16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask leave to withdraw notice of motion No. 2 - General Business - standing in my name. I have had from the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) the assurance that holiday arrangements, the subject dealt with by the regulation, for the disallowance of which I proposed to move, are to be reviewed, and that I shall not have further cause for dissent.
Leave granted ; notice of motion withdrawn.
Notice of motion No. 1 - General Business - in the name of Mr. Makin, for the application of the principle of equality to men and women employed on work of the same class in all civil and defence departments, by according to them equal wages, salaries, and allowances - by leave - withdrawn.
– Has the Minister for Home Security any information that he oan give in regard to the issue of gas respirators to air raid precautions wardens and other persons attached to firstaid centres!
– So far, more than 70,000 respirators for civil defence personnel in New South Wales have been supplied. The total personnel in the State iff estimated at approximately 100,000. There has been a great improvement of the quantity of equipment for civil defence that has come to hand during (recent months, and it is expected that shortly sufficient respirators will be available for all necessary personnel. The distribution of this equipment between the various sections of the civil defence services is a matter for determination by the Department of National Emergency Services in New South Wales and the other States.
– I ask the Minister for Home Security to inform me how will people be appraised of the imminence of a gas attack? Will a special warning be given, or are people to assume that any air raid may be a gas attack ?
– Air raid precautions organizations have a distinct signal - a rattle - to warn people of a gas attack. This signal will be given in every area where gas is suspected.
– by leave - The Government’s plans for the defence of Australia and the conduct of the war in the Pacific have involved the making of decisions to build up the numerical strength of our fighting forces to a certain figure, and to carry out a complementary programme of production and of construction of works which will cause a very heavy drain on the limited labour resources available from a nation with a population of only 7,000,000. These decisions can be given effect only by the employment of women in industry on an unprecedented scale. Specifically, the Government expected within the next six months to bring into employment in government factories, in civilian factories engaged on war production, and in non-war but nevertheless essential industries, no fewer than 64,000 women.
The Women’s Employment Board has paved the way for the introduction of these women into wider fields of industry, and unless some other machinery be set up to carry out its functions, the estimated additional requirement of 64,000 women for various war industries cannot be met. If we cannot find the 64,000 women and bring them into employment where they are needed, fewer men can be released to the fighting services, and our Army will go short of essential wax equipment.
The replacement of men by women involves the fixing of appropriate rates of pay for the women who are to do men’s work. It also involves the fixing of conditions and the hours of work. Machinery is available for the settlement of wages and conditions of work, and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has had its powers and functions enlarged. Industrial peace regulations have widened the scope of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and greater use of conciliation committees has made the procedure much more flexible; but it would be administratively impossible for the Arbitration Court to handle all the numerous individual cases which must be dealt with as a part of the process of absorbing 64,000 women into employment. The Women’s Employment Board was specially designed for this purpose. Its procedure is informal, and it is free to specialize on the single task of adjusting conditions of employment for women. Indeed, experience has shown that the task is such as to strain to the full the time and resources of the board, and the Government decided only this week that an appropriate number of subsidiary tribunals should be set up under the “Women’s Employment Board to hear applications simultaneously in all the States.
In all States, there have been restrictions upon the employment of women. These have been designed partly to protect the position of men, and partly to protect the health and welfare of women employees. Under the pressure of war conditions, and the need to place women in industry, it is necessary to relax certain of these restrictions. This could not be done by sweeping aside the standards governing women’s labour that have been built up throughout the years. What is necessary is a careful examination of each individual case, and a decision in the light of all the circumstances. There are processes on which women have not been previously employed, but on which they should be employed in war-time. Again, although there are general restrictions against night work by women, it is necessary in war-time to make an adjustment of hours, and, where conditions are favorable, to allow women to work at night. The Commonwealth Government has power to override the restrictions on women’s employment imposed by the States, and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has power to override State restrictions. But some authority such as the Women’s
Employment Board is obviously necessary to examine each individual ease and decide the degree to which such restrictions should be set aside, and the conditions under which women should be employed in each industry. I amplify that by saying that there is a large number of awards of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court which are operative but make no provision for women’s rates of pay, having really been designed by the court on the presumption that women would not be employed at the particular avocation to which they applied. Employers will not engage women in those occupations as things stand, because the award prescribes the rate for whoever does the work. Therefore, the extent to which women will be used in such work is less than the Government considers desirable. If the court were to go through even the expedited procedure which the Government has recently arranged for, it would still take far too long to reach a decision in all these cases, while at the same time carrying on its normal functions. When I say that there is strong objection by certain unions to the employment of women in industry, I do not mean thar they do not recognize the necessity for such employment, but they believe that, unless the position be properly safeguarded in regard to women brought in temporarily to replace men engaged 011 other war work, an entirely wrong standard will be set up for women during the war, and the future standard for men will be prejudiced. Realizing how important it is that standards generally should not be brought down permanently in order to meet a national emergency, the Government believes that women who enter industry - not by natural evolution, but for the purpose of replacing men who would otherwise continue in those industries - should be adequately protected, while the rights of the male employees also are preserved. The Government recognizes the authority of Parliament, and it also accepts the obligations of government. We have al-ready brought into industry over 50,000 women not previously employed in their present avocations. At the present time, 100 women are being trained as telegraphists by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the specific purpose of making male telegraphists available for service with the fighting forces. Naturally, the telegraphists who are being replacedby women want an assurance that when they come back they will not be excluded from their old jobs because it was discovered, while they were away fighting, that women could be got to do their work more cheaply. Having regard to the experience of labour in every country after the last war, when the record of unfulfilled promises became an important chapter of post-war history, it is understandable that a government which represents the Labour party should be concerned for two things : first, that women shall not be exploited in war-time, and, secondly, that whatever assessment is made of their value in war-time, it shall be based, not on their sex, but on their efficiency. Perhaps it was natural that the Arbitration Court, which has not had much experience of this particular problem, should arbitrarilyassess women’s efficiency at some percentage of the male standard. I have a great respect for the Arbitration Court, but any such arbitrary assessment would be unfair to women, and monstrously unjust to men.
– Is this not a part of the implied contract with the unions ?
– The implied contract, yes; there is no formal contract. The anions are trying to arrange such acontract, but it is extraordinarily difficult. We are trying to make a fair evaluation of the efficiency of women in industry so that the men whose places they are taking will be assured of their jobs when they return, and will not find themselves permanently displaced by cheaper labour.
– To what contract did the Prime Minister refer?
– There is no contract. We have been investigating the possibility of entering into a contract, but the powers of Parliament in this respect are limited to the period of the war, and one year thereafter. Thus, any contract made in pursuance of those powers would be of no use for the regulation of industry during the general post-war period. As the result of action taken in the Senate, the regulations governing the employment of women have been disallowed, thus creating a state of affairs which can only be described as chaotic. There are now many women working in avocations for which the Arbitration Court has not fixed a rate for women. Some are doing work which the State law says shall not be performed by women, and in other instances women are working longer hours than the State law permits. It is necessary that we should at least maintain the position as prescribed by former regulations. The Government accepts the authority of Parliament when regulations are disallowed. Therefore, it is proposed to pass this afternoon a statutory rule, under the National Security Act, to continue in force all decisions, variations and interpretations given or made by the Women’s Employment Board up to, and including, the 23rd September, 1942. This statutory rule will remain in force until the Senate rejects or fails to pass a bill, notice of which 1 propose to give today and the general nature of which I shall indicate shortly. However, the statutory rule will not operate for more than one month from this date. The purpose of the statutory rule is to prevent a chaotic position from being caused by the absence of any authority covering the employment of women in all these avocations, with the exception of a few instances where the Commonwealth awards operate. But Commonwealth awards do not cover the field as a whole. The period of one month, during which the regulations will be valid, is considered to be adequate for the purpose of enabling Parliament to deal with the problem by legislation.’ Therefore, the Government proposes to submit to Parliament a measure to restore to the statute-book the regulations which have been disallowed, and generally to ensure the encouragement and regulation of the employment of women during the war.I now give notice that to-morrow I shall move -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to encourage and regulate the employment of women for the purpose of aiding the prosecution of the present war.
– Will the Minister for Home Security inform me when the brown-out regulations operating in Victoria were last reviewed? Are the present arrangements the result of security measures, or for the purpose of conserving fuel and power?
– The last review of brown-out conditions in all States was made at the request of the Premiers, and the views of the services were obtained upon the subject. A new order was then issued, allowing a partial relaxation of the restrictions on street lighting and the headlights of motor cars. The States have not sought a further examination of the position.
– The order which enforces the masking of motor car headlights has not been relaxed in Victoria.
– The explanation of the delay is that the masks on the headlights of motor cars in Victoria cannot be altered without removing them, whereas the masks on the headlamps of motor cars in New South Wales are fitted with a shutter which can be opened, without difficulty, to permit a stronger beam. If an air-raid warning be sounded, the driver is able to close the shutter instantly. This morning I discussed the position with the Premier of Victoria, and we hope to reach a decision before the week-end.
– As a result of black-out conditions, the number of street accidents has seriously increased, because people who are working long hours every day suffer from strain, and are less alert to danger. Will the Minister for Munitions consider the advisability of granting workers’ compensation to persons injured on their way to and from their employment in government munition factories ?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s question.
Concessions to Sportsmen - “ Australia” Badges - Seymour Inquiry - Administration and Efficiency - Captain W. C. Wentworth
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether it is true that boxers and jockeys are retained in military camps in the metropolitan areas, whilst the sons of workers are sent to battle stations? Do boxers and jockeys secure time off from their military duties for training purposes, although the average soldier is granted only short periods of leave? For example, troops who had served abroad for two years were granted eight days’ leave on their return to Australia recently.
– Whilst I am not aware that preferential treatment has been given to boxers and jockeys in the Army a searching investigation will be made immediately of the allegations that the honorable member has made.
– I recently directed the attention of the Minister for the Army to the fact that certain members of the Australian Imperial Force who had returned from overseas had been fined for having disobeyed an order, which was subsequently countermanded, to remove the “ Australia “ badge from their tunics. I asked the Minister more recently whether he would restore to them the rights which had been taken from them, and whether the fines would be remitted. What is his answer?
– I initialled a reply to be sent to the honorable gentleman, and I shall see that a copy is given to him to-day.
– Will the Minister for the Army table the text of the proceedings and findings of a court of inquiry into military affairs in the Seymour area held by a police magistrate some months ago?
– I shall peruse the file with a view to giving consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen the article in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph by Mr. W. C. Wentworth, formerly a captain in the Australian Military Forces, making serious charges in regard to army administration and army efficiency?
– Owing to pressure of Parliamentary and administrative work and a meeting of the Advisory “War Council this morning, I have not had the leisure which the honorable gentleman has apparently had to show my appreciation of the Sydney daily newspapers. I shall look at the article and tell the honorable member privately what I think of it.
– Last week I asked the Minister for the Army whether he would lay on the table of the House a file of papers relating to the nonretention in tho Army of Captain William Charles Wentworth. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether that file is available ?
– I understand that there is a file of papers at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, dealing with this matter. I have asked for it to be sent to Canberra. I shall peruse it and then give an answer to the honorable member.
– Yesterday, an announcement was made that members of the Civil Constructional Corps would be compensated for injuries received in the course of their employment. The words “ in the course of their employment “ were defined as including “travelling on leave to and from the place of employment”. Will the Minister for the Army grant a similar privilege to members of the Army travelling on leave to and from their units? If so, will he make the privilege retrospective?
– Immediate consideration will be given to the representations that the honorable member has made.
Mr. H. V. Mirls- Private Business Connexions of Employees - Absenteeism
– Some time ago, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked me a question regarding the employment of Mr. H. V. Mirls in the Department of Munitions. The honorable member sought information about Mr. Mirls’s private association, if any, with the Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, or any of its subsidiaries. Mr. BE. V. Mirls was assistant works manager at the Australian Glass Works, Spotswood, when, at the invitation of Mr. W. J. Smith, on the formation of the Ministry of Munitions, in June, 1940, he joined the department. Until about twelve months ago, he acted as assistant to Mr. Smith in carrying out his duties as Director of Gun Ammunition Production. When Mr. Mirls joined the department in June, 1940, he ceased to have any connexion whatever with the Australian Glass Manufacturers Limited, and was entirely employed upon departmental duties. From the commencement of taking up those duties his salary was borne by the Commonwealth. About twelve months ago Mr. Mills ceased to be assistant to Mr. W. J. Smith upon appointment to a definite position in the department as Controller of Gun Ammunition Production. This position was formerly filled by a departmental officer who was detailed for duty at the High Commissioner’s office in London as representative of the Department of Munitions. There was no suitable permanent officer available for the vacancy, and Mr. Mirls had so identified himself with the departmental interests that it was considered that he could adequately fill the position with full regard to the fact that it was a position of trust in the Commonwealth service. He has more than fulfilled the departmental expectation on that account, and in all his duties he has completely identified himself with the interests of the Commonwealth. In his position as controller of gun ammunition production, Mr. Mirls nominally was serving under the director, Mr. W. J. Smith, but shortly after he received, the appointment, Mr. Smith obtained leave for a visit abroad. Since his return, Mr. Smith, has gradually been relinquishing the direction of gun ammunition production, leaving more ana more of the control to Mr. Mirls. and Mr. Mirls. for his part, has been dealing directly with the Director-General of Munitions and the secretary of the department. As Minister, I have obtained reports from him and consulted him personally. In short, he has been as much a departmental officer as any permanent officer of the Public Service. Mr. Mirls states that he has no financial or any other interest in Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, or any of its subsidiary companies. He has ceased to have any connexion with any of the companies. He has no income apart from his departmental salary.
– In view of the complaints of the Minister for Munitions in Adelaide on the subject of absenteeism in munitions factories, will he present to Parliament a statement on the subject, together with information as to the measures by which the Government proposes to remedy the abuse?
– My department is surveying the situation, and, if possible, before the present sessional period ends, I shall make a statement to Parliament.
– Will the Minister for Munitions adopt an invariable rule that all persons associated with the work of his department shall be paid by the Commonwealth? Will heensure that the Director-General of Munitions, Mr. Essing ton Lewis, is made a public servant in the fullest sense, instead of working for the Commonwealth and being paid by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited ?
– Many men rendering wonderful service to the Commonwealth are not being paid by the Commonwealth. No person has devoted himself more loyally to the service of the Commonwealth than has Mr. Essington Lewis. I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– About three months ago the Minister for the Army promised to allow me to peruse some files concerning internees, and he gave instructions for those files to be sent to me in Sydney. Later, when the Attorney-General returned from overseas, the files went to the security service. The AttorneyGeneral told me two or three weeks ago that they would be made available to me. I am still waiting to know when I shall have access to them.
– The custody of security files is under the direction of the DirectorGeneral of Security. If the honorable gentleman applies to him I am sure that he will be permitted to peruse so much of the files as can be made available to him.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to that portion of the report of the canteens board of inquiry which refers to an amount of £11,000, held in the suspense account of O.T. Limited, of Melbourne, relating to royalties on certain goods supplied to British troops? The report expressed the wish that the troopsbe given the benefit of that amount, which was added to the price of the goods instead of being taken out of the profits of the company. Can the AttorneyGeneral indicate what action will be taken by the Commonwealth Government, the British Government, or the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner?
– My attention has not been called to any particular portion of that report; but I shall have a look at it, and ascertain whether the honorable member’s suggestion can be given effect.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether the Government proposes to take over any of the merchant ships that are now being built in Australia? If not, will consideration be given to the acquisition of these vessels by the Government in order to establish an Australian shipping line, which could be used not only during the war but also afterwards, for the transport of Australia’s exports?
– The construction of these vessels comes under my jurisdiction as Minister for Munitions, but their ultimate ownership and control is a matter for the Minister for Commerce, to whom the question should be directed.
– In view of the statements published in today’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald that a record amount of almost £21,000,000 was spent on liquor in New South Wales last year, and that the consumption of both beer and wine in that period wasmuch greater than ever before, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs supply a comparison of the monthly production and consumption of beer and wine in New South Wales during 1942 and the previous year? Will the Minister also state whether the reduction of liquor production which was announced by the Prime Minister has, in fact, been applied.
– Yes, it has. I have prepared figures in reply to a question asked recently by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and these will be made available to the honorable member.
– The position is being investigated. The figures prepared by the Prime Minister do not include those for wine, but I shall have them tabulated and supplied to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development seen the statement, published in a Sydney newspaper this week, that shoddy material has been put into shoes, and, if so, has he taken any action in connexion with the charge?
– I have seen a very good statement on the subject by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). That statement calls for some action, and officers of my department are making investigations with a view to taking whatever action is necessary.
– Has the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) seen a report which was published in the Corn Trade News of London on the 11th March this year on the subject of wheat? The report stated-
Australia has, of course, been hard hit by the loss of her markets in the Orient, and although India would probably take a lot of flour, there is no tonnage available for its transportation. The wheat industry, fortunately, is receiving valuable support from the British Government, which has undertaken to buy and, if necessary, to store 50 per cent. of the estimated surplus available in any one season. An agreement to this effect was made last year and, as shipping opportunities have been few and far between—
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must ask his question.
– Has the British Government undertaken to buy, and if necessary to store, 50 per cent. of the estimated surplus of wheat available in Australia in any one season? If so, does this undertaking apply to the No. 5 wheat pool, and will it apply to future pools?
– The information contained in thepassage quoted by the honorable member is absolutely incorrect.
– Has the Minister for Labourand National Service seen a report in to-day’s issue of the Sydney
Daily Telegraph referring to evidence given by a man named Ault, at an inquiry before the Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Blakeley, at Port Kembla, to the effect that he had been taken off defence workby the Australian Iron and Steel Company Limited and employed on the repairing of private motor cars owned by important officials connected with the company, including Mr. Hoskins, a director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited; ‘Mr. Mortlock, a superintendent, and other officials? The witness stated that the work had been done in government time and had been charged to defence orders. Will the Minister inquire whether there is any truth in these allegations, and will he discuss the matter with the Minister for Munitions?
– As the result of a number of reports concerning unsatisfactory arrangements at the works of the Australian Iron and Steel Company Limited at Port Kembla, the Government appointed Mr. Blakeley to make an exhaustive inquiry. It is hoped that his report will be available at an early date. I assure the honorable member that, when the report is received, appropriate action will be taken.
– In view of the conflict, of authority between the armed services, the munitions industry, civil industries, and primary industries on the subject of man-power, I ask whether the Prime Minister has given any thought to the establishment of a ministry to deal with man-power problems in their entirety, or to increasing the power of the Department of Labour and National Service to deal with them?
– Cabinet is at present considering a report on man-power problems. Among the important aspects dealt with is the fact that there are a number of bodies, including the Army, the Allied Works Council, the Department of Munitions, and the aircraft construction organization, to mention only a few, and the dairying industry, the sugar industry, and a number of other important rural industries, in all of which there is said to be a shortage of labour. The honorable gentleman’s proposal for the better handling and disposition of our man-power resources will be given consideration.
Notification of Relatives
– Last night I received a communication from a woman who had just received information from soldiers in New Guinea relating to the death of her son who was on service in that area. The boy’s family had no previous knowledge of his death, and so far they have not received any official notification of it. Will the Minister for the Army have this matter fully investigated, in order to prevent the recurrence of such unfortunate incidents? The boy’s mother brought the matter to my attention in order to prevent other families from suffering a similar shock.
– I shall have the matter investigated immediately, and I shall communicate the result of my inquiries to the honorable member.
– Can the Treasurer tell the House why, in these days of austerity, shortage of man-power, and shortage of paper, he has permitted a book of regulations dealing with sales tax, known as the Red Book, to be printed on one side of the paper only? Does he consider that this is the right thing to do, having regard to the restrictions that have been imposed on other users of paper, some of whose publications have been reduced to a bare minimum ?
– I am not aware of the matter mentioned by the honorable gentleman. I imagine that there is some good reason for what has been done, but I shall have the complaint investigated.
– Is the Minister for Commerce yet in a position to make a statement to the House concerning the price that will be fixed for superphosphate, and the amount of the bounty to be paid, for the coming season?
– That subject is receiving consideration. Owing to our uncertainty about sources of supply of certain ingredients, it has been difficult to reach a decision. The subject will be discussed at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on Monday next, in Canberra, and I hope soon to be in a position to make a statement. I appreciate the anxiety of the honorable member.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the prevention of black marketing.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to prevent black marketing by providing most drastic penalties for those who indulge in black market operations. These operations can only occur in markets disturbed by unusual circumstances - in this case, those imposed upon a nation in arms, which must of necessity restrict the supplies of the civilian population.
The name “ black market “ is well chosen. It is not to be found in the standard dictionaries or encyclopedias; but it is a name which seems to have leaped to the lips of all patriots. It implies an outrage against standards of decency ; and the “ black market “ is an outrage against standards of decency. For the black market is a dishonest market. It is not an open market but an undercover market. It works outside the permitted channels of distribution and beyond the ordinary pale of the law, and the law-abiding trader.
A black market can exist only in a community passing through a great crisis. That crisis might be the throes of a depression, as in 1930. There were black markets then. In particular, there was a black market in foreign exchange, created by those who sought to transmit abroard funds because they lacked steadiness, and lacked faith in the stability of Australia.
This ignoble attitude characterizes all those who practise black market operations. It is bad enough in peace-time; in war-time it is little short of treason. Those who participate in illegal marketing operations calculated to thwart the Government in its full concentration on organizing resources for total war are certainly fifth columnists. Any practice designed to interfere with the efforts of the people to wage warfare on the economic front is virtually a black market operation. For instance, a purchaser who collaborates with a seller to obtain supplies of a scarce commodity by offering and paying a price higher than the price fixed by law is guilty of black-marketing. He is just as guilty as the seller. Again, a person who sells or buys rationed goods without ration tickets is guilty of black-marketing. Similarly, a person who trades in ration tickets or petrol coupons, whether as buyer or seller, is guilty of blackmarketing.
It will be observed that a characteristic feature of black-marketing is collusion between the buyer and the seller. That is what distinguishes black market operations, or, if we may coin a new word, “blacketeering “, from “profiteering”. The profiteer takes advantage of conditions of scarcity, and does so at the expense of the buyer. “Blaeketeers “ are buyers and sellers who take advantage of a scarcity at the expense of the whole community.
With Australia under the threat of invasion during the past eight months; with the Government concentrating fiercely upon converting a peace economy into one of war; with growing interruption or control of markets, of transport, and of supplies of essential commodities; and with rapid transfers of labour from civilian to war activities, the opportunities for black markets have increased greatly in the current year. We must do everything to stamp out and outlaw those who operate them, for they obstruct the war effort by impeding the efforts of the Government to transfer resources from civilian to war purposes.
In the distribution of our limited resources the fighting services must come first. Civilians come in later, and the resources available for them are necessarily limited. The black-market trader plans to cheat both the soldier and the civilian. We have to devise means to detect him, to punish him and to outlaw him. This bill is one of the means we should adopt.
At present, prosecutions against traders for breaches of the National Security (Prices) Regulations are dealt with under the provisions of the National Security Act. The National Security Act provides that, on summary prosecution, the maximum penalty for an offence is a fine of £100, or six months imprisonment. A careful analysis of the prosecutions under the National Security (Prices) Regulations shows that for the most part, the fines imposed have been far below the maximum permissible, whilst in no case whatever has a magistrate committed a trader to prison. Yet all the offences were serious, and in some cases severe punishment should have been imposed.
Since the outbreak of war, 168 separate firms have been charged under the National Security (Prices) Regulations. There have been 319 separate charges against these firms. One charge was withdrawn, nine were dismissed, whilst convictions were secured in the remaining 309 cases. The offences dealt mainly with sales of goods at excessive prices, but these transactions were often accompanied by other blackmarket manoeuvres. Many devices were used to obtain additional profit in the sale of such goods, and to avoid detection by the price control authorities. Let us see what was the scale of penalties imposed by the magistrates. Of the 308 cases in which penalties were imposed, in as many as 249 cases fines were less than £10. In 158 cases, more than half the total, the penalties were less than £5. In no case did a magistrate contemplate exercising his powers to commit a defendant to prison. It might be reasonable to assume that in the early stages of the war, traders should be given a period of warning in which a fine would be preferred to imprisonment; but that is not the explanation of the leniency of the magistrates. For cases continue to occur in which they still impose inadequate fines.
I shall now illustrate the position, by referring briefly to representative cases -
Hessian was in short supply, and there was no doubt that the firm had obtained increased profits. Yet a nominal fine was imposed.
I have no desire to criticize the magistrates unduly; but the facts speak for themselves. The only remedy is for Parliament to mark the serious offences with its stern disapproval. It is obvious that in many cases money penalties are quite inadequate because, even after the fine has been deducted, the transaction still shows a handsome profit for the profiteer.
The recent declaration of the Myer Emporium Limited is worthy of special attention. The firm in question is the largest retail establishment trading in a single centre in Australia. A careful investigation disclosed an increase of about 3 per cent. on the pre-war average gross profit margin charged by the company on all goods sold during the first two years of the war. Owing to the large turnover of the company, this meant an excess profit of approximately £250,000 during the two years, over and above what the profit would have been had the gross profit margin operating in the prewar year been observed. It is important to note that the excess charge on individual transactions was very small, estimated to have been less than 2d. on each transaction. There were, however, over 40,000,000 transactions involved, and the problem was whether to prosecute the company or to “ declare “ it and thus ensure that the excess profits were returned to the public. To have prosecuted the company effectively would have meant proceeding on an enormous number of small transactions. If 100 instances had been chosen, the total excess profit would probably have been less than £1. To obtain evidence on 100 cases would in itself have been no easy matter, because in the eyes of the law each individual sale had to be considered as a separate transaction. It would have been necessary to prove that the goods were identical, or at least of similar quality; that the sale took place under the same terms and conditions; and that the gross profit margin was in excess of the gross profit margin operating on the 31st August, 1939. Even though it had been possible to obtain satisfactory evidence of all these individual transactions, no one could be sure that the punishment would have corresponded to the offence. Each individual transaction involved a very small overcharge, and probably the court would have ruled that only the facts relating to that transaction could be submitted in evidence. Thus, it might never have been revealed even that the firm had made such a large excess profit. Certainly there was no guarantee that the fine imposed by the court would have been at all appropriate to the magnitude of the offence. Having regard to the decisions of the magistrates which I have already mentioned, there was every reason to believe that the fine would have been totally inadequate.
This bill seeks to solve the difficulties at present inherent in cases similar to Myer’s. We shall make it possible not only to proceed to conviction upon individual transactions, but also to call evidence as to past trading operations, in order to obtain an independent assessment of excess profits. The object of this procedure is to permit the imposition of an additional penalty, which may amount to twice the total excess profits.
I now proceed to explain the main features of the bill. First, we specify exactly what is comprised in the offences of “ black marketing “. After careful consideration, it has been decided to include in the category of black marketing all the. major offences already constituted as such under the National Security Regulations dealing with -
Accordingly, clause 3 of the bill set out nine types of offences, all of which have this in common - that they involve an attempt to obtain undue profit or benefit at the expense of the soldier and the civilian individually, and to harm the organized war effort of the country. All these actions are already forbidden by law, and we group them so that a person convicted of any one of them may be properly characterized as a war criminal, or a black marketer. Power is also given in the hill to declare that other offences against the National Security Regulations shall constitute black marketing.
From what I have said, it will appear that black marketing is an offence already punishable under the National Security Act, but it is an offence for which it is essential that a. more drastic punishment should be provided in serious cases. Of course, a person will not be punishable both under the National Security Act and the present measure. Furthermore, proceedings under the bill will be taken only when the responsible Minister has reported to the Attorney-General, and the Attorney-General has given written consent to the prosecution.
Having denned the offence, and provided certain safeguards, what should be the punishment? The bill provides that every person who is convicted of the offence of black marketing before a court of summary jurisdiction should be sent to gaol for at least three months. If the offender is a company, a fine of not less than £1,000 must be imposed by the magistrate. If the offence is prosecuted upon indictment, the minimum penalty is imprisonment for not less than twelve months, and in the case of a company, a fine of not less than £10,000.
Owing to the nature of modern business organization, most of these offences are committed by companies; therefore, monetary penalties are not in themselves a sufficient punishment. In the case of a company it is provided that every person who, at the time of the commission of the offence, was a director, officer or employee actively concerned in the conduct of the business, shall also be deemed guilty of the offence unless he proves that it was committed without his knowledge, and that he took all due care to prevent its commission. This important provision casts a heavy onus on company managers and employees, and it will be strictly enforced.
In addition to the penalties provided for black marketing, any goods involved in the offence committed, or the value of such goods, must be forfeited to the Crown. Further, after conviction, there must be displayed at the place of business of the offender for a period of three months a notice of conviction in a prominent position. If the court is not satisfied that such notice will give sufficient publicity to the offence, it is empowered to require the offender to print particulars of the offence on all his letterheads, invoices and accounts. Particulars of the conviction must also be published in the Gazette. If it appears that insufficient publicity has been given to the conviction, there is power to require the facts to be broadcasted and also published in the newspapers.
One special feature of the bill should now be explained. It often happens that black marketing offences are not discovered until long after they have been committed. For many months, a number of unscrupulous traders, quite prepared to take all the risks of legal penalities, have undoubtedly been exploiting the public. The inadequate fines imposed under the National Security Act were no deterrent because the profits were too attractive. It is proposed to make these gentry appreciate that, despite the immediate profits, black marketing will result in their gaol and ostracism. We, therefore, propose to make the act operate as from the 20th February last, when the Economic Organization Regulations came into force. I emphasize that this is not ordinary ex post facto legislation at all. It does not convert into a crime an act which the law permitted at the time of its commission. All the acts and omissions which will bo punishable under this bill are already crimes. What we propose to do is to make sure that the crimes committed after the 20th February last, but not yet punished, as well as the crimes not yet committed, shall be adequately punished.
There are very good reasons for selecting the 20th February as the time from which the present act shall operate. The Economic Organization Regulations passed on that date provided for the compulsory pegging of wages and salaries. Acts of profiteering and of black marketing are entirely inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of these regulations. If wage-earners are to have their wages pegged, subject only to adjustment on account of the increased cost of living, they are precluded from exploiting the shortage of the main commodity they have to offer for sale, namely, their own labour. Similarly, as regards landlords and investors, whose rents and interest rates have been severely controlled. In these circumstances, it would be anomalous, to say the least, if the sellers and buyers of scarce goods were allowed with impunity to combine together in black markets. Similarly, the pursuit of practices contrary to rationing and other regulations that have been found necessary for the conduct of the war should be followed by the imposition of penalties appropriate to the grave offence that has been committed against the nation. The opportunity for committing such offences has grown very rapidly since the Economic Organization Regulations were gazetted. It is logical that those who have already committed such offences should bo treated as severely as those who commit them in the future.
A very recent case where an act of this Parliament was made to operate as from a date earlier than its passing was the Defence Act passed on the 4th April, 1941. The act made certain frauds and breaches of contract relating to the supply of goods to the Army punishable if committed since the 3rd September, 1939. There was a strong divergence of opinion in this House as to whether negligent breaches of contract should be made punishable as from the earlier date, but there was unanimity in respect of fraudulent supplies. Here, the case in favour of operating the act as from a past date is infinitely stronger.
It is believed that, by the adoption of the drastic measures provided in this bill, a check will be imposed upon black markets. I have endeavoured to show that the inadequacy of the penalties imposed by the courts has seriously impeded the working of the system of price control, and the enforcement of other vital national security regulations. We must see to it that, in the future, stringent penalties will be imposed upon traders and others who, by pursuing the devious methods of black marketing, hamper the Government in its efforts to organize this country for total war. That is the test by reference to which this bill should be judged. Applying this test, I have no doubt that the principles of the bill will meet with the approval of the House. I do not claim that the dread evil of black marketing in Australia can be completely eliminated by even the most drastic penal legislation; but I submit that this legislation will prove a valuable deterrent, and will curb the undisciplined desire for unrestricted profit in days when absence of discipline may easily lead to national disaster. It is in that belief that I submit the bill to the judgment of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden, through Mr. Francis) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 23rd September (vide page 750).
Proposed vote, £123,749,000.
.- In spite of the assurance of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that youths of eighteen years of age would not be sent for service overseas without sufficient training, this practice is being continued. Much discontent has arisen over the severity of penalties imposed for offences against Army discipline. Only to-day I received a letter from a constituent regarding the treatment of a young man who has returned from service overseas. He served with distinction in Greece, his conduct being referred to in favorable terms in the newspapers. Recently, he participated in a march through the streets of Sydney. Afterwards, he was given leave, and was absent without leave for one day. As a result he lost his two stripes, although I understand that it was not his fault that he was absent without leave. In my opinion, the penalty was too severe.
– Does the honorable member consider that the man was fit to be a non-commissioned officer? He disobeyed the regulations.
– That was through inadvertence.
– We have heard that story before.
– He did not appeal against the sentence, because he desires to go into action again. He is of an excellent type.
This war is not so much racial as ideological. The Minister should direct the security service to examine the antecedents of some persons who occupy high places. If an example were made of a few of them it would have the desired effect. I have nothing but praise for the manner in which the Minister has performed his onerous duties, and any representations that I have made to him have received prompt and courteous attention. His task is most difficult. Every day he receives more than 800 letters, and, consequently, it is impossible for him to be familiar with the details of every communication. He must rely upon the loyalty of his staff. This morning I read in the Daily Telegraph an article by Mr. W. C. Wentworth, who until last week held the rank of captain in the Army. Before he enlisted he had been in charge of the Budget Control Branch of the New South Wales Treasury, and he had attended Loan
Council meetings in an advisory capacity on behalf of that State.- In fact, he was one of the few officers in the Army with experience as senior official of the Treasury. One of my constituents confirms the excellent work that Mr. Wentworth performed in the Army -
When the case of Captain Wentworth comes before the Bouse again, I would like you to be aware of the facts concerning him.
As one of your constituents and a member of the Guides and Reconnaissance Corps that was commanded and formed by Captain Wentworth, I take the liberty of writing you this note.
In answer to an advertisement that appeared in all the press of Sydney and over the radio calling for volunteers to enlist in the Grand Reconnaissance Corps, about 100 picked men were enlisted by Captain Wentworth. The principal qualifications were a thorough knowledge of one’s country and must lie expert bushmen.
The result was that a finer body ot men as I ever mixed with went into camp about four months ago. After being scientifically trained for that period in map-reading, compass work, morse code, signal and heliograph work, the corps was disbanded and scattered in all directions all over the State, mostly as grooms and mess fatigue hands in permanent depot camps.
These men were a tough, .hard and clever body, mostly between the ages of 45 and 55.
Owing to apparent jealousy on the part nf some of Captain Wentworth’s superior officers, he was relieved of his command and hia corps broken up as stated above.
Captain Wentworth is a courageous and clever leader of men. He possesses a remarkable knowledge of the geography and topography of Australia. His men were behind him in any action he might decide upon. He is the type of man that the country can ill afford to lose in the most critical days of history.
Because a few “blimps” were jealous othis young, progressive man with modern ideas, we were converted into footballs and are being kicked about everywhere.
How can we win the war under the circumstances, Mr. Morgan ? Wc all enlisted with the hope that we would he doing something to help repel those brown hordes from the East. In doing so we all made personal sacrifices to serve
Lel it bt understood that the sentiments that T have expressed here are held by all the men of the corps. There is no doubt there are thousands of men in Australia of the same type and age who would be a great help in Now Guinea and other battlefronts. But how could you expect them to serve under these circumstances?
That letter bears eloquent testimony to the military ability of Mr. Wentworth. T nsk the Minister to review this matter.
In my opinion, guerrilla tactics will play an important part in dislodging the Japanese from their strongholds in the Pacific. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), an experienced officer with a fine military record, offered to raise a light horse corps for guerrilla work. In action, his courage is unquestioned. Remnants of the Australian Imperial Force in Crete and Timor are harrying the Japanese from retreats in the mountains, and their successes prove the value of guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately, auxiliary units of the Volunteer Defence Corps, attached to factories, have not received sufficient encouragement from the Army authorities. When Japan entered the war, workers became very uneasy. They had not received any military training, and they realized their helplessness should the southward sweep of the Japanese bring the enemy to the southern States. So far from desiring to “ go bush “ in an invasion, they wished to receive instruction in the use of weapons, so that they could resist the enemy by force of arms. The Army did not encourage their enthusiasm. These men should be trained to use rifles so that if attacked, they may emulate the example of the heroic defenders of Stalingrad. In to-day’s issue of the Daily Telegraph a special correspondent in’ Moscow, Godfrey Blunden, declares that Stalingrad is a vast trap for the Nazis. Thousands of them are dying in the streets as the Russians fight grimly in a planned defence of the burntcut city. The correspondent writes -
Stalingrad has become a vast trap for the German Army.
To-day’s reports tell of tens of thousands of German corpses lying in the streets and alleyways, still in range of bullets and shells. lt is seven days since enemy forces broke through to the town, but hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets, rifle-butts, hand-grenades, and benzine bottles goes on without much improvement in thu German position.
One report speaks of the defenders of h factory fighting from floor to floor to the attic, and then to the roof-top, leaving passages and stairways packed with dead.
Australians will display a similar spiriif the occasion should ever demand it. 1 appeal to the Minister to encourage the formation of guerrilla units as the honorable member for Bendigo lias advocated, and to provide instructors to train factory workers in the use of weapons.
– And give them weapons.
– Yes. Although they are working overtime, they are prepared to make additional sacrifices to ensure that our fighting forces shall be adequately equipped. The Minister stated that he had not had time to read the article by Mr. Wentworth. I urge him to study its contents at the first opportunity. Mr. Wentworth writes -
Red tape still strangles ourwar effort, and is ultimately responsible for much - if not most - of our front-line failure.
Recently I was told of a “ brain-wave “ to foil the Japanese if ever they land in Australia. The plan was to send army lorries to collect all the red tape from government departments, and fling it at the Japanese.
– That would entangle them.
– There is enough red tape to strangle the Japanese. The article continues -
Much of the criticism which the Army is getting is mis-directed, because the present army system is unworkable, and those who have to work within it cannot possibly reach the full efficiency which is necessary for success.
I believe thnt a radical change in the present system is necessary if we are to win the Pacific war, and that unless we can bring about these administrative reforms the Army can never develop along flexible and offensive lines - that it is literally a matter of life and death for us to make these changes.
It is unfair to blame the front-line soldier for circumstances outside his control, and until we cure the administrative weakness which is the seat of the infection the Army can never be healthy.
When Army Minister Spender first took office, he formulated a good resolution - to cut the red tape which was hampering the Army at every turn. Publicly, every one approved, even the red-tape merchants themselves. Privately, these latter set out to sabotage hie efforts.
Spender failed and fell. When he left the Army its administration was no better than when he first took office.
When Army Minister Forde came to power, and made the same good resolution as his predecessor, the red-tape merchants trembled - for form’s sake. Privately, they smirked.
Events may yet prove their smirk justified. I am convinced that Mr. Forde has made an honest and sincere attempt to cut through red tape.
I think we all agree with that -
He has had some minor victories. But I am just as convinced that the impact he has made on the vast bureaucratic machine is not adequate to the occasion. Some senior civil servants are still trying to sabotage the Government’s honest efforts.
That is what I said last night. Mr. Wentworth gained his knowledge from experience within the Army, and I from what I have seen of. Army officers and from my constituents -
Even with the stimulus of invasion to help reform, the Army’s administration remains a tragic machine of complex, sanctified, chromium-plated inefficiency. The same stertorous, final, frustrating snorts still greet any proposal for action. The same diehards - all the fatter for another fat year - still serve on their swivel chairs at the sacred shrine of routine.
Meanwhile, the unfortuuate soldier and junior officer is getting every bit of initiative kicked out of him by the tyranny of form and book. For three years now we have trained our soldiers on the principle that “the Army has a form for it - and if there’s no form for it, then it must be wrong”. They have been taught: “If it isn’t in the book, don’t do it.” To train men thus, and then to put them down in the unfamiliar hell of Kokoda is to invite disaster. That is, in essence, what ha ppened.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- At the beginning of the fourth year of war the budget debate and the appeals of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) for an austerity loan indicate that we are not yet geared in Australia for total war. In these three years the various governments in Australia have done many wise things calculated to help a maximum war effort. It is evident, however, that these are not yet integrated into a comprehensive, balanced plan. All aspects of our economic problem are indissolubly interconnected. Action which may be invaluable if it is taken as an integral part of a general plan may prove to be an impediment if it is not in balance. For instance, price fixing is valuable in keeping down prices, but by itself the very keeping down of prices may cause shortages of stocks in shops and queues everywhere.
Logistics is defined as an art of waging war so that the right material is in the right place at the right time - in a word, that everything should be in balance. This applies even more to the control of the whole national effort. It must be balanced and all leaks and avoidable waste prevented. The object of the budget, which is the Government’s declaration of national policy, is to get a maximum war effort. That policy, with the machinery of the budget, affects not merely the £540,000,000 budgeted for, but also the whole use of the national income. It determines whether we shall make the wisest and best use not merely of all the money of the Commonwealth, but of all men and all war materials and of every individual’s income and effort.
To get a maximum effort, obviously the first thing is to find out what is the maximum pool of all essential commodities that we can obtain in order to divide that pool up between war and civil needs. When we speak of war we must think of war on all fronts. When we think of civil needs we must think of the civil needs of all the allied peoples. We must keep the nation as a whole cheerful in spirit, and maintain its morale by supplying ample foods and essential needs. There are four factors to this end of securing a maximum pool. The first is to raise our output of everything we should be producing to the highest figure that our organization and resources permit; the second, to get from outside of Australia all we can afford of the essentials we need for a full war and a full civil effort, having regard to the shipping at our disposal ; thirdly, we must export all we can spare, especially materials of war, such as food, raw materials and manufactured munitions, to our allied comrades; and, fourthly, we must eliminate avoidable waste and duplication in governmental and private activity in order to make the maximum available for actual war purposes. From this pool the amount available for civilian consumption is the total of our production, plus our imports, less our war requirements, whether these be used locally or abroad. Priorities in shipping determine that all our exports must be allied war requirements in their widest sense. We must handle this residue for civilian consumption in such a way as to satisfy and nourish our people to the greatest possible extent, keep their goodwill in their war effort, their spirit for the fight, and their morale for the long, hard road to victory. We must realize that the quantity of goods available for civilian consumption in these hard days of war is less than in the easy days of peace, but every one in war-time is giving up something - our unfortunate prisoners of war in foreign countries their liberty, our soldiers, sailors and airmen their freedom to move as they please, and even their lives.
But while the quantity of goods and services available for civilian use and purchase is less than in peace-time the amount of money in the community and the purchasing power of the individual are greater. To link up this shortage of goods with the excess of money we must have a deliberate plan in which considerations of social justice and the rights of every section in the community have been weighed and considered. England has been forced to face this problem much earlier than we in Australia. England has found that to prevent the rise of prices from outstripping the level of wages, a minimum ration of consumption goods must be made available at a low fixed price, even though this may involve subsidizing the producers of these goods. With this must go the obvious supplementary condition that the workers should agree not to press for any further increase of wages on the grounds of cost of living increases. At the same time, there must be simultaneous withdrawal of consumers’ purchasing power. It is obvious that price-fixing without restriction of purchasing power must bring about shortages in shops, and queues in which “ first come, first served “ is the rule, and those less able to bear hardship are the most hardly used. Thus, it is impossible to divorce the national budget from the budget of the individual, the national expenditure from the individual position. In fact, the British white papers accompanying the budget show clearly how the national income is divided between the national expenditure on goods and services and the adjusted personal expenditure of individuals.
I propose to examine three major items of national economy to show the necessity for such a plan in our present position, and how much loss in national outlay and national efficiency, and how much individual hardship, may be caused by its absence. These three items are food, transport, and the control of purchasing power. No one can be satisfied with the food position in Australia. In peace-time we made extraordinary efforts to find markets for our surplus beef, bacon, butter, mutton and lamb, apples, pears, oranges and potatoes, yet in war-time we find ourselves short of all of these commodities. In the first year of the war, we fed the people of Australia, and, at the same time, exported to Great Britain and our soldiers overseas 275,000 tons of surplus meat. In the third year of the war, our exports had declined to 100,000 tons, and in the fourth year of the war, less than 90,000 tons of export is contemplated. This decline is said to be largely due to American soldiers being in Australia, but this is absurd. I know that we could give every Australian soldier in camp f lb. of meat above his normal daily consumption, and yet the American soldier would need to eat 10 lb. of meat a day to account for the quantity that we seem to be short. Production has evidently declined, due to bad seasons and the way the industry has been handled, but this can be overcome. It is obvious that we must deal with the meat problem as a whole if we mean to keep up supplies to our British kinfolk and our forces, as well as to feed our own people. The way to do this is for the Government to acquire all meat at reasonable prices, which will enable the producers to keep going, and then to ration the Australian civilian population, feed our services, and export tie balance to Great Britain or the theatres of war that we must supply. It may be necessary in order to give the Australian public meat at reasonable prices and to maintain production by subsidizing the producers, or, what is the same in the end, to substantially reduce the costs of production. If producers were subsidized, it would be reasonable to lay down the lines on which they should carry on the industry, as I did in my wheat plan.
– Are we eating too much, or has production decreased?
– Production has decreased, and we are also eating too much. In addition to this, there has been a great deal of waste. The time has come for us to handle not only the meat problem, but also other food problems, as I have suggested. The whole subject of our living standards must be examined.
We can effect economies without necessarily reducing our standard of living. In spite of the war, the people of Great Britain have been provided with adequate supplies of food. The quantity of some has decreased, but the nutritional value over all has been maintained. The British authorities have paid a great deal of attention to food values and, as the result, they have encouraged the consumption of milk. They have taken steps to provide increasing quantities of milk for expectant mothers and children so that the rising generation shall not be affected by under-nourishment. Last year, Great Britain was able to increase the total quantity of milk supplied to mothers and children to 200,000,000 gallons more than was available in the last year of peace.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that we should consider the rationing of primary products ?
– We should ration all food products with the exception of wheat. We should decide upon a definite iron ration for the people as we have done in respect of clothing. This might involve drastic changes in relation to our primary industries, and we might have to subsidize them in order to keep the farmers on the land and to provide agricultural workers with reasonable rates of pay. It is of first importance that we should have enough foodstuffs to supply our own needs and also to augment the supplies of Great Britain. Such a policy would have a twofold value, because, when the war ended, the allied nations would have accumulated stocks of foodstuffs amounting to hundreds of thousands of tons which could be used to feed the starving people of other nations. We must do something of this nature to ensure that immediately after the war we do not sow the seeds of another war. Immediate steps should be taken to rationalize all our requirements. We should determine which are essential, and which are nonessential items, and then ensure that the essential items in particular are rationed and made available at a reasonable price.If certain essential goods are available in abundance, the ration could be generous. Our people must have been eating more meat than formerly, otherwise the consumption figures could scarcely have been realized.
– We have been short of vegetables.
– Quite so. If vegetables were rationed every body would get a fair share. It might become necessary to subsidize the production of vegetables. At any rate the Government should make sure that adequate equipment is available for vegetable production, and that proper arrangements are made for distributing the produce. Since the outbreak of war, Great Britain has become the most mechanized farming country in the world, and this has enabled larger quantities of food to be produced. At present Great Britain has 50,000 tractors operating on 500,000 farms. Comparative figures for Germany are: 70,000 tractors and 4,000,000 farms.
We must face these problems. A reduction of the cost of production by reducing costs would be equivalent to the payment of a bounty. The three main charges that primary producers have to meet are in relation to interest, transport and costs of distribution. I shall not deal, at the moment, with interest or the costs of distribution. I understand that during my absence abroad the Government took certain steps to reduce interest charges. I wish, however, to make some observations about the transport of goods, for I believe that a great deal more may be done in this direction to reduce costs. If the Government would exercise more fully the power that it already has, it could effect a substantial reduction of rail transport costs in Australia, which would help both producers and consumers. I understand that the transport regulations issued last March have been applied only to military requirements. I suggest that they be applied also to civilian needs. Definite action has been taken in this regard in Great Britain. As a result of the coordination of the transport system there, far better results have been achieved than would have been possible otherwise. At an early stage of the war the British Ministry of War Transport took steps to co-ordinate the operations of the four main private railway companies in England.We should do the same thing with our State railways. It was discovered in Great Britain that tremendous waste was occurring through uneconomic and competitive haulage. The Government appointed a central committee with an independent chairman to control activities. This committee set to work to zone production and co-ordinate transport. It cut out cross-haulage, and applied the priority system to freights. To the greatest possible degree secondary production was carried on where the raw materials were available. This plan cannot be applied always, and is perhaps a counsel of perfection, but a great deal can be done by co-ordinated effort. Although we have a much more serious transport problem to solve than had Great Britain we have not faced it with the same success. Our war-book plans provide for the complete control of rail transport for both military and civilian purposes, but all that has been done so far to implement those plans has been to produce a national railway rates-book for military freight requirements. Civilian rates remain as they were. State railway freight rates were designed to keep trade inside State boundaries, and this has caused some extraordinary anomalies. For example, the potato industry of New South Wales is carried on mainly in the Llangothlin district, which is 322 miles from Brisbane. It costs £20 to send a truck of potatoes direct to Brisbane from that locality, but if sent via West Maitland, a distance of 776 miles, the cost is only £16. It costs £2 10s. a ton to send groceries from Mount Gambier to Adelaide, a distance of 303 miles, but it costs £8 9s. 4d. a ton to send them from Mount Gambier to Melbourne, a distance of 292 miles.
– Is the right honorable gentleman suggesting that the Commonwealth should operate the railways under federal powers?
– During the war the Commonwealth should take complete charge of the railways. I noticed a report in the press to-day to the effect that the State governments intend to submit a claim for compensation to the Commonwealth in respect of loss said ‘to have been incurred by them through the institution of the priorities travelling scheme. The fact is, of course, that during the war many millions of tons of goods have been carried over the State railways for military purposes with great financial advantage, to the State railway systems. Whatever may happen in peace-time, I consider that during the war the Commonwealth Government should go the whole hog and operate the State railways for both civilian and military purposes.
– Is the right honorable gentleman suggesting that Commonwealth freight rates should operate?
– Yes. The railways of Great Britain are operated today by a central executive committee, with an independent chairman who is the fina] authority on charges and the like. Grafton is about 200 miles from Brisbane and the freight rate on certain classes of manufactured goods is £14 a ton. The freight for the 100 miles in Queensland is £2 10s. and for the 100 miles in New South Wales £11 10s. That does not seem to be right, considering that the cost of the line was largely defrayed with Commonwealth money. Consider the rates for wool. In competitive areas between the various States the freight is approximately £4 16s.’ a ton for a distance of 512 miles, and in noncompetitive areas it is £4 lis. lid. a ton for a distance of 290 miles’. Herein there is wastage of man-power, engine-power and coal. We shall not be able to win the war if we allow leaks of this size to continue. In respect of the railways, the Commonwealth should exercise to the fullest degree the powers that it possesses. There should be absolute federal control over them, and they should be operated as a national asset and undertaking.
The Government should also ensure that the people shall be allowed a substantial ration of all the foodstuffs that they need, and should make certain that the prices charged shall be reasonable. If necessary, the primary producer should be subsidized.
If action along the lines 1 have suggested were taken, two difficult problem, would be straightened out.
– Freight rates are deter mined according to costs. One of the major items of cost is capital expenditure, and another is the high interest rates paid on loans already floated.
– Those factors are not responsible for the discrepancies J have mentioned. My objection is to deferential rates. During a time of war, there should not be practically as much antagonism in regard to rail carriage between the different States as there is between foreign nations. As a matter of fact, their tendency is to destroy interstate freedom of trade, which the federal system was intended to establish and maintain.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.-.! compliment the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) on the work that he is doing. To him has been given an enormous task. With war so close to our shores, some officers of high rank should not be spending their time at the’ administrative centres at Victoria Barracks in Sydney and Melbourne, but should be at the front line, in order to imbue with confidence and courage the young men who are facing the enemy. The number of young officers of high rank who are to be found at Victoria Barracks in both Melbourne and Sydney, is astonishing. As decisions have to be made rapidly, and under changing conditions, these officers should be near the front line in order to make them on the spot. Some of them appear to consider that the front line is situated in Sydney, Melbourne, or Canberra. I hope that the Minister will have them removed to a forward operational station. I have heard extraordinary stories from men who have returned from the Middle East. The commanding officer of the enemy whom they face, according to reports, is never far distant from, the front line; but the men who are directing our operations have frequently been 400 or 500 miles distant. That does not imbue with confidence those who have to bear the brunt of the battle.
– The necessary officers must be there.
– That may be so. If I were to repeat the stories I have heard, they would cause considerable astonishment. I am assured that they are authentic.
Last night the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) mentioned certain matters in connexion with the Army. I entirely agree with the statements that he made. Men who have been trained in the science of war ought to lead their men, not push them. If that were the practice, I believe that we should meet with greater success.
I also bring to the notice of the Minister a matter that concerns the training of young men for commissions. A large number of very fine young members of the Army have been attached to schools for officers. Having completed a course of training covering a period of three or four months, they have been returned to their units; and frequently, students who have not been so successful as they in the course of training through which they have passed, have been given commissions. The others have not received promotion commensurate with their qualifications. Very often “ the old school tie “ comes into the matter, and men are given commissions because they are the sons of leading army officers. I can cite specific cases if the Minister wishes to know of them.
The Government is to be commended for bringing back our armed forces from the Middle East, and I hope that, if the opportunity offers, the Sixth Division also will be brought back. The return of our forces has given the people confidence, and will enable us to meet the Japanese on better terms. The Government is also deserving of praise for having secured the presence of General MacArthur and the American forces in Australia. Their presence here has, as much as anything else, saved Australia from invasion, and the people should be grateful to the Government for what it has been able to do. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) accomplished valuable work for Australia during his visit to the United States of America. The results of his mission are already apparent, and will become more so as time passes.
I am a member of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure which was appointed by the Menzies Government two years ago. The committee has investigated expenditure by the Department of the Army and by other departments, and already it has been instrumental in saving a great deal of money. It could render still greater service to Australia if it were given the opportunity, but, for some reason, it has not been called upon to visit any part of Australia other than Melbourne. Expenditure on the Army is colossal, and should be carefully checked. The administrative section, for instance, is very costly and is, in my opinion, overstaffed. Many of the young men, particularly in the uniformed section, could be transferred to the fighting forces. I do not care whether I continue to be a member of the committee or not, but I am anxious that it should be more fully used.
I hope that the Government will tackle the problem of the break of railway gauges, particularly as between New South Wales and Victoria. It is a shocking thing to see the waste of time and money involved in the transfer of goods and personnel from one train to the other at Albury. The standardization of the gauge on this section should be regarded as an urgent war job. Various devices for overcoming the break of gauge have been put forward from time to time, and they should be investigated.
The amendment of the Commonwealth Repatriation Act is long overdue. For many years, attempts have been made to have it amended, and I understand that the Government proposes to introduce an amending bill as soon as possible. Men are returning from the battle fronts every day, and their interests should be safeguarded. Only to-day I received a letter from a man who has just returned from service overseas. He fought in the last war, and in this war served in the Middle East, where he spent some time in hospital. He was again in hospital af ter his return to Australia, but when he applied for a pension it was refused on the ground that his condition was not attributable to war service. The applicant may appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. I am unable to understand why the Repatriation Commission does not consider cases more sympathetically. It rejects approximately 70 per cent, of the applications; but the War Pensions
Entitlement Appeal Tribunal upholds many of the appeals. I trust that, when the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is amended in the near future, the returned soldiers will be able to obtain a better recognition of their services.
In conclusion, I express the hope that my earlier remarks about the administrative section of the Army, and senior Army officers, will be heeded. We should not see them so often in the streets of our big cities. They should be doing their job nearer the front line.
– I take this opportunity to impress upon the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) the sacrifices that the dairying industry has made for the war effort. Dairymen are not receiving returns commensurate with their contributions to the national income, and the prices of their commodities should be substantially increased in order to give them an adequate return for their labour and offset the big rise of the cost of their production.
During the comparative lull in military operations in New Guinea at the present time, service Ministers should take the opportunity to visit the battle areas in New Guinea and Darwin. A splendid example to them has been set by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Winston Churchill, and Mr. Wendell Willkie, acting on behalf of the President of the United States of America. Churchill, who has taken extraordinary risks, has travelled as no head of a government ever travelled before in war-time, and has visited almost every theatre of operations. Visits by our service Ministers to New Guinea and the Northern Territory would have most beneficial results. They would be a great inspiration to the troops, and the experience would enable the Ministers to obtain a better appreciation of the value of reports from the commanding officers. Visits by Opposition members of the Advisory War Council also might be of advantage, but, of course, the administrative responsibility rests with the Government. Similar views were expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and I wholeheartedly endorse them. Any one who has been to New Guinea cannot possibly realize the extra ordinary hardships that our troops are enduring so courageously in the intense heat, torrential rains, and mountainous country.
On many occasions, I have protested to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) about the despatch of lads aged eighteen years to theatres of war before they have been adequately trained. The Minister has repeatedly assured the House that untrained youths of eighteen years of age would not be sent to battle zones. Evidently, the Army authorities have their own ideas, and ignore the Minister’s assurances. The honorable gentleman should not be a figurehead; he should ensure that his instructions are observed.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will submit to me a list of names of untrained youths who have been sent to battle areas. That will enable me to take action.
– I have already forwarded to the Minister a number of these instances, and I have not received a reply to my representations. I appreciate the Minister’s difficulty in dealing with his voluminous correspondence; but I have sent letters to him, and when I have not received a reply I have forwarded copies of the letters.
– I receive from 600 to SOO letters a day, and have to attend sittings of Parliament and meetings of the full Cabinet, War Cabinet, and Advisory War Council. Consequently, it is impossible for me to deal personally with every letter.
– I realize that, and I have assisted the Minister by writing to him. When I have not received a reply, I have sent to him copies of the correspondence.
– I have not received from the honorable member a list of the letters to which he has not had replies. I shall be glad if he will give me a copy of the list.
– I shall do so. I have received representations from a Mr. Frew, who is greatly disturbed because his eighteen-year-old son has been sent to a battle area. The lad had his eighteenth birthday on the 26th January of this year. When he was called up for medical examination, he was asked to furnish particulars of his educational qualifications. He did so, and officers advised him that it would be to his advantage if he enlisted before he was called up for military service. They pointed out he would be able to attend non-commissioned officers’ schools, and take a course in artillery, and thus materially assist his promotion. Eis educational qualifications are: 1937, a State scholarship; 1939, Queensland University junior examination, and a special bursary for bookkeeping; 1940, preliminary examination of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and intermediate examination; 1941, intermediate accountancy examination. This boy and several of his companions took that advice and enlisted before being called up. When they went to the camp the training consisted of picket and guard duty on the first day, then a day off, and then home leave. Their training with the rifle before they moved north did not cover more than eighteen days. When the father heard that the regiment was moving to an advanced station he visited the commanding officer, and told him that he thought it was quite wrong to send the boys away to a forward area, as they had been in camp for only a limited time, whereas the other nien had been trained for six months.
– When did that occur? I want to know, because it may have been contrary to my instructions.
– I think it was in April. I shall be able to tell the Minister more accurately when .1 have a chance to refer to the father’s letter to me. The commanding officer indicated to this lad’s father that he thought it would be all right for the lads to go to the advanced station, because they would get special consideration. The area officer in Brisbane was very much against the enlistment of this lad and, when his application to enlist went before him, advised the lad to apply for exemption until he had undergone his final examination in April. I give the area officer full credit for having taken that view. Nevertheless, the boy’s enlistment went through, and that suggests that the middle of March was the time when the regiment moved to an advanced area in Australia. The father received further news from his son on the 19th August to the effect that his regiment was going farther north and that his three months in camp had been spent in making and moving into different camps and in digging slit trenches. The commanding officer of the regiment, gave no satisfaction to the father, so 1 took up the matter with the Northern Command, but the reply was equally unsatisfactory. On the statement of the Minister for the Army, the public believes that men are not sent to advanced battle stations inadequately trained, but the instructions of the Minister on that point are not being carried out. The 27th Field Company of the Royal Australian Engineers contains a lot of boys just over eighteen years of age, and it has been sent to a very advanced battle station. I have received an extraordinary amount of correspondence on this point. I am strongly opposed to lads of eighteen years, partially trained, being sent to advanced battle stations. Tn the last war the policy was laid down by the Government, and rigorously applied that no lad should be sent from Great Britain to France before his nineteenth birthday, and commanding officers of units in France were instructed to return to the base any of their troops aged less than nineteen years. Those instructions were carried out. What could be done in that war can be done equally well in this war. Given longer training and time to harden their muscles, these young nien will make good soldiers, but not otherwise. The Minister has given instructions and he should ensure that they are carried out. If 1 were in his place, I should do so. The Minister’s instructions should be brought constantly to the notice of commanding officers. My suggestion is that these young men should be put into training battalions and given at least six months hard training before being sent into action. No one knows the value of training better than General Sir Thomas Blarney and other high officers of the Australian Army. Physical fitness is essential. An old lady resenting what she considers an injustice to her son has sent tome the following extract from the Brisbane Telegraph : -
Canberra. - Confirming the Government’s decision that no further age groups would be called up for the present, the Army Minister (Mr. Forde) said to-day that only classes 1, 2 and 3 were being called up in any strength, but that of married men between the ages of 35 and 45 the Army authorities were not calling up any over 40 years.
In this latter category, Mr. Forde added, most of the men called up were specialists in some particular trade or calling which was essential for army purposes.
In view of the Minister’s statement, she objects to her son, who is 43 years of age and married, and with absolutely no special qualifications, being called up, when others are not. Every body is anxious to serve, and so long as fair treatment is given all round, there will be no kicks. But there is a great deal of irritation and annoyance, which is undermining the morale of our forces, as the result of men being called up unjustly.
– He is not a specialist. The honorable member ought to know what specialist service means in the Army.
– How does he earn a living?
– With a pick and shovel, I believe.
– That statement was made in reply to a question which was submitted to me. I made inquiries of the Adjutant-General, and he told me what categories he was calling up. I stated that, in the category of married menbetween the ages of 35 and 45 years, most of the men called up were specialists in some particular trade or calling which was essential for Army purposes. I did not say that nobody over 40 years of age would be called up. We are forced to call up older men owing to the shortage of man-power.
– I do not claim that men over 40 years of age should not be called up, but the Minister stated that they would not be called up, and I ask him to stand by his declaration.
– I told the honorable member what the practice was. My statement was based on information supplied to me by the Adjutant-General.
– I know the AdjutantGeneral personally, and I know that he always has a firm grip of any subject with which he deals. But, in view of the statement which I have quoted, I contend that men over 40 years of age should be called up only if they have specialist qualifications.
I refer now to the dairying industry. The demands of the war have had a serious effect upon the production of all kinds of foodstuffs, and, unless we take great care, a grave crisis will occur in the dairying industry. I say this after having made a most careful examination of the problems of the industry for more than two years, during which I have been chairman of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. A few days ago. the following statement by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. S. R. Carver) was published in the newspapers : -
Additional labour needed on Queensland dairy farms in 1942-43 will be 1969 permanent and 2251 seasonal or temporary employees.
Mr. Carver sent questionnaires to all dairyfarmers in Australia and obtained replies from 46,876 of them, representing 64 per cent. of the industry. These returns show that 19,596 men have left the industry. That figure represents 42 per cent. of the total shown by those farmers who lodged returns. Of this number, 11,748 have gone into defence services, and 7,848 have obtained employment in the cities. Only 64 per cent. of the questionnaires were returned to Mr. Carver, but from my knowledge of the industry I am satisfied that the men who make up the remaining 36 per cent. did not make returns because they were so overworked that they had no time to do so. The industry is being carried on mainly by aged men and women and by juveniles. Enlistments from the country districts have been maintained at a much greater rate than those from the urban areas. In addition, a heavy drain has been imposed by compulsory call-ups. I am pleased to say that, as the result of recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, which has submitted a number of reports on the subject since the 17th September, 1941, the Minister for
Commerce (Mr. Scully) placed a temporary blanket exemption over employees in the industry on the 7th May, 1942. This prevented the calling-up of any more dairy-farm workers and saved the situation to some degree. But for that action by the Minister, the industry would be in a much more dangerous position than it is in to-day. The dairying industry has made more sacrifices for the nation than has any other primary industry. In support of my contention I direct attention to evidence given to the Joint Committee on Rural Industries by a number of competent witnesses. The Australian Dairy Produce Board’s representative, Mr. Howey, said -
The effect of the shortage of labour is such that some dairy-farmers are switching over to sheep and fattening cattle. Dairy herds are being reduced because it is impossible to handle them.
The South Australian Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Blesing) made this statement -
Labour for harvesting crops and dairying was noticeably scanty on farms during the past year . . . The position is rapidly deteriorating and many rural employers of labour will, of necessity, need to reduce their activities to a considerable degree . . . The dairying industry in South Australia has had a very serious setback through the shortage of man-power brought ahout by enlistments and the large number of rural workers who have migrated to the city for munitions work. As a consequence dairy-farmers have been unable to obtain the necessary assistance to enable them to carry on with their usual herds. Numbers have reduced their herds considerably, and some have been forced to dispose of their cows altogether.
The Director of Dairying in Queensland (Mr. Rice) supplied this illuminating information -
The butter production will be about 400,000 boxes less this year, or a falling off of nearly 20 per cent. Queensland’s production of butter in 194041 was 2,090,677 boxes, and the estimated production for 1941-42 is 1,686,633 boxes. In the most favorable period the butter production reached 2,600,000 boxes a year, and therefore the estimated production for the year just closed is 1,000,000 boxes less than the output of a peak year.
That shows that there has been a falling off of butter production in Queensland alone of over 1,000,000 boxes. At Gladstone, herds of first-class Jersey cows are being decimated. Hundreds of cattle are being killed each week because the farmers cannot obtain the man-power needed to milk them. Aged men and women and juveniles work so hard on the farms for such long hours, without breaks, that they are rendered almost insensible by fatigue. Another great disadvantage is that there is scarcely a ton of reserve fodder stored anywhere in the country, because no man-power is available to produce and store it.
– Where does the honorable member suggest that we should find the necessary man-power?
– The trouble has been caused by allowing men to leave the industry. The man-power position generally in Australia is chaotic and needs reviewing. The price of butter is very unsatisfactory. The dairy-farmers are hopelessly underpaid for their products at a time when the price of nearly every other commodity has increased. Furthermore, wages for dairy-farm workers have risen considerably. Competition is very keen for the limited number of men available. The Joint Committee on Rural Industries, which represents all political parties in this Parliament, has unanimously recommended that the price of butter be substantially increased. I ask the Minister for Commerce to treat this recommendation as urgent. Dairy farmers are suffering greater disabilities than those engaged in any other industry with which I am acquainted, and the committee has examined most of the primary industries of Australia.
.- I desire to draw the attention of the Government to the present practice of the Army authorities in calling up men for service. All the young men called up at one time from a particular district are placed in the one unit. Every lad from that district, who is called up at that time, is supposed to be able to adapt himself to the signalling section, or to the medical corps, or to the engineering section, as the case may be. It would be better if there were central depots in the metropolitan areas to which all recruits were sent for a period of a month, or three months, so that the authorities could assess their qualifications and decide the branch of the Army for which they were suited.
In my opinion, the Army should bake its own bread for supplying the needs of troops in big camps. I have been informed that, under the present system, there is a great deal of waste. Contracts are let to private bakers for the supply of a specified quantity of bread each day, and army vehicles collect the bread and bring it to the camps. I am informed that the bread could be made for half the cost in army bakehouses.
– The trouble is that camps do not all remain stationary.
– The big camps do. Under the present system, when a detachment of perhaps 2,000 men is sent away from a camp, the bread contractors are not informed in advance; consequently, bread f,or the feeding of those men is baked and brought to the camp, and most of it is wasted. This would not happen if the bread were baked on the premises as, I understand, was done during the last war. The adoption of the system which I recommend would save flour and transport costs. The cost of erecting a bakehouse in a large camp would not be more than £1,500. The building of the ovens would be the most costly item, and probably one oven to each camp would be sufficient.
Frequent complaints are heard regarding delays in the payment of compensation for land and other property taken over for military purposes by the Central Hirings Committee. One reason for this delay is that there is no one on the committee with practical experience of real estate. There is a representative of the Treasury, another of the Army, and also an accountant, but there is no one with a practical knowledge of land and property values. It is bad enough for people to have their property taken from them, but the position is worse when they have to wait for compensation. I know of one man whose premises were taken over by the Munitions Department. He was storing furniture for 200 people, and when he had transferred half of it to another building, the Division of Import Procurement commandeered the second building, and he had to find a third. Now he is afraid that another department has its eye on the third building, and that he. will have to shift again. He was given two days’ notice to shift 200 loads of furniture. There should be a central authority to deal with the acquisition of property required by various departments.
– There is now.
– No; the various departments just say they will have this or that building, and they take it. Some departments give two days’ notice to quit, and others seven days. I ask the Government to see that a man with some real estate experience is associated with this administration.
.- It was stated in the press recently that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) had taken further steps to improve the position on the waterfront, mainly in regard to pilfering, but, in my opinion, those steps were inadequate. It is a disgraceful thing that the present position should be allowed to continue. The Government should give greater attention, first to the problem of pilfering, and then to the matter of general efficiency on the waterfront. Pilfering is not a new phenomenon; it has been rampant for years in all the ports of the world. During the last ten years, corrective action by the Port of London Authority has had very satisfactory results. That body was brought into existence largely because pilfering in the port had assumed tremendous proportions. Since it .began to operate, the conditions in the port of London have been materially improved. In Australia, on the contrary, the conditions have gone from bad to worse since the commencement of the war. Figures that I have relating to the rate per ton of claims paid by a wellknown interstate company reveal what has been taking place in this respect. They are as follows: - =
It will be seen that, since the beginning of the war, the cost of claims has increased by 500 per cent.
– Has the honorable member comparable figures in respect of the United Kingdom?
– I have not the British figures; but from the reports that I have read I understand that the situation in Great Britain is satisfactory. Several reasons have led to the substantial increase of pilfering in Australian ports. The first reason is that, throughout the country since the war commenced, there has been a definite slackening of moral fibre. This is found in practically every activity. It has had an effect on persons employed on the waterfront and as carriers to the ports. A second very important reason is that many commodities are in short Supply; consequently,, the demand for them is great. Rationing, of course, has reduced the supply of a large number of essential commodities, including clothing and boots. It is noticeable that pilfering in the ports is concerned largely with articles that are of a high coupon value. This applies also to other commodities of which there is a definite shortage, such as tobacco and, to a lesser degree, alcoholic spirits. The figures reveal that there has been a very large increase of pilfering of the cargoes of both of those commodities. A Sydney firm which recently expected to receive 102 cartons of ladies’ shoes - which are of a high coupon value - discovered upon the arrival of the consignment that all the cartons were empty. Another firm recently made a claim for £132 in respect of women’s underwear. A consignment of 70,000 cigarettes, destined for distribution to retailers, did not arrive, and the empty cartons were subsequently found floating in Sydney Harbour. The truck that had been used to convey them to their destination was found abandoned upside down in the port. It stands to reason that, unless drastic action be taken to prevent it, pilfering will continue. One very definite negative reason for it is that the culprits are not prosecuted; and even if they are, they may continue to work on the wharfs. A shipowner is not allowed, to refuse to employ a man who has been convicted of pilfering. The union permits him to continue to work on the wharfs, and does not deregister.him. Thus, penal action is not taken to put a stop to these undesirable activities. A second aspect of the waterside position, of equal if not greater importance, is the degree of efficiency of the labour now engaged. Examination dis closes that whereas, since the beginning of the war, wages on the waterfront have risen by no less than 26£ per cent, and the size of the gangs that load and discharge cargoes has increased by 12 per cent., the output of the gangs has decreased by 41 per cent. Last night, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) referring to the activities of a tenderer for a Government contract said that he was actuated by the principle of profit before service. Considering the nature of the facts I have placed before the committee, it would not be far wrong to say that a large percentage of the wharf labourers to-day is actuated by the principle of wages before work. In order to give greater clarity to the facts, I shall recite the details of the conditions under which wharf labourers work. There are different rates of pay for the various shifts that are worked during the week. The following table sets out the position : -
An unsatisfactory position has arisen, also, in connexion with the handling of the cargo. Before the war, and until comparatively recently, gangs consisted of from thirteen to fifteen men according to the size - of the ship to be worked. Gangs have now been increased to seventeen men for all ships The following table shows how the rate of handling cargo and the quantity handled have varied: -
Those figures make it clear that the time taken by gangs in handling cargo has increased, and the rate of discharge has declined. The situation is serious. It has been argued that the nature of the cargo has changed, somewhat, and become more difficult; hut my advice is that that is not the case. I am informed that the rate of handling general cargo has declined, on occasions, to below 7 tons an hour. Another reason that has been advanced for the inefficiency of labour today, compared with that of some time ago, is that many wharf labourers have been called up for military service. This reason is not satisfactory, for wharf labouring is a protected industry and very few men have .been called up. I do not suppose the military position is different as .between, say, Melbourne and Launceston; yet, at Launceston, the average output per gang is approximately the same as it was before the war. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), who is in the chamber, can correct that statement if it is wrong. Yet another reason that may be offered in explanation of the present situation - and it is probably nearer the mark than those to which I have already referred- - is that, as the men are now receiving substantially higher wages they are working more spasmodically. There is a degree of uncertainty now about when a man will report for work. Moreover, men frequently report at times when the higher rates apply and do not report when the lower rates apply. Another reason that may ‘be given for the inefficiency is that the wharf labourers work beside troops; this they resent, and therefore they are inclined to slack.
The whole situation is so unsatisfactory that the Government should give immediate attention to it. The public generally is much concerned about the matter. Pilfering, in particular, is causing anxiety for the reason that it robs the public of the opportunity to purchase, at a reasonable price, articles which should be available to them but which, because of the pilfering, do not come on the market. Public anxiety has been aroused also because the reduced rate of handling ships has necessarily reduced the tonnage that can be transported in a given time. It has been estimated that on account of the slower work on the wharfs our shipping capacity, for transport purposes, has decreased by about 25 per cent. It is well known to some honorable members that numbers of ships leave Tasmania:! ports for the mainland these days only partially loaded. In some instances they carry only 75 per cent, of their capacity. This is serious at a time when we need to make the maximum use of every ton of shipping that we have available. Shipowners say that they cannot afford to leave their ships in port for long enough to enable them to be fully loaded. The time factor is of great importance in this industry. If the mcn displayed a higher degree of efficiency it would be of tremendous value to the nation. It is well known that we are short of shipping and that this is having a paralysing effect on certain operations. South Australia and Tasmania, in particular, are feeling the effects of it. Our inability to use our shipping to the best advantage is, in fact, affecting our whole economic and military situation. It is urgent, therefore, that everything possible should be done to ensure the highest degree of efficiency at ports. I am aware that the Government realizes the seriousness of the situation, for it has already taken certain steps to apply remedies. Three committees have been functioning for some months in order to improve conditions. Some months ago special steps were taken also to police the wharfs for the purpose of preventing pilfering, but the policing methods are not entirely satisfactory. More drastic action is necessary. I have recently been in touch with both Australian and allied military officers, and I am informed that although the conditions that prevailed six months or nine months ago have shown a slight improve.ment there is room for a great deal more improvement. The Government should take energetic steps to deal with the situation, and I propose to offer some constructive suggestions to achieve that end.
The three committees at present operating include a shipping committee and a stevedoring committee. The work of these three committees is at present -suffering through a lack of co-ordination.
First, I suggest either that the three committees be combined or that their work be co-ordinated by another body. At the present time, they are working, as so many committees are working, in watertight compartments. Secondly, strong action should be taken against culprits who are found guilty of pilfering goods on the waterfront. As I intimated earlier, the action hitherto taken against a man convicted for an offence is totally inadequate. When pilfering, he should suffer the penalty imposed by the court, lose his union membership, and be drafted to a labour battalion, in which he would be removed from the scene of temptation.
– He would not be an asset there.
– No ; but he would be too busy with the pick and shovel to steal. My third suggestion is that the conditions under which waterside workers are employed should be revised. Instead of working on a shift basis, they should receive a weekly wage. That would overcome many of the present-day difficulties. Fourthly, I recommend the formation of some form of stevedoring corps on the lines of the labour battalion. The advantage would be that the men would be better disciplined than the present wharf-labourers are, and could be transferred from a port where work is slack to a congested port. I recommend those four recommendations to the Government. The matter is urgent, and should be dealt with firmly and energetically.
.- 1 desire to take advantage of this discussion to bring before the committee problems of transport, particularly rail transport. The breakdown of our interstate seaborne traffic has thrown a tremendous burden upon our railway system. The management and personnel of the railways are doing their utmost to cope with the. enormous volume of traffic, and business people who consign, freight by the railways are co-operating to the best of their ability and putting- up with a good deal of inconvenience. I suggest that the solution lies in the establishment of a single control over some of the interstate lines. In addition a 4-ft. 8-J-in. line should he constructed between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, to enable the same rolling- stock to travel from New South Wales to South Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. The distance from Broken Hill to Port Pirie is 275 miles. The Allied Works Council, which is undertaking extensive constructional jobs in the north of Australia, could with advantage tackle this problem. In my opinion, the line could be completed in six months and the cost would not severely strain our finances. No engineering difficulties have to be overcome. If supplies of steel are not adequate for the purpose, materials could.be diverted from less important work.
Seaborne traffic between New South Wales and South Australia has almost completely ceased. It is an open secret that many ships which previously traded on the route have been transferred elsewhere, and it is impossible to replace them either by the purchase of vessels overseas or the construction of similar ships in Australia. These ships used to carry approximately 1,000,000 tons of iron ore annually from South Australia to New South Wales. Before the outbreak of war, nine ships with an average capacity of 5,500 tons were engaged in this trade. I doubt whether there are two of them on the route at the present time. It is also an open secret that the iron ore reserves at Port Kembla, and the reserves of coal in South Australia, are low. Under normal conditions, ships owned by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the Adelaide Steamship Company carried iron ore from Whyalla to Newcastle and Port Kembla, and took coal on the return voyage. The restriction of seaborne traffic between those two ports has seriously effected steel production in New South Wales, and munitions production in South Australia. From time to time I have advocated that despite the difficulties, an attempt should be made to build small steelworks or blast furnaces on the iron ore fields in New South Wales. In the past these deposits supplied the steelworks at Lithgow.
– Where does the honorable member suggest these subsidiary steel plants should be erected?
– Around Lithgow. The coal is available, and there are large reserves of iron ore. Even limestone and dolomite are plentiful.
– What about coal supplies?
– Why, Lithgow coal is being sent thousands of miles by rail to South Australia. It has been claimed that it takes three years to erect a blast furnace. That may be so in the case of blast furnaces like those at Port Kembla and Whyalla, but blast furnaces of smaller capacity have been erected in India, South Africa and the United States of America in nine months, and there is no reason why we should not be able to do thesame in Australia.It is, therefore, as essential to devote labour and material to the building of blast furnaces beyond the Blue Mountains as it is for labour and material to be diverted to the building of ships, fortress guns, and power houses. The belief that if Newcastle falls it will be the end of us is a form of defeatism that must be overcome.
I suggested on a former occasion in this chamber that action should be taken to secure our electric power system. According to recognized electrical engineering principles, every power house in the country has stand-by equipment to be used only in an emergency. The present emergency is so great that instead of relying on stand-by equipment in existing power houses, we ought to erect stand-by power houses and transfer the stand-by equipment to them.
– Where does Orange get its electric power from?
– Under the grid system from Sydney, Lithgow, Burrinjuck or Port Kembla, as required. In the event of a power house being destroyed, the circuits could he kept going by bringing into use the appropriate stand-by power houses. We have a potential of 10,000 kilowatts at Wyangala Dam, but it is not being used, in spite of the fact that its use has been recommended by all authorities.
– The difficulty is to obtain generating plants.
– I agree, but the difficulty is not insuperable. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was able to convince the authorities in England of the necessity to send to Australia an extra turbogenerator. The authorities there had the opinion that other things were more vitally necessary. When it arrives it will be installed at an existing power house. I think that it ought to be installed in a new power house. I recognize that certain ancillary equipment will have to be imported or manufactured locally. There is no reason why we should not manufacture much of the equipment that would be needed. At the Newcastle dock recently I saw workers engaged in the manufacture of turbines for ships. The foreman agreed that turbines for power houses could be made with equal facility, except that certain parts - blades, for instance - would have to be imported, because they are not made here.
Some time ago I introduced a deputation from the western towns of New South Wales to the former Director of Gun Ammunition, for whom I have the highest admiration in spite of the fact that some of my colleagues are apt to question his sincerity. The purpose of our deputation was to convince him of the necessity to decentralize the war industries. He said, “ Look, when the first shell falls on Sydney, you can turn it up “. He was not speaking disparagingly of our patriotism or insinuating that Australians would “squib” it, but, as a captain of industry, he knew all the facts and the ramifications of the munitions programme, and he knew that the munitions industry had sprung up like a mushroom almost overnight. He agreed with the necessity to decentralize our industries but impressed upon us the equally great necessity for dove-tailing each section of the industry into the other, so that in the event of the destruction of one, the rest would be able to continue with production only slightly impaired. This Government, against the advice of experts, endeavoured to decentralize the munitions industry.We could decentralize the manufacture of rifles by having the barrels made in Sydney, the butts in Brisbane, the foresights in Perth, and other parts in different sections of the country, and by having a central place for assembly of the components. If the factories manufacturing the stocks were destroyed by enemy action, all the rest of the factories could keep on turning out their components, hut that would he of no avail. That was the point made by Mr. Smith. He said that the time would arrive when we should be able to make all of the components in one area so that, even if we lost Melbourne or Adelaide, we should still be able to produce rifles. The Government took a risk in the process of decentralizing defence industries, because it broke up the homogeneity that the people directing our war effort were trying to maintain. Now the Government must carry its policy to a logical conclusion. Having broken up the centralized system, it must develop a completely self-contained industry in each manufacturing centre. A complete rifle can now be made and assembled within a radius of 100 miles of the assembly point. That is a great achievement; it could not have been done three months ago. Unfortunately, we have not reached this stage in the production of tanks. Some tank parts are made in Melbourne, others in Sydney, and others again elsewhere. If we can continue to keep the enemy from our shores long enough, we shall be able to build complete tanks in Adelaide, Melbourne and other centres. The responsibility devolves upon the Minister and those who implement his policy to see that this stage is reached as soon as possible, because, unfortunately, the enemy is advancing rapidly towards our shores. If there be a belief that we cannot get the materials which I have mentioned, -then I ask honorable members to consider what will happen if we do not get them. Obviously, the sacrifices being made by our men in New Guinea and elsewhere overseas will have been in vain if the battle comes to our shores and we find that we are unable to fight any longer. The problem of transport will be eased considerably if a railway line of standard gauge can be constructed between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. That would serve to bridge the gap until we had our industries decentralized and developed sufficiently to enable us to carry on with the production of munitions, even though we should be attacked on our extremely vulnerable eastern coast.
Sitting suspended from 6.1S to 8 p.m.
– The huge amount of this proposed vote shows that the importance of the war is realized by the Government and the Parliament. The people of Australia also appreciate fully that, although at the moment they are living in comparative safety, our forces in Papua, New Guinea and Egypt, and our allies in other theatres of the war - at Stalingrad and the Middle East in particular - are engaged in a desperate struggle, and that our future depends upon the success of their operations. We should bear in mind that we may not always enjoy the freedom of thought and expression that is ours to-day. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has called upon the people for a united war effort, and to this honorable members should give their whole-hearted support. Nothing matters at present except the winning of the war. I hope, therefore, that in this Parliament we shall devote all our efforts to a supreme war effort. In this way only shall we convince our fighting services and those of our allies that we are in deadly earnest. We must do our best, also, to obtain the maximum output of which our factories and farms are capable. We should be proud that we have developed primary and secondary industries which are of incalculable value at this time. Our great iron industry is the basis on which we have built an amazing industrial edifice. From our factories there goes out day by day an unceasing stream of arms and equipment for the use. of the forces of the United Nations. We remember with pride that our iron industry, alone of our secondary industries, has proved itself economically capable of exporting its products at a profit.
I wish to emphasize, however, that primary production is also of immense value to ourselves and our allies at this time. In spite of harassing conditions, primary producers are standing up to their job manfully. In Great Britain every available acre of land has been put under the plough, with the result that a large proportion of the foodstuffs of the Motherland is being produced from its own soil. In the United States of America 300,000,000 acres has been put under the plough, because it is realized thatrural production is important in helping to win this war. Australians, in general, must also become more conscious of the immense significance of rural industries. Various items in this huge vote for defence and war provide an acknowledgment of the important place of primary production in the war effort. Our wheat, meat and wool industries have to play their part. I wish, however, to make a plea for another branch of rural industry which is not receiving the help to which it is entitled.
The dairying industry of Australia is in a chaotic condition, for which those engaged in it are by no means responsible. If we do not take early action to remedy this state of affairs the industry will collapse with disastrous results to the nation. If this industry be given the assistance it deserves, we shall be able to load ships with dairy produce for the help of our allies. The conditions which face the industry have been brought about by many causes, including the low prices for dairy products, the increasing cost of production, the lack of labour, the hard conditions under which dairymen and their families have to live, and the absence of transport facilities which were formerly available. Many men who engaged in dairying pursuits a year or so ago have been called to the colours and, from the small fund available in this industry to pay wages, it is economically impracticable for the dairymen to engage such outside labour as may be available. The consequence is chat the women and children of dairyfarmers are living an extraordinarily hard life. The women are bearing burdens of the utmost severity, which are beyond their strength to sustain for any length of time. School children on dairy farms are required to rise early in the morning, bring in the cows, struggle with the animals during milking operations, take a hasty breakfast, tramp long distances to school because transport is no longer available, and, after school, tramp back home again and repeat the morning’s procedure. Tired and weary, they go to bed, only to rise the next morning to repeat the same severe programme. This goes on day after day, and week after week, without intermission. Saturdays and Sundays, and even Christmas holidays, are alike.
Transport troubles are now an almost unbearable burden to dairy-farmers. It will be realized that dairy produce must be got to the factories quickly and in Al condition; but transport is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Moreover, margarine is becoming a most serious competitor with butter. The fact that many petrol service stations have been closed has added to the disabilities of the industry. Pool Petroleum Limited seems to have closed service stations without proper regard for the needs of local districts. I trust, therefore, that the Government will take immediate steps to have the activities of this organization investigated, with a view to ensuring that at least the bare needs of local communities shall be supplied.
The price of dairy products has always been unsatisfactory. For a long while the dairy-farmers received only 6£d. a_ gallon for milk. As 2 gallons of milk are required to make 1 lb. of butter, the return to the dairy-farmer in terms of butter prices was, throughout that period, only ls. Id. per lb. That figure got as low as ls. per lb. At present the price of milk to the dairy-farmer is 6d. a gallon. The retailers of milk in the cities receive four times that amount, yet they say that that price is unprofitable. Professor Copland examined this industry last year and, by a calculation which is beyond my understanding, he decided that an increase of the price of butter by Id. per lb. would meet the case. Such an increase was ridiculous, and there has since been a continued agitation in the country districts, and in the country press throughout the Commonwealth, for a more equitable price to be fixed. Some little time ago the Government appointed a committee to investigate the position of the industry, and its interim report has been submitted to the Cabinet. I trust that before long the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) will be able to announce that a more equitable price will be paid for dairy produce generally. A substantial increase of the prevailing prices will be required.
– If an increase of 3d. per lb. were granted, how much of it would the dairy-farmer get?
– Such an increase would not be a t all commensurate with the needs of the case. If the present price were doubled the return to the dairyfarmer would not be proportionate to the £65 which an assistant cook obtained for a fortnight’s work on a dredge that was recently . taken from Melbourne to Fremantle. The dairying industry must be given generous assistance. I am sure that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) does not desire the dairyfarmers to work at a loss. Like producers in other industries, they are entitled to the cost of production, plus a small margin. It is proposed to appropriate £30,000 for the evacuation of live-stock from the coastal belt of Australia. This stock will consist chiefly of dairy cattle. I hope that such an evacuation will not become necessary, or, if it does, that it will be properly policed and controlled, and that an irresponsible person will not be permitted to make the announcement over the air. In the coastal districts, the military authorities have taken possession of a number of areas. They have made openings in fences, destroyed property, and enabled cattle to stray on the roads. The local authorities have been asked to keep the roads clear of stock in order to avoid interruption of motor traffic. Unnecessary damage is done to the producer, and seldom is his concurrence obtained. Compensation should he paid for any needless destruction of property. The military authorities have impressed machinery belonging to local authorities, and have placed many roads in a state of disrepair. The local authorities have been left without the necessary machinery to repair such roads. In some instances, repairs have been effected by the military authorities. That practice should be general. There should be no delay in rectifying any grievances that are aroused. In local authority areas in which properties have been taken over, the hirings branch moves very slowly. In some instances, no satisfaction in regard to the compensation payable has been obtained for over two years. These matters should be expedited, in the interests of those who are suffering. The
Estimates make provision in that respect. In my electorate, a flying school was established. The local authority had expended £5,000 on an aerodrome, which was handed over to the Government. It had borrowed £1,000 from the Commonwealth, through the State, and was still paying interest on the amount owingWhy does not the Commonwealth take over the liability?
In the great war work that lies ahead, it may be assumed that Australian women will play as big a part as is being played by the women of Britain, where tens of thousands of them are manufacturing munitions of .war, with the result that the production in the United Kingdom is now greater than in any other country except Germany. It must not be thought that honorable members on this side of the chamber are opposed . to women receiving payment equal to that of. men when they do the same class of work. I do not believe that any section of the people would object to that. Slight differences of opinion should not be magnified into mammoth proportions for the sake of party politics. If the Government will co-operate more closely with the Opposition than it has done in the past, good results will accrue. Party differences and extremes should be avoided by both sides. Let us move forward as one, in the interests of Australia, as our allies are doing, realizing that we must sustain those who are engaged in industry, those who have taken up arms, and those who have suffered bereavement. “We should set an example to the whole people, by pulling together, and doing all that we can to avoid disunity.
.- I add my plea to those already made on behalf of the dairying industry, which contributes so greatly to the food supplies of Australia, Great Britain, and our allies. I suppose it has felt the impact of war in this country to a greater degree than has any other primary industry. The price now being received by those engaged in it is not in keeping with the costs that they have to meet. The depletion of its man-power has been tremendous. Last night the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made a dramatic appeal for the production of food supplies generally. I could not help being impressed by the somewhat theatrical’ and paradoxical nature of his remarks. Honorable members opposite frequently appeal to the Government to release man-power for different industries, and take it to task because of the heavy drain it has permitted the Army to make on those industries; yet, on die other hand, they castigate the Government on the ground that it lias not done all that it might have done in support of the armed forces. Honorable members cannot have it both ways. As far as possible, there must be a scientific balance between the requirements of the food-producing industries and the needs of the Defence Forces. I agree that whatever sacrifices may be necessary must be made in order to save for this country the way of life and the form of government in which we believe. That, consideration is paramount in the minds of every one. There must be, however, a more equitable adjustment and better planning than have so far operated. Some time must elapse before the full fruits of what is attempted in connexion with a planned economy will be realized. I urge the Government to make all possible haste in bringing about the adjustments to which I have referred. The impact of the war has been felt most severely by the small dairy-farmers, many of whom, commenced with a moderate capital and from time to time have to meet heavy financial commitments. The position of such men is infinitely worse than that of the better-organized dairyman, who operates on a larger scale and has the advantage of being able to give better conditions to his employees. The majority of the smaller men have to be assisted by their wives and families, who have to work very long hours. I ask the Government to deal as sympathetically as possible with this section of the dairyfarmers. An increase of the price of butter-fat has been requested. I understand that the amount sought is 3d. per lb. That is fully justified by the conditions as we know them. A section of the industry believes that those engaged in it would be better served by means of a bounty. Should the Government decide on that form of assistance, the cost would be spread over the whole community. Whether that is the fairest way, in the interests of the dairyman and the community generally, will have to be shown. The application of daylight saving has had an adverse effect on the industry, and that is likely to continue. I have received many representations concerning that aspect. It involves a certain re-adjustment which would take some time and would result in a reduction of output by the herds. I consider that the primary producers have the worst of the economic deal in every community. Australia does not differ from other countries in that respect. But we have a fairly high standard, and are aiming to make it still higher. Much lias been done by the Government to improve the conditions of the producers. I appeal for the Government’s most earnest consideration of the dairying industry and the greatest expedition possible in arriving at a decision, which I hope will be favorable to an increase of the price of butter-fat.
– I propose to speak on the subject of war, and the waging of war, with particular reference to the position in New Guinea. The people of Australia are very deeply mystified at the present time, and greatly worried also, about the situation in New Guinea, which is the outpost of the defences of Australia. The following cablegram was published in a recent issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph: -
New York, Wednesday (A.A.P.).- The New Guinea campaign bears disquieting resemblance to the disastrous defence of Malaya, says the New York Times.
The paper says the present lull in fighting in the Owen Stanley Range does not mean the’ Japanese have been stopped. “ It is more likely they are gathering strength to strike again “, it adds. “ Every pause in the Japanese advance from Buna (coastal supply base) has been followed by a more powerful thrust forward. “ Optimistic statements by Australian spokesmen recall similar British prophecies in Malaya. “ The- enemy was to have been halted at Kokoda ( midway between Buna and Moresby), in the ‘ impassable ‘ Owen Stanley Range, then in the mountain gap, then on the southern slopes. He lias been halted nowhere except at Milne Bay (south-east New Guinea).”
That cable epitomizes pretty well what every body in Australia is thinking to-day. In the history of the world there have been two very famous roads : One was the Via Dolorosa, the road of sorrow, the saddest road in the world, along which passed the Son of Man carrying the cross on which He was crucified. The other was the Via Sacra, along which the triumphant Caesars of Rome marched when they displayed their captures to the public. The people of Australia are to-day wondering whether the road from Kokoda to Port Moresby is to be a Via Dolorosa similar to that trodden by Australian soldiers in Malaya, or whether we shall be able to turn it into a Via Sacra, along which our soldiers shall march in triumph, driving the Japanese before them. The plain fact is that our troops have fallen back. We were told when Buna and Gona were taken by the Japanese on the 22nd July, that it was a matter of little importance; that the Owen Stanley Range stood between them and Port Moresby. Then something went wrong, and Kokoda fell. We were still told that the Owen Stanley Range was an impenetrable barrier in the path of the Japanese, and even when they were partly across the range, we were assured that they had obtained possession of only a few peaks in a saw-tooth range, and that they would be turned back. Now they are over the range and less than 30 miles from Port Moresby. I do not know how many soldiers we have in New Guinea, and if I did, I would not state the number publicly, but the fact remains that there is no shortage of troops there. Then why do our men continue to fall hack? They are the salt of the earth and the sons of men described in the last war as the bravest of the brave. They were not afraid to die. They were the men who wrung the reluctant tribute from Ludendorff after one great battle in 1918 that that was Germany’s blackest day. It is obvious that something needs to be changed in the conduct of this campaign in New Guinea. The New York HeraldTribune, searching for a reason why our men continue to fall back before the Japanese, said that they lacked adaptability. I do not know whether that is true. The Daily Telegraph correspondent, Mr. Osmar White, said that the
Australians would not have been pushed back if they had been adequately trained. I do not know whether that is true, but if either or both of these reasons are true, it is shocking and disgraceful that such things should be allowed to continue. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) is the responsible person. It is no excuse for him to say that there is an Advisory War Council which agreed to this or that, and it is of no use blaming the last Government. The present Government has been in power for twelve months, and no one is responsible for things as they are except the present Minister for the Army. Behold the man! He will not be allowed to wash his hands like Pontius Pilate, and lay the blame on the Advisory War Council. He must stand up to his responsibilities. If it be true that boys of eighteen have been sent to the New Guinea front, he must accept responsibility for that also. When I was in Sydney last week, I was told of a man who had been in the Army for only one month before being sent to the New Guinea battle front. The Minister for the Army should find out from his military advisers what the position is. I am an old soldier; I had four and a. half years’ experience in the last war. The British authorities did not send soldier? of eighteen years of age to the front until after the terrible disaster to the Fifth Army in March, 1918. After that, they had to send 250,000 lads of eighteen years of age to France. It is unfair to the boys themselves to send them into action, it is unfair to the other troops with whom they serve, and it is unfair to the nation. A boy of eighteen is not matured. He cannot have had the training to stand up to men in the Japanese army, who have been trained for months in the forests of Formosa, and are the finest jungle fighters in the world. We are disposed to regard jungle fighting as something new, but it is as old as time itself. As a matter of fact, there has been jungle fighting in the very recent past. I refer to the bloody battles fought in the “Green Hell” of the Gran Chaco in the war between Peru and Paraguay. Have the members of our General Staff studied those campaigns? Have they learned anything from them?
This is the second point: We were told that it was impossible for the Japanese to keep supplies up to their troops if they crossed the Owen Stanley Range, just as it would have been impossible for us to supply our troops if we had established forces at Buna and Gona earlier in the year. As a matter of fact, there was ample time since the Japanese first attacked for us to have cut tracks over the Owen Stanley Range for the carriage of supplies to Buna and Gona. I do not blame the Minister for not knowing everything that is going on, but he should obtain reports from his staff officers. Did the staff ever inquire how supplies were brought by porters from the coast to the Edie Creek gold-field before aeroplanes were used? There was plenty of time in which to strengthen the Kokoda front, so that the Japanese might have been held on the forward slopes of the Owen Stanley Range.
The situation in New Guinea has been steadily deteriorating since the 22nd July last. Our troops have been driven hack, and the people of Australia ave becoming more and more worried. Nevertheless, not one Minister of this Government ha-s seen fit to go to the battle front in New Guinea, nor one member of the Advisory War Council, except the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who visited the area in the company of LieutenantGeneral Brett, of the United States Army. If the Minister for the Army has the dynamic energy and drive attributed to him, I cannot understand why he has not gone to the fighting front. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) also should visit New Guinea. He could leave the Assistant Minister (Air. Pollard), the eaglet, from Ballarat, to hold the fort at Victoria Barracks, while he and the Minister for the Army went to New Guinea to study the position for themselves. I realize that Ministers may find it difficult to get the time for such a trip, but I note that the Minister for the Army was able to spend a week in Tasmania recently attending the centenary festivities there. No doubt he looked into some army matters, also.
– If the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) cannot see that the Minister for the Army could be better employed than in pursuing ordinary peace-time activities, he is not worthy to be a Minister.
– Tasmania is one of the most important States of the Commonwealth.
– No doubt, and the Minister for Repatriation probably has the most important parish pump there. Every member of the Advisory War Council, with the exception of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) should make it their business to inspect the New Guinea front as soon as possible. There is not one returned soldier on the Advisory War Council except the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). How can these gentlemen decide matters affecting strategy if they have no experience of the terrain where the battle is being waged ? It is their duty to go there and see what they can, so that when General MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blarney, and their other military advisers, discuss the situation with them, they will be in a position to make proper decisions.
– How often does General Sir Thomas Blainey visit our forces in New Guinea?
Mir. ABBOTT. - I do not know. I now desire to refer to the importance of maintaining discipline in the Army, and at battle stations. Honorable members are familiar with the quotation “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump “. There are very few men in the Australian Army who will not accept discipline, but they are the little leaven which may leaven the whole lump. It is most cruel to send undisciplined or partially trained troops to fight against Asiatic hordes, who have been trained for months in the jungles of Formosa, and who have superb battle discipline. I shall give a few examples of lack of discipline which have come to my notice in the last few months. One instance occurred at the battle headquarters of a division in Australia. A gentleman, at night, walked through the head-quarters into the officers’ mess, where the commanding officer was, and there was not a sentry to challenge him. At that time, the battle head-quarters was liable to be raided by the Japanese. That was an example of shockingly bad discipline.
– It was an example of bad generalship.
– Bad generals are bad disciplinarians. I understand that the commanding officer has since been relieved of his command, but he should have been dealt with more severely than that.
My next example occurred at an important depot in the country districts of New South Wales, where materials worth millions of pounds were stored. A soldier had robbed a citizen in the streets of the town, and the victim, noticing the colour patches on the man’s arm, reported the theft to a military policeman. Together, they went to the depot at night and spent half an hour, unchallenged by sentries, looking for an officer. How can we expect to maintain discipline among the men and junior officers if discipline is not enforced throughout the Army? It is essential to the safety of our men, and the preservation of Australia, to enforce strict discipline.
I am aware that the situation in New Guinea at the present time is too fluid to enable my suggestion to be adopted, but I hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) will take the first opportunity that occurs to pass new battalions and formations through the battle area, so that they will become accustomed to bombing and shelling. This experience is most necessary if a repetition of the disaster that occurred at Loos in the last wax is to be avoided.
American correspondents have declared that the Australian Army does not readily adapt itself to new methods. In ray opinion, we shall have to follow the suggestion of men like Wintringham and arm our troops in tropical jungles with “ Woolworth weapons “. One of the saddest stories of all is the history of the Owen gun. The Army was averse to using weapons of light calibre, but the Japanese are using them most effectively in the jungles of New Guinea. The Minister for the Army must personally study the equipment that is issued to Australian troops. He must not accept as gospel every recommendation of his military advisers. He must weigh and sift matters and accept responsibility for them. He must be ruthless, and make decisions. He should not be a rubber stamp. I should like to know what is being done regarding the uniforms issued to our men in New Guinea. Has an expert in the art of camouflage, such as Professor Dakin, been sent to New Guinea to advise upon the most suitable uniform for our men? I doubt it. Perhaps the Minister will answer that question.
I quote the following passage from Generals and Generalship, by General Sir Archibald Wavell -
No method of education, no system of promotion, no amount of common-sense ability, is of value unless the leader has in him the root of the matter - the fighting spirit.
The fighting spirit of our Army must be roused. Another extract from the same book reads -
The pious Greek, when he had set up altars to all the great gods by name, added one more altar “ To the Unknown God “. So whenever wc speak and think of the great captains and sot up our military altars to Hannibal and Napoleon and Marlborough and such-like, let us add one more altar, “ To the Unknown Leader” - that is, to the good company, platoon, or section leader -who carries forward his men or holds his post, and often falls unknown. It is these who in the end do most to win wars. The British have been a free people and are still a comparatively free people; and though we are not, thank heaven, a military nation, this tradition of freedom gives to our junior leaders in time of war a priceless gift of initiative. So Jong as this initiative is not cramped by too many regulations, by too much formalism, we shall, 1 trust, continue to win our battles - sometimes in spite of our higher commanders.
Platoon leaders, section- leaders and the rank and file are the men who win battles. It behoves us, who sit in comfort in this chamber, to do everything in our power to see that our troops are well disciplined and properly equipped to meet the enemy.
In all military history, victory has gone to -the determined, resolute men who stayed and fought it out. Tamerlane the Great said that ten- men in the proper place at the proper time were worth 10,000 men at another time. Against overwhelming odds, Kemal Pasha held Hill 946 during the great battle of Suvla Bay. When the last British attack against his position broke, he had only seventeen gendarmes. He knew that the enemy was on his flank, but he held on until the attack fell back and he was able to bring, up a couple of brigades of infantry. His stubborn resistance decided the fate of Europe for at least two years, because jio allied troops were able to pass through the Dardanelles. I do not ask the Minister to make scapegoats of Army officers; but if any officer has failed he must be ruthlessly dealt with, whether he be in a department behind the lines, in the ordnance branch, or a battalion commander. The only prize which any soldier should get is the reward of success. No failures can be tolerated.
Our troops are thinking seriously about a number of matters to-day, as the following letter from a member of the Australian Imperial Force who served in Libya, Greece, Crete and Syria shows -
We are still marking time - which, is, of course,, the most trying state of affairs for a real soldier; and then there is the leave question. This unit had seven days’ leave on arriving home after just on two years abroad; we have been promised more, to put us on the same footing as others who have received better treatment, but every time the good word has gone the rounds, some red tape has held up the works. On the air we hear the Army Minister (Mr. Forde) talk glibly of 28 days’ leave for all troops returned from Overseas, but nobody can take much notice of that, I guess. Our birds are getting a bit fed up, especially as we 11ave the spectacle of Militia who had four or five months in Port Moresby (with no actual fighting) sporting a big “New Guinea” on their shoulders, now on 28 days’ home leave; seems as if the Australian Imperial Force is taking over New Guinea, or rather Papua, from these people. By the way, the Views from Papua is Hot so hot; a few days ago (about four) we were repulsing the enemy at Kokoda, and then almost in a matter of hours he is over the Owen Stanley Ra,ige. Very disturbing, what! The whole show up there is not so good - seems to be lack of unified command, also proper equipment and medical supplies. The Yank General Brett says troops were pitifully supplied, which is to say the least a bloody rotten show, when it takes the Yanks to show up our deficiencies in this regard.
In one important way the Minister may assist our troops. The “ digger “ refers to the manner in which Australian soldiers are treated by the civil population. He writes -
Our point of view is: Collectively, in a march through a city, we are showered with confetti; on leave by myself or with a cobber, J am shunned like a pariah - nobody says “ Good day “, even. To be candid, I have found it so myself when on leave in Brisbane, therefore, if you don’t know any one, there is nowhere to go except pictures, pubs or races. Most blokes crave a bit of home life or a home away from home when on their short leaves. Facilities for this are lacking sadly in most cities, except for a few canteens run by voluntary women workers and wholly dependent on charity. Well, I guess I’ve said enough, so good-night.
The Department of Information may be able to bring home to the minds and hearts of the civilian population the fact that there are many lonely soldiers in their midst. It believes civilians to open their homes to the troops and make them feel as if they were once more in the bosoms of their families.
.- The honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) advocated that the price of butter should- be increased by 3d. per lb., and when I asked him to explain whether the producer would receive the benefit of the increase, the honorable member grew very hot under the collar, and referred to the wages earned by a second cook on a dredger. If the price of butter be increased by 3d. per lb. I shall not object, provided that the producer gets the benefit of it. Sugar-growers in the constituency that I represent are grateful to the people of Australia for the price that they pay for that commodity, and they are prepared to pay higher prices for other primary products, provided that the producers derive the benefit. The advantage should not be reaped by the middleman. Oranges which, now cost 4d. each could be purchased last year for ltd. each, but I do not think that the grower receives the difference. The prices of apples and vegetables also have risen steeply.
I, too, should like to know what the conditions in New Guinea are - not military secrets, but things that every body ought to know. Like a great many other people, I believed the story that the Japanese could not get over the Owen Stanley Range, but they have got over it, and I have ‘ read that they are widening the mountain tracks on the way to Port Moresby. The fact that there were no roads, but only tracks, was impressed upon us as being an additional safeguard. If the Japanese are not able to widen the tracks by pick-and-shovel methods, I have no doubt that they will employ bulldozers which will quickly cut a road in the side of a mountain. I am reminded by the Japanese conquest of the Owen Stanley Range of the engineering triumph over the Kirrima Range in Queensland. For years the range was regarded as absolutely impassable, but a surveyor of great initiative and capacity was able to survey the site of the splendid road which now crosses the range, and is so well graded that most of it can be climbed by a car in top gear. The Japanese may be building a similar road from Kokoda over the Owen Stanley Range, and, if they succeed, they will be able to bring forward all kinds of munitions and implements of war, no matter how heavy they may be. We were told that equipment could not be delivered to our men in the forward regions, and the feeding of them was difficult, all on account of the difficulty of communication. Natives could have been employed to carry to that area in a very short space of time all the food that would be required to last the men a long time. In common with many other honorable members, this morning I saw, at a Canberra picture theatre, a film which showed the blacks carrying our wounded out of the Owen Stanley Range to Port Moresby. If they are able to carry our wounded back, they could have carried their food forward. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) described how the natives have been employed for years in carrying equipment to the goldmines in the mountainous country of New Guinea. So they are used to porterage. We could have done what the Japanese are now doing, namely, prepared roads over which equipment could be carried to forward positions. We had plenty of time to do that. I do not entirely blame this Government for our apparent failure to do these things. Honorable gentlemen opposite must share the blame, because they were sufficiently long in office to have done more than they did. The honorable member for New England said that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was the only honorable member who had been to Port Moresby. All I can say is that he was lucky to have the chance to go there.
Not only boys of eighteen, but also most of our troops have gone to New
Guinea insufficiently trained. I am no soldier, but I have sufficient common sense to know that it is of no use to train men in temperate zones for tropical fighting. Instead of training our soldiers in the huge camps in the southern States, we should establish camps in the tropics. There are many places in my own electorate where men could be trained in conditions resembling those in which they will be fighting. Only people who know the tropics and jungle country are able to judge the sort of training required to fit men to fight in New Guinea. The office “ johnnies “ in the south who send untrained men to New Guinea ought themselves to be made to spend a little time there. They would then be better able to appreciate what is needed. An ideal area in which to train men for jungle fighting is situated between Tully and El Arish, where the growth is so thick that the jungle is dark in daytime, and the rainfall is so heavy that sometimes 48 inches is recorded in a week-end. A train traveller cannot see the sides of the cutting through which the train is passing when the rain is pouring. It is hopelessly stupid to send men from Melbourne and Sydney and other southern centres straight into the battle in New Guinea without their having had adequate training under conditions like those that they experience in New Guinea.
– Not only stupid, but also criminal.
– Even criminal. I have complained to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) both in this chamber and by letter about the waste of food in Army camps. Iknow that some one has been appointed to tour these camps and make a report to the Minister on the subject of waste, but it is not necessary for me to inspect the camps to be able to know that waste is occurring. I am satisfied to accept the information given to me by men holding responsible positions in my own electorate, notably the Mayor of Townsville. I know that contracts have to be made, and that it is impossible to vary the supply of food to camps from day to day, and that when week-end leave occurs more food will be available in camps than there are troops to eat it. My complaint is not on that score, but against the fact that, instead of that surplus food being sent to benevolent institutions for distribution to needy people, it is thrown away. I suggest that the transport units which take the waste food from the camps to the dumps as refuse could take it instead to such institutions as the Salvation Army for distribution to the poor. If that were done it would be better for every body concerned. It is no use to talk about building up the morale of the people when the people are aware that such waste is occurring.’
The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) ha3 declared that there will be no food shortage in Australia. I am aware that all efforts are being made to produce food. In my electorate more food has been grown this year than ever before. I received a letter from Ingham telling me that school-boys from Ingham and Avergowrie college, which specializes in agricultural subjects, have gone out to harvest potatoes and tomatoes, and they are doing good work. That is all right for this year, but who is going to sow the crop for next year? The Government is making a mistake in reducing unnecessarily the labour available for primary industries. Unless labour be made available to the sugar industry it will languish.
.- Thu dangers besetting the dairying industry owing to depletion of labour have been admirably sot before the Ministry by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). The Australian dairying industry has reached mighty proportions, and over the generations splendid herds have been developed. Now cows are being slaughtered by the hundreds owing to lack of labour to handle them. Irreparable harm to the dairying industry will result unless strong action be taken to prevent farmers from being driven through lack of labour to the extremity of disposing of their prime herds.
I take this opportunity to emphasize what I had to say during the budget debate about the mishandling of the man-power position. I repeat that men who should never have been allowed to leave the land are in the Army and should be returned to it in order that food production might be maintained to ensure that the Army and the civil population shall be properly fed. Unfortunately, primary producers were reluctant to prevent their sons from leaving the land to volunteer for the Australian Imperial Force, or to apply for exemptions for their sons when the Australian Military Forces were conscripted. The result is that most primary producers are now bankrupt so far as labour is concerned owing to their sons being in the forces. Many of them have been forced to apply to the man-power authorities for labour to help them to maintain their production of food. Yet a high officer in the Department of Labour and National Service charges the farmers with having dispossessed themselves of hired hands in order to retain the services of their own sons. I am disgusted to think that a man should make such a statement as that, which was contained in a letter written by him to a member of the Parliament of New South Wales. In proportion to population three countrymen have gone into the service for every city man. They have gone from the populated rural areas in their thousands and from smaller districts in their hundreds and tens. When the call came there was no lack of response from the western plains and from the mountainous regions. Mcn used to the green roof of the trees left their huts and camps to go into the forces, many of them veterans of the last war.
There is a tragic lack of co-ordination of services. With the wool season in full swing, the railways are either unable to supply trucks to carry the wool to appraisement centres, or, if trucks are available, to provide tarpaulin’s to ensure that the wool shall reach its destination in a satisfactory condition. The Australian wool clip has been bought by the Government of the United Kingdom at satisfactory prices, and it is our duty to that Government to ensure that the wool, of which we are merely the custodians, shall be kept in good condition. The failure of the authorities to release experienced men from the Army to sow, reap, and store valuable cereal crops is a serious matter. The Prime Minister said that if he had to choose between reducing the numerical strength of the Army now and going short of “ tucker “ six months ahead, he would decide in favour of the Army - irrespective of whether the soldiers were properly fed or not, I suppose. At the present time, we have ample stocks of essential foodstuffs, but they are rapidly diminishing. It is stupid to refuse to grant men two or three weeks’ leave in order to do essential work in rural industries, for fear of interrupting their military training. I discussed this matter with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who occupies a high position in the Army, and he said that the release of skilled farm workers from the Army for five or six weeks would not affect our military strength, provided the men could be easily recalled to their units in an emergency. I challenge anybody to refute that statement. We shall be badly in need of foodstuffs twelve months hence. Yet, if proper care were exercised in the administration of the man-power problem, we need not suffer from rationing. I know of one man who applied for leave for three weeks so that he could sow 300 or 400 acres of fallow land only 25 miles from his camp. His father and mother were aged, and there was nobody else capable of doing the work. That application was lodged in May last, but it is still being considered by the authorities.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that we ought to ration food. He said that rationing was not severe enough.
– I agree that we must have rationing, because our stocks are being depleted and production is diminishing rapidly owing to the stupidity and maladministration of Army and manpower officers. This problem needs the closest examination by men of practical experience. It is useless to place the fate of the shearing industry in the hands of Pitt-street experts, who know nothing about the wool business, but are capable of pulling the wool over the eyes of the people. I would have no hesitation in releasing trained men from the Army for brief periods in order to perform essential work. In seeking a temporary release from the Army, a soldier must apply to his commanding officer, while the person who wants his services on the land must apply to the local man-power officer. Then the commanding officer and the man-power officer confer and determine whether the soldier shall be granted leave. If the soldier obtains a decision from his commanding officer within two months he is very lucky. However, if the commanding officer is a man with knowledge of rural industries he usually grants a release within a fairly brief period, provided that the soldier can be spared. Nobody suggests that men occupying key positions in the Army should he released, but the Army authorities could easily selectother men with experience of farm work to take their places. Apparently the officials have not even thought of that. The Minister for Labour and National Service, who discussed this matter with me, mentioned the case of a man who applied two or three months ago for the release of his son for shearing purposes. The son was stationed in Western Australia, and obviously it would have been useless to grant him leave. But surely the authorities could have selected another man capable of doing the work that had to be done. As I have said, a commanding officer who has experience of rural industries is usually sympathetic to applicants, but an officer who comes from the cities is concerned only with maintaining the strength of his regiment. He doe3 not care what happens to the farms. Unless sufficient men be released we shall suffer an acute shortage of foodstuffs in the future.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) and the honorable member for Now England (Mr. Abbott) spoke of lads of tender years being whisked away to New Guinea, after very little training, to fight the enemy. I agree with those honorable gentlemen that seasoned fighters who have seen service in other theatres of war should have been sent in their places. Our Army administration is very unsatisfactory. I have spoken to many men who have returned from active service overseas. Their chief grievance is that, after spending two or three years overseas fighting at Tobruk, Benghazi, Bardia and other places where
Australians made themselves famous, they returned to this country to be put under the command of boys scarcely out of knickerbockers. This is ridiculous when many of these soldiers have proved by their gallantry and their initiative that they are capable of commanding men in any situation. It is .a disgraceful state of affairs that inexperienced youths should be given two or three “pips” and placed in charge of courageous and capable fighting men who have had experience of fighting overseas. How can we expect to succeed when our Army is conducted along these lines? If returned men worthy of commissions are slightly over the stipulated age limit of 30 years, that fact could be overlooked on account of their experience and ability. They should be given commissions, and the young “ apron-string “ men should be made to learn by experience as the others have done. The honorable member for New England said that a member of the Advisory War Council should go to New Guinea. I support that suggestion, but the visit should be made by a member of the War Cabinet, because the War Cabinet is composed of Ministers who are in charge of our fighting forces. In view of the fact that the British Prime Minister flew to Russia to confer with the leaders of that country, it would be competent for a member of our War Cabinet to visit New Guinea in order to satisfy himself that our soldiers are properly equipped, trained and fed.
I am tired of the continual muddling and bungling that is occurring over manpower problems. I have received a letter which states that, although an application by a shearing contractor for the release of a soldier for shearing may have a reasonable chance of success, a fanner who has a private shearing arrangement with his own family circle, and who may require the release of a son or brother, has no chance of success. I have been informed- - the Minister for the Army may correct this statement - that no more soldiers are to be released for shearing purposes. Is there any truth in this rumour, which has become current in the last few days?
– I am glad to have that assurance. I ask tie Government to give special consideration to this matter. Releases should be given with the greatest possible expedition when the prosperity of the rural industries is at stake. Delays lasting for months should be eliminated.
– If the honorable member were a general, how would he run the Army?
– I should release a few men from time to time to undertake seasonal work in primary industries in order to maintain food supplies to the armed forces. The numbers required would not be large. The total figure for Australia might appear to be impressive, but the number of men taken from each individual unit would be small indeed. The releases would not interfere with the efficiency of the armed services, but they would enable the rural industries to carry on work which is necessary if our fighting services and civil population arto be properly equipped and fed. As things stand at present, the civil population is likely to undergo a lot of belt tightening, distress and hardship as the result of the stupidity and incompetence of our Army and man-power authorities.
.- I find myself in agreement with the sentiment expressed by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) concerning the bravery of Australian soldiers. Our men have shown their quality in many parts of the world. Ogilvie called the Australian soldier “ the bravest thing God ever made “. But there is something wrong, and we must find out what it is. I believe that it is leadership. Our leaders have taken our antagonists too cheaply. Sir Robert. Brooke-Popham told us that Singapore was impregnable and could never be taken. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) also told us that Singapore could never be taken. But it was taken in a few days. The right honorable member told us to-day that the war might last for tcn years. It seems to me that we need not take much notice of what he says. We were told also that the Japanese would never be able to cross the Owen Stanley Range. They have crossed it. Sir Thomas Blarney told me in the King’s Hall that it would be a physical impossibility to invade Australia. I suggest that some of our leaders are physical impossibilities. The best general, we are told, is the one who makes the fewest mistakes. Many of our generals have made the mistake of taking the Japanese too cheaply. We need a change of generals.
Recently I had the privilege of visiting a large Australian Imperial Force camp somewhere on the coast of Australia. I saw the men at work and at play, and my heart was glad to observe their wonderful esprit de corps ; but as I looked at the camp I asked myself, “ Where are the Light Horse ? “ That camp was located in a thickly wooded range, and the men had ample mechanical transport. I had the questionable privilege of riding for 25 miles on a Bren gun carrier, and I can tell honorable members who have not had. that experience that “Dargan’s Grey” was a rocking-chair in comparison with it. I believe that the Australian forces would be much better prepared for guerrilla warfare if they had adequate light horse units. In some districts mechanical transport would be moire or less useless. The great problem of defence to-day is mobility. Our trouble is the lack, not of defenders, but of mobility. We have to defend 3,000,000 square miles of country within 12,000 miles of coastline. If an enemy landed a force of 100,000 at a coastal town in which we had only small forces, our trouble would be to get adequate reinforcements to the spot in time to prevent him from consolidating his position and advancing. In parts of Australia we have only a single line of narrow-gauge railway, which in many places is served with bad roads. Adequate light horse units would help to counter these disadvantages.
A good deal has been said during this discussion about the importance of food supplies. Our man-power may be divided into three groups, though I do not suggest that they need be of even numbers. From one point of view the order should be men for the battle zones, men for the munitions factories, and men for the supply of foodstuffs for the forces and for civilians; but the essential sequence is: First, men to supply foodstutfs secondly, men to supply munitions; and thirdly, men to occupy the battle stations. Without food, both munitions workers and soldiers would be helpless. If soldiers were without food for twelve or 24 hours they would be of little use. Therefore, we must feed our armed forces, and feed them well. We cannot make a man a soldier by putting him in uniform. He must be fed and trained. Military strategists have frequently said that the first necessity is to ensure that a soldier shall be properly fed. and adequately armed; then that he shall be trained in modern methods of warfare and inspired by good leadership. For jungle warfare, which is such an important phase to-day, it is especially important that mcn shall be well led. In order to ensure an adequate supply of foodstuffs we must keep our rural industries at full production. In England, Germany, Russia, China and Japan adequate man-power is being reserved to grow food for military and civilian needs. We, also, must see to it that men are available to sow the crops and gather the harvests. We cannot expect our womenfolk to do this work. They are doing a wonderful job, and are worthy of their husbands, sons, brothers, and sweethearts ; but we must not put too heavy a burden on them. I consider, too, that young men who are kept back from the firing-line on essential service should not be subjected to indignity and insult. Certain thoughtless persons in the community are said to be distributing feathers. This is most unjust in many instances. Men who are kept in the fields and the factories producing food, should be given a badge or certificate to show that they are engaged in an essential service.
A good deal has been said in this chamber in the last few days about the conscription of man-power. We may have to conscript more men for essential industries. Coal-miners and munitions workers are not allowed to change their employment in these days, and it may be that men engaged in food production should be required to remain where they are. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) said to-night that he shuddered when he thought about the shortage of food.
I shudder when I think of the condition of this country twelve months ago when this Government assumed office. I wonder how many people know that at that time a line had been drawn across the country and it had been decided that no attempt should be made to defend the areas north of that line if the Japanese invaded our shores. There was not a gun in those arena, and if the Japanese had not stopped in Java and Sumatra but had come straight into Australia they would have found us defenceless in the north. The Government of which the honorable member for Hume was a Minister was responsible for that state of affairs. I was not correct in saying that there was not a gun there, for I recollect that 154 years ago Captain Cook left a gun there that had been taken from the Endeavour.
I wish to say a few words about the dairying industry, which at present is in a desperate plight. It is my privilege to be a member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. The committee recently took evidence in Queensland, and I shall refer honorable gentlemen to some statements that were made to us by well-informed witnesses. The Queensland Director of Dairying, Mr. Rice, said on oath -
The butter production will be about 400,000 boxes less this year than last year, or a falling-off of nearly 20 per cent. Queensland’s production of butter in 1940-41 was 2.090,077 boxes, and the estimated production for 1941-42 is 1,680,633 boxes. In the most favorable period the butter production reached 2,600,000 boxes a year, and therefore the estimated production for the year just closed is 1,000,000 boxes less than the output of a peak year.
That is a serious comment. Mr. Wilson, the general manager of the Port Curtis Dairy Association Limited, which controls butter factories at Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Wowan, Biloela and Monto, gave the following evidence -
The shortage of man-power on farms is now becoming more apparent, as many people who had share-farmers cannot now get them. As an instance, Mr. Willert of Berajondo, who has three dairy farms of about 100 cows, each run by share-farmers,has closed one dairy, is closing another in August, and may close the third one later. Mr. A. Dougall, of Miriam Vale, is closing his dairy, and he told me that other people in his district are going to close down and only graze cattle for the meat-works. Many farmers are reducing the number of milking cows in their dairies, owing to members of their families being called up and the scarcity of labour. A Mr. Jense, Coast road, Bundaberg, is an example - sons called up, reducing from 40 to ten cows. Mr. G. B. Mouatt, chairman of directors of our association, whose farm is at Mungungo, carried 60 dairy cows, and will now reduce to 25 through shortage of labour. Many other instances can be recorded if necessary. The butter price, to a great extent, enters into this question of labour. The dairying industry is noted for the low wages paid to farm workers. Farmers cannot pay good wages on the price they receive for butter. My opinion is that, with a better price for butter, production will increase. If farmers are to receive a price comparable with that paid in other industries, and appropriate to the hours worked, the price of butter shouldbe 2s. per lb.
I agree with that opinion. Dairying is the Cinderella of all the industries in the Commonwealth. It is carried on by means of the unpaid slavery of women and children. There is only one remedy, namely, to give to the dairymen a price comparable with what may be earned elsewhere. Later, when our soldiers return to civil life, the Commonwealth will have to rehabilitate, resuscitate, and repatriate them. The best place for them would be on the land, where they would have the advantage of fresh air and sunshine.
I direct attention to the plight of the apple and pear grower in what is called the granite belt in the Stanthorpe district, in the south of Queensland. The origin of the establishment of the Apple and Pear Acquisition scheme was the scarcity of shipping soon after the outbreak of the war. Our surplus production of fruit could not be sent overseas; consequently, the Apple and Pear Acquisition Regulations were formulated by the Commonwealth Government, with the object of ensuring to the grower a just price for his product. Unfortunately, that good result did not accrue. Since the establishment of the scheme, the conditions in Queensland have changed very greatly. Because of enemy attacks in the north of Australia, large numbers of Australian and allied troops have been sent to that region. These need to have their diet supplemented by fruit, particularly apples and pears. When the acquisition scheme was inaugurated, ten units were allotted to a bushel case in Queensland, and the price was fixed at6d. a unit. Thus a case containing from 12 dozen to 14 dozen apples was sold on behalf of the grower for 5s. - a very cheap price; too low to enable him to make anything out of his operations. Later, on account of the advent of soldiers into that portion of the continent, cases of apples were sold for 20s., and up to 2Ss. The grower is asking where the difference has gone. He believes that his return should be greater, because the present price of 5s. does not defray the cost of production. The grower in Queensland has to surmount special difficulties. The trees in that. State do not crop so prolifically as do the trees in the south, the respective figures being from 1 to 1$ cases, and three or four times that number. Payment for labour is on a much higher scale in Queensland; in fact, it. is now almost unobtainable. The seasons are not regular. Last year, particularly, a very serious drought was experienced. It would be a great mistake to permit these mau to fail. Only 2 per cent, of the total quantity of apples and pears grown in The Commonwealth is produced in Queensland. They mature early; consequently, they do not interfere in any respect with the southern fruit. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) has given evidence of his sympathy for the primary producer in what he has done for the wool and wheat industries. He is now inquiring into the dairying industry. I hope that he will also consider sympathetically the apple and pear growers, and that in Queensland they will be granted an exemption. Failing that, I request that a royal commission be appointed to inquire into their circumstances. Only yesterday I received a letter from Mr. D. Pfunder, an apple grower, of Applethorne, in which he said -
We believe we have an unanswerable case notwithstanding that informal ballot. That ballot was taken on the understanding that a number of anomalies would be removed. This has not been done. The anomalies referred to were discussed by a mass meeting of growers at the same time when it was decided to hold the ballot … We derive no benefits, only losses. It is estimated that the profits (nett) made by the board during the past season out of Queensland fruit amounts to at least £li3,000. This is a huge sum to take out of our small production, and would be sufficient to provide at least 57 growers with the basic wage … I am enclosing a short letter received from one of our growers (J. K. Archer). He was a soldier in the last war and one of the few original soldier settlers remaining here. After 22 years’ struggle he is now driven out, and just at a time when he had real hope of surmounting many obstacles. Others must go if this is to continue.
I have received other letters, written in a similar strain. These growers have a real grievance. I know that this Government. i3 determined to give every man a fair deal, especially those who are producing food when it is so badly needed. I appeal to the Minister for Commerce for that fair deal on behalf of this small number of growers, who produce only 2 per cent, of the total quantity of fruit grown in the Commonwealth. I stress the necessity for exemption; otherwise, the industry should be investigated by a royal commission.
The restriction of sport is rather an important matter. At present, the people are suffering a great emotional strain. There must be a safety valve, and it is provided by nature. From its early years, a child plays sport willingly and enthusiastically. I have nothing to say about the control of horse and dog racing ; but I urge that it is important to see that our men and women, while working so hard, at high pressure and under a great emotional stress, shall have a safety valve. Recreation is a wonderful healer that has been provided by nature. We have to bc very careful as to how we screw things down. All work and no play is not beneficial. Every man and woman must have relaxation and keep fit, and the best way in which to so so i3 by engaging in physical exercise and sport.
– I commend the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) for his excellent speech in directing attention to the state of affairs that exists in New Guinea. Although I do not go quite so far as he went, I say that the Minister should note fully the points that he raised; because the public has been lulled into a false sense of security by the extraordinarily optimistic .statements that have been issued in regard to the situation in New Guinea.
– Not by the Government.
– By the Government’s advisers. As far away as the other side of the world, those who appreciate the lack of strategy have been unsparing in their criticism of the foolishly optimistic statements that have been made in regard to New Guinea. Those made prior to the fall of Malaya and Singapore furnish the only parallel. I join with the honorable member for New England in saying to the Minister that the present position in regard to New Guinea is wholly and solely due to the Administration that occupies the treasury bench at the moment. It is not yet too late for that Administration to take an active interest in the lack of strategy displayed. If the Minister should find that the text-book strategy of the last war is being applied, he should place in charge one who can appreciate modern methods of jungle fighting. Men who have had that experience are prepared and have been trained to undertake the task, and it is his duty to see that they undertake it. We were amazed when we learned that Buna and Gona had been occupied by the Japanese. Why was that allowed? The reason was the lack of appreciation ot the possibilities of the one road or track that leads from the New Guinea side of the island across the range to Port Moresby. This was common knowledge, and not something that had recently -become known to Japanese secret service agents or intelligence officers who had investigated and mapped out the position. When I was Assistant Minister in Charge of External Territories, a commission was appointed to investigate the possibilities of combining the Administration of the Mandated Territory and Papua. When the Government was considering the establishment of a common capital for Papua and New Guinea, the question arose whether it was possible to link up Port Moresby with the New Guinea side of the island, and it was known then that there was a track across the Owen Stanley Range Every one in New Guinea knew it, yet nothing was done to protect Buna and Gona from the Japanese. When attention was drawn to this point by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), a hush-hush policy was immediately adopted. His statements were censored. He was not allowed to express his opinion on these matters, although subsequently they were discussed in every country of the Allied Nations. Clearly, some one must have felt insecure if such pains were taken to prevent this information from being circulated.
– The statements were censored in Australia only.
– I am referring to their circulation outside Australia. It was forbidden to send the statements of the right honorable member out of Australia lest their publication should invite criticism of our strategy. I know something of the conditions under which our men are fighting in New Guinea. I also have had experience of fighting in the last war. I know that, with proper leadership, it would be a sheer impossibility for a situation to arise in which 18,000 of the best fighting men in the world should be taken prisoners as happened in Singapore. The fact that such a thing happened is a terrible indictment of our leadership, and of the strategy employed. It was a most abject surrender, though the men had no alternative because of bad leadership.
In New Guinea, the Japanese have solved the problem of camouflage. Their troops are so effectively camouflaged that they can move freely through the jungle without being seen. They can approach our positions with stealth, and infiltrate and outflank them, so that small numbers of Japanese can force comparatively large numbers of our men to withdraw to new positions. Our soldiers even yet wear khaki, which, after being wet in the jungle and bleached in the sun, turns very nearly white, so that it can be seen miles away. We must have young and virile leaders who can adapt themselves to this kind of warfare. In the final analysis, the Minister for the Army must accept responsibility for what is happening. We recognize, of course, that he has no knowledge of strategy, and must depend upon his military advisers. I now ask him whether he is satisfied with their advice. If not, he should get other advisers. The decision to change his advisers would have to be made by the War Cabinet, but it would be done on his recommendation. I wonder whether the members of the War Cabinet really appreciate the position. It is doubtful whether they even appreciate the situation in Australia, let alone in New Guinea.
Quite recently, the Prime Minister, in answer to a question about food supplies, said that if he had to choose between food and a few more hundred fighting men he would choose the fighting men. In my opinion, that answer proves that he lacks a proper appreciation of the real needs of our fighting forces. Napoleon laid down the axiom that an army marches on its stomach. If our troops are denied adequate supplies, they cannot fight effectively, and if the Government is prepared to sacrifice supplies for a few more fighting men, we need not wonder that the situation in New Guinea is bad.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting the Prime Minister. He was not referring to food for the troops.
– If the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) cares to refer to Hansard., he will find that I have quoted the Prime Minister’s statement correctly. Apparently, the Government believed that it has done all that can be expected of it when it sends the men to the front, but men need food and other supplies; they need leadership, not only on the battlefield, but also at home, so as to ensure them proper support. If the Minister is not satisfied with his military advisers, he can do one of two things: He can changethem, and continue to receive reports here in Australia, or he can go to New Guinea, and see conditions there for himself. If our troops, given proper leadership and adequate supplies, cannot hold their own against the enemy, it is a poor lookout for Australia, but I do not believe that they would be unable to do so. The Australian soldier, properly led and equipped, is the equal of any fighting man in the world. If the Minister for the Army believes that there is no need for him or for the Prime Minister to visit New Guinea, I remind him that, before the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) went abroad, there was much criticism within Australia of Britain’s war effort. However, having visited Great Britain and America, the Attorney-General returned well satisfied with what was being done. He had seen for himself, and he came back with a wholly new appreciation of the position. I suggest that if the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Army were to visit the front in New Guinea, they would return imbued with a determination to remove the disabilities under which our troops are labouring. They would obtain a new understanding of strategy, and perhaps of leadership. Either they must accept full responsibility for what their advisers have recommended - or they must go to New Guinea, and themselves take a part in remedying the situation. Those of us who have friends and relatives in New Guinea are constantly receiving letters telling us that the men there are facing conditions different from those faced by Australian soldiers in any previous campaign. Such conditions are strange to our fighting men, and the military text-books have no rules for dealing with them. Our leaders in such a campaign, must be young officers, with clear intellects and initiative.Unforfortunately, men possessing these qualifications are relegated to comparatively minor positions where they cannot utilize their intelligence, experience and ability to the best advantage. I recognize that, in the present crisis, these matters could be better discussed at a secret meeting, but the position is desperate. I urge the Minister to heed the warnings of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) before it is too late.
.- Honorable members have just been treated to a wonderful dessertation by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). In a speech, full of bombast, jingoism and criticism, he offered gratuitous advice to the Government and the Minister for the Army, and used the word “ appreciation “ so many times that if a horse of that name is entered for the Melbourne Cup I shall have a modest investment upon it.
A serious injustice is being done to men who, on returning from battlefields in the tropics, have been summarily dismissed from the Army. The severity of the climate impairs the health of our troops, and the period during which they can live under such conditions is strictly limited. For the information of the Minister for the Army, I shall cite a typical case. This man, aged 45 years, served in the Australian Imperial Force and the
Australian Flying Corps in the last war and returned with the rank of lieutenantpilot. In November, 1939, he joined the 7th Battalion, with the rank of lieutenant, and was later promoted to captain. In June, 1940, he was seconded to Australian Imperial Force training depots. Four months later, he volunteered for service in New Guinea and was appointed a. company commander in the 39th Battalion. Last December, he accompanied that battalion to Port Moresby. When on service in New Guinea, he was promoted to the rank of major. Last March he returned to Australia suffering from tropical dermatitis, and in June he was discharged from No. 115 General Hospital to the reception camp, Caulfield, as “ fit for duty “. On the 6th July, he was advised by Victorian Lines of Communication - that, as there is no vacancy at present in which you can be absorbed, a recommendation to the reserve of officers is being submitted to Land Head-quarters.
On the same day he was informed that a position could be found for him in Victorian Lines of Communication training depots if he agreed to revert to the rank and pay of captain. He agreed to the proposal, as he wished to continue actively to assist the war effort, and also because it appeared that if he did not accept, he would he discharged from the Army. On the 22nd July, he proceeded from the reception camp, Caulfield, to a training depot, and was attached to the 6th Training Battalion, Watsonia. A week later, he was informed by the Victorian Lines of Communication training depot -
That a recommendation is being submitted to Land Head-quarters that you be seconded from 39th Battalion to 6th Training Battalion, with the pay and rank of captain to date from the 22nd July. 1942.
About three weeks later he was informed by the Victorian Lines of Communication that-
On account of Land Head-quarters instructions that training battalions should be staffed from forward formations, the recommendation that you should be seconded to the 6th Training Battalion is not approved, and that a further recommendation that you be transferred to the reserve of officers is being submitted to Land Head-quarters.
He was given to understand that on the 1 2th September he would be transferred to the reserve of officers. To the best of his knowledge, every report on his record is a favorable one. He has been unofficially informed that if he can “ fluke “ a job with some other unit or formation prior to the 12th September, no objection will be raised to his remaining in the Army. In other words, all would be well if he could successfully hawk his services. It appears that if he had remained in the home forces, as many younger and more fit officers did, instead of volunteering for service in New Guinea, he would still have been an officer in the Army. It is a peculiar policy that permits of this position, particularly when many of the men were under the impression that the young, fit men of the home forces would be relieved by older, less fit men. The treatment that this man has received is a doubtful reward for his courage in going to a forward area at a time when things looked black.
That is a typical case. Although he may not have been fit to rejoin his unit in the tropics, he couldhavebeen placed in a training or instructional corps, or replaced one of the younger men who throng head-quarters in the capital cities. Other men of lower rank have received similar treatment, simply because younger men are holding down soft, safe jobs. The latter should be serving nearer the firing line, making way in the home forces for older men who are suffering from the effects of active service in the tropics. I urge the Minister to ensure that this policy will be no longer pursued and that justice and repatriation will be granted to men who have served their country so well.
. -I rise to offer a few comments on (he Department of Commerce and the Department of War Organization of Industry. I listened with interest to the speeches of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) regarding the dairying industry. Similar speeches were delivered when the Fadden and the first Chifley budgets were presented. On those occasions, honorable members stressed the dangerous drift that was taking place in this industry. They pointed out that calves were being turned out with cows because of the shortage of man-power. If appropriate action had been taken then, the position of the dairying industry would not be so acute to-day. It is because I have had many years’ experience of the meat, wool and wheat industries that I offer a few comments about them this evening.
I hope that honorable members appreciate the value of the meat and wool industry to Australia, not only in wartime but also in peace-time. They yield approximately £100,000,000 per annum. No other industry produces wealth with so little man-power. Only during the shearing season is considerable man-power required. During the rest of the year, enormous numbers of sheep are tended by comparatively few individuals. In 1938-39 Australia produced 717,454,000 lb. of mutton and lamb for consumption, of which 527,241,000 lb., or 73 per cent., was consumed locally. Great Britain purchased 97 per cent, of the surplus. If it were necessary for us to export that quantity to Great Britain in peace-time, honorable members will realize the importance of our continuing to forward supplies in war-time. The value of the meat industry was £17,000,000, and the value of the wool and hides was about £72,000,000. Those figures reveal the necessity for preserving those industries, which are the only ones to withstand, unaided, the ravages of drought, disease, tariffs, and political interference. I direct attention to these facts because the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has stated that the pastoral industry will be rationalized. I urge him not to interfere unduly with it. Whilst agreeing that there is room for improvement in the slaughtering of stock, the handling of wool and the transport of wool and meat, I contend that any proposal to reduce the flocks is short-sighted. The Minister should be guided by the advice, not of university professors, but of men with a practical knowledge of the industry.
I understand that Australia has entered into an agreement with the other wheat-growing countries to create a world wheat pool and to curtail production of wheat. That is the only policy which will save the industry. It is obvious that we cannot go on producing wheat in unlimited quantities while there is an enormous world surplus. The fact must be borne in mind, however, that Australia has reduced its wheat acreage more than any other wheat-growing country has.
– Mainly because of the low prices offered by previous governments.
– I do not dispute that, but the price of wheat has been low all over the world. The governments of other countries have, however, endeavoured to subsidize prices. The following comparative table shows the reduction of wheat acreage of the four main producing countries: -
The shortage of superphosphate in Australia will cause a further reduction of acreage, and I hope that in the negotiations which take place on the subject of reduction of acreage our representatives will keep to the forefront the fact that we have curtailed production to a greater degree than any other country has, so that, when normal supplies of superphosphate again become available, we shall be able to receive recognition for having led the way, for this agreement must last for very many years.
In reply to an interjection by the Minister for War Organization of Industry, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) expressed the belief that food would have to be rationed.. I sincerely hope that that is not the case, but I am afraid that, unless quick action be taken, the right honorable gentleman will be right. But the right honorable gentleman also said that it was necessary for us to build up reserves of food in Australia, and to supply as much food as we possibly can to Great Britain.
– That is being done.
– Those two requirements formed the basis of the right honorable member’s statement that food would have to be rationed. I notice that on the estimates for the Department of Commerce there is provision for the expenditure of £900,000 for food storage. I hope that that work is progressing satisfactorily.
We do not yet know a great deal about the dehydration of mutton, but we do know that the net result from dehydration is18 per cent. of each carcass processed. Therefore, if 2d. per lb. is paid for mutton, the price per lb. of dehydrated mutton is1s., exclusive of the cost of processing.
– The ratio is approximately 7 to 1.
– About 17 or 18 per cent. is the final result. The concentration of mutton is an admirable method of shipping it overseas. I do not know what the lasting qualities of dehydrated mutton are, but I do know that the product is quite palatable. Now that the lamb season is coming in I appeal to the Minister for Commerce to look into the slaughtering position. There is the shortage of slaughtermen in the capital cities, and I fear a glut of spring lamb and cull ewes when they come on the market.
.-I rise to right a wrong done by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) in his budget speech on Wednesday to a very great citizen and a courageous soldier, the Honorable Gordon Webber. The honorable member said -
Why should these fellows of 25 be suddenly jumped up into positions of authority? Why should they not be on active service? Gordon Webber, ex-member of the Legislative Assembly, was a tanner who, after going out of business, was appointed to the Milk Board, although all he knew about milk was his mother’s milk, and I suppose he had forgotten about that long ago. Later, the Minister for War Organization of Industry appointed him to the Rationing Commission.
Notwithstanding the fact that he was married and was a member of theVictorian Parliament, Mr. Webber, during the last war, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and rendered distinguished service overseas. He was a Minister in three Labour governments.
He was subsequently appointed to the Melbourne Milk Board by the Duns tan Government, not by a Labour government. That is perhaps the best tribute that could be paid to him, for, asI remind the honorable member for Bendigo, Mr. Dunstan is a member of the party to which the honorable gentleman himself belongs. Mr. Webber has served the Milk Board with distinction. Recently he offered his services to the Department of Air through the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), and, when nothing was found for him to do, he offered himself to, and was accepted by, the Department of War Organization of Industry. He has been given leave of absence by the Milk Board with the consent of the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria, Mr. Hogan, who is also a member of the party to which the honorable member for Bendigo belongs. I hope that what I have said will serve to rectify the injustice that has been done to Mr. Webber, whose integrity and honesty cannot be questioned.
I should be the last to reflect upon the capacity, loyalty and good intentions of various members of this Parliament who are officers in the defence forces of this country, but the duality of positions appears to me to be altogether undesirable.
– And unconstitutional.
– I do not know, and I am not concerned about that, but we have the spectacle of the honorable member for Bendigo, an eminent and distinguished soldier in the last war, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), equally eminent and equally distinguished, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), a captain, and Senator Foll, also a captain, all in uniform, and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), a lieutenantcolonel, but not in uniform; why, I do not know. Members of Parliament, in my opinion, should not don the King’s uniform, unless they obtain leave of absence from their parliamentary duties, and do a full-time military job. Nobody can tell me that the honorable members and senator whom I have named can efficiently serve this Parliament and at the same time render efficient service to the armed forces. A member of the armed forces- is required to be on duty nil the time, unless he is a member of Parliament. The general elections are approaching and, no doubt, we shall find that these honorable gentlemen will be given leave from their military duties to take part in the campaign. The honorable member for Bendigo, except when he is attending Parliament, tours Victoria organizing the Volunteer Defence Corps. He meets constituents of mine and other honorable members in bis wanderings. Some of the boys in my electorate with Tory leanings will meet him and say, “ What sort of a bird is Pollard ? “ and he will reply, of course, Twopence a pound He is justified in expressing his opinion, but I am pointing out the dangers inherent in the system. I would not blame the honorable member for expressing his opinion, because he believes that my political views are a menace to Australia, with just as much force as I believe that his views are a menace to Australia. I admit that if I occupied the same position as the honorable member for Bendigo or the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), as a part-time member of Parliament and army officer, and if constituents asked me what I thought of General Rankin or Captain Harrison, I might reply, “ Oh, he is not a bad sort of officer, but politically he is no good. Do not vote for him “. That would be unfair. No honorable member should be in a position to do that. I know the privates in the Army discuss politics. When I was a private, and also when I was an officer, I missed no opportunity to express my political views. But the state of affairs is much worse when members of this Parliament are in a position such as I have described. We have heard some talk to-night about Army efficiency and discipline, yet these honorable gentlemen are well over the recognized effective military age; they have grown old in the service of their country. I admit that they still have some standing with the troops and still have some administrative capacity. However, they could put their ability to much better use by obtaining leave of absence from Parliament and engaging in full-time service with the Army. Furthermore, it is not fair that officers who return from overseas physically unfit for further active service on account of wounds, should be kept out of administrative positions which they could fill probably better than these honorable gentlemen, because they understand modern military developments and tactics.
– Does the honorable member believe that we do not know something about these things?
– There are plenty of men who fought in the war of 1914-1S, former colonels, captains, lieutenants and rankers, who are quite capable of doing the work of these honorable members and doing it full-time. Honorable members who hold positions in the armed services cannot do a full-time job for the Army and keep up with their parliamentary duties as well. The whole thing is absolute humbug, and we should say to these gentlemen, “ The Parliament will grant you full-time leave for service in the Army. You must do one job ot the other ; you cannot do both “.
– The people who framed the Constitution were not so narrowminded as the honorable member.
– But they did not know that they would have to deal with such a narrow-minded person as the honorable member for Bendigo.
I was interested to hear the remarks of other honorable gentlemen regarding the difficulties .of the dairying industry. I have had considerable experience of that industry, and I know that the dairyfanner has a hard life. The financial return for the work involved is not adequate, and something ought to be done to assist the industry. However, the members of this Government, unlike their predecessors, take action when action is needed, and I believe that the Minister for Commerce will do something in this connexion. The true picture of the dairying industry is not so black as it has been painted. I remind honorable gentlemen who have told such harrowing stories about the industry that, in the last six months, prices for dairy cows at the metropolitan market in Victoria have soared to high levels. Prices in provincial markets also have risen. If the industry were in such a perilous state as some honorable members opposite have said, this would not be the case. I do not say that nothing should be done for the industry, in fact, I hope that something will be done for it.
Mr.Rankin. - The milk producers are in a different position from the butter-fat producers.
– I do not believe that they are. In the Kyneton market, farmers are buying cows for butter-fat production, not for milk, so that argument can be ruled out. I hope that some protection will be given to employees on dairy farms. For too long they have been the working-class Cinderellas of this country. If the industry is to be adequately protected, I see no reason why some measure of protection should not be extended to these men.
– So much has already been said by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), and others, about the difficulties with which dairy-farmers are faced owing to the acute shortage of man-power, that it is unnecessary for me to repeat what has already been well stated. I need only say that my experience in Victoria confirms what those honorable gentlemen have said. In Gippsland, many dairy herds are being reduced in numbers merely because there are not enough men to milk them ; the fattest cows have been sold to the butchers. We can expect such a reduction of butter production in the near future that we shall have to choose between the cessation of exports to Great Britain, where each person is allowed only 2 oz. of marga rine and butter each week, and the rationing of our own consumption in order to maintain our exports. We should be doing no more than our duty if we rationed ourselves to a reasonable degree in order to spare something for Great Britain. We have been told that there will be no food shortage, but are those who say that thinking of ourselves alone? Great Britain is producing an enormous quantity of war equipment, and is exporting no less than80 per cent. of its production to Russia, the Middle East, India, New
Zealand and Australia. We, who are capable of producing surplus food, should not be content until we are sending the maximum amount possible to Great Britain, which is very strictly rationed with respect to many things which normally we have in plenty. The difficulties of dairy farmers have already been thoroughly discussed, but I point out that the production of the maximum amount of dairy produce is dependent upon conditions not only on the dairy farms, but also in the butter factories. The Victorian butter factories are in a very difficult position at the present time. Owing to military call-ups some of them are so short of key men that it is doubtful whether they will be able to process the quantity of milk and cream that is offering. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) made an admirable speech with regard to waste of food. He will agree with me that there will be a tremendous waste of good food if the milk and cream available cannot be processed owing to the lack of butter-makers and other skilled men in the factories. Strangely enough the position is very much worse in Victoria than it is in New South Wales and Queensland. For some reason, key men in butter factories in those two States have not been called up as they have in Victoria. I do not suggest that there has been discrimination as between States. I assume that this fact is due to the seasonal differences in the various States. As honorable members know, the butter season in Victoria reaches its peak much earlier than in New South Wales and Queensland. The peak months in Victoria are September, October, November and December. In the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, and in Queensland, the peak period is from December to March. I assume that the key men in Victorian factories were called up for training about the time when supplies had become somewhat low in Victoria, and that, when the same position with respect to supplies had been reached in the two northern States, the Government had changed its policy with regard to calling up these men. At any rate, the Victorian butter factories are very short of skilled men. They managed to carry on satisfactorily while supplies were low, but supplies are now rapidly increasing and the peak will be reached in the near future. Some managers of butter factories do not know which way to turn. In many cases, when they have applied for the release of key men- from the Army, their applications have been strongly supported by the man-power officials, but the final decision rests with the military authorities. We know that the military authorities will not grant releases to men whose work will take them more than 24 hours’ travelling time away from their units. Furthermore, they will not release any men from armoured regiments or any non-commissioned officers or commissioned officers, because they do not want to destroy the efficiency of their units. The young man who becomes almost indispensable to a butter factory is the kind of man who quickly gains promotion in the Army, and consequently cannot be released. I know of many butter factory managers who do not know how they will manage to carry on. One elderly manager of a moderate-sized factory has been attempting to do the manager’s work and the butter-maker’s work. But supplies are mounting up now and he can no longer do the two jobs. A week or two ago he handed his resignation to his directors. They begged him to carry on a little longer in- the hope that they might secure relief, but they have pointed out to me that he cannot possibly continue indefinitely to do the two jobs. The same sort of thing is happening on farms, where elderly men are trying to keep going until their sons return from- the war,, but the strain is too great for them. Some: substantial measure of relief will have to be given to butter factories and farmers. It has been estimated, that Vietorian butter factories are about 440’ men short of the number needed to carry them on through the flush of the season. It. would be extremely difficult to get all of these men,. &r even. 300 of them, out of the Army. But, if: these men were allowed to return to the factories for the next few months of peak production, they would probably do more for the war effort in producing food than they can hope to do as individuals in their army units. I hope, therefore, that special consideration willi be given to the needs of this case. I have in mind particular butter factories in Victoria. The Minister for the Army should take immediate steps to ensure that a more satisfactory supply of man-power is available. The recommendations of the man-power authorities should not he too lightly overruled by military officers if the men are urgently required for food production.
.- After listening to the remarks of certain honorable gentlemen opposite who are wearing military uniforms, I have come to the conclusion that we have some buckshee generals and captains that we could well spare from our midst. They would be giving, better service to the country if they were wearing “giggle suits “ somewhere and doing a little work. These honorable gentlemen wear uniforms out of vanity. I have no doubt that they would like to show General Douglas MacArthur how he should do his job. I was particularly disappointed to hear the honorable’ member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) speak as he did about the Japanese. His remarks will do nothing to help morale in this country. It was unfair of him to refer to- our soldiers as he did. He would have us believe that the Japanese are better men- than the Australians. I believe that that is entirely wrong..
– The honorable gentleman has misrepresented my remarks. What he has said is plain -nonsense, and a deliberate lie.
– The honorable member for Wentworth should withdraw his accusation that the honorable member for Wannon is a- liar.
– I do not believe in all this “ hooey “ about apologizing. I can take it, because I know the- value, to put on it. In any case the war will not end in a Japanese victory, because some Japanese soldiers have- crossed the Owen Stanley Range. The war with Japan will not end until there has been a big clash of naval and air forces. No doubt the honorable member would like General MacArthur to send for him, posthaste, to-morrow morning, to- state hia plan of campaign.
The remarks of the honorable member were the more surprising in view of the. fact that he was for a time a member of a government which had charge of our defence strategy. Why did not the honorable gentleman bring his abilities as a general to the notice of the Cabinet of which he was a member? We all are well aware that, in reality, hostilities with Japan began long before war was declared.
– The present Government has done very little to meet the real needs of the situation.
– The Menzies Government sent our trained troops away from Australia. Not very many men of adequate training were available, at one stage, for service in Malaya, but the present Government did the best it could in the circumstances in which it found itself.
– The Menzies Government did not prevent the export of lead from Australia although it was almost certain that it would find its way to our enemies.
– As a matter of fact, I did stop it.
– I wish to speak principally about the food supply. The previous Government deserved criticism for its mishandling of the situation, and I am anxious that this Government shall take drastic steps to cope with the position before it gets out of hand. The previous Government appointed some good old “ Nats “ to positions in which they had to make decisions affecting our food supplies. One of these was a man whom I knew well. I believed that he used his position for political purposes, and I told him so. When the Curtin Government assumed office it took the food and man-power problems in hand quickly. I am glad to say that a good many of the retired colonels and other loyal “ Nats “ were removed from offices to which they had been appointed by previous governments, and their positions filled by Clerks of Petty Sessions, or other citizens with no political axe to grind, and, speaking generally, they have done good service. It is unfortunate, however, that the recommendations of the man-power officers can be overruled by military officers. It seems to me to be quite wrong to allow such a situation to continue, particularly in view of the fact that the man-power officers invariably make close inquiries before they recommend exemptions or release from military service. The present Government has remedied a good deal of the damage done by the previous Government, but it has not yet completely corrected the position. The Department of Labour and National Service should be the deciding authority in relation to man-power needs. The man-power officers require to be satisfied that persons who apply for either permanent or temporary exemption from military service have a genuine case. In my experience these officers are not easily hoodwinked.For that reason their recommendations should he honoured. Unfortunately, the retired colonels who are still in positions of authority exercise considerable influence. I know of one man who applied for exemption because he was milking 100 cows. He was a share farmer whose wife gave him substantial help. When he applied for exemption the old colonel who dealt with his case refused his application, and said that the dairying property which he was working would be quite suitable for grazing purposes. No consideration whatever was given to the fact that dairy products, especially milk and butter, are in great demand. We all are well aware that dairy herds are being dispersed in these days, and that many dairy-farms have been practically abandoned.
Man-power difficulties are also being experienced at present in districts when shearing is in progress. As honorable members are aware, a great deal of the shearing is done in these days by contract, for that is the most economical way to shear large flocks. Shearing contractors and farmers understood that under the national security regulations applicable to the industry men required for shearing would be released without trouble. Consequently, they displayed no anxiety about the position, and were astonished to discover a week or two ago that shearers were being refused release. This meant that arrangements that had been completed for shearing in various areas were entirely dislocated. Shearers are skilled workers and there is no substitute labour available to replace them. The trouble is that once a man is put into the Army, it is almost impossible to get him out of it again, even temporarily.
I endorse the statements of honorable members who have referred to the great difficulties in which the dairying industry finds itself. These are due, not only to man-power problems, but also to transport difficulties and low prices. Insufficient stress has been laid on the necessity to increase the returns to dairy-farmers. This could be done either by a bounty or by price-fixing methods. The people engaged in the dairying industry should be working under an award of the Arbitration Court, just as do people engaged in sugar production in Queensland. The men who invest their money in the dairying industry should he assured of a fair return for their labour and capital. As it is, the industry cannot be maintained even with sweated labour. The wives and children of dairy farmers are obliged to work very hard. The cheapest of cheap labour is all that a. dairy-farmer can afford. In our present circumstances, it is essential that the dairying industry shall be maintained on a high output basis, for dairy products are necessary for both military and civilian use. Probably the best way to assist the industry would be to provide a bounty on production. In my view that would be the. most equitable system to adopt. ‘ I have had a good deal to do with the industry, and I emphasize the desirability of making labour available to increase our output of dairy products.
– I have listened with interest to the debate on the position of the fighting forces, particularly in Papua. Those who had the opportunity and the privilege to view the film that was screened this morning must have been impressed by the work which the members of the forces are doing in that country, and the difficulties that confront them. The thought that they are fellow Australians made one feel very proud. I agree in the main with the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). We have known for a long time that the training of men to fight in tropical countries must be different from that, required in other countries in which similar conditions are not experienced. Arrangements have already been made by the Government and its military advisers which should result in placing our men on an equality with the forces opposed to them. There is no doubt that we have greatly underestimated the fighting qualities of the Japanese Army and Air Force. It is useless for honorable members to say that we have no right to admit that the Japanese in this war have so far proved themselves better than those who have been opposed to them. They have not been better fighters, but they have been cunningly trained in jungle tactics and in camouflage. This has made them superior in many respects. Both the generals in command of the fighting forces in New Guinea are known to me. They are extraordinarily brilliant, and have earned the promotion they have received. In the early days of the Japanese invasion of New Guinea, our troops there had had little or no training. Possibly this could not have ‘been obviated, because the war with Japan had been thrust on us hurriedly, and armies cannot be trained to any degree of efficiency in less than five or six months. No man should be subjected to active service conditions until he has had at least six months’ intensive training.
Recently, an ordinance was promulgated in respect of the control of Papua and its industries by the Army. During the last two months, I have had occasion to meet senior departmental officers at Army Head-quarters, and I am not at all satisfied with the arrangement that military officers, who have had no experience of agricultural methods, shall be given control. So far, not one agricultural expert has been placed on the staff to give advice in connexion with not only the occupied territories, but also the reoccupation for which we hope in the very near future. Tropical agriculture is a special science. We have had in New Guinea experts in agriculture who have advised the Administration. The majority of them have been taken prisoner, or have disappeared as the result of the Japanese occupation. The Army has selected men who have had no experience of the kind of work that has to he done. It is proposed that the Army shall bc allowed to take control of and manage all the plantations, the shipping, and every other activity. The officers selected have probably occupied clerical positions, and have not had experience in other respects. This matter is of the utmost importance, and immediate consideration should he given to it. I know what views are held by officers of the department that has been responsible for the administration of the territory; they are diametrically opposed to those of the Army. While in Melbourne, two months ago, I saw the officer in charge of the whole of the Administration. He made voluminous notes of pertinent questions that I asked him, and promised to send replies to me. 1 have not since had word from him. The matter is of the utmost importance. I shall give one illustration. It was proposed that blitz methods should be used in the gathering of rubber. Blitz methods ruined rubber trees in Java. The advice of practical men should be obtained.
In regard to army methods generally, I shall not criticize the staff, who are doing an exceptionally hard job. Although I have not agreed with all that has been done, that does not prove that the military leaders were wrong. But we do not appear to have learned from our opponents. I know how hard the Minister works. I suggest to him, however, that a little more driving force is needed in certain directions in order to obtain the best results from the service he controls. I saw on the outskirts of Sydney three Bren-gun carriers parked on the top of a bridge on a main road in the Galston Gorge. There was nobody in charge of them., and some officer was responsible for their having been left there. When I reached the nearest town - Hornsby - I telephoned the barracks and complained to the general who was then in charge. I said to him : “ This is the worst thing that could possibly happen in war-time “. Yet no action was taken. The Minister was not responsible for that. The commanding officers must accept responsibility when such incidents occur. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) gave instances of lack of discipline. I do not expect the Minister to examine the whole of the forces in order to ascertain whether there is lack of discipline. But he is responsible to Parliament for the administration of the service and the appointment and control of its officers. Those officers with whom I am personally acquainted proved their ability in the last war. The discipline in the Air Force i3 vastly superior to that of the Army. Without discipline, there cannot be a fighting force. I say that, merely for the purpose of helping the Minister to make our force more efficient than it is to-day. I am satisfied that Australian troops, if given proper training, will acquit themselves like men and be a credit to the country for which they are fighting. The film that we viewed this morning showed that there is a good deal of efficiency. The dropping of foodstuffs from aeroplanes is being practised extensively. It has been suggested that the experience of getting supplies to the Bulolo goldfields ought to be capitalized. It has already been put into operation. Instead of holding post-mortems, we should consider means whereby the difficulties that exist may be overcome, and faults may be rectified. If we do that, we shall obtain more satisfactory results. What appealed to me at to-day’s exhibition of the film was the speech of the commentator; it made a most stirring appeal to all who heard it. He said that the soldiers in Papua are living in austerity. We saw a sample of the meals that are served to the men. It would not be possible to have better food in the circumstances. But while men are suffering in this way, some persons in Australia are threatening to strike because they have not what they regard as a sufficient cigarette ration. It is time that every honorable member forgot politics. I have given all the assistance of which I have been capable in connexion with the works that the Government has had to carry out. I hope that any criticism I haveoffered has been constructive. Had I wanted to make party political capital, my remarks and actions might ‘have been different. It is the duty of every one to support the Government in its efforts tobring the war to a successful conclusion. We should endeavour to improve morale, and dissipate complacency wherever it may be found, instead of attempting tohave men exempt from service. I am in favour of the conscription of both wealth and man-power. I would never ask a man to offer his life if I were not prepared also to conscript wealth.
– The honorable member desires that something big be done.
– If the hon.oragle member and others encouraged people to serve, the country would be better off.
– What does the honorable member do to assist in the war effort?
– I am prepared to do anything that the Government may ask me to do. I offered my services when war was declared, but was informed that I was too old to serve. The man-power authorities should have the right to allot jobs to all. I hope that the Minister for the Army and Ministers generally will not take my criticism personally, but will accept the advice offered by the Opposition.
.- The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) made a statement to-day regarding the position of Mr. Mirls, who is the Controller of Gun Ammunition in the Department of Munitions. The Minister assured the House that Mr. Mirls is a full-time employee of the Government and is no longer associated with the companies by which he was previously employed. Subsequent to the Minister’s statement, I asked if the same policy was to be adopted with regard to men like Mr. Essington Lewis, who, as Director of Munitions, does an important work for the Government, but is paid for his services by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I was not criticizing Mr. Lewis’s qualities, nor was I suggesting that he did- not give of his best to Australia in the various posts that he occupies in connexion with the war administration. It was unnecessary, therefore, for the Minister for Munitions to defend Mr. Lewis in that regard. I contend, however, that it is not proper for a person to try to serve two masters, thus creating divided loyalty. He should not be paid by an outside company when he is working for the Government, because the interests of his company and the interests of the nation may clash. In order to save men like him from an invidious position, all of the war industries should be taken over by the Government for the period of the war. What should happen to those industries after the war could be determined then. The shareholders could he paid the interest on their shares, but, generally, no board of directors should have a voice in the management of a war industry while the nation is at war. My view has been admirably stated by Mr. G. D. H. ‘Cole, an English worker for social reform, in a lecture on “ Private Monopoly or Public Service “. Mr. Cole states -
The only persons who can possibly manage industry, in peace or in war, are those who have been trained to manage it, and are in command of the requisite knowledge and skill. The question is not what class of persons is to manage our industries, but under what auspices and impulsions the running of them is to bc done.
What I am contending is that our managers and technicians could make a much better job of managing and organizing our industries it they were doing it, not in a “ dual capacity “. half for the State and half for the boards of directors which pay their salaries, but wholly for the public. I have no objection at all to high officials of hig business occupying high positions in the war-time public service, provided that in becoming public servants they do really shed their capitalist connexions. I should like to see all boards of directors of big companies simply given their conge, all shareholders accorded for the war period a fixed rate of compensation payable directly by the State. But something more than this is involved. I do not want to confiscate anybody’s property without reasonable compensation: but .1 do want it to be understood that when the State takes over the war factories, there is no assurance that it will ever hand them back to the same body of private owners. For, it such an assurance is given, no temporary taking over by the State will be able to prevent the managers from having divided minds, and thinking, not only of the war effort, but also of what their directors and principal shareholders will say to them when they return to their service after the war, if in the meantime they have damaged the future profitearning capacity of their factories in the interests of victory.
I believe, then, that what is needed is not mere contemporary taking over, but nationalization outright - on a basis which will leave the future ownership and management of the big productive agencies to be settled after the war, in the light of the situation which then exists.
Some such scheme as is advocated by the writer I have quoted is necessary in Australia. The Government has set an example with regard to Mr. Mirls’s position that might well be followed with regard to the positions of others.
A long article appeared in Smith’s Weekly recently, stating that there is a lost unit of the Australian Imperial Force in China. This is the first that I had heard of it. That there is an Australian unit of some kind fighting in China seems to be confirmed by a letter that I have received from a constituent, dated the 17th September. Mr. F. Noonan, of 34 Alexandra-parade. Fitzroy, writes -
My son is with the “lost legion” in China reported in Smith’s Weekly this week. As our representative, please use all of your influence to see that mail reaches them. Some of it i; held up in Australia and some at the base post office, Calcutta.
I use that letter as prima, facie evidence that there may be some Australians who have joined up with the Chinese Army, or are in some way associated with it. lt should be possible for the Government to let the public know whether any Australians are attached to the ‘Chinese Forces.
I again draw attention to the position of certain sergeants and corporals of the staff of the District Finance Office, Melbourne, who are to be disrated. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in reply to a question asked by me on this matter, said -
Three hundred members of the staff of the District Finance Office, Victoria, have not been disrated and reduced to the ranks because they are to be replaced by members of the Australian Women’s Army Service. The facts are that 21 sergeants and corporals of the stafof the District Finance Office have been recommended to be replaced. Ten of these wore recommended for discharge on the grounds of inefficiency, six for transfer to labour companies as inefficient and lazy, and five to bc examined by a medical board on the ground of ill health.
I drew attention to the statement of the Prime Minister that the members displaced in the District Finance Office will be utilized in the Army, if required, and, if not, will be discharged and returned to civil life. I still ask that the six men recommended to be transferred to labour companies be not transferred. Somebody has said that they are inefficient, and, therefore, they are to lose their stripes and be put to work as privates in labour companies, although they are not physically fit to do the kind of work that will be expected of them. I have explained that they were soldiers in the last war, and have asked that they should be allowed to earn a living at civilian rates of pay. If they refuse to work, they may eventually be discharged with bad records. I ask for an assurance that they will be allowed to take their discharge.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), in criticizing the Government, repeated the Napoleonic dictum that an army marches on its stomach. I dc- not dissent from that assertion, nor do I question the danger of food famines, or the failure of the Army authorities to release sufficient labour for services required in connexion with our rural industries. During the two years in which I have been a member of this Parliament, I have complained about the actions of certain temporary government officials, who, “drest in a little brief authority “, are adopting an insolent, truculent and brutally unfair attitude to those who have the misfortune to have dealings with them. No impression should be created in the public mind that Australian troops are not well looked after. I think that they are being well fed. The men coming back from Port Moresby are obviously not suffering from malnutrition. The Army authorities, however, seem to be allowed to obtain too much food, and their action in that regard cannot be justified.
Silting suspended from 11. U5 p.m. to 12.80 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 25 September 1942
– I desire now to refer to the case of V.X.16532, Gunner J. C. Cox, who was recently brought back to Australia from the Middle East because of certain incidents that happened there. Gunner Cox joined the Army on the 27 th May, 1940, and was attached as orderly room clerk at 2/4 Australian Field Regiment. On the 21st January, 1941, he was transferred to the Australian Army Service Corps, Rehovoth, where he performed the duties of orderly room clerk, and did postal work, as well as being in charge of stationery, and commercial and military filing. He held the rank of acting sergeant, and was associated with the keeping of the war diary. He remained in that position until his arrest, upon instruction from Colonel Gee, on the 14th November, 1941, at 1920 hours, when he was placed under the escort of Sergeant Muirhead. At 1945 hours, Colonel Gee arrived, and called him to the entrance to the tent where, in the presence of Sergeant
Muirhead, he used the following expressions to Cox: “You dirty Jew jackal”; “ you dirty skunk “ ; “ you snake in the grass “. He then instructed Sergeant Muirhead to collect all Cox’s gear, and take it to the office, where Cox stood to attention for over one and a half hours, while Sergeant Muirhead searched through his kit. The sergeant found a bunch of letters from Australia, which had been passed by the censor, and read them all, as well as Cox’s diary. Cox was then taken into the office and further examined in connexion with a letter which he had sent to Mr. Holden, M.L.A., who occupied an important position in connexion with canteen services in Australia. In this letter, he disclosed to Mr. Holden the true position regarding the canteen services in the Middle East, and it was because of what was stated in that letter that the honorable and gallant Colonel Gee used the language complained of. ‘Cox was told to take off his -.tripes as they were not required any longer. During the cross-examination, lie was asked whether he had a police record. As a matter of fact, he had not. On the 15th November, at 1000 hours, he was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, and with having evaded the censorship, after which he was placed in the detention barracks at Rehovoth. On the 12th December, 1941, he was transferred to Beyrouth on a truck. On the 13th December, Major Farrell informed him that he was under open arrest, that he would be confined to barracks at the conclusion of work each day, and that he was being sent out to a canteen at Dimas. He remained at Dimas until the 5th January, 1942, when he was transferred to the Tripoli bulk store for duty. On the 6th February, 1942, instructions were received for him to return to Beyrouth immediately. As things turned out, it was fortunate for him that he did not leave immediately. He left Beyrouth at 1700 hours on the 7th of February, 1942, and arrived at Rehovoth at 0330 hours on the morning of the 8th February, 1942. He was instructed by Lieutenant O’Connor that he would be going to S.T.R. immediately, and left in the charge of Sergeant Evans at 1000 hours. Lieutenant O’Connor stated that it would be possible for him to join the unit at a later date. The times and dates are significant because of an attempt which he claims was made to frame him on a charge of bank robbery, so that any evidence which he might give regarding the canteens service would be discredited. On the 9th February, 1942, he was questioned by a representative of the S.I.B. as to his movements since Saturday, the 7th February, 1942, and he gave the necessary information. A few days later, he was called again and further questioned, and gave the same information as before. He was then told in confidence that he had been accurately described as the person who had committed a robbery at Kilo 89 canteen at 1130 hours on the 8th February, 1942. After his movements had been checked, it was found that he had been 100 miles away from the scene of the robbery at the time it happened. The officer said that he was sure Cox had been framed, and asked whether he could think who would have framed him. He said that he could not think of any one, but told him of the trouble he was in over the canteens. Sergeant Glenn, of the military police at Gaza, who was at Rehovoth when Cox was in safe custody, had told him that he took the details, and was satisfied to arrest and charge him on what he had been told. Naturally, Cox was very upset about the whole matter. On the 21st February, 1942, Cox was transferred to A.T.R, from S.T.R. On the 8 th March, 1942, he was called to the orderly room at 1000 hours and was charged with having sent military information to Mr. Holden, M.L.A., on or about the 14th November, 1941, and was for the second time remanded for court martial. During a period of four and a half months, he had not heard anything in regard to the previous charge. During that time, he had been reduced from the rank of acting sergeant, had served 27 days in safe custody, had been under open arrest, and was confined to barracks for three and a half months, during which time he had suffered much indignity, as well as being insulted by his superior officer. The only reason he can assign for this treatment is that he was in possession of definite information in regard to the canteens service, and was, therefore, a marked man. He appealed to his commanding officer on the 27 th March, 1942, to have his case investigated. The following are some of the things which he saw going on in the canteens, contrary to instructions : -
He claims that, because he knew that this was going on, he felt that it was his duty to take action. Although technically he may be said to have committed a military offence, no moral wrong could attach to what he did, seeing that he acted in the interests of the Australian Imperial Force. At all times, he claims, he tried to carry out his duties to the best of his ability, and he had a clean record for the 23 months of his service, apart from this incident. He bad tried to get back to Australia for several months, and finally arrived here just as the canteens inquiry had finished. He claims that if his evidence had been given before that inquiry, notion would have been taken against some of those who escaped censure. He also claims that there were worse breaches of the regulations in the Middle East than there were in Australia; but, as matters relating to Australian canteens are sub judice, I do not propose to refer to them any further. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to inquire into this matter with a view to clearing the character of Gunner Cox if the facts are as he states. I particularly ask that the papers connected with the court martial be looked into by the Minister personally, and that he take some action to see that the finding of the court martial is promulgated. Many months have passed since he was court martialled, but the court’s finding has not yet been announced. It is the duty of the Minister to investigate such cases and to take appropriate action immediately.
– I regret that, apparently, we are to face another all-night sitting. We are engaged in considering the Estimates of the service departments, and most honorable members would prefer to discuss the important subjects which arise in connexion with them under conditions in which they could think clearly, and not when subject to the effects of fatigue.
Some time ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in an excellent speech stressed the seriousness of the shipping position. He told his hearers that supplies were of vital importance to the allied nations. He referred in particular to the needs of Russia, the requirements of the armies in the Middle East, and the needs of Australia; he stressed the great difficulty of getting those supplies to the places where they were needed because of inadequate shipping facilities. The battle of the Atlantic is by no means won; our losses of shipping are still enormous. Indeed, it is difficult to see where, in any sphere, we have begun to win the war. I agree with the Prime Minister that time saved in a port in loading and unloading a vessel is almost the equivalent to having new ships at sea; yet since the outbreak of war there has been a lamentable lack of appreciation, on the part of those whose business it is to load and unload ships, of the dangers facing this country, and the consequences of defeat. The wages of wharf labourers have risen by 26½ per cent. since the war began. Coal-miners and shearers also arc in receipt of higher wages than formerly. I do not object to that.
– The cost of living has risen also.
– I was told recently that many civiliansin the various defence establishments in the Australian Capital Territory are paid 3s. a day as “ war danger pay “. I do not know whether or not that statement is correct, but the nian who made it appeared to be convinced of its truth. I do not grumble at men receiving good rates of pay, but they should give value for the money received by them. Although wages on the waterfront have risen by 26£ per cent, since the war commenced, the average output of each gang of men has decreased by 41 per cent. That is a deplorable state of affairs, and it is the duty of the Government to take immediate action to remedy it. Business interests in this country are greatly concerned at the pilfering which takes place on our wharfs. Reliable figures show that pilfering has increased by 500 per cent, since the outbreak of war. I have had some first-hand information on the subject from men employed on the wharfs. Business interests are so concerned that the Government must be acquainted with the facts. T understand that the New South Wales law does not permit men suspected of pilfering to be searched, and even should a conviction be obtained, it is well nigh impossible to get the guilty men dismissed or deregistered. Some time ago a Sydney company, whose losses from pilfering were considerable, appointed detectives to check the practice, although there was some opposition from the State authorities when it did so. Those detectives made a number of discoveries, but although some arrests were made, the State Government stepped in, and the cases were not proceeded with. Recently I met a man whom I knew years ago as a casual worker. He had never been in good health, and therefore I was astonished when, in reply to a question, lie said that he was employed on the wharfs. As I had always been of the opinion that work on the wharfs required men of strong physique, I said that I did not think he was sufficiently strong to stand up to the work required of him. J. was astounded to hear him say that a strong physique was not necessary. He said that he was earning £12 a week more easily than he had ever earned money before. The war is providing many men with a splendid opportunity to make more money than they ever received previously. I used to think that conditions in the coal-mines were hard, but I find that they are excellent. Erroneous ideas regarding the strenuous nature of the work in these avocations are still entertained by many people in the community, although that belief has been shattered in some degree, because soldiers who have had to work on the wharfs say that the work is not particularly hard. This is a matter which the Government should regard seriously. Information as to the loafing that takes place on our wharfs is being sent to our allies across the Pacific. An American major who is in Australia with the American fighting forces told me of some of his experiences at Darwin. They are supported by charges which have been given publicity in a well-known American journal, from which I shall read this paragraph -
In Melbourne, because of the emergency, the annual dockside workers’ picnic was cancelled. Nevertheless, the wharfies took the day off. National Security Regulations were invoked to compel the men to work. They ignored the order, and the Waterside Workers Federation members went on their annual picnic.
ship was tied up next to the freighter on which I sailed from Australia. That ship was carrying war materials to the Middle East. It took a month to load. An engineer conservatively estimated the loading as a five-day job.
Another ship brought special timber from thu United States of America. Timber is excellent cargo to handle and pays dock-workers extra. But they refused to unload it during the day and would only work at night in order to get overtime pay.
An American ship came into Darwin with supplies for our forces and for the Australians. The need was great; even greater was the need for bottoms. The ordinary time for unloading the ship was eight days. At Darwin, it took eight weeks to unload that ship.
Wharf labourers at Melbourne and Sydney show a lamentable lack of desire to work in the day-time. They are “ night owls “. They prefer to work at night because in that way they can earn more money. Evidently, “ filthy lucre “ has its attractions, even in war-time. The article in the journal to which I have referred continues -
An American ship arrived at Melbourne with Kittyhawk fighters. The need for aircraft in Australia was intense. Dock-workers unloaded two of the crated machines, in one day. The American colonel said : “ We’ve got to get these machines away fast! We’ll unload them ourselves.”
The dock-workers’ foreman said : “ Impossible! “ That was union work and “we will unload the ships as usual “. The colonel ignored the admonition and all the Kittyhawks were on the dock in ten hours.
Then it was discovered that the gate from the dock to the street was too narrow to get the crates through. The dock foreman readily agreed to remove the gate. “ Let’s see now “, he mused, “ we can have lbc gate down in three days. No, it will be four days. There’s u holiday in there.”
The colonel snorted: “Hey, sergeant! Get in a jeep and take care of that gate! “ The gate went down and thu planus went through m their base at once.
Those are specific charges. Stories of happenings at Darwin are similar to the incidents related in the journal. The statistics which I have cited support the stories.
I shall cite another instance. In Melbourne recently, there was a lamentable lack .of wharf labourers for day work. If an artist had set up his easel and stool on the waterfront, he had the scene for a wonderful portrayal of still life. In the evening, about an hour after the men were supposed to begin work, many of them arrived in yellow cabs. Some of t hem were a little “ under the weather “. Whilst they certainly worked the prescribed hours, they accomplished only one-quarter of what should have been done. High-sounding speeches by Ministers extolling the war effort will never defeat the enemy. Only by action will victory be gained. To date, the Allies have not been very successful. Australia does not present the best of pictures to its American allies. We asked the Government of the United States of America to assist with its conscripted troops to defend Australia, and upon their arrival, the Americans find that, through sheer lack of political “ guts “, we have two armies.
The honorable member for Herbert interjecting
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! I ask the honorable member for Herbert to refrain from interjecting.
– The honorable member for Deakin made an insulting remark.
– I shall name the Minister for Social Services if he persists in interjecting, because it is disorderly, particularly when the Chair is endeavouring to maintain decorum.
– I am sorry, but the honorable member for Deakin made a most provocative statement.
– Nothing detracts from our prestige as a nation so much as the absence of esprit de corps between the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces. If the two armies were amalgamated, the morale of our military forces would receive a valuable stimulus. In the present crisis, we require all the strength that we can muster.
I urge the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) ‘to provide country units of the Volunteer Defence Corps with more equipment, a special allowance of petrol coupons and a contribution to assist to defray the cost of the petrol. .Some members of the Volunteer Defence Corps travel considerable distances in order to attend voluntary parades. In the southern part of my electorate, 450 mcn were recently refused recognition as a Volunteer Defence Corps unit. The majority of them are strapping young timber-workers, and have an intimate knowledge of the bush. Recently, the Commander in Chief of the Allied Land Forces in the South West Pacific Area, General Sir Thomas Blainey, stated that it was idle to believe that the majority of lads from the cities could be trained as skilled jungle fighters in a few weeks or months. The time may arrive when the services of these timber-workers will be required to harass and delay .an invader. I hope that that day will never dawn, but I am a pessimist in war to the degree that I believe we should prepare for the worst. If the worst does not happen, so much the better. It is foolish to dampen the enthusiasm of these men. They do not expect much equipment, from the skies. All they desire is to serve their country. They have collected more than £100, made Mills bombs and various weapons, learned how to destroy a bridge, and acquired a knowledge of the tactics used in ambushing hostile troops. Public psychology to-day is different from that of 1914-18, and when volunteers wish to make themselves competent to combat the enemy, their enthusiasm should be encouraged. In this locality, a school for guerilla warfare is situated and I understand that the staff would welcome an opportunity to use this unit in manoeuvres. Being sure that a mistake has been made in declining to recognize these men as a unit of the Volunteer Defence Corps, I urge the Minister to reconsider his decision.
One of the greatest military concentrations in the Commonwealth is located in my electorate, and some of my constituents have been subjected to a good deal of inconvenience as a result of damage done by troops in the ‘Seymour district. One wet afternoon, I drove a horse and spring cart through this area, and was amazed at what I saw. Fences were broken, gates were down, sheep were mixed, and motor trucks had been run in here, there and everywhere. What was worse, running water was pouring down the tracks. Erosion had commenced. Some of the settlers had not been advised that their properties would form a part of the area for military manoeuvres.
– Are there American troops in the district?
– Yes. One settler, on .returning to his property after an absence of three days, found that his sheep had been yarded. I saw American motor trucks stacked with box posts for firewood. Despite all this inconvenience, the local landholders showed an excellent spirit. They recognized that certain areas had to be provided for manoeuvres, but they considered that as the training of the troops would benefit Australia as a whole, they should be recompensed for any damage. I understand that in certain instances, the Hirings Administration knows nothing of the movement of troops until their arrival at their destination, with the result, that landholders are not notified in advance of the requirements of the Army. I recognize the necessity for maintaining secrecy when troops are going to an operational theatre, but that is not necessary for training purposes. Much of the trouble could be avoided by organization and common sense.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Under cover of a discussion of the Estimates for Defence and War Services, we have just heard some amazing statements by members of the Opposition. They have directed a tirade of abuse against the Army, the workers of this country, and Ministers, particularly the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). They declared that the Minister should throw his weight about. Any returned soldier knows that the Minister cannot interfere in the command of an army. If those honorable gentlemen are genuine they will retract every word that they have said to-night in criticism of the commanders of both the Australian and allied forces, and the discipline of our troops. They criticized the fighting quality of our men, suggesting that they lack courage, and are not fighters.
– Who said that?
– Several honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was one. Such outbursts are actuated by fear, because we have suffered a slight reverse in New Guinea. Those gentlemen cannot take it. In their criticism of the Minister, they have been particularly unfair. They expect him to shoulder responsibility for that reverse. They give no credit whatsover either to. the Minister, or to the command, for what has been done since the war broke out. We have been three years at war. Nothing was done to expand our Army until twelve months after the war broke out. The war was regarded as something that was not dangerous to Australia. Following the fall of Paris and Dunkirk, we took a more serious view, and commenced to enlist some forces. At the end of two years we were not very strong; but we had made progress. However, the criticism voiced to-night is in respect of the progress which has been made during the last twelve months. Not the slightest credit is given for the fact that in that period the Army has been increased threefold. That expansion cannot be achieved without drawing men from somewhere. Obviously, industry must feel the pinch. Any criticism on the ground that such expansion was not foreseen and provided for beforehand is unjust. The workers of this country have also been criticized. Their output has been challenged. The fact is that equipment for the Army has been multiplied tenfold during the last twelve months. That represents a good output. Instead of raising piffling points, and magnifying difficulties to the proportions of national disasters, honorable gentlemen opposite should acclaim the enormous stream of production that is now flowing from our factories, and pay tribute to, not only those who are in charge of that production, but also the Army and those who are transporting it for the defence of this continent, with its 12,000 miles of coast-line, over a transport system that was not designed for such work. This job has been done under appalling conditions; and it has been done well. I,for one, have confidence in our commanders and our men. I do not doubt their courage. I served in the last war, and I have had an opportunity to see the boys who are serving in this war. As soldiers, they are just as good as their fathers were. They are made of the same stuff; and they will not let us down. It is about time that some so-called representatives of the people in this Parliament realized that they will never inspire anything like a proper spirit in the country so long as they keep criticizing everything that is done, particularly our fighting forces, and casting aspersions concerning the courage of our troops. Our soldiers are equal to any in the world. They have been tried and proved. It is easy for young fellows like the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who has never been in the firing line, to talk in that strain. To such gentlemen,I say : “ Go and do it.” If they did so, they would not make statements such as they have voiced this evening. Our soldiers are fighting under shocking conditions. Honorable members should set an example to the people of Australia. They should be sufficiently patient to wait until the war effort of the Allies is developed sufficiently to enable us to move forward. “We cannot do so to-day, because we lack the requisite transport facilities.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [1.22 a.m.]. - I bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) a complaint which has been made to me by men engaged on certain work in Northern Australia. They resent very strongly certain action which has been taken by the military authorities in their areas. Colonel Loutit, the commanding officer at Alice Springs, has caused a certain notice to be posted in three camps of men doing certain work in the Camooweal district. Most of these men are typical back-country Australians who are prepared at all times to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. This notice reads -
In pursuance of the powers vested in me, I, Noel Medway Loutit, D.S.O., an authorized person duly appointed under the said regulations in respect of so much of the Northern Territory of Australia as now lies within the No.11 Line of Communications Sub-Area, do hereby order that -
This notice has been erected in camps not only in the Northern Territory, but also in Queensland. It continues -
Every employee employed in roadconstruction work in the said sub-area do forthwith resume and continue to work in accordance with the terms of his employment.
There is no complaint with regard to that paragraph -
Any suspension of any such employee from his said work be cancelled forthwith.
On the failure of such employee to resume or continue his said work as aforesaid to the satisfaction of the person for the time being in charge of the said road construction in the said sub-area, such employee shall forthwith be dismissed from his said employment.
That means that any man with whom the engineer in charge if the job is not satisfied can be dismissed -
Upon such employee being dismissed as aforesaid, he shall forthwith submit himself for medical examination for inclusion in the Australian Military Forces.
That is the paragraph to which most exception is taken by the men. It means that, irrespective of a man’s age, his commitments and personal responsibilies or the state of his health, he must report forthwith for service in the Australian Military Forces. It might compel a man who is working in Northern Queensland to report at Banka Banka in the Northern Territory. Many of these men are drovers by occupation. Rather than remain idle, they patriotically offered their services for this job -
In the event of any such employee being found to he physically fit for service in the Australian Military Forces, he shall forthwith be included therein.
In the event of any such employee being found not to be physically fit for service in the Australian Military Forces, he shall leave the said sub-area forthwith.
A man who is living in Camooweal, or Mount Isa in Queensland, and who has taken a job on this particular work, and is subsequently found by the engineer in charge of the job to be unsatisfactory, must report at Banka Banka. It is only natural that petty differences will occur on jobs of this kind. It may happen that the engineer may, for no good reason, take a dislike to a man.Where men are thrown together under such conditions for considerable periods, friction is almost certain to occur. Under this order, the engineer can vent his personal feelings against any man on the job, and force him immediately to leave the area where he has resided for years, and has his home and family. All that the men ask is that they should not be drafted for military service, except under conditions similar to those applied to all other Australians. The notice was posted up in three camps - Shipp’s, Thorley’s and Beatty’s. A further notice read -
In connexion with the order recently signed and posted up by the officer commanding the 11th L.O.C. Area, the extent of this area has been defined by proclamation in the Commonwealth Gazette as including the whole length of this road.
The order applies to all camps and to all sections of work on the road between Mr and Tennants Creek.
Instructions have been given that In the event of any employee being dismissed, he is to be given transport in the next convoy travelling west, to resport to the officer in charge at Banka Banka for medical examination in accordance with the order of Colonel Loutit. The head-quarters of the 11th L.O.C. Area is at Alice Springs, and any necessary action in accordance with clauses 5 and6 of the order will be taken from that centre.
Nothing in this order affects the ordinary rights of employees to approach the engineer in charge of the section with complaints or requests, which will continue to be treated in accordance with conditions on the job.
We all know what happens when irritable bosses are approached by their employees with requests or complaints. The power that a boss has in normal times is multiplied in the case of this boss who, under the terms of the order, if he takes a dislike to an employee, can force him either into the Army or out of the area. Most of the men on the job are drovers who took the employment only on condition that they had the right to leave when droving was available. There is already a drought in the west, and should it intensify drovers will be needed. The order deprives these men of their citizen rights. The president and an organizer of the Australian Workers Union are now investigating complaints about conditions on this job. My correspondent has described this order in terms to which objection would be taken by you, Mr. Chairman, if I were to read his letters. In one passage he asks -
Has a main roads engineer the right or authority to order per medium of a memorandum which cannot be refuted by them, or by word of mouth which can be denied, any man or men to report to a military officer at any camp for the purpose of being absorbed into the Australian Military Forces?
Judging by his correspondence there is a great deal of dissatisfaction, although the men wish to co-operate with the military a u th orit i es.
.The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who spoke about mining, was taken by me with one of his colleagues in the Opposition to inspect two of the most modern mines in the northern coal-fields. They saw mining at its best. The mechanization of those two mines was even a revelation to me. It has occurred since I left mining fourteen years ago to become a member of Parliament. No doubt, the honorable member was impressed by what he saw, but I remind him that he saw only the mechanized section and did not go to the limits of either mine. He was quite entitled to say that the conditions and surroundings of the men at those two mines were good. But nobody can claim to be able to talk about mining after having spent only one day on a mine-field. It would take at least a fortnight of experience to qualify any one to discuss the industry. However, I am pleased that the honorable gentlemen accepted my invitation to go there. I only wish that some of my party colleagues would do the same. They would then gain some knowledge of the difficulties of the coal-mining industry - difficulties which beset, not only the miners, but also the owners. If all honorable members were acquainted with, instead of being ignorant of, the conditions in the coalmining industry we could, perhaps, do something to rehabilitate it, and, thereby ensure its playing an even greater part than it does in the war effort. I have become sick and- tired of telling honorable gentlemen about the conditions in the coal-mining industry and about how the miners have risen above their difficulties to assist the nation towards victory. The enemy is seeking to cut our shipping lanes in order to prevent us from obtaining oil and petroleum from abroad. For fourteen years I have spoken on this question. The party to which I belong, and the other party away back in 1934, under the leadership of the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, promised, if returned to power, to put the industry upon such a basis that it would bc more useful than it is to-day. Nothing, however, has been done. I have quoted figures showing what other countries have done, and do not want to repeat them to-night, but they show definitely that in those countries the production of oil from coal and shale is not considered from the point of view of whether or not it is an economic proposition. It is undertaken as part of the defence system of the country. Unfortunately, the British Empire to-day has no oil supplies of its own. On many occasions I have put before the House figures showing that the Imperial Government could supply its Navy and Air Force with necessary fuel from this source. I warned various governments as far back as 1932 that if war came, and we could boast of an air force and mechanized units, which must have oil to propel the machines, the cutting off of our oil supplies would be a tragedy. All that has been done has been to develop to some degree the production of power alcohol, simply to appease the rural section of the community. It has been proved that the production of oil from coal is a more economic proposition than the production of oil from shale, due mainly to’ the fact that the initial cost of producing coal is much less than that of shale. From the mining point of view, shale has a very low seam, only 2 ft. to 2ft. 6 in. high in the deposits at Newnes, necessitating overhead costs of brushing, which is the technical term used for blowing down tho hard strata from above in order that men and horses may bo able to go in to work. Goal has a seam from 20 ft. to 30 ft. high and bias an oil content at least 70 per cent, of that of shale, but the mining cost of shale is 200 per cent, higher than that of coal. I become sick ‘and tired of talking on this subject, but the fact remains that we are now in the midst of a war which I predicted as far back as 1929. In all that time nothing bias been done to improve our oil supply from this source, despite the fact that all political parties have promised the electors to do something. The then light honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) when Prime Minister told me that it was not an economic proposition. My reply was, “ Is the building of a battleship an economic proposition?” Is the building of a bomber, or of any of the other hellish instruments of death an economic proposition? We have machines, but if sea traffic is interrupted we shall not have the necessary fuel to propel them.
I see that £60,000 has already been spent on the Goal Board. It Ls hard for any one who understands mining to make up his mind whether that expenditure has been justified or not. I cannot see what useful purpose has been served so far. All I can find is reports submitted to this and the previous Government regarding strikes that took place, without any explanation of the cause. I say without hesitation and without egotism that from the moment the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) at his last conference took the miners’ representatives and myself into his confidence so far as the real danger to this country was concerned, I busied myself in visiting the various districts in New South Wales to tell the miners the facts. I went to my own northern district first, and there had a heart-to-heart talk with them. I went next to the western district, and then to the southern district.
From the day on which the miners were told the truth about the danger facing them, I am proud to say that they have responded to a wonderful degree, and the stoppages in the coal industry to-day are the lowest on record.
I wish to make a few comments on air raid precautions work, which comes under the control of the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini). A sum of £3,000,000 is provided for this purpose on the Estimates for the current year, and £756,505 was expended last year. Its administration, however, has been handed over to the States, and the Minister is only a rubber stamp in their hands.
– That is nonsense.
– The Minister has nothing whatever to do with the control of lighting. Conditions in the city of Newcastle, the most important in the Commonwealth so far as war production is concerned, are tragic. When 60 or 70 miles away from Newcastle in an aeroplane, one can see a glare of light. Fifteen miles away from the city, out on the highlands, one cannot help wondering how such a thing could be allowed to happen. If ever a city invited night attack, Newcastle does. I have protested to the Minister and to the City Council, but the control has been handed to the States, which, in their turn, have handed it to the local governing authorities, each one of which has its own system of lighting. The lighting is far too bright at another important place further south, where munitions are made in large quantities and sent north to the Australian and allied forces.
– What lights is the honorable member referring to now?
– I am referring to certain railway assembling yards in Victoria and Newcastle.
– What about the shunters who work in them?
– No doubt a certain amount of risk would be run by them if they had no lighting system at all, but at least the lights could be dimmed much more than they are. Travelling through the northern district I see in one place lighting quite different from that in another. There is no uniformity whatever. If we hand these matters over to the States, we can expect nothing else, because each local authority pleases itself. The Minister should assert himself. I know he has the courage to do so, but it was the Government that made the mistake in handing air raid precautions work over for the States to administer. Although the Department of Labour and National Service may have its ministerial head in Canberra, the State services control it. Likewise, the State services control the Minister for Home Security. He is only a figure head, a rubber stamp like “Ned” Ward. I always give credit where credit is due. but I am impelled to criticize the delay in increasing our munitions output, particularly from new factories under Government control. There has been a speeding up in annexes attached to private establishments, because that will be of benefit to the private owners after the war. When a previous government proposed to establish- these annexes, I, with the support of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), proposed that the Commonwealth should acquire the sites instead of building the annexes on private property. I was told that when the war ended the Commonwealth could take over the annexes. But buildings of reinforced concrete would be of very little value to the Commonwealth when they were pulled down for removal. They would be an encumbrance rather than an asset, as they would have been had they been built on Commonwealth property. Unfortunately, my proposal was defeated. I must pay a tribute to the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) in connexion with the establishment of munitions factories. After he had visited the coal-fields when he was Prime Minister a.nd had seen the distress there, he promised me that he would do something for those areas, and he honoured his promise- by having the Rutherford munitions factory erected. The trouble is that that establishment is not yet in production. It ought to be because, despite what has been said about manpower shortage?, there are plenty of men outside the military age groups, and thousands of women who could work in it. I have suggested, without success, that some of these people be taken to Sydney to be trained as munitions workers. The present Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has visited the factory, and we hope that as a result, production will begin in December at the latest. These delays are tragic. I do not blame the present Government for them, because it has tried to stimulate production as much as possible. I am sick and tired of Ministers “ passing the buck “ from one to the other whenever complaints are lodged. I wrote to the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) complaining that labourers, who were employed in the coal-mining industry but who were forced out of it in the years between 1929 and 1939, are not now permitted to return to the mines. He informed me that the matter was the responsibility of the Minister for the Army. I wrote to the Minister for the Army, who referred me to the Minister, for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). Finally, I wrote to the Prime Minister, who told me that my complaint should be directed to the manpower authorities. Thus the matter has gone around the departments, and I am still chasing my tail. But I know that the decision to prevent these men from returning to the mines was made by the War Cabinet- Since the accession to power of a Labour Government in New South Wales, a law has been passed providing for the compulsory retirement of miners at the age of 60 years. Many miners do not want to retire at that age. because they are still physically fit and wish to earn as much as possible while their sons are fighting in the armed forces. This law is having a bad effect upon production in the coal-mining industry, and there is likely to be an acute shortage of skilled miners in the near future. Many soldiers who have served overseas with the Army and have returned to Australia want to go back to the mines, but the Department of the Army, which is the toughest of all the Commonwealth departments will not release them.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– There have been so many speakers on this proposed vote, and the hour is so late, that it would be impossible for me to deal in detail with all of the subjects that have been discussed. However, these matters will receive the fullest and most sympathetic consideration of myself and other Ministers. Probably the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully; will have something to say in regard to matters that have been brought to his notice. I was greatly impressed with the speech made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), who was courageous enough to express his appreciation of the wonderful improvement in the Australian Army and the general defences of this country. 1 was disappointed at the general tendency to “knock” the Army and break down confidence in our military leaders, who have under their charge the mightiest fighting force ever assembled in the southern hemisphere. Honorable members should not endeavour to undermine confidence in these men ; such actions arc subversive of discipline.
– It is sabotaging morale.
– Yes, not only the morale of the fighting men, but also the morale of the civil population.
– I am not indulging in that criticism, but honorable members have a perfect right to offer criticism without being charged with being subversive or indulging in sabotage.
– The honorable member spoke for an hour, but I did not have him in mind when I made the statement. I have not spoken previously, but I have listened for almost twelve hours to various criticisms of tb, Army. I do not say that the Australian Army is perfect. No organization that had grown from a membership of 30,000 four or five years ago to a membership of hundreds of thousands to-day could he perfect. This rapid expansion has necessitated the speedy training of officers, many of whom were engaged in civil occupations not long ago. We had a nucleus consisting of a couple of hundred men trained at Duntroon, and a number of very fine militia officers, but we did not have anything like the number of officers required for a vast military organization such as we have- to-day.
Considering all the circumstances, I con tend that we in Australia have a very efficient army, of which any government, and any country, could feel proud. Since I”. have been Minister for the Army, I have travelled all over Australia, visiting military camps from North Queensland, to .Hobart in Tasmania, and Adelaide in South Australia. Had Parliament not met early this month I should have visited all other centres in which Australian Military Forces are stationed. When Parliament adjourns I shall continue my visits in order to make personal contact with the men who are on service at our various battle stations, in order that I may see the conditions under which they are living, the state of their equipment, and the standard of their morale and discipline. As one who has visited not only Australian Imperial Force and Australian Military Forces camps, but also camps of the American forces, I say that a very fine spirit prevails throughout. Most of thi.5 carping criticism about alleged lack of discipline, morale and efficiency emanates largely from armchair critics, who read what some correspondent, writes in a newspaper, or perhaps see a soldier under the influence of liquor on a street corner in Sydney or Melbourne during a holiday period. One gets an entirely different picture after visiting subtropical and tropical parts of Queensland in which these men undergo tough training, stripped to the waist. There is nothing to beat them, and one can be filled only with admiration when one sees the wonderful spirit of loyalty that exists among the men and their officers, who also are living under battle conditions and sharing hardships. I have seen majors-general in command of divisions, living in tents under mango trees in Queensland, miles from the amenities of big cities. There has been a. revolutionary change in the Australian Army since I have been Minister for the Army.
– Is the Minister entirely satisfied with the discipline of the Australian Army?
– Generally speaking, the discipline of the Australian Army to-day is as good as it has ever been, and judging by reports that I have received from commanding officers, it is improving month by month. In the course of my discussions with military leaders, and with men of the rank and file of the Australian Army, I have found that there is a deep feeling of resentment against the - continued carping criticism about alleged lack of discipline among our military forces. The men claim that in view of the sacrifices that they are making, it is most discouraging to read that they are a disgrace to Australia and so on. They feel that such statements are poor recognition of the services that they are rendering to their country. In round figures, the Australian Army to-day is three times as large as it was when I assumed office about a year ago, and 1 am sure that all honorable members, irrespective of party affiliations, will agree that I have worked day and night, so long as it was physically possible to keep awake, dealing with the multitudinous problems that have come before me. The only recreation that I have had during that time has been the enjoyment of meeting, face to face, our men in camps and at battle stations, and talking their problems over with them. I claim that during this period I have seen more of the Australian forces than any other man in Australia. It is not necessary for the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) to tell me that 1 must be ruthless and that any one who is not ruthless cannot dismiss officers who fail in their duty. We are doing that every week, but we do not advertise it. He knows that there has been a greater re-organization of the Australian Army during the time that I have been Minister that at any time since it was formed. When it was necessary to bring back from the Middle East a number of brilliant young officers to place in charge of divisions in Australia, that action was taken fearlessly in the interests of this country. Old and less experienced officers were retired to make way for them. Not only were brigadiers brought back to this country, but colonels, lieutenants-colonel, majors, captains and other Australian Imperial Force officers were recalled and given responsible positions in the Army organization in this country. I remind honorable members also that this Government was responsible, in the face of considerable criticism, for bringing back to Australia a large proportion of the Australian Imperial Force.
– On no occasion have I criticized the Government on that score.
– If the honorable member did not do so himself, members of his party did. When this Government assumed office Australia was in a comparatively defenceless position. Ample evidence of that is to be found in speeches made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) who was my predecessor. He said a couple of months before I took office that Australia did not have a force sufficiently well equipped to repel an enemy. The position is very different to-day. As a Government we soon realized the necessity to bring Australian Imperial Force troops back from the Middle East. Probably one of the most masterly strokes achieved by this Government was its successful negotiations with the American Government for the appointment of General Douglas MacArthur - one of the greatest military leaders - -as Commander-in-Chief of the South-west Pacific Area. General Douglas MacArthur inspired not only the people of Australia, but also those of the other democracies, and great satisfaction was expressed when it was known that the hero of Bataan would assume command in this area.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) made certain statements which might cause people in this country to lose some regard for General Douglas MacArthur, and for General Sir Thomas Blamey, the Commander of the Allied Land Forces in the South-west Pacific Area, .but any one who knows the position will realize that both these men are doing a wonderful job for Australia. The honorable member has had no military experience whatever.
– I am sure that General Douglas MacArthur will bear out my words about the “ wharfies “.
– No. I was amazed at the honorable member’s speech. He made unwarranted jibes at honorable members on this side of the chamber, and cast re flections ‘on those commanding the Allied Forces in the South-west Pacific Area. It ill-becomes the honorable member to say anything which reflects upon the men who are bearing so heavy a responsibility in the reorganization of our Army, which is being welded into the mightiest fighting force ever raised in the southern hemisphere.
– I shall be interested to know just what I did say.
– The honorable member said American troops had been responsible for destruction in his electorate and that water had caused erosion.
– Obviously, the honorable member has little gratitude for those gallant men who have come from the United States of America to fight in this country. It is appalling to think that a member of this Parliament is prepared to descend to party political tactics, and to make a parish pump speech in tho hope of pleasing some individuals in his electorate whose fences may have been damaged in the course of military manoeuvres. We are proud of these men who have come from the United States of America; we are proud of the fact that we have an able and gallant American as Commander-in-Chief, and I am proud to be a member of the Government which was responsible for General Douglas MacArthur’s appointment, and for the appointment of General Sir Thomas Blamey, who was the General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East, as Commander of the Allied Land Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area. General Sir Thomas Blamey is working in the fullest cooperation with General Douglas MacArthur. I am not prepared to say where they are at present, but I assure honorable members that they have been working in active co-operation and consultation in regard to the dangers in the north of Australia. After listening to some of the speeches made in this debate, one would think that there are thousands of Australians in the South Pacific islands who are under the control of inefficient officers and who are led by a band of nitwits and “blimps”. These armchair field-marshals seek to tell us, in effect, that General Douglas MacArthur. General Sir Thomas Blarney, and Those other brilliant officers who are now in the New Guinea area cannot be relied upon to do their duty. The Government has implicit confidence in its military leaders, and it is not going to be stampeded into making scapegoats of them. If there be shortcomings in the defences of Australia, the blame should rest upon previous governments rather than upon our military leaders, most of whom have given meritorious service in the Mediterranean area and elsewhere, and are thoroughly conversant with modern warfare. Surely they can be trusted to do the right thing in the leadership of our men. For security reasons I cannot so into details of the struggle that is going on in New Guinea to-day. That would be quite wrong. We shall have opportunities to discuss these matters later. At least six members of the Opposition are members of the Advisory War Council, and will be able to participate in such discussions. Nothing is hidden from them. The Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces who recently visited New Guinea, has since attended a meeting” of the Advisory War Council and has answered all questions put to him, so I consider that I am justified in saying that all the cards have been put on the table. It is somewhat nauseating therefore to find that, a party political campaign i3 being waged by certain honorable gentlemen opposite against the men who are entrusted with the responsibility of leading our armies.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who is usually fair in his criticism, amazed me when he criticized me for attending, during the recess, the Hobart centenary celebrations. The Prime Minister was invited to attend, but was not able to do so, and he asked me to represent him. I had promised previously to inspect the defences of Tasmania and to visit various military establishments there in order to ascertain urgent requirements. During my visit. T. met the military leaders and inspected all the defences. As the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) knows, while I was in Launceston I inspected military camps and, at the invitation of the commanding officer in Tasmania, 1 addressed the troops. The next day, while travelling from the north to the south of the State, I visited troops in hospital. Many of those men have returned from the Middle East and other theatres of war and they discussed war problems with me. On the morning of the Hobart celebrations, I inspected defence establishments in the vicinity of the city, and from 2 o’clock till 4 o’clock I was present at the celebrations in the Hobart Town Hall, and made a speech on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
– The Minister realizes, surely, that I made my statement in order to illustrate my contention that he would have had time to visit Port Moresby.
– The honorable gentleman sought to create the impression that I went to Hobart, on a kind of jaunt. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and other Tasmanian members were present in Hobart at the celebrations, and I have every reason to believe that my visit was approved by the Tasmanian people. I really thought that the honorable member for New England would have risen above party political considerations, and that at this grave time in our history he would not be seeking newspaper head-lines and a little cheap publicity. This is not the time to play the petty party political game.
Numerous subjects have been dealt with by honorable members in the course of this discussion, and I cannot now reply to them all. I wish, however, to refer to the request of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that certain men in the Army - principally skilled butter-makers - be released for work in butter factories in Victoria. The honorable gentleman said that it was necessary that something be done. I cannot give a guarantee that we shall be able to go through this war without serious inconvenience to primary producers, manufacturers, employers and, in fact, every section of the community. I have the greatest respect for the honorable member for Gippsland and I assure him that I realize the difficulties to which he has referred ; but I cannot promise him that large numbers of men will be released from our armed forces in order that the work of butter factories may be maintained as in peace-time. As the result of representations made to me by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) and other honorable gentlemen, I have convened a conference of representatives of farming organizations and other rural interests to meet me at Victoria Barracks on Saturday afternoon at 3 o’clock. The Adjutant-General and other representatives of the Army will be present. We shall discuss the problems confronting the primary producers, but we shall also place before the conference the great importance, in view of the grave international situation, of keeping sufficient nien in the Army to ensure the security of this country.
– Will the conference consist of Victorian representatives only?
– The representations wore made particularly in relation to Victoria, but I shall be pleased to meet the representatives of other States, as occasion offers, as I mot representative people in Tasmania recently. If any Victorian member of this Parliament would care to spend a quiet Saturday afternoon at the conference, I give hi.m an invitation to attend. I make it clear, however, that, notwithstanding the difficulties of the butter manufacturers, it will not. be possible for us to release thousands of men from the Army in order that primary production may be maintained as in peace-time. A report received recently from our man-power officers has been considered by Ministers. Tt was also referred to the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces in the Couth-West Pacific and discussed with the Supreme Allied Commander, General Douglas MacArthur. I have now received a report from the Commander-in-Chief regarding the Army requirements, and in view of its contents I am unable to give any undertaking that large numbers of men can be released from the Army to engage in seasonal occupations. That does not mean that we cannot release men here and there for butter-making, shearing and the like within reasonable limits; but we cannot release men in such numbers as to impair the efficiency of the Army. These matters will be discussed al: the conference on Saturday.
– The problems of primary production are not peculiar to Tasmania.
– I am well aware of that fact.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred to a number of subjects in the course of his speech. I do not propose ro discuss them in detail now, but 1 assure him that they all will receive my careful consideration. The honorable gentleman said that certain men who had been enlisted to work in the finance branch of the Army as clerks had been transferred to labour units. 1 point out that no nian is enlisted in the Army for a particular duty. Those enlisted for service may be allotted to any duty required of them. The rank given to persons enlisted for special duties is temporary, and when they cease to perform those duties they automatically cease to hold their rank. I shall inquire into the instances referred to by the honorable member. The Australian Army is being carefully combed, and ruthless action is being taken to remove unqualified men who are not satisfactorily carrying out the duties allotted to them. All I can guarantee is that men who are not qualified to perform the duties that they are expected to perform will he removed from their positions so that efficient men may be put in their places.
“2.43 a.m.]. - I wish to reply to certain inaccurate and misleading statements made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The honorable gentleman’s speech was in marked contrast, to those delivered by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr Francis) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), both of whom evinced a desire to co-operate fully with the Government, in order to assist it. to meet the serious position which confronts the country. The speech of the honorable member for Richmond was totally different, and was of the “ knocking “ variety.
– He is just a “ knocker “.
– That is so. The honorable gentleman spoke at length concerning the action of this Government in connexion with food production in Australia and exports to the United Kingdom. In order that there shall be no misunderstanding ofthe true position, I shall state it briefly to the committee. The honorable member claimed that in previous years the Commonwealth Government had exported substantial quantities of badly-needed foodstuffs to the United Kingdom, but that this Government had failed to make the necessary provision for such exports. In his approach to this problem, the honorable member adopted an unfair attitude, and has apparently deliberately overlooked or omitted to mention the following three very important f ac tors : -
The honorable member must have been aware that during the first two years of the war Australia had export surpluses of the principal food commodities and that, at that stage, it was a matter not of supplying Britain with its requirements but of inducing the Government of the United Kingdom to take the whole of the available surplus of Australian products. It was possible during this period, therefore, for Australia to enter into contracts with the British Ministry of Pood for the supply of exceptionally large quantities of meat, dairy produce and eggs. Australia carried out these contracts, which were of tremendous value not only to this country but also to Great Britain, in that the supplies we were able to make available formed valuable reserves for the feeding of the people of the United Kingdom. With the advent of war to the Pacific conditions changed, as it were, overnight, and Australia, instead of being a country of export surpluses, found that it had to provide for increasingly huge demands for essential foodstuffs in order to meet the needs of the fighting forces in Australia. Moreover, with the possibility of actual warfare on this continent, the Government was forced to provide adequate supplies of foodstuffs for the civilian population in addition to building up reserves of these foodstuffs in case of emergency. The honorable member for Richmond admitted that he was aware of poor seasonal conditions last year in New South Wales and Queensland. The latter State, in particular, experienced a very dry period, during which the production of dairy produce was reduced materially. Moreover, these conditions affected the supplies of beef, for which the demands have been increasing. Similar conditions in a large area, of New South Wales affected the production of dairy produce and eggs, and at certain periods we were forced to face up to the fact that surpluses of essential foodstuffs were not available to be put into reserve for export to the United Kingdom.
There is another side to this story, with which the honorable member did not deal. It relates to the demands upon Australia for foodstuffs by the British Government. He, I presume, is aware of the exceptionally difficult problems that have been experienced in regard to shipping, and the efforts made by the Government to secure refrigerated space in which to carry perishable products to the United Kingdom. In this regard, his attention might be directed to the action taken by the Commonwealth Government at the suggestion of the Government of the United Kingdom to process, into a canned or dehydrated form, all available foodstuffs that can be so treated. He referred to egg powder. For his information, I inform him that we have been asked to can and dehydrate meat so that shipping space may be saved, and to process butter into pure butter-fat which may be shipped in less space as general cargo. These facts must necessarily have affected the volume of our exports to the United Kingdom.
Reverting to meat: The honorable member may, or may not, be aware that the British Ministry of Food this year entered into a contract with the Australian Government for the supply of 110,000 tons of frozen carcase meat. This was due entirely to the inability of the British Government to supply refrigerated shipping space for any greater quantity. This compares with a contract for 210,000 tons for the previous year, and 240,000 tons in the first year of the war, when actual shipments of frozen carcase meat were approximately 2i60,00O tons.
In connexion with dairy produce, I point out that the original contract with the British Government was on the basis of 100,000 tons of butter per annum. For this contract year, the British Ministry indicated that it desired only G0,000 tons of butter and that it would prefer it to cheese. In compliance with this request, the Common wealth Government instituted steps to arrange for the necessary change-over from the manufacture of butter to cheese. We were also informed that the British Ministry of Food did not require other than choicest and first quality butter. Again the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the Dairy Produce Control Committee, met the position by processing low-grade butter and sending it to the United Kingdom as pure butter fat in general cargo space. These experiments were so successful that Great Britain has now informed us that it is prepared to take, next contract year, 10,000 tons of pure butter-fat and any further quantities that may be available. In order that the honorable member may fully appreciate the position, I inform him further that recent advices from Great Britain in connexion with dairy produce are to the effect that butter is again in demand. A total of 85,000 tons has: been mentioned; but the previous demands for cheese have been reduced by 75 per cent.
– Because of the reduction of the British contract, is there to be a surplus of cheese left in Australia?
– It is anticipated that there will be a surplus.
It will be appreciated that once again the industry is being asked to arrange a changeover and that this will necessitate a slight hold-up of production. The Commonwealth Government, however, is ‘taking all steps to ensure that the requests of the British Government shall be met as far as possible.
At this point, mention may he made of eggs. Here, too, seasonal conditions played an important part in the industry, with the result that the production failed considerably. I do not want- to convey the impression that seasonal conditions were entirely responsible for the falling off of the production of dairy produce, meat and eggs, but I do say that, combined with the shortage of man-power in primary industries, (hey made it extremely difficult for the industries concerned to maintain production at previous levels. This aspect of the matter has had the serious considerations of the Government, and it is hoped that the position will improve progressively from now on. I have digressed slightly in regard to eggs. The preliminary indications were that egg production this year would not suffice to meet all the demands for service requirements in Australia, and local consumption. With the improvement of the season, the supplies are now estimated to be in excess of requirements, and it is anticipated that a substantial quantity of egg powder, totalling more than 2,000,000 lb., will be available for export to the United Kingdom.
The first contract for the supply of dried vine fruits to Great Britain covered 49,700 tons. In the second year, the contract was reduced to 33,000 tons, due to a falling off of production- Last year, however, we were again able to increase the contract, on this occasion to 44,000 tons, which is being shipped at the present time. I mention here that rather than reduce the quantities for export to the United Kingdom, the Government took measures to ensure that the contract quantities would be available.
At the beginning of the present season, the British Ministry of Food advised that purchases of canned fruits from Australia from the 1942 pack were not contemplated. It indicated, however, that the maximum quantity of fruit pulp would be required. As the resultof this advice, the canned fruit pack was reduced so as to enable a diversion of fruit from cans to pulp. Recently, the Ministry asked for supplies of canned fruits for Near-East requirements, and an allocation of 300,000 cases was made from the limited supplies available in Australia for civilian requirements. Exports of fruit pulp to the United Kingdom, however, were increased substantially during this year. Approximately 4,000 tons was shipped, consisting of apricot pulp and berry fruit pulp. On the other hand, the Ministry of Food indicated that it would take from Australia substantial quantities of jams, and mentioned 20,000 tons. In order to illustrate the difficulties of the Government in this connexion, war developments in Australia caused unprecedented increases of the jam requirements for Australian and allied defence services. In March, it became necessary for action to be taken to prohibit the export of jam from Australia. Prior to that, 3,700 tons of jam had been sent to the United Kingdom; further exports were not possible.
I consider that this explanation will convince the honorable member that his charges against the Government in this matter have been ill-founded, and that the Government has been just as anxious as the Government of which he was a member, if not more anxious, to meet the urgent needs of the people of the United Kingdom. I ask honorable members to accept my assurance that the matter of food supplies is having theconstant attention of the Government, and that every effort is being made to ensure the production of essential foodstuffs so as to meet the needs of the allied services in Australia, the civilian population, and the needs of Great Britain, all of which are regarded by the Government as of equal importance.
– Will the honorable gentleman reply to the recommendation in the report of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, that the price of dairy products be substantially increased? Has the honorable gentleman examined the report and recommendations of that committee.
– I have studied the report briefly, and compliment the honorable gentleman and the committee upon it. It will be of immense service to me. I shall deal with the recomendations as soon as possible.
– I rise to correct a misinterpretation or misrepresentation of my speech by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). He would not have made it but for an interjection by the honorable member forHenty (Mr. Coles). I do not mind what the honorable member for Henty says ; that honorable gentleman has a habit of overthrowing and trampling rather heavily on his principles. But I consider that the remarks of the Minister ought to be corrected. He will remember that I was referring to the Hirings Administration, and pointing out the delay that occurs in arriving at a settlement of claims. I mentioned damage that had been done to certain properties in the Seymour area by American troops and others.What I said is perfectly true. But I made it plain that the landowners who had suffered damage had no bad feelings concerning the American troops. They said, “ These boys are in our country to do a job, and cannot be expected to worry about things like this. They are here to manoeuvre and train, and we want them to do so “.
– That is not what the honorable member said.
– I said something very like that, but I also said that the land-owners’ view was : “ This is something for Australia, and we should not suffer because we happen to be in the particular area “. Those were almost my identical words. If the Minister in the near future will leave the train at Seymour, I shall take pleasure in arranging for him to be met by some of these land-owners. I should like him to go out a few miles to Bjorkeston’s property. There he will see exactly what I have told him, although it occurred some time ago.
.- I understood the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) to say that the farmers in the Seymour district had sustained a good deal of loss as a result of the occupation of land in that area by units of the American forces. We must realize that our American friends are assisting us to defend this country. We owe a lot to them, and. we are also indebted to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) for having invited them to come here. When the ‘Government sought assistance from the President of the United States of America, it was improperly accused of a desire that Australia should “ cut the painter “ and go independently of Great Britain. If the Prime Minister does nothing else as leader of the party to which I belong, it may be said that at least he has saved Australia from invasion.
I have previously asked the Government to send back to the coal industry coal-miners who have been put to work in other industries. The Prime Minister is “ passing the buck “ to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), but he is responsible for the action of his Government and should be quite candid in the matter, instead of sending me from one Minister to another in order to obtain satisfaction. 1. hope that the Prime Minister will reply to my complaint. Coal-miners in New South Wales are retired compulsorily at the age of 60 years, but some of them object to compulsory retirement because they are still able to continue work. During the depression years 1929 to 1939 many miners transferred to other industries, in which they are employed to-day, and they are not pulling their weight in the war. Their sons are fighting overseas, and the fathers consider that they could serve their country better than at present by returning to the coal-mining industry. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister may say that difficulty is experienced in providing transport for the coal that is now being produced, I fear that the stage will be reached when the supply of coal will be insufficient, unless those men are called back to the industry. Many men are able to do the labouring work in which those miners are now engaged, but it is not easy to obtain nien suitable for employment in the coalmining industry. They must have had two years’ experience at the coal face before they are permitted to produce coal. If experienced men are not employed in the industry there will be a greater number of casualties in it than there are at present.
The Labour movement in my electorate has taken up the subject of the necessity for healthy conditions in military camps, and I have approached the Minister for the Army on many occasions on behalf of the local governing authorities. Every ratepayer in and around the shire of Lake Macquarie is required to have his premises connected with the sewerage system, but the military authorities, who are a law to themselves, decline to provide sewerage facilities at military camps, and have adopted what is known as pit sanitation. This system is not conducive to the health of the troops, particularly in lowlying areas. Why should the Army authorities be permitted to take over an area such as Spears Point Park as a military camp without having it connected with the sewerage system? The danger of dengue fever has been brought to the notice of the public, and I contend that the health of the people is of paramount importance.
An austerity campaign has been launched, but in military camps, of which there are about seven in my electorate, a great deal of waste of good food occurs. This also happens at the aerodromes at Rathmines and Williamtown. Although many of the troops obtain weekend leave, the same quantity of food is cooked at the week-ends as during the week. About four persons have contracts for the collection of waste food, and the waste that 1 have personally witnessed is tragic. I saw one contractor take away 37 roasts of beef from which there had not been even one cut. The orders given for meat for these camps should be regulated in accordance with requirements. Contractors should not be permitted to enrich themselves by feeding pigs with waste food, and at the same time supplying the camps with pork.
Young men are being sent overseas to fight in the defence of this country and of the mandated territory. Many of them are only about eighteen years of age and have had very little training, but not one Minister has yet visited the battle area to see how our lads are faring. During the last war, when a Labour Government was in office, it sent a special delegation to visit the troops in Prance. I am not asking to be sent on such a mission, but I am willing to go. I believe that it is the duty of the Minister for the Army, and of other service Ministers also, to see for themselves the conditions under which our boys are fighting. The military men who are engaged in the campaign cannot come into this House to tell us what is going on. Therefore, Ministers should acquaint themselves of the position, so that they can pass on the knowledge to honorable members. For my part, I would not be prepared to send citizens of Australia to serve against the enemy anywhere unless I had the courage to go there myself. What a wonderful encouragement it would be to the boys if some of us here were to visit them. If the Ministers are not prepared to go, let us send a parliamentary delegation. We could talk to the boys, and give them some encouragement. I say to the Prime Minister that some of us must go up there. If no one in the Cabinet is prepared to go, then send old Rowley.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Remainder of Estimates - by leave - taken as a whole.
– I desire to call the attention of the Government to the hardship inflicted upon our troops by the recent increase of canteen prices for tobacco and liquor. It is wrong that the men who are fighting for us should have the price of these commodities constantly raised against them, while members of the American Forces, serving in the same areas, are able to buy their liquor and tobacco for about onethird of the price. The effect of the recent increase of prices is that a soldier who smokes twenty cigarettes a day, and drinks a pint of beer, is worse off than he was before the recent increase of his pay by 6d. a day. On a packet of twenty cigarettes, he pays an extra 4d. On a pint of beer, he pays an extra 2d. and on a 2s. seat in a picture show, he pays 7d. tax, which is at the rate of Id. a day. In the American canteens, a packet of twenty cigarettes costs only 6d., whereas the cost of twenty cigarettes to our soldiers is ls. 7d. Members of our Naval forces can buy cigarettes and liquor at prices very much below those which members of the Army and Air Force have to pay. When I was Assistant Minister for Defence some years ago, the Department of the Navy was exempted from payment of excise on tobacco and liquor, so that the men were able to obtain those commodities at a cheaper rate. That concession still obtains in the Navy, and I ask that it be extended to the Army and the Air Force. I do not suggest that men in the Army and Air Force should be permitted to buy large quantities of tobacco and liquor in the camps, because they would then be able to take the goods outside and sell them, but they should be permitted to buy at all canteens and at, the reduced prices sufficient for their own use. Men serving in the Army have to deny themselves a great deal, and they are entitled to this small concession. Soldiers serving in the remote parts of Australia enjoy none of the ordinary amenities of life except liquor and tobacco, and they should be able to obtain these at reasonable prices. Through the- kindness of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), I recently visited units serving in Northern Queensland, where conditions are extremely hard. The men arc living in bush gunyahs in a part of Queensland where the heat and mosquitoes are almost unbearable. Therefore, it is not too much to expect the Government to grant this small concession.
– I shall look into the matter.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s assurance that he will personally inquire whether my request in this matter can be granted.
.- I draw the attention of the committee to certain matters pertaining to the administration of the Repatriation Department. Towards the conclusion of the last sittings of Parliament, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) promised that a committee would be set up to inquire into anomalies in the Commonwealth Repatriation Act and its administration. A joint committee representing all parties in the Parliament was duly set up, and its report is now before Cabinet. I understand that amending legislation will be brought down in the near future. I regret, however, that the committee was not deputed to inquire into the administration of the act. It is the considered opinion of representatives of the returned soldiers that the ad/ministration needs to be overhauled. I quote the following report of proceedings at the last congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League in Sydney: -
Charges wore ninda at the Returned Soldiers League Congress to-day by the League Pension Officer (Mr. A. E. Roberts) that soldiers of this war discharged unfit were not getting pensions and had to pay for medical treatment themselves.
A delegate asked Mr. Roberts whether the Government picked the “ most inhuman men “ to put on the Repatriation Board. Mr. Roberts said, “ It is no good putting bills on the statute-book unless they are administered in a proper manner. The act could be, and should bo, more liberally interpreted.”
Congress, on the motion of the Parramatta Macarthur sub-branch, decided to recommend that war pensions be increased to cope with the rising cost of living.
On the motion of the North Sydney subbranch, Congress decided that widows’ and children’s pensions should be increased by 50 per cent.
– The committee has reported upon the administration of the act.
– I was assured by the chairman of the committee that it had not gone into the matter of administration. The Appeals Entitlement Tribunal lias been reconstituted by the Minister because it was found to be out of touch with returned soldiers. When he found that 450 out of 500 appeals had been turned down, the Minister saw that it was lime to act. Tho Assessment Tribunal, consisting of medical men, also needs to be overhauled. Some of those who serve on this tribunal were previously in the employ of insurance companies, where their duty was to refuse as many applications as they could, and they have carried this policy into their work on the Assessment Tribunal. The tribunal in its present form should be abolished, and whilst medical men should still be called upon to advise the commission, they should not be given authority.
– Who should do this work ?
– It should be given to men who are qualified to sift the evidence placed before them. I could cite numerous cases in point, but I shall mention only one which comes to my notice. The Appeal Tribunal has disallowed a returned soldier’s claim in respect of neurasthenia, fibrositis, gastritis and gastrogeneous diarrhoea. -This returned soldier from the last war and his wife are rearing a family of six young Australians, two of whom are still wholly dependent on them; yet all he gets is a miserly pension of 2s. a week for himself and a total of 7s. 4d. a fortnight to support himself, his wife and two children. Is it any wonder that this man is a nervous wreck? How he or his family exists at all is beyond my comprehension. I lodged on his behalf medical certificates by reputable medical men, which bear out that his disability is definitely due to war service and that he is unable to do any work whatever. Butt medical evidence should not be required to show that there is a palpable injustice being done to this man, who left these shores to make Australia a land “fit for heroes to live in”. I now cite another case which was mentioned in this House by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) when in opposition. As reported in Hansard of the 5th December, 1940, page 501, the honorable gentleman said -
Mcn were robbed after the last war and are still being robbed. To illustrate how the returned soldiers from the last war are being robbed, I cite tho -case of one man. He is suffering from the following disabilities: - neurasthenia, urticaria, injury to right leg, fractured nose, right femoral hernia, right inguinal hernia, all of which are accepted as being due to war service, and neuritis in the right arm, defective vision, glycosuria, emphymea, pulmonary fibrosis, spondylitis, which are not regarded as being due to such service. This returned soldier has a pension of 12s. (id. a week. With all those ailments, lu> would be incapable of doing any work. Yet, when he applied for a service pension, which is granted only in cases of total incapacity, his application was rejected on the grounds that he was not totally incapacitated. 1 do not know what other disability lie could be suffering from in order to render him totally incapacitated. There are many other such cases.
Having road an article concerning tho overhaul of the Hepatization Act and noting that you were one of the advocates, I would like to thank you on behalf of about 30 of us, all returnees from this war, who have been discharged with chest trouble and been told that we must have had tho complaints on enlistment.
Also, .1 would like to state my own case as an example of the treatment we ‘ have been receiving.
My first medical board on enlistment for the Australian .Imperial Force consisted of two doctors, J. Bedford El well and John Powell, both specialists oil the Repatriation Board. I did five months’ intensive training at Bedbank. Queensland, before embarking for the Middle East. After five months in Palestine and Egypt, I was returned to Australia as medically unfit, with asthma and emphysema.
On applying for medical treatment after discharge, I was told that I was not entitled to it as my complaint was not due to, or aggravated by, war service. Also, Dr. Minde, of Brisbane, who by the way has not examined mc, stated that in his opinion I must have been at least 05 per cent, disabled before enlistment.
Doctors have a “ hide “ to say such things. When these men are accepted for service, they are good enough physically to fight for their country, but when they come back they are told that they must have been 65 per cent, disabled before enlistment. Fancy such a verdict being given by a doctor who did not even see the man !
– If he did not see the soldier, how could he have given that opinion of him
– I do not know; but that kind of thing has happened on more than one occasion. Some doctors in the employment of the Repatriation Department are unsuitable for their work. 1 have in mind a miner’s widow who was claiming compensation from an insurance company in respect of the death of her husband. A doctor who was a witness on behalf of the insurance company listened to the evidence, and although he knew nothing of the deceased man, he went into the witness box and for ten minutes gave evidence against the claim. Fortunately, the woman won the case and received worker’s compensation amounting to £850. That doctor was paid £105 by the insurance company for his evidence. He was a witness in three or four cases in that court on the same day. and if his payment was at the same rate in each instance, he was well paid for his day’s work. He is a specialist practising in Macquarie-street. The letter continues -
In a speech given by Mr. P. Spender when he was Minister for the Army, at a recruiting rally, he stated that, with the machinery nt the Army’s disposal (X-rays and such), no man would be able to enlist unless absolutely Al and therefore the onus would bo on the Government to provide for any nian invalided back from overseas.
Before enlistment, I followed heavy work, such as quarry labourer and bridge-rigging, but since my discharge I am unable to do heavy work and I have not worked a full week yet, and it is costing me upwards of £1 for medicine and treatment every week and so my wife and children are being made to suffer, having to go without things they badly need.
I have been before the Entitlement Tribunal mid in the evidence submitted against me was a statement supposed to have been made by mc stating that I was torpedoed whilst in tho Navy in 1915. In answer to this, I produced my birth certificate, which proves that in 1915 I was only twelve years of age and was still at school.
That is the sort of evidence that is accepted against these men. The hearing of these cases should be in open court if the soldier so desires. I have never seen any good come from hearings in closed courts -
Also, it stated I was an inmate of the Dalby Hospital in 193S. I wrote to thu secretary of the hospital and got a reply to say that no person of my name was ever in the Dalby Hospital, but still this evidence was not allowed in my favour and I am still refused medical treatment.
Hoping this will be of some assistance to you in getting the act overhauled, and thereby 9 How us to get our just dues.
Those facts in relation to a soldier of this war justify m y claim that the administration of the act should he overhauled. The root cause of the trouble is that medical men are called upon to arbitrate in these cases and that their chief aim is to save the Government as much money as possible instead of meting out justice in accordance “with facts and the principles laid clown in the act. The act places the onus on the Administration, so that if the soldier can mate out a prima facie case he should bc given the benefit of the doubt. The act is not being carried out, and therefore I urge that its administration -be looked into. I ask only for common justice. I also urge that men appearing before these tribunals should be entitled to have some one to represent them. Just as provision is made for public advocates in our courts, so these men should 1 1 fi ve some one to look after their interests.
A3 much of the evidence consists of medical terms, Latin quotations and highsounding phrases, a trained advocate is necessary if these men arc to receive a fair deal. It has been suggested that the men are satisfied with the Administration, but the proceedings at the congress of returned soldiers revealed their true attitude. I urge the Government to consider these matters if for no other reason than that its failure to do so will rebound on the Government. At the congress, there was a suggestion that returned soldiers should form a separate political party, but I un glad that wiser counsels prevailed and that the motions were rejected. Later, a vote of confidence in the Government was carried. I hope that that confidence will be justified. I am riot criticizing the present Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), as he has not long been in charge of the department; and moreover the tribunal is outside his jurisdiction. That, should not be. No tribunal appointed by this Parliament should be free from control by the Parliament. That is why I suggest the appointment of a standing committee of members of all parties to deal with these matters. It is poor consolation to be told that a case of injustice cannot be remedied because the Minister has no jurisdiction. Returned soldiers should not be denied justice. One delegate at the conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s .Imperial League of Australia directed attention to the number of members of Parliament in the Army, and made comparisons. That was unfair, because the age of the vast majority of honorable members debars them from taking a combatant’s part. However, most of them have relatives and friends in the fighting forces; I have two sons in the Army. Honorable members should give practical expression to their sympathy for returned soldiers, by amending the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act for the purpose of rectifying anomalies.
.I consider that this discussion should not close without some further reference to the disabilities suffered by the apple and pear industry. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) referred to the subject briefly, but confined his remarks to conditions in Queensland. Under the present scheme, growers suffer many injustices and anomalies. I shall deal with one, namely, the unsatisfactory prices. Honorable members will notice that, for the present financial year, the sum of £750,000 has been voted to assist the industry. From that figure they will derive some measure of comfort, because it represents a reduction of 50 per cent., compared with the expenditure on this industry last year. I hope, however, that as the result of additional experience, together with economies in administration, the amount will be further reduced next year. Like other primary industries, this industry is suffering from the increased costs of fertilizer, labour, materials, and transport, including petrol. Apple and pear growers have remarked that other primary industries, such as wheat, wool, dairying and potato growing, have been granted increases of prices during the last few months, but the prices of apples and pears have remained static since the introduction of the acquisition scheme. Some growers have suffered so severely that their orchards have gone out of production, and ave reverting to grass and pasture. The Government should seriously consider the advisability of increasing the number of units allotted to the industry in the various States. At present, Victoria receives seven units. If that number were raised to eight, growers would, I believe, be satisfied. Proportionate increases should be granted to other States. In addition, small adjustments of prices should be made to growers in the metropolitan area of Melbourne and in the Peninsula area, whose orchards were developed at high capital cost, and who produce special fruit for a certain section of the market. I urge the Government to grant an increase of the price of apples for the coming season. I understand that to date no decision has been reached, and I hope that the Government will accept my suggestions.
.Although the Government collected £1,300,000 last year from listeners’ licence-fees, honorable members will search the Estimates in vain to discover how even £1 of the vote was expended. I recognize that the Government is not responsible for the position, because the Australian Broadcasting Commission operates under its own act of Parliament. I cannot understand why distinction should be made between this service and any other public utility. The Australian Broadcasting Commission should be placed under budgetary control, as are the post office and Commonwealth Railways.
-. - The statute does not provide for that.
– I realize that ; but Parliament should amend the act. Recently the Australian Broadcasting Commission issued a new regulation regarding the presentation of its profit and loss account. Parliament has had no opportunity to discuss the finances of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or the expenditure by the post office on broadcasting. There is an excellent reason why these accounts should be submitted to Parliament in the usual manner. The Australian Broadcasting Commission not only lost. £30,000 on the A.B.O. Weekly, but also carefully concealed the deficiency in other items of expenditure. I do not hold the Govern ment responsible. In fact, the concealment occurred before the present Government took office, and no honorable member knew what the loss was until the Joint Committee on Broadcasting made inquiries. That justifies my contention that this undertaking should be obliged, like other public utilities, to submit a financial statement to Parliament.
– The Standing Committee on Broadcasting is now investigating the finances of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Some time ago, I made certain suggestions regarding the disposal of the surplus of ‘the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Treasurer of the day went to great trouble to explain to Parliament that the whole of the revenue collected by the Commonwealth Government must be paid into Consolidated Revenue. However, that obligation does not apply to the revenues of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is a dangerous principle if a public utility of this description is permitted to conceal substantial losses under other items of expenditure. I hear that the contract for printing the A.B.C. Weekly has terminated and that the commission is about to enter- into a newcontract. If that be so, I hope that the contract will not entail the same losses as were incurred in the past. In the first two years, the losses on the A.B.C. Weekly averaged £700 a week, and latterly the loss has been at the rate of £600 a week. The paper has been a futile experiment, because it is very costly and the service that it gives to subscribers is poor. Only 3 per cent, of the licence-holders purchase the journal.
– It has a circulation of 40,000 copies.
– That is so. Whilst 1 appreciate the circumstances that led to the establishment of the journal, I contend that we should be prepared to set an example to the nation in austerity and economy. The A.B.C. Weekly is a poor example of our sincerity, which the public will regard with suspicion if we continue to allow such substantial losses to occur.
.I desire to make a suggestion for the improvement of the conditions of the 75,000 natives and half-castes in Australia. I am gratified to find that the vote for natives in the Northern Territory remains at £14,000, with an additional £4,000 for missions. There is a fundamental difference between the manner in which we control natives and the methods adopted in the United States of America. All Indians in the United States of America from Alaska to the Mexican border are governed by the Department of Indian Affairs, in Washington. This is a tremendous advantage, because the .Government can provide better medical facilities, plant, schools, hospitals, sociologists, and educationalists. It is a strong argument for centralization.
– Would the honorable member apply that argument generally?
– No. The disadvantage in this country is that the management of the States has been so much better than the management of the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory. If I were discussing this matter in peace-time, I would say that it is disgraceful that the amount to be devoted to natives in the Northern Territory is very little more than the amount which is voted to the electricity supply for a few white people in Darwin and Alice Springs. I shall say no more about this aspect of control at this juncture; but I suggest the possibility of doing” something by another American method. The Government of the United States of America subsidizes, through the States, certain social services. I hope that this method will be adopted by the Commonwealth Government should the requests for constitutional reform which it proposes to submit by way of referendum to the people be granted. An authority on aboriginal affairs has suggested to me that something might be done in respect of two other pressing problems, if the Commonwealth made available to the States small subsidies on a £.1 for £1 basis. The first, is the educational development of the aborigines; and the second is the prevention and cure of social diseases among them. The first subject, is well worth exploring at present because of “the importance of aborigines in our pastoral and farming industries. Many thousands of them, I understand, are engaged in war work. I believe that a considerable number have been brought from Palm Island to work in the sugargrowing areas in Queensland. With respect to social diseases, I have received a report from an authoritative source in Western Australia that venereal disease among the. aborigines is causing considerable worry. It is also a secondary source of disease among the whites. A grant of even £1,000 would help considerably in dealing with that problem. I do not know what the position is in that respect m other States, but some years ago, when I was investigating problems of white settlement in tropical Queensland, I was told that it, was much the same, and that in every case, venereal disease among the aborigines was a source of general infection. I emphasize the economic as well as the human value of the aborigines, and particularly of our half-castes whose number has increased in the past 40 years from 7,000 to over 25,000, whilst their number in Northern and Central Australia is increasing at a greater rate than tho white population. ‘ In the past we have not treated these people altogether satisfactorily. We have expended, only an insignificant sum on them. I hope that the Government which has already done excellent work in extending social services to these unfortunate people will examine the matters I have raised, and that action will he taken along the lines I have suggested.
– Last night, I directed attention to certain aspects of our food problem, particularly in respect of our obligations to export foodstuffs to the United Kingdom. I had intended to rest upon what I then said, but I have been informed that at a time when I was absent from the eh amber, subsequently, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) attacked my statements. He asserted that the figures I quoted were incorrect, and that I had completely misstated the position. I endeavoured to secure whatever figures the Minister could supply. In the last fortnight 1 have been directing questions to him in which I asked to be told the production targets for the coming year. I have, personally, asked the Minister for this information outside this chamber. I have visited his office on several occasions, and interviewed his secretary; but I. did not succeed in obtaining the information I desired. I do not suggest that the Minister evaded giving me that information, because he has always been most courteous in these matters. However, the fact remains that I could not obtain from him the information I desired. Consequently, I was compelled to seek it from other official sources. I shall repeat the figures I cited last night, and I ask the Minister to say which of them is inaccurate. I said that the value of exports of butter, cheese, meat, pork and eggs to the United Kingdom during the previous two years ranged from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 per annum. Is that incorrect? If the Minister says that it is, I refer him to the monthly bulletin issued by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. I also said that our average exports of butter to the United Kingdom for the previous two years was approximately 93,000 tons per annum.
– I did not say that any figures dealing with previous exports cited by the honorable member were incorrect, but that his statements generally were inaccurate. He alleged that the Govern ment was not seriously concerned with the export of foodstuffs to the United Kingdom.
– I shall produce authority for each of the figures I cited. My authority for those dealing with exports of dairy products is a publication, dated the 14th September, which is issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. They are the very latest figures procurable by a private member. My statistics of quantities of exports, and contracts prices, were substantially obtained from this and another bulletin issued by the bureau. 1 proved that while we had cut clown our exports to the United Kingdom–
– We did not cut down our exports; the United Kingdom Government cut them down.
– I shall reply to that statement. The Minister said that shipping was the problem.
– But it has not been a problem with the New Zealand Government. New Zealand has got its butter, pork and cheese away; and we have been able to send to the United Kingdom products which the British Government did not really need, or could have obtained elsewhere. In July of last year, we sent 15,000 bushels of wheat to the United Kingdom, but in July this year, when the United Kingdom, wanted butter and dairy products, we sent 2,500,000 bushels of wheat to that country. Thus, we were able to send goods to Great Britain, although it is stated that adequate shipping facilities were not available to send the goods which that country wanted. We must play our part with our allies in this war. After I had proved that shipping was not lacking, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) replied that the Government intended first to look after the interests of the people of Australia.
– He did not make that statement at all. It is a gross misrepresentation.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr, Prowse).Order !
– The Minister’s statement is recorded in” Hansard. He did not deny it.
Tho honorable member for Darling again in terjecting.
– I called the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) to order, but he has deliberately ignored the Chair. I warn the honorable member.
– I realize that these facts do not please honorable members opposite. I prefaced my remarks last night by saying that I did not consider that the situation had arisen as the result of government policy; but the Minister for Supply and Development by interjection implied that that was the case. He said that the Government was looking after the people of Australia. My reply to that is that we must look after the interests of each of our allies, and must do our part in supplying the United Kingdom and the United States of America with goods of which those countries cannot obtain sufficient supplies. They are supplying ns with goods which we cannot otherwise obtain in sufficient quantities. Therefore, we should not be feeding ourselves at the expense of our allies who need the foodstuffs we produce. Should Great Britain lose the war, it will not be through lack of arms, but because of the success of the blockade by which the enemy hopes to starve the cOuntry into submission. Therefore, it is important that we help to break that blockade. I repeat that while we were sending less away-
– Say, rather, while less was being sent.
– At the same time, we stepped up the per capita consumption of all of those foodstuffs which the United Kingdom needed.
– The honorable gentleman knows that refrigerated shipping was a matter of special arrangement between the allied governments.
– Whilst I admit that a difficulty was experienced in connexion with refrigerated space, no serious difficulty existed with regard to dry cargo space. I have figures to show that we processed 12,000,000 dozen eggs at the Riverston Works, expressly for the purpose of exporting them as dry cargo to the United Kingdom. But the Government lifted 2,800,000 dozen eggs for our own purposes, and also took 1,500,000 dozen fresh eggs from cold storage at those works and put them on the local market.
– The honorable member ought to know that the United Kingdom revised the allocation of its. requirements several times. We have had to adjust ourselves to the changing requirements of the United Kingdom, but we have satisfied every requirement.
– I am fully aware of the variations that have occurred. They occurred when we were in office.
I am not satisfied that the United Kingdom does not want butter, beef or eggs; if the Prime Minister or the Minister for Commerce is prepared to say that I am wrong-
– That is ridiculous.
– In the United Kingdom, persons are limited to lOd. worth of meat a week. That would represent one lamb chop. The butter ration is 2 oz. a week. It is utterly incomprehensible that the British people should not want more meat, butter, and eggs.
– It is not incomprehensible that Great Britain is not able to provide refrigerated shipping space to take those products there. The allocation of dry cargo space to Australia was revised by the United Kingdom.
– If there is any inaccuracy in the figures I have quoted I should like to know.
– The inaccuracies are in the honorable member’s statement.
– I deduced from the figures the story I have told.
– Do the tables disclose the number of ships available to Australia for export purposes.
– Naturally, they could not do that, but we are aware that the United Kingdom is sending ships to New Zealand, a voyage 3,000 miles further on the round trip, and filling them there. Large parcels of wheat are being taken from Australia. That wheat could be obtained more quickly from Canada, the United States of America, or Argentina. Without having the benefit of the Government’s information, I can only say that the evidence indicates that the ships are available, but that the cargo is not.
T turn now to the reason for the decline of the quantities of food available for our own purposes and for export. The price of butter is so low that the producers cannot afford to increase production; moreover, many are leaving the industry. There can be no improvement of the production of food unless the economic circumstances of the dairyfarmer are improved by giving to him a substantial increase of price. The Dairy Produce Equalization Committee presented a case to the Prices Commissioner, which resulted in the ;small increase of Id. per lb. for butter on the local market, but no increase on butter exported. Figures issued by the committee in February indicate that the cost of production of butler on an average well-managed farm was ls. 4.6d. per lb., and that the average price received by the farmer was ls. 1.5d. per lb. The fanner was producing butter at a net loss of 3d. per lb.
– For how long?
– I admit that that occurred during the regime of the previous Government. I ;do not place the whole blame on the present Minister. I realize that he has handled the matter sympathetically, but, at the same time, he has not dealt with it with the expedition that it warrants. The first step towards obtaining increased supplies, which are necessary, if we are to meet export requirements, “is the fixation of a payable price, and the second is Une release of a number .of skilled farmers from the army or other services. In a recent investigation, the Commonwealth Statistician obtained returns ‘from 64 per cent, of the 46,000 dairy-farmers. The returns showed that in the last 12 months 19,000 males have left dairy farms, 11,000 for the armed forces and 8,000 for other vocations. That clearly indicates that the whole manpower problem in the industry ..is owing not -only ,to the military call-up, but also to economic reasons; .but the only speedy way in which to remedy the position is by releasing men from .the army. People without farming experience have “the erroneous idea that any person with two arms and two legs will make a farmer., but it takes years of experience to make a competent farmer.. Farmers cannot be replaced by city clerics or girls from the land army, as is well known by those who have left the city to take up farming and ‘have ultimately gone back with nothing but experience. Food is as essential in war-time as is ammunition, and its production must ‘be -treated in the same way as we treat other ‘essentials that we produce. In July, the Minister for Commerce set up .a special committee .to inquire into and .report on the ‘dairy industry. I -congratulate him on the men he selected. Their report has been in ids hands for at least four or five weeks. Every week since Parliament met I have asked him without avail when -h decision would be made. The ‘dairyfarmers, with the sea-son -about to start, want to know their position. Inspired statements have appeared in the press that the Government will do something in the way of introducing governmental control over the industry, “-unionise” it, as it were, and set down standards for labour and so forth. W-e want to know exactly what is intended. All that is required to -stimulate the production of butter is an improved price and a small release of labour.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that ultimately some system of rationing of export foods would have to :be introduced. ‘W-e shall have to -determine what quantity of butter, cheese, meat, -and eggs we have, what proportion is to go to -our armed services in this country, what pro portion should be released for our civil population, and what proportion of the remainder should be exported to the United Kingdom. Butter manufacturers are dependent on the maintenance of .the local .market ‘to compensate them for losses incurred on ‘export .-sales. Therefore, it -will be the responsibility of the Government either to subsidize sales to Great Britain -or to make good the loss that the industry will suffer in the event ‘of local sales of butter being reduced. The time ‘has .’arrived when further negotiations should ,be entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the ‘United Kingdom for an increased price for butter. The price of butter sold to the United Kingdom has not varied a farthing since the outbreak of war, although the prices of other commodities sold to it have been increased. “We could justifiably demand an increased price for butter. Perhaps something in the way of a lease-lend arrangement could be entered into with the United Kingdom. The per ‘capita consumption -of butter in Australia has increased in the last two years from 30 lb. to 35 lb. per annum, whereas the total ration for consumers in Great Britain is 6½ lb. per capita. The increase in the last two years is almost equal to the total annual ration of the British- people. While we cannot export pork our consumption has increased from 3.8 lb., to 9.56 lb. per annum. Our consum ption of cheese has increased by. 1½lb. per annum. While we are repleting ourselves with ample food we have not been able to send sufficient abroad.
I also direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce to the serious position which is likely to develop in the meat industry. We are short of beef and pig meats, but not of mutton and lamb. The bottle-neck likely to occur in respect of mutton and lamb is on the slaughtering side. The strange position is that we shall require to slaughter every week in the next three months 60,000 sheep at. Homebush alone, and 16,000 a. week for drying purposes, but unless the slaughtermen can be persuaded to slaughter the sheep, that number cannot be handled. I am informed that at Homebush certain slaughtermen, who are key men, will work only 4½ hours a day, or 22½ hours a week, and will not. permit learners or any one else to take their places.
– Where did the honorable member get that information? It is incorrect.
– The Minister can make a public statement to that effect if he wishes, and allow those engaged in the meat industry to answer him. The information has been given to me by men who are in a position to know the facts. When it is found that the mutton that the troops require cannot be canned, the Minister will have to explain to the public why the failure occurred. I am simply giving a warning of what may occur. If the difficulty can be straightened out, every body will be satisfied. I do not suggest that it cannot be overcome.
– Hearsay evidence is not evidence.
– I have the facts. It is not hearsay, and I have substantiated all that I said last night. If there is insufficient food for. the populationour war effort will languish.. I regret a recent remark made by the Prime Minister. My impression is that he intended to. disregard any application for further releases from the Army, regardless of the reasons.
Mr.Curtin. - I meant precisely what I said.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1942-43, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £164,138,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty, for the service of the year 1942-43, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £126,729,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Curtin and Mr. Forde do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Curtin, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Estimates - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1942-43., for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £4,902,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Curtin and Mr. Forde do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Curtin and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Defence purposes -
Alexandria, New South Wales.
For Postal purposes - Cammeray, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 4.45 a.m. (Friday).
The following ansivers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - With reference to the question upon notice asked by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on the 17th September, and my reply thereto, relating to a letter dated the 22nd August, 1940, addressed to the Prime Minister by Mr. A. B. Piddington, K.C., I desire to inform the honorable member that having received an intimation from Mr. Piddington that he has no objection to his letter being made public I have arranged for a copy of it to be laid on the table of the Library.
– On the 17 th September, the honorable member forFlinders (Mr. Ryan) asked the following questions, without notice : -
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 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?
In reply to the honorable member,I stated -
The Man Power Section of the Department of Labour and National Servicehas 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.
The following information is now submitted for the information of the honorable member: -
A special committee operating under the Man Power Directorate was set up some time ago to review the staffs of Commonwealth Government Departments and Instrumentalities. A similar review has been carried out in respect of the various State Government Departments and Instrumentalities. These reviews have been proceeding for some time and have now been practically completed. The departments have been advised as to medically fit men of military age who are to be made available for service in the armed forces, either with or without replacement.
In regard to Commonwealth Departments and Instrumentalities, including the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board, approximately 1,400 officers were made available for immediate military service. It was decided that approximately 1,800 are to be released as soon as replacements have been obtained, and in this respect the departments have been requested to arrange for replacements as a matter of urgency.I may add that 4,000 officers of Commonwealth Government Departments and Instrumentalities have enlisted since the outbreak of war. This is not the sum total from all Commonwealth Departments as detailed information is not yet available regarding the result of the survey of certain State officers of Commonwealth Departments. With regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question as to replacement of men by women, I may say that in considering what officers should he made available for service, the question as to the extent they should be replaced by women was fully considered, and in fact many such replacements have already been made.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
It will be seen that the amounts of tax outstanding compared with the amounts of tax assessed are reasonably constant. There is nothing in the amounts of tax outstanding that calls for special explanation. It is to be borne in mind that a large proportion of tax outstanding at the 30th June each year is not due and payable until some time later.
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Broadcasting Commission: Broadcast of Addresses.
n. - On the 22nd September the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard.) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral take such action that in future, any address on a matter of public importance, such as the broadcastby Professor Woodruff from Wesley Church, may be broadcast in a temperate manner?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
It is not competent for the PostmasterGeneral to take any such action because the responsibility invested in the Australian Broadcasting Commission by Parliament stipulates that the commission shall provide and shall broadcast adequate and comprehensive programmes, and shall take in the interests of the community all such measures as in the opinion of the commission, are conducive to the full development of suitable broadcast programmes. Therefore, so far as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, is concerned, the arrangement of programmes and the engagement of the people to participate therein, is entirely a question for decision by the commission.
Ministerial Duties : Assistance by Private Members.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
n-. - The information is being obtained and a imply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Willhe inform the House approximately how much of. the public debt was held at the 30th June, 1942, by (a) the Commonwealth Bank, (b) the trading banks, (c) the savings banks, (d) the insurance companies, (e) industrialand commercial companies, and (f) the general public.
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420924_reps_16_172/>.