16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate what progress has been made by the committee which is inquiring into the man-power and other resources of Australia? How many States have so far been visited by the committee? Areits reports to be made available to honorable members ? When does the committee contemplate visiting Tasmania?
– I understand that the committee has completed a considerable volume of work. The bulk of the information sought by the honorable member could be supplied more appropriately by the Department of Defence Coordination, to which the. committee has furnished its reports.From the reports that have come to my department, I can say that the committee has made a most exhaustive investigation in different parts of the Commonwealth. The Government is now considering the reports so far received.
Liability to Income Tax in England.
– I ask the Minister for Air: Is it a fact that Australian personnel being trained under the Empire air training scheme are obliged to pay income tax in England, and that for a single man, the tax amounts to 16s. 6d. a week ? If so, does the honorable gentleman not think it unjust that men who are risking their lives in defence of the Empire should be obliged to pay tax in England in respect of income derived from Australia?’ Will the honorable gentleman discuss with the British authorities exemption from such payments in order that thesemen may be brought into line with members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Navy, who are hot liable to pay such tax?
– Australian airmen serving in, England under the terms of the Empire air training scheme are, in effect,members of the Royal Air Force ; they are paid by the Imperial Government, and are liable to the payment of British income tax. Discussion upon the subject is progressing between the Commonwealth Government and the Government’ of the United Kingdom, with a view to meeting the wish of this Government that such payment should be obviated.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if the Government has considered the representations that have been . made with respect to the desirability of continuing for the present the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly? Has a decision on the point been made? If so, what is the nature of it?
– The Government proposes to appoint a parliamentary committee to examine the whole of the policy associated with the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– And broadcasting generally?
– And broadcasting generally. The A.B.C. Weekly will form part of the subject-matter to be investigated by that committee, the report of which will he submitted to Cabinet. Meanwhile, publication of the A.B.C. Weekly will continue.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General give to the House an assurance that the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly will be continued on a weekly basis pending . the furnishing of the report of the parliamentary committee proposed to be appointed?
– I have already announced ‘ that the publication of the journal willbe continued until the report of the committee has been presented.
– Will itbe published weekly ?
– As usual.
– Can the Prime Minister indicate the intention of the Government regarding future sittings of this House during the present period, and the probable length of the ensuing recess?
– I cannot answer the whole of the question. As I stated last week, the House is to be asked to sit this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and next week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. My vision does not embracewhat is likely to happenbeyond that point.
– I askthe Treasurer whether the Government has yet considered the reports of the Power Alcohol Committee, two of which, I understand, have been received? If so, has it made a decision upon them ?Will the reports be made available to honorable members this week, and will some pronouncement be made, at least ‘before the House goes into recess, regarding theGovernment’s intentions with respect to the recommendations of the committee?
– The report of the Power Alcohol Committee has been considered by the Government, and the honorable member will be pleased to learn that the recommendations of the committee are to be implemented as expeditiously as possible. The report will be printed and circulated. I hope that it will be available to honorable members within a few days.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether the file in connexion with the case of Mr. P. R. Hentze has yet been forwarded to Canberra, and when it willbe possible for me to peruse it?
– This question is addressed to my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), but I intervene in order to make some comment regarding it. The Minister for the Army drew my attention to the question asked and the answer made in this House in relation to the matter last week. I pointed out to him that I felt that a very important general matter of principle was involved; that in my view, as the head of this Government,it is not proper that files which relate to security matters should be made available to persons other than those who deal directly with such matters. I told him that, in the circumstances, I was not disposed to agree that this file should be made available as a file to the House or to a member of it.
– What is the right honorable gentleman trying tocover up?
– I am not trying to cover up anything.
– Then why not make the file available?
– My colleague, the Minister for the Army, was quite anxious to make it available.
– I am very anxious to see it.
– A very important general principle is involved. Accordingly, the file has been forwarded to the chairman of the tribunal which deals with these matters, accompanied by a request by me that that tribunal should make a recommendation as towhether or not any action should be taken in regard to the man to whom it relates.
– That is merely an attempt to “ whitewash “.
– As members of the Wool Appraisement Committee have opportunities to learn the movements of shipping, does the Prime Minister think it wise to have as a member of that committee an ex-internee who was reported by the Military Intelligence Section to have been in constant communication with prominent Nazis in Germany?
– I find it very difficult to offer an opinion on any individual case without knowing the details of it. If the honorable member will tell me the name of the man concerned
– Mr. Hentze.
– I shall direct the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce.
– I ask the Prime Minister and the Minister for Commerce not to treat this matter with levity. It is important and serious, and I expect an immediate answer.
– I think that the honorable member is quite in error in assuming that members of the Wool Appraisement Committee have any knowledge of movements of shipping. That is a matter concerning which the Central Wool Committee might have some knowledge, but not the Wool Appraisement Committee.
Germany’s Attack on Russia.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement to the House concerning the more recent developments in the international situation?
– by leave - As honorable members know, Germany, on Sunday, invaded Russia, and hostilities between those two countries are proceeding. On ‘Sunday night the matter was made the subject of a statement by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill.For quite palpable reasons, it was not possible for him to consult effectively all of the governments of the dominions before making the statement, and I take no exception to that. This was a matter upon which the views of the British Government should at once be announced, and Mr. Churchill made them known in a broadcast address which some honorable members may have heard. I shall read the relevant portion of the speech, as sent to us by the British Government. In the course of the broadcast, Mr. Churchill said -
Now I have to declare the decision of His Majesty’s Government, and I feel sure it is a decision in which the great dominions will in due course concur, but we must speak out now at once without a day’s delay. I have to make the declaration. Can you doubt what our policy will be ? “We have but one aim and one single irrevocable purpose. We arc resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime. From this nothing will turn us - nothing. We will never parley, we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him by land, we shall fight him by sea, we shall fight him by air until, with God’s help, we have rid the earth of all who have shadowed it and liberated the peoples from his yoke.
Any man or State who fights against Nazidom will have our aid.
Any man or State who marches with Hitler is our foe. This applies, not only to organized States, but to all representatives of that vile race of Quislings who made themselves the tools and agents of the Nazi regime, against their fellow-countrymen and against the lands of their birth. These Quislings, like the Nazi leaders, if not disposed of by their fellow-countrymen, which would save trouble,will be delivered by us on the morrow of victory to the justice of the Allied tribunals.
That is our policy and that is our declaration.
It follows therefore that we shall givewhatever help we can to Russia and to the Russian people.
We shall appeal to all our friends and Allies in every part of the world to take the same course and pursue it, as we shall, faithfully and steadfastly to the end.
That statement by the Prime Minister of Great Britain is one which is completely accepted by the Government of Australia. That does not mean that we are able to see at present any concrete methods by which we in Australia can directly assist Russian resistance to Germany, but, while we attack the German forces wherever we, may encounter them, we welcome the fact that the Russians will attack the German forces wherever they may encounter them. The overthrow of German military power is the thing that will lead to the winning of this war, and all Russian activity towards that end will be welcomed, I believe, by every British citizen all over the world. One or two observations might be added about the significance of this most extraordinary event. I say that it is a most extraordinary event, because less than a month before the present war broke out a treaty was . entered into between Germany and Russia. That was a treaty in which, at the very least, high obligations of mutual non-aggression were entered into, and it has been followed during thecurrency of this war by a policy on the part of Germany towards Russia which pretended to be one of friendly, and, in the economic sphere at any rate, complete co-operation. That policy, without warning and without preliminary demand on the part of Germany, has been suddenly and completely reversed. This may have been a surprise to the Russian people; it was no surprise in the real sense to anybody who had witnessed the capacity of Hitler for making agreements and, with complete regularity, ignoring them. But the effect of it to-day is, perhaps, worth at least a few minutes’ consideration. In the first place, one may suspect that, by commencing the struggle with Russia. Germany hopes to secure some advantage with public opinion in the rest of the world. That is a matter, I believe, about which wo all must be very careful. Germany, wants to pose, as it is now in fact posing, as the champion of free thought . against bolshevism.
– I suppose that Germany’s need for supplies has something to do with its latest action.
– No doubt. I shall come to that matter later. Germany will, no doubt, pose as the power fighting against bolshevism for the benefit of its own people, and, perhaps, for the benefit of the Italian people and., perhaps, with a- desire ‘ to exercise a real influence on the opinion of the people of America. But any such posturing on the part of Germany is arrant hypocrisy. As a matter of fact, Germany is not going into Russia for the purpose of fighting against bolshevism. It is going there, in complete disregard of its treaty obligations, for the sole purpose of so strengthening itself that it can beat down the British people, arid so destroy liberty in the) -world. The real object of its intervention has nothing to do with bolshevism, and has nothing to do with any other “ism”. Its object, I have no doubt, is to exercise an increasing pressure upon Turkey, and also upon Iraq and Iran, and, by means of that pressure and intervention, to give itself vastly increased supplies of grain from the Ukraine and oil - if it gets that far - from the southern Russian provinces and from Iraq and Iran.
In one sense, this invasion by Germany is an interesting admission of the force of the British blockade. No better proof lias been given of the effect of the British blockade than this move into Russia. In the second place, the effect of this attack will undoubtedly be to relieve somewhat, for the time being, Germany’s pressure upon Great Britain, and to that extent to give to us some opportunity for further extending our own attacks on Germany and further building up our own strength. So I suggest’ to honorable members that we all should, by whatever influence we can exercise, discount what I have no doubtis intended to be the devious propa ganda value of this attack upon a country, with whose political ideas we have not for many years found ourselves in sympathy. I want to make it quite clear that, when, any British, country welcomes, as British countries do, any aid that can be given by Russia in the way of destroying German military power, it is not equivalent to saying that we identify our political views with those of Russia. Those are matters which Russia will determine inside its own borders, as Ave hope to be at liberty to determine them within ours. But putting all those matters on one side, the simple naked truth is that Ave win this Avar by defeating the forces of Germany, and Ave defeat the forces’ of Germany - I put this in its simplest terms - by. killing German soldiers. We need make no apologies to ourselves under this head. I hope that Russia will carry on this good work with such success as to have a major influence upon the course of the Avar.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle- Leader of the Opposition). - hy -leave - There are a few observations which I might properly make in order .that the view of the Opposition may be made clear. The German v1018 t10n of the treaty between Russia and Germany, which has led to actual Avar between the two countries, is, of course, only in keeping with the general behaviour of the German Government. This Avar commenced as the result of the violation of the agreement made at Munich. Had the Treaty of Munich been kept by Germany the world would have been, spared all the horrors it has suffered, and’ the possibly worse horrors that are to come. Thus, the violation of treaties by Germany is no new thing. The whole course of recent world events has been founded upon the utter disregard by- Germany of treaties made with any other nation. Therefore, it must be clear that negotiations of any sort with the present German regime are futile. ‘ To attempt to negotiate is merely to accept a situation which will stand only so long as the arrangement is satisfactory to Germany. Immediately Germany finds that a treaty or agreement which it has made is inconvenient to keep, or that the breaking of it would be to the advantage of Germany, Germany forthwith, and as a part of its regular political conduct, just breaks the pact.
– And so does Russia!
-I hold no brief for any country other than Australia, and I do not feel called upon to offer criticism of any country except Germany because we are at war with Germany, and we are at war because Germany failed to keep the Treaty of Munich. Since Germany broke that treaty it has repeatedly demonstrated its unwillingness to keep other treaties made subsequently to that one.
– And so has Russia.
-Russia is now fighting on the sideof all those against whom Germany is waging war. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) may entertain all the doubts and make all the reservations he likes, butthe fact is thatGerman military strength is to-day being resisted by Russia.’
-We hope so. Mr. CURTIN.- I do not hesitate to take a. realistic ‘ and, I hope, a truly civilized view,’ namely, that peoples other than ourselves who are resisting Germany are, like ourselves, servants of civilization I agree that the British Prime Minister did not in any way ignore the rights and responsibilities of the dominions in the speech he made on Sunday night. The dominions are quite free not to accept thestatement that Mr. Churchill made, but the Commonwealth Government has to-day indicated its acceptance of the statement on behalf of the Commonwealth, and, for my part, I acquiesce in that decision.
The Labour party has no objection whatever to’ the Germans practising nazi-ism in . Germany; that is their concern.We donot engage in any philosophic discussions with them about that systemso longas they make no endeavour to foist it byforce upon people outside their country. We stand for selfgovernment. In the same way, we offer no opinions regarding the justification or non-justification of bolshevism in Russia ; that is the concern of the Russian people. Their form of government is their own affair,just as our form of government is our affair. The Labour party believes in the right of peoples to govern themselves, and to enjoy a way of life which they themselves decide upon. We concede that right to Russia. We concede that right to Germany, and it is because we are claiming it for ourselves, and Germany denies it to us, that we are at war with Germany. We welcome every other country that will espouse our cause in orderthat Germany may be the sooner overcome.
– In view of the changed international situation, will the Prime Minister now afford full facilities to the Australian Communist party to recruit a foreign legion to fight for democracy in Russia?
– Every facility will be offered to all Australians, whatever their political beliefs, to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force.
– In view of the very grave tension that has existed for a considerable period between Russia and Japan over the situation in the Far East, particularly in China, has the Prime Minister formed any ideas as to whether the position in the Far East will become more acute from the Australian standpoint now that Russia is at war against Germany ?
– The question is interesting, but I do not think that I should serve any useful purpose by endeavouring to answer it.
– Is it a fact that the entire staff of the Munitions Employment Bureau in Sydney, with the exception of the officer-in-charge, has been recruited from the New South Wales Labour Bureau? Having regard to the fact that the officials of that bureau have failed in the task of providing the necessary labour for the munitions industry in New South “Wales, does the Minister for Labournot think that it might be better to engage entirely new personnel who would have new ideas?
– The purpose of the Government is to secure the most effective organization of the man-power resources of the country, while, at the same time, avoiding if possible any duplication of existing State services. We are trying to supplement rather than duplicate those services, and discussions have taken place recently between the Premier of New South Wales, the Prime Minister, and myself to this end.
Appointment of Governor
– In view of the difficulty which the Government appears to be having in making up its mind about the appointment of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and in view of the expressed desire of the Government for the full co-operation of Labour in all matters relating to the war effort, will the Government refer this important appointment to the Australian Advisory War Council, in order to obtain its assistance in coming to a decision ?
– The Government has had the advantage of a full and frank expression of the views of the Australian Advisory War Council on this matter, but no appointment has yet been made.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the Melbourne agents for’ certain English piece goods and blanket manufacturers are now soliciting orders in unlimited quantities for shipment to Australia in the near future ? In view of the necessity to conserve sterling exchange, and in view of the fact that Australian manufacturers have been ordered to cease production of blankets and yarns for civilian use so that the needs of the defence services may be more readily supplied, will the Minister take steps to redress this anomaly?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion and supply him with a complete reply later.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether divulgement of information as to the situation of camps for internees and prisoners of war to this House would be likely to be of service to the enemy? If the Minister can supply such information to the House, will he make known the sites that have been selected for camp’s for prisoners of war in New South Wales?
– I see no objection at the moment to divulging the information. I shall consider the matter.
– In view of the widespread chaos and unemployment which will result from the imposition of a severer scale of petrol rationing, will the Prime Minister consider the desirability of proclaiming a limited moratorium in order to safeguard the interests of the persons affected by such rationing?
– An answer to a similar question on notice has been supplied to-day.
Discipline - Hygiene Corps - Idle Skilled Workers.,
– I ask the Minister for Airwhether discipline in the Air Force is so rigid that a good deal of discontent exists, particularly at the Williamstown arid Canberra aerodromes? Is it a fact that at the Canberra and Williamstown stations, an airman one minute late in returning to duty from leave is confined to the cells for one day? I know of one lad from Kurri Kurri who had been to visit his sick sister and was confined to barracks for fourteen clays, because he was four minutes late in returning to duty. Does the Minister think that that sort of thing is likely to stimulate recruiting?
– I am sure that it is not a fact that there exists in the Air Force so strict a discipline as to cause any widespread discontent, or, indeed, any discontent, except, perhaps, in the case of ‘an individual here and there. If the honorable member has any case which he wishes me. to investigate, he ought to supply the facts to me, and I shall, investigate it.
Mr.CONELAN.- Will the Minister for Air inform the House why no hygiene corps has beenattached to the Royal Australian Air Force in Queensland, and if it is his intention to appoint one?
– The natureof the Royal Australian Air Force establishments does not demand a special hygiene corps. The Royal Australian Air Force is organized into a series of permanent stationsto which doctors are posted according to their numerical strength, and at which are provided hospital accommodation and all the necessary ancillaries.
– In view of the admitted shortage of skilled workers, is the Minister for Air aware of the fact that at the Richmond aerodrome hundreds of skilled men are practically idle because no skilled work is available for them? A mechanic, who is paid £6 a week, told me recently that all he has to do is menialwork, such as washing dishes. Will the Minister look info this matter in order to see whether these men cannot be given work more suitable to their capacity, until workof the nature in which they have been trained becomes available atthe aerodromes?
– For some time past morefittersandturnersand other skilled men have been enlistedin the Air Force than we havebeen able to find immediate employment for. The reason for this is that whilst it takes a. considerable timeto train these men in skilled trades, certain aircraft have not come to hand according toschedule. I shall not now enlarge upon the reasons for the nonarrival of these aircraft, but this has contributed to -the conditions to which the honorable member refers. However, it is a passing phase.
– Could not the services of these skilled men be loaned elsewhere ?
– I have discussed with the Director-General of Munitions the possibility of using some of these men temporarily’ in other spheres.
– Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that persons who are displaced from employment as theresult of the closing down of nonessential industries will be absorbed in war industries or other essential industries?
– The prompt and effective use of labour is one of the major factors to be taken into account in carrying out the policy. The matter has the special attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service, and is not being overlooked in the formulation of the general plan.
– Will the Prime Minister give a direction that no men shall be displacedfrom industries classed as “ non-essential “ until such time as they can be absorbed in war industries; alternatively, that displaced men shall be paid the federal basic wage until such time as they are absorbed in other industry ?
– I have nothing which I can add usefully to what I have just said in answer to the honorable member for Werriwa.
Tasmanian Troops on Final Leave - Recruiting in Brisbane.
– Complaints have come to me from soldiers who have had difficulty in returning to themainland from Tasmania after their preembarkation leave. Will the Minister for the Army ascertain whether satisfactory arrangements can be made to assure members of the Australian Imperial Force of second-class berths back to the mainland ?
– Can the Minister for the Army tell me why the Brisbane Recruiting Office was closed last Saturday at 6 p.m., thus preventing a number of men who were desirous of enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force from doing so?
– I know nothing of the incident, but I shall be glad to have it investigated.
– Is it a fact that the Army Department is cancelling the payment of allowances to dependants of missing soldiers? If so, does the Minister for the Army think that that is a fair thing to do, particularly in view of the fact that many of those reported missing may be dead ? It is very hard on dependants to suffer the cancellation of their allotment pay.
– It is not a fact. I have already intimated that either by way of a statement, or in answer to a question upon notice.
– In order to afford a greater measure of protection of public finance in respect of war expenditure, will the Government use its power under the National Security Act to appoint an independent government director of all concerns assisted by the Government in the installation of annexes, or participating to any substantial degree in war contracts, particularly on the cost-plus basis ?
– I shall be glad to discuss the possibility of such a course with my colleague, the’ Minister for Munitions.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs noticed that the price of tea has been’ increased by another 1d. per lb., making a total increase of 8d. per lb. since the commencement of the war? Can the honorable gentleman give the House any information that would justify the latest increase?
– In a recent statement the Prices Commissioner gave adequate ‘ reasons for the latest increase of the price of tea. If the honorable member desires specific information in relation to this matter I shall endeavour to provide it.
– When will balancesheets in respect of wheat pools Nos. 1, 2 and 3 be issued?
– I shall get in touch with the Australian Wheat Board immediately to’ see if that can be done in the near future.
Taxation - Employment on Road Construction.
– In view of the fact that many members of the Defence Forces are now receiving assessments in respect of incomes earned prior to the date of their enlistment, and having regard to the very low rate of pay they now receive, will the Treasurer waive all claims upon them for the payment of the tax?
– This matter has been’ brought to the notice of the Commissioner of Taxes. In every instance sympathetic treatment has been meted out.
– Does that mean that the demand for the tax has been waived?
– Not necessarily.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that members of the Defence Forces in various camps throughout Australia are being employed upon road construction work at the ordinary defence rates of pay? Is this work considered to be part of the men’s training? Ifnot, will they in future be paid award wages when they are engaged on such duties?
-In certain circumstances members of the Defence Forces are employed as part of military duties in the reconditioning of certain strategic tracks and roads.
– I ask the Minister assisting the Prime Minister what are the names of the oil experts who, it has been announced, are to leave America for Australia on the 26th June; what are their nationalities ;. and who was responsible for their selection?
- Mr . Ranney, an American, and Mr. Fairbank, a Canadian. Both of these gentlemen are conversant with low-pressureoil-fields such as may exist in Australia, and were selected by the Australian Minister in Washington with the assistance of the American State Department of Mines. In answer to a question by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) recently, I stated that these gentlemen proposed to leave for Australia by clipper to-morrow.
– Has the attention of the Government been directed to a paragraph in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald which reports the Commissioner of. Road Transport in New South Wales, Mr. Neale, as having said that the cost of removing the rails of the disused . Cronulla-Sutherland tram line would exceed the scrap value of steel in the rails? If Mr. Neale is correctly reported, will the Minister for Supply make available to the Commissioner of Road Transportsome of the surplus labour in that State in orderthat the salvaging of the steel may be proceeded with? Between Cronulla and Sutherland is six miles of double track tramway.
– I have read the paragraph referred to by the honorable member. I shall bringhis question to the notice of the Minister for Supply.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has been approached by the Minister for National Emergency Services in New South Wales with regard to the provision of finance for the purpose of providing air. raid shelters ; if so, what is the attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the request?
– No such application has been made to me, so far as I know.
– Has it been made to the Government?
– Whether it was made to . the Government before I returned from abroad I am not able to say. I shall make inquiries and advise the honorable member to-morrow.
– In connexion with the scheme for the reduction of nonessential industries, is it intended to divert the services of several thousand competent men and women to war industries by the amalgamation of the private trading banks throughout Australia?
– That interesting proposal has not been considered yet.
– Has the Minister in charge of External Territories any further statement to make on the matters raised in this House by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) last week in regard to the gold-fields dispute in New Guinea? Has any action been taken against the company for its flagrant breach of the mining regulations which resulted in the deaths of two mineworkers? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the engine-driver who has been committed for trial in connexion with the deaths of these two men was on duty for fourteen hours a day? Does he hot think that the company should be proceeded against for working that man fourteen hours a day, and also for engaging as manager a person who did not possess a mine manager’s certificate?
– The eviction of the miners from their houses has been stayed. Negotiations are now pending between the company and the men concerning conditions of labour and pay. All but fifteen of the men are now back at work. Many of these cannot be re-employed because of the flooding that has taken place in the mine, following the withdrawal of the safety men during the strike. With regard to the other matters mentioned by the honorable member in his question, I suggest that he should place them on the notice-paper so that a considered reply may be furnished.
– Has the Minister, following the undertaking he gave to the House last week, yet approached the Queensland Government with a view to securing the services of an industrial magistrate to arbitrate on the matters in dispute?
– Ihave not yet taken such action. I hope that a settlement of the whole dispute will be reached. Subsequently, the conditions on the goldfields will be completely reviewed.
– In view of the fact that the Treasurer has stated that the Commonwealth Government, through the facilities of the Commonwealth Bank, is now using to a greater degree the national credit of the country for financing Government works, how can the honorable gentleman account for the fact that the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank for the period ended the 31st December last as compared with that of the preceding year discloses a drop of £21,000,000 in the value of Commonwealth Government securities held by the bank?
– I can see no association between a reflection in a balancesheet of the value of securities and the degree to which bank credit is used; no association whatever exists between those two factors.
– Will the Minister for the Navy have an inquiry made by officers of his department in order to satisfy himself that engineering works in New South Wales and Queensland are capable of building diesel engines sufficiently large and powerful for wooden ships ?
– I have not made such inquiries, but I am assured by my colleagues, the Minister for Munitions and the Minister for Labour and National Service, that there is a difficulty in obtaining skilled labour of this class. I am not aware that diesel engines have been built in this country, but as the honorable gentleman has directed my attention to the matter,I shall make closer inquiries.
-Can the Minister say what has been the outcome of negotiations between hisdepartment and Messrs. Walkers Limited, an engineering firm of Maryborough, Queensland, regarding the building of marine diesel engines at its works? Have those negotiations yet been completed?
– I am unable to answer that question offhand, but I shall look into the matter.
– Will the Minister assisting the. Minister for the Interior say whether it is a fact that the parents of refugee children who have been sent to Australia from Great Britain are being charged 10s. a week for each child’s upkeep in this country in spite of the fact that many of the people who have adopted these children have not asked for any payment, and have received none? If this be so, to whom is this money being paid? Is it being paid’ to any one in Australia, or to any organization in Great Britain ?
– I am not aware of the conditions mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall refer the matter to the Minister for the Interior.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for the Army, which was published in the press last Friday, that a number of dependants of deceased soldiers are now receiving the basic wage and more, due to the fact that there are a number of children in their families, is he aware that many dependants of men who have sacrificed their lives overseas are in dire circumstances, because the allowances they receive from the Repatriation Department are insufficient to enable them to meet their needs?
– A similar question was asked of me, upon notice, two or three days ago, and a full answer to thai question has been furnished to-day.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware of the acute housing shortage in the Newcastle district, as the result of which’ many men are obliged to travel a distance of 40 miles daily to their work at Cessnock? In view of these circumstances, will his department acquire an area of 200 acres, known as the Platts Estate, which is now held by the War Service Homes Commission, for the purpose of providing homes to relieve the shortage in that district?
– I have no knowledge personally of the specific shortage referred to by the honorable member; but. I understand that the Government of New South’ Wales is now contemplating a substantial extension of its housing scheme, whichI hope will overcomethe shortagehe mentioned.
Mr. ROSEVEAR.As the distribution of child endowment will be superimposed’ upon the . payment ‘ of militarypensions, invalid and oldage pensions and the distribution of petrol rationcoupons now performed by the staffs of the Postal Department, is it the intention of the Postmaster-General to increase such staffs’ in order to enable them to undertake this extra work?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services: To what degree has the staff of the pensions office in Sydney been increased for the purpose of dealing with child endowment? Has the existing staff been co-opted for. the “purpose of doing this work? If so, has this resulted in a general slowing up of the settlement of pensions claims?
– It is true that the work of distributing child endowment comes under the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in each State, and thatsuch staffs will be largely used in that.work. However, I know of no justification for the suggestion that this has resulted in any deterioration in the system of dealing with claimsfor pensions.
Debate resumed from the 20th June,’ 1941 (vide page 256), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill provides for the appropriation of the moneys necessary to carry on the services of the Government until the annual appropriations for the financial year 1941-42 are approved by Parliament. It is not the intention of the Opposition to oppose this measure, but we shall take the opportunity to offer some criticism and advice regarding the operations of certain departments, and also to say something about various points which should be borne in mind by the Government when framing its budget for the new financial year. In his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr; Fadden)assured the House that except in the case of Defence and War Services, no provision is made in this bill for new expenditure. On examining the total budgetary provision for war purposesand non-war purposes setout in the Treasurer’s budget speech last year, I find that there has been a lag in expenditure, and the House should know whether this has been due to lack of organization in the service departments, or to some physical difficulties beyond the control of the Government. In his budget speech the Treasurer said -
Expenditure in Australia for 1940-41 is estimated, as I have stated, at £143,000,000. I am satisfied this is not an over-estimate. In the month of May last, the expenditure was £6,000,000. Since then it has increased month by month, and in October it reached £11,200,000, and it is expected to reach £15,000,000 a month before next June.
However, according to the latest figures circulated by the Treasurer, although the total budgetary provision from revenue for war purposes was £62,000,000, and for non-war purposes, £86,000,000, making a total of £148,000,000, up till the end of May of this year, there had been an expenditure from revenue for war purposes of only £46,000,000- a lag of £16,000,000- and an expenditure for non-war purposes of £78,000,000- a lag of £8,000,000. The actual expenditure for the eleven months ended the 31st May totals £124,000,000, whereas the estimate was £148,000,000, thus leaving a lag of £24,000,000. The war loan provision of the 1940-41 budget was £121,000,000, but during the eleven months ended the3lst May, there was an expenditure of only £86,000,000, leaving a lag of £35,000,000. The estimate of war expenditure from revenue was £62,000,000; from loan, £121,000,000; and from trust account, £3,000,000, making a total of £136,000.000, where as the actual expenditure for the eleven months of the financial year was £46,000,000 from revenue, £86,000,000 from loan, and £3,000,000 from trust account, making a total of £135.000,000, or a lag of £51,000,000. Yet in his budget speech the Treasurer said he was satisfied that he was not over-estimating, and he thought that by June of this year we. should be spending £15,000,000 a month. Although the. month of June - the last month of the financial year - must be taken into consideration, there will not be anything like an expenditure of £51,000,000 this month. As I have said, the Treasurer estimated that we should be spending £15,000,000 a month by now, but even assuming that we spend £25,000,000 in June, taking that from the lag of £51,000,000 to date, there will remain an over-estimate of £26,000,000. I should like the Treasurer to give some explanation of these figures. Have the Departments of Supply and Development, Munitions, and the Army, fallen down in their organization? There is a feeling throughout the community, and indeed it has been expressed in this Parliament by quite a number of honorable members on the Government side of the House,that the organization of these departments is not all that could be desired, and that much more could be accomplished. Is this lag of expenditure due to bad organization and lackadaisical methods adopted in these three important departments?
Mr.ArchieCameron. - As a member of the Advisory War Council the honorable member should be able to tell us a thing or two about that.
-I should like to know what the honorable gentleman himself thinks of this. I am asking the Treasurer for an explanation;’ I have no desire to disclose any information that comes to me as a member of the Council. Obviously, there is room for a substantial improvement of the organization of those departments. Honorable members have been warned that more aeroplanes, guns, tanks, and other war materials are urgently required. Time is of the essence of the contract. But despite the emergency, £51,000,000 of the colossal sum for which the Treasurer budgeted last year has not been spent; and, on the basis of the average monthly expenditure of £15,000,000, such a vast amount cannot be profitably disbursed before the close of the financial year. That fact alone indicates that there is room for a considerable improvement of the organization of the Department of Supply, the Department of Munitions, and the Department of the Army itself.
For a two months’ period, the Treasurer asks for the provision of £12.130 for the Department of Defence Coordination. Whilst I do not object to that request, I fear that this important department has not been functioning as it should, if the work of all the service departments is to be properly coordinated and supervised. Inadequate “follow-up” methods have been adopted by this department with inevitable lack of success. Although instructions are issued, no officer seems to be detailed to see that they are promptly executed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), after attending to international affairs and exercising supervision over various departments, has insufficient time properly to administer such an important department. To any one who interests himself in the matter, it is evident that no real co-ordination exists in the recruitment of man-power for the production of munitions, or for the fighting services. This afternoon, the Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen) admitted that a number of fitters and turners, who had been recruited for the Royal Australian Air Force, had been allowed to perform all kinds of menial work for which they had not been enlisted. While that position existed munition annexes and the Department of Munitions were searching high and low for this skilled labour, which, plainly, was being wasted in one of the services. Evidently, nobody had been given the specific duty to supervise this matter in order to ensure that the services of skilled artisans were being properly utilized.
– It would not be easy to put uniformed men to work beside other men in an industrial establishment.
– No insuperable difficulty prevents the utilization of the services of such men in some other advanced sphere where technical knowledge is required, instead of allowing them to waste their time by doing unskilled work.
– We are agreed upon that.
Mr.FORDE. - It should not hare been necessary for a private member todiscover that such a position existed. The Department of Defence Co-ordination should exercise proper supervision over other departments in order to avoid a repetition of this unfortunate occurrence.
– It was not necessary for a private member to find that out, because the Department of Air discovered it and I have discussed the subject with Mr. Essington Lewis.
– I am gratified that the Department of Air made the discovery, but the position existed for too long. Can the Minister say that it no longer continues ?
– It is very limited.
Mr.FORDE. -When an acute shortage of skilled labour is delaying the manufacture of anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guns, tanks and engines for aeroplanes, the services of every available tradesman should be utilized. To waste such labour in the performance of menial duties is to commit an inexcusable act. If Australia is to be made the arsenal of the Empire, greater co-ordination must be introduced between the Departments of the Army, Munitions, Air and Supply.
Most regretably the Department of Supply and Development, for which provision is made in the Supply Bill, failed years ago to take effective steps to develop coal and shale deposits for the purpose of providing liquid fuel. If the department had not lacked foresight, the chaos which petrol rationing will cause in some industries might have been averted or modified. Before the outbreak of war, 22 tankers conveyed petrol to Australia. The reduction of the number to eight made the enforcement of the rationing of supplies inevitable. The Treasurer appointed a committee, of which he was chairman, to investigate the possibilities of the production in Australia of power alcohol. When he became Acting Prime Minister, he found it impossible to accompany the committee in all its peregrination around Australia. Eventually, he was able to preside at the final meetings of the committee, which has submitted two reports.
To date, honorable members have been given no opportunity to examine the contents of those documents, and they are most anxious to see the recommendations. This afternoon, the Treasurer declared that all of the sensible recommendations will be implemented. The honorable gentleman should outline to the House the recommendations that he regards as sensible and those that are nonsensical. Unfortunately, the investigation was two years overdue. The matter should have been examined either before or immediately following the outbreak of war. Had that been done, enterprises would now be established for extracting oil from coal and shale. That the Government should immediately take action to exploit these natural resources requires no emphasis by me. As the result of acute overproduction, wheat farmers are selling their grain at prices below the cost of production. But millions of bushels could be used for the manufacture of power alcohol, particularly at the present time when, great difficulty is being experienced in exporting the surplus grain. In the sugar industry also, over production is creating a serious problem. More than one-half of the sugar produced in Australia is exported. ‘ The sinking of many of the ships that normally trade between Australia and the Old World makes it increasingly difficult to send our sugar overseas. Although the British Government purchased the whole of the exportable surplus, the growers will eventually encounter difficulties unless that surplus1 can be used here. Long ago the Government should have announced how many factories to distil power alcohol will be erected in Australia, and under what conditions. Adequate returns should be paid to growers, and sufficient safeguards should be taken in order to ensure that private enterprise, or monopolistic companies that may gain control of the factories, do not exploit them. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has repeatedly stressed the necessity for establishing factories to extract oil from coal, I shall not deal at length with that subject. The honorable member’s statements regarding the possibilities in New South Wales also apply to other States. As to the extraction of oil from shale, I am not satisfied that the
Government lias handled the matter in a business-like manner. Substantial assistance was granted to one company in New South Wales, and the Government should inform honorable members of the extent of the production of that enterprise, whether the Department of Defence Coordination supervises it, or whether it is the function of the Department of Supply to see that the Government is getting an adequate return for its expenditure? The Government should accelerate production at this time of dire peril, when a foe might isolate us from our overseas supplies of liquid fuel. It has been too lax in dealing with this urgent national problem.
We are suffering to-day from a shortage of steel to be used for the production of steel goods. Great Britain and the United States of America also are feeling the pinch, and no doubt there is a shortage on the Continent. Australia has been exporting steel to Great Britain. As this country is completely free from the aerial attacks that have put a number of British steel factories out of act-ion, the Government should investigate the possibility of establishing new works in Australia in order to supply the Mother Country with greater quantities of manufactured steel goods after supplying the whole of Australia’s requirements. I am aware that prior to the outbreak of war it appointed a very able geologist, Dr. Woolnough, to investigate Australia’s iron ore resources and that a voluminous report was made. Dr. Woolnough pointed out in his report that our resources were not unlimited, and on his recommendation the Government refused to allow any further export of iron ore. I ask the Treasurer whether the Government has considered the establishment of additional steelworks,, and, if so, whether it has selected a suitable site for the new plant. The time is ripe for the Government to make a pronouncement of policy in this connexion. I hope that some action will be taken by the Minister who will be appointed to take charge of the Department of Supply to implement my suggestion. Anybody who has studied this subject must know that there is urgent need for action.
Copper production in Australia is not adequate to meet the demands of our war machine. We are dependent, in a large measure, on imports, and there are growing difficulties in the way of securing supplies from overseas. What is the Government doing in order to increase the rate of production of copper in Australia? Queensland, the State from which I come, is potentially a large producer of copper. Several mines in central Queensland were closed down in pre-war days when the price of copper fell and costs of production rose. The same thing happened in other parts of Australia. The Mount Chalmers mining syndicate in my own electorate made representations to the Commonwealth Government in an endeavour to obtain financial assistance for the re-opening of its copper mine as soon as it became obvious that an acute shortage of the metal existed in Australia. Many months ago, the Government referred the matter to some experts for investigation and report, but I am still waiting for a favorable decision. I ask the Treasurer to have this problem investigated. There has been too much delay already.
-. - I established a special committee.
– I am aware that the Treasurer is sympathetic, but I want to see the report of this committee, and I want action to be taken immediately in order to increase the rate of output of copper in Australia. An acute unemployment problem exists in country towns throughout Australia. Hundreds of men were engaged on the construction of waterworks and sewerage schemes before war broke out, but when the projects were completed they were thrown out of employment. It is wrong to contend that the Government is doing everything humanly possible to speed up Australia’s defence effort when there are so many unemployed nien in towns such as Townsville, Rockhampton and Bundaberg in Queensland. These men should be absorbed in new industries associated either directly or indirectly with our war effort. Copper production is linked with defence, because large quantities of the metal are required for the manufacture of arms and munitions. I ask that definite action be taken to develop this Industry.
– What about the primary industries?
– I ask that sympathetic consideration be extended to primary producers as well as to all other sections of the community. That is why I was ai party to providing bounties for the assistance of wheat-growers, who have received ‘approximately £18,000,000 in this way from the Commonwealth. I believe also in helping the less populous States of the Commonwealth - South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - by means of annual grants. Nearly every class of primary producers that has asked the Commonwealth for assistance has been given fairly generous treatment; I admit that I should like to have seen even more generous treatment granted in certain cases. I cannot lae rightly accused of lack of sympathy foil1 the primary producers in their present difficulties. I appreciate their problems. I have urged the Government to take immediate steps to establish power alcohol plants, in order to absorb our surplus production of sugar and wheat and at the same time produce fuel for motor vehicles and machines which are needed in our defence effort.
The Government has also been laggard in its attempts to develop the ship? building industry. In 1939, the Prime “Minister said that he had made an offer to Great Britain to build in Australia ships for the Mother Country. Nearly two years of war have passed since then. T. should like to know whether the British Government has replied to that offer. I “have no doubt that, if the Imperial Government had been asked to make finance available for the building of ships In Australia in order to carry on our trade in spite of wartime losses, it would “have done so. It is true that a special board has been appointed to deal with shipbuilding, but we are little .further forward to-day than we were at the outbreak of war, and we are feeling the severe pinch, of the shortage of shipping space for our primary products. This is a very serious problem. I believe that our present difficulties could have been avoided. A Labour government established the shipbuilding industry in Aus tralia, but it was allowed to go out of existence after the war of 1914-1S. because a government which was sympathetic to importing interests allowed vessels to be brought here from overseas. That was one of the greatest blunders ever perpetrated by any government. It caused thousands of trained men to be thrown out of employment in skilled occupations and forced into dead-end jobs. We cannot turn back the pages of history, but I deplore the fact that nearly two years of war have passed without any definite action having been taken by this Government to put our shipbuilding industry on a firm foundation. I “believe that the Australian Shipbuilding Board has been doing good work, but it is work that should have been done two years ago. I hope that under the Government’s re-organization scheme a Minister will be put in charge of shipbuilding who will have time to grapple with the problem in such a way as to speed up the building of ships in this country. Too much work seems to have been placed on the shoulders of the Minister for .Supply and Development and his officials. However competent people may be, they can only act within their capacity, and it has evidently been beyond the capacity of the Department of Supply and Development to press .forward at a satisfactory pace with shipbuilding. The Department of Defence Co-ordination has not been able to co-ordinate many activities both directly and indirectly connected with the defence of Australia.
There is need also to stimulate the manufacture of machine tools. I am not satisfied with the rate of progress in this work. This activity should also be placed in the hands of a Minister who will have time to deal with it. A Minister who already has multifarious duties to discharge cannot give to this vital subject the attention that it deserves. Machine tools are essential to the building of ships, aeroplanes, engines, tanks and guns, and if the supply of them is short our production of all these requirements will be hampered. If orthodox methods are ineffective in providing the means for the manufacture of machine tools they must be abandoned. Before the war can be won a complete rationalization of industry on a grand scale, and also a thorough. re-organization of our financial resources, will be needed, including a greater utilization of national credit. If we are to increase in any great degree our output of munitions, arms, and armaments, we must face these issues frankly. Such action will also be necessary before a successful national housing scheme can be launched in Australia. It is a big job to expand our supplies of war equipment for use abroad and at the same time to accelerate essential services at home, and definite, bold and fearless action will have to be taken by the Government before we can hope to achieve success.
Hie decentralization of defence expenditure also is urgently needed so that ail the resources of small outlying centres may be drawn upon for the production of arms and munitions. I know that difficulties will have to be overcome in this regard. I have discussed the subject with some members of the regional advisory committees, and I am well aware that small country workshops are not so well equipped as large city establishments, but a duty devolves upon the Government to advise the proprietors of engineering establishments in country districts how they can most usefully increase their equipment. If necessary, financial assistance and plant should be provided by the Government to make this possible. Many country workshops could do some of the work that is at present being done in city engineering establishments. The fact that such work is not being done in the country is having the effect of attracting workers and their families from the country districts to the city. The population of many country towns has decreased seriously in the last few months. I consider it to be the duty of the Government to do everything that can be done to prevent, this desertion of country districts and the consequent influx of population to the capital cities. The decentralization of defence expenditure would have a good effect in this connexion. The country centres of Australia should be sharing in the increased national work that is necessary in order to provide adequate equipment for defence purposes.
I know that great diversity of opinion exists concerning the unemployment problem. The speeches delivered during the recent election campaign in New South
Wales by the Leader of the anti-Labour Government, Mr. Mair, suggested that there was no unemployment problem in New South Wales, but according to statistical information, which, I understand, has been made available to the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, at least 30,000 people are out of work in that State to-day. These people naturally conclude that the fact that they cannot obtain employment shows that some one is asleep on the job. If the nation were thoroughly organized industrially there would be work for all, and_ these 30,000 people, in particular, would have the employment to which they consider they are justly entitled. Queensland has an army of between 10,000 and 12,000 unemployed, and Victoria has about 5,000 unemployed. The figures for the other States also are disturbing. In view of these faet.3, I ask the Treasurer to give favorable consideration to proposals that have been made to the Government from many country centres ‘that certain specified works should be put in hand which would be helpful to the national war’ effort.
No definite reply has yet been given to a proposition by Mount Morgan Limited that a plant should be established to produce pyrites at ite mine. The company is operating 50 miles inland in Queensland, in a district that has a good climate. If the production of pyrites could be stimulated there suitable employment would be available to men at Rockhampton who at present are without work. It was represented to the Government that pyrites could be used in many directions with great advantage to our war effort. Pyrites yields iron ore and sulphuric acid and also carries a proportion of gold. Mount Morgan Limited treats 1,000,000 tons of sulphide ore per annum which could be produced from 288,000 tons of pyrites yielding sulphur and gold to a gross value of approximately £1,480,000. The entire sulphur requirements of Australia could be supplied from Mount Morgan, and this would have the effect of conserving about £1.000.000 per annum which is now benefiting the non-sterling countries from which sulphur is imported. The local production of sulphur would also be of immense value to the superphosphate industry, and would have the further effect of releasing shipping space for other essential commodities. It is of great importance that this proposal should be considered by the Government and a decision announced at an early date.
Mount Morgan Limited also recommended the establishment of the copper refining industry in Central Queensland to treat blister copper produced at its mine. At present the copper has to be sent to Port Kembla, New South Wales, and this involves all kinds of difficulties in regard to rail and sea transport. Port Kembia is vulnerable to attack by air and sea and, from the defence point of view, the establishment of the copper refining industry away from that locality is, in ray opinion, most desirable. The estimated annual production of refined copper in Queensland is 11,400 tons. It is also computed that refining the copper at Mount Morgan would cost £4 17s. 4d. a ton less than at Port Kembla.
I ask the Treasurer to bring these matters to the immediate attention of the Minister for Supply and Development, for there is an urgent need to provide employment for more than 1,000 men at Rockhampton who are to-day registered as out of work. These people feel that they should be given an opportunity to share in our huge war expenditure so that they may maintain their -wives and families in their homes in Central Queensland. Surely the Government does not wish to accentuate the acute housing shortage which exists in centres where large numbers of workers are congregated. As many people as possible should be induced to live in country centres, and in those centres should tie established industries associated with, the war effort.
I wish to utter a word of advice, and probably of warning, in connexion with the budget which, doubtless, the Treasurer will prepare within the next couple of months. Having been granted by the Parliament Supply for two months, it will be necessary for him, I assume, to introduce his budget for the next financial year before the end of August. He will “be at his wit’s end to’ raise the amount that will be needed, and will probably consider whether the great mats of the working people of Australia can bear a greater burden of taxation than is now imposed on them. I have read in a section of the press the statement that compulsory Commonwealth loans are proposed. The masses apparently are to be compelled to lend money to the Commonwealth Government, on what scale or with what exemptions I do not know. I warn the Government against placing an additional burden on the mass of the workers, including the lower middle class, such as men who are receiving £5, £6, or £7 a week, with which they have to pay insurance and so many other commitments that they are very hard hit. Because of the rising cost of living, those who are at or near the bread-line are confronted with considerable financial difficulty. For many years, some persons who to-day are in what may be regarded as comparatively lucrative employment were out of work and in receipt of the dole. During that period, they contracted liabilities which they now have to discharge, ‘ and they also have to cope with the pressure of rising prices. I appeal to the Treasurer not to hit them harder in the coming budget, because they will not be able to bear a heavier burden. The press has stated that one proposal of the Government is to compel subscription to Commonwealth loans for the duration of the war. This would take from income money now needed to purchase necessaries of life for wives and children. Much has been made by the Government of its child endowment scheme. This will benefit a section of the people, but that benefit will be rendered nugatory if they are compelled to contribute to war loans. I refer to those who have to earmark the whole of their income for the purchase of the necessaries of life. Persons who are on or near the basic wa.ge receive only sufficient to maintain a bare existence, and they cannot forego any of their income. If the press statements I have read are correct, the application of the Government’s proposal would prevent these unfortunate people from providing their dependants with necessaries which they can purchase to-day Only with the greatest difficulty. By means of direct and indirect taxation, the working class is making a proportionately larger contribution to war expenditure, and consequently a greater sacrifice, than are the rich. It would be idle to say that many rich men who are engaged in industries associated with the war effort are not becoming richer as a result of the war. Throughout history, when the people have been asked to make sacrifices the worker has been called upon to bear the major share. The Labour party says that the Government must not place heavier imposts on the mass of the people of Australia.
Since the outbreak of war, the Labour party has fought consistently for better rates of pay for members of the Australian Imperial Force, the Navy, Air Force, and the Militia, and their dependants. It will be remembered that the Government first proposed a payment of 5s. a day, plus ls. a day deferred pay subsequent to embarkation, for members of the Australian Imperial Force, together with 2s. Cd. a day for the wife and 9d. a day in respect of each dependent child. Mainly as the result of the persistent efforts of honorable members on this side of .the House, the Government was forced to increase tha rates, to those which apply to-day, and to give an extra 7s. a week as a domestic allowance to the wife of the soldier. It must be borne in mind that the dependants of soldiers are receiving a fixed amount, and that since the war began the cost of living has risen considerably. .Statistics show that, in respect of food, -clothing and rent, the increase has been approximately 9 per cent. It can be stated quite safely in general terms, that the increase of the cost, of living has been from 15 per cent, to 2.i per cent. An example of rising costs is afforded by the enormous increases of rents for houses occupied by the workers. Some adjustments of salaries and wages have been made with a view to meeting a portion of the increased COst. Even the pensioner receives a concessional payment in order to enable him to meet the increased cost of living. Bur the dependants of soldiers who are risking their lives, overseas have not been granted an additional allowance which might enable them to cope with the gradual increase of living costs, and their position is becoming worse daily. An increased allowance to the dependants of soldiers is the very least the Government should do, and .1 ask the Treasurer to consider the matter when he i3 framing his budget. I further point out that many returned soldiers of the last war, whose- pensions are. at a fixed rate, do not, by reason of the increased cost of living, receive to-day the value that they received when the amount of their pension was fixed. This’, also, might be taken into consideration by the Government. The wives of soldiers should not be asked to make such an economic sacrifice, in view of the sacrifice they are already making in caring for their children and keeping the home going in the absence of the bread-winner. The purchasing power of what they receive should be as great to-day as it was when first granted. Although the soldiers do not complain, they rightly look to the country to see that their dependants are properly cared for while they >are fighting overseas.
I wish to touch briefly on banking and monetary reform, a subject which may be more properly and fully discussed upon an examination of the budget a few months hence. Since the last war, and especially since the commencement of the present war, all students of finance and banking have clearly recognized the need for a radical change in our banking and monetary system, in order to meet the stress and strain of the present struggle. ‘ The old orthodox methods of finance mint be discarded, and replaced by a more universally workable system. Mr. H. J. Kelliher, Director of the Bank of New Zealand, stated last year that, to fight a war with privatelycreated mon:y alone was to fight two enemies, one within and one without. According to statements made by the Govern ment, an amount of approximately £250.000.000 will have to be raised next financial year for war purposes. Last year, tho budget made provision for war expenditure Totalling £186,000,000: What our f-‘turp commitments will be, it is impossible to «av with any degree °f accuracy. It would he absurd to visualise any restriction of our war effort because of shortage of money. If implements of war are necessary, the means to manufacture them must be found. Had Germany considered orthodox financial methods, it would not have been able to prepare for war as it did for years. We were told that its utilization of the credit of the nation during the last six or seven years would prove disastrous. The world was waiting for it to collapse financially, but instead of doing so it became stronger. I do not contend that credit can be expanded to an unlimited <extent; but I do claim that it could be utilized to a greater extent than is the case to-day. I am most definitely of the opinion that, within safe limits, a far greater amount of what is needed for war and other public requirements could be provided through the Commonwealth “Bank. The objection might be raised that a large expansion of credit through the Commonwealth Bank would soon find its way into the accounts of the trading banks, whose credit -would thus be expanded1, and that this might lead to an era of profiteering In respect of public credit, or, in other words, to a measure of inflation. I believe that to be true. Everything would depend upon the amount of credit made available, and the ‘way in which it was used. Credit expansion through the Commonwealth Bank would enable the trading banks to build up a superstructure of credit unless ‘steps were taken to restrict their operations. If the Commonwealth Bank were the only banking institution, operating in Australia, there would be no danger of this happening. The report of the commission appointed by the Government to investigate the monetary and banking systems, at a cost of £20,000, is an illuminating document, which shows the disastrous results of allowing the policy .of private trading banks to prevail and to have first consideration. The commission realized that there is need for some control to be exercised over expansion of credit by the private banking institutions, and it made certain recommendations which, if given effect, would enable the Government to prevent advantage from being taken by those institutions of any credit made available by the Commonwealth “Bank. I recently read that interesting publication Jobson’s Digest, of the 15th January, 1941. Dealing with public credit expansion, it said that if the trading banks could be trusted not to pyramid further credit expansion on the base provided by their improved liquidity, the Commonwealth Bank could be used to provide credit in all circum- stances where the use of trading bank credit would have been wise. This, the article went on to say, would benefit the taxpayer, although that benefit would be derived at the expense of the bank’s shareholders. The article also stated -
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that this trading hunk expansion affects the loan market and the liquidity of the public just exactly as if the Central Bank itself had expanded credit; Central Bunk credit is no worse (or no better) than trading bank credit in its effects on the economic situation outside the bunking system. The difference lies within the banking system, since the Central Bank alone cun expand the type of credit which increases the liquidity of the banks as well as of the public.
If this were brought about, I. think it i3 clear that credit expansion” through the Commonwealth Bank, provided the activities of the private banks were controlled, would have no different effect from that of the credit expansion provided through the private banks. The Labour party has always accepted full responsibility for the obligations imposed by. the Constitution, believing, as Professor Copland said in 1931, that banking is more than mere finance, and that it is a great social function which should be controlled in the permanent interests of the people. I ask the Government to take into consideration whether it should not implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, or tell the House what it is prepared to do in that regard. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), speaking on the budget in 1939, when he urged the release of credit through the Commonwealth Bank in order to finance the war effort, said that the Government could not rely entirely on orthodox finance to safeguard Australia in the years ahead. No doubt these and ancillary problems will have the attention of the Treasurer between now and the time when, he brings before the Parliament the budget for the next financial year.
I believe that there should be greater utilization than there how is of the credit resources of the nation, within safe limits, in order to finance reproductive undertakings and’ some defence works. There should be a greater co-ordination of the efforts of the departments of Supply and Munitions, the Army. Air, and the Navy, in order to prevent iiic wastage of skilled labour that is taking place to-day. There should be a greater concentration on new proposals for the supply of the necessary raw materials for the purpose of speeding up the Avar effort. It is of no use to leave the whole of this responsibility to overworked and overtired Ministers who already have too many duties to perforin. That is why the Leader of the Opposition said, on behalf of the Labour party, that he would not object to an increase of the number of Ministers, within reason, in order to enable the Government to discharge the greatly increased responsibility that devolved upon the central Government of Australia as the result of the Great War. The Government will have less difficulty with the States of Australia if it takes them more into its confidence and brings about greater co-operation between the Governments of the Commonwealth, and the States. The States have the residual powers, and have Government departments of many years’ standing, as well as able administrators. I believe that any of the State Governments would he glad to make available to the Commonwealth capable administrators in. the persons of experienced public servants and engineering experts, if application were made for them. Far greater use could be made of the instrumentalities of the States for the building up of our war effort. The railway workshops throughout Australia could be utilized to a much greater degree than they have been in the past. I am told by the chairman of the regional advisory committee in Brisbane, Colonel Evans, that Rockhampton has the bestequipped, workshops for their size in Queensland. These works could provide employment for 1,200 men in Central Queensland, where an acute unemployment problem exists to-day. The younger employees could be taught various trades, and the older men could be used on skilled and semi-skilled work.
– I was not in Canberra when the House honoured the memory of my predecessor, the late Mr. J. L. Price, but I should like to pay my tribute to his sincerity, impartiality and kindliness. He was very greatly respected, both in this Parliament and in his electorate, and the esteem in which he was held makes the task even harder for one who enters this House as his successor at the moment of our greatest national crisis. The recent ‘by-election in Boothby was fought on the subjects of political unity and an all-in war effort. Two events of last week will be extremely encouraging- to my constituents, and, indeed, to all of the people of the Commonwealth. The first was the broadcast speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on “‘the prospectus of an unlimited war effort,” and the second was the offer of co-operation made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in accepting the greater part of that prospectus. None of the criticisms which we Iia vo since heard have destroyed the hopes which were aroused in the nation by those fine, fair and patriotic addresses.
One notes the Prime Minister’s statement that every private citizen must pay everything he can towards the cost of the war effort, after making frugal provision for his real needs. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said last week that the salary of members should be limited to £500 per annum, and if the war continues for some years, I think it will be found that the honorable member for East Sydney was not exaggerating. The British income tax is at present about three times greater par capita than that, imposed in Australia. If we are to develop the war effort to ibo same degree as the people of Great Britain, any Australian who finds himself in receipt of £10 a week in future may consider himself fortunate.
I was interested in the protest by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini.) about the Prime Minister’s statement as to ou.r mortgaging the future. We have received no definite taxation figures for next year, but, even allowing for taxation at an increased rate and the continuation of voluntary loans at the same rate as at present, it appears that we shall have to bridge a gap of a great many millions of pounds. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) stated a few minutes ago that there was a lag of about £30,000,000 in the estimated expenditure, but even allowing for this we may have to bridge n gap of from £50,000,000 to £70,000,000. Can we bridge this gap by releasing credit in the way suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition? Honorable members opposite are already complaining of rising prices, and to some extent their complaint is justified. Retail prices have increased by 8.6 per cent. since the outbreak of the war. The basic wholesale prices are up over 12 per cent., but, against that, the basic wage of the six capital cities is up 7.6 per cent., although, if one allows for margins, the increase of wages is only about 3.7 per cent. That is not altogether unsatisfactory; perhaps it is good under war conditions. The question that arises is : Can we continue to keep prices down in view of the increasing war expenditure? The figures for April, 1939, April, 1940, and April, 1941, show that, as a matter of fact, a good deal of inflation has. already occurred. The notes in the hands of the public and the banks, the Commonwealth Bank deposits and the deposits in private banks have already increased greatly. According to the estimates of one economist, we are already facing a 25 per cent. inflation. If that were increased by a large releaseof credit, we might find that prices would break away from control and a heavy burden would be imposed, particularly on persons with low fixed incomes. Heavy burdens would also be cast on persons with low wages and salaries, because these incomes rarely rise as rapidly as prices. Such a condition would certainly be followed by grave industrial unrest and possibly a breakdown of our whole financial system. Whatever the views of honorable members may be, they must realize what a disaster a financial crisis would be in the midst of a desperate war.
What arethe other means of bridging the gap? There is. of course, taxation, but taxes are now very heavy and will almost certainly have to be increased. The difficultyis that more than 60 per cent. of the national spending power lies with persons on the lower incomes. Many of these incomes are exempt, and have to be exempt, from direct tax. Can we bridge the gap by voluntary loans? It does not seem likely that we shall be able to increase those loans next year. Another interesting method is that of rationing. It is fair to all, because all are limited to certain commodities. The Government can take the whole of the unexpended income for war purposes, but in many respects a system of rationing would be extremely difficult to administer. Itwould lead to great popular discontent, as we have seen by the petrol rationing scheme; it results in serious administrative difficulties, as wo have already seen with regard to petrol rationing; and it leads to great hardship, as I am afraid we have also discovered in connexion with petrol rationing. Britain has resorted substantially to a system of rationing, and Germany also is using it a great deal. But the general opinion is that rationing is rather the sort of thing to which one resorts only in times of great need. I think the best way out of the difficulty - and in this I disagree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - is to try to bridge this gap by adopting some of the measures suggested by the famous Dr. Keynes in England regarding compulsory saving. That is why I am speaking to-day - perhaps too soon for a new member - but I want, to make a constructive suggestion before the budgetis brought down. I am glad that the Government is considering the plan, and I hope that the members on both sides of the House will consider it carefully before the budget is debated. The proposal is set out in Dr. Keynes’s famous pamphlet, How to Pay forthe War, which was criticized most favorably in the International Labour Office Report No. 33, Series B, Montreal, 1941. The conclusion reached is this: -
For its main objectives - anequitabledistribution of the war burden - greater economic equality - and a restriction of post-war instability - there can be nothing but approval.
– What does the honorable member think of the capital levy that goes with that scheme?
– I would rather not deal with the subject until it is possible to get further economic advice on it, though I agree with Dr. Keynes that it might be possible in peace-time. The report goes on to say that although war taxation must be imposed to the greatest possible extent, in a long war one must go on to rationing, or price-fixing, or wage control, or an inflation which would injure the workers. To these things the advantages of Dr. Keynes’s scheme form a striking contrast.
That plan, I understand, may be put into operation in Great Britain. Dr. Keynes thinks that the increasing war expenditure puts an increasing purchasing power into the hands of the people,but the war effort naturally tends to decrease the amount of ordinary goods that are being produced. Therefore, there is an increasing amount of purchasing power competing for a decreasing amount of ordinary goods. Hence prices must rise, and there is danger of breaking through price control, and the resorting to inflation, which injures those on the lower incomes. Dr. Keynes says the test way to remedy this is to reduce the purchasing power of the public by borrowing money under compulsion. He suggests that the Government should restore the money after the ‘war, either by paying off the loans by instalment, or, as was suggested by interjection just now, by means of a capital levy, which Dr. Keynes thinks could be managed quite well in peacetime. These are the advantages of the plan: First of all, we would owe the money to ourselves. The Government could pay a low rate of interest, or no interest at all. That meets in part the objection raised by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) about our mortgaging the future. Our borrowing could be on a graduated scale.Naturally, the demands would be very slight on the lower incomes. Perhaps there would be no demand on them at all unless the nation was in very grave need. Then there would be a great psychological advantage in the plan. People do not regard money which is lent, even to their friends, as lost, but they do regard money as lost which is paid in taxation. The plan fits in very well with our new child endowment scheme. Keynes himself suggests a child endowment scheme for Britain in order to distribute wealth more equitably. Like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, J. favour higher payments to the lower ranks of the fighting forces, to their dependants, and to women; but, as I listened to his speech, he seemed to me to be trying to get a pint out of a half -pint pot of wealth, and I wondered how our financial system could stand all the things which he, quite rightly, hoped we could do. It might, however, he possible to do all those things if some of the payments - for instance those to the lower ranks of the fighting forces - were made in the form of deferred payments. Soldiers’ gratuities lend themselves extraordinarily well to this system. Another advantage of the scheme is that the money is not tied up irrevocably even for the period of the war. If a man is sick, or meets with particular hardship, the Government can release his deferred pay to benefit him. Then again, individuals have a choice in regard to (ho investment of their savings. Theycan put the money into a closed savings bank account; they can take out insurance, they can put. the money into a friendly society, or, if necessary, it, can be used in payment of death duties. Finally,the plan has this very great advantage: it does offer some hope of checking one of the worst curses of our present economic system, that is, the incidence of periodical depressions and booms. Keynes thinks that money could be called up by the Government under the compulsory saving scheme in order to check booms, and then released by the Government in times of scarcity in order to help us through depressions.
I have tried this afternoon to put before the House the financial war plan of a manwho is probably the greatest living economist, a man who is most impartial and, I might even say, almost radical. I hope that the Government, and honorable members generally, will consider these views carefully in the interests of the whole nation. During the short time that I have been in the National Parliament I have been a little saddened by the amount of destructive criticism that I have heard, including criticism of some of our most efficient, organizations, which, whatever honorable members may think of them, did pioneer our secondary industries, and, at the present time, are the basis of our whole defence effort. I have heard criticism of some of our a.blest organizers, men who are working with great efficiency and success to remedy those defence deficiencies which are due to the blindness of all political parties, and the apathy of the greater part of the public of Australia. A few days ago, I went through a huge Australian munitions factory. In August last, the site of that factory was a paddock covered with boxthorn. The other day I walked hundreds of yards through completed buildings; parsed scores and scores of mighty machines designed and built by Australians entirely out, of Australian materials, and those machines are already turning out vast: quantities of vitally important munitions. In that one factory alone we inspected a great number of amenities which, in a few weeks’ time, will be at the disposal of 9,000 workers. In another factory we saw a vital piece of war equipment already in mass production through the combined efforts of no fewer than 40 Australian firms. British experts said that it, would be impossible to put that piece of machinery into mass production in less than two years. Australian co-operative efforts have done it in -less than ten months.
In a vast national armament scheme such as that there are bound to be some mistakes; there are hound to be some delays; there are bound to be some hardships - and there may even be some injustices. It has seemed to me, however, that the criticism of everything and of every body must be desperately disheartening to ‘our overworked Ministers and other leaders, and it, must be destructive of the morale of the people generally. I think that wc should hitch our wagon to a. star, not to a rubbish cart. We should look al, the best as well as at the worst of our achievements. Last week, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition gave us a splendid lead in unity and co-operative effort. I hope that every member of this House, and all the people of Australia, will give them their united, their unselfish and their loyal support.
.- The debates which have taken place recently have greatly interested me. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) has made an admirable suggestion, v. bich I need not elaborate. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is to be com mend ‘d for his exposure of the bread and boot, scandals, which I can describe as nothing less thin robbery. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) also deserves commendation for hi* exposure of the trade in metals wilh Japan. The three honor able members I have named are those for whom I have commendation, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is not to bc commended ; nor are members of his Ministry. In his broadcast address, the Prime Minister said, “ This is an all-in war.” But the right honorable gentleman larked sincerity, because he is well aware that up to the present the war has been “ all-in “ only for the primary producers and the soldiers at the front. lt is an old saying that the nation gets the honour, but the soldier bears the brunt. The soldiers of this fair land of Australia must bear the brunt when they are required to carry on the burden of the fighting on 5s. a day. Money has no place in this struggle, but, if the Government were sincere in its “ all-in “ effort and in its declaration that, if we lose the war we shall lose our freedom and everything that, democracy stands for, it would say to the soldiers that, in return for their services, each man or his dependants ‘would, be given a £1000 bond. The future can be judged only by the past, but what has the past been? The men who went to the 1914-18 war were told that Australia was to be a land fit for heroes to live in and that their jobs would be waiting for them on their return, but within a few short years many of them had been thrown on the industrial scrap-heap. Probably that is one reason why recruiting is lagging to-day. Another reason is that when men were offering as recruits for service in the present war they were told that they were not wanted because accommodation for them was not available. That was the fault, not of the men, nor of the Labour party, but of the present Government. The Government was so lacking in its dutythat it failed to provide not only encampments for soldiers, but also factories for the manufacture of munitions, and technical schools for the training of munition workers. Even a few days ago, I was compelled to place before the honorable member for Macquarie an instance of young men willing to undertake technical training, who had been informed that their services were not required. I contrast that state of affairs with the Prime Minister’s statement that Ave must do more and that we must put our shoulders to the wheel. No man can do more than offer Iris services. Yet, thousands of men waiting for the opportunity to give their services in order to ensure the freedom of Australia, are not wanted.
The Prime Minister astounded me when lie said that wc must mortgage our future. Our future is more than mortgaged now; our debt is. greater than the people can carry. Before I was elected to this Parliament I was firmly of the opinion that Ave were living under a financial dictatorship.’ That opinion is now a certainty, because I was told by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) that it was not in the public interest to divulge the ratio of gifts and interestfree loans to interest-bearing loans. I can only speak of my own electorate, but in that electorate I was one of the collectors in the campaign for the raising of gifts for the purpose of carrying on the Avar. In the course of the campaign I came into contact with many men who had no money to give, but who gave freely of their products, their cattle, their sheep and their horses, absolutely without compensation. Many of them did not even have 2s. in their pockets, and did not know where their next meal would come from, but they had a, few head of stock which they were willing to deplete in order to assist the country. Their attitude is in striking contrast to that of the great financial institutions of this country which, even, to assure their own future, will not. provide funds except, at a high rate of interest. Abraham Lincoln, that great democrat, said, “I care not who makes the law if I control the credit “. This Parliament makes the laws and. it has the power to control credit. There is no reason, therefore, why the Government should not be able to say to each recruit to the Army that on his return he will lie given an order on the country’s credit for £1,000. If the people were given the alternative of providing that amount of gratuity to their soldiers or the handing over of the country to Hitler and Mussolini, hundreds won kl be killed in the rush to gi ve the soldiers the gratuity.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke about the indescribable conditions in which the people of London are living. Indescribable conditions exist in Australia ; they existed in peacetime. I have seen mothers rearing children in shacks in which I would not tie up a dog.
At the outbreak of war, a conference of wheat-growers in Melbourne was asking that 4s. a. bushel on the first 3,000 bushels be guaranteed to the. growers. But for the Avar, I should think that that request would have been conceded. When the
Avar broke out, however, the farmers’ wheat was confiscated. There is no other word than “ confiscated “ to describe what happened. Generally, when the property of people is taken over by Government.-, it is paid for at market value, but there was no such, compensation for the wheatgroW ers who lost their crops. The wheat commission reported that wheat could not. be grown for less than 3s.’ Gd. a bushel, but the Commonwealth Government paid the growers only ls. 6d. a bushel for their wheat. On the figures of the commission, which cannot be disputed, the farmers lost 2s. on every bushel of wheat grown. How can Ave have- an all-in Avar when that sort of thing occurs? Now the primary producers are unable to sell their produce overseas, because no shipping space is available. Blame for that state of affairs must be laid at the door of the. Government which gave away, not sold, the Australian Commonwealth line of steamers. I object, too, to the system which permits the meat combines to reap all the benefit from the reduced prices of stock. Instead of mutton being down. -ki. per lb., it should be down from 2d. to 2(;d. per lb., so that if any people are to profit at the expense of the primary producers, they should be the poor, not the rich meat interests.
Recently I asked why the Government had not proceeded with the bill for the establishment of a mortgage bank, and I was told by the Treasurer that the measure had been taken to the secondreading stage, but that the interests of other people had to be considered. The “ other people”, I conclude, are the private banks. In the absence of a mortgage bank, I asked the Prime Minister to have the rate of interest on mortgages reduced to 2i per cent, while the war was on, in order to bridge the gap between costs and prices. I have not yet received an official reply to my suggestion, but I read in the press on Saturday that there would be no reduction of interest rates. Is that a fail- deal to the primary producers who are compelled to accept low prices hut have to maintain their interest payments at rates which are beyond their means?
I was astounded to learn on a visit to the Lithgow small arms factory that men who are working a twelve-hour shift from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. have to travel daily between Katoomba and Lithgow because housing for them is not available near their work. Most peop’e realized two years before war broke out that war was inevitable. The Government, there-, fore, should have prepared for the event of war by providing housing near the munitions factories. It failed to do so, with the result that at Lithgow to-day there are only about 200 houses to accommodate the thousands of workers who want homes. At the outlet of war, mcn coming off shift waited for other men’s beds.
Another aspect of this matter is the fact that to-day skilled men are washing down motor cars whereas they ought to be in munitions factories. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) has already directed the attention of honorable members to that fact. Yet the Prime Minister spoke about “ equipment, equipment and more equipment “. It is a standing disgrace that those responsible for our war effort should allow such a condition to continue. During the depression years when it was known to every body that the German dictator was building up a great war machine with illich to threaten the peace of the world, s.ingle unemployed mcn in
New South Wales who could have been profitably employed on work of a national character, were forced to live on a dole of 8s. a week. What lack of foresight on the part of those responsible for our national safety! Is it any wonder that we have been unable to make our war effort all that it should be? Honorable members on this side of the House must have convinced the Government that, in prosecuting its war effort, it should consider not only the means of financing the war but also the convenience and welfare of the people without whose assistance we could not continue the fight. Before the war, whenever social service or developmental projects, or schemes for the improvement of the welfare of the people were mentioned, the Government coldly said - “We have no money”. But what happened when the war broke out? Countless millions have been found to provide an army and to equip it with the means of destruction. We have heard frequent references to a new order, but what has this Government done to plan for a new deal when the war is over? On every occasion when we have asked that the lot of the soldier be improved, that he be given some promise of security when Iris task is completed, the Government invariably replies that it lias no money for that purpose. Why must all these things be judged in terms of money? If we lost Australia to-morrow we would ]Cse not only our wealth and our material possessions but al-o our freedom. Why should money stand in the way of the success of bur recruiting campaign? If every soldier on his enlistment was guaranteed fi. 000 on his return from tho war there would bo no lack of recruits offering their services. I was dumbfounded to think that any honorable member on the other side of the House would again raise that ugly word’ “ conscription “ in this fair land of the Southern Cross. During the last war the people showed emphatically that they would have none of it. I hope that the people of Australia , will never have to suffer the results of the curse of conscription. If the national wealth of this country were utilized for the benefit of the people as a whole it could indeed be made a land fit for heroes to live in when the war is over.
I propose now to say a word or two regarding the vexed question of petrol rationing. When the party to which I be’ ong, foreseeing the inevitable day when our supplies of petrol from overseas ‘ would be cut off by war, suggested to the Government that, funds should be made available for the establishment of industries for the manufacture of petrol substitutes, we were told that such production would not be economic in Australia. Power alcohol can be made from potatoes, wheat, s.?go, and many other commodities, but the Government has done nothing to foster the manufacture of petrol substitutes from these commodities. The tendency of the Government to measure the success of ventures of this kind in terms of money is regrettable. I appeal to the Government not to allow the problem of finance to interfere with the welfare of our people. I trust that when the war is over the resources of that great national institution, the Commonwealth Bank, will be utilized to a greater degree in the rehabilitation of the country.
.- is the Government is asking Parliament to appropriate a large sum of money in this Supply Bill, it is natural that honorable members should direct the attention of Ministers to many instances of what may be termed ill consideration, in the expending of public money. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), in answer to a question, admitted that our soldiers are being used to build and repair strategic roads in Australia. When -the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) suggested that our soldiers should be used for the purpose for which they were recruited, or released to take their place in other spheres of the war effort, the Minister for the Air (Mr. McEwen) said, by interjection,, that it is not good for men in uniform to be engaged in work alongside civilians. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked that if the Department of Air had an oversupply of skilled men, such as engineers and fitters, they should be transferred to another department, such as the Munitions Department, where there is a shortage of that class of labour. If the contention of the Minister for Air is correct, it is also true that men in the Army should not be doing work for which civilians are clamouring.. I have personal knowledge that some of the men in the Army are engaged, in the building and repair of strategic roads, and that civilians engaged on this same sort of work are being employed under the State Government scheme on a ration basis. In other words, there is a double labour supply to do this work and only one half of the labour time is being used. In travelling over some of the roads connecting military camps in New South Wales I found that one of them was not available for use in bad weather for as long as six months because of a faulty bridge. Another road was closed to traffic only a fortnight ago because of a sudden storm. On repair work in connexion with roads of that kind, rationed labour is employed. The extraordinarily long delays experienced in putting urgent work of this sort in hand have a detrimental affect on the spirit of the people in the areas in which the roads are situated. They know that men are crying out for work of this sort, and cannot, get it. The Government should give careful consideration to the manner in which the moneys appropriated by this bill are to be expended.
I direct the attention of the Government to the need for developing the natural resources, particularly the mineral resources of Australia. At present we badly need base metals of all kinds for our war effort.
Earlier to-day I directed the attention of the Minister assisting the Prime Minister (Mr. Collins) to the existence of 12 miles of 60-lb. rail steel which is to be covered with bitumen because ito removal, and conversion into scrap would, it is said, be uneconomical. The unemployed in New South Wales should be set to work to salvage that steel. It appears-, however, that labour which is badly needed in other directions is actually employed in burying in the ground steel which could be used in our war effort. In spite of the Prime Minister’s grandiloquent statement that unessential industries are to be curtailed in order to release men for employment in the war industries, there -are still thousands of unemployed in the registered lists in New South Wales. Why should not this reservoir of labour be tapped before existing industry is interfered with? The disorganization of industry and throwing of men on to the labour market is the direct result of ill-considered regulations made by the Government. Let us consider for a moment the effect of the petrol rationing scheme. The need for a large number of vehicles, particularly power-driven vehicles, capable of being placed in .commission at a moment’s notice, is apparent to every one; yet the Government’s petrol rationing scheme has thrown thousands of vehicles out of commission without making provision for their u°c in case of need. Many of the-c vehicles will deteriorate, became their owners have not .sufficient money to keep litem in order. If there be a sudden call for motor transport of all descriptions these vehicles will not be available. At this la le hour the Government proposes to overcome some of the difficulties resulting from petrol rationing by providing for the mass production of producer-gas units in some of the big factories which are already overtaxed in supplying our defence requirements. Producer-gas units could very well be manufactured by country garages which are hard hit by the petrol rationing scheme. The Government, however, makes no attempt to develop this source of supply, and instead proposes to add an additional burden to already overtaxed industries operating in the cities. That seems to me to be a rather contradictory method of conducting an all-in war effort. I direct attention also to the lack of concerted effort to devise ways and means of utilizing our resources of mineral ores. I have already brought under the notice of honorable members the fact that great iron ore resources are not being developed. In answer to a question which I asked the Minister concerned said something that was absolutely wrong. No doubt his officers advised him that the Carcoar deposits had been worked out, but according to so high an authority as the New South Wales Department of Mines, only 3,000,000 tens out of a potential 3.000,000 tons has been taken out at Carcoar. Then we have the case of the Blayney copper mine in which the copper in solution in the water lying in the mine pays for the unwatering of the mine each year, but no effort is made to recover that copper by mining. Also, the Wyangala Dam has been completed so far as the storage of water is concerned, but we find that’ no hydro-electric machinery has been installed. The central west of New South Wales cannot be adequately supplied with power should the necessity arise to establish factories in that area, because sufficient copper cable cannot be obtained to transmit power from Burrinjuck or from the Lithgow scheme. If the energy resources available at Wyangala for hydroelectric generation were used, that difficulty would not have arisen. It i3 also true that there are coal reserves in that district. Possibly that coal has little value on the market as fuel, but in a case of emergency such as this, being on the spot, it is very valuable for the generation of electrical energy; yet no effort is being made to bring about such a development. All of these things should be locked into by the Government, but when an honorable member calls attention to them in this chamber, the Minister concerned says that he will call for a report. Many months elapse before that report is made, and should it favour something being done in the development of resources, many more months pass before action is taken. In- view of these things how can the Government talk of an “all-in” war effort? The Government apparently recognizes the need for something being done to assist those people displaced from industry as a result of petrol rationing, and I understand that consideration is being given to the granting of a moratorium to garage proprietors in country areas. I believe that such action would cause further disorganization in industry, because many proprietors of garages in. the country have obtained their capital from lending societies, which in turn, derive their funds from small investors such as people living on annuities - perhaps justifiably so, being children of deceased parents. The granting of a moratorium would therefore cause further upheaval. It would be much better to assist garage proprietors and small factory owners to manufacture things we need. They could fulfil a’ double function by providing us with producer-gas units at an economical rate in order to keep our power-driven vehicles on the road, and, at the same time, meeting their commitments. But that is not being done. The Government just talks of a moratorium, and by the time a moratorium is granted, all of those people will be out of business, and the moratorium will be of no use at all. For a long time now honorable members on this side of the House, particularly those representing country constituencies, have been pleading with the Government to grant a moratorium to primary producers. The primary producing section was “the first to be severely hit by disorganization resulting from the war, and as
I have said, members onthis side of the House have pleaded with the Government to grant a moratorium. But no. The Government has set forth various plans for doing this and that to save the industry, and has only succeeded in putting out of action the very people on whom the industry depends. I can cite instances of farmers having been put off their land by foreclosure by the banks. Admittedly, the banks have to carry out their obligations under our orthodox system of finance. They are not concerned with whether or not the farmer stays on the land. They are concerned only with the interests of the shareholders. Of course, that is quite a legitimate business, but it is the duty of the Government which enables the banks to carry on at a profit, to see that the farmer also is protected, and nothing has been done to that end. We have asked that full use be made of buildings and factories in country towns, either for the storage of food, or by their conversion to the production of essential commodities. We have the classic example of the Daroobalgie meat works at Forbes. That establishment is not being used in spite of the Government’s talk of food conservation, andstorage of perishable primary products by means of refrigeration. The owners of the meatworks offered not only those buildings to the Government but also to transfer to them labour from other meatworks situated along the coast, which are being used principally for cool stores and are not operating at full capacity. The Minister replied that he would consider the offer. That was six months ago, but nothing has beendone. Population is drifting from the rural towns with the result that financial stagnation exists in the heart of the country on whose well-being the prosperity of Australia depends.
The Government preaches decentralization of the war effort, and says that as it expects all sections to share the common sacrifice it intends to spread as equitably as possible any benefits which may arise from the war effort. About six months ago, with other honorable members on this side of the House, I interviewed the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender). We asked him to establish militarycamps in some country areas. He replied by giving to us confidential information to show that the location of camps was determined solely by military considerations. However, action taken subsequently in this matter by the military authorities reveals pronounced inconsistency on the part of the Government when it speaks of spreading the benefits accruing from the war effort. To-day I asked the Minister for the Army whether I could discuss the locations of camps for prisoners of war, and as he replied that the disclosure of such information would not conflict with military policy, I now intend to deal with that subject. Some time ago I asked that these camps be located at centres which were not participating in the war effort, and the Minister concurred in my request. Subsequently, considerable expenditure was incurred in the establishment of a camp for prisoners of war at Cowra. I understand that the military authorities decided upon that site for purely military reasons. To-day, however, again for military reasons, apparently,the authorities have decided to shift that camp from Cowra. Apart from any criticism which might be levelled in this matter against the military authorities, one cannot disregard such wasteful expenditure. Consequently, the decisions of the military authorities in such matters should always be considered in conjunction with the financial aspect in order that stricter control of expenditure might be exercised.
We have been assured from time to time that, owing to the alertness of officers of the Taxation Department, no big company has the slightest chance of escaping its just tax. In this respect I refer honorable members to the following extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the21st June: -
New York, 20th June.
According to the Now York Times, the Secretary to the United States Treasury, Mr. Henry Morgenthau, has asked a leading New York underwriter to refund 1,000,000 dollars (£A322,500) from the commission of 7,800,000 dollars (£A2,437,500) received from the British Government for the sale of Britishowned American Viscose Corporation, for which the British Government received 54,000,000 dollars (£ A16,875,000).
Mr. Morgenthau said that the New York bankers had re-sold to the American public for62,000,000 dollars (£ A19,375,000) . He feels that the resale was so successful that Britain should receive at least another 1,000,000 dollars, the newspaper says.
The corporation is the largest rayon yarn manufacturer in the United States.
American Viscose was a subsidiary of Courtaulds Limited, a British company, and the deal wasmade to provide dollars for Britain’s war purchases. Courtaulds Limited was to be reimbursed by the British Government in sterling.
The point I emphasize is that if Courtaulds Limited had stated the true value of its assets no substantial difference would have existed between the figure at which those shares were sold to the American public and the amount which the company received. However, we know that practices of that kind are going on in big business. In many of our heavy industries in New South Wales, for instance, a certain sum is allotted annually for depreciation of machinery and repairs of machinery. It is said that a taxation expert can at any time inspect these machines in order to arrive at a fair assessment of depreciation and repairs. But many big companies have machines which are the only ones of their kind in Australia, and in the absence of any other similar machinery for purposes of comparison,’ a taxation expert, who is. not an engineer, is totally incapable of arriving at a fair assessment inthat respect. Many big companies escape substantial tax in this way by claiming excessive amounts in respect of depreciation year after year. At the same time the value of their shares appreciates considerably. Within ten or twelve years the book value of shares in such companies as the Broken Hill ProprietaryCompany Limited, Tooth and Company, or the Colonial SugarRefining Company Limited increases four or five times. If some of those companies were obliged to sell to the Australian public we should find a position arising similar to that which was disclosed in the sale of the British owned American Viscose Corporation to which I have just referred. I know from personal experience how one of our so-called gilt-edged companies operates. I refer to a brewing company. In every transfer of the licence of a hotel owned by the company, an arbitrary amount of 30 per cent. of the sale price is claimed for depreciation of the property involved, and that amount is expended on repairs, regardless of the number of times in a year in which the licence is transferred. It must be obvious that in most instances the property is in need of no repair at all. In addition, a certain sum is put aside annually from the funds of the company itself allegedly for the purpose of keeping these properties in good repair. Consequently, those properties are not depreciating, but appreciating very considerably from year to year. It must also be remembered that owing to the limitation of hotel licences the brewing companies enjoy practically a monopoly of the hotel business. This is but one example of the difficulties confronting taxation officials in assessing the tax which should be paid by many of the big companies operating in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– Considerable inconsistency is revealed in the Government’s treatment of the wage-earner compared with the capitalist. Last year, the Treasurer imposed a tremendous burden of taxation upon the community generally; but the workers suffered almost a punitive rate. In effect, they were subjected to a capital levy. The wages of a worker are the only capital that he possesses. If his wages bo taxed, the proceeds must, in my opinion, constitute a capital levy. Unfortunately, the Government has not suggested the imposition of a capital levy upon those who supply the requirements of big contractors to various government departments.No suggestion has been made to obtain an interest-free loan from the financial institutions. The Treasurer declared in effect : “ We must take from circulation an amount of money that will preclude undue competition for the consumable goods available, and thus prevent a tendency towards inflation “. Nothing tends towards inflation so much as to allow a tremendous amount of money to accumulate in the private banks, ‘because those funds have to be placed in circulation again in the form of credit which is made available to the private traders. I can cite instances of competition between various banks to extend credit to the moneyed classes, and that practice causes inflation to a greater degree than the payment of reasonable wages to the workers who, in a general way. have insufficient purchasing power to enable them to live in accordance with the standards of which we boast. Because of lack of purchasing power, they buy only what they can consume. Australian factories have been able to produce a surplus of goods. When manufacturers accumulate reserve stocks, they dismiss employees until the surplus i3 dispose of. and thus unemployment is created. Money, which is put into circulation through the medium of wages, is no more than is sufficient to enable the workers to purchase the bare necessaries of life. The Government will not trust the workers with too much money. By compulsory loans, it deprives them of large sums, but pretends to soften the blow by promising to return to them, after the war, a percentage of the money. The same persons whom we compel now to lend the money, will be the class from which we shall compulsorily borrow at a later stage in order to repay the loan. In that way, the circle of borrowing and repayment will be completed, the money at. all times being taken from the workers. That illustration reveals the preferential treatment meted out to the privileged classes compared with the hardships that the workers are compelled to endure.
Recently, a former Premier of New South Wales was appointed at a princely salary to an important position in India. When I use the word “ princely “, I do so intentionally, paying regard to its full significance. The salary which is being paid to that gentleman is princely remuneration in a land of princes, and is out. of all proportion to the salaries that are paid foi- similar services in parts of the British Empire almost wholly composed of white communities. In direct contrast is the treatment of the poor in the Commonwealth. Recently a labourer in my constituency suffered an unfortunate accident, as the result of which a leg was amputated at the thigh and he can- no longer perform his customary work. His early training did not fit him for employment in any other capacity; but because the Pensions Act rules that a man must be totally and permanently incapacitated before he is eligible for a pension, this man is unable to qualify.
Great monopolies now control primary production in Australia. Five or six small groups of licensed receivers handle the whole of the wheat produced in the Commonwealth. For their services, they receive handsome remuneration. They get a commission on the wages that they pay to their employees upon receiving the wheat; they are paid a commission on the wages of their employees when the wheat is removed from stacks or silos. They employ subcontractors, who get a mere morsel compared with their big rake-off. Still they are not satisfied with their lot. When the greatest wheat harvest in our history was being placed in silos and into stacks, the Australian Wheat Board had a series of regulations which fixed the amount of dockage to be charged in connexion with bagged wheat. The scale varied from 6d. to 3d. At that time supplies of jute were’ short, and against all established rules the board was compelled to allow wheat to be garnered and carried in second-hand bags, and bags other than cornsacks. The amounts were docked from the accounts of the farmer who supplied the wheat in such bags to the licensed receiver; the Wheat. Board docked the receiver when the wheat was received into the stacks. In June, when more than onehalf of the record harvest had still to be received, the regulations were amended, fixing a flat rate for dockages of about 3d. a bag. Up to that- time, the licensed receivers had docked the farmers at the rate of approximately 6d. a bag; but the receivers were docked only 3d. a bag. In that way they showed a handsome profit. In my opinion, the Government could profitably turn its eyes to an examination of its own organizations instead of heckling and irritating the workers and making provocative statements about the dislocation of industry caused by strikers and the waste of labour power. Because employers would not engage the labour available, the equivalent of 20,000 labour days has been lost each day in New South “Wales during the last two or three years. That wastage has been brought about directly by Government mismanagement. The Government should put its own house in order and find employment for those out of work before it criticizes organized labour for some temporary stoppage of industry that has been caused by unusual conditions arising out of the Avar effort.
Mi JOLLY (Lilley) [8.10].- This
Supply Bill, which makes provision for an amount of £15,141,000, is the predecessor of the budget that will be introduced later in the year. On that occasion honorable members will have a better opportunity than is provided at present to review various items of expenditure. The Treasurer (Mr. Eadden) explained to the House that the bill covers a period of two months. When a similar measure was introduced at a corresponding date last year, I think, speaking from memory, that it covered a period of three months. But if that measure extended over only two months, the present bill contains some remarkable reductions of expenditure in connexion with the nonfighting services. For example, the expenditure on Parliament for the first two months of the new financial year is £39,000 compared with £52,000 last year.
– The period of Supply last year was for three months.
– No honorable member could obtain that information from a perusal of this bill. From the poor attendance of honorable members in the chamber, this afternoon, I gained the impression that a few million pounds were, to them, a mere bagatelle. At one stage only ten members were present when this bill, providing for the expenditure of £35,141,000, was under discussion.
– Supporters of the Government were absent from the chamber.
– :So were members of the Opposition. During the last two or three years officials of the Treasury and of the Taxation Department have had a difficult task in estimating the financial requirements of the Government. Since the outbreak of war expenditure has risen rapidly from £100,000,000 to £300,000,000 a year, and those officials have been responsible for devising ways of obtaining the additional revenue. Later in the year when the budget and the associated taxing measures are under consideration, ample time to study them should be given to honorable members. Hasty and illconsidered taxation proposals result in anomalies, and in many cases, inequity to taxpayers. Many of the taxation proposals submitted by the Government last year were rushed through the House, and they received very little consideration from honorable members. A. subcommittee representative of honorable members from both sides of the chamber was appointed to give consideration to some important proposals, but it was allowed very little time in which to complete its task and could not examine in detail the probable effect of certain measures which the Government introduced. I recall that the Treasurer at that time promised Parliament that the committee would be asked to meet again before the next budget was introduced in order that it could analyse the effects of the legislation and rectify any anomalies that existed.
– It has not met yet.
– No, but now is the time for it to do so. It would be useless to wait until the budget was before Parliament. Control of the public purse is the supreme function of Parliament, and in addition to examining each item of proposed expenditure, it is our duty to investigate carefully the ways in which the Government intends to raise the required revenue. For that reason, I urge the Treasurer to give to Parliament an adequate opportunity to study the Government’s new proposals for raising revenue. When the budget comes before Parliament the time available for its consideration will be limited, and any interference with it by honorable members would throw the whole, of the Government’s financial arrangements out of balance.
The problem of taxation has become increasing^ serious during the last three years because’, owing to heavy commitments, we have been compelled to encroach, upon the field, of direct taxation to a much greater degree than we did previously. In the year prior to the outbreak of w.ar, the total amount of direct taxation levied by the Commonwealth Government was £3.2,000,000. For the current year, the amount is over £50,000,000, which is almost equal to the total amount of direct taxation levied by the State governments. In view of wartime necessities, I believe that we shall be bound to increase our rate of direct taxation, and this will embarrass the. State governments which have to rely for their revenue almost entirely on direct taxation. I am very pleased to know that the Treasurer has convened a conference of representatives of the State governments in order to consider the problem of uniform taxation. There is urgent need for a system of uniform taxation throughout the Commonwealth. I repeat now what I said last year, that the ‘only effective way in which we can solve this problem is to have one budget to meet all of the requirements of the Commonwealth Government and of the State governments, with one central taxing authority to raise the necessary revenue. In my opinion, the constitution of this central authority could be somewhat like that of the Loan Council and, if necessary, the functions of the Loan Council could be extended in order to embrace control of Consolidated Revenue. This would enable a complete survey of national resources to be made, and would make it possible for the Commonwealth Government and the State governments to arrange taxing measures so that there would be equity as between taxpayers. A great deal has been said about the need for uniformity of taxation as between States, but I point out that, as the result of the overlapping of the powers of the Commonwealth Government and the State governments, there is very often inequity in the treatment of individuals residing in the same State. I know that certain people are called upon to pay more than their fair share of taxes, but it would be impossible, under present conditions, to do away with this state of affairs.
– Are they workingclass people?
– I am talking about people with moderate incomes. I cite the case of a small private company which last year made a profit of slightly more than £4,S80. It, has. been called upon to pay to the Commonwealth and the State in which it operates taxes amounting to £4.350. There are many trading concerns in the Commonwealth which are making much greater profits” than that, but which are not called upon to pay anything like the same high proportion of taxes. I know that one of the obstacles to the introduction of a uniform system of taxation is the fact that different State governments impose different rates of tax, but it should be possible to arrive at some scheme which would offset the effect of any marked increase of taxes upon the taxpayers of any particular State. I urge the Government to take action to secure the establishment of a central taxing authority, which could raise the whole of the revenue required by the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. Immediately one mentions a uniform system of taxation, opponents of the scheme raise constitutional difficulties. But in the critical clays through which we are passing neither constitutional difficulties nor State rights should be allowed to interfere, with our national interests. The welfare of the nation is of paramount importance. “We must have a - national outlook on the problem of finance. Whether we like it or not, the greatly increased financial burden which must be imposed on the people of Australia will compel us before leng to take some such action as I have suggested.
I congratulate the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) upon his maiden speech in this Parliament, which he delivered earlier in this sitting. Iri his informative address, he referred to three means of raising revenue - taxation, borrowing, and the extension of national credit. I believe that we have already taken advantage of all of these. In reference to the honorable gentleman’s proposal in relation to Professor Keynes’ idea of obtaining compulsory loans by instalments, I point out that the success of that method depends upon the rate of tax that the Government assesses for the people concerned. If the rates are high it would be impossible to raise the amount of money that the honorable gentleman proposes by means of compulsory loans. A central authority such as I have already suggested could make a complete survey of the nation’s lending powers. I believe that certain people are not bearing their fair share of their war-time responsibilities through contributions to government loans. In view of the serious period through which the nation is passing, the Government should take cognizance of this and call upon these people to subscribe a fair share, using compulsion if necessary.
I agree with other honorable gentlemen who have spoken that certain monetary reforms will become necessary in the near future. A great deal has been said about the extension of credit. I agree that at this time we are justified in taking some advantage of national credit, but the Treasurer has already fully demonstrated that the Government has clone so to a certain degree.
– Why should we not do so at any period?
– It is true that we could do so in peace-time, but we must bear in mind the ultimate effect of such a policy upon the community. There could be no objection to it if it were carefully controlled and employed within limits. The great danger is that it offers strong temptation to continue beyond the limits of safety. My principal object in rising to speak on this measure was to appeal to the Government to ensure that mature consideration shall be given to the taxation proposals for the forthcoming financial year.
.- In rising to make a few observations upon this bill, I should like to say to the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) that I listened to his maiden speech in the House this afternoon with more than an ordinary amount of interest. Whilst I do not subscribe to many of the views he expressed., I congratulate him upon his obvious sincerity and the temperate way in which he advanced his arguments. I point, out that his experience, with regard to the building of a munition factory was greatly different from mine. He said that where there was an open paddock last August there is now a munition factory engaged in mass production. I have no reason to doubt the truth of his statement, but it is greatly at variance with the facts of cases of which I am aware. I know of an annexe - which is a very much smaller concern than a munition factory - on which work was commenced about ten months ago. To-day, although the building has been completed, most of the machinery has yet to be installed. That knowledge does not give me a great deal of enthusiasm regarding the progress of munition work in this country - in new projects, at least.
The Government has seen fit to transfer the central staff of the Invalid and
Old-age Pensions Department from. Canberra to Sydney, for the reason, it was said, that insufficient office accommodation was available in Canberra for this department and the child endowment staff that will now be associated with it. The effect of . this transfer is that all honorable members who wish to make a personal approach to’ the Commissioner of Pensions on matters affecting their pensioner constituents will have to travel to Sydney to do so. The new arrangement may suit honorable members who have to pass through Sydney to reach their constituencies, but it is, in my opinion, a gross injustice to honorable members who will have to make special trips to Sydney to interview the Commissioner. I suggest to the Government that as the new hospital building for Canberra is now approaching completion, the existing hospital building could shortly be converted into office accommodation. I take it that, in view of the acute shortage of office accommodation in Canberra., the present building will be neither demolished nor left vacant. In these circumstances I appeal to the Government to consider favorably making suitable accommodation available in the old hospital building for the staffs of both the Pensions Department and the Child Endowment Department. If this were done, the Pensions staff could lie returned to Canberra almost immediately, for Canberra is, of course, where the staff should be located.
I wish now to direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to certain injustices in the incidence of the sales tax. Complaints have been made to me, and I have satisfied myself by reference to the departmental officials that they are justified, that sales tax is imposed at the rate of 10 per cent, on school text-books and school stationery. It is surely unnecessary that a tax of 10 per cent, should be imposed on text-books and the like which children must have for their school work. Such a tax falls most heavily upon the poorer sections of the, community. I urge the Treasurer to place school text-books and stationery on the exempt list. I appreciate, of course, that the British Empire, and with it, Australia, are in this war together, and that taxes must be levied in order to provide funds for war purposes, but I cannot believe that there is any need to impose this heavy impost on educational requirements. This is taxation of the poor with a vengeance! The amount of money obtained from this source cannot be great.
– It is false economy to tax these requirements.
– I agree with the honorable member. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to exempt these requisites.
The next subject to which I shall refer is of first-rate national importance. Quite a long time ago the Government requested the Tariff Board to investigate a proposal that small ships and suitable gear should be provided for the development of the fishing industry of Australia. The board set about its inquiries and, on the 7th March, 1941, I gave evidence before it in Launceston. At the conclusion of the sitting that day the chairman of the board informed me that the evidence was then practically “complete. Yet more than three months has since elapsed and we are still awaiting the board’s report. I have endeavoured to ascertain from the Minister for Trade and Customs when the report may be expected, but I have not been able to obtain any information on the subject. I have great respect for the ability of the members of the Tariff Board and I consider that they have done good work in many ways, but I must frankly confess that. I am astonished that more than three months after completing the taking of evidence they have not been able to present their report to the Government. As this subject is of such vital importance to the country I trust-that, the report will soon be to hand. .We know very well that the waters which wash the Australian coast teem with edible fish of many varieties. Experts of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have been conducting investigations into this subject for some years. Some time ago I listened with great interest to an address delivered by Dr. Thompson, of the fisheries division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to both Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament at Hobart. Dr. Thompson did not attempt to paint a rosy picture. He discussed logically both the possibilities and the difficulties of the situation. As the speech was delivered in camera, I cannot divulge what was said, but Dr. Thompson has observed on other occasions that the southern waters of Australia abound in fish. He has also said that he believes that the fishing industry should be developed on certain general principles. No doubt the Tariff Board had all this information before it. I cannot understand, therefore, why its report has not been presented. Surely, it. should be able to say whether it believes the industry should or should not be expanded by Government aid on the commercial side. It is irritating to have to wait for so long for a report on a subject, of such great significance. Three sound reasons why the fishing industry should be developed at once are, first, to enable us to preserve dollar exchange; secondly, to provide fish for public consumption; thirdly, to supplement the diet of the members of the fighting services.
– Does the honorable member consider that the fish should be obtained from Tasmanian waters?
– Fishing authorities the world over agree that edible fish can be obtained in more abundance in cold waters than in temperate waters, and I believe that the waters of southern Australia provide the best prospects of success, but, at the moment, I am not considering the subject from that point of view. I regard the development of the industry as a subject of the highest national importance.
– What is preventing the development of the industry now?
– Suitable vessels and also suitable cool storage facilities and harbours, havens and suitable fishing gear are needed.
– And also sufficient capital.
– Capital is necessary, of course, and given sufficient capital all the other requirements that-I have mentioned could be provided ; but it appears that Government assistance will be necessary to establish the industry on a firm footing. Seeing that our supplies from overseas have been interrupted and also that it is desirable for us to do everything possible to develop the natural resources of our country for both present and post-war purposes, I urge the Government to give sympathetic’ consideration to my request for financial assistance for this industry. Private enterprise has done a good deal, but it seems that more profitable avenues of investment are open to it. A. factory has been established at a place in my own electorate at a cost of £22,000, but unfortunately craft and equipment of the kind necessary to withstand rough weather and maintain a continuous supply of fish to keep the machinery of the factory going have not hitherto been available. Refrigeration facilities are necessary at various ports so that fishermen may store their fish until the factories arc ready to take them. No doubt mistakes have been made in the past, but that should not deter us from endeavouring to develop the industry in accordance with our needs. The Government of Tasmania is deeply interested in this industry and it has been able to induce private persons to invest some money in it in the southern parts of the State; but I am asking that the industry shall be regarded as of national importance. Past investigations have not got us very far.
– Is not the fishing industry more or less a State matter?
– Why should it be regarded in that light? We need fish to supplement the diet of our soldiers, and we should be providing supplies from our own territorial waters.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth should assist by providing bounties or by providing suitable vessels?
– I welcome the interest that is being displayed in this industry by members of all parties, and the inquiring turn of mind, of the Minister at the table. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that we cannot afford to import salmon, sardines and herrings, and that, even if we could, we do not want to do so because we have plentiful supplies in our waters.
– Better fish, too.
– Up to a point, the Commonwealth Government has done excellent work. It has accepted responsi bility for the research over a period of years. This work has been in charge of an enthusiastic and a well-qualified officer in the person of Mr. Fowler. The Government acted wisely when, in 1937, it purchased the Wareen. It progressed another step when it brought Dr. Thompson to Australia to take charge of this particular department. The Assistant Minister has asked me to state the form i] which the Commonwealth should assist the industry. Tire answer to that question should be given by the Tariff Board, which should report what it is prepared to recommend as the result of its investigations all over the Commonwealth. Even if it should say that there is no way in which the Commonwealth Government should assist the industry, we should at least know where we were. Probably the Government of Tasmania would then be prepared to accept a greater share of the responsibility for the development of the industry on the Tasmanian coast. I do not think that the Tariff Board would adopt such an attitude. I believe that it would recommend some assistance, probably in the form, of a bounty on shipbuilding, assistance to fishermen to obtain gear, assistance in the establishment of harbours and havens for fishing boats at stated points, and probably the provision of refrigeration depots at certain points. The industry could be assisted in these ways by the National Parliament. The Tariff Board completed the taking of evidence on the subject on the 7th March last - over three months ago - and we should now have its report and recommendations. There is a plentiful supply of fish in our waters. If we fail to develop the industry, it will be developed later by somebody else.
Within recent years, the work of nonofficial postmasters and postmistresses has increased substantially. These officers have now to handle petrol-ration coupons, war savings certificates, tax stamps, and military and naval allotments. From the beginning of next month, they will also have to deal with child-endowment payments. Because of these additional burdens, and of the increased cost of living, which bears as heavily on them as on other sections of the community, the Government should at least increase their allowance. The very nature of their occupation prevents their having an effective organization to press their claims.
– They are the most sweated public servants in Australia.
– I believe that they are. In some outback centres, thiswork has been undertaken even though the officer has had very little training. The officers are kept closely confined to their tasks, and work as many as twelve hours a day, yet they receive practically no compensation.
This bill is to authorize the granting of Supply for a period of two months, at the expiration of which time I presume the budget will be brought down and we shall have an opportunity to examine it. Recognizing that the Government must have money to carry on the services of the country, I offer no opposition to the measure. But I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) with respect to close examination of the details of expenditure. Since I have been a member of this House, and particularly during the last two or three years since the commencement of the war, the opportunity to examine items of expenditure presented in the budget has become less and less. The figures to-day are colossal compared with what they were when I was elected seven years ago - £75,000,000 then, and probably £300,000,000 next year. I also support the advocacy from time to time of the honorable member for Lilley of the reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee, so that all items of expenditure may be thoroughly examined. The Government should at least appoint as early as possible the committee suggested several months ago during discussion of the last budget, so that certain aspects of taxation, and budgetary proposals generally, might be examined before they were presented to this House.
I hope that the Government will favorably consider the matters I have raised ; that a report will be received from the Tariff Board in respect of assistance to the fishing industry; that the sales tax imposed on school books will be removed; and that in the particular area in which. I am interested an annexe will be established, if not in ten months, at least in something less than ten years.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the House, and particularly the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart), to what I regard as important defects in the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I have no complaint to offer - no one could have - with regard to the spirit in which the act is administered by the officers of the department. Everybody who has been in the slightest degree associated with those gentlemen knows that they do their best with the act as theyfind it, and on the principles worked into it by past administrators. I take exception, however, to some of the principles upon which the department proceeds. I believe that the act is being so administered that claimants are deprived of their rights. It is unfortunate that there is no review of the legal principles upon which the department proceeds, because it is my view that in several respects it is departing from the statute, interpreting provisions against an applicant, and imposing upon applicants conditions for which the statute makes no provision.
If an applicant for a pension, at any time before he makes the application, has divested himself of property over the value of £400, the pension is refused, because the department still regards him as being the possessor of the property, despite his inability to regain it. I have in mind an old man, 70 years of age, who had in Gippsland considerable property which was the subject of a large mortgage. He had a nephew living with him. He felt too old to be worried with the property; accordingly, he transferred it to the nephew, on the understanding that he would continue to live with him. The nephew subsequently married, and the old man was turned out. He had no legal claim against the nephew, because, although he had made a voluntary transfer of the property, it was binding upon him. When he applied for an old-age pension, the department said to him: “You had a property worth £1,200, with a mortgage on it of £700. You transferred it to your nephew. For the purpose of administering the act, we regard you as being still the owner.”
That, in my View, is utterly unjustified by any provision of the act. By section 17, paragraphf, the act provides in respect of an applicant for an old-age pension - and there is a similar provision in respect of a claimant for an invalid pension - that “ No person shall receive an old-age pension unless he has not, directly or indirectly, deprived himself of property or income in order to qualify for, or to obtain, a pension.” In this case, and in several like cases in which I have been interested, the department has made it quite clear that it does not contend that the applicants had deprived themselves of property in order to qualify for the pension - that sometimes happens - but it nevertheless says : “ The principle upon which the department acts is to treat you as still being the owner of the property from which you have alienated yourself, even though the transfer is irrevocable.” This old man was refused a pension.
This matter calls for the consideration of the Minister for Social Services.
– Does not the honorable member consider that the Commissioner should have discretionary power?
– No, the act provides that, if an applicant transfers a property in order to qualify for a pension, he disqualifies himself for it. Therefore, where a property is transferred without that motive, the act does not impose any disqualification at all. If the department would say that it was bona fide satisfied that the object of disposing of the property was to enable the applicant to qualify for the pension, that would be the end of it, but in nearly every case that I have had brought under my notice it has said that it does not suggest that the applicant disposed of his property for that purpose. In the particular case that I have mentioned the applicant thought that he had a home for life. His nephew had promised to maintain him, but afterwards took no notice of any claim made upon him.
– The transfer may have taken place years before the applicant sought the pension.
– In this case the transfer occurred several years before the application was made. The section distinctly provides that there is a disqualifi cation if the applicant has deprived himself of property in order to qualify for the pension.
– In many cases that is done.
– But I am dealing with a case where the department admits that that was not the motive. The department says that because the applicant has given the property away without receiving any consideration, although the gift is irrevocable, it still treats him as possessing that property.
Another paragraph h in the same section of the act provides that no person shall receive the old-age pension unless his relatives - husband, wife, father, mother or children - do not either severally or collectively adequately maintain him. I submit that that provision is intended to cover the case in which the applicant is being properly and fully maintained by some relative at home. The department says that, as he is receiving full maintenance from a relative, it refuses to grant the pension. But the department sometimes says - “ We do not say that your child - or as the case may be, your parent - is fully maintaining you, but we contend that he can maintain you up to a certain point, and therefore we shall give you a part pension only “. I suppose that all members have had experience of capes of this kind, but such action seems to be quite unjustified by the act.
In the case of the invalid pension, the claimant, except in the case of a blind applicant, must be permanently incapacitated for work, and a. regulation provides that that means totally and permanently incapacitated for work. So long as the person is not totally and physically incapacitated for any form of work,the department regards the applicant as unqualified for a pension. It may be that the incapacity is so great that the applicant could not, reasonably be expected to get any kind of employment, but according to the department’s view, that does not affect the position. If, hypothetically, the applicant could earn a living at some very rare form of employment, should it be available to him, then he would not be in the department’s view “totally and permanently incapacitated “. The same point arises in connexion with soldiers’ pensions. I contend that the proper principle is that which applies in connexion with the Workmen’s Compensation Act. A phrase almost the same as “ totally and permanently incapacitated” came up for consideration in a ease heard before the Workers’ Compensation Commission of New South Wales, and the High Court. The phrase used there was “ permanently and totally disabled “. The person concerned in that case was a wharf labourer who had sustained a serious injury to a leg. He drew compensation until -he had received £1,000, and then claimed further compensation. The employer said : “ No, you are not entitled to more than £1,000 unless you are permanently and totally disabled.”. The Workers’ Compensation Commission came to the conclusion that he was not permanently and totally disabled, because he could do sedentary work. Medical evidence was given that he could sell tobacco or newspapers in a kiosk, and, therefore, the commission held that he could not claim more than £1,000. Tha matter then went to the High Court. The court said that the commission had been called upon to decide whether the worker had been -permanently and totally disabled, an expression which, in its opinion, meant “ physically incapacitated from ever earning by work any part of his livelihood.” The court then stated that this condition was satisfied “ when capacity for earning has gone except for the chance of obtaining special employment of an unusual kind.” That is the principle that should be applied by the Pensions” Department. The applicant should be regarded as permanently and totally incapacitated when he has no chance of earning his livelihood in a competitive labour market, unless he can be reasonably expected to obtain special employment of an unusual kind. I refer honorable members to what has been done in Great Britain in regard to this matter. Halsbury1 s Laws of England, second edition, volume 34, states at pages 917 and 91S- la assessing the compensation to bc paid to a partially incapacitated workman who is not in employment, the court may not, in general, take into account the fact that economic conditions vender it impossible for bini to got work which lie is able to do. If, however, his incapacity is such that lie is incapable of becoming an ordinary workman of average capacity in any well known branch of the labour market, so that his labour is in the position of an “odd lot in the labour market”, the burden, of proving that such special employment as lie is Jit for is available to him rests upon the employer, and in the absence of such proof, the workman is entitled to receive compensation on the basis of total incapacity.
In one case, which went to the House of Lords, a miner had had a permanently stiff left ankle joint, which- meant that walking or standing was very difficult for him and he could do only sedentary work. The House of Lords held that he was totally and permanently incapacitated for work. A similar position arises under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and I submit that the department is taking a narrow view in refusing to apply the principles laid down. Take the case of an epileptic girl. ,She has not a great, but a small epilepsy, and fits recur from time to time. She tries to work but takes fits, and is unable to perform her work. She breaks articles that she is carrying, she frightens children and in the end she cannot get any employment at all. The department adopts this view of the case : “ In your own household you could scrub floors, wash dishes or carry wood, and because of that you are not permanently and totally incapacitated “. I had a ease in which a limbless boy was receiving an invalid pension. Somebody happened to see him sitting against a wall of the Union Bank in Melbourne selling newspapers, and, although I think he was really taking somebody’s place on that occasion, he lost his pension. Administrative acts of that kind are unreasonable.
In a case that came to my notice recently, a family were making payments for the maintenance of a male patient in a mental asylum. This person became of the age of 65 years while he was in the mental hospital, but the department’s view, apparently, is that, if he had been 65 years before he went into the hospital, and was then drawing the old-age pension, the pension would go to the hospital while he was there; but, because he had reached the age of 65 years while in the hospital, he could not acquire the pension, and the Master in Equity could not apply for it for him. In the case to which I am referring, the Master in Equity said to the man’s son, “It is quite true you have been paying for j-our father’s maintenance for many years, and that he has arrived at the age of 65 years, but the Pensions Department will riot allow him to have the old-age pension, and, consequently, you must still go on maintaining hi in. If he is discharged .from, the asylum as cured, he can ‘himself apply for flic pension, but, as long as he remains in the mental’ hospital,’ a pension cannot be granted to him, and’ you or the other children will have to continue to maintain him “’. That is another defect either in the administration or in the legislation, but I think that the fault probably lies with the administration.
I now refer to several matters which I think ought to he dealt with by legislation. One is a point that I have already raised, and as to which I have received a reply stating that the Government is considering- it. I refer to the extension of the right to receive invalid and old-age pensions to the detribalized aborigines of Australia. I believe that the whole of the disqualifications under section 16 of the act. except possibly as to aliens, and I ‘believe even as to them, should he swept aside. The test should be the need of a person living in Australia.
The next point to which I wish to refer is the need for establishing pensions reciprocity with New Zealand and Great Britain. In 1913, Mr. F. M. B. Fisher, who was Treasurer of New Zealand, came to Australia and interviewed his namesake, Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was at that time Treasurer of the Commonwealth. It was agreed between them that a reciprocal arrangement be made so that residence in New Zealand should count towards qualifying for a pension in Australia, and vice versa. The New Zealand Parliament passed legislation in 1913 to give effect to this arrangement, but there was a. change of Government in Australia in that year, and the agreement was never ratified by the Commonwealth Parliament. In my opinion, a reciprocal arrangement of that kind should be entered into with New Zealand, and also with Great Britain.
– The British Government is in favour of it.
– I understand that that is so. The New Zealand Government is very ‘ anxious for such an arrangement, and whenever Australian Cabinet Ministers go across to NewZealand, the subject is raised by representatives of the New Zealand Government. I know that, because I have been in correspondence with New Zealand Ministers about it. Now that the Pensions Department has been taken over by the Minister for Social Services, who will be able to bring a fresh mind to these problems, I believe that a more humane and liberal attempt will be made to solve them.
– The first point to which I wish to refer is the extent to which the Government ought to economize in its own expenditure. We are told these days - and it is generally accepted - that there should be a general cutting out of those things which -are unnecessary in favour of those which are essential. At’ the same time, we are entitled to ask that both the Commonwealth and State Governments should also cut out all unnecessary expenditure, if only for the purpose of showing an example to the rest of the community. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his recent broadcast, said -
What the private citizen pays for the war must he no longer what he thinks lie can afford after spending all he chooses on the amenities of life. It must be every thing he can pay after making frugal provision for his real wants.
Those most excellent sentiments apply just as much to governmental expenditure, whether Commonwealth or State, as to individual expenditure. It would be idle to look to the man in the street to make sacrifices unless an example is shown him by governments. The State Governments are not always prepared willingly to acknowledge their responsibilities in this regard. For instance, cuts might be made in the expenditure 011 education in some of the States. Some of it is not really required. Probably it is not our business, and we have enough troubles of our own without concerning ourselves with State affairs, but the Commonwealth Government should not he expected to do all the economizing. The States must also do their share.
A glance through the Supply Bill convinces one that the proposed expenditure on some departments is excessive. The Department of External Affairs, which controls activities associated with important international affairs, is to receive only £10,900, while the vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department is £2,696,3(0.
– But the Postal Department is a revenue-earning department.
– I have never accepted the principle that the whole of the surplus from a revenueearning department such as the Postal Department should be retained by that department for purposes of expansion. Some departments obviously cannot pay in a financial sense, the Defence Department being an example. Those which do pay should turn their surplus over to Consolidated Revenue. There are only 39 persons employed in the Department of External Affairs. When I was a member of the Senate a few years ago, I looked up the figures and found that there were then 24,000 employees in the Postal Department. In 1940, the number had risen to 27,854 and last year’s estimates made provision for 2S,464 employees, an increase of 610. That is not showing an example to the general public of how to avoid unnecessary expenditure. My object in rising is to point out that there should be a reduction of the number of persons employed in the Postal Department. We all accept the fact that that department has in recent years rendered great service to Australia. Ever since I came into Parliament nearly twenty years ago, the Postal Department has been given a very good run by governments, and by members of Parliament generally. Everybody is, in a sense, dependent on postal services. I have no desire or intention to reflect upon the work of any Postmaster-General, or of Sir Harry Brown, or the multitude of persons employed in that department, but I do say that, at a time when individuals are being asked to economize, to cut out unnecessary expenditure in favour of essential expenditure, it is ridiculous to increase the number of employees in the Postal Department by no fewer than 610 persons in the second year of the war.
– There has been a considerable extension of services.
– No doubt there has been. I referred to this matter six months ago when Parliament was discussing the last budget in which provision was made for the expenditure of about £2,000,000 of loan money on postal works. I said then that I did not think that so large an amount of money should be expended on work which was not essential, and could very well wait. Just as private expenditure has to wait its ‘turn, until the war is over, so postal expenditure should also wait. That is particularly the case in these days when wireless is so extensively used. In the old days, people in the back country were dependent almost wholly upon the mails for news and communication. That does not apply now in the same degree. The people are not now nearly so dependent upon newspapers for their knowledge of what is going on.. The great majority of persons in the out-back hear the new-s over the air every clay just as we do in the capital cities, and this has lessened the need for expending money upon the provision of postal facilities.
– I suppose the honorable member does not disagree with the expenditure of £1,000,000 on new post office buildings in Sydney.
– I have already mentioned that, when last year’s budget was under discussion, I protested against the expenditure of £2,000,000 on postal works. I again urge upon the Treasurer the need for practising economy in governmental expenditure, and, where possible, to ‘ postpone expenditure until after the war.
Another matter upon which I wish to address the House concerns the supply of labour to people in country districts. I have heard extraordinarily little said about this matter in recent months. Yet the problem is rapidly becoming exceedingly acute. In my electorate, at any rate, it is extremely hard to get any hired labour at ..all, and I think that that applies generally in Australia. I interjected when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) was speaking this afternoon, and he took it at once that I was suggesting that various primary producers should be given bounties and. bonuses. I had no such idea. What I had in mind was the fact that the primary industries, even now, produce nineteen-twentieths of the new money which we get from overseas, and if only from that point of view, and the need for the Government to get as much money as it. can, it is a poor policy to make it almost impossible for some of the primary industries to carry on. As an instance, I take first of all the wool industry. I know that there are some people who will say at once, “Wool is all right; it can carry on by itself”. I askwhether any provision has been made for shearers to be ready to shear during the coming year? Perhaps the Treasurer (Mr.Fadden) may be able to tell me later whether there will be shearers available to replace those who have gone to the war or who are no longer shearing? Some people will also say that we produce much more wheat than we require, and that, therefore, the wheat industry can do without workmen. I do not hold that view. The sons of many wheat-growers have gone into the army, and men relatively old are left by themselves to carry on their farms. It, is quite as essential that there should be provision of workers for the primary industries as that there should be for the secondary industries if we are to have sufficient money coming into this country’ in’ the future. After all. the whole of our ‘wool’ is sold and every pound ofwool which we send overseas brings money to this country, which is more than can be said about most industries. I put the plight of the primary industries before the Government because the subject has beenhardly mentioned; even in the Prime Minister’s recent broadcast speech, where it was not mentioned directly atall. Whether it is possible that the Commonwealth Resources and Man-power Survey Committee has made any recommendations in regard to this, Icannot say, but it would appear that something might be done, at any rate by the creation of a central pool at which men would be registered to-do occasional work in different primary industries as the time for work in those industries matures. I do not intend to make a long speech on this subject, but as I go through the country I find in scores of places people say ing that no hired labour is available and that men aged 50 or60 years or more, whose employees and sons have gone to serve in some form or’ another, are left without assistance.
– In one breath, the honorable member wants to send all the young men to the war, and in the next, he wants them in the primary industries. He cannot have it both ways.
– That is not a correct statement. No one would dream of saying that he wanted to send all the young men to the war. I have never said anything approaching that, and the honorable member’s interjection is a travesty of any thing I have said both here and elsewhere.
– Then does the honorable member want to send the old men?
– I should not send the old men. It is rather discreditable that men who have already served in one war should be expected by some people to turn out after 25 years and serve for the second time. That is rather aside from the main question. I have said what I wanted to say, and I shall now leave members of the Opposition to say what is to be said on the other side.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Riordan) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of
Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Ministers of State Act 1935-1938.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. Fadden do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which I can explain very briefly, is designed to amend the Ministers of State Act, which is an act by which the permissible number of Ministers of State provided for in the Constitution has from time1 to time been increased. The number for which statutory provision is made is eleven. That number was increased to twelve by a regulation under the National Security Act, but, so far as the Ministers of State Act is concerned, the number is eleven. That will explain to honorable members why the increase that is authorized by this measure is from eleven to a higher number. The actual number of Ministers now is not twelve, as provided for by regulation, but sixteen, because there are four Assistant Ministers. The post of Assistant Minister in the Commonwealth Administration was devised about 30 years ago.
– For many reasons.
– And for many different persons. The system of having Assistant Ministers is not altogether satisfactory. I have felt myself since I became Prime Minister, and I am quite sure some of my predecessors must have felt the same, that it is1 desirable that every person who sits in Cabinet should do so as ‘a Minister of State with a specific responsibility for some department of State and with specific accountability to Parliament for the way in which he administers that department. Consequently, it seems, to me to be desirable to dispense with the post of Assistant Minister, and to take steps to see that each man who is in fact a Minister shall be a Minister of State with responsibilities for a department of ‘State. The present position is, a3 I have said, that we have sixteen Ministers, four of whom are described as Assistant Ministers. As I indicated several days ago, I propose to have special ministerial responsibility established for three war activities, which seem to be of sufficient importance to warrant it. I take them in no particular order, but the first is that of aircraft production, the second is that of civil defence, including in particular air raid precautions, and the third is the problem, to which I have previously alluded of re organization of civil resources, an extremely difficult problem which will involve a great deal of contact with various organizations of civil production throughout Australia. Each of those matters is important, and each, I believe, warrants a special ministerial department.
– There will be no honorary Ministers?
– We do not have honorary Ministers in reality. We have some Ministers who are designated Assistant Ministers, as the honorable member knows. I do not ask the House to provide that instead of sixteen there shall be nineteen Ministei’3 of State, each of whom shall be remunerated as a Minister of .State now is, as the extra cost would be excessive. I propose that there should be such addition to the ministerial salary pool as to provide for twelve Ministers of State who would be remunerated as Ministers of State are now remunerated, and, instead of four Assistant Ministers, seven other Ministers of State with their own responsibilities, but who would be remunerated on the basis on which Assistant Ministers are now remunerated. The total addition to the Cabinet fund would not be very great.
– Would all be members of the Cabinet?
– Yes. I am not in a position to announce the arrangements at the moment, but I propose to make certain rearrangements which I hope will enable the business of Cabinet to be transacted more effectively in future. The Ministers of State Act now provides for the appropriation of £1S,600 for the payment of Ministers of .State. It is pro-‘ posed to increase that appropriation to £21,250, an addition which, as honorable members will see, i3 less . than £3,000, although the number of Ministers is being increased in the way I have described. I may say that it is not designed by this measure to increase the salary of any existing Minister. I do not need, to say that. The whole purpose is to secure three additional Ministers who would, under the old scheme, have been designated Assistant Ministers, but who, under the .new scheme. .w;i1 Ls given special responsibilities for particular departments of State.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 322).
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [9.46].- I desire to make a few observations. First, I propose to refer to the protection of assurance policies held by members of the fighting services prior to their enlistment. This matter was raised in the first instance some months ago by a patriotic society which realized that, if no action were taken to protect the interests of the members of theforces, forfeitures of policies would be rife after the war had ended and many thousands of pounds would be lost to soldier policy-holders. If those who enlist in the fighting services had remained in civil life they would have been able to carry on their commitments inrespect of their assurance policies. After enlistment, how- ever, their incomes were so reduced as to preclude them from maintaining the payments of the premiums. The society suggested to the Government that the premiums on assurance policies held by members of the fighting services be made a charge on the profits made available to policy-holders in the form of bonuses. The scheme was actuarially sound and would have involved but a trifling reduction of the bonuses payable to policyholders. I feel sure that if the policy-holders in the various assurance companies had been asked “ Are you prepared to forego portion of the amount allotted to you by way of bonus for the purpose of paying the premiums on policies, held by members of the fighting services?” they would have readily agreed. However, the Government rejected the scheme and instead amended the Moratorium Regulations under the National Security Act to provide that the payment of the premiums shall be suspended during the period of service of the soldier. When the soldier returns to Australia he will have to make a lump-sum payment of the accumulated premiums. That is bad enough, but the Government went further and provided that the assurance companies may charge up to 6 per cent. interest on the unpaid premiums. Honorable members opposite go out on the hustings and say, “ Nothing is too good for those who enlist “, but they use their influence in the counsels of the Government to see that the interests of their wealthy supporters are protected. Government supporters say to the soldiers, “We will pass a regulation which will enable you to defer the payment of the premiums in respect of your assurance policy until the war is over “, but to its wealthy supporters, it says, “ We will allow you to charge up to6 per cent. on the unpaid premiums of soldier policy-holders “. Even Ministers have said that the scheme propounded by the patriotic society has much to commend it; but they were not willing to implement it. It has been suggested that during a war period the number of assurance policies surrendered is not very great. The records of the period 1910-l8 and 1918-23 show that there were many forfeitures of assurance policies-. Prior to the outbreak of the last war and following the cessation of hostilities there were periods of relative depression. Compared with 1914, the year 1918 was comparatively prosperous. If honorable members will examine the figures they will find that the reason why there was not a very great falling off in forfeitures during the war period was because the civilian population enjoyed a period of relative prosperity. There can be no doubt that when our men return from the war, most of them will have to forfeit their policies because of their inability to meet the heavy lump sum payment. Let us consider a private who enlists in the Australian Imperial Force. If he has a wife and one child his total income is 9s. 6d. a day. If the soldier takes £1 a week for himself, his wife is lef twith £2 6s. 6d. a week out of which she has to pay house rent and feed and clothe herself and her child. If she pays £1 a week rent - and only a poor type of house can be rented for.£l a week- she then has £1 6s. 6d. a week to maintain herself and her child. In these circumstances it would be utterly impossible to expect her to make any contribution towards the premiums payable in respect of her husband’s assurance . policy. It would be utterly impossible for the digger himself to save anything out of his allowance of £1 a week. On his return from the. war, the soldier will draw his deferred pay, but he will need all his resources to maintain himself and his family until he obtains employment. If he wishes to preserve his rights in his assurance policy he will have to find the wherewithal to meet the heavy payment clue to the assurance company in respect of unpaid premiums plus accrued interest. How many soldiers will be in the position to meet a charge of that kind? Therefore, it is only reasonable to assume that most of them will have to forfeit their policies. In 1938 the face value of assurance policies forfeited amounted to £13,750,000. In view of these alarming figures the Government should take every step to see that the interests of returned soldiers in their policies are protected. A campaign has been started in Queensland to have the regulation amended to provide that premiums in respect of policies held by members of the fighting services shall be paid out of the profits of the various assurance companies before bonus additions are declared. That campaign is supported by men of every shade of political opinion, who will not rest until this Government or its successor - and it seems likely that there will be a change of government before very long - implements the scheme.
I now propose to deal with the present position of the tobacco industry. The present administration, under another captain, was responsible for stifling this industry. When the Lyons Government took office the growers were struggling to establish themselves. Had it encouraged the industry to the same degree as the Scullin Government did, neither the growers nor the smokers in the community would now be faced with the difficulties which allegedly are due to a shortage of tobacco. The Lyons Government did everything it possibly could to discourage the industry. However, the growers have struggled along, with the result that today they are still on deck, and it can be confidently said thatthe tobacco industry has come to stay regardless of the wishes of the tobacco combines. A conference of manufacturers held on the 12th December last year decided that tobacco should he rationed. Just after the war broke out this Government had much to say about the necessity for conserving dollar exchange, but it paid no attention to the fact that we were importing tobacco and cigarettes to the value of nearly £2,000,000 annually. At the same time, however, it decided to ration petrol. Obviously a substantial saving of dollar exchange could have been made by reducing tobacco imports. The Government’s failure to do so can be explained only by the fact, as I have demonstrated in respect of its treatment of life assurance companies, that it represents vested interests. If it had been sincere in preaching the conservation of dollar exchange, it would have taken action in 1939 to assist this struggling industry. On the 23rd December last the Government issued a proclamation in the Gazelle that as from the 30th June next, that is, next Monday, all tobacco in manufactured form will be rationed by 15 per cent. It again declares that this action is necessary in order to conserve dollar exchange. At the same time we read in the press of a proposal to import black-grown tobacco from South Africa. Why will not this Government encourage the production of tobacco by white men in this country? On the 4th February last, a conference of manufacturers and growers, which was held in Canberra, failed to reach agreement on prices. The growers asked for an average Australian price of 2s. 6d. per lb. whereas the manufacturers would not offer them better than an increase of 221/2 per cent. on the 1939 grade for grade prices, based on 1940 grades. The average 1939 price was 24.5d. per lb. whilst the average 1940 price for the Dimbulah district, which produces a substantial quantity of Australian grown lemon leaf, or cigarette tobacco, was 32d. Under the proposal made by the manufacturers the growers in the Dimbulah district would have received an average price of 2s. 6d. per lb., or 2d. less than their average price for 1940.’ At the same- time growers in most of the other tobacco districts would not have received so high a price because they grow very little of that particular leaf which is in the greatest demand on the Australian market. In effect, therefore, the manufacturers asked the growers to accept a reduction. It is interesting to note that Dr. Dickson of the Council of Scientific Industrial Research has reported that the production of lemon leaf or cigarette tobacco, has increased from 30 per cent. of the total Australian production in 1936 to70 per cent. in 1939. Despite that increase the average price in respect of the whole of. the Australian crop has remained at1s. 8.8d. during that period. It is obvious, therefore, that the companies have been exploiting the industry. A further conference of manufacturers and growers, which was held in Canberra on the 24th March last, agreed to an increase of 25 per cent. on the 1939 grade for grade prices. The growers, of course, had no alternative but to accept that offer by manufacturers, because their crops were practically ready to be sold, and their economic position compelled them to reach an immediate agreement. That conference also proposed an appraisal scheme for the marketing of tobacco leaf. To-day the growers are protesting against the scheme. TheCentral Committee consists of three buyers, three brokers, three growers’ representatives and an independent chairman. In other words the growers are outvoted by six votes to three. Further, the Appraisement Committee consists of one manufacturers’ representative, one growers’ representative, and one arbiter. The representative of the growers on the Appraisement Committee was appointed without a ballot or any consultation with the growers, and he is not a grower but a broker. As Ihave said, this Government is more concerned with helping big business than with assisting strugglingprimary producers, and yet some honorable members opposite call themselves the” Country “ party.
– The Minister knows that the growers’ representative on the Appraisement Committee is a broker and not a grower. The growers ask that their representatives on such bodiesbe elected by ballot. They proposethat the Central Committee should consist of four representatives, one from the north of Queensland, one from the south of Queensland, one from Victoria and one from Western Australia - the principal tobacco-growing areas. They also propose that these men should be appointed by ballot and not selected. “The growers resent very much being represented by brokers on such committees. The growers have three representatives, on the Central Committee, one of whom is Mr. Wade who was appointed to the Federal Tobacco Advisory Committee by the New South Wales Government. The others are Mr. Atherton and Mr. Darling. Mr. Wade is a representative of the the growers, and in the first place was appointed by the Government of New South Wales. Mr. Atherton comes from my electorate; I know him well and have known him for years. At one place the growers passed a motion of no confidence in him, and a motion of censure was moved in another area.
– He must have been a member of the United Australia party.
– He was Minister for Mines in the anti-Labour party Government in Queensland. The 1942 tobacco crop will be marketed very shortly, and the growers ask that they should be able to confer with the manufacturers not later than the 31st July next. In the past, conferences have been held when the crop has been ready to be taken off-, with the result that, consciously or unconsciously, the economic weapon could be wielded over the heads of these struggling tobacco-growers. I do not intend to trace the history of’ the. tobacco industry atthis stage; it is known very well by honorable members on this side of the House at least. We know what the men have been through. I have’ referred to the most recent action of the Government in connexion with the tobacco industry, because it shows’ that the growers are still far from satisfied, and because of their economic lotthey have no option but to carry on under protest.
The Government has appointed a committee to inquire into the production of copper and bauxite. These is no doubt that the setting up of that committee was desirable and necessary, and ‘it was welcomed especially by people associated with the production of copper. Bauxite has not been produced to any great extent in this country, but operations will commence shortly on a big deposit near Brisbane. Copper is essential to the munitions industry, as are wolfram, scheelite, and other tungsten ores. Despite the fact that Queensland produced half of the tungsten ores required by the British Empire during the last war, the tungsten-fields are languishing to-day. In fact I know of a man producing this mineral who was making sufficient to maintain himself and his family prior to the outbreak of war, but since the Government stepped in and fixed the price, he has been unable to make a living, and he has been forced to leave the field. Many others in similar circumstances are struggling along from hand to mouth.Recently I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development if he would extend the terms of reference of the committee which is to inquire into copper and bauxite to enable it to visit tungsten-producing areas very close to the copper deposits in the north of Queensland. It would only be a matter of paying a visit to adjoining areas and it would not. take more than a day. . The mineral producers have asked that not only production but also marketing be investigated by the committee, and that an assay office be established at Cairns to serve the north of Queensland. At present the miner who wins the metal bags it and. sends it to Sydney. There it is assayed, samples are taken, and subsequently the miner receives a net payment after all charges have been deducted. He has no check on the assayer. He has to trust in the good graces of the appointed agent of the Commonwealth Government. TheCairns Harbour Board is ready and willing to make available for an assay office, portion of its concrete overseas wharf, and alsowharf sheds for the storage of the metal. An assayer there could receive all the ores, sample and assay them, and rebag them for forwarding to wherever they had to go. The miners would be satisfied because they would be able to appoint a man to watch their interests at that office. At present, owing to the low returns they are receiving for their product, they cannot afford to maintain a man in Sydney where there is no central office or central depot. There are only three or four buyers representing the Common wealth Government.In my opinion their request is reasonable, and I believe that if it be acceded to, and an assayer appointed at Cairns, it will have the effect of stimulating mining. At least it will give the miners confidence.
Prior to the outbreak of war Cairns was a city with a. population of 14,000 men, women and children. As the result of enlistments - no fewer than 1,400, or 10 per cent. of the total population - the economic life of the community has been definitely affected. In consequence, many . men have drifted to the southern States in search of work in munition factories. Because of the loss of a coastal steamer, the ship which formerly called weekly at Cairns, no longer does so. The trip terminates at Townsville and, as a result, considerable numbers of waterside workers have been compelled, through lack of employment, to leave Cairns. Although two of the largest sawmills in Australia are situated in this district only small orders for rifle butts have been given to them. Timber, instead of being cut on the spot for ammunition boxes is sent in log form to the south. The Commonwealth’s policy is one of decentralization. People are invited to settle on our comparatively empty coastline, particularly in the north, but man cannot live on air or grass.When a person settles in such districts, he requires means of subsistence. All that the inhabitants of the north request is a job.
Astheresult of heavy enlistments, and the drift of population to the munition factories in thesouthern States, presentday Cairns differs greatly from pre-war Cairns. When speaking to the chairman of the Commonwealth Man-power and Resources Survey. Committee recently, I extended to the committee an invitation to visit Cairns, take evidence, and submit to the Government, not my views, but recommendations based upon thecommittee’s investigations. The ch airman informed me that, as soon as possible after Parliament adjourns, the committee would proceed to Cairns. In his broadcast last week the Prime Minister(Mr. Menzies) indicated that new appointments would be made to the Ministry. If any members of the committee be chosen, the re-constituted committee should still visit the district, as suggested. Doubtless, the experience of Cairns is not an isolated case. Numerous country districts are complaining of the detrimental effect of the loss of popula tion upon their economy. But Cairns, being one of the principal cities on that 1500-mile coastline of Queensland, merits special consideration. For the reasons which I have outlined, I ask the Government to request the Commonwealth Manpower and Resources Survey Committee to proceed to Cairns during the next recess in order to make recommendations for the improvement of conditions there.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Marwick) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes -
Geraldton, Western Australia.
Glossop, South Australia.
War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 130..
House adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
Thefollowing answers to questions were circulated:- -
e asked the Minister representing theMinister for Supply and Development, upon notice - l.Whatwas the total amount of money spent in 1939-40 for munitions, arms, naval vessels, aeroplanes, aerodromes, buildings and plant of all kinds?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished -the following reply: -
Compulsory Military Training: Compensation for Injuries.
Mr.Mulcahy asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Has the Government decided to make adequate compensation to members of the Militia Forces who may be injured in camp or to dependants of members who meet death while in camp, as promised last year in connexion with the Mulliner case?
r. - The whole question of compensation to members of the forces not covered by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act has been examined by an inter-departmental committee, and the matter will shortly receive the consideration of the Government.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following replies.: -
Franchise and Social Services, for Aborigines. ifr. Blackburn asked the PrimeMinister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
A Australian Broadcasting Commission: Publication of Programmes; “A.B.C. Weekly “.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to provide by regulation or otherwise that daily and evening newspapers shall publish gratuitously the broadcasting time-tables of the national stations?
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -
The Government does not propose to take steps in the direction indicated as it has reason to believe that the press of Australia will continue to publish the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission as news, and as such will not require payment at advertising rates.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied, ‘die following answers : -
r. - On the 19th June, the “ honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked, without notice, whether the Government has considered assisting the re-opening of copper mines, particularly in the States of Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
The Commonwealth Copper and Bauxite Committee is now carrying out a thorough investigation in connexion with the production of copper in Australia, which includes the stepping-up of production of existing mines, the re-opening of old mines and the development of new mines.
Contractors’ Orders : Placement in Melbourne.
– On the 18th June, the . honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) asked, without notice, why contractors to the Eastern Command who required materials from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited or its subsidiaries, are obliged to place their orders with the Melbourne office of that company.
The Minister for Munitions has furnished the following reply : -
I understand that the Sydney office of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has been, and still is, in a position to accept orders from contractors to the Eastern Command.
r. - On the 19th June, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Lawson) asked, without notice, whether the Government would restore to drive-yourself car proprietors 50 per cent. of their old ration of petrol for one month to enable operators to adapt suitable substitutes to keep their cars operating.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
The representations made on behalf of this class of operator have been considered and it has been decided that from the lst July these services be granted an allowance on the basis of 25per cent. of the consumption at the 3 1st March last.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice-
r. - The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply: - 1 and 2. Yes. This has been rendered necessary by direct enemy action interfering with the maintaining of the public passenger transport services. This position hasnot arisen in Australia. Should such a scheme be found necessary, it or a similar suitable scheme would be put into operation. At the present time fuel is being made available to allow essential public passenger transport services to be fully maintained. Should an increase of these services become necessary owing to increased demand due to the rationing of private users, theposition will be met.
On the 19th June, the honorable mem- ber for Bendigo. (Mr. Rankin) asked, without notice, whether, in connexion with petrol rationing, the Government would give special consideration to the claims of people living in the outback areas 20 or 30 miles from a railway station, as compared with those of persons residing in the capital cities.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
The Government has given, and will continue to give, special consideration to cases of this kind. The matter has already been covered by instructions issued by the Commonwealth Liquid Fuel Control Board to State administrations.
On the 20th June, the honorable member forReid (Mr. Morgan) asked, without notice, whether the provisions of the moratorium regulations would be applied in the cases of those persons who are suffering hardship as a result of petrol rationing.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
Garage proprietors can make an application in the same way as people in other businesses, for consideration under the National Security (Debtors’ Relief) ‘Regulations. The Liquid Fuel Regulations as such make no provision for any specific relief to garage proprietors or a granting of moratoriums on rents as a result of petrol rationing. It might bepointed out that garage proprietors are only one of many occupations directly affected by restrictions of imports as a result of war conditions.
– On the 19th June the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked,without notice, whether the Government would consider the granting of a subsidy to builders of producergas units in rural garage workshops, or alternatively would the Government make available to owners of such workshops blue prints for standard producergas units, materials to construct such units, and a guarantee that the manufacturers would have a market.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
The whole matter of large scale manufacture of producer-gas units to overcome transport difficulties consequent upon petrol rationing is receiving the attention of a conference now sitting in Melbourne. The suggestions of the honorable member will receive consideration when the report of the conference is being prepared.
Welshpool Small Arms Factory.
r. - On the 20th June the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) asked, without notice, when work would commence on the new small arms factory at Welshpool, Western Australia.
The Minister for Munitions has furnished the following reply: -
The plans are now being prepared, and it is expected that the factory will be in production in about nine months’ time.
r. - On the 19th June the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked, without notice, whether steps would be taken to provide hospital accommodation at Port Adelaide and Woodville where workers are engaged on defence undertakings.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply:-
Consideration has been given to the provision of hospital accommodation’ in the- Port Adelaide district, and I am assured that the existing accommodation is adequate for the engineering type of factory which is being established. ‘
Flannel and Yarn.
r. - On the 20th June the honorable’ member, for. Calare (Mr. Breen) asked, without notice, whether the export of yarn would be prohibited until supplies had been made available to Australian knitting mills.
The Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
In response to an appeal for assistance in the equipping of Empire forces overseas, the Commonwealth Government has undertaken to supply approximately 1,300,000 flannel shirts to India at an approximate cost of £(10,000. Orders have also been accepted for 5,000,000 lb. of yarn with spread deliveries at an approximate cost of £1.250.000 which will be used for the manufacture of military garments in India.
The needs of the fighting forces must be accorded a high degree of priority, and this has caused a temporary shortage of yarn for production of Australia’s own civil needs, but additional plant is being obtained to relieve the shortage, in whole or in part, at the earliest practicable date. Steps have also been taken to increase production from existing plant, and progress is continually under review with a. view to supplies being made available for civil requirements as quickly as possible. £35,000,000 Loan- Cost of War.
– On the 20th June the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Roads to Military Camps.
r. - On the 18th June, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether the main highways to the Cowra military camp and the Dubbo military camp are trafficable now in all weather? If they are not, will the honorable gentleman take steps to see that men are put on full time instead of part time work on these roads?
I now inform the honorable member that the two routes used by the Army in travelling between Cowra and Dubbo camps are -
Generally the roadsbetween these camps are quite satisfactory for Army requirements.
Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited.
r.- On the 19th June, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked’ the following question, without notice : -
Is the Abbco Bread Company Proprietory Limited still carrying out contracts for the supply of bread to the Department of the Army; if so, does the Government approve of the policy of continuing to do business with firms which have been convicted for dishonest practices?
I now inform the honorable member that this company is not now a contractor to the Department of the Army.
Australian Imperial Force: Sustenance Payments to Returned Members.
r. - On the 19 th June, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked certain questions regarding the payment of sustenance to returned members of the Australian Imperial Force discharged medically unfit, and I promised to make a statement on the subject.
I now desire to inform the House that when it is proposed to discharge, as medically unfit, a member of the Australian Imperial Force, whose service and disability bring him within the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, notification of the proposed discharge is given to the commission one calendar month prior to the date upon which the discharge is to take effect, and the member’s pay and allowances are continued during this period. This action is taken with a view to allowing the Repatriation Commission time to inquire into and determine the eligibility for pension and avoid a break in the continuity of payments to the member. In order to further obviate the possibility of hardship to members and their dependants, instructions have been issued that, when the medical report indicates that there is a substantial degree of incapacity in relation to civilian employment and the soldier’s condition is likely to be improved by continued medical attention, the necessary treatment is to he provided and authority is to be sought for the payment of a suitable weekly allowance pending finalization of pension claims. This instruction has been issued as a temporary measure only, pending appropriate permanent arrangements being evolved. Much attention has recently been given to this aspect of the matter which is at present being considered by an inter-Departmental Committee, consisting of representatives of the three services, the Department ‘of Repatriation and the Department of Defence Coordination. When discharged members of the Australian Imperial Force are in all respects eligible for full time home service it is the practice to employ them on such duty if they so desire. Arrangements have been made by the Repatriation Commission to assist Australian Imperial Force personnel, discharged as medically unfit, to obtain suitable employment. Pending such employment being found, the commission may also provide sustenance for the soldier and his dependants for a period up to three months at the following rates : -
Soldier, £4 4s. per. fortnight; soldier and wife, £6 per fortnight;. each child up to a maximum of three, 15s per fortnight.
Comforts Fund Organization: Position of Alderman Tait.
r. - On the 18th June the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked certain questions, without notice, regarding the return from Malaya of Alderman Tait, who is assistant commissioner to the comforts fund in Queensland.
I now inform the honorable member that Sir Richard Linton, the liaison officer, patriotic funds, advises that Mr. Tait was returned to Australia on medical grounds alone, and for no other reason.
Coastal Craft Employees.
s. - On the 20th June, the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) referred to the question of making provision for the payment of compensation to crews of fishing trawlers, or dependants, in the case of Avar injury.
I desire to inform the honorable member that the Government is now considering several amendments to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, and that the question of extending the scope of the act to cover the crews of small ships will be considered at the same time. membersoffightingservices: Repatriation. of Wives.
– On the l8th June, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Couclan) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Prime Minister state whether or not the Department of Defence Co-ordination prepareda minute for submission to Cabinet with respect to the repatriation of the wives of members of the fighting services overseas, especially the wives of men who have already been returned to. Australia?If so, what is the decision of Cabinet?
I now inform the honorable member that the question of provision of passages to Australia of wives of members of the forces, who have married abroad, is at present receiving consideration.
Australian Imperial Force: Final Leaveof Tasmanian Members.
r. - With further reference to the question asked on the 18th June by the honorable member for Franklin (Mir. Frost) regarding free travel to Tasmania for members of the Australian Imperial Force, I now desire to state that provision has been made for leave to be granted to members of the Australian Imperial Force prior to transfer to a remote operational station, including Darwin, Thursday Island,New Guinea, Papua and Central’ Australia. In future, Tasmanians being transferred to any of those stations will be eligible to be granted leaveif the exigencies permit. Should such leave be granted they will be entitled to free travel to and from their homes in Tasmania.
n asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. It is notthe practice to express opinions on mutters of law in reply toquestions but I would invite the honorable member’s, attention to the provisionsa to the qualifications of members contained in (section 14 of the Constitution, and section 73 of the CommonwealthElectoral Act.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 June 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410624_reps_16_167/>.