16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform honorable members that the Honorable J.B. Chifley, M.P., Treasurer, has been appointed to administer the new Department, of Post-War Reconstruction established on the 22nd December, 1942. Mr. Chifley will continue to act as Treasurer.
The portfolio of Minister of State for Supply and Development, held by the Honorable J. A. Beasley, M.P., has been changed to that of Minister of State for Supply and Shipping, and on the 17th October, 1942, Mr. Beasley was appointed to th at office.
Senatorthe Honorable J. M. Fraser, Minister of State for External Territories, who hitherto was assisting the Minister for Commerce, has been appointed to assist the Minister for Supply and Shipping. Senator Fraser will continue to discharge the duties associated with External Territories.
The Department of Supply and Development will in future be known as that Department of Supply and Shipping.
The portfolio of Minister of State for Commerce held by the Honorable W. J. Scully, M.P., has been changed to that of Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The additional duties were assumed by Mr. Scully on the 22nd December. 1942. The Department of Commerce will in future be known as the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
CON FERENCEBETWEEN Mr. CHURCHILL and President Roosevelt.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle - Prime
Minister). - by leave-I have to inform the House that the following communique was issued at 1 o’clock this afternoon, Eastern Australian time : -
The President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Bri- tain have been in conferencenear Casablanca since the 14th January. They were accompanied by the combined Chiefs of Staff of the two countries, namely, for the United States, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General George C. Marshall; the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Navy, Admiral E. J. King; the officer commanding the United States Army Air Force, Lieutenant-General H. P. Arnold; and for Great Britain, the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound; the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke ; and the Chief of the AirStaff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal.
These were assisted by the Commanding General of Services of Supply, United States Army, LieutenantGeneral B. B. Somervell ; the Head of the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington, Field-Marshal Sir John Dill; Vice-Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten; the Chief Staff Officer to the Minister for Defence, Lieutenant-General Sir Hastings Ism ay, together with a number of staff officers from both countries.
They have received visits from Mr. Murphy and Mr. MacMillan; from the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Force in North Africa. General Eisenhower; from the Naval Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in North Africa, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham : from the Air Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in North Africa. General Spaatz ; from General Clark of the United States Army and from Middle East Head -quarters; and from General Sir Harold Alexander, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, and Lieu tenant-General F. M. Andrews. United States Army.
The President was accompanied by Mr. Harry Hopkins, and wasjoined by Mr. Averil Harriman. With the Prime Minister was the British Minister for War Transport, Lord Leathers.
For ten days, the combined staffs have been in constant session, meetingtwo or three times a day and recording progress at intervals to the President and the Prime Minister.
The entire field of war was surveyed, theatre by theatre, throughout the world, and all resources were marshalled for the more intense direction of the war by sea, land and air. Nothing like this prolonged discussion between the two allies has ever taken place before. Complete agreement was reached between the leaders of the two countries and their respective staffs upon war plans and enterprises to be undertaken during the campaign of 1943 against Germany, Italy and Japan, with a view to drawing the utmost advantage from the markedly favorable turn of events at the close of 1942.
Premier Stalin was cordially invited to meet the President and the Prime Minister, in which case the meeting would have been held very much farther to the east. He is, however, unable to leave Russia at this time on account of the great offensive which he himself, as CommanderinChief, is directing.
The President and the Prime Minister realize to the full the enormous weight of the war which Russia is successfully bearing along her whole land front, and their prime object has been to draw as much of the weight as possible off the Russian armies by engaging the enemy as heavily as possible at the best-selected point.
Premier Stalin has been fully informed of military proposals. The President and the Prime Minister have been in communication with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. They have apprised him of the measures which they are undertaking to assist him in China’s magnificent and unrelaxing struggle for the common cause.
The occasion of the meeting between the President and the Prime Minister made it imperative to invite General Giraud to the conference of Combined Chiefs of Staff, and to arrange for a meeting between him and General de Gaulle. The two Generals have been in close consultation.
The Presidentand the Prime Minister and the Combined Staffs, having completed their plans for the offensive campaign of 1943, have now separated in order to put them into active and concerted execution.
In regard to the consultations between General de Gaulle and General Giraud, the two generals have jointly made the following statement : -
We have met. We have talked. We have registered our entire agreement on the end to be achieved, which is the liberation of France and triumph of human liberties by total defeat of the enemy. This end will be attained by union in war of all Frenchmen fighting sideby side with all their Allies:.
Repatriation of Service Personnel and Care of Dependants - Manpower and Material Resources - National Welfare. mr. CURTIN (Fremantle- Prime Minister) [3.8]. - by leave - I move -
That this House, at its first meeting in the year 1943, in the fourth year of war with Germany and Italy, andin the second year of war with Japan, declares -
Australia’s indissoluble unity with the British Commonwealth of Nations, and its unswerving loyalty to the cause of the United Nations and its admiration for the heroic efforts of the Allied forces;
Its pride in the bravery and achievements of the Australian forces, in all theatres, and its intention to make provision for their re-instatement and advancement, and for the dependants of those who have died or been disabled as a consequence of the war; and
Its determination to use the whole of the man-power and material resources of the nation in order to ensure the maximum war effort necessary to bring about victory, and arising therefrom to provide the requisite measures to promote the national welfare of the whole of the Australian people.
– I believe it to be in accordance with the wishes of honorable gentlemen that at this stage of the war there shall be afforded to them, on a declaratory motion, an opportunity to review all that has happened in the conduct and the course of the war, particularly during the last year. A constantly changing situation has to be met n nd it is desirable that the Parliament should have reasonably frequent opportunities to make a complete review, as it may think proper, of all the matters that are related to both the conduct of the war and the administrative and other problems incidental to it.
– There is no changing situation in respect of our determination to go on with the war.
– I am not suggesting that there is such a change.
– Then why question it?
– I am not questioning it ; I am asserting that there is no change.
– Who is questioning Australia’s loyalty to the Empire?
– I suspect that a meeting has been held somewhere thismorning.
– Judged by what happened during the last war, the right honorable gentleman has not much room to talk. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) was a conscientious objector in the last war. Let us challenge the Government and “ have a go “ at the lot of them. We will give them some more before we have finished. This declaration is what we have been advocating.
– Order. The honorable member for Hume is interjecting too much.
– I am quite sure that it is the desire of the Australian people-
– The loyal Australian people.
– It is their desire that Parliament should review the conduct of the war; that it should expect its representatives to have some views to offer regarding that subject, and some suggestions to make which, I should hope, would at least be of constructive value, enabling the war to be more adequately waged on our part and the resources that we have at our disposal to be more effectively used. I do not propose to be deterred by critics from the Opposition, any more than I have been deterred by any other circumstances, in respect of the duties that devolve upon me as the bead of this Government. I say quite frankly that this Parliament and this country have reason to be thankful for all that has been done during the last year, in ensuring that the forces requisite to save this country from invasion shall be mobilized by ourselves and in concert with our allies. This has been done to such purpose that, although for over a year we have been engaged in a deadly struggle to protect our own soil, the fact is that this Parliament is meeting in its regular place to-day without any apprehension of enemy action. In no capital city in Australia last night did the people fear that air-raid warnings would interrupt their slumbers or their work, and this notwithstanding the fact that all through last year and particularly in the early stages of the year - for it is more than a year since Rabaul was captured - the enemy was a,; strong in his power to injure this country as he is at the present time.
– Thanks tothe soldiers, not to the Government.
– To the soldier?, and to the Government, which organized their efforts.
– Then why not pay them - why starve them?
– We owe all to the efforts of the fighting forces of the United Nations. It is the purpose of this resolution to pledge our solidarity to the common cause, and in particular to acknowledge the services of our own forces.
– Did the Prime Minister ask the permission of the trade unions for that?
– I rise to a point of order. This is a deliberate and concerted attack by the Opposition in an attempt to interrupt the Prime Minister’s speech. If I had interrupted half as much as some honorable members opposite, you. Mr. Speaker, would have put me out on my pink car.
– I have not the slightest doubt that there is a concerted attempt on the part of members of the Opposition to interrupt me.
– Mr. Speaker, I object to that assertion.
– I am quite certain that neither the Leader of the Opposition nor the Deputy Leader knows anything about it. However, it is only necessary for me to listen to observe that objection? have already come from at least a dozen places along the Opposition benches.
– The Prime Minister himself provoked them.
– If members of the Opposition do not wish, to hear what I have to say, it is competent for them to follow a certain course, and I invite them to do so. Let them follow the course open to any Opposition in order to effect a change of government if that is what they wish. The state of the country is such that an Opposition which has not the courage to challenge the Government has no right to obstruct it. If the Opposition does not propose to take steps to terminate the existing situation in this Parliament, its members owe it to the country to make Parliament a workable instrument ‘of democratic government.
– We have done that.
– I wish to make it quite plain that I asked only for a clear and straight issue. The Opposition has as much right as any other party in this Parliament to submit motions of whatever nature it thinks proper, and, it can vote if it so chooses to turn the Governmentout of office. If it does not take the course which might lead to the assumption by it of responsibility for the government of the country, then its duty to the country is to make certain that Parliament behaves itself when it sits.
– But the Government has ignored Parliament, and gone to the trades union executive regarding matters of major policy.
– Amidst these disorderly interruptions I have been trying to express our debt to the fighting forces and our loyalty to the cause of the United Nations. In May, 1940, Britain stood alone between the world and the threat of Nazi aggression. Russia has held down vast legions of German land and air forces. China has defied the attempts of Japan to subdue it. The United States of America has passed from an attitude of benevolent neutrality and assistance to a state of powerful belligerency. The Australian forces have made notable contributions to the efforts of the Allies to withstand the onrush of our enemies, and to hold them off until the offensive can be taken in all theatres. Let me summarize the activities of the Australian forces. The Royal Australian Navy has served in the seven seas of the world. The Australian Army has participated in the campaigns of the Middle East and Malaya, and is the predominant strength in the land forces in the South-west Pacific area. The squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force have served with distinction in the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Malaya, and New Guinea, and the Australian personnel of the Empire Air Training Scheme are cooperating in thousands as part of the Royal Air Force. The efforts of the fighting forces ha ve been backed by the civil population, which has provided weapons and supplies for warfare, as well as maintaining a vast programme of works.
– Especially the coalminers.
– Yes, especially the coal-miners. For two years the enemies of the United Nations were Germany and Italy. There was no power in the Pacific waging war against the British Commonwealth and Australia, but Japan had been waging war against China. Honorable members opposite have accused me of running about consulting other people. Very well; a year ago, or a little more, Japan came into the war against Great Britain and the United States of America.
– And the Prime Minister wanted to bring ali our soldiers home.
– The honorable member for Parkes is persistently interjecting. I ask him not to do so.
– In December, 1941, Japan entered the war. Australia had been at war for two years before that. The Government of the day had displayed a great deal of energy in organizing and developing the capacity of Australia to participate in the war. Fighting forces had been mobilized, and the foundation laid for a great deal of munitions production. Plans had been made for the expansion of that production. Then Japan came into the war, and however much the previous Government had done to prepare this country for war, the fact is that the present Government has had to do a great deal more. I cannot cite figures, but the fact is that the personnel of the Royal Australian Navy has been increased by 38 per cent, as compared with December, 1941. Army personnel is two and a half times greater than it was in December, 1941.
– This is plain political propaganda.
– With respect to the Air Force, notwithstanding the energy and drive and capacity of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), when he was Minister for Air - and I say that he did magnificently in that position - the fact is that the Air Force is twice as large as when he left office. The number of persons employed in the direct manufacture of munitions, including shipbuilding and repair and maintenance work, is over 500,000, an increase of 27 per cent, on the figures for December, 3941.
More than 500,000 men have been transferred from civil occupation since December, 1941, and are now engaged in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, in the production of munitions and in other war industries. There is no unused pool of man-power now available to this Government, or to any government that can be substituted for it. Whoever has the responsibility for these matters - and it is time we woke up to the fact that, we should all share this responsibility-
– The first approach to a National Government!
– After what has occurred here to-day I do not think that the people of Australia would regard as satisfactory any Government which was, in effect, a reproduction in miniature of all the parties of this Parliament. The scene which the Opposition members have staged here this afternoon is obviously based on what they consider to be the fundamental incompatibility of their parties and ours. I accept that situation. It is the desire of the Government now, as it was when in Opposition, to make the Parliament workable. I may say that we have made Parliament workable. It is honorable members on this side of the House who have kept Parliament going since the last general election.
– No. It was the Trades and Labour Council.
– The Trades and Labour Councils, in their patriotism, and their attitude to the war, compare more than favorably with the Employers’ Federations. The matter is now at such a stage that any further utilization of man-power resources for the conduct of the war can be effected only at the expense of ordinary civil activity. It is a problem of transfer and allocation. Furthermore, among the great achievements which marked last year, 500,000 men were found for war purposes. Notwithstanding the very great degree of preparation which the previous government had made, and notwithstanding the elaborate plans that it had formulated and to a great degree carried out, those plans were carried out before Japan came into the war. I make no suggestion that if, was never contemplated by the previous government that Japan would come into the war. I believe that it must have realized that Japan was, potentially, our enemy equally with Germany and Italy. Therefore, I say that that government realized all that was at stake and all that would be involved in a war in which Australia would have to fight in defence of its own soil. From that realization there came the foundation of war organization which has called up an immense part of the civil resources of this country. But with the coming of Japan into the war what was the unused pool at the commencement of the struggle no longer existed, and this Government has had the responsibility and inescapable duty of malting it clear to the people as a whole that we cannot devote the maximum of our strength for purposes of defending ourselves without greatly interfering with the normal pursuits of the civil population. Therefore, we have had, as a matter of stark necessity, to increase greatly the personnel of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and to increase the employees in munitions and other related war industries. We have also had to close down a number of important activities. On top of that we have had to carry out a programme of works and services, so that the efficiency of the fighting men should be increased and most certainly not prejudiced. As the result 25,000 men had to be placed on what are known as works projects. All these requirements have made it the duty of the Government, in whatever way that duty could be done, to depress the normal civil production of the country in order to allow for the increasing transfer for the purposes of conducting war. More than 500,000 men have been taken for that purpose. Inevitably these 500,000 men were in addition to those which the previous Government had mobilized. The calling up of them constituted the final draft upon the unused resources of this country. Therefore, for the last six or eight months, the flow of strength necessary to maintain the virility of the war industries and the fighting services could be obtained only by reducing the activities of the civil population. We have had to curtail industries contributing to the amenities of the people. We have worked other industries excessively. Men are earning high rates of pay. These high wages have been cited as examples of the extravagance of Government policy. In that respect our policy is the same as that laid down by those who are now our critics. All parties stand for the observance of industrial awards and conditions, and this Government has adhered to that policy. Increased rates of pay have come, not as the result of interference by the Government, but entirely because the awards prescribe certain rates of pay for overtime and for work done on holidays.
– Did the right honorable gentleman say, “ awards “ or “ a Ward “?
Mr.CURTIN.- As the result of awards.
– What about the wheat industry?
– I concede that there was no award for the wheat industry. This Government set up the machinery to enable an award to be made for the wheat industry. But the Government did not make the award. It merely set up the machinery to enable the award to be made. Does the honorable member say that there should be no award for the wheat industry?
-No, I say that it could be handled by the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member says that now, but he took no steps to ensure the creation of machinery so that awards could operate. All these features of policy have had to be applied in diverse ways. In consequence, a series of restrictions has been imposed by various departments on private enterprise and the private pursuits of citizens. We know that that is true. We accept that as one of the inescapable consequences of doing what we have had to do. If it had not been done - if we had not interfered with advertising and other pursuits ofthe people - we could not have had that diversion into the war effort of labourpower and man-power which has been accomplished, as these figures indicate. I mention that for this reason: A flow of man-power must be maintained to the war industries and the fighting forces. I have quite clearly in my mind the obligation to use woman-power as relevant to the use of man-power, and Cabinet is taking steps to provide for the compulsory call-up of women into the auxiliary services. This war which threatens Australia is one which will not leave any surplus over the demands made upon us.
I regret to say that for the last eight weeks at least, owing to the operations of our valorous soldiers in New Guinea, there has developed a false sense of complacency in this land. We stand to-day in as grave a danger as we ever did stand in the war against Japan.
– Has the Government itself not been complacent?
– It has not amended the Defence Act.
Mr.CURTIN.- Parenthetically, I say to the honorable member, first, that the amendments to the Defence Act will be brought down very early; and secondly, that honorable gentlemen opposite sealed into the statute the present restrictive conditions.
– That was before Japan came into the war.
Mr.CURTIN.- That was before Japan came into the war, but it was after the war against Germany and Italy had commenced. Does the honorable gentleman ask me to believe - and I have already said that I do not believe it - that the previous Government did not contemplate that Japan would enter the war?
– .T.welve months ago we offered the Government the opportunity to take the restriction on the disposition of our troops out of the Defence Act.
– The Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member could have amended the Defence Act had it had the courage to do so, because it had a majority in both Houses, but, far from doing that, it inserted a further .restriction in the National Security Act.
– At the demand of the Labour party.
– I offer no criticism of that, other than to point out that those honorable gentlemen who are in such a great hurry to jolt me into action and to criticize the steps that ~ have taken to amend the Defence Act, had a majority in both Houses of this Parliament but left to me the legacy of conditions that I have had to try to alter. This matter is just a stalking-horse that honorable gentlemen opposite employ. So far as the fighting forces of this country are concerned, no impediment in the law up to the present has impaired the efficient use of them by the Commander-in-Chief. That is the fact. There has been no military proposition put before this Government that it has rejected. We have made it quite clear that in operational matters there should be no politics, just as in military matters there should be no politics. That reminds me : This country, when, through the Parliament it thanks the valorous fighting services for all that they have done, can congratulate itself on the leadership of those fighting forces. I have paid tribute to that leadership, and here at the first meeting of the Parliament this year, in acknowledging the valour, efficiency and devotion of the fighting forces in all theatres of war, I should like it to be clearly understood that the Government has the highest admiration for the capacity of those upon whom falls the very grave responsibility of leadership. We are very grateful to them for for what they have done.
We cannot always look behind. We have to look ahead. The fact is, as the House knows, that the amount of strength which can be allocated to this theatre from other places has serious limitations imposed upon it. Those limitations are not due to a lack of goodwill towards this theatre. They are limitations arising from the very nature of the struggle. There are other theatres which have very great importance in the global conflict. All have their problems of supply. It is true that there is a great pool of resources available to the United Nations, but there aTe almostoverwhelming problems to be solved in order that that great capacity can be drawn from where it is produced to where it can be disposed against the enemy. Therefore, there are definite limits upon the amount of aid that can come to this theatre, just as the struggle in this theatre must impose definite limitations upon the aid which this country can render in other theatres. As a consequence, the primary responsibility for the defence of this country devolves upon the people of Australia. We have no title to ask for aid here at the expense of other allies or which, may involve a lessening of the strength available in other theatres, unless Ave have a clear title and that clear title is the demonstration that we have at least used all we are capable of using. There must be no impairment of our efforts. There must be no minus factor in the contribution that we make, because, basically, that contribution is entirely directed, at the present stage of the war at any rate, to the preservation of our own country. Therefore, it would appear to me that it is necessary for the Parliament to realize that there can be no relaxation of the pressure which the Government must impose upon the whole community in order that we may maintain and, if possible, even increase the strength that we have developed. I am not able to say to anybody that there can be any lessening of the obligations that the Government considers are the minimum that it ought to impose upon the people, having regard to all that is at stake.
There were four phases of last year’s struggle, any one of which can recur. There was the Battle of the Coral Sea, there were the two battles of the Solomons, there was the battle of Midway, and there has been the battle for New Guinea. The enemy was not successful in carrying out his projects in those struggles. The efforts that prevented him from succeeding in all these theatres called for the utmost that it was practicable for the United Nations to do in those places at that time; and, at that time, the enemy had recently taken possession of a great part of south-east Asia, Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies. He has forces there, and he will he obliged to use shipping in order to maintain them. The Japanese navy is still tremendously strong, and has not yet been defeated in any major engagement. The extent of Japan’s air power is not a matter that I can measure in this Parliament. We hold the belief that in the recent contests over New Guinea between the respective air forces, the allies were superior; but to what extent, and how 30on, the enemy may be able greatly to increase his air strength, or to marshal naval forces in order to engage us more heavily than in any previous engagement that he has undertaken in the SouthwestPacific theatre, is a subject upon which speculation can yield no advantage. At least it is clear that as the result of all its conquests Japan has obtained possession of vast resources for war; it has a vast population to coerce in production for the purpose of preparing for war; and it has enormous man-power with which to wage war. Also it has steadily, though secretly, prepared over a long span of years for a struggle of this gigantic nature. Therefore we should live in a fool’s paradise if we were to assume that because, the forces which we used in order to hold the enemy back in the Coral Sea, the Solomons, or New Guinea were sufficient, and because the enemy did not push forward greater forces at that time, he may not he able somehow and at some time, perhaps this year, to invoke greater strength and, perhaps, to succeed, in one or other of those enterprises in which previously he did not succeed. It must be clear to the enemy, as it must be clear to us, that the forces of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Russia and China, are tremendously occupied in the theatres in which they are conducting large-scale operations at present, and that the great potential pool of production which the democracies possess cannot be transferred quickly in the early stages of this year to a given theatre of war. Consequently time which, eventually, will be on the side of the great industrial democracies is, as a matter of fact, in relation to the South-west Pacific theatre, on the side of Japan. The obstacles to the immediate raising of forces to wage war against Japan on the Pacific front are being felt more acutely by the United Nations than they are being felt by Japan, because Japan is able to move from a common centre, and has a series of land bases from which its aircraft can operate. Moreover, Japan has control of the greater part of the waters immediately adjacent to the islands which are important in any strategical conception of this struggle.
Whilst I express gratitude for the fact that the people of this Commonwealth have been spared direct physical impact with the war, and have enjoyed a respite which peoples of other countries have not known, I ask myself whether they really realize what they have been spared. Do they realize, for example, that in one night of bombing in London, in an area far smaller than that of the city of Sydney, over £100,000,000 worth of damage was done to property? Some of our people complain about the war damage insurance that they are called upon to contribute in Australia, but how far would their contributions go if a city like Sydney suffered a few hours intensive bombing such as London experienced night after night? In addition, in that one night in London, 1,000 citizens were killed. London experienced a long series of such raids. These facts only need to be appreciated in order to enable us to understand how valorously the people there withstood the attack. The people of Australia have been saved from anything like that. I therefore put it to them, as I put it to the members of this Parliament, that while gratitude may be expected from them, they should also realize how much they have gained as the result of having been spared so far any such visitation.
Although all that belongs to the past, I have indicated that there is no portent at present which suggests that the enemy has had a sufficiently decisive rebuff to deter him. from the course which he has set himself. It is true that he has suffered losses, but it is also true that in respect of man-power he has a replacement capacity out of all proportion to that of Australia, and that which our allies can send to this theatre of war, having regard to the pressure that is being exerted upon them in other theatres. Then there is the physical difficulty that the man-power of this country is spread over a vast continent, and that the whole of this continent must be held. Whilst we have relatively large forces, having regard to our population, we have relatively small forces having regard to the length of coastline which we have to defend, and to the territory inside that coastline which we have to seek to keep inviolate. Our problems of transportation, in order to effect’ the maximum recruitment of our population in places of industrial production for war purposes, and their use in places where it is sought to engage the enemy, are probably more acute than anywhere else in the world except on the fighting fronts. The distances in ‘this country, and its unsatisfactory railway system and acute shipping problems which I do not need to emphasize, make it essential that we must exert ourselves to our utmost capacity. If we are to survive it is essential that we shall make a sound and sober assessment of our resources and use them to the very utmost. We must pay regard to every aspect of our general problem of strength in civil, industrial, economic and. active service operations.
– Is it wise for the Prime Minister to tell the enemy our weaknesses as he is doing to-day?
Mr.CURTIN.- I am not telling the enemy our weaknesses. I am not telling him anything which his own study of our country would not suggest to him. That must be clear even to the honorable member. It is fitting therefore that we should outline not only the problems that this country faces, so that the public may realize the reasons why many of the things that have not been explained to them must be done, but also so that people shall realize the danger of complacency based on the fact that we have been able to keep the enemy back to the outer fringe of our territory. It seems to me to be not only proper but also necessary for the public to keep two thoughts uppermost: first, gratitude for all that happened last year ; and, secondly, a clear determination that in order to prevent the happening of any of the things that we were saved from last year there must be no abatement of our effort, and no slackening of our determination to do our very utmost in this struggle. Not merely armed forces, but whole nations are fighting to-day. Whilst it is true that the actual battles are waged by men of the Navy, the Army, the Air Force, it is also perfectly true that unless the nation supports our fighting men its strength will not be what it ought to be.
The losses which are implicit in this struggle, having regard to the places where the battles are being fought, are very great. In New Guinea we have had to defeat not only the enemy but also the country itself.
– Japan has had to do the same thing.
– That is true, but Japan has a greater reservoir of manpower than Australia has.
– And Japan has national unity.
– If the honorable gentleman likes the type of government in Japan I am sorry for him.
– At least the Japanese are of one mind.
– I do not believe that they are. They have been coerced into one mind. I do not believe that the people in totalitarian countries are any better equipped by their form of government to achieve a greater degree of national unity than are the people of Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, or China. After all, systems of government are best decided by those who are to be governed. There should be no discussion at a time like this of the relative merits of political systems. The fact is that every nation is struggling for its own survival and no nation is sufficiently strong to stand alone. So we pledge our utmost loyalty to our allies. We intend to go on with the fight, and we invoke the absolute loyalty of every citizen of Australia. We have to keep in mind the fact that the war is continuing. Its severity has not abated.
Our ordeal in 1943 may be as crucial as was our ordeal in 1942. The spirit that marked 1942 is required for 1943. We must determine to withstand the enemy, and we must be ready to make all necessary sacrifices for the nation’s good.
– Equitably !
– I agree with the honorable member. There should he equality of sacrifice. There should come from this Parliament a clear statement that it will see that the fighting men are reinstated properly after the war and that their dependants will be oared for. Our fighting men should be left in no doubt about our intention to pass legislation of a kind that will assure them of some improvement of their position. They should be able to realize from our actions that we intend to make adequate arrangements to meet the problems that will face the country in the days to come, and that the nation is ready to respond to all the sacrifices that will be called for to that end.
I am able to inform the House that our total casualties in our fighting forces from the beginning of the war until the 31st December last were as follows : -
– Do those figures include the Middle East?
– Yes, and also Malaya.
My colleagues, later in the debate, will probably amplify some of the phases of the problem as they view it. I invite the House and the country to adopt a sobriety of outlook in respect of the problem that lies ahead. I have no objection to criticism, but I consider that it should be motivated by the desire to make all our activities more efficient than they have been. I have no criticism to offer in respect of previous Governments. They saw the situation as it then was, and they met it. In the same spirit, this Government has met the situation that confronted it. The previous Government, entrusted to us a country that was inviolate, that Japan had not attacked. Since we assumed office. Japan has attacked it. It is something of which the citizens of this country can at least be proud, that after more than a year of war, during which Japan has unrelentingly and ruthlessly brought its maximum strength against us, our soil still remains inviolate, thanks to the aid of our allies, the valour of our own soldiers, and the loyalty of our own people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Buffalo Fly - Transport Committees in Rural Areas - Hikings Administration: Acquisition of Properties - Dairying Industry - Pig Meats - Mr. j. A. Mendes - Wheat Industry : Reduction of Cropping in Western Australia - Relief for Destitute Countries - Royal Australian Air Force: Promotions - Air Raid Precautions Services.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to raise a matter that is of the utmost importance to the State of Queensland. I refer to the buffalo fly, which is playing havoc throughout that State. This country is largely dependent upon its primary industries, and even if honorable members opposite as a whole are not interested in their welfare I hope that at least the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is.
The problem of the attack that is being made by the buffalo fly upon our dairying industry is one for which this Parliament is responsible. The buffalo fly entered Queensland from the Northern Territory, responsibility for the administration of which rests with the Commonwealth. The pest is causing considerable destruction in the herds of our beef cattle, and to-day is within a few hundred miles of Brisbane. Our dairy herds are in danger of being alarmingly depleted as the result of its ravages. This Government, and former governments, have asked the dairymen of Australia to produce in ever-increasing quantities. The problem of these producers has been made more difficult with the passage of time, because of the shortage of man-power, machinery, and a hundred and one other necessaries. .So far as I have been able to ascertain, this Government has remained almost completely indifferent to appeal after appeal by organizations of primary producers to como to their aid in their efforts to tackle the problem. The cattle industry has made substantial sums available to the Government with that object in view- yet, according to the information that I have, the Government has not cooperated to the degree that it should in the attempt to arrest the southward drift of the fly. The pest is now in the dairying districts of Queensland. If it crosses the border and passes through the dairying districts of the northern and southern portions of New South Wales into Victoria, the Government will have such a headache as it deserves and will never be able to face up to the extraordinary loss which the nation will suffer .because of the indifference of its administrators, I appeal to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to tackle the problem on a national basis. Our manpower is called up for a hundred and one purposes in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and munitions establishments. Those who arc engaged in agriculture, and in the production of cattle and dairy products, have not the necessary manpower to do all that has to be done in order to r-ope with the problem. There are certain forms of attack, the materials for which are not available, disinfectants, for instance. Proposals have been submitted to the Government, but it has not seen fit to give to the dairy-farmer and the cattle-man the advice, assistance and co-operation they are entitled to expect. At the termination of the war Australia, independent of its own requirements, will have to come to the aid of a world on the verge of starvation. If we lose our beef cattle, -and our dairy stock, because of the indifference of the Government, we shall be responsible for our inability to give any such assistance.
– Bias the honorable member made overtures to the Government?
– Yes, again and again.
– There is no record of them since I have been ministerial head of the department.
– My advice is that cattle-men have made representations to the honorable gentleman again and again.
– They have not; not one approach has been made.
– Do I understand the honorable gentleman to say that there has never been an approach to him or to the Government, to take action to arrest the drift of the buffalo fly from Darwin to the vicinity of Brisbane?
– That is so.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to peruse the records of his department, as well as the Department of Supply and Shipping. The producers have contributed at least £4,000, with a view to means being devised for the treatment of stock in order to get rid of the buffalo fly. I am satisfied that the matter would not have been mentioned to me if request after request had not failed to elicit a response from the Government. The growers of beef and dairy cattle are alarmed. It is well that this matter was raised to-day; otherwise, if the Minister is unaware of the representations that have already been made by the producers, the matter would have gone from bad to worse. I hope that when lie has had an opportunity to make a search of the files he will advise us of what action he proposes to take.
– I take advantage of this opportunity to bring under the notice of the House a matter of urgent moment, namely, the organization of local transport committees in the rural districts of New South Wales. These committees were set. up by regulation, where it was known that there would be an acute shortage of transport, in order to assist the farmers to bring in their harvest and to do other necessary work at this time of the year. Some time ago, I wrote to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Lawson), on behalf of the Forbes District Rationalization Committee. The claim of that committee was, that out-of-pocket expenses should be allowed to those members of it who were inconvenienced, financially and otherwise, by their activities on behalf of their fellow farmers.
– Expenses have been allowed to the secretaries of the committees.
– That is my understanding of the position. This organization was set up on a voluntary basis, and it rendered valuable service. That is recognized by the Minister. The farmers realize that the honorable gentleman did them a great service in this respect. Without these committees, rural industries would have been in a state of absolute chaos. Certain members of them, who enthusiastically laboured to the best of their ability in the service of their fellow men, found themselves in consequence at a loss, financially and otherwise. The Minister for Transport has stated that some method could he evolved for reimbursing these men by means of voluntary subscriptions on the part of the farmers’ organizations or the individuals who derive benefit from the operations of the committees. I do not regard that as practical, or consider that good results would accrue from “ sending round the hat “ in order to raise sufficient to reimburse these persons for the valuable work they are doing on behalf of their fellow farmers and the nation as a whole. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture evolved a much more satisfactory scheme in its handling of the agricultural committees that were set up parallel to the transport rationalization committees. An allowance was made to the secretary of a local committee and also to executive members who found it necessary to leave their own work and travel long distances in order to straighten out difficulties that occurred in remote settlements not in daily contact with the nerve centre of the organization. Although the members of these committees still found themselves on the wrong side of the ledger financially, they were satisfied to make a personal sacrifice, each according to his means, because the nation was in distress. The Ministry of Transport apparently considers that voluntary subscription should he made by those who receive benefits, in order to recompense those who have suffered great hardship because of the work they have done. It has said, that as the committees have operated so successfully and well, the persons who receive the benefit should, out of gratitude, recompense the members of them. I agree that something of the kind should he done. But, I repeat, the system evolved by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is rauch more satisfactory. The reasoning of the Ministry of Transport might also be applied to the matter of recompensing the police force, which renders an indispensable service to the community, but no one suggests that the police force should depend for its remuneration on voluntary subscriptions from the community. Neither is it suggested that the Army or the Public Service should depend upon such subscriptions. As the Department of Transport works in cooperation with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in this matter, I suggest that the two departments confer with a view to working out some arrangement hy which these people, who have served the community so well, may be adequately compensated. They have done a joh which many people, including myself, thought to he impossible when the proposal was first advanced.
– I find myself compelled to take this opportunity to try to correct an injustice, which a group of Australian citizens is suffering. I have failed to obtain justice for them in any other way. The matter concerns those who have been dispossessed of their properties by the military authorities. The particular case with which I am nowdealing is that of two brothers, Messrs. E. C. and D. L. Hawkins, of Tocumwal, partners in the running of a stud farm. They are stud masters of very high standing, men who, over a long period of years, have, by their skill and industry. built up a stud which is favorably known throughout the length and breadth of Australia. They breed Clydesdale horses, Aberdeen Angus cattle, and Shropshire, Border Leicester and Lincoln sheep. They have been dispossessed of their property, and have received no compensation for its value, and there is apparently no intention on the part of the authorities to offer them compensation, either for the capital value of their property, or for the dislocation of their business. Their experience, I have no reason to believe, has been paralleled in many parts of Australia.’ On the 21st February, 1942, the property was taken over in this manner: Certain officials, some in uniform and some civilians, drove on to the property, and inspected it, but without making any attempt to interview the owners, who were in residence there. This procedure was repeated on several occasions.
– What departments are involved ?
– The Australian Army, the Air Force, the American Army, the Civil Construction Branch, and perhaps the Department of the Interior. After several such excursions, one of the officials eventually interviewed the owner, and said to him : I suppose you know what we are here for?” The owner said that he did not, and the official then said: “It has been decided to build an aerodrome here.” The owner said : “ Is it intended to take over the whole property, and also my home? “ The official said: “We can’t tell you.” Then, a few days later, without any written advice to the owners, workmen entered the property and commenced to demolish immovements. They pulled down fences, ploughed up paddocks, filled in irrigation channels, and removed gates and windmills. A week or so later, a valuator named Burke, said to represent the Army Hirings Administration, told the owners orally that the whole property was being taken over, and they were given fourteen days to remove their live stock, which included the cattle stud, the horse stud, the three sheep studs, and a considerable number of flock sheep. The owners protested, and the official said : “ Well, if you don’t remove your stock within that time we will simply cut all your fences.” Honorable members will understand the mischief that would he done in a mixed stud if the fences had been destroyed and the stock had been allowed to mingle. The owners protested vigorously against the demand, as a result of which they were told that the period of fourteen days would not be insisted upon, but they would be required to remove the stock as quickly as possible.
– Who was the responsible Minister?
– I am trying to learn that, but better men than I have tried and failed. The owner was permitted to remain in his house for three months. He trucked the stud cattle away to rented agistment at Shepparton, a dis- tance of about 40 miles. After a great deal of difficulty agistment was found for some of the stud sheep, but they were away from the owners’ supervision. The Lincoln stud, which had been built up over a generation, was sold on the spot without benefit of competition, because nothing else could be done with it. The flock sheep, because no agistment could be found for them, were turned out on the roads in charge ofa drover.
– The owners are entitled to compensation.
– They have never been told that, nor have they been invited to submit a claim.
– Have they in fact submitted a claim?
– Yes. Some agistment was found locally for the horses, but the owners lost the whole of the breeding season for the Clydesdale stallions, which had been imported from Scotland. The sheep, which had been removed to Shepparton, were later trucked back, and put on rented agistment at Berrigan. One of the brothers had to leave his home on the property, and take a small, three-roomed cottage at Tocumwal. Some of his furniture is stacked on the verandah because there is no room forit inside. His motor car stood in the open for six months, and his farm implements also are standing outside. He has received no compensation for the capital value of the property, nor is there any apparent prospect of payment. Neither has any compensation been offered to the owners for their outofpocket expenses in respect ofthe removal of the stud stock and the droving of the flock sheep on the roads.
– Was the property on the Victorian side of the border?
– No, on the New South Wales side. After four months had elapsed, one of the brothers took his solicitor with him and interviewed Major Turnbull, an Army Hirings officer, in Melbourne. This officer told Mr. Hawkins that he would be paid the rental value of his property. Some weeks later Mr. Hawkins received a cheque which he understands, though he has not been officially advised to that effect, represents payment at the rate of 4 per cent. of the value of the property.
He does not know who valued it, or by what means the valuation was arrived at. Since then, the owners have received monthly payments on the same ‘basis. All this time they have been buying fodder for their stock. They own no property, and have been given no capital compensation which might enable them to acquire one. In the meantime, valuable stud stock are being grazed wherever agistment can be found on both sides of the Murray, from Shepparton to Berrigan. Hawkins came to me in July after four or five months of endeavour to receive some payment or prospect of payment. I made contact with the officials of the Department of Air and asked what were the prospects of these men getting some settlement. I was told that I could rest assured that in the near future the claim would be brought, to finality and that the Department of the Interior would be instructed to proceed with the formality of arriving at a settlement of the capital value of the property. That was in July. Despite my representations no more happened than happened when Hawkins made his representations.
– For what purpose was the land taken over?
– Hawkins’s land, together with several adjoining properties, was taken over for the construction of an aerodrome. No result followed my representations and subsequent inquiries, and on the 10th October, seven months after the dispossession of Hawkins, I took the step of writing to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and asking him when Hawkins’s matter would be settled. I received a prompt and civil reply from the Minister for the Interior. He wrote to me on the 16th October -
These claims are receiving consideration and I will communicate with you again as soon as a decision is reached.
I advised the Hawkins brothers about that and they thought that there was some prospect of settlement. Further representations on Hawkins’s part and inquiries on my part had had no results and, on the 15th December, I again wrote to tie Department of the Interior asking what progress had been made in respect of these claims which, on the 16th October, I had been assured were under consideration and in regard to which a decision would be reached at an early date. On the 30th December, I received another .letter from the Minister for the Interior in which he said -
I desire to inform you that so far no request has been received by my department for the acquisition of properties at Tocumwal owned by Messrs. E. C. and V. L. Hawkins, and Mr. Edmund Keough, respectively. The Department of Air is being asked to indicate whether any decision has been arrived at in this matter. [Extension of time granted.) No action as the result of the representations of this man ! No action as the result of an ex- Minister’s representations! Only an assurance many months afterwards that the matter was under consideration, and an assurance three months later that the matter was not under consideration and had never been under consideration ! This did not happen in Germany! This did not happen in an enemy-occupied country ! This did not happen in a totalitarian country ! This man was turned off his property and his- stud stock were dispersed around the country, and he was not paid one penny compensation by the Australian Government! I have no reason to believe that this is an isolated case; on the contrary, I have every reason to believe that his case could be multiplied many times. I have been forced into the unpalatable and, for me, rare course of bringing the matter before Parliament for consideration.
– Perhaps it is one weakness of the Hirings administration which the last Government set up.
– No ; the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has revised the Hirings administration. He announced that he had found it imperfect and made it perfect many months ago. I refer the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) to his colleague. I made further personal inquiries, and I have become completely lost in a maze of references to the army hirings authority, the Department of Air, the Board of Business Administration, and now the Department of Aircraft Production. I am on the merry-go-round, and come back repeatedly to where I started from. One of the Hawkins brothers is now forced to live in a 3roomed cottage, and* the stud stock are scattered round the Goulburn Valley and the Riverina. These men have received not one penny of compensation and have no assurance of ever being compensated. I spoke yesterday to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and asked him what was the position and whether the Hawkins brothers had any prospect of ever being paid for the land of which they were dispossessed. He told me that the Department of the Interior had never been advised by the Department of Air or any other department to proceed with the acquisition of the property of the Hawkins brothers. So far as my knowledge goes - and I speak with some knowledge as one who has administered .the Department of the Interior - that means that the Hawkins brothers have no legal claim against the Government for payment for their property, for there is a continuing practice of the Government to dispossess people of property under the authority of the Army Hirings Administration and to pay them an indeterminate rental value arrived at by that branch.
– How much worse could the Gestapo treat the people of Poland?
– I cannot imagine anything worse happening to any one in Poland, Holland or occupied France than has happened to these people at the hands of the military authorities. The military walked on to the land and said : “ Get off within fourteen days. Cut your fences and remove the stock. ‘Get to billy-oh. Go wherever you like.” These people have received nothing for a year and have uo prospect of payment. I say to the Houe that this is no isolated instance. It is a case repeated manyfold The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) seems inclined to interject. I remember his attacks on the Allied Works Council. Probably he will cease to interject when I make some references to that council, for it too is in this matter. The employees of the council are the people who in a day of extreme difficulty for farmers - a day when they cannot obtain materials and labour - walked on to the property, took up the irreplaceable fencing posts and burned them for firewood. Some of their employees, friendly aliens, cut the fencing wire into short lengths, which I am assured are still lying on the ground. What an extravagant waste of irreplaceable material ! This is merely a glimmer of the activities of the Allied Works Council. I am assured that the flooring boards and lining boards of houses have been ripped out and burned as firewood, that corrugated iron has disappeared mysteriously, and that picket fences have been torn down and burned. These are the activities of an instrument of this Government. It is to terminate those activities that I bring this matter before Parliament, but my prime purpose is to express my complete failure by orthodox methods to obtain justice for Australian citizens.
– Have they appealed to a compensation board ?
– They, have never received from the Government even a piece of paper indicating that their property had been acquired by it-
– The honorable ‘member said that certain uniformed officers went on to the property.
– Yes, Army and Air Force officers and American officers. Since then, of course, they have been there in thousands. I do not suggest that these men will never be paid for their property. That would be ludicrous. Of course, in its own time, the Government will settle the basis of the compensation which it will offer to these men. It has never settled the basis of compensation for an adjoining owner who was turned out at the age of 84 and who, after waiting eight or nine months for settlement, died without receiving a penny. These people will be paid in the Government’s own good time, but how are they to he paid? They are to be paid on a valuation arrived at for one of the choicest pieces of property in Australia - it was fenced, subdivided and has belts of shelter timber, cow-yards, horse-yards and sheep-yards, irrigation and windmills. Those things are to bc valued and paid for, but they are gone! Everything has been removed or destroyed and the irrigation channels have been -filled in. The clover paddocks are now concrete or stone runways.
– What has been placed there?
– A great aerodrome. I repeat that these people will be paid.
They will be informed that the Government has valued their property at such and such an amount. If they do not agree with that valuation, how will they be able to dispute it? Their property no longer exists as it did exist. They cannot define the .boundaries. All the land is covered with hangars and runways.
– “What about the land tax valuations?
– That is a roughandready basis. The Government will turn up the land-tax files and see that in such and such a year the property was valued for taxation purposes at some amount or other.
– What about the shire valuation?
– There is nothing more wild and woolly than shire valuations.
– They represent unimproved values.
– Of course they do. Whatever the valuation is, the law provides that the dispossessed owner is entitled to value his own property and to call in other valuers to fortify his estimate, but how can he do so when his property no longer exists as a farming property? This property cannot be put bach as it was. It cannot even be visualized as it was.
– Because to-day it is a part of a big aerodrome.
– The whole property of 1,275 acres is to-day merely an undefined spot somewhere in the centre of a great aerodrome. It has runways passing right through it.
– When was the first payment made?
– The first payment, said to represent 4 per cent, interest on some one’s estimate of the capital value of the property, was paid five months ago to Hawkins ‘brothers, and there have also been monthly payments said to represent 4 per cent, interest.
– I take it that Hawkins brothers are not satisfied with the monthly payments?
– They have never voiced any criticism of the action of the Government in taking over their property. They are loyal citizens and as such they have accepted their harassing experience. They have always tried to co-operate with the men in uniform who have had a job to do. They have even said to members of the Air Force residing in the home, “ Use our wireless and our refrigerators ; they are still there “. In various ways they have advised the men working on the aerodrome. For example, they have suggested that buildings should not ‘be erected in certain places because the country there was low and would .become waterlogged after a storm. They have done their utmost to help the members of the Air Force in all these matters. They realize that the exigencies of war cause unavoidable dislocation. Surely, though, such men are entitled to reasonable treatment. The Hawkins brothers wish to re-establish themselves in the stud stock business. They consider that they ought to be allowed to follow the avocation for which all their training has fitted them and which is necessary in a country like Australia. I hope that the Minister will take steps to ensure that the callous, intolerable and indefensible administration which has resulted in such treatment of these men, and many others like them, will be discontinued.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has made it clear that the Hawkins brothers are not satisfied with the treatment they have received. The facts of the case have never been submitted to me by the authorities. I gather from what the honorable member has said that in February, 1942, when every body in Australia, including the chiefs of staff of the various services, expected that Japan would strike at Australia within a month, certain uniformed officers, acting on instructions, took immediate possession of a property at Tocumwal for aerodrome purposes. The same thing was done in thousands of other places throughout Australia. We had to have aerodromes in. order to use the aircraft then available in Australia, and other aircraft which our allies were sending to this country. It was in such conditions of emergency that uniformed officers had to act without the slightest delay in many parts of this country.
– That is understood, and is not criticized.
– Thousands of properties throughout Australia were taken overby the various services. In Victoria, alone, more than 2,000 transfers were made. More than 2,500 transfers were made in New South “Wales, whilst in Queensland the figure ran into several thousands. At that time a tremendous task confronted the services. Action had to be taken and the loose ends of red tape had to be left to be tied up later. Officers of the American Army also had to take over properties for aerodromes or camps in many parts of the country. Time was of the essence of the contract. Such properties were immediately converted into aerodromes, camps or other defence establishments. Delay would have meant defeat for this country.
I understand from the honorable member that the first payment to the Hawkins brothers was made five months after the property was taken over and that since then one other lump sum payment and monthly payments of interest have been made. I take it that the owners of the property consider that their treatment has not been sufficiently generous. I can quite understand and sympathize with the feelings of people who have been dispossessed of properties which may have been in their families for many years. But it is evident that certain authorized members of the services considered that it was necessary to take over this property immediately so that the Allied Works Council could set to work on it promptly. The alternative to speedy action would have been to allow the Japanese to overrun this country.
When I assumed office as Minister for the Army I found that the Army Hirings administration was overwhelmed with work. Thousands of claims were awaiting adjustment, and, although the officers were working very long hours, they were unable to keep pace with the demands made upon them. Therefore I asked Mr. Norman O’Bryan, a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, who had offered to assist the Army Department after his work on the bench was finished for the day, whether he would study the whole question and recommend to me a method of completely re-organizing the
Army Hirings administration. He agreed to do so, and subsequently placed before me a. comprehensive scheme. He also drafted the necessary national security regulations which were referred to the Attorney-General’s Department and subsequently promulgated. He proposed that committees should be established in each State to deal with the problem. In Victoria Mr. J. B. Tait, a leader of the Bar, was appointed chairman of the Central Hirings Committee, which was also authorized to deal with Victorian cases. Colonel Davey, Director of Hirings in Victoria, was appointed a member of the board as also was Mr. Evans, a representative of the Commonwealth Treasury. In New South Wales Mr. Fergusson, a leading barrister of Sydney, and a son of the late Mr. Justice Fergusson, was appointed chairman of the committee, and he had associated with him Major Martin, Director of Hirings, and also a representative of the Commonwealth Treasury. Similar committees were appointed in the other capital cities. A committee was also appointed in Townsville.
– Does the Minister know the personnel of the Queensland committee ?
– I cannot give it to the honorable gentleman from memory, but the Chief Valuations Officer of the Queensland Department of Lands is the chairman and Major Fleming, of Army Hirings, is a member.
The scheme also provided for compensation appeal boards in each State. The Chief Police Magistrate in Brisbane, Mr. Cameron, is the chairman of the Queensland Compensation Appeal Board, and he has associated with him Mr. George Green, a leading Brisbane business man, and also Mr. Carter, a leading accountant of that city. Boards have been appointed in Melbourne and Sydney, as well as in the other States. Any landowner or other property owner who considers that he has been unjustly dealt with bythe hirings administration may anneal to the board for a fresh determination as to rentals or compensation. These boards deal with all appeals as expeditiously as possible. The members work strenuously and for long hours.
– Why are not dispossessed owners informed at the time their properties are taken from them that they may appeal to these boards’?
Mr.FORDE. - They should be so informed, hut in February last everything had to be done with the utmost haste. The hirings committees and the compensation boards were not then established. Uniformed representatives of the fighting services had very little time to consider matters carefully when Japan made its devastating drive.
I do not know the facts of the case to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I agree that officers of the services should consult with property owners and not threaten them with all kinds of dire consequences if they ask questions.
Officers should not adopt an arrogant attitude, but should extend to property owners at least elementary courtesy and consideration. I find it hard to believe that officers acted in the manner described by the honorable member. I do not intend to condemn any one without hearing all the facts; yet it seems extraordinary that action such as that described by the honorable gentleman should have been taken. Honorable members who have been closely associated in the inner councils of the nation, as has the honorable member for Indi, who is a member of the Advisory War Council, know the dire straits to which Australia was reduced last February. It was essential at that time that immediate action should be taken to acquire properties for defence purposes. Probably my colleague, the Minister for Air, will be conversant with the details of this resumption.
I shall call for a report upon the circumstances attendant upon the taking over of the property of the Hawkins brothers. I ask honorable members to realize, however, that without sufficient aerodromes and defence establishments generally it would not have been possible for us to use the aircraft and other war equipment manufactured in this country or that made available to us by our Allies and this country would have been overrun by the Japanese. I shall inform the honorable member as soon as possible of the result of my inquiries.
– I call the attention of the Government to the serious, conditions prevailing in the dairying industry, which in respect of value of production, is second among the primary industries of this country and first in respect of the aggregate number of employees. This industry has been in a desperate condition for years, and the men, women and children dependent upon it for their living have suffered great privations. Towards the end of last year the Government introduced a measure which was intended to relieve the position. It provided that a bounty equivalent to1¼d. per lb. of butter and 2d. per lb. of cheese should be payable on such production. It was estimated that the amount involved in the bounty would be £2,000,000 per annum. The Tariff Board was asked to make certain investigations. The act, as it passed this Parliament, insisted that the investigations should be made throughout the Commonwealth. Any practical man knew that it was impossible for the board to make recommendations in the terms of the act; it could not take into consideration the disabilities of one district compared with those of another, or define boundaries. The Government allocated for nine months of this financial year the sum of £1,500,000 for distribution from the beginning of October last, for the alleviation of some of the distress that had been caused. The dairy industry claims, and I agree, that the subsidy of lid. per lb. is quite inadequate in view of the continuance of drought conditions, the increased cost of everything that has to be purchased, and the extortionate drain on man-power for war purposes. Honorable members opposite hold a similar belief. Since this House adjourned, the Tariff Board has made a recommendation. It evaded the most serious of the troubles it was asked to face. I understand that its recommendation is, that the subsidy should be payable, not from the 1st October - from which date the distribution of £1,500,000 was to operate -but from the 1st July last.
– Theboard recommended that the distribution of £1,500,000, instead of commencing on the 1st October, should be made retrospective to the 1st July; but the £2,000,000 per annum provided by the Government will still be made available.
– That is exactly what I have said, and it is the burdell of my complaint. The act provided for a payment of £2,000,000 a year.
– And the £2,000,000 will be paid.
– That is good news. Is the £1,500,000 or the £2,000,000 to bc spread over the whole of the financial year?
– The £1,500,000.
– That is the matter of which I complain. The act says that £2,000,000 shall be provided for one year. As the act is to operate from the 1st October, the £1,500,000 should be expended in the last three quarters of the year. The House has not sanctioned what the Tariff Board
Iia- recommended. During the first quarter of this financial year, many parts of Australia were suffering from a severe drought. If the distribution of the £1,500,000 were spread over that period, those who thus suffered would have imposed upon them a double calamity: because the producers who enjoyed a good season would be paid for their unaffected cream production, whilst the unfortunate individual who had been afflicted by a drought would be subsidized on what he had produced in Hie drought months. Therefore, I trust that the Minister will not accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board. It would be much better to make the payment of £1,500,000 date from the 1st October, as the act provides, than to subsidize those who enjoyed a good season during July. August, and September, as did Victorian producers, at the expense of those unfortunate persons who suffered from drought conditions during that period. It was on behalf of these latter that the strongest claim was made. This condition of affairs will continue until governments realize that, in industries such as dairying, wool-growing, beefraising and wheat-growing, there must be practical men on the controlling bodies as well as in the Departments of Agriculture, to advise and assist governments. The existing practice is to appoint from time to time theorists, scientists, politically minded persons, to administer the destinies of our producing industries. They do not know, and have never suffered, the disabilities under which the farmer, his wife and children, labour. We have to revert to the basic principle of understanding the difficulties of these people before we shall be able to attempt to solve the problems that confront them. If the recommendation of the Tariff Board be adopted, the unfortunate man on the breadline, whose returns have been below the costs he has had to meet in order to keep his stock alive, will get nothing, whilst others who have been in lucrative production because of an abundance of rain and lush pastures will derive the maximum degree of benefit. That is a wrong principle to adopt. I trust that the Minister will adhere to the provisions of the act. Paltry though they are, they are better than what has been recommended by a Tariff Board of theorists. The honorable gentleman should at least get in touch with practical people, and see that justice shall be done. The claim is, not that money should be placed in the pockets of those who have plenty, but that relief should be provided for those who- have suffered most because of droughts and man-power difficulties. In my district, an old lady of 70 years of age, with a husband aged 76 years, is struggling to maintain a farm. They are milking 60 cows a day, because an only son has been called up for national service. Such people need some consideration. I hope that -the Minister will see that the £1,500,000 is distributed as originally intended.
The British Ministry of Food, in its recent contracts dating from the 1st July last, provided for an increased price of 5s. 7-Jd. per 100 lb. in. respect of butter and 3s. 9d. per 100 lb. in respect of cheese. These advances should soon be reflected in the price of butter in this country. As the July to October price of Australian butter in Great Britain - which is less than the cost of production - is almost 153s., and in view of the fact that dairy factory costs represent 2d. per lb. and the cost of overrun as between factory and production amounts to 20.5d., there should be payable to the Australian producer of butter a price of ls. 5Jd. per lb., representing equalization as between export and Australian consumption, irrespective of any increase that may be gained by way of government subsidy.
May I also refer to a subsidiary matter that is of some interest? [Extension of time granted.) Since the outbreak of swine fever in Sydney, there has been on the eastern seaboard of Australia a very serious decline of the price of pigs in the market. Merely because there is a disease in Sydney, causing a number of animals to be quarantined, why should every dairyman throughout ‘Australia who wishes to sell pigs on the various markets from week to week, be penalized? Pig meats for factories in the north or the west need not necessarily go to Sydney. Why should this “ ramp “ be worked on the producers of pork in our country districts? I hope that the Minister will look into the matter. If he studies the returns of pigs sent to market during the last two weeks, he will learn that the farmer has been deprived of a reasonable price for his product. The men working in the munitions factories and the Army are still paying as much for their bacon as they were three weeks ago, but the man who grows the pigs is getting very much less than formerly.
– The curer is getting the difference.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER__ I do not know who is getting it, but it is obvious that a ramp is being worked somewhere. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to look into this matter, and also to see that the amount of £1,500,000, which has been set aside for the subsidizing of dairymen, shall go to those who have suffered droughts and not to those who have been carrying on where the season was good and fodder abundant.
. - The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) mentioned the case of the Hawkins brothers at Tocumwal, whose property was acquired for defence purposes. The matter did not come under my notice until yesterday, when it was mentioned to me by the honorable member. Although I have been busy since then, 1 have been able to gather some information on the matter. I am not defending avoidable delays in the settling of claims, and I appreciate that Messrs. Hawkins have given the authorities every assistance in the taking over of the property. If the facts are as stated, they have been greatly inconvenienced, but so have the other fifteen property- owners in the district whose land was taken over. At that time, it appeared that it would be necessary to establish inland aerodromes to take the place of those on the coast which might be damaged by enemy action, and some areas were possessed rather hastily. Afterwards, when the situation improved, there was some doubt as to whether the area at Tocumwal would be used. This, in turn, led to doubt as to whether the Hawkins’s property would be acquired by the Government, or merely held on a rental basis. In the meantime, the Hawkins brothers have been paid rent for the property since it was taken over on a basis of between 4 per cent, and 5 per cent, of the capital value.
– They have never been told on what basis the value was computed.
– The matter is determined by the Lands Valuation ‘Committee.
– But the owner can appeal ?
– Yes, if the owner is dissatisfied he can appeal, and’ the matter is then submitted to arbitration. I can understand the desire of the owners to know what price has been fixed by the Lands Valuation Committee, but it must be remembered that the task of the committee is not a simple one. When a big area made up of many separate properties is taken over, the authorities are confronted with the task of providing easements and road access to the area. The procedure is that such properties are taken over under the National Security Regulations. The rent is fixed by the Central Hirings Committee, which is the approved authority for determining rents. The question of whether land should continue to be rented, or whether it should be acquired by the Commonwealth depends on these factors: (1) the period for which the property is required ; and (2) the amount of capital proposed to be expended by the Commonwealth on buildings, works, &c. The land is acquired in those cases in which substantial capital expenditure is incurred. It may be said that, in this case, substantial capital expenditure, certainly running into some hundreds of thousands of pounds, has been incurred, but the whole of that expenditure has not necessarily been on the property of the Hawkins brothers. The total area taken over was more than 5,000 acres, of which the Hawkins brothers’ property represented 1,275 acres. Much of the expenditure may be on other parts of the area. The third point to be considered is the post-war use to which a property can be put. In the case under review the properties possessed belonged to sixteen separate owners. Much investigation of values, areas, lands required for easements, and access roads, &c., has been necessary. Finality in the preparation of details was reached only late last month, when all the data was referred to the Central Hirings Committee, which has the responsibility of. deciding whether or not the property is to be acquired. Since the matter has been brought under my notice, I have tried to have it cleared up as quickly as possible. I remind honorable members that the practice in regard to these matters was established, not by this Government, but by the previous one, and is regarded as the best to follow in the interests of every one. True, three different departments are interested in the matter - the Department of Air, for which the property was taken over in the first place, though not necessarily for its own purposes, the Department of the Interior, which does the actual acquisition and attends to legal processes, and the Central Hirings Committee, with whom final action lies. Honorable members may rest assured that I shall do everything possible to hasten a settlement, because I recognize that considerable inconvenience has already been caused.
.- On the 11th September of last year, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked the following questions in this House -
I ask the Minister for the Army whether Mr. J. A. Mendes, Mayfair Hotel, Darlinghurst, has been granted exemption from military service? Has the honorable gentleman had brought to his notice the fact that this gentleman boasts that it has cost him more than £100 to keep out of the Army, and that he has experienced no difficulty in keeping the male staff of the hotel out of the Army? If the honorable gentleman is unaware of the circumstances, will he immediately call for the production of the file relating to this man Mendes and table it in Parliament as early as possible in order that honorable members may investigate the suggestion that a racket is being worked in connexion with exemption from military duty?
I am personally acquainted with the man mentioned in the question, and also with his family. He is the licensee of a large residential hotel with 80 rooms for guests, and most of those rooms are at present occupied by service men on leave. The young man also manages the hotel, and is financially interested in it. I am concerned to know whether there is any foundation for the allegations contained in the question. Members of Parliament enjoy certain privileges, one of them being that they are not liable to action for defamation in respect of any statement made in Parliament. The possession of this privilege carries with it an obligation to take care that they do not inflict injury upon people outside Parliament by making unjustified attacks upon their character. I know that, following the references made by the honorable member for Bendigo, the very next day Mr. Mendes, personally and through his solicitor, asked that these allegations be substantiated. In a letter to the Minister for the Army, the solicitor asked for proof to be adduced or that an opportunity be given to Mr. Mendes to vindicate his character. Mr. Mendes’s father wrote to the honorable member for Bendigo asking him to substantiate what he had charged. He received no reply. Neither the honorable member for Bendigo nor the Minister has produced in this House, or in reply to Mr. Mendes or his solicitor, any facts substantiating the statements made. These allegations are of a very serious character. Indeed, they involve a charge against Mr. Mendes of bribery and corruption and conspiracy with people in high places. They are an attack on the administration of the Army or the man-power authorities. Whichever way it goes, the allegation was made and repeated. In other words, it says that there is a “ racket “ in obtaining exemptions from military service. No more serious charge could be levelled against a man while our country is engaged in the worst war of history. Therefore, if there is any truth in these charges, the facts should be brought forward and those responsible properly dealt with. If, however, these charges have no basis of fact, those responsible for making the allegations ought to be dealt with. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Bendigo, when he made his statements, considered that there was some justification for them and some substance in them. But he did not produce any evidence in support. I raise this matter because the Minister for the Army, in response to a request by me, made available the file to me. I have gone very carefully through it and I have not been able to find any evidence in support of the allegations against Mr. Mendes. If there is no evidence against Mr. Mendes his character should he cleared in this House, either by the Minister for the Army or by the honorable member for Bendigo. The honorable member for Bendigo is a mau with a very good military record and I am sure that he will appreciate that fair play is bonny play. He would certainly not wilfully hit anybody below the belt. Therefore, if he is not able to submit evidence in support of the charges he made against Mr. Mendes he should withdraw them.
At the time the allegations were made Mr. Mendes had pending before the magistrate an application for exemption. His application was to have been heard only a couple of days after the charges were made and published in the press. The charges may well have been designed to militate against Mr. Mendes in that application. Certainly, a statement like that made by the honorable member for Bendigo would be likely to have some effect on the magistrate. Ear from there having been produced in support of the charges any evidence, there are letters from Mr. Mendes and his solicitor emphatically denying the truth of the charges and a statutory declaration by Mr. Mendes categorically denying them and setting out the position in regard to military service of members of his staff. It .stated that 70 persons were employed in the hotel and that nearly 30 had enlisted or been called up for military service in some way or other. Mr. Mendes is a licensee of an hotel under the New South Wales liquor laws. He thought he was in a reserved occupation and on that ground applied to the magistrate for exemption. It seems quite clear that some person prompted by ill will has been responsible for this matter. It is well known that licensees of hotels are charged with heavy responsibilities to ensure that the licensing laws shall be carried out. It is an unpleasant task to be firm with people who seek to defy the licensing laws. Probably some one with whom Mr. Mendes had had occasion to be firm in that respect, dominated by ill will, has made against him this unfounded charge which the honorable member for Bendigo has communicated to this Parliament, and, through the press, to the people. We who are jealous of our privileges do not like them to be abused, and no member of Parliament should make unfounded charges against any one. I have known the Mendes family, particularly Mr. Mendes senior and his wife, for many years. They are most respectable people who, as licensees of an hotel, are consistently reported on favorably by the licensing authorities. The publicity that Mr. J. A. Mendes has had has caused great anxiety, not only to him sol f, but. also to the members of .his family, and it is only fair that the charges made against him should he substantiated or withdrawn. Mr. Mendes is now a member of the Australian Imperial Force, and as such he is more than ever entitled to justice. He and his comrades are going away to fight, and they are entitled to a fair deal. I therefore ask the Minister for the Army to make a statement substantiating what I have said as the result of my search of the file and to declare that there is nothing to support, the allegations of the honorable member for Bendigo.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) the matter of compensation to Western Australian wheat-growers. On the 11th December, 1942, I asked the Minister when payment would be made of the promised compensation to wheat-growers in Western Australia who had been compulsorily required to reduce their wheat acreages by 33& per cent. The Minister replied -
Several days- ago I signed a minute authorizing the payment of the amount agreed upon to tie Western Australian Government, which will, I presume, distribute the money forthwith.
On the 21st January,, the Treasurer of Western Australia said that he had not received that .money. Every farmer in Western. Australia was notified last seeding time: of the area he would be allowed to crop and the area he was- expected to leave out. Therefore, the data upon which the compensation payments are to be made are available. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture also said that he thought those payments would be made when payment was being made for wheat throughout the rest of Australia. The growers received payment for their wheat when they took their bags to the siding and took out warrants. The farmers in Western Australia received payments on delivery for wheat from an area two-thirds of what they were originally licensed to sow. The compensation that should be paid in respect of the other one-third is still unpaid,, despite the fact that on the 11th December the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture told me that the money was available and would be paid forthwith. This is inflicting considerable hardship on the wheat-growers in Western Australia, and I ask the Minister to take up the matter immediately and to ensure that the money shall be made available so that the State authorities may get on with the job of distributing it. There is. no excuse for further delay. Ail the information needed was made available months ago. It is simply a matter of making the payment in respect of the land which the farmers were compelled to leave out of production.
I support what was said by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) about the resumption or acquisition of land, by the military authorities, h Allied. Works Council, or whatever body is responsible. In my electorate the military authorities acquired a dairying property from two girls and their mother. The military authorities said that they were acquiring the land for military purposes. They brought on to the land tractors and some scoops and they tore down the fences, felled the trees, and ripped up the pasture. No money was paid, but two months afterwards they received from the military authorities a letter saying that they were not sure whether they would resume the land or lease it and hand it hack at the end of the war. After another two months they advised the dispossessed occupants thai they would pay to them a rental of 4i per cent, of the capital value of the land. When the fences were torn down the cattle were allowed to wander at will and on1 that account they were not mated. On ‘the 24th December I received a long- letter from the former occupants setting: out the facts. A copy of the letter was published in the *West Australian, whereupon the military authorities immediately sprang to attention and prompt action followed. They agreed to vote £120 for the reestablishment of the destroyed pasture, and said that they were going into the matter of compensation in respect of the cattle and so forth. That is another instance of the hardship imposed by the authorities. They have no consideration for others. The two girls and their mother engaged in dairying, and honorable members will realize how necessary is the production of butter and milk, particularly in an area where military camps abound. I do not know why the land was acquired. In my correspondence the phrase “ for military purposes” is used. I doubt whether it could have been acquired for an aerodrome. It must have been the publication of the letter in the press that brought the action from the department, for my own letter to the department could not have reached it when the action was taken. I have experienced the same trouble in connexion with land in Western Australia which has been acquired for a munitions factory. The persons whose land is taken in this way cannot live entirely on fresh air; they cannot wait six or seven months for the Hirings Administration to make up its mind. Should there be any dispute over the amount of compensation to be paid, the owners of the land should be given a sum of money on which to live in the meantime, so that they should not suffer unnecessarily. In the instance which I have mentioned there are no men on the farm, but only two girls and their mother. The girls have gallantly carried on under difficulties. They had a beautiful herd of cattle on the farm, but the authorities, without warning, pulled down the fences and ripped up the pastures, which had been sown with, subterranean clover. Since then, the department has provided £120 with which to purchase supplies of superphosphate and subterranean clover in order to sow fresh pastures on another portion of the property. It is clear that the case mentioned by the honorable member for Indi is not an isolated one, and that this practice is not confined to Victoria. I ask the Ministers concerned to give this matter their earnest and prompt attention.
I hope that at the earliest possible moment the Minister for Commerce will see that the compensation payable to farmers in Western Australia will be paid to the Government of that State, and also that the State authorities will distribute it immediately and not hold the money for two or three months.
.- I have been greatly interested in the remarks of honorable members relating to the acquisition of property by the Government without warning or notice to the owners. Having had some little experience, while acting on behalf of a friend, of similar practices, I sympathize with those who complain that possession of land is taken not only without notice or warning, but also, at times, under conditions of arrogance and insolence. Such behaviour is inexcusable, and I am amazed that Ministers have suffered it to continue for so long and in so many instances. Surely there can be nothing to prevent the representative of the department concerned with the acquisition from giving some notice - if only one day’s notice - -‘of the intention to acquire the property. Moreover, such notice should indicate clearly the person or authority to whom inquiries in the matter may be directed.
The early termination of proceedings this afternoon indicates that the Parliament has been called together at least a week before, the Government will be in a position to present its business for consideration. However charitably we may regard the motion submitted to the House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), it appears to be an effort to fill in time until the various measures which the Government proposes to bring before the Parliament are ready for sub mission. The statement presented by the Prime Minister this afternoon, although informative, contained, for the most part, matters with which honorable members were already familiar. It would almost appear that the statement was made in order to induce members to disclose what is in their minds, rather than as evidence that the House has been called together to deal with a definite programme of legislation in the public interest.
Had an opportunity been presented earlier this afternoon for the asking and answering of questions, I should have asked whether Australia, as a great primary producing country, was taking steps to ameliorate the conditions of the unfortunate sufferers from want in Europe and Asia. I presume that other honorable members have received a circular similar to that which has come to me from the Society of Friends - that well-known body of philanthropic people who, in war-time, interest themselves in matters of a noncombatant nature affecting the well-being of persons whose interests are seriously prejudiced by war. However, even if honorable members generally have received a copy of the circular, there are many in the community who may not know what it contains. I am only too happy to make use of the forms of the House for the purpose of enlisting the interest of a wider public, by having extracts from the circular embodied in H Hansard. Under the heading “ Here are Some of the Pacts “, the circular states -
More people have died of hunger in Greece than were killed at the height of the enemy attack. - An official of the Greek Government, April, 1942.
Food available in Belgium covers only 40 to 50 per cent, of the necessary nutritive value in the case of expectant and nursing mothers, and less than 40 per cent, for growing boys and girls . . . Children often faint from sheer weakness . . . - Medical report of Belgian Authorities in London, 1942.
Many parents put their children to bed in an effort to curb their appetite and conserve energy. - -Report of John Cudahy, former United States of America Ambassador to Belgium.
More are dying of hunger daily in Honan (China) than in all the Far East battlefields. - Douglas Wilkie, Melbourne Herald, 30th October, 1942.
Rice is over 500 dollars a bag and practically unobtainable. Everywhere in the streets are to be seen the utmost desolation mid misery; abandoned babies, starving people selling their clothes, bits of their houses, every stick of furniture in order to get another meal. There is no doubt the situation is simply appalling. - Bishop of Fukien (C.M.S. Report on China, 1942). 11,000 people were killed by a terrible cyclone on the east coast of Bengal in October . . The plight of the children was pitiful, at there was no milk. Starvation and death still menace the country. - Melbourne Herald.
The circular goes on to say that little has been done to relieve the situation.’ I am concerned to know whether Australia is doing anything in this matter. The complaint is that, so far, Australia has been unresponsive to the need, notwithstanding that, according to statistics supplied by the Australian Wheat Board, this country has a surplus of 97,000,000 bushels of wheat this year, and that the storage accommodation available is inadequate to cope with it. The circular also states that the production of wheat in Australia has been restricted, and that instances of farmers being ordered to destroy wheat in excess of the authorized quotas have been reported. The circular states that India and China, being the needy countries nearest to Australia, should be our particular concern, and it urges that a part of our surplus be made available to those countries now. Reference is also made to a cablegram received this month from a Quaker worker in India in which he stated “ India needs wheat. Hope you will encourage Australian Government send all possible help”. I realize that serious difficulties may be involved in transporting wheat to the countries which need it, but Sweden and some other northern European countries have been able to do a great deal in this matter through friendly, neutral countries. It has occurred to me that Australia could do something to relieve sufferers if the vessels carrying the wheat were marked clearly to show the nature of the cargo. I do hot think that any of the belligerents would deliberately destroy supplies of foodstuffs sent for the relief of starving people in any part of the world. Australia is a great primaryproducer country, but we are limiting our wheat supply - it may be selfishly - on the ground that we have extravagantly large stocks already on hand, greater than we can use or perhaps greater than we can store. It seems to me that in a very special way the appeal comes to our Government to see what can be done. I content myself with saying that we ought to strain every nerve to do something to be a contributor on as large a scale as possible to the relief that is so very urgently needed. The ‘text from which I have quoted, and which has inspired these observations of mine, is signed by Herbert J. Crosland, clerk. He is apparently clerk of the Religious Society of Friends. I hope that this matter will come under the notice of the Government. I shall raise it again when opportunity comes again at question-time so as to excite the interest of the Government in it. I trust that it will be able to furnish me with a report that it is diligently exploring the methods by which relief can be brought to non-combatants - the women and children, aged and invalids, who in their thousands are liable to be forgotten, and who may perish as the result of the war in their various countries.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to the very unsatisfactory position of members of the Royal Australian Air Force attached to the Royal Air Force and serving overseas, so far as promotion is concerned. Under present conditions, they appear to be placed at a very great disadvantage. As a matter of fact, it seems on the evidence before me that in that regard they are a forgotten legion. Several people have spoken to me about this matter, and I quote two eases from a letter that I have recently received. One is that of a sergeant-pilot who did his elementary training at Mascot, left for Canada in October, 1940, joined the Royal Air Force in England in March, 1941, was transferred to the Middle East in June, 1941, and then to Ceylon in March, 194)2. He is still a sergeant-pilot although he has taken part in 45 ‘ raids, including one against the Japanese Fleet in the Bay of Bengal on the 9th April, 1942, when the Japanese made their attack on Ceylon. The other case is that of Sergeant-Pilot Barnes, D.F.M., of Oakey, who until he received his decoration had been with the Royal Air Force for more than twenty months without promotion. I understand that some consideration has been given to this matter, and. I trust that the Minister will make some public announcement, so that not only these men but also their relatives will know that they are being fairly treated in this regard. Has the Minister any information to give to the House regarding the conference with the Air Board, held in London in November, 1942, in reference to the promotion of Australian air crows attached to the Royal Air Force, and is the Air Ministry considering following the lead of Canada and the United States of America, of commissioning all pilot3? I trust that the Minister will give immediate attention to this matter.
The acquisition of property hy the Hirings Administration was dealt with at some length this afternoon by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I have pointed out in the House on a number of occasions the long delay that has taken place in securing the settlement of claims. I should in all fairness say that, insofar as Queensland, including Brisbane, is concerned, there has recently been a marked improvement in that direction. As the Minister pointed out this afternoon, a sub-committee was appointed there, as in other capital cities, with the object of speeding up settlements. I particularly wish to refer to the basis of settlement at 4 per cent., of which the honorable member for Indi spoke. This operates very harshly in many cases, and particularly so in respect of people who arc not able to stand the burden. I refer to people whose property has been acquired and dwellings taken over for military purposes, and whose claim is settled on the basis of 4 per cent. This very afternoon I received a letter from Brisbane from a man whose property was acquired under those conditions. He has been given 25s. a week to pay rent for another house, but he has had to pay 30s. a week for another house which is not so good or comfortable or convenient for h’m a=; his own. I am sure that it is not the desire of the Government that people should be placed at such a disadvantage. I suggest that the Government should consider reviewing the 4percent, basis, because those who are charged with the responsibility of finalizing these claims have to stand by that basis, even though it operates very harshly against people who can ill afford the loss. I SuK gest also to the Government that at times a little more courtesy might be shown to . people whose property is being acquired. I appreciate that we are at war, and that the military and other departments have to act quickly, but I know of a number of cases in which it would have been to the advantage of the Government in the first .place, and certainly to the convenience to the persons concerned, if a little more courtesy had been extended to those whose property was being acquired. Courtesy does not cost anything. Very often the result of these hasty actions is extra cost to the Government, because if people are thrown hurriedly out of their property they have to make all sorts of hasty arrangements which only increase the amount of compensation that the Government has ultimately to pay. Instances have also been brought to my notice in which the Army and other departments have acquired properties without giving full consideration to the line of action they intended subsequently to follow. They have started to pull down buildings, or to put up buildings, and afterwards a plan has been produced rendering all the ea.rlier work unnecessary, and the whole thing has had to be started de novo. I suggest to the department that more consideration be given to the acquisitions and to the improvements to be carried out before the properties are taken over. I have had brought before me a number of cases in which people have been told to get out of their homes at very short notice, and have been put to great inconvenience, but I emphatically draw the attention of the Government to the fact that at the present time it is impossible to secure an empty house in Brisbane. The Government might well take some little notice of the national security regulation governing the relations of landlord and tenant. Under it no landlord is allowed to put a tenant out unless he provides another place equally suitable for him to go into.
– by leave - The point raised by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) relating to promotions has been the cause of a good deal of discussion, and, perhaps, a good deal of misunderstanding.
– And heartburning.
– That is true. Anybody who expected but did not get a commission would be disappointed; but if every one who thought he should get a commission were granted one, we might not have a fully efficient air force. We should be more likely to have a condition of affairs such as the army we have heard of, which consisted of all generals and no privates. The policy is to commission 331/3 per cent. of pilot and observer trainees, 10 per cent. of wireless airgunners, and 5 per cent. of air-gunners at the time of graduation, under the Empire Training Scheme. After operational experience, and on the recommendation of commanding officers, the following additional quotas of commissions may be allotted : - 162/3 per cent. pilots and observers, 10 per cent. wireless air-gunners, and 15 per cent. air-gunners. The honorable member referred to what is done in Canada. There seems to be an entirely erroneous impression that all pilots are commissioned in Canada. That is not so. Some of these incorrect ideas arise from suggestions made in the press from time to time which are not correctly based.So far as the Canadian commissioning policy as applied by the Royal Air Force is concerned, under the Empire Air Training Scheme, the Air Ministry has made it quite clear that it raises no objection to the commissioning of Canadian personnel as desired by the Canadian Government, but that it must be clearly understood that the percentages of commissions granted to Canadian personnel in Royal Air Force units must conform to the following percentages as at present applicable to the Royal Air Force and other dominion forces, namely, pilots and observers 50 per cent., wireless air-gunners and airgunners 20 per cent. The Air Ministry has at the same time made it clear to Canada that, if Canada promotes personnel in excess of those percentages, those excesses must be absorbed in Canadian units serving overseas or returned to Canada for service in that country. We are bound by the conditions of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Twice to my knowledge, by agreement with the other Dominions, an attempt has been made to improve the . scheme. Certain conditions are laid down in these agreements which provide for Great Britain supplying us with certain requisites of the scheme, and we have agreed to those percentages of commissions, which have been improved from331/3 per cent. to 50 per cent. of pilots and observers who go through the scheme and from the original 5 per cent. to 20 per cent. of wireless airgunners and air-gunners.
– What is the position of those men when they have left Canada altogether, and are serving with the Royal Air Force in England?
– If after operational experience they are considered worthy of a commission, the percentage can be raised from 331/3 per cent. on graduation to 50 per cent.
– The men I mentioned seem to be well worthy of commissions.
– It is a matter of opinion. They have to get the recommendation of their commanding officers. If they get it, and it is approved, they rise to commissioned rank. I should like to see every man who flies in an aeroplane and goes into combat given a commission, but I cannot do that by a mere wave of the hand, whatever my personal wishes may be. The honorable member for Lilley referred to an Empire Air Training Conference, held in England in November of last year. Such a. conference was held, but it did not deal specifically with promotions. The agreement was renewed by the participating Dominions until 1945, but since then the question of promotions and commissions and delays in promotions is being inquired into by a representative of the Royal Australian Air Force in London.
– Are the men who are serving overseas on the same basis for promotion as those who are serving in Australia?
– That is the position.
– Then there is considerable misunders tand ing.
– There is no Justification for the misunderstanding. From time to time delays have occurred in the promotion of certain men because. after the recommendation for their promotion came to hand from their superior officer, they were transferred to other theatres of war. Tor instance a man in Malta might have been sent to the Middle East, a man in the Middle East might have been sent to India, and so on. In such circumstances it takes a considerable time to determine whether the recommended promotion is justified. The Air Member for Personnel is reviewing the whole question of the present numbers of commissions granted in relation to the numbers of personnel serving overseas, and will make available within the next day or two, I hope, a statement setting out the full position.
In his cablegram, dated the 17th January, the Commonwealth Government’s accredited representative in London intimated that, amongst other questions, that of the number of commissions that may be granted is still the subject of discussion with the Imperial authorities and that, as soon as a decision is reached, we would be advised. Information on this subject is expected daily. The directive given to Overseas Head-quarters was that commissions should be allotted to all Royal Australian Air Force personnel considered suitable for commission rank and recommended for it by their respective commanding officers. The subject is still under negotiation, but I hope to be able to make a statement upon it at an early date. As soon as I receive any information I shall pass it on to honorable members.
– Is there any definite percentage of officers to other ranks on the. administrative staff?
– The practice has been to advertise for men to be trained for special administrative duties. After the selected men pass their examination and successfully undergo their training, they are allotted to positions on the administrative staff and given certain rank. There is room for a difference of opinion as to whether it is desirable to give a man rank as, say, squadron leader or flight lieutenant, who has never done any flying. Personally I sympathize with the view of those who oppose such action, but that is the policy laid down by the Air Board here, and by Air Force authorities elsewhere. It was the practice long before I became Minister for Air. I take the attitude that men should be promoted from the ranks for administrative duties, and that is the practice now being applied as a result of my decision, except in respect of persons possessing special qualifications, such as medical or legal practitioners, dentists or others with specialist qualifications, but the practice being followed here in allotment of ranks to qualified personnel is similar to that in operation elsewhere.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Government, what I regard as a measure of neglect by the authorities in dealing with certain classes of air raids precautions organizations. There are three areas in which such organizations are established. They are -
It cannot be denied that certain restrictions operate at present in respect of the amount of training given to air raids precautions personnel and also the quantity of equipment made available to them. The equipment difficulty is, no doubt, due to national reasons to some degree; but it appears to me that personnel in class 3, to which I have referred, are being inadequately trained and equipped. This may have serious results. I understand that a certain quantity of equipment is being provided for air raids precautions personnel outside city areas, hut I suggest that it is important that as much training as possible should be given to these people for, in certain circumstances, it may become urgently necessary to have trained personnel available to take the place of personnel in capital cities and industrial areas who, as the result of constant bombing raids, may become overtired and more or less incapacitated for work. Moreover, personnel outside city areas may be required to deal with evacuees. The Minister for Home Security has arranged for lectures to be given to personnel, and also for cinema displays dealing with air raid precautions work. Unfortunately, the cinema displays frequently occur during hours when personnel are engaged at their ordinary occupations, which means that attendances are limited and the value of the displays greatly reduced. It is necessary that air-raid wardens should be trained and have the opportunity to go from house to house to ensure that householders are well acquainted with the duties expected of them in. the event of air raids. Welltrained wardens should he provided with suitable literature and should be operating constantly in all areas.
I wish to refer also to the unsatisfactory position in relation to compensation for injuires to aid raids precautions personnel. Certain regulations have been issued to have effect throughout the Commonwealth, but it is provided that to become entitled to compensation persons must belong to what are termed “ approved organizations “. In Victoria, the following are approved’ civil defence organizations for the purpose of the regulations : -
That list does not cover many of the workers who would be engaged in air raids precautions operations in the first of the three classified areas which I have enumerated. It is provided in the regulations that tobecome entitled to compensation workers must be attested, but when the members of some organizations have applied for attestation forms they have been refused them on the ground that they are not members of an approved organization. I hope that the Government will give early consideration to these questions and see that justice is done to a great body of air raids precautions workers. The general reason for enlarging the scope of air raids precautions work is to enable citizens to connect themselves with these activities. A good deal of valuable work has been done in some localities. At Ferntree Gully, for example, an excellently situated house has been obtained as head-quarters, and an efficient body of workers has been organized. Unfortunately, however, an insufficient quantity of literature has been made available to this group. My specific requests are -
I ask the Government to give more encouragement to the people who are giving up their leisure time to train themselves for air raids precautions work.
– I shall not make a detailed reply now to the observations of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick), but I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject not later than to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.27 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Service of a refusal on the part of any employee of the Department of Labour and National Service to become a member of a trade union. Consequently no action by the Minister is called for.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable member to the Hansard report of the proceedings of the Constitution Convention for the 2nd December. What. I actually stated was that . 1. could not imagine the Commonwealth Parliament, in the exercise of the powers conferred by clause 2 b of the Commonwealth Powers Bill, overriding the ordinary law in respect of the fixing of wages. I went on to say with regard to the fixation by regulation of the wages of harvesters -
After more than 30 years of industrial tri- bunals, both Commonwealth and State, there were no fixed standards for that vital industry in war-time. The Government would not have interfered had a standard been fixed previously. If a wrongthing has been done, there is a way to remedy it; but the action of the Government meant that something was done when nothing hud been done previously.
l asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Employment of R. C. Matthews.
n. - During the debate on the adjournment of the House on the 11th December, 1942, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) referred to the case of Mr. R. C. Matthews. I have received a report from the Allied Works Council intimating that Mr. Matthews was called up on the 12th October, 1942, and on that date was marked available to the council by the resident man-power officer. Mr. Matthews lodged an appeal on medical grounds and an appointment was made for him to interview the council’s medical officer on the 22nd October. On that date the medical officer found him unfit as a labourer. His discharge form was signed on the 27th October.
y asked the Minister for Muni tions, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 January 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430127_reps_16_173/>.