16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.W. M. Nairn) tools the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that the Honorable D. G. Sullivan, M.P., Minister for Supply and Munitions, Dominion of New Zealand, and the Right Honorable J. G. Coates, M.P., a member of the New Zealand War Cabinet, are within the precincts of the House.With the concurrence of honorable members I shall provide them with seats on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Messrs. Sullivan and Coates thereupon entered the chamber and were seated
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle- Prime Minister). - by leave -In laying on the table the following paper: -
National Security Act - National Security (Economic Organisation )Regulations - Statutory Rules1942, No. 76,
I desire to say that the Government is aware that these regulations may have features which call for examination and may, indeed, warrant some rearrangement. It, however, accepts - and I am sure that the country, too, does - the general principle and structure of the regulations as being indispensable to the total mobilization of this country in order to meet the circumstances that now confront it. The Government is quite ready to have the regulations examined by a special committee representative of both Houses and of all the parties in the Parliament.
– by leave - The Opposition is very pleased that the Government is agreeable to an examination of the regulations by a special committee, because it believes that it would be unwise to allow Part 3 of Statutory Rule, No. 76, to remain in its present form, as it would have damaging and disadvantageous effects upon our war effort. In principle, the regulations are similar to those promulgated successively by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and myself, as Prime Minister, inasmuch we enforced restrictions in order to prevent the diversion of money from the war necessities of the nation. We consider, however, that in these regulations the Government has gone too far and has acted too harshly.
Mr.Rosevear. - On a point of order ! Has the honorable gentleman the right to debate the merits of the regulations, in view of the fact that they have merely been tabled?
– Leave has been given to the Leader of the Opposition to make a statement.
– The Opposition offers strenuous objection to paragraph 6 of the regulations, on the ground that it does not possess any merits in relation to the financial structure of this nation. We do not find fault with the general principles which the Government desires to apply, but we consider that the implementation of that portion of the regulations to which I have drawn attention would cut across, hinder, and depress those financial activities upon which the Government must necessarily rely for a maximum war effort. We, therefore, accept the suggestion that a special committee be set up in order to examine the regulations judicially, with a view to obtaining what is best calculated to promote the interests of this country. We are actuated by a sincere desire to assist the Government. We naturally hope that the recommendations or findings of the special committee will be willingly implemented by the Government. If that be not done, we reserve the right to take whatever action we may consider proper in order to effect what we believe will be in the best interests of the nation.
Mr.Curtin. - I take it that the Leader of the Opposition will consult me in regard to the personnel of the committee ?
– I shall do so.
– Does the Prime Minister realize that a state of uncertainty now exists in regard to the regulations, and that, by having them referred to a committee while still keeping them in force, he is adding one uncertainty to another?
– The regulations are operative. They are being administered reasonably, equitably, and capably, by the responsible Ministers. I know of very great service to the country that they have already rendered. I am ready to set up the committee so soon as the Leader of the Opposition and I can constitute it. I cannot see any occasion for a protracted investigation. The report of the committee could be made available at a very early date.
Mr.Menzies. - By Thursday of next week ?
– Yes; and that ought to end the matter.
– When the House assembles next ‘week, will the Prime Minister afford to honorable members an opportunity to debate these regulations and the general economic policy of the Government?
Mr.CURTIN.- That will depend upon whether the report of the committee, which, I understand, the Opposition accepts, has been completed. No good purpose would be served in debating the subject before that report is ready, and I sincerely hope that it will be available by next week. If the Government accepts the findings of the committee, the regulations will be amended. In those circumstances, new regulations to effect the necessary changes will have to be drafted. If the committee approves of the action of the Government, I do not see that anything further can be done, unless somesubstantive action be taken in the Parliament.
– Will honorable members have an opportunity to take that action, if necessary?
– Yes, provided that the other requisite steps also are taken. But at the present stage I submit, entirely without prejudice or any wishful thinking on the part of the Opposition or the Government, that we expect the committee to apply its mind constructively to the regulations, the principles of which have been accepted by members of the Government and the Opposition alike, and it seems to me that any debate upon the subject should be delayed until next week.
– by leave - Further details of yesterday’s raid at Port Moresby show that the attack lasted nearly an hour, and that about 70 bombs were dropped. Enemy aircraft flew at about 20,000 feet. As a result of their activities some unimportant damage was done to service buildings. Confirmed civilian casualties totalled one killed and five injured. The value of slit trenches was again demonstrated when a bomb fell within 6 feet of a trench which was full of men. None of them was injured. A further raid took place to-day, but no particulars are available. As soon as information comes to hand, I shall make it known to honorable members.
– Under regulation No. 10,
National Security (Coal Control) Regulations, it is provided that the owner of a coal-mine in which employees refuse to work after having been directed to do so by their appropriate organization shall have power to notify the Coal Commissioner to that effect, and that the Commissioner may, in turn, remove names so notified from the list of those inreserved occupations. . I ask the Minister for Supply whether any owner has notified the Coal Commissi oner to this effect, and, if so, what actionhas been taken?
Mr.BEASLEY. - by leave - The action provided for in the regulation has not been taken. Representatives of the Government have had long conferences with the owners and miners in an endeavour to reach an understanding for the peaceful carrying on of the industry, at least for the duration of the war, so that production may be not only main- tained at its proper levelbut also increased to meet the additional needs arising from the war. We felt that we had succeeded until, on Monday last, we found that more mines had become idle, four on the South Coast, and three on the northern field, making seven in all. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who had been deputed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) to attend to matters of this kind, consulted directly with representatives of the mine lodges in the northern and southern district, and also attended mass meetings of the miners. I am happy to be able to say that to-day all the mines are working with the exception of one at South Clifton. This mine is not working because of a dispute connected with the pensions scheme instituted by the Government of New South Wales. The District Delegate Board on the South Coast, which met this morning, heard representatives from the South Clifton mine, and afterwards carried the following resolution unanimously : -
Owing to the serious war position, this District Delegate Board, representative of every miners’ lodge on the South Coast, cannot stand for South Clifton or any other miners’ lodge laying idle in the Southern District, and any lodge or individuals not prepared to work and allow their grievances to be dealt with either by the Lodge Executive, Pit Top Com mittee or tribunals that this District Board considers, they are doing everything in their power to assist Fascism and the Japanese menace, and that we will consider them no longer members of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation.
Notwithstanding the criticism that may be levelled against the Government for not taking a more direct course in this matter, we are mindful of the fact that it is coal that we need, and that there is not a great number of men in Australia competent to go into the pits and mine coal. At the risk of criticism, we sought means to induce the Miners Federation to take the step which it took to-day. This decision has been approved by the general president and general secretary of the Miners Federation, which is the central council of the employees. During the week-end, the miners on all fields will be called together at mass meetings, and will have explained to them the plain facts regarding the Japanese menace toAustralia. As a result, I am hopeful that the production of coal will be maintained and increased, and that it will not be necessary to invoke the National Security Regulations.
– Although reservesof coal are not so satisfactory as the emergency demands, miners in Queensland are not fully employed and are anxious to make a maximum contribution to the war effort.In those circumstances, will the Minister for Supply and Development further examine whether coal fromQueenslandcan be used in the war effort? if the number of miners in the southern States is not adequate to meet the demand for coal, or if some of them are not desirous of doing their job, will the Minister communicate with the Queensland Colliery Employees Union with a view to ascertaining whether Queensland miners can be despatched to New South Wales or elsewhere for the purpose of assisting in the production of coal?
– The honorable member for Moreton raised this matter on a previous occasion, and I should like him to know that the subject was exhaustively debated at the recent Premiers Conference. In addition, the Government has discussed the problem with the representatives of the miners. The Queensland delegate attended that meeting in
Canberra, and many points were placed before Mr. Mighell, who has charge of this matter. Mr. Mighell has been responsible for the greater use of Queensland coal during the last six weeks, and we are hoping to improve upon that position.
– What quantity has been used?
– I cannot make public that information, but the coal is being used by the New South Wales Railways on the northern run. I remind the honorable member that the transport of Queensland coal to other States is a shipping problem. We are doing the best that we can, in the circumstances, to overcome the difficulty, and we hope to make the best use possible of the collieries in Queensland.
– Does the Minister for Supply and Development know that hardship has been suffered by the owners of one or two motor lorries, some of which are being paid for under hire-purchase agreements, because of the drastic petrol rationing regulations ? Does he appreciate the great difference between the effect of the flat-rate petrol cuts upon large carrying organizations, which are able to rationalize their business to meet the cuts, and the effect of the same regulations upon smaller men who are not able to do so? Is it the intention of the Government to continue the present unscientific and unfair method of flat-rate rationing?
– Whe ther the policy of the Government in regard to petrol rationing is scientific or otherwise is a debatable point. The practice followed by this Government and its predecessor was to draw up a table allotting a fixed ration for the various kinds of motor users, private, commercial, industrial, &c. It is very difficult to discriminate between one person and another within any one category. In each instance, a flat-rate reduction was introduced, and that seems tome to be the only practicable way in which the scheme can be administered. It is impossible, as a general practice, to deal with individual cases. However, in spite of the difficulty of dealing with individuals, the Liquid Fuel Boards in the various States have been prepared to consider cases of the kind mentioned by the honorable member.
Mr.Rosevear. - Yes, and they always reject applications.
– It is probably true that, within the last few months, rejections have been general.
Mr.Pollard. - How many prosecutions have been launched against luxury users of petrol?
– I ask honorable members how they would deal with the case of a man with a business licence who sometimes uses his car for luxury purposes. If the honorable member will bring under the notice of the Liquid Fuel Board or the Supply Department particulars of individual cases, they will be investigated.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to the scandalous waste of petrol by military motor vehicles, particularly transport vehicles of 3-ton capacity, which run between camps and ordnance stores, and camps and depots? Often their load does not exceed a couple of hundredweight. In order to conserve petrol so that civil users may obtain a more liberal allowance, will the Minister arrange for the military authorities to rationalize the work of the motor transport section by ensuring that motor lorries are loaded to capacity?
– Instructions were issued months ago, and I think that similar directions were given by my predecessor, that all wastage of petrol in Army transport should be eliminated. From reports that I have received, I know that many branches of the Army throughout Australia have resorted to the use ofhorsedrawn vehicles, in order to conserve supplies of liquid fuel, in transporting foodstuffs to the Army. I shall take into consideration the suggestion made by the honorable member and ensure that his complaint shall be immediately investigated.
Assistanceof Private Members - Services of the Right Honorable Member for Yarra.
– I desire to announce to the House that the Minister for Social
Services and Minister for Health (the Honorable E. J. Holloway) will also act as Minister assisting the Minister for Munitions in lieu of Senator Cameron, Minister for Aircraft Production.
In accordance with the previous announcement that Ministers would use the services of private members to assist them in administrative and other work connected with the war, I have, as Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Co-ordination, requested the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) to act for and with me in a series of capacities, and he has consented to do so. I am grateful to the right honorable gentleman, and I am quite sure that the people of Australia will be appreciative of the service that he undoubtedly will be able to render.
-When applications for exemption from military training on the ground of hardship are being heard by a magistrate, will the applicant be permitted to be represented by a legal adviser or a friend?
Mr.WARD. - The directions which havebeen issued as a guide to procedure at those tribunals do not contain that specific provision, but the Government desires that the applicant shall possess that right, and if additional directions to the tribunals are required in order to clarify the position, they will be given.
– Has the Minister for the Army any further information about members of the Australian Imperial Force at Singapore?
– I have not received any official information that I can make available at the present time.
– Has the Attorney-
General read the articles which have appeared in a weekly newspaper regarding possible activities of a subversive character from the Japanese Consulate? Is he aware that the articles are causing grave concern to many people in the community? Will the AttorneyGeneral issue a statement to assure the public that every precaution has been taken to prevent such activities, and that ourwar effort cannot be endangered, and no assistance to an invader can be given, from that source? Finally, what precautions have been taken in order to prevent such subversive activities?
– I can assure the honorable gentleman, without referring to any newspaper articles, that every precaution has been taken to prevent such subversive activities.
– The public want to know the nature of those precautions.
– Does the honorable member desire me to describe in detail the precautions that have been taken? I could not possibly give that information. Since certain reports were made to me, additional precautions are being taken. I assure the House that every care will be taken to ensure that there shall be no leakage from such sources.
– Will the Minister make a statement to the House explaining the action that he has taken regarding the “D.M.T.” cost-plus scheme which has been in operation in connexion with machine-tool production? In doing so, ‘will the Minister indicate in particular, first, the number of firms affected; secondly, the profits which they made ; and, thirdly, whether any demands for refunds have been made and, if so, to what amount?
– A statement setting out the revised methods of the costing system for machine tools has already been published, but, as the information that the honorable member requires will involve research, I shall make the necessary investigations and supply to the House a full statement next week.
– When does the Treasurer propose to introduce the necessary legislation for the establishment of the longpromised mortgage bank?
– The necessary examination of the proposal is now being undertaken and I hope to be able before the middle of the year to introduce the requisite legislation.
– In view of the serious economic position of primary producers, will the Treasurer inform the House of the progress that has been made towards the establishment of a mortgage bank?
– The necessary legislation is being drawn up for submission to Cabinet and, as I informed the honorable member forWilmot, I hope that the measure will be introduced before the middle of the year.
– I desire to address to the Prime Minister a question relating to the position of the dependants of officials of the New Guinea and Papua administrations who have been compelled, asthe result of the Japanese invasion, to leave those territories. Many of the members of those administrations have joined the New Guinea Voluntary Defence Forces, and some of their dependants, who are at present in Australia, are practically destitute because of the insufficient provision for making payments to them. Will the Prime Minister take immediate action to place the payments to those dependants upon a satisfactory basis?
– That matter has been receiving attention and action has been taken in some instances - those which have come to the notice of the Treasurer. The whole matter has been looked at as one deserving of, not only sympathetic consideration, but also urgent consideration.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development set up a Government buying commission to purchase base metals, such as tungsten, manganese and iron, direct from the miners, who, in the past, have been left at the mercy of the smelting combine? If the Minister will accede to this request, will he arrange to purchase the ores at grass rather than at railway stations?
– The honorable member raised this matter during the last sessional period and I have made some inquiries. Since then the scope of the Bauxite Committee has been widened to enable it to function as a minerals com- mittee, of which Mr. Newman has been put in charge. In connexion with the honorable member’s suggestion, I am informed that the Prices Commissioner has fixed the price of tin. That price is paid by the smelters. I understand that for lots less than 5 tons the price is1s. a unit less. The price of wolfram is fixed under an arrangement with the British Government. Very little manganese is produced. On the general question, I should prefer the Minerals Committee to look at the honorable member’s proposal. I shall take action, based upon suggestions which the committee may be able to offer, to ensure that those producing small quantities shall get a fair deal.
.- I move-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Thursday, the5th March, at 3 p.m.
I am not able to make anything other than a general statement about the justification for this course. I can only say that members of the Advisory War Council are entirely familiar with the reasons which actuate me in submitting this motion. This afternoon the international position will be reviewed by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), but, instead of continuing the sittings this week and concluding them, we desire to use this week for a matter of great urgency - preparation and organization for other than parliamentary work. The whole strategical problem of this country requires most urgent consideration. That consideration will be given in association with the representatives of New Zealand and - I think I may use the phrase used by the President of the United States of America - the united nations. I shall not be more particular than that. All this makes it imperatively necessary that the Administration shall have the opportunity now to engage in a thorough and complete review of the position of Australia in respect of the war, the position of New Zealand in respect of the war, and the position of the whole of the Allies in respect of the war in total.
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [3.35].- In view of the explanation which the Prime Minister has submitted, one can hardly tlo other in the present set of circumstances than acquiesce in the motion, hut I must express some disappointment that a motion of this kind should be sprung upon us for the first time on the meeting of the Parliament. Members come long distances to assemble in this Parliament, and it is their duty to do so.
– The Japanese travel long distances, too.
– The Japanese do not come to this Parliament, and I verily believe that they will never interfere with the functions of this Parliament. But that is by the way. There are matters which might be discussed with advantage by members of Parliament, even in the exceptional circumstances which will largely engage the attention of the Prime Minister and, it may be, other Ministers. After all, though the Government is the selected instrument responsible to Parliament, it is not the Parliament; and with the Parliament, as such, remains the duty of consultation upon matters which Ministers think it right to bring before the Parliament. I take this opportunity to say that my own view is that in these times of great anxiety every elector of every party is entitled to feel that he has a representative who meets daily, or almost daily, at least for a short period, in the Parliament, and who is, therefore, in consultation with his fellow members and in consultation also, either formally or informally, with members of the Government,, and that members of the Government have the advantage of the advice and suggestions, and, possibly, personal information, which may be available, and normally is available, to the rank and file of the Parliament. This is due to the Government, also, because great responsibility rests upon the Government at the moment, and it is not sufficient that Ministers work laboriously and with intelligence, as they do, at their allotted tasks; it is desirable also that they have the support of and consultation with individual members. In that way Parliament, as a democratic institution, should be in constant touch with those who make Parliament and are its masters, as Parliament is the master of the Government. There are matter? which, I suggest, could well have been discussed by this Parliament. Some have been mentioned to-day - regulations, for instance. If this Parliament had been meeting regularly, even for brief periods, certain regulations which now have the effect of law would not have been allowed to have such effect. No intelligent honorable member on either side of the House would have allowed that to happen had the way been open for him to prevent it. We must never, for one moment, whether we be supporters of the Government or members of the Opposition, lose our sense of responsibility for the examination, with the utmost care, of regulations; especially at a time when regulations must necessarily be given the effect of law rapidly, and with very little time for consideration and, consequently, with very little consideration. Because of the need for the careful examination of regulations T suggest that Parliament should sit more regularly. I do not oppose this motion as Ibo Prime Minister has stated that it is important that it should be agreed to. He is the head of the Government, and must have the final decision in such matters.
– The Opposition thoroughly concurs in the decision made by the Prime Minister, and it is willing that the House shall adjourn to-day till Thursday of next week. It recognizes, of course, that in consequence of this adjournment honorable members will not have the opportunity of a three-day debate, but its view Ls that the loss of three days of debate is preferable to the loss of three minutes of war preparation. Consequently we are whole-heartedly behind the Prime Minister in this matter.
.- 1 entirely agree that, for the purposes outlined by the Prime Minister, it is necessary that the House shall adjourn to-day. I wish, however, to indicate that I expect more satisfaction than has so far been given concerning the rather cavalier manner in which honorable members are being treated in relation to the distribution of regulations, a matter to which the honorable member for Batman refunded. T remember that when the supporters of the present Government were sitting in Opposition they demanded frequent meetings of the Parliament. We metaphorically tore the walls down because the Government of the day was governing by regulation. We are still being governed by regulation, and at an accelerated pace, but with this difference, that last year honorable members were being supplied with copies of regulations before information concerning them appeared in the press. The procedure at present seems to be to cause garbled statements of the effect of regulations to be published in the press, and to oblige honorable members to come back to Canberra in order to obtain copies of the regulations. We have to come back here in order to know, what has been going on, for months, under regulations.
Mr.Curtin. - Not months !
– Yes, months. 1 challenge truthful contradiction of my statement that, unless other honorable members have been treated differently from myself - and I do not think that they have been treated differently - they have not had any regulations sent on to them since the Parliament adjourned in the middle of last December. Copies of newly issued regulations were formerly forwarded to the postal addresses of honorable members, but since last December each honorable member’s correspondence box in this House has been stuffed with sufficient regulations to fill a sugar bag. We speak of these publications as regulations, but really they are the laws under which people are being governed to-day. I have had responsible members of organizations, and also private citizens, inquire from me concerning the effect of certain regulations, but I had not seen the regulations for my copies had not been sent on to me. I hope that the Prime Minister will see that whoever has been responsible for stopping the forwarding of the regulations to honorable members shall be dealt with appropriately, and that, in the future, all copies of regulations addressed to honorable members shall be forwarded promptly to their private address and not he allowed to accumulate in lockers in Parliament House.
.- I shall not oppose the motion, but I wish to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). At no time in the history of Australia, not excepting the period of the last war, have regulations been issued - many of them properly issued - of greater consequence to the ordinary citizens, and in greater number, than at present. They are necessary in order to meet war conditions. Yet, by some extraordinary combination of circumstances, copies of them have not been forwarded to honorable members. This is the first time in my experience as a member of this Parliament that copies of regulations addressed to me at Parliament House have not been forwarded to my private address when Parliament has been in recess. Had it not been for my attendance at Canberra a couple of weeks ago in order to attend the meeting of the Opposition Executive, I should not have seen a copy of a single regulation issued since the end of last year, although in that time numerous regulations have been issued which vitally affect private rights and the liberty of the subject.
Mr.James. - It was not the fault of the Government that these were not forwarded. Inquiry should be made of the clerk whose duty it was to forward them.
– It is not my function to ascertain who is to blame, but whoever is responsible should be dealt with. I am merely corroborating facts stated by an honorable member who supports the Government. On the broader issue of future meetings of the House, I understand that it is proposed that honorable members shall re-assemble for two or three days next week, and that Parliament shall then go into recess. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was asked specifically this afternoon whether, in view of the fact that a committee had been appointed to report upon a certain regulation, honorable members would be given an opportunity to discuss the issues involved. His reply was not altogether satisfactory. He did not indicate that time would be made available for such a discussion. The regulation referred to is only one of about a hundred which also have a more or less important bearing upon the everyday life of our fellow citizens. I trust, therefore, that an opportunity will he provided to discuss the particular regulation to which reference has been made, and also other regulations which are of little less importance to the people at large.
– I should like to say a word in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). “When I found that copies of regulations addressed to me were not being forwarded to me in the proper manner, I took action, as did the secretary of the Leader of the Opposition. I also purchased a copy of certain regulations from the Sub-Treasury in Brisbane. Other honorable members could have purchased a copy of the particular regulation in question, if necessary. There was no need for any honorable member to wait until he returned to Canberra to peruse copies of regulations. Any honorable gentleman who was deeply interested in the matter could have communicated with the Clerk of Papers at Canberra and asked that any matter addressed to him here should be forwarded to his private address. I am sure that such a request would have been complied with.
.- Prior to the rising of the House on the 17th December last, I directed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) a question in which I specifically asked that the Parliament be not kept in recess for too lengthy a period. I was subjected to some criticism for having dared to ask such a question at that time. The Prime Minister replied that, although it had been said that the House would not meet again until the following March, he could not conceive of the circumstances being such that the Parliament would be enabled to remain in recess for so long. Since then we have had disaster after disaster, the major one being that the whole of one of our divisions is in the hands of the Japanese in Singapore. Other matters of the very grea test moment to this nation have arisen; yet this House has been kept in recess, and is now asked to remain in recess.
– It is not asked to remain in recess.
– Either this Parliament is a useful instrument, or it ought not to meet. The most appropriate time for it to meet is during the greatest emergency in the history of this country. On the 17th December, the Prime Minister admitted to me that he recognized that members of Parliament had the same duties to. perform on behalf of the country as members of the Government had to perform on behalf of the Parliament. Last week we sat in secret meeting for two days. The suggestion was made in many quarters that we ought to have continued sitting on Monday and Tuesday of this week. I have reached the limit of my patience. I affirm very definitely that there is a tremendous feeling of disquiet throughout the country. This Parliament is the proper place for the revelation and discussion of what is in the minds of the people. If our efforts to voice the views of the people are thwarted, democracy has no meaning in war-time. In certain circumstances, I agree, Parliament might abrogate some of its privileges. The circumstances that I visualize would be such as would exist under a government representative of all the parties in this House. There would then be some justification for Parliament not meeting. With one-party government, the majority of the members of the one party occupying some remunerative post in the Government, the time has come when those who represent the Opposition must give expression to what is in their minds; and that can be done most appropriately in the Parliament itself. I trust that when the House meets next week the Prime Minister and the Government will not again attempt to adjourn it for a lengthy period.
– I well remember a Friday morning eighteen months ago, when this House was engaged in a debate very similar to that in which it is now engaging, the subject being the length of the then proposed adjournment. One of the leading figures in that debate was the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who declared that it was unwise for the Parliament, in time of war, to meet less often than one week in every mouth. I expressed myself in entire agreement with that contention at the time. I still believe that it would be a good thing if there , were regular meetings of this House; if every honorable member knew that he was expected to be here in, say, the first week in every month; if every Minister knew that he would be able so to administer his department, subject always to certain exigencies of .war, that he would on such occasions be here to put the case as the Government saw it. We heard a lot last week, and it is now proposed that we shall adjourn until next week. I do not intend to oppose that proposal, because I can well believe that the Prime Minister would not make it unless there were weighty reasons in support of it. I endorse the statement of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that there is abroad in this country to-day a spirit of disquiet, of criticism, of questioning, in regard to the activities of this Parliament. That has not arisen since the present Government came into power: it has been in existence for quite a while. The manner in which the parliamentary business of this nation has been conducted during the war does not appeal to the electorate. There have been occasions when we could adjourn for a little while. The people are drawing very sharp contrasts between the sittings of this Parliament and those of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which is - or was until a few days ago - much closer than we to the seat of war. The Houses of Parliament at Westminster have been bombed and blasted to smithereens, yet the House of Commons still meets. It is the authority to .which Mr. Winston Churchill explains, and before which he defends, his policy. There has been practically nothing of that sort in Australia. There are a few questions in relation to the war that I wish to discuss in this Parliament before very long. There are .matters which relate to higher strategy, to the organization, or the lack of it, of the Forces within this country, and to the industrial situation. The frequency with which the Prime Minister has made a last appeal to the miners to return to their work reminds me of Madame Melba’s numerous last appearances on the platform. When does the honorable gentleman intend to make his final appeal? We know that there are difficulties on the waterfront, in regard to shipping. A degree of restriction has been imposed upon open criticism of certain measures’, at least, we understand so, from a question that was asked by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) this afternoon. Every honorable member desires to assist the Government, if that be possible. We must be shown some consideration.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has raised a point that I had intended to raise. Last week, upon my return to Canberra, I found my letter box crammed full with regulations.
– That was the fault of the honorable member.
– It was not. Before this Government came into power, I received through the mail copies of any regulations that were gazetted. Since this House rose in December, I have not seen a regulation. Honorable gentlemen who are now Ministers have said on different occasions that if they were in office they would not govern by regulation, because they did not approve of such a practice.
– Who said that?
– Quite a few of those who are now in the Ministry. We are entitled to have regulations posted to us. I am quite sure that newspaper proprietors do not regard it as a part of their duty to endeavour to educate me in regard to what the Government proposes to do. Therefore, the information should come to me through official channels. I learned through the press that some important regulations had been promulgated, but I did not dream that there was such a huge pile of them as I found here last week. If honorable members received them through the post, it would be their own fault if they did not acquaint themselves with what they contained.
I agree to the proposed adjournment ; but I put it to the Prime Minister that, apart from consideration of the regulations, to which some reference has already been made, it is vitally necessary that the House of Representatives shall proceed to a thorough review of the war.
I have mentioned the spirit of disquiet that exists in the community. It is a spirit that will not be kept bottled up for very long. It will not be allayed by press advertisements, or be brushed aside by speeches broadcast by Ministers. It cannot be dismissed by the declaration that we are a completely united nation. Every man who can think for himself knows that we are united only in those things which do not matter; in the big things that matter, there is not yet a measure of unity in this country. It may be forced on us before long; I believe that it will be. It would be far better if this Parliament were to face the facts and devise means for meeting the situation, than that such action should be forced on Parliament, as it well may be in the not-far-distant future if steps to avert such a happening be not taken.
– I support the adjournment of the House for the reason mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and do not offer any criticism, of the employment of regulations by the Government during the period of the Avar, as I believe that to be the only practical method of government at such a time. I am not under the illusion that the business of government can be carried on during the war by the normal processes of Parliament, with the delays that are inseparable therefrom. The non-receipt of copies of regulations by honorable members has only to be mentioned for corrective action to he taken.
Mr.Curtin. - I do not know how it occurred.
– The former practice was deliberately altered.
– I have no doubt that it was altered. The matter having been mentioned, I believe that it will be corrected.
As the debate has developed along certain lines, I take the opportunity to mention one matter which, to me, is of importance. I refer to the method by which the intention of the Government to deal with certain matters by regulation is made known to the public. With the best will in the world, a government which is compelled to issue regulations of this kind must cause public inconvenience and, in some instances, injustice. With that I do not quarrel; it is an inevitable corollary of the greater injustice of war itself.
Mr.Brennan. - There should be discussions from time to time.
– I agree. I have no doubt that, no matterwhat government is in power, opportunity should be provided for discussion. The point I am making is that every endeavour should be made to minimize, as far as possible, the inconvenience inherent in this form of government. The worst effects are produced, in my opinion, by the making of a general announcement, before the regulations themselves are promulgated, that regulations of a certain character are to be issued. Recently, an announcement was made, I think by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), that the Government had decided to bring down, under the National Security Act, regulations for the purpose of limiting business transactions, freezing certain assets, preventing the transfer of property, and mobilizing man-power and national resources. I am prepared to believe that this announcement was made by the Prime Minister for the purpose of letting the public know that the Government was aware of the imminence of the threat to public security, and that it is taking the steps necessary to meet that threat. However, the net results of the announcement, corning as it did before the details of the regulations themselves were known, was to create a doubt in the minds of many people regarding the form which the regulations were likely to take, and more than one person told me that he had drawn money from the savings bank because of a fear that the Government intended to freeze savings bank deposits. The Government will have my support, and, I have no doubt, the support of nearly every other honorable member, in its policy of governing the country by regulation during the period of the war. I have no doubt that it will, in general, use its powers wisely, but I urge that, in future, the regulations he issued first, rather than that they be the subject of public discussion first and issued afterwards.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Can the Minister for Commerce state when the Government proposes to announce its policy regarding the growing and marketing of wheat for the coming season, because any further delay will cause great inconvenience to the farming community?
– I regret that a definite announcement has not been made before. We have been engaged in extensive researches regarding the wheat industry, and honorable members will realize the difficulty of the situation when I say that we are faced ‘with a carry-over of 120,000,000 bushels at the end of this year. Nevertheless’, I hope that it will be possible to make a definite announcement early next week, and thus allay the fears which the honorable member has expressed.
– In view of the report that members of the Militia Forces have been in action in Rabaul, Port Moresby and Darwin, will the Government consider placing the Militia on the same footing in regard to daily pay, deferred pay and pension rates, as members of the Australian Imperial Force?
– This matter is receiving the consideration of the Government now, and a decision will be reached at an early date.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that a good deal of discontent exists in country towns because man-power officers, who are themselves of military age, have been appointed in certain localities? Who makes these appointments? Is he the Director-General of Man-power, or is he the Deputy Director of Man-power, who was Under-Secretary of the Department of Labour and Industry in New South Wales? With a view to removing causes of friction, will the Minister make appointments of this kind himself, instead of delegating the power to other persons?
– I take it that the honorable member is referring to man-power officers, who operated under the previous scheme which has now been incorporated in the Department of Labour and National Service, rather than to national service officers. The list is being carefully gone over with a view to deciding who shall be retained and who shall be released for service elsewhere. I am not aware that any national service officers were themselves of military age, but I shall have inquiries made, and advise the honorable member later of the result.
– During the discussion on the motion for the special adjournment of the House reference was made to the non-despatch to the private addresses of honorable members of copies of regulations sent to them at Parliament House.
An officer, without any authority or direction, recently ceased the established practice of posting regulations to members, and put them in their correspondence boxes. Instructions have been issued that, for the future, these regulations are to be posted to members when the House is not in session.
– Can the Minister for the Army state whether any officers and non-commissioned officers have yet been appointed to the Volunteer Defence Corps? If not, what is the reason for the delay?
– The Government recently gave approval for the appointment of a considerable number of officers and non-commissioned officers to the Volunteer Defence Corps, and I understand that the appointments are in process of being made. I shall give instructions to havethe work expedited.
– Is it a fact that immediately after the attack had been made by Japanese air forces on Darwin, an officer of the Army, together with an officer of the Air Force, went to Darwin to make an investigation on the spot? If so, will the House be given an opportunity, either in open or secret session, to consider the contents of the report when it is received by the Minister?
– It is true that a senior officer of the Air Force, and an officer of the Army went separately to Darwin to make inquiries. They have submitted reports which will be fully considered.
Mr.Calwell. - By Parliament?
– President Roosevelt, in his recent broadcast speech, said that he had reason to believe that the Japanese were most anxious to know details of the damage done at Pearl Harbour, but that, for reasons of national security, he did not propose to release those details. For the same reason it would not be wise to give details of the damage done at Darwin. The report will be considered, and any lessons that may be learned from the experiences of Darwin will be assimilated.
Services - Oath ob Allegiance.
– Many complaints are heard in my division regarding naturalized and unnaturalized aliens, refugees and others, who are making a welter of the opportunity to impose their services upon the community. Where they are gathered together in numbers, they are regarded as a distinct menace in the event of an invasion of Australia. Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say what is the intention of the Government with regard to these persons?
– In response to a number of complaints, including some from the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), the department has instituted an inquiry into this matter. It is hoped to announce the result of the investigation at an early date, and to state what action the Government proposes to take.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House of the reasons which led to the oath of allegiance to the King being dispensed with in the case of aliens who enlist in our armed forces? Ib not such a dispensation contrary to the best interests of the country and the Army?
– On the recommendation of the Military Board, the oath of allegiance to the King was dispensed with in respect of friendly aliens, such as Americans, who would lose their own nationality if they were obliged to subscribe to it. But this rule has no general application.
– On Sunday night, Monday night, a.nd again last night, at points along the coast from Maroubra to Bondi, many bright lights continued to burn, some of them facing the sea. Apparently nothing will be done by a minority of the people in order to protect the lives of the majority. Will the
Minister for Home Security consider what should be done to deal with such persons, including the Waverley Shire Council ?
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) brought this matter under my notice on two previous occasions, and I have taken it up with the proper authorities in New South Wales. I was assured by ohe responsible State Minister that action would be taken. If this action he not taken to-night or to-morrow night I, as Minister for Home Security, will see that something is done.
– Negotiations have recently been in progress between the Department of Commerce and the Victorian Government on the subject of allowing fat cattle to be sold off the Werribee irrigation farm. I should like an assurance from the Minister for Commerce that no hasty decision will be made that might result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and that interested organizations will be consulted before definite action is taken. Will he have a test made of cattle from that part of the farm which is irrigated, in order to see whether they are free from disease?
– This matter is at present under investigation, and I have called for a report from departmental officers. Much research work has been done, and the opinion of doctors and other experts is being obtained. I do not altogether agree with the view of the honorable member. It appears to me that much valuable stock, including beef cattle, of which there is an alarming shortage throughout Australia, is at present being wasted.
– Will the Treasurer explain to the House the facts regarding the use of American currency as legal tender in Australia ? A good deal of concern has been expressed in some quarters regarding this matter. Will such a practice have a detrimental effect upon Australian currency?
– The position is that visitors from America, upon arrival in Australia, require to utilize the currency in their possession for the purpose of purchasing goods. The Commonwealth Government intimated to the public that in those cases the foreign currency may be accepted, and a direction has been issued indicating the equivalent that should be paid in Australian currency in exchange for American currency. A storekeeper or any other person may accept the foreign currency and give the equivalent in cash or goods. The foreign currency so received must not be placed in circulation, but should be passed immediately to a bank. I do not anticipate any detrimental effect on Australian currency.
– Statements have been published in the press that it is proposed at some time to evacuate 1,000,000 head of dairy cattle from coastal areas to inland districts in the eastern States. Will the Minister for Commerce say whether he has made arrangements to provide for the 192,000 tons of fodder that will be required to feed those beasts on their trek, and for the 260,000 gallons of petrol that will be needed to transport that fodder?
– The Commonwealth Government has given consideration to the problems that would arise in the event of the evacuation of cattle from the coastal areas in order to prevent them from falling into the possession of an invader. In my opinion, the wholesale evacuation of stock would be absurd, and. indeed, impossible. The Governments of New South Wales and Queensland have appointed a committee to devise preliminary plans for the evacuation of stock from a. portion of the coastal area of the eastern States if that should prove to he necessary. General alarm was felt throughout the dairy districts at the impracticability of the suggestion for a general evacuation. As the result, a public meeting which was attended by interested parties was held and certain suggestions were made. A federal committee will be appointed to act in an advisory capacity and function, in conjunction with the States, in order to e n s U 1; c that the anomalies to which the honorable member for New England referred shall be avoided.
– Those considerations are very weighty.
– I agree. I hope to announce the personnel of the federal committee not later than to-morrow and I shall bear in mind the points to which the honorable member directed attention.
– If, in au emergency, a general order be given for the evacuation of cattle from the coastal districts of the eastern States, about 2,000,000 head will be involved. A statement has been made that the Commonwealth Government will be responsible for losses that will inevitably be suffered by the dairy industry in the event of a general evacuation of stock. Will the Minister for Commerce inform me of the identity of the person who is responsible for determining whether such a movement should take place? Is the Minister satisfied that the matter will not be left in the hands of some “jitterbug” who might order unnecessarily a general evacuation of cattle? Is he confident that the Commonwealth Government has instituted adequate safeguards against an irresponsible person giving an order that will be detrimental to the dairying industry?
– Replying to a question by the honorable member for New England, I indicated my opinion of the suggestion for the general evacuation of stock from coastal to inland districts. I have never given authority for, or mentioned that there would be, a wholesale evacuation of dairy herds. All that ‘1 have ever stated is that in an emergency the Commonwealth Government would work in conjunction with the States in assisting the evacuation of cattle from any portion of the coastal belt. The only authority which could order an evacuation would1 he the military, and the reason would be for the purpose of safeguarding property or cattle in a certain area. As I have already indicated, a federal committee comprising representatives of the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland and primary producers’ organizations will be appointed to consider problems associated with this matter, and to safeguard the position. The personnel of that committee will be announced at the earliest possible moment.
£35,000,000 LIBERTY LOAN.
– On the occasion of i he notation of the £100,000,000 conversion loan, the Treasurer stated that a commission of 5s. per cent, was paid to banks, insurance companies and brokers who lodged applications on behalf of customers and clients. Will the Treasurer say whether that practice has been continued in connexion with the flotation of the present loan ?
– The conditions that governed the flotation of previous loans apply also to the £35,000,000 Liberty Loan, but I have intimated my intention to review the whole matter of brokerage before loans are floated in future.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that his department is impressing motor cycles and instead of paying the full market value of the machines to the owners, some of Whom have joined the fighting services, is taking them at. very low valuations, against which the owners may appeal if they feel so disposed? That means (hat the payment of their money is delayed for two or three months. Will the Minister issue instructions for the payment of the full market value of those motor cycles?
– 1 arn not aware of the details mentioned by the honorable member; all I know is that motor cycles which ure urgently required are being impressed and that officers of the Department of the Army are taking the necessary action in connexion therewith. Every one will admit that it is fair to pay a reasonable price for the machines; but I am much too busy, as Minister for the Army, to enter into a discussion of the merits of the case which the honorable member has outlined. My instruction will be that every person must be treated equitably, taking into consideration the present war needs.
Waste of Petrol - Equal Pay fob the Sexes.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to two notices of motion standing in the names of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). The first deals with the appointment of a select committee to investigate, inter aiia, the waste of petrol, and the second deals with the desirability of the equality of pay for the sexes. Is it the desire of the Government that those two notices of motion shall continue on the notice-paper or has the Government given effect to either?
– These are private members’ notices, and the Government never interferes with private members’ business, except when it suspends the sessional order in order to give precedence to government business. If any private member wishes to proceed with a notice of motion which he has tabled, that is a matter for his own judgment; but if he wishes to withdraw the motion, the matter is one for decision by the House.
– Has the Prime Minister yet considered the report of the Leader of the Opposition on the aircraft factory at Lidcombe? If so, has any action been taken thereon? Will the report be made available for the perusal of honorable members? When will the impartial inquiry promised by the Minister for Aircraft Production into the charges of inefficiency and lag of production at those works which were made by employees be instituted?
– The report which the Leader of the Opposition was good enough to furnish to me as Minister for Defence Co-ordination , has received my attention and action has been taken in respect of certain features of the report. I regard the report as confidential, and I do not propose to table it. I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Aircraft Production to the second part of the honorable member’s question.
– Can the Prime Minister tell me whether it is correct that alongside the recent regulations pegging profits and wages the remuneration of members of parliamentary joint committees has recently been increased from 30s. to £2 2s. a day and the remuneration of chairmen has been increased from £2 to £2 10s. a day?
– The honorable member will know that parliamentary committees were set up by the previous Administration, and fees were prescribed. The previous Government also set up the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, for which different fee were fixed. This Government standardized those fees as from the 1st January. Notices were late in being sent out. The rates are as set out in the notifications sent to the chairmen of the committees, and are not related at all to the pegging of wages or hours of labour; they are what is considered by the Government to be a reasonable allowance for expenses which members incur while doing work which is a little outside their ordinary duties.
– by leave - The war against Germany and Italy has now become a world war. As a consequence, international relations cannot with advantage be discussed apart from the war policy and. the war activities of the nations. Post-war planning itself cannot be dissociated from statements of war aims. And war aims, in their turn, have a bearing upon the vigour of a nation’s war effort, and, indeed, may become an instrument of war. I therefore turn at once to the war situation.
It is now- evident that Japanese gains in the Pacific, though temporary in character, have transformed the entire strategy of the war. Just prior to the 7th December last, the position of the Allies was broadly as follows : - The only large-scale land operations were on the Russian front. There, after a fierce struggle for five months between perhaps the most formidable forces that have ever been locked together in the history of warfare, the German Army had not only been completely blocked near Moscow and at the entrance to the Caucasus, but was being forced to retreat along the greater part of the front. Russia was at last benefiting from its “ scorched-earth “ policy - the policy of sacrificing for the general good every bit of property and of denying to the enemy every atom of material wealth. In the Middle East, too, the position had improved. Grave dangers to the Allies had been removed from Syria and Iran. Further, after some months of preparation, an Allied offensive had been launched in the Western Desert with the object of destroying the German and Italian armoured forces in Libya. The rest of the picture also looked reasonably attractive. The great arsenals of the United States of America and of the United Kingdom were turning out the materials of war in ever-increasing quantities and these were being directed chiefly to the British Isles, to the Middle East and to Russia. For the time being, the menace of Japan seemed remote, unreal. Outside the two battle areas, the main Allied task was to keep the communications across the Atlantic open. It appeared as though the submarine menace in those -waters was being controlled. True, no continental land offensive was in operation, but the island of Britain seemed quite secure. In their turn, the United States of America and all the British dominions seemed far removed from every zone of danger.
It may be that the attractiveness and the apparent stability of this situation helped to induce a feeling of overconfidence. The magnificent fighting qualities shown by the Russians, the success of the campaign in Syria, where the Australian Imperial Force had done so well, the belief in the enormous productive capacity of the North American Continent, the success of the convoy system in the Atlantic, together created a mental and moral Maginot Line behind which we might wait at our leisure for ultimate victory to bestow itself upon us. But the Japanese war has completely destroyed that metaphorical Maginot Line. As on other occasions, the democracies found themselves relatively unprepared to meet the first shocks of the Japanese thrust. It is idle to deny that the eleven weeks of Japanese attacks in southeastern Asia and the Indies have created a situation of such acute difficulty that unless we re-organize all our man-power and all our physical resources, and reorganize them very speedily, victory will be very long delayed.
The Allied position now is broadly this : The fight on the Russian front is continuing. Russia has achieved one of the few great land successes against the Axis. A German spring offensive seems possible, but the Russians seem intent upon denying the enemy every opportunity to stabilize his line, and indeed are still moving westward. The Russians are resolute to liberate their lost provinces. There is every reason to believe that they will succeed in doing so. But the Soviet is also a Pacific power, and recent public warnings suggest that, as a Pacific power, it cannot and will not tolerate any attempt by Japan to destroy the southern democracies. In the Pacific, the Japanese, having fully exploited the advantage of surprise, have overrun Malaya and reduced the supposedly impregnable Singapore in rapid time. As a result, their surface vessels have gained access to the Indian Ocean. They have separated the Pacific Allies into two land areas. The northern and western area is in India, and Bunna, and the southern and eastern is partly in the Indies and mainly in Australia and New Zealand. I have not forgotten one magnificent outpost of resistance. In the Philippines, with unconquerable will, the United States forces under General MacArthur are still rivalling the defenders of Tobruk and of Leningrad. The sea, land and air operations of the Japanese have covered so wide a field iu so rapid a time, have had such important strategic consequences on the world war, and have had such an effect on economic forces and resources, that, without doubt, Japan’s war activities constitute a gigantic threat to the fortunes of the anti-Axis powers everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, too, the military position in the Middle East has temporarily deteriorated. The Allied offensive, commenced in the Western Desert in November last, has not been sustained and the enemy under Rommel has made very substantial advances. His forces in Libya are still active and their supply lines across the Mediterranean are still open. For some of these supplies, it is clear that the Vichy Government ‘has been responsible. The ebb and flow of success in the four Libyan campaigns has been a puzzling feature of the war.
On the other hand, the political situation in the Middle East has improved as a result of the new and important treaty signed at Tehran on the 29th January by which the United Kingdom, the Soviet and Iranian Governments entered into an alliance. The United Kingdom and Russia undertook obligations to protect Iran from the aggression of Germany and its associates. In return they have secured the co-operation of the Iranian forces and civil authorities within Iran, together with the right to maintain their own forces in the country and to make unrestricted use of communications through Iran. Japan’s early gains have further complicated the Allied supply position. Portion of the output of the United States and the United Kingdom must now be directed to the Pacific, as well as to the Middle East, the Russian front and the British Isles. As a consequence, Allied forces have to be distributed over a tremendous area and extended lines of communication in all the oceans of the world have to be protected. The extra calls on production, shipping and naval strength are obvious. The difficulties have been increased by the fact that we have lost considerable resources of oil, rubber, and tin in the Far East. On the 1940 figures, the annual rubber production of Malaya was 3S0,000 metric tons; tin production, 80,000 tons; and iron ore production, 1,940,000 tons. The total annual petroleum production of Dutch Borneo was 1,680,000 tons, and of British Borneo 928,000 tons. From the remainder of the Netherlands East Indies, most of which is now denied to us, the petroleum production was over 6,000,000 tons. The rubber production of the Netherlands East Indies was 540,000 tons a year. Malaya and the Indies are, of course, the greatest rubber producers in the world.
Whilst the temporary loss of these resources worsens our supply position, the Allies still command great material strength elsewhere, and such resolute action as that carried out by the Dutch in destroying one of the great refineries in. Sumatra has meant that, our losses hav«> not always been Japan’s sains. These problems of supply illustrate the truth that you cannot treat the war against Germany as separate from the war against Japan, and then argue that Germany should be defeated first and Japan dealt with afterwards. If Japan’s successes are allowed to continue, Germany’s defeat will be indefinitely postponed.
On the other hand, we should not underestimate the titanic strength of our American partner in the war against, the Axis. The whole of the man-power and industrial resources of that great nation of 130,000,000 people are dedicated to an Allied victory. In his message to Congress on the 7th January President Roosevelt announced a war programme for the coming year equivalent to £ A.17,500,000,000 ‘ and foreshadowed the production of 60,000 aeroplanes, including 10.000 combat types this year, and 125,000 aeroplanes next year; the production of 45,000 tanks this year and 75,000 next year; and the building r-f S. 000.000 tons of shipping this year “id 10,000,000 tons next year. In China aipo, we have gained as an ally a great and courageous people who, for more than four years, have shown the greatest tenacity against a skilful enemy possessing far greater mechanical resources.
Here I would like to pay a public tribute to the valued services performed by our Minister at Chungking, Sir Frederic Eggleston. In a time of acute crisis, he has made it possible for the Chinese Republic and its Generalissimo to understand and sympathize with the special difficulties which this Commonwealth has encountered by its many tasks in different theatres of war.
The actions of the Japanese have gained us other allies. On the 3rd January, in Washington, a declaration of Allied solidarity was signed by representatives of 26 States. Although not a!l of those States were at war with identical groups of enemy powers, each government subscribed to the common pledge to employ its full resources, military or economic, against those members of the Axis with which it was at war, to co-operate with the other signatory governments, and not to make a separate armistice or peace with the common enemies. By adding up populations and industrial output of the Allied nations, particularly the British Commonwealth, the United States, the Soviet Union and China, it could be made to appear that Allied strength far outweighs Axis strength. This is a paper argument and the danger is that its comforting simplicity may help to create yet another imaginary Maginot Line behind which we can remain on the defensive and wait for victory. Men and resources are only effective if they are used in the right way in the right place and at the right time. All three are essential conditions of victory.
In the end we can win the war only by taking offensive action. The preliminary to the final offensive is the present organization of all Allied resource? whatsoever. Planning is not enough.The plans must be executed ruthlessly. In one of his books, General Monash stressed over and over again the need for preliminary organization, and the even greater need for relating each step to the ultimate physical movements involved in co-ordinated military offensives. The Allies cannot be assured of victory until they perfect their system of co-operation, and see to it that their plans are carriei into full force and effect.
In the last few months Australia’s own position, has changed very rapidly. We had sent, abroad valuable land, sea and air forces. Our airmen took part in the defence of the British Isles, in the protection of British ships and in raids against Germany; our sailors served in the Mediterranean and other waters; our soldiers fought in Libya, Greece, Crete, Syria, Tobruk a.nd other African fronts and some stood ready to share in the defence of the British Isles against anticipated invasion. Thousands of picked young men were sent abroad, in the Empire Air Training Scheme. We helped to provide a garrison for Malaya. Large supplies of equipment were shipped away. In doing this we were unreservedly serving the cause of our Allies and also helping in our own defence. Now the position requires a new emphasis. Not because of our desire, but because of our necessity we seem certain to meet direct thrusts against our homeland and the territories of our near Pacific neighbours. At the recent meeting of members of both Houses an opportunity was afforded of reviewing the state of our home defences, and I shall make no detailed reference to them now.
Nor do I propose to review the campaignin Malaya and Singapore, which has terminated in the agonizing captivity of many thousands of men of valour, including most of our own men in that theatre. I do not for a moment subscribe to the view that the causes of this disaster should not be investigated. Of course they should, lest similar losses be repeated. Unless we learn the lessons of such setbacks - and apply the lessons promptly - all the administrative machinery in the world will not gain us the victory. The task of dispassionate analysis, fearless criticism, and careful judgment should be undertaken; and in due course no doubt that will be done. I suggest that one outstanding lesson of the campaign is the fundamental need for creating effective machinery to ensure that there shall be not only Allied unity of command but a guarantee of a common Allied strategical plan backed by the pooling of Allied resources and the sound allocation of those resources to Allied forces. This task is enormously complicated because the powers allied against Japan - the United States of America, the United Kingdom, China, the Netherlands, Canada. Australia,. New Zealand, and the American Republics which have declared war on Japan, together with the Free French - are widely separated geographically and have widely differing resources. In practical terms, the co-ordinating of Allied effort includes at least -
One of the earliest actions of the Commonwealth “Wan Cabinet and Advisory War Council after the outbreak of war was to consider the question of a supreme authority for the higher direction and co-ordinated control of Allied activities and strategy in the war in the Pacific. As early as the 11th December, we made representations on the subject to the United Kingdom Government. Our view then was that an inter-Allied body should be established, preferably in the Pacific area itself. No action along these lines was taken, for the War Council set up to assist Mr. Duff Cooper after his appointment as Resident Minister of Cabinet Rank at Singapore was purely a British body without, any inter-Allied character. After Mr. Duff Cooper returned to England, it acted solely for local defence purposes in Malaya. The first inter-Allied meetings were the regional conferences held at Singapore on the18th December, and at Chungking on the 23rd December. These conferences put forward recommendations to prepare the way for common action against common enemies as seen from the respective centres, but they provided no permanent organization. As a matter of fact the conferences were not called together again. The shape of a permanent organization did not appear until four weeks after the war started. As a result of the Roosevelt-Churchill conversations in Washington, the text of an agreement for a unified command in the south-west Pacific under General Wavell was presented to the Governments concernedat the end of December. To this, the Commonwealth Government gave its immediate assent. But when, on the 4th January, a further communication revealed that the arrangement proposed for the higher direction of the war in the Pacific did not provide for any direct consultation on the part of the Commonwealth, the Government was unable to accept it. This was not a mere lastminute protest for, in assenting to the unified command, the Commonwealth Government had informed Mr. Churchill that it expected Australia to be included in the joint controlling body referred to in the agreement. Thereupon the Commonwealth Government tried hard to secure the establishment in Washington of an inter-Allied body for the higher direction of the war in the Pacific. We preferred Washington as the venue, but we desired above all that the Commonwealth should have the opportunity of conferring as an ally with the United States of America and China at the same council table and on a common footing. On neither point was our proposal acceptable although, as we subsequently ascertained, it was favoured, in part, at least, by New Zealand, China and the Netherlands, which are all so directly affected by the Pacific war. Eventually, in view of the urgency of the position, the Government accepted, on the 6th February, a proposal made by Mr. Churchill for a Far Eastern or Pacific Council to sit in London and to be composed of representatives of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. We expressed the hope then and we hope still that the question of Allied machinery will be reviewed in the light of our recent military experiences.
A hypothetical case will illustrate the way in which the Pacific Council fits into the general machinery. Let us assume that the supreme commander requires guidance or direction from the “ higher authority” in relation to the supply of reinforcements or the like. The procedure is something like this -
It must not be supposed that the circumlocution which may possibly occur is essential to, or even typical of, the scheme. Equally, it would be idle to pretend that we regard the present co-ordinating machinery as satisfactory. True, the complexity of the method of consultation results in part from the geographical separation of the two predominant partners in the war against Japan. Each partner is also separated from the relevant war zone by an enormous distance, and distance tends to blur the outline of the military position. A true inter- Allied body has not yet been provided. Until the other day the Australian Commonwealth had no means of meeting either the United States of America or China at the same level of consultation, whether the subject was governmental or strategic, whether the function was supply, munitions or shipping. We have now been informed that China and India have been added by the United Kingdom to the Pacific Council in London. But at no point whatever does any representative of this country meet any representative of the United States of America in any council, committee, or strategic body directly concerned in the controlling of the Allied war against Japan, or, for that matter, Germany or Italy. I agree that this fact does not conclude the matter, for machinery is not always an obstacle, and we are most grateful to the President for his everready appreciation of the Commonwealth’s position.
During the discussions on the machinery for the higher direction of the war in the Pacific, the Commonwealth Government also sought to obtain a clearer understanding concerning the position of the Commonwealth’s accredited representative, who was accorded the privilege of admission to meetings of the United Kingdom War Cabinet. On several occasions, Dominion Prime Ministers had been invited to attend meetings of the War Cabinet in London, and at our request a similar courtesy was extended to Sir Earle Page when. -he arrived in London as the accredited representative of the Australian Government. In practice, Sir Earle Page was asked to attend Cabinet whenever matters which were considered by the British Prime Minister to be of direct and immediate concern to Australia were under consideration. But in time of war, practically all matters of foreign relations and high policy must necessarily affect all the British dominions. Accordingly the Commonwealth Government asked that its representative should have the right to be beard in the United Kingdom War Cabinet, “ in the formulation and direction of policy “. This request was agreed to by Mr. Churchill. But when the Advisory War Council interpreted this decision as carrying with it membership of the War Cabinet, the British Prime Minister took the view that this was not in accordance with constitutional practice. But British constitutional practice has a way of adapting itself to changing conditions, especially in times of war or emergency. Subsequently Mr. Churchill explained publicly that his cabled decision to grant our special request gave us no more rights than Sir
Earle Page had already been receiving. Canada’s understanding of the position was expressed in the Canadian House of Commons by Mr. Mackenzie King on the 28 th January -
Mr. Churchill’s statement next discloses that in the last three months, Sir Earle Page, representing the Commonwealth Government of Australia, has been accorded the privilege of being present at the Cabinet Table in London when war matters and Australian matters were under discussion and also in similar circumstances in the Defence Committee. It is clear from the statement that this privilege, while broadly interpreted, has, however, been extended only as a matter of courtesy. What recently has been asked specifically by the Australian Government and agreed to by the Government of Great Britain is that an accredited representative of the Commonwealth Government of Australia shall have the right to be heard in the War Cabinet in the formulation and direction of policies. Similar facilities Mr. Churchill states will, of course, be available to New Zealand, Canada and South Africa.
New Zealand decided to follow the Commonwealth’s suggestion and take advantage of the new position, but Mr. Mackenzie King explained that for the time being Canada did not propose to avail itself of the right or privilege. South Africa took the same view as Canada, Field-Marshal Smuts sending a special message to the effect that Australia’s magnificent war effort and the present danger in the Far Eastern situation entitled it to generous treatment. In these circumstances the matter has not been pursued farther. We thought it better to continue Sir Earle Page’s representation on the present footing, believing that, as the war crisis deepened, no suggestion or expedient would be rejected merely because it was novel.
The subject of unified commands in the Pacific is one that is difficult to discuss with frankness in a public statement, as actual problems of strategy must arise. One thing is plain enough: In dealing with an enemy whose movements are not dictated by degrees of latitude or longitude, an over-strict delimitation either of strategical areas or of the jurisdiction of commanders may be dangerous. The Commonwealth Government has tried to secure action based upon this postulate.
The third, of the general problems of co-ordination i3 that of reinforcement and supply. A Raw Materials Board and a Munitions Assignment Board are now functioning in the United States of America, with parallel bodies in London. The Commonwealth Government has appointed its accredited representative in London and the Australian DirectorGeneral of War Supplies Procurement in Washington as its representative for consultation by these bodies. Again, however, the only countries directly represented on the boards themselves are the United Kingdom and the United States of America. We are associated with these authorities which hold the keys to the essential supplies and munitions. We are not members. For reasons which are obvious, the deciding of the question of priority for the dispatch’ of troops, and instruments of war, and for their transport to widely separated fronts, is one of the major problems now facing us. It is common knowledge that we lost Malaya and Singapore largely because of the inadequacy and insufficiency of aircraftThere were special difficulties in the way of rapid reinforcement with effective implements, and these are well understood. None the less, it is suggested that the function of planning for the effective and timely reinforcement of key positions in Allied plans will best be performed by an authority which can dispose of divergent, conflicting, or competitive claims or arguments on the body where the advice of all the Allies can he given in consultation. The establishment of such an authority will help to end retreatism and to open the way to the ultimate offensive.
Before the .attack on Malaya started, the Commonwealth Government had made representations for the adequate defence of this region and, throughout the campaign, with the full support of the War Advisory Council, it repeatedly stressed its views both on strategy and the urgent need, for reinforcement. From our own limited resources, we at once sent all the reinforcements that were requested. Every requisition was fulfilled immediately. Whatever the fate of this country, the judgment of history will be that we have not spared ourselves in our endeavours to carry out the responsibilities that have come to us as a British dominion and an Allied nation. I think that we have also contributed in some degree to the strengthening of the Allied front in the sphere of international relations. I shall not repeat what I said on previous occasions to the House; and I have already referred to Sir Frederic Eggleston’s most useful service at Chungking.
Arrangements were recently completed for an exchange of Ministers between the Netherlands Government in London and the Commonwealth Government, and for the appointment of an Australian ConsulGeneral in the Netherlands East Indies. The distinguished Netherlands Minister has not yet been able to take up his post at Canberra, but Mr. Eugene Gorman is on his way back from the Middle East to take up the position of Consul-General as our representative with a status practically equivalent to that of a Minister. Further steps have recently been taken towards an exchange of representatives with the Soviet Union. As I indicated in a statement to the House on the 27th November last, earlier proposals for an exchange of consuls with Russia, or for the sending of a small Australian delegation to the Soviet Union, had to be deferred, owing to the intense concentration of Russia in its fight to the death with Hitler. We have recently re-opened the matter with the Soviet Government, in order to obtain a general agreement on the question of representation. We regard Russia not merely as an ally, but also as a great power which is destined to play an important part in the Pacific, not only during the present war but also thereafter. It is on this common-sense footing that we have taken the keenest interest in developing our mutual friendship and co-operation; .and both Sir Stafford Cripps and our High Commissioner in London have helped in this development.
The war has happily brought about very close contact between Australia and the United States, now become a powerful leader of the nations fighting aggression. Before war came to the Pacific… the United States had already given considerable material aid against the Axispowers. Up to the end of November last, the United States Congress had appropriated a total of $12,972,000,000 for its. lend-lease programme) and, of this, over $9,000,000,000 had been allocated to a. variety of purposes, which included the- production of aircraft, tanks, ordnance, ships, and general equipment, the repairing of ships, and the provision of foodstuffs. As American war production got under way, the actual delivery of aid to the belligerent countries was being accelerated, and the Allies had already received the direct benefit of over $1,000,000,000 worth of the lend-lease aid. An agreement had been made to provide $:i.,000y000,000 worth of lend-lease aid to Russia by next June, in addition to earlier exports of Russian purchases. The acceleration of production and delivery which had already become marked will, no doubt, assist the much greater effort that has been promised now that the United States has entered the war. Rut the recognition of the immense strength of our new ally does not mean that we hope to creep into safety behind America. The Australian Commonwealth will maintain a front-line spirit and will continue to make a front-line fight. We have done, and shall continue to do, everything we can to facilitate American plans. We shall contribute all that we can from our necessarily smaller resources towards the common cause.
In connexion with the lend-lease aid to British countries, the question of an agreement setting out the general principles of assistance has been under consideration for some time. Under wartime conditions, it was impossible for the British Commonwealth to go on indefinitely providing dollars from its own resources for the purchase of American goods, and it was partly to meet such a situation that the lend-lease system was devised. Under section 3 b of the Lend.Lease Act, it is laid down that the conditions on which any government receives aid “shall be those which the President deems satisfactory, and the benefits to the United States may be payment or repayment in kind or property or .any other direct or indirect benefit- which the President deems satisfactory “. A preliminary agreement, setting out the conditions in respect of the United Kingdom, which has made itself the channel through which lend-lease aid has flowed to countries of the British Commonwealth, has now been signed in Washington (vide appendix, page 57). This preliminary agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America relates to the principle applying to mutual aid in the prosecution of the war against aggression. It provides for a mutual contribution by the signatory powers to the defence of each other; controls the useto which transferred articles may be put: and sets out conditions under which intact defence articles may eventually be returned. It can easily be imagined that very few defence articles are likely to have remained “intact” at the end of the war. The final determination of the obligation which Great Britain will assume towards the United States of America is postponed. However, it is provided that, in making that determination, the terms and conditions - . shall be such as not to burden commerce between the two countries, but to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them mid the betterment of world-wide economic relations. To that end thuy shall include provision for agreed action by tlie United States of America and tin? United Kingdom, open to participation by all other countries of like mind, directed to the expansion by appropriate international and domestic measures of production, employment and exchange and consumption of goods which arc the material foundation of liberty and welfare of nil peoples; to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers; and in general to the attainment of all economic objectives s<>t forth in the joint declaration made on the 12th August, 1041, by the President of the United States of Am’erica and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
It is provided that, at an early convenient date, conversations shall be begun between the United Kingdom and the United States of America with a view to determining, in the light of governing economic conditions, the best means of obtaining these objectives by their own agreed action, and of seeking agreed action by other like-minded governments. It will readily be seen that this provision - which takes it place as Article VII. of the agreement - foreshadows an agreed settlement of the whole subject of post war trade reconstruction, looks towards increased consumption of goods by the peoples of the world, postulates an attempt to solve the problems of employment and exchange, and goes some distance to assure the world that the four freedoms of the Roosevelt-Churchill Atlantic Charter of August last, to which Russia has since assented - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear and freedom from want - will be not mere platitudes but living actualities.
The proposed text of the agreement was submitted by the United Kingdom to the Commonwealth Government, and after close consideration it was decided that the future collaboration between the United States of America, the countries of the British Commonwealth, and other countries of like mind, envisaged by Article VII., could well help to provide a basis for the post-war economic order. Moreover, the Commonwealth Government was already committed in principle to such collaboration, by its adherence to the Atlantic Charter and by the subsequent multilateral declarations at Washington of the 1st January last. Consequently, it urged upon the Government of the United Kingdom, that an agreement with the Government of the United States of America should be concluded. Canada. South Africa and New Zealand have all concurred in the arrangement.
The lend-lease arrangement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America illustrates that the general question of post-war reconstruction is already assuming importance in the war aims of the Allies, who are not content to wait upon the creation of new machinery of international organization after the peace treaty has been signed. Another example of post-war planning is the constitution of the Inter-Allied Committee which met in London in June and September, and at which representatives of Australia and other Dominions took part, to consider the question of the postwar food relief for Europe. That question involves prior arrangements in regard to foodstuff supplies and shipping and cannot well be deferred until the fighting ends. Still more recently, Russia has suggested the establishment of a postwar organization on lines which extend beyond the matter of food relief, and which have commended themselves to the Commonwealth Government.
This is a war in which much has beer suffered in order to prevent domination of the world by sheer force, and in order to maintain established principles of decency and freedom. During the war, out of a proper respect for the opinionsof mankind, we have made open profession of these ideals. It is unthinkable that we should not make a serious attempt to see that those ideals are carried into effect.
There are certain aspects of the international situation to which I shall make brief reference. In Western Europe, the Vichy Government appears to be collaborating closely with Germany and Italy. The two latest instances are directly harmful to us. The evidence is clear that French assistance is facilitating the transport of Axis supplies across the Mediterranean for Libya. In the Far East, the Governor-‘General of French Indo-China is apparently willing to place some of the French shipping in Asiatic waters at the disposal of Japan. Of course, it is not right to judge the French people by their present Government. The Government, vanquished in war, is in an extremely difficult position owing to the ever-present fear of German force, applied mercilessly but carefully and skilfully. At the same time,, the Vichy Government gave certain undertakings against unneutral conduct on its part towards Britain. The United States, largely because of its traditional sympathy with the French Republic, has been very anxious to give to the present Vichy Government every opportunity to try to perform its duty ; but its patience is fast becoming exhausted.
In regard to Portugal, I refer to a matter of deep interest to Australia. On the 17th December, Australian and Netherlands forces landed in Portuguese territory upon the island of Timor. This was purely a precautionary measure against a Japanese attack, which on reasonable grounds was believed to be imminent. Certainly no violation of Portugal’s sovereignty was at all involved. We believed that we were acting in accordance with what Portugal itself wished. When Portugal protested violently, we were prepared to retrace our steps, an order to avoid embarrassment between London and Lisbon. An agreement with the Portuguese Government was made for the withdrawal of the Australian and Dutch occupying forces, providing that Portuguese forces were sent to carry out the defence of the colony against Japanese invasion. Despite our great anxiety as to the military position, we accepted the bargain solely out of our desire to prevent embarrassment either to Britain or to Portugal. The Portuguese relieving forces were actually en route to Timor with the full knowledge of the Japanese when the latter launched an attack on Dilli on the 21st February. That was the very event we had foreseen and sought to guard against. The Portuguese Government has formally protested to Japan against this cynical attack. It will be interesting to observe whether Portuguese troops will now insist upon the evacuation of Dilli by Japan.
The Japanese entrance into the war, and the German and Italian declaration of war on the United States, have had a marked effect on the other American republics. All, except Argentina and Chile, which are maintaining a text-book interpretation of neutrality, have now either declared war or broken off relations with Axis countries. At the PanAmerican Conference at Rio de Janeiro on the 25th January, a resolution was made the effect of which was to recommend to each State to break off relations with the Axis. The resolution was not in itself binding upon any State. Nevertheless, the general principle of American solidarity wasreaffirmed, and the United States of America and its American allies were declared to be non-belligerents. In the case of Uruguay, it was subsequently announced that the British Empire would also be treated as a non-belligerent. The principal effect of this will be, that repair facilities will be available for the vessels of the Allied countries concerned in the ports of the State which declares them non-belligerent. The major part of the export production of South American countries is being acquired by Allied powers.
After preparing a review of the international situation generally, one is acutely aware that to-day there is in reality only a war situation. We are now faced with the necessity of defending Australia on our own shores. In defending Australia, Australians are also fighting as much for our Allies as when they were fighting abroad; for the holding of Australia is essential to the final offensive by which victory will be gained. Therefore, when the invader comes, he will be fought here by a people who know that they are not only defending their homes, but are also standing on one of the critical battle-grounds in the history of mankind. We shall be defending liberty in its mostelemental form. We have done Japan no injury, unless it be an injury to join with our Allies in resisting not so much an attempt to control south-east Asia as a plan to dominate the whole of the illimitable Pacific. Ultimately, that insensate plan must and will be checked. In holding Australia, we shall be fighting not only for New Zealand and for every Pacific island but for Canada and the United States of America as well. Yesterday President Roosevelt said as much. Nor is this all. We recognize the equal importance of holding Burma and India. We are aware of the great struggle of the Chinese people to maintain their integrity and rebuild their nation, just as we recognize and sympathize with the aspirations of the Indian people to become one of the self-governing British nations, and as such to take part in the defence of the Allied cause in Asia.
Our actions as a nation must be governed by two broad principles - first, absolute solidarity with all the enemies of the Axis; second, the defence of Australia not only as our homeland but also as a key area in the plan of Allied and Empire strategy.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement. 25th February, 1942, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America on the Principles applying to Mutual Aid in the Prosecution of the War against Aggression.
Whereas the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America declare that they are engaged in a co-operative undertaking, together with every other nation or people of like mind to the end of laying the basis of a just and enduring world peace securing order under law to themselves and all nations;
And whereas, the President of the United States of America has determined, pursuant to Act of Congress of the11th March, 1941, that defence of the United Kingdom against aggression is vital to defence of the United States of America;
And whereas the United States of America has extended and is continuing to extend to the United Kingdom aid in resisting aggression ;
And whereas it is expedient that final determination of terms and conditions upon which the United Kingdom receives such aid and of the benefits to be received by the United States of America in return therefor should be deferred until the extent of defence aid is known and until progress of events makes clearer the final terms and volume of benefits which will be in the mutual interests of the United States of America and the United Kingdom and will promote the establishment and maintenance of world peace;
And whereas the Governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom are mutually desirous of concluding now a preliminary agreement in regard to the providing of defence aid and in regard to certain considerations which shall bo taken into account in determining such terms and conditions, and the making of such an agreement has been in all respects duly authorized, and all acts, conditions and formalities which it may have been necessary to perform, fulfil or execute prior to the making of such an agreement in conformity with the laws either of the United States, or of the United Kingdom have been performed, fulfilled or executed as required;
The undersigned, being duly authorized by their respective governments for that purpose, have agreed as follows: -
The Government of the United States of America will continue to supply the Government of the United Kingdom with such defence articles, defence services and defence information as the President shall authorize tobe transferred or provided.
The Government of the United Kingdom will continue to contribute to the defence of the United States of America and the strengthening thereof and will provide such articles, services, facilities? or information as it may be ina position tosupply.
The Government of the United Kingdom will not without approval of the President of the United States of America transfer the title to. or possession of, any defence article or defence information transferred to it under the Act or permit the use thereof by any one not an officer, employee or agent of the Government of the United Kingdom.
If. as a result of the transfer to the Government of the United Kingdom of any defence articles or defence information, it becomes necessary for that Government to take any action or make any payment in order fully to protect any of the lights of citizens of the United States of America who have patent rights in and to any such defence articles or information, the Government of the United Kingdom will take such action or make such payment when requested to do so by the President of the United States of America.
The Government of the United Kingdom will return to the United States of America at the end of the present emergency, as determined by the President, such defence articles transferred under this agreement as shall not have beendestroyed, lost or consumed and as shall he determined by the President to be useful in the defence of the United States of America or of the Western Hemisphere or to be otherwise of use to the United States of America.
In the final determination of the benefits tobe provided to the United States of America by the Government of the United Kingdom full cognizance shall be taken of all property, services, information, facilities, or other benefits or considerations provided by the Government of the United Kingdom subsequent to the 11th March, 1041. and accepted or acknowledged by the President on behalf of the United States of America.
Article VI 1.
In final determination of the benefits to be provided to the United States of America by the Government of the United Kingdom in return for aid furnished under the Act of Congress of the 11th March, 1941, the terms and conditions thereof shall be such as not to burden commerce between the two countries, hut to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them and betterment of world-wide economic relations. To that end they shall include provision for agreed action by the United States of America and the United Kingdom open to participation by all other countries of like mind, directed to the expansion by appropriate international and domestic measures of production, employment and exchange and consumption of goods which are the material foundation of liberty and welfare of all peoples; to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers; and in general to the attainment of all economic objectives set forth in the joint declaration made on the 12th August,1941, by the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
At an early convenient date, conversations shall be begun between the two Governments with a view to determining in the light of government economic conditions, the best mean? of attaining the above-stated objectives by their own agreed action and of seeking agreed action of other like-minded governments.
This agreement shall take effect as from this day’sdate. It shall continue in force until a date to he agreed upon by the Governments. Signed and sealed at Washington in duplicate this day of , 1941. On behalf of the Government of the United States of America; [Title]
On behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. [Title.]
– I am sure that the House joins with me in expressing appreciation of the trouble to which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has gone in the compilation of the information he has just conveyed, and of the opportunity that is thereby afforded to us to debate and review the international position in the light of what we have heard. In my opinion, the position is summed up, so far as this Parliament is concerned, by the concluding paragraph of the statement -
Our actions as a nation must be governed by two broad principles - first, absolute solidarity with all the enemies of the Axis; second, the defence of Australia not only as our homeland but also as a key area in the plan of Allied and Empire strategy.
The time has come when we should refrain, as much as possible, from making speeches, and should concentrate on action! Members of Parliament muss face their responsibilities. We met a little over two months ago for the purpose of declaring war on Japan, Finland, Hungary and Rumania. At the same time, we pledged ourselves to take every step necessary to defend the Commonwealth and its territories, to carry on hostilities in association with our Allies, and to achieve final victory over our enemies. Since then, unfortunately, the war, which has been going on since September, 1939, has come nearer to our shores. Within the last few days, a part of our own territory has been occupied by enemy forces, and Darwin has been bombed. Therefore, there should be a full realization in the minds of all the people regarding the need for unity in the prosecution of the war. We have to consider the needs of Australia, and we must also look beyond Australia and consider the position of the British Empire and our Allies. Against that background we should consider the industrial dislocation in Australia to-day, and the unrest that has existed off and on ever since the war began. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beasley) explained to the House to-day in a very lucid manner what the Government had done to preserve industrial peace on the coal-fields. We all realize how important that industry is to Aus tralia, and how vitally necessary it is that production should be maintained, and even increased. Yet, at thevery moment that the enemy is attacking our shores, and is already in possession of some of our overseas territories, there are people in Australia who disregard the danger with which we are confronted, and seek to carry on as in peace-time - to carry on in a way that should not be tolerated by a responsible government. The time has passed when these matters can be settled by conferences and promises. The Government has the power to discipline the coal-miners, or any other strikers in Australia, and it should exercise its power. As a matter of fact, strikes have not been confined to the coal-fields. There have been strikes of a vast or petty nature in many other industries, and I have in mind the strike at the Lid com be factory of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
– The honorable member knows the reason for that.
– I do, and if the honorable member knew the real reason he should be the first to discipline the men.
– The men werenot responsible for that dispute.
– I do notsay that the men are always to blame. It would be unfair to say that, but the fact remains that so long as we have industrial unrest and strikes at a time when there is machinery in existence for the settling of those disputes we deserve all we get. If honorable members learned anything from the secret meeting the other day they must have become convinced of the need to increase the production of materials required for the prosecution of the war. Time is against us - the enemy will not wait. We cannot increase, or even maintain, production if there are strikes and hold-ups. Members of the Government have, and, indeed, every member in this House, including the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), has a responsibility to see that nothing is done to retard the war effort - and this from no philanthropic motive, but in order to save our own hides, and to protect what we have. Our very existence depends upon the putting forth of a maximum effort, and this cannot he done if we have constant industrial stoppages.
There is also an urgent need to maintain essential transport services. Goods must be sent to Darwin and other places far distant from the source of supply. People should not be allowed to use motor oars to go to commercialized sport, or for pleasure purposes generally, while petrol is needed to carry supplies to Darwin and elsewhere, places at which the enemy may soon gain a foothold. The war has come closer to our shores than many of us thought possible some time ago, even those of us who may have believed that war with Japan was inevitable. We must learn the lesson of the attack on Darwin. This war cannot be won in Australia. If the Japanese were to take Australia they still would not have won the war; and if they should be beaten in Australia we still should not have won the war. We must work for the closest unity and co-operation between ourselves and all of our Allies. Whilst our immediate danger is a threat from Japan, we must not lose sight of the fact that Germany is still a mighty factor to be reckoned with. We may take some consolation in the fact that the position of the Allies to-day is materially and numerically better than it was twelve months ago, but we have to recognize that Japan has scored great successes. Japan has entered the war against us, and Russia has come in on our side. The United States of America has come in whole-heartedly with us because of the attack by Japan. I think it will be agreed that, in the balance, we are in a better position to-day than we were twelve months ago. We must not consider the position from the point of view of Australia only. Naturally, we have our responsibilities to Australia, but Australia has its responsibility to the other members of the alliance. We must not delude ourselves that we can win this war on our own ; we must have the assistance of our Allies, amongst which the United States of America is in the best position to help us. However, we should not relax our efforts simply because the United States of America has come in with us, or because equipment from that country is coming to us in ever-increasing quantities. Our own production cannot be maintained, much less increased, by a policy of holding conferences, and trying to appease strikers. Definite action must be taken, and if the Government does what is necessary it will receive the whole-hearted support of the Opposition.
– I congratulate the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) upon the statement which he has made. We meet to-day in tragic circumstances.For the first time in its history, this peaceful land has been, if not invaded, at any rate subjected to hostile attack. Innocent lives have been sacrificed. It looks as if we have been, to some degree, caught napping. A secret meeting of members of Parliament was held recently, and what was said at that meeting must remain secret. Anything which I may say this afternoon I learned outside that meeting. We gather from the press, and from other sources, that at Port Moresby the siren sounded simultaneously with the dropping of the last bomb by the Japanese. At Darwin, the alert was sounded when the bombing began. Evidently there has been something wrong with our reconnaissance. Surely effective precautions should have been taken, and I, for one, hold that a very careful inquiry should be made, and that those responsible should be punished. In these two instances, the catastrophe of Pearl Harbour was re-enacted in miniature.
The two outstanding events which have occurred since the outbreak of war are, to my mind, almost miraculous. When our fortunes were at a very low ebb, Hitler struck at Russia. That brought into the war on our side the whole weight of Russian man-power and resources, at a time when they were urgently needed in order to take the pressure off Great Britain. Again, on the 7th December, 1941, Japan launched its attack against Pearl Harbour, bringing into the fray the whole of the man-power and resources of the United States of America. The voice of the isolationist is no longer heard in that great country, and the Americans will remain in the conflict until the Allies triumph. Those two events are so wonderful that I believe that a Divine Power is with us in this mighty struggle. But we must do our part, and be found worthy of our trust.
The Commonwealth Government has formulated an economic plan for harnessing to the war effort the whole of our man-power, money and resources. The Government should use that authority to the fullest degree in the defence of Australia. But so soon as an effective plan is announced, objections are raised against it, even before its principles have been carefully examined. The Government regards this economic measure as the most effective way in which to defend Australia and I hope that it will be fully implemented.
Much has been spoken about “ equality of sacrifice “. This expression has been used widely during the last two years. How can we approach the ideal of equality of sacrifice? I propose to make two constructive suggestions. First, with a full realization of the implications of my remarks, I suggest that every worker in the Commonwealth, from the Governor-General, the six State Governors, Cabinet Ministers, members of Parliament and judges downwards, should be placed upon the same rate of pay as that of a private soldier, namely, 6s. a day, with allowances for maintenance, clothing and dependants. I make that suggestion in no spirit of levity, but with all the sincerity and strength at my command. The soldier risks his life for 6s. a day in the defence of Australia; the least that we who are not in the firing line can do is to accept the same rate of remuneration as those magnificent young men in the fighting forces. As an alternative, the non-combatant members of the community and the soldiers should be placed upon the basic wage. In this hour of peril, no decent worker should expect or wish for more.
I am in complete accord with the opinion of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that in this period of stress the Parliament of the Commonwealth should remain in session. This is our- firing line; we must be here. If we set an example to the people, we need have little fear of Australia being occupied by the Japanese. “We must preserve Australia inviolate, because we love our traditional freedom, and, in addition, Australia offers a wonderful springboard from which to launch a counter attack against Japan. When Russia drives back the German invader, I feel confident that it will turn east and launch an effective assault upon Japan.
I have much pleasure in recording my approval of the paper that was read by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). I speak in no spirit of complacency. I am not a young man, but I love Australia. It must not .be conquered, because the world would be for ever poorer if Australia fell. We must play our part. Let us in this National Parliament set an example to our young men who are perf orming such magnificent deeds of heroism.
Motion (by Mr. Abohie CAMERON negatived -
That the debate be now adjourned.
.- My main purpose in participating in this debate is to endorse the suggestion of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) as to the propriety of applying to people in Australia a general rate of remuneration based upon a soldier’s pay. In the present emergency, the proper course for the Government to adopt is to tell every body to pursue his present occupation until he is transferred elsewhere by a government direction. But his remuneration for his efforts should be only such as is required to secure to himself and each member of his family a standard of living that is not substantially greater than that of a soldier, taking into account the fact that a soldier is not required to provide for his own food, housing or clothing.
It is interesting, while discussing the matter of soldiers’ pay, to reflect that Australia pays its soldiers at a much lower rate than Canada does. A letter from Canada dated the 6th November, 1941, and published in the English Tribune of the 5th December., 1941, stated that a Canadian private receives $1.30 a day. As a dollar is worth approximately 6s., his payment is equivalent to 8s. a day expressed in Australian currency. In addition to that, he receives $35 a month for his wife and may receive up to $24 a month for his children. That is to say, the maximum that he may receive is $99.30 a month, or, expressed in Australian currency, £29 16s. a month. That rate of pay is approximately equal to the average that obtains in Canadian manufacturing industry, slightly lower than the average wage paid in Ontario, and slightly higher than that paid in Quebec. In my opinion, the rate of pay which is appropriate to the fighting man should also be appropriate to the civilian. My own belief is that the best way in which to awaken Australians to a realization of the danger that threatens them is to place every one, soldier and civilian alike, upon the same standard.
In my opinion more decentralization of effort is necessary in this country. The Commonwealth Government should work more with State governments, and through State governments, than it has been able to do, or possibly willling to do, in the past, and should make use of the vast reservoir of trained administrative ability that is to be found in the offices of local governing bodies. Power should be decentralized. Everything should not, have to be done at Canberra. State Ministers and officials and municipal officials should be empowered to make decisions in their own localities. A great, deal of the trouble is owing to the fact that every decision, no matter how trifling, has to be made, if not at Canberra, at any rate by a Commonwealth official.
– -We have given very great powers to State Premiers for the protection of the civil population. In some States, particularly in New South Wales, the Premiers have distributed powers among local governing bodies, and there lias been fairly wide decentralization.
– But there should be a wider delegation than that. Many of the decisions made at Canberra could bc made by the State officials or municipal officials, acting within their limited areas as the delegates of the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable member make those people servants of the Commonwealth, without reference to the States or to the municipalities?
– I think that these things can be done by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. It is a pity that when differences arise between the Commonwealth and the States as to methods of procedure there should be public discussion of those differences in the press. I instance the publicity given to the difference between the Prime Minister and the Victorian Premier in the matter of Saturday racing. If instead of criticizing one another in the newspapers the Ministers had privately conferred, the difference would probably have disappeared. That is the way in which these matters should be dealt with.
The Government should tell the people all it can without endangering this country. The people oscillate between pessimism and optimism. If one listens to the overseas broadcasts one comes away with a. feeling that everything is not so bad after all. The broadcasts are animated by a spirit of optimism and they tell us that the position will certainly be saved; but experience has taught us that this sanguine spirit has no body of fact or reason. We ought to have official statements made by the Government and broadcast and published in the newspapers in the exact terms ordered by the Government which would explain the position to the people and set out the facts.
Both Government and Parliament are in danger of mishandling the problems created by industrial unrest. It is a great mistake for the Government to think that it will conciliate the membership of unions by itself dealing with their dissident minorities. Whatever may be the opinion of the rank and file as to the actions of a minority, if the Government puts out its hand against the minority and imprisons or even prosecutes members of unions, it will put the mass feeling of the union on their side. Unions are declaring themselves against what their minorities are doing. They ought to have full power to discipline the minorities of their own members and they should be made responsible for the acts of their members. If that were done, a great deal of ‘the trouble w-ould be avoided. We have the Australasian Coal and Shale Employees Federation protesting that it is unable to deal with recalcitrant minorities. If that be so, it should be vested with that power. A lot of what we are trying to get by threats of compulsion could be got with co-operation of the various organizations.
That is what I should like to see. My own idea about the way in which to deal with labour troubles is that each person employed should have to become a member of the union an his industry, and that the union should have to accept him on exactly the same terms as every body else. I should not make membership a condition precedent to engagement, but I should require the employee to become a member within a specified period, and I should then make him responsible to the union and have him controlled by the union. I should invest the union with power to discipline him for failure in the war effort by fines, or, in very extreme cases, by expulsion. The unions would welcome those powers being conferred upon them. The Miners Federation would. It is pitiful to see the way in which the officials of that union protest to the Government and the public that they are doing all they can to compel a small minority of people to remain at work.
– They say that they have the full power of discipline.
– Why do they not exercise it?
– That is what I want to know.
– They should he given the full power with certain safeguards against tyrannical misuse of that power. They should have legal power to deal with dissenting members and members who against the properly expressed will of the federation refuse to work. We have to face the fact that there is a great feeling amongst the masses of people that it does not much matter what they do. That is the chief enemy. The worker says to himself, “ Every body is taking advantage of the present situation People are charging commissions for getting subscriptions to the Liberty Loan. Things like that tend to convince the workers that if every body is taking advantage of the present situation there is nothing wrong in their doing so too. There is an air of hopeless fatalism, a feeling that anything a man can do will not avert the worst, and that, therefore, each should make the best of his chances which will soon pass away. Every association of men and women should be used as a means to get the greatest possible measure of national unity in thi3 country. This is not the time in which to apply class policies; no one wants to do so; the Government does not want to, and the policies applied by the Government should not lie taken as class policies if any other construction can be put upon them. We want the greatest capacity and the greatest determination to use all our resources, animate and inanimate, real and material, in order to defend this country.
.- 1 was pleased to hear the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) refer to the control exercised- by local governing bodies in the cities. Recently, on behalf of more than 2,000 people employed in the government workshops in Western Australia I sought two things: one, a guard, and the other, air raid shelters. I communicated with the Civil Defence Council and was told that it was not its function to protect the men at that factory. I then communicated with the General Officer Commanding, Western Command, who said that he knew nothing about the matter, but would try to find out. He then suggested that I communicate with the Department of Munitions, which I did, and I was told that peace officers would be put on guard at the workshops. I then tried to find out whose responsibility it was to provide air raid shelters for the men. Again the Civil Defence Council knew nothing.
– It is the responsibility of the Department of Munitions to provide for the protection of government workshops.
– A private company engaged in the manufacture of war materials in Western Australia erected its own shelters for its .workmen, but for the protection of the workmen in the government factory there is nothing. The Munitions Department referred me to the Civil Engineer of the Railways. That department thought that he was doing something in the matter. Pursuing my inquiries farther, I learned that the Government was to provide the materials - the timber and tools - and that the men were required to erect the shelters in their spare time. The great majority of those men work twelve hours a day and are doing a magnificent jab in the defence of this country. It is most unfair to expect them in their limited spare time to erect their own air raid shelters.
– There is no reason why they should be required to do so.
– That is so. What I am pointing out is the lack of an official to co-ordinate civil protection measures. The result is that every day press criticism is levelled, against the Civil Defence Council. I do not desire to criticize what that council is doing, but the people in it do not seem to know where their job starts and finishes. Press criticism naturally creates a bad feeling amongst the public generally. I understand that certain powers have now been delegated to the Premier of Western Australia, and I hope that there will be greater co-ordination.
– Tremendous powers have been delegated for the protection of the whole of the population in any area of the State.
– Apparently, those powers have been delegated to one who has not proved himself big enough for the job.
Honorable Members. - He fair!
– Well, I shall give another instance. I had occasion to write to the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) about the installation of telephones for air raid wardens in various Western Australian centres. The Civil Defence Council had told me that it knew nothing about the matter. It was not its function to see to the installation of telephones. Yet the Minister for Home Security told me that arrangements had been made last August for the installation of telephones in the homes of wardens. It is ali very well to say : “ Be fair “, but I have to consider the security of the people who are engaged in war work. They come first, and I do not care what official I bring on to the carpet in trying to secure their safety.
– To what authority is the honorable member referring?
– The Civil Defence Council. It is the only recognized authority in Western Australia, unless there has been an alteration in the last week or so.
– The Department of Home Security attends to these matters.
– The Civil Defence Council has been handling matters in Western Australia. Powers have been delegated to it.
– I shall report to the Minister what the honorable gentleman has said.
– It is most unfair to expect men who work twelve-hour shifts on the production of vital war materials to erect their own air raid shelters.
I also wish to make passing reference to the numerous strikes that have occurred. I should not be doing my duty by my constituents if I allowed the opportunity to do so to pass, for the people of Western Australia have to their credit a larger number of enlistments in proportion to the population than those of any other State. I am frequently asked in Western Australia what the Government is doing in connexion with strikes. I am sick and tired of hearing the explanation from Government sources that this Or the other thing is being done. If union officials are able to deal with the men who strike, as was indicated by a reply given from the treasury bench to the honorable member for Bourke a few minutes a.go, I should like to know why effective action has not been taken. Since the outbreak of the war almost 1,000 strikes have occurred in Australia. When we consider that the great majority of munitions workers are doing shifts of twelve . hours a day, these strikes must have involved the loss of nearly 26,000,000 man-hours of work. That is a direct gift to the enemy. These strikes are causing a. great deal of antagonism in Western Australia.
– The men are not always to blame.
– I have not suggested that they are; but the latest announcement made in the press by the Prime Minister would seem to indicate that in the more recent strikes the men are principally at fault. The sooner definite action is taken to discipline the men who strike the sooner we shall have peace in industry.
– Is the honorable gentleman speaking about the coal-miners or the coal-owners?
– Both are at fault.
– Does the honorable member favour the nationalization of the coalmining industry ?
– I do not intend to be trapped into an admission of that kind. I believe in allowing people to live according to the law of the land.
There is urgent need for vigorous action to prevent the continued waste of petrol in this country. This is the third or fourth time that I have felt called upon to make a protest in this connexion. It is not necessary to go beyond the bounds of Canberra to see a great waste of petrol. Nearly as many motor cars can be seen in the streets of this city of about 12,000 people as can be seen in the metropolitan area of Perth. The people over there have done a magnificent job in petrol conservation. Petrol is of the first importance to this country, yet we can see, almost at any time, cars being needlessly driven about Canberra.
– ‘Cannot the same be said of Perth ?
– Not to the same degree. The honorable member for Dalley has recently been in Perth and lie must know that my statement is true, although I am aware that he wa3 kept indoors on official duty while he was in Perth. I appeal to the Prime Minister and also to the Minister for Supply and Development to do what they can to conserve petrol. I was astonished to hear a ministerial statement that our petrol supply is extremely good at present. Such statements cause considerable dissatisfaction among petrol users. Our petrol supply may be good at the moment, but who can say what it will be like a month or six weeks hence? If any one of our big installationa were to be destroyed by a bomb we should be in a sorry state at once. Ministerial utterances of the kind that I have mentioned are most unwise and should not be made. Such observations simply invite people to ask why they cannot get more petrol. Far too much loose talking is being indulged in and it is injurious to public morale. I trust that the petrol control regulations will be tightened considerably so that waste will be prevented. I frankly admit that I have been “ pimping; ‘” :” thi? connexion. Whenever I have seen city cars in country districts I have sent their numbers to the Liquid Fuel Control Board ; so if some of my constituents find that they have been reported, they will know that I may have been responsible. Thousands of motor cars are to be seen regularly at race meetings and the “ trots “ and also on the beaches. Petrol should not be available for such purposes. The sooner definite action is taken to prosecute people who improperly use petrol the better it will be for the country. I have heard the Prime Minister say on several occasions that the nation which has the last few gallons of petrol will probably win the war. I entirely agree with that view, and I ask the honorable gentleman to do his utmost to prevent waste of this precious fuel.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anthony) adjourned.
Economic Organization: Appointment of Special Committee - Petrol : Waste ; Rationing - Meetings of Parliament: - Bombing of Darwin - AusTRALIAN broadcasting commission : News Sessions.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I advise honorable members that the committee to examine the Government’s National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations will he - The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and Senator Spicer and Senator Armstrong.
– What are the terms of reference?
– They were conveyed to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) in a letter I sent to him. The committee will “ consider and make recommendations on Regulation 76”.
– I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) what I regard as a flagrant waste of petrol in the unnecessary use of military transport vehicles, and to suggest that action be taken immediately to deal with military authorities who do not seem to have a due appreciation of the meaning of “ waste “. Ilive close to an ordnance store, and within a period of five or ten minutes on any day of the week it is usual to see 3-ton lorries travelling to and from the depot each carrying, on an average, not more than 1 cwt. or 2 cwt. That kind of thing is happening throughout the metropolitan area of Sydney. No regard whatever seems to have been paid by the authorities to the need for conserving petrol, nor does any attempt seem to have been made to coordinate the transport services between ordnance stores and the various military camps. I understand that it is the custom for each unit to have its own motor transport, and frequently several trucks may travel from 10 to 20 miles in the same directions carrying only 1 cwt. or 2 cwt. each. That kind of thing is profligate waste. While this is going on, many people in the civil community, who depend upon their trucks for their living, are being utterly ruined because they cannot obtain petrol for essential business purposes. I deeply regretted to-day to hear from the Minister for Supply and Development(Mr. Beasley) that this Government is continuing the petrol rationing policy of the previous Government. When the Minister was sitting in opposition he frequently spoke at great length about the inequality of the petrol rationing system, yet the honorable gentleman is now continuing rationing upon exactly the same principles. Ido not think any honorable gentleman will deny that some people in a small way of business have been practically ruined by their inability to obtain sufficient supplies of petrol. It has. been possible for big firms which run a fleet of lorries to rationalize their delivery services and so maintain their activities, but this is not possible with people in a small way of business, many of whom rely wholly on their trucks for their living. Some of them are still purchasing their vehicles under hire-purchase agreements, and they are finding it impossible to meet their commitments.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that business people are using their trucks uneconomically ?
– They were doing so until recently. I know that until petrol rationing became severe some big business firms would readily have used a 3-ton truck to deliver, say, a pair of women’s gloves. That kind of thing is not being done to-day,for the rationalization of the delivery of goods is now in operation to a large degree. It has been stated that persons in difficulty over petrol for delivery purposes may apply to the Liquid Fuel Control Board, but we all know that such applications elicit a stereotyped letter of refusal, the terms of which do not vary under any circumstances. I trust that the Minister for the Army will take immediate steps to put an end to the wasteful use of petrol in the military service, and to call for a report from a reliable and independent source on this subject. I also trust that the Government will do everything possible to effect a more equitable distribution of petrol to civil users for essential purposes. The present basis of rationing should be drastically altered.
.- 1 have a matter of some importance to place before the Government.
Mr.Curtin. - Having regard to the urgency of several matters which have developed during this week, I had hoped that honorable members would agree to the adjournment of the House at this stage, so that members of theGovernment and others affected could give their undivided attention to these urgent subjects without furtherdelay, particularly asit had been agreed that instead of the House meeting on the remaining days of this week it should be called together on Thursday and Friday, and, if necessary, on Saturday, of next week.
– It is now past the usual hour for the suspension of the sitting for dinner. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Melbourne proposes to speak at any length.
– Not for more than five minutes, Mr. Speaker.
Thisafternoon, I asked whether details of thereport which the Minister for the Army expected to receive in regard to the Japanese attack on Darwin might be communicated to honorable members, either in secret meeting orpublicly.
– Practically the whole of the details of the attack were communicated by me in the statement that 1 read to the secret meeting. Amplification of details would be only in respect of particular works.
– I have no doubt that the Prime Minister gave all the information which he then possessed. Probably, there will be amplification of that detail in the report which the officers will present; but in addition, various rumours are circulating in regard to certain matters relating to the defence of Darwin, and it is possible that those officers will furnish some additional information.
– That is right.
– If that beso, it is the duty of the Government to give to the House at a private meeting any additional facts which may be gleaned from the visit of those officers. I hope that the Prime Minister will do this, [ cannot state the subject of the rumours that are circulating, but I shall tell the Prime Minister privately what I have heard. If the rumours should be substantiated by subsequent investigation, the Parliament ought to be told everything. I am not insinuating that the position at Darwin was so bad as it was discovered to be at Pearl Harbour; but there are nevertheless some aspects which need elucidation. It seems remarkable that certain things could have happened if the garrison and every body else associated with the defence of the town had been prepared for an attack. On the promise of the Prime Minister that we shall have ample opportunity next week to discuss matters of general administration, I shall postpone until then the further remarks that I desire to make in regard to the laxity of administration which existed at Darwin prior to the Japanese attack. 1 listened with very great interest to the eloquent, earnest, and thoughtful statement that was made this afternoon during the course of another debate, by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker). I compliment him upon it.
– A change has been made in the system of news broadcasts. A broadcast of news is made from Canberra ahead of the overseas news. Moving around the country and, indeed, in the city also, one finds that this is generally resented. People of importance whowish to devote the few minutes at their disposal to listening in to the broadcast of overseas news, in which they are very deeply interested, find that they have first to listen to the news that is broadcast from Canberra. Doubtless some of this latter is important; but much of itis neither important nor significant. Very nasty remarks are made concerning it. It is described as government propaganda. I do not subscribe to that view. There is the belief that it is put over in order to push Ministers into the public eye at a time when the people most desire to hear what is occurring overseas. I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), either that the old practice be reverted to or that the Canberra news and the overseas news be broadcast at stated times, so that those persons who wish to listen only to one will not be obliged to listen to both.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle- Prime Minister) [6.25]. - in reply - I assure the honorable member for Dallcy (Mr. Rosevear) that theflat-rate rationing of petrol will be reviewed by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley). I am quite certain that the Government will consider any recommendation that he may make.
– What about thewaste of petrol?
Mr.CURTIN. - I shall ask. the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to assure me that that matter will be most rigorously dealt with. I know that there have been very many reportsof that nature. Some of them Ihave investigated personally, and have found them to be not justified.
– Most of the decisions are made on military reports. What about setting up a private body?
– I assure the honorable member that the matter will be investigated.
I shall be glad if the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will acquaint me with the nature of the rumours he has mentioned, in order that I may have some knowledge of them. I shall then tell him whether or not they are in accordance with the facts. Not only have we had the reports which would ordinarily be received, but to-day we have had, in addition, reports from other officers. These do not add anything to the broad picture, but merely fill hi details. I can only say to the honorable gentleman that it would not be to the advantage of Australia for a public statement to be made of the extent and nature of the damage which the enemy inflicted on Darwin, because that would reveal to the enemy the degree of its success or failure in the attainment of its objectives. National security makes it essential that when the enemy launches an assault Against any part of Australia, however disturbing it may be to us, we must not reveal the degree of our discomfiture.
– That argument ‘would be valid if we were given the information at a private meeting.
– If the honorable gentleman will have a conversation with me, I shall he glad to learn what he has in mind. Speaking broadly, I shall notput myself in the position of either denying or admitting something, merely because the enemy desires to verify its knowledge of -what we are doing or have not done.
With respect to the matter raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), I can only say that I sincerely hope that a government instrumentality ‘will be fairly, properly, and usefully employed. I know that there have been expressions of discontent, and criticism of the way in which the news service has been conducted. Whether or not that is justified, I do not know, because1 I Have not had an opportunity to listen to the broadcasts. I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall take the matter up, and that, if improvement can be made, we shall make it. We shall not tolerate .anything that is not satisfactory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year 1940-41, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1940-41.
Cable aud Wire Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 257.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired - For Defence Purposes - Bacchus Marsh, Victoria.
War service Homes Act - Report of th, War (Service Homes Commission for year 1940-41, together with statements and balance-sheet.
House adjourned at 11.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 February 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420225_reps_16_170/>.