
I am glad that the bill has been introduced, and also that its provisions will be administered, to a large degree, by the officers of the Repatriation Commission. The approval of the Minister to my suggestion that the ships’ crews shall be entitled to a definite representative on the committees is also gratifying. If the scheme is administered sympathetically I am sure that it will prove, satisfactory to all concerned. If it should he found, later, that the pension rates are not sufficiently high it will be possible for us to amend them. Seeing that the war, which promises to last a long while, has come nearer to us than did the last war, it is highly desirable that this bill should be passed without delay.
– I commend the Government for having introduced this bill and also for having provided that the administration of the scheme shall he carried out by the Repatriation Department. It would be almost impossible for an honorable member to digest this scheme in the few moments that we have had at our disposal to consider it; but as it has been submitted to, and approved by, several members of the Opposition, it should be satisfactory. Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), I wish to ask two or three questions. Are we to understand that the committees of from three to fivemembers which are to be appointed in each State, will act in the same way in respect of merchant seamen as the State repatriation committees act in relation to members of the Naval and Military Forces?
– The committees will deal with the assessments.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the seamen themselves should have direct, representation on the committees. The returned soldiers’ organizations have the right to nominate persons for appointment by the Government to the repatriation committees in the various States, and it is only proper that the merchant seamen should be given a similar right in connexion with the committees to be 6et up under this measure. Such representatives should, in my opinion, be experienced in all the troubles and trials that fall to the lot of seafaring men. Two authorities have been constituted under the Repatriation Act. In the first place, there are the entitlement tribunals, which arc authorized to recommend the payment of pensions; and then there arc the assessment tribunals, which recommend the rates at which pensions shall be paid. I take it that the committees to be set up under this measure will exercise similar functions.
– The pension rates will depend upon the rates of pay received by the seamen concerned.
– That is so, and a similar provision exists in relation to war pensions; but it is nevertheless necessary, in numerous cases, to assess the pension rate in order to meet varying circumstances. I take it that the same system will apply under this measure. Specially selected medical practitioners are appointed to the assessment tribunals under the Repatriation Act.
– The committees that are to be set up will determine all the matters specified in the bill.
– We could profitably discuss a measure of this kind at considerable length, but I am aware that our time is limited, so I shall not delay honorable members much longer, as it is desirable that this bill l>e placed on the statute-book before the Parliament is dissolved. I wish it a speedy passage.
– I appreciate the action of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) in supplying me with an advance copy of the bill yesterday, bu!t so comprehensive a measure requires some consultation with the particular interests that are to be served, before its details can be satisfactorily discussed. In legislation of this character there are details that can only be learned from men who are actually employed in the industry, and from experience in administration. Members, therefore, approach the consideration of this measure under some disability. Notwithstanding the limitations which the introduction of the bill at this stage imposes upon honorable members, it should be passed immediately because the necessity for such .legislation has already arisen in Australia. The loss of the Niagara off the coast of New Zealand was the first maritime misfortune in this Avar in which Australian seamen were directly affected. Happily, no lives were lost, but the men lost their effects, and, accordingly, claims were lodged on their behalf. I take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the members of the maritime unions for the prompt action taken by the Minister for Commerce to meet that situation. When he was approached, he readily agreed to meet the situation by the issue of regulations, in the absence of specific legislation to cover such an emergency. As I have said, it is desirable that the bill bc passed before the Parliament is dissolved, but its passing should be conditional on amendments being introduced early in the life of the new Parliament should experience prove that they are necessary for the smooth working of the net.
– In the meantime the hill should go through.
– Almost simultaneously with the declaration of war, the British Parliament made provision for merchant seamen who would be affected by the war. It rightly considered that the part which merchant seamen would play in the struggle would be equal to that of any other section. No effort on our part can adequately compensate men who go down to the sea in ships for the risks that they run and the sacrifices that they make in the service of their country. Some of us hoped that similar steps would have been taken in Australia long before this. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said, representations were made to the Government in this connexion immediately following the declaration of war. I had the privilege of introducing a deputation to the late Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) on this subject. The Minister for Commerce to-day expressed his appreciation of the assistance given to him in the preparation of this measure; but, apparently, the pressure of other urgent business has prevented its earlier introduction.
I am not satisfied with that part of the bill which deals with the rates of pay for the various classes of maritime workers. It is important that we should know what is meant by the term “ rate of pay “. In the committee stage I propose to move that the rate of pay should be determined according to the conditions laid down in various awards covering these classes of employment. It is customary for shipowners to deduct one-sixth of the basic wage of seamen for what is known as their keep. At present that represents about £33 10s. per annum, or ls. lOd. a day. The bill should provide that the rate of pay shall be the basic rate determined by the Court for the particular class of employment. It should be made clear that the deduction in respect of keep is taken into consideration. The position might be met by inserting the following additional definition - “ Daily rate of pay means the rate prescribed in the agreement or award plus the amount deducted for keep “. In determining these matters, it should be remembered that the seaman will no longer he engaged in his ordinary occupation as a member of a crew, and, therefore, it would not be right to make any deduction from his rate of pay in respect of concessions granted to him only when he is on the ship. The position of these men is analogous to that of railway men who are granted concessions by way of holiday passes. The value of those passes is assessed, and the amount is taken into consideration by the court when fixing the rates of pay. It would appear that in framing the’ bill this point hae unwittingly been overlooked.
– Did not Mr. Tudehope have that in mind?
– He raised the point, which I hope the Minister will consider. It was hoped that an opportunity would have been found for consultation with officers of the department before the bill was introduced, but probably there are good reasons why that was not done.
– There was no opportunity to consult with them. I completely exonerate the officers of the department. Nor do I want it to be thought that one member of a trade union whom I consulted consented to the bill.
– The bill makes provision to meet disabilities suffered by seamen, such as loss of their effects. Such provision is calculated on a basic decision which, if not what we think it ought to be, must affect the scale of compensation. I trust that this matter will not he overlooked.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to various matters which are concerned principally with administration. As representatives of the men concerned will be appointed to these committees, it is hoped that these difficulties will be straightened out in due course. I understand that the duties of the Deputy Commissioners of .Repatriation will be principally to deal with appeals in regard to claims after they have been sorted out by the committees.
I have discussed another matter with the officers of the department, and I desire to record my views regarding it, because I am afraid that the decision reached will not operate so satisfactorily as seems to be imagined. I refer to the seventh schedule, which relates to the loss of effects. The maximum amount of £20 is provided to cover the loss of effects of all ratings other than those particularly specified. Whilst it is true that, under this classification, some seamen may obtain an advantage, as compared with those employed under the system adopted by the Government of the United Kingdom, others will not be so justly treated. Those holding executive positions in the galleys of ships are called upon to carry a more valuable collection of personal effects than others. Men who have to deal with the public on passenger and cargo vessels, such as chefs, chief bakers, butchers, and other high ratings on the galley staffs, also chief stewards on cargo vessels, and second stewards and other executive officers on passenger vessels, are not provided for in the seventh schedule. Owing to lack of provision for some of the above ratings under the British scheme, it has been necessary, in the case of the Niagara payments, to communicate with London for a ruling as to what amount should be paid, a3 some of the persons mentioned have a considerable quantity of effects, and this has resulted in the holding up of the final adjustment of the matter.
– It is only fair to say that they were working under British articles.
– I am stressing the importance of specifying the value of the personal effects of the different ratings.
– We cannot give a ruling on the British system ; that is a matter for the Government of the United Kingdom.
– I agree with the Minister; but we could have dealt with the matter had the British system provided for proper classifications. I think that the classifications ought to be enumerated to a far greater degree than they are in this schedule, particularly in regard to the galley staffs. I shall be prepared to assist in the passage of the measure, with the proviso that, whatever government takes its place on the treasury bench after the elections, it will give to the Parliament an opportunity to review this legislation and make any amendments that may be found necessary.
.- For a considerable period, requests have been made by various honorable members for legislation on the lines of this bill. Some of the finest mariners in the world are to be found among Australians, and, like the silent Navy, these men are doing a job the importance of which is little known to the Australian public. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has referred to their rates of pay. I thought that that matter had already been amply dealt with; hut, in view of the honorable member’s statement, I have no doubt that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) will clarify the position. This measure is opportune, and I am glad to know that the pensions scheme will be under the control of the Repatriation Commission, because I am confident that it will be capably administered. I heartily support the bill, and I congratulate the Government upon its introduction.
– I suppose that this measure has been prepared by departmental officers with the assistance of representatives of the seamen. It has been submitted to members of the Opposition, but members supporting the Government were given no opportunity to peruse it, nor were they advised that it would be brought forward. One notices that there is an unusual degree of harmony between the Minister and the Opposition with regard to this measure. This agreement is seldom found, unless the Government is proposing that the Parliament shall vote away public money.
– -The merchantmen are giving their lives in this war.
– I do not stress the small personal matter that honorable members on this side of the chamber have been overlooked with regard to this bill. My point is that the Parliament is asked to vote pensions which may involve the expenditure of millions of pounds.
– This bill applies only to the merchant service.
– Like the soldiers’ pensions, these pensions will probably have to be paid for a generation or two.
– The claims of seamen must be considered, as well as those of soldiers.
– There is a sudden realization of a duty to consider the claims of seamen. The bill has been introduced in the last hours of an expiring Parliament, without any examination, except from the point of view of the seamen. There is another side to the matter. The measure should be scrutinized closely, in order that the interests of the people may be conserved. 1. see no reason why the bill should not bo held over, even for two months, until a new Parliament has been elected. We should not vote for a measure involving expenditure which may prove to be extremely heavy. I do not feel disposed to cast merely an obedient party vote, although I realize that some provision should be made for the men in the merchant service.
.- I have no desire to delay the passage of this measure, but I think that honorable members would be interested to hear the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) explain just how pension allowances payable under this bill compare with those provided under the Repatriation Act. This measure is a complicated one, and not only have we been called upon to pass it this afternoon, but also the Minister read his second-reading speech at a rate which made it difficult for honorable members to follow. The scale of pension allowances is a very important aspect of the measure, and I should like to hear the Minister tell us how the basis of these payments compare with corresponding provisions of the Repatriation Act.
– in reply - As I explained in moving the second reading, pensions payable under this measure are on the same basis as pensions payable under the Repatriation Act. Furthermore, should a seaman be blinded or similarly disabled, the allowances for attendants under this bill are the same as those provided in the Repatriation Act. For all practical purposes, so far as pensions are concerned, this bill is actually a copy of the Australian Repatriation Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– Paragraph a of sub-clause 1 states -
I should like to know whether or not there are any Australian seamen who will not be covered by either the British act or this legislation. This bill applies only to seamen on ships registered in Australia, but, in some cases, seamen are picked up in Australia to make up crews of ships registered in Britain. Will these Australian seamen he covered by the British act or by the Australian act?
Ma-. Archie Cameron. - They will be covered by the British act, and they will be working under British articles. Similarly, should an Australian enlist for military service in a British regiment, he becomes eligible for a British pension.
SirCharlesMarr. - What will be the position of seamen working on ships trading among the Pacific Islands?
– They would be on a British register.
– I take it then that the Minister does not know of any seamen who will not be covered by either one act or the other?
– No, I do not.
– After the words “ rate of pay per fortnight means fourteen times the rate of pay per day ; “ I should like to see the following words inserted : “ The daily rate of pay in each case mentioned in this clause shall include the amount deducted from the total wage for keep”. Without unduly stressing this matter, the point I wish to make is that the rate of pay referred to should be the total rate of pay without any deductions, namely, the figure determined by the court for the class of work done. As I have already explained, one-sixth is deducted from the rate of pay for keep because the employment is of such a character that keep is involved. Once the men go off their jobs, the question of keep does not arise. The Merchant Service Guild award covering this section of the industry deals with this subject in respect of claims for compensation, which is determined in accordance with the wage paid for the class of work performed. In that case, the law provides that deductions should not be imposed in the way it is proposed to impose them under this legislation. There we have the precedent and the example. The Merchant Service Guild award acknowledges that deductions should not apply in the case of compensation claims arising from ill effects suffered during employment. I ask the Minister if he will be good enough to give consideration to my representations. The acceptance of the alteration which I have suggested would not materially alter the situation.
.- We have not had an opportunity to examine the bill thoroughly, and I should like to know whether or not it means that Australian seamen who are carrying out their duties in the comparative security of purely Australian waters will be treated substantially the same as naval ratings and soldiers who go abroad and run war risks.
– If Australian seamen serving on ships in Australian waters are subject to the enemy action provided for in this bill, they will be so treated, but the provisions of this measure do not become operative until a ship is subject to enemy action. It does not matter whether the action takes place in the Tasman Sea or in the North Sea; should a ship be sunk or damaged, and seamen are left without anything, or are injured, they will come within the provisions of this bill.
I hope that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) will not press the alteration which he has suggested. I shall go into the question during the recess, but I am not prepared at this stage to enter into arguments upon it. So far as rates of pay are concerned, in theRepatriation Act allowances for keep are not taken into consideration in fixing a pension. This bill is on a similar footing. I should like to have this measure agreed to as soon as possible.
– I desire to do the best I can for these men and I do not want to delay the passage of the measure. I should be obliged if the Minister would give an assurance that an opportunity will be given to re-introduce this matter when the new Parliament assembles.
– I am prepared to give an undertaking that, if I am still Minister for Commerce after the 1st September, I shall meet the honorable gentleman and any one else whom he wishes to bring along, in Sydney, in order to discuss this matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 59 agreed to.
Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 3.51 to 5.12 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Valedictory - Wool Appraisement - National Insurance: Payment to Approved Societies - Aircraft Construction Training - Proposed Camel Corps for the Kimberleys - Apples and Peaks.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The motion just carried, fixing the day of the next sitting as Wednesday next, is, of course, formal, because in the interim it is proposed that the House shall be dissolved, and, as honorable members know, I have already announced that there will be an election. That means that thi3 is the last occasion on which this particular Parliament will meet: when we, or those of us who are still here, meet after the election, it will be for a new Parliament. Consequently, I want to say a few words by way of farewell to this Parliament and to express a few ideas that I think I should express at this time.
In the first place, I want, on behalf of honorable members generally, to tender to you, Mr.Speaker, our very great appreciation of your services in the chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– It is, I think, the unanimous feeling of the House that you have presided over the deliberations of this chamber with great dignity and very great success. We have all had satisfaction from noticing that the indifferent health from which you suffered for some time appears now to have given way to more robust health. You have the very warm personal wishes of every member of this House, irrespective of the political party to which he belongs.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I also express appreciation of the work of the Chairman of Committees and of the Temporary Chairmen.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I think that 1 may say that this Parliament has not been very noisy or disorderly, but has shown a real disposition to get on with the work that has been presented to it from time to time; but all honorable members with experience of parliamentary affairs know that competent and impartial work in the Chair has a very great effect indeed on the deliberations of Parliament. Presiding over Parliament, whether in the House or in committee, is not a formality - a mere matter of sitting in theChair and waiting for the debate to go on. It calls for personality and knowledge, and I compliment those who have presided over us on the possession of those, qualities.
I also want to acknowledge the work of the officers of the House - the Clerk, and his assistants, the Hansard reporters, the staff of the Library, the attendants who have looked after us, and the Refreshment Room staff. Everybody, I think, has done his work with ability and consideration. I make no invidious distinctions, but I offer my personal thanks to the Clerk of the House. I have found him - and I know that my experience has not been unique - a mine of information and helpfulness. I am quite sure that my own task, which at times has been heavy enough, would have been still heavier but for his great consideration and his very great knowledge of the forms and procedure of the House.
I must also say a word for the Parliamentary Draftsmen, who work behind the scenes under very great pressure. I confess that I have never yet belonged to a Government that has not misused its Parliamentary Draftsmen shamefully by ashing them to do things suddenly, and, at short notice, to produce bills which subsequently may have to stand a good deal of careful scrutiny. We have reason to bc thankful that those who attend to the drafting work of this Parliament so assiduously have such skill and capacity for working under great pressure.
I also want to offer my personal good wishes - I cannot offer my political good wishes - to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the Leader of the Australian Labour parity - nonCommunist (Mr. Beasley). Again, without making invidious distinctions, I want to pay a special tribute to the Leader of the Opposition.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– In many ways this has been an unhappy Parliament; it has had unhappy experiences. When one looks back over the last three years, and realizes how many distinguished members of this House have been taken from us suddenly; and when one adds to that the fact that this Parliament, elected in a time of peace and full of ambition as to what it might do socially and industrially for the people of Australia, found ^ itself, a year ago, compelled to grapple with the problems of war, one can hardly look back on this Parliament with feelings of unmixed pleasure. Not very long ago, I found myself leading this House and this Parliament under very tragic circumstances. Had I been faced across the table by a man who desired to take small points and to make my part a thorny one - to make my obvious difficulties greater - I should have had a much less pleasant time than I have had as the Leader of this House.
He and I will shortly be fighting each other strenuously and honourably, I have no doubt, before the electors. In the course of the campaign, both we and our followers will strike hard blows. I do not doubt that we shall strike them honestly and fairly, but I have never believed that the most strenuous political opposition is inconsistent with the warmest personal friendship. Indeed, the difficulties that
I have had to confront during my sixteen months of office have been very much reduced by the fact that those who have been opposed to me politically have almost invariably been my friends in private, and have always extended to me the greatest personal consideration. The Leader of the Opposition has, I think, set a high standard in that office. Should it be my political, misfortune ever to occupy that post, and in particular after the next elections, I should hope to discharge it with the same dignity and fairness as the honorable gentleman has exhibited.
I wish to say to honorable members generally, and to say it quite sincerely, that the good fellowship of this House, notwithstanding all those difficulties and some of the tragedies to which I have referred, has been a good and honest atmosphere. I express my appreciation to every honorable member for his contribution to that very important fact. In the ordinary course of nature, the coming elections may bring about changes. Some of us who are here to-day may not be here after the elections, but I feel quite sure that we shall be able to look back on this Parliament with at least the feeling that we have done our best, that we have carried on our controversies with honour and self-respect, and that we have no regrets whatever as to. the contribution which each of us has been able to make to the welfare of the country, during the term for which this Parliament has lasted.
One word more with reference to those necessary and popular members, the Whips. I see the Whip of my own party present. Although the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) is a member of my party he is the friend of everybody.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I take this opportunity to acknowledge the unswerving loyalty that he has always accorded to me as leader of the party and the Government which he has supported. That remark is also true of the popular member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), the Whip of the Country party. I am sorry he is not here at the moment, but wherever he is I have no doubt that he is at least bringing a genial note into the lives of those with whom he is associated.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has rendered much parliamentary service to his party and to this House in his capacity as Opposition Whip. In the course of the last few years I have had a good deal of contact with him, although not so much as some honorable members, because other duties have absorbed my attention. I say of him, with the greatest goodwill, that he has set a standard of straight dealing of which any man might be proud.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– As the Leader of the House, I express my appreciation of his services. A similar observation is applicable to my good friend, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander). I hate to repeat that description of him, because he said once that it would lose him a couple of thousand votes. The honorable member has been Whip of the Opposition for a long time, and he is, I suppose, as popular a member as ever sat in this chamber. He is the soul of honour, fair play and good nature, with the rare distinction, I think, of never having made a malicious remark in this House.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Whatever the political maelstrom may have in store for any or all of us, 1 offer to every .member my goodwill and best personal wishes.
– To you, Mr. Speaker, it is not a new thing for me to express on behalf of the Opposition how much we appreciate the high standard that you have set in your office, your unfailing consideration for members, your impartiality in the chair, and the dignity with which you have discharged your high office. To what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said, I can add but little. In this House we have seen the best traditions of the British parliamentary system indicated. I thank you very much. I am sure that you would say that the members of the House, in their best moments, have been most eager to enable you to do your work easily, whilst, in their worst moments, they have been ever obedient to your call, provided they heard it in time. The Chairman of Committees, too, has won our affection. The ability of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to get bills through the committee stage expeditiously has at times filled us with amazement. We have heard him ask, “ Is it your pleasure?”, and often we have replied, “ Yes “. Occasionally he has given us a chance to say that it was not our pleasure. When that occurred, he was ever ready to hear what was the cause of our unwillingness to be pleased. I hope that you, sir, and also the Chairman of Committees, will have good health during the election campaign. Whatever the result of the contest may be, it must be a matter of great satisfaction to each of you to know that, throughout this Parliament, you have held the esteem of every honorable member. In the years to come all of us will look back upon this Parliament, and remember each of you with a. great deal of pleasure.
What the Prime Minister has said about the officers of the House is more than well deserved. The Clerk and the Clerk Assistant have been ever ready to assist honorable members in dealing with matters coming before the House, and have proved themselves to be indispensable. The ability with which they have impartially assisted every honorable member has enabled us to carry out smoothly work which would otherwise be extraordinarily difficult. I thank them on behalf of the Opposition. All I can say about the Parliamentary Draftsmen is that, after the 21st September, their work will he conducted with less difficulty than has hitherto been the case. They will then have a chance to go about their work in a way that will be more satisfying to themselves. We have no fault to find with what the draftsmen do with a bill; our objection is to the substance of the bills that have been brought down. The work of the draftsmen is necessarily done under pressure, and I am quite certain that the Prime Minister’s observations regarding them are well deserved; but concerning that I shall be able to give a more complete certificate at the end of the next Parliament.
To honorable members generally I offer my personal good wishes. It has been a. very great pleasure to associate with them, to have our struggles here, and to know that throughout it all the goodwill that exists between us is really fundamental. It is begotten of a realism that we all have our work to do as servants of the people. In that respect, there is not a man here who does not count equally with Mr. Speaker, or with any other member of the chamber. We all experience a sense of sorrow when any member, whether an opponent or a supporter, is passing through a time of difficulty, due to ill health, or any other reason. Such a one is assured of the deep sympathy of every other member of Parliament. I have felt that, in many ways, this Parliament has been dogged by misfortune, culminating in the tragic death of three members in the recent air disaster. That fact adds a particular note of regret to our review of the history of the Parliament.
Throughout it all we have felt a great personal sympathy with the head of the Government, because he is the head of the Government. Whatever be the political orientation of an administration, ordered government is not only traditional among us, but is also the very foundation of our liberties. Whatever government is in power should be given the respect and support of the people of Australia, even though they may not agree with its policy. The head of any government has the right to expect not only from his supporters, but from his opponents also, a dignified presentation of their case, and a reasonable expression of their criticism. I feel that the Prime Minister, as head of the Government during the war, is entitled to special respect and support, and I have attempted, without abating my opinions, or those of my party, to ensure that he was not unnecessarily hampered in the execution of his duties, or subjected to unnecessary or discordant criticism, thus adding to his difficulties, which are already heavy enough. If that be a political offence, I plead guilty to it, but I believe it to be the wish of every decent man and woman in this country. I have greatly valued the association that has developed between us. It is an association of men who feel, I believe, a common obligation to those who sent us here, and have a resolve to do our job properly while we are here.
For myself, I feel as did the poet when he said -
I would live long enough to know
The worth and valour of my foe;
But never long enough to say,
One was my friend but yesterday.
We express our thanks to the members of theHansard staff, and to all the other officers attached to Parliament, including typists, messengers, attendants, refreshmentroom staff, &c, who, together, make the work of honorable members less difficult than it would otherwise be.
– I most sincerely thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for their kind remarks. On this occasion. I expect the Chairman of Committees personally to express his appreciation. I, however, am responsible for the appointment of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees, and I am pleased that their work has been appreciated. I thank them sincerely for the assistance that they have given me. Especially do I thank the Chairman of Committees for his willingness at all times to assist me when necessary in the chair. Of course, I do not see a great deal of his work, or that of the Temporary Chairmen, because I am not in the chamber when the House is in committee, but I have seen enough of it to know that their work has been good. Honorable members have expressed their appreciation of it, and, therefore, I am doubly pleased.
I personally thank the officers of the House, as well as thanking honorable members on their behalf, for the expressions of appreciation that have been made. Honorable gentlemen who have spoken have not overstated the abilities of the officers, or their readiness to do their job conscientiously and thoroughly in all circumstances. I particularly thank the Clerk of the House for the great help he has given to me. I could not have done the job but for his knowledge of the Standing Orders and the procedure of the House. He has been at all times willing to assist me in the little things, also, and it is in the little things that we usually make mistakes - the bigger ones look after themselves. Apart from his ability as an officer, he has shown great courage, because be has not had good health recently. We all trust that his health will be restored.
The Principal Parliamentary Reporter has done his work well. I know that he is tremendously jealous of the standard of Mansard, and is always trying to raise it. He and his reporters have done a wonderful job, and have given complete satisfaction.
Other officers attached to Parliament have also performed their duties faithfully and well, as I am in a position to know, perhaps better than any one else. The Parliamentary Librarian is most earnest in his endeavours to make of the Library an institution that is appreciated by every one. The Assistant Clerk of the Senate, although not an officer of this chamber, is secretary of the Joint House Committee, which has important duties to perform on behalf of Parliament, and those duties have been discharged most satisfactorily.
On my own behalf, I do sincerely thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for their kind remarks regarding myself. The Prime Minister and other members of the Government have always shown extraordinary courtesy to me. I also thank the Leader of the Opposition for the great help he has at all times rendered to me. It is not merely his words to-day that have shown his appreciation of what I have been able to do, but his demeanour at all times has expressed kindliness and willingness to assist. I want him to realize that I appreciate it. I offer my sincere thanks to all honorable members for the help they have given to me. I have tried to realize their desires and, at the same time, do my duty, which I could not do very well without that realization. In that matter honorable members have been extremely helpful to me. I have always been on the most friendly terms with them outside of the House. There is something wanting in any man, whether he be a presiding officer of the Parliament, a schoolmaster or an officer of the army, if he cannot be friendly with those who are subject to his control and yet continue to do his job faithfully. I am glad to have had the friendship of honorable members of this Parliament. I shall not preside again over this chamber but I shall look back with feelings of great pleasure and extreme gratitude at my associations with honorable members.
– I take very great pleasure in expressing my appreciation of the remarks made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). In recent years when acting in the office of Chairman of Committees I have found it advisable not to adhere too precisely to the rules laid down by the Standing Orders. I have come closer to honorable members by bringing about a feeling of mutual understanding. When I first took office I was, perhaps, a little too strict, but I have found that my duties can be carried out without loss of efficiency with the exercise of a little forbearance.
– Hear, hear !
– I hope that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) does not think that, because of these remarks, he is likely to escape without rebuke should he transgress against the Standing Orders on a future occasion. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the remarks you have made and for the help you have given to me. The Clerk and the Assistant Clerk of the House have my gratitude for their services to me. They have imparted their knowledge to me so unobtrusively that observers would be led to believe that I exercised my authority wisely because of my own knowledge rather than because of their advice. That reflects great credit on them. I also thank the Temporary Chairmen of Committees. They have assisted me unselfishly and have never been unwilling to relieve me of my duties when occasion demanded. All other officers of the House have been unstinted in their help.
– Perhaps I should apologize to honorable members for speaking at this stage on a subject which is not related to the last preceding speeches. But, although this is a most important occasion to all of us and leads us to entertain pleasurable thoughts, we must remember that we still represent the interests of the people and, ‘ in cases where their wishes have not been satisfied, this House must give its attention to their needs. I mention a matter which is of considerable importance to residents of my electorate. I should not have found it necessary to discuss it but for the fact that a series of unfortunate accidents has prevented a deputation from waiting on the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) to urge the establishment of a wool appraisement centre at Portland. When the subject of wool appraisement was debated in this House some time ago, I and other honorable members advocated that certain places be included in the list of wool appraisement centres. In support of my representations a deputation was convened and arranged to meet the Minister for Commerce last Monday. An unfortunate accident prevented the Minister from receiving the deputation, but he agreed to meet it in Melbourne to-morrow. He has now informed me that, owing to pressure of work, he will be unable to fulfil that engagement. The honorable gentleman has in his possession the details of the proposals which were to have been made by the deputation. Therefore I shall simply appeal to him to nominate Portland as a wool appraisement centre. It is a just appeal, because other towns which are not so deserving as Portland have been made appraisement centres. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the proposal.
I offer my good wishes to all honorable members of this House; I wish them many happy returns.
– I wish to raise a matter of importance without striking a discordant note at this time of harmony. Honorable members will recall that during the discussion of the proposed national insurance scheme, a number of friendly societies incurred what they regarded as legitimate expenditure in preparation for the scheme, believing that it would provide future income for them which would balance their outlay. I have here a telegram from seven large societies representing 120,000 members asking me to endeavour to obtain a statement from the appropriate Minister that the Government will honour its promise to reimburse them for the expenditure they incurred in providing facilities for the national insurance scheme. They allege that the Government has not kept faith with them. Therefore they wish to secure a guarantee, before Parliament is dissolved, that the next government in office, whatever its political creed, will be responsible for refunding to the societies that money which is still due to them. The telegram states that the societies are “strongly perturbed at the Government’s failure to fully reimburse societies for amounts legitimately expended on preparations for national insurance “. I have not investigated their claims, but I feel that it is my duty to accede to their request for my assistance.
– I hope that I shall not trespass on the spirit of goodwill which has been created by the speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and enhancedby your own remarks, Mr. Speaker, and those of the Chairman of Committees. I find it necessary, however, before the session closes to question the policy of the Department of Air in relation to the training of men for aircraft construction. In view of the imminence of the closing of this Parliament I will deal only with the salient points as briefly as possible. Information that has been supplied to me to-day suggests that the department is encouraging students of aircraft construction to attend private schools for training when government schools are available to serve their needs. Facilities are available at technical schools in Melbourne for the proper training of men in oxywelding, which plays an important part in aircraft construction, but I am informed that officers of the department are advising trainees to attend private schools. These private schools charge approximately £20 for a course of instruction in oxywelding, whereas equally good training can be obtained in technical schools for approximately £2 5s. It is remarkable that this should be permitted. A school called the Aircraft Trade School of Instruction was formed in Melbourne recently, with head-quarters at 479 Flinders-lane. It claims, according to a circular or prospectus, a copy of which I have in my hand, to be “ a college of practical training in metal aircraft construction in all its branches “. It reads -
I thought it only fair to let you know of the above school which has just started, and as they really want men urgently and there are wonderful prospects ahead for young fellows who will start training now for a few weeks, I thought in a few weeks you could hold down a job of £6 4s. 8d. ; this is something unusual and I’m not fooling. These people are in earnest and must get the men who are trained and they pay well for it. Flight-Lieutenant Brown of the Air Board has inspected the school and the instruction, and he will be sending all his trainees needing welding instruction to us, starting in two or three weeks’ time, when he is ready - this speaks well for the high standard of instruction.
The work is clean and not messy, and offers quick promotion into inspectorships as there are not any men trained for the special work now offering in the factory. The. fees are nominal and it is worth your while to try your best to get started now, the first in get the best jobs. There are classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights at present. Come in and I’ll show you over the school and explain a lot more I cannot send in a letter to you at present.
One lad was only two weeks training and has been put on the welding at the factory this week at £6 4s. 8d. per week; of course, he will continue to finish his course, but it shows how hard it is to get the trained men.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) P. L. Holmes.
PS. Tell your friends who may be suitable and send them along.
I do not know the merits of the claims in this circular or whether the school had authority from the department or from Flight-Lieutenant Brown to use the name of the Air Board; but this should be inquired into by the Minister. While we have technical schools ready to train men at reasonable fees it is unfair that the influence of officers of the Air Board should be used in the direction of supporting a private school at which the fees are exorbitant. I shall if necessary supply the Minister with further details, but what I have said warrants immediate inquiry. There are technical schools at Footscray in my electorate, Sunshine and Caulfield as well as in Melbourne itself; and if inquiry proves what I have said to be correct, the Minister should take immediate steps to ensure that those schools are fully occupied and that the patronage of his department is not given to private schools where the fees are out of all reason, while vacancies exist in Government technical schools for proper training at reasonable fees.
– I have listened with interest to the honorable member’s remarks and I hasten to assure him that the matter raised will he expeditiously inquired into and adjusted on the basis of the facts.
.- At the gateway to Australia there is a great area of fertile country running north from Broome in the Kimberleys and watered by the Victoria, Margaret and Fitzroy rivers. It is an area which is greater in size than Victoria and I believe that it could be occupied by a foreign force by infiltration. There is a very small white population there. Omitting the white population in the towns of Wyndham and Broome, the white population of the area would possibly not exceed 100 people.
– More than that.
– Not if we leave out of calculation Broome and Wyndham.
– The figures are not so good, but they are not so bad as the honorable member says.
– At least there is a small number of white people there. As we know, there are operating in the northwestern waters a great number of sampans and luggers manned by naval reservists belonging to a foreign power with whom our relations fortunately appear to be, at the moment, on a good footing. There is a possibility that the occupants of these craft could occupy that country by infiltration, and it would take a very large force to drive them out. They would be in a position to drive inland from Wave Hill to cut the north-south road from Darwin and it would be almost impossible to put them out, except by sending an expedition by sea. Some people think that they could not maintain themselves in that area, but it is well watered and some day, if we expend the money to conserve the water, it will be one of the most productive areas of Australia. The latest figures procurable are ten years old, but they show that there were then 500,000 head of cattle, 233,000 head of sheep, 6,000 head of horses, 1,200 mules, and 500 or 600 camels in the area. The Wyndham Meat Works treated 38,000 head of cattle a few years back, and in the previous ten years the average was 31,000 head, and 11,000 or 12,000 head were exported on the hoof to Perth and Singapore. So honorable members can realize the great potentialities of that area. In it there are many valuable ores, for instance the great iron ore deposit of Yampi Sound. There is also good timber available. That area is sufficiently valuable for us to take steps to guard it. At present we are dependent on very irregular patrols by the Air Force. I believe that with the bushmen we have in Australia we could do as has been done in Egypt and other places - establish a small camel force to police the locality so that we could have ample warning of any attempt at occupation. There are many bushmen willing to undertake the work, particularly a Mr. Mills, who has lived in the district for many years and knows its value. It is the duty of the Government to see that this gateway is not left open as a standing invitation to a foreign country to occupy it.
– In reply to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who spoke on behalf of certain friendly societies, I, as one who shares with those societies disappointment that the national insurance legislation has not been completely implemented, was prepared to be not only fair but also generous in the treatment of friendly societies which undertook certain work in connexion with national insurance. In pursuance of that policy of generosity, we have already paid to every society a maximum of 6s. a member. The original arrangement was that the societies should receive1s. a member for each member enrolled by them and then 5s. per annum for each member for administering the legislation. As the national insurance legislation was not proceeded with, a great deal of the work which, ordinarily, would have been undertaken by friendly societies had not to be performed, but the Government has paid the societies the full annual payment of 5s. a member. In view of such generous treatment, I cannot give the assurance asked for by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in respect of those societies which have expended money in excess of 6s. a member.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) concerning the urgent necessity to afford some protection to the northwestern portion of this continent by establishing a camel corps, and I regret that a more suitable opportunity has not been afforded to discuss this important subject. It is unfortunate that the important representations made by Mr. Mills to the late Minister for the Army (Mr. Street), the late Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) and the late Sir Brudenell White have not come to fruition in consequence of the tragic accident which removed those two Ministers and an important military officer from our midst. I am pleased, however, that we still have the “little Digger “, from whom a favorable reply has been received. Mr. Mills, who is at present in the chamber and is a pastoralist near Mudgee, has an intimate knowledge of the Kimberley district. He is well and favorably known, and as a contribution to the war effort has suggested the establishment of a camel corps which would be of great assistance in patrolling that large tract of territory. The honorable member for Bendigo, having dealt with the subject from a strategic point of view, makes it somewhat difficult for me to follow him ; but we must ask ourselves a few questions concerning the conditions in that part of Australia. Time does not permit me to deal with the geography of a territory so little known, only partially explored, and never properly mapped. I have visited the eastern end in the region of Hall’s Creek, and the portion which adjoins the Northern Territory, and I have also approached it from the Western Australian end, but only as far as Meekatharra. What is being done to defend the north and north-western portion of this continent? We might ask if we are defending it, or if it is defending us. The late Lord Kitchener expressed a similar opinion when visiting a regiment stationed on the Suez Canal. He said, “Are you defending this canal, or is it defending you ? Go away from the canal to defend it, and do not imagine that you are defending it by staying here “. In a spirit of political complacency we are burying our heads in the sand and leaving the north-west to defend itself. We are replying upon its remoteness for security. I was glad to learn that the honorable member for Bendigo differentiated between invasion and infiltration. I fear not invasion, but infiltration. A camel corps would cost only £8,000 to establish and the cost of maintenance would not exceed £5,000 annually. Such cost would include everything down to the last hobble chain, quartpot and pack-saddle. Mr. Mills, who has carried out numerous expeditions, is able to provide not only the necessary camels, horses, and mules, but also the men whose services would be required. Recently, I read a book entitled Defence of Australia, in which it was stated that, whilst Australia is the most difficult continent to invade, it is the most vulnerable in the matter of communications. There are cogent reasons why the Government should concentrate upon the effective control and defence of the north-west of Australia, particularly when we realize that the influence of the Axis powers may extend, and we may even have more enemies than we have to-day. Greater attention will have to be given to that vast tract of territory west of the overland telegraph line. If a camel corps be not established valuable territory may be thrown to the wolves. Even Henderson Naval Base in Western Australia was not proceeded with, and, consequently, that State is inadequately defended. I again urge the necessity for the formation of a camel corps to patrol the north-west, particularly before the wet season sets in. Aeroplanes are available to transport the nucleus of the patrol, which should be sent there while conditions are favorable. I appeal to the Government to give this matter its earnest consideration at the next Cabinet meeting, so that the people of Australia will be able to realize that the Government is alive to the seriousness of the situation, and proposes to do all in its power to prevent infiltration, which is, as I have said, a greater menace than invasion. In view of the fact that it is difficult to locate the presence of persons who have no right to be in that territory, I urge the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to give favorable consideration to the establishment of a camel corps, particularly as the cost involved is so small.
.- I urge the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) to make in the near future the promised payment of ls. a case on apples and pears. Two-thirds of the total quantity of the fruit, grown in Australia is produced in my electorate. The fruitgrowers of those districts appreciate what the Minister has done, and are mindful of the good effect of the operations of the Apple and Pear Acquisition Board, which they have done all in their power to assist. The cultivation of the orchards, the pruning and the spraying involve the growers in considerable expense. Most of their fruit has already been marketed or placed in cool stores. I am not finding fault with the work that the Minister has always fearlessly done. I feel sure that the Government has given whatever assistance it could to the industry. But the position for the next twelve months is likely to be precarious, and an appeal will have to be made to whatever governs ment is in power to grant further assistance. We must not let the industry die out. It is unlike the wheat industry, which sells its crop every year. If orchards are neglected for twelve months, they are unproductive for seven or eight years. I trust that the Minister will take early action in the matter.
– I assure the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) that the payment to which he has referred will not be withheld for a day longer than is necessary. The matter has been looked into, and I hope to make a pronouncement in the near future.
The points raised by the honorable members for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) concern the Minister for the Army (Senator McBride), for whom I am unable to speak, but I promise that their representations will be brought to his notice.
My failure to meet a deputation tomorrow, to which the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) has re- ferred, is, from my point of view, rather serious. I completely exonerate the honorable member from any responsibility. When I made the first arrangement to meet this deputation last Monday, I did not expect that this House would be sitting during this week. Having consulted the calendar, the Aspro Year Book, and a few other authorities, I had the suspicion that I should have been free this week to meet the deputation. Nor did
I realize, when I made the second arrangement, that I would have been pledged to attend a meeting of the full Cabinet in Canberra to-morrow. I have done my best in the circumstances, and in consequence the electors of the honorable member will be met to-morrow by Mr. Yeo, a member of the Wool Board, and a highly placed officer of my department, Mr. Smallhorn. The case of the deputation will be heard, and their representations will be placed before me. If there is anything further that I can do to put the matter right for the honorable member, it will be gladly done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Seventeenth Annual Report, for year 1939-40.
Ordered to be printed -
Nauru - Ordinances of 1940 -
No. 1 - Appropriation (Supplementary) 1939.
No. 2 - Nauruan Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation ( Supplementary ) 1939.
No. 3 - Appropriation 1940.
No. 4 - Nauruan Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation 1940.
Air Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos. 155, 162.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended -Statutorv Rules 1940, No. 143.
Immigration Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 144.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 138.
National Security Act - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos. 161, 164.
Papua Act - Ordinance of 1940 - No. 4 - Customs (Export) Tariff.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Grosvenor Park, South Australia.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations- Order - Use of land.
Papua Act -
Infirm and Destitute Natives’ Account -
Statement of Transactions of Trustees for year 1939-40.
Ordinance of 1940 - No. 3 - Supply, 1940-1941.
House adjourned at 6.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
h asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.Spender. - The Minister for Trade andCustoms has supplied the following answers : -
e asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Tariff Board has not yet made its report on the tobacco industry.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice–
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 8th August the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked a series of questions relative to the contemplated production of an afternoon paper in Melbourne by the proprietors of the Radio Times.
I have referred this matter to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has supplied the following information : -
The Minister informs me that there is nothing unusual in the correspondence between the Government and the management of the Radio Times, and he can see no reason for making that correspondence available to honorable members. It can doubtless readily be obtained from the proprietors of Radio Times by the honorable member
Australian Imperial Force : Service in Australia - Rates of Pat fob Home . Service.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked the following question, without notice: -
In view of the fact that a large number of men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for overseas service have been sent to defence bases in north Australia, possibly for the duration of the war, can the Prime Minister state whether they will be classified as returned soldiers in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and any other acts giving preference to returned soldiers?
I desire to inform the honorable member that the whole question of preference in Commonwealth employment, so far as service in the present war is concerned, has been engaging the attention of the Government, but that finality in the matter has not yet been reached. The phase mentioned by the honorable member will be borne in mind.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will the members of the Australian Imperial Force who may be sent to the north of Australia, or to the islands under Australian control, receive the same rate of pay as the members who have been sent overseas?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
Members of the Australian Imperial Force sent to the north of Australia or to the islands under Commonwealth control will be paid preembarkation Australian Imperial Force rates of pay. Deferred pay and exchange allowance are not payable, as these payments are only for those members of the forces who have embarked for service outside the Commonwealth of Australia.
Sale of Military Uniforms.
s. - On the8th August the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked the following question, without notice : -
Will the Minister for Defence Co-ordination state whether it is a fact that the draft regulations for the discontinuance of the sale of air, naval and military uniforms to other than authorized persons have been in his hands for twomonths, and that nothing has been done in the matter? Can the Minister indicate the reason for the delay?
I am now in aposition to inform the honorable member that I have approved of an amendment to the National Security (General) Regulations to control the possession, sale and use of uniforms, badges and emblems, which will be gazetted forthwith. Any apparent delay is explained by the consultations necessary between the various departments concerned and the more comprehensive scope of the regulation as compared with that in force on a previous occasion. The new regulation is based on -
s. - On the 21st May the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked whether the reports forwarded by the Deputy Prices Commissioner, New South Wales, relating to war profiteering in that State had been considered and what action my department proposed to take with regard to it.
I am now in a position to state the reports were duly received and considered, and advice thereon was given to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner.
y’ asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In calling up men for training, will he endeavour to arrange that farmers’ sons and employees be called up in the months front January to the end of March so that agricultural developments should not be unduly interfered with?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
In the calling up of those required to render service, every effort is made to cause the least interference with industry and wherever possible, arrangements are made for men to attend camp at times when seasonal occupations do not demand their presence on farms, &c. Every application will be dealt with on its merits.
s asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Does the Government propose to continue paying its contribution to the League of Nations ?
– The contributions of State members of the League are not at the option of the respective members. Australia’s contribution as a member is fixed by a special committee set up for the purpose. We cannot ourselves alter it. Our contribution for the present year has not yet been assessed. The war has, of course, affected the whole of the activities of the League, especially its political features, and its domicile and future activities are now under consideration. Consequently we do not know at present to what extent contributions will be affected.
Launceston Munitions Annexe.
s. - Yesterday the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked, without notice, when the contemplated munitions annexe at Launceston would be established and in working order.
I am now in a position to state that the report of the State Munitions Board of Management on this matter has now been received but the terms and conditions have yat to be finally determined. I am therefore unable to give the honorable member a definite reply at this stage but I will forward to him a more precise answer to his question as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
d asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– Most growers who produce wool in any quantity have their wool classed and baled on their property in a form ready for appraisement. Such wool goes normally for appraisement and does not incur any expense in reclassing or repacking at the appraisement centre. Some growers, principally those who produce wool in small quantity, send their wool in peace-time to merchants who specialize in thework of reclassing and repacking. These merchants generally purchase the wool in its unready form from the growers, or buy miscellaneous sorts at auction, resort and repack it, and then resell, depending on their judgment to make a profit. Under the acquirement scheme, wool is required to be submitted to prescribed places for appraisement. Until it is appraised, it is not the property of the British Government. Property in it passes immediately on appraisement. If a grower sends his wool to a broker with instructions to reclass it and repack it before appraisement, that is an arrangement between the grower and that broker, and neither the Commonwealth Government nor the Central Wool Committee has any power to interfere with it. Experience showed that, under the acquirement scheme, the wool merchants and dealers who formerly performed the service already referred to were deprived of some of their opportunities to deal in wool. They appealed to the Central Wool Committee and to the Government, and the Government had several conferences with the Central Wool Committee with a view to giving these wool merchants and dealers as much business as could reasonably be placed in their way. This was done on the principle of keeping in occupation, as far as possible, all those branches of the industry which formerly functioned. In point of fact, the Central Wool Committee was informed by the Melbourne and Geelong Wool Merchants Association that, if the members of that association were able to secure for reclassing 70,000 bales of wool, they could maintain their businesses. The Central Wool Committee arranged to send to these merchants and dealers as much wool as possible for reclassing and actually passed out to them for this purpose 65,000 bales. This was a special effort on the part of the Central Wool Committee to provide these merchants and dealers with occupation and income. The merchants and dealers still maintained that they were not making ends meet, and the Wool Committee offered to leave with them for storing and display for roappraisement a proportion of the wool which they had reclassed. The payment allowed for this service is 4s. per bale, and the Central Wool Committee felt that the additional work which it was thus offering to merchants and dealers would make their businesses profitable. I am informed that the merchants and dealers refused to agree to this proposal unless they were given for such display, for reappraisement, all the wool that was being reclassed and all the wool sent out by the Wool Committee for scouring and carbonizing. Agreement has not been reached on this point between the Wool Committee and the merchants and dealers. I am in contact with the Central Wool Committee on the matter. 1 can assure the honorable member that neither the Government nor the Central Wool Committee desires to do any injustice to the wool merchants and dealers. It is clear, on the contrary, that efforts are being made to give to these people work which they formerly did not do in order to make up to them in some way for business which they are losing because of the operation of the acquirement scheme. I may add that it is still possible for these merchants and dealers to obtain wool from growers, and repack it before appraisement.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Petrol Imports and Rationing.
– On the 20th August, the honorable member for Eder*Monaro (Mr. Perkins) asked me a question relating to the importations of petrol from abroad.
I am now able to supply the following information: - The actual imports of motor spirit fluctuate from month to month, being determined chiefly by dates of arrival of tankers. There has not, however, been any decline of the volume of motor spirit coming to Australia and, notwithstanding any reduction of consumption, imports will be maintained at their present level at least, in order to build up reserve stocks.
On the 20th August, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked me a question relating to the percentage reduction of the importation of petrol, and the estimated saving of sterling and dollar exchange which would result from petrol rationing.
I am now. able to supply the following information: - There will be no immediate reduction of the imports of petrol as the result of rationing. The present volume of imports will be maintained notwithstanding reduced consumption in order to build up the reserve stocks vital to defence and essential civil needs. The rationing of motor spirit will not therefore effect any actual reduction of the present demand for oversea exchange, but if rationing were not imposed, the demand for such exchange would increase in sympathy with the greater volume of imports which would be necessary to provide the defence reserves. One-third of pre-war civil annual consumption is now worth £A4,500,000.
Militia Forces : PERIOD or Compulsory Service.
– On the 21st August, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following question, without notice: -
Boca any auction of the Defence Act permit tlie department to compel trainees against their will to undergo a longer period of training than <three months!
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that members of the Citizen Forces are bound to serve in time of war whenever required to do so by the Military Board under sections 46 and 47 of the Defence Act. The proclamation issued by the Governor-General on the 2nd September, 1939, section 46, called out the Citizen Forces for war service.
The normal period of continuous training is three months, but. with certain units it has been found necessary to exceed this period.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400821_reps_15_164/>.