16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any information in relation to the discontent felt by certain railway employees in Tasmania who are working under an award of the Common wealth Arbitration Court?
Mr.Holt. - Does the honorable gentleman refer to members of the National RailwaysUnion?
– No, to members of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginedrivers. In some of the States, certain war loading has been granted, but that is not the case in Tasmania. Consequently, a good deal of discontent is felt. “Will the Minister inquire from His Honour Judge DrakeBrockman as to when the case will be heard, so that the discontent may be removed ?
– I have not any information on the subject, but I shall make the suggested inquiries and convey to the honorable member any information I obtain.
– Is the Prime Minister able to make a statement concerning action by the Government to deal with the present mining dispute in New Guinea ?
– This matter was the subject of discussion by my colleague the Minister dealing with External Territories, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and myself yesterday. It is proposed to ask thesenior inspector of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to proceed forthwith to New Guinea, there to exercise the powers of a conciliation commissioner in relation to the dispute. Shortly thereafter, my colleague proposes to visit the territory, in order to examine personally on the spot this and other problems.
The senior inspector will report back in the event of failure to effect a settlement of the dispute. In those circumstances, the Government would consider, in the light of his advice and the advice of my colleague, whether some general law should be provided to deal with industrial disputes in New Guinea.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether a decision has been reached on the proposal for the reintroduction of the fertilizer subsidy? When does the right honorable gentleman anticipate that he will be able to make a statement on the fertilizer position generally?
– Every aspect of the superphosphate position has been very closely examined by the Department of Commerce and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. The problem is very difficulty. It is hoped that a definite pronouncement may be made next week.
– The Prime Minister was amazed to learn from me, upon his return to Australia from overseas, that a commencement had not been made with the establishment of a munition factory on the coal-fields. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that, apart from the selection of a site at Rutherford, nothing has yet been done in this regard? Can he indicate, before the rising of the House, what steps may be taken in order to expedite production at the site?
– Not only has the site of the munitions factory on the coal-fields been selected, but, in addition, the land has actually been acquired. I thought that I had informed the honorable member that the plans in connexion with the building are in active course of preparation ; that a substantial staff of architects and architectural draftsmen is at work on them. That work is proceeding as rapidly as possible. When the plans are completed, it will be possible to proceed with the erection of the building.
– Has the Prime Minister given consideration to my request that the Commonwealth should assist financially the Government of New South “Wales in connexion with its proposal to re-open Walsh Island Dockyard?
– I am” not familiar with the position in respect of Walsh Island Dockyard, but I shall inquire into it and endeavour to advise the honorable member before he leaves Canberra.
– When will some workers be engaged?
– When the work itself is about to proceed. It cannot proceed until the building has been designed.
– I have received a. number of representations in relation to the unemployment that is likely to occur in the printing industry because of rationing of newsprint. Has the Minister for Trade and Customs a statement to make on the subject?
– by leave- Many representations have been made to me by honorable members in respect of the restrictions imposed on the. use of paper in the production of catalogues, price lists, and similar advertising matter relating, to the sale and distribution of goods. In order to assist the department and the Government in determining and applying restriction of the use of paper for various purposes, a Paper Industry War-time Advisory Committee was formed. There are several sections of this committee, including one which represents the printing industry. The restriction to be applied to paper for this purpose is 35 per cent, of the total weight of paper used during the year ended the 30th June, 393!). The Advisory Committee has informed the department that economic factors had already reduced the weight of paper in catalogues in the base year by IS per cent., and that, with the adoption of lighter papers in the production of catalogues, a further saving of 15 per cent, could be made. This would represent e. saving of 30 per cent, of the paper used in the base year. As this figure included paper used in catalogues not now being printed, it would be safe to assume that 10 per cent, would cover catalogues already reduced in size by economic factors. By the reduction of the weight of paper, as recommended by the Advisory Committee, plus the decrease due to economic factors, at least a 25 per cent, reduction of the weight of paper used in catalogues could be achieved without interfering with the existing position. The net result of the 35 per cent, restriction of the base year weight, therefore, is a restriction of approximately 10 per cent, on present usage.
One large retail establishment in the year 1939-40 used 290 tons of newsprint; but in 1940-41 it used only 166 tons, a reduction of 43 per cent. The proposed reduction of 35 per cent, is, therefore, less than the percentage reduction it had already achieved.
It has been contended that, because a substantial quantity of Australian-made paper is used in the production of this class of advertising matter, no reduction of the quantity of paper used should be made. It has to be remembered, however, that advertising in newspapers will be severely curtailed under the rationing of newFpri.nl:, which is on the basis of a 55 per cent, overall reduction. Furthermore, critics overlook the fact that it is necessary to provide dollars for the purchase of the necessary proportion of pulp to be mixed with the Australian pulp. If the importation of paper is to be restricted, it is absolutely essential to control the use of Australian paper, so that if may ‘lie put to the best uses possible.
As to the suggestion that the scheme is unworkable, a similar scheme in regard to periodicals has been working quite satisfactorily.
One member of the Advisory Committee informed the departmental representatives that, if the Government imposed any restriction greater than that recommended by the Advisory Committee, it would be necessary for the printers to take every political action considered necessary in order to protect their interests.
I am convinced that, when these restrictions are closely examined, there will not be the dire results apprehended by the industry. I am aware that practically every honorable member has received representations on this subject.
There is no doubt that the action is a concerted one, engendered by the threats of the member of the Advisory Committee.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Will the Minister for Trade and Customs give urgent consideration to the desirability of limiting the quantity of newsprint for advertising purposes in order to spread the available newsprint over industries which may suffer from the rationing of newsprint?
– I thought that I had effectively disposed of any doubt as to the efficacy of the Government’s newsprint rationing policy. I have effectively rationed the supply of newsprint available for advertising purposes. Further rationing will be considered by the Government when the need arises.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development able to inform the House of the percentage of petrol saved in the different States since the introduction of rationing? Is the availability of tankers to Australia governed by the supply of petrol within Australia, or is it due to a shortage of tankers?
– I understand that a full statement dealing with the whole of this subject will be made by the Minister for Supply and Development to-day.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development aware that owing to petrol rationing the cutters of pit timber, which is essential for the safety of coal-miners, are so restricted in their operations that one colliery, the Jesmind, will be closed down because it cannot obtain supplies of pit timber? Will the Minister undertake to negotiate with the Liquid Fuel Control Board in order to ensure that cutters of pit timber shall receive sufficient petrol to enable them to carry on?
– I shall immediately place the honorable member’s question before the Minister for Supply and Development, and endeavour to have his request complied with.
– I raise a matter of privilege. I did so in the early hours of this morning, when I was advised that the Commonwealth Censor had instructed the proprietors of the press of Australia that no reports were to be publishedof any of the speeches delivered by honorable members last nightin the course of the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement on his visit abroad. I then asked that action be taken in order to have discontinued immediately this capricious exercise of the censorship, and the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) advised me later that the censorship had been lifted in respect of the final editions of the newspapers. I do not object to the right use of the censorship so that information may be suppressed that might be of use to the enemy, but most of the speeches delivered in this House last night were merely critical of government policy, and the Censor had no right to suppress them by the exercise of war-time powers.
– Hear, hear !
– The position was made worse when, as I discovered later, the Censor had used his power to prevent the newspapers from making any reference to the fact that I had protested against the suppression of the other speeches. Surelythe protest of an honorable member against an infringement of the traditional rights of Parliament cannot be construed, by the wildest flight of imagination, to be even remotely helpful to the enemy. So far, no reference has been made in any newspaper to the fact that a member of this House rose to protest, against the application of the censorship. It is not as if the newspaper proprietors refused to publish the protest. No honorable member has the right to object to what the proprietor of a newspaper may choose to omit, but I object to the Censor, acting on the authority of an act of this Parliament, setting himself up as a judge of what should or should not be said regarding his own misuse of power.
– He may have received instructions.
– That is possible. There has undoubtedly been a misuse of the powers of censorship. There should be a standing instruction from this House lo the Government, or from the Government to the Censor, that no statement by an honorable member of this House shall be censored unless the member concerned is informed immediately, so that he may have an opportunity, if he wishes to avail himself of it., to seek the countermanding of an order which he may consider unjustified. In order to uphold the privileges of this House, the Government should give an undertaking that no speech or statement by an honorable member on a point of privilege shall he censored unless this House agrees by resolution to that being done. I do not know that even my present remarks will not be censored.
– Well, it is an idea.
– I a.m indebted to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who, in the early hours of the morning, was present to call attention to the matter which he ‘has again raised now. I am informed that the Censor, acting under some authority which he alleges that he possesses, saw fit to impose a. “blanket” censorship on the speeches delivered in this House last night. I. am informed that particular reference was made in the order to criticism of the campaigns in Greece and Crete, and an instruction was issued that nothing touching those matters was to be published. So that honorable members may understand the stupidity of this action, I have brought with me the actual quotations which I used in the course of my speech last night, and I point out that every one of them has previously been published in the press. The first is a quotation from a speech by the Premier of New Zealand, which was published in the Sydney Sun. The quotation expressing criticism of Mr. Churchill appeared in ihe Sydney Daily Telegraph. The quotation regarding Brigadier-General Ingliss was from The Mirror. The comment on the broadcast speech of Ivan McKay, commander of the Sixth Division, was published in the Daily Telegraph. It was on the strength of those quotations that 1 made my demand that the Government should take action to remedy matters at home and abroad. My criticism regarding Turkey was taken from the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in which it appeared as an associated press message. The only statement that I made, except those supported by quota* tions from matter which had been previously published, was based on the contents of private letters addressed to me and other honorable members by members of the fighting forces. I understand that the “ blanket “ censorship is still in force. It was not lifted even after the honorable member for Melbourne made his protest in this House. I also criticized the appointment of Mr. Massey to the Supply Department on the ground that he was a representative of big business, and I complained of the Ministry for Munitions, and those in control of it. I certainly believe that my remarks on the subject of petrol were justified. The action taken by the Censor is contrary to the undertakings given by the Prime Minister over and over again, when he said that he had no wish to muzzle honorable members. I find it difficult to believe that he is responsible for what has happened, but the person who is responsible should no longer be permitted to exercise the powers of censorship over the utterances of members of Parliament.
– I confess that I am very disturbed to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). Last night I did hear, and with approval, that a censorship direction was to be given in respect of one statement which, no doubt inadvertently, was a repetition of something which had been said at a secret session of Parliament. That was all that the instruction applied to, and that was all that should have been censored. It is clear from what honorable members have said that a grievous blunder was made by the censorship authority, whoever he may have been, and that he interpreted this extremely limited instruction in a general sense, so that the censorship was applied to the whole of the debate.
– What instruction was given to the Censor?
– I understand that the instruction was as I have stated, namely, that the censorship should be confined to the one matter mentioned by one honorable member. That, I think, was quite right.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– Perhaps, but I would unhesitatingly have given that instruction and taken the responsibility for my action. However, the censorship of the whole of the debate was absurd, and if it were done deliberately, would be most improper. I shall have inquiries made at once to learn by whom the order was given. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), has a grievance, also, because his reply was censored.
– The Minister for Information was made aware of the fact, and took no action.
– I shall make inquiries into the matter myself because I am not in disagreement with the principle stated by both the honorable members who have addressed themselves to this subject. However, I would not go so far as to say that there should be no application of the censorship except by resolution of this Hou<*e.
– My suggestion in that regard was intended to apply only to the censoring of protests against the censorship.
– It may be that something said in the heat of discussion ought to be censored, and action must be taken promptly if it is to be effective. Honorable members will realize the force of that, hut there is no justification for censoring a discussion merely in order to stifle effective, or even ineffective, criticism.
– The speeches of some honorable members have been repeatedly censored. Over and over again, speeches that I have made have been suppressed by the Censor.
– Is the honorable member sure that it was done by order of the Censor.
– Because I have frequently made speeches which have not been published in the newspapers, but their suppression was not due to the Censor. I shall have this matter inquired into.
– Once again the House must take notice of the fact that these recurring blunders by the Censor are due to the fact that censorship is founded on wrong principles. Matters affecting the fighting services should be censored only by those deputed by the Service chiefs of staff to do the work. To-day, the duties of censorship have been handed over to the Department of Information, than which no more inept department was ever created by this Parliament. While the censorship remains in the hands of that crowd, there will be repetitions of the sort of thing that took place last night, and also further examples of what happened when I was Minister, when vital information was put over the air contrary to my express instructions. We shall never have satisfaction until we restore to the heads of the fighting services the right to say what information shall be published in respect of the services which they control. The fighting services are not, interested in what honorable members say about one another in this chamber, or about the Government. They are interested only in ensuring that vital information about the services is not made avai.la.ble to the enemy.
– Will the Prime Minister take steps to ensure that the Censor does not prevent the publication of protests made in this chamber to-day against his action in censoring the debates which occurred in Parliament yesterday ? I understand that the newspaper offices in Sydney have been harassed on this very subject to-day.
– There is some rule of censorship, as I remember it, that the fact, of censorship is not to be published any more than the material which, has 1,een censored. It may be that the honorable member for West Sydney is referring ro Ohe application of that rule.
– I am referring to the fact that protests made in this House against censorship have already been censored.
– I see no reason “why protests made here this morning should be censored.
– Will the Government take steps to extend to service pensioners, the most recent increase given to invalid and old-age pensioners ? If the decision is not to extend this benefit to the whole field of service pensions, will the Minister sec that no service pensioner receives less than 21s. fid. a week?
– I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply advise the House whether a. prominent member of the Liquid Fuel Control Board is also a director of one of the largest motor transport companies, which carries both passengers and goods? Does the Minister consider that such a man should be authorized ro determine and regulate the supplies of competitive companies?
– I shall be glad to hu ve the facts ascertained, and I should like the honorable member to provide me with more details to assist me in my inquiries.
Report No. 3 of the Printing Committee brought up by Mr. Conelan, and read by the Clerk.
.- A questionnaire has been sent to all honorable members and public bodies which are entitled to receive the publications, requesting them to indicate whether they do not require some of the documents. By this means, it is hoped to reduce the quantity of published matter by 50 per cent., in order to conserve newsprint. I move -
Chat the report be adopted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - When I was Minister dealing with External Territories, overtures were made to me by representatives of a certain company which, against the policy of the department and. the Government, desired to enter the uncontrolled areas of New Guinea for the purpose of searching for flow oil.
– In Dutch New Guinea?
– No, in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. In the past, parties which have gone into the uncontrolled areas have clashed with the natives, resulting in loss of life and many casualties- The country, which really belongs to the natives, is under the control of the Commonwealth and the greatest care must be exercised in order to ensure that no interference with them occurs. The Government’s policy is designed to enable the Administration to penetrate peacefully those uncontrolled areas so that the natives may be brought under control in an orderly manner. For some years, a certain company has made representations to the Government for permission to prospect for petroleum, first in one part and later in another part of the uncontrolled area, of New Guinea. This application, with all other applications for entry to the uncontrolled areas, has been refused. Recently, that company stated in a communication to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden) that it knew positively where oil in large quantities existed.
Neither the Commonwealth Government nor the Administration of New Guinea has any evidence to support such statements and the company, although invited to do so, has failed so far to substantiate its claims that it is in the possession of knowledge of the existence of flow oil. So far, it has produced no evidence to warrant its application receiving different consideration from any other application.
The Government is anxious to assist in the discovery of oil in payable quantities in the Commonwealth or its territories, but nothing in the representations which have been made by this company leads it to believe that the granting of the facilities which the enterprise seeks, would in any way enhance the prospects of an early discovery of oil in payable quantities in the Territory of New Guinea.
When statements about the existence, of flow oil were made to me, I was assured that men who had seen it in large quantities could be produced. I made the fullest inquiry, and asked the company to bring forward the men concerned. 1 promised that if that were done, I would do everything in my power to expedite the granting of the permit. When I applied that test, the men could not be produced. They were to meet me in Melbourne, where I would examine their bona fides ; but when I asked to see them, I! received a letter stating that they were not in Australia. The purpose of the application was to seek entry into the country with the object, I assume, of boosting the shares of the company and causing people to invest in it, which would have had the same effects as always happen with such wild schemes. Every consideration has been given to these matters. The country which the company desires to enter is an uncontrolled area, and private enterprise will not be permitted to send expeditions into it until the Administration of New Guinea has peacefully penetrated it.
- by leave - For a long period, I have been most interested in the search for flow oil. particularly in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. On many occasions, reports have been, received of the discovery of flow oil in the vicinity of ‘the border of Dutch New Guinea. Whilst repeatedly refusing applications from certain private companies for permission to test the reports, the Government itself has neglected to verify them. Although the Minister formerly dealing with External Territories (Mr. Collins) claimed thai some companies have base motives in seeking approval to explore the reported discoveries, a strong feeling exists that some of the efforts to prevent an investigation have been made as the result of pressure applied by the major oil companies. The Minister mentioned that a company had recently applied for permission to enter an uncontrolled area, from which reports had been received of the discovery of flow oil. He should have stated all of the fact’s, instead of simply remarking that the object of the company was to boost its shares. I understand that the concern made definite offers to the Government, one being that while the investigation was proceeding, it would withdraw its shares from the market.
– I did not say that the company wanted to boost its shares. I said that an expedition would have that effect.
– The company also offered, at its own expense, to send an expedition to investigate the reports. The Minister contended’ that the Government, being responsible for the welfare of the natives in those areas, must exercise caution, because in the past exploring parties clashed with them, with loss of life. In answer to that, I understand that the company offered to defray the expenses of a government official who, it suggested, should accompany the party to ensure that no hardship would be inflicted upon the natives. I am not making a special plea for the company. In fact, I prefer that the Government should expend a small sum of money to verify the repeated reports of the discovery of flow oil in this area. Although the Minister described it as an unexplored region, a Dutch map of that part is in existence, and two German expeditions traversed the country some years ago. Although the Minister asserted thai none of the reports has been supported by reliable evidence, I remind him that a former Administrator of New Guinea, Brigadier-Genera] Thomas Griffiths, submitted to the Government a statement regarding the discovery of flow oil in this region.
– The Minister requested the company to submit to him proof of the existence of flow oil before he would permit it to enter the area.
– The Minister would noi permit the company to despatch an expedition in order to investigate the reports.
– In the circumstances, who can possibly find oil there?
– I cannot understand how the Government expects flow oil to he found if it will not permit an exploration of the region. The discovery of flow oil is so important to Australia, particularly in the present emergency, that the Government should take immediate action to send competent officials to investigate fully these claims. The brushing aside of an application by implying that the company had base motives in making it, does not dispose of the matter. I hope that in the near future the Government will investigate the reports. I regret that the Minister did not move that “ the paper be printed “ in order to afford to other honorable members an opportunity to discuss his statement.
– The new Minister for External Territories (Mr. McDonald), who is now responsible for this matter, will take such action as he thinks fit. I made every possible effort to obtain reliable information about the discovery of flow oil in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. Representations were made to me that a departmental officer in the territory knew of the existence of oil.
– Order! The Minister has not obtained leave to make a second statement.
– Is the Minister for External Territories able to give an undertaking that no other people will be allowed to go into the uncontrolled part of the Territory of New Guinea to the exclusion of those people to whom permission to go there has been refused by his colleague? Is it the attitude of the Government that the supposed rights of a few savages in the unoccupied territory are to take precedence over this country’s vital need for flow oil?
– I cannotstate the Government’s attitude at the present. The Prime Minister has indicated that it is my intention to visit New Guinea as soon as possible in order to make inquiries. After my return I shall report to the Government, and the necessary steps will be taken.
SirEARLE PAGE ( Co wper- Minister for Commerce). - When I made a statement to the House on the 26th June last about the new arrangements for the supply of food to the United Kingdom, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked me whether an opportunity would be afforded to honorable members to discuss the subject. I promised the honorable member that I would move that the headings of the agreement arrived at between the British and Commonwealth Governments be printed so that the subject could be placed upon the notice-paper. I therefore lay on the table the following paper : -
Supply of Australian foodstuffs to United Kingdom - Heads of agreement between United Kingdom and Australian Governments. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce what price the Government proposes to pay for mutton for canning and other preserving purposes?
– That matter will be discussed on Monday by a subcommittee of the Meat Export Control Board and officers of the Commerce Department.
Use in Munitions Industry.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions whether a scheme has been evolved, and an authority appointed, for the use of country garage workshops for the manufacture, under sub-contract, of munitions parts?
– As I have already indicated, the Government is desirous of utilizing to the fullest degree all facilities in the country which can assist us in the manufacture of munitions. An inquiry has been proceeding, and I shall attempt to obtain further details and communicate them to the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for the Army say when work will start on the construction of the highway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie?
– I shall try to obtain the information during the course of the day and convey it to the honorable member.
Exchange of High Commissioners
– Has the Prime Minister taken into consideration the desirability of an exchange of High Commissioners between Australia and New Zealand? Have representations been made to the New Zealand Government, and, if so, has a reply been received?
– As I was returning to Australia I took up this matter with the Acting Prime Minister of New Zealand and with one or two of his colleagues. We had some discussion about it. I am anticipating further inquiries between the two Governments on the same matter at an early date.
– When does the Minister for Commerce expect to be able to make the statement on marginal lands reconstruction which he promised last March ?
– I have not been able to get from the State Governments the information that would enable me to make that statement, but as soon as I get it I shall do so.
– Will the Prime Minister take into urgent consideration the desirability of paying sustenance to workers displaced from non-essential industries by the Government’s war policy pending their re-absorption in war industries, thus applying to the industrial front the principle by which returned soldiers receive sustenance under the Repatriation Act while awaiting civilian jobs?
– That suggestion will be taken into consideration. As I said yesterday, the whole of that problem is engaging the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for War Industries Organization.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Army to the fact that the Assistant Director of Hirings of the Second Military District on the 22nd May, 1941, served on a man at Thirroul a notice directing him to make arrangements to hand land situated in Catto-street, Orange, over to the DirectorGeneral of Munitions or any person or persons authorized by him, following which the owner instructed his tenants to vacate the property. Then he received advice dated the 30th May, 1941, to the effect that his land might not be required for some time, and that two months’ notice would be given to the tenants when possession was required. Will the Minister, when it is necessary for the Government to commandeer property or goods, see that contradictory instructions are not given, to the unnecessary inconvenience of the owners of property?
– This matter could have been dealt with by direct representation to the Minister. In some cases orders are countermanded. If any injustice has been done in the case mentioned I am quite certain that it will be adjusted by the department.
– Is the Minister for Home Security yet in a position to make a, statement about the progress of the construction of certain roads in the Port Stephens area?
– On the 2nd July, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked, without notice, in regard to the construction of defence roads in the Port Stephens area -
I am now in a position to supply the following information : -
The number of men employed on all defence roads in the Port Stephens area is 300. The work consists of the construction of tracks as well as roads, and is being carried out by the New South Wales MainRoads Board.
With regard to the tracks, a considerable amount of preliminary work in connexion with surveys and location had to be undertaken before the work of construction could be commenced. The following indicates the progress made up to 30th June, 1941: - Track No. 1, location finalized and clearing in hand; track
No. 2, clearing complete, formation 60 per cent. completed on1¼ miles and paving 50 per cent. complete on 9/10ths mile; track No. 3, clearing complete, formation 33 per cent. complete, no paving yet; track No. 4, clearing complete, formation 50 per cent. complete, paving 20 per cent., work held up by flooding.
Roads. - Road No. 1, formation 50 per cent. complete, paving 29 per cent. complete; road No. 2, tenders for gravel closed 2nd July; road No. 3, practically complete except for bitumen surface, which is being left until all works are gravelled and consolidated so that the surfacing may be carried out as one job; road No. 4, clearing and formation in hand, heavy rain has interfered with this work; road No.5, there are three roads bracketed together under this heading, they have been placed in order of priority after the improvement to road No. 3 has been completed.
The whole of this work has been organized to provide trafficable roads throughout the area within three months and to complete the whole job in six months. It will be observed that numbers have been given to the tracks and roads. This has been done for obvious reasons. The names of the tracks and roads will be supplied to the honorable member, should he desire to have them.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - proposed -
That a joint committee be appointed to examine current expenditure defrayed out of moneys voted by the Parliament for the defence services and other services directly connected with the war and to report what, if any, economies consistent with the execution of the policy decided on by the Government may be effected therein.
That the following members of the House of Representatives - Mr. Badman, Mr. Beck, Mr. Conelan, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Jolly, Mr. Lawson, Mr. McCall, Mr. Mulcahy, and Mr. Paterson - be appointed to serve on such committee.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament; and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken ;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report;
five members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee and three members of a subcommittee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee;
the chairman of the committee have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote;
the committee have power, in cases where considerations of national security preclude the publication of any recommendations and of the arguments on which they are based, or both, to address a memorandum to the Prime Minister for the consideration of the War Cabinet, but. on every occasion when the committee exercises this power, the committee shall report to the Parliament accordingly ; and
a message be sent to the Senate re questing its concurrence and asking that three members of the Senate be appointed to servo on such committee and that one of those members be appointed as the chairman of the committee.
– I wish to say something on the general subject of the proposed appointment of these committees as a principle of government. I shouldlike to know whether this is the appropriate time at which to do so. This is one of the worst attempts at running a parliament that I have ever known.
– Is that because the honorable member is not a member of the Government?
– No. I protested last year, when I was a member of the Government, against attempts to conduct this war by committees instead of by commanders. That protest is on record. To my mind, the Government’s request to Parliament to agree to the appointment of a batch of committees of this kind represents, not an attempt to secure better administration of the war effort, but an attempt to secure the acquiescence of a majority of members of Parliament in the perpetuation of a system which will not get this country out of its troubles, as every honorable member must know. If right-thinking members of this House said what they believe, they would condemn this system of appointing committees as being wrong, and as being the nearest approach to a political racket that the Parliament has ever known. Only a few weeks ago we wore led to believe that the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to Australia would result in a great improvement of governmental administration and a full-blooded all-in war effort. Now the Parliament is asked to agree to this sort of thing. It may do so despite my protest. It has a right to do so; but my protest must be made through this Parliament to the country. A system such as this cannot be allowed to continue without certain facts in relation to it being brought to light. The first of these facts can be disclosed by an examination of the personnel of some of the proposed committees. I ask the Prime Minister whether he can rise in this Parliament and honestly say that he has selected the most suitable men for some of these inquiries. I put the question to him straight : What about the Taxation Committee? I have every regard for the members who have been selected to constitute it, but if the Prime Minister believes that he has chosen from this House the men best fitted to carry out an investigation of taxation problems he would believe anything. It is very difficult for me to believe that he can put that to Parliament as his considered opinion. Let us now examine the proposed membership of the Rural Industries Committee. Can the right honorable gentleman say that he has selected the best men from this Parliament to form that committee? Can the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden) rise and say honestly that they are the most suitable men for the job?
-i rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is in orderin discussing the personnel of a committee entirely different from that which is before the House.
– The point of order is good. The honorable member should not discuss the membership of proposed committees which are not yet before the House.
– In my opening remarks I asked whether I should be in order in discussing these committees in general. I want to say certain things in regard to the committee system as a whole.
– The honorable gentleman will be quite in order in discussing the general principle of the appointment of such committees, but he will not be in order in going into particulars as to the membership of proposed committees which are not yet before the House.
– This system will be a hideous failure.
– I believe that the honorable member is right, because he will not be a member of any of the committees.
– I have no desire to be a member of any of them. The Government was wise not toaskme to go on any of them. That is about the only sensible thing I have noticed about the whole business. The system is hopelessly wrong and open to every possible objection that could be raised in a democratic country like this. The Government proposes to have teams of members of Parliament tearing all over Australia to inquire into all sorts of subjects. What will be the result? As the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) said the other day, if these committees make any worth-while reports, they will go from pigeon-hole to pigeon-hole, from department to department, and from co-ordinator-general to coordinatorgeneral. Nothing of value will come out of them. This is nothing more than an attempt to manoeuvre the Parliament into a position in which it cannot protest against certain deficiencies of this country’s defence efforts. Some of those deficiencies were referred to in this chamber last night.
– And the honorable member objected.
– I objected to the publication of one statement only, and one of my reasons was that it was one of the silliest statements ever made to this Parliament by a Minister. He ought to be responsible for his statements, but obviously he does not know the position that exists if what he said was his considered opinion. That statement should not go out to the people.
– The substance of the statement did not come from the Minister.
– No useful purpose will be served in delving any deeper into this system. I realize that I am in a minority and that my views are not acceptable to the great majority of honorable members, who are prepared to take the smooth and easy path in these matters. There can be no smooth and easy path in the conduct of a war such as we are engaged in to-day. We must do awkward and nasty things if we are to win. Day after day this country is witnessing reversals of policy on the part of the Government. I believe that no more awful exhibition has ever occurred in this Parliament than that little bit of stage-play that we witnessed here on Tuesday, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr, Curtin) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to defer the introduction, of the promised arbitration bill. A fortnight ago last Tuesday night, that proposed measure was the star item in a great broadcast not only to Australia but also to countries overseas. The short wave radio system was harnessed in order that tile Prime Minister might tell the world of the policy qf the Commonwealth Government. No number of committees that this Government may appoint can alter the situation. The facts are known to every honorable member. There are certain vital deficiencies in the defence and military prepara- tions of this country, and neither this proposed batch of committees nor any other batch of committees that, the Government may appoint, can make up for the shortcomings, which are much higher up than the committees can go. The appointment of these committees may create in the minds of some people the illusion of security, the illusion of action, and the illusion that something big and important is being done. But those of us who know the truth know that nothing will come out of this system hut illusion. On many of these important subjects the Government; is like a man in a maze who is trying to find his way to the centre; he has no bearings. The only hearings that the Government has at the present time are those given to it by the Leader of the Opposition. Parliament should not permit the appointment of these proposed committees. The system is bad, and it is doubly so in view of the absolutely unjustified increase of the number of Ministers that was made last week. I shall pass over ‘that: it will work itself out. If this committee system be tried, it will be condemned in future by its own failure to produce results. I leave the matter there. The House may do what it likes, hut we have a duty to the country, and we cannot perform that duty merely by striving to achieve evenness of balance of political opinion in this chamber. For heaven’s sake, let the Government get down to tin tacks, take up a position and either stand or fall by it. I implore it not to hold to its decision to appoint these committees which, in my humble opinion, represent nothing but an attempt to buy the acquiescence of this House in the Government’s policy, and to secure silence on certain matters which ought to be thrashed out, as one or two of them were thrashed out in this chamber last night.
– I disagree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on this matter. The Opposition considered the proposal of the Government to appoint these committees, and it believed that, in these abnormal times, when there is a colossal annual expenditure on war, it would be a good thing to have a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament invested with power to scrutinize war expenditure, and to call for reports and take evidence from responsible persons. We ‘had in mind the fact that, since federation, it has been the practice of the Commonwealth Parliament from time to time to appoint joint committees, select committees and royal commissions in order to investigate various aspects of public expenditure and administrative action. It is wrong of any honorable member to attempt to discredit the investigation of these matters by representatives of the people. We must remember that there will be an expenditure of £250,000,000 for war purposes in this financial year. I believe that this proposed committee to inquire into war expenditure can do useful work by examining the uses to which this money will be put, just as the former Public Accounts Committee saved the taxpayers of Australia hundreds of thousands of pounds as the result of its investigations. This committee can be of great service to the nation if its members will devote themselves to the tasks that lie ahead, as I believe they will.
– Similar committees are doing first-class work in Great Britain.
– I do not believe that a thorough investigation of our war expenditure requires the services of outside public accountants, or that they alone have the requisite ability for the purpose. If that procedure were adopted it might mean that certain “ hacks “ behind the various party machines would be appointed to lucrative posts on royal commissions and committees of inquiry. The honorable members of this Parliament, who are directly responsible to the people who elect them, should be given something definite to do in connexion with our war effort, and it appears to me that a highly desirable duty is the scrutiny of our huge defence expenditure. The appointment of the War Expenditure Committee should do much good. I notice, however, that it is provided in the motion that the chairman of the committee shall “have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote”. I. seriously object to that provision.
– We understood also that the chairmen of the proposed new committees were to be appointed by the committees themselves, and that if equality of voting occurred, the Senate procedure should be adopted.
– Does the honorable member mean the drawing of lots? If so their luck is too good !
– The Government should have consulted the Opposition before any announcement was made as to the chairmanship of these committees. At least, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) or, in his absence, the Acting Leader, should ha ve been approached. We understood also that the committees were to be equally representative of the Government and the Opposition.
Mr.scullin. - As it is. the membership of this committee is five to four against the Opposition.
Mir. Menzies. -This is a joint committee, and, if the Senate representatives be included, the membership will be fifty-fifty.
– In any case, if the chairman is to have a deliberative and a casting vote, the Government will always be able to command a majority. Strong exception is taken by members of the Opposition to the action of the Prime Minister in naming the chairmen of these committees. Surely the committees could have been trusted to elect the most suitable of their number as chairmen. As it is, it appears that the Prime Minister has endeavoured to confer favours on certain recalcitrant members of the parties supporting the Government. The committees should have been permitted to choose both their chairmen and their deputy chairmen.
– What does the honorable gentleman suggest should be done in the event of an equality of voting on a committee?
– The Senate practice of passing the question in the negative should be adopted.
– I consider that that would be a satisfactory arrangement.
– What would be the report of a committee in such circumstances ?
– On particular items there might be no report.
– I hope that we shall not get into that position.
– Whilst I agree in principle to the appointment of these committees, I strongly object to the provision that the chairman should have both a deliberative and a casting vote. If the committees be appointed on a proper basis I think it will be proved, in time, that the Government was justified in establishing them, for I am sure that they can do good work. Such subjects as social security, prices, profits and broadcasting are of far-reaching importance to the general public. A searching investigation of various aspects of our war expenditure may lead to substantial savings of public money. In addition, the investigations of the committee will undoubtedly result in the committee members informing their minds on various aspects of our expenditure, and they will thus be able to make a substantial contribution to the knowledge of other honorable members on these subjects. The Opposition agreed to be represented on the committees on the understanding that the representation of Government and Opposition parties would be equal, and that the committees would have power to elect their own chairmen.
– I do not know how honorable members opposite could have understood any such thing, for an agreement was made to the contrary.
– Oh, no !
– - Yes ; it was all arranged with the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to inform me whether the first part of the motion means that the activities of the War Expenditure Committee will be confined to a consideration of the budget and accounts for the current year? The words I question are -
That a joint committee be appointed to examine current expenditure defrayed out of moneys voted by the Parliament ….
My understanding of those words is that the committee will not be authorized to go beyond the accounts for the current year. Yet obviously it may also be desirable for the committee to investigate certain aspects of the previous year’s accounts.
– - Where does the honorable gentleman suggest that the committee’s activities should stop? If it has to deal with more than the accounts of the current year it will have an enormous job ahead of it.
– My point is that in order to understand the accounts for the current year it may be necessary to make some examination of the accounts for the previous year. I realize that it would be a physical impossibility for the committee to examine every item of expenditure, but it should make a thorough examination of certain important items, and this may necessitate some reference to the accounts for the previous year.
– -In such circumstances I do not see why the committee should not refer to such accounts.
– If it can do so, my point will be met. I disagree with the views expressed by the honorable member for
Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) concerning the proposal to appoint committees of members of the Parliament. I believe that such committees will provide honorable gentlemen with an opportunity to make a useful contribution to the war effort. At present most private members have very little to do.
– The honorable gentleman does not know what he is talking about.
– I am referring particularly to the affairs of Parliament. I greatly regret that the Government has not seen its way clear to extend the scrutiny by this proposed committee to the whole of the Government expenditure. I hope that at some later date the powers of the committee will bc enlarged to cover the scope of the Public Accounts Committee. However, I accept the assurance of the Prime Minister that this committee will have the power to examine not only the accounts for the current year, but also those for the preceding year.
. - I hope that the establishment of this committee system will not mean that Parliament will be kept out of session on the excuse that the committee members have committee duties to discharge.
– That is what will happen.
– The committees should sit at Canberra as far as possible while the House itself is sitting here. It will be dangerous indeed if the existence and function of these committees should be used as an excuse for keeping Parliament in recess. Parliament is much more important, than these committees. The most important function of the Parliament, is to bring before the Government and the country the grievances of the constituents of honorable members, with the object of having them redressed. That is the chief function which the Parliament discharges in securing the liberties of the people. It, now appears that the Opposition agreed to the establishment of these committees under a misapprehension. It was generally understood that each committee would elect its own chairman; otherwise we should not ha vp agreed to the scheme.
– Let us have a national government straight out !
– I cannot see why the committees should be debarred from electing their own chairmen. If the chairmen, however elected, are to be given both a deliberative and. a casting vote trouble will undoubtedly occur ; but I am not much worried about that, for it is provided that the committee shall have power to present not only a majority report but, also, if need be. minority reports.
There is one aspect of the subject which should be considered. It is somewhat unpleasant to have to refer to it, perhaps, although it was ‘hinted at by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I refer to the proposed remuneration of the members of these committees. The procedure hitherto followed by the Government in providing the remuneration for members of certain committees amounts, in my opinion, to an infringement of the Constitution. Section 45 of the Constitution provides: -
If a senator or member of the House of Representatives -
iii ) directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth, or for services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State his seat shall thereupon become vacant.
That section is, of course, qualified by section 48 which reads -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, each senator and each member of the House of Representatives shall receive an allowance . . .
Parliament has voted allowances to members of both Houses. In this country the payments are on a time basis. In Canada such payments are on an attendance basis. My point is that the payments hitherto made to members of committees are not payments authorized by the Parliament itself, and so cannot be justified under section 48 of the Constitution. It would appear therefore that such payments contravene section 45 of the Constitution.
– Unless they are for the reimbursement, of expenses.
– If the payments are for the reimbursement of actually incurred expenses I think they can be justified. Actually incurred expenses may be allowed, but if the payments exceed that amount they may be regarded as a “ fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth “. In that event the payments become an infringement of the constitutional provision.
– I am told by honorable gentlemen who have served on some of these committees that the payments amount to somewhat less than the actual out-of-pocket expenses.
– A member of the Commonwealth Parliament is being paid for his services even though he may not be actually sitting in the House.
– Would the honorable gentleman expect an honorable member to travel, without allowances, from Western Australia to Queensland in order to take evidence?
– No, I would not expect that; but I cannot see any reason why these committees should not sit in Canberra. Nor can I see why the services of members of the committees at Canberra should not be regarded as a part of their parliamentary services. While the Parliament was sitting, a member from Western Australia would live in Canberra, and, consequently, would not be under any additional expense.
– Some committees will have to travel to different States.
– The matter is important not only in respect of principle, but also to members individually whose right to hold seats in this Parliament may be questioned. The chief objection raised to these committees in this House, is that honorable members may be thought to make a profit out of their membership of them. That has been suggested by the honorable member for Barker. That would not occur if the amount allowed were no greater than the expenses actually incurred. A member who had to come from Western Australia ought to be allowed the amount he was out of pocket, but not a sum which would enable him to make a profit out of his service.
– Does not the honorable member think that the average person would make a greater profit if he were to attend to his own business at home?
– That is not the point. Rightly or wrongly, the Constitution contains a provision which deals expressly with this matter. Attention was drawn to that provision by the Royal Commission on the Constitution of 1&28.
Mr. Nicholas, now Mr. Justice Nicholas, suggested that it should be altered, but no recommendation to that effect was made. What Mr. Nicholas then said was -
One other matter I would like to deal with in connexion with Parliament is the amendment of section 45. sub-section (iii). That is a section of course, which has its history deeply rooted in the constitutional struggles of the Imperial Parliament, but it is a section which must considerably embarrass Parliament, and considerably embarrass the work of royal commissions, .mid that is the section which refers to any senator or member of the House of Representatives, forfeiting his seat if hu agrees or undertakes to accept any fee.
He suggested that the section should be altered, but that has not been done. We ought to face the position that is caused by paragraph iii of section 45 of the Constitution. If fees are to be paid to members of Parliament for their attendance upon committees, there should be statutory authority for the payment, and it should, be made a part of their parliamentary remuneration, just as there is statutory authority for the payment of members of the Public Works Committee. Payment without statutory authority would appear to be payment by the Executive, and certainly would be subject to the provisions of paragraph iii of section 45 of the Constitution. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has suggested that honorable members can earn an income apart from their parliamentary allowance. I frankly admit that I occupy that position. I should, of course, prefer that Parliament should sit for the whole of the year; I have advocated that over and over again. Although that would mean considerable personal loss of income, I realize that my first duty is attendance in this Parliament. While the House is sitting, I perform public duties as well as carry on my profession. I engage in my profession because I do not believe in being dependent upon a parliamentary allowance. A man who is dependent for his living on a parliamentary allowance is dependent upon the will of the electors.
– What chance would a member from Western Australia have to carry on a business in that State, if Parliament were, in continuous session? It would be all right for those honorable members whose homes are not far from Canberra.
– When dealing with that matter, I was referring only to the point raised by the honorable member for Wimmera, which, in my view, is entirely irrelevant. There is a constitutional provision which deals expressly with the point. It was inserted for the purpose of preventing members of Parliament from taking fees from the Executive, or remuneration other than that authorized by section 48. The remuneration of members of committees has not a proper basis when dealt with as it has been.
.- This debate is an anti-climax to a particularly useless session. On the 17th June last, honorable members of this Parliament were journeying to Canberra. On the same date, the Prime Minister of Australia made a world broadcast speech. I have no doubt that that speech evoked real interest throughout the world, and that different points made in it were accepted gladly by persons overseas, as well as by a large number of the people of Australia, amongst whom I include myself. Although it did not promise the_ total war effort which many other persons and I would like to see, it, nevertheless, went a long way towards indicating action in many desirable directions. It contained a proposal for the setting up of different committees, but, so far as I am aware, did not give any notification as to the number of committees to be appointed, the members whose services were to be employed on them, the terms of reference, and so on. I am not averse, in principle, to the appointment of committees to assist the business of Parliament. For example, I offer no opposition’ to the committee on broadcasting, which is a subject of national interest and of vital importance to this nation. I also accept the committee which is investigating the problems of certain rural industries. But I definitely believe that the proposal now submitted will hinder rather than help the war effort, and will delay rather than promote decisions. T have had experience, as have the majority of honorable members - even if only in a small way - of getting things clone. We all know that, the larger the crowd of those who have to be consulted, the greater is the delay.
In time of war we need above all else pick decision and positive results, and we must have them. Delay cannot be tolerated at this, the most dangerous period of our nation’s history. Consequently, I have had to consider my position. I have never opposed measures for the conduct of this war, although 1 may have disagreed with certain aspects of policy. For example, I loathe and detest voluntary enlistment. With Abraham Lincoln, I agree that “ it grinds up the choicest seed corn of the nation “. But I have not on that account hesitated to attend many recruiting rallies, in order that I might do what I could to ensure the raising of reinforcements for the Australian Imperial Force abroad. 1. cannot, however, tolerate this. Having examined every aspect of this matter, I have this morning sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a letter in which I have asked the right honorable gentleman to accept my resignation from this committee. Aa these matters are usually made public, I shall read the whole of what I wrote : -
After full consideration .1. have decided that I cannot accept membership of the Profits Committee.
The formation of these committees will not, I believe, help the war effort, rather, by duplicating the work of various government departments, will they merely delay action and hinder decision.
Further, the decision to employ nearly all the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the way decided is, in my opinion, reducing the thing to a farce tending to lower the status of the Government and the Parliament in the eyes of the public at a time when above all the dignity of this institution should be upheld.
Holding these views, I therefore auk von to accept my resignation.
I want ‘honorable members, if they can, to visualize what I believe will be the public reaction to all of these committees; 80 or 90 members of Parliament perambulating, as I have no doubt they will, throughout Australia, investigating matters which already are being sufficiently investigated, drawing expenses - to which they will doubtless be entitled - and probably accompanied by secretaries and typists. The public is well aware of what has happened to hundreds of reports that have previously been made in respect of many matters affecting administration.
There is a most humorous aspect, but it is also rather tragic at a time like the present. I shall attempt to show what I mean when I say that there will be duplication and delay. This committee, [ understand, is to investigate certain phases of war expenditure. I believe that a committee of accountants has been set up to advise the Government in respect of the accounting methods adopted in relation to expenditure. There is also a Contracts Board which, after many years of service and inquiry, has become skilled in relation to matters which affect the costs of government supplies. Then, too, there is a business board, to which is referred all matters involving expenditure exceeding £10,000. Of course, those matters which are vital to the war effort and must therefore be conducted with speed are not always referred to this body; but matters which the Minister believes are susceptible of some delay are inquired into by these business men, who know whether expenditure in a certain direction would be wise or not. Then there are the Minister for the Army himself, and his departmental heads, who should be able to determine whether or not expenditure is justified. Now, a further body is to be appointed. Unless the situation has altered recently, it is a matter of complaint with divisional commanders that we are still trying to run the Army on a peace-time basis.
– The honorable member is diverging from the subject-matter of the motion.
– 1 am discussing the delay in war expenditure, and I am giving examples in support of my remarks. It is complained that applications pass backwards and forwards from the Southern Command to Headquarters, and weeks ,are wasted without anything being done. Is a parliamentary committee, functioning in addition to advisory boards and business boards, going to create further delay. If so, this House should have none of it, and the public will have none of it, either. It appears to me that the duties of these various committees duplicate one another. As for the personnel, it would appear that the Prime Minister sat down in front of a list of names, and, biting the top of his pencil, made up his mind who should sit on this committee or that. What is the motive behind these appointments? I have yet to be convinced that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) has not stated the motive as one of placation and appeasement. If so, I will have none of them. We have had the spectacle in this House of the introduction of vital bills, and their subsequent withdrawal. We want to be led forward, nol1 backwards. Action of this sort is not likely to inspire public confidence. The appointment of these committees will not add anything to our war effort. Members may fill in their time by serving on the committees, but their activities are likely to make for delay, rather than expedition.
.- I am very pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has thought fit to appoint these committees. It will be remembered that eighteen, months ago I advocated in this House that every private member should be given something to do in an honorary capacity in order to assist the Government in the prosecution of the war. We have heard protests from a few disgruntled members. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) is well known as a man who changes his mind. He was on the front bench when war broke out, and issued a challenge to hon.erable members on this side of the House to enlist in the fighting forces. He declared that he would bc aboard the first troopship to leave Australia.
– Does the honorable member know that I enlisted?
– The honorable member should have made sure that he was fit to serve before he started issuing challenges to other honorable members. . Let the honorable member be a man, and stand up to his challenges.
– I rise to a. point of order. The honorable member, in the most discourteous way, asked me to be a man.
– That is impossible.
– Does the honorable member know I have enlisted and that it is not my fault that I am here to-day? I insist that the honorable member withdraw the words, “be a man”.
– I withdraw them. I have had some experience on parliamentary committees. I was a member of the Public Works Committee, and I know the good service it has rendered. I have heard complaints because the chairmen of these committees are to be, in all cases, appointed from the Government side of the House, but I maintain that any honorable member who joins a committee from party motives is not fit to sit on it. Party considerations have never been obtruded in the work of any committee upon which I have served. I am a member of the Apple and Pear Committee under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), and a very good chairman he is. He never concerns himself with whether a member of that committee is a Labour man, or a member of the Country party or a member of the United Australia party; all were, treated alike. Ministers have too much work to do, and members of Parliament should be allowed to assist them. .Some members seem to be disappointed. For instance, the honorable member for Adelaide-
– The honorable member should not introduce personalities. They tend to promote disorder.
– But you do not know yet what I was going to say.
-I have a pretty shrewd idea.
– I am glad that on each of these committees there is an equal number of Government members and of members of the Opposition. I am convinced that the Rural Industries Committee will be able to save hundreds of thousands of pounds - perhaps millions - if the war continues for any length of time. Ministers have not the time to investigate all matters pertaining to their departments, and much time can be saved by committees undertaking this work for them.
– Personally, I am not very optimistic that the reports of the committees will influence Government decisions to any great degree. If the Government uses the committees as an excuse for delay in arriving at decisions, then the committees will do more harm than good. I hope and trust that that will not be the case. Some honorable members have opposed the appointment of the committees on the ground that it would be absurd for honorable members to be moving almost continuously about the country engaged upon inquiries. I take an entirely different view. I have always believed that honorable members are not sufficiently informed regarding matters upon which they have to speak and vote. It is an excellent thing that, during parliamentary recesses, honorable members will move about the country informing themselves on subjects which will later be debated in the Parliament. I cannot imagine that the public will take exception to this system. Whether any individual member believes that he can do useful work on a committee is a matter for himself to determine. Personally, I am not anxious to serve on any of the committees, but I am prepared to do what I can to help any work forward. If I did not believe that my presence on a committee would be of value, I would not join one.
Mr. JOHNSON (Kalgoorlie) tl2.29]. - I respectfully suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the word “ current “ be omitted from paragraph 1 of the motion. The paragraph reads as follows : -
The word “ current “ restricts the inquiry to expenditure for the year 1941-42. It may he argued that no useful purpose will be served by an inquiry into past expenditure. The fact that the committee will have access to a great variety of information will prove of valuable assistance to it when it makes recommendations. Certain supporters of the Government has “ squealed “ about the appointment of the committees. Like many other honorable members, I have no particular desire to serve. I represent a distant constituency in Western Australia, and an obligation to attend frequent meetings of the committee in other States will cause me considerable inconvenience. During the last election campaign, I assured my constituents that I would render to the Government every assistance in my power to prosecute the war. If the Government now desires to utilize my services, I am prepared to honour that undertaking. That is my answer to those who can see no virtue in the Government’s proposal and who have offered only destructive criticism.
– As one who has not been appointed a member of any of the committees, I should like to make an observation upon the statement of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who sought to discover the motive behind their appointment. The explanation is that the Government has complied with many appeals from private members to be permitted to assist the war effort during the recess and during their spare moments in Canberra. They realize that hundreds of millions of pounds will be outlaid upon the manufacture of armaments and munitions and consider that the expenditure should be closely scrutinized by a parliamentary committee. Surely, in this emergency, members of Parliament can be expected to serve the country without extra remuneration ! If private individuals were appointed to conduct the intricate and technical investigations, they would receive substantial salaries and outofpocket expenses. The Government will defray only the out-of-pocket expenses of the members of the committees, and I see no objection to that. The House appreciates the action of the Government in aceeding to the repeated representations of honorable members that they be allowed to assist in the war effort.
.- In these unprecedented times, it is most desirable that Parliament should acquaint itself as fully as possible with the details of administration. The Government seeks to give to Parliament, in the widest sense, an opportunity to scrutinize acts of administration and expenditure. That object is most commendable. Honorable members have constantly complained of the inability of Parliament to scrutinize as closely as is desirable various features of war-time administration.
Each honorable member who has been appointed to one of the new committees will have a special opportunity to examine details that would not. be brought out in debate’ in this chamber, and obtain information that would not be available to Mm through the ordinary channels. The Opposition has endorsed the principle by electing its representatives to the various committees. That policy is in keeping with our conception of responsible government, and the procedure is followed in the Parliament of Great Britain. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should realize that one feature- of his proposal will arouse dissatisfaction among members of the Labour party. The right honorable gentleman made it appear that the committees would’ have no political bias, because the representation of Government and Opposition was evenly balanced. Then he indicated his intention to appoint in each instance a chairman who would exercise a casting as well as a deliberative vote. I recognize that the chairman should have a deliberative vote in his own right as a member of the committee; but to grant to him a casting vote will be to upset the balance of the representation of’ the Government and the Opposition. That is most undesirable. If voting upon a matter in dispute be equal, the question should be resolved in the negative, in accordance with the accepted parliamentary practice.
– Then there would be no report.
– The committee could indicate in its report that the members were evenly divided upon a certain proposal. The difficulty cannot be overcome by allowing the matter to be resolved on the casting vote of the chairman.
– The committee will have power to send for persons, papers and records, and to take evidence. Every day, some matter of procedure will have to he decided, and means must.be provided to resolve a difference of opinion. The committee cannot be held up for ever.
– No member of a committee will desire to delay proceedings. Each is earnestly desirous of giving loyal service.
– - The more earnest a member is, the less, likely he is to aban don his1 views just to please somebody else.
– The Prime Ministers proposal will cause- dissatisfaction to members’ of the Labour party and may give rise to considerable irritation. The Government is not living up to its, professed desire to remove from the committees any suggestion of a political bias by ensuring balanced representation between the Government and the Opposition. If the chairman possesses a casting vote, Government supporters will be placed in a more favorable position than Opposition supporters. The casting vote of the chairman will not, in fact, overcome a deadlock ;. the position will remain as indecisive as if the committee had reported to the Government that the opinion of its members upon a proposal was evenly divided.
– The. contention of the Prime Minister that means must he provided to resolve, a deadlock is nullified by the experience of the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee. When the Government appointed the chairman, it created an undesirable precedent; but the chairman possesses no casting vote.
– The majority of the members of that committee were drawn from the Opposition.
– That introduces party politics. The Prime Minister declared previously that he did not wish these matters to be treated as party politics.
– We must not shut our eyes to the facts. If the parties have equal representation, the chairman must possess a casting vote as well, as a deliberative vote. Otherwise, a deadlock cannot be resolved.
– The Man-power and Resources Survey Committee experienced little or no difficulty’ in reaching decisions. Its reports were unanimous. In ray opinion, a committee should be permitted to elect its own chairman. That principle has been followed in connexion with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and the Parlia1mentary Standing Committee of Public Accounts. Admittedly, m normal circumstances, supporters of the Government should be in the majority. Sitting suspended from 12.Ji£ to 2.15 p.m.
– Apart from my protest against the abrogation of the inherent right of a committee to elect its own chairman, I protest also against the misrepresentation of the Opposition’s attitude by honorable gentlemen opposite who have introduced acrimony into the debate because they are disgruntled about something else. At the request of my party I accepted a post on one of the committees. I did so in order to give my services to the department with which that committee will be connected. I deprecate strongly the accusation levelled by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) and the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) that honorable members have accepted appointment to these committees in order to draw fees. For my part I shall accept no fees. My only need will be reimbursement of my out-of-pocket expenses, and, since the committee will sit mostly at Canberra “while honorable members are here on their parliamentary duties, members will have no extraordinary out-of-pocket expenses and, therefore, no claim on the Treasury for reimbursement. I assume that other honorable members appointed to committees will do likewise. I am certain, at any rate, that my attitude is shared by members of the Opposition. No one can say that these committees will be useless bodies until they have started their work and discovered whether or not their scope is sufficiently wide to enable them to perform a useful work in connexion with the war effort. I assure honorable members that I for one shall immediately resign if I find that the committee to which I have been appointed is as useless as some honorable members imply that it will be. My attitude in that respect is the attitude of all members of the Opposition towards all the committees from the War Advisory Council down. I think that what I have said about the attitude of Labour members in this respect can be said also of most supporters of the Government. No honorable member would bother to be associated with a committee which did not function in the interests of the country.
.- Paragraph e of the motion provides that the chairman of the committee shall have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, a casting vote.
I submit that as the committee will be not executive, but merely advisory, there is no necessity for that provision. Even if the voting be equal the Government will still have the committee’s advice. The fact that the chairman has recorded two votes, one a deliberative vote and the other a casting vote, will not affect one jot the information provided in the committee’s report. The Government could cut out that provision without detracting from the value of the committee.
.- I protest against the chairman having a casting vote as well as a deliberative vote. I also protest against the chairman of the committee being appointed by the Government instead of by the committee itself. I have accepted appointment to this committee because I desire to assist in my small way the Government to carry out its war policy. It is not our desire to embarrass the Government in respect of these committees - rather it is our desire to assist the Government - but the Government should meet the wishes of honorable members in respect of the chairmanship. For my part, I welcome the opportunity for which I have long wished to investigate different aspects of war expenditure, especially the “ costplus “ basis upon which many war contracts are let. I desire to be enlightened further as to the powers of this committee. I doubt whether it will have the power possessed by royal commissions to require the attendance of persons and the production of documents.
– Paragraph b empowers the committee or any subcommittee to send for persons, papers and records. That is the same power as is always given to parliamentary select committees.
– What happens if the committee’s order is refused?
– In that event, I think, the procedure is that the matter is reported to Parliament, because it is contempt of Parliament.
– This committee is to be constituted by nine members of the House of Representatives and three senators. One of the senators is to he chairman. I strongly object to nine members of the House of Representatives being, willy-nilly, made subservient to one member of the Senate. There are in the panel selected from the House of Representatives men capable of ..being chairman of the committee;- and I suggest r,o the Prime Minister that he ought to agree to leave out the provision that the chairman shall be a senator.
.- Whilst I support the principle of committees, I regret, that some of those which ure to be appointed will have a very large membership. I should have preferred smaller committees consisting of perhaps four members and possessing much greater statutory powers than are to be given. Let these committees accept full responsibility for the work that they do. 1 should have, preferred a reduction, instead of an increase, of the number of Cabinet Ministers, and an allocation of a greater amount of work and a greater responsibility for carrying out that work no parliamentary committees. To ray way of thinking, the ideal system of government, especially in war-time, is by committees rather than by an enormous ministry. I fear that a Cabinet consisting of nineteen Ministers will become unwieldy.
It is unfair to ask members of these committees to work without reimbursement of their out-of-pocket expenses. I agree that most of the work of some of the committees will be done in Canberra, but there will be occasions, particularly in respect of the Rural Industries Committee, which will have to take evidence in various States of the Commonwealth, when men from Western Australia, will have to travel to Queensland and men from Queensland to Western Australia. 1 do think that it would be unfair in Those circumstances to ask men to do the job without being reimbursed at least their out-of-pocket expenses. It must also be remembered that while members are away from their electorate giving their services to their country in this way, they will be out of touch with their constituents, and, naturally, open to attack by prospective opponents. I resent very much the tendency of some honorable members to ridicule other honorable members who have accepted positions on these committees for the purpose of rendering some service in the war effort.
– The principle of appointing these parliamentary committees, has .been accepted on all sides of the House and all ‘parties have nominated their representatives on the committees. When they did so, they had a common understanding that the chairmen would be elected by the committees themselves. The chairmen of these committees hold very important posts; they largely dictate the extent of the investigations and inquiries. The guidance which, committees receive from their chairmen depends on the capacity of those chairmen and their knowledge of the problems to which the committees’ attention is directed. In order to test ‘ the feeling of the House on this subject I move -
That subparagraph (e) of paragraph (3) be omitted- with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-paragraph: - “ (c) The chairman of the Committee shall ibc elected by the members of the committee and shall have a deliberative vote only.”
The impression formed in the party rooms was that the intention of my amendment would be carried out in the Government’s own proposal. We were astonished last week when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in announcing the proposed personnel of these committees named the chairmen. I and other honorable members on this side protested. Similar protests have been made to-day. An important principle is involved, and the only way in which to decide that principle is by voting upon it.
– I am unable to accept the amendment. A characteristic of these committees, unlike other committees that have been appointed in the history of this Parliament, is that they are equally representative of the Government side and the Opposition side of the House. The common rule in this Parliament has been that committees should contain a majority of Government supporters. On this occasion, it was decided, for various reasons, that it would be desirable for them to contain an equality of numbers from those who support the Government and those who oppose the Government. For that reason it was considered just that the chairman of each committee should come from the Government side of the House. In my opinion, it is essential that any government should have,so to speak, the carriage of committees established in this fashion. That has always been the practice of this Parliament; if it were not. so, the Government, while retaining the technical administration in its hands, would,, in certain particulars, have to abandon that administration to the Opposition. That is a procedure to which I could not consent. When it was arranged that these committees should be appointed, and when their personnel was selected-,. I discussed the matter with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Curtin), who accepted the view, and very properly so, that the chairmen should come from the Government side of the House. I venture to say that the whole experience of Parliament supports that conclusion. I have been interested in the argument that has been advanced, that, particularly on matters of substance, there will be no occasion for a chairman to exercise a casting vote, because we have provided for both minority and majority reports; I suppose that if there be no majority, then the reports must be minority reports. Honorable members who are experienced in these matters will at once realize that a chairman must have a casting vote, because questions of procedure must be determined in the event of differences of opinion.
– There is never any argument on such questions.
– There is very frequently argument about such matters. I have not had recent experience of committees, but I have had some contact with them in the past, and I say without hesitation that the chairman of a committee must be in a position to give a casting vote in the event of an equal division of opinion on some matter of procedure. Differences may arise as to whether a certain question should be put, or whether certain matters should be discussed, and there must be some means of determining those differences.
– A chairman can do so without exercising a special vote.
– It is essential, in my opinion, that he should have that power. and therefore I suggest to the House that we add the following words to clause e : -
On matters of procedure - so that the clause shall read -
The Chairman of the Committee should have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, a casting vote on matters of procedure.
On matters of substance, as to what the committee’s report should be, I agree that there is no particular reason why any decision should be made by the use of a casting vote. Consequently, if the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) takes no objection, I ask leave to add to clause e the words : “ on matters of procedure”.
– I suggest “ on matters of procedure only “.
– That is what it means.
.- On the general subject of the appointment of committees I believe that the House is, in the main, agreed that they can do useful work. If there be any ground for criticism, it is that some of the proposed committees are too large, or that there are too many of them. However, as a general principle, I believe that it is a good thing to have committees of this Parliament to examine expenditure or proposed legislation involving targe expenditure. On the specific matter now before the House, which is the voting power to be vested in the chairmen, I say that when I was Prime Minister I held the view that the Government should have control of all such committees. I do not change that view because I am now on the Opposition side of the House. However, I consider that a better way for the Government to secure control of committees is to appoint a majority of its supporters as members, and leave with them the power to elect their own chairman. Almost invariably in such cases a Government supporter is appointed as chairman, but in a few cases committees might elect representatives of the Opposition. They would select the best man to conduct the business of the committee. However, the Government has gone too far now for that to he done. The names of prospective members have been announced, and the Government would be placed in an invidious position if it had to withdraw some of those names. That being the case, the proposal by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the chairman shall be a representative of the Government, and that he shall have a casting vote on matters of procedure, is reasonable. I do not expect that any of these committees will come to fine points of procedure which will necessitate the use of the chairman’s casting vote. My experience of committees is not very great, but I was a member of a committee whose members expressed a. variety of opinions. Nevertheless, they made concessions, and arrived at a unanimous decision. That should be the objective of all committees. I favour the system of appointing parliamentary committees, because I believe that members of this Parliament are eager to do some service for the nation in this time of war. They want to assist whatever government may happen to be in power in order to relieve it in some measure of its burden of detailed work, and to express the opinions of the Parliament without calling on all honorable members to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of every Government proposal. I deprecate allusions to men seeking positions on these committees in. order to receive the fees payable to members. I speak without any personal feeling, because I am not a member of any committee. I do not believe that any honorable member -has sought appointment merely for the sake of the fees. In fact, the payments to be made to members will not be fees. They will merely be allowances to meet out-of-pocket expenses. The country expects men to do work for nothing, if they can do so, and I think that is only right. I have offered my own services in a purely honorary capacity at any time when I can do anything to help the nation through this terrible crisis. But if some honorable members axe selected to do special work, and they lose money by reason of having to travel in the course of their duties, it is only reasonable that their losses should be reimbursed. The amount involved is so small that it is mere niggling to talk about it and create the impression in the public mind that a lot of fat perquisites will go to members of these committees. I deprecate that. I support the motion that we appoint the committees, and I consider that the proposal, as proposed to be amended by the Prime Minister, should be accepted.
.- Several honorable members have stated that all parties in this House are in agreement regarding the appointment of these committees. To some degree that is the position, but the statement may be a little misleading because, although all parties have agreed on the principle of appointing the committees, it would be wrong to suggest that every honorable member has approved of the system. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), have made it very plain that they do not approve of the appointment of committees. I do not approve of the proposal, but my reasons are entirely different from those which I imagine are held by our well-known reactionary friends who sit on the back benches on the Government side of the House. I dissociate myself entirely from the motives which actuated them in attacking this proposal, because I consider that the fact that they are disgruntled has influenced their attitude. In taking positions on the hack benches, they no doubt hope that when the Prime Minister again shuffles his Cabinet, he will deal from the bottom of the pack. I agree with some of the criticism that has been levelled at this proposal. I do not associate any of my colleagues with this observation, but I believe that, in agreeing to the appointment of these committees, the Prime Minister’s intention was to stifle criticism of Government policy by members of this Parliament. I believe, further, that he intended to give to honorable members ready-made reasons why Parliament should not be called together frequently, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). Honorable members have every justification for asking what functions these committees will be asked to perform. I have endeavoured to obtain some information about the functions of the proposed Social Security Committee. It seems to me that when the Government came to this committee, it had run short of titles and, in its desperation, had to accept any title. Some honorable members have referred to the great work that these committees will be able to perform. But what will happen to that work? The Man-power and Resources Survey Committee was appointed from members of this Parliament. Although it has submitted at least two reports to the Government, nobody can obtain any official information about them. The appointment of such committees is only designed to side-track criticism of the Government by honorable members. Any honorable member who believes that the decisions of these committees will cause the Government to alter its policy in any way is mistaken. Some honorable members have objected to references to the payment of expenses to members of the committees. They have said that no honorable member is anxious to profit as the result of his service on any committee. One honorable gentleman said that instead of referring to these payments as fees, we should say that they are contributions to defray the expenses of members of the committees. If members serving on the committees were involved in any expense above their ordinary parliamentary expenses, they would be justified in claiming recompense. But that will not be the actual position. Some honorable members argued that, by carrying out work with these committees, they will have to neglect private business interests. That is a strange attitude to adopt. I find that the efficient performance of my parliamentary duties is a full-time job. I have no outside interests. I say truthfully that if I had outside interests I could attend to them only at the cost of neglecting my parliamentary duties. The same statement should be true of every honorable member. Apart from outside income, of which some members are in receipt, each of us has a parliamentary allowance of £1,000 a year. Every honorable member should be able to struggle along on that income. But the lowest fee to be paid to a member of these committees is to be £2 2s. a sitting. Some honorable members seem to think that the proposed £2 2s. a day will be only a contribution towards the expenses that will be incurred; but what expenses will honorable gentlemen have to meet? Each of them has a gold pass. It is true that those who travel on the transAustralian railway are required to pay for their meals, but their pass relieves them of all travelling expenses on the journey. In my view the allowance paid to members of Parliament, like the nature of the duties they are expected to perform, is such as to demand their full time at their work as parliamentarians. Evidently some honorable gentlemen treat their parliamentary duties as a secondary consideration. I do not take that view. Any honorable member who does his parliamentary work properly has a full-time job on his hands. A regular payment of £2 2s. a day while on the work of these committees would mean that honorable members would receive £14 14s. a week in addition to their ordinary allowance of approximately £20 a week. Surely it will not be argued that £14 14s. a week is merely a contribution towards expenses ! Whenever “honorable gentlemen opposite are asked to assess the amount that should be provided by the Government for certain unfortunate sections of the public they argue about every penny and pay a great deal of attention to statistical data. The Parliament, has decided that 21s. 6d. a week is sufficient for an invalid or oldage pensioner; yet it is now suggested that members of the Parliament should be paid, as expenses for one day an amount equivalent to a fortnight’s income of an invalid and old-age pensioner who lives on his pension. If honorable members need to incur certain out-of-pocket expenses they should furnish vouchers for the amounts involved and obtain refunds in the usual business way.
As to the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney, I must say that it is amusing to me even to suggest that the Government should surrender control of these committees to the Opposition. Only when the present Opposition is able to command a majority in this Parliament will it be able to exercise power. In other words, it will have to take the power away from the Government by weight of numbers. These committees will be Government committees. They are being appointed by i.lie Government and it will be for the Government to decide whether or not it is proposed to give effect to their decisions. I do not for a moment expect that the Government will accept all of the recommendations that the committees may make. It will give effect to proposals that appeal to it, and discard the others. It has been said that these are non-party committees. There can be no such thing as a non-party committee, for when issues arise which are vital to the Labour party, on the one hand, or to the Government, on the other hand, i he members of the committee will vote according to their party affiliations. The Prime Minister has said that he will not accept the amendment. I therefore intend to vote for the amendment, for by thai; means I see a prospect of defeating the whole proposal.
– The action of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in moving his amendment has induced the Prime Minister to make some concession. He has intimated that he is prepared to agree to incorporate in paragraph e of the motion the words “on matters of procedure “. As the motion already makes provision for the submission of minority as well as majority reports, and as the Prime Minister is now willing that the chairman shall have a. deliberative vote and a casting vote only on matters of procedure, some of my objections to the motion have been met. I presume that the honorable member for West Sydney will feel as I do in this respect. In regard to the appointment of the chairman of the committee by the Government, I have been impressed by the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that at a conference with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on this subject it was agreed that it was reasonable, in all the circumstances, that the Government should appoint the chairman. Any agreement made by the leader of my party will be honoured by me and. I believe. bv the Labour party
– By way of personal explanation I wish to say that if, on behalf of this party, the Leader of th, Opposition agreed with the Primp Minister that the Government should appoint the chairman of each committee, I shall honour his undertaking. I was unaware that such an agreement had been made. In the absence of such an undertaking we would consider it proper to insist on committees ‘being left at liberty to appoint their own chairmen. As I am now advised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that an undertaking was given by our leader to the Prime Minister on this subject, I have no more to say.
– I said that the Leader of the Opposition had agreed with me that the chairman should be appointed by the Government.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s word in that connexion.
– I am the last one who would wish to embarrass the Leader of the Opposition in respect of such a matter. Now that I have been advised that he gave an undertaking, I have no desire to dishonour the arrangement. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
– No !
Leave not granted.
– I also wish to make a personal explanation. When I made my previous speech on this subject I did not know that the Leader of the Opposition had agreed that the Government should appoint the chairmen of these committees.
– by leave - Some little time ago 1 intimated that 1 would agree to incorporate in paragraph e of the motion the words “ in matters of procedure “. My attention has now been drawn to the fact that in view of the provisions of our Standing Orders, the mere addition of those words may not go far enough. It is as well that we should do our best to give effect to the true intention of honorable members. The Parliamentary Draftsman has suggested certain amendments to achieve that end. I therefore ask leave to amend the motion as follows : -
By omitting sub-paragraph (e) of paragraph (3) with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-paragraph: - “ (e) In matters of procedure, the chairman of the committee to have a deliberative vote, and, in the event of an equality of voting, have acasting vote, and in other matters a deliberative vote only.”
Leave granted; motion amended accordingly.
– When 1 heard the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) say that nobody was worth a salary of more than £500 a year I remembered a story that was told about the late Mr. John Burns, a prominent English radical, who, at one time, had maintained that no man was worth more than £500 a year. By the hand of fate Mr. Burns later found himself on the Treasury bench, as the honorable member for East Sydney may do some day, and in that position he drew an allowance of, I think, £5,000 a year. When he was taxed with inconsistency in the matter, his reply was that hi3 opinion of himself had gene up a good deal since his previous statement had been made !
I do not complain of the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in connexion with these committees, for the proposal to appoint them gives room for a good deal of difference of opinion. I point out to the honorable member, however, that he is spending his time, during parliamentary recesses, in doing useful public work’ in a military capacity.
– And he is being well paid for it!
– I do not say anything about that. The adoption of the committee system by this Parliament would undoubtedly provide other private members with an opportunity to do useful work in other directions. The committee system is much more firmly established in the British House of Commons than it is in this Parliament, and I think there is a good deal to be said for the system provided that it is not overdone. In my view, the Public Accounts Committee could have been reconstituted with advantage a considerable time ago; and I have never been able to understand why a Foreign Affairs Committee has not been constituted in this Parliament, for such committees of some other parliament’s exert a. great influence in educating public opinion. I see one difficulty, however. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to it in a rather different connexion.. Will any notice be taken of the recommendations of these various committees ? It would be rather hard on committee members if. after their time travelling over Australia and working strenuously to furnish reports to the Government, no notice were taken of the reports. Will anything come out of the labours of these committees? My mind goes back to my previous experience in these matters. For .several years I was chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate. I know that that committee worked hard on an unattractive job. It encountered two main obstacles. One was the leader of the Government in the Senate, and the other was the present Prime Minister. They did not approve of the recommendations of the committee, and when the Government of the day was able, at its third attempt, in opposition, to obtain the consent of Parliament to an amendment of the Acts Interpretation Act the value of the committee was greatly reduced. I have not a very great belief, therefore, that the work of these committees will be effective. My own attitude is, briefly, similar to that of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson.) and the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell).- I, too, have a large electorate, and could spend a good deal of the year travelling in it. I have been asked to accept, membership on a committee - a position to which, perhaps, I am not particularly suited. I felt - as did the honorable member for Kalgoorlie - that at the present time I could not very well decline. Very considerable satisfaction may be derived from the fact that one’s hands will not be bound, that one may express opinions freely, and that if one considers that good is not being effected either by oneself or by the committee, one may retire from it. In all the circumstances, I considered that the system should be given a trial, and that I personally should take a part in it. There will at least be the privilege of seeing many things and meeting many people that one would not otherwise see or meet, and as a consequence becoming, if not wiser, at all events better informed.
– in reply - I wish to answer some of the criticisms that have been launched against the establishment of these committees. It would be unfortunate if certain observations were left unanswered from the table at which I stand.
The point raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), concerning the acceptance by members of a fee for services rendered to the Commonwealth, has not been overlooked. I assure the honorable gentleman that I discussed . the matter with my advisers when these provisions were being drafted. Ct is not proposed that any member shall be paid beyond a legitimate allowance foi expenses; there is no question of profit being made out of the very modest daily allowance fixed. The public, perhaps, is not aware that members who serve on these committees do not draw an allowance for expenses except when absent from the city in which they reside, or if in Canberra when the Parliament is not sitting. They perform their ordinary parliamentary duties and receive in return therefor - if that be the correct expression - a parliamentary allowance. Work on committees, obviously, is in addition to the work that a member does as the representative of a constituency. For that work, he is not to be remunerated, but the legitimate expenses he incurs in the performance of it will be refunded to him.
– What is the scale of expenses ?
– I think I am right in saying that, according to the standard scale, the chairman receives £2 2s., and a member £1 10s. a day. I assure the honorable member, on behalf of members who have served on committees, that it need not be thought that a profit is made out of an over-all allowance.
– Yet the right honorable gentleman says that £1 ls. 6d. a week is sufficient for a pensioner to live on!
– If the honorable member’s obsession in that’ regard is so great, may I ask him whether he refunds the difference between his parliamentary allowance and what an old-age pensioner receives ?
– Pensioners are not receiving sufficient. The right honorable gentleman says that they are given too much; yet he claims that £2 2s. a day for the chairman of a committee is not over-payment.
– The honorable member is not so sternly logical as to want to reduce the parliamentary allowance to the level of the old-age pension? His fine logic has limits when applied to his own case.
– I want the amount of the pension to be raised.
– Let us be quite real about this business. What sort of farce would it be if, in this country, which, I believe, has every desire to treat its public representatives properly, and to maintain the dignity of Parliament, we were to say to honorable members: “ When you travel throughout Australia on the work of any committee, your allowance shall be 21s. 6d. a week “ ! Many honorable members, including some colleagues of the honorable member, would find it impossible to accept posts on the committees in such circumstances. I do not consider that membership of a parliamentary committee should be confined to men who happen to have means, apart from their parliamentary allowance. I cannot for the life of me see why a member who has no independent means should be prevented from serving his country on a parliamentary committee, merely because he receives an inadequate allowance in respect of his legitimate expenses. These expenses are very modest indeed. Few persons in Australia would be so mean as to urge that the important functions of these committees should be discharged at a personal loss to the members who had been asked to serve on them.
– There is “no proof that they serve at personal loss.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has denounced this committee system. He was unkind enough to describe it as “ a racket “ - I take that to be an offensive expression - and went on to say - oddly enough, coming from the honorable member - that it is not democratic. With very great respect to my friend, I cannot accept him as an authority on the principles and practice of democracy. I have much respect for his approach and his methods, but would never accuse him of being an ultra-democrat
– Theright honorable gentleman himself is not an authority on democracy.
– The essence of democracy - I say this for the benefit of my two non-democratic friends - is that Parliament, which is the principal organ of self-government, should be as effective as possible for the purposes of selfgovernment. For that reason, when announcing the policy of the Government, and indeed, in giving effect to what I knew were the views of leading members of the Opposition, I said that, having regard to the fact that in war-time a considerable transfer of power to the Executive had been found necessary, and to the further consequential fact that Parliament meets for comparatively brief periods, it seemed to me of the first importance that in order to preserve the continuity of parliamentary influence, and the continuous responsibility of members of Parliament, they should be given some continuous function in relation to administrative affairs. This committee system does that. Every honorable member knows that, in the absence of some committee system of this kind, he comes to Canberra for the few weeks during which the House may sit, and then goes away again. If he wishes to exercise a critical function, he must do so without access to material which would make his criticism informed. As a member of one of these committees, he will have placed before him facts which he may study; thus, when he comes into this House, he will be an informed critic of the administration.
– The right honorable gentleman would get the Censor to prevent the publication of his remarks.
– With a great effort of self-control, I refrain from replying to that remark.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has permitted himself to make some acid comments on these proposals. I have been accustomed to acid comments by the honorable gentleman ever since I became Prime Minister. I am at a complete loss to understand why it should be said that it is useless to have committees of this Parliament which will investigate, for example, the problem of profits control, which is constantly arising for consideration in this House. The suggestion that this committee should be appointed was made by one of my friends opposite who has a seat on the Advisory War Council. I am completely astonished when I am told that it is useless to have a committee to examine, from time to time, proposals in relation to social security in Australia, to formulate ideas, and to act as an adviser to the Government in that respect. I am astonished when I am told that whether or not broadcasting is made the subject of some parliamentary investigation is unimportant. There is not one topic in respect of which these committees are being founded on which Parliament and the Government will not be immeasurably better informed after members have examined it and made available the benefit, not of some casual observation without the necessary facts, but of a considered observation after close examination of the facts. Consequently, I am quite sure that the overwhelming majority of the honorable members of this House believe that full use of committees by this Parliament, far from being a “ racket “ or undemocratic, is really a justification of the democratic system.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That a joint committee he appointed to inquire into and, from time to time, report upon ways and means of improving social and living conditions in Australia and of rectifying any anomalies in existing legislation.
That the following members of the House of Representatives - Mr. Barnard, Mr. Blackburn, Mr. Perkins, and Mr. Ryan -be appointed to serve on such committee. 3.T hat, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
Mr. Perkins be the chairman of the committee;
the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament; and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee may add ‘a protest or dissent to any report;
three members of the committee con stitute a quorum;
in matters of procedure, the chairman of the committee have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote; and in other matters a deliberative vote only; and
a message be sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence and asking that two members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That a joint committee be appointed to inquire into -
methods of restricting or controlling profits or prices; and
the question whether any or what alterations should be made in the existing methods of taxing profits.
That the following members of the House of Representatives - Mr. Clark, Mr. Marwick, Dr. Price, and Mr. Watkins - be appointed to serve on such committee.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament; and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report;
three members of the committee constitute a quorum ;
in matters of procedure the chairman of the committee have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote; and in other matters, a deliberative vote only; and
a message to be sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence and asking that two members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee and that one of those members be appointed as the chairman of the committee.
– by leave - I move -
That a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon wireless broadcasting within and from Australia, with particular reference to the following questions: -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
– Honorable members have not yet had an opportunity to study the proposed terms of reference.
– If any question arises regarding the terms of reference, or it is. suggested that they are too narrow, they can be amended later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That a joint committeebe appointed to inquire into the effects of the war on the marketing of Australian primary produce, andon the economic condition of the Australian rural industries.
That the following members of the House of Representatives - Mr. Francis, Mr. Frost, Mr. McLeod, Mr. Pollard, Mr. Scully and Mr. Wilson - be appointed to serve on such committee.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
Mr. Francis be the chairman of the committee ;
the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament; and have leave to report from time to time theevidence taken;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report;
five members of the committee constitute a quorum;
in matters of procedure the chairman of the committee have a deliberative vote, and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote; and, in other matters, a deliberate vote only; and
a message be sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence and asking that four members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee.
Mr. HOLT (Fawkner - Minister for
Labour and Social Services) [3.20]. - by leave - The employment situation which certain Australian industries face as a result of phases of Government policy has not been unforeseen. The re-absorption of labour displaced by Government policy has been the subject of careful planning, and is the responsibility of specially trained and selected officers of the Commonwealth and State Departments of Labour. It must be recognized, however, that no scheme, thoroughly planned though it may be, can work miracles. A. man whose particular skilled calling is now closed tohim as a result of the rationing of imports, or the scarcity of materials needed for war purposes, cannot expect to emerge at once fully trained in a new calling. The variety of difficulties which will have to be overcome will readily suggest themselves to honorable members. The Government’s plans have already functioned satisfactorily in industries which have been adversely affected by Government policy, and they will be adapted to others as the necessity arises. Action is now being taken along the following lines: -
State Governments, and to act as clearing houses in labour supply and man-power matters.
The Department of Labour and National Service is, in fact, facing every difficulty as it arises. A case in point is the loss of employment which resulted from newsprint rationing. The central employment officers of the Department in the State capitals, following the decision to ration newsprint more severely, got in touch with the newspaper offices to ascertain how many men were likely to be affected. Some will be placed in training for employment under the labour dilution scheme, and others directly in munition work. There may be some delay in States where munitions are not yet being produced in great quantity, but every endeavour is being made to deal with the situation speedily.
Much has been said of unemployment that must follow on petrol rationing. It is a fact, however, that there has been a flow of labour from the motor industry to munitions work ever since the first steps were taken to ration petrol in Australia, and industry, particularly the munitions industry, has been able to absorb many displaced employees. Motor mechanics who have lost their jobs as a result of petrol rationing have, inmost cases, been absorbed as tradesmen in munition plants, and many small garageowners and employers in the motor industry have accepted similar positions. These men are especially suitable, and all who are available should be readily absorbed. Other classes of employees working in garages who have some mechanical knowledge will be suitable for training, and can be taken straightway into the dilution schemes, whilst many of the few garage employees who have no mechanical skill will be suitable for process work.
There is a growing demand for skilled tradesmen in Australia, and men who can be used as tradesmen will rapidly find employment either in new factories or in existing factories which are seeking skilled labour to man additional shifts. We want no idle machine in Australia, and the principal reason why second and third shifts are not in more general use is that certain classes of skilled or specialized labour have not been available. That is not the only reason. In some workshops employees who have become accustomed to high wages and overtime are resisting the introduction of shift work. They must be prepared to sink their personal advantages in order to help their less fortunate fellows, and to promote munitions production. The employment of skilled labour in any class of. industry brings in its train employment of semi-skilled and unskilled labour, and this applies to munitions work as much as to any other..
Fears have been expressed that unemployment in the building1 trades is likely to. increase as the result of Government action in restricting building permits. The Treasury and my own department have been examining carefully the effects of the policy which has been applied by the Capital Issues Board. The situation in each State will be watched closely with a view to maintaining building activities at a healthy level.
As to the general position and planning for the future, the Commonwealth is collaborating closely with the States. The co-operation of the -Premiers has been sought in extending the technical training scheme, and in other matters. Central munitions-, employment offices have been opened in all States. My department is developing this organization, and placement officers will shortly be operating in all’ fields of employment. Certain factors tend to slow the process of re-employment. One such factor is the shortage of machine tools for munitions production, while another is the shortage of trained tool-makers. Steps are being, taken to meet Shis shortage.
In the meantime, the progress of the Commonwealth Government technical training scheme is noteworthy. In the month ended’ the 31st May last, 1,220 trainees completed their courses. The last return showed that 17,480 trainees for all services, including munitions, are undergoing, or have completed, training in technical schools. This scheme has been greatly expanded. The output of trainees for munitions work is being doubled, and further expansion is being undertaken. Some fears have been aroused that widespread unemployment will result from the Government’s proposals for the limitation of non-essential industries. This has been due to a faulty interpretation of the Government’s proposals. The Prime Minister has emphasized that the policy of limitation of civil industry will be applied only gradually, and under the most careful control. Our immediate problem is the placement of those who have lost their jobs as a result of action already taken. We shall do all we can to assist them, but displaced workers cannot expect the Government to pick them up unsought and immediately put them in new jobs. Those so affected must themselves display some self-help, and self-reliance in seeking employment. That these qualities are not always evinced is evident from the fact that, whilst unemployment is recorded in the cities, country interests are continually calling for labour. This is a situation which must be adjusted, and which itself should afford opportunities of employment for those seeking it.
The- vast diversion of labour which the war makes necessary cannot be effected without some hardship. As in every other war-time operation, there must inevitably be some casualties. Whilst the Government will take every possible measure to prevent and minimize individual hardship, the workers at home can be trusted to face their difficulties with the courage and resourcefulness of their comrades overseas.
There are no grounds for pessimism as to the future. The expenditure of a record defence vote, bringing with it steady expansion of industry for war supplies, has been responsible already for a phenomenal increase of the number of persons employed. The forthcoming vote for defence will be considerably greater, and will be accompanied by heavier demands’ for labour for war industries. The number of persons in employment in Australia in May, 1941, was 2,275,000, compared with 2;.156,000, in May, 1940, an increase of 119,000, or five per cent. Whilst the number of persons at work in industry has increased, there has, at the same time, been an increase of still greater magnitude in the numbers enlisted in the fighting forces. The total of persons engaged in industry and the fighting services has, in fact, increased by more than 12 per cent., compared with the past year. Large numbers of persons, probably more than 150,000, who would not normally have been seeking work, have been either at work in industry or in the fighting forces. These new recruits to industry consist of men who, in ordinary circumstances, would have retired, or men who had retired and have returned to work, besides women and girls, and others, who would not ordinarily have been in industry, including some who were formerly unemployed. This process of increasing the total available man-power and woman-power is continuing. While it has been taking place, the number of registered unemployed has decreased from 105,000, in May, 1940, to 47,000, in May, 1941, and it is obvious that in May of this year weneared the point at which, in most of the States, there remained very few unemployed persons who were readily employable.
As pointing to promise for the future, I have mentioned the Commonwealth’s enormous expenditure which must continue to find employment for more and more workers, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled. In addition, there have sprung up in the train of war many industries, great and small, which are new to Australia, and which will give employment to workers of varying grades of skill in varying proportions. One such is the production of flax, the acreage of which in Australia has grown, over two seasons, from 2,000 to 60,000 acres. Flax production entails the establishment of the spinning and canvas manufacturing industries.
The aluminium industry of Australia is now in the stage where imported ingot is being worked. We have planned to produce our own aluminium from imported bauxite, and shall eventually be working our own bauxite deposits. The aluminium industry will provide employment on both the primary and secondary sides.
The shale oil industry, and the production of power alcohol, are being given a stimulus which must result in a demand for labour. Zinc production, copper mining, and many minor industries, such as the production of optical munitions, webbing for military equipment and insulated electric cables, and the manufacture of products from locallyproduced stainless steel are calculated to absorb workers of a special degree of skill.
Finally, the expansion of shipbuilding in Australia can be expected to take up some of the slack which may develop in the building industry and to absorb many workers of varying degrees of skill. While some of these considerations are admittedly of the future, they are not of the distant future. It will be realized, therefore, that notwithstanding disturbances which are due to unavoidable phases of the war effort, the economic situation in Australia to-day is healthy, and offers ample assurance of employment for the future.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Re-employment problems - Ministerial statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service, 3rd July, 1941, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
– An Arbitration
Court award for carpenters, dated the 5th May, granted a war loading of 6s. a week. Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the increase has not been paid to carpenters employed in munition establishments? As representations have been made unsuccessfully to the industrial officer of the Department of Munitions, will the Minister investigate the matter immediately in order to avoid the possibility of industrial trouble, which may interfere with the war effort?
– If the honorable member will supply the particulars to me, I shall order an immediate investigation.
Mr. BREEN. As military activities in the Cowra district have imposed considerable strain upon the staff and services of the local post office, will the
Postmaster-General consider the advisability of increasing the number of officials and services there?
– I shall be pleased to see what can be done.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, paragraph (fb) of section 17, and paragraph [h) of sub-section (i) of section 22 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be repealed, or, failing that, the concessions that applied to relatives under section 52m, until that section was repealed by Act No. 1 of 1035, should be allowed to parents or relatives of invalid pensioners or applicants for the invalid pension.
Although I originally submitted this motion six years ago, the chamber has not been given an opportunity to express an opinion upon it. So soon as a private member, by private motion, exposes an anomaly, a Minister secures the adjournment of the debate and nothing move is heard of the matter. That procedure is most unfair. In 1932, the first Lyons Government amended the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in order to compel the children of pensioners to contribute to the cost of the pensions. If they failed to do so, the act empowered a court of summary jurisdiction to order them to pay a fair and reasonable amount. But the Government was never courageous enough to prosecute a person for refusing to contribute. Some members of Parliament declined to comply with the law, because they resented the element of com- ‘sion, and because they were making voluntary contributions to the maintenance of their parents. If I were a pensioner and one of my children, who was in affluent circumstances, refused voluntarily to contribute to my maintenance, I should decline to accept from him a contribution that the Government compelled him to make. A person who, being able to pay, declines to contribute voluntarily in order to assist bis aged parents is not worthy of the name of a son.
In 1934 the Lyons Government suddenly realised that the amendment of the act affected 500,000 children of pensioners. Fearing for its fate at the general election, it suspended the operation of the oppressive sections and in the following year repealed sections 52c, 52d, 52e, 52f and 52m. Some of them had imposed considerable hardship. They deprived a pensioner of the right to dispose, even under a will, of little assets which he had accumulated, or which his children had assisted him to accumulate. The Government virtually took a lien over his property in order to recover after his death the amount of pension that he had received. Naturally, the sections were most unpopular. With one exception, all of them have since been repealed. The remaining section affects only a few people, so the Government has not rectified the anomaly. Are we always to take the course of political expediency? Must we always adopt the principle of the “greatest good for the greatest number of votes “ ? A nobler principle is “ each for all and all for each “.
The act provides that an applicant for an invalid pension must be more than sixteen years of age. Last year, I referred to an outstanding example of hardship. A woman aged 82 years had an invalid son aged 65 years. Being thrifty, she had accumulated a little property, the revenue from which did not exceed the basic wage. Although the son was totally and permanently incapacitated, the department ruled that he was being adequately maintained by his mother, and in those circumstances was not eligible to receive a pension. No parent would be so callous and brutal as to turn out of the home an invalid son. Evidently the Government refuses to amend the act because the suggestion emanates from the Labour party. Some years ago, a former Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, and others told me that they would support this motion in the House. Any family whose breadwinner earns £10 a week or less should not be called upon to provide for the maintenance of an invalid child of more than sixteen years of age; that child should automatically become entitled to the full invalid pension, There ic a definite limit on the obligation of the Government. I do not say that men in receipt of larger incomes should not be compelled to support their invalid children. I point out that the Income Tax Act makes no provision for deductions in respect of invalid children over the age of sixteen. So the poor man is kicked from both sides. The Government cannot produce the shadow of an argument against my proposal. I want to vote on this issue; I do not want the Minister to move the adjournment or to suggest that the proposal be referred to some finance committee.
– I promise not to ask for the adjournment of the debate.
– This defect in the pensions law has persisted since 1932 without Parliament having had an opportunity to decide the issue. A vote must be taken to-day. I venture the opinion that if the services of the Government Whip are not called in in order to impose parliamentary discipline on honorable members opposite, my motion will be carried by an overwhelming majority.
– I am sure that when the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that members of the Opposition supported his view, he did not deliberately wish to exclude some honorable members on this side of the House who have a great deal of sympathy for his case.
– I did not exclude honorable gentlemen opposite.
– In order that the House shall have a complete appreciation of what is involved in the honorable member’s proposal, I shall read the section of the act which he wishes to amend -
No person shall receive an invalid pension unless -
That provision has been a feature of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act ever since it was passed in 1908. A similar provision was contained in the New South Wales legislation of 1907, upon which the Commonwealth act was modelled. I join with the honorable member in regretting that in our social legislation as it exists to-day, it is neces sary to apply what is known as the “ means test “. I am happy to know that there is a trend in the direction of excluding that test. For instance, the child endowment legislation which was recently passed by this Parliament entirely disregards economic status, and I hope that that principle will be applied in other legislation with which this House, I hope, will have to deal before we are very much older. When the honorable gentleman uses as his main argument for the acceptance of his proposal that the provision which I have read was enacted by the Lyons Administration in 1932, I regret to say that he is entirely wrong.
– On a point of order, I want to say that I am not wrong.
– That is not a point of order.
-I understood the honorable member to build his argument for the repeal of that provision on the premise that certain aspects of the financial emergency legislation in relation to the payment of pensions had been repealed, but that this particular provision had. been retained. In spite of the protestations of the honorable gentleman to the contrary, this provision was not enacted by the Lyons Government in 1932. I repeat that it was contained in the original Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which was passed in 1908. I am compelled, if the honorable gentleman persists in arguing to the contrary, to point out that our interpretation of that provision has been much more liberal than the interpretation of it by any Labour government which has administered the Act. I do not want to labour that point. I mention it, not by way of invidious comparison, but in order to emphasize that the provision about which the honorable gentleman complains has been operating since long before 1932. It has stood the test of all Labour administrations since it was introduced. That, however, does not detract from the merits of the honorable members case, although it does detract from the merits of his arguments in support of that case. Right from the beginning there has been a formula upon which the provision is administered. I do not suggest that it is ultra-generous.
Unfortunately, the means test must be applied to social services which are financed from Consolidated Revenue. That is why I am so anxious that Treasury pensions .should be displaced by contributory pensions to which all will contribute and from which all will draw benefits irrespective of economic status. The formula which operates to-day, in effect, is this: The family income is investigated and an amount of 30s. a week is .allotted for each family unit over 16 years of age, 20s. for each .child from 12 to 15 years of age, and 15s. a week for each child under 12 years of age. If, after making that allocation, there remains the sum of less than 20s. with which to maintain the invalid child over 16 years of age, a full pension is allowed ; if the amount remaining is between 20s. and 30s., half pension is allowed, and if the amount remaining is 30s. or more, no pension is granted. That formula was introduced by the Scullin Government in the last days of its administration. In the earlier days the formula was much less generous. That is how the Act stood when the Scullin Government was defeated and that is how it stands to-day. I do not claim that it is generous, but I place it before the House so that it shall be in possession of the full relevant facts. A much better opportunity presents itself for the honorable member for Hunter to have this matter correctly ventilated in the resolution adopted by this House on the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the formation, of a joint committee - to inquire into and, from time to dme, report upon ways and means of improving social and living conditions in Australia’ and of rectifying any anomalies in existing legislation. 1 hope that the honorable member will avail himself of that opportunity.
Mr. SHEEHAN (Cook) (4.0].. - I join with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in requesting that the provision of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act specified ra. the motion be repealed and that invalid pensions be paid to persons over sixteen year* of age in cases where the income of the family does not exceed a reasonable amount. I was pleased that the honorable member suggested limitation of the permissible income of the parents. I had thought that it was his intention to ask for payment of a pension to any invalid child over the age of sixteen years, irrespective of the parent’* income. I agree that a family with an income of, say, £10 a week should not be allowed to receive further income from the social services of the community for the purpose of supporting an invalid child. Working-class parents, who are supporting invalid children, should have an income exceeding by at least £1 a week the amount allowed under the means test, which has just been explained by the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart). The income permitted under the means test is not adequate for a family which has to maintain an invalid child. An invalid in the home causes a great deal of worry, and requires special care and protection, which usually means that some other member of the family has to be in attendance at all times.
– I neglected to state in my explanation of that formula that, although it is standard, it is not rigidly applied. Special allowance is made when extra expenses are incurred in respect of sickness.
– Children who are unable to fend for themselves at the age of sixteen years, when it is normal for boys and girls to go out to work, become a great burden on their parents. ‘They have to be given special consideration, and they should be encouraged to take their place in society and try to develop themselves mentally and physically. If they are to do this, they must be provided with some income. They cannot obtain even a few shillings weekly from their parents for social relaxation, because working-class people cannot afford that extra expense. They should be made independent of the family resources by means of an invalid pension. It is only right that they should be made a liability of the community. The Government has recognized the necessity for improving social services by enacting a fine piece of legislation to implement the child endowment scheme. It does not require people to submit to the means test in order to qualify for endowment. It should now go n step farther and authorize the payment- of pensions to invalid children over the age of sixteen years without the application of the means test to the invalid’s family. Parents are also penalized because no provision is made for income tax deductions on account of dependent invalid children over the age of sixteen years. This position should be rectified. The children referred to in the motion are entitled to receive invalid pensions, and their parents should be given every help to maintain them and provide them with adequate medical attention.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [4.5 . - This is an excellent opportunity for the Government to put into practice the policy which it professes. Earlier to-day the House decided, in the face of my opposition, that a committee should be appointed to deal with problems of social security. Here is a chance for the Government to give effect to its claims if there be any substance in them. If honorable members of the Opposition are as keen on the committee system as they say they are, there should be no objection whatever to the motion submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) being referred forthwith to the Social Security Committee for inquiry. Therefore, I move as an amendment to the motion -
That all words after “ be “, second occurring, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: “submitted to the Joint Committee on Social Security for investigation and report”.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) [4.6 . - I support the motion submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). In doing so I do not offer any opposition to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). However, l” consider that the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) should settle the matter in this House. If it should be referred to the Social Security Committee, a pronouncement in this House by the Minister should have some effect on the committee’s deliberations. I do not think that the Minister was strictly correct in stating that the section of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which is the subject of the motion, has the same application to old-age pensions as it has to invalid pensions. The relatives of an old-age pensioner need not contribute to his support unless they wish to do so.
– But if they are supporting him he cannot obtain a pension.
– A man who has qualified for the old-age pension is able to obtain one no matter what may be the financial position of his relatives, so long as they do not decide to support him. Therefore, he is not forced by the act to be dependent on charity. Invalids are obliged to depend on the charity of their relatives. I direct the Minister’s attention to that important point. The persons who are affected by the motion now before the House are destined for the rest of their lives to depend on charity. Not only is there lack of elasticity in determining the capacity of a family to maintain an invalid child, but also, when the child reaches manhood or womanhood, he or she cannot say : “ I am free from charity “.
– I hope that that will not remain so for long. I want to help to correct that position while I am Minister for Social Services.
– I hope that the honorable gentleman will succeed. I have submitted to previous Ministers that it is unjust to condemn a person to be dependent on charity throughout his life, but without obtaining any result. A ridiculous feature of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is the provision that an invalid, child or adult, who cannot look after himself, cannot draw a pension so long as he lives with relatives, whereas he can obtain one as soon as he goes to live with strangers, who cannot be expected to look after him so well as his family would do. Surely it would be better to pay a pension to an invalid living with relatives, provided that the financial position of the family warranted that assistance. Fifty per cent, of our invalids are not capable of caring for themselves properly. It is unjust to force them to go out into the cold world, and live in some bare room with strangers, in order to qualify for a pension. The Minister should recommend to the Social Security Committee that it consider the advisability of increasing the income permissible to the parents of an invalid pensioner. As soon as an invalid child becomes an adult, he should be regarded as a full citizen, and should not he forced to depend on charity. I hope that the Minister will have that anomaly removed.
.- I support the motion of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and I oppose the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The honorable member for Hunter is perfectly entitled to secure an expression of opinion from this House upon the proposal which he has placed before us. The fact that the House expresses an opinion on the subject need not interfere in any way with the work of the Social Security Committee. In fact, such an opinion should help the committee in its deliberations. The Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) dilated at great length upon the operation of the section of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act now before the House. The general subject of old-age pensions can be put aside for the moment, because the motion refers exclusively to those unfortunate people who, after bearing the sorrow and expense of bringing their invalid or incapacitated children to maturity, are required by the Government to continue to support them in their manhood or womanhood. There are many such cases and, despite what the Minister has said about the flexible interpretation of the section under consideration, I assure him that I know of a number of cases in my electorate in which repeated attempts to secure a liberal interpretation of the section have failed. I know a young man, 22 years of age, who was a victim of infantile paralysis. He grew to manhood with a decided limp. With great courage he learned the trade of commercial printing in the hope that he would be able to earn his own living. For a time he secured remunerative employment, but then became unemployed. His father was earning about £6 a week and also had an invalid daughter to keep. Only one other member of the family, another son, was in employment. The Pensions Department paid an invalid pension to this young man for a brief period. But the pension was discontinued, and the department refused to give him assistance to purchase irons which he needed to enable him to move about - the very kind of assistance that the Minister said the department had power to give. His case was brought to my notice and I made representations to the department, but it relied upon the section of the act and said that it had no discretionary powers. As it happened, this young man was also a clerk, and I was able to secure for him a temporary position as a clerk at £4 a week. For two years prior to that he could not obtain a pension or even get assistance to purchase the irons he needed, the cost of which was about £10. He had to rely upon the generosity of his home folk to feed, clothe and shelter him.
– At any rat* he could not have been totally and permanently incapacitated.
– I might have expected such a trite remark from the Minister, for he does not know all the circumstances of the case. This young man finds it extremely difficult to move about at all, but, with great courage, in spite of his disability, he has endeavoured to equip himself for the battle of life. On very many occasions he was denied the opportunity to work because of his disability, yet the Government refused to grant him a pension because his father was earning £6 a week. Such cases cannot be determined justly by any hard-a.nd fast rule. This man may retain his occupation until the end of the war, but it is more than likely that his job will then be given to some one else and he may then find himself once more denied a pension because his father may still be earning £6 a week as an employee of the Victorian Railways Department.
I refer to another case which concerns a woman who, in her childhood, at the age of twelve years, was unfortunate enough to break her pelvis. She hatbeen crippled ever since, but the department considers that she should be able to secure some employment. In spite of all that she has done to that end she has not succeeded, but, because her father and mother have an income somewhat in excess of the basic wage, she has been denied an invalid pension. She would willingly work if she could obtain suitable employment, but the Pensions Department will not grant her a pension, aor will the Government do anything to find her suitable work.
In recent years an epidemic of poliomyelitis has swept through Australia. Victoria has suffered more severely than any of the other States, with the result that many young children have been crippled and will have to go through life with an incurable infirmity. They were healthy children a few years ago, but now face an unhappy prospect, for they will still be cripples when they reach adult age. I do not think that their cases should be referred to any committee. The Government should take direct action, at once, to deal with them.
For many years some honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber have been endeavouring to rectify a grave wrong to the aboriginal race of Australia in that they have been denied, amongst other things, the right to invalid pensions. I believe that the Minister for Social Services has a bona fide desire to do something for these unfortunate people. I consider that our aborigines, and also our half-caste and three-quarter-caste peoples who have been denied their rights of citizenship- since 1908, and, in fact, since before federation was accomplished, should have their wrongs righted.
– 1 do not propose to wait for the decision of a committee or of any individual ‘before acting in this case.
– The Minister has not anticipated me in this matter, for I raised the question in the House last week. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and other honorable gentlemen whom I could name have persistently advocated for many years that the principles of natural justice and human decency for which we say we stand should be applied to our aboriginal peoples. The Government has had ample time in which to deal with this subject, but it has not yet done so. We ought to accord these people a measure of the justice and fair play that we talk so much about in relation to our dealings with mie another. I do not intend to add much to what I said last week about the shocking history of the ill-treatment of our native races by the all-conquering whites. The Government could surely have introduced amending legislation on this subject during this period of the sittings of the Parliament, but apparently we shall have to wait, a few months yet for the introduction of the bill.
I commend the honorable member for Hunter for having submitted his motion and I trust that it. will be agreed to. * Quorum formed.]*
;- 1 support the motion and congratulate the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) upon having introduced it. There are, without doubt, some serious anomalies in our pensions law. For many years I have believed that what are called “ adequately maintained cases “ present instances of extreme hardship. An invalid should be entitled to invalid pension immediately on reaching adult age. Perhaps something may be said in favour of the application of a means test in respect of invalid pensions for persons between 10 and 21 years of age, although I would prefer that that course should be abandoned; but nothing can be said in favour of denying a pension to an adult invalid. Yet that is being done to-day. Many parents have had the misfortune to rear sub-normal or invalid children; and others have had to maintain children who have been the victims of accident. It seems to me to be totally unjust to deny a pension to such invalids simply because they are maintained in the homes of their parents. If they were to go somewhere else to live they would at once become eligible for the pension. Obviously their parents would be much more solicitous for their comfort and convenience than would other people who had not a similar personal interest in them. Moreover, such invalids arc of far greater responsibility to their parents than are normal children.
The parents of such children suffer another disability in that in respect of those maintained by them beyond the age of 16 years they are denied the right to claim the income tax deduction of £50 allowable in respect of dependent children under the age of 16 years. The parents, therefore, suffer a double disability. In the interests of justice we should remedy these anomalies at once. The hardship on the parents is accentuated because it impairs their capacity to make provision for their own old age. We ought not only to do everything possible to alleviate the anxiety of these parents for the invalid members of their families, but also to remove the disability that at present weighs so heavily upon th& invalids who live at home.
The case presented to the House merits the support of all honorable members, and I trust that the Government will indicate its readiness to act a little more generously to such’ unfortunate people as those to whom I have referred.
.- I support the motion, and commend the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) for having brought it before the House. I was pleased to hear the Minister say, bv interjection, that he is determined to have anomalies of this sort rectified before he vacates the office he now holds. Frankly, I cannot see any reason for the reference of the matter to the Social Security Committee, which will have a much wider field to cover. The means test is applied at present at too low an income level, and the. provision which deprives of a pension an applicant who lives with his parents interferes seriously with family life.
The pensions law should provide that, where a person has been incapacitated from following his normal avocation, he should be regarded as incapacitated for pension purposes. If a man who is doing hard work on the roads loses an arm, he is incapacitated from following that occupation, whereas a. school-teacher or a clerk suffering a similar injury would not be incapacitated. As I said from the platform on one occasion,, members of Parliament would be incapacitated from following their avocation only if they had their tongues cut out. This, matter should be referred to the Social Security Committee.
I hope that the motion will be carried. Though that would merely amount to an expression of opinion by this House, the Minister should regard the vote as an intimation that the House desires that the anomaly shall be rectified immediately.
.- I support the motion.. I understand that the Government is agreeable to these pro posals being referred, to the Social Security Committee. If the Minister is prepared, of his own volition, to refer to that committee other matters which arise under the Invalid and. Old-age Pensions Act, I should like him to consider the harsh requirement of the department in respect of total and permanent incapacity. Medical men who have examined applicants; for the invalid pension have told me that they were satisfied that the incapacity would continue for five, six or seven years, possibly longer, but were not able to say that they were convinced of its permanency. In some cases, the department obliges an applicant for a pension to undergo’ an operation, in order to- ascertain whapossibility there is of a cure being effected. I am acquainted with a woman who underwent several operations without being completely cured. The medical man who attended her considered that her physical condition made a further operation inadvisable, but he could nor certify that she was totally and permanently incapacitated. I trust that the Minister will issue the instruction that in future the invalid pension shall be granted to applicants who can produce a. medical certificate which the department can accept showing that the patient is totally incapacitated’ and will remain so for at least five years. The circumstances of the pensioner should be reviewed periodically, and at the end of five years a medical man should decide whether or not the incapacity was total and permanent. A good deal of hardship exists to-day because of the interpretation placed on this provision by the department.
Mr: BREEN (Calare) [4.37). - I wish to deal with a phase of pensions administration which has not so far been discussed. I agree with the sentiments already expressed. There is an attempt to make what is patently illogical appear logical. The pensions law is based on the sentiments of charity and reason. It is rational that, in modern civilization, those persons who cannot stand up to the stress and strain of the struggle for a livelihood should receive some consideration from the legislature. Provision is made for the sustenance of such persona. Those who are incapacitated, and whose financial circumstances will not permit them to live without work, receive some assistance from the Government, but unless they are totally incapacitated from earning a living, they are denied the invalid pension. It is in the determination of what is permanent incapacity that anomaly, exists. The attempt to make the interpretation appear logical tends to bring the practice into contempt. For example, according to one interpretation, a person who has had a limb amputated is not regarded as unable to earn a living, and consequently is not entitled to a pension, whereas, on another interpretation, the reverse decision is reached. No one, by the widest stretch of imagination, could conceive of a farm labourer, without literary education, being able in such circumstances to follow rural avocations, or to engage in any trade or clerical occupation. Logically, therefore, he is totally incapacitated; yet he cannot obtain a pension. This laboured effort to make appear logical what is patently illogical brings into contempt those who interpret the act, as well as the act itself. In times like those through which we are now passing, that is highly dangerous, because the legislators who enact the law, as well as the legislature itself, are held up to public ridicule. Can we afford to have the parliamentary system brought into contempt when such strong forces in the world are striving to bring about the downfall of that democratic system? It is our duty to make that system work 100 per cent, efficiently, if it is to face up to its responsibilities and survive the subversive forces arrayed against it. The general public assumes that if sufficient influence can be brought to bear, a favorable interpretation can be obtained. The matter should be seriously considered, either by a committee or by the Parliament directly.
The honorable member for Hunter said that he wanted it extended to those covered by section 52m of the act, but his motion would not provide for that. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) would meet the position, and I suggest that the honorable member for Hunter should accept it. A Joint Committee on Social Security has been appointed which is charged with, the duty of inquiring into anomalies in existing social legislation, and suggesting methods for remedying them. There is undoubtedly an anomaly here. Invalid children who are entitled to pensions are debarred from receiving them, even though the income of their parents is not large enough to permit of the adequate support of the invalids. This anomaly should be remedied, and the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker provides a method of doing it.
– I commend the honorable member for Hunter for having persisted with this motion. L have been in Parliament for about seven years, and the honorable member has had this motion on the notice-paper for most of that time. There is very little opposition amongst honorable members to the proposed amendment. It has been suggested that the matter ought to be referred to the committee on social security, but that committee will have many other matters to deal with, if it is to make suggestions for solving postwar problems and the wider application of the principles of social justice. Honorable members should be prepared to settle this matter to-day. It has not been sprung on them suddenly; they have had plenty of time in which to make up their minds. The subject has been discussed during the consideration of Supply bills, and when amendments to the Old-Age and Invalid Pensions Act have been before the House. Most honorable members have had experience of the way in which this part of the act is interpreted by Deputy Commissioners of Pensions in the various States, and they are familiar with the cases of hardship that have resulted from that interpretation. When an application is made, the Deputy Commissioner says that he cannot grant a pension because the terms of the act will not permit him to. I know of one invalid man 45 years of age, who was refused a pension because, it was claimed, he was adequately maintained by his father, 73 years of age, who was employed as a caretaker. The proposal of the honorable member for Hunter is just and reasonable, and I have no hesitation in supporting it.
.- It is, of course, correct, as the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) has stated, that the provision referred to by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was, from the beginning, included, in that part of the act relating to invalid pensions. The honorable member was misled by the fact that, in 1932, it was inserted in the provisions relating to old-age pensions.
The great trouble with this provision is the way in which it is administered. The department places a construction upon it which, I think, is unwarranted by the wording of the act, and which is contrary te the intention of the legislature. The department maintains that if an incapacitated child is living with his parents, and becomes qualified for an invalid pension by reaching the age of sixteen years, he cannot receive one if the parents are adequately maintaining bim. It may be argued that the act provides for this, but the department goes farther. When a permanently and totally incapacitated child reaches the age of sixteen years, and an application is made for a pension, the department says: “We do not pretend that your father does or could adequately maintain you, but we say that he ought to make some contribution towards your maintenance, and we assess that contribution at so much a week. We shall give you only the difference between this and the amount of the maximum pension.” That is not .provided for in the act, and I am certain that it was never the intention of the legislature. The legislature imposed the means test to ensure that a pension would not be paid to the invalid child of a well-to-do family by which he was being maintained.
– Is it not possible that, in some instances, the act may be administered more generously than was intended by the legislature?
– That never happens, as is known by every honorable member .who has brought applications before the department. When the department refuses a maximum pension in the circumstances which I have described, it makes a careful assessment of the financial position of the father. All of his earnings and property, and claims upon him, are taken into consideration.
– Only a half pension or a full pension is payable.
– A. half pension should not be payable. A claimant is entitled either to the whole pension, or to nothing. Parliament may have intended that if the parents are capable of maintaining and are actually maintaining an invalid child, he should not receive a pension. I do not see how the section can be construed to justify the action of the department in paying a half pension. The Minister should examine that matter of administration. Unfortunately, honorable members have no means, except by appeal to the Minister, of challenging the decisions of the department. Its decisions are not subject to review by an appeal tribunal, as is the case in England. Although the department administers the law humanely, it clings to old precedents. In my speech on the Supply Bill, I referred to a number of anomalies and I hope that the Minister will examine them. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) should agree to delete all reference in the motion to section 52m.
– I do not agree. That section made provision for a liberal allowance.
– I cannot vote for the revival of section 52m. The honorable member should be content to ask for the repeal of paragraph fi of section 17 and section 22 (1) h.
– The amendment introduced by the Lyons Government compelled children to contribute to the pensions which their parents received. Section 52m provided that a single child, whose weekly income did not exceed £7. should not be liable to make such contributions. ‘
– In my opinion, the matter of contributions should not be revived.
– If I accept the honorable member’s suggestion, wealthy people will be able to apply on behalf of an invalid child for the pension. I wish to specify the amount.
.- I support the motion, because the rectification of this anomaly is long overdue. Recently a parent who earns £6 a week applied for an invalid pension on behalf of his eldest child, who was totally and permanently incapacitated. At that time, the family budget was not assisted by payments of child endowment in respect of the younger children. After the breadwinner had paid rent, his income was reduced to £4 10s. a week. As the invalid attains maturity, he naturally desires to attend places of amusement, in order to make his unfortunate condition more endurable. The department refused the application for a pension on the ground that the invalid was adequately maintained by the parent. About the same time, I heard of two such other cases. In such instances, the pension should be granted. This “ means test “ is the weakness of the act. The suggestion by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) to delete all words in the motion after “repeal” has some merit. Parliament should abolish the injustices and hardships under which many applicants labour.
– I support the amendment. This matter could with advantage be referred to the Joint Committee on Social Security for examination and report. I invite the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to consider that suggestion.
.- in reply - The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), whilst supporting the principle of the motion, considered that it should be examined by the Joint Committee ‘on Social Security. Only a few hours ago the honorable member strenuously opposed, with opprobrious epithets, the appointment of that, and other committees, describing them as “ rackets “. This morning the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) suggested to me that the motion should be considered by that committee. Is it not strange that those two honorable gentlemen, after being at daggers drawn, are now agreed upon this subject?
– The honorable member must take his medicine.
– I fail to understand how those two strange bedfellows came to agree upon the matter.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) stated that the motion will allow wealthy parents of invalid children to claim the pension. Evidently the honorable member did not hear my statement that a pension should not be payable if the parent’s income exceeded a prescribed figure. Under repealed section 52m, a similar “liberal allowance” was provided. Therefore, a parent who is in receipt of an income of £10 a week can adequately maintain an invalid child. That disposes of the honorable member’s objection.
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) suggested the deletion of all words in the motion after “ repealed “. When section 52m was in force, it compelled persons to contribute to the maintenance of their parents who were in receipt of pensions. If they refused, a court of summary jurisdiction could order them to make a reasonable contribution. The act contained the safeguard that a single child was not liable to make a contribution if his weekly income did not exceed £7. I agree that if a parent’s income exceeds £10 a week an invalid child should not be eligible to receive a pension. When referring to section 22 (1) hi made a slight error to which the honorable member for Bourke drew my attention. The provision relating to old-age pensions appeared in the original act. I ask honorable members not to regard the motion, as a party question, but to support it so that a number of anomalies may be rectified. Many honorable members opposite have applied on behalf of constituents for an invalid pension and have received the reply that, as the children were being adequately maintained by their parents, they were not eligible to receive a pension. If Parliament allows that hardship to remain, it will do a grave injustice to many deserving persons. I am prepared to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke, and ask leave to amend the motion accordingly.
– Unless the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) be prepared temporarily to withdraw his amendment, it is not competent for the honorable member for Hunter to alter his original motion.
– Would it be competent for the honorable member for Hunter to obtain leaveto alter his motion after the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker had been disposed of?
– That could he done by permission of the House.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Archie Cameron’s ) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I ask leave to amend my motion by striking out all the words after the word “ repealed first occurring, and by inserting in lien thereof the words “ and that adequate maintenance be considered as £2 10s. a week for each dependant of the family “. The motion will then read -
That in the opinion of this House, paragraph (fb) of section 17 and paragraph (h) of sub-section (1) of section 22 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be repealed and that adequate maintenance be considered as £2 10s. a week for each dependant of the family.
Leave granted ; motion amended accordingly.
– The amended motion is no more acceptable to the Government than was the original, because the Government still thinks that the more appropriate procedure is to refer this matter and related matters to the Joint Committee on Social Security.
.-I contend that the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) is trying to grasp a chance offered by a rebel member of the United Australia party to save himself from the humiliation of having to eat all of his promises to the pensioners. The Minister’s attitude shows that he is prepared to render lip service to the pensioners, but not to take an opportunity to do something concrete for them. What is this great question that must be referred to a joint committee?: It is merely whether the present basis of computation of what is adequate maintenance shall be continued or whether a new basis shall be substituted. It is humiliating that the Pensions Department should, by mathematical calculation, decide that parents, themselves advancing to the pensionable age, shall maintain from a miserable wage, children, some of them adults, who should be invalid pensioners. The family income is divided amongst the. units of the family, and if it comes to 30s. a week or more for each unit, no pension is granted. The Opposition asks only that the amount be increased to £2 10s. a week for each unit. That is a reasonable request, and
I cannot understand why a Minister who professes so much sympathy for the pensioners should oppose it.
Question put -
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority .. ..1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Leave to Withdraw Notice of Motion
.- In view of the creation of the War Expenditure Committee, I ask leave to withdraw my notice of motion for the termination of the suspension of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913-1920.
Leave granted; notice of motion withdrawn.
– I move -
That Statutory Rules 1940, No.269, being amendment of the National Security (Aliens Control )Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
I made most of my complaints in regard to wasteful expenditure on alien internment appeal tribunals on a previous occasion, when I submitted a motion of want of confidence in the Miinister for the Army (Mr. Spender). I offer no apologies for having done that, because I consider that the Government’s method of dealing with aliens is too painful for words. The Government should not go to all sorts of trouble and expense, as it is doing, in order to look after these people. They did not come here from Germany because they had any particular love for Australia; some of them came here in order to save their own skins, and many of them came here because the Nazis wanted to plant them here. Therefore, the Government should not waste the taxpayers’ money on them, particularly in view of the Treasurer’s appeal for every penny that can be raised for the war effort. This state of affairs is intolerable, andI am amazed that the Government should permit it to continue when the nation is engaged in alifeanddeath struggle. I realize, of course, that the Government and the Opposition have compromised on this matter. I refer the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to what Miles Standish said about 300 years ago.
– I second the motion. I should like to have a complete explanation from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) of the reasons for the present procedure in dealing with appeals by internees. 1 understand that persons suspected of subversive activities, and aliens who are regarded as being potentially dangerous to the nation, may be arrested by our intelligence service. They then have the right to come before a legal tribunal in order to appeal against their arrests. If they have sufficient money they may hire the best legal advice ; if ‘ they have none, they cannot obtain legal aid. In other words, the honours go to the rich. When an alien appeals before one of these tribunals he is allowed to go free, unless the Intelligence Branch of our military forces can prove that he has engaged in subversive activities, or is dangerous to the security of the nation. That is a remarkable situation. In my view it would be almost impossible to sheet home any such charge made against a noted
SP.T> because the agents of enemy countries are specially trained for their work. They take great pains to cover their tracks and to ensure that, if they should be caught, evidence of their nefarious deeds cannot be brought to light before any court of law. They also take elaborate precautions to prevent any of their associates from becoming known to the police. Therefore, our intelligence service should be allowed to act as it thinks fit. If it believes that an alien has engaged in subversive activities, the Government should accept its assurance and put the alien behind barbed wire. No risks should be taken. I do not believe that any Australians in Germany, or any other enemy country, who were suspected of subversive activity, would be given a chance to appeal before a court of law where the onus would be upon military intelligence officers to prove their guilt. Another point requires some elucidation, lt appears that internees with sufficient cash may engage the best barristers in the land to conduct their cases for them, but others without money have to do the best they can for themselves.
– They may be all the letter for that.
– It may be so, but, barristers are frequently able to influence tribunals favorably towards their clients. I understand that the cost of these tribunals runs into big money every day. Decisions are likely to be given on incomplete evidence, and persons may be released who would be a menace to dic nation, and may even be able to sabotage our war industries. In a war of this description we must take off the gloves. Honorable members are well aware of the difficulty of proving that persons actually engage in subversive activities.. Even in civil life it is often difficult to prove a charge of murder before a jury although the facts seem to be beyond question. The nation should take no risks in dealing with these foreigners. For my part, I would place them behind bars if the slightest suspicion rested upon them. For heaven’s sake let us keep the country free of their dangerous activities.
.- I shall give a few reasons why the Opposition cannot support the motion of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Statutory Rule No. 269, of 1940, which embodies an amendment of Regulation No. 20 of the National Security (Alien Control) Regulations, provides -
For the purposes of this regulation, the Minister may appoint one or more aliens tribunals consisting of a chairman and two other members. The chairman shall be a person who holds or has held the office of justice or judge of a federal court or of a court of a State or territory of the Commonwealth, or who is or has been a practising barrister or solicitor of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State of not less th ii.n five years’ standing. Every advisory committee appointed under Regulation 20 of the National Security (General) Regulations, as amended to the date of the commencement of this sub-regulation, shall, by force of this regulation, be an aliens tribunal appointed under this regulation.
The alternative to such tribunals is to leave the whole matter in the hands of the military authorities. Internees would then have to apply to military officers for their discharge. In a time of war the military authorities are extremely busy, and under such circumstances, even if the dossiers of the internees were produced, it is likely that applications might be ill-considered. Even, the honorable member for Barker is of the opinion that appeal tribunals should be available for naturalized British subjects, so he has some confidence in the impartiality of the tribunals. But the fact that a foreigner becomes naturalized does not mean that he has necessarily become a loyal subject. A great many foreigners who have become naturalized citizens are loyal to the country of their adoption, but other foreigners, who for this reason or that - it may be because ofthe lack of the residential qualification - have not become naturalized, and to such persons the honorable member for Barker wishes: to refuse a tribunal. I believe that the requirements of justice will be served best by a continuation of the present arrangements for dealing with aliens, for the system is a substantial improvement on the old method of leaving the decisions entirely to the military authorities. The Minister for the Army should not be expected to dealwith the numerous applications that are being made by alien internees for their discharge-. It is far better to have the matter dealt with by the tribunals which have been working so satisfactorily during the last few months. Apparently the honorable member for Barker considers that once a foreigner has been placed in an internment camp he should be left there until the military authorities see fit to discharge him, and that decision would depend upon whether a military official thought that an individual had or had not been sufficiently punished. That is a quite unreasonable attitude.
– It is not the attitude of the honorable member for Barker or myself.
– The honorable gentleman and also the honorable member for Barker believe that the military authorities should be supreme in this matter. They regard the aliens tribunals as timewasting institutions. In my view their attitude is. not justified. No honorable gentleman on this side of the chamber is favorable to allowing disloyal foreigners to remain free to engage in subversive practices, but we believe that without the. right of appeal to tribunals injustice may be done to loyal members of the community. I know that there are difficulties in determining the true attitude of certain individuals, but surely mere suspicion that a person is engaging in subversive activities should not be regarded as sufficient to justify his internment without reference to a properly constituted tribunal. The chairmen who preside over these aliens tribunals are men of legal training, accustomed to sift evidence and to make judgments, and. I consider that they are doing their work well. The. outlook of the honorable member for Barker is too militaristic and dictatorial. If he had his way his word would be final. Under such a system there might easilybe a miscarriage of justice. So long as we are satisfied of the. impartiality of these tribunals we should allow them to remain in operation.
– I am not in agreement with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on this subject, although I believe that persons who have been incarcerated in an internment camp should be required to obtain the approval of an appropriate tribunal before being granted their release. I do. not think that a decision on that important subject should be left to any one individual. It is not likely that Military Intelligence, or the civic police, would apprehend an individual without any evidence, and for that reason it is desirable that internees should be required1 to appear before a proper tribunal to justify their claim for release. Unfortunately, that procedure has not been followed in every case. Enemy aliens have been released without the consent of the properly constituted tribunals, just as some individuals have been unjustly interned. I have in mind the case of a returned soldier, who served this country in the last war. He was bora in Australia, of British parents, but was interned without being given the reason for that action.
– The regulation now under consideration does not apply in such a case. It would be dealt with under an entirely different provision.
– I am aware of that fact. I cite the case to emphasize my view that these matters should be dealt with according to a uniform policy. People should not be interned without being given the reason for their internment, and persons already interned should not be released without obtaining the approval of the proper authority.
A few weeks ago in this House I asked a question concerning a man named Philip Raoul Hentze, who was interned but was released very shortly afterwards. I desire to learn the details in connexion with this case, but although
I was promised access to She file, the Prime Minister subsequently withdrew the promise. Since then I have been able to obtain some information from the dossier of this man which is in the possession of the Police Department of New South Wales, although I am still ignorant of the reason why Hentze was released a few hours after his internment, without the authority of the appropriate tribunal. It is a serious matter that a decision affecting the liberty of a man may be reversed with such haste. I understand that the civil police are responsible, to a considerable degree, for the supervision of enemy aliens. According to my information, Hentze’s dossier, held by the Police Department of New South Wales, shows that he was employed by a person named Dannenberg, who was propaganda leader of the Nazi party in Australia up to the outbreak of the war. He was also an associate of Max Pohl, Rudolph Eckerman and Otto Freakman, who are now in internment. I believe that one of the charges levelled against Pohl was that he was an associate of Hentze. It is a curious situation that although one of the reasons why Pohl was interned was that he was an associate of Hentze, the latter has been released while Pohl remains in the internment camp. I understand that the police dossier of Hentze reveals that he was in a position to obtain information concerning the movements of ships taking Australian wool to England. I wish to know whether it is a fact that the Minister for the Army obtained Hentze’s dossier from the Police Department of New South Wales on the 22nd November last year. If so, the honorable gentleman must be fully aware of its contents. I am not setting myself up as a judge of who should be in or out; but there is plenty of room for improvement of the methods employed by the Government in regard to not only enemy aliens but also other persons’ who are interned. Every person interned should be entitled to know the charge that has to be answered in order to obtain release. Not in any circumstances should an Australian citizen be interned. If one were guilty of an offence which the Government believed might endanger the national welfare, he could be apprehended; but he should then be properly charged and given a fair, open, public trial. This applies also to aliens who are not classified as enemies. I have placed before the department the case of a Greek citizen, a national of one of our allies. I do not claim to be .a judge of his case. He has been a resident of this country for many years, having arrived in it at an early age. He has references from most reputable people, and is well known for his activities among the trade unions. He was entitled to a fair, open, public trial, but was not given it. He was placed in an internment camp. The inquiries of the appeal tribunals are held in secret, and a man who wishes to clear himself does not know what charge has been made against him other than from what he can gather from the examination of himself and the witnesses. The system should be completely overhauled. The Labour party has never objected to the internment of persons who, if allowed to remain at liberty, would be dangerous to the safety of this country; but the most stringent care should be exercised in order to avoid unjust internment. In every case, the Government should have sufficient evidence to support its action. It should not have the power to pick up people, including Australian citizens, who have no enemy origin, and place them in internment, without levelling a charge against them. Its methods are closely akin to Nazi methods, of which we strongly disapprove. Steps should be taken immediately to ensure that no Australian citizen, and no national of an allied country, is placed in internment until properly charged and given an open, public trial.
Mr. DUNCAN-HUGHES (Wakefield) [6.4J. - This matter raises most important considerations. The regulation in question does not apply to all internees, but relates only to enemy aliens; consequently, Australians are excluded from its ambit. We know perfectly well that there are Australian-born people of different races, and, I regret, members of the British race also, who are not loyal. We are not now concerned with cases of that sort, but are dealing with enemy aliens, whether they be refugees or others.
In approaching this problem, one has to draw a strong distinction between the ordinary civil law, under which we live at all times, and the military law. I have had some experience of the operation of the military law in the field, and, having practised for some years as a lawyer, I also have had some experience of civil law. I came to the conclusion twenty years ago that, on the whole, the military law gives a more just decision than does civil law. Three officers sit on a court martial. Certainly, they are not experts on points of law; nevertheless, they endeavour to do justice to those who are brought before them for trial. They look past all the legal details, in order to arrive at what appears to be the substantive justice of the case. I have seen something of their results, and am certain that substantive justice is more often secured in a military trial than in civil courts of law, in which a multitude of legal technicalities have to be surmounted in order that a proper decision may be given. Civil lawyers naturally, because of their training and upbringing, require nothing short of absolute truth ; they have to be completely satisfied that no injustice can possibly be done. That that is admirable, will probably be agreed, particularly by lawyers themselves. The aim should be to prevent the possibility of mistakes being made in civil actions. But in time of war, especially one such as that in which we are now engaged, and above all in the light of what has happened in other parts of the world, we cannot afford to demand that complete proof be secured and that there is no chance of injustice being done. There is greater reason for the adoption of this attitude because alien internees are not really members of our own community, and we have not to be so careful with them as with our own people. That may seem a dreadful thing to say; but as a matter of fact they have not the ordinary legal rights in our community; they have not the right to vote, or to hold land.
– It is not correct to say that they have not the right to hold land.
– That is the position in some of the States.
– Not in any State. They have been entitled to hold land from time immemorial.
– The statement is not in accordance with my information.
– They cannot in Queensland.
– The Treasurer agrees that I have correctly stated the position in Queensland at least, and, therefore, am justified in what I have said. We should be foolish if we did not face the facts. We are dealing with men of the highest degree of ability, cunning and shrewdness, who are attempting to outwit us, and are extremely hard to catch. All of us sympathize with persons like the unfortunate Austrian Jews, who, having escaped from their first miserable experience, have been confined in. Australia. I know, however, that it was reported that on board most of the ships which brought them to Australia there were at least one or two emissaries of the Nazi party, if the refugees happened to be German, and of the Fascist party, if they happened to be Italian, the duty of whom was to keep an eye on the doings of the refugees, and report to their superiors overseas. At the risk of being described as a reactionary - as the honorable members for Deakin and Barker have been - or a Fascist, I say that we cannot afford to permit these people to retain their liberty if there be the slightest suspicion against them. This subject is very widely discussed outside this House, if not in if. The experiences of most of the European countries, including Holland, France and Yugoslavia, and the present position of Egypt and Turkey, ought to give us an idea of how widespread and effective is the Nazi organization, which is pitting its wits against ours. If I should be told that what has occurred in other countries cannot happen in Australia, I should point to the warning uttered by the Premier of Queensland about a year ago, namely, that a very great mistake would be made if the dangers which have overwhelmed other countries were allowed to arise in Australia by reason of the growth of a Fifth Column, in which event we should have no one to thank but ourselves. The Commissioner of Police in South Australia made almost precisely the same statement about eighteen months ago. A purely legal body is not the best one to choose to deal with aliens. I should have much more faith in an exclusively military body, or one which consisted of a military man, a. representative of the police department, and a lawyer, as being likely to hold persons who may be a menace to the community, than in three excellent lawyers, who would be intent upon seeing that there was no possibility of injustice being done. When men have been interned, as has happened repeatedly since the commencement of the war, presumably on the advice of intelligence officers, who are not disposed to intern needlessly, it is calamitous that they should be released after a few weeks or months, because they are then infinitely more dangerous than they would have been bad they not been interned. There are bound to be grounds for suspecting disloyalty ‘before a person is interned. For that reason, I support, the motion of the honorable member for Barker.
Rilling suspended from- 6. J 5 to S p.m.
.- I do not propose to make a long or deeply considered speech on this subject, though such, a speech would not be inappropriate on a subject of such importance. The motion before the Chair is that submitted by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and is as follows : -
That Statutory Rules 194.0, No. 269, being amendment of National Security (Aliens Control) .Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, bc disallowed.
The rule was made under the national security legislation, and I myself was opposed to that legislation, as those who are interested will know. I am opposed also to many of the regulations which have been made pursuant to the powers conferred by that very drastic piece of legislation, and I took my stand on the same principles of law and justice that move me to oppose the motion submitted by the honorable member for Barker. I was surprised and disappointed at the speech made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). I was not surprised at the speech made by the honorable member for Barker. I was not. so much surprised or disappointed, at the speech made by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). His speech, I thought, was conceived in a peevish humour, and I thought that he did himself much less than justice in the sentiments which he expressed. But my surprise and disappointment at the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield .rests on the fact that, though I have always regarded him as a Tory of the old school, I have always believed him to be an honest and a closely reasoning Tory of that school. I have always listened to him with the respect due to those who hold opinions diametrically opposed to one’s own for reasons which they are capable of stating firmly and well. The honor.able member for Barker belongs to the militarist school. He stands by the Fascist theory in opposition to Fascism. He believes in countering like with like. I, on the other hand, believe that if the principles of democracy are worth dying for, they are worth maintaining in the face of death itself. The honorable member for Wakefield admits to being a lawyer. It is an. admission which I heard him make for the first time to-day, and that i= why I am the more surprised and disappointed at his speech. The object of the regulations which the honorable member wishes to have disallowed is to enable persons interned, or liable to be interned, to have the charge of disaffection, whatever form it may take, heard aud considered by an independent tribunal. In the primary interest of the safety of the nation, ordinary considerations of guilt do not in this case apply. The issue to be decided before these tribunals is whether, in all the circumstances, and having regard to the paramount necessity for preserving the safety of the nation in time of war, it is meet and just that the particular person whose case is presented before the tribunal should be at large or should be interned. In. my view, it is right and proper that that issue should be determined dispassionately by a properly constituted tribunal. The honorable member for Barker suggested that aliens have no rights. I say “that they have rights, and I, as a citizen of the British Commonwealth of Nations, am prepared to acknowledge the rights they have, because they are rights which we have given to them. The only qualification, the only pre-requisite, to the assertion of those rights by an alien is that he shall have set foot on . British soil.No other qualification is required of a person in Australia to enjoy the protection of Australian law than that he should set foot on Australian soil. Once he is here, he is entitled to the protection of the laws of the country under whose flag he is. Just as he becomes, immediately he sets foot on our soil, entitled to the protection of the law, so also, at that very moment, he assumes the obligation of obedience to the law. The two things are correlative and intro-active, and they are immediate in their operation. Whether this person in time of war is designated, under international law, asan enemy alien or not, the fact remains unchallenged and unchallen gable that, in war as in peace, he is under an obligation to obey the law, and is entitled to the protection of the law. On more than one occasion I have heard the honorable member for Barker, when speaking on other aspects of defence, state what was due by Australians to the British Commonwealth-, and to Britain, the mother nation. I gathered that, if there was one thing more than another which inspired him to unswerving loyalty to the central authority, it was what he would call the British tradition, a tradition of which men of British blood are naturally proud, namely, that to the little island of Britain men have come from all parts of the world, and sought and found sanctuary there. It is true that in Great Britain as in other countries there exist more or less arbitrary rules of extradition for the purpose of giving effect to the criminal law, and to enable the long arm of the law to reach out for fugitives from justice; but it has always been the proud boast of British people that, within the confines of Britain., and subject to the laws of Britain, men could rise in the public parks or public halls and express themselves with greater freedom, than in any other part of the world. As in this country, those rights have been largely abrogated in recent times, but in the past the claim was made on just and sound grounds.
– We are not at peace now, we are at, war.
– We are at war, and now, just as in time of peace, the enemy alien is required to obey the law. If an enemy alien in Australia were to assault an Australian citizen he would be haled before the courts under precisely the same forms of law, and would be subject to precisely the same punishment, as if he were a British subject. On the other hand, if he were himself assaulted, he has precisely the same right as has the most eminent British subject to bring his assailant before the courts of the country. If he has suffered pecuniary loss, he has precisely the same right to take bis assailant before the courts and seek damages. It is for these very principles, which we have always claimed that we reverence in a. greater measure th an they are reverenced in other countries, that this war is being fought. It is in defence of these principles that I have protested on every occasion, and in every place, when I have witnessed an infraction of them. I have never failed to protest when I saw the censorship creeping in to corrupt the liberty of the citizen, and to prevent free speech,just as . the Gestapo prevents men from meeting to utter free comment on public questions. The intrusion of Nazism, in the form of regulations led me to oppose the National Security Act, and also to oppose, in the name of liberty, a great many of the regulations which have been made under its aegis and protection. Because I have opposed all these things, I stand for this measure of justice which has been done to a class of -persons in this country who are entitled to the protection of our laws. If democracy is not equal in a democratic . country to giving protection to people who are here by its permission, obeying its laws and paying its taxes, and in every way conforming to the duties of citizenship - although, for formal reasons that citizenship may not “have been formally -granted to them - then our fight is not for democracy, but merely for a transfer . of the dictatorships. I hope that the motion will not be carried.
Mr.RYAN (Flinders) [8.17] . -.My excuse for -participating in this debate is the fact that. I have . had the ‘experience of “ running with the hare and hunting with the hounds “. For some years during the last war, and after that war, I was in1 charge of counter-espionage in certain countries,- and I know pretty well the. principles upon which counterespionage operates. I do not propose to discuss those principles in detail. 1 merely say that in time, of war the first principle of counter-espionage is to act first, and, if necessary, be sorry afterwards. In addition, I had experience, during the early months of this war, as a member of an alien appeals tribunal in this country. During that time not many appeals were forthcoming, and I had heard only from 40 to 50 eases, when my service as a member of the tribunal terminated upon my election to this Parliament. Counter-espionage is normally unable to obtain 100 per cent, evidence against anybody What you have to work on is merely the balance of suspicion as to whether an alien is, or is not, likely to’ be, a danger to the country in which he happens to be. In many cases we found that the evidence against the alien was extremely slight; and the Army authorities admitted this. In about 36 of the 40 to 50 cases on which I sat, the tribunal recommended that the internee be released. That advice, was forwarded to the Minister, who acted upon it in some cases, but took no action in others. The point I emphasize is that the evidence in each appeal was very carefully considered, and in every case the appellant had counsel. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) said that it was manifestly unfair that a large number of poor internees should not have the advantage of assistance of counsel. My experience was that however poor an appellant might be, he was ably represented by counsel, who brought out the evidence in his favour to the best advantage. In every case the appellant was given a very fair hearing.
The practice of these tribunals differs from that of an ordinary court of law. The tribunals decide their own procedure. They have nothing to guide them; and, therefore, are not bound by precedent. They- can hear a case m camera, or in public, as they themselves decide. The practice of a tribunal differs from that of an ordinary court of law in another important respect. The tribunal must take into account the circumstances in which a prisoner appears, before it. An ordinary court of law always presumes that an accused is innocent until he is proved to be guilty. The tribunal works on the assumption that a good, strong case is held against an appellant to show that it is not in the interest of the country that he should be released. Therefore, the onus lies on the appellant to prove that he is innocuous to the safety of the country. Of the members of the tribunal on which I sat I think that, on the whole, I. was more lenient towards the appellants than any of my colleagues. A misapprehension seems to exist in the minds of some honorable members concerning the functions of these tribunals. They do not’ give verdicts; they come to decisions in the form of recommendations which are forwarded in some cases to the General Officer Commanding of commands, and in other cases to the Minister himself! In the last resort, it is the responsibility of the Minister, assisted ,by his expert advisers, to decide whether the tribunals’ recommendations should or should not be adopted. Thus, the Army authorities themselves have the final choice as to whether the alien- is, or is not, to be released. The only criticism I have to offer against these tribunals is that, as they operate at present, they involve a certain waste of the time of military personnel, and a certain waste of money, insofar as the prisoners generally are brought long distances from internment camps under guard to appear before them. Instead of bringing the mountain to Mahomet we should bring Mahomet to the mountain by arranging for these tribunals to sit at the internment camps. The tribunals themselves are of definite assistance to the Minister, and to the Army authorities. In time of war the Intelligence Branch, and, above all, the Minister, are very much overworked. The reports and information collected about an internee may form a large file - in many cases several files - which, in the time at their disposal, various authorities must find it impossible to study. By the sifting of this mass of material, the tribunals render very great help to the military authorities and the Minister. I, therefore, oppose the motion.
S.25j. - I desire to make a few observations with respect to the subject-matter of the motion. lt involves principles, important in my conception, because I. think that they are part of the warp and woof of the system under which we live and for which we stand. When these regulations were introduced I indicated that I would nol: permit my sense of justice to be blunted during war. 1 am not prepared to do so now. I want to make clear to honorable members the distinction between the kinds of tribunals that arc set up. The first is what is known as an Advisory Committee, which deals with Britishborn subjects, naturalized subjects and non-enemy aliens. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), whose views I understand and respect, but with which .1. thoroughly disagree, has no objection to the Advisory Committee. He said so on a previous occasion. At this juncture let me make this observation: If, in respect of the aliens tribunals, the military authority is to be regarded as the supreme arbiter of the fate and liberty of individuals, why is it considered that non-enemy aliens must be subject to any different rule?
Dealing first with the Advisory Committee, 1 point out -that although I have not been very long in charge of this department, I have had sufficient opportunity to learn that dossiers, which are submitted to the Minister, and upon which he either accepts or rejects the advice of his military advisers, sometimes contain contradictory information. Indeed, I have perused dossiers which revealed that, according to one source of information - and, frequently, the source is not indicated - a person is an associate of Nazis, and, on the best possible authority, is a. Nazi. Then, on another page I find someone else saying that, the same person is a Communist, and is very strongly anti-Nazi. I do not say that that is a fair example. T mention it to indicate what can, and does, happen. But the fact that it happens in one case indicates only too clearly how necessary it is for a Minister to go through each dossier most carefully. I always endeavour to do so. I say bluntly, and categorically, that I refuse to act as a mere amanuensis in cases put before me by merely signing detention orders because the Intelligence Branch advises me to do so. Although it takes a great deal of time, I seek in every case to weigh the evidence as best I can, bearing in mind the paramount and primary need for security. It is my obligation to seek to give my own judgment in respect, of all dossiers submitted to me.
I now turn to the Alien Tribunal which is the subject-matter of the motion. As distinct from the practice applicable to the Advisory Committee, the recommendation of the Alien Tribunal does not come direct to me as Minister. lt goes, as the honorable member for Barker well knows, to the General Officer Commanding the particular command in which the case was heard. That is provided for by the regulation. If the General Officer Commanding disagrees with the view expressed or the recommendation made, then, and only then, does it come to mc. These Aliens Tribunals have functioned for a considerable time, and they have heard many cases. Their recommendations have gone to the General Officer Commanding, the military man in charge of these matters, and I do not recollect more than, at the outside, ten cases that have not been decided and resolved as between the General Officer Commanding and the tribunal. I do know that it, is only in an exceptional case that 1 am called upon to exercise my judgment. What would honorable members ask me to do? Am I to accept purely the view expressed by one side or the other, or, consistent with the principle of responsible government, am I to exercise my own judgment as a representative of the people? I have no doubt what the answer of honorable members would be.
Many aliens came to this country at our invitation. They came here in order to escape the Nazi scourge that we are now fighting. We invited them here, gave them asylum, and said: “Here is your protection “. I do not say this in any spirit of captious criticism against the intelligence officers, who have a difficult task to perform, but, like all humans, they are fallible, and I say quite plainly that I am not prepared to say to them: “Whatever you say goes with me”. The decision to establish these Aliens Tribunals was made by the War Cabinet itself. That is not said in any sense of extenuation. It was a wise decision, which had my complete and wholehearted support, and nothing which has taken place since those tribunals were established has persuaded me to deviate from that view.
Aliens are: people who are not Britishborn or naturalized. There are few European countries which at present are not under the domination of Germany. Is it to be said that those people, whether they be men or women, invited here or not, whether they have escaped from Nazi oppression or not, are to have no right of audience at all? I know, and the honorable member for Barker knows perhaps better than I do, that in many cases when the dossier, upon which I have signed the detention order, goes before the Aliens Tribunal and is subjected to the tost of evidence and the objector to internment is examined and has a chance to defend himself, it has been revealed that the whole dossier upon which his internment is based collapses. Frequently, the counsel appearing for me - usually a military officer, because it is mypractice as the honorable gentleman knows, to appoint, as far as practicable, military officers for this duty - has admitted that there was not one shred of evidence on which the man could be detained. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), having had experience upon an Aliens Tribunal, is much more experienced than I am in these matters, and he has supported the principle of the tribunals. Political argument is not required to prove that not all aliens who came to Australia necessarily ought to be interned. Indeed, it is known that the British subject in Germany is not necessarily interned.
– All of the aliens in Australia are not interned, and I have not suggested that they should be.
– The primary consideration is security. On the one hand, the honorable member for Barker has no objection whatever to naturalized’ aliens having the right to object to the Advisory Committee against their internment, but, on the other hand, no matter what the circumstances may be, he objects most strenuously to a similar right being given to aliens, many of whom have been here for too short a space of time in which to become naturalized. In the latter case, the military officer’s view is to prevail. I am not prepared to accept that principle. I have found that in many cases the naturalized British subject has frequently taken out naturalization papers as a cover for subversive activities. It seems to me quite inconsistent for any one with knowledge of the facts to argue that the rule in one case is all right, but in the other, hopelessly wrong. There is no need for further argument when regard is had to the regulations. I direct attention to the matter to which the honorable member for Flinders referred, namely, the heavy onus cast upon the person who objects against internment. Security is the prime and only consideration which dictates this matter. The obligation is cast upon him quite differently from the ordinary rule of law to satisfythe tribunal - (a)that it is neither necessary nor advisable tor the public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war that the person should continue to be detained; and
The honorable member for Flinders will agree that that is not a simple onus to discharge. The mere recommendation of the Aliens Tribunal, however, does not conclude the matter. As I have said, it is only rarely that I am called upon to decide on the recommendation of an Aliens Tribunal, but, on many occasions, I have seen reason to disagree when the Advisory Committee has recommended the release of men, because I have always conceived it my duty to ensure that, if there be any doubt, that doubt must be resolved in favour of the country.
I say to the honorable member for Barker that his desires and mine are one, that our objectives are one. I surrender to no man my desire to see that this country is protected and to see that security is placed first and foremost,but 1 nin not prepared to say that the whole matter of internment should be within the arbitrament of military men. In short, I stand between our system of government and what may be sometimes necessary, martial law in the country.
There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer and that is the case of the man Hentze, to which reference was made by the honorable member for East .Sydney (Mr. Ward). My first observation is that the man referred to is not an enemy alien. He is a naturalized British subject. Indeed, he became naturalized on the first available opportunity, namely, when he reached 21 years of age. I have already acquainted the House with the facte of his case. It is undesirable to intrude a personal view. I seek to avoid it. To my knowledge the dossier is deficient in vital particulars as to the reliability of the information it contains. Be that as it may, it is sufficient to say that, in accordance with the direction given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the dossier, complete in every detail, was placed before the chairman of one of the bodies set up to deal with these matters, and he, in the face of the dossier and irrespective of what views I or anybody else may have with regard to the reliability of the information in that dossier, came to the conclusion that no ground was revealed which could justify the internment of this man.
– in reply - The case put up by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) would be very convincing if it were not for certain other regulations issued by the present Government which I shall read. The Minister has made great play on the fact that there should be, in his opinion, no difference between the treatment of naturalized and unnaturalized persons in this country. I think that in time of war there is a world of difference between the status of, on the one hand a person who was born here, who has become naturalized through residence and through Undertaking certain obligations to the Crown of England and to the British Commonwealth of Nations, and, on the other hand, an unnaturalized alien. In the case of one, by his change of nationality, his oath of allegiance to the Crown, and his residence in the country, you are entitled to expect that he will discharge certain obligations. Nevertheless, you are not entitled to waive your supervision over him. But the enemy alien is in a different class. The Minister for the Army referred to some of them having been invited to this country. I was a member of the Government that made that decision and I still think that that decision was wrong. One of the best jobs that Adolph Hitler ever did for Germany was to push some of those people out of his country. Yet we take them in here. All these things would be interesting if it were not for those regulations to which I referred earlier. On the 8th April there appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette under the name of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) the following regulation: -
In pursuance of regulation 4a of the National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations, I, William Morris Hughes, AttorneyGeneral and Minister for the Navy, acting for and on behalf of the Minister of State for Defence Co-ordination, hereby exempt from the provisions of the said Regulations nil aliens who are nationals of the United States of America or Greece.
– They are not enemy aliens.
– The Minister for the Army says that he stands for security above everything else. I think I am right in saying that the records of his own department show that before this regulation was published, certain Greeks and Americans were interned in this country.
– There are Greeks and Americans interned here now.
– In the face of which the Attorney-General signed that regulation.
– I appreciate the force of the honorable member’s remarks. It will not be long before that regulation is altered.
– That is another decision gone overboard like the Irish sailor’s kettle. It is not lost, because we know where it is; it is in the sea. There is another regulation signed by the Prime Minister dated the 20th June. I put this to the Minister as something which “tops off” what he just said. This regulation docs not name any nationality. It is aimed at enemy alien seamen in this country. In case the Minister does not know at which nationality it is aimed, I. will tell him that it is the Greek.
– Thank you.
– This regulation treats alien seamen fo’und in this country to-day entirely differently from the enemy aliens who may have their objections heard by tribunals. Phis regulation says -
Without prejudice to the operation of the provisions of the Immigration Act 11)01-1940 and the National Security (General) Regulations, any allien seaman, whether he lias entered Australia legally or not, who deserts or is absent without leave in Australia from the ship on which he is employed, or refuses to sail on such ship or any other ship sailing from Australia on which he has been offered employment, or is reported by the master or agent of the ship for refusing to perform his regular duties on board such ship, or is so reported for inducing or attempting to induce other alien seamen to interfere idi -any way with the proper operation of the ship on which they are employed, may, by order of the Minister, be arrested and detained, at such place as the Minister from time to time directs, for the duration of the present war, or until provision may be made for his deportation, or until he is ready and willing and actually proceeds to serve on a ship sailing from Australia.
All constables are authorized to give effect to these regulations. Paragraph 3 states -
Any alien seaman detained in .pursuance of this regulation may be employed on such labour and in such place as the Minister from time to time determines
– What relation has that to. the motion before the House?
– I say it has a’ very important relation. Alien seamen are to be treated in a different way from certain other aliens caught in this country. There is no consistency in the Government’s attitude on this matter. I shall have more to say on this aspect of the question when I move another motion at a later stage to-day. It is about time that the Government began to take a realistic view of this matter. I have heard some of the Free French leaders talking on this question, and I know the stories of the infiltration into France and the low countries to which the honorable member for Wakefield’ (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) referred to-night. I have heard of the condition’s which existed in Norway and Poland, prior to their invasion, and no doubt the same stories will come from the Balkans in due course. There is no doubt that before Adolf Hitler moved, against Russia, that country was absolutely honeycombed with German agents. One would think from the milk and water attitude adopted by the Government that every alien who came to this country had a pair of snow-white wings folded under his coat and was ready to develop as an angel whenever the Government wanted him to do so. As I informed honorable members when making this motion, I had the advantage of spending five interesting, but I am afraid, wasted weeks hearing appeals before these tribunals, and for the special benefit of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) I should like to point out that the aliens are not charged with anything when they come before these tribunals. They are appellants, and the Commonwealth appears in the ridiculous position of a defendant before its own tribunal, defending “ itself for having taken necessary steps to ensure the security of this country in time of Avar. The position is Gilbertian. The Minister said that army officers appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth, but I attended the meetings of the tribunals in Melbourne for five weeks and never once was the Commonwealth represented by an army officer.
– I said that at least 80 per cent, of Government representatives appearing before these tribunals were army officers.
– Tha t must be a recent development.
– It is not.
– I could give the Minister the names of the members of the Attorney-General’s Department who appeared. They were not army officers, nor were they appearing as such, but six or seven army officers had to hang around these tribunals, instead of being engaged on some more important work. So far as I am concerned, an enemy alien caught here in time of war has no rights other than those which this Parliament chooses to give him. It is ridiculous to talk the way the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) does. If the British Empire goes down in this war or in any other war, it will do so for the simple reason that it is not prepared to square up to things like this. It is impossible to live in a world of make-believe in time of war. If the Government does not change its course in regard to these internees it will have an awkward incident or two on its hands. I appreciate the difficulties of the situation very well, hut this is not a time for talking about our sense of justice being blunted. My opinion is that it should be particularly well sharpened in time of war. No risks whatsoever should be taken. Aliens are not interned because they have done something, but because they might do something. It is not a question of a man having blown up a factory or a railway bridge, or wrecked a train.
– If there are grounds for suspicion in the case of any man who comes before a tribunal, he is interned.
– That depends on the tribunal.
– And on the military officer if the matter be left to him.
– Who is responsible for the security of this country, but the police and the army? A Minister may be nominally responsible, but he cannot ensure security unless he has the police and the army organization behind him. Although I realize that the majority of honorable members are against me in this matter, I say that this is not the way in which this important work should be conducted’. In time of war, there is only one guiding principle, and that is “ don’t take any risks at all “. I am afraid that sooner or later some risks will be taken.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Messages received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of the following joint com mittees and had appointed the members of the Senate named to serve on them: -
War Expenditure. - Senator Ashley, Senator Clothier and Senator A. J. McLachlan (Chairman).
Social Security. - Senator Cooper and Senator Keane.
Profits. - Senator Armstrong and Senator Spicer (Chairman).
Broadcasting. - Senator Amour and Senator Gibson ( Chairman ) .
Rural Industries. - Senator Aylett, Senator Herbert Hays, Senator Johnston and Senator Uppill.
Notice of motion in the name of Mr. Blain for disallowance of Licensing Ordinance No. 12 of 1940, of the Northern Territory, called on, not moved and withdrawn.
Notice of motion in the name of Dr. Evatt for disallowance of Statutory Rules 1941, No. 2, being amendment of the National ‘Security (General) Regulations, called on, not moved and withdrawn.
I move -
That Statutory Rules 1941, No. GO, being amendment of the National Security (General) Regulations made tinder the National Security Act 1930-1040, be disallowed.
In submitting that motion, I am exercising the right conferred upon individual members of this Parliament to challenge regulations made by the Executive. Regulation 42a set out in these Statutory Rules is substituted for a former regulation which the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) proposed to challenge. That regulation has been repealed, and this new one inserted in its stead. I do not propose to discuss the previous regulation unless in reply to statements that may he made by honorable members or by the Minister in the course of the ensuing debate. The new regulation 42a will follow regulation 42, which, so far as it is relevant, provides -
– (1) A person shall not -
That regulation has already been before the High Court in the case of Francis and Rowan, and I think I am right in saying that the construction placed by the High Court on the words which I have read was that in order to commit an offence, a person must consciously endeavour to affect public opinion. If he does that and the things he says tend to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war, then, whether he intended his remarks to have that effect or not, he is guilty of an offence. As I shall subsequently show, that regulation is a much more drastic and punitive one than the corresponding regulation in operation in Britain, and it differs from regulation 42a in two main respects. First, under regulation 42a, a person may be convicted of an offence, although he has no conscious intention of affecting public opinion at all, and secondly, whereas a person cannot be prosecuted under regulation 42 without the consent of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) no such consent is required in the case of regulation 42a.
– A regulation is about to be promulgated which makes prosecution conditional on consent being obtained from myself or some other Minister nominated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It goes a part of the way in that respect.
– It goes a part of the way, as the Minister says, but I submit that it is much fairer to have the consent of the Attorney-General, because when the words “ the Minister “ are used, a Minister can usually delegate his power. I do not see anything that gives the Attorney-General the same right to delegate his powers. That does not dispose of the substantial objection to regulation 42a. It may afford considerable protection to members of Parliament and influential persons. I am convinced that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) could have been convicted for what they said about danger from the North; but I am satisfied that the Attorney-General would never have consented to a prosecution. Similarly, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) could have been convicted for the joint statement issued by them and published in the newspapers, but there again no Minister, and certainly not the Attorney-General, would have agreed to a prosecution. I am satisfied also that members of this Parliament could have been convicted for many things they have said during the Boothby election campaign, but the Attorney-General would never have consented to such prosecutions. Under the new regulation as it stands before the amendment is made, all sorts of unimportant persons can be prosecuted whether the AttorneyGeneral’s consent is obtained or not. During the war of 1914-18 regulations such as this is were used against uninfluential persons in the beginning, and when the hand of the law became stronger, it was laid on the representatives of the people and organizations of Labour. With that as an introduction I come to the regulation itself, and explain why I object to it.
– Order! The time allotted for the con sideration of general business has expired.
That the consideration of general business be continued.
– Regulation 42a provides -
A person shall not, by word of mouth, or in writing, or in any paper -
As that is drawn, the casual reader might be induced to believe that the only persons who could he prosecuted under that regulation were those from whom false statements or reports had emanated. But that is not so. Under the regulation, although a statement may be perfectly true and not intended to have any of the effects condemned by the regulation, if a court considers that the words used tend to have those effects, the person who has uttered them has committed an offence. I believe that I am right in saying that this regulation provides that any person who uses words which are regarded by a court of law as tending to create alarm, to prejudice recruiting, or to lower the morale of the people, commits an offence for which he can be punished under the National Security Act. That is the chief cause of my objection. The regulation means that nobody can safely discuss the war policy of this Government or of the Imperial Government, or anything which in any remote degree is connected with the war, unless, of course, he is prepared toendorse, in its entirety, the Government’s policy and its method of conducting the war effort. Paragraph (1.) (b) of the regulation continues -
I object to the words “ or likely “. In my view a person who intends to do something which is opposed to the policy of this Government as laid down by law may reasonably enoughbe prevented from doing so or punished for doing so. But the regulation goes farther than that, and provides for the punishment of a person who may not have had in his mind any intention of doing anything which the law discountenances. That meaning was assigned to words such as these during the war of 1914-18. The regulation continues -
My objection to this is that the framers of the regulation entirely disregard the state of mind, or the intentions, of any persons who sospeak or write. They are merely judged by what a court may think is the tendency of the words that have been used. Similar provisions came before the High Court during the war of 1914-18, especially in the case of Sickerdick and Ashton. The matter in question in that case was a pamphlet, which had been published on behalf of the Labour party, advocating that the war should end with a peace concluded without annexations and without indemnities. The publisher of that pamphlet was the Industrial Printing and Publicity Company of Melbourne. The publisher was prosecuted before a police magistrate at Melbourne. The magistrate held that there was nothing in the words of the pamphlet prejudicial to recruiting. The Commonwealth appealed from that decision to the High Court of Australia which, on the facts and the law, reversed the decision and came to the conclusion that, on its construction of the regulation, the words published were prejudicial to recruiting. The following is an extract from the decision given in that case by Mr. Justice Barton : -
The question is: Are these statements calculated to cause any who believe them to decide not to enlist? If so, they are likely to prejudice recruiting. . . . It is not to the purpose to consider what the respondent desired or intended to be the effect of his statements. The question is not whether he intended to prejudice recruiting but whether he printed something containing statements likely, that is calculated or tending to, prejudice recruiting.
The attitude adopted by the High Court can be explained in these words : - “ Here we have a recruit undecided whether he shall enlist or not. The effect upon him of reading this document may be that he will decide to defer his enlistment until he learns whether Great Britain is prepared to conclude a peace without annexations and without indemnities.”
– That was abit strained, was it not?
– I believe that it was the result of the use of the word “likely” in the regulation. The difference betwen “ intended “ and “ likely “ is that “ intended “ is concerned with the state of mind of the person who writes or speaks.
Mr.spender. - That is the most difficult thing in the world to prove.
– The word “ likely “ is concerned merely with the effect of theman’s words upon his hearers or readers. One of the most important provisions of Regulation 42a is that it is an offence for a person to make any statement in relation to the war which is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. That merely means that, if the court before whom a man is brought, thinks that his hearers might have been provoked by his words to break the peace he is guilty of an offence, no matter how innocent his intentions may have been.
– But a court is not entirely without common sense.
– I am quite sure that police courts are very largely devoid of common sense in time of war. I speak as one who saw what was done in this country during the last war. The regulation also provides that a person shall not, by word of mouth, or in writing, or in any paper, make any subversive statement. In section 5 of the regulation, we see what persons are prone to call a definition but it is not a definition of “ subversive statement “ at all. The effect of those words in section 5, beginning with “ subversive statement “, is that in addition to its natural meaning, certain other things may be included within the definition of the term. That is the result of the use of the words “ subversive statement includes “. When a draftsman uses “ includes “ he intends to convey that, in addition to its natural meaning, a term shall also cover certain other things. One of these things which is included in the meaning of “ subversive statement “ is - any statement intended or likely . . . to interfere with the national effort by lowering the morale of the civil population or of His Majesty’s Forces.
This regulation is said to be much milder than the former regulation which, instead of using the words “ lowering the morale “, had the words “ disruption of the morale “. Obviously any interference which brings about the disruption of morale is a much more vigorous interference than one which merely brings about the lowering of morale.
– That view was not held by the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) with whom I discussed the alteration.
– The Minister is very unfair to refer to the honorable member for Barton when he is not in the chamber. Had the Minister told the honorable gentleman that he intended to refer to him in this way, he would have been here to deny what the Minister has said. I have the very best reason for believing that.
– The Advisory War Council also agreed to the alteration.
– I also have the very best reason for believing that the Advisory War Council did not agree to it. I have a statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to that effect. Section 5 goes on to say that “ subversive statement “ includes any statement intended or likely -
An intention to bring about some of the things included in paragraph b could fairly be punished. Paragraph c may mean that a person who says that it is not necessary for the Commonwealth to borrow money on interest, as many honorable members and a number of senators have said, will be found guilty of an offence. The Minister says that he will amend the regulation so that the consent of the Attorney-General shall be required before a prosecution can be launched. The degree of persuasion which would induce the Attorney-General to prosecute a member of Parliament would be much greater than wouldbe necessary to induce him to prosecute some person outside of Parliament. In my opinion the effect of this regulation is that no person can safely discuss any point of Government policy which has a bearing upon the conduct of the war. I agree that a person who consciously intends to hamper the war effort should be punished by law, whether it be by regulation or statute. However, my objection to the regulation is not that it deals with the person who intends to bring about certain results, or whose object in speaking or writing is to bring about certain results, but that it deals with a person who may not contemplate such results.
– But who, nevertheless, brings about the same results.
– When the honorable member hears what Great Britain has done in relation to this, I believe that he, as a born Briton, will be proud of the country that he has left, and ashamed of the country of his adoption and the opinions that he now expresses. In order to show how carelessly this regulation has been drafted, I refer to the proviso that -
Reasonable and temperate discussion in good faith of any existing laws or measures shall not bc deemed to be a subversive statement with in the meaning of this definition.
That means that, once a law has been passed, reasonable and temperate discussion on those matters in good faith is permitted, but, when a law is proposed, a person has not the same protection. You can reasonably and temperately discuss in good faith the policy of conscription for home service, but you a.r« not protected if you discuss reasonably and temperately and in good faith tha policy of conscription for overseas service.
– Would the honorable member’s objection be met by including after the word “ existing “ the words “ or proposed “?
– ‘That particular objection would be met, but I am drawing attention to this matter in order to show the careless way in which the regulation is drawn. I now turn to discuss certain ancillary provisions of the regulation. lt states that the proprietor of a newspaper shall be guilty of an offence if he publishes a statement spread or made in contravention of the regulation. That means that a person who prints or publishes a newspaper containing a. statement which, on prosecution, is held by a magistrate to be likely to cause public alarm, to prejudice recruiting, or to lower civilian morale, is guilty of an offence which is punishable. Then the regulation continues -
A person shall not, without lawful excuse (proof whereof shall lie upon him), have in his possession any paper containing a report, or statement which is or has been spread or made in contravention of this regulation.
Taking those two provisions together, the regulation means that it may be alleged that a newspaper contains an article or a paragraph which tends to produce some effects which the regulations condemn, and that the owner of the newspaper and also the printer and publisher may be deemed guilty of an offence and punishable accordingly. Not only may they be guilty of the offence, but any person who has that newspaper in his possession may be found guilty of an offence, unless he can prove that he had a lawful excuse. Merely to say that he bought, the newspaper would not be regarded as a lawful excuse.
– Why not?
– If the regulation intends that a person having in his possession a newspaper which he has bought has a lawful excuse for its possession, the regulation should say so. If it means that, it is entirely ineffective. I cannot conceive of any person, prosecuted for having a newspaper in his possession, pleading that he had bought it, and being upheld in his contention that that was a lawful excuse. The regulation does not mean that at all. Honorable members have suggested that a statement written or spoken, which a. court may think has a tendency to discourage enlistment, to discourage people from putting money into loans, to produce public alarm or to lower civilian morale should be punishable, and that the writer or speaker should he punished. I submit that that is wrong, and would achieve the result which the Prime Minister disclaimed when he said that he did. not want “muzzled or silent criticism”. I. believe that this country suffers from a lack of criticism, and that no person except, the sacrosanct member of Parliament or newspaper proprietor, will be free to criticize after this regulation has been enforced a little longer. My objection is, in essence, that such repression will lower the morale of the people. My objection to regulations of this kind is that they debase the free atmosphere, in which the people have lived, making them accustomed to greater and still greater invasions upon, and deductions from, their liberty. We are told that when Hitler arose he took freedom away from the German people, but, that is not so. The German people were not free. For years they had been living under a system by which their rulers destroyed their own liberty. I quote from a passage ina book by Professor J. H. Morgan, who was a brigadier-general with the Inter- Allied Military Commission of Control in Germany from 1919 to 1923. Writing in 1924, he said-
The powers of theReich’s President under article 48 of the constitution far exceed any of the prerogatives of the Kaiser. They cover suspending and dispensing powers, for a parallel to which we shall have to goback to the earlier Stuarts. During the four years I served in Germany there has not been a period in which, taking Germany as a whole, these powers have been dormant.
When Chancellor Bruening governed Germany from 1930 to 1932 the Reichstag was closed,, Germany was governed by military decrees, and in a Germany which had lost its freedom, and. whose sense of the value of freedom had disappeared, Hitler rose to power. To a smaller degree that observation applies also to Czechoslovakia.
Regulation 42, which I read at the outset of my remarks, was part of the original British defence regulations, and we copied it, but it is not part of those regulations to-day. It is remarkable that the farther one gets from the real seat of danger the less jealous one becomes of civil liberties. In Great Britain, liberties are preserved because the people there believe that they are fighting for liberty. The masses of the people of Britain, who endure the ghastly dew of death that is comingdown on them at all seasons, have nothing to lose except liberty. Three-fourths of the people of the North of England and of Wales have not in peace time enough food. Every year 50,000 preventable deaths occur in the North of England and in Wales. The people of Britain are not resisting Hitler in order to defend their evil material conditions. They are resisting because they believe that they are fighting to defend a liberty which is the common possession of all sections of the community. When the regulation was passed in Great Britain it provoked such an outcry that it was modified. Although the war position has become more and more critical for Great Britain, that country has not gone back to the old regulation. I have here a copy of Butterworth’s Emergency Legislation Service, which gives the whole of the British regulations up to the 28th February of this year. The regulation that corresponds to our Regulation 42a provides - .
No person shall -
Under Regulation 42a the Government prosecutes a man for making a statement without regard to whether it be false or true, but in Britain it is held that the prosecution must prove the statement to be false, and even then the accused is not punished if he can prove that he reasonably believed the statementto be true. That is the position in Britain to-day, where thepeople are in a much greater state of danger than are the people of Australia. The rulers of Britain want to show the people there that the principle for which they are fighting is real liberty, which they endeavour to maintain in times of war as well as in times of peace. But in Australia we destroy that liberty. I submit that anybody who favours the regulation whichI have read in this House approves of a system under which there will be a virtual reign of terror in this country so far as the free expression of opinion is concerned. As Ihave said, nobody will be free to express any opinion at all. If that opinion relates to matters concerning the vital interests of the country, suchas the war effort and the proper way to finance the war, any discussion of those matters will expose persons who ha ve said or written those things to prosecution. It is true that if the Government makes its proposed amendment, the prosecution can be brought only with the consent of the Minister, but that is not freedom. The Minister can exempt certain persons from prosecution and can have others prosecuted, but that is not the road to free discussion and criticism. Where would Britain have been with regard to the production of munitions during the Great “War if Lord Nor.th(iliffe and his press had not defied the regulations? They defied the regulations and won. Under regulations such as that now under consideration no one, who has any regard for his own liberty, and for the interest of his own occupation, or for the interests of his wife and children, will dare to engage in criticism unless he is one of the highly protected class of press magnates, members of Parliament or members of the Ministry. If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) dared to say outside this House what he has said here he would be liable to prosecution. If (he honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) were not a brigadier-general, but were only an ordinary citizen, and dared to say outside anything like some of the things he has said here– -
– I have said more outside than here.
– But the honorable member knows that the Minister for (ihe Army is not likely to prosecute him. He is not likely to prosecute even me, at present, at any rate. At the beginning of the last war it was said that the persons prosecuted were revolutionary socialists and religious men. In the course of time members of this Parliament were prosecuted, trades halls were raided, officials of labour organizations were fined and in some instances sent to jail. It was for that reason that I used the words “ at present “. Strong supporters of the Government are not likely to be prosecuted by the Government.
– ‘Some persons who are presidents and secretaries of unions should be put behind bars with the people who are running the Broken Hill show, as I said last night.
– I admired the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo last night. He had something for everybody. He was against conscription, which will please the workers of Bendigo; he wants something done for the farmers, so that will satisfy the farming community; he favours assistance to small industries so that will ensure that the small business people in his constituency will support him! Altogether, he has made an admirable observation from the point of view of a politician. It is a great pity that it was not made on the public platform.
– It was the speech of a man.
– I agree with the honorable member ; but there are men of all kinds. I have no desire to quarrel with the honorable gentleman, for I have always regarded myself as being on personal and friendly relations with him, and I desire that situation to continue. I have no animus whatsoever towards the honorable gentleman. Nor, for that matter, have I any animus towards the Minister for the Army. What I dislike is the policy of the Government as expressed in this regulation which I hope the House will disallow.
.- I. second the motion and reserve my speech.
.- I support the attitude of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), towards the regulation embodied in Statutory Rule No. 69 of 1941. I am prepared to go much further than, the honorable member has gone. Any regulation which restricts, in any way whatsoever, the expression of public opinion in this country, under either peace or war conditions, is, in my view, calculated to injure this country in its fight against Fascism and other subversive forms of organization detrimental to the public. I have expressed myself emphatically on this subject on other occasions and I shall not speak at any length. We are a people with opportunities for education and most of us possess some reasoning faculties even though we all may not have had the advantage of a secondary education. The first purpose of education is to equip every individual with the capacity to reason for himself. People who are given the opportunity to reason should also be given the right to express their opinions. I consider that one individual has as much right as another to express his opinion and to advocate any particular line of action. After all, the peril and terror that we are fighting to-day has arisen through the suppression of opinions contrary to the views of authority which attempted to stifle freedom of speech and action. The absurdity of regulations of the kind under notice is shown by the final proviso of the regulation which reads : -
Provided that reasonable -and temperate discussion in good faith of any existing laws or measures shall not be deemed to be a subversive statement within the meaning of this definition.
My reading of history tells me that the great movements that have arisen from time to time for the emancipation of mankind have not had their origin, or won their way to success, by means of reasonable and temperate discussion ; in Fact, in many instances the opinions of the persons favouring emancipationist movements have been intemperately and even violently expressed. Had the individuals concerned been satisfied with temperate language the movements in which they were interested would probably have been unsuccessful. Free expression of opinion implies freedom of decision. Generally speaking, discussion is. for the purpose of influencing decisions. It may be that the decisions are good; they may sometimes lie bad ; and at other times they may be in between.
– Those usually are the heat decisions.
– The honorable member for Ballarat is not always reasonable and temperate in his utterances.
– I feel justified in saying that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is not always reasonable and temperate in his statements. He should remember that the time may not be distant when the members of the Labour party will be seated on the Government side of the House. When that time comes it may be that a regulation of this description may be operated to place behind bars the honorable member himself and others who hold similar opinions which are considered to be subversive of the best interests of the nation. Personally I should never be tempted to take action of that kind however much I disliked the views of a man, unless he indulged in violence or incited, other people to violence. Whether I consider a person’s statement fair, reasonable, stupid or simply inane I would not suggest that violent action should be taken against him. Naturally. I expect other people to adopt a similar attitude towards me. As I hold these views. I am naturally opposed to this regulation, and I have no hesitation in vigourously denouncing it. To show how farcical provisions of this kind really are, I point out to honorable gentlemen, that statements have been published in the journal of the Empire Parliamentary Association, of which I am a member, which, if published by private individuals or certain other journals, might easily be regarded as subversive and prejudicial to recruiting. I have actually read statements in the journal of the Empire Parliamentary Association which, in the opinion of some old judge or magistrate, might be calculated to undermine the morale of the people.
I have noticed with sorrow that certain magistrates of this country have imposed what I regard as savage sentences on some individuals who have made statements which, though stupid, could not in the circumstances in which they were made, be regarded as prejudicial to recruiting or to the war effort. I have in mind a particular case which has not, I think, been given much publicity in the press. A returned soldier was alleged to have said in a bar in a Melbourne hotel : “ To hell with the King. Hitler will win this war “. No doubt he was somewhat under the influence of liquor at the time. In any case, it would be ridiculous to suggest that a statement made in such circumstances could prejudicially affect either recruiting or the nation’s war effort. Yet that unfortunate individual was required to appear before a suburban court in Melbourne which sentenced him to six months imprisonment. I regard that as a savage sentence imposed by a savage magistrate.
– My recollection of the case is that the words went much further than the honorable member has suggested.
– Even supposing that they did, it is unlikely that the utterances of a man in such a condition would prejudicially affect recruiting or undermine the morale of the people in the hotel bar where the words were uttered, or anywhere else. I should have given such a man 24 hours in the “ cooler “, or have required him to put lOd. in the poor box. That would have been a sufficiently severe punishment for him.
We are fighting for democracy, and we ought to do our best to preserve for our people the right of free speech. I know that some honorable members opposite think very differently from myself on some questions, and probably they would like to prevent me from expressing myself freely. It may be that some honorable gentlemen on this side of the House greatly dislike the views expressed by some honorable gentlemen opposite and would, if they could, prevent the utterances of such views. I do not favour such action. I hope that I am sufficiently intelligent to be able to judge between right and wrong and to conduct myself as a reasonable man. The history of this country, and of other countries for that matter, shows that the rights and privileges of the people can be preserved only if freedom of speech is preserved. For that reason I express my hostility to the regulation before the House and I hope that it will be disallowed.
.- I have been inspired to make some remarks in support of the motion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) because of the eloquent, forcible and aptly illustrated speech just delivered by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). The regulation to which objection is now being taken may not always be interpreted by reasonable and fair-minded men. We had an example this morning of the maladministration of the censorship regulations which showed us that it is not safe to assume that severely expressed regulations will always be interpreted temperately and reasonably. Apparently the dangerous people in the community cannot be caught under regulations of this kind. The only ones who are caught are those who either are foolish or are not responsible for what they say. The case referred to by the honorable member for Ballarat was that of a man named Moore, who in a Melbourne hotel made some extraordinarily stupid statement. Moore is the victim of experiences which he went through at Gallipoli. I have known him for twenty years. He has been reduced to the state of a human derelict. It would be better if he were put in a home, and kept there for the rest of his life. He is not responsible for his actions. I. h ave known him to say extraordinary things in conversation in the street. He is such a public nuisance that he is avoided. Under the influence of liquor, he made an outburst for which he was haled before the court and publicly stigmatized as an enemy of the nation, a saboteur,’ a fifth columnist, a provocateur - one of those people who disturb the sleep and terrorize the waking moments of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and others. He was treated with the due severity of the law which a most conscientious magistrate thought fit to impose upon him. Tinder whatever regulations he acts, the Minister should see that magistrates take a reasonable view of all the circumstances of the case. The practice is that only police magistrates handle these cases. It is felt that police magistrates or stipendiary magistrates are better fitted to weigh the evidence carefully and see that justice is done, than are honorary justices. Honorary magistrates are generally drawn from suburban bumbledom, and my experience of them and of police magistrates and stipendiary magistrates is that there is not much to choose between them. On the one hand some police magistrates develop extraordinary idiosyncrasies. For instance, some of them take a particularly keen interest in imposing heavy fines on starting price bookmakers. Others impose very high penalties on people who are found in hotels after trading hours, but yet have a tender solicitude for those who kill their fellowmen whilst speeding in motor cars. . On the other hand, some magistrates impose most severe sentences on persons who are guilty of motoring offences. To my mind, none of these people, taken by and large, can be relied upon to deal out evenbanded justice in a moment of crisis or public excitement. I listened to the submissions of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) and particularly to his reference to the uniform fairness of military tribunals. I am not enamoured of military courts, but neither do I like the justice which is sometimes meted out by courts of petty session. I support the motion of the honorable member for Bourke.
.- 1 have only one or two things to say regarding this proposal. First, I endorse the action of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) in moving for the disallowance of this regulation, and I compliment him upon the excellence of the case that he has presented to the House. As evidence of its excellence is the fact that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) is silent and has no reply to offer to his criticism. The honorable member for Bourke referred to the effect that this regulation may have on parliamentary representatives. I agree with him that, for a time, parliamentary representatives need not be afraid that they will be affected by this regulation. The great majority of the people have not been affected, and are not likely to be affected, by it. But the mere fact that the regulation is so embracing will be a threat to any member of Parliament, trade union leader, or member of the general public, that the Government has the power to take action against him if it so desires. Moreover, the regulation is inconsistent with the statement by the Prime Minister when the war commenced that the last thing that he desired was a muzzled Opposition. If this regulation remains, and the Government cares to muzzle the Opposition, the power to do so will be there. With the regulation in existence, practically no criticism could be levelled against the Government without incurring risk. From time to time honorable members circulate the speeches which they make in this House. Both here, and on the public platform, I have made statements which 1 imagine could, if the Government so desired, be construed to be an infringement of this regulation. On various platforms I have said on many occasions that the best way to lose the war is to keep the Menzies Government in office. The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) would probably regard that as a subversive statement. I have also said that members of the Australian Imperial Force are underpaid, that some of them have been ill-treated in various military camps, that many of them have not been properly fed, and that they were sent into action illequipped. It could be said that those statements had the effect of retarding recruiting. My criticism of those members of this Parliament who have given themselves military rank, or drawn military pay whilst members of this Parliament, could be said to have the effect of influencing in some way men who would be likely to offer for service in the defence forces of this country. I have also referred to the treatment of men in one of the detention camps. I have also pointed out that the Government was not anxious to penalize Captain Lees, a high officer at the Holdsworthy camp who was guilty of a deliberate breach of the regulations. I have criticized his transfer to another sphere. These things could be said to have been prejudicial to recruiting. I want to see this regulation completely disallowed, not amended; but whether it be disallowed or not it will not affect my general attitude. Nor will that attitude be affected by any threat which the Government may make. In any statement which I make outside the Parliament, I always adhere strictly to the truth. Should I make a statement outside this Parliament, and should that statement be repeated by some person who hears me speak, it would bc rather illogical to convict the person who repeated what I had said and yet for no action to be taken against me. There is also the possibility of prejudicing the successful flotation of a Commonwealth loan. Members of my party, including myself, have always protested against the present system of financing the war. We have said that it is against the best interests of the people. It may be said that my statements regarding orthodox finance are prejudicial to the floating of a. loan. Clearly, therefore, this regulation is designed, not to protect the welfare of the community, but to protect the Menzies anti-Labour Government against the criticism of Labour representatives, trade unionists, and Labour leaders outside Parliament. I am a member of the Labour party, which has ideas which differ fundamentally from those epoused by the Government. I am not here to assist the Government to pass this regulation even on the promise that members of Parliament will be given immunity or because the AttorneyGeneral will have to approve any prosecution. I say to my colleagues that it is a paltry bribe and an insult to their integrity and to their standing amongst the workers of this country. I appeal to all who are true believers in democracy and in the right of free discussion to join with the Opposition in carrying the motion for the disallowance of this regulation.
– I shall confine my remarks to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) which give point to the whole of the issues which have been raised in connexion with this regulation, and I hope that the House, after consideration of them, will reject the motion. I t will be remembered that this regulation was introduced after a previous regulation had been objected to by the same honorable member. Certain discussions - I shall not say more than’ that at the moment - took place between myself and the honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), following which the present regulation was gazetted. I do not desire to indicate the nature of those discussions, because there is a dispute apparently between that honorable member and myself as to our recollection of what took place. I say, however, that if one examines the regulation, it will be found that it is intended to deal with matters which affect the security of the State and the prosecution of the war. The honorable member for Bourke does not object to regulation 42a 1 a insofar as i t relates to the words, “ A person shall not,by word of mouth, or in writing, or in any paper, spread false reports or make false statements or reports intended to cause disaffection to His Majesty, or public alarm, or to interfere with the success of His Majesty’s Forcesby land, sea, or air.” The objection taken is to the words “or statements”. The honorable member for Bourke referred to the English legislation. I would, however, point out that a statement canbe such as not to contain any statement of fact at all, and so not be capable of being proved to be either false or true. A person may say, for example, “would you not be a fool to offer your life for your country?” or “would it not be foolish for you to go overseas and fight? “ Neither of those statements would he a statement of fact, but it would be a statement intended to cause disaffection or public alarm. I give those examples, because it seems to me that the English legislation does not go far enough, and that the statement should not necessarily be false in order to be punishable. I think it will be accepted, upon consideration, that false statements, or any statements intended to disaffect or to cause public alarm, should come within the ambit of the regulation.
I have now to deal with the words “ or likely to cause “. Those words are common to paragraphs a, b, c and d of subregulation 1, of Regulation 42a. They are well-known words, both in legal acceptance and in ordinary parlance. They are introduced because it is very difficult indeed - as the honorable member for Bourke will acknowledge - to prove intent. Probably that is the most difficult thing in law to prove. It has been well said : “ The devil himself knoweth not the mind of man “. A man can be judged only by what he does. To prove his state of mind is exceedingly difficult. I say with respect, that if the regulation were to have deleted from it the words “ or likely to be “, it would be completely emasculated.
Mr.Rosevear. - Do not the use of those words make defence very hard?
– I shall come to that. I submit, with respect to the honorable member for Bourke, that probably the majority of cases would be not capable of proof because of the impossibility of proving the state of mind of the individual. The words “ or likely to cause “, are determined in an objective sense. The honorable member for Bourke has rightly said that the interpretation of the courts is, first: Has the speaker - or writer, as the case may be - intended to persuade public opinion?
– That is under the existing regulation.
– Exactly. The application will, I apprehend, be substantially the same under this. Secondly : In these circumstances, are the words which he uses likely to produce the result which you are seeking to prevent? “With respect, I submit, that, upon examination., it -will be admitted that the extreme cases mentioned become insignificant; because the case is determined not by minutiae - by what, on an extreme view, could be brought into the regulation - but upon what, on a fair interpretation, is likely to be covered by it. The protection exists that, if so desired., no prosecution shall take place without the consent of the Attorney-General. I think that I am fair in saying, without expressing any view as to whether or not the regulation is acceptable to the Labour party, that at least the Government was urged to make any prosecution under it subject to the condition that the consent of a Minister - I believe that I was the Minister indicated - should first be given to its being launched.
– Would not the Minister say, “ I have not time to deal with it ; let the court deal with it? “
– Quite the contrary. Quite a number of these cases have been put to me - the Attorney-General first puts them to me - and I have always looked at the facts. I have agreed to prosecution in. some cases, and have refused to agree to it in other cases. I am, however, prepared to make any prosecution subject t;o the consent of the Solicitor-General - an officer quite independent of the Government - first being obtained. With that provision, all of these cases which have been mentioned as cases in which injustice might occur, would be amply safeguarded.
I pass .to sub-clause 4, -which provides -
The further argument was advanced by the honorable member for Bourke that under sub-clause 5 the definition of “ subversive statement “ is not completely exhaustive; that it includes certain acts, but does not exclude other acts. It is quite apparent that there could be clear cases of subversive statements which do not come within paragraphs a, b and c of subclause 5. Those paragraphs are limited in their character, for the purpose of making it quite clear that the matters mentioned are to be regarded as subversive. As a matter of law, subversive statements are fairly clearly defined; .but these matters in particular, it is intended, should clearly be .brought within the definition. In this respect, also, I say that, in any event, protection would be afforded by the suggestion I have already made.
The last comment relates to the. proviso to sub-clause 5. which reads -
Provided that reasonable and temperate discussion in good faith of any existing laws or measures shall not be deemed to be a subversive statement: within the moaning of this definition.
The purpose of that is to prevent its being urged that mere temperate or reasonable discussion could be regarded as being the subject, of an offence. The point has been made that it refers to any existing laws or measures. It might not be of much use to say that I find it difficult to believe that any discussion which takes place is not based upon existing laws or measures; but as the point has been raised, and I have given the undertaking that, if the regulation be accepted, I am prepared to provide that the consent of the Solicitor-General shall be a pre-requisite in respect of any prosecution, I am willing to insert the words “ Or proposed “ after the words “ any existing “. That, I believe, disposes of the specific matters mentioned by the honorable member. I urge honorable members not to be carried away by any suggestion that minor matters will be dealt with under this regulation. If it is suggested that it could, I say with every respect that no prosecution may be launched without the consent of the Solicitor-General completely disposes of the contention that the regulation could be used by political parties for the purpose of stifling political discussions or for purposes not solely concerned with the security of the country.
. - in reply - The Minister says that the English legislation does not go far enough.I repeat that regulation 42a is a copy of regulation 39b of the British regulations. Regulation 39b was amended as I have suggested on the 23rd November, 1939, and has not since been altered. The Minister says that it is difficult to prove intention. Intention is inferred not merely from what a man says he is going to do but as a necessary consequence of what he is doing. If it be difficult’ to prove that a thing is intended tohave an unlawful effect, it is too easy to prove that it is likely to have an unlawful effect. In trying to avoid Scylla we fall into Charybdis. In trying to say that we will punish offenders who use words likely to have unlawful effect because we cannot prove intent, we shall punish the innocent critic of legislation.
– Would he not be protectedby the provision that the SolicitorGeneral has first to give his consent before a prosecution can be launched.
– I am dealing with the points I make in my own way. The Minister is at issue with me about the words “ without lawful excuse “. I cannot see how the fact that a man had bought a newspaper would he a lawful excuse for his possession of the newspaper within the meaning of this regulation. If that be so, a man could never be convicted under this regulation. In the raids made upon people’s houses, even waste-paper baskets were searched. In one instance a copy of Progress, a journal publishedby the State Labour party of New South Wales, was taken away as being a suspicious circumstance in connexion with the man whose house was searched. I agree that the words “ subversive statements “ have a wellknown meaning; but the regulation tries to suggest that the words are limited to apply to the acts set out in paragraph 5 whereas they mean everything enumerated in the regulation. The Minister endeavour to conciliate the Opposition by suggesting that prosecutions could not be launched without the consent of the Solicitor-General. That, of course, is better than the consent of the Minister, but it still means that people in this country are holding their freedom of speech upon the will of one man. That is not liberty. There is no freedom when some person in the community has the power to punish “ A “ and to exempt the equally guilty “ B “. This is, in effect, a power to dispense with laws. The provision that the consent of the Solicitor-General is a condition precedent, to prosecution does not conciliate me. I repeat that some of the things that this regulation seeks to do are fit and proper things for the law to do. A person who makes false statements intended to bring about unlawful effects or other statements intendedto bring about unlawful effects should be punished. The person I am endeavouring to protect is theinnocent person who, like myself, may make statements likely to affect the people. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) spoke of his attacks on the Menzies Government. In the course of judgment in Francisand Rowan it was said by judges that the statement that the Menzies Government was a representative of monopolists was a subversive statement.
– It was most untrue but not subversive.
– To say that the Menzies Government was a minority Government was also a subversive statement in the view of one of the judges. Whilst I am dealing with Francis and Rowan, may I say that that case decides that existing regulation 42, which the Government thinks is insufficient, requires, first of all, proof of endeavour to affect public opinion, and after that that the words used are deemed by a magistrate as. likely to produce the forbidden results. The regulation which I am trying to eradicate goes beyond regulation 42. It does not require proof of conscious intention to affect public opinion. Let us consider the case cited by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) of a drunken man in a bar who makes statements to the people with him. Can anybody believe that he was consciously intendingto affect public opinion by those statements? Yet that is the kind of person this regulation has brought into the dragnet of the law. In asking the House to reject, it. I believe I am protecting not only the freedom of members of Parliament and press magnates, but also the right, of the ordinary man in the street to speak his mind on things concerning the welfare of the country.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notifiedby Mr. Speaker toeach member by telegram or letter.
.- The Prime Minister might be good enough to indicate to honorable members when the Government expects Parliament to be summoned to meet again.
– The Government put a limit, on the recess on a former occasion but did not adhere to the arrangement.
– That is so. On this occasion, however, I realize that as Supply was passed for a period of two months the Government is bound to summon Parliament to meet before the end of August.
– I should think it would be towards the end of August. It is impossible to fix an exact date. The next period of the session will be devoted to the budget, and naturally it will he held as early as possible, because the Government wants to get in its revenues.
– Obviously it does not suit the right honorable gentleman to fix an exact date for the reassembling of the Parliament. I want to guard against our being called together and given probably only one day to pass a Supply Bill. We should not again be given insufficient time in which to consider a. bill authorizing the expenditure of millions of pounds, if, by summoning Parliament to meet a. week earlier honorable members could be given an opportunity to scrutinize that expenditure and prepare for a more lengthy discussion of the bill. These discussions are of increasing importance as the war expenditure rises and as the seriousness of the international position grows. Consequently, I think it is only fair that the Prime Minister should indicate more specifically the date upon which the sittings are to be resumed. If the right honorable gentleman will do that, honorable members on this side of the House will be satisfied. On a previous occasion, the Prime Minister gave an assurance that Parliament would be called together not later than a certain date. The sittings of Parliament should not be so limited that honorable members have only a few hours in which to consider the business placed before them. We sat until nearly 3 o’clock this morning. It appears that we shall have to sit late again to-night, and honorable members even then will not have time to debate properly the various matters that are to come before the House. I am told that we are to be asked to pass Supplementary Estimates providing for the expenditure of more than £2,000,000. It is true that the expenditure was incurred in the financial year ended the 31st June, 1940, but Parliament has not previously had an opportunity to scrutinize it. I have the Auditor-General’s report dealing with this period, but I have had no time to consider it. I ask the Prime Minister to afford honorable members sufficient time, when Parliament is called together again, to consider the budget without restriction.
.- Does the motion mean that we shall not meet to-morrow?
– We are in good fettle and greatly encouraged by recent decisions, and we should like to meet again to-morrow, because we think that we can then improve on our performance of to-day. Some definite limit should be placed upon the period of the recess, and the motion should contain an indication of when Parliament will re-assemble after the recess.
. -in reply - I point out that we haveSupply only until the 31st August, and that the Government, accordingly, must call Parliament together before that date. Parliament certainly will not be called together so late in August that Supply will have to be hurried through in one day. In the meantime, it is important that Ministers should have the opportunity to do some work.
– Would it be a good guess to say that Parliament will reassemble on the 27th August?
– That would be a good guess, but I should not say for publication that that date is a certainty.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That StatutoryRules 1941, No. 75, being amendment of the National Security (Supplementary) Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
This regulation, to my mind, is an unusual one. No reason has been advanced by the Government for this extraordinary departure from precedent and tradition. The facts are that the regulation sets out that any alien, not being an enemy alien, may be granted a commission in the Army, Navy or Air Force at the discretion of the Minister concerned. I do not know much about legal matters, but there are in Cabinet one or two legal men, one of whom is the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) above whose signature this regulation was issued, and I should like him to tell me how the King can sign a commission to an alien, how he addresses his “ trusty and well-beloved “ when the recipient of that commission does not owe allegiance to him ? I understand that section. 95 of the British Army Act, unless it has been repealed recently, lays it down that a commission shall not be granted to an alien. An alien may be enlisted in the British Forces, but the number of aliens in the Forces shall not exceed one man in 50, and they shall not receive promotion beyond the rank of non-commissioned officer or warrant officer. The section does not expressly exclude the granting of commissions to aliens, but it does expressly limit the. promotion of aliens beyond the rank of warrant officer, which is one rung below commissioned rank. With all the force 1 can summon 1 put to the Minister and to every honorable member this question : Are we so short of leaders in the Army, Navy and Air Force that we have to enlist and commission aliens in order to lead our men into action? When we are enlisting forces to go overseas we ought to provide that those forces shall be led and officered by men of our own nationality. I understand from tittle idlings that I have heard that the Minister will probably argue that this regulation is necessary in order to overcome some difficulties in regard to citizens of the United States of America who may desire to serve in the British Forces. If that be the position, I ask the Minister to put the boot on the other foot. Would an Australian who wanted to serve in the army of the United States of America be permitted to do so without becoming a citizen of the United States of America? That all goes to the question of foreign service. The best illustration that we can have is that of the French Foreign Legion. Unless the rules ha ve been altered since the outbreak of war, no man may hold commissioned rank in the Foreign Legion without becoming a citizen of France. He must be not only a stepson of France, but also, by adoption, a son of France before he can obtain commissioned rank in the world-famed Foreign Legion.
I ask the Minister what, would be the position if the country of an alien who ha.d attained commissioned rank in our forces became engaged in hostilities with us? What would be his standing then? He owes no allegiance to the Crown or to this Commonwealth. As I understand common sense - the Lord knows what the law says on it - I should say that he would he perfectly free to follow the country of his birth and nationality rather than us. I also put to the Minister the question : What would happen if an alien, commissioned in our forces, were guilty of what under our law is described as desertion? How could he be charged with desertion? He does not desert the King of England because he owes no allegiance to him. He does not desert the Commonwealth of Australia because he owes no allegiance to it. Consequently, I say that in that connexion the Minister has no power over that man.
There are other points. It requires only one man on a ship to do damage to it. One man at an air depot or on an air-field could do a terrific lot of damage. The place where least damage can bt’ done, is in an infantry unit, hut I doubt very much whether many aliens will be found in infantry units. Last year I met many foreigners of all sorts, including refugees, who asked me if they could serve. In the last war the r ranks of infantry units were open to foreigners, hut I do not know of any of them having been commissioned. I do not wish to be harping everlastingly on the subject of aliens, but I do say that in matters of this description the Government is giving too much consideration to aliens, and not enough to our own people. This sort of thing does net go down well with the public or the armed forces, and unless the Minister has a better defence than I imagine that he has, the House would be well advised to put this regulation in the waste-paper basket. Honorable members on both sides of the House have sons and relatives in the fighting forces. I ask them: Hav-p we reached a stage at which we have to give commissions to aliens to lead our men into action ? If the Government says that, I shall disagree very strongly, and I believe that other honorable members will support me.
– There is not very much that I need add to the remarks of the honorable member for Barker. I believe that the commissioning of aliens in our armed forces would not bc acceptable to our soldiers. A different situation might arise in relation to citizens from the United States of America, because Americans are very much like Australians. But, with that exception, the offering of commissions to aliens would not add to the contentment of our fighting men. As the honorable member for Barker has said, our troops would sooner go into action under the command of one of their compatriots than under the command of an. alien. We have in the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force many men who are well qualified for promotion to commissioned rank. Many non-commissioned officers have had years of experience with the Militia Forces, and they are well fitted to act as officers. I should not like to think that their advancement was prevented because of preference being given to aliens.
– This regulation does not confine itself to the Army, as would appear from some of the remarks that have been made.
– I said that it applied to the Army, Navy and Air Force.
– It covers the Army, Navy and Air Force. The regulation was not brought into existence by this Government of its own conception. It was, in point of fact, instigated by the government of the United Kingdom which, I should imagine, has just as much regard for security as the honorable member for Barker claims to have. The Imperial Government desired to have a common policy with the Government of Canada and the Government of Australia in respect of this matter. As the British Government considers it to be not inconsistent with security to avail itself of the services of friendly aliens in the fighting forces, I fail to understand by what stretch of imagination one could believe that this country is likely to suffer, at this distance from the scene of conflict, as the result of doing likewise. The regulation was introduced in Great. Britain primarily for the purpose of meeting the case of citizens of the United States of America, particularly those who wished to join the Royal Air Force. As the honorable member for Barker probably knows, American law provides that, if an American citizen enlists in a foreign armed force and takes the oath of allegiance to that country, he forfeits his American citizenship rights for a period of five years. It was because of this problem that the Government of the United Kingdom asked this Government to introduce the regulation.I saw no reason then, and I see none now, why we should not, acquiesce. Provisions along these lineshave already been introduced in the United Kingdom and Canada. I refer honorable members to section 2 of the regulation, because of the protection that it offers to the very men who the honorable member for Barker states should be the custodians of security. It provides that an enemy alien cannot be enlisted in the armed forces. It states -
An alien, not being an enemy alien, may be enlisted in -
the Military Forces for service in the Australian Imperial Force, subject to the approval of the Military Board or of the District Commandant of the Military District in which the alien resides at the time of enlistment.
It would be difficult to believe that the Military Board and the District Commandant would not carefully examine the case of any alien seeking to enlist in our Military Forces.
– The Minister was at great pains earlier to-day to show that he could not rely on a lot of the work of the military authorities.
– That is not a correct statement. In respect of the Naval forces, enlistment is subject to the approval of the Naval Board, and in the case of the Air Force it is subject to the approval of the Air Board. I suggest to honorable members that, having regard to the explanation that I have made, there is nothing inconsistent with security in this regulation, and there is no reason why the motion should be agreed to.
– in reply - The Minister’s explanation is rather remarkable, but nevertheless it would be wonderful if any action were taken to support my motion by this remarkable House. The Minister frankly stated that the regulation was introduced at the requestof the British Government. We should not have to comply with every request made to us by the British Government. It is about time that the Commonwealth Parliament did a little bit of thinking and acting on its own account. Last night we heard an interesting statement by the Minister, in which he laid blame, if any blame there was, on the Government of the United Kingdom for what was not right with certain of our forces overseas.
– I laid no blame at all. That is a very unfair remark.
– That is how I understood the honorable gentleman, and I believe that many other honorable members did likewise. Tonight the honorable gentleman said that the Government introduced this regulation because it was recommended from Whitehall.
– I did not say that at all. It was adopted on its merits.
– The honorable gentleman said that the Government was asked to do so by the British Government.
– That does not prove that we blindly follow the British Government.
– I put it to the House that too much consideration is given to aliens who come into this country. It is time that the Commonwealth Parliament took a firm stand, and decided one or two matters for itself. However, I do not expect it, as at present constituted, to do much about anything, nor do I expect great things from the Government..
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) -by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 - eleven o’clock rule - be suspended for theremainder of this sitting.
.- I move -
That StatutoryRules 1941, No. 132,being amendment of the National Security (Guarantee) Regulations made under the National Security Act 1939-1940, be disallowed.
The original regulation of which the one specified in the motion is an amendment, is No. 136 of 1940. It authorized the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to guarantee repayment to the Commonwealth Bank of loans made by it to producers engaged in essential work. The regulation which I ask the House to disallow extends that guarantee to cover loans made by the private trading banks to producers engaged in essential war work. The regulation is an attempt by the Government to undermine the position of the Commonwealth Bank, and to tighten the grip of private trading banks on the economic life of this country. When giving the Treasurer power to guarantee the repayment of loans made by the trading banks, we should consider just what these loans consist of. The loans are derived from two sources - either from the legitimate savings of the people in the form of deposits in the trading banks, or from credit specially created for the purpose of these loans.
– And guaranteed by the Treasurer.
– Yes, under this regulation. I do not think it can be disputed that the banks can and do create credit, but to make sure that that statement is believed by honorable members and the public at large I shall make a few quotations from eminent authorities. Mr. H. D. McLeod, who is an authority recognized by the banks themselves, says in his Theory of Banking -
A bank is therefore not anoffice for the borrowing and lending of money but is a manufactory of credit.
I also have here one of the most recent publications on banking - Modern Bank- ing, by Sayers, who is a lecturer in economics at one of the English universities. On page 1 he makes exactly the same statement, namely, that banks manufacture a form of money which is termed credit. Banks “ therefore can specially create credit, the repayment of which, if it. is lent to private firms, will be guaranteed by the Treasurer under this regulation. The Labour party has consistently opposed the power of the private trading banks to create credit. Throughout the ages, the Crown has always very stringently preserved to itself the sole right to issue coins and to print notes. If private individuals coin money or print notes, they are committing a very grave criminal offence, but the Crown permits the manufacture of this other form of money, known as credit, in large quantities. As an introduction to some statistics which I propose to give to the House I quote the following statement by the Right Honorable Reginald McKenna, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain : -
Every purchase by the bank of a security creates a deposit of new money.
When one examines the statistics of deposits in the banks in Australia, it at once becomes evident that a great deal of new money has been created by the banking institutions since this war broke out. In the monthly review of financial statistics of April, 1941, page 31, figures given concerning the deposits of all the cheque-‘paying banks in Australia show that in 1939 the total deposits in the banks throughout Australia amounted to £389,000,000, and by the first quarter of 1941, the figure had “risen to £455,000,000, a difference of £66,000,000. In other words, between 1939 and 1941 new money amounting to £66,000,000 has come into existence and has been deposited in the banks. Of course, a portion of that money has come into existence in the form of newly printed notes - I think that new notes issued since 1939 amount to about £20,000,000 - but that still leaves a balance of £46,000,000 which has been created by the banking institutions of this country. We are not in a position to know, and statistics published from time to time by the Commonwealth Bank and by the private trading banks do not permit us to find out, exactly how much of this money has been created by the Commonwealth Bank and how much has been created by the private trading banks. However, we know very well, from a study of the cash reserves of the private banks, and the relation of their deposits to liabilities, that a large proportion of that £46,000,000 has been created by the private trading banks. The Labour party, I repeat, has always objected to this power of the private trading banks to create new money. We contend that if credit money is to be created, it should be created through and by the Commonwealth Bank only, and that this regulation, in guaranteeing to the private trading banks the repayment of advances made by them to producers of essential war goods, will actually encourage them to increase the quantity of money they have already created. For that reason, if for no other, the Labour party is opposed to this regulation. But there are other reasons why we are opposed to it. In the ordinary course of events, the private -trading banks scrutinize every proposal made to them for an advance, and if the risk is too great the advance is not made. It is clear that when this guarantee operates the private trading banks will not scrutinize proposals for advances as carefully as they have done in the past. They will take greater risks, not with their own money but with money the repayment of which is to be guaranteed to them by the Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
A second objection to the regulation is this : Under laissez faire capitalism, interest and profits are supposed to be the rewards for the risks which entrepreneurs take. It is obvious, however, that no risk whatever arises in respect of loans, the repayment of which is guaranteed by the Treasurer. Therefore, even if- one agrees with this regulation, it should be stipulated that on production made possible by the Treasurer’s guarantee of the repayment of these loans neither interest nor profits will be allowed. Further, the private trading banks have power to discriminate between different producers. The present stage of capitalistic society has been well described as monopolistic capitalism. The tendency everywhere to-day is for firms to aggregate into larger and larger groups and monopolies, thereby enabling them to filch greater and greater profits from the. consumers. This has been made possible largely by the interlocking of directorates of private trading banks and ordinary business concerns. If I had sufficient time at my disposal, I could give many examples to illustrate this tendency both in Australia and in England. Suppose that some essential form ‘of war production must be undertaken, and a choice must be made between two producers who are capable of manufacturing the desired article. One producer may be an ordinary individual entrepreneur, and another a member of a monopolistic group. The banks, which are associated with that monopolistic group, will make advances to that monopolistic concern in preference to the small individual manufacturer. For that, reason, this regulation, by guaranteeing the repayment of these loans, will increase the discriminatory power of the private trading banks, and encourage still further an increase of monopolies in this country. Another power of discrimination possessed by the private trading banks also deserves mention. It is well known that the banks are not so much interested in the productivity of an enterprise, or because it produces certain things, as it is in the indebtedness of that enterprise to themselves. At ally time it may be decided, for various reasons, to limit the production of an industry. At the moment, for instance, we are faced with a limitation of production in the wheat industry and in certain industries which the Government proposes to declare to be nonessential. In such cases it is not always the most economically efficient firms that survive, but the firms in which the banks are most interested. In this connexion, I quote from a book entitled The Structure of Competitive Industry, by E. A. G. Robinson, M.A., which explains the exercise of this discriminatory power of the banks -
This process of selection is still further complicated by the action of the banks. An industrial crisis is in many ways like a shipwreck. In a shipping disaster, we do not speak of thu snrviva.1 of the fittest, for we know that it is not the strongest swimmers, but the weakest, that find places in the boats. In an industrial crisis, it is the first Arms that become involved that can secure the readiest assistance of the banks. As the bank’s funds become tied np, the later applicants, who arc, in fact, the stronger, find assistance more difficult to obtain. Once a firm has secured a scat in the banks’ lifeboat, the banks frequently hesitate to throw it overboard in order to find room for another. The indebtedness of a firm to a bank measures the bank’s interest in its survival.
The Treasurer’s guarantee of these loans will give to the private trading banks powers of discrimination which may be used to ad vance money, not to the most economically efficient firms to produce essential war material, but to the firms which are most indented to the private banks. It will thus tend to increase production by the least efficient firms, at the expense of the more economically efficient firms.
I shall mention two cases in order to illustrate the operation of this tendency in Australia at present. I had intended to mention this aspect on the formal motion for adjournment on the wheat industry moved by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully). I assume that this regulation covers the production of essential articles and commodities, and, therefore, may be applied to wheat.. We have applied a form, of limitation of production to wheat. The authority who will decide which farmers must limit their production is Sir Olive McPherson He is a director of the Commonwealth Rank, and also a director of one of the private trading banks.
– No, he resigned from the directorate of the National Bank when he accepted his post with the Commonwealth Bank.
– I accept the Treasurer’s statement; but I assume, and I think, rightly, that Sir Olive McPherson is still very largely interested in the operations of the private trading banks. It can be said, at least that he is prejudiced in favour of those institutions. He has the. power to decide which producers shall limit their production of wheat. It is obvious, in view of the operation of the principle which I have just explained, that if Sir Olive McPherson be called upon to decide whether a farmer already indebted to the private trading banks, or a. farmer who is not indebted to those institutions, must reduce his production of wheat, he will decide against the latter. This regulation gives an undue power of discrimination in that respect to Sir Olive McPherson. The second instance which illustrates the operation of the tendency is provided by the appointment of Mr. Massie as Director of Supply, which was mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). He also is a director of a private trading bank, and many cases will arise in which he may have the opportunity to recommend advances in the interests of that bank’s clients. He will be able to exercise a discriminatory power in respect of all firms engaged in the supply of goods to the Government. If he should be called upon to decide whether an advance shall be made to a firm indebted to the pri vate trading bank in which he is interested, or to some other firm not so indebted, and possibly more efficiently organized, it is not difficult to prophesy which decision he will make. He will say, “ It will be a good thing if a little more money is made available to the firm indebted to the bank”. As the Treasurer will guarantee the loan on behalf of the Commonwealth, the bank will not have to carry any responsibility in respect of it.
– Hp will Iia ve nothing to do with, guarantees. He will he discharging a totally different function. His duty will be to divert industry from civil to war activities.
– That does not impair thu cogency of my argument.
– He will lune nothing to do with incidental finance.
– But lie will have a great deal to do with the decision as to which non-essential industries shall be compelled to cease operations and which shall be diverted to war activities. He will certainly be able to authorize the placing of contract”, and when that is clone the Treasurer will be asked, under this regulation, to guarantee the -payment of whatever advance may be necessary to fulfil these contracts. Obviously, in such circumstances, a discriminatory power may be exercised by this gentleman in the interests of the trading bank with which he is connected. I am opposed to this regulation first, because it will increase the opportunities of the private trading banks to create credit for manufacturers, which will have the result of increasing the profits of the. private trading banks; and, secondly, because it will result in the private trading banks being able, directly or indirectly, to exercise a discriminatory power in the interests of certain of its own customers, probably at the expense of efficiency. For these reasons the regulation should be disallowed.
– The purpose of the regulation to which objection is being taken is to enable the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to guarantee private banks in respect, of loans they may make to private firms to stimulate the manufacture of munitions and materials for war purposes. As I object to that procedure I second, and strongly support, the motion for the disallowance of the regulation. I shall not occupy rime at this juncture in stating the arguments in favour of Government, as against private, finance; but I hold the view that the Government should not go out of it? way to assist the private banks. It is well known to all honorable members that our primary producing industries, including the wheat industry, are heavily in debt to the associated banks, the mortgage companies, and the insurance companies. The action which the Treasurer is authorized to take under this regulation will simply increase the power of these financial institutions, which, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) admitted some time ago, had pyramided credit to the amount of £40,000,000 because of the power made available to them by the issue to them of Commonwealth Bank notes on which the primary producers were required to pay interest. Such practices are entirely undesirable. If the policy upon which this regulation is based be applied extensively it will mean that the private banks, the mortgage companies, and the insurance companies will be in “ easy street “. If the banks were being required to deal with their own funds they would adopt their usual conservative practice of demanding ample security against any advances they make; but as they will be advancing money guaranteed by the Government they are not likely to concern themselves very greatly about the nature of the security offered. In other words, they will be prepared to take greater risks with Government money than they would take with their own funds in the ordinary course of banking business. If a bank does not wish to make an advance, because the security offered is not satisfactory, it refers its prospective client to a mortgage company, which, because the spotlight of publicity is not thrown upon its activities, can demand a higher rate of interest in consideration of the greater risk. I fear, however, that under the regulation now before us, any thought as to the adequacy of the security offered will be banished. As the honorable member for Corio has stated, and as all writers of repute on monetary subjects in this country admit, cheque pounds provide 99 per cent, of the currency of this country at present, and banknotes and coinage provide only 1 per cent, of it. I am afraid that the policy of the Government may cause “ mushroom “ companies to spring up and wildcat schemes to abound. That would be most unfair to the taxpayers, who, ultimately, will have to shoulder the burden. For the reason that, I do not regard the Government as a milch cow for the private banks, and the further reason that I consider that the banks should be held responsible for any advances that they make, I am strongly opposed to this regulation and I trust, that it will be disallowed.
f 11.20]. - I listened with interest to the dissertation of the honorable m emita r for Corio (Mr. Dedman), and compliment him upon the study he has made of this subject, evidence of which is furnished by his speech.
I shall not engage in a discussion of the merits or demerits of public and private finance. The regulation which the honorable member seeks to have disallowed was amended in order to obtain a more workable arrangement in connexion with the regulation implemented in 1940. The whole of the idea underlying this method of financial assistance is to meet the* demands and requirements of those businesses which may have essential machinery and efficient management but very little cash resources. In order fu marshal all of the facilities available, the Government has adopted a method by which firms which require finance to enable them satisfactorily and efficiently to execute contracts on its behalf are guaranteed. Prior to the introduction of this amendment of the regulation, the scheme in operation provided that the Commonwealth Bank should guarantee, where necessary, advances made through the trading banks. The regulation is nothing but a machinery provision, the object of which is to reduce costs and to avoid the duplication of securities which takes place under the existing arrangement.
– What will be the rate of interest?
– The rate of interest is fixed at a maximum of 4 per cent, in respect of such guarantees. The honorable member for Werriwa would lead one to suppose that this is of general application, and is designed to meet the needs of any and every contractor who wishes to obtain finance but cannot do so from a trading bank without a guarantee. That is not the position. The Finance Council, the Panel of Accountants, and the Finance Advisory Board advise the Treasurer, who then acts on his own judgment. To give a concrete ease which came before me only to-day:
A firm which owes one of the trading banks £186,000 and is in the hands of a receiver at the moment, has efficient management and unique facilities for carrying out certain contracts on behalf of the Government; consequently, it has been given a contract for £75,000 worth of machinery which is very urgently required by the Government. As it had not the necessary finance to undertake the contract, it approached the Treasury. The matter was investigated by the Finance Committee, and the Commonwealth guaranteed the trading bank on its behalf up to 40 per cent, of the contract price. The policy is to concentrate the finance as much as possible in the Commonwealth Bank; but there are features and factors which preclude that institution from obtaining the whole of the business. I suppose that a very large proportion of the amount owed to the trading bank b.y this firm will ultimately be lost; but the firm has the capability, the machinery, and the will to carry out contracts, and by the means placed before the House to-night the Commonwealth guarantees the money which it needs to complete the contract. This policy does not cut across existing principles of finance. I shall give another instance: A very big engineering firm, which had done valuable work for the Navy department and the Government generally, recently got into financial difficulties. It owed a trading bank over £200,000, much of which is regarded as a dead loss. The Government has guaranteed to the trading bank to which the debt of £200,000 is owing, an amount of £80.000. Thus, these engineering works arn kept in operation, and approximately lj 00 employees are retained in their employment. I ask the House merely to give to the Government, under this regulation, the power to provide machinery whereby the legal costs involved in double guarantees will be obviated by the Treasurer giving a direct guaranteeto whatever trading bank the Commonwealth desires shall co-operate with it. I urge honorable members to assist me tohelp those firms which have the will, theenergy, the men, the efficiency and themachinery to carry out work successfully on behalf of the war effort.
– Many of these firmshad to try to carry on by means of bank: credit. The Commonwealth is now giving to them work in order to enable them to carry on, and in addition is guaranteeing the bank on their behalf.
– The Commonwealth is guaranteeing the bank in respect of the amount now to be advanced, not the past debt. By this means many firms have been kept going and many men have been retained in their employment.
This is an appropriate time to give effect to a. promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), that the name of the gentleman selected by cabinet for appointment to the Governorship of the Commonwealth Bank would be announced to-day. It is my privilege and pleasure to announce that Mr. Hugh Armitage, who has been Deputy Governor, has been appointed Governorof this institution.
– The objection taken by members on this side of the House to the amendment of the regulation has not, I submit, been met by the answer given by the Treasurer. That objection does not relate to such a position as he has put. The honorable gentleman has said that the object of the amendment of the regulation is to avoid the legal costs incidental to double guarantees. As I understand the matter, paragraph 1 of the regulation prior to its amendment provided that the Commonwealth Government should guarantee, loans made by the Commonwealth Bank; and paragraph 2 provided that the Commonwealth Government should guarantee the Commonwealth Bank against loss on any loans, the repayment ofwhich to any other institution it had guaranteed. Thus, under the first clause the Commonwealth Bank could itself lend and the. Commonwealth Government could guarantee such ‘loans; and under the second clause the Commonwealth Bank could guarantee a loan made by a private hank and the . Commonwealth Government could guarantee that it would not suffer loss on that account. I cannot see why that position need be disturbed. Nor can I see what great legal costs in respect of guarantees are involved. The majority of persons who execute documents with banking institutions find that that is done without legal cost. I know that lawyers accordingly grumble a good deal. I submit that the proposed amendment enables the Government not only to do in one act what the Treasurer has just described, but also to direct to private banking institutions a lot of the banking business which we consider should be transacted only by the Commonwealth Bank. That is the objection.
– I realize that.
– That objection is shared by many of the Treasurer’s supporters. They believe that the business of creating credit should as far as possible be the monopoly of the Commonwealth Bank. Should the motion by the honorable member for Corio be defeated, the Commonwealth Government will be free to guarantee private banks’ loans without having any regard to the Commonwealth Bank at all. In that event the Government will not be under any obligation to give preference to the Commonwealth Bank, but may indeed direct its favours to the private banks in preference to the Common weal th Bank. I should say that the only way to allay that fear is to keep the regulation in its original form. That would meet the position where the Commonwealth Bank makes the loan and the Commonwealth Government stands behind the bank, and also where the Commonwealth Bank guarantees a loan already made by a private bank and the Commonwealth Government says that the Commonwealth Bank shall not lose through doing so. That is the position that we and the people want. That is the purpose also of the motion of the honorable member for Corio.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 11.32 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
– by leave - As honorable members are aware, the State Premiers attended a conference in Canberra on Friday last, when the Commonwealth Government submitted proposals aimed at securing greater uniformity of taxation.
I take this opportunity for making a full statement to the House on the matter. The Commonwealth’s original proposal was -
The States to receive £30,000,000 yearly in compensation to be dividedthus: -
Subsequently, it was decided to alter the originalproposal to provide that the States should vacate the individuals and company taxation fields for one or two years. It should he remembered that the proposals to achieve uniformity in taxation was not one which was sprung on the States without warning, nor one which they did nothave adequate opportunity to consider. In my budget speech of the 21st November last, I stated: -
The taxation rates imposed by States have been respected in framing the proposed Federal rate. This has very considerablyhampered Commonwealth taxation at all points of the scale, because of the great variation in State rates. It is a matter for consideration whether under the increasing pressure of war we shall be able to maintain this principle.Some greater uniformity in State income taxation may become a war-time necessity.
On the 2nd February last, possible methods of achieving uniformity were outlined to the States. The replies received stressed the divergent interests of the States, and offered no hope of an agreed settlement on the lines of any of the suggestions made. The Commonwealth was, therefore, obliged to make a definite proposal in a form which admitted of a. compromise between the opposing interests on both sides. The proposal provided for uniform taxation by one authority, and it had the important, but minor, advantage of simplicity and economy for both the Government and. the taxpayer.
In opening the conference, I emphasized that the Commonwealth to-day was bound to take all steps necessary to ensure national security, and that in an emergency of this kind steps would have to be taken which would never have been contemplated in times of peace. I pointed out that it was in this atmosphere of emergency that we approached the States for their assistance in meeting the enormous financial problem which faced us inthe year 1941-42. 1 made it quite clear that the Commonwealth recognized that some sacrifices were involved in the proposal we were putting forward both for State taxpayers and State governments, but we asked the States to approach the problem in a spirit of goodwill and co-operation. Finally, 1 emphasized that it was not the intention of the Commonwealth to deprive the States permanently of any of their functions or sovereign rights, and that I was willing, if necessary, to limit to one year the period of operation of any plan agreed to. All States, except South Australia, opposed the Commonwealth plan on principle. The main arguments advanced by the States were-
The Premier of South Australia stated that his Government was prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth in any plan which would ensure that the States could continue to function effectively, but on the understanding that the arrangement would be for a short period only, and that the Commonwealth would give an undertaking to revert to the rates of taxation operating before the scheme commenced.
In reply to the States’ arguments I can only say -
Since the conference, further statements of the objections of the States, and some criticisms of the Commonwealth have appeared in the press, but I do not propose to deal here with those statements. However, I wish to make clear the Commonwealth’s position. We put forward the proposal in good faith, believing that it was a method by which the States could, without undue hardship, contribute to the solution of the most difficult financial problem the Australian Commonwealth has ever had to face.
The States, for various reasons, found themselves unable to co-operate. For my part, I believe that the case advanced by the Commonwealth is so strong that the States should have been prepared to accept the proposal even at the cost of a temporary surrender of their traditional rights. I sincerely regret that they have not found it possible to co-operate with the Commonwealth in this direction.
The Commonwealth will now go ahead with the framing of its own financial proposals for 1941-42, and we can only hope that the States will be able in other ways to give effect to the pledges they have expressed from time to time to give to the Commonwealth full cooperation in the nation’s war effort.
I now turn to a consideration of the financial year just completed. Although final figures are not yet available for 1940-41. I am in a position to give some approximate information as to the year’s results. On the revenue side, the total collections amounted to £150,000,000 or roughly £2,000,000 more than the budget estimate as revised at the 13th December. Taxation, taken as a whole, was £1,000,000 up, and the receipts from business undertakings and other items about £1,000,000 better than the estimate. On the expenditure side, nonwar expenditure amounted to approximately £85,000,000, or £1,000,000 less than the budget estimate. The net result is that the amount provided for war services out of the budget will be £65,000,000, or £3,000,000 more than the budget estimate. The budget, of course, will show an exact balance, as the full amount of revenue available is being applied for war purposes.
The budget estimate of total war expenditure from all sources was £186,000,000, £143,000,000 in Australia, and £43,000,000 overseas. The actual expenditure will be about £170,000,000, of which £127,000,000 was in Australia, and £43,000,000 overseas. These figures represent net expenditure, and indicate a shortage of £16,000,000 on the budget estimate. The actual gross expenditure, however, was £181,000,000. The extra £11,000,000 represents expenditure on work in Australia on behalf of, and supplies, &c, forwarded to, other governments, and which has since been recovered. In order to assess the true war effort achieved by the Australian people, this expenditure must be taken into account.
It has been clear for some time that expenditure would not reach the original estimates. The fact is that, in some respects, production did not reach the early estimates. This is explained by the initial difficulties of establishing a huge munitions programme, shortages of machine tools and, in some instances, shipping difficulties.
There has been some criticism that the Government has raised money by taxation or loans far in excess of what could be expended. This is incorrect. We commenced the year 1940-4.1 with a cash balance for war purposes of £28,000,000. We shall finish the year with a cash balance of about £10,000,000 only.
I now desire to say a few words on the financial outlook for this year. The
Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his” broadcast, emphasized the gravity of the war position and the vital need for applying the maximum of our resources to war and defence purposes. Bie also stressed the need for further sacrifices. I would emphasize to honorable Members the difficulty of the financial problem facing us. On the basis of present advices from the fighting services; war expenditure in 1941-42 is unlikely, to be less than £2,50,000,000, of which at least from £180,000,000 to £190,000,000 will be expended in Australia, which is about £60,000,000 more than in the year just closed. “We begin this year withvery small reserves. When full allowance has been made for the yield ofexisting taxation and for- subscriptions to public loans and war savings certificates on a scale comparable with those of last year, there remains a gap of about £60,000,000 to be financed’. This makes no allowance for expenditure overseas. It is not my purpose in this statement to discuss possible methods of bridging this gap. The Government is giving very anxious attention to this problem.
The Government has stated on many occasions that its policy is a balanced programme of taxation, Borrowing from the public, and borrowing from thebanking system. I have already emphasized that the use of bank credit must be kept within the limits of safety; otherwise, our war effort must falter. Unwise expansion of credit does not solve the problem. On the contrary, it creates further competition for the very resources of man-power and material which will be required for our increased war effort. In general terms, the principles of maximum credit expansion as I see them are these: The policy of the Government and of the Commonwealth Bank is to keep the spending-power of the community equal to the value of all goods and services produced at something like the existing level of prices. I cannot imagine any responsible government, no matter what its political creed may be, which would have any different aim. If spending-power is in excess of that, we get “higher prices without any increase of goods. If spending-power is deficient, we get unemployment. Now the spending power of the community is ^predominantly in the form of bank credit. Under the war conditions of the last two years, we have had a great increase of production in the provision of war services and war equipment. Consequently, we have needed a considerable expansion of credit. Expansion and contraction of credit may take place in many ways, some of which are quite independent of the Commonwealth Bank. For example, credit is contracted by an accumulation of treasury balances, and is expanded by the accumulation of London funds, which accompanies an increase of exports or a decline of imports. It should be noted that the restriction of imports, which is necessary on c ‘.help- “grounds, in itself brings about an expansion of credit.
The business of the Commonwealth Bank is to assess and take into account all these expanding or contracting influences and to weigh them against the present needs of the country for increasing spending-power. If the needs of the country require more spending-power than is provided by these other factors - and that will be generally the case with an expanding war effort - then the Government would expect the Commonwealth Bank to take direct means to make up the deficiency by subscribing to loans, or buying bonds, or increasing its advances, or in various other possible ways. The need for increased spending-power in the community above what is provided by natural processes is the measure of the extent to which the Commonwealth Bank can provide directly for the financial needs of the Government. The exact amount at any time cannot be judged precisely. Any estimate must have fairly wide margins. Because of- -.the urgent needs of’ war finance, we are and shall be pushing this amount upwards to the limit, of safety. That is to say, we shall risk, some upward pressure of prices, rather than run any risk of not having in the community enough spending-power, whether public or private, to use all of our resources to the greatest degree possible. I appeal to members to appreciate the difficulties of the problem of war-time finance and to bear them in mind when I submit the budget to Parliament.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) mentioned the objections of the States to uniform taxation, but not his reply to those objections. The States claimed that the loss of revenue that they would suffer through their surrendering taxes to the Commonwealth would result in the sacrifice of social services, because the distribution ‘among the States of money collected by the Commonwealth would be inequitable.
– My opinion is that there must be a scaling-down of expenditure.
– Of expenditure on social services?
– Not necessarily on social services; all expenditure. That matter, the usurping of State rights, was not canvassed.
– The Treasurer said that the States had advanced two objections against the Commonwealth scheme.
– Yes; one was on principle, and certain States suggested that the scheme would hamper their social services. As a matter of fact, a Premier who stated that the social services of his State would be retarded or interfered with was the Premier of Victoria, where social services are on a much lower scale than they are in other States.
Morion (by Mr. Fadden), agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next meeting.
TubercularSoldiers - Rural Debt Adjustment - Medical Services in Country Areas: Registration of Refugee Doctors - Decentralization of War Industries - New Guinea: Reported Discovery of Flow Oil - Re-employment - Pro-Nazi Propaganda - Commonwealth Bank : Appointment of Governor - HirePurchase Agreements - Commonwealth Finances - Dividends - Telson Manufacturing Company - Luxury Spending - Copper Production in Queensland - Pyrites - Power Alcohol - Internment of Refugees - Compulsory Military Service - Proposed Joint Committee on Taxation - Arbitration Court Delays,
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. - I direct attention to the unfortunate position of some members of the Australian Imperial Force who have been invalided back from abroad and thrown on the mercy of the world without being found work or being given a pension. I have a number of cases which I shall place before the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Collett) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender). The case of these men is having a detrimental effect on recruiting. The facts are these : Some men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and were passed as medically fit, were found, when they reached Egypt, to have developed tuberculosis in varying degrees. Those men were sent back to Australia, placed in homes for some time, and then turned out and told that they were to take proper rest and nourishment and that their disease had merely been arrested, but that, if they followed medical instructions, there would be a reasonable chance of a cure. They are being given no pension at all by the Government of the country to which they offered their lives. I know of nothing more pathetic than the scenes at the Blue Mountains resorts for tuberculosis sufferers. The homes there are overflowing. Civilians have been put out to make room for soldiers, and the soldiers are being discharged and told that their illness is not attributable to war service. These men now have to try to get the invalid pension. In some cases that involves considerable delay. Although these men offered their lives in the service of their country, and were passed by army medical officers as physically fit, they are now told that their complaint is in no way attributable to war service. When men enlist and are passed as medically fit, and see service abroad, it is obvious that such service must aggravate any latent disease they had at the time of their enlistment, although it was not then discoverable. I do not know of more pathetic instances of ingratitude on the part of this country towards any of its citizens, than the treatment which is being meted out to these men. They have been discharged from the Army, and told that their complaint is not attributable to war service.
– Does the honorable member suggest that no provision is made for these men under our repatriation legislation ?
– Yes. The only relief they can hope to attain is the invalid pension. As I do not wish to weary the House with details at this late hour, I shall pass on to the Minister direct specific instances of the kind that I have described.
– Have these men applied for war pensions?
– Yes. But they are getting no assistance. Prior to their enlistment some of these men were in permanent employment, and were able to earn a comfortable living. Now, because of their complaint, which is obviously due to war service, they have been thrown upon the industrial scrap-heap. They are unable to obtain proper attention; yet medical authorities stress the importance of relief from anxiety as an essential to a cure in cases of tuberculosis. The worry and suffering, due to their present circumstances, must aggravate their complaint. I urge the Government to give attention to this matter.
– If the statements just made by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) are substantiated in the specific cases, which he has promised to bring under my notice direct, a serious situation, indeed, exists, and I assure him that the Government will immediately deal with it. Upon receipt of the details which he proposes1 to furnish to me, I shall confer with “the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) and the Minister for Repatriation (.Senator Collett) on this matter. The nation owes a great debt to these men, and it is the Government’s obligation, and desire, to discharge that debt insofar as it is able to do so.
– I bring to the attention of the Government the serious position which has been brought about by a hold-up of payments under the Rural Debt Adjustment Scheme. I have received numerous letters from farmers in Victoria who are operating under that plan. They have just had a bad season, and find it difficult to meet their obligations. The Debt
Adjustment Board in Victoria has not been able to complete a number of claims under the scheme, because the Commonwealth Government has not provided the necessary funds, as it promised to do when this legislation was introduced. Possibly a similar position exists in some of the other States. I have received a letter from one farmer in which he explains that he entered into an agreement with his creditors following the inauguration of the Debt Adjustment Scheme. Because the board in Victoria has not sufficient funds to complete his claim he is unable to pay his debts. That is most unfair to not only the farmer himself, hut also his creditors who were good enough to give him accommodation. The position in this respect in Victoria is very acute. A grave injustice is being done to those farmers and their creditors. At a time when huge sums of money can be found, and rightly so, for the prosecution of the war, I ask the Government te make these payments as quickly as possible.
I also draw attention to the position which has arisen in many country districts in my electorate owing to the departure of medical practitioners from those areas. Since the outbreak of war the majority of country medical practitioners have enlisted. Most of them are young men, and quite a number of others were on active service in the last war. In some districts an effort has been made to overcome this problem by obtaining permission for alien doctors who came to this country as refugees to practise. Those doctors are doing very good work indeed. But in the great majority of cases the places of the former resident doctors have not been filled. Consequently, in many areas people are obliged to travel considerable distances in order to obtain medical assistance. The following telegram is typical of the numerous requests which I have received on this matter : -
Werrimull hospital urgently need doctor. Can you emphasize registration refugee aliens for service in such cases?
These refugee doctors have proved themselves to be most efficient. Most of those who have taken up practice in country areas in these circumstances, have already done exceptionally good work. However, there seems to be a bias on the part of the
British Medical Association and the State Government which hinders them from taking over such practices. I do not doubt that the State Governments are actuated by sound reasons, but the paramount consideration is that medical assistance must be made available, even if only temporarily, in these country areas. One way in which this can be done is by permitting the registration of these refugee doctors. I know personally that some of the doctors who came to this country shortly a Ite i the outback of war are very grateful for the generosity and protection extended to them in Australia. They undertook to remain in those districts and things went on happily for a while. But after they had learned what a grand country they were living in and that they had plenty of freedom, many of them decided to seek the bright lights of the cities and the much larger fees available there. It is unfair that they should be permitted to move from the country areas, where medical aid is badly needed, to cities where there are sufficient doctors for the needs of the community. Most of these men took over the practices of country doctors who had enlisted in our fighting forces, and when they moved to the cities they again took over the practices of Australians who were serving their country under arms. Except for the fact that they had medical training, there is not much difference between these alien doctors and their compatriots who are behind barbed wire to-day. The . Government should compel them to give an undertaking to stay for a fixed period of time at least in the country practices where, in the first instance, they obtained refuge. It is the least that they can do for the country which has given them sanctuary. I hope that the Government will take action along the lines that I have suggested, so that country districts will not be bereft of the medical assistance which they badly need.
Once again I refer to the Government’s delay in fulfilling its oft-repeated promise to decentralize some of our defence industries. Many country districts have been almost denuded of population as the result of enlistments in the fighting forces, and the movement of men and women to the cities in order to obtain more profitable employment in the munitions industries than is available in their home districts. Many country towns are languishing and businesses are being forced out of existence. Unless something be done to counteract this tendency, serious repercussions must follow. The Government should establish some of its war industries, internments camps, military camps, aerodromes and other branches of defence activity in needy country districts. Large quantities of machine tools are available in many towns. Recently I furnished to the Manpower and Resources Survey Committee details of plant that is available in a number of country towns in my electorate. I believe that the committee was surprised to learn that there was a great deal of equipment and skilled labour available in those rural areas. Many of these skilled workers are unemployed. There are many large vacant buildings where munition manufacturing plant could be established and war production commenced. It is of strategic importance that we should have a considerable number of our munition factories established some distance from the coast. Some of the most competent military authorities have said that it is criminal to concentrate important war industries near the sea-board. If we should be attacked - I say this with a recollection of statements that were made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) at a secret meeting of honorable members and senators - and forced to fall back from the coast and defend our country some distance inland, thus losing important munition factories, and the means of supplying our Army with equipment, our predicament would be tragic. The importance of this is easy to appreciate. The Government is fully aware of the soundness of the policy which I advocate, but for reasons best known to itself, but about which honorable members can draw their own conclusions, it has not adopted that policy. Our conclusions centre on the fact that the Government is dominated by big industrial monopolies, which find it expedient and profitable to have their industries established near the coast, where supplies of raw materials and skilled labour are more easily obtainable than in the country districts. Nevertheless the Government is following a dangerous course. It should realize the importance of keeping our country districts solvent, and making some preparation for re-construction after the war when thousands of soldiers and munition workers will be thrown on to the employment market. We must now devise some method of absorbing these people into our primary and secondary industries if we are to cope successfully with post-war reconstruction problems. In view of this, the Government would be wise to establish more factories in country areas. I have not yet heard of any move being made by the Government to prepare for postwar re-construction. We do not know how soon peace may come; we hope that it will be soon. But whether it comes soon or late, I can see that no preparations will be made by this Government until somebody explodes a political bomb underneath it and arouses it to a proper sense of responsibility. I sincerely hope that before this Parliament meets again the Government will put some of its promises into operation, and that it will be able to provide us with tangible evidence that the needs of people in our rural districts are being given sympathetic consideration.
– Earlier in this sitting the former Minister in Charge of External Territories (Mr. Collins) made a statement concerning an application which had been made by a certain company for permission to enter the uncontrolled areas of New Guinea in search of flow oil. I do not know whether the Minister inadvertently overlooked some of the facts of the case, but he stated that the company had not submitted any proof to him that there was sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation of the claim that flow oil had been discovered in those uncontrolled areas. I have since been advised by the company that it submitted to the Minister, in confidence, a letter containing the names of certain prominent and reputable citizens who were prepared to furnish information in support of the company’s claims. I hope that it will be made clear to the House that that was actually done by the company.
I now direct attention to a report which appeared in the Daily Mirror on the 28th June, concerning the plans which the Government is alleged to have made for the absorption into essential industries of labour which has been displaced from non-essential industries as the result of Government policy. The article read as follows : -
The organization of civil industry, made necessary by the curtailment of some industries, was likely to be one of the first and most important matters discussed by the newlyformed Economic Cabinet, the Minister for Labour and National Services (Mr. Holt) said to-day.
Mr. Holt said he would shortly discuss with the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Spooner) plans for the absorption of displaced labour. The problem of dealing with people holding “ white collar “ jobs who were affected would receive special attention.
I understood that the Government stated that it intended to provide for the absorption of all the people who would be displaced by reason of the re-organization of industry for Avar purposes. I should like to know what is meant by “people holding white collar jobs”. I take it that that expression does not include clerks. It is more likely to apply to persons holding high executive positions. Why should they receive “ special attention “ from the Government? I have declared on a number of occasions in this House, and I repeat now, that in my opinion the Government’s policy is intended i to create a large army of unemployed and that its purpose is to keep men unemployed so that they may be forced into enlisting. In any case there is no justification for showing special preference to “ people holding white collar jobs
Another serious matter that I bring to the notice of the Government relates to the encouragement that is being given by certain interests to the development in Australia of pro-Nazi opinions. I invite the attention of honorable members to the following “ letter to the editor “ which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on the 3rd July: -
Your, cartoon on the 24th June, showing Mr. Churchill saluting Stalin makes me ashamed to be of British blood. How dare you associate this bloody criminal with British aims, hopes, and aspirations!
If there be a greater collection of mongrels and curs than the Germans it is the Russians, and I, for one, hope they get the tripe belted out of them - and I don’t care who does it. “ When thieves fall out,” &c.
Orescent-road, Mona Vale.
The fact that that letter was published suggests that the Government is favorable to the views expressed therein. We have been told that the censorship is designed to protect the interests of Australia, but the publication of such letters is definitely not helpful. It seems to me that although the great mass of the Australian people were greatly relieved to learn that the armies of Russia were fighting the German hordes, the Government is still disposed to do everything in its power to discredit the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. At any rate, the publication of letters couched in such abusive terms as the one that I have just read is entirely unwarranted. The Government does not appear to share the view of the Australian public that it is a good thing that the troops of Russia have entered the field against the Nazis and so provided our own forces with a much needed respite. There appears to me to be a cooling-off of the enthusiasm of the Government in connexion with the war effort, for although the Russians are fighting, we are not pressing home our attack on Hitler and his Nazi hordes. 1 remember that not so long ago, when certain honorable members criticized Japanese policy, an appeal was made to them by leading members of the Government not to make statements likely to be provocative to a neutral power, and thus increase the difficulties of the Government in dealing with an already delicate situation. It appears, that an attitude sympathetic to Russia is not to be encouraged. lt is true that the Russians may not be regarded by some to be our allies, in the ordinarily accepted sense of the word, but it is also true that the forces of Russia are at death-grips with the German armies, and the Government should not permit the proprietors of any newspaper to publish letters couched in language so abusive of Russia as the one T have read. I further say that strong action should be taken against all those who are endeavouring to create a pro–
Nazi sentiment in this country. Now that the Soviet troops are in the fight, we should not “ pull our punches “ in order that Hitler may strike the Russians with greater severity. I desire the Government to take immediate action against all who indulge in propaganda of this kind, and to ensure that there will be no repetition of such an offence.
.- 1 wish to make some observations concerning the announcement of the Government that Mr. H. T. . Armitage has been appointed Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Once again the newspaper choice for an important public office has been confirmed.
– I suppose the honorable member will say that, for once, the Government has done the right thing.
– I do say it, but I cannot help wondering how it came about. All I can say is that it appears to be very much easier to prevent people from securing positions than it is to ensure that a certain individual will be appointed. I should like the Treasurer, when he has a leisure moment, to tell us why Mr. Kershaw was dismissed from consideration, for, at one time, he seemed to have strong support for the position. I should like to know from the Minister at the table when the investigation made by a. committee which included members of this House, appointed at the suggestion of the Commonwealth Bank Board to investigate the questions of hire-purchase, cash orders and other related subjects, is likely to see the light of day. I understand that the matter of hire-purchase agreements is causing considerable perturbation in the minds of the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board. I hold rather decided views in respect of hirepurchase agreements, the lay-by system, the time payment system, and other methods which are supposed to have been devised in order to help the working man to obtain credit when he needs it, but which in practice are likely to cause havoc and disaster in the homes of many families. The venture known as hirepurchase has never been of any advantage to the Australian public.
I am sorry that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), when he delivered his carefullyprepared statement in respect of uniform taxation and the finances of the country, covering particularly the financial year just closed, did not tell honorable members in some detail what his particular objections are to the schemes advanced by the different State Premiers in opposition to his own scheme. For example, what was wrong with that portion of the scheme advanced by the Queensland Government, which provided for a maximum dividend rate? Has the Government any decided objection to the view of Mr. Forgan Smith, which has the support of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), in that regard? Is there any particular reason why shareholders in companies should receive a greater rate of interest on their paid-up investments - not on watered stock - than is received by those who invest in war loans? Perhaps on another occasion the Treasurer may be able to devote some attention to that very important aspect of national finance. There is a good deal of wisdom in the general submission of the Queensland Premier ; consequently, I am sorry that the Treasurer was not able to be more expansive and more explanatory. The honorable gentleman told us that Australia is £16,000,000 behind in its net war expenditure. I had a haunting suspicion that the amount might have been larger, because of manipulation of the old device whereby some moneys are paid into trust funds and are credited to expenditure when, in point of fact, the money has not been expended at all. That was a common trick of the New South Wales Treasury. I hope that it is not practised in this National Parliament,
I felt somewhat sympathetic towards the observations of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) in regard to the shortage of doctors in country centres, but I dissent- strongly from his view that alien doctors should be registered by the Commonwealth and sent into those areas. Solution of the problem surely lies either in the nationalization of health or in the appointment of Australian doctors as State or Commonwealth public servants, to serve in those areas! Doctors are appointed as public servants to take charge of mental asylums and children’s welfare departments, and to assist our municipalities. If, for economic reasons, medical men cannot remain in country areas, inducements such as I have suggested should be offered to them.
– They cannot be secured at any price.
– I am not sure of that. Prior to the war, every doctor who came to Australia from Italy or Japan, could automatically become registered in this country, under a reciprocal arrangement entered into by the universities of Australia, Italy and Japan. For the reason that a similar arrangement was not made with German universities, any doctor who came from that country was not able to obtain automatic registration. There may have been good reasons for the absence of reciprocity with Germany. The authorities who control the Conferring of degrees in medicine in Australian universities, may have considered that the degrees conferred by some German universities were not indicative of the possession by the holders of a sufficiently high standard of medical knowledge. I do not desire that any doctor shall be let loose on the Australian community merely because he happens toll old some sort of medical degree.
I referred recently to the depredations of the Telson Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited, which is presided over by a person who is a director of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, the National Bank of Australasia Limited, and the Metropolitan Fresh Food and Ice Company Limited, and is associated with the Australian Newsprint Mills Proprietary Limited;, in Tasmania. In support of the contention that I made on that occasion, I am in receipt of a letter from a constituent of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He has forwarded to me documentary evidence which shows how he was obliged to pay an amount which he had guaranteed on behalf of a man who has since gone overseas, leaving behind him what the Telson Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited regarded as a debt. He has no redress under the form of guarantee; Telsons have the last word, and determine everything. Thus this man has been forced to pay for a good turn that he did to a man who is now abroad. There is no moratorium, or anything of that sort, for working class people who give guarantees to companies of this kind.
I hope that action will be taken in respect of these snide companies, the directors of which are growing rich as the result of legalized robbery. Because the principal gentleman concerned, Mr. H. D. Giddy, is a director of the Melbourne Herald and “Weekly Times Limited, I hope that the Government will not shirk a fight with him, any more than it is apparently shirking one with Australian Consolidated Industries Limited in respect of allegedly profiteering which an officer of a Commonwealth department found when he investigated its books.
From time to time we have seen references to the racketeering that is practised, and the extraordinary contrast between riches and poverty, in the capital city of the Empire. I direct attention to this matter,” because similar undesirable contrasts are provided in this country - an ostentatious display of wealthby the, vulgarians, side by side with undeserved poverty, in some of our capital cities, at, a time when the nation is supposed to be united as one in fighting the common enemy, in order that we may have a new social order, and that democracy shall survive in the struggle with the forces of Nazi-ism and tyranny. The Sydney Morning Herald of Friday, the 23rd May, 1941, published a two-column article upon conditions in London, from a staff correspondent in that capital city. It read -
In the three months in which I have been in England, I have probably seen more of the country than the average Englishman seas in a lifetime. By force of circumstances I have had to travel through the length and breadth of the land - to the great industrial centres, to the social resorts, and to the countryareas I have lived in England’s leading luxury hotel (facetiously referred to by my journalistic colleagues as my “gilded cage”). I have spent much time in other leading luxury hotels in London, and I have stayed in highpriced hotels all over England. I have also stayed in country “ pubs “, and to-day I am sleeping on the floor in Fleet-street. ‘ I saw so much that pained and oppressed me in these luxury places that I can honestly say that, if I hadmychoicebetween my “gilded cage” and a bedon the floor in Fleet-street, I would choose the bed on the floor. It seemed impossible to me” as I sat” in gaudy and lavish surroundings and watched women in expensive evening gowns and smartly-tailored men ordering extravagant dinners and expensive drinks that the mass of the people were fighting desperately and with a magnificent courage against a savagery such as the world has never seen before. In their steel and concrete fortress,surrounded by huge brick blast walls, they are able to sit comfortably through the fiercest raid with hardly an evidence that buildings were being devastated and people dying all over the city. Even the roar of the huge guns a few hundred yards away come to them only as a muffled thudding.
That is what is happening in the capital of the Empire, and the Government should take steps to ensure that nothing of the kind happens here. On the 16th May, the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Menzies) addressed a press conference in New York, and was reported as follows: - “Never again in our lifetime will there be extremes in riches and poverty.” “ Taxation has already eliminated great incomes.” “ Whatever the war’s outcome, the world as we know it has gone for ever. The new world will be very unlike the old.”
Duringthe recess the Government will haveample opportunity to prepare an instalment of the “ new order “ to be placed before Parliament when it reassembles I commend these suggestions to the Treasurer (Mr.Fadden), and to the galaxy of ministerial talent which has attended in such unwonted strength to listen to me and other honorable members at such a late hour to-night.
– There is nothing I can add to what I said yesterday regarding prospecting for oil in New Guinea, except to reply to the statements of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) regarding certain correspondence. I do receive confidential communications but, unlike the honorable, member for East Sydney, I am not in the habit of disclosing their contents. I had investigations made of the matters touched upon in the correspondence, but they did not throw any light on the subject, nor did they convince me that a permit should be issued for prospectors to enter uncontrolled territory. The honorable member said that the company offered to take its shares off the market while boring operations were in progress. That was a fair undertaking. What I was most concerned about was a letter directed to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.Fadden) stating that the company could produce men who had been on the ground and had seen flow oil there; as the letter put it, “ not supposed oil, not globules of oil. but oil in commercial quantities equal to anything in the East Indies “. I questioned the general manager of the company in New Guinea, who said that he wished to dissociate himself completely from any silly or wild statements about, flow oil. I told the person concerned that if he could produce these men to me when I visited Melbourne, and if I were satisfied of the truth of their statements, I would do everything possible to expedite the granting of the permit. The chairman of directors said that he could produce statutory declarations, but I said that I wanted to see the men in the flesh. The company then wrote to me stating that the men could not be produced because they had left Australia. That sort of thing makes one wonder. Had the company been able to support its statements, I should have been only too glad to ask the Administrator of New Guinea to expedite the peaceful penetration of the area in question. The same person asked me to investigate the alleged remarks of a departmental officer who was supposed to know the position in regard to oil deposits, but when I had an investigation made, it was found that this officer had never made any statement on the subject., nor did he know of the existence of any oil other than some slight indications in a different area altogether. The new Minister will deal with this matter in the future, but I wished to reply to the allegations made, because I was the Minister in charge at the relevant time. Honorable members will appreciate that I could not give permission to enter this area unless I was satisfied of the truth of the claims made by the company. On a previous occasion, when prospectors entered an uncontrolled area, the lives of both white men and natives were lost.
– Did this person give the names of the mcn who, he said, had seen the deposits?
– No; he merely said that he could produce them. If I had authorized prospectors to force an entry into uncontrolled territory, and it was discovered afterwards that no oil existed there, what would have been my position ?
– In the next three or four days I shall be returning to my electorate. There are certain matters which I have brought before the Government on several occasions, and I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to use his influence in the Cabinet to induce the Government to make a decision in regard to them. Like many other honorable members I represent a constituency which has not benefited from defence expenditure. As a matter of fact, the manpower of all country towns has been depleted and stagnation exists on every hand. Some men have gone into the Militia, some into the Australian Imperial Force, and others have been drawn to the capital cities to work in munition factories. Because of the completion of water and sewerage schemes in Bundaberg and Rockhampton in both of those towns there are over 1,000 people unemployed. The representatives of the trade unions, the workers and the Chambers of Commerce have been very active in making representations to me to endeavour to induce the Commonwealth Government to give favorable consideration to proposals put forward by Mount Morgan Limited for assistance towards the establishment of a copper refinery and the erection of plant for the production of pyrites at Mount Morgan, and for the encouragement of copper production. The production of copper in Australia is insufficient to meet our requirements, and we have to supplement it by importing copper from abroad. A number of copper mines could be re-opened in north-western and central Queensland. A company owning one of these mines has for some time been making representation to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance to enable the mine to be re-opened. If the mine were worked employment could be provided to upwards of 4C0 men at a time when hundreds of married men in Rockhampton are looking to the municipal and State authorities for work. Most of the unemployed at Rockhampton could be absorbed if the Mount Chalmers copper mine and the copper refinery at Mount Morgan were in operation. In addition many men could be employed if assistance were provided to enable Mount Morgan Limited to undertake the production of pyrites. This is not a new matter.
Replying on the 26th June to representations which I made on this subject the then Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) said: -
With reference to your letter of 25th June regarding Mount Chalmers copper mine and the suggested copper refinery at Mount Morgan, the position is that these matters were referred to the Copper and Bauxite Committee for consideration and early attention. I understand that the committee proposes to submit a preliminary report concerning its activities shortly and I have asked t the Secretary of the Department of Supply and Development to have me kept advised on this matter.
I have been receiving letters of that kind for the last six or eight months. Naturally the unemployed and the people interested in this enterprise are becoming impatient. When I arrive in my electorate within the next few days they will want to know if the Commonwealth Government has come to any definite decision in regard to the matter. No one knows belter than the Treasurer the conditions which exist in northern and central Queensland. I ask the honorable gentleman to give favorable consideration to these requests.
I do not intend now to go into the whole question of the production of power alcohol in Australia. I merely ask the Treasurer to see that no time is lost in putting into operation the scheme outlined by the Minister for Supply and Development on the 25th June, when he said that the Government had decided as a first objective to aim at a production of 22,000,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum, of which 7,000,000 gallons would be provided from anhydrous distilleries, 5,000,000 from existing rectified spirit distilleries, and 10,000,000 from new distilleries to be erected. My complaint is that the decision of the Government in regard to this matter does not meet with the approval of the Queensland Cane-growers Council. Mr. R. Muir, the secretary of the council, who was also a member of the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry which inquired into this industry, issued a circular letter on the 27th June last which contained the following paragraph : -
Naturally all engaged in the sugar industry will be somewhat disappointed that the Commonwealth Government has not seen fit to include this State in its programme to spend fi, 100,000 to provide new distillery capacity.
I have no objection to what has been proposed in the way of new distilleries for the production of power alcohol from wheat in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. My only complaint is that provision was not made for additional distillery capacity in Queensland where there is such an acute over-production problem in the sugar industry. As the result of the increasing difficulty of getting shipping space to take our surplus sugar overseas the problem is becoming accentuated. I content myself now by asking the Treasurer to reconsider the advisability of providing additional distillery capacity in Queensland. The shortage of liquid fuel is a matter of first-rate importance to-day and it will become of greater importance as it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain petrol from overseas. . I stress the importance of these matters and ask the Treasurer for some definite assurance that they will be dealt with by the Government at once.
– While the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was Acting Prime Minister I brought before him certain correspondence from the Victorian Refugee Migration Appeals Committee relating to the interned refugees who were sent to Australia from Great Britain. The honorable gentleman informed me that the matter was receiving consideration. A great number of refugees were interned in England following the disturbances and the terror of May, 1940. Some were subsequently sent to Canada, and others to Australia. There are now about 2,000 of them in the internment camps at Hay and Tatura. It is now admitted by the British authorities that the wholesale internment of refugees in May and June, 1940, was a mistake, and that a great number of these people should be at liberty. There were some tragic cases. There was that of an Austrian musician who was in England at the outbreak of the war at the invitation of English musicians. He was interned during the terror of May, 1940. Whilst he was in the internment camp he contracted tuberculosis and died. There is a general demand for the release of many of these unfortunate people; but we can do nothing about it without the consent - of the British Government. The Commonwealth
Government merely acts as their custodian. Had it been possible to provide transport facilities many of them would have been back in Great Britain by now. But it is not possible, and their only hope is the United States of America. In that connexion, however, a difficulty has arisen, which, I hope, will be overcome, and that is that the United States of America will not grant visas to any person whose release from internment is merely conditional. Unconditional release is a p re-requisite to the Consul of the United States of America granting visas for migration to that country. I should like the Treasurer to give his attention to this matter with a view to representations being made to Great Britain.
.L should not have risen at this late hour but for a matter which I consider to be of supreme importance. Certain constituents of mine, members of the Militia Force, have received notice that they will be required for continuous military duty for the duration of the war. I have not made any bones about where I stand in regard to conscription. I am opposed to conscription for home service as well as for service overseas. I. am opposed to it on religious grounds, because I do not believe that any man or any government ought to force any individual to take up the art of killing his fellow-men. But apart from that aspect, I take up the case of my constituents now because many of them have dependent mothers, sisters or younger brothers. It is totally unfair and inequitable that a sacrifice should be demanded from those individuals, whereas other individuals make no sacrifice at all. The men concerned are members of the 10th Anti-aircraft Battery stationed at Williamstown racecourse. It is merely by chance that they are not in the infantry, where they would be called upon to serve two periods of three months each year and be free for the remainder of the year to earn good wages in order to meet their commitments. I suppose that the Minister will say that it is necessary to call these men up for the duration of the war because they are members of a technical unit in which the period of training is long. My answer is that if the Government gave a sufficiently high scale of pay it would get all the volunteers it needs for any branch of the Services. It always strikes me as anomalous that this Government which is so enthusiastic about the capitalist system runs away from that system when it comes to the payment of those who fight for us, because the theory of capitalism is this : The reward for work done or services rendered is always just sufficiently high to draw the necessary number of men needed to do that work or to render that service. The correct thing to do under the capitalist system would he to offer a sufficiently high reward to attract sufficient men into the fighting services.
I am concerned, too. about another aspect of the matter, and I am sorry that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) is not in the chamber to hear what I have to say. When these young men complained to me I immediately rang up the commanding officer of the unit concerned. . He was not particularly pleased about it. He said that the men had no business to come to me. I deny that. This is a very serious thing; they had every right to come to me as their member. I do not concede the right of soldiers to approach members of Parliament about trifling matters of military routine, but in such an important matter as this they had every right to come to me. As a sequel to my talk over the ‘phone with the commanding officer the unit was paraded and the men were told that on the next occasion they approached their member in connexion with military matters they would be dealt with. I ask the Treasurer to take this matter up with the Minister for the Army, because no officer in charge of a unit has the right to adopt such an attitude. In fact, I understand that the Minister for the Army has issued instructions that the practice must cease. I brought the matter of the calling up of these young men for the duration of the war to the notice of the Minister for the Army to-day, and he gave me a reply which does not satisfy. The last paragraph of that reply reads : -
Any cases of hardship can always be considered on their merits and it is within the rights of those who may bc affected to make application through the commanding officer for leave or exemption from such full-time duty.
Just imagine the treatment that they would receive from their commanding officer if I told them to pursue that course. I have been in the Army, and I know how difficult conditions can be made for individuals who are unpopular in the eyes of those in command. I do not think that the young men, 25 in all, will from now on receive a very fair spin. “Whatever may happen in the future, I appeal to the Government to release these men from service for the duration of the war. All of them did two three-monthly training periods last year, and their regular camp training this year. So to a large degree they have discharged their duty to the country. I urge the Government to give instructions for the release of these men from the obligation to serve for the duration of the war. I treat this matter very seriously indeed. Last night the Government was given a taste of the pressure which members of this party can bring to bear when it mobilizes its numbers. I want the Government to understand that if it does not take action favourable to the men, I shall do my best to repeat that performance.
Six months ago, the Government announced, in response to requests from all sides of the House, that it would appoint a Standing Committee on Taxation. For six months, the Government did nothing, but a few days ago it announced that it would appoint a committee. The personnel of the committee was then disclosed. The Labour members of that body had been chosen nearly six months ago. Shortly after the Government announced the personnel, the chairman of that committee, a government supporter, resigned. It was only late last evening that I learned the terms of reference of the committee, which are much more restricted than we on this side understood that they would be. They confine the work of the committee to an examination of the anomalies of the sales tax legislation, whereas it was distinctly understood that the committee was to be asked to review the whole field of taxation. I, personally, have given this matter a great deal of attention during the last six months, with the result that I had prepared several important suggestions for increasing the revenue. For instance, one idea I had in mind, which I mentioned in the House this week, was that the Treasurer should consider the imposition of a special tax on the holders of £500,000,000 worth of securities which were converted in 1931 under the debt conversion legislation. The holders of these securities have not yet paid Id. towards the cost of the war by way of tax on the securities they hold. I had several other suggestions, to make with the same end in view. However, the Government has restricted the work of the committee to the consideration of the anomalies of the sales tax. For that reason, I decided to-night that no useful purpose could be served by my continuing as a member of that committee, and I have forwarded my resignation from that body to the Prime Minister.
– Although I have many matters which I should like to raise at this juncture, I propose, in view of the hour, to deal with only two of them. Recently, I pressed the Government to release an internee whose qualifications fitted him to play an important part in our war effort. I was then told by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) that the matter would be looked into. .Representations have been made in respect of similar cases over a long period, but nothing seems to have been done. I appreciate the fact that certain difficulties confront the Government in a matter of this kind. I again urge the Government to give prompt attention to my request that this man be released. He is capable of rendering the form of assistance which our war departments are seeking. As the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) pointed out, it is now generally admitted that many of the people who were picked up in England during the threatened invasion of that country last year, and sent out to Australia where they are now interned, should never have been interned at all. However, one difficulty is that if they are released ways and means must be found to transport them to other countries which will accept them. I emphasize that the man to whom I have referred particularly, is not only able, but also willing to participate in our war effort in a sphere where technical skill is urgently required.
I repeat that he is strongly antiNazi. Surely the Government can find a way to utilize the services of a man who possesses his high qualifications as a tool-designing engineer. I, personally, know of this man’s qualifications.
I also desire to draw attention to the delays which are still taking place in the settling of disputes in the Arbitration Court. The information contained in the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Government proposed to postpone the introduction of the amending Arbitration Bill in an endeavour to evolve a scheme suitable to all parties in order to bring about a smoother working of our arbitration machinery, commends itself to honorable members: I point out, however, that in the meantime, considerable irritation is being caused because applications for war loadings are not being dealt with in a Commonwealth Court, although similar applications have been granted in some of the States. Judges, of course, do not make explanations. The fact remains that the men interested in these claims are not receiving a hearing. Complaints are also being made about delays being experienced in getting decisions from the reference boards which were set up for the purpose of promptly settling minor disputes. I know of cases which have been held up for twelve months. I do not blame the chairman of the Board of Reference who is responsible for giving decisions. Obviously, he is not being given the assistance in his work which he so urgently requires. It seems strange that any substantial delay should occur in giving decisions after the hearing of evidence has been concluded. One aspect of the matter is that as these decisions are subject to appeal, the chairman will not give a decision without very careful consideration of each case. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to bring this matter to the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) and to remind his colleague that it has been brought up in this House on many occasions. I ask that the fullest possible assistance be given to the chairmen of the Boards of Reference. It i3 useless to attempt to pacify the men by merely reminding them that these boards have been established. The men want decisions. When such serious delays occur in the announcements of decisions after the completion of the hearing, these boards appear to be somewhat farcical. I am not being unduly critical ; I merely ask the Treasurer to bring it under the notice of the Attorney-General, who, no doubt, will act immediately and have the position remedied. Perhaps I am too optimistic. If something be not done, we shall have a very good case for taking action in order to ensure more prompt decisions bv Ministers.
– in reply - I have listened with interest to the observations of various honorable members. Their submissions will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Ministers. However, I shall refer now to several matters that were raised.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has been consistent and persistent in his efforts to obtain the best possible results from the exploitation of the mineral resources of central Queensland. As the result of representations which he made, I was encouraged to establish a special committee to investigate the copper and bauxite resources of the whole of Australia. That committee has visited various places, including Mount Morgan and Mount Chalmers, and its report will be made available to the Government in the near future. The Mount Chalmers mine was visited by Mr. Mawley, a technical officer of the Commonwealth Government, who found that there were 28,000,000 gallons of water in the mine. He is at present evolving some scheme to remove that water. Until he succeeds, nothing can be done to put the mine into successful operation.
The Deputy Leader of- the Opposition also referred to power alcohol. The honorable gentleman must know that there is no need to arouse my sympathy in the power alcohol industry, because I have been an ardent advocate of its development since 1931. But, whilst those persons engaged in the sugar industry of Queensland may be disappointed with the immediate recommendations of the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry, they can at least afford to be patient.
The Government had to take many factors into consideration, including priorities with regard to machinery and distillery equipment. It had to relate the production of power alcohol to the petrol supply of this country, in order that it could establish an economic blend. Another factor was the perilous condition of other industries apart from the sugar industry. For that reason the wheat industry has been given something which the sugar industry has had for many years - that is the right to convert its surplus crop into power alcohol. Therefore, the sugar industry has no just grounds for complaint. The production of 22,000,000 gallons a year is the first step towards the implementation of the maximum recommendations of the committee for the production of 50,000,000 gallons a year. I assure the honorable gentleman that the sugar industry will receive sympathetic consideration because the Government recognizes its value as a potential producer of power alcohol as a liquid fuel.
– What about my request for assistance for the establishment of an electrolytic copper refinery at Mount Morgan, and a plant for the production of pyrites?
– That matter has been raised before by the honorable gentleman and has received the consideration of the Government. I am hopeful that something will be achieved in that direction very soon.
I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) announce his resignation from the Taxation Committee. I’ believe that some misunderstanding must exist in connexion with the terms of reference of that committee. With his knowledge of the incidence of taxation, the honorable gentleman must realize that it would take many months for a parliamentary committee to make a full inquiry into the subject of taxation as a science. Royal commission after royal commission has inquired into this very complex subject, and the last royal commission took four years to arrive at a finding. In this time of emergency, the incidence of sales tax and the task of rectifying anomalies deserve serious con sideration; the honorable member could give very valuable service in that direction before the next budget is introduced.
I regret that I have to refer to a matter which was mentioned by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who took my department to task last night. I know that the honorable member did so on the basis of information that he had, but he must have been misled. I appreciate the fact that his attack was not directed at me personally, but in all fairness to myself and to my department, I should make the position quite plain. The honorable member referred to a loan for £10,400 which the Braybrook Shire Council desires to raise for road construction. On the 31st March, the shire secretary wrote to the honorable member and pointed out that it was necessary to obtain the consent of the State Treasurer to borrow the amount required. The correspondence was forwarded to me on the 4th April. My reply, dated the 7th April, stated that the necessary inquiries would be made. This matter was not within my jurisdiction, but in accordance with the promise made, the Commonwealth Actuary, on my instructions, forwarded full particulars in writing to the Victorian State Treasurer. No written acknowledgment was received, and the Actuary telephoned the State Treasurer’s office on the 14th May, when he was informed that the details had been submitted by the State authorities to the Co-ordinator-General of Works. This information was given to the honorable member by telegram immediately on its receipt, and any delay which may have occurred cannot rightly be attributed to me or to the Treasury officials. Under the provisions of the National Security (Capital Issue) Regulations, loans by local authorities for less than £25,000 can be approved by a State Treasurer, without reference to me. Consequently this loan, as pointed out by the honorable member’s own correspondent, did not require my consent. As a matter of courtesy to the honorable member, the details were forwarded by me to the State authorities, and as the matter was solely within their jurisdiction, the further information supplied by the State Treasury was given to him. Inquiries made to-day revealed that the loan has been included in the Victorian programme for borrowings in 1941-42 for submission to the Co-ordinator-General.
– I accept that, but what caused the delay after the matter was referred to Sir Harry Brown?
– That is a matter for the State authorities.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1941 -
No. 13 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association and Others; Commonweal th Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia; Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association ; Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia; and Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
No. 14 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 15 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union; Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association; and Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 141.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 127.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Elizabeth Bay, New South Wales.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of reservation of certain lands near Katherine.
House adjourned at 2.4 a.m., until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker and to be notified by him to each memberby telegram or letter.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In the event of the forthcoming Australian wheat crop exceeding 140,000,000 bushels, will the Minister state whether the £26,750,000, which the Government proposes to make available, will be spread over the whole amount of wheat harvested, or over only the 140,000,000 bushels which the Government estimates as the possible crop?
– I refer the honorable member to the answers given by me onthe 18th June, and the 1st July to similar questions asked by him.
Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems : Report - Credit Expansion.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Australian people are vitally interested in monetary policy at the present time, will the Government make available another edition of the report of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems?
– A reprint of this report was obtained last year, and an ample supply of copies is still available. Copies may be purchased at the Government Printing Office, Canberra, and at the Commonwealth Sub-treasury in each of the capital cities.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Government’s policy in regard to this matter has been stated very clearly on a number of occasions. I propose to make a statement this afternoon on the subject of Commonwealth finances, in which reference will be made to the part which credit expansion should play in the maintenance of the war effort.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member at as early a date as possible.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Power Alcohol Distilleries.
s. - On the 1st July, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked a question, without notice, in which he suggested that consideration be given to the matterof establishing additional power alcohol distilleries in Queensland.
I now inform the honorable member that full consideration was given to this matter when the Government decided to proceed with the expansion of (the power alcohol industry. As a first objective, the government programme provides for the production of 4,000,000 gallons of power alcohol in Queensland - the production in that State is now only 1,250,000 gallons - 4,000,000 gallons in New South Wales, 4,000,000 gallons in Victoria, 3,000,000 gallons in South Australia, and 2,000,000 gallons per annum in Western Australia. Ten million gallons of this will be produced from wheat, while the remaining 7,000,000 gallons will be produced from molasses supplemented by 44,000 tons of raw sugar per annum. In fixing these quotas for each State consideration was given to the question of the quantity which could be absorbed with petrol on a rationed basis to provide an optimum mixture.
Merchant Sailors’ Dependants.
Mr.Conelan asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Has any provision been made for dependants of sailors on Australian articles who are confined as prisoners of war in foreign countries?
– Yes. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowance Act 1940 makes provision for allowances to dependants in respect of detention consequent on his capture or the capture of his ship by reason of war operations.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Government come to any decision to amend the law affecting conscientious objectors to military service to bring it into line with the law in Great Britain which provides(a) exemption conditional on undertaking non-combatant military work, (b) exemption conditional on undertaking nonmilitary work under civilian control, and (c) exemption from military service or from any work provided as an alternative to it?
– This matter is still under consideration.
Defence Forces: Co-ordinating of Recruiting Appeals.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he consider the suggestion made by the Williamstown Australian Imperial Force recruiting committee to the effect that much more efficient results would be obtained and much expense saved if the three separate campaigns representing the Australian Imperial Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Australian Navy were amalgamated so that each committee could enlist men for any of the three services?
– Consideration will be given to the suggestion.
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– Endowment may not be paid in any case after the child attains the age of sixteen years.
Generally speaking the fact that the child has left school and is employed will be disregarded. There may be comparatively few instances where the conditions of employment such as abnormally high remuneration or the provision of board and lodgings complicate the question. These cases will be determined on their individual merits after an examination of all the facts.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What decision lias been made by Cabinet on the request, that free school requisites be provided for the children of soldiers?
– Consideration has been given to this request, but the proposal was not approved.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s .questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to 1:he honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Highway.
er. - This morning the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) asked the following question, without notice : -
Is the Minister in a position to say when work will commence on the Eas.t-West highway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie?
I now inform the honorable member that camp sites are now being reconnoitred and parties being assembled. No delay will take place in making a. start on this work.
r. - On the 2nd July, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked the following question, without notice : -
Is the Minister for the Army prepared to make a statement to the House before it adjourns on the subject of compensation to soldiers who are not covered by the provisions of the Repatriation Act? I believe that the departmental committee which was appointed has reported on this subject to the Minister.
I now inform the honorable member that the report of this committee has been received and the question is now under consideration by the Government. I anticipate that a decision will be given at an early date.
Petrol Rationing : Operations at Jesmond Mine.
– Earlier to-day the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked, without notice, whether sufficient petrol would be provided to enable the supply of essential pit timber to coal mines to enable them to continue operations’. In this connexion, he particularly referred to the Jesmond mine.
I now inform the honorable member that the Minister for Supply and Development has furnished the following reply : -
Steps are being taken to ensure that there will be no hold-up of supplies of pit timber for coal mines flue to any lack of petrol supplies.
l asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
New Guinea - Native Labour in Mines ; Uncontrolled Abbas ; Petroleum Supplies.
4;Ward asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
Will the Government take immediate steps to amend the New Guinea. Ordinances relating to Uncontrolled Areas and Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining) to permit persons and companies to carry out explorations and prospecting in what are now called Uncontrolled Areas, in a portion of which oil discoveries have been reported; if not, why not?
– No. The Ordinances were designed to provide for the orderly administration of the territory having regard to the welfare of the native inhabitants and the proper development of the territory and they are considered adequate for that purpose.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Has it been decided to establish the new short-wave broadcasting station at Lyndhurst, Victoria?
– The answer is in the negative. I may mention, however, that it has been decided to establish a new short-wave broadcasting station at another place, but, for obvious reasons, it is not desirable for the locality of the station to be disclosed at this stage. If the honorable member has good reasons for wishing to know the location of the proposed station, 1 shall give him the information if he sees me privately.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions ‘ are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
What relief, if any,’ has been given to the manufacturers of knitted outerwear whose supplies of yarn were threatened?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answer: -
Large quantities of military jersey pullovers ure required, and orders will be placed with any outerwear knitters who can produce a garment sufficiently close to the sealed pattern to the satisfaction of the Army inspecting officials. As the complete output of the worsted spinning mills is needed for defence purposes, it is not practicable at the moment to make any supplies available to knitters for commercial work. However, the position is being closely watched by the department in conjunction with its textile advisers. Immediately the military requirements are sufficiently safeguarded, authority will be granted for a limited quantity of yarn to be made available for civil production.
Shoeing Steel Supplies.
r. - .Yesterday, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked, without notice, whether steps would be taken to provide for necessary supplies of shoeing steel.
I now inform the honorable member that the Minister for Munitions has furnished the following reply: - ‘
Supplies of shoeing steel are now being rolled, and it is anticipated that by the end of the current week about 1,250 tons will bc available for distribution amongst users in the several States. The first consignments should leave the works this week.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 July 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410703_reps_16_167/>.