16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took thechair at 2 p.m., and readprayers.
Sir CHARLES MARR presented a petition from certain members of the Christadelphian Ecclesias in Australia, praying that the Defence Act 1903-1939 and regulations, may be amended to harmonize with British legislation, and to permit them to conform thereto without doing violence to their religious convictions.
Employment after Training.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to a serious anomaly which exists in connexion with Militia trainees who have been called up for a second period of three months’ training, in that, upon completion of this training, they are deprived by their former employers of the work upon which they were previously engaged ? Will the honorable gentlemen see that suitable regulations are issued which will compel employers to re-engage such trainees in the work discharged by them prior to training, and thus remove this most unjust condition?
– My attention had not been drawn to the allegedanomary, I should have thought that existing legislation provided for such cases. I should like to be furnished with particularsof them, in order to see whether there has been any breach of the regulations, in which event I shall have a prosecution launched. If the regulations are not sufficiently wide to cover the position, I shall consider their liberal elaboration.
– On the 1st July, I asked the Prime Minister whether a committee was to be set up to make a survey of the economic position of Tasmania, as affected by, and in relation to, Australia’s war problems and war effort. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether such a committee has been set up? If so, who are the members of it, and when will it commence its investigations ?
– A committee has not, in fact, been set up. The matter has had some consideration by the Government, and so soon as it is determined I shall advise the honorable member of the result.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development say when a start willbe made to implement the report of Messrs. Rannie and Fairbank in respect of the Lakes Entrance oil-field?
– This reportis under consideration. I shall have a more detailed reply conveyed to the honorable member as quickly as possible.
Cost of Transport on Final Leave.
– Three or four months ago I informed the Minister for the Army that certain members of the Australian Imperial Force who were stationed at Thursday Island had been charged the cost of transport to their homes when taking their final leave, and the honorable gentleman promised that the amount would be refunded. So far, this has not been done. When may I expect that it will be done?
– I directed that the refund be made, and did not know that that had not been done. I shall ascertain the cause of the delay, and shall see that the refund is made immediately.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether there is any possibility of the Mascot telephone exchange being converted from manual to automatic operation during this year?
– The honorable gentleman’s forceful representations in respect of this project have not been overlooked. Only the difficulty of securing equipmenthas prevented the commencement of the work. It is hoped that the conversion will be completed by, possibly, the end of September.
Mr. MENZIES laid on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform me of what has happened to the comprehensive housing scheme which, in December last, he announced that he proposed to initiate? Does the honorable gentleman also propose to bring forward his scheme for the nationalization of health services, which he recently announced that he had under consideration?
– The honorable member quite wrongly suggests that I announced a scheme of my own for the nationalization of health services. Obviously, he has in mind a report made by the National Medical and Health Research Council, which made certain observations in that connexion. Members of that council have since given evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on Social Security, which, presumably, will deal with the matter in due course. The honorable member was almost equally incorrect in suggesting that I had propounded a comprehensive housing scheme. It is true that I indicated to this House that that matter was being surveyed. It, too, is being referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Social Security. Indeed, some of my own proposals have been placed before that committee, and, presumably, it will deal with them also in due course.
Subsidiary Enterprise at Singapore.
– An extract from the current issue of the Australian Industrial Mining Standard reads-
-Order! There is a definite rule against the reading of extracts when asking questions. The honorable gentleman may make a paraphrase of the information he desires to convey.
– This newspaper extract is to the effect that Australian Consolidated Industries Limited is con- tempating the setting up of a subsidiary enterprise at Singapore. 1 ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to permit this company to export capital and skilled labour from Australia at a time when those resources are so vitally needed here in order to conserve the welfare of this country?
– I had not heard of this matter until the honorable member alluded to it. I shall have inquiries made.
– Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to make a statement to the House setting out the circumstances associated with the reported loss of the SS. Mareeba, a Burns Philp vessel, which had been chartered by the Government?
– No, but I shall inquire into the matter and let the honorable gentleman have a reply.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) asked a question concerning the prosecution of certain firms in relation to service boot contracts. I have inquired from those who know, and am informed that the case will be heard on the 25th of this month.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received any reports from the joint committees that were recently appointed to inquire into numerous matters? If not, can he say when he expects to receive them ; also to what address does he suggest that they be forwarded?
– I am not aware of any reports having been received from the committees referred to. When they are ready for presentation I have no doubt that the chairmen of the various committees will forward them through the usual channels.
Debate resumed from the 22nd August (vide page 140), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– At an early hour this morning, when I was given leave to continue my remarks, I was about to refer to the action of the Government in sanctioning the importation to Australia of certain machines from the United States of America to be used in die-casting. There was already in Melbourne machinery for the manufacture of dies which could have been used in the production of munitions, but, unfortunately, the offer made by the company which owned it - Diecasters Proprietary Limited - was refused. By some extraordinary chance, an almost identical plant, although made by a different maker, was imported from the United States of America and set up in a munitions annexe which was privately-owned and had been erected by private enterDrise. When the machinery was installed, instead of its being operated on a cost basis, private enterprise was given the opportunity to work the plant on a cost plus 4 per cent. basis.I regard the approval to that basis as a wrong decision by the Government. But it merits stronger censure because of the fact that the company which erected the building to house the machinery was no other than Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. That huge octopus was given a further opportunity to expand its industrial activities. In my opinion, such action is not in the best interests of this nation. The company referred to is engaged in a number of industrial activities, and makes profits from many classes of investments. During recent years, its profits have been so great that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) is dissatisfied, and has called for a report on the company’s activities from a competent officer of his department, and has asked the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to investigate the possibility of profiteering by the management. Whilst the Minister for Trade and Customs was taking that action to check profiteering by Australian Consolidated
Industries Limited, another Minister was sanctioning the expenditure of Government money to enable machinery to be placed in a private annexe erected and controlled by this big organization. If the machinery had to be imported - and of the need to do so there is no proof, although it may be desirable to have in Australia duplicate plants for war production - 6urely the machinery could have been placed in a Government factory and operated at less cost to the nation? This powerful company, which dominates a large field of Australian industry, saw to it that the machinery was installed on its premises so that, when the war was over, the trained operatives who had worked the machinery during the war would be available to make profits for the company. At the end of the war. this machinery, for which the nation has paid £20,000, will . almost certainly be sold at a low price to Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, which will then have an excellent opportunity to increase still further its domination of the commercial life of Australia. When a protest was made by Diecasters Proprietary Limited, it was dealt with by the Director of Gun Production in the Department of Munitions, who told the company that the Government would be only too happy to use its plant. That was nearly twelve months ago, but only recently the company was informed that its plant would not be required. By a strange coincidence, the Director of Gun Production in the Department of Supply is Mr. W. J. Smith, the genius who presides over Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. That company seems to have got it not only both ways, but all ways. This is a matter which should be investigated immediately. Should there be a change of government within the next few days, as a number of people in the community believe is likely and others hope will be the case, Mr. W. J. Smith must be removed from the position of Director of Gun Production; and he should be accompanied out the back door of government employment by a number of other business executives who have been brought, in, ostensibly to assist the war effort, but, in some instances - I do not say in all instances - to aggrandize themselves.
There are some wealthy people in this community who cannot hear of a war without wanting to make profits out of it. Many of the difficulties which beset the Prime Minister to-day have their origin in the fact that certain interests which made much money out of the last war, and want to make still more out of this one, fear that, because the Prime Minister represents a Victorian electorate, he is not so amenable to suggestion and pressure as he might be if he came from another State. These interests are wrathful because they believe that too much loot is going south of the border to a place called Melbourne.
Repeated reference has been made in this ‘Parliament to the desirability of exploiting rich deposits of bauxite which occur in various parts of Australia. Recently, when I was travelling about the Commonwealth with a parliamentary committee, I was told by people in every State of deposits awaiting exploitation. Grave exception was taken to the action of the Government in continuing to import bauxite from the Dutch East Indies and other places. An official of the Mines Department in Brisbane told me that at Tambourine Mountain, about 40 miles from Brisbane, bauxite is being used to line roads, and I myself picked up a piece of it on the road at Beenleigh, a town about 40 miles south of Brisbane. I cannot see why there should be any objection to the formation of an Australian company to exploit these deposits. I recognize that such companies, if allowed to develop unchecked, tend sometimes to become as bad as the monopolies against which they railed in their infancy. To overcome that objection I suggest that the Government should hold a majority of the shares in any big company formed to exploit bauxite deposits, as it does in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. There is in Australia a company known as White Metals Proprietary Limited, which was formed to exploit what is known as the white metals process for the extraction of aluminium from bauxite. I understand that it is desired to form a company with a capital of £1,000,000; but so far the efforts of this Australian firm have been frustrated by the activities of the overseas group headed by Sir Ronald Charles. We should not permit Australian industries to be dominated by overseas capitalists. I do not like our own native capitalists any better than the gentlemen who exploit this country from overseas; but at least we can control the local capitalists. I suggest to the Minister that, if permission be granted to a big company to operate here, the Government should control a majority of its shares. We cannot get perfection under the present system of society. We cannot abolish the evils of capitalism piecemeal. When capitalism is eventualy abolished we shall get rid of most of the evils that trouble us. Any system of society that is based on the profit motive is had, and we see the worst of the capitalist system during a period of war when the incentive to greed is greater and more in evidence than in times of peace. A correspondent, writing to me on this subject, says -
This white metals process is quite successful, hut is being squeezed out by overseas interests, headed by Sir Ronald Charles. We thought that the Australian process was going to be given a chance, but all indications point to the adoption of the Bayer process, which will only treat high-grade bauxite. The Australian process will treat all bauxite and will remain a stable industry after the war, and not merely a stop-gap affair as proposed by the overseas interests. As far as Sir Ronald Charles is concerned, the war-time business, with imported bauxite and some small portion of Australian bauxite, is very profitable, while the peace-time requirements of this country are not very much his concern. But to get on with the story.
Following upon some years of laboratory experiments, White Metals (Australia) Proprietary Limited was floated in July last year for the purpose of building a pilot plant to prove a process for the extraction of alumina from all types and grades of Australian bauxites.
After many months of work and the expenditure of several thousand pounds, the process has been proven, and it is a. peculiar fact that coincidentally therewith came the Government’s statement that aluminium ingot would he manufactured in Australia.
The disclosure of the process was immediately made to the Government and later on, by request, a proposition was submitted suggesting that £20.000 be made available by the Government to put up a pilot plant bo as to determine the details and planning of the larger plant which would provide sufficient aluminium oxide (alumina) for the requirements of this country.
During the erection of this pilot (or development) plant plans will be prepared for the erection of the larger plant which would require an investment of something like £350,000, and would produce 10,000 to 15,000 tons of alumina per annum.
I understand that Senator McBride is not particularly concerned regarding the practicability of the smeltery installation because thU is a well-known practice - what he is concerned with is to decide the wisest and soundest course to adopt in the extraction of alumina from Australian bauxites.
An overseas group working through Sir Ronald Charles and the Australian Aluminium Company is bringing pressure to bear to get control of aluminium production in Australia, using the Bayer process, and also use imported bauxite - or Australian bauxite, which responds to the Huyer process. It can be definitely stated that the white metals process will handle any kind of bauxite, and its efficacy is attested to by Dr. Hirst, of Melbourne University, and Professor Eastaugh, of Sydney University. A Mr. Drake, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is not impressed with the white metals process, but it is suggested, without bias, that he has not had the time nor probably the inclination to test the white metals process thoroughly.
We are convinced that the white metals process specifically developed in Australia to extract alumina from average Australian bauxites will relieve Australia of all importation problems, provide Australians with work, and produce the metal at a price favorable in comparison with overseas figures.
If it were possible to use the Bayer process, it will be admitted by everybody, I think, that it can only be a palliative for immediate needs and within the short cycle of, say, four to five years the process would automatically work itself out because of limited quantities of suitable bauxite.
On the other hand, the white metals process would become a permanent feature in Australian manufacturing and would give the country full, continuous security for the future within its own shores.
I propose now to refer to another matter about which this Government knows something, but probably not enough. If it knew enough about it, I believe that it would act very quickly. I nm told that, because of shipping difficulties, the Government is unable to export most of our primary products, and that investigations are being made of whether it is possible to convert many of these products into either a dried or “bovrilized” form in order to reduce their bulk for export purposes. For instance, it has been suggested that eggs should be processed and exported in powder form. The Government of the United Kingdom has suggested to the Australian Government that it should do all it can to conserve shipping space and, at the same time, send as much as possible to England in order to assist in the feeding of the British people in their hour of trial and tribulation. A joint committee, consisting of representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and of the Commerce Department, after investigating the problem of exporting eggs in powder form, discovered that the bestquality egg powder is being made by Armour and Company, an American firm - one of the big concerns which earned notoriety a generation or so ago in connexion with the Chicago meat scandals. Its unsavoury name has come down through several decades. Probably it does not still deserve censure for the unhygienic manner in which it handles its products; but it deserves public censure for making profits by the exploitation of its employees, and for the way in which it swindles the primary producers of the United States of America, who sold their products to it. The egg powder imported from China, one of the main sources of supply, is definitely of inferior quality and only suitable for the manufacture of confections. Most of it is in the form of egg albumen and egg yolk powder. The system adopted by Armour and Company is to spray dry in a special Gray Jenson dryer, made by the Don.thitt Corporation. That corporation has an Australian associate which manufactures plant of that type on a royalty basis. I understand that Armour and Company, which had certain patents in the United States of America covering the treatment of egg pulp prior to drying, was approached by the official of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as to the use of its method in Australia. The company stated that it was prepared to place its knowledge at the disposal of the Australian Government and allow its machines to be used on a royalty basis. It is question* able whether these patents were valid in Australia at the time. About two months ago, the “New South Wales Egg Board, in association with the investigating committee, placed an order with the Australian firm for six Gray Jenson plants made from stainless steel, and also, I am told, arranged for an American expert to be brought to Australia to give instruction in the operation of the new plant.
In view of the approaching season, delivery of the plant was to be made as soon as possible. One drying plant was cut out and ready for erection more than a month ago, but no further action was taken because, in the meantime, Vestey and Company, which is believed to be the English associate of Armour and Company, offered to dry the whole of the Australian output of eggs. The offer has been accepted. Vestey and Company and the Australian associate, Angliss and Company, are to dismantle their old Shanghai plant consisting of eleven drying units, and re-erect them in Australia. They are also to bring skilled operators to this country, no doubt to keep the trade secrets from Australians. It seems obvious, however, that these plants cannot be erected in time to process this season’s output, and I am informed that Vestey and Company’s organization has arranged with the British authorities to permit refrigerated ships owned by the company to be diverted to Australia to pick up eggs in shell - the very thing to which we understand Britain objects - until the new buildings and the plants are erected and in going order. This seems to be an attempt to re-establish the monopoly formerly held by the Armour- Vestey- Angliss organizations when they dominated the now defunct China egg trade. The type of equipment to be used should be investigated. I. am informed that it was the custom in China to use for the construction of the plant metals such as galvanized iron and tinned iron which are not considered to be suitable for use in machinery for the manufacture of foodstuffs. There is no record of a whole egg powder suitable for direct sale to the public, as distinct from manufacturing confectioners, ever having been made in these Chinese plants. The order for the six drying plants for New South Wales is now in abeyance, and I am informed that the plant already manufactured is for sale, probably back to the manufacturer who may find an outlet for it for the drying of milk. This seems to indicate a condition of muddle and profiteering which demands investigation. Like everybody else, I do not know how much longer the Government will remain in office.
– Not much longer!
– I am glad to have that assurance from a statesman of the calibre of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). If the Government makes way for a more virile administration, I hope that the new Minister will investigate these matters, because Australia will be made to pay for these and numerous other happenings which are not mere mistakes, but something worse. Commercial morality is notoriously low. Many persons are actuated by the motive to “ get rich quickly provided you can keep within the law “. A few hundred years ago, this practice was called buccaneering. To-day, it may be described as “legalized rascality “. In order to survive, the leaders of our commercial life must adopt the worst methods of the worst people in industry. That statement should not be interpreted as a sweeping condemnation of every employer as dishonest; but no employer can afford to be very generous or honest in these days. Most employers want to do the fair thing, but the bad employer makes that impossible. Perforce, many employers have to imitate some of the worst vices of their competitors in order to keep their businesses going.
I desire to place on record some opinions which were conveyed to me recently by the Christian Citizens Association, of Melbourne, which advocates the introduction of a new social order.
– The prominent question mark, which appears on the front page of the document is intriguing.
– The question mark suggests a number of interesting avenues of conjecture. For example, it might relate to the political future of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). If a change of government occurs, will the honorable member remain in the cold shades of opposition, or will he take an active part from a back bench in offering the same friendly criticism to the new Government, as he offered to the present Government last night?
– My favours were evenly distributed last night. The honorable member has no cause for complaint.
– I am merely wondering. The honorable member for Barker made such an admirable speech, in part, that at time3 even “ the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer “. The object of the Christian Citizens Association is to introduce a new social order immediately; too many persons are prepared to wait until the conclusion of the war.
– What do the members themselves want out of it?
– They envisage a new social order based upon Christian principles. Their organization ‘has existed for only a couple of years. [Extension of time granted.] An extract from the document reads -
Twenty-three British’ Bishops Condemn Capitalism.
The Archbishop of York, 23 bishops, 4 deans and 200 other members of the Church of England, meeting at Malvern College recently, subscribed without dissentient to the following declaration on the profit-making (capitalist) system : -
Christian doctrine must insist that production exists for consumption. To a large extent production is carried out, not to supply the consumer with goods, but to bring profits to the producer. This method, which tends to treat human work as the means to a false end - namely, monetary gain - becomes a source of unemployment at home, and a dangerous competition for markets abroad (dangerous because leading to war). The monetary system must be so administered that what the community can produce is made available to the members of the community.
By a large majority, the conference passed an amendment by Sir Richard Acland, author of Our Struggle, denouncing “ the ownership of the great resources of our community by private individuals, as a stumbling block in the path of the new order “. He said, “ For over 150 years you have neglected your duty because of funk. The whole structure of society is rotten, and must permanently frustrate your efforts to create the possibility of a Christian life. I beg of you now, to proclaim the new society openly “. In harmony with this, the Archbishop of York, in a message issued on the eve of 1041, said “There is one necessary change. No scheme of public organized production can be satisfactory, apart from national control of credit … it cannot be justified in modern conditions, that the banks, even the Bank of England should, in order to meet national needs, create credit which carries interest- to themselves. “ The State must resume the right to control the issue, and cancellation of every kind of money. Till that is done, a body within the community, will control what is vital to the needs of the community; that is a false principle. “… our object is clear; it is to reverse that reversal of the natural order, which is characteristic of our phase of civilization, the natural order is, that consumption should control production and production should control finance. “ And this must bc done in a way that will secure both freedom and order, both initiative and security, and may promote the only real progress, which is the development of th« personality in fellowship.”
Consider these utterances. Sir Richard Acland condemns “ the ownership of the great resources of our community by private individuals “. The Archbishop of York says, “ It is a false principle for a body within the community to control what is vital to the needs of the community “, and that the national control of credit is a necessary change.
The pamphlet puts it interrogatively, “ Does the archbishop exaggerate the power of the banks?” I postulate the same question. The banking institutions undoubtedly control the life of the community. In this crisis, the Government should control the financial institutions. If it exercised that control, many necessary ref orms, which we now persuade ourselves cannot be introduced because we cannot find the money, could be undertaken. From time to time, questions have been asked in Parliament about important national works. Generally, the Government promises to consider the proposals, but nothing is ever done. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) advocated the reduction of the railway gauge from Tocumwal to Seymour from 5 ft. 3 in. to 4 ft. 8i in., because the work is vital for defence purposes. The Government has neglected to act upon that advice. The construction of the East-West railway was financed by a release of credit, which was eventually cancelled. If the money can be found for peaceful development, surely it should be available in a time of national crisis !
– Where did the honorable member obtain that information?
– From au authoritative source.
– The honorable member has been misinformed.
– I assure the learned Chairman of Committees that to the best of my knowledge, the information is correct. The logical sequel to the construction of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie is the unification of the gauge from Kalgoorlie to Perth, a distance of 375 miles. In addition, a standard gauge track should be built from Port Pirie to Broken Hill. I am not satisfied with the information that has been disclosed in regard to the refusal of various conferences of railway commissioners to agree to the necessary conversion. I have a strong suspicion that the refusals hare been due to State jealousies and a desire u> conserve State rights.
– And profit for individuals.
– Yes. If it is the fate of the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) to spend some little time in opposition in the near future, I hope that he will be equally as diligent as honorable members on this side have been in reading all the literature available to them on subjects in which they are interested, and that in our term of office we shall not be satisfied that the laws of this country are like the laws of the Medes and the Persians, unchanged and unchanging. I am afraid there has been a desire for our laws to remain static too long.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) referred last night to the need to amend our invalid and old-age pensions legislation because of the many injustices that are being perpetrated. I sincerely hope that this will be done at the earliest possible moment. I support the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and other honorable members of this chamber who have suggested from time to time that the pension laws should be liberalized to provide more humane treatment for Australian aborigines who are not leading a nomadic life. I understand that the matter is now being investigated.
The honorable member for Herbert also raised the question of the treatment of people of Asiatic birth who have lived in this country for many years. I also know of several cases of hardship. I have already exchanged correspondence with the Minister for Social Services with regard to one man born of Arab parents in a British protectorate. He has been in this country for 50 years. He has the right to vote, and is obliged to pay income tax and all the other taxes to which citizens of this country are subject.
He told me, incidentally, that he had voted for the late Right Honorable J. A. Lyons when he first stood for the Tasmanian Parliament. Now he is 65 years of age, and is no longer able to work, but he cannot get an old-age pension. That position is very unfortunate. In view of the fact that our immigration laws no longer permit people of Asiatic birth to enter this country, the number of people affected by a liberalization of the pensions legislation would not be more than 100. Other cases also have been brought under my notice. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) was appealed to in regard to several Syrians who were residents of my electorate. Eventually I received correspondence in regard to such cases. The husband, who has been in Australia for 50 years, is 72 years of age, and his wife is 65 years of age. The husband’s mother is still alive, being 112 years of age, and they have a daughter who is married to a man of British stock. The three old people receive no pensions at all, and they have to depend for their existence upon their son-in-law, who is earning a little more than the basic wage and maintains them out of a sense of filial duty. Repeated applications for pensions have been refused. Such a state of affairs should not be permitted to continue. If Parliament sits next week I hope that, in addition to telling us about the development of our munitions industries, the Government will find time to bring down a bill which, as the honorable member for Herbert has said, would be passed in ten minutes, to enable justice to be done to these old people. It seems extraordinary that Lebanese natives, some of whose sons and grandsons fought with the Australian Imperial Forces in the last war, or are fighting in this war, are refused old-age pensions because they are Asiatics, whereas had they been born a little further north, on the other side of the Bosphorus, they would have been eligible. It is inconsistent that a Turkish subject born on the European side of the Bosphorus should be eligible for a pension in this country, whereas a Turkish subject born on the Asiatic side is not eligible. The Lebanese people have maintained a high standard of civilization for centuries, and have upheld their traditions and their Christianity in the face of bitter and savage persecution. I add my representations to those of the honorable member for Herbert in the hope that the Government will take steps immediately to make whatever amendments to our pensions legislation that are necessary.
Mr. WARD (East Sydney) [2.57J- I should like to add a few words to the funeral oration on the Government just delivered by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). There are several matters to which I desire to draw attention. One matter of great importance is the manner in which the Government is administering certain regulations under which Australian citizens can be arrested, imprisoned, or interned without being charged and given a fair public trial. A considerable amount of publicity has been given to certain people who have been interned in the last few months. I raise this question not for the purpose of analysing whatever evidence the Government may claim to have against these men, but on the much broader principle that no member of this Parliament who claims to be a democrat should approve of any government using its powers to place Australian citizens in internment camps or prisons without first giving them proper public trials. There are some peculiar circumstances in connexion with the case of Thomas and Ratliff which the Government has not satisfactorily cleared up so far as the public is concerned. These men were charged with a breach of the National Security Regulations; they were convicted and served a term of imprisonment. Five or six weeks after they had been released, the Government, without preferring a charge against them or suggesting in any way that they had again contravened the National Security Regulations, apprehended them and had them placed in a concentration camp. That is a very serious matter, and the Government cannot dispose of it easily by saying that these men were engaged in subversive activities, because if that were so, and the Government had definite evidence of it, why were they allowed their liberty for “i- weeks before being again apprehended ? If they were allowed their liberty in that period and the Government was not able to say that in any way whatever they had again offended against the laws of the Commonwealth, it had no right to impose upon them two terms of imprisonment for the one charge and the one conviction. Answering criticism of the internment of Thomas and Ratliff, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) said that there were tribunals to which they could appeal, but the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) brought under the notice of honorable members the way in which those tribunals’ inquiries are conducted. Those inquiries are not satisfactory to the public; they are not open for public examination of the evidence submitted.
Thomas and Ratliff are not the only Australian citizens who have been placed in concentration camps without public trial. I am not endeavouring to pre-judge the evidence which may be available, or the conduct of Australian citizens who have been interned in this country, but it is dangerous foi any government to have the right to place Australian citizens in internment camps without trial. Those are the tactics which Hitler adopted in Germany in order to suppress opposition to his regime. As well as Thomas and Ratliff, one of whom was an original Anzac, a professor at the Sydney University is interned. His is an unique case. He was born in South Australia, and, as an Australian Rhodes scholar, went abroad to continue his studies. When the last war broke out, he was in Germany and was interned as a British subject. He returned to his own country in 1935, and was here when war broke out. He has had the amazing experience of being interned in one war in Germany as a British citizen and interned in another war in Australia, his own country. He does not know what it is all about, according to statements made to me. He denies that he has ever been associated with politics either here or abroad, and cannot imagine in what way he has offended, although he has some suspicions about what may have led to his apprehension. This man has made a close study of cancer and stands high in his profession. When he returned to Australia, he came into conflict with the Cancer Research Board through criticizing its methods and its wasteful expenditure of public moneys, as the result of which he gained the enmity of prominent members of the British Medical Association. A war lends itself to vindictive people laying false charges against members of the public. It is a serious thing if the Government accepts, without a thorough check of their authenticity, communications, many of them anonymous, alleging against persons subversive acts. As an Australian citizen, this man has the right to be told with what he is charged. Not only has he been denied that information, but also, when he requested that his medical text-books be allowed to him, they were refused-. Moreover, the Government, I understand, also refused to allow him to continue to treat people suffering from the dreadful scourge of cancer whom he was treating, prior to his internment, in a special way, with the design of proving, to the satisfaction of the medical world, that his method of treatment was highly successful.
Another case is that of Hermann Homburg. His case proves that the Government is discriminatory in its dealings with different sections of the public and accords special consideration to friends or acquaintances of Ministers. I do not know anything about the evidence in the Homburg case, but I do know that Homburg, who was a former AttorneyGeneral of South Australia, a member of the Legislative Council, and a member of the National Liberal Union, an antiLabour organization, was interned and then, as far as 1 know, released without having to go before any tribunal. His freedom was returned to him under remarkable conditions. A man is either guilty or not guilty, and, if he be proven guilty, he ought to be confined, but if he be not. guilty, he ought to be released, and his release should be unconditional. In the case of Homburg, however, we find that he was released conditionally, one of the conditions being that he should not return to South Australia for the duration of the war. If a man is likely to engage in activities endangering the well-being of the country, he would be less likely to bo a danger in quarters where he is known than in quarters where he is not known.
There is also the case of the brotherinlaw of the Minister for the Army,
Phillip Raoul Hentze. That case hai never been cleared up satisfactorily. No honorable member who was present will deny that, in this chamber, the Minister for the Army undertook to allow me to peruse the official file on the case. That undertaking was given, no doubt, so that the Minister could satisfy me, if he were able, that he had in no way been implicated in the release of this gentleman from internment. I waited for some days before asking the Minister for the Army whether the file had arrived in Canberra. However, the Prime Minister answered me and said that he would not make the file available. He talked about some principle being involved, but that principle was not very apparent to me or my colleagues. At any rate, the promise given to me by the Minister for the Army was not fulfilled. I know that this file and the dossier in the hands of the New South Wales police authorities contain definite statements regarding the activities of Hentze, which have been obtained as the result of careful inquiries. According to the admission of the Minister for the Army, Hentze remained in custody for only a few hours, and was given his liberty after Government officials had held a telephone conversation with the honorable gentleman. It is evident that the only information on which the authorities acted was given to them by the Minister over the telephone. If it be right that Thomas and Ratliff should be obliged to go before the established tribunals in order to prove their innocence, it should be right that Hentze, and probably many others who have received similar treatment, should be forced to do likewise. There is in an Australian internment camp at the present time a German named Max Pohl. It is alleged that he was an associate of Hentze; yet Hentze is at liberty. At the present time Hentze is an employee of the State Wool Committee. I am reliably informed that the New South Wales police dossier dealing with him contains a statement that, in this position, he has opportunities to secure information regarding the movements of Australian ships. I questioned the Minister for Commerce on this subject, and he made what I consider to be a very stupid reply. He said that, as an employee of the State Wool Committee, Hentze would not be in a position to secure such information, but that, if lie were connected with the Central Wool Committee, he would bc able to obtain shipping news. When a man is employed by an organization which works in’ conjunction with a second organization, surely he is able to have access to information in the possession of the second organization. Hentze was given his liberty without even the formality of an inquiry. The Minister for the Army endeavoured to protect his relative, and stated in this House that Hentze was not a disloyal subject. He said to honorable members: “He endeavoured to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force.” That does not prove anything at all about Hen tee’s loyalty. As a matter of fact, such an act should cause further suspicion of his motives. The matter has not been cleared up to my satisfaction, or to the satisfaction of many other citizens. I have never asked for special consideration to be given to anybody; I have asked only for fair treatment of all. They have a right to know what charges have been laid against thom. In my view, they are also entitled to be confronted with the persons who have accused them of subversive activities, and to an impartial public examination of the evidence adduced against them. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision in regard to Thomas and Ratliff. If the Government has evidence that they have endangered the welfare of Australia, ite duty is plain - it should formally charge them and give them a fair public trial. They are not enemy aliens; they are Australians. A returned soldier from my electorate has been interned. He does mot know the reason for his arrest. It i« anomalous that, while he is detained in an internment camp, bc is drawing a pension for injuries which he received while on service with the Australian Imperial Force in 1914-18. Thomas and Ratliff are not the only Australian) citizens who are receiving unfair treatment. There are many others in a similar position who ar© entitled to proper trial in a court of justice.
I refer now to petrol rationing. Many of the difficulties associated with petrol rationing are due to neglect by this Government. The severe shortage of liquid fuel is to a great degree the result of the Government’s neglect of projects for the production of substitute fuels. While we have a Government which represents certain private interests outside of this Parliament, and while profits are the motive for many of its actionsAustralia cannot be properly organized for defence. For many years, the Labour party has endeavoured to secure the establishment of new industries for the production of substitute fuels, but it has met with strong opposition from Government forces. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has spoken in this House so often about the production of oil from coal and shale that I should not like to hazard a guess at the number of his speeches on the subject. But the Government has done nothing to implement his proposals, lt did not decide to make a move at Newnes until it had been subjected to a great deal of pressure. J consider that the Government, and those other persons associated with that project, never believed or hoped that it would be successful. Some peculiar things have been done at Newnes. The whole of the operations there, and the circumstances surrounding the taking over of the industry by private enterprise, should be the subject of a most searching inquiry by ill is Parliament. An inquiry into the shale oil project was conducted some years ago, and experts made certain recommendations to the Government. One of these was that the pumping of oil from the Newnes shale leases would be ineffective. The experts gave various reason* for this. They recommended that the light railway, which had been laid as far as Newnes, should be retained in order to transport the oil to the mainrailway lines. However, when private interests took over the undertaking the railway was scrapped, and, so far as I. have been able to ascertain, the rails ;ind the disused locomotives were shipped to Japan as scrap iron. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) informs me that they were sold for 10 per cent, of their book values. He also informed me that a great quantity of material was resold to the Commonwealth at enormously enhanced prices. Therefore, the Government should investigate the mal-administration associated with the production of oil from shale at Newnes, if it has time to do so in the few hours of political life that remain to it. The responsibility for petrol rationing rests entirely upon the Government, because it has failed to encourage the production not only of oil from coal and shale, but also power alcohol. At the outbreak of war we found ourselves short of petrol. The Government then decided to ration petrol. But what a chaotic system it adopted, in order to determine how much petrol should be made available to individual members of the community! The last man whose supply should be restricted is the man who needs petrol in order to carry on the every-day work and industry of the country. Before this action was taken the Government should have prohibited the use of petrol for pleasure purposes. However, it was afraid to do that for fear of offending many of its influential friends. Consequently, we now find that whilst many people cannot secure sufficient petrol for use in their ordinary essential avocations, very many others obtain all they require for non-essential purposes. Many of the latter provided themselves with private storage tanks. 1 have had evidence that large quantities of petrol have been delivered to wealthy and influential families and stored privately. Many of these families possess not one car, but several, the father, mother, daughter and son each owning a car, and each claiming petrol allowance under the rationing scheme. Even to-day if you stand on the highways leading to Sydney you will see numbers of limousines dashing into the city, probably with only one occupant. Such a state of affairs is disgraceful when, at the same time, taxi-drivers in Sydney have been forced out of business because of the drastic reductions of their petrol allowance. Taxi services should be among the lastto suffer in any scheme of petrol rationing, because they are public transport, services. The taxi services in Sydney were excellently run at reasonable cost to the public.
Let us see what kind of example the Government itself has given to users of petrol. Some amazing stories have been brought to my notice, such as the use of Government cars to take Ministers’ child ren to school or their wives on shopping expeditions in the cities, when other means of transport were available. A scandalous state of affairs exists in this respect. I am also informed that a certain Minister, when he was in Melbourne, sent his official car from Melbourne to Brisbane to bring his wife from Brisbane to Canberra. The method of ordering government cars is also open to criticism. I have been told that on one occasion the private secretary of one Minister attended an evening engagement in a suburb of Sydney, and when he discovered after the party that the hour was too late to secure other transport he rang upthe government garage and ordered a government car, in which all of the guests at the party were driven to their destinations. An inquiry should be held in order to inform the public whether or not there has been wasteful use of government cars by Ministers. I do not know whether Ministers sign any vouchers to authorize the use of cars ordered by their respective departments, or whether any adequate records are kept which would show for what purposes government cars have been used. Such information should be made available to Parliament.
On a previous occasion, I protested against certain promotions in the Defence Forces, and emphasized the dissatisfaction which recent promotions had caused in the services. The general public is wondering whether the Government’s commission of one blunder after another is really due to sheer incompetence. It is useless for any honorable member to say that no dissatisfaction exists in the Defence Forces. Such statements may mislead Parliament but not the people, because the people closely associated with members of the Defence Forces know only too well that such dissatisfaction is widespread.
M r .Duncan-Hughes. - Does the honorable member say that the persons selected for promotion do not, as a rule, give satisfaction?
– That, is exactly what I am saying. I say that preferment in the Defence Forces is given to men not according to what they know of military matters, but according to whom they know, and the families from which they come. How could the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) justify the promotion of the Minister for the Army to lieutenant-colonel?
– The Minister is a member of the Legal Corps.
– The point I make is that no direction was given by the Army Board with regard to that promotion. The Minister conferred it upon himself. In any case, I do not know whether the fact that the Minister happens to be a member of the Legal Corps would justify his promotion. I am not familiar with the work of the Legal Corps. It has been suggested to me that one reason why the Minister promoted himself was in order that he would not have to salute Jim Gerald when he met him. All sorts of reasons have been advanced for the Minister’s promotion of himself. I have no doubt that were honorable members given an opportunity to examine the lists of promotions in the Defence Forces, they would be compelled to ask themselves how many of the promotions could be justified. On previous occasions in this House I have cited cases of young social cubs, prominent in the clubs of Sydney and Melbourne, who have joined the Army, and although they have had no previous military experience, have been sent to various service schools, and, within a few months, and sometimes less, have been given commissions over men much older than themselves and possessing much greater actual experience in defence matters. This practice, obviously, causes dissatisfaction in the services generally. I should like honorable members opposite to tell me of cases of the sons of well-to-do families in this country who have been in the Defence Forces for six months and have not secured promotion.
– I can cite dozens of such cases.
– I ask that the honorable member furnish particulars of those cases to me. At any rate, for every case of that kind that the honorable gentleman can supply, I shall cite half a dozen cases of the kind I have mentioned. I have no doubt whatever that promotions in the Defence Forces are not always governed by ability. The whole system needs overhauling. The treatment that men in the rank and file are receiving is totally unjust.
The Government does not act fairly towards the men in certain other respects. Some time ago I made certain serious charges in this House against Captain Lees, commandant of the Holdsworthy Detention Camp. The truth of my assertions was questioned at the time, but subsequently the Government instituted an inquiry which substantiated my case. What happened to Captain Lees? Was he disrated? Not at all! He was merely transferred to some other sphere of activity. Probably, if the truth were known, he received a promotion from the Government. How can harmony be expected in the forces in such circumstances? The men in the ranks are quite satisfied that discrimination against them is practised in many ways.
The absence of any definite decision by the Government in respect of the rates of pay of members of the fighting forces is also a fruitful cause of grievance. It has been said that the Government intends to increase service pay, but I have read frequent statements in the press to the effect that while certain Ministers favour increases, others are against them. It is not just that men should be asked to risk their lives for the paltry rates of pay now being offered, especially as the Government has taken no effective steps to deal with profiteering. In such circumstances, it is too much to ask us to believe that the Government is sympathetic towards the men of the fighting services. Ministers should cease saying that the wherewithal is not available to pay increased rates, for money can be found for other purposes. An immediate decision should be made to grant increases of pay in all arms of the services.
More liberality should be exercised, also, in connexion with the granting of allowances to dependants. I have had submitted to me some remarkable cases. A young man of under adult age enlisted when he waa receiving 35s. a week. He was living with relatives, to whom he paid 25s. a week board, which left him only 10s. a week for all his incidental expenses. His aged mother was in ill health, and the lad thought that if he enlisted he would be able to make an allotment to her of 3s. a day, and that she would collect as well a dependant’s allowance. When the application for this allowance was made, it was refused on the ground that the boy was not maintaining his mother at the time of his enlistment. How on earth could a lad maintain his mother when he was earning only 35s. a week? The whole thing is ridiculous. I could instance similar cases. If the parents of a young men who enlists are receiving the invalid or old-age pension, their son may make them an allotment of only ls. 6d. a day instead of the maximum amount of 3s. This also is most unjust. Pension moneys should be entirely disregarded in the assessment of dependants’ allowances. I know of a family the three sons of which are now on active service. The mother receives only the old-age pension, yet for the temporary loss of such support as her three sons could give her she is being granted an allotment of only 10s. 6d. a week. These injustices require immediate rectification.
The arrangements for the re-absorption of ex-soldiers into industry are also totally unsatisfactory. The present procedure is to grant a discharged soldier sustenance for three months, and if work has not been found for him by the expiration of that period, he is deprived of his sustenance and told to register for employment at a State labour bureau. As thousands of men have been registered at these bureaux for years, it is hardly likely that any assistance will be forthcoming from that, quarter. The Government should take steps to provide employment for these returned men, who should be assured of the means of earning a decent livelihood before they are discharged.
We have been told that at an early date the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee will make recommendations to provide for the effective use of all our available man-power; but we have no assurance whatever that the report and recommendations of this committee will receive any more attention than has been given to the reports of many other committees. It is more than likely that the committee’s findings will be pigeonholed and forgotten. In any case, the committee has no authority over the policy of the Government. Unless we can be given some undertaking that the reports of the various committees that have been appointed recently will be put into effect, at least to a substantial degree, the whole system will be worthless, and the committees should be disbanded.
The Government has not given us any ground for assuming that it will honour undertakings that it gives. When the budget compromise was made, last year - let me add that I did not put much reliance upon the Government’s assurances in that connexion - the Opposition was promised that the Advisory War Council and the Commonwealth Bank Board would be taken into conference regarding possible alterations of the financial policy of the country. In actual fact, the Government has been willing to make concessions in many directions, but not in respect of their financial policy. The nation cannot possibly be properly organized while the Government allow* the control of its financial policy to remain in the hands of private individuals or companies. After the outbreak of the war, honorable gentlemen opposite said, in effect : “ Everything will be all right if we can hang out for twelve months. Unless the Germans can win decisive victories within a year the whole structure of the German nation will collapse, for its financial basis will not be strong enough to carry the load.” Those views have proved to be entirely wrong. Germany has constructed the greatest military and national organization in the world, with the possible exception of Russia, but it has been done only by departing from orthodox financial methods. No one can believe for a moment that if any work in Germany was required to be undertaken, Hitler would say : We cannot proceed with this enterprise because we have not sufficient money for the purpose.” Such a situation in Germany is inconceivable, but that is what is happening in this country. In New South Wales, men were working for two weeks in four, on what was described as an essential defence road; in the second portion of the period they sat in their camps doing nothing, and received bare sustenance. The Government said that the work could not be proceeded with more rapidly, because the necessary funds were not available. I do nol know whether it believes that this is an illustration of proper organization of the nation. Complaints of inefficiency and incapacity to deal with the situation have been voiced in many quarters. Members of our organizations, upon whose word we can rely and who have acted in different capacities, have told us of shortcomings in relation to munitions production, aeroplane construction, and the handling of the fuel situation. A government which will not make financial policy its responsibility, and subject to its will, cannot properly and efficiently organize this nation. It is imperative that the Government should immediately become solely responsible in that respect. I further believe, in common with my colleagues, that it is necessary even now, to take over and operate in the interests of the nation many monopolistic concerns whose sole motive in this war is to make more and more profit. I instance, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– My sole object in rising is to reply to certain accusations made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in regard to the methods employed in the promotion of members of our forces to commissioned rank. Possibly, some persons outside this House who read the remarks of the honorable member may consider that there is substance in his charges, because I do not suppose that all know him perfectly well.
Mr.Ward. - I always make sure that they know the honorable member.
– The honorable member challenged members of this House to name the son of any well-to-do person who was not an officer. That was an absurd challenge. I retorted, by way of interjection, that I could name dozens ; there are, of course, hundreds. I have two sons serving with the forces, and neither is an officer. It is quite foolish for any one to say that a commanding officer, who is the person responsible for promotion to commissioned rank, would recommend the promotion of any one whom he did not regard as competent to discharge the duties of an officer. His very reputation, probably his continuance in command, depends upon the efficiency of the officers and non-commissioned officers who serve under him. I was a commanding officer during the last war, and commanded a regiment for many years after its termination. I can state positively that in my unit there were officers who had been workers on station properties, and in the ranks were sons of station owners who had incomes amounting to thousands of pounds a year. That is the position generally in the forces and it will be confirmed by any one who has a knowledge of the subject. It is true that there will be difference of opinion as to whether an individual is fitted for a particular position; but the recommendation has to be made by responsible persons. The question is, not whether there are many men fit to hold commissioned rank who do not achieve it, but rather, whether social position disqualifies certain men from promotion. I definitely deny that the honorable member for East Sydney has correctly stated the position in our forces to-day. If his knowledge of the other matters he has discussed to-day and on previous occasions is no greater than that which he has shown in respect of this matter, then his opinions are of no value.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McLeod) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 2.30 p.m.
Flinders Naval Base : Hospital Accommodation ; Leave ; Transport - Fishing Industry : Report op Tariff Board - Seamen’sWar Pensions and Allowances - Blind Pensioners: Permissible Income - Tobacco Rationing.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to discuss the lack of hospital accommodation, and other shortcomings, at the naval base at Flinders, Victoria. This base is in the Flinders electorate, which I represented on one occasion, but my reason for raising the matter is that possibly 25 per cent. of the men stationed there are my constituents in the division of Melbourne Ports. I am certain that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes) is not aware of the position. No one wishes to do anything prejudicial to recruiting, and that is the effect which the existing position is having upon intending volunteers when they learn the conditions existing there.
Flinders naval base, one of the oldest bases in Australia, has remained practically stationary during the last few years, whilst the number of persons catered for there has grown by leaps and bounds. One of the outstanding difficulties is that there is hospital accommodation for only 100 patients, whereas the average number of inmates during the last six months or longer has been 169, with the result that the accommodation has been overcrowded and men suffering from all sorts of complaints have been pressed into a confined space, and their health has been made worse instead of better. All the efforts of the medical authorities and others to secure the extensions needed have failed; although the request has not been refused, consideration of it has been postponed. A further difficulty is, that mothers - many of them elderly ladies - wives and children of the inmates, visit the hospital mostly on Sundays ; there have been as many as 500, 600 and 700 visitors on a Sunday afternoon. There is no space for visitors inside the hospital, and unless the patients can make room for their mothers and wives on their beds, they have to stand during the whole period of the visit. Their discomfort is aggravated by their having to walk for a little over a mile from the railway station to the naval base. No transport of any sort is provided for them, and no attempt is made to make the railway time-table fit in with the opening of the depot gates, or vice versa, so that visitors sometimes have to stand two, three and as long as four hours outside the gates before they are allowed to enter. That disability might be overcome, but a further difficulty is presented by the fact that the commanding officer insists on a ceremonial parade every Sunday after church, and the visitors outside the gates must wait in all kinds of weather while the parade takes place. This parade has become a subject of ridicule among the men. They can not see any use in it except that it tickles the vanity of the commanding officer, who appears to be living in the days of Nelson rather than in the present time.
As I have said, improved hospital accommodation is urgently called for. There are men in the hospital suffering from pneumonia, colds, mumps, venereal disease and other complaints whilst there are others recovering from wounds received in service overseas. It cannot be expected that patients will make as good a recovery as possible if they are packed together like sardines in a tin, with no space available for patients or visitors except the actual beds. The medical officer has made several requests for additional hospital accommodation, and as I have said, whilst he has never been given an outright refusal, he has received the sort of reply that we have all had from time to time - “ It is regretted that your request cannot be acceded to at present, but it will receive attention in the future “.
Another cause of discontent is the action of the commandant in recently cutting down the amount of leave which ratings enjoy. It was the custom for ratings to be given leave for the week-end once every fortnight, but recently this same commanding officer, who is so fond of pomp and show, reduced the period of leave by twelve hours, with the result that the men may not now remain in their homes in the city on Sunday night as .they used to do. The reason given by the commanding officer is that when the men remain away on Sunday night they lose two hours’ schooling on Monday morning. If there were no other way to get those two hours of schooling, his action might be justified, but the fact Ls that every Friday afternoon is taken up with what is called a ceremonial parade. The commanding officer mounts a dais, and takes the salute from the officers and men as they march past. The whole afternoon is taken U1 with this, which takes up twelve hours a fortnight. I would not have raised this matter had I not been approached by officers and ratings, and pressed to take some action. I wrote to the Naval Hoard, and received a formal reply. It is not my practise to raise matters on the floor of the House if I can get satisfaction by making representations to the department concerned, and it is usually possible to adjust matters in that way. However, the Navy Office is pretty stitf.
– How much money does the honorable member think it would take to provide the necessary hospital accommodation?
– Not more than £2,000 or £3,000, I think.
– I shall visit the depot myself, and look into the matter.
– I am glad to hear that. I suggested to the Naval Board that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) and I should visit the depot, but the board does not like any one interfering. We merely want to ensure that Navy men shall be afforded the same hospital facilities as are enjoyed by the other services. I am sure that the Ministor and the public desire it.
.- The Flinders Naval Depot, like other naval institutions, is very well organized and rery well run, but, in my opinion, the hospital arrangements are inadequate. There are 100 beds in the hospital and the daily average number of patients requiring admission during the last six months is stated to be 169. I am informed that the hospital also receives patients from the Royal Australian Air Force camp at Somers. This increases the congestion. I suggest that, as most of the military hospitals have been recently extended, the hospital at the Flinders Naval Base also should be enlarged. The present congestion is, no doubt, largely due to the fact that the number of persons passing through the depot has greatly increased during the last twelve months. One hundred hospital beds does not seem to be a very generous allowance for an intake of between 3,000 and 3,500 men. I ask the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes) to look into the matter with a view to having hospital facilities improved.
– I shall do that.
– There is also the matter of transport from the Flinders railway station to the depot, about a mile away. I understand that the means of transport are very often inadequate and sometimes lacking altogether. I shall be glad if the Minister for the Navy will look into this matter.
– If the honorable member will make the necessary arrangements with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), I shall be glad to accompany them on a personal visit to the Flinders Naval Depot, and to look into the matters raised.
.- Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether the report of the Tariff Board with respect to assistance to the fishing industry had yet been considered by the Government. A few moments ago I was supplied with the following answer : -
I desire to inform the honorable member that the Government recently considered this report and adopted in general the Tariff Board’s recommendations. Arrangements are in hand for the convening of a conference of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the State Fisheries authorities. It is proposed to table the report of tha Tariff Board to-day.
The report was tabled to-day. I am pleased that the Government has decided to adopt the recommendations of the board in a general way, and I trust that no time will be lost in giving effect to them. I have not yet had time to examine the recommendations very closely, but I have noted with a good deal of satisfaction the conclusions arrived at by that body after it had carefully examined the whole subject. One of the recommendations of the board was -
The Commonwealth Government convene a conference representative of -
State Government departments administering fisheries; to inquire into and recommend upon -
That is a fairly comprehensive programme, and, even if immediate steps are taken to implement that recommendation, some considerable time must elapse before it can be given full effect. Recommendations 5 and 6 were -
The recommendations are such that they must necessarily slow up the implementation of developmental proposals for the establishment of the fishing industry on a progressive and extensive commercial scale. Therefore, I ask the Government to advise the State Governments concerned of the recommendations of the board, and to convene the suggested conference without delay. In a paragraph headed “ Bounties on Fishing Vessels and Fish Caught “, the conclusion arrived at by the board was as follows : -
The board does not favour a comprehensive scheme of bounties on the construction offishing vessels generally. The building and equipping of vessels must be part of the general development of the industry and, in some cases, financial assistance in the shape of loans or grants may be needed. This should only be granted after investigation of individual cases by the proposed developmental authority.
The fishing industry is the most important new primary industry we have in sight at present. It is because I believe that, and because my belief is founded on fairly extensive inquiries and on conversations with fisheries research officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who have undertaken extensive research into the habits of fish, the location of shoals, and the estimated quantity of fish in Australian waters, that I am pressing this matter. In the fishing industry, we have a potential primary industry of considerable magnitude. Now is the time to undertake its development and I am sorry that the board has not seen fit to recommend in a direct way - it has done it in an indirect way - that other forms of assistance be granted to the industry. The board’s recommendation in this respect was as follows : -
Assistance to the fishing industry in the following forms requested at the inquiry, is not justified at present: -
The report proceeds -
The board considers that Commonwealth assistance to the industry by means ofthe provision of funds to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for research should be continued, and, if necessary, increased. Adequate funds must also be made available to the developmental authority to enable it to secure necessary equipment and staff. Beyond that, the Government should be guided by recommendation of the developmental authority.
Hence some progress has been made. The Government should immediately undertake to summon the conference, the deliberations of which would be most beneficial to the fishing industry.
.-In 1940, the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) sponsored the most recent amendment of the Seamen’sWar Pensions and Allowances Act, and I desire to bring to his notice the extraordinary delay that has occurred in deciding whether pensions and allowances should be paid to the widows and dependants of seven seamen who lost their lives through enemy action on the Australian coast. The matter has been under consideration for nine months. Early in December, 1940, an Australian ship was mined off the Australian coast, andto date, the relatives of the victims have received from the Commonwealth neither pensions nor allowances. Conflict of opinion among the various authorities concerned with the administration of the act has caused the delay. Meanwhile the widows and dependants are receiving compensation1, under Federal or State legislation, from an insurance company on behalf of the shipping company. The departmentis weighing the possibility of these payments rendering widows and dependants ineligible to participate in the benefits under the Seamen’s “War Pensions and Allowances Act Having carefully examined the amended act of 1940, I find no justification for withholding the claims. Admittedly, the act contains qualifications, which must be complied with, and certain disqualifications from participation in benefits. Whilst the qualifications fit this case, the disqualifications do not alter the fact that the widows and dependants are en titled to receive pensions. Section 12 provides -
Where any Australian mariner, not being a. pilot, dies or becomes incapacitated as a direct result of having sustained a war injury in the course of his employment as an Australian mariner, or, being a pilot, dies or becomes incapacitated as a directresult of having sustained a war injury while on pilot duty, the Commonwealth shall, subject to this act, pay to his dependants, or to him, or to both, pensions in accordance with this act.
One limitation is provided in section 13-
A pension or allowance in respect of the death or incapacity of an Australian mariner shall not be granted if, in the opinion of the commission or a pensions committee -
in the case of death - the Australian mariner in any substantial measure contributed to or hastened his death by his own serious negligence or serious misconduct : or
in the case of incapacity - the war injury to which the incapacity of the Australian mariner is attributable was in any substantial measure due to his own serious negligence or serious misconduct.
But that disqualification does not fit this case. The ship was mined off the Australian coast, and no evidence can be adduced that the victims in any way contributed to their death through personal negligence. Section 16 provides -
The last preceding sub-section shall not apply to -
Consequently, the widow, or the Australian mariner himself in the event of incapacity, is not required to prove that members of the family were dependent upon him. In the event of his incapacitation, he and his family are entitled to the pension, and in the case of his death, his widow has an unqualified pension right. The widow is not called upon to prove that she is without adequate means of support and is incapable of earning her living. Therefore, she is entitled to the pension as an absolute right. Section 24 (d) contains a modified disqualification, dealing with the case of Australian mariners or their dependants who are entitled to any other payments from Commonwealth or State funds. It reads -
Notwithstanding anything containedin this Part
If the Australian mariner, or anyof his dependants, has received, or is entitled to receive, any other payment from the public funds of the Commonwealth or of a State or of a Territory of the Commonwealth by way of compensation in respect of the incapacity or death of the Australian mariner -
If that other payment exceeds the amount otherwise payable under this part to the Australian mariner or his dependant - no amount under this part shall be payable;
If that other payment does not exceed the amount otherwise payable under this part - the amount otherwise payable under this part shall be reduced by the amount of that other payment, unless the commission otherwise directs.
If the widow of the deceased mariner were entitled to any payments from Commonwealth or State revenues, that would be a disqualification, or would limit the amount of pension which she could receive. In this case, however, the payment is made, not from Commonwealth or State revenues, but by an insurance company on behalf of the shipping company. In the circumstances, that compensation is not a disqualifying factor within the moaning of the act.
It has been established unquestionably that the ship was lost as the result of enemy action. Therefore, members of the crew lost their lives through enemy action. It has already been proved that there was no negligence on their part; it has also been shown that it is not necessary for the widow of a deceased mariner to prove that she was dependent on her husband in order to obtain the benefits of this act; it has also been established that the widows concerned did not receive compensation from the Commonwealth or from the State. Therefore, all the necessary qualifications for a pension seem to exist, and none of the disqualifications applies. There can be no doubt that the relatives of these men who lost their lives have an absolute claim to the benefits under this act. Yet, although the deaths occurred nine months ago and, during that time, the case has been under the consideration of the Repatriation Department, the matter has now been handed over to the Minister for Commerce. I fail to see what connexion the Minister for Commerce has with the matter, in view of the fact that the Minister for the Navy was responsible for the introduction of the act and is, I am sure, sympathetic towards the men who go down to the sea in ships. The case is clear-cut ; and I see no reason why there should have been nine months’ delay, or why the matter should have been handed over to the Minister for Commerce for decision as a matter of policy. After all, the policy cannot effect the rights of mariners’ widows under the act, and I can see no reason for the inordinate delay that has taken place in the office of the Minister for Commerce, and I hope that the Minister for the Navy, who was responsible for the introduction of this legislation, will interest himself in the matter and sec that tardy justice is done to the widows of these men.
.- I should like to bring under the notice of the Government the position of blind pensioners in regard to their permissible earnings. As the legislation stands, a blind pensioner in South Australia is permitted to earn what is practically equivalent to the basic wage. The cost of living has increased so considerably that the organization representing blind workers has asked me to make representation to the Government to have the act amended so that blind pensioners will be permitted to earn the equivalent of the Federal basic wage. I suggest that an amendment should be made providing that a blind pensioner’s earnings may be equivalent to the State basic wage, or the Federal basic wage, whichever is the greater. Such a provision would make little or no difference to the number of pensioners, and the unfortunate position created by the increased cost of living would be eliminated. The reason why I suggest the desirability of allowing the alternative of the State or Federal basie wage is because in some instances the State basic wage is less than the Federal basic wage.
– That is the case in Queensland.
– Yes ; I had Queensland in mind. I have no wish to prejudice the position of blind persons in Queensland for the benefit of others in South Australia, but I believe that more consideration should be given to those unfortunate people who are suffering from this disability. I am confident that a statement of the facts is all that is required to have this matter attended to immediately. If it is necessary for me to advance further arguments at a later stage, I shall certainly do so, but I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation will be seised of the equity of the proposal which I have put forward.
In South Australia the severity of tobacco rationing is inflicting hardship, not only upon those who earn their living by retailing that commodity, but also upon smokers generally. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Port Adelaide Seamans Mission and Sailors Rest stating that members of the mercantile marine are having great difficulty in obtaining supplies before their ships leave the port of Adelaide. That state of affairs is causing unnecessary irritation, and I believe that, in some cases, but for the restraint exercised by their organizations, seamen would have held up the departure of ships unless adequate supplies of tobacco were provided. “Whether or not the shortage of tobacco would justify such drastic action I cannot say, but such irritations should not continue if they can be overcome. Men of the mercantile marine to-day are exposed to grave dangers and have to work under many disabilities and difficulties. Surely we should help them at least by giving them adequate supplies of tobacco, particularly when the request comes from an institution which looks after their welfare.
A similar shortage is causing discontent among munitions employees at General Motors-Holdens works at Woodville. Previously I approached the
Minister for Trade and Customs and asked him if he could ease the position a little by supplying the canteen with a little more tobacco. These men are working long hours and they look forward to having a little respite and a smoke. Surely they are entitled to more consideration than other people who are not directly engaged in war work.
– I shall bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), the representations of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) about the permissible income of blind pensioners and to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison) the two aspects of tobacco rationing which the honorable member has mentioned. I am sure that my colleagues will then give to those matters serious consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes - Scottsdale, Tasmania.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, Nos. 148, 168.
House adjourned at 4.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Fishing Industry: Tariff Board Report.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– It is not in the public interest that these questions should be discussed at the present time.
Aluminium Industry :
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he inform the House on what authority the Treasury instructed the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to disallow the £50 dependent child deduction when computing the amount of Commonwealth and State income tax payable by each officer?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
War-time Boards and Committees.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– A copy of a statement, dated the 14th March, 1941, embodying information in regard to the personnel of special Commonwealth war-time authorities is being supplied to the honorable member, together with a copy of a statement containing additional information which was published in Hansard on the 25th June, 1941 (Hansard, No. 8, page 424). This information is being brought up to date, and a further reply will be furnished as soon as possible. The Government cannot undertake to obtain the information sought by the honorable member regarding the prior or existing business affiliations of the nongovernment members of these authorities.
Parliamentary ‘Committees : Publication of Evidence.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the desire of members and of the public to peruse the detailed evidence given at the public sittings of the various committees recently appointed by the Parliament, will he direct that arrangements be made to have one or more copies of the typed transcript of evidence made available for inspection at suitable times and places?
– In the interests of economy it was decided that, wherever possible, all staffing arrangements associated with the newly created parliamentary and standing committees, including that of reporting, should be as simple and economical as possible. It was suggested that so far as the actual reporting was concerned a full report of question and answer should be resorted to only in exceptional circumstances, and that, at the most, a condensed record in narrative form should be arranged.I shall communicate with the chairmen of the various committees to ascertain whether the suggestion of the honorable member can be complied with, without undue expense.
Merch ant Marine: Comforts for Personnel.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– This matter has already been the subject of correspondence with the general secretary of the Australian ‘Comforts Fund, who has intimated that the constitution of the fund limits its activities to the Australian defence forces on active service, and that in the circumstances the fund is unable to assist men of the mercantile marine. The various patriotic funds in Australia have been established for the specific purpose of aiding men of the fighting forces by supplying additional clothing, comforts, &c, which otherwise they may have no opportunity of obtaining. It is understood that in all principal ports in Australia, institutes, conducted for the benefit of visiting merchant seamen and maintained through the generosity of the public, provide meals at a nominal rate and arrange for the entertainment of seamen while their ships are in port.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
When dealing with the pay of the Military Forces will he give consideration to the need for granting some deferred pay to members serving in home garrisons for the duration of the war, so that they will have some money to start with when they arc retired from the service ?
– The honorable member’s representations for deferred pay for garrison battalion personnel will receive consideration in connexion with the review of the pay of members of the Military Forces.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 August 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19410822_reps_16_168/>.