16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), and the right honorable member forCowper (Sir Earle Page), on the ground of urgent public business.
Motion (by Mr. Guy) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for the remainder of Lite session be given to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), on duty with the Roy:, 1 Australian Air Force abroad.
Motion (by Mr. Rankin) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for the remainder of dic session be given to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), on military service with the Australian Imperial Force abroad.
OPERATIONS of leases.
– Has the Acting Attorney-General seen the report that was published, in the Melbourne Argus yesterday of a decision given in Melbourne by Judge Richardson to the effect that no court of law has jurisdiction to suspend the operations of a lease under Statutory Rule No. 65 of 1942? If this is a correct interpretation, will the Minister consider the advisability of amending the regulations so as to include within their scope leases, mortgages, and contracts’ under sale, as otherwise undue hardship is likely to result?
– I have not seen the report. I shall refer the matter to the Solicitor-General for his advice, discuss it with the Cabinet, and inform the honorable member of the Government’s decision. supply of pontoons.
– During earlier sittings of the House I asked the Minister for Supply and Development whether he would expedite the supply and delivery of pontoons from South Australia so as to enable the building, of pontoon bridges across the Hunter River north of Newcastle. I shall be glad to be furnished with any information that the honorable gentleman may now have in relation to the matter.
– I recall discussions on this subject by both the War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council, and conferences with the Minister for Munitions and the Minister for the Army.
– It would seem to bc information that should not be disclosed to the public.
– I thank the honorable gentleman for that observation. It would not be desirable to make details available. I believe, however, that the idea of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) is to expedite a decision in regard to making supplies available. I have understood that the whole matter was well in hand, and J believe that my colleagues who took part in the discussions in relation to it hold a similar view. In order to make certain of the position, I shall be pleased to make the necessary inquiries.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Australian Government has given any advice to the British Government in relation to the constitutional issues now being raised in India? If so, does the Australian Government consider itself capable, in view of its ignorance of the real situation in India, of giving advice on such a matter?
– The Commonwealth Government has not presumed to give advice to any other Government regarding what shall take place in another dominion.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Development in a position to state the names of towns in New South Wales, and the order of their priority, which have been submitted by the Go:vernment of New South Wales as possible sites for the establishment of plants for the distillation of power alcohol from wheat? Has the honorable gentleman yet received the report of the committee that was appointed to examine such sites’? Will he allow me to peruse the report?
– I mentioned yesterday’ that it would bc undesirable to declare specifically the site that might be chosen, but I believe that I can answer the honorable member’s question without disregarding that consideration. The files disclose that originally the Government of New South Wales suggested Forbes and Wagga in that order. Subsequently, other towns were suggested hy the same Government as being suitable sites. This involved further investigation as to the best use to which each of those towns might be put. Finally, a committee was appointed to examine the whole position, A report has been submitted covering all the towns suggested, and I shall be pleased to allow the honorable member to peruse it.
– Does that apply to Western Australia?
– Can the Prime Minister say whether there are any Japanese nationals still in the Japanese consular residence overlooking Sydney Harbour?
– It is not proposed to reveal the location of any Japanese residents in Australia, whether diplomats or not.
– In view of the declaration by the Prime Minister that invalid and old-age pensions were to be increased to 25s. a week not later than March, does he propose to bring down, during this sessional period, legislation to give effect to this intention?
– As I said a month ago. it is not proposed in this sessional period to bring down any legislation. This meeting of Parliament has been called to review the war situation, as was done by me yesterday, and also to provide an opportunity to members of the Opposition to discuss certain regulations. The Minister for Social Services will shortly make a comprehensive statement to Parliament on the subject of pensions and other matters relating to social security.
– Having regard to the certainty that there will be the desire for marriages between Australian girls and members of the American forces in Australia, and to the fact that considerable anxiety is felt by clergymen, and by the parents of young women contemplating such marriages, will the Prime Minister examine the matter with a view to determining how such marriages will affect the nationality of the women concerned, and whether their position after marriage will be safeguarded under the laws of the United States of America and Australia ?
Mr.CURTIN.- This matter is being examined at the present time, and a statement will be made as soonas possible.
Rates of Pay
– Has the Treasurer seen the published report that the Government of the United States of America has increased the pay of Filipino native troops to bring it up to that of American troops? If so, will he consider, in any budgetary proposals that are being framed, the advisability of following this example by making provision, either in the form of direct pay or deferred pay, for increasing the remuneration of the members of Australia’s fighting forces, so as to bring it up to the level of the pay received by members of the American military forces, so that their pay shall not be lower than that of coloured soldiers fighting in the same cause? Will he consider the desirability of placing the members of our fighting forces on the same footing so far as remuneration is concerned as munitions workers so as to enable them to meet fixed commitments such as rent, mortgage instalments and insurance premiums, which they are not able to do in existing circumstances?
– I have not seen the report referred to. The other points raised by the honorable member will receive consideration.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development state how the rationing of beer and spirits will apply to those hotels which, owing to rebuilding operations at the time the scheme came into force, were doing much less than their normal trade because of having to use temporary bar accommodation ? Will he say whether the scheme is elastic enough to meet eases of this kind ?
– This matter comes under the control of the Minister for
Trade and Customs. Although I represent him in this chamber I am not able to answer offhand questions affecting his administration. However, I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the Minister’s notice.
– According to the last annual report of the Commissioner for Taxation, an amount of £1,800,000 was outstanding as the result of tax evasions, and penalties amounting to £1,500,000 had been imposed in respect of them. Will the Treasurer say what steps have been taken to recover the tax and the penalties, and what amount has already been collected?
– I must confess to not having studied all the figures in the report, but I shall have an investigation made, and furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that a broadcast was made by Mr. A. M. Pooley two nights ago in which he stated that Tokyo had admitted that the Japanese losses at Rabaul amounted to 7,000. He said that he had received private information that 3,000 Japanese had been killed and 4,000 wounded. He went on to say that the Government had made no announcement regarding operations at Rabaul, but that when an official statement was released it would disclose an epic feat of arms by the Australian Forces. Will the Minister have an investigation made of the circumstances connected with the broadcast? Assuming that no official statement can yet be made, is it advisable that speculation should be permitted over the radio or in the press as to the losses incurred in the course of military operations?
– No official information is available to substantiate the statement of Mr. Pooley, and I think it is wrong that any commentator speaking over the broadcasting stations should give as authentic propaganda emanating from Tokyo or elsewhere.Consideration will be given to the proposal that no statements, other than those from Australian official sources, should go over the air regarding losses incurred either by Australia or by the enemy.
– As the Army authorities have to transport supplies of bread from bakehouses in the cities to distant military camps, will the Minister for the Army consider the advisability of setting up Government bakeries near the larger military camps in the metropolitan areas of the various States?
– Consider a tion will be given to the suggestion.
– Very many persons are experiencing difficulty in obtaining supplies of tea, particularly those who have not dealt regularly with a grocer. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs make such arrangements that, in the allocation of supplies of tea, all sections of the population may obtain a proportion of what is made available?
– I regard as very important the matter raised by the honorable member. It is becoming more important daily. Consequently, I shall consult the Minister for Trade and Customs, and have a statement on the subject prepared.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that certain storekeepers in the metropolitan and suburban areas of Sydney are asking people to buy 5s. worth of other groceries before they will sell to them 1 lb. of sugar, and 10s. worth of other commodities before they will sell to them 1 lb. of tea?
– I have noticed reports of such demands, and I remind the honorable member that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has already issued a warning to storekeepers who have indulged in this practice.
– Did the Minister take action against them? Warnings are useless.
– If the honorable member will submit to me a particular instance and evidence in support of it, I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister and ask him to take appropriate action against the persons concerned.
– If the Government should decide to lift the ban upon the marketing of Werribee beef, will the Minister for Commerce give to the House an undertaking that the meat will not be issued to troops in the field, who have no option but to consume the meat rations that are issued to them?
– I have no intention of interfering in any way with the disposal of the beef after it has been marketed.
£35,000,000 LIBERTY LOAN.
– by leave - I desire to announce to the House that the flotation of the £35,000,000 Liberty Loan has been most successful. The final result was the subscription of £48,300,000 by 243,388 persons. Both the amount of the subscriprion and the number of subscribers constitute records for any loan issued in the Commonwealth .
– What was the amount of brokerage paid to the private trading banks?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
-I present the second report of the Joint Committee on Profits.
Ordered to be printed.
– As grave anxiety exists in the minds of relatives of members of our fighting forces, who were last heard of in Singapore, Timor and other territories which have been overrun by the enemy, when does the Minister for the Army expect to be in a position to issue information that will allay their fears for the welfare of the troops?
– Although suitable fiction is being taken to obtain the desired information, I am not in a position to announce to-day when those particulars will be forthcoming. The honorable member may rest assured that everything possible will be done to expedite the making of a statement upon the subject.
– Will the Minister for theArmy make a statement to the House upon the reported internment of members of the so-called Australia First Movement? In order to make it definite, I should like to know whether it is true that any members of that organization have been interned?
– by leave - I wish to state that twenty persons - nineteen men and one woman - who were believed to have been associated with the so-called Australia First Movement have been arrested and interned. Documents and papers which have been seized purport to show that certain people in Australia intended to make contact with the Japanese army at the moment of an invasion of Australia. The documents set out elaborate plans for sabotage at vulnerable points in this country, and describe methods calculated to make resistance to the Japanese impossible. Plans for the assassination of prominent people are set out. One document purports to be a proclamation with the heading “ Australia First Government”, and “ welcomes to this country as friends and liberators the Japanese leaders and army”. These documents indicate a fifth column activity of the worst kind by a very small band of people. The military authorities have been investigating the activities of the so-called Australia First Movement for a considerable time, and the arrests took place as a result of these inquiries. In view of the foregoing, I wish to warn people that, before associating themselves with any movement, they should assure themselves that it is bona fide and not an organization which, under the cloak of a pleasing name, is engaged in subversive activities. We shall stand no Quislings, whether they come from the highest or the lowest.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy a question relating to the very necessary regulation which confers upon the chief of the naval staff certain powers for the immobilization of small craft along the coast, and in the rivers and estuaries. My question refers, not to the necessity for the regulation, but to the manner of its administration ;it the present time. Is the Minister aware that even at this moment, according to a telephone message which I have just received, at places like Wiseman’s Ferry and Leet’s Vale, 25 miles inland, people are unable to cross the river in order to go to and return from their work? Will he despatch an officer imme- Idiately to places like the Hawkesbury River and Brisbane Watei’3 for the purpose of investigating allegations that thousands of boats are left there uncared for? Will the Minister also make a statement upon the matter of the payment of compensation to people who depend upon the boats for their livelihood?
– I am not aware of the instances that the honorable member has described to the House, but I shall investigate the matter immediately. If I find that inconvenience is being caused to people in the localities mentioned, I shall take steps at once to rectify it. In addition, I shall make a statement to the I [ouse upon the subject at the earliest possible moment.
– What about the matter of compensation?
– I shall make a statement on that as early as possible.
– In view of the complications and difficulties regarding finance and taxation generally arising from the competition between the Commonwealth and State Governments, will the Prime Minister, in accordance with the policy of the political party of which he is the leader, and in order to ensure 1he effectual prosecution of the policy of the Government, use his ample powers for the purpose of removing these socalled State governments from their sphere of practical mischief?
– The question of the relationship of the Commonwealth to the States at this juncture has been the subject of several conferences between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. Previous Commonwealth governments conferred with the State governments and this Government has conferred with them. There is at present a very considerable demand on administration in relation to civil life, which the States have under their care. In certain aspects the Commonwealth in exercise of its powers has delegated to the Premiers certain duties and responsibilities. How far it is necessary to alter the present relationship will be considered.
– Have any arrangements been completed for the provision of prisoners of war or internees for the purposes of cutting firewood required for power stations, ot for grapepicking in South Australia along the river Murray, or in other States; and, if so, what are they?
– Arrangements were made some time ago to make available prisoners of war for labour in areas where no local labour was available. In pursuance of that arrangement a number of prisoners of war was made available for fruit-picking in Victoria. I cannot say at the moment whether they have been made available for wood-cutting in South Australia, but we have had applications from South Australia and Tasmania for prisoners of war to be allocated for that purpose, and instructions were given for the applications to be considered expeditiously. The arrangement is that the prisoners of war must be paid for at the award rates applicable to the work on which they are employed, from which the prisoners of war are paid 7£d. a day in accordance with international agreement; the balance goes to the credit of a fund for the reimbursement of the British Government, which is responsible for their maintenance in Australia. I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion about the employment of internees.
– In view of the changed circumstances since I last raised the matter, will the Minister for the Navy consult his advisers on the desirability of establishing a dry-dock in the port of Melbourne?
– I shall be glad to do so and advise the honorable member of the result at the earliest possible moment.
– Has the Prime Minister seen statements published in the Sun-Pictorial and the Melbourne Herald on the 19th March and 23rd March respectively, to the record horse racemeetings that are being held in Melbourne? In view of the wide interpretation placed on the war-time control of racing, will the Prime Minister issue instructions to the various States that there must be uniform control of wartime racing?
– The Commonwealth Government considered the subject of racing. It came to the conclusion that the most competent authority to deal with racing in a particular Sta.te is the Premier of that State. The Government takes the view that a decision for uniformity made by the Commonwealth would he a bad decision, having regard to the great divergence of conditions all over Australia. It also takes the view that what would be a suitable arrangement at one place might be unnecessary and burdensome at another place. I consider that the Premiers have the requisite authority to regulate athletic sports and race meetings - all come under the one regulation - so completely that, only their discretion has to be invoked to produce common-sense results.
– The Army is curtailing race meetings now.
– The Army is taking places which it requires for the accommodation of troops. I say quite frankly to the House, that Army needs of accommodation for the fighting forces of this country must have precedence over every other need. Insofar as there are opportunities for sports meetings to be held, and so long as they are intended to pro vide reasonable healthy recreation for the people and so give them relief from the monotony of consistent industry, sports meetings and race meetings are reasonable. But judgment as to their extent and as to where they shall be held, is, I think, best left with the Premiers, who have a much more intimate knowledge of the situation than I could have.
– Smith’s Weekly recently published under the heading “ A.I.F. Escapees from Singapore treated as Deserters” an article which has caused the shire clerk at Ingham to send to me the following telegram : -
Smith’s Weekly report of treatment soldiers escaped Singapore causing concern relatives A.I.F. members here. Your assurance requested report incorrect.
Has the Minister for the Army any information on that matter?
– I have called for a report and probably within the next 24 hours I shall be able to advise the honorable member of the result.
– Not knowing to whom the question should be directed, I ask the Prime Minister whether it would be possible to have stationed at the Spencerstreet railway station a Traveller’s Aid official who would be able to help interstate travellers who experience difficulty in finding accommodation in Melbourne? I do not know whether that is a matter for the Minister for Home Security, the Minister for Transport, or for the State government to determine.
– Where the amenities of a State are involved and guidance is required for visitors to the State, surely to goodness the State government is able to provide it. Frankly, if the States cannot take up the slack of a great part of the civil dislocation, which war is occasioning in Australia, I sec very little purpose in their continuing.
– Is it true, as reported in the press, that the Minister for Labour and National Service proposes to compel business executives to keep a diary of their movements during each working day? If so, how does he propose to police the diaries, and what is the objective?
– Under the proposals of the Government to complete the organization of man-power, no sections have been overlooked, and the particular section referred to by the honorable member will be policed and will be expected to give the same maximum service as is expected from employees. The honorable member may rest assured that very effective measures will be provided to police this provision. I shall advise him of the details as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for
Labour and National Service aware that, owing to the operation of the coal- miners’ pension scheme in New South Wales, there is considered to be a shortage of labour in the coal-mining industry in that State? Will the Minister request the appropriate man-power officer within the State to arrange for the release of former coal-miners from industries in which they are now engaged so that they may resume work in the coal-mining industry and thus help to increase the available supplies of coal?
– I shall make an inquiry into the subject and advise the honorable member of the result as soon as possible.
Debate resumed from the 25th March (vide page 369), on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the following paper be printed: - “Progress of war - Ministerial statement - 25th March, 1942”.
– The observations made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) yesterday concerning the war situation will be welcomed by every honorable member at this critical period in our history. It is fitting that, at regular intervals, Parliament and, through it, the people, should be given an authoritative statement concerning measures being taken from time to time to meet war situations that develop. As the Prime Minister said, the course of events affecting the destiny of this country continued rapidly during the month. Since I last addressed the House on the war situation, only four weeks ago, Australiahas had considerable evidence of increased Axis activity. There has been a marked intensification of the Japanese campaign, particularly since the first Japanese raid on Darwin last month. Repeated attacks have been made also on other parts of Australia. The enemy has established bases in New Guinea, and Port Moresby has suffered a succession of raids. All these happenings should awaken in our people a realization of the nearness of the war. It is imperative that the representatives of the people who sit in this Parliament should have a. thorough realization of the gravity of the situation that this country faces. Recent happenings impel me to make some observations concerning the achievement of unified command in the Pacific war area, a subject to which the Prime Minister also referred. Every one in Australia will agree with me, I am sure, that one of the most heartening announcements of recent times was that which revealed the arrival in Australia of General MacArthur, and the presence in this country of substantial forces from the United States of America. But neither the presence of General MacArthur nor the American forces must be taken as a reason for any relaxation of a whole-hearted Avar effort by the Australian people. We must recognize, as Australians, that it is necessary for us to show a spirit of selfhelp and self-reliance. The support that comes tous from other parts of the world must be regarded as only help, and we must do our utmost to help ourselves. I take this opportunity, also, to say that the observable evidence of the presence of American troops and equipment in Australia should not cause us to be unmindful of the invisible aid that has been given to us for so long by the Government of the United Kingdom and by other allies. I make that statement, not to depreciate in any sense the assistance given to us by the United States of America, but solely to remind our people that Great Britain has been assisting Australia throughout i he 150 .years of its history. The epic resistance by the MacArthur forces in the Philippines gave the enemy a taste of what it might expect from forces led by the Supreme Commander should it contact it in Australia. Recently I paid a visit to North Queensland territory, close to which are areas of Japanese activity. I was agreeably struck by the resolute determination of the people there to do everything possible to defend the country. The ‘residents of North Queensland are determined that they will hold what they have. They will make a united and strong effort to resist any southward move by the Japanese, or any attempt by Axis forces to obtain a foothold of any kind in that part of the Commonwealth. What I am saying relates not only to the men, but also to the women, of North Queensland, who are working day and night in air raid precautions services, hospital and ambulance organizations of one kind and another, and Red Cross units, to ensure that all possible preparations shall be made to meet any onslaught. Our people must realize that the way to victory will be hard and long, and that every effort must be put forward to ensure success.
Unfortunately, some Australian people do not yet fully realize the gravity of recent happenings. They must lie awakened to a true recognition of the results that would follow the loss of the war by the allied forces. We had evidence this afternoon in the statement read to us by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that certain people who enjoy the benefits and freedom of democracy appear to be quite ready to organize themselves against the well-being of their fellow citizens. Every possible step should be taken to cull these individuals from among us. They should be confined immediately in places where they cannot do any harm to the general community. We must have unity from the Government downward, and our people must he actuated by determination and resolution.
To the American forces who have come into our midst I repeat the welcome that f expressed when their presence among us was first made public by the Prime Minister. They, like ourselves, are a libertyloving people, and I am certain that they will be with us in every endeavour that we make to preserve our freedom. These men from the United States of America have been brought up to abhor anything savouring of dictatorship. It is only to be expected, therefore, that people holding beliefs in common with ourselves, and educated to the enjoyment of perfect liberty find freedom, will stand side by side with us in the battle to maintain the great democratic principles to which the allied nations fully subscribe. Tinallied nations can and will defeat the Axis powers. We cannot contemplate defeat. At the same time 1 warn the Australian people that victory will not be accomplished easily. A grim task lies ahead of all of us. Our allies are helping us in this task. All of us in Australia should demonstrate beyond any question that we appreciate and value the assistance that is being given to us. We must also demonstrate that, in this crisis, we are ready, resolutely and willingly, to throw everything that we have into the battle for our existence. Australia is destined to play a most important part in the struggle for supremacy - in fact, the battle for civilization as we know it - in the Pacific. Every Australian must be made to realize this fact. I say to the Parliament, and through it to the people of this country, that in this critical hour the whole of our resources - human, economic and financial - must be devoted to the waging of the war in which ,we arc engaged. The Government, unfortunately, will be compelled to do many unpopular and unpleasant things; but in their execution it can rely whole-heartedly on the co-operation of the Opposition. We possess resources which, added to those of our allies, far exceed those of our enemies. Time has played a most important part on our behalf.
I ;welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that the Commonwealth will aid the Netherlands Administration in the reorganization of its forces. Australia has the highest admiration for the way in which the Dutch have fought since Japan entered the war. They are deserving of all the assistance that we can give to them. The arrival in this country of the first Netherlands Minister is awaited with interest. He is assured of a warm welcome from a people who have every sympathy with the Dutch in the troublous times through which they have passed.
Tribute must also be paid to the Chinese, who for so long have been engaged in a conflict .with the Japanese. Anything that the Government can do to further the relations that exist between Australia and China will have the wholehearted support of th* Opposition.
Reference should be made to the successes that are being achieved by allied air forces in attacks upon enemy bases, aircraft and shipping. Their personnel have shown that they possess the offensive spirit which is so vital if we are to succeed. “With their security threatened, the people of Australia o,ve a great debt to those gallant airmen who are to-day waging such an effective campaign against the Japanese. I hope that these men will receive all the backing that they require to enable them to stem Japan’s attempted southward drive.
I ‘believe that the whole of the Parliament will join with me in an expression of the deepest regret at the presumed loss of H.M.A.S. Perth and the loss of H.M.A.S. Tarra, announced by the Prime Minister since the House adjourned. This is a severe blow, not only to Australia, but also to its allies. We can, however, derive some consolation from the fact that thirteen survivors of the Yarra have been safely landed at a British port. The gallant fight put up by the Yarra against overwhelming Japanese naval forces is characteristic of the navies of the democratic nations of the world. They have made history, and their contribution has been of the greatest benefit to the cause for which we are fighting. On behalf of the Opposition, I pay tribute to the gallantry of the men of the Yarra, and express sympathy with the relatives of those who have lost their lives in the battle for Australia, and the freedom that we enjoy, and. hope to continue to enjoy, under the Union Jack and all that it implies.
.- The Prime Minister’s statement faces Australia up to realities. Australia is confronted with a situation the like of which lt has never previously experienced in its history. The “Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has expressed the views of many persons. Whether or not they agree politically with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and his Government on matters that do not relate to the war, they will lend the utmost aid in the prosecution of the war for the security of this country. These matters extend far beyond the issues that immediately concern the men in the front line and the activities of those who are engaged in the munitions factories. Behind these brave sons of Australia there is a huge administrative service, upon which is dependent the efficiency of the fighting services and the production of munitions. Australia having become an allied base in the Pacific, it is now more important than ever before that administrative barriers shall be removed where they are found to obstruct swift action. The story of Australia’s part in the war during the last two and a half years reveals that public departments have not always re-adjusted what we sometimes describe as peace-time methods to what is necessary to meet the urgencies of a war situation. One of the important issues in Australia is the strengthening of public departments, and their administrative staffs upon whom those other men of whom I have spoken must depend. The present weakness is not singular to Australia, but is found also in England ; and notwithstanding the direct methods which, we are told, exist in America, delays occur in that country also from administrative causes. But I am concerned at the moment with the position in our own country. We have been too loyal to prewar officials. T should make a most invidious distinction were I to mention names that come to my mind. Honorable members may have in mind names identical “with or different from those that have come under my notice. Generally speaking, we have been most loyal to administrators who have devoted their lives to the service of the Commonwealth, and have passed from peace-time into the hurly-burly of war. The organizations under their control have multiplied many times. Some of these men may not have had the capacity to handle a larger administration, whilst the ages of others may be a few years on the wrong side ; consequently they find it difficult to adapt themselves to the more elastic methods that might have come easily to them in younger days. Australia has not properly faced up. to this problem in the past.
– Some of those men may be much more efficient than the business people whom the honorable member would introduce in their place.
– I have not suggested whom I would introduce in their place. The honorable member is making an assumption.
-. - Intelligent anticipation.
– If he will bear with me for a few minutes, I shall give an indication, not of any man - because I have not in mind any man in particular whom I would introduce - but of classes of men which the honorable member, with the utmost intelligence, may not have anticipated. The introduction of younger men in the fighting services and in the manufacturing industries is very necessary - men who can bring ideas from other activities which are more accustomed to systems of multiple manufacturing; men. who can speed up the production of raw material. But, however necessary such men may be, they are no more necessary than are younger men on the administrative side - men who are not steeped in the methods and procedure of the past, but can find ways to break through the regulations; men who have the courage to recommend ‘the alteration of regulations; men who can advise their Ministers as to the manner in which speed may be attained. It is not yet too late to make changes in our public administration. I do not suggest .that there should be any spring-cleaning, that the departments should be swept out with a broom. In the public departments there are many good men who compare mo3t favorably with those possessing the best brains and intelligence to be found in other walks of life. There are men of high training in the Public Service. Unfortunately, some men of considerable capacity have never been able to break away from the routine of their early training in public administration. These changes are highly important in times of war. To-day, old-fashioned adminis trators are just as dangerous to this country as are out-dated military chiefs. If it be necessary to import vitality, energy and youth into the fighting services, it is just as essential that that shall be done on the administrative side of government.
– Also in Parliament.
– Although the interjection appears to be quite irrelevant, I have no objection to the suggestion. The decision lies in the hands of a very competent body of judges, and I am quite satisfied with the decision of the electors. I am afraid that the fighting services sometimes carry the responsibility for faults that really arise on the administrative side of government. “When delays occur, when instructions are not quickly and explicitly given, when there is no foresight in regard to arrangements that have to be made in advance, when there is no proper sense of anticipation - which can only come from the internal administrative staff - the public, unfortunately, are prone to attach the blame to the men who are closest to the trouble when it occurs. The people have no means of looking behind the scenes in order to place the blame where it rested in the first; instance. Two years ago, before I knew that I should have the ‘distinction of entering this honorable House, I asked in the press that a system should be instituted in Australia of suspending the application of public service regulations to matters relating to war administration. There is nothing impracticable in that suggestion. Responsibility should rest with the Minister on every occasion. He is aware when a matter must be carried through with the utmost speed for the protection of the nation, and the men who depend upon it. He should be empowered to stamp a file in such a manner that it will be relieved of the routine procedure through which it otherwise must pass in order that it may comply with a hundred and one regulations. Let the Minister take that responsibility. Let him hold responsible to him those who fail to carry out his instructions quickly. No man in this House who has held ministerial office has not been confronted with delay after having issued instructions. It is one matter for governments to make decisions, but quite another matter for those decisions to be carried into effect. I do not always blame Ministers. They are human, and have no more hours in a day than has anybody else. Ministers cannot possibly give personal and detailed attention to the execution of every matter that passes through their hands, but must dependnot only upon the highest executive officer, but also a huge staff, the members of which are remote from him personally and unknown to him because of lack of opportunity to meet them. Those men should be charged with the duty and responsibility of carrying matters through with expedition. What man in this House who has held ministerial responsibility can deny that delays occur even when Australia is in the gravest peril? I maintain that even now it is possible for the Government to cut away red tape.
– What about parliamentary under-secretaries ?
– I have no objection to their appointment, but I am not advocating it now. I believe that Ministers should have understudies who can help to push throughthe details of matters under their administration. The Minister should have power under National Security regulations to say that such files must be dealt with free of impeding regulations, and if they are not so dealt with, the person at fault should be held responsible to the Minister. Only last year, when the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee travelled through Australia, the committee took evidence from a high public official in one of the States. He was asked the reason for certain delays and his reply was : “ There is an Audit Act. After the last war, a royal commission inquired into certain matters which, it was alleged, had been done wrongly during the war period “. The worst thing that can happen to Australia is that an enemy should gain a foothold on our shores. Audit acts are only a secondary consideration. I have the utmost confidence in public officers. I was going to say in 99 per cent. of them, but I do not know why I should exclude even 1 per cent. I would not fear to remove the requirements of the Audit Act in. respect of matters urgently needed for the protection of Australia. It has already been partially done in connexion with the production of munitions, which has been placed under the control of a DirectorGeneral.
– That might be a retrograde move.
-I do not think so. I think it was a very sound move, and Australia has benefited enormously from the speeding-up of production which has resulted from the greater freedom enjoyed by that department. The same principle can be applied to government departments proper to a much greater degree than ever before. In June of last year the Man-power Committee inspected the construction of the graving dock in New South Wales. I recalled then that T. in another sphere, had been interested in negotiations leading up to the choice of Woolloomooloo Bay as the site for the dock. Tha t was in 1937. We are now in 1942. five years later, and if that dock were now in use, it would be of tremendous advantage to our American allies. It is not completed. I have a conviction that if its construction had been entrusted to the Americans, or to some of our enemies, it would have been finished long before now. I also believe that one of our great Commonwealth departments fell down on the job in not pushing the construction forward more rapidly. The Department of the Interior failed to take advantage of the services of outside engineers and technicians, who could have brought their knowledge to bear upon problems associated with this work.
– There must be ministerial responsibility for that.
– I agree. There must be ministerial responsibility for everything. I did not speak yesterday upon the subject of the delegation of ministerial powers, but I agree entirely with those who spoke of the need for the retention of ministerial responsibility. I do not believe that men who assume ministerial rank desire to evade responsibility. Unfortunately, when they get into office, they find themselves tied up with regulations and procedure, so that they are unable to get to the root of the matters with which they have to deal. We should make it easier for them to grapple with problems of administration. If Ministers of the Crown had forced upon them the responsibility for making some of the appointments to their departments it would be better for every one. At present, Ministers often do not take steps to satisfy themselves as to the qualification of those appointed to high positions in their departments. I admit that ao Minister can accept responsibility for junior appointments, or even for semisenior appointments, but it is of vital importance that he. should scrutinize very carefully the qualifications of every man whom it is proposed to place in an important position. If the wrong man be appointed, it may be assumed that he does not possess the quality of obtaining effective service from his juniors, and thus his own inefficiency percolates through his entire staff. The pity of it is that some of the men appointed to high positions would be capable of rendering excellent service in some other sphere. In their present positions, they are square pegs in round holes. Ministers should be prepared, if necessary, to break friendships. Ministers become very appreciative of the personal qualities of some of those who work for them, and it is a difficult thing to say to some one, “ You are not the man to push through this policy which my Government has decided upon for the successful prosecution of the war “. However, that is what must he done in Australia to-day if we are to have effective driving force within our administration. In order to obtain this there must be a greater measure of freedom from restricting regulations, and we must appoint men who are more suitable to their positions. In many instances, this would entail the appointment of younger men. There is an unfortunate tendency, when men are being sought to fill high executive positions from outside the Public Service, to select men with big names, it being thought that, because of the prestige they enjoy in the community, they must be good administrators. That is not always a fallacy, but it sometimes is. Some such men have had all their successes in the past. The Government should select men, not for their past records, but for their future potentialities, and for this it should choose men preferably in their forties. They can be found if the Government will look for them. We want men who will have some years of active government service in front of them, if need be ; at any rate, men who can spare a few years to help in the administration of the war effort at this time of crisis. I admit that the State Government services have been combed fairly effectively, but that was not done until recently. Until a few months ago, some of the best administrators in the Commonwealth were still in the State services. Apart from these, however, there are still men attached to local governing bodies, and others in the business world, as well as practising architects, engineers, solicitors and accountants, with experience and ability, and the desire to serve their country, who could be attached to the administration, and who would help to infuse energy and enthusiasm into it.
– Such men want the top jobs.
– That is not so. They all cannot get top jobs.
– They all are after them.
– There are thousands of such men who do not seek top jobs, but who are prepared to put forward their maximum effort in the service of their country. Some recent regulations issued for the security of the country have had the effect of placing many men in the position that they cannot fully occupy their time in their professions. I refer to engineers, architects-
– Stock exchange manipulators.
– The honorable member has mentioned the members of the stock exchange. I shall not call them manipulators, as he did. Many of them are men of experience, with outstanding qualifications and abilities, who could quite profitably be brought into the service to do a job for the Government. The secret of such success as our enemies have achieved lies in their ability intensively to organize their own affairs. They have done what we have failed to do; they have more completely used the national resources available to them. They have departed from stereotyped methods and have used initiative. We must fight them with their own weapons. Not only must we send our young men into the front line to risk their lives, not only must we find technicians to go into the factories and make munitions, but also we must find men who can make our administrative organization function like a machine. There must be no delays, no hitches, and no injustices. Let us be frank. The public are to-day suffering injustices, in many cases gladly suffering them, because they are necessary in the interest of the nation. They are suffering injustice because of the way in which the administration is carried on by men who do not properly understand how to administer. The question which I asked to-day regarding the immobilization of small craft along the coast and in the rivers and the estuaries is a case in point. But that need only be mentioned as one of hundreds of instances. The things which have to be done by the Government can bo done in either a correct way or a clumsy way. Unfortunately, they are often done in the clumsy way and trouble is made for people who do not deserve to be inconvenienced and who desire only to help the country in the conduct of the war. We are not lacking in organizers. We are just as good organizers as are the Germans or any other nation. We have brains in Australia which can do any job. Let the Government use them!
Like the Quaker, I speak as the spirit moves me. I had not intended to contribute anything to this debate, but the speech of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), who has had a long record as a Minister of the Crown in New South Wales, impels me to contradict some of the statements that h«.’ uttered, or at least to put the other point of view. I do not disagree with the general purport of his remarks that the best brains in the community should be used in the service of the country in a time of unprecedented crisis, and that every body who is anxious and willing to serve should be found a position in the service of the nation. But I do disagree with the method by which he proposes to bring about that very desirable change. 1 do not favour the suspension of the Audit Act. In my opinion, this statute is a very necessary safeguard against peculation by Ministers and officials, and by others who have charge of the expenditure of public moneys. The Audit Act was not passed without a very good reason. The Auditor General was made independent of Parliament, so that he could criticize Ministers impartially and without fear of victimization or interference. It was found very necessary, in the early development of the British parliamentary system, to appoint an official to audit public funds. The things that happened in the reigns of the early Georges - and I have in mind particularly the things which happened under Lord Holland, the elder Pox - prove conclusively how necessary it is that money voted by Parliament should be expended in accordance with the wishes of Parliament.
I regret that the Government in which the honorable member for Robertson was an ornament, and its predecessors, found it desirable to introduce the cost-plus system and to exclude from the private munitions annexes the permanent officials of the Commonwealth Public Service who might not have been quite so ready to pass expenditure as perhaps were others who were not public servants but who, in some instances, were the accountants of the firms that were making munitions for the Government. That is a most undesirable arrangement to allow to persist, and this Government will be failing in its duty if it permits the accountants of companies which are making munitions for the Government to audit the accounts that the companies in question submit to the Treasury in order to receive payment for the munitions. The cost-plus system has so many defects that it would be far better for the nation if the Government took over the control of the whole of industry in order more effectively to prosecute the war. We on this side of the House seem to be very tender-hearted when it comes to interfering with “big business “ in accordance with the planks of the platform, of the Labour party. In peace-time we declare that we wish to nationalize industry. In war-time, the Government which should exercise full control of industry forgets about nationalization. The Government should pay the cost of manufacturing instruments of war and at the conclusion of hostilities, it could return the businesses to the owners.
– Who would supervise the manufacture ?
– If no member of the Public Service could undertake the work, the Government should appoint the managers of the factories as public servants; and they would not then be answerable to a board of directors concerned primarily with profits. They would be answerable to a Minister of the Crown. I regret that at this moment, I have not brought with me some illuminating figures to instance what profits are being made in many munitions factories in Australia. These factories are receiving not only the cost of their materials, but also a profit and establishment fees. They are doing so well that it is no wonder that the Joint Committee on War Expenditure, in the report which it presented to Parliament yesterday, found that undue and fantastic profits are being made by private manufacturers of the implements of war.
– The Joint Committee on War Expenditure did notpresent its report yesterday. The information that the honorable member mentions was published in the press.
– So many reports were presented to the House, and so many notices of motion for the disallowance of regulations were given yesterday, that it is pardonable for an honorable member to forget the order in which the reports were tabled.
The honorable member for Robertson declared that the public services of the several States had been combed in order to find the best men for the purpose of assisting the war effort. That was not done in regard to the public service of at least one State. Ministers and permanent heads of State departments, like a lot of other people in the community to-day. think primarily of themselves and they do not wish to lose good men. As Statutory Rule No. 77 of 1942 has been, used effectively against striking coalminers, striking members of the building trade and other people who show contumacy, particularly when they belong to the working class, the Government should n=p. the statutory rule to compel State Ministers and State departmental heads to release officers when Commonwealth departments demand their services so urgently. When travelling from Canberra to Melbourne a week ago, I met an official of the Aircraft Production Commission. He informed me that in. one State tool-makers were employed by the Railway Department. The Aircraft Production Commission sought their services for the urgent manufacture of aeroplanes, but the State Commissioners of Railways in this instance insisted upon retaining their services and to date no finality has been reached. The way in which to deal with recalcitrant officials who act as these Commissioners of Railways have done, is to apply to them Statutory Rule No. 77. To date, the Government has been reluctant to do that.
I agree with those honorable members who believe that the days of State Parliaments are finished, and that if they are not finished, they ought to be. The quicker they are finished, the better it will be for Australia. I urge the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to bring to the notice of his colleagues the necessity for effectively combing the public services of the States, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Robertson. New .South Wales has lent to the Commonwealth several hundred men out of a total staff of several thousand ; but Victoria, has lent only twenty men out of a staff of several thousand. That is not sufficient. The Commonwealth requires, not ordinary clerks, but men possessing considerable experience and ability. In my opinion, more administrative ability and experience is to be found in the public service of Australia than in the business world. Many people who have gone into the business world did so because they failed to pass the examinations that are set for entrance into the Public Service of Australia. Some of those who now want to obtain admission to the public services, because +he exigencies of war have deprived them of their occupations, formerly spurned the civil service because the remuneration was low, although that was offset to some degree by security of tenure. Those persons wanted to get rich quickly on the stock exchanges, and in the legal and other lucrative professions. Now that their occupations are vanishing as the result of the activities of the Department of War
Organization of Industry, in addition to other causes, they think that the time has come when they should find for themselves a niche in some department of the Public Service. I assure the honorable member for Robertson that most of the people who want to enter the Public Service desire to take the top jobs. That accounts for the fact that the Minister for Air has been inundated in recent months with thousands of applications for appointment to the administrative section of the Royal Australian Air Force.
– The positions are advertised.
– It is true that there has always been a standard, or standing advertisement for persons required for the administrative section of the Royal Australian Air Force, but I have been informed that the Air Board has received many thousands of applications from persons who want to join the administrative section. There are many more applications for appointment to the administrative section to-day than there were twelve months ago, because the applicants want senior rank and high salaries. Their economic condition might be such that they consider that it is very necessary for them, in order to cover their commitments, to obtain a position that will carry remuneration similar to that which they received in civil life.
The public services of Australia have been very well conducted, on the whole, for many years. In the very early days of our public services, patronage was rife. Persons were appointed to positions because of their relationship to Ministers of the Crown. Some Premiers of Victoria secured positions for their sons, and in one notorious instance, a Premier promoted at least 14 persons in order that his son also would secure advancement. The nepotism which obtained in those days was so rampant and obnoxious that a Public Service Act was passed in Victoria for the purpose of preventing further abuses. Similar legislation was passed by other State Parliaments and later hy the Commonwealth Parliament. The purpose was to ensure that applicants for appointments to the Public Service should possess merit, and that no other qualifica tion should obtrude in determining whether a public servant should be promoted. With merit, of course, goes seniority and other factors. If, because of the war, we cut those safeguards adrift, we shall open the floodgates to favoritism and every other “ ism “. Instead of securing efficient service, we shall cause discontent and dissatisfaction so that the last position will be much worse than the first. I believe in utilizing the services of every one, as the honorable member for Robertson suggested, but I cannot countenance the things that he proposed. If delay has occurred in carrying out ministerial directions, the public servant has not always been at fault. Ministers are late in making up .their minds, and then make impossible demands to try to meet the difficulties of the situation. No Minister could to-day say to the Public Service, “Find so many thousand aircraft, because we need them “. The fault lies in the failure of governments in this country for years to lay the basis of an aircraft production scheme. You cannot produce something out of nothing. The production of aircraft requires a lot of things, including machine tools, material, and trained labour. The hard-worked Public Service of the Commonwealth cannot do to-day all that is required to be done, primarily because successive ministries in this House failed to do the things that they ought to have done in the national interest. These people knew what ought to be done, but because of fear of electors or some other consideration which involved heavy taxation, they left the responsibility to some body else. Colloquially, they “ passed the buck “.
Those with a keen sense of salesmanship, who come close to Ministers, have the opportunity to impress the Minister whom they are serving with their qualities of mind and their capacity for leadership. Basking in the full sunlight of ministerial recognition these people have, in many instances, secured advantages over their fellows, who are very good officers, but, as the honorable member for Robertson says, are generally unknown to the Minister. That fault of our present system is hard to avoid. We hope to have in this country a public service, which, whilst its members can in their spare timehave an interest in party politics, will give loyal service to whichever government takes office. But what we have developed in Australia is not a public service which takes an interest in party politics, but a public service which is politically minded. We have people who ingratiate themselves with their Minister, pander to his vanity, and tell him just how impressive he is and what a remarkable thing he is doing for the country. They tell the same story to the next Minister, and thus secure promotion from one Minister after another. In the Public Service of Victoria I often saw that happen. I saw it happen to such an extent that several departmental heads owe their rise to their capacity to persuade Ministers to accept them at their own valuation. Such an undesirable and unsatisfactory state of affairs should not exist.
We have attached to Ministers to-day private secretaries, assistant private secretaries, first-class confidential typists, and second-class confidential typists - a whole retinue of servants, in fact. I have found in my brief experience of Parliament that the less capacity a Minister has, the more servants he has around him to try to make up for his deficiencies. A little over twelve months ago the War Cabinet spent the whole of one Saturday morning discussing the salaries of private secretaries. That in the middle of a war ! Having reached a decision, they sent for a member of the Public Service Board and said, “Here is our decision; you go away and make a recommendation to that effect “, and he went away and brought back the recommendation wanted.
– How does the honorable member know all this?
– As the policeman says in the court, “ From information received “. I assure the honorable member for Wakefield that my information is reliable. It was given to me by one who really knew the facts. I am not so concerned with the method as I am with the fact that as the result of the campaign Ministers’ private secretaries were able to secure for themselves a salary rise amounting in some instances to £150 per annum, whilst other people were being asked to buy war savings certificates inorder that money might be raised with which towage the war. A rise of £3 a week gives to the highest paid private secretary to-day a salary of £680 per annum. A Commonwealth parliamentarian receives £1,000 per annum. That apparently represents in the minds of those who,are not members of Parliament something like a fair comparison between the value of the servicesrendered by the two classes of people.
I did not intend to say these things, but I considered that I ought to because the issue had been raised as to the value of the service which is being rendered to-day by those who have been permanent officials of the Commonwealth for many years. We have been told that some are too old and have other defects. I wanted to say some of the things left unsaid, probably because they were not known to the honorable member for Robertson, whose contribution to the debate I have presumed to criticize. The senior positions in the public service of this country are filled by Ministers and by nobody else, so there was no point in the honorable gentleman’s implication that Ministers had to accept as senior officials people chosen by a board, or, I presume, some authority other than the Ministry. 1 think that, the senior officers of the Public Service of the Commonwealth are particularly able men. I shall make no comparison, because comparisons are odious, but, as a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Broadcasting, I had the opportunity to hear many of them give evidence and to see them and their work, and I think that the Commonwealth is singularly fortunate in having men of the type of those in control of our Public Service. At the same time, I do not disagree with the desire of the honorable member for Robertson that a much better war effort should be made in this country. I am not a diagnostician, and cannot find the cause for the lethargy, complacency and apathy about the war prevalent in many parts of Australia. We have certainly not decided to make a 100 per cent. effort. We have not persuaded the community that their amenities are not merely in jeopardy, but are likely, within the course of a week or so, to be in grave peril. Those living in northern Australia may have the choice of moving farther south or inland or submitting temporarily to the domination of the enemy. The people there are alive to their dangers, but south of the tropic of Capricorn there is not the realization that there ought to be of the imminence of the peril.
The statement made by the Prime Minister was an admirable compilation of facts. It related in correct chronological order the development of events since last we met. Unfortunately, like all other statements made by governments on international and external affairs, it was not printed and circulated to honorable members at the time of its delivery. We have not yet had a record of it and have had no chance to study it carefully; therefore, we can deal with it only in general terms. I hope that the obsolete system which we have here of Ministers making a statement, and some one moving that it be printed, and a debate ensuing for a day or two, will give way to something more up to date. Copies should be given to each honorable member so that the statement can be more intelligently followed.
– We have not yet had copies of the report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting.
– The report was presented to Parliament yesterday and, because of the obsolete system which obtains in Parliament, it is not yet available to members. I am surprised that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who has been a member of this Parliament for some years, has not done anything to have that system altered. That report cannot be printed until a resolution of this House authorizes its printing. I hope that it will be available very soon. It is certainly wrong that when a report is presented to Parliament there is not at least one copy for each honorable member.
– It was held up for a month so that it could be printed.
– I hope that the honorable member for Bass willsuspend judgment on the report until he has had the opportunity to study it. I say with all possible modesty that he will find it to be a very fine production which will help in the development of broadcasting in this country. To return to the
Prime Minister’s statement, I suggest that statements on international affairs should be printed and circulated simultaneously with their delivery by the Minister concerned. This debate has lost a lot of its value because we have not yet been supplied with copies. I hope that the Government will not only make statements on international affairs, but also will give to us in secret meetings, as it did a week or a fortnight ago, reports on the latest war situation. Honorable members are entitled to be told all that can be possibly told, consistent with the maintenance of the safety of the country. It is particularly dangerous at any time to allowto any executive too much power. The constitution of the United States of America provides checks and balances. The President can do certain things, but the Senate has overriding powers. Anything any Minister of State desires to do can be done only if it has run the gauntlet of investigation by an appropriate committee of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington. I hope that we shall see development of the committee system here more fully than up to the present. We should have more secret meetings and more frequent meetings of Parliament in order that members might be apprised of the facts of the war situation, as far as the Government knows them, and, thereby, be made more capable of co-operation with the Government in its arduous and difficult task of ensuring the complete defence of this nation against a ruthless and barbaric foe.
– Most honorable members will agree that debates on international affairs in this House should be of paramount importance. We have been very slow to realize the value of taking a lively interest in international affairs. In Great Britain debates in the House of Commons on international affairs are always of great interest to members and the people at large. It can be said truthfully that debates on foreign affairs are of the greatest possible interest in both Great Britain and on the Continent. Therefore I propose this afternoon to say a few words on the role that I think Australia should take in the international world, or, if honorable members prefer the expression, in diplomacy. I am led to make these remarks by certain happenings in the last few months. I trust that 1 shall speak with due diffidence. Yet, as I have strong views on this subject, I make no apology for uttering them. I have had the privilege of learning a little about Australia from outside Australia, and that must be of great advantage in discussing this subject.
For many years Great Britain spoke for the British Empire, including the selfgoverning dominions, on international affairs. In those days the view of Great Britain was the view of the Empire, but, in the course of the years, the Dominions have gained strength and status and have made it clear that they wish to speak for themselves. Years ago Canada and South Africa appointed diplomatic representatives to other countries. During the last two or three years Australia has followed this lead. A. forward step was made also when the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster. The purpose of that measure was to attempt to define the status of different parts of the British Empire, but the effect of it was to leave foreign nations with a peculiar view of the structure of the British Empire. It is not too much to say that .foreign nations cannot understand how the British Empire holds together. Consisting of peoples scattered over the four quarters of the globe the Empire is bound together by invisible ties, and similarity of parliamentary institutions and national ideals. Nevertheless, the various parts of the Empire have developed certain points of view. Australia, like other dominions, has gradually developed its own outlook on international relations. However, I believe that the dominions should not desert their old citadel and take up residence in what might he described as a row of villas. Whilst it is proper for us. for example, to develop our own international policy, we should endeavour to harmonize our views with those of other parts of the Empire, so that, as an Empire, we may still speak with a united voice.
Australians who travel overseas are almost invariably struck by the ignorance of the people of other countries about this country. Australia is, in fact, a little-known land. We have developed greatly in the 150 years of our history, but in the international sphere we must strive to see things in proper perspective. It appeared to me, during my travels in Great Britain and on the Continent of Europe, that Australia was known principally as a part of the British Empire. Consequently, it would be foolish for us to arrogate to ourselves an importance which we do not really possess. Particularly when we seek to give voice to Australian views in world councils we should maintain a true perspective. In 1935 I visited Signor Mussolini at Borne, in company with the former honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). I am afraid that our Australian arrogance received a severe setback when Mussolini asked us whether the King of England appointed the Prime Minister of Australia! It was amazing to hear such a question from the leader of a great nation. “ Good Lord “, I said to myself, “ Does this man know nothing whatever about Australia? Are we so insignificant in world affairs and he so ill-informed about us as to think that we are merely a colony, and that the British Government is responsible for us?” Strange as it may seem, that is a true story of Mussolini’s view of this country. The average person that we met was almost equally ill-informed. For this reason we should not enter arrogantly into world affairs. To do so is to damage the fair name of this country. Such an attitude must inevitably appear a little ridiculous to the great nations of the world. In my view we should take all proper means to give voice to our views, but we should also do our best to encourage harmony in the expression of Empire opinions. In that way, assuredly, we shall most effectively achieve our desires.
With those observations as a background I wish now to discuss what I regard as some of the blunders of this Government during the last two or three months. I speak with a measure of humility, but also with conviction. The first matter to which I shall refer is the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) towards the end of December that Australia looked to the United States of America without any pangs. I do not think that any statement made since the outbreak of the war has created so much division in our own country as that one. I have had arguments with some of my stoutest friends on this subject. The tide of resentment is now flowing out again, but there will be still further reactions in Australia to that statement by the Prime Minister, for it did not contribute in any way to the maintenance of harmony among our people. The statement was made in the full knowledge that Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt, in their talks at Washington some little time earl le’, had reached an agreement as to the roles that Great Britain, the United States of America and Australia, should play, respectively, in consequence of Japan entering the war. It had even been suggested at that time that there should be a kind of consultative council to advise the proper authorities concerning operations in the Pacific war zone. With all that knowledge in his possession the Prime Minister made the statement - it seemed to me for political purposes - that Australia was now looking to the United States of America for help. The observation was not qualified, as it might well have been, by comments concerning the agreement reached by Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt. It was obvious that Australia could not have been overlooked in the conferences between those two world leaders at Washington. It is only necessary to look at an atlas to realize that Australia could not possibly have been overlooked, and that, from geographical considerations, assistance in the defence of Australia would fall naturally within the sphere of the United States of America. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister’s statement tended to create an opinion that Great Britain did not intend to do anything more for Australia, and that, consequently, this country had to appeal to the United States of America for help. I have little doubt that the Prime Minister considered that by making his appeal to the United States of America at that time he would be in a position, when American troops and equipment were landed in this country, to say, “ That is what we have done. I told you so “.
Certain extraordinary happenings have occurred also in relation to the proposal for the formation of the Pacific War
Council. This subject was not discussed between government and government through the usual diplomatic channels. What was said about it by the Commonwealth Government was shouted from the housetops for all the world to hear. The requests of the Commonwealth Government appeared under big headlines in the press and were referred to in frequent radio broadcasts. Yet that subject also was discussed at the Washington conference.
Again, a request was made by the Commonwealth Government for direct representation on the British War Cabinet. This request also was made, not through the usual diplomatic channels, but through press and radio publicity. In my view it is improper to discuss such important subjects in that way. Resortto such measures does not look well and does not “ go down “ well. That is borne out by the statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that the good name of Australia was possibly held in lower esteem in Washington and London to-day than for many years. Further support to this view is given by reports published in to-day’s press to the effect that President Roosevelt had made a statement to the effect that if Australia wanted a council it could have one “ with a fancy name if it would make anybody happy”. The people of Australia do not favour such methods of approach to either Great Britain or the United States of America. They take ‘pride in the good name of this country abroad. As the honorable member for Flinders truly observed, the public expression of Australian demands and appeals to Great Britain and the United States of America are not helpful.
– The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is now telling Canada openly what it ought to do.
– That is a very pertinent interjection. Australia’s representative abroad, Dr. Evatt, within the last few days, has been telling the Canadians publicly what they should not do. Reverting to the point that I am making: The world does not like a “ squealer.” It- appeared to a lot of people at that time, including myself, that Australia was “ squealing “ to the world. Contrast Australia’s attitude when those appeals were made, with the dignified attitude of Greece. Nothing could have been more inspiring.
– And Great Britain, after Dunkirk.
– Exactly. Greece was a little nation which for months had been fighting the might of Mussolini, and was then threatened by the might of Hitler. Greece said, “ We want your help, but whether it comes or not, we shall fight to the last”. Possibly, there are no grander pages in the history of Greece than are those that were written in those very difficult hours. I invite honorable members to try to see ourselves as others see us. If, for example, the United States of America were in danger, and one of the States of the Union were to begin to make frantic appeals for help to the world and to make it appear that it was prepared to swap loyalties in the storm, would we have that high regard for it that we otherwise would have? I say that we would not. Anything like a diplomatic rift between Australia and Great Britain, therefore, is not pleasing to the American people or to the great man who rules over them to-day. My opinion, which I believe has been justified by events and by news that was published in to-day’s press, is that the Government of Australia has to reverse its methods. We have to realize, if we can, Australia’s place in the world, and recognize that we shall obtain the maximum of our needs if we talk things over with the rest of the family, and get them into agreement with us. By playing at diplomacy in the manner of a child, we shall not curry favour in Washington, to which we are looking steadily. I know, from opinions that I have hoard expressed by persons who have recently returned from Great Britain and particularly from America, that there i3 wonderment in both of those countries because of the manner in which Australia is behaving. We have a political set-up in which no party can control a majority in this House, and any party that assumes office must ‘be dependent upon the support of two gentlemen who have shown, decisively that in many respects they are odd. Yet we make appeals to the world. We say, “ Come and help us ; we are in dire danger ‘*. Although we have had our own Dunkirk there is not the slightest disposition 10 effect political unity. It is quite easy to understand what the people of the United States of America and Great Britain think about a situation of that sort. Gould we imagine Great Britain, at the time of Dunkirk, when its expeditionary force and equipment were lost, when its very effective yet small Air Force was facing the hordes of Hitler across 20 miles of water, being torn by political strife? Could we imagine it with a government representing only one section of its people, even though that government had a good majority? I say to members of the Government and to the people of Australia, that we would have felt badly had there been such a state of affairs. It was the unity of the people of Great Britain, expressed through their political parties in Parliament, and the courage that went with it, which stood to us and to the people of the United States of America. It was a spirit which announced to the world, “ This country will go through this trial and emerge unbeaten “. The political set-up in Australia is something that people outside Australia cannot understand. It is a definite weakness at a time when the good name of Australia, particularly in Great Britain and America, should be as high as we can make it.
The Prime Minister, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), and other Ministers have said to the people of Australia and the world, “ We are going to forget the defensive spirit and adopt the offensive spirit”. The rest of the world knows that the Australian Government will adopt the offensive spirit only with those men who “ sign on the dotted line “ and join the Australian Imperial Force. It can only send division after division overseas in the event of the disbandment of units of the Australian Military Forces. Before I, as a member of the Australian Military Forces, could join a unit to chase the enemy overseas after he had been thrown out of this country, before I could adopt the only true offensive by going after the enemy, if necessary hs far as the gates of Tokyo or the doors of Berlin, I should have to resign from my unit, and sign my name on the dotted line. I should have to say whether L was married, and how many children 1 had. I should have to be attached to some other unit, and undoubtedly be associated with men who were strange to any sort of military life, before 1 could adopt the offensive and go forth to chase the enemy to his lair and defeat him. Undeniably, such a procedure is stupid to the marrow. We breathe, not the offensive, but the defensive spirit in such circumstances. We say to the United States of America, “ Send us your men; send us your equipment; send us your ablest generals. But when, with the aid of your conscripts, we have thrown the Japanese out of Australia, should they land on its shores, do not think that all the units of the Australian Military Forces will leave Australia with you on the offensive. While we have the present set-up of our military forces, we do not mean to do that “. The people of the United States of America are notsuch fools that they do not realize the true position. In the eyes of the world there are two things which, for Australia’s salvation and its good name, this Parliament should rectify as early as possible.
The Minister for External Affairs has gone to America to discuss Australian representation in relation to the prosecution of the war. We should not display arrogance, or have an undue idea of our i niportance in the world. If we were given representation on any council - we have already had representation on the ABD A council - what would be our attitude after our view had been stated? I should like to have an assurance from the Prime Minister that Australia has abided by and not run away from any decision regarding strategy, or the disposition of forces, which has been made by any council that has been set up since the war began. If we demand, and are given, representation, yet are not. prepared to abide by decisions, we shall lower the prestige of this nation. All of these matters are of great importance. I want Australia to play a part in world affairs, but I want it to be a great’ part, a grand part, a part which, above all. will not envisage the war iu the Pacific as separate and will not cloud our view of other theatres, but will regard the war as a world problem which has to be faced and fought as such. The whole history of the present hostilities has been that one country after another has run for cover, refusing to line up in any grand allied strategy for the defeat of Hitler. In other words, the tactics of the Axis from the commencement of hostilities has been, first to divide and then to conquer. Surely, if there is one thing that is paramount in every one’s mind to-day, it is the conviction that a general allied plan must first be worked out and then allied strength be concentrated in this or that centre as grand strategy requires. I am not sure that there is not a little too much of the old idea of running for cover and dispersing strength. Dispersal of strength is the worst thing we could do. I hope that we shall be given representation, that the views that we express will be the right views, and that diplomatic talks between nation and nation, or between the Dominions and the Old Country, will take place in private. I hope that when representation is granted to Australia we shall attempt to look at this world war as a world problem, and be prepared, with the rest of the allied countries, to lend our support to a strategy designed to bring to the allied nations complete victory.
I wish now to refer to the matter of discipline. Most honorable members have heard ugly stories regarding lack of discipline amongst our troops. I do not desire to say much more than that. but I urge the Government, for the sake of our own safety and that of our allies, to ensure that discipline is enforced in the Army, so that wo shall hear no more of these stories. An army cannot be run as a rabble. There must be respect between the different ranks. Just as society is made up of different strata, so is an army. If respect is lost between rank and rank, then there is lost that discipline which is so necessary in the army, and efficiency is impaired. I hope that the Minister for the Army, and every member of the Cabinet, will regard this as a matter of the utmost importance that must be attended to without delay.
I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), and with all honorable members of this House, in welcoming General MacArthur to Australia to take the supreme command, including the Australian forces. We are proud and happy that a man of his distinction should come here to assume leadership. We have confidence in him. He is a man with a great background, who has already proved his fighting qualities. We wish him well. We see in this event something even more than the coming to Australia of a great American to take command of our forces; we see in it a sign of the closer approach of the great United States of America and the British Empire. I believe it to be the dream of every member of this House, and of all right-thinking people, that the relations between the United States of America and the British Empire should become ever closer and closer. Such a development would mean so much for the safety of the world.
.- The statement delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) yesterday gave a very clear picture of the war situation, though, in my opinion, it made that situation look slightly better than, in fact, it really is. I hope that the statement will be read and understood by the people of Australia. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said, there is still a large measure of complacency among the people, and I find it difficult to understand why that should be. It must he clear to any thinking man who can judge the probable course of events, that Australia stands at this moment in a position of extreme gravity. We have just seen the collapse of the campaigns in Malaya and the south-west Pacific. The Malayan campaign was one of the most inglorious and calamitous in British military history. In order to find a parallel, it would be necessary to go back 150 years to the American war of independence, when a British army under General Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga. At Singapore an army of over 60,000 British, Australian and Indian troops surrendered, apparently without a fight. To me, and to almost every one in this country, it is not only a matter almost of shame, but also one which, I think, impresses upon our minds the very great difficulties which will face us in opposing an enemy flushed with victory in that campaign. The result of those two reverses, particularly that at Singapore, has been to create in the minds of a number of Australian people, and among a large section of what I may describe as the second-rate press of Australia, the feeling that we have been left in the lurch by Great Britain. I should like to say something regarding what Great Britain has done during the war. It is true, of course, that Great Britain has made grave mistakes, but the fact remains that, but for Great Britain, there would be no free Australia at all to-day. After the collapse of France, Britain was left practically defenceless, with only a small air force, and a small army, poorly equipped. The fleet, of course, did then, as it has done since, magnificent work, but, in a military sense, Britain was practically defenceless, and was opposed by a victorious and apparently overwhelming German army. In spite of that, however, Britain built up new armies, and manufactured new supplies and equipment. The air force was enormously strengthened, and for the last eighteen months Britain alone has been the bulwark of democracy opposed to the Axis powers. But for Britain, the war would have been over to-day, and we should have lost it. Australia would now be occupied by Japan, Italy or Germany. Therefore, when we consider the present situation, we should not forget, as some of us do, how much we owe to Great Britain. And that is not all. Great Britain is supplying with equipment a large part of the world opposed to the Axis. No doubt, honorable members have seen the figures recently released in the United States of America by Lord Halifax, figures which show that SO per cent. of the equipment manufactured in Great Britain is going overseas. We are receiving some of this equipment, and it will be very useful to us in this crisis. It has been said that Britain neglected Australia by not sufficiently strengthening the defences of Malaya. I point out that the choice before Britain at the time was whether to defend the Middle East effectively, or to disperse its forces, and try to defend both the Middle East and theFar East. Britain, decided to defend the Near and Middle East. By sending troops and equipment there, the British leaders indicated that, in their opinion, the best strategy at that particular time was to block the advance of Germany to the oil wells of the Caucasus, and also prevent a junction of the German forces with those of Japan. Britain did not then know, and could not know, what was going to happen in the Pacific. At that time, the American fleet wasstill in being and constituted a menace to any drive by the Japanese to the south. What took place subsequently at Pearl Harbour could not be foreseen. Britain, therefore, chose wisely in concentrating upon the defence of the Middle East. The facts I have mentioned should be widely known in order to prevent confusion of thought. And Britain is still helpingus enormously, if not by sending troops, at any rate through the power of its fleet, and that, also, should not be forgotten.
Now let us consider the other side of the picture. When we feel disposed to criticize what our Allies have done, and are doing, we should examine closely, and with humility, what we ourselves have done in the way of preparation for th is war. Well, what have we done? In the first place, we have produced a very fine body of men, the second Australian Imperial Force, and sent overseas large numbers of airmen who have done magnificent work. We have also provided gallant crews for the Australian Navy, and also, in part, for the British navy. Allowing for all of these achievements, however, we have still not done, in my opinion, what might have been expected of us. It is true that we have established an efficient munitions industry, which is operating at an in- creasing tempo, and turning out greater and greater quantities of material, but if wecompare Australia’s effort with that of other countries, and particularly of the totalitarian countries, it is clear that, we have fallen far short of what we might have achieved, and are now trying to achieve. Germany has a population of 70,000,000 people. From that population, it has provided over 200 divisions, besidesa very powerful air force and a strong fleet. For several years past, Germany has also been producing enormous quantities of munitions and equipment. We have a population of 7,000,000 people, one-tenth that of Germany. In proportion to Germany’s effort, we should have about twenty divisions under arms, apart from our Air Force and Navy. If we measure our efforts according to financial expenditure, the same position is revealed. Great Britain has been, for a long time, expending over 50 per cent, of its national revenue on war and the production of war equipment. The figure for Germany is even higher. That for Russia is about the same, whilst Japan is expending between 50 per cent, and 60 per cent, of its income for war purposes. The last Commonwealth budget showed that we were expending only 23 per cent, of our income on defence, less than half of the amount expended by other countries. I recognize that there have been difficulties in Australia. In the production of munitions, we started from scratch. We also started with no Army and no Air Force. It has been necessary to establish factories, and to create organizations for the Army, Navy and Air Force. The point I wish to make is this. If the situation as it presents itself to us to-day had been before us two years ago, would not our preparations be far more advanced than they are now? We can do more, and we must do more.
I turn now to what we are actually achieving at the present time. Every honorable member knows that since Japan entered the war we have speeded up enormously the tempo of our preparations. That was only to be expected. The point which I desire to make is that our preparations are not proceeding so well as they should, and we are not achieving the results which we should achieve. There is in this country a great degree of inefficiency. If honorable members visit some of our ports and study some of our preparations for defence, they will see that both time and energy are being wasted.
– There are still a good many strikes.
– Yes. I do not wish to refer specifically to places, because that would be inadvisable at the present time; but the Minister for Labour and National
Service (Mr. Ward) knows of the enormous waste of time that has taken place iu certain important ports in the unloading of munitions and other supplies, so much so that the work has been undertaken by our allies, and in some instances by our own troops. All that is wrong. On the wharfs in Melbourne, stores are accumulating and, because of inefficient organization, the utmost difficulty is experienced in distributing them. The explanation is that the men are not organized to work. Employed on a parttime basis, they work when they feel so disposed, and do not present themselves for engagement if the spirit does not move them. The result is a shocking waste of time and unwarranted delay in unloading essential war supplies. That is only one example of the inefficiency which exists throughout our whole organization. At present we are attempting to conduct the war with a series of committees. That fault does not lie wholly with the present Government, because the committees were appointed by a previous government; but the fact remains that the system is being continued. We cannot carry on war in that manner. The idea has been tried in the field, with most disastrous results. If we introduce it into the ordinary war-time organization behind the front line, we shall experience exactly the same delays and disappointments. The reason for the appointment of the committees is that Ministers will not accept responsibility for making decisions without consulting dozens of other people.
– With whom is the honorable member quarrelling? I think that he is trying to start an argument.
– -My quarrel is with the committee system, which should be abolished and replaced by individual responsibility. In other words, the Government should select one man to do one job efficiently and expeditiously. If that were done, the results would exceed any that have so far been achieved.
– When the Government introduced a regulation to achieve that objective, the Opposition strenuously opposed it.
– Naturally, the Opposition opposed the kind of regulation to which the honorable member refers.
– The honorable member for Flinders wants it all his own way.
– The trouble is that in Australia we are still living in an atmosphere of peace. We still think in terms of our own peace-time problems. We still believe that we can carry on government in war-time in accordance with a rigid set of rules for the purpose of preserving a balance between the various sections. of the community and various interests. Those interests, whether they be employers or employees, are still trying to increase existing benefits, or to maintain benefits that they now possess. All their thoughts are directed not to the present but to the future. The present alone matters. If we are to make any real progress we must get out of that attitude. I hope that the time is not fardistant when the Government will give the necessary lead by impressing upon people the necessity for discarding their peace-time outlook. The fault does not lie entirely -with the Government. A government must depend upon the goodwill of those who support it. But the fact remains that the Government must give a strong lead to the people. The trouble, as I see it, is that the Government is not giving the lead because it does not feel strong enough to do so, or because individuals are too afraid of their own supporters. Honorable members may recall a despatch from the London Times correspondent after the fall of Singapore. After describing the reasons which led to the capture of the fortress, it concluded : “ Until we, the British, exercise those powers of vigour and ruthlessness which made us so great in the past, cannot expect to be great in the present. ‘”’
– How does the honorable member define “ ruthlessness “ ?
– “ Ruthlessness “ mean; going a.head without minding the feelings of the individual.
– Does the honorable member consider that all the rules of civilized warfare, if any, should be observed ?
– Yes, we should keep to the rules of civilized warfare. My remarks are intended to stress the necessity for ruthlessness towards our own people.
– That is worse.
– The remarks of the Times correspondent contain a profound truth. What we in Australia require are the qualities of vigour and ruthlessness, which to-day are lacking here. The Government is administering the country in a manner which I can only describe as “flabby”, and thatflabbiness exists throughout our services, and to a certain degree, within the army itself. Unless we recapture those primitive qualities which characterized our race, we shall not make very much progress in whipping up the country and equipping it normally for the prosecution of the war. These qualities are innate in us; they require to be awakened.
– The honorable member cannot have ruthlessness and morality at the one time.
– Of course we can. Ruthlessness can be carried out with justice, because the act of being ruthless does not necessarily imply unjustice. The two tilings are entirely different. Other qualities which we require are confidence in our leaders, and faith in our cause. I believe that we have confidence in our cause. I also believe that confidence in our leaders can be achieved if the Government sets an example of strong leadership.
I have been very disappointed that the Government has not attempted to reconstitute the Administration upon a broader basis. The responsibility which to-day devolves upon Ministers is very heavy. Upon the action or inaction of the Government depends the whole future of the country.
– That is why the Labour party will not agree to a government upon a broader basis.
-That is the reason why the Labour party should agree to a government upon a broader basis. As I understand mankind, I can conceive of no human being who, conscious of his own imperfections, would willingly undertake the responsibility of leading the country in war-time. The responsibilities are so onerous that I cannot conceive of members of the Government not wanting to share that responsibility outside the circle of their own supporters. But the Government will not realise the degree of its responsibility, which should be shared in order to strengthen our position. What Australia requires to-day is spiritual unity and that can come only through political unity, which, in turn, can result only from the formation of a strong government commanding the support of all Australians. The present Government fails to give leadership because it does not enjoy the confidence of a large section of the population. Many people believe that Ministers are using their war-time powers for the purpose of giving effect to the political aims of the Labour party. Undoubtedly there is reasonable ground for that suspicion. If any proof of it be required, I refer honorable members to the statements which have been made by supporters of the Government that they propose to govern by Labour methods during the war and to advance the Labour policy. That attitude of mind is entirely out of place. In the present crisis, no issues should divide the country or the political parties, because the only issue that matters is the winning of the war. Party political considerations, ideals and aims are entirely out of place at the present juncture. Even if we achieve them and win the war, I do not think that they will last. If we lose the war, which we are likely to do if this present disunity continues, those political ideals and aspirations will cease to matter. I urge the Government to broaden its basis for the sole purpose of placing itself in the position to give complete and strong leadership to the country. I believe that every government should contain a representation of Labour, but Labour alone in the present circumstances cannot govern effectively. In conclusion, I emphasize again the necessity for unity. The responsibility which rests upon the Government is enormously heavy. The Government must give to the country the lead which it demands, but which it has not got. That lead can be given only by the broadening of the present basis of administration so as to include representatives of all sections of the community.
– I am prompted to rise at this juncture bymy astonishment at hearing that ruthlessness has become a national virtue. As I understand it, “ ruthlessness “ means “ pitilessness, cruelty and mercilessness “. I cannot understand a civilized nation transvaluating in this way, and converting pagan vices to Christian virtues. Ruthlessness is cruelty. Ruthlessness is the determination to do whatever one likes without regard for the lives or happiness of others. In war one conceives that armies may be ruthless, but even there a code of international law precludes that; yet my mild friend from Flinders (Mr. Ryan), for whom I have the greatest respect, advocates a policy of ruthlessness towards one another in this country as an essential to winning the war. That means that we should treat each other without pity or mercy as an essential means towards winning the war. Ruthlessness has noother meaning than that. I can understand that the honorable member, having committed himself to the policy of ruthlessness, believes that the people have no option but to accept that policy. So that the people shall have no means of punishingthose who practise ruthlessness towards them we shall constitute a national government, because that will mean that every one and every party in this country will take an equal share of the responsibility for anything done. Those who advocate a national government in this country do so to achieve, not the greatest measure of unity, but the greatest measure of irresponsibility. They desire a system of government not responsible to the people. The only thing which makes a government responsible to the people is the party system with a government kept in check by a critical opposition. That is the only means by which a government can be held responsible for its misdeeds. It is only by the people being able to put out the existing government and put in another government that they have the opportunity to govern ihemselves. But, if all parties are equally responsible for what has been done, the people have no choice whatsoever. It is only when the parties desire to put upon the people some piece of legislation or a policy which the people do not desire that they come together and form a national government or a national policy. I object to that. In this country great issues still divide the people, and the only result of forming a national government would be that the will of the people would be avoided by the device of avoiding responsibility.
A great deal has been said about the relations between Australia and Great Britain. Unfortunate things have been said on both sides. It is unfortunate that there should be in this country people who believe that Great Britain has behaved badly towards Australia and let us down. I believe that to be utterly and entirely untrue. “Whatever we did at the start of this war we did on our own initiative. We were not requested to do anything. When we said at first that we should not do anything, that was accepted by Great Britain and even defended in British newspapers and by British spokesmen. What we did we did on our own initiative, and we did not thereby establish any claim on Great Britain or entitle ourselves to say that we have been deserted by Great Britain. Strongly as I object to that, I object more strongly to the people who say that, but for Great Britain, this country would not exist. If this country at the beginning had done for itself all that it could have done, it would not have been in its present peril. But I realize that the people who believed that we ought to send men and arms abroad believed that that policy was in the interests of Australia and they applied it primarily in the interests of Australia, not of Great Britain. The less we say in the future about our past relations between Australia and Great Britain the better. We have to understand that Great Britain is fighting for its life in what I believe to be the principal theatre of war. We ought to understand that, and ought not to put ourselves in the position of blaming either ourselves or Great Britain; It is unfortunate that friction should exist between the British Government and the Australian Government as it appears to exist. I should not say that one was more responsible than the other; responsibility rests equally upon the British Parliament and Government and our own Parliament and Government. It is folly, but it is only one example of the friction that is weakening our effort.
We are not using to the greatest value the Government organization we have in Australia. We should develop a hierarchical system of government by which the Commonwealth would not attempt to do everything itself, but would devolve powers upon the State Governments and upon municipal and local authorities. There should be a diffusion of power throughout Australia so that authority would be brought as near to the people as possible. I have expressed that opinion before and I express it again. It was a great mistake for the Commonwealth Government to enter into the domestic matter of the Werribee beef ban. The Victorian Government had its own policy and had expressed its mind over and over again on that subject, and it was folly to overrule the State. All should co-operate, and until we do so we cannot achieve the greatest efficiency of government that we can get in this conn try.
This is the thirteenth week of this year. In that time we have had 340 sets of regulations and a number of orders, which to all intents and purposes have the same effect as regulations. Regulations are being turned out at the rate of more than ten a week. Orders come out at about the same rate. One thing which has a bad effect on this country is that we are departing from the system of government by legislation with which the people are familiar and substituting a system of government by regulation -which the people do not understand. I am a man whose business it is to know something of regulations, but I cannot keep track of them. I know one lawyer in Victoria who says that he does keep track, ‘because he devotes one hour a day to the regulations as they come out. I asked him whether he would not be inclined to agree that in respect of every matter dealt with by regulation there are at least two inconsistent regulations. He said that that was probably right. If one went, through the sheaf of regulations one would find that nearly every matter covered is dealt with inconsistently, at least twice, by different regulations. The regulations do not dovetail into one another. This policy of government, by regulation should be used as carefully as possible. Parliament should legislate upon the main topics, and the Government ought not to continue to make enormous changes merely by regula tion. I repeat my suggestion made on another occasion that before regulations are made there should be greater consultation, not merely of members of parties in this House, but also of interested people outside. It is announced in the press that a regulation is to be made and sooner or later a regulation is made, but its form is different from thai foreshadowed in the press. No one knows whether the press announcement is a true forecast of the regulation or not. It is desirable for us to get back as near as possible to the old system with which people are familiar. Regulations should be made to deal with details of government and organization. But, if we are to continue to use the present system, I make two suggestions, first, that there should be frequent consultation on regulations on various subjects, so that we shall not have a bundle of regulations dealing with the same subject; and, secondly, that there should be periodical acts of parliament passed to deal with matters covered by regulations, in order to place them on a statutory basis and enable them to be discussed and considered by Parliament in their relation to one another.
– Consolidate the regulations in statutory form?
– Not necessarily, but, after the regulations have been in operation, the Government should submit to Parliament a bill to deal with the topics covered. Parliament would then be able to say whether it would continue the Government’s plan or alter it. Of course one expected that this Parliament would support the Government. That is the natural thing to expect. But, at any rate, Parliament would. have the right to reject what the Government had done, and the Government, would not make some of the regulations which are now being made if it had to submit the proposals to Parliament. Matters of statute would receive much more mature and careful consideration than matters of regulation.
Regulations are very difficult to follow. Indeed it is difficult to understand what the regulations have done. I have before me a memorandum from one department which says that hotelkeepers need have no worry, because the contracts adjustment regulations give relief to them. I have studied the contracts adjustment regulations, and I cannot see where they relievehotelkeepers ofthe problems which beset them.
– That is what His Honour Mr. Justice Richardson said yesterday.
– I am glad to hear that such a distinguished lawyer as he confirms my belief. There is no doubt that the people, of this country more particularly, because it is not so bad in Great Britain, are finding their liberties and their traditional way of life and action taken from them. “We are told that we are fighting for their maintenance, but we are losing them in the process. “We do not have to do that at all. Ministers are talking to us in the language of Duces and Fhrers. They give orders and do not explain. That is not the government of a democracy. The Government, in effect, says -
I am the blessed Glendover ;
Tis mine to speak and yours to hear.
The Government could get the cooperation of the people, of every association of people, and of all trade unions by taking them into consultation, and by vesting trade unions with power to deal with minorities instead of delivering at the pithead orders underStatutory Rule
No. 11 as the policeman delivers summonses. I believe that the people of this country would have a different spirit if there were less dictation and more consultation. You cannot infuse a different spirit into the people from above or by throwing orders to them. If there were fewer speeches by Ministers, fewer public statements, fewer broadcast utterances, this country would be a lot happier. Speeches disturb and trouble this country. They should be made only on matters of great moment or in order to explain government policy.
.- I am participating in this debate because of the last two speeches that have been delivered. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has entirely missed our point concerning the desirability of the formation of a national government. I have advocated the formation of a national government ever since my election to this Parliament, but for reasons other than those suggested by the honorable member for Bourke. My view is that honorable members on both sides of the house who possess great and proved administrative ability should be associated with a national government in such critical times as these. The fact is that honorable gentlemen sitting on this side of the house have had long years of administrative experience which could be used to great advantage in these days, but because the Labour party will not agree to join in a national government those honorable gentlemen must confine their activities to such work as is open to private members of the Parliament. The Prime Minister had a good deal to say yesterday about the need for unity in this country. I consider that there is far more unity among the Australian people than there is among the members of this Parliament, although we should, in fact, set a good example to the general community. I do not reflect upon the capacity of Ministers, because they are really raw recruits. They came into office only a few months ago and are doing the best they can in the circumstances, but the plain fact is that they lack the administrative experience which would enable them to work rapidly.
– I thought honorable gentlemen opposite complained that we were working too rapidly.
– If a national government were formed, the Minister for Labour and National Services (Mr. Ward) would find himself on the back benches. My desire for a national government is due to my earnest wish that the very best brains of the Parliament shall be at the service of the country in these momentous times. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) in this connexion. To-day certain honorable gentlemen opposite are endeavouring to administer the affairs of their departments without the requisite experience. We need the best brains of the nation to help us to make a maximum war effort.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.-I move -
That the National Security (Waterside Employment) Regulations under the National
Security Act, made by Statutory Rules 1942. No. 19, be disallowed.
These regulations are a political outrage. The issue of them is a piece of administrative vindictiveness directed, at the behest of a militant majority, against its industrial competitors. This is ruthless use of political power for partisan purposes. It is a merciless repression of the rights of hundreds of Australian workmen, many of whom are returned soldiers. The Opposition is constantly raising objection to the use, by this Government, of emergency war-time powers for the fulfilment of its political policy. It would be difficult to imagine a more blatant illustration of the application of this policy than that provided by the issue of these regulations.
The principal purpose of the regulations is to establish a committee at the port of Melbourne to register employers and employees and to regulate labour on the waterfront. It is proposed that a committee consisting of a chairman, appointed by the Government, and three representatives each of employers and employees shall be appointed for the purpose of maintaining the register of employers and employees and of making recommendations for the better working of cargo at the port.
– What is wrong with that?
– It is an admirable objective, and a proper purpose for the issue of regulations. The Opposition does not challenge the wisdom of setting up thi? machinery. In fact these regulations have flowed from action initiated while the previous government was in office.
Under the Transport Workers Act ;i committee of five persons, a government nominee as chairman, and two representatives each of the employers and employees supervised operations at the port of Melbourne. The chairman was an officer of the Department of Commerce. One of the employees’ representatives was a member of the Waterside Workers Federation and the other was a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf “Labourers Union.
– That is the “scab” union.
– The words “Transport Workers Act” at one time had a familiar ring in this chamber. The act was most unpopular with the workers on the waterfront. It was known as the “ dog-collar “’ act. At the request of members of the Waterside Workers Federation it wai repealed, and its repeal involved the dissolution of the committee. It was repealed on representations to the effect that such action would lead to industrial harmony on the waterfront and to greater activity in the loading and. unloading of cargoes. The committee had done useful work, and the suggestion was put to m.e while I was Minister for Labour and National Service that similar machinery should be set up in order that the good work could be continued. Following the representations made to me. several conferences were held under the auspices of the Department of Labour and National Service. As Minister, 1 occupied the chair at the early conferences, but subsequently Mr. Pat. Sheehan, an officer of the Department of Labour and National Service, presided. Mr. Sheehan is well known to honorable members on the Government side of the House. He has done valuable work for the department, and I have pleasure in paying this tribute to him. I do noi think that any honorable member opposite, however, would go so far a3 to say that Mr. Sheehan would look on waterfront problems with a prejudiced eye. He is well known in the Labour movement and, on different occasions, has appeared as an advocate for industrial unions. He is in every way fitted to preside over conferences of this description. Subsequently Mr. Sheehan submitted a number of recommendations to me as Minister. One of these was that a committee, similar to the committee which had operated under the Transport Workers Act, should be appointed to regulate work at the port of Melbourne. This was to be regarded as experimental, and if the method was considered to be successful at that port, the principle was to be extended to other ports. The recommendation was that the committee should consist of a. chairman nominated by the Government, four representatives each of the employers and employees. Of the four representatives of the employees, three were to represent the Waterside
Workers Federation, which had a membership of 1,700, and one was to represent the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, which had a membership of 1,100. On the original committee, one of the two employees’ representatives represented the Waterside Workers Federation and the other the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. It seemed to me that the membership of the respective unions being as it was, the proposed representation was not quite balanced. I raised the point with Mr. Sheehan, and he said that it was thought that in view of the objections taken by the federation to the presence of members of another union on the waterfront, the proposal represented a reasonable compromise. I discussed the matter with representatives of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, who said that the proposal had been made as a compromise and, though they lid not like it, they were prepared to accept it. They intimated that they would be satisfied so long as they could he assured of an effective voice on the committee. That was the position when the previous government went out of office. The drafting of regulations to give effect to that proposal was then in process. Since then, however, there has been a definite change of policy under r.he present Minister for Labour and National Service. Honorable members will remember that years ago we passed through what was known as the Edwardian era. The Edward of those days was known as “ the Peacemaker “. lt appears that we are now passing through another “Ed-Wardian” era in our industrial relations, but the Ed- Ward of these days must be known as “the Peacebreaker “. The regulations that were in draft form when I went out of office have been amended in certain important respects. Apparently, the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union heard a whisper that this was likely to happen. Possibly it came from that illusive person known as “ a Government spokesman “. Anyhow, the suggestion got abroad that the regulations were to be altered. I was approached on the subject, and I wrote letters about it to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and to the Minister for
Labour and National Service. I emphasized the desirableness of acceptable representation on the committee for both unions. It will be seen, however, that the regulations have been amended so as to eliminate the representation proposed for the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, and to remove the provision that had been made for the recruitment to that union of wharf labourers in the future. Under these regulations, a union with 1,100 members is not being granted a representative, whilst another union with 1,700 members is being allowed three representatives. In other words, the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Onion is doomed to a slow death by the deliberate act of this Government. I repeat what I said in my opening remarks on this regulation. Here we have ruthless repression of minority rights, and the exercise of emergency powers for party political purposes; because it cannot be claimed on any fair basis, on any correct analysis, that the use of these powers is necessary for the proper prosecution of the war effort. They are being exercised in order to wreak vindictive retribution upon an industrial competitor.
I refer honorable members to the history of this union which is proving so unpopular with members of the present Government. The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union was registered in the State court of New South Wales in 1917. It arose, honorable members will recall, in connexion with the waterside strike of 1917. Federal registration was obtained for the union in 1927. Therefore, at the time of the 1928 strike on the waterfront in Melbourne, there was in existence v. federal industrial organization known as the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. The strike on the waterfront at that time was against an award that had been made by Judge Beeby. Although representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, and the executive of the Waterside Workers Federation, advised men to work under the terms of the award, they refused ,to do so, and shipping was tied up in the port of Melbourne. The Government was helpless. It appealed for volunteers to unload and load shipping in the port, and volunteers responded to that appeal. Because they felt the necessity to belong to an industrial organization, there grew up this strong branch of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union in the port of Melbourne. It is no secret that the comparatively peaceful industrial record enjoyed on the waterfront in Melbourne during the last fourteen years, by contrast with that experienced in some others of the principal ports of the Commonwealth, has been largely due to the existence side by side of these two industrial organizations. One may ask why the Government has taken this action. Why has it indulged in this piece of industrial and political discrimination against a union which is affiliated, I believe, with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, and is registered in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration? The .first answer was given, by way of interjection, by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who said, “ This is the ‘ scab ‘ union “. When the matter was first raised with the Government, its spokesman, without giving any reason, came out with the statement “ This is a ‘ scab ‘ organization “. Thus we see one reason why, in the eyes of the Government, it should be blotted out of existence. That was the only justification given for this discriminatory action when the matter was originally raised. If that be the reason, we do not need any further justification for the accusation that I made earlier.
– I did not say that that is the reason; it is my opinion.
– I am not attributing that reason to the honorable member. It is the description that he applied to the organization. But the Government spokesman said “ Well, it is a ‘ scab ‘ organization “. What other reasons the Government may have, doubtless will be given to us in due course by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward).
I shall endeavour to deal with some of the arguments advanced elsewhere by members of the Government as to why this organization should be slowly put. to death. One argument will be that it should be allowed to die because some of its members are not the same persons as those who came forward for employment on the waterfront in 192S. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has made that statement. I have found, upon inquiry, that 75 per cent, of the present members were members in 1928, and that the whole of the members of the present executive committee have been working on the waterfront in Melbourne since 192S. Another argument will be that the action taken will assist to maintain industrial peace on the waterfront in the port of Melbourne. I ask honorable members: Is it reasonably plain that a government act which will jeopardize the continued industrial existence of some hundreds of workmen, is likely to be conducive to industrial peace? Is that the sort of action that is likely to bring harmony to the waterfront - when 1,700 men ure turned against the remaining 1,100, and a committee is set up on which the 1,700 have three nominees and the 1,100 have no representation whatever? Mark you, under this regulation a token registration is to be issued to men who are approved by this committee ; not, I remind yon, that hated word “licence”, which we had under the Transport Workers’ Act. It is dignified to-day by the euphemism “ token of registration “. I congratulate the draftsman upon a very much happier choice of terminology; but at least the effect is the same. It means that only those who hold this token of registration are to be allowed to work on the waterfront, and only those who are approved by this committee are to secure the token of registration. It is true that any person who is a member of the union at the time of the making of these regulations, shall not be refused registration on that account. He does not get it automatically, but he is not to be refused on that account. At the same time, however, the organization is not to be allowed to make any recruitment to its membership, although no such limitation is placed on the other organization. Indeed, if controversial matters arise in regard to regulation of the conditions of work on the waterfront, they are to be dealt with by the representatives of only one of the unions. So, on either of those two counts, any justification falls entirely to the ground. I repeat the claim that I made earlier, namely, that the port of Melbourne has enjoyed a very much happier record of industrial harmony on the waterfront than has any other of the principal ports throughout the Commonwealth. Contrasted with Sydney, in which there is no branch of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, its record shines, and is one for which the people of Victoria are very thankful.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8.15 p.m.
– I desire to inform the House that General Douglas A. MacArthur, of the United States of America, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific, is within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
General MacArthur thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– At dinner to-night honorable members were privileged to listen to two great speeches, which will take their place in the history of this young country. Those speeches will be an encouragement and inspiration to all of us through the difficult times which lie ahead. This is not a time to engage in a discussion of the speeches which arc not, perhaps, relevant to the subject before the House, but some of the terms used, and some of the principles expressed by our own Prime Minister to-night are, I think, relevant to what we are now considering. He spoke of the preservation of the liberty of the citizen, and the preservation of those liberties is something for which we must not only wage war against an alien enemy, but also exercise constant vigilance, even against those in our midst, who would seek to deprive the community, or a section of the community, of the rights to which they are entitled. The principles which he enunciated should be the touch-stone by which to test any matter which comes before this assembly. Although, perhaps, the matter before the House to-night - a motion to disallow a regulation made by virtue of the executive power conferred at a time of emergency - may appear to be a small one, those principles must be applied when we, as an Opposition representing a large section of the people, believe that power is being arbitrarily, unfairly, or improperly used. That is the purpose of the Opposition in moving that this regulation be disallowed.
Before dinner, I had been covering in some detail the problem before the House.. I do not propose to go over all the ground again, but because some honorable members are present now who were not here before, I shall re-state the position as briefly as possible, so as to make clear the motive which actuates the Opposition in moving that these regulations, Statutory Rule No. 19 of 1942, made under the National Security Act, be disallowed. The regulations seek to establish at the port of Melbourne a port committee that will regulate and control conditions of labour. There is power under the regulations to extend the provision to other ports, but they are being applied experimentally to the port of Melbourne for the time being. It is proposed toset up a committee on which there shall be equal representation of employersand employees presided over by a chairman nominated by the Government.
– It is not confined to Melbourne.
– It is at present, although the scope of the regulations may be extended. The principal functions of” the committee are to regulate conditions of labour on the waterfront and to register employers and employees who may properly engage in tasks there. On the face of it, that is an admirable proposal, and to it the Opposition raises no objection whatsoever. I repeat that the original conferences and discussions in connexion with this proposal originated with the Opposition when it was the Government. The establishment of the committee has followed on the initial steps taken by the previous Government. It is no new thing for the port of Melbourne to have a committee of this kind. There used to be a Transport Workers Act which was put into operation at a time when there was trouble on the waterfront. It was an unpopular piece of legislation, known among the waterside workers as the “ dog-collar act “, and the last Government decided, in the interests of industrial harmony, to repeal it. Under that legislation, a committee of five was set up, consisting of a chairman appointed by the Government, who was a representative of the Department of Commerce, and two representatives each of the employers and the employees. One of the employees’ representatives was a nominee of the Waterside Workers Federation, the oldest-established waterside union in the Commonwealth, and the other representative of the employees was the nominee of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. That committee functioned under the Transport Workers Act, and when that act was repealed, the committee was dissolved. However, the committee did not have attributed to it the same unpopularity as attached to the “ dog-collar “ provisions of the act. It ;had been doing useful work, and representations were made to me, as Minister for Labour and National Service, by both sides, that some similar body should be set up in its place. Conferences were held, and though nominally I was chairman, in effect they were presided over by a man well “known and respected in the Labour movement, Mr. Pat Sheehan, who had frequently appeared for the unions before the Arbitration Court. He brought recommendations to me which, among other things, provided that there -should be set up a committee with equal representation of employers and employees, with a government chairman. This committee was to differ from the previous one in that there were to be four representatives of the employers, and fo u,r of the employees, instead of two of each as before. The Waterside Workers Federation had always harboured resentment against the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. It was the oldest union, and the strongest numerically, and it desired that there should be no representation on the committee of the minority group. However, as a compromise, it was recommended that there should be three representatives of the major union, and one representative of the minor union. At that time, in the port of Melbourne there were 1,700 members of the Waterside Workers Federation and 1,100 members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. I pointed out that, according to the figures, the ratio of representation should be about two to one. Mr. Sheehan replied that the proposal for a three to one representation was a compromise. The federation objected to the other union being represented at all, whilst the second union desired to have a voice on the committee. I got into touch with the minority union, and asked what its members thought of the proposal. They told me that they desired to register their protest against it, but that their chief desire was to have an effective voice on. the committee, and to that end they were prepared to accept a position in which they would have one good man against three men from the other union. Draft regulations ware then prepared to give effect to ‘the proposal, but about that time the Fadden Government was defeated, and the administration of the regulations became a matter for the incoming Minister for Labour. New regulations were issued which differed from the previous ones in two important respects. They provided that there should be no representation on the committee for the minority union, although it had 1,100 members as compared with 1,700 member? in the other union. It also provided that, although members of the smaller union could be registered, the- union would have no right of recruitment, so that the organization was condemned to a slow, if painless, death. We now put this proposition to the Government: Here are men who have the right to belong to an organization which they have established. The organization was established in circumstances which were, no doubt, painful to the present Government. It came into existence in 1917, during the last war, when there was a strike on the waterfront. The union received State registration at that time, and was given federal registration in 1927. At the time of the last great waterside strike in Melbourne, the Government was unable to get labour to man the ships. Although the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the men’s own executive urged them to return to their employment, they would not work. The Government appealed for volunteers to work in accordance with the award of the court. Men came forward, and they represent, in effect, the membership of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union to-day. Honorable members opposite have described it as a “ scab “ organization. For years they have sought its dissolution, and they are now seeking to bring it about by this regulation issued under the emergency powers given to the Government in time of war. This constitutes the exercise of power for partisan political purposes. It is, in effect, an abuse of power. That is what we, as the Opposition, are here to resist. Only yesterday, in this chamber, we debated another regulation which gave supreme power to the Executive over property and persons, and also authorized the Executive to delegate that power to unnamed persons. We sought an assurance from the Prime Minister that the power would be exercised only in accordance with procedure agreed upon. Statutory Rule No. 19 is a further exercise of the same arbitrary powers, involving unjustifiable political discrimination against a body of men who have done nothing to deserve it.
– Does the honorable member realize that there is a war on?
– I do realize it, and I remind the honorable member-
– How is this going to help to keep the Japanese out?
– The honorable member for Hunter must not interject.
– Oh, put me out ! You don’t seem to realize that we are at war.
– I remind the honorable member that 200 of the 1,100 members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union at Port Melbourne know very well that there is a war on, because they served in the last war, and they are the men who, by the arbitrary exercise of the power conferred upon the Government, the honorable member seeks to throw out of the industrial movement.
Seventeen of them are members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– It is not proposed to deprive them of their employment.
– Of course it is not proposed to deprive them of their employment! But if a United Australia party government had declared that the Labour party,as from a specified date, could retain its present membership but would not be allowed to recruit additional members, the action would have been described as “ the unwarranted exercise of arbitrary powers “. Yet that is the essence of the problem now under consideration. Yielding to pressure from a militant majority to which it looks for political support, the Government has said to a minority group “ We shall wipe you out of existence; we regard you as a ‘scab’ organization “. The Opposition regards minority groups as possessing definite rights in this community. While we fight overseas to retain our liberties, we must be equally vigilant to see that our liberties are preserved at home.
The Opposition contends that the regulation is a political outrage. It is an outrage against our sense of fairness. It is an unjustifiable use of powers which Parliament has entrusted to the Executive for the purpose of conducting the war. Those powers are being exercised for political purposes by the party now in office. As an Opposition, we consider that the regulation should be disallowed. I emphasize that we do not object to the machinery that the regulation proposes to create; on the contrary, we consider that it is most desirable. If the previous government had remainedin office it would have taken similar action. But, in the creation of that machinery, the principles of fair play should be observed. The Government should have regard for the right of minority groups in the community.
– Honorable members have just witnessed a peculiar performance by one of the leading spokesmen for the Opposition. At the beginning of his remarks, he mentioned that honorable members, during the dinner hour, had listened to eloquent speeches which stressed the necessity for protecting our liberty. I remind the honorable member that one of the other features of those speeches was the emphasis that was placed upon the necessity for unity in this crisis in our history. But honorable members opposite, who prate about the preservation of liberty when a Government proposed and has supported and attempted to justify the introduction into the country of the worst form of oppression, for which no parallel can be found in any other part of the world where an organized Labour movement exists. The former Minister for Labour and National Service appears still to regret that he is not a member of the Ministry. That is the whole trouble. Before the defeat of the previous administration, he had prepared, so he said, a plan for the better organization of labour on the Melbourne waterfront. The policy of the previous government fairly bristled with plans and conferences, but they came to naught. It remained for the Labour Government to take the necessary action.
I should like to know the parties for whom the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) holds a brief. Although the committee which he now opposes has operated for a very short time, I have not received one protest from any member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, or from that organization regarding any act of injustice perpetrated against the organization or any of its members. The shipowners who ;ire represented on the committee have commended the Government for its action. They have not protested about the form of representation. It is true that certain regulations were prepared by the former Minister for Labour and National Service, and I had an opportunity, upon taking office, to peruse them. Tn those regulations he provided for the Waterside Workers Federation to be represented on the committee by three members, and I have neither added to nor reduced that number. In other words, I left the representation of the federation in the form that the exMinister desired. However, I believed that the proposed, committee was too unwieldy, and accordingly I reduced the personnel to three representatives of employers, and three of employees, and an independent chairman. To-day, members of the Opposition urged the Government to give a positive lead to the country and they demanded vigorous action. They did not mind how much action the Government took, provided its measures would impose restrictions upon the workers. But they ha ve resisted every regulation which was likely to compel the well-to-do classes to pool their wealth, although they emphasized that labour should be pooled. When honorable members opposite refer to the necessity for preserving liberty, their remarks are confined to the particular interests that they represent in this Parliament.
What will happen on the waterfront? At the port of Newcastle, for example, the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union has ceased to exist; but its members have not been victimized. They have been absorbed in the Waterside Workers Federation. In my opinion, it is advisable to have only one organization to cover any particular calling. The honorable member for Fawkner studiously avoided any reference to the port of Brisbane. In Brisbane, for a long time, the shipowners have operated a system of licensing under which they have discriminated against members of the Waterside Workers Federation. The former Minister never protested against that action. Whenever he, in his capacity as Minister for Labour and National Service, got, into difficulties regarding employment, on the waterfront, he did not consult officials of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. The general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. Mr. Healy, informed me that the former Minister was never away from his doorstep when he needed advice.
The Waterside Workers Federation is the organization which represents the big majority of waterside workers throughout the Commonwealth. Members of the organization are employed in 46 ports, but the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union has members in only three or four ports. It exists only because it has been fostered by anti-Labour interests and the shipowners, to the detriment of the workers themselves. We have not acted vindictively against any particular section of the workers, but we recognize that it is as much in their interests as it is in the interests of the country that there should be one organization covering this form of employment. What have they to lose? The honorable member for Fawkner stressed the fact that the Government included in these regulations a provision which protects the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. We are not prejudicing their employment. All that we have contended is that it is unwise to have a divided committee. This committee will regulate employment on the waterfront, and we have asserted that t he employment of all the present members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union on the Melbourne waterfront will not be affected.
– Can members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union join the Waterside Workers Federation ?
– In Newcastle, members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union have been absorbed by the Waterside Workers Federation.
– What is the position in Nf el bourne?
– The honorable .member for Fawkner has not been able to cite one instance of the employment of a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union being affected as a result of the operation of the committee.
– Is the Minister satisfied with the waterside work that is being done in Melbourne?
– To-day, the Government announced that it proposed to establish an organization to regulate .and control employment, not only in the port of Melbourne, but also in all ports throughout the Commonwealth. That should have been sufficient to indicate that the position is not. yet satisfactory in the port of Melbourne or in many other places.
As I stated, the committee has only just begun its operations, and the honorable member for Fawkner is well aware of that fact. When the Government discussed the matter of establishing an organization to deal with the whole of the Commonwealth, with Sir Thomas
Gordon representing the shipowners, Sir Owen Dixon and M.r. Healy, the shipowners requested us not to interfere with the port committee which has been established in Melbourne. For whom does the honorable member for Fawkner hold a brief? The honorable member traced the history of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, and, in doing so, he disclosed the hand of the Opposition. Honorable members opposite wish two organizations to operate in the port of Melbourne so as to divide the workers. When they are able to pit worker against worker, they can impose upon them working conditions and rates of pay which would not be tolerated in many countries. For that reason, the Opposition desires to ha vo two organizations in the port of Melbourne. The shipowners fostered the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourer? Union, not because they were concerned with the welfare of the men, but because they wished to pit one section of the workers against .the other. The Opposition wishes that policy to continue. Now, the Waterside Workers Federation and many members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union are beginning to recognize that their interests, so far from being in conflict, are identical, and that only by closing their ranks and having one organization to represent them will they be able to protect their working conditions. What does the honorable member for Fawkner fear will happen to members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union? He has admitted that the regulations protect their employment. What terrible action does he suspect that the Labour Government will take against them? I remind the House that the representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation do not constitute a majority on the committee. The personnel includes three representatives of the waterside workers, three representatives of the shipowners, and a chairman appointed by the Government. The chairman, a departmental official, was appointed by the former Minister for Labour and National Service. Yet the honorable member has the audacity to contend that the Government has given to the waterside workers the right to determine conditions of employment, &c., in the port of Melbourne.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) has had considerable experience, at one time or another, of waterside organizations. In fact, he has been able to view them from both sides of the fence, because he has been for and against the workers.
– That is not true.
– If the right honorable gentleman is not against the federation, of which he was once a prominent official, why does he oppose these regulations which give to the federation the right to represent those employed on the Melbourne waterfront in the settlement of their conditions? The honorable member for Fawkner said that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union has no right of recruitment. Of course not! I make no apology for that. I hope that the day is not far distant when therewill be one organization for the workers on the waterfront. Is it not far preferable, if this committee is to deal with working conditions in the port of Melbourne, that the representatives of the great bulk of the employees on the waterfront should express their opinions? Recently, there was an appeal for waterside workers to go to Darwin, then a prospective theatre of war. Did the honorable member for Fawkner object when I asked the Waterside Workers Federation to supply those men? Did he say that members of the Perma- nent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union were entitled to go? No, he remained silent !
-How was I to know anything about that?
– The honorable member knew what we were doing. The matter was mentioned in this House several times. The honorable member objects only when the matter at issue is the establishment of a committee to deal with the conditions of the workers. The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union does not go to the Arbitration. Court to fight for improved conditions on the waterfront. When did it ever present a claim to the Arbitration Court? It waits until the Waterside Workers Federation bears all the expense of making a claim, and when the federa tion has succeeded in obtaining better conditions for its members, it goes to the court, and asks that those conditionsbe extended to its members. That isthe organization which the honorable member seeks to protect.
In regard to representation on committees, this is a Labour government. 1 know that honorable members opposite disagree with it. Some of them would like to have a piebald government. A national government would be absolutely no good to Australia. In order to emphasize that, I need only cite the year.- in which the Opposition parties occupied the treasury bench. There was no progress. Our defences were left in a shocking state.
– Order ! The discussion must be limited to the question before the Chair.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, because I have no alternative, but it is an indication of what would happen under a composite government, seeing that we have not the numbers to put our own Speaker in the chair. I would say to all honorable gentlemen who are ablealways to whip up enthusiasm-
– Order! The Minister must speak to the question before the Chair, the disallowance of certain regulations.
– I am answering the argument - if it was an argument; it appeared to be political propaganda - advanced by the former Minister. I was endeavouring to show that the Opposition by its actions was not helpingto preserve unity in this country, in this Parliament, or in the industrial field. We make no apologies for having said that on this particular committee there shall be one organization speaking for the workers, and one for the employers. Would it not have been preferable in existing circumstances for the honorable member for Fawkner to have waited to see how this committee would function? Would he have not done better to make some inquiries as to how it is functioning, whether the shipowners or the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union had protested against any of the committee’s decisions? There was no protest from the honorable member when a conference was held recently at Canberra between the shipowners, represented by Sir Thomas Gordon, the Waterside Workers Federation, represented by Mr. Healy, a representative of the United States of America, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and a number of other Ministers, but no representative of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.
– How could we know about these happenings?
– The honorable member for Fawkner had nothing to do with that.
– No. Rut he seems to have a great deal to do to prevent the Government from organizing the port of Melbourne which sorely needed organizing. The Opposition, seeking political advantage, wants to destroy the Melbourne Port Committee, because honorable members know that it will be successful. As Minister for Labour and National Service, the honorable member for Fawkner did nothing to organize the port of Melbourne. No plan was submitted ; there was nothing more than draft regulations. All that the honorable member did was to talk, hut this Government acted to organize the port, and, in spite of efforts of the Opposition to cause industrial unrest and disturbance, the Government’s actions will prove successful.
In the sittings of Parliament in the last few weeks we have witnessed attack after attack on the Government from the Opposition benches. Then, after having launched the attack, the Opposition has tried to cajole the Labour Government into admitting some of its members into a national government. I repeat what was said very ably by the Prime Minister: “We are a Labour government and,, while we remain in power, we shall govern, and, when we govern, we shall apply the laws in such a manner that they will be of benefit to the great majority of the people, not merely to a small section of them”. I invite honorable members to study the records of Parliament to see which regulations have been challenged by the Opposition. No abjection was taken to the regulations designed to conscript labour, but when it was proposed that wealth be thrown into the common pool there wa3 instant outcry. Referring to the licensing of waterside workers under Statutory Rule No. 19 the honorable member for Fawkner said “ This reminds me of the ‘ dog collar ! act referred to so often ‘by the Labour movement”. These regulations do institute a licensing system. The workers have to have permits to work on the waterfront. Registration of labour is needed, so that it can be properly allocated in order that the maximum results might be achieved. Since I have been in charge of the Department of Labour and National Service and since these regulations have been put into operation, successfully, as it hurts the Opposition to admit, the ship-owners, as well as the employees’ representatives, far from wanting interference with the regulations, have asked that there be no interference; they have not protested against the basis of representation. The Waterside Workers Federation and the shipowners are satisfied, and the chairman who is responsible to the Government is quite- satisfied about the operations of .the committee. My advice to all fair members is that before they squeal they should Jet this committee operate in order that they might learn whether or not any workers on the Melbourne waterfront are to be victimized. Honorable members opposite are squealing before they are hurt, because they must know that the action taken by the Government will make a most beneficial contribution to the organization of employment in the port of Melbourne. 1 do not know to whom the honorable member for Fawkner owes his brief in this matter, but whomever he represents, I advise him to take back to his clients the fact that we propose to extend the principle of port committees to other ports after we have discovered that, it works successfully in the port of Melbourne. The honorable member may tell his clients that the Labour Government is determined not only to ensure that manpower shall be properly organized to achieve the maximum effort, but also to give to the workers some say in the control of the industry in which they are employed. Probably that is the root of ,the objections. The Opposition does not mind setting up committees on which the representatives of the bosses are dubbed the representatives of the workers, but it strongly objects to the workers being granted direct representation. I am of the opinion that we should extend the principle established in the appointment of this committee. Why not give to the workers the right to share in the management of other industries, for example, the manufacturing industries? The workers are the men who make the fighting of this war possible. They produce the wealth and the materials with which it is being fought. They should, therefore, have the opportunity to share in determining their conditions of employment and how particular classes of labour shall be engaged. The Government offers no apology for what it has done, and it challenges the Opposition to destroy its efforts in the port of Melbourne to ensure the rapid loading and unloading of ships’ cargoes. Every body knows how necessary it is, especially now, that ships shall turn quickly back to sea after the discharge of their cargoes. That requires organization and labour. It was to secure that organization and labour and to speed the about-turn of ships that the Government established the committee. The committee is beginning to succeed, but the Opposition, in searching for political advantage, is attempting to destroy the constructive efforts of the Government to overcome our difficulties. I hope that honorable members will put Australia before their own party political interests, and vote to allow this committee to continue to function and give service to the country.
.- Perhaps it was a good thing that our gallant and distinguished visitor, General Douglas MacArthur, should have had the opportunity to hear this remarkable debate, because, as a. man who is necessarily completely absorbed with problems of strategy in relation to the war, he must have admired the demonstration of a counter-offensive which has just been given from the table.
– The right honorable gentleman admits that there was an offensive.
– It was a counteroffensive.
– That remark completely expresses my view, lt was counter, and it was offensive! I cannot but admit my technical admiration for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who is a past master of the art. He has delivered a speech which must he regarded as a perfect example of what a learned judge once described as “ a circumnavigation of the entire globe of irrelevancy “. In referring to the proposal that a national government should be formed, he avowed that this was a Labour Government and he made no apology whatever for the introduction of partisan politics into this issue. In that regard, one must admire his complete frankness. But my mind ran back to the powerful and dignified speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) only an hour and a half ago. That speech reflected great credit upon this Parliament. In it, the honorable gentleman said, with moving emphasis, that we must have not only unity of command in this theatre of war, but also unity throughout this country. I say to the Minister for Labour and National Service that unity is impossible on a basis of injustice. There can be no unity at the port of Melbourne if 1,100 men belonging to a union duly registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and entitled to representation on a governing body are denied that right. The whole basis of unity is justice. We are fighting for justice. I hear an honorable member interject that this is a small subject to be discussed at a time like this. It is never a small matter, even in the middle of a war, that Parliament should remain in session and do its work, because it consists of representatives ‘ who are charged with the responsibility to give justice to the people. It is all very well for the Minister for Labour and National Service to say : “ This is a Labour Government “, and to spell Labour with a capital L. I say ro him that the people of Australia would prefer to have a war government, in order that we might make all we possess available for the war effort. The people resent anything that distracts the country. They certainly do not wish that an opportunity that presents itself shall be taken to secure a small victory in a small battle between contending trade unionists.
With that preliminary, I revert to the case presented by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) - a case which, if I may say so, he presented with skill und clarity. The essence of the case can he put briefly. At the port of Melbourne, there are two trade unions, each of which is a registered organization under the -law of Australia which the Government is pledged to administer. Each organization has full legal rights in the port of Melbourne. Under the draft regulations which the honorable member for Fawkner bad intended to issue if he had remained in office, it was proposed that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, with 1,100 members, should be represented by one member, and the older and larger body, the Waterside Workers Federation, with 1,700 members, should be represented by three members on a port committee. The representation proposed for the Waterside Workers Federation was more than generous on the basis of its membership. What the present Minister for Labour and National Service has done, for reasons that have not yet been stilted, is to provide that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union shall have no representatives on the governing body which has been appointed, whereas the rival body, the Waterside Workers Federation, shall have three representatives. I waited patiently to hear whether any reasons would be given for such a complete denial of one of the elementary principles of democracy, namely, representation. What the Minister said was: “We do not want divided counsels. If all the men working on the waterfront are associated with one union, we shall not have divided counsels. If representation be given to the union which is in the minority, divided counsels must result”. If that principle were applied to this Parliament, many honorable members would not be sitting in this House. I can recall periods in the history of this House during the last six years when the Minister for Labour and National Service has found himself at variance with other members of his party. Did he, on those occasions, say: “We must have unity in the Labour party; therefore, I propose to disappear.
I do not think that the electors of East Sydney, whose spokesman I am, would desire me to continue to represent them because to do so would introduce disunity on one side in this House”? Of course the honorable gentleman did not adopt such an absurd attitude. It is a principle of democracy that all reputable interests in the country are entitled to have their words spoken for them in Parliament. The moment any community begins to deny such a right to minorities in a democracy, disunity begins. The whole basis of the freedom that we have been talking about to-night is that justice shall be done to minorities. It is because minorities have no voice in Germany and Italy to-day that there is no liberty in those countries. That is the simple issue in this case, and it may be discussed without introducing irrelevant circumstances, without discussing past political history, and without speculating upon the general structure of government. Unless the 1,100 men at the port of Melbourne who are banded together in a legitimate organization be given a voice in the controlling body at that port, injustice will result. The Government can never obtain peace in industry in this country unless it metes out justice to those who are engaged in industry.
.- I should not have taken part in this debate had not the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) adopted such devious methods to try to make a good case out of a very bad one. The right honorable gentleman knows as well as any honorable member of this House that serious problems have had to be faced in trying to meet the circumstances of waterside employment at the port of Melbourne. Over a number of years he and I, as well as others, have been associated in efforts to solve those problems. The difficulties are not such as he has suggested this evening. It is almost an evil thing that this small matter should have been associated with the need for a united war effort. The fact that the right honorable gentleman has reasoned as he has done this evening shows that he must have found great difficulty in making a case against these regulations. Employment on the “waterfront and elsewhere at the port of Melbourne has an historic background, and an effort has been made to-night to reintroduce the evil traditions which belong to the bad old days when employers on the waterfront did their utmost to divide the workers. They were actually successful in achieving their objective of securing the registration of the illegitimate trade union which, for years,, has been operating side by side with the legitimate trade union in this industry. The illegitimate trade union was horn in the evil days of a serious maritime strike, and for years its members had to be protected by a cordon of policemen while they were at work.
– The business goes back to the days of the last war.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) should confine his attention to subjects on which he is adequately informed. The establishment of the union did violence to a fundamental principle of the trade union movement which is recognized in every country of the world. The test which is al w ays applied,, even by the International Labour Office of the League of Nations, in order to ascertain which is a true and which is a bogus union is to ascertain which represents the largest body of organized workers in a particular industry in any country. In fact,, representation at the International Labour Conference is governed by this principle. If a representative selected to attend an [Lt tel national Labour Conference is not a member of the majority organization in any country, his qualifications to be a member of any International. Labour Conference are rejected.
– If the smaller union is not a legitimate organization, why has Lt not been deregistered ?
– The right honorable member is well aware that this bogus union obtained registration in days when prejudice ran high.
– If it be a bogus organization it should be deregistered.
– The union waa registered, as I have said, in the bad old days, but to substantiate my statement that it is a bogus organization and not truly representative of the workers, I point out that never once in its history has it filed a plaint in the Arbitration Court, never once has it sought to obtain for itself an award setting out wages and conditions of employment for its members, and never once has it spent a sixpence on legal proceedings in order to improve the conditions of its members. It has -always been carried on the back of the Waterside Workers Federation, which has invariably met all the costs associated with the efforts to improve the wages and conditions of waterside workers.
Let me now say a word in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). He stated that the bogus union had a membership of 1,100 and the right honorable member for Kooyong accepted his figures. I dispute their accuracy. That union had a membership of 1,100 a long time ago, but it has not anything like so large a membership to-day. The honorable member for Fawkner must be well aware of this fact, for he has had considerable experience in dealing with issues arising from employment on the waterfront. I am quite sure that the right honorable member for Kooyong will admit that the continuance of this bogus union must have a discordant effect upon employment on the waterfront at the port of Melbourne. For that reason we held many conferences at which, with the assistance of the right honorable member, we endeavoured to straighten out the problem. Eight to this day this organization has been gradually fizzling out. Most of the men who formed it and had to be protected because they were known as “ loyalists “ who came to the rescue of the Government and the employers, have gone. I remember going through the compound with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). We saw hundreds of members of that organization having their lunch. I said to the right honorable member, “ Look at those men and ask yourself how many of them could possibly have been working on the “wharfs when the big strike took place “. Most of them were under 30 years of age, and must have been schoolboys at the time the strike took place. I repeat that the existence of this illegitimate union is a source of discord on the waterfront. To-day we want the last man hour on the waterfront to help us unload ships holding material which we require most urgently. We have asked the stevedoring companies to amalgamate in one organization instead of having a number of organizations, many of which are now unloading material which is not required urgently, whilst at the same time American ships are waiting to be unloaded.
– They have to load their own ships.
– We have no objection to their doing so; but we need to unload American ships immediately in order to put aeroplanes now lying in crates in their holds into the air as soon as possible. The Government in its negotiations dealt with not only these two employees’ organizations, but also employers and asked the latter to unite in the one organization, instead of maintaining six organizations which compete with each other for the labour available. The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union has never been regarded as a legitimate union. Another test of its legitimacy is that .it has never been accepted in affiliation with the Trades and Labour Council. When a bogus union is formed either by the employers, or by a section of disgruntled employees, in any great workshop, where preference is given to unionists, this is the test applied to decide which organization legitimately represents the employees. When a man applies for a joh in an industry in which two such organizations exist, the test applied in respect of the principle of preference to unionists, is whether he is a member of an organization registered in the Arbitration Court, and which has gained au award of such court, and, secondly, an organization which is affiliated with the Trades and Labour Council. The organization which fulfils those two conditions is always regarded as the legitimate organization.
– I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service whether these men can join the Waterside Workers Federation, but he did not reply to me.
– Of course they can.
– Is the honorable member sure of that?
– Definitely. The right honorable member knows more than I do about this problem. He knows that whenever a conflict in an industry results iu the formation of a second organization of employees, the legitimate organization gradually absorbs member] of the other body. I submit that there could be no better time than the present to deal with this problem on the waterfront, ‘because sufficient men are not available for the work now offering.
– Will the Minister give a guarantee that the Waterside Workers Federation will accept membersof the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union?
– I am not an officer of the federation; but I have been closely associated with its activities for the last twenty years. I have the confidence of the federation, and I know the men who control it. I am mindful of what has happened before when the federation has been confronted with a problem similar to that with which we are dealing to-night. Inevitably the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union will become members of the federation.
– Is that one of the purposes the Government has in view in framing this regulation?
– No; apparently the honorable member cannot put party political considerations aside. Our real objective is to try to rationalize the groups of employees and employers in order to avoid wasting man hours by having six organizations competing with one another on the waterfront. Some men are employed to-day unloading material, although no harm would be done if it were not unloaded for weeks. At the same time we are unable to unload material which we require most urgently. That is why we are endeavouring to settle this problem. We have asked the employers to unite on the same lines. There is nothing wrong with these regulations. If only for the simple reason that there is more than enough work to go round, no harm can come to members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union or the federation. There is no reason why this recognition should not be given to the one legitimate union, namely, the union that represents the men in court, files all applications with the court, and bears the cost of all proceedings.
.- Despite the eloquence of the Minister for Social Services and Health (Mr. Holloway) who is noted for- his ability to express himself in such a sweetly reasonable manner, I support wholeheartedly the strong and admirable case presented on behalf of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, and the cause of liberty, by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union has an excellent record of service, to this country in both war and peace. What Ls the crime committed by these men that they should be discriminated against in the manner set out in Statutory Rule No. 19? Why did they come into existence as an organization? One reply answers both of those questions. ‘Some fourteen years ago the members of the Waterside Workers Federation refused to accept the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. They refused to accept the advice of their own leaders and, in so doing, they were sabotaging an essential service. Consequently, it was high time for right-thinking men to part company with them. It was time for men who were anxious to keep our essential services going, and willing to abide by the decisions of the Arbitration Court because they believed in constitutional methods of improving their conditions, to be up and doing something. They had every reason to break away from men who by their actions had made themselves, for the time being, rebels in an orderly society. For this reason they formed a new union. That union wa3 recognized by the Arbitration Court, and its members worked side by side with members of the older organization in Melbourne and in other ports. In the past both organizations have been represented on the committees appointed to deal with affairs on the waterfront. Under Statutory Rule No. 19, this organization of law-abiding men, a properly registered body, is to be slowly starved to death. It is true that existing members of this organization are to be allowed to work on the wharfs; but no man who joins the organization in the future is to be given any guarantee of employment on the wharfs. By limiting the right to work on the wharfs to existing members of the union these regulations seal the fate of that body. We are told by the Minister that these regulations have been framed in the sacred cause of unity on the waterfront. It is a form of unity that might well be looked ‘ for in Nazi-ridden countries. It is the unity of compulsory uniformity, which has been called “Ted Ward ian regimentation”. A greater measure of unity would be established if both unions were represented on the waterfront committees. On many occasions in the past honorable members opposite have endeavoured to arrogate to themselves the title of custodians of liberty. Yet their Government sentences to a lingering death a union which has a proper respect for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, whilst it sets up as a monopoly a union which has refused to abide by the decisions of that court. I have heard so much said by honorable members opposite about monopolies in the past that’ it seems extraordinary to find them now championing a form of monopoly. One would not expect a Labour government to champion a would-be monopolist organization; but, apparently, it is the ambition of the Minister for Labour and National Service to ensure that there shall be only one union on the waterfront. The Minister appears tonight in the role of spokesman for this monopoly. The whole matter reflects no credit upon the Government. I do not propose to dwell upon points which have already been dealt with. I again voice my protest against this very high-handed action, and re-affirm my support of everything that has been said by speakers on this side of the House.
– I am very surprised at the attitude adopted by the Opposition to-night, especially that of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) who has moved for the disallowance of Statutory Rule No. 19. When the honorable member was Minister for Labour and National Service he had every opportunity to give effect to any proposal which he thought desirable to apply to the waterfront.
Several months ago I appealed to him to appoint a port committee not only in Melbourne but also in other ports. He arranged that such a committee should be set up in Melbourne on trial for a. period of three months. That committee was to commence functioning nearly ten months ago. The fact that it has not yet commenced to operate is his responsibility. The new regulations are designed to produce harmony on the waterfront. They provide for the setting up of a committee consisting of three representatives of shipping interests, and three representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, with an independent chairman. The gentleman who has been chosen as chairman of that committee is the very gentleman who was recommended for the position by the honorable member himself. Consequently, it can be said that a majority of the members of the committee are favorable to the honorable member. The Waterside Workers Federation hasbranches in every port in Australia,Is it not reasonable, therefore, that it should be recognized as the legitimate organization of the waterside workers in Melbourne? Some honorable members apposite complain that members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union in Melbourne will not be allowed to join the Waterside Workers Federation. This statutory rule provides that any man may apply to the committee successfully for work provided he satisfies the committee that he has previously gained his livelihood on the waterfront. In all reasonableness, I ask, what is wrong with that? Some of these men have been on the waterfront for a number of years. Where is the necessity for two organizations in the port, the one pulling againstthe other? Young men are exempt from military service to-day because they are members of these organizations. Why have two separate organizations, and allow young men who should be in the services to take refuge in them ?
– The Minister for Social Services said that there are not sufficient men to do the work.
– That is so. The honorable member must not forget that when a convoy of ships comes into a port there is need for a greater number of men to unload those vessels than there is when only periodical visits are made by regular vessels. In Queensland, the “ dog collar “ act still operates, and no man is allowed to enter a compound unless a disc has been given to him by the employers on the waterfront. The committee will have control over all the undesirables who are working on the wharfs in the different ports of Australia. Many aliens have discs that they havebeen given by the employers’ organization, because their only purpose for being on the wharfs is to do just what the employers want them to do. The Minister for Social Services (Mr.Holloway) has told the House that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, throughout the years of its existence, has not spent one penny or taken one step towards assisting itself, but has been carried by the Waterside Workers Federation. It is time that its members were absorbed in the legitimate organization throughout Australia. In Newcastle, all of them have applied to be accepted as members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Why cannot the men in Victoria do that? There is no obstacle whatever. Regulation 6 makes provision for their entry into the Federation. Port committees have been in operation in many other countries for a number of years, with most beneficial results where undesirable elements congregate on the waterfront. The regulations provide that all the men who work on the waterfront shall be under the control of the committee. If they act wrongly, they will be suspended for a certain period, just as though they had been convicted in a court of law, and if they continue to do what is wrong their membership of the union will be cancelled and their livelihood on the waterfront will be taken from them. I have been fighting for twelve months to have port committees set up in Queensland. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) had every opportunity when Minister for Labour and National Service to appoint committees in all the principal ports. He made a start with the machinery, but then allowed the matter to drift month after month. When the Labour party became the Government it immediately took steps to establish port committees. The chairman of the committee in Melbourne is acknowledged by the honorable member for Fawkner to be a very competent and fair man. Holding that belief, it is remarkable that the honorable member should raise objection to the functioning of that committee. In Queensland, the men on the waterfront are working sixteen and eighteen hours a day, and are given very little time for lunch. They are expected to continue unloading operations even during torrential rain. Whenever they have appealed to the committee of employers to afford them some protection against the rain their appeal has been rejected. If the branch of the Waterside Workers Federation in Queensland desires to bring a matter before the Shipowners Federation, it has to give seven days’ notice of its intention. The chairman of the committee is a member of the Shipowners Federation. Whenever the parties meet in conference, the representatives of the employers say, “ We do not want to have anything to do with this or that; all that we shall do is discuss one small matter”; and the federation is “ wiped off “. It is time that steps were taken to ensure that men who are prepared to work for sixteen and eighteen hours a day, with very little food and sleep, in. all kinds of weather, shall be given some protection. . I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) will go ahead as quickly us possible with the establishment of committees in every port in Australia.
.- E happen to represent a greater number of waterside workers than does any other member of this House, including th? Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway). I believe that I know something of the genesis and history of the trouble on the Melbourne waterfront. It broke out in 1928, when the waterside workers refused to accept an award of the Arbitration Court. The TransportWorkers Act was passed at the instance of the then Attorney-General, the Eight Honorable J. G. Latham. Under that act, licensing conditions could be imposed in those ports in which the Government considered that there was not that obedience to the law which it demanded. The act was never brought into operation in the port of Sydney, but it was applied to the ports of Melbourne and Adelaide, and later to the port of Brisbane, and to certain other Queensland ports which I cannot now recall. It remained in force for many years. The Labour Government of 1929-31 was unable to repeal it, but attempted to pass regulations which would nullify its effects. Every regulation that it promulgated was disallowed by the Senate. Its best efforts proved unavailing, and not until many years subsequent to 1931 was the act repealed by the Menzies Government.
– Three weeks before a general election.
– I am reminded by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) that the repeal took place about three weeks before a general election. That repeal was of no benefit to the waterside workers, because power was left to the representatives of the shipowners to issue new forms of licences to those who wished to work on the waterfront in Melbourne. During all the years that elapsed from the date of the strike to the repeal of the act, the members of the Waterside Workers Federation were industrial pariahs. They could work on coal, because nobody among the volunteers wanted that hard work. They were allowed to work two men to every hatch, but only in order that the genuine wharf labourer could teach the volunteer how to do the work. Many waterside workers, during all those years, lived in a state of semi-starvation. In the depression years, no legitimate waterside worker in Melbourne earned the basic wage, and the majority of them existed on the dole or something equivalent to it. Naturally, they look to this Labour Government to give them protection against the conditions that have been created at the instigation of the Shipowners Federation. These men, who have been life-long unionists, have again gradually built up their union to something like its earlier strength; but they always have had the trouble of the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union being alongside them. I have no wish to hide any of the facts of the situation. The Melbourne branch of the Waterside Workers Federation do not want the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union inside their organization, and they have resisted any attempt from inside the organization to open its books to those men. There is so much bitter feeling because of the way in which the shipowners over the last decade and more, have used their power to’ try to crush the federation, that the members of that body do not want to have anything to do with the human instruments by which that purpose was sought to be achieved. It is a question, not of allowing the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union into the Waterside Workers Federation, but of how that federation can best protect the interests of its members, and, only incidentally, the interests of the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. That, really, is the germane part of this debate. If the Waterside Workers Federation has equal representation :with the employers, any matters in dispute can be settled by the vote of an independent chairman. But if the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union had two representatives, and the Waterside Workers Federation had two, making a total of four representatives of the workers, and the employers also had four representatives, the committee would be worthless, because invariably the employers would be able to depend upon the votes of the two representatives of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, and the representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation might as .well not be there.
– Would not that objection apply also to the committee which functioned very satisfactorily under the Transport Workers Act?
– The representation which the Waterside Workers Federation had upon that committee was accepted only under duress, because the industrial strength of the federation was not sufficient to enable it to win better representation. .The Labour party, politically, was in the doldrums. There was no action which it could take that would give to the federation greater or better representation. Therefore, the committee functioned as well as it could in the circumstances - as the honorable member for Fawkner suggested - for a number of years. Now that there is a Labour Government in power, the Melbourne branch of the federation wants to have the sole representation on the committee and does not want representatives of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union to have any voice. It has been suggested by the Opposition that it is unfair that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union should not have any representation, seeing that it has 1,100 members, compared with 1,800 members in the Waterside Workers Federation. I suggest that the Minister has to accept the lesser of two evils : He must accept a position in which he knows that the rights of workers on the waterfront will be protected adequately even if it involves giving no representation to 1,100 men or he must accept the other position, whilst the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union will have some voice in the determinations of the committee, the representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation who are affiliated with the Labour party, will be an ineffective force and the committee will not be worth anything to them at all. I remind the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that when the Transport Workers Act was repealed, first and second preference licences were issued on the Melbourne waterfront; but they were not issued by representatives of the Government, or by the Waterside Workers Federation, the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, or a combination of both. They were issued by Captain Braddock, a representative of the ship-owners. That gentleman issued licences to men who had been on the waterfront for only two or three months, and refused them to men who had been there for years. In fact, the issue of licences on the Melbourne waterfront was like kissing - it went by favour. Men who had no claim whatsoever to any consideration found themselves with first and second preference licences, and were better off than their fellows ‘who had far more right to the licences. Before the present Government caine into office, I made representations to the ‘then Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and to customs officials, and suggested that Captain Braddock should be prevented from issuing any more licences. That was done, and it was a right and proper course to adopt by any government that desired to settle the problem on the waterfront. Although under the regulations in dispute the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is being deprived of representation on the committee, members of that union who are still on the waterfront are not being denied the right to work, or to exercise any of the rights which they have enjoyed up to date. Their economic interests are well safeguarded, and there is no question of victimization now, or in the future. If there be an argument as to any man being permitted to work under the regulations,
Mud if the Waterside Workers Federation does not want to admit him, the shipowners, if they so desire, will argue in favour of his admission. Then, should there be a deadlock in the voting, the independent chairman, who is an officer of the Public Service, will give his decision in accordance with the principles of true justice. Therefore, all the fears entertained by honorable members opposite in regard to the application of these regulations are groundless. There is no evidence to support the Opposition’s claims, which apparently are based only on their own credulity.
.- It has been stated that there are 1,100 members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. If that be so - I am surprised to learn that the number is so large - it is solely because there has been a great increase of the quantity of cargo handled at the different ports, particularly Melbourne, and additional labour, over and above the number of persons ordinarily available to handle normal cargoes, has been required.
– Seventy-five per cent, of the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union are foundation members.
– I should be very surprised if that were the case. For the information of honorable members, I should like to point out that in this time of war, not only is it necessary for a man to be registered in accordance with the provisions of this regulation, but also, he must be the holder of two national security passes. One pass entitles him to go on the wharf, and the other, a red pass, entitles him to do certain work on the wharf. The only persons to whom these red passes are issued are members of the Waterside Workers Federation, members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, and certain others persons called “snipers” whose number is limited according to the demands made from time to time by shipowners for their services. I say very definitely to the honorable member for Fawkner that, in Sydney at least, there is evidence that persons who apply for casual work on the wharfs in the capacity of “ snipers “ are informed by departmental officials that before red national security passes can be issued to them, they must join the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union and pay the annual subscription, which is more than £4. Many men whose services are now ‘being utilized on the waterfront, have had little or no experience in the handling of cargoes, because they are outside the required numbers of “ snipers “ and therefore they are obliged to join the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. If the membership of that union in Melbourne is as large as has been indicated by the honorable member for Fawkner, it is for that reason. An examination would reveal that only a small proportion of these men are qualified to handle cargoes. I say that with some feeling, because at one time I worked on the waterfront.
– But the proportion as between the federation and the union remains the same.
– No. The honorable member said that the membership of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is 1,100, but from my experience in Sydney and other places I say definitely that the number of men properly qualified to handle cargoes is considerably less than that. In fact, it is probably less than half that figure.
– The position in Melbourne is different.
– I should think that the position would be the same in Melbourne.
– These men have been working on the waterfront for fourteen years.
– That may be so, but I remind the honorable member that for the most part, in normal times, these men handle only intra-state cargoes and not interstate and overseas cargoes. I have had some experience of these things, because at one time I did sniping work on the wharfs. With great respect to the honorable members opposite, I suggest that they have been sadly misinformed with regard to the rights and status of this organization in the eyes of other trade unions. The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union has been property described as a scab organization and a bogus union. It has been fostered under conditions which, if permitted to continue, especially in Melbourne, would create such industrial discontent that a major upheaval might be precipitated. Reference waa made by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) to the previous Government’s handling of the Transport Workers Act. There is no need for me to remind honorable members that under that act many iniquitous things were done. It was the bane of the waterside workers’ lives for a long time, and not the least iniquitous of the injustices perpetrated under that legislation was the forcing of the waterside workers at Port Kembla to load 7,000 tons of pig-iron for transport to Japan. When the act was repealed by the Menzies Government, less than a month prior to the general elections of September, 1940, the obvious purpose was to endeavour to cajole and mislead the workers and the liberal-minded people of this country into the belief that the Government was repenting, even in its last hours. My one regret about those elections is that the Labour party was not returned with a substantial majority.
In conclusion, I should like to say that I do not agree with all regulations that have been gazetted. Like the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I believe that government by regulation is not an entirely satisfactory method of carrying on the administration of a country, because it does not permit a full consideration of the many important matters which should be considered, and would bc examined thoroughly if they were brought before Parliament in the form of legislation. I was very pleased to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) inform the House to-night that not only was the system which has been instituted at the port of Melbourne to be continued, but also its operation was to be extended to all other ports of the Commonwealth. The introduction of that system will make for a much greater output, and a more rapid handling of cargoes. I desire only to add that the case which has been presented by the honorable member for Fawkner and other honorable members opposite on behalf of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is a weak one. Apparently the Opposition i9 satisfied with the regulations, with the sole exception that they do not provide for a representative of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union on the committee.
– Nor for recruitment.
– The substantial argument advanced by honorable members opposite has been that there is no representation of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. A great fuss has been made, especially by the right honorable member for Kooyong, who alleged that the Government was ignoring minority rights. That is the substantial objection which has been raised to these regulations. The other point is a much narrower one. I havealready explained to the House that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourer? Union is merely a transitory body, and therefore should not have representation which would act to the detriment of the men who really do the work on the waterfront. I suggest to honorable members opposite that .this regulation be retained as it now stands.
.- Whatever may be the position in other States, the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union in Victoria is merely a creature of the 1928 strike. If an association was registered before that, I believe that it was in the State of New South Wales. There was no State registration in Victoria, because the act does not permit State organizations to be registered in Victoria. In 1927, instigated by the State organization of New South Wales, an application was made for registration. I do not know how many members the organization had in New South Wales at that time, but I think that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) -will be surprised Jo learn that when this body first applied for federal registration, it had only 60 members. Although its application to the registrar did not come on for some months, it could not scrape together more than 100 members by the time the application was heard. That clearly indicates that it had not much support even in the State where it had State registration, and it had no support worth while anywhere beyond that State. When the matter came before Judge Beeby, he said that he had very grave doubts as to whether even the 100 members were genuine. I might here profitably read from the report of the proceedings. The union had applied for registration in the Arbitration Court before the Deputy Registrar in Sydney. He granted the application, and an appeal against the registration was lodged. The ground upon which the appeal was allowed and the .registration cancelled is set out in the following extract from Judge Beeby’s judgment: -
The evidence discloses that, at a meeting of it State organization, attended by about (iO members, it was resolved that application be made for registration under the Commonwealth act, and a set of rules was agreed to. One nf these rules provided that each member of the State union should become a member of iiic Federal organization unless within a certain time he sent a notification to the contrary. This might bc sufficient evidence of membership of those present at the meeting, but without proof of agreement of absent members to hu hound by such a resolution, it could not tic binding on them. Beyond the carrying of this resolution, there was no evidence as to membership at the time of the lodging of the application for registration, lt was contended that when the Registrar gave his decision some months later, more than 100 members had signed cards which bound them to membership. I have serious doubts us to when such cards (vere actually signed and when they were stamped with the rubber impress of the name nf the new organization. But it is not necessary to decide that issue. The act and rules provide for registration of not less than 100 employees, and for the hearing of objections of other organizations to such registration. These provisions clearly apply to membership nt the time of application.
The next year, the union renewed its application, which was granted because the Waterside Workers Federation did not know that the application had been made.
The ordinary procedure is, when an application for registration is made, to publish a notice to that effect in the Gazette, and when I inquired how it was that the application was granted on this occasion, I learned that the Waterside Workers Federation had been blissfully ignorant that the application had been made. However, there is no doubt that the union gained a big membership in Melbourne as a result of the strike. Many persons working on the waterfront are members of neither the Waterside Workers Federation nor the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. In some other places, the difference between the two organizations has disappeared. Personally, I hope it will disappear everywhere. In the course of time the differences between the railway men who went on strike in 1903, and those who remained at work, disappeared, and the two important railway unions accepted as members both those who had gone on strike and those who had stayed at work. The “ consummation devoutly to ba wish’d “, namely, the disappearance of the difference between the two sections of waterside workers, will bc facilitated by the action which the Government has taken. It would be a good thing if there were one organization of waterside workers in Melbourne, and everywhere else also. The regulations stipulate that no member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is to be deprived of the right to work because of his membership of that union, but the objection taken by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is that the regulations do not provide for the expansion of the union.
– Or for its representation on the committee. There are two grounds of objection.
– Representation is necessary only to protect the interests of members. I submit that it would be very undesirable for the employers to have on this committee four members of their own, and one member of the union which they themselves established to suit their own convenience. The effect would be that the committee would not function in the interests of the employees. Tha union has never been a bona fide organization representing the class to which its members belong. It was brought into existence for the benefit of the employers at a time when waterside workers were on strike. It is an employers’ union. The regulations will deny this body a voice as a representative of the employees, but they properly go on to say that no member of that body shall be deprived of the right to work merely because he is a member of it. Inthe United States of America, where the same problem has arisen, and where it has become necessary to recognize organized bodies of labour, definite rules have been laid down to determine which is the appropriate body to recognize. Our Arbitration Court provides for the recognition of organized bodies of labour, and several attempts were made before Mr. Justice Higgins, who was the founder of the court, to register rival unions of waterside workers. He refused these applications, and the classic case was decided in 1919. It was laid down that no matter what the political or personal differences of men engaged on waterside work, the Waterside Workers Federation was the organization to which, industrially, they might conveniently belong. Mr. Justice Higgins put the matter succinctly and well in his judgment which is recorded as follows in volume 13, Commonwealth Arbitration Reports, at page 7 : -
Experience has shown that competition between trade unions for members is disastrous to industrial organization and to industrial peace. There is a temptation to offer extravagant benefits (sick, out-of-work, &c.), at rates too low for solvency; there is division in the ranks oflabour in the face of the employers with whom the struggle is for better conditions: there arise recriminations as to “blacklegging “, &c.; and there is the prospect, under our system,of differing claims and differing awards being made for men performing the some class of functions. According to Webbs’ “Industrial Democracy” (p.121) competition between overlapping unions is the cause of nine-tenths of the ineffectiveness in the trade union world.
If honorable members would take the trouble to read the awards issued to the waterside workers during the last decade, largely as a result of this competition, they would be surprised. There is in existence a system of unilateral compulsion. The employer is under no obligation to offer employment, but the employee is bound under penalty to accept employment if it is offered to him.
An instance of this came to my notice the other day. A man who had been virtually boycotted by big companies and who had been supported by a small company received a call from one of the big companies which had an urgent job to carry out. He said that he would not work on that job because he did not want to turn down the small company, which might need his services while the bigger company’s ship was being loaded. He was told that he would hear more of the incident, but apparently the officers of the. large company thought better of the matter and it was dropped. Extremely bad conditions exist on the waterfront under the awards of the Arbitration Court, and, in my view, the unfairness of these awards is due to the competition between the two unions. A strange position would arise if the Government were to recognize every union registered in the Arbitration Court. What about the railway men? Let us suppose that railway workers had to be represented on some body. Would representation be granted to the Australian Railways Union and also to the National Union of Railway Men. That problem would be similar to the one which has arisen on the waterfront. In the last few years the Arbitration Court has adopted the practice of registering practically every organization that comes before it. It has laid down the principle that if, for political or religious reasons, men object to belonging to a registered union, they should have the right to register as a separate organization. The Court has held that the National Union of Railway Men, which has a very small membership, mostly in New South Wales, is entitled to registration because its members object to the political affiliations of the Australian Railways Union. The Government’s action has been perfectly reasonable, and is designed to ensure peace on the waterfront. The waterside workers can only be effectively represented by one organization, and there can be only one organization if the future growth of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union be discouraged.
Question put -
That the National Security (Waterside Employment) Regulations under the National Security Act, made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 19, be disallowed.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon.W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
Branch of the Business Board are prohibited from entering government munitions factories, private munitions annexes and aircraft production factories; if so, what are the reasons?
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 March 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420326_reps_16_170/>.