16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, Mr. Withall, in a circular issued to his members, has stated that the Prime Minister intends to visit the United States of America to endeavour to raise a loan to assist in financing the budget. Will the right honorable gentleman slate whether or not this is true?
– I can only express astonishment that the Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia should have made such a statement. It is utterly without foundation. I need only say that the provisions to meet the requirements of the budget are those that are set out in the papers that have been circulated to the Committee of Supply, and that this Government does not intend to raise a financial loan in the United States of America, Australia, of course, receives from that, country lease- lend material. That, however, is subject to the terms of an agreement, of which honorable gentlemen already have knowledge.
– by leave - On the11th September, the honorable member for Richmond asked mea quest ion relative to the call-up of men for service with the Allied Works Council.
The Allied Works Council was established by Statutory RuleNo. 88 of 1942. It is provided that these regulations shall be administered by the Minister for the Interior, and that there shall be appointed a Director-General of Allied Works who shall have such powersand functions as are specified in the regulations. In an amendment to the regulations dated the 14th April, 1942, provision was made for the establishment of a Civil Constructional Corps, for the purpose of carrying out works for the Allied Works Council. The Civil Constructional Corps was to consist of persons who volunteered andwere directed to serve in it by the director-general or by any person authorized by him to act under the regulations. This wag made clear by the Prime Minister in a statement that he made to this House when he said, “ The director-general or any person authorized by him to act under the regulations may direct men who are not performing fulltime war service, in the defence forces or employed in a protected undertaking or industry to serve in the corps “. No authority is given under any regulations to any other person to direct any citizen to serve with the Allied Works Council.
Under the Man Power Regulations, the man-power authorities are charged with the responsibility of compiling a national register of all persons in the Commonwealth of sixteen years of age and over. Under this provision, information was secured concerning the full name of the person registering, the private and business address, the employment upon which engaged, and other classes of work capable of being performed. There is no other complete register of labour in the Commonwealth, and whatever Commonwealth department required this information could procure it only from the existing National Register which, as I have said, is in the keeping of the Department of Labour and National Service. I, therefore, directed the Director-General of Man Power to make accessible to the Allied Works Council information contained in it. The National Register is not kept at any one central point, but is divided in accordance with military districts. The Allied Works Council determines the district from which the call-up shall be made. Then the National Service Office in such district furnishes a replica of the National Register with the deletion of - (a) men employed in protected industries or protected undertakings; and (b) members of the Defence Forces performing continuous full-time service. From the information so supplied, the Allied Works Council selects and takes steps to call up the men required. The practice has been that at the time of the call-up an officer of the Man Power Department shall be present so thata further check may be made of the men selected by the Allied Works Council in order to ensure, as far as possible, that men will not be taken from essential industries.I am not aware of the method of selection adopted, or of the subsequent action taken by the Allied Works Council. The man-power authorities merely indicate to the Allied Works Council the men who arenot available, but have nothing whatever to do with applications for exemption from such service on the ground of hardship.
Under the Man Power Regulations, men called up for service with the Army may ask for a hearing by a magistrateof any application that is made for exemption on the ground of hardship to themselves or their dependants; but there is not a similar provision under the Allied Works regulations. Although magistrates have been appointed to inquire into such applications, under the regulations there is no obligation on the Allied Works Council to accept their findings; but the Minister for the Interior has stated that such findings are to be regarded as final. Nor is there any provision in the Allied Works regulations for a medical examination in order to ascertain the degree of fitness of those selected. These questions, in the past, have been determined by the officers of the Allied Works Council, who were appointed to their .present positions under the authority of the DirectorGeneral of Allied Works, and the Department of Labour and- National Service plays no part in their selection. Therefore, I repeat that it is very clearly set out in the Allied Works regulations that these are to be administered by the Minister for the Interior; consequently I am in no way responsible for such activities. Further, this position is clearly understood by Mr. Theodore, the DirectorGeneral of Allied Works, and by his aide, Mr. Packer. The statements published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. which these gentlemen control, are deliberately misleading, and are designed to embarrass the Government, particularly myself as Minister for Labour and National Service. Both these gentlemen may rest assured that I would welcome the opportunity to make desired changes in this organization.
– In view of the urgent necessity to make available personnel for the fighting services and war industries, has the Minister for Labour and National Service investigated the degree to which government departments, government instrumentalities such as the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board, and other concerns that are working under such instrumentalities, may be drawn on for this purpose, and the extent to which men taken from them may be replaced by women? If so, what action has he taken to make such men available and to replace them by women where possible?
– The Man Power Section of the Department of Labour and National Service has continually under review proposals for the full utilization of all available man-power. The suggestion made by the honorable member has, I’ have no doubt, already been considered by Man-power officers, but I shall obtain a report from them on the matter, and reply more fully in a day or two.
– In view of the fact that Statutory Rule No. 170, which amends Statutory Rule No. 88, forbids the Allied Works Council from taking men away from protected undertakings, U the Minister for Labour and National Service able to prevent the council from infringing the rule by taking men from such important jobs as the graving dock in Sydney?
– Complaints have been made that, in some instances, the direction given by my department has been disregarded. The department has informed the Allied Works Council that certain undertakings are protected, and it ought not, therefore, seek to obtain men from them. If the honorable member will give specific instances-
– One hundred men were taken last week.
– I shall hand the names over to the officers of my department, and inquiries will be made.
– On the 9th September, I directed the attention of the Prime Minister to the waste of manpower in the Accounts Section of the Allied Works Council. Although some nien are not required to leave the capital cities, they are paid a portion of their wages, and their wives receive the balance in the form of an allotment. This unnecessary diversion of payment increases the work, of the accounts staff. I also referred to the issue of vouchers for the payment of £6 a fortnight to people who were not entitled to them. The Prime Minister promised to call for a report upon these matters. Has the right honorable gentleman called for the report, and, if so, is it available?
– The report has been called for, but I have not yet received it.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service lay on the table of the House the statement that he has read, and move that it be printed for the purpose of allowing honorable members to discuss it. particularly its omissions?
– It is not necessary for me to lay the paper on the table of the House, because it will be published in Hansard. Honorable members will have ample opportunity to discuss the activities of the Department’ of Labour and National Service during the debate on the Estimates.
– Is it not a fact that an officer of the Department of Labour and National Service is located in the office of the Allied Works Council in Sydney, and that that officer approves the names of every person whom the Allied Works Council calls up ? Further, if the Minister for Labour and National Service has nothing to hide in connexion with the relationships between his department and the council in respect of the call-up pf men, why has he refused to table the statement which he made to the House this afternoon in order that it might be discussed?
– My statement wild be incorporated in Hansard as a completestatement covering the call-up and selection of men for the Allied Works Council. It would be impossible for me to put it in plainer language now, but later I may find the opportunity to bring into the House a blackboard and a stick of chalk 30 that I might be able to explain in simpler form to the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to protecting individuals whom the Government entrusts with the direction of defence work in this country, such as the Allied Works Council, from the attacks of his own Ministers, and will he .endeavour to see that full information shall be made available so that the people may know whether the conscription of individuals for work under the Allied Works Council is as a result of determinations made by Mr. Theodore and Mr. Packer or-
– Order ! The honorable member’s question is not a legitimate request for information. He is not entitled to an answer.
– With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall frame the question in another way. Does the Prime Minister approve of Ministers attacking individuals engaged on defence work who have no right to reply in this House to such attacks?
– A statement of the facts need not necessarily be an attack upon anybody.
– But there was an attack.
– I have only this to say: The Director’ of Allied Works, Mr. E. G. Theodore, was appointed bthe Government directly as the result of my action. I desire the country to know that I regard Mr. Theodore’s work as having been patriotically done and as having about it the degree of drive, energy and capacity which I fully expected of him when I asked him to undertake that responsibility. I am entirely satisfied with the way in which Mr Theodore has done his work, and I have the greatest ‘‘confidence in his capacity to continue to do it well.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Aircraft Production state whether it is intended to consider the claim of Tasmania to participate in the servicing of aircraft engines used by the Australian and Allied Air Forces? If no arrangements have so far been made, will the Minister have a survey made of the facilities available in Tasmania for this work?
– .Great efficiency has been obtained in the servicing of aeroplanes in Australia, and this work receives priority even over aeroplane construction. If the resources of Tasmania can be utilized to further this work, they will undoubtedly he taken into account.
– Is it a fact, Mr. Speaker, that the representatives of certain newspapers have been excluded from the precincts of Parliament House for the last four months? Will you, in conjunction with the President of the Senate, reconsider the ban imposed upon them, and allow them to return once more to the press gallery?
– This matter really concerns the Senate more directly than it does this chamber, seeing that the ban was imposed because of an article containing references to the Senate. In my opinion, an approach should be made by the newspapers concerned. I have no doubt that any direct approach would receive consideration.
– I quite appreciate your point of view, but I hope that you will bear in mind the fact that the ban has now been in force for some months. The punishment ought not to be eternal, and I suggest that the newspapers have purged their offence.
– As I have said, this is a case in which the newspapers concerned should make an approach.
– Will the Minister for Transport state what steps are being taken before it is too late to deal with producer-gas units which scatter sparks when travelling? A large part of Australia has a very good grass crop this year, and we do not want to burn our own grass.
– The matter of producer-gas units is now under the control of my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral consider the re-enactment of Statutory Rule No. 157, which was repealed by Statutory Rule No. 242, and which provided that persons should not. absent, themselves from employment on certain holidays? I make the request in view of the fact that the Victorian Government proposes to abolish two holidays which have been observed for many years, so that employers will not have to pay penalty rates to persons compulsorily employed on those days.
– I shall consider the honorable member’s proposal.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the newspaper report is correct in which he is alleged to have stated at a meeting in Lithgow that, whilst the proposal to limit profits to 4 per cent. was pretty in theory, it was unworkable in practice? If the report be correct, will he, with a view to saving the taxpayers from having to pay for other pretty but unworkable financial schemes, arrange to have such proposals first discussed in this House before being launched on the public?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I have not seen the newspaper report to which the honorable member refers. However, I was at Lithgow last Sunday, and I did say that the principle of the limitation of profits to 4 per cent. was one which I thoroughly approved, but that any such scheme would be extremely difficult to administer. With regard to the other part of the honorable member’s question, anything that is regarded as of value to Australia in time of war will be earnestly considered by the Government, and nothing will be brought before Parliament unless it has the approval of the Government.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs received any reports of alleged abuses in connexion with ration books by the insertion of new leaves between old covers? If so, will he inform the House what is being done to check this illegal practice?
– Although I have read such statements, I am not aware whether the Minister for Trade and Customs has received any reports on the subject. If offenders can be tracked down, the most drastic penalties should be imposed upon them. I shall ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to inform me whether he has received any reports on the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table of the House the report of the committee that inquired into war industries, as affecting Tasmania?
– I am not certain whether the report has been tabled, but I shall make inquiries and supply an answer to the honorable member at an early date.
Mr.CAL WELL.- Will the Minister forAir do everything possible to expedite the hearing of the appeal of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) against the finding of a Royal Australian Air Force court martial, so that if his first appeal should fail, he may proceed with his appeal to the Governor-General, which is, in effect, to the Ministry ? Will the honorable gentleman see that the two appeals, if made in proper order, shall be decided not later than next Monday?
– I do not know whether Mr. Falstein has appealed against the finding of the court martial. If an appeal be made to either one of those two authorities, it will be heard without delay; but some little time is required to enable an examination of the grounds for the appeal before it can be considered.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform me whether, as the result of the conference that he had with the Premier of South Australia, action is being taken to increase the supplies of coal for South Australia? Is the Minister in a position to make a statement to the House on the matter?
– Yesterday, the Prime Minister and I discussed this subject at length with the Premier of South Australia and we arrived at some important decisions, but the honorable member will understand that it would be unwise for me to announce them publicly at this stage. However, I shall be happy to discuss the matter with him, because of his interest in it. The Government is watching the situation, and is taking appropriate steps to deal with it.
– In view of the proposed prohibition of horse-racing, trotting and greyhound-racing on the first Saturday in each calendar month, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of holding patriotic racing carnivals on the vacant dates ?
– The regulations which will impose the ban will be gazetted to-day. The object of the Government in prohibiting galloping, trotting and greyhoundracing on the first Saturday of each calendar month is not only to reduce the activity in racing, but also to impress on the nation as a whole that a positive work of war value can well be done on at least one Saturday in each month.
– The Prime Minister indicated that the restriction of horseracing would take the form of complete prohibition on the first Saturday of each month. Does that mean that this restriction will operate on the first Saturday in October ?
– Will it be regarded as a full working day throughout the Commonwealth? Does the Commonwealth propose to use the new regulations to restrict other forms of public recreation?
– The regulations relate to horse-racing. No regulations have been considered yet in relation to other sports on the first Saturday in each month.
– Such as golf matches?
– Such as golf matches, and tennis matches and cricket matches and week-end hikes, and all the other ways in which people have been accustomed to keep themselves physically fit. The regulations are deliberately designed to reduce the volume of betting which is associated with racing. The restriction has other purposes, but that is one of the important -reasons which have actuated the Government, and I stand by what the Government has done.
– At the request of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) on the 2nd June, I lay upon the table of the House copies of two pamphlets, one issued by the AustralianAmerican Co-operation Movement, and the other by the Department of Information.
– Has the Prime Minister noted the report from Canberra, published last Saturday in the South Australian press, that the Commonwealth Bank is of the opinion that £150,000,000 is the maximum that can be secured by voluntary loans, that there is a tacit agreement among honorable members of the Government to introduce compulsory savings if the present loan lags, and that, according to a Government spokesman, at least £100,000,000 of credits will be required for the budget?
In view of the right honorable gentleman’s statement to the House last night, is he prepared to confirm those statements?
– Whilst I have very great respect for South Australian newspapers, I have no time now to read them, and I have not seen the report. The Commonwealth Bank Board has made no statement of any description relating to the budget or to the financial policy of the Government; nor has it said anything about tie amount that can or cannot be raisedby loan. The bank is wholeheartedly co-operating with the nation in endeavouring to ensure that the £100,000,000 loan, which is about to be floated, will be oversubscribed.
– In spite of the “ knockers “.
Mr.CURTIN.- Yes. I realize that there may be strong opinions about some matters of financial policy which should or should not be done. I ask the Parliament and the country to realize that what this country can do voluntarily before this calendar year is out to raise £100,000,000 is at least within the capacity of the country, and I ask that there be whole-hearted and determined co-operation on the part of every body who is anxious for the welfare of Australia to make the loan a success. I say that to the great newspapers, and, with respect, I say it to the Parliament.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it would be possible to supply honorable members with a statement setting out the particulars of the lease-lend arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United States of America?
– Yes. I shall ascertain what statements bearing on the subject have been made to the Parliament. If they do not adequately cover it, I shall see that a statement is prepared and tabled.
Release of Men to Air Force
– I ask the Minister for Air whether the Army refuses to release men whose military call-up was subsequent to their enlistment in the Air Force unless they have enlisted for service in air crews? I have had many complaints, and I think that once a boy has enlisted in the Air Force, passed the medical examination and is awaiting his call-up, he should not be called into the Army.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must ask his question.
– What steps will the Minister take to ensure that those who have passed the medical test of the Air Force shall not be included in the Army draft?
– An arrangement was made between the Army and the Air Force that men who had enlisted for air crews would be released from their military training when called up for the Air Force. With regard to other than air crews, under the defence law males of eighteen years of age or more have to undergo military training, but, in all cases where men make application to join the ground staff of the Air Force, and are accepted, we endeavour to have them released by the Army. So far the Army has taken the attitude that men other than air crew trainees will not be released.
– In view of the fact that men are compulsorily called up for the Army and not the Air Force, will the Prime Minister consider the desirability of amending the Defence Act so that men who really desire to join the ground staff of the Air Force shall have the right to be called up for that service instead of the Army. I ask that because, once the- militia authorities get hold of men, there is no chance of their joining the service that they desire to join.
– Consideration willbe given to the amendment ofthe act as the honorable gentleman suggests.
General Sir Archibald Wavell’s report - Statement by Archbishop Wand.
– Can the Prime Minister tell me, in view of the close and cordial relationship which exists between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government, what the Prime Minister of Great Britain meant when he said, in answer to a question in lim liu uSe ut’ Commons a few weeks ago, tha* he could noi discuss or disclose the contents ut’ General Sir Archibald Wavells report, on the Far Eastern campaign, bm:a use if, would produce ill feeling between Great Britain and one of its Dominions’
– Quite frankly, I han not the least idea.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the following statement by the Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Reverend J. W. C. Wand, D.D.:-
It has been affirmed in the press (so far without contradiction ) that the British Government was fully alive to the impossibility of holding that, island once the Japanese had made obvious their capacity to advance upon it down the Malayan Peninsula, and they were anxious to evacuate the troops while they were still certain of being able to get the vast bulk of them away in safety. ri hey only altered their decision, and ordered the troops to remain al their post, in deference to the desperate wish of Canberra to make an effort to maintain Singapore whatever the decision might cost. [ ask the Prime Minister whether that statement is correct? If it is, why has not the Government been generous enough to accept its share of the blame, instead of leaving the British Government to bear the whole of the blame? If the statement is not correct, why has not the Government denied it?
– I have not read the statement by the Archbishop of Brisbane ; and I have not even read any reference to the book. I do not regard the Archbishop as a qualified military authority, and I see no reason to engage in controversies as the result of what anybody may write. The relationships between ibis Goverment and allied governments depend upon what they say to one another, and not upon what controversialists say about them.
– The Minister for Home. Security is aware that the exceptionally good season being experienced by Australia will result in a large growth of grass in open country and vegetation hu forest areas. Having regard to the grave Hanger to which the country may be exposed during the coming summer through the dropping of incendiary bombs i or through the activities of fifth column fire bugs “, and to the fact that it is doubtful whether the shire councils on whom the responsibility for precautions against bush fires falls can ensure that their precautions shall be effectively carried out, I ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that, the action already taken to prevent the spread of bush fires is adequate? If not, will ihe consider bringing into force a regulation making it obligatory on the landowners living in the settled, as opposed to the remote, areas, such as the mountainous country of the Commonwealth, to make efficient fire breaks around their properties before summer?
– The control of bush fires was discussed at the recent Premiers Conference at the instance of the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan. In every State to-day there are laws providing against the careless use of fire, and municipal and shire councils have power to take precautionary measures, such as the burning of fire breaks. My department has made inquiries, and it considers that the machinery already in existence is adequate to meet the position. However, if the honorable gentleman has anything in particular in mind, or if any representations be made to the Department of Home Security by State or local government authorities for the tighten ins up of control regulations, I shall give the matter my immediate and earnest consideration.
– Have the shire councils power to enforce the making of fire breaks ?
– Yes, so far as ! know shire councils in all States have that power.
FORMAL Motion for Adjournment.
– I have received from the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The action taken by the Government towards the introduction of compulsory trade unionism in Australia “.
– I move -
That the Houfe do now adjourn.
-Is the motion supported %
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The purpose of this motion is to enable the House, within a limited time, to discuss a problem which is of first-class domestic importance in Australia. The Government has not, so far as I know, introduced any bill or any regulation, providing for compulsory unionism. But, in recentmonths, it has used it? authority in a” war emergency to bring about- compulsory unionism by pressure of a kind thatonly a government armed with war-time executive authority could exercise. First i. want to establish that the policy of the Government, as expressed in various recent acts, is compulsory unionism. It may be that this will not be disputed, but in the event of it being challenged I can establish the fact very briefly. 1 take leave to mention to the House five particular instances. I shall not have time, of course, to do more than refer to them.
– Start with the Law Institute.
– My honorable friend is barking up the wrong tree, as usual. There is no compulsory membership of the Law Institute. The five particular instances to which I shall refer contain proof of the existence of a general policy. The first of their (irises in relation to the administration of the Department of Supply and Development. This department has recently insisted, as a condition of contract, upon clothing manufacturers having 100 per cent- of union employees. The result of that has been that many hundreds, if not thousands, of employees of clothing manufacturers, who have never thought fit to belong to a union and who have no desire to become financial supporters of the Labour party, have been driven into unions against their wills. I recognize, nobody more clearly, that the Minister for Supply and Development (M.i. Beasley) has been completely consistent in this matter. Throughout my acquaintance with him. in this Parliament he has openly advocated compulsory unionism. I am not accusing him of some change it front, lint I do say that the Government, having a chance brought about by the war of exercising very wide executive authority, has been exercising it to carry out something of which the people of Australia have neper approved. That is my first example. The second is in relation to the Department of Munitions. Recently, a circular, addressed to all officers, was distributed through the branches of this department. It contains these words -
The Government desires, as a matter of policy, that- the provisions of any determination already made by the Public Service Arbitrator but which is not yet in force, or itf any determination that may be made subsequent to the 19th May, 1942, shall be applied only to returned soldiers and to members of an organization within the meaning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
There we have something which must arrest, the attention of people in Australia. It is true, and has been true for many years, that in ordinary industrial litigation between a union and an employer, the benefit of the award has gone only to members of the union. But never in my experience has that proposition been applied to employment under a government. When a government which represents all citizens says to its own employees, “ If you belong to the union you shall have such increases of pay as may be awarded after a certain date; but, if you do not belong to a union, then you shall receive the lower rate of pay”, it does something which, in my opinion, is without precedent and without justification.
– Does the circular say that I
– It does. Not only
Kie? it indicate that the provisions of any determination already made by the Public ‘ Service Arbitrator but not yet in force, or of any determination that may be made subsequently to the 19th May, 1942, shall be applied only to returned soldiers ar.d to members of an organization within the meaning of the Common- wealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act but it goes on -
It will therefore be necessary for each officer of this factory to be a member of an association or a union, otherwise the benefits of arbitration awards after the 19th May, 1942, will not be applicable to them.
There can be no doubt about the meaning of the circular.
– Non-unionists neither fought nor paid for the benefits provided by awards.
– Are we to understand that it is necessary to fight this Government in order to obtain from it proper treatment of the employees in munitions factories? Are we to be told that in a time of war there shall be one rule of pay for persons who belong to trade unions and therefore financially support the Labour party, and another rule of pay for persons who do not belong to unions and therefore do not support that party? So much for the munitions department.
A circular has also been issued in the Department of the Navy dealing with civil staff. It contains the following statements : -
In addition to the determinations scheduled in paragraph 3 of the Public Service Board memorandum, the following determinations, which apply to officers and employees not governed by the Public Service Act and regulations, and in respect of which advices have already been issued by the Naval Board, will apply only to members of organizations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. and to returned soldiers.
I have no doubt that similar circulars have been issued in other departments.
My attention has also been drawn to a document issued by a body which quite obviously is the subject of internal differences in the Cabinet. I therefore mention, with hushed voice, the Allied Works Council. That body has control of the Civil Constructional Corps in respect of which a circular has been issued. My researches have not gone sufficiently far to indicate whether such circulars have also been issued to persons enlisted in the Army intimating that increased pay in the Army shall go only to unionists. The circular issued in connexion with the Civil Constructional Corps reads -
Members are advised to bring with them the following items of personal equipment: -
Clothing, including working apparel.
Blankets. (c)toilet articles, razors, toothbrush,&c.
Union ticket. 1 suppose we may soon expect to be told that in order for a person to enter the fighting services he will be required to omit from his limited equipment his toothbrush or blanket in order to make room for his union card.
My fifth case is, in some respects, not the least remarkable of those to which I have referred. It relates to the manpower branch. Honorable members will no doubt be shocked to discover that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) believes in compulsory unionism. A circular has been sent out to area officers, many of whom were formerly engaged in rural pursuits, or business activities on their own account. It was signed by the Deputy Director of Man Power and reads as follows : -
The Director-General has asked me to ascertain for the information of the Minister whether there are any non-unionists employed in the man-power organization in this State. Will you please furnish a statement indicating in respect of each officer, including yourself and man-power officers, whether he or she is a financial member of a trade union or service organization or federation and the name of the organization? It is desired that a reply be furnished as soon as possible.
– The greatest Fascist of all time!
– The five examplesI have given provide abundant proof that it is the deliberate policy of this Government to use war emergency powers to force persons into trade unions. Ifthey do not provide sufficient evidence to support my case I should like to know what additional evidence would be necessary.
– Compulsory unionism has been in force in Queensland for many years.
– And it was introduced by a Labour government.
– I deduce from the facts that I have stated - facts based on documentary evidence - two perfectly clear and unanswerable propositions: First, that pressure is being put upon employers under threat of losing contracts, or of having business taken away from them, to drive their employees, many of them of long standing, into unions in which theyhave no interest, and from whose political ideals they are entirely divorced; and, secondly, that pressure is being brought to bear upon employees to join such unions. The employees are being told, “ You have come into the service of the Crown at this time in order to make munitions, and to do civil work in the Navy or the constructional corps; but you must understand that a condition of your having your job at the same rate of pay as the man at the bench next to you is that you shall become a financial supporter of the Australian Labour party “.
– Rather is it that the people concerned shall pay for any benefits they get.
– The policy being applied by the Government is the totalitarian method to perfection.
– The Nazis have nothing on the Government !
– An attempt is being made to dragoon people, under economic pressure, into standing in a docile fashion behind the Government.
– The right honorable gentleman had something crooked on the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) last night.
-I donot think that I had anything crooked on him. I thought that I was pretty straight with him. I wish to confine this debate within its proper limits. The question is not whether there shall be trade unionism in Australia, for that question has long since been answered in the affirmative by popular approval. It is not whether, as between unions and particular private employers, the benefit of awards shall go to members of unions, for that principle also has long since been established. The question is whether this Government, which is sustained in its work as the representative of the people, and whose funds are provided by the taxpayers of the country, shall in its employment discriminate between unionists and non- unionists in such a fashion as to dragoon non-unionists into joining unions.
– Preference to unionists has been in operation since the last war.
-I do not accept that. I should have made a third observation. This matter does not deal with unionism as such, with private employers as such, or with preference to unionists ; far from it. If it were concerned with preference to unionists, I would remind my friends opposite that there has been an Arbitration Court in this country for the last 40 years, and that I do not believe that on more than two or three occasions in its history has it awarded even a limited degree of preference to unionists. If the Government were to say, “ We shall pass a law requiring the application of the principle of preference to unionists “, that would be bad enough, because it would be a use of the emergency of war for improper purposes; but the Government has gone far beyond that. This is a matter not of preference to unionists but of compulsory membership of a union ; consequently, it goes far beyond preference to unionists.
We had some little exchanges in this House last night. I refer to them now only for the purpose of pointing out that something was then said about the four freedoms. I should like to add that there is a fifth freedom to which supreme importance was at one time attached by honorable members who sit opposite ; that is, freedom of association. If one looks back to the early battles of trade unionists to escape from the mesh of illegality by which they were surrounded, and if one studies some of the writings of the present Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), one realizes that the dominant consideration of the trade unions of those days was that it is the inalienable right of man freely to associate himself with others fora lawful purpose. The American Federation of Labour stated the other day that one of the principal things for which it intended to fight after . the war was the freedom to associate in free trade unions. If there is to be freedom to associate freely, there must be equal freedom not to associate. If I am to be at liberty to join with other men whose political ideas coincide with mine, then I must be equally at liberty not to associate myself with those whose political ideas are different from mine. Freedom of association is absolutely at the opposite pole to the misuse of governmental power to dragoon men into industrial organizations. If these organizations were purely industrial, there might still he something to argue about. But every honorable member, and every citizen of Australia, knows that those organizations that are described as industrial are the backbone of the political Labour movement, and supply its funds. In that connexion, this is a policy which is calculated to uphold the political forces supporting the Government and to undermine those that are opposed to it on many matters of economic policy.
– I listened very carefully to the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mir. Menzies). Knowing what he has done in connexion with preference to unionists and the whole subject of unionism under the Arbitration Court, I do not think that his heart was in his job this afternoon. He cited a circular of the Department of Munitions, the circumstances of which we have been told nothing, a circular suggesting similar action in the Department of the Navy, and a reference to action which had been taken by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). He also mentioned a request by the Allied Works Council that persons having union tickets should produce them. He must know perfectly well that the relevant awards, so far as they apply to employment under the Allied Works Council, fix rates of wages according to whether or not a person is a member of a union. Therefore, it is essential that the department shall know whether or not an employee is a member of a union.
The whole of our federal arbitration system, with certain exceptions that have been engrafted on it within recent years, is based on the principle of collective bargaining with the trade union as the selected unit. Those persons who receive direct benefits from an award must be members of the trade union affected by it. The clothing industry is a perfect example of that. By direct operation, the benefits of the federal award governing the clothing industry go to the members of the union. I do not know the circumstances of the particular case, but it seems certain that the production of evidence of membership of a union is necessary for the administration of the Allied Works Council. The Minister for Labour and National Service will be able to give reasons for the action that he took in his own department.
Let me deal with the matter in a slightly broader way. During the last two months there have been agitation and propaganda in the press, designed to convey the impression that the Government has introduced compulsory unionism in this country, taking advantage of the war for that purpose. That is absolutely untrue. 4s the right honorable member for Kooyong himself admits, no regulation has been directed to that end. There are two special regulations to which 1 shall refer honorable members immediately, but both of them relate to the power of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to grant preference to unionists. The first was brought into effect last November, in connexion with the clothing trade, I believe at the suggestion of Judge Drake-Brockman, enabling the court to grant unrestricted preference to unionists in that trade. Later, that was extended by the Governmnent, not with a view to compelling the granting of preference to unionists or of instituting compulsory unionism, but merely in order to give power to the Arbitration Court in respect not only of the clothing trade but also of any other trade whose raw came before the court, for consideration. By way of enactment, the Government has done nothing.
– For a very good reason - that the Parliament would not approve of it. It has been done behind the back nf Parliament.
– The right honorable member for Kooyong, when Prime Minister, was seen in connexion with this very matter by deputations introduced to him by my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) and others. My recollection is that the right honorable gentleman then favoured the application of the principle of preference to unionists to the clothing trade.
– I always made it clear that I favoured the granting of the widest power to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– I go further than that. L believe that the right honorable gentleman was in favour of actually extending the principle of preference to unionists in the clothing trade.
– Extending the power to award preference.
– Judge Drake-Brockman was always in favour of the widest preference being given in that industry; and for a very good reason. The difficulty in the clothing industry is that many employers do not manufacture the clothing or the garments in their own factories. They buy from contractors and outdoor workers. At times garments are made in backyard sweat shops in Carlton and Fitzroy, under conditions which, according to the evidence that appeared in reports, was little short of disgraceful.
– Where there is no chance of supervision.
– As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) says, there is no chance of supervision in those conditions. In every country in the world - ever since Thomas Hood wrote The Song of the Shirt - this problem of out-workers in the garment trade has engaged the attention of public men. In Australia, the position has been aggravated during the last few years by the entry of immigrants into the trade. Advantage has been taken of cheap labour, especially the labour of little children. Judge Drake-Brockman has tried to stamp out the evil by extending the standards of unionism operating in the factories where there is no sweating, to these wretched sweat shops that exist in some industrial districts. Both of the statutory rules which. I have already described were made at his suggestion. I conferred with him on the subject, and it was his opinion that the court, should have the widest possible power. I have learned that, while the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was in office and since the outbreak of war, several bills were prepared for submission to Parliament giving the Court power to award unrestricted preference.
– Surely there is a distinction between preference to unionists and compulsory unionism.
– The distinction is a very fine one. Preference to unionists means that, when ah employer proceeds to engage labour, he must give preference to members of a unIon, and that means, in substance, compulsory unionism.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The whole purpose of preference to unionists is to give preference at all relevant points, including the point of engagement. The effect of preference to unionists must be to favour those who are members of unions, and this must result inevitably in workers becoming unionists. Statements have been made on this subject by a Mr. Withall, and there has been a good deal of press comment to the effect that the Government has decreed compulsory unionism. As a matter of fact, it has not. No law has been passed dealing with the matter. All the instances referred to by the right honorable member for Kooyong are explicable. As regards the Department of Supply, the only instance cited is in connexion with out-workers in the clothing trade, and that is the acute problem which Judge DrakeBrockman has helped to solve. In Victoria, no fewer than 200 employers out of a total of 209 agreed to accept the condition proposed by the Department of Supply. In New South Wales. 413 out of a total of 431 similarly agreed. Thus, the bulk of the employers have no objection to the provision. I submit, therefore, that, the complaint of the right honorable member for Kooyong has no substance. Instances that have been collected over a long period do not prove the case. The Government has been asked on more than one occasion to deal directly with this problem by legislation, and these requests have not been granted. The Government looks at all these matters in the light of its concentration on the one thing that matters, namely, the winning of the war. The right honorable member for Kooyong does not seem to believe in his own case. He has always been one of the strongest advocates of unionism, and, as I have pointed out, he had bills prepared for the purpose of giving to the court power to do the very thing of which he now complains.
– The Attorney-General lias not explained why the instruction was issued in respect of the Department of Munitions, the Department of the Navy and the Allied Works Council.
– The honorable member now chooses to cite certain instances, but they were never previously mentioned in this House. Probably he has collected instances which occurred over a long period, and for all I know all those may be capable of explanation. The Government believes in the principle of preference to unionists. We are pledged to support that principle, and there has been no attempt to enforce it in an indirect way.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral believe in compulsory unionism?
– I believe in preference to unionists. I believe that, when favorable conditions have been established in an industry by the exercise of the right of association, it is only fair to expect those who benefit from those conditions to join the union which was responsible for obtaining them. I repeat that there has been no direct enactment by the Government in regard to this matter.
– That is our complaint.
– Does the honorable member want a direct enactment? All that the Government has done is to give the court the power which the right honorable member for Kooyong himself wished to give it.
– Having heard the explanation of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), I am of opinion that the case for the Government is very much worse than it appeared even after the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) had finished speaking. Apparently the Attorney-General would have us believe that the Government could have brought about this effect by legislation, but thai; it preferred to apply indirect and underground methods? The communications read to the House by the right honorable member for Kooyong make it clear beyond all doubt that this is just what is, in fact, being done. I believe that some unions are so powerful that they are able to dictate to the Government what course it shall pursue. Evidence of this was forthcoming recently when the
Commonwealth Government varied a court award, despite the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has repeatedly assured us, as he did again only last night, that wages had been pegged. When the dredge Matthew Flinders was to be removed from Melbourne to Fremantle, the Government entered into the following agreement with the union: -
Wages were also paid while the men were returning to Melbourne. A crew was picked up on behalf of the Commonwealth under the terms indicated in the agreement, and the following table shows the award rates that should have been paid and the amounts that were actually paid by the Commonwealth Government under the agreement:-
What an- anomaly ! The second cook on the dredge received for a fortnight’s work the sum of £65 10s., which represents to our troops in New Guinea 22 weeks’ pay. If the unions have made themselves so powerful as to be able to wring these concessions from the Commonwealth Government on the eve of an austerity campaign, I say frankly that the people will not tolerate the position.
– I am not familiar with the details of the case that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has outlined, but I warn him that if we were to apply his contentions - even accepting the merits of his case - to the field of “ big business “ and “ high finance “-
– That is an old game.
– It is not an old game. If we were to expose the activities of some of those who have worked under the cost-plus system, the story would be so staggering that the people would not tolerate that position.
– Why does not the Minister answer the charge?
– If the Opposition wants me to survey the field of profiteering, exploitation and downright robbery, I shall be pleased to order an investigation.
– What action has the Government taken to prevent exploitation and downright robbery?
– -The Government has taken strong action to suppress it. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) directed his remarks principally to .the clothing trade. It is interesting to note that the criticism of the Department of Supply and Development emanates from a small section of employers in this business. The employers, as a whole, have readily accepted the proviso, for the very good reason that the decent employer recognizes that employees who enjoy the benefits of award rates and conditions should belong to the organization that gained for them those advantages. When making this award, Judge Drake-Brockman inserted a proviso to enable certain members of the Employers Federation to apply to the court for exemption, from its provisions. In other words, certain employers were granted preferential treatment as against their competitors, when performing work for the Government. Honorable members may not be aware that the prices in a government contract for clothing are based on the cost of manufacture, and the observance of award rates and conditions. Why should one set of employers be permitted to evade the award, while their competitors are compelled to observe it? I emphasize that point. By ensuring that all employers in the clothing trade observe the award, we shall abolish “ sweat shops “ and undercutting.
– In view of thu shortage of labour, how do the “sweat shops “ succeed in getting employees ?
– During the last few years, many immigrants have come to this country, and they do not understand conditions of employment, and the rates of pay to which they are entitled. They hare been the victims of downright exploitation, particularly in the clothing trade.
– Why does not the Government suppress the exploitation?
– I am using every endeavour to suppress it, and all manufacturers of clothing who execute orders for the Commonwealth Government will be compelled to observe award rates and conditions. The point of interest in this matter is the fact that the right honorable member for Kooyong was briefed by those employers when the case was argued before the High Court. The right honorable gentleman paid me the compliment of saying that I had been consistent in this matter. I return the compliment. He has been equally consistent. He has carried the case from the courts into this Parliament.
– How many years ago was that?
– How long ago it was does not matter a scrap. I am only complimenting the right honorable gentleman on his consistency. It is more to the credit of the right honorable gentleman that his consistency should last over a long period of years.
– That is not true..
– Well, the right honorable gentleman has been inconsistent. As a Minister he had one policy; he has another in Opposition, and yet another when he is briefed to go into the court. L do not -want to reflect upon the fraternity with which the right honorable gentleman is associated, but I suppose that he will argue the case of whoever hands him ti brief, whether it is consistent or inconsistent with his own views.
– That is quite sound.
– My colleague the Attorney-General tells me that that is quite a sound legal practice. I shall leave it at that. The interesting point that I was trying to make when I was interrupted by the right honorable member for Kooyong is that in New South Wales all but 4 per cent, of the employers engaged in the clothing trade have readily signed agreements with the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia under the award of Judge Drake-Brockman. Honorable members and the workers of this country should know the firms that refused to do so. They were: Anthony Hordern & Sons ; Marcus Clark Limited ; Murdochs Manufactories Limited; Lowes Limited; David Jones Limited; and Gowing Brothers Limited. They resisted the preference clause.
– Do they employ allen labour?
– They employ whatever labour they can get cheaply. Proof of that is the fact that certain manufacturers a few years ago compelled their employees to join the New South Wales branch of the union because the basic wage in New South Wales was higher than the wages prescribed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. This direction had the effect of forcing their employees into the union because the union had a federal award, the base rate of which was lower than the State base rate. In that case compulsory unionism was imposed by the employers themselves. It was a good thing when the result meant lower wages, and in consequence higher profits. It will be observed that as members of the union the workers would be bound to accept the lower rate; otherwise these firms would have to pay the State rate, which was higher.
.- The smoke-screen behind which the Government is seeking to hide its efforts to enforce compulsory unionism in this country was intensified by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). The House should be well aware that this Government’s attempt to enforce compulsory unionism dates back to when the Industrial Relations Committee, presided over by Mr. Justice Webb and consisting of equal numbers of representatives from the employers and the employees was created. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman ) and other Ministers declared that preference to unionists was a matter for the Arbitration Court, and was not to be decided by that committee. Nevertheless, the matter was put on the agenda, and the representatives of the employees tabled a motion recommending the Government to bring about compulsory unionism. To this an amendment was moved by the representatives of the employers. Mr. Justice Webb, an appointee of the Government, said that he did not intend to have the matter discussed further because, anyhow, he was in favour of compulsory unionism. That broke up the committee, and the responsibility for deciding whether compulsory unionism should be enforced was thrown back to the Government or to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Of course, the Arbitration Court is the body which should determine these matters. It has given certain rulings in regard to preference to unionists, but has not made it compulsory on men to embrace unionism. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) made illuminating references to Judge Drake-Brockman’s award, but he omitted the most important matter, namely, that His Honour gave to legitimate firms of good repute the right to appeal to the Registrar for exemption from the clause giving preference to unionists. The claims for exemption were never opposed by the union. The ruling was made by His Honour in order to end the malpractices which were affecting both the unions and the manufacturers concerned. The Minister for Supply and Development put a totally different construction on the ruling. He said that some manufacturers had endeavoured to compel their employees to become unionists, but he did not inform the House that contracts between the Department of Supply and
Development and clothing manufacturers contain the following clause: -
Iiic contractor shall within seven (7) days from date hereof enter into an agreement with the secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia (or branch in States other than Victoria) in accordance with the outwork provisions of the awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
The manufacturers are given seven days in which to ensure that their employees shall be members of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union. These manufacturers are engaged mainly on defence work. Only a small quantity of civilian work is available to them owing to the rationing of clothes introduced by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (-Mr. Dedman). Unless they subscribe to the provision contained in the contracts they will have to close their doors. So this Government brought coercive methods to bear, not only on the workers but also on the employers. Obviously, if any firm decided not to abide by that clause, no contracts would be granted to it, and it would have to go out of business. The position was not correctly stated by Ministers. These back-door methods that the Governmenthas employed to force workers into unionism will be condemned by the people. I believe that the statements which have been made on this side of the House to-day showing that the Government is prepared to use any and every means to compel people to subscribe to its party funds, will react to its disadvantage. The Labour party is endeavouring to use the Arbitration Court to its own advantage. In one -State it appointed to an informal committee a Supreme Court judge, who used his influence in an attempt to bring about compulsory unionism. When the employers walked out of that conference, the Government resorted to other questionable methods by making it obligatory upon firms seeking government contracts to employ only union members and by forcing workers to produce union cards. It appears to me that the Government is prepared to compel everybody to give ‘ it political support, but is not prepared to compel anybody to support the interests of the nation in winning the war. It will force men to join unions by offering them such sops as increased wages and improved conditions, so that their union contributions may be added to the party funds, but, in the bigger job of winning the war and preserving the democratic rights of the people, this champion of compulsory unionism says : “ We must have voluntary effort”. It favours voluntarism for the defence of the country, but compulsion for contributions to party funds. That is characteristic of everything that has been done by the Labour party. It is prepared to sidestep the established laws of the country and to intimidate workers under powers taken in national security regulations. It is prepared to descend even to these low depths in order to force its socialistic will upon the people of Australia, not just for the duration of the war but for all time. The people will not permit n continuance of the Government’s emergency powers after the war. The Government should be honest and inform the people of its real intentions. They would then know the Labour party for what it is, and would know how to deal with it at the next elections.
. -Honorable members opposite who have spoken in support of the motion submitted by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) have shown how much co-operation they are prepared to give to the Government in the prosecution of the nation’s war effort. Every war-time measure that has taken away something from the trade union movement has had the unqualified support of honorable members opposite, but, on the first occasion that a move is made by the Government to give something to the unions in return for their wonderful cooperation in the war effort, all of the antiLabour reactionary forces in this Parliament unanimously oppose it. I repeat what other Ministers have said : Despite its great talk of a new order, the Opposition is still following the course that it has followed in the past. When the war ends, it hopes to return to the days of unrestricted sweating of the workers and unlimited profits. The right honorable member for Kooyong talked of how he had supported trade unionism. He accepted it only because he had no alternative, whereas most of the people of Australia regard: it as one- of the great features of the nation’s economic life. The’ right honorable member submitted his motion at a most inopportune time from his point of view. To-day work is being held up at two defence establishments because two- or three individuals who have refused to join the workers’ organizations, which were formed, in order to protect the interests of the workers, have compelled the unionists to cease work. Honorable members opposite would prefer to see the whole of the war production of the country suspended rather than that the Government should do justice to the trade union movement. They are afraid that any strengthening of that movement might affect the interests of the people whom they represent in this Parliament.
Let us examine what the right honorable member for Kooyong had to say in the very feeble address which he made in support of his motion. I understand now why his. legal career has been studded with so many dismal failures. For instance, he said, when he was challenged, that membership of the Law Institute was not compulsory upon the legal fraternity. Well, for that matter, eating is not compulsory ! If a lawyer does not join the Law Institute he will not be successful in his profession. The right honorable gentleman himself knows that if he had not associated himself with the institute, despite the legal talents which he believes that he possesses, he would noi have gone very far in his profession. There, are other classical examples of this sort of compulsion. I have never heard the right honorable member criticize the British Medical Association. But, if a doctor refuses to join that organization,, he finds himself in difficulties before very long, because no member of the association will associate in any way with a doctor who is not a member.. The right honorable gentleman was silent about that,, but he professes to see something abhorrent in the application of similar pressure to a very small minority of workers in industry. Then there are the insurance companies. They have the- Fire and Accident Insurance Underwriters Association, no member of which is permitted to do business- with companies which do not belong to the association. The right honorable member had nothing to say about this compulsion which is exercised by interests which he represents. Let us consider the trade associations. Honorable members opposite talk about black markets and the exploitation of the public. They knowvery well that trade associations in this country have compelled traders to charge to the public the prices which they have fixed and that, whenever small traders were satisfied to make a reasonable profit and to give the public fair treatment by charging prices less than the. fixed price, the associations refused to supply goods to them. The right honorable member did not criticize that sort of thing. He said that if workers were compelled -to join the tra.de unions, they would be compelled to make a financial contribution to the Labour party. I remind him that not all of the trade unions are affiliated with the. Labour party. But if they were, and if their members in some way contributed to the financial resources of the Labour party, what difference would there be between that and the methods of the trade associations? These associations are fostered by the Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers of Manufactures. To whom do these organizations contribute their funds? To the anti-Labour forces of Australia! Therefore, these trade associations compel small traders to contribute to the funds of the United Australia party.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) may perhaps be surprised to learn of .the decisions of delegates at the annual conference of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales in favour of compulsory unionism. The report, which appeared in the Wheat Grower of the 28t(h August, 1942, reads-
Delegates at the recent annual conference of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales favoured compulsory unionism for the primary producers of the- Commonwealth, and passed a motion urging the formation’ of a national farmers’’ union to cover all primary producers and that membership be made compulsory by act of parliament.
Some speakers claimed that only by compulsory organization of producers would’ it be possible- for the farming industries to maintain their economic position against the strong organization of all sections- of the. community.
Later the report says -
There weise .some nien in .every district who were merely human cuckoos. They are prepared to take all the benefits of organization without paying anything for it. Compulsion to many people was merely a bogy.
Th/we are the opinions of persons whom the honorable member for Richmond claims to represent in this Parliament. The primary producers are as . much entitled to introduce the principle of compulsory unionism in their organization as are the industrial workers in theirs. Of course the honorable member for Richmond does not agree with compulsory unionism. He, and others who hold similar -views, hope that when the war ends, and our men return from the fighting fronts, the power of the trade unions will be destroyed, and a return to the sweated labour conditions of other days will be practicable. I have been advised £hat certain banana packers in Murwillumbah, who axe referred to as “ Mr. Anthony’s banana packers “, went on strike because he paid Ohern only 10 1/2dan hour. Later, so I am told, the honorable gentleman increased their pay to ls. an hour. I am .also informed that the honorable member has a share-farmer and his wife working for him. At Christmas time he gives them ten days’ holiday - without pay. He even asked the wife of the share-farmer where she was .going to spend her Christmas holidays.. So much for the views of the honorable member.
The right honorable member for Kooyong .supports compulsion in ‘everything but .unionism. He advocates compulsory loans, conscription for overseas service, industrial conscription, and compulsory unionism for lawyers and doctors. I recollect that not long ago he also desired the compulsory loading of pig iron for the Japanese, against whom we are fighting to-day.
It should be remembered that the majority of i?he “boys in our fighting services were financial members of trade unions ‘before they unlisted. ‘Honorable members who wish to ascertain the view of the members of the fighting services as to who should represent them in this .’Parliament should examine” the figures for the last general .election. The members of the fighting services desired the Labour party to control .the .affairs of this country .so that, while they were away making .their sacrifices in .the fighting line, the patriotic speech-makers, flag-wavers and .boodlers at home would snot have things all their own w.ay. The boys at the front .did not desire Abe anti-Labour forces to be in control of the affairs of this ‘Country.
The honorable -member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was, I understand, formerly an employee of Murdochs Limited. i have been told that he has .a financial in terest in the firm, [though I do not know whether that is true or not. If it is true that gives .significance to the remarks made by the Minister for .Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley). The honorable ‘gentleman was also a member of the New -Guard, which, not so long ago, desired to overthrow .constitutional government in Australia. If that should happen our soldiers, on their -return home, would get a very different new deal from what they expect.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) cited certain rates of pay earned by industrial workers. His observations reminded me that certain members of this Parliament hold dual positions. The time has arrived when they should make up their mind whether they desire to be regarded as representatives of the people in this Parliament, or as members of the armed forces. ‘Such honorable gentlemen .should not talk about the wages of the workers while some of them .collect two salaries - one as members of the fighting services and another as members of Parliament.
.- Apparently .another tin of red herrings has been opened for the use of members of the Ministry. At any rate, those Ministers who have .participated in this debate have .studiously avoided any reference to the specific question raised by the right honorable member for Kooyong (‘Mr. Menzies). Their design has been to introduce side-issues to distract .attention fram die main question. They do not wish to face the charges that have been sheeted home to them. A most unconvincing attempt was made by the Attorney-General .(Dr.. Evatt) to brush aside the submission of .the right honorable member for Kooyong on the ground that his case was based upon developments over a period of years, and not on recent happenings. The fact is that all the circumstances mentioned by the right honorable member relate to the last few months. This move towards compulsory unionism is the result of steady pressure by the industrial unions upon the Government. Compulsory unionism is the policy of the Australasian Council of TradeUnions. The Government has chosen to adopt this stealthy, underhand method to achieve its ends, instead of to introduce the issue openly and above board in this Parliament. What the Government is doing is supplementary to what trade unions are doing. It is well known that on account of war conditions thousands of men and women, including retired people and rural workers, who normally would never have taken up industrial work, have now done so in order to help the war effort. They believed that in this way they could best help to achieve victory. The trade unions were not slow to recognize the opportunity that this afforded them to increase their membership far beyond peace-time levels. It has been claimed by the Federated Ironworkers Association that its membership has trebled in the last eight years. The ranks of many other unions associated with war production have also increased greatly. Union leaders naturally regard this as an excellent time to press the case for compulsory unionism. Whether they like it or not, persons who become members of trade unions also become financial supporters of this Government and of the political policy of the union. I wish to indicate what is involved in this direction. I direct attention to a statement published in a pamphlet issued recently by Mr. E. Thornton, the general secretary of the Ironworkers Union. It shows the kind of policy to which a member may be committed if he is brought compulsorily into this union. The extract reads -
Our union has deliberately and in a planned way been involved in more strikes than other unions in the last few years’. They were not just the sporadic strikes that are typical of the coal-fields, but planned strikes, because we made strikes our business.
– Would not that be an offence in war-time?
– That is a matter for the Attorney-General to investigate. The extract goes on -
This policy has been suspended apparently ever since Russia came into the war -
– That observation seems to suggest that the policy referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner is not of recent date.
– The pamphlet was published quite recently. The writer points out that its policy has been suspended - not because the Ironworkers Association has ceased to believe that the strike weapon is the most important weapon that the working class has. Strikes are a continuation in violent or non-violent forms of the class struggle that is always with us.
Here is another extract from the pamphlet -
At our previous Ironworkers Federal Council in 1941 we characterized the war that was then on as an imperialist war, and we then declared in favour of a democratic peace.
This union, which ministerial members would compel decent, loyal Australians to join, instructed its conference in 1941 to sue for a democratic peace.
– The honorable gentleman was Minister for Labour and National Service at that time. He knows that such a union is 100 per cent. unionized.
– Such a war industry, particularly in the metal trades group, is practically 100 per cent. unionized. I use that against the right honorable gentleman, and in favour of the case put forward by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), for the reason that many of these unions are taking advantage of the fact that they are engaged in war production, and consequently the Government is unable to resist their efforts to compel those who are working in the industry to join their ranks. I point out to the right honorable gentleman that, at two defence establishments in New South Wales at the moment, a strike is in existence because the unionist workers have boycotted the non-unionists engaged in those factories. That sort of thing is occurring every day in war industries. Unions are taking advantage of the stronger position that they now hold to compel individuals to join their ranks. It is true that the result has been to make them practically 100 per cent. unionized.
– They always have been.
– They were not unionized, to anything like the degree that they are to-day. The contention of the trade union movement, in its advocacy of this proposal, is that it will effect industrial peace, because unions will be able to exercise a’ greater measure of control over their members. What are the facts? In 1939, more than 95 per cent, of the industrial stoppages throughout Australia occurred in the three most highly industrialized sections of industry in the Commonwealth - the engineering trade, the coal-mining industry, and shipping. More than 80 per cent, of the total loss of man-days was due to those industrial disputes. That is undisputed.
– The honorable member believes in preference to unionists.
– I believe in preference to unionists when the Arbitration Court is satisfied that it is a good thing for any particular industry. Honorable members of this Opposition believe that the Arbitration Court is a proper tribunal to analyse the conditions of industry. If the court is satisfied that preference is a good thing, it can award preference. Honorable members opposite time and again have trailed a red herring by declaring that we believe in preference to unionists. That is not the issue. Under the application of the principle of preference to unionists, a man can say, “ Although there is preference in my industry, I still do not want to join the union. I shall take my chance. It may mean that I shall not get a job, but at least I shall be a free agent to determine whether or not 1 shall belong to the union.”
– He will take all the benefits, but will not pay for them.
– That argument is put forward frequently. How does it apply to the case, cited by the right honorable member for Kooyong, of persons in the government service? I am sure that the country will be astounded to learn that persons in Government employ are on different bases, according to whether or not they are members of a union. What is the effect on industry? It has caused a good deal of concern to the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of ‘Australia.
That body has made its views known to the Government. It has said -
Any action to compel tens of thousands of workers of both sexes to join industrial unions at the present time would not only be strongly resented by many sections of the workers concerned, but would also cause great public dissatisfaction. That nothing more calculated to divide the people of Australia and to retard the war effort could be conceived than this proposal from the trade unions is our sincere conviction.
The association has expressed in detail its resistance to this proposal, as one which will divide employer and employee. Recently a stalwart of the Labour movement - Mr. Forgan Smith - made the following most significant statement : -
It is dishonest to use the war for political ends. My breeding and training arc such that I will not be a vassal to any one.
Using the war in that way, the Government is attempting to enforce compulsion upon a great mass of the Australian people.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- U have had a long connexion with this so-called compulsory unionism. That expression is a great mouthful. When preference has been granted to unionists, that is the end of the so-called freedom of individual conscience. The principal consideration of those who object to joining a. union is that, by refraining from doing so, they evade contribution to the costs incurred in securing the conditions under which they work and live. Reference has been made to Sir William Webb. The honorable member who made it would have been wiser had he refrained from doing so. They were not the representatives of the employees, but the representatives of organized capital, who walked out of the conference at which Sir William Webb said that he was in favour of preference to unionists. What was Sir William’s reason for holding that belief? I ask any honorable member who represents a Queensland constituency, and is acquainted with the conditions that exist in that State, to point to any harm that has been done in it by the operation of preference to unionists. Its conditions will compare more than favorably with those of any other State in the Commonwealth ; and the industrial disputes that have occurred in it over the long period during which the principle has been in operation have been fewer than in other States. Very few of the employers there are opposed to preference to unionists. I have had handed to me by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) a telegram that he has just received, stating that in 39 of the 42 firms operating under the agreement, only one firm had refused to come into line. Doubtless those who advocate freedom of conscience would act as do refugees from overseas who live in Sydney and make clothes for some of the large firms of that city, without having any control exercised over their operations. David Jones, Murdochs, and the like do not want supervision of such establishments. All the bogies of which we have heard this afternoon were used in an attempt to prevent the introduction of preference to unionists in the industries of Queens.land. The last speaker referred to Mr. Forgan Smith, whom he lauded as a Labour stalwart only because it suited him to do so. Mr. Forgan Smith was a member of the Queensland Cabinet when preference to unionists was introduced in that State. It was not made applicable by act of Parliament, but authority was given to the Industrial Court to grant it whenever it thought fit to do so ; and it saw fit to do so in every claim which it investigated. I am satisfied that Mr. Forgan Smith is just as happy to-day as he was when he assisted to have the system introduced, because he knows what benefit it has conferred on the State. The organization that I represented before I entered this Parliament had in Queensland approximately 50,000 members. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) almost had a fit of apoplexy in his endeavour to show that Australian soldiers were ‘being treated unjustly. I tell him that the Australian Workers Union, which believes in preference to unionists, provided for the fighting forces of the Commonwealth during the last war more than 50,000 men. It also kept its members financial while they were overseas fighting, and when those men returned to Australia they became entitled to whatever benefits the organization could bestow upon them. What section has provided the majority of the members of the fighting forces in any State during the present war? The majority of them belong to the working class and the trade unions, and believe in preference to “unionists.
– Not 10 per cent, of them are unionists.
– That statement is simply rubbish. More than #0 per cent, of the members of the forces ‘belong to the working class, and are members of the unions to which they belonged at the time of their enlistment. I have for many years been associated with the industrial movement, arid I know that in many callings in which a majority of the men have their union tickets, they compel other workers to join up or to get out, and very few get out. The reason that they were not willing to join up in the first place was not that they did not wish to contribute to the finances of a political movement in which they did not believe, but because they wanted, without contributing anything to the cost, to share in the benefits which the unions had won from the employers. I believe that the Government has done the right thing, and I am convinced that very few of the workers are opposed to what has been done. As a matter of fact, very few of the employers would now go back to the old system under which they bargained individually with their employees. They much prefer to have an organization to treat with.
.- It might be expected that a debate of this kind would be conducted on the merits of the subject, regarding which there is room for a reasonable difference of opinion. The debate was initiated in good faith from this side of the House, and we hoped that the discussion would be kept above personalities. However, when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) entered the lists, it was too much to expect that the discussion would remain clean. We knew that dirt would be thrown about, and “we were not disappointed. I was selected for a part of his attack. He alleged that I was such a bad employer that, at Christmas-time, I said to one of my share-farmers that he could have ten days’ leave without pay.
If the Minister for Labour and National Service knew anything about sharefarming, he would know that sharefarmers are not paid wages, but draw a share from the sale of the products of the farm. Thus, I would have no say regarding what time he took off for his holiday; that would be a matter entirely for himself. On the face of it, therefore, the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service is a lie.
– Order! That expression must not be used in the House.
– I withdraw it, and say that the statement is entirely untrue. Moreover, though it is not necessary to point this out in order to refute what the Minister said, the fact remains that. I have not had a share-farmer on my place for the last seven or eight years. I have had only one share-farmer in my Life, and he left me seven or eight years ago. Thus, it is established that the Minister for Labour and National Service, who, by virtue of his office, might be expected to know something of labour conditions, is completely ignorant of the conditions of share-f arming ; yet he is not above fabricating charges relating to the private affairs of another member of Parliament. He further stated that I had paid 10$d. an hour to men working for me, and that, when the men struck, I raised the -amount to ls. an hour. That statement is also- a fabrication. I never paid wages as low as 1.0-kl., or even ls. an hour. There is a responsibility upon a Minister of the Crown to deal accurately with the facts. Surely there is enough merit in his case to render it unnecessary for him to indulge in misstatements and worse. If some of the things that one has heard regarding the Minister’s conduct of affairs in his constituency were repeated in this chamber they would not make pleasant hearing. He ought to know how difficult it is for those engaged in primary industries to obtain labour on any terms to-day. In order to get labour at all, it is necessary for employers to offer rates which are competitive with those prevailing in other industries.
The principal objection from this side of the House to preference to unionists is that it compels employees to contribute to the funds of a political party with which they may have no affiliation or even sympathy. It savours of the terrorist methods of the Nazis. The Minister for Supply and Development declared that the great majority of employers in the clothing trade have willingly adopted this principle. His statement has a familiar ring. When Hitler holds an election, his followers receive; 99.9 per cent, of the votes for the very good reason that if anybody dares to vote against the Nazis, the Gestapo wi’.. seize him. Employers in the clothing trade, I imagine, believe that if they do not agree to the wishes of the Minister, no contracts will be granted to them. When the Minister declares that the employers wholeheartedly support the principle, I am not convinced.
I do not wish to deny to unionists their just dues ; but wages have risen so inordinately in some protected industries that various individuals no longer work as hard as they did previously. To that degree, our war effort is reduced.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Australian worker is a “ slacker “ ?
– Some of them are slackers. For example, a few days ago an employer told me-
– A biased source!
– He invites an investigation of his statement. He directed three skilled workmen to do an engineering job, which occupied them for three days. A tradesman himself, he contended that with the assistance of two men he could have done the work in an hour.
– A superman.
– Perhaps he is a superman, but he is prepared to prove his statement.
Honorable members opposite claim that there is a good reason for compelling men to join unions. They contend that if a worker enjoys the benefits of award rates and conditions he should contribute to the maintenance of the organization that won for its members those advantages. But that claim does not apply to men who, despite the denial of the Minister, are called up by the Department of Labour and National Service, They are conscripts. Is it necessary to regiment them into a union in order that they may share the cost of maintaining award rates and conditions The Minister cited the example of the British Medical Association; but a doctor is not denied the right to practise if he does not become a member.
– That is the effect of it.
– I know of scores of doctors who are not members of the British Medical Association, but they are practising. On the other hand, I do not know of any skilled man who can get, a job in the engineering trades unless he becomes a member of the union. At the present time, thousands of countrpeople, including the sons of butchers, bakers, farmers and grocers are coming to the city for the purpose of obtaining war work. Some of them are actuated by a patriotic desire to contribute to the war effort, whilst others are looking for a better job with higher remuneration than they had previously. Unless the persons are accepted by “ Jock “ Garden’s organization in Sydney, they have no chance of securing employment in war industries. In other words, in order to strike a blow for their country, they must first strike a blow for “ Jock “ Garden and Eddie Ward. The procedure is for an applicant for a job in a munitions factory to apply to lie Department of Labour and National Service, where his name is registered. He is then sent to the Trades Hall to run the gauntlet of “ Jock “ Garden’s minions.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that the real opposition to compulsory unionism arose from the objection of the United Australia party and the United Country party to a policy which in their view compels men to contribute to the maintenance of a political party in whose principles they might not believe. Honorable members opposite do not object to compelling men to belong to a union. A very effective method of compulsion has for a long time been exerted by the unions themselves. After more than a century of activity, the unions have induced the public to admit that members of unions arc economically freer than non-unionists, and that economic freedom may be secured by compulsory means. Just as the law enforcing the early closing of shops has improved the conditions of those shopkeepers who could not enforce a voluntary agreement to close, so trade unionism has improved’ the conditions of the workers. Those who have been compelled to join unions have found that, as the result of their membership, their conditions have improved. I agree with thu policy of compulsory unionism, provided there are reasonable safeguards, but 1 should like to see those safeguards embodied in an act or in regulations. I do not, like the manner in which compulsory unionism has been introduced in this instance, as outlined by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). If compulsory unionism is to be enforced, the method which the Government adopts should be such as will allow Parliament an opportunity to discuss it.
– The honorable member believes in compelling men to belong to unions, but he does not believe in compelling men to fight for their country.
– I have never objected to the principle of compelling ment to fight for the defence of Australia; but I object to the despatch of our troops overseas and to the territories. If it were not for the support of trade unionists, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), for example, would be defeated at the election. That statement applies with equal force to many other honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey). The late Sir Henry Gullett informed me repeatedly that if every unionist and his family were to vote against him, he had no chance of being elected to this House. The Osborne judgment in England in 1910 declared that it was illegal for trade unions to impose political levies upon their members. In 1913 the act was amended, and a system of “ contractingout “ made every member liable to contribute to a separate political fund if he did not object to doing so. In 1927 the Tory Government in Great Britain had that altered by introducing the system of “ contracting-i n “, so that a member of a union could not be compelled to pay political contributions unless he agreed to do so. The ground of the complaint of the trade unions against the Government in Great Britain to-day is that it will not revert to the position which existed before 1927. In most of the States, the rule laid down in the Osborne judgment has not been changed. The exception in New South Wales is laid down in the Industrial Arbitration Act, which makes it clear that a union cannot compel a member to contribute to a political party. In New South Wales, in order to approach the Industrial Commission the union must first become registered. Section 107 of the Industrial Act, 1940, reads -
A Trade Union . . . may -
provide for the application of its moneyand property to the furtheranceof political objects so long as rules of the union are in force providing . . .
that any payments in the furtherance of such objects are to be made outof a separate fund;
that contribution to such separate fund shall not be a condition of admission to or membership of the said union;
that a member who does not contribute to such separate fund shall not be excluded from any benefits of the union or placed under any disability or at any disadvantage as compared with other members of the union by reason of his failure to so contribute.
Paragraph b of the same section makes the right to recover subscriptions from members subject to the provisions of paragraph c. Honorable members will say, “ Yes, but where is the protection of the man who refuses to contribute?” The Industrial Commission exists for his protection. If the union refuses to admit him, the Commission may fine the union up to £100. The Commission has a general power to enforce the rules of the union and these rules must conform with the provision I have read. Apart from that general power, there is in section 109 a specific provision for the enforcement of the rule relating to the recovery of subscriptions. I think that in New South Wales only one case of objection to use of union funds for political purposes has gone to the higher courts. In the cases of Allen and Gordon, representatives of a substantial minority in the Bookbinders Union objected in the Supreme Court to the subscription by the union of £100 to the anti-conscriptionmovement. The court held that the union had no right to spend money on the conscription campaign and that the £100 must be repaid by the trustees, but the judge showed that he was not very impressed by the motives of the plaintiffs when he refused to allow them costs. The case was decided in 1918. The position in New South Wales, which I have mentioned first because it is the most highly industrialized Australian State, is perfectly clear. I do not know the position in the other States, but I do know the position in Victoria, having learnt it from experience and from inquiry of members of unions. In Victoria no union member can be compelled to pay a political contribution. I do not know of any union rule which compels a member to pay a political contribution, and, if there were one, I think that, as the result of the Osborne judgment, it would be illegal. In Victoria, however, the unions which are affiliated with the Australian Labour party, do make contributions to that party in the same way as pastoral companies, trustee companies, banking companies, insurance companies and practically every big financial employing agency in Australia contributes to the United Australia party and, sometimes, the Country party.
– In 1926 a former employee of the National Union published a statement showing the election subsidy which went to each individual member of the Nationalist party or the Country party. The president of the Country party, then a member of the State Parliament, said that he could not answer for individuals, but none of the money had gone through the organization. Whatever be the case, I do know that the United Australia party in Victoria recei ves money from the National Union, which was formerly known as the Constitutional Union and that much of that money is collected from companies whose shareholders have never been consulted. In Victoria not all unions are affiliated with the Labour party, but those that are pay dues to it. They pay affiliation dues and contributions. If the union has more than 1,000 members, it pays an affiliation due of £2, which is the utmost that can be asked from it. In addition it pays an annual contribution of 6d. for each female member and10d. for each male member. That money is paid out of the general union funds in the same way as capitalist organizations make contributions from their general funds to the United Australia party.
Mr.Calwell. - The contributions by the unions to the Australian Labour party are insignificant.
– Yes. That is the legal position in the two greater States of Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-I do not intend to say anything on the general subject of preference to unionists, because compulsory unionism has existed in Queensland for many years, and I know that my two sons could not be employed in my own office unless they were members of their union. I desire, however, to discuss one aspect of this matter which has had little consideration and which entirely escaped the attention of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). I refer to the position of men when they are conscripted by the Allied Works Council. Those men are compelled to join the union. Other workers, if they do not like the conditions attaching to the job which they are offered - and those conditions include membership of the union - need not accept it, but men conscripted by the Allied Works Council are in an entirely different category. They have no option of refusal. Indeed, their position is very difficult, because they not only have to respond to the call-up but also have to go wherever the country needs them, and very often have to leave their families at home.
– Does the honorable member say that they have to join the union when they work under the Allied Works Council?
– The Allied Works Council compels them to do so.
– That is not so.
– The Allied Works Council deducts the union membership fees from their pay.
– Not unless they authorize it to do so. I am informed by the Director of the Allied Works Council that there is no obligation on the employees to join the union and that contributions to the union are not deducted from theirpay, unless they authorize it.
– Other honorable members, as well as myself, have been informed that if a worker refuses to join the union his union fee is deducted from his wages.
– I made inquiries because I was informed of that, and I received from the Director of the Allied Works Council the answer which I have given to the honorable gentleman.
– If the Attorney-General will assure me that Mr. Theodore will be instructed that if a person objects to joining a union, no compulsion must be placed upon him and that the Allied Works Council must not deduct the union fee from his wages and must refund any money already deducted in that way,I shall be satisfied.
– I have told the honorable gentleman the result of my inquiry; I believe it to be correct. I promise him that I. shall find out exactly what the position is.
– I take the honorable gentleman’s statement as a definite announcement that there is noobligation on the workers to join the union or to pay union fees.
– I shall make further inquiries and supply the honorable member with a further answer or make a statement in the House confirming the verbal information conveyed to me by Mr. Theodore.
– It would be very unfair if a man who had been called upon to perform a national service at this time were compelled to join an organization with which he had no desire to be connected. If such a state of affairs actually exists then an entirely new principle has been established. Even a conscientious objector has the right of appeal against a military call-up.
– No fee is deducted from a worker’s pay unless he authorizes the Allied Works Council to do so.
– I accept that.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) put-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate being continued until6 p.m. this day.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Entertainments Tax Assessment Bill 1942.
States Grants (Entertainments Tax Reimbursement) Bill 1942.
Entertainments Tax Bill 1942.
Question negatived -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 16th September (vide page 386), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under division 1. - The Senate - namely, “Salaries and allowances, £8,660 “, be agreed to.
.- Last night, honorable members had the opportunity to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) debate the financial proposals of the Government as embodied in the budget. Usually, the right honorable gentleman is clear and concise, but lastnight he entirely failed to combat the. charges that had been levelled against the budget. He endeavoured to lead honorable members into side-tracks away from the budget issues. After listening to him, I found that the impressions I had formed while I listened to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) deliver the budget speech were confirmed. The Government has failed to face the realities of the financial position, and I am forced to the conclusion that neither the Prime Minister nor the Treasurer is happy or satisfied with the budget.
Honorable gentlemen also had the opportunity yesterday to hear the views of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles). There is undoubted evidence of political thraldom on the part of that honorable gentleman. In his two years’ association with politics, the honorable gentleman has been changed from the independent soul which entered the Parliament into a slave of the political machine. I believe that in his heart of hearts he knows that this budget is wrong and is not worthy of support, but he is unable frankly to say so.
A chain of curious circumstances has led to our present financial condition. I shall not occupy much time in placing the facts before honorable members. A little less than a year ago, the budget of the Fadden Government, which was introduced in September, 1941, was challenged by an amendment of the then Leader of the Opposition which embodied a suggestion that a new financial plan should be applied to Australia. A few weeks later, the present Government submitted a new budget to Parliament which, on examination, proved to be very little different from the budget submitted by the Fadden Government, except that it dropped the plan for post-war credits. The revenue which the Fadden Government proposed to raise by that means was provided for by this Government by increased taxes on certain ranges of income. There was nothing in the new budget to suggest that a new financial plan had been introduced by the Curtin Government, although the amendment which resulted in its assumption of office provided for such a plan. Twelve months have now passed, and it has become thoroughly evident that the post-war credits plan of the Fadden Government will have to be applied to this country if finance is to be furnished to carry the war to a successful issue. It is necessary that either a member of the Government, which is responsible for the finances of the country, or some other person should have the courage to make this fact clear. The - right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) stated last night that before another nine months shall have passed the post-war credits policy would have to be applied. I marvelled at the right honorable gentleman’s moderation. I have no doubt that during the next few months this Government will be unable to control prices or to finance the conduct of the war, unless it adopts some such policy.
– What ground has the honorable member for that statement?
– I have not the slightest doubt that within the next few months funds for the financing of the war will have to be found from some sources other than those provided for in this budget. The principles outlined in the budget of 1940 remain unchanged. There are three channels through which finance may be obtained for this country. They are, taxes, loans, and national credit resources through the central bank. Very little has been said about the proportions in which money should be obtained through these channels if we are to preserve financial stability.
I suggest that there are three protruding weaknesses in the budget now before us. The first is the estimated war expenditure for 1942-43 of £440,000,000. The Treasurer warned us that this figure might be exceeded. In my view the honorable gentleman has merely given us a token figure. If the estimate had been based upon the war expenditure of the six months ended the 30th June, instead of that for the whole of the last financial year, the figure would have been much greater, and we should have been convinced that the deficiency between the amount which the Government is proposing to raise through the budget and the amount which will have to be found, would be much greater than the estimated £300,000,000. This is of great importance because of its ultimate effect upon national stability and our capacity to find the money that will be required. Although I have said that £440,000,000 is a token figure, I hesitate, as must any other honorable member, to state an amount for which any great degree of accuracy could be claimed. But if the figure were put down at £470,000,000, which I believe would be a moderate estimate, the gap between that amount and the amount which the Government proposes to raise by its budget would be £330,000,000, ‘ and not £300,000,000. The Treasurer would have given an air of greater reality to the budget, and would have inspired greater confidence in the people, if he had faced the position more frankly.
I shall make a few comments concerning the amount of £440,000,000. It is not sufficient to say that it should be £470,000,000 or £500,000,000. It is important to have some basis upon which to found any other estimate. I take the war expenditure for six months to the 31st December, 1941, and find that it was £123,000,000. I then take the war expenditure for the next six months, up to the 30th June, 1942, and find that it was £196,000,000. We all know that there are plans which are gradually coming into full operation. Some of them were implemented by the Menzies and Fadden governments, and others by the present Government. Whatever they may be, they are gradually developing. Larger numbers of men are being drafted into the fighting services. The number of employees in munitions factories is increasing. More raw material is being used. Expenditure generally is swelling. The Allied Works Council is steadily enlarging its activities. It is quite evident that under present conditions the expenditure must continue to rise halfyear by half-year. I would have been happier had the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) estimated that in the half-year now current, to end at the 31st December, 1942, the expenditure would be £220,000,000, and said that during the following halfyear it would be £250,000,000, a total of £470,000,000. I believe that that would have been a very conservative estimate of what will actually be the result. We have available to us the actual expenditure for the first two months of this financial year. July and August have passed, and the actual expenditure has been £70,000,000. Every body knows that the practice in government circles is to make large contract settlements at quarter dates; that the months September, December, March and June, are usually months in which expenditure is very much heavier than in other months. This year, in the months July and August - which frequently are below the average - the expenditure has been at the rate of £420,000,000 per annum. All the indications are that the amount of £440,000,000 given in the budget will not meet the cost of the 1942-43 plan. If we accept the existing method of treatment of commitments in government circles, it is reasonable to suppose that the expenditure this year must be considerably in excess of £440,000,000.
The second weakness that I find in the budget is that there is no concrete plan for the financing of the deficiency of £300,000,000, even assuming that this may be regarded as a reliable figure - which I believe is very unlikely. If the amount be £330,000,000 or £360,000,000, so much the worse. Let us take the budget as it stands, with no concrete plan of finance. I say to the committee that the deficiency is too large to be left to chance. If, by the end of the calendar year 1.942 - only three and a half months hence - the Government should find that the deficiency cannot be met by loans, &c, r.hen there will remain in this financial year only six months within which to put inco operation a proper plan to finance the operations of the year. Any plan designed to apply to the year 1942-43 should have been thought out and should have commenced to operate at about March of 1942. The Government’s difficulty to-day is that, before it will know that the money that it needs cannot be raised by voluntary finance, the time will be too late to put into operation a satisfactory plan for this financial year.
The third weakness revealed by the budget is the amount of the deficiency which the Government proposes shall be financed by what is called central bank credit. A government spokesman has announced that the Government expects to use central bank credit to an amount of £100,000,000 during this year. Do not let iis have any misunderstanding about this government spokesman. Either there is or there is not a government spokesman. If a person announces over the national broadcasting network that he is a government spokesman, and he is a fraud, it is up to the Government to take corrective action. When I hear over a national station a government spokesman make a statement that is not contradicted by the Government, I assume that he has spoken with the authority of the Government. This government spokesman has said that the Government expects to use central bank credit to an amount of £100,000,000 during this year. 1 take that to be an addendum to the budget figure which the Treasurer either intended to use, or perhaps thought best not to use, when he delivered his budget speech. By way of supplement to his statements, and in order to complete his financial forecast, a government spokesman announced on the following day that £100,000,000 was to be found by means of central bank credit. That is an optimistic figure. If my estimate of expenditure be correct, it should be £130,000,000. If other estimates of expenditure are correct, then it, must be considerably more than that. But even the amount of £100,000,000 assumes two very unlikely happenings. It assumes that the £300,000,000 can be met to the amount of £200,000,000 by borrowings, and that the total expenditure will not exceed £440,000,000. It appears to me that unless a more tangible plan of finance can be prepared and quickly put into operation, the gap that will have to be bridged by means of central bank credit in 1942.-43 will be nearer £200,000,1*00 than £100,000^.000. This- is so dangerous a position that the most courageous treatment of it by the Government is needed. I am all in favour of the Prime Minister’s austerity campaign,, and will do everything that I can to further it. But it is not enough it does -not go to the root of the problem, or solve the difficulties of the Government. The most favorable response to it that can be expected will still leave Australia in a position which it will not be able to face with safety. A year ago, the Government decided to leave finance on a voluntary footing, apart from taxation. It estimates that this- year its receipts from taxation and other sources will total £249,000,000. I mention that figure because I said at the outset of my remarks that it was necessary to have a proper balance between these three contributions to the national finance - taxation, loans, and central bank credit - as only 45 per cent, of the expenditure would be raised by means of taxation if the budget were to work out according to the Treasurer’s forecasts. If my other estimate of £470,000,000 be correct, it is possible that only 40 per cent, of our requirements will be raised by means of taxation. It is wrong that this country should depend for either 55 per cent, or 60 per cent, of its war finances on a voluntary effort. I put it to the Government that the parting of the ways has been reached. It can no ‘longer trust the voluntary system of loan-raising to bridge the gap in our finances. If it attempts to do so, and fails, by the time the failure becomes apparent it will be too late to avoid a serious deterioration of. the financial position during the coming financial year. Moreover, it will be necessary in 1943 for the Government to retrace its steps, and to put into operation a scheme which will have a lot of leeway to make up. Therefore, I urge the Government to go back twelve months, and admit that it made a mistake when it opposed the introduction of the system of post-war credits. I believe that the people would’ praise, rather than blame it for doing so. However; a scheme of post-war credits^ if introduced now, must be comprehensive: It must be complete, and ready to be- put into operation not later than the- beginning of 1943. A scheme of this kind cannot be implemented at short notice: The Government should take action now with a view to having the scheme in operation by the beginning of next year.
I desire to draw the attention, of the House to what has happened in regard to Australian finances during, the year ended the 30th June last. Parliament now has before it the first, returns’ submitted by the Commonwealth Bank under the new Statutory Rule No.. 376, which came into operation on the 31st August, 1942. These returns result from the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), when I moved in the House in May last for the disallowance of regulations which relieved the Common.wealth Bank of the necessity to furnish certain returns. The new returns now available are the most comprehensive statement of Australian finances ever made available, and I invite the attention of honorable members to them They show the movement of finance through the Commonwealth. Bank, through the Note Issue Department, through the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and through the various other savings banks, as well as through the trading banks. The returns will convince honorable- members of how well the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks have co-operated with the Government during: the past year in financing, the affairs of the nation. The scheme of cooperation between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks was outlined in the budgets introduced by the former Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), and the present Treasurer, but it was not until the commencement of 1942 that the nation began, to get the benefit of it. The returns show how heavily the Government has leant upon its financial supporters up to the 30th June, 1942, and make possible an estimate of the position that may be reached by the 30th June, 1943, unless steps be taken now to increase the flow of money into the Treasury, and’ to lighten the load that must otherwise fall upon the centra] banking system. During the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1942, notes in circulation increased by £32,000,000 to £108,000,000. The amount has increased still further since then, but, in order “to make a comparison, I take the figures up to the 30 th June. Up to the same period, the treasury-bill issue increased by £80,000,000, bringing the total up to £127,000,000. All the bills were discounted by the Commonwealth Bank, and the proceeds have passed into circulation. Thus, £112,000,000 has gone into circulation from these two sources during the past year.
– Almost all of - it was hoarded.
– You cannot hoard treasury-bills. The most that could have been hoarded was some part of the extra £32,000,000 of treasury-notes. I am inclined to discount the .suggestion that notes have been hoarded in large quantities. I believe that only a small proportion of the extra £32,000,000 of notes in circulation represents hoarded money. However, even assuming that some considerable part of the increase was hoarded, the fact remains that the hoarded notes can be released and go into circulation immediately.
– They are always a potential danger.
– That is so. The Government must face the position that £112,000,000 of new money is in circulation. It is true that the base upon which the credit was issued has also expanded. The deposits in the savings banks have increased by £24,000,i000-£17,000,000 in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and £7,000,000 in the other savings banks. The trading banks have placed on deposit with the Commonwealth Bank £37,000,000 under the heading of wartime deposits. From these two sources - increased savings and trading bank deposits - the central bank has the benefit of an increased base to the amount of £54,000,000 to help support the new money that has gone into circulation. But do not let us be misled. Both the £17,000,000 in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and the £37,000,000 deposited by the trading banks, are deposits at call, and can be used any day in the future. If this country is faced with the possibility of inflation, those deposits will be withdrawn, and will immediately go into circulation. The savings bank figures arc extremely disappointing, particularly having regard to the light taxation imposed upon the lower incomes during last year. In June, 1942, savings bank deposits were £274,000,000, whilst a year earlier they were £250,000,000. Considering the amount of the national income, and the huge amount of money in circulation, it is a reflection on our people that deposits increased by only £24,000,000. It is sufficient to give the Government pause in regard to any schemes it may have for raising £300,000,000 by voluntary means. The tra t]l of the position is that, during last year, the Government was able to bring only £130,000,000 into the Treasury by voluntary means- £120,000,000 by loan, and les3 than £10,000,000 net by the sale of war savings certificates. The Commonwealth Bank last year was obliged to find £75,000,000 over and above the money which went into the Treasury, so that it now holds securities to the value of £250,000,000, as compared with £183,OOO,OOO in the previous year. Despite this position, the ‘Government hopes to raise by voluntary loans this year £200,000,000 compared with £130,000,000 last year, and to obtain from central bank credit £100,000,000. compared with £75,000,000. I warn the Government that unless the position be taken in hand, the treasury-bill issue and the note issue at the 30th June, 1943, may total £400,000,000 compared with £225,000,000 last year. By prompt action the Government can avoid that position. But if the Treasurer allows the position to drift he will not be able to apply any correctives until too late.
This is the time for the Government to turn its thoughts to some plan for organized finance; but a thorough organization of Australian finance can be achieved only by means of a system of post-war credits to supplement the other sources of receipts which are already available to the Government. To be sound, a post-war credits scheme must apply not only to incomes but also to the revenues of State governments, semigovernmental authorities, and local governing bodies. To those who contend that the application of a post-war credits scheme on such a wide’ basis would disturb the present arrangements for public and private spending, I reply that the scheme presented by the Government is unthinkable. No scheme is too drastic if it will save the nation from inflation, and help to finance the cost of the war. In any scheme for the organization of finance, there must be, in the current year, some dependence on central bank credit. That makes it all the more important to draw from other sources the utmost revenue that is possible. The Government cannot overlook the fact that it is just as necessary to organize finance for war purposes, as to organize man-power or materials.
The taxation of the lower income groups to-day is quite inadequate to provide the finance that the Government requires, and to withdraw from circulation the moneys that are menacing the price structure of the nation. I ask the Government to adopt a systematic plan of post-war credits along the lines which I shall explain. The best course would be a combination of taxation and post-war credits; but if the Government, in its lack of wisdom, decides not to increase taxation, the next best thing will be the imposition of a full range of post-war credits.
– Suppose the post-war credits plan does not bring in sufficient revenue to meet the Government’s requirements ?
– Any increase of revenue that reduces the tremendous total challenging Australia’s security at the present moment will be a useful contribution. If we are to avoid inflation, spending must be reduced now. After the war, spending must be increased compared with the normal rate if we are to avoid a depression. Why can not we relate these two things, and prepare a plan that will minimize their evils? If there is too much spending by the public at the moment, and we are threatened with too little spending after the war, the Government, which advocates a policy of liberal finance, has an excellent opportunity to introduce a constructive scheme for relating these two unhealthy conditions, and creating from them a condition that will be helpful to the nation by minimizing the effects of the war.
As the result of the issue of new money since the outbreak of war, the purchasing power of the public has increased by not less than £200,000,000. In addition, prices have increased by 20 per cent., despite the controls that have been applied. The real increase of the prices of food and clothing is not less than 30 per cent., because 20 per cent. is an average which applies to all the items that are included in computing the cost of living. Some of them, such as rents, travelling expenses and amusements, remain static. If the Government persists in drawing upon the Central Bank for unrestricted credit without the restraining influence of post-war credit and a wider scheme of controls, prices will increase by at least 10 per cent. before next June. This statement may prove to be a very moderate estimate of the position. A vicious circle already exists, because wages are constantly chasing this increase. A considerable percentage of this enormous sum of £440,000,000 for war purposes is represented by the fact that the prices of supplies which the Government requires have risen under the influence of the general trend. It would be possible for inflated costs alone to add a huge sum to the war expenditure of 1943-44.
Critics of Australian finance during the depression claimed that the financial system was not used to the limit that it should have been. I was one of those critics, but I have no desire to be associated with the theorists who forget that finance, like any other structure, must have foundations. Otherwise, it will collapse. I have indicated that there should be an even more comprehensive plan of post-war credits than has been mooted in this chamber up to the present. I shall not express an opinion on the constitutional aspect, because I do think that whatever the nation needs can be achieved and will be achieved if all parties are agreeable. If it be suggested that a State government or any other statutory authority should make a contribution to the funds of the Commonwealth Government I reply that, if the figure were computed and made known, public opinion would, I believe, compel that contribution to be made.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8.15 p.m.
– There should be instituted and put into operation a comprehensive scheme of post-war credits for the purpose of meeting at least some considerable proportion of the deficiency in the Government revenue for the coining year, so that the war plan can be financed without danger to the nation’s credit. The excessive spending in Australia to-day is not confined, to the individual, but extends also to State governments, statutory authorities and local government authorities. At a time like this the financial position demands that there shall be no competition between public bodies for the spending of moneys required for the purposes which I have indicated, and that there shall be no competition that sets up a demand for man-power and materials required for the essential needs of the nation. 1 desire now to outline briefly what I had in mind when I indicated the necessity for a comprehensive plan of postwar credits that would go to’ somewhat greater lengths ‘than has been indicated in the past. I put it to the Government that it is not impossible to raise in Australia the sum of £500,000,000 from all sources. The budget provides for the raising from taxation and all other revenues of £249,000,000, which I shall call, for the sake of convenience, £250,000,000. I think it is acknowledged that the voluntary loans scheme, even when a post-war credits scheme is added to the demands made upon the financial system, would produce approximately £150,000,000. A post-war credits scheme on the comprehensive basis that I have indicated would raise £100,000,000. Those three sources together would produce £500,000,000. If the voluntary loan system were to produce more than £150,000,000, so much the better, but. I think that the Government is not on safe ground if it anticipates collecting a larger amount than that, particularly having regard to the demands that would be made by the post-war credits plan on certain groups of income earners. It must not be supposed that the sum of £100,000,000 can be raised from the postwar credits scheme from individuals alone. An examination of the scales of income indicates, however, that it is not impossible in present conditions to raise approximately £60,000,000 from that source. 1 suggest that it is also possible to raise £20,000,000 from post-war credits from the public companies in Australia, and a further sum of £20,000,000 from. State governments and public authorities. 1 think the value of the post-war credits scheme, as applied to public companies, would be very great in Australia, not only because of the contribution towards the present war requirements, but also because it would compel some companies, which may not have made their fair contribution to the war funds up to the present, to do so. That, of course, is the inherent weakness in any voluntary loans scheme. Companies and individuals prepared to contribute will do so, but many others equally able have not, done so up to the present. I do not think that it would be practicable to apply the postwar credits scheme to private companies, because their undistributed profits are taxed at personal rates and these personal rates would include any increase for postwar credit.
To support my contention that it is not impossible to raise £20,000,000 from public bodies, including State governments, I shall indicate to the committee the revenues of those authorities during the last year in respect of which figures are available. The revenues of all State governments from taxation, business undertakings, grants and interest recoupment totalled £158,000,000. The revenues of the semi-governmental and local governing authorities in Australia from rates and business undertakings amounted to £38,000,000. There are also revenues in ihe hand? of trusts and commissions, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, for example, amounting to £13,000,000. The revenues in the banda of all those authorities amounts to £209,000,000, and reduction of their expenditure by 10 per cent, would enable them to contribute £20,000,000 to Commonwealth governmental funds. I know that there may be constitutional difficulties in the way of making them contribute, but, if a properly prepared plan were evolved and each authority were advised of the amount which it should contribute, it would be difficult for any authority to resist under the conditions of to-day a request that it should contribute to Commonwealth public funds. [Extension of time granted.] I do not suggest any rigid formula by which assessments could be made upon public companies and authorities, because that is obviously a job for an expert committee, and it would probably require separate investigation of each organization; but I do say that it is possible for expenditure now incurred by those authorities to be reduced to the amount that would make such a contribution to the central fund possible. There is every reason why public bodies to-day should spend less than their annual revenues, because those revenues will be of no value to them unless the nation is able to defeat its enemies. There is also every reason why they should have additional moneys to spend in the post-war period, and those who have trained their minds to the problems that will confront this country after the war know that it will be necessary for them to expend more than would normally be the case if they were to rely upon the revenues normally available to them at that time.
Associated with these subjects is the question of the public debt. There should be to-day a stronger policy with a view to dispelling in the public mind any notion that the public debt of Australia is beyond the capacity of this country to repay. Unfortunately, that impression prevails in some uninformed quarters. It is loosely said, but it, unfortunately, affects the capacity of the Government fully to exploit the nation’s resources for war loans, and I believe that there should be an organized programme to deal effectively with it. It is a form of defeatism, and it is capable of doing by insidious methods great harm to the nation. I shall not weary the committee with figures, but those who think of the possibilities of this country know that the public debt is related to the population and the productive capacity of the country. In that regard the potentialities of Australia are enormous. Even allowing for the expenditure that this country will need to incur after the war on repatriation and post-war developments, it is not impossible that, with expansion of pro duction, the public debt of this country may be expressed in a smaller figure per capita ten years hence than to-day. Those with faith and confidence in the country should not be slow to express that view to the country, and to try to encourage within Australia a different idea of the importance of the public debt from that which unfortunately exists in some quarters at present.
I should not be prepared to propose the plan I have put to the committee in regard to post-war credits and post-war reconstruction if it were not associated with a sound scheme of control so as to ensure that the expenditure shall always be kept within reasonable bounds. Indeed, I think that any sound scheme of post-war credits must run hand in hand with sound economic controls, and those controls will continue, not only during the war, but also after the war. The time is ripe for the people to be told that certain forms of economic control must be continued after the war. Rationing and price control must be extended considerably as this war proceeds. My own view is that rationing shouldhave gone to very much greater lengths before now, and during the next few months the Government will be obliged to catch up some of the leeway in this regard. I believe that control of building and investment must be continued at least during the war, and those checks, with rationing and price control, will tend to limit inflationary tendencies.
I ask the Government to overhaul quickly the activities of the Prices Commissioner in regard to profit limitation, which I regard as a harmful procedure. The proper course for the Government to follow in regard to the limitation of profits is to extend the limitations of the war-time companies tax and to take into the revenue all profits that are earned over and above some properly defined level. That should be set out in legislation. It should not rest in the power of any official to say what is surplus profit. It should be defined like the laws of taxation are defined. The proper place for any profits made over and above the limits set is the Commonwealth Treasury, and I think that that should be taken in hand now, because I regard the present procedure as haphazard and harmful’ to the nation. I recently read in the press’, for example, an unofficial statement, that gave the appearance of having Been inspired, to the effect that the Prices Commissioner had compelled the traders to refund to the public several millions of pounds that represented overcharges. This, I regard, as sheer folly. If there have been overcharges to that extent, that money should be’ paid into the Commonwealth Treasury in order to help to finance the nation. It should not be given back to the public to increase an already overwhelming spending power.
– And to help companies to crush their competitors.
– Precisely. By refunding these moneys to the public we merely intensify Australians difficulties by adding to the spending power of the people,, which is already too great. Then, from a practical point of view, I consider it very foolish that, £or instance, there should be refunded to Jones in 1943 something that Smith overpaid in 1942. It seems to me to be strange that, after three years- of war, we still have government activities operating in different directions. There is complete lack of co-ordination between the policies of the Treasury and the Prices Commission. In my opinion, the activities of the Prices Commission should be limited to the fixation of prices and margins of gross profits. Excess profits, if any, should be dealt with by legislation enacted by this Parliament, which should set out a proper formula to be administered by the Commissioner of Taxation. A special authority should’ also be constituted to handle appeals against decisions of the Prices’ Commissioner. This body should have power to increase or decrease any prices’ or margins fixed by the commissioner. I am confident that, in order to carry out its financial arrangements, the Government will have to extend the principle of rationing very considerably. The onus is upon the Government to educate the people in this regard, because, unfortunately, many people believe that rationing’ is mad’e necessary by short supply of certain articles of merchandise, whereas that is only half of the story. Rationing arises from the need to compel people to reduce their expenditure and force money into the central fund’, so’ as to! reduce the demand upon the nation’s man-power and services.
I see danger in the fact that present rates of taxation imposed upon some traders, whether as individuals or as private companies’, are so severe that they cannot provide against the losses’ that are bound to occur in the post-wax period whenprices will return to normal. I have seenmany instances in which prices of merchandise have increased since the outbreak of waT by 30 per cent, or more, and the profits of the traders have been so heavily taxed - I do not complain of that in the sense of taxation - that there remains to them little or nothing from, which to establish a reserve to provide against the fall to normal pre-war levels which will occur in due course.
– Some of them pay out more than the amount of their profits for the yean
– That is so.
– They will be lucky if they have their machinery and plant left after the war.
– The Minister has no right to say that. I deplore the tendency in this House and in other quarters to speak of all companies as though they were enemies of the nation. Those of us who watched the affairs of the nation closely during the depression period of 1930-32, and during the period of recovery up to 1936, realize how much the nation depended then on the ability of companies and trading organizations to employ people and rehabilitate the financial condition of the nation. “When the war ends, we shall again look to those hundreds of companies to put people back into employment. There will be- chaos on all sides unless these concerns be- allowed to establish funds- to provide against the losses which will inevitably result from the fall of prices in the postwar period. I deplore the allegation that all companies are leeches sucking the lifeblood of the nation, and also the statement that any company will be lucky to be in existence when the war ends. That applies to all of us, but we are determined’ that we shall live. The duty is upon us to see that during the war these companies shall pay into the Treasury all the money that they have for the purpose of financing the war, and also to see that, by means of a post-war credits scheme, some money will be returned to them in order to protect them against post-war losses and help them to rehabilitate the nation by employing our people. “We shall be obliged to face depression conditions again after the war. Let us not be forced then to hold an inquest upon our methods of to-day and regret that we were not sufficiently farsighted to anticipate this inevitable condition of falling prices. The Government should plan a post-war credits scheme now. The Government of the United States of America has done so already. In recent months I have read in the newspapers accounts of what is being done in America in order to anticipate the country’s need for post-war rehabilitation, while, at the same time, satisfying the immediate defence needs of the nation. The opportunity exists now for far-sighted action. I hope that the Government will not allow the chance to pass.
.- This budget is the fourth war budget, and as budgets, like Christmas, come once n year, that fact reminds us of the flight of time and the length of the war. I could not fail to sympathize with the Treasurer in the giant task that presented itself to him in the preparation of this budget. Although he has proceeded largely along conventional lines, from which I believe he will have to deviate before very long, I congratulate him upon his labours and upon the fact that he at least has blazed a trail for us for another year. If I venture a few words of criticism I hope that he will rest assured that they are not unfriendly, but are intended to be helpful. When I spoke in this House last week, I ventured to suggest for discussion a comparison of moral and material values. I expressed the hope when the Prime Minister said, as he has frequently done, that we were putting our all into this war, that he was speaking solely of material things, since there are some things not of a material character which, in my view at all events, are too precious to be sold at any price. The budget, to the first item of which I am now addressing myself, is largely a matter of material things. There is not much romance and there is not a great deal of room for moral philosophy in a budget of ways and means, although, of course, these loftier considerations must necessarily permeate all avenues of occupation and should, I believe, influence the Parliament of a great democracy such as we claim Australia to be. The exordium of the Treasurer’s budget speech must be allowed to pass as a kind of solvent intended to prepare our quivering flesh for the surgeon’s knife. As usual, the introduction contained a great deal of self-appreciation - I do not mean self-appreciation by the Treasurer, because he is one of the most modest of men, but self-appreciation of ourselves - and the usual extravagant condemnation of the enemy. I sometimes wonder whether it is possible for anybody to he as good as we are wont to consider ourselves, or as bad as the enemy is represented to be. In this world, in which by design of Divine Providence we are condemned to live our short span of life with good and bad alike, we seem to live in constant fear lest some one should be inclined to advocate the ending of this war on just terms. To my great regret the first criticism that I must offer is that the Government has thought it necessary to prosecute certain well-meaning persons who had directed some reasoned and temperate argument towards that purpose.
The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) intimated that the major item in the accounts of the previous financial year was war expenditure, which had greatly increased to a total of £319,000,000. I intend, in these remarks, to discard, as too trifling for consideration, mere thousands of pounds. The Treasurer said that that total of £319,000,000 was £98,000,000 more than the estimate of the budget, and £149,000,000 more than the actual expenditure in 1940-41. But. we do not come to really astronomical figures until we examine the budget for 1942-43. It is estimated that this year war expenditure will amount to £440,000,000, which is £120,000,000 more than the actual expenditure of last year, although that figure was considered to be phenomenal. The Treasurer warned us, however, that the experience of last year might be repeated, and the estimate again exceeded as the result of the grim struggles that lie ahead. The cost of the war shows no sign of diminution, and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) this afternoon directed some intelligent argument to showing precisely why we should look for an increase, by leaps and bounds, of our war expenditure. The .aggregate national debt has now reached a total of £1,629,000,000, comprising £911,000,000 for the States and £718,000,000 for the Commonwealth. Last year the Commonwealth national debt, was £1,426,000,000, so it is advancing rapidly. Significantly, however, the State debts decreased last year ewing to the operation of sinking funds, and to the fact that the State Premiers were denied the pleasure of raising loans, which they would very much like to have raised for local purposes.
The Treasurer congratulated himself upon the result of the uniform tax litigation. I congratulate him, too. The honorable gentlemen even trailed his coat ever so gently, and with something as near to a cock-a-hoop as could be expected from a person of his temperament, he said that it was not inappropriate to report that the challenge made by four States of the validity of the income tax legislation had been resolved by the High Court in favour of the Commonwealth. It is interesting to note that the States have submitted to the inevitable, with more or less good grace, and have intimated their willingness to vacate the income tax field out of which they have been so ruthlessly pushed. The Treasurer’s victory in the court was, however, somewhat pyrrhic, for on various grounds the more eminent and experienced lawyers of the court were opposed to the Commonwealth claim. When one remembers that the judgment of the numerical majority was as heavily charged with war hysteria, as was the judgment in the case of Farey v. Burnett in 1916, the decision of the court does not appear in so favorable a light. I regret the nature of the decision because, generally speaking, I welcome any judgment which implies an expansion of the power of the Commonwealth and a contraction of the power of local authorities. As all those persons know who are in the least interested, 1 am entirely favorable to plenary power residing in the Commonwealth and delegated power residing in local bodies for local areas properly designed without too studious a regard for existing State boundaries. I regret that these matters should have been decided in an atmosphere of war, and that the defence power of the Commonwealth should have been called in aid in order to amplify the Commonwealth power. I did not have an opportunity to speak on the uniform income tax measures when they were before the House, but, had I done so, I should have been inclined to submit the view that, in point of law, the State advocates were right and so, ex post facto. I range myself on the side of what I have already described as the more experienced and more eminent lawyers of the High Court. They were right, but it gives me no pleasure to say so, for I am not in favour of supporting the States against the Commonwealth. There is, however, a prescribed method for amending the Constitution. I think it is cumbrous, and that it will probably be ineffectual; but, at all events, if one is to speak as a lawyer, one must take the law as it stands. In my view the Commonwealth defence power was irrelevant and should not have been called in to support an argument to which it does not properly belong.
The budget rightly directs attention to the improvement that has been effected in social services in the increase of pensions for the aged and invalid, the provision of pensions for widows, and the extension of the benefits of child endowment, and the maternity allowance. It also mentions that well-deserved and perhaps too-long delayed increases of pay have been provided for members of the fighting services. I cheerfully congratulate the Government upon having made these improvements. The Labour movement, a3 a whole, together with the Government, merits congratulation on this point; but it must be said that they do not contribute to the solution of the cardinal financial difficulties which confront the Government. Of the amount of £440,000,000 to be provided for war expenditure this year, £390,000,000 is to be disbursed in Australia and £50,000,000 overseas. It is amazinghow cheerfully we proceed with these rollicking hundreds of millions crowding upon us, in spite of the fact that they show no promise of diminution or limit of time; It is not surprising that the Treasurer should have warned us that the experience of last year may be repeated, and the estimate of expenditure exceeded. The honorable gentleman then went on to an anti-climax, for he said that there were some people who thought the war should be financed by central bank credit, but that in that course there was great danger. But grave danger lies about us on every hand. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other Ministers have repeatedly assured us of the gravity of the situation which faces us. They deprecate what they call the complacency of the civil population. As a matter of fact, this “ grave danger “ cry is a little overdone. It is a mistake for the members of any government to assume thatthey are the only persons who are conscious of the danger, and that all others are living in a fool’s paradise. The mere fact that people keep a placid face and a complacent demeanour does not mean that they are not conscious of the danger, or are not anxious about the future. I consider that they are to be encouraged and congratulated in that they at least have an appearance of complacency. The particular “grave danger” in this instance is bank credit and inflation. Later in the budget, the Treasurer told us that we cannot get money by legerdemain. Nor, I venture to add can it be obtained indefinitely from the pawnshop. After all, there are some very thoughtful people whohave views in the matter of expansion of credit and are just as much entitled to at least respectful attention as are those persons who do not appear to give any serious thought to anything.
Last Wednesday night we had in this chamber what may be described as a bright programme. The big guns boomed impressively. The programme was commenced by our precarious majority - the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) - or should I say a part of our precarious majority ; the other part of it is paying me the compliment of listening to me.
– Does the honorable gentleman insist on its being precarious?
– The honorable member must not pretend’ to be indignant with me. I do not insist upon the word if it be at all displeasing to him. I am quite prepared to criticize the Government in a friendly way, butIcertainly should not like to feel that I had driven our majority over the gangway with one speech. Then we had the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), with flashes of his old style; the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), with a very considerable array of interesting and well-prepared impromtus; and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) himself. All were heard to advantage.
– What about the General ?
– We have not yet heard the General. I take leave to look forward to the happy occasion when we shall hear him.
– The honorable gentleman will look back on it, too.
– The right honorable member for Kooyong made a strong speech against national credit and inflation, and, I believe, succeeded in proving fairly well that national credit is inevitable. The Prime Minister proved that the previous Government had raised very large sums by that method; not so large, of course, as a war budget, but still, easily twice as large as the very modest £18,000,000 which, in a time of peace and prosperity, the Treasurer of a government of which I was a member endeavoured to raise for the purpose of providing employment and developing this country.
– They nailed it by another name in those days.
– They called it by many disrespectful and even obscene names; but it was the same thing, by whatever name they elected to call it. I admit that the war is not the best medium for the implementation of national credit.
– Or anything else.
– It may be pointed out, however, that this is not a very good season for implementing serious social development of any kind. War is itself a moat uneconomic method of spending, whether the money be obtained by means of national credit, loans or taxation. The right honorable member for Kooyong was appalled to think that the treasury could hope to raise £300,000,000 by loans; because it has to be remembered that the Treasurer had stated that that very large void of £300,000,000 was to be bridged by loans, Arc. “&c.” is a very expanding and pliant rubberoid for indicating what one cannot otherwise describe. But the right honorable member did point out - rightly, in my opinion, although not. to the point to which I am coining - that each succeeding loan has been harder to raise than its predecessor. That, clearly, has been our experience; and it is likely to continue to be our experience. I turn to a sound financier, so described, like the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) for material in support of that view. He is just as satisfied as I am that beyond all doubt the costs of war will mount and that the difficulty of raising money by loan will increase from day to day. The right honorable member for Kooyong cited his own experience as a patriot and an investor. He gave the simple illustration that he had contributed what he could afford to a loan that was raised last year and that consequently he would not have as much to contribute to the loan this year. This is a sample of that elementary arithmetic that seems to appeal to the right honorable member. At any rate, he held out little tope of the gap being bridged by that means. He -then turned to the lower-paid wage-earners who at present are exempt. I submit to honorable members opposite a proposition : Whilst there is an evident desire to cut the wage-earner to the bone, is it not a fact that, on any calculation, the amount to be derived from that source, by means of taxation, cannot, in the light of the gap that has to be bridged, be more than a drop in the bucket?
This war is likely to be a long one. I do not know whether this observation may hearten the enemy. I do not think that it will ; but if it be considered likely to do so, I shall have it excised from Ilansard after the newspapers have capitalized it, as they always capitalize my speeches by publishing them verbatim. I cannot see in this, the fourth year of the war, that any intelligent observer can confidently say that we have begun to win the war ; and that, of course, is our objective. As most of the better informed and more intelligent observers frequently point out, it is likely to be a long war. Hazarding a guess, I should say that it is likely to last at least another five years. Of course, the unexpected may happen. Some nation may crack; revolutions may occur - they ‘have occurred previously - and all sorts of things may happen. But all the circumstances point to the likelihood of its being a long war; and if the difficulties of raising money by loan increase with every appeal, if we shall have exhausted the possibilities of taxation to the very limit, what will be left? When we have exhausted the pool from which loans are raised - and we must already have exhausted it, if not wholly at all events to a substantial degree - what will be left but national credit? Sooner or later, we must take a leaf out of the book of the dictators. What remains to Hitler and what remains to Mussolini? Are loans being raised in China or Japan? Are they paying interest there?
– Yea, they are trying to negotiate for £50,000^000 now in China.
– If the honorable member goes down the front steps of Parliament House to-night he will find somebody to essay the impossible task of raising a fiver from him. I can meet people like that on any street corner. 1 repeat, what is left but national credit? The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) says that we may resort to forced loans, but he says too much. He says it very well, but he still says too much. He says that we cannot get this money by voluntary loans. “I know,’’ he says, “because I lent last year, and I have not the money to lend this year.” Then he advocates a resort to compulsion in order to get the money. How can you make people do the impossible? And the impossible would seem, according to the right honorable gentleman’s own frank admission, for him to put anything like as much into the next loan as he put into the last one. That is the normal case.
The, position hi ‘my own case is slightly different, but I shall not tell honorable ine n l u: rs what it is.
The Treasurer puts it this way: Last year, we doubled the receipts from public loans* and obtained ?120,000,000. If we 1 t>u bie that amount again we shall get Ci40,000,000. 1 arn sorry that the Treasurer allowed that fatuous observation >i be placed on his lips. We all remember that devastating arithmetical pyramid which is created by doubling totals. The observation of the Treasurer does not suggest any solution of the problem before us. He went on to remark that, after the doubling process had been completed, there would still need to be raised ?80,000,000 by the sale of war saving.? certificates, that being about the relationship of certificates to loans in British economy. We, however, are concerned with our own economy. We have not been able, even in the past, to reach anything like as high a standard as that and I do not know what assurance w can have that we shall reach it in the future. Not one of the entire array of speakers from both sides of the House who addressed themselves to this subject has suggested how we can bridge this financial gap - which may hu increased in the near future by an unknown number of millions of pounds - except by the use of national credit. ’ Extension of time granted.] We arc told that if national credit is used in this way prices will rise, money will be devalued, and fixed incomes will melt away I admit that all that is possible without control. I merely say that it is the only method disclosed in this debate by which there is any possibility of mir raising the money asked for. I know that inflation followed the expansion of national credit in Germany and in France, but I ask, were prices in those countries controlled for the protection of the people ? Was not inflation deliberately used by financial jugglers as a method of repudiation? In Australia, we have expert price-fixers. We have rationing, to, worse luck though I believe in it. We have a most elaborate and comprehensive system of control, and we have a Government which is interested in the common people, which is working hard to prevent pro-
Steering, and to check any abnormal rise of prices. In any case, does not the raising of loans tend to raise prices? The money raised by borrowing is placed in circulation just as is the money created by the use of bank credit. In both cases there is the same enlarged spending power available to the public. The money is spent on the war effort, and there is the same shortage of goods in both cases. As I have heard thi* Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) argue, the resulof .both methods of raising money 1= almost precisely the same, except that, when we borrow, we leave the burden of interest to posterity, which will have to bear the responsibility without having been guilty of warfare. Indeed, when we hand on this burden of debt and interest, our slogan should be, “ Austerity by posterity”. There is, of course, no such thing as austerity for the rich, but 1 have no time to develop that argument. Sooner or later, we must take a leaf out of the books of the dictators in the matter of finance. We have not been slow to do so in regard to other matters. We have already set up a dictatorship here. I am not complaining of that, because we have benevolent dictators in Australia. The Minister for War Organization of Industry is a dictator. We have invested our Ministers with dictatorial power; and they are not too modest to exercise them. Any one who goes down the street and tries to buy a pound of tea will very soon find that our dictatorship is a working reality.
We cannot solve our financial problems by trifling with them, nor by raising ?3,000,000 from an entertainment tax. thought it is all to the good that we should raise something in that way. What I really fear i3 a shortage of necessaries - of food and shelter, which includes clothing. I fear, particularly, a shortage of food, and in the matter of food supplies the various governments in Australia have been frankly inept and ineffectual. The Government appears to be calling up all men for military service, and as the result of this policy, primary .production is being neglected. Fruit is rotting on the trees, but people cannot beg, borrow or steal good fruit. In the near future supplies of butter will be reduced because the cows are not being milked. The capital cities have experienced a severe shortage of firewood, though the bills are heavily timbered. That the people have shivered in their homes during the winter is a deplorable condition of affairs. Young children on their way to school have been drenched with rain, and have returned to their homes in their wet clothes. There ha hern neither sun to dry their garmentnor fires to warm their bodies. Food ibecoming scarcer and the quality is deteriorating. Without pasting any reflection upon the excellent management, of the parliamentary dining-rooms, I believe that one does not have to go beyond the precincts of the House for an example of bad food, though it is well-served by capable waitresses, and with the best o intentions on the part of the permanent staff. In the various hotels in Canberra, there is also plenty of inferior food. The people must be f«l or the war will be lost.
– That is the effect of tho austerity campaign.
– The appeal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) for simple living was timely; but the wealthy classes do not know what it means to live austerely. On the “Spirit of Progress”, the charge for dinner has been reduced from 5s. to 4s. and at that price, a passenger may gorge himself almost to bursting point. Is that an example of austerity ? The “toney “ hotels in Melbourne and Sydney are advertising in the name of austerity, meals reduced from 10s. 6d. to 8s., but neither those who compile the menus nor those privileged individuals who enjoy them practice austere living. The wageearner must always be austere, because his income is not sufficient to provide him with luxuries. His wife must also live austerely. Sometimes, she deposit!a few shillings in the savings bank, because she is apprehensive about a repetition of the miseries of unemployment. For that reason, she must deprive herself of some of the things that she needs, without being extravagant. Whilst there is no austerity on the part of the rich, the poor must always live simply.
Considerable ‘ indignation has been aroused by the closing of small businesses. This policy is playing into the hands of large monopolistic enterprisea.nd J ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry to give the matter hisearnest attention. After years of effort, mcn have established small businesses in the suburbs, and are known for theiprompt and efficient service. I deplore the fact that they are now being put ou: of business, and their clientele is being diverted elsewhere. The small business men are told that they may choose between accepting the dole, a’ though they have been accustomed to rendering valuable service to the community, or entering the Army. For the first they have the utmost distaste. For the second, they are totally unfitted.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time. ‘
.- I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) on his logical and competent analysis of the document which the Government describes as its budget. The right honorable gentleman expressed the opinion that the Government would be unable to implement its financial proposals, and I agree with his statement. Last evening, honorable members listened with admiration to the magnificent analysis of the budget by the right honorable member for Kooyong cM. Menzies), who delivered one of the finest addresses of his career. We also heard, for once, a very feeble effort by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to defend the budget. It was one of the few times that I have heard the Prime Minister floundering. So bewildered was he in his attempts to controvert the contentions of the righhonorable member for Kooyong that he ultimately resorted to “ sob stuff “ and soap-box oratory. Those tactics are foreign to him, because he is generally able to rise to the occasion, and address the House in a most effective manner. 1 suppose that any speaker who attempted to reply to that brilliant speech of the right honorable member for Kooyong would flounder before he had proceeded very far.
I see no possibility of avoiding inflation while Ministers subscribe to the “money for nothing” policy. Some people believe that the war can be financed without debt or interest simply by printing millions of notes.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) has ideas on this’ subject, though he is never sure of what he wants. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) believes that one can’ obtain money without production or assets. Those policies are absurd, because one cannot get credit without assets. Assets may be wool, wheat, dairy produce, or even physical strength. Some honorable members comsider that the Government could adopt with advantage the financial policy of the dictators. I have here an interesting illustration of the effects of inflation. This slip of paper is Germany currency - 1, 000,000 ‘marks - and was printed during the inflation era after the last war. In those days a chaff bag full of these notes would have been needed to purchase a tram ticket. How can one logically expect to get credit for wool without producing wool, or credit for wheat without producing wheat?
When debating the tax on entertainments yesterday, I expressed surprise at the action of the Government in imposing an indirect tax on the poorest section of the community, whose only form of enjoyment is provided by the motion picture theatres.
– The honorable member believes in compulsory loans.
– I subscribe to the policy of post-war credits, because it will counteract the present inflationary tendencies, and provide for the workers in the post-war era of reconstruction a “ nest-egg “ which will enable them to live comfortably until they are absorbed in civil occupations. Munition workers in Sydney are purchasing second-hand motor cars at prices up to £400 because they have so much money. The Government would be acting in the interests of the people if it relieved them by compulsory loans of at least’ a portion of their excess spending power, and returned it to them after the war. Military deferred pay is a form of postwar credit, and it is the only increase that I shall support. The men will require the money after they are discharged from the services, pending their absorp tion in industry. I object to the taxation of military pay. Soldiers, whether they be generals or privates, have sufficient hardship and worries before them to justify their being free from the additional worry of paying income tax out of their allowances.
I am glad that bungling such as characterized the announcement of clothes rationing by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is not common to the whole administration of this Government. That Minister has now introduced a restless suit. I remember telling the people ten years ago that we should sec the day when they would be wearing standardized clothes if they did not’ take care to ensure sound administration. My prophecy has been fulfilled. Some little time ago I made charges of extravagance and waste in military camps which have been contradicted; but I can support my charges with evidence. I know that, where any great body of men is assembled and fed, there must be waste of food, but to-day avoidable waste is occurring owing to the lack of economic control. Amongst four barrels of food taken from one camp to a certain piggery there was three-quarters .of a barrel of sausages of a quality that would have graced any breakfast table.
– Did the honorable member see them ?
– No; but my source of information is reliable, and what I am saying is based on facts. The waste is caused by the fact that the camp cooks are required to cook for a certain number of men, and each day they prepare meals for that number, regardless of whether the men are in camp or on leave. No less an authority than a lieutenant.colonel, whose name I am at liberty to divulge, but will not, has written to me confirming what I have said. I quote only this passage -
With reference to the press report that you have invited attention to certain wastage within the Army, I suggest that this would be easy of confirmation, &c, &c.
I shall leave it at that.
Chaos is resulting from the lack of cohesion between the Army and the Man Power authorities. I have interviewed the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) in respect of this matter, which is causing great concern to primary producers, and is resulting in a shortage of foodstuffs, which will soon become gravely acute. I have this to say, that the Minister for Labour and National Service acted with promptitude when I brought different cases to his .notice. Nevertheless, in May last I made representations on behalf of men serving in the Army who sought leave of absence to sow their fallowed land for the coming harvest. Except for their aged parents, there was no other .soul available to do that sowing, labour being impossible to procure. These .men were in camp only about .20 mile3 from their farms. In August I was still receiving letters in answer to my persistent inquiries, saying that the matter was being considered. I can only imagine that the authorities have confused the sowing time with the harvesting time. The maladministration which has resulted in this sort of thing should never have been allowed to occur. It would not have occurred had the Government accepted the proposal I made, when speaking on the budget last year, that there should be complete control of all man-power, wealth and resources, with the rank and file of industry receiving standardized wages comparable to those received by the men in the military forces. I no more suggest that executives in industry should receive the same money as is paid to the rank and file than I should suggest that a colonel should receive the same amount as a private, but there should be some standardization, which would dissuade people from leaving primary production for more lucrative positions in the munitions industry. Moreover, complete regimentation of man-power would have prevented the situation which exists to-day, so that there are men in camp who should never have been permitted to leave the land. Unless the call-up of farmworkers into the Army and the drift of farm -workers into the munitions industry be checked, this country will be dangerously short of food. Nobody knows better than I do that we need the highest possible standard of efficiency in the Army, and that the great output of muni tions must be maintained; but we also require sufficient men, no more, to produce the essential foodstuffs and textiles to feed and clothe the forces and the civil population. Men earning £3 10s. a week, plus board, on farms are apt to look only at what they receive in cash, and to compare their lot with that of their erstwhile comrades who are receiving £10 or £11 a week in munitions factories. But they neglect to take into account what has to be paid for rent, food, firewood, &c., in the city areas. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that there is no need for us to be short of the necessaries of life which we produce in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that his first consideration was the Army ; but, surely, the first consideration of any one should be .the production of food for the people, both in the fighting services and in civil life. It is ridiculous that, in this land of plenty, we should be short of food. But man-power must be made available to produce it. The Prime Minister said that he would not have the efficiency of the Army impaired by its training being interrupted for weeks through soldiers being given leave to engage in sowing, harvesting or shearing. That is a stupid statement. I know from experience that three weeks’ leave for that purpose would in no way impair the efficiency of the Army. On the contrary, efficiency would be raised, because the period which soldiers spent on the land would be a relaxation for them, and they would return to camp with renewed zest. I do not claim that men should be released from Darwin or other distant areas to return to the south to assist in primary production, but there are other camps near the areas in which primary production is carried on from which men could be released for short periods to do what is necessary to ensure that we shall have a sufficiency of food and clothing. It is utterly ridiculous that, in a country overloaded with sugar-cane, we should be suffering a shortage of sugar. The rationing of sugar is the result of lack of administrative control. Men were released from camp to gather the cane. Some went to the cane-fields, but hundreds of others went absent without leave.
That could have been prevented if the authorities had followed the procedure adopted when men move from one camp to another,- and had put the men under the charge of officers, who would have ensured that they reached their destinations and did the work for which they had been allowed leave.
In the twelve months in which it has been in office this Government has done t’ airly good work; but I deplore the tendency amongst unthinking people to give to it, all the credit, and to decry what was done by its predecessor in office. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), speaking in this eli amber on the 27 th August, 1941, said - 1 do not join with those who say that Australia hai failed in its war effort. I know something of the organization of industry, and when we compare what has been achieved with what we previously thought to be possible we realize .that somewhat of a miracle has been wrought. Australia is now manufacturing arms and ammunitions, light and heavy equipment, and scientific apparatus, which is being used on every battlefront.
The previous Administration deserves full credit for having laid so carefully and deeply the foundations upon which this Government has been able to build. Any credit due for the miracles that have been performed in this country must be divided equally between this Government arid all previous war-time governments. The -present Government Ls merely carrying the torch which was lit by previous administrations. I counsel this Government, however, to take more care to avoid such errors as those which I have cited, and another error which involved a man, 80 years of age, whose three sons are in the Army, having to travel 700 miles to supervise shearing on one of his properties because the Army refused to allow one of his sons leave of absence for three weeks to take charge of the work. That sort of thing should never be allowed to occur. There should be more efficient control of man-power. Consider the destruction that is being wrought throughout the country, with hundreds of thousands of acres of fallowed land not sown with crops. Members of the Government say that there are plenty of people to do the work- and that anybody can sow and reap crops. Even the women can do it, they say. That is all “ hooey “. It is just as important to have efficient and experienced men for the sowing and harvestingof crops as it is to have competent lawyers in legal cases. Women can do certain work in the rural districts, but they cannot cope with the heavy work of handling harvesters or horse teams. They cannot be expected to pitch sheaves in the field all day in the broiling heat of the sun or to hump bags of wheat; men must do these jobs. The futility of the Government’s proposals in this connexion is obvious. Women can be profitably employed on dairy farms, where they can milk cows, feed pigs and roar calves; in fact some women can do that sort of work better than men. However, I speak of the laborious work which they might be called upon to perform. Strong men are needed for harvesting, and they must be experienced in making hay, stooking it, and building stacks. If the stacks be not built properly the hay might as well be left in the paddocks, because, if they are subject to the infiltration of rain, the hay will rot and the cost of harvesting will only be wasted. The Government is also concerned about fixation of meat prices. I say that the law of supply and demand will solve thi.problem more effectively than any governmental action. We have survived other years of drought when there have been no fat stock, when people have been almost starving for beef and have paid exorbitant prices for it. We are experiencing a similar lean period now, but, after the glorious rains of recent weeks, thenwill be an abundance of grass and, within the next two months, there will be more fat cattle in Australia than the market.* can handle. There is certainly a scarcity of beef at the present time, and there may be some necessity for rationing, but it should not be severe rationing. The Government must take a common-sense attitude in these matters and obtain the advice of practical men who have ha, plenty of experience. It should see that its schemes are carried out with the greatest possible economy and expedition. I draw attention to the Government’s zoning of shearing. Definite dates were fixed for the commencement and termination of shearing in certain selected zones But all this was done without regard to weather conditions, which are of the first importance in any shearing season. There are men who will tak< advantage of the nation’s war-time difficulties for personal gain. These men must be reprimanded and treated as they should expect to be treated.
The Government’s action in bankrupting the country of man-power will cause much distress, particularly in the cities. One of the greatest of all statesmen, Abraham Lincoln, once said, “Destroy the cities and the country will build them up for you; destroy the country and the grass will grow in the streets of the cities “. We have had evidence of the truth of that before, and we shall have it again. We never miss the water until the well runs dry, but when we look for it and find none, our plight becomes most acute. The feeding of the nation is of paramount importance. I disagree with the Prime Minister, who said yesterday that if he had to choose between a shortage of food and a reduction of number in the Army he would decide in favour of the Army. It is absolutely essential that our fighting men should have ample supplies of food and that our civil population should not be forced to go short. If we force the people in their hour of distress to eat less meat and even to go without some meals and entertainment, we shall bring them to a state of mental depression in which the women will have little else to do than weep or pray, and the men will be unable to laugh heartily. They will be driven to that state by the incompetence of government departments. When I spoke in this chamber last night on the subject of horse-racing and other forms of entertainment, I said than the people should select their own recreation. Some play golf, tennis, cricket, or football, others read, work in their gardens or visit their friends, and others attend race meetings. Et is ridiculous for the Government to decide for the people what forms of entertainment they shall pursue. Instead of reducing horse-racing meetings to three a month the Government should either allow the Saturday afternoon for racing or cut out horse-racing altogether. Many of us read in the newspapers to-day how music and the theatre are helping to maintain the morale of the Russian people. This Government is endeavouring to prevent people from congregating at places of amusement. Large gatherings of people might be dangerous at times, but the enemy is not so close as to threaten our cities yet. Even if we are subjected to heavy raids, we shall find that the people will not panic any more than did the people of Great Britain who were bombed day and night without regard for military objectives. The people must have entertainment in order to maintain their morale and help them to give of their best in the war effort.
The subject of compulsory trade unionism was discussed in this chamber this afternoon. I did not have an opportunity to participate in the debate, but I say now that I definitely oppose such a policy. It is a means of filching liberty from the people; it is an interference with their individuality. To-day it seems that no man is his own master ; he is merely a slave of the Government. Every body can be told exactly what he shall do, where he shall go, and even what form of entertainment he shall seek. What will the people do when they are unable to attend their favourite entertainments? Must they be forced to sulk, or invent other forms of relaxation in an endeavour to relieve the nervous strain caused by the war? All of these problems that I have mentioned need the most careful examination by the Government, and I hope that it will bring more common sense to bear on these matters.
Many people are to-day endeavouring to raise the ban on the Communist party which has been declared an illegal organization, but I hope that the Government will remain adamant. I shall protest vigorously against any attempt to encourage the doctrine of communism, which is foreign to Australia, but some people are seeking to introduce it now because Russia is fighting alongside the Allies against the Axis. We must remember that communism is not the policy of Russia. It is the policy of a negligible minority’ of the Russian people. There are only about 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 persons in the mighty population of that nation who subscribe to the policy . of communism and whose ambition is ‘ to overthrow, even by violence, all forms of responsible government. That is not the sort of thing that we want in this country. We want to adhere to the Christian principles which have been handed down to us through the centuries in which our great Empire has existed. The British Empire would not be holding the position that it occupies .to-day if it had not held firmly to those principles. One famous man paid this moving tribute to the Empire -
Built not by saints and angels, but by the work of men’s hands, cemented with men’s honest blood within a world of tears, welded by the best ‘brains of centuries past, not without the taint and reproach incidental ito all human work, but constructed for the most part with pure and splendid purpose, growing as the trees grow while nations slept, led by the faults of others as well as by the .character of our forefathers, reaching with the /ripple of resistless tides over tracts and islands and continents, until our little Britain woke to find herself the foster mother of nations, and the source of a great and a united Empire.
Shall we desert those great traditions in order to follow in the steps of men who seek to undermine and destroy the industries of this country by means that are abhorrent- to all good Australians ? These men. during the war of 1914-18, gathered in public places bearing the Red flag and referred to our great Anzacs as “ sixbobaday murderers “. Some of them hold high positions in the country. Communism is a venomous doctrine. Every strike that has occurred on the coal-fields and elsewhere in industry has been due, at least in part, to white-anting by Communists. We have seen base and venal men gathered in public places and in sounding titles proclaim themselves as the saviours of the workers, and as a means to their nefarious ends they have taught little children to mock the name of Christ while men in high positions looked on with kindly tolerance at acts of blasphemy and sedition. I protest bitterly against any attempt to lift the ban on communism. These men despise the flag of our Empire and would tear down even the Cenotaph, if they could, to show how they “ love “ the workers, whose brothers are to-day fighting for the existence of their country. I urge the people of Australia to throw out of office any government that fails to declare itself opposed to the curse of communism. I ask this Government to say what it in- tends to do in this matter., and I ask all those men who are against Communist policies to declare themselv.es now. We must stand .by the Empire, which, through centuries of progress has embellished life with institutions and improvements until it has become a .theatre of wonders, and now it is for the people to decide whether those conditions shall still prevail or whether they shall be covered with a funeral pall and wrapt in eternal gloom. I appeal to the people to stand steadfastly against, the introduction of any such doctrine which seeks to undermine our national well-being. The great majority of our people, I am sure, will do so, but unless steps are .taken by the powers that be, the few who subscribe to these foreign teachings may assert themselves to such a degree that great trouble may arise. On one occasion, certain Communists in Russia burnt an effigy of Christ in a public place. We do not. want such happenings in this country. But we must remember that the bad orange in the case will not he made sound again by the number of good oranges close to it, but will, in time, if left there, contaminate all the rest.
We must put forth our -most strenuous efforts to prevent the growth of communism, or any other such iniquitous doctrine in this country, and we must remain true to our great Christian teachings which have seen our Empire .safely through the storms of centuries past, and will see us into a future more attractive and happy than would be possible under any other flag. So, in conclusion, I appeal to our people of this groat land neath the Southern Cross to .stand firmly together as one of that great .Commonwealth of Nations which clusters round the flag of our Empire in pride, in loyalty, and in love. While the dark clouds of Avar hover round us, while not only our own country, but the whole habitable earth, is in a state of change and fluctuation, we must be certain that we do not conjure up a spirit to destroy ourselves. I trust that the administrations of our governments will be strict but pure, but governments must remember that our people are opposed to the doctrines of communism, and that .they stand for the great free Christian way of democratic life to which we have given ourselves as an Empire throughout the centuries: Under such guidance, if we remain true to the best traditions of our race> we- shall, eventually, win a victory that will rid the world1 of the dictatorships ‘that, scourge it to-day.
.- Once more honorable members have, had the inflation bogy depicted for them in various shapes and colours, according to the fancy of the particular story-teller, and I must confess that I am a bit confused as to which story most interests me. However, all Opposition speakers have agreed on the point that the inflation ghost is too useful to be laid. They have also agreed, apparently, that the bogy must be brought forward whenever the common people have a little more money to spend than may be necessary to provide them with the barest sustenance.
I wish to bring to the notice of the Government the circumstances of a section of the people whose additional spending power, as a consequence of the war, has not increased greatly, and cannot add to the momentum of the movement,, if any. towards inflation. I refer to the wheat-growers of Australia. In 1936 Sir Herbert Gepp submitted a report to the Government which clearly revealed the chaotic- condition in which the wheat industry was at that time. In dealing with the primary industries generally,. Sir Herbert Gepp, who made his investigations a3 a royal commissioner, said that if all the farm lands of Australia, and all the plant and stock on farms were marketed at their value at that time, the aggregate receipts would pay only 18s. in the £1 of the farmers’ debts. We all are more or less conversant with the conditions- that have prevailed- in the wheat industry in the last six years owing to seasonal and economic circumstances over which the farmers themselves have had no control. It is- beyond question that the condition of the wheat industry has deteriorated greatly since Sir Herbert Gepp presented his report. This serious state- of affairs has been, contributed to by the activities of a number of people, who induced the farmers to elect them to Parliament under the title of Country party members. These individuals were able to convince the primary producers that they would look in vain to the members of the labour party for help. In fact, they persuaded the farmers that assistance could be obtained only from antiLabour politicians, and, in particular, from members of the Country party. But how did those honorable gentlemen perform their promised service to the primary producers? In the main they comprised a numerically small proportion of the anti-Labour politicians at different periods, but somehow they have managed, because of their nuisance value, to wangle for themselves the majority of portfolios in certain governments. But they have not afforded the farmers the help that was promised. Consequently many of the statements made by Sir Herbert Gepp in his 1936 report on the wheat industry are even more to the point to-day than when they were made.
Sir Herbert Gepp found that under the conditions prevalent in- Australia at the time of his investigation, it cost 3s. 6d. a bushel to grow wheat and deliver it at ports for export. One item in the total of 3s. 6d. was a labour charge of ls. l-d., which was set down as the remuneration of the farmer and such members of his family as helped him to produce his crop. On this item the royal commissioner stated -
The largest single item is seen to be labour, which has been considered in some detail both in the first report and in paragraph 79 of the present section.
He went on -
The commission considers that savings in labour might be made in individual cases, either where farmers have areas which are too small to give effective employment or where too much family labour is at present used on the farm.
He qualified that observation as follows : -
This item is one on which savings are being made during the depression; large numbers of farmers are unable to .pay their families even the low rate of wages which has been used in these computations (normally £1 per week and keep for each male adult employed ) ; many farmers are not in a position to take from their receipts the £125 in cash which the commission considers is a minimum return to the farmer himself for his work and management of the farm.
What the royal commissioner- intended to convey was that the labour’ of ‘the farmer, wire invested his capita-! in- his farm and gave 24 hours a day seven days a week for 365 days a year, in some instances, was worth only about £2 5s. a week. At all events, that was all that was allowed in arriving at the production cost of 3s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. The members of the so-called Country party were apparently quite prepared to accept such a state of affairs as being common to the wheatgrowing industry. In effect, they said, “ We agree with what the royal commissioner has said on this point”.
The position of the wheat-growers in that respect is not unlike that of persons who engage in certain other primary industries. In support of this statement, I refer honorable members to the report of the McCulloch royal commission on the fruit industry of New South Wales. In dealing with labour costs Mr. McCulloch said in that report -
Labour may be provided by the grower, members of the grower’s family, permanent hired labour, and casual labour.
He went on -
At one centre an adult married man was paid £2 per week without keep.
Further on in his report he said -
It is the usual practice for growing lads to assist in many phases of orchard work; the grower’s wife and/or daughters help, on occasion, particularly in packing and racking operations. For all such operations costs have been calculated as if hired labour had been employed. While the work of the grower’s family may substantially decrease his individual costs to the general benefit of the homo it cannot be accepted as a basis for depreciating the general cost levels of the industry.
It is obvious, therefore, that the labour position of the fruit-growing industry reflects that of the wheat-growing industry. In dealing with one orchardist whom he regarded as efficient, Mr. McCulloch said -
I regard this man as a typical orchardist, industrious and saving, and an intelligent worker; but despite the season this man has no possibility of liquidating his debts or meeting his commitments from year to year.
We have heard in the last six months complaints from honorable members opposite who- represent farming communities. They have spoken of the chaotic condition into which that section of primary industry which is predominant in their electorates has declined. That is merely a climax to the development that has been taking place throughout the years, during which the party to which they belong helped to govern this country. They held the balance of power, and made full use of their nuisance value by blackmailing the major anti-Labour party into giving them a few portfolios. They conveniently forgot the interests of the farmer, which they pretended they would look after if they were returned to this Parliament. The people woke up to them at the last elections, and bumped many of them out of Parliament. Let us consider what contribution the primary producing section of the community can make to the loan. During the last twelve months, costs have soared. They could not meet their commitments in 1936. Every primary commodity they managed to produce plunged them deeper into debt. It would appear that one authority finances the farmer in order that he may grow a particular commodity, whilst another authority fixes the price that he is to receive. That price will not permit economic production. Yet the authority that finances him derives its power from the same central source - the government of the day. It is absolutely futile to attempt to deal with the evil piecemeal; it has to be placed on the dissecting table and treated as a whole. We cannot continue along the lines that have been followed in the past. There must be a central authority, with complete power to set the industry on its feet and establish it on an economic basis, as secondary industries have been established. The present Government has given practical evidence of its desire to establish primary industries on an economic basis. The wheat industry has been in greater chaos than any other industry. The Government earmarked a certain sum in order to stabilize, not the industry but the farmer, for the duration of the war, by guaranteeing to him a price that would enable him to meet his commitments and have a fair return for his labour. The guarantee of 4s. a bushel f.o.r. country sidings is equivalent to 4s. 6-Jd. a bushel f.o.r. ports. The Government took as a starting point the findings of the Gepp Commission. It said, “ A qualified authority has examined every phase of the industry. We have to be guided by its findings, which state that it is impossible to grow wheat for less than 3s. 6d. a bushel, including an allowance of ls. l£d. a bushel for labour “. This allowance represented a return to the farmer of £2 a week. It has been doubled in the guarantee of 4s. 6-Jd. a bushel, which means that the wage to the farmer for his labour will be approximately £4 a week. That is a serious attempt to stabilize his position. The Government is following the same lines in relation to every other section of primary production ; it is stabilizing the primary producer by guaranteeing to him a price for his commodity which will enable him to produce it economically. Such an achievement will continue to be effective long after the members of the Government have been forgotten. There has been a tremendous drift of population from the primary industries. Any farmer who saw an opportunity to take his wife and family to better surroundings and to improve their circumstances, liquidated his losses, however greatly he might have been involved financially with his farm, and went into secondary industry. According to figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, 211,000 persons were engaged in primary production in 1931. By 1938, the number had dwindled to i89,000. The drift of population from the country has increased from a mere trickle to a flood. If an inventory were made of the relative positions of the country and the city populations, the figures would startle us. “We have always prided ourselves on the fact that our farmers have been the backbone of the community. This country has been developed with the idea of making the average Australian a hard-working, hopeful farmer, who could change the face of the land from an arid desert to a flourishing garden. What do we now find ? The people are deserting the land, just as stock desert a paddock- after all the green feed has been eaten off it. That has been going on for quite a long time. This Government is tackling the problem along right lines. It has taken cognizance of all the information that has been provided by royal commissions and other bodies during the last 20 years, and has endeavoured to implement their recommendations. Despite the fact that it is confronted with a financial’ problem the equal of which has not previously been experienced, and that Australia is threatened with invasion at any moment, it is yet prepared to face up to its obligations to the man on the land, because it realizes that he has to be looked after if Australia is to continue to be self-supporting. Reporting on this matter, the Commonwealth Statistician made the following observations : -
Any future scheme for increasing Aus. tralia’s population must be linked with industrial development. The only way in which Australia can get the necessary population for the safety of the country would be by fully using all the agricultural, pastoral, fishing, mining and other resources, together with industries dependent on them.
When the Labour party sought the support of the electors three years ago, it placed before them a programme for the decentralization of industry. It realized not only the futility but also the danger to this country of concentrating all our industries in the most vulnerable positions along our coasts. Other parties had professed that they were aware of the danger of that state of affairs, but had made no effort to remedy it.
The present Government has been in office for nearly twelve months. Let us consider what it has done. Country towns which only a little while ago were spoken of as deserted villages now have modern factories that are run by electric power. These could well be emulated by many of the old-time factories that still exist in our great metropolitan areas. Men and women who have been trained to the highest degree of efficiency are producing munitions of war. A few short months ago many of them had not seen the inside of a factory. There are very few country towns which can be regarded as invulnerable from attack by sea or air that have not yet had a government factory or a subsidized private factory established, within their area. The Government has endeavoured to make good the lack of oil supplies, which is one of the unfortunate shortcomings of this country. The Government has given effect to the recommendation of the royal commission on the production of power alcohol. Four large production plants are either in operation, or about to commence. The Government is doing its best to ensure that a substitute fuel shall be available should petrol supplies be cut off. The production of munitions has increased enormously. I:i fact, overseas visitors are astounded that we have been able to do so much, not only in the production of actual munitions, but also in the manufacture of machine tools. I believe, however, that more, should be done to improve our rail communications in ease it should bp found impossible to carry supplies by sea from South Australia to the east coast.
Facilities for the production of electric power should be decentralized so that our industries could, if necessary, bc shifted back from the coast into less vulnerable areas’-. In a journal known as Australian, Goal Shipping and Steel. there is an article dealing with the method adopted in England to transfer industries from bombed towns so that production might be continued. I quote the following paragraph : -
Under an interesting semi-public organizational plan, Britain built up her electrification. In1 a typically British way the widelydecentralized power plants were not replaced by new huge centralized stations (which as itturned out under the horn bing attacks in the present war, was most fortunate for the country), hut were connected in a comprehensive scheme, the so-wl led grid.- Under this plan British power production rose from 13,000.000,000 K.W.H. to 31,000,000,000 K.W.H. between 1!)29 and 1938.
We, in Australia, are in a position similar to that which obtained in Britain just before the blitz, except that Britain had numerous power plants scattered all over the country, whereas Australia has not. Four years ago, a committee of experts drew up a plan for the decentralization of power resources in New South Wales, but that plan was not carried out. The people of various towns in. western New South Wales are now becoming aware of the danger that confronts them because they are not linked up with a powergenerating group. Some, of these towns depend upon a power supply derived from diesel engines, and we all know how scarce and expensive diesel oil is now. I quote from a letter written to me by the municipal council of one such town: -
The cost of generating power per kilowatt by coal is .17d. The present cost of diesel generation is ten times the amount.
That town is in the line of an electrical link-up, but it was not included in the scheme, despite the recommendation of the expert committee. We were content to carry on in the old way in the belief that “it could not happen here”. Now, if is practically impossible to get electric cable, just as it is impossible to obtain power-generating machinery. If the power plants On the coast were destroyed wo could not establish new plants in the country because- we could not get machinery. I suggest that trie stand-by plant at the big power stations on the coast be shifted back into the country. It is bad engineering practice not to have available emergency plant of almost equal capacity to that of the principal plant. The position now is that if the plant in one town breaks down, it mutt rely upon linking up with the power resources of some other station. If our power plants on the coast should be destroyed by enemy action, the stand-by plants there would also be destroyed, and that is something, which we could fake steps to avoid.
We have been told by people who are conversant with the ramifications of high finance and the causes and effects of fluctuations in our everyday economy, that if more spending power be available to the m’ass of the people than will purchase for them the bare necessaries of life, a state of affairs called inflation will be brought about, and the money will eli ase the available consumable goods, whose owners will offer them only to the highest bidders.
– When did the Treasurer say that in his budget speech?
– I did not say that the Treasurer said it. I said that it was predicted by the experts who have been talking in this chamber for the last two days. The Treasurer may be suspicious that big financial interests, such as the banks, cannot be persuaded to freeze their surplus credits, and therefore has asked them to lodge a certain proportion of them with the Commonwealth Bank. Other interests will say to him: “If you do not trust the banking interests to do the right thing in time of war and avoid expanding credit, it is good enough to ask the same of the wage-earner, who may have a few shillings more than he can spend “. That may sound quite well, but let us examine it a little further. I admit that there is more spending power in the hands of the people now than there was at the start of the war,but it must be remembered that nearly 300,000 more workers have been brought into industry by the policy of the Government than were then employed. If the £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 that we fear will cause inflation is spread over those additional 300,000 workers, it represents only about £90 per head, which isthe average earning of the average worker, including all men, women and juniors employed. If that did not cause inflation in pre-war days, it is hardly likely to do so now. To discover what may cause inflation, we should look at the latest balancesheets of the big companies. The Carlton Brewery has over £315,000 in ordinary reserves, and £40,000 in a special reserve fund. The leaving of that money in thehands of the company might be a little dangerous because the company might see an opportunity for investment, and rush it on to the market. If 2s. will cause inflation when Mrs. Smith buys a few apples, what can be said of £355,000 in the hands of the Carlton Brewery when a few publicans are going bankrupt and their properties are on the market? The Australian Gaslight Company has a special reserve of £264,000, and a general reserve of £400,000; the British Australasian Tobacco Company has special reserves of £2,218,000 and an ordinary reserve of £1,417,000; the Adelaide Advertiser has reserves of £370,000 ; the Bank of New South Wales, £6,000,000; the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, £4,000,000, with a special reserve of £1,000,000, and another special depreciation reserve of £500,000. If the ordinary civilian cannot be trusted to freeze the extra £5 which he has saved over a month or two, how can we trust those big institutions to keep liquid reserves, for that is what they are, amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, unspent and in their own hands ? If it is good enough to ask the workers to put aside their savings until after the war, the large financial concerns should be made to place their reserves in pawn also until the war is over. What have the economists to say about that?
I conclude by reading the balancesheet submitted to the Taxation Commissioner by a munitions worker, one of the nouveaux riches who, we are told, have become millionaires overnight. He is a married man who lives in Orange and works and boards in Lithgow. Last year he received as a munitions worker a total of £2991s.1d., earned over twelve months at the Small Arms Factory. These statements can be verified. His budget is typical of the finances of all munitions workers in the western towns of New South Wales. He puts down board and residence at Lithgow at £2 5s. a week, or a yearly cost of £117. His next item is house rent at £1 13s. 6d. a week, totalling £87 4s. Union fees to the Australian Society of Engineers come to £2 2s.; doctor’s subscription, £2 5s.; bus fares to factory, at 5s. 6d. a week, £9 6s. ; contribution to hospital and ambulance at Lithgow, £2; and train fares, Lithgow to Orange, at £1 a fortnight, £26, making a total expenditure of £245 17s. With an income of £2991s.1d., he has a balance of, roughly, £54 a year, out of which he has to keep a wife and child. If his surplus and the surpluses of all his follow munitions workers were put into compulsory loans or postwar credits, or whatever the bunch of carrots dangled in front of the worker is called, there still would not be sufficient to bridge the gap, but the millions of pounds in liquid reserves in the hands of the big companies, these nest eggs which have been put aside for the post-war period, would furnish plenty of money with which to bridge the gap, without fear of inflation after the war.
Burialof Service Men - Army Dis trict Finance Office, Melbourne: Transfer of Clerks - Defence Personnel: Excessive Train Travelling.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I draw attention to an anomaly which has arisen between the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force, with reference to the burial of deceased members of the forces in Australia. During last week a young man, returned from the war area, was accidentally killed while on a. convoy near Singleton. His parents, who live in Sydney, endeavoured to have his body returned to them so that they could give it a family burial. The Army authorities stated that transport difficulties prevented them from handing over the body to the relatives. I thereupon indicated to Army head-quarters that no transport difficulties existed, because Singleton was on the main line, from five to seven Sydneybound trains passed daily through the town, and each train had a guard’s brake van containing a coffin-box. The authorities then told me that they were unable to obtain a leaden casket, because of the scarcity of lead. When I pointed out that the Royal Australian Air Force arranged for the remains of its personnel to be transported from one State to another, I was informed that it was the policy of the Army authorities to set aside in every cemetery an area for the interment of deceased soldiers. The next day, the Royal Australian Air Force approved the transport of the remains of a deceased airman from Melbourne to a suburb of Sydney. This anomaly should be rectified. Although the Defence Act empowers the Government to call up men between the ages of 18 and 60 years for military service, it contains no reference to dead soldiers. The Army may control the lives of soldiers, but the act gives it no authority regarding the disposal of bodies. If the relatives ask to be allowed to arrange for the interment of the body of a soldier, their request shouldbe grunted. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to give earnest consideration to this matter. If the Royal Australian Air force finds it possible to meet the wishes of relatives in this regard, the Army authorities should be able to do so.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) the fact that without his knowledge, and certainly without his authority, some official in Melbourne has issued an order for 300 members of the staff of the District Finance Office to be removed from their present positions. Their places will be taken by members of the Australian Women’s Army Service. Most of these men are veterans of the last war, and for several years have been engaged in clerical duties. They have the rank of sergeant or corporal; but, as the result of this order, they will be reduced to the ranks and will be put into labour battalions. Most of these men are unfitted to lump goods on the wharfs or railway stations, and they are physically capable of doing only clerical work.
– What is the average age?
Mr.CAL WELL. - Most of them are old diggers, and their ages range from 45 to 55 years. It appears that noncommissioned officers may be reduced to the ranks, although no charge has been levelled against them, if there is no suitable work for them, or if they are transferred to positions which carry no equivalent status for them. Whilst officers cannot be reduced to the ranks in similar circumstances, the pay of noncommissioned officers can be reduced, even after they have earned their promotion, for no offence whatever. For the remainder of the war these men will work for 6s. a day on jobs for which the award prescribes a substantial weekly wage. This action is very high-handed. I can give the names of three of the persons concerned, namely, Sergeant J. Waite, Corporal V. J. Kavenagh, and Corporal F. B. Brown. They are typical returned soldiers, and have been employed for two years as enlisted men on clerical work. They have clean records in their present occupations, and in their service in the last war. That they all enlisted as clerks is an important fact to bear in mind. Last Thursday, they were informed that they must report for duty in a labour corps, andthey are now stationed at Royal Park awaiting transfer to a labour battalion, I ask the Minister to ensure that they shall not be reduced to the ranks.
– Will they be employed on purely military work, or will they be competing with unionists ?
– They will be employed at military rates of pay on various jobs, although there is sufficient labour in and around Melbourne to undertake them.
– What kind of work will they do in the labour corps?
– They can be used to load or unload goods at railway stations or on wharfs, or from ships to the wharfs, or in any other capacity directed by the Army authorities.
– Does the honorable member contend that there is sufficient civilian labour, now unemployed, that could bc used for the work?
– I do not say that there is any unemployed labour. In answer to a question which the Prime Minister asked me some time ago, when I protested against the use of a dockers’ unit on the waterfront, I said that several thousand men in Melbourne, who held second preference licences, could be regularly used for work on the wharfs, hut they had not been given that opportunity. The Prime Minister, who knew little or nothing of the facts, tried to put up a brave front because he wanted to defend the authorities who were exercising jurisdiction on behalf of the Government, but I was certain that my facts were correct. Whether or not the labour is available, the Department of the Army has no right to reduce these men to the ranks, or to transfer them from, clerical duties, for which they enlisted, to the labour corps. If the Army does not. require them as clerks, they should be granted their discharge and allowed to seek employment in munitions factories or other civilian work at; award rates. If they previously followed farming pursuits, they should be allowed to return to primary industries. As they enlisted as clerks, the Army authorities should not try to turn them into navvies at soldiers’ rates of pay. In my opinion, the action taken is decidedly dishonest, and these men are receiving a “ raw deal “. The mcn whose names I mentioned are the firs!, of 300 nien who will be similarly treated in order to make way for women.
Another matter to which I draw attention affects the Department of Air. When I was on the train a few nights ago, a conductor informed nic that 25 members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force went from Sydney to Melbourne last week. Upon their arrival, it was found that a mistake had been made, and the women returned to Sydney that evening by the “ Spirit of Progress “. This is one of the instances of the misuse which the Services are making of the railways. Of course, the railways must be at the disposal of the authorities for legitimate travel; but anybody who travels constantly by the “ Spirit of Progress “ on parliamentary duties, notices that in spite of all the restrictions on civilian travel that have been imposed by the order of the Government, the trains were never so crowded as they are to-day. This is entirely due to the fact that travel passes are issued seemingly indiscriminately and wastefully by officers of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army. I know an instance of .a young man who came from Tasmania to Melbourne to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force. He arrived in Melbourne and left immediately for Shepparton, where a uniform was issued to him. Then he was sent back to Melbourne. He travelled over 100 miles each way from. Melbourne to Shepparton and back, merely to receive a uniform. On his return to Melbourne he was sent to Adelaide, and, after being there a week, received a pa3s to enable him to travel back to Melbourne in order to enjoy his week-end leave. I do not think that, in these clays of austerity there should be this unnecessary use of the railways. I ask the Minister for Air to call for a return of the number of passes issued to members of the RoYal Australian Air Force and the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force for travel purposes in recent times, in order to check up on the amount of travelling done in the forces to-day, as compared with that done during the period before restrictions were imposed on the travelling public. We should ascertain whether many members of the forces are now travelling on the trains unnecessarily. Although the general public is no longer allowed to travel as freely as it desires, or as it formerly did, there is no reason why members of the Air Board should think that travel permits can be handed out to anybody who happens to want them. It is high time we conserved the means we have at our disposal for the transport of men and materials for war purposes.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) considers, from what he has learned recently, that men and women connected with the Royal Australian Air Force are doing considerably more railway travelling now than is necessary. If 25 women were found to be travelling in the wrong direction, I remind the honorable member that a similar experience befell other people in a train that left Canberra recently. The passengers were bound for Melbourne, but finished up in Sydney. If the statement of the honorable member is correct, something is radically wrong. I am not aware of any excessive travelling. Instructions have been given that no excessive travelling shall be indulged in, and that officers who find it necessary to travel must not takewith them an unnecessary number of persons of lower rank. No doubt mistakes occur, and the instance cited by the honorable member of a recruit who came from Tasmania to Shepparton and got a uniform, and was then sent from Melbourne to Adelaide, seems to show that he was on a sort of Cook’s tour. If the facts in that case are as the honorable member has stated, there must be lack of supervision. If the honorable member will furnish me with the date of the incident and other details, I shall do what I can to investigate his complaint.
. - I listened to the request by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) for permission for the relatives of Australian soldiers killed in action to have their remains removed from the battle area so that they might be buried in other parts of Australia.I appreciate the feelings of the relatives in such circumstances, and their natural desire to have the remains taken to the districts in which the homes of the deceased were situated. If the request were acceded to, however, real transport difficulties would arise. It is easy to understand that if military operations occurred in certain parts of Australia, hundreds of members of the fighting services might be killed, and a major transport problem would be presented if it were necessary to carry the bodies to various parts of Australia. That fact caused a certain decision to be made by the Army authorities, in order to discourage the transport of the bodies of deceased personnel on the railways or by other means. How ever, the honorable member has made out a good case, which will be sympathetically considered, and a reply will be furnished to him within a few days.
The honorable member for Melbourne remarked that certain members of the AustralianWomen’s Army Service had been appointed to positions in the District Finance Office in Melbourne, following the transfer of certain sergeants and corporals, whose names he mentioned, to labour units. I am not conversant with the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall order an investigation of the matter.
– Will the Minister keep those men in their ranks, or give them their discharge, so that they may engage in civil occupations at award rates?
– I have been much impressed by the case presented by the honorable member, but I shall not commit myself on the matter to-night, as I desire to make inquiries regarding it. I know that the honorable member gets a lot of information given to him inside and outside this Parliament, and he usually gives us the benefit of that information on the motion for the adjournment of the House, very often at a much later hour than it is to-night.
– I shall have a secret session with the Minister afterwards.
– The honorable member customarily, after keeping us back here for three-quarters of an hour every night, comes to my office after the adjournment and says, “ There are a couple of other things which I overlooked and I shall tell them to you now “. I shall be pleased to give consideration to the representations made by the honorable gentleman and furnish a reply within a few days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following panel’s were presented : -
American troops in Australia - Informatory Pamphlets, one issued by the AustralianAmerican Co-operation Movement and one by the Department of Information.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Beenleigh, Queensland.
House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions w ere circulated: -
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Willhe lay on the table of the House the letter, dated 22nd August, 1940, addressed to the Prime Minister by Mr. A. B. Piddington, K.C.?
– In my view Mr. Piddington’s letter should not be made public without his consent.
Australianarmy: Leave; Juniors in Servicein Forward Positions.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorablemember’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that some time ago he stated that no member of the forces who had not been adequately trained or was under the age of eighteen years would be sent to advanced battle stations?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420917_reps_16_172/>.