16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
States Grants Bill 1942.
Loan Bill (No. 3) 1942.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill1942.
Black Marketing Bill 1942.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1942.
Income Tax Bill (No. 2) 1942.
War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Bill 1942.
Superannuation Bill 1942.
Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 1) 1942.
Women’s Employment Bill 1942.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That a joint meeting of members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives be convened for 8 p.m. this day, for the purpose of discussing in secret the present war, and hearing confidential reports in relation thereto.
Reference to Special Committee.
– by ‘ leave - The Government has decided that the debate on the Constitution Alteration (War Aims and Reconstruction) Bill shall not proceed until after the measure has been referred to a special committee, consist- ing of eight members of the House of Representatives and four members of the Senate, to be equally representative of the Government and the Opposition.
The Government desires that the committee shall have added to it the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition of each State Parliament. Accordingly, invitations to serve on it will be sent to those gentlemen. In total, therefore, the committee will consist of 24 members.
It is hoped that the committee will meet some time during November. I propose that the House, having risen, shall meet again before Christmas, but of course the Parliament will be convened earlier if the circumstances make that necessary.
The members of the committee to be chosen from the House of Representatives will be the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.” Fadden), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The gentlemen from the Senate who have Deen nominated to act on the committee are Senators Collings and Keane. representing the Government, and Senators McLeay and ‘Sampson representing the Opposition.
I am confident, in the light of the history of the efforts that have Deen made from time to time to amend the Constitution, that recourse to this procedure, whilst delaying the consideration of the bill by the Commonwealth Parliament, will add immeasurably to the practicability of giving effect to whatever legislation this Parliament may pass.
– Is the committee to act in a purely advisory capacity, or is it to have mandatory powers? Has the Government fixed in the preamble to the bill a limit beyond which it will not go?
– The committee will consider the bill, and make any suggestions that it may wish. But the form in. which the bill shall become law will be entirely a matter for the Commonwealth Parliament.
– I rise to a personal explanation. During the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday, I referred to wasteful use of foodstuffs in this country and offered certain criticisms of faulty co-ordination of food instrumentalities. As an in stance, I mentioned tinned fruits of various kinds as having been returned to Shepparton to be recanned as fruit salad for the use of the American forces. In the Melbourne 11erald of the next day, the following statement appeared -
The allegation made yesterday in Parliament by Mr. Holt (United Australia party, Victoria) that tins of various types of fruits had been returned to Shepparton by the United States Army Supply Department to be made into “canned fruit salad” - were described as “ all rubbish “ by an official of the Contracts Board to-day.
He said the allegation must have resulted from a foolish rumour. Actually there was no contract for tinned fruit for the American Army, although there was one for the Australian forces.
The information that I gave to the House reached me from what I regarded as a most authoritative source. I used it unhesitatingly, having full confidence in my informant. Having read the press reference I have quoted, which received considerable publicity in Victoria at the evening news session of the broadcasting service, I made further inquiries from the same source, the result of which was to confirm the information I had previously received. The Shepparton Preserving Company was the canning company in question. Although I had not alleged that any requisition had been made by the Contract Board, it would appear that a requisition was made direct by the American authorities. I have to-day received from a merchant who deals in canned fruits a letter in which he states -
You may be interested to know that 1 have it on very good authority, that what you suspected did take place and also that another canner was requested to supply the Shepparton Cannery with canned pineapple in smallish cans for the purpose of mixing with the fruits you spoke about.
Perhaps you will consider the last portion of the above cutting an equivocation when on the same authority we have it that the board makes an allocation of canned fruits for the American forces, and further I have confirmation that this is more or less the position in a letter received from the office of the Chief Quartermaster of the United States Forces.
My reason for making this personal explanation is, that I wish to assure the House that there was no justification for the extravagant language used by an unnamed official of the Contract Board. I ask the House to believe that I obtained my information from an authoritative source. I invite the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) to take whatever action he may think fit against the unnamed official of his own board who made such unfounded statements.
– As Chairman, I present the fifth interim report of the Joint Committee on Social Security.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of the serious disorganization of the sheep, wool and livestock industries caused by the recently issued Control of Stock Foods and Remedies Order, will the Minister for War Organization of Industry consider the appointment of a stock food and remedies advisory panel consisting of, say, three manufacturers, two graziers, one distributor, and two Government representatives to formulate and recommend a plan of control? Will he consider also the appointment of a smaller committee to supervise the administration of the order, and to recommend any alterations or further measures of control which may be found necessary?
– The Stock Foods and Remedies Order was promulgated after discussion with the State agricultural departments, and the action taken under the order is fully endorsed by State veterinary authorities. I do not think that it isnecessary to go further afield for advice on the matter.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any further inf ormation regarding the threatened strike of Brisbane tramway employees?
– A conference of the parties has been convened by His Honour, Sir William Webb, and it is hoped that, as a result, a satisfactory settlement will be reached.
-Can the Minister for War Organization of Industry say whether it is a fact that many employers are compelling business girls, under threat of dismissal, to wear stockings during working hours ? In view of the limited number of clothing coupons allocated to women, will the Minister issue regulations forbidding employers to insist upon the wearing of stockings by their employees ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Supply, who represents the Minister for Trade and Customs, and ask that an answer be prepared.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the amount of compensation to the Government of New South Wales under the uniform income tax plan will be adjusted next year to the amount of any land tax which may be imposed in that State?
– Compensation to New South Wales or any other State will be adjusted from time to time as may be considered necessary. I do not know what is involved in the land tax proposals of the New South Wales Government, nor what their effect will be. I shall look into the matter.
Use of Militia outside Australian Territories - Minors at Operational Stations - Mr. Archie Cameron, M.P.
– I ask the Minister for the Army, with whose reply to my question yesterday I entirely agree, whether, in the circumstances, he has now any valid reason for allowing the Militia to go beyond the three-mile limit, or outside Australian territories?
– So many questions were asked of me yesterday that it is very difficult for me to remember them all in detail. It might be information to the honorable member that the Government is very proud of the Australian Army which is to-day three times larger than it was when the Government took office twelve months ago.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to members of the Australian Military Forces as koalas, who were not allowed to be exported, and were not allowed to be shot at. Having regard to the lengthy period during which the honorable member for Barker has been parading in uniform, is there any good reason, Mr. Speaker, why he should not graduate from the ranks of the koalas and go overseas to be shot at?
– Order ! The honorable member should not make personal reflections of that kind under cover of a question. So far, he has not been seeking information.
– I want to know whether there is any substantial reason why the honorable member for Barker should, from the ambush of parliamentary privilege, have the right to take a shot at the koalas?
– The honorable member is out of order. Honorable members are given the privilege of asking questions so that they may elicit information on matters of public importance, and it is specifically provided in the Standing Orders that questions must not contain comment or argument. I propose to enforce that rule somewhat more strictly in future.
– I rise to a point of order. Yesterday, the honorable member for Barker referred, in what I regard as disparaging terms–
– I did not.
– In gratuitously insulting terms to members of the Australian Military Forces, who are protecting this country in New Guinea to-day.
– That is untrue.
– Not only was the honorable member’s reference insulting, but a very grave reflection-
– What is the point of order?
– I arn leading ,up to it. The honorable member for Barker cast a grave reflection on members of the Australian Military Forces, and you permitted it. I am now asking whether the members of the Australian Military Forces, who are not protected by your rulings, are to be reflected on in that way, and whether the honorable member for Barker is to receive your protection simply because he happens to enjoy the privileges of membership of this Parlia ment. In short, was the honorable member for Barker in order yesterday in reflecting, as he did, upon the Australian Military Forces? If so, are counterreflections on his own desire to serve out of order in this chamber, where he has an opportunity to defend himself?
– Whatever comment the honorable member for Barker made yesterday is not properly the subject of a question.
– Will the Minister foi the Army take action at the earliest possible date to withdraw to training bases all Australian soldiers of eighteen years of age from New Guinea and other forward battle areas?
– The Commanderill.Chief of the Allied Land Forces issued a definite instruction on the 10th July that members of the Australian Army less than twenty years of age, who had not had at least six months’ training, were not to be sent to forward operational areas such as .Darwin or Port Moresby. If’ the honorable member can show that that instruction has been disregarded, I shall take suitable action.
– I can cite dozens of cases.
– Does that instruction constitute an. admission by the army chiefs that they made a ghastly mistake when they sent boys of eighteen with only three months’ training to Port Moresby and other forward operational areas?
– That instruction was issued as the result of a decision made by me as Minister for the Army with the approval of the Commander-in-Chief. I agree that boys who have had only three months’ training should not be sent to forward operational areas. That is why I decided that boys under twenty years of age must have had at least six months’ training before they were sent to those areas.
– If it is now the policy of the Government that youths under twenty years of age shall not be sent to forward operational stations if they have bad less than six months’ training, what action does the Minister for the Army propose to take to bring back those thousands of youths under twenty years of age who were sent to operational stations, in some cases, as in Queensland, with only two days’ training, and in many other cases with less than six weeks’ training?
– A wrong interpretation has been placed upon the term “operational station”. It has been applied to centres throughout Australia that I do not wish to mention now, which, although large numbers of troops are stationed at them, cannot be said to be operational stations. It is true that a few shots were fired at Sydney by a submarine, but one could not call Sydney an operational station because of that.
– Would the honorable gentleman call New Guinea an operational station?
– The Minister said that New Guinea would be by-passed.
– The honorable member is wrong in saying that. As a matter of fact, I have always held that we should defend New Guinea, and the towns along the coast of Queensland. I said that nobody knew what would be the next operational station in Australia - that it might be Perth orFremantle, or any of the towns along the eastern seaboard which are considered to be important industrial areas. Because I believe that wo should have well-trained troops, and that raw recruits eighteen years of age should not be sent to operational stations, I gave a direction that they shouldbe sent to training depots for three months before being allotted to units where they should he given at least a further -three months training.
-My question was as to whether the Minister proposed to take action to bring youths back from operational stations.
– The honorable member has my assurance that I shall have a searching investigation made of any case in which he can show that the instruction issued by the CommanderinChief on my definite advice has been disregarded.
-Will the Minister for the Army take up with the CommanderinChief of the Allied Land Forces immediately the question of returning to Australia, as soon as possible, all boys eighteen years of age now serving in the armed forces of Australia, and of placing them, on their return, at training bases within the Commonwealth?
– A secret meeting of members of the Parliament will be held later to-day at which I shall refer to matters relating to the defence of New Guinea. I have already mentioned that the Commander-in-Chief issued an instruction on the 10th July last that universal service personnel under the age of twenty years who have been called up will be allotted to training units and will not be posted to operational units until they have received at least six months’ training. I cannot help thinking that the questions of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) are actuated by party politics. The honorable member wants conscription introduced so that men may be sent overseas.
– That is not my object. In any case, I am not a baby killer.
– How can the Minister allege that party politics are behind these questions, seeing that similar questions are being asked by honorable gentlemen on his own side of the chamber?
– With a view to protecting the interests of producer and consumer alike, will the Minister for Commerce defer his decision regarding the personnel of the Australian Wheat Board until certain representations are made to him immediately after Parliament adjourns ?
– The personnel of the Wheat Board has been gazetted, but I have received representations from sources to which the honorable member probably refers. I have promised to consider their views.
– As the result of the loss of the export trade, together with the severe restrictions that the Government has placed upon the sale of liquor, the Australian wine industry is encountering severe hardships. Is the Prime Minister aware that if this industry is forced to close down, Australia will suffer a severe economic loss? What steps does the Prime Minister propose to take to protect this important industry ?
Mr.CURTIN.- Cabinet is considering the matter, but no decision has yet been reached.
– In view of the recent amendments of the National Security Regulations that restrict transactions in real estate, I ask the Treasurer: (1)Why were the amendments not referred to the parliamentary committee which conferred upon the original regulations? (2) What were the factors which influenced the Treasurer to make the amendments? (3) Will the honorable gentleman defer the operation of the amendments pending consideration by the parliamentary committee?
– The amendments were not referred to the parliamentary committee, because the position had been carefully surveyed in the light of the experience gained from the operation of the original regulations. In the opinion of theGovernment, there were certain urgent reasons why the investment market should be subject to more rigid control. For instance, the trend of speculative investment, particularly in house properties and “ broad acres “, was increasing rather rapidly. The figures will be supplied to the Leader of the Opposition, if he desires them. The Government has discussed the problem with persons engaged in the business and, generally speaking, they have agreed, though not on all the details, with the amendments. I shall be prepared, particularly after we have had an opportunity to see whether the regulations will inflict hardship, to request the parliamentary committee to review them ; but the Leader of the Opposition will understand that it is impossible for the Government every day to submit these matters to committees.
Mr.CALWELL;- Has the attention of the Minister for Air been drawn to a report in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph that at a public meeting in the Randwick Town Hall last evening addressed by the Minister for Supply and Development and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), two official shorthand writers took a verbatim report of the speech delivered by the honorable member for Watson and immediately on the conclusion of his address, left the hall? If the Minister has not been informed of the facts, will he take action immediately to ascertain who adopted these Gestapo tactics in reporting the speech delivered by an honorable member of this Parliament to his constituents? Will he also have the notes impounded and destroyed, and will he relieve those Gestapo agents of the obligation of further harassing honorable members in the legitimate discharge of their parliamentary duties?
– The question is lengthy, and I do not pretend to be able to follow every detail of it. The answer to the first part of the question is “ No “. Regarding the second matter, I shall have inquiries made.
– Did the Minister for Commerce read the reports in the Sydney Sun yesterday and to-day that a meeting at Junee of southern graziers, owning in the aggregate hundreds of thousands of sheep, decided to protest to him against the ban on the use of salt for stock, especially sheep? In view of the representative nature of the protest, will the Minister, who has appealed for better quality fat lambs, give immediate consideration to the matter and make a statement to the House before it adjourns ?
– The matter of the supply of salt for stock has been determined by the Minister for War Organization of Industry, in consultation with expert veterinary officers of his department.
– Will the Minister discuss the matter with the Minister for War Organization of Industry?
– Yes ; and I shall see that an answer is supplied to the honorable member before the House adjourns.
– I ask you, Mr.
Speaker, whether, during the recess, you will bring to the notice of the Joint House Committee the unsatisfactory lighting arrangements in this chamber. When I raised the matter on a previous occasion, it was shown that nineteen globes had failed. As many public documents are printed on inferior paper and in small type, honorable members have great difficulty in reading them. Unless the lighting system is improved, honorable members will be obliged to use torches.
– The lights were tested during the last recess, and I received a report that they were satisfactory.
– They are not satisfactory.
– I realize that honorable members are not entirely satisfied, and I shall examine the matter further.
– Now that the Prime Minister has made his announcement regarding the dairying industry, will he make available the report of the special committee that inquired into it?
– I shall ascertain whether I can comply with the right honorable gentleman’s request.
– Is the Minister for
Commerce aware that in the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day there appears a statement by the Director-General of Man Power, Mr. Wurth, that it is most important in the national interest that farmers should cut as much hay as possible for fodder conservation? Will the Minister inform the House what steps, if any, the Government has taken to give effect to the recommendation of the Fodder Conservation Board that finance should be made available to farmers against fodder stocks on farms? Will the Minister, in consultation with the Minister for the Army, ensure that as much experienced labour shall be made available for the cutting of hay for fodder as is possible without endangering national security?
– That matter has been under close consideration, with constant consultation between the Army and the Director-General of Man Power. Some of the States are in favour of any fodder conservation scheme which does not involve them in a monetary contribution, but New South Wales and Queensland have intimated that they are prepared to expend a certain amount of money on fodder conservation. The Commonwealth Government proposes to subsidize the States’ contributions. The plan has been fully discussed by Commonwealth and State officers and the Treasury has been consulted, and a submission is awaiting Cabinet approval. We are doing all we can, commensurate with security, to ensure the availability of labour for the purpose referred to by the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister have inquiries made and inform me what powers the Minister for Trade and Customs possesses under the prices regulations? If they are considered insufficient, will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of extending them ?
– I shall consider the powers of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and then answer the honorable member’s question.
– With reference to certain recent regulations regarding dealings in land, I ask the Treasurer whether he has not considered that the regulation, though advantageous to persons with ample means who are able to pay cash for properties, works adversely against those with small means desiring to acquire land on which to build homes? If he has not considered that phase, will he see that that matter also shall be inquired into in connexion with the general principle raised by other honorable members.
– I do not think that the persons mentioned in the first part of the honorable member’s question are placed at any advantage. With regard to the second part, if it can be shown by a prospective purchaser that he desires to build a home, and if the Department of War Organization of Industry will give permission for it to be built, having regard to supplies of labour and material, be will experience no difficulty.
– Has the Prime Minister given his promised consideration to the report of the Tasmanian War
Industries Committee? Can it be tabled in this House ? I should not be in order in giving reasons why it should be, but I think that the Prime Minister understands the need. If the report cannot be tabled, will the right honorable gentleman, alternatively, make it available to honorable members?
– The report cannot be tabled. The report of the “Western Australian “War Industries Committee, of which I was a member, was not tabled. So much of the report as could be released for publication was released bo the press, but the important thing is that what the press got was the least important and least interesting section. I am sure that all honorable members will understand that for security reasons a report of this kind cannot be tabled and made available for every body to look at. I read the report on the Tasmanian war industries, thinking that, perhaps, I should be able to allow the release of certain parts of it, but, having examined it, I came to the conclusion that to release parts of it would be to distort the invaluable work that the committee had done.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that an order has been issued in South Australia conscripting certain girls in shops for munitions works while, at the same time, girls are being recruited for the fighting services and sent to States where there is a better supply of female labour than there is in South Australia? In view of the Government’s policy of uniformity, is it intended to remedy this anomaly and conscript women throughout Australia ?
– The three fighting services have been requested not to recruit women in South Australia at the present time. No order of conscription has been issued, but a disemployment arrangement has been effected.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Documents relating to lend-lease a.nd reciprocal lend-lease arrangements between the Governments of the Commonwealth of Australia ami the United States of America.
Employment in Freezing Works.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that officers of his department have issued orders to farmers’ sons to leave farms and go to certain metropolitan areas to operate freezing works, whilst the Minister for Commerce has been endeavouring to secure labour to operate freezing works in country areas? In addition, does the Minister agree with the policy of still further denuding the country districts of labour which is already in short supply?
– I am not aware that any orders have been issued along the lines mentioned by the honorable member. I do not agree that labour resources now available in farming communities should be further depleted. I shall discuss the matter with the honorable member, and if he can give me specific instances of complaints, I shall see that appropriate action is taken.
Statement by Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question which bears upon a report, published in the Sydney Sum, on the 7 th October, of a meeting at Rockdale, which was addressed by two members of the Government. I ask this question subject to the Minister for Labour and National Service not having been again misreported. The newspaper stated -
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) said that when the Curtin Government took office there were only three Beaufort bombers in this country. That was the extent of the country’s bombing aircraft.
In view of the censorship restrictions and security considerations which prevent this grossly inaccurate statement from being corrected by those who know the facts, will the Prime Minister take steps to restrain his Ministers from making such statements?
– I do not propose to discuss the Beaufort bomber programme at all. The Minister said that at a certain stage there were so many planes in existence in Australia.
– The inference being that the rest were built by the Curtin Government.
– The Minister said that three bombers constituted the total bombing force of Australia.
– I should not regard as correct a statementthat, when Itook office, there were only three bombing planes in this country. That would be absolutely incorrect.
– That is putting it very mildly.
– But I also say that the Beaufort programme is greatly different to-day from what it was then.
– Iwish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has quoted from a report, appearing in the Sun of the 7th October, of a speech that I delivered at a meeting at the Rockdale Town Hall. I was reported as having said that when this Government took office there were only three Beaufort bombers in this country, and that that was the extent of our Beaufort bomber aircraft. That statement is correct. I was correctly reported.
– Those are not the words of the report.
– When this Government took over from the Opposition there were in existence in this country only three Beaufort bomber aircraft. If any honorable gentleman cares to challenge the accuracy of that statement, I suggest that the papers be produced. They will disclose that there were only three Beaufort bombers in this country when the Labour party took office.
– I alsorise to make a personal explanation. The Minister’s statement purported to be founded upon words which I read from the newspaper report of the meeting which he addressed.
Mr.Frost. - Does the honorable member for Indi certify to the correctness of the report?
– I do not. I said that I asked the question subject to the
Minister having been correctly reported. The words that I read were -
The Minister for Labour, Mr. Ward, said that when the Curtin Government took office there were only three Beaufort bombers in this country. That was the extent of the country’s bombing aircraft.
If the honorable gentleman was correctly reported, his statement was grossly incorrect in respect of the total bomber resources of the country.
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister whether he would make available the file containing information with regard to the selection of a site for a power alcohol distillery in Victoria. When will that file be available?
– I shall consult the Minister for Supply and Development about the file and see what can he done.
Report of Special Committee
– Will the Prime Minister indicate whether, during the next sitting period of the Parliament, legislation will be introduced to give effect to the recommendations of the special committee which recently considered amendments to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act? As portions of the report have been made available to the press, will the right honorable gentleman make the document available to honorable members prior to the next sessional period, so that they may inform themselves of its contents?
– I said earlier to-day that I hoped the Parliament would meet again before Christmas. I also said that the committee proposed to be appointed to consider the Constitution Alteration Bill would meet some time in November. That means, obviously, that any meeting of the Parliament before Christmas will necessarily have to be brief. I say quite frankly that I think that such a short meeting should be devoted entirely to a consideration of the war situation. Early in the new year the repatriation proposals of the Government will he submitted to the Parliament.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for Munitions a short article in the latest issue of the Metal Trades J Journal from which it would appear that new employees in munitions factories are being required to sign an undertaking that they will join a trade union. Has the Minister any knowledge of this requirement? Does it arise from an administrative direction, and, if so, who gave the direction?
– I shall obtain a report on the subject and furnish an answer to the honorable member later.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a great deal of discontent existed in country districts prior to this Government taking office in consequence of the controllers of country patriotic funds, such as comforts funds and the like, being compelled to send all moneys subscribed in their own localities, to the central office of the funds concerned? This applied particularly to Red Cross and comforts fund collections. Since coupon rationing has been introduced much more discontent has arisen because the Deputy Commissioner of Rationing in Sydney has intimated that wool may be obtained only through the central comforts fund office in Sydney, and that all knitted garments, such as socks and pullovers, must be sent to the central office for despatch to the troops. Does not the right honorable gentleman appreciate that there is more of a home touch about comforts sent to the troops from their own local centres than about comforts distributed by a central executive?
– I have no doubt thai in many country towns there is a feeling of deep interest in the men who enlisted from those localities, and also a desire to keep in close touch with them. I am also aware that there is a great deal of overlapping and duplication, and that money is being withheld from active use because the cash balances in various funds at local centres are larger than they should be. I am aware, too, that the only conceivable way to make the best use of the resources of the country is to provide for central control and allocation.
– There is a lot of robbery going on.
– I say to local committees throughout Australia, particularly those in remote places, that the Government appreciates the sentiment they entertain, and the spirit that marks their work, for the troops. I assure them that the difficulties which they are encountering are unavoidable.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development, before the House rises, make a statement of what he proposes to do in respect of three specific requests that were made to him some little time ago by a very large and representative deputation of members of both Houses, in connexion with the working of the Lakes Entrance oil-field?
– I regarded it as necessary that I should consult with the Government of Victoria in connexion with the proposals placed before me by the deputation. I regret exceedingly that the loss in action in Africa of the son of the Minister of Mines of Victoria, has delayed our meeting. I hope to consult with him shortly. I consider that the matter needs to be properly discussed with the Government of Victoria and should not be dealt with offhand. If I am unable to arrange the meeting before the rising of the House, I shall take steps to do so immediately afterwards.
– The magazine Salt, which, was originally intended to be circulated among the members of ali the fighting services, has been circulated only throughout the Army. In view of this limited circulation, and the publication cost of approximately £40,000 per annum, will the Minister for the Army have an investigation made in order to ascertain whether the money cannot be better expended in the interests of the troops?
– Already a. very close investigation has been made of the production of the magazine Salt. The result was the decision that Salt should be published fortnightly instead of weekly. Because of the knowledge that it was very popular with large bodies of troops at operational stations, and that it contained educational articles which tended to improve their morale, the CommanderinChief of the Allied Land Forces definitely recommended that its publication should be continued. I am prepared, however, to discuss the matter further with the honorable gentleman, and to have made whatever investigation he may wish.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 6th October, the statement that man-power authorities had urged autumn instead of winter shearing in the warmer districts of New South Wales? Has the honorable gentleman also seen the further statement in that journal, that man-power authorities had suggested that graziers should rearrange their lambing season? Will the honorable gentleman inform the House what are the qualifications and pastoral experience of the authorities who have made those statements? Will he also assure me that before action such as that suggested is taken, he will convene a conference of representatives of each shearing zone in Australia, in order that practical knowledge and experience may be brought to bear in the consideration of these important matters?
– I have not seen the newspaper reports to which the honorable member has referred. I assure him, however, that before arrangements are made in respect of the next shearing season. I shall carry out the undertaking that I have given all interested parties shall be called together with a view to the removal of difficulties from future arrangements.
SUPPLY (Grievance Day).
Question negatived -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provisions of this bill substantially reproduce those of the Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act 1918-19, which it repeals; but, whereas that act was limited in its applicationto the military forces, the present bill includes naval, military and air forces of the Crown, and women’s auxiliary organizations connected therewith, including the nursing services. The matters with which it deals are mainly of a. technical nature. Its sole object is to provide a simple procedure for dealing with what it describes as the “ war service estate “ of deceased members of the forces and auxiliary organizations. It is not concerned with the private estates of these persons; the existing provisions of State law will continue to apply in that respect. The “ war service estate “, the distribution of which is the subject of the bill, will consist of the net amount of pay, allowances and other moneys due to the member by the Commonwealth, together with such of his personal effects as are, at the time of his death, or after that time, placed in the custody or control of the naval, military or air force authorities. These personal effects would be money and articles - for instance, a watch - which the member had with him at the time of his death, and such articles as were contained in his kit bag. Honorable members will realize that thousands of articles and sums of money in small amount? will come into the hands of the authorities, and that it would place an intolerable burden on the Commonwealth and the State authorities if their distribution had to await the tedious delays of ordinary procedure. It is therefore provided that the war service estate may be paid or delivered to the personal representative of the deceased member, to the person considered to be beneficially entitled thereto, to a public trustee, or to such person or class of persons as is prescribed, and that such payment or delivery shall operate to discharge the Commonwealth from all liability in respect of the money or property so distributed. At the present time, there are about 60 cases to which the measure will apply immediately it comes into force.
With reference to payments made to the Public Trustee, there is always the possibility that no beneficiaries willbe located. For this reason, power is being given to reclaim the moneys, which will then be applied to funds established for repatriation purposes.
In conclusion, I repeat that, apart from some changes in verbiage, and the extension of the provision to the naval and air forces and their auxiliaries, the provisions now before the House are those that are contained in the Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act 1918-19, under which what were called “ military estates “, corresponding to what are now to be called, by reason of the extended application of the proposed act, “ war service estates “, were simply and satisfactorily administered during and subsequent to the last. war.
.- The Opposition has perused the bill, and has no objection to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th September (vide page 1203), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the following paperbe printed: - “ Activities of Department of War Organization of Industry - Ministerial statement. 30th September, 1042.”
.- On the 29th April last, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) made a statement to the House in which he described the various classes of rationalization schemes that he had in mind. It suggested to me that be had made some examination of his subject, but had not reached any conclusion as to how or where he should start the job. Five months later, the Minister made another statement. He has now been in office twelve months. It is time he found a better defence for himself than a wearisome reiteration of the mis-statement that after an initial period of three months in office from the time the department was gazetted, I left nothing for him. What 1 did was to make a survey of the problem, prepare foundation plans and recommendations and leave them for a Minister who did not use them. Be sure of this: I never intended to proceed along the lines that he has followed, neither did I intend ever to set up the organization that he has allowed to be created.
In some respects, the Minister now presents a broader view of the activities of his department, since he makes a more satisfactory reference to its work as the Secretariat and Executive Department of the Production Executive. Under this heading, he explains the efforts made towards co-ordination of the work of other departments, and mentions in particular the Australian Clothing Council, the Transport Emergency Freight Committee and the Food Council.
All these are important functions, though I shall not pause at this stage to express my own view as to how they could be better approached if the Department of War Organization of Industry were placed in a more advantageous position. I shall refer to this matter before I conclude my remarks. In other respects, the Minister’s statement suggests that some of the bright dreams of April have faded during the long winter nights that have since passed. Time for reflection may have brought with it a realization of the futility of some of the schemes of the autumn.
Either the Minister is not able, or has purposely failed, to touch on this occasion on a number of important references whichhe made in April to such industries as the manufacture of windmills, electrical appliances, and bicycles, as well as to the rationalization of wool, meat, garages and service stations. It is in this branch ofthe department’s activities that trouble is most likely to be found and made. This Minister has evidently discovered this fact, for he now refers to a large list of industries where rationalization has proceeded on a voluntary basis under some measure of departmental leadership. He is evidently not. so confident now of the doctrine of “ concentration “, upon which the House was addressed at considerable length in April last.
On the 29th April, the Minister said -
The rationalization plans for the banking system, now well advanced, include provision for a special form of concentration. This is to be effected by closing one or more bank branches in the many localities in whichbanking facilities are greatly in excess of the community’s needs.
The Minister then proceeded to complain that banks had anticipated him by closing down branches “without any sanction”. The Minister added that he had “ taken up the matter with the banks, which had now undertaken that no further branches would be closed down pending the completion of our rationalization plans “.
After five months, I can find only one reference to banking in the Minister’s statement of the 30th September. He says -
In the near future complete proposals for a considerable number of industries, representing months of careful preparation, will be produced. Some of the industries in respect of which a great deal of work has already been done are indicated in the following list. Here follows a list of twelve industries, with banking placed inconspicuously in the middle. It follows electroplating, and precedes hand and garden tools. Some of its other colleagues in this list of twelve are cosmetics and dentifrice.
The Minister is not always organizing industry for war - he is in some cases preventing the organization of industry for war. The banks wanted to do the job, and started it. They would have finished it and done it well without injury to the industry or inconvenience to the public. Let me tell the House what is being done voluntarily by one of the largest banks in Australia. It has closed 168 branches and agencies throughout Australia. It has released 2,359 men from the Australian staff for the services. It is carrying on with a total male and female staff which is 1,091 less than at the outbreak of war. It has made an agreement with the man-power authorities to release gradually 107 men, who have already been granted war leave and are awaiting call-up with the various units, and 370 men under eighteen years of age who will be released as they attain military age. Upon releasing these men, the bank will have provided in Australia 2,729 men, representing 67 per cent. of its total male staff at the outbreak of war.
Illustrations like this show how ungenerous are the Minister’s cheap gibes about men who, in the future, will be taken from “ white collar “ jobs to do work requiring physical exertion. Let me tell the Minister that the white collar men have not waited for him to lead the way. Nor have they taken jobs in munitions factories at double their former pay. They are in the front line in their thousands, and Australia will bless them for their courage and patriotism.
On the 29th April, the Minister said - Another fruitful field for concentration is that of wholesale and retail distribution, and this is not being neglected.
It seemed that the Minister had discovered a large haul of man-power - some place where the scope for his war organization could be used to some purpose. All I can find upon this subject in his statement made five months later is the following vague statement: -
The department has recently begun to give its closest attention to other fields in which man-power and other problems are arising in an increasing degree - for example rural industries and wholesale and retail trade.
This does not seem to be a very satisfying solution of the problem that in April last he described as a “ fruitful field for concentration “.
On this occasion, the Minister breaks new ground with regard to the retail trade only. In this connexion, however, his remarks do not appear to have much to do with the war organization of industry. He seems to be anxious to secure some political defence against the charge that the unsettling activities of his department are having the effect of closing down small businesses. Indeed, the Minister rises to heights of indignation on this point. He says -
I challenge members to produce a single piece of evidence which suggests that my department’s actions are biased against the small firm.
Nobody said that he was biased against small firms. What is said of him is what he then proceeds to admit in his own statement. I quote him -
Firms have been closed as a result of my orders prohibiting non-essential production, but these orders have put out of business all firms dependent upon the prohibited products, whether large or small.
All I can add is that the large firms have protected themselves, because they were able to change over to different goods, whilst small firms have suffered for the clumsiness of the Minister’s policy. The Minister appears now to realize the political danger of this, for any one can see to-day the empty small shops in country towns and suburbs. He says -
Amongst those who have suffered are the small firms which have been unable to keep going on a reduced turnover as supplies have become short.
The Minister’s solution of this problem is worth quoting in full -
The closing down of smallsuburban shops is on aspect of this problem which has given rise to particular concern. The Government is now considering ways and means of diverting man-power from retail trade, and in this connexion it may be possible to take action which will result in the diversion to the small shops of some of the business that is now done in the large departmental stores. This will raise difficult problems, but members may rest assured that the Government will take any action along those lines which is administratively practicable. One of the advantages of this course lies in the fact that the large stores employ a typo of labour which is well suited to the needs of war production, whereas small shops in the suburbs can rely more readily on part-time assistance and on workers not easily transferable towar jobs.
– Is not that true?
– No. Reading into the doubts and the generalities of this statement, one may easily perceive that the Minister has no solution of the problem at all. I would say, in regard to the assertion of the last sentence which I quoted, that the reverse is usually the position. Large stores can carry on with specialized girls, but small shops require the versatile man of greater capacity in many cases. The Minister will not allay fears by such foolish statements as this.
On the 29th April, the Minister appeared to have made great discoveries in the woollen and worsted textiles. He said -
Investigation showed that firms were producing classes and grades of material for civilian purchases which bore littleor no relation to the real needs of the community.
With the co-operation of the manufacturers and the Textile Workers Union, we were able to allocate production in suitable proportions to a number of standardized hues which are essential.
Nothing more appears in support of this except that on the morning after the Minister’s statement, the press announced the appointment of another committee. One might have expected the Minister to make some mention of this new committee, seeing that it deals with an important industry which is strained to the limit for war production at this moment. The Minister, in a preamble to his statement on the 30th September, said that “ honorable members are entitled to the fullest possible information “. Why does not he tell the House about schemes affecting textiles, retail trades, and the wool industry concerning which we read, within a few days before and after his statement, more or less official forecasts in the press as to what would happen ?
The Minister’s statement delivered on the 30th September, is, on the whole, not nearly so impressive as the statement of the 29th April. The present statement is that of a frightened man who looks from right to left, because most of his experiments up to now have provided for him an experience that leaves no margin for optimism as to the success of future experiments.
What the Minister must realize is that the people in control of Australian industry are just as patriotic as he is, and there is no need to threaten socialistic schemes under cover of a war effort. He will get all the co-operation that is possible if only he asks for it. My observations lead me to say that Australian industries, large and small, need only to ho told what is expected from them and they will co-operate in preparing and implementing a sound plan to release men and materials. I go further, and say that the only result of real value that the Minister has secured in rationalization and what he calls “ concentration “ is where he has appealed for and secured the co-operation of industries which, from their own intimate knowledge of their undertakings, are able to bring into operation without chaos the measures that are necessary to release man-power and material for the national use. I quote some of the doctrines confidently advanced in the Minister’s statement of the 29th April-
Output can be concentrated in the most efficient plants; the cost in resources of producing each unit of output is generally lower as capacity output is approached; key workers foremen and managers are released for urgent tasks; the floor space can be used for war and other essential purposes.
In planning for concentration where it promises such benefitsas these my department is not unmindful of the need to provide for the possibility of future necessary increases in the scale of output and to ensure that production shall be located with an eye to the saving of transport and the danger of destruction of enemy attack.
In all proposals for concentration of production the fate of enterprises ousted from the industry is a matter of concern. In this connexion we are examining the policy adopted by the United Kingdom Board of Trade which protects as far as possible the interests of suppressed firms by arrangements for the pooling of profits in one form or another so as to minimize the advantage of the firms kept in production.
I find little or nothing in the Minister’s statement on the 30th September to refute the suggestion that as he gained more experience of the realities of industry those well-intended doctrines fell by the wayside. I have certainly heard nothing of a scheme to compensate the many small businesses which, he admits, have closed down because of the application of his policy.
– That is not true.
– It is. The Minister admitted it in his statement. It is true that the need for some of these plans has remained in his mind. He reverts to the problem of transport in his present statement. I quote it -
The most recently established committee is the Transport Emergency Freight Committee. This committee was set up in recognition of the fact that, however effective the separate authorities responsible for providing transport facilities may be, there is need in addition for a body which will look at the transport question as a whole and ensure that freight priorities are so allocated that first things come first whether transport by sea, land or air is in question. A central focus for transport priorities is imperative in these present circumstances when transport facilities are strained to such an extent that even the basic fuels and raw materials of industry must often bo withheld for lack of transport.
I shall watch the progress of this effort and I hope that it will not go the way of the Minister’s many ideas in the autumn. Important as the subject is, I fear that the Minister’s reference to it has an air of unreality. Like its predecessors in April, it reads too much like the adaptation of some quotation from a more or less standard work upon economics. The Minister’s statement is on the whole a most unconvincing story. His failure to mention large rationalization schemes suggests to me that he is missing the opportunity to get results by co-operation, while he engages a large staff upon the preparation of intricate schemes that are failing to make impact because they are impracticable and prepared by people who have no sound knowledge of the working of industry.
I quote again from the Minister’s September statement -
The department is looked to for advice on the relative essentiality of various civil industries from the viewpoint, for example, of man-power policy and the supply of scarce materials. In these and other co-ordinating activities the department is assisted by the fact that the statistician of the Department of War Organization of Industry has been given general charge of the war statistics section constituted by the Commonwealth Statistician to maintain liaison between statistical officers of various war departments.
As an answer to my question of the 9th September the Minister’s statement upon rationalization in particular is about as vague as it can possibly be. I am no wiser than before I asked the question, for in respect of all the matters he mentions I have seen references in the press from time to time. I am not at all thrilled by the fact that he has set up a super-statistician to co-ordinate the existing army of statisticians.
I do not want without purpose to say anything in disparagement of what the Minister has done. His efforts have been encouraged in the press at times, but. in the aggregate they leave me with an empty feeling. The “ Victory “ suit without a vest may or may not save a little cloth but I am afraid it will cause a lot of bronchitis and pneumonia if it does not break down before next winter. The embargo upon dry-cleaning dinner suits seems a very poor contribution towards the winning of the war. I wish I could convince myself that these and other achievements of the Minister are really motivated by a desire to conserve man-power and material. I have never escaped the impression that they are really intended to standardize the Australian people rather than to standardize the clothes they wear. It always seems to me that there are so many real and important jobs to be done to-day and that the Minister must go a long way out of his road to find the trifling things that make no real impact upon the problems of the war.. I wish the Minister had said something in explanation, for example, of his rationalization scheme for veterinary remedies, including stock feeds and stock licks. I have heard this week that stock licks are to be available for cattle but not for sheep. I want to know more about the simplification of meals. Is this scheme related to the proposals to fix prices for meals or is it another proposal? What, is the rationalization of packaging? Is it the scheme whereby shoppers must carry away their purchasesunwrapped? If it is a more comprehensive scheme, why not let the House know something about it? The most impressive part of the Minister’s statement is his reference to rationalization schemes that have been carried out on a voluntary basis.
– “Under pressure from my department “. The honorable member left that phrase out.
– I tell the Minister that where industries have co-operated with him and have devised and put into effect schemes of rationalization is where he has got worthwhile results.
The Minister mentions fourteen industries some of which are very substantial. This leads me to think that where the industries have been told what was required of them and left to carry out their own rationalization, the result has been far more successful. I hope that the Minister will be encouraged to proceed more along these lines in the future, for I am convinced that he will be able to show better results to the House when he makes his next statement.
I am afraid that the Minister is out of his depth when he tries to lay down plans for the primary industries. He will do well to take very careful advice before he proceeds far in this direction. The production of foodstuffs may prove to be a very important element in the winning of this war, and the primary industries have contributed very heavily in man-power already. If the Minister makes crucial errors in laying down unworkable schemes for the primary industries,he will cause grave unrest in the country. Already he has made a pronouncement about wheat that seems to be at variance with the views of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– Where did the honorable member get that statement ?
– I heard the Minister make it last week.
– I said nothing of the kind. I said that wheat was in excess of our needs. Is that untrue?
– The honorable mem ber for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the Minister to name one industry whose production was in excess of requirements, and to which rationalization could be applied and he said, “ the wheat industry “.
– I said nothing of the kind. The honorable member for New England asked me to name an industry which produced more than we need andI named the wheat industry. Nothing was said about rationalization of the wheat industry.
– The Minister spends his time making statements and then denying having made them. Apart from any question of wheat supplies he will need, before he endeavours to cut down wheat production, to explain to farmers how they will utilize their lands which in many cases are charged with interestbearing liabilities. This House was told last week that there is already a manpower deficiency of more than 15,000 in the dairying industries. The problems of shearing, crutching, lamb-marking and transport are already very difficult in the pastoral industry. Graziers will want to know exactly what he means when he asks them to cut down the number of sheep they carry. Many properties are only now recovering from the losses and the poor lambing results in the drought conditions from which many parts of Australia have only recently been relieved. Last week the Minister treated the House with scant courtesy in regard to a plan for the handling of wool. He read the first two points in his plan submitted to the Central Wool Committee. These points suited the illustration he sought to make. When invited to read the balance of the plan he said he would not weary the House by doing so. When assured by me that I should not be wearied and that I wanted to hear the plan, he said it was a confidential Cabinet document and he could not disclose it. If this is so, why did he disclose the first two points that suited him? All this suggests to me that the Minister is not sure of himself. I can guess some of the balance of his plan, because it has appeared in the press. If the Minister thinks it proper to reduce the number of sheep in Australia he had better seek some sound advisers who understand the industry. He might then find a very different view,both as to the advisability of such a policy and as to the practicability of carrying it out either by voluntary or compulsory methods.
I have been critical of the Minister and his department, but I do not want to conclude my remarks without offering some constructive advice, for I feel that the department needs some help. It seems to me that there are two basic weaknesses in the administration, and if these can be removed many of the troubles of which I have spoken will remove themselves. First, the department is too far removed from the big jobs of the war. In my view the Departments of Supply and Munitions should be under one Minister and the Department of War Organization of Industry should also come under that Minister. If necessary he should have an Assistant Minister. Most of the things which the Department of War Organization of Industry tries to do are the function of another Minister. The Area Boards of Management control factory production of munitions. The Supply Department controls the purchasing of materials and foodstuffs. It is not likelythat the Minister for War Organization of Industry can exercise much influence upon the real problems of these departments while he controls a separate administration. The constitution of a production executive to co-ordinate these and other departments is the next best thing. In war-time, however, we cannot afford to have the next best thing. We need the best, and the best can only result from direct policy that is administered through the departments that deal with industry, production and war needs, and that are in a position to know how to get results without disturbance to war production and urgent civil needs. The Minister has allowed his department to run true to official form by building up another huge and independent organization that works on the outskirts of the real problems of the war. Every now and then the department seems to pounce on one of these problems only to find, in some eases, that it is working at cross purposes with action or policy in another department. Secondly, the department’s staff is too large, and, in many cases, too theoretical. It lacks the guidance of men who have had person contact with and experience in industry. In this regard, the department really needs to be born again. A glance through the extensive range of principal offices set up in the department proves the wisdom of a celebrated character in The Gondoliers, who said -
When everyone is somebodee
Then no one’s anybody.
There is a director and there are three assistant directors - one for rationalization, another for administration, and a third for production investigation. There is a deputy director, who is also chief economic adviser. There is also an economic adviser, who has the status of an assistant director. There is a statistician toco-ordinate the statisticians of various other war departments. There are also six State deputy directors. There are four industries divisions and each of them has a head. They are foodstuffs and associated products; building, printing, stoneware, all services and amusements; iron and steel, industrial chemicals, engineering and motor vehicles; and clothing, textiles and footwear. There is a prohibitions division and, of course, it has a head. There follow a number of gentlemen with very imposing titles, such as these : - Adviser on pastoral industries ; adviser on industrial chemicals ; adviser on rural economics ; adviser on bread and milk zoning. Then there are a few gentlemen with these specially imposing titles - Chairman, Australian Clothing Council and deputy chairman, Australian
Council for Clothes Styling; liaison officer with transport authorities; executive officer, Pastoral Industries Survey. In New South Wales there is not only a deputy director, but also an assistant deputy director. There are four sectional officers. In Victoria there are six industrial officers. It is amazing that there has been built up in a year an organization that is estimated to cost no less than £103,000 in 1942-43. What we really need ia somebody to unorganize the Department of War Organization of Industry. To these officers, each’ doing Ids best, no doubt, the Minister must seem a mythical figure to whom reports must travel through the hands of State deputy directors, central deputy directors, assistant directors, and on to the director, al which stage the reports are getting fairly close to the Minister himself. When the history of this war is written, it will be recorded that the road to victory along which our soldiers travelled in their triumphant return was strewn with thousands of reports that nobody had time to read properly. I tell the Minister now that, amongst the decisions which I had made in my three months of exploration, was the fixed, determination that I should work the Department of War Organization of Industry with a director and a staff of about six to ten at the most. I intended to use the machinery of the existing departments to investigate and implement plans for the war organization of industry. I fear that the Minister has lost control of the department, which has passed into the hands of officials, economists and statisticians. The most urgent need of the department to-day is a plan to rationalize itself.
The truth is that much that the Department of War Organization of Industry is trying to do by unnatural means would happen in a perfectly natural manner if the Government had the courage to set in operation a policy that would go to the roots of to-day’s financial and economic problems. The excessive spending power that enables the public to make demands upon industry for consumer goods is reflected in the activity of all industry from the manufacturer to the retailer. The diversion of this excess spending power to war needs would be achieved very effectively and simply if there were in operation a scheme of post-war credits such as has been urged during the budget debate. This should be supplemented by a more extensive scheme of rationing than is now in operation. Lf I were a betting man, I am sure that the Minister would very sportingly lose a bet to me that, before next February, this Government will be forced to institute a system of post-war credits. Had it done so at the proper time, it would have avoided many of the economic ills from which this country is suffering to-day. If this were done, most of the results now sought by the rationalization of industry would be secured right away, because the public would have less money with which to create immediately the demand that now compels industry to use man-power and materials that are needed for war purposes. Conversely, the people would have more money after the war, when spending upon consumer-goods would help to restore industry and reduce unemployment. It is because this is not done that a widespread and complicated system of rationalization is being applied. This is not only difficult to apply, but also difficult to police, and difficulties will not diminish as time passes, because the root troubles are increasing every month. Only some of the people will practice austerity and contribute by voluntary methods to the national funds. The balance of the people will continue to create this unnatural demand of which I have spoken, and which will continue to embarrass the nation. The only real cure is a balanced programme of compulsory savings, rationing and rationalization. When the point is reached where this is recognized by the Government and put into operation despite its political difficulties, most of the need for this extraordinary and complicated activity in the Department of War Organization of Industry will have ceased to exist. The problem would have been tackled in this way if the previous Government had remained in office, and if I had continued in office as Minister for this department. I am convinced that, had this course been followed, the work of the Department of War Organization of
Industry, so far as rationalization is concerned, would have been reduced to nonessential industries where civil production could have been transferred gradually to war production. [Extension oftime granted.]
The Minister’s statement is no reply to the question which I asked the Prime Minister on the 9th September. It commences with a survey of the people transferred from civilian life and work to direct war work in the armed services, factories and elsewhere, and presents what the Minister describes as “ a broad picture of the achievements in diverting resources to the war effort to which the Government can lay claim “. By a skilful suggestion, it narrows down the credit to the Department of War Organization of Industry by saying,’ Man-power movements of this magnitude have not been achieved without careful planning and organization “. I say that the foundation for this was left to the present Government by the previous Government, which prepared for great expansions of the munitions industries which have occurred during the last two years, and particularly since June, 1940. Huge factories in different parts of Australia were in course of construction, and some were closely approaching the stage of completion in October, 1941, when they required staff and equipment. Obviously, the entry of Japan into the war in December, 1941, also created conditions that made possible an outlook on the part of Australians entirely different from anything that had existed up to that time. Is it not possible to stop this game of political chests? Does it matter which government did things, so long as we win this war and save Australia for our children to live peacefully and happily? Why should we expend our energies as 1942 dra ws to a close in endeavouring to prove which government or which department holds the blue ribbon of achievement? The ineffectiveness of the Minister’s reply is evidenced in one paragraph of bis statement: -
Measures designed to divert labour and resources include control of buildings, the prohibition of the manufacture of certain articles, the control of new businesses, dis- employment orders and the rationalization of industry. I do not wish to weary the House with a detailed account of all these activities and will confine my attention to the problems of the rationalization of industry.
But he would not have wearied me. I wanted to know what his department was doing. I know all about the control of buildings. That was an established function under the Treasury long ago and handed over to the Minister as a going concern a few months back. I should like to know something about the new business that he is controlling. Does he refer to the activities of the Capital Issues Board, for that also has been functioning for more than two years and was placed under the Minister only recently?
I want to know about these prohibitions - what they are, the reason for them, and exactly what results have been achieved. I have in mind a small manufacturer who wrote to me recently that his business had been closed down. After I bad written to the Department of War Organization of Industry asking the reasons it was discovered that he had been doing work for the naval services and the Ministry of Munitions. He was then allowed to reopen his factory. I quote the following from a letter he wrote to me on the 7th July:-
Since the closing downof my business on the 12th June, I have received several urgent orders for chain for defence work,but with the present restrictions I am prohibited from making chain either for defence or any other purpose.
This is the kind of action that results in the closing down of small businesses. The proof of it can be found in the Minister’s own statement, from which I quote the following : -
Most of the rationalization schemes bo far introduced - especially those introduced voluntarilydo not go the whole way towards rationalization. Often still more varieties, could be eliminatedand production concentrated in fewer firms.
That blessed word “concentration” is the death-blow to small firms. It is easily understandable that when the production of six firms is concentrated so that only four firms remain, those that are eliminated are the small firms who thereupon pay the penalty for a tragic policy. [ am told by manufacturers who will not allow their names to be disclosed that they receive instructions from the Department of War Organization of Industry that cut right across arrangements for the production of war supplies that they have with other government departments. I was told of such a case only last Monday. I mention this because it is evident that the department is not fully co-operating with the large departments that are responsible for war production and supply. I am convinced that it, was a huge blunder for the Department of War Organization of Industry to be made a separate entity roving amongst, the industries that are working at top pressure for the war. Amongst business people in Sydney and Melbourne the department is nick-named “ The Department for Disorganization of Industry “. When I listened to the Minister’s vague statements, and read his explanation of the set-up of this huge department. I r ealized that there mustbe sound reason for the disquietude that I find everywhere concerning the department’s activities.
I often wonder whether Australia, with its limited population of 7,000,000 spread over a huge continent, is trying to do too many things in the winning of this war. Let honorable members be clear that I do not suggest that we are doing too much, for that is not possible when our country and the lives of our women and children are at stake. It is possible, however, that we may do twenty things imperfectly where we might do fifteen things perfectly, and get a better aggregate result. It is mathematically correct, even in a war, that two into one will not go.
A complete examination of this view would be a worth-while function of the Department of War Organization of Industry. The Army - and I have nothing but gratitude in my heart for the Army - may see only its own problems. The Cabinet is the only authority that can clearly survey all departments associated with the war effort to see how Australia’s aggregate resources may be applied for the best, result. I do not seek to pose as a military authority, and I offer no considered opinion upon this subject. I am entitled to think about it, however, and I find myself wondering very often whether, with fewer men at the battle stations and with more men to organize the production of munitions and food, our position might not be stronger. The mechanization of armies and our dependence upon aircraft compel me to think along these lines, particularly as the war is likely to last a few years longer and the needs of England, Russia and China will not diminish in relation to America’s productive capacity.
When the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee conducted its inquiries in the first half of 1941 it gave some thought to these problems. Its conclusions may, or may not, have been right; but it at least made many recommendations concerning the organization of manpower, technical training, the organizing and financing of factories for war production, the administration of government departments under war conditions, the solution of labour problems, the construction of strategic works, and many other subjects involved in an all-in war effort. That, too, was months before Japan entered the war. I am sureI speak for all the members of that committee, of which I was chairman, when I say that if they had been told that their recommendations had been considered but could not be adopted, they would at least have accepted the position with regret and felt that they had done their best. Sixteen months after the first and second reports of the committee were delivered to the Government, the committee was asked to meet again to consider lengthy comments and criticisms that had been made during the interval by the departments in respect of which improvements had been suggested. From the nature of many of these comments it would appear that the committee could not offer many suggestions that were considered of value and that the existing procedure left little to be desired. After a group of recommendations by the committee had run the gauntlet of comment by the Department of Munitions, the Treasury, the Department of Supply and Development and the Board of Business Administration, they finally came home to rest with the Department of War Organization of Industry. The Minister was evidently bewildered and at a loss to know what to do, so he has staved off the evil day of decision by asking the committee to meet again, more than a year after it thought it was dead and buried, to confer with departmental representatives and consider the recommendations and their comments. The committee will do this, and do it gladly. I cannot be blamed for feeling, however, that any misguided person who- seeks to enter the dark doors of officialdom with any suggestions should, first, read the notice over the portal “ Abandon hope all yewho enter here”.
It is well known that the Minister holds advanced views upon the socialization of industry. I have no intention, at the moment, of debating these theories with him. Whatever is to happen to our industrial and social order will happen after the war. The people will decide this issue after much has been said for and against many proposals that will be advocated. In the meanwhile we are in danger of losing our priceless heritage. The only thing that matters is how to get the benefit of every ounce of the nation’s resources in men, materials and money. To do this we need to use the industrial system - both the farms and the factories - for war purposes, and to supply the civil population with essential needs as well as to supply England and our allies, where we can, with foodstuffs and other productions of this country. To do this it is not necessary to break down our industrial system in the middle of a war. Every unit, however small, may be made to play some part now in achieving our aims. There is need to maintain morale in industry as well as amongst the people. Industry will give of its best if it is handled the right way. We can he critical of one another, for only by fair criticism can we improve methods that we consider are not in the best interests of the war effort; but there is no need for us to- chide one another upon our positions or our principles, for that can lead only to division in the national ranks.
The Minister’s attitude towards industry reminds me of a famous couplet, and I apologize for adapting it to the administration of the Department of War Organization of Industry which endeavours -
To prove its doctrines orthodox
By economic blows and knocks.
The theologian concerning whom this was written with apostolic reference may have done more good and achieved better results, by a more tolerant attitude and a better understanding of the faith of those who did not agree with him. I offer that observation to the Minister as a guiding principle that may help him in the administration of the Department of War Organization of Industry.
.-The statement made to the House by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) on the operations of his department has caused the honorable member forRobertson (Mr. Spooner) to release a tirade upon us which from my observation, suggests that the honorable gentleman, who was Minister for War Organization of Industry in two previous governments, is jealous of what the present Minister has been able to achieve. The honorable gentleman may justly be absolved from having done anything while he held the portfolio ! During his term in office numerous questions were asked of him in this House concerning one aspect or another of the organization of war industry, but all his replies were to the effect that he had not been able to discover the proper function of his department, and consequently was not able to say whether the subjects referred to him came properly within his purview or not. He held the office for quite a considerable time; yet he had no knowledge of what he was supposed to do. The war was developing; yet there was no provision for the maximum use of manpower for the defence of Australia. The present Government had. to make good many of the shortcomings of its predecessors. Considerable man-power had to be provided for the Army, for other war services, and for munitions production, because the previous Government had definitely fallen down on its job. The task has been accomplished with a substantial degree of success. It has not been pleasant for either the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) or the Government. When Australia found itself at war with Japan, large forces had to be placed in the field, and a substantial number of men and women had to be engaged in munitions production and various other avenues for the supply of essential needs. In order that that might be done, man-power had to he transferred from industries that were considered not absolutely essential during the war to others that are essential. The Minister for War Organization of Industry bad to bear the brunt of what had to be done. His department is most difficult to administer. When he assumed office, he found that no organization had been built up by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), and he had to start from the ground floor. I consider that he has done exceptionally well, because he had no previous experience to guide him, and no precedents to follow. Practically every other department had operated in times of peace, and many of them had also been operating throughout the war. Incoming Ministers, with the exception of the Minister for War Organization of Industry, had the benefit of the advice and guidance of officers who had had many years of experience. The Department of War Organization of Industry was entirely new, and the Minister not only had to do what was expected in regard to the rationalization of industry, but also had to build up the machinery with which to do it. Although some of the schemes evolved may not have been carried out to the best advantage, all things considered, the work has been performed most meritoriously. The honorable member for Robertson would hope to achieve results by taxation or other monetary means. Positive and physical methods are the most practical. Man-power has been directed from one source to another where it has been most desired. Any haphazard scheme for the taxation of an individual and the reduction thereby of his spending power would not divert an establishment from the manufacture of refrigerators to the manufacture of parts for aeroplanes or to any other essential purpose. The employees in industries that have been devoted to the production of war needs would not have had avenues of employment had it not been for the organization established by the Departments of War Organization of Industry and Labour and National Service.
Special reference has been made to the rationalization of the sheep and wool industry. Action taken by the Minister in that respect has been quite satisfactory, and there is no reason for complaint by any one. Those interested in the industry have been consulted, and the Minister will continue to consult them before adopting methods designed to obtain what the Government regards as necessary. Our flocks are now larger than they have been for many years, and are considerably larger than the average. That position is in some degree attributable to improved pastures, fewer rabbits, and greater carrying capacity. Recently, Australia emerged from an extensive drought , that covered the greater part of its area. It is therefore reasonable to assume that with better conditions, such as are now being experienced, even larger numbers of stock could be carried with safety. The Government does not desire or intend to reduce the number of stock merely for the sake of having fewer. The Minister requested and appealed to those concerned to consign their stock to treatment works for dehydration and canning purposes in order to supply the needs of the Army. It is necessary to stress the necessity for the provision of dehydrated meats, because our troops in New Guinea and other tropical regions have to be fed on those products. If the required number of stock be not sent voluntarily by those who produce them, other means to achieve what is desired will have to be found. The action of the Minister in that connexion has been quite satisfactory, and no one has cause for complaint. Steps were taken for the establishment of shearing zones. This may have proved inconvenient to some owners of stock, but generally the scheme has worked satisfactorily and shearing has proceeded with few hitches. Had action not been taken by the Government, many persons might not have been able to obtain shearers, because they were scattered throughout the country. Shearing in zones has largely helped to concentrate labour, with the result that sheep have been shorn on time and with the least dislocation. I have recently been through a large portion of different .States, and have found very little complaint in regard to the working of the system. What complaints have been made were based on prejudice, or were the result of misfortune in connexion with private arrangements that had been made. The transport of wool is a vital problem. Railway rolling-stock is needed for the movement of troops and supplies in different parts of Australia; consequently the existing facilities for the shifting of wool are not so great as were those in normal times. The action taken by the Minister has considerably eased the position. Those engaged in the industry realize that the Government is labouring under great difficulties, and that the Minister cannot be accused of failing to take action to meet the position. The charge appears to be that he has gathered round him a staff of varied experience. The Minister for War Organization of Industry has done an excellent job and the ex-Minister, the honorable member for Robertson, is rather peeved about it. Because he failed to do anything while he was in office for three months, he regards it as his special right to attack the present occupant of the office every time he gets the chance. The letter addressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) to members of his party, a copy of which was read in this House by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) recently, invited honorable members to ventilate in the House their grievances against the Department of War Organization of Industry in an attempt to embarrass the Government. Evidently, the honorable member for Robertson accepted the invitation, and during the recess prepared a long attack on the department, which he has now read to the House. That was his contribution to the attack upon the Government and, now that he has got it off his chest, he will probably be satisfied. The work of the Minister for War Organization of Industry may safely be left to the judgment of the House. The present Government may have erred because it acted in certain directions, but the previous Government erred more grievously in that it did not act at all.
.- It is a source of astonishment to me that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) should have been able to discover in the work of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) anything upon which to congratulate him. If the honorable member were to go out into the country and listen to what the people are saying, particularly those who have been affected by the activities of the Minister, he would obtain a different understanding of the matter. The people are appreciative of the reasons which led the Minister to attempt to do something, but they say, quite rightly, that his attempts have completely failed in their purpose. What he has done has led, and is leading, to chaos in one industry after another. I know that his job is not an easy one; probably it is more difficult than the job of any other Minister in the Cabinet, hut he should have been able to make a more successful effort than he has made. I am particularly concerned with the effect which his measures have had on small shopkeepers. I have here a report of a conference which was recently held in one of the largest towns in my electorate, and it is illuminating as showing what is happening to a large and important class of business people. An extract from the report reads as follows: -
The chairman briefly reviewed the discussions and stated that the conference had been held to endeavour to get information as to the probable causeof the closing of so many shops. It was stated that in Prahran 200 small shops had closed down, and in St. Kilda. 177, while Hawthorn. Camberwell and other suburbs had also suffered severely. It was considered that the closing down of these shops had been due to lack of man-power or shortage of supplies, or both.
A committee interviewed the man-power authorities, and it was found that no relief could be given in that direction. The supply problem was different, however, and the Director of Supplies has been asked for information. The supply question was a serious one. He did not know how Dandenong was being affected, but, judging by the attendance, local businesses were evidently meeting with difficulties.
The chairman stated that Mr. Gerald Maggs. in replying to a questionnaire sent out, gave it as his opinion that the present position had been brought about by the big emporiums in the pity getting most of the supplies and the small shopkeepers merely what was left.
One delegate said that the main cause of all the trouble, he considered was the wholesale distribution favouring big stores, which were able to trade in almost every commodity and the only remedy was the rationalization of business. If a man is a grocer, let him sell groceries only, and so on. This would eliminate the difficulties of supply and distribution. “ My main trouble is man-power “, said another speaker. “ Since the war began, I have lost live of my staff. In some instances, therehas been a shortage of supplies.
What beats me, though, is that some lines, more particularly those required by the farming community, are unobtainable from the warehouse, yet can be purchased in the local market and, in many vases, without the correct number of coupons.”
Another speaker pointed out that there was a slackening of supplies to Dandenong from the beginning of April, but he had found that the big stores in the city still carried a plentiful supply of everything. This was unfair to the small man, who sticks to his legitimate trade. The Director of Supplies should go fully into the matter and try and arrive at rationalization of business. As far as confectionery was concerned, what he used to get weekly he now gets monthly, or once in six weeks.
That sums up the position fairly as regards the small shopkeepers. The Minister has also closed hank branches in country areas, and he has been closing other businesses in a laudable attempt to make man-power available. No doubt this man-power will eventually be directed into the war effort, but there is often a considerable lag between the release of man-power from some civil occupation and its employment upon war production. There are in Australia a great many men - some of them retired, but still active - who are not at. present engaged in industry, but who could be so engaged. Before that available reservoir has been completely exhausted, the Minister should proceed warily in breaking up the. small businesses that are affected by the present regulations. The small shopkeepers constitute a part of the backbone of the community. The majority of them built up their own businesses and are employed in a very useful work. To force them outof business, as a class, will be to do a great disservice to the country. Before the Minister closes their businesses, he should examine closely the unemployed man-power that is still available. Many personsask honorable members to find work for them. Of the several hundreds who have passed through my hands, many are capable of performing useful war work. Last June,I received a visit from a refugee from Singapore. Aged 40 years, he was a qualified civil engineer and had been an official in the service of the Government of the Malay States. He was not obliged to work, because he was still receiving a salary from the British Government, but he was keen to find a war job. No department would employ him, so in despair he communicated with me. 1 wrote to five departments on his behalf, but after five months he was still looking for an opportunity to assist in the war effort. His experience and qualifications would be of great value to the country. I could name half a dozen men, in their early fifties, who have had managerial experience and who desire to serve Australia. Why should we upset small businesses and shops when a large reservoir of man-power is still available to fill a hundred and one different, positions, if only the organization were there to absorb them? Before the Minister proceeds with his work of disorganization, he should ensure that these people shall be placed in useful employment.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) was a classic example of non-co-operation. In my opinion, the honorable gentleman would make a fitting successor to his former leader and colleague who represented the Commonwealth on the Eastern Group Supply Council at New Delhi. In India at the present time the policy of noncooperation is very active, and has distressing potentialities. The display by the honorable member for Robertson would teach some of the leading Indians new tricks in non-co-operation.
No honorable member was more fitted than the honorable member for Robertson to discuss the subject of rationalization as applicable to small shopkeepers. Unfortunately, he did not deal with it in the spirit that members of the Labour party approached it. Thousands of their friends are being displaced from industries which are not considered vital to the war effort, and we had to explain to the persons affected the reasons for their displacement. But the honorable member for Robertson made a plea for the retention of a class that he knows, in his heart, can have no place in a strongly and strictly rationalized system.. The retention of half a dozen small storekeepers in a street, 100 yards long, each competing with the others, creates in war-time an impossible position. As an accountant, the honorable member knows that better than most people. Yet, for political reasons, he made a plea for the retention of such a system. Every one has sympathy for tie tradesmen who must be displaced in the present crisis; but we also have sympathy for the families which have been broken up when men have joined the fighting forces. We do not allow our sympathy so to distort our sense of proportion that we make political speeches urging the retention of the troops in industry. Such a practice would produce chaos in the Defence Forces. Knowing the position, the honorable member for Robertson showed himself to be a person who is playing party politics to extremes.
I come now to the scheme of rationalization that the Minister is attempting to introduce in the primary industries. No part of our economy calls so insistently for rationalization as do the primary industries. For generations, money . has been poured into farms in order to maintain these uneconomic units and to create surpluses of products which we cannot sell. Representing a primary producing electorate, I know the suffering that results from the policy of rationalization; but I am honest enough to tell the people that if with the small resources at our disposal we are to defend Australia, they must suffer. Admittedly, the whole position is unfortunate, because these uneconomic units are a hardworking and useful section of the community. Some sacrifice has to be made and that is a section of the community whose operations can be dispensed with more than those of scientifically developed sections of primary industry. For generations bounties have been paid to certain sections of primary industry to continue them in the production of a commodity that we cannot consume. Large sums of money have been paid year after year in order to keep wheat-farmers on land, which we know cannot be economically managed. We know that certain sections of the country have been wrongly allocated for closer settlement, but, instead of admitting the mistake and cutting our losses by transferring the farmers to other areas where they could produce economically a needed commo- dity we have continued year after year to pour money into the bottomless pit just for the sake of maintaining in misery the farmers concerned. For it is in misery that they live. They eke out some kind of an existence far below the standards of living on which we pride ourselves. Those remarks apply, not only to the wheat-growing industry, but also to the wool-growing industry and the fruit industry, and, lately, we have had brought forcefully to our notice the depressed state of the dairying industry. That industry has reached such a low state that many men have been forced to abandon their farms; others have been driven to open revolt. That state of affairs, in my opinion, is the direct consequence of a long period of mismanagement and unscientific control. If there be one section of the community that calls for the close attention of the Minister for War Organization of Industry and his staff, it is that represented by those engaged in primary industries. Their representatives have been most insistent in demands for re-organization of the industries. They have been able to see more clearly than the outsider .could the chaotic conditions in which they labour, and they have been appealing for the creation of a central authority with power to give effect to its decisions for the rationalization of their industries. In the last twelve months since this party took office we have had in the Commonwealth a government which, as the primary producers have realized, is clearly attempting to do something to straighten out their affairs. Month after month, especially when Parliament has been in session, deputations from primary industries have asked the Government to establish a central authority for that purpose. Every organization representing primary producers has sent to the Government resolutions asking for the appointment of a director of agriculture with a full power of control. It has been said that the Minister for War Organization of Industry has not sought the cooperation of the people who know primary industries, but has imposed on those industries a secretariat without any sympathy with or understanding of the rank and file of the industries; but the very fact that the representatives of those industries have appealed to the Government to take control of them is positive proof that the Augean stable can be cleared only by a political Hercules like the Minister for War Organization of Industry. I say that advisedly, because, if there be any herculean task, it is that confronting the Minister. All his colleagues realize that. Former Ministers, now in Opposition, critical though they be of what the Minister is doing, realize the tremendous task he has in front of him.If there were any truth in the Opposition’s professions of co-operation, its criticism would be more constructive, and not so destructive as it has been shown to be in the debates which have lately taken place in this chamber.
.- I, with other honorable members, realize that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has a very awkward job of work to do, but I suggest that it would be made much easier if he had a staff conversant with primary industries, business, and manufacturing industries generally - a staff that could tell him where anomalies are being created and advise him in a manner which would enable him to make regulations and take action to correct, or at any rate not perpetuate, a number of the foolish mistakes that are occurring at the moment. The basis of rationing, according to the Minister - and he has said this on many occasions - is the shortage of goods and materials. He claims that rationing has not been imposed in order to divert money into war loans.
– My department has nothing to do with rationing, which is administered by the Minister for Trade andCustoms.
– Of course, the machinery of rationing is administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs, but the direction comes from the Department of War Organization of Industry.
– What direction?
– Direction with regard to rationalization of industry - the drafting of regulations and various activities in the organization of industry during the period of war. Every direction given with regard to rationing originates in the Department of War Organization of Industry.
– The honorable member is befogged.
– No, because I have made representations to the Minister for War Organization of Industry with regard to rationing, and he has answered my representations - not well, I admit, but I have no doubt that astime goes on he will mellow and that representations made by us will then receive consideration and not be ignored as at present. The rationalization of industry, which the Minister administers and which is distinct, I admit, from rationing generally, is being effected by his soul-mate, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward).
– The honorable member would not say that if the Minister for Labour and National Service were here.
– I might say even more, but, for the time being, I content myself with calling the Minister for Labour and National Service the soulmate of the Minister for War Organization of Industry. One of them shelters behind the other’s activities. When the Minister for War Organization of Industry claimed that the rationalization of industry was due in the main to the shortages of goods and materials, he neglected to inform the House that the shortages were due to the action taken by the Minister for Labour and National Service in withdrawing man-power from certain industries.
– I thought that the honorable member was in a fog, but he must be in complete darkness.
– The Minister may enlighten me later, but the fact is that the calling up of man-power is causing a shortage of manufactured goods and materials. The Minister claims that this shortage is the basis upon which he applies rationalization of industry. He made that perfectly clear by interjection when I was speaking in the House recently. I can confirm what the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) said with regard to small shopkeepers. I have a great deal of sympathy for these persons, and I hope that the Minister will give earnest consideration to the honorable member’s remarks. What the honorable gentleman said about small shopkeepers applies also to the men in primary industries. The Minister has been asked a number of questions in this House with regard to the rationalization’ of the pastoral industry. I have received a letter from a returned soldier colleague in Queensland which shows that the Minister’s “soul-mate” is certainly helping to rationalize this industry.I have no doubt that his action has the full accord of the Minister for War Organization of Industry. My friend has been touring Queensland purchasing horses for the allied forces, and consequently he has visited many country centres and has heard some extraordinary facts regarding the calling up of men. His letter states -
There’s a frightful lot of blundering and messing about going on. It makes one sick at times to see the waste and overlapping of authority - each little Pooh Bah trying to upset the other one. We used to think things were pretty awful last time, but they are a damned sight worse now. I have been travelling about considerably the last four months with U.S. Army horse-buyers, practically all oversouth-east Queensland.
At one property, 110 miles from the nearest rail and doctor. &c, the owner, his wife and small son, aged five, are left to look after 9,000 sheep; another place, 500 square miles, cattle place, carrying 8,000 to 10,000 head, the owner, his son, of eleven, and two elderly half-castes are left. His remaining white out-station hand had been called up the week before we were there. The owner said they could look after 2.000 cattle, but the other6,000 to 8,000 would have to fend for themselves, so if there’s a shortage of beef before long the so-and-so idiots administering the man-power regulations will be to blame. One paddock on the property mentioned above is 42 miles across. Another instance, a man, aged 52, badly wounded at the last war and with two sons at this, was called 150 miles to report for medical examination. He had to take his own car and use his own petrol as there was no rail to the call-up centre. St. George, and leave his property with 5.000 to6,000 cattle in charge of a black boy for three days. When he got there, St. George, he was told to go home as they didn’t want him. The trouble to my mind is most of these regulations are being administered by public servants with no knowledge of the country or country conditions outside their own main street and back garden. One Smart Aleck in Brisbane recently decided to call up a lot of them in Toowoomba. Some hundreds got registered letters, &c., to report, and when they did it was found two-thirds were in reserved occupations, and most of the balance were quite unfit - one sprightly youth of 83 was called up, another had been blind all his life, and several came along in wheeled chairs and on crutches. I understand about a dozen were eventually accepted. Apparently the brilliant gentleman who arranged the business thought the local man-power officers weren’t doing their job. Heaven knows what he cost the country in wasted time, postages and other expenses.
– What has that to do with war organization?
– Had the Minister been present a few minutes ago, he would have heard me say that rationalization of industry is being effected by the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is effectively rationing the wool and cattle industries by calling up man-power. The letter continued-
I see by to-day’s paper the great Mr . Dedman is going to close up a lot of country bank branches. It’s just about the silliest tilinghe could do, and he’s done a lot of damned silly things. Such an action will disturb and upset the country people more than anything else, and God knows they’ve enough to put up with. We have seven banks here and I know fora fact they are all overworked now. Hardly any have any male staff except an elderly manager. One has already had to go away for three months’ spell through overwork and worry.
Mr.Morg an. - The people of Russia are not “squealing” like that.
– I know that the honorable member for Reid has some sympathy for communism.
– And that the honorable member has none.
– I admit that. The Minister, who is a theorist with regard to communism, would like to bring it into practice in Australia, and he is moving in that direction by means of regulations which he is introducing. In my opinion, the difficulties besetting the Minister for War Organization of Industry arise from the quantity of surplus money in the hands of the people. This surplus money is creating a demand for goods. On this account the Minister’s plans for the rationalization of industry are likely to be defeated. So long a? surplus money is available the demand for goods will continue, and the goods will be produced by one means or another. The solution of the honorable gentleman’s difficulties is in the submission to, and acceptance by, Cabinet of a forthright financial policy which would absorb the surplus money that is now in the hands of the community.
Let me give one or two examples of the kind of thing that is happening in the retail trade at present. In a certain retail store in Sydney a University student was trying to make up her mind whether she could afford to buy a certain article. She did not have the ready money that women engaged in our munitions factories have nowadays. While she was trying to make up her mind a little lass standing beside her at the counter said, “ I’ll have two of them “. She then turned to the University student and said, “ You know yous is us, and us is yous these days “. In another store while a purchaser was trying to make up her mind whether she could afford the money required for a certain article, a person standing behind her said, “Hurry up and make up your mind; if you don’t want it, I’ll take it”. Such incidents could be multiplied many times. The biggest factor in upsetting the Minister’s plans for the rationalization of industry is the surplus money that the people have at their command.
– It is a terrible thing in the eyes of the honorable gentleman that, the workers now have a little money to spend.
– The Minister should not misunderstand me. The responsibility for the rationalization of industry rests with the Government, which should take action to correct matters by drawing upon the surplus money in the hands of the people. If that policy were applied the work of the Department of War Organization of Industry would be simplified. It appears, however, that the Minister desires to make it hard, and not easy for the general public.
– The honorable member appears to be anxious that we should take the easy way.
– I do not see any merit in making things unnecessarily hard for the general community. If the Minister would accept the advice of practical men who understand the problems associated with industry, and take effective action to prevent the purchase of luxury goods by causing the withdrawal of surplus money from the people, most of his problems would be overcome. I commend my remarks to his careful consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Morgan) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the granting of assistance to the dairying industry with the object of aiding the prosecution of the war, and for other purposes.
Standing order suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Scully do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill he now read a second time.
Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) informed the House of an important decision by the Government to provide assistance to the dairying industry, by payment of a subsidy up to £2,000,000, and to take the necessary measures, through the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, for the determination of reasonable wage standards and living conditions for the workers in the dairying industry. I now submit a bill to apply this policy. It is not necessary for me to restate in detail the circumstances which have led to the Government’s decision to provide assistance for the dairying industry. Suffice it to say that this is a major war-time industry, the output of which is vital to the health and efficiency, not only of the fighting forces in. and around Australia and the civilian population of Australia, but also of the British people. Owing to wide disparities between living conditions in the dairying industry and those of other war-time industries great difficulty has been experienced in maintaining a sufficient labour force on dairy farms to ensure the output required to meet the demands for dairy products.
An important provision of this bill is that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration may be requested by the Minister to determine terms and conditions of employment in the dairying industry. Any determination made will operate as from the 1st October, 1942. This will do justice to a large section of employees who have hitherto been denied access to a recognized wage-fixing tribunal, and it will also establish conditions under which the maintenance of an effective labour force will be reasonably assured.
Any raising of wage standards and conditions of employment in the industry will naturally impose additional costs upon producers. To meet these, and to relieve the industry of other disabilities, such as drought in certain areas and generally increased costs since the outbreak of war, the Government has decided to make available in the current year an appropriation of £1,500,000. The subsidy will commence as from the 1st October. It will be granted for the production of butter and cheese, and appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that the whole of the subsidy shall go to the producers.
The terms and conditions upon which the subsidy will be paid are to be the subject of investigation and recommendation by the Tariff Board. Clause 6 of the bill authorizes the Tariff Board to make such inquiries and investigations as it thinks necessary, and to recommend to the Minister for Trade and Customs the allocation of the subsidy, taking into consideration the existence, in any area, of drought conditions, any disabilities of producers attributable to the war, and the terms and conditions of employment as prescribed from time to time by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
Honorable members will appreciate the fact that the Tariff Board has had extensive experience in investigating conditions in industries of all types, and in advising the Government upon the terms on which subsidies and bounties should be paid. The board is undoubtedly the most experienced governmental agency for this purpose, but in order to ensure that its reports shall be made on the basis of an intimate knowledge of the dairying industry, specific provision is made in the bill for the appointment to the board for the purposes of these investigations of a person experienced in the industry.
The bill provides that regulations may be gazetted to deal with other matters arising out of the administration of the Government’s plans for the dairying industry. There will be many administrative problems. The Prime Minister advised the House yesterday of some of these problems. Thus there is the question of the allocation of assistance ‘between parties to share farming. It will be provided that where any dispute arises as to the proportion which the working partner should receive, the aggrieved party shall have the right to appeal to a tribunal for a determination. The Government also intends to review the existing regulations in regard to transfers of properties and land values, with a view to ensuring that any assistance granted to the industry shall not be completely offset by higher land values, to the detriment of the producers and workers in the industry.
In deciding to give relief to the dairying industry by way of a subsidy, the Government gave special consideration to the effects on the price level and industrial costs of an increase of the price of so fundamental a commodity as butter. A rise of the price of butter would raise the retail index number, upon which the automatic adjustment of wage rates is made. Under the method of subsidy, it is hoped that no such increase of price will be required, and that to this extent the Government’s objective of promoting stability of price and costs will be realized. At the same time attention had to be given to the urgent need for stimulating the output of butter. I have already referred to the importance of maintaining supplies of butter. With increasing demands from the fighting forces in and around Australia, and expanding demands from Great Britain, it will be necessary for Australia to sustain the dairying industry at the highest level consistent with the demands of the armed forces and other war industries with the man-power available.
.- I am pleased that the Government has brought down a measure to give some assistance to the dairy-farmer. I agree with the method chosen, namely, assistance by means of a bounty, because, as the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has rightly argued, only by such means may the cost of living be prevented from rising on this account, and wages and other costs be prevented from beginning an inflation spiral. I also agree with the honorable gentleman that the dairying industry should be generally recognized as a major war-time industry, and therefore deserves special treatment. But I cannot agree that what is proposed will stimulate the output of butter. The total amount of the subsidy is not sufficient to give that relief which is absolutely essential at present. In addition, the application of the method proposed in connexion with the allocation of the subsidy will cause so much delay and difficulty that any good effects that might arise by reason of the subsidy itself will largely be deferred or even destroyed. I wish to make it clear that one substantial reason for the small increase of the cost of living in Australia by only IS per cent, since the commencement of the war - a remarkable performance compared with what occurred during the last war - has been that the price of butter has remained practically constant. For many years prior to the war, because of the organization that I was largely instrumental in building up, tinder which equalization was effected, a home-consumption price for butter operated’ in this country. That price had risen by only Id. per lb. in the last ten years before the war. Because of my actions in bringing into existence the Dairy Produce Control Board, and my government’s’ imposition of the duty of Gd. per lb. on butter imported from New Zealand, the operation of the voluntary equalization scheme propounded by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and subsequently the operation automatically of the present equalization and stabilization scheme were made possible during peace-time and the industry has carried on during the first three years of war. The only increase that it obtained was that of Id. per lb., which was granted by the present Government in February of this year. This represents approximately 7 per cent, or S per cent, of the previous price. If the production be comparable with that of normal years, the presentproposal will benefit the producer by approximately from lid. to lid. per lb. of butter and cheese. Yet, the total increase in the return to the grower will not equal the general rise of 18 per cent, in the cost of living, which is largely determined on the basis of food values, the low levels of which have been due principally to the price at which butter has been obtainable. On the other hand, the prices of machinery and clothing that have to be purchased by the farmer have increased by from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent. Therefore, I state for the benefit of the Treasurer, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), and the Government generally, that the subsidy of £2,000,000, representing in a full year approximately lid. per lb. for butter and cheese, will not be sufficient to compensate the fanner for the increases of costs he has had to face. I am convinced that the inquiries which, according to the Treasurer, are to be made by the Prices Commissioner and the Tariff Board, will quickly show that the assistance in this bill is insufficient to stimulate production. I agree with the Treasurer that the stimulation of dairy production is one of our most vital needs, for the sake of not only ourselves but also Britain, which is more short of edible fats than of any other food it can procure, and is proceeding with an internal farm economy which necessitates obtaining from Australia and New Zealand the quantity of butter that will ensure the maintenance of the small ration on which operations are now being conducted. By means of an adequate subsidy and certain re-organization of man-power potential, the total production of butter must be enlarged. I therefore urge that the Government shall not regard this particular subsidy as its final effort, but merely as an instalment. I hope that it will call for a report from its responsible officers in order to learn what is really needed for the adequate assistance of the industry at the present time. The working out of an equitable arrangement between the owner and his sharefarmer, or between the landlord and the tenant, such as is contemplated under th& bill, will be a long and complicated business, and much time must elapse before a report can be presented or a decision made. In the meantime, the position of the dairy-farmers all along the east coast from Bega to Mackay is desperate. The season has been unusually dry, there is a shortage of feed everywhere, and production is low. Therefore, I urge that an arrangement be made with the dairy factories for an immediate distribution to farmers of the greater part of the subsidy on a flat rate, the necessary adjustments to be made later. Dairy-farmers are pretty well anchored to their farms, and most of them have been living in the same districts for years. They can be easily found, and there is no reason why this advance should not be made, especially as most of them already transact much of their business through the factories.
In conclusion, I urge that, in the working out of this scheme, nothing shall be done to dishearten the farmers, or to hamper production by new regulations or tribunals or vexatious conditions. On many of the farms there is a grievous shortage of labour, and old people, sometimes over 60 years of age, are endeavouring to carry on while the boys are serving in the Army. Therefore, let the scheme be put into operation in such a way that it will produce quick beneficial results, and aasist in the war effort.
.-Whilst T commend the Government for its generous gesture towards the dairying industy I do not altogether agree with the method it has chosen. I believe that those engaged in the dairying industry are entitled to a reasonable income, and to a standard of living at least equal to the average standard throughout the community. The income of dairyfarmers should be not less than that earned by workers in secondary industries, and those engaged in the more favoured branches of primary production. While butter is being produced in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements of the public, there will be no danger of inflation if a fair price be paid for it. I believe that prices should be fixed for the products of all industries, primary and secondary, and labour costs definitely established. Royal commissions which have inquired into various primary industries have found that the standard of living of those engaged in such industries is definitely lower than the standard enjoyed by workers in secondary industries. The Gepp report on the wheat industry stated that the average wage in that industry was £3 a week, at a time when the basic wage payable in secondary industries was £4 5s. a week. Moreover, the average return to the wheat-farmers themselves was no more than the wage received by their workers, despite the fact that the wheat-farmers worked ten to twelve hours a day on seven days a week. A similar position prevailed in the fruit-growing industry. Whilst an award rate of £2 a week was struck for workers, the self-employed orchardist was allocated the same rate. These men worked 12 or 14 hours a day for seven days a week. When the Governmentis striking a fair price for dairy products, consideration should be given to the ruling rate of wages paid generally throughout the Commonwealth, and in fixing a return per lb. for butter, labour costs should be allocated at exactly the same rate as is provided for in secondary industries. But that cannot be done under this system. Before the outbreak of war, some persons were still unemployed and the purchasing power of the people was considerably less that it is at present. When it was suggested that the primary industries should be stabilized, a cry immediately arose: “If award rates and conditions applicable to secondary industries be applied to primary industries, the cost of living will be increased “. We agree that the cost of primary products’ to the general public would rise, but the public must pay for its food at a rate, that will allow the producer a decent standard of living. No section of our people should be condemned to exist on a standard which is much below the Australian standard. If we are notprepared to stabilize the industry, it would be better to scrap it. The alternative would be to import cheap labour. Who would stand for that? No politician would have the temerity to advocate the introduction of coloured labour to grow our food on the ground that the nation could not afford to grant a decent standard of living to primary producers. It would be suicidal for a person to preach that doctrine. Self preservation is the first law of nature. But a person would be more consistent if he advocated the importation of cheap coloured labour instead of supporting a stabilization scheme that condemned his fellow Australians to a low standard of living. The Government is doing its best to meet the emergency, and perhaps the scheme will be effective, but more consideration should be given to the stabilization of industries at parity. This is the opportune time to do it. People are enjoying comparatively high wages, and have become accustomed to paying higher prices for commodities than they did before the outbreak of war. People now pay 6d. for an apple or an orange. Twelve months ago they would have raised their hands in horror at such prices. Despite the fact that the granting of a decent standard of living to people in the primary industries, particularly the depressed industries, will cause an upward spiral in the cost of living figures, the public will be at least making a contribution to enable the producer to enjoy a decent standard of living.
– After an anxious delay, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) yesterday expounded the principles of the Dairying Industry Assistance Bill. Until then, honorable members did not know whether the Government would grant a bounty, or whether the public would be asked to pay a reasonable price for butter and cheese. The bill proposes a slight recognition of the excellent, work of the industry, but I am disappointed with the general composition of the measure. An endeavour has been made to cover an unnecessarily wide field of activities and disabilities- with a small payment. Hon- orable members hoped that the Government would authorize an increase of at least 3d. per lb. in the price of butter as the first step in overcoming the difficulties of the industry. Under the bill they will be granted about 1-Jd. per lb. to cover higher costs of labour and disabilities arising out of the war and drought. In addition, the bill provides for “ delayed action “ to enable the Tariff Board to make certain investigations, whilst the Arbitration Court will be asked to make an award to cover employees in the industry. Another unfortunate provision will interfere with the rights of a person who wishes to sell his land. Presumably the Government is not desirous of inflicting an injustice on dairy-farmers, but this principle could be used to deprive an individual of his freedom, even in unavoidable circumstances, to dispose of his holding. I sincerely support the contention that the Tariff Board and the Arbitration Court should be asked to function at once. In the interim, necessary payments should be made to those engaged in the industry. The dairying districts of Queensland are suffering intensely by an increased burden of drought.
It is strange that such a complicated and technical bill should be necessary to cover the simple request of the dairying industry for assistance by an increase of price. We have gone to the Prices Commissioner for an increase of price, but practically without result. We are told, however, that the Prices Commissioner will still have authority to act in respect of the prices of dairy produce after the bill has been passed. That means that at any time he will have the right to reduce prices. I hope that the Government will regard this bill as merely the first step towards assisting the dairying industry, and that other measures will be taken to lift the people engaged in it from their depressed standard of living to one comparable with, at any rate, that of other industries. The deeper in the backblocks a dairy-farmer operates the greater are his disabilities, but all dairyfarmers and their families live under exceedingly difficult conditions. Through flood or drought they continue to produce. In the seasons when periods of daylight are long they are up and active on their farms from dawn to dark and in the other seasons they do not wait for dawn before starting work, and they certainly never finish till long after dark. This measure will not compensate for the ordinary difficulties that the industry suffers, and it most certainly will not compensate for the added difficulties that they experience under war conditions with the costs of all the articles they need rising sharply. It will not remove the child labour trouble. It willnot provide the dairy-farmers with the same standards as those enjoyed by other industries. In order to lift the industry from its depressed state much more assistance is needed. It would not be over generous for this assistance to be coupled with an increase of price by at least 2d. per lb. The city workers would not object to paying a little more for their butter when they knew that they were thereby helping to alleviate the troubles which beset the dairy-farmer and to remunerate him for the long hours he works in order to provide them, at a cheap price, with a vitally necessary food. The dairy-farmer is compelled by law to ensure that the quality of the milk shall be Al, not just first class, when it reaches the butter factories. The Health Department’s requirements compel greater attention and greater skill. They require the installation of highly efficient methods and machinery to ensure that dairy products shall reach not only the local market but also the United Kingdom in the highest quality.
I am disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to table the report of the special committee that inquired into the dairying industry. I cannot conceive that this bill contains the substance of that report. I hope, however, that this measure will not serve to introduce into the dairying industry the industrial conditions which often create turmoil in other industries, and that steps will be taken to ensure the continuance of the amicable relations between employer and employee which have always marked the industry. There are probably 60,000 dairy farms in this country. They produce a commodity of the greatest value. The dairy-farmers have established fac tories to the value of more than £3,000,000, and the cost has been met mostly by means of the co-operative system. The industry has bought and paid for £5,750,000 worth of equipment. The dairy-farmers, their families and their employees number at least 165,000 people. In the factories, which pay union rates of wages, there are nearly 7,000 employees. Those factories produce annually £41,750,000 worth of the highest quality butter, cheese and dried and condensed milk. This amount of £2,000,000 is, therefore, not an exorbitant charge on the Australian community for the maintenance of the industry. I hope that in committee the Government will be agreeable to a thorough review of the bill, because there are many ways in which we can afford to be more generous to the dairy-farmers. At least an increase of 2d. per lb. of the price of butter, which would not be much of a burden on the city workers, would be a reasonable further contribution towards overcoming the producers’ troubles which have been so greatly intensified since the outbreak of war.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow at 9.30 a.m.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle - Prime
Minister) [6.9]). - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The purpose of meeting at 9.30 a.m. to-morrow is to provide extra time for the consideration of the Dairying Industry Assistance Bill. This is an important measure, and I hope that it will be dealt with expeditiously. I propose to provide the maximum time for its consideration, and therefore I ask honorable members to come here prepared to place any questions which they may wish to ask on the notice-paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented . -
National Security Act -
National Security (Army Inventions) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (2).
National Security (General) Regulations -
By-laws and orders-Controlled and protected areas (2).
Post and telegraph censorship.
Taking possession of land, &c. (21).
Use of land.
Science and Industry Research Act - Six teenth Annual Report of Council for year 1941-42.
Sugar Agreement - Eleventh Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for year ended 31st August, 1942.
House adjourned at6.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Australian Army: Nurses in Northern Territory: Concessions to Sportsmen.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 30th September, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked me whether steps would be taken to amend the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations in order that they may be extended to cover any hotel rents that may require adjustment. I have conveyed the honorable member’s request to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and am now advised by him that he has previously given consideration to this matter. He has stated that, insofar as the reason for an adjustment in hotel rents is the decline in sales of liquor, the matter is one for which adjustment should be sought under the National Security (Contract Adjustment) Regulations, and to which the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations rightly do not apply. The question of amending the Landlord and Tenant Regulations in the manner suggested will be given consideration.
Race Meetings in September.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
On what week-days other than Saturdays and at what places were race meetings held in the month of September in the various States of the Commonwealth?
n. -Precise information in reply to the honorable member’s question is not available, but is being sought from State Premiers. This will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers : -
s asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many meetings of (a) the Senate, and
– The information is as follows : -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that the Minister recently announced that a new scale of newsprint rationing would apply as from the 1st November? 2.If so, willhe assure the House that the Government will take all necessary steps to ensure that a pool of all existing newsprint stocks at present in the Commonwealth will be created under government control to protect those newspapers which are short of newsprint stocks?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers: -
Should it be found, at any time, that the pool system is not functioning to the satisfaction of the Minister for Trade and Customshe may, by order, direct such allocations as he considers equitable.
The pool will include all imported stocks heldat present, any stocks imported in the future, and all Tasmanian newsprint at present in stock, as well as that produced during the operation of the pool.”
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19421008_reps_16_172/>.