16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Beasley) read a first time.
-Can the Minister for the Navy yet announce that a definite scheme has been evolved whereby small craft, especially those taken over by either the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy, may be insured under the war -damage insurance scheme?
– The honorable member will recall that the Minister for the Army intimated last week that an independent committee had been appointed to make full inquiries into all aspects of this matter, and that he promised to make, in due course, a statement with respect to its recommendations.
– -Recently. I asked the Minister for the Navy whether there was any adequate reason why the owners of small craft who live more than 2 miles from the coast should not be allowed to take their boats to their homes. The Minister replied that he could see no harm in that step being taken, and, as a result of that statement, I told certain owners that there would be no abjection to their transporting their boats to their homes. When the owners attempted to take action, however, permission to remove the craft was refused. I ark the Minister for the Navy whether provision cannot he made to enable owners of small craft to remove the craft to their homes so that they will not be left in positions where they will become damaged by exposure to the weather?
– It is true that I intimated to the honorable member for Hunter that I thought it reasonable that provision should be made whereby the owners of small craft who could house the craft on their own properties at a safe distance from the coast be enabled to do so. However, the military authorities, who are charged with the responsibility of determining these matters, were not in agreement with the view I held. They considered that such action would nullify the security precautions which they considered necessary. That being so, the Minister for the Army, exercising the authority that rightly is his in these matters, has asked that a report be made by an independent committee. I have no doubt that, when the report has been supplied, the honorable gentlemen will take appropriate measures.
Statement by Sir Owen Dixon.
– Has the Prime Minister read the statement alleged to have been made yesterday by Sir Owen Dixon, to the effect that the period of Australia’s most acute danger had passed? In view of the solemn warnings uttered by the right honorable gentleman, as well as by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), in respect of the grave danger in which Australia is at present placed, and in view of the strenuous efforts that are being made overseas by the Attorney-General in order to secure further aid for this country, does the right honorable gentleman consider that this statement was appropriate to the occasion? As the views expressed by Sir Owen Dixon are in such direct conflict with those of Ministers, would it not bc wise to reconsider that gentleman’s appointment as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America?
– I have not read the statement, and was not present at the reception given yesterday by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne to Sir Owen Dixon ; consequently I am not in a position to say whether or not the report of what Sir Owen Dixon said is a faithful one; but I have been informed by gentlemen who were present at the reception that the report does not faithfully record hi.” observations. I regard Sir Owen Dixon’s capacity in this matter as of the highest, and his credibility as unquestionable. I am informed that Sir Owen Dixon pointed out that the enemy had had a much greater opportunity to move against Australia, and that had he moved earlier he would have found this country less capable of meeting his movement than it was at the end of last week. I accept that version, having been assured that it is a fair translation of Sir Owen Dixon’s remarks. I am fortified in that acceptance by my knowledge of the views held by Sir Owen Dixon.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that a meeting under the auspices of Tattersall’s Club is to be held atRandwick race-course on the 23rd May next ? Is it correct that, in order that this meeting may be held, certain American units will be forced to break camp? If so, does the honorable gentleman consider that such action will tend to engender in our allies confidence with regard to our war effort?
– I am not aware of an intention to hold a race meeting at Randwick race-course on the 23rd instant.
– It is advertised.
– I arrived in Canberra from Melbourne only this morning, and have not had an opportunity to read the advertisements which appear in to-day’s Sydney newspapers. I accept as correct what the honorable member has said, and assure him that I shall institute inquiries and later make a statement on the subject.
Stoppage of Work
– I ask the Minister for
Labour and National Service the following questions, which I regard as of urgent national importance: - Is it a fact that the Millfield coal-miners have refused to accept the terms of an award issued by His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman, on the following grounds: -
Is His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman identical with a one-time Senator DrakeBrockman ? Has he been president of the Employers Federation of Australia?
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to reflect on the judiciary.
– Was he also their legal advocate in the arbitration courts before his appointment to the chairmanship of the Central Coal Reference Board by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) when Prime Minister? If these are facts, how can the Minister expect the workers to have confidence in a man holding his prejudices, or harmony to prevail, when he has in bis keeping their economic life? Does the Minister not consider that the time is long overdue for his dismissal? If so, will he confer with me in order that a suitable man possessing mining knowledge may be appointed in his place?
– The question reflects on the judiciaryand therefore is out of order.
– by leave - The House will recall that last Friday afternoon I referred to the grave state of the war as it affects Australia. Without arguing the merits or demerits of the claims of any particular section, I asked the public to pattern its conduct on that of the forces then engaged in resisting an attack by the enemy upon this country. I hoped that a request made by the head of the responsible Government of a country that was being attacked would, in the circumstances in which it was made, have the strongest appeal to the people as a whole; that they would so comport themselves that, as a result, the capacity of the country to assist the fighting forces would be strengthened. I said then, as I say now, that anything less than that would not only be a disservice to Australia, but would be fraught with such consequences to its future as to warrant the Government taking whatever action a government can take in order to ensure that the public should respond to any necessary request made to them, and that, if they failed to respond, the nation shall know the inevitability of the course which such refusal would oblige a responsible government to follow. Well, it is true that on Friday night meetings were held, and it is also true that on the following Monday the responsible body of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation reapeated its directions tothe menemployed at the Millfield colliery to return to work under the award made by the responsible authority. On Monday, when I was inf ormed that the men at Millfield were still out on strike against the award, I asked what was to he done by the Government, and I also asked what the union was going to do. Union officials requested that transport facilities be given to representative officers to visit the mines in order that they might convey to the men concerned the decision of the governingbody elected to administer the affairs of the federation. The Government provided that transport, and a meeting was held at which officials of the federationplaced the position before the men. Those to whom the case was put rejected it.
– What meeting was that?
Mr.CURTIN.- It was a meeting at the Millfield mine of members of the union employed there. It was addressed by responsible officers elected to administer the affairs of the federation. They urged the men to go back to work in accordance with the terms of the award. They probably pointed out what was the state of national affairs,’ but that isbeside the point ; I had made that clear on Friday. The men refused to go back to work, and on Monday I, as Minister for Defence, directed the Coal Commission to enforce StatutoryRule 168 inrespect of the men concerned.
– What a job the Government will have, too !
Mr.CURTIN.- Well, never mind. I find to-day that Hebburn No. 2 colliery, employing 370 men, and with an output of 1,000 tons, is not working. No approachwas made to the management inregard to any dispute. The men merelyassembled at the pit-top and decided not to work. At the Elrington colliery - 270 men, 800 tons - the men assembled at the pit-top, and the mine is not working. At the Aberdare colliery - 470 men, 1,300 tons - the men held a pit-top meeting this morning, and left the mine. No approach was made to the management. At the Bellbird colliery, which was not working yesterday, the men resumed this morning. At the Stockton Bore Hole colliery - 420 employees, 1,000 tons - the men returned home this morning without approaching the management, and the mine is not working. The men at the Burwood colliery’ - 420 employees, 1,000 tons - are on strike. About three-quarters of their number went underground. The balance assembled at thepit-top, and, although the responsible officers did everything to get them to go to work, they refused to do so. There is a dispute at the Belmont colliery, at which a fire occurred last week. The dispute relates to a matter of security. There is also a dispute at the Metropolitan colliery in respect of some mechanical apparatus. There was a dispute at the same mine a fortnight ago, and a strike resulted. When remedies were applied the men returned to work, but they have knocked off again. At the YellowRock colliery, where not many men are employed, there is a stoppage.
– Why repeat the word “ stoppage “ ? Why not say that the mine is idle because of a. breakdown?
– I used the word “ stoppage “ in contradistinction to the word “strike”. The Nattai Bulli colliery - 100 men, 400 tons a day - is idlebecause of a mechanical breakdown, and at the Invincible colliery - 170 men, 600 tons - the men went on strike this morning.
Mr.hughes. - How many men are involved altogether ?
– I have not taken out the total, and I do not think that that is of great moment. ThisGovernment has done well in the matter of obtaining increased production of coal, and the coalminers, as a body - the overwhelming majority of them - have been completely responsive to the requests of the Government. I believe that a great majority of the members of the union are absolutelv loyal to the decisions of theunion. Not one of these disputes involves a matter which in a normal review of industrial affairs would justify a strike, more particularly as this Government has established acomplete system whereby district disputes can be dealt with, individual mine disputes can be dealt with, and disputes which may begeneral in their character may be dealt with by tribunals set up asthe result of submissions made by thecoalrniners federation. The Labour party believes in arbitration. It believes in conciliation, and we have done our best tomake the machinery for the settlement of disputes as wide and as effective as possible. We have taken into full account the representations of the union. I make no boast of this, but I think it proper to state that we have acted after consultation with the representatives of the union out of a desire that the machinery should function properly.
I propose now to state the position in regard to coal stocks as at the 4th October, 1941, and the 18th April, 1942, This covers a period of 29 weeks, practically the whole of the period that this Government has been in power. I shall also reveal the position in regard to stocks as at the 26th April, 1941, when the last Government was in power.
New South Wales - Stocks on the 26th April, 1941, were approximately 945,854 tons, and on the 4th October, 1941, 841,164 tons, a decrease of 104,690 tons. Stocks on the 18th April, 1942, were 968.236 tons, an increase since, the 4th October, 1941, of 127,072 tons.
Victoria - Stocks on the 26th April, 1941, were 292,808 tons, and on the 4th October, 1941, 243,043 tons, a decrease of 49,760 tons. Stocks on the18th April, 1942, were 289,281 tons, an increase, since the 4th October, 1941, of 46,238 tons.
South Australia - Stocks on the 26th April, 1941, were 238,984 tons, and on the 4th October, 1941, 187,433 tons, a decrease of 41,551 tons. Stocks on the 18th April, 1942, were 219,455 tons, an increase, since the 4th October, 1941, of 32,022 tons.
I recite those figures inorder to make it clear to the Parliament and to the country that the Government has been vitally concerned with the building up of coal stocks in those three States, and that it has succeeded in increasing them, notwithstanding increased consumption. From those details it will be seen that stocks of New South Wales coal in three States fell from a total of 1,467,641 tons on the 26th April, 1941, to 1,271,640 tons on the 4th October, 1941, a decrease of 196,001 tons. Since the 4th October, 1941, stocks in the three States have increased from 1271,640 tons to 1,476,972 tons, an increase of 205,332 tons.
I come now to the production position. In 1940 - the first year of the war - total production in New South Wales was only 9,550,098 tons. This was due largely to a long strike on all the northern coal-fields, which lasted for ten weeks. In 1941, production improved and reached 11,667,846 tons. But in that year a strike for three weeks among South Maitland railway employees threw idle the whole of the mines on the Maitland field, which is the State’s largest producing area. I submit now statistics of the fortnightly production of coal on the New South Wales coal-fields from the 1st November. 1941, to the 2nd May, 1942-
Production for 1941 of 11,677,846 tons was at an average fortnightly rate of 448,764 tons. From the date of this Government’s taking office upto the 18th April, 1942, a period of thirteen fortnights, production has totalled 5,765,258 tons, or an average fortnightly rate of 443,481 tons. Thus, fortnightly production decreased by only 5,283 tons, notwithstanding the fact that between the 5th January, 1942, and the 21st February, 1942, about 1,600 employees were compulsorily retired from the mines. Odd-day strikes at individual mines have always been a feature of the New South Wales coal industry. The Department of Labour and Industry in that State has informed me that in 1940, apart from the general strike o-f ten weeks, other stoppages involved 194,122 workers and a loss of 399,252 working days. In 1941, apart from the South Maitland railway strike, other stoppages involved 214,145 workers and a loss of 336,175 working days. Consumption has increased and is still increasing in all States. It is estimated that consumption of New South Wales coal during this year will be 11,500,000 tons. Notwithstanding lost production, not one industry has been obliged to close for a single day because of lack of coal. This does not mean that stocks are satisfactory. They are far from it, because railways, gas companies and other essential users have relatively poor reserves. In Queensland, all coal mines are working full time.
– What does the Prime Minister mean by “ full time “ ?
– All the time prescribed by the award. In Victoria, there has not been a stoppage for many months. In Tasmania, there has been no strike and miners are more fully employed than ever before. Western Australia is the only State in which the miners are working six days a week, and they have also worked on every public holiday this year.
The situation is that machinery for conciliation and the adjustment of disputes is Commonwealth-wide, but the problem of lost production is confined to one State. I said to the Parliament a little while ago that as the result of all the causes that could be enumerated, over 500,000 tons of coal which could have been mined in New South Wales during the present calendar year had not been produced. To-day, I direct attention to the paramount urgency of producing every ton of coal of which our mines are capable. The miners and the managements have a joint responsibility to produce coal for the defence requirements of this nation. The regulations must be enforced so that the owners may not cause, by pin-pricking or irritation tactics, that degree of suspicion and that atmosphere of “ snakiness “ which lead to conflict and confusion between the employers and the employees. Therefore Statutory Rule No. 1 68 is drawn in such a way as to give to the Government authority to direct what any management and each employee shall do.
What has the Government clone? Regarding the Millfield mine, the Government has directed that the men who submitted their dispute to the machinery established to settle it shall abide by th( finding, and work; that they shall go back to the pit and produce coal in accordance with the decision of the umpire. I have no objection to men questioning the qualifications of the umpire, but good, bad or indifferent, it has to be admitted that the decisions of the umpire are, on occasions, as much resisted by the employers as by the employees. Without holding any particular brief for the judge, I yet have to say that he is the instrument for administering the law regulating industrial conditions. What he decides is binding upon the management as well as upon the employees. There is no other course for this Government or any other government than to ensure that the law of the land, as drawn by the Parliament and by the Government in pursuance of the powers that Parliament confers upon it, shall not be set aside by any section of the community. I lay that down as s principal essential to democratic government and as one of the vital elements in the general cause that this nation has accepted as a sacred obligation.
I have been associated with trade unionism for more than 37 years. .1 have been an officer of trade unions, held many responsible positions, and performed many duties in what is known as the trade union and Labour movement of Australia. To-day I find myself the head of a government composed of men whose antecedent of qualifications for their office can be regarded as being identical with my own. We sit on this side of the chamber because so many of the electors have accepted our trade unionism as the basis on which order and good government can be given to the nation. The great opportunity i.« given to us. But the obligations and responsibilities which are inseparable from it have also come to us, and we accept them. To accept one without the other would be absurd. Our responsibility is to do all we can to wage war for the defence of the nation, and to prosecute that cause as the overriding cause. Well, we accept that responsibility, hut we alsobelieve that every one physically capable of fighting for this nation ought to fight for it and that the others, who are chosen to perform other services, have the obligation to give all they can in daily toil to the producing of those products which are indispensable to the efficiency of the fighting forces. Heaven alone knows the enormous burdens that the Government of the country has to carry ! Heaven alone knows how strong the enemy is! And we are not able to pull our full weight, however limited may be the resources of 7,000,000 people, because there still lingers the belief that quarrels must at whatever cost be continued as to whether Jack shall be senior to Tom, whether the umpire gave the right decision to-day or the wrong decision yesterday, or whether he tipped the balance a little in favour of the boss or a little in favour of the worker. That is detrimental to the full organization of this nation. For myself, I accept the duty to enforce the law in order that those who are called upon to do their utmost for Australia shall, in the absence of their own volition, none the less have only the choice that the law gives to them. I shall not in any way attempt to point out what the others are doing - I did that last Friday - the gallant devotion to duty, discipline, and conformity to the gospel of mateship under the direction of captains because the enemy is thundering at the gates. I had hoped that that example would have so influenced the life of this nation that to-day, instead of having to enforce the law against men in dispute regarding conditions under which they should work, I should have been able to say : “ I knew that these men would rally to the standard “. I believe even now that the great majority of them will do so, and, therefore, in the name of Australia - for, to-day, the Prime Minister of Australia has the right to invoke his nation - I call upon the miners to go back to-morrow to work. I say to them that, stand or fall by the issue, if they do not go back, the Government will invoke all its authority to compel them to do so.
– I should like to move that the statement be printed.
– Order ! No paper was presented to the House.
-Well, I ask leave to make a statement.
Opposition Members. - No
Leave not granted.
Mr.Curtin. - That applies to the honorable member for Hunter, also !
– I present the fourth progress report of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure.
Alleged Receipt of White Feathers
– Has the Minister for the Army investigated the recent press statement that members of the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East have received from Australia letters containing white feathers? If this statement is correct, will he take immediate action to prohibit the sending of such unfair and cruel reflections on men who are prepared to go anywhere they are sent?
– Investigations are being made, but I have not yet had any report to corroborate what appears in the newspapers. I agree with the honorable member that if any such messages were sent to members of the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East it was very unfortunate that any one should descend to such depths to insult men who had enlisted for service anywhere, and who already had a great fighting record.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has in operation a plan for the provision of gas masks to the civilian population on the coast of Australia? If not, does he not consider it advisable to make this provision ?
Mr.CURTIN. - Yes ; but in the nature of things I ought not to set out here what that plan is.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has had the opportunity to examine the report with reference to the brown-out in Australia? If so, can he indicate the future policy of the Government?
– The CommanderinChief of the allied land forces in Australia has made a report, as the result of which advice is being conveyed to certain State governments that modifications may be made in regard to the brown-out so far as street lighting is concerned. The modifications will be made throughout Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, and in New South Wales, except on the north coast. It has been emphasized to the States, however, that any relaxations made in the lighting should be on condition that -
Somerelaxations will also be made in the lighting of public vehicles such as omnibuses, trams and trains in the areas mentioned. In the other parts of Australia the existing brown-out conditions will remain.
– Because of the grave concern that has been caused to residents in the far north of Queensland, I ask the Minister for Air whether he can give any information to the Parliament in. connexion with the press reports that enemy air raids have been made on Horn Island?
– It is known that air attacks have been made by the enemy on Horn Island on more than one occasion. The particulars of some of those attacks have been published in the press from time to time, and I have had no further information to indicate that the press statements were incorrect In connexion with the general protection of northern Queensland - a subject on which the honorable member for Kennedy has sought information from time to time - the defence of the area is controlled from the Allied Head-quarters. For reasons which I think will be obvious to every honorable member, it is not possible to disclose what is being done for the proper defence of that area, because that information would be of value to the enemy.
– Is the Treasurer aware that, as a result of the confusion and anxiety caused to the general public by the premature announcement of the immature clothes-rationing policy, many persons in Brisbane and other capital cities are cashing war savings certificates for the purpose of purchasing clothing? Does he not think that the whole object of the rationing of clothing, namely, to reduce expenditure on non-essential articles, in order to make money available for war purposes, has been nullified by such action? If my premises are correct, what action does the Government propose to take to prevent a repetition of this mistake?
– In normal times a certain number of war savings certicates are cashed. Since I have been Treasurer, I have kept a close watch on what has been happening, and I am informed that there has been no unusual cashing of war savings certificates in. recent days. Inquiries made at various br.aneb.es of the Common wealth Bank show that in Brisbane there has been an increase in the normal .number of certificates cashed. >Ia Sydney there has been no increase on normal cashing of war sayings certificates. That applies w other capital cities, except Melbourne, where there has been a slight increase.
– Has the Prime Minister any knowledge of the conclusion of a mutual assistance pact between the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the United Australia party in this chamber in the event of the leadership of either being challenged ?
– The answer is “ No “.
Recruiting of Women
– Has the attention of the Minister for War Organization of Industry been directed to an article in the Melbourne Herald of Thursday last, in which it was .stated that the Federal Deputy-Director of Man-Power has completed a census of young, unmarried women employed in Adelaide shops, and that the women are to be recruited for war production on a semi-voluntary basis ^ Will the honorable .gentleman explain what is meant by the term “ semivoluntary recruiting of women “ and will he inform the Parliament whether the system is to be applied in a uniform manner throughout the Commonwealth ?
– I have not read the article ito which the honorable member has referred, but I am familiar with the subject. The labour problem is much more acute in South Australia than in other Stages, .and for that reason the plans -of the Department for War Organization of Industry to divert labour from non-essential industries to the war effort are further advanced there than .in other States. One plan which my department is undertaking involves the registration -of all -women employed in retail trades. The method by which these young women will be .diverted into war industries has not been finalized. Whatever method be adopted, it will be made uniform throughout the Commonwealth.. but the time at which the plan will be put into operation in the various States will vary in accordance with the pressure on labour resources in each State.
– In view of the fact that time is of great importance in this House, and in order that the work of the Parliament may be carried out expeditiously, at the same time relieving members of the Executive Council as far as possible from the necessity for spending long hours in this chamber, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you consider that the length of speeches made by members could be shortened without detracting from their effect and importance? If so, will you, sir, consider making a recommendation on those lines to the Standing Orders Committee of the House?
– That is a matter for honorable members, not for Mr. Speaker-
– Amendments of the Standing Orders are usually initiated by the Standing Orders Committee, and I think that this would be an appropriate subject for reference to that committee. At the first available opportunity, I shall be pleased to place the request of the honorable member for Flinders before it.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, also refer to the Standing Orders Committee the question of whether Hansard reports should not cease at 10..&G p.m. each day, except at the cost of the honorable members concerned?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s suggestion to the committee when it meets.
Payment of Overtime to Officers ok the Department of Air.
– by leave - It will be recalled that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) made certain statements in the House concerning payment of overtime to a number of officer-s in the Area Finance Office, Melbourne. In that statement, the honorable member referred to allegations made by two councillors of the Fitzroy City Council to the effect that an officer in receipt of a salary of £550 per annum received up to £20 in a fortnight in payment for overtime, that highly-paid officers were drawing from £15 to £17 a week as compared with their earning capacity of approximately £5 a week prior to the war. The honorable member went on to say that he had later conversed with the two councillors and had ascertained that the names of the finance officers concerned were - Mr. G. Alexander, who, it was stated, works practically every week-end and receives £5 for whatever work he does in that time; and Messrs. C. E. Page, H. Roberts, T. R. Davey and E. Noltenius, who are in charge of different sections. The honorable member claimed that each is in receipt of a high salary and receives overtime payment, but that temporary clerks employed in those branches are allowed to work overtime on two nights a week only and no weekends.
I have since had those allegations fully investigated, and. find that all of the officers named are holding key positions, that Mr. Alexander is the only permanent public servant in the number named, that the others are employed in a temporary capacity and were released by their former employers for service in the Air Force Finance Branch for the duration of the war. All were specially selected because of their experience in the performance of duties somewhat similar to those on which they are now employed. Further, their present rates of salary are approximately equal to what they would otherwise be receiving in their normal employment. I have had a statement prepared showing the actual weekly rate of salary and the average weekly rate of overtime payment of each officer during the past three months. It is as follows : -
Notwithstanding that these amounts include payment for special duties over the Easter holidays, Sunday pay and normal overtime, it will be observed that the weekly rates of pay of those officers’ - all of whom hold key positions - vary between only £6 16s. 6d. and £9 10s. 6d. a week, and that overtime payments vary between £1 14s. and £3 7s. 2d. a week, whereas the honorable member referred to one officer having received up to £20 in a fortnight in payment for overtime.
Those figures show that the reported statements made by the two councillors are incorrect, and I take this early opportunity to place the facts before the House. The honorable member’s statement that there is discrimination in the allocation of overtime is true to some degree, as it is all-important that the officer in charge of a section, and the keenest and most industrious of the personnel, shall be employed in that manner in order to ensure that important pay ledgers shall be kept up to date. All payments to those officers are strictly in accordance with Public Service Regulations, and every action is taken not only to prevent any abuse of overtime by any individual officer, but also to ensure that officers most capable in the performance of important duties, and charged with responsibility for the efficient maintenance of pay ledgers, shall be given the opportunity to fulfil their obligations and duties efficiently.
– Last Wednesday when I moved for the disallowance of Statutory Rules 1942, No. Ill, relating to Commonwealth Bank accounts, the Treasurer informed me that he would make arrangements for the preparation by the bank and the tabling in Parliament of certain information. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether, before he fixes the form in which the returns are to be made, he will consider the appointment of a committee of honorable members and a representative of the Commonwealth Bank, to consider the best manner in which the information desired can be furnished regularly by the bank to the Parliament?
– I shall consider the suggestion of the honorable member. I am prepared to agree to the preparation of reasonable information, but not long and detailed statements involving a great deal of clerical work.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia - Minister for the Army. - by leave - Several honorable members have asked me questions recently, without notice, concerning the employment of prisoners of war. I now inform them that of the total number of prisoners of war held in Australia, approximately 37 per cent., comprising officers, non-commissioned officers, protected medical personnel, and hospital and dysentery control cases, are not available for general work. In addition, approximately 10 per cent. are required for essential camp duties and as batmen to officers who are prisoners of war.
Three labour detachments of prisoners of war have been formed in places where civilian labour is not available. One detachment has been formed for maintenance work on the Trans-Australian railway, one for vegetable and firewood production at Yanco, New South Wales, and one for the production of firewood urgently required for pumping stations and services essential to the maintenance of the Loveday internment camps in South Australia. Extensive projects now in hand for the production of vegetables, firewood and other supplies for the forces, together with constructional work in connexion with camps, irrigation, and new roads, will shortly absorb all the available prisoner of war labour.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform me whether he has issued any instructions to clothing manufacturers in Australia recently, the effect of which has been to cancel or postpone the fulfilment of certain orders for clothing lodged from the United Kingdom?
– There has been some restriction of orders generally, but not of specific orders from the United Kingdom. This became necessary because we lost certain raw materials through enemy action some little time ago.
– Surely wool was not involved?
– No. Yarn and cotton were lost. Rather than risk a stoppage of manufacturing operations, the Government decided to stagger production so that all factories could remain in operation. We hope that in the meantime additional supplies of yarns and cotton will be received from the source from which the other goods were coming. We also hope to receive some supplies ordered in the United Kingdom. The steps taken by the Government were designed to ensure continuity of production.
– As the Commonwealth Government has appealed to State governments to reduce motor registration fees, and as such fees have been reduced in most of the States, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he will consider the advisability of reducing motor registration fees in the Australian Capital Territory?
– The Minister representing the Minister for the Interior is, unfortunately, absent on account of illness. I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any knowledge of a dispute which, according to a report in yesterday’s press, has resulted in a stoppage of work at a meat works in Townsville, which may cause 250,000 lb. of meat to be dumped? Has the Minister seen a report that Chief Judge Webb, president of the Industrial Court of Queensland, has said that this is a simulated trouble over an amount of id. a week and that, in his opinion, if the men know what they are doing by going on strike, it represents treason and disloyalty? Has the Minister also seen a press statement attributed to Chief Judge Webb that two Commonwealth Ministers have already directed the secretary of the employees’ union, a man named Neumann, to order the men to return to work, but that this direction so farhas been ignored ? Will the Minister take action to see that the directions that have been issued shall be observed, and so avoid the loss of this valuable foodstuff?
– I have been far too busy lately to read newspaper reports and, in any case, I am not prepared to accept as accurate all statements which appear in the newspapers. I shall obtain an authoritative account of what has happened in connexion with the meat works at Townsville, and take whatever steps may be necessary. I anticipated a question on this subject, and have already made some inquiries as the result of which I am able to announce that the men returned to work this morning.
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Fadden) an intimation that hedesires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The failure of the Government to protect the interests of thepublic and of the trading community by prematurely disclosing government policy concerning the rationing of clothing, and the adverse effect such disclosure has had upon war-time finance “.
Mr.FADDEN (Darling Downs- Leader of the Opposition)[4.2]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
Mr.FADDEN. - The Opposition takes this course because it considers that the effective prosecution of the war demands that there shall not be a repetition of the bungling associated with the Government’s plans for the rationing of clothing. The matter has been so handled that the result has been nation-wide confusion in the (retail trade, panic buying - in many instances, of excessive quantifies of non-essentials - the diversion of many thousands of pounds from the war effort,and the provision of an incentive to hoarding. In considering the chaos caused in every State, the first thing to bear in mind is the mannerin which the public was acquainted of the Government’s intentions. One would have thought that it was a last-minute decision, which national considerations demanded should be announced late last Friday afternoon. That was by no means the case. In fact, nine days after the Government bad assumed office, the public was informed that the Ministry was considering drastic plans for the rationing of nonessential civil goods. Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for War Organizationof Industry (Mr. Dedman) were then reported to have said that, apart from the fact that it was essential that the flow of money into the Treasury for war purposes should be increased, it was imperative that the wasteful use of vital national resources on unnecessarycivil production should beprevented. At the same time, the press contained references by the Minister for War Organization of Industry regarding the issue of ration cards. Thus, seven months ago, the subject of rationing was in the minds of members of the Cabinet. Last December, the Minister for Supply and Development(Mr. Beasley) stated that the Government was studying the rationing methods employed in Great Britain. I do not dispute for one moment that since those announcements were made there has been amarked deterioration of the war situation, particularly in relation to Australia. This, however, serves to strengthen my contention that rationing was not something thatreceived the consideration of the Government only within the last couple of months or weeks. I am well aware that suggestions and rumours current in many quarters of the intention of the Government to introduce the rationingof clothing led to excessive buying, and in many instances, doubtless, to hoarding. The Minister for War Organization of Industry has claimed thatrecent clothing sales were 50 per cent. inexcess of sales during thecorresponding period of last year. That claim is without foundation. The Minister was convinced ofthis by a deputation that placed before him the facts of the matter. There has been an increase of purchases, and doubtless hoarding is being practised. This is due to the fact that thepublicwasadvised of the Government’s intention several months ago, when the people were told that rationing was inevitable. The Opposition finds no fault with the principle of rationing - indeed, rationing was an integral part of the financial proposals which, as a government, it introduced, and upon which it was displaced by the present Administration - but it does object to the way in which the matter has been handled; and it lays particular stress on the premature, unwise, even stupid announcement made late last Friday afternoon.
The reason why the announcement, was. made late on Friday, afternoon was to give traders an opportunity to compute the quantity oi goods they would have available for sale to-day (Monday ).
Ovc second thoughts, the Minister decided to offer an entirely differentexplanation of his action. Obviously, the spectacle of panic buying that was so much in evidence in every capital city on Saturday morning prompted him to make the alteration. The later’ explanation was published in the press on Monday, and was in the following terms: -
The announcement of restrictions’ on clothing sales had been made on the. adjournment, of the House of Representatives about 4.30 on Friday afternoon, because it was thought that the announcement would be too late for the afternoon newspapers, but evidently that was not so.
I put it to the House, and the people of Australia: Has, there ever been such a puerile excuse for bungling? The Minister is a constant user of the national broadcasting network - doubtless he is that “ mythical “ spokesman of the Government - for the purpose of conveying information to the press. The Prime Minister made a broadcast in respect of this particular matter at half-past seven p.m. last Friday. Had the arrangements for that broadcast been made before the announcement of the Minister in the House on Friday afternoon? Obviously they had. The Minister stated that he thought that the public would be patriotic enough not to rush the stores, and to submit to the Government’s wish that there should be voluntary diminution of their purchasing power. The Minister’s optimism in that regard is exceeded only by the national debt. Apart altogether from these aspects, I suggest that it is a sorry day for Australia if, in the release of statements affecting every citizen of the Commonwealth, Ministers are to be guided by considerations as to whether or. not the statements will miss the last edition of the afternoon newspapers. The Minister must have scant knowledge of the operations of Australian newspapers, and a poor appreciation of the enterprise of journalists stationed at Canberra, if he thinks that a statement of such national importance would not receive some mention in the newspapers. Even more laughable were some other stater ments made by the Minister at the weekend. I quote again from the Sydney Morning Herald- “ Panic buying of clothing on Saturday was unfortunate., but it was not. of any great significance said Mr. Dedman.
The report goes on -
Mr. Dedman stated that the amount of clothing that could have, been bought on Saturday morning was so small that it wouldnot materially affect the stocks available. Even if the shops had been crowded with purchasers, the percentage sales could not have been much above the normal half-day’s trading.
It is inconceivable that any one with a knowledge of what happened’ on Saturday morning in retail establishments could make that statement. Contrast the
Minister’s observations concerning what happened on Saturday with the facts as disclosed by various newspapers. I am sure that the Minister will agree that they give an unbiased account of what actually took place. The following appeared in the Sydney Sun on Sunday: -
Like a horde of locusts, the crowds swarmed through every department of retail stores, stripping stands and counters bare in the biggest orgy of buying in Sydney’s history.
The effect of Friday’s announcement of impending clothes rationing was to provide a field day for hoarders with sufficient time and money to buy everything in sight.
I now quote from the Sydney Sunday Telegraph : -
Panic buying in all Australian cities yesterday followed Prime Minister Curtin’! announcement.
The following is from Truth : -
The Sunday Mail, of Brisbane, published the following report: -
An orgy of shopping occurred in Brisbane yesterday following the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that clothes would be rationed. Thousands of women who Invaded the city took part in panic buying and many stores had to close their doors against the rush and admit customers in relays. The appeal to the people by the Prime Minister to observe the spirit of the regulations had had the opposite effect to that intended, waa the opinion of business executives.
The Melbourne Herald, under the heading “ Buying Rush “, reported as follows : -
Like a pre-war bargain hunt was the scene In Melbourne shopping centres to-day when housewives poured in for the last day of free buying of clothing. So great was the rush that several large stores and many small shops had to close their doors by 11 a.m.
Similar occurrences took place right throughout Australia. In every State capital and every large town there was the same kind of rush as a result of the unfortunate announcement of the Minister on Friday afternoon. In my opinion, the Minister for War Organization of Industry either bungled the matter hopelessly, or he has some deeper motive than is apparent on the surface. We know his political views; we know that he is one of the most advanced socialists in the Government.
– Yesterday, as the result of the Minister’s premature announcement, the unfortunate people whom he pretends to consider, the people who did not have the time or money or facilities to visit the shops, were left without the clothing they needed, whilst members of the moneyed classes, with leisure and facilities, were able to get all they wanted. We know that the Minister has been advocating the introduction of a new order, and that he has associated himself whole-heartedly with the movement for the nationalization of industry and the complete socialization of the country. We have been informed that the ration tickets for clothing will not be available until the first week in July - seven weeks from now. It seems to me that the figure “ 7 “ will prove to be as unfortunate for the Minister as the figure “ 13 “ was for me. For the next seven weeks people with time and money will indulge in a rush of buying. The rush cannot be stopped now. Although a quota system has been introduced so far as aggregate sales are concerned, those with the time and money will continue to rush the shops so that they may hoard supplies. Thus, when the ration tickets become available seven weeks hence, all the stocks of the smaller retailers will have been bought up, and these traders will have been forced out of business. Only the large retailers will survive, and this will be the first step towards nationalization of the industry, because it will then be easier for the Govern ment to take them over.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government decided some time, ago that the rationing of clothes would have to be introduced. That being tin case, why did the Government say an thing at all about ration tickets until ii was ready to put the scheme into opera tion? Why make a premature announce ment which the Government must ha -r known would result in panic buying on a hitherto unprecedented scale? In his broadcast, the Prime Minister admitted the likelihood of a buying rush. He declared that it was undesirable and unfair that those persons with the time and the money to go shopping should be able to acquire large wardrobes before rationing came into force. Is that not exactly what happened on Saturday? Those with money and spare time thronged the city; but hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially war-workers, were at their work and unable to visit the shops. The premature announcement of the rationing scheme was certainly unfair to them. Another statement which calls for some explanation is that which was made in the Prime Minister’s broadcast -
Wholesale and retail merchants with whom the Government’s plans have been discussed, have promised their fullest co-operation. They are in full agreement that strong measures are necessary.
I think it might fairly be assumed that, in a matter of this kind, the information upon which the Prime Minister based that statement was furnished either by the Minister for War Organization of Industry or by some authority dealing with the clothes rationing problem. I have no information concerning any discussions with wholesale merchants, but I refer the House to the following statement by the president of the Retailers Association of New South Wales andof the Australian Council of Retailers : -
Unfortunately, the Government had not approached either the Retail Traders Association or the Australian Council ofRetailers before the restrictions were announced. Either of those organizations would have advised against any announcement being made until ration cards were ready for issue. Only by that method could an equitable and adequate distribution have been assured.
The Australian Council of Retailers, I remind the House, is representative of retail traders’ organizations throughout the Commonwealth. The Minister should explain to Parliament why those organizations were not consulted, and disclose the names of the wholesale and retail merchants with whom the plans were discussed.
Another matter to which I draw atten tion is the lack of consideration shown by the Minister for those engaged in the retail trade. Despite the fact that he referred to the regulations in his statement to the House on Friday afternoon and that his signature was attached to them on Saturday, they were not gazetted until last night. As the result of that delay, retailers in Sydney yesterday could not obtain copies of the regulations which controlled their activities.
I come now to the adverse effect which this premature disclosure has had upon war-time finance. Recently, the Prime Minister launched the national savings campaign, in the course of which he declared that every one who had any surplus above his basic needs must contribute it to the war effort. Earlier to-day, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in reply to a question by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), stated that, since the Minister made his announcement, there had been no undue conversion by the public of war savings certificates. Time alone will show whether that statement is correct, but my information is that, throughout Australia, people hastened to convert war savings certificates for the purpose of obtaining ready money with which to buy clothing on Saturday and Monday. [ Extension of time granted.] Honorable members are aware that the optimistic anticipations of the Government to finance a large part of the war expenditure by voluntary contributions from the public have not been realized. Savings bank deposits have increased out of all proportion to the sales of war savings certificates. At present, we are not in a position to estimate the full effects of the premature announcement by the Minister upon war finance and purchasing power, but it is obvious from the run on the banks during the last few days that the surplus which many people enjoyed, largely because of high wages and the enormous volume ofwar work, went not into the savings campaign but into the purchase of clothing. Those with plenty of ready cash spent lavishly and without regard to their immediate needs.I declare most emphatically that at a time when the nation requires every available shilling to finance its colossal war-time bill, the premature disclosure of these plans has done irreparable damage to the war effort. Hundreds of thousands of pound’s Ms been diverted into spending on non-essential’s for hoarding. It will be- interesting to examine the degree to which the sales of war savings certificates have declined, and withdrawals from savings banks have mounted, since the Minister’s announcement.
The Government should now be aware of the futility of relying upon the public voluntarily to subscribe their just share towards meeting our war-time expenditure, and abstain from purchasing nonessential good’s. The- Fadden Government formulated a plan of compulsory savings for the purpose of diverting from luxury spending into war loan3 and war savings certificates this dangerous, ever-increasing purchasing power. If that policy had been adopted, the disastrous results of inflation would have been avoided and a substantial fund would have been established for post-war reconstruction. But the Minister for War Organization of Industry opposed this fundamental, indispensable and sane economic proposal to prevent inflation. Of course, the Minister has a policy for the creation of money. Plain-speaking folk call it inflation. I shall quote his views on the mobilization of man-power and resources, with particular reference to rationing. In this chamber on the 2nd October, 1941, he said -
To some degree that mobilization could be effected by financial methods, but also it could be effected by other means - negatively by rationing or prohibition of the use of resources and man-power for the production of nonessential requiremen’ts, and positively by the conscription of wealth.
Every time the Minister makes a public statement, he incites people to spend money upon non-essentials.
Australia has witnessed one of the worst examples of government bungling since the outbreak of war. Even the trade unions which support the Government have trenchantly criticized its handling of clothes rationing. Instead of the Minister giving effect to the functions of his department, namely, the organization of industry in war-time, he has completely disorganized the retail trade.
The people of this country demand an effective war effort, and the Opposition will give 100 per cent, support to, the Government, provided that its prosecution of the war is along lines which will ensure maximum efficiency. We cannot support inefficiency and maladministration.. The. latest action of the Minister very effectively hinders the war effort, and if the Government expects a continuance of the support, which the OPPOsition has given to it in the past, it must assure us that the bungling which occurred over clothes rationing will not. be repeated.
– I have listened with great interest to the case which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has endeavoured to make out against the announcement in this chamber on Friday afternoon of restriction of sales of clothing. I endeavoured while he was speaking to note the chief headings under which he attacked my department in particular, and the Government in general.
– The honorable gentleman’s administration of his department,
– Yes, and my administration of the department. In the first place, the decision both as to the scale of the restriction and as to the announcement that rationing was imminent, was made, not by me, but by the Production Executive of Cabinet, of which there are nine members.
Opposition Members. - Do not try to “ pass the buck “.
– I make that statement not in any endeavour to escape responsibility, because I shall justify every step taken, but solely in order to make the House realize that the decision was not made lightly by the Government, that it was the result of very grave discussion, and that it came after consideration of every aspect of the matter.
– Who is Chairman of the Production Executive?
– I am. It appears to me that what I have to do is to prove, first, that the limitation on sales was necessary; secondly, that there was an adequate reason why the coupon system of rationing could not be introduced immediately; thirdly, that the announcement made on Friday was in the best interests of the public; and, fourthly, that this decision of the Government does not mean any detriment to the war finances of this country but will, in fact, as I ‘shall prove later, have a ‘very beneficial effect indeed. Is limitation of sales necessary?
– We are all agreed that it is.
– The Leader of the Opposition says that he agrees, hut in his .speech he attacked me for having made certain statements about -excessive sales having taken place before the introduction of the restrictions. If the right honorable gentleman admits that there is necessity for the restrictions, why did he find it necessary to attack any reasons t may have for their imposition? The necessity for their introduction should be evident to any one who has examined the situation.
– We aTe all agreed as to the necessity for restrictions, but we are not in agreement “with the way the Minister announced -the imposition of them.
– The right honorable gentleman said that my statement that there had been a -50 per .cent, increase of sales prior to the introduction of these regulations was not borne out by the facts. The facts as I am told by the statistical section of my department are these -
In Melbourne sales in February of piece goods were 53.2 per cent, above ths level for February, 1941. Sales of women’s wear were 54.3 per cent, higher., and of men’s and boys’ wear, 53.7 per cent, higher. Earlier months showed lesser increases than these, but reports indicate that sales since then have been comparable with February’s figures. One large Melbourne emporium reported that in many lines, after allowing for new stocks coming in, selling would have to stop three months hence for lack of goods. There is justification for the restriction of the volume of .sales.
– A restriction.
– A restriction, yes. The plain fact is that there were sound and adequate reasons for restricting the total volume of sales.
The next question is, “ Why did the Government not introduce the coupon system of rationing at this stage?” To that my answer is that to .create a machine to administer the rationing of clothing by the coupon system is a colossal task. No coupon ration ing scheme has been introduced in any part of the world without a minimum of six months of preparation. This Government has been in office only a little longer than six months, and I remind the Opposition that when we took office we found that the previous Government had made no ^’reparations at all for the rationing of clothing.
– That is incorrect.
– Order ! The Minister is entitled to a fair hearing, and 3 invite members of the Opposition to refrain from interjecting.
– The Opposition does not like the truth, which is that no preparations had been -made before this Government came into office to develop a machine to administer the problem of rationing clothing by means of -coupons.
– -The Government has been in office for seven and a half months and is no farther ahead.
– That statement is incorrect. The Government has the problem well in hand and hopes within very few weeks to introduce a system of rationing by the coupon system. The only reason why the -coupon system was not introduced immediately is that the administrative machine is not ready. It is necessary that we have a very large pool to .start with, because immediately coupons are issued many people in the community will decide to .exchange their coupons for the goods to which they are entitled, and the first effect will he a tremendous rush upon the stocks of rationed articles.
– The honorable gentlema.n has assisted ^effectively in exhausting the available supply.
– If the Leader of the Opposition will be patient I shall .show how extraordinarily stupid some of his statements have been. The Government had to see that there would exist a large pool of goods when the coupon system was introduced. It is not ready to introduce that system at present, but it will be ready within a few weeks, and the action taken to restrict present sales will ensure the availability of a clothing pool. The right honorable gentleman asked why the restrictions were announced on Friday night. Many newspaper statements have been quoted by the Leader of the
Opposition, who seems to think that when I make a statement to the newspapers I am endeavouring to justify my actions. Press statements made by me are based on what I consider to be the facts and at no time do I endeavour in the press to justify any of my actions. The announcement was made on Friday night because the Government believed that the retail traders in the community needed time to compute the basis on which their sales would take place from the date on which the regulations came into operation.
– Why did not the honorable gentleman consult the retail traders?
-Consultations did take place with certain individuals in key positions in the retail trading section of the community.
– Who were they?
– I shall not name the individuals, but consultations definitely did take place. The reasons why all and sundry affected by the regulations were not consulted were, first, that it would take too long, and secondly, that news of what the Government proposed would spread rapidly throughout the community and would to some extent defeat the purpose of the scheme. I repeat, the Government did consult certain key individuals in the retail trading section of the community and, having done so, it decided that the wisest thing to do was to risk any buying rush that might take place on the Saturday morning, and to make the announcement late on Friday so that it would be published in the newspapers on the Saturday morning and in that way enable the retailers to compute over the week-end the basis on which their sales would be permitted from Monday onwards.
– That would have been possible had the announcement been made a t noon on Saturday.
– That is not so, because by the time it was generally known the staffs employed by retail traders would have dispersed and it would have been impossible to contact them all during the week-end. The traders would not have had time to compute the basis on which sales would be permitted. I shall now examine the effect of that announcement which was made, according to the Leader of the Opposition, eighteen hours too soon. Excess buying did take place on Saturday morning.
– And yesterday, as well as to-day.
– The honorable member apparently does not understand what is happening under the regulations.
– Nobody does!
– The limitation imposed by the regulations was that sales were to be made on the basis of 75 per cent. of the average weekly sales during 1941. Since the regulation places a restriction on sales, how can the honorable member claim that excess or panic buying is going on all the time?
– It was a case of first come, first served.
– The honorable member was dealing with the total value of sales.
– No such thing.
-The honorable member for Wilmot has claimed that excess buying is continuing, but I submit that excess buying cannot continue because the regulations impose a restriction on sales.
– Apparently even the honorable gentleman does not understand the regulations.
– I shall now examine the effects of the alleged excess buying on Saturday last. Since the announcement of the restriction, I have had conferences with many sections of the retail traders associations, and the highest figure given to me as representing excess buying on Saturday last was 150 per cent. beyond ordinary Saturday morning sales. The position was somewhat complicated because Sunday last was “ Mother’s Day “.
– I thought it was “Dedman’s Day “ !
– Does the fact that Sunday was “ Mother’s Day “ explain why Mark Foy’s Limited sold out all their men’s shirts, including the quota up to Saturday next?
– Apparently members of the Opposition think thatthis subject is amusing. I have been criticized for not having consulted the retail trading section of the community before making the announcement. In fact it was the retail trading section that brought before me yesterday the fact that Sunday was “Mother’s Day”; I knew nothing about it.
– That was after the retailers had asked the honorable gentleman to receive a deputation on the subject.
– The interjection is not germane to the subject. The excess buying that took place on Saturday morning, according to what I have been told by leaders in the retail section of the trade, was partly due to “ Mother’s Day “. If that is not a worthwhile point, I say that honorable members should lay it at the door of the retail trading section which represented it to me.
– The rush buying wa3 due to “Dedman’s Day” on Friday.
– I repeat that the greatest excess buying on Saturday last that has been reported to me from any section of the big traders in the clothing trade was 150 per cent, beyond normal Saturday morning buying. That, taken in relation to a full day’s buying prior to the regulations, is 75 per cent, in excess of a normal day’s trading.
– The honorable gentleman seems to forget that many stores closed their doors at. 10.30 a.m. on Saturday last.
– The restriction to 25 per cent, of the average weekly, sales in 1941 amounts to a 40 per cent, restriction on the sales that were taking place just prior to the regulations coming into force. Of the 75 per cent, of the normal day’s trading that was lost by the orgy of buying om Saturday morning, 40 per cent, was recovered by Monday night, and every penny of it had been compensated for by Tuesday night. Since Tuesday night the pool of materials available for rationing has been increased. No matter what the scale of excess buying was on Saturday morning - and I deplore it - I make it clear that every penny of it was overtaken by Tuesday night. [Extension of time granted.]
That brings me to the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) that the disclosure had an adverse effect upon war-time finance. I do not see how a mere disclosure could have had an adverse effect. For war-time finance to have been adversely affected, there must have been spending, or a failure to save. The Leader of the Opposition said that because the Government had made this announcement thousands of pounds has been spent needlessly on commodities which would not have been bought had the announcement not been made.
– Bought by particular people.
– All right. At one stage of his speech the right honorable gentleman said that Saturday morning’s buying was “a gift” to the wealthy section of the community who had money to spend, but a hardship to the poorer section of the community who had no money, or very little, to spend. Later the right honorable gentleman said that this buying had resulted in the cashing of war savings certificates. What section of the community invests in war savings certificates? I suggest that it is the working-class section.
– I did not say that all had converted their war savings certificates.
– The right honorable gentleman contradicted himself. At one moment he said that there had been heavy spending by the wealthy section of the community and that the poorer section could not share in the purchasing because they had no money, and later he said that war savings certificates were being negotiated in order to buy goods. As to whether the spending on Saturday morning had a bad effect on war finance, I repeat that the excess spending had all been compensated for by Tuesday night.
– Did the people who bought the goods take them back to the shops again?
– No; but all the spending which would have taken place on Monday and Tuesday had normal sales been made did not take place. Since there has been a drastic restriction of sales it is evident that people generally, no matter to what section they belong, cannot spend their money in buying things which they would have bought had these regulations not been issued. Consequently, more money, and not less, will be available for war finance because these regulations are in force. Thus, the regulations have not been detrimental to war finance.
-We complain that the premature announcement of the regulations has been detrimental to war finance by reason of the fact that it has had the effect of diverting money which would have been conserved had the rationing scheme been brought into effect.
– The right honorable gentleman must consider the effect of the regulations over the whole period between the making of the announcement and the introduction of thecoupon system. I say quite definitely that because people will now be prevented from purchasing goods at the normal rate more money will be available from the community for war purposes, and not less, as was said by the right honorable gentleman.
– That is the virtue, and the basic principle, of rationing. We do not object to rationing.
– When I made my statement at this table last Friday afternoon, the right honorable gentleman was sitting where he is sitting now, and I distinctly heard him say, “ Hear, hear ! “.
– The Minister might also have heard me say that it was the silliest thing I ever heard of a government doing - that was, the making of the announcement.
– I did not hear the right honorable gentleman say that; but I distinctly heard him say, “Hear, hear !”, and he does not deny that he said it.
– I say “ Hear, hear ! “ to rationing, but I say “ there, there “ to the manner in which rationing is being handled by the Government.
– I did not announce the introduction of a rationing scheme. I announced a restriction of sales. When I made that announcement, the right honorable gentleman said: “ Hear, hear ! “ It seems to me that the discrepancy between the attitude of commendation that he displayed when I made my announcement last Friday, and the attitude of criticism that he is displaying to-day, merely shows that he is being wise after the event.
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has not been heard to advantage this afternoon. The Leader of the Opposition. (Me. Fadden) made it clear that the Opposition favoured rationing and believed it to be essential. What the Minister has said in relation to the utilization of labour now employed in non-essential industries and! of money now applied to the purchase of goods, not vital to the well-being of the community, may be set on one side. We do not object to rationing. We object to the manner in which the Minister made his announcement. He has just said that on Friday he did not announce a rationing scheme, but merely a restriction of sales. Apparently, he draws a metaphysical distinction between rationing and the limitation of sales; but the public does not do so. The honorable gentleman said that he. was surprised at what had taken place. In discussing another subject this afternoon, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was at some pains to point out that he had associated himself with men in positions of leadership in- the Labour movement. In this matter, however, the Minister for War Organization of Industry apparently made no attempt to ascertain from representative Australian retailers their views concerning the proper method of introducing a rationing scheme. He said that he had met two retailers, but he did not say who they were. Apparently, these anonymous and probably obscure individuals did not give to the Minister any information of value. The honorable gentleman must have known, when he made his pronouncement in this House at ten minutes past four or thereabouts last Friday, that the effect upon the public would be electrical. The people are apathetic; they are difficult to stir. If the honorable gentleman were to announce to-day that he intended to make a public speech, the pulse of the public would be unhurried. But on matters that touch their daily lives their reaction is immediate and overwhelming. The honorable Minister struck a blow at the heart of the industrial and social life of the community by his restriction of the sale of clothing. He must have known the inevitable reaction of the people to his announcement. But had he declared last Friday that the Government intended to restrict the sale of beer, 1 venture to say that there would have been an inrush to hotel bars by such a vast multitude that the swing doors - with which the honorable gentleman may or may not be familiar - would have been torn from their fastenings.; and those who had failed to get inside would have waited on the honorable gentleman on Saturday and torn him limb from limb. The honorable .gentleman has, with reason, stated in this House many times that his dominating purpose in public life is to protect the workers. Rationing is odious, and the government of every country has sought to soften its asperities by equality of sacrifice. What section has suffered most in this business? As the honorable gentleman knows very well, the munitions workers did not have a “ dog’s show “, nor did any other worker in Australia. The honorable gentleman has said that his informant - I again point out that these “ informants “ of his are hand picked; they are anonymous, and are carefully selected - has advised him that last Saturday’s sales were only 1-50 per cent. in excess of those of an ordinary Saturday morning. He has also said - and coming from a Scotsman I reregard it as noteworthy - that the reason for ike rise in buying is that, the following day was Mother’s Day. What are we to say to such a statement ? As a Celt, and one who claims to be alive to the allurements of humour, I confess that such a flight of the imagination would never have occurred to me. I venture to affirm that it is belated with him; he has just thought of it. By his action, he has thrown the whole of the business community into a chaotic state, and normality, so far from having been restored on Tuesday, is not and ‘will not fee restored, for what has been done cannot -be undone. The shops have been cleared - those who have not bought cannot buy at all. He has enabled men and women with plenty of money ito stock their wardrobes, whilst others less favorably placed may g.o naked .to the icy blasts of winter. This rationing is going to be very serious. The honorable gentleman has not waited in a .queue.
We have not a Gestapo, and thus cannot investigate his wardrobe in order to see what it contains, but doubtless it is -well stocked with clothing. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) could draw a pathetic, even a heart-rending, picture of the conditions of the workers as the result of this action. The honorable gentleman ought to have known what would be the effect of his pronouncement. He ought not to have made it; but, having made it, he ought to have done what he could to rectify the mistake. He has not done so ; he has merely sought to excuse himself, and has resorted to what obviously are perfectly ridiculous excuses. This talk about Mother’s Day would, in other circumstances, be most amusing. As though Mother’s Day had anything to do with it ! When the honorable gentleman said, at ten past four on Friday, that free buying should cease at noon on Saturday, he knew that by five o’clock on Friday the retail stores of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane would be filled with purchasers. I was not present, and do not know what occurred; but I have read the stories published in the press. Perhaps they are a little exaggerated; nevertheless, they give a fairly vivid picture of what happened. If the honorable gentleman’s statement, that the excess sales amounted to only 1:1.0 per cent., be correct, all that I have to say is that they were not greater because a larger number of men and women could not get into the stores; otherwise, the excess would have been 1050 per cent. There .are some members of this House who have an intimate knowledge of the retail .trade. They know very well that, had the stores remained open until 10 p.m. - as they did at one time - every establishment would have been sold out by the closing hour. Although the honorable gentleman represents the workers, he has done them a very great injustice, and he ought to repair it. He has said that his preparations for the launching of this scheme were not complete because, when he assumed office, there was not the necessary administrative machinery. That is correct. But he has now been in office for seven and a half months, and has had ample time to establish that machinery. Why did he not wait until the machinery was ready? He has not told us.
– There would have been nothing left to ration.
– The honorable gentleman is most diligent in his duties. He does not lack application or ability. He could have made the necessary preparations. Why did he not do so? He has blundered badly. Instead of saying “ Peccavi “, and letting it go at that, he has endeavoured to explain away the natural consequences of his action. It is most unfortunate that he should have made a pronouncement in this House in relation to a matter of this kind. The people of Australia take almost everything in their stride; many things fail to move them. But touch their food, drink or clothing, and anything is likely to happen. That is what the honorable gentleman has done, with the result that thousands of persons have been cruelly handicapped. Many stores will be put out of business. Had the honorable gentleman taken the advice of competent advisers, he would not have followed this course.
– The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Minister’s reply indicates that he does not understand the position. It is clear that he has not had any experience of the retail trade. No honorable member disputes the need for rationing. But the way in which the rationing of clothing has been introduced is a reflection upon this Parliament. Instead of being done in a well-ordered fashion, it has been accompanied by an unseemly scramble which resulted in a rabble in the retail houses throughout Australia. This does not do credit to either the Commonwealth Parliament or the community.
– Why blame the Parliament?
– The Parliament must accept responsibility for what is done by the Government. The Minister evidently misunderstands the position altogether when he claims that he is justified because, although the public overbought to the- extent of 150 per cent, on Saturday, the position has been balanced by the restrictions placed on buying on Monday and Tuesday. The position is far otherwise. The people who contributed to the buying rush on Saturday have overbought and, what is worse, they have, in many instances, bought goods that they will not be able to use, whilst other people will have to go without. It is clear from what we have heard that certain persons knowingly overbought, and it ought to be within the power of the Government to ensure that they shall have no opportunity to resell those goods to the community at a profit.
– Excess buying has been going on for months.
– The Minister claims that he did not start excess buying, and that is true, but his premature announcement turned what had been merely a trickle into a torrent. The Minister was careful to say that his scheme was supported by a majority of Cabinet, but he cannot thereby escape all responsibility for what has occurred. Why did he announce the scheme at all until all the machinery was ready to put it into effect? That is where the mistake was made. It was an unfortunate bungle that the preliminary announcement was made before the Government was in a position to control the situation. The Minister would be well advised to take heed of what has been said here to-day. When the Government proposes to take action touching the coalmining industry, it very properly nonsuits men associated with that industry. Similarly, the Minister would now be well advised to consult those who are experienced in the retail trade. He said that he had conferred with three men.
– I said key men.
– I do not know of any three key men in the retail trade who could have advised the Minister to act as he did on Friday last. In Brisbane, as in other capital cities, there was an unseemly scramble to buy, and unfortunately those persons who had the time and money took advantage of the Minister’s announcement to get in ahead of less fortunate citizens. That was particularly unfair to the mothers of families who are unable to visit the shops at short notice. Many of the retail shops are closing their doors for a part of their normal trading period each day, but the public are not advised of the times during which the shops will be closed. This inflicts great hardship upon mothers who travel in from the suburbs, only to find, when they arrive in the city, that business has ceased for the day. If shops are unable to remain open during the normal trading hours, I suggest to the Minister that he should take steps to have some kind of uniformity introduced so that the public will know what trading hours have been fixed.
If we are to continue as we have begun in regard to rationing, we shall soon need some one to ration the rationers. Recently, a tea rationing scheme was introduced, and hundreds of thousands of declarations had to be made and signed by the public. I am not objecting to that, but 1 do object to the waste of paper that was involved. I have here one of the Government forms upon which the declarations were made, and here beside it I have a form issued by one of the retail houses. As honorable members can see, it is only about a quarter of the size of the Government form. As for the rationing of clothes, I suggest to the Minister that, even at this late hour, he should call representatives of the retailers together to advise him, and I am sure that they will give him all the help they can.
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [5.17].- I do not feel called upon to defend in every detail the Government’s policy of rationing, but there are some aspects of this motion for the adjournment of the House that cause me to rise. I have noticed on several occasions that motions, intended to be of a critical character, have emanated from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) against the Government, but that the castigation has been administered by the right honorable gentleman with such a dainty and discriminating band as to remind one of a rebuke administered in the nursery on Mother’s Day. The usual practice is for the Leader of the Opposition mildly to criticize the head of the Government, and immediately the head of the Government throws back a few caustic interjections the Leader of the Opposition and the tribe that supports him run away from their motion and apologize, in effect, for having submittedit. But to-day he position is different. The Leader of the Opposition waded in with quite unwonted enthusiasm, and was supported by the enthusiasm of his fellow members on his side of the House. I had never previously in all my experience heard so many right honorable and honorable dingoes at large in this chamber as when the Minister rose to reply.
– I ask the honorable member for Batman to moderate his language.
– I shall pay every attention to your request, Mr. DeputySpeaker, and I am happy to think that you have permitted my picturesque description of the Opposition to be recorded.
I am not enthusiastically in support of the policy of the Government in this matter. I realize that the announcement of the Minister on Friday, made in good faith as an expression of Government policy, was made, not “ off his own bat “, but because the subject had been carefully considered by the Government as a whole. The Prime Minister had expressed the pious wish that the people would manifest a sufficient degree of pure patriotism to abstain from excessive buying. His pious hopes were disappointed, because well-to-do persons of leisure, who support the Opposition, disregarded the Labour Prime Minister’s appeal to their patriotism and rushed to the shops in advance of the workers, who at the time were busy at their jobs. To that degree, the workers suffered some disadvantage, but only because the Prime Minister entirely miscalculated the pure patriotism of the supporters of the Opposition.
– Who provided the opportunity for them to engage in excessive buying?
– The truth is that the rich and the leisured classes did most of the excessive buying. I heard of one lady who purchased fifteen pairs of shoes. I do not know whether she intends to retail them or whether she was making provision for a new race of persons of the centipede variety of reptile. But no doubt that sort of thing happened.
Honorable members opposite have said that the Minister believes in th objective of the Labour party, which is socialism. I suspect him of entertaining that belief. The sound exposition of those principles, against great opposition on the part of honorable members opposite, gained for him .a substantial majority on the occasion of his election to this chamber, which, everybody is prepared to concede, he has graced by his presence. He has also enriched the knowledge of the honorable members opposite, who were badly in need of a little elementary education regarding a subject on which the Minister is something in the nature of a professor.
Honorable members opposite derived a cheap laugh from the intimation that the position had been complicated by Mother’s Day. Apparently, that is to be a slogan with them for the next election. The Minister at least had informed his mind upon the subject. It does appear that Mother’s Day affects to a material degree retail sales and turnover in the cities. Retailers know it so well that they may be credited for that reason with some not altogether altruistic support for Mother’s Day.
I regret that confusion has arisen in regard to clothes rationing. I am aware that it is not considered to be politically popular to support a Minister who has the unpleasant duty of fearlessly putting into operation plans for the rationing of goods.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The mo3t convincing indictment of the Minister for “War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) this afternoon comes, not from the very clear statements which have been made by members of the Opposition, but from the profound silence on the part of supporters of the Government. Until the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) rose, it appeared that the Minister’s colleagues would leave him to stew in his own juice. When the honorable member for Batman began to speak, I realized the position was different, although he concluded by damning the Minister with faint praise. He carefully avoided any mention of the subject of rationing, and his personal references to the Minister were calculated to hold up the honorable gentleman’s arms in this emergency. The principal defence which the Minister offered for his stupid action was to blame the Production Executive of Cabinet.
– That is false.
– The Minister declared that he was not responsible for tho position. He stated that the Production Executive of Cabinet, which consists of nine Ministers. had decided upon the introduction of the scheme. In that way he sought to shelve the responsibility. I should like to know the names of the members of that body. It is obvious that they abandoned the Minister, who sits alone at the table. Although Iris action is indefensible, an even worse feature is his admission that, after having been in office for seven and a half months, he has not yet established the necessary machinery for rationing clothing and textiles.
– I did not make such an admission.
– It is because of the Minister’s reference to the origin of the Department of War Organization of Industry that I now speak. I leave no doubt in anybody’s mind that I am completely in accord with rationing under present conditions in Australia. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind as to the policy of the last Government. It was committed to rationing as an essential part of the financial policy of Australia for this year, and probably for some years to come, by the budget introduced in September by the then Prime Minister (Mi1. Fadden). That budget was to be implemented by a system of rationing that would ensure the transfer of man-power into war service as well as conserve material and compel the people to make the savings necessary to provide the Government with funds and the central bank with a basis upon which it could assist the Government. The carrying into effect of that budget depended entirely upon a successful scheme of rationing. Now, for my own part in that, I became Minister for War Organization of Industry on the .29th June last, the day on which the Department of War Organization of Industry was founded by an Executive Council minute. Therewas no such department before that date.
– It is a pity that there ever was.
– I do not agree with that. There is a definite need for this department, but it must be properly administered. It is an integral part of the war effort, and I believe that it is the only proper means of co-ordinating material, man-power, the fighting services and finance, but it has to be conducted in the manner which was originally intended, not for the purpose of introducing socialism and carrying out all the other quaint ideas of the present Minister. The department was founded and I became the responsible Minister on the 29th June, and on the 5th October I handed over my records to the present Minister. If my mathematics are correct, I was Minister for War Organization of Industry for three months and six days. The Minister recently told the House that I had been in that office for five months. If he can make no more accurate a calculation that that, one may judge bow inaccurate he must be in other respects. I was asked by the then Prime Minister to prepare a scheme to implement the policy expressed in the budget of September last, and I proceeded to do so. I made preparations for rationing wherever necessary, but only in a manner that would not destroy the foundations upon which Australia would need to stand in future years. The Minister cannot professignor- ance of the fact that I had laid plans for rationing, because on the day I left office I came to Canberra and in my successor’s office read to him the report I had prepared. I also gave to him all the information I had collected. He knows that is true. I did what Ministers frequently do not do. I considered it my duty to this country to provide him with all the information in my possession.
– Does the honorable member say that he provided me with details ofhis scheme for the introduction of rationing?
– Yes, I gave the honorable gentleman a copy of my minute to Cabinet upon which the system of rationing was to be founded.
– That is incorrect.
– It is not incorrect. The Minister has the effrontery to tell the House that the Department of War Organization of Industry, while under mycontrol, did nothing. Sir Harry Brown and I over some weeks had given thought to rationing methods.
– The honorable member did not show it to me.
– I did. I showed him the minute to Cabinet in whichI recommended a scheme of rationing before October, 1941.
– A recommendation, but not a plan.
– We had plans to put rationing into operation before the end of 1941. The plans were intended to implement the budget brought down in September. That was the position at the end of 1941. That was what I had done in three months. But what has happened since? The Minister has been in office for seven and a half months and has had the benefit of all reports I had prepared and all the basic information which I, starting from scratch, had obtained. He has had all the advantage of what I gave to him and whatever he could obtain from those who helped me. Yet, after seven and a half months, he says that he has no proper plan. That is the reason for the bungling of last week-end. The story is this : The Minister and those who advise him have become nervousbecause of the fact that there is an increased spending power throughout Australia. The people are buying heavily, more than they should,because it was rumoured for months that sooner or later a scheme of rationing would be introduced. The public has known of this since Christmas, and every day of delay increased the pressure on available stocks in Australia until the point was reached at which the Minister for War Organization of Industrycould wait no longer and was forced to make a foolish announcement appealing to the public to refrain from buying and compelling the retailers to make only a portion of the sales they had made last year. The result is chaos, and will continue chaos, until we have a properly organized Department of War
Organization of Industry. The statement made by the Minister this afternoon must go down in industry as an indictment of himself and of his own failings. I very much regret that the efforts of some of his colleagues, who, in my opinion, are doing excellent work in other directions, are being hampered by what this Minister is not doing in his department The reason for this Minister’s failures is that he has neither the experience nor the capacity to do his job and has not the proper people to help him. He has surrounded himself with men with no knowledge, training or experience of industry, men whose lives have been spent in the Public Service, and he will not take advice from people who know. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) spoke truly when he said that if the Minister had gone to the retailers and asked them for information-
– All they say is “ Do nothing “.
– They would have told him how to proceed. He could have confirmed the value of the information given to him and developed a constructive plan, but he did not.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not care who was responsible for this decision - whether one Minister, nine members of the Production Executive, or the full Cabinet of nineteen Ministers. The fact is that an awful blunder was made, the effect of which is felt most by the working class. The only people who had an opportunity of buying on Saturday were those with time, leisure and money, and those with none of those things missed out and have had no real opportunity since to obtain their ordinary needs. In and about Melbourne in the last few days extraordinary scenes have been witnessed. Most shops opened at 10 a.m. and closed again about 11.40 a.m. I was in one big shop in Melbourne yesterday with the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), and saw a gentleman engaged in writing on a blackboard, on which there was a heading, “ Owing to the Government’s regulations in regard to clothing restrictions we have now sold out of- “ and then underneath he wrote “ First-floor, Haberdashery, mercery, &c. - second floor, third floor, fourth floor “ and so on. I asked if he were giving a ball-to-ball description of events on the various floors as the quotas were reached. The quotas were quickly arrived at in all departments to which the restrictions applied. As has been truly said, the result has been that the wife of a working man has littlechance of buying clothing for her family under existing conditions, and had no opportunity whatever of buying clothing on Saturday morning last.
– And will not have an opportunity until rationing is properly introduced.
– There are some who think that rationing is not necessary. I am one who is not yet convinced of its necessity. The Government policy with regard to the rationing of clothing has not been decided upon entirely because there is a shortage of supplies, or because there is a likelihood of a shortage of supplies.
– It has been decided entirely on those facts.
– The Government is anxious to divert the spending power of the community.
– That is not the reason for the introduction of the regulations.
– I believe that it is ; I feel that the Government is anxious to divert the spending power of the people into war loans and other avenues of government finance. I do not believe in war loans and I have opposed every loan bill that has been introduced in this House since I have been a member.
– If the honorable member is not very careful, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will suspect that he has a convert to socialism.
– I have opposed war loans because it is the policy of the Labour party, to which I belong all the time, that war expenditure shall be met out of revenue raised by taxation. The party specifically objects to the raising of loans for war expenditure. If the Government desires to follow the policy of meeting war expenditure out of loan money, that is its responsibility, but I do not agree with it. Neither do
I agree with the policy that will have the effect of diverting money into other channels if the workers are in need of clothing. There are many people in Melbourne, particularly in my own electorate, which is probably the poorest in Australia, who, in the last ten years have never had an opportunity to get a wardrobe together. It is only since the war started and the economists have changed their views on finance that there has been a sufficiency of money available to the general public. I do not blame members of the working class if they want to buy a few articles of clothing in these times. Others have been getting them for a long time, and I do not think it necessary for workers to go without the necessaries of- life in order that the war may be won. In the early stages of the war a number of my constituents went overseas as economic conscripts. They were on sustenance relief, there was no employment available to them, and the only opportunity they had to receive a regular wage was by enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force. To-day their womenfolk are spending money reasonably in order that they and their children might have adequate clothing. Last week I directed attention to the fact that Melbourne is suffering from a serious fuel shortage. Not only are the people expected to go without fuel for cooking and heating purposes, but now they are asked to do without some of the clothing that would give them warmth. The trouble with the Department of War Organization of Industry - and with most other departments - is that there are too many economists on the government pay-roll, too many professors “ of the dismal science “ advising the Government. Likewise there are too many Ministers prepared to follow the advice given by men who are earning something far more than the basic wage. There are Professors Copland, Giblin and Mills, and Dr. Walker, to mention only a few of the economists on the government pay-roll.
– Does the honorable member suggest that all the gentlemen mentioned are in the Department of War Organization of Industry?
– No, but they are on the government pay-roll, and if they are not advising in that department, they are advising some other department or Minister. Professor Copland has the unique record of having been the financial adviser to three successive Prime Ministers within eighteen months, and lie has advised them on three entirely different policies. While he is the adviser to the Federal Labour Government, and is in receipt of a princely remuneration for his advice, he is also adviser to the Premier of Victoria. Probably he will advise the Labour Prime Minister of the Commonwealth in one way on the subject of uniform taxation and give the opposite advice to a Country party Premier in Victoria, and of course he will be dually paid for his services. Possibly each honorable gentleman will follow the proferred advice.
– Professor Copland, in those circumstances, would be almost qualified to join the legal profession.
– According to newspaper reports, when generals make a mistake in Russia, they are “ liquidated “. In Germany, generals who fail meet with “ an accident “. Since the delectable pastime of shooting admirals in the British navy was allowed to fall into desuetude several centuries ago after the execution of Admiral Byng, we have been rather tender-hearted with people who make mistakes. The least the Government can do is to remove a number of economists from the government pay-roll. Professors Copland and Giblin were two of the persons who landed this country in that awful imbroglio known as the Premiers plan, and the depression that followed its introduction. Men who made such a mess of things should not, in wartime, be given the opportunity to advise on anything. If they are to be judged on their records, and we are too fainthearted to shoot them, at least we ought to sack them. Somebody should be dealt with in connexion with Saturday’s affair.
– Whom do you suggest it ought to be?
– If “Mother’s Day on Sunday led to excessive buying, it is just a3 well that there was no “ Father’s Day “ on Friday, because that would have had a similar result. It is claimed that increased buying has prevailed over recent months, but I have no complaint onthat score, because people who have been buying goods in that way have been spending their money properly.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not believe that any single statement previously made by this or any other government has created so much chaos and confusion amongst traders and the purchasing community as did the statement made by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) on Friday last. Even after the speeches that have been made during the debate to-day the honorable gentleman seems to regard his efforts with complete composure. He has satisfied him- self that everything is quite correct, and that the clothing pool which the Government has endeavoured to create has not been depleted in any way by the foolish statement he made. Opposition members, and indeed the whole of the business community, have looked in vain for the reason for the honorable gentleman’s statement. When, as Minister for Trade and Customs, I had to bring down certain schedules restricting the importation of sterling and non-sterling goods, I found it necessary to maintain secrecy and not to be goaded by the press into making statements, however hard the pressure was applied. Had I not done so, (here would have resulted a set of cir- cumstances similar to those obtaining under clothes rationing to-day. It is fundamental to all tariff and excise schedules, and indeed to all forms of rationing and restrictions, that the utmost secrecy should be observed. I am concerned to think that a Minister who, in a time of war, is in charge of one of the most important departments, should have been trapped into making a loose statement which has caused unprecedented disturbance in the business community. What has he done? He has said to prospective hoarders : “ I am giving you a unique opportunity to buy. Here is your opportunity to obtain goods that you may require, and even goods that you may not require. You may buy them now, and hoard them against the time when I shall introduce a rationing scheme”. That intimation favoured the more fortunate classes of the community who had time and money available. Such people went to the shops on Saturday morning and made their purchases. The poorer section of the community, and those who have no leisure, were debarred from making purchases. The whole process adopted by the Minister was unfair. The honorable gentleman should have taken advice from retailers’ organizations, but he did not do so. I have been advised this morning by one of the leading retailers in Sydney that although he opened his premises at 9 a.m. he had to close them again at 10 a.m. because his 75 per cent. quota had been sold. The scheme outlined by the Minister imposed a flat 25 per cent. restriction of sales. The details had not been prepared and, so far as we know, nothing had been done to ensure an even distribution of goods affected to all customers. The honorable gentleman’s announcement resulted in panic-buying to such a degree that we are now told that consideration is being given to a restriction of the hours of trading. In other words, the Minister is trying, belatedly, to retrieve the position.
Mr.Dedman. - The press has said that the hours of trading are to be restricted I have not said it.
– A statement to that effect has been attributed to the Minister. So far as I can assess the position, the honorable gentleman is likely to be forced to evacuate one position after another in trying to recover the ground that has been lost through the method he has seen fit to adopt in introducing the restrictions of sales and the rationing of goods.
I emphasize the point made by the Leader of the Opposition that what has been done has already seriously affected war finance. The Minister for War Organization of Industry may laugh at my statement, but I ask him to check the sales of war savings certificates. I venture to say that the figures given to us to-day by the Treasurer did not include Saturday morning’s operations.
– A statement obtained from the Commonwealth Bank this morning substantiates the observations of the Treasurer.
-I should like the Government to ascertain the amount of money withdrawn from the banks on Saturday morning. Honorable members who live near banking institutions in the city and suburbs know that long before 10 a.m. on Saturday people were waiting outside bank premises to make withdrawals as soon as the banks opened for business. Most of the money so withdrawn was expended on luxury goods or goods not immediately needed by the purchasers.
The Minister forWar Organization of Industry has enunciated some strange financial ideas in this House from time to time, but apparently he has thrown overboard all his former ideas on the subject. Whereas he used to say that money should be spent and not hoarded, now he is saying that money should not be spent. Formerly he favored making as much money as possible available to the wageearners, and taking as much money as possible, by means of taxes, from what he called the capitalist class. Now the honorable gentleman thinks that the workers should not spend their money. Why did not the Minister consult the Council of Retail Traders of New South Wales or the Australasian Council of Retail Traders before he made his statement on Friday last? The Prime Minister, in a broadcast on Friday evening, said that wholesalers and retailers had been approached. All that the Minister for War Organization of Industry has said is that he approached certain key men. I ask the honorable gentleman, specifically, whether he approached Mr. Norman Myer, of the Myer Emporium Limited. Mr. Norman Myer’s history is well known in this House. Was information obtained from that gentleman concerning the possible effect of the Government’s scheme for the restriction of sales ? I should also like to know whether the chairman of the Rationing Committee, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) was consulted. The Minister has generalized on the subject; I want him to be particular, If we were informed who was consulted, we should be able to assess the value of the advice given. Had the honorable gentleman consulted the retailers’ organizations, he would have learned that difficulties have been increasing daily for some time in relation to excess purchases under the lay-by system. In fact, the lay-by system has been adopted to such a large degree by purchasers that many retailers are to-day afraid of it. The system has been used to make possible the hoarding of goods that should have been available for purchase in current trading. The actions of the Minister have resulted in an increase of hoarding by means of this system and otherwise.
– The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
.-Honorable gentlemen opposite have professed many times that they desire to assist the Government to organize an all-in war effort and to mobilize completely all the resources of the nation. Yet they never tire of sharpshooting when they see a favorable opportunity for it. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is the latest victim of this practice, yet no Minister has devoted himself with greater industry and capacity than has the honorable gentleman to the organization of the country to meet war conditions. Honorable gentlemen opposite should remember that the Minister has had to sail in an almost uncharted sea. Much of the work that he has done has been of the kind that could not be described publicly for obvious security reasons. Whereas the activities of some Ministers may be given prominence in the press and over the air, a great deal of the work of the Minister for War Organization of Industry has had to be done quietly. It has, nevertheless, been done effectively. Whenever possible, the honorable gentleman has informed the public of plans in progress for the organization of the community on a war footing. His statement on Friday afternoon was delayed until the latest moment when it could be made in Parliament. The honorablegentleman spoke on the motion for the adjournment of the House. Had he withheld his statement until after Parliament had risen, I am surethat honorablegentlemen opposite would have criticized him severely andprobably rightlyso.Inmyview,itisproperthat statementsofthekindmadebythe
Minister should be made in Parliament ii Parliament be in session. In the past, many Ministers have waited until after Parliament has risen at the end of a weak to make statements in the press that should have been made in the Parliament, The honorable gentleman sought to exercise caution, so far as he could, to have proper regard for the possible effects of any statement he might make, and to pay due recognition to the right of this Parliament to be informed of government policy with respect to matters that might affect war. issues. Therefore, he cannot be charged with having done other than his duty. The effects have been greatly exaggerated. The Opposition has made every effort to magnify them. For a number of weeks, there has been a good deal of excess buying. Had that been allowed to continue without check, when the moment for the application of the principles of rationing arrived the stocks of clothing would have been so seriously depleted that it would have been impossible to make anything like proper provision in this regard. The check imposed by the restriction of 25 per cent, on average normal sales is furnishing a basis for the accumulation of stocks, thus guaranteeing effective rationing.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the Sth May (vide page 1060).
Clause 12 (Payment of pension where pensioner in benevolent asylum).
.- The purpose of this clause is to ensure that that portion of the pension which formerly was paid to a hospital shall in future be retained by the pensioner. I question, the wisdom of this alteration. Hospitals throughout Australia are experiencing considerable difficulty in obtaining the necessary finance to provide the services that are needed for the care of the sick members of the community. When the Commonwealth Government creates financial difficulties for State institutions, it. assumes a very grave responsibility. It is one thing to be seemingly generous to the pensioner-, it is another thing to deprive the pensioner of the possible benefits of an efficient hospital system. It is necessary for all individuals that the hospitals of this country shall be well and efficiently run. They cannot be, unless they have the necessary finance. The Government, instead of benefiting the pensioner, will do him, in the long run, a very grave disservice. Nobody needs a hospital more than does the old-age pensioner at times. I have been chairman of a hospital board, and know something about the circumstances of persons who are obliged to enter a public hospital for medical treatment. Fortunately, the people’s conception of a public hospital has changed with the passage of the years. No longer is it regarded as the last asylum for those who have not the means to enter a private institution. It is now considered a worthy place, at which any person may receive medical treatment. But hospitals have to be maintained; and at present the responsibility for their maintenance rests not upon the federal Minister for Social Services and Health (Mr. Holloway), but upon the State Government and the community in which they are established. In my experience, the wells of charity have almost dried up in respect of voluntary contributions to public hospitals, which now are maintained almost entirely by the fees of those who enter them and the subsidies paid to them by the States. If, as the result of this legislation, the payments which hospitals receive are to be reduced, either they must cease to operate or the States must, make up the difference. Will iiic States make up the loss on this account, which I estimate will be very large? The Minister has not been able to say what the sum is likely to be, but I apprehend that it will be substantial. It will bare to be made up from some source. I very much doubt whether State Governments will provide the additional assistance; and I am not certain that they are financially able to do so. If the payments to hospitals be reduced the result will be a lowering of their efficiency and a lessening of the services that they render. Would that be a kindness or a service to the old-age pensioner? lt is all very well for the Government to be apparently generous in this matter to the pensioner, but its generosity is at the expense of the State Governments and of the local authorities. In the last analysis, it is at the expense of the services which the pensioner would otherwise receive. Which is more important to the pensioner when he is sick - good and efficient service, or the few extra shillings which he may receive under this provision? I ask the Minister to allow the act to remain unaltered. I hope that he will bo able to give an assurance to that effect because otherwise I, and other honorable members on this side of the House, cannot support the clause.
– Since this matter was debated last week, I have received telegrams from pensioners’ associations urging us’ to go on with the Government’s proposal, and I have had no complaints from any of the hospitals. 1 do not think that any harm can result. I do not believe that there will be any gain in money on either side, but the new system, if introduced, will be a great advantage to the administration, and will remove much irritation on both sides for which the present system is responsible. As I said before, 70 per cent, of pensioner-inmates of hospitals do not stay long enough in in these institutions for the Government to pay anything in respect of them. They pay out of their own pockets for their treatment, of course, as the hospital authorities have assured me. The other 30 per cent, stay for longer terms. I ask honorable members to agree to the clause so that we may try the system over a period of six months. In the meantime, J. shall hold a conference with hospital representatives, and if it can be shown that hardship has been inflicted upon either side, this amendment will be cut out of the act. I ask that itbe agreed to in the meantime, however, because it will effect a saving of £10,000 a year, and, what is more important, it will save man-power. I have here a telegram from the largest pensioners’ association in New South Wales asking us to make the amendment which is now proposed.
– Has the Minister sought an expression of opinion from the large hospitals?
– No, there has not been time for that, lint I shall do so. I have made public announcements asking foi- objections, if any, to the scheme, and none has been forthcoming. lilting suspended from G.J 5 lo S p.m.
– I disagree with clause 12, and t do not consider that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) should ask the committee to accept it. When a Minister submits legislation to Parliament, he should be satisfied that its provisions are right. The Minister has clearly demonstrated that he is not satisfied, and he went so far as to say that if sufficient evidence could be -adduced during the next six months to prove that he was wrong - and he admitted the possibility - he would be prepared to introduce the necessary amending legislation. With very great respect, I say to the honorable gentleman that he cannot be sure of being a Minister six months hence. No Minister is entitled to give an undertaking of that description, and no Minister can expect the House to accept it. The matter must be put right now. When one is in doubt in these matters, the only safe and reasonable course to adopt is not to agree to the clause.
Regardless of the merits of the subject itself, I consider that some payment should be made by persons who use the hospitals. I was interested to hear the Minister state that he had received from invalid and old-age pensioners’ organizations many telegrams asking him not to amend the clause, but that no hospital had communicated with him upon the subject. On a matter of this description, the obligation rests upon the Minister, seeing that he proposes to amend the law, to communicate with -the hospitals for the purpose of ascertaining whether they are satisfied with his proposal. This afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) took great credit to the Government and to himself for having approached industrial interests before the Government promulgated certain regulations, in order to ascertain whether the parties were satisfied with them. If the Government adopts that policy with regard to the coal-mining and other industries, it should be consistent and apply it to the hospitals. I come back to the point that the sane and safe method for the committee to adopt is to strike out the clause. I know that the Minister will declare that not a great amount of money is involved, but from personal experience as a member of the board of a country hospital I can say that no great effort is required to pile up bad debts to the amount of £4,000 or £5,000. In South Australia, a legal obligation is imposed upon a hospital to admit for treatment indigent persons. If losses are incurred in respect of the 30 per cent, of pensioners who remain in hospital for more than a month, they are borne by the ratepayers. I remind the Minister that we are stretching this piece of elastic pretty far, and one of these days it will snap. Then a commission will be appointed to inquire as to who was responsible for the stretching. Safety and common sense dictate that the clause should be struck out, and I propose to vote against it.
.- The time may be opportune for me to reply to some of the allegations which have been made by honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), that the Minister has received from hospitals no communications indicating their attitude to this clause. In my secondreading speech, I made it abundantly clear that many hospitals have sought this amendment and have in practice refused to accept payment from invalid and old-age pensioners. In this humane policy, the Newcastle Hospital set the example and other hospitals on the coalfields, including Lithgow and Wollongong, followed suit. They adopted the attitude that the industrial contributions of these men and women before they became pensioners had assisted to establish the institutions, which are really the repair shops for the workers who are broken in industry, and that these people should in the evening of their lives get free treatment. The owners made no contributions.
– The owners would noi contribute a load of coal to the Kurri Kurri hospital. For the benefit of the honorable member for Barker, I shall place on record correspondence which 1 have received from the Cessnock District Hospital and the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales. If I had not been occupied with other matters this afternoon, I should have handed the letters to the Minister for the purpose of enabling him to refute the allegations of sceptical members of the Opposition. Mr. J. Brown, secretary of the Cessnock District Hospital, wrote to me on the 11th May last : -
Kb Pensioners and Hospital Treatment.
The present system in regard to old-age. invalid, widows and service pensioners, when they are inmates of the hospital, of the coalfields and Newcastle Hospital areas, is to treat them free of coat. This system has been in operation for over twelve months. The hospital boards of this, and other hospitals, considered that the majority of these pensioners had been contributors to the hospital contribution funds while they were able in work, and it was only fair and reasonable that they should receive free hospital treatment when illness or accident overtook them.
I may mention that for some considerable time the hospitals concerned had to tight the Hospitals Commission of New South Wale? on this matter, which insisted, like Shy lock, that we should have our pound of flesh, and take the major portion of their pension, in return for the hospital treatment. However, when Hon. C. A. Kelly, Minister for Health, had our views placed before him he was most sympathetic and directed the Hospitals Commission to cease its opposition to this humane action of the hospital boards on the coal-fields, t herewith attach a copy of letter from the Hospitals Commission on this matter.
I feel sure. Rowley, that your party could not do otherwise than agree to this procedure, in any amendment to the Pensions Act.
Mr. H. R. Digby, acting secretary of Hospitals Commission of New South Wales, issued the following statement on the 26th November, !941:-
The Commission has received representation.” from time to time advancing .arguments for and against the principle that when the recipient of an old-age or invalid pension if in hospital for more than 28 days, then from the twenty-ninth day onwards “the hospital should retain the balance of the pension over and above the weekly allowance payable tu the recipient under Federal regulations.
The Commission has now decided that it will not object to hospitals paying to pensioners the full amount of pension that ordinarily the hospital would be entitled to receive in such cases.
This decision refers only to acute hospitals and not to such institutions as benevolent homes and old folks’ homes, as the Commission’s view is that such pensioners are being provided with good homes and are more in i he way of being boarders than patients.
I have also received the following telegram from M. A. Huntress, honorary general secretary of the United Old-age mid Invalid Pensioners Association: -
Expect Labour party support clause relating lo non-payment to hospital of pensioners, also cancellation of warrant cards. Future payments to be authorized as case of war pensioners.
Writing to me recently, this correspondent reminded me of the number of occasions on which this organization has approached members of Parliament, particularly the former Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart), with requests to amend the act in order ip provide what is contained in clause 12. The committee may rest assured that the clause is most humane. Hospitals should grant free treatment to invalid and old-age pensioners, and the least that the States can do is to bear the expense, because their responsibilities for social services are being rapidly assumed by the Commonwealth .Government.
From their meagre pittance, pensioners can ill afford to make payments to hospitals, because they may be obliged to continue their payments of rent, or rates and taxes to the local governing authorities. In addition, their admission to a hospital involves them in expenditure on special hospital attire. If honorable members opposite have not visited pensioners in hospitals, they would be well advised to do so. The experience would cause them to alter their attitude towards these unfortunate, needy persons. Some of them are barely able to afford the two suits of pyjamas that they require in hospital. This clause demonstrates our appreciation of the sacrifices which the old people have made on behalf of the younger generation. As the result of their stout-hearted efforts, we now enjoy many facilities and conveniences. The least that we can do is to grant to the invalid and aged free treatment in hospitals. I have pleasure in supporting the clause.
.- The proposal contained in this clause is the first to have excited any controversy during the consideration of this bill to liberalize the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act; the second reading was agreed to on the voices, all parties equally supporting it. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) believes that in all probability the hospitals will benefit materially from the amendment proposed in this clause whereby it will be no longer incumbent upon the Government, after a pensioner has been in hospital for more than 28 days, to pay to the hospital a proportion of the pension. If the present arrangement were to continue on the new basis of a pension of 25s. a week, a pensioner inmate of a hospital would, after having been in hospital for 28 days, receive 8s. 6d. a week of his pension and the hospital the balance of 16s. 6d., but the hospital would receive nothing at all for the first 28 days of his inmatecy, and the Government would hold the pension for payment to the pensioner in a lump sum after his discharge from hospital, under the proposed new system the pensioner will receive his pension in full, irrespective of whether he is in hospital or not, and if he is in hospital it will be for the hospital itself to make arrangements with him as to payment on a voluntary basis, if at ail. According to a statement by the Minister for Social Services, not more than 30 per cent, of pensioner inmates of hospitals remain in hospital for more than 2S days, and, accordingly, hospitals are paid in respect, of only 30 per cent, of the pensioners whom they treat. It is believed that under the proposed new arrangement the hospitals will benefit by reason of the arrangements that they will be able to make with the pensioner patients. Accordingly, I support the clause because the arrangement for payments, if any, by the pensioner will be voluntary. J am unimpressed by arguments in favour of the retention of the old system, because hospitals are worthy of assistance and the invalid and old-age pensioners, in appreciation of treatment, will, if circumstances permit, be glad to make a contribution towards their maintenance. In any case, the Minister bas given an undertaking that if, after having been tried for six months the proposed new system is found to be inequitable, it will be reviewed.
.- I ani pleased that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway), on reconsideration of this clause, has decided to give it a trial. I asked on Friday last that it be not regarded as being as permanent and unalterable as the laws of the Medes and the Persians, because I am sceptical as to what will be the outcome of the proposed amendment. I have been interested in pensioners for many years. If I were clearly of the opinion that this proposal would benefit the pensioners, not the hospitals, with which honorable ‘members opposite are concerned, I should unhesitatingly give ray complete blessing to it, but I am not, and it would be wrong to lead the pensioners to believe that the proposal is certain to benefit them and them only. I believe that the Minister has seen the logic of that line of reasoning. It is not hard to understand. We have to take the present position and compare it with the proposed position in order to discover whether the pensioners will actually benefit from the proposal. The present position is that when the pensioner enters hospital, the department keeps his pension in hand for 28 days - it is important to remember that it is not forfeited - and thereafter, for the remainder of his inmatecy 14s. a week is paid by the department to the hospital for his maintenance.
– The amount is 15s. 9d. now.
– And will be 16s. 6d. when this bill is passed.
– I thank the honorable members, but the actual amount is hardly the point at issue. For the first month the pensioner is guaranteed free hospital treatment. That is not speculation, it is certainty.
– Why ?
– Because the department keeps his pension in hand.
– But what prevents the hospital from charging him ?
– The majority of the pensioners could not possibly pay.
– But they could be charged when again in receipt of the pension.
– That is the point to which I am coming. Under the present scheme the pensioner is treated free for 28 days. On the Minister’s own figures, which I take it are supplied by his department, 70 per cent, of the pensioner inmates remain in hospital for less than 28 days. Thus they receive free treatment.
– Free as far as the Government is concerned, but they may pay something of their own volition.
– Owing to the overcrowding of hospitals, pensioners, like other people, are not completely cured when they leave hospital, and when a pensioner leaves hospital at the end of 28 days, and when he needs money most, the Pensions Department pays to him £4 14s. of accumulated pension. The practice of the department when a pensioner dies in hospital is to pay to those responsible for his burial all arrears of pension owing to him, and that practice bas saved many a pensioner the ignominy of a pauper’s burial. The second advantage of the present scheme is that after 28 days the pensioner’s contribution to the hospital is fixed by law and he cannot be charged any more than that amount. As the Minister- has pointed out, only 30 per cent, of the pensioners remain in hospital for more than 28 days. Thus only 30 per cent, of the pensioners who need hospital treatment lose that 14s. 6d..out of their pensions. Honorable members will therefore see from the Minister’s own statement that the great majority of pensioners gain something from the legislation at present on the statute-book in that they lose none of their pension if they remain in hospital for 28 days or less, and only 30 per cent, ultimately have something deducted from their pension every week after the first 28 days. Now, it is proposed to pay the pensioner right through his sickness in hospital, and it is added that the pensioner is to make his own arrangements with thi.’ hospital. According to the Minister, certain hospitals have signified their desire not to collect their share of the pension payable after a pensioner has been in hospital for more than 28 days.
Those hospitals are situated at Maitland, Kurri Kurri, Rylestone, Canberra, Mareeba, Wallsend, Newcastle and Cessnock. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that of those eight hospitals six are situated in the Newcastle district and are largely maintained by the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation. I have not the least doubt that that body has played a noble part in procuring free treatment for the pensioners, but one swallow does not make a summer. There are at least 600 registered hospitals in Australia and only eight of them have signified that they do not desire to collect money from the pensioners. It is a significant fact that the Minister has said that those hospitals do not desire to collect this money because of the trouble involved in checking the dates when pensioners enter and leave the hospital and because the settling of arguments between the hospital authorities and pensioners is more than :he money is worth. The hospitals in effect say, “ We do not want the money because it is not worth haggling about “. Only 30 per cent, of the pensioner patients remain in hospitals for more than four weeks, and it is only with them that the hospitals are concerned. But to-day hospitals throughout Australia are in pecuniary difficulties and ure constantly badgering the State governments for cash contributions. I think I am entitled to say that I suspect that immediately a hospital knows that :i pensioner has at his disposal 2i5s. a week ill the time he is a patient it will look to him for some contribution for the whole period of his inmatecy. Like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) [ have also received a telegram from the honorary general secretary of the Oldage and Invalid Pensioners Association in the following terms: -
Expect Labour party support clause relating to non payment to hospital on pensions . . .
There is no doubting the implication. It is apparent that the person who sent the telegram thinks that by reason of this amendment a pensioner will not be called upon to pay hospital fees. If that is her view I think she is deceiving herself. It is a cruel deception to make pensioners believe that if the amendment be agreed to they will be freed of the obligation to pay hospital fees.
– I do not think pensioners are so silly as that.
– I welcome the interjection because it indicates that the honorable gentleman understands that the amendment does not clear the way. The Minister said, “I believe that as a result of this alteration hospitals will actually get more than before “. If the hospitals are to get more the pensioners will have to pay more. Those who believe that the amendment will open the way to free hospital treatment for all pensioners are not only deceiving themselves but are also deceiving the persons most vitally concerned - the pensioners. I hope that the scheme will be given a fair trial. The Minister has said that he does not look upon the amendment as something permanent and unchangeable. If this legislation leads to hospitals dunning pensioners for hospital treatment for the period in which they do not pay at present. I shall do everything possible to assist the Minister to repeal the clause and remedy the position.
– When speaking on Friday last I asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) whether the State Governments had been approached for their views on this subject. I received no reply and during the week-end I ascertained that the Sotith Australian Government had not been approached. I presume, therefore, that other State Governments had not been approached. The South Australian Government’s view waa that its costs would be increased because hospitals would not have an ascertainable amount allowed to them in respect of oldage pensioners in hospitals and that it was only fair that they should receive their contributions from the time the pensioner entered hospital and not from 28 days afterwards. The point made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is a good one, namely, that many country hospitals which, under the bill are to be prevented from receiving anything definite from old-age pensioners, have had no opportunity to express their views on the proposal. No South Australian hospital in city or country, so far as I know, has expressed its view in favour of the change and that seems to me a good reason for voting against the clause. The Minister has said that he thinks that hospitals will benefit materially by the change.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister did not contradict the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) when he repeated those very words which he said the Minister had used. I do not think that the Commonwealth Government should impose added costs on either city or country hospitals at present - costs which they will not be able to carry without grave financial difficulty to themselves.
.- I speak again on this clause to clear up certain matters mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley. The honorable member claims that the pensioner has a greater need for the accumulated 28 days payment when he is being discharged from hospital than while he is an inmate. I hold the reverse opinion. A pensioner cannot save anything out of his pension to make provision for the clothing necessary when he is entering a hospital for treatment, and in respect of most pensioners, the relatives, if any, are not in a position to buy such needs. Under the State law no New South Wales hospital can refuse to treat a person in indigent circumstances, and before any person can obtain a pension he must be in indigent circumstances. It is useless for any honorable member to talk of hospitals making exorbitant charges for treatment of pensioners. A hospital cannot get money from people who have none. It is freely admitted that the move for this amendment originated in New South Wales. The State Minister for Health (Mr. Kelly) and Mr. Brown, who has frequently presided at hospital conferences in New South Wales, support the proposal and desire to make the principle which obtains in certain parts of the State general throughout the State. If it is to apply in New South Wales it should apply throughout the Commonwealth. This move may lead to the general application of a humane system which originated in New South Wales from hospital committees that would spurn payment for treatment of pen sioners. Do honorable members believe in free hospital treatment of pensioners? I ask that they answer that question in their own minds, and then vote on the clause as their conscience dictates. If honorable members believe that old people in the evening of their lives, people who have suffered privation and want in the development of the country, are not worthy of free hospital treatment, they will oppose the clause. But if they favour the principle of free treatment 1 ask them to follow the line set by district hospitals on the coal-fields, and in Newcastle. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) did not mention the hospitals at Wollongong and Lithgow. It should be the aim of the Commonwealth to take charge of all social services, but apart from administering social service legislation, what does the Minister for Health do? The control of the general health of the citizens of the Commonwealth should be undertaken by a centrallycontrolled office, by one organization in charge of the Commonwealth Minister for Health; control should not be divided throughout the various States. I hope that this bill is the forerunner of other social service legislation. The proposal in clause 12 should not be temporary, and I trust that honorable members who have expressed concern about the possibility of pensioners being robbed by hospital committees will soon advocate the extension of what is being done on the northern coal-fields as well as in other parts of New South Wales.
, - I have indicated previously that this clause is one of the few provisions in the bill about which I am not enthusiastic. My diffidence was noi motivated by views expressed by Opposition members, but because I share the fear expressed by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that there is a real danger that this provision will operate to the detriment of pensioners generally. If there is anything in the statement of the Minister thai possibly the hospitals will benefit, then it is inevitable that this must be at thi1 expense of the pensioners. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. .Tames) seems to be deluding himself into the belief that this is a deliberate and definite provision to free old-age pensioners from any hospital charges. Of course, that is not so.
– It is an attempt to clear the deck for future action.
– The honorable member has mentioned a list of hospitals which have indicated that they would prefer to have no right to charge old-age pensioners for treatment received. I must point out, however, that with one exception all the hospitals mentioned are in mining districts in the north, the west, and the south of New SouthWales. In most of those districts the majority of pensioners are associated with the hospital fund conducted by the miners’ federation, and are entitled to hospital treatment under that scheme. It is not. difficult to understand that the authorities of such hospitals do not want to be bothered about collecting subscriptions from pensioners who are outside those funds. The only exception in the list of hospitals mentioned is the Canberra Hospital, but a hospital tax is imposed in Canberra under which every one is entitled to admittance to the hospital under certain conditions. One of my grounds for favouring the amendment is that the existing provision discriminates against pensioners. In no other case does the Commonwealth Government underwrite the hospital fees or any portion of the hospital fees of persons who receive money from the Government. We do not presume to underwrite such fees in respect of public servants who may have to enter hospitals for treatment. No one would dream of suggesting that an amount should be abstracted from the fortnightly pay envelope of a public servant in order that it might be forwarded to a hospital. The Commonwealth Government pays pensions other than those provided for under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Would any one suggest that a soldier’s pension, or a superannuated public servant’s pension, should be subject to deduction for hospital fees? We do not say to such a person : “ If you enter a hospital for treatment we shall pay a part of your pension to the hospital.” I support the clause.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Guy.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 13 (Pensions of aboriginal natives).
– At first sight it might be thought that this clause is discriminatory. This is an entirely new provision, which enlarges the field of invalid and old-age pensioners in that provision is made for the payment of pensions to aborigines. Authority is given to the Commissioner of Pensions to direct that the payment of the pension may be made to some person other than the pensioner or to certain specified authorities, for the benefit of the pensioner. That discretionary power does not apply to pensions paid to aborigines of the South Pacific, for example. The reason for it in this case is that it is necessary to meet exceptional cases, as when aborigines are under part-time control at mission stations or otherwise, or when they go “ walkabout “. The explanation given by the Minister to justify the granting of this discretionary power seems satisfactory, and I shall therefore support the clause.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [9.0 J .- Aborigines are now to receive assistance from the Government. As the Minister knows is the case in connexion with another matter concerning which I have had some conversations with him, there are institutions responsible for the care of aborigines which receive a grant from a hospitals and charities board in Victoria, yet whilst the aboriginal will receive a pension from the Commonwealth, the board, claiming that its grants are . made in accordance with the needs of the institutions, will deduct an equivalent amount from the contribution that it normally makes. There should be a provision which would ensure that these institutions shall not be deprived of their normal grants. I consider that the natives should have their pensions, and that the institutions should continue to receive their grants. I know what has happened in connexion with the payment of child endowment, and I am afraid that in at least one State the benefit conferred may not be what is in tended by the Commonwealth Government; that Commonwealth money will be paid to the aboriginal inmates of institutions and the State government will save an equivalent amount by means of a diminution of the grant that it makes. I do not know how the difficulty might bc overcome; but the Minister cannot leave the matter to the Charities Board of Victoria, and be certain that the payment of the pension will confer an additional benefit on the inmates of those institutions.
I have very little to say in regard to the power proposed to be given to the Commissioner to determine the rate of pension payable. Any applicant who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Commissioner should have the right of appeal to the Minister. It ought to be recognized as a principle that the aborigine who is to receive a pension is entitled to the full amount payable to any white person; that the discretionary power given to the Commissioner should not be absolute, but should be conditioned by the right of appeal to the Minister by an unsuccessful applicant.
With these observations, I commend the clause. I hope that the Minister will try to find some means of preventing State governmental authorities which distribute public money from benefiting al the expense of the Commonwealth, as ha.happened in the matter of child endowment.
.- Thenare detribalized natives in addition to those referred to by the honorable mem heifer Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) who “ walkabout “ at times. Particularly in my electorate, there are several mission stations on which detribalized natives are farming. Their homes arcwithin the mission area. Some of th-1 natives are most competent workers, an i during the shearing season move from place to place. The Minister should have inserted in the bill a definition in regard to payment, in order that detribalized natives may receive the full pension and those who are not completely civilized a corresponding amount. I have mpi several natives who are highly educated to at least the standard of the average white person, and in some instances to a higher standard. They dress in the type of clothing provided for whites, and eat the same sort of food I have always advocated that during their old age they should receive consideration equal to that given to white persons. J should like the Minister to state whether he will consider giving to detribalized natives the full pension,
– The treatment of aborigines has already been dealt with in the measure relating to child endowment. In all measures relating to social services, certain aborigines are to be treated on exactly the same basis as other members of the community. In South Australia, there is a number of natives who are living under civilized conditions and arc exempt from the laws of the State relating to aborigines. All such aborigines will be eligible for pensions, subject to the same means test as other persons. This clause seeks to empower the Commissioner of Pensions to use bis discretion as to whether the rate of pension payable to an aboriginal native of Australia shall be less than the maximum rate. “Where in the opinion of the Commissioner it is desirable to do so, he may direct that payment of the pension granted to an aborigine shall be made to an authority of the State or territory of the Commonwealth controlling the affairs of aborigines or to some other authority or person for the benefit of the pensioner. There is nothing in the clause to prevent the payment of the full pension direct to aborigines who, in the opinion of the department, are able to use the money in a proper manner.
– What about those who are receiving rations?
– They are included in this group.
– The committee having made a wrong decision, my aim is to ensure that what is done will be as reasonable as it can be made. The Minister is on the right track in what he is now doing. T point out to the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) especially, that in these cases a mission may handle the money or it may be handled by some authority in the district; for example, in certain parts of my electorate, there are many aborigines who could make a good living even if they merely caught sufficient fish for those who need it on Fridays. In such cases, it might be possible to select some authority like the local district council, or the police, to look after the matter. The Government is taking the course that will result in the best use being made of the money allocated for a purpose of which I do not approve. The matter could be made perfect only if it had retrospective operation to the time of the landing of Captain Cook. Beyond that, I am quite in accord with the matter as it stands.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 (Suspension of pension while pensioner in hospital for the insane).
– The provision contained in this clause is the only blot on the measure. It is not new, but on the contrary has been continuous since the initiation of the pensions scheme. I refer to the treatment of inmates of mental hospitals. The exact text of the amendment submitted by the Government proposes merely to alter the name of these institutions from “ mental asylum “ to “ hospital for the insane “. I wish that the amendment went further, and placed inmates of such hospitals on exactly the same basis as the inmates of other hospitals. When this legislation is adopted, inmates of general hospitals will receive their pensions in full, whilst inmates of benevolent homes and government institutions for the aged will receive a pension of 8s. 6d. a week, the balance being paid to the institution. Aborigines of the Pacific Islands will receive a full pension. Only inmates of mental hospitals will still be legislated against. Under the pensions legislation a pension is suspended immediately a pensioner enters a mental hospital, and continues in suspense until he or she leaves the institution, possibly many years hence. One of the arguments that could be, and is, advanced for perpetuating that blot is that, whereas residence in an ordinary hospital is generally of short duration, the reverse is the case in connexion with mental hospitals, the patients frequently being inmates for long periods. That is a very good argument for the payment of the pension during such long residence. The burden of maintaining an inmate of a mental institution is not shifted off the shoulders of his or her family and relatives. Indeed, the lunacy authorities are much more insistent on claiming maintenance than is the general run of hospital boards. Another argument - I believe that it was used by the Minister in favour of continuing the existing practice - is that the can; of the mentally afflicted is essentially a responsibility of State governments. So is the care of aborigines: yet the Commonwealth has accepted a share of the responsibility. So was the care of children; yet, under the Commonwealth child endowment scheme, the Commonwealth Treasury has assumed that responsibility. I hope that this trend towards assumption by the Commonwealth of responsibility for social services will continue, and that it will correct the existing unfair discrimination against the men tully afflicted. Why a pensioner with a broken skull, upon entering a hospital, should suffer no diminution of his pension, whereas one with a broken brain should have his pension suspended, is beyond my understanding. I ask the Minister to give very serious consideration to the position with a view, if the result is favorable, to having a remedy applied when the measure is being considered in the Senate.
– I admit that I am not able to understand the reason for the difference in the wording of clauses 14 and 15. In clause 14, it is proposed to strike out the word “ asylum “ and substitute for it the words “ hospital for the insane “. In clause 1.5, “ asylum “ is retained in the phrase “ inmate of a benevolent asylum “. What is the objection to the word “ asylum “ when preceded by the adjective “ insane “, when there is no objection, apparently, to the word when it is preceded by the adjective “ benevolent “. The word “ asylum “ is, I believe, of Greek origin, and means merely a place of refuge. So far as I know, there is no stigma attaching to the word.
– It has been done for the sake of uniformity.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 18 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the30th April (vide page 710), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That thebill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to make maternity allowances payable to aborigines living under certain approved conditions, and is in line with the policy of this Government, and of the previous Government, to remove disqualifications on aborigines in such circumstances. The bill also proposes to exclude from the calculation of the income of the family unit the earnings of a girl prior to her marriage. As the act stands, if a girl who was employed and earning an income marries during the accounting year, her income up to the time of her marriage is reckoned in with the aggregate income of husband and wife in order to determine whether the family is entitled to any allowance. I have no objection to either of the proposed amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to-
That itis expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes ofa bill for an act to amend the Maternity Allowance Act 1912-1937.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th April (vide page 710), on motion by Mr. Holloway-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I do not expect this measure to occupy the attention of. the House for very long, though one of the Government’s proposals merits close analysis. The bill proposes to include among the beneficiaries of endowment those children who are maintained out of the funds of the estate of a deceased parent. Under the act as it now stands, payments cannot be made in those circumstances, and the purpose of the amendment is to correct an inequality. It is also provided in the bill that endowment may be paid in respect of children when the mother and father are separated, and some of the children are living with one parent and some with the other. To that proposal there can be no objection. Exception can be taken, however, to the proposal that in future endowment shall be paid to the inmates of Statemaintained institutions. The present act excludes from endowment children in institutions substantially or wholly maintained by Commonwealth or State funds. The bill proposes to remove that disqualification in respect of some institutions, and now excludes only such children as are inmates of mental hospitals. This, at least, is consistent with the proposal to which I objected in a previous measure, but that does not make it any more acceptable to me, or any more just. If it be true that mentally afflicted children are essentially the responsibility of the State government, surely the same argument applies to children in State orphanages. I cannot see any reason for the discrimination. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to consult with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) so that wiser counsels may prevail, and this inequality - because that is what it is - may be corrected when the bill is before the Senate.
– in reply - When the Government proposals are properly understood I do not think that there will be any objection to them. I cannot visualize children being in an asylum and entitled to endowment. When we speak of the inmates of hospitals for the insane, we have in mind adults. A person in an insane asylum could not be paid a pension because it would be of no use to him. A bill which will come before the House shortly will provide that the wife of a man in an insane asylum shall be regarded as a widow, and entitled to a widow’s pension. That will provide for the dependants of insane persons.
– But children are specifically excluded from the benefits of the act. There are children in insane asylums, and the parents have to maintain them.
– It is a father’s duty to maintain his children whether they be in an asylum or not.
– Yes, but a pension is payable in respect of invalid children who are not in an insane asylum, even though the father be alive.
– This matter has been very carefully considered, and the proposal is regarded as just.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Child Endowment Act 1941.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed)
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section four of the principalact is amended -
by omitting from the definition of “ institution “ the words “ charitable institution or organization “ (second occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “ hospital for theinsane”; and
Section proposed to be amended -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ institution “ means a charitable institution or organisation(not being a charitable institution or organization maintained by the Commonwealth or a State or mainly dependent upon financial assistance from the Commonwealth or a State approved by the Minister :
Amendment (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That paragraph (b) of clause 3 be left out with a view to insert in lien thereof the following paragraph : - “ (b) by omitting the definition of ‘ institution’ and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “ institution “ means a charitable institution or organization (including a charitable institution or organization maintained by the Commonwealth or a State) approved by the Minister, hut does not include a hospital for the insane maintained by the Common wealth or aState or mainly dependent upon financial assistance from the Commonwealth or a State; ‘; “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 13 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1942.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 30th
April (vide page 713), on motions by Mr. Chifley -
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolutions adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Frost do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave. - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions in regard to the first and second readings, committee’s report stage, and third readings, being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Bills, Nos. 1 to 9. and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first and second time.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether the committee is considering Sales Tax Bill (No. 1) 1942?
– We areconsidering Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9).
– A sausage machine does not work faster than this chamber does. These bills were introduced only a few moments ago, but without a word of explanation by the Treasurer, they passed the introductory and second-reading stages.
– The resolutions were explained on the 30th April.
– These bills, which impose sales tax at the rate of 25 per cent. upon certain goods, arrived only a moment ago. I do not object to the committee making progress, but this is mass production with a vengeance.
– It has been the practice to deal withSales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) concurrently.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; reports adopted.
Bills read a third time.
Australian Army: Colour Patches - coal-mining Industry : Stoppages of Work - Call-up of Fishermen - Child Endowment: Inmates of Institutions - Power Kerosene.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Twice by questions without notice and once on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I asked the Minister forthe Army (Mr. Forde) to announce the decision of the Government regarding the right, of certain troops to wear the grey colour patch, which is the distinguishing mark of the Australian Imperial Force. I informed the Minister that members of an artillery unit in Queensland, who had enlisted for service in Australia and abroad, had been ordered to remove from their tunics the colour patch of the Australian Imperial Force. That these men remained in Australia was not their choice. They wished to be despatched overseas, but considerations of defence demanded their retention in Australia. The Minister for the Army had informed rne previously that last weekend he would discuss with General Sir Thomas Blarney, General Officer Commanding the Allied Land Forces in the South Pacific area, the advisability of permitting these men to wear the colour patch of the Australian Imperial Force. As the troops affected were greatly disturbed by the order, I ask the Minister whether he hasyet reached a decision. If he has not, I urge him to expedite his consideration of the case, and permit these particular men to wear the distinguishing colour patch.
.- I regret that earlier to-day I was refused leave to reply to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) about the coal-mining industry, with which about 80 per cent, of my electors are connected. Attacks upon the coalminers from Opposition members are .to be expected, but it hurts me to hear them attacked by my own Prime Minister as the result of advice given to him by people whose sympathies do not lie with the Labour party and who were appointed by an anti-Labour government. I hope that the remarks which I am about to make will not mislead the miners into believing that they are justified in all their stoppages, but the knowledge [ gained while assisting the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) during his recent mission to the coal-fields showed that 90 per cent, of the stoppages are owing to the mineowners and not to the men, and it hurts me deeply that the miners have to take all the blame. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is beginning to believe that the miners are always responsible. Every time .the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) bas attacked the miners in this chamber, the Prime Minister has sat through his speech and has then immediately left and has never yet heard the case for the miners put by me as their representative. I know that the Prime Minister is a busy man, but with all respect I contend that he ought to be prepared to listen to what I have to say on their behalf. I know the miners’ bighear.ted patriotism. The coal-owners have not contributed nearly so much manpower or money to the war effort as have their employees. The coal-miners should not be called upon to make all the sacrifices necessary to ensure peace in industry. Recently I was called upon to preside over a conference between the miners and the management of the Australian Iron and Steel Company Limited, an offshoot of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which committed a distinct breach of an agreement by declining to continue the custom of paying a yardage rate which bad prevailed for many years.
The miners were threatened with the imposition of penalties under Statutory Rule No. 77 if they stopped work as a result of the dispute. I have with me the official record of that conference. I recommended the prosecution of the company, but nothing came of it. The Prime Minister is reported in the Argus of the 10th April as having said -
Men or women who so hold up production were just as much traitors to Australia an were soldiers who deserted in the face of the enemy.
– Hear, hear !
– Yes, but the honorable gentleman’s applause would be more to the point if it applied to a similar statement made about the coal-owners. Every time the workers cease work because the owners commit a breach of an agreement there is a hue and cry by honorable members opposite and the press, and the application of Statutory Rule No. 77 to the miners is demanded, but when it is proved that the owners are to blame,, there is not the slightest suggestion that it ought to be used against them.
I am fully conversant with the Millfield Greta colliery dispute, over which the present trouble has occurred. A great deal of the trouble in the coal-mining industry is owing to the change of the system of production. Mechanization has displaced men and cheapened production at the expense of the workers and enhanced the dividends of the owners. Owing to the cheaper cost, notwithstanding the reduced production, profits have risen. Men accustomed to receiving £2 or £2 10s. a clay have since mechanization has taken place had their earnings reduced to £1 10s. 3d. a day. Mr. Connell, who was appointed by a previous government chairman of the local reference board - a man who has worked in no other industry than the coal-mining industry - who is the holder of a second-class manager’s certificate, who has been a miner’s check inspector for years and a man of whom the owners thought so much that they gave him the job of managing a mine at Cullen Bullen in the western district, gave a decision in regard to the Millfield colliery. The coal-owners appealed to the Central Reference Board with the result that Mr. Council’s decision was upset. By the award of Judge Drake-Brockman this anomalous position was created: Colliery A and colliery B work in similar conditions on the same seam of coal and to the same boundary, the barrier of 22 yards of coal left for safety purposes. Yet in colliery A the wheelers wheeling off the mechanical loader are paid £1 6s. lid. a day, and in colliery B only £1 3s. 3d. I defy anybody to give to me a reason why men doing precisely the same work in similar circumstances should receive different rates of pay, yet Judge Drake-Brockman, who does not understand mining, has decreed that this differentiation shall obtain.
Another trouble is the method of selecting men for work on the mechanical loader. It is the custom for men to be selected for promotion in accordance with seniority. Judge Drake-Brockman gave to the manager the right to select whom he likes, and if he does not like the colour of a man’s politics or hair , that man, notwithstanding his seniority, will be passed over. The miners have always fought for the maintenance of the seniority right because it cuts both ways. Men are retrenched and re-engaged in accordance with seniority. At one time the mineowners were able to victimize men they did not like. The seniority principle safeguards the miners against this.
The Prime Minister spoke of the peace existing in the coal industry in other States. I have worked in the coal-mining industry in other States. I have worked in the Collie district in Western Australia. The mines in the Collie district and in Queensland are mere holes in the ground compared with the mines on the coal-fields of New South Wales, and the output of one mine in my district would, in one day, be more than ten times as much as a Collie mine or a Queensland mine would produce in a week. Furthermore, one finds in those small mines that the owners and the men fraternize. There is no social barrier which prevents the miners from going to a bowling green, club or social gathering because the boss is there, but in NewSouth Wales that barrier is unbreakable. I was in Collie for five years, for four of which I was an official of i he union, and in all that time I saw only one stoppage of three days’ duration.
Mr. J am en.
Why? Simply because the boss and the men could fraternize. In the New South
Wales coal-fields there is a bitterness and hostility between the men and the managers and owners. I shall not weary the House by repeating what I had to say on a former occasion about how a grievance held by the Collie miners regarding underground transport was settled by my referring it to the Coal Commissioner. That transport, which enables the miners to spend a longer period on the coal-face, thereby increasing production, was granted on the 9th April, but the Australian Iron and Steel Company Limited, refuses to provide transport for the men underground. That does not tend to produce harmony in the coal-mining industry. [Extension of lime granted.”] Miners in the smaller mines of Queensland are able to fraternize with the owners and managers, and are a happy family. Unfortunately, a similar state of affairs does not exist in the larger mines in New South Wales - the miners and the managers are in separate classes, distrustful of each other. The Prime Minister has said that the miners must obey the decision of the umpire and return to work under whatever conditions the referee desires to impose. I do not attempt to ridicule His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman, but ho does not understand coal-miners or their industry, and should not have the power to override the judgment of a man like Connell, who has spent a lifetime in the industry. His Honour is a reject of the Senate, and is a man who has represented the Employers Federation.
– The honorable member must not criticize members of the judiciary.
– -The present dispute about which the Prime Minister proposes to invoke regulation 168 was brought about by a decision of His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman. For twelve months the men have been patiently awaiting the award, which was a review of an award issued by the chairman of the Local Reference Board, Mr. Connell, a man who understands coal-mining from A to 7j. Nothing could be more irritating to Hie miners than for the chairman of the Central Reference Board to say that the delay was due to stoppages of work, His Honour’s illness and other causes. The chairman continued -
This delay has also all been in favour of the men; they have had the benefit of the decision of the Local Reference Board, now under review at the instance of the employer, during the whole of that time.
His Honour showed how callous some people can be, when he said that the men shall no longer enjoy the decision of the chairman of the Local Reference Board. His Honour has created an anomaly to which I have already referred. “Why should all this trouble be blamed on the miners, when it must be freely admitted that the referee, through his gross ignorance of the coal-mining industry, has made the error that appears in the award. U any honorable member were performing similar work to that of another man, would he not resent being paid 3s. 8d. a day less than that other man received ? Would not any man kick against such a decision? He would not be a good Australian if he did not. A man named Miller who owns the collieries at which the dispute occurred employs an advocate named Mr. Gregory Foster. That advocate when applying for the job was asked a question about his experience in coalmining. He replied that he had worked at a mine on the coast of New South Wales. He was then asked, “What lights did they use, safety or naked lights?” He replied, “Oh, I worked on the day shift “. He was so ignorant of the industry that he thought that men thousands of feet below the surface would be working in daylight! And he is the advocate for the owners. Some honorable members will remember that Mr. Miller, during the last general coal strike, defied the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), who was then Prime Minister, and said that he would not allow his mine to resume work under the terms of the settlement arrived at because he wanted something different. That is the mine-owner whom His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman is championing in this case. No one can deny the ability nf Mr. Connell, who understands mining. But because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) asked me to preside at miners’ conferences, or has presided at conferences himself, His Honour Judge Drake-Brockman said that if there was any more of it he would walk out of the job. I congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service on his good work. He has called a compulsory conference of miners and mineowners for to-morrow, at which he has asked Mr. Connell to preside. The man whose decision has been the subject of review will take the chair at this compulsory conference, and I hope that Mr. Connell will stand by his previous decision, that he will upset the unjust award of Judge Drake-Brockman, and that His Honour will carry out his threat to walk out of the job. We would welcome his leaving.
– I direct the attention of the Government to a matter associated with a strike in the coal industry. I regret that I am compelled to take advantage of the Standing Orders of the House to make this statement in the unavoidable absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who, I am aware, is away on important Government business. I should have preferred him to be in attendance while I make this speech. I take the opportunity to express my appreciation of the frankness with which the Prime Minister dealt earlier to-day with the position in the coal industry. Opposition members and all other responsible people of Australia will welcome the Prime Minister’s emphatic declaration that if the miners do not return to work the Government will invoke all its authority to compel them to return. Indeed, this war is being waged as a fundamental necessity to maintain, retain and sustain constitutional authority. The Prime Minister this afternoon said that the Government had directed that the men who submitted their dispute to the tribunal established for the settlement of disputes should abide by the finding and go back to work. He said that they should go back and produce coal in accordance with the decision of the umpire. Again, the right honorable gentleman has the wholehearted support of Opposition members, and we shall cooperate with the Government to the fullest extent in this matter. Opposition members will also associate themselves with the disciplining of mine-owners should they do anything that is not in the best interests of Australia.
– Opposition members did nothing like that in 1929, when they were on the treasury benches.
– In the light of the Prime Minister’s statement 1 was surprised to hear the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) confirm advice which I have just received from Sydney that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has instructed the chairman of the Maitland Local Reference Board, Mr. Connell, to call a compulsory conference for tomorrow.
– Hear, hear !
-The secretary to the Northern Collieries Association, Mr. Gregory Foster - whose name was mentioned previously by the honorable member for Hunter - to-day received the following telegram from Mr. Connell: -
In pursuance of ministerial direction you are hereby summoned to attend a compulsory conference at11 a.m., Thursday 14th, at 3rd Floor, C.M.L. Building, 72 Hunter-street, Newcastle.
In view of the emphatic declaration of the Prime Minister setting out the decision of the Government this Parliament, as the responsible constituted authority for the adequate government of Australia, must face the following facts: The chairman of the Central Coal Reference Board made his award on Monday, the 4th May; on Wednesday, the 6th May, theMillfield-Greta miners criticized the award and went on strike. The Government on Monday last, through the instrumentality of the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Norman Mighell, invoked Statutory Rule No. 168. To-day, we heard a clear, unequivocal declaration by the Prime Minister on this subject. I should like to ask the Government, through the representative of the Prime Minister at present in the chamber, whether he is aware that a compulsory conference has been called by Mr. Connell for to-morrow morning by direction of the Minister for Labour and National Service? By what authority does the Minister resort to what appears to be an action deliberately designed to overcome the finding of His Honour
Judge Drake-Brockman, and the Prime Minister’s own emphatic declaration of to-day, which, I repeat has the wholehearted support and co-operation of the Opposition?
– I can understand the disappointment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) at the action of the Government in once again foiling their endeavours to foster and ferment industrial troubles in this country.
– The Prime Minister made a very definite statement on the matter to-day.
– In such matters the facts are what we want. It is true that a conference has been convened. I should prefer to have a conference -which, in my opinion, will bring about a satisfactory settlement of the dispute rather than risk industrial turmoil throughout the coalfields. Despite the criticism that has been levelled against me, at least I am getting results.
– With 1,600 men out on strike !
– Let me examine that statement a little further. I propose to read a message which I havejust received. As a result of the endeavours that I have made, along with my esteemed colleague the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who has given me invaluable aid in these matters, the Millfield-Greta men met to-night, and with only three dissentients have agreed to resume work in the morning.
– As a result of the Prime Minister’s declaration.
-I was amazed to hear, along with the message that I have just read, that when the lodge officials approached the mine management, notifying their intention to resume work in the morning, they were advised by the management that the mine was not ready to resume. On this occasion it is evident that it is not the men who are holding up production. The Leader of the Opposition had a good deal to say about what; he described as an endeavour to override a decision given by Judge Drake-Brockman, chairman of the Central Reference Board. I advise the honorable gentleman to make himself a little more conversant with his brief before raising such issues in the House, no doubt upon information supplied by Mr. Gregory Foster.
– I do not know the man. I have neverseen him in my life.
– The decision was given by Judge Drake-Brockman on appeal. The only reason why the Central Reference Board had any authority in the matter was that the case had remained in abeyance for twelve months before a decision was given. Had the decision of the Local Reference Board been given a month or so ago the Central Reference Board would have had no authority, because under the existing regulations the dispute would have remained a purely local one, and would have been dealt with and finally determined by the local reference board.
– Does the Prime Minister know that the honorable gentleman has called a compulsory conference for to-morrow ?
– I shall not be sidetracked by these jackals on the other side.
– It was a fair question.
– Order ! The Minister must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, and apologise to the jackals.
– The Minister must withdraw unconditionally.
– I withdraw. I make it clear that I am not questioning a decision made by any authority. It is not for me to question the decisions of appropriate authorities. The conference has been called for to-morrow in the hope that reasonableness will prevail. If I can secure peace in this industry, and save the Government from serious embarrassment, I consider that, as a member of the Government, it is my duty to do it. That is all I have done, and that is all I did previously, when the Opposition staged its attack upon the Government because it wanted a change of government and was anxious to see a national government in. office, in which some of its members would have portfolios. Through the newspapers honorable gentlemen opposite have fomented industrial trouble and exaggerated the importance of troubles that have arisen. They have been disappointed and, in fact, greatly annoyed, because the Government has been able to prevail upon the men to return to their employment. They are displaying their annoyance this evening simply because, after the declaration made this afternoon by the Prime Minister, they had begun to gloat over what had happened. They thought they saw another opportunity to put the Government in a position from which it would not be able to extricate itself. This Government has no desire to use coercion against the workers of this country, and it has again prevailed upon the men to return to their employment.
In conclusion, I make no apology for any action that I have taken in this matter.
– But the honorable gentleman will need to apologise to the Prime Minister to-morrow.
– If the members of the Opposition were less provocative in the statements they make in this Parliament and out of it, and if they were less ready to use the columns of the daily press for the purpose of venting their spleen against the workers of this country, and of trying to drive a wedge between the workers and the Labour Government, there would be more peace in industry, and we should be able to get on more effectively with our war effort. Any decision that I have made in the handling of this matter will, I am sure, meet with the full concurrence of my colleagues in the Government.
– Did the honorable gentleman’s action in calling a compulsory conference have the approval of the Prime Minister?
– I have the confidence of every member of the Government to such a degree that the friend of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Gregory Foster, appealed to the Prime Minister to do something to curb my activities, which, he said, were fomenting trouble on the coal-fields. It is also true that the spokesman of the Opposition - not the Canberra spokesman of the Government on this occasion - has indicated that if the Government will remove Ward as
Minister for Labour and National Service, numbers of members of the Opposition will be prepared to give it unqualified support. That is the word of the official spokesman of the Opposition. I hate to crash the hopes of the Opposition as frequently a3 they are crashed, but their campaign is not having any effect on the Labour party. My position has never been questioned, let alone challenged.
I now pay tribute to the coal-miners for the sensible attitude that they have adopted.
– In striking !
– I compliment the miners upon their decision to return to work. I regret that there have been any stoppages of work at the coal pits or elsewhere while the nation is in such a critical position. Every ton of coal is required! If members of the Opposition intend to play the game of party politics, and if they wish to use this situation for party advantage, they will not help the country. The Opposition has been feeding and encouraging discontent and fomenting trouble, not only on the coal-fields, but elsewhere in industry. The Government is confident that the coal-miners will continue to work, and that they will do their best to assist the Government. I ask my colleagues not to allow . themselves to be sooled on “ by members of the Opposition, or by the daily press of this country, to do things which, in their calmer moments, they must feel satisfied should not be done.
The conference has been summoned to meet at 11 a.m. to-morrow. I hope that when the parties assemble, there will be an exchange of views which will result in a settlement of this dispute. If the dispute be settled satisfactorily, it will deny to the Opposition an opportunity to gloat over the discomfiture of the Government, but it will also add to the achievements of the Government, and assist the country to make a maximum war effort.
. -I take the opportunity of the presence in the chamber of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), and the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), to read the following letter which I have received from a representative fisherman in East Gippsland, setting out clearly the difficulties facing the fishing industry owing to the depletion of labour supplies through the military call-up: -
I am writing you to explain our position here and trust you will spare me a few moments of your valued time.
We (I am speaking for the men of our crews) have been supplying the Melbourne market with thousands of cases of fish, and now, owing to the military call-up, our crews have been depleted to five men, and these are all ineligible. Therefore, the best and strongest of our crews have been taken from us, which will render us incapable of producing anything at all except in the calmest of weather.
Our crews consisted of twelve men and now we are only five, and, as I say, we are the ones not of any military service.
I will here explain th’e class of net fishing we do.
It is ocean surf salmon fishing and the boats are 26 feet in length, rowed by four large one-man oars or sweeps, the longest of which is 18 feet. This boat is rowed through the surf onto the ocean beach and when the net is hauled it is launched into the surf and off again, so you can understand that it needs strong and experienced men to do this class of work, otherwise there can easily be an accident with loss of Hie, which has happened before at Lakes Entrance. The man-power officer said we will have to get others, but that is a stupid statement, as he has already collected them, and it is not a job that any one can do. I was, myself, thrown out of the boat twice last week into the sea, and I don’t do those things for fun as three sharks had just passed us, but I am 52 and not as good on my feet as a younger man, although I have lived my life at the sea.
Now, Mr. Paterson, this is a national affair, and the food supply is becoming drastic, and when it comes to the losing of hundreds of tons of food for the sake of three men for the Army, I think it a national crime.
We are asking only for the release of the last three men which have been taken from us, and we will then be able to carry on.
It takes twelve men to handle all our gear, but we will have to lay some up, even if we get the three back.
There is no one else to take their place, as it needs experience, but the Army says they need soldiers. Someone else must provide the food. Now if they are going to smash industry in this manner and take all eligible men, it is nothing but sabotage.
We have applied to the man-power for the men we require, but they won’t heed us, although our Mr. Lind is doing his best for us. I trust you will sec this national loss and advise them to release our men.
I have sent a copy of this rather striking letter to the Minister for the Army, and I have also written to the Minister for Labour and National Service on tha subject. I refer to the matter in the i Louse because I should like a ruling from the Minister for the Army, or from any other Minister, concerning the position of the fishing industry in relation to exemptions. We were told only last week by the Minister for Labour and National Service that a blanket exemption from the tail-up had been granted to foodproducing industries, ls the fishing industry regarded as a food-producing industry, and is it covered by the general exemption announced last week? One of the three men referred to in the letter has not yet gone into camp. He has been called up for the 23rd May. The other two men have gone into camp. I supposed, from what the Minister said last week, that the exemptions in primary food-producing industries had been granted from the date on which the announcement was made. I trust that this uncertainty will be cleared up at once. I have obtained the names, numbers and units of the two men already in the forces the release of whom is sought, and 1 shall hand them to the Minister. I hope that he will take into consideration not only those particular cases but also the position of the fishing industry generally and that the Government will realize that, if fish is to be produced in the quantity in which it was produced in the past, there will need to be not only a halt in the calling up of able-bodied fishermen, without whose work such production cannot continue, but also the release of some already called up.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Social Services and Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) to the anomalous position in Victoria in respect of child endowment payments to children in charitable institutions.
When the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), as Minister for Social Services, introduced the child endowment bill last year, he said that children in charitable institutions would receive child endowment; further, that it was not the intention of the Commonwealth Government that any State government should deprive an institution in receipt of child endowment payments of any amount that it previously received by way of a grant from a hospital and charities fund. Unfortunately, in
Victoria, despite the statement of the Minister and the intention of the Government of that day - which I believe to be the intention of the present Government - the Charities Board of Victoria i? deducting from its annual grants sum? approximately equal to the amounts which such institutions are receiving by way of child endowment. Under the bil! which this House passed to-night, even government institutions will in future receive the benefit of child endowment payments. Action has to be taken by means of legislation or regulation in order to restrain the Charities Board of Victoria from proceeding to defeat the objects of Commonwealth legislation and show a profit on the activities of the Commonwealth Departments of Health and Social Services.
The Child Endowment Act 1941, provided for the payment of 5s. a week to non-government institutions, such a.» orphanages and the like, for each child under the age of sixteen years, living a3 an inmate therein. Prior to the beginning of the current financial year, th, Charities Board of Victoria had been authorizing the payment of grants o1’ varying amounts to many of these institutions. Shortly after their receipt t-t the first payment under the Child Endowment Act the board, in November, 1941. forwarded a letter to a number of institutions, in the following terms : -
You are aware that your quarterly instalments of grants from hospitals and charities fund have not been released this financial year, and no doubt you appreciate the desire of the Charities Board to review the effect of payments under the terms of the Child Endowment Act of the Commonwealth of Australia before doing so.
Now that information is available showing the approximate payments which your committee should receive from child endowment funds, the Charities Board has decided that it will not in future recommend regular grant? from hospitals and charities fund.
The Charities Board does not wish it to be understood that assistance from hospitals and charities fund is now entirely withdrawn: on the contrary, if your organization is experiencing any financial difficulty and submits full information stating the reasons or wishes t.o obtain help for any special purpose, the board will at all times be .prepared to give careful consideration to any application made.
The effect of this letter was the cancellation of the grants previously made, although there was an attempt to qualify the board’s decision by suggesting that, if financial difficulties were experienced in the future, “careful consideration would be given to any application that was made “. Two or three days after this letter was forwarded, a public protest was made by Mr. Cremean, M.L.A., at a function held at Broadmeadows Foundling Hospital. In consequence, Mr. McVilly, the secretary to the board, prepared a reply which was given to the press by the chairman of the board on the 24th November, 1941. The following is an extract from it, published in the Melbourne Herald of that date: -
The grant from the fund to the institutions in question exceeds £25,000, a year, and it scorns to the board that it would be inexcusable to ask the taxpayers to provide this sum annually unless there is ample evidence that it is needed. At present there is none-
Of course, in the eyes of the board, there was no need, when the Commonwealth Government was making the necessary provision -
The Charities Board is charged by Parliament with distributing the Hospitals a.nd Charities Fund, to take into account the financial position of any institution and the money likely to be contributed during the year, other than from the fund, and probable expenditure. We do not understand that Parliament desires us to allocate to any organization money which is not required for *it** purpose.
On the same date, the Victorian Ministry gave consideration to the matter, and decided that all applications for charities grants should be considered by the board on their merits, but that no account should be taken of child endowment payments when such consideration was being given. The Minister for Health and Social Services, in December, 1941, forwarded to Mr. Cremean, M.L.A., a letter in which he expressed entire disagreement with the attitude adopted by the Charities Board of Victoria. He went on to state that de Commonwealth Government was considering the extension of child endowment payments so as to cover the children in State institutions, but that the action of the Victorian body offered little encouragement to proceed with such a proposal. The full text of the letter was as follows : -
It must come as a very great shock to our Victorian people to read that the authorities controlling the Victorian Charities Board intend to discontinue the payment of grants to those institutions where the children are receiving the Commonwealth child endowment.
For myself, knowing what splendid work the Charities Board has done in co-operation with those Christian institutions which provide payments for children, thus bringing sunshine, health and some degree of pleasure to hundreds of our future men and women, I cannot help contemplating the unhappy results which assuredly must follow such a decision. Such an action would nullify that which, I am sure, we are desirous of doing towards improving the economic and social security of all our people, especially of those in the greatest need of our help.
If we in Australia really desire to gradually but surely increase the social security of the people, surely the only way is by all Federal, State and semi-public bodies working in harmony with each other so that real progress can be made. If we fail to do that, and I am sure we will not, then all out efforts at improving the lot of our worst placed people will be unavailing. It is particularly undesirable that any one particular body withdraw its support or fail to continue what it has been doing because some other authority tries to improve the conditions a little further.
Child endowment was meant to improve the lot of all children by adding to the wages of a family where there was more than one dependent child under the age of sixteen years. It has been accepted that the basic wage is sufficient to cover a family unit of three. Therefore, the child endowment was to be in addition to what the family received by way of income previously.
In addition, the Federal Government decided that child endowment should be’ paid in respect of all children in certain approved institutions and in cases where State aid is being paid to foster-mothers. These payments have been regarded by every one as an additional means of assisting those in needy circumstances, but they have not been regarded as sufficient to meet the real needs of the family, or of the homes in which they receive shelter.
In effect, child endowment was added in these cases in the manner it was, because it was felt necessary to give at least some amount of social security. If one authority reduces its assistance by an amount equal to the child endowment, there would be practically no social improvement at all, and much of the good it was anticipated would be done, will remain undone.
I am sure the Charities Board will remember the appeals which were made by members of all parties when the Child Endowment Bill was under discussion, that all State or semiState institutions should not withdraw any of the assistance and undermine the good work that they were doing prior to the inception of the endowment payments.
Early next year I hope to arrange a discussion with State governments on all matters regarding social security and that we will agree to dovetail our efforts in such a way that the maximum good is done for all members of the community.
In the meantime, I trust that the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, and the members of the Charities Board will continue the very excellent work that they have been doing in the past and permit those receiving State aid to retain the advantage of the federal child endowment, which really means a very great deal to the individuals concerned.
Let me say this too, that the Commonwealth Government has been giving consideration to extending the child endowment grant to inmates of all State institutions, but I can say with certainty, that if charitable grants are to be withdrawn as a result of child endowment payments, it would be no use the Commonwealth Government proceeding further in this matter.
With best wishes and hoping for a favorable review of the proposed action.
Mr. Cremean, M.L.A., made further personal representations to the Premier of Victoria, Mr. A. A. Dunstan, and the latter discussed the position with Mr. McVilly. As a result of these representations, the Charities Board, in December, 1941, again considered its decision, and a circular letter was forwarded to the affected institutions. In this, reference was made to the previous letter ofthe board, dated the 18th November. The board’s attitude wasreaffirmed, and forms were forwarded on which the institutions had to indicate the amounts they had received from various sources. The first source stated was child endowment. Judged by the whole of the evidence, it is obvious that the Charities Board of Victoria has set out to defeat the objects of Commonwealth legislation. A further letter was forwarded by the board on the 12th January, 1942. It contained a questionnaire relating to the possible costs of more intensive mothercraft, kindergarten, and other training. These institutions are not in receipt of very large funds, and arc always in financial difficulties. They had intended, with child endowment payments to provide more of the amenities of life for the unfortunate children who were in their charge. They have been prevented from engaging in more intensive mothercraft, kindergarten, and other training, by the niggardliness and contemptible meanness of the Charities Board of Victoria. Upon receipt of the replies, the board decided to revise its policy to some degree, as follows : -
Needless to say, the result of this alleged revision of policy has been that this year the board will pay out only a fraction of the amount that it paid by way of grants to institutions in 1940-41. In addition, institutions that havesome regard for their financial position are not likely to provide extra amenities out of their reserve funds, on the rather nebulous promise that a small proportion only of theextra cost involved would be met by way of grants. Broadmeadows Foundling Hospitalisagood example of the effect of the board’s policy. In 1940-41. that institution, which is the largest of its kind in the Commonwealth and caters for more than 250 children, received a grant of £2,500 from the Victorian Government. Child endowment payment.? probably amount to about £2,900 for the year. Had this amount been received in addition to the year’s ordinary income, proposals were afoot to give to the children more individual attention, which is a powerful factor in fostering their mental development A big extension of the hospital’s kindergarten work,and of its mothercraft work also, was contemplated. The grant has been reduced from £2,500 to £400. Although this would have met ordinary increases, costs have risen so sharply, recently, as to make it certain that it will not serve 50 per cent. of its purpose. This means, of course, that the children in the institution will have to forgo the amenities which child endowment would have provided if the Victorian Government grant had been maintained at its old rate. It is apparent that the Charities Board of Victoria does not understand the reason for which child endowment is payable; that is, to enable provision to be made for the child concerned, in addition to that which is possible from the existing income of the child’s guardian. The board considers child endowment to be merely a subsidy to the State Government, and puts itself in the same position as would be an employer who said to his employee, “I have been paying you £5 a week. I notice that, in future, you are to receive £1 a week as child endowment. Therefore, Ishall reduce your wages to £4 5s. a week.But as, with the addition of child endowment, you will, in future, receive a total amount of £5 5s. a week, you should be quite happy with the position. In fact, we shall both be happy, as you will be receiving 5s. a week more than previously, and I shall be saving 15s. a week”. If the Victorian attitude is correct, the Commonwealth should not pay child endowment to institutions. Would not a good deal of time and trouble be saved if a direct grant of the amount were made to Victorian consolidated revenue? Unfortunately, the Charities Board of Victoria almost completely dominates many of the Victorian charitable institutions, because of “ the power of the purse “, and it is well known that many of those institutions have been bluffed by the board into agreement with its proposal. This position is accentuated by the fact that the board pos- sessees sufficient powers - such as those of rigorous inspection, &c. - to make itself a complete nuisance to the institutions. Mr. McVilly is developing such Hitlerian tendencies that he is almost claiming the right to make the appointment of secretaries to all the hospitals in Victoria. It is obvious that something has to be done to destroy the power of the Charities Board of Victoria to frustrate the purposes of this Parliament. It has been making a profit of anything up to £15,000 a year out of child endowment since these payments were begun by the Commonwealth. I believe that I am entitled to ask what the Minister proposes to do. I am sure of his sympathy and of his disagreement with the attitude adopted by the board; but it is one thing to have sympathy, and another thing to do something. There is sufficient regulatory power which the Government might use in order to prevent the board from continuing its present practice. Is the Minister prepared to gazette an appropriate regulation to compel the board to continue to pay to these institutions the grants that it paid prior to the inauguration of a Commonwealth scheme of child endowment?
.-I desire to draw the attention of the Government to the need for rationing, or in some way controlling the use of power kerosene. I specify power kerosene because there is no reason why any restrictions should be placed upon kerosene used for fuel or lighting. Some time ago, I brought this matter before the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), and he then said that he saw no reason why action should be taken. Since then, the situation has changed for the worse. There is no doubt that the use of power kerosene is being abused. I have been told that a mixture of one part of benzol to three parts of kerosene makes a good fuel for an ordinary car, whilst a mixture of one part of petrol to two parts of kerosene is also quite effective. Of course, such practices are illegal, but they are extremely difficult to detect. We know that the importation of fuel for power purposes is difficult at the present time because of the shortage of shipping, and it is just as difficult to import kerosene as it is to import petrol. Both fuels are carried in the same kind of containers and in the same kind of ships. I suggest, first, that the Government might consider rationing the use of power kerosene. If it will not do that, I make an alternative suggestion that should appeal particularly to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). According to my information, the production of kerosene in the country of origin presents certain difficulties. It is easier to produce petrol than to divert the plant to the production of kerosene. Australia, relatively, and to some extent, absolutely, uses more kerosene than is used in any other country. I suggest that the Government might consider substituting the use of petrol for power kerosene, which is now mostly employed in primary production. The advantage from a defence point of view would be that, instead of having in the country large quantities of kerosene which is of no use for the propulsion of military trucks or tanks, we should have an additional quantity of petrol for use in an emergency. Of course, unless something were done about it, the primary producer would be called upon to pay more for the petrol than he now pays for kerosene. Therefore, I suggest that, if the Government thought my suggestion a good one, it might make up the difference to the primary producer by way of a subsidy, and the cost could be regarded as a contribution to national safety because it would ensure increased reserves of petrol in Australia.
.- In reply to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I must say it is very disappointing, not only to members of the Government, but also to the members of the Joint Committee on Social Security, to find that our efforts to improve the lot of persons on the lowest rung of the social ladder are being frustrated by the action of some States in withdrawing the assistance which they had hitherto been giving to those persons, simply because the Commonwealth has made some additional benefits available to them. The last Government, when it introduced child endowment, made it clear that the benefit was to be regarded as something in addition to anything which the recipients had been getting. The main argument in support of child endowment was that something should be done to assist the larger families which were not adequately provided for by the basic wage. State governments had been in the habit of making small grants to orphanages and to destitute families, and it was intended that the Commonwealth child endowment scheme should be something over and above what the States were already doing. Therefore, it is disappointing to find that our efforts are being stultified by the withdrawal of State grants to charitable institutions. What we are to do about it I do not know. Wecannot dictate to the States what they shall do, but I think that this matter is an appropriate one to include in the agenda for the next Premiers Conference.
– Action could be taken under regulations.
– That is a matter for the Attorney-General, and I do not wish to go into it now.
– The Legislative Council in Victoria would throw out any State legislation designed to improve the position.
-I know that, in many respects, the efforts of the Victorian Government are thwarted by the “ Slaughter-house “, as the Legislative Council is termed.
– The Government of Victoria would be pleased if the Commonwealth Government were to take action under appropriate regulations.
– The Government of Victoria has control over charitable institutions. I, myself, have gone to State Treasurers and induced them to make available large sums of money to those institutions for the relief of unemployment. I regard the action of which the honorable member has complained as inhuman, and as representing an outlook which is very much out of date.
. -in reply - The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has again asked that members of the Australian Imperial Force who did not leave Australia be allowed to retain their colour patches. This matter has also been mentioned by other honorable members. I said last week that I would have a conference with General Blamey, Commander-in-Chiefof the Allied Land Forces, South-west Pacific area, during the week-end. I did so, and I discussed the matter with him furtherin Canberra this afternoon.I shall be in a position to-morrow at question-time to make a statement covering the points raised by the honorable member.
We all realize how sincere is the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in his desire to help the coal-miners, but he was wrong in saying that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) attacked themthis afternoon. As a matter of fact, the position is just the reverse. The Prime Minister, in a well-reasoned and impartial statement, set out the case very clearly from the point of view of the Government. In the declaration which hemade he had the backing of his Cabinet.
– And ofthe majority of the miners, too.
– Yes, I believe that an overwhelming majority of the miners support him. The remarks of the honorable member for Hunter and of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) will be brought to the notice of the Prime Minister.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) . made out a very good case for three fishermen, two of whom are already in camp, while the third is due to go into camp on the 23rd of this month. I was greatly impressed by what the honorable member said regarding the importance of the fishing industry, particularly now when we have so many visitors in the country, and man-power is so short. As time goes on, it will become increasingly difficult to provide food for members of the fighting services and for the civil population. To-morrow morning I shall go into the cases of the two men already in camp, and of the other man who is to be called up on the 23rd of this month. I hope to be able to give the honorable member a favorable reply, if not in regard to all three of the men, at least in regard to one or two of them. The fishing industry is not included in the list of essential primary industries released recently by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward).
– The Minister will agree that it should have been.
– On the very strong case made out by the honorable member for Gippsland, I admit, if I had to make a decision to-night, I should be obliged to agree that the fishing industry should be included in the list of essential primary industries. However, I shall discuss the matter with my colleagues to-morrow morning.
The representations of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) regarding the rationing of power kerosene contain considerable merit and I shall discuss them with the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley). To certain features that affect the Department of the Army I shall give full consideration, in consultation with my military advisers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Customs Act - Proclamation (dated 7th May, 1942) prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of Frit, enamel; Grease, wool; Seed, rape.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 211.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired - For Defence purposes - Albury, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (CapitalIssues) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders - Control of -
National Security (Timber Control) Regu lations - Order - Control of timber.
National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations - Order - Public authority.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 206, 207, 208, 213, 215, 217.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1942 -
No. 9 - Wills (War Service).
No. 10 - Rationing Control.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Information, upon notice -
Mr.George Lawson. - The Minister for Information has supplied thefollowing answers : -
MembersofParliament:Faresand Travelling Expenses.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
On what basis are (a) fees and (b) travelling expenses paid to honorable members who are (a) assisting Ministers of State;
Mr.Curtin. - The information is being obtained and a. reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible. producer-gasfuel:useofwheat.
y. - On the 7th May, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked a question, without notice. as to whether I would have investigations made in regard to the possibility of using wheat instead of charcoal as a producergas fuel.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that this matter has been the subject of investigations by my department for some time. Both road and laboratory tests have been carried out, but the investigations are still in the experimental stages. aluminium.
– On the 7th May, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked a question, without notice, as to whether I would have an investigation made of Dr. Murphy’s formula for the production of aluminium from bauxite.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is at present investigating processes for the production of alumina from bauxite and alunite, and I have arranged for the. council to include Dr. Murphy’s process within the scope of its investigations.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420513_reps_16_170/>.